Interim conclusion on The God Delusion, Ch.3.

There’s plenty more in Dawkins’ ch.3, ‘Arguments for God’s Existence’ than the material on Aquinas and Anselm – the arguments from beauty, from personal experience, from Scripture, from admired religious scientists, Pascal’s wager, and Bayesian (probabilistic) arguments. I’m not going to work through any more of it in detail, however – I don’t have any candle to hold for the arguments Dawkins discusses, and (however engaging his own presentation) he doesn’t discuss interesting forms of any of them. I want to move on. A couple of comments before I do, though.

  1. What I have said with respect to Dawkins’ comments on Aquinas and Anselm remains true of the whole chapter. Whenever it is possible to discern what Dawkins takes these arguments to be about – what kind of ‘God’ they are seeking to prove or disprove – it looks like he is talking about one more contingent thing that there might be, and a thing pretty closely resembling a human intelligence, albeit much more powerful.
  2. Perhaps inevitably, in a popular book – but nevertheless disappointingly – Dawkins is not a good guide to real debates about God’s existence. First, he doesn’t try finding or tackling the strongest versions of any of the arguments he looks at – he presents the kinds of arguments you might find on an average internet discussion board, and doesn’t find it difficult to dismiss them. Second, though, he doesn’t latch on to the fact that the whole project of proving God’s existence in this kind of way is controversial within (at least) Christianity. I’ve talked in an earlier post about a rather different approach, for instance, one which is not particularly eccentric – and which does not rely at all on the kinds of Dawkins is discussing.

On both these grounds, the chapter simply isn’t about anything that I (as one kind of fairly traditional Christian believer in God) hold dear.

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