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Richard Dawkins' Delusion about God

 A critical review of the Questions and Answers session

in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness 2/4/2008

by

Dr Donald Boyd

 

Dr. Donald Boyd

Donald Boyd1

THE archbishop was in town and his disciples came to meet him. The details of this historic meeting of the faithful in Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, on 2nd April 2008 are available elsewhere on this website. Richard Dawkins had come to Inverness to rally the faithful and to make as many converts to atheism as he could. His book The God Delusion was on sale, to be autographed by its evangelising author who tells us plainly “If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” p. 28. Ex opere operato as the theologians would say.

 
I wish to begin this review by acknowledging that Richard Dawkins is doing his best, with the materials that he has available, to discredit false religion. This is a good work.  If he cannot make the distinction between false religion and true Christianity, it is possible that this is the fault of the Christian church more than his fault. The fact that he has not met enough intelligent arguments to convince his reason may not be his fault.
 
This well-attended meeting began with an Introduction by the UHI's Principal Professor Bob Cormack followed by a staged hour-long Conversation between Dawkins and a local atheist activist Paula Kirby followed by about one hour of Questions from the floor The auditorium was well filled by the generous provision of free tickets under the auspices of the fledgling University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) Millennium Institute.
 
The Conversation was more or less a summary of The God Delusion. The format allowed Richard Dawkins to explain his atheistic views, and as these appear in his book, and I have no desire to spread these views uncritically, I will concentrate on the Questions and Answers session which was chaired by Gary Robertson, who presents BBC Radio Scotland’s flagship morning news programme Good Morning Scotland.
 
Like a skilled evangelist, Richard Dawkins made his dogmatic assertions with boldness. Possibly he hoped that no-one would notice the difference between assertion and fact; like the speaker’s marginal note ‘argument weak, shout loudly’. As he likes to do at public meetings, he quoted a particularly offensive sentence from The God Delusion about the God of the Bible which he thinks is funny and which raises a laugh from his sympathetic audience. His readiness to live up to his bruising reputation was unsurprising, and this behaviour may yet rub off on his admiring followers; but what surprised me was the number of childish titters at what were thought to be good points. Yet the audience was not made up of admiring teenagers but a mature body of people. Perhaps they are not used to hearing an atheist scoring points in such a brusque manner. Long may this continue.
 
There were a number of questions which had the appearance of lobbing a cricket ball for Dawkins to hit. This was expected from the Conversational half, with a suitably soft interviewer, Paula Kirby, a Christian-turned-atheist – a billing which no doubt did not meet with Richard Dawkins’ approval as he thinks ‘atheist-turned-Christian’ billings are beside the point. During the Questions and Answers section there were suitable questions to allow a few more hits from the brickbat. Very few questions seemed to come from Christians, although there were some. There were some interesting questions, some of which were not answered.
 
The Questions and Answers Session
 
During the Questions and Answers session Dawkins demonstrated his usual, incisive ability to analyze and answer questions.
 
1. The first question was a fairly easy one, to the effect: Will animals ever be conscious like us? He doubts it will happen in the near future and, besides, evolution cannot predict what will happen.
 
2. The second question: If the whole world becomes atheist, what will society look like in view of the fact that people get solace in religion? Dawkins doubts that there is much solace in religion. He quoted hell as an example and emphasised that those who preached on hell were evil, putting emphasis on the word ‘evil’. So evolutionists have their moral standards too, and Dawkins believes in evil, unlike some psychologists. This reviewer doesn’t know why we should subscribe to Dawkins’ moral standards any more than he is willing to submit to God’s moral law. I would be happier to say that those who manipulate others with the doctrine of hell are doing evil work. Dawkins prefers to judge the character of some of the most mild-mannered people I know. He does not credit them with being mistaken. No – they are evil by Diktat of Dawkins.
 
3. One questioner could understand apes evolving into humans but not bacteria into humans. This gave Dawkins an opportunity to demonstrate the fertility of his imagination as he mimed some of the evolutionary process.
 
4. It can be more interesting to note what is not said by a speaker as well as what is said. In this regard, this reviewer found it quite interesting to notice the questions which were not answered. The next question was not answered. He was asked a question by one of the foremost legal minds in the country. The question was: “Can you give a succinct definition of life?” This must be a simple question, or judged to be so by Dawkins’ admirers, for there was a general titter at the question; not for the first time, mind you. But then, the former Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, has spent a lifetime in court asking simple-sounding questions which lead unsuspecting people into exposing themselves. This was to be no different.
 
To retrace our steps a bit... Dawkins had been asked by Paula during the Conversation: Why give offence to religious people? He replied that religion has been given a free ride for too long, and that religion should not be immune from offence. Asked if religious people did not deserve respect, he replied that respect is what people deserve, the implication being that one earns respect, and if they deserve ridicule they should get it. Perhaps this is why his disciples followed in their master’s footsteps and don’t know how to show respect to people’s questions. This may give a glimpse into the spirit of an atheist society. Perhaps it is because they do not recognise a complex question because of the reductionist simplicity of their thinking, which likes to reduce complex issues to simple ones that they can understand; and if they cannot understand it, it must be foolish. Anyway, Lord Mackay’s question deserved a teenage titter.
 
