Monday, January 09, 2006

Beyond belief?

UK channel 4 are just running a programme's series by biologist and atheist Richard Dawkins, with the above tile. His thesis 'is religion the root of all evil? Ok that is I bet the TV take but for Dawkins religion is indeed a major root of evil and we must abandon it for rational science to stop wars killing and blood shed. Trouble is the some of the religious he showed (including a Christian mega church in Colorado springs) seriously backs up his argument.

trouble is I agree with his comments on the religion he showed us...But aware that it is finding the worst case to prove your point. Granted there are some toe curlingly awful Christians and I find myself ashamed of them and then maybe some fingers point my way too?

but I could create a programme in which atheism was the root of all evil, I would look at communists and their repression of religion and intellectual free speech or Dr mengle and awful experiments on humans viewed as mere animals. I might talk of capitalist business and the abuse of humanity in the name of market forces and then look at how religion has spawned care, teaching, indeed the science Dawkins lauds. But this would also be a one sided programme. In truth it s easy to set up straw men and knock them down. It is also easy dismiss those we see doing this and send down the good points with the half cocked shots.

I was left wanting to have Dawkins round to dinner. I bet he'd enjoy good wine and food and we might talk openly (yes I think we really might) I would try to get us to offer our best to each other and talk about that rather than offer our best to their worst. I am reminded of a Dietrich Bonhoeffers comment that so much Christian evangelism was 'sniffing around in other peoples rubbish bins looking to catch them out' and that we needed to meet people with faith at the points they were strong.

another thought. Tributes today in the UK to radical MP Tony Banks who died yesterday. Whatever you think ( and he is a controversial figure!) this quote hit home as wise. An Mp shared how when he was new TB took him on one side and said 'this is something really important to know, your opponents are those in the other parties but your enemies are always in your own party'. As I heard it I knew he could have been talking about religious groups, churches and groups within churches. I then remembered I am supposed to love my enemies. And I was also reminded that Paul wisely told us our struggles were not against people. I guess that even means that appalling pastor of that church in Colorado who lectured Dawkins on human arrogance as he delivered a master class in it himself. I asked myself which person here is undermining the work of Christ? I decided it was not Richard Dawkins, and then realized I was called to love them both.

I want to learn with Bonhoeffer to meet people, both my opponents and my enemies ;o) at the point heir are at their best, and meet them with love. Indeed this is perhaps the true heart if the Gospel


Andii said...

Madeleine Bunting's piece in the Guardian on Dawkins is worth a look. I picked it up here
I also pointed to the kind of atheism that I think is sustainable in postmodernity, that like John Gray espouses in Straw Dogs.

It's interesting to note that atheism is also facing a crisis in relating to pomo and beyond.

Brodie said...

Good to see you blogging again - there's much wisdom in what you say here.

Mike Kazybrid and Andrew Wooding said...

I would love to have Richard Dawkins round for dinner as well, providing he bring his wife, Lalla Ward.

She played the lovely Romana in Doctor Who and was once married to Tom Baker.

My favourite author, Douglas Adams, was a disciple of Richard Dawkins. Still can't figure out why.

Andrew Wooding

Sally said...

Great Blog Steve,
I like the Bonhoffer quote about sniffing around in other peoples really is time that we learned to affirm people in some of the things they say/do/beiieve and seek to move on from there!
Also eating together even if its a quick coffe and a danish put us in a relaxed and non-threatening setting

Kate Feld said...

Hi - Very thoughtful post. I was wondering if you'd have any objection to my adding On Earth... the blogroll on my site, I'm trying to put together a really complete manchester area blogroll there.


Steven Carr said...

If you want to meet people where they are, I am quite happy to set up a blog where we can discuss aspects of Christianity.

For example, it is very interesting that very early Christian churches, such as those in Thessalonica and Corinth, simply did not believe in bodily resurrection, and thought that the dead were lost.

How can this be, if they were evangelised with tales of resurrected Jesus eating fish , and tales of Moses returning from the grave to appear to the disciples?

To refute the earliest Chrostian beliefs, Paul never gives any examples of people being raised bodily from the dead, and states flat-out about Jesus - 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit'.

In an amusing twist on the Da Vinci story, 2nd century Christians had to forge a rewrite of 1 Corinthians 15 (called 3 Corinthians) to make Paul say that flesh would be resurrected.

Paul thought no such thing.

The real Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5 that our bodies would be destroyed.

The fake Paul wrote in 3 Corinthians 'he arose, body and flesh and soul and spirit'.

Who should we believe? The real Paul or the forged Paul?

Steve said...


interested to know the background to your understanding of the Corinthian and Thessalnican Churches and Paul's Corinthain correspondence.

there is certianly debate about the 2 letters scrioture contains because of the 'lost' letter that Paul might be refereing to in 2 Corinthians. some think that 2 Corinthians is a composite of two different letters with this 'lost' letter as part of it. i have not come accross suggestions though that a large section of 1 Corinthians is a 3rd letter as you seem to be suggesting. the only section i am awre of that is seriously problematic is the bit about wives and husbands where the crucial bit can be found at different place sin different manuscripts. so until i see good evidence to believe otherwise i think chapter 15 on the bodily resurrection is likely to be authentic Paul. he did of course talk of Spiritual bodies as opposed to earthly bodies but with Paul's usuall use of those phrases i think he is talking about the 'holiness/fullness' of those bodies not their tangebility. the language though is not totally clear. why are you intetested in this BTW?

Steven Carr said...

3 Corinthians is a forged letter found in the Acts of Paul.

It is basically a rewrite of 1 Corinthians 15, where the fake Paul is made to affirm a belief in the resurrection of corpses.

Steven Carr said...

Paul is clear that 'the last Adam became a life-giving spirit', and that the natural body is made of a different material to a spiritual body.

The flesh and the spirit are not saved together in Pauls' thought, as 1 Corinthians 5:5 makes clear.

Paul would have shared the view of the author of 1 Peter, who wrote 'All flesh is grass.' He also did not believe that flesh would be saved.

I recently debated the resurrection of Jesus on Premier Christian Radio.

Some thoughts on what Paul means can be found at