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The Root of All Evil? - The Virus of Faith (2 of 2)

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How do we explain the mysteries of life? Science has steadily overturned old religious myths about how all this came to be. Yet those who adhere to Judaism, Christianity or islam still prefer to ignore reason, and have faith in their forever unprovable, omniscient creator. I had thought science was rolling back religious belief, but I was wrong. Far from being beaten, militant faith is on the march all across the world, with terrifying consequences. As a scientist, I am increasingly worried about how faith is undermining science. It's something we must resist, because irrational faith is feeding murderous intolerance throughout the world. In this programme, I want to examine two further problems with religion. I believe it can lead to a warped and inflexible morality and I'm very concerned about the religious indoctrination of children. I want to show how Faith acts like a virus that attacks the young and infects generation after generation. I believe in a law-giver; a god right there actually not behind it, right imminent here; right now. I want to ask whether ancient mythology should be taught as truth in schools. Professor Dawkins, I'm very impressed that you're the new messiah, and I appreciate your desire to redeem the world, but- It's time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. I would rather for them to understand that hell is a place that they absolutely do not wanna go. And I want to show how the scriptural roots of the Judeo-Christian moral edifice are cruel and brutish. "...thou shalt save alive nothing that breatheth: But thou shalt utterly destroy them..." "DESTROY" What in the 21st century are we doing venerating a book that contains such stuff? Science weighs up evidence and advances. Religion is high-bound belief for belief's sake. It's bad for our children, and it's bad for you. "Root of All Evil?" There is something exceedingly odd about the idea of sectarian religious schools. If we hadn't got used to it over the centuries, we'd find it downright bizarre. "The Virus of Faith" Sectarian education has proved to be deeply damaging. It has left a terrible legacy. When you think about it, isn't it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents' religion? These are Jewish children. In another part of Jerusalem, we've seen Moslem children. In Northern Ireland we have Catholic children and Protestant children all going to separate schools. But what's so special about religion that it is allowed to label small children 'Catholic' or 'Protestant'; 'Jewish' or 'Moslem'? Nobody would categorise children by the political party their parents support; call them 'Tory' or 'Labour' children. We agree they're too young to know where they stand on questions of politics. So why is not the same for where they stand on the cosmos, and humanity's place in it? In genetic evolution, a species divides into two, initially geographically. There's some initial separation between the two sub-species, and they divide away from each other genetically. There's no longer gene flow between them, and so they can become separate species. It's a divisive force. Sectarian education acts in a similar way. Children are initially isolated from each other because of their parents' Faith. Then their differences are constantly drilled into them and they embark on opposing life trajectories. Such divisions are encouraged, not just in faraway Israel but right on our doorstep, in Northern Ireland for instance or in London. In north London, the Hasidic Jewish community is the largest after Israel and New York. Here, religious division is taken to its extreme. These ultra-orthodox Jews only marry within their sect. Television is frowned upon, and of course children attend exclusive religious schools, cloistered away from external influences which just might persuade them to look outside their community. I want to find out why these children are being segregated, and whether their culture allows them to open their minds to reality. Hello? - Hello. - Rabbi Gluck. Nice to meet you. - Richard Dawkins. - I'm Richard Dawkins. How do you do? Thanks for coming, nice to meet you. Please come in. Thank you very much. Rabbi Gluck is London born and bred, but you wouldn't necessarily know it. His accent is a testament to the isolation of this religious sect. Why should children be victims of the particular tradition in which they happen to have been born, rather than choosing for themselves by being shown all the evidence that's available? We are all to a certain extent affected by our surroundings. There's no such thing as a person living in a vacuum. No, indeed. We're all affected by our parents, by our families but at the same time we have a choice to stay or otherwise. I think it's important for a minority to be able to have a space where it can express itself; where it can learn about itself. Well couldn't you preserve the customs, the traditions, the history without somehow