September the 18th this year will mark the second anniversary of the suicide of Jamey Rodemeyer. It remains a significant date for me as, up until then, this book was one I would have avoided like the plague and argued in the strongest possible terms against. Now, having seen the Christians dancing on his grave, I am not so sure I was right to do so.
I am not going to offer some point by point argument one way or the other regarding the book, just a few random thoughts on things which struck me as interesting.
Firstly, I was fascinated to learn that Science appears to being catching up with Leibniz in proposing a multiverse view of reality. The big difference being that whereas the “choices” as to which sections of which particular potential futures we are faced with simultaneously are left in the hands of God by Leibniz, here it is mere chance governed by the laws of physics. As somebody who has, in the past, been told that many scientists despise philosophy as a discipline, I derive a certain satisfaction from their sudden recovery of Leibniz’s theorems. From what I can gather, from what Dawkins writes on the subject, they even share the same “best of all possible worlds” outlook that Dr Pangloss was espousing in “Candide” even as he was being strung up.
Secondly, I remain unconvinced that the argument derived from and against infinite regression is a sustainable objection to the existence of a divine source. The question “what created the creator?” can quite easily be applied to the production of energy and matter. Where did all that spring from? You are left asking the same questions about both.
Thirdly, I, unlike Dawkins himself it seems, was not too surprised to see his “Selfish Gene” theory becoming a big hit with some corporate executive or other with a taste for social Darwinism. Dawkins writes that he was appalled to discover this but I am not sure how on earth he can be. The problem with the scientific reductionism his outlook seems to want to foster is that it denies that an individual has any value in itself. However absurd one might regard the superstitious materialistic rubbish that passes itself off as spirituality within the organised religious sector as being, the essential idea is that mankind is of value as a thing in itself because it sprang from a divine origin; that there is something precious about an individual AS AN individual rather than as being of value in relation to something else, economic viability for example. If you wish to view mankind as a mere bundle of genes and chromosones then, I think, you stand within the shady grove of dehumanization. An individual’s life is only as valuable as it is useful to some third party and beyond that there should be nothing else, either given or expected. It is little wonder how this kind of mindset finds the idea of voluntary euthanasia appealing. Elderly and terminally ill people represent a drain on the economy as they are not contributing anything and probably couldn’t if they tried to. Why pay out taxpayer’s money on them when a cheap bottle of barbiturates can do the job for a tiny percentage of the cost? I am not saying that this represents Dawkins’ own take on the issue but it is the logical outcome of his position and his associations with the likes of Peter Singer suggests that he has some sympathy for such an outlook.
I mentioned above that one of the things that changed my outlook after the death of Jamey was seeing the religious element dancing on his grave, but I also read a lot of people putting it down to natural selection, that the poor kid was too weak to survive and that nothing of value was lost in the grand evolutionary scale of things. I cannot think of which of the two alternatives I found the more obscene. No attempt on either side to empathize or see why the poor kid did what he did, just judgement. The two sides hitting rock bottom together. It is not therefore a matter of rationality or belief in delusionary invisible boyfriends that is the crux here. It is the lack of a will to engage with the reasons for such a harrowing decision. Both sides, when put to the test, lacked the same components. The religious side remains, to my mind, at greater fault because, in their joys in seeing this kid kill himself and their rejoicing in his burning in hell, they deny the very basis of their own spirituality; they deny that this beautiful little soul had any value in itself, that their God made him the way he was and “God makes no mistakes.” The secularists we can expect nothing better from because they have no measure to make of any individual’s value as an individual and are only left with pure biological determinism.
Of course, it could be argued that the concept of humanity being of some divine value is contingent on the existence of the divine itself which is what is being denied here. But I am reminded of the adage about how even if God does not exist it may be better for humanity as a whole to behave and regard its fellow men in such a way as if he did. The only other alternative is that humanity is simply reduced to the level of an economically useful, though ultimately disposable, cosmic accident. An outlook which could lead to even greater inhumanity than that displayed by the religions it claims to oppose.
Post Jamey Rodemeyer my attitudes to religious people HAVE hardened and I regard the organisations that support them as venal and corrupt. There is nothing that Dawkins says here about religious practice that I disagree with. People who have studied theology and know such things about what Martin Luther had to say about unrepentant Jews or who understand the full vileness of Calvinism, or who are familiar with the revolting nature of the deity revealed in the OT, and yet, as a result, still do not wish to change careers are beyond contempt. The Archbish of Cant recently gave a talk rightly condemning payday loan companies and was then informed that his churches pension funds were tied in to investments made by the Church itself in such companies. The same people who object to “sodomite weddings” getting fat on usury, a far more grievous sin in the eyes of their supposed scriptures. And for these people a beautiful soul killed himself having written “Still wonder why I like Jesus Christ on Facebook”.
Oh Jamey, Jamey, Jamey what have you done to me?