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Dawkins predicts religion’s early death: the Pope warns that ‘in vast areas of the world the faith is in danger of being snuffed out’. But they are saying very different things

The Holy Father is leading a renewal of the faith, not predicting its demise

By on Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Benedict XVI leaves vespers at St Paul Outside the Walls last week (Photo: CNS)

Benedict XVI leaves vespers at St Paul Outside the Walls last week (Photo: CNS)

I don’t suppose many of my readers are also readers of the Times of India, so most of you will not have seen the following, which appeared on January 24 under the headline “Look forward to the death of organised religion: Richard Dawkins”:

JAIPUR: Richard Dawkins – scientist, bestselling author and the world’s foremost atheist – comes across as mild-mannered and genial but doesn’t believe in pulling his punches. He certainly didn’t on Monday at the Jaipur Lit Fest as he blasted the “lamentable disgrace” of Salman Rushdie’s enforced absence. He also launched a broadside against the “virus of faith”, and said he looked forward to the “complete death of organised religion” in his lifetime.

Dawkins singled out various irrational beliefs, including “Santa Claus, baby Jesus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer” and then homed in on the Catholic Church:

Dawkins pointed out that in the 16th century, some Catholics in England had written to a senior figure in the Vatican asking if it was acceptable to murder Elizabeth I. The answer was that since the Queen had led millions away from Catholicism, her murder would be a commendable act. Dawkins didn’t spell it out, but two points were clear- he wasn’t targeting a faith but all of them, and nothing much has changed in almost 500 years. “Religion is deadly because it makes people willing to die and kill for it without a shred of evidence to back up their beliefs,” he said.

Well, that needn’t detain us for very long. We all know that Pius V’s bull, Regnans in Excelsis (1570), which declared Elizabeth I a heretic and released her subjects from their allegiance to her, was a massive political blunder, since Elizabeth, who had thus far tolerated Catholic worship in private, now started actively persecuting Catholics, a persecution whose effects lasted for over 400 years and are with us still (Dawkins himself is in a sense riding on the back of it, as we saw in his campaign against the Pope’s visit to England). Dawkins claims to rule his life by the light of reason: but to say that Pius V’s disastrous blunder disproves his religion is entirely irrational. Regnans in Excelsis isn’t in any sense a religious or spiritual document: it’s power politics from beginning to end. As for religion being deadly “because it makes people willing to die and kill for it without a shred of evidence to back up their beliefs”, how about the willingness of the atheists Stalin and Mao massively to kill for it in the name of their own supposedly scientific but equally unproved anti-religious beliefs?

But this is the kind of thing we are used to from Dawkins. What attracts attention here is that prediction: that there will be the “complete death of organised religion” in his lifetime. Well now. He’s almost certainly wrong, and I wouldn’t bother to dignify his polemical sally with any argument against it, if it didn’t seem on the face of it to be not entirely dissimilar to a recent predictive speculation of the Holy Father’s, uttered three days later at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s recent plenary session. “We are facing,” the Pope said, “a deep crisis of faith, a loss of religious sense which poses the greatest challenge for the Church today”: he went on to warn that “In vast areas of the world faith risks going out like a flame that no longer has anything to burn on.”

It’s happened before, of course, this selective death of faith where once it flourished: where is St Augustine’s Hippo now? In North Africa, once a centre of the Catholic faith, that’s where. But to realise that the survival of the faith in any particular place or area of the globe is never secure is quite different from doubting the dominical promise that “the gates of hell shall not prevail against it”. Whatever may be happening in Europe and North America, worldwide the faith is still advancing, not retreating.

And of course, that’s what the Pope is really saying: it’s the renewal of faith that he’s after, especially in areas of the world where it seems threatened. Fr Z’s translation of the relevant passage (which I didn’t find complete and in English anywhere else) is useful here:

As we know, in vast areas of the world the Faith is in danger of being snuffed out like a flame that no longer has any sustenance. We are at a profound crisis of faith, at a loss of a religious sense that constitutes the greatest challenge for the Church of today. The renewal of the faith must therefore be the priority in the undertaking of the whole Church in our times. I hope that the Year of Faith can contribute, with the cordial collaboration of all the members of the People of God, to bring God back anew to this world and to open to men an access to the faith, to a reliance on the God who loved us to the end (cf John 13,1), in Christ Jesus, crucified and risen.

Fr Z’s own contribution to that process is to say that “nothing of which His Holiness spoke is going to be accomplished without a renewal of our liturgical worship”; and I’m quite certain that he’s right. That’s where it has to begin: at the altar. I’m less sure than he is that this can be accomplished principally by homing in on Summorum Pontificum, though I absolutely agree that it remains “one of the most important acts of his pontificate”. This is what Fr Z would like to see:

We need more and more and more opportunities for people to experience the older, traditional form of the Roman Rite in our Latin Church parishes.

