Quantcast

«

»

Feb 24 2012

Guest post by Musical Atheist on Richard Dawkins

After the torrent of spiteful dreck we’ve seen directed at Richard Dawkins lately, the comment by Musical Atheist came as a blast of cold fresh air in a stuffy room. Therefore, I’m putting it up on the main page.

Musical Atheist says:

I don’t like my own country very much at present. I think our politicians and our press display the lowest sort of sneering childishness, on a regular basis. Playground bullies who grew up to apply their bullying on a wider scale.

For this reason, when I first discovered Dawkins’ writing, I felt that he was one of the few public figures in Britain I could find genuinely inspiring. He’s honest, his moral integrity is innately bound up with his passion for his work, which is the noble work of the pursuit of truth. You’d think the religious authorities ought to get that, even if they think he’s wrong. He’s flawed and human, he’s made errors in judgement and sometimes takes cheap shots, but he still stands out as one of the few British public intellectuals engaged in doing active good and treating moral ideas seriously.

When I read TGD a few years ago I, as many Christians keep saying,  didn’t recognise the god he described. I thought it witty, acerbic and entertaining, but not applicable to me. But I gradually realised that the example of scepticism and rigorous commitment to evidence that he was describing was applicable to all types of spiritual belief. When I began to apply it to my own (woo, new agey, vaguely pantheist, occasionally animist) spiritual ideas, I was genuinely shocked to find how much baggage of unjustified belief I’d accumulated over the years, and how much, if I was being honest with myself, I had to throw out.

Reading Dawkins got me interested in scepticism; led me to other writers and blogs like B&W and Pharyngula; reminded me of my childhood pleasure in science, long stifled by mediocre teaching; but more than anything, gave me the tools to reclaim my own mind. How do you repay the people who help you do that?

And he did it with one entertaining bestseller that didn’t even address the specific beliefs I actually held, but that I was able to use as a springboard for my own thought process.

4 comments

1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    Crimbly

    Thanks Musical Atheist! I have similar feelings to you – reading RD was a blast of fresh air indeed. Changing your mind is a process. Everyone travels their own route to scepticism, only some miss the exit sign when it first appears. It is for them that we need to plant more exit signs along the carriageway of life.

    I think I need to think of better metaphors.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    I also emailed the comment to Richard directly, and he replied warmly – so you can know he read it, M.A.

  3. 3
    Musical Atheist

    Thank you Ophelia, what a cracking surprise to meet over the morning’s first cup of tea!

    I’d like to add briefly that many of the harms of the mainstream religions – the burden of guilt, the use of spiritual ideas to pressure and manipulate people, the fear of consequences after death – can also be subtly and insidiously present among new age/alternative spiritual practitioners and believers. That’s why ‘reclaiming my mind’ was so necessary, and why I so appreciate the availability of books like TGD and Why Truth Matters (which was great, by the way). I really welcome the recent rise to public notice of sceptics who address all types of belief at the base level of their probable truthfulness, not how ‘comforting’ or ‘meaningful’ or weighted with tradition they might appear to be.

  4. 4
    Ophelia Benson

    Hey thanks about WTM!

  1. 5
    house extension costs brisbane

    they wanted to invest that kind of…

    time, and then as they read they would have realized that although there was decent information in the article, it wasn’t flowing, or worth their time to read. yes, you live and learn.not long ago, i read an interesting blog post…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite="" class=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>