This is How I See - The God Delusion

"The God Delusion" is a best selling book by Richard Dawkins. A must read for anyone with a slightest literary inquest. 

Believers in God (or Gods) often argue that since the existence of God cannot be proved the probability of existence of a Superhuman Being that made us and everything else in this Universe is 50%. So there is no harm in believing in God as there is a very high probability of God’s existence. 

Now lets say “There is a white China teapot revolving around the sun somewhere between the orbits of Earth and Mars”. As no one can disprove the existence of that teapot, does that make the probability of the existence of the teapot between Earth and Mars as 50%? All believers in the God are therefore “Teapotists”!!! 

Hello everyone. In this post I will be quoting Richard Dawkins many times. This post is about a delusion that most of the people on Earth have. A delusion called God. Richard Dawkins has written a wonderful book “The God Delusion” which is a must read for someone who is open enough to look into the fact that even existence of God needs to be questioned as any other scientific hypothesis. Lets get on with it then... 

Isn’t it a remarkable coincidence? Almost everyone has the same religion as their parents. And it always just happens to be the RIGHT religion! Religion run in families. If we’d been brought up in ancient Greece, we’d been worshiping Zeus and Apollo. If we’d been born as Vikings, we’d been worshiping Votan and Thaw. 

How does this come about? Well obviously through childhood indoctrination. 

One by one those ancient belief systems have vanished from the face of the Earth. And we seem to get on just fine without them. Zeus with his Thunderbolt, Apollo, Votan, Thaw with his hammer, Mithras and Amun R’ah, all were once worshiped as Gods. People believed in them, prayed to them, sacrificed to them. Children were brought up with them, were told about their existence as an undoubted fact. But now everyone agrees that no matter how sincere those believes were, they were deluded. All those Gods along with the countless other Gods in which human tribes have believed in were just a delusion.

Some of us go just one God further. Let’s remind ourselves of the terminology. A theist believes in a supernatural intelligence who, in addition to his main work of creating the universe in the first place, is still around to oversee and influence the subsequent fate of his initial creation. In many theistic belief systems, the deity is intimately involved in human affairs. He answers prayers; forgives or punishes sins; intervenes in the world by performing miracles; frets about good and bad deeds, and knows when we do them (or even think of doing them). 

A deist, too, believes in a supernatural intelligence, but one whose activities were confined to setting up the laws that govern the universe in the first place. The deist God never intervenes thereafter, and certainly has no specific interest in human affairs. Pantheists don’t believe in a supernatural God at all, but use the word God as a non-supernatural synonym for Nature, or for the Universe, or for the lawfulness that governs its workings. Deists differ from theists in that their God does not answer prayers, is not interested in sins or confessions, does not read our thoughts and does not intervene with capricious miracles. Deists differ from pantheists in that the deist God is some kind of cosmic intelligence, rather than the pantheist’s metaphoric or poetic synonym for the laws of the universe. 

Pantheism is sexed-up atheism. Deism is watered-down theism. 

There are many people who call themselves agnostics. This is rather a confusing term. I have put up here a scale of religiosity. Where ‘1’ is “I know there is a God” and ‘7’ is “I know there is no God”. And we have got a scale of intermediate agnostic positions. 1----2---3---|4|---5---6---7 Number ‘4’ agnostic believes that the probability of God existing and not existing is exactly 50%. 

Number ‘2’ is “I don’t exactly know there is a God but I believe there is a very high probability that there is a God. I am a de facto theist. I don’t know for certain but I strongly believe and ascertain that I live my life on the assumption that he is there”. 

Number ‘6’ on other end is someone who believes in a very low probability of the existence of God, but still not quiet zero. “I am a de facto atheist. I can’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there”. I am a number ‘6’. I am an agnostic and I have a belief in God as the same level of belief I have in fairies or pink unicorns. I am not a “teapottist” but a practical man. I believe that the hypothesis of the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis. In this I disagree with many of my scientific colleagues that science and religion have absolutely nothing to do with each other and you could be a perfectly good scientist while your religious belief is a purely private matter that has nothing whatever to do with your science. 

The universe with a God is completely different to a universe without a God. For God could clinch the matter to his favour in a heartbeat, like at this very moment when I am disproving him. The only one argument that is still widely used today is the ‘Teleological’ argument. Also called the ‘argument from design’. Its the famous watch maker example. In the familiar world of human artifacts, things like watches, computers, complicated things that look designed are designed. To naive observers, it may follow that similarly complicated things in the natural world that look designed; things like eyes, ears and hearts are designed too. Although this argument looks plausible, it is actually a fallacy. 

If you randomly scramble the fragments of an eye or a heart a million times you will not probably hit on one that could see or pump. This demonstrates that such devices could not have been brought together by chance. And there are many people who think that only alternative to random chance is design. So this means that the design of complicated thins has to be done by a designer who is even more complex and advanced. So that means he himself must be designed!!! 

Darwin gave us the answer to this when he observed species of animals and birds in and around Galapagos Islands. The answer is natural selection. I won’t go into description about natural selection as it is not the purpose of this post. Do a Google search if you are not aware about the process of natural selection. Now many people are lobbying for teaching religion at schools. Many convent schools, Hindu missionary schools and Muslim missionary schools have come across India that do teach religious ideology. If they want to teach this fallacy of their holy books, why not also teach controversies like the theory of stork coming and delivering babies at doorsteps to avoid teaching sex at schools. 

