| | | | | | | |

Points of Agreement

[Continuing my series responding to The God Delusion. The starting entry is From the Land of the Deluded.]

It may surprise many readers to know that I have a number of points of agreement with Dawkins. Since I have blogged about many of these things before, I’m only going to give a basic list with an occasional link to other writing I have done on the subject.

First, I accept the theory of evolution, and I even appreciate the description Dawkins gives about it. For an understanding of atheistic evolution (and I believe the adjective is not unfair in his case), I recommend The Blind Watchmaker (link to my brief review). But I also recommend it to anyone who simply wants to understand the simple power of variation plus natural selection to produce amazing things. It’s wonderfully well written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I even understood Gould’s punctuated equilibria much better after I read it! (Gould is one of my favorite science authors of all time, but he tends to be more wordy and is easier to misunderstand than Dawkins.)

Second, while I know that many Christians have been offended by the title and the tone of the book, I’m afraid I don’t see the point. I titled my opening entry From the Land of the Deluded. Why? Is it because I believe I am, in fact, deluded? No. I just find it amusing. What is puzzling to me is that Christians are concerned that an atheist calls them deluded. If he is, in fact, an atheist, as what else could he regard them? If he is an atheist he doesn’t share many basic assumptions with them. What possible offense can his judgment have on them? I’m a believer in dialog, and I think dialog needs to be courteous. But dialog also needs to be clear. We need to know what each party to the discussion actually believes, otherwise we cannot possibly hope to come to a real understanding.

Third, I deplore the negative stereotyping of atheists in American or any other culture. I do not believe that atheists are by nature immoral any more than anyone else. I would have no problem voting for an atheist for public office.

Fourth, I do not believe in indoctrination. I do believe in religious education. I advocate this distinction in churches. A child should know about more than his birth faith and should have the right to make an informed choice. This means hearing about other faiths and about the option of no faith, and I would provide this training in Sunday School. Note that I don’t mean teaching from one of the little “Different Religions and How to Convert Them” kind of books, but from materials that positively present the views of the particular group. I blogged about this previously here.

Fifth, I’m pretty happy both with the Zeitgeist commandments enumerated on page 263 and 264, and with Dawkins’s amendments to the same. It’s perhaps odd that coming from such different positions, we look for such similar things in society, but I think it is a good indication that moderation is a possible option.

Sixth, I do believe that religious beliefs should be subject to challenge, and I agree pretty much down the line with his comments on the Danish cartoons story (p. 24ff). I blogged about it previously here.

Sixth, last but not least, I must call attention to the footnote on page 321, quoting Ann Coulter: “I defy any of my co-religionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.” Well, I have not read Ann’s book, so assuming Dawkins has quoted her correctly, I will say simply that I do not laugh at any such thing, nor do I regard it as a Christian attitude for anyone to laugh at the prospect of anyone else burning in hell. (Hell itself is another worthwhile topic, but I’m not going there right now.)

When there is conflict on issues such as this, I am in favor of religious freedom. I wish I had come away from The God Delusion with the feeling that Dawkins also favors freedom, but I’m not certain. He seems to have a certain tendency to assume that he is right (not necessarily a bad thing), and to assume that he can also make a better choice for everyone else, which I think is a bad thing.

Similar Posts


  1. Great post, again. While I agree with Dawkins even more than you do (especially in his other writing), I feel his approach to religion will always be incomplete because he seems unaware of believers such as you. There are ways to think religion is wrong without believing it is evil, or in even an aggregate negative for societies. You should stop by one of my favorite blogs, The Friendly Atheist–you’d probably enjoy it.

    (By the way, I highly recommend The Ancestors’ Tale–it’s a bit lengthy, but has a breadth of scope not found in many books.)

  2. You’ve missed the point. Watch the Dawkins’ interview videos on youtube. I have tried to compile one at the site :

    He is against faith because
    1) He cares about the truth by evidence and something that is not true by evidence should not get a status of the same.
    2) Immunity against criticism it enjoys.
    So, you are not the reason of his attack.

    Next let’s see what he says about religious moderates.
    “They are carrying a virus of faith with them, that they transmit from generations to another, and could create a ‘epidemic’ of faith any time.” So you are passing on your ‘unquestionable faith’ to your child, even if you are peaceful and moderate. For example, post 9/11, many Muslims from relatively moderate parents have joined militancy. It’s only because their parents, though moderate, were carrying the ‘virus of faith’ which they passed on to their children. This holds true for Hindus and Christians too …

  3. Regardless of why Dawkins is against faith, I think his method simply doesn’t work well, because of the way most religious people respond to it. Maybe it’s a cultural thing and my friends just don’t like snarky British guys, but when I’ve had friends read essays of his and/or come with me to see him in person (a few months ago) they were very turned off. Dennett on the other hand says basically the same thing, but he has a better approach and demeanor.

    I’m not sure you could call Henry here’s faith “unquestionable” if you’ve read his blog. It seems to be questioned all the time. While you and I may think he comes to the wrong conclusion, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t questioned it.

    And true, parents can’t control their children’s radicalness, but if my leftist politics get passed onto my kid, and they become Marxist freedom fighters who bomb innocent people, is that my fault? Can one really even say the moderate and the extreme version are the same thing?

    Bottom line–if you would prefer that people not be fundamentalists (and that’s the goal, right?), working with religious moderates is more likely to convince the masses you’re trying to reach than lumping the moderates in with the crazies. Think about it…

  4. You’ve missed the point.

    Which point did I miss? Everything you point out is precisely what I saw. I simply note that his version of “truth by evidence” assumes without basis that the scientific method is the way to acquire any and all forms of knowledge.

    Your quote is aimed directly at me, as a moderate Christian. It may not be moderates who are the “reason of his attack” but they are included amongst the targets as he makes very clear.

    I happen to agree with him on the immunity of religious beliefs from criticism–all beliefs should be subject to criticism and discussion, though such discussion is often difficult at best.

  5. Regardless of why Dawkins is against faith, I think his method simply doesn’t work well, because of the way most religious people respond to it.

    I have to note that one of the reasons I enjoy reading Dawkins is that he’s a “snarky British guy.” His prose is just great fun even when I’m disagreeing strongly with what he says.

    I agree that Daniel Dennett is more courteous and nuanced, but he’s not as much fun. More productive, I’d guess.

Comments are closed.