Richard Dawkins may be a tormented man; at the very least he is quite sure of his own gospel. He is perhaps best described as an atheist who if fundamentalist in his faith: that there is no God, and that faith in God is “The God Delusion.”.
The Cliff’s Notes version of his creed may be found in a tasty little essay at the left-leaning WaPo’s On Faith:
It is easy for religious faith, even if it is irrational in itself, to lead a sane and decent person, by rational, logical steps, to do terrible things. There is a logical path from religious faith to evil deeds. There is no logical path from atheism to evil deeds. Of course, many evil deeds are done by individuals who happen to be atheists. But it can never be rational to say that, because of my nonbelief in religion, it would be good to be cruel, to murder, to oppress women, or to perpetrate any of the evils on the Hitchens list.
Dawkins uses the 9/11 hijackers, and the Taliban, to somehow demonstrate that religious faith leads inexorably to evil deeds. Not that there is a shortage of evil deeds done by Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, or any other religion.
First the easy part: not all religions are the same, Mr. Dawkins, and the right kind of faith does not, and cannot, “inexorably” lead to evil deeds. Some religions place an emphasis on brotherly love; others on the defeat of those deemed to be infidels. Christianity and Judaism now place the emphasis on the need for love of neighbor and forgiveness of sin for those who repent.
Christianity especially, once it gained worldly power (perhaps itself a violation of Jesus’ certain statement that his kingdom was not of this world), has failed at this; failed miserably in the name of the Christ. Those who did so have and will face God’s judgment, but in so doing they were most certainly not acting in any rational way based on the faith of the apostles or the Gospels.
As for the somewhat harder part: “There is no logical path from atheism to evil deeds.” This is actually not hard at all. Atheism does not include a moral code that is invariable from generation to generation. If it is “scientific” atheism, then it can, and has, led to euthanasia, slavery, genocide. Why? Because atheism, which very much includes and promotes the “worship” of men and their creations, has led to the two worst scourges this planet has ever seen: Nazism and Communism.
Because there is no supreme authority, such as God, atheism necessarily posits that there is no absolute right, or wrong. About the best that it can muster is some group’s consensus as to what is “good” and what is “evil.” To say that “most people favor X” says nothing as to whether that X is good or evil. Unless one assumes that those people are, themselves, “good.” Hardly a logical assumption.
Atheism also can promote, and has led to, the worst evils that this planet has ever seen: Nazism and Communism. To say that both were personality cults (Hitler; Lenin and Stalin) merely gives the logical end point of denying that God’s Commandments are supreme. We can sit back, safe and dry (relatively) here in 21st century America, and shake our heads in wonder: how could so many people have gone along with such evil? And yet they did.
Contra Dawkins, religion per se is not the problem. The problem lies with mankind’s fallen nature. We all sin. Some of us sin in the name of religion; some in the name of idolatry. The problem is not God; it is when we turn away from Him or pervert His commandments, which I always like to remind myself boil down to this, from Matthew 22:
37“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
It is that easy; and that hard. And it is why so many of us fail.