(Photo: Reuters/Chris Keane)
One of Scotland's leading Christian thinkers has said that atheist professor Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion book has actually paved the way for the Church to share its message about God, because it drew millions of people around the world to the debate on God and the Bible.
"Richard Dawkins has done us a big favor," said the Rev David Robertson, a minister from the Free Church of Scotland, ahead of the Faclan Book Festival on the Isle of Lewis later this week ,where both he and Dawkins will be speaking about spiritual literature.
"A book about God and the Bible has become a bestseller and as a result has opened up a discussion that many people thought was over," Robertson added to the Stornoway Gazette.
"I recently did a show with Marcus Brigstocke, the comedian, in which he declared – 'Before I read The God Delusion I was a an atheist, after I read it I was an agnostic – I don't want to read it again in case I turn into a Christian'! "
The God Delusion is the atheist professor's best-selling book and has sold millions of copies worldwide. In it, he argues how science and the universe exist without any sort of divinely-inspired notions, and how a belief in God is detrimental to human development and progress.
Dawkins' work has been challenged by many religious leaders, but it has also engaged masses in a discussion about the role of faith and religion in today's world. And while the author's work argues against God, Robertson insists that the discussion generated alone is enough to awaken minds and lead many people toward God, rather than away from Him.
"I actually know of people who have been converted through reading The God Delusion and interacting with the discussion. Dawkins has opened the door. We now have to walk through it," said the Christian minister.
Dawkins and Robertson have both been preparing for the faith-themed festival in November, but the atheist professor was labeled a "snob" and a "coward" in August after he refused an invitation to debate religion with church leaders in Scotland.
Robertson said of the professor's refusal to debate: "Dawkins considers, like so many of his fellow new atheists, that there is no debate and they, and they alone, have the truth. Ironically, such arrogance and intolerance of others is the very definition of the fundamentalism that Dawkins professes to hate. I suspect that Richard Dawkins' problem is that he is not a good debater."
Dawkins responded by saying that he does not believe a good discussion will stem from such a debate. He promised that there will be plenty to talk about at the book festival itself.
"But the fundamentalists need not fear: I plan to leave plenty of time for questions after my talk and, indeed, if the festival organizers were in favor of the idea, I would be happy to scrap the talk altogether and simply devote my entire session to answering questions from the audience," he wrote on his website.
Christian church leaders in Scotland had initially protested against Dawkins' invitation to participated at the faith-book festival later this week, but organizers have defended their decision and even feature The God Delusion as one of the main works to be discussed on their website.