This is not simply to say that he’s never said anything true about Christianity. Rather, it is that everything he’s tried to say about “religion” is so distorted, so obviously based on a caricature, that he’s not actually talking about Christianity at all.
Nor is this, I hasten to add, because he has not read some complex theological treatise (though he clearly hasn’t). It is because he gets even the most basic points about Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) flagrantly wrong.
I’ve noticed similar mistakes in his fans, as well as their confusion when they encounter actual theology. In fact I’ve recieved quite a few complaints that my views are not simple enough for some to understand.
I’ve long suspected that there are ulterior motives behind the demand that I state my view in a sentence. Still, I thought it might be good to write the occasional post on some of the things that the New Atheists get wrong about the Christianity they claim to have refuted. It is my hope that this will help to clarify, for theists and atheists alike, why the conversation needs to move past anything simple enough to fit on a demotivator.
There is a lot to say, but let’s start with an obvious one:
If you’re using the phrase “sky daddy” you aren’t talking about Christianity.
I want to be clear: it isn’t that this phrase is pointlessly rude (though it is). It is that it is wrong. As such, using it doesn’t prove that theism is silly. It shows us that the one using it is speaking out of ignorance.
How so? Let’s go through the words. (And, to those eager to debate, please keep in mind that I’m merely outlining Christian views, not making a case for them here.)
God isn’t in the sky any more than he is anywhere else. Those that use this term seem to be picturing some physical thing flying around space somewhere.
And this is completely unlike the Christian view of God.
That is, God doesn’t exist as part of the universe–or a thing inside the universe. This is part of what it means to be transcendent. While God is aware of, and causally active at, each point in the universe, this is not a physical interaction. It is for this reason that the ancient Romans charged Christians with atheism–Christianity doesn’t believe in gods in anything like the way that they did.
But it’s a bit late to be arguing that ancient Roman gods don’t exist. Monotheists believe in a completely different kind of God.
Presumably, the physical thing flying around space is roughly humanoid. While the Bible does use the concept of fatherhood as analogous to one part of God’s relation to human beings, there is no implication here that God either has a body, or is a “daddy” in anything like the sense that it is used here.
The phrase suggests that theists think of God essentially the same way that very small children think of their fathers. Of course, the Christian view of God is not a glib picture of some divine caretaker or wish-granter, but a far more nuanced vision–as intellectually complex as it is emotionally potent. It would take quite a few books to explain that nuance, but the point is that is a far more sophisticated view than this silly phrase implies.
Again, the problem seems to be the failure to grasp transcendence. The New Atheist appears to think of God’s activity on the model of magic, reading this into all talk of spirit. But magic is physical; it is failed science. Spirit is non-physical, existing outside of the realm of science. It addresses deeper questions than efficient causes.
Of course, one is free to reject the idea–and even to boldly proclaim that there are no answers outside of science. The point is that, if one doesn’t understand the difference between this view and the “sky daddy”, one can’t claim to have understood Christianity well enough to have rejected it.