A widespread assumption, which nearly everybody in our society accepts - the non-religious included - is that religious faith is especially vulnerable to offense and should be protected by an abnormally thick wall of respect, in a different class from the respect that any human being should pay to any other. 

Douglas Adams put it so well, in an impromptu speech made in Cambridge shortly before his death, that I never tire of sharing his words: “Religion . . . has certain ideas at the heart of it which we call sacred or holy or whatever. What it means is, ‘Here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about; you’re just not. Why not? - because you’re not!’ If somebody votes for a party that you don’t agree with, you’re free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says ‘I mustn’t move a light switch on a Saturday’, you say, ‘I respect that’. 

Why should it be that it’s perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows - but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe ... no, that’s holy?” 

We are used to not challenging religious ideas but it’s very interesting how much of a furor someone creates when he does it! Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you’re not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be.

Lets raise our consciousness about what’s so special about religious arguments that they should be immune to exactly the same kind of rationale discussion as political or any other kind of arguments. The point here is there is a logical pathway leading from religion to he committing of atrocities. If you believe that your religion is he right one, you believe that your God is the only God, and you believe that your god has ordered you through a priest or through a holy book, to kill somebody, to blow somebody up, to fly a plane into a sky scraper, then you are doing a righteous act. You’re a good person. You are following your religious morality. 

There is no such logical pathway leading from atheism. It just doesn’t follow. 

Now a point that is commonly raised is that Hitler was an atheist and he was responsible for war and deaths. Well, firstly there are many evidences that he was a Catholic and not an Atheist. And even if he was an atheist, so what? He also had a mustache. So does that mean everyone with a mustache is a racist bigoted killer? And most of the killings were done by the Nazi army which consisted of mainly Christian believers. It is sometimes said that humans need the comfort of religion. Humanity’s need for comfort is off course real but isn’t it something childish, something infantile in the belief that Universe owes us comfort, in a sense that if something is comforting, then it must kind of make it true. 

The consolation content of the belief does not raise its truth value. I can’t deny the need for emotional comfort and I can’t claim that the world view adopted by atheists offers anymore than moderate comfort. If you’re afraid of death, for example, you might superficially think that the words of a priest who tells you that you are not really going to die would be more comforting than a scientist who tells you that it is highly improbable that our individuality could survive the decay of our brains. As for eternal nothingness, is it all that frightening? 

As Mark Twain said : “I do not fear death. I’d been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and I had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it”. I want to end by quoting the lines from Richard Dawkins’ book “The Unweaving of The Rainbows” : “ We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which vast majority have never stirred.” 


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Views: 3377      Comments: 3

Comment HI James,
I'll tell you my personal experience. During my engineering, I had performed hopelessly in my semester exam. There were pretty good chances that I would probably fail in the exam, and I was in a desperate situation as I was supposed to attend this job interview after the results. And one of the criterion for me being eligible for that interview was that I should pass in all my subjects. So as a natural resort, I started praying - I was still a believer at that time. And somehow when the results came I had cleared all my subjects and even got the job in the company. This made me a very staunch believer.

Now as the time passed, I saw things happening in a way that was not according to my wishes. My prayers were never answered. I still remained a staunch believer as I remember how "god had helped me" in my time of need. But then things got out of control. And I started getting doubts. I realised that most of my prayers were never answered. In fact number of prayers answered were only as many as probabilty of ne being luck will allow. For example, my grandma and grandpa died, even though I had prayed like hell when they were terminally ill.
Now you may point out that things did work out for me after all. But when seen logically they still would have. Let's say even if god exists, he (or she) can never cure patients almost certain to die. So he is himself bound by certain obligations. And if he exists, he did not make any choices for me. I did what i thought was best for me - and I was wrong many times. It was my perseverance to not to give up that made everything work out well.

I may like to take comfort in the presence of god but that doesn't make it necessarily true or as a matter of fact necessarily untrue. So it is best to remain at 6 with existence of god being just a hypothesis. We must do our work, fulfill our duty, as we want to live in a social setup.

09-Feb-2011 04:26 AM

Comment Thank you for your essay. There are many voices within me when it comes to this subject. One voice is a "2" on your agnostic scale and is convinced there is a Spirit Source that is all-inclusive and all-knowing and entirely aware of all that is both within time and beyond time. I have had numerous experiences that provide affirmation to that voice. Another voice, however, is with you at "6" and for many of the same or similar reasons. I validate both those voices and the others in between. I accept that I cannot know anything for sure, and I think that all who profess to know Truth without any reservations are probably deluding themselves.

The "2" voice frequently prays this prayer: "Dear God whatever Force you are or represent within me, please increase the beneficial energy associated with my being and transform the detrimental energy into beneficial energy. Please adjust the frequencies of all the energy systems, known and unknown to me, so that the highest and best for all concerned may be the result. And please help me to be an instrument of your peace today. In deep gratitude I pray." My experience has been that even though prayed silently, chaotic emotions and chaotic situations going on around me become calmer. The "6" voice is then grateful regardless of the explanation it may propose for the phenomenon.

James Wells
08-Feb-2011 20:45 PM

Comment Mr. Nikhilesh,

I liked your post, because it agrees with my views. You are right in saying that we all get indoctrinated since childhood into the religious belief of our parents. Though,there are exceptions who embrace another form of belief by shunning their original one born into. They are not many in numbers. But, on the whole, majority of human population are believers of one religion or other. It is not easy to wipe them off. So, it seems, the belief system will continue to exist as long as humanity exists.

You can see, if liked, my post "Faith is a many splendoured thing"


14-Jan-2011 09:21 AM

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