Heathen Rage: A Critique of Richard Dawkins’ Book, “The God Delusion”

Paul Derengowski, ThM

 

Introduction

Hot off the presses in September of 2006 is Richard Dawkins’ latest book entitled The God Delusion.  Richard Dawkins is the controversial evolutionary biologist and Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University, who has repeatedly published works espousing his atheistic beliefs.  The God Delusion is another of his treatises that systematically attempts to demonstrate not only the non-existence of God, but is also an evangelistic piece that Dawkins hopes will be used to convert theistic believers into atheists.  Whether the latter actually occurs, or not, remains to be seen.  What is certain is that this book has caused rave reviews, with some calling it “eloquent and provocative,” “a great read for theist and atheist alike,” and “an atheist’s lively manifesto.”  According to one blurb from Penn and Teller (comedians, no less), “The God Delusion is smart, compassionate, and true like ice, like fire.  If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed.”  Yet, does this book live up to all the acclaim?  Does it really offer anything new that atheists haven’t been saying all along?  Furthermore, why should anyone really pay any attention to what Dawkins is saying, given that his primary discipline is supposed to be biology?  Finally, just what kind of change in the world is to be expected if one was to ascribe to what Dawkins is advocating?  Is it necessarily going to be more moral, more loving, and less selfish without God?  If so, who is going to make that determination?  Or is the change going to make it smarter?  Again, who is going to make that determination?

What Richard Dawkins gives us are 10 chapters in which he attempts to convince the reader of the needlessness of God and religion.  It will be the object of this paper to examine the major tenets of each chapter and then offer counter-arguments to his assertions.  Obviously this paper cannot exhaustively critique nearly 400 pages of text in only 10-12 pages, yet it can show just where Dawkins is woefully short in his assumptions, with the express hope of short-circuiting his overall goal of stymieing the faith of those who do believe in God.  Hence, the paper will follow his outline, starting with chapter 1, “A Deeply Religious Non-Believer,” to which we now turn our attention.

A Deeply Religious Non-Believer

In Dawkins’ opening chapter he attempts to draw a distinction between beliefs about “God” that deserve respect, as opposed to beliefs about “God” that do not deserve respect.  He does this by using Albert Einstein’s view of God, as the one deserving of respect, simply because Einstein supposedly held to a view about God that was naturalistic, or was impersonal and observable through physical phenomena.  Conversely, he despises the supernatural God, and brings his claws to bear in chapter 2.  In fact, Dawkins abhorrence of a supernatural God is displayed in his comment where he wishes

…that physicists would refrain form using the word God in their special metaphorical sense.  The metaphorical or pantheistic God of the physicists is light years away from the interventionist, miracle-wreaking, thought-reading, sin-punishing, prayer-answering God of the Bible, of priests, mullahs and rabbis, and of ordinary language.  Deliberately to confuse the two is, in my opinion, an act of intellectual high treason. 1

Another reason why Dawkins opines that supernatural gods, especially the God of the Old Testament, do not deserve respect is simply because he believes that there is an inconsistency in public regarding the respect toward God.  In other words, he cannot fathom why both theism and atheism are not on equally footing, and asserts that as long as one is religious that that ultimately leads to unfair treatment, or is the trump card when it comes overall freedom.  He even goes so far, at one point, of equating the injustices allegedly perpetrated upon homosexuals to the same alleged discrimination towards atheists in the public arena’s “exaggerated respect for religion.” 2

Dawkins’ opening salvo is pathetically weak at best.  Whether or not Einstein was a theist or not, the naturalist’s “God” is nonetheless non-existent and a product of the minds who concocts it.  Surely the Apostle Paul’s statement regarding the revelation of God and ignorance of it by the natural man, who then chooses to worship and serve the creation, rather than the Creator, apply in Dawkins’ case (cf. Rom. 1:20-21).  Moreover, Dawkins even quotes Einstein as saying, “What I see in Nature is a magnificent structure that we can comprehend only very imperfectly, and that must fill a thinking person with a feeling of humility,” meaning that Einstein recognized “structure,” not chaos in the universe, and it would be folly to assume that structure could come about without an Intelligent Designer.

