Is Richard Dawkins like Jesus?
In a This much I know piece at guardian.co.uk the British philosopher A.C. Grayling writes: ‘I would imagine Jesus was a kind of Jewish reformer. If you were looking for an equivalent to the figure you dimly perceive through the gospels it would probably be a Richard Dawkins.’
I can go along with the argument that Jesus was a kind of Jewish reformer, provided that we understand the extent to which he self-consciously embodied that reformation in his own story. But can Dawkins really be cast as a reformer? I see him more as an exorcist, seeking to banish the demons of religious belief and superstition from the modern soul – which, of course, means that he is still like Jesus.
Perhaps, then, Dawkins needs to be reminded of Jesus’ little story about the demon that is evicted from its house, returns later to find it swept and put in order, and so calls up seven anti-social mates and they trash the place (Luke 11:24-26).
Jesus, I think, was talking about the demons that would possess the house of Israel in years to come, precipitating a catastrophic war. But Dawkins should take note of how in the 20th century the extremely nasty demons of secularism trashed European civilization following the progressive banishment of Christian faith in the 19th century. Does he not risk setting the same depressing narrative in motion again?
I wonder what others think of Grayling’s analogy. Who would be the best modern equivalent to the Jesus that is dimly perceived in the gospels?