Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Root of all Ugly Packages

With Richard Dawkins promoting his new book and televisiosn, public attention has once again shifted back to the science vs. religion issue. CBC recently aired his anti-religious polemic, The Root of All Evil, in which Dawkins explains to us why he and other scientists in the West are good, and why everyone and anyone who holds a religious belief are bad. Dawkins latest book, The God Delusion, follows suit, with of course the key difference being that Dawkins is a better writer than a public speaker, and that the nature of the printed word offers him much more space to repeat his aging anti-religious rhetoric.

For Dawkins the issue is very simple: All of humanity's problems come from irrationality sponsored by religious belief. Unfortunately for his followers (and I suppose his critics as well) Dawkins barely moves beyond that simple statement, and thus spends his entire television programme and book (from the reviews I have read) regurgitating the same statement to which he has seemingly centred his entire life. Aside from the danger of becoming the village atheist (a role currently occupied by Dawkin's friend and ally, the 'philosopher' Daniel Dennett), Dawkins' repetitious argument displays a very obvious deficit of knowledge when it comes to religious matters. Unlike a proper scholar, he pays litte attention to the reason and rationality behind many religious (particularly Catholic) beliefs, preferring to ridicule not what his would-be opponents consider their own belief-system, but rather what Dawkins himselfs decides is their belief-system. A very good tactic if you want to be popular, a very poor tactic if you want to be honest.

What I personally find so interesting about Dawkins and his compatriots is that while they ridicule the religious believer as ignorant, unenlightened and regressive, they themselves are on the verge of a complete demographic catastrophe of fantastical proportions. It is no exaggeration to state that unless the Dawkinites of the world start reproducing, there won't be many of them left in 30 or 40 years. On the other hand, the ignorant, unenlightened, and regressive souls keep making more souls. So for Dawkins, who considers religious belief to be inherently irrational and destructive, it must be a harsh reality to accept that for every atheist who dies, 10 theists are born.

This demographic crisis threatening the Secularist/atheist 'culture' calls into question a great deal of the claims made by the likes of Dawkins. If religious (Christian) belief is so irrational, why has it been so efficacious? Which is more irrational, a species willfully killing itself off, or a species struggling to adapt, survive, and prosper? Which is more irrational, a belief that all life has a purpose, or that all life is ultimately meaningless? Which is more irrational, the idea that all has been made by a Creator (which has yet to be witnessed), or the idea that all has been made from primordial soups and meaningless, unguided mutation (which has yet to be witnessed either)? That Dawkins' philosophy fails to offer any serious response to any of these questions makes the atheist birth deficit all the more understandable. While these questions I listed are basic, they are also intrinsic to humanity. Every successful culture and civilization has been able to provide at least a sufficient answer to the questions of human orgin; in fact as we know from the Christian and Islamic cultures, it is by having rational answers to these questions that civilizations are able to thrive and last.

To be sure, Secularism and atheism are not dead. Europe, Russia, Asia and North America are currently dominated by these philosophies, right the way down to our education systems. Even more to the point, Secularism and atheism are waging what could possibly be their final campaign in the culture wars that have so devastated Western culture for the past 200 years. At least this Christmas, when we're all fighting to be able to say 'Merry Christmas' in a department store, we might be able to take some solace knowing that it is not unlikely that our children's children will not have to do the same.

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