#84 Why did “Christians” persecute Jews? “If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them, without having himself tortured and executed in payment — thereby, incidentally, condemning remote future generations of Jews to pogroms and persecution as ‘Christ-killers’ . . .” (253)
The Christian idea of atonement was not the cause of pogroms against Jews — at best it was a bad excuse. This can be seen by the fact that pogroms were instituted in non-Christian cultures, both before the time of Christ (Babylon, Roman) and in post or non-Christian cultures (Arab, Nazi, Soviet). It can also be seen from the fact that the larger crime of which pogroms were an instance show up in every culture, especially those under stress. (The great anthropologist Rene Girard has made a luminous career of exploring “The Scapegoat,” as one of his books is entitled.)
Nor did “Christian” murderers always take the Bible seriously. Albert of Aachan, in his account of the early massacres, told how “foolish and insanely fickle” crowd of would-be Crusaders got it into their heads that a certain goose and a certain goat were “inspired by the Holy Spirit,” and “worshipped” the beasts “excessively.” On the way to the Holy Land, they decided to practice on the local German Jews. When the mob was wiped out even before it left Europe, Albert took that as the judgment of God: “The Lord is a just judge and orders no one unwillingly, or under compulsion, to come under the yoke of the Christian Church.”
One can accuse the Medieval mobs that attacked European Jews of all kinds of foolishness, but an excessive devotion to the teachings of the New Testament – which few could have read – was probably not among their faults.
Anyway, persecuting Jews because their ancestors crucified Jesus makes no theological sense. Christians believe Jesus laid his life down willingly, “from before the foundations of the world,” to save all mankind. (And, Girard says, to reveal scapegoating for the crime that it is.) Given that minorities often suffer in times of stress, and that Jews in particular were subject to pogroms in non-Christian countries, “Christ-killer” was obviously just an excuse.
In Marshall’s book he also does his best to distance Christianity from the murder of Jews but he failed there just as he fails here. I go into quite a bit of detail in my review of Marshall’s book so I will refer the reader there. Needless to say, Marshall is wrong on all counts. Christians for centuries have been justifying the murder of Jews because they supposedly murdered Jesus. It can be found in the bible itself and several studies have confirmed a link between Christianity and anti-Semitism.
#85 Does religion cause most divisions among people? “Without religion, and religiously segregated education, the divide simply would not be there. From Kosovo to Palestine, from Iraq to Sudan, from Ulster to the Indian subcontinent, look carefully at any region of the world where you find intractable enmity and violence between rival groups. I cannot guarantee that you’ll find religions as the dominant labels for in-groups and out-groups. But it’s a very good bet.” (260)
It is an excellent bet. But which is cause, and which effect? Groups choose religions in part in order to self-identity against the Other, which they hate for some other reason. This is why the English become Anglican, while the Irish remained Catholic, and the Scottish became Presbyterian. Even wolves protect the integrity of their territory by urinating on bushes. If wolves mark their boundaries so simply, why is it surprising if human beings find more sophisticated ways to do the same?
The question is whether divisions will lesson if belief in the supernatural dies down. The 20th Century was, among other things a vast empirical test of this question. The answer appeared to be “no.” Violent conflict broke out between Russia and China, China and Vietnam, and Vietnam and Cambodia. Combatants simply chose new labels: “Titoists” in Yugoslavia hated “revisionists” in Russia, and a long series of internal purge trials tortured and killed “Mensheviks,” “Renegade socialists,” “kulak,” “Trotskyite-Zinovievian agents of fascism,” “right-wing revisionists,” “counter-revolutionaries,” “cosmopolite,” “Titoist,” “cow ghost snake spirits.” If anything, the end of religion seemed to make the name-calling more creative, and the flame of hatred burn brighter.
It will be objected that it isn’t fair to judge all of atheism by what the disciples of Karl Marx made of it. Probably not. But it is foolish of Dawkins, in the face of this history, to try to correlate religion and violence the way he does.
See my review of Marshall’s book. There have been studies that show religious beliefs can cause social divisions. It’s also not “belief in the supernatural” that causes these divisions and disputes but the very truth claims and doctrines of the various religions themselves.
