When you choose to defend the indefensible, you will likely get into all sorts of strife, no matter how clever you think you are. In the case of arch-atheist Richard Dawkins, when you decide to claim God does not exist, effectively putting yourself in his place, you are simply asking for trouble.
That of course happened aplenty with his 2006 rant, The God Delusion. This was a book so bad that even fellow atheists roundly condemned Dawkins, claiming his efforts were an “embarrassment” to the cause. But he is a man on a mission, a crusader and an evangelist for his cause, so he keeps on peddling foolishness.
Indeed, he keeps on sticking his foot in his mouth. Two recent silly outbursts prove that he is not getting any wiser with age. Quite the opposite it seems. And plenty of non-Christians have been shocked by his statements as well. His first one has to do with paedophilia.
It seems Dawkins believes that at least “mild paedophilia” is quite acceptable, and we should not be so worked up about it. Yes you heard me right. Here is how the story goes: “After admitting to being sexually abused as a child, renowned evolutionary biologist and author Richard Dawkins has refused to condemn the behaviour.
“Dawkins told Britain’s The Times magazine that a schoolmaster ‘pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts’. But he described it as a ‘mild touching up’ that he was convinced did not do him or any of his fellow classmates ‘any lasting harm’.”
Of course as an atheist he has no basis for objective morality which transcends time and space, so he has to offer up his confused relativism as a defence here: “I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours”.
Plenty of thinkers have demonstrated the foolishness of making morality the stuff of chronology. If something is right or wrong (or true or false), it is so for all times, all places, and all peoples. As G. K. Chesterton once wisely noted in a related context:
“An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays. You might as well say of a view of the cosmos that it was suitable to half past three, but not suitable for half-past four.”
And remember this defence of the indefensible comes from the same guy who told us that real child abuse occurs when a religious parent shares his religious beliefs and values with his children. Sorry Richard, but paedophilia is always wrong. I realise that transcendent and absolute morality has no place in your misotheist worldview, but that is your problem, not mine.
His second recent doozey was to claim that atheism is winning, and religion is on the ropes. Um no, not by a long shot. If anything, religion is making a resurgence. But if we simply define religion in terms of theism, then we see how foolish this claim is. The overwhelming majority of the world’s population continues to be religious.
It always has been of course. Sure, there is plenty of secularism in the West. But Christianity especially is growing by leaps and bounds elsewhere, such as Asia, Latin America and Africa. Dawkins is caught up in his Euro-centrism, and cannot – or refuses to – see the bigger picture.
And as I just shared with an eager group of Christians yesterday in Hobart, even in secular hot spots like Europe God is certainly not finished yet. Christians from the developing world are now coming as missionaries to Europe, and great things are happening there.
I have discussed this elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/08/25/europe-god-is-not-finished-yet/
But the West is still awash with vibrant faith. As but one example, a recent Princeton University survey found that 91 per cent of Americans believe in God, while only three per cent claim to be atheists. That does not exactly sound to me like atheism is winning.
But the claims by Dawkins are of course little more than faith-based assertions and wishful thinking. Consider how he put it: “I think on the whole we [atheists] are winning. We are all moving in the same direction. I get the feeling more and more that religion is being left behind.”
Well you will need more than feelings to make your case here Richard. You will need some hard evidence. And even non-believing social scientists are telling us that the much-hoped for decline in religious belief and commitment are simply not happening in the West.
And that of course should come as no surprise. If there is indeed a God who is there who has made us in his image, then all mankind will have a sense of the transcendent, a longing for the divine, and a dissatisfaction with mere material things.
We are spiritual beings inhabiting a spiritual universe, and we only find true meaning and contentment when in right relationship with God. As hard as Dawkins and his fellow God-haters try, they will never fully eradicate religion and religious belief.
The universal hunger for something other than mere physical existence is itself a fabulous pointer to the existence of God. C. S. Lewis put it this way in Mere Christianity: “Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger; well, there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim; well, there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire; well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
Or as Douglas Wilson wrote in The Deluded Atheist, “Why does the human creature need consolation? A desperate longing thirst in the desert doesn’t turn every mirage into water. But surely it argues that there is such a thing as water. Why would natural selection develop such an odd dead end? It would be as though we were all thirsty in a world without water, or hungry in a world without food, or full of sexual desire in a world without another sex, and so on.
“When we long for consolation, Dawkins tells us that it need not be God that we are longing for. He probably isn’t there, and so we should just deal with it. All right. What is it that we are longing for? And why does atheism fail, in a spectacular way, to address this particular need? Scripture says that God has placed eternity in our hearts, which accounts for this longing for the transcendent.
“But on Dawkins’ account, this longing is entirely illusory, and so he offers us something else. But why does that something else fail to satisfy? It is as though I am fainting from thirst because I want to drink from one of the brooks cascading off one of heaven’s mountains, and Dawkins offers me a bowl of sawdust paste instead.”
Dawkins and his atheist buddies can relativise morality all they like – even paedophilia. But the rest of us mere mortals know that there are indeed universal rights and wrongs, and paedophilia is clearly one of them.
And Dawkins and Co can pretend all they like that atheism is about to triumph spectacularly across the planet. Well I have news for them: it just ain’t gonna happen. Long after Dawkins is but a faint memory, and perhaps even an object of derision to future generations, religious conviction will continue to be as strong as ever.
And God will continue to remain on his throne. One day Dawkins and all the other fools (as Scripture refers to them) will stand before their creator and judge – mute, head down, and utterly naked before God. They will realise then what utter fools they have been.
But of course then it will be too late. So let us keep on praying for Richard and his friends. If so many other hard core atheists such as Lewis or Malcolm Muggeridge or Antony Flew can renounce their atheism, there is hope yet for these bigwig atheists as well.