Interim verdict, on The God Delusion, ch.1

Ch.1: ‘A Deeply Religious Non-believer’ (pp.41–50).

Dawkins’ first chapter is not where the meat of his argument lies. He uses it for two tasks: an initial clarification of his object, and an initial clarification of his approach. His object will be ‘supernaturalist’ rather than purely metaphorical Einsteinian religion, and his approach will be to peel back the layer of obfuscating ‘respect’ which so often protects religions from serious questioning.

Each part of the chapter rests upon a central distinction: the first on the supernaturalist/Einsteinian distinction, the second on the undue-respect-for-religion/ordinary-human-respect distinction.

My verdict on the chapter, based on all the little bits of analysis and questioning that I’ve undertaken, is that neither distinction quite flies. That is, neither distinction aids us in thinking seriously about religion, or about God, or about our world. Each looks superficially plausible, but that plausibility runs no deeper than the skin. Time and time again, Dawkins examples don’t seem to work in the way that he thinks they work; time and time again his conclusions turn out to be facile. This chapter is an example of bad thinking – bad thinking about God, and bad thinking about religion.

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