As for Dawkins’ discontent over what he feels is discrimination against atheism, one has to wonder if Dawkins has forgotten that, at least in America, belief in God is the fundamental foundation upon which society rests, as far as its laws, morals, and government are concerned.  According to historian Mark Noll,

Christian values played a central part in the tumultuous events of the Revolutionary period.  Many believers promoted the movement for independency from Great Britain in the 1770s, and they also rendered great service to the patriot cause during the Revolutionary War itself…Between the end of actual fighting in the early 1780s and the reorganization of government under the Constitution at the end of that decade, Christian leaders in the United States commented less directly on public affairs.  Yet they did attempt to put the momentous events of the age in moral and religious perspective in this period.  The Revolutionary era was a great turning point in American history, and also for the churches. 3

And even though contemporary American society may not be as gung-ho as it once was in terms of its commitment to Christian values as the guides to life and virtue, it nevertheless remains a country that upholds primary belief in God, with Christianity as its most essential religion.  Hence, Dawkins’ question concerning what he perceives is unfair treatment of his atheist beliefs in light of the religious history of America is without merit.

The God Hypothesis

In Dawkins’ second chapter he ramps up the vitriolic rhetoric, which is particularly aimed at Yahweh, or the God of the Old Testament. 4 It is not that he does not also take his shots at other theistic entities as well, but his main comments are directed at Yahweh, and “his insipidly opposite Christian face,” Jesus Christ.  His overall goal is to explain and debunk the progressive thought concerning the idea of God from its earliest tribal days unto today.  To prove that God is merely hypothetical he conveniently manages to lump together several worldviews about God—including animism, polytheism, monotheism, and agnosticism—and from that combination one is supposed to arrive at the conclusion that God, in all probability, does not exist.

Amazingly he concludes this chapter with a discussion about “Little Green Men,” where he asks the question, if SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) was to ever discover an actual alien radio signal, and aliens were to ever come to earth and make contact with humanity, “How should we respond?”  His answer: “A pardonable reaction would be something akin to worship, for any civilization capable of broadcasting a signal over such an immense distance is likely to be greatly superior to ours.” 5 He continues, “The crucial difference between gods and god-like extraterrestrials lies not in their properties but in their provenance.  Entities that are complex enough to be intelligent are products of an evolutionary process.  No matter how god-like they may seem when we encounter them, they didn’t start that way.” 6

What Dawkins does from the outset of this chapter is to make several specious accusations about God without any context to support them.  It is as if he wants his readership to just accept whatever the good doctor has to say without question, simply because he says it.  Indeed, God is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5), but does Dawkins ever tell us where and why that is so?  No, he does not.  Nor does Dawkins give us the particular instances of where God is supposedly unjust, unforgiving, and a “control-freak.”  Instead, what Dawkins has done is what Paul Hanson asserts has taken place with “many pastors and teachers” in dealing with issues like God and war in the Bible: they “have simply not worked through to a well reflected position on this perplexing question.” 7  The end result is a vicious character assassination attempt which is filled with quarter-truths, two-cent opinions, and worthless misrepresentations.

His concluding statements are equally as revealing when writing about extra-terrestrials.  On the one hand he readily dismisses the existence of God as a delusional hypothesis, while on the other hand is willing worship beings from another world as “gods,” even though those gods are of the same evolutionary origin as he is.  It is just that natural selection has managed to lift that particular life form “from primeval simplicity to the dizzy heights of complexity, beauty and apparent design that dazzle us today,” 8 as if humanity is chopped liver.  What Dawkins has failed to do, though, is consistently consider what is involved in complex design, if he considered anything at all.  For surely even the words that he typed when writing the manuscript for his book were not by “natural selection,” otherwise it would have never been written at all.  Yet, he wants us to believe that something much more complex and beautiful as a space alien is worthy of our worship, as a god, when its “apparent design” is no more designed than we are; talk about a delusional hypothesis!

Arguments for God’s Existence

In Dawkins’ effort to debunk the idea of God’s existence he uses a broad brush stroke approach whereby he generally attacks several different arguments.  Yet, because his refutations are general, the arguments in favor of God’s existence are treated with the same kind of sarcastic bravado that Dawkins has used in previous chapters.  For sake of space only one of them will be addressed here: Scriptural integrity.

