Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


I was stuck in the Baltimore airport for several hours on Thursday -- the flight was canceled because I was supposed to be on it, is my theory. Anyway, although I had some reading material and even work I could have done, I went and bought The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins because I figured it would be more entertaining.

I don't usually bother to read that sort of thing because the non-existence of God has been obvious to me since I was old enough to think for myself, and indeed, I didn't really encounter any new arguments or ideas. But I continue to find myself befuddled by the difficulty we have in communicating with religious people. Dawkins was not writing for me, but for believers. He and I both know that few of them will read his book. Perhaps it will be helpful to some waverers or questioners, but the very definition of faith is to believe without evidence, or contrary to evidence.

As Dawkins points out, having unshakable faith is a badge of honor to believers, and he quotes several of them as proclaiming proudly that their belief will remain completely unaffected by facts or logic. Martin Luther, for example, condemned reason as the enemy of God. Under the circumstances, there isn't much hope for dialogue. That has been my experience in fact. I have tried many times to draw the faithful into a reason-based discussion of the nature of reality and they just won't participate. I suppose they know it is pointless because they already know that religion is preposterous, but they have chosen to ignore what they know and live a make believe life. So why waste time reviewing the obvious?

Nevertheless, I still feel we need to try. So I will return to my habit of long ago, of philosophical posts here on Sundays. For a time I was using another blog for the purpose but without the partners and interlocutors I once had there, I don't think it's worth maintaining on my own. But if anyone does care to join in these discussions here, from whatever point of view, you are welcome.


roger said...

a judicious use of sunday.

Cervantes said...

Next week, I'll also light a candle.

kathy a. said...

i'm also a non-believer, having rejected the church of my youth and given it all a lot of thought -- but i count believers and even ministers among my friends.

the thing these friends and i agree on is caring for one another, and not being judgmental about others. so, there's a clear divide with hot-air fundamentalists. i think those are values i learned in the church, and have chosen to retain, despite not believing in the big guy in the sky. my ecumenical friends don't seem to have a need to interrogate me about jesus.

kathy a. said...

these are pretty liberal friends, i need hardly add. as far as anyone else's beliefs go, i'm good with what gets people by, so long as it doesn't impose on others.

Cervantes said...

Dawkins has kind things to say about certain Anglican Archbishops. He isn't so kind to, say, Ted Haggard however.

Cervantes said...

I should add, he's not so kind to the Catholic Bishops as a class, however.

kathy a. said...

among my friends are a number of fallen catholics who share war stories, are funny as hell, and really among the most generous and thoughtful people you could meet.

i'm happy with the embracing direction the larger church of my youth has taken [episcopalian], but horrified that my particular parish has broken off and gone rogue, wanting to take the property with them.

i left after someone evangelical [fire and brimstone] became minister and did some awful things to the youth group. most of the longtime parish families also left shortly thereafter. so i don't have a vote in how things went after that, but it makes me sad. i knew the founder of that parish, and knew him to be a caring and thoughtful man.

Anonymous said...

One of my relatives (b. 1920 now deceased) was a rabid, and completely intolerant atheist. It was understandable, as her family had been persecuted (you don’t want to hear) on two counts: Catholic in Ireland, and Jewish in Germany...Yikes. When I was 10 or 11 she threw a glass in my face, hit me and would have beaten me up had she not been restrained. I had mentioned the word God in her presence!

This incident made me think. How could you hate a belief?

A difficult question for a child.

Anyway, I’m interested in that kind of Sunday discussion..


Cervantes said...

I don't react violently, don't worry.