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With Christians Like These, Who Needs Atheists?

Michael DowdMichael Dowd, the guiding light behind evolutionarychristianity.com, praises the new atheists: 

“Religion is about right relationship with reality, not the supernatural.”

“The wisdom of antiquity—in all its forms and drawn from all regions of the world—could not possibly be up to the task of serving us now.  Ancient, unchanged scriptural stories and doctrinal declarations are inadequate for meeting modern challenges.”

“In a way, the New Atheists have come to our rescue. They are shouting at us to collectively awaken to the dangers of revering texts and doctrines on no sounder basis than tradition an authority.  Because the New Atheists put their confidence (not faith) in an evidentially formed and continuously tested view of the world, these critics of religion are well positioned to see what’s real and what’s important today.  It is thus time for religious people to listen to the New Atheists—and to listen as if they were speaking with God’s voice, because in my view they are!”

“God is not a person; God is a personification of one or more deeply significant dimensions of reality.  For the theologically liberally minded, this should be neither difficult to grasp nor disagreeable. But until religious people themselves speak it fully and unabashedly into existence, the New Atheists will be all too happy to continue mocking biblical and other mythic portrayals of God.” 

“Darwin didn’t kill God. To the contrary, he and Alfred Russel Wallace offered the first glimpse of the real creator behind and beyond the world’s myriad mythic portrayals of the divine.  Evidence from a wide range of disciplines—from cognitive neuroscience to anthropology to cross-cultural study of the world’s myths and religions—all support the claim that God is a personification, not a person, and that we instinctually forget this.  Moreover, there is no counter-evidence!  This fact alone makes sense of the hundreds of competing stories around the world as to what God supposedly said or did.  ‘God’ is a mythic name for reality in all its sublime fullness.  Any so-called God that is imagined as less than this is unworthy of our devotion and deserves to be mocked, as the New Atheists so readily do.” 

“The bottom line is this: whenever we Christians slip into interpreting scripture literally, we belittle the Bible and dishonor God.”

“’Getting right with God,’ means coming into right relationship with our planet and all its gloriously diverse species and cultures.”

“The New Atheists, by speaking boldly on behalf of our best collective intelligence about the nature of reality, and in condemning superstitious, otherworldly religiosity, are, paradoxically, fulfilling the traditional role of prophets.”

“Few things are more important than for religious peoples of all backgrounds and orientations to heed what the New Atheists are saying.  … I am grateful because of how they are prodding religion and humanity to mature and because of how they are encouraging religious people (like me!) to come out of the closet as naturalists.”

“I foresee a time when religious leaders get their guidance and inspiration from humanity’s common creation story and teach and preach the discoveries of science as God’s word. When that day comes, our faith traditions will thrive and many of us will look back and exclaim, ‘Thank God for the New Atheists.’” 

All quotes from: Michael Dowd, “Thank God for the New Atheists: A Sermon by Michael Dowd,” Skeptic Magazine, Vol. 16 (2):28-30 (2011).

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23 Responses to With Christians Like These, Who Needs Atheists?

  1. So…what is the difference between atheism and his “naturalistic” Christianity? He all but says that “god” is the sum of the laws of nature.

    “God is not a person”

    So who was Jesus? I’m probably not understanding his point here.

    He all but declares his despise for the Bible by glorifying the rejection of ancient texts and bemoaning faith. Michael, it just sounds like you reject Christianity.

    “’Getting right with God,’ means coming into right relationship with our planet and all its gloriously diverse species and cultures.”

    God calls us to be responsible stewards of his creation, but I don’t recall Jesus instructing his disciples to go to the local pagan temple to appreciate the glorious diversity of other cultures. But we’re not supposed to interpret Jesus’ teachings since it’s an ancient, non-peer-reviewed text? Then how can you possibly claim to be Christian instead of, at best, a deist?

    “The bottom line is this: whenever we Christians slip into interpreting scripture literally, we belittle the Bible and dishonor God.”

