The Right Opinion

A Response to Richard Dawkins

By Dennis Prager · Oct. 1, 2013

This past Friday CNN conducted an interview with Richard Dawkins, the British biologist most widely known for his polemics against religion and on behalf of atheism.

Asked “whether an absence of religion would leave us without a moral compass,” Dawkins responded: “The very idea that we get a moral compass from religion is horrible.”

This is the crux of the issue for Dawkins and other anti-religion activists – that not only do we not need religion or God for morality, but we would have a considerably more moral world without them.

This argument is so wrong – both rationally and empirically - that its appeal can only be explained by a) a desire to believe it and b) an ignorance of history.

First, the rational argument.

If there is no God, the labels “good” and “evil” are merely opinions. They are substitutes for “I like it” and “I don’t like it.” They are not objective realities.

Every atheist philosopher I have debated has acknowledged this. For example, at Oxford University I debated Professor Jonathan Glover, the British philosopher and ethicist, who said: “Dennis started by saying that I hadn’t denied his central contention that if there isn’t a God, there is only subjective morality. And that’s absolutely true.”

And the eminent Princeton philosopher Richard Rorty admitted that for secular liberals such as himself, “there is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

Atheists like Dawkins who refuse to acknowledge that without God there are only opinions about good and evil are not being intellectually honest.

None of this means that only believers in God can be good or that atheists cannot be good. There are bad believers and there are good atheists. But this fact is irrelevant to whether good and evil are real.

To put this as clearly as possible: If there is no God who says, “Do not murder,” murder is not wrong. Many people or societies may agree that it is wrong. But so what? Morality does not derive from the opinion of the masses. If it did, then apartheid was right; murdering Jews in Nazi Germany was right; the history of slavery throughout the world was right; and clitoridectomies and honor killings are right in various Muslims societies.

So, then, without God, why is murder wrong?

Is it, as Dawkins argues, because reason says so?

My reason says murder is wrong, just as Dawkins’s reason does. But, again, so what? The pre-Christian Germanic tribes of Europe regarded the Church’s teaching that murder was wrong as preposterous. They reasoned that killing innocent people was acceptable and normal because the strong should do whatever they wanted.

In addition, reason alone without God is pretty weak in leading to moral behavior. When self-interest and reason collide, reason usually loses. That’s why we have the word “rationalize” – to use reason to argue for what is wrong.

What would reason argue to a non-Jew asked by Jews to hide them when the penalty for hiding a Jew was death? It would argue not to hide those Jews.

In that regard, let’s go to the empirical argument.

Years ago, I interviewed Pearl and Sam Oliner, two professors of sociology at California State University at Humboldt and the authors of one of the most highly-regarded works on altruism, The Altruistic Personality. The book was the product of the Oliners' lifetime of study of non-Jewish rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust.

The Oliners, it should be noted, are secular, not religious, Jews; they had no religious agenda.

I asked Samuel Oliner, “Knowing all you now know about who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, if you had to return as a Jew to Poland and you could knock on the door of only one person in the hope that they would rescue you, would you knock on the door of a Polish lawyer, a Polish doctor, a Polish artist or a Polish priest?”

Without hesitation, he said, “a Polish priest.” And his wife immediately added, “I would prefer a Polish nun.”

That alone should be enough to negate the pernicious nonsense that God is not only unnecessary for a moral world, but is detrimental to one.

But if that isn’t enough, how about the record of the godless 20th century, the cruelest, bloodiest, most murderous century on record? Every genocide of the last century – except for the Turkish mass murder of the Armenians and the Pakistani mass murder of Hindus in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was committed by a secular anti-Jewish and anti-Christian regime. And as the two exceptions were Muslim, they are not relevant to my argument. I am arguing for the God and Bible of Judeo-Christian religions.

Perhaps the most powerful proof of the moral decay that follows the death of God is the Western university and its secular intellectuals. Their moral record has been loathsome. Nowhere were Stalin and Mao as venerated as they were at the most anti-religious and secular institutions in Western society, the universities. Nowhere in the West today is anti-Americanism and Israel-hatred as widespread as it is at universities. And Princeton University awarded its first tenured professorship in bioethics to Peter Singer, an atheist who has argued, among other things, that that “the life of a newborn is of less value than the life of a pig, a dog or a chimpanzee” and that bestiality is not immoral.

Dawkins and his supporters have a right to their atheism. They do not have a right to intellectual dishonesty about atheism.

