An essay by Dr. Benjamin Wiker from "ToTheSource"
An attack on the "New Atheism" by comparing
activities of Yahweh with Evolution's "god"
"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully."
So says Richard Dawkins. Obviously, he doesn't want readers to
think he's on the fence about God as presented in the Old
Testament—or at least, how God seems to Dawkins. But if we clean
ourselves up after this blast of rhetorical wind, how strong is
Dawkins' case against God?
Dawkins lists a number of objectionable Old Testament scenes,
|God's command to massacre the Midianites (31:17-18),|
|Joshua's putting all of the inhabitants of Jericho to the sword
(Josh 6:21), and |
|God's "rules" for waging holy war in Canaan (Dt
In regard to the last two, he remarks,
story of Joshua's destruction of Jericho, and the invasion of
the Promised Land in general, is morally indistinguishable from
Hitler's invasion of Poland, or Saddam Hussein's massacres of
Kurds and the Marsh Arabs,"
"Do not think, by the way, that
the God character in the story nursed any doubts or scruples
about the massacres and genocides that accompanied the seizing
of the Promised Land…. [T]he people who lived in the land…should
be invited to surrender peacefully. If they refused, all the men
were to be killed and the women carried off for breeding."
Let's try a little experiment, and play along with Dawkins'
skewed and unfair reading of the Bible. Suppose upon reading his
devastating attack on the God of the Old Testament, we would
reject the Bible and embrace Dawkins' atheism—exactly what
Dawkins wishes to be the effect on readers. What then? Would we
be any better off?
First of all, as he himself admits in his River out of Eden,
in coming over to Dawkins' side, we have thereby embraced a
cosmos indifferent to good or evil. As a consequence, we
immediately face a dilemma: we have no moral grounds for
condemning the actions of God (He doesn't exist) or the
characters in the Bible (good and evil don't exist). Since God
doesn't exist, there is no reason to work up a froth of
indignation against Him, anymore than against the lunkheaded
Zeus in Homer's Iliad.
Yet now another, more amusing problem arises for Dawkins as
the champion of Darwinism. It would seem that a good many
of the complaints made by Dawkins against the God of the Old
Testament could with equal justice be made against natural
selection itself. To say the least, that puts himself in a
If we might put it in an arresting way, many sociologists of
religion argue that primitive people tend to fashion their
notions of the gods according to the way they experience nature,
as nature deified (whether this is true or not, we won't decide
here, but will take it on trust for the purposes of
illustration). What would evolution look like if we tried to
deify evolution's principles? Would the Evolution God (EG) be
"unjust" in its callous indifference "to all suffering," and
supremely so, for continually picking off the weak and sickly?
Would EG be an "unforgiving control-freak," "megalomaniacal,"
and "petty" since (as Darwin stated) "It may metaphorically be
said that natural selection is daily and hourly scrutinizing,
throughout the world, the slightest variations; rejecting those
that are bad, preserving and adding up all that are good;
silently and insensibly working, whenever and wherever
opportunity offers, at the improvement of each organic
being in relations to its organic and inorganic conditions of
life"? Would EG be "sadomasochistic" in his use of suffering,
destruction, and death as the means to create new forms of life?
A "capriciously malevolent bully" in his "lacking all purpose"
and being "callous"? A "bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser,"
"genocidal," and "racist" in his continually pitting one species
population against another in severe struggle, the struggles
among humans taking place between tribe and tribe, race and
race? And what adjective would describe EG, who uses these
deadly struggles as the very vehicle responsible for the upward
climb of human evolution?
So we've rejected the God of the Old Testament for Dawkins'
atheistic account of evolution, only to find out that many of
the traits Dawkins marked as repugnant are ensconced in natural
selection (except that now, as a new and even more unfortunate
kind of Job, we have no one against whom to complain).
Perhaps Dawkins will fare better in his case against the people
of the Old Testament? But now another paradox comes to the fore.
On Dawkins' own grounds, it would be hard to imagine a people
who more assiduously pursued a better set of evolutionary
strategies for ensuring that its gene pool was carried forward,
undiluted by rival tribes and races, than the ancient Jews. They
were genetic geniuses!
Think over the above "reprehensible" examples Dawkins provided
from the Bible, and then ruminate upon his account of how
evolution, including human evolution, works. Dawkins maintains
in his Selfish Gene that we may "treat the individual
as a selfish machine, programmed to do whatever is best for its
genes as a whole." However, as he makes clear, the invisible
level of the struggle between genes in a single individual is,
for him, the real level of natural selection and the struggle to
survive). The selfish machine works, literally, by gene-o-cide,
the destruction and use of other selfish machines, treating them
as fodder for its own survival.
What, then, is left of Dawkins' case against the God of the Old
Testament? Nothing at all.
The following information sources were used to
prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still
- The essay was downloaded from the ToTheSource website at:
http://www.tothesource.org/ and used by permission.
- The ToTheSource's website's home page is at:
motto is "Challenging hardcore secularism with principled pluralism."
You can subscribe to their newsletter from their home page.
- Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker have written a new book: "Answering the
New Atheism: Dismantling Dawkins' Case," 2008-APR-29.
about this book or pre-order it safely from the Amazon.com online book store
Originally posted: 2008-MAR-13
Latest update: 2008-MAR-13
Author: Dr. Benjamin Wiker