July 16, 2007

Delusion & Criminal Enterprises

(Thoughts after attending a talk by Richard Dawkins at Kepler's Bookstore in Menlo Park on Saturday...)

The author of "The God Delusion" arms himself well for the predictable assaults on his character and reasoning directed at his "blasphemous" positions on religion, although he finds humor even in that very accusation. As he quoted from a bumper sticker at the talk: "Blasphemy is a victimless crime." Religion has worked itself so much into the warp and woof of everyday thinking that it's hard to appreciate that we're always talking about ghosts, goblins and spooks who just aren't there. Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist from Oxford, leads the counter-attack of atheism with grace, good humor and bravery, I think. It's valuable work, and probably more necessary than the legions of atheists would probably like to admit. There was a huge crowd at Kepler's, the audience completely filling the bookstore and all its aisles. Maybe you'd expect that so close to a citadel of great learning, Stanford University. But I had the same experience when I went to Book Passage in Corte Madera to hear Christopher Hitchens talk about his atheist work, "God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything." Something is in the air these days. Nonbelievers are tired of getting pushed around by people who think "The Passion of the Christ" is a documentary, who believe that humanoids with white feathery wings are floating around just out of view. They're sick of the psychological child abuse of Sunday school brainwashing, the hell-fear bestowed upon the innocent and described so perfectly in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man.

Or physical abuse, as we see today in Los Angeles, where the archdiocese is putting together $660 million to buy up the rest of the 508 claims against diddling priests and other perverts in its direct employment. If you really take to heart the idea that god is not only not great but nonexistent, is a completely fabricated mass delusion intended to supply an easy answer to an infantile wish for certainty about the meaning of life -- if you really get to that point, with the able help of courageous thinkers like Dawkins, Hitchens, Sam Harris and one of the bravest pioneers of all, physicist Steven Weinberg (who was out there taking the body blows of the religious crazies before many others in the scientific establishment) --when you arrive at that point of certainty, and then you look at the Catholic Church with its cassocked legions of child molestors, and you realize there is actually no mitigating reason whatsoever for what has gone on there, that it's all a fraud and a sham, an elaborate game of make-believe involving the investment of billions, all of it milked out of defrauded "believers," in ornate buildings and stained glass, and in all the schools and colleges selling this hokum, and in the other what-not propping up the mythology -- then you begin to appreciate the need for a massive counterforce to oppose such pervasive madness. And leading the charge is this brilliant, funny, polite --and fearless --Englishman with the droll wit and uncompromising attitude essential to the job at hand. Godspeed, as it were, to the good Professor Dawkins.

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