Writing for townhall.com, Dinesh D’Souza resurrects the Hitler zombie—as an analogy for what Christians have contributed to Western culture!
In The God Delusion, Dawkins portrayed the Christian God as a wicked, avaricious, capricious, genocidal maniac. Dawkins even blasted Jesus for such offenses as speaking harshly to his mother. Yet if the Jewish and Christian God was such a monster, what sense does it make for Dawkins to embrace the cultural influence of that deity? It would be like someone saying, “Hitler was a murderous maniac, but I am a cultural Nazi. No, I don’t embrace the specifics of Nazi doctrine, but I appreciate what fascism has done to shape German culture. Let’s give up the specifics of the Hitler program, but let’s also keep Nazi culture along with the fuhrer’s imagery on our coins and monuments.”
Now, as anybody with a passable aptitude for reading comprehension can tell, Dawkins isn’t embracing the cultural influence of any deity. Christian people (who really exist, by the way) have picked up a number of cultural customs over the years, many of them from pagan sources. Things like Christmas trees, gift exchanges, songs, and so on. Things that they picked up because they found them enjoyable and because they enhance one’s experience of family and culture. The fact that Christians have “re-branded” these things with Christian marketing concepts doesn’t change the fact that these once-pagan practices originally became popular because of their own intrinsic value, apart from any particular deity. It is these things which Dawkins embraces, and he embraces them for their largely secular value, Christian marketing efforts notwithstanding.
What’s really funny about D’Souza’s petulant snipe is that when he goes hunting around for something comparable to Christianity and its influence on Western culture, he decides that the best match is Nazi totalitarianism! Wow. Whose side is D’Souza on, anyway?
He goes on to speculate about various unsavory things that might have motivated Dawkins’s remarks, ignoring the most obvious motivation, which is that Dawkins was simply telling the truth about having always enjoyed the basic customs that Christianity has adopted from other cultures over the years. Then D’Souza plops this one on us:
I suspect that these two factors may have played a role, but the main reason for Dawkins’ remarkable self-identification as a cultural Christian is that he has slowly come to realize that even the values that he cherishes–values such as individual dignity, science as an autonomous enterprise, the equal dignity of women, the abolition of slavery, and compassion as a social virtue–came into the West because of Christianity.
Oh yes, that must be it. D’Souza is such a brilliant debater that he has–tada!–converted Richard Dawkins to Christianity. More or less.
That’s a pretty remarkable achievement, considering the bullshit he’s using to back up his point. Individual dignity? Autonomous science? The equal dignity (not rights, just “dignity”) of women? Abolition of slavery? Where, precisely, are any of those things in the Bible?
Christians did, eventually, come to support those things–after the rise of secular humanism. Ironically, D’Souza is partially correct: Christians have been involved in debates in which the values of one side were absorbed by the other. But the humanistic values that D’Souza cites are values that Christians have only lately, and sometimes reluctantly, embraced. Individual dignity, for example, arose as a rebellion against Church-dictated submission to those in political and ecclesiastical authority (Rom. 12, I Pet. 5). Autonomous science (another recent innovation) acquired its power because it kept demonstrating that the scientific approach is more successful than the dogmatic approach, contra the traditional Christian view that every thought needed to be taken captive to obedience to Christ (II Cor. 10: 5). And why does D’Souza have to waffle about “equal dignity” for women instead of claiming that Christianity is a leader in the effort to gain equal rights for women? Oh yeah, that’s right, Christians still aren’t 100% behind that one.
If a man sells his daughter as a female slave, she is not to go free as the male slaves do. If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master who designated her for himself, then he shall let her be redeemed. He does not have authority to sell her to a foreign people because of his unfairness to her. If he designates her for his son, he shall deal with her according to the custom of daughters. If he takes to himself another woman, he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. If he will not do these three things for her, then she shall go out for nothing, without payment of money. (Ex. 21:7-9–God demonstrates his support for the abolition of slavery and the “equal dignity” of women!)
Ironically, D’Souza’s argument exposes us to the fact that pretty much all of Christianity’s worthwhile “contributions” to Western culture are things that were brought into Christianity from the outside: holidays that early Christians conquered via “squatter’s rights,” customs re-branded and re-marketed as Christian, values that individuals (including some individual Christians) discovered in the secular world rather than in the pages of the Bible, and that Christianity, once again, appropriated the credit for, even in cases where Christians initially opposed them. Dawkins rightly appreciates the good things that the real world has made available to us. Fictitious gods have not contributed anything worthwhile.