Richard Dawkins questions Jesus’s existence in Playboy magazine

Below is a quote from Richard Dawkin’s interview in the September 2012 edition of “Playboy,” in which he questions the existence of Jesus Christ as a historical figure. It’s nice that Dawkins has apparently been appraised of Earl Doherty’s important work on the Pauline epistles, but there is MUCH more to mythicist studies than just a single aspect of the analysis. If “Playboy” wants an expert on Jesus mythicism, they should come to me. (No, I will not pose, as I’m not into doing a Joan Collins reprise.)

The commentary is better framed not as “the evidence for Jesus’s existence is surprisingly shaky” but that “the evidence points to the ‘Jesus Christ’ of the New Testament as a fictional composite of characters, real and mythical. A composite of multiple ‘people’ is no one.”

Moreover, anyone who has studied the religion, mythology and philosophy of antiquity knows that there is nothing morally novel or advanced in the New Testament that could not be found in pre-Christian times. What the composers of the New Testament have done is cherry-picked ancient ideas and reworked them to revolve around a fictional character in order to further their agenda.

In addition, it can be shown – as I have done in my book Who Was Jesus? – that the supposedly stellar moral character of Jesus Christ as depicted in the NT is not what it is cracked up to be.

It is HIGHLY refreshing, however, that this subject is being aired in a mainstream publication. And you know we’ve really progressed when “Playboy” has become a mainstream publication.

Playboy Interview: Richard Dawkins

PLAYBOY: What is your view of Jesus?

DAWKINS: The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky. The earliest books in the New Testament to be written were the Epistles, not the Gospels. It’s almost as though Saint Paul and others who wrote the Epistles weren’t that interested in whether Jesus was real. Even if he’s fictional, whoever wrote his lines was ahead of his time in terms of moral philosophy.

Dawkins’s comments are also refreshing in consideration of the fact that not long ago he was making remarks such as the following, when asked about the short and simplified summary of the Jesus mythicist position in the film “Zeitgeist”:

I am deeply suspicious of this video. I think there are SOME revealing similarities between the Jesus myth, and the other god myths mentioned. But there are surely not as many similarities as are alleged here. For example, all those gods being born on “December 25th.” That would be an amazingly powerful weapon against Christianity if it were true, but it is surely not true. Our system of naming dates didn’t even exist when some of those god myths arose. This cavalier use of “December 25th” is just one example. I am suspicious of many other details on similar grounds. The whole film has the air of something made up, in pursuit of an anti-Christian agenda (with which I happen to sympathize) but with almost complete disregard for truth, which I fear parallels the lies told by religious apologists.

Although Dawkins is evidently referring to the entire film,* it is utterly fallacious and calumnious to assert that the short and concise summary in the first or religion part (“ZG1.1”) has an “almost complete disregard for truth.” Each of the main contentions in ZG1.1 concerning Jesus mythicism can be documented with primary sources and works of credentialed authorities, as in my ZEITGEIST Sourcebook.

Here Dawkins displays that he is unaware of numerous parallels between the Christ myth and many gods and goddesses in pre-Christian antiquity, stretching around the world and dating back thousands of years. As I say, there is much more to the subject, including a large body of mythicist literature over the past several centuries. If one wishes to be considered an expert on the subject of Jesus mythicism, one will need to study this literature, which includes primary sources in numerous languages as well as scientific scholarship from authorities since antiquity into modern times.

Dawkins is also indicating that he has not understood the terminology of “December 25th” to refer to the winter solstice, a time of celebration that extends back into remote antiquity and most assuredly was reworked by Christian doctrine in order to combine the extremely popular sun god or solar deity myths with the Jewish “messianic prophecies” found in the Old Testament and other pre-Christian and proto-Christian writings. This aspect of ancient religion and mythology in which the sun god/solar deity is “born” or “resurrected” at the winter solstice is readily understandable, and this fact of numerous gods “born” at this time was discussed in antiquity, as it was extremely well known and, in fact, represented one of the focal points of ancient religious traditions in many parts of the world. One must wonder how Dawkins fails to know that the winter solstice represents the birth of the sun in traditions globally for the past several thousand years, commemorated as the days become longer and the sunlight increases on a daily basis.

