In his recent conversation with atheist-turned-Christian, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Richard Dawkins said he was on “Team Christianity”. But Max Avard says he’s still got some way to go in understanding the full cost-benefit of following Jesus

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Source: Dissidents Dialogues

If I asked you to describe evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins in one word, I imagine you’d opt for ‘atheist’. And as atheists go, he’s made a pretty good career of it.

His best-selling book The God Delusion (Black Swan) has sold more than 3 million copies and been translated into over 30 languages. He’s a mainstay contributor to apologetic debates on TV, radio and online (including Premier’s ’Unbelievable’) and won multiple awards for his work. He is, quite simply, “the world’s most famous atheist” and this has all done wonders for his bank account, with his net worth currently standing at more than £7m. 

Which is why I rather provocatively posed the question at the top of this article…has anyone made more money out of God’s name than Richard Dawkins?

Well, a quick google search will tell you that answer is categorically yes. American megachurch pastor Joel Osteen is said to be worth over $100m, while Israeli-born televangelist Benny Hinn tops more than $60m.

But, when it comes to making a business out of blaspheming, Dawkins stands tall.

Of course, it would be reductionist to say Dawkins’ career only centers around what he doesn’t believe in. That would do a great disservice to his academic credentials and career achievements, which include serving as professor for public understanding of science at the University of Oxford for over ten years.

And he does promote a worldview; whether that’s evolutionary biology, humanism, or his controversial claim to be a feminist.

Having it all

But what I do find confusing is Dawkins’ recent comments, which seem to directly contradict a career spent tearing down faith and religion. In a recent interview on LBC radio, Dawkins described himself as a cultural Christian: “I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos.” When asked about the decline of Christian belief in Britain, Dawkins stated he’d be “happy with that” but wouldn’t be happy “if we lost all our cathedrals and beautiful parish churches.”

I’m no academic, but this seems blatantly illogical to me. It’s the equivalent of campaigning for all footballers to retire while simultaneously saying it would be a tragedy if stadiums stopped hosting matches.

This isn’t the first time he’s made this kind of eyebrow raising claim to Christianity. In 2007, Dawkins told the BBC’s Have Your Say that he liked “singing carols along with everybody else” and that the UK was a “historically Christian country”.

There’s a whole other argument to be made here about Dawkins conflating nationalism and conservatism with Christianity, but what sticks out - again - is how Dawkins seems to completely sidestep what the Christian faith is all about.

You can’t openly celebrate Christianity’s influence on society while continuing to tear down and delegitimise what – or more specifically who – makes it all possible. Our faith is not built upon stained glass windows, cutesy carol services or a conservative ideology. It’s held together by a person called Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a mawkish faith with a few nice ideas about how to run society. This is about life and death. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me”. The age-old proverb rings true: you can’t have your cake and eat it.

Team Christianity

Last week, at the inaugural Dissidents Dialogues conference in New York, activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali told her long-time friend Professor Dawkins that she regretted her role in a New Atheist movement which had “failed the next generation by taking away from them that moral framework and telling them it’s nonsense and false.”

Dawkins seems to completely sidestep what the Christian faith is all about

During the debate, as Dawkins pressed Ali on her recent conversion to Christianity, his stance towards faith did seem to soften at times. At one point, he even claimed to be on “Team Christianity”. Yet it wasn’t long before he was calling faith in Jesus Christ “nonsense” and rejecting a belief in a divine God and the resurrection.

Ultimately, if Dawkins really wants to be on Team Christianity, he needs to “Repent and believe the good news!” as Jesus tells us in Mark 1:15. His bank account might suffer, but at least he’ll have treasure in heaven.