“It is true that the rules of civil discourse currently demand that Reason wear a veil whenever she is out in public. But the rules of discourse must change.”
Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason (N. W. Norton & Co., New York, 2004)
This post stems from Richard Dawkins’ excellent new book, The God Delusion, so my apologies to him for starting it off with a quote from Sam Harris. I have a feeling, however, that there must be a sense of mutual admiration between these 2 courageous thinkers as they lock arms on the front lines of the battle against irrational belief. Religion and the existence of God are subjects that have for too long been immune to scrutiny in polite company. These 2 writers make a convincing argument that in this the 21st Century, it is high time that clear-thinking people openly question concepts based on magic, myth and Bronze Age books.
There are very few things we know with absolute certainty but by using rational thought, we can draw reasonable conclusions about the world around us. The earth is not flat but spherical and this I am virtually certain of even if I have never verified this directly by viewing our small blue planet from space. Furthermore, in 2006, most would agree that there is neither the intellectual justification nor the practical need for a debate on the shape of the earth. That case, I think you will agree, is closed. Most would also agree that this is also the case for most of the gods of our distant ancestors. Eros, Zeus, Apollo and Aphrodite have been removed off the shelf of reality and relegated, once and for all, to the cupboard of mythology. Ralph Waldo Emerson put it this way, “The religion of one age is the literary entertainment of the next.”
But, let me get to the point of this post. Dawkins suggests in The God Delusion that the existence of God is a scientific hypothesis like any other, i.e. it is testable. In his own words, “God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice. If he existed and chose to reveal it, God himself could clinch the argument, noisily and unequivocally, in his favor. And even if God’s existence is never proved or disproved with certainty one way or the other, available evidence and reasoning may yield an estimate of probability far from 50 per cent.”
As a start to discourse on the matter, therefore, I beg your indulgence and hereby request your participation in a poll. The choices are taken right out of Dawkin’s book and require that you situate yourself on the spectrum of probabilities regarding the existence of God. For those of you who have given the matter sufficient thought, the task may be an easy one. I know full well, however, that others among you may have to step out of your comfort zone and struggle to find your answer. So be it. The poll is anonymous. Thank you in advance for your participation.