Home / Freethought and Humanism: Atheistic and Theistic (Deism) / Richard Dawkins Debates Archbishop Rowan Williams At Oxford University, Christian Post Shouts “No True Atheist”
Richard Dawkins Debates Archbishop Rowan Williams At Oxford University, Christian Post Shouts “No True Atheist”

Richard Dawkins Debates Archbishop Rowan Williams At Oxford University, Christian Post Shouts “No True Atheist”

At Oxford University, Richard Dawkins debated the demented Old Fool, Archbishop Rowan Williams, who said there is nothing wrong with Sharia, causing quite a stir within England.

After the debate, the Christian Post boasted that Dawkins is really agnostic and not an atheist, because he “admitted” is at a 6.9 on his scale of 1 to 7, as to whether or not God exists.  One standing for absolutely sure God exists and seven standing for absolutely not sure God exists.

Dawkins revealed that he is in fact not an atheist as he is not 100 percent sure God doesn't exist.

The Christian Post appeared to not understand what Dawkins meant and apparently believes in “no true atheist”, but as a scientist, Dawkins cannot make absolutes, because he is open to new information.  There are no absolutes in science.

If one is absolutely sure, they are no longer open to new information, the same goes for the grammar program on my Word program.  It does not believe in absolutes, because it wants me to remove the word “absolutely”, but in this case, the word needs to stay to show a point concerning the Christian Post’s belief that Dawkins is actually agnostic and not an atheist.

The moderator, Sir Anthony Kenny, when opening the debate admitted he did not know if there is a God or not, which means he is probably between a four and a five on Dawkins’ scale.

However, Dawkins explained this before, on page 50 and 51 of his book, The God Delusion and in the movie Root of All Evil.  This is a scale ranging from belief to disbelief, not a black and white deal, as so many Christians seem to prefer everything in life.  Nothing is black and white and fortunately, in reality, there are many various shades of many various colours, much like the rainbow (not actually a reference to Dawkins’ book, Unweaving the Rainbow).

Dawkins’ scale concerning the existence of a god:

1.  Strong theist: 100% probability of God.  In the words of C. G. Jung, ‘I do not believe, I know.’

2.  Very high probably, but short of 100%.  De Facto theist.  ‘I cannot know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.’

3.  Higher than 50%, but not very high.  Technically agnostic, but leaning towards theism.  ‘I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.’

4. Exactly 50%, but not very high.  Completely impartial agnostic.  ‘God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equitable.’

5.  Lower than 50%, but not very low.  Technically agnostic, but leaning towards atheism.  ‘I don’t know whether God exists, but I’m inclined to be sceptical.’

6.  Very low probability, but short of zero.  De facto atheist.  ‘I cannot know for certain, but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.’

7.  Strong atheist:  ‘I know there is no god, with the same conviction as Jung “knows” there is one.’

To make things easier, imagine Dawkins scale, literally, on a scale:


1         2        3       4     5     6      7

Strong                 50/50            Strong

Theist                agnostic          atheist

On Dawkins’ scale, I probably would land between ‘5’ and ‘7’.  This is very much an agnostic atheist.  I do not believe the god of any religion exists, because those are all human concepts, which makes me almost a ‘7’, but I am not beyond saying there might be something within the universe and us, that one might consider a god, but I do not know what IT is and I do not call it a god.  This probably pushes me towards a ‘5’, but not quite a solid ‘5’.  Thus, I would assume, I am lower than Dawkins on the scale, probably very close to a ‘6’, if not a ‘6’.  Proving such a “pantheistic deity”, with the use of science, is necessary to find such a thing though and we may never find it, except via neurology.

Forgive me for using this video so many times, I love what Tyson says in this video and can hear quite well what he is saying.

Like Neil deGrasse Tyson, I am in awe with the universe, especially and including nature, but despite having the very same feelings theists have about their god, I do not call the universe “God”. This feeling of awe and wonder, whether it is concerning the universe or a human concept of a deity, is very much neurology in action. This is why Dawkins called Pantheism, “sexed up atheism”, because in a sense, it is, but I fall more into Tyson’s category, except he is an astrophysicist and I use my education and knowledge of psychology and neurology to come my conclusions.

Kenny quoted Dawkins as saying, “The laws of physics have created us” and Dawkins nodded.

Dawkins explains that if we do not know X, then we should not jump to the conclusion that it must be God, but instead we should stay agnostic about X, which Williams seemed to agree with.

Williams admitted that he has no idea what a soul is, but it does not simply cease upon death and he stated that he has a number of images of what a soul might look like, which, according to Williams, God does not terminate upon death.

"A soul is something that does not cease with death," said the archbishop.  "What it is, I have no idea.  A number of images, but no idea.  More research is clearly needed here.”

Later, he admits this belief in a soul and hopes for an eternal life are all based on faith and not reason.