#86 Was religion the only thing that divided India? “In India at the time of partition, more than a million people were massacred in religious riots between Hindus and Muslims . . . There were no badges other than religious ones with which to label whom to kill. Ultimately, there was nothing to divide them but religion.” (260)
Dawkins does not give a citation here. Certainly India was divided in many ways in 1949: politically, with people belonging to hundreds of different states, ethnically, by caste, gender, language, and religion. It is hard to believe none of these other divisions played a role. I concede Dawkins’ larger point, however. Certainly religion CAN cause or acerbate conflict, and did in the case of India. (Though I doubt the history of India is any more violent than that of the less religious China, where people usually found other things to quarrel about.)
Here, Marshall even agrees with Dawkins on his overall point! What kind of “error” is this?!
#87 Is “religion” a force for evil? “Even if religion did no harm in itself, its wanton and carefully nurtured divisiveness — its deliberate and cultivated pandering to humanity’s natural tendency to favour in-groups and shun out-groups — would be enough to make it a significant force for evil in the world.” (262)
Dawkins’ error here is reification. He forgets that “religion” is an abstract term, and treats it as a single, concrete entity.
In fact, “religion” doesn’t nurture divisiveness — people do. What they believe can either divide them, or bring them together. I know of no evidence that religious people are more divisive than people who lack faith in God, and Richard Dawkins doesn’t offer any.
I wrote a book rebutting a group of liberal New Testament scholars called the Jesus Seminar. But on this subject, Dawkins might benefit from reading what Jesus Seminar fellows like Marcus Borg and Robert Funk have to say, about how Jesus “routinely breached the walls and barriers that set sacred space off from profane, and he trampled indifferently on the social dividers that enforced segregation.” Cultural, gender, and class transcendence was part of the original appeal of Christianity.
Dawkins may not have cited any evidence that religion is divisive but I don’t see why Marshall berates Dawkins because he chose not to cite any sources. This is such an obvious fact Dawkins likely didn’t feel citing a source was necessary. Take the following fact for instance. According to FBI hate crime data religion continuously takes second place as one of the most common causes of hate crime in the United States. 
#88 How did we get past slavery? “We have almost all moved on, and in a big way, since biblical times. Slavery, which was taken for granted in the Bible and throughout most of history, was abolished in civilized countries in the nineteenth century.” (265)
Here, Dawkins is not so much in error as omitting the most pertinent facts: that the movement to abolish slavery was overwhelmingly led by committed Christians, for religious reasons. (See Truth Behind the New Atheism, 144-148, for the short version, Stark, For the Glory of God, 291-365 for a fuller version, or Hugh Thomas, The Slave Trade, for a good general history.)
I don’t understand how Marshall can argue that this is an error. He even admits that this isn’t an error! Regardless, I’ve refuted this argument in my review of his book.
#89 Are biblical women seen as “property?” “Women are no longer regarded as property, as they clearly were in biblical times.” (265)
“Biblical times” is an ambivalent term to generalize about. Dawkins might mean, “Conditions in all human societies from about 1000 BC to about 100 AD.” Given his comments on this subject elsewhere, what he probably does mean is, “Conditions in ancient Hebrew society influenced by the Bible.”
Probably he means that women are portrayed as “property” in the Bible. If so, he is shining his readers. Are Eve, Jezebel, Ester, Ruth, the “woman of noble character” in Proverbs 31, Mary the mother of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, the “woman at the well,” or Priscilla, really shown as nothing but material objects owned by their men-folk? Preposterous.
While Jesus may have been more accepting of women, women were treated as “property” in biblical times and were considered second-class citizens and this is clear throughout the entire bible. The laws of Moses were entirely patriarchal; women could not own property; women themselves were even viewed as a form of property. Exodus 20:17 makes this clear when it says, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, his ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbor. (NIV) See my review of Marshall’s book for a more extensive rebuttal.
#90 Who is guilty of hate-speech? Dawkins tells of a twelve year old boy in Ohio who “won in court the right to wear a T-shirt to school bearing the words ‘Homosexuality is a sin, Islam is a lie, abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white!'” Dawkins argues that the parents couldn’t have based their case on the 1st Amendment “because free speech is deemed not to include ‘hate speech.'” He also gives this as an example of Christians “harassing” or “abusing” homosexuals. (23)
Certainly the shirt is discourteous. It violates St. Paul’s admonition to “speak the truth in love.”
