Back in the seventies and eighties I read quite a few of the articles that appeared in The New Republic. Although always left of center, the magazine at that time had little use for liberal pieties and published fairly iconoclastic articles shattering many idols of the left. Alas those days are long ago, and The New Republic has fallen into the lock step ideological conformity that makes the portside of our politics such a gray place. However, apparently, not always. John Gray has a piece on Richard Dawkins, that must not be missed. How good it is may be gauged by the anguished bleats of the faithless in the comments section. I especially enjoyed this portion of Mr. Gray’s article:
Exactly how Dawkins became the anti-religious missionary with whom we are familiar will probably never be known. From what he writes here, I doubt he knows himself. Still, there are a few clues. He began his pilgrimage to unbelief at the age of nine, when he learned from his mother “that Christianity was one of many religions and they contradicted each other. They couldn’t all be right, so why believe the one in which, by sheer accident of birth, I happened to be brought up?” But he was not yet ready to embrace atheism, and curiously his teenage passion for Elvis Presley reinforced his vestigial Christianity. Listening to Elvis sing “I Believe,” Dawkins was amazed to discover that the rock star was religious. “I worshipped Elvis,” he recalls, “and I was a strong believer in a non-denominational creator god.” Dawkins confesses to being puzzled as to why he should have been so surprised that Elvis was religious: “He came from an uneducated working-class family in the American South. How could he not have been religious?” By the time he was sixteen, Dawkins had “shed my last vestige of theistic credulity.” As one might expect, the catalyst for his final conversion from theism was Darwinism. “I became increasingly aware that Darwinian evolution was a powerfully available alternative to my creator god as an explanation of the beauty and apparent design of life. … It wasn’t long then before I became strongly and militantly atheistic.”
What is striking is the commonplace quality of Dawkins’s rebellion against religion. In turning away from the milk-and-water Anglicanism in which he had been reared—after his conversion from theism, he “refused to kneel in chapel,” he writes proudly—he was doing what tens of thousands of Britain’s young people did at the time. Compulsory religious instruction of the kind that exists in British schools, it has often been observed, creates a fertile environment for atheism. Dawkins’s career illustrates the soundness of this truism. If there is anything remarkable in his adolescent rebellion, it is that he has remained stuck in it. At no point has Dawkins thrown off his Christian inheritance. Instead, emptying the faith he was taught of its transcendental content, he became a neo-Christian evangelist. A more inquiring mind would have noticed at some point that religion comes in a great many varieties, with belief in a creator god figuring in only a few of the world’s faiths and most having no interest in proselytizing. It is only against the background of a certain kind of monotheism that Dawkins’s evangelical atheism makes any sense.
Even more remarkable is Dawkins’s inveterate literal-mindedness. He tells us that “the Pauline belief that everybody is born in sin, inherited from Adam (whose embarrassing non-existence was unknown to St. Paul), is one of the very nastiest aspects of Christianity.” It is true that the idea of original sin has become one with a morbid preoccupation with sexuality, which has been part of Christianity throughout much of its history. Even so, it is an idea that contains a vital truth: evil is not error, a mistake of the mind, a failure of understanding that can be corrected by smarter thinking. It is something deeper and more constitutive of human life itself. The capacity and propensity for destruction goes with being human. One does not have to be religious to acknowledge this dark fact. With his myth or metaphor of the death instinct thanatos, Freud—a lifelong atheist—recognized that impulses of hatred and cruelty are integral to the human psyche. As an atheist myself, it is a view I find no difficulty in sharing.
Quite apart from the substance of the idea, there is no reason to suppose that the Genesis myth to which Dawkins refers was meant literally. Coarse and tendentious atheists of the Dawkins variety prefer to overlook the vast traditions of figurative and allegorical interpretations with which believers have read Scripture. Both Augustine and before him the Jewish philosopher Philo of Alexandria explicitly cautioned against literalism in interpreting the biblical creation story. Later, in the twelfth century, Maimonides took a similar view. It was only around the time of the Reformation that the idea that the story was a factual account of events became widely held. When he maintains that Darwin’s account of evolution displaced the biblical story, Dawkins is assuming that both are explanatory theories—one primitive and erroneous, the other more advanced and literally true. In treating religion as a set of factual propositions, Dawkins is mimicking Christianity at its most fundamentalist. Continue reading
Andrew Brown at The Spectator has some interesting comments about the money making potential of being Richard Dawkins:
But the $85 a month just touches the hem of rationality. After the neophyte passes through the successively more expensive ‘Darwin Circle’ and then the ‘Evolution Circle’, he attains the innermost circle, where for $100,000 a year or more he gets to have a private breakfast or lunch with Richard Dawkins, and a reserved table at an invitation-only circle event with ‘Richard’ as well as ‘all the benefits listed above’, so he still gets a discount on his Richard Dawkins T-shirt saying ‘Religion — together we can find a cure.’
The website suggests that donations of up to $500,000 a year will be accepted for the privilege of eating with him once a year: at this level of contribution you become a member of something called ‘The Magic of Reality Circle’. I don’t think any irony is intended.
The hilarious thing is that atheists like Dawkins consider themselves “Brights”:
In a recent interview with the Times magazine, Richard Dawkins attempted to defend what he called “mild pedophilia,” which, he says, he personally experienced as a young child and does not believe causes “lasting harm.”
Dawkins went on to say that one of his former school masters “pulled me on his knee and put his hand inside my shorts,” and that to condemn this “mild touching up” as sexual abuse today would somehow be unfair.
“I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism, I look back a few decades to my childhood and see things like caning, like mild pedophilia, and can’t find it in me to condemn it by the same standards as I or anyone would today,” he said.
Atheist blowhard Richard Dawkins never has the least hesitation in bashing Christians and Jews, but when the subject of Islam comes up, at least when he is being interviewed by Al-Jazeerah that will blast his comments throughout the Islamic world, well that is another matter:
While you may not agree with the views of the new breed of aggressive atheists who have emerged in recent years you have to admire their courage for bravely standing up and speaking truth to power against the various religious institutions whose integrity they seek to undermine. No matter what consequences they might face, they aren’t afraid to lay out their case against religion in terms that are often harsh and sure to offend.
Here is an example from an article called Facing uncomfortable truths:
In a recent Al-Jazeerah interview, Richard Dawkins was asked his views on God. He argued that the god of “the Old Testament” is “hideous” and “a monster”, and reiterated his claim from The God Delusion that the God of the Torah is the most unpleasant character “in fiction”.
As you can see, Dawkins has no trouble attacking the Hebrew God in a most direct and uncompromising manner. No atheist wallflower he.
Asked if he thought the same of the God of the Koran, Dawkins ducked the question, saying: “Well, um, the God of the Koran I don’t know so much about.”
How can it be that the world’s most fearless atheist, celebrated for his strident opinions on the Christian and Jewish Gods, could profess to know so little about the God of the Koran? Has he not had the time? Or is Professor Dawkins simply demonstrating that most crucial trait of his species: survival instinct.
Whoops. It’s funny how these confident, cocksure prophets of atheism-who barely have time to take a breath between slamming the tenets of Christianity and Judaism-often get curiously tongue-tied and shy when the subject of Islam comes up. The idea that Dawkins doesn’t “know so much about” the God of the Koran is absurd. Of course he knows about Islam. And the same disdain and disregard that he has for Judaism and Christianity should surely apply to Islam as well.
At the atheist rally in Washington on Saturday, which drew a pathetic 20,000 worshipers of the Great Vacuum, Professor Richard Dawkins delivered himself of this tolerant and loving sentiment:
Then Dawkins got to the part where he calls on the crowd not only to challenge religious people but to “ridicule and show contempt” for their doctrines and sacraments, including the Eucharist, which Catholics believe becomes the body of Christ during Mass.
