More atheist quotes on Dawkins and the new atheists

Perhaps Richard Dawkins and the “new atheists” are to atheism as young-Earth creationists are to Christianity. Some atheists find the new atheists to be rather embarrassing.

Here are some quotes from a Marxist—and from what I can tell, atheist—literary critic by the name of Terry Eagleton:

“Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology.”

“He seems to imagine God, if not exactly with a white beard, then at least as some kind of chap.”

“We have it from the mouth of Mr Public Science himself that aside from a few local, temporary hiccups like ecological disasters, famine, ethnic wars and nuclear wastelands, History is perpetually on the up.”

“Dawkins and Hitchens are equally theologically illiterate in their view of religion as a failed attempt to explain the world.”

The quotes are from an article in New Humanist: The Magazine for Free Thinkers. My take on someone who calls them self a “free thinker” is that they are in an intellectual ghetto without knowing it. They have ideas that they cannot entertain in their worldview; they have walls constructed around themselves that they cannot even see.

As a theist, it is easy to pick on the “new atheists” with their shallow reasoning, just as Dawkins picks on easy targets. But it is also necessary, as it is the new atheists who write the best-sellers.

HT: Cranach

I’ve quoted from Eagleton before: The new atheists: “primitive opposition to faith and reason”

Grace and Peace, and keep on believing

12 thoughts on “More atheist quotes on Dawkins and the new atheists

  1. WebMonk

    Dude, you’re slipping! Two days and no ticked-off replies on this post?? You need to start calling people names and stuff like that.

    Or, maybe people are just out on vacation.


  2. lightsmith

    I’m not on vacation, but I’m also not particularly embarrassed by Dawkins or Hitchins. The apologetics of Eagleton’s “sophisticated” theologians are no more convincing than those of the fundamentalists, but what’s the point of attempting to refute empty statements like “God sustains all things by his love, and made the world simply for the love and delight of it”? Someone who believes in that god rather than the god of the Bible isn’t likely to be working to sneak creationist textbooks into the local classrooms, or lobbying to rebuild temples in Jerusalem so end-time prophecies can be fulfilled and the rapture can begin.

    The fundamentalists are exactly who Dawkins and Hitchins SHOULD be blasting. They shouldn’t be trying to field every new-age nuance presented by every theologian on the planet.


  3. geochristian


    Thanks for your comment. I suppose it is easy for the New Atheists to pick on “fundamentalists” for their young-Earth creationism and end-times fads. I do sort of the same thing; I pick on Dawkins for his historical and theological ineptitude; and because he is popular, just as the young-Earthers are on the Christian side.

    The thing is that Dawkins goes far beyond blasting questionable teachings of the fundamentalists. He distorts history, emphasizing the sins of Christianity and ignoring its benefits, while whitewashing the evils of atheist regimes. He also misstates or misunderstands the classic theistic arguments for the existence of God.

    Dawkins gives easy answers to those who don’t want to accept the existence of God. If one is content with historical distortions and philosophical shallowness, then Dawkins might be sufficient to prop up one’s faith.

    Another option is to consider that perhaps there is a God after all.

    With respect,
    Kevin N


  4. lightsmith

    I’m always willing to consider that there might be a god after all. I think if that is actually the case, however, that god is unlikely to be anything like the biblical Jehovah, picking sides in armed conflicts, drowning the innocent along with the sinful, finding it necessary to have a child with a virgin so he could kill the kid and bring him back to life in order to forgive the people who didn’t do what Jehovah wanted them to do to begin with…

    Maybe there is a “laws of nature” kind of god, sustaining some semblance of macroscopic order in spite of the quantum fluctuations which underpin reality. Or a Hindu god, which destroyed itself in the act of creating the universe.

    I’m also willing to consider that there may be no god of any sort, and most days, I operate from that assumption.


  5. WebMonk

    lightsmith, if you’re being serious in your descriptions of what you think Christianity is about, then you have a lot of learning to do. If you’re purposefully making fun of it, then that’s fine, but I’d prefer to know which it is before I reply.

    There are drastically different tracks to follow depending on what you were intending to convey – your actual belief or caricature statements.


  6. lightsmith

    WebMonk, my tone was a bit sarcastic, but I think there are lots of Christians who would recognize my description as the god they believe in.

    I’m also aware that there are Christians who don’t believe in a literal global flood, don’t think God backs one team and smites the other, and consider the important aspect of Jesus’ life the philosophy he espoused while he was alive rather than some redemption supposedly purchased by his death and resurrection.

