What are the tactics of the new atheists? Following the April 29 opening of their documentary The Unbelievers at Toronto’s Hot Docs Film Festival, outspoken atheists Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss discussed the merits of their approaches to “ridding the world of religion.” In a recent interview with Steve Paikin,1 they made it clear that, despite their sometimes different personas, they have the same agenda — getting people to get rid of their belief in God. Yet they both say that Christians should not feel “threatened” by their efforts to expunge religion from human history.
The Goal of The Unbelievers Documentary
Evolutionary biologist Dawkins and theoretical physicist Krauss recounted that when they first met they had a heated debate about, as Dawkins said, “Whether we should have a kind of full-on attack on religion or whether we should, as Lawrence preferred, seduce them.”2 Krauss explained that this is really “a strategic question.”3 They agree that both approaches have merit depending on the nature of the people being targeted. However, expressing general agreement with the more confrontational approach of the often irascible Dawkins, Krauss said, “You’ve got to confront silly beliefs by telling them they are silly,” adding, “If you’re trying to convince people, pointing out that what they believe is nonsense is a better way to bring them around.”4
Therefore science, they maintain, can meet the inmost needs of people better than religion of any sort.
Despite their great hostility toward religious beliefs (other than their own) and avowal that they hope this film will help in their efforts to eradicate all religion worldwide, the atheist pair indicates that belief or non-belief in a deity is not what really matters to them. Krauss declares that what is actually important to them is that “everything should be open to question and that the universe is a remarkable place.”5 By contrast, he says, “This is more important to us than not believing in God — that’s not important at all.” Dawkins and Krauss both expressed grudging tolerance for evolutionists who want to keep their religious beliefs in order to keep the good things religion offers them — “spirituality,” “consolation,” and “community” — so long as they do not then reject evolution.6 They said that people are “hard-wired” to seek something spiritual, but by “spiritual” they refer to a sort of emotional high. And they declare that science offers a better kind of spirituality, “a sense of oneness with the universe.”7 Therefore science,8 they maintain, can meet the inmost needs of people better than religion of any sort.
“Spirituality is a sense of awe and wonder at something bigger than oneself,”9 Krauss explained, adding that being “insignificant is uplifting.”10 And while some people cling to their religion to satisfy some spiritual need,11 he says, “The spirituality of science is better than the spirituality of religion because it is real.”12 Both of course vigorously deny that their own atheistic position is one of “belief,” saying “we don’t define ourselves by what we don’t believe in.”
Dawkins and Krauss Want to Rid the World of All Religion Except Their Own
Like most atheists, Dawkins and Krauss fail to recognize the worldview-based nature of the interpretations they define as “real.” They repeatedly refer in the interview to accepting the “evidence of reality” concerning origins when they are actually equating their worldview-based interpretations with reality. Furthermore, the atheistic belief that there is no God is actually a “religion.”
There really is no such thing as a person without a religion — you either believe that there is or is not a god. You are either for Christ or against Him (Luke 11:23), and you base your interpretation of origins, morality, and the meaning of life on that belief. The belief that there is or is not a god is essential to how one explains existence, the nature of authority, and our place in the universe. Krauss’s belief that the atoms in his body originated billions of years ago in stardust, for instance, is the “religious” way he explains his existence without God and the way he experiences what passes for spirituality by knowing the “fantastic” truth that he is “intimately connected to the cosmos.”
Atheists do claim to be non-religious, but they use their set of beliefs as a way to explain life without God — they worship and serve the creation (e.g., the universe) rather than the Creator (Romans 1:25). Krauss extols the profound sense of wonder he gets studying the cosmos and Dawkins enjoys the “poetry of science,” but they tie their love for science to their belief in atheistic evolution and their sheer joy in shaking their fists at the possibility of a Creator’s existence.
