3: Shallow & False Atheistic Casuistry
include the following ‘essay' at the end of this book as an example
of the sort of thinking that is screamed around in the twenty first
century by those who give little deeper thought to the affairs of
the world. Although the themes covered in the following article have
been covered in detail in the chapters of the book, I write in more
general terms for the person who may find themselves here without
having read the chapters first. Possibly afterwards, you may go and
read the book.
January 12th 2010, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti.
In the week following, the media focused on the calamity, but a week
later as changing news slowed down, questions started to arise, the
primary one being, “Why does God allow such suffering?” So then appears
Richard Dawkins who has gone into print on the subject of Haiti and
Christian belief – as he sees it. So here we are with yet a further
blast from the great atheist, providing us with a great example of
his way of thinking.
had to jump on the Haiti
crisis bandwagon at some time and the Christian world, struggling
to make sense of it, have added fuel for him to burn. Let's look carefully
at what he says in this article which is a classic example of abusive
denigrating of the Christian faith based on shallow and uninformed
prejudice. The coloured (purple) print is his writing.
the rumble of Christian hypocrisy
evangelist who says the Haiti
is retribution for sin is at least true to his religion
Dawkins The Times January
know what caused the catastrophe in Haiti.
It was the bumping and grinding of the Caribbean Plate rubbing up
against the North American Plate: a force of nature, sin-free and
indifferent to sin, unpremeditated, unmotivated, supremely unconcerned
with human affairs or human misery.
an atheist he is left with a world of no meaning or purpose. He has
gone to some lengths in recent years to try to make the atheists'
viewpoint acceptable to the rest of us, including his latest offering,
The Greatest Show on Earth. He wants us to see that his view
truly appreciates the wonder of this world which, even in his own
words, gives an appearance of being designed!
herein is an inconsistency, for he wants us to appreciate the wonder
of this amazing world but in so doing ignores all the ways it goes
wrong! He has no explanation for this apart from the mechanical awful
way the world works, which often means people are killed. If he was
truly consistent as some other atheistic writers have been, he would
declare the world is as his friend Peter Atkins put it: “We are
children of chaos, and the deep structure of change is decay. At root,
there is only corruption, and the unstemmable tide of chaos. Gone
is purpose; all that is left is direction. This is the bleakness we
have to accept as we peer deeply and dispassionately into the heart
of the Universe.” THIS is a far more consistent view from the
atheist standpoint (which Dawkins in an earlier book did subscribe
to), but now he finds that honesty doesn't go down well with the rest
of us, so he had abandoned it. But the logic of his viewpoint still
holds to it!
religious mind, however, hubristically appropriates the blind happenings
of physics for petty moralistic purposes. As with the Indonesian tsunami,
which was blamed on loose sexual morals in tourist nightclubs; as
with Hurricane Katrina, which was attributed to divine revenge on
the entire city of New Orleans for organising a gay rally; and as
with other disasters going back to the famous Lisbon earthquake and
beyond, so Haiti's tragedy must be payback for human “sin”.
I said, the struggles of the Christian world have given Dawkins more
fuel. There are some very simple general rules of life which even
Dawkins would agree with. For instance, that our behaviour brings
consequences, and often bad or painful consequences. From his purely
mechanistic standpoint even he would agree with this. The difficulty
might be to try to rationalise the evidence of human experience to
see just how far human behaviour does create consequences.
whole of the current debate about global warning in fact hinges on
this. But perhaps tectonic plates is one step too far which is where
the Biblical world view comes in and suggests there is more to life
than meets the eye, that there is a spiritual dimension that takes
us further than atheists would ever wish to concede because it might
take us towards a supreme spirit – God.
does God bring judgment on human beings? The Biblical answer, and
here Dawkins is right, has to be unquestionably yes, but the form
of such judgment is very varied as we have detailed in the chapters
of this book. Much of the time it appears that the Lord simply steps
back and lifts His hand of restraint off human behaviour and allows
us to go down the slippery path of self-destruction until we come
to our senses (See Romans 1:24-32). That seems to be the
most common form of ‘judgment' that God uses and it is always with
the aim of bringing correction to human behaviour to bring us back
in line with His design for us, living with goodness and love in peace
and harmony, all things which rapidly disappear when we push God out
of our lives, as the West is clearly demonstrating today.
still with the objective of correction, the Bible also seems to see
God using such things as floods, hurricanes earthquakes etc.
