Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


The God Hypothesis 5

posted by xscot mcknight

Where do we get our morals? Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, chps. 6-7, dedicates much ink to spilling out his theory of morals. He is bound to do two things: demonstrate that morals are an evolutionary deposit in humans (through natural selection) and prove that religious morals are madness.
In essence, Dawkins draws upon his famous book, The Selfish Gene, to demonstrate that morals are the result of natural selection. Species that survive are altruistic — disinterested concern for others — in that they:
1. favor their own genetic kin,
2. they have a reciprocal “concern” for others,
3. they act in a way that protects their reputation, and
4. they act in ways that promotes dominance.
He posits — he cannot prove — that natural selection programmed our brains to have altruistic urges.
He attempts to answer the question of why be good if there is no God? He remonstrates with those who think they are only good because they want to live before God. Do we really need policing from God to be good?, he asks. He favors utilitarianism (Bentham, James and J.S. Mill) — for it clearly favors a natural explanation of morals. He does not think morals have to be absolute to be morals.
Chp 7 is a display of acid. What it is is two things: a long diatribe against the morality of the Old Testament and the New Testament, and at the same time a contentious (but unproven) line that our morals today are not based on the Bible but on other factors. I say unproven because (1) he does not show the origins of the morals of those who call themselves Christians and (2) he does not show that Christians root their morals in non-biblical factors.
He sketches elements of the Bible that he finds morally objectionable, not dealing adequately or fairly with those elements that are the sole basis for the enlightened morality he holds dear. His survey is heated, though: he excoriates the God of Genesis and Judges and Exodus and Numbers… “The Bible,” he says, “may be an arresting and poetic work of fiction, but it is not the sort of book you should give your children to form their morals” (247). “What makes my jaw drop is that people today shold base their lives on such an appalling role model as Yahweh” (248).
He affirms Jesus — evidently thinking that when Jesus says things he likes they must no longer be fiction — but ridicules atonement and original sin and the use of the cross as a religious symbol. Atonement is vicious, sado-masochistic, repellent, barking mad and viciously unpleasant. He sums it up with this: “Jesus had himself tortured and executed, in vicarious punishment for a symbolic sin committed by a non-existent individual [Adam]” (253).
He thinks the love our neighbor command, and here he depends on John Hartung, is “in-group morality” that involves “out-group hostility” (254ff).
By trotting out these examples, Dawkins thinks he is doing two things: first, he is ridiculing the morals of the Bible and, second, showing that our morals today are not derived from the Bible. But, he makes a logical mistake of the first order: not only does he narrow his biblical concerns to what he objects to, but he does not develop the foundational and always developing moral statements of the Old and New Testaments — even forgetting their ongoing development in the Church — that form the basis for contemporary morality. In other words, by narrowing his sights, he fails to see that the morals he advocates are in fact biblical! How so?
Here are his rough and ready list of universal morals:
1. Do to others what you have them do to you.
2. Strive to cause no harm.
3. Treat everything with love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect.
4. Do not shrink from justice, but be ready to forgive.
5. Live with joy and wonder.
6. Seek to learn something new.
7. Test all things against the facts.
8. Respect dissent.
9. Form independent opinions by reason and experience.
10. Question everything.
11. Enjoy your sex life; don’t worry about the sex life of others.
12. No discrimination on the basis of sex, race or species.
13. Do not indoctrinate your children.
14. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.

RJS:

Scot has provided an excellent summary of chps 6 and 7, leaving little to add. In typical fashion Dawkins demonstrates that common morality or moral law need not point to God, as an alternative explanation can be posited. Moral law can be explained by natural selection and Darwinian survival of the fittest – the selfish gene. There is no gap for which it is necessary to invoke the existence of God. This, of course, does not prove or disprove the existence of God – but merely demonstrates that God, if he exists as I believe he does, has created a rational and logical world.
In Ch. 7 Dawkins’ wit and venom is directed primarily against Christianity and against Judaism as the precursor of Christianity. The Old Testament is ridiculed through emphasis of extreme examples in the Pentateuch and Judges. It is interesting in this discussion that Dawkins takes a tenacious hold on the fundamentalist view that the OT is either 100% literal or 100% untrustworthy. He denies the possibility that myth or story could comprise part of the inspiration of scripture as it undermines his position that the moral authority of the OT must be dismissed. With respect to the NT, I find it interesting that the principle points singled out by Dawkins’ for ridicule are (1) the doctrine of the atonement and (2) the book of Revelation. The moral teaching of the majority of the NT is unacknowledged – or explained away as extrabiblical, although, as Scot has pointed out, his morals are largely biblical.
Dawkins finishes the chapter with a discussion of the rapidly changing moral Zeitgeist of the twentieth and now twenty-first centuries. Expressions and attitudes that seemed reasonable to Martin Luther, that were commonplace in the 1800’s or even the 1950’s are unthinkable by today’s standards. Books from the 30’s or even 50’s are appallingly racist or sexist. Dawkins doesn’t note this example – but upon rereading even several of the books from the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis are troublesome by current standards. Dawkins’ view is that this trend is a positive evolution reflecting the loosening hold of traditional religion – which is, by its nature, invested in the preservation of “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility.”

