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Richard Dawkins: Give me the Child and I’ll Give you the Man

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Religious leaders are well aware of the vulnerability of the child brain, and the importance of getting the indoctrination in early.  The Jesuit boast, ‘Give me the child for his first seven years, and I’ll give you the man,’ is no less accurate (or sinister) for being hackneyed.

The above quote comes from Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion in the chapter titled “The Roots of Religion.”  I was thinking about that chapter when I heard that Mr. Dawkins was putting out a children’s book.   Has Dawkins decided he needs to get into the ‘indoctrination’ business?

Of course, the word ‘indoctrination’ has taken on a negative air, and is only applied when one disapproves of what is being transmitted—even if one is about the same business.  Dawkins’ real problem is not with the Jesuit’s ‘sinister’ approach.  He admits it is ‘no less accurate.’  His real beef must be with the content the Jesuits presented.

Good!  Then we are all agreed!  ‘Indoctrination’ isn’t ‘sinister.’  Transmitting the beliefs, values, and perceptions of one generation to the next is an important and unavoidable necessity that must take certain definite forms because of the nature of who we are transmitting them too:  children.

Now, we cannot really believe that atheists and secular humanists have every really thought that ‘indoctrination’ was the exclusive domain of the religionists.  For the last hundred years, they have been on a tear doing all that they can to purge any vestige of anything that even smacks of religion from public society and the public schools.    A more accurate assessment would suggest that even when Dawkins bemoaned the tawdry work of the Jesuits, his side knew early on the importance of ‘getting the indoctrination in early.’

So what, then?  What might motivate this upcoming release?  There may be some clues in Dawkins’ Delusion.

In his chapter “The Roots of Religion” he faces up to some very difficult facts.  He would like to chalk up the continued presence of nonsense-believers to the ‘sinister’ work of those like the Jesuits but he is prevented from doing so by the apparently scientific observation is that children are psychologically primed for religion.

Now, in a sane world, this observation would be recognized by all for what it is:  positive evidence for the Christian claim that people are made in God’s image, meant from the start to be in a relationship with Him.  But since Dawkins already ‘knows’ that this can’t be the case, but he also knows that we are ‘psychologically primed for religion,’ he has got to find himself a way out.  Because of the constraints of his worldview, he is compelled to search out some strictly materialistic evolutionary explanation.

He picks the worst kind of explanation possible.  It is as Chesterton described it in his book Orthodoxy, “a thought that stops thought.”

Dawkins’ explanation?  The inclination to religion is a misfire of the brain.  It was, indeed, a product of evolutionary processes which means somehow it was necessary to select for.

What we are expected to believe here is that the natural need for a child to learn how to survive in the world meant being primed to receive counsel from one’s parents, but nowadays this must be seen largely as a ‘misfire’ of the brain, because it prevents the child from knowing when he is being exposed to pure nonsense.  We are likened to a moth which mistakes a streetlight that will zap it for the sun.

But this begs very important questions.  For example, how does Dawkins know that it is the poor little children experiencing the misfire, and not he?  Did he not himself begin as a child?  He admits as much!  Since he also admits that we are biologically disposed to be ‘religious’ but is himself arrayed against religion, isn’t it him at warring against his own brain?   Isn’t it his atheism that is the misfire?  How does he know it isn’t?  How does he know that any given belief about anything isn’t a misfire?  The belief in the supremacy of the scientific method, evolutionary theory itself, a belief in God, that my coffee is cold—all, potentially, misfires.

Seeing as a hundred plus years of ‘getting indoctrination in early’ by the secularists hasn’t been able to overcome society’s predisposition to religion, this explains, perhaps, Dawkins perceived need for a children’s book.  In light of the foregoing we may consider some other possibilities for the failure of this indoctrination program.

It may be that children are the sanest of all of us.  It may be that children’s great love for myth, story, fairytale and general absence of cynicism, isn’t an accident of nature at all, but really is a manifestation of an aspect of God’s design for humans.

