Monday, 26 March 2007

Richard Dawkins - the Case for Atheism

HeIsSailing over at posted this video, asking for responses. Since my response turned out so long, I'm posting it here. For those of you who don't mind a little controversy, here's the video, a presentation by Richard Dawkins (author of The God Delusion):

Oh, I was so disappointed in this video. When it started off, I found myself cheering for Dawkins, despite the fact that he does not believe in a living God and I do. He was upholding reason and rational exchange over "the process of non-thinking called faith". Yay, Dawkins! This is not faith as the Bible presents it, but it is the faith that is presented by popular Christianity here in the West, and also by any of the other religions that feel the need to present anything. And while I think it's a bit over the edge to call religion the "root of all evil", I do believe that a lie that convinces people to do good things will eventually destroy even what it pretends to save. What is not true, no matter how it appears, no matter what good seems to come from it, is worse than an ugly truth. I see no merit in any philosophy that deceives people into doing good. Better, as Dawkins says, the "bracing truth" than a comfortable lie. I agree with his point that if God is a lie, he is a terrible lie!
But just when I was starting to feel that there was some hope - while he was obviously disgusted by the herd mentality of organised religion, his criticisms were valid, reasonable, challenging - Dawkins turned religious himself! His presentation, which is set up in the style of a documentary -giving it an air of journalistic "objectivity" - suddenly begins employing propaganda techniques, some of them very elementary ones. His comments about evolution become less and less scientific and more and more dogmatic and authoritative as the program progresses. The "fear" tactics he employs later in the video (the "huge challenge to our civilised values", the facts of evolution being "threatened") mirror those employed by the "non-thinkers" on the other side!
I expected him to begin by poking holes in popular belief (which isn't really as "popular" as he presents it after all!) and then progress with an appeal to reason and a rational presentation of his ideas. He waffles back and forth, first saying that science is always revising its answers, so that we can't really say that we "know", but that the beauty of that is that there are always ways to learn more (even if not absolutely) - I liked this! - but then his defense of evolution includes none of the facts, none of the evidence - just his assertion that it is not just a theory, but "fact", and his childish, "Wanna bet?".
At the first down-turn, I was confused. Then I thought, "Brilliant technique- he's going to mirror the style of the religious rant and then contrast it with rational debate!" He never did.
Mr. Dawkins says, in the voice of one warning of impending doom, that “irrational, militant faith is back on the march”. I applaud this revelation and Dawkins’ gravity is justified, but while we’re facing facts, how about this one – irrational EVERYTHING is back on the march! The religious freaks haven’t yet cornered the market on irrationality, as this video so sadly demonstrates.
Okay, Dawkins. I get your point - religious people are stupid. Look at how stupid! But if you're going to pull the rug out from under people, you have to replace it with something better.
I believe that someone who is shaken emotionally or nursing some hurt (okay, that's a lot of people these days!) might have their "faith" (whatever it was worth!) significantly shaken by a presentation like this. But I expected an appeal to the rational seeker, and I don't think this delivered at all.
I would have been happier with something that would shake people up on a rational level, because at least with reason, there is the hope of coming to something real. I would love to see people throw off religious hocus-pocus, the "suspension of disbelief" that Dawkins assures us is necessary to faith, and embrace the scientific method, however limited it is. Science, while imperfect, is honest. It appeals to the highest that is in humanity - reason, and the search for truth.
I am not a scientist, but if I believed it the only path to truth I most certainly would be one. I believe with my whole heart that sincere scientific inquiry will always give us the same answers as the Bible. One hundred years ago, it was common knowledge that racial differences included variations in blood. The Bible said we all had the same blood. Today, science has proved itself wrong and the Bible right. Not so many years ago, Bible critics said the book of Job was flawed because it talked about the sun traveling a circuit. Others defended it, saying the book wasn't supposed to be a scientific treatise, and that back then, people thought that the sun travelled around the earth. Then science progressed a little further and guess who was right? Turns out the sun has an orbit, too!
The fact that there are a lot of religious nuts out there is no more evidence that God does not exist than the fact that there are a lot of divorces proves that marriage is a bad thing. I’ll be the first person to admit that those of us who call ourselves Christians are the number 1 reason why God has a bad name. And whether I agree with other “Christians” or not in the vast idiocy we have collectively displayed in the name of “faith”, I’ll stand up and take it on the chin – if only someone will offer something better. How hard can it be?
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. If he is THE TRUTH, you won’t have to find him in a church. You’ll find him in ANY honest inquiry into truth, whether that be the study of science, of history, of law, of art, of psychology, of philosophy. Insomuch as truth is accessible by any of these methods, so will Jesus be accessible. But no unified understanding falls on us randomly –it must be sought earnestly and energetically, regardless of how we go about it.
Mr. Dawkins, you are right about at least one thing. The God you are talking about does not exist. A God who would create a universe full of humming energy and warm personality and intricate complexity and intellectual humanity and then turn around and asked people to turn off their thinking and “just believe” is, if not evil, then ludicrous in the extreme.
And this is where we are ultimately left sitting if our idea of God is based on the culmination of human thought and the authority of religious leaders – with hatred, squabbling, pettiness, one-upmanship, and irrationality.
But (oh, how thankful I am for this dear, dear word!) BUT God – I will call him the God of the Bible, to differentiate him from the plethora of ridiculous ideas so-called God – he remains. It is his delight to reveal himself to humans through reasoned thought – that is why his chosen method is a book, the Bible. He doesn’t need to use it. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses had not a shred of scripture between them. There are people throughout the world who have come to know God without ever knowing that his name is “God”. Although wherever people seek truth – him! – he is able to meet them, his desire is that we will all know him using that thing which most sets us apart as humans – the intellect.
Oh, Mr. Dawkins, I am not sorry that you throw away what you and others have called God. I am only sorry that you throw away reason.