imposing upon the children views about the universe which modern science would say are simply false? I would say impose upon a Jew anything, I would say that's something which is impossible, I think it's scientifically impossible. We believe that God created the world in six days, we know about evolution - every single Jewish kid knows about evolution and has thought about it and has studied it, and has looked at it, and has thought, "What's going on here?" How many of the children who come up through your system, your school system end up believing in evolution? I'd- I think that- that- that the- the majority don't believe in evolution, they... but at the same time it isn't they don't believe because they don't know about it. You realise they're being taught that the entire world began after what archaeologists would recognise as the agricultural revolution? I mean, these children are being brought up in a very distorted world indeed, and I worry about children being victims of this kind of what I can only describe as mis-education. I find the terms 'distorted' and 'mis-education' rather disturbing. Judaism has its tradition. I think there are various er, scientists who have their tradition. This so-called 'the theory of evolution'- Well it's called that, but that's in a very technical sense. But still, but still it's called that, and it's not called the 'law' of evolution. Well I will call it the 'fact' of evolution, and- Then you're- you're a fundamentalist believer in it. No, no, I'm not a fundamentalist believer. The age of the earth: 5,000 years? I mean that is- I'm sorry, Rabbi, that is ridiculous! Of course, Rabbi Gluck is right that it's important for us to learn about our own background, but what upsets me is that in pursuit of that, these innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods. And this is not just a problem of the Jewish minority. There's pressure from an increasing number of Faith schools of other religions to put scientific fact on a par with primitive creation myths. In science classes, why can't they simply teach science? - You said this is truth 'cos it's based on evidence. - Well no, you don't exactly say that, you say, "We're struggling towards the truth," and as new evidence comes in, we refine it. And in the middle of that, Jesus says, "I am truth." We live in the shadow of a religiously inspired terror And yet it's a strange anomaly that Faith schools are increasing in number and influence in our education system, with active encouragement from Tony Blair's government. There are already 7,000 Faith schools in Britain, but the government's Trust Reforms are encouraging many more. Over half the new City Academies are expected to be sponsored by religious organisations. The most worrying development is a new wave of private evangelical schools that have adopted the American Baptist A.C.E. curriculum: 'Accelerated Christian Education'. Have you been to one of these schools before? - No, I never have. - No. Okay. Accelerated Christian Education slips religious superstitions back into science. If you want to be rude, you'd say it's "programmed learning", If you want to be polite, it's "individualised instruction". - Okay. - So really, each one is teaching themselves. To a certain extent, of course. That has to be modified I had a look at the curriculum booklet that you use for science, and it was very noticeable that God or Jesus did come on just about every page. Yes, yes. We don't have anything like religious instruction in the school - because it is part of the- - I can see you wouldn't need it. No, of course not. Absolutely. In one section of this thing, I suddenly - I was sort of taken aback, because I suddenly started reading about Noah's Ark. I mean, what's that got to do with a science lesson? Well I suppose that depends on your opinion. It could have a lot. If you believe in the story, it could have a lot to do with science. But I mean the stuff that I was taught when I was a kid at school in science now you would laught at and say it was a myth, - But that's what I was taught- - But what were you taught? When I was taught at- one of the things that they told me at school that I've always remembered was that the moon came from the ocean here on earth. and was flung into space, and that's where it came from. Well what you should have been taught, I suppose, is that there is a strong current theory that that's what happened. So what you're really trying to ask me is, "Do you think the Genesis story was true, and that God created the world in seven days?" That's what you'd really like to ask me, right? My answer to that is, "I don't know." Having said that, do I think that if God wanted to do it in seven days he could? - Yeah, I think he could. - He can do anything. - Yeah. - Yes. So it's sort of an academic question, which actually I don't care about the answer very much really. Does that make sense? Kind of, yes. It does make sense. It doesn't make sense to me because I do care about the answer. Why? Because I care about what's true, and I- Well I find Christianity