Consider the irony involved when a staunch atheist and philosophical materialist reductionist feels compelled to approach children by invoking ‘magic,’ as illustrated in the title of Dawkins’ book, The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.  To this, we could add the fantasy-laden “His Dark Materials” series by another hardcore atheist, Philip Pullman.  When even the ones who mock and deride fanciful fairytales and fantasy must turn to them to get their viewpoint across, surely something is amiss!

If that something is that we are made in God’s image, then no amount of indoctrination or molding or shaping will ever be able to purge religious sentiment from humanity.

Even if the ‘conditioners’ in C. S. Lewis’s The Abolition of Man put their hand to it, they will be unable to stamp out our humanity because each newborn child enters the world ‘hard-wired’ to pursue, or at least seriously consider, non-materialistic explanations.  Dawkins chalks that up to a mental defect, but regardless, its acknowledged biological basis means that unless the ‘conditioners’ take a strong hand in genetically tinkering with our offspring, we can be sure that religious explanations will be sought, religious explanations will be adopted, and religious explanations will be transmitted to the next generation.  While it remains legal, anyway.

Moreover, some of us will continue to believe that it is reasonable to look at that biological ‘priming’ for religion and come to an opposite conclusion:  it isn’t a misfire at all, but positive evidence for the very propositions atheists reject as having no evidence.  We may see it as a good sign that the atheists and secular humanists are doubling-down on “getting the indoctrination in early.”

All will be well, I submit, until such time they decide its time to attack the ‘misfire’ at its source:  its biological (created?) basis.  Then, and only then, will the Abolition of Man be at hand.

Although, that day may be closer than we may suppose.

Anthony Horvath is the Executive Director of Athanatos Christian Ministries, an apologetics ministry that focuses on ‘literary apologetics,’ or using the arts (such as literature) to promote and defend the Christian faith.  He is the author of “Mother Teresa, Antony Flew, and Richard Dawkins Go to Heaven:  A Collection of Short Stories.”  (Also available on the Nook.)

 

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24 Responses to Richard Dawkins: Give me the Child and I’ll Give you the Man

  1. Indoctrination is what religions need to survive. Education is what science needs to survive. The two are not the same. Indoctrination tells you what to think, and does so by repetition and threats of punishment. Education teaches you how to think, and does so by presenting evidence and showing how to construct an hypothesis and how to test it. It teaches the life skill of critical thinking, something which is manifestly lacking in indoctrination and is like penicillin to religion.

  2. That’s a nice little bit of self-serving propaganda there, but that’s still all it is: propaganda. There is another word that needs a little explaining. Isn’t it the case that one man’s propaganda is another man’s truth-telling? Isn’t one man’s ‘education’ another man’s ‘indoctrination’?

    Nope. Propaganda twists truth in order to achieve a particular aim. Truth-telling is not afraid of being honest. And what would honesty tell us on this matter?

    First of all, that religion and education are not mutually exclusive, and there are ‘religions’ that teach people how to think, presents evidence, constructs hypotheses, and then tests them. Christianity is one such ‘religion.’ At the same time, ‘Science’/’Education’ has been known to simply tell people what to think, utilizing repetition, derision, and ‘threats of punishment.’

    We see this in a number places. For example, the evolutionists cowardly refusal to allow any other explanations for biological existence in the classroom except for their own explanation. Likewise, the attacks on the careers of those who have promoted intelligent design… or heck, EVEN QUESTIONED evolution. Another place where we see this sort of thing is in the climate change debate, where once again we see alarmists turning to the minds of the young because they can’t convince the adults.

    Eg: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2012/jan/16/scientists-want-climate-change-young-minds/

    You also fail to acknowledge that both education and science were first allowed to flourish where certain religions were prevalent- especially Christianity, though some regard could be given to the Muslims pre 1400s. Without Christianity, there would not be Western civilization. Schools, universities, and hospitals spring up wherever Christians go. This is true of the past, and it is true of the present.

    This is a fact. Obviously, it is one that is not comfortable to you, so you fail to acknowledge it in your sweeping assertion. That’s what makes your assertion nothing more than propaganda.

    That is all.

  3. Anthony

    Propaganda is bad, right?

