I kept hearing the statement "I'm not compelled by your argument" ringing in my ears and thinking to myself, really? Did you just read what I wrote or did you just skim through what you thought I wrote? And did you take the time to compare the past many articles I have labored through these past many months and years before impulsively proclaiming a verdict as my judge-and-jury on a subject matter you really didn't want to hear or think about in the first place because it differed from your own personal view of the world? And was probably not a subject of special burden that had burdened you like it had me for decades - having been considered-and-rejected innumerable times before then re-considering it time-and-again - until finally concluding that I should share my discoveries without the doubt or distress that has plagued me for so many years. Making me wonder, when hearing your words of adamant proclamation, whether "there is really any room left for thinking Christians?" Apparently, according to your more informed estimations, "most thinking Christians are those that reinforce you're previously established beliefs and expectations to a previous body of dogmatic co-commitments you had arranged in your mind from long ago. So that those that don't fulfill these self-serving personal categories are immediately thrown under the bus and labeled heretical."
At the last, "Do I really care whether you're compelled or not." Really, its your life to throw away as you wish. Or to hold on to the fantasies you find comforting to believe. It's as if I were back watching my favorite TV show Lost and suddenly seeing the survivors of the TransOceanic wreckage vanish or die at the slightest hairbreath of an internalized existential decision they had just made. A decision that became immediately apparent by observable word and deed. And each time that I watched the suddenness of this externalized phenomena remove another stand-in (or unfortunate cast member) I thought to myself, "My, the hand of death is quick and decisive!" (I was one of those few who still clung to the original first year theory despite denials to the contrary by Abrams, Lindelof, and Cuse). Fearfully, the death theme of Lost continues throughout this wide, wide world today - where death-like decisions occur all too frequently in spur-of-the-moment decisions, leaving a living soul in a comatose condition hardened and seared by their own illusions of life. So that not even God Himself could break through to such hearts at these times.
So why should it be my burden to be moved at the hands of an Almighty God who continues to pound away at the fortresses of our darkened hearts? I thought the OT prophets were dead. And it certainly didn't do Jesus any good dying at the hands of His religious convictors. Certainly the early Church had also paid a heavy price for its beliefs demanding personal introspection and self-doubt. So let's just say right now that as Christians we're committed to a living faith, and not a living religion filled with sacrosanct dogmas and its holy altars of untouchables. Not even Jesus could break through the religious barriers of His day, and I highly doubt we can do any better before those who remain uncompelled. So pray then to be students of the living Word and try to discover a way to always hold within yourself a healthy reserve of self-doubt coupled with a listening, discerning heart. I don't believe God has stopped speaking yet. And I fully expect God to be using even now living prophets and servants of Jesus to tell the story of the Gospel as fully and completely as they can. Revelation has not ended. No, for we serve a self-revealing God ceaseless in His activity, abandoned to His creation, unbounded in His imagination, and rueful towards any craven idols clutched to our breasts. Even our dogmas. This is our Savior-Redeemer.
So let's look at another, more startling disciple of existential rhetoric. A Mr. Richard Dawkins whom I haven't thought about in a long time. And to judge by his speeches feels deeply moved to declare just what he thinks about Christianity (or "religion" in general). A faith that he seems to despise for its many sins and hypocrisies. And yet, at first blush, many of his arguments seem at the surface true... and certainly can give one pause to think through just what-and-why we are doing what we are doing as Christian faithful. To that end I give Mr. Dawkins thanks for his insights, though I would wish it less zealous, less ruthless, perhaps more compassionate. How he got to this space in life is anybody's guess... perhaps he, like so many we meet in life, simply wish to reinforce their own diminished view of the world and in the bargin gain some sympathetic listeners to their tales of distress and woe. Perhaps this demeanor resulted from early childhood idealisms gone horribly wrong. Or, cherished loved ones tragically lost. Or even, circumspect agony incited by watching and reading of so many ghastly wars and useless global sufferings. Perhaps all of these and none of these provided Mr. Dawkins with his present day scripts of blatant atheism and God-filled objections to organized religion.
But no matter Mr. Dawkin's inner private demons, I would like to provide a short clip of his view of the God of the Old Testament and simply ask how we should we respond? Are we compelled by his arguments? Are we moved to envision a better form of faith than presently practiced? To practice a faith more wholistically compelling than being presently observed by the wide-awake world? For regardless our faith differences the body of Christ bears responsibility for the message and ministry of the Gospel of Jesus as we have embraced it. Let us then pick a spot or two and simply try to work on Mr. Dawkin's griefs and laments a bit better than it has been in the long ages of the Church when grace, mercy, peace and forgiveness came through Jesus. Let it begin with prayer and from there see where it can spill over in the goo of life.
