Chapter 10 – A much needed gap?

Dawkins states on page 353, “majority of atheists I know disguise their atheism behind a pious facade. They do not believe in anything supernatural themselves, but retain a vague soft spot for irrational beliefs.”

From your experience, would you agree with this statement?

McCulloch’s question:
Even with all of its flaws, does religion serve a useful and needed purpose in society?

Even with all of its flaws, does religion serve a useful and needed purpose in society?

Yes. Religious organizations play a significant part in philanthropic activities.

Here are some religious philanthropic organizations:

Alcoholics Anonymous
Alcoholics Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from alcoholism.

Bread for the World
Bread for the World is a nationwide Christian movement that seeks justice for the world’s hungry people by lobbying our nation’s decision makers.

Catholic Relief Services
Our mission is to assist the poor and disadvantaged, leveraging the teachings of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to alleviate human suffering, promote development of all people, and to foster charity and justice throughout the world.

Christian Aid
We work through local organisations to deliver direct, practical benefits, and we campaign to challenge the causes of poverty.

Christian Blind Mission International
Christian Blind Mission International (CBMI) is the oldest and largest ministry with the primary purpose of improving the quality of life for the blind and disabled living in the world’s most disadvantaged societies.

Compassion International
Compassion International exists as a Christian child advocacy ministry that releases children from spiritual, physical, economic and social poverty and enables them to become responsible, fulfilled Christian adults.

Feed the Children
Feed The Children is a Christian, international, nonprofit relief organization with headquarters in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, that delivers food, medicine, clothing and other necessities to individuals, children and families who lack these essentials due to famine, war, poverty, or natural disaster.

Habitat for Humanity
Habitat for Humanity International is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian organization dedicated to eliminating substandard housing and homelessness worldwide and to making adequate, affordable shelter a matter of conscience and action. Habitat is founded on the conviction that every man, woman and child should have a simple, decent, affordable place to live in dignity and safety.

Missionaries of Charity
The religious community of the Missionaries of Charity Fathers was founded by Mother Teresa of Calcutta with Fr. Joseph Langford in 1984, to combine the beauty of the Missionaries of Charity vocation with the grace of the ministerial priesthood.

Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is an integral part of the Christian Church, although distinctive in government and practice. The Army’s doctrine follows the mainstream of Christian belief and its articles of faith emphasise God’s saving purposes. Its objects are ‘the advancement of the Christian religion… of education, the relief of poverty, and other charitable objects beneficial to society or the community of mankind as a whole.

Samaritan’s Purse
For over 35 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering.

World Relief
We believe showing suffering people that Christians care and that the Church wants to make a lasting impact on their lives is a powerful expression of our faith and love for God.World Relief empowers, equips and strengthens churches to serve their communities, enabling them to act as beacons of hope to their people and to spread the life-changing power of Jesus Christ . Church-centered, grassroots initiatives tackle entrenched and intertwined problems of poverty – and people experience transformation in their lives, in their families, in their churches, and in their communities.

World Vision
World Vision is a Christian relief and development organization dedicated to helping children and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty.

Together, the nation’s 2,617 YMCAs are the largest not-for-profit community service organization in America, working to meet the health and human service needs of 20.2 million men, women and children in 10,000 communities in the United States. YMCAs are at the heart of community life across the country: 42 million families and 72 million households are located within three miles of a YMCA.

McCulloch wrote:But the question remains unanswered would some of these organizations have arisen without religion. Were the good people who started and contributed to these organizations drawn to religion because that is how they though good things should be done or did they do good things because of their religious conversion?

I think it’s immaterial and would only be speculation. The question is simply “does religion serve a useful and needed purpose in society?” And I’ve presented evidence of religious organizations that provide useful and needed contributions to society. If religion does not provide any useful contribution, then no such organizations would exist.

QED wrote:As for speculation, saying that “If religion does not provide any useful contribution, then no such organizations would exist.” hardly makes sense.