But is describing activities as “sins,” or beliefs as “lies,” really “hate speech?” If it is, Dawkins himself is far more guilty than the twelve-year old. The whole point of his book is not just that Islam is a “lie,” (or, if you prefer, “delusion”), but that ALL religions are delusions. And he does not faint from using the word “lie” on the very next page, when responding to a Muslim himself! Nor does Dawkins hesitate to condemn what he sees as evil acts; God Delusion is chock full of such imprecations.
And if the American Constitution doesn’t protect our right to say what we think is false or immoral, what good is it? The boots stomping over Dawkins’ polemical grave are his own.
I also cover this nonsense in my review of Marshall’s book.
#91 Does calling homosexuality a “sin” constitute an insult? “You can’t get away with saying, ‘If you try to stop me from insulting homosexuals it violates my freedom of prejudice.’ But you can get away with saying, ‘It violates my freedom of religion.'”
The issue apparently in view is the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Buddhist teaching that homosexual acts are wrong. But again, while saying an act is “wrong” may be debatable, it is hardly an “insult.” If it is, Dawkins betrays his promise not to deal in wanton insults (see #92) on almost every page of this book. What this betrays, again, is a double-standard on Dawkins’ part.
More nitpicking and he restates the same argument but in a different way just to inflate the number of alleged “errors.” This I also cover in my review of Marshall’s book, but my short answer is this. Telling someone they are damned to hell just because of the way they were born and the way they live their lives is an insult. That’s such a despicable thing for Marshall to actually defend. It disgusts me.
#92 Does Dawkins go out of his way to offend? “It is in the light of the unparalleled presumption of respect for religion that I make my own disclaimer for this book. I shall not go out of my way to offend, but nor shall I don kid and gloves to handle religion any more gently than I would handle anything else.” (27)
The first thing to notice about this promise is the assumption it is based on, which Dawkins has been talking about for several pages: that religion is given special “kids gloves” treatment in the marketplace of ideas, offered respect it does not deserve. And Dawkins is probably right that religious ideas are not usually scrutinized in public discourse. But perhaps this reticence is a matter of common courtesy. One does not attack someone else’s cherished beliefs unless necessary, out of respect for the person, not always the belief. Note by contrast to the “new atheists,” the courtesy and tact with which St. Paul speaks to the Athenians. (Acts 17) (Of course this is not to deny that Christians often DO criticize religious ideas they think false or harmful.)
But the clearer error here is Dawkins’ claim that he will “not go out of his way to offend.” It is hard to reconcile many of the things Dawkins says later in the book with this promise. One might respond that Dawkins really believes every word he says, so he is not “going out of his way” to offend – he’s not put off his course in the least! Still, even atheists who have read the book have reported feeling that Dawkins seems to revel in contemptuous scoffing. So this qualifies at least as a dubious claim.
More nitpicking and I believe Dawkins did not ‘go out of his way’ in offending anyone. He stated his opinions about certain things and there is nothing wrong with this. He used some ridicule but, as Dawkins says in the above quote, religion is often given too much respect and many theists are not called out on their absurdities enough. But again, this is another instance of Marshall touting his opinion as fact.
#93 “The founders most certainly were secularists who believed in keeping religion out of politics.” (41)
The religious views of the founders is a hotly disputed question. Careful historians generally admit that this is because it is a complex question. Even the more skeptical, like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin, injected religion into politics themselves at times. James Madison was probably the most consistent separatist, but even he lapsed at times. Stephen Waldon’s new book, Founding Faith, is friendly to the “separatist” position, but shows with admirable fairness just how complex the reality was – in sharp contrast to Dawkins’ comic-book caricature.
