A Deep Atheist

In the first chapter (of The God Delusion), Dawkins delineates the religion of Einstein and other scientists who use the word God in a metaphoric, pantheistic, or literary sense (p. 19) and the religion of the “supernaturalists” (p. 13) who use the word God “to denote a supernatural creator that is ‘appropriate for us to worship’.” (p.13)

The next quote reminded me of Your God is Too Small, by J.B. Phillips because Phillips recognized that non-believers thought Christians (specifically) made their God out to be too small, to be confined into too small a space for any inspiring faith. Phillips then made the case that the God revealed in Christianity is not small at all. Perhaps Dawkins should read Phillips book with an open mind. Atheist Carl Sagan wrote, “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by conventional faiths.” (p. 12) Modern science only describes and physically explains the wonderful works of God that are worthy of awe and wonder. One should not worship the “Universe”, but the God who brought it into being. God is not little at all. Note that atheists implicitly say (above) that God must be large to “draw forth reserves of reverence and awe”, but I read that Dawkins will say that God must be necessarily too large to exist.

Next, Dawkins says that “if the word God is not to become completely useless, it should be used in the way people have generally understood it: to denote a supernatural creator that is ‘appropriate for us to worship’.” (p.13) He uses the following quote for a backdrop. “Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that ‘God is the ultimate’ or ‘God is our better nature’ or ‘God is the universe.’ Of course, like any other word, the word ‘God’ can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say that ‘God is energy,’ then you can find God in a lump of coal.” (pp. 12-13) The connection between this quote and Dawkins’ point are not clear since it is possible that the God of everything-that-exists can at the same time be “a supernatural creator that is ‘appropriate for us to worship’.”

Dawkins gives the atheist creed from Julian Baggini. “’What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff come minds, beauty, emotions, moral values – in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.’” (pp. 13-14) The causality of all things (“out of this stuff come(s)”) is purely physical. All that exists purely derives from what physically came before. We have no control over what is going on since we are just behaving as our physical self determines via its inner workings. In other words, there is no free will. Since there is no free will, there is no morality. Therefore, there is no beauty, moral values (morality), or richness to human life. In other words, the physical nature of things gives meaninglessness to all of creation. Hitler was just doing what his physicality determined he was to do. But there is morality. Therefore, there is more to humanity than physicality. What gives morality? The creator of the universe, or God is above physicality, or supernatural.

“As I continue to clarify the distinction between supernatural religion on the one hand and Einsteinian religion on the other, bear in mind that I am calling only supernatural gods delusional.” (p. 15) I hope Dawkins gets into historical analysis theories and theories on the nature of science. Otherwise, Dawkins is delusional (‘a false belief or impression’, p. 5) in that there is necessarily a dichotomy between Einsteinian religion and supernatural religion. Why can’t there be a unification theory of God?

Regarding Einstein’s statement that “‘I do not believe in a personal God’”, Dawkins goes on to say that “The notion that religion is a proper field, in which one might claim expertise, is one that should not go unquestioned. That clergyman presumably would not have deferred to the expertise of a claimed ‘fairyologist’ on the exact shape and colour of fairy wings. Both he and the bishop thought Einstein, being theologically untrained, had misunderstood the nature of God. On the contrary, Einstein understood very well exactly what he was denying.” (p. 16) Einstein was not making a statement about something (fairy) that did not exist, or ever had a record of existing. He was making a statement about the existence of an entity that had a history. The Jews had history about leaving Egypt via plagues and a river and the Christians wrote about Jesus coming back from the dead and talking to hundreds of people. Theologians understand the nature of God that is consistent with their beliefs of God’s work. Perhaps the theologians thought that Einstein “misunderstood the nature of God” because he didn’t believe in God’s aforementioned works. Perhaps the theologians thought that Einstein did believe in God’s aforementioned works but did not nevertheless make the connection between them and the God that performed them; he was then labeled by the theologians as unqualified to comment in theological discussions.

This comparison between entities that don’t exist (fairies) and the entity that made us all exist cannot be substantiated since fairies didn’t make us, God did.

The Christian letters that follow are really bad (pp. 16-17). Yes, Christians say and do bad things. Please forgive us.

The following is worth noting because Dawkins actually is religious, but not a supernatural religious. “[Einstein said,] ‘To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious.’ In this sense I too am religious, with the reservation that ‘cannot grasp’ does not have to mean ‘forever ungraspable’. But I prefer not to call myself religious because it is misleading. It is destructively misleading because, for the vast majority of people, ‘religion’ implies ‘supernatural’. Carl Sagan put it well: ‘if by “God” one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying … it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.’” (p. 19) Why not believe that some entity called God is not actually “the set of physical laws that govern the universe” but the One who created “set of physical laws that govern the universe”? What would be needed to make that connection? I believe the nature of science can never take us that far. Only theology and philosophy can achieve such understanding. I’m sure we’ll get back to this later.

By the way, the above parts of chapter one fell under the heading “Deserved Respect”. (p. 11) The next section comes under “Undeserved Respect”. (p. 20) Dawkins goes on and on about religious people who get to do or have what they want because they use their religious prerogatives and that religions are respected because they are “especially vulnerable to offense”. (p. 20) He sums it up at the end of the chapter. “But I am intrigued and mystified by the disproportionate privileging of religion in our otherwise secular societies. … What is so special about religion that we grant it such uniquely privileged respect? …” (p. 27) Is this another call to start the next religious political group as I mentioned above: “Atheists are always Right”: AAAR? (Picture a pirate?) Then they’ll get some respect (and plunder your irrational booty too).

Seriously, I don’t know about you, but everyone should respect each other’s religion. Most of the people I know think about why they believe and try to act accordingly just like Atheists do. Theists/deists deserve respect just like atheists do. We’ll also gladly answer your questions about our religion. However, I do agree that theists/deists and atheists who do not think deeply about their religion do not deserve respect. They need to understand their beliefs or they will get burned somehow in them.

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