The Root of All Evil – Richard Dawkins for the BBC
In this two-part series, Dawkins examines what he terms the virus of religion and its depressing resurgence in modern life. In the first part of the series, entitled “The God Delusion,” Dawkins laments that science has suddenly lost the upper hand in an epistemological battle for minds. Dawkins wants to understand why science has failed to eradicate belief without evidence.
Dawkins travels to the states for a look at the evangelical milieu. A memorable scene in the first episode shows Dawkins attending an evangelical service by Pastor Ted Haggard of the New Life Church in Colorado. Dawkins looks like a wet cat sitting in the pew listening to Pastor Ted’s charismatic sermon. Afterwards, Dawkins confronts the pastor:
“I was almost reminded, if you will forgive me, of a Nuremberg rally. Dr. Goebbels would have been proud.”
Haggard responds, “I don’t know anything about the Nuremberg rallies, but I know that many Americans think of it as a rock concert.”
I weep for my country.
The following scene shows Pastor Ted forcibly removing Dawkins from church property.
Next, Dawkins travels to Jerusalem where he interviews a truly frightening Moslem named Yousef Al-Khattab. Al-Khattab was born a secular Jew in New York, but discovered Islam when he traveled to Israel to become a Jewish settler. He is now a staunch Moslem who is convinced that Islam will soon take over the world and blames 9/11 on the existence of Israel.
I want to believe that Yousef is a radical among his peers, but I fear that he is not.
The most frightening aspect of Dawkins interview with Yousef and Pastor Ted was that they were both intelligent and articulate. These were not ignorant sheep following a charismatic leader, they were leaders themselves.
The second part of the series is entitled “The Virus of Faith,” and it examines how religion is passed down to children from parents. Dawkins claims that religious indoctrination amounts to child abuse. Dawkins can’t resist the analogy of evolution in the discussion of religion. He uses the analogy of a virus to show how religion is passed down from generation to generation. (Dawkins never explains why or how Yousef’s virus “mutated.”)
To solve this problem, Dawkins proposes a change in child rearing by changing the way religion is taught to children. His quixotic scheme is to reverse thousands of years of religious indoctrination into a better understanding of science and an appreciation of the grandeur of nature. Parents should allow a child to learn about different religions and then allow him to make an informed decision as an adult.
Finally, Dawkins interviews Richard Harries who is the Bishop of Oxford. Dawkins challenges Harries’ divergence for the Bible concerning homosexuality. Dawkins puts the Bishop in the awkward position of agreeing more with an atheist than his holy book. Dawkins suggests that the Bishop should just give up on Christianity if he is unwilling to follow an obvious commandment. Dawkins posits, as does SH, that liberal Christians betray faith and reason equally.
Some interesting quotations from the series:
“Why have a Bible at all if we can choose from it what is right and wrong for today’s society.”
“If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith; the candle light incense; music; and important sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics.”
“Adam, the supposed perpetrator of original sin, never existed in the first place. An awkward fact…but the story of Adam and Eve was only symbolic. Symbolic! So Jesus had himself tortured and executed for a symbolic sin by a nonexistent individual… (it’s) barking mad”
“People often say that there must be more that this just this world and just this life; But how much more do you want?”