The Atheist Theatre Experience

This article was published on Christian Today with the following title:

Why, as a Christian, I welcome Richard Dawkins and ‘The God Delusion’ taking to the stage

It’s finally happened. Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion (TGD) is to be put on the stage. Chorlton Arts Festival in England is going to have the first theatre version of the best selling atheist book.

I think it is a highly appropriate idea for TGD, which is after all an entertaining piece of propaganda, rather than a serious academic work. In fact I can’t wait for the film version and perhaps the spin off series. Fans of TGD regard it with all the reverence of holy writ and see it as a life-changing book that ‘should be placed in every school’ (nothing like a little atheist indoctrination!). Dawkins’s own website had a ‘converts corner’ where people could give their testimony about how they ‘saw the light’.

the-god-delusionThe God Delusion will premiere at Chorlton Arts Festival in May.
Thomas Moore, the artistic director of the company that will perform the play certainly thinks it is a transforming work. ‘The only way to describe the show is a light-hearted journey through the sound reasoning that the book so brilliantly details,’ he said. ‘It’s somewhere between an atheist support group and watching a great stand-up comedian. We hope that when people leave the show they feel changed.’


A Life Changing Experience

I have to confess that I too found reading The God Delusion a life changing experience. Not because I was persuaded by its arguments – which are largely a rehash of Bertrand Russell’s Why I am not a Christian. In fact as atheist books go it’s an embarrassment to many thinking atheists (there are some!). Prospect magazine which had earlier voted Dawkins as one of the top three intellectuals in the world had a scathing review:

‘It has been obvious for years that Richard Dawkins had a fat book on religion in him, but who would have thought him capable of writing one this bad? Incurious, dogmatic, rambling and self-contradictory, it has none of the style or verve of his earlier works.’

TGD was a life changing experience for me because after I had read it, I wrote an online article which was picked up by the Dawkins website. Because of the response I got on the Dawkins website I continued to write replies to TGD which eventually were published as The Dawkins Letters.

The Dawkins Letters


This became a surprise bestseller and opened up many doors for me to speak and share the Gospel in secular settings. Dawkins himself was not too pleased and called me a ‘flea’ thus giving me my alias – the wee flea (in honour of my Scottish Presbyterian denomination).

The initial article (before I got banned) resulted in thousands of online comments. Around one third were intelligent and polite disagreement, one third were mildly mocking but what astounded me were the third that were vitriolic in their abuse. My sister (at that time not a Christian) was highly amused at one quote which she seemed to think summed me up rather well! ‘XXX David Robertson is a self-righteous narrow minded, up his own XXX thick as pig XXX moronic retard! Watch out David, the sky fairy is late for his second coming and will be angry with you. Why is anyone debateing with this moron? He doesn’t know how to! He has the intellectual capacity of road kill!’

Its all highly entertaining knockabout stuff. So maybe this is excellent material for a theatre show?

The Atheist Revivalist

The fascinating thing about TGD is that the devotion its adherents give to it is more akin to religious revivalism, than to any ‘oasis of reason’. I once spoke at the Stornoway book festival, at which Dawkins was also speaking. If anyone were to listen to the two lectures we gave and compare the responses you would think that Dawkins was the preacher. Both lectures were packed out, but whilst mine was a relatively calm affair, Dawkins was more like a revivalist meeting. ‘There is no God’ said the atheist evangelist: cue rapturous and ecstatic applause.


