I finally just finished Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion," a mostly tour de force dissection of and very funny broadside against religion.
But Dawkins and others like him (notably Christopher Hitchens) fall on their faces when it comes to making a final judgment against religion, specifically on morality and "consolation." None of these men and women understands the full psychological and political implications of religion and the disastrous effects both have -- the latter of which being the one that affects you and me (more on that in a bit).
In his latest book, Dawkins retreads his "memes" hypothesis (read "The Selfish Gene" for a full regurgitation, if you dare). His thesis is that evolution creates our morality by making certain symbolic mannerisms and actions propitious to the survival of the human species. For example, empathy might be good for relating to others and keeping us from killing others; or bright eyes may signal openness and attractiveness; or a melodic voice may engender a soothing response in others. Those early humans who had these traits would allegedly have a better chance of living and, therefore, pass along these "meme" genes.
How much evidence does Dawkins have for the above? Zero. Doesn't make a few of these propositions about the genetic aspect untrue, of course, but it simply doesn't matter. ("empathy," by the way, is not due to natural selection; it is a consequence of rationality and the conceptual ability to "put oneself in another's place," unlike the lower animals). Dawkins, like many of his brethren, don't understand that morality derives from free will and rationality and self-awareness. And because they misunderstand this, they miss entirely the implications.
So Dawkins makes such absurd statements as "a person may get some consolation from religion." No, the person cannot get the consolation any more than a drug addict can get "consolation" from zoning out for an hour or two. The religious person can "zone out" and avoid the reality of the moment or his death momentarily, but that is NOT consolation. It is avoidance, and the subconscious human mind KNOWS this. This is one reason why the predominance of religious humanity weeps when friends die -- because their subconscious is not actually deluded into believing that the person is "going to a better place at the side of 'god.'" The Grim Reaper has his little chuckle, doesn't he, at this "faith"?
The "F" word ("faith") is the most detestable in the English language. It is the Grand Evader. It is a method that is not a method at all. It is the religious person's deus ex machina, the magician's trick, the trump card that wins nothing but intellectual devastation. It is the barbarian that barges through the gates of rationality and infects it with the virus of opaque servitude. It is the means to govern a flock from the pulpit and preach to it weekly before it strays too far toward the light of reason. It is the murderer of self-esteem, the castrator of man, the maker of meek woman.
It creates a psychology of servitude and obedience to authority that translates into statist politics, wreaking havoc on individual rights and insisting on home and hearth invasion of those of us who wish to enjoy and run our own lives. It holds court on nudity, abortion, altruistic tax-theft schemes, eminent domain, business governance, suicide, free transit, self-protection, mobility, ingestion, exhaust and health. It tells us we can't when we can. It can't help projecting its own irrationality upon the world and remaking the world in its own deluded, sordid image.
It can't leave us alone because humans live in the world of "ought." By the very nature of being rational animals, we can pick and choose; we are the only moral animal. We "should" be a certain way. The world "should" be a certain way. That is inevitable and good -- as long as it is rational. But the religious person is irrational, so his/her "ought" becomes a frightening apparition that hangs over humanity and suffocates liberty.
Most atheists are nearly as irrational because they also haven't linked rationality to human efficacy and hegemony. They are also skeptics of human ability and self-ownership. But they are generally not AS irrational as the religious element.
I just wish Dawkins and Hitchens and the rest of the irrational atheists would join us objective atheists properly in our fight for freedom -- and stop this two-stepping with the Devil. We need them as our friends, not just more enemies.