Famed atheist Richard Dawkins sat down with Playboy Magazine to discuss “the simple beauty of evolution, the improbability of God and why the pope should be arrested,” among other subjects. As usual, Dawkins took a provocative approach in the interview — one that people of faith will surely find offensive. These contentious anti-religious views appear in the September issue of Playboy.
Toward the beginning of the interview, Dawkins was asked to weigh in and explain why, in the past, he has called himself a “tooth faith” agnostic. His explanation essentially frames his overarching views on God’s existence. Here’s how the dialogue unfolded:
PLAYBOY: You’ve described yourself as a “tooth fairy” agnostic. What is that?
DAWKINS: Rather than say he’s an atheist, a friend of mine says, “I’m a tooth fairy agnostic,” meaning he can’t disprove God but thinks God is about as likely as the tooth fairy.
PLAYBOY: So you don’t completely rule out the idea of a supreme being. Critics see that as leaving an opening.
DAWKINS: You can think so, if you think there’s an opening for the tooth fairy.
While it’s unlikely that the Lord exists — at least in Dawkins’ mind — if given the opportunity to ask the creator (in the unlikely event he’s real) a question, the famed biologist said he’d ask, “Sir, why did you go to such lengths to hide yourself?”
When it comes to the individuals Dawkins associates himself with, he admitted not having any “deeply religious friends.” In addition to separating himself from those who believe in a higher power, Dawkins took a swipe at the intellectual capacity of those who embrace God.
“It’s not that I shun them,” he said of the religious. “It’s that the circles I move in tend to be educated, intelligent circles, and there aren’t any religious people among them that I know of.”
Of course, many intelligent and educated people do, indeed, embrace the existence of a higher power. However, it seems Dawkins either avoids or simply hasn’t encountered these people.
As for the Bible and Jesus Christ — central tenets of the Christian faith — the famed non-theist didn’t have many favorable accolades to share. On the sociopolitical front, he believes that the holy books associated with Christianity, Judaism and Islam will prevent peace from ever coming to fruition in the Middle East.
“There’s not much hope to the extent that the most influential protagonists both base their hostility on 2,000-year-old books that they believe give them title to the land,” he explained.
Rather than staking the claim that Jesus Christ was merely a historical figure, but that he simply wasn’t the son of God as many other atheists have done, Dawkins seems to cast doubt on his existence.
“The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky,” he told Playboy. “The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real.”
“Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy,” he added.
Dawkins called the idea that “Jesus died for our sins” “barking mad.” At the center of his angst over the salvation story is the notion that God found the need to torture himself to the point of death. He called the entire story “a truly disgusting idea.”
While he holds these intense views, he did admit that he hasn’t read the entire Bible, but that he believes his knowledge of it is more profound than “most fundamentalist Christians.” Despite not having read the entire book, the evolutionary biologist said that the book of Ecclesiastes is his favorite.
Dawkins also criticized the Pope and made the case against his alleged cover-up of crimes that were committed by clergy. He also went on to address evolution and his view that human beings are essentially “apes”:
PLAYBOY: Let’s turn to evolution, which many people misunderstand, such as believing we descend from apes.
DAWKINS: We are apes. We descend from extinct animals that would have been classified as apes. We are not descended from modern chimps or bonobos or gorillas. They’ve been evolving for exactly the same length of time as we have.
PLAYBOY: So what makes us human?
DAWKINS: We are a unique ape. We have language. Other animals have systems of communication that fall far short of that. They don’t have the same ability to communicate complicated conditionals and what-ifs and talk about things that are not present. These are all unique manifestations of our evolved ape brain, which some evidence suggests came about through a rather limited number of mutations.
These, of course, are only the highlights. While Dawkins has shared many of these views before, he reiterated, clarified and intensified his stance on non-belief and theism in his Playboy dialogue.