subscribe to the RSS Feed

Friday, October 31, 2014

Richard Dawkins Produces Another Theist

Posted by jlwile on August 29, 2013

This is Dr. Laura Keynes, who returned to the faith of her childhood after reading the New Atheists and those who replied to them. (Click for credit.)

Dr. Laura Keynes grew up in Cambridge, arguably the intellectual center of the United Kingdom. She studied at the University College of Oxford on a full-ride scholarship and ended up earning a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Her doctoral thesis was on epistemology, the study of knowledge and justified belief. As her last name indicates, she is the great-grandniece of the famous economist John Maynard Keynes. She is also the great-great-great-granddaughter of Charles Darwin.

Why am I telling you about this young lady? Because she recently wrote an article entitled, “I’m a Direct Descendant of Darwin…and a Catholic.” Now the title didn’t surprise me at all. I know a lot of Catholics (and even more Protestants) who believe in evolution. Indeed, one of the leaders of the Intelligent Design movement, Dr. Michael Behe, says:1

You can be a good Catholic and believe in Darwinism. Biochemistry has made it increasingly difficult, however, to be a thoughtful scientist and believe in it.

However, as I read the article, I couldn’t help but smile. You see, Laura was raised Catholic but drifted away from the faith after her mother became a Buddhist and her brother rejected all organized religion. By the time she was studying for her Doctor of Philosophy degree, she was an agnostic. During that time, however, Richard Dawkins had opened up an international dialogue on the existence of God with his thoroughly awful book, The God Delusion. Well, Laura decided to read Dawkins and his fellow New Atheists, and she says:

I expected to be moved from agnosticism to atheism by their arguments, but after reading on both sides of the debate, I couldn’t dismiss a compelling intellectual case for faith. As for being good without God, I’d tried and didn’t get very far. At some point, life will bring you to your knees, and no act of will is enough in that situation. Surrendering and asking for grace is the logical human response.

I don’t think that’s the response Dawkins and his colleagues were hoping for. The entire article is worth a read, because it really shows how an intellectual person should respond to what the New Atheists have produced:

I read central texts on both sides of the debate and found more to convince me in the thoughtful and measured responses of Alister McGrath and John Cornwell, among others, than in the impassioned prose of Hitchens et al. New Atheism seemed to harbor a germ of intolerance and contempt for people of faith that could only undermine secular Humanist claims to liberalism.

Notice what she did. She read the central texts on both sides of the debate. Most people don’t do that, but it is the most important thing a real intellectual can do. I suspect that working on her dissertation made her realize that there is no such thing as an unbiased argument. All authors start with their preconceived notions, which color the way they view and present the evidence. As a result, the only way to come close to getting an unbiased view of the debate is to read from both sides. By doing that, you will hopefully be able to start seeing how the various authors are “coloring” the evidence, and that will allow you to remove some of the “coloring” and look at the evidence a bit more clearly.

When Laura did that, she saw something that should be immediately obvious to those who read both sides of this debate: the New Atheists are full of bluster and bravado, but their arguments are incredibly weak. Those who have responded to the New Atheists (at least the ones she read) provide a stark contrast. They are calm, measured, and rational in their response. According to her, this contrast helped to demonstrate that the majority of the evidence clearly goes against the atheist position, and the bluster of the New Atheists is an attempt to cover up this inconvenient fact. As a result, she returned to the faith of her childhood.

Now remember, I told you that the article made me smile. Why? Because it reminded me of something from double-Dr. Alister McGrath’s excellent book, Why God Won’t Go Away. I can’t do it justice without quoting it in its entirety:2

I’d just finished giving a lecture in London in early 2010. A young man came up afterward and asked me to sign a copy of my textbook Christian Theology: An Introduction. I asked him what had led him to study theology. He told me that he’d read Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion a year or so earlier and it seemed so unfair and one-sided that he felt he needed to hear the other side. So he started going to church. After a while, he found he could not sustain his faith in the parody when confronted with the real thing. He converted to Christianity – joyfully and decisively. “Without Dawkins,” he told me, “I would never have given God a second thought.”

As I signed the book, the young man told me he had a theological question for me. Since The God Delusion had been instrumental in his conversion, should he thank God for Richard Dawkins in his prayers?

I’m still thinking about that one.

