Book Review: Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life by Alister McGrath

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In Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life,  McGrath brings out the two of the greatest thinkers of our time on the table and (objectively) scrutinize their beliefs focusing only on the meaning of life.  I love how McGarth presents these extraordinary gentlemen in this book. Both Oxford fellows (including the author), both had a landmark book and both experienced atheism and Christianity. This adds the level of thrill in diving in to this brief book. And I have to say, I got really hooked.

Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life is not the usual apologetics book. It’s a short and accessible book for atheist, Christians or anyone who both wants to know Dawkins and Lewis in one sitting. It’s serves as a springboard for other bodies of work these two intellectual giants have dished out (or to books of McGarth on the topics). There are lots of superb books that have great treatment with these gentlemen but if you want a starting point, this is the book for you.

By reading this book, I think you have gotten to the core or the most important part of any book that discuss these authors and their view of life. Peak inside the minds of these brilliant thinkers and how their views influence the world.  Pick up this book and you’ll surely love it!

My verdict:

5 out of 5

(InterVarsity Press provided the digital copy for this review)

8 Favorite Quotes From the Book “Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Life” by Alister McGrath

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During our open forum for our laymen and women fellowship with the theme, Passion for God, I had a chance to share something about reading that leads to pursuing God. I wrote it down and explained it for about 10 minutes. If youre curious on what I shared to our fellowship, I’ll put it live here as a post on this blog soon.

Anyways, here’s Alister McGrath’s latest book, Richard Dawkins, C. S. Lewis and the Meaning of Lifepublished by InterVarsity Press.  If you like these quotes, please get yourself a copy of this book by ordering at Amazon or InterVarsity Press. Stay tuned to the review of this book.

“Lewis thus invites his readers into the Christian way of seeing things and to explore how things look when seen from its standpoint – as if to say ‘Try seeing things this way!’ If world views or metanarratives can be compared to lenses, which of them brings things into sharpest focus? Clues, taken by themselves, prove nothing; their importance lies rather in their cumulative and contextual force.”

Dawkins attributes his loss of any religious faith to two factors. The first was his growing realization that ‘Darwin provided the magnificently powerful alternative to biological
design which we now know to be true.’ This is a recurrent theme in Dawkins’s later writings: Darwinism offers an ex­
planation of what is observed in the biological world that is superior to belief in a creator God. The second factor is his belief that there is an ‘elementary fallacy’ within any argument from design, in that ‘any god capable of designing the universe would have needed a fair bit of designing himself.’ Darwin’s idea of gradual complexification from a ‘primeval simplicity’ seemed to make a lot more sense to him.”

“Christianity possessed the literary form of a myth, which for Lewis meant a story with deep imaginative appeal, conveying a set of ideas. Yet there was
a critical difference between Nordic myths and the Christian myth: only the latter was true. Pagan myths represented an imperfect grasping towards the truth, a goal finally attained in Christianity. “

“Christians take the view that believing in God helps us make sense of the world, offering a larger framework or big picture into which fits what we observe and experience. Dawkins argues that this involves adding an unobserved and intrinsically complicated entity – God – to the inventory of the universe. Science is about keeping things as simple as pos-
sible – which is one reason why Dawkins prefers atheism to Christianity. It seems a simpler and neater idea. “

“For Lewis, belief in God was neither a distraction from life nor a spurious means of finding consolation. Discovering God was about discovering his own true identity and recalibrating his reason and imagination in the light of this new way of seeing himself and the world. God is neither an object within our universe nor a mere abstract philosophical idea.”

” To have faith in God is not primarily to
give intellectual assent to an idea about God but to step into a greater picture of our world and become part of it.”

“In terms of their intellectual precariousness, both atheism and Christianity reflect the epistemic limits of human beings, who show a tendency to want to believe more – whether that belief is religious or secular – than the evidence actually warrants.”

“Like many readers of The Selfish Gene I often find myself wondering whether Dawkins’s optimistic conclusion isn’t
actually contradicted and subverted by the arguments that precede it. In some ways his analysis echoes the ethos of the Enlightenment: once you have understood something, you can master it. But can we master ourselves in this way? What if our genetic inheritance affects our will, so that we can recognize the hidden influence of our genes, while then discovering that we cannot break free from their influence?”

The Quotable Round-Up #35

Jolly good day guys! Its this time of the week that we  collect some of the best quotes. The book we are now featuring is from Frank Turek’s “Stealing from God”. Enjoy!

“True for you but not for me” may be the mantra of our day, but that’s not the way the universe really works. If it’s really true, it’s true for everyone.”

“In the same way, our improved understanding of natural laws can never disprove the Being who set up and sustains those laws. To say that a scientist can disprove the existence of God is like saying a mechanic can disprove the existence of Henry Ford. It doesn’t follow. The existence of secondary operational causes does not negate the need for a primary origin cause.”

“But there are very different atheist and theist theories on origin questions. They are more controversial because they cannot be settled by repeatable experiments in a lab. You can’t go in a lab and observe the creation of the universe again, or witness the origin of the first life or new life-forms. While scientists can observe how a cell operates, they can’t observe how the first cell originated. No scientist was there to witness it.”

“Some atheists seem to think that anything unexplained defeats belief in God, as if an infinite God can’t exist if finite creatures don’t understand everything. But there is a big difference between a mystery and a contradiction. Christianity has partial mysteries. Atheism has complete contradictions. Christianity predicts that evil will occur and explains why God allows it in general, but not in every particular case. We don’t have enough information to trace the particulars . . . yet. But good reason provides all the information we need to see that the very existence of evil is a contradiction for atheism. If evil is real, then atheism is false.”

