Writing and Communication SS 100-12
16th April, 2012
Good And Bad Reasons For Believing
By Richard Dawkins
The text ‘Good and Bad Reasons for Believing’ is written by Richard Dawkins. It is an open letter which he wrote to his daughter, Juliet, when she turned ten and is part of his book, ‘A Devil’s Chaplain’. Dawkins feels his daughter is old enough now to not believe everything she is told blindly but should investigate what she is told to find out if it is true or not. This letter is also meant for theists and religious scholars whom Dawkins attacks in the letter. Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist and author. It is worth mentioning due to the nature of the letter that he is an outspoken atheist and a famous critic of religion. Although the writer makes a valid claim when saying that traditions are a bad reason for believing anything, the fact that he considers revelations a bad reason for believing can be argued against. In addition, the tone used throughout is decent and effective apart from a few instances where it can be deemed harsh, however, there are various logical fallacies in the text and the writer is also very biased especially when he talks about religion. Dawkins discusses how evidence and observation are the only two good reasons for believing anything while he believes tradition, authority and revelation to be bad reasons for believing. He feels children should be told this from an early age because that is the age when man is most susceptible to wrong information and this will prevent people from passing this wrong information to future generations. Firstly, the fact that the writer considers tradition to be a bad reason for believing may be one that the reader agrees with. Traditional beliefs are those that are handed down from generation to generation. There may not be adequate evidence to prove whether those beliefs are true or not but since they have been acted upon for a long time, they are followed by people. This is a poor reason for believing something. When one is told a traditional belief, they should think about it and explore whether it is logical or not. Sure, there are many things one would not know of if it was not for tradition but that does not mean one believes each and every tradition there is. Traditions may have been started for various reasons and not all of them would be valid. Religious traditions are an important part of people’s lives and accepting them blindly may make one regret their decision later in their life when they actually think about it. Some traditions may make no sense at all. For example, once every year, one’s mother cooks a full chicken. However, she cooks it in a smaller pot than the size of the chicken and has to cut the sides off. When asked why she does that instead of keeping the whole chicken intact and just cooking it in a bigger pot, she answers that that was how her own mother always did it. When her mother was asked the same question, she replied that she did that because she did not have a big enough pot. This incident can be related to other traditions as well. Acting on them without consideration may not be a good option. The writer argues that revelations are a bad reason for believing. The reader may disagree with that. Revelations have always been an essential part of many faiths and beliefs. In Islam, the holy Quran was revealed to the holy Prophet Muhammad (P.B.U.H) verse by verse. Revelations are also important in Christianity. The Bible does not give a detailed account about resurrection or the divinity of Christ but it was through revelation that followers of this faith got to know about this. A believer in religion believes in revelations. It is not uncommon for religious people to contact God and vice versa. The story of Noah’s ark is common to most major religions. God was displeased with the people so he decided to kill them by sending a huge flood. But since Noah was a pious man,...