Richard Dawkins defends the moral goodness of infanticide and adultery

Richard Dawkins’ recent tweet (see below) caused me to re-post this old post about how atheists struggle with morality. And not just Stalin, but run-of-the-mill atheists, too.

Richard Dawkins explains morality on atheism
Richard Dawkins explains morality on atheism

Here’s the latest moral wisdom from atheist Richard Dawkins, courtesy of Uncommon Descent.


I want to raise another question that interests me. Why are we so obsessed with monogamous fidelity in the first place?

[…]The underlying presumption — that a human being has some kind of property rights over another human being’s body — is unspoken because it is assumed to be obvious. But with what justification?

In one of the most disgusting stories to hit the British newspapers last year, the wife of a well-known television personality, Chris Tarrant, hired a private detective to spy on him. The detective reported evidence of adultery and Tarrant’s wife divorced him, in unusually vicious style. But what shocked me was the way public opinion sided with Tarrant’s horrible wife. Far from despising, as I do, anybody who would stoop so low as to hire a detective for such a purpose, large numbers of people, including even Mr. Tarrant himself, seemed to think she was fully justified. Far from concluding, as I would, that he was well rid of her, he was covered with contrition and his unfortunate mistress was ejected, covered with odium. The explanation of all these anomalous behavior patterns is the ingrained assumption of the deep rightness and appropriateness of sexual jealousy. It is manifest all the way from Othello to the French “crime passionnel” law, down to the “love rat” language of tabloid newspapers.

[…]Why should you deny your loved one the pleasure of sexual encounters with others, if he or she is that way inclined?

I, for one, feel drawn to the idea that there is something noble and virtuous in rising above nature in this way.

[…]And why don’t we all admire — as I increasingly do — those rare free spirits confident enough to rise above jealousy, stop fretting about who is “cheating on” whom,

Here’s a little snippet about Richard Dawkins’ ability to stay married:

In 1984, Dawkins divorced his wife of 17 years, Marian Stamp; later that same year, he married Eve Barham. Dawkins also divorced Barham, though the precise circumstances of this divorce are unclear. He married science fiction actress Lalla Ward in 1992; at present, the two are still married.

I have been advised that the full article featuring Dawkins’ views is far, far worse that what was excerpted by UD.

What does atheist morality amount to, in practice? It amounts to the strong acting selfishly and allowing the weak to suffer for it. That’s why atheists are almost entirely for abortion and sexual permissiveness – the children are the first to be screwed by the moral relativism of the adults. That’s where abortion, no-fault divorce, fatherlessness, etc. come from – they are crimes committed by selfish adults against vulnerable children – because they can. It’s the strong abusing the weak, exactly as Darwinism would have them do. There are no human rights on atheism, and there is no reason for self-sacrificial moral behavior, either. Do what you want, and don’t get caught. Get them, before they can get you. Don’t let anyone diminish your happiness with their moral rules. That’s “atheist morality”.

This isn’t the first time that we’ve caught a glimpse of Dawkins’ atheist perspective on morality, either.

Morality according to atheist Richard Dawkins

Rev. George Pitcher writes about an interview of Christopher Hitchens conducted by Richard Dawkins. (H/T Thinking Christian)


But the centrepiece of this Christmas edition is the main coup for the New Statesman – an interview by Prof. Dawkins with Christopher Hitchens, the great polymath who today lost his fight against cancer. It’s a fascinating read over three double-page spreads. Not least because Prof. Dawkins reveals a charming humility, allowing Hitchens to show his intellectual superiority at his own expense. Hitchens is thoughtful about CS Lewis and Christianity and rather leaves Prof. Dawkins floundering in his wake, occasionally interjecting little assents to show that he’s still there, as he struggles to keep up.

But one of these interjections is most revealing. About half-way through, the Prof gets this in edgeways: ‘Do you ever worry that if we win and, so to speak, destroy Christianity, that vacuum would be filled by Islam?’

So, ‘if we win…and destroy Christianity’. True, there’s a ‘so to speak’ in there, but it doesn’t do much. Try ‘If we win and, so to speak, kill all the Jews’ as an alternative. Doesn’t really work, does it? And Prof Dawkins can hardly claim that he was misquoted or taken out of context. He was editing the magazine, after all – there’s even a picture of him doing so, pen poised masterfully over page proofs.

