|Hey, Richard, you can interpret the signs however you want, but that cliff's been there a LONG time, |
and it's not going anywhere.
Friday, June 29, 2012
The Moral Zeitgeist: Don’t Believe in the Almighty God, His Followers Are Bullies.
Why Richard Dawkins' Moral Relativism Just Doesn't Work
Oh, hey. I wasn’t expecting you so soon. What’s that? No, don’t be silly. Come on in. Make yourself at home. I was just about to get started on the third part of “The God Reality.” I have to say, I was a little worried I’d scared you off last month. I’m glad I didn’t come across too harsh when I refuted Richard Dawkins’ claims on the origin of “life, the universe and everything.”
Still, I feel kind of bad and, if you’ll allow me, I’d like an opportunity to explain myself. I want to show you why I’m a little defensive when it comes to Dawkins—why I’m so skeptical when he says things like, “I find it genuinely puzzling that a mere difference of theological opinion can generate such venom.”
So, I’d like to take a minute, just sit right there. I’ll tell you how I became the prince of a town called Bel-Air…no, wait, that’s not it. I mean, I’ll tell you why Dawkins (even though he’s a remarkable biologist) may be less than qualified to lecture on the subjects of morality and ethics.
From the outset, I want you to recognize what a paradox it is when Dawkins says things like, “Similarly, we can all agree that science’s entitlement to advise us on moral values is problematic, to say the least,” (after asserting that theologians should not be consulted for anything requiring intelligence, since they are utterly useless on all educated topics), and then goes on to supply 4 chapters focused solely on Christianity’s lack of moral values. In essence, he spends the first part of his book explaining the big bang and evolution, and then uses the rest of his ink to preach on the evils of religion, specifically Christianity.
Don’t get me wrong. I take valid arguments against Christianity just as seriously as the next guy. Too bad the arguments in “The God Delusion” aren’t valid, and the source isn’t even remotely credible. I know, I know, that’s a mighty bold statement to make. But, in the spirit of the scientific method, I intend to back my claims up with evidence.
Let’s start by examining the quote I used a second ago from page 212. Dawkins takes such an innocent stance, pondering why Christians are always so mean and venomous when it comes to differences “of theological opinion.” It sounds great on the surface until you stop to examine the implications.
First, does Dawkins really want us to reduce the subjects of his celebrated book to “theological opinion,” instead of pursuing the science and facts that he so loves? Second (and more importantly, since it’s the focus of this whole discussion), does he really claim that Christians are the only party guilty of defending their beliefs with harsh words and biased judgments? Apparently so, since he reiterates this idea two pages later with: “…but his letter, by this point, had reached that level of frenzied malevolence which I repeatedly recognize among my Christian correspondents.”
In that case, bear with me a moment while I present a few examples of Dawkins’ venom:
1) “The God Delusion.” Did you catch that? Right there on the cover.
2) On page 204, he explains how the small island of Vanuatu/Tanna fell victim to Christian missionaries, who ultimately destroyed the indigenous peoples’ religious innocence. He even goes so far as to say, “These islands had long been infected with missionaries.” INFECTED. I sense a hint of biased opinion…
3) On page 321, in reaction to a letter depicting a woman’s “irrational” fear of hell instilled at a young age by ruthless nuns, Dawkins proclaims, “I was moved by her letter, and (suppressing a momentary and ignoble regret that there is no hell for those nuns to go to) replied that…” True, he uses “ignoble” to downplay his condemnation of the nuns, but how are these harsh words any better than any “go to hell” shouted by his opponents?
With these inconsistencies in mind, I hope you’ll bear with me a while longer, so I can fully convey my concern with Dawkins’ skewed moral compass, and how it affects his judgment.
As I said before, in his 6th-9th chapters, Dawkins assaults the morality of Christianity, so instead of making unfounded blanket statements about his character, and his basic understanding of Christianity, I’ll give a series of specific examples in these chapters that support my claims.
*HEY YOU, READ THIS: What follows is, well, lengthy. But it’s good stuff. And I promise, once it starts rolling, it just keeps getting better. With the first example, you might say, “Big Whoop. So what?” but by the end, you’re going to be yelling at your screen, “C’mon, mon. You serious, mon? How dis mon think dis crazy things?” Yes, by the end of this blog, you will be Jamaican.
