Who would have thought it? Passover and Easter those two most powerful days of remembrance for Jews and Christians are upon us again. Yet this year we look upon them with something of a fresh look, as just a few months ago a book, “The God Delusion” by Oxford don Richard Dawkins hit the bestseller lists and has been maintaining a strong position there ever since.
The New York Times Book Review gave Dawkins’ work not only its cover but an exceptional two full pages worth of a review titled “Beyond Belief.” Its first graph states “the nub of Dawkins’ consciousness-raising message is that to be an atheist is a ‘brave and splendid’ aspiration.” Belief in God is not only a delusion, he argues, but a ‘pernicious’ one.”
The Quality Paperback Book Review led its April issue with a bleak statement as its cover: “God…Will It Ever End?” following up describing God “in all his forms from sex-obsessed tyrant of the Old Testament to the more benign Celestial Watchmaker favored by the Enlightenment thinkers” concluding with the statement that “Dawkins makes an airtight case that belief in God is not just wrong, but potentially dangerous.”
Newsweeklies Time and Newsweek brought in the likes of Dawkins himself along with Sam Harris, author of two bestselling works promoting atheism (”The End of Faith” and “Letters to a Christian Nation”) along with sundry mainstream Christian pastors to discuss the whole issue of faith in our time and do we need God.
Newsweek organized a poll that yielded interesting figures showing that 91 percent of Americans believe in God, with 82 percent identifying themselves with Christians. Half of those surveyed claimed they personally knew an atheist, with 47 percent believing the country is more accepting of atheism than it has been in the past.
Paul Bogaards, executive director of publicity at the prestigious publishing house Knopf (Harris’ publisher) may well have hit the nail square on the head when he hailed atheism as the new zeitgeist. Indeed everywhere you turn these days you come right up against atheism in some shape or form whether it’s a “Law and Order” segment or books examining some aspect of the falling away of faith.
It’s perhaps no coincidence that books like “The DaVinci Code” that attack fundamental tenets of the Christian doctrine (Jesus had sex with Mary Magdalene) or “Lovely Bones” purporting to show that “Heaven is a fun place,” where there’s certainly no mention of either God or His Son seated on his right hand to judge the quick and the dead, have reigned for months on end on the bestseller lists. These two books have sold-are still selling-millions of copies translated into most of the major languages and quite a few minor in the world.
And there’s no end of novels inspired by the huge success of “The DaVinci Code” that endeavor to diminish or demean the Christian or Jewish faiths as witness the various books that have appeared in the wake of “Judas and the Gospel of Jesus.”
Wherever we turn today we keep coming up again and again with the very basic issue of is there a God, and clearly our need for Him. A most challenging quest and one to think hard upon this weekend.
Or consider the “Dark Materials” trilogy of Philip Pullman. Pullman has blurbed Dawkins’ “God Delusion” with highest enthusiasm. “Many religious leaders today are men who, it is obvious to anyone but their deranged followers, are willing to sanction vicious cruelty in the service of their faith.”
Pullman’s trilogy is written for children, aimed at the youthful readers of Harry Potter and Tolkien, but while genuinely most imaginative, it sets forth the notion that God is a merciless tyrant now a very old man ultimately blown away with a gust of wind. His Church is an instrument of oppression. A mega million-dollar film based on the trilogy starring Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig will be released this fall. And yes, Knopf is perhaps not coincidentally the publisher.
If you’re curious to really delve deep into “Dark Materials, you could call it up on the Internet: “Philip Pullman’s Dark Materials” by Cynthia Grenier for Crisis, October 2001.
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