Dawkins’s own intolerance for religion began when he was in his teens and a pupil at Oundle public school in England. “Intolerance isn’t quite the word I would use,” he says, correcting me. “My disbelief in religion began at about 15.” And the cause? “I grew up and became old enough to think.”
He cites a recent survey in Nature magazine, which examined religious belief in elite American scientists. It showed that 90% of the members of the National Academy (the US equivalent of the Royal Society) described themselves as atheists.
I ask him if he thinks science and religion can co-exist at all. He thinks a form of religion can, as long as it follows what he calls Einsteinian principles. “When Einstein used the word God he most definitely didn’t mean any kind of supernatural person or being. He was using the word as a poetic signifier for that which we don’t yet understand,” he says.
“I would say I belong in Einstein’s camp. We both believe in a sense of awe and reverence for the deep mysteries of the universe but we don’t believe in anything supernatural.”