The Reason Behind the Hostility toward Religion
And frankly, the point here is not whether a person defines his worldview as a religion or not, or whether he believes in a “god.” Christianity is unique — it is the truth — and, perhaps for that reason as much as any other, is the especial target for Dawkins and most others. Those who love “darkness” (e.g., sin, rebellion against God, and rejection of Jesus Christ) will naturally attack the light (John 3:19–21). Based on Scripture, we know that God looks at the heart to see how each person stands in relation to Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9–10; cf. 1 Samuel 16:7). Again, Jesus made clear that a person is either for or against Him (Matthew 12:30, 25:46).
Dawkins and Krauss reserve their greatest hostility for young-earth creationists.
Dawkins and Krauss reserve their greatest hostility for young-earth creationists. They indicated that all debate about origins has been completely and unequivocally settled by “Darwin and his successors”13 or else by big-bang cosmology,14 which Krauss describes as “the last bastion of God — I mean there are some fundamentalists of course who say the earth is 6,000 years old and don’t believe in evolution — but rational ‘theologians’ have moved away from that debate.”15
Design in Nature
Furthermore, even Dawkins admits that nature — in particular, biology — appears to be specially designed. We see, for instance, precise irreducible complexity everywhere we look, from major anatomical features to biological processes at the molecular level. Dawkins agrees that “special creation” is “intuitive” — a look at nature in essence screams that there must have been a Creator. But Dawkins says that he is thankful to Darwin for coming up with a very “non-intuitive” way to explain nature without God. Darwinian belief basically builds a theoretical guess about biological origins by appealing to a series of billions of tiny, unobservable changes over billions of unobserved years.16 Yet neither Darwin nor his successors have through scientific observation shown how either abiogenesis or the evolution of biological complexity is possible.
Dawkins explains that both biology and physics (cosmology) are complementary fields that supplant belief in God.17 But he indicated that biology, because design is so apparent, was the first battleground in the war against a Creator:
Historically biology, I suppose, has been the most fertile ground for those who wish to make a supernatural account because living things are so fantastically complicated and beautiful and elegant, and they carry such an enormous weight of apparent design. They really look as though they’re designed.
So historically biology has been the most fertile ground for theological arguments. That’s all solved now. Darwin and his successors solved that.
I think the spotlight in a way has shifted to physics and to cosmology where we’re less confident I think about how the universe began — in one way more confident because there’s a lot of detailed mathematical modeling going on — but there are some profound questions remaining to be answered in that field and that’s where cosmologists like Lawrence come in. We are complementary.
In typical fashion, Krauss and Dawkins believe that anyone who disagrees with their own interpretations about origins is irrational and out of touch with reality. And as happens with most lay people, anything that can be “mathematically modeled” is accepted as truth because numbers surely do not lie. Yet mathematical models concerning cosmology (like the big bang) and the long-age interpretations ascribed to radiometric dating are based on unverifiable, worldview-based assumptions.18 Dawkins and Krauss say that they hope that viewers of their film will be inspired by the wonders of science to critically evaluate their beliefs and to acknowledge that they are “silly.” As discussed below, however, from a biblical worldview, a careful study of the wonders of science only affirms what God reveals in the Bible and actually glorifies the Creator (Psalm 19:1; Colossians 1:16–17).
Biblical creationists understand that God created all the various kinds of living organisms about 6,000 years ago (based on the genealogies listed in the Bible). According to Genesis 1, God equipped each to reproduce “after their kinds.” There is no indication in Scripture that God used evolutionary processes or that He made organisms able to evolve through random processes into new and increasingly complex kinds of creatures. We also do not see this happen in biology. As many articles on the Answers in Genesis website explain, organisms vary within their kinds (e.g., variations in dogs or in cats) but do not evolve into new, more complex kinds of organisms (e.g., amoebas into dogs or cats). Bacteria remain bacteria, canines remain canines, apes remain apes, and humans remain humans — though there is much biodiversity among each created kind. This diversification within kinds is observable. But evolution of new kinds is not, and biological observation can offer no actual mechanisms by which this can happen.19
Thus, biblical history — God’s eyewitness account of what He did when He created us and what sort of biology He put in motion — does not differ from biological observations.