    I would agree with this in many cases, including Genesis 1. But does he not believe Jesus was crucified? The bible says this, and if he doesn’t interpret it literally, then how does he interpret it?

    I’ll admit that this is the first I’ve ever read from him. I would assume that he has answers to at least some of these questions, but my first reaction is confusion as to why he still considers himself Christian.

    None of it is surprising consider where it was published, though. It is an atheist magazine disguised as a science magazine. The only article that would get published from a theist would be one of reverence and praise to atheism, like this one.

  2. This is just about the most bizarre thing I have ever read. Almost everything he says is the antithesis of Christianity.

    …the New Atheists put their confidence (not faith) in an evidentially formed and continuously tested view of the world…

    No, they systematically ignore any evidence that counts against Darwinian orthodoxy, and make up stories out of whole cloth which they pretend is evidence.

  3. Dowd’s view is that it is the job of the theologian to retell the story of science in theological and meaningful language. Sadly, that isn’t too far off from a lot of academic theology.

  4. I will not reveal my response to the Darwin fish kissing the Jesus fish, but this picture does present a metaphorical representation of the problem that Christian Darwinists face.

    The picture is based on their conviction that Darwin’s theory of evolution is true. Do not Christian Darwinists ever consider the possibility that Darwin’s theory might not be true? What makes them so sure that it is?

    Which side is guilty of cognitive dissonance — we who have sincere evidence-based doubts about what evolution can accomplish or those who believe evolution explains all of the history of life?

    How will Christain Darwinists respond when it is finally accepted that Darwin’s theory is not the complete story?

  5. I see Karl Gilberson of Biologos among them.

  6. That… is terrifying.

    - Sonfaro

  7. Responding to Upright BiPed: Karl Giberson is one of several people featured on the “evolutionary Christianity” web site who is not really an adherent of “evolutionary Christianity.” I was also interviewed as part of that project, and as I make very clear in my interview, I don’t share Michael Dowd’s general approach. A number of us–Bill Phillips, Ken Miller, Owen Gingerich, Charles Townes, Denis Lamoureux, Karl Giberson, and me (there may well be others I should include here) do not agree with Dowd on many important points. None of us embraces religious naturalism, for example; all of us (as far as I know) believe in the bodily resurrection, the actual divine creation of the universe, and personal immortality. Dowd believes in none of those things.

    In short, Dowd’s project is mis-named, and in one of the blog conversations we had after my interview and panel discussion I pointed this out: actually, I asked him point blank to choose a different name, since his particular faith is not Christianity in any sense that I am able to grant.

    I was interviewed partly b/c I am a past president of the American Scientific Affiliation. Dowd was previously under the impression (as far as I can tell) that ASA members would be sympathetic with his views. He did not realize (for example) that our statement of faith explicitly references the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds–beliefs that Dowd describes as “flat earth faith,” a description that (of course) I reject as ridiculous.

    So, whatever conclusions one may draw, please keep this in mind.

  8. Who is deceived by this? Do people think that they are actually christians when they do not believe in the bible? This is just like Tashlan.

    http://narnia.wikia.com/wiki/Tashlan

  9. He’s trying to ween Christians off the bible and off of miracles. It reminds me of that scene in Saving Private Ryan. I bet you know what I’m talking about.

  10. 10

    Dr Davis, thank you for the comment, and the clarification.

    Now if I can get you to acknowledge that semiosis doesn’t come from inanimate matter, then the world will be a better place. :)

    Best Regards.

  11. Dr. Davis,

    Thanks for your insight.

  12. Karl Giberson is one of several people featured on the “evolutionary Christianity” web site who is not really an adherent of “evolutionary Christianity.”

    Then why did you even take part in the event?

