Richard Dawkins is Honest

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The premier atheist of the universe is probably Richard Dawkins. The common understanding of atheism is a rejection of the existence of a deity.

This definition used to bother me. How is it possible for one to be certain that there is no deity. Even if one is positive that a deity is impossible to perceive, it is certainly possible that the deity chose to remain hidden. In short, I always thought that an atheist who asserted unequivocally that there absolutely no God was a fool. It is literally impossible to be certain that a deity does not exist.

Dawkins was asked if he was 100% certain in his atheist beliefs. His reply? No. He half-jokingly added that he was 6.9 of 7 certain of atheism as the correct belief. Dawkins clarified his position that the “probability of a supernatural creator existing is very, very, low.”

So is Richard Dawkins still considered an atheist?

I think so. While it is true that the common understanding of atheism is a rejection of the existence of a deity and Dawkins does not “reject” it, rather he is extremely skeptical, this is not really the definition of atheism. The real definition is the belief that one should not accept anything dogmatic based on faith. The atheist reject God, not because God doesn’t exist, rather because it is impossible to prove God exists and it is not necessary, in the view of the atheist, to add belief in God in order to successfully navigate through life.

Dawkins rejects belief in God because it is so improbable, in his opinion, and by definition impossible to prove. That is atheism.

It’s also honesty.

I am sure there are people who are certain the God does not exist. I question how those people can be certain of something that is so inappropriate for certainty. But it was nice to see that Dawkins is not one of those fools. He is just someone who lives his life based on what can be proved and demonstrated via testing. Religions cannot be proved. They can be made into reasonable or rational beliefs, but they cannot be proved to the degree that an atheist like Dawkins demands for his personal decisions. If he is being honest, we should be honest as well.

Link: WaPo

  • As I’ve said for a long time, any atheist whose views are underpinned by a scientific worldview could never state that they are 100% certain a god doesn’t exist. I don’t think this should come as any surprise, as it’s being portrayed in the media. Good writeup. Science = honesty.

  • ksil

    he’s moer honest than my rabbi.  my rabbi is 100% certain that god exists and that he gave the torah to moshe at sinai.  he “knows” it…he doesnt even believe it. its a fact.  historical.

    how does one have an honest discussion with someone like that?!?!?

  • Kishmirin

    I think there was a first cause to the universe and that can be called god.  I don’t think that first cause micromanages lives or acts at all on the universe that was unleashed.  Religious beliefs are man-made and serve either as a source of power for those who need it or as a source of comfort for those who want it.

  • Anonymous

    If he is being honest, we should be honest as well.”

    I’m not really sure what you’re getting at with that last sentence. Do you mean Jews (religious) should be honest that they don’t know for certain that God exists, or just a general call for reasonableness in honesty in all matters. 

    I hope its not the latter, since that would be really Charedi territory in which the working premise is that atheists, or non Jews are generally liars or cheats and look how we found at lease one redeeming quality…….and now we have to match and beat them.

    If its the former, ok that a good idea but good look with that. 

    • Former. Obviously.

      • Rabbi Skeptic…. (jk, obviously)

  • >rather because it is impossible to prove God exists and it is not necessary
    I think it’s the other way around with them. They say, if there is God, there should be some sort of proof to his existence. Since there is none, they don’t believe. Certainly, proving God’s existence is not that hard. Just have to use our imagination.

    • Huh?

      • Anonymous

        What @google-f585888a75facbd65dfcf169b2ef7365:disqus means is that if in your imagination God exists then that’s proof that God exists………

        • No. Sorry. I mean’t, it’s not impossible for proof of God’s existence to exist.

          • Really? Go ahead. Try me.

          • Ksil

            I know this is an impossible thing to prove, but as unlikely as it is, this HH’s dumbest. Comment. Ever.

            I know i know, there are so many to choose from, but i will go wih this

            • Well actually he is right. What he is saying is that it is possible for a proof of God to exist. It is possible. The thing is, we just haven’t discovered it yet. It is an irrelevant point though.

          • ghottistyx

            Not impossible, but harder.  Remember, in Logic, a Modus Tolendo Tolens is a stronger argument than a Modus Ponendo Ponens.  This is because for a Modus Ponendo to be true, it has to be true in all cases; find one exception, and the Modus Ponendo is wrong.  A Modus Tolendo, however, is correct so long as there’s even one case where it works!  I believe it was Einstein who said that no amount of tests can prove him right, but all it takes is one test to prove him wrong.

