In a long, in-depth interview with Rolling Stone published last week, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said that while he agrees God could be a figment of mankind’s needy imagination, science cannot fully explain how the world came about.
“I agree with people like Richard Dawkins that mankind felt the need for creation myths,” Gates told writer Jeff Goodall. “Before we really began to understand disease and the weather and things like that, we sought false explanations for them. Now science has filled in some of the realm—not all—that religion used to fill. But the mystery and the beauty of the world is overwhelmingly amazing, and there’s no scientific explanation of how it came about. To say that it was generated by random numbers, that does seem, you know, sort of an uncharitable view. [laughs] I think it makes sense to believe in God, but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know.”
The question came after some discussion on Gates’ wife’s Catholicism and whether Gates is religious. “I’ve been very lucky, and therefore I owe it to try and reduce the inequity in the world,” he said. “And that’s kind of a religious belief. I mean, it’s at least a moral belief.”
Gates’ wealth, innovation, and subsequent philanthropy have made him a household name. A significant portion of Rolling Stone’s interview went into detail on his work around the world trying to eradicate poverty, cure infectious disease, and stop global warming through his well-funded foundation. While giving a hat tip to God for creating the world, Gates’ comments suggest he believes more in his own brand of secular humanism than a divine, omniscient creator.
Still, his answers to Goodall’s questions represent something of a shift in perspective for the world’s richest man. Mashable.com noted quite a different tone from Gates in a 1995 interview with PBS reporter David Frost. At the time, Gates seemed far more interested in the efficient end, rather than the actual truth of religion. “The specific elements of Christianity are not something I’m a huge believer in,” he said. “There's a lot of merit in the moral aspects of religion. I think it can have a very, very positive impact.”