I have debated the best known atheists, including the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Lawrence Krauss (“A Universe from Nothing”) and Daniel Dennett. Only Richard Dawkins has refused to come on my radio show.

COPYRIGHT 2013 CREATORS.COM

22 Comments

Julian Perez in Deltona, Florida said:

Mr. Prager

Normally I like everything you write and agree most of the times but I have to specially thank you for this article. It helps me a lot. I have several atheists friends that are intelligent and good persons, so I can discuss with them about subjects we disagree, but when I try to explain what you explain here I don't completely succeed.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 9:56 AM

Cepat2 in Los Angeles CA said:

Dawkins is simply another dupe with a degree. Imagine what benefit he would provide if he turned his capabilities toward something of value?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 10:01 AM

Capt. Call in New Mexico said:

Atheism is defeated by Logic and by rational thought. Atheism is the blind leading the blind, and both will fall into the pit. Atheism is a self-defeating position. I suspect that most of those who believe it are doing so in spite of the evidence.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 10:07 AM

Honest Abe in North Carolina replied:

Atheists and all their kin are all little people who see the worship of God as a moral and religious block to their elitist rise to perfection. Mr. Obama is one of them, a little man who thinks the Constitution is a block to his changing the United States into his perfect world. If these little people are so godly and perfect, let them create a world and its contents, with natural laws within a vast universe and do it all in six days.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:15 AM

wjm in Colorado said:

Atheists are Marxist Statists, and they have to deny God in order to embrace the evil they advocate.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Honest Abe in North Carolina said:

Rationally, I believe I do not like Dawkins. If every man is his own origin of truth, then I believe Dawkins is a piece of irrational human garbage and for me that is truth.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:02 AM

Retired Sarge in Rockville, IN said:

The fool says in his heart,
“There is no God.”
They are corrupt, and their ways are vile;
there is no one who does good. Psalm 53:1

Undoubtedly, I view Dawkins as a fool. And this scripture passage above is quite applicable in his case. If any of you have an opportunity to view "The God Delusion" debate (out on DVD), it is worth your time. I stand in awe at the lack of logic behind Dawkins' arguments.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:15 AM

Retired Sarge in Rockville, IN said:

An Atheist Professor of Philosophy was speaking to …his Class on the Problem Science has with GOD, the ALMIGHTY. He asked one of his New Christian Students to stand and . . ….
Professor : You are a Christian, aren’t you, son ?
Student : Yes, sir.
Professor: So, you Believe in GOD ?
Student : Absolutely, sir.
Professor: Is GOD Good ?
Student : Sure.
Professor: Is GOD ALL – POWERFUL ?
Student : Yes.
Professor: My Brother died of Cancer even though he Prayed to GOD to Heal him.
Most of us would attempt to help others who are ill.
But GOD didn’t. How is this GOD good then? Hmm?
(Student was silent )
Professor: You can’t answer, can you ? Let’s start again, Young Fella.
Is GOD Good?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Is Satan good ?
Student : No.
Professor: Where does Satan come from ?
Student : From . . . GOD . . .
Professor: That’s right. Tell me son, is there evil in this World?
Student : Yes.
Professor: Evil is everywhere, isn’t it ? And GOD did make everything. Correct?
Student : Yes.
Professor: So who created evil ?
(Student did not answer)
Professor: Is there Sickness? Immorality? Hatred? Ugliness?
All these terrible things exist in the World, don’t they?
Student : Yes, sir.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Retired Sarge in Rockville, IN said:

Professor: So, who Created them ?
(Student had no answer)
Professor: Science says you have 5 Senses you use to Identify and Observe the World around you.
Tell me, son . . . Have you ever Seen GOD?
Student : No, sir.
Professor: Tell us if you have ever Heard your GOD?
Student : No , sir.
Professor: Have you ever Felt your GOD, Tasted your GOD, Smelt your GOD?
Have you ever had any Sensory Perception of GOD for that matter?
Student : No, sir. I’m afraid I haven’t.
Professor: Yet you still Believe in HIM?
Student : Yes.
Professor : According to Empirical, Testable, Demonstrable Protocol,
Science says your GOD doesn’t exist. What do you say to that, son?
Student : Nothing. I only have my Faith.
Professor: Yes,Faith. And that is the Problem Science has.
Student : Professor, is there such a thing as Heat?
Professor: Yes.
Student : And is there such a thing as Cold?
Professor: Yes.
Student : No, sir. There isn’t.
(The Lecture Theatre became very quiet with this turn of events )
Student : Sir, you can have Lots of Heat, even More Heat, Superheat, Mega Heat, White Heat,
a Little Heat or No Heat.
But we don’t have anything called Cold.
We can hit 458 Degrees below Zero which is No Heat, but we can’t go any further after that.
There is no such thing as Cold.
Cold is only a Word we use to describe the Absence of Heat.
We cannot Measure Cold.
Heat is Energy.
Cold is Not the Opposite of Heat, sir, just the Absence of it.
(There was Pin-Drop Silence in the Lecture Theatre )
Student : What about Darkness, Professor? Is there such a thing as Darkness?
Professor: Yes. What is Night if there isn’t Darkness?
Student : You’re wrong again, sir.
Darkness is the Absence of Something
You can have Low Light, Normal Light, Bright Light, Flashing Light . . .
But if you have No Light constantly, you have nothing and its called Darkness, isn’t it?
In reality, Darkness isn’t.
If it is, were you would be able to make Darkness Darker, wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM

Retired Sarge in Rockville, IN said:

Professor: So what is the point you are making, Young Man ?
Student : Sir, my point is your Philosophical Premise is flawed.
Professor: Flawed ? Can you explain how?
Student : Sir, you are working on the Premise of Duality.
You argue there is Life and then there is Death, a Good GOD and a Bad GOD.
You are viewing the Concept of GOD as something finite, something we can measure.
Sir, Science can’t even explain a Thought.
It uses Electricity and Magnetism, but has never seen, much less fully understood either one.
To view Death as the Opposite of Life is to be ignorant of the fact that
Death cannot exist as a Substantive Thing.
Death is Not the Opposite of Life: just the Absence of it.
Now tell me, Professor, do you teach your Students that they evolved from a Monkey?
Professor: If you are referring to the Natural Evolutionary Process, yes, of course, I do.
Student : Have you ever observed Evolution with your own eyes, sir?
(The Professor: shook his head with a Smile, beginning to realize where the Argument was going )
Student : Since no one has ever observed the Process of Evolution at work and
Cannot even prove that this Process is an On-Going Endeavor,
Are you not teaching your Opinion, sir?
Are you not a Scientist but a Preacher?
(The Class was in Uproar )
Student : Is there anyone in the Class who has ever seen the Professor’s Brain?
(The Class broke out into Laughter )
Student : Is there anyone here who has ever heard the Professor’s Brain, Felt it, touched or Smelt it? . . .
No one appears to have done so.
So, according to the Established Rules of Empirical, Stable, Demonstrable Protocol,
Science says that You have No Brain, sir.
With all due respect, sir, how do we then Trust your Lectures, sir?
(The Room was Silent. The Professor stared at the Student, his face unfathomable)
Professor: I guess you’ll have to take them on Faith, son.
Student : That is it sir . . . Exactly !
The Link between Man & GOD is FAITH.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:17 AM

READY4ACHANGE in ILLINOIS replied:

AMAZING story Sarge!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:51 AM

Kirk in Maryland, USA replied:

Beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 12:11 PM

Julian Perez in Deltona, Florida replied:

Retired Sarge

I copy this story and pasted in an email to shared it with my family and some friends because I liked it very much. I hope you don't mind.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 6:23 PM

Mike Smith in San Antonio, TX replied:

The class is in chaos. The Christian sits... Because that is what a chair is for.

The professor, amused at the student's antics, asks the student whether he's ever read anything about science.

"No," says the student. "I only know what I've heard in church."

"That explains your ignorance about what science is, young man," says the professor. "Empirical knowledge of something does not always entail direct observation. We can observe the effects of something and know that it must exist. Electrons have not been observed, but they can create an observable trail that can be observed, so we can know they exist."

"Oh," said the Christian.

"No one has observed my heart, but we can hear it beating. We also know from empirical knowledge of people that no one can live without a heart, real or manufactured, or at least not without being also hooked up to some medical equipment. So we can know that I have a heart even though we have not seen it."

"Oh, I see. That makes sense," said the Christian student.

"Similarly, we can know that I have a brain. I wouldn't be able to talk, walk, and so on unless I had one, would I?" said the professor.

"I guess not."

"In fact, if I had no brain I couldn't do anything at all. Except maybe become a televangelist!"

The class broke up with laughter. Even the Christian laughed.

"Evolution is known to be true because of evidence," continued the professor. "It is the best explanation for the fossil record. Even prominent creationists admit that the transition from reptiles to mammals is well documented in the fossil record. A creationist debate panel, including Michael Behe and Philip Johnson, conceded this on a televised debate on PBS. It was on Buckley's "Firing Line" show. Did you see it?"