But is not this evolution in fact part and parcel of New Testament theology? Consistent with the redemptive trend and universal inclusiveness of the Gospel – and by this I don’t mean universalism; I mean that the NT Gospel has no “in-group” or “out-group” defined by anything other than faith in Christ. It is inclusive of all who care to embrace it irrespective of race, ethnicity, social standing, or class. As an interesting aside Dawkins notes the Orthodox and Conservative Jewish prayer as an example of the divisiveness inherent in religion “Blessed are you for not making me a Gentile. Blessed are you for not making me a woman. Blessed are you for not making me a slave.” (p. 259) Compare this with Galatians 3:28 “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” What do you think of Dawkins’ contention that the evolution toward equality of persons in western civilization reflects an increase in education and the weakened credibility of religion in general and Christian belief or the Church in particular?



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Jack Holt

posted December 29, 2006 at 2:29 am


“13. Do not indoctrinate your children.”
I wonder where he draws the line between teaching your children and indoctrination. I know that the word has a very negative reputation today but in fact I believe it is a parents duty to indoctrinate their children with their beliefs. As children reach the adult stage they will have ample opportunities to examine what they have been taught by their parents and decide if it is in fact truth.



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bob

posted December 29, 2006 at 7:30 am


The correlation between ‘evolution toward equality of persons’ and the increase of education and weakened credibility of religion is clear; causation between these events is not at all clear. During this same period, we have seen an increase in the number of cars and more people living in Montana — care to venture a causal explanation?
If Dawkins is correct, he certainly has not demonstrated it. Perhaps his predisposition against religion has made it too easy for him to accept these scientifically dubious assertions?



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Chase

posted December 29, 2006 at 7:43 am


RJS,
In answering this last question, I believe the Judeo-Christian world view is the foundation for this growing equality. Some would argue against this siting slavery as a result of the JC world view, but I would agree with Vodie Baucham, “the narrative does not equal the normative.” The JC world view is also responsible for the abolition of slavery. I would agree that Dawkins’ starting point makes it very difficult for him to find the proper finish line.



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ryan

posted December 29, 2006 at 9:18 am


Dawkins seems to be attacking a more fundamentalist position…I wonder what he would say to those who are egalitarian and are pleased with the move toward the equality of persons in the West and who believe that our society is moving in a direction that is not all together bad.



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JACK

posted December 29, 2006 at 9:39 am


Umm, doesn’t Dawkins know that Christianity isn’t a moralism? I know that many of us behave like it is, at times, but it isn’t. I don’t see what any of this has to do with the existence or not of God.



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Sam Carr

posted December 29, 2006 at 9:59 am


As Dawkins flounders along trying to make one limited paradigm fit all observable phenomena, we are reminded that this is precisely the problem with this book.
Dawkins, when he starts into morality, ethics, culture and specific issues like altruism or equality, is quite a bit out of his depth. The simple explanation is that the theory of evolution (which is what he knows) was never intended to be extrapolated indefinitely.
The universe as a whole is not ‘evolving’ in any recognisable sense. In fact the possibility of stasis is inimical to the evolutionary paradigm!



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Rick L in TX

posted December 29, 2006 at 10:42 am


“Do not indoctrinate your children.” How dare he publish a book, thereby indoctrinating us… oh wait … we’re not his children. I guess indoctrinating the children of others is OK then?



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Bob

posted December 29, 2006 at 11:30 am


First off, I notice a marked change of tone in your post here, Scot. Bordering on “out-group hostility”.
RJS asks: Dawkins’ view is that this trend is a positive evolution reflecting the loosening hold of traditional religion – which is, by its nature, invested in the preservation of “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility.”
But is not this evolution in fact part and parcel of New Testament theology?

I agree that this evolution is part and parcel of New Testament theology but I would submit that religion’s ability to demonstrate this in the world over the last 2,000 years falls abysmally short. Both between religions and between denominations (even within denominations) “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility” is the most prominent characteristic of religion. To our collective shame.



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John Doyle

posted December 29, 2006 at 12:20 pm


Aristotle made a case for natural morality; he also believed that women should be subject to men and that non-Greeks were meant to be slaves.
There are motivations other than morality for extending the boundaries of the in-group, most notably broader access to new markets to new knowledge/skills. I haven’t read this particular book of Dawkins, but I’d be surprised if he said that the rapidly-changing moral zeitgeist is a “positive evolution,” since Darwinian evolution is directionless. I suspect he says either that the globalization memes are increasingly recognized as more culturally adaptive, or he uses non-scientific criteria to evaluate the relative goodness of moral systems — perhaps both.
Studying genetic influences on human behavior seems like a perfectly respectable way to make a living. Unfortunately it’s not the science but the attitude that moves the books off the shelf. The marketplace encourages conflict; the bookstores don’t care who’s right or who wins as long as everybody’s sufficiently riled up to buy the book. It’s why the best-sellers aren’t necessarily the best books — just as the best moral code isn’t necessarily the most popular one.



