Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: PvM <>
Date: Tue May 01 2007 - 12:06:17 EDT

On 5/1/07, Iain Strachan <> wrote:
> On 5/1/07, David Campbell <> wrote:
> > The question of imposing on children also relates to the claims of
> > non-"coersion" associated with process theology. Both last night and
> > this morning, brushing Timothy's (age 2.5 yrs) teeth involved
> > coersion. Does Dawkins think I should be locked up for that?
> Almost certainly not. But I think what it boils down to is your a priori
> position. There is no question that brushing your teeth is something that
> is good for you. The issue of whether there is a physical hell that really
> exists, is under debate and can't be proven one way or the other. Dawkins's
> a priori position is that there is no supernatural, no hell, no heaven, no
> God. So if someone does something like tell a child about judgement, and as
> a result, that child suffers mental anguish and fear of everlasting
> damnation, Dawkins will regard it as an evil abuse, arising from a delusion,
> because he is not prepared to accept it might not be a delusion.

I think that Dawkins position is a bit more subtle than that. Dawkins'
position is not one of a-priori non-existence of God but rather a more
subtle, and thus much harder to reject, argument based on

<quote>The God Hypothesis is also very close to being ruled out by the
laws of probability. </quote>

On a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 Strong theist. 100 per cent probability
of God. In the words of C. G. Jung, 'I do not believe, I know.' and 7
Strong atheist. 'I know there is no God, with the same conviction as
Jung "knows" there is one.', Dawkins ranks himself in category 6 Very
low probability, but short of zero. De facto atheist. 'I cannot know
for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on
the assumption that he is not there.'

<quote>Hence category 7 is in practice rather emptier than its
opposite number, category 1, which has many devoted inhabitants. I
count myself in category 6, but leaning towards 7 - 1 am agnostic only
to the extent that I am agnostic about fairies at the bottom of the

> I gave the example earlier of the reviewer on who reported that
> "The Selfish Gene" shattered his fledgling faith, and led to several bouts
> of depression. But I'm guessing that Dawkins wouldn't see that as abuse,
> because he believes that he's telling the truth that there is no God. If
> the truth upsets you, then too bad.

Selfish gene is mostly a scientific argument and if it was, much like
Darwin's own work was to Dawkins, a cause for people to doubt their
faith, then one has to wonder if such an impact could be reasonably
predicted or even expected. I find the comparison weak at best and
most likely to be irrelevant. Many things can trigger a depression but
may not be the immediate cause of the depression.

In Selfish Gene Dawkins briefly discusses the God meme, a very
interesting concept which he sees as evidence for his thesis and yet,
the God meme can be equally well turned into supporting a christian

So we may want to first establish what exactly caused much concern to
the person involved since the message that there is no God may not
have been the immediate message of Dawkins' work. What Dawkins showed
or argued is that God is unnecessary as an explanation, not
necessarily that God does not exist. But such is the nature of

> I would like to clarify that I personally would be strongly opposed to
> preaching hellfire and damnation to children, and would prefer to show the
> message of love.

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Received on Tue May 1 12:06:42 2007

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