    If your response is “that’s not what I believe,” I’ll be happy to discuss what you do believe, and you need not respond to the “caricature”.


  7. geochristian


    It’s good to hear from you again. I’ll try to answer some of your objections to God being like the God of the Bible.

    –Picking sides in armed conflicts — The Biblical teaching on this is that God is in control over the affairs of nations. He raises up some nations at times for his purposes, and humbles others.

    “The Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone he wishes.” — Dan 4:25 NIV

    I don’t see God favoring one football team over another, or one nation over another. God did set aside Israel for the purposes of the redemption of people from all nations, but Israel also at times fell under as severe of a judgment as any nation ever has (Assyria 722 BC, Babylon 586 BC, Rome 70 AD, etc.). America is not “God’s country,” though you would think so from what some of my fellow believers say. America is blessed, but we have no assurance that that blessing will continue.

    –Drowning the innocent along with the sinful — I am not sure if this is a reference to Noah’s Flood, or something else. Jesus responded to similar thoughts:

    “There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.””Luke 13:1-5 ESV

    The Christian perspective on this is that none of us are innocent. That is not to say that some sins are not worse than others, just that none of us can point to ourselves and say, “I am righteous.” Incidents where people die (the Flood, the tower in Siloam, etc.) should serve as a warning to us all to repent and turn to Christ.

    –Having a child with a virgin so he could kill the kid and bring him back to life — I do not find the virgin birth to be difficult to believe; a God who can create the universe can certainly create a fertilized egg.

    There are a couple aspects of the Christian answer to this objection:

    1. The virgin birth illustrates a couple things. First, Christ is fully human, and so God is fully identifying with us. Christianity can say “God is with us” in a way that other religions cannot. The virgin birth also indicates that Jesus is the Son of God in a unique way. We can be called “children of God,” but only Jesus is “God in the flesh.” There is a further theological reason for the virgin birth as well. Even though Adam and Eve both sinned, Adam is given the blame, and that sin is inherited by all of us in some way from Adam. By having no male parent, Christ can claim to have no original sin (inherited from Adam) as well as no actual sin.

    2. The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is actually very helpful here (as it turns out to be in other areas as well). This isn’t an example of “cosmic child abuse” as some skeptics accuse. Instead, it is an example of God himself taking our pain and suffering. The God of Christianity is One God, but he is not a simple God.

    These answers are very brief, but hopefully enough to show that there are Christian answers to your objections.

    With Respect,
    Kevin N


  8. lightsmith

    geochristian, I’m a little puzzled by your reply. I recall you saying elsewhere that you believe the Bible is true, and here you seem to say that the Bible teaches that God raises up some nations and humbles others, yet you immediately turn around and say you don’t see God favoring one nation over another. It seems inconsistent to me.

    The “flood” comment was a reference to Noah’s flood. I understand that the Christian perspective is that none of us are innocent, but I can’t really buy it. A one-day-old baby is innocent in my mind, and a God that (according to his own press releases) kills babies to make a point (Noah’s flood, Pharoah’s coercion) is, to me, more like a mafia godfather than a thing I’d ever consider worthy of worship.

    You’re right that a God who can create the universe can certainly create a fertilized egg. Such a God could also make stones come alive and start preaching the word, or, I don’t know, create a race of men which wouldn’t be flawed in the first place.

    The biblical God just can’t seem to get things right. He makes Adam and Eve, two innocents if ever there were innocents, since they had no knowledge of good and evil. And rather than putting the tree whose fruit bestows such knowledge on the far side of the moon, and saying “Don’t eat it when you get there — by that time, you’ll have acquired enough wisdom to make an informed choice,” he puts it right within walking distance. And instead of giving those two innocents a personality which would no more want to eat that fruit than they would want to eat bear feces, he gave them a personality that just couldn’t resist it.

    So okay, mankind now has to work for food and endure painful childbirth, but we manage.

    Nope, not good enough. Got to wash those men right out of my world, and start fresh with the cream of the crop, Noah and his kin. Surely God will get it right this time.

    Nope, still not good enough. Send Jesus, so some can be redeemed. Bring him back to life, he’ll live forever now, but it just wouldn’t do to let him keep walking around on this old mudball giving people the straight scoop. No, we have to wait for a SECOND COMING, when surely, finally, this time he’ll GET IT RIGHT…

    Like I say, I’m willing to consider the possibility that there is some kind of a supreme being, maybe even one that created the universe. I doubt it, and I don’t think there’s much evidence for it, but it’s possible.

