Tuesday, 31 March 2009

The Passion of Richard Dawkins

Somebody lent me a DVD of a debate between celebrity unbeliever Dr Richard Dawkins and his Christian mathematician colleague at Oxford, John Lennox, about Dr D's book The God Delusion, staged at the Christian Fixed Point Foundation in Alabama. It was, for the most part, terribly polite, I suppose unsurprisingly as it would have been highly unlikely that either gentleman would have come up with an argument the other hadn't heard a score of times before. I ended up thinking what a good showing Dr Dawkins put up, apart from being completely wrong.

There's little enlightening for most of us in this: we've heard the arguments before, too. But I was very struck by Dr Dawkins's very visceral observations on the fact that, in the end, your attitude to Christianity resolves into what you think happened to Jesus of Nazareth to make people believe he had been resurrected. He talked less of its truth or untruth and more of its wrongness, using words like 'petty', 'narrow', parochial', 'small'. He resents setting his grand vision of the interlocking logic of the Darwinian cosmos alongside something so historically bounded. Next to the boundless majesty of the heavens, Christianity is monstrous because its truthfulness rests on one person and one set of events in one place at one time. That Dr Dawkins actually showed some signs of passionate engagement at this point is very revealing. It's fascinating to engage with what atheists feel rather than what they say they think.

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