Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Richard Dawkins: The real message of his atheism poll

I see yet another professor, the Richard Dawkins one, is bidding for guru status: he's trying to make capital out of a poll which tells us that most Christians don't read the Bible and probably don't go to church much if at all. Apparently this is evidence that atheism is the growing faith du jour.

Perhaps he's right. But then again how many atheists have read AC Grayling's The Good Book: A Humanist Bible? Very few if sales have any say. You'd think your average fashion follower would acquaint him or herself with the godless script(ure). But no. Instead, he or she watches another TV professor, the Brian Cox one, and marvels at the universe as fascinating facts are reeled off from the textbooks.

This approach at least permits one to embrace the stats of eternity while grazing on cashews.

If the Dawkins poll has a message, it is that no matter what one's belief system (and atheism is just another belief system), most followers are happy to take their position cues from the idiot boards of priests and professors. There's just too much sex and socialising and work to get through.


Elly said...

I have read the Bible, even though my parents religiously kept it away from me growing up.

I always think reading is worth the work involved, unless it is Richard Dawkins' books.

Anonymous said...

Dawkins is just another crank. He's no longer regarded as a serious intellectual figure.

Madame Arcati said...

Dear Elly, I assume your parents were atheists, like Martin Amis'. I wonder how Brian Cox's kids will be received by their parents if they decide to tire of his textbooks.

Elly said...

Yes red blooded atheists. I hope Brian Cox's kids find some other inspiration apart from the big bang and D-Ream.

Anonymous said...

Atheism is simply the absence of belief in a god.
Atheism is a belief system like abstinence is a sex position!

Madame Arcati said...

That is not correct but is the standard line of humanists and the like.

Because atheists do not know whether there is a god or not, they elect to believe that it/he/she does not exist. The absence of belief usually is based on a set of assumptions about the world, life, the universe, with scientific objectivity as measure. This too is part of a belief system.

Like other belief systems, atheism has its priests (eg professors), a sense of rightness, a temple (eg the Large Hadron Collider) and scripture - such as Dawkins' God Delusion.

Anonymous said...

This is congitively deficient as it makes false assumptions. A-theism is exactly the LACK of belief in a god PERIOD. It means no more and no less.
An atheist may not accept a single word of Dawkins, never heard of modern science etc.
Absence of belief in Yahweh is no different from absence of belief in Ra or Thor, which have no predictable consequences for other beliefs. It is simply the absence of something. You cannot logically infer any consequences from that simple absence.

Madame Arcati said...

No. The position you adopt is faux naive. You believe a god does not exist; it is not absence of belief.

I do not know whether fairies exist. But I believe that they do not.

I do not know whether the Big Bang is true. But I believe the jury's out on that one. You do not know whether the Big Bang is true as I write. But you may have beliefs.

Modern atheists have adopted a strategic position of 'non-belief' in god in an attempt to sidestep the whole question of divine or non-divine belief. This is because divine belief (or just belief) is associated with gullibility, self-delusion or other negatives. Many atheists have therefore adopted a false position that their non-belief is not predicated on some other belief; or, that their non-belief is somehow synonymous with knowing something - which is of course 'superior' to belief.

At its simplest, atheism does indeed indicate an absence of belief in god. But in any cultural context, it arises from choice and judgement - belief in a word.

I have yet to meet an atheist who does not place a touching faith in science and/or secular philosophy as lodestar.

Cuttlefish said...

Madame A, Virtually all of us believe a god does not exist; the trick is, a good number disagree on which god that is. The "lack of belief" (or if you prefer, the "none of the above" privative religious category) is indeed the most useful and consistent definition of atheism.

Your "believe that a god does not exist" only makes sense if you first define that god. Christians do not believe Zeus Apollonius exists, but that does not make them atheists. And just as there is no requirement that a Baptist examine every one of the world's religions before choosing hers, there is no requirement that atheists examine and reject all of the thousands of available gods (which is an implication of "believe a god does not exist".

And to put Grayling's book as a requirement for atheist reading is ludicrous. There are, of course, no reading requirements for atheism (although most atheists I know have read the Bible, and studies show we atheists are more well-versed in biblical knowledge, on average, than Christians), whereas the Bible does kinda sorta have a central place in Christian belief. Your attempt at making the two books equivalent in some sense reeks of desperation.

Madame Arcati said...

Thank you for your thoughts. I'm afraid your opening assertion flies in the face of facts. Most people globally believe in some sort of deity, whether Islamic, Christian or whatever.

Not even the fine work of the late Christopher Hitchens in his Vanity Fair temple managed to alter this fact. Google the matter.

From an atheistic standpoint, the question of which god one believes in is irrelevant. By definition, any divine belief tends to be theistic - and is another matter. There is no need to define a 'god' in deciding whether one qualifies as an atheist (though in practice one always names the faith); only to say that one believes in a god or not.

Given that the modern form of atheism (arising from science and promulgated by scientists) lacks a history as long as the major religions', it is only right to examine whether there are core atheistic texts. Grayling's book is a serious attempt to substitute the Holy Bible. Dawkins' God Delusion is a rabble-rousing attempt to convert to atheism. Both books directly or indirectly make the case for atheism as a body of ideas. In other words, the case is made for a belief system whose first precept is: There is no god.

All faiths have core texts: atheism's library grows apace.

Dawkins attempts to make something of the fact that many Christians know little of the Holy Bible, do not go to church and in some instances do not agree with certain tenets of their faith. He claims that this proves that atheism is more widespread. I find it strange that he equates ignorance or disagreement with non-belief. Desperate?

This is like saying: if you do not know the full title of Darwin's book on evolution, then you're not a proper atheist. An absurd idea - though funnily enough Dawkins was unable to give the full title of Darwin's book on R4 yesterday.

It is probably the case that most belief followers (theistic or otherwise) are lazy in their comprehension of their faith. The whole Islamist movement is based on a fundamental distortion of their faith - does this make them atheists?

Of course atheism is a faith. Put it another way: can you say you know that a god does not exist? If you do not know this, then you believe it.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Madame, there is no limit to people's stupidity

Anonymous said...

Including yours

Madame Arcati said...

And the jury's out on yours.

Wendy said...

Dear Madame,

While physicists are always glad to explain How Things Work on an atomic level, one only has to look at Svante Paabo's team and collaborators' romps through ancient DNA. Given that there probably four species of humans that we are aware of, to assert homo sapiens is literally made in God's image leads to some interesting conclusions. Which version of humans got to be the one made in God's image?

But the history of humans is all about sex, and it is nice to think that we are carrying around bits of the other human versions inside our cell DNA. I told the twins about this article when I was driving them home from preschool, since the lead author of the study is a friend, and I do want them to be aware of new developments in DNA research as kindergarten is supposed to be a foundational year. All they said was, Oh, how sad, that little girl died 40,000 years ago! Where did they get her pinky from?


Madame Arcati said...

Thank you Wendy. My suspicion is that god looks like his statue - does this help?