Younger priests: learn the older form. This is your Rite! Know your Rite! If you are a Latin Church priest, who are you if you don’t know your Rite? Just do it!

Lay people: band together and start requesting celebrations of Holy Mass also in the Extraordinary Form. Get organized. Form a schola and start singing chant so you will be ready when the time comes. Offer to take care of all the material details. Offer to provide vestments, books, money so the priest can go get training. Start thinking about forming a group of servers, perhaps even father and son teams.

I agree with all of that, and on Sundays I not infrequently hear Mass in the Extraordinary Form. But I still find myself more often attending High Mass in Latin according to the Novus Ordo. I am, I admit, exceptionally fortunate in my parish church, the Oxford Oratory, where I can experience every week what the Church’s liturgy could be everywhere. There’s no question for us of “the Faith [being] in danger of being snuffed out like a flame that no longer has any sustenance”. Fr Z concludes by saying that “Many benefits will flow from a side by side experience of both forms of Holy Mass of the Latin Church”, and I’m certain he’s right: I’m quite sure, for instance, that my clergy’s celebration of the Novus Ordo is deeply enriched by the fact that they all regularly celebrate the Old Mass too.

But I am also only too aware that when I am away from home Sundays can be very different, and that though the Mass is always irreducibly the Mass, the way it is celebrated can send a real chill to the heart. For every priest, everywhere, seriously to address this problem has to be seen as a first priority. Do the bishops understand how important this is? I wonder.

  • Jorge Morais

    Dawkins is blind because he thinks the only acceptable evidence is empirical evidence. He also fails to see the good that comes from religion (the invention of universities, hospitals, science itself). He also fails to accept the evil that comes from materialism (namely, 100,000,000 corpses). Oops.

  • Carls12

    Acleron is surely correct, Jorge. Stalin didn’t believe in anything like a materialist conception of history. He believed in power and killing to achieve success. By the way, did believing in Christ stop the US from horrendous acts of mass killing in WW2

  • Jorge Morais

    There is a clear, direct correlation between faith and birth rates.

    Second, with their current birth rates, Europe will be a small number of people on wheelchairs. Just look at the birth rates and do the Math.

  • Jorge Morais

    Oh, the age old “but but but the URSS wasn’t a REAL socialist country!”.

    This is wrong (and ridiculously wrong, in fact) by two reasons:

    1) Marx himself advocated the “vanguard of the proletariat” (meaning, that the Communist party should take power even if the people _did not want it_) and the dictatorship of the proletariat. Therefore, Marx has direct blame for what Stalin did.

    2) Human rights catastrophes didn’t happen only in URSS. They happened in China, Cambodia, Vietnam, Cuba – everywhere Marxism was practiced.

    As to WWII, two points:
    1) The Americans were, by that point, far, far less religious than they should.  It is hard to blame their actions on Christianity when they were hardly Christian.

    2) Their atrocities still didn’t come even close to what Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Tse Tung, Che Guevara, FIdel Castro and other atheists did.

  • Oconnord

    You do know what Godwin’s Law is?

    To put it simply, if you bring up a subject like Hitler (or his proxies) during a discussion where it holds no relevance, in this case your handy hundred million, you have pretty much lost the argument.

    I could easily point out that the Spanish Flu killed 100,000,000 in 1918. Then I could say that god created viruses, so therefore god killed 100,000,000 people. But of course not only is that silly, it is irrelevant. I’d lose the argument

  • Carls12

    Fred the Ferret said, We ain’t going nowhere… except UP! I wonder… how far up? Many people and many deep space photographs have been pretty far up…but as Gagarin said, no one has seen heaven. And by the way, does the concept “up” make any sense in deep space?

  • Jorge Morais

    Yes I know what the “law” is. I put it between quotes because it is only a joke.

    Second, your argument above would be true IF the 100,000,000 corpses were irrelevant to the discussion. But atheist fail to show why the 100,000,000 corpses caused by atheist Marxism are somehow irrelevant, while the thousands of corpses caused by Christians are somehow super relevant and show Christianity is evil.

  • Anonymous

    Brave of you to take on Dawkins in the CH.  Don’t suppose he reads it very often, so you should be safe.

  • Oconnord

    It’s a little ego-centric to think Dawkin’s was speaking of christianity in an article from the Times of India, just because you are christian. his point was about belief in god. 

    So are the 250,000,000 corpses caused by islam also irrelevant. That is simply ignoring the patent silliness of your thousands of corpses caused christians comment. I was unaware that christianity had only caused between 2000 and 199,999 deaths, because then you would be counting in hundreds of thousands of corpses.