I believe that Marshall is referring to the book Founding Faith: Providence, Politics, and the Birth of Religious Freedom in America by Steven Waldman. Assuming this is the book Marshall is talking about he misspelled the author’s last name. From what I’ve read, it seems like a pretty good book, though there are some inaccuracies that Chris Rodda points out in a book review. The author seems to overstate how much the founders mixed church and state. To quote Rodda from her review:
As I said above, most of the minor historical inaccuracies in Mr. Waldman’s descriptions of the founders religious views are insignificant, and don’t affect the overall accuracy of his assessments. There are, however, a few that are significant because they address actions rather than opinions, and tend to perpetuate some of the Christian nationalist myths.
For example, in his chapter on Thomas Jefferson’s religious views, Waldman makes the claim that Jefferson “allowed for some government support of religion.” He later says of Jefferson in a section on how the founders would deal with the issue of school prayer: “Initially, he even opposed having theology taught at the University of Virginia.” Initially? That implies that Jefferson changed his mind at some point. Jefferson opposed this until the day he died, as did Madison, who took over after him. No theology was taught at the university until the 1840s, after both Jefferson and Madison were dead. One of Waldman’s examples Jefferson’s “government support of religion” is the provision in the Kaskaskia Indian treaty for money to pay a priest and build a church. This story, a version of which is found in virtually every Christian nationalist history book, is explained in the second part of my review of Stephen Mansfield’s Ten Tortured Words. Another is Jefferson’s attendance at religious services in the Capitol Building, which I addressed in the third part of my Ten Tortured Words review. Waldman’s incredible conclusion is that Jefferson, “despite his expansive rhetoric…was comfortable with many forms of church-state mingling.”
While James H. Hutson’s influence on Waldman is evident throughout his book, it is particularly noticeable in claims like the following. Comparing the post-Constitution government to the Continental Congress, Waldman claims that “the new government abandoned the practice of the Continental Congress of officially referring to the United States as a ‘Christian Nation.'” Never once did the Continental Congress refer to the United States as a “Christian Nation.” There is not a single instance of this phrase anywhere in the Journals of the Continental Congress.
While it comforts me to a degree that Marshall’s source is not some right-wing, ‘this is a christian nation’ screed the author does seem to overstate his case a bit and Marshall seems to have gotten the wrong impression.
Something Marshall did not do here is cite primary sources. Take James Madison for example. After he stepped down from the presidency he wrote a memorandum explaining how several of the actions by himself and others did not represent the true spirit of the first amendment. As examples, he cites instances where a president would call for a national day of prayer and fasting during Thanksgiving and the appointment of chaplains in the military (which is even happening now) and in Congress. In his memorandum Madison stated explicitly,
Is the appointment of Chaplains to the two Houses of Congress consistent with the Constitution, and with the pure principle of religious freedom? In strictness the answer on both points must be in the negative. The Constitution of the U.S. forbids everything like an establishment of a national religion. […] Religious proclamations by the Executive recommending thanksgivings & fasts are shoots from the same root with the legislative acts reviewed. Altho’ recommendations only, they imply a religious agency, making no part of the trust delegated to political rulers.” (emphasis mine) 
I also wouldn’t say that the founders’ religious views are a “hotly disputed question.” Most books on the subject clearly explain how most of the founders were within the spectrum of Deism in their religious views, while only three were orthodox Christians. 
#94 Does the Constitution separate Church and State? “The constitutional separation of church and state.” (212)
The American Constitution contains no such provision.
Even though the constitution doesn’t explicitly contain that specific phrase the principle is present within the constitution in the first amendment. This can be clearly demonstrated when you read Thomas Jefferson’s letter to the Danbury Baptists:
Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature would “make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” thus building a wall of separation between church and state. (emphasis mine) 
The above letter proves that what the founders had in mind when they wrote the first amendment to the constitution is that it was supposed to imply a “wall of separation between church and state.”
#95 Did Pat Robertson say that? “In 2005, the fine city of New Orleans was catastrophically flooded in the aftermath of a hurricane, Katrina. The Reverend Pat Robertson, one of America’s best-known televangelists and a former presidential candidate, was reported as blaming the hurricane on a lesbian comedian who happened to live in New Orleans. You’d think an omnipotent God would adopt a slightly more targeted approach to zapping sinners: a judicious heart attack, perhaps, rather than the wholesale destruction of an entire city just because it happened to be the domicile of one lesbian comedian.” (239)
For a zoologist, Dawkins delivers a punch line impressively. Unfortunately, Pat Robertson didn’t make that comment. This “quote” was invented out of whole cloth by a spoof website called “Dateline Hollywood” (which claims to have been founded in 360 B.C. as “Gladiator’s Weekly.”)
