When I finally got round to reading The God Delusion it was well after “meeting” Dawkins via the usual- The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker, which, in addition to various other thinkers- some of whom are mentioned on the website- taught me more about fundamental biology than I would ever learn in a conventional biology course, and in Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea – the 2nd book of his I’d read which I found immensely thought-provoking and imaginative, brilliant metaphors, ideas I found well, speculative to say the least (yet that’s one of the very things I love about him as a philosopher) and much keen and insightful criticism of other interpretations of evolution & its mechanisms – alerting me to just how much interesting debate exists in biology & making the Creation/Evolution “debate” seem even barmier than it had before! I am a largely self-educated non-specialist -musician/poet by trade, fascinated & constantly learning more about new ideas in cosmology/astrophysics & of course in bio, esp. where it opens up new realms & insights, expanding radically and sometimes challenging the neo-Darwinist paradigm itself in ways that would confound those who assert the “dogmatism of scientific reductionism”. But back to Richard Dawkins.
What The God Delusion did was not so much convert me from a half-arsed atheism (I had abandoned the Christianity of my childhood by the age of 10), nor had I unquestioningly accept any religious/ideological belief system. It was a timely book, a necessary book, one which drew a line in the sand. For the fact is, I have precious little respect, let alone reverence, for the appalling theologies underlying most of Islam & Christianity – & ultra-orthodox Judaism (I mention these in particular as the world seems to be willing to enter a state of continuous warfare over them). It is an unfortunate fact that many academics swallow the old “but one must always respect religion, and of course we know that most religious people are really very moderate, rational and tolerant in outlook” – an article of faith, this particular example of political correctness – and not in accord with my experience of Islam and Christianity. For every decent person of faith, who asks hard questions and respects people who are agnostic or atheistic, there are 1000 rabid bigots who may be ok as citizens in many ways but sympathise with Islamist terrorism/ Christian “Shock and Awe” campaigns etc.. Again, from conversations with people of either faith, their assertions are essentially identical: “The Bible/Koran is the only reliable Word of God. Other religions got it wrong at some stage and are false, misleading & therefore evil.”
Yet with so much more “Liberal” theology, one is tempted to ask: Why not just go that little step further? Why continue to insist that people need a moral Guidebook, a prefabricated creed, to act morally? It really is like a parasite in some ways, limiting otherwise able people’s scope by exploiting our fear of death and the unknown. Fair enough 2000 years ago, perhaps, but not in a global society. The G.D. has made me a more intolerant person in a way: because I’m straight-out honest now about this stuff, and think it’s about time we grew up. I’m not happy that Islam and/or the increasingly reactionary Christian churches should wield power in a secular liberal democracy like Australia’s. They are masters of ‘doublethink’ – at least, their leaders are – capable of trashing the beautiful insights of science, then using computers to spread the word…come off it. We must, however, be careful to understand the causes of religious bigotry in order to address, and I’m afraid, FIGHT it.