Man-made gods wreak havoc under inviting cloak of atheism


RITE AND REASON: THE IRISH Timesof June 4th last reported the contributions to the World Atheist Convention of noted international theologian and evangelist of atheism, Richard Dawkins, together with that of our recently self-outed atheist Senator Ivana Bacik.

Dawkins a theologian? Certainly so; the term “theology” was coined long ago by Greek philosophers in order to identify that part of philosophy that consists in reasoning about gods; so that those who reason there is no god are as much theologians as those who reason there is one.

Furthermore, when Christians made their entry on the stage of history, and wanted to produce a philosophical support for their theistic belief as recorded in their Bible, they borrowed pre-Christian Greek philosophy for the purpose. They saw little or no difference between their god and the dominant god of the most advanced version of Greek religion. “Change a few phrases,” said St Augustine, “and they [the Platonists] might be Christians.” So Dawkins is a theologian.

Bacik, however, does not appear to want to be bothered about providing reasons for her atheism at all. She prefers to rely on the direct dogmatic route to the cavalier and surely thoughtless assertion that in our “remarkable times, all our gods have crumbled, [as] sacred texts, infallible truths, have been exposed as shams”.

Yet if she had tried to acquaint herself with theology, and if she had managed to modify just a little her crass dismissal of all sacred texts as mere shams, she might have learned something about the existence of gods. Namely, that humanity at all times has been capable of creating gods in its own image.

And these created gods are real gods, for they quickly reveal the power of taking over and ruling the lives of those who create them. They are more than capable of directing these lives as whimsically to wellbeing as to the devastating destruction of Homo sapiens, habitat and all.

Bacik stumbles on traces of the principal deity of this age-old man-made pantheon, when she talks about being “struck by the comparison between the unquestioning deference shown to bankers with that shown to religious authority”.

For investment bankers are the high priests of Mammon whose very raison d’etreis the increase and increase of Mammon at whatever cost to human life and habitat. That lesson of reigning man-made gods, and the havoc they wreak on their very own creators, is taught by the prophet from Nazareth, who clearly identified Mammon as the principal rival to the God he knew as our common father.

And if we Irish have not learned that lesson from our present predicament, we never will; and we will pay the price. We are already noticing the promised punishments that attach to the very suggestion of disobeying some of Mammon’s rules as laid down by the “Vatican” of the International Monetary Fund.

So, despite Bacik’s praise of atheism as “profoundly moral” in itself, and unquestionably a source of “respect for others’ beliefs, combining reason and compassion”, there is too much evidence of declared atheism hiding malignant man-made theisms under its inviting cloak.

As of Dawkins-type attacks and outright persecution of religions by atheistic humanist regimes that can rival the apparently unending and mutual persecution of each other by faiths such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Each can be as bad as the next.

James Mackey is visiting professor in the school of religions and theology at TCD, and Thomas Chalmers professor emeritus of theology at the University of Edinburgh. His most recent books include Jesus of Nazarethand Christianity and Creation