Further, biological observation confirms that living things do not spring into existence through the random interaction of non-living components, despite evolutionary claims about abiogenesis. This is consistent with the biblical account of our origins. Thus, biblical history — God’s eyewitness account of what He did when He created us and what sort of biology He put in motion — does not differ from biological observations. There is nothing “irrational” about recognizing that observable science is consistent with biblical history.20
Can Dawkins and Krauss Really “Rid This World of Religion”?
The interviewer concluded by asking the pair, “Is it your hope or expectation that you can, in your words, rid this world of religion?”
“I’m not sure how soon,” Dawkins answered. “I think that religion is declining, that Christianity is declining throughout Christendom.”21 Looking to the future, he adds, “And I think that that’s going to continue. If we look at the broad sweep of history, it’s clear that the trend is going in the right direction. I’m not so optimistic that it will be in my lifetime, but it will happen.”22
And what do Dawkins and Krauss hope to accomplish by getting rid of Christianity? Why do they care what others believe? Why are they so eager to expedite God’s exit from human history? Dawkins summed up the proud position of humanism when he said that he wants to see us “intelligently design our society, our ethics, our morality — so that we live in the kind of society we want to live in rather than in the kind of society that was laid down in a book written in 800 B.C.”23 Krauss added that accepting the ideas of “Iron Age peasants” is “demeaning.”24
Though Dawkins and Krauss disparage the ideas of biblical peasants, their notions of social planning really sound very much like the post-Flood population who built the Tower of Babel in rebellion against God’s command to replenish the earth. In their pride (Psalm 10:4; Proverbs 16:8), those people said, “Let us make a name for ourselves” (Genesis 11:4). Indeed, how arrogant does a person have to be to assume that everyone who disagrees with him is either ill-informed or irrational? Is it any wonder that God hates pride, for through humanistic pride people not only reject God’s ways but “suppress the truth” (Romans 1:18) of His very existence?
Dawkins and Krauss seem to want to redesign the world and society for the rest of us according to their own vision, making certain that God is written out of the picture. Yet those of us who know and trust God and accept the Bible as His revealed Word believe wholeheartedly that Jesus Christ, our Creator and Savior, possesses all true wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 1:16–17, 3:2). And we not only accept the history in God’s Word but also God’s declaration that we are all sinners in need of the grace of Jesus Christ. By contrast, those who, like Dawkins and Krauss, refuse to even acknowledge the testimony of the “design” they themselves see in nature (Romans 1:18–22) and their own consciences (Romans 2:12–16), much less God’s Word, are — according to God — “fools” (Psalm 14:1, 53:1). “Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:22).
In answer to the interviewer’s final question about the prospects for the imminent demise of religion, Krauss said, “I would have thought that by now religion would be gone. I thought religion was on the way out [in the 1960s], so I was kind of surprised and disappointed in some ways by the resurgence of fundamentalism in my country [the United States].”25 Speaking of the future he expects, he adds, “But I do think that it’s obvious that access to information and knowledge is decreasing” the number of people who say they are religious worldwide and that “inevitably knowledge and wonder of the real universe will supplant” religion.26 Answers in Genesis exists to make knowledge available to help people make informed decisions about the claims of atheistic evolutionists so that they will see that they can trust God’s Word from the very first verse.
Both Krauss and Dawkins think it unreasonable that people feel “threatened” by their efforts to rid the world of religion.