  13. Dowd…..A wolf in sheep’s clothing

  14. This was, for the most part, a love fest among those who worship nature and call it God. For my part, I tried to engage Mr. Dowd in a little conversation [well, actually I invited him to extricate himself from his delusional mythology] but alas, he communicated only with his peers–a little bedroom pillow talk among EC partisans. I was such a dark and cloudy day. No one would come outside and play with me.

  15. 15
    CannuckianYankee

    Collin,
    Private Ryan? I’ve seen the movie several times. Forgive my not seeing what may be obvious, but I don’t see the connection, and I might like to.

  16. I don’t want to leave the wrong impression @14. I actually enjoyed presenting arguments in one post, raising objections to my own arguments in another post, and answering the objections in a follow up. I figured that, since I had been invited to the party, I was going to socialize even if it was with my alter ego.

  17. 17
    CannuckianYankee

    StephenB,
    Lol. Sounds like your alter ego had a lot of fun.

  18. Any so-called God that is imagined as less than this is unworthy of our devotion and deserves to be mocked, as the New Atheists so readily do.

    I’ll simply add in passing: When you’re offering up as much sanctimonious poetic crap as this guy is, you probably don’t want to start green-lighting mockery.

    The problem isn’t just that this guy’s “Evolutionary Christianity” is not Christianity, and is barely “evolutionary”. It’s that he’s a shyster, offering up something even more disreputable and inane as Jim Bakker did in his prime. Though really, that’s an insult to Bakker.

    But hey. Apparently offering up utter schlock doesn’t matter as long as you knock the right people and kiss the right asses. The guy has an image that appeals to a class of person who wants desperately to avoid the logical conclusions of atheism and materialism, but who still want to take aim at other people’s religious belief. Particularly those unpopular ones that suggest there may be things called ‘sin’, or ‘purpose’ that isn’t necessarily just what we feel like doing at any given moment.

  19. This was, for the most part, a love fest among those who worship nature and call it God.

    This is what it all boils down to, and it is transparently obvious. It’s the old god-is-nature, nature-is-god cult that has been around for thousands of years, and has produced nothing but destruction and degeneracy.

    In our contemporary culture it has also resulted in the pollution and corruption of legitimate scientific inquiry.

  20. 20

    “When you’re offering up as much sanctimonious poetic crap as this guy is, you probably don’t want to start green-lighting mockery.”

    (chuckle)

  21. 21

    Brain dead.

    I suppose he thinks Darwin and Jesus were both gay as well.

  22. Cannuck,

    I’m thinking of that part near the end where the German guy who they had let go is wrestling with the american soldier and the german gets on top with the knife and says, “shhh, shhhh” while he tries (successfully) to slowly stab the american soldier. Dowd is basically saying we should just quietly accept his attempted castration of christianity. (“Just let it go, it’s just the bible, shhh, shhh!”).

  23. Nullasalus asks me this @12:

    “Then why did you even take part in the event?”

    Briefly, nullasalus, b/c I was offered an opportunity to get my ideas about science & Christianity presented clearly and effectively, in a place and for an audience that would normally not hear them. If you listen to my interview in full (which you should do first, if you decide to respond to this post), then you will probably see my point. My message for Mr Dowd and many others who seek to transform Christianity into pantheism is as follows: it takes monotheism, not pantheism or atheism or religious naturalism, in order adequately to understand both nature and natural science itself. And, concerning Christianity specifically, it was here long before evolution and will still be here if (perhaps) evolution is someday discarded. The notion of “evolutionary Christianity” makes no sense to me.

    “Evolutionary Creation” is another matter; that makes a lot of sense to me. Denis Lamoureux likes that term, and perhaps Mr Dowd mistakenly thought that it was equivalent to his “evolutionary Christianity” and so he invited Denis to do an interview as well–an interview in which Denis also distances himself from the religious naturalism that Dowd advances.

    So, nullasalus, my reason for doing this interview is simple: I took the opportunity to offer my critique of a bundle of ideas that collectively get a lot of attention. The resulting interview is the best introduction to my work that anyone has ever done. Please listen to it and let me know what you think.

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