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CHRISTOPHER TAYLOR'S BOOKS

Monday, December 27, 2010

BASHING FAITH, AGAIN

"A 30 line Java script could probably do this guys job for him. Just have it string together a random set of ignorant ravings about Galileo, how religion is, like, sooo mean vis-a-vis sexual morality and various choice quotes from Elmer Gantry."

Hate Christianity
It wouldn't be a modern Christmas without at least one rabid, bitter atheist sounding off about how evil the whole "save us from our sins, peace and joy to all" thing is. This time, like so often, it was by Richard Dawkins, wrote for The Guardian in response to the Pope's message of the gospel and salvation by Jesus Christ. Dawkins hit all the usual talking points with the literary acumen of a scientist, including these:
We've already had what little apology we are going to get (none in most cases) for the raped children, the Aids-sufferers in Africa, the centuries spent attacking Jews, science, women and "heretics", the indulgences and more modern (and tax-deductible) methods of fleecing the gullible to build the Vatican's vast fortune. So, no surprise that these weren't mentioned.
Dawkins then went on to rant about how awful the concept of original sin is, ending with this thought:
Almighty God, who reads our every thought and hears our every prayer, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent God couldn't think of a better way to forgive us than to have himself tortured and executed. For heaven's sake, if he wanted to forgive us, why didn't he just forgive us? Who, after all, needed to be impressed by the blood and the agony? Nobody but himself.
That's actually quite easy to answer, and has been answered thousands of times by Christians in very deep, eloquent, educated, and well-written manner for almost two thousand years, but Dawkins is less interested in the answer to his question than kicking Christians as hard as he can and as often as he can.

Most atheists are pretty easy to get along with. They disagree with religious teaching, but consider that a personal matter, and people believe all kinds of things. Its none of their business, and the wiser ones recognize good in religions as well as bad. At worst, most atheists tend to consider Christianity a myth told by well-meaning parents to kids like Santa Claus.

Then there are the really angry atheists, the small, but loud and obnoxious branch of the religion (yes, atheism is its own little faith) which hates religion, fears it, and considers religion the source of all evil and horror on the planet. They will with the slightest provocation begin to spew a litany of terrible things real, distorted, and imagined, which they attribute to religion over the history of mankind and then talk about the good, noble, and wonderful things done by atheists and without the horrible taint of religion over that same time period.

This sort of dishonesty is common among the very ideological: pick the worst of your opponent and the best of your side then hold them up for comparison. See, we're so much better than you! Its not just rude to do this, but deeply dishonest. There's good and bad in all sorts of people with all sorts of ideologies. Even the worst ideologies such as Communism had people who did good and noble ideas in it (why can't we all just have what we need, rather than fighting over it?).

Doonsebury
Dawkins is not what you'd call a towering intellect, nor is he a scientist of any great note. He's a spokesman for aggressive, angry Darwinism, the sort of Evolutionist who thinks anyone who dares disagree with the theory is not just confused or mistaken but pernicious and moronic. He regularly will publicize this sort of angry diatribe which doesn't do much to promote his side, but gives hundreds of his disciples new talking points - or more often, reworded old ones - to refresh their angry posts on the internet.

Dawkins' problem here isn't just that he's dishonest in his historical outlook or inexcusably ignorant of Christian theology, its that his thesis is fundamentally flawed.

His first problem is that atheism actually was responsible for the greatest horrors, most deaths, greatest amount of misery, torture, and lack in the history of mankind - particularly in the 20th century - a level which far eclipses all religious-based evils. The evils of the inquisition simply cannot, even over six centuries, even come close to the systematic and faux-scientific methodology of just over a decade of the holocaust. All the religious wars in history cannot equal the deaths caused by Communism in just seventy years.

To be sure, someone like Dawkins would argue that Communism, Nazism, and the other ideological movements of the 20th century which drove men like Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Nicolai Ceau┼čescu, and more famous monsters were ideologies that were effectively religions and it was not atheism which is to blame for what they did.

