Monday, February 09, 2009

Richard Dawkins goes to 'church' too...

Tom Price on The Church of Richard Dawkins: "Do you think Dawkins would tolerate those who really question, like Christopher Booker, in his "church"? Do you think it would be the kind of place where you would be valued if you didn't sign on the dotted line? Would we be free to question the high priest or would we be cast into a Gulag?"

Christopher Booker: "What is fascinating about the Darwinians is their inability to accept just how much they do not know. Armoured in their certainty that they have all the answers when they so obviously don’t, neo-Darwinians such as Richard Dawkins rest their beliefs just as much on an unscientific leap of faith as the รข Creationists’ they so fanatically affect to despise. It is revealing how they dismissively try to equate all those scientists who argue for 'intelligent design' with Biblical fundamentalists, as their only way to cope with questions they cannot answer. Something strikingly similar has been taking place over the belief that the world is dangerously warming, due to the rise in man-made CO2. For a time the believers in this theory seemed to have the evidence on their side, as CO2 levels and temperatures rose in apparent harmony. But lately all sorts of evidence has been put forward by serious scientists to suggest that this theory is seriously flawed, not least the fact that recently falling temperatures were not predicted by any of those computer models on which the advocates of global warming rest their beliefs. It becomes increasingly obvious that, like the Darwinians, the warming supporters are so convinced by the simplicity of their theory that they are unable to recognise how much they do not know - and like the Darwinians their response has been to become ever more fanatically intolerant of anyone who dares question their dogma."

Which is very reminiscent of a conversation I had with a family member last year where I dared to question global warming. I was being a bit facitious raising it but suddenly I felt like a blasphemer. Evangelical Christianity is often caricatured for not encouraging people to question and examine beliefs, one of the things I've valued over the years is being able to question and query, to work out my thinking on all sorts of things.

This week I'm looking forward to going to events at Exeter, Bath and Plymouth, hosted by Christian students. At these events a Christian will give a 15 minute talk on a 'key question' that is commonly raised against Christianity. Then they'll face about 25 minutes of questions from the floor. This format, commonly known as a 'lunchbar' is a great place to raise the issues, to put Christianity under scrutiny. It's always refreshing to see that questions can be asked, and that for 2000 years people have been thinking hard about how to engage with them. Similar events will be happening in dozens of Universities this month.

Go read more about the Revd. Richard Dawkins of St. Darwin's Church. Think hard on these things. Dare to ask questions. Part of the beauty of Christianity is that it can be scrutinised, hostage as it is to history, to scripture, to being tested for internal and external coherence and consistency. Richard Dawkins loves to call Christians the people who shut down the conversation, saying "thinking is anathema to religion". Not a chance. And all we ask is that people be prepared to joing the conversation, to engage with the issues, to examine the documents, to give Christianity a thoughtful hearing.

Richard Cunningham wrote in the Guardian a couple of years ago: "It is at this point that Britain's 350 CUs, who together form the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF), can help show us the way. CUs are sufficiently confident in their position to hold open lunchtime dialogues at which crowds of students of all beliefs, and none, get a chance to voice their objections to the speaker. It is this confidence in the ability of truth to vindicate itself, and the resultant commitment to promote freedom of belief and speech, that has recently earned the Sheffield University CU the accolade (awarded by a fair-minded SU) "the university's most accessible faith society".


  1. It is astonishing that so many scientists seem to have such strong convictions about their "theories" - very much like a religious belief. Having been trained as a scientist myself, one of the things that I feel it did instill in me is the ability to question...well, almost everything.

    How any scientist can be so certain, as Dawkins seems to be, about anything when, apparently, some 96% of the universe is made up "dark matter" or "dark energy" - that is undetectable mass or energy that is required to exist to balance out the physical equations that have been observed to apply to the visible universe. Guess what... it's called dark because it's not yet been observed and, therefore, science knows nothing about it! Even if science could demonstrate that it knew everything about the visible universe (which it obviously can't) that still leaves a huge degree of uncertainty. And Dawkins claims that the Christian faith is based on a fairly tale?

  2. It's only fair to say Christians can suppress questions too.

    Many folks fear to articulate their doubts and questions, lest they be seen as weaker brethren, unsound, a cause for concern or a 'need for prayer' (which we all know can become a Christian gossip column).

    I'm no fan of Dawkins, but likewise I wouldn't want to demonise Darwin (as some fundamentalists do). We take Dawkins on best when we show we are not scared to question everything about ourselves.