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As Western society has over the last fifty years gone from passive indifference to religious faith to militant opposition to it, so attacks on religion have grown. In the last year we have seen the publication of two best-selling books ‘The God Delusion’ by Richard Dawkins and ‘God is not Great’, subtitled ‘The Case Against Religion’, by Christopher Hitchens. Riding on the back of the present Western anti-Muslim fashion, they are in fact attacks on all religion. The following four quotations sum up their incredible views:

‘Religious readers who open this book will be atheists when they put it down’ (Dawkins).

The God of the Old Testament is ‘a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak’, ‘a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, megalomaniac and capriciously malevolent bully’ (Dawkins).

‘Religion is man-made. Religion poisons everything’ (Hitchens).

‘We distrust anything that contradicts science or reason’ (Hitchens).

It seems almost a waste of breath to bother to reply to such primitive arguments. They are on the same level as the arguments of Soviet atheists of the 1920s, who reckoned that religion was only for backward and illiterate peasants; therefore anyone who believed should be shot on sight, especially when they were educated. Their logic was: ‘Because there is electricity, there can be no God’.

However today, the only backward people in Russia are those who believe in the backward twentieth-century fairy-tales and ‘scientific’ superstitions of atheism. Progressive people there, especially the young, long ago abandoned such nonsense and are now believers. Apart from anything else, they well know just how destructive atheism was in their country, bringing the deaths of tens of millions of believers and devastating one sixth of the planet. Lack of belief in God automatically led to lack of belief in man.

What better reason to believe, than to see the results of atheism? And yet it seems as though such primitive arguments still have to be answered in Western Europe, because in today’s Darkest West there are actually people who still believe in such arguments. They have learned nothing of the practical results of atheism, either in Stalin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, Mao’s China or Pol Pot’s Cambodia.

The fact is that both Dawkins and Hitchens spend their time writing not about God, but about self-created human images and understandings of God, what, technically are known as ‘anthropomorphisms’. Thus, the Old Testament and Old Testament religions, like Judaism and Islam, are anthropomorphistic. However, Christianity rejects such human images and understandings, because Christianity is the faith of Revelation, the religion revealed by the Son of God. That is why we understand much that is in the Old Testament symbolically and figuratively. The only Christians who believe in every word of the Old Testament literally are a minority of non-mainstream Christians known as fundamentalists - and people like Dawkins and Hitchens.

This is quite clear from their above quotations. ‘Religion is man-made’ and the God of the Old Testament is ‘a petty, unjust, unforgiving control freak’. What both Dawkins and Hitchens are rejecting is not the Christian Faith (of which they have no knowledge or experience), but some man-made religion in which they think that all other people believe. Their approach reminds us of the Soviet leader Nikita Khushchev who, after the cosmonaut Gagarin’s epoch-making space flight, declared himself satisfied that God did not exist, because Gagarin had not seen Him sitting on a cloud in space. (For the sake of the record, Gagarin himself was a strong believer).

Dawkins’ conceit that his book will make the religious into atheists is so laughable that it does not bear countering. Just because Dawkins has no spiritual experience of any sort, having long ago lost his childhood faith, and has spent the rest of his life ever since militating against those who have a broader and deeper experience of life than himself, it does not mean that there is no God. All that Dawkins can say is that in his narrow and subjective experience of life there is no God. And that we can believe – that Dawkins’ views of religion are dependent on his own psychological complexes.

Objectively, however, he cannot speak, because he has no experience of the spiritual dimension of life, which alone would entitle him to have a serious opinion. Dawkin’s lack of belief in God is on the same level as a man blind from birth disbelieving in the existence of the Moon. We see exactly the same narrow-mindedness, not to say bigotry, in the second quotation from Hitchens. Clearly, someone with such a narrow understanding of ‘science and reason’ does not have something valid to say about religion. Or has he never met any of the billions of ‘scientists’ and reasonable people who do believe in God?

The fact is that authors like Dawkins and Hitchens are not talking about the faith of those who really believe in God, but the delusions (and they are delusions) of those who believe or, like themselves, disbelieve, in manmade religions. In this sense, we should be grateful to them. There are indeed some very simple people around the world who, just like Dawkins and Hitchens, do have some very primitive superstitious beliefs about religion. The only difference between them is that some believe in these superstitions, others, like Dawkins and Hitchens, do not.

For example, there are a few fanatics, whether Hindu, Christian, Muslim or Jewish, who believe in a god who is an ‘unforgiving control freak’. Among those who believe in such a man-made god, we could include several medieval popes and several puritan leaders with their ‘wars of religion’, and many a Hindu politician, many a Jewish pharisee and many a Muslim ayatollah. Among those who disbelieve in such a man-made god, we could include Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. But this has nothing to do with actual religion.

Why do such fanatics claim to believe in such man-made religion? Simply, because it suits them. We should never underestimate the attraction of religion to those twisted individuals who wish to justify themselves. The occasion to use religion for political, economic, racial or personal purposes is merely an opportunity for self-justification. ‘Let us camouflage our personal ignobility behind the nobility of religion’ means practically ‘let us use religion as an excuse for war, massacre and theft’. Violence, as that of Cain over Abel, comes before religion, but is all too happy to use religion as a justification. Thus, we have only recently seen some individuals use religion (together with other words like ‘freedom’ and ‘democracy’) as a flag of convenience in ‘the war on terror’ – a justification to take over Iraq’s oil reserves. However, no-one seriously believes that the invasion of Iraq had anything to do with actual religious faith and the Real God.

Dawkins and Hitchens have yet to rid themselves of their spiritual enslavement to their primitive delusions, old-fashioned superstitions about ‘coincidences’ and imaginary constructs about God. When they have done so, that is if they are strong enough to give up their delusions of superiority over the rest of humanity (here is the real challenge to them), then they will be able to discover the Real God. Then a whole new dimension, a whole new universe and a whole new inner world, will open up before them. Richard Dawkin’s futile and pitiful statement that, ‘the universe has no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference’, will then become as ridiculous even to him as it now seems to the rest of us. We are waiting for you.

Fr Andrew Phillips

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