Tuesday, July 15, 2008

God Is A Concept


Following my recent change from car-bound commuter drone to train-bound commuter drone, I've found myself given far more time to read books, and as a result I'm getting through an average of a book a week.
Yesterday, I finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. It's a book that's currently in vogue, and it seems to be striking a chord with a sizeable portion of society (in Britain at least).
I don't believe in God. I find the very idea that there's a big bearded dude living in the sky and watching over us pretty laughable, when no evidence points towards His existence. The belief that He is supposed to have created the universe a few thousand years ago, in the face of huge amounts of evidence to the contrary, has never sat right with me, ever since I was old enough to form any views on the subject.
By all means, believe what you want to believe. If you think that God, Jesus, Allah, Buddah, Zeus, Thor or the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists, feel free. But don't feel for a second that your world view is the only truth, or that it should be taught as fact in schools.
I'm not against the Bible being examined as a historical document, and its stories discussed - but in the same way that Greek, Roman, Norse or Egyptian myths and legends are studied - as a means of learning how primitive people understood the world around them.
But if you believe that the Bible is literally the word of God, you're living in cloud cuckoo land.
Perhaps even more inexcusable than the teaching of religion in schools is the weight of influence that religion has on society and politics. Church leaders are still afforded the opportunity to speak directly to the government and to have a say on key policies.
Why? Is it the sheer weight of numbers? According to the 2001 census, less than half of British people believe in a God, yet about 72% told the census that they were Christian. It is believed that 66% of the population have no actual connection to any religion or church, despite what they tend to write down on official forms.
Around 80% of the British population, or 50 million people, are adults old enough to choose their own religion and have a say on which shower of useless bastards runs the country. If less than half of them is Christian, that leaves us with, at most, 25 million people, and probably less. So far, so acceptable. Connected groups of people should have political representation. But the fact that these people share a belief in a non-existant God shouldn't count for more than the societies they live in, their political views and their socio-political needs and wants.
And grouping people together, then giving them the ear of government, because of a shared belief in something is a laughable notion anyway. To date, 4.3 million people have bought Oasis' second album (What's The Story) Morning Glory. Should the 4.3 million people be represented in government due to their sheer weight of numbers? Around 8 million people regularly watch EastEnders - shouldn't their views as a group be conveyed to Gordon Brown?
It's a tad unfortunate that many of this country's, and indeed the world's, finest buildings and artworks were built by and are owned by religious institutions. Hypocritically, Mrs Wife and I were married in a church, by a Church of Scotland minister. But my reasoning was that it was preferable to marry in a picturesque church than a hotel function suite, and to be married by a man I knew better as a member of a local sports club and from social events than I did as minister, rather than by a civil servant who was a stranger to me.
I don't think my argument is coming out in a terribly coherent fashion - Richard Dawkins argues his points with much greater clarity and with more authority than I could ever muster. I heartily recommend The God Delusion to all who feel that God is maybe about as likely to exist as virgin birth, walking on water and raising the dead. And I also recommend checking out Dawkins' website.

15 comments:

Jaggy said...

A good point well made.

I once heard that there were only about 200,000 regular church attenders in Scotland, so why has this tiny group got such a big sway over our licensing hours, school policies and other important decisions. Even this number of people has the usual mix of social and political affiliations, so there is no majority there.

BobG said...

I always go by my dad's philosophy:
"The Bible was written by sheepherders and fishermen, and everybody knows how they stretch the truth."

Anonymous said...

... "Connected groups of people should have political representation. But the fact that these people share a belief in a non-existant God shouldn't count for more than the societies they live in, their political views and their socio-political needs and wants."....

... non-existant God?..... don't look now, brother, but it looks like you falling for the tinfoil hat thing....

.... kinda like "that tiny collection of "people who believesother than me (in a non-existant God) are controling the system!"...

.... I don't know for sure, but I suspect your statistics might be a bit wrong.... but, having said that, statistics are all damnable lies anyway......

Eric

Anonymous said...

... sorry for the typographic errors.... I was being distracted by the news on the television!...

Eric

bigrab said...

Having read both, I prefer the journalistic approach of Hitchens' "God is Not Great" to the Dawkins scientific angle. Both good reads though and very difficult to argue with. Being a Gers fan you'll be a proddy atheist I take it Jock?

