Dawkins God Delusion: Using Christianity to Criticize God
edited: Wednesday, February 07, 2007
By Brock A. Shaver
Not "rated" by the Author.
Posted: Wednesday, February 07, 2007
Become a Fan
Richard Dawkins criticizes the existence of God. What he's really protesting is civilized religion, Christianity in particular. Objectivity does raise many questions about how, even Dawkins, is imprisoned in the Christian worldview, despite his protests.
Why was Jesus so confusing? Of all the great religions of the world, Christianity causes the most insecurity, the most questions, gives the least amount of information, demands more with less, gives the least guarantees, always leaves you with doubt?
Today there are so many varieties of Christians. There are very spiritual Christians, regular churchgoers, evangelical, fundamentalist, moderate, quasi-secular, Catholic (splintered into so many sects), Baptist, United, Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregationalist, Quaker, Shaker, the list seems endless. Everything is splintered. Nothing is whole. Some emphasize Jesus as God, others stress God with Jesus as the avenue to Him.
Christianity is the intellectual foundation of all Western society. There is no escaping it. We are socialized, enculturated, 'programmed,' structured to assume and believe based upon the stories of the Bible. Every story we live, every story we read harkens to some basic story in the Bible. We may be secular, never having stepped foot in a church, and yet we are Christian at some level. Our assumptions of good and bad, love, how we should behave and what reality is, has everything to do with how the Bible has been interpreted.
Secular and religious alike sing from the same hymn book. Science and Church operate on the same assumptions of what reality is. Science may leave out God, but what everyone is mostly concerned about is who we are as humans in the place we find ourselves.
This potent formula, brewing for 2000 years, now blankets the world and is affecting everything. The environment, other cultures, economics, worldviews have all been infected with this strange brew from Europe for the last 500 years. Science, business and Christianity combine forces to achieve their own ends.
The common denominator is their interpretation of what reality is. In the Christian cosmology there is only four spiritual elements: God, Jesus, humans and the devil. Spiritually, everything outside of these defaults to the latter. Outside of these conscious entities there is only inert matter. We acknowledge that the plants and animals have life. They grow and die just like humans. But we treat the plants and animals the same way we treat iron ore in a mine or the water flowing down a river. They are there for our use. Faced with choosing between the death of our child and our beloved family dog, we would of course choose our child. Nothing is more important than a human life. It is our focus and everything else is secondary and subject to us.
For the secular and scientific, the cosmos is quite simple. We are man alone in an inanimate universe. There is nothing comparable in consciousness at our level. Our task is to understand and harvest the forces of reality outside of ourselves to make our lives the best they can be. As we reach out into space, we take this assumption with us. As we try to save our planet, we do so from a management perspective. The earth can be broken down into its constituent elements so that we can manipulate and control all outcomes for our comfort.
The Christian concurs with the secular on this point. The religious merely add in God to help us control the inert elements that affect us.
This is the gross, popular approach to life for Western society. There are many subgroups that vary from this, that understand reality differently, but they are marginal compared to the basic thrust of our civilization.
How could this secular, scientific culture have grown out of a movement from a man who was the Son of God? The movement's history is rife with discord. Scholars have noted how unique Christianity is to all other religions. From the path of Love the missionaries set out over centuries to subjugate countless cultures.
Indigenous societies recognized the Jesus that was preached to them but were completely confused by the actions of the men who professed to follow Him.
What was wrong with them, they wondered? They disrespected not only the Earth but also were unaware of the spirit world. How could so much be left out of their worldview? No wonder they struggled and brought darkness when they thought they were bringing light. They were alone within themselves with so little to guide them. They had only man and God and nothing else. And God seemed so remote to them. Torn apart inside, they tore apart the world around them as an expression of who they were.
Was Jesus that unsuccessful? If He was the Son of God how could He knowingly start a movement that would cause such pain and destruction? If He was sent by God to Save us then why did He cause such confusion? With every verse of reassurance in the Bible there is another one telling us to think twice about feeling secure. Why did Jesus spread insecurity in His followers at the same time setting into motion a horrendous story that was played out over two millennia?
Conventional wisdom tells us that it is man that committed such crimes, not Jesus. But if Jesus was the Son of God then He knew what He was doing, what He was setting into motion, and He was doing it on behalf of God.
There are libraries full of apologetics. Yet in so many ways the kindergarten questions of Christianity have never been answered. If God set into motion the Jesus movement story then God is complicit in the suffering of those who followed His Son. If Jesus loved those who followed Him, why did He send His followers into so much suffering under the Romans and why didn't the missionaries bring happiness to the converts all over the world?
The explanations are legion, of course. But the stranger question is why was it only after Western society gave up on Christianity forty years ago that we started to live some approximation of the heaven-on-earth that Jesus spoke of?
Our society is based on easing pain and creating comfort, security and happiness. There is no other culture in history that lived the way we do now. Our economy is based on easing pain. Business cannot survive selling pain. It only continues if it supplies pain relief, even if it has to create a need that no one thought of before. It supplies relief to women through cosmetics, relieves suffering through medicine, creates comfort through consumer goods. Rich and poor alike survive today with the basics of life: central heating, a couch, TV, refrigerator, stove and a bed.
True deprivation is unheard of. The grocery stores are always full of food. We live in anonymous cities so our neighbors do not control our private lives like they did in gossipy small towns of yesteryear. The vast majority of us have cars that have a radio, heater, and can travel at 120 km/hr down the superhighway, whether it is a Lexus or a Cavalier.
