Friday, August 27, 2010

TGD: The Miracle of Belief

Back in chapter two I talked about how Dawkins uses an appeal to ridicule to advance his argument. I suspect this appeal is effective for a lot of people because they share his assumption that religious beliefs are silly, especially any kind of belief in miracles.

In the preface Dawkins said that he hoped this book would convince even religious readers to become atheists. I can see it working in some cases. There are, after all, quite a few people who don't believe in miracles, but still cling to religious beliefs for any number of reasons. I can see such individuals deciding to become atheists after reading this book.

However, I don't think the book will have much of an impact on people who seriously believe in miracles. The only message that this book offers such people is captured perfectly by the title. The message is this, "If you believe in miracles, then you're delusional." I don't think that's an argument that most religious people will be able to accept, especially if they've experienced a miracle themselves.

On the other hand, for people who haven't experienced a miracle and who have no religious background, Dawkins' argument works fairly well. If you accept the basic premise, then you'll probably find the central argument of this book persuasive. I have done what I can to show that there is still good reason to believe that miracles do occur, but I realize that those arguments aren't entirely persuasive.

I know that in my case, I only started to believe because I had the good fortune to experience the power of God in a miraculous way. As such, I'm sympathetic to people who don't believe that miracles are possible at all. I was that way for a long time. For most people I suspect it's one of those things you have to see to believe.

I know I'm not likely to convince my more skeptical readers, but I hope that I can at least give them some understanding of where religious people are coming from. It's easy to read a book like The God Delusion and come away with the impression that religious people are all gullible or delusional or just stupid. Hopefully, by reading these posts you can gain a slightly broader perspective on what religious people are actually like.

Next week I'm going to get started on chapter four of The God Delusion. We finally get to take a look at Dawkins' argument against the existence of God. I hope you'll stick around.

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