The error is symptomatic, and the root problem can be traced to Dawkins’ anemic bibliography. Of Dawkins 156 citations (a paltry number for a 400 page book), the large majority are to newspaper articles or other periodicals or web sites, especially secularist web sites. Only a small handful of books are cited, and even fewer books by people with whom Dawkins disagrees.
More nitpicking. I also cover this nonsense in my review of Marshall’s book pretty extensively and I expose the fact that Marshall didn’t seem to read Dawkins’ book very carefully.
#96 “Pat Robertson would be harmless comedy, were he less typical of those who today hold power and influence in the United States.” (239)
If that is so, Dr. Dawkins should furnish accurate quotes from the truly dangerous ones, rather than jousting against twelve-year old boys, spoof web sites, and losing candidates for obscure state senate seats.
More nitpicking and he repeated the previous nonsense, I believe, just to jack up the number of supposed “errors” of Dawkins.
#97 What “American Taliban?” “No religious leader today (apart from the likes of the Taliban or the American Christian equivalent) thinks like Moses.” (246)
Dawkins is, I think, wrong about the oppressive character of Old Testament monotheism, but let’s bracket the slam on Moses. The error I would like to point out in this statement is the assumption that the Taliban has even a rough “equivalent” in the United States. Dawkins writes at length, trying to demonstrate the existence of the “American Taliban.” I think this is a fantasy. See my rebuttal in The Truth Behind the New Atheism, chapter 10, “What American Taliban?”
I rebut his absurd arguments in my review of his book. There is too much to cover here.
#98 Is theocracy closing in on America? “The incipient American theocracy (see Kevin Phillip’s book of that name).” (286)
I debunk this delusion on pages 173-188 of The Truth Behind the New Atheism. American Christians do not want a theocracy, still less are we going to have one.
Again, see my review of Marshall’s book, and once again, I believe he’s listing the same argument over again just to inflate the number of “errors.” He’s done this quite a bit throughout this essay.
#99 Is Ann Coulter serious? On page 288, Dr. Dawkins cites “somebody called Ann Coulter” from a web site entitled, “The American Taliban.” American colleagues, Dawkins notes, “have persuaded me” that Coulter “is not a spoof.” Referring (presumably) to radical Muslims, she writes: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity.” (288)
Coulter is, of course, a spoof – a self-caricature. Whether serious or tongue-in-cheek – and anyone who rules the latter out does not, I think, get Coulter — the woman is in the business of providing “shock quotes” to give talk show hosts something to yack about. In a word, she’s in the same racket as Ariana Huffington, Michael Moore, and a slew of other “shock jocks.” Dawkins ought to recognize the club — he sends his rhetorical drives down their back nine on a regular basis.
It is, in any case, hard to imagine Ann Coulter as part of the “incipient American theocracy.” For one thing, she’s Catholic, while most of the others are Protestants.
No, Coulter is not a spoof. I believe what she says, she believes and what she says is ignorant and hateful garbage. Several years I ago I was unfamiliar with Coulter and I briefly read her 2007 book Godless: The Church of Liberalism and thought it was the most ridiculous thing I’d ever read. I also do not believe she was simply joking when on page 268 of that book she says, “I defy any of my coreligionists to tell me they do not laugh at the idea of Dawkins burning in hell.”
It makes me wonder what goes on inside Marshall’s head when he defends cruel, hateful people like Coulter. He also defends the religious right, and the intelligent design movement. He doesn’t seem like a fundamentalist himself, but he certainly believes much of the same ignorant propaganda as they do.
#100 Does “theocracy” render life in America, or ancient Israel, “horrifying”? “The Afghan Taliban and the American Taliban are good examples of what happens when people take their scriptures literally and seriously. They provide a horrifying modern enactment of what life might have been like under the theocracy of the Old Testament.” (288)
According to Treadgold, ancient Israel was “unique” in avoiding “the techniques, devices, and institutions of despotism.” While Afghanistan under the Taliban stood out for its barbarism and lack of freedom, ancient Israel — and modern America – both have influenced the world in the direction of liberty. (Treadgold traced modern democratic freedoms to two main sources: Greece, and ancient Israel.)
