William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Richard Dawkins Turns Gideon?

Today a story which falls under Bets You Would Have Lost. Angry atheist (sounds like a board game) Richard Dawkins said he would have “contributed financially to the scheme” of passing out free King James bibles to U.K. students had somebody contacted him about it. Not only that, but he said he was “a little shocked” that the tots did not already have the bibles.

And not only that, but he, in a rare non-sarcastic voice, hopes that the kiddies actually read the bibles!

All this from a man who likened religion to child abuse. But don’t fret about that judgment or worry about hypocrisy because Dawkins conjoins his religion-equals-child-abuse meme with the belief that rape, child abuse, and other sins against the body are morally “arbitrary.”

By which he means that the raw emotions which tell us these acts are “wrong” were placed in our brains by selfish genes operating under the pressures of evolution, and as such these emotions are able to be suppressed (as he would have religious impulses suppressed) with the application of Reason. Women—let her that readeth understand—should not ride in elevators with Dawkins in case he forgets to switch on his Reason Center.

His stance does make it sound odd that he would have England’s children read the bible to learn about morality, however. He said he would have the bible read because the bible “is not a moral book and young people need to learn that important fact because they are frequently told the opposite.”

According to the Guardian, Dawkins says, “I have heard the cynically misanthropic opinion that without the Bible as a moral compass people would show no restraint against murder, theft and mayhem. The surest way to disabuse yourself of this pernicious falsehood is to read the Bible itself.”

Two things may be gleaned. The first, that Dawkins believes the bible is filled with advice on how to murder, steal, and run amok, or that, while it contains stories on these matters, it does not condemn them. The second is that these actions are all, to him, morally arbitrary anyway, belonging to a non-Enlightened, and possible earlier evolutionary, past.

But never mind! As it is he supports fully the plan created by Education Secretary Michael Gove to distribute the books and to have the children learn from them. Not all his co-anti-religionists agree with Dawkins. The National Secular Society is—are you ready?—outraged (isn’t everybody?) and says the plan favors Christianity. They have (selectively? purposely? in pure ignorance?) forgotten their culture also historically favored that religion.

An old story has a lady saying to a prominent philosopher that she did not see why anybody should read the bible or Shakespeare since they were both filled with cliches. Like this lady, Dawkins is aware that much of our language was shaped by King James’s effort, just as he knows how important that translation is to Western history. He would have the bible read for these reasons.

Dawkins was spot on when he said, “Ecclesiastes…is one of the glories of English literature,” though the New Testament is (mostly) a closed book for him. It’s selective (snarky) quotations from the Old Testament all the way. He even managed yesterday to work in an allusion that ancient Jews were Nazis. Don’t believe this? He said, “It was perfectly fine — indeed strongly encouraged throughout the Pentateuch — to kill Canaanites, Midianites, Jebusites, Hivites etc, especially if they had the misfortune to live in the Promised Lebensraum.”

Ah, Richard. Your selfish memes have taken over what you falsely believed to be your consciousness. Don’t worry. It’s not your fault. There’s no “you” there to carry fault anyway. “You” are just a mass of unthinking proteins, blood, and no guts (Dawkins still hides from a man called William Lane Craig). Besides, given the state of our world, nobody will notice “your” faux pas.

But never mind! We should celebrate that an enemy to religion like Dawkins is now friendly to the idea of kids reading the bible. Some of these kiddies may adopt Dawkins’s imaginatively lurid theology, it’s true, but more (I predict) will take away something better. Some will even come across this verse, which has eluded Dawkins’s glance: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

Update For Briggs. Remember we are all ladies and gentlemen in the comments. No name calling is allowed.

46 Comments

  1. This is perhaps your only anti-atheistic diatribe that I cannot even begin to parse in an intelligible manner. Is it a hit job on Dawkins? A personal vendetta against a single man? However, you seem to agree with him here and there, and to disagree where it is expectable anyway.

    So where’s the juice? Running out of good stories, mr Briggs? Or did your recent abortion canadian regurgitating tweet smashed your grey cells for the moment?

    Perhaps just a bad monday. I know mondays sometimes do this kind of thing, so I sympathize.

    In real world news, #FB is taking a beating. Just as I predicted friday.

  2. Luis: It’s not a hit job. It’s an examination of Dawkins’ internal inconsistencies and studied ignorance.

  3. @Luis: The title alone gives away a story. Comparing Dawkins’ contradicting statements of “religion is child abuse” and “all children should read the Bible” fleshes that story out. I saw nothing particularly “anti-theistic” in this post, though it certainly wasn’t too friendly towards Dawkins. Perhaps that was a side-effect of a story revolving around a contradiction in his attitudes (and with reality in several ways).

    I can’t imagine what sort of story would come out of praising such contradictions, but I’d be interested to see the response…

  4. Luis, what does this mean: “Or did your recent abortion canadian regurgitating tweet smashed your grey cells for the moment?”?

  5. “while it contains stories on these matters, it does not condemn them.”

    Condone, CONDONE! Methinks you need an editor for these things.

  6. Joshua, there is no contradiction at all. Knowledge of an historical book that is indeed quite important for our culture’s formation is not equal to being “religiously brainwashed”. If you believe that most believers do not actually know the bible they supposedly “revere”, and if you believe that the bible itself is filled with immoral teachings, and if further you also believe that most people has some “good sense”, then actually reading the bible (and not being “schooled” by priests) is the surest way to turn you into an atheist.

    I’ll give you an analogy. It is often been said that the difference between an anti-communist and a communist is that the former has actually read Marx (and understood it).

