The humanist apostles’ creed
—that which ‘a Devil’s Chaplain might write’
Published: 4 October 2004 (GMT+10)
Well-known atheist, Richard Dawkins, now styles himself as A Devil’s Chaplain, the title of a recent book. As ‘Professor of the Public Understanding of Science’ at England’s Oxford University, Dawkins is infamous for his vitriolic attacks on those with religious—and particularly Christian—faith. He relates that Charles Darwin coined the phrase ‘Devil’s Chaplain’ in a letter to a friend in 18561: ‘What a book a Devil’s Chaplain might write on the clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature’.
While in the Netherlands recently, involved in speaking ministry, I became aware that Richard Dawkins gave a talk at the prestigious Leiden University as part of the launch of the Dutch translation of his recent book. He also gave an interview with a Dutch radio station, the web audio transcript of which a Dutch friend kindly located for me.2 In characteristic style, this evangelist for atheistic scientism proceeded to attribute all the truly praiseworthy aspects of life (as he saw it) to Darwinism, whilst also pouring scorn on those who disagreed with him. As I listened, I wondered how many of those who heard him that day, and/or bought his book, could see his double standards and the misleading nature of his comments. I also thought of the many Christians that I’ve met over the years who have found his books and arguments compelling, seemingly oblivious to Dawkins’ own heavily anti-Christian motives.
Near the start of the interview, he stated: ‘Nature is cruel; not only is nature cruel, but it follows from Darwin’s theory of natural selection that nature is bound to be cruel, because even very beautiful things like a leopard, a lion, a cheetah or the antelopes that they hunt, they’re beautiful and beautifully designed to run fast because countless millions of cheetahs and antelopes have killed and died over many generations to make them so.’ Of course, anyone who cares to examine the present-day natural world would have to agree that nature is cruel, but Dawkins is looking at a fallen, sin-cursed world. This is not the perfect creation that God originally made and pronounced ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31)—a world in which the ugliness and cruelty of animal carnivory were unknown (Genesis 1:29,30). Dawkins—like Thomas Henry Huxley at the time of Darwin—is keenly aware of this conflict between the horrible things in nature and the paradise-on-earth description of Genesis chapters 1 and 2, which is precisely why he delights in highlighting it.
Yet, only minutes later, he described things quite differently, when he admitted: ‘Well, I suppose, Darwin’s theory of natural selection is for me the most beautiful [thing in science]—but that’s probably my bias because I am a biologist—but it is astoundingly elegant, when you think about it, that such an amazingly simple theory—it really is exceedingly simple—suffices to produce all the range of life, from bacteria to redwood trees to elephants to humans. And they are astoundingly complicated, stunningly beautiful, and yet it’s all come about by the slow, grinding out of the laws of nature (emphasis added).’ So when it suits him, he describes the ‘clumsy, wasteful, blundering low and horridly cruel works of nature’ as ‘elegant’ and ‘beautiful’! When asked why it was so important for him to be convincing people about his evolutionary ‘science’ as ‘the only truth,’ Dawkins replied, ‘Because it’s so beautiful—it’s such a magnificent thing to live in the universe and to understand the universe in which you live, to be a part of life and to understand the life of which you are a part, to understand why you were born before you have to die … And it’s so sad that people go to their grave without understanding why they were born in the first place.’
How many listeners discerned that this famous scientist was now preaching his own brand of unadulterated humanism and not arguing from science at all? For many like Dawkins, belief in evolution is foundational to their rejection of what God’s Word has to say about why ‘they were born in the first place.’ Instead, they preach the audacious idea that believing that the cruelties and vagaries of Darwinian natural selection have created all life will help you somehow ‘understand why you were born before you have to die’!
How could this anti-God religion of death possibly be reconciled, as some try to do, with the biblical teaching of God as the Author of life? Death—and the associated bloodshed, extinctions, mutations, diseases and suffering—is an unwelcome intruder into a creation that now ‘groans’ (Romans 8:22) under the weight of the consequences of the sinful rebellion of humankind. This will continue until the time when the Curse is removed (Revelation 22:3) and death (which is called ‘the last enemy’ in 1 Corinthians 15:26), mourning, crying and pain will cease in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1,4).
