Daily Archives: February 24, 2008

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This God Delusion stuff is not really much fun any more. I’ve written 48 posts on the first two chapters, which I realise was kind of obsessive. But my anger and frustration with the book, which fuelled all those posts (even though I hope that most of the time I managed to convert anger into analysis) has slowly turned to solid weariness. So, here’s the plan. I intend to write three posts on chapter 3: one on Aquinas, one on Anselm, and then one on the whole thing. And then I’ll do two posts per chapter for the remainder of the book: one of bullet-pointed gripes, one of more organised response. And then I’ll put it away and do something that doesn’t make me feel quite so gloomy (and add yet another item to my list of projects not quite carried through…)

Interim verdict, on The God Delusion, ch.2

Chapter 2 of The God Delusion convinced me that when Dawkins hears ‘theologian’, he thinks of two things: creationists, and Richard Swinburne. And that he revels in his ignorance of the religious tradition that he thinks is represented by such theologians.

Perhaps more importantly, the chapter simply does not engage with what ‘God’ means in some strands of religious belief that are not well represented by either creationists or Richard Swinburne. And, as I said much earlier, I do not mean that his account misses some nuances, or tramples on some nice decorative features of the understanding of ‘God’ in those strands. I mean that it misses them completely. And I happen to think that those strands of Christianity that Dawkins misses are at least as faithful to the historical Christian tradition as either creationism or Richard Swinburne.

Overall, the thing that strikes me most forcefully – and that has made working through this chapter so depressing at times – is the lack of real curiosity that Dawkins demonstrates. He really doesn’t care about understanding how any of the stuff he’s talking about works. He really doesn’t care what the people who disagree with him say. He’s just not interested. And, no, I don’t mean that he ought to like it more; I don’t mean that he ought to show it some kind of pious respect. But without rather more attention to whether his descriptions actually apply as universally as he thinks they do, it’s unsurprising that those descriptions fail to be particularly penetrating.

Oh well.