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Richard Dawkins - God Hater

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The dreams of man
Religion
Icon religion.svg
Snooze buttons
Disturbing your sleep
Recurring dreams
Your delusion has been noted.
—the entirety of Richard Dawkins' response to the article[1]

"Richard Dawkins — God Hater" is an analysis of Richard Dawkins' 2006 book The God Delusion written by Wayne Jackson and published on the Christian Courier website (original date unknown), which claims 17,000 subscribers.

According to their website: "The Christian Courier is a journal dedicated to the investigation of biblical doctrine, Christian evidences, and ethical issues. The first printed edition of the Christian Courier was published in May of 1964 by Wayne Jackson and the East Main Church of Christ. The online edition began in October of 1998 with the objective of developing an online library of information that would strengthen Christians by supplying quality, biblically-sound materials that were easily accessible around the globe." Recent articles include "Satan: Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know, But Were Afraid To Ask," "What Do You Know About Demons?" and "Five Questions About Evolution that Charles Darwin Can’t Answer." Unfortunately, the latter article is unavailable on the website. Perhaps they realized Darwin's been dead for over a century, so it would be very difficult for him to answer any question.

Below is an analysis of Jackson's piece on Dawkins' The God Delusion.

Rebuttal[edit]

Original articleAnalysis

Richard Dawkins – God Hater[edit]

Richard Dawkins is a former professor at the University of California at Berkeley; more recently he was a lecturer in “animal behavior” at Oxford University in England. Currently Dawkins is a “Professor of the Public Understanding of Science” at the same institution.

His main passion is spitting venom towards the God he believes does not exist. This is much like a man composing a vitriolic diatribe against “fairies.” Who expends time in such an endeavor? Clearly, the professor is bothered seriously by the “God” issue.

It is odd that they put "animal behavior" in quotes. Does this indicate they disbelieve animals have behavior? Or that this is not a legitimate field of study?

Jackson starts with an ad hominem, and a point refuted countless times before.

By this logic, why does Jackson try to prove God, if he is so certain God exists?

Dawkins’s newest literary fiasco is called The God Delusion. A laudatory review by an unnamed author in a recent issue of The Economist (2006, 93-94), celebrates Dawkins as “an atheist, an evolutionary biologist, and an eloquent communicator about science.” He is represented as one who has “finally marshaled a lifetime’s arguments against believing in God.”

To get a feeling for the temperament of the celebrated professor, Dawkins depicts the non-existent God as “a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sado-masochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”

Anyone who analyzes this linguistic tantrum certainly cannot anticipate a calmly considered, logical series of arguments against the existence of God. A reflection upon The Economist review certainly confirms this assessment.
Indeed, we should not "anticipate a calmly considered, logical series of arguments" from Jackson.

Dawkins on the 9/11 Tragedy[edit]

The reviewer begins by suggesting that several of Dawkins’s recent books (including the current one) are reactions to the 9/11 attacks by Muslim terrorists. Generalizing from the particular to the general, the professor draws the conclusion that since the terrorists “believed they were doing God’s [ Allah’s ] work and would be justly rewarded in the afterlife,” this must imply that belief in God per se is evil and is responsible for such atrocities.

This is nonsense. Abuse by some religionists does not indict all religious people, or religion generally. This is too elementary to need response.

Jackson quote mines the article from The Economist to make it seem as though Dawkins claims all religious people are violent or irrational, and then debunks this idea. The full excerpt, with what Jackson used in bold, is:

"They believed they were doing God's work and would be justly rewarded in the afterlife. It is easy to denounce such deluded zealots, but what relation do they have to ordinary, “sensible” religious people? The problem, as Mr Dawkins sees it, is that religious moderates make the world safe for fundamentalists, by promoting faith as a virtue and by enforcing an overly pious respect for religion. "

This is a very different view then saying "belief in God per se is evil and is responsible for such atrocities." Jackson is using a classic Straw man argument.

It is truly a thing of wonder that most atheists appear to be unable to foresee the consequences of their arguments. Has it never occurred to our skeptical friends that the administrations of Marx, Lenin, and Stalin—atheists all—were responsible for the slaughter of more than one hundred million souls who would not yield to godless communism?

Jackson is conflating atheism with communism. Furthermore, Marx never presided over any government, and Lenin's brief leadership of the U.S.S.R. did not lead to large-scale atrocities.

To say that Stalin's atrocities were due to atheism is like saying Hitler's Holocaust was due to Christianity, since Adolf Hitler was, after all, a professed Christian.

