The God Delusion: The Third 100 Pages
Wow. It's been three weeks since I last posted here. That's way too long. Yeah, there are reasons for the delay--I've still been quite busy, and I was actually without internet access for a period of time (not worth going into details)--but anyway, uh, I guess I'm back. And though there are plenty of other things I've been wanting to post about, I think I'll start out by finally continuing my posts about my impression of The God Delusion
Anyway, I said in my second post that I probably wasn't going to do this--not that I wasn't going to continue this series, but that I wasn't going to post about the third 100 pages, specifically; I was likely to just make one more post wrapping everything up. I'm not doing that primarily because, uh, I still haven't finished the book. Not that I'm that slow a reader, of course; I finished the first 300 pages in a few days, after all. It's just that when I didn't finish the book by the book club meeting, I wasn't in a hurry to finish it thereafter, especially since I had so much else to do (like I said, I've been busy). But after this post I'm going to read the rest--aside from the fact that, well, it's about time that I finished it, it's, uh, overdue at the library... Anyway, I haven't looked at the book since that August book club meeting, so I guess before making this post I should at least skim those third 100 pages to refresh my memory...
Okay, back. Actually, I have little to say about this part of the book (which is good, because this post is late enough already, and I don't have much time to write it). Dawkins presents here arguments about why religion isn't necessary for morality (a well-worn subject, but one that too many theists still refuse to accept), and, significantly, why and how religion has been--and still is--an active force for harm, both societally and individually. (His discussion of the "moral Zeitgeist" in Chapter 7 has much in common with a post I made back in June). But I won't repeat his arguments in detail; you can (and probably should, if you haven't) read the book yourself for that. Again, my purpose here is to state my impression of the book--and in particular, my criticisms of it, since I haven't seen any really critical reviews not from a religious standpoint. (I repeat, however, as I've said in earlier posts, that my focus on criticism here shouldn't be taken to imply overall that I disliked the book--only that it's the details I found fault with that I think are most worth discussing here, since plenty of other people have already gone on about its virtues.)
Actually, after reading this part of the book, I think I want to mitigate--though not entirely retract--some of my prior criticisms. I mentioned that the second part of the book seemed somewhat less gratingly insulting and potentially offensive toward the religious than the first; the trend continues in the third. At first, I thought perhaps this was an odd strategy, to concentrate his venom near the beginning of the book and thus turn off potential religious readers, but on further thought perhaps that's not the case after all. Any theists willing to read the book in the first place are likely to expect some offense and stick through it, and if they get through the harshness at the beginning then by the time they've finished the book they may have forgotten it, or at least forgiven it. I still think it would likely have been more productive--from the standpoint of winning religious converts--to forbear from such insulting language altogether, but if he feels the need to put it in perhaps the beginning of the book is the place for it. (The possibility has not escaped me that perhaps its concentration at the beginning of the book is in fact illusory; that it only seems that there's less vituperation later on because I became inured to it. If that's the case, though, then that's likely to be just as true of religious readers, so again the situation is not as bad as it first appeared.)
And as for my criticism about his misunderstanding of the literalist mindset, in his apparent belief that no one really believes that God is a bearded man and that all the Bible stories are literally true--again, there's some validity to that criticism, but it's not as bad as I originally thought. It becomes clear later on that Dawkins is perfectly aware after all that there are people who believe in the literal truth of scripture, and so forth and so on--he just doesn't regard them as part of his target audience. They are, he opines (apparently, though of course he never explicitly says so), too far over the edge and beyond dissuasion; he will address himself to the more sophisticated liberal theists and give the literalists up for lost. I do think he misses the mark here--I think many literalists are more sophisticated and more open-minded than he gives them credit for (perhaps I'm a bit biased here because, after all, I was raised Mormon myself, and the Mormon religion is quite conservative and literalist and has much in common with fundamental Christianity despite the fundamentalists' abomination of it)--but thinking that literalists are all hidebound and unsophisticated is at least a less severe error than not realizing they exist at all.
So. I realize this hasn't been a very meaty post, but like I said it's been way too long, and I just wanted to get something up. Tomorrow I hope to make my final post about The God Delusion--and after that I really need to return it to the library...