And with that introduction here it is... expect in this version to be offended, shocked and angered. Mr. Dawkins wants you to feel this way. He wants you to be introspective and to do something about it. For followers of Jesus our choice is simple. Learn to love our neighbor better than we have. And if we can't then ask God to put a little love into the doctrines of your church gospel. If we don't change than Mr. Dawkins message is what he expected it to be all along - simply a cliche for the larger ills of life we wish to do little or nothing about. In the end, "Let the world be compelled by your lifestyle, by your love for others, and certainly, by your argument as a Jesus bearer!"
November 16, 2012
The God of The Old Testament
is Arguably the most Unpleasant of all Fiction
[YT] "Richard Dawkins presents his view on the Old Testament God.
This has been considered the most controversial part of his book and
due to that he has also received some death threats and menaces from
some fundamentalists christians. A very christian gesture, indeed!"
Features » December 8, 2006
The Godless Fundamentalist
In The Root of All Evil, biologist Richard Dawkins reveals his own lust for certainty
Religion fucking blows!” declares comedian Roseanne Barr in her latest HBO special. Her pronouncement, both in its declarative certainty and self-congratulatory defiance, could easily serve as the succinct moral of Richard Dawkins’ documentary, The Root of All Evil.
The big-screen version of a two-part British television series follows the noted biologist as he embarks on a global road-trip to the veritable bastions of theological conviction–the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, a Christian conservative stronghold in Colorado Springs, a Hassidic community in the heart of London–bullying, berating and heckling the devoutly faithful he encounters along his way.
Confronting cancer patients who have traveled to Lourdes in hopes of a cure, Dawkins tells the viewer in the first scene, “It may seem tough to question the beliefs of these poor, desperate people’s faith.” By the end of the documentary, Dawkins’ bravado is not in doubt. When talking to Ted Haggard, a New Life Church pastor (more recently infamous for his predilection for crystal meth and gay prostitutes), after witnessing one of his sermons, Dawkins tells him, “I was almost reminded of the Nuremberg rallies … Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.” To a hapless guide at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, he taunts, “Do you really believe that Jesus’ body lay here?” And then there’s his remark–“I’m really worried for the well-being of your children”–to a Hassidic school teacher, Rabbi Herschel Gluck, whom Dawkins accuses of brainwashing innocent kids.
As he storms his way around the world in the state of high dudgeon, Dawkins’ attitude can be best described as apocalyptic outrage. The effect is in turns bewildering, embarrassing, grating and even unintentionally comic, as we watch the distinguished Oxford University Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science channel his inner Borat. When the astonished rabbi exclaims, “You are a fundamentalist believer,” even a sympathetic, true-blue San Francisco audience cannot help but chuckle in assent.
As his rabbinical nemesis rightly suspects, Dawkins’ fondness for sweeping generalizations reflects his own deep-seated fundamentalism, a virulent form of atheism that mirrors the polarized worldview of the religious extremists it claims to oppose. “They condemn not just belief in God, but respect for belief in God. Religion is not just wrong; it’s evil,” writes Gary Wolf in his Wired Magazine cover story, “The New Atheism,” whose leading exponents include–in addition to Dawkins–Daniel Dennett, a philosophy professor at Yale, punk rocker Greg Graffin and Sam Harris, author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. These are the self-styled “Brights,” the moniker of choice for Dawkins to describe “a person whose worldview is free of supernatural and mystical elements.”
The “bright” worldview is also remarkably free of complexity. Dawkins’ view of faith can be summed up thus: Religion is dangerous because it requires that we suspend our powers of reason to place our faith in the shared delusion that is God. This, he asserts, is the first step on that “slippery slope” to hatred and violence.
When we cede our “critical faculties” to believe in the idea of a higher power, Dawkins claims, we are immediately invested in a panoply of increasingly ludicrous propositions: that the Virgin Mary ascended directly to heaven, Moses parted the seas, God created the world in seven days, or beautiful virgins await good Muslims in heaven. Why not, he asks, believe in fairies or hobgoblins?
Faith, in his universe, is interchangeable with superstition, eccentricity, madness, and, at its most benign, infantilism. Religious conviction is a marker of human backwardness, both in a historical and psychological sense. According to Dawkins, human beings invented religion as a “crutch” for ignorance. Without science to help us understand the world around us, we turned to gods/faith/superstition to cope with our sense of helplessness. Today, religion remains a source of succor to those unable to outgrow their childish desire to see the world in terms of “black and white, as a battle between good and evil”–unlike atheists who are “responsible adults and accept that life is complex.”
