Friday, January 16, 2009

Dawkins on God's Character

Psychiatrist and theologian Richard Dawkins provided his professional evaluation of God's character and mental state in The God Delusion for the edification of those foolish enough to believe in or love Him:

"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."

He's also arguably none of these things, with the exception of "jealous." Dawkins unwittingly admits that his rant is nothing more than an opinion. And a biased one, at that.

Since we are assured by Dawkins that the above malignant being is nonexistent, I'm not sure why this evaluation is necessary or important. I suppose we'll receive an in-depth examination of Allah, Bartleby the Scrivener, Hester Prynne, Batman, and Frodo Baggins, in the near future. Dawkins should post one write-up per week on the fatal character flaws of a wide assortment of fictional personas.

That aside, let's review Dr. Dawkins's claims.

1. Jealous and Proud of It--No argument, here. God Himself admits his jealousy. offers multiple definitions of the biblical understanding of "jealous": intolerant of unfaithfulness or rivalry; intolerant of disloyalty or infidelity; exacting exclusive devotion. Scripture describes God as our perfect and holy Creator. So the question is: if this is an accurate presentation, why should He not be jealous, as per the above definitions, when humans who were made for fellowship with Him worship idols of wood or stone, revere demons, or scoff at his very existence? Using the term "jealous" as a strike against Him has the implied assumption attached that God is unworthy of singular worship, which is a case that Dawkins hasn't made.

2. Petty--mean or ungenerous in small or trifling things. But "small" or "trifling" according to whom? Sinful men who see "through a glass darkly"? This term assumes that one understands the true and complete value of those items labeled "petty" by atheists and other God-detractors. It's a subjective descriptor applied by people who believe God is unworthy of obedience--again, a case that remains unmade.

3. Unjust--As before, according to whom? People who don't have access to all the facts? Those who cannot see the future or the numerous possible outcomes/results of a particular scenario? This is an arena where folks on both sides can go tit-for-tat in providing scriptural references that (supposedly) back their claims. I think this is where faith comes into play. God labels Himself "just" in scripture; taking exception requires more than proffering a verse taken out of context. As a side note, it's worth remembering that Western civilization's understanding of justice came from the Bible.

4. Unforgiving--Reaching this conclusion requires selective reading of scripture. The Holy Bible offers no examples of God rejecting sincere individuals who came to Him with repentant attitudes. As for the defiant lot who wallow in sin without remorse, or refuse the extension of forgiveness to others, it is for Dawkins to explain why such people deserve forgiveness.

5. Control-freak--More selective reading of scripture and subjective conclusions. Dawkins again implies that God is unworthy of worship, obedience, or His rightful position of power. Would a control-freak give Adam and Eve the choice of rebellion or obedience? Would a control-freak give humanity a choice between rejecting or accepting Jesus's gift of salvation? Would he indulge us for a nanosecond in pursuits that fall outside His righteous will? Here's a question for Dawkins: If God gave up His control--even temporarily--what would become of us and our world? The thought of demonic entities gnashing their teeth in pleasure at the possibility of savaging us isn't a pleasant one.

6. Vindictive--If Dawkins means vengeful, I see no problem. God is the Creator, and He makes the rules. We ignore them at our peril, because God fashioned them with our best interests in mind. Of greater probability is that Dawkins means motivated by spite, since he's disinclined toward ever giving God the benefit of the doubt. But this is another subjective take on God's character. Literally millions--if not billions--of people have read the Bible and come to the opposite conclusion. His opinion is no less biased than theirs. Keep in mind that Dawkins thinks he has ferreted out the clandestine motivations of a fictional character.

7. Bloodthirsty--More in the same subjective vein. I propose that Dawkins peruse the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Abraham's involvement in that particular historical chapter.

8. Ethnic Cleanser--Forget context, right? Ignore the fact that God had the Israelites destroy or drive from the land the Canaanite tribes because they engaged in all manner of perversions and abominations, including burning children alive in sacrifice to the idols they worshipped. Forget that they rejected the One True God and would have blighted the Children of Israel with their ungodly filth. None of that matters. The important point is that God engaged in ethnic cleansing, an atrocity to which a properly PC God would never lower Himself.

9. Misogynistic--hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. Let's see if I have this straight. God hates, dislikes, and mistrusts the very creature that He created as a companion for Adam, a creature whose creation He described as "good," before the Fall, a being who births other humans--male and female--into the world. If God loathes women, why does He not speak them out of existence? I contend that continued female presence on this planet forms compelling evidence that God does not hate women.

10. Homophobic--Huh? God harbors an irrational fear toward homosexuals? Really? Is He afraid they'll storm Heaven and doll Him up in drag and make Him attend musical stage shows? There's nothing rational about this analysis. It's the rhetorical equivalent of a sneering child throwing a temper-tantrum, slinging as many insults as he can and hoping that at least one or two will stick. It's corrosive PC drivel. Given that homosexual behavior leads to a truncated lifespan, propensity for disease, and an increased likelihood of dabbling in other perversions, the question of interest isn't "Is God homophobic?", but rather, "Why is Richard Dawkins defending a demonstrably destructive lifestyle, and demonizing those who take issue with it?"

