If the chief problem of religion is that it whips up tensions between different groups of people and disturbs peace, then Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are the consummate hypocrites. The militant atheists of our generation are forever badgering people of faith, asking us to justify our own personal beliefs. Mr. Dawkins probably thinks that there’s a certain festive irony in him guest-editing the Christmas edition of the New Statesman, but many of us are beginning to grow weary. We get it, you don’t believe in God. Can you just leave the rest of us alone?
The debate over the existence of a higher being is a question that has been the bane of mankind for centuries, and it isn’t going to be resolved any time soon. And it certainly isn’t going to be answered by a flustered old bible basher who thinks it’s clever to compare the question of a divine creator with a child’s belief in fairies. It’s interesting to note how Dawkins, the supposed fearless and eloquent debater, metaphorically crapped himself when invited to debate Dr. William Lane Craig in Oxford a few months ago. Dawkins’ reason for declining the invitation was apparently that his prospective opponent had justified genocide (or in other words, read from the Old Testament). If you want to know the real reason why Dawkins declined the debate, I’d recommend watching a few clips of Craig debating Christopher Hitchens on Youtube at Balliol College, and observe how the erudite chain-smoking alcoholic gets verbally taken to the launderette.
The main problem with Dawkins seems to be that he was born into the wrong century. The man appears to long for an era where he would be persecuted for his beliefs, and perhaps thought of as some kind of martyr. Unfortunately for him, he lives and works in 21st century Britain, where the Churches are empty and there are hardly any religious people left in the country. Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris and Dennett, the self-proclaimed “Four Horsemen”, however, seem to be fervently inspired by the old cliché that “religion is the cause of all the problems in the world”. It’s a rather grandiose, if somewhat dated claim. In reality, most of the conflicts around the world stem from problems of racism and land disputes, entirely separate from religion. For example, the conflict in the Middle East between Israel and Palestine has nothing to do with religion; it’s about the illegal occupation of someone else’s land. You’d also be hard pressed to find a UVF or IRA extremist in Ulster who genuinely believes in the doctrine of the religion they claim to belong to.
Sadly, it appears that Mr. Hitchens, suffering from oesophagus cancer, will not be with us for too much longer. It must infuriate him that several prominent Christians have publically stated that they are praying for him, but he can at least console himself with the knowledge that his peers are far from finished annoying the God he doesn’t believe in. Dawkins and the rest of the Bible bashing brigade are going to be with us for a while yet, so don’t expect peace any time soon.