Wednesday, 21 March 2007


I wandered over to to have a peek at the latest developments in that quarter (okay, I admit I check it eagerly twice a day to see if the Busy Ones have posted any new thinkings!) and it turns out Janelle has posted some new thoughts on beauty in different cultures. Lovely and refreshing!
It made me think of God's idea of beauty. After all, he is the standard.
Do you know what God does when he creates beauty? He covers it up!
Where does gold come from? Underneath heaps and heaps of ugly gray rock. Flowers come from seeds that have been covered over in mud, and they grow even more beautiful if that mud has been fertilized with poop!
In the book of Exodus, God describes to Moses his plan for the tabernacle, a sort of portable temple in the centre of their encampment that he would inhabit. When the Israelites moved to a new place, they packed up the tabernacle and God moved with them. Imagine living in the next tent to God! The tabernacle was made of beautiful acacia wood beams in silver sockets draped with hangings of blue, purple, and scarlet linen. It was filled with gold. God even told Moses which craftsmen and designers to appoint. The tabernacle itself must have been beautiful, but that wasn't all. God asked Moses to make a heavy partition, behind which the altar stood, and where God would place his own glory. The high priest could enter that place, the Holy of Holies, once a year to make a sacrifice for the people. If anyone entered and witnessed the glory of God, it would kill them. Our eyes are too weak for such beauty.
Then God asked a strange thing, by human calculations. He asked Moses to cover up that beautiful tabernacle with coverings of goat's hair, ram skins, and badger skins.
If that tabernacle had been built by us, could we have resisted putting at least a little of the gold on the outside? (Well, fake gold, in case some crooked folk took a notion to start lifting "souvenirs".) There would definitely have been clear vinyl windows into the Holy of Holies so the tour groups could all have a peek. We'd have needed several acres for parking, with a big neon "tabernacle" sign that could have been seen for miles. Of course, you could have just gone to the full-scale replica complete with fake glory in Vegas...
In Psalm 45:13 the king's daughter is "all glorious WITHIN". This is why God says in I Peter 3:4, "Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as [elaborate] hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."
The greatest beauty this world, or any world for that matter, has ever known is the glory of heaven's Light, the Christ. But when God revealed himself in Jesus, he put away the silver trumpets, the streaming banners, the dazzling splendours of heaven. He came to us covered, as a man. Not a handsome man, or a strong man. Seven hundred years before Jesus came, Isaiah wrote what he would be like: "...and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him".
That's what God calls beautiful. Not what you might expect, but then, as I am learning, God himself is not what you might expect.