Now you might think that Dawkins intends to destroy Christianity in debates, and not in the wars and purges of atheism that occurred last century in North Korea, Cambodia, China, the Soviet Union, and so on. Those atheist regimes caused the deaths of 100 million people, according to Harvard University Press. But Dawkins has refused to debate William Lane Craig on more than one occasion. So whatever he means by “destroy Christianity”, he doesn’t mean “defeat them in rational debate, using superior arguments and evidence”. He had his chance to do that, and he passed on it. So, he must mean something else by “destroying Christianity” other than persuasion.

Let’s find out what Richard Dawkins thinks about morality. Dawkins has previously written this:

The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are slowly being devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst, and disease. It must be so. If there ever is a time of plenty, this very fact will automatically lead to an increase in the population until the natural state of starvation and misery is restored. In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.

(“God’s Utility Function,” Scientific American, November, 1995, p. 85)

Dawkins’ view is that nothing is really good or bad objectively. Cultures just evolve certain conventions, and those conventions vary arbitrarily by time and place. I think we need to interpret his goal of destroying Christianity against the backdrop of his nihilism. 50 million unborn children have been killed in the United States since 1973 alone. That’s 50 million people with distinct genetic codes different from their mothers or their fathers, who will never grow up to achieve their potential.

Dawkins himself is in favor of infanticide:

So what might destroying Christianity look like to an atheist?

Here it what destroying Christianity means in North Korea, the most atheistic country on the planet.


A Christian woman accused of distributing the Bible, a book banned in communist North Korea, was publicly executed last month for the crime, South Korean activists said Friday.

The 33-year-old mother of three, Ri Hyon Ok, also was accused of spying for South Korea and the United States, and of organizing dissidents, a rights group said in Seoul, citing documents obtained from the North.

The Investigative Commission on Crime Against Humanity report included a copy of Ri’s government-issued photo ID and said her husband, children and parents were sent to a political prison the day after her June 16 execution.

That’s what Kim Jong Il means by “destroy Christianity”. What does Dawkins mean by it?

FLASHBACK: American Atheists calls for the eradication of Christianity.

17 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins defends the moral goodness of infanticide and adultery”

  1. Funny how he thinks a woman is evil for hiring a private detective to prove adultery but the man is not for having committed it. Why is one of those things right and the other wrong – just because Dawkins says so? Why is his opinion any more valid than that of those who claim adultery is wrong? Why, in fact, is anything wrong if the universe works the way he claims? He seems not be be able to live within his own assumptions.


  2. “Dawkins’ view is that nothing is really good or bad objectively.”

    He then proceeds to make what are, according to his view, subjective judgments about what people should or should not do, because he said so.

    That’s one of my main problems with moral relativists. They claim that there is no objective morality, but do not live their lives or frame their views around that precept, except where it is convenient to do so.


    1. In case you are curious, most of these folks aren’t moral relativists, an do in fact claim there is objective morality. There are entire books describing their take on where objective morality comes from in the absence of a deity. Sam Harris’ book ‘The Moral Landscape’ was written specifically to talk about this very point. Argue away, but you may want to arm yourself with their ACTUAL positions. Picking a straw-man like this weakens your credibility by making it look like you’ve not investigated the folks you’re attacking.


      1. Here are four prominent atheists explaining the atheist view of morality:

        “Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either. “
        – Cornell University evolutionist William Provine, in a debate with Phillip E. Johnson

        The idea of political or legal obligation is clear enough… Similarly, the idea of an obligation higher than this, referred to as moral obligation, is clear enough, provided reference to some lawgiver higher…than those of the state is understood. In other words, our moral obligations can…be understood as those that are imposed by God…. But what if this higher-than-human lawgiver is no longer taken into account? Does the concept of moral obligation…still make sense? …The concept of moral obligation [is] unintelligible apart from the idea of God. The words remain but their meaning is gone. (Richard Taylor, Ethics, Faith, and Reason (Englewood Cliffs, N. J.: Prentice-Hall, 1985), p. 83-84)

        The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory. (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).

        In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))

        In an accidental universe, in which humans are the results of a random process, there are no human rights, and no way that humans ought to be. We are just collocations of atoms in motion, and when we die, that’s the end of it – on your view. That was the view of atheists like Stalin and Pol Pot and Idi Amin and Kim Jong Il. Atheism means there is no such thing as morality.