Dawkins obviously needs our prayers for the state of his soul and our horse laughs for him being such a bigoted dweeb. However, part of me wishes that he could encounter a Catholic convert like Clovis. Clovis was a chieftain of the Franks in the late fifth and early sixth centuries. He laid the framework for Frankish domination of Gaul and is the Father of France. A pagan, he was converted to the Faith primarily through the prayers and loving example of his Catholic wife Clotilde. In the battle of Tolbiac where the Alemanni were defeating his Franks, he cried out to the God of Clotilde that he would convert if victory was granted to him. He won and began instruction in the Faith under Saint Remigius Bishop of Reims. The Saint told Clovis when he was baptized on Christmas Day 496: Bow thy head, O Sicambrian, adore what thou hast burned and burn what thou hast adored! Continue reading
The title of this article almost sounds surreal. At first one could be forgiven for thinking it was some sort of low budget End Times movie seen on some local cable access channel. However, the information contained within this article is real, fortunately, as believers and specifically those of us who are Catholic we know that Jesus promised that His Church would not fall despite the attempts of those working for the evil one. God is the truth and God is love, but the mere fact that He is both has caused many rebellions against him literally from day one. Sadly, those who often claim to be the smartest act the most childish, by at first claiming God doesn’t exist and then claiming if He does exist, He doesn’t make sense at least to them. This article will look at this behavior from the world’s earliest moments, but will mainly focus on what has happened in the last few years, right up until this very moment.
Occasionally one runs across a post that’s particularly nicely done. I think Matthew Boudway’s recent reflections on a column by Clifford Longley on the new atheists comes dangerously close to perfect. It’s brief, highlights an interesting article, and adds a thoughtful perspective that provides more depth to the article it cites. Here’s a snippet:
[In response to Richard Dawkins’s claim that it is wrong to “indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them,”]
“There is no such thing as value-free parenting,” Longley writes…Longley proposes this as an argument about parenting, but it is hard to see why it wouldn’t also apply to education. If the argument doesn’t apply to education, why doesn’t it? If it does — and if it is a good argument — then people of faith have a compelling reason not to send their children to schools where the subject of religion qua religion is carefully avoided. One could, I suppose, argue that the tacit message of such schools is that religion is too important to get mixed up with the tedious but necessary stuff of primary education, but of course public schools approach important matters all the time, and cannot avoid doing so.
Some time ago, someone asked me:
Suppose–just for the sake of argument–you were convinced that an honest reading of the Tradition of the Church required you to believe that the initial chapters of Genesis were historical. Would you be able to do it, or do you think that Darwinism is so irrefutable that you would have to abandon or radically redetermine your faith?
I think this is the question that worries a lot of Catholics without a strong scientific background as they watch the evolution/creationist/ID debate on Catholic blogs. Here are these otherwise solid Christians taking common cause with the likes of the Richard Dawkins against their brother Christians. What gives? Are these folks really Christian? Do they care more about science than about faith? Do they only accept Catholicism so long as it agrees with science?
Under the surface, and largely unbeknownst to the mainstream media, the tide has been turning to Catholicism for some time. The pontificates of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI along with events such as an increase in orthodox minded seminarians, young priests and young women religious, a return to devotions and a reform of the reform of liturgy have shown us that indeed the tide is turning. However, for some time now western culture has been moving in the opposite direction, where any, whim or opinion that holds that orthodox minded religious thought is antiquated and even harmful is held in high regard. How could this jibe with the turning tide within the Church? Who would win? Didn’t Jesus promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against His Church after He gave Peter the keys (and the 265 subsequent popes) to lead it? The answer is the same answer that has always been, the Church eventually always wins and it will this time as well.
Following the Election of 2008 when liberalism was on the ascendancy, many in the mainstream media joyfully proclaimed a new era, where one could read between the lines and see that traditional views of society, family and religion were on their way out and big government was in. However, a funny thing happened on the way to the revolution, many Americans refused to go to the Bastille with pitchfork in hand. Americans view of revolution was almost always in line with George Washington’s view of limited government and not Maximilien Robespierre’s view of war against society, family and religion. Perhaps the Election of 2008 was a pox on both their big spending houses that was wrongly construed as a vote for Big Government.