    Of course religion and education are not mutually exclusive, but how does one test the “hypothesis” of Christianity, exactly?

    What is this hypothesis? That God created the Universe knowing in advance that billions of people would burn in hell for not having the correct religion?

    Your description of “intelligent design” as an alternative explanation to evolution is propaganda – twisting the truth – for it is not a scientific explanation. The ID supporting biologist Michael Behe accepts common descent and a billions of year-old earth, while the ID supporting philosopher William Dembski was recently forced to “clarify” that he believes the world is 6,000 years old. Do you really think science classes should be taught ID, in which the world could be billions of years old, or it could be 6,000 years old, and common descent could be true or it could be false. Is that science?

    You are right, of course, that education flourished under Christianity… But only after the Enlightenment did it begin to become universal, and did knowledge throw off the often pre-christian dogmas (on medicine, for example) which kept us largely at the level of the ancient world.

    Yes, the West owes a great deal to Christianity. That does not make Christianity true.

    As for climate change being forced on kids… If that’s bad then isn’t forcing religion on kids bad too?

    Yeah, progopanda is bad, he wrote on a blog for an apologetics ministry 🙂

    Peace…

  4. Obviously, the point of the post is that not everything that is called ‘propaganda’ is actually ‘propaganda.’ Each generation must transmit knowledge, facts, values, etc to the next generation. The act of doing so is not propaganda. I was calling attention to Dawkins’ hypocrisy, and yours, evidently, in labeling propaganda whatever one does not like transmitted whilst ‘stooping’ to the same level.

    Your statement that ID is not a scientific explanation is simply your opinion. It is based on premises that are not scientific at all, not on empirical observation or experimentation. Your characterization of the matter is the real twisting of the truth.

    Ok, so now we’ve both hurled similar charges at each other. How should they be decided? I think they should be out in the public discourse for examination and if our schools don’t allow for this then they do a disservice to the notion of ‘education.’ If I were you, I wouldn’t be very proud that philosophical materialism is the latent presumption of ‘science’ these days… it isn’t like atheists have allowed any other view to be considered by young people. You removed the competition by force and by farce; it should be no surprise that you win the race.

    Of course, arguing with you is meaningless. On Dawkins’ view, your perspective is just as likely to be a misfire of the brain as not. It’d be as productive to argue with a slab of beef. 🙂

  5. Hello Anthony

    “I was calling attention to Dawkins’ hypocrisy, and yours, evidently, in labeling propaganda whatever one does not like transmitted whilst ‘stooping’ to the same level.”

    Big words… Let’s see if you are twisting the truth or not.

    “Your statement that ID is not a scientific explanation is simply your opinion. It is based on premises that are not scientific at all, not on empirical observation or experimentation. Your characterization of the matter is the real twisting of the truth.”

    It is not “simply my opinion”. It is the opinion of the overwhelming majority of biologists – and most Christian biologists too.

    I think you meant to say that evolution was “not scientific at all” – but that is absurd. Can you name any working biologists who say evolution is not “scientific”? Even Michael Behe accepts its central tenets.

    On the other had, even the Discovery Institute, the main proponents of Intelligent Design, say it is not “yet” suitable for teaching in science classes.

    The truth hurts, Anthony – that’s why you avoid it.

    “Ok, so now we’ve both hurled similar charges at each other. How should they be decided?”

    Do we put to the vote whether the earth is flat? Or whether black people are inferior to white people?

    “Of course, arguing with you is meaningless. On Dawkins’ view, your perspective is just as likely to be a misfire of the brain as not. It’d be as productive to argue with a slab of beef.”

    I’m not sure you are cut out for apologetics.

  6. Well, my friend, I’ve been involved in apologetics for a long time, and if there is one thing I’ve learned is not to argue with a mere meat machine whose brain is as likely to be misfiring as not. If my computer spits out something that looks like an argument or insult, I don’t take it seriously. You’re just a meat-computer, and I factor that in. But seriously, there is no reason to care what you or think because the statements cannot come from any consideration of any facts- you think this is the case, but that is just an illusion. Instead, it was all determined- from the beginning of the universe- and you can as much take credit for it as you can take credit for how tall you are.

    http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/story/2012-01-01/free-will-science-religion/52317624/1

    On this basis, you’ll have to forgive me for rejecting your statements whole sale. You were pre-determined to offer them… I was pre-determined to reject them. 🙂

    And that’s all she wrote, folks. 🙂

  7. Anthony

    You are meant to be defending the faith, not making it look ridiculous.

