"God's Love in the Old Testament" - Appendix 3



Appendix 3

"Shallow & False Atheistic Casuistry"




Appendix 3: Shallow & False Atheistic Casuistry


I 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.


On 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.


He 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.


Hear the rumble of Christian hypocrisy

The evangelist who says the Haiti earthquake is retribution for sin is at least true to his religion

Richard Dawkins The Times January 29, 2010


We 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.


As 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!


But 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!


The 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”.


As 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. 


The 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.


So 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.


But, 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.


The 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”.


Well 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.


The 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.


Then 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.


The 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 God.  


Jesus 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 in Jerusalem ? 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.


Needless 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.


That 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 his viewpoint.


What 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.


Oh 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!


So 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 Haiti , 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!


But 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.


Where 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 and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock, stock and barrel, as punishment for “sin”.


As 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 and Gomorrah 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 emotive language.


“Oh 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.


His 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.


Look 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!


Where 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?


In 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.


Yes, 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.


There 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 for vengeance.


If 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.

Outside 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.


Even without the stark heartlessness of Pat Robertson, tragedies like Haiti are meat 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 , like 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.”


I 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.


You 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.


This 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.


Robertson 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?


The 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.


You may weep for Haiti where 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.


Pat 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.



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