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Milton

posted December 29, 2006 at 1:33 pm


I think that just about everyone so far has agreed that we are indeed progressing or evolving into a better people, with the only disagreement being what influences should be credited. I don’t buy it.Tribalism (or “in-group” / “out-group” hostility) is still pretty much universal among the peoples of the world. Our civilization, whether due to Christianity or the Enlightenment or whatever, disapproves of violence (well, except when it doesn’t), but human nature hasn’t changed. And given any excuse, all our moderation disappears into the snarl of clan warfare.



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gymbrall

posted December 29, 2006 at 1:39 pm


Bob said:
Both between religions and between denominations (even within denominations) “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility” is the most prominent characteristic of religion. To our collective shame.
While I don’t want to pretend that there have not and do not continue to be inappropriate examples of “in-group loyalty”, some of what has been labeled as “out-group hostility” is due to our society’s attitude toward separation. With only slight exaggeration, to modern eyes, all that separates is evil. But to Christians, separation (properly exercised, and yes, there will be disagreements) is a vital part of following Christ.



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RJS

posted December 29, 2006 at 1:54 pm


Bob,
I agree that the ability of institutional church of any sort to demonstrate this in the world has fallen abysmally short – reflecting the same failings that are evident even within the NT church, precipitating some of the letters contained in the Bible. This tendency toward “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility” is characteristic of fallen mankind, Christian and non-Christian alike.
I also think that NT teaching pushes us toward a vision of inclusion and equality – all are equally human, equal heirs with Christ. There is a continuous thread of the church, from the earliest times up to the present, which moves, albeit imperfectly, along this path defined by the NT gospel. This is the “communion of saints” of which I would like to be part, and in which I find the strongest argument for the existence of God and the credibility of the Christian story. This is the thread of God at work among those who eagerly seek him.



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Bob

posted December 29, 2006 at 4:29 pm


RJS,
Ok. So if “in” and “out” are characteristic of Christian and non-Christian alike, would you say that the vision of inclusion and equality is shared as well? Or do you think this vision is only for Christians or is only “rightly” portrayed in the teachings of the NT….



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Bob

posted December 29, 2006 at 5:50 pm


Gymbrall,
Could you expand on what type of separation you’re talking about here?
to Christians, separation (properly exercised, and yes, there will be disagreements) is a vital part of following Christ.



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John Frye

posted December 29, 2006 at 6:24 pm


Dawkins and other atheists in the West enjoy their intellectual freedom and expression of thought because they are surrounded and propped up by (lingering) Judeo-Christian values. I find it extremely ironic, as Scot points out, that even in rejecting God and the OT and NT, Dawkins unwittingly lands on Judeo-Christian ground for “his” morality.



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VanSkaamper

posted December 29, 2006 at 6:26 pm


I think that Dawkins has to ignore a lot of unpleasant history in order to make his claim that human morality it trending upward due to education.
1. I think it’s a kind of cultural elitism to believe that only in the contemporary West have people been adequately educated and sophisticated in their moral and ethical theory.
2. Much, if not most, of the 20th century’s genocide was inspired and implemented by highly educated people. For example, the people that staffed Hitler’s concentration camps were more highly educated than the average German.
3. The Judeo-Christian tradition is the foundation for the respect for the right of individuals, particularly women.
4. As a final observation, if Dawkins is correct, and morality has evolved and is purely material, then there are no such thing as uniquely moral properties of ideas and actions, there is no objective morality, and there is no basis for one agent to condemn another’s actions as morally wrong. For different moral attitudes are causally determined by ones genes and resulting chemistry. Stalin’s genetic moral make-up was different than Mother Theresa’s…but in the grand non-scheme of things, they are equally moral in the sense that there’s no transcendant standard to which they need to conform. Stalin’s murderous mutation is no different than having green eyes as opposed to brown.
Further, the ultimate ‘good’ in the evolutionary scenario is survival…presumbably the morality that evolves is the one that best increases the odd of survival for the populations that develop the moral traits. That’s all well and good, but why is survival ‘good’? In a materialistic framework, survival isn’t ultimately good or bad, it just ‘is’. It’s value neutral as far as the universe is concerned.
Dawkin’s ‘universal’ morals, are a subjective expression of opinion, nothing more.
Oh, and his prohibition on ‘indoctrination’ would most certainly extend to those of us who would desire to teach our children the Bible as truth.



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gymbrall

posted December 29, 2006 at 6:45 pm


Bob said:
Could you expand on what type of separation you’re talking about here?
Bob, I mean all the ways that the convictions and disciplines of the cross can remove us from what society calls “normal” and “acceptable”. Everything from music to movies to clothing to the places we go, from the substances we don’t take and the way we face heartache, to the medical procedures that we avoid and the way we educate our children Everything and anything that separates us from others (even others of our own faith at times, and at other times revealing differentiating one faith from another). What I meant was that many of these things, even when properly practiced is perceived as “out-group hostility” as they draw distinctions that are not necessarily agreeable.



