I’m not opposed to people criticizing Richard Dawkins when I feel it’s deserved. And I’ll be the first to admit he can be careless with his words on Twitter, when he doesn’t have the luxury of explaining himself the way he does in his books.
But this essay by Jacob Lupfer of Religion News Service makes little sense, and it starts right at the headline: “Why Richard Dawkins’ new book won’t win him many converts.”
Who knew that Dawkins’ autobiography was supposed to function like a sequel of The God Delusion?
The conversation between science and religion has slogged on for centuries, with many great thinkers devoting their lives to it. So, while the debate’s leading combatants enrich themselves and enhance their stature, breakthroughs are vanishingly rare. Truly there is nothing new under the sun.
While I don’t anticipate either side waving a white flag anytime soon, it’s naïve to think there hasn’t been an advance. In the past couple of decades, we’ve all seen what happens when religious dogma is taken literally, not just with radical Muslims waging war, but with Christians who want the United States to become their version of a theocracy. We’ve seen atheists more vocal than ever before and the “Nones” (who don’t belong to any organized religion, even if they’re religious) jump in demographic surveys.
The arguments for or against either side haven’t changed, but the momentum is clearly on our side.
The science-religion conversation will continue, though it will pass Dawkins by. While he preaches to the choir, believers and atheists alike will summon the respect and maturity required to critique ideas, not caricatures of each other. They will seriously engage arguments and the values that flow from them.
That’s some weak criticism right there. There’s no indication Dawkins is only preaching to the choir. The God Delusion wouldn’t have been as successful as it was if only atheists were reading it. Dawkins, with his celebrity, has the ability to break out of the atheist sphere — which we see every time he does an interview with a secular audience (like on The Daily Show).
It would be easy to find religious people whose minds were changed primarily due to Dawkins’ advocacy.
And it’s telling that Lupfer’s whole essay is a critique of Dawkins’ persona, not any arguments he’s ever made.
Is there any evidence that religion is making a comeback? Lupfer offers this:
Globally, it is likely that theists’ significantly higher fertility rates will further bolster the ranks of religious believers. Demographers project that the worldwide share of nonreligious will actually decline in the coming decades.
He’s not wrong… but what does it say if the best hope for religion is that more kids will be born into religious families and therefore get indoctrinated into the faith?
That’s the sort of thing you cheer only when the evidence isn’t on your side.
Lupfer isn’t done trying to make his case, though:
Deluded or not, faith will inspire people to retreat from arrogance, embrace humility, uphold dignity and work for justice. They will insist that mercy and redemption are real, even if nonmaterial. And more than just dim lights will believe it.
For some people, maybe. But faith isn’t unique in any of that. Many atheists will tell you that their lack of faith is anything but arrogant. It’s honest. It humbling to know we’re the lucky ones who made it through a long evolutionary chain. We can’t rely on an afterlife or God to fix any injustices, so it’s up to us to fight for those without a voice.
What has religion done? In the U.S., anyway, it’s the Christian politicians who have been been the biggest obstacles to equal rights for LGBT people, who have been on the opposite side of climate change, who have stood in the way of women’s health care.
If that’s what justice and dignity look like, I want no part of it.
(Image via Twitter)