So, unbeknown to the tittering audience, the foremost legal mind in Britain asks the Charles Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science a succinct question, looking for a succinct answer from a man trained in zoology to the highest level.   You see, a man who had spent his life watching witnesses and listening for flaws in legal arguments had heard Richard Dawkins assert in his Conversation that the appearance of design is a strong argument “and life was the theists’ trump card. Darwinism blew it out of the water; so they have abandoned biology and retreated to physics and astronomy.” This reviewer thought that it was the other way round, that evolutionists were looking for their kick-start in life from astronomy, but he is happy to learn that Professor Dawkins feels that he can still win the argument with mundane evidence. I hope that he won’t take to the stars to try to hold his ground.
 
Anyway, back to the question, or more particularly, to the answer – or non-answer. Life was the theists’ trump card, was it? And Darwin blew it out of the water? So Lord Mackay asks ever so simple a question: “Can you give a succinct definition of life?” So what did the Professor say? After all, zoology is about life. Surely he has a pat, well-rehearsed answer to so simple a question, this man who majors in reducing the complex to simplicity. Surely he has answered this question at least to himself many times before? Well, this reviewer is still waiting to hear a sensible answer.

So what did we hear? His first attempt at an answer was that life began with the first self-replicating molecule. I don’t think Dawkins was tittering – more like stuttering. After a few more sentences he told us that it was the first gene. Sorry, did I catch it correctly? Life is the first self-replicating molecule, or it is the first gene? ‘Respect is what a man deserves?’ My teenage children, being taught critical analysis by their father in after-church fellowships, would fall about laughing if they heard this answer, and I would need to teach them some self-restraint. I would remind them that this is a very famous professor and he deserves more respect while he composes himself to give us a proper and better answer. But it didn’t come. This was the sum and the substance of the answer. Not very succinct, but very clear in its barrenness. “By their fruits you shall know them” said a better Teacher. As a good Calvinist, I leave the reader to judge for himself with his God-given freedom of thought and conscience, but for myself I assert clearly that this is no definition of life. The questioner exposed the emperor’s nakedness.
 
The sad epilogue to my tale is that it probably went unnoticed by most people present. You see, if Lord Mackay explains his credentials, then these people may listen to his question with more respect. When an anonymous individual arises from the audience to ask a simple question, you can be rude and show your supercilious knowledge with titters. Lord Mackay concluded his questions unannounced and our teenage titterers are probably no wiser about Dawkins’ exposure.

It is a pity that they cannot recognize good questions for what they are without an authority figure being identified with them. Is this part of the atheist baggage – this judging a question important and sensible only if they think an important person asks it? or is it just learned behaviour from the master? If these titterers cannot learn from Christians, possibly they should read their Bertrand Russell beginner’s manual in philosophy to appreciate a little profundity in life – assuming that they discover what life is after Professor Dawkins has brushed up his answer for the next time.

Back to more mundane questions....

5. One questioner asked if some religious leaders were using God as a cover for their own agenda? Dawkins miscalled a particular religious leader, who may have deserved it for all I know, and gave the witty reply that he would hate to blame God for him. This drew another titter; but we won’t be mean nor hard on them – it was quite funny. At least he doesn’t blame God for all the evil in the world; that’s a relief.
 
6. Another questioner asked if Dawkins thought theists are bad scientists? He replied that religion and science don’t mix. He claimed that those scientists who are Christian believe in God in the sense that Einstein did, merely as a manner of speech to describe the wonder of the universe. He had been in Edinburgh and claimed that Bishop Richard Holloway is an agnostic. Dawkins found it hard to understand how Christian scientists could find compatibility between their religion and science; he assumes that they must be compartmentalizing their thinking.  Am I concluding correctly from this answer that Richard Dawkins has never met a scientist who believes in the Christian God? Have I made a wrong inference from his answer? Woe to Christianity when its scientists are too frightened to confess the same in Dawkins’ confessional box.
 
7. Another questioner asked if science could give any meaning to life? Like Jesus, but with less purpose and effect, Dawkins responded with another question: Why ask this question? He knocked back the questioner: Some questions don’t deserve an answer. Ah! We can discern one of the axioms of the atheist science curriculum. Don’t ask awkward – sorry – ignorant questions, or unanswerable questions. So Dawkins went on to illustrate: What is the colour of jealousy? is a legitimate grammatical question, but it has no meaning and does not deserve an answer. This raises a few thoughts in my mind.

    (a) I remember Dawkins in The God Delusion accusing Christians of forestalling scientific enquiry. Is the kettle calling the pot black by this Index of Forbidden Questions? No matter – it is a tendentious accusation.

    (b)  Is Dawkins really saying that science cannot give any meaning to life? This seems to be a fair deduction from his reply. Could he have meant it is a rhetorical question, and thus it does not need rather than deserve an answer? My Christian charity, which does not suffer me to think ill of my neighbour, will put this construction upon his answer, although I think I discerned a collective Ouch! from the audience.

    (c) Rather, there are some questions that people cannot answer because they don’t understand the question. Possibly ‘meaning’ has no meaning for Professor Dawkins; or was it ‘meaning in life’ which upset him? Thankfully his genes are made of stern stuff. This student of natural selection has learned to cope admirably with unpredictability adverse conditions.
 