As well as the religious devotion what also struck me was the anger. The New Atheists (as they liked to self-identify) seemed to have as their motto, ‘There is no God, and I hate him!’. Dawkins would often begin his revivalist rallies in the US with the reading from the third chapter about the God of the Old Testament being ‘arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction’. Again to rapturous applause. Listening to these rallies it seemed as if they were like large therapy sessions for people recovering from religious abuse! ‘Hi…my name is Richard…and I am an atheist’.

richard-dawkinsI developed my own term for this new atheism, complete with its four prophets the self-styled horsemen of the atheist apocalypse, (Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Daniel Dennett): New Fundamentalist Atheism. The New Fundamentalist Atheists (NFA) were angry, dogmatic and did not take kindly when anyone apostatised from their faith. When one of the old atheists, Anthony Flew, announced ‘There is a God’, they went berserk, accusing him of senility at best and betrayal at worst. Others have had the same experience – the atheist heresy hunters will not brook any dissent from their dogma. One such was Richard Morgan who had a rather special conversion through interaction on the Dawkins website. He wrote in a chapter in a later edition of The Dawkins Letters, (called ‘Salvation came through Richard Dawkins’): ‘As I considered my perception of life, the universe and everything, it was literally as if I had been looking at a two-dimensional image in black and white, and in an instant everything became three dimensional and Technicolor’. Poor Richard was immediately identified as having some kind of mental disorder.

The Atheist Creed

Those of the atheist faith – or at least of the NFA sect – tend to use the same arguments all the times. They have their creed and mantras – one of which is ‘atheism is just the lack of belief in God, like people have a lack of belief in fairies’. If that were true then why has a retired businessman, Louis J Appignani, given $2.2 million to endow the USA’s first atheist academic chair – a post that it was announced this week has just been filled? Dawkins of course welcomed this chair: ‘I think it’s a very bold step of the University of Miami, and I hope there will be others’. Perhaps someone could explain how you can have an academic chair just to study the lack of belief? Will Mr Appignani be funding the Afairiest chair?

No – atheists have their faith positions, their doctrines, their books and – a la Richard Dawkins – their evangelists. It is therefore entirely appropriate that they now have their own theatre show. If only they could find some decent atheist music they could be on to something!

Meanwhile as a Christian I am very thankful for Richard Dawkins. He has enabled many more people to hear the Christian Gospel and to see the inadequacies of the atheist faith. I hope and pray that one day he too will come to see that atheism is an unreal delusion and that he will come to know the truth he so vehemently seeks to deny.

Speaking of atheist music – or the lack thereof – my friend Angela, reminded me of this classic from Steve Martin….


The Dawkins Letters – A Finnish Appreciation

Should Christians be Nice in dealing with Nasty Atheists


12 thoughts on “The Atheist Theatre Experience

    1. Here’s what I’ve observed about atheists, Mark:
      you think you can sink icebergs by taking potshots at the bit above the surface. Admittedly, a conception of God like the much-maligned God of the gaps notion is an easy target, but expending ammunition on attacking it is counter-productive. The tip of the theology iceberg is really a belief in the God of the Unknown and it is hubris to imagine that we will ever in this life know everything. What atheism-promoting ‘men and women of science’ tend to overlook is that God is also the God of the known. Under the surface of belief in the God of the unknown, or the God of Completion if you like, lie the beliefs that keep belief in God afloat. God is also:
      the God of Love
      the God of Grace
      the God of Glory
      the God of Union
      the God of gods
      the God of Peace

      You might be right that we know nothing about atheism, Mark, but we do know that you need a bigger gun than the threadbare, unsubstantiated claim that there is no God.


  1. Perhaps, The Dawkins Delusion, named after a book by Alastair ???, should be staged next door.
    Dawkins book may give some who are able opportunity to answer but ordinary Christians may be left tongue tied.

  2. This apparently gleeful description of atheism by the religious as a matter of faith is popular amongst those who feel their personal religious convictions are being threatened by the non-believers. It’s odd.

    I wonder how you back up a statement like “Fans of TGD regard it with all the reverence of holy writ and see it as a life-changing book that ‘should be placed in every school’ (nothing like a little atheist indoctrination!).” You’ve taken a poll have you? I guess you could call me a “fan” of Dawkins’ book if all it takes to qualify is to admit to having read it and agreed with it’s general message. Do I want it placed in every school? Oh well – I guess every school’s library should reflect the diversity of thought on the topic of religion so perhaps that isn’t a bad idea – but would placing a copy of a book in a school qualify as “indoctrination”? Think of all the “indoctrination” taking place by the mere placing of books in schools in that case David….books on evolution, books on mathematics, on science, on chemistry – there’s no end to the indoctrination once you start thinking about it!

