Read this interesting and engaging interview with noted non-believer Richard Dawkins over at Playboy.com.
Here’s a tiny excerpt:
PLAYBOY: You’ve read the Bible.
DAWKINS: I haven’t read it all, but my knowledge of the Bible is a lot better than most fundamentalist Christians’.
PLAYBOY: Do you have a favorite verse?
DAWKINS: My favorite book is Ecclesiastes. It’s wonderful poetry in 17th century English, and I’m told it’s very good in the Hebrew. “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.” The Song of Songs is terrific, and it’s more bawdy in the Hebrew, almost a drinking song.
PLAYBOY: You’ve made the point that if Jesus existed and went to his death as described in the Bible, it was, as you put it, “barking mad.”
DAWKINS: There’s no evidence Jesus himself was barking mad, but the doctrine invented later by Paul that Jesus died for our sins surely is. It’s a truly disgusting idea that the creator of the universe—capable of inventing the laws of physics and designing the evolutionary process—that this protégé of supernatural intellect couldn’t think of a better way to forgive our sins than to have himself tortured to death. And what a terrible lesson to say we’re born in sin because of the original sin of Adam, a man even the Catholic Church now says never existed.
PLAYBOY: We hear constantly that America is a Christian nation and that the founding fathers were all Christians.
DAWKINS: They were deists. They didn’t believe in a personal god, or one who interferes in human affairs. And they were adamant that they did not want to found the United States as a Christian nation.
PLAYBOY: But you hear quite often that if you let atheists run things you end up with Hitler and Stalin.
DAWKINS: Hitler wasn’t an atheist; he was a Roman Catholic. But I don’t care what he was. There is no logical connection between atheism and doing bad things, nor good things for that matter. It’s a philosophical belief about the absence of a creative intelligence in the world. Anybody who thinks you need religion in order to be good is being good for the wrong reason. I’d rather be good for moral reasons. Morals were here before religion, and morals change rather rapidly in spite of religion. Even people who rely on the Bible use nonbiblical criteria. If your criteria are scriptural, you have no basis for choosing the verse that says turn the other cheek rather than the verse that says stone people to death. So you pick and choose without guidance from the Bible.
PLAYBOY: You’ve said that science is losing the war with religion.
DAWKINS: Did I say we were losing? I was just having an off day.
PLAYBOY: You are surprised science is still being challenged.
DAWKINS: I am surprised, but I’m not sure it’s a losing battle. If you take the long view of centuries, there’s an upward trend. Religious people like to point out that Isaac Newton was religious. Well, of course he was—he lived before Darwin. It would have been difficult to be an atheist before Darwin.
Read the rest of the interview here.