  • James H

    Dawkins wishes he could live that long. We’ve been promised the death of organised religion (read: Catholicism) all my life, and it’s as distant now as ever it was. It was 400 years ago when they first started mouthing off on the subject, we’re still waiting.

    Tangent: I love how he raises the spectre of long-dead, famously corrupt and political Rennaissance popes, but completely ignores the Hindu caste system, alive and well in the present day, and causing untold suffering. But atheists are not known for their bravery in confronting present evil.

    As to the new evangelisation: while liturgical improvement is good, it’s simply not enough. Not everyone catches the fire for their faith amongst the smells and bells. If they did, the Novus Ordo would never have seen the light of day.

    We need cathechesis, we need talented preaching, above all we need priests who have a personal relationship with God, and as many laypeople who have undergone an adult conversion experience as possible. These islands were converted by holiness, holy example, and miracles. If we’re going to regain lost territory, we have to find out where personal holiness is clearly evident, where miracles of healing (physical and psychological) are happening, and bring them home!

  • James H

    He’s a fair scientist, and an excellent writer on his own subject; but he knows embarrassingly little about philosophy, is worse on history, and his knowledge of theology is in negative quantities – anyone who reads his opining on religion, comes away more ignorant than they were when they started.

  • Jorge Morais

    It is not “just because you are a Christian”, it is because Dawkins himself often makes clear that the Catholic Church is enemy number 1. Complain with Dawkins, not me.

    Second, where did you take 250,000,000 corpses caused by  Islam? Just curious, because the violence of Islam is not caused by Christianity. If you want to criticize Islam, be my guest. Not all religions are the same. I defend Catholicism, not Islam.

  • Gabriel Austin

    Atheists are boring; they are always talking about God.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_LYGUGSPODDFQALP7DZO5VECZDI Therese Z

    Thank you, you made me realize libertines are boring, too, because they are always talking about sex!

  • Fred the Ferret

    Christ said that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Rock that the Church is built on …

    Christianity is thriving in China, Africa - and churches are being built in Russia and former Soviet Bloc countries whilst ours are shutting and selling sacred vessels.

    I can envision these countries giving US – the so-called West - priests and missionaries to shift evangelisation up a few gears.

    That is what I meant when I said we ain’t going nowhere except UP! I meant the numbers of people who join the Roman Catholic faith and practise it.

    If I wanted to talk about deep space, it would not be on this blog. Did I mention moon rockets, space shuttles and Gagarin? No.

    The Vatican has an observatory but they are looking into the heavens… if we keep our souls clean, then we can encounter heaven – and we don’t need a freaking telescope!

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_JOAWKXXDGTRDBFREJGMKSPP25I Stephen

    Non-believers obsessing over the faith and trying to end it for 2,000 years and counting…best of luck Dick.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    You’re really going to have to explain that gloss: at the moment it’s impenetrable!

    Rather than tying yourself up in linguistic knots, why not simply deal with the substantive point I actually made? Atheists murder as well as the religious, so religion can’t be a necessary condition for murderous actions. The religious don’t always murder, so religion can’t be a sufficient condition for murderous action.

    Given those fairly obvious truths, why does Dawkins go on making silly claims about the deadliness of religion? And since he does, why shouldn’t the religious keep pointing out the obvious evidence about the murderous actions of atheists in reply?

  • Fred the Ferret

    He’s gonna need it…. badly!

  • frsh

    Dawkins is not scientific in his reasoning because to critique religion he appeals to the lowest common denominator. He doesn’t acknowledge basic things like the non dualistic, unitary, view of human nature that Jewish and Christian beliefs have as opposed to Manichean and Gnostic views. He just puts every belief system in the same basket and starts his vitriol from there.
    Dawkins refuses to read theologians dismissing theology as “fairyology or dwarfology”. He is rejecting AEONS worth of human knowledge.
    Dawkins is not a good atheists. Bertrand Russel was, but not Dawkins.

  • Bart_0117

    There is so much criticism about Dr. Dawkins and yet not enough people are paying much attention to what His Holiness is saying; by the way attention is exactly what Dr. Dawkins is after. There have always been such people who tried to bring down the Church by means such as the Black Legend against Venerable Pius XII and the like. They clearly failed; otherwise how would I have been able to go to Candlemass yesterday? What DOES matter is a real clamp-down on liturgical abuses that still take place and real money and effort dedicated towards Catechism classes. People can still be inspired by Heavenly Liturgy. If you can buy into this idea of “You are what you eat.” surely you will give “Lex orandi, lex credendi.” a serious thought?

  • Tdm900

    Surely organised atheism is far worse than organised religion, history proves that!

