I was browsing some videos on YouTube when I came across this particular file featuring Richard Dawkins talking about his book The God Delusion. While I suppose that I can see why so many theists get all worked up over this guy, I still think that much of his bad rap is undeserved. I seem to recall that there's a South Park episode that made fun of him where the point essentially was that he acted like a jerk. While I can maybe see that with some outspoken atheists, like Christopher Hitchens, for instance, I think that this guy comes across as very far from being a jerk. At worst, he says what's on his mind, and that's often not what people want to hear. However, his language is never caustic or flippant. It's just direct and honest. Unfortunately, people don't always like honest answers.
Anyway, obviously the title of his book would upset some people. Nobody wants to be told that what they believe is a delusion. After all, the implication is that there's something wrong with you if you have a delusion. And people will insist that they KNOW that they're not delusional.
I always wonder about that. How do you know that you're not delusional? I mean, isn't the definition of a delusion something that isn't real but seems as though it is? I don't know why it's such a bad thing to at least consider that you might be suffering from delusions. I admit that I might be. I mean, I don't think that I am - but how would I know if I was?
So anyway, this fella tries to get Dawkins to respond to what, to him, proves the existence of God. Of course, the guy is talking about Da Jeebus, and not Vishnu, Odin, Zeus, or Huitzilopochtli. He insists that he's "walked with God" and "assures" Dawkins that it's been "no delusion". Here, check it out:
Dawkins gives a pretty good answer, I think. After all, if this is what we're to accept as our standard of proof, then we not only have to believe in every god that has ever existed (except Heimdall - c'mon, screw that guy and his horn) but we have to believe every account of alien abductions, ghost visitations, fairy encounters, etcetera. People talk about these things with the exact same conviction as this guy talks about Jesus. They KNOW that what they experienced was real. There is not a doubt in their mind that they're not hallucinating. (Personally, anybody who never doubts themselves scares me. Since when is absolute certainty a virtue?)
There were a couple of things that I found interesting about this. First of all, the guy said that Dawkins didn't address his point. Dawkins did in fact address it. The problem is, the guy didn't get it. His world view is so small, and he starts with the assumption that he's right. After all, he's not talking about all those fake gods - he's talking about the real one! I'm sure that some people would accuse Dawkins of doing the same thing, but his response is one of logic and reason. He's obviously been asked this question before, and his response is correct. Had the guy been born in another place and another time, he would have the same certainty about a completely different god. However, that's an idea that this guy can't even stop to consider. After all, so much of his world view rests on absolute certainty. To even consider what Dawkins said would potentially pull out the bottom of his house of cards.
The second thing that I found interesting is that if you search for it on YouTube, the person who posted it described the way Dawkins answered the question as being "cruel". Why is he being cruel? What is he supposed to say to the guy? "Oh yes, everybody is hallucinating but you." Of course, nobody wants to be told that they're hallucinating - but what if you ARE hallucinating? Should people not tell you so because it's rude?
Now, I don't think that people should go around on the street, walk up to theists and say, "Hey, you're hallucinating." That would be counter-productive. However, this guy came to a presentation that Dawkins was doing. The topic, no doubt, was known beforehand. The guy asked a question. It's a shame that he probably didn't like the answer, and many Christians watching won't like to watch it either.
That, to me, seems to be the ultimate difference between the theist and atheist. The theist uses personal feelings and experiences to determine reality. The atheist knows that what you feel doesn't matter - at least, it doesn't matter when it comes to determining what reality. As an atheist, I don't even necessarily scoff at the notion of somebody feeling God's presence. Perhaps that makes me a bit of a existentialist (assuming that I understand the concept - which I may very well may not be) but if somebody feels God's presence in their life, then that is a very real and valuable thing. No, it doesn't make God real - but the experience is real. That's why I wouldn't put somebody down for having an experience. It's just when they use that as a reason for me to believe - or as a logical argument as to why anybody should believe.
I suppose that it's hard to have an experience and just leave it at that. Personally, I think that I can do it. As I once wrote before, when I was a little kid in the hospital, my mom told me that Jesus was there for me, looking out over me. I truly felt his presence there with me. Now that I look back at it, I know that there wasn't really any god/spirit/zombie carpenter in there with me. And like Dawkins points out, had I been raised in India, I might have felt that Ganesha was there watching out for me. But it doesn't matter. The experience was real, and it made me feel better. Is that the only sort of a thing that can make one feel better? Of course not.
So, I was delusional - and what's wrong with that?