At one stage, Dawkins’ interviewer commented: ‘There’s a central theme [in your writings]—You’re fighting for truth and you’re fighting against misconceptions.’ However, the ‘truth’ that Dawkins fights for is a materialistic, religious belief that rejects out of hand any notions of the supernatural—matter and energy is all there is. It also emphatically denies the Truth of God in Scripture, shoehorning its adherents into searching for some kind of meaning and purpose in the blind, wasteful, cruel forces of nature.
This logically leads to nihilism so it’s a grievous thing indeed that so many young students read Dawkins’ books as though they are the words of a twenty-first century sage. No surprise then, that suicide among people of this age-group is the leading cause of death in some western countries. If you’re just rearranged pond scum and the going gets tough, ending your life perhaps seems a rational decision to take, as a young man called Gerard reasoned on Australian radio: ‘ … I think that some people may have an inability to cope, and maybe this might sound a bit extreme, but that might be Darwinian theory, the Darwin theory of survival of the fittest. Maybe some of us aren’t meant to survive, maybe some of us are meant to kill ourselves … There’s too many people in the world as it is. Maybe it is survival of the fittest, maybe some of us are meant to just give up, and maybe that would help the species.’3
For Dawkins, the alternative (acceptance of God and His revelation in the Bible) is anathema. He told the interviewer: ‘[Religion] is giving not only a false explanation, but a very boring explanation compared to the truth. The truth is so exciting, it’s so riveting, it’s so much grander than anything that any religion has ever contemplated that it is simply tragic that people are still misled in ways that their ancestors were in mediaeval times.’ As we constantly teach in Creation Ministries International, the worldview you choose not only affects your understanding of science, it has enormous consequences for how you view yourself and your fellow human beings.
Ultimately, to choose the worldview that Richard Dawkins espouses is a slippery slide into hopeless unbelief.4 Removing discussions of God and Christianity from science classrooms and university lecture theatres does not remove religion. Rather, the fruit of Dawkins’ own pen and lips reveal that this is a veritable apostle of secular humanism, who desires to replace Christianity with his own creed, a religion that claims to answer questions of life’s meaning and morality. I close with my own version of the Apostle’s Creed5 that, I believe, fairly sums up this deeply religious man’s convictions about Darwinian natural selection and his undisguised antipathy for the Christian church:
I believe in naturalism, Science Almighty,
the creator of heaven and earth,
and in Darwinism, its offspring, our Master:
Which was conceived of ‘enlightened’ men,
born of a rejection of Scripture,
flourished under Charles Darwin,
suffered, but was rescued by the ‘new synthesis’.6
It ascended to acceptance in the church.
The next century, the church spiraled further into compromise.
She descended into humanism
and sits at the right hand of naturalism, Science Almighty,
from which she is powerless to judge the living or the dead.
I believe in ‘enlightened’ men, the evolutionary establishment,
the fellowship of evolutionists,
the nonexistence of sins,
the annihilation of the body,
and death everlasting.
[M]y prayer is that many Christians who have compromised God’s truth with the opinions of fallible, sinful human beings, will instead stand firm on the authority of the Word of God. The words of the prophet Jeremiah (17:5,7) are particularly appropriate here: ‘Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the Lord … Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.’
References and notes
- Letter to the botanist and friend of Charles Darwin, Joseph D. Hooker, 13 July 1856. Return to text.
- Noorderlicht Radio, 18 May 2004, <noorderlicht.vpro.nl/wetenschap/smil/audioparts.sram?3626936+3300397+15336282+16649744+17626147>. Return to text.
- Black Dog Days—The experience and treatment of depression, Life Matters with Norman Swan, ABC (Australia) radio, 4 May 2000. Return to text.
- This happened to evangelist-turned-apostate, Charles Templeton; see Ham, K. and Byers, S., The slippery slide to unbelief, Creation 22(3):8–13, 2000. Return to text.
- The Apostles Creed consists of the basic beliefs of reformed churches and was composed a half century or so after the last writings of the New Testament. Return to text.
- The rediscovery of Mendelian genetics was problematic for Darwinism until several biologists salvaged it by hypothesizing that rare, beneficial mutations could be the raw material for natural selection to work with; their idea was called the synthetic theory. Return to text.