Dawkins: I Like the World Christianity Created Even Though I Don't Believe It

It’s not every day that one of the world’s best known atheists goes on television and offers a defense of Christianity but that’s what happened Easter sunday on a British talk show. 

Professor Richard Dawkins appeared on LBC to discuss the “diminishing role of Christianity” in Britain’s national life. Asked for his thoughts, Dawkins said he considered himself a “cultural Christian” and didn’t approve of the promotion of Ramadan instead of Easter in the UK. 

I don’t know exactly what Dawkins was responding to here but there was a story in the Daily Mail a few days ago about how Ramadan celebrations were gaining ground in Europe and the UK:

In Britain, Windsor Castle hosted its first Iftar last week, with permission from King Charles, the Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Guests feasted on coconut milk and dates in the grounds before a private tour of the State apartments.

Westminster Abbey, meanwhile – a Christian site for over 1,000 years – flew the national flag of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, with the Muslim crescent and star, to mark ‘Pakistan Day’.

Feathers were further ruffled when the official departures noticeboard at London’s King’s Cross station featured Islamic prayer times during Ramadan and a quote from the Prophet Mohammed referring to ‘sinners’.

“I’m not a believer, but there is a distinction between being a believing Christian and being a cultural Christian,” Dawkins said. He continued, “I love hymns and Christmas carols and I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos. I feel that we are a Christian country in that sense.

“It’s true that statistically the number of people who actually believe in Christianity is going down and I’m happy with that but i would not be happy if, for example, we lost all our cathedrals and our beautiful parish churches. So I count myself a cultural Christian and I think it would matter certainly if we substituted any alternative religion, that would be dreadful.”

The host pointed out that while polls show belief in Christianity is down, there are something like 6,000 mosques under construction in Europe and more being planned. 

Dawkins said he needed to choose his words carefully but finally said, “If I had to choose between Christianity and Islam I’d choose Christianity every single time. I mean, it seems to be to be a fundamentally decent religion in a way that Islam is not.” Pressed on this, Dawkins said he wasn’t talking about individual Muslims but about the doctrines of Islam which he felt were much more hostile to women and gays.

“I find that I like to live in a culturally Christian country although I do not believe a single word of the Christian faith,” he said. He went on to emphasize that he really finds Christian beliefs like the virgin birth and the resurrection absurd. 

And yet…he likes the world that Christianity has made.

Ideally we’d all like people to see our particular faith as true, good and beautiful (verum, bonum, pulchrum) but for Dawkins maybe 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. He doesn’t think it’s true but he does think it’s ethos is good and that its monuments and songs are beautiful. I know people will be upset about what he said but I think this is probably the highest compliment Christianity could get from someone like Dawkins.

What Dawkins is saying about the differences between Christianity and Islam are pretty undeniably true at this point. Where is the deeply Islamic country where a woman (or a gay person) would rather live than in the US or Israel or almost anywhere in Europe? Certainly not Iran or Iraq or Saudi Arabia or Qatar or Yemen or Afghanistan or Libya or Pakistan, etc. Despite this, Mehdi Hasan was quick to denounce Dawkins for being anti-Islam and a bigot. 

Anyway, here’s the full interview with Dawkins.

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