Dawkins stated, in the debate, that he is baffled concerning Williams statements about God, soul, freewill, origins of humans, and the afterlife.

“Why would you want to waste your time reinterpreting Genesis to make sense in the 21st century?  Why not stick to 21st century science?”

To which Williams, as a true Anglican priest and Christian, fell back on the Bible and reserved the right to do so.  He looks for basic information in the Bible, starting with the first book and the first chapter of the Bible.

"If I want to answer of 21st century scientific questions then I stick to 21st century science.  If I want to understand my moral and spiritual position in the universe, I reserve the right to go back to Genesis."

Again, using Dawkins’ scale, Archbishop Williams would probably fall around two.

When Williams tried to pin Dawkins down and insisted Dawkins is really an agnostic, Dawkins once again attempted to explain his scale:

Williams: "You I think, Richard, believe you have a disproof of god."

Dawkins: No, I don't! You were wrong when you said that. I constructed in The God Delusion a 7-point scale, of which '1' was, 'I know god exists', '7' was 'I know god doesn't exist' and I called myself a '6'.

Not all atheists are 100% certain that there is absolutely no god, but some theists are absolutely sure, with 100% certainty that there is a god, yet they have no evidence.  At least they do not possess any solid and scientific evidence that their god exists.  Their absolute certainty comes from pure faith and not reason.

Christina, JT Eberhard’s co-blogger and friend on Freethought Blogs, explained it well when she said part of understanding science involves accepting current information provisionally and with probability, so that when new information does come along, we are open to consider it and potentially change our minds.  Religious dogma does not allow for such things.  The dogma of religion started many centuries ago and it remains the same, unchanging, despite the fact, it does not fit reality in the 21st century.

An atheist does not need absolute certainty that a god does not exist, but many Christians and Muslims seem to need absolute certainty, accepting that a god exists purely by faith, to be Christians or Muslims.  The qualifications for disbelief are not as strenuous as that of religious belief.  Atheists rely heavily on reason and science, instead of superstition, to form many of their beliefs.

About Mriana

Mriana is a humanist and the author of "A Source of Misery", who grew up in the Church of God, Anderson Indiana. After she became an adult, she joined the Episcopal Church, but later left the Church and became a humanist. She has two grown sons and raises cats. Mriana raised her sons in the Episcopal Church, but in their teen years, they left the Church and she soon followed. One of her sons became a "Tao Buddhist" and the other a None, creating his own world view. She enjoys writing, reading, science, philosophy, psychology, and other subjects. Mriana is also an animal lover, who cares for their welfare as living beings, who are part of the earth. She is a huge Star Trek fan in a little body.
  • Excellent article, Mriana, clarifying the 1-7 scale. Many of us who are familiar with Dawkins' work know that, but it seems that there are many in the mainstream who somehow see Dawkins' statement as some sort of proof that he believes that a god exists.


    • Thanks. It baffles me how many don't seem to get it or even see the scale/spectrum of belief and disbelief.

  • sheldon

    I think I am solidly between 6 and 7. I do not believe in any kind of religious, interventionist deity. I believe there is some form of creative force in the universe and I have no idea what that is yet, I most certainly do not believe it is Christian or Muslim or etc… for all I know, we're an alien experiment gone horribly wrong.

    • I think many of us are in that category! 🙂

    • I think you are saying exactly what I was trying to say in a pantheistic manner and then turned around calling it all neurological, which pushes me back to a 6 on Dawkins' scale. That doesn't mean there isn't a "creative force", but that "creative force" might be purely chemicals interacting with each other, much like in our brains when we feel that awe and wonder or cell division of blastocysts and zygotes, but I don't know what it is that causes such reactions to occur and as Dawkins said, we can't just jump to "God did it" because we don't know what X is. Many people thought the Bubonic Plague was a punishment for sin and evil, God's punishment for those things, and then we found that fleas on rats caused the plague and not sin and evil. Even so, to this day, many people still jump to the conclusion that "God did it" or a demon is at work, when they or science doesn't know the answer… yet.

      The one problem with Pantheism, is that when someone says, "God is the whirlwind", knowing full well that's not a god, is that the English language is limited, concerning words, to express the overwhelming strong emotions we are feeling and while our brains maybe the "Final Frontier", the "Undiscovered Country", to me, such neurological explanations deflate people's ego and feelings when it is explained to them. Like Tyson and Astrophysics, I have the same feelings concerning the workings of the brain, esp when you get those little stars and "nebulas" going on MRIs, CATs, and alike.

      Margaret Atwood
      god is not the voice in the whirlwind
      god is the whirlwind

      Stephen Hawking
      Larry King: Do you believe in God?
      Stephen Hawking:
      Yes, if by God is meant the embodiment of the law of the universe.
      Larry King Live, December 25, 1999

      Dawkins virtually said the same thing, in the debate, as Hawking did in this interview with Larry King.

