Richard Dawkins' response to suggestions he may actually be converting people to Christ: 'Oh dear'
Everyone's favourite atheist, Richard Dawkins, is rarely out of the press and today's been back in it again over the suggestion he may have inadvertently converted people to the faith.
It all stems from an article written by Judith Babarsky a few weeks ago on the Dead Philosophers website in which she said that Dawkins' bestselling book The God Delusion was "so ill-informed" about Jesus that it inspired her to find out the truth about him elsewhere.
In summing up her view on it, she quotes one Amazon reviewer who gave their verdict in the following terms:
"I started reading this thinking that I might read a logical, skeptical, nay scientific critique of religion. Instead, I found something right out of a Boston Globe editorial on a bad day: strings of pejorative adjectives pretending to be argument, bald assertion pretending to be evidence, an incredibly arrogant attitude, and a stance of moral equivalence incapable of distinguishing between the possible strengths and weaknesses of different religions, including the militant atheism Dawkins advocates. This is not academic analysis, it is bad journalism."
Babarsky's article was spread further afield by Telegraph blogger and Catholic Damian Thompson in an amusing blog post in The Telegraph, "Is Richard Dawkins leading people to Jesus?", in which he shared about a friend named Michael who returned to Catholicism thanks to Dawkins' ideas in The God Delusion being "total crap".
Dawkins is one of the most outspoken atheists and appears to relish being the arch nemesis of Christians, if in a slightly cartoon villain kind of way.
The chatter today over whether he is indeed converting people to faith in Christ hasn't been lost on him and, as convinced of his own views as ever, he tweeted later today:
"Oh dear, The God Delusion converted someone's friend Michael to Christianity. RT if it had the opposite effect on you."
He included a link to a post by Why Evolution Is True blogger Dr Jerry A Coyne playing down the conversion stories by insisting that Michael's atheism "must have been pretty shaky to begin with".
"Even if he didn't like the lack of sophisticated theology in that book, it's hard for me to see anything there that would drive someone into the arms of Jesus," he writes.
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Others have dipped into the conversation too, with the Reverend Richard Coles suggesting in his tweet that the exchange is working both way: "@RichardDawkins I expect my sermons have sent a few of ours your way."
Meanwhile Deputy Editor of the Catholic Herald, Ed West, has written a blog response explaining why in spite of the God-bashing, he loves Richard Dawkins.
He cites Dawkins' The Selfish Gene as "one of the books of our age" that had a "profound" influence on him as a young teenager.
West even goes as far as to enthuse that Dawkins "makes me feel proud to be British".
"Not because he's won theProspect thinker of the year award, but rather his sheer eccentricity," he says.
But tributes aside, West raises thoughtful questions about Dawkins' rationale and the way people react to what he is saying.
"What's weak about his argument is that he's assuming that people are necessarily rational, when they're not; if you removed everyone who held irrational beliefs, then most publications would struggle to fill their offices. Election counts would be very short indeed ... I'd be very surprised if Professor Dawkins was free of irrationality; let he who is without sin cast the first stone and everything."
He continues: "What's strange is that so many people who had nothing to say to years of Dawkins slamming Christianity now act offended that he's criticising Islam more vocally. There's even this absurd recent argument over whether New Atheism is "Islamophobic". The man dislikes all religion; he wrote a book called The God Delusion – the key's in the title!"
Whatever our views about Dawkins and his vocal protestations against the existence of God and the logic of religion, the timing of this conversation is impeccable as Christians get ready to mark Easter in the hope that as many people as possible will put their hope in Christ - or at least give Jesus and His claims some thought.