I am an enthusiastic supporter of Richard Dawkins. He, more than anyone, has brought clarity of perception and expression to the issues surrounding the non-existence of that ghostly entity the religionists call god.
In doing so I am certain he has saved a generation the anguish of struggling alone to free themselves of the religious dogma pressed upon them by parents, schools and churches when they were too young and unformed to resist.
We owe him an immense debt of gratitude.
So it comes as a particular surprise (and disappointment) that in his writing and conversation he appears to accept the Christian churches’ view of Jesus – the figure at the centre of their faith – at face value. I don’t suggest that he regards Jesus as a supernatural being, much less as a son of a non-existent god. But unless and until he is prepared to confront this religious confection, he will have sidestepped the most potent of Christianity’s weapons in the debate.
For while the arguments about god are essentially abstractions, the Jesus of the gospels is presented as a real historical figure whose benevolent activities ‘prove’ him to be the son of some magisterial creator. Indeed, I suspect that most Christians conflate the two conceptions – Jesus and God – and the churches employ it as their major selling point in gathering converts.
That is why I wrote The Jesus Delusion. I was concerned to present the real figure of the gospels as opposed to the later construct of the church’s propaganda arm.
For example, while most Christians would know the identity of his mother, Miriam (translated as Mary), and Joseph, his legal father, how many know that he had four brothers―James, Joses, Judas and Simon―and at least two sisters? How many are aware that relations between Jesus and his family were consistently hostile and are so revealed in every single biblical reference to them? And that’s just the beginning. The gospels reveal a person of decidedly unheroic appearance (‘Physician, heal thyself!’), a reputation as ‘a glutton and a wine bibber’, and possessor of a violent temper.
In their sales pitch, the churches have highlighted some elements of his personality – ‘Suffer the little children’; ‘Love your enemies’; ‘Turn the other cheek’; while pointedly ignoring other equally valid characteristics – ‘You brood of vipers’; ‘I have come to set a ,man against his father’; ‘Woe to you Chorazin, woe to you Bethsaida…and you Capernaum, you shall be brought down to Hades!’
But most of all they ignore the sad delusion that came to overwhelm him: if he were to offer himself for crucifixion, his ‘Father’ would intervene and bring the world to an end. And on that day he and his disciples would sit in judgement on the twelve tribes of Israel.
There is a certain nobility in his following his delusion to the bitter end. And bitter it most certainly was for his final words on the cross: ‘My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?’ tell of the sudden, awful realisation as his lifeblood departed, that there was no all-embracing father, that it had all been for nought.
I commend my book to Professor Dawkins.
It’s the least I can do.