Grilling Dawkins

Dawkins Our Leader was on Minnesota public radio. I was interested because some people on the radio station’s live blog of the interview were saying that Kerri Miller, the presenter, was too aggressive. I don’t think she was. Dawkins isn’t a Muslim or Christian in need of molly-coddling lest he accuse people who disagree with him of being disrespectful. Her directness got quite a few interesting responses from Dawkins:

Deism is Wrong but Respectable. There was a bit of fuss on some Christian blogs about this when he said it in the Dawkins/Lennox debate. It seems as if people have an idea of Dawkins as the Pope of Atheism. His arguments are soldiers and any concession towards theism is a sign of victory for God. As Ruth Gledhill found, he seems the opposite of the Pope of Atheism in person.

Theism is Ignorant and Infantile. Dawkins feels no shame in referring to popular theism as a belief in an imaginary friend. Rilstone says this metaphor is actually pretty close in some ways, so it’s not clear why so many Christians get upset about it.

Dawkins wonders why sophisticated theists bother to call themselves Christians when they don’t believe in any of the uniquely Christian stuff (virgin birth, water into wine, even resurrection in some cases). He shows a touching faith that a Church of England clergyman would accept this stuff (he’s talking about Polkinghorne, whose theological position I don’t know).

Theist scientists like Francis Collins show a double-mindedness that Dawkins finds curious. Not everyone is convinced that single-mindedness is a virtue, though, as recent convert Sam Harris argues: “If Francis Collins wants to believe that the historical Jesus was actually raised from the dead and still exists in an ethereal form which renders him both clairvoyant and mildly disapproving of masturbation, these beliefs do not even slightly detract from his stature as a scientist.”

Mysteries exist to be solved, not celebrated. Dawkins says he has faith (I’m looking forward to seeing the first theist quote mining of this statement), not that the mysteries will be solved, but that trying to solve them is worthwhile. The greatest mystery he’s aware of is the subjective experience of human consciousness.

What of the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus? Dawkins reckons the evidence is poor. Like evolution, we have to rely on the clues that remain. Those for the resurrection aren’t very good.

Will Dawkins be an atheist on his deathbed, without hoping for an afterlife? Probably: minds and brains seem to be linked, there’s no reason to think you can have a mind without a brain.

Why has Dawkins written The Greatest Show on Earth? Not to reach the dyed-in-the-wool Creationist, but the people who haven’t thought about it yet, the same people he hoped to reach with The God Delusion.

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