In Dawkins’ effort to rebut the integrity of the Bible he broadly attempts to point out two examples which, in his mind, prove that the Bible cannot be used to argue for God’s existence.  Those examples are Jesus’ deity and gospel unreliability.  In denouncing Jesus’ deity he states that “The historical evidence that Jesus claimed any sort of divine status is minimal.”  And even if Jesus did make such a claim, Jesus very possibly “was honestly mistaken.”  In his rejection of the gospels, Dawkins repeats Enlightenment historical-critical thought 9 by claiming “scholarly theologians have made an overwhelming case that the gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world.  All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mention almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’ life.” 10 Yet, is the evidence really minimal that Jesus never claimed to be deity, and is the case against the gospels really overwhelming?

Dawkins’ attempt to refute Jesus’ deity based on a lack of historical evidence, especially through an impugning of the Bible, would be laughable if one did not think that he was serious.  Clearly the biblical record demonstrates time and again that Jesus was no ordinary man, but was in fact “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).  He was the Son of God, meaning that he possessed the same nature as his Father.  According to Ladd, “As the Son of God, Jesus is more than a chosen, dedicated man; he partakes of deity.” 11 Furthermore, Jesus’ works proved that he was deity, as he forgave sins (Mk. 2:5-7), healed paralytics (Matt. 4:24), and raised the dead (Jn. 11:43).  As for Dawkins’ attack upon the unreliability of the gospels—which include issues concerning Jesus’ birth lineage and canonical exclusion of certain texts that never made it into the biblical record—Blomberg’s comments are worth noting.  He wrote,

At the other end of the confessional spectrum, many radical critics would answer that question [Are the gospels historically reliable?] negatively, thinking that proper historical method requires them to disbelieve any narratives as thoroughly permeated by supernatural events, theological interpretation, and minor variations among parallels as are the four gospels.  This approach misunderstands the role and methods of historical enquiry and often stems from a faulty view of the findings of philosophy and natural science as well. [emphasis added]. 12

In other words, Dawkins’ argument is based on a faulty hermeneutic of the gospels which is fueled by poor historical method and an erroneous worldview based in naturalistic science.  Therefore, is it any wonder that he does not believe in the existence of God?

Why There Almost Certainly Is No God

In Dawkins’ words, Chapter 4 contains “the central argument of [his] book,” with the overall theme essentially being: if God exists, prove it to me.  Now, Dawkins expends 46 pages, covering a variety of topics (i.e., Irreducible Complexity, God-of-the gaps, the Anthropic Principle, and a mocking rebuttal of Cambridge theologians), but time and again, despite the discussion, the reason why Dawkins contends for his tentative position that God does not exist is because no one can adequately prove to him, empirically speaking, that he does exist.  And since that is the case, at least in his mind, “Natural selection not only explains the whole of life; it also raises our consciousness to the power of science to explain how organized complexity can emerge from simple beginnings without any deliberate guidance.” 13

Yet, is natural selection really a viable option, especially if proving God’s existence to someone unwilling to be convinced by the extant evidence is rejected?  For example, Dawkins derides the analogy of the assemblage of a Boeing 747 after a hurricane roars through a scrap yard and the intricate design of the universe as being “improbable,” simply because such an analogy would automatically increase the unlikelihood of God, who is much more complex.  In other words, if one thinks that building a Boeing 747 in such a way is difficult; well what about how one ought to think about building the builder?  But, Dawkins’ rebuttal is non-sequitur.  For just because one sees the impossibility of building a Boeing 747 from scrap yard parts, amid hurricane force winds, or even the intricate design of the universe by chance (which he coyly denies occurred), it does not follow that God existence should be called into question on the same basis.  And Dawkins ought to know this, given his constant contact with theologians who regularly assert God’s aseity. 14  Otherwise, Dawkins is going to have to admit to an infinite regress of events, and when all is said and done, he will be faced with the problem that few of his kind are even wanting to discuss, and that is where did everything come from, how did it get here, and what/who was the mechanism that brought everything into existence from nothing?  That said, if Chapter 4 was Dawkins’ main argument for his book, then he failed miserably in making his point that God does not exist, let alone that natural selection eloquently explains everything.