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gymbrall

posted December 29, 2006 at 6:46 pm


That was posted in haste and I apologize for the grammatical errors.



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RJS

posted December 29, 2006 at 7:39 pm


Bob,
I don’t think that there is any easily identifiable “moral law” that proves Christianity, and what God given moral law there is, is in everyone, and can be explained away by rational arguments if one wishes – this is the thrust of Ch. 6 in Dawkins’ book. I do think that this moral vision is rightly portrayed in the NT.
Dawkins’ attempt to discredit Christianity by pointing to the failure of Christians to uniformly live up to this ideal falls short – as it only points out what we already know – that even in the church we are dealing with fallen humans, and being in the Church does not guarantee that one even desires to be right with God. Hypocrisy is as much a problem today as it was in the 1st century. Certainly Jesus was confronted by it and confronted it. But the persistence of hypocrisy through the centuries doesn’t disprove the story.



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Scot McKnight

posted December 29, 2006 at 7:47 pm


We’ve traveled today to Ixtapa in Mexico — and I’n not asking for any sympathy for a 85 degrees, sun and a nice beach on which to sit and read books for a week and take long, leisurely walks.
Having said that, Bob, up front, yes, I went after Dawkins a bit; he’s “othered” me and I want that “othering” to be clear. I think he has made some serious logical errors here and they have to be pointed out.
I thank RJS for monitoring this discussion today.
Our connection today has been slow.



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Bob

posted December 29, 2006 at 8:26 pm


Gymbrall,
Thanks for the clarification.
RJS,
What I wonder now is: we now have Christians, atheists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, native tribes, etc. all exhibiting the same shortcomings. At the same time, the ideal for all of the aforementioned groups is still “do unto others…”. Certainly the Christians here would claim authorship of this standard yet it pervades all humanity. I suppose one could support Christian theology with Christian Scripture (that says this is the hand of the Christian God) but does that make it any more credible than the same support given from any other religious/cultural standpoint (as Dawkins does)?
Does anyone think that it is a jump of logic to make this claim? And, given our fruits, how can we make such a claim with a straight face?



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Tony F

posted December 30, 2006 at 1:36 am


God I love Richard Dawkins.



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Sam Carr

posted December 30, 2006 at 1:47 am


Gymbrall, #11, 17 In the incarnation Jesus has markedly pushed the very definition of holiness to a new level. The very idea of separation as a part of holiness in practice takes on a new dimension. Like Him and in His righteousness we are caleed first to love by embracing. We see this most clearly in Jesus life and we are called to follow.
Most, if not all, ‘in group/out group’ distinctions in the life of the church are due to a refusal to put His love first and to let Him do the correcting in His own way and in His own time.
Dawkins has a point only because we have failed to follow our Lord. He too was “in the world but not of the world”!



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Bob

posted December 30, 2006 at 7:31 am


Sam,
I agree. In the OT, the things of the Temple were holy and were rendered unclean if they came into contact with something “unclean”. In the NT, Jesus reversed this. He was holy and when he came into contact with the “unclean”, He made them clean.
(I recall Scot did a series on “Table Fellowship” a while ago that touched on this.)
When I think of separation from the world, I tend to think in terms of a redeeming presence rather than a (self) protective avoidance.



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gymbrall

posted December 30, 2006 at 10:13 am


Sam said:
Like Him and in His righteousness we are caleed first to love by embracing.
Yes, but we are to embrace without changing ourselves or our standards. Jesus would minister to prostitutes but he wouldn’t be a patron, and the message that he preached was one of repentance (both from sins of the flesh and self-righteousness). Love is not necessarily hugging someone, but is often telling them that they are condemned already (just as we would be without the blood of Christ)
Most, if not all, ‘in group/out group’ distinctions in the life of the church are due to a refusal to put His love first and to let Him do the correcting in His own way and in His own time.
Would this be the kid in Christian school who is made fun of for being a virgin? Or the man at work who is mocked for saying that he thinks sodomy is just as much a sin as adultery? Or maybe this would be the girl who is laughed at because she dresses in the clothing her parents buy her? Or maybe it’s the man who has seven kids and faces the scorn of doctors and feminists for it?
Understand, that if these people made these decisions for their own purposes, then it is outside of the scope of this conversation. But if they are the way they are because they believe their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ has led them to be so, and their actions and choices are perceived by others as acts of separation, would you tell them to change?



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gymbrall

posted December 30, 2006 at 10:21 am


Bob said:
When I think of separation from the world, I tend to think in terms of a redeeming presence rather than a (self) protective avoidance.
Bob, I think it’s both protective and redeeming, but it’s not to be for either reason. If you have children, then I’m sure you have given them commands to protect them, but they don’t have to obey you for the reason you gave the commands, they just have to obey you. As Christians, the only reason for any behavior is obedience. But the result of that obedience is up to God. If I dress a certain way to “teach” the world a thing or two, I’ve lost my way. But if I dress a certain way to please my Savior and it is perceived as “out-group hostility” then I have done no wrong.



