The God Delusion: Ten Years Out



We now stand ten years from what many internet atheists consider to be the tour de force of their perspective – Richard Dawkins’, The God Delusion. Likely no other book from what is called the New Atheist movement springs to mind as readily, and few have received as much attention from the media, or Christian apologists for that matter. It provided quick pithy responses for Dawkins’ followers that serve as party-lines to this day. Perhaps most famously, Dawkins asserts, “The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.”[1]  As bad as that sounds, of course, the charge only sticks (and some of them don’t make sense anyway) if one assumes that such a God does not actually exist to begin with (which kind of defeats the purpose), and that doctrine doesn’t matter (which, if God exists, it certainly does). It’s kind of like saying, “I can’t possibly believe heart surgeons exist, because it would be so bloody, violent, and wicked of them to cut open someone’s chest cavity.” As it turns out, heart surgeons are very much real. Even a child could understand that despite the blood and gore that seems somewhat violent, the man with the scalpel has good reasons for doing what he’s doing. In fact, it turns out to be a good and benevolent act. The same is true of the God of the Old Testament. However, that’s not really my focus.[2]


As has been pointed out by many other Christian critics, Dawkins is a biologist, not a philosopher, theologian or biblical scholar. Despite the fact that scientists are unduly praised as the clergy of our new secular era who have the answers to all possible mysteries and questions (see a podcast on that HERE), what a biologist has to say about philosophy, theology, origami, lawn care, or cooking, should carry no more weight than the opinions of any other reasonably well educated person. Thus, far from giving well-reasoned answers to time-tested cosmological, teleological and moral arguments, Dawkins misunderstands them at every turn. This is a flaw he shared with the late Christopher Hitchens (his antitheist brother in arms) who repeatedly misunderstood moral arguments for God’s existence to amount to the claim that atheists are incapable of making morally good choices (see the video HERE to watch him do this repeatedly throughout a two hour documentary, each time being corrected for it, and each time ignoring the correction). Dawkins’ answer, in fact the self-declared centerpiece of The God Delusion, boils down to one theological conundrum – “Who designed the designer?”[3]


Despite the fact that there is no logical problem with the concept of an uncreated Being, we might admit that this is a fair question. In fact, children ask this question often. Then they ask it as teenagers. If they still don’t have an answer, they ask it in freshman philosophy class. I dare say, though, that even the most secularized of liberal arts university philosophy professors are usually willing to present the answer to the question that plagues Dawkins – the principle question that presents a problem for theism, and in turn Christian belief. This means that Dawkins could have done a simple internet search, or to be a bit more scholarly, walked down the hallway to the philosophy department and asked them.


Richard Dawkins’ concern is the atheistic equivalent of the question, “If evolution is true, shouldn’t all the monkeys have turned into people by now?” it has about the same level of intellectual prowess to recommend it (which is to say, not much). You might expect a Christian apologist/seminarian to say something like that, but don’t take it upon my word. Take the words of noted atheist philosopher of science, Michael Ruse who says of Dawkins’ on this very point, “Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion would fail any introductory philosophy or religion course,” and, “I have written elsewhere that The God Delusion makes me ashamed to be an atheist. Let me say that again.”[4] Ruse’s response to Dawkins’ claim about the question of who made God is, “Let’s at least have the intellectual integrity to look at these things and look at the responses.”[5] By this he means, Christians have very scholarly answers to such questions, and skeptics should take those answers seriously. In fact, that is the point to which his criticism of The God Delusion reduces, “He just doesn’t take the things he’s talking about seriously.”[6]


In case anyone finds this article and hasn’t had the question that serves as the centerpiece of The God Delusion answered, let’s take care of that right now. First, it should be noted that the Kalam Cosmological Argument is often misquoted by atheists. Thus, the confusion abounds. The Kalam says,


1. Everything that begins to exist must have a cause for its existence.

2. The universe began to exist.

3. Therefore, the universe must have a cause for its existence.


Atheists going the Dawkins route say, “Aha, you said yourself, everything that exists must have a cause for its existence. If God exists, then He also has to have a cause. Your argument is weak!” Of course, this is to make a subtle, but important misstep. The argument does not say, “everything that exists must have a cause.” It says, “Everything that begins to exist must have a cause for its existence.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to correct this mistake (listen to me straighten this out with an atheistHERE).


Christian theology says that God is not a part of the created universe. Think of the Disney Pixar film, Toy Story. Who created the film? Perhaps, one might suggest, Buzz Lightyear, Woody, or Mr. Potato Head created the film. These options will not do, and in fact are ridiculous suggestions for one very good reason . . . they’re part of the created film. Computer designers, animators, screenwriters and a lot of other people were involved in the creation of the film, and they all have one thing in common – they stand outside of the Toy Story digitally created universe. In the same way, the cause of the universe cannot be a part of the universe (by this I mean the physical universe). Since the physical universe is made up of matter, space and. . .  time, the cause of the universe must not be in those same categories. Thus, the cause must be non-material, spaceless and . . . timeless.


Since God exists in what we might call “eternity” (and by this I do not mean everlasting, but a state of timelessness), He does not have a beginning. He could not have a beginning, because He does not exist in the physical universe of which time is a part. Time is a created thing. In fact, lest you think I’m infusing theological speculation, physicists understand that time is a part of the physical universe such that if there were no physical universe there would be no time (and, therefore, no beginnings or endings).[7] As should be clear, the sophomoric sneer, “Well, then who made GOD?” is not a conversation stopper.


In the end, Dawkins’ work will be remembered. However, in an odd turn of events, this is probably a good thing for Christian theism and a bad thing for atheism. I recall Norman Geisler once telling me that he reads atheist material for his devotions because it affirms his faith to see how weak their arguments are. Ten years out from The God Delusion, I must concur.


[1] Dawkins, Richard, The God Delusion, Great Britain: Bantam Press, 2006, 31.


[2] For further reading on this, I recommend Is God a Moral Monster, by Paul Copan. However, I should say that I do believe he goes overboard at times in trying to white-wash the Old Testament as if he’s readying it for resale at the local Christian bookstore. That said, it’s a great resource and is widely recommended as a response to what have come to be known as the atrocities of the Old Testament.

[3] Ibid. 157-158.

[4] Ruse, Michael, http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/scienceandthesacred/2009/08/why-i-think-the-new-atheists-are-a-bloody-disaster.html Accessed on August 1, 2016. Internet.

[5] Ruse, Michael, https://youtu.be/Hhzgg59bVLU Accessed on August 1, 2016. Internet.

[6] Ibid.

[7] For more on this, I recommend, Time and Eternity, by William Lane Craig. 

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