    Jerry Coyne does not say everything was determined “from the beginning of the universe”. He says we are slaves to our subconscious. He comes across like a pompous, self-important windbag in doing so. In another time he’d have done well as an apologist, maybe. Moreover, there are plenty of psychologists and physicists and other scientists who think this view way overstates the case – and that we are responsible for our choices. Coyne does not speak for all of science.

    So, you’ve borne false witness against Jerry Coyne, biologists in general (many of then Christian), and even the Discovery Institute. Go you!

    You believe in free will, of course, so it’s bearing false witness again for you to pretend your behaviour is pre-determined. Luckily, you have the right religion ad even the right denomination – so you’ve got a ticket straight to heaven even if you twist the truth for a living.

    Rather than pretend you know what I think, Anthony, why don’t you defend what you think?

    You think God gave me free will, right? But you also believe that he knew when he created the world who would be save and who would be damned, yes? So God created the world knowing he’d allow billions of people to burn eternally in hell. Does that make you feel good?

  8. “In his chapter “The Roots of Religion” he faces up to some very difficult facts. He would like to chalk up the continued presence of nonsense-believers to the ‘sinister’ work of those like the Jesuits but he is prevented from doing so by the apparently scientific observation is that children are psychologically primed for religion…Now, in a sane world, this observation would be recognized by all for what it is: positive evidence for the Christian claim that people are made in God’s image, meant from the start to be in a relationship with Him.”

    Whoa. Those were some wild leaps you’re making there. There is nothing “scientific” to back Dawkins’ assertion that children are “psychologically primed for religion.” This is just a lazy reiteration of an Old Wives’ Tale, that we humans have a “God gene” and have to worship something. Even if this were true, that would be a point in the atheists’ favor anyway, since it would demonstrate that man simply created “God” to fill this basic psychological need.

    Children’s behavior is not explained as the need to “worship” something. They do need adults to guide them, care for them, and so on, but the child-parent relationship is not “worship,” nor should the blind worship advocated by Jesus in John 20:29, “blessed is he who believes without seeing” be viewed as healthy in any respect. A child should not blindly “worship” an abusive parent.

    Thirdly, your statement that the existence of such a gene is “positive evidence for the Christian claim that people are made in God’s image, meant from the start to be in a relationship with Him.”
    This is certainly a Christian claim, but a similar claim has been made by all religions in every world culture. It has no exclusive meaning for your particular faith. So you can’t really establish any link between a hypothetical “God gene” and the arbitrary “God” of your immediate culture.

  9. You bring shame on god and Christianity. Do you honestly think Jesus would have spoken to non believers like this. He never ran anyone down or saw them as obtuse. What is the matter with you?
    do you really feel you can win people over that way?
    You should pay more attention to the study of your bible, and less time gloating because you have found “Truth”.

    Big shame on you. I pray god will forgive for what you have done. And I apologise to those you have offended by your arrogance.

  10. “You think God gave me free will, right? But you also believe that he knew when he created the world who would be save and who would be damned, yes? So God created the world knowing he’d allow billions of people to burn eternally in hell. Does that make you feel good?”

