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Editorial Reviews. About the Author. Scott Reeves is the author of numerous science fiction and The Dawkins Delusion: an As-I'm-Reading-It Response to.
Table of contents
- SETZER'S COMMENTS TO RICHARD DAWKINS THE GOD DELUSION
- Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
- Data Protection Choices
- Reflections on the tenth anniversary of The God Delusion
Do you still have a soft spot for religion as a good thing for the world, even if you yourself have lost your faith? Chapter 8 will invite you to think about ways in which religion is not such a good thing for the world. If you feel trapped in the religion of your upbringing, it would be worth asking yourself how this came about. The answer is usually some form of childhood indoctrination. If you are religious at all it is overwhelmingly probable that your religion is that of your parents.
SETZER'S COMMENTS TO RICHARD DAWKINS THE GOD DELUSION
If you were born in Arkansas and you think Christianity is true and Islam false, knowing full well that you would think the opposite if you had been born in Afghanistan, you are the victim of childhood indoctrination. Mutatis mutandis if you were born in Afghanistan. The whole matter of religion and childhood is the subject of Chapter 9, which also includes my third consciousness-raiser. Precisely because my purpose is consciousness-raising, I shall not apologize for mentioning it here in the Preface as well as in Chapter 9. That is not a Muslim child, but a child of Muslim parents.
That child is too young to know whether it is a Muslim or not. There is no such thing as a Muslim child. There is no such thing as a Christian child. Chapters 1 and 10 top and tail the book by explaining, in their different ways, how a proper understanding of the magnificence of the real world, while never becoming a religion, can fill the inspirational role that religion has historically—and inadequately—usurped. My fourth consciousness-raiser is atheist pride.
Being an atheist is nothing to be apologetic about. On the contrary, it is something to be proud of, standing tall to face the far horizon, for atheism nearly always indicates a healthy independence of mind and, indeed, a healthy mind. There are many people who know, in their heart of hearts, that they are atheists, but dare not admit it to their families or even, in some cases, to themselves.
Not believing in God they could just about take, but an atheist! The lawyer Wendy Kaminer was exaggerating only slightly when she remarked that making fun of religion is as risky as burning a flag in an American Legion Hall. Now, after the Gay Pride movement, it is possible, though still not very easy, for a homosexual to be elected to public office. A Gallup poll taken in asked Americans whether they would vote for an otherwise well-qualified person who was a woman 95 per cent would , Roman Catholic 94 per cent would , Jew 92 per cent , black 92 per cent , Mormon 79 per cent , homosexual 79 per cent or atheist 49 per cent.
Clearly we have a long way to go. But atheists are a lot more numerous, especially among the educated elite, than many realize. This must be even truer today and, indeed, I present evidence for it in Chapter 3. My dream is that this book may help people to come out. Exactly as in the case of the gay movement, the more people come out, the easier it will be for others to join them. There may be a critical mass for the initiation of a chain reaction. American polls suggest that atheists and agnostics far outnumber religious Jews, and even outnumber most other particular religious groups.
Unlike Jews, however, who are notoriously one of the most effective political lobbies in the United States, and unlike evangelical Christians, who wield even greater political power, atheists and agnostics are not organized and therefore exert almost zero influence. Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority. Surprisingly, the illustrative quotation the dictionary gives is from Phillip E.
Johnson who leads the creationist charge against Darwinism in America today? Indeed it is, and the quotation is, as we might guess, taken out of context. I hope the fact that I have stated as much will be noted, since the same courtesy has not been extended to me in numerous creationist quotations of my works, deliberately and misleadingly taken out of context. The first part captures religious faith perfectly. As to whether it is a symptom of a psychiatric disorder, I am inclined to follow Robert M. When many people suffer from a delusion it is called Religion.
If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down. What presumptuous optimism!
Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching
Of course, dyed-in-the-wool faith-heads are immune to argument, their resistance built up over years of childhood indoctrination using methods that took centuries to mature whether by evolution or design. Among the more effective immunological devices is a dire warning to avoid even opening a book like this, which is surely a work of Satan.
