Where is the Dawkins I read before I knew a thing about genetics, and adored? The one who seemed to be telling me things I didn't know, things I wanted to know, and things I was glad I knew after talking to him (cos honestly reading his books are a lot like having a conversation with him, or at least how I'd imagine a conversation with him to be!). Y'know I wouldn't even be here, where I am, doing what I do if I hadn't stumbled on Selfish Gene and the Blind Watchmaker. But he's disappeared, kidnapped no doubt and replaced by a dubious imposter, who seems to have lost all touch with reality. An imposter who wants us to believe that without the moral policing of the religious fraternity, we, as a people would remain on the straight and narrow. Huh?! Is he living on an earth that I have never been to? An alternative, parallel reality that I can only imagine, and wish existed in my reality, perhaps.
Atheism is superior to religious belief in all ways, and more importantly necessary for further evolution of our species, claims the venerable Dawkins. He seems to forget that if this were indeed true, natural selection would take care of it and we wouldn't need to be writing and reading books that postulate its necessity. Some interesting stuff he has in his book (as always), including the root of morality (though I preferred Ridley's The Origin of Virtue), the evolution of altruism, the game theory, the possibility of evolution of our brains to accept and in fact crave delusions such as the one of God, and immortality, and reward in a world beyond this one. He talks about how children who listen to their elders and betters (heh!) tend to survive and hence populate the gene pool with much higher frequencey than children who don't. So, child-brains are an effective breeding ground for pertinacious 'viruses' of the sort that religion is. A lot of it makes sense, but to me atheism is a journey. One that each of us has to make for ourselves, and which some of us might never make. But it is an individual pilgrimage (and yeah, I'm reveling in the religious allusions of that word), and not one for which we need a messiah.
Dawkins claims that statistics would suggest that atheists are more 'moral' than the more pious of our brethren. He shares some examples, and to do him justice admits that there are obvious flaws in the argument including the much skewed population that is considered in the first place. The number of atheists who are out of the closet are very few, and generally pretty well educated, so yeah, I'd EXPECT them to have a well grounded sense of morality. I like Dawkins' views on morality though, there are some that I share (though it was a blow to me to that these ideas weren't uniquely mine!).
I haven't finished reading the book yet, but from what I've read it isn't one that I'd recommend. I know that some people are fascinated by evolution, and its effects on human behavior and society, for them it is indeed an interesting book. But the evangelical aspect of it is something that sticks in my craw. Atheism is my hobby horse and I don't like it subjected to the same processes as any run-of-the-mill religion.
Things to Think about :
1. Is religion absolutely necessary for human beings to stay 'good'?
2. Does doing away with religion benefit the human race as a whole, not just morality-wise?
From an absolutely selfish (and therefore extremely human) standpoint, I would like to point out that all of the world becoming atheists does not seem to me a harbinger of good tidings for the human race. I shiver at the thought of what would happen if all thought of eternal reward or punishment was removed from the minds of all humans. I see the flipside of the coin though, and I realise that the thought that there aren't '72 virgins' (Dawkins' suggestion) waiting on the other side of the veil would prevent certain people of certain religions from doing things of a highly dubious nature. If an individual has the independence of thought to consider different aspects of life and decide against religion and God of his/her own accord, then I would gladly leave questions of morality in his/her hands without a second thought to its advisability. But if there was a mass conversion to atheism based on a 'preacher man' then I'm not sure I could rest with the same confidence. I still cling to the belief that if it was for the good of our species atheism would have been embraced a while back by the world at large. But it hasnt. So I wonder...