    Dawkins has been saying this all along, and I don’t see any contradiction here. Only nitpickers of the worst sort (the ones who are easily entertained by weasel rethorics) would say so. Daniel Dennett, for instance, is a huge supporter of comparative religion studies (for everyone), so that everyone has the knowledge of what all the major religions are for.

    You can say anything you want of these people (I really don’t care too much about Dawkins), but calls for “inconsistency” are laughable here. Learn your “opponents” better.

  7. By “religiously brainwashed” do you mean “raised by Christians in a Christian atmosphere”? Should we apply this terminology universally so that someone “raised by atheists in an atheistic atmosphere” might likewise be “atheistically brainwashed”? In either case, in my opinion, at least the children are raised by parents.

    This is beside the point. I’ve not argued that reading Marx or the Bible or any such literature is child abuse. But if spreading such material is really a positive thing (for the purposes of ‘comparative religion’, which is to my knowledge and experience is another way of saying ‘religion from a non-religious point of view’), one must wonder why national secular organizations oppose it. There is a contradiction here, whether you see it or not. Dawkins calls religious upbringing a form of child abuse but suggests children should read the Bible that contains the tenets of that faith. I agree with Briggs’ conclusion:

    “Some of these kiddies may adopt Dawkins’s imaginatively lurid theology, it’s true, but more (I predict) will take away something better. Some will even come across this verse, which has eluded Dawkins’s glance: “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

    It is simply strange that Dawkins would make such a jump as this, especially considering fellow atheists and organizations do not and what he equates religious upbringing with (which in many cases involves this very activity of reading the Bible). However, if such a jump is appropriate, maybe a more important question is considering what exactly “comparative religion” coursework entails and why extremely vocal and borderline militant atheists support it.

  8. I suppose to answer my own question: perhaps an atheist would only support one of the primary activities of religious upbringing (that being the reading of Scripture) if that activity was done with the intent to disparage the material instead of considering it for inclusion in one’s worldview.

  9. I remember reading his Blind Watchmaker back in college. I wasn’t sure what I’d do if the book actually convinced me that God was a non-scientific idea: would I be intellectually dishonest?

    Fortunately for my mental health, the book was laughable. Most chapters had a ridiculously naive illustration in them that showed Dawkins was either illogical or so blinded by dogma that he couldn’t see obvious holes and shortcomings. Not that everything in the book was wrong, but he certainly showed that he did not have a well-reasoned argument.

    At that point, he was presenting himself as a skeptic, and was not yet the over-the-top hater that he is today. I got the impression that he must’ve been teased by kids in his church youth group and decided that being smarter and proving that their hypocritical faith was an illusion was his revenge.

  10. Joshua–

    The Bible, as a foundational literary text, should be required reading for all Westerners. Belief in its message or its divinity is something else entirely.

  11. “religious brainwashing” is not my term, I will not defend it, Joshua. You take it to Dawkins himself. The question here is not if this terminology is correct or not, but if Dawkins is being coherent or not. If you cannot see the difference between tendentially objective knowledge and propaganda (even if done by parents or general culture), then the problem lies on your end, not mine.

    I suppose to answer my own question: perhaps an atheist would only support one of the primary activities of religious upbringing (that being the reading of Scripture) if that activity was done with the intent to disparage the material instead of considering it for inclusion in one’s worldview.

    No, merely non cherry picked learning (the quotation by Briggs is just the most facepalmish example of that) of it would suffice to me. I’m as eager to learn the beauties of the Bible (I have it in my home and enjoy reading it myself time to time) as I’m eager to learn its atrocities. Both are product of man, and I should not deprive myself to learn these two facets of mankind, or I’ll get a really biased and twisted (dare I say “brainwashed”?) point of view on the matter.

    If you know what I mean. Wink wink.

  12. Both are product of man, and I should not deprive myself to learn these two facets of mankind, or I’ll get a really biased and twisted (dare I say “brainwashed”?) point of view on the matter.

    One consequence could end up being taking its source material of being “divinely inspired”, for instance. Now that would be a grave mistake.

  13. I did compare Moses and Hitler once upon a time. Hitler tried to eradicate people’s. Moses didn’t just try, he succeeded.

    Whether or not he really succeeded is a completely different question. There are names of tribes that no longer exist. Were those real names of real tribes, because I think they only exist in the bounds of the Pentateuch.

    Jesus is descended of David. Statistically though I wonder if there was a person on the planet who wasn’t descended from David. Females were included in the lineal heritage of Jesus so they weren’t completely ignorant of maternal delineation.

    It is too easy to get into “us” and “them” discussions and start hating “them”. Dawkins work isn’t as feeble in my mind as what passes for “studies” these days. He is suffering from Media Focus Issues. Trying to keep a coherent message without obfuscating is challenging. Start waffling and people will glory in the waffle.

    I suspect that most of us would appear to be some level of Dick if we got to the point that we were being hounded all the time.

  14. Matt,

    Even though Dawkins may have wondered aimlessly here, he gave you something to write about, which means it wasn’t completely worthless.

    I would rather read your rants than Dawkins’ right now.

    You don’t have to worry too much about diluting your brand.

  15. @Luis Dias:

    Since you are an arrogant fool, let us assume that you think that you play-test without being eaten live by your ‘sub-consciousness’.

    Give yourself to the Devil, to do with as he-they chooses. Out loud.

    Go on. I dare you.

    Oh, I’ve asked Father to not let you easily escape them, once their claws are in you. But that’s just mindlessness on my part, right?