Does that suggest that all atheists are murderers? Of course not. But such exterminations cannot be condemned upon the basis of the philosophy of atheism. Atheist philosopher Jean Paul Sartre expressed it like this:

"Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. . . Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior (1961, 485)."

Jackson brazenly quote mines a speech by Jean Paul Sartre. Here is the excerpt of what Sartre said, with what Jackson provided in bold:

"In other words – and this is, I believe, the purport of all that we in France call radicalism – nothing will be changed if God does not exist; we shall rediscover the same norms of honesty, progress and humanity, and we shall have disposed of God as an out-of-date hypothesis which will die away quietly of itself. The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that “the good” exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: “If God did not exist, everything would be permitted”; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. For if indeed existence precedes essence, one will never be able to explain one’s action by reference to a given and specific human nature; in other words, there is no determinism – man is free, man is freedom. Nor, on the other hand, if God does not exist, are we provided with any values or commands that could legitimize our behavior. Thus we have neither behind us, nor before us in a luminous realm of values, any means of justification or excuse. – We are left alone, without excuse. That is what I mean when I say that man is condemned to be free. Condemned, because he did not create himself, yet is nevertheless at liberty, and from the moment that he is thrown into this world he is responsible for everything he does."

In other words, Sartre is saying that without God, man is forced to take responsibility for his actions and the moral systems he creates, as opposed to simply accepting the moral code of whatever holy book his religion happens to believe. This is very different from saying that there can be no morality without religion, as Jackson wants the reader to think.

Another atheist, Bertrand Russell wrote, “Outside human desires there is no moral standard” (1957, 62).

Again, there is this foolish statement from Russell:

When a man acts in ways that annoy us [like the extermination of Jews in World War II, or 9/11?] we wish to think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behavior is a result of antecedent causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his birth and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible by any stretch of imagination (1957, 40; emphasis added).

More quote mining, this time from Bertrand Russell. The first quote is from Russell's book What I Believe. With Jackson's quote in bold:

"But there is no conceivable way of making people do things they do not wish to do. What is possible is to alter their desires by a system of rewards and penalties, among which social approval and disapproval are not the least potent. The question for the legislative moralist is, therefore: How shall this system of rewards and punishments be arranged to as to secure the maximum of what is desired by the legislative authority? If I say that the legislative authority has bad desire, I mean merely that its desires conflict with those of some section of the community to which I belong. Outside human desires there is no moral standard."

Russell is discussing how a government or social system could convince people to follow the laws. He is not making an absolute moral statement, as the last sentence seems to imply without context.

The next quote mine is from Russell's work Why I Am Not a Christian. With Jackson's selection in bold:

"Whatever may be thought about [free will] as a matter of ultimate metaphysics, it is quite clear that nobody believes it in practice. Everyone has always believed that it is possible to train character; everyone has always known that alcohol or opium will have a certain effect on behavior. The apostle of free will maintains that a man can by will power avoid getting drunk, but he does maintain that when drunk a man can say "British Constitution" as clearly as if he were sober. And everybody who has ever had to do with children knows that a suitable diet does more to make them virtuous than the most eloquent preaching in the world. The one effect that the free-will doctrine has in practice is to prevent people from following out such common-sense knowledge to its rational conclusion. When a man acts on in ways that annoy us we wish think him wicked, and we refuse to face the fact that his annoying behavior is a result of antecedent causes causes which, if you follow them long enough, will take you beyond the moment of his birth and therefore to events for which he cannot be held responsible by any stretch of imagination."

Jackson's quote mine is actually from an argument against the Christian concept of free will. This particular quote seems to be on numerous Christian sites, however, so it's likely that Jackson just got it from one of those.

Perhaps if he actually read Russell's book, he, too, would not be a Christian.

The 9/11 attack was antagonistic neither to the ideology of atheism nor fundamentalist Islam; but it was wholly adverse [sic] to Christianity’s imperative to love one’s enemies (Matthew 5:43ff; Romans 12:17ff).

It's ironic that Jackson claims atheism somehow condones the 9/11 attacks, considering that Dawkins' argument is that such things wouldn't happen in a world without religion.

As for Jackson's claim regarding Christianity, it seems doubtful that his pacifistic views were shared by Pope Urban II when he urged Christians to join the First Crusade, or by Torquemada as he presided over the Spanish Inquisition. With such dissenting voices, an attack like 9/11 doesn't seem "wholly adverse" to Christianity, unless one resorts to the no true Scotsman fallacy.

