Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins #6

The Problem with God: Interview with Richard Dawkins, Beliefnet, 15 December 2005 The renowned biologist talks about intelligent design, dishonest Christians, and why God is no better than an imaginary friend. Interview by Laura Sheahen. ...

Continued from part #5 with my comments bold and in square brackets and the interviewer's questions bold and in italics.

Then there's the added fact that it is the only life we're ever going to get. Don't kid yourself that you're going to live again after you're dead; you're not. [Actually, since Christianity is true, it is Dawkins who is kidding himself that he is not going to live again after he is dead (Mt 25:31-33; Jn 5:28-29; Rev 20:12-13)!]

Make the most of the one life you've got. Live it to the full. [Its funny but Dawkins, with bitter hostility towards religion (and it seems towards anyone who disagrees with him) does not sound like someone who is living life "to the full":

"Religion takes a savage beating from Dawkins, especially Catholicism, for which he seems to have conceived an almost lunatic hatred. ... His theory of religion is spelled out in five essays gathered under the heading `The Infected Mind.' Religion is simply a `virus of the mind' ... He freely avows both `hostility' and `contempt' for religion, and he feels it is his moral duty to mock it as much as he can. ... Polite concealment of contempt is not a rhetorical mode that one associates with Dawkins. He is much given to invective, not all of it against religion. Here is how he characterizes the thoughts and attitudes of some of his other targets: `caterwauling shrieks,' `low-grade intellectual poodling of pseudo-philosophical poseurs,' `footling debates,' `boorish tenured confidence,' `yahooish complacency,' and `driveling ephemera of juvenile pamphleteers and the old preaching of spiteful hard-liners.' The man, as they say nowadays, has issues. ... The same failure to think things through is evident in Dawkins' views on religion. There is nothing in Darwinism, even in its most naturalistic form, that must lead one to despise religion as Dawkins does. There is every indication that religion is natural to man and conducive, on the whole, to his survival. It can give him hope in adversity, strengthen family bonds, and motivate sacrifice for the common good. Dawkins calls it a virus; but if it is, it is one that, according to the latest research, makes us healthier. `Faith sufferers,' as Dawkins calls them, seem to suffer less from a wide array of ills. Among other things, they are less given to depression, anxiety, addiction, criminality, suicide, and divorce. ... Dawkins gave an interview to Belief.net recently. He was asked whether he could think of anything, just `one positive, if minor, thing' that religion has done for the good. No, he replied, he really couldn't. What about great religious art? `That's not religion,' said Dawkins, `it is just because the Church had the money. Great artists like ... Bach ... would have done whatever they were told to do.' [Sheahen L., "Religion: For Dummies," Beliefnet, December 9, 2003] So Johann Sebastian Bach was just in it for the money. What this sordid remark reveals, apart from amazing ignorance and philistinism, is the mind of a true fanatic. It is not enough for Dawkins to say that religion is bad on the whole; it must be wholly bad." (Barr S.M., "The Devil's Chaplain Confounded," First Things, 145, August/September 2004, pp.25-31)

Dawkins in fact seems like someone who in his sixties has found out the hard way that Jesus was right when He said that "whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it" (Mat 16:25)]

You've criticized the idea of the afterlife. What do you see as the problem with a terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife?

Oh, no problem at all. I would never wish to disabuse or disillusion somebody who believed that. I care about what's true for myself, but I don't want to go around telling people who are afraid of dying that their hopes are unreal. [Note how Dawkins twists the interviewer's question? She said nothing about "people who are afraid of dying". A "terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife" is more likely to be looking forward to dying as a release from their suffering. But presumably Dawkins is insinuating that the only reason anyone could believe in an afterlife is because they are "afraid of dying". Well, I for one (like many, if not most Christians) became a Christian in my youth when dying was the last thing I was afraid of. Anyway, as for "I don't want to go around telling people ... that their hopes are unreal" that is precisely what Dawkins has been doing for most of his life!]

