TGD – Chapter 1

I finished reading Chapter 1 last night.

The title of Chapter 1 is “A Deeply Religious Non-Believer”. I had hoped that it might be a chapter on how his atheistic views were a different form of religion, and while he did feel around in the dark touching on the idea in tangential ways, it wasn’t the point.

The Chapter is split in two sections, the first titled “Deserved Respect” and the second titled “Undeserved Respect”.

“Deserved Respect” is mostly about Einstein’s lack of religion as most westerners define it. Dawkins basic point is that many scientists make references to God and when they do, they’re referring to something entirely different than your average person. He makes a fairly compelling point that Einstein was one of them and his point is that this is the norm. What people like Einstein are talking about when they talk of God is the creator, whoever that might be, but most definitely it is not a “personal God”, a God that has defined morals for humanity and is interested in how we each personally respond to that call from God. Einstein’s God is a creator and nothing more. He set the wheels in motion, created the matter, setup the laws of physics and then let her run. That was the end of God’s role.

And I guess as far as it goes, it’s good to differentiate between these two different views of God, and to specify what he is arguing against (the personal God, to use his term) and that which he has no qualms with (the disinterested Creator, my term).

However, it wouldn’t be Dawkins if he didn’t jumble in the middle of reasonable groundwork, a bunchf of errors. His biggest error, was in applying Einstien’s God, which I would suggest Dawkins does well proving that it was what Einstein believed, to all scientists. He suggested that all those scientists who go to church, don’t REALLY believe what those religions say and are just going for either family or cultural reasons.

While I’m sure there are plenty of examples of people that act that way, and they need not be scientists, what in fact he’s doing is projecting what he wants to believe for all scientists who aren’t on his side, based on some anecdotal information, as if because Einstein was that way and Dawkins was that way at one time (he doesn’t go to church at all any more), it must be true of all scientists.

There is a particular example that shows just how blind he is and how much he’s forcing a confirmation bias. He speaks of an unnamed friend’s who is Jewish and his discussions with him. Dawkins admits that when he pressed said friend to admit “the truth” he couldn’t get him to. Instead his friend told him that his Jewish faith helps him have good morals. Dawkins insists this is proof of his point, his friend doesn’t REALLY believe, he’s just doing it for moral reasons. Could he really be so ignorant to see that his friend just doesn’t want to make a scene and instead of getting into a pissing match with Dawkins and is defusing the situation? Dawkins needs to accept his friends refusal to admit that there is no personal God on it’s face and he refuses to.

In any case, the point of this first part of the chapter appears to lay the groundwork that he has nothing against the disinterested creator that some call God and that the rest of the book is about attacking the “personal God” not the disinterested creator.

“Undeserved Respect”, the second half of the chapter, is about how there is far too much deference to religion in society. It tiptoes around the idea that the reason that he’s bringing it up in this groundwork laying chapter, is because he wants to say that he’s not doing this to offend anyone. At the same time, he doesn’t come out and say it because, and this is my inference, he’s honest enough with himself to know that actually fully intends to “offend” in the sense that he’s telling us we’re hugely misled, and how can that not offend?

The overall point though is that he feels that society shuns debate and conversation and he doesn’t think that’s appropriate. I’d agree with him if that was the extent of the point. Religion is a topic that deserves a vigorous debate and there are certain segments of society that don’t think it should be discussed.

But Dawkins sticks to his trend of looking at things through what he thinks is a wide lens but in fact is a very narrow one. He entirely blames this shunning of debate on the religious when in fact there are components on both sides. Sure there are those that are religious who think they’ve got the right to see their faith unquestioned, but at the same time there are those who refuse to allow any religions discussion in the “public square”. “Oh no no!”, they say. “You’ve brought up God and therefore you’re not allowed to be a part of this debate. Arguments that include discussions of God are not allowed, particularly when we’re talking about the general public or more specifically politics!”

Furthering his lack of rigor, he sites two examples as if they’re examples of the same thing, one about Christians fighting for their right to be heard in the public debate and the other about Muslims attempting to shutdown discussion. I wish I was making that up, but that’s exactly what the two examples are, but he suggests they’re both about religious people shutting down discussion.

