Richard Dawkins

“There were plenty of people - and not just religious people - who thought that Dawkins made a total clown of himself in this interview.”

Including me.^^ I just don´t think that Dawkins forgetting something and saying “Oh god” makes atheism a less valid or Islam a more valid position, which seems to be the message of the video that Madara posted.

I don´t post videos about Pat Robertson and say “here´s a video for our christian LingQers” you know.^^

For those of you who don´t know who Pat Robertson is, here are two of my favorite quotes:

“It may be a blessing in disguise. … Something happened a long time ago in Haiti, and people might not want to talk about it. Haitians were originally under the heel of the French. You know, Napoleon the third, or whatever. And they got together and swore a pact to the devil. They said, we will serve you if you will get us free from the French. True story. And so, the devil said, okay it’s a deal. Ever since they have been cursed by one thing after the other” - About the earthquake in Haiti that killed thousands of people.

“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians”

There is no reason for a scientist to know the titles off the top of their head of any of the works in their field. For a biologist working on evolutionary biology, there is no reason to know the full title of ‘On the Origin of Species’, let alone read the book. Richard Dawkins certainly should not look like an idiot for not knowing the full title of the book, even if people who have never worked in the natural sciences think that he should.

Now if he is arguing that to be a real christian, one needs to know the names of the books in the Bible, then maybe he would look stupid if he doesn’t know the names of the main books that have been published in his field. However, this is only the case if the reasoning that he gave for why christians need to know the names of the books in the Bible also applies also to scientists needing to know the names of the works in their field. It may be that he has some reason for thinking that christians need to know the names of the books in the Bible that does not apply to other situations.

We need to be careful though. Did Dawkins actually say that to be a real christian, one needs to know the names of the books in the Bible? I must say, I find this doubtful. To my knowledge, I have not heard the radio interview that people are refering to, but I have heard and read a lot of his stuff, and I remember well his reaction when the results of this census came out. I think he was making a good point. The census seemed to show that, as Easy_Rider has already said, the majority of British people identify as christian. What Dawkins was saying was that this does not mean that the majority of people in the country really believe in God or any of the other christian beliefs, and that one should not use this result to justify political arguments and policies. My guess is that he used the fact that most people cannot name the books of the Bible as some indicator that most of the country are not seriously christian.

Well, on the basis of these quotations I would say this Pat Robertson guy is mad - quite literally.

Don’t worry: most Christians do not share these bizarre and offensive views. :wink:

As I recollect, he actually funded a small survey into people who identify as Christian. His headline-grabbing point (the reason for the BBC interview) was that most people who call themselves Christians don’t even know the names of the books in the New Testament. And yes, his argument was that they were not therefore really Christians!

(Now, if most of the folks in the survey had said that "they didn’t really believe in God, I rather suspect that Dawkins would have loudly trumpeted the fact…)


That post was quite interesting, thanks :slight_smile:


Of course not, thank god xD

I just watched the video MADARA posted, which helpfully contained the relevant part of the radio interview that the dude in the video was referring to. Here is a transcript of what Dawkins actually said.

Other guy: But you are saying that they are not christians even if they think of themselves as christians. You know what they are even though they tell you…

Richard Dawkins: I’m not presenting my opinion here. This press release is offered to people to look down it and say “look, these people who call themselves christians actually don’t read the Bible, don’t go to church, don’t believe Jesus was the son of God, don’t even know what the first book of the new testament is", and it is up to you to make up your mind whether you think they are christian. Don’t ask me, my opinion is not relevant.

This confirms exactly what I said in the third paragraph of my previous post.

@ Easy_Rider - Do you have a link to some source where we can see what he said about this survey? I have to say, I do not remember this survey at all.


I don’t have the details, but there’s some more about it here:

Not that I think it is relevant, but here is what Dawkins thought the book was called.

“On the Origin of Species with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for ”

The full title of the first edition of the book is

“On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life”

This was of course suddenly given to him during what seemed to be a relatively heated debate on live radio, and he was given no time to think about it. The time between the beginning of the question and the end of his attempted answer lasted 20 seconds. He didn’t do badly in my opinion.

