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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Outside Reading - "The God Delusion"

It's "outside reading", because I am in an on-line bookclub, but I just couldn't bring myself to read this month's book. However - my father-in-law gave me a copy of "The God Delusion", by Richard Dawkins for Christmas (I know - Atheism, on Jesus' birthday! I'm certainly going to hell now! - as if I wasn't going anyway).

I've read & re-read it now, and I've decided it is a fantastic book. I wasn't sure at first, because I was initially very irritated by Dawkins' habit of lashing out at critics and criticisms of which I wasn't aware. It was almost as if he expected his reader to have followed his career and the controversies that have surrounded it (which I haven't). But in going back & selectively reading the chapters, and filtering out all of his personal "chip-on-the-shoulder" complaining, I've been often dumb-struck at the power, simplicity, and logic of his ideas.

I've never really discussed my views of the meaning of Life, The Universe, and Everything with a lot of people; at least not in great depth. I've found that there always comes a point, in the conversations I've had, where I feel like the other person is just plain nuts, or that I am. I've also noticed that people get very (sometimes VERY) upset when their core "beliefs" are challenged. I put "beliefs" in parentheses because, as Dawkins explores very eloquently in his book, most peoples' deeply held beliefs are merely regurgitations of what they had their little heads crammed with when they were young. I've often wondered why some people, who were adamant that their religion was the One True Religion, couldn't understand that they would have believed something completely different (and just as fervently) if they had been born in a different time & place. Dawkins considers it a form of child abuse to indoctrinate children into their parents' religious beliefs before they have developed the capacity to reason - and I think he has a strong case.

He also effortlessly strips away the self-referential logic of most of the major religions, and lays out a set of interesting questions: Do we believe things because we really, really want to believe them? Do we believe things simply because it's been drilled into our heads for our entire lives that they are true - and we must not ask questions? Or do we believe things because they are true? Not "because we think they are true"; or "because we want them to be true"; but because they are true. Dawkins is very solidly in the latter camp - an evangelical atheist.

I've always considered myself an agnostic, or perhaps a "looking over my shoulder" atheist ("God, I do not believe in thee, but if you do exist - please do not smite me for not believing in thee..."). Dawkins has nothing but scorn for this type of thinking. Either you believe in an all-powerful magical being that lives in some "realm" outside the observable universe, or you don't.

It's only a matter of degree whether or not you believe that this being "listens" to your every thought, is ready to punish you in horrible ways for all eternity if you have some naughty ones, yet really loves you and wants to carry you off to heaven some day if you are worthy, and don't question his existence at all, and do what you're told, etc. I've had to seriously consider what it is that I do believe, and why, and what I plan on teaching my daughter....

A powerful book.

2 Comments:

At 12:06 AM, Blogger Steph said...

Is she at school yet? Cos you will have to decide then whether she particpates in scripture classes or not.
With my nephews, my brother put them in the christian classes till year 3 and then let them decide for themselves if they wanted to keep doing it.
Two chose to, and one chose not too.
I wish I had a choice when i was growing up. I was foced to go to Sunday school and i friggin hated every second of it.

 
At 9:06 PM, Blogger Chocolate makes it better said...

It's interesting that you are reading that type of book. I've recently picked up a book which looks at the concept of a daimon or 'guardian angel' if you will.

It's an interesting concept in that this spirit or focus chooses a host that is best suited to it's need.

So for example, a musical genius daimon might choose a particular kid to host in as it's parents will create the right environment for this child to go down the path of it's focus or fate or whatever the hell it is.

It hurts my head a little to read it, but very interesting none the less.

 

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