28 June 2007

The Devil's Straw Men

From David B. Hart's First Things review of Daniel Dennet's latest anti-religious mash, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon:

"All Dennett knows is that something he dreads haunts the world, something intolerant and violent and irrational, and he wants to conjure it away. This, of course, raises the now quite hoary-headed question of how, in the wake of the twentieth century, the committed secularist dare wax either sanctimonious toward faith or sanguine toward secular reason, but Dennett is not one to pause before doubts of that sort. He is certain there is some single immense thing out there called religion, and that by its very nature it endangers us all and ought as a whole to be abolished. This being so, it is probably less important to him that his argument be good than that, for purely persuasive purposes, it appear to be grounded in irrefutable science-which it can never be."

Hart captures my own view that the latest spate of "scientific" attacks on religious belief are more or less screeds pouring irrationally from prejudice. Dennett, Hitchens, Dawkins, ad. nau. never seem to be debunking anything that even closely resembles the God of Christianity. It is as if they've read a comic book of the Crusades and decided that this piece of infallible literature is the true and only testament of the faith. No wonder they've spent their adult lives babbling on about the evils of religion. Of course, when you live with Straw Men you tend to find them to be itchy after a time and not good conversationalists at all. . .

David B. Hart is the author of The Beauty of the Infinite, 2003.

Pic credit: Measuring Infinity

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