Professor of biology, Richard Dawkins,
“Highly intelligent people are mostly atheists.”1
Physicist, and former Chairman of the Department of Materials Science at Stanford, Richard Bube,
“There are proportionately as many atheistic truck drivers as there are atheistic scientists.”2
In his book The God Delusion Prof. Richard Dawkins approvingly quotes Irish playwright and poet Sean O’Casey’s statement, “Politics has slain its thousands, but religion has slain its tens of thousands.”3 I have thus far not been able to determine when O’Casey made that statement. O’Casey, a supporter of the Soviet Union, lived 1880-1964 and appeared to have an extremely loose definition of precisely what Communism is since he defined a Communist as “anyone who tries to help humanity.” Then again O’Casey is said to have been “more concerned with poetry than logic; more with shoulder-heaving laughter than with back-bending research.” We can only assume that living until 1964 offered plenty of opportunity to witness that religion has slain its tens of thousands, but political atheism has slain its tens of millions.
It is interesting to note that Prof. Richard Dawkins states that he chooses to besmirch Christianity and the Bible in particular and at length since those subjects are known to him. Prof. Richard Dawkins was brought up in the Anglican Church and abandoned it around the age of 16 after realizing that, as we discuss at length in our essay The Gap Filler, Darwinism was big enough to do the job. This, mind you, was not because at that tender age he read On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life but “because I was taught”-like so much scripture book, chapter and verse. In studying biology Prof. Richard Dawkins looks through a microscope and infers atheism-what a tragic misapplication of science. This makes us recall statements by William Lane Craig who notes just how many atheists abandoned their “religion” (whatever that means) as children and maintain a childlike conceptualization of that which they abandoned. When asked is there was ever a time that he believed in God Prof. Richard Dawkins responded, “As a child I did.”4 This is quite evident in the athesits activists references to the Bible as “a magic book” or “fairy-tales,” Jesus’ miracles as “magical powers,” and God as an “imaginary friend,” or “sky daddy.” No doubt that this tickles those whom already agree with them but to the rest of us it is all too reminicent of playground bullying and role playing with superheros. What next, will they triple-dog-dare theists to debate?
If, when speaking on Christianity and the Bible Prof. Richard Dawkins is speaking on those religious subjects with which he is well aquainted one can only wonder what his statements would be if he spoke outside of his scope of knowledge. We should mention that there is something to be said about reserving our strongest of opinions for subjects with which we are well versed. However, this can also become as excuse for lazy, if not complete lack of, scholarship. On p. 254 of The God Delusion Prof. Richard Dawkins provides an asterisk at the end of a paragraph which leads to the following statement “You may not know the meaning of ‘tribulation saints’ in this sentence. Don’t bother: you have better things to do.” This should be read as “The less you know about what I’m criticizing the easier it is for me to lead you around.” Prof. Richard Dawkins wastes a lot of time, not to mention ink and trees in the form of paper, arguing against caricatures of religion, Christianity and the Bible. We do not state this because he has obviously not read all relgioius literature that mankind has produced nor because he has not read some of the basic classics in the field. Interestingly, there are various people who are willing to come to the defense of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ ignorance. The point is not that Prof. Richard Dawkins is somehow required to know something but that he should be well versed in that which he is criticizing. His defenders not only excuse his ignorance but furthermore actually encourage ignorance. One such example is Edmund Standing who is supposed to be an educator who holds a BA in Theology and Religious Studies and an MA in Critical and Cultural Theory:
“Must Dawkins and others undertake an arduous trawling through centuries of theological waffle in order to reject religious belief? Absolutely not…Theologians can continue to write endless books and articles using dense and ‘learned’ tones, but there really is no need for atheists to read them as they all boil down to the same ultimate beliefs, beliefs that atheists, quite rightly in my view, reject on the basis that they do not have intellectual or moral credibility.”5
Consider the following example which serves to demonstrate that Prof. Richard Dawkins not only lacks knowledge of religious minutia, something for which we do not criticize him, but lacks basic information. Prof. Richard Dawkins wrote, “three ‘great’ monotheistic religions (four if you count Mormonism).”6 Many would find this statement odd. The three religions being Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Some would categorize Mormonism as a Christian denomination which would not necessitate referring to them as a fourth religion. Others would categorize Mormonism as a pseudo-Christian group in which case they may be said to be their own religion and hence a fourth. Yet, and this is our point in referring to Prof. Richard Dawkins’ lack of basic information: Mormonism is not monotheistic, they are polytheistic or, more precisely, henotheistic (two essays on this topic are found here and here). Therefore, even if there are counted as an independent religion, they aught not be counted as a monotheistic religion.