  • Tdm900

    His so-called seminal work The Selfish Gene is now at the fringes of scientific ‘belief’, hardly any informed scientist beleives in it at all. No doubt in 50 years the God Delusion will be discredited by most scientists and philosophers too. Of course most of his science, which is mostly not his own discoveries, are laced with anti-religious sentiment putting it in a philosophical and theological field. Trying to discover ‘God’ with the physical sciences is like trying to saw a piece of wood with a banana, wrong tool for the wrong job. I personally think its a disgrace what Dawkins has done to science, making it into an agressive arm of an atheist ideology. Utterly shameful!

  • Adam

     Well how about the fact he tries to apply the philosophical notion of induction to God, something not logically possible with any monotheistic view of God.

  • Oconnord

    Sunii v shia, muslim v hindu, catholic v protestant, wahabi v ahmadi, muslim v christain. 

    Most days there are killings in the name of religion.
    There are also many killings that are simply killings and some of the religious killings that are just greed and jealousy. 

    So religion might not be a necessary or sufficient condition for murder but it helps. For example look at the differences between political and religious terrorism. Political terrorists usually have an agenda that is in theory achievable. Religious terrorism is based on a false belief so their agenda is often unobtainable.  For that reason it is difficult to negotiate with them.  

  • Paul L.

    Well for
    starters he claims he doesn’t know anything about theology (and he sure doesn’t!)
    and he doesn’t need to because God doesn’t exist. That’s like saying you don’t
    need to know anything about biology because you don’t believe in photosynthesis
    and that makes you an expert in the field. He also rolls every religion into
    one big blob to discount them all as if they’re all alike and false by his
    brand of association. This is bad science to say the least. It’s like his childish
    statement about the consequences of not believing in God are the same as not
    believing in the ‘flying spaghetti monster’, comparing his flying spaghetti
    monster to the Creator of the Universe. Not believing in his silly monster is
    in no way comparable to not believing in a Universal Creative Power, as his
    monster was not named ‘God’ in any sense equivocal, univocal or derivatively as
    the Creator of all things. This is very poor logic to say the least as he isn’t
    even aware of the categories of the debate.

    One
    example of his ignorance is the issue he takes with ‘God’ asking Abram to
    sacrifice Isaac. He clearly does not understand or he didn’t bother to become
    familiar with the circumstance, he just calls God a monster and evil. If he had
    bothered to actually become familiar with the issue before he condemned God he
    would have realized that Abram had nothing to worry about and that Isaac was never
    in any real danger of being sacrificed as God had already made the covenant
    with Abram about the future of Isaac and his progeny. All Abram had to do was
    have faith and go through the motions, which he did. And if Dawkins had actually
    studied these events he would know from Flavious Josephus that Isaac was about
    25 years old at the time; hardly an weak little child and who could have easily
    over-powered his old father. But this is just a few examples. Dawkins clearly
    has no interest in knowing the truth about anything; he is about controversy
    and making himself famous. Of course the basis of most of his arguments against
    ‘religion’ and God in general are from his Anglican roots; which is a false
    theology and left him at a serious disadvantage to begin with.  His pretending to defeat Thomas Aquinas is the
    real exposition of his faulty logic, however most of his supporters are as ill
    prepared to comprehend Aquinas as himself so he’s convincing enough to
    them.  I could go on and on, but I haven’t
    read his tripe in years and frankly he isn’t worth the effort. He’s a very ugly
    little ape-man with a withered soul and a blackened heart.  We should pray for him and just let him
    wreath and coil in his death throes like the snake with its head crushed under
    Mary’s Heal. If you wish to follow him I sincerely pity you.

  • Anonymous

    I agree with you.  The best critique of the God Delusion was by Terry Eagleton  who doesn’t seem to get much space in the CH, not that that worries him unduly.  So far, the replies to Dawkin are at the Beatrix Potter level. One hopes an Enid Blyton intellectual will come along.  Many Catholics, of whom I am one, confidently wait the demise of the Church: the geriatrics of the Vatican; the time serving national hierarchies intent on preserving their good name, when all around find the stench unbearable. The Holy Ghost has obviously signed off. In the future, priests will come from among decent family men or women, whose charisma is recognised by their community.   It was good for the acts of the apostles, why not for us. Why should we be oppressed by this Roman curia, with its roots in Constantine’s evil empire, which has taken us through genocide, ethnic cleansing and barbarism. Dawkins has interesting observations about the Catholic Church, which should’nt be dismissed out of hand.

  • Anonymous

    Who on earth is this Fr Z? Does he suddenly become omniscient by sticking a Fr in front of a letter. He’d do better keeping his head below the parapet

  • Anonymous

    “Well for starters he claims he doesn’t know anything about theology (and he sure doesn’t!) and he doesn’t need to because God doesn’t exist. That’s like saying you don’t need to know anything about biology because you don’t believe in photosynthesis and that makes you an expert in the field.”

