The famous Catholic writer Frank Sheed once wrote a well-known book entitled Theology and Sanity. I confess I haven’t read it (yet) but I like the conjunction between the two words of the title; they suggest, quite rightly, that thinking and writing about God is a reasonable intellectual activity. It is important to remind oneself of this in the face of the constant atheist charge that we Christians are “irrational”. Somehow this jibe, that we leave our reasoning processes outside the door when we enter a church, is more insulting than any other.
So I was amused to discover an article with the forthright title Reading Richard Dawkins led to my Conversion. The author, Judith Babarsky, an academic and at the time having only a “surface level” understanding of Christianity as she admits, was recommended Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion to read. She writes that when she began, she thought she would read “a logical, sceptical, nay scientific critique of religion.” Instead, she was surprised to find “strings of pejorative adjectives pretending to be argument, bald assertion pretending to be evidence, an incredibly arrogant attitude and a stance of moral equivalence incapable of distinguishing between the possible strengths and weaknesses of different religions…”
Indeed, Babarsky found Dawkins’ arguments so unsatisfactory, coupled with his own atheistic and fundamentalist stance, that they prompted her to examine for the first time what Christianity was all about. Her examination was to lead to her conversion to Catholicism. “In reading to refute Dawkins as well as educate myself … I discovered the God-man Jesus Christ. Not only did the Catholic view resonate with me emotionally but … it was intellectually honest.”
She read Benedict XVI’s Jesus of Nazareth and came to realise the inadequacy of the scientific method that demanded laboratory-type proof of the existence of God. She concludes, “I choose to believe in a supernatural God … I believe in miracles. I believe that, while science has many valuable insights to offer us, it is not the final word. I believe that some things are beyond our understanding, certainly now and perhaps forever. I believe that God is great and that man, created in His image and with free will, has made wonderful discoveries about the natural world that we inhabit. I choose to believe in God and that he is no delusion, nor am I delusional.”
Her words echo those of Benedict XVI himself in his address “The search for ultimate meaning”, in which, acknowledging the scientific basis of evolution (Dawkins is an evolutionary biologist) he then points out that “evolution does not answer every query, especially the great philosophical question: where does everything come from?” He adds, reasonably, that scientific facts are not enough “to explain all of reality.”
Meanwhile, is it reasonable to ask: would Dawkins be annoyed that his book has, in one case certainly, had the opposite effect to what he intended?