            So yeah, you can throw all the “proofs” for God’s existence out there.  They are only as veritable as the reader allows them to be.  In the end, “faith” is the strongest form of proof out there.  To the skeptic, the burden of proof is one the faithful.

      • Anonymous

        So if there is no proof that God exists then why believe in a religion that is completely dependent on that belief.  If you cannot prove that God exists you have completely undermined all beliefs of Judaism.  Why then are you a rabbi of an orthodox shul?  Why be Jewish why not Christian or Islamic or Buddhist?

        • You should read the rest of the comments. I already answered this question.

          But let me turn this around. If you are so sure, how about you prove the existence of God and that Judaism is the only true option for the benefit of everyone else…?

          • Anonymous

            That is not turning it around.  I did not ask you for proof.  I asked why, if you are certain there is no proof, be Jewish at all.  Unless there is some moral, emotional or societal reason, you don’t have a reason to be Jewish.  But if that is the case you are an orthoprax by your own definition.  It is quite disingenuous to promote Judaism when you believe its core belief is impossible to prove and may not be true.

            • What are you talking about?

              Look, do you think there is a proof for the existence of God? I’d love to hear it. In my experience, there is no such thing as proving the existence of God.
              I have explained that I don’t require proof for religious beliefs. Rather I believe based on many factors that there is a God and that he gave the Torah to the Jewish people. I cannot prive it. I can explain why it is a reasonable belief. In fact, I believe it is more reasonable than the alternatives.
              Your assertion that unless one can prove Judaism one is orthoprax is ludicrous. No one has successfully proved the truth of Judaism or the existence of God with the vigor required by academic research. So I guess every Jew is orthoprax.

          • Anonymous

            If there is no way to prove the truth of Judaism than why be concerned when one strays.  He cannot be blamed he disagrees with the logic or chooses to believe otherwise.  Truth is the seal of God  and all that god does is true, but if it can’t be proved how can you say it is true.  Again, reasonable belief is not fact, your a law student you should know that.  The Torah was written with Truth.  If you cannot prove its truth what is the claim of truth worth.

            • If you are so confident that Judaism can be proved… PROVE IT. Meanwhile, consider that 99.8% of the world is not Jewish and of the .2% who are Jewish about 20% are orthodox. Then consider what percentage of people believe things that can be proved. Like gravity or that the earth revolves around the sun. Look, I am very passionate about my Judaism. I love it. I love and believe in God. It’s just not something that can be demonstrated with a proof.

          • Anonymous

            I apologize if you feel I am questioning your beliefs, I did not intend that.  I am trying to show how there must be a proof, if there isn’t it cannot be called “true”.  If it cannot be proved you have just provided an out for anyone who has chosen to leave the path or committed any sin.  We should all be thankful for that, we have all done wrong, and to have this defense will serve us well.  I will ask the question again, but take it as if it is coming from someone showing interest who has walked through the doors to your shul.  Prove to me Judaism is true and I will follow all the laws.  If you answer that you cannot, don’t you appear to be preaching inconsistency?

            • Something can be true without proof. I don’t understand why you insist otherwise. I have only provided an out for someone like yourself who feels there must be proof.
              I am telling you what I tell anyone who asks me the same question as you did. I cannot prove anything. I preach that Judaism is a beautiful life and the Torah contains infinite wisdom. It seems to me that this is truth. I invite you to study Torah, experience Judaism and decide if you think it is a life worth pursuing and ultimately whether you believe it is true.
              It is worth noting that the Torah itself does not attempt to persuade the Jewish people that God exists using logic and proofs. It is experiential. We perceived God based on our experiences with God. Upon this experience all of Judaism is built. Our great grandparents experienced God. They lived it and taught it to us and it was included in the Torah to give us a taste of that experience.

          • Anonymous

            It CAN be true and it CAN be false.  Without a proof there is no way to know which way is correct.  You cannot fault someone for saying “I find this lifestyle too restrictive, I cannot prove its true and therefore don’t want to follow it.”
            Preaching about a great lifestyle and how you feel connection is all nice.  What if that persons doesn’t feel a connection, or finds the connection and niceties in Christianity or Buddhism or some other religion. Why is that any different?

            • I don’t get what you are saying. I believe it is the truth. I think there are enough substantial reasons to believe it is the truth. But I can’t prove it. (No one can.)

          • Anonymous

            If no one can prove it then I would not be wrong for saying it isn’t the truth.  How can one be punished for doing wrong when the validity of that wrong, i.e. that it is the word of God, cannot be proven.
            I am not necessarily saying it can be proven, though I believe it can, but there is a major flaw in preaching that you should believe base on substantial reasoning.  If you cannot prove it, you cannot disprove any view that chooses not to believe. 
            Again, I am not attacking your personal beliefs, although I may have come across that way. I apologize for that. I am engaging in debate to point out an inherent danger in preaching such a belief.