8. A more sympathetic questioner allowed him some breathing space to regain his composure. Britain may be smug about its secular society compared to the United States, intoned the next questioner, but as a teacher he did not see increased levels of rationality in society. (For rationality read atheism.) What can we do to increase it? Dawkins said that we must teach critical thinking in place of indoctrination. Yes, Jesus agrees with this; and He was even more radical than Dawkins – which may be why Dawkins thinks this is the path to fame and influence. Dawkins seemed to admit that the distinction is difficult in practice, but this reviewer did not catch this part of his argument as I was making my way to the microphone with my own question. I was surprised that he did not lay on thick the indoctrination of children at this point. You see, an atheist state will not be well pleased if you teach your children your religion.
In China parents are not allowed to teach their own children their religion. You are meant to procreate for the good of society or, according to Dawkins, for the good of your genes, because Dawkins’ Diktat asserts that group-selection or society is not the reason. Correction–good is not the appropriate word for natural selection; read ‘survival’. Even if you cannot follow the argument, just don’t teach your children your religion. Sorry? Whose children are they, Professor Dawkins? If they are not their parents’ children, and they don’t belong to God, they are certainly not society’s. Ah! the answer: Suffer the little children to come unto Dawkins, and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of atheism.


9.
The next questioner wondered if the CERN accelerator would find the ultimate particle and building blocks of nature, and if this will put the final nail in the coffin of religion? Dawkins is too smart to put his faith – yes, he does have faith and he is smart – in the CERN particle accelerator. He reminded us that he is not a physicist. Mind you, Dawkins’ Delusion reminds us that he is not a theologian either. A big prediction about the future, which he had already told us evolution cannot do, might have been better avoided by claims to being a non-theologian than by not being a physicist. I suspect that physicists would claim that they are not good at hammering nails into coffins, although God has quite a lot to say about coffins and their contents.

Dawkins continued – experimental physics might provide answers, but we may have to go much deeper than this. He joked that he confessed to having an ‘almost religious feeling about this!’ This is not wholly tongue-in-cheek as Dawkins would like to transfer our wonder and awe from God to science. Gary Robertson asked if Dawkins had any fears about CERN trying to recreate the conditions of the Big Bang. He replied that physicists had assured him that it was unlikely to cause a problem. So he has faith in physicists’ predictions about an unknown future. I wonder what evidence he used to reach this faith? Does he just trust these physicists? Naughty boy!
 
I made a serendipitous discovery while writing this up, which illustrates nicely our topic. I wished to ascertain the exact location of CERN, in Switzerland. After downloading a 44 page PDF file and wading through a myriad of facts and fine details to do with What? When? How? Will? Why? - with multiple Why? subsections (who said Science does not ask Why?) the question Where? was still unanwered! So where is CERN?
Eventually on p. 34 buried in ‘10 Fascinating Facts’ we are told it is ‘between Lake Geneva and the Jura mountain range’ - not to increase your knowledge of its location but to show you the accuracy of their tunnelling technique.
I hope your geography is good enough to get the answer from this. I think at least one interesting fact in this long document might be to tell us where it is! Herein is a secular parable. Even scientists can miss the wood for the trees. Keep this mind; sleight of hand distracts you.
 
10. Another questioner asked about the apparent ‘arms race’ between evolution producing varied offspring and intelligent humans wanting no children. Dawkins replied that contraception, the arts, and other pleasures were distracting us from the real business of getting on with reproduction. It is difficult to know how serious he was with this answer. It is, of course, preposterous that human culture and pursuits are distractions. Perish the thought! This pessimistic worldview is supposed to be the preserve of Calvinists and Puritans, not world-famous atheists.
 
11. One women asked why the cells of a new infant did not have the age of its parents. Dolly the sheep, cloned from an adult sheep, had signs of premature aging. Do genes have an age? Dawkins replied that the germ cells of a 75-year-old adult would be sub-standard, but he did not answer the question. He had struggled to hear the question and I think that he genuinely did not hear it properly. This is a pity, for this was one of the more interesting questions and although the answer is quite straight-forward, one would like to hear his answer to it. It is interesting that this is the second biological question which was not answered by our professor trained in zoology.
 
12. He was asked if any philosopher had influenced his thinking as he seemed to be reviving the teaching of Nietzsche that God is dead. This was an easy ball: he replied that he was not influenced by many philosophers and he didn’t believe that God was dead because he believed that God never existed.

13. A Christian youth worker said that he had learned from Dawkins’ book about the importance of teaching critical evaluation to children but he wondered why Dawkins insisted that the source behind the universe had to be simple and not complex. Dawkins repeated the standard answer in his book which was the mere assertion that it must be so - Dawkins’ Diktat again.   He employed the statistical improbability of a complex Being at the beginning of the Universe. He said that complexity is what we are trying to explain, so we cannot have a complex God at the beginning. There are at least two mistakes with this.

    (a) Dawkins petulantly refuses to heed the Christian doctrine of God and prefers to insist on his own definition. He has thus produced a god of his own devising and knocked down this proverbial aunt Sally. Christians agree that God is not complex in the sense that the material Universe is complex, and Christian theologians declare that God is simple. Dawkins knows this The God Delusion pp. 185-187, but he insists on saying that God must be complex. More Dawkins’ Diktat. He is not arguing against the Christian God.

