Dawkins on religion:”the process of non-thinking called faith”

November 24, 2006 | By | 4 Replies More

Here is a link to a 2006 documentary called “The Root of All Evil? – Part I,” narrated by Richard Dawkins. 

In this elegantly written and presented documentary, Dawkins does not mince words.   He explores the seductive beauty of religion, as well as the damage that religion, especially fundamentalist religion, does to society.   The problem with all religion is that it teaches us to be satisfied with “answers that are not really answers.”  According to Dawkins, religion foists evident falsehoods on the flock to support “bronze age myths.”

According to Dawkins, religious thought:  A) discourages independent thought, B) is divisive and C) is dangerous.

In the scenes that I found the most memorable, Dawkins attended a service at the 12,000 member New Life Church in Colorado, then interviewed Ted Haggard, then the head of that mega-church church. That church service certainly reminded me of the times I attended evangelical services.  The same brain-washing techniques were used.

It was truly surreal to see Haggard speaking aggressively and condescendingly to Dawkins during that interview.  Haggard sternly instructed Dawkins that Dawkins was “intellectual arrogant” for daring to confidently declare that the earth was “billions” of years old.  It was apparent that Dawkins spoke with Haggard in a way few people ever spoke with Haggard (prior to Haggard’s sexual predatory “fall from grace,” anyway).  The interview ended, but Haggard wasn’t finished attacking.  Haggard drove up to the parking lot where Dawkins and his crew were packing up.  He yelled, “Get off my land or I’ll call the police!”  Dawkins noted that Haggard was especially upset that Dawkins had referred to Haggard’s flock as “animals,” an apparent reference to Dawkins’ reference to evolution during the interview.  But as Dawkins noted, humans are “animals.”

This outburst of Haggard served as a demonstration of what Dawkins (later in the documentary) termed “Christian fascism.”

Dawkins asserts that fundamentalist Christianity offers a mirror image of Islamic extremism.   Therefore, the “war between good an evil is really a war between two evils.”

Here is a link to Part II of this documentary, entitled “The Virus of Faith.”

In this section of the documentary, Dawkins argues that religion warps morality.  He is concerned whenever ancient morality is taught as truth in schools.  In fact, Dawkins argues that it constitutes child abuse to frighten children with stories of hell.

The Christian theory of the death of Jesus confuses Dawkins:  If God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them?  “Who’s he trying to impress?”  Dawkins concludes: what do you have to be to believe the theory of the New Testament?  “Barking mad.”

Dawkins then interviews, Michael Bray, pastor and defender of Paul Hill, a man who was eventually executed for murdering an abortion doctor in Florida (32:00).  Bray explained that Hill had the right to protect thoughtless embryos–that embryos were sanctified human life, even though thoughtless.  Walking from that interview, Dawkins cited Steven Weinberg’s “For good people to do evil things, it takes religion.”

I certainly agree with Dawkins when it comes to the tendency of Christians to 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.”

Part II ends (41:00) with a look at chimpanzee proto-morality.  Because they are mammals, humans have inherited this ancient capacity for getting along with conspececifics.  As a result, there is no need for us to refer to any ancient holy books to know that rape, murder and stealing are wrong, despite the baseless and insistent claims of fundamentalists.  

What about the fear of death?  How should we deal with it?   “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.  Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born.”  That is how we should look at death.  “We are grotesquely lucky to be here . . . and we should make the most of our time on this world.”

For more on this documentary, see this article in Wikipedia.


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Category: American Culture, Bigotry, Evolution, Religion, Science

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Dawkins argues that the world would be better off without religion; however, I question whether *individuals* would be better off. Individual spiritual beliefs clearly do help many people overcome hardships in life, find palatable answers to painful questions, give people hope for the future, etc., making religion one of those things that can be good for individuals even if it can be bad for groups. Accordingly, we can perhaps compare religion to antibiotic drugs: when given to one person or to small groups, they can heal; but when given in large doses to many people, they can create deadly strains of disease that cause much suffering. Such outcomes are relatively rare (super-bugs in the case of antibiotics…KKK rallies; Nazi movements; laws attacking abortion, contraception, stem-cell research, homosexual rights, etc., in the case of religion), so we should carefully distinguish between the horrors that religion can foster in groups, and the healing that it can provide to individuals.

  2. hogiemo says:

    As we sat eating our turkey, we discussed the history of Christianity. When the Crusaders went off to the wars evict the "unbelievers" from the "Holy Land" and died, they were given a "plenary indulgence" which meant they automatically went to heaven. Hmmmm, sounds familiar, eh?

    There have been many injustices in the name of faith but, as many more or greater "justices" because of faith. If we as reasoning animals make justice and goodness in our lives because of faith, I count that to the good. I wish you all a joyous and happy holiday season, and a new year filled with goodness and peace.

  3. gatomjp says:

    In addition to being a very intelligent and thought-provoking documentary, for what it's worth it's also very beautifully shot. I'm a documentary videographer so I have some appreciation of what went into the making of the piece. I recommend it as much for what you'll see as what you'll think.

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