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The God Delusion

In the early 70s when I worked at Warren Gorham & Lamont, we used to send out literally millions of pieces of junk mail.  Most of them included a letter that would be addressed “Dear Sir.”  Since we were advertising to bankers, lawyers and real estate developers this seemed like the appropriate way to address a business letter.  Over the years there was at first a trickle and then a flood of letters complaining that this was a sexist form of address and that we should change our ways.  Because I’m a fairly stubborn person and because I couldn’t think of a good alternative, we simply ignored them.

In his book, The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins links his quest to break the conspiracy of silence about religious truth to the consciousness-raising efforts of early feminists.  He makes the point that we have an unwritten rule that we won’t criticise other peoples religious beliefs and that we won’t make a fuss about our own disbelief.  His book is, in part, an effort to get people who disbelieve in God to speak up in the same way that the early feminists were speaking out about the implicit assumptions  behind a phrase like “Dear Sir.”

My first reaction to Dawkins was perhaps similar to my first reaction to the letters complaining about “Dear Sir:”  What was the harm in letting people go their own way if they chose to believe in God?  I have found, however, that in the weeks since I read Dawkins’ book my consciousness has, indeed, been raised.  Now I notice the pervasive assumption in our society that everybody believes in God, and the almost total lack of discussion of the question.

One way to see the hypocrisy involved is to think about the following joke (not mine, and I’m not sure where I heard it):  George Bush is widely reported to have been influenced by his conversations with God; this raises no eyebrows.  Now suppose that he had claimed to have been talking to God on the telephone; that would surely raise a huge fuss.  But what what difference does the intervention of the telephone make?

The point here is that talking to God on the telephone is surely no less likely than talking to God directly (after all, Moses used a burning bush).  Yet the intervention of the telephone pierces the conspiracy of silence around religion and we see the absurdity.  So, I now find that my conciousness has indeed been raised and I suspect that I am more likely to speak out about my views than I was before.  Oh, and about those letters, we did eventually change them to read “Dear Reader.”

5 Responses to “The God Delusion”

  1. Jeff says:

    The problem with speaking out is that it can lead to ill tempered fights, especially if you don’t know your company very well.

    I feel that is best to just try and get along with others. Sometimes that means that you are reduced to talking about the weather.

  2. Mark says:

    So Bush talks to God. A phone works. A journal works. A blog works. We come to know our thoughts.

    I think I saw a film last month in which a Moslem priest offers to intervene with God by calling him on a phone he carries around (without any connection). Funny, but touching too. Can’t remember the name, but I’ll talk to myself and ask for it on slow retrieval. In fact, I suspect that’s what Bush means: he reaches for some deeper understanding by addressing conversation to his own depths. It probably works.

    Aha! Didn’t take long. The guy who calls God on the phone is in one of Deepa Mehta’s films, probably “Earth”.

  3. Mark says:

    I like the note you get when you post something. “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Was it immoderate? It’s cold here. No clouds. Nobody knows, tiddly pom.

  4. Bill says:

    Ah, this reminds me of the joke that Jerry used to tell: The Chief Rabbi comes to visit the Pope and asks if he can borrow the phone to call God. The Pope says sure and once the call is over the Rabbi asks how much he owes for the call. It turns out to be 100 Lire.

    The next year the Pope visits the Rabbi in Jerusalem and he, in turn wants to place a call to God. When he’s done, he asks how much and is told that it’s one Sheckel. “One Sheckel,” he says, “that is very inexpensive. How come?” The Chief Rabbi’s reply is: “Local call.”

  5. Mark says:

    and my favorite bumper sticker (seen right outside the Q St. house), “JESUS SAVES BUT MOSES INVESTS”

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