(* Note that I had nothing to do with the creation of the “Zeitgeist” film. That is Peter Joseph’s vision. I was a last-minute consultant on the first part. Regardless of whether or not one agrees with parts 2 and 3, the fact is that ZG was the vehicle for which a possible 200 million or more people worldwide in a variety of languages have now become aware of Jesus mythicist studies. No other medium in history has accomplished such a feat.)

Further Reading

Dawkins: Islam is ‘one of the great evils in the world’
Richard Dawkins on ZEITGEIST, Part 1
Rebuttal to Chris Forbes regarding ZEITGEIST
When Was the First Christmas?
What is a Mythicist?
Did Jesus Fulfill Prophecy?
Dionysus: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Killed and Resurrected after Three Days
Attis: Born of a Virgin on December 25th, Crucified and Resurrected after Three Days
Mithra: Born on December 25th
Was Horus Born on December 25th?


  1. Thanks for posting this blog. Having read some of your books and some of Dawkins’ books as well as those of Harris etc. it does seem to me that they certainly would learn plenty from reading them. In my view, your work contains the substance missing from atheism. I appreciate how you do your best to track down the origins of religious concepts and trace the mythology that goes along with it and I find it fascinating.

  2. Russell Wm. Behne I

    Dawkins’ fallacies of distraction
    [quote]The evidence he existed is surprisingly shaky.[/quote]
    Now THAT must rank very close to being the biggest understatement of the millenium!

    What evidence is he referring to? The Bible isn’t scientific proof, just literature, much of it proven to be interpolations and plagiarisms of more ancient documents. There is no scientific proof whatsoever of his existence, just stories, all unproven.

    But there IS a massive [i]preponderance of evidence[/i] that proves conclusively, and proves [i]beyond reasonable doubt,[/i] that the ‘Jesus Christ’ of the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional composite of characters, both real and mythical, and a composite of multiple ‘people’ is not a person.

    In his interview in the September 2012 edition of “Playboy”, Richard Dawkins isn’t using scientific principles, and is basing his opinion on his personal beliefs rather than actual published evidence and scientific methodology.

    Dawkins’ arguments suffer heavily from the Fallacies of Distraction, specifically Argumentum Ad Ignorantiam (argument from ignorance) whereby he states that just because something is not known to be true (to him), it is therefore false. Considering Dawkins’ demonstrated ignorance of the vast mountain of scholarly evidence that exists conclusively proving the mythisist position on the issue, it is clear that he is also obviously speaking while under the influence of the “Dunning-Kurger Effect [url]…0.0…1c.1.h3yf3txxfa0[/url]”, (Google it).

    Richard Dawkins, please do your homework before you [u]pretend[/u] that you know what you’re talking about!

  3. I love her books, they have helped me understand my skepticism and non belief. I have offered to loan my books to the religious people I know in my community, but they won’t have it. They want me to read their bible, I told them I did and now I want them to read mine. Still they refuse. I guess they’re afraid of losing their faith and end up in hell.

  4. “One must wonder how Dawkins fails to know that the winter solstice represents the birth of the sun in traditions globally for the past several thousand years, commemorated as the days become longer and the sunlight increases on a daily basis”

    Well to be fair, ancient history is not really Dawkin’s strong point. He probably does know a reasonable deal about history, but he’s no expert.
    When it comes to his own specialty- biology, on the other hand, he’s very knowledgeable.

    In any case, its good to see more mainstream publications raising awareness of the idea that Jesus was fictional.

  5. Sam Harris seems to be a little more versed in the mythicist position. I think Richard simply sees no need for it. He and Dan Dennett and Jerry Coyne are hard core empiricists, so, you know, they probably won’t ever come around to anything to do with “myth”. Personally, I think their arguments in debate would carry more weight if they could back themselves up with a knowledge of the myth behind the religions. But, then, the religious fruitcakes rail at Acharya as strongly as they do against the atheists. Of course, the knowledge of the myth deflates the entire balloon, so what would the atheists rail against then? I mean, the enemy evaporates. Personally, I think the mythicist position is a more “dangerous” position than atheism. The wingnuts “know” what they’re supposed to think about atheists, but they are lost to a degree when it comes to mythicists, because they simply don’t know what to think and, I think, deep down inside, it rings true. Also, I think mythicism potentially opens up an entire new realm of understanding; whereas, atheism doesn’t necessarily do so. Well, those are my disjointed thoughts for the evening.

