CULTURE DIGEST: Atheist on a mission; Britain to teach ID in religion classes

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--In his book “The God Delusion,” prominent Oxford scientist and atheist Richard Dawkins calls for the obliteration of all religion because he considers it a “very evil” force in the world. But a Nobel laureate counters that atheism is winning in the West because millions of Americans claim to be Christians but have no idea what that means.

R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, called attention to the matter on his blog at albertmohler.com Jan. 23, noting, as a book reviewer did, that Dawkins’ attack on belief in God is important because his book is on The New York Times best-seller list and Dawkins was featured on the cover of Time magazine last fall.

Mohler quotes H. Allen Orr, a biology professor and defender of evolutionary theory who wrote a review of The God Delusion for the prestigious New York Review of Books.

“Dawkins not only thinks religion is unalloyed nonsense but that it is an overwhelmingly pernicious, even ‘very evil,’ force in the world,” Orr wrote. “His target is not so much organized religion as all religion. And within organized religion, he attacks not only extremist sects but moderate ones. Indeed, he argues that rearing children in a religious tradition amounts to child abuse.”

Orr goes on to say that even though he greatly admires Dawkins’ other work, The God Delusion is badly flawed and does not make a convincing case because he fails to engage religious thoughts in any serious way. Mohler commended Orr and The New York Review of Books for knowing a bad argument when they see one.

Furthermore, in a review of the book written by Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg and published by The Times of London, Weinberg urges Dawkins to realize that religion is not the formidable foe he thinks it is.

“We are winning, Weinberg encourages Dawkins,” Mohler wrote in summary of the review. “Europe is so thoroughly secularized that churches are virtually empty. Americans may look unsecular, but Weinberg sees this as an illusion. After all, millions of Americans claim to be Christians, but have virtually no idea of what Christianity really is. As he explained, ‘although most Americans may be sure of the value of religion, as far as I can tell they are not very certain about the truth of what their own religion teaches.’ All too true.”

Mohler sized up the matter for Christians.

“Weinberg recognizes that the approach of these ‘professed Christians’ who do not try to convert him (being unsure of Heaven and Hell anyway) differs greatly from the approach of ‘Luther, or Calvin, or St. Paul,’” Mohler wrote, referring to Weinberg’s mention of a growing tolerance for other religions among Christians. “I wonder -- do those ‘professing Christians’ see the difference? This lack of conviction is the root cause of our crisis -- and it explains why some atheists are absolutely sure they are winning.”

BRITAIN TO TEACH INTELLIGENT DESIGN -- British education officials have jumped ahead of U.S. schools in signing off on the practice of teaching Intelligent Design in public classrooms.

Newly published guidelines allow Intelligent Design to be explored in religious education classes as part of developing an understanding of different beliefs. It will not be taught in science classes alongside evolution. No teachers will be required to include Intelligent Design in their lesson plans, but many see the development as a clever way of compromising on a controversial issue.

In the United States, several school systems in recent years have fought battles over whether Intelligent Design, which critics say is repackaged creationism, should be taught as a possible alternative to Darwin’s theory of evolution. Many advocates say students should be exposed to ideas that question evolution.

“Just teaching children Darwinism doesn’t stretch their minds and give them intellectual hurdles to jump over. There should be lively debate,” John Wilkins, former editor of a Roman Catholic magazine in Britain, told Reuters.

FOCUS ON THE FAMILY DENOUNCES PELOSI FILM -- Focus on the Family is not at all pleased with a documentary on evangelicals in America produced by Alexandra Pelosi, the youngest daughter of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

“Ms. Pelosi describes her film as a lighthearted and nonjudgmental look at evangelical life in America. It is anything but,” Gary Schneeberger, Focus on the Family’s senior media director, said Jan. 26. “Her camera comes with crosshairs -- and her sights are fixed on Christians. This is yet another hit piece created by big media to paint men and women of faith as kooky or scary -- or, best of all from the left’s perspective, both.”

But Pelosi has been telling news outlets that she came out on the side of evangelicals after making the documentary “Friends of God,” which premiered on HBO Jan. 25.

“These are extremely committed people who are having a huge impact on our culture and democracy,” Pelosi told ABC News.

With a hand-held camera, Pelosi traveled to 16 states and estimates she conducted 800 interviews with people from Jerry Falwell to Ted Haggard and any number of individuals in between.

“If you live in Los Angeles or New York, you don’t realize there’s this whole group out there rejecting your culture,” Pelosi said. “All I was trying to do was introduce blue staters to all the people who live in between New York and L.A.”

Schneeberger noted that most people who appear before Pelosi’s camera are shot in exaggerated close-ups, from low angles, so as to distort their features.

“The message here is, ‘There’s something not quite right with these people,’” he said. “She feigns just enough interest in her subjects to get them to open up, and then makes sure she presents them in the most unflattering light possible. If I had to guess, I’d say she’s a graduate of the Michael Moore School of Documentary-Making.”


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