The Roots of Religion

In Chapter 5, “The Roots of Religion,” Richard Dawkins changes gears from questioning the existence of God to questioning the existence of religion altogether.  Although he devotes considerable space to the meme theory, or the “cultural variants” that are inherently existent properties which are the result of “The invisible hand of natural selection,” he also alludes to one factor that biblically speaking, is the answer, yet he seems to have missed as the real answer.  In the section entitled “Psychologically Primed for Religion” Dawkins postulates that religion is “a by-product of the misfiring of several…modules” in the brain, and hence produces a gullibility factor in people, particularly those of childhood age, who then take those misfirings with them into adulthood.  As a result he, along with psychologist Paul Bloom, asserts “we are innately predisposed to be creationists…The assignment of purpose to everything is called teleology.  Children are native teleologists, and many never grow out of it.” 15  And that is pretty much all he has to say about intuitive purpose.  But, just where does Dawkins miss the boat when it comes to teleology?

Dawkins’ oversight in assuming that religious ideals are merely the product of instilling religion into youths, or that religious belief is merely a matter of the genes, is that the Bible speaks to the subject, and it has nothing to do with human invention.  Romans 1:19 tells us that “that which is known about God is evident within them [fallen humanity]; for God made it evident to them.”  In other words, the reason why people are inherently religious, including Richard Dawkins himself, is because God has placed in every person the knowledge of Himself; and that regardless of all the denials to the contrary.  According to Reformed theologian William Plumer, “There have always been among men the means of knowing something of the existence and glory of God” 16 to which James D. G. Dunn concludes, “The clause here emphasizes that God’s knowability is not merely a characteristic or ‘spin-off’ of creation but was willed and effected by God…of a ‘natural theology’—that is here, of a revelation of God through the cosmos, to humankind as a whole, and operative since the creation of the cosmos.” 17  As for a child recognizing design, instead of Dawkins finding that to be abnormal, perhaps he should stand humbled.  For if a child can see design, and Dawkins cannot, then maybe the abnormal one is Dawkins and not the child.  Needless to say, Dawkins attempt to explain the roots of religion were as lame as his attempt to rebut the existence of God in previous chapters.

The Roots of Morality; Why Are We Good?

Dawkins’ sixth chapter deals with attempting to explain why people can be moral without God.  He offers four theories, each of which are tied directly to natural selection.  Those four theories, none of which Dawkins places specific emphasis upon on as integral, are genetic kinship (where certain unselfish genes train the organism to be moral), reciprocation (an ingrained understanding that if one assists someone else, they can expect the same in return), acquiring a reputation (“language and gossip” are used by the community of organisms as it identifies who is a “reciprocator” as opposed to a “cheater”), and buying unfakeably authentic advertising (or becoming dominant figure in a culture by buying one’s way to the top).  As already mentioned, natural selection is the personified force which does the programming of our brains whereby “altruistic urges” are then manifested.

The problem with Dawkins’ assumption concerning morals is the same problem he has yet to solve elsewhere.  And that problem is that there is nothing objective in anything he has to say.  It is all theorizing, that he admits twice in this chapter “that absolutist morals are usually driven by religion,” which means more precisely, that the person who does believe in God has an objective basis upon which to base his or her morals, whereas Dawkins does not.  Dawkins even goes to far as to wrestle with the often asked questions of persons such as himself dealing with foundations and bases for his morality, and why his brand of moral decision-making is any better than say, an Adolph Hitler.  Yet, instead of acknowledging the dearth of his position, he merely shrugs off the questions and proceeds with his attack upon Christianity, primarily, with another false dilemma argument, or another non-sequitur, as we will see in his next chapter dealing with Scriptural integrity.

The ‘Good’ Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist

Consistent with Dawkins’ frontal attack on religion in general, and Christianity specifically, is his assault on “scripture,” particularly the Bible.  What is perhaps odd about this chapter is that Dawkins spends less time actually dealing with the Bible than he does in attempting to malign Christians by aligning them with the likes of Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin.  Nevertheless, since the title of chapter is about his criticism of the Bible, for the sake of critique, only that will be deal with here.