If I could have a word with a would-be suicide bomber or plane hijacker who thinks he's going to paradise, I would like to disabuse him. I wouldn't say to him, "Don't you see what you're doing is wrong?" I would say, "Don't imagine for one second you're going to paradise. You're not. You're going to rot in the ground." [Dawkins forgets that according to his atheist philosophy, "there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good" (my emphasis) so he could not say, "Don't you see what you're doing is wrong"! And he is wrong if he thinks that suicide bombers or plane hijacker are motivated by the thought that they are "going to paradise." Actual research shows that "Suicide bombers ... are usually far from being the ... religious fanatics ... they are often portrayed as" and in fact they "are often secular, well-educated individuals" (my emphasis):

"PARIS (AFP) - Suicide bombers who have sown mayhem from Israel to Iraq and from Chechnya to Sri Lanka are usually far from being the madmen, religious fanatics or impoverished misfits they are often portrayed as, it was reported. ... The British science weekly New Scientist says that experts who have studied the psychological profiles and backgrounds of suicide bombers find these assailants are often secular, well-educated individuals. Many of them are born to prosperous families and take a rational decision about the path they chose, says a report in this Saturday's issue. `What this amounts to is in many ways more alarming than the ubiquitous misperception of the suicide bomber as fanatical,' New Scientist says. `It means that in the right circumstances, anyone could be one.' A study of Hamas and Palestinian suicide attackers from the 1980s to 2003 by Claude Berrebi, an economist at Princeton University, found that only 13 percent of them came from a poor background, compared with 32 percent of the Palestinian population in general. In addition, more than half the suicide bombers had entered further education, compared with just 15 percent of the general population. Similarly, a study into Hezbollah militants who died in action in Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s were less like to have come from poor families and likelier to have attended secondary school than others of their age. As for the idea that suicide bombers are simply suicidal, that is discounted by Israeli psychologist Ariel Merari of Tel Aviv University. He studied the backgrounds of every suicide bomber in the Middle East since 1983, when the modern era of suicide attacks began with the truck bomb assault US embassy in Beirut, killing 63 people. `In the majority, you find none of the risk factors normally associated with suicide, such as mood disorders or schizophrenia, substance abuse or history of attempted suicide,' Merari told New Scientist. Eyad El Sarraj, chairman of the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, said his own studies of Palestinian `martyrs' found a common source in a traumatic childhood experience. All had experienced helplessness as a child, particularly the humiliation of their father by Israeli soldiers. Whatever the individual trigger, suicide bombers are invariably channelled by a disciplined, well-organized group into taking the path of self destruction in the fight against the enemy, the report says. This group, a result of a `peculiar mix of social, cultural and political ingredients,' forges and promotes the cult of the suicide bomber, glorifying his or her acts within the community and indoctrinating him or her, often with promises of divine reward. This `brotherhood mentality' is typically reinforced at the crucial moment by a farewell testimony in a letter or video -- a classic manoeuvre to force the attacker beyond the point of no return. `If you are in a small cell of suicide terrorists and they are all dying one by one, and you have made this commitment on a videotape saying goodbye to your family and everyone else, the psychological investment is such that it would be almost impossibly humiliating to pull back,' Scott Atran, an anthropologist at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor, said." ("What makes bombers tick?," The Age, May 14, 2004. My emphasis)

That is, they are more like Dawkins than Billy Graham or Mother Teresa! ]

How would you feel if your daughter became religious in the future?

Well, that would be her decision and obviously she's her own person, she's free to do whatever she likes. I think she's much too intelligent to do that, but that's her decision. [I was going to give credit to Dawkins for his answer, but I then noticed the "she's much too intelligent to do that" (implying that only less intelligent individuals become "religious"). But this is then contradicted by his "but that's her decision", which means that he realizes intelligence has nothing to do with it, given that his daughter's IQ remains the same, either way. It also shows that Dawkins does not really believe his own claim that religion is a virus.]

[Continued in part #7]

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"


starcourse said...

Sound points re Dawkins! Have you read McGrath's book Dawkins God? I try to deal with some of this on the polkinghorne.org and starcourse.org websites, and in my blog www.starcourse.blogspot.com.

Keep up the good work

Stephen E. Jones said...


>starcourse said...
Sound points re Dawkins!

Thanks and apologies for the delay in responding.

>Have you read McGrath's book Dawkins God?

I have the book and have read most (if not all) of it. Quite devastating considering that McGrath actually *admires* Dawkins!

>I try to deal with some of this on the polkinghorne.org and starcourse.org websites, and in my blog www.starcourse.blogspot.com.

OK. I don't have time to check them out fully, but I do agree with your post about Dawkins [http://tinyurl.com/bjeuh].

>Keep up the good work

Thanks. The same to you.

Stephen E. Jones