Atheists’ delusions about God
Posted: 02 Nov 2006 @ 00:00
In the introduction to Richard Dawkinss new bookThe God Delusion (Bantam), the internationally acclaimed author thankhis wife, "who has coaxed me through all my hesitations and self-doubts". Icant have been too onerous a job; for this is a book so lacking in self-doubthat it is positively evangelical in the strutting confidence of itself-belief.
"If this book works as I intend, religious readers who opeit will be atheists when they put it down." Professor Dawkins doesnt want thave a discussion he wants to convert people. Well, Im afraid it didnt woron me. Im sick of theology done by cocky salesmen, atheistic or otherwise.
The root of the problem is that too many modern atheistadopt a position that is a photographic negative of a sort of Christianitbelieved only by the most conservative. God is X, says the modern atheistgiving a short definition that allegedly captures what all believers believeThis means that the God they reject doesnt look anything like the God thamost of us meet in our prayers.
Yet the one thing that we learn from the Hebrew scriptureis that there is no X that can articulate the infinite mystery of the divineAgain and again, the Bible puts us off trying to achieve definitions. What elsis "I am what I am" but a very Hebraic way of refusing to allow God to be puin a box?
The God of Israel is the God of the burning bush, the Gowho exists in the cloudy mountain-top, whose face cannot be seen. This is nothe God who doubles as my best pal, or who fits a snappy one-line definitionThe God who has been at the centre of the Churchs life for centuries is a Gowho is disconcertingly inscrutable, and utterly resistant to cheap certaint
Next month (on 21 November at St Marys, Putney, at 6.3p.m., if I can get in a plug), we have gathered an interesting bunch othinkers to discuss the dangers of what is being called "the lust for certaint. They include people such as the philosopher Professor Sir Anthony Kenny anKathy Sykes, Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at BristoUniversity.
What they share is a worry at the dogmatism creeping into smany areas of public life. Unfortunately, public discussion no longer involveenough people who are prepared to say: "I dont know." This is not a problejust because it lacks modesty. What is wrong is the attempt to force thunknown into declaring itself in the terms of our own limited imaginationsThat, surely, is the makings of a real God delusion.
The Revd Dr Giles Fraser is Team Rector oPutney, and lecturer in philosophy at Wadham College, Oxford.