Message of the Month – The God Delusion Debate
In 2010 I hosted two big screen video debates between Oxford University Professors John Lennox and Richard Dawkins. Hundreds of non-churched folk as well as members of various churches attended. There was very real interest.
I had already met John Lennox in Oxford although I was, at that time, unfamiliar with his work as a speaker. Having lunched with John, and having listened to several hours of Richard Dawkins in various contexts I was beginning to feel a little guilty that I hadn’t actually read The God Delusion.
Making Money from Religion
I’m not suggesting you buy a new copy of the book. Richard Dawkins has already made a massive amount of money from religion. Rather, if you want to read it, go and benefit your local second-hand book store by purchasing it there.
This is not a review of the book. I am not going to focus on how Dawkins misses the mark because he doesn’t have a clear grasp of key issues etc. Others have said those things already. I will point you to the Lennox/Dawkins debate.
But I do want to make a few comments which I hope will be helpful:
1. An Extended Rant. I genuinely enjoyed reading The God Delusion. It’s not often that a book keeps me completely engaged from beginning to end. There are maybe two sections that I felt should have been edited down, but this is, essentially, an extended rant and it’s fun to listen!
2. Not faith-shaking. I was surprised that there are no power punches in The God Delusion. There’s nothing here that shakes the Christian faith. Perhaps I was naive, but I had expected something more formidable. There are lots of little jabs and digs – but no substantial intellectual obstacles presented. So reading the book is more like being back in the sixth-form common room arguing about Christianity with your school mates. Digs, pokes – yes, lots of them – but certainly no knock-out punch.
3. Dodgy Examples. Irritating for the discerning reader and perhaps deceptive for those who don’t spot them are the occasions where Dawkins acknowledges that the research/item/example he is giving is probably not conclusive/trustworthy yet he goes right ahead and uses it anyway. He does this a lot. In one case he even gives a footnote saying ‘It is unclear whether the story is true’ but still uses it as a ‘typical’ example of how Christians behave. It’s all carefully worded so he escapes the charge of deliberately deceiving but my guess is that many readers gloss over the ‘this may be unverified research but…’ qualifier and get straight to the example he then uses.
4. ‘Raised Consciousness’ a delusion? Also slightly alarming, or comical, depending on your mood, are Dawkins’ suggestions that those who accept Darwinian evolution, and particularly biologists, have had their consciousness ‘raised’. And that some, particularly those poor physicists who concede that the fine tuning of the universe might suggest some ‘intelligence’, have yet to have their consciousness raised! In fact, this is his response to those who are sceptical of the so-called multiverse theory: ‘People who think that have not had their consciousness raised by natural selection.’ (p.175) Cheeky banana!
5. Shot by Both Sides. Those Christians attempting to syncretise evolutionary theory with Genesis, and hoping it might win them some intellectual credibility with non-believers will be disappointed by the response of this famous non-believer. They are given no respect whatsoever by Darwin’s most loyal devotee. He apparently does not believe your consciousness has been raised far enough and understandably (from his perspective) suggests that the literal death of Jesus for a symbolic sin by an allegorical, non-historical Adam is ‘barking mad’.
So, you can see how this is an entertaining book.
The message I am recommending in connection with the book is The God Delusion Debate between John Lennox and Richard Dawkins, filmed by The Fixed Point Foundation.
It’s over 2 hours long but it is superb, and a great resource for churches to use to generate civil discussion around some of these issues. John Lennox is brilliant.
Fixed Point also have several other filmed debates on sale. Amazingly, they have provided this full-length video free of charge!
Here’s the link: The God Delusion Debate
I also enclose a few quotes from book reviews of The God Delusion, for your entertainment
TGD review snippets
‘This big, colourful book is mostly tendentious tosh.’ – The Independent, UK
‘Despite his pious promise not to attack soft targets, that is precisely what he does, at some length.’ – The Independent, UK
The London Review of Books review was entitled ‘Lunging, Flailing, Mispunching’ and begins by saying, ‘Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.’
Dawkins ‘can scarcely bring himself to concede that a single human benefit has flowed from religious faith, a view which is as a priori improbable as it is empirically false.’
Antony Flew, the British philosopher and former atheist wrote,
‘What is much more remarkable than that economic achievement [from The God Delusion sales] is that the contents – or rather lack of contents – of this book show Dawkins himself to have become what he and his fellow secularists typically believe to be an impossibility: namely, a secularist bigot.’
In referring to Dawkins’ references to Einstein, Flew writes, ‘(I find it hard to write with restraint about this obscurantist refusal on the part of Dawkins) he makes no mention of Einstein’s most relevant report: namely, that the integrated complexity of the world of physics has led him to believe that there must be a Divine Intelligence behind it.’
‘This whole business makes all too clear that Dawkins is not interested in the truth as such but is primarily concerned to discredit an ideological opponent by any available means.’
Click here for the complete transcript of Flew’s response, and which includes a rebuttal to Dawkins disgraceful claim that certain Universities are not ‘proper universities’ conferring ‘real degrees’.
© 2011 Church History / Lex Loizides