This site is not maintained. Click here for the new website of Richard Dawkins.

← Evolution, Christmas and the Atonement

Evolution, Christmas and the Atonement - Comments

ev-love's Avatar Comment 1 by ev-love

"Evolution's gift is a complex brain that endows humanity with free will, "

Oh dear!

ev-love

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:17:38 UTC | #902367

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 2 by Cartomancer

Two questions for the faith head:

  1. If evolution HADN'T shown that mainstream late antique and medieval understandings of original sin were nonsense, would you still be championing Augustine's account even though there is no evidence that it is true?

  2. Why should we believe any of this "sin" and "god" and "atonement" rubbish in the first place, according to any interpretation?

You can't have your cake and eat it. If you admit the truth of evolution - like any sane and intellectually honest person with all the facts must - then you implicitly admit the validity of the scientific method used to obtain and verify that truth. None of the rest of the argument for original sin then carries any weight either, because it is not supported by any credible evidence whatsoever - it's just a tedious ancient myth.

Yes, science DOES win out in the end.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:33:51 UTC | #902370

dave78's Avatar Comment 3 by dave78

The creation story is a myth plain and simple. by choosing how to interpret it you can make it fit with the facts and normal opinions of the day and as such of course you explain nothing. The only interesting question might be what was in the minds of the desert tribes men who came up it?

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:37:30 UTC | #902371

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 4 by Sean_W

We muddle you moron, and after all this time I think the muddlers have earned some respect. So stop selling guilt and accept your position among the animals.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:54:58 UTC | #902372

Misfire's Avatar Comment 5 by Misfire

The first mention of Adam in the Bible is clearly referring to humankind (Genesis 1:26-27) and the definite article in front of Adam in chapters 2 and 3 – "the man" – suggests a representative man, because in Hebrew the definite article is not used for personal names, with Eve being the representative woman.

Nice example of women as an afterthought.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 12:57:15 UTC | #902373

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Alexander’s piece begins its errors in its title:

We are not descended from Adam and Eve – but still, Jesus was born to save us

The Bible explicitly says it was to save us from the original sin of the aforementioned non-existent people – so no, the idea won’t work. But Alexander’s preoccupations lie elsewhere:

behind the question lies about 1,600 years or more of church history.

So, less than the age of the Bible then. Which means it’s not based on the Bible, but on efforts to make the Bible fit with later findings. That Alexander is guilty of this will becomes clear soon:

the Bible suggests otherwise. The tradition of interpreting the early chapters of Genesis figuratively goes back to two great thinkers from Alexandria

But that’s not the Bible suggesting it; that’s some of the Bible’s earliest apologists insisting the Bible doesn’t mean what it says. In other words, it’s the “thinkers” suggesting it, not the Bible!

Figurative understandings of the Genesis text have been part of mainstream theology ever since.

So have literal understandings of Genesis. And Christians have killed each other for centuries over whether this bit or that bit in doctrine is literal or not: just look at transubstantiation and consubstantiation. Meanwhile, a literal understanding of, say, the Resurrection has always been pretty much universal, and still is. But how does anyone tell which bits are which? By conceding the literal wrongness of as little as possible given the findings of science, history etc. I’m tired of theists using the fact that metaphors exist at all as a get out of jail free card for every single Biblical bit of nonsense. Are we supposed to metaphorically stone to death engaged rape victims and, if so, what does that metaphor mean?
Of course, you might argue this bit or that bit really is blatantly a metaphor because of what it says, like in this argument:

The first mention of Adam in the Bible is clearly referring to humankind (Genesis 1:26-27) and the definite article in front of Adam in chapters 2 and 3 – "the man" – suggests a representative man, because in Hebrew the definite article is not used for personal names, with Eve being the representative woman.

That’s just a guess: if there’s only one man in a story, he may be called “the man” whether or not he’s meant to stand for lots of men. But even if this argument worked, it would actually not be an argument for that section being metaphorical, but for its literal meaning being such and such. This is what’s wrong with theists using the “metaphor” trick: they’ve become so used to doing it without thought they might resort to it unnecessarily.

The Genesis narrative tells the story of humankind going their way rather than God's way.

It tells the story of Adam and Eve doing that. Were all women created from the ribs of all men? This “stands for us all” stuff is blatant nonsense. In any case, Alexander can’t even keep his story straight:

the New Testament does teach that humankind stays true to type – all people sin by their own free will – and Christ dies for the sins of all. Christ is the second Adam who opens up the way back to friendship with God through his sacrifice for sin on the cross. The result is the "at-one-ment" that the first Adam – Everyman – is unable to accomplish by his own efforts.

