Archive for Richard Dawkins

New Scientist: atheism is irrational and culturally conditioned

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on 13 April 2011 by Michael Hampson

Jonathan Lanman lectures in anthropology in Oxford.

His article in the New Scientist last week analysed atheism from an anthropological and sociological perspective, and far from finding it to be the coolly rational phenomenon that it claims to be, found its main public manifestations (“strong atheism” or anti-theism, as opposed to the meek and largely silent non-theism) to be both irrational and culturally conditioned.

There is a good review and summary here.

Also this week, promoting his book Divinity of Doubt, Vincent Bugliosi lays into the poor reasoning – the irrationality – of most atheism:

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Atheist, liberal and fundamentalist conspire together to misrepresent the faith

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on 11 April 2011 by Michael Hampson

Atheist and fundamentalist conspire together to misrepresent the faith, insisting that Christianity demands a God who is a wrathful king, and a bible that is an infallible oracle.

The atheist rightly mocks, and the fundamentalist defends the indefensible.

Most liberals commit the same offence, maintaining the fundamentalists’ notion of an angry God. God is just angry (and you are required to feel guilty) about different things, like global warming and poverty.

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Silence and awe as the beginning of wisdom

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 16 February 2011 by Michael Hampson

In this recent post, I quoted Jason Derr suggesting that the word ‘God’ can validly be seen as a reference not to “a creature or being that sits outside of time and space” but to actions and experiences that express our highest ideals: love, mercy, justice, passion, joy, goodness. He then singles out awe as the experience by which we become aware of this God: awe at life itself, at living, at the growing world and the universe – and presumably at love, mercy, justice, passion, joy and goodness.

To stand in awe is often to stand in silence. In the BBC’s The Big Silence (discussed here), it was through silence that the participants each found a spirituality which, on reflection, sounds a lot like awe: awe at the natural beauty of life and the universe, discovered and experienced in the stillness.

There is genuine awe at the wonder of the universe expressed in Richard Dawkins’ poem It is raining DNA outside, posted here a few days ago. In his wonderment he even creates a theology: that the process he observes has a purpose, namely the spreading of DNA. (The spreading of DNA is a feature of the process; to call it the purpose of the process is to go beyond observation into personification, and thence theology. If there really is no God, there is no purpose, which is the point of Nietzsche’s famous “God is dead” speech, in this recent post.)

Proverbs 1:7 is often unhappily translated “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Any dictionary or thesaurus will show that the words awe and fear are closely related, even though awe may contain not fear but its complete opposite: a sense of being embraced and cherished by a wonderful universe. Fear never led to wisdom. Awe certainly does. So let awe be the beginning of wisdom. This section in God without God even shows that Yahweh, in the Old Testament, here translated as “the Lord”, means something like “the ground of all being” – so it is awe at the wonder of existence itself that is the beginning of all wisdom.

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No line between theist and atheist

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 14 February 2011 by Michael Hampson

Jason Derr writes:

My last post articulated a vision of God beyond theism, a concept of God that sees the word “God” as a word used to describe love. Other words sometimes used are mercy, justice, passion, joy, goodness. This suggested that we have a conception of religion that is less about religious beliefs and more about a passion for the religious life: an awe of life, living, and the growing world and universe, that can only be called religious. You hear this sort of religious awe in, say, Richard Dawkins when he speaks on the beauty of evolution. This model suggests that there is no line between theism on the one hand and atheism on the other.

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It is raining DNA outside – Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on 11 February 2011 by Michael Hampson

A poetry programme on Radio 4 this week included this beautiful piece from Richard Dawkins in The Blind Watchmaker (emphasis added).

It is raining DNA outside. On the bank of the Oxford canal at the bottom of my garden is a large willow tree, and it is pumping downy seeds into the air.

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Good religion, bad religion: Warsi, Jesus, Dawkins, and the responsibility of people of faith

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on 21 January 2011 by Michael Hampson

Baroness Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet member, made a major speech yesterday complaining about anti-Muslim prejudice, and arguing that people are wrong to separate Muslims into moderates and extremists (with moderates being good and extremists being bad).

She has taken a wrong turning here, having previously joined other Muslim politicians in confidently condemning both the acts and the culture of Muslim extremism.

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