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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preach it, brother! A regular shower of blessings from Saint Charles Darwin

Hiram Caton who (as regular readers will recall) is the retired Aussie political science prof who enjoys sending up the currently raging Darwin cult, writes to say that he has now drunk deep from the "clear-thinking oasis" available at Richard Dawkins's site.

And he sends back this message to all you peoples who still sit in darkness and have not yet seen the great light:

I just completed my pilgrimage to the 'clear-thinking oasis', as the shrine is called, the RichardDawkins.net. An inspiring, edifying experience that filled my cup with a rosary of blessings.

Marvellous portraits of Mr. Dawkins etched him indelibly on my mind. And the fulsome library of DVDs: The Enemies of Reason, the Root of All Evil, the Four Horsemen, and the most recent, The Genius of Charles Darwin, which takes novitiates into the inner sanctum--Richard Dawkins' splendid library.

He shows us his first edition copy of The Origin of Species and whispers that it's 'not just the most precious book in my library, but the most precious book in the library of our species'.

I suddenly realized that it's the TRUE holy book and that my Darwin doubts exploit the shadows between Reason and the Root of Evil, Superstition. I cleansed my mind by accepting that it's Either/Or: Dawkins and Reason or THEM. The reward was immediate sense of exalted freedom!!

In addition to DVDs, the site offers novitiates a variety of charms and amulets that express the conversion to clear-thinking: T-shirts, bumper stickers, coffee mugs which convey the message of Dawkins' outreach, the 'Out campaign' (copied from the gay/lesbian outing).

The message is simple: Look at me, I am a proud ATHEIST. Lots of potential here, like 'I'm a SELFISH GENE', or, 'ABOLISH the Archbishop'.

And the Four Horsemen? What or who could they be? Why none other than the Four Evangels--Dawkins, Dennett, Chris Hutchins, and Sam Harris, chatting about the evils of religion and the blessings of clear-thinking.

But wait: which one is Pestilence? which is Famine? Death? The acolyte's acquired clear thinking is left to figure it out.

The active atheists assure us that understanding their gospel is easy. Thus, in the Genius of Charles Darwin, Dawkins interacts with school kids, shows them fossils, and tells them that natural selection is a simple idea that they can understand. That should be enough, but they persist in their faith.

The Four Horsemen also take this view: if you just impartially consider the facts, and refuse to comply with social demands, why you are free! This is pretty much a repetition of modern rationalist conviction, although the French enlighteners realized that if you want mass conversion, propaganda and the guillotine are helps.

But isn't something missing? Why is religion historically so ancient, and so persistent even when glamour icons from Madonna to Hugh Hefner market emancipated selfhood with huge success? Might there be an evolutionary explanation of religion that links it with human sociability and the 'struggle for existence'? Dawkins thinks not. Natural selection has given us the big brain capable of emancipating ourselves from our apelike past: we use contraceptives to thwart the drive to reproduce. Well, not all evolutionists agree. There is another point of view at his own Oxford University, where the Ian Ramsey Centre for Science and Religion is in the midst of an extensive, well-funded investigation of the evolutionary origins of religion.

Let me wind this up with a quotation from Thomas Huxley that expresses the epitome of the clear-thinking oasis. In an essay, the Influence on Morality of the Decline in Religious Belief, Huxley delivers his acid judgment: 'Few social evils are of greater magnitude than uninstructed and unchastened religious fanaticism; no personal habit more surely degrades the conscience and the intellect than blind and unhesitating obedience to unlimited authority'. This was written in 1877, after France's revolutionary turmoils created secular fanaticisms able to surpass the religious variety.

Thanks for this anointed word, Brother Hiram! Folks, you can watch all the most anointed atheist shows on line at the Dawkins site, but you will have to put down money, I fear, for the atheist kitsch.

And, like I always say, keep those shards and fetters coming!

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