New Atheist Richard Dawkins Debates Ayaan Hirsi Ali

New Atheist Richard Dawkins Debates Ayaan Hirsi Ali June 13, 2024


We blogged about Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali immigrant to the Netherlands who became a scathing critic of her fellow Muslims who support jihadist terrorism.  She then renounced Islam and was numbered among the New Atheists.  Recently, though, she announced her conversion to Christianity.

The target of numerous fatwas calling for her death, Hirsi Ali has expanded her critiques to include woke progressivism and cancel culture.  She has also become an American.

The online magazine Unherd sponsored a debate between her and her New Atheist mentor Richard Dawkins.  In it, she tells more about her conversion, which–contrary to what some Christians worried about–is not just the embrace of a cultural religion necessary to preserve Western civilization, but a genuine faith in Jesus Christ.

In the debate, Dawkins, who now calls himself a “cultural Christian” while considering its beliefs to be nonsense, starts by saying this is surely what Hirsi Ali means by her “conversion.”  He asks, “I mean, do you really take it seriously that Jesus is the Son of God? That Jesus rose from the dead? Jesus was born of a virgin?”

She replies to Dawkins, yes, she does.  From the transcript of  The God Debate:

I know you very well, we’ve been friends for a long time. In fact, in some ways, I think of you as a mentor. I would say you’re coming at this from a place of: there is nothing. What has happened to me is I have accepted there is something. If you accept that this is something and that there is a powerful entity. For me God turned me around. I think what the vicar is saying no longer sounds nonsensical, it makes a great deal of sense. Not only does it make a great deal of sense, it’s also layered with the wisdom of millennia. I did mock faith in general, probably Christianity in particular. But I don’t do that anymore. That is where humility comes into it. It doesn’t seem like that now in 2024, after I went through that experience. It doesn’t seem nonsensical to me and I don’t mock it. I think I’ve come down to my knees, to say, perhaps those people who have always had faith, have something that we who lost faith don’t have. . . .

I find that Christianity is actually obsessed with love. That is in the figure of the teaching of Christ. As I see it, and again, I’m a brand new Christian, but what I’m finding out is that this is the opposite of growing up as a Muslim and the message of Islam. The message of Christianity I get is that it’s a message of love. It’s a message of redemption. And it’s a story of renewal and rebirth. So, Jesus dying and rising again for me symbolises that story. In a small way I felt I had died and I was born. That story of redemption, and rebirth, I think makes Christianity actually a very, very powerful story for the human condition and human existence. . . .

Compared to say, growing up as a Muslim where I was taught that the only way for you to be faithful, is to have fear, naked fear, and to have these sets of obligations which you basically obey. . . .When I was an atheist, I was going all over both the United States and all over Europe, mocking Christians making fun of them, making fun of faith, as you’re doing now dear Richard. I was walking with six to seven men at any given time, protecting me, armed, from things that I said that were offensive to millions of Muslims. Christians were writing me letters saying, we’re going to pray for you, you’re misguided. And I think that alone defines for me the distinction between Christianity in general, mainstream Christianity at least and mainstream Islam.

I was impressed with the concessions she drew out of Dawkins:

I came here prepared to persuade you Ayaan that you’re not a Christian. But I think you are a Christian. And I think Christianity is nonsense. You have to appear to be a theist, you appear to believe in some kind of higher power. Now, I think that the hypothesis of theism is the most exciting scientific hypothesis you could possibly hold. And the idea that the universe was actually created by a supernatural intelligence is a dramatic, important idea. If it were true, it would completely change everything we know. We’d be living in a totally different, different universe. That’s a big thing. It’s bigger than personal comfort and nice stories and these things. The idea that the universe has lurking beneath it an intelligence or supernatural intelligence that invented the laws of physics, that invented mathematics is a stupendous idea, if it’s true. To me that simply dwarfs all talk of nobility and morality and comfort.

Dawkins is right.  “If it were true, it would completely change everything.”

The newness in the New Atheists came primarily in their moral assaults on God and Christianity and their contention that religion has had a negative influence on the culture.  In the words of the subtitle to Christopher Hitchen’s book God Is Not Great, “religion poisons everything.”

Now, though, New Atheists are admitting the moral value and the positive cultural influence of Christianity.  I suspect this is largely because of the impact of historian Tom Holland’s book Dominion:  How the Christian Revolution Remade the World.  (See my post about it.)  To the point that one New Atheist calls himself a “cultural Christian” and another calls herself an actual Christian.

I propose that we pray for Dawkins like the Christians who prayed for Hirsi Ali.

Read the transcript of the so-called “God Debate” or watch it all on this video:


Illustration via YouTube

"A "mook"? Are you playing Trivial Pursuit with the Bubble Boy?PS-I know its "the "moops"."

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