    1. You speak as if atheism and mythicism were mutually exclusive, but that is not the case.
      As the term “atheism” is merely an umbrella term for anyone and everyone who doesn’t believe in any god or gods, that would mean that there would be a number of mythicists who are atheists.
      Indeed, I imagine mythicism would appeal more to atheists than to theists, as it basically states that gods are fictional personifications of things like stars, planets, seasons, etc. and not actual beings.

  6. I would like to see a discussion (not a debate) among Acharya, Richard, Dan Dennet and Sam Harris with no religious nuts added for faux controversy. I think it could be fun and immensely enlightening.

  7. Scientists were rated as great heretics by the church, but they were truly religious men because of their faith in the orderliness of the universe.” – Albert Einstein

    “I maintain that the cosmic religious feeling is the strongest and noblest motive for scientific research.” – Albert Einstein

    The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence.”
    ― Nikola Tesla
    “Fights between individuals, as well as governments and nations, invariably result from misunderstandings in the broadest interpretation of this term. Misunderstandings are always caused by the inability of appreciating one another’s point of view. This again is due to the ignorance of those concerned, not so much in their own, as in their mutual fields. The peril of a clash is aggravated by a more or less predominant sense of combativeness, posed by every human being. To resist this inherent fighting tendency the best way is to dispel ignorance of the doings of others by a systematic spread of general knowledge. With this object in view, it is most important to aid exchange of thought and intercourse.”
    ― Nikola Tesla

  8. re: Dawkins’ fallacies of distraction
    [quote name=”Russell Wm. Behne I”][quote]The Bible isn’t scientific proof, just literature, much of it proven to be interpolations and plagiarisms of more ancient documents.[/quote]
    [quote]But there IS a massive [i]preponderance of evidence[/i] that proves conclusively, and proves [i]beyond reasonable doubt,[/i] that the ‘Jesus Christ’ of the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional composite of characters, both real and mythical, and a composite of multiple ‘people’ is not a person.[/quote]
    Please review the Wikipedia entry on “Christ myth theory” and You will see this assertion is not true.

  9. Richard Dawkins claims Jesus existed!

    Richard Dawkins Admits Jesus Existed ([url][/url])

    Lets keep in mind that Dawkins is a biologist not a theologian and he’s quite terribly misinformed as there exists no credible evidence for a historical Jesus. Dawkins relies on other biblical scholars who tell him a historical Jesus must have existed and I address that here: Religion and the Ph.D.: A Brief History ([url][/url])

    If Dawkins thinks there was a historical Jesus, then, he needs to provide the evidence and since he just made the positive claim that “[i]Jesus existed[/i],” therefore, the ‘burden of proof’ is now his responsibility to substantiate the claim.

    Richard Dawkins on Zeitgeist Part 1 ([url][/url])

    Acharya’s Work Complements Sam Harris’s Philosophy ([url][/url])

  10. Eureka moment
    Not until one becomes familiar with the composite studies of Acharya S, (special attention to Mithraism) and then overlays the work of Joseph Atwill and other “Invention of Roman Christianity” theorists, do the dots all begin to connect in a cascade of illumination.

    Christianity was/is a tool which was carefully planned to oppose and marginalize Judaism and create a more docile believer to the advantage of the Roman ruling class. By using Mithraic symbolism, rites, liturgy, canon, etc. and creating skillfully presented fictional literature (New Testament) which accomplished multiple purposes, a new/improved religion could fill the spiritual vacuum left after the expulsion of the Jews.

    This now highly secretive inside joke (at first it was simply exclusive) picture is one of horrifying gall, but understandable in the backdrop of Roman witticism, Roman Purple, Roman Empire, and historical events which precipitated this long-running ruse.

    How long will it be until the sheeple awake? 💡

    1. Thank you for your kind regards. I’m glad you have enjoyed my work.

      As concerns Atwill’s theory, I think he may have a few of the details, but for the overall picture of Christian origins is much more complex, and his work does not factor in the primary sources, i.e., the Bible and Josephus in their original Greek.

      See my article on [i]Caesar’s Messiah[/i] ([url][/url]).

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