    This is a good question Ptet, one I have turned over from time to time.
    I tend towards the Francis Schaeffer school of thought coupled with my own upbringing (indoctrination?) of traditional evengelical theology, swallowed pretty much whole.
    My take is this;
    As a Christian I start from the premise that from what I see and understand of the physical world and cosmos, it all works on laws that would indicate design or I suppose intelligence: but the important thing is that all those laws must have come into effect at the same time because otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this!
    So God or Accident?
    I choose to believe God, but there can be no ultimate disagreement between God and science.
    Next, the nature of God, which I believe is as revealed in the Bible.
    God created man. God loves man. The second person of the Triune God came to redeem man. God does not want anybody to “burn in Hell!!”
    That would be against His revealed nature. God knows that some will reject Him -undoubtedly. He knows who? Undoubtedly.
    Is that His will? No. Has He done everything possible to avoid this?
    According to hos revealed nature we Christians must say yes.
    Are there millions, billions who will end up in Hell?
    We don’t know.
    What we do know from Scripture is that God looks on the heart of man. The ‘why’ he does what he does, not just the act itself. I think God will judge everyman and woman according to their understanding and He will take everything into consideration, and I would rather be judged by a Holy, loving and compassionate God than a set of laws.
    I think the role of Christians is to cooperate with God and seek to live our lives in such a way that we bear witness to the hope that is within us, to be actively engaged in the world according to our abilities, to preach the Gospel, be non judgmental (very hard I know!) and to live life in the knowledge that we are all on a journey to the same destination.
    So live, love, laugh and be a blessing to those you come into contact with and work with God.
    You can be sure that He will deal as fairly and as compassionately with everybody else as He has with you.

  11. I considered what might be holding us up from knowing the concept you call God. I found a lot of implied structure to how I was supposed to believe, and a group to belong to.

    I saw the same reflected in school. Something seems to be ‘benefitting’ and suffering at the same time in my mind. There was always so much to do and going on during my early development years, my head didn’t have time to pause until bed-time as a child. This has an effect on the child. We are encouraged to consume.

    I was taught structures and words. Archetypes are shown to allow us to select form a ‘hero’ or ‘villain’ type (King, Queen, Ballerina, Boy), forming the imagined self.

    All this causes magnification of the need for thought in the head. It encourages it. Self-conversation and self-interest. We are conditioned to be constant consumers of information, including religions with some future target to reach. The projection of that target to reach, through right behaviour i.e. heaven or any future spiritual benefit, causes the power and will to change ‘now’ to be thrown ahead in time by the ego. ‘Plenty of time to be good when I’m older!’

    Demons are those who know how easy it is to manipulate a person, or group of people because they have been taught the consensus ‘right and wrong’ and know of the visible reaction impulses when under ‘question’. Your intrinc conditioned needs You will purchase. You will work. You will buy a house. You will have kids. You will not think about your actions. You will not worry about others. You will need groups of people. All this conditioned.

    If you had grown up like Jesus, you would also know it isn’t meant to be this way. We are not meant to consume this rubbish and do these tasks. It dulls the real ‘us’. We are not meant to constantly look at each other and compare and purchase and consume.

    Christ was special because he realised we are (from his understanding) all part of what the word God is supposed to mean. He wasn’t the weird one. We are. Just like some very modern thinkers have said, as long as you fill your senses with the words of others, they will form a part of your psychology.

    Out of a reflex, in mans ego ignorance, he anthropomorphises that which can’t be described, and certainly not with a word. It is externalised by religion. The same reflex applies to fragments of reality, and that is called science. Those are just the words that trigger your frame of mind in relation to what you have experienced.

    This impulse to do, consume, entertain, socialise and devour information constantly, needs to be observed and questioned. The identity in the moment (now) is not the imagined self based on history, information and fear of the near and distant future.

  12. the point is that the child mind is ready to soak up
    whatever is repeatedly demonstrated to it, by parents,
    society, movies, tv, books and all its peer groups.

    such as santa claus – derived from st francis, odin
    and various yule traditions of gift giving etc –
    making gifts at the north pole with elves as helpers
    to be delivered by santa to billions of children
    and others worldwide in his paranormal flying sleigh
    drawn by magic reindeer..

    aside from anyones, rationalisations about this
    self evident conditioning, he fact remains..
    it also manifests in that jusuit boast of
    give me a child for is first seven years
    and i will give you the man..

    where children are conditioned to believe in santa
    and in the various gods and godesses, angels, devils
    ghosts, spirits and so on of the various religions,
    they will be conditioned or indoctrinated into
    those beliefs in the supernatural and paranormal..

    the history of rationalisations of religions
    and those clinging to them, even the outright
    and obvious farcical – is itself telling..