But that comparison means either Adam is only one guy like Jesus or Christ represents us all like Adam, and Alexander will never conceive either of those options. Also, this definition of sin contradicts the whole of the Old Testament, which Jesus said remains valid indefinitely – and even if Christianity doesn’t agree with that, it would mean Judaism – which follows the OT – has a falsity about it Christianity doesn’t concede in itself, which seems quite anti–Semitic.
After that, the mean number of errors per paragraph escalates for the conclusion:

Evolution's gift is a complex brain that endows humanity with free will, enabling personal moral responsibilities towards our neighbour and towards God. We are not puppets. God's gift at Christmas is forgiveness and new life through Christ for those who realise how far we've fallen from using that free will responsibly.

Going back to the evolution problem Alexander raised, where in the family tree of primates did Hell first await those who dissatisfied this still unproven god, and why – and how, given the gradualness of evolution? No primate species has first members. And why do we have responsibilities to God? Being omnipotent, He cannot be harmed. In any case, Christianity never concedes we should apologise to or otherwise make amends to those non–divine people we’ve wronged, so don’t pretend that Christianity recognises our responsibilities to our neighbours; the point of confession is that, even where we have harmed humans, it is God we need to appease. Also, “free will” is rather at odds with what we know of neurology – and again, if it’s applicable to us but not to, say, chimpanzees, how does that evolutionarily work? And as for this Christmas gift (shouldn’t it be Easter gift?) nonsense, guess what: humans haven’t really fallen, as per either a literal or figurative reading of Genesis; our ancestors were not more ethical than us. Look at the homicide rates per capita in primate species, and include humans in that analysis. Read Steven Pinker’s recent book on the decay of violence. We are not a fallen angel; we are a risen ape.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:13:04 UTC | #902378

jel's Avatar Comment 7 by jel

Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Alexander’s piece begins its errors in its title:

We are not descended from Adam and Eve – but still, Jesus was born to save us

The Bible explicitly says it was to save us from the original sin of the aforementioned non-existent people >– so no, the idea won’t work. But Alexander’s preoccupations lie elsewhere:

Thank you Jos, that is the fundamental flaw in the argument. If Adam & Eve didn't exist, then where does original sin come from?

No Adam & Eve, no original sin.

No original sin, no need of a saviour.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:34:19 UTC | #902379

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 8 by Sean_W

Here are some beautiful muddlers, no doubt close to a rebellion of their own -and who will die for them?

(*Note to would be pedants - I know.)

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:46:50 UTC | #902381

Daryl 's Avatar Comment 9 by Daryl

Original sin came from the same place all such stories do: from a political movement that wants power and from that wealth, and does so by controlling its origin story. It still happens to this day. How many kids in the US today actually believe the George Washington/cherry tree story (there is enough truth about Washington to make him a heroic figure, no need to lie)? How many actually believe the entire Continental Congress was in Philadelphia on July 4th (they filtered in and out all summer long because they were afraid of getting killed by the British). But you paint one famous painting and that is the image that stuck. I mean, what fool would stand up in a boat crossing an icy Delaware River?

So you create myths to make your movement great and powerful. Is there any myth better than why your species is here in the first place? Don't we all like to feel we are more powerful than we are? My dad can beat your dad! My planet is the center of everything! My beliefs in a mythical being is better than your beliefs.

It's essentially money and power. So in the great Watergate Tradition: Follow the money.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 13:52:17 UTC | #902384

spongebob's Avatar Comment 10 by spongebob

The Bible and observed reality are totally incompatible, but I'm still going to enjoy Christmas with my family.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:02:02 UTC | #902385

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 11 by Schrodinger's Cat

Nowhere does the Bible teach that physical death originates with the sin of Adam, nor that sin is inherited from Adam, as Augustine maintained.

The whole concept of original sin has to be one of the most misunderstood and mis-represented ideas by both believers and atheists. The whole idea that sin is simply doing bad things is nonsense. It is instead the fundamental physical nature of mankind and the world........the fact that it is not whatever it is that God deems to be 'perfect'. Is the world a perfect place ? Who would answer anything other than no.

All the Catholic nonsense about whether babies get baptised, and so on, just confounds the issue.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:09:43 UTC | #902388

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 12 by drumdaddy

The bible is one of the first 'trash novels'.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:19:51 UTC | #902389

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 13 by aquilacane

Tell us about unicorns next, I want to hear about unicorns.

I've found a reason why celebrating the season is a bad idea if you don't actually celebrate the reason for the season. I was approached by one of Christ's salesmen, yesterday. As he approached me, I asked if he was pushing Christ and if so, I was not interested. His first question was "do you celebrated Christmas?" I said "no", of course, and he replied "that's too bad?" Too bad? How does he even know what I celebrate instead, if anything. It could be much better than Christmas but I doubt he is capable of even imagining anything better than Christ.