Dawkins tells the reader after presenting a questionable interpretation of the biblical stories of Abraham and Isaac, and Sodom and Gomorrah, “Remember, all I am trying to establish for the moment is that we do not, as a matter of fact, derive our morals from scripture.”  Is that right?  By alluding to “the Taliban or the American Christian equivalent” as ruling like Moses when God instructed him to take the Land of Canaan; that’s establishing a credible precedent that we do not derive our morals from scripture?  But, Dawkins does not stop there in achieving his goal.  Upon turning to the New Testament Dawkins reveals that “Jesus was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures of his upbringing,” 18 the atonement “is almost as morally obnoxious as the story of Abraham setting out to barbeque Isaac,” 19 and “Jesus had himself tortured and execute, in vicarious punishment for a symbolic sin committed by a non-existent individual.” 20  That is the extent of Dawkins’ biblical criticism, and the basis upon which he rests his premise that “we do not…derive our morals from scripture.”

In Dawkins’ own words, he “would be harmless comedy,” if one did not think he was serious.  From the inception of the United States to the present, the Bible has been held in high esteem as a moral guide, foundation for law, and source of personal comfort, hope and inspiration for millions of Americans.  According to Yale scholar, Jaroslav Pelikan,

Bibles were so “widely distributed” in America during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries that the United States was “awash in a sea of faith,” which means, among other things, “awash in sea of Bibles.”  American churches (especially Protestant churches) and synagogues were persistent in urging their members to own and read the Bible, often making the presentation of their first Bible to children a rite of passage in connection with confirmation or bar mitzvah.  But the distribution of Bibles to the widest possible public became a religious vocation for the Bible societies that began in Great Britain in 1804 with the British and Foreign Bible Society, and more than a hundred arose in the United States after the War of Independence. 21

Therefore, the whole idea that we do not derive our morals from scripture is purely idiotic.  That is not to say that there are not dissenters and rebels without a cause, but fundamentally speaking, American society’s moral undergirding is based on Scripture.  It may not always be that way, and in fact we currently see a divergence away from biblical literacy, but as far as Dawkins and his poor critique of not only the Bible, but societal morality in general, he stands in error.

What’s Wrong With Religion?

The eighth chapter for Dawkins is his attempt to demonize religion altogether.  In his mind, all human tragedies have their roots in some kind of religious devotion, and that devotion does not necessary have to be of the perverse kind, because Dawkins thinks that all religious belief is perverse.  Furthermore, Dawkins believes that religion ruins scientific education (big surprise), barges in on “committed private, which harmed nobody” homosexual unions, which it ought not to do.  And a particular pet peeve of his is how those with religious standards unjustly impose their views upon those desirous of aborting unwanted “embryos.”  According to Dawkins,

There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage.  And there is every reason to suppose that all embryos, whether human or not, suffer far less than adult cows or sheep in a slaughterhouse, especially a ritual slaughterhouse where, for religious reasons, they must be fully conscious when their throats are ceremonially cut. 22

It seems that with each passing chapter that Dawkins’ rationale for defending atheistic evolution becomes that much more pathetic.  He wants to blame every human tragedy upon some kind of religious belief or fanaticism, while coyly sitting back claiming, “I might retort that such hostility as I or other atheists occasionally voice towards religion is limited to words.”  Is he so stupid as to believe that “fanatical” actions start with hostile words?  Apparently so.  And from the foregoing, it would seem that Mr. Dawkins is one Petri dish short of a lab experiment if he thinks that religion ruins science.  Science began with religious believers, Christians in particular, who sought to not only discover the universe, but to give credit where credit was due by acknowledging the reality of Creator who gives the universe meaning.  It is a concept that is totally foreign to Dawkins, who aside from his haphazard approach to life cannot rationally explain the meaning of anything, which is also part of the reason why he can so callously equate human beings with cows and sheep.  To him, life has no real meaning, which borders on a nihilism. 23  And Dawkins thinks that religious worldview is better than a Christian worldview where “the rest of the story is told,” and not just the distortions?  I don’t think so.

Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion

Chapter nine is Dawkins’ effort to save the children from unscrupulous religious leaders and parents who would dare inculcate into their minds the idea that religion or religious identity is a think to be foisted upon the innocent.  To Dawkins not only is such indoctrination reprehensible, he asks, after equating Sikh, Muslim, and Christian children in a Christmas, nativity play with atheism, agnosticism, and secular humanism, “Mightn’t the parents actually be investigated to see if they were fit to bring up children?” 24  Moreover, in Dawkins’ opinion, children should be left to their own to decide religious matters, when they are ready.  In support of his position he supplies an extensive quote from psychologist Nicholas Humphrey, who in an article about the freedom of speech makes a scathing comment about a child’s religious instruction by his or her parents.  Humphrey, in a 1997 Amnesty Lecture in Oxford asserted,

Children, I’ll argue, have a human right not to have their minds crippled by exposure to other people’s bad ideas — no matter who these other people are.  Parents, correspondingly, have no God-given licence [sic] to enculturate their children in whatever ways they personally choose: no right to limit the horizons of their children’s knowledge, to bring them up in an atmosphere of dogma and superstition, or to insist they follow the straight and narrow paths of their own faith.

In short, children have a right not to have their minds addled by nonsense, and we as a society have a duty to protect them from it.  So we should no more allow parents to teach their children to believe, for example, in the literal truth of the Bible or that planets rule their lives, than we should allow parents to knock their children’s teeth out or lock them in dungeons. 25

And if children should be protected from parental influence, what is Humphrey’s alternative, aside from Dawkins’ suggestion that parents leave them alone?  “Therefore we should feel as much obliged to pass to our children the best scientific and philosophical understanding of the natural world — to teach, for example, the truths of evolution and cosmology, or the methods of rational analysis — as we already feel obliged to feed and shelter them.” 26

It never ceases to amaze me how often children are used as the last line of defense to justify whatever ideology happens to fancy whomever.  In other words, when objectivity is not good enough, appeal to the children in hopes of procuring approval of an otherwise faulty argument.  Such is the case with this chapter on “Childhood, Abuse and Religion.”  Dawkins has spent nearly 350 pages rambling on, ineffectively, about what he considers are the horrors of religion and God, and then throws in a chapter about child abuse towards the end to possibly tug at the heartstrings of those who have not been sympathetic to anything else he has said.  This is not to say that children have not been abused by priests and religious leaders, but even as Dawkins noted, “Cruel and evil people can be found in every century and of every persuasion,” 27 and that includes among the atheists, agnostics, and skeptics, of varying occupations.

What is particularly disturbing about this chapter is Dawkins’ willingness to even strip parents of the parental right and duty to “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  Instead, what Dawkins and Humphrey want to do, given that their atheistic, evolutionary, humanistic, philosophy is a failure, is to force their views upon the innocent, while tyrannizing parents to do it!  Dawkins and Humphrey are guilty of the very thing they are slanderously accusing parents of doing.  Equally contradictory is the idea that children should not be compelled to understand and decide what is true when it comes to religious truth and values, but they should be compelled to understand and decide on the truth claims of philosophical naturalism!  And to add insult to injury, both Dawkins and Humphrey have the audacity to single out whom they would consider to be religious bigots and lunatics, without mentioning that humanistic atheism is an much a religious ideology as any religious belief system in existence.  The hypocrisy of this chapter is as glaring as anything the Dawkins has written thus far.  But, we have one more chapter to go.  Let’s see what kind of gap he thinks he can fill aside from the one he has created already throughout his book.

A Much Needed Gap?

In Dawkins’ final attempt to persuade the reader of God’s non-existence and religion’s essential lack of worth of merit, he questions whether or not the idea of God is some kind of extension from childhood, where children sometimes create fictitious characters to whom they can relate.  He calls God a “binker,” after A. A. Milne’s poem, Now We Are Six, which is a make-believe character that is a “secret…clever sort of man” only known to the child.  When Dawkins fails to conclude anything from his binker allusion, he endeavors to undermine the credibility of the believer by questioning his faith when death enters life’s picture.  In other words, if believer’s in God are so sure of his existence, then why, when someone is dying, are they not more jubilant?  Why must they be so somber and fearful?  In fact, “why does the most vocal opposition to euthanasia and assisted suicide come from the religious?”  Dawkins ends with an appeal to science, which is the “mother of all burkas,” as if he has not insulted his readership enough throughout his book already.  The point he wants to make is somewhat similar to the Intelligent Design argument, especially when it attempts to explain complex life and how such complexity could not have occurred through random processes.  The exception, though, is that instead of there being an Intelligent Designer guiding and directly the process, Darwinian naturalism is the guide.  And because of such a wonderful mechanism,

