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The G-d Delusion Part 1

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 20, 2007


The First Chapter of The God Delusion:

Also available here at NYTimes.com

“The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands. He suddenly found himself overwhelmed by a heightened awareness of the tangled stems and roots, a forest in microcosm, a transfigured world of ants and beetles and even – though he wouldn’t have known the details at the time – of soil bacteria by the billions, silently and invisibly shoring up the economy of the micro-world. Suddenly the micro-forest of the turf seemed to swell and become one with the universe, and with the rapt mind of the boy contemplating it. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it led him eventually to the priesthood. He was ordained an Anglican priest and became a chaplain at my school, a teacher of whom I was fond. It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.

In another time and place, that boy could have been me under the stars, dazzled by Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major, tearful with the unheard music of the Milky Way, heady with the night scents of frangipani and trumpet flowers in an African garden. Why the same emotion should have led my chaplain in one direction and me in the other is not an easy question to answer. A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists. It has no connection with supernatural belief. In his boyhood at least, my chaplain was presumably not aware (nor was I) of the closing lines of The Origin of Species – the famous ‘entangled bank’ passage, ‘with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth’. Had he been, he would certainly have identified with it and, instead of the priesthood, might have been led to Darwin’s view that all was ‘produced by laws acting around us’:

Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.

Carl Sagan, in Pale Blue Dot, wrote:

How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”

Dawkins draws some weird conclusions about Einstein and his faith later on in the Chapter – I will get to those as I go. Initially (in the quoted section above) he makes the same mistake that many other Religionists do – he assumes that if the experience is similar, the out-come must necessarily be the same. That is actually a logical fallacy, common, but one would expect a scientist like Dawkins not to make it.

He equates “similar” with “same”, when he relates the stories of the two boys and questions why the Anglican Priest didn’t become an Atheist Scientist, like himself.

Similar= Related in appearance or nature; alike though not identical.

Same= Identical with what is about to be or has just been mentioned.

From Dictionary.com

No two people experience their surroundings identically. That is simply not possible. But the same Aurora Borealis can very well evoke completely contradictory responses. To argue that similar experiences by necessity should lead to the same response in two different people only shows the Dawkins in his quest for proof that he is right, rather than a scientific exploration of the evidence – which at best would lead him down an agnostic path, is very much employing presuppositions about the nature of empirical data arrived through non-scientific means. Or in short – Dawkins assumes that the interpretation of the experience of the Anglican Priest, which lead him to belief in G-d is wrong, simply because it lead to something Dawkins cannot accept.

Dawkins prejudice against religion, and thus, I guess, his need to disprove it becomes very visible in the first paragraphs: “It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat.”

That smacks of dishonesty, and makes me wonder if Dawkins isn’t in all actuality re-acting to exactly the kind of force-feeding that he claims he was not exposed to. He equates religion with force – despite the fact that he also claims that the Anglican Priest he starts his first chapter with has not represented any such force.

Employing Giants like Carl Sagan and Albert Einstein (I’ll get to him later 🙂 ), and twist them to fit his own agenda, is not only dishonest – it’s immoral.

Carl Sagan’s ideas is very clearly reflected in Psalm 8:4-10:

“When I see Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You have established, 5. what is man that You should remember him, and the son of man that You should be mindful of him? 6. Yet You have made him slightly less than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and majesty. 7. You give him dominion over the work of Your hands; You have placed everything beneath his feet. 8. Flocks and cattle, all of them, and also the beasts of the field; 9. the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, he traverses the ways of the seas. 10. O Lord, our Master, how mighty is Your name in all the earth!”

It seems to me that the author of Psalm 8, Carl Sagan, the Anglican Priest and Richard Dawkins are all describing similar experiences!

I suppose that the portion of Carl Sagan’s work “The Blue Dot” that I linked to above, didn’t fit Dawkins ideas – but the portion that he quotes in his book, certainly doesn’t reflect the entirety of Carl Sagan’s Scope. It is also worth to note that two Giants Richard Dawkins choose to quote are both Jewish, and had a Jewish up-bringing. This does put their statements about G-d and the Universe in a slightly other light.

Judaism has the existence of G-d, or a Prime Cause, as an axiom. This is never questioned in Judaism – not in modern Judaism, and definitely in the Judaism brought to Carl Sagan. Carl Sagan lived an died a skeptic, an agnostic and a freethinker, but nowhere does he deny the existence of G-d. The manner of thinking, unique to Judaism and thus to its adherents is exactly the attitude of questioning and analyzing everything from a point of view of finding the truth of things and align those thoughts along lines of logic. It is very unlikely that someone Jewish would look at the Universe and come to the conclusion that there is nothing out there – it would be intellectually dishonest and a logical fallacy in and of itself, something Carl Sagan wouldn’t be guilty of, I am sure.

