OPINION Why Richard Dawkins is wrong about Christianity
misreading of the Bible).
The argument is emotive: ‘‘God isn’t real because I hate him’’. Dawkins presents himself as a radical sceptic, yet when it comes to seeing and confronting his own cherished assumptions he isn’t nearly sceptical enough.
Most exasperating of all is his repeated distortion of the concept of ‘‘faith’’. It’s one of his staple crowd-pleasers, and in fact a huge amount of his anti-religious worldview is built on his hatred of ‘‘faith’’. There’s just one problem: he completely misunderstands what Christians mean by ‘‘faith’’.
In his new book, Science and the Soul, Dawkins describes faith as ‘‘belief that isn’t based on evidence’’. He continues: ‘‘Religious faith not only lacks evidence, its independence from evidence is its pride and joy, shouted from the rooftops.’’
I wouldn’t presume to speak for other religions, but I can tell you how Christians react when we hear or read comments like those ones: ‘‘What the heck is he talking about? That’s not what we believe at all!’’ In fact, that’s the opposite of what biblical Christianity is about. The poor man simply doesn’t even know his own enemy.
Christians have zero interest in a belief system devoid of evidence, still less in a belief system that flies in the face of the evidence. The Bible is a book of history, and Christianity is built on the historical evidence for the life of Jesus Christ.
Most specifically, Christianity rises or falls on whether Jesus rose bodily from death, never to die again, as an actual event in time and space. Because Christians are persuaded – by the evidence – that he did, we believe he is who he claimed to be. We believe he takes away the guesswork when it comes to God. We believe he can offer all people everywhere a special and unique access to their creator.
But if Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, Christianity should be abandoned. Tear it all down. If you proved to me that Jesus stayed dead, I’d tell my children to rip up their bibles and I’d quit going to church. The Bible itself insists that if Jesus never rose, Christianity is utterly useless for everyone. But he did. That’s where the evidence of history takes us, and so Christians believe. We have faith because we trust in the evidence.
This isn’t a complicated idea, and surely Dawkins is smart enough to grasp it. He’s heard it clearly explained in debates against the likes of John Lennox, Oxford Professor of Mathematics. So I find myself wondering: does he really not get it? Or does he get it, and choose to turn a deaf ear? Which is worse?
Yet for all that, I’m glad he’s here. I’ll be glad if his visit causes even one person to ask the big questions about life, the universe and God.
But I’ll only be truly thankful if that person looks beyond Dawkins’ fire-breathing hostility towards God, sees the lack of logic that lurks (not far) beneath the surface, and is driven to ask: ‘‘Really? Is this the best that atheism has to offer?’’
Geoff Robson is a Christchurch-based church pastor and university chaplain, and the author of The Book of Books: Ashort guide to reading the Bible.
Richard Dawkins visited Auckland and Christchurch last week promoting his latest book, Science in the Soul.