It dawned on me, after I walked away from him, had I said yes, I celebrate Christmas but don't believe, he would have turned it into an argument for Christianity. He would have rightly pointed out, that despite my not celebrating Christmas I still am acting as a Christian culturally. He would have an argument. And that's all he needs. The religious don't need evidence, they need arguments.

When you celebrate Christmas as a non practicing Christer, you give them an argument. "See... see, even the Atheist who hates god loves Christmas. That's how powerful god is, that's how powerful Jesus is, even haters love them. That is the power of God." You never see atheists at the wailing wall or on their way to Mecca but they love Christmas.

Jesus is that strong. All they need is an argument to keep their pathetic beliefs alive. Atheists who celebrate Christmas hand them a beauty.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:22:09 UTC | #902390

rjohn19's Avatar Comment 14 by rjohn19

My goodness, just how many raggedy silk purses do they imagine they can forge from that sow's ear of a book?

It still doesn't explain how torturing and killing god's personal child suddenly makes us better people and worthy of salvation. The whole story just makes no sense.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:29:03 UTC | #902391

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 15 by Marc Country

Christmas is a pagan holiday with a Christian name. That's the kind of compromise I can live with.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:34:36 UTC | #902392

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 16 by Marc Country

"If the Augustinian account is correct..."

... then, mortality is cause by original sin, and Jesus made up for that sin, so NOW we should all be immortal (again).

If the Augustinian account was just made up by him as an interpretation (which is precisely what the evidence indicates), then it is all meaningless fiction.

The truth is as obvious as it is mundane. "Surprisingly, perhaps, the Bible suggests otherwise."

No, that's not surprising at all... the Bible suggests many things, precious few of them are true, though. Obviously.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:38:28 UTC | #902394

epeeist's Avatar Comment 17 by epeeist

Click on Denis Alexander's picture or name at the top of the article. This gives a very brief profile. The one thing that is missing from it is that he is on the board of advisors for the Templeton Foundation.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:38:28 UTC | #902395

justinesaracen's Avatar Comment 18 by justinesaracen

@aquilacane,

In fact, I believe most atheists do celebrate xmas, at least in the US because it is culturally to imbedded - and so much fun. Most exchange little gifts, get together with family or fiends for a nice meal, etc. So I think a better answer to the next proselytizer would be "Your Christmas is a perversion of an original pagan winter celebration. I celebrate the original one - without guilt."

One of the reasons the Christians are so emphatic about 'putting Christ back into Christmas' is that he keeps slipping out. Sure, there's tons of baby Jesus symbolism about, and lots of great church music, but it never seems to change people's behavior. Myself, I even love the commercialism because it is the stores that put up the big decorations in the streets. As a 'strident' atheist, I don't hang out much with believers, but ALL of my friends (who are spread along the spectrum of fallen believers, indifferent believers, never think about it probably not believers, agnostics and atheists) celebrate xmas and what a bland December it would be if we didn't.

Besides, I LOVE prezzies.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:41:52 UTC | #902397

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 19 by Marc Country

In 248 Origen wrote that Genesis references to Adam are "not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race".

In 2011, right here on this comment board, I write that the Bible's references to God are not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race".

Done.

With a few keystrokes, I have outdone the "brilliant" Origen, who didn't go far enough in his thinking. Mainstream theologians, take note: my formulation is far more accurate, far more credible.

God is a metaphor. Riddle solved. Too easy, really.

Moving on...

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:49:12 UTC | #902400

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 20 by Marc Country

Yule or Yuletide ("Yule-time") is a winter festival that was initially celebrated by the historical Germanic people as a pagan religious festival, though it was later absorbed into, and equated with, the Christian festival of Christmas. The festival was originally celebrated from late December to early January on a date determined by the lunar Germanic calendar. The festival was placed on December 25 when the Christian calendar (Julian calendar) was adopted. Scholars have connected the celebration to the Wild Hunt.

-Wikipedia

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 14:51:42 UTC | #902401

Marc Country's Avatar Comment 21 by Marc Country

Goru is the winter solstice ceremony of the Pays Dogon of Mali. It is the last harvest ritual and celebrates the arrival of humanity from the sky god, Amma, via Nommo inside the Aduno Koro, or the "Ark of the World".

