I am a deranged, deluded, deceived and deceiving writer, whose judgment has been warped by an infectious, malignant intellectual virus. In other words, I believe in God.
That explanation of why I would do so is not my own, however. I have instead lifted it from The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins. I do not think I oversimplify in saying that it is the entire substance of his case against religion, in a book that is one of several atheistical tracts that have dominated the "non-fiction" bestseller lists through spring and summer of this year. Worse, I think it might be the best of them.
In my recent musings on Darwinism, I have been perhaps a bit coy about why I have been raising it at all. This is because it is "in the air," thanks partly to books by Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others. But those books are themselves symptomatic of the intellectual moment in the West, when opponents of Christianity are moving beyond smug disapproval toward active persecution.
In his book, Dawkins equates the teaching of religious beliefs to children with child abuse. Them's fightin' words if you ever heard any, and yet except for their candour they represent what is increasingly the received view of our governmental bureaucracies and our courts. The Catholic apostate Dalton McGuinty, who is also the premier of Ontario, did not hesitate to describe any kind of "faith-based" schooling as "backward." My email inbox is often full of reports of the unsubtle difficulties put in the way of, for example, religious parents trying to home-school their kids.
A celebrated court case was brought in Pennsylvania the year before last, against a school board found guilty of allowing the teaching of what has been labelled "intelligent design," and across America, a misrepresentation of the old U.S. constitutional provision for the "separation of church and state" is being used aggressively by the American Civil Liberties Union and others to challenge pretty much any manifestation of Christianity in public places.
Here in Canada, Janice Stein is among several who have argued for stripping charitable status from any church or other house of worship that does not obey the state's "equal-opportunity" commandments (for example, by having an all-male priesthood), and "human-rights" tribunals have had a merry time "trying" Christian believers who have had the temerity to cite, for example, biblical teachings on homosexuality.
Yet, the last time I checked, people were still free to attend churches, and to equate such little outrages as I have mentioned with active persecution would be a disservice to Christians and other religious minorities whose lives are actually on the line in places like China, Iraq, Pakistan, Indonesia. It would be a further disservice to the memories of the many millions of Christians, Jews and others who were slaughtered through the 20th century by atheist regimes in Germany, Russia, China, Cambodia and elsewhere.
It is one of the many perversities of Dawkins's book that he refuses to acknowledge any of that, and instead declares in several places that there is "not the smallest evidence" atheist belief has ever inspired a single human being to foul play. Christopher Hitchens gets around the problem more awkwardly, if not more honestly, by denying that the leading atheist regimes - every one of which has been murderous on a scale beyond anything recorded in the history of the country it took over - were really atheist. He suggests instead that they were the equivalent of religious fanatics, thus covertly reassigning the vast toll of their victims to the very people they slaughtered.
I have hardly the space to deal with all the wild assertions in books of many hundred pages, and would refer readers instead to a good counter-tract such as The Dawkins Delusion? by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath.
That book is especially effective because in addition to being a converted Christian, one of its authors was also an Oxford doctorate in molecular biophysics, able to expose some of the flakier science that Dawkins presents as "generally accepted" - such as the use of his self-invented concept of "memes." And the other is a clinical neuropsychologist, not apt to be intimidated by Dawkins's amateur psychological forays.
DAVID WARREN, CanWest News Service