Ch. 6- The Roots of Morality: Why are we good?
p. 227- “I suspect that quite a lot of religious people do think religion is what motivates them to be good, especially if they belong to one of those faiths that systematically exploits personal guilt.” What he doesn’t understand is that humanity desires to be “good” because God instilled it in us through His image, not because we fear Him. It is a part of us because it is ALL of Him.
p. 228- Because of his hatred of Christianity, Dawkins blatantly twists the truth. He describes a situation in 1969 when the Montreal police went on strike and the city fell into chaos. He asserts an “If-Then” statement. IF: Montreal was made up mostly of Christians, AND some of Montreal’s citizens looted and vandalized the city, THEN: those responsible for the looting and vandalizing must have necessarily been Christians. He doesn’t even try to prove that any of the criminals during the strike were Christians. He just assumes it and considers it a valid argument.
Ch. 7- The Good Book and the Moral Zeitgeist
p. 246- “It is yet another example of the disconnect between scriptural and modern (one is tempted to say civilized) morals.” Dawkins consistently claims his generation/peers to be the peak of rationality, intelligence, morality, and civility, but he still has the self-righteousness to call Christians arrogant. Again, on page 265, he says, “Religious or not, we have all changed massively in our attitude to what is right and what is wrong.” The crazy thing is, he must not own a TV, because he actually thinks humanity is doing BETTER now that we’re “civilized.”
p. 254- “Jesus limited his in-group of the saved strictly to Jews.” Someone should get this guy a Bible. What about “…all children of God through Faith” (Galatians 3: 26-29), baptizing All nations (Matt. 28: 19), and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15, Acts 1:8)?
262-272- The section entitled “The Moral Zeitgeist” only proves that when morality has no absolute, it will be defined by the zeitgeist (“the spirit of the times”). It is always changing like a child stumbling in the dark. Maybe it’s time we start searching for a source of moral light to lead us through the darkness...
p. 263- Along with such timeless rules as “don’t kill”, Dawkins throws in relativistic morals such as “…pay our taxes…[and] don’t commit incest…” Now, I’m not saying it’s okay to cheat the IRS or to marry your sister, but not all societies pay a government for their protection, and Roman emperors used to protect the royal bloodline by having kids with close relatives. Dawkins doesn’t seem to grasp the difference between moral and societal issues.
p. 271- Dawkins says, “Although Martin Luther King was a Christian, he derived his philosophy of non-violent civil disobedience directly from Gandhi, who was not.” Ha! Yes, Gandhi. That’s where Christianity derives its morals. It all makes sense now…Oh wait, too bad Gandhi actually admired Christ. Don’t believe me? Then why did Gandhi say, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians.”? With that said, the latter half of Gandhi’s quote brings up an important issue. Christianity is made up of broken, sinful people who fail to fully reflect God’s message. Maybe that’s why Dawkins always attacks Christians, but never ventures to take on the morality of the Big Man, himself. More on this later…
p. 272- The section entitled “What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren’t They Atheists?” would be laughable if it wasn’t so disturbing. Dawkins actually tries to say Hitler did the things he did BECAUSE, at times, he claimed to be a Christian, BUT, even though Stalin was an adamant atheist, he wasn’t quite as twisted as Hitler, so, in the moral game of attrition, atheism beats Christianity. On page 276, he even tries to downplay Hitler’s anti-Christian statements by saying, “… he was an opportunistic liar whose words cannot be trusted, in either direction.” Oh, sure, Stalin was an atheist, but we can’t blame his lack of morals on that, so let’s gloss over his atrocities. Instead, let’s take Hitler, who only claimed to be a Christian so he could gain power, and let’s spend six pages blaming Christianity for his acts.
p. 278- Here, Dawkins claims unyielding religious beliefs are the source of all violence. “By contrast,” he says, “why would anyone go to war for the sake of an absence of belief?” Unfortunately, humanity is incapable of believing in nothing. We will always fill the void with an absolute. Thus, if atheism usurps religion, it must bear the responsibility of Man’s sins, taking the blame for our newfound desire to fight for our right to party.