In some ways ancient Israel was better off than “modern” Afghanistan. The Taliban outlawed music: by contrast, the longest book of the Old Testament is a song book from which the world still sings. The Taliban kept women at home: the Bible did more to liberate women than anything. The laws in ancient Israel admittedly are harsh by modern standards, but by the standards of the day, in several respects they represented progress. (Also see Thomas Cahill, Gift of the Jews.)
This is clearly a case of Marshall missing the point that Dawkins is making about the “American Taliban.” There are several similarities between the two groups. Both wish to force their beliefs on others; both often use violence (the murder of abortion doctors, etc.); both often have negative views about women and pass restrictive laws against them; both often display an intense hatred for anyone who doesn’t share their views. The list goes on.
I’d also like to add that Dawkins certainly has a point. If you listen to both of these groups they are more often than not highly intolerant and sometimes violent, and this is due to their religious beliefs. That’s the only point Dawkins was making.
As Marshall has done several times now, he has taken a single sentence of Dawkins’ and tries to argue against it, while missing the point that Dawkins was actually making when you look at the text as a whole.
#101 Did Mother Theresa deserve a Nobel Prize? “Mother Theresa of Calcutta actually said, in her speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, ‘The greatest destroyer of peace is abortion.’ What? How can a woman with such a cock-eyed judgment be taken seriously on any topic, let alone be thought seriously worthy of a Nobel Prize?” (292)
Perhaps because she spent her life bathing, washing, and comforting poor people, taking them off the streets, and giving them a place to live out their final days, asking for nothing for herself, and giving those the world cast away love?
A better question would be why Yasser Arafat — who had no objection to the destruction of young life — won the Nobel Prize. Most people have the sense to recognize that the Nobel committee honored itself by their association with Mother Theresa, not the other way around.
Here again, is Marshall touting his opinion as fact, along with more nitpicking. The fact is that abortion is a highly controversial issue and I don’t believe one view is really right or wrong, I just believe that each individual has a right to control their own reproductive organs and that’s that.
As far as Mother Theresa caring for the poor and the sick she did none of this. Out of the estimated fifty million she accumulated from donations and gifts, none of it was used to help the poor and sick. But Mother Theresa made her motives very clear when she said, “You [a terminal cancer patient] are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you.” It’s obvious that Mother Theresa did not actually care for the poor at all, only preached her backwards “morality” about abortion and the necessity of suffering, all due to her backwards religious beliefs. 
#102 Should we worry that America will become a Christian fascist state? “This ambition to achieve what can only be called a Christian fascist state is entirely typical of the American Taliban. It is an almost exact mirror image of the Islamic fascist state so ardently sought by many people in other parts of the world. Randall Terry is not — yet — in political power. But no observer of the American political scene at the time of writing (2006) can afford to be sanguine.” (293)
Actually, observers could afford to be sanguine. Terry Randall ran for an obscure and highly conservative seat in the Florida state legislature, and lost badly.
By contrast, George Galloway, a left-wing British politician who not only says things every bit as batty as Terry Randall, such as rhapsodizing over the thought of Tony Blair’s death, and was in cahoots with Saddam Hussein, has been a member of Parliament for twenty-one years now. (The national elective body in the United Kingdom, not some remote shire in the north.) It follows that, if one wants to stake a claim on paranoia, Americans have vastly more reason to fear a Baathist takeover of Britain, than the Brits have to fear that some sort of fascistic Taliban state is – or was – about to seize power in America.
Marshall completely goes around Dawkins’ statement, though he addressed it more directly in his book, The Truth Behind the New Atheism. In my review of this book I demonstrate why we do have to worry about Christians trying to take over the country and forcing their laws on us. Members of the religious right are constantly trying to pass laws that are clear breaches of the separation of church and state, such as Resolution 888 and other proposals.