I think you underestimate the power of religion and its role in helping others.

First, Christianity provides needed contributions to society because the Bible teaches followers to help others. This is taught throughout the Bible.

For example:

Mat 25:44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me.

Churches fosters the environment to do good to others. Preachers tell the congregations to help and reach out to others, sometimes on a weekly basis. Prayer groups take place often to pray for those in need. Money is able to be quickly and efficiently raised in order to help others. A missionary mindset is prevalent in many churches and many go out of their comfort zone to reach out to others. Church buildings are able to be used as a facility to host a large number of people. Large churches have the economy of scale to do things more effectively. Churches often also pool their resources together to do larger projects.

So, with all of these things, Christianity is well positioned to be able to help others.

Under any banner people will do what people find they need to do to live comfortably

I know of no other banner that provides all of the above things that I mentioned.

McCulloch wrote:

otseng wrote:If religion does not provide any useful contribution, then no such organizations would exist.

This is pure speculation. Is there any evidence that organizations that serve humanity in these useful ways would not have existed but for the influence of religion?

Certainly non-religious philanthropic organizations exist. But, a lot of religious philanthropic organizations exist. This shows that religion does play a part in helping others. If religion does not play any part in helping others, then all philanthropic organizations would be non-religious.

Confused wrote:Recall, I work in medicine. The benefits must outweigh the risks. Does religion? IMHO it does not. Despite which side is doing the harm, it is still all done under the guise of religious motivation.

And in my opinion, the benefits of religion outweighs the risks. I had only listed some of the major philanthropic organizations, there are many more such religious organizations.

Also, there are many other benefits beyond being philanthropic in nature:
– Provides hope, forgiveness, meaning
– Offers ways to cope with life’s trials
– Provides guidance on how to live life
– Fosters community
– Provides a support network
– Instant identification with others and provides a common ground
– Opportunity to fellowship on a regular basis
– Sharing meals together
– Activities for kids, adults, seniors
– Offers regular teachings and encouragement
– Marital and family counseling
– Marriage ceremonies
– Funeral ceremonies
– Birth ceremonies
– Holidays (Christmas, Easter)
– Inspiration for art, music, literature

In the case of Christians that are dying, there is a mixture of both grief and hope. It is entirely normal and expected for people to grieve during death. To somehow expect Christians to not grieve during death is not realistic.

In the case of sexual abuses, the simple answer is that people do not always do what they know to be right. Also, the Christian doctrine is that we are all sin-prone, even if someone is a priest. Nobody is immune from sinning.

As someone once said, “The flesh of the godliest saint is no more dependable than that of the vilest sinner.”

QED wrote:

otseng wrote:In the case of sexual abuses, the simple answer is that people do not always do what they know to be right. Also, the Christian doctrine is that we are all sin-prone, even if someone is a priest. Nobody is immune from sinning.

As someone once said, “The flesh of the godliest saint is no more dependable than that of the vilest sinner.”

Exactly! Once again the actual behaviour of people is consistent with total finalism, and inconsistent with a firm belief in judgment in some afterlife. One has to wonder if the average non-believers conduct might be better than the average “godly saint” on account of caring more about being judged in this life than the promised next.

If the judgement in heaven was based entirely on behavior on earth, then you have a point. But, at least in Christian theology, entrance to heaven has nothing to do with behavior, but rather belief.

Confused wrote:I don’t dispute that it can provide what you list above, but IMHO, the cost is to high. Considering the death toll in the name of religion, despite who committed it, I don’t think the benefits have outweighed the risks, nor do I think the future potential benefits outweigh the future potential risks/negative impacts. Think of all who have already died to protect this ideology and those who have died in rejection of it. In the grand name of religion, the death toll is to high.
achilles12604 wrote:Place the blame – Should the blame for the murders associated with Christianity be placed on the people committing the murders, or should they be placed at the feet of the teachings associated with the religion?

achilles12604 is right. We should look at what is causing the harmful acts. Is it because the religious texts command people to do the harmful acts? Or is it because people have gone beyond what the texts say?

