What does Richard Dawkins mean when he says, Love thy neighbor?

Richard Dawkins discusses the concept of “Love thy neighbor” in The God Delusion to debunk religion’s claim that its main message is love and compassion. How independent do we think this analysis is? Let’s look at this analysis as objectively as possible.

Dawkins begins by stating that “neighbor” in biblical terms refers only to the Jews, and that “thou shalt not kill” actually means “thou shalt not kill any Jews.” The merit of the idea of ​​”Love thy neighbor” itself, of course, is ignored. Dawkins is far too concerned about the prosecution of his agenda. As to the truth of the matter, he takes most of his quoted “evidence” from an article by John Hartnung. Dawkins provides no substantive evidence, simply claiming that Hartnung’s research shows this to be the case. As an example of this ‘evidence’, Hartnung refers to a study of the attitudes of Jewish children by the Israeli psychologist George Tamarin. This draws a contrast between the group’s attitude to the death of Jews and non-Jews in the Old Testament. Not surprisingly, the children were far more willing to allow the killing of non-Jews than of Jews. Dawkins himself concludes that these children have been indoctrinated into racist attitudes by their religion.

This all sounds telling, but it doesn’t show much other than that things were very different in Old Testament times. Whether we like it or not, God chose the Jewish nation to receive the word that he was the one and only God. The events of the Old Testament must be judged in the context of that truth. We cannot draw conclusions based on contemporary interpretations of events that happened thousands of years ago, especially when those interpretations are made by children. Moreover, Dawkins’ point is that the opposite results obtained by the control group (where the mention of Judea was replaced by a fictional Chinese kingdom) showed that religion had influenced the children’s morality, just as one would expect. The religious perspective is that morality comes from God. No doubt, therefore, the children believed that “God had his reasons.” I myself struggle with some events in the Old Testament, but it does not undermine my faith. I realize that we cannot compare today’s attitudes to earlier times, when ideas, canons, and creeds were propagated and enforced solely by force. I would bet that if you took the historical context out of the Hartnung study, the results would be very different.

With regard to the New Testament, Hartnung draws the same conclusions, claiming that Jesus was a devotee with the same mentality within the group and that it was Paul who came up with the idea of ​​bringing the gospel to the Jews. This strikes me as little more than wishful thinking on Dawkins’ part, and it is interesting to note that he does not develop this idea further than by making Hartnung’s baseless quote that “Jesus would have turned in his grave.” if he had known that Paul was taking his plan to the pigs.” I will not comment on this except to say that, in my opinion, the language Hartnung uses tells us more about him than his commentary tells us about Jesus.

The question to whom Jesus addressed his message is directly addressed by Geza Vermes in The Authentic Gospel of Jesus. He ponders the question: Did Jesus intend to address only Jews, or did he expect the gospel to benefit the entire non-Jewish world? (By the way, Geza Vermes is an ex-Christian and ex-Catholic priest). He concluded that there were clear affirmations that Jesus was only meant to address the Jews, but equally clear affirmations that expressed the opposite view. Therefore, after “considering the whole evidence”, he identified the following dilemma:

Either Jesus took a strictly pro-Jewish stance and the later introduction in the Gospels of pro-Gentile leanings must reflect the position of the early church, which by then was almost exclusively non-Jewish. Or it was Jesus who the universalist point of view and this was later replaced by Jewish exclusivism.”

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So, according to Geza, the Gospels have somehow been subject to subsequent revisions. Either the almost exclusively non-Jewish composition of the early church introduced pro-Gentile tendencies, or Jesus took a universalist stance that was later superseded by Jewish exclusivism. Vermes himself adopts the first view, that the verses reflecting a pro-Gentile view were introduced to appeal to the Gentile early church. Vermes has no evidence (he himself says that, “having considered all the evidence”, there is a clear choice), he simply chooses one over the other based on his own personal inclination.

Vermes’ is a scholar known for his books on Jesus, but this does not mean that his interpretation is not in question. There are two grounds on which we can find an error. First, if the early church was as totally non-Jewish as he claims, then surely the revisions to the text would have been more important, since many of the references to Jewish exclusivity had been dropped altogether. Second, he ignores the possibility that the Gospels are in fact accurate and simply reflect different considerations at different times. Seen in this light, we can see that while most of Jesus’ ministry was undoubtedly directed mostly toward the Jews, this does not necessarily mean that he did not intend to bring salvation to everyone. When he began his task, he would have been aware that his message must have been in favor of the Jews, or they would not have followed him. Once Jesus reached critical mass in his ministry, the purpose of his message could begin to broaden. This broadening was then passed on to Paul and the other evangelists who took it to the rest of the world. This interpretation is most consistent with the evidence.

After dealing with the “Jewish” problem, Dawkins expands on his ideas about group enmity. While Dawkins acknowledges that violence is perpetrated in the name of countless other ideologies, he argues that religion is particularly pernicious because it is passed down from generation to generation. Without the in-group/out-of-group enmity labels, he claims the rift would not exist and the reason for violence would disappear.

Dawkins has a point when he identifies group loyalty as a powerful force. However, nothing indicates that religious divide is more or less pernicious than any other divide. Humans have what Dawkins himself calls “powerful tendencies toward intra-group loyalty and hostilities outside the group.” The truth is that it is human nature to band together and fight other groups, regardless of the designations. Much of the fighting and suffering that is done in the name of religion has nothing to do with God at all, just as much of the fighting and suffering that is done in the name of freedom and equality has nothing to do with these ideals. This is explored in more detail in the section on Hitler and Stalin.

Dawkins concludes the section by saying:

“Even if religion did no harm in itself, its willful and carefully nurtured divisions—its deliberate and cultivated indulgence in humanity’s natural inclination to favor in-groups and shun out-groups—would be enough to make it an important to make power for evil in the world. the world.”

This point is completely misleading. It’s similar to a child saying he made me do it, in that it passes the responsibility onto someone or something else. Ultimately, man commits evil and is responsible for it. Nowhere is this more evident than in Dawkins’ winning philosophy. God does not exist, religion is a creation of man – so where is the blame? It’s just too convenient to blame “labels.” Who created these ‘labels’, ‘evil forces in the world’, these ‘religions’. Dawkins is lifted by his own petard, as there is only one answer. Man. Therefore, if there is only man and he has created such powers, if we were to abolish religion, one would have to assume that man would invent it all over again, or at least some variant of the same thing (a ‘religion’). ‘ believe in no God, maybe – let’s call it atheism). Unless, of course, you believe in the generally progressive change of the moral zeitgeist, that we have now evolved into a state of superior morality. Even a brief review of twentieth-century history disproves such a claim.