So it seems that there are at least two people who have turned to God as a result of the works of Richard Dawkins. I suspect they are just the tip of the iceberg!

REFERENCES

1. Gerald L. Schroeder, The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom, Free Press 2009, pp. 27-28
Return to Text

2. Alister Edgar McGrath, Why God Won’t Go Away, Thomas Nelson 2011, p. 147
Return to Text

Comments

18 Responses to “Richard Dawkins Produces Another Theist”
  1. A little above the last block quote, there is a typo, it’s in this sentence “Those who have responded to the New Atheists (at least the ones she read) provide a start contrast. They are calm, measured, and rational in their response. According to…”
    Should be a stark contrast.

  2. jlwile says:

    Thanks for pointing that out, Matthew!

  3. Marta says:

    God’s sense of humour :)
    I would thank for R.Dawkins.

  4. haroldcrews says:

    I make no pretense of being a theologian. It appears to me instead of thanking God for Richard Dawkins it is better to worship God for being able to bring good out of evil. It is not God’s will that Dawkins be an atheist and for Dawkins to be estranged from Him. It is improper to thank God for something contrary to His will.

  5. Miranda says:

    Awesome article; thanks for sharing. :) What thoughtful atheists would you recommend reading?

  6. Alistair McMillan says:

    God used a donkey to talk to a foolish prophet, God used the emptiness in my heart to make me cry out so He could answer, God can use anything or anyone. Let’s thank God for that, and pray that God will raise up people to expose the arguments of people like Dawkins for what they really are.

  7. jlwile says:

    Miranda, I think the two best current atheists out there are Stephen Law and Thomas Nagel. When I was an atheist, I was very fond of Antony Flew, but he eventually abandoned atheism. One of the better atheist books I have read recently was a collection of several authors, called Philosophers Without Gods.

  8. Riko says:

    It seems like God is using that richard to guide the good people and mislead the other bad ones

  9. jlwile says:

    I don’t think that’s it, Riko. I think God is using Dr. Dawkins to show people how irrational the atheist view is. However, if a person is irrational to begin with, he or she doesn’t notice anything odd about Dr. Dawkins and his ilk.

  10. Kendall says:

    I love your post haroldcrews. I think you’re right on. Very thoughtful contribution:-) I also think we should love our enemies, and not look down on them, nor mock them.

    I think that John Lennox is a very good example of loving people like Christ did. I heard that an athiest, after debating with John Lennox, said something along the lines of “he actually seems to like people.” How surprising, right?:P

    I wish I could be less defensive in my reaction to controversy. I would like to be the kind of person that excitedly jumps into controversial topics, listening to others considerately, and not dismissively if they disagree with me.

  11. Anthea says:

    Great link, very encouraging article. I found it fascinating that “the intellectual aristocracy” saw themselves as a cut above. In the UK, there is still a contrast between the rhetoric of caring about the working class, and the reality of an overbearing desire to dominate the working class — for our own good, of course. It was the middle class leftish previous govt which tried (in 2010) to limit and hassle home educators, despite stated desire to increase attainment and achieve social mobility.

  12. Miranda says:

    Thank you for your recommendations, Dr. Wile! I’ll check those out. :)

  13. Longstreet says:

    As a very wise man once said, “A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.”

  14. jlwile says:

    Very true, Longstreet!

  15. jlwile says:

    I have not read the book, Jonathan, but I have read both positive and negative reviews of it. It will be interesting to see what he chooses as the winning essay. I doubt that he will change his mind, but you never know!

  16. Rania says:

    Thanks for the article. I would like to add, that believing in God, doesn’t automatically mean being a Christian… One should search, is this religion am born with, is it the way God wanted me to worship him? Has it been changed? Should I look some where else ? I am a Muslim, I believe in Virgin Mary, in Gesus the prophet, not the god nor the son of god, I believe in Judaism and mosses, these religions came from one God, but they have been altered. One should look for the true religion of God.

  17. jlwile says:

    Thanks for your comment, Rania. I agree that believing in God doesn’t automatically mean being a Christian. In fact, it doesn’t even mean being a theist. There are those (like one-time atheist Dr. Antony Flew) who are convinced by science that God must exist, but they don’t believe that God is personal. Such people are called Deists. They believe in God, but it is not the kind of God that Christians, Jews, Muslims, etc., believe in. I also agree with you that one should look for the true religion of God.

home | top