Finished at last

Has it really been nearly three months since I posted here? You must be wondering what on earth I’ve been up to. Well, you would be if you existed, but I don’t suppose anyone actually reads this.

Anyway, I finally finished The God Delusion. Richard Dawkins’ avowed intention is that “religious people who read this book would finish it as atheists”. So, has it worked? Am I a convert?

Not entirely.

There’s no doubt, though, that his book has left me with big questions. I’m not going to lay the blame for my doubts on Dawkins, but I can’t get away from the fact that the part of me that was beginning to question my long-held beliefs has been given plenty of ammunition. If you want a text book of Bad Things That Have Been Done In The Name Of God, read the God Delusion. Actually, I’d recommend it to anyone as a fascinating and intensely thought-provoking read.

It is entirely one-sided, however, and it has had some criticism on the strength of its logic and the gaps in its arguments, so as I mentioned previously I’ve been on the look-out for something to read afterwards to re-balance things. I’ve had a few suggestions; the obvious ones are those that have been written in direct response: Alistair McGrath’s The Dawkins Delusion and Andrew Wilson’s Deluded by Dawkins? but when I’ve looked at reviews online both books have been pretty well slated. I may pick one up at some point, but want something different at the moment. And then, while searching online last week, a title appeared that I did like the look of.

Darwin’s Angel by John Cornwell appears to take a rather different approach, calling itself “An Angelic Riposte” to Dawkins’ book, and written as a series of letters to Dawkins from Charles Darwin’s “guardian angel”. Now, I’m prepared for the fact that it could be unbearably twee, but the online reviews are much more promising. I particularly liked this extract from the reviewer in the Times:

This book is a piece of sheer heaven. It kicks Richard Dawkins’ self-aggrandising polemic, The God Delusion, into touch with featherlight footwork and is deliciously wise, witty and intellectually sharp into the bargain.

I picked it up from the library today. I’ll let you know.
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6 thoughts on “Finished at last

  1. Trevor

    Well, I’m not sure I can put my questions into detailed words, Isaac, but the main one is clearly along the lines of “is there a God?”.

    Thanks for reading, by the way.

    Reply
  2. Isaac Gouy

    That doesn’t seem to be a very well defined question 😉

    At minimum, you need to consider what you mean by the word God.

    When I ask a Sikh friend what he means by God he tends to stretch out his arms, raise his head, and say “This!” – so far I’ve been unable to find a way in which his God differs from the Cosmos, I assume that’s a failing on my part but you never know.

    You might try a smaller question:
    – can I have a spiritual life without God?
    – can I accept the finality of death?
    – can I make my own meaning and purpose?
    – when you look around at the world is it more awesome or less awesome without God?
    – as our bodies contain 10 times more bacteria than human cells are we just holiday cruise ships for bacteria? Apparently the little buggers can play games with our guts to get the sugars they prefer 🙂

    Reply
  3. Trevor

    Okay, I’ll refine my question. Rather than “is there a God?” how about”is there a spiritual realm of any sort that exists beyond the physical?”

    Reply
  4. Isaac Gouy

    Months ago you wrote After I wrote this I realised I’m not entirely sure what I mean by “thinking spiritually” so not only do I not understand what you mean by “spiritual realm” but I’m not sure that you really understand what you mean by “spiritual realm”.

    “… the whole terminology of mental and physical was designed to try to make an absolute opposition between the mental and the physical, so maybe it is better not to use that terminology at all and just say the consciousness is a biological feature of the brain in the same way that digestion is a biological feature of the digestive tract. We are in both cases talking about natural processes. There is no metaphysical gulf.” p115 Mind, John R Searle

    Reply
  5. Trevor

    I’m not sure that you really understand what you mean by “spiritual realm”Well, no. Indeed I don’t. That’s why I’m struggling to come up with any answers: as I said to my minister yesterday, I don’t know what the question is. (He’s read this and is corresponding with me privately.)I’m not sure, though, that defining the question in concrete terms is entirely necessary (as I’m sure that concrete answers are unlikely!) but to try again: “Does anything exist that exists beyond the physical?”

    Reply

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