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."
Founder and president of the Christian ministry Answers in Genesis, Ken Ham has responded to Dawkins' comments, saying they expose the contradiction of morality without a belief in God.
"Dawkins has spent his life fighting against God (the God he doesn't believe even exists). But he still recognises that atheism (the worldview religion of Richard Dawkins) doesn't provide the foundation for morality that is needed to keep people from doing "really bad things."
"Without a biblical foundation, anything goes - who is to say what is right or wrong? There is no ultimate foundation. It becomes arbitrary; everyone does what's right in their own eyes. In fact, Dawkins is admitting that atheism is totally bankrupt morally."
"Dawkins may think the masses need to maintain a belief in God for social order, but there's a much more important reason to believe in God, and his Son, Jesus Christ: to respond to the gospel and receive eternal salvation. Apart from Christ, we are headed to an eternity without God because of our sin. But Jesus Christ took on flesh, died on the cross in our place, and rose from the dead. If we repent and believe on his name, we receive the free gift of eternal life. That's the message Dawkins, and everyone else, needs to believe and accept.
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