11. Racist--Yes, let's judge an infinite God revealed to us in a millennia-old book by a loaded, left-wing term. Seems sensible. I'd appreciate an explanation from Dawkins about how God can be a racist, while being the originator of all races.

12. Infanticidal--So the God who punished the Canaanites (and later, the Israelites) for practicing infanticide--for which Dawkins shakes his fist and screeches "Ethnic cleanser!"--now finds Himself seared under Dawkins's righteous glare for the same crime. In short, infanticide isn't a problem, unless God's the perpetrator; then it becomes monstrous beyond all human ken. Yep, Dawkins is as balanced as a set of scales with a feather on one side, and Fat Albert in lead boots on the other. While grounded on his little see-saw, he might want to read up on the biblical penalty for making a pregnant woman miscarry. (Hint: God doesn't come to the culprit in a dream and say: "Thataboy!")

13. Genocidal--See number eight above, as this is a rehash. If he's referencing the Deluge-era, I'll just point to scripture, which states And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5) Sounds like a swell bunch.

14. Filicidal--a willingness to kill one's son or daughter. So should we reference Abraham, whose hand God stayed from killing Isaac? Or should we mention Jesus, who was God in the flesh, who submitted willingly to execution for the purpose of taking Man's sins upon Himself, to bring salvation to all who accept his sacrifice? Dawkins is flailing like a blind sot on ice skates.

15. Pestilential--Maybe I should write a book about Dawkins's biblical views, and title it Surprised by Context. Or maybe he can author his own weighty tome, dubbing it No Context Allowed. Either God is contagious, or Dawkins is tilting his nose at the Egyptian plagues. I assume the latter, though given Dawkins's earlier masterful evaluation, I suppose I should tread carefully. See, that's recognizing context. God rained plagues upon the Egyptians due to disobedience and rejection of Him as the One True God, but also for their treatment of the Children of Israel. The patriarch Joseph--a son of Jacob--rose high in the ranks of Egypt's hierarchy, and later led the country successfully through a terrible time of famine. After Joseph's death, the Egyptians repaid this kindness by enslaving Jacob's descendants for more than four hundred years. But this centuries-long abuse elicits no concern from Dawkins. He's like the man who protests the enactment of capital punishment on a serial killer, while remaining silent and nonchalant about his victims.

16. Megalomaniacal--someone with a symptom of mental illness marked by delusions of greatness, wealth, etc. Mr. Dawkins, I dare say that the Creator of the universe's claim to greatness transcends mere delusion. 'Nuff said.

17. Sadomasochistic--The combination of sadism and masochism, in particular the deriving of pleasure, especially sexual gratification, from inflicting or submitting to physical or emotional abuse. This is where Dawkins proves himself eminently qualified for the intellectual booby prize. In an incredible act of faith, Dawkins accepts that a bodiless being can experience sexual pleasure. He then tops himself, by assuring us that the being-in-question receives sexual satisfaction from the infliction of suffering upon others, despite zero scriptural support for this belief. It seems that Dawkins lives by the notion that no faith is too great, except that required for belief in a holy God. And when it comes to mocking God, no accusation or label is too outlandish--including one made up out of whole cloth.

18. Capriciously malevolent bully--More along the lines of Dawkins's earlier comments, in which he demonstrates an uncanny talent for cherry-picking scripture that appears supportive of his thesis, while ignoring selections that undermine it.

Dawkins is a living illustration of how atheism transforms an otherwise intelligent person into a fool. By the way, that's not a slur from me; it's from the Word of God Himself: The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.--Psalm 14:1

Dawkins has no interest in a fair-minded appraisal of the Holy Bible. He is not one who went to the Bible for answers, and became disillusioned by its hatefulness. Rather, he began with a toxic animosity for God and His Word, and found apparent justification for his seething venom within its pages. His is an emotional reaction minus historical or textual context. It forms a hit-piece without even the facade of objectivity. His one-sided display of bigotry paints an unflattering portrait of his character for the perusal of anyone who hears or reads his hysterical attack. In every instance, he chooses the most negative possible interpretation of God's words and actions, then dismisses Him from consideration for anything but contempt. It's a grade-school level critique with all the depth of a playground argument.

Imagine if you will a scenario in which an intruder rushes into Dawkins's house with intent to harm him or a family member. By some secular miracle, Dawkins gets the upper hand, but is forced to kill the home invader in the scuffle. However, he has saved himself and his family from the threat. Now imagine that you asked me what I thought about Dawkins's actions, and I told you: "He's violent," after which I offered no further explanation or acknowledgment of the known circumstances. Would you consider that a logical conclusion--one in which all the available facts were weighed in the balance? Or would you characterize it as an obtuse, spiteful outlook exposing my complete disregard for the truth? A reasonable person would admit the latter. Alas, Dawkins can't see the fatal flaw in his intellectual jewel, because he's more a Champion of Subversion than a Champion of Reason.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed, in general, but perhaps a slightly softer tone and more elaboration of scriptural examples (with bible references) might have been better.