Over at Choice in Dying, Eric has put up the second and final part of his defense of Dawkins’s The God Delusion against its critique published by Allen Orr in The New York Review of Books. And MacDonald defuses the most important issue that has occupied—nay, obsessed—Dawkins’s critics:
Perhaps Dawkins could have profited by a deeper acquaintance with the thoughts of theologians — even meticulous ones — for then he would have had graphic evidence of the irrelevance of so much that passes itself off as profound and important. If Eriugena has something important to say about subjectivity, as Terry Eagleton alleges, then it belongs to philosophy, not theology. But Rahner on grace? In the absence of some reasonable assurance that there really is a god, and that this god visits the faithful with his/her/its grace — well, there’s not much room for fruitful discussion here. . .
. . . Orr is simply mistaken in my view. He takes theology altogether too seriously. He accuses Dawkins of not paying enough attention to the meticulous argumentation of theologians, but he has not given us one example of how attention to this meticulous argumentation would have contributed to his project.
Having read the “meticulous reasoning” of more sophisticated theologians (as I know Richard has), I can’t see how their inclusion would have changed or improved the book one iota. Just thinking about the theologians I’ve read lately—the likes of Eagleton, Haught, C. S. Lewis (Ceiling Cat help me) and Polkinghorne—all Dawkins could have done was to present their mushy arguments and rebut them. That would have added nothing to the book. Absent new and more convincing evidence for god, or for the nature of His being, none of which is provided by these authors, all we would get is lengthy rebuttal of tedious and unproductive theological masturbation. In separate comments to Eric’s post, though, both Tim Harris and I have asked him to discuss whether or how The God Delusion might have benefited from tackling theology more extensively.
Eric also deals with Orr’s criticism that the twentieth century’s “experiment in secularism” (read Mao, Stalin, and Hitler) showed that atheism is by no means less disasterous than religion.