According to his reviewer, Dawkins thinks that if all religion could be obliterated (his ideal), “any positive aspects of religion [could] be replaced by equally beneficial non-religious substitutes.” Like those glorious “benefits” that reigned supreme, one supposes, during the Communistic regime of the former Soviet Union! Again, he doesn't realize atheism and communism are completely different things.

Universality of Religion[edit]

Dawkins is puzzled that interest in religion is so widespread. “Worshipping deities would seem to be an irrational and wasteful habit, yet it has been found in all cultures” (The Economist). Is religion any more “irrational” than spending a vast amount of time in writing books against a God one believes does not exist? Repeating this tired ad hominem again. Jackson has written at least one book defending Christianity, so he certainly spends a large amount of time trying to prove a God he already believes exists.

The author even toys with a potential problem in his reasoning. From his storehouse of “logical firepower” he raises the possible objection that if the theory of evolution were true, and natural selection eliminates that which is harmful in the development of the species, why hasn’t the religious impulse become obsolete, since, according to Dawkins, it is an unnecessary, even harmful, impediment to human development?

Natural selection is a biological process. It deals with physical, genetically controlled traits in species over the course of many generations, as they adapt to their environment. There are many problems with applying natural selection to human ideologies. In the modern era humans completely dominate their environment. We do not compete with any other species to any reasonable extant. The process of natural selection on human physical traits is rather questionable for this reason, much less ideas.

Also, negative traits do not disappear quickly unless they are very detrimental, such as a severe genetic defect. Vestigial organs and functions have not disappeared yet because they are not very harmful, even though they are unnecessary and thus a waste of the body's resources. It takes many generations for them to disappear. If we apply natural selection to ideas, the same systems could apply. Most religions are not suicide cults. In general, believers can live productive lives, even if society might be better off overall without religion.

One could argue that the rise of non-belief in the modern era really is natural selection, just proceeding at the slow pace one would expect.

The popular Britishanimal inspector” suggests that evolution “programmed” offspring to believe what they learn from parents, and one unprofitable by-product of this process is the belief in religion.

But how could the non-intelligent, materialistic forces of nature “program” anything? Can there be a program without a programmer?

Jackson is using the teleological argument, also known as the argument from design. His particular example is a variant of "a watch requires a watchmaker."

Ironically, Richard Dawkins already addressed this argument in his book The Blind Watchmaker:

"But of course any God capable of intelligently designing something as complex as DNA/protein replicating machine must have been at least as complex and organized as the machine itself. Far more so if we suppose him additionally capable of such advanced functions as listening to prayers and forgiving sins. To explain the origin of the DNA/protein machine by invoking a supernatural Designer is to explain precisely nothing, for it leaves unexplained the origin of the Designer. You have to say something like "God was always there", and if you allow yourself that kind of lazy way out, you might as well just say "DNA was always there", or "Life was always there", and be done with it."

And what about the opposite side of that coin? Could it not be argued with equal force that atheism has been passed from parents to children, and is an “irrational” and “wasteful” form of mental aberration? The famous theorist once again has met himself limping down the road of logical inconsistency.

For further discussion of the “religious faculty” that appears to be unique and intrinsic to the normal person, see the author’s book, Fortify Your Faith (1974, 14-16).

Atheism is not a belief. It is simply the lack of belief. Confucian parents in China do not teach their children to disbelieve in Christianity or Islam, they simply don't teach them to believe in Christianity or Islam. Disbelief is the default state, not belief.

Jackson claims religion is "unique and intrinsic," but belief in God is certainly not. Belief systems such as Buddhism, which reject any kind of deity, are indigenous and endemic to a large percentage of the world's population living in East Asia. Furthermore, Jackson's book is from 1974, and thus ignores the advances in anthropology, philosophy, and biology that have been made since then.

But he still wants you to buy it!

Dawkins’s Focus[edit]

The English author takes aim at four needs that religion is believed to satisfy: explanation, exhortation, inspiration, and consolation. These items are worthy of analysis. Sadly, Jackson's "analysis" falls short.

Explanation[edit]

Dawkins alleges that religion does not provide an explanation as to the origin of the universe and man, any more than it explains: “who created God?” The biblical answer is: no one created God. God is an eternal being (Psalm 90:2). No atheist, of course, would grant credence to the Bible testimony. The fact is, however, plain logic reinforces the scriptural affirmation.

If something exists now, something must always have existed, for something cannot come from nothing. Something does now exist; thus, something has existed always.

If God is eternal, why couldn't the universe be eternal? Making an exception for God would be special pleading. This is also explained by Dawkins' The Blind Watchmaker quote above.

