Saturday, November 25, 2006


Magical Thinking

Biologist Richard Dawkins is getting a lot of press lately, primarily for his views on atheism. I was listening to an interview with him on MPR not long ago and he indicated that he feels that any child brought up solely in one religion is undergoing child abuse. I agree with this sentiment to a certain extent. I realize that people who are raising their children in one faith, and one faith only, are primarily doing so for what they feel are the most noble of reasons, however, unless these children are cloistered, they are going to rub shoulders with people of different faiths. If for no other reason than to avoid social insensitivity, children should learn a little something about other religions. On a more fundamental level, what if a kid doesn't fit with the faith of his/her parents? I was raised Catholic, which never matched my mindset. When I found Unitarian Universalism, I felt that I had come home spiritually.

Now that I've found a point of agreement with Richard Dawkins, let me spin into a point of disagreement with him and other atheists. Those who believe there is no god cannot seem to tolerate people who engage in magical thinking. It's all hard-edged, cold, complex, beautiful reality for them. The vast majority of us slip into magical thinking now and again, believing our prayers work; believing in ghosts, fairies, Big Foot & the Loch Ness monster; attributing unexplained phenomena to some mystical, mysterious force; believing that that force is God.

I'm rereading Neil Gaiman's American Gods, a book so full of magical thinking that I wouldn't be surprised if it turned into a raven and flapped away into the night. The beauty of magical thinking, which is as gorgeous and complex as our physical reality, is its ability to let us imagine the unimaginable. If we did not think that gods could fly, could we have ever figured out how to make humans do so? As an evolutionist might argue, we kept the ability for magical thinking over time because it is evolutionarily advantageous for our species. Let's not reject it out of hand because we think we know better now that we've evolved past the point of needing gods.

Labels: , , , , , , ,


Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?