On one planet, and possibly only one planet in the entire universe, molecules that would normally make nothing more complicated than a chunk of rock, gather themselves together into chunks of rock-sized matters of such staggering complexity that they are capable of running, jumping, swimming, flying, seeing, hearing, capturing and eating other such animated chunks of complexity; capable in some cases of thinking and feeling, and falling in love with yet other chunks of complex matter. 28

It goes without saying that what Dawkins has done in his final chapter is repeat much of what he has already stated previously.  God is not only a delusion, but now he’s a “binker.”  What is a curiosity is his inability to explain why the belief in God persists, into adulthood, if such infantile fantasies are so problematic.  Is God really nothing more than a “by-product” of a “psychological predisposition,” or could it be that God really is a reality, that cannot be measured by subjective, human existential means, and that it is those living in the delusion of their personal “binkers” who cannot relate to his existence?

Second, Dawkins’ stab at people using the reality of death and dying is equally misguided.  Of course people mourn the presence of death and dying, regardless of who they are, including Dawkins (even though he and his cronies hide behind the façade of their pride, and most likely deny it).  The aspects of death and dying are not pleasant, as well they should not be.  They are the final result of the presence of sin in a fallen world.  And death is characterized as humanity’s enemy, not its friend.  So, if anyone, believer and non-believer alike, fear death and dying, it is perfectly natural.  It does not detract from the believer’s outlook for the next life.  Instead, what it says is that the believer has a genuine grasp on life and death by accepting the reality of both as a rationally, whole person.  The atheist cannot say the same thing because there is no ultimate meaning to either life or death, which is both irrational and unwholesome, if not simply pathological.

Last, Dawkins is a complete discredit to his professional field of study by suggesting that complex life is the product of “chunks of rock-sized matter” gathering themselves together to produce what we see in the universe; what we see on earth; what we see in human beings.  It is just unfathomably moronic to assume that specific molecules, atoms, protons, et cetera, just started bumping into each other, on purpose, no less, and voilà!, the universe of complex entities.  Furthermore, it is equally ironic, if not deceptive, that Dawkins would spend nearly 400 pages denouncing the existence of God, as a “delusion,” as the intelligent guide that brought all things to be, and then turn around and personify “natural selection” as the intelligent guide in God’s place.  Dawkins has a “god,” despite all his claims to the contrary.  Yet, which is more “delusional” or a “blinker;” the God of Christianity or the god of Richard Dawkins?

CONCLUSION

The God Delusion is a disgusting piece of work.  It is filled with useless sarcasm, mean-spirited attacks, and fallacious reasoning.  There is very little redeemable value to reading it except for possibly understanding just where the contemporary, atheist mind, driven by evolutionary “science,” is at.  In that case, Richard Dawkins has produced a masterpiece.  Will this work influence anyone to embrace atheism, evolution, or naturalism, who has not already embraced one or all three views?  It is not likely.  Dawkins’ eccentric, if not abrasive, style at personally offending his audience is too extreme to be convincing.  Furthermore, the basis for his analysis is purely speculative, stemming from his speculative worldview.

What Dawkins’ book does provide, though, is a possible opportunity for the Christian who has read it.  That opportunity would consist in showing whomever the end result of embracing atheistic naturalism to its fullest extent, and what it does to a person’s psyche.  Richard Dawkins is not a nice person, particularly when dealing with the subject matter that he attempted to tackle in this book.  He is a religiously embittered, verbally abusive, vitriolic hack, and pointing that out to those willing to listen would be to the advantage of those able to illustrate just where his philosophy of life leads a person, should they take his philosophy to it logical conclusion.  And for that Christians have him to thank.