(natural phenomena resulting from a Fallen World that no longer works
as it was originally designed to, because of the influences of Sin
upon it) to shake mankind to its senses. Without doubt such judgments
(if we assume they are brought by God and not just being the effects
of a broken world) do verge on the final stage of judgment which is
purposeful bringing an end to human life. The Bible seems clear that
that is only when God sees that nothing that He says or does is going
to change the hard heartedness of individual or even nations.
Rev Pat Robertson, infamous American televangelist, sees the hand
of God in the earthquake, wreaking terrible retribution for a 1791
pact that the Haitians made with the Devil, to help to rid them of
their French masters. 1791? Ah, but don't forget “I the Lord thy God
am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children
unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me”.
first of all I am not a fan of Christian TV; it so often seems to
lead into extremes and just bad TV! Having said that I don't know
Pat Robertson but I know he has been reviled by many as a symbol of
the right wing. It may be that sometimes he is also a declarer of
what is right, as against what is wrong, and almost certainly he won't
always get it right.
fact that Dawkins derides the impact of Voodoo merely reveals Dawkins'
ignorance of this area of activity. Whether Voodoo has anything to
do with rumbling tectonic places I don't know – possibly, and possibly
not! I think what is funny is that Dawkins, without realising it,
has put himself in exactly the same boat as Robertson – those who
are absolutely sure about the causes of the affair. Fools rush in
where angels fear to tread.
Richard does his selective quote routine as he is well known for doing,
sadly showing, I believe, a lack of intellectual integrity, as he
quotes from the Ten Commandments. What he didn't add is the rest of
the sentence which says, “but
showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep
my commandments.” The first
half of the sentence is a warning that sin frequently doesn't just
stay with the first generation but is passed on down the line, younger
following the bad example of the older. The second half of the sentence
says it doesn't have to be like that because at any time you can turn
from that cycle, turn back to God and receive His love. It is not
a condemnatory verse.
Bible isn't averse to giving warnings for they are needed. We've already
referred to consequences and most of us don't realise that what we
are doing will bounce back at us. When we see catastrophes we'd do
better not to get into declaring them a result of specific sins (though
such sins may contribute) but rather instead see them as warning that
none of us is as secure as we might think when we sin and disregard
covered this exact point when people came to question him about apparent
judgment that had fallen upon one specific group of people. He replied
“Do you think that these Galileans
were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered
this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all
perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on
them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living
I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”
(Lk 13:2-5) i.e. don't worry about individual people or situations;
make sure your own life is right with God because one day you ARE
going to have to account to
Him for it.
to say, milder-mannered faith-heads fell over themselves to disown
Robertson, just as they disowned those other pastors, evangelists,
missionaries and mullahs at the time of the earlier disasters.
was an interesting and somewhat spiteful comment! Mild-mannered? Yes,
OK, no problem. Faith-heads? Now that is a derogatory comment that
lacks any respect, but then readers of Dawkins' books will know that
he doesn't respect anyone who varies at all from his particular creed,
even other more gracious atheistic scientists who aren't so dogmatic
as him. The Times should realise that they don't do themselves any
favours letting someone so disliked by so many of his peers to vent
off and raise the ire of so many of the population. I was a bit intrigued
at the inclusion of ‘missionaries' in that group, but I suppose he
knows a missionary somewhere who had the temerity to disagree with
hypocrisy. Loathsome as Robertson's views undoubtedly are, he is the
Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonised
theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable “mystery”, or who
see God in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into
Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God “suffering
on the cross” in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished
hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is
the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
that was a good rant, wasn't it! We've already covered the general
subject of judgment very briefly above. Here he fires with all guns
on those who have striven to make sensible comments about evil and
suffering. He doesn't like people being agnostic and saying that suffering
is a mystery. Say what it is from your viewpoint Richard – the effects
of an unkind, random, frightening world that IS horrible! That IS
your stance. It is all you are left with!