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RJS

posted December 30, 2006 at 10:46 am


gymbrall,
“Out-group hostility” as defined by Dawkins and as I understand has nothing to do with the way others might construe our desire to live in obedience to God.
Rather “out-group hostility” is an active disdain for those on the outside. It involves an active “othering”, a consideration that the commands to “love your neighbor” and to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies only to those who are part of your “in-group”. Dawkins paradigm here is the protestant/catholic conflict in Northern Ireland. “Out-group hostility” is often, but not always, expressed in violence or war, but it is always expressed actively and negatively.
“Out-group hostility” has far too often been justified by the church and is in direct violation of NT teachings – most notably in the context of this blog – in violation of the Jesus Creed.



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gymbrall

posted December 30, 2006 at 11:02 am


RJS said:
“Out-group hostility” as defined by Dawkins and as I understand has nothing to do with the way others might construe our desire to live in obedience to God.
Maybe I’m missing something, but I think it’s simplistic to talk about “out-group hostility” and “othering” as absolutes because they are always the perception of some group (either the church or the ones being “othered”) and as such may be the result of proper application of scripture. (I should point out that I’m not addressing the Protestant/Catholic conflict in Northern Ireland.)
“Out-group hostility” is often, but not always, expressed in violence or war, but it is always expressed actively and negatively.
In your opinion, would a pastor (either at the local or the national level) preaching against government policies to legalize homosexual adoption fall under such a category? I think to many people, it would.
Thanks for the response,
Charles Churchill



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RJS

posted December 30, 2006 at 11:46 am


Bob (#21)
I think that the existence of a more or less universal “moral law” is consistent with Christianity. But it only makes Christianity more credible by the lack of contradiction – not in a positive sense as a “proof” for God or Christ. And I agree with you that it is a jump in logic to claim it does provide a proof.
Meaning and purpose are much more cogent arguments to my mind. I found it interesting in thess chapters of Dawkins’ book that he goes to great length to prove that a moral law, complete with value judgments for good – exists despite religion, not because of religion. Elsewhere he has been more honest and denied that the concepts of “good” or “evil” even have any real meaning in his worldview. Of course the purpose of this book is unabashedly to defend atheism and encourage others to convert to atheism – so points contrary to this purpose are not made.
And Scot,
You certainly get no sympathy from this end. I would much rather be reading on a sunny beach – than be spending 12+ hours a day staring at a computer screen with deadlines looming.



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RJS

posted December 30, 2006 at 11:55 am


Charles,
I think that we have a difference in definition here. In my definition, and the one that I think Dawkins is using, “out-group hostility” is an attitude of my heart and mind toward others as persons – and if I devalue or dehumanize others for any reason, I am wrong. It has nothing to do with how others perceive me. On a larger scale “out-group hostility” is an attitude of the heart and mind of a group toward the true humanity, personhood, and value of others.
Thus – preaching against government policies to legalize homosexual adoption wouldn’t fall under such a category, although I think that preaching against persons (not the sinful acts of persons) in such a way as to dehumanize or devalue those persons would constitute “out-group hostility.”
Or to put it in another context, preaching against some of the doctrines of the Roman Catholic church would not constitute “out-group hostility.” On the other hand I remember vividly one sermon from my childhood that did constitute “out-group hostility” as it vilified catholics as persons, it did not simply question doctrines.
Or in a context that hits me on a personal level – I have had to sit through far too many sermons where proper preaching against the secular humanism rampant in academic circles morphed into “out-group hostility” toward all scholars, scientists, and academics, as persons.
But you are definitely making me think this through more completely.



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Sam Carr

posted December 30, 2006 at 3:28 pm


Gymmbrall #25, we expect to be vilified for our beliefs when the gospel calls us to live differenntly. Our response to that is not to in turn vilify our accusers. We forgive them and keep on loving.
It’s remarkable how the only ones whom Jesus consistently fought with were the religious leadership and even here He never excluded them but kept trying to get them to see the truth.
Embracing the sinner even as they are sinners is exactly what Jesus does for me, so it’s the least I too can try to do. If I could only keep remembering how great God’s grace has been to me, it helps me to realise that I am not fit to judge others and that I am called to love first and last.
Dawkins can’t see the love of Jesus shining through the church. I don’t blame him. On many issues he deliberately turns a blind eye to the truth but in this one case one would have to (on the whole) agree and things are hardly better in Islam what with the Sunnis and Shias at each other’s throats in Iraq.