Obviously the preceding critique has been unable to deal with everything Dawkins had to say.  That said, however, what was discussed ought to give the interested reader enough insight into just what is on Dawkins’ mind.  The Psalmist asked in Psalms 2:1, “Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing?”  After reading this book by Richard Dawkins, I think the answer is obvious.  When God is kicked out of a person’s life, it creates a vicious vacuum whereby all that one can do thereafter is rail against God and his people under the hypocritical guise that all is well if everyone will simply adopt a “vain” alternative.  What Dawkins has done in The God Delusion is rage against God, and imagined a vain thing; concluding that his delusion is better than the one he attempts to dismiss.

Notes:

  1. Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mifflin Houghlin, 2006), 19.
  2. Ibid., 24.
  3. Mark A. Noll, A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), 115.   According to Bailey and Kennedy, “Most honored of the professions [during the colonial period] was the Christian ministry.  In 1775 the clergy wielded less influence than in the early days of Massachusetts, when piety had burned more warmly.  But they still occupied a position of high prestige.”  Thomas A. Bailey and David M. Kennedy, The American Pageant, 8th ed. (Lexington, MA: D. C. Heath and Company, 1987), 58.
  4. The opening statement from Dawkins demonstrates his obvious hatred for God when he writes, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character if all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously, malevolent bully” (31).
  5. Ibid., 72.
  6. Ibid., 73.
  7. Paul D. Hanson, “War and Peace in the Hebrew Bible,” Interpretation 38 (October 1984): 342.
  8. Dawkins, The God Hypothesis, 73.
  9. “In the age of Enlightenment (Aufklärung) a totally new approach for the study of the Bible was developed under several influences.  First and foremost was rationalism’s reaction against any form of supernaturalism.  Human reason was set up as the final criterion and chief source of knowledge, which meant that the authority of the Bible as the infallible record of divine revelation was rejected.  The second major departure of the period of the Enlightenment was the development of a new hermeneutic, the historical-critical methods which holds sway to the present day in liberal scholarship and beyond, even though it should not be overlooked that a new stage of criticism is levelled [sic] against it and that it is caught up in a methodological crisis.”  Gerhard Hasel, New Testament Theology: Basic Issues in the Current Debate (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1978), 18-19.
  10. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 92-93.
  11. George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 286.
  12. Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity, 1987), 255.
  13. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 116.
  14. “a, ab, abs: prep. w. abla.; by, from.  se: 3rd per. refl. pron., acc. & abla.; himself, herself, itself, themselves.”  Leo F. Stelten, Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Latin (Peabody, MA: Hendricksen, 1995), 1, 241.

    “Aseity is the characteristic of a being that exists by virtue of its own nature, independent of all else.  If affirms absolute existence; it excludes any external causality.  Aseity means a being whose existence proceeds from a nature that is in itself its own existence—thus, only God is such a being.  It is the prime attribute of God from which we infer all other attributes, and it expresses the very essence of God.”  Robert C. Broderick, The Catholic Encyclopedia (Nashville & New York: Thomas Nelson, 1976), 54-55.

  15. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 180-81.
  16. William S. Plumer, Commentary on Romans (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1993), 64.
  17. Bruce M. Metzger, David A. Hubbard, and Glenn W. Barker, Word Biblical Commentary, 52 vols. (Dallas: Word, [1988]), s.v. “Romans 1–8” by James D. G. Dunn.
  18. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 250.
  19. Ibid., 251.
  20. Dawkins asserts that Adam did not exist, and hence the whole idea surrounding original sin is “barking mad.”
  21. Jaroslav Pelikan, Whose Bible Is It? (New York: Penguin, 2005), 209.
  22. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 297.
  23. “In nihilism no statement has validity; nothing has meaning.  Everything is gratuitous, de trop, that is, just there.”  James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1997), 75.
  24. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 338.
  25. Ibid., 326.  Oxford Amnesty Lecture, 1997.  Published by Nicholas Humphrey, 1998, “What shall we tell the children?”, Social Research, 65, 777-805; also as, 1998, “What shall we tell the children?” in The Values of Science, ed. Wes Williams, pp 58-79, Oxford: Westview Press.  http://www.humphrey.org.uk/papers/1998WhatShallWeTell.pdf
  26. Ibid.
  27. Dawkins, The God Delusion, 312.
  28. Ibid., 366-67.