Advice to an Atheist's Daughter, Part II

Authored by William Newton in Issue #35.2 of The Sower

This second part of Wiliam Newton's article was never published in a printed issue of The Sower, as the magazine went ouf of print before the last installment was completed. However, the editor of The Catechetical Review adds it to this issue online for the benefit of subscribers interested in the conclusion of Dr. Newton's commentary on Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion.

Dearest Patience,

In the recent letter I sent to you concerning some of the arguments put forward by Richard Dawkins concerning the existence of God, I promised I would write to you again to address what he says about religion and morality in his book The God Delusion.[i] So as a friend who strives to keep his promises…here we go!

The first problem that Dawkins comes up against is that religion is still extremely widespread as well as ever-present throughout human history. This presents a problem for Dawkins, because it means he has to show how something so utterly wrongheaded and insidious is, nonetheless, so enduring and prevalent.

Evolution and Natural Selection

Given Dawkins’s intellectual commitments, the only acceptable explanation is going to have to conform to the theory of evolution and natural selection. This is problematic because natural selection is the very hardest of task-masters: it rewards only what is useful and harshly punishes everything that stands in the way of progress. Yet, as Dawkins has repeatedly asserted throughout The God Delusion, religion is the most negative of phenomena. It perpetuates ignorance, impedes scientific progress, and cripples individuals with feelings of guilt (p.279-308). In what conceivable sense could it, therefore, be useful?
Dawkins’s main argument is that religion is not directly useful but that it is a side effect of another useful human trait (p.174). This trait turns out to be the unquestioning acceptance by inferiors of what their superiors tell them. For example: because Billy believes the elders when they tell him that deadly nightshade is poisonous this increases Billy’s chances of survival (since he doesn’t eat it). However, little Johnny (genetically more inclined to disbelief/disobedience) does eat it and he dies. Accordingly, Johnny (and his kind) has no progeny, while Billy (and his kind) does. The upshot is that a genetic propensity to believe what the elders say (including the religious nonsense they spout) dominates.

The rest of this online article is available for current subscribers.

Start your subscription today!


This article is from The Sower and may be copied for catechetical purposes only. It may not be reprinted in another published work without the permission of Maryvale Institute. Contact sower@maryvale.ac.uk

Articles from the Most Recent Issue

Encountering God in Catechesis
By Catechists' Personal Testimonies
Excerpts from two testimonies. “Let the Children Come to Me” (Mt 19:14) I have not been a catechist for a very long time; however, I was recently privileged to see how the Word of God calls to little children. The week’s lesson was entitled “The Greatest Gift of All” and the subject was the Holy Eucharist. My student is my seven-year-old son, who... Read more
Catechesis in Lockdown
By Sr. Carino Hodder, OP
How do you catechize during a time of pandemic? Several months of enforced separation from their RCIA group or First Holy Communion class is not a contingency for which any catechist will likely have planned. Yet even as ordinary life changes beyond all recognition, Christ’s call to his faithful to grow deeper into relationship with him has... Read more
La catequesis en cuarentena
By Sr. Carino Hodder, OP
¿Cómo se hace catequesis durante una pandemia? Varios meses de separación forzosa de su grupo de RICA o su clase de Primera Comunión no es una contingencia para la cual es probable que algún catequista haya planeado. Sin embargo, aun cuando la vida ordinaria cambia más allá de toda familiaridad, el llamado que hace Cristo a Sus fieles a... Read more

Pages

Watch Tutorial Videos

We've put together several quick and easy tutorial videos to show you how to use this website.

Watch Now