Betrayal of the intellect

03
Feb

Betrayal of the intellect

Last night, at the Cambridge Union debating society, Professor Richard Dawkins debated the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams. The image here comes from a story on the Huffington Post where Dawkins is quoted as saying that religion is a "betrayal of the intellect". When I referred to this story on Google+, someone replied to my post by saying the trouble with Richard Dawkins is that he is a "rabid, fundamentalist, atheist" and as deluded at the former Archbishop. He further suggested that neither science nor religion will ever settle this issue.  

Here's my take . . . whether or not some deity or other exists, I can say with near absolute certainty that it's not the god of the Bible, Talmud, Torah, Koran, or any of the books that are paraded as God's word on this planet. Furthermore, the evidence suggests, with near absolute certainty, that there is no god, at least not in the way that most religious people envision such a being.

It's true that Dawkins can be a little rough when it comes to taking on religion, but that's not to say he's wrong, or that he's just plain mean-spirated. Richard Dawkins, and others like him, take on religion because they see it not only as a delusion (as Dawkins calls it) but as a dangerous superstition that stands as the basis for fear, ignorance, and hate, and much the evil that accompanies fear, ignorance, and hate. Christopher Hitchens believed it, Sam Harris believes it, and I believe it.

On the issue of whether religion or science will ever settle this, Religion has already settled this. It's true. But religion has settled the issue by giving in to ignorance and taking it on faith, possibly the least virtuous virtue imaginable because religious faith is pretty much the same as ignorance without question. Science, while it may never 100% settle the argument of whether some kind of god exists, is vastly different from religion in the best possible way. Science is based on observation and hypothesis, finely tuned and forever open to re-examination by experiment. Using the tools of science, we can say with near absolute certainty, that there is no god. At least not in the sense that such a being is represented in the planet's holy books.

Rather than trash atheists, religious people should rally around guys like Dawkins, and give him and other scientists all the support they can. For the first time in history, the religious have the opportunity to test faith against the tools of reason and science. If the god hypothesis can survive the scrutiny of science and reason, then religious people will be vindicated in their beliefs. In putting religion under the harsh, rigorous, and unforgiving light of science, they can be true to their intellect. If, however, god fails on all counts, as so far he has, they can cast off the yoke of ignorance, darkness, and fear, and step joyfully into the light of reason.

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