There are two problems with that argument. First, Christians could make the same argument, that it wasn't Christianity which promoted these evils, but people's ideology misusing it.

Second, Dawkins is making a logical error here. His argument is that atheism is noble and good, but religion is bad, but then he argues when confronted with the evils atheists committed that this wasn't due to atheism but ideology. Atheism is an ideology as well, but Dawkins wants us to believe that its perfectly noble. He wants us to believe that ideology when it does bad is religion and when it does good its atheism. He wants to argue that every ideology in the world is innately evil and flawed but atheism.

Which sounds an awful lot like any other religious person talking about their faith. I'll agree that Fascism and Communism ended up being much like any religion with its creeds and zealots and writings and rituals and so on. But then, so does atheism, particularly the really angry type that Dawkins holds to. What makes his religion not the bad kind, if religions are innately flawed?

He'd be better off with an argument along the lines of this: "If the inquisition had the technology and advanced science of the Nazis, they'd have done as bad or worse." That's impossible to refute because it is untestable and it has a reasonable sounding ring to it. That argument too falls apart on closer inspection (the very science he touts as being the result of atheism would negate the more superstitious and zealous parts of

But here's the biggest flaw in Dawkins' thesis. His entire argument is that the doctrine of original sin, atonement, and propitiation make no sense, that God should have just waved a magic wand and made everything okay. He thinks the concept of original sin is reprehensible and awful, particularly when dealing with cute innocent babies (apparently he didn't pay much attention to his daughter when she was a baby).

Yet he spends plenty of time every reference to religion talking about how evil and horrible it is and how terrible people are to each other in the name of religion. Where did that bad behavior come from? Dawkins would try to argue 'religion' but that's no answer because it has to have an origin. Why did religions cause people do do bad things? What forces of evolution make people invent imaginary deities and do nasty things to each other in their name, as he argues?

Christians point to original sin: we do terrible things because we are tainted by sin, it is an innate part of fallen human nature to do bad, restrained only by God's common grace. Dawkins has no origin point for bad.

What's more, he has no basis upon which to argue something is bad. He has no base line, no moral center to determine right and wrong. You can argue efficient or not, you can argue whether behavior is more or less likely to promote a stable society, protect life, or promote growth, but you cannot argue morality without an absolute, objective standard. All you can say is "this is what I'd rather not happen" never "this is wrong." What's worse, he has no basis for arguing anything is good either.

Evolution knows no morality, no right, no wrong. Its simply an apersonal force of continuing change in response to external stimulus. It is no more good or evil than photosynthesis or decay, it just is. Evolution cannot produce morality either, nor can it produce the ideals or principles of ethics. It simply produces changes which may or may not be beneficial for the creature's survival and ability to breed. There's no origin or bases for good and evil in Dawkins' philosophy.

So he's left off even worse than the Christian who cannot adequately explain why evil happens in a world with a sovereign and righteous God. He can't explain it either, nor can he explain good.

One final note: Dawkins and his ilk never seem to have much negative to say about other religions such as Islam which is practicing right now the kinds of evils which he attributes to Christianity in centuries past. Sure, they'll mumble something negative about Islam, but never with the frequency, fervor or especially public noise they do about Christianity. You'd think if their real purpose was to show how bad religion was and to try to stamp it out, the present evil would trump ancient ones long abandoned.

Of course, the Pope won't issue a decree that Dawkins be put to death for criticizing him or Christianity. But that doesn't explain why Hinduism, Buddhism, and dozens of other religions get such a pass from these really angry atheists. Sure, they'll mention them in a sort of group "evils of religion" side comment, but its Christianity that gets the bulk of their anger and hate. Methinks the gentlemen doth protest overmuch.

1 Comments:

Blogger Lauren said...

beautifully said. thank you taylor :)

3:12 PM, January 12, 2011  

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