Fade to Gray: Dawkins ob­ses­sion

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - John Gray John Gray is a news an­chor on WXXA-Fox TV 23 and ABC’S WTEN News Chan­nel 10. His col­umn is pub­lished ev­ery Wed­nes­day. Email him at [email protected]

If you read this col­umn “re­li­giously” then you know I be­lieve in God.

I don’t make that a ma­jor theme of my writ­ing but like a guy who eats lin­guine with lots of gar­lic on top if you hang around me you cer­tainly get the whiff of faith. I don’t wear it on my sleeve or preach at any­one but it’s hard not to have the moral teach­ings I was given by the nuns of St. Joseph’s in South Troy and the Chris­tian Broth­ers at LaSalle In­sti­tute show up in what I write.

I’m a huge fan of the free­dom of re­li­gion. And by that I mean that peo­ple can prac­tice any re­li­gion they choose and wor­ship how they like. I also be­lieve that if you think God is, as some athe­ists have de­scribed, a big spaghetti mon­ster in the sky, that’s cer­tainly fine for you. What doesn’t make sense to me are peo­ple try­ing to jam their beliefs on oth­ers and con­versely athe­ists go­ing out of their way to mock peo­ple who be­lieve in God.

I bring this up this week be­cause I came across a new book writ­ten by one of the most fa­mous athe­ists alive, Richard Dawkins, called “Out­grow­ing God: A Begin­ners Guide.” I looked at the de­scrip­tion of the book on Amazon and it says this is a book to give to chil­dren to teach them that there is no God and it gives them tools on how to knock down any ar­gu­ments their class­mates may have just in case they go to church and be­lieve dif­fer­ently.

My first re­ac­tion was, “Wow, Richard, not again.” Dawkins is an ex­tremely bright man who seems to spend his ev­ery wak­ing hour ob­sess­ing over the be­lief that there is noth­ing to be­lieve of a su­per­nat­u­ral realm. No God. No heaven. You die and it’s lights out. Again, I have no is­sue with Dawkins or any­one else be­lieves that but I won­der aloud some­times why it is so im­por­tant for them to take this hope away from oth­ers?

I’ve watched Dawkins de­bate some pretty no­table op­po­nents (YouTube has tons of these great de­bates) and he cer­tainly makes some solid ar­gu­ments about why God can’t be real and isn’t needed in this world but he’s never been able to sway me to his side. And con­trary to what he would likely say about me (that I was raised Catholic so that’s the only rea­son I be­lieve in this stuff) the truth is I’ve read quite a bit and lived life and made my own grown-up choices about faith.

For me the ex­is­tence of Je­sus as the di­vine works and his teach­ings are the foun­da­tion for my life. If I’m wrong and there’s no heaven at least I’ll know I tried to make the world a bet­ter, kin­der place. Again, some­thing those nuns and teach­ers at LaSalle in­stilled in me.

Get­ting back to one of those de­bates, I re­mem­ber an op­po­nent of Dawkins won­der­ing why a man who doesn’t’ be­lieve in any­thing spends so much time try­ing to dis­prove it? He quipped, “I don’t be­lieve in uni­corns but you don’t see me lec­tur­ing about the non-ex­is­tence of uni­corns or writ­ing a book called The Uni­corn Delu­sion.” He kind of makes a point.

I’m not here to ar­gue that all re­li­gion is good and just be­cause some­one goes to church makes them a good per­son. There are plenty of peo­ple who go through the mo­tions at church and aren’t three feet out of the build­ing on Sun­day morn­ing be­fore they start gos­sip­ing and do­ing things that are against what they just learned. It has been my ex­pe­ri­ence though that peo­ple who at­tend church tend to be kind peo­ple who go through life hap­pier.

Maybe it’s the sense of com­mu­nity or the fact that be­liev­ing there is more to life than work, re­tire­ment and death, gives them hope.

In read­ing the de­scrip­tion of Dawkins book on Amazon they of­fer a quick review from an author named Janna Levin who says her son came home from sixth grade one day and asked his par­ents who Je­sus was? Janna said she and the hubby burst out laugh­ing. Ap­par­ently her son hear­ing from a class­mate about this “myth­i­cal man” was hi­lar­i­ous. Janna goes on to say Dawkins new book will help kids like her son be­cause they can tell the other chil­dren at school how there is no God.

I’m sure telling the other 12-year-olds their par­ents are stupid for bring­ing them to church will get them lots of in­vites to their class­mate’s birth­day par­ties. Good luck with that.

So is there a God and heaven and all that good stuff com­ing to those who live giv­ing, moral lives? Gosh I sure hope so but I guess none of us can know for sure un­til we die. That’s why they call it faith, tak­ing that step in the dark be­liev­ing your foot will land on some­thing solid.

I prayed for Richard Dawkins to­day wish­ing him a good night’s sleep be­cause for a guy who doesn’t be­lieve in God, he sure does lay awake end­lessly think­ing about him.

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