Richard Dawkins laments decline of 'cultural Christianity' in UK amid surging Islam

Renowned atheist still dismisses Christianity's claims as 'nonsense'

Atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins speaks to LBC host Rachel Johnson about Easter and the waning role of Christianity in British life on March 31, 2024.
Atheist and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins speaks to LBC host Rachel Johnson about Easter and the waning role of Christianity in British life on March 31, 2024. | Screenshot: LBC/YouTube

Atheist author Richard Dawkins described himself as a "cultural Christian" and lamented the faith's waning cultural influence in Europe, though he still derided its key tenets as "nonsense," during an interview on Easter Sunday.

Speaking with British journalist Rachel Johnson, Dawkins noted that the United Kingdom is "fundamentally a Christian country," and he still personally values the Christian ethos despite not believing the religion from which it emerged.

"I call myself a cultural Christian," said the evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion. "I'm not a believer, but there's a distinction between being a believing Christian and being a cultural Christian. And so, 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."

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While claiming he is "happy" the number of practicing Christians in the U.K. is plummeting, Dawkins also acknowledged that Islam appears to be gathering strength in Europe as Christianity recedes. He noted he was "slightly horrified" that Ramadan lights adorned London's Oxford Street during Easter.

"If I had to choose between Christianity and Islam, I choose Christianity every single time," he said. "I mean, it seems to me to be a fundamentally decent religion in a way that, I think, Islam is not."

Dawkins argued that Islam is less compatible with British values than Christianity, particularly regarding the treatment of women and homosexuals.

"I'm not talking about individual Muslims, who, of course, are quite different," Dawkins said. "But the doctrines of Islam — the Hadith and the Quran — is fundamentally hostile to women, hostile to gays. And I find that I like to live in a culturally Christian country, although I do not believe a single word of the Christian faith."

Johnson, the sister of former British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, acknowledged that her own Christian faith "waxes and wanes," but asked Dawkins his predictions regarding the effects a culturally dominant Islam would have on bedrock English institutions such as the monarchy.

"I think it would be a terrible thing," Dawkins said. "And insofar as Christianity can be seen as a bulwark against Islam, I think it's a very good thing. In Africa, for example, where you have missionaries of both faiths operating, I'm on 'Team Christians,' as far as that's concerned."

Dawkins nevertheless dismissed the fundamental claims of Christianity, such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection, emphasizing his belief that such supernatural assertions are "nonsense," though he acknowledged their importance "from a cultural point of view."

A survey of more than 3,000 U.K. adults commissioned by five Christian organizations in 2022 found that only 6% identify as "practicing Christians," with 42% identifying as "non-practicing Christians."

According to data released by the U.K.’s Office for National Statistics in 2022, Christianity is quickly dwindling in the country, with less than half of the population identifying as Christian since the country's first census in 1801.

The data showed that only 46.2% — or 27.5 million of the country’s more than 67 million people — say they are Christian. In the 2011 census, 59.3% of the population — or 33.3 million people — described themselves as Christian.

Islam, by contrast, has surged in the U.K., swelling from 2.7 million in 2011 to 3.9 million in 2021.

Jon Brown is a reporter for The Christian Post. Send news tips to

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