November 30, 2020

Internet Monk Radio Podcast #166

podcast_logo.gifThis week: Push Advent. The Portable Christian. Dawkins and the Why Questions.

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Dawkins at Salon.


  1. “Take back the … secular mess” comment on advent should be our battle cry. As I read church history I wonder when it all went wrong? Or is it just an american thing? Or is it a sign of the times as the saying goes?

  2. “Twilight” for guys? Well, if “Twilight” is a Young Adult (14-21) age range book (officially), then there is the “The Saga of Darren Shan” for boys (although probably pitched at the younger end of that range). I know it’s very, very popular with the kids in our school. The film of the first three books “Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” has just been released. But comparable to “Twilight” – no, can’t see it. Guys obsessing over “does she really love me? can we be together?” Ummmm … no 🙂

    And since Sunday was the Feast of Christ the King and the end of the liturgical year, and we’re heading into Advent, Happy New (Church) Year!

  3. For this first time in my Christian life I am going through Advent and I plan to continue through the whole Christian year lectionary in hand. I even plan to attend a Lutheran church during this Advent season. It has brought meaning back into the Christmas season for me.

  4. Monk, I have wanted to comment on your banner and how much I like it, but I know how much you dislike off-topic comments. So I resisted until you mentioned it.

  5. After many years of agnosticism, then becoming a Christian, I suppose Dawkins explanation would be that I suffered some loss of intelligence.

    Dawkins thinks it is perfectly acceptable to ask ‘why’ questions in scientific inquiry, Only n all else do questions become irrelevant and unworthy of response. Why? Ahh, one of the why questions not worth answering.

    I say never stop asking why. Ask ‘Why’ especially when they say we shouldn’t ask why.

  6. I’m not sure why they are called The New Atheists. Reading Chesterton speaking to his contemporaries, he could as easily been speaking to Dawkins — And wouldn’t that be an amazing event!

    • They are called the New Atheists (not by themselves but by various media) because they each support systematically examining and criticizing religious belief claims like any other truth claims, without offering any kind of false or special respect to the ideas and practices that fall under this category.

  7. Come on, Imonk; you are grossly misrepresenting Dawkins.

    He actually says So when you say religion deals with “why” questions, that begs the entire question that we’re arguing about. Those of us who don’t believe in religion — supernatural religion — would say there is no such thing as a “why” question in that sense.

    He is saying that religious answers beg the question in that sense, similar to asserting that the answer to whether or not a unicorn is hollow begs the same kind of ‘profound’ question. The answer is unknowable because the words are meaningless in that sense. In both cases, coming to know the answer is entirely dependent on whether or not the fact of the supposed critter’s existence is true – a very scientific claim that has remarkably little evidence in its favour and a rather large body of evidence against it.

    If it is knowledge rather than supposition you seek about the natural universe and everything in it – including why we are here, what our purpose may be, what meaning can be found by living, and so on – then you will receive no pat answers to these ‘big’ questions from nature itself. The answer will be of the ‘it depends’ variety. The universe does not answer these kinds of questions nor does there seem to be any evidence that it cares whatsoever. But people come up with all kinds of answers. Some of them may even be true. But asserting that your supposition holds a separate category of reality that allows for a special relationship to exist between the supernatural and the natural through humanity is just a facsimile of honest inquiry, meaning that any answer supposedly found within this supposed relationship will be equally superficial. One does not derive knowledge of the kind Dawkins refers to from this separate supernatural realm where god or perhaps unicorns supposedly exist, so the questions in that sense are meaningless.

  8. Gotcha. Dawkins can ask meaningful why questions, but I can’t. Of course. “Why do I exist?” asked in any sort of universe is a meaningful question except when someone informing you that your humanity is an illusion clears that up. The questions that define all human longing, love, romance, sacrifice and so on are meaningless because you’ll get no answers from nature. Who stated where the answers were coming from? I said the Christians best case was to side with those asking the questions and against those who have to wipe the table of questions every simple person holds onto in life’s journey whatever the answer they find.

    • Whoa there, there Big Guy. You read as if you are going bananas a la Dawkins style! (That can make you strident, arrogant, militant, and immoral, so be careful. Breathe…)

      You’ll notice that I bold-faced the source of the supposed answers that makes the questions meaningless. The universe will not answer these kinds of questions. Don’t believe me? Let’s test it; Ask. Listen. Hear that? That’s the sound the universe providing no answer.

      Does this mean that there are either meaningful Dawkins questions or no questions? That’s just peevishness writing. Of course there are all kinds of meaningful questions people can ask. But when it comes to gaining knowledge from asking these kinds questions, then there is a rich source of various kinds of answers… and this source exists much closer to home than the ‘universe’ and a supernatural ‘god’; this source exists in within this collective we call humanity.

      There is a rich library of human knowledge and understanding – from anthropology to zoology and all the faculties of study in between… including religion (I find the narratives particularly enlightening). But if anyone from any of these areas of study steps forward and states categorically that only this one area is actually true and it alone reveals meaning and purpose and compassion and morality because it is sanctified by the Great Mystical Unicorn Himself – but is unavailable to honest investigation because it is supernatural in revelation – then we’ve got a huge problem.

