“Religion is poison”?
The title of this post is a quote, but do you know who said it and to whom? It wasn’t Richard Dawkins, though judging by the bad press he often gets and the “no platform” action against him it’s a wonder he doesn’t constantly shout it out loud. It’s now 11 years since he published his (in)famous book, The God Delusion, and about 10 years since I first read it.
As someone who adopted a Buddhist philosophy many years ago in contrast to my Methodist upbringing, I was well aware of the power of the Christian church and laws that kept them equal with the monarchy and aristocracy, controlling the peasants in medieval times. I had read extensively about the crusades and the wars over who controlled a piece of land, a holy land. Then there was the battle between King Henry VIII and the Pope that led to more plunder and deaths. England turned its back on Catholicism, but it hovered in the background causing unrest at the time of and post the English civil war. Today, the world is faced with a wave of terrorism driven by fanatics within a religion, Islam. In all of these cases people are driven by what they fervently believe THEIR god has said to them, and that has included setting laws that govern how all of us must live our lives, organising societies according to “worth” such as in the Hindu caste system, converting non believers, subjugating women, or most extremely actually killing others in the name of your god, especially those with a different belief. Dawkins tackled all of these ….. head on!
The God Delusion
Richard Dawkins dedicates his book to Douglas Adams and quotes the novelist: “Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?”.
The book contains ten chapters. The first few chapters make a case that there is almost certainly no God, while the rest discuss religion and morality with four “consciousness-raising” messages:
1. Atheists can be happy, balanced, moral, and intellectually fulfilled.
2. Natural selection and similar scientific theories are superior to a “God hypothesis”—the illusion of intelligent design—in explaining the living world and the cosmos.
3. Children should not be labelled by their parents’ religion. Terms like “Catholic child” or “Muslim child” should make people cringe.
4. Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind.
Review-The God Delusion. A recent review of the book and it’s legacy after ten years by some leading authors and organisational leaders.
But, even more interestingly, is a review written by Joan Bakewell for The Guardian leftist newspaper at the time the book was published that today’s Guardian wouldn’t dream of publishing. Here’s the final paragraph written by Bakewell:
“These are now political matters. Around the world communities are increasingly defined as Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and living peaceably together is ever harder to sustain. Champions of each faith maintain its superiority to the rest. Recent remarks by Pope Benedict XVI show the man in his true colours: an absolutist pointing up with intellectual precision the incompatibility of Islam and Christianity. He did this long before he was Pope, writing the declaration of John Paul II that all religions other than the Catholic faith were defective. Since his election he has demoted efforts at rapprochement with Islam and, on a visit to Auschwitz, failed to address the papacy’s collusion with Nazism. The Pope is, of course, held to be infallible by the Catholic Church. Islam’s response to all this – “if you dare to say we’re a violent religion, then we’ll kill you!” – compounds not only the idiocy of rival dogmas but also the dangers. Islam’s sharia law invests the law of the land with its own religious and often brutal priorities. Apostasy is punishable by death, as is homosexuality. Christian observance is put under increasing pressure. Dawkins is right to be not only angry but alarmed. Religions have the secular world running scared. This book is a clarion call to cower no longer. Primed by anger, redeemed by humour, it will, I trust, offend many.”
So, we are where we are, but nobody can say we weren’t warned!