    If your knowledge of physics was sufficient to prove that the idea of photosynthesis was all a big mistake, no amount of knowledge of biology would make the slightest difference to that conclusion. Expertise in physics would, in that case, be sufficient.

    “He also rolls every religion into one big blob to discount them all as if they’re all alike and false by his brand of association. This is bad science to say the least.”

    That has nothing to do with science (in the narrow sense) and everything to do with the definition of religion. Any statement about religion that is implied by the definition of religion is necessarily true of all religions.

    “It’s like his childish statement about the consequences of not believing in God are the same as not believing in the ‘flying spaghetti monster’, comparing his flying spaghetti monster to the Creator of the Universe. Not believing in his silly monster is in no way comparable to not believing in a Universal Creative Power, as his monster was not named ‘God’ in any sense equivocal, univocal or derivatively as the Creator of all things. This is very poor logic to say the least as he isn’t even aware of the categories of the debate.”

    It does not matter what the monster was named nor what powers it had. Comparing a made-up monster to God is not the same thing as comparing the consequences of not believing in the monster to the consequences of not believing in God. The poor logic is all yours.

    “One example of his ignorance is the issue he takes with ‘God’ asking Abram to sacrifice Isaac. He clearly does not understand or he didn’t bother to become familiar with the circumstance, he just calls God a monster and evil. If he had bothered to actually become familiar with the issue before he condemned God he would have realized that Abram had nothing to worry about and that Isaac was never in any real danger of being sacrificed as God had already made the covenant with Abram about the future of Isaac and his progeny. All Abram had to do was have faith and go through the motions…”

    So that’s all he had to do was it? Trivial! If you cannot see the cruelty in that test, then I pity you.

    “Of course the basis of most of his arguments against ‘religion’ and God in general are from his Anglican roots; which is a false theology and left him at a serious disadvantage to begin with.”

    Untrue. His arguments are not limited to Anglicanism, and familiarity with the falseness of one theology is an advantage in recognisinging the falseness of others.

    “His pretending to defeat Thomas Aquinas is the real exposition of his faulty logic, however most of his supporters are as ill prepared to comprehend Aquinas as himself so he’s convincing enough to them.”

    Go on then, point out where Dawkins’ logic fails with respect to Aquinas. Or with respect to anything in The God Delusion, since you have not done so yet.

    “I could go on and on, but I haven’t read his tripe in years and frankly he isn’t worth the effort. He’s a very ugly little ape-man with a withered soul and a blackened heart.  We should pray for him and just let him wreath and coil in his death throes like the snake with its head crushed under Mary’s Heal. If you wish to follow him I sincerely pity you.”

    Are you trying to be humourous, or are you really that nasty?

  • Sth4

    Why should we be “oppressed” by this Roman curia? Well last time I checked, it was the ROMAN Catholic Church. If you don’t like it you’re a protestant, not a Catholic as you claim.

  • Jorge Morais

    First: you fail by putting all religions in one bag. Christianity is as different from Islam as water is from oil. 75% of the victims of religious persecution are Christians.

    Second: negotiation with a Marxist terrorist is just as impossible.

    Third: Even today, just the human rights abuses (such as forced abortions) in atheist China, North Korea, and other atheist “paradises” make Islam look tame.

  • Jorge Morais

    > “If your knowledge of physics was sufficient to prove that the idea of
    photosynthesis was all a big mistake, no amount of knowledge of biology
    would make the slightest difference to that conclusion. Expertise in
    physics would, in that case, be sufficient.”

    What if you are so ignorant of biology that you don’t even _know_ what the photosynthesis hypothesis is?

    Dawkins is obviously incompetent to talk about God because he is so ignorant of the God hypothesis that he doesn’t even know what to refute.

  • Jorge Morais

    I pity you for such a terrible catechesis.
    And for such a horrible understanding of history.

  • Anonymous

    Various claims are made about God which we must take as part of the claimant’s definition of God in the absence of a formal definition. Richard Dawkins is aware of at least some of these claims. Many claims are made about the Catholic God. One only needs to refute one of these claims in order to demonstrate that a god of that definition does not exist.

  • Anonymous

    Catechesis?  Don’t need pity. I’ll pray for you.

  • Anonymous

    A Protestant? They’re even worse.  I¨vr been around the world a bit,refugee camps and little wars where the church isn’t, but Christ is. The  ROMAN bit’s the problem. It goes back a very long way,but today it has a firm grasp on the helm of the barque of Peter. The silly old man at the rudder will, I hope, stop before there is irreparable damage- Don’t.hold your breath.

  • Jorge Morais

    But he (proudly!) says that he literally doesn’t know what he’s talking about. His “refutations” are worthy of a schoolboy.

