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A Review of
Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part V
Sept 7, 2007, Wausau, Wi — So far, in my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I have showed how Dawkins’ arguments in the first chapter of his book concerning religion in general and Christianity in particular are seriously flawed. In chapter two Dawkins turns to the more specific question of God.
He starts the chapter with what can at best be characterized as a stereotypical rant, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all the fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, and unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniac, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”
The main justification that Dawkins’ gives for this statement is that Winston Churchill’s son, Randolph, came to a similar conclusion when he read the Old Testament for the first time while in the army.
As a result, his views were not based on any serious in depth understanding of the text. No attempt was made to put any of the books into an historical context. No attempt was made to put the books into any cultural context. There was simply a superficial reading.
Dawkins goes on to write that, “It is unfair to attack such an easy target.” The reason it is so easy is that what Dawkins has done here is to create a strawman view of god that he can then easily knock down, not an accurate depiction of God based on any scholarly analysis of the text.
Dawkins goes on from this to state his alternative to god, “any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.” His alternative is a little confusing because it seems to be, not an alternative to god, but a reason why a god could not exist. But even as a reason why a god could not exist, it still does not make very much sense because it is based on the premise that a god would be a part of the universe and therefore that would need to evolve. But a god who created the universe could not be part of the created universe without falling into the absurdity of self creation.
From there Dawkins goes on to expand the view of religion that sees progress from “primitive tribal animisms, and, through Polytheisms such as those of the Greeks, Romans and Norsemen, to monotheisms such as Judaism and its derivatives, Christianity and Islam.” (pg 32) While this seems like a nice neat theory that fits Dawkins bias to see evolution everywhere, as I discuss in my book, Evidence for the Bible, if anything the opposite is true. Monotheism seems to devolve into polytheism, and the tendency would seem to be to create more gods, not fewer. Even in modern times, as Western civilization as moved away from Christianity, God has been replaced by many other things, wealth, fame, country, science, nature. Now even in science there are those pushing the concept of Gaia or mother earth.
While Dawkins purports to discuss polytheism at this point, instead, he quickly switches to ridiculing the Trinity. That his discussion of the Trinity occurs in the section on polytheism shows once again the superficiality with which Dawkins approach religion. After quoting a passage from St. Gregory, Dawkins takes one of his characteristic swipes at religion, saying “his words convey a characteristically obscurantist flavor of theology, which – unlike science or most other branches of human scholarship – has not moved on in 18 centuries.”
The first problem with this is that there was nothing particularly obscure in St. Gregory’s discussion of the Trinity. That Dawkins finds it obscured is simply more evidence of his superficiality. Anyone, reading a technical discussion in a field of study where they are not familiar with the key issues, problems, or terminology, is likely to find that discussion obscure.
Dawkins’ claim that theology has not “moved on in 18 centuries” is equally as false. Sure the basic doctrines such as God, Jesus Christ, and salvation, have not changed. But why should they? If scientists 18 centuries from now still believe in gravity will that be a reason to reject science because it is not moved on? On the other hand, to say there has been no development in theology in the last 18 centuries is simply false.
In fact, just in the last hundred years there’s been tremendous development in our understanding of the Bible, as our understanding of Biblical languages, archaeology, and history have improved. Granted, these have not challenged the foundations of our faith, and in fact if anything, have strengthened them, has they have demonstrated the reliability of the Bible, and have refuted most of the arguments put forth by critics such as Dawkins, which is perhaps why Dawkins ignores these developments.
Dawkins’ closes the section on polytheism by attempting to forestall the criticism that the god Dawkins is attacking is not the God that Christians believe in. His response is that all notions of god are silly and that he is “attacking god, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.”
While this is a bold and sweeping claim, it does not match the actual arguments in the book. It would be like claiming you are refuting all of science, when all of your argument relate to alchemy. Likewise Dawkins’ arguments fall short.
This is Elgin Hushbeck,
asking you to Consider
Faith Based on Fact.
See www.consider.org for additional information.
The book and press materials are available upon request.
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