“We can’t see the ultimate outcomes of events because the human story isn’t over yet—not here or in the afterlife where perfect justice will ultimately be done. And even if God were to tell us those outcomes and His reasons for allowing each evil, we wouldn’t be able to comprehend them all. That’s because every event sets off a ripple effect that impacts countless other events and people. How many lives will be changed in the future by the trillions of good and bad events happening just this hour? No human mind can know or grasp it all. And even if we could, knowing the reasons for a painful event might alter our behavior and prevent the good outcome that would have otherwise occurred.”

“Hitler’s words and actions couldn’t be more different than the words and actions of Christ. As Ravi Zacharias has observed, the Crusades and the Inquisition were the illogical outworking of Christianity. They went against everything Christ taught. And you don’t judge a religion or philosophy by its abuse, but by its truths. People can and will abuse true and good things. But that says more about us than it does about God or religion.”

“C. S. Lewis was once an atheist who thought evil disproved God. But he later realized he was stealing from God (grounds of a rational and logical argument) in order to argue against Him. He wrote, “[As an atheist] my argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

“Now, an atheist might say, “In our country, we have a constitution that the majority approved. We have no need to appeal to God.” True, you don’t have to appeal to God to write laws, but you do have to appeal to God if you want to ground them in anything other than human opinion. Otherwise, your “rights” are mere preferences that can be voted out of existence at the ballot box or at the whim of an activist judge or dictator.”

“Even if there were infinite time and opportunities for nature to mutate DNA into the information necessary for new life, that still wouldn’t be enough to create a new life-form. That’s because DNA alone doesn’t dictate the formation of body plans.”

Alister McGrath on Eliminating Religion

Christian apologist Alister McGrath commenting to his fellow Oxonian, atheist Richard Dawkins on the assertion of getting rid of religion:

“The simplistic belief that the elimination of religion would lead to the ending of violence, social tension or discrimination is thus sociologically naive. It fails to take account of the way in which human beings create values and norms, and make sense of their identity and their surroundings. If religion were to cease to exist, other social demarcators would emerge as decisive, some of which would become transcendentalized in due course. [Richard] Dawkins (world renowned scientist and atheist, author of The God Delusion) has no interest in sociology, as might be expected. Yet the study of how individuals and societies function casts serious doubt on one of the most fundamental assertions of his analysis.”

 

(“The Dawkin’s Delusion?” by Alister McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, pp. 83, ©2007 by Alister E. McGrath and Joanna Collicutt McGrath, published by InterVarsity Press

Ken Ham on Richard Dawkins

Creation Scientist and founder of Answers in Genesis Ken Ham comments on Richard Dawkins atheism:

“Richard Dawkins is an atheist and one of the world’s leading spokespersons for evolution. An interviewer once made this statement to him: “The idea of evolution and natural selection makes some people feel that everything is meaningless, people’s individual lives and life in general.” Dr. Dawkins responded that, “If it’s true that it causes people to feel despair. That’s tough. If it’s true, its true; and you had better live with it.” So if I believe in atheistic evolution and it causes me to despair, what can I do? Be tough. Get used to it. That’s what it’s all about. Live with it.

 

And then he was asked this question, “What do you see is the problem with a terminally ill cancer patient believing in an afterlife?” Dr. Dawkins responded, “No problem at all. If I could have word with a would-be suicide bomber who thinks he is going to paradise, I would say ‘Don’t imagine for one second that you are going to paradise, you’re going to rot in the ground.’ ” At least Dr. Dawkins is consistent and honest. Without God, nothing matters. It doesn’t matter if you are terminally ill or if you are a terrorist. You are going to die, and that is the end of it. Life, then, is utterly meaningless. Nothing you can do will make a difference. When you die, you won’t even remember you were here, and in a short time, no one else will remember you either. Life has no meaning; it never did; it doesn’t now; and it never will. It’s just time and death. That’s all. That’s tough. Get used to it.

 

By the way, if what Dr. Dawkins is saying is true, why does he bother arguing about anything? What’s the point? Think about it! I have often wondered why an atheistic evolutionist would bother trying to convince someone of something. They believe that when you die that’s the end of you. Isaac Asimov believed that, Carl Sagan believed that, and that’s what Richard Dawkins is saying. When you die, you rot, that’s it. From that perspective, you won’t even know you were ever here; you won’t even know you ever existed. You won’t remember any of it . . . and neither will anyone else; so therefore, what is the point of arguing with the creationists? I don’t understand the point.”

 

(“How Could a Loving God?…Powerful Answers on Sufferings” by and © 2007 Ken Ham, pp. 52-53, Masters Book, Inc.)

Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr. on the New Atheist

In his excellent book, Atheist Remix, Al Mohler differentiates the 20th century atheist and the New Atheist (composed of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens) on the subject of God: Twentieth-century atheists generally addressed themselves to the philosophical idea of a supernatural being or to the evil of a God who does not prevent moral evil. Whether it was Logical Positivism or some later variant of postmodernism, the suggestion was that “god” is an untenable idea. With the New Atheists, the argument is that what the Bible presents is an untenable God. The New Atheists acknowledge that the God of the Bible can be fairly well known, that he has (according to his believers) spoken in a book and defined himself. But building upon the thought of the protest atheists in the twentieth century, who rejected belief in any God in the wake of the Holocaust, the New Atheists go further to declare that it is now evil to believe in God—specifically, in the God of the Bible. (“Atheism Remix:A Christian confronts the New Atheist” by Dr. R. Albert Mohler Jr., pp. 55, 2008 published by Crossway Books)