Dawkins at On Faith

The “On Faith” column at The Washington Post is on a godless roll.  First they publish Dan Dennett’s critique of theodicy, calling it a “fraudulent contract,”   and then today Richard Dawkins on the hypocrisy of reactions to the Haiti disaster. Here’s the peroration, strong even for Dawkins:

. . .To quote the President of one theological seminary [R. A. Mohler, Jr.], writing in these very pages:

“The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe.”

You nice, middle-of-the-road theologians and clergymen, be-frocked and bleating in your pulpits, you disclaim Pat Robertson’s suggestion that the Haitians are paying for a pact with the devil. But you worship a god-man who—as you tell your congregations even if you don’t believe it yourself—’cast out devils’. You even believe (or you don’t disabuse your flock when they believe) that Jesus cured a madman by causing the ‘devils’ in him to fly into a herd of pigs and stampede them over a cliff. Charming story, well calculated to uplift and inspire the Sunday School and the Infant Bible Class. Pat Robertson may spout evil nonsense, but he is a mere amateur at that game. Just read your own Bible. Pat Robertson is true to it. But you?

Educated apologist, how dare you weep Christian tears, when your entire theology is one long celebration of suffering: suffering as payback for ‘sin’—or suffering as ‘atonement’ for it? You may weep for Haiti where Pat Robertson does not, but at least, in his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance, he holds up an honest mirror to the ugliness of Christian theology. You are nothing but a whited sepulchre.

_______

UPDATE:  As Richard notes in his comment below the fold, the Post actually published a number of responses to the question, “Does God allow Haiti to suffer,” which you can find here.

36 Comments

  1. Occam
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Dawkins, when righteously incensed, can be AWESOME!

  2. Cliff Melick
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Extremely sharp words of condemnation from a usually mild and gentlemanly individual (he’s right, of course).

    • Marilyn
      Posted January 25, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      mild and gentlemanly? who are you talking about it?

      • JD
        Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        Marilyn if you look at most of Dawkins’ writings, they are seldom vitriolic.

  3. Tulse
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    Gosh, he’s so strident!

    • CTC
      Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

      Can you imagine how shrill he’d be if he read this aloud? Dogs all over his neighborhood would whine painfully!

      Awesome stuff…until you scroll down the page a touch and see the strawmen being torched in response. Utterly logic-proofed, the poor sods.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:31 am | Permalink

      Gosh, he’s so strident!

      You left off the punchline:
      Gosh he’s so strident! Therefore God exists.

  4. Stephanie
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    This is why I adore Richard Dawkins. You go Richard!

  5. Morgan-LynnGriggs Lamberth
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Please, if possible, comment on Urban Philosophy’s take on us new atheists. That site and Digital Bits Skeptic are musts reading as is this vital one!

  6. Anthony
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    I’ve been in discussion recently with a former churchmate of mine, and he sent me the Al Mohler piece as a way of saying, “See, not all Christians are as bad as Pat Robertson!”

    I told him flatly that what Al Mohler said incensed me more than Robertson, because Robertson is a huckster, but this Mohler guy actually believss this nonsense and spews his tripe as being more noble and in the spirit of God.

    All theodicy is sickening. Effectively, it is a Christian telling us that the horrible things we see around us, aren’t actually horrible after all. Everything is to be praised.

    Rubbish.

  7. stvs
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 3:48 pm | Permalink

    I was happy to hear about the resourcefulness of filmmaker Dan Woolley, who used his iPhone apps to save his life while trapped for nearly 3 days after the earthquake in Haiti.

    But then Woolley began bleating about how God chose to save him, and when he thought he was a goner, wrote a note to his kids saying, “Don’t be upset at God. He always provides for his children, even in hard times. I’m still praying that God will get me out, but He may not. But He will always take care of you.”

    It’s disgusting that someone who has actually witnessed piles of corpses can bleat on and on about how thankful he is that god saved him and the god he thinks caused all this unimaginable suffering will always take care of his kids.

