In his book The God Delusion, the new atheist Richard Dawkins asserts that Yahweh is truly a moral monster: “What makes my jaw drop is that people today should base their lives on such an appalling role model as Yahweh and even worse, that they should bossily try to force the same evil monster (whether fact or fiction) on the rest of us.”
In this particular blog, I would like to address a glaring inconsistency, which I mentioned in passing in an earlier blog. How can Dawkins launch any moral accusation at all? This is utterly inconsistent with his total denial of evil and goodness elsewhere:
If the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies . . . are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention . . . . The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind pitiless indifference.
In The Devil’s Chaplain, he asserts: "Science has no methods for deciding what is ethical. That is a matter for individuals and for society." If science alone gives us knowledge, as Dawkins claims (actually, this is scientism), then how can he deem Yahweh’s actions to be immoral?
First, contrary to assertions by the new atheists, who view biblical theism as the enemy, the Jewish-Christian Scriptures and the faith that they inspired have historically served as a moral compass for Western civilization, despite a number of notable deviations from Jesus’ teaching across the centuries (e.g., the Crusades, Inquisition). In fact, a number of recent works have made a strong case that biblical theism has served as a foundation for the West’s moral development. These include Alvin J. Schmidt, How Christianity Changed the World; Jonathan Hill, What Has Christianity Ever Done For Us? How It Shaped the Modern World; Rodney Stark, The Victory of Reason; and Dinesh Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity?
Second, despite the new atheists’ appeals to science, they ignore the profound influence of the Jewish-Christian worldview on the West’s scientific enterprise. Despite naturalists’ highjacking the foundations of science as their own, physicist Paul Davies sets forth the simple truth: "Science began as an outgrowth of theology, and all scientists, whether atheists or theists . . . accept an essentially theological worldview".
Third, the new atheists somehow gloss over the destructive atheistic ideologies that have led to far greater loss of human life within one century than religion (let alone Christendom ) with its wars, Inquisitions, and witch trials. Dinesh D. Souza notes this "indisputable fact" : "all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. . . . . Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history."
Fourth, we can certainly agree with the claim of the new atheists that we can know objective moral truths without the Bible or belief in God. (Amos 1-2 and Romans 2:14-15 make this clear: those without special revelation can recognize basic moral truths. The appendix to C.S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man further illustrates this point.) We are still left to how human value and dignity could emerge given naturalism’s valueless, mindless, materialistic origins. If, on the other hand, humans are made in the divine image and are morally constituted to reflect God in certain ways, then atheists as well as theists can recognize objective right and wrong and human dignity again, without the assistance of special revelation. But the atheist is still left without a proper metaphysical context for affirming such moral dignity and responsibility. As it turns out, despite all of Dawkins’ moral indignation toward theism, naturalism seems to be morally pretentious in claiming the moral high ground, though without any metaphysical basis for doing so. No, biblical theism, with its emphasis on God’s creating humans in his image, is our best hope for grounding objective moral values and human dignity and worth.