Finally finished this book and as I've said before, I'm not really impressed. His style is readable and not overly intellectual, so as a reader he has an agreeable tone or voice, but what he had to say greatly overshadowed any skill in writing he displayed. I don't have much to say about these last couple chapters so this entry will definitely be more brief than previous entries.
Chapter 7 more or less continues on a theme that religion is bad. His stated point is that he's trying to prove we don't in actuality, even Christians, get our morality from the Bible. For this point he brings out yucky (for a lack of a better term, my word not his) stories from the Bible. Claiming that these sad stories are proof that we don't actually read this Bible from which we claim to get morality. The interesting thing about this hit me when I thought about, for whom is he really writing this? Anyone who has even a modicum of knowledge of the Bible, or really anyone who reads these scripture will clearly see that these are not, as Dawkins seems to be claiming, people or moral stories that the Bible is teaching us to emulate. They're clear examples of negative stories. He claims that the scripture has only two ways it can teach morals: "One is by direct instruction, for example through the Ten Commandments ... [t]he other is by example: God, or some other biblical character, might serve as ... a role model" (pg.237). Again showcasing his lack of philosophical training he sets up a beautiful false dichotomy in that (I only removed slight points that don't have any bearing on the statement), the introduction to chapter seven. Really, those are the only two ways the Bible can be looked at as a source of inspiration? What about negative examples? What about simple historical records? What about parables that aren't out-and-out direct instructions?
One of the things I noted is that in all these supposedly terrible stories that he cherry picks for examples of bad things in the Bible, he often sums up sections with some vague reference to "modern ethicists" or "modern moralists." He's calling upon these silent (absent) authorities to pass judgement on small sections of an entire work. Who are these supposed authorities, and from whence do they derive their morality? Are they their own source of moral authority? Do they call upon the majority opinion? Is utility their authority? Dawkins hasn't given any arguments for utilitarian means to divine morality, just categorically denies any deontological or authoritarian source for morality.
Another point that I'd like to make in regards to Dawkins' attempts to interpret scripture, comes from both professor Peter Kreeft and scripture itself. Prof. Kreeft talked about this in the first lecture I listened to on the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and it was something like a defense of why he's a good source for knowledge about Aquinas, though it might seem he'd be biased because Aquinas is his favorite philosopher. Something to the effect of, whom would you rather call on to give a lecture on the moon landing: an astronaut/or scientist that was involved in the program and has devoted his/her life to the efforts? Or the preeminent lunar landing sceptic (if there is such a thing as a preeminent fool)? So, who do you want to explain the Bible to you? This man Dawkins who, apparently thinks the entire thing is a waste of paper, with a few exceptions of literary prowess that is in the text? Or an actual Bible scholar who has actually studied the text his/her entire life? There's also this great quote that displays his ignorance where it comes to the content of the Bible: "Then too, there is improved education and, in particular, the increased understanding that each of us shares a common humanity with members of the other races and with the other sex - both deeply unbiblical ideas that come from biological science, especially evolution" (pg. 271, emphasis mine). Really? Adam and Eve ring a bell anyone? Of course Dawkins claims that any theologian worth talking to, claims that Genesis 1 is just a nice allegory that can be discarded as just fantasy. Which, as I actually agree, opens up the text to a personal/anyone's interpretation. Basically, if you claim any part of the text is allegorical (that isn't clearly indicated as such, e.g. Proverbs and parables), you open it up to subjective cherry-picking of any portion to discard. You don't like the Bible's teaching on X, well, just claim that portion of the text is allegorical or for whatever reason not applicable (contrary to the rest of the text), and you're golden. Want to claim misogyny is biblical? Take a few verses out of context and you can "prove" anything you want.
In general I do not recommend this text, though, if you are a Christian like me with some understanding of apologetics and philosophy, your faith might be strengthened (as mine was) seeing these weak arguments. Basically, if this is the best arguments against God, belief in God is truly the more reasonable option.
My thoughts on philosophy, language learning, photography, theology, and life in general. All are welcome! I hope my random ramblings can somehow improve your life. I'm really only writing for my own benefit, as a journal of sorts. Hope you enjoy.
Sunday, December 15, 2013
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