#103 Are foes of abortion concerned about “slippery slopes?” “Slippery slope arguments might be seen as a way in which consequentialists can reimport a form of indirect absolutism. But the religious foes of abortion don’t bother with slippery slopes.” (294)
In fact, the influential documentary, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, with C. Everett Koop and philosopher Francis Schaeffer, made a strong and influential “slippery slope” argument against abortion. Such arguments have been staples of the pro-life movement at least since that time — most eloquently perhaps in the work of Natural Law philosopher Jay Budziszewski. (See What We Can’t Not Know: A Guide, and Written on the Heart: The Case for Natural Law.)
Dawkins’ comment betrays the fact that he does not really know what pro-life thinkers think. As so often, he is shooting his mouth off without bothering to gain a first-hand knowledge of the subject he’s writing on.
Based upon the many errors Marshall makes in this essay and his book I’d say that last statement can easily describe himself.
I’d also consider this more nitpicking. Instead of showing why Dawkins’ argument about abortion is wrong he ignores Dawkins’ main point. However, he does mention it later on in arguments 106-108, which he is again spreading out one topic into many when he could have discussed this issue in one section, but he does this I believe to cause the number of “errors” to rise.
Marshall ignores the sentence immediately after the above quote when Dawkins says, “For them, the issue is much simpler. An embryo is a ‘baby’, killing it is murder, and that’s that: end of discussion.” Of course, I’d disagree slightly and say instead that many fundamentalists believe that even embryos have souls and therefore should not be killed, but the essential point is the same. The main point of Dawkins’ was not whether or not such and such person uses slippery slope arguments, but pointing out the irrationality of their beliefs about the destruction of simple cells and stem cell research.
#104 Is the American Taliban eating its own? “In 2003 Paul Hill was executed for the murder of Dr. Britton and his bodyguard, saying he would do it again to save the unborn. Candidly looking forward to dying for his cause, he told a news conference, ‘I believe the state, by executing me, will be making me a martyr.’ Right-wing anti-abortionists protesting at his execution were joined in unholy alliance by left-wing opponents of the death penalty who urged the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, to ‘stop the martyrdom of Paul Hill.'” (296)
The plot thickens. The United States is on the verge of a Taliban-like takeover because George Bush, a right-wing Christian who executes killers and dislikes abortion, is in power. A Lutheran pastor shoots and kills an abortion doctor, and is then executed by the president’s own brother! And even though capital punishment is a sign of George Bush’ theocratic tendencies (p. 291), it takes an “unholy alliance” to oppose it in this case!
What a tangled web!
Has the American Taliban started eating its own? Or does this incident reveal how marginal the people Dawkins frowns his worried brow at really are? He points to two people who have been killed by “Christian terrorists,” in a country of 300 million people, over 70% of whom call themselves Christians. But over the past several years, thousands of Americans have been killed by Muslim terrorists. Hundreds more were killed by agnostic (Timothy McVeigh) and atheist (the Unabomber, quite likely – see The Unabomber at Harvard) terrorists. For Dawkins to focus so much attention on that rarest of all creatures in American life, the Christian terrorist, and imply that some general conclusion can be reached about the state of American Christianity from him, makes the term “stacking the deck” respectable by comparison.
I felt this argument – if you can even call it that – about Jebb Bush putting Paul Hill to death an example of the “American Taliban” eating its own to be absolutely stupid. I did not cover it in my updated review since I wanted to focus on Marshall’s main points but I did cover it briefly in the first draft of my review. There, I simply said,
“Wow…what astounding reasoning. Absolutely stupid to say the least. Hill broke the law, and Jeb [sic] Bush’s job is to enforce it […]”
As I demonstrate in my review the number of people killed by Christians is a lot higher than he admits.
31. James Madison. A Detached Memorandum. The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America’s Founders. Edited by Forrest Church. Beacon Press, 2004. 138, 141
32. The Faiths of the Founding Fathers, by David L. Holmes, Oxford University Press, 2006
33. Thomas Jefferson. Letter to the Danbury Baptists. The Separation of Church and State: Writings on a Fundamental Freedom by America’s Founders. Edited by Forrest Church. Beacon Press, 2004. 130
34. The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice, by Christopher Hitchens, Verso, 1995; 41, 47