Imagine All the People…
by Graham Veale
Some atheists imply that the only way to have a Happy Christmas and Peaceful New Year is to ditch the Christmas message. When asked what difference September 11th made to the world, Richard Dawkins sagely opined that it was time to exercise some tough love on the religious.
“Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where’s the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let’s now stop being so damned respectful!”[i]
Presumably Dawkins knows this is nonsense. He has to overstate the dangers of revealed religion; if he believed that Christianity was a harmless delusion, people might wonder why he spent so much time condemning it! He has to detect some hidden danger to justify all those public attacks. He
also has to ignore a glaring contradiction in his worldview – all his righteous indignation has as much significance as a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. Elsewhere he says:
“In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.” [ii]
There is no room for respect or righteousness in Dawkins worldview. In The God Delusion Dawkins sounds like a mystical theologian revelling in paradox, describing morality as a “blessed, precious mistake”; however, if morality is a mistake, he cannot help himself to value judgments like “blessed” and “precious”. A person can say “sometimes it seems as if moral values are real and important, but I know this is an illusion.” A person cannot expect others to take him seriously if he says, “I believe that moral values are real and important, and I believe that that belief is false”.
We’re sure that Richard Dawkins is a very nice man who cares deeply for children, old people and kittens. However, he cannot explain why he ought to act like this all the time…
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