I ended up on what I mistakenly thought was my brother-in-law's Amazon Wish List, and blinked to see that Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion was on it, which would be very strange, to my mind. My brother-in-law is from a non-Christian cultural background and has never appeared to me to know much or be interested in much about the faith. But if he, or any educated reader, was looking at trying to draw some kind of "line in the sand" or to "hear both sides of the argument," I can't figure out why one would waste time reading Oxford's Dawkins. He may be a great biologist, but from everything of his I've read, he's strictly Amateur Night as a philosopher. Totally caught up in the silly American idea of the relationship between Science and Religion as reducible to that of Materialists versus Creationists, and mostly of the sneering, high school "religious people are so dumb" technique. "Holding religious believers to the high rational standards of scientists" doesn't look like something he's capable of doing, since he doesn't seem to understand or be able to present or interested in presenting the intellectual material of serious theologians, philosophers, and historians. I would think that the best educational route for authentically open-minded and intellectual atheists would be to work from the best of Christian scholarship: those guys will tell you exactly where their arguments are weakest. Certainly that's my own approach in my Intro to Theology class: I'd be humiliated as a teacher if I didn't produce the sharpest, best-informed atheists possible. And certainly I had very little to learn from atheists who were ill-informed or to only learn the arguments of atheism from believers who had never considered the possibility. Scratch Richard Dawkins and pick up something like the work of a philosopher like Oxford's Richard Swinburne, I would think, if you wanted to exercise yourself against serious thinking on the subject.
My students are starting to read Book VIII of Augustine's The Confessions for next week. I'm leery of them coming into the story so late in the text, and am wondering about how it will pick up at that point and what strategy I ought to follow for trying to facilitate the reading. I did the fourth century's Trinitarian Controversies on Friday. As though that isn't at the very least a semester's project in itself. I hate surveys for just that reason. Not only are we coming out of a philosophically- and theologically-repressed and stunted culture, but then the very structure of survey courses in our university system seem to conspire to keeping students from having the leisure proper to advanced reflection. I feel like my topic and my method are sometimes utterly at war.
And lastly, I grow tempted to upgrade. Is it time for the sixth Mac to enter my life? Ambrose has been slowing down ever since I did the OS 10.4 brain transplant....