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January 09, 2006

The Root of All Evil? - Peter Mullen takes issue with Richard Dawkins

Posted by Peter Mullen

The Root of All Evil?
Channel 4, 9th & 16th January 2006

In a new two part series on Channel 4 - The Root of All Evil? - Richard Dawkins makes an unapologetic attack upon religion and religious faith. Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen - Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange - responds to Richard Dawkins in kind.

England's in-house egoist Richard Dawkins is being paid by Channel 4 to parade his prejudices all over our television screens in a two-part series which describes religion as "the root of all evil". This really is the root of all nonsense.

Let's clear the decks before we chuck Dawkins overboard. Of course religious people have done nasty things throughout history. This is mainly because most people have always been religious. Atheism and secularisation are on the whole modern fads. Everybody does evil on occasions. Moreover, it is the religious people who understand and explain why we do it: because we are imperfect creatures, flawed, frail children of dust and feeble as frail.

It is not religious people but atheists and secularisers such as Dawkins who think that mankind is set forever on the slope that leads to the sunlit uplands. The wishful-thinkers, optimists and purveyors of cloud cuckoo land are the atheists and secular types. Religious people, and especially Christians, are the less-deceived. We know we tend to go to the bad. That is why we acknowledge the need for grace and forgiveness from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Dawkins is a scientist. Why then does he not employ the scientific method in his analysis of the root of all evil?

Let Dawkins look at the facts and do the sums. If we are talking about evil in utilitarian terms – the only terms open to a secularist - then murderous persecution, tyranny, exile, torture, genocide and mass deprivation have been perpetrated mainly by atheists. And the people who opposed the secular, atheistic tyrannies of Hitler, Stalin and Mao were often religious people and many accounted for their opposition explicitly in terms of their faith.

Dawkins believes that religion is something that belongs to our primitive past – something to be thrown off and grown out of. He wants to replace religion with scientific thinking and progressive attitudes. Leave aside again the issue of why he doesn't apply scientific methods in his appraisal of history, but what is there about secular attitudes that is actually benign and to be welcomed?

Christians believe in self-discipline. The hedonistic non-religious culture promotes and advertises self-indulgence. Christians believe in self-respect. Secular counsellors believe in self-esteem – in other words me-ism. Christians believe in the freedom of the will and the dignity which this gives to human beings as moral agents. Secularists such as Dawkins believe in determinism and the universal dominance of the selfish gene.

It is a pity that Dawkins has had no philosophical schooling. If he had he would know that it is contradictory to claim on the one hand that we are all controlled by our genetic makeup while on the other hand insisting that we decide to give up religion in favour of atheism. How can mere genes make such decisions? And if Dawkins is right and religion is such a disaster, why haven't we grown out of it?

Dawkins would say that we shall grow out of it, given time. How does he know? When it comes to the use of time, it should be said that to give time to Dawkins' unscientific secular dogmas is a criminal waste of that priceless commodity.

The Root of all Evil? My wife has just shouted across the table:

By his own lights, Dawkins has no right to use the word – "evil" is a religious word.

Rev'd Dr Peter Mullen is Rector of St Michael's, Cornhill & Chaplain to the Stock Exchange.


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"The wishful-thinkers, optimists and purveyors of cloud cuckoo land are the atheists and secular types."

I don't think that's necessarily true. How about Nietzsche? You'd hardly call him an optimist. And surely Schopenhauer was darkly pessimistic. As Ira Gershwin had it:

My evenings were sour,
Spent with Schopenhauer.

However, I suppose this does not entirely invalidate your larger argument: one could say that Nietzsche was somewhat gloomy because he perceived that the "death of God" (i.e. the collapse of religious belief) would present us with a huge existential problem. I think that is probably right, and I the "optimists" are perhaps too shallow to see that.

Richard Dawkins is a clever man, a clear writer, and of importance within his own specialism, and I'd recommend his latest book to anyone:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0297825038/202-3031647-2427846

I'd say he is also more sophisticated than many of his detractors will allow: he tends to set himself up for knockdown arguments by occasionally using literary flourishes and metaphorical language - "The Selfish Gene". But it's his arguments, not the book titles, that are important.

On his own turf I think he is first rate. Unfortunately, once he gets onto politics and society he seems to lose all sense.

Posted by: Mike at January 9, 2006 05:52 PM
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It seems to me that Peter Mullen is indulging in an angry rant at least as much as Richard Dawkins.