The Christian student cleared his throat and said in a low voice, "My mom won't let me watch educational TV. She thinks it will weaken my faith."

The professor shook his head sadly. "Knowledge does have a way of doing that," he said. "But in any case, evolution is also the best explanation for phenomena that have been observed."

The Christian student sputters, "You--you mean we HAVE seen it?"

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Mike Smith in San Antonio, TX replied:

"Of course. Evolution has occured within recent times, and it continues to occur. Birds and insects not native to Hawaii were introduced just a couple of centuries ago and have evolved to take better advantage of the different flora. So this evolution has taken place within recorded history. Recent history. Did you know that?"

"Uh, no."

"Viruses other diseases evolve to become resistant to medicine. This is not only observed but it is a major problem that science must confront every day. Mosquitos in the tunnels of London's underground have evolved to become separate species because of their isolation from other groups of mosquitos. But enough about evolution. That doesn't have anything to do with our issue, evil, does it?"

"Well..."

"What does it have to do with our issue?" asked the professor.

"Well, if you don't believe in god, then you must believe we came from apes."

The professor laughed. "Evolutionists don't believe that people came from apes or even monkeys. They believe that humans and apes had a common ancestor."

"Wow!" said the Christian. "That's not what they told me at church."

"I'm sure. They can't refute evolution so they have to spread misinformation about it. But don't you know that many Christians believe that god made humans by evolution?"

"I didn't know that."

"In fact, of the four people who debated the evolution side on PBS, on William F. Buckley's 'Firing Line,' which I just mentioned, two of them were theists. One of them is a reverend, in fact."

"Really?"

"Really. Many denominations of Christianity embrace evolution. Catholicism, the largest denomination of Christianity, is compatible with evolution. So evolution is not relevant here, is it?"

"I guess not."

"Even if it were true that you have to be an atheist to believe evolution, which is not the case, and even if it were the case that evolution was unsupported by evidence, which is also not the case, this would not explain evil at all, would it. It is irrelevant."

"I see that now," said the Christian. "I don't even know why I brought it up. I guess I thought it was an example of how you believe something without evidence."

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:22 PM

Mike Smith in San Antonio, TX replied:

"Well," said the professor. "As you can see, it is not. There is plenty of evidence for evolution. And even if there were no evidence, this has no bearing on the issue of evil. As we proceed through the philosophy course, you will see how to use your reasoning ability to separate important issues from irrelevant ones."

"I'm guess learning already," said the student, looking at the floor.

"But back to the problem of evil," said the professor. "You stated that evil is the absence of good. How does that solve the problem of evil?"

The student said lifelessly: "If evil is the absence of good, then god did not create evil." It was evident that this was something the student had learned by rote and had often repeated.

The professor shrugged his shoulders. "Okay, let's suppose for the moment that this is true. This still does not explain evil. If a tidal wave wipes out a whole town, and 100,000 people die, is that evil?"

"There is the absence of good," said the student.

"But so what? The problem is why god did not prevent the disaster. If god is all-powerful he can prevent it, and if he is all-knowing he knows that it is about to happen. So whether he created the tidal wave is not relevant. What we want to know is why he did not do anything to stop it."

The student looked confused. "But why should he prevent it? It's not his fault."

"If a human being had the power to prevent a tidal wave wiping out a town, and this person intentionally failed to stop it, we would not say that the person is good. Even if the person said, 'It's not my fault,' we would be appalled that someone could stand by and do nothing as thousands die. So if god does not prevent natural disasters, and he is able to do so, we should not say that god is good by the same reasoning. In fact, we would probably say that god is evil."

The Christian student thought for a moment. "I guess I'd have to agree."

"So redefining evil as the absence of good does nothing to solve the problem of evil," said the professor. "At best it shows that god did not create it, but this does not explain why god does not prevent it."

The Christian student shook a finger at the professor. "But that's according to our human standards. What if god has a higher morality? We can't judge him by our standards."

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:23 PM

Mike Smith in San Antonio, TX replied:

The professor laughed. "Then you just lost your case. If you admit that god does not fit our definition of good, then we should not call him good. Case closed."

"I don't understand," said the student, wrinkling his brow.

"If I go outside and see a vehicle with four tires, a metal body, a steering wheel, a motor and so on, and it fits the definition of a car, is it a car?" "Of course it is," said the Christian student. "That's what a car is."

