My book Why Religions Work explores religious tolerance issues. It could not be more relevant at the moment with the world in its present state.
This blog has concentrated recently on the wonderful pilgrimages I have been on - to the Holy Land and to Turkey and more recently to Holy Georgia , Greece "In the Steps of St Paul" , Ethiopia and most recently my experiences in Iran.

"If I was allowed another life I would go to all the places of God's Earth. What better way to worship God than to look on all his works?" from The Chains of Heaven: an Ethiopian Romance Philip Marsden

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Doing God - Dawkins and his Foundation for Reason and Science part 1

Well well the latest Mori poll commissioned by Richard Dawkins for his Foundation for Reason and Science has created quite a stir. Of course the whole purpose behind what he is doing is to trash religion in all its guises - his militant fundamentalist mission- not just in his native UK but across the world - but here he is specifically attacking the idea that Britain is a Christian country because he doesn't like the idea of faith schools, bishops in the House of Lords, and presumably prayers at public meetings, etc etc. These latest polls (there are two actually) prove, he says, that we are not a Christian country, so we should just stop pretending that we are - and he is visibly crowing from the rooftops.
In typical Dawkins' style he accentuates the bits he wants to, and in places as usual demonstrates a complete lack of understanding where religion and faith are concerned.

For today I just want to take one of the poll results:

Out of the 1136 people interviewed - (not a huge sample - I wonder how they were selected) - who say they were listed as Christian in the 2011 Census (or who would have been if they had answered the question for themselves), the poll found that more Christians oppose (38%) than support (31%) the teaching of 6-day creationism in state-funded school science lessons. (What's the problem anyway if it is just taught as one possible idea with all the pros and cons set out?) What is Dawkins trying to prove here? That we don't know our own faith?
Now one of the refreshing things about Christians and Christianity is that we are humble enough to admit that very often we simply do not know, we do not have all the answers.
Why is Christianity threatened by this particular item in the poll? Goodness knows. Why include the question? Because this is one of Dawkins' favourite themes for ridiculing all matters religious, as if each and everyone of us, if we believe in God at all, has to accept Creationism.
Actually, something like 6 out of every 10 people in America do not believe in the literal translation of the Genesis creation in the Old Testament either but that doesn't make them all atheists. The scientific evidence for evolution by natural selection is overwhelming, and now genetic science and molecular biology strengthen the case, but that doesn't prevent us believing in God, and it is not a reason for Dawkins gloating.
Although I might share his alarm that in spite of the now incontestable evidence otherwise, the other 4 out of every 10 Americans do presumably believe in Creationism.

In 2011 there was dissent and fury amongst American Creationist Christians. Professor John Schneider was forced to retire from Calvin College in Michigan, a Christian university, because he suggested that it was becoming ever harder to believe literally in Adam and Eve, and the concept of Original Sin and the Garden of Eden.
The atheists and the media, anxious to illustrate the continuing stupidity of so many Christians who won’t allow men such as Schneider to honestly develop their thoughts and speak their minds without sacrificing their careers, pounce upon stories such as this.
But we would do well to remember that the original 1920’s Creationism was simply anti-Darwin and ran out of steam with the death of William Bryan, the movement’s passionate campaigner. Then in the 1960’s a new variant was born, within the Young Earth Creationists, who teach that the earth is less than 10,000 years old and that all things were made by God in six literal 24-hour days.  
That is sad, because it is this movement that gives so much fuel to the angry atheists, who then tar all Christians with the same brush. The atheists cannot believe the supposed ignorance of the followers of a faith based as they see it on fairy tales and myths. Which in itself ignores the provenance of many of the sacred texts. 

What is interesting is that Darwin himself, always thoughtful about the possible problems with his theory of evolution by natural selection, was nonetheless clear that it did not make atheism inevitable. “It seems to me absurd to doubt that a man may be an ardent Theist and an evolutionist,” he wrote towards the end of his life.(1) He was never an atheist himself, going from Christianity to theism to agnosticism during his lifetime. But he was always courteous and respectful to anyone who disagreed with his views, willing always to listen openly to other ideas. Now we could do with much more of that kind of dialogue, sadly missing in many of our debates and conversations today. 

(1) see Spencer, Nick and Alexander, Denis, Rescuing Darwin: God and Evolution in Britain Today, Theos, London, 2009), an excellent little book that explains clearly and succinctly why evolution is wholly compatible with a religious understanding of the universe.

The beautiful cathedral is at Exeter


  1. Evidence for eveolution is not overwhelming as the method has yet to be proven. I can line up a series of watches and clocks and claim one eveolved from the other...or I could if it wasn't for the makers of watches and clocks.

    We can see the bones that are millions of years old, but we can't see the factory or the process that caused the changes. For all we know, it could be god experimenting and/or changing things to get the planet right in the same way that we tend our gardens.

    As for Dawkins he's more interested in book sales and his reputation than anything else.

    1. I wish you were right about Dawkins - I fear his agenda is greater than simply book sales and reputation.