Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Religion and politics(i)

I have blogged before about paying attention to Richard Dawkins, the atheist apologist, who is once again doing the rounds of Australia.
His basic tenet is that religion is bad per se. And he makes a good fist of his case.
I was interested in his performance on Q & A recently which has received quite a lot of media attention. This is partly because of the way he seemed flabbergasted by Senator Steve Fielding's views about creationism, and indeed started to lampoon the good senator instead of his views (or so it seems to me and some others). "You a Parliamentarian of Australia...believe that the world was created less than 10,000 years ago"
Now I have no brief for Senator Fielding and indeed find his views laughable. But the discussion needs to be contracted on a less personal basis.
In fact Fielding declared that he had not said (on that program at least...and he hadn't) what his views were at all. He was rather set up, and I suppose Dawkins was too. They were even seated next to each other!
Dawkins makes quite a sophisticated attack on Christianity in particular. At one stage he accused Christian apologists of "cherry picking" the Bible, to only look at the good consistent and modern bits.
I have thought since, that he rather does that himself.
He conveniently fails to address the more sophisticated discussion about the complex nature of religion, and its role in the cohesion of society. He does not address or explain the significance of religion in the maintenace and development of high culture. He prefers rather to pick a few examples (and of course after thousands of years there are many) of where there have been scandalous betrayals of the true spirit of Christianity (or what ever faith) and does not choose to enlighten us with a discussion of the works of charity of the countless men and women who have themselves to the service of the poor, or the education of the young.
I think Dawkins is important because he receives such attention. But part of the reason he receives such attention is because his analysis in the most public forums is often the very 'cherry-picking' that he is so critical of in others.

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