Prof. Richard Dawkins has already defended himself against the charges of lazy scholarship. In fact, The God Delusion is virtually a very large bibliography and anytime that Prof. Richard Dawkins is speaking of that which he claims to know well he is actually citing the writings of other who not only selectively quote the Bible but tell Prof. Richard Dawkins what to think about it. Below we provide the specific example of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ adoration of one such infallible interpreter-the anesthesiologist Prof. John Hartung. Prof. Richard Dawkins makes it clear that he is relying upon “Hartung’s interpretation of the Bible” (let us keep in mind that all interpretations are not created equal and hermeneutical techniques in general). We dare state that perhaps, like Mr. O’Casey, Prof. Richard Dawkins appears to be more concerned with poetry than logic; more with shoulder-heaving laughter than with back-bending research. Or perhaps more concerned with voluptuous besmirchments than logic; more with shoulder-heaving cynicism, pessimism and attacking straw men than with back-bending research. In fact, and upon further research, Prof. Richard Dawkins may have discovered that Mr. O’Casey referred to atheists as “those who, trying to get rid of God, plant Him more firmly on His throne.”7
Before embarking upon a survey of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ various example of the Bible’s immorality please keep in mind constantly that he ends up justifying them. No, we do not mean that he ends up justifying his criticisms. He justifies the very actions that he attempts to discredit as immoral-as we shall see below, after the conclusion of our survey.
Prof. Richard Dawkins was kind enough to saturate a certain portion of his book with un-contextual, misinterpretations and misapplications of the Bible:
“The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”8
This coming from the man who thinks that Prof. Hartung is too blunt. Setting aside Prof. Richard Dawkins’ vociferous cacophony of condescension any true believer will mourn for him. This is because if Prof. Richard Dawkins really feels this way about God why would God force him to spend eternity in heaven with Him? Considering Prof. Richard Dawkins’ lazy scholarship we presume to assume that most, if not all, of these besmirchments are based on his misunderstandings and lack of basic discernment.
Prof. Richard Dawkins is perplexed as to how we go about reading and understanding the Bible. For example, he asks “By what criterion do you decide which passages are symbolic, which literal?”9 When we read a text with the purpose of understanding it rather than in order to a priori discredit it this is not a very difficult task. It is nothing less than astonishing that on a daily basis we constantly deal with symbolic, parabolic, metaphoric, proverbial language both spoken and written without the slightest second thought. But when people such as Prof. Richard Dawkins begin to read the Bible all common sense, all basic discernment, all knowledge of linguistics, literary devises, modes of speech, etc. suddenly disappear and all that is left is cynical, pessimistic emotionalism.
Let us now get a taste of Prof. Richard Dawkins’ scholarly acumen as he makes his comments and refers to the above mentioned anesthesiologist’s article published in Skeptic magazine (Vol. 3, No. 4, 1995):
“Before leaving the Bible I need to call attention to one particularly unpalatable aspect of its ethical teaching. Christians seldom realise that much of the moral consideration for others which is apparently promoted by both the Old and New Testaments was originally intended to apply only to a narrowly defined in-group. ‘Love thy neighbour’ didn’t mean what we now thing it means. It meant only ‘love another Jew’_all those commandments that make reference to ‘thy neighbour’ are equally exclusive. ‘Neighbour’ means ‘fellow Jew.’”10
Prof. Richard Dawkins does not cite the verse to which he is referring, which is convenient in that it makes it more difficult to check his citation especially for those unfamiliar with the Bible. Not referencing quotations is most certainly lazy scholarship; Prof. Hartung does provide them (for those who need them).The text in question is Leviticus 19:18, “You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.”
There you have it then, Prof. Hartung and Prof. Richard Dawkins are justified in their determination. After all the text does state, “the sons of your people”-Jews. Yet, if you do not have as much faith as Prof. Richard Dawkins, if you are a skeptic and you question everything you will not take Prof. Hartung’s and Prof. Richard Dawkins’ word for it but actually open up the Bible and read it for yourself.
In Acts 17:10-11 the Bereans are considered more noble, or fair minded, than the Thessalonians because they not only heard Paul’s teaching but checked the scripture every day to see if what he claimed was accurate. Butt we have just seen that the verse implies just what they infer. However, a careful researcher will not simply open the Bible read one verse and close it since that would mean making ginormous assumptions based on scant evidence. Nay, one aught to consider the context: historical, cultural, grammatical, etc. In this case one would keep reading the text/paragraph from which the verse was wrenched and would find that Leviticus 19:33-34 states, “And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.” A stranger is as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself.
The Old Testament provides further reason for being empathetic towards the “strangers”:
“You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).”Also you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the heart of a stranger, because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).