encompasses everything about life. Christianity is life, so it's about everything. It touches education, politics, care, social services, everything. Let me ask about another thing in the booklet, which was about AIDS and HIV. I think somewhere it talks about AIDS being the wages of sin. Is that mixing health education with moralistic preaching? I suppose the flip side of that is that if there is no God and there is no law-giver, why does it matter what I do? Why is rape wrong? Why is paedophilia wrong? Why are any of these things wrong if there is no law-giver? You've just said a very revealing thing. Are you telling me that the only reason why you don't steal and rape and murder is that you're frightened of God? I think that all people, if they think they can get away with something, and it is- there is no consequences, we actually tend to do that. I think that is the reality. Look at the world in which we live. That is the reality. - Okay, well I think better leave it at that. - Okay. Adrian Hawkes, I'm sure, is a well-meaning man. But why should he impose his personal version of reality on children? Not only are they encouraged to consider the weird claims of the bible alongside scientific fact, they are also being indoctrinated into what an objective observer might see as a warped morality. Let me explain why, when it comes to children, I think of religion as a dangerous virus. It is a virus which is transmitted partly through teachers and clergy but also down the generations, from parent to child to grandchild. Children are especially vulnerable to infection by the virus of religion. A child is genetically pre-programmed to accumulate knowledge from figures of authority. The child brain, for very good Darwinian reasons, has to be set up in such a way that it believes what it's told by its elders, because there just isn't time for the child to experiment with warnings like: "Don't go too near the cliff edge," or "Don't swim in the river; there are crocodiles." Any child who applied a scientific, sceptical, questioning attitude to that would be dead. No wonder the Jesuit said, "Give me the child for his first seven years and I'll give you the man." The child brain will automatically believe what it's told, even if what it's told is nonsense. And then, when the child grows up, it will tend to pass on that same nonsense to its children. And so religion goes on, from generation to generation. For many people, part of growing up is killing off the virus of Faith with a good strong dose of rational thinking. But if an individual doesn't succeed in shaking it off, his mind is stuck in a permanent state of infancy, and there is a real danger that he will infect the next generation. I'm going to meet someone who has experienced religion as child abuse first-hand. - Jill Mytton. - Oh, hello. - I'm Richard Dawkins, how do you do? - Hello, Richard. Jill Mytton was brought up in a strict Christian sect. Today she's a psychologist who rehabilitates young adults similarly scarred by their narrow religious upbringing. They need to be allowed to hear different perspectives on things. They need to be allowed to investigate. They need to be allowed to develop their critical faculties, so that they can take a number of different viewpoints. and weigh them up, and decide which one is for them. They need to find their own pathways; not to be forced into a particular mould as a child. If I think back to my childhood, it's one that's kind of dominated by fear. And it was a fear of disapproval while in the present, but also of eternal damnation. Do they get taught about hell fire and things like that? Absolutely. And to a child, images of hell fire and gnashing of teeth are actually very real; they're not metaphorical at all. - Of course not. - No. If you bring a child up and discourage it from thinking freely and making choices freely, then that's still- to me that is a form of mental abuse or psychological abuse. Or if you tell a child that when it dies it's going to roast forever in hell. In hell. That is abusive, yes. What did they tell you about it? I mean, what happens in hell? It's strange, isn't it. After all this time, it still has the power to affect me when you asked me that question. Hell is a fearful place. It's complete rejection by God. It's complete judgement. There is real fire. There is real torment; real torture, and it goes on forever, so there is no respite from it. It's deeply disturbing to think that there are believers out there who actively use the idea of hell for moral policing. In the United States, Christian obsession with sin has spawned a national craze for 'hell houses' - morality plays-cum-Halloween freak-shows, in which the evangelical hobby-horses of abortion and homosexuality are literally demonised. Pastor Keenan Roberts is rehearsing a new production of his Colorado-based hell-house, which he's written and staged for almost fifteen years. He fervently believes that you have to scare people into being good. The call upon my life as a pastor, as a minister, is to tell people what the book says, and what