Is Richard Dawkins Suffering from Cognitive Dissonance?

Mason Murch has located a quote by the bombastic Richard Dawkins that is . . . well, not in line with his so-called devotion to reason. In a post entitled Dawkins Wishes Us a "Happy Christmas", Murch points out:

Richard Dawkins says:

“For better or worse, ours is historically a Christian culture, and children who grow up ignorant of biblical literature are diminished, unable to take literary allusions, actually impoverished. I am no lover of Christianity, and I loathe the annual orgy of waste and reckless reciprocal spending, but I must say I’d rather wish you “Happy Christmas” than “Happy Holiday Season”.

Most people in western civilization, I think, are aware Dawkins is an atheist. He does, however, propagate some problematic ideas. Psychiatry might even label him as someone suffering from cognitive dissonance. Decrying Christianity as a delusion, while singing the praises of the cultural benefits derived from it, apparently doesn’t seem to bother Dawkins. I suppose there are millions like him.

Long ago, in 1902, another Brit wrote an essay on the subject of life without God. George Bernard Shaw said in A Free Man’s Worship,:

“That Man is the product of causes which had no prevision of the end they were achieving: that his origin, his growth, his hopes and fears, his loves and his beliefs, are but the outcome of accidental collocations of atoms; that no fire, no heroism, no intensity of thought and feeling, can preserve an individual life beyond the grave; that all the labours of the ages, all the devotion, all the inspiration, all the noonday brightness of human genius are destined to extinction in the vast death of the solar system, and that the whole temple of Man’s achievement must inevitably be buried beneath the debris of a universe in ruins – all these things, if not quite beyond dispute, are yet so nearly certain, that no philosophy which rejects them can hope to stand. Only within the scaffolding of these truths, only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built.” (The Elements of Moral Philosophy, by James Rachels, pp 45).

I think what happens with the Dawkins’ of the world, is that at some point it dawns on them that Shaw’s “firm foundation of unyielding despair,” is all they have without God. When that dawning awakens them to the reality of their belief system, some grasp for “cultural Christianity,” as does Dawkins, and too many of the rest commit suicide.

Of every 100,000 people ages 65 and older, 14.3 died by suicide in 2004. This figure is higher than the national average of 10.9 suicides per 100,000 people in the general population. From the National Institute for Mental Health.

I do like Dawkins’ idea that our children should at least be taught the Bible as literature, if for no other reason than they are diminished and impoverished without it. Too bad the so-called leadership in the United States, is so “diminished,” and “Impoverished” they cannot understand what Dawkins and Shaw are saying.

Shaw left us in despair and Dawkins proposes using what he hates – the Bible – as a means to cope, via “cultural Christianity.”  I wonder what the next “genius” will come up with?

I agee with Mason. Long ago, St. Augustine noted in The Confessions, "Oh Lord, our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." When people in our modern society abandon belief in favor of a cold, meaningless cosmos, they are ultimately left grasping for some type of meaning. Some (those who actually think about such things) find their meaning in-short term ideas -- many borrowed from Christian morality and teaching -- such as being good to the poor or the environment. Others try to find ultimate meaning in work or family. But these things are necessarily temporal and cannot provide the ultimate meaning that man seeks.

For someone like Dawkins to say he prefers saying "Happy Christmas" because our culture is impoverished by a lack of Biblical knowledge, while at the same time arguing that religion (including Christianity) is ultimately bad strikes me as a serious defect in thought.


Unknown said…
Wasn't it Bertrand Russell who wrote A Free Man's Worship, and said all the stuff you've attritbuted to GBS?
BK said…
It may be. I simply quoted Mason Murch. If he has the attribution wrong, I didn't know it. I didn't check the attribution.
Dawkins has enough of an upper class education in England that it was instilled within him to keep a few trappings of the past.

Shaw was a genius but his style and outlook are totally foreign to modern theists. I suspect if we kept at it we could get all "new atheists" to reject all their leaders.
Jason Pratt said…
I'm pretty sure I've heard that quote attributed to Russell, too. (It might of course be found in each of them, if one was quoting the other. I don't have the primary works of either at hand to nail it down with though.)

I suspect Mr. D was thinking in terms similar to how we still routinely teach and acknowledge the value of ancient pagan works, even if we ultimately reject them (and even reject them as being bad in various ways.)

Where the cognitive dissonance comes in, with Mr. D, is that he would have us believe that all religious belief is a memetic virus of the mind. (And his terms are not chosen for neutral applications; when he says 'delusion' he doesn't only mean 'merely mistaken'.)

Oh well. At least he was willing to try wishing a happy Christmas.

Merry New Year, Mr. D! {g}

Modusoperandi said…
He's just in it for the presents.
Mason said…

It was indeed, Bertrand Russell whom I quoted. Thank you for the correction. I will make the change.


And, Cadre: You asked if I minded you using my post; the answer is, of course not. I'm glad it opened some discussion.

God Bless, Mason Murch

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