Ch 8- What’s Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?
p. 297- “Early embryos that have no nervous system most certainly do not suffer. And if late-aborted embryos with nervous systems suffer- though all suffering is deplorable- it is not because they are human that they suffer. There is no general reason to suppose that human embryos at any age suffer more than cow or sheep embryos at the same developmental stage.” So, the amount of nerve endings a being has should determine if it lives? Furthermore, since lethal injection is painless, would it be moral to kill an innocent human by such means?
p. 301- “…there are no natural borderlines in evolution. The illusion of a borderline is created by the fact that the evolutionary intermediates happen to be extinct. Of course, it could be argued that humans are more capable of, for example, suffering than other species…But evolutionary continuity shows that there is no absolute distinction. Absolute moral discrimination is devastatingly undermined by the fact of evolution.” I know this quote is a little hard to follow, but here’s what it boils down to: Either Dawkins believes testing on animals is immoral and he is out of a job (as a biologist), or he believes testing on humans is moral and he is as bad as Hitler, who he has already adamantly condemned as a Christian.
Ch 9- Childhood, Abuse and the Escape From Religion
p. 316- “All three of the boarding schools I attended employed teachers whose affection for small boys overstepped the bounds of propriety…I should have felt obliged to come to their defense, even as the victim of one of them (an embarrassing but otherwise harmless experience).” How is this not a red flag for his claim of “moral objectivity?” This whole section downplays pedophilia as a minor offense when compared with the religious education of children.
p. 325- “If you were to compare the abuse of bringing up a child really to believe in hell…how do you think that would compare in trauma terms with sexual abuse?” He actually sees this as a valid question. Apparently, it’s hard for him to see that belief in hell is a necessary component of belief in heaven, which gives a sense of hope and purpose, while sexual abuse violently strips away all hope and purpose.
p. 327- In response to a TV special about a sacrificed Incan girl found in a frozen tomb: “How dare they invite us – in our sitting rooms, watching television – to feel uplifted by contemplating an act of ritual murder: the murder of a dependent child by a group of stupid, puffed up, superstitious, ignorant old men.” Huh, so it’s not okay to kill an innocent child if it’s convenient to the beliefs of grown-ups? What about abortion?
p. 330- In response to a Wisconsin court case ruled in favor of Amish families pulling their kids out of public schools at age 16: “…the children themselves should have been consulted. Did they really want to cut short their education? Did they, indeed, really want to stay in the Amish religion?” I don’t get it. Don’t we “force” kids to go to school in the first place? At what point are they allowed to be actual people? Is it when they have enough nerve endings to feel more pain than a cow—or do they have to be frozen in an Incan tomb for 500 years?
So you see my confusion and frustration. Dawkins’ moral relativism, while adamant, has no basis. He claims to be a scientist, but then he fills his book with constant contradictions on the value of human life and relationships. Modern Christians have their share of faults, but the Bible’s morality has been relevant and unchanging for over 2,000 years. That’s more than I can say for Richard Dawkins, who seems to have changed his moral views several times over the span of 300 pages.
With all this said, I want to make one thing clear. No one forms opinions without some measure of truth. On page 211, Dawkins says, “Such unchristian abuse is commonly experienced by those who are perceived as enemies of Christianity.” Here, it is clear that Dawkins does have at least some grasp of what Christ originally taught. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but Christianity is literally made up of broken, flawed human beings. If anyone thinks for a second that slapping a “Jesus Fish” bumper sticker on their ride makes them any better than the rest of the world, they are doing nothing but cheapening God’s Word. Critics of modern Christianity cannot be downplayed or ignored.
*For more on modern society’s views of Christianity, and why they matter, read UnChristian by David Kinnaman.
Do you get it now? Do you understand why I find it hard to fully accept the words of a man who seems so morally disoriented? Sure, we’re all screwed up on some level, so I really shouldn’t fully accept what anyone says, right? Well, there was this one Guy from Nazareth, and if my memory serves me right, He had a lot to say on the subject of morality.
Then again, he did live over 2,000 years ago. How can we be sure the stuff we have in the Bible today is the same stuff He said way back then? Seems like a pretty big deal to me. Such a big deal, in fact, that it would make a great finale for this series. So, if you’re interested in what history has to say about Jesus of Nazareth, come back and see me next month when I finally stop rambling and wrap up this whole blasted series.
Thanks for coming. And as they say on MTV Cribs: Get out.