The LORD “administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
What of the Moabite Ruth? This gentile and woman is the center character in the book of the Old Testament that bares her name. Racism and male chauvinism?
Prof. Richard Dawkins also wrote:
“Hartung puts it more bluntly than I dare: ‘Jesus would have turned in his grave if he had known that Paul would be taking his plans to the pigs.’”11
But what is this about Jesus turning in His grave (a sideswipe at Christianity’s core doctrine-the resurrection) because Paul took the gospel to “the pigs” the non-Jews? Jesus’ mission was initially aimed at His fellow Jews but even then gentiles were included in His ministering. Eventually, and long before Paul, Jesus augmented His missions so that it would specifically include gentiles. The Temple, the Jewish Temple, in which Jesus worshipped included a portion specifically dedicated for gentiles to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (see John 10:23, Act 3:11, 5:12). The Old Testament is replete with references to God’s outreach to gentiles: one such example reads as follows,
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7 which is quoted in Mark 11:17).
Jesus told the apostles to, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19).
The New Testament succinctly summarizes the whole of Biblical teaching regarding Jews and gentiles-all nations:
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:26-28).
Thus, why would have Jesus been alarmed at the plans being taken to the gentiles? All that Prof. Hartung and Prof. Richard Dawkins needed to do is read the New Testament, even just the four gospels, and they would have been shamed at their own ignorance. Consider the following New Testament reference to the above cited Leviticus 19:18, what is asked about it, and how Jesus responds:
“And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, ‘Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the law? What is your reading of it?’ So he answered and said, ”You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,‘ and ‘your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, ‘You have answered rightly; do this and you will live.’ But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, ‘And who is my neighbor?’ Then Jesus answered and said: ‘A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion. So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’ ‘So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?’ And he said, ‘He who showed mercy on him.’ Then Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise’” (see Luke 10:25-37).
The moral hero of the story is not the priest, nor the Levite but a Samaritan a despised gentile. The attitude of the day is succinctly expressed by a Samaritan woman who was astonished that Jesus, a Jew, would have anything to do with her. She stated, “Jews do not associate with Samaritans” (John 4:9).
She even asked whether the proper place to worship is Samaria or Jerusalem. Jesus, in His typical form, does not get roped into the logical fallacy of a false dichotomy whereby one is made to think that there are only two possible answers, in this case either one location or the other, but finds the third way:
“‘Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him’” (John 4:20-23).
But Prof. Richard Dawkins keeps on getting himself into trouble by his, apparently, blind faith in his infallible interpreter:
“Hartung draws attention to the two verses in Revelation where the number of those ‘sealed’ (which some sects, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses interpret to mean ‘saved’) is limited to 144,000. Hartung’s point is that they all had to be Jews: 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes.”12
You should actually read “the two verses” as “the only two verses to which we choose to refer, forget context and please do not keep reading past the two verses.” But which two verses? Richard Dawkins does not bother citing them. You either take his word for it or conduct some research-how many of his adherents would do that? Revelation 7:4 states, “And I heard the number of those who were sealed. One hundred and forty-four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel were sealed.” Thus, there you have it. Unless you question everything and conduct your own research just as the Bereans are praised for doing. If you read all the way from verse 4 to verse 9-10 you will find the following statement:
“After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’”
Many other examples could be presented, such as when Jesus went to Samaria and Galilee and healed ten leprous men only one of whom took the time to thank Jesus. It is specifically mentioned that this man was a Samaritan (see Luke 17:11-16). Yet, these suffice to demonstrate that, with all due respect to those more learned than myself, Prof. Hartung should stick anesthesia, Prof. Richard Dawkins should stick to biology (observation and not his speculations) and Skeptic magazine should be skeptical about itself. We have clear evidence that two individual atheists and an entire publishing organization are guilty of, at least, lazy scholarship.
Prof. Richard Dawkins further wrote:
“Jesus’ family values, it has to be admitted, were not such as one might wish to focus on. He was short, to the point of brusqueness, with his own mother, and he encouraged his disciples to abandon their families to follow him. ‘If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple,’ (Luke, 14:26, King James Bible). The American comedian Julia Sweeney expressed her bewilderment in her one-woman stage show, Letting Go of God: ‘Isn’t that what cults do? Get you to reject your family in order to inculcate you?’”13
It is interesting to note that Prof. Richard Dawkins quotes various comedians and various other entertainers. We can only speculate as to why he did it but it is an interesting tactic in that while it makes a point it is somewhat difficult to discredit their statements. This is because the moment you begin to counter argue you realize that they are a comedian and it was just a joke, but a serious joke, but it was funny, but it is polemical, but, but, but. Thus, the point is made and no one feels childish enough to respond. It is tantamount to finding yourself arguing with a clown-the clown has fun and you look foolish.
