In Your Face, Dawkins

Sorry about that heading. It was suggested by a friend who is now being dealt with by the proper people. But it seems to have got your attention.


My last post led me to think that cave art suggests art preceded religion. There is a language of artspeak that we have all seen in galleries and catalogues, which is a cross between quackery and head up their arse gibberish. Though it is an attempt to justify art now that it no longer encompasses the notion of beauty which was a more or less unifying strand running through art for centuries.

But when I talk to artists about their work, their faces light up, the words float on the space between us. It feels like they are describing a religious experience. And in a way they are, and yet they are not. Or rather, they are talking of something which we have grown to see as religion but is actually something more.

I have discussed earlier the difference between science and religion, which are so often seen as opposing each other, but to me they are just variations on the same thing. They are both attempts to find the answers to things that may or may not, not be answerable. We are very complicated creatures, our needs and means of supplying them are likewise. The Greeks knew science and religion were complementary; but it is more than that: they are just alternate expressions of the same thing.

When Richard Dawkins recently went head to head with the Archbishop of Canterbury, they were not arguing. They were speaking in parallel, like the parable of the blind men describing an elephant.They are talking about the same things.

There is something in our minds that keeps asking questions, like children endlessly bugging their parents with strings of ‘why’s. It’s why we don’t live in trees, it’s why we sent men to the moon. It’s just why. If your mind leans toward science, you may not get religion. If religion in whatever form appeals to you, then you may not get atheism. You may get both or neither. The asking of questions is more like a smorgasboard than a plate of food put in front of you and you are ordered to eat. You try, you choose what makes sense, what presses your buttons.

Labe Siffre was once criticised for playing all different types of music; his reply was that music is like a large house, why should he spend all his time in one room. When Caesar ordered the Romans to worship only the Christian god, one of the replies was that if god is so big and awesome, isn’t it better to worship him in many ways, so he is praised more?

What I think I’m trying to get at is that religion, philosophy, science, art, are all about the same thing. They are a means to find something beyond. Something special, magical, mysterious, beautiful. Something that makes our eyes light up and our spirits soar. They are the window dressing for something beyond us, but absolutely essential for us, as it has been with us for as long as humans have been humans.

When I started researching language, I thought we were defined by opposable thumbs, by speech, by intellect, by introspection. But it is this thing, this ….. this beyondness that lights our way. That is what we are.

Elvis Costello said that falling in love is like light from a distant star – if you look directly at it, you can’t see it. Dream on….Or rather, keep thinking, keep looking. Keep scribbling, making marks, sounds, whatever….

7 thoughts on “In Your Face, Dawkins

  1. By saying that religion=art, aren’t you then also saying that there is no god? Art is the attempt to express your internal, by nature unverifiable, and in the end exclusively personal truths (since art is expressed abstractly, no two perceptions of art can be the same) through an external medium, while religion is the unsubstantiated belief in the validity of truths beyond yourself. If they are the same, then you are left with only your innate truth, and god has no existence outside your mind.

    Science, on the other hand, is not belief, merely the acceptance that observations logically indicate that certain conclusions are valid. You cannot believe in science, only accept that scientific “truth” most likely is a valid picture of reality, because it is based on reasoning that follows from observation and experiment. Unlike religion, science is indeed about things beyond the self, and unlike internal systems of truth, it accepts that it might be wrong.


    • I welcome your very thoughtful and thought provoking comments. This blog is very much me thinking out loud, so I may change my mind on some of this as I research and ponder more. That said, I think what I’m trying to get at is the drive within us to seek answers, and that this search can take many forms, ie science, religion, art etc. I have no idea whether god exists or not, and I have never seen any point in this debate as he is so utterly not us, that we could not possibly come to grips with him. So notions of god or God are akin to science fiction. Everything is predicated from the outset that we actually exist, and that like everything else about us, is still open to debate.


  2. Some people, at certain times, do indeed, believe in science, as shown by reluctance to accept that their theory is wrong, in the face of mounting evidence (elliptical orbits and radioactivity, are examples).

    The statement that “To scientists there is no such thing as the unexplainable; only the unexplained” is another example of faith. Not open to logical testing (when, in the future, will all things certainly be known?), it is unscientific.


    • Thanks for this. I don’t think science versus religion is a clear separation. People know about astronomy yet read horoscopes. It seems the more scientific some of us become, the more we crave its opposite and many of us can believe in both at the same time. Fear of the dark is a classic example. Even when we are in a safe place, we can still be scared of a bump in the night. Cheers


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