Thursday, December 14, 2006

Dawkins, an Atheist

"If there is a God, it's going to be a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible than anything that any theologian of any religion has ever proposed."

Anyone who read the "God vs. Science" cover story in the Nov. 13, 2006 issue of Time will recognize this to be the last sentence of the entire article. It was spoken by Richard Dawkins, one of the more prominent and vocal atheists of our time. This statement is so characteristic of the atheistic mindset that I think it's worth diving into, to see how they think. And in so doing, maybe we can all have more fruitful discourses when it comes to the topic of God.

First of all, Dawkins, along with all atheists, doesn't believe in the existence of God. That's his underlying belief and where he gets his foot off in all arguments. So, if he believes there is no God, of course every religion that posits one is a manmade religion. If you start with Jesus as only a mortal, then of course Christianity will be, to you, manmade. Bombasting tautologies during debates is useless, especially when presented as a positive argument for your side, which then makes it disingenuous.

On the flipside, Christians have reached the conclusion that Jesus was not just a man. As such, Christian theologians only attempt to understand what God revealed to us through His Work and His Word, the Scriptures. Theologians don't intend to propose anything new. Now how they reached that supernatural conclusion is the question and what should be discussed. Same goes for the atheist. How have they come to their conclusion? Little ground will ever be covered if we neglect the "how" and simply spew begging-the-question consequences of our view.

Secondly, Dawkins appears open to the possibility of God, but only one that is "a whole lot bigger and a whole lot more incomprehensible" than anything we have today. That is, if there is a God, it is one that leaves less room for reason and more room for faith. Isn't that odd? As a man who appears to champion human reason above all else, he is arguing (i.e. using his reason) that if there is a God, he would have to take a pretty big leap of faith to accept it. Sounds like a New Ager to me.

Lastly, I think his statement is partly a complaint that religious people claim to know it all. If this is true, then maybe Christians need to change their style of communication. Perhaps more humility is in order. But does Dawkins, or any atheist for that matter, really believe that Christianity is completely comprehensible even to the most spiritual, say the Pope, or St. Peter himself? I certainly don't think so. I don't think any honest Christian can say, "My finite mind has penetrated the infinite God." Now, I believe that there are many good reasons to believe Christianity is true, but that in no way implies I believe I understand Christianity through and through. In my lifetime, I will be as far from that as any number is to infinity. Christians understand a lot, to be sure. They have a clue to the answers of the big questions: Who am I?, Where did I come from?, and Why am I here?. But they don't claim much more and never have. Indeed, much of how to live life flows from the answer to these questions.

And just for the sake of clarity, Christianity is not something anyone could ever have guessed or proposed. The words of C.S. Lewis rarely fail, here speaking of the central tenet of Christianity, of God becoming a Man to save us:

"Indeed, if we found that we could fully understand it, that very fact would show it was not what it professes to be--the inconceivable, the uncreated, the thing from beyond nature, striking down into nature like lightning. You may ask what good it will be to us if we do not understand it. But that is easily answered. A man can eat his dinner without understanding exactly how food nourishes him. A man can accept what Christ has done without knowing how it works: indeed, he certainly would not know how it works until he has accepted it."

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