Jerry Seinfeld stated:
“I mean, ‘Bozo the Clown’?Does he really need ‘the clown’ in his title, as clown?Bozo, ‘the’ clown?Are we going to confuse him with Bozo the district attorney?Bozo the pope?
There’s no other Bozo.”
But let us get back to dissecting Prof. Richard Dawkins’ lazy scholarship and take it from the top (or rather from the bottom of the above quote) “Isn’t that what cults do?” Yes. But is that what Jesus, what the New Testament, is asking of us? No. Rather, that is what Prof. Richard Dawkins wants us to believe but since we are skeptical we will see if what he claims is true. Jesus’ statements are surely hyperbolic: as much as you love your father, mother, wife, children, brethren, sisters and, note this one, your own life they are to seem as hate in comparison to your love of Jesus. This is not simply a diminution of our love for our family but an exaltation of our love of Jesus. It is very easy to see the way that even those closest to Jesus understood His words. Before moving on let us ask how many apostles, disciple and good old fashioned Christians have gouged their own eyes out? How many chopped off their own hands and feet? Zero would be a fair guess. But Jesus taught “if your hand offends you, cut it off_if your foot offends you, cut it off_if your eye offends you, pluck it out” (Mark 9:43-47). Because they utilized basic common sense and discernment.In Matthew 20:20 the mother of two of the apostles, James and John, makes an appearance with them.In Mark 7:9-13 Jesus taught the following:
v”Do you do well to set aside the commandment of God, so that you may keep your own tradition? For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother.’ And, ‘Whoever curses father or mother, let him die the death.’ But you say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, Corban! (that is, A gift to God, whatever you may profit by me) and you no longer allow him to do anything toward his father or mother, making the Word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have delivered. And you do many such things.”
Jesus speaks out against the traditions of men that, in this case, were concocted to benefit the religious leaders but neglect the parents of the giver of corban.In Mark 1:30-31 Jesus goes with Simon/Peter in order to visit and heal his mother-in-law.In 1st Corinthians 9:5 Paul makes reference to the apostle’s authority to lead about/taking along/traveling around with a sister or wife as the apostles are know to do.In John 19:26-27 as Jesus is dying on the cross He ensures that His mother will be cared for by asking John to take her into his home.
And is any of this surprising considering that Jesus taught “honor your father and your mother” (Mark 10:19)?
Prof. Richard Dawkins does not seem understand, or simply does not bother taking into consideration, that just because the Bible states something that does not equal endorsement. In other words, the Bible describes and prescribes. To take something that it describes and assume that it is prescribing it only goes to demonstrate a shocking level of misunderstanding tantamount, in Prof. Richard Dawkins’ case, to gathering straw to build the straw man against which he argues. There seems to be an odd corollary between the hedonist commandment “If it feels good, do it” and what appears to be Prof. Richard Dawkins’ (mis)understanding of the Bible as teaching “If the words are printed in the Bible, do it.”
For instance, there is a common misconception that we must follow 613 commandments. This is inaccurate for at least two reasons: one is that only religious Jewish people living in God’s theocratic nation had to follow them, not gentiles. Two is that even religious Jewish people living in God’s theocratic nation never had to follow 613 commandments. This is because some commandments were just for male, some just for females, some were just for priest, some for laypersons, some for soldiers, some for kings, some for fathers, some for mothers, etc. This is something that Prof. Richard Dawkins, and astonishingly many of his comrades and adherents, do not seem to understand. For example, if I am not Jewish/Israeli soldier who lived in a very particular place and in a very particular time when land had to be conquered or protected I do not have to pick up sword against anyone.
Prof. Richard Dawkins makes the following comments regarding the morals from scripture argument:
“we (and that includes religious people) as a matter of fact don’t get our morals from scripture. If we did, we would_execute disobedient children.”14
“My main purpose here has not been to show that we shouldn’t get our morals from scripture (although that is my opinion). My purpose has been to demonstrate that we (and that includes religious people) as a matter of fact don’t get our morals from scripture. If we did, we would strictly observe the Sabbath and think it just and proper to execute anybody who chose not to.”15
“all I am trying to establish for the moment is that we do not, as a matter of fact, derive our morals from scripture. Or, if we do, we pick and choose among the scriptures for the nice bits and reject the nasty.”16
It is fascinating to note that He accuses Judeo-Christian moralists of picking and choosing the nice and rejecting the nasty. But what is his erudite response? He chooses the nasty and rejects the nice. Let us focus for a moment on the emotionally charged (as well it should be) reference to what Prof. Richard Dawkins refers to as “disobedient children,” Sam Harris refers to as children that “talk back to us,” but the Bible refers to as stubborn, rebellious, disobedient, gluttonous, drunkards who “smiteth” and curse their parents and have already been chastened (Exodus 21:15, Leviticus 20:9 and Deuteronomy 21:18).
