Re: [asa] Dawkins, religion, and children

From: PvM <>
Date: Tue May 01 2007 - 12:27:06 EDT

Btw Dawkins did respond to the author of the quote in his 30th
anniversary edition of the Selfish Gene

Unwriting a book is one thing. Unreading it is something else. What
are we to make of the following verdict, from a reader in Australia?

Fascinating, but at times I wish I could unread it... On one level, I
can share in the sense of wonder Dawkins so evidently sees in the
workings-out of such complex processes . .. But at the same time, I
largely blame The Selfish Gene for a series of bouts of depression I
suffered from for more than a decade . . . Never sure of my spiritual
outlook on life, but trying to find something deeper—trying to
believe, but not quite being able to—I found that this book just about
blew away any vague ideas I had along these lines, and prevented them
from coalescing any further. This created quite a strong personal
crisis for me some years ago.

I have previously described a pair of similar responses from readers:

A foreign publisher of my first book confessed that he could not sleep
for three nights after reading it, so troubled was he by what he saw
as its cold, bleak message. Others have asked me how I can bear to get
up in the mornings. A teacher from a distant country wrote to me
reproachfully that a pupil had come to him in tears after reading the
same book, because it had persuaded her that life was empty and
purposeless. He advised her not to show the book to any of her
friends, for fear of contaminating them with the same nihilistic
pessimism {Unweaving the Rainbow).

If something is true, no amount of wishful thinking can undo it. That
is the first thing to say, but the second is almost as important. As I
went on to write, Presumably there is indeed no purpose in the
ultimate fate of the cosmos, but do any of us really tie our life's
hopes to the ultimate fate of the cosmos anyway? Of course we don't;
not if we are sane. Our lives are ruled by all sorts of closer,
warmer, human ambitions and perceptions. To accuse science of robbing
life of the warmth that makes it worth living is so preposterously
mistaken, so diametrically opposite to my own feelings and those of
most working scientists, I am almost driven to the despair of which I
am wrongly suspected.

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 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.
> 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.
> Iain.

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Received on Tue May 1 12:27:40 2007

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