Mullen says:
Let Dawkins look at the facts and do the sums. If we are talking about evil in utilitarian terms - the only terms open to a secularist - then murderous persecution, tyranny, exile, torture, genocide and mass deprivation have been perpetrated mainly by atheists.

Not so obviously true. While Mao yes was an atheist and by the semi objective criterion of killing lots of people evil. But over the cause of history atheists are few, and attrocities are many. Genghis Kahn is debatable case : at least some of the time was Taoist. But think of christian cruisades, conquistadores, Romans, vikings, witch hunts and pograms of the middle ages. Plenty of attrocities committed by people of many religeons, and few by those with none.

So show me the sums: murders inspred by atheists > murders inspired by religeous people? Not yet proven.

My own take on Dawkin's program is that I agree that ignorance (in the sense of holdinirrational belifs contradicted by evidence) leads to suffering, but so too do hatred and greed, and I think we plenty of that in the religeous extremists pilloried here.

Posted by: billlion at January 9, 2006 10:22 PM
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Fair go, Reverend Mullen! Are all atheists Whigs? And no Christian is a simple-minded collectivist, or reaches for things that are Caesar's, or practises Antinomianism in public while rejecting it in theology? You should perhaps listen more attentively to your Archbishop, and worry less about Professor Dawkins.

Posted by: Peter Vallee at January 9, 2006 10:47 PM
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Until recent years it has been possible to regard the Christian Church with mild ammusement as it struggles to come to terms with the irrelivance of a god to explain the universe that we live in. The threat that Western civlisation now faces however, from Islamic Facism can not be fought on the basis of our superstition is better than yours. So irrational beliefs must be challenged so as to prevent generation after generation falling into this delusional state, and if you and people like you get upset so much the better. Welcome to the real World!

Posted by: Mike Baldwin at January 10, 2006 12:44 PM
•••

a piece worthy of Chesterton. such marvellous little ironies.

Yes, where was evolution to save us from supposedly outdated faith? I write this from Afghanistan where the vast majority of people are friendly yet pleasantly and deeply religious. They will be around for a long time, like Roy Campbell's poem of the Zulu girl, with her stick plough and the baby on her hip as she 'ploughs down empires, thrones and kings.'

Posted by: s masty at January 10, 2006 05:33 PM
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Quote:

It is a pity that Dawkins has had no philosophical schooling. If he had he would know that it is contradictory to claim on the one hand that we are all controlled by our genetic makeup while on the other hand insisting that we decide to give up religion in favour of atheism. How can mere genes make such decisions? And if Dawkins is right and religion is such a disaster, why haven't we grown out of it?
That is not remotely what Dawkins says anywhere. Do you know nothing about him beyond the title of his first book?

quote:

"Christians believe in self-discipline. The hedonistic non-religious culture promotes and advertises self-indulgence".
So Christianity and hedonism are the only possible alternatives? Or are you saying Dawkins is a hedonist? In any case, not all hedonists are "self-indulgent". Read Lucretius.

quote:

"Of course religious people have done nasty things throughout history. This is mainly because most people have always been religious".
Well, yes, but the evil has so often been done in the name of that religion. It isn't just that they are religious.

Posted by: Tubby Isaacs at January 11, 2006 12:02 AM
•••

Dawkins presents the scientific method of theory and evidence as opposed to religious belief. The two are apples and oranges. Religion can never stand up to scientific scrutiny any more than Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny can.

People are frightened to think of a world without a god, frightened of our inevitable end, frightened of the unknown. People want to believe that their is some great benevolent Oz out there looking our for us.

For the vast majority of people religion is a comfort. What they dont see is that it is human egotistism at its worst. A god that pays attention to every aspect of thought and deed of every individual in the world ever? How self centred are we?

When we look at the world, what has been the cause of more wars, more famine, more disease, more unwanted children than anything else. Look at your history, look at us now. Religion has a lot to answer for.

Richard Dawkins is an intelligent writer and is no stranger to controversy. However, it might have been more interesting and no less controversial to investigate the Evolution of Religion. Religion was used to answer the questions we didnt know the answers to but as science and technology advance many of our superstitious beliefs have been explained. So how did religion become the Beast that it is today? When i see the vast empires of the major religions of the world I am tempted to say the love of money has been the root of all evil and has wrapped itself up in God-sanctioned paper to justify itself.

Posted by: F. Shaw at January 11, 2006 12:39 PM
•••

"Religion was used to answer the questions we didnt know the answers to but as science and technology advance many of our superstitious beliefs have been explained."