Could you really justify executing children by appealing to the New Testament? Sam Harris has gone as far as stating that, “you can get a rationale for killing people for adultery out of the New Testament.”17 As shockingly fallacious as this is we should likewise ask: could you really justify this action from the Old Testament? Surely, since that it from whence the command comes. We have already dealt with this issue in the “Back Talk” portion of our essay Sam Harris’ Mythunderstandings. Succinctly stated, it appears that hermeneutics is simply unknown to Prof. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and other New Atheists. But the fact that they do not seem to even read for immediate context, much less greater context, is only an indictment of their lazy scholarship. As we have discussed here, stoning offenses do not mean that if you saw someone committing a stoneable offense you just executed them on the spot.
Beginning at Exodus 18:13-26 we see a careful judicious system being established. Reference to the two or three witnesses that were required are found in Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15, Matthew 18:16, 2nd Corinthians 13:1, 1st Timothy 5:19 and Hebrews 10:28. These are a part of a very careful and restrictive system. In fact, the Talmud (Sandedrin 71a) basically makes the point that the commandments implied such severe restrictions that “There never was, and never will be, a wayward and defiant son” or “stubborn and rebellious son.” There is not one single case in the entire Bible of executing a disobedient child.
Prof. Richard Dawkins writes,
“Begin in Genesis with the well-loved story of Noah, derived from the Babylonian myth of Uta-Napisthim and known from the older mythologies of several cultures.”18
But why assume that people who lived in vast isolation from each other (chronologically and geographically) engaged in plagiarism? Perhaps the fact that many of the most ancient “myths” of cultures around the world tell the same basic stories (a pristine garden, a flood, etc.) means that the events actually occurred and thus became pre-historic history that in this case is known as “myth” or “legend.” Incidentally, one can only wonder if Prof. Richard Dawkins has asked the following questions regarding his belief in ancient myths and which one influenced the other: When did the event occur? How do we know that? When was the even recorded? Who recorded it? Why did they record it? What is span of time between the event and the recording? How do we know that? What is the span of time from the recording to the first manuscript? How do we know that? How many manuscripts are there? How do they compare? How do we know that what is written is accurate? Etc., etc., etc. Indeed, the answers to these questions appear to be imperative when dealing with the biblical text but are irrelevant when dealing with what the skeptic wishes to believe in its place.
Prof. Richard Dawkins further writes,
“Of course, irritated theologian types, like yourself will protest that we don’t take the book of Genesis literally any more. But that is the whole point! We pick and choose which bits of scripture to believe, which bits to write off as symbols or allegories.”19
Succinctly, to take something literally means to take it as it is intended. Yet, if we define “literal” as virtually refusing to consider hermeneutics, then no one is as literal as Prof. Richard Dawkins (Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, etc.).
Prof. Richard Dawkins continues thusly:
“In the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra, the Noah equivalent, chosen to be spared with his family because he was uniquely righteous, was Abraham’s nephew Lot. Two male angels were sent to Sodom to warn Lot to leave the city before the brimstone arrived. Lot hospitably welcomed the angels into his house, whereupon all the men of Sodom gathered around and demanded that Lot should hand the angels over so that they could (what else?) sodomize them: ‘Where are the men which came in to thee this night? Bring them out unto us, that we may know them’ (Genesis 19:5). But Lot’s halo is tarnished by the terms of his refusal: ‘I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof’ (Genesis 19: 7-8). If this dysfunctional family was the best Sodom had to offer by way of morals, some might begin to feel a certain sympathy with God and his judicial brimstone.”20
On a few occasions Prof. Richard Dawkins appear to not take the time to visualize the scenario presented in the text that he is quoting but seems to be merely following letters into words into sentences, etc. and forget what is actually occurring. We do not actually know very much about Lot except that the Bible, being as honest as it is, depicts one particular instance when his behavior was no less than repugnant.
Lot found that his home was accosted by a mob and while this does not excuse his repulsive actions it does inform us that he was in a very dangerous and mentally/emotionally stressed state. An Air Force Major told me that she has seen people do very odd things in highly stressful circumstances such as training scenarios, things that they would never have done otherwise. When Lot offers his daughters to the mob the angels would have none of that nonsense and it is precisely at that point that they act in defense of the girls.
