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21st May, 2007

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Cheers and jeers for Richard Dawkins

The controversial program, “The Root of All Evil?”, written by renowned atheist Richard Dawkins, has just aired in Australia. Like most atheists, Dawkins sees faith and reason as mutually incompatible antagonists rather than as two distinct paths towards fullness of truth. He sees faith as a divisive and dangerous process of non-thinking that stands in fundamental opposition to modern science and the scientific method. He rejects the simple yet logical position that faith informed by the right source (God) provides knowledge that neither sound reasoning nor the empirical methods of science can give.

If God doesn't exist, then Dawkins's position is sound; in that case, truth can only be found in the natural world and knowledge of it can only be attained by application of the scientific method and sound reasoning. But if God does exist, and if He created the universe, then truth “beyond” the created order does exist and the only way one can gain knowledge of it is by dint of the willingness of the Creator to tell us about it. In that case faith, defined here as knowledge of the “other world”, rounds out and completes scientific knowledge.

Dawkins takes the atheist's faith in no-God as if it were self-evident. The only “real” argument he gives against the existence of God is presented by a question, “Who made God?”. Pardon me; are you really suggesting that the position that God is eternally self-existing is itself proof that He cannot exist? Not only is this illogical in its own right, it would, if it did hold any water, disprove the existence of the universe! If the universe was not created it is itself either eternally-existing or, more remarkably, self-creating.

Dawkins doesn't appear to be averse to pulling a few dirty tricks. The scene showing atheists having a jolly time at a barbecue gives you a warm fuzzy glow. These are nice people. Look, they are obviously rational, non-extremist types. The believers he presents for our delectation are either patently loony or as, for instance, in the case of Ted Haggard, brusque and narrow-minded. Very clever.

What is perhaps most remarkable is the main implied reason for Dawkins's

unbelief (after the argument from illogic just mentioned). Pervading the whole first episode (The God Delusion) is the implication that religious people are all either superstitious or extremist to the point of murder, or both. Since any God who created such a magnificent universe as ours could not possibly be either superstitious or hateful, the fact that such a theoretical God's supposed supporters are ignorant or whacko proves that such a God doesn't exist. Got that? Seems that Dawkins, then, has succumbed to one of the best-known enemies of clear thinking — guilt by association. Those who believe in God are nuts, therefore God must not exist. If he knows better himself, he should make every effort to disabuse his audience of that sort of irrational thinking.

One cannot help but identify with Prof. Dawkins's alarm at the murderous capacity of many "believers" of one stripe or another. But let's not forget that history's worst killers — Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Tse Tung — made little or no pretence of a belief in God.

So much for the jeers; now for the cheers. Professor Dawkins is right! A large number of “the faithful” are indeed superstitious and ignorant. Worse, the institutions that believers look to for guidance are in many cases guilty of perpetuating dangerous myths and teaching sheer nonsense. Dawkins is doing what we believers should be doing ourselves — exposing the superstition and extremism and self-serving nature of many churches, synagogues, and mosques. Institutional religion is by and large damaging; it has indeed fueled ignorance and superstition. A large portion of the responsibility for today's Islamic terrorism can be laid at the feet of a number of mosques and their imams. The doctrine of the Assumption of Mary has absolutely no basis in either Scripture or the scientific method and should be rejected. The Roman Catholic Church should be telling its flock that miracles are not being worked at Lourdes and that going there for healing is a waste of time.

One wonders which is worse: atheists who deny God or religious people who misrepresent Him? It's a good question.

Click here for Wikkipedia's description of "The Root of All Evil?"

Richard Dawkins


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