Some thoughts on the God Delusion

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Some of my thoughts on Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion".

Submitted: March 24, 2011

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Submitted: March 24, 2011

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Some thoughts on “The God Delusion”
 
 
“…the faith of no man can be conditioned by anyone except himself.” –Baha’u’llah
 
 
I am not being facetious when I say I would like to shake Richard Dawkins’ hand. Hisbook, “The God Delusion”, compelled me to re-examine the foundations of my faith, and I found this to be a re-confirming experience – probably not the result Dawkins had hoped  for. In this brief essay I share a few of the thoughts that came to me as I carried out my investigation, and these are as follows: the harmony of science and religion; Scripture as truth, lies, delusion, or mistake, and we are more than the sum of our physical parts andprocesses.
 
 
The harmony of science and religion
 
Science and religion are not mutually exclusive – we ought not to choose one over the other. Science and religion should exist in harmony. Harmony does not imply sameness, but there is an intimate connection between the two and some overlap in what we learn from each. As Phelps (2007) explains, “A number of passages in the Bahá’í writings suggest that God’s action and the laws of nature are folded together — and that the natural laws that, say, guide evolution, are merely an extension of God’s will.” He also writes, “…there is no necessary tension with Dr. Dawkins’ argument that our deepest religious and moral sensibilities might have an evolutionary explanation. Even if religion in principle arises from the natural order of things, there is no reason to assume that every part of that order can be encompassed by the ordinary human mind, or that religious morality is arbitrary.”
 
Scripture as truth, lies, delusion, or mistake
Dawkins (2006) professes that whatever may lie beyond scientific enquiry also lies beyond the minds of theologians and philosophers. I can concede to this in as much as human minds are incapable of fully understanding the infinite. That being said, there is a branch of knowledge which claims transcendence over all human philosophical, theological, and scientific knowledge – that is divine Revelation. Our interface with such Revelation comes in the form of the world’s religious Scriptures.
 
The Founders of the world’s major religions have claimed to have a divine, infallible message for humanity. If we strip away the temporal, outdated, social teachings and linguistic features of each Revelation, tailored to meet each age in which they were revealed, we find many similarities, or a progressive nature, between the mystic teachings of each major religion.
 
In examining the Scriptures of the Founders of the world’s major religions you may conclude that the content within is either truth, delusion, lies, or, as Dawkins (2006) offers, mistaken. Are the Scriptures of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity delusional, made up of lies or fairy tales, based on mistake, or is there some truth to their mystic claims? Was Muhammad, the Prophet Founder of Islam delusional, a liar, mistaken, or is there some truth to His mystic claims? Is Baha’u’llah, who claimed to be a Messenger of God in 1863 and founded what is now known as the Baha’i’ Faith, and His son, ‘Abdu’l-Baha’, who was designated the unerring interpreter of His Writings, also among this distinguished group of delusional, lying, or mistaken sequence of men, or is there some truth to the revealed mystical teachings? The example of Their lives has touched billions of hearts, Their Teachings have positively impacted the building of many civilizations, and Their Words still inspire billions of people today. Is this the work of delusions, lies, mistakes, or truth?
 
From the earliest to the latest of the world’s major religions, principles such as the ultimate source of the universe [God] and the existence and infinite life of the non-material human spirit have been inculcated. Is it reasonable to conclude that these timeless principles, inculcated as far back as we can trace – all the way up into the mid 1800s (Baha’i’ Faith), are a perpetual legacy of mistakes, lies, or delusion? Considering the importance of the harmony of science and religion, discussed above, one should feel compelled to give these timeless spiritual principles some credence.
 
 
We are more than the sum of our physical parts and processes
 
Julian Baggini, in Dawkins (2006), writes, “What most atheists do believe is that although there is only one kind of stuff in the universe and it is physical, out of this stuff comes minds, beauty, emotions, moral values – in short the full gamut of phenomena that gives richness to human life.’” And Dawkins himself asserts, “Human thoughts and emotions emerge from exceedingly complex interconnections of physical entities within the brain.”
 
But are our thoughts, imagination, and dreams simply a product of neurons firing in the brain?
 
Varghese (2010) quotes Sir John Eccles, a Nobel Prize winner in physiology and medicine, as he responds to the materialist who denies the existence of a spiritual soul: “…if people believe that the brain is the creator of all their linguistic expressions and that they are merely passive recipients of the creations of their brain in language…I do not argue with them…I do not argue with robots…”

‘Abdu’l-Baha’ (1981, p. 227) refers to the unifying force behind the organic phenomena of the body when he explains, “The power and the comprehension of the human spirit are of two kinds – it perceives and acts in two different modes. One way is through organs and instruments: thus with this eye it sees; with this ear it hears; with this tongue it talks. Such is the action of the spirit, and the perception of the reality of man, by means of organs – that is to say, that the spirit is the seer, through the eyes; the spirit is the hearer, through the ear…The other manifestation of the powers and actions of the spirit is without instruments and organs. For example, in the state of sleep [in dream] without eyes it sees; without an ear it hears…these actions are beyond the means of instruments and organs.”
 
Conclusion
Dawkins’ book, “The God Delusion”, implicitly, and certainly unintentionally, highlights the need for the harmony of science and religion, as fanaticism is destructive in any form, be it materialistic or religious. A humble perusal of the central, essential mystic teachings of the world’s major religions reveals timeless truths that give purpose and scope to our existence, an existence that includes and transcends our physical world.
 
 
 
 
References
‘Abdu’l-Baha’. (1981). Some answered questions. Trans. Laura Clifford-Barney. 3rd ed. Wilmette, Illinois: Baha’i’ Publishing Trust.
 
Dawkins, R. (2006). The god delusion. Great Britain: Bantam Press.
 
Phelps, S. (2007). The new atheism, reconsidered. In One country: The online newsletter of the Baha’i’ international community. Retrieved from http://www.onecountry.org/e184/e14816as_God_Delusion_Review.htm
 
Varghese, R.A. (2010). There is life after death: Compelling reports from those who have glimpsed the after-life. New Jersey: New Page  Books. 


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