Saturday, September 27, 2008

The God Delusion

Or, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, for Atheists.

I'm several chapter's into Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion, one of the handful of Atheist texts coming out to much publicity lately. In Darkins' defense, I was warned it wasn't a great book. I want to be open to critique of my theism, but I'm going to have to find it elsewhere.

Dawkins sets up the books premise by asking that we imagine a world without religion, a world with no 9-11, no crusades, no Taliban. But thus far, it doesn't feel that he's compelled by a moral revulsion to the holy war and patriarchy that seems so deeply embedded in theism (and a message that would get easy sympathy from me). He seems to be more motivated in his writing by the pathetic idiocy of anyone foolish enough to believe. His sneering contempt for religion feels driven by his contempt for stupidity and intillectual weakness, rather than his concern for the well being of the rest of us.

In all sincerity, I can't remember the last time I read a work this objectifying and stereotyping of any group of people. As a religious person, and a religious leader in particular, I feel Dawkin's loathing of me on every page, for my participation in the Taliban's suicide bombings and the Televangelists fleecing of millions. Any hope of being seen for who I am seems lost in this text.

I was struck by how the Washington Post review of God is Not Great (another book, which I have not read), applies seemlessly to Dawkin's work as well:

"Hitchens claims that some of his best friends are believers. If so, he doesn't know much about his best friends. He writes about religious people the way northern racists used to talk about "Negroes" -- with feigned knowing and a sneer. God Is Not Great assumes a childish definition of religion and then criticizes religious people for believing such foolery. But it is Hitchens who is the naïf. To read this oddly innocent book as gospel is to believe that ordinary Catholics are proud of the Inquisition..."

Dawkins' nievite about the role religion plays in the world seems best summed up by an odd editorial oversight in his introduction. While he's inviting us to imagine a world without religion, he invites us to "Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues." He seems sincerely unaware of the broad implications that without religion, there would be no ancient (Buddhist in this case) statues to blow up.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

With or Without You

"The lyric is pure torment. One of the things that was happening at the time was the collision in my own mind between being faithful to your art or being faithful to your lover. What if the two are at odds? Your gift versus domestic responsibility?

I had always been the kind of person who would sleep on everyone else's floor, the eye of the traveling rat, a natural tinker. I would just wander off and be very happy. So now I have this person in my life whom I love more than my life but I'm wondering if the reason I'm not writing is because I'm now a domesticated beast. I'm wondering if I'm house-trained? If I meet somebody and I want to go off with them, to find out what their world is like, I can't because I'm a married man.

It's not even about sexual infidelity. I just remember thinking: 'Is this the life of an artist? Am I going to have kids and settle down and betray my gift or am I going to betray my marriage? It was a very difficult thing in my head. I had met a couple of people on the way who had taken advantage of my naivete, is the best way I can put, and I realized I knew so very little about this world and now, the future looked like I was going to know even less. You can learn about politics, culture, but your emotional life also has to be developed.

I think in some senses mine wasn't, and I was going through all this kind of uncertainty. I was at least two people: the person who is so responsible, protective and loyal and the vagrant and idler in me who just wants to run from responsibility. I thought these tensions were going to destroy me but actually, in truth, it is me. That tension, it turns out, is what makes me as an artist.

Right in the centre of a contradiction, that's the place to be. There I was. Loyal. But in my imagination filled with wanderlust, a heart to know God, a head to know the world, rock star who likes to run amok and sinner who knows he needs to repent...

If I had cut loose, what would have become of me?"

-Bono, U2 on U2