But Dawkins could have told us all this without being so appallingly bitchy about those of his scientific colleagues who disagree with him, and without being so theologically illiterate.
He sensed that his account would end any intellectually credible idea of divine creation, and he wanted to break belief without harming the believer, particularly his wife, Emma, whom he loved devotedly and with whom he had shared, before he sat down to write, a private tragedy that seemed tolerable to her only through faith. The problem he faced was also a rhetorical one: how to say something that had never been said before in a way that made it sound like something everybody had always known—how to make an idea potentially scary and subversive sound as sane and straightforward as he believed it to be.
You've criticized the idea of the afterlife. What do you see as the problem with a terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife?
Oh, no problem at all. I would never wish to disabuse or disillusion somebody who believed that. I care about what's true for myself, but I don't want to go around telling people who are afraid of dying that their hopes are unreal.
If I could have a word with a would-be suicide bomber or plane hijacker who thinks he's going to paradise, I would like to disabuse him.
"Some people have views of God that are so broad and flexible that it is inevitable that they will find God wherever they look for him. One hears it said that 'God is the ultimate' or 'God is our better nature' or 'God is the universe.' Of course, like any other word, the word 'God' can be given any meaning we like. If you want to say that 'God is energy,' then you can find God in a lump of coal."
Dawkins does not merely disagree with religious myths. He disagrees with tolerating them, with cooperating in their colonization of the brains of innocent tykes.
"How much do we regard children as being the property of their parents?" Dawkins asks. "It's one thing to say people should be free to believe whatever they like, but should they be free to impose their beliefs on their children? Is there something to be said for society stepping in? What about bringing up children to believe manifest falsehoods?"
If I say "Wow, what an overwhelming spiritual experience!" it makes no sense for you to reply "No it wasn't, you misinterpreted that experience as being of a spiritual nature" any more than it makes sense to claim I somehow misinterpreted my experience when I say "Wow, this water tasts salty." If you don't believe my reported experience, all you can say is "You really had no such experience, you're pulling my leg." The descriptive terms used to report primary experience are not challengeable, except on the grounds of untruth.
Enlightenment is man's release from his self-incurred tutelage. Tutelage is the incapacity to use one's own understanding without the guidance of another. Such tutelage is self-imposed if its cause is not lack of intelligence, but rather a lack of determination and courage to use one's intelligence without being guided by another.
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