      If one makes the intellectual mistake of basing one’s humanity on such an empty truth claim, then it is that person who has the huge problem and not the person like Dawkins who points it out. Dawkins calls that problem The God Delusional. Dropping the delusion should not be considered such a terrible price to pay for actually and honestly investigating what’s probably true, probably accurate, probably correct right here in the natural world, right along side each and every one of us. That’s what Dawkins is promoting! I think, like Dawkins, that it is that pursuit – and NOT the answers we think we may have found – that reveals our common humanity. And it is within that knowledge of common humanity we can experience compassionate suffering and honestly find transcendence and grace right here, at home, each and every day. No supernaturalism is required to live a meaningful and purposeful and compassionate life so experienced.

      • First of all, you can lose the “calm down big guy; you’re going bananas” line.

        1. I never commented on whether Dawkin’s questions are meaningful or not.

        2. I stated clearly that I was making no judgements on where anyone got answers for their questions.

        I said, and will say one more time, that Dawkins is, as usual, acting as if his conversion to scientism and resulting atheism is the key to unlock all other human beings. We’re all chasing unicorns and engaging in question begging.

        Please. Amuse yourselves.

        Go to the waiting room of a pediatric cancer ward and tell them- stand up and tell them all- that they are wasting their time with their “why” question. Play a Dawkins clip. Hand out free copies of the God Delusion.

        Then come back tomorrow and see how it’s going.

        Note, sir. I don’t know who they are talking/praying to, nor do I know what answer they are receiving. I simply know that it is characteristically human to ask “Am I loved?” It is human to ask “WHy is my child dying?” It is human to say “WHy must I be alone in my final years?”

        Whether you or I have better answers interests me not at all. Dawkins is like a man seeking to eradicate poetry. Enjoy yourself.

        Humanity quests for existential understanding and YES, the scientific universe is silent. Or the heavens proclaim the glory of God. The difference is Dawkins and company will invade the pediatric waiting room to tell those people they are superstitious idiots and others will silently pray with them and respect their search for answers.

        You can have a reasonable last word, then this thread is closed. I am not interested in debating atheists. I’m interested in letting humans seek to understand what it means to be human.

  9. Michael-
    As an LCMS Lutheran I’d like to push you a little.

    You’ve commented that Lutherans have something that the evangelicals are looking for. I absolutely want to believe you and I do but I cannot overcome a personal experience.

    My father, an elder who teaches systematic theology at his evangelical church, attended my Lutheran church. Our church preached the gospel message, not X,Y,Z. My fathers impression was that the church was not spirit led and dead and did not preach growth. I know this is an anecdote but I think it is representative of how Lutheran are perceived.

  10. Ha! The emperor has no clothes. C.S. Lewis is proven right: science cannot answer the “why” questions, and Dawkins arguments are purely based upon science; therefore, he can no nothing else but step left to the “why” questions.

    Time to tell Dawkins to step aside and concern ourselves with the atheists who ARE attempting to answer the why questions ontologically rather than scientifically. I still think they are the true challenge.

    • “Science cannot answer the ‘why’ questions…”

      Neither can religion.

      • Actually, you are quite right. There are many aspects of religion, particularly evangelicalism which seems permanently stuck in a modernistic rationalism which has nothing to do with the “why” questions. Much religion these days has sunk into pragmatism and cynicism; if it doesn’t “work”, i.e. solve my personal problems, then it isn’t real. For new atheists to dismiss the “why” questions really doesn’t give the religious any reason to defect. It may be a logical conclusion of American evangelicalism – that if there is no ultimate truth apart from pragmatism, then there is no reason to care if there is an answer to the “why” questions. For me, it all looks the same and leaves me searching for, in the words of Paul Tillich, the “Ultimate Concern”.

        I get the dark humor of “Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”, that the meaning of life, the universe, and everything is 42, but no one knows what the question is. (In the end, the question is a math equation which does not equal 42, because of a fundamental flaw in the universe.) It’s funny. It’s cheeky. It’s cynical. But it is nihilism. If that is what new atheists are offering, they are setting atheism back at least one hundred years, before the French existentialists.

        New Atheists should expect something better from their ranks than Dawkins. Just because he can poke religion in the eye doesn’t make him convincing; it just shows how weak of an opponent American evangelicalism currently is.

        • Case in point: consider these ads published by the American Humanists, encouraging people to be “good” without God. This is serious stuff. For one, it is not a scientific argument but brings the battle home to the very grounds of religion. Secondly, evangelicalism currently isn’t teaching much more than moralism – being “good” without God or Christ. How can evangelicalism answer this without looking completely hypocritical?

  11. Advent – A time when God breaks in on us.

    In an attempt to counter the general malaise and indifference within many evangelical churches to the traditional Christian calendar, Faith Interface blog will be celebrating Advent like this Australian Baptist has never celebrated it before. Come join us !!