I’m at the best phase of a new project — the reading aimlessly stage. Am trying to think about religion and last night started reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion.
If you pardon the pun, it’s like the curate’s egg — good in parts. Obviously, his stuff on Darwin’s really powerful — he cuts through your unthinking acceptance of natural selection, and makes you see how powerful and shocking the theory is. Oh, and who knew Dawkins had a sense of humour? (That’s a rhetorical question — I’m sure lots of people did know.) The book’s full of irreverent, chatty little asides, and so the narrative persona is pretty endearing.
On the not-so-good side, his arguments about politics and religion are way too simplistic, and he tends to see belief as simply a matter of intellectual laziness or cowardice, which doesn’t seem very helpful.
Anyway, I fell asleep reading his polemic about the moral bankruptcy implicit in many accounts of an interventionist god, accounts which often justify atrocities on the basis that they serve some mysterious higher purpose (eg: God sends earthquakes because the devastation allows us to demonstrate our charity, which is nice for us but not so much for the people crushed in their houses). Then I woke up in the middle of the night tormented by mosquitoes doing that thing where they bite you and, when they’re not biting you, they buzz in your ear to let you know that they’re still hanging around waiting to bite you again. With this taking place at 4am, it was hard not to think that, as punishment for messing with Dawkins, I was getting the Job treatment (‘So went Satan forth from the presence of the Lord, and smote Job with sore boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown’).
Still, as of 7am this morning, I seem to have escaped the smiting of the four corners of the house — the bit where God kills all of Job’s family as part of a bet he’s having with the devil.