Four years after it was published I finally got round to reading Mr Dawkin’s best selling work “The God Delusion”. I may as well start by admitting that I remain a Christian, a six day creationist and a Bible literalist. Richard would be spinning in his grave had the church actually got its act together and bumped him off. That last sentence, although firmly in keeping with Dawkin’s view on religion, was a joke.
Anyway, it’s not all negative, there were a few points were Mr Dawkins and I share common ground. It’s probably best to start off there before moving to the considerably longer list of things we don’t agree on.
The God Delusion – The Good Stuff
Right, this point may take some explaining. Dawkins hates religion; that point is clear enough. He hates the hypocrisy of religious people, he hates the special treatment it receives, he hates all the wars, debates, murderers, evil all done in the name of religion. He rallies against Islamic fundamentalism, Jew haters, racists, people who want to see a Christian theocracy in the US, basically every religious nut job out there.
And I agree with all this (to some extent). Religion, or to be more precise, religions of work, suck. As usual Jesus put it better in his famous six woes:
“Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness…
Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone.
"Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.
"Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it."…
Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.
"Woe to you, because you build tombs for the prophets, and it was your forefathers who killed them….
Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."
Luke 11 v 39 – 52 (shortened)
Is not the type of religion Dawkins rails against aptly summed up here by Jesus’ own words? The problem I have is that Dawkins presents these issues with religion as some totally new, never before noticed fact. People abuse religion, they use it to their own advantage, they change it, alter it and do what they can to use it for their own benefit. This is hardly surprising or an argument against all religion being false. After all, pick any world view point and you’ll find people abusing it whether it is a political worldview, a religious one or an atheistically one.
Dawkins would do better to argue against what the Bible says rather than what some people say it says. Methinks that arguing against Jesus would prove slightly harder for him than arguing against the worst acts of the religious.
I guess the point I’m trying to make is that all religion sucks except the one true religion: Christianity. And by that I mean what Christianity should be (love God, love every man) rather than what some people portray it as (love God, love other Christians, hate everyone else). More importantly I mean the Christianity that says it is not by works that we earn salvation but through the grace of God least any man should boast. The Christianity that humbles man and exalts God rather than the other way around. Sadly, I see this Christianity to be lacking both in my own life at times and in the world in general.
Ecclesiastes is a fantastic book of the Bible
Mr. Dawkins mentions this book as an example of good literature. I like it because it expresses the meaningless of life except that which can be found in God. It is a shame Richard never took the last two verses to heart:
“Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.
For God will bring every deed into judgment,
including every hidden thing,
whether it is good or evil.”
Ecclesiastes 12 v 13 – 14
The God Delusion – the Bad Stuff
Dawkins disproves himself
This is what so amazed me about this book. Considering it is described as being logical and rational Dawkins does a good job of writing self defeating arguments.
His first one comes in the form of morality. He argues that we evolved morality through kinship (helping family = helping close gene pool), reciprocation (I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine) and reputation (generous = good reputation). My problem lies not with these arguments but that in his chapter about the evolution of religion Dawkins again and again stresses the point that what is true is not what is important it is only what survives that is important. He uses this as an example of religion not being true.
But equally this very same argument can be applied to morality. If it only is present because it helped us survive then Dawkins has no basis for saying morality is true. How can he say that stealing is wrong when that is a claim to truth. To be logically consistent Dawkins would have to say that not stealing is an idea that evolved to help us survive.
In other words, morality is bunk; we only have what has been useful for our survival.
Surely, this is good in and as of itself
Nope, as Dawkins also says (about religion) its usefulness is irrelevant. It is truth that matters. And in the Dawkin’s world view morality cannot be held to be true. It is only when we turn to the Bible that we find a claim to the truth of morality that makes sense – morality comes from God.
He does the same thing when he talks about why religion came into being. He says it’s a by product of a child’s gullibility to what Adults tell them. (This, as a side note, does not answer the question about why religion would evolve it only explains why it would spread. So Dawkins never answers the question he asks). Yet, in this argument he opens himself up to the valid criticism that if our thinking is dictated to us when we were children how can he trust his own thinking? How could anyway trust their own thinking? Must we always hold different views to our parents?
Of course not, we must assess the truth ourselves
Ok, but Dawkins is guilty of a double standard. To use myself as an example, I’ve grown up in a Christian family, my Dad is a minister, so according to Dawkins I’ve been ‘brainwashed’ through my gullibility as a child to believe religion. The only way to show I’m not brainwashed is to reject religion.
I don’t suppose it occurred to Mr. Dawkins that it is perfectly possible to be a Christian like my parents but to have arrived at that state due to the mercy of God rather than the brainwashing of my parents. He leaves no room of people who reject faith at a young age to return to it in later life. Or people from non-Christian homes who become Christians. His argument falls flat on its face.
No, as the Bible says religions exist because an inherent knowledge of God is within everyone but they reject the true God for false ones.
And then there is the occasion where he argues against using Stalin/Hitler was an atheist and looked what happened there as an argument against atheism. He makes his point well that Stalin and Hitler acted out of their own personal motives rather than any inherent motives within Atheism. Except, he proceeds to spend the rest of the chapter (and indeed a lot of the book) using this same type of argument against religion (because x did that and he said he was Christian religion is wrong). If Dawkins had only listened to his own argument!
It is ironic that Dawkins complains about the hypocrisy of the religious man whilst engaging in multiple acts of hypocrisy himself. Examples are too numerous to mention them all so I’ll focus on the worst ones.
Dawkins complains that religions are too black and white in their thinking. Yet, he himself is equally black and white in his dealings with religion. All religious people are unsophisticated, all bible literalists are stupid, all religion is wrong, you can only be sane if you’re an atheist, etc, etc. Dawkins should realize that any claim to truth involves black and white thinking.
But what is worse is when he talks about religions being too black and white about their morality. This is partly a fair point but Dawkins once again shows his hypocrisy when talking about the acts of God in the Old Testament. He lists a few (Israel wiping out other nations, Jericho, etc) and then complains about the morality of some of these actions. But he puts all the blame on God and refuses to consider the case for God’s action being moral. He is being just as black and white as the religions he criticizes.
Dawkins does not understand God
This isn’t surprising.
“The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”
1 Corinthians 2 v 14
But even so, he fails to grasp some of the basic facts about God. First is that because of his worldview he cannot help but view God as the image of man rather than man as the image of God. This leads to Dawkins assigning human failings to God (see his part on God’s jealously). He doesn’t understand or refuses to understand that God is far and away beyond man. Connected with this is that he judges God by his standards rather than himself by God’s standards. Again, this is because Dawkins cannot grasp the transcendence of God, that God is unfathomable, that he answers to no one because he created everything.
On the back of the book it says that the God Delusion is timely, impassioned and brilliantly argued. It is at least two of the three but well argued it is not. Dawkins writes at one point that he does not hate religions. This is only partly true; he hates God, with a passion. I suppose the one thing good I got from his book was how warped people's perception of God are.
But I still don’t hate Richard, instead I feel sorry for him, for he has wasted his life and his talents shaking his puny fist at God. He seems to think that his book will somehow put a stop to Christianity, this his book will stop the growth of the Church. As if!
In the words of Paul:
“What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?”
Romans 8 v 31
In the final irony of ironies Richard Dawkins’ book actually confirms the Bible to be correct when it says in Romans 1:
“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
Romans 1 v 18 - 32