    Did god also decide that all the dead people that can’t speak now could just fuck off and die? That’s theodicy at its purest.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:20 am | Permalink

      People who suck up the Abrahamic religions like to feel special, so yes god murdered everyone else but spared his special people. Think about it – Jews have their promised land because god loves them (and only them), the christians are the only ones going to heaven because jesus died for their sins – all those jews and muslims are going to hell. And for the muslims, they’re the ones going to heaven and everyone else goes to hell. See – everyone in the right group is special. Everyone who claims they’re in the right group but suffer are being ‘tested’ (book of Job) or else punished (Augustine and his invention of ‘original sin’). So as vile as these statements praising god are, they fit perfectly into religious dogma (even some non-Abrahamic religions).

  8. Insightful Ape
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    Fabulous!
    I don’t recall even the “liberal” Boston Globe having been so even-handed when it comes to religion. To them, when it comes to faith, it is 100% endorsement, 100% of the time.
    Now if we could only apply the “fair and balanced” doctrine where it actually applies.

  9. mk
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

    Sorry, but that calls for a roundly deserved… “Goddamn fuckin’ right!”

  10. NewEnglandBob
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Permalink

    This is Richard Dawkins at his best. He uses their own hypocrisy to club them.

    One minor quibble:

    “… his hick, sub-Palinesque ignorance…”.

    I don’t think one can be ‘sub’ or below Palin in ignorance. Maybe it should read:

    “…his hick, Palinesque-matching ignorance…”

    • Michael K Gray
      Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

      Ignorance CAN be measured in negative numbers.
      Witness homeopaths.

  11. Posted January 25, 2010 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Well really. When it comes to this kind of thing the alternative to putting it strongly is being callous. What is the god damn Washington Post doing publishing evil nonsense like Mohler’s?!

    The earthquake in Haiti, like every other earthly disaster, reminds us that creation groans under the weight of sin and the judgment of God. This is true for every cell in our bodies, even as it is for the crust of the earth at every point on the globe.

    So the people of Haiti had it coming? They deserved it? Because very cell in their bodies groaned (before God obligingly crushed them to death) under the weight of sin and the judgment of God? The 11-year-old girl in spectacles and cornrows whose leg was crushed and who survived in pain and fear for a week and then died? And the tens of thousands like her? They all earned this savagery from a vindictive god? And the ‘liberal’ Washington Post publishes this wicked garbage?

    It’s not possible to be strident enough!

  12. KP
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    What Ophelia said.

    And, WOOF, that was pretty strong for Dawkins, but I read the Mohler piece a week ago and it was so bad that my heart does not bleed for those that Dawkins just skewered.

  13. Lolani
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    What’s a whited sepulchre? I looked up sepulchre in the dictionary, but what’s a “whited” one?

    • stvs
      Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:17 pm | Permalink

      Come on! That was the deepest cut of all, using Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees. Mathew 23:27:

      Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.

      • Tulse
        Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

        Yep, ya gotta love it when Dawkins quotes scripture at the god-soaked.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        Dawkins got all biblical on their buttocks.

        It’s a wonderful article.

    • Occam
      Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:48 pm | Permalink

      Passing over a grave, and contact with the dead generally, was considered unclean and would cause Levitical defilement, as set out in Numbers 19:16. Before Passover, surface graves were marked or painted with whitewash in order to avoid accidental contact. The imagery in Matthew 23:27 projects a connotation of horrible ritual uncleanness impossible to grasp for anyone not steeped in Jewish tradition.
      For some reason, the expression ‘whited sepulchre’ is far more evocative in English than in German, French, Italian, or Spanish.
      The NT Greek term koniao, ‘to whiten, whitewash’, from konia, ‘dust’, hence figuratively ‘chalk, lime’, is fairly trivial.

      With this rhetorical thrust, Dawkins achieves a veritable coup de grâce.

    • MadScientist
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 4:30 am | Permalink

      There are many of them in Italy and so goddamned beautiful too – marble sepulchres carved by some of the greatest sculptors in history. Some of them are towering megaliths mixing christian myths with classical Greek myths. I guess the Taj Mahal qualifies as a whited sepulchre too.