What makes you think that people's first impluse is to "explain" the world as opposed to, for example, to "be at home" in it?

The assertion doesn't seem at all plausible to me. And I don't see most religious beliefs as consisting in theoretical propositions about the world conceived as an external object, in any case. Whether any of these beliefs are true or false, they simply don't seem to me to have that character.

Posted by: Mike at January 11, 2006 05:06 PM
•••

What do we have here? Another piece of evidence for Dawkins program I believe:
"Religious people, and ESPECIALLY Christians, are the less-deceived. We know we tend to go to the bad. That is why we acknowledge the need for grace and forgiveness from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ."

Why the need for a special reference to his own religion?
Is it, by any chance, because Dr. Mullen believes his religion is better than the others?

Isn't this the very problem highlighted by Dawkins in his programs as to why religion is 'the root of all evil'?

Posted by: Benjamin Fitzarnold at January 11, 2006 05:37 PM
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Well, the argument is shot in the foot as soon as he jumps on the myth about Hitler being an Atheist. Hitler may not have been Christian by 1945 (he was in 1920), but he certainly wasn't an Atheist. And Nazi Germany was catholic enough that the bastion of moral righteousness that is the Catholic church was silent.

http://www.secularism.org.uk/thechurchesingermanybeforeandaft.html offers some good background (English translation of German original).

There's not really any point in replying further when the author can't be bothered to do their research and rely on their prejudices to do the work for them...

Posted by: James Shiell at January 11, 2006 06:49 PM
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The irony of this program is that Dawkins is practicing what he claims to hate. Religion is defined as a set of principles held to with fervour - sounds awfully like the kind of atheistic naturalism held to by Dawkins, which in taking away any sense of absolute moral guideline is responsible for as much suffering in society as any other religion.

Far from being an objective scientist, he approaches science from the position that the supernatural CANNOT exist, yet still insists that his brand of science is right. It is not a question of whether one is biased, but more which bias is the correct bias - the same scientific methods and evidences can be used to support a Christian creation model (Genesis), and having studied both sides in detail I can say that the creation model gives a more coherent framework for this evidence. But of course Dawkins can't allow himself to consider this or the foundations of his faith would be severely shaken. We must also realise that science cannot prove what is past - experiments are done in the present and can only be used to support theories on the past. We do NOT know that the world is 4.5 billion years old, as he puts it - he ridicules Americans for believing that the world is less than 10000 years old but you would be surprised at the amount of evidence suggesting this is so!

Does no-one else find it hypocritical that he insists that a naturalist worldview and his interpretation of science is right, but condemns all traditional religions for doing the same?

Posted by: Philip at January 11, 2006 10:42 PM
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Hats off to James Shiell. That was a point I was ready to make.

The wonderful website known has The Intenet Infidels (www.infidels.org) has pages and pages of discussion about "rescuing" atheism from Stalinism, Nazism and Maoism. Those philosophies may have been atheistic, but it was not atheism that made them evil.

Is there some cosmic scales on which the sins of the theists can be weighed against the sins of the atheists? If so, is there any guess as to which side will be heavier?

Once The Root of All Evil is released on DVD, I intend to secure broadcast rights and send it out over the airwaves via our public access channels. I know that not even our Public Broadcasting Stations will have the cojones to show it (though I intend to make a big pitch for it). Especially since the current director of the CPB is a Bush appointee...

Posted by: Michael Enquist from the Good Ol' USA at January 12, 2006 12:58 AM
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I completely support Richard Dawkins in his views as expressed in The root of all evil?. However, in the interest of balance I came looking for reasoned counter-views. If all you can manage is peurile insult "England's in-house egoist"... "prejudices"... "nonsense"... then please don't bother.

The point is that Dawkins is working as a scientist, using evidence and therefore avoiding prejudice and constructing a thoroughly sensible (using the evidence of the senses) argument. I don't know Dawkins personally (though I would like to). Does Dr Mullen, or is he just prejudiced when he accuses him of egotism? There was certainly no evidence of egotism in the first part of the programme.

Clearly, Faith is the self professed nonsense... it is, even by adherents, admitted to be insusceptible to the evidence of the known senses.

Finally, Dawkins does not state his support for our current society so all arguments stating how awful it is simply miss the target.

Posted by: Anthony at January 12, 2006 11:30 AM
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"he ridicules Americans for believing that the world is less than 10000 years old but you would be surprised at the amount of evidence suggesting this is so!"