    The god that’s depicted in the Bible, though, just doesn’t seem credible at all to me. Even calling it “triune” isn’t enough to resolve the contradictions.


  9. Webmonk

    lightsmith, what you’re essentially asking here is why didn’t he wrap us in supernatural bubble wrap so we couldn’t hurt ourselves or others, emotionally or physically?

    Is that really what you would want a God to do? Sure, he could have made people who never want anything but to do good for everyone else. In fact He could do that to you right now – turn you into a super Mother Theresa and you would spend the rest of your life doing good to others and being a blessing to all.

    Isn’t that wonderful! All he would have to do is erase who you are. Your being and existence is such a small price to pay for all that good. Better yet, God could change everyone! Everyone in the entire world would become entirely perfect in loving and caring for everyone else! No one would ever even want to do something bad, much less act on it!

    “Bad”? What is this word “bad”?

    That’s not any better than creating puppets and directly controlling them. Instead of doing that, He gave us the ability to grow on our own, learn on our own, and even reject Him. He shepherds us on our way, provides eternal life to anyone who wants it, and to anyone who wants to be on their own, He lets them do that too.

    The gift of free will is so incredibly precious that God gave it even knowing what pain it would bring to the world and to Himself. Don’t be so quick to throw it aside.

    I think it would be great if the child rapist would get a supernatural lobotomy and never be capable of harming anyone ever again, but it’s not so cool when I consider that my temper would get me the same treatment, and the hurt I’ve caused others emotionally, and the pain I put my parents through, and the ways I mess up as a parent, and, and.

    Tossing out the ability to do what we want is very possibly the most valuable thing in the universe. It’s the thing that God himself suffered and died so we could have it.

    God shepherds us, He punishes us, He saves us, He protects us, He lets us suffer. What He doesn’t do is take away our ability to make our own choices, even when it hurts others and hurts Himself.


  10. lightsmith

    WebMonk, that’s all well and good, but lots of Christians I know have this odd notion about eternal life, and how wonderful it will be for those who are “saved.” Now, different people may have different ideas about what this means, and I don’t want to be putting words in your mouth. If the picture I draw doesn’t match your beliefs, feel free to correct my characterization and we’ll move forward based on what you believe. You don’t need to waste a minute defending or explaining or even disavowing someone else’s belief.

    What a lot of people seem to mean, though, is that Jesus’ death was some kind of blood redemption, analogous to the animal sacrifices in the old testament, which provided a moral counterbalance for some past transgression. Phrases like “washes my sins away” are common. It seems to me that people are suggesting that accepting Jesus enables sinful folks to become sinless, and thus worthy of spending eternity in the presence of God. My perception of the prevailing view among Christians is that God cannot abide the company of sinful people, or certainly not an eternity of such company, and so this cleansing transformation is necessary for anyone who hopes to enter the heavenly hootenanny.

    Now my question is this: do such people still have free will once they enter heaven? Are they going to be coveting each others’ harps, resenting the guy whose stories and jokes make Jesus laugh more boisterously, trying to sneak off with that pretty little thing that looks so seductive in her new halo? Or are their newly purified hearts going to be immune from such temptations?

    Because it seems to me that if it’s the former, then God must have tolerance for a smidgen of sinful nature. If it’s the latter, if people are going to be transformed and perfected, then what’s the point of this shadow play here on earth?

    Is everyone going to be perfect in heaven? If so, and if a hundred years of “flawed clay” is to be followed by a hundred billion trillion centuries of sinless spirituality, what possible objection could a divine author have to writing in perfection from the beginning?

    My own feeling, of course, is that there is no such divine author, and that the imperfections we observe in the universe are not surprising in light of how we came to be where we are. Even though it isn’t perfect, we’re damned lucky to be able to experience it, and should cherish every precious moment we’re alive.


  11. Dawkins is not the least bit impressive intellectually or scientifically. He knows “science vs. religion” is an emotional topic on both sides of the fence and found a way to supplement his university salary. Public education, at least in the U.S., has become so watered-down Dawkins actually sounds scientific when he’s no such thing.


  12. I met Dawkins in Oxford without realising it. He had only written ‘The Selfish Gene’ at that point, but a friend I was with had a chat with him. This friend had been one of Dawkins’ students, he was a brilliant scientist who went on to work in industry … oh, forgot to tell you, he was also a committed Christian.


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