The current issue of New Scientist has a review of “The Dawkins Delusion” by Alister McGrath. Now we have looked at McGrath in the past (here and here, and this has also been looked at on Nullfidian’s blog) so there is no pressing need to revisit that aspect – suffice it to say McGrath is confused on several issues and wraps up what is basically one big ad hominem into a book. Sadly for the theists, criticising Dawkins personally does little to undermine the points he makes. Even atheists find him personally annoying but still agree with him.
While the review, by Brian Appleyard, is some what soft on McGrath, and actually says very little about the book itself it is reasonable enough. There are a few odd paragraphs such as:
To say that there is no evidence for God is merely, therefore, an interpretation, justified in one context but quite meaningless in another. Everywhere we look, there is evidence of something, but it is by no means clear that that something is, in fact, nothing. Rather, it seems something of a startling intelligibility.
This strikes me as an argument from personal incredulity if ever there was one. In a nutshell this is saying everywhere he looks he sees amazing things, because he finds it too incredible for this something to come from what he sees as nothing, there must be a creator. It begs the question who created the creator, unless of course there is the anticipated special pleading that unlike everything else in the universe, the creator did not need creating…
The bit in Mr Apleyard’s review which did amaze (and somewhat annoy me) came at the end:
Any view that religion is the source of all evil and atheism the origin of none is plainly absurd when confronted with the largely atheist bloodletting of the 20th century.
Blimey, what on Earth can this mean? While it is fairly obvious that calling religion the source of all evil is an exaggeration, it remains the case that “Religion” creates a set of circumstances where one side can demonise the others and act with “divine support.” To paraphrase the old saying “Religion is what allows good people to do bad things,” without religion they are just accepted as being bad people.
Now the crucial part is this supposed “largely atheist bloodletting” of the last century. Now, I am not a poor historian but I am at a loss as to what this may refer. The genocides which marked the end of the century were certainly not atheistic in origin, nor were the treatment of the Jews at the hands of the Catholic Nazis. The best I can come up with is the oblique usage of Stalin’s terrors and the killing fields of Cambodia – yet as far as I recall neither were carried out in the name of Atheism. Neither targeted “theists” per se. While both were carried out by overtly “Atheistic” governments this misses the major point Dawkins made in his book, and numerous famous atheists have made since.
People carry out atrocities in the name of their religion (Bosnia, Somalia, the Middle East etc). People de-humanise their opponents through religious rhetoric. When Atheists do things like this, they just do them out of being bad people.
One common theme amongst the theists, and religious apologetics, seems to be this misunderstanding about atheism. This is why God is defended by attacks on Dawkins (remember he is not the Atheist Pope), Creationism is promoted by strawmen attacks on Evolution, and theism is defended by creating an image that Atheism is just a different religion.
As I keep pointing out, I can not speak for others but when I fill forms in which ask for my religion, I invariably write “none” as I have no religion. If some one asks do I believe in God, then “no,” as I am an atheist…. 🙂