The thinking Dawkins ascribes to Carl Sagan (and later Albert Einstein) comes from an ignorance of the inner workings of intellectual Judaism and the manner in which Jews of Sagan’s and Einstein’s generations were trained from an early age to deal with intellectual problems, it is further driven by his need to prove the truth of Atheism.

Dawkins is a Religious Atheist – a Fundamentalist Atheist – which means he will be making the same logical mistakes Fundamentalists, whatever their Creed (and don’t be fooled – Atheism is a Creed to Dawkins) make and he is Preaching his Creed as well as ever any Evangelical Fundamentalist.

It was put very nicely in one of the Big Morning Papers here in Sweden on Saturday: “G-d doesn’t exist and Dawkins is His Prophet.”

It doesn’t mean that his message shouldn’t be taken seriously, or that Atheism as such is bad, but one need to realize that this is a man with an ego larger than his logic. He even has a page he calls “Converts Corner” with testimonial letters from readers who have converted to Atheism as a result of reading his books. In the end he is the one who comes across as delusional – not because he denies the veracity of Religion, but because he doesn’t draw the LOGICAL conclusions from the scientific evidence he is supposed be so well acquainted with. It shouldn’t land him in Fundamentalist Atheism, it should by all logic land him in Agnosticism.

I will come back and deal with the rest of the first chapter of Richard Dawkins’ book.

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6 Responses to “The G-d Delusion Part 1”

  1. Yael said

    “He even has a page he calls “Converts Corner” with testimonial letters from readers who have converted to Atheism as a result of reading his books.”

    I hate hearing about people bragging about how they’ve pulled people away from any religious belief. What a terrible thing to do to someone!

    Do people who lose all faith really become better people? Do they then go on to do great things in the world, or do they just sit and mock those who believe as they once did?

    People who never believed anything and then maybe briefly came under the sway of a charismatic leader but then went back seem to do just fine. But, the ones who lose what was always a part of their identity sometimes have a pretty rough time moving on with life. I wouldn’t be bragging about doing that to anyone.

    I enjoy reading your posts! Keep them coming.

    Like

  2. Yael: “I hate hearing about people bragging about how they’ve pulled people away from any religious belief. What a terrible thing to do to someone!”

    So do I. It has been one of my biggest bones to pick with Xianism – that it targets those who already have a faith, often under guise of being a “truer version” of the already existing faith.

    Dawkins is actually the first fundamentalist Atheist I have encountered that specializes in converting people to Atheism – to me there’s no difference between him and the late Jerry Falwell…

    Thanks or liking my posts 🙂

    Like

  3. Yael said

    Unfortunately all religions have fundamentalists who try to pull other people into their foolishness. We have them as well, busy trying to convince us liberal religious Jews that our Judaism isn’t authentic and that we have to learn ‘real’ Judaism as practiced by them of course. Whatever, whatever.

    Like

  4. I am Jewish, so my way of practicing Judaism must be The Jewish way. *lol*

    But you are right. It aggravates the heck out of me. In the end the only One who can judge on that is G-d.

    Btw, I liked your posts on The Abyss! Gave me more fodder for thought…will comment here soon.

    Like

  5. Yael said

    That’s what I’m enjoying, the bouncing of ideas off each other. You post something that reminds me of something else or gets me to thinking about something related, or non-related!

    What? You mean MY way isn’t THE Jewish Way? Surely you jest. If you would like, let’s get together and study so I can show you what is wrong with your view in order for you to start thinking just as I do! Please, we must be united, as defined by me, for if we have disunity, again as defined by me, this would lead to the destruction of the Jewish people and thus give Hitler his victory.

    Like

  6. Yael said

    I had to go to work so didn’t finish what I was saying. Ended on a ‘slightly’ sarcastic note….

    In my interactions with people I always try to encourage Christians to live by the teachings of Jesus the best they can; if they are Jewish to live by the teachings of Torah as best they can; whatever religion they are, use it to be a truly good person. I have to admit though, my good intentions run right into the wall with fundamentalism. I can interact with people all across the spectrum, except that end, and walk away feeling like we’ve both been elevated to a higher level, but my interactions with fundamentalists make me a lesser person. No good ever comes out of such interactions.

    Like

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