    Go on. Or shut up.

  16. Richard Dawkins Renounces Darwinism As Religion
    Monday, 17 March 2008, 9:52 pm
    Article: Suzan Mazur

    Richard Dawkins Renounces Darwinism As Religion And Embraces Form

    Atheist evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins spoke to a packed auditorium at Manhattan’s Ethical Culture Society Saturday night about his best-selling book, The God Delusion , admitting in a Q&A that followed being “guilty” of viewing Darwinism as a kind of religion and vowing to “reform” (no one was allowed to tape Dawkins’ confession, however, with organizers of the event threatening to march offenders around the corner to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints)
    http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL0803/S00270.htm

    Grand Idiots of Science
    http://thesciencenetwork.org/docs/TheConversationContinues.pdf

    Double-Dealing in Darwin
    Are intellectuals allowing dogma in science but not in religion?

    The history of evolutionary thought shows that it has long been more than just a scientific hypothesis. For Erasmus Darwin, Charles Darwin’s grandfather, it was an upward march through the animal kingdom, leading to humankind: a progressive vision, endorsing and justifying the British success in the Industrial Revolution, and rivaling the then-prevalent Christian Providentialism. Far from needing God’s grace, Erasmus Darwin believed, the forward arrow of evolution proved that humans can go it alone. It wasn’t just that natural selection theory had to be proven; theology had to be disproven, too.
    Similar views were held by “Darwin’s bulldog,” the late 19th century biologist and science-popularizer Thomas Huxley. Seeking a secular alternative to the Anglican establishment that he and others saw as opposing the social reforms required by mid-Victorian Britain, Huxley actively promoted evolution as the new religion for the new age. In a deliberate echo of Biblical language, he implored us to sit down before facts as a little child, and be guided by our senses. He was known in the contemporary press as “Pope Huxley.”
    Today, likewise, we see that evolutionism has its priests and devotees. Entomologist and sociobiologist Edward O. Wilson of Harvard University tells us that the “evolutionary epic is mythology,” depending on laws that are “believed but can never be definitively proved,” taking us “backward through time to the beginning of the universe.” Wilson knows that any good religion must have its moral dimension, and so he urges us to promote biodiversity, to amend our original sin of despoiling the earth. There is an apocalyptic ring to Wilson’s writings, and in true dispensationalist style, he warns that there is but a short time before all collapses into an ecological Armageddon. Repent! The time is near!
    http://www.beliefnet.com/News/Science-Religion/2000/01/Double-Dealing-In-Darwin.aspx?p=1

    Priests in lab coats
    Philosopher Michael Ruse is an ardent evolutionist who thinks creationism is claptrap. So why is he accusing atheistic scientists like Richard Dawkins of being as religious as born-again Bible thumpers?
    http://www.salon.com/2005/08/06/ruse/

    The New Divinity
    By Julian Huxley

    Many people assert that this abandonment of the god hypothesis means the abandonment of all religion and all moral sanctions. This is simply not true. But it does mean, once our relief at jettisoning an outdated piece of ideological furniture is over, that we must construct some thing to take its place.
    Though gods and God in any meaningful sence seem destined to disappear, the stuff of divinity out of which they have grown and developed remains. This religious raw material consists of those aspects of nature and those experiences which are usually described as divine. Let me remind my readers that the term divine did not originally imply the existence of gods: on the contrary, gods were constructed to interprete man’s experiences of this quality.
    Some events and some phenomena of outer nature transcend ordinary explanation and ordinary experience. They inspire awe and seem mysterious, explicable only in terms of something beyond or above ordinary nature.
    http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/jh_divin.htm

    Sir Julian Huxley (1887-1975)

    He saw Humanism as a replacement ‘religion’, and as such represented an important strand in post-war humanist thought. In a speech given to a conference in 1965 he spoke of the need for “a religiously and socially effective system of humanism.” And in his book Religion Without Revelation, he wrote:

    “What the sciences discover about the natural world and about the origins, nature and destiny of man is the truth for religion. There is no other kind of valid knowledge. This natural knowledge, organized and applied to human fulfilment, is the basis of the new and permanent religion.” The book ends with the concept of “transhumanism”– “man remaining man, but transcending himself by realizing new possibilities of and for his human nature”.
    http://www.humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanist-tradition/20century/sir-julian-huxley

  17. Give yourself to the Devil, to do with as he-they chooses. Out loud.

    Go on. I dare you.

    Oh, I’ve asked Father to not let you easily escape them, once their claws are in you. But that’s just mindlessness on my part, right?

    Go on. Or shut up.

    Come on. Your Poe’s Law charade is long time overdue my friend.

    Not that I don’t enjoy it. Your comments give the chatter on this blog a quite hilarious flavor. Perhaps you’ll find this offensive, and for that I am sorry, but you do your comic relief role pretty well.

    In the odd (really odd) case you are actually serious, you’d probably do well and think a little before advising atheists to “give themselves to the Devil”… that makes as much sense as giving myself to dear old Santa, with a poor taste added to effect. I’ll rather give myself to my wife and kids, if you don’t mind. I find them a lot more interesting and loving than either of your metaphysical delusions.

  18. brent:

    Richard Dawkins Renounces Darwinism As Religion And Embraces Form

    You’d do well in reading the whole of the article, as it contains Dawkins’ answer of the question of form and genes on his point of view. This whole “darwinism as religion” mantra really annoys me.