I, and we in our church, and hundreds of churches across this country and around the world are doing is, we have found a very creative, effective tool that is getting people's attention - to consider the message. - I believe it. I believe it. We want to leave an indelible impression upon their life that sin destroys. Every scene preaches the truth that either sin destroys or Jesus saves. If this is a rehearsal, think how horrific the full production must be. I presume you have a cut-off age for the tour, I mean no children below an age of- Well over the years of having audiences and people go through this, we have come to the decision that the best age for young people is really at twelve. Would it worry you if a child of twelve coming to see your performance had nightmares afterwards? Or would you like that? I would like them... I would like for their life to be changed. No matter what. I would rather for them to understand that hell is a place that they absolutely do not wanna go. I would rather reach them with that message at twelve, than to not reach them with that message, and have them live a life of sin and to never find the lord Jesus Christ. In the case of homosexual marriage, what harm does that do? Why would you be so passionately against that? That's your opinion. But it's nothing to do with you, is it. It's their decision. It's not my opinion. I'm telling you what the bible says. It's the bible's opinion. But these are two people who want to live together. Isn't it their own business? What right have you to interfere? I want them to know homosexuality is sin. But you believe it presumably on the basis of scriptural authority. - Unapologetically. - Yes, unapologetically. But why are you so sure that's right? I mean if you think about where the scriptures come from, I mean, who wrote them, and when? What makes you so confident they're right? - It's what I believe. - I know you believe it, but why? It is a Faith issue with me. Why do you not believe it? Hell House is the brash end of a much bigger problem with the way religious belief works. Taken to its extremes, as by American evangelists, the bible is scanned for passages to justify right- wing views on abortion and 'family values'. I'm about to meet a believer who uses the word of God to fight against centuries of human progress. I think execution for adultery is not rejected. - No. By the New Testament. - What about you? Do you I think that's fair to say; that that's still a proper punishment that It's not so bad, surely, to believe in moral codes handed down to us from the good book. Doesn't the bible give us a moral framework in which to live? Well no. The holy texts are of dubious origin and veracity, and they're internally contradictory. And when we look closely, we find a system of morals which any civilised person today should surely find poisonous. The Old Testament is in every church and synagogue throughout the world, and is the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. If your brother, the son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace tries to secretly seduce you, saying, "Let us go and serve other gods"... This is God's advice on what to do to a friend or family member who suggests you believe in another deity: ...you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death... ...and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God... The god of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction. Jealous and proud of it. Petty. Vindictive. Unjust. Unforgiving. Racist. An ethnic cleanser, urging his people on to acts of genocide. If God doesn't set a good moral example, who does? Abraham, the founding father of all three great monotheistic religions? The man who would willingly make a burnt offering of his son Isaac? Maybe not. How about Moses, he of the tablets which said, "Thou shalt not kill"? Well the same man, it says in the book of Numbers, was incensed by the Israelites' merciful retraint towards the conquered Midianite people. He gave orders to kill all male prisoners and older women. But all the women children, that have not known a man by lying with him, keep alive for yourselves. How is this story of Moses morally distinguishable from Hitler's rape of Poland, or Saddam Hussein's massacre of the Kurds and the Marsh Arabs? So let's leave Moses out of it. But there are lesser characters facing somewhat more everyday moral dilemmas. Maybe they provide a better role model. In the book of Judges, a priest was traveling with his wife in Gibiah. They spent the night in the house of an old man. But during supper, a mob came to demand that the host hand over his male guest. "so that we may know him..." Yes, in the biblical sense. Well, the old man replied: Nay, my brethren. Nay, I pray you. Do not so wickedly. Behold, here is my daughter a maiden, and his concubine; them I will bring out now, and humble ye them, and do with them what seemeth good unto you; but unto this man do not so vile a thing. So enjoy yourselves by raping and humiliating my daughter, but show a proper respect for my guest who