Counterpoints: The God Delusion, Ch. 1

9 Responses

  1. RE: Fairyologists. I don't think Dawkins meant fairyologist in the sense that you describe, as someone who studies portrayals of them in art and literature; rather, I think Dawkins meant a fairyologist as someone who literally claims knowledge of real fairies. Dawkins is attempting to make an analogy between the absurd idea of a fairyologist and the idea that it is possible to be an expert in theology because, to Dawkins, to say one is to say the other, they are equally ludicrous. The analogy goes like this: why is it acceptable to dismiss a fairyologist because he or she believes in magic, but that same logic doesn't apply to someone like Jesus, who, as if by magic, raised Lazarus from the dead (and himself rose from the dead, and turned water into wine, etc.). Accepting the magic of one and dismissing the magic of the other doesn't make sense to Dawkins, and, on a certain level, doesn't make that much sense to me. But we'll get to that more explicitly later in the book.

    I feel like we're talking about the rest of our issues over on my site, so I'll just leave the rest of the article alone for now…

  2. Elmo says:

    The problem with the analogy is that there are no (prominent) people discussing fairies as if they are real. I'll address the "magic" issue in my next post, most likely to be titled "Materialism in Science".

  3. Sure, as there are no prominent fairyologists. The analogy, I think, is really supposed to create the question… why are the supernatural elements of one (fairies) dismissed while the supernatural elements of another (Christianity) accepted? Having already read half the book, I know that Dawkins will come back to this point later, so I don't feel like pressing it too hard; however, it is hard to see why one is given preference over the other. Or, switching to another religion. Christians reject the theology of Buddhism, with its multiple deities and so forth. Beyond the Bible's claims of the truthfulness of the supernatural elements of God (which seem circular to me), why are Christianity's supernatural elements accepted while Buddhism's are rejected?

  4. Elmo says:

    I do see the purpose of the analogy.

    You've said that you choose to lump all religions together into one group, so as far as I'm prepared to go with your last question is that Christianity is exclusive by nature. Christians are identified as such because they believe in Christ, and that means to the exclusion of all others. The logical and philosophical arguments in favor of Christianity's truth claims are available in many places.

  5. I'm only lumping all of them into one group in the violence discussion and, in fact, I'm going to write more about that where I back track (only a little). Discussing each specific theology of each religion is another conversation. Of course, Christianity excludes others (interestingly, Buddhism really doesn't). My question, from an objective point of view on both religions, is why are the supernatural elements of one "true" (Christianity) and the competing supernatural elements of the other (Buddhism) "false"? Being a non-believer, the answer is not self-evident to me, and I don't understand where the truth or falsehood comes from other than the Bible asserting its own authority.

  6. Elmo says:

    The reason one is "true" and one is "false", at it simplest, is because you must believe the latter is false to believe the former is true. If you don't believe the former, then you can consider both false.

    I'm not trying to convince you that Christianity's truth claims are valid, and never was. It would be a pointless and futile effort, since right now you seem dedicated to proving them invalid. However, if you're interested in actually looking at logic and evidence, here are some names for you:

    Lee Strobel (this one you know), Gary Habermas, Josh McDowell, C.S. Lewis (one-time atheist), G. K. Chesterton, Francis Shaeffer, Ravi Zacharias (former atheist), and R. C. Sproul.

  7. Elmo says:

    In response to your final comment at your site:

    1. First, there is evidence and support for Christian belief. See above. Second, okay, opinions are not debatable.

    6. I don’t disagree with you about homosexuality not being a choice. You’re putting words in my mouth now.

    There are differences between being black or white and being homosexual. First, and most clearly, there is no “lifestyle that is a consequence of” being a particular race. Of course, giving someone a hard time for it is bad, for race or sexuality.

