Jerry Johnston interviews Richard Dawkins

Maybe @RichardDawkins was right when he told me that his book, The God Delusion, among other similar titles of the same genre, is to be credited for the decline of Christian faith in America. Richard Dawkins met Cristie Jo Johnston and me on his bike at our hotel in Oxford, England recently. Together we walked to @spc_oxford @oxford_uni and filmed a sixty-minute interview. Did you notice what Dawkins said?

“So in countries like Sweden where there’s great welfare, social welfare, medical care and old age care and things like that, people tend to lose their religion. Whereas in countries where they don’t feel that kind of cradle of support from the state, people tend to be religious.” 

We see this illustrated in Scandinavia. Atheistic (or non-belief) percentages among the populations of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden average between 40 – 80 percent. Iceland, we learned, on our recent European filming registers 100 percent atheistic among people 25-years-of-age and younger, and yet there is a strong belief in elves.

Richard Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion, was released in 2006 and has sold 3,000,000 copies and printed in 30 languages.  I asked Dawkins:

“So borrowing from the Christian apologists that I’ve met here in Oxford, the Alister McGrath’s, John Lennox’s, all the people you know, the J.R. Tolkien’s, the C.S. Lewis’s, how do you explain their turn-from-atheism, and their embrace of faith? What about Antony Flew – how do we explain his turn from atheism?” 

Dawkins replied, “I mean I think he just didn’t really understand it. What else? Alister McGrath, well he says he used to be an atheist. Well that meant he used to be a Marxist. But he wasn’t, I think you gave him brownie points if you’re a religious apologist, if you can say I used to be an atheist like C.S. Lewis, like Alister McGrath. John Lennox, well I was astonished when I discovered that John Lennox doesn’t only believe in god in a sensical way, but John Lennox believed Jesus turned water into wine and walked on water and said things like that. But he is not a sophisticated theologian. He’s a naïve fundamentalist masquerading as a sophisticated theologian.”

There is no doubt the “new atheism” of the last decade in North America has made an impact. Perhaps the clearest illustration is young people, raised in church, who after attending the University, leave the church at a rate of 80 percent. It is time for us to reexamine the paradigm of discipleship – something is not working.


What’s going on?  You’ve been all over America?

RICHARD DAWKINS:  You’re asking me a sociological question.  I’m not a sociologist.  The question to me is why isn’t it 100%?  Because religion doesn’t make any sense. I’m delighted that it is as high as it now is and I’m delighted that it’s climbing.  I’m delighted that America is finally catching up with Western and Northern Europe in that respect.  As for what’s going on, I would like to think that it would be, well books like the ones I’ve written and Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris have written and Don Dennett.  I’d like to think we had something to do with it. There is some research suggesting that religious belief goes with social deprivation.  So in countries like Sweden where there’s great welfare, social welfare, medical care and old age care and things like that, people tend to lose their religion.

Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via transcontinental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.

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