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Christians don't think that Dawkins thinks that they think that God really has a beard. "Old man in the sky with a white beard" is a figure of speech - shorthand - which neatly encapsulates various errors which lazy atheists and naive theists sometimes make, for example: 1: They imagine that Christians think that God is a human being of some kind and therefore ask questions like: "What does he eat?"; "If he made the world, what did he stand on?"; "If he doesn't have a beard, how does he shave?" and "How did he evolve?" (Three guesses which of those questions troubles Professor Dawkins.) Christians don't think that God is an old man. They don't even think he is a man. They probably don't even think he's made of atoms. 2: They confuse symbols with representations: they think that when Michelangelo painted God on the Pope's ceiling, he was making an informed guess about what someone would have seen with their eyes if they bumped into God on the Roman metro - as opposed to using pictures to put across theological ideas. 3: They imagine that Christians think that God lives in some particular place in space and time. They may not think that we think that he lives in the sky, but I think that they think that we think that if you had a fast enough spaceship you could eventually track him down. Dawkins doesn't commit himself on the question of God's facial hair; but it is pretty clear that he thinks that God lives in the sky - or at any rate, in some place in the empirical universe.

Andrew Rilstone
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