What evidence other than the bible suggests this is so? The fossil record alone disputes this statement.

"Does no-one else find it hypocritical that he insists that a naturalist worldview and his interpretation of science is right, but condemns all traditional religions for doing the same?" Dawkins is basing his interpretation of science on evidence, facts, reality, proof, rational thought whereas the religious base theirs on faith in an unseen entity. He never said he was right. He said he cannot understand belief in something that is NOT based on the evidence. If someone cares to show him good solid scientific proof based on solid evidence that god exists, I'm sure he and others would be glad to see it. All the man is suggesting is that we look at the facts. If in time further evidence alters an hypothesis then that alteration is based on facts and nothing else. That's science.

What Dawkins is trying to say in this program, I think, is that religion and all the irrationality of it is maintained because it gives weight to people's hatreds, fears, bigotry, greed, selfishness and lust for war. All the things religions are supposedly against but superbly demonstrated by all the faiths when he visited Jerusalem.

One must also remember that the bible was translated from the Hebrew to the Greek and then to Latin and then to English with revisions and omissions as translators and the Church thought fit. Can anyone absolutely categorically guarantee that no mistakes, misinterpretations or mistranslations were made along the way? I doubt it. The "word of god" in the hands of men is bound to be screwed up somewhere along the line. Basing your complete and utter faith in that is dodgy at best.

Posted by: F. Shaw at January 12, 2006 03:39 PM
•••

I have noticed that religious people generally react with anger when their religion is questioned.

The previous comments defending Christianity on this page all attack Prof.Dawkins personally.

I think this tells us something of great importance about the delusion of religion, and the psychological defence mechanisms people of faith must employ to prevent the collapse of 'their' particular fairytale.

Only knowledge can bring enlightenment from religion.

Christianity is only one religion out of a countless amount that have existed. The sheer variety makes even a definition of religion difficult.
If there were any truth in religion we would expect to find a central fact, core to all religions. Instead we find an amazing breadth of supernatural possibilities.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_religions

(Phil - wellyTop)

Posted by: Phil W at January 12, 2006 08:09 PM
•••

Somewhat off the trend of the discussion so far, but a question for the monstrous regiment of militant atheists who have descended on the Social Affairs Unit (a webspace one senses they are not regular visitors to)

Would you subject an elderly, or indeed dying, person of faith of some kind, to the full rigours of your atheistical propagandising (which, as far as I can make out, consists entirely of saying "Religion! It's really stupid! Really, really stupid! Any fool can see that! ANYONE WHO HAS RELIGIOUS BELIEF OF ANY KIND IS OBVIOUSLY AN IDIOT OR AN EMOTIONAL CRIPPLE!" and repeating some variant on same when challenged in any way) - after all, the iron logic of a Richard Dawkins or Tubby Isaacs would cut through the simple sheeplike faith of most of these brainwashed morons like a knife through butter? After all, religion, being the root of all evil, is surely something that we should scrub out of the brains of the vulnerable before they depart this life, the only one we have.

Or at the end of the day, is all this "religion is the root of all evil" stuff just bluster and bluff? How far are you all, in practical terms, willing to prostelyise on behalf of your anti-religion?

Posted by: Gilda at January 12, 2006 11:15 PM
•••

Of course not, Gilda. To proselytise atheism to, say, a Christian who was very feeble or dying, would be cruel. On the contrary, this Christmas, for example, my wife's elderly parents stayed with us and I had absolutely no problem driving them to the midnight Christmas Eve communcion service at our village church, even though I am convinced that their beliefs quite false. They know this and we both accept each other's position, knowing that it wouldn't change however long and bitterly we were prepared to argue our respective points of view.

As an humanist-atheist I really don't much care what other people believe in private. I believe that many other atheists feel the same way. The only thing that really matters is what those beliefs, and the religious hierarchy that propagates them, make religious people do to others. This includes proselytising religion to non-believers, especially children, as if it were factually true. Also I do not want anyone to acquire special privileges or disadvantages just because of their beliefs, whatever these happen to be.

"Atheistic propagandising" is nothing compared to the religious propagandising that most of us are subjected to in the media and even on the High Street. Even Radio 4's "Thought for the day" is reserved exclusively for the religious - as if atheists had nothing worthwhile to say on moral and ethical issues!

Posted by: Ian at January 13, 2006 04:04 PM
•••

Ironically, the Bible says that it is the love of money that is the root of all evil. I wonder how much Richard Dawkins got paid for this series....

