Real Dialogue and Fear

A reply to Fr David’s blog

Regarding Fr. David’s first entry in his blog I wish to make some remarks. Real dialogue (as in a friendly conversational exchange) can only take place if all sides are sincere enough to put their cards on the table by sharing their modus operandi. People like the late Christopher Hitchens fail to do so. It is my intention is to try to illustrate this fact clearly.

Hitchens formed part of the so called ‘four dark horses of atheism’, comprising the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, the neuroscientist Sam Harris and the philosopher Daniel Dennett. It is of paramount importance to analyse their works in tandem because the logic of their works are intimately tied to each other. Dennett, Hitchens and Harris are prone to refer to Dawkins and their mastery of evolutionary biology to make their arguments more methodologically scientific. On the other hand, Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens make recourse to Dennett’s philosophical acumen in dealing with abstract thinking. I will not dwell further on this point although such insight merits an article on its own; let it suffice to say that although they ‘feed’ onto each other they unknowingly contradict each other on a number of points making their works highly unprofessional.

In dealing with the real motives for their hate of religion, Dawkins, in ‘The God Delusion’, reveals to the reader that he is hostile to religion because of what it did to Kurt Wise. What he means is that he vents his anger at organised religion because scientists like Kurt Wise are ready to admit their own scientific limitations.

Accordingly many scientists inspired by Christian sects abandon their methodological reasoning to accept Biblical in-errancy  What really lays behind all this hostility at religion is that religion is capable of alluring individuals (especially scientists like himself) to a competing world view! What really troubles Dawkins is that he fears that science will be swept away and therefore, being himself in ‘love’ with science, cannot obviously let this happen! Hitchens is an even starker example of this fear factor at play. In ‘God is not Great’, he admits that he began to hate religion because of “the splendid liturgy of the King James Bible and the Cranmer prayer book – the liturgy that the fatuous Church of England has cheaply discarded – that I first disagreed”.

By his own admission, Hitchens turned against his own religion because he started to see religion as a repressing agent that thwarts what is beautiful and worthwhile in life. “Religion might speak of the bliss of the next world, but it wants power in this one”. His anger at religion is fueled primarily by his fear and distrust at what he himself experienced in relation to what makes life beautiful and worthwhile. Biblical rationality has nothing to do with all of this!

What about Dennett and Sam Harris? On his part, Harris is nothing but a proponent of a Buddhist-inspired spirituality who is ultimately afraid that the three monotheistic religions manage to overpower the kind of spirituality he conforms to. In ‘The End of Faith’, he claims that “even contemporary literature on conciousness which spans philosophy, cognitive science, psychology and neuroscience cannot match the kind of precise, phenomenological studies that can be found throughout the Buddhist canon”. In his book he even quotes from the Padmasambhava to argue that “mysticism is a rational enterprise (because the mystic) has recognised something about the nature of consciousness prior to thought, and this recognition is susceptible to rational discussion”. Against religion…no way! Against Christianity, Islam and Judaism is more like it!

Daniel Dennett in his book ‘Breaking the Spell’, while trying to sound more professional in his approach, mirrors the other ‘dark horses’ in his underlying fear of religion. Dennett goes on to write in his book that one must refuse the idea of the sacred that religions propose, meaning untouchable principles or ideas. While claiming that such mentality is not scientific(verification/falsification) and leads to fanaticism, at the same time he forcibly argues that “even atheists (like him) and agnostics can have sacred values (democracy, justice, life love and truth) which are not up for re-evaluation at all”. What Dennett fears is that his interpretation of what is sacred or untouchable is challenged by the monotheistic religions that ultimately deal with exactly the same set of values that he holds dear.

From this exposition of the real motives lurching at the back of the more often than not angry diatribes against religion is none other than a sentiment that in one form or another is common to all earthlings…fear. Hitchens, and like minded authors, should have called themselves ‘rationalizers’ rather than rationalists. Ultimately, their poking fun at the Bible and their avowal of reason and science is none other than a shrewd attempt to hide their own fear (or better to rationalize their fear) that their world view is in danger of loosing ground when challenged by a more compelling and comprehensive perspective on life itself. Only if they admit their real motivations can RATIONAL dialogue take place in the courtyard of the gentiles – if not, one would remain stuck with their customary argumentation revolving around psychological constructs.

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