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Monday, May 16, 2011

A Letter from God

Dear Children,
I have thought long and hard before addressing this letter to you.  The protocol department has warned me that it is of utmost importance to be politically correct while speaking to “your children”.  They are no respecters of persons – especially if that person happens to be their own father.  Thus forewarned, I approach the subject that I am going to speak to you about today with great trepidation.  Believe me, it is furthest from my intention to be either rude or disrespectful, and should someone notice the slightest deviation from political correctness, it should not be attributed to a culpable mens rea; blame it on my ignorance of facts or the inadequacy of my communicative skill. 

I understand that some of you - the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hutchinson, Daniel Dennett and their ilk - have disowned me, disowned your own loving father, who has begotten you, created this world for you to act out your silly and sentimental drama.  (Pardon me; the alliterative impulse carried me away.  I do not how to strike out the offending words typed on a laptop, but treat it as hereby cancelled).  First they make the suggestion that I, their father do not exist.  Dawkins went on to squarely abuse me (misogynist, vengeful, control freak etc.) and then impute many of the miseries of mankind to me, even in face of irrefutable alibis.  Dawkins has proceeded to insinuate that those of my children who still believe in me are deluded.  But it does not behove a father to trade abuses with his children.  Or, for that matter, indulge in a blame game.  So I would let it pass.  I would only place facts.  I have laughed off such vituperations in the past, but the use of the word “delusion” makes me very apprehensive. 

Dawkins is very clever with words.  I am saying that on the evidence of some of his earlier books - The Selfish Gene, The Devil’s Chaplain etc., and even his short and crisp introduction to John Diamond’s “Snake Oil and Other Remedies”, wherein he takes on the proponents of alternative medicine – they are masterpieces of lucid and cogent writing.  (I am sorry to say that this one, I mean, The God Delusion, is ninety nine per cent vituperation and one per cent perspiration).  But the worth of the book apart, the use of the word delusion does not bode well for all of you, my children, whose consciousness has not been raised to the appropriate level of “brightness.”

Delusion is a form of mental sickness, and mental sickness is something no one admits to.  Any other form of physical sickness is immediately recognized and the help of a doctor is sought.  It is the decision of the patient.  But in case of mental illness, the right of the individuals stands abrogated - it is the society which judges his condition and takes medical measures on behalf of the individual.  The brightest children of Enlightenment – the leaders of the Soviet Russia – had mastered this technique, by consigning to the mental asylum its dissenters.  They killed many millions, but killing some proved inconvenient, or unfeasible in some cases, so they turned them in as psychiatric cases, thus effectively putting them into the memory hole.  To declare someone deluded or deranged is the greatest articulation of power, and to treat him for it is the worst from of subjugation.  Sakharaov was only the best-known case of hundreds of thousands of “deluded” people subjected to psychiatric abuse.  These were people who believed in a reality other than the one prescribed by the official Soviet state.  I wish I was being paranoid, but to label those who do not measure up to Dawkins standard of brightness – that is not an atheist – as being in need of institutional help looks to me, ominous. 

I have another reason to fear for you, because I can never get out of my mind a hypothetical scenario posited by one of my perceptive children, Edward J Mishan.  Now, Mishan is, in a sense, a heretic of his sect.  He is an economist who is aware of the limits to economic growth, and a votary of self-limitation.  He posits a scary scenario sometime in the distant future, when the Scientific establishment has become so powerful that pioneers like Dawkins do not have to lobby the Guardian for their “consciousness raising” drive.   
It is then that –

“the temptation to get rid of them (the masses of ordinary human beings) will grow strong.  Moral objections may no longer prevail: and political expediency can hardly act as a check once power has shifted irrevocably to the controllers of the scientific establishment.  Of course the means may not be cruel.  Water supplies, for instance, could be doctored so as to make human reproduction physically impossible… …Within a couple of generations, only a select group of a few thousand beings, part man part computers, will be left to inherit the planet earth.” 

The God Delusion has not been able to make a very convincing or compelling draft for a legislative agenda to exclude the “non-brights”, but you can depend on the pugnacity of Dawkins.  He will come up with something more clear cut, more persuasive which can carry even his moderate scientist colleagues like Steven Weinberg and others.

This is all within the family, my children, so I can speak to you without reserve.  I have observed Dawkins from his early childhood.  He had a habit of inventing grievances in order to fight with other children.  He was a sharp student but he would spend considerable time grinding his intellectual axe or pumping intellectual irons.  He is a very convincing validation of the dictum cogito ergo sum – I have intellectual muscles therefore, I will flex it.  A great shadow-boxer, he liked nothing better than debates, at times futile debates, and debates long since settled, because he was very keen to show off the athletic musculature of his mind. 
Consider the instant case.

The Enlightenment had firmly put reason on a pedestal and faith had abdicated the position it had held for centuries.  Darwin’s theory of evolution had convincingly debunked the various creationist myths.  Absorbing the impressions, as if by a process of osmosis, writers and men of letters like Voltaire, Dostoevsky etc. proclaimed my death!  Not many mourned it, but some of my children, like Dostoevsky, rued it for purely pragmatic reasons.  He feared moral anarchy.  “Since God is dead everything is permissible”.  Voltaire insisted that a God had to be resurrected, I did not plead for it.   Now you would see that he is flogging a dead horse for the fun of it, out of sheer meanness and spite.  I was happy with my situation - suspended between being and nothingness.  But intellectual quarrels are what sustain Dawkins, and he would not only shame his adversary to the roots of his intelligence, he would ram his own point of view as the universal rule of perception.  Sir Toby Belch, though not as brainy as Dawkins, even though he rarely strayed into sobriety, made a very valid point. “Dost thou think because thou art virtuous there shalt not be any more cakes and ale?”  

But Dawkins will have none of it.  Now he struts into areas like theology and philosophy, wearing his plumes of different feather.  Terry Eagleton – I simply adore him for his linguistic quibbling, and his capacity to mass-produce theories – informs me that Dawkins has not changed one bit.  ”Imagine someone holding forth on biology”, he says of God Delusion, “whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.” Or for that matter, I should add, philosophy. 

But now I must address the main charge that my beloved child, Dawkins, has made against me – that I have incited people to murder and mayhem.  To this I can only say alas!  Only if he could care to read carefully what I have said in several languages and different cultural contexts.  It is my lasting regret that the sins of fanaticism, which is a form of cultivated blindness, are laid at my door. 

Dear children, I shall not argue my case any more in the arid language of logic and scientific method.  Some of the scientists themselves have taken good care of it, and showed Dawkins’ claim for what it is worth.  I dwell in your hearts.  That is, and has been, our favourite meeting ground, where I have been present and worshipped in some form or the other in every society, from the most primitive to the most advanced, much to the astonishment of the anthropologists and scientists who have been diligently stripping me to layers and layers of illusion.  So I’ll rest my case here.  I shall get back to you soon with a more reasoned critique. 

Till then, bless you all.