    “Dawkins’s own website had a ‘converts corner’ where people could give their testimony about how they ‘saw the light’” – and? You’d prefer they remain silent is that it? I imagine losing faith in previously held religious convictions would be a quite significant event in an individuals life. It appears that your religious faith has been nothing but positive for you David but there would be countless others for who it was a very negative part of their life so perhaps you shouldn’t begrudge them an expression of their personal experience.

    “Those of the atheist faith – or at least of the NFA sect – tend to use the same arguments all the times. They have their creed and mantras “….I often flick over to one of the 4 or so Christian channels available on pay tv and lo and behold all the beaten down messages are eventually trotted out omore ne by one, the cross, gave his only son, washed away our sin, his blood etc etc etc ……..if ever there was a mantra.

    For people so apparently convinced of the absolute truth of their various gods, it’s odd how they continually have to meet once a week and go over the essentials time and time and time again.

    1. John,
      As a former non aggressive atheist and as adult convert to Christ, I certainly don’t feel threatened by believing atheists. In fact, until I became a Christian, I fddn’t realise there was so much, vile and bile and mockery against Christ.
      Your last paragraph, shows no understanding, or a flaccid understanding gleaned from your somewhat curious often flicking: “…I often flick over to one of the 4 or so Christian channels available on pay tv…”. Weird indeed, when, along with many Christians I know, I have little interest in any of those channels.
      It is also remarkable that you write so much here, in response to your atheisist religious convictions being threatened by David’s temerity in penning the article. Don’t you see the irony? Is there any self awareness?

    2. Don’t have to meet with fellow believers every week, John,
      but — thank God — I get to.

      I confess that I’m somewhat heartened that the mantra being picked up from Christian television channels concerns the message of the Cross. I’d have feared otherwise. You do betray a bit of cynicism when you put ‘absolute truth’ and ‘various gods’ next to one another but assuming that you are genuinely puzzled about why we do what we do, here’s a suggestion: think about us going through a checklist rather than repeating a mantra.

      1. Does my baptism mean what it ought to mean to me?
      2. Does what is being said accord with what the Bible teaches?
      3. Is my profession of loving God proved genuine by my love for other believers?
      4. When I remember what Jesus has done — especially at Communion — am I totally trusting in his death for my life?
      5. Are my ‘Amens’ to prayers genuine and my singing from the heart?
      6. Am I ready to give a reason for the burning conviction of hope within me?
      7. When I leave this place, to whom am I going to tell the Good News?

      (another) John/.

  3. well said. I wonder if some well meaning Christians think one should never read Dawkins book or see the play. There are no new arguments for atheism, but there are new presentations. However, as you say, it is an opportunity for people to hear the gospel and we know that all whom God is calling will come to him. However they means by which some come may be surprising. I pity people like Dawkins who hate God so much that they deny him and attempt to take others with them.

  4. Father Thomas Crean, OP, in his book, “A Catholic Replies to Professor Dawkins” states that Dawkins offers only one philosophical argument for atheism. “It could be called the ‘argument from complexity’. His idea is this: if a being existed with the attributes generally said to belong to God, such a being would be complex, and therefore would require a cause.” “..he could state his case more carefully in these terms: ‘God is supposed to be both the intelligent designer of the universe and also the first being; but any intelligent designer of the universe would be so complex as to require a cause outside of itself; therefore there can be no God who is both an intelligent designer and also the first being.’” Fr Crean then goes on to show why that argument is false.
    On the argument that such a God would need a designer, Michael Augros has written a book, “Who Designed the Designer? A Rediscovered Path to God’s Existence.”

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