      • Posted January 26, 2010 at 11:27 am | Permalink

        I loved the whited sepulchre bit – I did the same thing in Does God Hate Women? and one reviewer noted the irony, saying presumably we hadn’t realized the biblical provenance since there was no verse given. No, we realized all right!

        Hey, it’s a great metaphor.

  14. Neil
    Posted January 25, 2010 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    In the words of Harry Truman. Dawkins didn’t give them hell. He just told the truth and they thought it was hell.

  15. efrique
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:09 am | Permalink

    Whoa, Dawkins is chanelling PZ.

    He’s usually much more mild mannered.

    While I prefer this more straightforward Dawkins, I may have to stop saying “point to one thing Dawkins says that’s strident/militant/cranky”.

    • steve
      Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:52 am | Permalink

      While I prefer this more straightforward Dawkins, I may have to stop saying “point to one thing Dawkins says that’s strident/militant/cranky”.

      Replace references in the article to religion, the religious and the quake to say an international day care corporation, defenders of paedophilia and the discovery of institutionalized child abuse in such an organizaton and see how strident the article sounds.

      But wait, we would still be talking about religion wouldn’t we …

  16. Flea
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 3:27 am | Permalink

    Strong? I don’t think so. Try to imagine for a moment what the people who have lost loved ones in Haiti maybe feeling now and I am sure you will reconsider the use of that word.

    • Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Yes, any implication that the victims somehow “deserved” this tragedy needs to be shouted down as dangerous, heartless, wrongheaded nonsense.

      Those who want to blame the victims to protect their cherished religious doctrines need to find ridicule and scorn in response.

  17. Posted January 26, 2010 at 5:35 am | Permalink

    I actually thought Dawkins was pretty relaxed compared to the God who kills thousands of little children via rumbling dirt.

    Does this give new meaning to the phrase “God rocks” or what? What an invisible asshole.

  18. Darrell E
    Posted January 26, 2010 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    That was a very satisfying read. Professor Dawkins’ disgust was tangible. I have fully shared that feeling of disgust many times recently while reading or listening to the mindlessly loathsome mouthings of the religious regarding this catastrophe. However, I do not have the word smithing skills to express my disgust half as well as Professor Dawkins did with this article.

  19. Posted January 26, 2010 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Nice observation, Jerry, that the Washington Post ‘On Faith’ section is on a godless roll. But it is even better than you suggest. See
    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/2010/01/does_god_allow_haiti_to_suffer/all.html
    In addition to Dan Dennett’s and mine, there are very nice pieces by Herb Silverman (‘Natural, not supernatural, disasters’), Susan Jacoby (‘Suffering and the futility of faith’), Paula Kirby (‘Suffering and the vain quest for significance’) and Elisabeth Cornwell (‘Why atheists are helping Haiti’). This last one has yet to be added to the list, for some reason, but you can see it here: http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/elisabeth_cornwell/2010/01/helping_haiti_because_it_makes_us_feel_good.html

    Richard

    • Posted January 26, 2010 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      From Elisabeth Cornwell’s article:

      We have a deeply evolved psychological need to help people who are suffering, especially when heart-rending images enter our home.

      Quite – and no, God didn’t put it there.

  20. Posted January 26, 2010 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    What a fantastic, devastating broadside! And I agree completely with Richard. Pat Robertson, all things considered, is nothing more than a side show. Or rather, a red herring to misdirect the discussion, a straw man toward which everybody can vent their outrage while the real issue, the “one long celebration of suffering,” is kept out of harm’s way.

    Christopher Hitchens, brilliantly, called Pat Robertson an “evil moron”—which pretty much covers everything that can be said about him.

  21. Cagedwhale
    Posted January 27, 2010 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    The earthquakes in Haiti reminds us of the people and homes that groaned under the weight of the sin and the greed and the evil judgement of state officials and builders.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] Over at today’s New York Times, conservative author Ross Douthat is upset at Richard Dawkins’s piece on Pat Robertson, Haiti, and theodicy. But Dawkins’ “defense” of Robertson, against the “milquetoast” […]

  2. […] Dawkins at On Faith The “On Faith” column at The Washington Post is on a godless roll.  First they publish Dan Dennett’s […] […]

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