September 2007
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Elgin’s Books


  • Christianity and Secularism

  • Evidence for the Bible


  • A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part V

    Listen to the MP3

    Sept 7, 2007, Wausau, Wi  So far, in my review of Richard Dawkins’, “The God Delusion” I have showed how Dawkins’ arguments in the first chapter of his book concerning religion in general and Christianity in particular are seriously flawed. In chapter two Dawkins turns to the more specific question of God. 

    He starts the chapter with what can at best be characterized as a stereotypical rant, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all the fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, and unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniac, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

    The main justification that Dawkins’ gives for this statement is that Winston Churchill’s son, Randolph, came to a similar conclusion when he read the Old Testament for the first time while in the army. 

    As a result, his views were not based on any serious in depth understanding of the text.  No attempt was made to put any of the books into an historical context.  No attempt was made to put the books into any cultural context.  There was simply a superficial reading.

    Dawkins goes on to write that, “It is unfair to attack such an easy target.” The reason it is so easy is that what Dawkins has done here is to create a strawman view of god that he can then easily knock down, not an accurate depiction of God based on any scholarly analysis of the text.

    Dawkins goes on from this to state his alternative to god, “any creative intelligence, of sufficient complexity to design anything, comes into existence only as the end product of an extended process of gradual evolution.” His alternative is a little confusing because it seems to be, not an alternative to god, but a reason why a god could not exist.  But even as a reason why a god could not exist, it still does not make very much sense because it is based on the premise that a god would be a part of the universe and therefore that would need to evolve.  But a god who created the universe could not be part of the created universe without falling into the absurdity of self creation.

    From there Dawkins goes on to expand the view of religion that sees progress from “primitive tribal animisms, and, through Polytheisms such as those of the Greeks, Romans and Norsemen, to monotheisms such as Judaism and its derivatives, Christianity and Islam.” (pg 32) While this seems like a nice neat theory that fits Dawkins bias to see evolution everywhere, as I discuss in my book, Evidence for the Bible, if anything the opposite is true.  Monotheism seems to devolve into polytheism, and the tendency would seem to be to create more gods, not fewer. Even in modern times, as Western civilization as moved away from Christianity, God has been replaced by many other things, wealth, fame, country, science, nature. Now even in science there are those pushing the concept of Gaia or mother earth.

    While Dawkins purports to discuss polytheism at this point, instead, he quickly switches to ridiculing the Trinity.  That his discussion of the Trinity occurs in the section on polytheism shows once again the superficiality with which Dawkins approach religion.  After quoting a passage from St. Gregory, Dawkins takes one of his characteristic swipes at religion, saying “his words convey a characteristically obscurantist flavor of theology, which – unlike science or most other branches of human scholarship – has not moved on in 18 centuries.”

    The first problem with this is that there was nothing particularly obscure in St. Gregory’s discussion of the Trinity.  That Dawkins finds it obscured is simply more evidence of his superficiality.  Anyone, reading a technical discussion in a field of study where they are not familiar with the key issues, problems, or terminology, is likely to find that discussion obscure.

    Dawkins’ claim that theology has not “moved on in 18 centuries” is equally as false.  Sure the basic doctrines such as God, Jesus Christ, and salvation, have not changed.  But why should they?  If scientists 18 centuries from now still believe in gravity will that be a reason to reject science because it is not moved on?  On the other hand, to say there has been no development in theology in the last 18 centuries is simply false. 

    In fact, just in the last hundred years there’s been tremendous development in our understanding of the Bible, as our understanding of Biblical languages, archaeology, and history have improved.  Granted, these have not challenged the foundations of our faith, and in fact if anything, have strengthened them, has they have demonstrated the reliability of the Bible, and have refuted most of the arguments put forth by critics such as Dawkins, which is perhaps why Dawkins ignores these developments.

    Dawkins’ closes the section on polytheism by attempting to forestall the criticism that the god Dawkins is attacking is not the God that Christians believe in.  His response is that all notions of god are silly and that he is “attacking god, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented.”

    While this is a bold and sweeping claim, it does not match the actual arguments in the book.  It would be like claiming you are refuting all of science, when all of your argument relate to alchemy.  Likewise Dawkins’ arguments fall short.

     This is Elgin Hushbeck, asking you to Consider Christianity: a Faith Based on Fact.

    Part I     Part II     Part III    Part IV 

    2 comments on “A Review of Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion Part V

    1. I began commenting on your reviews because they seemed intelligent and considered. Here, however, you’ve fallen flat on your face. You’ve either misread, or have chosen to misrepresent Dawkins. Richard Dawkins may be an arrogant loudmouth (I have had the chance to observe him briefly in the flesh, and that was the impression I formed – I may be wrong), but he is very intelligent and scholarly. His description of the Old Testament’s depiction of God was selective throughout the book, to be sure, but it was selective to make a point; there’s some grim stuff in the Old Testament that is hardly a role model for modern morals. This observation has nothing to do with the existence or non-existence of God.

      Your representation of his view on God having to evolve has nothing to do with God being inside or outside of the Universe. The point he’s making is that, God has to be very, very complex – more complex than the Universe. By CREATIONIST arguments, such a God could never just pop out of nowhere so he must have evolved (or, perhaps, God’ God created Him? Hmmm – round and round we go).

      All of this is very clear in Dawkins’ book. You either did not understand it or are deliberately misrepresenting it. Either way, to be honest, you’re boring me. By not addressing Dawkins’ points, by fudging and trying to pick away at his biblical examples rather than at his core argument, you’re throwing away the chance to make your point. I hope your articles get better from here… I was really enjoying them.

    2. Mr Easton,
      Again, I am simply pointing out errors in Dawkins arguments. You may find his work scholarly, but as someone who has studied some of these subjects, I find it superficial for the reasons I gave, reasons you did not address.
      Since I am addressing Dawkins’ book point by point, I would only say that your continued complaint that this has nothing to do with the existence of God, remains more against him then me.

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