Both Krauss and Dawkins think it unreasonable that people feel “threatened” by their efforts to rid the world of religion.27 Dawkins said, “Where religion is concerned if you speak clearly it sounds threatening” and “if you say something clearly and distinctly and truthfully there are people who will take that as threatening.” He said that religion is so entrenched that it “gets a free ride” and that “very mild criticism” and “questioning” shouldn’t be regarded as threatening.28
Conclusion: Man’s Word vs. God’s Word
Krauss and Dawkins repeatedly refer to the “evidence of reality” in this interview. Yet they, like other evolutionary scientists, fail to distinguish between testable scientific reality — experimental science — and the untestable, unobservable, and unverifiable assumptions on which the scientific claims of evolutionary origins science are based. What they claim as “reality” is interpreted through their own worldview, a worldview that is clearly hostile toward God.29 And while they oppose “all” religion, it is clear they particularly oppose Christianity and the Bible. They firmly believe that anyone who fails to accept their worldview is irrational. They admit that religion meets the needs of some people for “spirituality,” but their concept of spirituality is a purely emotional response.30
And lest this “response” be deemed defensive (a point made not only in this interview but also by a number of atheists who have recently written in to this ministry), let me hasten to point out that if “just asking a question” should not be seen as “threatening,” then neither should just answering one. If saying “something clearly and distinctly and truthfully” should not be seen as threatening when Dawkins speaks, then neither should the truth from God’s Word be taken that way. It should not be threatening when we question evolution, big bang, millions of years, humanism, or even Dawkins and Krauss themselves. In fact, they would welcome it in every forum, if they were consistent.
Krauss and Dawkins do have one thing in common with most biblical creationists — a sense of awe and wonder at what we can learn from experimental science about the world around us.
Krauss and Dawkins do have one thing in common with most biblical creationists — a sense of awe and wonder at what we can learn from experimental science about the world around us. Krauss and Dawkins appreciate the “poetry of science,” but superimpose their own rhapsodic notions about the atoms in our bodies being derived from stardust billions of years old.31 Biblical creationists, however, examine the actual facts of science — the observable and repeatable ones, not evolutionary story telling and conjectures — in light of God’s revealed truth and see that there actually is no contradiction between the history revealed in the Bible and science (Romans 1:18–22).
Krauss and Dawkins hope their film will prompt Christians to ask questions and to critically examine their beliefs in light of science. At Answers in Genesis we encourage people — both believers and unbelievers — to ask questions and to critically examine scriptural revelation and scientific facts. We provide help in finding answers to those questions. Sadly, one example Dawkins provided was a young-earth creationist who came to his lectures on evolution and was very impressed, having never heard the evolutionary point of view. We do not encourage ignorance about evolutionary positions32 but instead want to equip people with the information they need to discern the difference between observable experimental science and historical science, between that which can be tested and that which can only be imagined, between what can actually be seen in the world through science and the claims of evolutionists.
We want to equip children, teens, and adults with the tools they need to help them trust God’s Word and see through false religions like atheism, so that they will then be able to trust Jesus Christ as their Savior and the Lord of their lives. The very name of our ministry, Answers in Genesis, makes it clear we are not encouraging people to have blind faith. On the contrary, we are providing reasonable, scientific, and biblical answers for questions on origins. And we do so with confidence that the Bible has the answers to explain the world we live in — scientifically, morally, and theologically.
The Bible attests not only to the true history of our origins but also the truth about humanity’s rebellious and sinful nature.33 Dawkins and Krauss consider biblical truth restrictive and demeaning. The Bible does make it clear that all people are sinners who have rebelled against the omniscient, omnipotent, and holy God. Dawkins and Krauss personify this rebellious spirit in declaring their desire to redesign the world the way “we” — in other words, “they” — want it to be. But evil men and seducers will, according to Scripture, get worse and worse (2 Timothy 3:13), so much so that Jesus said, “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). As Christians, meanwhile, we are commanded to respond to the “nonthreatening threats” volleyed at us by skeptics and by sincere questioners by providing answers (1 Peter 3:15, KJV; 2 Timothy 2:22–26), including the answer to people’s sin problem (Romans 3:23, 6:23) — salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. But the final end of humanity’s destiny is not the end prophesied by Dawkins and Krauss, for the same Jesus Christ that rose from the dead will indeed come again (Revelation 22:20). Dawkins and Krauss may be leading the charge to eradicate Christianity, but it is the Lord Jesus Christ who will surely have the last word.
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**Thanks to Bodie Hodge, AiG–U.S., for his helpful and insightful additions in the footnotes.