he doesn't like the thought that God is always there to help us when
we call on Him, so He's been there for thousands of people in the
crisis. He also doesn't like Christians who have poured money into
expressing their care and compassion, care and compassion which has
been seen thousands of times in history. One person commenting in
the paper asked, “Are you saying that atheists can't be caring and
compassionate?” No, but the vast majority of organisations around
the world set up to bring humanitarian aid and help to all sorts of
needs, has been Christian inspired and Christian originated. How petty
can you get, throwing cold water over those wanting to help, simply
because they are motivated by the love of their God. Petty point scoring
at its worst!
this tirade reaches its climax with this appalling denunciation of
the Christ who empathises with the poor and the weak and the needy,
for that is what his last reference is about. He cannot understand
that although a judge has to administer justice, he can also be a
bringer of comfort and grace. No wonder he has a barren view of the
God of the Bible who he simply does not understand.
was God in Noah's flood? He was systematically drowning the entire
world, animal as well as human, as punishment for “sin”. Where was
God when Sodom
with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry,
lock, stock and barrel, as punishment for “sin”.
I have written in an earlier chapter, if he read the text properly
he would have seen that the world of that time had degenerated to
an appalling state where not only did justice cry out against what
was happening, but for the world not to go down in an act of self-destruction,
God in His wisdom and in anguish (read the text!) realised that the
only option was to bring the flood while saving some who He could
use to start afresh. A similar examination of Sodom
would reveal a similar situation.
Dawkins rarely seems to talk about justice except when thrust upon
him by the Christian community because, of course, he has no logical
ground for declaring anything right or wrong, or speaking about justice
because without God they are just man-made constructs which can vary
from individual to individual. With such a skewed and baseless world-view
it is not surprising that he comes to us with such thoughtless and
but that's the Old Testament. No one believes those stories literally
any more. The New Testament is all about love.” Dear modern, enlightened,
theologically sophisticated, gentle Christian, you cannot be serious.
Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with “sin”, with punishment
and with atonement.
apparently genial approach that he now resorts to, is just cynical
sophistry. He imagines a small percentage of the modernist, liberal
apparently-Christian population, writing off the Old Testament – because
he does! But the fact of the matter is that many of us, intelligent,
careful Bible readers, carefully read the text and don't write off
the Old Testament as Dawkins does with his shallow considerations.
We trust the impeccable scholarship of centuries.
at this cynical language. He is after all aiming at such straw figures
who have little Bible knowledge and he's trying to make them realise
that they are actually in the same boat at Pat Robertson – or at least
they should be which, Dawkins thinks, will make them revolt from Christian
belief. Hopefully it might work to the contrary and they might think
through the issues intelligently and come to a more informed and better
established opinion about the Old Testament!
do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have
signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus's
incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the “sins”
of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the “sin”
of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?
his further seeking to push such straw men away from mainstream beliefs
he seeks to deride Biblical doctrine by appealing to “modern” theologians
i.e. liberal theologians who start from a prejudged materialistic
base like he does, whose integrity is similarly at question because
they too do not start from an objective, open-minded, investigatory
position that carefully examines the evidence from an unbiased starting
point (isn't that what scientists do???), but rather from a closed
mind. Dawkins just doesn't realise that the vast majority of us who
rely on serious scholarship in these things, see such arguing as the
desperate last cry of a drowning man.
I know you hate the word “scapegoat” (with good reason, because it
is a barbaric idea) but what other word would you use? The only respect
in which “scapegoat” falls short as a perfect epitome of Christian
theology is that the Christian atonement is even more unpleasant.