  • Anonymous

    Yes, a schoolboy who has not succumbed to religious indoctrination could come up with the basic refutations. Theologians may protest that it is not as simple (and may treat you to one of their word tricks by way of obfuscation, such as equivocation or taking phrases out of context). The McGraths, in The Dawkins Delusion, were not able to come up with a single VALID criticism of any arguments from The God Delusion.

    It does not take much investigation for a schoolboy to realise that prayer has no remote effect (p61 of hardback TGD); that biblical promises to the contrary are not only worthless, but deceitful.

  • Paul L.

    “So that’s all he had to
    do was it? Trivial! If you cannot see the cruelty in that test, then I pity
    you.”

    It’s pretty obvious that
    you have as little knowledge of theology and history as Dawkins. This was
    hardly cruel, it was to show Abram as having been willing to give Isaac up as a
    sacrifice to God, making it clear that Abram would hold nothing back, not even
    his ‘OLNY SON’.  Not so much for God’s
    sake was this test required and recorded in the Jewish Antiquities (Flavious
    Josephus ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ Volume II, Book I Chapter XIII, also in the
    Bible in an abbreviated version) as for the sake of future generations that
    would come to recognize this with respect to Jesus Christ.  God putting Abram/Abraham to the test to show
    that he would not withhold his only son from God, and in doing showed mankind
    worthy of redemption through God Himself becoming a man, Jesus Christ, the only
    Son of God, to be sacrificed on the Cross by men for the Salvation of Mankind.

    Now I don’t know about
    you, but the test Abram was put to was a serious cake walk compared to what
    Christ/God was put through.  If there was
    cruelty in any test it surely was what Christ suffered at the hands of men, not
    what Abram endured at God’s request. 
    After all, Abram received Isaac in extreme old age, when all hope of he
    and Sarah having any children was totally gone. Abram knew very well that God
    had given Isaac to him.  Abram needed
    only follow through with the motions having faith that God would provide, and
    he did just that.  Isaac was never in any
    danger of being killed because God had already promised that through him a
    great progeny would flourish.  So Abram,
    who was more logical and much more intelligent than our poor ape-man Richard
    Dawkins, knew that God would have to break his Covenant with him if Isaac were
    killed before having children of his own. This wasn’t even possible, God does
    not lie nor deceive and Abram knew that, knowing God better than anyone of his
    time and having a very lengthy relationship with Him.

    So, if there was any
    cruelty, and there was plenty, it was inflicted on God—Jesus Christ at the
    hands of cruel men, and God humbled Himself to this as a man for the sake of
    those that were being cruel to Him.  If
    Richard Dawkins had a speck of real intelligence beyond the clever animal
    variety he would see this fact, and be healed. 
    But he has no intension to see anything beyond his own temporal fame and
    enrichment.  That’s way I said I pity you
    if you follow him.  His end (eternity),
    if he doesn’t change, is not to be envied by anyone but a very few indeed.

    But you are obviously in
    his camp, so you may not be any more interested in Truth than he is, so I’m
    sure this revelation regarding the nature of Abram’s test will have no value
    and make no sense to you.  I pity you for
    that too, because you live in a dead world: meaningless, cold and empty.  You have Richard Dawkins by your side
    however, and I’m sure his ‘love’ is sufficient for you.

    AS for Dawkins vs.
    Aquinas, Dawkins states that Aquinas’ arguments are “regressive” and rely on ‘God’
    to terminate. He insists that God should be subject to regression and that
    Aquinas (nor then Aristotle I suppose) has no reason to ‘assume’ God to be
    immune to regression Himself.

    This is typical modern
    logic, where if one can’t defeat a preposition/conclusion then one simply goes
    around it.  Does Dawkins’ argument
    terminate in something more reasonable than an ‘unmoving mover’? No. It
    terminates in the most unreasonable termination of all, Nothing!  This is ridiculous! He laughs at someone for
    coming to a logical conclusion, that at some point there must be an Original and
    Universal Cause, then in the same breath he claims that no cause was necessary
    and everything we know and beyond was caused from nothing by nothing.  As if Nothing was a Cause, making Nothing Something—Absurd!
    Then when faced with the argument that somewhere down the line a Universal
    Cause must be, which makes the most sense, he is unable to refute it so goes
    around it, not with fact, not with logic but with his own personal whim, preferring
    to chase his own tail!  He offers NO
    positive evidence to support his position; he offers NO reason, just a negative
    reductive detraction without a speck of fact. 
    He likes to throw stones at his opponent but is utterly incapable of
    placing one stone on another to create his own credible, alternative eschatology.
    He uses false/erroneous syllogisms and straw-man tactics and offers zero as a
    credible alternative. He fools a lot of people because a lot of people are
    fools.     

  • Paul L.

