Friday, August 06, 2004

Great Article from First Things

The Devil’s Chaplain Confounded by Stephen M. Barr.


Religion takes a savage beating from Dawkins, especially Catholicism, for which he seems to have conceived an almost lunatic hatred. Nuns, in particular, disturb him because as educators they are given access to impressionable young minds. His theory of religion is spelled out in five essays gathered under the heading “The Infected Mind.” Religion is simply a “virus of the mind,” or a “meme” (a term he coined in his first book). A meme is an idea or word passed from mind to mind somewhat as a gene is passed from generation to generation. Religion exploits the fact that small children are preprogrammed by evolution to accept uncritically what adults tell them about the world. There is too much that small children have to learn about culture and life and language for critical filtering to be anything but a hindrance at that stage of life. It is this natural childish gullibility, carried into adulthood, which is the basis of religion, and of all belief systems based on authority, tradition, and revelation. (In an interview Dawkins has expressed the view that “you won’t find any intelligent person who feels the need for the supernatural,” unless that person was brought up as a child to believe in it.)

Oooooo, didja hear exactly what it was he said? He said, nuns in particular. How thrilling! ;)

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