    Of course, a scientific hypothesis that shatters a religious point of view will be seen by the die-hard fans of these religions as “competing” with their own worldviews, and if it has a deep tone of atheism (Dawkins even says so), it must therefore be true that Darwinism is an ideology that stemmed from atheism. This idea is utterly rubbish. If a scientific theory of this sort is found to explain so well the world around us, this clash would be bound to happen, and would not render it false or “ideological”.

    What we can say is that the reaction to it is, though, pretty ideological, on both camps. Creationists will tell you that darwinism must be false because it denies god, while die-hard darwinists will tell you you are a fool for remaining a theist when you accepted the fact of evolution, for it deprives theism of its greatest argument ever invented (and creates a whole batch of insolvable problems for theism).

    Another big mistake you are quoting (perhaps you do not share this vision, but still a mistake) is the notion that accepting evolution as the official history of mankind will grant us a “transhumanist” vision. It should do nothing of the sort. “Evolution” in this sense is a misnomer. Natural Selection does not guarantee “improvements”, it guarantees variety in the solutions of life towards its environments, and within this variety, complex creatures seem to emerge from the pool of possibilities. However, there is no guarantee in any sort that mankind will “evolve” positively (whatever that means). The only thing we can guarantee is that things will definitely change.

  19. I get it… Hungry Hippo!

    Dawkins is a bit of dick at times but he’s one of my favourite people. He needs me with him to make sure he doesn’t say something stupid.

  20. Evolutionary Psychology and our Mythical Dark Nature

    Morality too Abhors a Vacuum

    http://www.gwu.edu/~ccps/rcq/issues/8-4.pdf

  21. An interview with Michael Ruse

    Has this conflict turned evolutionary biology into a secular religion? You note that even Richard Dawkins calls himself a zealot now.

    I don’t think so. In a way, as you will have seen from my answer above, I think it has always been a secular religion, and one of the great achievements of professional evolutionists (like R. A. Fisher and Theodosius Dobzhansky) was to make it possible to have an evolutionary biology that was not a secular religion.
    snip

    In the 20th century we have people like Julian Huxley and, today, Edward O. Wilson, who I would say treat evolution as a secular religion. Not just this—they were/are professional scientists—but at least in part they are secular humanists with evolution at the center of their theology. It gives a world picture, it gives moral directives, and so forth. Then we have Christians like Dobzhansky and Teilhard de Chardin, for whom evolution is part and parcel of their Christianity—today we have someone like Jack Haught, the theologian at Georgetown University.

    Dawkins is an interesting case. If being deeply interested in and committed to these various issues counts as religious—as well as having strong moral feelings (especially about the wickedness of existing religion)—then I would say he is religious. He reminds me a bit of Calvin. More than this, he clearly thinks that his Darwinism is incompatible with Christianity, so it does have theological implications. On the other hand, he does not want to tie in the course of nature with morality—as did Julian Huxley and as does Ed Wilson—so I would be hesitant to call him a secular humanist or whatever, as I would them
    http://www.americanscientist.org/bookshelf/id.3533,content.true,css.print/bookshelf.aspx

    The New Divinity
    By Julian Huxley
    I believe that an equally drastic reorganization of our pattern of religious thought is now becoming necessary, from a god-centered to an evolutionary-centered pattern
    http://www.update.uu.se/~fbendz/library/jh_divin.htm

    Crispin Tickell

    Huxley family tree (partial)
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huxley_family

    Welcome to the website of Sir Crispin Tickell. This website has been created as an archive of his many writings – essays, book reviews, articles, lectures and speeches, on subjects ranging from climate change to global governance.
    We are now delighted to have on this website the full text of Climatic Change and World Affairs, one of the first books to highlight the dangers of human-induced global climate change. The book was first published in 1977, and republished in a revised and extended second edition in 1986. Both editions are to our knowledge out-of-print.
    http://www.crispintickell.com/

    Now you come from an Anglo-Irish family. Your great, great grandfather was T H Huxley – Aldous Huxley was in your background too. Now this is a legacy of seriously thoughtful, intellectual address, isn’t it?

    Well T H Huxley was in many respects one of my heroes. Aldous was as well. In fact I think if anybody had any influence on me during my adolescence, it was Aldous Huxley. And I remember going to lunch with him and he asked me what essay I was writing that day for my history teacher. And I replied it was about the relations between the Pope and the Emperor. And he sort of took a deep breath, and for about 15 minutes he spoke about the secular versus the spiritual power. And I really sat back, staggered by what I heard, because he illuminated every aspect of this immensely complicated and still continuing problem, and I found it fascinating. When I sat down afterwards to try and write my essay, I was hardly able to write a word.
    http://www.crispintickell.com/page65.html

    Aldous Huxley 1962 U.C. Berkeley Speech on “The Ultimate Revolution
    http://publicintelligence.net/aldous-huxley-1962-u-c-berkeley-speech-on-the-ultimate-revolution/

    Religion and the Environment
    Lecture delivered to “The Earth our destiny” conference, Portsmouth Cathedral, 2002-11-30

    Environment is the stuff of religion, and religion is the stuff of the environment. Their relationship once went without saying. Yet we live at a time when they are being prised apart.
    snip
    This may be enough for some people. It was not enough for T. H. Huxley’s grandson Julian, who embarked on a search for religion without revelation, or E. O. Wilson who has since developed the concepts of scientific materialism and the evolutionary epic as substitutes for religion. Others have made similar efforts in the same direction. But none has reached anywhere near the human core. Some people may not believe in God, but most people want to believe in something.
    http://www.crispintickell.com/page18.html