"But what if someone says that on some other definition it could be considered an airplane. Does that mean it's not a car?"

"No," said the student. "It still fits the definition of a car. That's what we mean by saying that it's a car. It doesn't fit the definition of an airplane, so we shouldn't call it that."

"Exactly," said the professor. "If it fits the definition, then that's what it is. If god fits the definition of good, then he is good. If he does not, then he is not. If you admit that he does not fit our definition of good, then he is not good. It does no good to say that he could be 'good' in some other definition. If we want to know whether he is good by our definition, you have answered that question. God is not good."

"I don't believe it!" said the Christian student. "A few minutes ago I would have laughed at the suggestion that god is not good, but now I actually agree. God doesn't fit the definition of good, so he's not good."

"There you go," said the professor.

"But wait a minute," said the student. "God could still be good in some other definition even if we don't call him good. Despite what we think, god could still have his own morality that says he's good. Even if we couldn't call him good, that doesn't mean that he isn't good on some definition. He could have his own definition anyway."

"Oh, you would not want to push the view that god might be good in some other definition," said the professor.

"Why not?" "Well, if he has definitions of things that are radically different from our own, he might have a different definition of lots of other things. He might have his own definitions of such things as eternal reward, or eternal life. Your supposed eternal life in heaven might just be a year, or it could be a thousand years of torture. God could just say he has a definition of reward that includes excruciating torture as part of the definition."

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM

Mike Smith in San Antonio, TX replied:

"That's right!" said the Christian, jumping up. His eyes were wide open. "If god can redefine any word, then anything goes. God could send all believers to what we call hell and say that it is heaven. He could give us ten days in heaven and say that that's his definition of eternity!"

"Now you're thinking!" said the professor, pointing a finger at the student. "This is what a philosophy class is supposed to do for students."

The Christian student continued. "God could promise us eternal life and then not give it to us and say that's his definition of keeping a promise!"

"Yes, yes," said the professor.

"I can't believe I used to fall for this Christianity stuff. It's so indefensible," said the student, shaking his head. "Just a few moment's thought and all the arguments that my church gave me in Sunday school just collapse."

"So it would seem," said the professor.

"I'm going to go to my church tonight and give the pastor a piece of my mind. They never tell me about important stuff like this. And they sure didn't tell me the truth about evolution!"

The student, who stood up as a Christian, now sat down as an atheist. And he started using his brain--because that's what it's for. The other students in the class sat there, stunned, for a few moments. They knew they had witnessed the changing of a person's life, the redirection of a young mind from falsehood and religious dogma to the honest pursuit of truth.

The students looked at each other and then began applauding. This soon gave way to cheering. The professor took a bow, laughing. When the students calmed down he continued his lecture, and class attendance was high for the rest of the semester.

Monday, October 7, 2013 at 5:25 PM

Steve Bookout in Sherman, Texas said:

Despite the best efforts of men like Dawkins to provide credibility for the atheistic worldview, Psalms 14:1 remains the best explanation for Atheism.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:22 AM

L.L. Smith in Savannah, Tn. said:

When I am sick I go to an atheist hospital. When I am hungry I go to an atheist food center. When I am cold I go to an atheist clothing center. When a tornado hits I go to an atheist organization to help me rebuild my home. How about Christian doctors and nurses who go as missionaries to foreign countries at their own expense to help those in need? How many atheist adoption agencies do you know? The list is endless. I know of no atheist organizations that are established for the good of humanity. Do you?

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Arthur Bay in Oklahoma City, OK said:

A good argument for the proposition that the belief in God is a force for good. However, irrelevant to the question of whether there is a God.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 1:08 PM

L.L. Smith in Savannah, Tn. replied:

I'm not trying to prove anything to anybody. I'm simply telling you what I know and how Christ changed my life. There is a force for good and force for evil in this world. The choice is mine to make as to which I follow. I sincerely doubt that there is such a vast difference in people's activities based totally on personalities. Since I know there is a God and we will answer to for our activities while on earth I am planning on being in good shape to meet him. I have experienced a life changing difference since I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. He is who he says he is and he will do what he says he will do. I didn't make the drastic change by myself. If anyone wants to find the truth it might be found with some research of the book that claims to be inspired by God. When eternity is at stake it seems to me to be wise to search and see for yourself. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. If you find you are right, well and good. If you find you are wrong.........A good place to start is to check the prophecies in the Old Testament that can be proven to be correct by historical proof. Thanks a lot.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013 at 11:19 PM