Several newspapers have covered the attack by Rowan Williams on Richard Dawkins. The Telegraph coverage is here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/10/14/nfaith114.xml.
Apparently, “Dr Rowan Williams responded to critics of religion by arguing that atheists had missed the point and failed to understand what Christians really believe in.” Unfortunately, The Telegraph fails to report what Williams thinks Christians really do believe in.
Williams further states that “There are specific areas of mismatch between what Richard Dawkins may write about and what religious people think they are doing.” Okay, what are the areas of mismatch and what do religious people think they are doing? The article in the Telegraph doesn’t say. Maybe another paper has reported these points. The Observer hasn’t: http://observer.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2191002,00.html. No sign in the Press Association report either: http://ukpress.google.com/article/ALeqM5jQnMQb84TWkIDQ7b1iF-Jd80Vtjw. Nor on the BBC report: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/7043501.stm. Williams also says that “There are few things more annoying than people saying ‘I know what you mean’.” Well no danger of that, Rowan. I don’t think I have a clue what you’re talking about.
So, what do Christians believe in? Well, Williams said that God is real for believers and existed before the universe did. He said Dawkins had “picked up on” the fact that theologians talk about God as a simple explanation but if God was around before the Big Bang, “he must be complex”. Firstly, he seems to be criticising Dawkins for ‘misunderstanding’ what theologians mean when they talk about God as a simple explanation and he certainly states that if God was around before the Big Bang, he must be complex – but Dawkins in The God Delusion refutes the idea of a complex being such as this and in the book itself, Dawkins does not seem to be labouring under any misapprehensions with regards theologians using the term ‘simple’. Secondly, why should anyone assume that God was around before the Big Bang? Third – why is God only real for believers?
Finally, Williams says: “Don’t distract us from the real arguments by assuming that religion is an eccentric survival strategy or irrational form of explanation”; if religion is not an irrational form of explanation or eccentric survival strategy then what is it? Is it a rational form of explanation? Is it a sensible survival strategy? Is it a superstition? Hard to tell with Archbishop Rowan Williams.