if your head offends you cut it off

if you head offends you cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward

This cartoon was inspired by my reading of G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy”, where he says while critiquing some modern-day thinkers who suggest:

“If thy head offend thee, cut if off; for it is better, not merely to enter the Kingdom of Heaven as a child, but to enter it as an imbecile, rather than with your whole intellect to be cast into Hell…”

Richard Dawkins has a valid complaint when he says,

“I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.”

You know the drill. When you ask too many good questions or get too smart about some things, you are told to lean not on your own understanding but in all your ways acknowledge God. I was given this warning by a church leader when I left my church three years ago. In other words, you can’t be smart and trust God at the same time.

The bible warns about vain philosophy. It challenges, “Where is the wise man?” Totally misunderstood and misused, these are employed as scare tactics to keep Christians dumb and docile. If one just stood back far enough to see that, say, the book of Romans, which critiques vain philosophy and false claims to wisdom, is one of the richest and most complex pieces of philosophical and theological literature from that era. Still to this day, Romans confounds the most intelligent among us!

Have you read Barth’s commentary on Romans? It shook the theological world. It might shake yours.

There are places, even churches, where we can think freely. That is our human right and responsibility. Find them! I’m starting with my own head. You?

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  • Love this comic. (and doubly so as a Doctor Who fan)

  • Adam

    Interesting points. Free thinking – yes. Then using the intellect to appear to be wise and teach flasely or to appear to be knowledgeable for the sake of one’s own pride and feeling better than others no.

    Something in Jesus ministry is the confounding of those that appear to be wise. Thinking here of the widow with the two coins who in principle gave more than others because she gave all she had, confounding those that look down on her for not giving as much money as others. Or the wisdom of Solomon who when two women were arguing and fighting over a child said OK cut the child in half and you can both have your share. Then the woman who’s child it was giving it up rather than see the child be halved. And them him choosing her.

    The problem comes when as humans, core beliefs are challenged. Dawkins believes in evidence. And because of the 7 categories he states in chapter 4 of his “God Delusion” book in the case of 6 1/2 of them shows there is no proof of the existence of God, he then says God probably doesn’t exist.

    Church leaders when they cannot answer a question being posed are left with a choice of how they respond. Some responses are better than others.

    When Dawkins says he is against religion “because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world”, it is with his understanding of religion and what he wishes to promote religion to be. Often in a negative light. I’m curious of the context in which he wrote that.

    Of course he subscribed to a worldview that is dismissive of religion. At the same time I read of Jesus saying the purest form of religion is caring for widows and orphans.

    Being in a place where I can think freely, I see good in what Dawkins does in challenging assumptions that some representatives of the church make. I also see good in some of the work that churches and those who represent the church do not just with their words but with their actions. I also see Dawins losing credibility among his peer Dr Daniel Came, a philosophy lecturer and fellow atheist, from Worcester College for refusing to debate with Prof William Lain Craig.

    Cane writes:
    “The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part… I notice that, by contrast, you are happy to discuss theological matters with television and radio presenters and other intellectual heavyweights like Pastor Ted Haggard of the National Association of Evangelicals and Pastor Keenan Roberts of the Colorado Hell House.”

    This is not to negate also the number of self promoted con men selling indulgences and claiming to represent Christ and God. Any glimpse of the scriptures with what Jesus said about some religious people as being “whitewashed tombs” or “vipers” those that “create burdens that are too heave to carry and don’t lift a finger to help” shows what he thinks about that kind of thing.

    There is an appropriate context for trusting the Lord and not one’s own understanding, there is an appropriate context for communicating what is wise, in love. And that is the conclusion I would come to as a result of my own free thinking. I can’t pretend know or understand everything there is to know but I do have a degree of wisdom that can be used for good. That would be my engagement with what you ask David.

  • Ha! Reminds me of a bible study we went to in 2008. I wrote about it here (one of my first blog posts I wrote criticizing the church): http://bignoises.wordpress.com/2008/07/08/check-your-brain-at-the-door/

  • I have absolutely no idea why we are talking about Dawkins, at all.

    From Allister McGrath:

    I have often wondered how Dawkins and I could draw such totally different conclusions on the basis of reflecting long and hard on substantially the same world. One possibility might be that, because I believe in God, I am deranged, deluded, deceived and deceiving, my intellectual capacity having been warped through having been hijacked by an infections, malignant God virus, I believe in God. Both those, I fear, are the substance of the answer I find in the pages of The God Delusion.