How many more must suffer or die because of a myth?

This brings up the fundamental question. Is it a myth or is it the truth? Are Christians delusional or is everybody else delusional? Does a God really exist or is it just a figment of the imagination?

I think these are the main questions that needs answers. And in terms of The God Delusion providing any insight on this, I see it providing none.

bernee51 wrote:Or did they interpret the texts to justify actions they wanted to take or perhaps even ‘believed’ were justified by the text.

Certainly those could be the case.

Who do you blame? Those committing the deeds or the ‘looseness’ of the alledgedly god inspired texts (of whatever creed) which allowed such interpretation?

The “blame” is simply on the fact that whatever has innate power, it can be used for great harm (or good). And people will find a way to use powerful tools for their own purposes.

I’m not sure what you mean by “looseness”. I guess what you mean is that religion should dictate every possible action one can take? This would be unfeasible. Even with the tons of rules regarding the IRS, not even the tax professionals can really fully follow them. And even with the mountain of rules, loopholes still exist.

You are being too partisan about it. ‘Is god a myth?’ applies equally to allah, zeus, odin and the f.s.m.


I disagree – I see it as stimulating self-enquiry. In that it succeeds – as has been shown in these discussions.

Well, I think that Dawkins intent was not simply to provoke self-inquiry. But, his goal is a change of belief.

“If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down.” (page 5)

And for me, it was the opposite effect. If this book was one of the best books atheists has to offer, then it shows how weak the atheist arguments are.

As one reviewer said on the back dust jacket, “If this book doesn’t change the world, we’re all screwed.” Well, sorry to say, it’s not going to change the world.

bernee51 wrote:

otseng wrote: And for me, it was the opposite effect. If this book was one of the best books atheists has to offer, then it shows how weak the atheist arguments are.

As a book I would agree with you…Atheist Manifesto, self described as atheology, is a much better book which systematically deconstructs the Abrahamic monotheisms.

And with that I’ll be winding down my debate with the book.

Overall, my take on the book is that it presents a very weak case against theism. There is obviously a disconnect between the strength of the book and the praise given to it by atheists. If it was not written by Dawkins, probably nobody really would’ve given the book any thought.

As I read through the chapters (often more than once), I found myself constantly asking “what exactly is his point?” The entire book read like 10 chapters of Random Ramblings.

One thing that did surprise me though was that I agreed with Dawkins on several points. Probably the strongest statements that I agreed with are:

“Either he exists or he doesn’t. It is a scientific question” (page 48)

“God’s existence or non-existence is a scientific fact about the universe, discoverable in principle if not in practice.” (page 50)

And I was quite surprised that he would take this position. To my knowledge, I don’t know of any other atheist who holds to this.

On a related note, I agree with Dawkins that NOMA is not vaid and that there is an overlap between science and religion.

I also agree with Dawkins that scientists should not use the word “God” metaphorically.

“I wish that physicists would refrain from using the word God in their special metaphorical sense. Deliberately to confuse the two is, in my opinion, an act of intellectual high treason.” (page 19)

In summary, any critical thinking person will find the book to be extremely weak. Only those that are easily mislead by hand-waving will be converted to atheism by the book.

This will probably be the last book from Dawkins that I’ll ever read. I think I’ve given him a fair chance by reading The God Delusion and also The Blind Watchmaker. Atheists will need to get together and decide what author is superior to Dawkins for a future book debate.

Well, that’s it for me for debating The God Delusion. This will be my final comment and I’ll be moving on to the other debates.

I really do like the format of the book debates and I thought the TGD debate went very well. Thanks everyone for your participation. I’d like to do more book debates in the future.

I’ll be leaving the threads open for at least several more weeks for others to add their thoughts. And when we start the next book debate all the threads will then be locked.