Such free spirits should need only a little encouragement to break free of the vice of religion altogether. For help in the preparation of this book, I am grateful to many friends and colleagues. I cannot mention them all, but they include my literary agent John Brockman, and my editors, Sally Gaminara for Transworld and Eamon Dolan for Houghton Mifflin , both of whom read the book with sensitivity and intelligent understanding, and gave me a helpful mixture of criticism and advice.
Their whole-hearted and enthusiastic belief in the book was very encouraging to me. Gillian Somerscales has been an exemplary copy editor, as constructive with her suggestions as she was meticulous with her corrections. Others who criticized various drafts, and to whom I am very grateful, are Jerry Coyne, J.
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Anderson Thomson, R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Ursula Goodenough, Latha Menon and especially Karen Owens, critic extraordinaire, whose acquaintance with the stitching and unstitching of every draft of the book has been almost as detailed as my own. The book owes something and vice versa to the two-part television documentary Root of All Evil?
Root of All Evil? It remains to be seen whether any US television channel will dare to show it. This book has been developing in my mind for some years. During that time, some of the ideas inevitably found their way into lectures, for example my Tanner Lectures at Harvard, and articles in newspapers and magazines.
Readers of my regular column in Free Inquiry, especially, may find certain passages familiar. I am grateful to Tom Flynn, the Editor of that admirable magazine, for the stimulus he gave me when he commissioned me to become a regular columnist.
Data Protection Choices
After a temporary hiatus during the finishing of the book, I hope now to resume my column, and will no doubt use it to respond to the aftermath of the book. Nowadays, a book such as this is not complete until it becomes the nucleus of a living website, a forum for supplementary materials, reactions, discussions, questions and answers—who knows what the future may bring?
I hope that www. Above all, I thank my wife Lalla Ward, who has coaxed me through all my hesitations and self-doubts, not just with moral support and witty suggestions for improvement, but by reading the entire book aloud to me, at two different stages in its development, so I could apprehend very directly how it might seem to a reader other than myself. I recommend the technique to other authors, but I must warn that for best results the reader must be a professional actor, with voice and ear sensitively tuned to the music of language.
The boy lay prone in the grass, his chin resting on his hands. Suddenly the micro-forest of the turf seemed to swell and become one with the universe, and with the rapt mind of the boy contemplating it. He interpreted the experience in religious terms and it led him eventually to the priesthood.
He was ordained an Anglican priest and became a chaplain at my school, a teacher of whom I was fond. It is thanks to decent liberal clergymen like him that nobody could ever claim that I had religion forced down my throat. In another time and place, that boy could have been me under the stars, dazzled by Orion, Cassiopeia and Ursa Major, tearful with the unheard music of the Milky Way, heady with the night scents of frangipani and trumpet flowers in an African garden.
Why the same emotion should have led my chaplain in one direction and me in the other is not an easy question to answer. A quasi-mystical response to nature and the universe is common among scientists and rationalists. It has no connection with supernatural belief. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way. My own books have the same aspiration. Consequently I hear myself often described as a deeply religious man. An American student wrote to me that she had asked her professor whether he had a view about me.
Reflections on the tenth anniversary of The God Delusion
He doesn't comprehend that for many people reasoned argument is not the final arbiter of how they choose to live their lives. They are swayed by feelings, moved by loyalties, willing to set logic aside for the sake of psychic comfort. Tell them that all this is the product of chemical and electrical activity in the brain and they will at best assert that God made it thus.
For decades now we have been willing to let such diversity of unverifiable beliefs exist among a democratic tolerance of ideas. But this, the assumption of the secular outlook, can no longer be taken for granted. The clouds are darkening around tolerance. These are now political matters. Around the world communities are increasingly defined as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and living peaceably together is ever harder to sustain. Champions of each faith maintain its superiority to the rest.
Recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI show the man in his true colours: an absolutist pointing up with intellectual precision the incompatibility of Islam and Christianity. He did this long before he was Pope, writing the declaration of John Paul II that all religions other than the Catholic faith were defective. Since his election he has demoted efforts at rapprochement with Islam and, on a visit to Auschwitz, failed to address the papacy's collusion with Nazism. The Pope is, of course, held to be infallible by the Catholic church. Islam's response to all this - "if you dare to say we're a violent religion, then we'll kill you!