In the Aegean civilizations, the exclusively female midwinter ritual, Lenaea or Lenaia, was the Festival of the Wild Women. In the forest, a man or bull representing the god Dionysus was torn to pieces and eaten by Maenads. Later in the ritual a baby, representing Dionysus reborn, was presented. Lenaion, the first month of the Delian calendar, derived its name from the festival's name. By classical times, the human sacrifice had been replaced by that of a goat, and the women's role had changed to that of funeral mourners and observers of the birth. Wine miracles were performed by the priests, in which priests would seal water or juice in a room overnight and the next day they would have turned into wine. The miracle was said to have been performed by Dionysus and the Lenaians.

Mummer's Day referencing the animist garbs, or Darkie Day referencing the soot facing ritual, is an ancient Cornish midwinter celebration that occurs every year on December 26 and New Year's Day in Padstow, Cornwall. It was originally part of the pagan heritage of midwinter celebrations that were regularly celebrated all over Cornwall where people would guise dance and disguise themselves by blackening up their faces or wearing masks. In Penzance the festival has been given the name Montol believing it to be the Celtic Cornish word for Winter Solstice.

-Wikipedia

Not to mention Sol Invictus, or Saturnalia...

The point is, it's cold and dark, so let's make merry, whatever you want to call the holiday! Names hardly matter, folks.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 15:07:30 UTC | #902404

JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 22 by JHJEFFERY

Comment 6 by Jos Gibbons

Jos,

Nice dissection, but both you and the Op failed to use the word required in any serious theological discussion of the true meaning of the bible: hermeneutics. I will define it for you and the preacher so you can have it available next time:

Hermeneutics, n. The art of saying that something says something other than what it says.

There. No thanks required.

JHJ

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 15:12:43 UTC | #902406

Brampton's Avatar Comment 23 by Brampton

Once again, I'm reminded of that lovely line of dialogue from Life Of Brian: "He's makin' it up as he goes along!"

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 16:25:43 UTC | #902430

Rich Wiltshir's Avatar Comment 24 by Rich Wiltshir

Offer a religoon the chance of dining on reality and they'll invariable consume the cheapest buybull sausage they can muster; bullshit and bollocks, the least demanding cuts of the body of evidence mixed with their own special blend of flavourings.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 16:28:49 UTC | #902431

QuestioningKat's Avatar Comment 25 by QuestioningKat

if we last shared a common ancestor with the chimps about 5-6 million years ago, and humans have been gradually emerging through a series of hominid intermediates ever since, then why did Jesus die?

If you interpret the Bible symbolically or metaphysically, you can avoid all the problems that stem from reading the Bible literally. Jesus' death was the result of the backlash of the collective ego consciousness from authority who did not like that he was undermining their authority. OR Jesus' death represented how our own ego, limitations and old ways must die before we resurrect into a new life and higher Consciousness. and Adam and Eve really had nothing to do with being the first humans. It was about misogynistic views of women and pagan magic/knowledge practiced by those darned women who needed to get in line with male dominated authority. Having the devil symbolized by a snake was a blatant slam against the positive symbolism of snakes as rebirth, transformation, immortality, healing, and sexuality.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 16:32:07 UTC | #902433

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 26 by Richard Dawkins

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you SOPHISTICATED THEOLOGY – the subject you need to know before you are qualified to criticise religion.

Richard

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 17:56:22 UTC | #902452

JHJEFFERY's Avatar Comment 27 by JHJEFFERY

Comment 19 by Marc Country

In 248 Origen wrote that Genesis references to Adam are "not so much of one particular individual as of the whole human race"

Marc, spot on. The author's use of Origen is disingenuous at best. The church, early and late, shunned Origen. He was never made a saint and I know of none of his theology that survives in the RC catechism. Maybe IA knows more, but only lately have church leaders begun citing Origen again.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:14:51 UTC | #902457

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 28 by Philoctetes

No Adam, No sin, No need for atonement, No Christianity. I think that fully explains why the young earth creationists so stubbornly cling to their faith. If the earliest words in this long book are fiction, then it is the sine qua non

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:15:29 UTC | #902458

Philoctetes                                        's Avatar Comment 29 by Philoctetes

If Adam is a metaphor for humanity, what is the fruit of the tree of knowledge a metaphor for? What is this dreadful crime/sin that all our ancestors committed that required Jesus' death and the need for priests to bugger children?

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:18:32 UTC | #902460

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 30 by Border Collie

"The result is the "at-one-ment" that the first Adam – Everyman – is unable to accomplish by his own efforts."

This is also where Christianity & Buddhism differ. Buddhists believe that "Everyman" IS able to accomplish such by his own efforts (if such is to be accomplished). Also, Campbell & Frazer also have much to say about this. It's just myth, nothing to fear.

Sat, 24 Dec 2011 18:24:32 UTC | #902462