Christian Nationalism is the New New Atheism - Word&Way

Christian Nationalism is the New New Atheism

Famous atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins made a big announcement about his personal religious beliefs on Easter Sunday. The surprising comments by the British author quickly excited some Christians.

“I call myself a cultural Christian,” Dawkins said on a London radio show while being interviewed by Rachel Johnson, a sister of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “I’m not a believer, but there’s a distinction between being a believing Christian and being a cultural Christian.”

So, no, Dawkins didn’t have a come-to-Jesus moment on Easter. In fact, he stressed that not only does he not believe but he’s also glad to see declining church attendance in the United Kingdom. After noting that “statistically, the number of people who actually believe in Christianity is going down,” he added, “and I’m happy with that.”

“I think that the things that Christians believe are actually nonsense,” he said, before specifically citing, on Easter, a belief in the Resurrection of Jesus.

But Dawkins stressed that despite the empty cathedrals and growing ranks of British atheists, he wants the U.K. to remain a “Christian” nation. That’s what he meant about being a “cultural Christian.” He wants Christian Nationalism without actually believing in God.

“We are culturally a Christian country,” Dawkins said. “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. … I find that I like to live in a culturally Christian country although I do not believe a single word of the Christian faith.”

Dawkins also quickly stressed that his vision of the U.K. as a culturally “Christian” nation means people opposing Islam. He said he “was slightly horrified” that people were promoting Ramadan and that it “would be truly dreadful” for Islam to rise as the nation’s faith. He wants a “Christian country” not because he believes in Christianity but because he’s scared of Islam. Dawkins basically only likes Christianity if it’s fighting Islam.

Screengrab as Richard Dawkins speaks on LBC on March 31, 2024.

The claim about being a “cultural Christian” wasn’t Dawkins misspeaking in a live interview as he has made similar comments for years. He also wrote recently in his Substack newsletter about this.

“I am a Cultural Christian, specifically a Cultural Anglican,” he wrote. “You can be a Cultural Christian, a Political Christian, a Believing Christian, or any combination of the three.

He praised those who are “political Christians” but not believing Christians for supporting Christianity “as a bulwark against Islam” and being against transgender people. He also stressed that he doesn’t consider himself actually a Christian since he thinks that term should only describe those who believe in the religious tenets.

After a self-described “cultural Christian” talked about wanting the U.K. to be “a Christian country” while mocking Christians for believing in miracles, some Christians in the U.S. actually praised him. The Venn diagram of Christians praising Dawkins this week overlapped with those espousing Christian Nationalism. So this issue of A Public Witness looks at responses to Dawkins and his past tirades against religion to consider what this reveals about the unChristian nature of Christian Nationalism.


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