The goat of Jewish tradition was merely driven into the wilderness
with its cargo of symbolic sin. Jesus was supposedly tortured and
executed to atone for sins that, any rational person might protest,
he had it in his power simply to forgive, without the agony. Among
all the ideas ever to occur to a nasty human mind (Paul's of course),
the Christian “atonement” would win a prize for pointless futility
as well as moral depravity.
speaks the blindness that the Bible speaks of, of those who simply
cannot see the realities of justice, of guilt and then of forgiveness.
It is the language of a man who has lived a sheltered life, a modern
liberal ethicist who has never been touched by the awfulness of personal
violation. If he had he would know that in the human heart when there
is violation there is a screaming at best for justice and at worst
he knew anything of the experience of a Christian pastor, he would
know that it is no good saying to the person racked with guilt, “It's
all right, your sins are forgiven,” because deep down that person
knows there is a thing called justice that demands for wrongs to be
righted and sins to be punished. It's not what they hear preached
but what they know deep down. Certain political groups used to talk
disparagingly about “bourgeois values” but had no better foundation
to determine their claims to rightness. There have been many such
groups but none with answers that satisfy the guilty.
the doctrine of the atonement of Christ, there is no doctrine that
brings peace to the guilty sinner (who knows they are guilty) other
than the one that says, this one has died in your place to take your
punishment. Although he may not understand it, because it is not his
area of expertise, those of us who do work in this realm know the
truth of what I have just written.
without the stark heartlessness of Pat Robertson, tragedies like Haiti
and drink to the theological mind. To quote the president of one theological
seminary, writing in the On Faith blog of the Washington Post:
“The earthquake in Haiti
every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under
the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every
cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every
point on the globe.”
suppose if you scour all the main papers of the world you are bound
to come across some erudite theologian seeking to make deep and meaningful
noises. I am intrigued and wonder about what followed. I think
it means that Sin – that self-centred tendency toward godlessness
that results in individual sinful acts that run contrary to God's
design for us – permeates the world, the world of human being and
the material world. If that is what it means then of course it is
correct and the concern of the thinking man is how to live in the
universe of a God who holds us accountable. The answer, of course,
is by the means of Jesus Christ, because ultimately that is what the
Christian faith boils down to, and that offends the self-centredness
of Richard Dawkins. None of us like our faults being pointed out.
nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and
bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson's suggestion
that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the Devil. But you worship
a god-man who — as you tell your congregations, even if you don't
believe it yourself — “cast out devils”. You even believe (or you
don't disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman
by causing the “devils” in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede
them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire
the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class.
is not the place to expound on Jesus casting out demons on a hillside
overlooking the Sea of Galilee
. This silly paragraph simply
demonstrates (and does no more) Dawkins' lack of experience with the
occult and especially demons. In that he demonstrates that he is a
little travelled man. If he were more so he would know the reality
around the world of such experiences. It is also a rude and disparaging
piece of writing. He pontificates about he world he knows so little
about, a world I would do all I can to get the children of any Sunday
School class to avoid – and they probably will. It is much more likely
that those who do not attend such classes will go down the occult
path and end in blackness.
may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just
read your own New Testament. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?
Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire
theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback
for “sin” — or suffering as “atonement” for it?
ultimate of shallowness! Think for a moment! “Suffering as a payback
for sin”. You believe it Mr. Dawkins as much as I do. You believe
that people who do wrong bring the sky down on themselves in so many
different ways. If you don't, you know nothing of human experience.
We said it before: our wrong behaviour always brings negative consequences
whether it be the person taking drugs that leads to addiction, and
then on to stealing and to degradation, or the promiscuous adulterer
who ruins marriages, leaves children fatherless and so much more.
The examples could be multiplied a hundred times over. The atonement
we have already mentioned, and again Dawkins reveals the paucity of
his human experience.
may weep for Haiti
Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque
ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian
theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.
Robertson may have a lot to answer for – or not – but one thing I
am sure of and it is this: history will show that Richard Dawkins
has led more people astray and into a life with no fixed or stable
foundation, a life of empty platitudes, a life of drifting into an
empty darkness and, possibly, a life of increasing lawlessness. His
closing harsh words perhaps should be read by him into a mirror. Time
will tell the truth.