Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Richard Dawkins: Atheist Standard Bearer

Last night on Australian ABC, Andrew Denton interviewed Richard Dawkins, a man who is as obsessed with the non-existence of God as your average religioid is with the existence of this phantasm.

I never thought much of Dawkins, whose writings, some of which I've wasted time on, strike me as infused with a fervor rivaling that of...ahh, never mind. After last night's interview the impression has been confirmed beyond a doubt. Denton managed to lay bare a deeply troubled man, who, but for a quirk of circumstance—whatever that was—could have been a fundamentalist preacher/demagogue. (Actually he is just that. He's just not, say, a Christian, Muslim or Communist.)

For a few moments, listening to some statements by Dawkins, I found myself nodding, because I heard things that I could not but agree with. The next instant though I realized just how deep the gulf is between the likes of Dawkins and the likes of me. And, as if it required confirmation, then came the killer, when Dawkins revealed himself as a zealot of the kind that thinks that there are 'right' and 'wrong' ways to think; and that indeed—and he said this very carefully, but the message was very clear indeed—certain kinds of stories should be eliminated from the treasury of our imaginations, and indeed that 'imagination' should be in some form directed toward particular content; which, so he clearly thought, would be more appropriate for the development of the human mind.

Though sounding like a man of truth, science, compassion and free-thinking, it occurred to me that, given the right stimuli, he would have been one of those secretly cheering the burning—or at least the discrete elimination from libraries and general distribution—of 'unsuitable' books, all in order to eliminate pernicious influences on the mental development of our young and maybe also the not-so-young. Surely, he's a major real-life instance of creatures like 'Mr. Revise' from Bill Willingham's Jack of Fables comics. (Though, as it turns out, Revise isn't the real evildoer! But that reference is only for readers of Fables. The rest of the world wouldn't even understand what I'm talking about; Mr. Dawkins least of all.)

It is ironic—though maybe not that at all, since this seems to be the way things tend to go in the 'extremism' business—that one of the major standard bearers of a movement that is ostensibly anti-religioid is a man of such conceptual narrowness, who is fawned upon and held up as someone who actually has to say something of significance. A man who conflates having emotions with spiritual depth and understanding. A man who actually is na├»ve enough to believe that anybody will ever be able to create a scientific theory that explains 'why' the universe is and why it is as it is and not different. (Talk about being a religioid in search of his God!) A man who will be hailed as a leading 'thinker' at atheist conferences, where, like all good religioids, they're really just having group-think orgies promoting dogma and their agenda—and damn whatever may be 'truth'.

Am I being harsh on the man and his faith alike? Maybe, but I make no apologies. The arrogance of extremist atheists like him is just too close to that of every extant monotheism. Still, unlike Dawkins and his ilk, I believe that we are free to choose what we believe. It may be hard to do so, and it probably is for a lot of people. But that's life. Nobody said it was going to be easy. Though Dawkins's books could all have been edited into a single volume, and not a very thick one, they do contribute to the richness of human thought; and though his narratives about 'reality' are deficient, simplistic and, at least in my view, wrong in so many ways—and right in some others; as we must not forget, because that's important, too!—they belong into that vast pool of 'diversity' that is the source of human spiritual evolution.

But there is a difference between 'Being an Atheist' and just not believing in God. The two may overlap in many ways, but at heart they are different. Atheists just need to believe. God-Free-Zone people, like good old Absurdist me, just refuse to 'believe' matters that we may not actually ever be able to know about—and want to figure out as much as they can, within the scope of their intrinsic limitations, about what is, if you will, 'really going on' with life and the universe and every-damn-thing.

And the answer is not going to be '42', because 42 isn't prime. That, at least, is my theory—which I offer to anybody for disproof.

Meaning, it's probably '43'. But that, too, is conjecture.

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