is, after all, male. Whatever else this strange story might mean, it surely tells us something about the status of women in this religious society. Now of course, nice Christians will be protesting, "Everyone knows the the Old Testament is deeply unpleasant." The New Testament of Jesus, they claim, undoes the damage and makes it alright. Yes, there's no doubt that, from a moral point of view, Jesus is a huge improvement, because Jesus - or whoever wrote his lines - was not content to derive his ethics from the scriptures with which he'd been brought up. But then it all goes wrong. The heart of New Testament theology - invented after Jesus's death - is St Paul's nasty sadomasochistic doctrine of atonement for original sin. The idea is that God had himself incarnated as a man - Jesus - in order that he should be hideously tortured and executed to redeem all our sins. Not just the original sin of Adam and Eve; future sins as well, whether we decide to commit them or not. If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them? Who's God trying to impress? Presumably himself, since he's judge and jury - as well as execution victim. To cap it all, according to scientific views of prehistory, Adam - the supposed perpetrator of the original sin - never existed in the first place; an awkward fact which undermines the premise of Paul's whole tortuously nasty theory. Oh but of course the story of Adam and Eve was only ever symbolic, wasn't it. Symbolic?! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a non-existent individual? Nobody not brought up in the Faith could reach any verdict other than 'barking mad'. The strange theology and questionable texts wouldn't matter, but for the unfortunate fact that there are people out there who really believe this stuff is the word of God, and act on it; challenging progressive values - and the rule of law. If you take the 'good book' to its literal extreme - and some people do - you can justify murder. In 1994, the reverend Paul Hill shot and killed Dr John Britton outside his abortion clinic in Florida. In 2003, Hill was executed for murder. But he went to his death claiming his actions were backed by holy scripture. I'm going to meet the Paul Hill's friend and defender, the reverend Michael Bray. - Mr Bray? - Yes, sir. - Hello. - Hello. - I'm Richard Dawkins. - It's good to meet you, sir. Michael Bray. On what moral basis can he, as a Christian, defend a self-professed, cold-blooded killer? Your friend Paul Hill, who was convicted of murdering a doctor, he took the law into his own hands, didn't he. No. Paul Hill, by his own testimony, acted defensively, not in retribution. That's the job of the law. - The job of the law is to punish. - No. The job of citizens is to - is indeed, out of love - to protect one another. Does it ever occur to you that that doctor had a wife to grieve for him? Paul Hill killed him! Now the embryos that Paul Hill was 'defending', they were tiny little things without any knowledge, without any memory, without any fears, without all the things that a full-grown adult doctor had. Doesn't that give your conscience a little bit of a twinge? Well I don't think we measure the value of someone by their cognizance of their surroundings or their- or even of their relationships. The value that we give human beings historically - and thankfully from the scriptures - is that they are created in God's image, and they are- they have a certain sanctity because of that. So whether they be imbeciles or... To most sensible people, Bray's fellow clergyman Paul Hill looks like a dangerous psychopath, righting what he perceived as wrong by committing another, more terrible wrong. Yet people like Hill and Bray don't see the world that way. They declare that their justification is in the bible, and by re-declaring the bible as the absolute word of God they give their actions validity. Many of us who don't subscribe to any particular holy book worry about suffering. We actually worry about whether the victim of a murder, whether it's the murder of a - in your terms - of an embryo, or of an adult doctor. I mean, can you not see that there's a big imbalance there between those two deaths. Well I couldn't take into account - because I'm not omniscient - to know all the sufferings that various people suffer. Where do you think he is? Paul Hill. Oh, I have high hopes that he's doing well. -You think he's in heaven. -Yes. You think Jesus approves of murdering doctors. I think that, uh... he said that, uh... he said that we're to love the children just as we love others. Suffer the little children to come to me. I reckon I have a fairly strong moral conviction as well, but I'm not that confident. I wouldn't like to go and kill somebody for the sake of my morality. How can you be that confident? I think, uh... my own confidence, I guess, has come with time. The more I- I think the scriptures- the more I live, the more satisfied I am intellectually that they interpret reality for me. It was curious. I quite liked him. I thought he was sincere. I thought he wasn't really an evil