I’m not sure what The Guardian intended by setting up the Comment is Free section, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean to publish essays so dire that they wouldn’t pass muster in an undergraduate composition class. Today’s specimen is a critique of Richard Dawkins by one Thomas Jackson. I thought I’d heard every possible criticism of Dawkins, but Jackson has a new one: Dawkins, in his science, is unconsciously engaged in Protestant mythology!
My problem with Richard Dawkins is not that he is an atheist. I admire that. It’s that he’s a Protestant atheist. Religion, many think, has been slain by the experimental method of science. Beginning with Galileo’s experiments on free fall, science has succeeded because it is value-free, objective and proves its points not by nebulous belief but by rigorous logic and verified proof. This is a complete misunderstanding.
The history of the experimental method shows us that, far from being value-free, it was deeply enmeshed with a Protestant myth, as in its post-Protestant phase it continues to be.
What is that “Protestant myth”? The idea that God is not a part of nature itself (a view that Jackson sees embodied in Catholicism), but a deity outside it, one who set up the universe so it could be understood through rational investigation. But Jackson’s article is so poorly written and organized that it’s hard to see what his beef is. Why is “Protestant deism” more wrong that the idea that god inheres in nature like cuteness in a kitten? And why is the idea that the world is comprehensible through empirical study a “myth”?
Who knows? All one gets from Jackson’s babble is that he doesn’t really like Richard Dawkins. And so we get stuff like this (how many deepities can you spot?):
Dawkins’s understanding of Catholic theology seems to be nil. He thinks that religion teaches that God constructed the world like a watch, science has shown it is able to construct itself, therefore there is no God. How Protestant is that? The intelligibility of God is so bright, according to the great Catholic mystics, it overwhelms our minds with darkness, and can only be penetrated by the will. Science is beginning to suggest that reality might perhaps be like that. Quantum physics is bewilderingly irrationally rational.
Dark matter? Non-locality? An infinity of universes? In my experience contemplative prayer delivers. It is as inescapably compelling to the emotions as mathematics is to the intellect. Poor old Richard thinks that prayer means asking God to suspend the laws of the universe to stop it raining on the day of the church fete.
Poor old Richard, who simply doesn’t see that every religious person in the world is just like Jackson, who himself knows that there’s no point, save a contemplative peace, to importuning god. We should give a name to the fallacy that every religious person in the world has sentiments precisely identical to those of a liberal believer.