    (b) His second mistake is to assume that God is part of this Universe (or Multiverses as astrophysical evolutionists imagine) and thus He must partake of the properties of the Universe, including composition from basic particles, or complexity. This is a fundamental mistake of enormous proportions which comes from Dawkins’ refusal to even try to be a theologian. This just makes him a bad theologian instead of a good or non-theologian. In his answer Dawkins accepted that if we mean by God that there may be a quantum fluctuation in the Universe, hitherto undiscovered, then he could agree with this - but then the argument is about words. What Christians called God he would call a quantum fluctuation, and this is simple and not complex. However there is no reason to give that quantum fluctuation the properties of the Christian God Who hears prayer and forgives sin.

Precisely, Professor Dawkins, Christians would never demean their God so as to identify Him with a quantum effect, for the Christian God is not part of His universe, which is a pantheistic error. It is evident that God upholds the Universe through such quantum effects throughout the Universe and thereby controls the whole. I use ‘evident’ advisely, as related to the word evidence, the holy grail of Dawkins’ non-quest for God Whom he appears to hope he will never find. Richard Dawkins doesn’t want to contemplate the Christian God; he wants a god he can handle in his mind or not at all. In Psalm 50:21 God points out the error of human beings thinking that God is like themselves.

14. The chairman, Gary Robertson, reminded us that time was short so questions should be brief. The next question came from this reviewer who said that Richard Dawkins had appealed for evidence before he could believe in God. The questioner suggested that we must take all the evidence into account, not just part of it, yet The God Delusion did not handle two of the principal arguments used in the Bible for the being of God. He said that the God of the Bible’s own proof of His Being was that He could foretell the future. We know that Newtonian Physics can predict the future at one level, but the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle showed that we could not do it absolutely. (Dawkins had already said in his answer to the first question that evolution cannot predict what will happen.)  
Dawkins expressed his astonishment that anyone would use the Bible as an authority. The questioner said that God showed that He could foretell the future by the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecies. Dawkins sought refuge from this argument by quoting modern biblical scholars who say that the New Testament text has been doctored to fulfil the Old Testament prophecies, (thus putting a lot of sparsely available Dawkins’ faith in these biblical scholars, who wouldn’t have got a salary to do their work if it was up to Dawkins).
The questioner came back that Dawkins was asking for evidence and that some of the Old Testament evidence was quite independent of the New Testament as it was used by early Christians before there was any New Testament, thus the evidence can be impartially analysed now and it is independent of the New Testament text. So Dawkins challenged him to prove fulfilled prophecy. The questioner said it was quite easy and well-known to many Christians, with many prophecies available.
Gary Robertson stepped in to allow only one. So the questioner stated that the Old Testament prophecies can be independently shown to have been written 300 years before Christ because the Septuagint Greek translation was made at that time. Yet Dan 9:25-27 predicted that Christ would come and be killed before the Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D.
Dawkins responded that people can make prophecies say what they want them to say and that we only the notice the ones which come true. The questioner responded that these Old Testament prophecies can be dated and the fulfilment can be dated. So there the exchange had to end to allow time for the remaining questions. With Dawkins’ beaten from his New Testament defence, he retreated to the defence that people make prophecies mean what they want. So let readers read them for themselves instead of relying on Dawkins’ interpretation.
 
15. A question whether teaching religion is tantamount to child abuse yielded a balanced reply from Dawkins with a less balanced but pointed quotation from Steven Weinberg that “For good people to do bad things – that takes religion.” (applause). Does Richard Dawkins think that good atheists don’t do bad things? This is what this quotation implies. Dawkins believes that atheists are good people; so this translates into “For atheists to do bad things – that takes religion.” Ergo:as atheists don’t ‘do religion’ they don’t do bad things! This shows how truth must give way to the propaganda value of a catchy quote.

There is a way by which we can make the statement stand, and that is to recall that agnosticism and atheism are just bad religion and thus their devotees can be included in the statement. However, this is not what Dawkins meant. A Christian may think that the quotation can be made more accurate if we substitute the phrase ‘false religion’ for religion, but, sadly, even true religion has its perverters. The pertinent idea in this catchy slogan is that the sensitive religious conscience of good men can be coerced to do bad things. This is an alarming truth. Thus the 16th Century Protestant Reformers spent much time on the subject of liberty of conscience, studying its limits and how it operates in order to escape the ensnaring tentacles of Roman Catholic dogma. Modern man knows very little about this and thus his conscience is easily manipulated and coerced, including religious man. However atheists and agnostics fool themselves if they think they are immune from this.
 
16. The next question drew attention to the intellect of human beings enabling us to bring about our own destruction and possibly that of the planet. Will we destroy ourselves? This brought forth the depressing answer that “evolution has no foresight” implying that if an evolutionary development moves in a self-destructing direction then it will continue as it cannot see the future. Dawkins gives examples of this in The God Delusion, for example, why moths fly into candle flames p. 201. Dawkins advocated that foresight came into world with advanced brains. He concedes that it appears that human beings are unique in their ability to look ahead.

