Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Sacredness of Faith

It is interesting that there is a lot of vitriol saved for Richard Dawkins in regards to his book, "The God Delusion". His goal is a simple one- to convert believers to unbelief using reason. He rarely acts as a demagogue and generally speaks in a calm and collected way. He does preach, but hardly more intrusively than some people of faith. After all, every time a Jehovah's witness comes to your day, they aim to convert you, and believe that whatever you believe is incorrect.

Certainly language has something to do with it. Faith is important to people, right or wrong, and sometimes the language Dawkin's uses is very confrontational. The actual content of his arguments seems far more reasonable. An example is his description of the indoctrination of children into belief as "child abuse". This is powerful language to use, but I wonder if is not sometimes accurate. Certainly some people have described the beliefs instilled within them as abusive, an example might be one instilled by Jehovah's witnesses (not to pick on them) that blood transfusion is evil. For the most part though, abuse goes too far, simply because of the emotional connotations it brings with it. Still his argument is reasonable enough- children should not be taught that one faith is true, they should be taught to reason, to challenge orthodoxy, and to make up their own minds when they are ready. To aid this, they could be taught a collection of comparative beliefs. Indeed the parents could teach the child about their own beliefs, there is certainly nothing wrong with that, as long as there is no implication that the child MUST accept them. Dawkins is certainly correct that to call a child a "Muslim child" or a "Christian child" is absurd- a child cannot truly be said to have faith simply because their parents do.

Sadly, Dawkin's chooses to use these strong words which might turn people off the argument. I understand that his goal is to garner attention, but I think using the wrong kind of language can really turn people off what are usually rather reasonable arguments. The very title, The God Delusion, is very provocative, and indeed it worked rather well, attracting people to read his book after all, but the word delusion is a slightly unfair word to use.

Atheists are split over whether Dawkin's approach is the correct one, as far as atheists can be claimed to be a community. I read several atheistic blogs, some of which are heavily aggressive against any religious belief, and I cannot believe that that is productive or even fair. I prefer the friendly atheists tact for the most part. To be fair, most of these aggressive atheists are American, and it is more understandable- it is quite hard to be an atheist in America, where many people are far more fiercely christian than the attitude in Britain, despite the secular constitution.

I am, and always will be, on these sort of arguments, of the attitude that it is generally better to live and let live, and intend I tend to expand upon this on my next post about secularism.


At 3:31 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said...

People need to chill out and relax more. I would say 'chillax' but it would go against my moral code. I agree with live and let live. By chance did anyone see the Panorama episode on scientology last night? I think it illustrates your point quite well!

Exam in an hour, should probably not be reading blogs...

At 11:12 am, Blogger Hilarious Catastrophes said...

I am torn between wanting to know what "The God Delusion" actually says, and tearing my hair out over how agonisingly awful human beings are when it comes to defining faith. REASON has NOTHING TO DO WITH IT. Atheists can laugh at this all they like... it's the truth and they'll never understand it because they don't even TRY to see it from an "unreasonable" point of view, I guess because it makes no sense to them. I believe everyone should be free to make up their own minds and I'm fed up with extremist views of every kind. "Chillaxing" is what I will aim to do now... :o)


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