    Nigel Lawson: Global warming has turned into religion

    Lawson was Chancellor when Crispin Tickell, then British Ambassador to the UN, convinced Prime Minister Thatcher that man-made global warming was a problem. Despite Tickell lacking any scientific background (he read history at university) Mrs Thatcher took the population campaigner’s views seriously enough to make a landmark speech on global warming. This led to the foundation of a branch of the Met Office, the Hadley Centre at Exeter, to study the issue. It remains one of the three leading climate institutes.
    http://thegwpf.org/uk-news/151-nigel-lawson-climate-science-has-turned-into-religion.html

    Richard Lindzen: The Perversion Of Science

    Andrew Montford provides a straightforward and unembellished chronology of the perversion not only of The Royal Society but of science itself, wherein the legitimate role of science as a powerful mode of inquiry is replaced by the pretence of science to a position of political authority.
    http://thegwpf.org/opinion-pros-a-cons/4936-richard-lindzen-the-perversion-of-science.html

  22. Gosh! Gideon (aka Dawkins). Now that Joshua has weighed in, all that’s missing is Jericho. The walls have come down but the trumpeting and battle continues.

    I can see that reading the OT without the NT for contrast might give someone strange ideas. Or maybe not, Dawkins has some odd ones and he’s likely read both.

  23. How did I know Luis would be on this thread ranting as usual.

  24. “religious brainwashing” is not my term, I will not defend it, Joshua. You take it to Dawkins himself. The question here is not if this terminology is correct or not, but if Dawkins is being coherent or not. If you cannot see the difference between tendentially objective knowledge and propaganda (even if done by parents or general culture), then the problem lies on your end, not mine.

    You were the person to use the term, so I don’t know why you -wouldn’t- defend it, at least to make its usage valid. Again, if ‘brainwashing’ involves reading the Bible, then Dawkins contradicts himself, which is entirely the point.

    Now, previously, you indicated that being ‘brainwashed’ meant more than this (again, I’m not sure why you don’t defend the term after defining it and explaining it):

    If you believe that most believers do not actually know the bible they supposedly “revere”, and if you believe that the bible itself is filled with immoral teachings, and if further you also believe that most people has some “good sense”, then actually reading the bible (and not being “schooled” by priests) is the surest way to turn you into an atheist.

    I believe that most believers don’t believe what they say they believe. To summarize the mouthful: It is just as much a cultural statement as it is a truly religious statement to say “I am a Christian” in the United States. Most people also call themselves “Americans” without being able to really give a good summary of American history and government.

    But yes. I agree. If you read the Bible as an atheist (and presume it to be filled with immoral teachings), you will likely remain an atheist. Preconceived notions are seldom shattered when someone keeps their mind closed.

    No, merely non cherry picked learning (the quotation by Briggs is just the most facepalmish example of that) of it would suffice to me. I’m as eager to learn the beauties of the Bible (I have it in my home and enjoy reading it myself time to time) as I’m eager to learn its atrocities. Both are product of man, and I should not deprive myself to learn these two facets of mankind, or I’ll get a really biased and twisted (dare I say “brainwashed”?) point of view on the matter.

    I’ve never really bought into the claim that people just ‘enjoy reading the Bible for its beauty’. Perhaps you are an exception, but I usually hear claims like this from people who couldn’t tell me the first thing about what it says. It certainly sounds intelligent, so I understand why people say it.

    I don’t read Aristotle or Plato or Augustine for the ‘beauty of it’ or to learn of ‘the atrocities’ any of them may have written have. I read them to evaluate them. To see if my worldview needs to be altered by their arguments. Such work, if looked at as art, is missed entirely. The Bible was not written as a tapestry but a documentary. It is not to be enjoyed as art even if it is artistic. It is to be viewed plainly as either fact or fiction and it deserves real judgement and not reading for the sake of feeling intelligent.

    The bias and twist does not come from reading without preconceived notions, as no human being could do so. Those problems enter into the equation when you don’t realize preconceived notions exist which cause you to view it as nothing more than a piece of human art.

  25. Given the fact that up until now I’ve considered Prof. Briggs one of the smartest bloggers around, it’s rather disappointing to read this rather shambolic rant of an article. If you want to do a Dawkins Deconstruction of some type, that’s fine by me. But seriously, this piece was full of straw men, non sequiturs and numerous other failings.

  26. Joshua,

    I don’t know about you but I find it nearly impossible to read anything without some preconceived notion. Frankly, I’m not inclined to believe you read the Bible this way then found yourself persuaded by its argument. Maybe you did but it’s hard to believe.

    Here’s what makes me suspicious: you encounter someone who has read the Bible and has come away with a viewpoint that differs from yours, ergo, they must have started with some preconceived (and, obviously by extension, incorrect) idea.

    Furthermore, It is not to be enjoyed as art even if it is artistic.! Really? Surely you meant it wasn’t intended as a work of art. Even so, how is somehow seeing it as such a misuse?

  27. @DAV:

    I meant what I said and I said what I meant. I did not say I am without preconceived notions. I did say that the Bible is not to be enjoyed as art and I meant it, in context. If the Bible is viewed as merely art, it loses that which makes it artistic in the first place. It is a contradiction to view it as anything less or more than it is; something you and I will likely disagree about. The conversation revolved around the Bible’s primary positive aspect as being art alone. Context, context, context.

    There is not a person on this planet that can approach anything truly objectively. My point on this was made in response to the proposed value of “Comparative Religions” as it is presented as coursework because as I’ve seen it, it presupposes secular humanism. In instances where it does not, I may have different thoughts.