This reviewer couldn’t help thinking of the prophecy or foresight argument mentioned earlier for the Being of God and of the second biblical proof for the Being God – that man is made in the image of God. A thoughtful observer of the rationalist-religion debate will notice the large number of cross-over ideas and points where the same reasoning processes are arriving at different conclusions because of the different initial presuppositions. Back to Dawkins–he reminded his questioner that natural selection does not favour humans so if we engage in self-destructive behaviour, so be it. After all, 99% of species have already become extinct.   This is ‘bad news’ – Richard Dawkins has no gospel.
 
17. The next questioner asked if Dawkins thought that an atheist society will have a secular church. Dawkins accepted that it appears to be part of the human condition that people need fellowship, but he saw no need to have an alternative to church.


18. The last questioner asked Dawkins what he had to say to someone like him who had many decades of Christian witness and experience? Dawkins replied that if he had been born in India he would say the same thing about Krishna, if he was born in Afghanistan he would say the same thing about Allah; and so on with a well-rehearsed list of the religions and gods of the Vikings and Greeks. He concluded that the human mind is very susceptible to hallucination. The questioner responded that he was not building his life on a hallucination but on the Rock Jesus Christ. Dawkins concluded that he did not doubt the questioner’s sincerity but he thought that he was hallucinating.

This reviewer acknowledges that Dawkins is quite right to say that people too readily adopt the religion of their parents in an uncritical fashion, but Dawkins did not address nor explain how conversion from one religion to another takes place by adults even at great personal sacrifice. He has an evolutionary explanation for this behaviour, but it is a subject which cannot be subsumed under the category of uncritical acceptance of the teaching of authority figures, which I think was the essence of his answer. Anyway, the answer to the question asked ‘what do you have to say?’ was ‘you are hallucinating’. Thus the Questions and Answers session finished on this note of the gratuitous assumption that hallucination can explain all religious experience.
 
Concluding thoughts
 
Goliath came to town to defy the God of Israel as well as the false gods of all history. He stalked up and down the valley issuing his challenges to the armies of Israel to fight with him. Many Christians stayed at home this day; they had better things to do. Others watched in bemusement, pretending they could engage him if only he was not so strident. Others, more honest, considered themselves not up to the fight, and like the armies of Israel remained on the sidelines watching.
 
Thankfully some have taken him on, such as David Robertson in The Dawkins Letters. The Christian Church will need to address the arguments and take to the field of battle. Disparaging, impassioned, ad hominem arguments will not do, nor will phlegmatic condemnation, nor a patronising, supercilious, sanctimonious sigh. Let the Christian Church pray, and when God answers its prayers it will be by someone answering Dawkins’ arguments. Can someone not answer him, or is the only way to answer Dawkins for God to convert him so that he will expose the weakness of his own arguments? Happy day for Dawkins if this happens; meanwhile the Christian Church will need to work as well as pray. Proper prayer is goal-directed, unlike blind evolution. We don’t want blind faith, blind prayers nor blind watchmakers. We have a goal and a vision, directed by our Lord Jesus Christ. Let us live worthy of Him.
 
One Christian magazine carried a review of The God Delusion from a former atheist who stated that one of the strongest critiques of The God Delusion came from the Marxist philosopher Terry Eagleton in the London Review of Books for 19 October 2006. It is a pity that the strongest critique did not come from a Christian. Eagleton is an ex-Roman Catholic atheist. His review is more of an outpouring of angst at Dawkins’ lumping all religion together. “Critics of the richest, most enduring form of popular culture in human history have a moral obligation to confront that case at its most persuasive, rather than grabbing themselves a victory on the cheap by savaging it as so much garbage and gobbledygook.”

His review supplies a reassertion of garbled theology which will not persuade nor move Dawkins one iota. He does not address Richard Dawkins’ arguments about God, and it is more of a protest rather than a reasoned rebuttal of Richard Dawkins’ arguments. Atheist though he was, Eagleton did not like Dawkins’ strident knocking of his former religionists. Doesn’t it show how hard it is for old loyalties to die? This review was an impassioned rant against Dawkins which amounted to: how dare he miscall so many good religious people! If this type of response is typical, then Goliath will continue to stalk the Christian camp. Our Protestant Reformers knew how to debate and win arguments.
 
Having listened to Richard Dawkins and reported here his answers to individual questions, there is not one answer to any of these questions which lays a finger on the Christian religion. He doesn’t even deign to consider the Christian God.
However it is important to make distinctions. Richard Dawkins divides The God Delusion into two. The first half explains why he does not believe in God, the second half why he does not believe in religion. It is correct to make such a distinction. For a man who does not believe in God Richard Dawkins has many things to say about His non-existence. It reminds me of a more radical Teacher Who declared: “You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God.”

However, we need to recognise that Dawkins’ real target is religion, not God. His method of attacking religion is to deny the Being of God. In our Christian zeal to honour God we must not be seen to defend false religion. We join common cause with Dawkins against the superstitious bondage of false religion, the hallucinations which are passed off for religious experience, the manipulation of the religious conscience, blind faith and the islamic terrorism which motivates his passion against false religion.
Jesus was more radical than Dawkins is on these subjects, and He used strong language against false teachers of religion. The Reformers delivered us from such false religion but we have fallen upon poor times, although not hopeless times. Richard Dawkins is taking on false religion in a manner that too many Christians are failing to do. Christians should not make excuses for false religion but seek to win its devotees to Christ.
 
