The God Delusion: Low Hanging Fruit Indeed!

Posted in Atheism, Books, Quickies, Religion on  | 2 minutes | 16 Comments →

This morning, I stumbled across The God Delusion while deciding which books weren’t worth keeping on my shelf. I was about to simply toss it on the logic that plenty of people have dissected the book for the kitzche that it is, but then something from page 249 caught my attention, even inspiring me to post! Of course, one can pretty much flip to any page at random and find something that’s either outright false or at least fallacious. In reference to the “religious zealots” responsible for “burying” Mecca, Dawkins writes:

I do not believe there is an atheist in the world who would bulldoze Mecca…

My gut feeling is that Dawkins is wrong there, because there are some pretty militant atheists in the world, but I don’t want to waste time scouring the internet for a proof text. Perhaps one of you might have some knowledge you could pass along in that regard. I’m more interested in the rhetorical device that follows in the next sentence:

As the Nobel Prize-winning American physicist Steven Weinberg said, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it, you’d have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

Puh-leeze! This is the sort of pseudo-intellectual crap that’s influencing people to become atheists! So, what sayest thou? Agree with Weinberg? Disagree? If you disagree, feel free to provide your favorite examples of good people doing evil things without religion. Obviously, I’m assuming that an otherwise “good” person is capable of an “evil” thing, else this won’t even get off the ground. I’ll share my example[s] in the comments.


  1. Ana


    There’s a video I watched once, briefly addressing that very quote by Steven Weinberg. Rather than giving examples of non-religiously rooted evil (don’t get me wrong, that’s the best way of addressing what he says), it added a clever extention:

    … and for bad people to do good things, it takes religion. “

  2. Garren


    Weinberg must not be acquainted with the concept of nationalism.

  3. Rufus


    “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference” (Dawkins, River Out of Eden, 1995, 133).

    So this means that we should expect to observe religions making good people do evil things, since there is no evil and good. That makes perfect sense. Right?

    It’s utter nonsense.

  4. That quote has always bugged me. Even if it’s true (which it is), it doesn’t really prove anything. Like Ana posted, religion can also make bad people do good things. With or without religion, a good person would occasionally commit a wrongdoing because people make mistakes. It’s that simple.

    Not to mention, there are other cogent, external forces capable of inciting a good person to act badly or vice versa. The quote is deceptively worded, but very brilliantly phrased; I’m sure it has made many an atheist nod their head or many a theist even more scornful of “organized religion.”

  5. Crude


    Garren touched on the tip of the iceberg. Weinberg’s quote is idiotic – of course, I recall that when someone brought up nationalism to Dawkins, his response was to regard nationalism as a kind of quasi-religion. (Surprise.)

    I imagine the same could be said of adherence to political philosophies as well. (Dennett played this card with communism, regarding it as a pseudo-religion.)

    And of course, there’s even more basic human drives – love, for example. Don’t think a good person can do something evil, driven by love? Please.

    Really, there’s two real options for reacting to the quote: Regard it as obviously false, or try to save it by expanding the definition of ‘religion’ to so broad, you can aptly label the Cult of Gnu as a religion.

  6. Christopher


    Crude: Don’t think a good person can do something evil, driven by love? Please

    What sayest thou on the instance of this?

  7. Crude


    If you mean a hypothetical example, here’s a minor one: Stealing something for the benefit of a loved one.

  8. Christopher


    Ehh, ok. I guess for me to accept an instance would take context for me.

  9. Ana


    Crude: Don’t think a good person can do something evil, driven by love? Please

    What sayest thou on the instance of this?


  10. therealadaam


    Being humans with frail minds we tend to do bad things if we are told to ala the Milgram effect:

    It doesn’t matter if it’s for religion, science, god, the voices in our head, etc.

  11. Ana – Adultery

    I think adultery is not driven by love. It is driven by the “animal instinct” of lust. As much as I agree that adultery would fall in the category of “evil” in this conversation, it is not something that a “good” person doing something “evil” while being driven by love.

  12. Sorry. Really bad grammar.

    …it is not something “evil’ that a “good” person does while being driven by love.

  13. Ana


    I think adultery is not driven by love.

    Would you grant that it can be?

    Ex: a person falls in love with someone other than his/her spouse, and pursues that other person, while yet married?

    Intuitively speaking, I think many adultery situations are due to lust/ fleeting passion — however, I would not say that is necessarily the case.

  14. Christopher


    I think it is hard for someone in this type of situation to distinguish between love or lust being the reason for committing adultery. The one doing the deed will justify it in the name of love, while an outsider like us can easily see it as lust driven. At this point in the conversation we must define love. And it is impossibleto find one that everyone will agree on.

  15. Ana


    At this point in the conversation we must define love. And it is impossibleto find one that everyone will agree on.

    Ah, this is one of those instances where the English language has a deficiency, (so to speak). There are other languages that have more than one word for “love”, each denoting something distinct.

  16. cl


    Well, eugenics was going to be my example. There is an example of what seems to be an “evil” act done in the name of “good” and purportedly justified by science at that [at least when deployed by fallible, biased human beings].

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