Longing for consolation: A Dilemma for Dawkins

· Atheism


There are no atheists in foxholes and when a plane hits turbulence, many if not all agnostics and atheists, begin to pray! Man is in constant need of consolation. Even if it does not prove existence of God it certainly creates a strong need for it. This may perhaps be the reason that whereas Dawkins has had only one good convert to his way of atheims, in his life time, on the other hand, many theists have had thousands if not millions.


Professor Richard Dawkins in the last chapter of his book, the God Delusion, summarizes the four roles of religion, namely, explanation, exhortation, consolation and inspiration. In this chapter he is trying to refute the consolation and inspiration purpose of religion. This short essay is meant to be a practical rebuttal of Dawkins’ views pertaining to the consolation needs of humanity. The reality of human experience and psyche is such that it cannot find any real consolation or comfort in blind science or the so called ‘survival of the fittest.’ As Carl Sagan noted, “It does not make any sense to pray to the law of gravity;” “Nor,” as Kenneth Miller adds, “does it make any sense to pray to the second law of thermodynamics, which has never given me a break, and probably never will.”

A 1997 survey of American scientists found that 39 percent believed in a God to whom one may pray in expectation of receiving an answer as compared to 42 percent in a 1916 survey that used the same questions and an identical sampling procedure. The results challenged the widely held assumption that religious beliefs have fallen off drastically among scientists in the twentieth century. These statistics are about an imagined trial or tragedy. Once the tragedy or trial hits home, these numbers quickly swell to a hundred percent. It has been well documented that 96% of patients undergoing cardiac surgery used prayer as a coping mechanism to deal with their stress. Dawkins himself tells us that 95% of US population believes in afterlife. It seems it is very hard for humanity to face his or her mortality. Once again, it cannot be repeated enough, ‘There are no atheists in foxholes.’ The present day metaphor is that when a plane hits turbulence all agnostics and atheists begin to pray!

The Holy Quran says:

“Your Lord is He Who propels the vessels in the sea for your benefit that you may seek of His bounty. Surely, He is Ever Merciful towards you. When danger threatens you in the sea you call upon Him, and forget all others upon whom you call. But when He brings you safe to land, you turn aside. Man is ever ungrateful. Do you then feel secure against His causing you to be swallowed up by the earth or His sending a sandstorm to cover you up, when you would find no one to rescue you? Or, do you feel secure against His sending you back therein once more and raising a fierce gale against you and drowning you because of your ingratitude, when you would find no one to help you against Us?  We have indeed honoured the children of Adam, and provided for them means of transportation in land and sea, and given them wholesome food and exalted them high above the greater part of Our creation.” (The Holy Quran 17:67-71)

The Holy Quran very profoundly describes human psychology at time of trial and its tendency of ‘out of sight out of mind’ once the trial is over. But, in the final analysis, there is no escaping from All Knowing God.

Review the full article at:

%d bloggers like this: