In his first chapter, Dawkins introduces us to the target of his book- theistic belief in a personal God. He does this is a round about way, primarily using the "beliefs" of Albert Einstein as an example. Einstein was at most a deist (one who believes God created the universe, but does not interact with it) or a pantheist (one who ascribes to "God" everything that exists in the universe). The title of the chapter, "A deeply religious non believer" is a partial quote from Albert Einstein, who described his "religion" as an awe of nature and its "magnificent structure." The main thrust of the chapter is that science deserves respect (which is doesn't get) whereas religion deserves little or no respect (which it receives).
The god of religions is a "little god"
In attempting to prove his point that religions are stupid, Dawkins quotes Carl Sagan in Pale Blue Dot:
"How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is much better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander more subtle, more elegant? Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.' A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths."
What Sagan failed to understand (and Dawkins, by quoting him) is that there is such a religion that directly ascribes the magnificence of the universe to the glory of the God who created it. The Christian scriptures say that God created time and the entire universe1 from what is not visible,2 and, as immense as it is, it cannot contain Him.3 This is certainly no "little god." These same scriptures tell us that the awesome nature of the created universe reveals God's glory and power:
- The heavens are telling of the glory of God; And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. (Psalm 19:1)
- The heavens declare His righteousness, And all the peoples have seen His glory. (Psalm 97:6)
- Lift up your eyes on high And see who has created these stars, The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, Not one of them is missing. (Isaiah 40:26)
- Let heaven and earth praise Him, The seas and everything that moves in them. (Psalm 69:34)
- Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven. (Psalm 148:7-13)
- For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. (Romans 1:18-20)
The God of Christianity is only a "little god" to those who have not read and understood what the Bible says about Him.
Let's quote some obscure off-the-wall Christians
After many words about the differences between "supernatural religion" (i.e. theism) and an awe of nature (i.e., deism or pantheism) Dawkins goes on to quote some obscure (and unnamed) Christians who attacked Einstein's view of God. Who are these people? Dawkins doesn't even tell us their names. Does Dawkins really expect us to believe that they represent mainstream Christianity? One particularly glaring example is a quote from a letter from some "president of a historical society in New Jersey," who says, "As everyone knows, religion is based on Faith, not knowledge." I am sure Dawkins must have searched long and hard to find such an off-the-wall quote. Does this idea really exist within the pages of Christianity's scriptures?
The Bible actually tells believers to test everything.4 In His revelation to Isaiah, God Himself stated, "Come now, and let us reason together..."5 God, the Creator of humans and human reasoning ability6 wants us to use that ability. Psalm 19 tells us that the universe "declares the glory of God" and that this "voice goes out into all the earth."7 In fact, the Bible says that the evidence for God's design of the universe is so strong that people are "without excuse" in rejecting God and His plan of salvation.8 The Bible says that God created humans and endowed them with a mind so that they would use it.9 The Bible says that God and Jesus Christ will test the minds (as well as the hearts) of people.10 One of the most important prophecies for Christianity, the coming of the New Covenant,11 fulfilled in the coming of the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth,12 describes the changes God does in both the heart and the mind of those who are transformed.13 The Bible says that those who do not believe do so, in part, because of deception in their minds.14 This deception leads to hostility to God and defiling of their minds and consciences.15 The Christian is encouraged to direct our "mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom and an explanation."16 Christians should use their minds in all aspects of life17 and "always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have."18 Many verses from Proverbs discuss the importance of acquiring knowledge and wisdom,19 even to the degree of choosing knowledge over riches.20 Faith is of utmost importance to the Christian, but the Bible doesn't say to limit your belief to faith alone. In fact, it commands us to add first moral excellence then second knowledge.21 The Bible encourages believers to have a knowledge-based faith, built upon sound biblical doctrine.22 When Paul preached the gospel, he did it through reasoning from the scriptures and not an appeal to blind faith.23 In fact, he commended the Bereans, because they examined the prophecies to determine if what he was saying was the truth.24 Paul, in his letters to the churches told believers to do away with childish thinking and reasoning.25 Christians are advised to set an example for others in teaching by modeling "integrity, seriousness, and soundness of speech."26 Jesus, in one of His most famous quotes said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) Blind faith is never taught in the Bible.
Dawkins' response to the letter from some "president of a historical society in New Jersey" is, "What a devastatingly revealing letter! Every sentence drips with intellectual and moral cowardice." However, only really naïve atheists are going to believe that some unnamed "president of a historical society in New Jersey" really represents what Christianity teaches about faith and reason. How does Dawkins really think he is going to get away with such deception?
The section entitled "undeserved respect" claims that religious ideas receive too much respect and tend to be "hands off" as far as being criticized or even discussed. On this account, I agree with Dawkins. Religious ideas should be up to debate and scrutiny. That is why on this website we discuss and refute all manner of religious claims that are not consistent with the facts.27
More "atheistic pride"
Richard Dawkins likes to pat himself on the back throughout the book. He quotes the late Douglas Adams, "...We are used to not challenging religious ideas but it's very interesting how much furore Richard [Dawkins] creates when he does it!..." Such shameless self-promotion does nothing to dispel his image as a "bad boy" who is only interested in bashing religion to create controversy, instead engaging in intelligent debate.
Confusing group dynamics with religion
Dawkins goes on to explain how "religious conflicts" are mislabeled under group or ethnic strife. He cites the conflict in Northern Ireland, where the parties are labeled "Nationalists" and "Loyalists" instead of Catholics and Protestants. Likewise, Dawkins complains that the conflict in Iraq between the Sunni and Shia Muslims has been called "ethnic cleansing" instead of a "religious conflict." However, Dawkins fails to point out what part of these conflicts is truly religious in nature. Are these disputes over religious doctrines or principles or disagreements about the nature of God? If so, he should have pointed out exactly which parts of the conflicts were religious in nature. Of course these are not conflicts about religion. They are conflicts involving different religious groups, but as with virtually all conflicts, the disagreements are about power.
Dawkins seems to have forgotten his studies in psychology of human group dynamics. Groups of humans in power will oppress other groups, just based upon membership within each group. The membership could involve religion, language, or just geography. In fact, the demarcation could be as simple as labeling each group. Psychological studies of group behavior have shown that groups of people will become adversaries with others outside of their own group. Just watch your son's next soccer game. However, Richard Dawkins has only one daughter, so maybe he was never involved in sports. Even so, Philip Zimbardo's famous Stanford prison experiment showed that students assigned to the category of "guards" physically abused their fellow students just because they were labeled as "prisoners."28 In fact, the study went so much out-of-control that it had to be ended early.
Dawkins conveniently leaves out of the discussion the fact that atheists (who are not religious) have killed far more people than all "religious" conflicts combined. Joseph Stalin killed 20 million Soviet citizens between 1929 and 1939. Mao Tse-tung killed 34 to 62 million Chinese during the Chinese civil war of the 1930s and 1940s. Pol Pot, the leader of the Marxist regime in Cambodia, Kampuchea, in the 1970's killed 1.7 million of his own people. In fact, the Pol Pot regime specifically preached atheism and sought to exterminate all religious expression in Cambodia. And, since atheist-led states were largely unheard of before the 20th century, atheists have just begun to get in on the killing rampage.
Let's find the most extreme court rulings regarding religious liberty
Dawkins cites as examples of the "privilege" of religion citing some rather surprising court decisions. The first involved the case where a small church, Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao do Vegetal sued to prevent the government from interfering with their religious practices (which involved ingesting hallucinogenic tea during religious ceremonies). Now, I agree with Dawkins that one is not going to find God by getting stoned. However, the supreme court decision involved application of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which required the government to prove a compelling government interest in preventing the use of the controlled substance during a religious ceremony. The problem the government experienced was that the religious participants only used the tea during religious ceremonies and did not distribute it to those outside the group. So, the government failed to prove that they had a compelling interest in preventing the use of this controlled substance during a religious practice. The decision was 8-0, with both court liberals and conservatives agreeing that the government failed to prove its case.29 Similar court cases have found in favor of Native American religious practices, which involved the use of peyote, another controlled substance.
Dawkins cites a recent Los Angeles Time article30 that reportedly shows how Christian groups are suing to stop "universities from enforcing anti-discrimination rules, including prohibitions against harassing or abusing homosexuals." What Dawkins doesn't explain is that these "anti-discrimination rules" are really anti-free speech rules that were instituted to prevent discussion of non-politically-correct topics. A number of these rules have been overturned through court decisions (based upon free speech, not freedom of religion), and most other universities have modified or eliminated their speech codes. Harassment and abuse has always been illegal, whether it is directed against homosexuals or heterosexuals. Maybe something was lost in Dawkins translation from British English?
The second court case involved a student who wore a T-shirt stating, "Homosexuality is a sin! Islam is a lie! Abortion is murder! Some issues are just black and white." Obviously, wearing such a T-short to school is in very poor taste, even if the student was a Christian (presumably). Dawkins goes on to claim that the reason why the student won was because he sued for his religious freedom and not free speech rights:
"The parents might have had a conscionable case if they had based it on the First Amendment's guarantee of freedom of speech. But they didn't: indeed, they couldn't, because free speech is deemed not to include 'hate speech'... So, instead of freedom of speech, the Nixons' lawyers appealed to the constitutional right to freedom of religion."
Dawkins statement is a lie. In fact, the student won on the basis of his free speech rights. The district court ruled that the school would be in the right if the T-shirt contained "symbols and words that promote values that are so patently contrary to the school’s educational mission."31 However, they said that "Speech that contains a potentially offensive political viewpoint is not included in this category of regulated expression."31 (note the word "political", not "religious"). The court also found that the message was not hate speech, saying "there is no evidence that James' silent, passive expression of opinion interfered with the work of Sheridan Middle School or collided with the rights of other students to be let alone. Therefore, the Court rejects defendants' assertion that James' T-shirt invaded on the rights of others."31 So, Dawkins just lied that the case revolved around religious rights instead of free speech rights. He also lied that the T-shirt would have been classified as hate speech. He must have known that somebody would check up on his bogus claims.
Danish newspaper cartoons depicting the prophet Muhammad
Dawkins ends chapter one with a description of a recent incident in which Moslem reaction to certain Danish cartoons ended in murder and riots. As it turned out, certain imams added some more offensive cartoons and falsified the treatment of Muslims in Denmark to generate outrage throughout the Muslim world. Most of the targets of the murders were Christians, since we are obviously responsible for all the evil in the world. Of course the entire incident is cited as an example of typical religious reaction to insults. Obviously, we Christians need to step things up to keep up with other religious groups. Dawkins seems strangely unperturbed by insults leveled against religious people, since this is a clear case of free speech, whereas a few pages before, he was highly incensed that anyone would criticize homosexuality, since this is clearly hate speech. It almost seems hypocritical. No, Richard Dawkins would never be prejudiced!
Chapter 1 of Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion uses all the classic disreputable techniques that Dawkins has complained about in his dealings with certain creationists. He misrepresents Christian understanding of God and the role of evidence and faith. In addition, he quotes from unnamed sources, representing them as standard examples of religious believers, when they are obviously not mainline. Dawkins mistakenly categorizes conflicts as being religious in nature, when, in reality, none of the disputes involve any theological issues at all. In fact, the examples all involve political power struggles of groups that just happen to be from different religious affiliations. He fails to to point out the atheists who have committed even greater atrocities. Finally, Dawkins lies outright about how the U.S. courts are protecting "hate speech" on the basis of "religious freedom," when the cases were judged not to be hate speech, nor even religious speech. Despite its popularity, The God Delusion has to be Richard Dawkins' most poorly written book to date.
- The Extradimensional Nature of God
- Why are Christians So Stupid? - Does the Bible Teach Blind Faith?
- 'People are Basically Good' - Proof to the Contrary
- Why are Christians So Intolerant? Wasn't Jesus All Accepting?
- Hate speech & campus speech codes
- Book Review: What's So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D'Souza
- Flew Speaks Out: Professor Antony Flew reviews The God Delusion
- In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. (Genesis
God was also acting before He created time:
- No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. (1 Corinthians 2:7)
- This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time (2 Timothy 1:9)
- The hope of eternal life, which God... promised before the beginning of time (Titus 1:2)
- To the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:25)
- The universe was formed at God's command, so that what was seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)
- "But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27)
- Test everything. Hold on to the good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21)
- "Come now, and let us reason together," Says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
- For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs 2:6)
- The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world. (Psalm 19:1-4)
- ... what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20)
- "Who has put wisdom in the innermost being, Or has given understanding to the mind? (Job 38:36)
- O let the evil of the wicked come to an end, but establish the righteous; For the
righteous God tries the hearts and minds. (Psalm 7:9)
Examine me, O LORD, and try me; Test my mind and my heart. (Psalm 26:2)
"I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give to each man according to his ways, According to the results of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)
Yet, O LORD of hosts, Thou who dost test the righteous, Who seest the mind and the heart; Let me see Thy vengeance on them; For to Thee I have set forth my cause. (Jeremiah 20:12)
...all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. (Revelation 2:23)
- "This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time," declares the LORD. "I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)
- See the page, "Prophecies of Jesus Christ as Messiah"
- This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the
LORD. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their
God, and they will be My people. (Hebrews 8:10)
"This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds." (Hebrews 10:16)
- ...the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not
see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2
Then the LORD said to me, "The prophets are prophesying falsehood in My name. I have neither sent them nor commanded them nor spoken to them; they are prophesying to you a false vision, divination, futility and the deception of their own minds. (Jeremiah 14:14)
- because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself
to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; (Romans 8:7)
To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. (Titus 1:15)
- I directed my mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom and an explanation, and to know the evil of folly and the foolishness of madness. (Ecclesiastes 7:25)
- Therefore, gird your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 1:13)
- Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, (1 Peter 3:15)
- For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. (Proverbs
Wise men store up knowledge, But with the mouth of the foolish, ruin is at hand. (Proverbs 10:14)
Every prudent man acts with knowledge, But a fool displays folly. (Proverbs 13:16)
The mind of the prudent acquires knowledge, And the ear of the wise seeks knowledge. (Proverbs 18:15)
Also it is not good for a person to be without knowledge, And he who makes haste with his feet errs. (Proverbs 19:2)
- "Take my instruction, and not silver, And knowledge rather than choicest gold. (Proverbs 8:10)
- Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge; and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness; and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. (2 Peter 1:5-7)
- For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. (Romans 10:2)
- And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with
them from the Scriptures, (Acts 17:2)
So he was reasoning in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Gentiles, and in the market place every day with those who happened to be present. (Acts 17:17)
And he was reasoning in the synagogue every Sabbath and trying to persuade Jews and Greeks. (Acts 18:4)
And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there. Now he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. (Acts 18:19)
But Paul said, "I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I utter words of sober truth. (Acts 26:25)
- The brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. (Acts 17:10-11)
- When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. (1 Corinthians 13:11)
- In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us. (Titus 2:7-8)
- See Aberrant "Christian"
Theology for many examples, including
- Are the Standard Works of the LDS Church Inspired Scripture?
- Archeological/Anthropological Problems in the Book of Mormon
- DNA Evidence and Molecular Genetics Disprove the Book of Mormon
- False Prophecies of the Jehovah's Witnesses (Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania)
- Does the Bible and Science Support Reincarnation?
- Haney, C., W. C. Banks, and P. G. Zimbardo. 1973. Interpersonal dynamics in a simulated prison. International Journal of Criminology and Penology 1: 69-97.
- Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficiente Uniao Do Vegetal
- Stephanie Simon. Christians Sue for Right Not to Tolerate Policies. Los Angeles Times, Apr 10, 2006, p. A1.
- Nixon v. Northern Local School District Board of Education, 2005 WL 2000706 (S.D. Ohio Aug. 18, 2005. Full opinion The Opinion in Nixon v. Northern Local School District Board of Education
Last Modified November 30, 2006