Richard Dawkins is one of my favorite people. The evangelical atheist provides boundless entertainment weaving snarky pseudo-intellectual rants against believers. There’s something about watching someone so confident of their infallibility, yet so effortlessly humbled that is immensely satisfying.
Maher: So, when people say “the Bible is real,” what they’re really saying is that ancient people somehow have more knowledge, somehow are wiser [than we are today]. That’s silly, right? Because wisdom develops on the shoulders of other people. I mean, there could be no Einstein without Newton –
Dawkins: Yeah, that’s right. We’re not even talking about the ancient Greeks. We’re talking about a tribe of wandering Middle Eastern herdsman [the Israelites]. Why would they have any wisdom about the origin of the world or the origin of anything else?
This is a strawman so blatant, a professor as knowledgeable as Dawkins has no excuse speaking to it. Dawkins has made his name upon the critique of religion. Surely he should understand its most fundamental characteristic is not the wisdom of the ancients.
Neither Judaism nor Christianity claim as their authority the wisdom of man. They rest upon the Word of God, as revealed to ancient men and relayed to believers today.
Maher and Dawkins are free to dismiss revealed knowledge. However, their lack of belief does not entitle them to mischaracterize the beliefs of others.
It should come as no surprise that evangelical atheists mischaracterize religious belief. They have to in order to craft a rhetorically appealing argument. The strategy is to represent atheism as more substantial than theism.