Often called the Godfather of atheism, Professor Richard Dawkins found his own in the field of evolutionary biology. After writing several science books, Prof Dawkins published a series of titles attempting to disprove the notion of a god.
Reams of footage can be found online of the scientist in fierce debate with various religious leaders.
Perhaps most famous, his short debate with lead singer of The Killers, Brandon Flowers, over the latter’s belief in Mormonism.
In 2016, Prof Dawkins had a stroke, and again attracted media attention.
This time, however, the spotlight was on the Church of England’s reaction to the news, which tweeted out: “Prayers for Prof Dawkins and his family.”
Many questioned whether the tweet was mocking a British atheist’s position, but the church soon defended the comment, saying it was a “genuine tweet offering prayer for a public person who was unwell”.
Prof Dawkins has since recovered and is back to full-health, though in a 2016 Radio 4 interview revealed he could no longer sing.
Since, the scientist has given numerous talks and interviews, more recently, with The Sun in March.
When asked where religion “started” Prof Dawkins revealed the surprising roots of which mainstream religion has bloomed through the ages.
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He said: “Well, I think it partly comes from history, obviously.
“If you ask where it comes from in an individual it comes from childhood indoctrination.
“Where does it come from historically? Well, I suspect originally from primitive animistic beliefs – sun gods, river gods, fire gods, flood gods, storm gods.
“People have a natural tendency to wonder what causes things.
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“And people have a natural tendency, which I suspect comes from an evolutionary background, to ascribe agency to things.
“Like if there’s a bad thunderstorm, that must be the gods getting angry.
“There’s a tendency to want to think there’s an agent behind everything that happens.
“That there’s a rain god to bring the rain, there’s a sun god that travels across the sky – it’s a very natural impulse.
“I think you can even give it a kind of evolutionary explanation.
“Our ancestors obviously were in danger all the time from predators.
“So, they were constantly as they were looking over their shoulder, looking and wondering whether that could be a leopard or could be a lion.
“Something that isn’t a lion but is just as rustling in the trees or leopard up in the trees.
“It might be a leopard and so the safest thing is to assume that it is even though actually most of the time the trees rustle – it’s just the wind.
“So animism arises from that from the tendency to ascribe agency to everything that happens.
“And then it developed by cultural evolution over time into a more sophisticated kind of animism where you believe there’s one God who does everything and creates the world and so on.”
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