PLAYBOY: Funny. But without faith in an afterlife, in what do you take comfort in times of despair?
DAWKINS: Human love and companionship. But in more thoughtful, cerebral moments, I take—comfort is not quite the right word, but I draw strength from reflecting on what a privilege it is to be alive and what a privilege it is to have a brain that’s capable in its limited way of understanding why I exist and of reveling in the beauty of the world and the beauty of the products of evolution. The magnificence of the universe and the sense of smallness that gives us in space and in geologically deep time is humbling but in a strangely comforting way. It’s nice to feel you’re part of a hugely bigger picture.
PLAYBOY: You’ve made the point that if Jesus existed and went to his death as described in the Bible, it was, as you put it, “barking mad.”
DAWKINS: There’s no evidence Jesus himself was barking mad, but the doctrine invented later by Paul that Jesus died for our sins surely is. It’s a truly disgusting idea that the creator of the universe—capable of inventing the laws of physics and designing the evolutionary process—that this protégé of supernatural intellect couldn’t think of a better way to forgive our sins than to have himself tortured to death. And what a terrible lesson to say we’re born in sin because of the original sin of Adam, a man even the Catholic Church now says never existed.