Thursday, 3 May 2012

A Dawkins Groupie?

In the small footnote to the day before yesterday's post  I suggested the possibility of an answer any putative accusation that I might be an unthinking fan of Richard Dawkins.  So, let's set things straight.

Yes, I am a fan of Richard's work, enjoyed meeting him, and found him to be the gentleman that I expected him to be.  I'm also looking forward to seeing him in conversation with Daniel Dennett in Oxford next week, and have my tickets in a safe place!  I thoroughly enjoyed seeing him on the recent BBC TV programme, Beautiful Minds, which you might still be able to find at this link - if the BBC has not spotted it and had it taken down already.  Be quick!  My mother is not a natural fan, being a church goer, but even she found the programme interesting and commented about how gentlemanly and reasonable Richard seemed after all.  (I couldn't help but smile!)

I would be very reluctant now to lend my copy of The God Delusion (TGD) to anyone, now that he has signed it for me with a personal message.  As I mentioned on Tuesday, TGD has affected my view of life, but it is not my favourite of Richard's books.  My favourite is "The Greatest Show on Earth" (known to us groupies as 'TGSOE'). It is also not available for lending for the same reason!

'TGSOE' - The Greatest book yet by Richard Dawkins
(now jealously guarded!)

TGSOE is my first choice because I learned more about the amazing world around us from it than from any other book that I remember reading.  I read it in fewer than three days, while suffering from the discomfort of warm weather and an abundance of mosquito bites on a holiday in southern Italy in 2010.

Returning to TGD though, it is,  (let's say), 'rather thorough'.  Sometimes I felt that it repeated arguments a little more than I would have preferred.  However, it pointed me to other sources of information and made me start to think about things more deeply.  It also made me aware of a lot of the modern thinking about atheism and I appreciated that a lot.

It might be interesting to mention that I would never have read it, had it not been for the neo-catholic, Anglican Vicar of Blewbury (Oxfordshire) at the time.  It is him who I would like to thank for beginning the process of my deconversion.  He started off several years earlier, with all that nonsense about transubstantiation!  He honestly believes that he can personally cast a magic spell over some wafers and ruby wine to turn them into the body and blood of a mythical carpenter!  He believes this in-spite of teachings to the contrary by his own church.  The 28th of the 39 Articles of Religion says:

Transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of Bread and Wine) in the Supper of the Lord, cannot be proved by Holy Writ; but is repugnant to the plain words of Scripture, overthroweth the nature of a Sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions.

But I digress!

Christian friends sometimes make the accusation that Richard is not a great thinker and that his arguments in TGD are not logically valid.

Actually I happen to disagree with both those claims, and I notice that they tend to come from people who have never yet succeeded in convincing me of any single aspect of their particular religion, in spite of their liberal use of 'evidences' and syllogisms.  So far these people have all been christians or muslims, and I appreciate the debates that I have had with all of them.  Certainly I have learned from them, but I didn't learn any of the things that they were trying to teach me.

However, since they make their accusation fairly frequently, and for those of you who would find TGD too thorough and who want an easy introduction to the topic, I would recommend two other, much shorter works to assist with your deconversion.  They happen not to disagree with the messages in TGD.

First, from one of the professional 'great thinkers' of the 20th century I would suggest Why I am not a Christian by Bertrand Russell, a transcript of a lecture given in 1927 to the National Secular Society in London.  In just 20 pages he addresses all the main reasons to disbelieve in god(s), particularly God.

Secondly, from one of the founding fathers of the USA, who had been imprisoned for his views in France at the time of the French Revolution, The Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, succinctly presents the arguments against beliefs in a theistic god.  There is little to be gained from reading part 2 of the work.  Part 1 covers virtually everything.  I have dipped into it in the past, Thomas Paine - the first New Atheist, and it is not difficult to find the whole text free on the web.

Those two works go some way towards showing that thinking people have disbelieved in gods for a long time. TGD brings them together and adds some more newer information.

So, am I a Dawkins Groupie?  I guess I can't completely deny it, but on the other hand I think it is in a fairly balanced way!


Kenny Wyland said...

Interestingly, I found Part 1 of Age of Reason to just be a lot of hand waving and stopped reading (this was during my reconversion, I wasnt fully out yet), but my brother convinced me to skip to part 2 and I liked it a lot more.

Anonymous said...

I always though a groupie was someone who had sex with the person they worshipped. do you have anything to confess?
this message sponsored by the free dating app that Richard Dawkins would approve