  13. And yet, for thousands of years, even people who were not ‘conditioned’ at all nonetheless came to the conclusion that there was a God.

    Of more recent vintage is Francis Collins, who was ‘conditioned’ as an atheist.

  14. Ah… the glorious irony of the Christian claiming “fact”. Meanwhile, we’ll just ignore your one asserted deity, one supposed savior, one collection of old books;? hundreds of translations, thousands of denominations. Millions of personal interpretations… & that you all? call /your particular/ brand “truth”.

    Get your own house in order before you try telling us what comports to reality, m’kay?

  15. @NoNeed

    Lame.

    There are as many interpretations of reality, in general, as there are interpreters. Insofar as your statement has merit, you’re only making an observation about the frailties of epistemology that apply equally to everything. Since it applies to everything, it means nothing when applied to theism.

    Ironic, though, that while trying to dismiss a position based on the diverse perceptions, you nonetheless call attention to the relative unity of the position: ONE deity, ONE savior, ONE collection of old books.

    Looks like trying to have your cake and eat it, too. We call that cognitive dissonance.

  16. “We call that cognitive dissonance.”
    Like you know the first thing about psychology. You know what is the difference between superstition & religion? The size of the pews.

    “There are as many interpretations of reality, in general, as there are interpreters.”
    Demonstrate it.

    “ONE deity, ONE savior, ONE collection of old books.”
    “Looks like trying to have your cake and eat it, too.”
    Uh huh… meanwhile, you don’t /really/ think monotheism started w/ your Jew god, do you?

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” — C. Sagan

  17. Are you still here?

    Demonstrate that there are as many interpretations as reality as there are interpreters? Seriously? I don’t think you’re really equipped for a conversation like this. To this particular point, let me submit for your reading pleasure Bertrand Russell’s “The Problems of Philosophy.”

    http://www.amazon.com/Problems-Philosophy-Bertrand-Russell/dp/1505512204/

    My statement only reflects a basic aspect of reality that anyone who has sat down to try to think clearly has encountered in the first minute of ruminating. Ie, what you request ‘demonstration’ for is self-evident to any genuinely thoughtful person. On the off chance that you are not merely a troll, I hope providing Russell’s book for you to read is a true service.

    “Uh huh… meanwhile, you don’t /really/ think monotheism started w/ your Jew god, do you?”

    Non sequitur. Red Herring. Completely out of left field. Stop wasting my time.

    P.S. Sagan was wrong.

    http://sntjohnny.com/front/demanding-extraordinary-evidence-for-extraordinary-claims-can-render-you-an-extraordinary-dupe/1466.html

  18. P.P.S. Bertrand Russell was an atheist.

  19. Really? /That’s/ your play? “Go read some books.”? Nice cop out you’ve got there. No thanks; I’m more a Hume man, myself. Still, it’s worth nothing you’ve not addressed your failed gambit that Christendom, contrary to your evasion, *is not* a monolithic proposition. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe /you do/ worship the same ‘creator’ deity that the Roman Catholics, the Westboro Baptist Church, Kim Davis, Andrea Yates worship.

    You /do/ understand Russell was also an atheist, yes? You /do/ understand your particular brand of batshit braying isn’t terribly unique, yes? No… I doubt that; you haven’t grasped that perspective is not reality.

    While you’re as kind to assert that I’m invoking a non sequitur, I’d like to point out you worship The Appeal To Historically Inaccurate Ancient Wisdom fallacy.

    You have no null hypothesis, so how can I /being/ to think you have intellectual integrity?

    “Stop wasting my time.”
    This has all been a waste of time.

    https://yourlogicalfallacyis.com/burden-of-proof

    “If we take in our hand any volume; of divinity or school metaphysics, for instance; let us ask, Does it contain any abstract reasoning concerning quantity or number? _No._ Does it contain any experimental reasoning concerning matter of fact and existence? _No._ Commit it then to the flames: for it can contain nothing but *sophistry and illusion.*” — ‘Hume’s Fork’, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 1748, D. Hume?

