The Root Of All Evil?

I can’t tell you how exhilarated I am tonight after watching Richard Dawkins’ two-part DVD “The Root Of All Evil?“. For years I have become increasingly uncomfortable with the feeling that I should just accept christianity as a reasonable viewpoint. Particularly as my boys grow up, I find it unreasonable that they should be told that the religious perspective is as equally valid a way of thinking about the world and their place in it as a rational, reason-based perspective which takes in all of the facts available to them.

Earlier today I also listened to the Point of Inquiry podcast with Sam Harris, author of “Letter To A Christian Nation” and it was equally as exhilarating. To finally have some highly erudite statesmen for the reason-based community is a relief and inspiration, even though the message they are delivering, that reason is on a slippery slope in the West at the moment, is one that is deeply concerning to me.

Humanity has had to endure thousands of years of persecution and being held back from progress as a result of the particular mythologies of the leaders of our societies. Too many millions of people had to die to get us to the privileged position we are in the 21st century, where we have the freedom to review the facts and make a reason-based decision on how the world works and our position in it.

The thought that religious zealots could reverse that trend, sending us back to the dark ages, should be terrifying to any sane person.

10 thoughts on “The Root Of All Evil?

  1. Why would you need an organization to tell you what to believe in? I was brought up Catholic and force-fed religious doctrine until I was old enough to start asking questions, and then I stopped going to church. What makes one religion any better than another? The number of people in that religion? No. There’s nothing wrong with religion, it gives people something to believe in, something to work towards, it gives like-minded people a place to go, but when you start imposing your religious beliefs on someone else, then you’re going in the wrong direction. I don’t care how it’s justified, it’s wrong. Just believing in something doesn’t make it real–sure there may be 250 million Christians in the world, but that doesn’t make what they believe any more right than a commune of hippies sitting around a lava lamp waiting for the mothership to arrive and take them into space. If every Christian in the world believed that the sky was green, would the sky suddenly be green? Of course not.

    You don’t have to force your kids into a religion to make them better people, just teach them right from wrong and let them decide for themselves what to believe in.

    I always wondered how Christianity explained away the dinosaurs… I mean, I don’t recall seeing Tyrannosaurus Rex in any paintings of the Garden of Eden I’ve seen, and yet we have fossilized proof that they existed in numbers…

  2. So, your point is that eliminating religion and allowing people to “review the facts and make a reason-based decision” will leave the world a better place??

    No way! Dude, a ‘reason-based’ decision is just as fallible as any other decision, be it shaped by religion, science, or any known ‘fact’.

    Humanity will always teeter between conflict and peace. And yep, Christianity/Islam have featured heavily in the conflict at various times. But remove them, and I’ll put my dollars down to say the conflict would have simply happened in another guise.

  3. Simon, I definitely believe that humanity moving towards decisions based on reason, investigation and an objective review of the available data is superior to making decisions based on bronze age mythologies.

    Would it make us perfect or our decisions flawless? Of course not. Will it bring about world peace or solve the AIDS crisis or and end to poverty? No. But it will remove a bunch of reasons why those things currently exist. And that has to be a positive step.

  4. No, I am not saying you should remove religion from the equation–Humans are a gregarious species and need the assurance of group activity. A lot of human behaviour is learned, either from the family group or a religious group or society as a whole. One problem we have is that what one society sees are “reasonable,” another society does not. Take, for example, the rights of women in certain countries–in some countries women are seen as lesser people who have no rights, whereas in our Western society we see women as human beings with just as many rights as any man. A lot of this has to do with religion and a lot of it is learned. To us in the West it would seem crazy or unreasonable that a man would be allowed to beat a woman for say, looking at another man. What we need to do as a people, planet-wide, is to teach future generations that imposing your will (personal beliefs, doctrines, personal rules) on someone else is wrong. Might does not make right.

    I see our planet heading towards more segregation in the future, I can’t imagine the human race being able to solve the problem of World Peace. Already places like China have walled themselves off electronically from the rest of the world with the “Great Firewall of China”–I see more countries doing the same thing in the future. Don’t be surprised if the European Union creates an Intranet of their own, walled off from the rest of the world with carefully controlled access points, and the USA does the same, and so on.

  5. Cameron, you say “… But it will remove a bunch of reasons why those things currently exist.”

    So do you feel that religion is a major contributor to a lack of world peace, existence of the AIDS crisis and the existence of poverty? If I felt that, then I would be keen to rid the world of religion. But I don’t believe that, and I can’t reduce the very real problems of our world to the existence, past & present of religion.

    Having said that, I do recognise religion featuring heavily in current world conflict (be it causative or a means for motivating masses is another matter). Any desire to reduce this conflict is valuable. But I just don’t believe that going back x thousands of years ago and somehow averting the development of different streams of faith and following would give us a better place today. I just don’t buy it.

  6. Simon, I don’t think there is(room to deny that religion is either at the core or is at the very least exacerbating conflicts around the world (in the Middle East, Sudan, Nigeria, Timor, Kosovo, Chechnya, Cashmere, etc.) or the AIDS crisis in Africa (the Catholic Church’s stance on banning condoms). Poverty is perhaps debatable as the population of the USA is mostly religious (according to surveys) and yet is currently the world’s leading economy. However, as fundamentalist religious beliefs lead directly to ignorance and violence, it must also therefore lead to the destruction of the very foundations of democracy and capitalism.

    I’m not talking about going BACK in time. I’m talking about catching up to the 21st century and leaving behind the stone age religions that believe in imaginary supernatural beings and magic prophets of doom.

    It’s well overdue for the human race to accept a rational, evidence-based perspective on the world and leave religion where it belongs – in the history books, alongside Zeus, Poseidon, Isis and blood sacrifice.

  7. Yep, agree re condoms. Thats crazy and I can only hope there is change. And yep, any belief system can at the extreme lead to ignorance and violence (although I’m not sure democracy and capitalism is founded on enlightenment and peaceful co-existance).

    My point is that group identity will always lead to conflict with opposing groups of different identity. One of the broadest forms of identity come from a unifying religious faith. If those boundaries of identity disappear, they will be replaced with some other sense/form of identity. Nothing really changes, and conflict will continue in one form or the other.

    There are broad brushstrokes of human behaviour in play here, and religion simply is part of the mix. Its not swinging the brush. Replace it with something else and the brushstrokes will stay exactly the same.

  8. Perhaps humans are fundamentally flawed and should be replaced as soon as possible with machines. I agree. But the point here is that if we can drag the human race out of bronze age mythologies and into the 21st century we might, MIGHT, get more of them to make more intelligent decisions.

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