Saturday, January 06, 2007


A Recipe for Disaster

Red State Rabble reader, DL, had an interesting response to H. Allen Orr's review of Richard Dawkins new book, The God Delusion:
I can categorically state, as a person who has taught evolutionary biology for years at a Catholic university, that the only thing the self-indulgent folks like Dawkins do for me is make it MORE difficult to teach evolutionary biology. That kind of help I don't need.

The Catholic school system... was a direct reaction to the bald fact that until 1947 Protestant religion was taught in the public schools. Especially in the late 19th and early 20th century, any "religion" that was taught was guaranteed to be the King James Bible version. Using state power to "educate" Catholics to be Protestants was too much, hence the extensive extant Catholic school system. I actually have to tell my fellow Catholics this to remind them not to pretend that a return to the good old days of public school prayer is a good thing. Why can' t we just stick to real civics and the Bill of Rights?

DL's comments offer concrete evidence that frontal attacks on religion by Dawkins and others which fail to distinguish between biblical literalists who demand the right to use public school to proselytize their beliefs, and moderates like DL, who both defend evolution and separation of church and state, are counterproductive.

The separation of church and state protects mainstream Protestants, Catholics, Jews, Muslims -- and freethinkers alike -- from religious indoctrination by fundamentalists of all stripes.

Effective defense of an open society doesn't require that we all pray at the same church -- or not at all. Each of us can go our separate way when it comes to belief as long as we join together to defend what we share in common: religious tolerance defended by a secular form of government that doesn't take sides.

RSR doesn't argue that Dawkins and others demand a state apparatus that bans religion -- we don't for a minute think they do. However, by insisting that all religion, rather than fundamentalist religion, is the problem, hard liners like Dawkins demand that theists abandon their beliefs as a prerequisite to common action.

They do this, as Dawkins explicitly told Steve Paulson in a Salon interview, even though it hurts the cause of teaching evolution and deals creationists a stronger hand:
It depends on whether you think the real war is over the teaching of evolution, as they do, or whether, as I do, think the real war is between supernaturalism and naturalism, between science and religion. If you think the war is between supernaturalism and naturalism, then the war over the teaching of evolution is just one skirmish, just one battle, in the war. So what the scientists you've been talking to are asking me o do is to shut my mouth. Because for the sake of what I see as the war, I'm in danger of losing this particular battle. And that's a worthwhile political point for them to make.

The larger war that Dawkins wants to fight has been going on for a couple of millenia and it will go on as long as the human race survives.

It will never be won, but it could easily be lost.

Muslim and Christian fundamentalists are on the march. Both share an apocalyptic vision of the future. Dividing the movement to defend reason and tolerance, as Dawkins plainly wishes to do, may give theocrats of all stripes just what they want: the power to achieve their nightmare dream of Armageddon.


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