Wednesday, November 01, 2006

My First Crack at Atheism.

After advice both for and against, I decided to buy Richard Dawkins latest book - The God Delusion. For those who don't know, Dawkins is a Darwinian scientist with a big thing against religion and the idea of God (hence the chirpy little title).

I was kind of cautious in buying this book. The main reason being that a few years ago I tried reading Steven Pinker's The Blank Slate and it almost destroyed me. It tried to scientifically explain how the body and mind doesn't require a soul in order to operate. I'd never come across this sort of thinking before and I felt my security in God slipping away (I don't think I even got past the first couple of chapters). Although this was scary, it also strengthened my resolve to not be so naive to the arguments of atheism (to this day, I still think of Pinker's book as my Everest). Whether I like it or not I'm going to have to face atheism sooner or later and when I do I need to be prepared.

Another reason for wanting to read the book is this: one thing that irritates me about a lot of atheist philosophers is that they paint an inaccurate portrait of God which makes it really easy to brush him aside. I don't think atheists actually realise what it is they don't believe in. They have a distorted view of Christianity and what it actually means to be a Christian (just because idiots persecute homosexuals in the name of Christianity, it doesn't make it Christian). And so they pick up on half truths and conveniently brush aside anything about the Christian faith that doesn't support their atheism.

The thing that really bugs me though is that Christians do exactly the same thing. We exaggerate and twist truths to "prove" that God's with us. The teenager who nods his head and says "I see your point but..." suddenly knew, according to the Christian leader who's telling the story later on, exactly what Christianity was about and was shaken to his very core, abandoning his prior beliefs and jumping on the Christian love train. The man who stops to hear the Salvation Army playing in the streets because he likes brass band music is suddenly proof that the gospel is reaching everyone in our community. The dying church who just had a couple of teenagers come in off the streets and sit at the back is suddenly experiencing the biggest revival since the Toronto blessing.

I have nothing against hope or optimism but when we exaggerate like this and ignore truths such as "the teenager was being polite", "the man likes brass music", and "the teenagers at the back were bored out of their brains" it's little wonder that atheists fail to take us seriously.

At the end of the day, when we look at the world around us and at a lot of Christian people and the kind of things that are happening in the name of God, there is actually a pretty strong case for atheism. And as long as we brush over all of these points and arguments as blasphemy and fail to take the case for atheism seriously, we look like we're running away from the truth we claim to be championing.

So this is why I'm going to hear Mr Dawkins out, I'm going to take his arguments seriously and I'm going to wrestle with them. And then, hopefully, when it comes to proclaiming the word of Jesus, I can rest assured that I am speaking the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.


Anonymous said...

Glyn I am in complete agreement. I am encouraged that somebody else has these concerns.

I also feel the same way about twisting the Bible to make it say what we want it to say. There are contradictions in the Bible. I believe that there is good reason for this, and totally trust that it is understood by God in spite of it being beyond mny understanding. However, I hate it when we Christians try to explain those contradictions away. It seems to me that we weaken the message when we fail to acknowledge the arguments against Christianity as valid and real and having a point.

My faith remains firm but, like you, I am able to identify with many of the arguments atheists would use. Any argument I try to give is weak if it is trying to prove something which, if I'm honest, I don't understand.

I also think its possible to agree with some of their arguments and acknowledge them as valid, whilst still remaining faithful. After all, God is way above the human intellect, and we can try and explain Him, or explain Him away all we like but He is not limited by our human understanding or intelligence and never will be. He is God. Can we prove that? Maybe, maybe not, but truth is not limited to what can be proved, (in my opinion!).

lucy AR said...

yo glyn
have u read Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (its cool). Anyway there is this bit in it where he is attending the most atheistic uni EVER, and he and his Christian Pals want to "come out" as Christians at a big Uni Drug Festival so they build a "Confession Booth" The catch, however, is that the Christians confess to the atheists. They apologise for all the atrocities performed in Gods name throughout history, and for how Christians daily misrepresnt God. They ask for forgiveness.

Flip, its a powerful story cos I think it shows the need for Christians to be honest about the brutal history of Christianity, and admittal of how we fail to rep. God good enough- and therefore leads to the recognition of Grace.

It makes me sad when Christians deny the horrors committed in Gods name, they aren't aware that non-Christians are quite valid in their cry that religion is bad for society (which i think is a theme in Dawkins book)

We need to be honest eh, and focus on the spirituality of following Christ rather than the structural religion that misrepresents Christ.

Anyway, hope you reading goes well. (I have had an everest over a book too)

Steven Carr said...

the history of Christianity is no more brutal than other histories and a lot less brutal than some others. but Jesus said that a good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and if that were true then Christianity should have proved it to be true.

the god delusion is a good book , but perhaps Dawkins is not specific enough about the historical evidence for or against Christianity.

I have some articles on that subject for example on the resurrection of Jesus at

this deals with the subject much more thoroughly than Dawkins could do in a general book such as the one he has written.