Stop Press: Dawkins converted (a daydream)

Please note: this is a work of speculative fiction.

News just in: famous scientist and former atheist Richard Dawkins says he has become a Christian after rethinking some of the arguments in his recent book The God Delusion.

The renowned writer, known as ‘Darwin’s Rottweiler’, has released a statement claiming he has joined his local Presbyterian church, and is looking forward to deepening his grasp of the Christian faith in the fellowship of believers there (some of whom are Christians he has ridiculed).

What caused this witty and aggressive anti-religious writer to sign up with one of the world’s ancient faiths, one that (like the Apostle Paul) he has berated and derided for many years? In his statement, Dawkins says he simply “made mistakes in my reasoning, and when I went back to look at things again, I came to a different conclusion”. Church leaders have claimed that “more than reason may have been involved”, but nevertheless they are excited and “grateful to our merciful Father” for this change of mind from one of the world’s most prominent critics of religion.

In summary, Dawkins discovered three flaws in his earlier thinking:

  • He concluded that his argument for God’s non-existence is simply wrong. He had claimed that God needs to be more complex than the universe he created, and that makes God’s existence even more improbable than our already-improbable finely tuned universe (Dawkins called this his ‘argument from improbability’). Dawkins now says he has realized that only if God is the same substance as the universe he creates is there any sense of a problem here. Dawkins revised his view after reading some of the early Church Fathers on the nature of God, alongside revisiting the ancient book of wisdom, the Gospel of John, and its claims about the nature of God and the universe. Dawkins has acknowledged that very few Christian thinkers have considered that God and the universe are the same substance, most working to express how God could create a world external to himself and yet interact with it.
  • Dawkins now accepts that the moral nature of human beings (in which we have a surprisingly common sense of morality across time, cultures and religions, and are aware that we don’t live up to it) can more readily be attributed to a God-given human nature than to natural selection. In fact, he added, altruism studies continually demonstrate that religious frameworks of thought are the major contributor to moral behaviour. Dawkins cited C S Lewis’s discussions of the moral nature of humanity as a turning point: “If C S Lewis were still alive”, said Dawkins in his statement, “I’d thank him for sticking to his belief that humans are innately and divinely-ordained moral (and immoral!) creatures at a time when this belief was considered nigh insane. His honesty about the human moral impulse, coupled with an honest re-examination of my own life and motivations, led me to think that my Darwinian views on morality were more likely responses to my awareness of my own failings than they were cold scientific observations”.
  • Dawkins admitted his claims that teaching children religion is child abuse and that religion brings nothing good into the world were vastly overstated and hysterical attempts to call religious people to account. Having read carefully some of the empirical studies on wellbeing and religion (such as those mentioned in Alister McGrath’s book, Dawkins’s God: Genes, Memes and the Meaning of Life), Dawkins has reversed his claim about religion’s harmful impact, claiming now that “there is strong evidence that the creator God is good, that devotion to God is beneficial to human happiness, and that religious people attempt to live ‘good lives’, even if they fail at many points”. Dawkins unreservedly apologized to faithful Sunday School teachers, parents and pastors who have given their energies to nurturing and maturing the beliefs of young people, and added, “It will be some time before I feel worthy to join them in their precious tasks”.

In his statement, Dawkins said, “A number of church leaders have commented to me that they were grateful for my pointing out some of the follies and abuses that have been carried out in the name of God. I now pray that my alerts and warnings in this area will cause Christian people to rethink whether they are behaving in a manner worthy of the gospel of Jesus, and if they are not, to repent immediately and make amends wherever possible”.

In a moving press conference at Oxford following the statement, the Chair for the Public Understanding of Science expressed regret at “some of my infelicitous and, let’s face it, cruel comments about religious people” and his hope that “people might find in their hearts a way to be patient with me as I put my being back together with God at its head and heart. It’s going to take a while!”

Notes of support from Christians around the world have appeared in significant publications, including Professor Francis Collins, the Director of the Human Genome Project, a debating opponent of Dawkins and an evangelical converted as an adult while at university. Collins has offered to Dawkins, “his joy and gratefulness to God that what used to look like a belief in Santa Claus has now become a genuine heartfelt and mentally rigorous faith”. Alister McGrath, a long-term critic of Dawkins’s theological claims, has spoken on BBC radio of his “immediate sense of affection for a brother who, having run amok in the inns and taverns of atheistic mockery and indignation has now been embraced by the Lord as he ran back home”. McGrath added, “He reminds me of myself, and indeed all of us whom the Lord has shown grace and mercy”.

Dawkins has announced that he will step down from his professorial chair while he “tries to wean from spiritual milk onto spiritual meat”, and will meanwhile spend time in prayer, in fellowship with other Christians, and in “reading the Good Book that I have discussed in bitterness for so long, but only in the last few life-changing weeks allowed to speak to me in its own voice”.

A short statement was released by Dawkins’s publishers: “At first, we could not believe the news, but we would now like to state our firmly held conviction that theism will be even more profitable than atheism”.

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