    “It does
    not matter what the monster was named nor what powers it had. Comparing a
    made-up monster to God is not the same thing as comparing the consequences of
    not believing in the monster to the consequences of not believing in God.”

    Thank
    you for making my point!  I couldn’t have
    said it better myself.  Truly, the
    consequences of not believing in God are not the same as not believing in his
    monster, yet Dawkins seems to believe the consequences are the same! Read his
    statements or see for yourself on Youtube. 
    He makes this comparison regularly as if the consequences are the same.

  • Paul L.

    “That has nothing to do with science
    (in the narrow sense) and everything to do with the definition of religion. Any
    statement about religion that is implied by the definition of religion is
    necessarily true of all religions.”

    Firstly, ‘science’ is nothing more than
    ‘human knowledge’, the word is from the Latin ‘Scientia’—Knowledge and ‘Scio’–
    ‘I know’. ‘Acknowledged truths and laws in any department of mind or matter’.  

    ‘Religion’ is from the Latin ‘Re’—again,
    and ‘ligo’—I bind. The Latin Religio, ‘reverence and piety for the gods. That obligation
    or sense of duty which rests on the minds of men, arising from the felt
    relationship in which they stand to some superior power.’

    That’s the etymology, that’s what the
    words mean, no more and no less. Dawkins deviates very far from both true
    meanings according to his advantage. 
    Your statement above is absolutely true, “any statement about religion
    that is implied by the definition of religion is necessarily true of all
    religions”, and I could hardly agree more. 
    The trouble is that Dawkins uses false/warped definitions intentionally
    deformed to fit his scheme.  If he used
    the terms according to their true and original meaning, as we should do with
    all words, his argument could not hold any form or even the illusion of
    credibility. In very simple terms, Dawkins implies a false definition of
    religion then goes about applying that false definition to religion specifically
    and generally. (He also uses the Specific to define the Universal which is a
    logical error although very common in practice.) He has used a ‘warped
    carpenters square’ in the construction of his arguments and he has the
    advantage that most of his readers don’t know what a Right Angle is to begin
    with, so can’t recognize the deformity in his construction.  He pretends to be a master builder, when in
    fact his construction is false from the start and he didn’t actually ‘build’
    anything, although his readers can’t tell the difference so they worship him as
    a master builder.

    Dawkins loves ‘religion’, ‘reverence
    and piety for the gods’, as long as he gets to play the part of ‘God’ and we
    worship him accordingly. It’s similar to Luther’s grievances with the
    Pope.  He had no problem with the Papacy
    as long as he was the Pope.  So he
    started his own religion so he could be in charge.  Dawkins is doing the same thing.

  • http://twitter.com/paulvew Paulvew

    Lucky man to have choice of Tridentine – by Novus Ordo does he mean in English or Latin? Going to English Mass would be bizarre but Oddie is ex Anglican

  • GFFM

    Dawkins is becoming very much like the character of Weston in the Perelandra Trilogy. Like Weston he has transformed into a muttering fool. He has frittered away what intelligence he once possessed with his incessant diatribe against religion. He isn’t a serious thinker; he’s an inhumane, intolerant, clownish has-been, desperately trying to get headlines by his hysterical predictions. It really is hard to watch–his pathetic show. Benedict’s serenity and intellectual prowess towers over Dawkins’ childish tantrums. Keep muttering Dawkins.

  • GFFM

    I watched several hours of his documentary on Darwin and was quite unimpressed with the work. I have read The God that Failed and simply put he is ignorance concerning history, the history of religion, basic philosophical ideas is mammoth. Again, simply put.

  • Anonymous

    You talk about following Dawkins as if he was a cult figure, and you refer to your own beliefs as the truth. ‘Truth’ in your usage is a pretty useless term as it refers only to what you believe to be the truth, and demonstrably varies from what many other people around the world consider to be the truth. ‘Truth’ in the useful sense is what scientists attempt to approach and is independent of what individuals believe. That is the truth that Richard Dawkins seeks, and others who seek that truth are not following Dawkins, but are following reason. I don’t know whether it is fear of offending the religious that prevents schools from making this more obvious.

    Imagine the cruellest practice you can think of. Now suppose that practice is approved within a certain religion. Does that make the practice any less cruel? My observation is that, in the eyes of the followers of that religion, it does. It is difficult (not impossible) to be objective about cruelty, so I will not use up space arguing about it here, but in order to show that Dawkins is wrong about the cruelty of the Old Testament God, you would have to establish the objective basis. (Possible benefits to those who are not victims of the cruelty do not count.)

    Dawkins does not ‘go around’ the conclusions of Aquinas. Aquinas takes the unspoken premise that God exists and uses it to conclude that God exists! This is typical of religious pseudo-logic that works backwards from a conclusion (an item of faith). It is useless because it can be used to ‘prove’ whatever you want to prove. When you accuse Dawkins of bad logic, if you mean that he is not following religious pseudo-logic, then that is a complement to him that I would agree with.

