Recently the world’s most famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, writer of The God Delusion, The Selfish Gene and The Greatest Show on Earth, has been in Australia. Last Monday night he was on the ABC program Q and A, with a number of Australian guests (some more intelligent then others) each with religious faith of some kind. While Dawkins spoke with his usual skill and intelligence, there were many things he said that irked me, especially when he stated that faith had no positive psychological effects. But I’ll ignore most of these for the time being to focus on a moment when Dawkins revealed just how little about spirituality he actually knows. It starts at about 2:30 in this clip:

Here’s the transcript of what was said:

JACQUELINE NINIO: There’s an amazing Jewish philosopher who said the second you start to define God, you already limit God. God is un-understandable in some ways by humanity and so the second we try and grapple with it, we’re already limiting what God is. I think that there’s an unfolding understanding of God as you change and as the world changes and all we can do as human beings is to approach it from where we are and from our understanding and what we know in that moment.

TONY JONES: Now, before we come to our questioner down the front who had his hand up, Richard, do you regard that as just clever sophistry?

RICHARD DAWKINS: I was wondering what on earth it meant, I must say.

I wish Jacqueline Ninio, a Rabbi, wasn’t so easily intimidated by Dawkins and didn’t back down from what she said, since it was such a clear elucidation of what gaining an understanding of God is all about. The key statement Ninio says here is “The second you start to define God, you limit God”. This key point appears to have gone over the head of Dawkins, who nevertheless speaks as though he has a full understanding of religion.

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