person. And I was reminded of a quotation by the famous American physicist Stephen Weinberg - the Nobel prize- winning theoretical physicist - Weinberg said, "Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it, you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, it takes religion." People like Michael Bray are a big problem for Christian morality. Not all Christians are as rooted in the spoil of scripture, but they do all take inspiration from the same holy text. But who is right? The established Church of England is being painfully torn apart by these differences of opinion over the scriptures. The battleground is not so much abortion, but homosexuality and gay clergy. On one side are vociferous scriptural purists; on the other: more moderate believers who interpret the bible selectively. You're on the liberal wing of the Anglican church. Maybe the other side are the ones who are being true to their scriptures in a way that you're not. I mean you, who are liberal and much closer to what I would think, are the one who's departing from the- certainly from the scriptural, and perhaps from the fundamentals. Um, well if you take the issue of homosexuality there's no doubt about it, there are a number of texts - not as many as people think, but a few texts - which clearly regard homosexuality as wrong, both in the Old Testament very strongly, but they're also there in the New Testament. But of course it's a question of how you interpret the bible; whether it's really right to just simply extract a few isolated texts rather than seeing the whole message of the bible; the whole message of Jesus. But I think there's another, perhaps even more fundamental one which links in to your fundamental interest in evolution. Our understanding of what it is to be a gay or lesbian now is very very different from what it was, let us say in the Roman world, when the New Testament was written. Therefore it's purely a matter of choice. We now actually know that a significant percentage of people are predominantly attracted to members of their own sex. So it's a question of the changing facts, as well as a changing understanding of how the bible should be interpreted. This of course is all music to my ears, but I'm kind of left wondering why you stick with Christianity at all therefore. And maybe some of the fundamentalists might say just that to you. I think that moderates need to be passionate, both about their religious beliefs, and about rationality, and it's possible to be a passionate moderate. It's much more difficult... Some say that while religious fundamentalists betray reason, moderate believers betray reason and Faith equally. The moderates' position seems to me to be fence-sitting. They half-believe in the bible. But how do they decide which parts to believe literally and which parts are just allegorical? I take it that as an Anglican bishop you wouldn't deny miracles, and I think you ought to, to be consistent with what you've just been saying. I think if God was doing miracles the whole time, then we would live in an Alice in Wonderland-type world. - Yeah. - It would be unpredictable. And you and I wouldn't be able to have a rational conversation. It's almost as though you think there's a kind of 'ration' of miracles, which mustn't be exceeded, or we get into 'Looking Glass' territory. We can't say what that 'ration' is. If miracles were happening all the time, whenever we wanted them to happen, then human life as we know it couldn't exist. And what about the sort of really big miracles, like the virgin birth? What do you think about that? I don't think that it's on a par with the resurrection, for example. I mean, I actually do believe that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is absolutely fundamental to Christianity, in a way that I don't believe the virgin birth is. It seems to me an odd proposition that we should adhere to some parts of the bible story but not to others. After all, when it comes to important moral questions, by what standards do we cherry-pick the bible? Why bother with the bible at all, if we have the ability to pick and choose from it what is right and what is wrong for today's society? I suspect that religion is simply a parasite on a much older moral sense. I want to examine how science reveals the true roots of human morality. Morality stems not from some fictional deity and his texts, but from altruistic genes that have been naturally selected in our evolutionary past. Humans have much more sophisticated versions of the kinds of social instincts you see in chimps and other creatures. But really there's no great leap. It's just... If you can think of chimps as MS-DOS, and humans as Windows 2000. Religious believers like to claim that their god and ancient texts provide them with an inside track to defining what is good and what is bad. But it is surely far more moral to do good things for their own sake, rather than as a way of sucking up to God. Our true sense of right and wrong has nothing to do with religion. I believe there is kindness, charity and generosity in human