  • Anonymous

    Either my post was not clear, or you appear to have misread it, but I see that I was not addressing your main concern. You do not reference the place in The God Delusion where Dawkins makes the claim that you cite (nor link to the YouTube video), so I cannot check the context, but my assumption was that he was comparing life without a belief in any deities (or any other imaginary entities) to a life without a belief in any deities including God, and a life without a belief in any deities including the Flying Spagetti Monster (in which case there would be no difference). If not, could you say where this occurs in The God Delusion?

  • Anonymous

    I think you have touched on a flaw in The God Delusion, though I don’t think that Richard Dawkins can take all the blame…

    I agree on the need to use words according to their standard definitions (or else be explicit about the definition of words used in a special way). This must be a nightmare for authors given the proliferation of dictionaries and the variation between them, not to mention the changing of definitions over time and the perils of translation into other languages. Sometimes there does not appear to be a standard definition, in which case it helps if a non-fiction book states which edition of which dictionary applies.

    I tend to use Wiktionary as a linkable source, though I am not too happy about some of its definitions. Inspired by your comment, I looked up ‘religion’ (which I had thought to have a particular set of meanings) and was horrified to discover that Wiktionary does not capture the essence of my understanding. In The Dawkins Delusion, the McGraths did criticise Dawkins for not having defined ‘religion’ (but then, neither did the McGraths). This does not mean that Dawkins’ logic is wrong given his understanding of ‘religion’ (and it certainly made sense to me given my understanding of the word). It does leave him open to misinterpretation, though I doubt that clarification in this area would suddenly see his critics agreeing with him.

    Having said that, I do not think that the definition of ‘religion’ that you supply is too bad (though it depends on what is meant by ‘gods’), so I am surprised that you think Dawkins deviates from it so much. But I cannot respond more deeply as you do not reference a particular example. Likewise, I cannot comment on your allegation about using the specific to define the universal.

  • Oconnord

    I call Pax. I will of course reply to your points but the last word will be your’s.

    1. All religions are in the same bag in this debate, it is the simple crux of contention, I objected because ideologies were brought up without addressing the point. Belief without evidence.  

     “because it makes people willing to die and kill for it without a shred of evidence to back up their beliefs”.

    2. You missed the point. Of course if a terrorist demands a turn to marxist values that would be impossible, but so would a demand we become catholic or a return of the caliphate. My point was that a political terrorist would demand something highly implausible but not impossible. Think IRA or ETA.

    3. Again you have a point but don’t address the question. How do countries where the people are led into unquestioning blind belief in a different system prove religion is good? They merely swop gods. Again we are back to the point where belief without evidence is bad. 

  • Fourth Norn

    Catholicism is not expanding everywhere else but Europe. Were it not for immigration, Catholicism in the US and Australia would be on the skids. Some would say it already is. Dawkins is not a front rank scientist but that doesn’t mean he talks rot. He does talk rot at times – his theory of memes is an example – but don’t make too much of that. Enough rot has been talked by others to make his lapses forgivable. The Church itself has much to answer for in the decline of faith. It’s very convenient for Dawkins to stick his head up, but he is not a fair target. His strangeness – and that of Dennett, Harris and Hitchens – is to agitate for atheism, to preach. This is a habit of the religious, so it is no wonder that this kind of atheism has been likened to religion. My atheist friends do not believe there is a God; they do not believe that their mission in life is to evangelise this. The Church does have an evangelical mission but it is populated by boobies who shirk this responsibility and cop the latest political and social fads without resisting. No wonder Europe, a bastion of boobies, is in trouble.

  • Paul L.

    Aquinas does Not make any such assumption.
    For your information the ‘Unmoved Mover’ was not
    original to Aquinas, it was made most clear by Aristotle in his work
    ‘Metaphysics’. But who are Aristotle and Aquinas compared to the lofty unapproachable
    intellect of one Richard Dawkins?

  • Jorge Morais

    1) You fail to understand that all morality lacks empirical evidentece. Morality simply isn’t in the realm of empirical science. No scientific experiment will tell you that eugenics (for example) is bad. Society will always have a moral system which people will believe without empirical evidence, and some people will be willing to kill for it. And practice shows that people are far more willing to kill for Atheist Marxism than for Christianity.

    2) No, I don’t miss the point, I am saying the point is completely irrelevant on practice. On practice, a Islamic terrorist is just as unnegotiable with as a Marxist terrorist.

    3) The point is that Marxism is directly caused by the materialist conception of history. Without atheism, there would be no Marxism. Atheism is responsible for 100,000,000 corpses (and a myriad of other human rights abuses, such as forced abortions in China).