Monday, June 21, 2010

Delusion Confusion 4

* Below is part 4 of a response to Richard Dawkins book "The God Delusion"

Chapter 2 (Part A)

This chapter is about 50 pages and I hardly think a decent response can be made in 1 post/note. I'll deal with pages 51-77 here. Dawkins is attempting to show the weaknesses of non-atheist positions (polytheism, monotheism in various forms, and agnosticism).

Dawkins on Polytheism
It is clear that Dawkins' pictures worldviews through the same evolutionary lens than he pictures biology. For him, polytheism evolved into monotheism which evolved into agnosticism which should evolve into atheism. Dawkins basically uses this section as a 'warm up' to his attack on monotheism in all its forms (57).

Dawkins on Monotheism
Dawkins considers Judaism, Christianity & Islam to be practically indistinguishable for his purposes. He goes on a brief tangent to bring into question just how religious the founding fathers of America were. In all honesty, I have no real interest in that debate (though I tend to think that many of them were less 'Christian' than fundamentalists believe them to have been). I'm still a little puzzled why this tangent was even necessary.

Dawkins on Agnosticism
His basic point here is that agnosticism is fine when we lack evidence (69), but that in the case of theism the burden of proof rests on the theists (76) and that their is no evidence available for them to build their case. Perhaps the most interesting section in the first half of chapter 2 is where Dawkins provides a spectrum of 7 positions in regards to theism/atheism. Dawkins considers himself to be in category 6, but is leaning toward category 7.

1. Strong theist (100% certain there is a God)
2. High Probability (Strongly believe in God)
3. Greater than 50% (agnostic but lean toward belief)
4. Exactly 50% likely
5. Less than 50% (agnostic but lean toward unbelief)
6. Low Probability (Strongly disbelieve in God)
7. Strong Atheist (100% certain there is no God)

Questions for Discussion
1. Doesn't Dawkins use circular reasoning (over and over) by failing to let theism exist on its own terms? I am thinking particularly of his insistence on starting most arguments with potential straw men (using Oral Roberts as an illustration of a theist, describing the OT God is a monster, saying that Paul is the founder of Christianity).
2. Can it really be demonstrated that monotheism evolved from polytheism and not the reverse (or, perhaps, that the evolution could go in both directions)?
3. Are the 3 monotheistic faiths really indistinguishable, even for Dawkins purposes? Doesn't the incarnational theology of Christianity make it quite distinct?
4. Were the Founding Fathers' as religious as fundamentalists say they were? Were they as secular as Dawkins guesses?
5. Is the burden of proof really on theists?
6. Is there really no evidence available for a theist? What kind of evidence would satisfy Dawkins? Why only that?
7. Where are you on Dawkins' spectrum of belief/unbelief? What direction are you moving?

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