    This may be an answer, but it’s not particularly a persuasive answer. It might appeal to die-hard atheists whose unbending faith does not permit them to operate outside the “non-God” box. But I hope that I am right in suggesting that such nonthinking dogmatists are not typical of atheism. Another answer to my question might be to repeat the same nonsense, this time applying it to Dawkins. (Although in this case, I suppose that we would have to posit that his mind had been hijacked by some kind of “no-god virus.”) But I have no intention of writing something so implausible. Why insult Dawkins? Even more important, why insult the intelligence of my readers?

    The beginnings of a real answer like in some wise words of Stephen Jay Gould, whose sad death from cancer in 2002 robbed Harvard University of one of its most stimulating teachers, and a popular scientific readership of one of its most accessible writers. Though an atheist, Gould was absolutely clear that the natural sciences–including evolutionary theory–were consistent with both atheism and conventional religious belief. Unless half his scientific colleagues were total fools–a presumption that Gould rightly dismissed as nonsense, whichever half it is applied to–there could be not other responsible way of making sense of the varied responses to reality on the part of the intelligent, informed people that he knew.

    This is not the quick and easy answer that many would like. But it may well be right–or at least point in the right direction. It helps us understand why such people hold such fundamentally different believers on these matters–and why some others consequently believe that, in the end, these questions cannot be answered with confidence. And it reminds us of the need to treat those who disagree with us on such questions with complete intellectual respect rather than dismissing them as liars, knaves and charlatans.

    Whereas Gould at least tries to weigh the evidence, Dawkins simply offers the atheist equivalent of slick hellfire preaching, substituting turbocharged rhetoric and highly selective manipulation of facts for careful, evidence-based thinking. Curiously, there is surprisingly little scientific analysis in The God Delusion. There’s a lot of pseudo-scientific speculation, linked with wider cultural criticisms of religion, mostly borrowed from older atheist writings. Dawkins preaches to his god-hating choirs, who are clearly expected to relish his rhetorical salvoes and raise their hand high in adulation. Those who think biological evolution can be reconciled with religion are dishonest! Amen! they belong to the “Neville Chamberlain school” of evolutionists? They are appeasers! Amen! Real scientists reject belief in God! Hallelujah! The God that Jews believed in back in Old Testament times is a psychotic child abuser! Amen! You tell them, brother!

    When I read The God Delusion I was both saddened and troubled. How, I wondered, could such a gifted popularizer of the natural sciences, who once had such a passionate concern for the objective analysis of evidence, turn into such an aggressive anti-religous propagandist with an apparent disregard for evidence that was not favorable to his case? Why were the natural sciences being so abused in an attempt to advance atheist fundamentalism? I have no adequate explanation. Like so many of my atheist friends, I simply cannot understand the astonishing hostility that he displays toward religion. Religion to Dawkins is like a red flag to a bull–evoking not merely an aggressive response but one that throw normal scholarly conventions about scrupulous accuracy and fairness to the winds. While his book is written with rhetorical passion and power, the stridency of its assertions merely masks tired, weak and recycled arguments.

    I am not alone in feeling disappointed here. The God Delusion trumpets the fact that is author was recently voted one of the world’s three leading intellectuals. This survey took place among the readers of Prospect magazine in November 2005. So what did this same magazine make of Dawkins’s book? Its reviewer was shocked at this “incurious, dogmatic, rambling, and self-contradictory” book. The title of the review? “Dawkins the Dogmatist.” (pp. 10-12)

  • This reminds me about old punishments in certain societies. You know, the one where they cut off your hands if you’re caught stealing so you can’t steal again.

    Terry Pratchett brought it up in his Discworld novel Witches Abroad. In it, his famous Lancre witch, Granny Weatherwax, was in a foreign city wondering where the local witch was. She came across a public execution scene where someone was being beheaded and suddenly knew where the local witch was. She had heard about places that cut off the hands of thiefs. And this was a place that cut off the heads of thiefs – so they couldn’t *think* of stealing again. The local witch was in charge.

    People who rule by fear and fiat do not like their subjects thinking for themselves. Unfortunately, a lot of people want a religion where they don’t have to think too much. So there are a lot of places of worship where this accommodation is therefore provided. And it works, more or less, too. Right up until one of the “subjects” tries to think a bit harder than was intended… :-/

  • Psy

    Abusive child psychology 101 and meme theory promoting blatant anti-intellectualism.
    Authoritarian ideology, empty threats of punishment and empty promise of reward appealing to the fearful and selfish.

  • David

    Splendid, I wrote an article regarding thinking outside of the box regarding the Protestant Bible in my blog http://bealivepodcast.com/