Furthermore, the concept of an eternal God is present in all of the Abrahamic religions. This "plain logic" could just as easily be an argument for Islam.

The “something” that has existed always must either be matter or mind. This is a false dichotomy if there ever was one. As a trivial example, perhaps the "something" could have been Zforbleck, an as-of-yet undiscovered kind of existence.

But the eternally existing “something” is not matter, for matter is conceded to be temporal, not eternal (as evidenced by the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

The Second Law of Thermodynamics states: "In any cyclic process the entropy will either increase or remain the same."

In layman's terms, disorder in a closed system tends to increase with time. This in no way implies matter is "temporal," as if it goes away.

In fact, Jackson conveniently ignores the First Law of Thermodynamics, which states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed. This is the basis for the Law of Conservation of Mass, which states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed.

Thus, the eternal “something,” by default, must be “mind.” He's not even wrong.

If the universe is characterized by order (kosmos) or “design,” then the cause that produced it must be intelligent.

Another variant of the argument from design.

An anthill is an ordered creation, yet ants are not intelligent.

Furthermore, there is no reason to believe the universe is "characterized by order." There are many chaotic events in the universe. This is related to the anthropic principle.

Intelligence implies personality. Hence there must be a personal cause responsible for the universe.

...no?

Again, not even wrong.

While this argument is abbreviated, and limited, it is sufficient for the moment to reveal the folly of the “explanation” quibble.

In one of his books Dawkins concedes that the complexity of living organisms manifests “apparent design”; and then exclaims, “If anyone doesn’t agree that this amount of complex design cries out for an explanation, I give up” (1986, ix). He might as well raise the white flag, for materialism has no solution to the problem.

Another shameless quote mine. This is from The Blind Watchmaker, the part quoted by Jackson is in bold:

"The complexity of living organisms is matched by the elegant efficiency of their apparent design. If anyone doesn't agree that this amount of complex design cries out for an explanation, I give up. No, on second thoughts I don't give up, because one of my aims in the book is to convey something of the sheer wonder of biological complexity to those whose eyes have not been opened to it. But having built up the mystery, my other main aim is to remove it again by explaining the solution."

Dawkins goes on to do just that in the remainder of the book, conspicuously not raising the white flag and simply giving up.

Later the professor wrote that “design” is “probably the most powerful reason for the belief, held by the vast majority of people that have ever lived, in some kind of supernatural deity” (1986, xii).

So the “vast majority of people that have ever lived” have been wholly irrational, while the miniscule[sic] cult of atheists are the only ones capable of reasoning. Incredible!
This is a simple appeal to popularity. But since we've gone there, let's bear in mind that the "vast majority of people that have ever lived" have not agreed with Christianity, much less Jackson's particular denomination.

Exhortation[edit]

Dawkins contends that religion cannot be exhortative since it is not a legitimate source for re-enforcing morality. Get this stunning statement: “If it were, Jews would still be executing those who work on the Sabbath” (The Economist).

The author reveals that he knows virtually nothing of the Book of which he is so critical. The Jewish economy was a temporary system designed by God to prepare the Hebrews (and others through their influence) for the coming of Christ, the Savior. There were strict measures enforcing the concept that God is the sovereign ruler of mankind, and that his revealed will must be obeyed. That law system, however, was abrogated with the implementation of the Christian economy. The Sabbath is not even a requirement for today, much less is the penalty for violating it still operative.

Astoundingly, Jackson sets up a straw man argument...and then completely misses it.

The quote refers to the Jews. Jews do not believe in the supernatural claims of Jesus Christ. Jackson's explanation of the Christian position is entirely irrelevant.

Furthermore, Jackson says Dawkins "contends that religion cannot be exhortative since it is not a legitimate source for re-enforcing morality," but he does nothing to refute this.

Inspiration[edit]

Dawkins thinks that contemplation of the natural world is sufficient for any “inspiration” needs man might have. But reflection upon the natural world, lovely as that is—though marred by human abuse—raises a myriad of complex questions.

How did the ingenious “uni-verse” (not multi-verse) come to be? If the theory of evolution were true, how did living creatures derive from the non-living? How did dead matter create “awareness” and moral sensitivity? From the atheistic vantage point, these questions are more frustrating than inspiring.

Jackson displays stunning ignorance of science here.

The cosmological Big Bang has overwhelming experimental and mathematical support as the origin of the "uni-verse" we live in.

Abiogenesis is the scientific process of simple life arising from a mixture of chemical compounds. It has been experimentally demonstrated ever since the Miller–Urey experiment in 1952. Jackson is more than 50 years behind.

