The God Delusion
By Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins makes no bones about his intentions in his ninth book, The God Delusion: he wants to convert whomever that reads it into an atheist. He believes that it’s high time atheists of the world united and came out in the open. Being an evolutionist biologist, he would have no truck with scientists, intellectuals and atheists who seem to bend backward when dealing with the delicate matter of faith and God. In fact, according to him, since the twentieth century, the domination of religious organisations is such that it’s often considered politically and ethically incorrect to talk openly about one’s creed, let alone question God’s existence. The God Delusion is written with the forceful intention of breaking down whatever misleading beliefs we might still have about God. He is a man with a mission. And in his arguments against theism, he culls from almost all conceivable scientific disciplines to make his case.
Every conceivable angle from which he might be attacked he covers with convincing showcases of studies. He even has an answer to his own rather fundamentalist approach in preaching atheism. He says that the difference between him and the fundamentalist is that he would say New Zealand is located in the Southern Hemisphere whereas the fundamentalist, when cornered for clear and unequivocal evidence, will ultimately point to the Almighty. His other reason is that he feels impelled to rescue men/women blinkered from seeing what they might be missing out from the rich world we live in. In essence, everything he brings up in his arguments has evidence, whereas the theologians and believers simply turn a blind eye to the evidence when it comes to their beliefs. This is to Dawkins simply unacceptable. Why should one invest so much faith in the One who is always elusively absent? He goes to great lengths to explain why religion as a meme, the variant of a cultural inheritance, persists throughout the ages. His conclusion is that in human’s brain there’s always a gap that needs to be filled in with God.
Everything seems perfectly explained until you realize that Dawkins has pulled a great stunt by dazzling our intellect with myriad reasons but easily gloss over the simple truths about humanity. He eloquently explains everything, even the irreducible complexity of the Venus Flower Basket (Euplectella), as not by chance or design, but fails to understand that differences in faith and cultures and ways of lives are just as necessarily enriching and mutually beneficial for humanity. Maybe science or Darwin’s natural selection might not be just the knowledge to understand this. I suppose highly qualified anthropologists will appreciate more the mysterious ways in which certain groups of natives in Borneo carry on their lives with their exotic rituals and beliefs.
Maybe these anthropologists are there not with biased mindsets to convert the natives’ ways of lives or their beliefs, but rather they are there to observe and understand why they are so different from civilized people. Their understanding, usually their sympathy, will go a long way to enhance our understanding of our past and sometimes might even shed light on how we might improve our lives in the future.
This lack of insight into human nature confirms Michel Foucault’s worst fear about the progress of humanity. In his lectures, compiled in a book called The Hermeneutics of the Subject, Foucault sets out to show how knowledge since the enlightenment, at the Cartesian Moment, has split from spirituality. Our relentless pursuit for more knowledge has ultimately produced more knowledge. But we slowly leave behind what Foucault calls our gnothi seauton, our knowledge about ourselves.
He shows as an example how a knowledgeable doctor with a flu will know what medicine to take to cure his flu, but this simply says that the doctor has the knowledge to get rid of his flu. His being remains the same. This is because knowledge cannot transform our being. To do that we need to have the techne of the subject, that is a set of exercises or steps. Spirituality cannot access truth immediately; only through an ordeal of experience the subject can achieve this end. When the subject reaches this ultimately, his or her being will be totally transformed. In other words, knowledge without spirituality will in the end be no more than just a set of ideas.
Religions will no doubt have a harder time in the years ahead. More evidences are already being dug out to disprove the validity of the Bible. It is a given fact. But to write a book with the intention of dismissing other people’s religions and heave blame on them as being the causes of whatever that is bad that is happening today, I seriously think that is not in the best interest of humanity as well. The fact that some of the best works of Michaelangelo, Dante, Milton, and Bach remain with us today says a lot about man’s spiritual versatility and ingenuity. One can hardly blame these artists for their divine inspirations!
Alain Badiou, the French philosopher, sums it up nicely when he says, The One is in the Two, Unity is in the ordeal of the division. I think Badiou wants us to know that one is inseparable from the other. Our sympathy and understanding of the differences of the others are what truly connects us as a human species.