Let me share with you a bit of a conversation I had after posting the things about morality:
CHOMPHOSY: Rosie says that if there were a God, then we would all agree on morality
Bouthdi: we do agree on morality in general
Bouthdi: she’d be hard pressed to find someone that thinks murder is ok
Bouthdi: and if she did
Bouthdi: she might want to rethink that friendship
CHOMPHOSY: but there are lots of different definitions of murder
Bouthdi: there are those who feel that all killing is murder
Bouthdi: and others who feel that the impetus is important to acknowledge
CHOMPHOSY: some say that abortion is murder, or killing animals for food
CHOMPHOSY: some say killing in war is murder and some not
CHOMPHOSY: some say capital punishment is murder
CHOMPHOSY: some say euthanasia is.
CHOMPHOSY: There are widespread differences of definition
CHOMPHOSY: but agreement that murder is wrong
CHOMPHOSY: like colors
CHOMPHOSY: we all agree on red
CHOMPHOSY: but when you get down to fuschia and cerise
CHOMPHOSY: you get a lot of disagreement
Following this conversation, I went on to read the rest of Chapter 6 of The God Delusion.
Dawkins reports on Hausam’s Moral Minds, a book which Pokey recommends. It sounds like a very interesting book.
Hausam did some cross-cultural studies and found widespread agreement on basic moral issues — the reds, if you will, rather than the fuschias. Dawkins seems to think that this goes in his favor, but I think he is in error. If our moral sense developed entirely through natural selection, and has no external reality, then you would expect to see the same level of variation as you find in, say, human languages.
Dawkins tries to make this support his position by misrepresenting the Christian position like this:
- Christians know what is right because the Bible tells them.
Atheists have no reason to be good, and no standards of goodness.
He then adds his own view of morality amongst the religious:
- When Christians are good, it is because they are “sucking up to God.”
When atheists are good, it is for some nobler reason.
The orthodox Christian position is, I think, this:
- There is an objective standard of right and wrong, which is the same for everyone, and available to everyone.
We, being human, cannot consistently reach that standard.
You can add stuff about Adam and Christ and God there, but those are theological matters, not moral ones. Let me know if you are a Christian and feel that I am misrepresenting the position.
I was thinking about what makes this book so disappointing. It is not that I take offense at Dawkins’s views — his views haven’t changed since the last book of his that I read (he is in fact merely repeating himself when he is on his own subject) and I have never found him offensive before. Though I have to confess to a sense of revulsion when he suggests that the sincere Christian’s striving toward personal holiness is a matter of “sucking up to God.” Did you feel a little revulsion there yourself?
I think it comes down to one simple thing.
Dawkins is best at explaining difficult concepts to the layman. In this case, he is talking about something he doesn’t know much about. I have read nearly all the books he cites, and I am not particularly well-read on the subject of theology, so it is pretty clear that he didn’t bother to do much research. He is surprisingly ignorant on basic Christian doctrine, and hardly attempts to discuss any other religions.
He is quite snippy, possibly because he is just up to here with personal attacks from religious loons, and snippiness coupled with ignorance never comes across well.
I am going to finish the book, and I hope that those of you who are reading it will also do so, but if you haven’t bought it yet, I’d say don’t bother.