Joined: Oct. 2006
I read several initial chapters (60 pages or so). It's a strange brew. Although the writing is generally good and sometimes witty, stylistically Day can't decide if he wants to assume a scholarly or sarcastic voice, so he adopts both. This seems to reflect some indirection, in that he takes long quasi-scholarly excursions (using his scholarly voice) into history that often have almost nothing to do with his main points, then lapses into statements about Hitchens, Dennett, Dawkins, etc. that are purely declarative ad hominem attacks with no references or supportive evidence (using his cheeky sarcastic voice). One of many examples:
|"The atheist tends to regard every statement with which he disagrees in much the same manner that a bull views a matador’s red flag, viewing even the most cherished myths held by his friends and family as little more than imperative targets of opportunity.|
After discussing atheism versus agnosticism he concludes a chapter with:
|Agnostic: I don’t believe there is a God. Because I haven’t seen the |
Atheist: There is no God. Because I’m an asshole. (page 17)
Also on that page:
|There is even evidence to suggest that in some cases, High Church atheism may be little more than a mental disorder taking the form of a literal autism. On one of the more popular atheist Internet sites, the average self-reported result on an Asperger Quotient test was 27.9.21 The threshold for this syndrome, described as “autistic psychopathy” by its discoverer, Dr. Hans Asperger, is 32, whereas the average normal individual scores 16.5. In light of Wolf’s observations, it is interesting to note that those diagnosed with Asperger’s tend to be male, intelligent, impaired in social interaction, and prone to narrow, intense interests.|
I was a bit surprised and disappointed by these early sections, because there are almost no extended arguments "based upon reason" that address the general thesis of atheism. I was hoping to be challenged.
Ftk, it may surprise you to learn that I haven't read The God Delusion (although have read some of Dawkins' earlier technical papers as well as most of The Blind Watchmaker, and have The Ancestor's Tale waiting on my bed stand), any Hitchens work, nor any Sam Harris. This is because, from what I've observed from afar, their books were written in a shrill and confrontational "village atheist" style that I find obnoxious. So I've skipped the chapters that specifically address each of them and their recent books, because I can't really comment upon the fairness or accuracy of Day's analyses.
I have read a great deal of Daniel C. Dennett, including Breaking the Spell - which I liked less than, for example, Freedom Evolves. That, in part, because I find the term "Brights" to be smug and condescending and its invention and use a woeful blunder. But because I am familiar with Dennett's work I ventured into Day's chapter on Spell. To his credit, Day recognizes the value in Dennett's arguments and acknowledges Dennett's fair and generally non-confrontational tone. He treats Dennett both critically and generally fairly. He quibbles with elements of Dennett's arguments, although my reading is that he has misunderstood Dennett in places.
At the end of the chapter, however, Day careens into very strange territory. He first lapses into suggesting that Dennett advocates not a scientific investigation of religious belief as a natural phenomenon, but rather a scientific investigation of the reality of the supernatural plane. As he does so he postulates the reality of Satan, speculates in detail on what Satan can and would do given his temporary dominion over the earth and his nefarious aims, and concludes that Satan would be most effective were he to hide his existence from human knowledge. The best way to do that is to foster disbelief in the supernatural generally. He concludes that because Satan can and does shield the existence of the supernatural from human knowledge, and because scientific investigation is the apotheosis of the acquisition of knowledge by human means, the scientific program will continue to fail to disclose the reality of the supernatural.
This is truly weird and silly stuff in the context of this book. It left me recalling why I'm an "unbeliever" in any of that ridiculous stuff, which was not, I suspect, Day's intention in producing this book.
That's as far as I've gotten, and as far as I am likely to go.
[minor edits for clarity]
Myth: Something that never was true, and always will be.
"The truth will set you free. But not until it is finished with you."
- David Foster Wallace