It was very thoughtful of Jill Singer to pick Christmas day to launch her atheist jihad in her Herald Sun column. In doing so she not only offended millions of Australian Christians, but those of other faiths as well with her opinion piece. By celebrating Richard Dawkins’ new book, The God Delusion, she shows how insensitive and out of touch she is with the vast majority of the world’s population.
The God Delusion is a 400-page attack on religion. It is one of the more narrow-minded, intolerant and bigoted books I have read in quite a while. Yet his groupie thought it would be neat to blast religion in general and Christianity in particular on one of the world’s most sacred days.
Singer’s piece is a rambling affair, reflecting that of her mentor. She states that she is greatly concerned about religious intolerance. However it seems that the real worry is intolerance coming from unbelievers. Both Singer and Dawkins are quite happy to offend and ridicule the overwhelming majority of those who do not share their narrow little atheistic crusade.
Dawkins is contemptuous of all religions, so he is an equal opportunity offender. But it is Christianity that he especially savages. He says that the Bible is “just plain weird” and “systematically evil”. He speaks of God’s acts as “God’s jealous sulk,” “God’s maniacal jealousy,” “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide”. Yahweh is simply a “cruel ogre” and a “monster” according to Dawkins.
But wait, there’s more. Dawkins calls the atoning death of Christ “vicious, sado-masochistic and repellent,” and “morally obnoxious”. So much for tolerance and open-mindedness.
In Dawkins’ view – and presumably Singer’s as well – religion is the source of all evil, while atheism is the source of all sweetness and light. Never mind the millions of people killed in the name of atheistic utopias, be they Stalin’s, Hitler’s or Mao’s.
And never mind that even non-religious academics like Professor Rodney Stark have claimed with massive amounts of documentation that “Christianity created Western Civilization,” and most of the benefits of the West (freedom, democracy, prosperity) are largely due to the Christian religion.
Indeed, another secular author, Nicholas Kristof, puts it this way: “Moreover, for all the slaughters in the name of religion over the centuries, there is another side of the ledger. Every time I travel in the poorest parts of Africa, I see missionary hospitals that are the only source of assistance to desperate people. God may not help amputees sprout new limbs, but churches do galvanize their members to support soup kitchens, homeless shelters and clinics that otherwise would not exist. Religious constituencies have pushed for more action on AIDS, malaria, sex trafficking and Darfur’s genocide, and believers often give large proportions of their incomes to charities that are a lifeline to the neediest.”
I am not aware of any hospitals or charitable works set up by atheists. And never mind that many noted philosophers have pointed out that it was the Christian emphasis on reason that gave rise to modern science.
Moreover, both Singer and Dawkins are way out of their depth, showing their ignorance about the gospel accounts in particular and theology in general. Indeed, Singer simply rehashes the lame arguments found in Dawkins’ book concerning the reliability of the gospels. They really should keep silent on subjects they clearly know so little about.
As one Marxist commentator put it, “This is why [atheists] invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be.”
Singer’s Secular Religion
Consider this opening quote of Singer’s: “To we heathens, infidels, barbarians (call us what you like), today is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate things such as family, peace and goodwill to others, the essential spirit of Christmas. It’s just that we don’t believe in or feel the need to celebrate the supernatural.”
Sorry Jill, but it does not quite work that way. What is the spirit of Christmas? Love, peace and goodwill are byproducts. The work of Christ reconciling mankind to himself is the source. If you cut off the redemptive work of Christ on the cross, you cut off the very basis for love, forgiveness, peace and reconciliation. If you deny the supernatural, in other words, as Singer wants to do, you will simply not achieve the peace on earth bit.
This is just the old theological liberal habit of seeking to separate the ethics of Jesus from the teachings of Jesus. But it cannot be done. Love for one another is prefaced on love for God, and that love is only possible when we accept God’s gracious provision in Christ.
Our rebellious and sinful nature will not allow for genuine brotherly love. That is why Christ came. But to ignore his work at Calvary and continue to champion some sentimental hopes for peace on earth and goodwill to men just will not work.
Singer waxes lyrical about her preferred religion, reason: “Ah, sweet reason. If only it can prevail on this and every other day. Whatever it is that you do or don’t believe in, may we all worship at the altar of reason and have a very happy and safe Christmas.”
Sorry, but that has been tried before, and found wanting. The worship of reason is just what the revolutionaries argued for during the French Revolution when churches were ransacked and desecrated, and believers were sent to the guillotine. As the statue of the Goddess of Reason was paraded through the streets of Paris, Christians were being killed and persecuted. Is this the religion of tolerance and reason that Singer would have us embrace?
Singer would have us bow down to rationality and science. But that is not always a wise course. We have seen both rationalism and science go off the rails on numerous occasions. This naïve belief in unaided human reason is part of the now largely discredited Enlightenment project.
Indeed, the pair seek to make a sharp distinction between faith and reason, between religion and science. They claim that science is the source of all truth, but faith is simply superstition. But this is a false polarisation. Faith, according to the Christian religion, is a faith informed by reason. While it may at times go beyond reason, it does not run against it. And science itself is also made up of faith commitments.
The truth is, a lot of ‘open minds’ need to be closed for repairs. The nasty diatribes launched by Dawkins and Singer are examples of secular fundamentalism and intolerance. Their defense of secularism and reason simply turn out to be another militant atheist crusade.
Singer is free to engage in her simplistic thinking and crude materialism, in which only matter matters. But for billions of human beings, non-material things like truth, beauty, justice, love, and even God are very meaningful realities, which the narrow world of atheism will never fully enjoy nor understand.