• The ‘New’ Atheism: 10 Arguments That Don’t Hold Water?: A Refutation, Part 3

    Chapter 3: People who live in glass houses…?

    A3 Religious beliefs are memes, mind viruses, self-delusion, placebos, wishful thinking and indoctrination.

    Poole argues,

    But if belief in a God is a ‘mind virus’ that we may not know we have, then the double-edged sword that cuts both ways dictates that belief in no God is also a ‘mind virus’ that we may not know we have. This leaves the awful possibility that the atheist, too, may be living a life of total self-delusion without knowing it. (24)

    Rather than trying to argue that these claims about religion are false, Poole attempts to argue that non-belief could be called a mind virus, a self-delusion, etc. but doesn’t elaborate on his argument about exactly why this is so. Sure, this could “cut both ways” but where is the evidence that it does? He provides none.

    Once again, Poole argues that the “double edged sword” cuts both ways when Dawkins argues how religion is “wishful thinking.” He says,

    Furthermore, Dawkins claims that ‘people of a theological bent are often chronically incapable of distinguishing what is true from what they’d like to be true.’ But here comes the double-edged sword that cuts both ways. Change ‘theological’ for ‘atheistic’ and where does that get us in the debate? (25)

    Again, no argumentation can be found detailing exactly why what he says even remotely applies to atheists.

    Next, the author complains about Dawkins’, and other atheists’, use of the words indoctrination and brainwashing when referring to the teaching of religion. Once again, Poole argues that Dawkins is doing the same thing through his lectures Growing up in the Universe and the series on Charles Darwin called The Genius of Charles Darwin. Poole points to some “anti-religious” comments Dawkins made in both series. I’ve seen the entirety of The Genius of Charles Darwin and part of Growing up in the Universe and Dawkins was educating the children, trying to get them to view the world outside of their religious bubble and encouraging them to view the scientific evidence for evolution. That’s what education is supposed to do: encourage children to learn of the evidence for evolution and allow them to accept it or reject it on their own, not threaten children with hell if they don’t believe your views, as is often done with religious beliefs. Of course, Poole doesn’t mention that aspect of religious “education.”

    Another complaint by Poole about the Genius of Charles Darwin series is that Dawkins did not tell the students that one doesn’t have to choose between either belief in evolution or belief in god. True, theistic evolution is a common belief, but it wasn’t mentioned by Dawkins because, frankly, it’s a view that has not a shred of evidence for it so Dawkins rightfully rejects this viewpoint. (28-29)

    I am shocked that a theist finally understands Dawkins’ views on “child abuse” and did not falsely characterize Dawkins as some evil atheist who wants to stop parents from teaching their own kids religion. He even says, “It is reasonable not to stick the labels of the parent’s faith on to children who are too young to have made individual commitments.” (26) However, he uses the same “double-edged sword” argument and says that atheism “could also owe a lot to the gullibility of young people.” (26) He provides no evidence this is the case.

    He further argues that many children “are taught to question and think through their beliefs; and some, after careful thought, arrive at belief in God or retain their existing belief in God.”

    He also argues that, through interactions with other children who have different beliefs, children often learn to question their beliefs on their own. Having said this Poole says, “So perhaps the dangers are not as real as Dawkins seems to think.” (26)

    Yes, but the fact is that countless parents do scare their children with hell if they do not believe as they do and that’s the point! Arguing that, ‘Well, parents don’t always do what Dawkins describes’ is no argument to the fact that many parents do precisely what Dawkins is complaining about.

    Once again, yes, many children do remain with religion despite learning of other views, but at least they did so without pressure from their parents and threats of hell, which is what Dawkins was complaining about in his chapter on children and religion. Even Dawkins would support this (though he would highly disagree with their decision and see it as the wrong one, but at least they were not forced into that belief). As he wrote in The God Delusion,

    If, having been fairly and properly exposed to all the scientific evidence, they grow up and decide that the bible is literally true or that the movements of the planets rule their lives, that is their privilege. The important point is that it is their privilege to decide what they shall think, not their parents’ privilege to impose it by force majeure. [1]

    1. The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins; 327

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    Article by: Arizona Atheist