  28. If the Bible is viewed as merely art, it loses that which makes it artistic in the first place. It is a contradiction to view it as anything less or more than it is

    So then, doing so is an abuse? You still haven’t explained why. You’ve only repeated the claim. Why would you care anyway?

    IMO, the world is better off without self-righteous missionaries. That includes Dawkins.

    It might also include Briggs but he is Enfolded by the Light and follows in the path of St. Bayes so he gets a pass. ;)

  29. Luis: I have read the bible (okay, I skipped chunks of it that were just horribly boring) and did not come away an atheist. I also didn’t come away religous either. You keep confusing theism with religion, and the two are really not the same. One can believe in God without being Christian, Jewish, or Muslim.

    Dawkins has some interesting ideas, but his anti religion crusade comes across as extremist ranting and raving. The world isn’t so black and white.

  30. Greg Cavanagh

    21 May 2012 at 11:06 pm

    If Mr Dawkin’s believes “religion-equals-child-abuse”, and he believes children should read the bible at school, does he also believe the other half of that statement?

    I’m fearful he might according to his own arbitrary morality model

  31. It is Dr. Briggs that confuses and would lead many into the wilderness. To read the Bible, it is not necessary to be, or have a desire to be, religious. There is nothing inconsistent with Dr. Dawkins’ position. To understand much of Western Culture one must understand the Bible for the same reasons we read Gilgamesh, Beowulf, The Odyssey and others. This type of training is highly beneficial and a great shame that American theists and atheists cannot work from common ground to properly educate our children. Our children can read and praise the latter texts, each filled acts of piety and all overtly religious, but cannot approach the Jewish / Christian texts in the same setting and manner. Dr. Briggs had, and missed, an opportunity to support the common good.

    Joshua’s position is equally confusing. He would have us believe that the Bible was tossed down to earth in its current form, that it stands alone, owing nothing to lives and fortunes of the men and women who gave everything for its liberation and preservation. Most confusing, he tells us that to appreciate Tynsdale’s artistry, piety, dedication and genius is to do a disservice to the God they both presume to serve. How very odd.

  32. So then, doing so is an abuse? You still haven’t explained why. You’ve only repeated the claim. Why would you care anyway?

    I never said it was an abuse. I simply think it is inaccurate and not very useful.

    Joshua’s position is equally confusing. He would have us believe that the Bible was tossed down to earth in its current form, that it stands alone, owing nothing to lives and fortunes of the men and women who gave everything for its liberation and preservation. Most confusing, he tells us that to appreciate Tynsdale’s artistry, piety, dedication and genius is to do a disservice to the God they both presume to serve. How very odd.

    No, I wouldn’t. You read things into my text something that simply isn’t there. I not once said the Bible was ‘tossed’ from anywhere, nor did I even make that suggestion. I not once even suggested that it was written by anyone else but human beings. What I actually -said- was that it makes claims that put it outside the realm of mere art. It does not belong with the paintings and sculptures of the world but with the histories and philosophies. If its artistic aspects are to be appreciated at all, it has to be treated fairly for what it is: a claimed revelation of God to man.

    It is interesting that your entire post to me ignores my actual claims and makes up new ones.

    Any other ‘Holy Text’ from any other religion must be looked at the same way and not appreciated as art, because any ‘artistic’ quality flows from the primary purpose of the text in the first place. That was my point. I don’t understand where the confusion lies.

  33. Now that I think about it more, exactly how did you get on the topic of the origin of the Bible when the discussion up until that point had been upon the teleological considerations of the Bible?

  34. Joshua, you are not being very kind to me. You are either deliberately misreading what I write or just refusing to accept that my points are quite sensible and trying to nitpick arguments where you see any hint of difference. I’m not game for those things, but I can clarify some confusions.

    You were the person to use the term, so I don’t know why you -wouldn’t- defend it, at least to make its usage valid. Again, if ‘brainwashing’ involves reading the Bible, then Dawkins contradicts himself, which is entirely the point.

    No, Joshua, I wasn’t. The word is Dawkins’ word, and I only used it insofar as he used it, to show how he wasn’t contradicting himself. I don’t agree with the word “brainwashing”, although I do agree with using this word as an attempt to see things in a different light (and not in any other way, that is, using it as a gedankenexperiment, not as an actual depiction of reality).

    But yes. I agree. If you read the Bible as an atheist (and presume it to be filled with immoral teachings), you will likely remain an atheist. Preconceived notions are seldom shattered when someone keeps their mind closed.

    Snarkily pretending you didn’t get my point and “agreeing” with something I didn’t say isn’t a very christian thing, you know. Let’s be clear on the matter here. You do not have to agree with the position that “to become an atheist you only have to read the bible”, to simply accept that Dawkins believes it to be true. The point is not whether that was a true proposition or not, but whether if Dawkins is contradicting himself or not. You should stop confusing those two very different problems.

    I’ve never really bought into the claim that people just ‘enjoy reading the Bible for its beauty’.

    Now you are just not being fair or generous towards me. When I refer to “beauty” I refer to it as an impressive human feat. And as a human feat, I do recognize in it a gargantuan effort to understand what is mankind’s role in this planet, his moral duties, his reason d’être, etc. And of course I also use it as a potential moral guide, although I cannot but be aware of its ethical age.

    The bias and twist does not come from reading without preconceived notions, as no human being could do so. Those problems enter into the equation when you don’t realize preconceived notions exist which cause you to view it as nothing more than a piece of human art.

