The God Delusion is what it says on the tin.
I’ve been thinking seriously, or rather unseriously, of getting one of those t-shirts that say ‘Religion: together we can find the cure’, but when I found it would cost twenty three dollars I decided that was too much to pay just for something to wear at the church fete. As with Professor Dawkins’ description of religion as a virus of the mind, they’re so offensive. It is in such bad taste and so unkind and so falsifying to compare other peoples’ cherished beliefs to a mental disease. But there is no point in trading gratuitous insult for gratuitous insult. So it is better just to laugh. What amuses me is that I don’t think any malice is intended here. It is more that, intoxicated by their naïve vision of a brighter more rational world illuminated only by scientific truth that will emerge once the irrational superstitions of religion have been banished to the trash can where they belong, they have forgotten their manners. I can see the allure. Bonkers but intoxicating. I am reminded of taking out expeditions of teenagers in the school minibus. They would wind down the windows and shout at passing women ‘You look as if you need it bad’. You couldn’t explain to them how deplorable this was. How I longed to join in.
According to Richard Dawkins ideas that could not themselves possibly be willful and intelligent, as if willfully and intelligently manipulate minds that actually are. He calls these spritely, and often astonishingly clever competitors for space in the minds they colonize, memes. Has anybody ever seen a meme? Particularly obnoxious is the religious meme. It is an irrationality, a kind of cancer that uses the copying machinery of brains that was intended by nature to process rational ideas, to spread itself through hymn books, catechisms, sermons, and, above all, through allying itself with the fear of hell meme. It teams up with fear of hell in order to terrify the wretched religious believer into going to Mass on Sunday. Any evidence for all this? Strange, I thought I went to Mass because I wanted to. Well, doesn’t that just show how devious and underhand that religious meme is. It deludes you into thinking that you want to go to Mass when the real reason is that you’re frightened of hell. What a bastard eh? Would the appropriate term for all this be complete nonsense? It is surely comedy of a high order that somebody would not only seriously propose such nebulous fantasies but solemnly proclaim them in the name of science.
To attribute agency to mere ideas, in language whose metaphors admit no implication other than purposive intelligent action, while at the same time not even raising the possibility that the mind that the ideas are supposed to colonize might itself be the determinant of choice, is to superimpose nets of imaginary metaphor on reality that not so much exclude other explanations as the ability even to conceive them. Such cages of imaginary imposition are what we mean by myths. However, some myths are more imaginary than others. Gotcha! Cries the Cox’s Orange Pippin meme as it ousts the Braeburn meme from the hapless intellectual instrument of the shopkeeper, that vacant vessel waiting to be filled, as he obediently places it on the supermarket shelf. Dawkins’ myths make the myths of Christianity look like classical physics. Because Dawkins only ever asks Darwinian questions he only ever gets Darwinian answers. What to any reasonable person who is even mildly acquainted with other structures of metaphorical suggestion is obvious nonsense, within a self-enclosed metaphorical system that only corroborates itself appears to make logical sense. The comedy of it reminds one of those bell ringers and beekeepers whose thought worlds admit no inspirations other than the ones within which their obsessions move.