So today, I had some Christians knock at my door to chat with me. I’d like to say they were Jehovah Witnesses’ but they never told me. They did have a magazine, but it wasn’t a ‘Watchtower’ magazine, so I’m not sure.
Anyway, I wasn’t looking to get ‘into it’ with them; it was hot and they were easily into their late 60s. To be honest, I felt bad for them. Going out door to door in the summer is not for the elderly. However, they were insistent and I either had to close then door on them or talk to them. I had about 30 mins to kill, so I figured ‘why not’.
She started out with talking about all the evil in the world today. I let her go on for a bit. At this point I wasn’t sure if I wanted to chat with these folks or not. I tried to say that I wasn’t very religious and leave it at that. However, that comment really opened up the flood gates with her. I gave my religious background and stated that I’m an Atheist today.
So that got into a talk about Morals and Science. In order of how the topics came up: I told them that I could raise moral kids without God, that the Earth was older than 6000 years, that evolution is a fact and that Noah’s flood didn’t happen. Sadly, at least as far as this blog post, they didn’t have a snappy answer for anything… Nothing about all Morals come from God and not much challenge about science. They did try the old ‘if we evolved from apes then why are apes still here?’. Happily I had my IPad on me, so I could flip to Dawkins ‘The Magic of Reality’ and show them some quick pics. 🙂 I also had to look up the definition of the word ‘faith’ for them, since they didn’t want to believe that it means ‘believe without proof’.
What really got me is when I started attacking the Bible, the answers they gave was just… disgusting.
I started with the Bible’s treatment of women; about how if a woman is raped, they should marry their rapist and pay a fine for damages to the father. (Deuteronomy 22) They told me that the Bible treated women just fine and well, that was just their culture. I went after that idea quickly. Why didn’t God offer death if you raped a women (he did for most other things)? He’s God, right? He can change their culture easily via his laws. Why not make that one of his commandments? Again, no answer to that one.
But really it went downhill from here, because the talk got into why would God order infanticide as well as killing women when Israel fought against other cities? (I Samuel 15 for example) What followed was two women trying to justify the killing of babies to me. Honest!
1) First they tried to tell me that the kids were at fault. That didn’t hold water long.
2) Then I was told that these babies would cause trouble at some future date. How they would know they came from some other city they couldn’t say.
3) Then I got that the parents were dead, so who would take care of them? How about the Israelites? More kids means bigger future armies.
4) Well, they said, God sent bears to kill kids who made fun of Elisha’s bald head. So it must be OK for God to do it. (II Kings 2)
At this point I was done. I told them that they started this talk about evil in the world and what can we do to stop it? Well, I submit that your God is much more evil then what humans try to do in most cases. We look down on killing babies. Your all powerful God does not. I have nothing more to talk to you about. I wished her a good day and told her to keep hydrated because it was hot out.
While it was fun, it was also disappointing. Clearly this woman knew her dogma and every Bible story big and small, but didn’t really have much defense of her faith. When questioned, she would try to jump to another topic and not really try to support her views. Better luck next time I guess…
I just wanted to add a few thoughts on how reading this book with my kids is working out…
- The 10 year old is doing well with the book. I’m sure he’s not getting every detail, but he has the understanding of all the major ideas so far in the book and asks questions where needed.
- What I’m really happy about is the 7 year old is really enjoying the book as well. Now to be clear, we are reading the iPad app. Reading the science part of the book as a whole is beyond him. However I can explain it to him simply in my own words using the book as a guide and let him play the mini games. That works really well for him.
My kids are ‘fighting’ now on who Daddy is going to read to tonight. If I didn’t have a kid age 10, I would have held off buying the book until one of the kids got older, but it’s great the what’s in the app is good enough right now to keep the 7 year old engaged. Thanks again to Richard Dawkins for a good book\app.
After reading the The God Delusion, I was happy to check out Richard Dawkins’ next book The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True. Instead of buying the physical book, I got the IPad App of the same name.