    Why do you accuse me of not being aware of my atheist glasses goes beyond me. Now you’re just being silly.

  35. Joshua, you are not being very kind to me. You are either deliberately misreading what I write or just refusing to accept that my points are quite sensible and trying to nitpick arguments where you see any hint of difference. I’m not game for those things, but I can clarify some confusions.

    Not trying to nitpick. Definitely disagreeing, however.

    No, Joshua, I wasn’t. The word is Dawkins’ word, and I only used it insofar as he used it, to show how he wasn’t contradicting himself. I don’t agree with the word “brainwashing”, although I do agree with using this word as an attempt to see things in a different light (and not in any other way, that is, using it as a gedankenexperiment, not as an actual depiction of reality).

    I quoted your usage/definition of it. Perhaps ‘defending’ it is a bad choice of words; you suggested you were “not defending” the term, which is where I pulled it from. I personally see little value in it because far better terms could be used that are more accurate and less prone to appear belligerent. If you truly disagree with the term, I’ll take your word for it.

    Snarkily pretending you didn’t get my point and “agreeing” with something I didn’t say isn’t a very christian thing, you know. Let’s be clear on the matter here. You do not have to agree with the position that “to become an atheist you only have to read the bible”, to simply accept that Dawkins believes it to be true. The point is not whether that was a true proposition or not, but whether if Dawkins is contradicting himself or not. You should stop confusing those two very different problems.

    Again, I must quote you as having said: “If you believe that most believers do not actually know the bible they supposedly “revere”, and if you believe that the bible itself is filled with immoral teachings, and if further you also believe that most people has some “good sense”, then actually reading the bible (and not being “schooled” by priests) is the surest way to turn you into an atheist.”

    This example is of an atheist reading the Bible as an atheist and coming to atheistic conclusions. I agreed with it. I think a Christian reading the Bible as a Christian and coming to Christian conclusions is just as likely. No “snarky pretending” going on at all, as far as I can see. I didn’t mean it as a slight. I meant that I think your scenario is plausible and likely.

    My point in saying what I said directly to you was not about Dawkins contradiction. I addressed that elsewhere. It seems we both feel the other is confusing the argument.

    Now you are just not being fair or generous towards me. When I refer to “beauty” I refer to it as an impressive human feat. And as a human feat, I do recognize in it a gargantuan effort to understand what is mankind’s role in this planet, his moral duties, his reason d’être, etc. And of course I also use it as a potential moral guide, although I cannot but be aware of its ethical age.

    Pardon me for not understanding correctly then. I remind you, however, that I indicated my experience has not introduced me to people who genuinely read it for such purposes and that you may be an exception to the rule.

    Why do you accuse me of not being aware of my atheist glasses goes beyond me. Now you’re just being silly.

    I didn’t accuse you of not realizing your own worldview. As you clarified your position of what you mean by “appreciating the beauty” of the Bible, my statement is directed more generally than directly at you. And it still stands that way; in general, if someone doesn’t realize their own preconceived notions when reading -anything-, they’ll inevitably read it with bias. And even if they realize those notions, they’ll still have bias, but they may have better luck understanding the text.

  36. Joshua,

    To further clarify a single confusion on your part, I think the rest is settled ;):

    This example is of an atheist reading the Bible as an atheist and coming to atheistic conclusions. I agreed with it. I think a Christian reading the Bible as a Christian and coming to Christian conclusions is just as likely. No “snarky pretending” going on at all, as far as I can see. I didn’t mean it as a slight. I meant that I think your scenario is plausible and likely.

    Ok, so the problem here is not one of sarcasm, which was what I read, but of you misreading the point. Dawkins believes that anyone, be a christian or not, if reading the bible in its entirety (and not only on its better parts) will drive everyone to be atheists. Well, I’m exagerating obviously, but that’s the main thrust. That is, he as an atheist, believes that a fairer exposition of the bible will turn people away from christendom. Again, you do not have to agree with this, you can call him “biased” and so on. However, to say that it is his opinion that an atheist will read the bible and come to atheistic conclusions is either a misunderstanding on your part or just misdirection.

  37. Ok, so the problem here is not one of sarcasm, which was what I read, but of you misreading the point. Dawkins believes that anyone, be a christian or not, if reading the bible in its entirety (and not only on its better parts) will drive everyone to be atheists. Well, I’m exagerating obviously, but that’s the main thrust. That is, he as an atheist, believes that a fairer exposition of the bible will turn people away from christendom. Again, you do not have to agree with this, you can call him “biased” and so on. However, to say that it is his opinion that an atheist will read the bible and come to atheistic conclusions is either a misunderstanding on your part or just misdirection.

    I drew the ‘atheist reading the Bible and coming to atheistic conclusions’ from the portion you had written that said that the Bible was ‘filled with immorality’ among other things. I assumed that someone who believed it was wrong to begin with would continue feeling that way.

    As for Dawkins himself, I understand what his position is. However, I still find his positions to be strange and in some ways incoherent. Part of that is likely due to his choice of words, which tend to be overly aggressive.

  38. I loved the book, God Behaving Badly, by Old Testament scholar, David T. Lamb. I found it a great antidote to the silliness and ignorance of the atheists who promulgate the many unreflected stereotypes many people hold about the OT.

  39. Joshua,

    “I simply think it is inaccurate and not very useful.”

    Sad.