nature. And I think there is a Darwinian explanation for this. Through much of our prehistory, humans lived under conditions that favoured altruistic genes. Gene survival depended on nurturing our family and on doing deals with our peers. The 'I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine' principle. I don't think we need religion to explain morality. And if anything, it just gets in the way. Morality is a lot older than religion. Humans have an innate moral sense, or a range of moral senses that you could think of as sophisticated versions of the kind of social instincts you see in chimps and other social species. What sort of morality or proto- morality would you expect to find in a chimpanzee troupe? We find that they live in family groups, the mothers look after their kids, they work in teams, and also chimps are particularly good at competing for status through what's been called public service. So they compete for status not just through brute force, but by being good leaders, by intervening to settle disputes... What are the main evolutionary reasons for cooperating and being altruistic? Working together often produces mutual benefits for those that are involved, so you can often just do better by working in a team than you can by working by yourself. Perhaps it is our genetic inheritance that explains why those of us with no allegiance to a holy book or a pope or an ayatollah to tell us what is good still manage to ground ourselves in a moral consensus which is surprisingly widely agreed. As social animals, we've worked out that we wouldn't want to live in a society where it was acceptable to rape, murder or steal. We have a moral conscience and a mutual empathy, and it is constantly evolving. Religious or not, we have changed in unison, and continue to change in our attitude to what is right and what is wrong. Fifty years ago, just about everybody in Britain was somewhat racist. Now only a few people are. Fifty years ago, it was impossible for gay people to walk along the street hand in hand. Now it's easy. Some of us lag behind the advancing wave of moral standards, and some of us are ahead. But all of us in the 21st century are ahead of our counterparts from the time of Abraham, Mohammed or St Paul. But progressive shift often emerges in opposition to religion. It's driven by improved education, and then expressed by newspaper editorials, television soap operas, parliamentary speeches, judicial rulings and novels. I guess my starting point would be: The brain is responsible for consciousness, and we could be reasonably sure that when that brain ceases to be, when it falls apart and decomposes, that'll be the end of us. From that, quite a lot of things follow, I think especially morally. We are the very priveleged owners of a brief spark of consciousness, and we therefore have to take responsibility for it. You cannot rely - as Christians or Moslems 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. I profoundly agree with you, and I've always felt that one of the things that's wrong with religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with answers which are not really answers at all. 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. To an atheist like Ian McEwan, there is no all-seeing, all-loving God who keeps us free from harm. But atheism is not a recipe for despair. I think the opposite. By disclaiming the idea of a next life, we can take more excitement in this one. The here and now is not something to be endured before eternal bliss or damnation. The here and now is all we have; an inspiration to make the most of it. So atheism is life-affirming, in a way religion can never be. Look around you. Nature demands our attention; begs us to explore; to question. Religion can provide only facile, ultimately unsatisfying answers. Science, in constantly seeking real explanations, reveals the true majesty of our world in all its complexity. People sometimes say, "There must be more than just this world; than just this life." But how much more do you want? We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they're never going to be born. The number of people who could be here in my place outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. If you think about all the different ways in which our genes could be permuted, you and I are quite grotesquely lucky to be here. The number of events that had to happen in order for you to exist; in order for me to exist. We are priveleged to be alive, and we should make the most of our time on this world. SUBTITLES BY DAVID ([email protected]) Small corrections for translators:) [email protected]

Video Details

Duration: 47 minutes and 58 seconds
Country: United States
Language: English
Producer: Richard Dawkins
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Posted by: ashr1c on Jan 21, 2009

The Root of All Evil? - The Virus of Faith (2 of 2) - 47:58 - Apr 7, 2007Channel 4 Television Corporation - www.channel4.com/culture/microsites/C/can_you_believe_it/debates/rootofevil.html

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