Today: Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Dawkins: the unattractive alternative    (1/15/2012 )

It may be time to move on from Richard Dawkins and his populist book The God Delusion. You might well ask whether we should take any notice of it—he clearly has no intention of trying to understand what faith is about; despite all his claims about reason he actually doesn’t listen to reason; and, for all his outspokenness, he refuses to debate the issues.

Many of his intellectual colleagues are unimpressed by the un-intellectual level of many of his arguments.  I came away from his book feeling that if, that is the best that atheism can do, then atheism doesn’t have much of a case (although, in fact, it almost certainly can do better than this!)

I was also left with a feeling of depression, because some people will accept Dawkins’ views despite the thinness of his case and, no doubt, his deserved reputation as an interpreter of science. But I was shocked by the vision of the kind of world he seeks to create. We have to take serious notice if he and others are really seeking to create a totally atheist state.

All religion clearly gives Dawkins nightmares. But he also wants to create his own nightmare, under the guise of a dream. The dream starts with the astonishing accusation that religious education is worse than sexual abuse. Of course, there have been far too many horror stories of children being taught destructive and damaging dogmas which have scarred their lives as deeply as many incidents of physical abuse. But if that was in the name of religion, it was bad religion—not necessarily religion itself.

Sin and evil can reach every level of human thought and behaviour. In the face of the realities of human nature and human failings, however, what is needed is not no religion but good religion and better people. And atheism has little to offer here.

Here is where the most frightening of Dawkins’ consequences emerges. He wants to deny all parents the right to educate their children in their own belief systems, so that he (or, rather, the secular state) can educate them in its belief systems.

But that nightmare has already been tried (under various forms of communism, for instance)—tried and found desperately wanting. It assumes that the state and its atheistic/scientific guardians know best. It is built on the untruth that children are empty pots to be filled with factual information rather than loved and cherished within the family, taught its values as well as given knowledge about the world. It is built on the myth that the scientific mind has understood the meaning of life more completely and accurately than anyone else.

It’s difficult to believe that Richard Dawkins has given any real thought to where his dream might actually lead. But he, too, has to face the consequences of his own beliefs. In the end, of course, the atheist’s faith is actually little different from the believer’s faith—one believes in the creator God and celebrates everything that leads to; the other believes in the creation and nothing beyond. Both live by their beliefs, but I know which makes more sense to me.

Pray: Lord, I ask your forgiveness and help for all who have abused their privileged positions as parents, teachers, leaders, trusted carers—and have caused deep suffering to those within their care. Forgive me my failure to be a guardian of truth and life for those around me. By the power of your healing love, make this a better world and us a better people. Amen.

Think about:  What we believe has consequences. How far does your belief system make sense of the world, spiritually and practically? Does it actually work, and does it have good consequences for you, those around you and for the world in general?

Challenge: Science and religion should be allies, not enemies. From a Christian perspective, how do you see science influencing faith—and faith influencing science? Can you integrate the two more effectively in your own life?

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