Do you believe in God? Sometimes this question warrants more than just a yes or no answer. To categorize one’s own beliefs about the possibility of the existence of a deity, Dawkins proposed a “spectrum of probabilities” in his book The God Delusion. This spectrum consists of two extremes — strong theist on one end, and strong atheist on the other. There are a number of milestones in between, which are all charted on a 7-point scale (e.g., “weak atheist”).
Below are some of history’s greatest thinkers on the subject of God, religion and faith. We’ve scored them on the Dawkins scale for your reference.
In some cases, it is obviously difficult to pin a complex thinker to a specific score or category. For example, Thomas Jefferson extracted, edited, and rearranged sections of the New Testament for a new version of the “Jefferson Bible.” The act of editing the Bible, and the passages he chose to cut, suggests that Jefferson had issues with the Bible, and yet he was no atheist.
In Pascal’s famous wager, Blaise Pascal proposed that betting on the side of God is a safe hedge in the here-and-now. There is nothing to lose by being wrong about God, so play it safe in the event that God is manning the gates of Heaven in the hereafter. Pascal’s Wager is a clever device to dispatch the debate about the existence of God, but gives little insight as to whether Pascal actually believes in God’s plausibility.
And then there are those whose criteria for belief is downright hilarious (see Woody Allen’s quote below). And people who have no problem with God, they just don’t agree with how mankind has chosen to follow Him: “I think everyone should treat one another in a Christian manner. I will not, however, be responsible for the consequences.” – George Carlin.
Richard Dawkins’ Belief Scale Scoring Rubric
Jesus of Nazareth (John 3:16): “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” score: 1.0
Martin Luther King Jr. “A physical heaven and a physical hell are inconceivable in a Copernican world … for us immortality will mean a spiritual existence.” score: 2.8
Pascal’s Wager (Blaise Pascal):If there is a God, He is infinitely incomprehensible, since, having, neither parts nor limits, He has no affinity to us. We are then incapable of knowing either what He is or if He is. [So] you must wager. Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager then without hesitation that he is.”score: 3.4
Woody Allen: “If only God would give me some clear sign! Like making a large deposit in my name in a Swiss bank” score: 3.9
Albert Einstein: “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” score: 4.0
Thomas Jefferson: “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.” score: 4.2
Mark Twain: “The gods offer no rewards for intellect. There was never one yet that showed any interest in it…” score: 4.8
Buddha: Neither deny or accept a creator. score: 5.0
Carl Sagan: “An atheist has to know a lot more than I know. An atheist is someone
who knows there is no god. By some definitions atheism is very
stupid” score: 5.5
Richard Dawkins: “On a scale of seven, where one means I know he exists, and seven I know he doesn’t, I call myself a six. That doesn’t mean I’m absolutely confident, that I absolutely know, because I don’t.” score 6.0
Christopher Hitchens: “Once you assume a creator and a plan, it makes us objects in a cruel experiment whereby we are created sick and commanded to be well, and over us to supervise this is installed a celestial dictatorship. A kind of divine North Korea.” score: 7.0