Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Regarding Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, et al...

There has been a lot of buzz on the web in the last year or so about the recent books by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris concerning what can be considered their radical, bold arguments on behalf of atheism, if not outright jeremiads against religion. I don't think that faith and reason need to be adverserial by necessity, but I do believe that faith is ultimately a gift we receive through grace, and cannot be forced. Most of the time the two sides in this faith vs. science dispute are talking past each other. Often it seems to be on terms equally fundamentalistic. I don't have much to add beyond the following...

Taken from National Geographic's Eternal Enemies

That's it? That's all there is?

I've posted here a bit lately about the goodness of creation. Yes, I believe that it is ultimately good, but it is flawed in a way that only God can ultimately set to right... It is with the eyes of faith that I'm allowed and encouraged to see it as good. As Crystal quoted David Hart on her blog today:
The Christian vision of God and the world ... and of how God is reflected within his creation, is of a different order. For, while the Christian is enjoined to see the the glory of God in all that is, it is not a glory conformed to the dimensions or logic of "nature" as we understand it; in fact, it renders the very category of "nature" mysterious, alters it, elevates it - judges and redeems it .....The Christian eyes see (or should see) a deeper truth in the world than mere "nature" ..... the Christian should see two realities at once, one world (as it were) within another: one the world as we all know it, in all its beauty and terror, grandeur and dreariness, delight and anguish; and the other the world in its first and ultimate truth, not simply "nature" but "creation", an endless sea of glory, radiant with the beauty of God in every part, innocent of all violence. To see in this way is to rejoice and mourn at once, to regard the world as a mirror of infinite beauty, but as glimpsed through the veil of death: it is to see creation in chains, but beautiful as in the beginning of days .....
But, if we are left to Dawkins and Harris...

Day after day, night after night, from time immemorial... At the end of the day, this is all they have to offer. No matter how the argument is couched in terms of evolutionary psychology and the means by which Natural Selection has conditioned us for reciprocity and even altruism and a certain kind of rudimentary morality, this is what it comes down to at the end of the day, no matter how much beautiful art we create along the way. The lion may be graceful and beautiful in the chase leading to the killing, but a killing machine is ultimately what he is.

The strong kill the weak (or more accurately, the "fit" outlast the "unfit").

And this is how it must be.

And that is how it should be.

And your body is basically a vehicle that exists for the purpose of passing on your selfish genes, by granting you the illusion of having a "life" that means something.

A refusal to face reality on our part? As Jeremy Irons' character 'Father Gabriel' says in The Mission, "Maybe so... Maybe so." I won't say it doesn't give me pause sometimes, that God has created a world in which living things must eat other living things in order to survive. Still, if this is what they are selling, this is why they will never succeed in eradicating religious faith.


Garpu the Fork said...

If thinking that there's more to life than kill or be killed, I'm with you. I'd rather be labeled delusional.

crystal said...

Thanks for the mention :-) I really like the way Hart writes.

I wonder too about the debates - I just doubt that anyone who is on the fence will be convinced by the arguments, but I could be wrong.

Sometimes I try to figure out what changed for me - I was pretty much an atheist in college and after. Even when I joined the church, I wasn't really convinced.

Jeff said...

Hi Garpu and Crystal,

Do people really take Dawkins and the rest very seriously? Maybe it's my age, but I hardly know anyone who's an atheist. I know a lot of people who eschew dogma, or who have a very vague and non-specific idea of who God is, but I know very few who flat out don't believe in God.

My older kids, however, suggest to me that this might be changing. They say they'v known some other kids in school who are militantly vocal about being atheists. They must be picking that up at home somewhere.

cowboyangel said...

Late to the party, as usual. Thanks for the post, Jeff.

I agree that both sides in these "debates" just seem to be talking past each other.

Atheism has always been popular among younger people. When I was hanging out with the punks, you pretty much had to say you were an atheist just to fit in. Over time, I think people realize they don't really know what they think about a supreme being. In the end, I think most people are agnostics, including those who claim to be of one religion or another or those who claim to be atheists.

Personally, I think Hitchens is a drunk asshole and blowhard who knows how to piss people off in order to sell books. A slightly more intellectual version of Ann Coulter. Though equally overhyped. But given all the religious extremism we've been faced with for a while now, is it really any wonder that atheism might be popular with some?

Jeff said...

Man, somebody would have to be a real anglophile to be able to like Christopher Hitchens at all. He lost me years ago when he called Mother Teresa "a propagandist for the Vatican."

Just the same... yes... a retreat into fundamentalism, by just about every major religious tradition, is a cause for deep concern right now. It's one of those tribal responses people make when they feel naked and powerless in front of the forces of globalization. Understandable, but it carries danger with it.