Dawkings is a smart biologist, but he is a layman of the human mind and a layman of religion. But he is a good entertainer for other layman.
I’m only superficially familiar with the work and credentials of Richard Dawkins
, but think you mischaracterize him as not being a recognized expert in subjects involving the human mind. In the linked wikipedia article and other biographical reference, Dawkins is described as ethologist, which means a student of animal behavior. Although the idea that human behavior could be studied as a kind of animal behavior was scientifically controversial 100 years or more ago, I don’t believe it is now, resulting in much overlap of the disciplines of human psychology and zoological ethology.
That said, I think Dawkins choice of “delusion” to describe many humans’ belief in supernatural being such as gods, angels, demons, and ghosts, is confusing, because the term has a previous well-know meaning in psychiatry. Conflating the “delusions” of a schizophrenic with the beliefs of a religionist is, I think, incorrect and unhelpful. Were I Dawkins, I would have titled his book The God Delusion
something like The God Superstition
The point I was trying to make was if I had a dream about purple unicorns, there is no way to prove that dream had purple unicorns, even if I was sitting on a table wired with the latest instruments. Since there is no hard proof I dreamed what I said I dreamed, it is not provable, even if it was real. Try to publish these dream details and claim it was proven. I am not ragging on science, just the human mind is a frontier, with little in the way of paths, that can offer such detail proof. It come down to faith in the subject.
I believe you’ve made a badly false analogy here, HB.
If I say I dreamt of purple unicorns, I may or may not be lying. However we understand that, whether my report is honest or not, the purple unicorn I describe is not real, in the sense that neither you nor I can go and see it while awake. I may propose that the unicorn represents my mother, who we can go and see, but we both understand that this is merely an interpretation, which may or may not be correct or useful.
If I claim to have had a literal religious revelation that, say, God exists, and wants me to do some act, we understand that I am claiming that God actually, objectively does exist, and want me to do that act. If my revelation was not literal, but symbolic – say a purple unicorn which I propose represents God, we understand that I believe this interpretation to be correct, and cannot accept that it might not be without also accepting that my revelation is false.
This is not to say that people can’t have emotionally powerful, life-transforming dreams and waking epiphanies, or that they may not understand and interpret these experiences in religious terms. It’s also not to say that atheists don’t have such experiences, or have less passionate emotional senses that gods don’t exist than theist have that they do.
I did, and described it in a 2009 Philosophy forum thread:
Shortly after reading about Jung’s “cathedral dream” (I’m unable to find a good online summary of this dream – it is one had and recounted by Jung in which he sees the huge, bare “ass of God” descend from the clouds and bury a magnificent Cathedral in shit, which he interpreted as advice that he should reject orthodox religion), I had my own such dream (similar in personal significance, not in detailed content) in which I died and underwent an “ascent to heaven” (in my actual dream, I was an otter, swimming into a deep underwater cave), discovering at its conclusion that my faith and the faith of my fellows was false, and there was no afterlife (which, in my dream, was called “the sacred holy assurance”). Since having this dream, I have, on an emotional, intuitive, absolute level, believed and expected that neither I nor any other human has a soul that survives physical death.