I finished listening to atheist Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion last night. Over the next few days, I want to interact with that book, but I’ll be using some of Russell Miller’s comments as my launching point. Please remember that not every detail of the book is in my mind, since I listened to it on CDs and was often doing other things at the same time.
Under my post, The Bible and Morality, Russell Miller said: “I’m a little surprised you’re reading/listening to [Dawkins’ book], but good on you. It shows some level of open-mindedness. :)”
I appreciate the compliment, but I should clarify something about open-mindedness: I have no intention of becoming an atheist, regardless of what Dawkins argues. When I was an undergraduate, atheist and agnostic professors thought that I should base my beliefs on some sort of positivist methodology: I can only believe in things that are supported by reason and evidence. Today, I feel no such compulsion. Now, if I want to convince a non-believer of the truth of theism, then I’d better use more than “Just have faith.” But, as far as I personally am concerned, reason and evidence are not the only factors in what I believe. There are also personal needs, emotions, experience, a desire for something more to life, attraction to certain aspects of religion, etc.
Dawkins would ask, “Then why don’t you believe in the flying spaghetti monster? You can prove that just as much as you can prove God (meaning you can’t prove it).” Look, I don’t care if someone believes in a flying spaghetti monster. If that makes him a good person, then I say “Go for it.” Personally, I don’t think it’s so far-fetched to believe that a supreme being created everything and is involved in life, so I don’t put God and the flying spaghetti monster in the same category. But that’s just me.
What’s interesting is that Dawkins is open to things that he can’t prove, see, or touch. He speculated in Expelled that aliens are responsible for the design on earth, and he expressed openness to the existence of extra-terrestrial life in The God Delusion. Dawkins defenders have pointed out that aliens are natural, whereas God is supernatural, but that’s just quibbling over words (in my humble opinion). I doubt that Dawkins has ever seen an alien, and “evidence” of alien life (e.g., spotting a UFO, experiencing abduction) can have other explanations, just like people’s experiences of God. Why should I feel bad about embracing God’s existence as a possibility? To his credit, there are times when even Russell Miller acknowledges that God may exist (i.e., “If there is a God…”). There’s lots out there that we don’t know about!
Then why do I read Dawkins, if I have no intention of becoming an atheist? I’m interested in how different people see life, including ways that non-Christians perceive Christianity. I remember hearing one Christian woman (at one of the schools that I attended) affirm that Christians can learn from what outsiders say about them–more than they can if they just hang out among themselves, read only their own writings, and watch only their own programs. At DePauw, I had a Christian friend who often saw truth in what non-believers were saying!
And there were gems that I got out of Dawkins. In his critique of Pascal’s Wager (i.e., believe in God because he may exist, and God will reward you in the afterlife for believing in him without proof), Dawkins asks why we should assume that God places such value on believing in him without evidence. Why can’t God place a greater value on, say, kindness? Good question! Dawkins also expressed shock that Christian martyrs were willing to die over minutiae of doctrine. He makes a good point, but that goes to show that what matters to insiders may appear unimportant to outsiders, since insiders believe something is at stake.
Coming soon: the anthropic principle. Stay tuned!