And our work is comfortable. Business cannot survive with the dictatorial attitude that once marked factories and mills in the Industrial Revolution. We work in air conditioning for eight hours a day with a limited amount of tasks to keep us busy. It may annoy us at times, but we can always find better jobs. We are not chained by our station in life to accept bad treatment just to survive. Business cannot afford to have unhappy workers. It would lower productivity and make customers unhappy. They need contented workers to make the owners money. And we have so much leisure time and so much to choose from how we will spend it, at the movies, shopping, amusement parks, golfing. We are contented in the freedom of choice that our pain-limited society offers.
One of the biggest reliefs we have is from our fear of death. In the past we were afflicted with constant threats and reminders of dying. Today we have safely hidden it away in hospitals, nursing homes, slaughterhouses and funeral parlors, and on TV. We live in good health for sixty to seventy years. The fear of death cannot be used to manipulate us like the Church used to in the past. We are focused on life like never before.
So the paradox exists. How could Jesus give a message that got so screwed up for so long? And then in the end how could we achieve the closest proximity to His ideal after we gave up on the Church He created? Not only was His message totally confusing but its historical progression was bizarre.
Why did Jesus say so little? Out of all the great founders of religion, His words are the most sparse. Jesus said so little that it had to be repeated four times in the Bible just to fill it up! Why was there such meager and confusing offerings from the Son of God? Today there are millions of books in hundreds of libraries around the world that dissect every syllable that Jesus spoke in the Bible. Still the debates rage on. If Jesus was that special, that powerful, then why did He not give us clear understanding of what He was trying to say?
There are countless explanations but every interpretation just begs more analysis. The Jesus Seminar uses the latest academic tools to decipher what are Jesus' true words (just making us believe that He left even fewer words than what we previously thought). Traditionalists protest this process, preferring to stick to their conventional theology. But Catholics and Protestants alike have Bibles where every word is color-coded with footnotes to explain their meaning.
So much mental labor has gone into the Great Book it is astounding.
Why was Jesus so confusing? Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist and other religions have constant debate as well. But the Torah and Quran are finely detailed documents. The former is based on 'building' understanding of the experiences of many people with God. Mohammed, unlike Jesus, wrote his massive tome to leave no doubt about at least the authority if not the interpretation behind the words of that incredible work.
But the New Testament is a political compilation. The Church leaders got together at a council and voted on which books would be in included and which would not. There were compromises and political agendas, motivations from many different people. In the last hundred years historical discoveries of other ancient Christian writings and the analytical tools of academics have been able to put into question what we previously thought was a closed book. The authority of the New Testament has been seriously undermined.
And yet it still appears that Jesus was an actual historical figure who started something that altered the very thought patterns of everyone on this planet. Jesus becomes murkier by the day. What the indigenous people find so obvious in Jesus, the civilized find increasingly unstable. What is the meaning of this gap? What is the true meaning of Jesus? What was His real purpose?
The old explanations are but a circular argument. It is confined to our understanding of reality. For the religious there is only man, God and inert matter. That is the question. The only significant relationship in reality is God's relationship with man. What can God do for man? We are not told what heaven is. We are stuck here in physical bodies, knowing we will die and feeling insecure about what will happen to our consciousness afterward. What can God do to help us with this One Question? We never break out of this trap. Reality is God, man and inert matter. That is all we have to work with. Jesus was a man. How do we solve the Jesus question so that we can feel secure?
The religious stick with this conundrum of man's relationship with the fragment of God that they strive to connect with. God is unknowable so any tiny bit He throws our way is appreciated.
The secular and scientific give up on the whole process. Christianity was given 2000 years to get its act together. It could not. Therefore all that is left is man and inert matter.
Thus the state of the world today, Western economic man replicating throughout the globe like never before. The Jesus Question cannot be solved. Modern scholars have examined it with their new skills of inquiry to show that it was but another historical oddity. Whether you have faith or not, Western man assumes that our lifestyle is the pinnacle of the historical process to make our lives better. God is a lifestyle choice as we all head to the supermarket to get our food.
So then is that all there was to Jesus? Either His Spirit helps us get through this life in one piece and may grant us eternal bliss, or He confused everyone so much that they created all this nonsense about Him which appears to have been a waste of time. In the end we are still human bodies alone in an environment of inert matter to sustain 'life' with. There is nothing more.
Web Site: Original Wisdom
Want to review or comment on this article?
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!
|Reviewed by Leland Waldrip
|Exceptional analysis, Brock. It is unusual to have the ambiguosity of "what is" laid out in such clear terms. I think that humanity is growing up, gradually shedding the grasping mental inventions of its childhood and maturing into a society that can accept reality on more nearly equal terms than it could in the centuries of its infancy.
The "Jesus Question" is probably more generally stated as the question of mortality. The great blessing of evolving an intelligent brain was offset by its realizing that death is the final result of not just all life, but of each life, including "my own" life.
Humanity has now begun to accept that there are no escape hatches from death (such as Jesus), nor does there need to be. We can be content, as you say, with enjoying the incredible good luck of being sentient for any time at all in this physical universe and living life to its fullest. There is such an incredibly vast number of unrealized potential human beings who can't make that claim. We won the universe life lottery. We shouldn't be so arrogant as to demand an escape hatch from the inevitable result of winning.
|Reviewed by Malcolm Watts (Reader)
|Very thoughtful analysis. You are quite correct that most of us have a very good life. It puzzles me to know why there are so many who feel that they must also enjoy eternal life in the hereafter, when just being sentient for 60 odd years has been such a privilege. Christians will say that non-believers have no "hope." Perhaps not, but we do have a more realistic acceptance of ourselves as part of teh natural world with a finite existance. Malcolm Watts|