Derren Brown, interview with Richard Dawkins for Dawkins' Channel4 programme, "The Enemies of Reason."
Richard Dawkins: Where does your scepticism come from?
Derren Brown: Well, in terms of my history, I used to be a very devout Christian when I was younger, but didn’t have a Christian family, didn’t have Christian friends… but it came from a Bible reading class when I was young; it was an unpleasant childhood indoctrination. But because I grew up without a Christian peer group, when I got to university it was relatively easy for me to kind of think my way out of it, to start to challenge it and not feel too much guilt…
At the same time I was getting into magic and, through magic, realising how things like tarot cards and psychics really work and that there’s nothing mystical about it that could therefore be seen as dangerous, but it’s just simply sort of rubbish and charlatanism and psychology at work…
I’d talked to psychics and I’d listened to their sort of circular beliefs and I remembering thinking, “I am doing exactly the same thing, but as a Christian.” The only difference is that it’s easier to laugh at them because it’s a fringe belief, whereas my belief is so much more endorsed institutionally, it’s more respectable, that I thought, “I’m just being a hypocrite.”
So I started to read some theology texts and books about how the Bible really came together and a kind of mixture of books that I hoped would at least challenge my easy, pat answers that I had as a young Christian. And I felt that if I could just undo all the easy answers, if I just had a bunch of questions, that I might actually be able to build a much stronger, more defensible faith from it.
And then that sort of just didn’t happen. It just all seemed silly and I realised that there was no going back, and once you realise that the Bible isn’t an historical account of things that have happened, then, you’re sort of left with no basis for it at all.
From that, then, I wanted to defend my non-belief as strongly as I felt that I should’ve been able to defend it as a believer, so that’s something that’s been left with me.