The Atheist Who Is a Christian: You Can’t Have It Both Ways.

Richard Dawkins

I don’t know of a more outspoken atheist than Richard Dawkins. Although he was a part of the Church of England as a child, his fascination with science and in particular, evolutionary biology led him to reject a belief in God. He contends that religion is the source of conflict and people who believe in God, as opposed to believing in science, are just ignorant (as if God and science are incompatible). He is quite outspoken about this, as evidenced in his unfortunately poplar book, The God Delusion.

Yet in seeing the decline of Christianity in Europe—and the subsequent rise of Islam—Dawkins bemoans what this means for culture. You’d think he’d be happy Christiani influence is declining, However, his beloved England is changing, and he doesn’t like that. He loves what has been the “Christian” aspects of life in England. He sees England as “fundamentally a Christian country,” and he still personally values the Christian character and spirit. In an interview with Rachel Johnson, he called himself a cultural Christian.

“I call myself a cultural Christian. I’m not a believer, but there’s a distinction between being a believing Christian and being a cultural Christian. And so, I love hymns and Christmas carols, and I sort of feel at home in the Christian ethos. I feel that we are a Christian country in that sense.”

You read that correctly. A highly vocal atheist describes himself as a Christian—a cultural Christian.

Dr. Dawkin, you can’t have it both ways.

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There is a difference between a Christian and a cultural Christian. America is full of cultural Christians. These are people who describe themselves as Christian. They go to church. They show up at Christmas and Easter pageants. But they’ve never been transformed by the radical gospel of Jesus Christ. These are people who look good and act good. They care about the same things you do. They are religious … to a point.

You’ve surely seen the statistics of recent years showing the decline in church attendance. Other statistics show that, when asked about religious preference, more people are identifying as “nones.” Those statistics don’t mean the number of believers—followers of Jesus—has changed. It just means those who previously carried the label of “Christian” no longer feel the need to. It’s a label that didn’t really mean anything to them. The decline in church attendance is reflected in this too.

When Covid 19 shut churches down in 2020, the people who never came back were, by and large, these cultural Christians. Instead of their routine of going to church, they stayed home—as we all did. For these cultural Christians, they realized that church involvement had no real impact on their lives. Going to church was a habit; loving and following Jesus was not. So, when church attendance was forcibly taken away from them, they realized they didn’t really need it. The label of “Christian” was a cultural label only.

These cultural Christians would join Richard Dawkins in bemoaning declining morals and the lowering of standards in our culture. Dawkins claims he is happy that the number of practicing Christians in England is plummeting, but he doesn’t realize that those practicing Christians are the reason there is still so much good. It’s not the religious traditions or Christian-y things that make a difference. In fact, I’d argue they add squat. It’s Christ alone who makes a difference. When a person professes faith in Christ and chooses to follow Him as Lord, He brings His transforming power into their lives. Yet it’s belief in the truth of the transforming work of Christ that Dawkins wants to see disappear from the world.

There is no Christianity without Christ. Period.

Dawkins dismisses the fundamental truths of Christianity, such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, but you can’t have Christianity without them. Dawkins sees them as important “from a cultural point of view,” but if they’re not true, they have no more importance to culture than Harry Potter or Taylor Swift.

Jesus matters. Without the reality of who Jesus is, the miracles He performed, and the gospel wrapped up in His literal death and resurrection, there wouldn’t be any Christianity. We’ve seen throughout church history when the church forgot Christ and the fundamentals of the faith. Christianity has had periods when it had devolved into a cold, dead religion. Religion and ritual without the gospel of Christ. And those were dark times.

Christianity is centered on Christ. So, Richard Dawkins, if you want the niceties of the Christian faith, you’re going to have to allow for the truth and reality underneath it all:

  • We are sinners destined for death
  • Jesus is the Son of God who died for us on a cross to remove our sin.
  • Jesus rose from the dead, conquering death for us.
  • The presence of Christ in the believer’s life is the transformative power that changes a person—and positively impacts cuture.
  • Jesus will return again to set up His kingdom, and the citizens of that kingdom will be those who trust Him fully as Savior and Lord.

“If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

Dr. Dawkins, embrace that truth. You’ll find that residing in the heart of Christianity is something far deeper and richer than a bunch of religious symbols, rituals, and traditions.

You’ll find Jesus.

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