  • When I stand at a bus stop I "believe" in the bus – I put my faith in it.
    When the bus arrives and transports me to my destination I no longer need to believe in it – I have experienced it.

    In common with most people, I have had spiritual experiences that some people call 'God', 'transcendence', 'the spirit'. Others will explain those experiences using scientific language. It's all the same to me. Call it what you like, I don't need to 'believe' because I have experienced. And my experience changes me. So, if you use the 'God' word, God has changed me. If I spend time in contemplation I am more likely to be open to those experiences, so you could say 'God' is 'answering prayer'.

    Its mostly down to the langage you use.

    But I have no experience of a 'God' who intervenes in history (apart from changing people as above). I have no reason to 'believe' in an afterlife or miracles so I will try to keep an open mind, awaiting further light.

    • Very well said, ChrisP.

  • sheldon

    To be honest, I don't think I really accept Dawkins scale any more than I accept most other theories regarding any of this. I find the labels a little childish and limiting. I think I know something, which, in fact, could be completely wrong. Simply put, everything in the discussion is nothing more than speculation and conjecture. We are all guessing… unfortunately, some speculations are a little more vitriolic than others, as if that makes one claim more aromatic than the other.

    I believe in something, yet, I have absolutely no idea what that something is and I do not willingly call that something God and I do not live according to what that unknown something might desire of me. Religion makes no sense to me. Organized spirituality, of any kind, makes no sense to me. It is enough, for me, to recognize a connection between me and the world around me insofar as everything appears to be symbiotic. I do not need to pray to that.

    I am going to bake some bread and muffins. I am going to make a cinnamon chocolate loaf with a sweet cinnamon-butter sauce for dessert tonight. My sons are coming for dinner… as well, my daughter-in-law will be there along with a family friend. Now, that's something I can get behind 🙂

    • Roxy

      We may all be guessing, but some of us can cite evidence to support our guesses, while others just say "take my word for it" or "God said it, I believe it, that settles it."

      I prefer having evidence, thank you.

      • This is quite true. I cite evidence for my disbelief, other than "Look around you…" and alike statements. Of course, I sort of fall back on that statement with Evolution though, but I also have more than just that statement alone.

      • sheldon

        Evidence of what, exactly?

  • zzzzz

    Really meaty post, Mriana. Gives me lots to think about. Thanks for posting.

  • Albert Bakker

    I am absolutely convinced that if there were a God, or Gods if we truly have to go back to the Old Testament, there would be no discussion about scales and probabilities of existence. It would be self-evident, undeniable and Paul's reprimand would have made sense. 
    Instead what we see is a redefinition of this idea of a God the moment it is shown to be impossible, self-contradictory, incoherent or what have you. To save God, He/ She/ It has even been removed from the Universe entirely, this by believers notably, per advancement of cosmological arguments. Or they put God in the smallest gap possible. A singularity. So small in fact that even General Relativity can't fit inside. I'd say this is about as close as removing God from existence as is possible. But if there is another way to reduce the probability even further, I am sure it will be found by a very clever apologist.

  • Vivisectus

    Sure – we cannot be 100% certain that there is no God. We can also not be 100% certain that the moon is not populated by a hundreds of tiny purple elephants.

    We can be 100% satisfied that this is not the case, however. 

    • Donny

      Vivisectus…to me the mystery of god is hightened by the misunderstood belief phenomenon. IOW, along with beliefs comes doubt. And religion cannot exist without beliefs. And the religious become enemies by confusing belief with truth.

  • Donny

    With all due respect for all people's humanity, if they must believe an all knowing, omnipotent, eternal god, I think the need for such an entity is to (hopefully) insure their personal eternal survival. And survival is the job of the ego…the seat of fear.
    If there is a God…I think He/She/It is within us all. Just like Jesus said. But his so-called "followers" still don't get who Jesus really was. Just my opinion.

    • Out of curiosity, have you read the Gospel of Thomas? I asking because not only is the statement you refer to mentioned in the 4 Gospels at least once, but often overlooked, the "related source" is also found in the Gospel of Thomas too.

      • Donny

        My reply was already sent to Mriana. I hope it finds her.

        • You just hit reply, type in your message, just as you did and it should work.

          • Thanks Mriana. Did you receive my reply to your post about the Gospel of Thomas?

            • No, sorry. If it doesn't show on the blog thread then that means it didn't post. You'd see it if it did.

              • Mriana…that's what I'm talking about. This happens to me too many times. I'd rather you write me at…Donny4luv@verizon.net. I'm really interested in what you have to say.

      • Mriana…I did reply to your post. But it was from another Disqus site. Unfortunately I'm not particularly up on how siteas lie Disqus works. If you like, pls email me at Donny4luv@verizon.net
        Peace and love,

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