Monday, December 08, 2003

The New Republic Online: The Ethics of Belief

Simon Blackburn wrote a review of Richard Dawkins' latest book. This passage caught my eye:
Dawkins is an atheist, a strenuous and militant and proud one. He thinks religious belief is a dangerous virus, and that it is a crime to infect the mind of a child with it. He believes that 'only the willfully blind could fail to implicate the divisive force of religion in most, if not all, of the violent enmities in the world today.' He calls religions 'dangerous collective delusions,' and he thinks that they are sinks of falsehood (most of them have to be, since only one can be true).
Whenever I read Richard Dawkins' thoughts on religion -- or Christopher Hitchens, for that matter -- I get the distinct impression that here is someone who seems awfully desperate to believe that there is no God. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis's description of his atheistic period:
Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about "Man's search for God." To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse's search for the cat. The best image of my predicament is the meeting of Mime and Wotan in the first act of Siegfried; hier brauch' ich nicht Sparer noch Spaher, Einsam will ich . . . . (I've no use for spies and snoopers. I would be private . . . .)

Remember, I had always wanted, above all things, not to be "interfered with." I had wanted (mad wish) "to call myself my own." I had been far more anxious to avoid suffering than to achieve delight. I had always aimed at limited liabilities. The supernatural itself had been to me, first, an illicit dram, and then, as by a drunkard's reaction, nauseous.
Surprised by Joy (1955), pp. 227-28. Atheists often suggest that many religious people believe in God because they find the idea of God pleasing or comforting -- in other words, for non-rational reasons. This may be true, but it is no less true that many atheists appear to disbelieve in God because they find the idea of God displeasing or uncomfortable.


Blogger John Mac said...

I quite enjoyed this. Thank you. Personally I find the oleaginous Professor Dawkins and his crusading zeal almost more than flesh and blood can stand, not least because his primary platform seems to be buttressed by a belief in his own superior intelligence.
Nice blog...

2:01 PM  

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