Mysterious Faith

In the absence of an actual copy of The God Delusion, I have had to console myself with reading articles about it. The majority of reviews largely take the book at face value and either support it or oppose it. A few agree with its message but have problems with its tone (see also Richard X).

Many of the more recent reviews, like the one I mentioned in A Transcendent God, quarrel with the very premise of the book. They claim that Dawkins is arguing against a strawman version of Christianity and that he ignores the beliefs of the genuine Christians who have a more sophisticated understanding of God. Their God does not trouble himself with cheap conjuring tricks or answer selfish prayers or, in fact, intervene at all in the day-to-day affairs of mere humans. Their God exists outside human understanding and outside of the laws of the universe as we know them. To even claim that He does not exist is to claim too much understanding.

These reviewers, usually English, rarely acknowledge the political reality in America where, according to Sam Harris,

The United States now stands alone in the developed world as a country that conducts its national discourse under the shadow of religious literalism. Eighty-three percent of the U.S. population believes that Jesus literally rose from the dead; 53% believe that the universe is 6,000 years old. This is embarrassing. Add to this comedy of false certainties the fact that 44% of Americans are confident that Jesus will return to Earth sometime in the next 50 years

and

While Muslim extremists now fly planes into our buildings, saw the heads off journalists and aid-workers, and riot by the tens of thousands over cartoons, several recent polls reveal that atheists are now the most reviled minority in the United States. A majority of Americans say they would refuse to vote for an atheist even if he were a “well-qualified candidate” from their own political party. Atheism, therefore, is a perfect impediment to holding elected office in this country (while being a woman, black, Muslim, Jewish, or gay is not). Most Americans also say that of all the unsavory alternatives on offer, they would be least likely to allow their child to marry an atheist.

A piece by Giles Fraser, in today’s Independent, notes that some atheists are “threatened by non-fundamentalist faith” and, as Dawkins often claims,

They reckon it a liberal alibi for fundamentalism, offering a more superficially plausible account of God which serves only to shelter fanatics from the sort of criticism that would put them out of business.

But, rather than joining the battle on the side of the believers, Fraser proposes an alliance.

A contrasting approach would be to work on the assumption that the most effective way to attack bad religion is with an alliance that includes good religion. And thus it’s in the interests of all – including non-believers – for religion to be allowed to present itself in the best possible way. Fundamentalists have become such a threat to us all that a new deal is required between progressives, religious and non-religious.

I have often thought that a religious faith founded on doubt has more in common with atheism than with fundamentalism and would gladly join Fraser’s alliance. Where do I sign up?

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Ragged Clown

Based in San Jose, California

4 thoughts on “Mysterious Faith”

  1. > God exists outside human understanding and outside of the laws of the universe as we know them.

    How do people know this? That’s what I would like to understand.

  2. I recently “came out of the closet” in a post on my blog. I am sure it has put me out of at least one will and my grandmother didn’t seem to be in a talkative mood over Thanksgiving.

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