“Such unpleasant episodes in Abraham’s story are mere peccadilloes compared with the infamous tale of the sacrificing of his son Isaac (Muslim scripture tells the same story about Abraham’s other son, Ishmael).”21
This is not necessarily so. For instance, Muslim Qur’an translator Abdullah Yusuf Ali wrote, “The boy thus born was, according to Muslim tradition, (which however is not unanimous on this point), the first-born of Abraham, viz. Ismail.”22 Moreover, “there was a debate between Muslim scholars whether the sacrificed was Isaac(P) or Ishmael(P)”23 Also, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam states, “in Islam, Ishmael is considered to be the son Abraham was about to sacrifice although great commentators who hold the opinion that it was Isaac can also be found.”24 In fact, we have done some careful research and have uncovered 43 ancient documents that predate Islam and which side with the Bible.
“God ordered Abraham to make a burnt offering of his longed-for son. As it turns out God was only joking after all, ‘tempting’ Abraham, and testing his faith. A modern moralist cannot help but wonder how a child could ever recover from such psychological trauma. By the standards of modern morality, this disgraceful story is an example simultaneously of child abuse, bullying in two asymmetrical power relationships, and the first recorded use of the Nuremberg defense: ‘I was only following orders.’”25
We should wonder if this event was at all traumatic for Isaac since in that time and place human sacrifice was a given and for all we know it was considered an honor to be sacrificed. Therefore, Abraham conjured no “Nuremberg defense” defense at all since what he was doing was the worship systems de jour. He did not even hesitate because this was standard operating procedure for the worship of the gods of that place and time. The New Testament states:
“By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, of whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called,’ concluding that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead, from which he also received him in a figurative sense” (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Incidentally, note how different the Biblical use of the term and concept of “faith” is than that which some religious people and atheists alike have made it. See our essay The Apostle Thomas: Patron Saint of Scientists? where we discuss Prof. Richard Dawkins’ erroneous presumption that all of the apostles, except for Thomas, relied on blind faith for their belief in the resurrection. “See!”, the atheist would say, “Abraham was ready to murder his own son by pure blind faith!” But pay closer attention to the text. Abraham offered Isaac by faith meaning: by basing his actions upon knowledge, rational and intellect. But how so? Because it states that he was willing to offer him up with the foreknowledge that it had been promised to him that his descendants would be wrought though Isaac. How could this be if Isaac dies having produced no seed? Thus, Abraham reasoned that “God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.” Is it any wonder then that “Abraham said to his young men [who had traveled with him], You stay here with the ass. And I and the boy will go on to this way and worship, and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). “I and the boy will go_and come again to you”-we both will go and we both will return. Moreover, this text is saturated with symbolism that pointed to Jesus’ crucifixion (please see the section of this essay entitled “Some Polemics”). It is simply astonishing to think that the event that made it crystal clear that the God of the Bible was different from other gods and would never accept child sacrifice is so abused and misunderstood. Moreover, it is precisely because “many many people, even to this day, do take the whole of their scripture to be literal fact_especially in the United States and in the Islamic world” that Judaism, Christianity and Islam have never practiced child sacrifice. When the Bible records Jews doing any such things it is clear that they had fallen away from worshiping the God of the Bible and were worshiping gentile/pagan gods.
On pages 240-241 Prof. Richard Dawkins makes reference to Lot’s daughters getting him so drunk that he does not even notice that they both, in turn, had copulated with him.
“Thus both the daughters of Lot were with child by their father. The firstborn bore a son and called his name Moab; he is the father of the Moabites to this day. And the younger, she also bore a son and called his name Ben-Ammi; he is the father of the people of Ammon to this day” (Genesis 19:36-38).
Yet, Prof. Richard Dawkins does not mention that is was this very instance of incest that caused the shunning of the Moabites and Amorites (the descendants of Moab and Ammon). Yet, surely Prof. Richard Dawkins would likewise condemn that reaction.
On pages 240-241 Prof. Richard Dawkins points out a particularly brutal story told in the Bible of a man, referred to as a Levite, who turned his concubine over to a mob of men who sexually abused her to such an extent that she ended up dying. He then cut her body into twelve pieces and sent a piece of her body to all the borders of Israel. In typical style Prof. Richard Dawkins leaves it there as if to insinuate that this was not only a normal part of everyday life but that the Bible approves of the action just because it mentions it. He does not bother pointing out that while it is in Judges 19:29 that her body is mutilated the very next verse reads “And so it was that all who saw it said, ‘No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day. Consider it, confer, and speak up!’” So shocked and repulsed were the Israelites that:
“So all the children of Israel came out, from Dan to Beersheba, as well as from the land of Gilead, and the congregation gathered together as one man before the LORD at Mizpah. And the leaders of all the people, all the tribes of Israel, presented themselves in the assembly of the people of God_Then the children of Israel said, ‘Tell us, how did this wicked deed happen?’” (Judges 20:1-3).
