- Ian McEwan: I guess my starting point would be: the brain is responsible for consciousness, and we can be reasonably sure that when that brain ceases to be, when it falls apart and decomposes, that will be the end of us. From that quite a lot of things follow, especially morally. We are the very privileged owners of a brief spark of consciousness, and we therefore have to take responsibility for it. We cannot rely, as Christians or Muslims do, on a world elsewhere, a paradise, to which one can work towards and maybe make sacrifices, and, crucially, make sacrifices of other people. We have a marvellous gift, and you see it develop in children, this ability to become aware that other people have minds just like your own and feelings that are just as important as your own, and this gift of empathy seems to me to be the building block of our moral system.
Richard Dawkins: I profoundly agree with you, and I've always felt that one of the things that is wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all.
Ian McEwan: And if you have a sacred text that tells you how the world began or what the relationship is between this sky-god and you, it does curtail your curiosity, it cuts off a source of wonder. The loveliness of the world in its wondrousness is not apparent to me in Islam or Christianity and all the other major religions.
- from The Root of All Evil?, Channel 4 documentary, United Kingdom (January 2006)
- On the 9/11 hijackers: "Now, I'm an atheist. I really don't believe for a moment that our moral sense comes from a God. … It's human, universal, [it's] being able to think our way into the minds of others. As I said at the time, what those holy fools clearly lacked, or clearly were able to deny themselves, was the ability to enter into the minds of the people they were being so cruel to. Amongst their crimes, is, was, a failure of the imagination, of the moral imagination." (From "Faith and Doubt At Ground Zero," Frontline, February, 2002)