Now this book is sold as a ‘children’s book’ and that is certainly going to cause a stir. Dawkins is a hard hitting Atheist, so you know the book is going to come under fire by Christians and other religions as trying to ‘convert’ them to Atheism. To be honest, I was curious too on what kind of book it was going to be. I don’t mind a hard hitting book, but I don’t need or want to preach (for lack of a better word) to my kids about Atheism than I do anything else. If they are brought up to think critically about the world, they should get there on their own and they will have a stronger understanding of the world for it. Can Dawkins strike a balance?
So before I get into that question, let’s talk about the age level of this book. So what kids should read this book? Currently, I’m reading this with my older son who is age 10 and I think that is the lower end of who is going to understand this book from cover to cover (with some help from me on some of the science details that he hasn’t seen in school). My younger son is age 7 and I would certainly read parts of the book to him that he might like, but I think the book is too deep for him overall and there are parts I would skip (Example: Chapter 9 briefly touches on a cult that castrated themselves, that’s a little too deep for age 7, IMHO). So overall, I would say age 9 and up is about right, but YMMV depending on the child.
So the book itself, let’s start with the high level of how the book is broken up. Chapter 1 sets the ground rules. It’s called: ‘What is Reality? What is Magic?’. It defines what science is and how it works, and what magic and the supernatural is. It is a great piece of writing. He does it at a good level for kids and doesn’t take any shots at anyone’s religion (yet).
Then in the same chapter he transitions into a talk on Evolution. I thought this was odd at first, but then, as I thought about it, I realized this was a smart move. Evolution for a lot of folks, religious or not, is the ‘elephant in the room’ in science. By touching on it early, it gets it out in the open. Dawkins keeps the talk at the high level saving more details for later.
The rest of the chapters cover one topic each, they are:
- Who was the first person?
- Why are there so many different kinds of animals?
- What are things made of?
- Why do we have night & day, winter and summer?
- What is the sun?
- What is a rainbow?
- When and how did everything begin?
- Are we alone?
- What is an earthquake?
- Why do bad things happen?
- What is a miracle?
Let’s put the last two chapters aside for a minute. The reminding chapters from ‘Who is the first person?’ to ‘What is an earthquake?’ follow the following format:
- What do myths say about the subject?
- What does science say about the subject?
Now the part that will get the far right upset is Dawkins will toss any religious story out there as myth including those of the Bible. In these chapters he will take aim at the old testament myths from time to time which shoots at Judaism, Christianity and Islam at the same time. Stories like Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark and The Tower of Babel. If that bothers you to call these stories myths, then I’m sorry but you need to read up on your science and maybe this book could be your first step.
As for the science part of these chapters, Dawkins keeps it a high level but doesn’t dumb it down for the kids. If you are looking for the gory details of the science behind these questions, then you need to find a different book. It’s not what this book is aiming for. Overall, I think these chapters are great. The illustrations in the book rock and keeps it interesting for kids. Also, in the IPad app, there are a few games that teach kids about some key science concepts and videos of Dawkins that gives the app an interactive part for today’s generation.
Let’s get back to the last chapters:
- Why do bad things happen?
- What is a miracle?
These last two chapters take a stronger aim at today’s religions of the world and not the bronze age stories of long ago. The ‘Why do Bad Things Happen’ chapter looks at the idea that the world is a battleground of gods and devils and that there is a reason for bad things. The last chapter ‘What is a Miracle’ takes a stronger look at miracle claims and is similar take to the talk of ‘What is Magic’ that was discussed in Chapter 1. These chapters are going to get religious folk upset because there are a number of references to Jesus as a ‘Jewish Preacher’. This is a correct view of Jesus that likely doesn’t go far enough for a lot of folks however.
So how far does Dawkins ‘go down the rabbit hole’? Does he say that God doesn’t exist? No. Does he say that all religion is false? No. Does Dawkins invite you to go to the edge of the hole and look down? Yes.
In the end, is that really that bad? If you have some objection to this book, is your faith so weak that you can’t even look at the other side of the argument? Most Atheists that I know are Atheists because they are well read in the Bible and reject these myths and stories for various reasons. I challenge those who object to this book to try to learn the science in the same way I tried to learn about the Bible.
I could nitpick a bit, but this is a great book for teaching your kids to think for themselves and learn about our world. In the end, it’s hard to argue against that. Well done Richard Dawkins and thanks for another good book.