        And the Craig-Harris debate summary is here:


  3. Always an interesting, yet sickening, case study when these loony atheist libs state what they actually believe. From some of the bizarre comments by the gun grabbers in CO, to these kinds of statements by Dick Dawk…how they remain relevant is beyond me. Perhaps it says something about our society’s moral decay…


  4. I think these are the issues that really need to be pressed with our atheist friends. It’s not so much the values he holds as it is the demand that he’s right in holding them while insisting that others are wrong if they don’t. It’s subtle, but by way of example, he questions what’s really wrong with infidelity, unaware that the very question presumes there is an actual answer. On the one hand they want to deny objective moral values while telling you what’s right or wrong. Of course, that’s absurd.


  5. There’s much to address here, WK, but so far as Dawkins defending adultery, and his description of marriage giving spouses “property rights”…Does this man have no love in his heart? Don’t spouses GIVE to one another the confidence that from the vows forward (and preferable prior to the vows, too), no other shall share their body? Also…what is so wrong about a husband expecting his wife not to sleep around and vice versa? How is that so awful, especially when done out of love and respect?

    Or maybe it is simply: Self-denial for the sake of something greater is so hard.

    I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a crazy person.


  6. Hasn’t Dawkins attacked the infanticide mentioned in the bible when the Jews wiped out their enemies ? (btw, other cultures did that also) but if he defends it – then it is okay.
    Amending marriage vows without the other persons consent is “lying”.
    In addition, a illicit sexual lifestyle has medical, financial, emotional, mental, and social consequences.
    This cannot be denied.
    To attempt to remove/navigate natural consequences reduces man/woman to the level of a “animal” of which Dawkins reasonings/premises resembles that of a “ass” that eats, sleeps, drinks, breathes, excrement, and reproduce and nothing else.


  7. Couldn’t believe what I read, WK. I think these quotes reveal what may be at or near the heart of Dawkins’s vitriol: sexual freedom and selfishness. I mean, a person isn’t getting divorced twice because they like wedding cake. They also aren’t promoting some bizarre promiscuity by people who are already married because they care about other people.

    Apparently, verbal promises, commitments, and monogamy have no place or importance in the Dawkins-esque atheist world. Only selfish genes seem to be the sole guide in moral decisions.

    Ironic, isn’t it?


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  9. “That’s what Kim Jong Il means by “destroy Christianity”. What does Dawkins mean by it?”

    A good question! The Roman Emperor Julian the Apostate, an intelligent emperor by all accounts, (and they had their fair share of bad, stupid emperors!) tried to turn the Empire away from Christianity, which had been becoming more widespread and popular since the days of a previous emperor, Constantine; and back to paganism and the new ‘Neoplatonism’ doctrine. (This was around about the same time Augustine, future bishop of Hippo, was getting interested in Neoplatonism, as well as a cult, Manicheism). Julian failed despite his high intelligence and drive, hindered greatly by dying 2 years into his reign. Neoplatonism may well have seemed very clever and logical, like the ‘dialectical materialism’ of the science-liking Soviets, some 16 centuries later, and the modern-day version of atheism trumpeted by Dawkins et al. But all three lack that thing which made Christianity so appealing to so many people of that era, including, eventually, Augustine, and makes it so enduringly appealing even now. That thing escapes Dawkins, as it escaped Marx, and perhaps Julian, too.

    So in answer to your question (yes, which was probably rhetorical!), I think Dawkins wants to do what Julian the Apostate and the Soviets and the radical French Revolutionaries and others wanted to do: Use reasoning and logic, mixed with some strident mockery, to turn people away from Christianity (yes, despite his non-appearance at some debates!). But I don’t think his side will succeed with their current campaign of badgering, belittling, and baiting opponents. What atheism would need to do to ‘destroy’ Christianity is offer people something that is even better and more attractive than Jesus, and simpler. But they can’t, and instead offer nothing, nothing but the emptiness of space and the certainty of death. I wonder if the fact that atheists cannot, despite all their PhDs and awesome logic and booklearning and certainty, provide something more appealing than Jesus Christ, is one of the reasons for their tiresomely neverending scorn!


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