Like a lot of people this summer I have read Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion.
My take? The books consists of lots of cheap shots, and an myopic idea of what rationality, erudition, and culture consist of.
And here is a problem: Dawkins rightly criticizes religious intolerance, and repeatedly refers with historical accuracy to Christian Antisemitism (for instance his peroration on the case of Pope Pius IX and Edgardo Mortara). But Dawkins' prescription - that children not be brought up as part of the the religious community in which they are born(*) - if applied to Jews would lead to the immediate destruction of all Jewish communities everywhere. If he wants a world without Jewish children, then he wants a world without Jews,
Now, what do you call a person who wants a world with Jews?
Of course, Dawkins is not "Antisemitic" in any vulgar way. It's just his prescriptions would lead to a Jew-free world. Nasty.
(*) In an odd oversight, Dawkins neglects to mention that the one group he attacks most often - American evangelicals (a group that, in general, I have little truck with) - do NOT teach that their children are Christians simply because their parents are.
Baptists and Pentecostals (e.g. Assembly of God, the Church of God in Christ) insist that all members must make a personal decision *at an age of sentience* to join their churches. The Amish, another group he attacks, specifically release their children into the world after high school and require them to make an adult decision. Dawkins on this issue has either not done his homework, or simply twists his facts to suit his agenda. Given the methodology of the rest of the book, it is likely he is doing both.
Jews are no less Jewish for being secular, right?
Indeed, Jews who do not practice their religion are still, according to Jewish religious law (halakah), Jews. But, as a practical matter, outside Israel, self-identifying Jews who do not practice the religion tend to marry non-Jews and have children who identify less with being Jewish. After three generations, there is not much Yiddishkeit left. Dawkin's prescriptions lead inexorably to the complete elimination of Jewishness.
If a Jewish woman's children are automatically Jewish, why would it matter if she marries a gentile?
I never read his book, but I did watch a lecture he gave on C-Span on the book. From what I heard, he was making an arguement against the existance of God by criticizing scripture. he also criticized (correctly in my opinion) the refusal of many Christians to accept evolution as some sort of evidence that religion is bad for science, even though many great scientists in the past have been Christian.
I am currently reading Hitchens's new book "God Is No Great; How Religion Poisons Everything". He does a similar thing. I an halfway through the book and so far I like it, even though I disagree with his conclusions.
Also, glad to see you're back to blogging again. Hope things are going good for you in the UK.
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