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eric

posted December 31, 2006 at 7:24 pm


I don’t know if this has been pointed out, but Dawkins is a delightful writer when he stays on his own turf,namely science. HOwever, we are seeing the work of an atheist fundamentalist. One who thinks his view of reality answers all possible questions, in this case dispensing with God in his world view. This ironically seems not unlike christian fundamentalism where the Bible is a mine of information to answer questions it was not written to answer (which is why we have the church, to develop doctrine.) Fortunately, academics, whether scientific like Darwin, or trendy liberal , like the infamous Jesus Seminar, rarely get the political power to do real harm.



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Ross

posted December 31, 2006 at 7:33 pm


Just referring to comment number one. I don’t think its a parents “right” to indoctrinate your child. Its your right and duty, to teach them How to think critically. Indoctrination is the one thing likely to turn them away from your Christianity. I speak from personal experience, and have read of this happening in many others. Think of the children “indoctrinated” in religions that are wrong or incorrect to the Christian view. Are those children served well by indoctrination?
Ivan
Ivan



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Ross

posted December 31, 2006 at 7:44 pm


Sam,
If you have the church developing doctrine how can this possibly be considered the holy word of God? Its basically, just a collection of guys getting together isn’t it? Is this not what has happened throughout the ages and how we end up with this confusing book called the Bible. I personally, think this may have begun to happen very early and could be seen in the “grandiose” statement attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of John for example. The Catholic church, probably the worlds biggest changes its mind sometimes on conceptual stuff such as purgatory. If the Bible is our most central document, and if its not handed down personally by God via fax or something, and then we have “man” making up the rest as we go along how do we get to something that’s uncritically the word of God? How would we know?
Ivan.. who has to use surname to get posting posted. don’t ask me why..



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John Doyle

posted January 1, 2007 at 1:42 am


Ross – Congratulations. You’ve demonstrated the flexibility of the human organism in adapting to varying environments.



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Sam Carr

posted January 1, 2007 at 2:57 am


A happy New Year to all!
Ivan Ross, #34,
Doctrine is something that individuals and churches create mostly to try to understand or codify the truth of God’s revelation. The bible itself is written by human beings, yet in these writings, that span over 2000 years of human history, we can see one God who has been revealing Himself to us. He reveals Himself in interaction with real people, people who are normally fallible and the bible reflects a real interaction of a real god with real people. The ultimate ‘step’ in God’s speaking to us is, I believe, when He sends His own son to us. This is a statement of faith. It springs from my own experience of Jesus.
Though I cannot ‘prove’ to someone else that my faith is justified, my subsequent experience of understanding, especially the bible, and life as a whole, from the perspective of one who has met Jesus, encourages me to try to share this truth with others.
The best that I can do is to point people to Jesus. Without meeting Him, “we end up with this confusing book called the Bible”, which may be considered interesting history or perhaps good literature or even a book that codifies a unique moral and ethical theory.
Getting back a bit closer to the point of this post, Dawkins tries to posit a ‘theory of everything’ based on his experience as an evolutionist. He feels that his version clashes with a codominant theory (the Christian one) and is out to prove that his construct is better. I disagree. From the viewpoint of faith, Dawkins is obviously missing the most vital element…



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Sam Carr

posted January 1, 2007 at 3:03 am


And to Ivan’s # 33.
teaching critical thinking is extremely important!



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ron

posted January 1, 2007 at 9:09 pm


Prof. H Allen Orr, a biologist at U of Rochester, has a review of Dawkins in the New York Review of Books:
http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19775
Orr, a religious skeptic himself, is well informed on (an in my view, a fair critic of) religious issues. It’s quite likely that one is better off reading Orr on Dawkins, than reading Dawkins directly. Two paragraphs from the review:
“The most disappointing feature of The God Delusion is Dawkins’s failure to engage religious thought in any serious way. This is, obviously, an odd thing to say about a book-length investigation into God. But the problem reflects Dawkins’s cavalier attitude about the quality of religious thinking. Dawkins tends to dismiss simple expressions of belief as base superstition. Having no patience with the faith of fundamentalists, he also tends to dismiss more sophisticated expressions of belief as sophistry (he cannot, for instance, tolerate the meticulous reasoning of theologians). But if simple religion is barbaric (and thus unworthy of serious thought) and sophisticated religion is logic-chopping (and thus equally unworthy of serious thought), the ineluctable conclusion is that all religion is unworthy of serious thought.
“The result is The God Delusion, a book that never squarely faces its opponents. You will find no serious examination of Christian or Jewish theology in Dawkins’s book (does he know Augustine rejected biblical literalism in the early fifth century?), no attempt to follow philosophical debates about the nature of religious propositions (are they like ordinary claims about everyday matters?), no effort to appreciate the complex history of interaction between the Church and science (does he know the Church had an important part in the rise of non-Aristotelian science?), and no attempt to understand even the simplest of religious attitudes (does Dawkins really believe, as he says, that Christians should be thrilled to learn they’re terminally ill?).”



