If ever there was proof that religion is not going to yield to reason surely it must be the sight of Haitians praying to God for relief from their suffering. That God either doesn't give a tinker's damn about Haiti, or else has has such a cruel and twisted disregard for the suffering of innocents that we would call Him a psychopath or the devil incarnate were he anything but God, cannot possibly be made any plainer. And yet the sound of prayer is heard in Port au Prince. Surely it must occur to the Richard Dawkinses of the world to wonder why? If having their lives destroyed isn't enough to convince these people that God doesn't love them, can anyone really believe that reading "The God Delusion" is going to do it?
The reason that Haitians turn to God is self-evident: it's all they have. When your entire country is in ruins and your family is dead and you can't even go down to the corner liquor store for a fifth of vodka in which to drown your sorrows, you are faced with this choice: turn to God, or try to salve your emotional wounds by contemplating the finer points of plate tectonics. Is it really all that mysterious that Haitians choose God?
Religion may be false by scientific standards. It may be a delusion. But it nonetheless has something real and powerful to offer: hope. A sense of purpose. A reason to go on even in the face of unspeakable horror. Even though I've seen a bit of the third world, I can't even begin to imagine what it must be like in Haiti right now. Richard Dawkins speaks about truth as the greatest good, but I wonder if even he would be so callous as to walk up to a Haitian mother praying to God after she has lost all her children and volunteering that, by the way, the God she is praying to doesn't exist.
That notwithstanding, I applaud Dawkins for taking a prominent and God-free lead in providing material aid to Haiti. That will win more hearts and minds than strident rhetoric can ever hope to.