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By Reason Alone

Regulars will know, I’m not heavily into a thing “alone” (eg. Bible alone,…)

In the holidays I was channel-surfing in a motel and stumbled upon a rerun of the interview I’ve now embedded in this post (above).

Oksana Boyko interviews Richard Dawkins – and RT.com titled this “Faith in Reason” (full transcript at that link). In the interview, Oksana Boyko declares her own position: “I consider myself an atheist, primarily thanks to you”; so this is not an uncomfortable interview for Richard Dawkins.

But Oksana Boyko does make some strong points – is Richard Dawkin’s faith in reason alone influenced by his gender? Dawkins responds by allowing, “I’m driven by emotion in other issues…Religion, to me, is a matter of intellect, and I take my stand on that.”

I think this is a key insight. Beauty, music, relationships, art, etc – these, clearly, are not able to be accessed by reason alone. But, without any rational justification, by an act of pure faith, the antitheist Richard Dawkins applies standards to religion and spirituality that he does not apply in these other areas of human flourishing.

What Richard Dawkins and other antitheists do is, in fact, the exact mirroring of the fundamentalist, biblical literalism that they decry. The only difference is that the biblical literalists allow no room for metaphor and affirm the literalism, and the antitheists allow no room for metaphor and deny the literalism.

Richard Dawkins cannot allow, while a person is totally scientific when it comes to science, that we accept that reason alone is insufficient for wider human flourishing in beauty, music, relationships, art, religion and spirituality.

Oksana Boyko: Now, the traditional atheist view has been that with the development of science, religion will die out. …Are you putting too much faith in human rationality?

Richard Dawkins: Well, it looks as though you may be right. I mean, it is quite mysterious to me, the way that people can do that.

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4 thoughts on “By Reason Alone”

  1. Andrew Klavan and Bill Whittle debate these deeper things in a short video. Klavan is Christian and Whittle is an atheist but they are good friends. It is delightful to watch, especially atheist Whittle explaining how shallow a belief in science is.

    In another clip featuring Dawkins it was nice to hear Dawkins lambasting Christians for not knowing the name of the four Gospel books but then floundering when his opposite, a clergyman, asks him to state the full title of Darwin’s Origin of Species being the foundational book for Dawkins.

    Intelligent does always mean smart and Dawkins role as the atheist poster boy is fraught with pitfalls.

  2. Dawkins’ own dogmatic assertions (as you observe, based on a priori foundations, not evidence) certainly tempt one to make a counter-polemic. His belief in free government therapy as adequate replacement for religious consolation, or his condescending wish that the world’s underprivileged could have the luxury of sufficient education to shed their belief in “spooks,” for example. But as Charles Taylor has said about the fallacious aspects of the secularist worldview, “instead of blowing one’s philosophical top, a more instructive thing is to see what underpins this position.” Reason is as much a construct, historically developed and situated, as religion is. Part of the theological challenge is to question the degree to which Christianity, in trying to make the biblical God intelligible to Enlightenment thinking, adopted many of the same underpinnings that produced the materialist worldview. When the world became a “necessity” whose workings could be understood by science, rather than a gift whose mystery requires additional ways of knowing beyond “reason,” theology’s essential openness to what is beyond our rationality was compromised. It is interesting that Dawkins does allow less skeptical forms of knowledge when it comes to relationships.For those of us whose knowledge and experience of God proceed from relationship first of all, that is a large concession.

    1. Thanks for these very helpful points, “Religious Imagineer”. Please use your ordinary name here (it is clear from your website – which I recommend people to visit). Blessings.

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