Groanin' Jock said...

Jaggy: It annoys me that the church still has a say over the way this country is run, even though comparitively few people are Christians.

Bob: Sounds bang on the money to me. Putting your whole life's philosophy on a 2,000-year-old book is clearly insane.

Eric: Until someone shows me unquestionable evidence of God's existence, I have to assume He/She/It doesn't exist. To presume that there's an all-seeing being that hand-built the Earth sounds pretty naive to me. And the fact that lots of people believe the fairy story seems to give them a say on how everyone should live their lives. As for the statistics, they're lifted from the official UK census from 2001, so they should be fairly accurate.

Rab: Aye, genuine 100% Proddy atheist ;-)

Anonymous said...

... number one, never trust statistics unless you took them yourself... and even then, half of the participants were probably just telling you what they thought you wanted to hear....

.. in any case, I was merely pointing out that your disbelief in a god/gods/etc does not - in any way - outweigh the opinions of those who might believe in a god.... whether you think them naive or not.... the fact remains that most of Western Civilization has been based on Christian values for about 1500 or so years.....


Eric

Inchy said...

I'll happily defend, to my dying breath, anyone's right to believe in whatever fictitious anthropomorphic personification they wish to believe in, but I can't help noticing that I've never had an atheist knock on my door and try to convince me that there ISN'T a god (deliberate small g). For a religion that preaches that one must make a 'leap of faith' in order to believe in His Lordship, they seem to have a need to convince me that I was created by a big, beardy, robe-wearing, white man who lives on a cloud in the sky.

Now that's just silly.

Groanin' Jock said...

Eric: I don't for a minute think that my single opinion outweighs the single opinion of any other person. But the fact that thousands of people believe that a magician from 2,000 years ago was the son of god, and that we're all going to hell if we don't believe in him, isn't a good enough reason for them to have a say on the politics in whatever country they live. I believe, like many people, that there are likely to be inhabited planets elsewhere in the universe - should I, and those like me, therefore be given the ear of government to dictate policy on health, education, abortion and other areas of other people's lives that have bugger all to do with me?

As for most of Western civilisation having been based on "Christian values" over the past 1,500 years - Christianity doesn't have the monopoly in a belief that murder, incest, rape, robbery and other forms of antisocial and immoral behaviour are wrong. I would suggest that good people are good people irrespective of their religion, or lack of religion. And in the 1,500-year timespan you mentioned, gross and global acts of evil and injustice have been carried out in the name of religion, Christianity amongst them.

Groanin' Jock said...

Inchy: In the words of Dave Barry: "People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours with them."

As for your first point - I agree entirely. If you want to believe that the world was shat into existence by purple goose, I'm happy for you to believe that so long as you don't try to force your opinions on me or my family, that they're not taught as a matter of course in the schools in my country, and that you and your fellow believers don't automatically get access to political power as a result of your belief

Inchy said...

Oooh! This could all get messy!

Adullamite said...

For a religion that preaches that one must make a 'leap of faith' in order to believe in His Lordship, they seem to have a need to convince me that I was created by a big, beardy, robe-wearing, white man who lives on a cloud in the sky.


That is not a Christian God you are rejecting, I would agree it is worthless. But you say there is no evidence for God, but the existence of Christianity is evidence that something happened in the past, in spite of the human corruption seen since. Possibly your own investigation of it, rather than a blank rejection of a false image, would be beneficial.

Christian, like Old Firm fans, BNP types, and folks who put junk mail through your door ten times a week, have as much right as anyone to influence government. If only they had more influence there might be less junk mail and better media around us!
Well there would be if I was king I can tell you!

Inchy said...

If Christianity is 'evidence', then what is Islam evidence of? What is Buddhism evidence of? What is Shinto evidence of?

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture.

Groanin' Jock said...

Adullamite: The fact that lots of people believe in something isn't evidence! Millions of people watch professional wrestling on TV; no doubt many of them "believe" that what they are seeing is genuine fighting. But just because they believe it doesn't make it true.

Inchy said...

As far as I'm aware, the whole planet believed that the Earth was flat, and that the Sun revolved around us.

The sun being the big fiery god in the sky, not the 'newspaper' of the same name.