June 29, 2007, Wausau, Wi — In part I of my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I looked at three errors in Dawkins view of religion. Somewhat more surprising, however, is Dawkins view of atheism in America. He claims that “The status of atheists in America today is on a par with that of homosexuals fifty years ago. ” He goes on to claim that atheist are so under siege that they “are reluctant to ‘come out.’” (p 4) Does Dawkins really believe this? In the 1970s when I was an atheist, it never even crossed my mind that I was some sort of persecuted minority, or that I needed to hide my rejection of a belief in God. Since then, if anything atheist has only become more accepted.
Dawkins goes on to say that “atheists are a lot more numerous, especially among the educated elite, than many realize.” (p. 4) While I have no doubt Dawkins is correct that many of the “educated elite” are atheist [and most of rest are either agnostics or simply support secularism], I don’t think that this would come as much of a surprise to many, but rather is pretty common knowledge. In fact this is one of the reason his previous claim that atheists are a persecuted minority is so silly, for these elites not only dominate Universities, but also the news and entertainment media, and much of government, and they use their power and position to spread secular views, and attack and restrict religious views wherever they can, and they have been quite successful.
More importantly, Dawkins clearly sees the fact that so many of these educated elites are atheist as strong evidence that he is correct. After all if these smart people believe it, it must be true. However for those like myself, “educated elite” is not a positive term, but a negative one that refers to those who are so caught up in theory and academia that they long ago cut themselves off from reality.
One of the hard lessons that those in the physical sciences like physics and chemistry have historically struggled with is that nature often acts in ways that one would not expect. The history of science is full of scientists who had really nice theories of how nature should work, only to have them dashed to pieces when they were tested. This is a good thing as it move our knowledge forward. However as one moves out of the physical sciences and into the social sciences the ability to actually test one’s theories becomes increasingly difficult. More over the ability of the researcher influence the results increases. Yet this difficulty has not tempered the “educated elite” creation of new and novel theories.
For example, until recently it was the norm for the “educated elite” to claim that men and woman are basically the same. Any behavior differences we observer were simply the result of how they are raised. Now for those who were not fortunate enough afford such an education the ideal the men and women are the same was always pretty silly. But then the educated elite are not the elite for nothing.
Even though recent medical research, particularly on the brain, has thoroughly debunked this claim and has clearly show that, to the great astonishment of many of the elite, that men and women are different, this falsehood that they are the same continues to shaped much of the social debate in this country. After the differences were demonstrated, many of the elites simply moved from the view that the differences don’t exist, to the view that they are not that important.
For example, the idea that because of these differences, a father and a mother play different roles in the raising of a child is still questioned by many of “educated elite” who continue to maintain that these roles are completely interchangeable. It really does not matter if you have a mother and father, a mother and mother, father and father, or whatever combination you desire, the only thing that is important is that the child is loved. I have often hear the “educated elite” characterize the claim that the best way to raise a child is with loving mother and a loving father in a stable committed relationship as a bigoted and narrow minded religious view, and I should not seek to impose my religious views on society because of the separation of church and state.
In short, what defines so much of the “educated elite” at least beyond the physical sciences, is they have constructed a world view that is largely immune to actually testing and even when parts are disproven, this is not allowed to have much impact on the worldview itself. Yet because it is labeled “science” this world view is somehow seen as automatically true, differing views are then rejected as religious and therefore false.
Where this comes into play for atheism is that this is pretty much what atheist like Dawkins have done. They construct a world view based on assumptions that cannot be tested or proven, but must just be accepted, and then when God does not fit into the world view they have constructed, they conclude He does not exist.
Could it be that the vast majority believe in God for the same reason that the vast majority believe that men and women are different, and that the educated elite reject God for pretty much the same reason they once rejected the idea that men and women are different?