In Judges 20:4-7 the Levite tells what occurred and states “they committed lewdness and outrage in Israel.”Next, we learn that the congregation refused to rest until this issue was dealt with. Capital punishment is recommended and finally a battle ensues. Yet, surely Prof. Richard Dawkins would likewise condemn that reaction.
“So all the people arose as one man, saying, ‘None of us will go to his tent, nor will any turn back to his house’_ So all the men of Israel were gathered against the city, united together as one man. Then the tribes of Israel sent men through all the tribe of Benjamin, saying, ‘What is this wickedness that has occurred among you? Now therefore, deliver up the men, the perverted men who are in Gibeah, that we may put them to death and remove the evil from Israel!’ But the children of Benjamin would not listen to the voice of their brethren, the children of Israel” (Judges 20:8, 11-13).
On page 243 Prof. Richard Dawkins makes reference to Jephthah the Gileadite who took it upon himself to vow that if the people of Ammon be delivered in his hands, “whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the people of Ammon, shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering” (Judges 11:30). As it turns out he wins the battle and upon arriving home the first to come out of his door was his one and only child, his daughter.
There is quite a lot to be said about this text and Prof. Richard Dawkins does not even hint at any of it. He merely expresses his disgust and sarcasm, “God was obviously looking forward to the promised burnt offering.”26How could God be looking forward to the transgression of His very own commandment “Thou shalt do no murder” (Exodus 20:13)? What of the clear distinction between Himself and the false gods who accepted human/child sacrifice as a daily part of worship?:
“When the Lord your God cuts off from before you the nations which you go to dispossess, and you displace them and dwell in their land, take heed to yourself that you are not ensnared to follow them, after they are destroyed from before you, and that you do not inquire after their gods, saying , ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’ You shall not worship the Lord your God in that way; for every abomination to the Lord which He hates they have done to their gods; for they burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods” (Deuteronomy 12:29-30).
In fact, where does the text state anything about Jephthah sacrificing his daughter? The text merely states, “he carried out his vow with her which he had vowed” (Judges 11:39). But there is no mention of what he actually did. But wait a moment, it states that “he carried out his vow” and the vow was “I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Actually, it is “shall surely be the LORD’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” Yet, in any case he does appear to have sacrificed her-even though the minutia of the Torah’s law not once allowed for human/child sacrifice and what kosher high priest would allow such a thing.
We will now get too technical for Prof. Richard Dawkins’ purposes. It is worthwhile, if not imperative, pointing out that the “and” in the vow “be the LORD’s, and I will offer it” consists of the Hebrew construct made up of two conjunctions for “either/or”. Therefore, the vow reads as Robert Young has it in his strictly literal translation (Young’s Literal Translation):
“And Jephthah voweth a vow to Jehovah, and saith, ‘If Thou dost at all give the Bene-Ammon into my hand – then it hath been, that which at all cometh out from the doors of my house to meet me in my turning back in peace from the Bene-Ammon – it hath been to Jehovah, or I have offered up for it – a burnt-offering.’”
When we consider the greater context of the Torah clearly if it was a clean animal he would have offered it as a burnt-offering and if a human then they would be consecrated to the LORD. This would be done by the daughter being sent, with her consent (v. 37 “Let this thing be done for me”), to serve in the sanctuary.
But then why does this come across as such a tragedy? Because since she was his one and only child and a virgin, she would have no children and he would have no lineage after him. Not to mention the Jewish woman’s dream to be the one through whom the Messiah is born. Note that the text does not focus at all upon a mourning of her death but her virginity: v. 37 “I may go and wander on the mountains and bewail my virginity” v. 39 “She knew no man.”
Citing again from Young’s Literal Translation the chapter ends thusly, v. 40, “And it was an ordinance in Israel that the daughters of Israel went from year to year to the daughter of Jephthah, that they might comfort her for four days in a year.” The daughters of Israel meet with her on an annual basis in order to comfort her in her childless state. But if this be too literal for Prof. Richard Dawkins we can simply point out the usual rendering of the verse which reads, “And it became a custom in Israel that the daughters of Israel went four days each year to lament the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite.” Assuming that she was sacrificed what does it say that it became an annual ceremony in Israel to “lament” her with no approval of Jephthah’s actions.
