Dear Richard Dawkins,
As a Christian, I follow you on Twitter because I believe it is good for Christians to engage with those who disagree with our viewpoints. I’ve read your book, The God Delusion, and have read a number of your essays and articles. I believe there are convincing responses to all of your objections to the Christian faith and find it revealing that you will not participate in a formal debate with a number of Christian scholars. Nonetheless, I attribute most of your antics to the fact that you are just as religious about your atheism as some fundamentalists are for their fundamentalism.
But earlier you sent the following tweet out:
And then your twitter world blew up. You have been facing the wrath of numerous relatives to people with Downs and, surprisingly, finding support from others. As the media world has continued reporting your unbelievable words regarding Down Syndrome, you decided to write an apology. For some reason it is no longer available (read the report here). Quite frankly, your “apology” is probably just as bit offensive as your original tweet, for you wrote:
“If your morality is based, as mine is, on a desire to increase the sum of happiness and reduce suffering, the decision to deliberately give birth to a Down’s baby, when you have the choice to abort it early in the pregnancy, might actually be immoral from the point of view of the child’s own welfare.”
If I understand your statement correctly, Richard, you believe that those who are born with Downs are unhappy, suffering, and their welfare is at stake. Rather than be born, people with Downs should be aborted because that is a more “moral” choice. At least that’s what you seem to be suggesting here.
I wanted really badly to take you seriously. Your work on atheism is often presented as being exceptionally academic. Most of the atheists I know often repeat your pithy one liners as if you are a serious academic force challenging Christianity. You are considered a true academic who provides serious science.
But I am really disappointed. Clearly you are speaking on a subject that you are ignorant of. You haven’t read much literature on the subject and obviously haven’t spent much time with people with Down Syndrome. You might want to read through some of the Myths and Truths from the National Down Syndrome Society. Anyone who has actually spent time with a person with Downs will tell you that they are human beings who have feelings just like all other people. They are happy. They are sad. They are excited. They are frustrated.
Thankfully, Richard, the Christian faith has far more to offer the world than the ignorance you pass of as “scientific.” Not only do we have an actual basis for talking about morality, our morality sees all human beings as created in the image of God. That gives us a significant reason to reject your immoral advice.
Furthermore, I believe that the church has much to say about disabilities. Your recent tweets have simply fueled my resolve to prioritize this issue in my future academic and ecclesial work.
Richard, I hope that you have the chance to spend some time with some people with Downs. They will likely change your life far more than you realize.
Luke is a pastor-theologian living in northern California, serving as a co-lead pastor with his life, Dawn, at the Red Bluff Vineyard. Father of five amazing kids, when Luke isn’t hanging with his family, reading or writing theology, he moonlights as a fly fishing guide for Confluence Outfitters. He blogs regularly at LukeGeraty.com and regularly contributes to his YouTube channel.