Monday, November 20, 2006

 

'Why I Am Hostile Toward Religion' by Richard Dawkins

From Beliefnet ('Inspiration, Spirituality, Faith'):

"I oppose fundamentalist religion because it is hell-bent on ruining the scientific education of countless eager minds." - Richard Dawkins, Author of The God Delusion (Amazon Astore UK | US)

"Despite my dislike of gladiatorial contests, I seem somehow to have acquired a reputation for pugnacity toward religion. Colleagues who agree that there is no God, who agree that we do not need religion to be moral, and agree that we can explain the roots of religion and of morality in non-religious terms, nevertheless come back at me in gentle puzzlement. Why are you so hostile? What is actually wrong with religion? Does it really do so much harm that we should actively fight against it? Why not live and let live, as one does with Taurus and Scorpio, crystal energy and ley lines? Isn't it all just harmless nonsense?

I might retort that such hostility as I or other atheists occasionally voice toward religion is limited to words. I am not going to bomb anybody, behead them, stone them, burn them at the stake, crucify them, or fly planes into their skyscrapers, just because of a theological disagreement. But my interlocutor usually doesn't leave it at that. He may go on to say something like this: 'Doesn't your hostility mark you out as a fundamentalist atheist, just as fundamentalist in your own way as the wingnuts of the Bible Belt in theirs?' I need to dispose of this accusation of fundamentalism, for it is distressingly common.

Holy Books vs. Evidence

Fundamentalists know they are right because they have read the truth in a holy book and they know, in advance, that nothing will budge them from their belief. The truth of the holy book is an axiom, not the end product of a process of reasoning. The book is true, and if the evidence seems to contradict it, it is the evidence that must be thrown out, not the book. By contrast, what I, as a scientist, believe (for example, evolution) I believe not because of reading a holy book but because I have studied the evidence. It really is a very different matter. Books about evolution are believed not because they are holy. They are believed because they present overwhelming quantities of mutually buttressed evidence. In principle, any reader can go and check that evidence. When a science book is wrong, somebody eventually discovers the mistake and it is corrected in subsequent books. That conspicuously doesn’t happen with holy books.

Continued at "'Why I Am Hostile Toward Religion' by Richard Dawkins"
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An excerpt (Chapter 1) from 'The God Delusion' (Amazon Astore UK | US) is available here courtesy of the New York Times but (free) registration may be required.

See the recent post (Sunday, November 19, 2006) on the The Sunday Times article "Godless Dawkins challenges schools" which ends with:

There are a number of articles (book reviews, etc.) and videos ('The Root of All Evil?: 'The God Delusion' and 'The Virus of Faith'; 'The Blind Watchmaker'; 'The Colbert Report') featuring Richard Dawkins in this weblog (and more) - just type "God Delusion" into the search box in the top left-hand corner of the page and look for 'Video' in the titles.

Books on Creationism from the Science and Evolution Bookshop: UK | US

Books on Intelligent Design from the Science and Evolution Bookshop: UK | US

Books on 'Science and Religion' from the Science and Evolution Bookshop: UK | US

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