    As for the response to biological futility, you are beginning to lump religions together, as you said you’d only do for the violence issue. I am not Catholic, therefore my ministers are married, and produce children. Also, here you compare a lifestyle which is a choice (celibacy) with the “lifestyle that is a consequence of homosexuality”, which you say is not a choice. If celibacy is not a choice, you should be defending it. If a homosexual lifestyle is a choice, then it can receive the same criticism. If celibacy is a choice, and a homosexual lifestyle is not, they are incomparable.

    The wasted time and resources position has two problems. First, most people spend a fraction of the time at church that they spend watching TV, or sports, or doing any number of things. Second, the premise that our money would be better spent on healthcare or other such things, assumes that people would choose to spend their money on healthcare, or that it would be appropriate to raise taxes. I actually don’t disagree with your premise, though. It’s ridiculous that American churches are buying arenas and building $5 million buildings on 40 acre plots when people are going hungry and sleeping under bridges within 50 miles.

    Plenty of gay couples raise children through adoption, thus prolonging the chances of life of the species, as an example.Plenty of gay couples raise children through adoption, thus prolonging the chances of life of the species, as an example. True. That doesn’t make it part of the natural order. To be blunt, we aren’t plumbed for homosexual activity. That much is clear.

    This is not the best argument to make for someone in your position, because the same logic can be applied to faith (an argument that Dawkins makes a little later in the book, so I can’t credit for thinking this up entirely by myself). That was my point. Dawkins is using science to say religion is false. You support his argument (so far). So, by his logic, homosexuality is also a problem. It’s not the argument I would choose, except to make this point.

    I do believe that “my version” of morality is absolute – for Christians. Some people think they should try to force a non-believer to accept the morality of the Bible, but that doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. So, based on logic (for example, if everyone only had sex with their spouse and didn’t divorce, venereal disease would be all but eliminated. The spread of AIDS would be reduced, there would be fewer abortions, teen/unwed mothers, the cycle of poverty would be easier to break, etc.) and my faith, I believe that this morality is best, in comparison to alternatives. I see what you mean though. Tell me if this definition fits, from your perspective (it does not fit from mine): morality is a social construct based on logic, survival, and the preservation of order.

    7. I’ll do the research myself, but I’ll also point out that you said “religious people do more bad things in comparison with other groups,” in response to my saying it was unfair to characterize all religion and religious people based on the negative actions of a few. Of course, you also said, “no, I don’t have numbers, and no, I’m not going to show them to you.” So maybe I should have just assumed you were right and moved on. I’ll be back with numbers though, and if you’re right, I’ll let you know.

    All analogies break down at some point. But the validity in the government analogy is that when you vote for someone else, you are justifying governance, just in another form. You can choose to live “off the grid” eschewing any governance, or you can revolt, or you can advocate anarchy. In this analogy those are equivalent to atheism. Dawkins isn’t talking about disassociating from the actions of a particular religion or religious leader, but about removing religion from the sphere altogether.

    The institutional violence in Christian history begins and ends with church-run governments. The Crusades, the Inquisition, the witch-hunts…The conflict in Northern Ireland was more political than religious, most of those involved in the fighting being the type of non-believing Anglicans and Catholics that Dawkins enjoys so much. The persecution of Jews was wrong. I’m not really familiar with what you’re talking about specifically, but I’m assuming it was a “grassroots” type of thing. Televangelists use(d) Christianity as a tool – more like a weapon – to con people. That’s just criminal action, it happens at self-help seminars and with all kinds of scams.

    Of course the church and the government should be separate, as much for the purity of the church as for the security of the government and the governed. Those events are a perfect example of what can happen when the two are joined.

    Much of the institutional violence in Islam is similar, through Sharia law and political organizations like Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Taliban. I don’t care to defend Islam, so I’m not going to work as hard on this one. It is a religion that, unlike Christianity, was originally spread through violence by Muhammad and his early followers. Christianity was attacked and persecuted for it’s first few centuries, yet flourished through peace.

    So, if you would take some time to look at circumstances, you’d see that the trend is much more specific than you seem to think. It’s called dominionism.

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