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Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Richard Dawkins, and morality.

Believe it, or not, I feel almost sorry for Richard Dawkins - the prominent atheist/humanist (see the post for 21st Feb., 2010). It has been widely reported that he has closed down the forum on his own website ( because he considers that some of the comments that had been posted on it were unacceptable/unsuitable - "irrelevant postings and frivolous gossip" will, apparently, no longer be allowed under a new regime of tight moderation.

It is also reported that Mr Dawkins responded to the fury that greeted his intimation of the forthcoming tighter control with the statement: "Imagine your face described by an anonymous poster as 'a slack-jawed t**d-in-the-mouth mug'. Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language."

"Surely there has to be something wrong ..." It may be that I have not fully understood Mr Dawkins' position but I am forced to ask "What is 'wrong'?" From where does he acquire his idea of 'wrong' and, one must presume, its antonym of 'right'?

I lifted down from my bookshelves, a well-used copy of the classic "Mere Christianity", by the late Prof. C.S.Lewis. The heading given to the first section is "Right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe". Obviously, the length of a post hinders me from providing a complete synopsis of the section but, having used some examples akin to the very 'problem' that Mr Dawkins has experienced, he arrives at the basic premis that "... human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. ... [and] that they do not, in fact, behave in that way." (p.19) - what he refers to as a Moral Law. He goes on to develop this by explaining that this is neither instinct, nor social convention; and that "The moment you say that one set of moral ideas can be better than another, you are, in fact, measuring them both by a standard, saying that one of them conforms to that standard more nearly than the other" (p.23).

Over the next few chapters, Prof. Lewis leads us on to what I would consider to be the irrefutable position that, behind this Moral Law - the existence of which, even Richard Dawkins now appears (albeit unconsciously) to accept - is a sovereign Being Whom, in the English language, we refer to as 'God' (and Whose existence Richard Dawkins does not accept!).

"Mere Christianity" may well be out of print (my copy was published in 1955!!!), but it's a book that is well worth tracking down. In my opinion, it is still one of the best evaluations of, and arguments for, Christian theology - in spite of (or should that be 'because of'?!) the fact that it starts with the basic assumption that God doesn't even exist!! I wonder of Richard Dawkins has ever read it!?


epsilon said...

Very interesting. BTW as a matter of interest - what do you see in "The Shack" when you appreciate C. S. Lewis?!!

Brian Ross said...

Hi, Epsilon. Thank you for your comment(s). I hope that you will become a regular visitor to this site!!
I have been a fan of the late C.S.Lewis since I first encountered "Mere Christianity" - I think in the late '60s. His other publications have also been enjoyed, over the years.
"The Shack" I only read last summer. I think that what I enjoyed most about it was the way in which the Trinity was presented (not explained!). There was, for me, a freshness that I appreciated, and some of the pictures that came to my mind as I read, were very helpful. I think that I particularly appreciated the way in which God the Holy Spirit was portrayed.
However, I have warned that there are aspects of the book that I found more disturbing - such as the bias towards Universalism. It is a book that should be read for whatever benefit may be derived from it - with anything that is less helpful being discarded.
I hope that this clarifies my position a little!!