Wednesday, April 29, 2009

New Essay Critiquing Dawkins Now On-Line at Religion Dispatches

Readers of this blog may be interested to read my new essay published today on Religion Dispatches, "Is Christianity Simply About God Entering the Uterus of a Jewish Virgin?" The essay looks at a recent caricature of Christianity offered by the world's most renowned atheist, Richard Dawkins. The essay challenges critics of religion to focus on real versions of Christianity rather than on soulless caricatures.


  1. Thanx for this link -- I will read up !
    As a Buddhist Atheist, I truly wish other Atheist would be much more fair in their arguments. If you are interested, see my post of "Politically Incorrect Atheism".

  2. I agree with most of that article. Surprised? :-D

    One thing:
    And God, whose nature is love, was therefore inspired by His very nature not only to create, but to create and embrace something truly Other than HimselfWell, yeah, but...
    God does not exist in radical oneness. He exists eternally in three co-equal and co-eternal persons, and as such requires no creation at all in order to express love and fellowship in all fullness for all eternity.
    That He deigned to create humans to share said love with is an expression of His great generosity, magnifying Him yet further (if that were possible).

    Anyway, just that brief note.

  3. As a materialist who doubts the existence of anything resembling a personal god, I also appreciate the critique of demagogues like Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. (While I share your general reluctance to resort to name calling, it's hard to talk about these two without using the word 'blowhard.')

    I would, however, be interested in how you think religious belief is justified. I assume you talk about this in your book, which I intend to read at some point (I'm currently working on a daunting reading list to prepare for graduate school in the fall). Do you believe religious belief to be justified in the case inclination minus definitive evidence to the contrary, or is there a different/higher standard for justified belief?

    On a related note, with regards to revelation, does this take the form of material evidence, or is it something more amorphous?

    I realize your time is limited at the moment, so feel free to give me a raincheck or even reference to other sources for answers. Thanks.

  4. Rhology--I actually agree with your qualification, insofar as the doctrine of the trinity explains how God's intrinsic nature can be love when love requires relationship. I tell you, we've got a veritable love fest going on here!

    cheek--My book is in large measure an attempt to answer the very questions you pose here. I plan to post something related to these questions in the not-too-distant future (a kind of abbreviated version of my "book talk"), either here or (if suitable) as an article for Religion Dispatches.

    But first, the end-of-semester horror...which I return to now...reiterating to myself that old epicurean question, "Does God have the power to eliminate grading but not the will? Then he is malevolent. The will but not the power? Then he is impotent. The power and the will? Whence, then, comes grading?"

  5. Dr Reitan, you make some interesting points but I want to make a few criticisms.

    First, you risk your rhetorical advantage and the reader’s respect when you suggest that criticism based on a caricature of an idea is simplistic and fundamentally misguided in the same article in which you yourself lampoon Dawkins' argument by focusing on only the silliest things he has said (like an obviously over-the-top magazine ad).

    Second, I don’t think you made the case that religion is substantially different than the acceptance of (some) mythology as Truth. Personally, I like your focus on love and the power it has in our lives. I admire that in Christianity. But I think that the story you proceed to tell, is not significantly less silly than the "talking snake," version and no better supported by evidence.

    If religion kept the life-transforming focus on community and love and left out the supernatural and superstitious part, Dawkins and other atheists would have no problem with religion. With that stuff in there, the emphasis Dawkins makes on believing crazy myths is still essentially valid, because you still claim to believe the myths.

    The fact that believing the story works for so many people is fascinating, and worthy of study. And you rightly point that out as a challenge worthy of inquiry for genuinely interested atheists. But you conveniently leave out that it is something that the atheist critique of religion addresses (i.e. Boyer, Dennet, even Dawkins address that).

  6. Nicely written. As with your writings that I've read before, I thoroughly enjoyed (and, I think, understood) your point and the way you make your point. I daresay that, even as an atheist, I agreed with many of your points. ;-)

    I just ordered your book this week, so I'm looking forward to reading it. It will be the first "theistic" book (other than the Bible and the Koran) in my library, I believe.