            • Again, I think your premise is flawed. God made a communication with mankind and gave us the Torah. That is why we keep it. Not because it can be proved to be truth. One has nothing to do with the other. It’s true that I cannot disprove another belief, but I can show it is less reasonable.

          • Anonymous

            Yes, but if you cannot prove God you cannot prove the communication and the entire premise of the religion fails.

        • ghottistyx

          Sorry to interject here.  I just want to say (as a shtark Atheist myself) that I find your beliefs a lot more “dangerous” than Rabbi Fink’s.  Yes, I, one who has turned away from frumkeit, find myself siding with an Orthodox Rabbi on an issue.  Now doesn’t that say something about which belief resounds more?  

          Although I choose not to believe myself, I still have the utmost respect for Rabbi Fink, for not only being honest about the parameters of his beliefs, but also for being a real mentsch about it.  I have tried proving that God exists for a good deal of my life.  There are those who base their beliefs on “proof”.  But in the end, it is faith that backs these proofs.  For no proof is completely infallible.  Even the solidest or scientific principles are only true based on the assumptions being true.  And if you disagree with me, I suggest you pick up any textbook on Formal Logic and read the first chapter again.  Then, look over the chapter on Truth Tables.  And if you still disagree with this, then we have little else to talk about. Rabbi Fink is honest enough to admit that whatever logical rationale there may (or may not) be for frumkeit, his beliefs are based on faith.  And he is a man who loves what he teaches, loves his fellow man, and it emanates even over this very impersonal digital media.  And again, I reiterate, even a calloused OTD such as myself can read his blog and enjoy what he writes, though I may not agree with some of the pragmatics.  I might be the oddest choice of a person to defend him.  But still, I find those who try to reduce religion to something logical a lot more dangerous than ones who honestly base it on faith!

  • Officefan

    Great post, rabbi. Since you write that God can’t be proven logically, why in fact do you believe in God?  

    • I think there are enough indications (not proofs) that belief in God is reasonable. I don’t require absolute proof when it comes to religious beliefs.

  • >Really? Go ahead. Try me.
    Let’s go back and read what you said:

    “rather because it is impossible to prove God exists and it is not necessary”

    I am saying, that you have them wrong. They are not saying proof of God is impossible. They are saying there isn’t any. These are two different things. Lehefech, they are always challenging us to supply them with it. Fact of the matter, if God tomorrow caused the entire oceans to turn red, and a voice from heaven commanding pigs to fly, that would be proof of His existence. The point is, they are actually looking for supernatural proofs to back up our supernatural claim. 

    • And yes, I realize I am being picky. But I think it’s important to distinguish between proof being impossible vs there not being any at this point.

      • Maybe that is simply what you meant and I am reading too much into it. That not withstanding God personally interfering, we as humans have absolutely no way of proving him.

    • zach

       Doesn’t sound like to hard of a trick for a “sufficiently advanced civilization”. That is, that wouldn’t be proof of God.

  • “But it was nice to see that Dawkins is not one of those fools.”

    Who cares?

    • Who cares about anything?

      • Ksil

        Love this response. Take that yeedle!

        • 🙂 Yeedle is a friend. Be nice.

  • DG

    The problem is when people say that our inability to prove scientifically that God exists is proof that He doesn’t exist. Of course, you could just as easily say that our inability to prove scientifically that God doesn’t exist is proof that He does exist.

    Then there are the people who think that unless we have proof of God’s existence, we have no reason to assume He exists and act accordingly. But we are constantly acting on the basis of less than 100% certainty. We can’t be sure our food isn’t poisoned, we can’t be sure we won’t be electrocuted next time we turn on a light, we can’t be sure our doctors are giving us good advice. The question is whether God’s existence is likely, not whether it is certain.

    • Ksil

      Do, DG….is it likely, in your view?

      • DG


  • Dustin Gutierrez

    Good post.  I think your probably right, Richard Dawkins is just being honest.  I’m a believing Jew, but I don’t begrudge anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of God or is simply unsure about such beliefs.  However, my issue with those like Dawkins is that they consider any type of religious belief to be superstitious, evil nonsense that stupid people mistakenly believe.  In that, Dawkins proves himself to be just as narrow minded, dogmatic, and intolerant as any religious fanatic.  But, he is honest…