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Is God a delusion?

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The idea of God being a delusion is promoted by Richard Dawkins, the world’s chief apostle for atheism. Dawkins has been Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University since 1996. In his 2006 book The God Delusion, Dawkins labels God and belief in God as “delusions.” Dawkins is a gifted writer, and his position at a leading university in the English-speaking world gives him great prestige in intellectual, cultural, and political circles. His atheism is fierce. The jacket of The God Delusion calls the God of the Old Testament “a sex-obsessed tyrant” and the deistic god of the 18th-century Enlightenment a “more benign (but still illogical) Celestial Watchmaker.” Belief in God, says Dawkins, subverts science and knowledge, breeds ignorance, foments bigotry, and abuses children. All this happens for the simple reason that God is a delusion. Not only are “fundamentalists” unintelligent for “know[ing] they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book,” but even moderation in faith, says Dawkins, “fosters fanaticism.”

There are plenty of intelligent answers to Dawkins’ contention that God is a delusion and to his crusade against all things religious. Dawkins firmly asserts that God is a delusion, but the Bible just as firmly states that God is not a delusion. Psalm 14:1–3, for example, says, “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Fools who deny the existence of God are corrupt, and so are their deeds. Because their understanding is also corrupt, “they do not seek after God.” Note that the Bible and Dawkins are directly opposed to one another. Dawkins says there is no God and that people who believe in God do terrible things. The Bible says there is a God, and it is rather the people who deny God who do terrible things.

God is not the delusion; atheism is. The apostle Paul declares that the reason people who deny God are able to gain and maintain such large followings, as Dawkins has, is that the human race in general is lost in sin and self-delusion. People naturally seek after those whose rhetoric reflects their own self-delusion. Those who deny God follow eagerly after Dawkins and his ilk because they share a common hatred for God (2 Timothy 4:3).

The denial of God is the true delusion, a delusion that extends to the atheist’s view of humanity as “good,” all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. A sober assessment of human beings recognizes that we lie, cheat, steal, lust, complain, envy, hate, and forget and that we are careless, ruthless, disrespectful, resentful, and loveless. We are all these things naturally from birth. This is what God means when He says, “There is no one who does good” (Psalm 14:3). We are so obviously sinful that it is silly to call human beings “good.”

Nobody teaches children to lie; they do it naturally. Nobody teaches teenage boys to lust; they do it naturally. Nobody teaches the employee to resent his boss or spread malicious gossip about the coworker with whom he is competing for a promotion; he does these things naturally. Nobody teaches the wife to unjustly criticize her husband or the husband to neglect his wife; both do these things naturally. Yet in the sixth chapter of The God Delusion, entitled “The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?” Dawkins explains why human beings are good—based on nothing more than his own opinion—despite the fact that there is no God who can define what is “good.” Dawkins not only directly opposes the Bible’s teaching but he denies what is obvious to even the most casual observer of human nature and behavior.

The ninth chapter of The God Delusion is called “Childhood, Abuse and the Escape from Religion.” In this chapter Dawkins replies to a question about clergy sexual abuse: “Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place” (page 317). Human beings are good, says Dawkins, and even the sexual abuse they perpetrate is better than a religion that tells them they are not good. How he explains the desire for “good” men—priests or otherwise—to sexually abuse children is a mystery. The Bible, however, does explain it. Men do evil because their hearts are evil (Matthew 12:35), and unless men are made new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17), they will continue to do evil because it is their natural inclination (Romans 3:5–6, 10–11).

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary defines delusion as “something that is falsely or delusively believed or propagated; a persistent false psychotic belief regarding the self or persons or objects outside the self that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary; also, the abnormal state marked by such beliefs.” The last clause is significant: intellectual and moral delusion have permanent effects on the mind and heart. Believing lies causes the mind to begin to operate abnormally and to exist in a state that is not healthy and perhaps even dangerous, both for itself and for others. This is what the Bible calls “sin,” and a core element of our sin is our delusion that God does not exist.

The God Delusion was written by a science professor, and it should be stated clearly here, given how often atheism presents itself under the banner of science, that science is not to blame for atheism or any other symptom of human sinfulness. In fact, many great scientists of the past were Christians, believing that God made the heavens and the earth and established the laws by which the natural world operates and which scientists investigate. Most of the “giants” of modern science were Christians. They pursued a rational understanding of the cosmos because they believed that God, who has a mind, had created the cosmos according to the principles of rational and mathematical operation that govern the human mind, which is fashioned according to the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Belief in God is no delusion. It is inherently and fundamentally rational—a logical response to seeing God’s handiwork (Psalm 19:1). Belief in God is the source of true wisdom regarding why human beings do evil things so often and so naturally, why we can work so hard to be good and still fail, and why Jesus Christ and only He is the spiritual hope for mankind.

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This page last updated: January 4, 2022