Note very carefully that Prof. Richard Dawkins was not merely engaging in a succinct survey of what he perceives as the Old Testament’s immorality. He appears to have other motivations driving his comments, motivations that we cannot discern because we cannot know them unless he reveals them himself. However, we may point out what we have noticed which is that his statements are strictly one sided.
He, quite rightly, condemns Lot for handing his daughters over to the men of Sodom and Gomorra.But he does not condemn the men of Sodom and Gomorra.
Incidentally, he refers to Sodom and Gomorra as constituting an “intensely religious culture.”27
He, quite rightly, condemns the Levite for handing his concubine over to the men of Gibeah.But he does not condemn the men of Gibeah.
His modus operandi, for whatever reason, is to besmirch Jewish actions alone. No condemnation of the Egyptians for enslaving the Jews for four hundred years. No condemnation of the Haman for attempting to wipe out the Jews. No condemnation of the Babylonians for their attack and oppression of the Jews. And the examples of his one sided condemnation could be multiplied by many more.
Now we come to the justifying statement by Prof. Richard Dawkins who expended much time, energy, ink and trees (in the form of paper) to point out the Bible’s immorality. More precisely, the God of the Bible’s immorality:
“the disconnect between scriptural and modern (one is tempted to say civilized) morals. Of course, it is easily enough understood in terms of the theory of memes, and the qualities that a deity needs in order to survive in the meme pool.”28
H. Allen Orr, the Shirley Cox Kearns Professor of Biology at the University of Rochester, wrote that “most scientists do not accept Dawkins’s theory of memes”29 This is not surprising considering that in discussing “assertions without adequate evidence” evolutionary biologist and geneticist, Richard Lewontin mentioned Carl Sagan’s list of the “best contemporary science-popularizers” which includes Prof. Richard Dawkins. These authors have, as Lewontin puts it “put unsubstantiated assertions or counterfactual claims at the very center of the stories they have retailed in the market.”
As a logical consequence of his faith based belief in absolute materialism Prof. Richard Dawkins has concocted a worldview that, being solely based on nature, is unviable. Time and time again he constructs his arguments until he is forced to make a quick retreat from where his own argument is logically taking him, and his readers. In this case, he presented a case against the God of the Bible’s morality. A case which he made by breaking every possible rule that one would naturally follow when reading anything from a newspaper, to a menu, to a historical document. After this exercise in lazy scholarship and just as one would think that he has driven his stake into the vampire he pauses to point out that according to his own worldview what the Bible presents as being God’s immoral actions are perfectly understandable and sensible. This is because the Bible is merely presenting what may be termed survival of the fittest God. Prof. Richard Dawkins may not like it according to his “modern” morality de jour.30 Yet, he is keenly aware that while his worldview has a logical outcome, very well understood by the perpetrators of the bloodies century in human history, he must betray his own logic of illogic and abandon his worldview when it clashed with well, everyday life on plant earth:
“As an academic scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But I am a passionate anti-Darwinian when it comes to politics and how we should conduct our human affairs.”31
He has moreover stated:
“how do I react to the idea of being a vehicle for DNA? It doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? It doesn’t sound the sort of vision of life that a poet would have; and I’m quite happy, quite ready to admit that when I’m not thinking about science I’m thinking in a very different way.”32
In other words, Prof. Richard Dawkins is a passionate Darwinian when it comes to his faith based belief in natural selection’s ability to produce organisms that appear to be designed (and do away with God as a bonus side effect). But his Darwinian worldview has another side effect, one that is not very pleasant. Atheists throughout history have made it clear that atheism leads to, as Francis Schaeffer would put it, despair (we have commented on this fact and collected some of their statements here and here). But the New Atheists are very hard at work attempting to talk us into believing that atheism is pure life affirming bliss-carpe desperatio. Prof. Richard Dawkins recognizes that ultimately whatever temporary adrenaline spikes atheism can offer this heartless, soulless, brutal, void of a worldview simply cannot be applied to what it really important: good old fashioned everyday life along with politics and human affairs. The bloodiest century in human history is proof clear, read in tooth and claw, of this tragic fact.
Prof. Richard Dawkins’ both appeal to and rejection of Darwinism reminds us of G. K. Chesterton’s book Orthodoxy specifically the chapter entitled “The Suicide of Thought” wherein he makes quick work of secularism’s fallacious worldview. He writes:
“But the new rebel is a Sceptic, and will not entirely trust anything. He has no loyalty; therefore he can never be really a revolutionist. And the fact that he doubts everything really gets in his way when he wants to denounce anything. For all denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind; and the modern revolutionist doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it_In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite sceptic, is always engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for trampling on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for trampling on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”33
[we present a fuller quote at the end of our essay found here]
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