Richard Dawkins has recently conducted a video interview for Business Insider1 attempting to explain morality without the firm foundation of a Creator God. A previous article dealt with the question: Does morality have to come from a Creator God? Here, we examine the question from a slightly different angle. The transcript of Dawkins’ video spiel follows, first in its entirety, then interspersed with my examination and discussion:
“You don’t get your moral compass from religion. If you did you would be stoning adulteresses to death, and you would be executing people for breaking the Sabbath, and for making graven images and that kind of thing. We clearly do not get our moral compass from religion. Our moral compass in the 21st century is a 21st century moral compass and it’s changed. It changes by the century, it changes by the decade. I call it the changing moral zeitgeist. And the shifting moral zeitgeist has nothing to do with religion. You can find the occasional verse in scripture which accords with our modern morality but you have to do that with sifting through and throwing out large numbers of verses which go against our modern moral compass. So why not just take the modern moral compass as it is having been worked out by moral philosophers and by a sort of discourse that takes place all the time as the centuries go by. We now regard with abhorrence slavery whereas a couple of hundred years ago it was the norm. All sorts of things like that have changed, and this has nothing to do with religion. The other way in which religion might give a moral compass is if people behave in a moral way because they are frightened of God, because they want to go to heaven, or don’t want to go to hell. That’s a rather ignoble reason for being good, I would rather meet somebody who is good for the sake of being good, rather than for the sake of sucking up to an imaginary friend.”
This is not the first time that Dawkins has come out with similar material. In 2006 when he released his polemical book, The God Delusion, it dealt very much with the same ideas.
In his interview, Dawkins is introduced as an ‘evolutionary biologist’ and this, in the very truest sense, is his starting position. The high altar at which Dawkins worships is his uncompromising faith in naturalistic evolutionary origins. It is important to note that he is not some objective observer of life trying to think things through, rather a biased orator of his own atheistic religion.
Muddying the waters
“You don’t get your moral compass from religion. If you did you would be stoning adulteresses to death, and you would be executing people for breaking the Sabbath, and for making graven images and that kind of thing. We clearly do not get our moral compass from religion.”
While Dawkins may use the word ‘religion’ here, listeners/readers should not be caught out by this thinly veiled disguise for what he really means, Christianity. It is a simple bait and switch tactic. He introduces the word ‘religion’, but then aims his attack directly at only one in particular.2 He attempts to horrify his listener by referring to laws and punishments found in the Old Testament, which from the viewpoint of today’s largely liberal society (his intended audience), may seem extreme and scarily harsh. What he totally fails to do is give them any historical or theological context and either shows himself to be ignorant of these matters, or is guilty of being deliberately misleading. Either way Dawkins doesn’t tell the whole truth! The Mosaic laws that he is referring to in the Old Testament were for a particular people, Israel. They agreed to enter into a covenant with God at Mount Sinai, at a particular time in history, and Jesus later fulfilled these laws and brought in the new covenant. This totally invalidates Dawkins’ point. Christians no longer adhere to these particular laws because they are no longer applicable, yet we still get our morality from the Creator and Lawgiver—God.3
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