Tuesday 19 February 2008

The God Delusion

I finally got "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins. First I have to say it's a great read because of his writing style. If you don't think it'll disturb you, you should read it. If you think it will disturb you, you may want to rethink your beliefs unless you are happy as you are.

What really caught me though is Dawkins' fanaticism. It's not just about enlightening people and giving them new insight. Not about making religious groups more tolerant. No, Dawkins says that he wants an organised church of confessing atheists with a strong lobby (maybe with services of active non-worshipping). Something that almost made me collapse is in the foreword. Asked if he is a fundamentalist, Dawkins says no because the other side is simply wrong. Just think about that! I am sure he is a smart dude, but that seems way out of line.

The first thing we learned in philosophy at high school is the difference between reality and truth. Reality is what we perceive, truth is what is behind. To say that we perceive the true world is a religious statement. This is equally unlikely [1] as any other single relgious belief. If you don't have this belief, I don't think you can ever use the word "true" in scientific context. Science is just a tool to manipulate the environment but no more. To me most discussions come down to Socrates: you know nothing and if you admit it, you may be a small step ahead. Imagine you are plugged into a matrix (like in The Matrix) that allows for a proof of God. Then you would have this perfect proof of God but only in your perception [2].

In my eyes we don't need another intolerant religious organisation. Religion should be based on humility. Knowing that you know nothing [3]. You can't tell what is right. But why put materialism above everything else? As I know from Dawkins' "Selfish Gene", in the scientific view, it's all about genes trying to reproduce. Why does that have such a high value?

And since you don't know what is right, you may well choose a religion. Just don't hate and discriminate against everyone else. To me the problem with religion is not that people have wrong beliefs (we just don't know that). It's that groups are formed that hate and kill each other. But that's the same with patriotism [4], nationalism, tribalism, sports fan-ism and any other kind of group formation. I guess group formation comes from biology, just like cells join to form a body. It's a task for society to handle the interaction between groups just like it handles the interaction between individuals.

To get back to the topic, the short summary of what I read so far: I don't like how Dawkins promotes his own arbitrary school of thought but I like how he ridicules everything else.

And more important it seems that more focus should be used for applying evolutionary science on improving society rather than on trying to fight religious groups.

[1] It seems unscientific to me to talk about probabilities for things that are beyond our scientific reach like Dawkins does.
[2] You don't need evil robots for a scenario like this but I think it is a nice example.
[3] I may be a fundamentalist when it comes to "knowing that you know nothing" but the other side is simply wrong.
[4] I am glad I never had to pledge allegance to a flag (basically worshipping a coloured piece of cloth to help me kill people who are carrying a different coloured piece of cloth).


Ψ*Ψ said...

To me the problem with religion is not that people have wrong beliefs (we just don't know that). It's that groups are formed that hate and kill each other.
Couldn't agree more. I'm an atheist, but my favorite people are those who are personally (though not publicly) religious. It's obvious that faith brings them a sense of peace. And they're never the ones who use religion as an excuse to discriminate and hate.
I'm really kinda sick of religious conflicts. An organized group of atheists isn't the solution, though. It would probably help to disorganize the major churches, though...maybe people would think twice before saying/doing something stupid in the name of faith if they didn't have a large, like-minded group to stand behind.

Shawn Wilkinson said...

I admit it's been many moons since I've read the God Delusion, and I've always enjoyed Dawkins' ability to ridicule and show the absurdity of certain belief structures.

I got the impression that Dawkins desired a support group of some sort for atheists. One which functioned simultaneously as an attempt to protect the necessary civil liberty of religious freedom and a forum for discussion morality, ethics, aesthetics, and everything else which is typically "pre-defined" by religious tenents.

To me, he wanted to dislodge god disbelief from being primarily an academic concern into a pragmatic concern.

That's what it sounded like to me. I don't disagree with him, but I don't follow him exactly either. A support group could easily survive, but their brand of atheism would be similar to a brand of theism. It wouldn't encompass everything the term atheism would imply. For a case example, there is a significant difference between a Scientologist, who views gods and religion as implanted viruses meant to hamper and harm our thetan, versus Feynman's atheism, who viewed religion having pragmatic applications in ethical decision making but inadequate to explain anything useful.

Before I rant any longer, I do agree with your sentiments concerning the great isms. They tend to form a slippery slope of evil.

Felix said...

first thanks to you two for agreeing :)

shawn: I don't know what the main concern is. but does actively attack the non-overlapping magisteria approach, through that he is saying that science and religion should not be separated

Anonymous said...

The greatest danger to mankind is religion. Have no idea what high school taught you such a fundamentally flawed concept of philosophy.... Socrates was NOT a quality thinker - Abundant flaws in thought and reasoning. I strongly suggest Aristotle. If you think you know nothing (note your own logical contradiction) then you do. If your a religious zealot or an atheist you miss the point - You are arguing over nothing, why not debate Santa Claus or the possibility of an honest politician - either is as based in reality as any religion