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Ross

posted January 2, 2007 at 2:30 am


Funny, I keep reading other peoples reviews and wonder if they reviewed the same book? I thought Dawkins mentioned several of the above mentioned points. Out of interest, have many people reading this blog actually read the book themselves? Or have many just read review after review? This book should be read by anyone of any faith, and its not the only book either, Paul Davies book The Goldilocks Universe studies the intersection of modern Cosmology and Religion is quite a fascinating read also. For those of curiosity.
Under the radar Ivan.



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Rmwestjr

posted January 2, 2007 at 9:12 pm


You gave the following list of Dawkin’s morals:
1. Do to others what you have them do to you.
2. Strive to cause no harm.
3. Treat everything with love, honesty, faithfulness, and respect.
4. Do not shrink from justice, but be ready to forgive.
5. Live with joy and wonder.
6. Seek to learn something new.
7. Test all things against the facts.
8. Respect dissent.
9. Form independent opinions by reason and experience.
10. Question everything.
11. Enjoy your sex life; don’t worry about the sex life of others.
12. No discrimination on the basis of sex, race or species.
13. Do not indoctrinate your children.
14. Value the future on a timescale longer than your own.
I have no motivation to live by these morals if there is no God. Why should I? If I live 70 years out of billions, why should I confine myself in the few years that I have?
We have a moral code, because we have an innate sense of accountability and judgment (IMHO)…thank you CS Lewis (and Paul).



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gymbrall

posted January 2, 2007 at 10:50 pm


RJS said:
I think that we have a difference in definition here. In my definition, and the one that I think Dawkins is using, “out-group hostility” is an attitude of my heart and mind toward others as persons – and if I devalue or dehumanize others for any reason, I am wrong. It has nothing to do with how others perceive me. On a larger scale “out-group hostility” is an attitude of the heart and mind of a group toward the true humanity, personhood, and value of others.
RJS,
You are also helping me think this through. I think what I am getting at is that while the definition of “out-group hostility” is pretty straightforward, its application is almost completely based upon perception. Even in your example of the sermon vilifying academics as individuals, we have only your take on the sermon that it came from a wrong heart attitude (I’m not trying to question your judgement, but to point out that it is always a judgement call) and why should we trust Dawkins’ judgement? I think rightly divided scripture is what tells us when a person has behaved wrongly against another person. Scripture tells us straight up that we stink at examining someone else’s heart (I Samuel 16:7)
Anyway, Thanks for taking the time, I truly appreciate the dialogue,
Charles Churchill



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Ross

posted January 3, 2007 at 1:09 am


Its a really sad life don’t you think to live that life a certain way out of a fear that your going to be judged after you die? Why would Dawkins rules be any less useful or valid?
Ivan



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steve

posted January 3, 2007 at 6:55 am


Hi Ivan,
I choose to follow, as best I can, the life of Jesus in terms of how he treated and related to people, not becasue I am concerned about judgement, but because it seems the best possoible way to live.
I think the list of commandments Dawkins included (pulled from a website at random I think) are very useful ones, are generally in line with the the Christian Tradition (though I find the idea of ‘do no harm’ generally uninispiring and unimaginative.
I don’t agree though with the commantator who suggests that without a biblical/god basis for morality, he would live however he wanted. Would he be happy to screw people over, steal from vulnerbale old women, and race people off the road, even in a non-leathal way, simply because he has no fear of judgement?
I would Guess that the list Dawkings used is similar becasue when it comes to deciding how we behave as a sociaety, we tend to co-create the rules. Even while they may have a basis in a partiular tradition, the society co-creates the standards by which we live – accounting for the rather different moral codes in different countries.
Sub-groups also create their own cultures, such as church groups and denominations, who have a particular focus in their morality or life-codes, even through they come out of the same book.
Perhaps the question for Dawkin could be, when he’s doen rubbishing american far-right beleivers (whom much of the book seems aimed at), is can you escape the generally agreed on gospel basis for morality?



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gymbrall

posted January 3, 2007 at 12:27 pm


Ivan said:
Its a really sad life don’t you think to live that life a certain way out of a fear that your going to be judged after you die?
Ivan, you speak as if by choosing we change the nature of the world. We know this is not so. If there is a God, and not just a nebulous “god”, but Jehovah, the God of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob and David, then after death comes judgement.
Why would Dawkins rules be any less useful or valid?
Dawkins denies God and the Bible. He denies absolute truth (he makes overtures at truth, but it is ever in his pocket). Why should I accept his ruling on how to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ. Why should I believe that he will rightly divide the words of truth when he believes them to be lies?