There is a spell on Richard Dawkins, but it is not a God-spell. Dawkins has no Gospel. The report of his performance in the local newspaper The Inverness Courier highlights his depressing message. “Outspoken atheist warns of human extinction threat” reads the banner headline, with a highlighted quote: “I don’t think there has been a mechanism by which a species took steps to halt a headlong rush to extinction.”
Christians have the Gospel, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ. We need to present the evidence for it and not promote blind faith. We do not ‘leap in the dark’. We must re-learn the gentle art of ‘persuading men’ with arguments which commend themselves to every man’s conscience (2Cor 5:11). “Come now, and let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” Isa 1:18.
 
Dawkins will do damage to Christianity as long as its devotees bury their heads in the sand and hope the danger will go away. We need to notice that Dawkins does not attack the Christian God as he refuses to consider Him in his orbit of notice. We need to notice what Dawkins does not admit as evidence, such as the fulfilment of biblical prophecy. We need to notice that Dawkins has chosen the battleground; he wants to focus attention on natural selection which, after all, is his familiar territory.

By the way – Christians agree that natural selection takes place. His strongest argument on which he expends so much energy is a non-starter. There is no dispute over it. He is boxing his shadow, or beating the air as the apostle Paul would say. It is evolution which is false. There is a lot more evidence in this world than the evidence on which Richard Dawkins would try to focus our attention.
 
When the apostle Paul was teaching about the resurrection, he presented some arguments against it and then he concluded: ‘But now is Christ risen from the dead.’ Christians have good news to proclaim; we will leave pessimistic evolutionism to atheists.
 
 

 


Dr Donald Boyd, 29/04/2008

Feedback:
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a h 23/01/2010 22:32
"In the event of there being a god the Christian version is so unlikely that it can be discounted"

I'd love to know how you came to this conclusion in your quest?
John Wilson (Guest) 24/01/2010 01:39
“I'd love to know how you came to this conclusion in your quest?”
Perhaps “please could you tell me how you came to this conclusion?” would be a better
“Mr Benn, unlike my gracious friends, I have no more than a passing interest when it comes to debating atheists. Firstly, unlike most non-Christians, you actually have an agenda.

You have no interest in actually finding the truth about the 'actual' message of the Bible as whole.

Your philosophical entrenchments are exalted and the Bible is minimised to being 'old texts' or something like that.

You think you think for yourself, but you don’t because you know as well as I do that your thinking is based on the philosophical arguments of your atheist forefathers.

So, to be blunt but honest - in short - debating you is pointless, unless you are prepared to take one person on, have a set of rules - stick to them, and debate one point at a time until both sides are exhausted.

Every single argument you have for the non-existence of God is refutable
.So let's not spit the dummies out of the pram just yet.



Please no offence to my Christian Brother but I wouldn’t blame Mr Benn if he didn’t even reply!
I would agree with some of the comments made but there is a way of delivering them! The tone in which we sometimes express our comments are not a good reflection on Christianity. (If I had the gift of prophecy and if I understood all of God's secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn't love others, I would be nothing (1 Corinthians vs 2)
I too have no time for and get frustrated at arrogant atheists who come on websites like this to mock the Christian faith with no desire for truth, but from what I can see W Benn he has been polite and tactful to avoid deliberate offence to Christians with his opinions and questions whilst being honest about his views even though I don’t agree with them, What he calls “vindictive” another might call “justice” perhaps that how he genually perceives Gods punishment for unsaved sinners at this moment and time. That’s how I used to see God before God shined a light on my Heart and used a polite Christian to convict me of my sin by explaining Gods law, Justice and holiness to me. Non believers sometimes find the concept of Hell incompatible with a God of Love because the world has conditioned them to have distorted view of Gods goodness and love.
Unless w’eve been given a revelation about the condition of Benn’s heart we could not possibly make any bold judgments or discernment about his “agenda” or desire for truth based on his comments so far. They have been expressed with gentleness and respect and raise many of the typical Questions and verses of Scipture that non believers and some Christians wrestle with, and for which ironically, we are required by Scripture to give answers for with gentleness and respect. (But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 1 Peter 3:15)
Lets stick to the Science and the theology, we can be blunt about our views its good and gets to the point but lets do so in a spirit of love patience meekness, tolerance etc. This is a great site and there are some great theological minds on these forums that have been a blessing to me when I read them but I do wonder sometimes where the compassion is especially in disagreements between brothers and the knock on effect of a poor witness to non-believers when they see the tone in which we speak/write.
I read an article a few weeks ago on another site in which Jehovah witnesses were confused not by Christianity nor by the differing fundamental doctrines, but because of the tone in which they are spoken too when discussing theology with christians. It’s good to stand on the authority of God’s word and to be Zealous for his Truth but we can do this in a way that shows love, concern and sensitivity without compromising our beliefs. Insulting God is not something only atheists do; Christians do it all the time in when they sin, In their behaviour, conduct, disobedience and lack of compassion
In Love.
a h 24/01/2010 15:14
"but from what I can see W Benn he has been polite and tactful to avoid deliberate offence to Christians with his opinions "

Really?

