Volume > Issue > Hell as the Atheist Heaven

Hell as the Atheist Heaven


By Anne Barbeau Gardiner | January-February 2013
Anne Barbeau Gardiner, a Contributing Editor of the NOR, is Professor Emerita of English at John Jay College of the City University of New York. She has published on Dryden, Milton, and Swift, as well as on Catholics of the seventeenth century.

Who could have imagined that Richard Dawkins, the foremost public atheist of our day, would come to serve as the perfect example of St. Paul’s warning about atheists? In Romans 1:19-22, Paul declares that “what can be known about God” is plain to see because the Lord has made His “eternal power and deity” clearly visible in the created world. Atheists, therefore, are “without excuse; for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.” Note what happens to those who refuse to worship their Creator: their minds grow dark and senseless — that is to say, they talk nonsense and don’t realize it.

Can a mind be more “darkened” than to mistake Hell for Heaven? In a 2009 article in the British newspaper The Guardian about the ramifications of the creation of a human-chimp hybrid, Dawkins speaks disparagingly of the “minds of many confused people” who insist on calling the human zygote “sacred.” He attacks those who “assume, largely without question or serious discussion, that the division between human and ‘animal’ is absolute.” To show how enlightened he is compared to those “deeply unevolutionary” folks, Dawkins offers the following image of ultimate bliss:

If there were a heaven in which all the animals who ever lived could frolic, we would find an interbreeding continuum between every species and every other. For example I could interbreed with a female who could interbreed with a male who could…fill in a few gaps, probably not very many in this case…who could interbreed with a chimpanzee. We could construct longer, but still unbroken chains of interbreeding individuals to connect a human with a warthog, a kangaroo, a catfish. This is not a matter of speculative conjecture; it necessarily follows from the fact of evolution. (ellipses in original)

Note well that in the above passage Dawkins says that his “heaven” is one that necessarily follows from the fact of evolution. Instead of the beatific vision to which Jesus Christ invites mankind, Dawkins offers an unspeakable jungle love, a destiny of fornicating with a vast array of animals from chimpanzee to catfish, world without end. He exhorts us to contemplate this orgy of bestiality as our eternal reward.

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