Monday, 19 March 2007


I watched John Piper's "A Generation Passionate for God's Holiness" on Google Video tonight. As a rule, I steer way clear of the usual "generation, rise up!" hype because it is so often made up of emotional propaganda rather than substance. I gave this video a go because it made Google's "movers and shakers" list, which I thought was quite a feat, and Piper proceeded to prove me very happily wrong! I tried to upload it here, but the file was too big. If anyone has a chance to watch it, do! Here's the link:

I have to admit I've been slogging my way through a quagmire of selfishness, laziness, and personal chaos lately. I've been dull, struggling to remember what I've seen in moments of clarity, but coming up numb. John Piper made me homesick with his descriptions of the Holy God who has, at times, shown himself to me in gasping loveliness and rich, humming vibrance. I miss him.

Piper laments the fact that our generation knows so little even of what holiness is, and hence our sense of who God is, is skewed and warped. We see God as having a higher position than us, but not as being infinitely higher in essence. We see him as a human with superpowers. True. We look at God as a king - when the kings of our world have toppled, one and all, and the few figureheads that remain are so impotent and ridiculous - is it any wonder that our poor, ineffective idea of God has been revealed as a humbug? No, God is no king in mere position as are the kings of earth; rather, he is higher than us in his very essence as that thing in nature is that we bow before in our deep heart's core whether we want to or not. If we only admit it, all but the most depraved of human beings has a sense of the very wonderful and vast and deep and terrible when we experience the natural world. The most intelligent and sensitive to the dullest, least-educated among us are alike struck in our souls at that "something" in nature that asserts itself as superior to us - better, higher, more pure in its very essence.

This is the holy God, the Creator.

Because we are so dulled to even the idea of holiness, our understanding of God and his purposes is dim. Piper apologizes for his generation, who has left to the world no clue that the gospel - the "good news" of Jesus Christ's death on the cross and his triumph over sin and death is NOT ABOUT US. Shocking, that! We have indeed been told, and patted ourselves smugly in believing, that God just loved us so much that he HAD to sacrifice his Son for us - even that he FELL in love with dear old us!

The death of the Lord Jesus was an act of obedience and love to his Father - God. God gave his own beloved Son in love to a world that had already rejected him because he seeks glory and worship for the Christ! The Holy Spirit is gathering those worshippers even now, one by one, out of love for the Holy God and to the glory of the Son. God punished his Son for my sin because of who HE is, not because of who I am.

Who is he?

He is Love. Holy, pure, high, beautiful. Worthy, alone, of glory and honour and wealth and power and praise. When the paper hangings of time are torn apart by the richness of reality, then we will see for ourselves that God is not merely higher, but in himself, the perfection of Love. At that time, reality will come rushing upon us as a flood, and choice will disintegrate in the clearness of the Light, and every knee in heaven and under heaven will bow in acknowledgement of who he is - the God who is Holy.

He is the One that you long for, underneath the petty "wants" that stretch across that aching void in your soul like a piece of plywood across a gaping cavern. Your need of him is that cavern, which threatens to swallow you up in the cold, secret, desperate moments when you wrap yourself in the inadequacy of thoughts full of popular opinion and fevered self-determinism. He knows you deeply, and loves you not because you are lovely, but because he is Love. He loves you with all your chaos and selfishness, because He is Love, and Love is the highest that there is.

What a loss, that we who know him, know him so little! What are we telling our generation about God? What is he, to us? If we but catch a glimpse of the Holy One who sits upon the throne; whose train filled the temple; whose glory fills the whole earth - we will lay our hearts and our lives down at his feet, and cry with the angels before him, "Holy, holy, holy!"

Monday, 5 March 2007


Your name is as ointment poured forth...
Song of Solomon 1:3

But I found him whom my soul loves: I held him, and would not let him go.
Song of Solomon 3:4

In this tired, dimming old world, give me one word to speak - Jesus. Let my life fade and wither, but let it say at the last that Jesus alone is enough. He alone is worthy of my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole soul. He is light. He is love. Warmth. Depth. Kindness. Austerity. Cold, deep ocean-ness. A crackling flame in the vast, howling wilderness. He is altogether lovely, and he alone fills full the aching, gasping void in my heart. He never fails.

This is my beloved, and this is my friend.
Song of Solomon 5:16