Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Richard Dawkins part 2: Dawkins and Paula Zahn

In my second edition of looking into the foremost atheist in the world, Richard Dawkins, I take a look at an interview Dawkins did with Paula Zahn. This has a different taste to it, because Zahn is simply interviewing rather than debating (in contrast to the O'Reily interview). You will notice again that Dawkins is a gentleman the entire time. I do have some problems with some things he says, though. My commentary is below.

1. "Not a shred of evidence"

Dawkins claims that he does not believe in the Judeo Christian God because "there is not a shred of evidence in favor of the Judeo Christian God or indeed any other god." I would love to have a chance to sit down and talk with Dawkins, because it would be interesting to hear what he classifies as evidence. I think of Billy Graham's metaphor of the wind, how we cannot see it but we see the effects of it, and wonder of that could be evidence. I wonder if the Bible and the testimony of the first century Christians could be evidence. I suppose it is from a purely scientific standpoint that he rejects these as evidence. It seems weird, though, that he has pretty much written them off without a second thought (though maybe he hasn't). Is that really all there is to it?

Also, he categorizes the Judeo Christian God with Zeus and Thor and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. It seems that any thinking human being would see an enormous difference between the Judeo Christian God and this group with which he lumps it in. The difference between the Gospels and other works about characters who do miracles are huge. We have apocryphal writings about Jesus and they are night and day different than the Gospels.

2. "remarkably intolerant of atheists"

Here comes that intolerant word again. This goes back to how do you interpret the word intolerant? The currently used definition is "all views are equally valid." A more accurate definition is "All people are valid, but views are not." I think we would agree that the first definition does not work. Some views are stupid. Some are foolish. Some are dangerous (Nazism). We must be able to disagree on our views without being labeled intolerant. So, if Dawkins is suggesting that Christians are intolerant of atheists because they disregard their views and think them incorrect, than all atheists are intolerant as well. If he is using the second definition, he is suggesting that atheists are treated poorly because they are atheists, that is a serious charge, and sadly, true in some circles. We need to be careful as Christians to treat all people with love, as Christ did.

3. "historic misunderstanding of what atheism is"

I think this is true. The word "atheist" has a negative connotation in Christian circles. I think it sounds angry and hostile. Rather, most atheists are like Dawkins, peaceful people who simply disagree. By the way, the way to win atheists like this for the Lord is not to brow beat and be prejudiced towards them. If they were to experience the transforming love of Christ acted out by a humble believer, it would go a long way (in my opinion).

4. "What's there to be frightened of?"

Joining the last point, I think he makes a true statement here as well. gain, most atheists are nice people who choose not to believe in God. Why should we be scared of dialogue about the things he mentions, the origin of the universe, the cosmos, etc.? We as Christians should welcome conversation like these, and we should be educated enough to entertain these discussions.

On the other hand, though, I do think these ideas, this worldview, can be dangerous. Living as if there is no God, no ultimate code of right and wrong, no ultimate benefit to right living or morality is dangerous. A generation living this way is scary. It is not the atheists that scare me, or even their ideas, it is the results of their ideas played out practically on a generation who takes them to their logical end. There are no consequences for my actions? Okay, I will do whatever I want. There is no right or wrong, only relative codes of conduct? Okay, then why does it matter what I do or don't do? these are the ideas that are scary, not the people or the discussions.

5. "you don't live this life to the full"

Wow. I believe the exact opposite of what he is saying. What is more negative, a funeral where the dead person and his whole family believe that the person in the casket is no more, they are worm food, never to live again, or that they lived a great long life but are now in heaven where there is no more pain or suffering? It is an eye opener to hear that one of the same reasons we claim religion is better than atheism is the same reason they claim atheism is better. Very interesting.

In conclusion, if there is one thing Dawkins does, it is make us think about some tough questions and concepts. I believe that he is seeking truth, and it is always interesting to get another perspective.


Michael Krahn said...

Hey Nick,

Re: the historic misunderstanding

So far in reading The God Delusion and listening to / watching interviews and debates he has confirmed this historic impression more than he has dispelled it in my mind.

I thought I would be up against a much more reasonable approach when I started his book but he repeatedly flies off into sarcasm and hostility often.

Here is a link that will get you to a debate between Dawkins and McGrath. http://theologica.blogspot.com/2007/03/mcgrath-vs-dawkins-online.html

I will continue reading his book, but I'm finding it easier to pass Dawkins off than I expected.

anyhow... later. Keep the posts coming. I'll be posted my first in the God Delusion series shortly at


Nick said...

Interesting. I'm glad you are reading the book and reviewing it. I look forward to further analysis from you.

That link doesn't work. I'd really like to check it out. Can you repost the link to the debate?


Michael Krahn said...

Try this


Nick said...

Sweet! Thanks Mike.

Chip Burkitt said...

Here's an article about Christopher Hitchens' book god Is Not Great, another book along the same lines as The God Delusion. Enjoy.