Salon’s got a nice profile up about Richard Dawkins and his bulldogging for Darwin. He’s not just a defender of science, though– he’s added in attacks on religion in general. I disagree.
Faith is not a bad thing– and that it is, in fact, quite important in the world, even though I’m not a believer myself. A lot of good things get done because of faith. A lot of people are able to endure a lot of hardship because of faith. Faith gives you a reason to exist. Faith in bad things is bad, faith in good things is good, but faith without reason is not always bad.
What I’m arguing is that things don’t have to be true to be good. Same with the belief that children are wonderful. Statistics show us that people are happy before their kids are born, and after they leave the house, and that they look back on their children with fondness– but that for 18 years, children are mostly drudgery and hard work. Nonetheless, it’s important to believe that children really are bundles of joy — otherwise humanity would die out. Faith works the same way: even if it’s not true, it makes the world go round.
I agree with Dawkins that fundamentalism is dangerous to our society, that evolution over millions of years is the only reasonable explanation of the world we see around us, and that God does not in fact exist. Where we differ is his line that religion is always a bad thing. Religious faith — blind faith in anything, religious or not– has done plenty of harm. But it’s also done plenty of good. He reels off examples of terrorism, the crusades, and so forth. But he neglects examples like Stalinism (faith in secular falsehoods that led to evil) and Mother Teresa (religious faith, religious good).
Of course, I am still annoyed that a lot of people think a lack of faith is always a bad thing. Apparently, few Americans think the country would be ready for an atheist president (heck, only sixty percent think a woman could win). That’s foolishness. If you respect faith you must also respect doubt.