    “Now that I think about it more, exactly how did you get on the topic of the origin of the Bible when the discussion up until that point had been upon the teleological considerations of the Bible”

    I was not aware of any teleological considerations under discussion? The topic, as I understand it, is why it is or is not consistent for an atheist to read or advocate the reading of the Christian Bible. Your view is that it is not. A thoughtful reflection on the history of the Christian Bible (or many bibles– my guess is that you and Dr. Briggs probably do not share the same texts) makes it clear that whatever the original author’s purpose, subsequent authors, councils and editors have refashioned its words and messages to suit specific needs– to recognize this is to admit that seeking a divine message from its pages is only one of many possibilities.

  40. >> “You” are just a mass of unthinking proteins, blood, and no guts (Dawkins still hides from a man called William Lane Craig).

    Yeah, right! This description is better than name calling. Briggs, You’re such a gentleman.

  41. “Now that I think about it more, exactly how did you get on the topic of the origin of the Bible when the discussion up until that point had been upon the teleological considerations of the Bible”

    I was not aware of any teleological considerations under discussion? The topic, as I understand it, is why it is or is not consistent for an atheist to read or advocate the reading of the Christian Bible. Your view is that it is not. A thoughtful reflection on the history of the Christian Bible (or many bibles– my guess is that you and Dr. Briggs probably do not share the same texts) makes it clear that whatever the original author’s purpose, subsequent authors, councils and editors have refashioned its words and messages to suit specific needs– to recognize this is to admit that seeking a divine message from its pages is only one of many possibilities.

    Then you aren’t very good at reading the comments you are responding to. I was writing on whether the Bible is ‘merely’ art or not. You responded with:

    Joshua’s position is equally confusing. He would have us believe that the Bible was tossed down to earth in its current form, that it stands alone, owing nothing to lives and fortunes of the men and women who gave everything for its liberation and preservation. Most confusing, he tells us that to appreciate Tynsdale’s artistry, piety, dedication and genius is to do a disservice to the God they both presume to serve. How very odd.

    I’m not exactly sure where you got this from. I never implied it and I don’t believe it. What I had primarily been writing about was that the original authors did not write it as art, and that ‘appreciating it’ as ‘art’ alone defeats the purpose of ‘appreciating it’ at all. I never wrote on what the origin process was and you made several jumps in misunderstanding to and pulling information out of nowhere to arrive at your conclusion. Perhaps an analogy will be better here.

    Have you ever seen The Twilight Zone? There’s an episode that involves a couple of astronauts going to Mars for the first time. There isn’t any data on the atmosphere or anything else, but they go anyway. Upon arriving, the ship crashes violently and one of the astronauts dies. The other is left alone, terrified of what there might be outside of the capsule. After much pleading, the native Martians, whom he now realizes exist and can speak his own language, invite him to leave the capsule for a more comfortable shelter.

    They put him in a fully furnished home as if he were on Earth with a bar, cigarettes, a dining room and living room; everything they could think of or he could want. He enjoys it well enough, and is told that the Martians will be looking for a way to repair the craft and that he need only keep himself comfortable.

    After a little while, he realizes that his windows are barred. His door is permanently locked. He realizes to his horror that he is now an exhibit in a Martian ‘zoo’ of sorts. Martians come to him and watch him as a wild animal is watched in a zoo.

    So what does this have to do with anything? Well, treating the man like simply a wild beast (even after communicating and socializing with him) is like treating a Holy Text or seriously important document (in this case the Bible specifically) like nothing more than art.

    Can you do it? Well, yeah, you technically can. But what in the world is the point? It is more than ‘mere art’, it makes bigger claims than ‘mere art’, it has had a more profound impact on the world than ‘mere art’, and it is more capable than ‘mere art’. Treating the Bible as ‘art’ for ‘art’s sake’ may preserve it like the man was preserved in the zoo, but it doesn’t to any justice to it, and it is a terrible waste of something much more important. It is a shame, pure and simple. How it is preserved, therefore, is of little concern. I am concerned chiefly with what it can do because it has been preserved for the purpose of this discussion.

  42. Joshua,

    Thank you for the polite conversation– there is little to be gained from continuing. Neither you, nor I, nor the good Dr. Briggs knows who the original authors were, nor do we know what they intended.

    Beyond knowing these things, the rest is speculation ;)

  43. Dawkins hides from Craig?

    In a recent article, William Lane Craig talks about how people can avoid Hell and enter Heaven if they choose to become a Nazi.

    In Craig on Nazis William Lane Craig writes ‘Paradoxically, being a Nazi may have been the best thing that happened to Heinrich, since it led to his salvation.’

    Craig continues ‘Of course, one may wonder about those poor people who suffered in the death camps because of Heinrich.’

    But I’m sure that Heinrich will take heart from Craig’s recommendation that the best thing that could happen to him was to become a Nazi.

  44. Yes Mr. Briggs, and perhaps children will take away something worse.

    “For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him.” Leviticus 20:9

    “Of the children of the strangers that do sojourn among you, of them shall ye buy, and of their families that are with you … they shall be your possession. And ye shall take them as an inheritance for your children after you, to inherit them for a possession; they shall be your bondmen for ever.” Leviticus 25:44-46

    You can pick and choose verses from the Bible. However, if just one verse from the voice of God seems a bit intolerable, the value of all the words should be deemed in the same light.

    Your religion has is greatly determined by the random chance of where you are born and raised in this world. You are definitely taught (brainwashed) into religion, it is not something that is ingrained in you being.

  45. Briggs

    28 May 2012 at 11:05 am

    Tim Yates,

    It is often said, correctly, that only atheists and fundamentalists read the Bible literally.

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