(edit: also, I am pretty sure that ‘’ that I found hard to hear is the word ‘life’)


It wasn’t his worst moment. (He has had, on occasions, to answer some fairly serious charges of bigotry against Jews and Muslims.)

Here’s a link to the survey and results:

So basically, a bunch of theists in the media are misrepresenting what happened in order to make a guy who they call “the highpriest of atheism”, and therefore atheism itself look bad.


So 28% of the christians believe in the teachings of their religion and 19% regularly go to church. I think Dawkins is right when he says “Most of these christians are not real christians”.

Does this surprise you? (your first observation)

Thanks Jamie for the survey. This was run by Ipsos MORI, who, according to Google, “is the second largest market research organisation in the United Kingdom.”

The results of the survey are quite interesting, but actually what I was interested in was one of the press releases from the Dawkins Foundation about this survey that they did. I want to see if he ever claimed that not knowing the books of the Bible means that somebody is not a christian.

@ Easy_Rider - This puff piece you linked to in the Telegraph doesn’t really answer the question. They only mention the books of the Bible in the quote from Dawkins from the radio interview.

“Prof Dawkins then announced, triumphantly, that an “astonishing number [of Christians] couldn’t identify the first book in the New Testament”.”

We can see from my short transcript that he clearly did not argue in that radio interview that not knowing the books of the Bible means that somebody is not a christian.

I won’t go into detail, but having looked at the results of the survey, I think Dawkins’ point is well justified.

Yes and no.^^

Yes, because it didn´t seem unlikely that Dawkins looked stupid in public because he forgot something.
being Dawkins = being human = making mistakes

No, because most religious people´s desire to believe in their religion seems to be stronger than their desire to know the truth. And, to some extent, I understand that. They might have a tough life and religion helps them (or at least they think so).
Church is good for one´s social life (I feel a little bit lonely since I left church, actually). Maybe they grew up in a religious family and/or a religious society and believing in god “just seems normal” and so and so forth.

These people want to hear/read things that reinforce their faith and once again, the desire to believe is more important than the desire to know the facts. The media wants to have as many viewers/readers as possible, which is why they deliver “the news that you wanna hear” and I guess that´s what the muslim youtube channel, the telegraph article etc. are doing.

I think we all (including me) have a tendency to discard information that we don´t like and accept information that reinforces our beliefs though.

PS: I´m thankful to live in a society where I can say things like that without risking my career, my health or whatever , by the way. During most of history, it was not a good idea to be openly atheist, and in some countries it still isn´t.

@Colin: “…we can see from my short transcript that he clearly did not argue in that radio interview that not knowing the books of the Bible means that somebody is not a christian…”

C’mon, if you listen to the whole thing in context, it’s pretty clear that this was part of the argument Dawkins was making, isn’t it? Otherwise why even throw it in? They were his words and he said them on the record.

BTW I agree with you that, in the wider scheme of things, his not knowing the exact wording of the title is of little importance. There are plenty of other reasons to be highly dubious about Dawkins, IMO, but I leave the matter.

Wow, so you used to attend a church? (Somehow, I always assumed that you were from an Atheist family…)


I never had any contact with any religion until I was…dunno…20 years old.
At some point I decided to give religion (well, christianity) a chance and went to church for a year or so. That included sunday mess, going to a bible study group three times a week, conferences, knocking on people´s doors, playing in the church band and whatnot.

I left church because, deep down inside of me, I knew all that was just not true and I didn´t want to pretend to be something that I´m not and I got the impression that most of my “brothers and sisters” felt the same way, but valued their (perceived?) happiness more than facts or intellectual honesty. I think, “on a human level”, all this is more complicated than some people think. It goes beyond “this has evidence vs. this is made up”.


I see. Well, It’s one of the great mysteries of life that so many people know deep down inside that something is (or is not) true - even though it cannot be proved either way by physical means.

Yeah, it is complicated, I guess.

I don´t mean that “I felt in my heart it´s not true” or anything like that.
I just wasn´t able to convince myself that the story about the talking snake and original sin and all that really happened.^^

However, I gathered quite a lot of “life experience” I think…so I don´t regret it.