  20. Me, February 21, 2016 at 10:58 — “P.P.S. Bertrand Russell was an atheist.”

    You, February 26, 2016 at 5:12 am — “You /do/ understand Russell was also an atheist, yes?”

    We both knew that this was a waste of time from the beginning. You came here with one thing on your mind: insult. Sorry, but you being a jerk doesn’t mean there isn’t a God.

    I cited Russell in large part because he was an atheist. Well, and because he completely decimated your argument and emphatically made mine. 🙂

    I don’t debate with people who don’t come in good faith, so toodles.

  21. Anthony, you are missing out on some important points. I am addressing you rather than the several atheists who have participated here in the past, because all of them may have left your blog for good.

    First and foremost: C. S. Lewis has a remarkable alternative view of the afterlife, radically different from the image of literal hellfire. It saved me from an inexorable slide towards atheism by giving a radical new meaning to the old adage, “God doesn’t put people into hell; they do it themselves.”

    It is set forth in _The Great Divorce_. The souls of the dead are at first sent to a rather dreary place which isn’t any worse than earth, on the whole, except for the accumulation of souls over the centuries who cannot let go of their various vices. All of them can, from time to time, catch buses to take them to a place that is very much like heaven. It is a far better place than the one they have left, but they can stay permanently only if they divest themselves of some cherished vices. And many can never do that, and so they literally choose hell even while knowing what both heaven and hell are like.

    The details are, of course, imaginary, but I think these last two sentences do apply. They are consistent with Jesus’s words about heavy versus light beatings, imprisoning people until the last debt is paid, etc. As for “everlasting fire”: the “fire” — not a literal one — itself is everlasting because there are always imperfect people living and dying; but there is no reason for any one person to have to live there.

    This vision takes away what I’ve called The Achilles’ Heel of Christianity. One version is the way ptet put it, “That God created the Universe knowing in advance that billions of people would burn in hell for not having the correct religion?” Other versions have “for rejecting Christ” or “for not having repented of their sins at the moment they die,” etc. depending on what denomination one belongs to.

    Your answer is inadequate: you said God does not will it, that God wants no one to burn in hell — yet, until we divest ourselves of the idea that hell is unrelieved, eternal suffering, we are in the position of believing in a God who lacks true mercy, and even true justice.

    I’ll have more to say about some other points you have handled, but I think I’ve said enough for today.

  22. I am not going to review my previous post. I’m sure it was adequate for my purposes. 🙂

    I will say that I likewise was helped a great deal by Lewis’s “The Great Divorce” for some of the same reasons you mentioned.

    If you will kindly download and read my short story, “Richard Dawkins Goes to Heaven” I think you will see that I have taken it quite to heart.

    Link: https://www.amazon.com/Richard-Dawkins-Antony-Mother-Teresa-ebook/dp/B004MME7FQ

    That said, I think you are trying to walk a fine line here, and I’m not sure you are. You may feel like you have reconciled God’s mercy with his justice, but unless there is some permanent fate we should wish all to avoid, then the Gospel is gutted. Why should someone look to God and his mercy if they can choose eternal rebellion and the worst of it is “a dreary place which isn’t any worse than earth”?

    The trick here is to keep both his perfect justice and his perfect mercy together, while being true to all the Scriptures.

    If we need not worry too much about the ‘eternal suffering’ that people risk by rejecting Jesus, then why bother evangelizing at all?

  23. Bless all of you for thinking. If a deity chose to give direction to mankind it would be universal. It is not. Surely indigenous populations of most of the world were not ignored. A decision to choose is universal and the consensus appears to be that individuals have sense of something greater than themselves. Call it what you choose but do not think anyone has a monopoly on it. Science allows for a remote control to work but you cannot see it with your eyes. It is explainable, tested and works consistently. A belief in a higher power is not testable and therefore a personal belief only. I am content there is more than we see in this world but please do not blindly think that what you were told is correct.

  24. […] in point of fact, I have indeed suggested that Dawkins is mentally defective, on precisely these […]

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