Monday, March 24, 2008
An email from Newtonabbey informs me that I have an enemy who is 'constantly irritated' by my 'dopey musings'. I'm with him on that one. But what struck me about the email is the last sentence - 'But then, as the person who declared that Richard Dawkins is the strangest man you've ever met, your judgment of what does or doesn't make sense is hardly top notch.' I don't understand that at all. Dawkins IS strange. And, even if others don't think he is, what's so terrible about me thinking he is? But the wider point is - why Dawkins? Any breath of criticism of the man and his ideas are now treated by large numbers of people as offensive if not blasphemous. But I don't want to get all ad hominem this Easter, so I'll address the wider issue behind this - God, previously discussed in terms of Anglicanism by Nige. John Gray has dealt far better than I ever could with the intellectual failings of the new wave of militant atheists. I'll just make a simpler point. From about the age of thirteen I knew that God didn't exist in any sense that would satisfy the scientific imagination. I didn't become an atheist as a result, I simply concluded that either he didn't exist in any sense at all or he - or something like him - existed in a way that was inaccessible to our reason. I thought, and still think, that this was a pretty straightforward position that needed no further analysis. It also left me free to take God very seriously indeed, which I do. I defy anybody who doesn't take God seriously to come up with a credible reading of Titian's Assumption, which is another way of saying not to take God seriously is not to be fully alive. I became aware of the rise of militant atheism in the late eighties and concluded at once that it was a)stupid and b)cruel. Worst of all, it was c) wildly superstitious. The superstition was the belief that if everybody stopped believing in God then the world would become a better place. I still find it quite incredible that otherwise intelligent people believe this. When the new wave of God-doesn't-exist-and-good-riddance books came out, I was staggered. Of course, he doesn't exist in any meaningful sense and, since proving he doesn't will either persuade nobody or, if it does, it will achieve nothing, then what on earth is the point of these books, apart from making an awful lot of money? This is my problem with Dawkins and friends - I honestly don't know what they are talking about. I can't argue with them because there is, quite simply, nothing whatsoever to argue about.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 11:01 am