By Heather Preston
Noted atheist Richard Dawkins has admitted a world without God would lead to moral decline.
Speaking to The Times, Dawkins said he fears the removal of religion would be a bad idea for society because it would give people “license to do really bad things.”
He likened the importance of a higher power informing our morality to the presence of surveillance cameras to prevent shoplifting, warning people would feel free to commit crimes if the need to obey the “divine spy camera in the sky, reading their every thought” was removed.
“People may feel free to do bad things because they feel God is no longer watching them,” he said.
The Oxford University fellow recalled an experiment that had been set up in a University coffee shop by his former pupil, Melissa Bateson, at the University of Newcastle which allowed students to pay for their hot drinks via an “honesty box”.
The price list was displayed on the wall and was decorated with either floral imagery or a pair of staring eyes depending on the week.
Melissa published her findings in a paper, saying: “people paid nearly three times as much for their drinks when eyes were displayed.”
Dawkins concluded that “whether irrational or not, it does, unfortunately, seem plausible that, if somebody sincerely believes God is watching his every move, he might be more likely to be good.”
“I must say I hate that idea,” he added, “I want to believe that humans are better than that. I’d like to believe I’m honest whether anyone is watching or not.”
Although Dawkins said he doesn’t think the “Great Spy Camera theory” is “a good reason” for him to believe in God he acknowledged that a society that affirms God’s existence can be effective in “keeping the crime rate down.”