Yes, folks, once again I’m droning on about Channel 4 and their propensity for making biased documentaries. This time, it’s another episode of Christianity: a History (Channel 4, 7pm, Sunday Feb 22, 2009). The programme, subtitled: God and the Scientists was presented by Oxford neurobiologist, Colin Blakemore. Blakemore began by telling us that he doesn’t believe in God. One immediately wondered what kind of a history of Christianity was likely to be presented by an atheist? Well, I’ll tell you what kind; a very selective and biased one.
One of Blakemore’s opening comments was: ‘If scientists continue to make discoveries that conflict with Christian doctrine, I wonder, will the scientific revolution ultimately make Christianity redundant?’ This was closely followed by: ‘I think science is our only route to knowledge’. How can an intelligent person make such arrogant claims? Search me.
In any case, as I’d expected, the usual mantra developed with the same old case histories being repeated; Copernicus, Galileo, Darwin etc. And, like all presenters of such programmes (which proliferate particularly at this time due to the many documentaries about Darwin), Blakemore made no distinction between what the bible says, and what the Church (mostly the Roman Catholic Church) believed or believes. Blakemore sees the outcome of arguments between Church and science as being ‘between faith and reason.’ Presumably, he can’t see how the two things can live together.
As usual, we were told (yet again) that the biggest challenge to Christianity (not any other faith!) came from Darwin. At this point, a swift interview with our old friend Mr Dawkins began. ‘Darwin removed the main argument for God’s existence’ said Dawkins confidently. Blakemore took over: ‘The overwhelming evidence for Darwin’s theory has led the mainstream churches to concede that humans were not literally made by God. But they cling to the idea that God made evolution possible.’ And of course, we quite naturally (!) moved from this assertion to Dayton, Tennessee, in the heart of the so-called ‘Bible-belt’ of America to bash some fundamentalists, agonise over the foolishness of the Creationists in the Scopes trial and mock the exhibits at the recently opened ‘Creation Museum’ in Kentucky.
But the saddest part of the programme for me, was that Colin Blakemore didn’t really need to ferret out scientists and fundamentalists, nor analyse the ignorance of people of an earlier age to make his case. No, all that Blakemore needed to do was visit the church of St. Michael and all Angels, Oxford and talk to the Anglican priest, ‘Father’ David Paterson. The interview went like this:
CB: ‘Didn’t God create the universe?’
CB: God didn’t engineer the virgin birth of Jesus?’
CB: ‘And Jesus perhaps didn’t actually exist as a person at all?’
DP (with slight hesitation); ‘I think he probably did actually.’
CB: ‘What then, is God to you?’
DP: ‘What I fell in love with; what I wanted to give my life to. And its ingredients were a lot about the natural world and a lot about making relationships with people…… There’s no difference between the theist and the atheist. It’s only the terminology that’s different. Some people have this deep understanding of the spiritual nature of reality – of everything, and they want to personify it and call it God, or a god, or a particular name of God or something. Some people don’t want to do that… All the religious stories, mythological stories, where asking did it happen or where did it happen, is totally irrelevant.’
In summing up, Blakemore said: ‘According to David, all those fundamental tenets of Christianity; the Virgin Birth, Resurrection, life after death… didn’t happen at all.’ (I’ll leave you to work this out!) ‘It seems to me that David’s version of Christianity is virtually atheism.’
I must say that I, and anyone sane person watching, would have at least agreed with him on this last point. And I felt such a sudden sadness that out of all our bloody history; of all the bigotry and war and downright foolishness which has gone before, and even this silly, childish documentary (which ignored totally Christianity’s contribution to the good of this fallen world); none of it, not one single word, argued so well against our faith as this ordained Anglican priest.