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Ross

posted January 3, 2007 at 7:09 pm


But I think you make the point that living with anything other than Biblical truth sends us to hell in a handbasket. I liked Dawkins stab at new rules for life (which he borrowed by the way) I think that the world would unfold in not too dissimilar way. I do think we would become more tolerant and kind (just a personal view). I didn’t think he gave rules for living out the gospel of Jesus. He quite obviously see Jesus as anything but a simple prophet.
I think I am saying, If you believe in a Biblical God, then you have licence to live differently and not always for the better because your banking on Christian forgiveness possibly even unconsciously. Coming from my perspective, I don’t have the carrot and stick approach. If this makes sense?
under the door Ivan



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other guy

posted January 3, 2007 at 7:14 pm


But I think you make the point that living with anything other than Biblical truth sends us to hell in a handbasket. I liked Dawkins stab at new rules for life (which he borrowed by the way) I think that the world would unfold in not too dissimilar way. I do think we would become more tolerant and kind (just a personal view). I didn’t think he gave rules for living out the gospel of Jesus. He quite obviously see Jesus as anything but a simple prophet.
I think I am saying, If you believe in a Biblical God, then you have licence to live differently and not always for the better because your banking on Christian forgiveness possibly even unconsciously. Coming from my perspective, I don’t have the carrot and stick approach. If this makes sense?
under the door Ivan



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gymbrall

posted January 3, 2007 at 7:46 pm


Ross/Ivan said:
But I think you make the point that living with anything other than Biblical truth sends us to hell in a handbasket.
That is exactly the point I am making. It is exactly what I am commanded to preach. Even a person who lives by self-made morals that agree with the morals of the Bible but doesn’t have faith in Jesus Christ will go to hell (in a proverbial handbasket)
I didn’t think he gave rules for living out the gospel of Jesus.
I was specifically referring to previous comments where I and others had discussed Dawkins definitions of “in-group loyalty” and “out-group hostility” and it’s relation to the Golden Rule. Even more specifically to the validity of Dawkins’ ability to make the distinction (from a Christian viewpoint – or as I would see it, an accurate viewpoint) as to when such actions actually occur.
I think I am saying, If you believe in a Biblical God, then you have licence to live differently and not always for the better because your banking on Christian forgiveness possibly even unconsciously.
Define “better”/”good” in a way that is not arbitrary. American society’s definition of better/good? European society? Yours? Define it in any way and then explain to me why I should accept your definition over my own. It takes something greater then man, greater than society to do that. It takes someone who can hold us accountable. It takes someone who can judge.
What I would declare to you is that any accurate concept of goodness that man may have is because of the influence of Jesus Christ upon the world.



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Ross

posted January 3, 2007 at 8:10 pm


Hey Steve, Comment 43
Sir, you really wrote that comment well! I kind of wish I had better language skills. I agree that living a life in the mode of the Jesus the man rather than the “Godly Jesus” is rather a good way to spend your life. Standing up for the under dog and being tolerant and kind are extremely worthy traits. Dawkins did randomly pull up the list, I disagree that “do no harm” is uninspiring. Its a bit minimalist but it does get to the point every bit as much as “thou shall not kill” possibly the most defied commandment written. (And defied most often, by Christians oddly enough). Paragraph 3 fully agree with you. The range of possible human behaviours is right across the full spectrum of the human race. Jails for instance, have the same Atheist/Christian ratio of general society. Can you escape the general Gospel inspired morality? Probably not. Wisdom is wisdom to me. Steve, once again I really enjoyed your personal view on this.
Ivan



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Ross

posted January 3, 2007 at 8:19 pm


Gymbrall,
Sir, I understand your point. But could I ask you, How would you feel about Ghandi going to hell? What about Anne from the diaries of Anne Frank fame, going from the ovens of the holocaust to a special room in hell? Have you ever thought about or tried rationalizing occasions such as this? I’m sorry I missed the reference to the ingroup posts. My mistake.
You might be right about goodness. I tend to look at it as treating others as you would prefer to be treated, for want of a better line, do no harm might be a better way.
Ivan.



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gymbrall

posted January 3, 2007 at 8:52 pm


Ross/Ivan said:
You might be right about goodness. I tend to look at it as treating others as you would prefer to be treated, for want of a better line, do no harm might be a better way.
But even the definition of “doing no harm” needs quite a bit of context. What if I smack my child with a stick when he “disobeys”? What if I work to prevent my underaged daughter from having an abortion? What if I work to allow doctor assisted suicide? What if I kill a man who is about to kill someone else? What if I’m a soldier in Iraq?
It’s tricky and I’m not even going to begin answering all those questions, but to suggest that “do no harm” is sufficient without a great deal of written or unwritten law is difficult to accept. Typically, it comes back to what is acceptable to whoever controls the most powerful weapons. I’ll even accept that “might makes right” so long as we recognize that the only one with any power is God.



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Ross

posted January 3, 2007 at 11:51 pm


I was trying to think whereabouts I had read it and it may have been in Dawkins book. (I don’t have it here having lent it to someone) People make the same ethical and moral choices irrespective of a belief in a “God”. I expect, the same choices were being made thousands of years before people even thought up the idea of a Christian God. I don’t think its got a thing to do with Gods,Bibles, or religion in general. Aborigines were populating the Southern continent 38,000 years before the Bible. There tribal system was every bit as “moral” in the modern sense. I think you credit religion with a little to much. . “Might does make right”.. and God seems to always favour the side with superior technology. Odd that isn’t it?



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