The 2007 release of The Dawkins Delusion offered a play on the title of a popular book, The God Delusion, written by the belligerent biologist, Richard Dawkins. As a best-selling response to Dawkins’ work authored by theologian and Ph.D. scientist, Alister McGrath, it naturally attracted opposition from Dawkins for its lack of evidence for God (who overlooks his own lack evidence against Him). This wrangling of two Oxford dons is no mere academic squabble, but a public battle for the hearts and minds of the masses. Debate over origins seeks the ideological bedrock for the worldviews of Christianity and atheism whilst, ironically, neither is provable and both require faith. McGrath raises three key objections against the atheism of Dawkins which has been unsurprisingly influential for a generation grasping at the straws of legitimacy in its pursuit of a godless agenda.
- Atheism misunderstands God. Rejecting the ideas that faith is infantile and irrational, McGrath shows that the improbability of God is not an argument for His non-existence. Dawkins simplistically reduces God to an unwelcome gap filler in the knowledge matrix, rather than accepting the comprehensive account of reality offered by Christianity and lived with purpose by its followers. Even Intelligent Design advocates, says McGrath, “make Christianity deeply – and needlessly – vulnerable to scientific progress,” given the requirement of science to explain itself, something that Oxford philosopher, Richard Swinburne, says it can do most reliably with the notion of a creator God!
- Science has not disproved God. McGrath shows that Dawkins typically mocks all alternative views in defending science with anti-religious propaganda and hateful attacks on Christianity. Instead of being mutually exclusive, science and religion offer a complementarity in informing each other. However, neither can be refuted and both therefore resemble conventional religious belief systems, warranting cautious comparisons. Understanding the limits of science, though, assists Christians in confidently standing their ground against the polemical vitriol of Dawkins, which becomes the insubstantial filler for his own worldview gaps.
- Religion is not evil. Evil pervades humanity because of the stain of sin and is not confined to religious thought systems. To suggest that the brutality of Stalin or Hitler was not perpetrated in the name of atheism misses that fact that the actions of religious fanatics do not themselves denigrate the religions they misleadingly purport to represent. Dawkins’ risible caricature of religion neglects any concession to the many historical and social benefits of Christianity or any recognition of its transformative uniqueness when practised biblically. McGrath shows that Dawkins prefers to ridicule the Bible with misinformation and misrepresentation and to naively champion atheism as a morally superior alternative, as if to suppose the simplicity of his argument will wash with his readership.
McGrath’s book has been glowingly endorsed for its cogent rebuttal of Dawkins’ mischievous rhetoric. Philosophy professor, Michael Ruse, claims that McGrath has shown why Dawkins makes him embarrassed to be an atheist, whereas a famous geneticist, Francis Collins, suggests that Dawkins abandons “his much cherished rationality to embrace an embittered manifesto of dogmatic atheist fundamentalism.” McGrath summarises the Dawkins problem well when he says: “It is the confidence with which something is said that persuades, rather than the evidence offered in its support.” He concludes that atheism might actually be a delusion about God!