“We’re brought from cradle to believe that there is something good about faith,” says Dawkins, as he compares this belief to “a virus that infects the young, for generation after generation.” Fortunate are the “responsible adults” who grow up to shake off these beliefs, unlike the rest of humanity who remain trapped in their infantile desire to be taken care of by an all-powerful deity.
Unlike fairytales, however, our religious beliefs are not harmless, says Dawkins, they instead lay the foundation for the murder and mayhem inevitably wreaked by true believers. His evidence: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Crusades, the 9/11 attacks, and less spectacular crimes against humanity like suicide bombers, anti-abortion killers, and so on.
This broad-stroked caricature of faith is delivered with a breathtaking disregard for historical context, in which social, political or economic conditions are simply ignored or discounted. “[Dawkins] has a simple-as-that, plain-as-day approach to the grandest questions, unencumbered by doubt, consistency, or countervailing information,” writes Marilynne Robinson in the November Harpers’, while reviewing his bestselling book, The God Delusion. And on screen he is no different. Of course, there are sound political causes for the Palestinian conflict, Dawkins hurriedly acknowledges–only to assert in the same breath that the real culprit is religion, which teaches its adherents to think, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
Not unlike the religious simpletons he claims to disdain, Dawkins sees the world in terms of a battle of Good vs. Evil, cloaked here as Science vs. Religion. Where Religion is corrupt, tyrannical and false, Science offers intellectual integrity, freedom and truth. As Robinson notes, Dawkins fails to acknowledge Science’s less admirable achievements, be they eugenics, Hiroshima, or the more mundane travesties committed by unethical doctors or fat-cat researchers in service of corporate funding.
“Dawkins implicitly defines science as a clear-eyed quest for truth, chaste as an algorithm, while religion is atavistic, mad, and mired in crime,” Robinson writes.
In this version of atheist theology, Science attains the same status as Dawkins’ loathed “alpha male in sky,” whose laws rule all things known and unknown. If we do not quite understand how the universe was created or the human brain works–or the competing, contradictory claims about the virtues of, say, table salt–all we need to do is wait and keep faith in the scientific method, which will reveal all in good time. The ways of Science are no less sacred or mysterious than that of God.
Like his fellow fundamentalists, Dawkins has no use for moderation or its practitioners. The people of faith featured in his documentary are strict, true believers, who adhere to the most rigid interpretations of their respective faiths. There are no Muslim doctors, church-going geneticists or Catholics who support abortion rights. Anyone who believes in evolution and God is just as deluded or in denial, and, as he tells Wired, “really on the side of the fundamentalists.”
Nothing less than a complete renunciation of all things spiritual will suffice. “As long as we accept the principle that religious faith must be respected simply because it is religious faith, it is hard to withhold respect from the faith of Osama bin Laden and the suicide bombers,” he writes in The God Delusion, in an eerie echo of President Bush’s post-9/11 point of view: “You’re either with us or against us.”
It would be silly to argue that the new atheists’ crusade is as dangerous as the so-called war on terror, but that crusade does give aid and comfort to fundamentalists everywhere by affirming their view of faith: one, science and religion are mutually opposed and exclusive worldviews; two, religion is immutable and outside history; and therefore, three, the Bible (or the Quran, for that matter) must be taken literally, and is not open to interpretation. For both camps, ignoring one law or moderating a single injunction is the first step toward rejecting the faith in its entirety.
This great war of ontologies, seductive though it may be in our beleaguered times, becomes immediately absurd if we remind ourselves of one simple fact: Science and Religion are historical in the richest sense of the word. They both inform and reflect our changing ideas about ourselves and the world around us. From the practice of throwing a woman on her husband’s funeral pyre in India to determining intelligence by the shape of person’s skull in Europe–both of which seem hateful today–religious and scientific beliefs ebb, rise and transmute themselves over time. To pretend otherwise is to ignore the vast bulk of what we call History, which the Brights seem just as willing to rewrite as their theological adversaries.
As innately human endeavors, religion and science are therefore as unreasonable, noble, immoral, kind, tyrannical, odious, compassionate–in other words, irredeemably human–as the people who literally embody them. Yes, the laws of nature and those of God might still exist without human beings, but there would be no one to name or know them as such, or act on that knowledge. Taken together, they express our need to both submit and to control, to know and to believe, to be in the visible world and to transcend it.
That the vast majority of us would find it difficult to choose between the two should be hardly surprising. The antidote to fanaticism is not a new puritanism of reason, but the contradictory, ambiguous, compromised reality of ordinary human experience.
ABOUT THIS AUTHOR
Lakshmi Chaudhry, a former In These Times senior editor and Nation contributing editor, is a senior editor at Firstpost.com, India's first web-only news site. Since 1999 she has been a reporter and an editor for various independent publications, including Alternet, Mother Jones, Ms., Bitch and Salon.