Famed atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins recently admitted that there may still be something for him to learn about religion.
Dawkins said this in a post on X on January 12, 2024. He wrote:
Maybe there is still something for me to learn when it comes to religion. My dear friend and former atheist, @Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become a Christian. We will be discussing this at the inaugural Dissident Dialogues festival.
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) January 12, 2024
Dawkins acknowledges that his friend Ayaan Hirsi Ali has recently become a Christian. Ali is a Dutch American writer and activist, who was previously named by Time magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
She used to be one of the “New Atheists,” alongside Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Daniel Dennett, who argue for the elimination of religion. In fact, Hitchens once described Ali as “the most important public intellectual probably ever to come out of Africa.”
But in 2023, Ali announced her conversion to Christianity.
As a result, Dawkins and Ali will be discussing her conversion at the upcoming Dissident Dialogues festival in New York City in May. Dawkins’s admission that there may be something for him to learn about religion is uncharacteristically humble.
So, what can an atheist like Richard Dawkins learn from Christianity? To start, consider these three points.
The Reason for Objective Moral Values and Duties
Without God, there is no sound basis for the existence of objective moral values and duties. Absent God, there is no reason to affirm a universal moral code to which all humanity is bound.
But the atheist encounters a problem. Though some may try to deny the existence of objective morality, we all find this moral code within ourselves; this moral law is present to each one of us, though we often disobey it.
In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis observes that the reality of objective morality seems to be self-evident to mankind:
Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him he will be complaining ‘It’s not fair’ before you can say Jack Robinson.
This Rule of Right and Wrong, or Law of Human Nature … must somehow or other be a real thing – a thing that is really there, not made up by ourselves.
It begins to look as if we shall have to admit … a real law which none of us made, but which we find pressing on us.
This moral code – or “Rule of Right and Wrong,” as Lewis calls it – demands an explanation. As it is with every government edict or human law, a law requires a lawgiver. And Christian theism provides us with the ultimate Lawgiver.
Meaning and Purpose in Life
Without God, there is no ultimate meaning or purpose in life. If each person passes out of existence upon their death, then really, what is the purpose of life?
Some may say that we each invent our own purpose and meaning in life – but to invent our own purposes is to say there is no ultimate purpose at all.
In an article examining the absurdity of life without God, Christian philosopher and apologist William Lane Craig writes,
If life ends at the grave, then it makes no difference whether one has lived as a Stalin or as a saint. Since one’s destiny is ultimately unrelated to one’s behavior, you may as well just live as you please. As Dostoyevsky put it: “If there is no immortality then all things are permitted.”
Craig goes on to point out – and correctly so – that it is impossible to live as if there is no ultimate meaning and purpose in life.
About the only solution the atheist can offer is that we face the absurdity of life and live bravely. Bertrand Russell, for example, wrote that we must build our lives upon “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.” Only by recognizing that the world really is a terrible place can we successfully come to terms with life. …
The fundamental problem with this solution, however, is that it is impossible to live consistently and happily within such a world view. If one lives consistently, he will not be happy; if one lives happily, it is only because he is not consistent.
In this way, Christian theism would provide Dawkins with a reason and purpose for his existence.
The Foundations of Science
Above all, here’s a question that scientists like Dawkins should consider: What is the purpose of scientific inquiry, especially in the areas of origins and history? Is it to discover truth? Or is it to provide the best naturalistic and materialistic answer to scientific questions?
To many scientists today, the answer is obviously (though incorrectly) the later. They’d assert that any “scientific” answer cannot include reference to a supernatural intelligence or God.
American evolutionary biologist and Harvard professor Richard Lewontin argued this point in his review of Carl Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World.
Lewontin wrote that many scientists “take the side of science” because they “have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.” Scientists are forced to exclude possible supernatural explanations because of an “a priori adherence to material causes,” not because it is something that the scientific disciples require, Lewontin argued.
Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. To appeal to an omnipotent deity is to allow that at any moment the regularities of nature may be ruptured, that miracles may happen.
But here’s what Lewontin gets wrong: science should not be able to only provide materialistic causes, it should follow all the evidence to where it leads, whether that evidence points to a supernatural Designer, or not.
Dr. John Bloom points this out in his book The Natural Sciences. “If science is the pursuit of truth, then it should go wherever the evidence leads,” Bloom writes. “If science provides materialistic answers no matter what, then it is philosophically bound to produce materialistic answers that may not be true.”
Dr. Bloom adds,
Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Newton, Boyle, and many other early modern scientists justified their search for the regularities of nature precisely because there was an omnipotent God behind it.
Oddly, it is the materialist who has no good reason for why the sun should come up tomorrow morning, other than the extrapolation based on what it did yesterday. … [Materialism] has borrowed from Christian capital to presume that the laws of physics will stay the same in the future.
In fact, science’s “commitment to materialism” is a metaphysical claim – it is not a scientific one. If one accepts the religious dogma of scientism – which asserts that we should only accept truth that can be tested by the scientific method – then Lewontin must retract his claim, because it is not scientifically verifiable.
In this way, Christian theism provides a basis for modern science – and expands its goal to the pursuit of truth, not merely to the best naturalistic explanation.
In short, Dawkins has a lot to learn from Christianity. He’d have much to gain from becoming a Christian, including an explanation for the existence of objective morality, ultimate meaning in his life, and a solid foundation for scientific inquiry.
As Lewis wrote The Weight of Glory, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it but because by it, I see everything else.”
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, ESV).
If you’re having doubts about your faith, Focus on the Family is here to help. Consider the following resources.
Christian author and apologist Lee Strobel recently appeared on the Focus on the Family Broadcast to discuss his new book The Case for Heaven. On the broadcast, titled “Believing in the Hope of Heaven,” Strobel examines why our culture chases immortality and the evidence for the existence of the soul.
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