Many Christians get angry at prominent atheist Richard Dawkins because he speaks out so forcibly against Christianity, God, and the Bible.
It’s silly, really, to get angry at such an angry man, one whose bias against God is so strong, and his business of decrying Him so fruitful, that he has little worldly to gain by even contemplating the changing of his mind.
We can learn about God from many resources — His created world, for example — and even from the words of those who disbelieve Him. Grazing in the Salmon River Mountains, original oil painting by Steve Henderson
Atheists don’t believe in God. Why should that surprise us?
One of my favorite quotes by Dawkins, from his book The God Delusion, is ironically vitriolic:
“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.”
One can’t help but admire the sheer opulent fulsomeness of written elocution, and the point is most definitely made. This man really loathes the God he doesn’t believe in.
But there is something to be learned in Dawkins’ diatribe, and that it is embedded in a book entitled The God Delusion is especially apt:
We Christians, who know, believe in, follow, read about, seek, and say that we love God, don’t necessarily disagree with Dawkins’ assessment, although we tend to phrase it more mildly:
“I don’t like reading the Old Testament. God seems so angry somehow,”
“The Old Testament tells about God’s law, but the New Testament tells of His love,” as if the two were mutually exclusive.
Many Christians spend so little time in the Old Testament — because they’re afraid of it and what people like Dawkins say about it (we really need to read it more than he does, which shouldn’t be too difficult) — that they’re pretty clueless as to what it says at all.
In other words, we have a deluded idea about God, much like Dawkins does.
“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all,” 1 John 1:5 tells us, but do we believe it?
Before you automatically answer “Yes,” because you’re supposed to, stop for a moment and reflect:
Have you ever felt that God is far from you, and not attendant to your prayers?
The Psalmist did when in 44:24 he cried out, “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?”
And in 88:14: “Why, O Lord, do you reject me and hide your face from me?”
And 10:1: “Why, O Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”
And yet when we venture to express concern that God isn’t listening to us, because we have prayed so long and so hard and nothing is happening, we tend to get scolded for our lack of faith. This is generally enough to shut us up, but what is most unfortunate is that it shuts us up from telling our feelings and hurts and anxieties and doubts to the one person who really wants to hear them — and help us do something about them:
“Having loved his own who were in the world, (Jesus) now showed them the full extent of his love,” John 13:1 introduces a long section in which Jesus washes His disciples feet, assures them that He won’t leave them (and us) orphans, and reiterates the Father’s love for His children.
And therein, in that last aspect, is where we ought to differ from Dawkins: we must (not because God will get mad at us if we don’t, but because we’ll never truly know and trust Him until we do) seek to make the knowledge and confidence of His unconditional love for us, our priority.
In other words, we approach God, and life, with the attitude that our Father is all loving, merciful, gracious, and kind, and when issues arise that make us wonder, we give Him the benefit of the doubt and say,
“I don’t know why God did or said this, but I’ll ask Him. And I’ll research and read about it, and gain more understanding of both the Old and New Testaments, so that I’m not so easily knocked off my feet.”
Now Dawkins, and those who admire and emulate him, do scoff at the attitude of embracing the goodness of God, but in the end, it’s all a matter of world view:
One can choose, like Dawkins does, to see God (in whom he doesn’t believe) as all bad and the belief in Him as the source of all human problems. One can then look to mankind, with its sterling history of generosity, grace, and goodness to all, as the means to human happiness and welfare.
Or one can choose to not mimic — in a watered down fashion — those who distrust God. This involves, first, allowing ourselves to freely admit that, as humans, we have a propensity toward this attitude (think Eve, and her readiness to believe the serpent’s misinterpretation of God). Second, we take that admission to God — without fear or quaking — and let Him direct us, because that’s what He promises to do.
To read more on this matter, please follow the link to my Commonsense Christianity article at BeliefNet, It’s a Secret, but Many Christians Do Distrust God. And an excellent book on the God of the Old Testament is Iain Provan’s Seriously Dangerous Religion.