From the "atheistic" vantage point, these questions have already been answered.

Consolation[edit]

Where is the consolation in atheism? Totally absent! Skepticism is a black hole of despair. Here is what Dawkins said in an interview some years back regarding human beings.

You are for nothing. You are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life (Bass 1990, 60). Coming perilously close to being critical, Dawkins’s admiring reviewer in The Economist was forced to concede (after referring to the professor’s discussion of the amazing discoveries of modern physics) that “only a minority will find as much consolation in quantum physics as in the prospect of reuniting with their dearly departed in heaven.”

Can you picture the sad scene of a father and mother who have just lost a precious child to death? As they sit by the body of that lifeless babe, sobbing with broken hearts, Richard Dawkins consoles them with these sentiments. “Just remember that little Mary was nothing, and she had no purpose in life other than to propagate her selfish genes.”

This is the first section of a rambling appeal to emotion.

It features another quote taken out of context. Below is the full text, based on an interview with Richard Dawkins recounted in Thomas A. Bass' book Reinventing the Future. Jackson's quote is in bold:

"Perhaps that's because it brings home to people the truth about why they exist, something they previously took for granted. No one had given them such a ruthless, starkly mechanistic, almost pointless answer. "You are for nothing. You are here to propagate your selfish genes. There is no higher purpose in life." One man said he didn't sleep for three nights after reading The Selfish Gene. He felt that the whole of his life had become empty, and the universe no longer had a point. Another way of putting it is to think of people losing their religious faith. Where previously they had been fobbed off with religious, pseudo answers, they now felt they understood what life was all about. Though it sounds like a negative message, it has had a great impact on people."

Apparently Jackson would prefer his "religious, pseudo answers" rather than having to face reality.

Also, since his arguments could just as easily apply to any deity, we can imagine how his "sad scene" plays out if Islam is true. Islam teaches that everyone is born a Muslim, but their parents then lead them astray. Rather than peacefully dying, little Mary will be punished for all eternity because her evil, Christian parents rejected the Qur'an as the revealed word of God, and instead chose to teach her falsehoods. The horror!

The confusion of atheism would be humorous if not so tragic. Like this article.

Dawkins says we are here “to propagate” (an infinitive of purpose) in order to prove there really is “no purpose” in life. A purposeful, non-purposeful existence; how incoherent! And how can there be a “purpose” unless there is someone who purposed? Jackson's linguistic play is certainly incoherent. Also, another repetition of the argument from design.

The only “consolation” that Dawkins and his ideological kin can offer is a “cold hole in the ground.”

The words of the pathetic Bertrand Russell form a fitting conclusion:

"I do know the despair in my soul. I know the great loneliness, as I wander through the world like a ghost, speaking in tones that are not heard, lost as if I had fallen from some other planet (1968, 145)."

More pitiable even:

"[T]he loneliness of the human soul is unendurable, nothing can penetrate it except the highest intensity of the sort of love that religious teachers have preached; whatever does not spring from this motive is harmful, or at best useless (quoted in Monk 1996, 135)."

Again from the tormented pen of Russell (Monk 1996, xix):

"Through the long years

I sought peace,

I found ecstasy, I found anguish,

I found madness,

I found loneliness.

I found solitary pain

that gnaws the heart,

But peace I did not find."

Such is the “consolation” of Dawkins’s atheism!

The remainder of the appeal to emotion.

Jackson continues to quote mine, but for once the quotes are not brutally out of context — these men did indeed experience depression. The problem is that this is a non sequitur, there is no reason to assume they were depressed because of their beliefs. Many religious people become depressed and commit suicide, this does not mean their religion causes depression. If anything, many studies have shown that more intelligent people tend to be depressed more often.

Also, Bertrand Russel made enormous contributions to the fields of philosophy and mathematics. He was certainly not "pathetic," though Wayne Jackson might fit the description.

Conclusion[edit]

Finally I must note that the professor depicts Christ as a teacher of “dodgy [suspect, dishonest, untrustworthy] family values.” His admiring reviewer says “Dawkins dreams of a day when atheists are as well-organized and influential as Christian conservatives.” His greater dream is that Christians (and all religionists) will someday vanish from the earth!

Dream on! Two centuries from now the impact of Richard Dawkins will be but a fly-speck note (if that much) on a yellow page of some obscure bibliography—while the name and influence of Jesus of Nazareth will reverberate around this globe (provided it still is here) as it has for virtually twenty centuries.
This is exceedingly doubtful.

Atheism robs us of much and provides us with nothing. Religion seems to have done this to Jackson.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]