Let's just take a little slice of Mr Benn's attitude.
"there may be a god but it is unlikely.In the event of there being a god the Christian version is so unlikely that it can be discounted."
Insulting everyone.
"I can probably anticipate your answer - free will - its your decision etc. If I am right please stand back and think - what sort of God is that?"
Insulting God?
"Part of the problem is that at church, generally speaking, they tend to be driven by faith and perhaps, as a result, subconsciously they recall what they find acceptable and forget the rest. "

Insulting Christians.

"The defence of religion by Christians never fails to amaze me. It seems to be short of substance regarding crucial aspects of religion but quick to imbue characterists of Professor Mr Dawkins that often do not exist."

Insulting Christians.

"make far more sense than dusty books that spring from people thousands of years ago. Christians had great difficulty in deciding which parts of the bible to release and those to reject - much of it down to the politits and preferences of people rather than a 'God'."

Just complete nonsense.


John, you carry on, I've spoke my mind.

Honest inquiry is one thing; snearing mockery is quite another. Maybe Mr Benn cannot help himself. He has perhaps loaded himself with atheistic indoctrination and needs an outlet. It happoens.

Maybe he will read a book and then come back with a different attitude towards the Bible and Christians. "Does God Believe in Atheists" by John Blanchard. I wouldd doubt if any atheist could read that and remain the same.

Romans 1: 19 - 20
"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. "

Atheism is a religion of hatred of the things of God. Wilful ignorance. Thats the truth.
W Benn (Guest) 24/01/2010 19:32
I currently have only ten minutes to spare but here are a few words.On the one hand at least one of you likes to call a spade a spade but then some of you mistake strongly held convictions for personal insult.Seemingly there is a wish to prohibit profound disagreement.I would not dream of insulting people that I have never met but I reserve the right to give no credence to their religion by use of free speech.

It has been said that an educated man or woman is aware of how little they know. Well on the scale of things I consider myself to be semi- educated; there is a tremendous amount that I do not know - advanced maths is a mystery to me along with many other things but let me turn to Christianity. Does anyone give me credit for having spent years grappling with it and then being upset when I realised that I no longer had belief? As an aside, in my experience, the Church does not seem to have much facility for helping people that have lost faith. If one had relied on that community for friendship and then lost the faith it can become sad because of a loss of shared belief and companionship.

Regarding the author John Blanchard - I will seek a copy. Pleae be aware that I have read many religious books and many of them were written from a Christian perspective.

One final point. It may have been Dr. Boyd that passed a comment - something like- not so much vindictive maybe justice. I think we have crossed lines here. I was referring to - or at least meant to refer to - Humanists that had led a good life and had at one time strove to believe but failed. Those people do not deserve harsh punishment this side of the Enlightenment. I wish to thank [very much] the writer that attempted to give a balance view - it ws probably Dr.Boyd but I might be wrong.
a h 24/01/2010 23:30
Mr Benn, my writing ability and skill of expression do not always reflect my true demeanour, attitude, intentions etc. It is very easy to misunderstand people in the written word. Theologians will testify to that!

I may have come over as a little harsh but at the same time I was not soft soaping you, that is for sure. However, I do at least put my carpet slippers on before I put the boot in. (Now that was a joke, so calm down lads)

Maybe you don’t realise it, (but I still suspect you do), some of your comments are inflammatory.

“Seemingly there is a wish to prohibit profound disagreement”

No there isn’t. I am the only one who has responded to you negatively and only because you were being, (in my opinion) derogatory about God, Christian doctrine, Christian people etc.


“Does anyone give me credit for having spent years grappling with it and then being upset when I realised that I no longer had belief?”

Yes, credit where credit is due. However just a correction, you still have belief and you still have faith. Just not in God.

Your belief is in man and his ability to develop in his material word and to better himself and to achieve his dreams and ambitions. You probably believe in science’s ability to explain natural origins and so on.


As an aside, in my experience, the Church does not seem to have much facility for helping people that have lost faith. If one had relied on that community for friendship and then lost the faith it can become sad because of a loss of shared belief and companionship.”

The church is fragmented and political at times. There are many churches and many people who are the salt of the Earth and would not allow you to go without an attempt to win your soul for Christ. We should actually do as the Bible says, and not put our trust in men alone
Hebrews 12:2
“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Jesus knows how it is when people are just no help at all.

“Humanists that had led a good life and had at one time strove to believe but failed. Those people do not deserve harsh punishment this side of the Enlightenment.”

‘Good’ as defined by God? Well, we all fall short.
Mr Benn, one of the most ignored truths in the Bible (and this is why when we accept certain truths, they set us free. Free from the kind of thinking that leads us into deception. )

Romans 3:23
"for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
W Benn (Guest) 25/01/2010 09:45
Mr Hughes -thank you for your considered views - they are appreciated by me. I did expect to upset some of the Christian community but I did not wish for it.I am convinced that a significant majority of people professing the Christian religion hold their beliefs in a sincere way and to attack such views can be traumatic and is sometimes considered personal.

Let me clarify my worldly outlook just a little bit. The world is in a mess. It is not beautiful as such - rather there are wide contrasts ranging from wonderful sunsets to desolation and pain - some of the latter not being the fault of humanity itself. However humans have much to be criticised for - there is greed, deception, weakness etc. but all of that can be contrasted with those humans that possess high ideals and the most worthy aspirations.Some people are inspirational and can change other people's lives for the good whilst others assist some to sink into despair.

