Saturday, May 27, 2017
The Lion in Mid-Winter....
So Richard Dawkins is on tour, NPR informed me this morning (no, I don't remember why. A new book? "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh." Ecclesiastes 12:1. If you're going to slam someone, why not use the KJV?). In a relatively challenging interview, Dawkins stuck fast to his assertion that nothing motivates people to kill like religious faith.
Which explains the French Reign of Terror, hot on the heels of the French Revolution (and the rejection of all things religious. Some argue modernity was born in that Revolution, because it rejected the Church so fiercely). It explains the wars of Empire as the "Great Game" was played out in the 19th century; explains the slaughterhouse Europe was turned into in World War I; the purges of Stalin; the rise of Nazism where the churches that didn't support the Third Reich were brutalized into submission (I've met young Germans who still have an aversion to the national trappings, like flags, in Christian places of worship. They remember that history a bit differently than, apparently, Dr. Dawkins does). And of course the Cultural Revolution of Mao, the killing fields of Pol Pot; the bombings and terrorism of the '70's; the slaughter in Rwanda; all of that can be chalked up to religious faith.
What's that? It can't? Dawkins was challenged, as well, on his notion that atheists are better people than religious ones. He admitted not all religious believers are murderous fanatics (how kind of him!), but he really couldn't identify any group of avowed atheists who did good works selflessly for others. The best he could come up with is a group that defends and supports apostates and atheists in places where they are persecuted for their ideas. Nothing wrong with that, but it's hardly selfless and altruistic to help those who are just like you, is it? I saw hundreds of people organize to help victims of Hurricane Katrina fleeing New Orleans for Houston; they organized through a Baptist church, and didn't care anything about the people who needed their help, except that they needed help. I don't recall any similar atheist organizations acting that way, ever.
As Scott Simon said (this from memory, not transcript), atheists mainly preen about how much smarter they are than anyone else.
I must say Dawkins was quite anodyne about the whole affair. He was full of vague and glittering generalities, and took Simon's challenges almost demurely. Perhaps in old age he is less certain about the verities than he was before; perhaps he's more going through the motions than enthused by the attention. The role of eminence grise perhaps, is not sitting well on him. His argument smacks of an anachronism mired in 19th century controversies about the source and value of moralities. Then again, Donald Trump has become our shining example of how ignorance can't be shamed about what it doesn't know and doesn't want to know. He really isn't sui generis in that, is he?
Posted by Rmj at 8:34 PM