Wednesday, September 19, 2007


My friend Richard Skinner has written a thoughtful general piece on why Christians should take Richard Dawkins seriously, in spite of the deficiencies of many of his lines of reasoning on 'religion'. There's no doubt that The God Delusion has found a dedicated and often vociferous following. We live in an unsettled age where many people crave certainty. And if they can't find it in particular types of belief they will find it in particular types of non-belief which share an equal irritation with careful interpretation that recognises the unavoidability of ambiguity, plurality and complexity. As Richard Skinner says, this stuff may lack subtlety, but it is a rightful electric shock for the churches -- whose failure to take their intellectual task seriously has produced a culture (both within and without) which is radically ignorant of even the basic tools of intelligent discourse about religion. I'm also reading John Cornwell's playful and wry riposte, Darwin's Angel, at the moment. I'll be reviewing it in due course. Cornwell is director of the Science and the Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge. See also his Guardian article, The importance of doubt, which ends with this important comment:

''It was only to be expected that a bold thesis that condemned religion en masse would have profound socio-political implications. Dawkins is a brilliant natural historian, whose science books I have celebrated in a string of reviews. The God Delusion has been criticised for trespassing clumsily in the realms of theology; but my own objections are more in the ambit of socio-politics. Put bluntly, The God Delusion is liable to persuade religious fundamentalists that a pluralist secular society is every bit as hostile to the practice of faith as they ever thought it to be. By urging the elimination of religion in the name of all that civil society holds dear, Dawkins is inviting fundamentalists to be even more fundamentalist. His book, then, is a counsel of despair as well as an incitement to the very thing he deplores and seeks to remedy.''

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

Thanks for the link to Cornwall's article "The importance of doubt". I think he makes some wonderful points in that article.