Dawkins wraps up “The God Delusion” with a wide ranging chapter titled “A Much Needed Gap?” He starts off the chapter with a discussion of childhood imaginary friends and tying them to the belief in God. At first he goes with the paedomorphosis suggestion, that what children do that adults should not do but some don’t grow out of. There’s no need to even rebut this idea as it clearly comes from his biased position. Then he spends some toying with the opposite, that imaginary friends are the evolutionary left-overs of the instinct to believe in God, which assumably we no longer need. But you can tell Dawkins himself doesn’t much buy into this theory, at a minimum, it has the problem of suggesting it was valuable at some time.
The next section is titled “Consolation” and it’s Dawkins attempt to rebut the idea that even if God doesn’t exist, he’s worth believing in because he gives comfort to others. He addresses two aspects of it, both suggesting that just because something feels good, doesn’t mean we should endorse the idea irrelevant of its truth (I wholeheartedly agree with him on that) and that there’s little evidence that belief in God is of any comfort.
On that I entirely disagree as a former atheist. The thing the atheist has to come to terms with is that this life will be all there is. Dawkins touches on this idea, suggesting that it’s a thrilling challenge that makes life more enjoyable. There’s some truth to that, but there’s also the opposite, that mistakes are far more unforgivable. If you make a mistake that prematurely costs you your life, that’s it. So the atheist is left with the very difficult challenge of living life to its fullness but doing it in a way that is as mistake free as possible. It’s a very difficult balance. Should I go sky-diving and get the thrill of that or should I avoid it because it could prematurely end my life? I personally found it very uncomforting and am far more at peace since discovering God’s existence. Am I perfectly at peace? No. I still question things and worry and do all the things that my faith tell me I shouldn’t be concerned with. But I recognize that as part of my human nature and try to turn away from it. Overall, I’m still at far more peace than I used to be.
There’s not much notable in this section of the book outside of that, but there was an odd diversion to talking of purgatory that I feel obligated to rebut. The first point is the justification for purgatory. Dawkins rightly points out that the high level justification is that without it there would be no purpose in praying for the dead, as a soul would be either in eternal paradise or damnation from the moment of their death without a place in the middle. But then he dismisses it saying that all it shows is that prayer for the dead is meaningless. There’s a whole thread of building blocks that would need to be laid to justify the following statement, and I lack the time to lay all that out, but the key statement is that we’ve been given by God assurance that prayer for the dead is efficacious. Of course, Dawkins would reject that evidence, but the point is that within our boundaries, it makes perfect sense. What Dawkins is attempting to do is use this example to further disprove the worldview because it seems so ridiculous to him, but in fact, he’s using circular logic, since from within our worldview it makes complete logical sense.
He also spends a fair amount of time picking on the Church for “selling” indulgences, a topic of which there is much confusion and perversion of what happened in the past. The perspective of the Church is that by doing good, one can shorten the amount of purification that one needs in purgatory. It’s a pretty obvious concept. If we get our act in gear on earth, there will be less need to do so in purgatory. And if one thinks about it, generosity is one of the key tenants of Christianity. So telling someone that by giving of their wealth to a good cause they are reducing their time in purgatory is similarly uncontroversial once one thinks about it. What stepped over the line was the over specific nature of the indulgences given based on very specific sums of money. There’s no doubt that this cheapened what is fundamentally a sound idea and turned a spiritual truth into the “selling” of something that the Church has always taught can not be sold (and even did so at the time despite engaging in a practice that implicitly undermined the idea). But this is wholly different than what the Church is accused of in general and Dawkins plays right into that stereotypical misunderstanding.
Dawkings wraps up the chapter and the book with an oddly “spiritual” section titled “Inspiration”. His main point is that the world is an amazing place. He talked about the frequencies of light we can’t see being far more abundant than those we can. He talks about how the space between atoms is so huge that what seems solid is effectively empty space. He talks about the wonders of quantum mechanics. He talks about all of things things in a “wow, they’re all so amazing. It’s amazing how little we know and understand about the universe!” kinda way. It honestly had me scratching my head. All of these things are so complex and far beyond our comprehension yet he’s so absolutely confident that there’s no “god” lurking amongst these unknowns? He’s had so much confidence and so much clarity that science has all but shown that God doesn’t exist, but when he wraps things up, it’s an amazing world that we know so little about.
It left me thinking that Dawkins and his ilk are the close minded ones. They’ve decided what science has to say on the matter, heck, they’ve gone so far as to try to define science in such a way that basically excludes the possibility of a deity, but yet they freely admit how little they know. Sure there are other ways that many religious are close minded, but when I look at God, I’m left with the same sense of wonder and awe and the confidence that I know so little.
Finally, it all comes back to his early assertion that in his mind there can be no “NOMA” (Non-Overlapping Magisterium). I find everything he talks about as amazing in the universe just as amazing and wonderful as he does. I’m excited to see where the science takes us as we learn more and more about these things. His assumption that faith and science are incompatible is complete hogwash and he’s done nothing to prove otherwise in his book. So while Dawkins looks at the universe and is marveled by it, I too am similarly marveled by it. I too want to learn more about it. In addition I’m marveled by that which extends beyond the physical universe to the meta-physical and am similarly as marveled by it as I am by the physical universe and I’m eager to learn more and take the evidence where it leads me in both realms.
In the end, I don’t think I’m the close minded one.