With regards to material progress I am all for it but it is a question of balance; it helps to bring some people out of abject poverty but taken to excess it threatens the planet.

Science does not know all the answers and it is the hallmark of science that it knows that is the case. Not knowing everything is one of its prime motivators! One scientist walked down to a lecturer's podium and thanked a fellow scientist for correcting his long held theory.

With regards to religion I see it as an exercise in the balance of probabilities. When I get more time I will concentrate on why I think the balance is tipped against religion.

I would like to conclude today by pointing out that I am aware that there are good and bad Christians and good and bad non believers. In fact there is good and bad in everybody.
Veronique Denyer (Guest) 25/01/2010 13:28
Alan Hughes - I find it strange that you claim your writing ability and skills of expression do not reflect your true demeanour etc, etc and demur (basically) that you are misunderstood, but not allow the same for your criticisers (if indeed they requested fair play on that front).

You responded to Mr Benn – “...because you were being, (in my opinion) derogatory about God, Christian doctrine, Christian people etc.” I might point out that no one, not even you, has the right to be not offended by what may or may not be said about a set of ‘faith-held’, un-provable beliefs.

Mr Benn needs no help from the likes of me and I have arrived here because of one of the internet peripatetics on RD dot net.

I am not nor ever have been a Christian or believer in any religious belief, certainly never drawn to any of the writings or behaviours of the monolithic Abrahamic religions. I was drawn briefly, as a reader of Greek history, to the Greek Pantheon but that went as I grew up and learned to think critically about such things.

Mr Hughes, one of the most ignored truths of observation is that clear thinking and free enquiry has the potential to set mankind free from unsubstantiated dogma that can only lead to group delusion and self deception.

Mr Benn points out that science does not have all the answers but as time goes on, the gods have less answers and science burns more brightly than ever.

Humans are capable of so much that it is a shame that they continually try to climb stairways to heaven that lead nowhere while they have such a deleterious effect on the habitat they try to leave behind. Humans would be better served if they realised the anchor that their habitat is and leave the stairway for those who don’t cope well with reality as she is wrote.

I don’t paste my posts with quotes from a book written to service the fears of tribes people with little to look forward to. I am fortunate to have been born in the 20th Century – a most marvellous one (and devastating as well). Mr Benn sounds eminently sensible to my mind.

The Judaeo-Christian bible is a frightened, outdated and dangerous book to my mind. That people rely on its uneducated content for rote learning and solace tempers me with a sadness too deep for tears.
Peter Carr 25/01/2010 15:30
W Benn said, "I would like to conclude today by pointing out that I am aware that there are good and bad Christians and good and bad non believers. In fact there is good and bad in everybody."

Interesting conclusion! How about comparing your conclusion with what God's word (the Bible says)?

Genesis 1:27 (New International Version)
"So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them."

Romans 3:23 (New International Version)
"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God...'

See any similarities to your conclusion and God's word? Why is there good and bad in us all? Humanity is made in God's image, that image has become very distorted due to sin and rebellion (Cf. Gen 3).
W Benn (Guest) 25/01/2010 16:25
Mr Carr it seems to me that the human condition is complicated. Human nature requires some discipline,some civilisation and a liberty over certain aspects of the senses and desires etc. That is why I and others admire relatively controlled, perceptive people - those in sympathy with the human condition and fully active in trying to enhance humanity. It is nice to be free of the thought police, and gentle with one's inevitable failings, without recourse to describing them as sins.

When I visited church on a sunday it was automatically assumed by the vicar, in sermon and bible quote, that I and the others present had sinned during the previous week. That was tiresome during those periods when I was doing fairly well to be good, even though I say that myself! People well short of serious crime should be gentle with themselves and try to do better without labelling fairly minor transgressions as sins.

If God created man in his own image man needs urgent help. Have you read a great deal of the bible? Killing people and legitimising slavery is not something that I would want as major characteristics of my personality. Please do not ask me for relevant bible references. You are capable of finding them for yourself and my doing so it will all the more re-enforce what your God has said.

I do not wish to be unpleasant and infact I respect you a great deal. No - it is your religion that concerns me.

Thank you Veronique for your words of support.
Peter Carr 25/01/2010 17:17
Thank you for your response Mr Benn, please call me Peter. You ask if I have read a great deal of the bible, the answer is yes. At the age of 37 years I accepted Jesus as my own and personal Saviour, now 12 years later as a Christian minister, I have the joy of studying His word daily and weekly for my own benefit, and the benefit of preaching and teaching His word to others.

Prior to becoming a Christian, I did not attend church, nor did I own a bible. However, when it all became relevant to me, I too struggled with some aspects of the bible.

I now accept it as His revealed word for humanity. I am not in a position to question Him, nor indeed dicatate to Him. I do however know of the wonderful peace, joy, love, grace and mercy that flows into my life each and every day since I accepted His terms of reconcilliation. What are those terms? Well again we need only turn to His word for the answer;

John 3:16-18 (New International Version)

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son."
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Christians Together in the Highlands and Islands > Archive > Around the Region > Wider News > Richard Dawkins' Delusion about God