He first brings up the Christian example. He starts by talking about how bad discrimination is and how society should shut it down (which I think we could all agree with him). Then he goes on to talk about how a Christian fought for the right to wear a T-Shirt at school that said “Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder.” He suggests that this is an example of Christian discrimination.

I don’t know why I feel the need to make this obvious, but discrimination is an act, not a statement. You can say whatever you want, and not discriminate. It’s when you refuse to do something based on a bias that you’ve actually discriminated. So, if I had a rental property that I was going to rent and I chose to not rent it to a homosexual, THAT would be discrimination. The fact that I confirm that I think homosexual acts are sinful, that is not discrimination.

But going even further, can he not see how preventing people from wearing that shirt is shutting down debate, not increasing it? Sure, he doesn’t like what the other side of the debate says, but it is in fact debate. It’s another example where Dawkins is like all those people who think debate is only allowed on the topics THEY want to debate. On the rest, “the science is settled” and no debate will be allowed.

Then he goes into the example of the 12 Islamic cartoons that created a bunch of controversy 5+ years ago. Muslims burned down Christian Churches, threatened the life of the cartoonists and did all other sorts of thuggery. He’ll get no debate from me that this was unacceptable and the media’s cowardice was troubling.

But the fact that he equates the two examples as if they have anything to do with one another in their cause or that they’re even examples of the same thing, is what is truly troubling.

On to Chapter 2…

3 Responses to “TGD – Chapter 1”

  1. Clint Armstrong Says:

    You entirely missed the point of the boy wearing the offensive T-Shirt.

    “The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn’t: indeed, they couldn’t, because free speech is deemed not to include ‘hate speech’. But hate only has to prove it is religious, and it no longer counts as hate.”

    The problem Dawkins has with this is not it’s controversy, but the legal favoritism given to region. He mentions it along side a Supreme Court ruling that allowed a Church to use hallucinogenic drugs while forbidding it for other citizens. This is the undeserved respect. Religious opinions deserve no more special treatment than any other opinions, and giving them additional legal protection while not allowing the same for non-religious persons is unjust.

  2. Ken Crawford Says:

    Clint, welcome. Feel free to comment on any topic you are interested in.

    I didn’t go down the path you’ve highlighted because I felt Dawkins was trying to say more than that. The fact that he compared it to the Muslim extremists is impossible to ignore in relation to his overall point.

    I completely agree that religion should be given no special privilege with regards to speech. If a religious person can say it, a non-religious person should be able to say it and if that’s all I felt Dawkins was saying I would have agreed with him.

    In defense of that point, it bears noting that I stand against the constitutionality of “hate speech” laws. I don’t know which of the 3 statements on the T-Shirt were most notable in the case, so let’s break down each statement:

    1. Homosexuality is a sin: There’s only two ways to disapprove of it, focus on the word “sin” as a religious discussion, which would fall under freedom of religion, or as “hate speech”. But that can only be “hate speech” if society has rejected the religious views of Christianity, something our government can not do and allow for freedom of religion. So to allow for freedom of religion we must both allow someone to say “Homosexuality is the source of salvation” and another to say “Homosexuality is a sin”.

    2. Islam is a lie: A fully religious statement, I can’t imagine how that could be viewed as anything but covered under freedom of religion

    3. Abortion is murder: I’m not sure who the ‘hate speech’ would be directed at…

    So I’m assuming it was #1 that was the point of contention, and as I’ve shown, freedom of religion, and that includes the freedom to be atheist and write atheist books, requires that it also allow free speech and denouncing other groups that don’t agree with their viewpoint, whether or not someone considers it “hateful”.

    Said yet another way, a world where an atheist saying “Christians are pure evil” is considered “hate speech” would be just as in defiance of freedom of religion as a world that considered “Homosexuality is a sin” “hate speech”.

    The whole concept of “hate speech” is contrary to the 1st amendment both in regards to free speech and freedom of religion. As I’ve shown, the two topics are intrinsically linked (there’s a reason they’re in the same clause of the constitution).

  3. As we forgive those who trespass against us » Blog Archive » Welcome Shea followers! Says:

    […] « TGD – Chapter 1 […]