Richard Dawkins, he of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, pulls no punches. He tells it as he sees it.
He wrote about the hypocrisy of “modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated, gentle” Christians in an op-ed related to the Haiti earthquake in today’s TimesOnLine, “Hear the rumble of Christian Hypocrisy“:
That hypocrisy. Loathsome as Robertson’s views undoubtedly are, he is the Christian who stands squarely in the Christian tradition. The agonised theodiceans who see suffering as an intractable “mystery”, or who see God in the help, money and goodwill that is now flooding into Haiti, or (most nauseating of all) who claim to see God “suffering on the cross” in the ruins of Port-au-Prince, those faux-anguished hypocrites are denying the centrepiece of their own theology. It is the obnoxious Pat Robertson who is the true Christian here.
Where was God in Noah’s flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for “sin”. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock, stock and barrel, as punishment for “sin”.
“Oh but that’s the Old Testament. No one believes those stories literally any more. The New Testament is all about love.” Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated, gentle Christian, you cannot be serious. Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with “sin”, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the “sins” of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the “sin” of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?
Yes, I know you hate the word “scapegoat” (with good reason, because it is a barbaric idea) but what other word would you use? The only respect in which “scapegoat” falls short as a perfect epitome of Christian theology is that the Christian atonement is even more unpleasant. The goat of Jewish tradition was merely driven into the wilderness with its cargo of symbolic sin. Jesus was supposedly tortured and executed to atone for sins that, any rational person might protest, he had it in his power simply to forgive, without the agony. Among all the ideas ever to occur to a nasty human mind (Paul’s of course), the Christian “atonement” would win a prize for pointless futility as well as moral depravity.
Hats off to you, Mr Dawkins. May your tribe increase.