Posted by: Paul H at January 16, 2006 09:37 PM
•••

GO ON, READ THIS ONE, ITS OPPINIONATED.

Good call: not@on5your5life.com.

I am not going to pretend that I am any sort of theorist or intellectual, and I am indeed drinking a can of Carling as I type this - though not intoxicated - I was just watching The Root Of All Evil and I have to say it was very interesting.

I have often wondered how people can become so caught up in religion when its clearly obvious that your life is what you make it and no god is going to help you in this life or any other, there is no other life...we should enjoy the time we have now as Dawkins so brilliantly pointed out at the end of his programme - because you wont get another chance.

I wonder..(On the more humorous side of thinking)

Would Abortion be so wrong when there are so many slappers that live around me that have a quick knee trembler behind the bins just so they can get a council flat? Believe me, there are plenty. I don’t think they are church goers?

How can there be an old testament and then a new testament, that’s like saying…here are the Ten Commandments..no wait..I change my mind, scrap that one. Let’s change a few things around because it’s a bit hard for us to adhere to.

When I send my kids to school (when I have one), should he / she be taught as though Christian, Catholic, Jew, and Muslim..Which one is right? Who is going to make that decision... God? Which one?

Adam and Eve? Would it have been better if it was just Adam and Adams mate Brian..If Adam and Eve are the only two on earth but are not allowed to get jiggy then how are we supposed to be starting the human race?

Chimps? Evolution? It does exist you know?

If every male was a Priest and every Woman was a Nun, where would kids come from?

Why can god turn water into wine when drinking is a sin (indulgence)? The last supper looked like a right knee's up. I don’t think it was one glass each - no one was driving.

Why does Jesus look so white? He must have been Black in that heat? Or at least well tanned?

Virgin Mary? Has she never heard of contraception?

The extent of my religion was that at school I was made to say a prayer in assembly? I did not feel that it was right or that it made any sense to have such hope in something that took place (allegedly) so long ago. I do believe that there was a certain somebody who made a significant connection and that books were written about that person and it all come about from there. The bible in my opinion is like a classic fable, though a very interesting fable, quite a good read - then again so is Mein Kampf - but that does not give any one person any authority because they believe in that fiction so much, to tell some one else how to feel or live their life. I can confidently say (with my inferior education), that religion and the Bible from which it stems were written with one goal in mind. Public Control, making the public conform to your rules and way of life - and with all the financial gains that come with it.

We developed from apes, the dinosaurs had no god, and when our species comes to its demise, we will evolve again..It could be another planet, it could be here on earth, either way, I will see you in hell.

Karl

Posted by: Karl Billington at January 16, 2006 10:08 PM
•••

I liked the article very much. Thanks to the author.

Posted by: Shane at January 17, 2006 12:41 PM
•••

Everyone seems to think that Christianity came from Christ. It did not. Christianity came from the Roman Empire.

Posted by: phil at January 17, 2006 04:15 PM
•••

A group in the UK invent a Time Machine ŕ la H.G.Wells. They decide to get together a group of eminent British scientists to try it out.

They go forward 200 years, and discover that humanity has wiped itself out in a high-tech war, along with all the larger animals. Some want to go back, but Richard Dawkins suggests going forward millions of years to find out if anything has evolved to take our place.

They fast forward in time, and after 50 million years suddenly cities appear, followed by aeroplanes. A group of the more young and energetic scientists form an expeditionary team and set off to explore.

A few days later they return. As they enter, the leader of the team exclaims:

"Professor Dawkins, you were right! Rats have evolved to make the new people, just as you suggested they might in "The Ancestor's Tale".

Dawkins beams, but then the expedition leader continues:

"You won't like this so much (Dawkins frowns): they all believe in God!"

"Oh Rats!" says Dawkins.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at January 17, 2006 05:59 PM
•••

I wonder if Dr Peter Mullen actually listened to what Richard Dawkins was saying during the course of the program because he seems to be under the impression that Richard was condemning anyone with religious faith as being irredeemably evil and all atheists as being perfectly good, which in fact he wasn't. This is the issue which Dr Mullen is arguing in his article but unfortunately he has missed the point.

Richard was clearly saying that all humans, regardless of whether they grow up to be religious or not, are equally capable of being good or evil and that it is religion it's self which is capable of coercing people to behave in ways which he considers to be detrimental to the advancement of our society and this is a point which Dr Mullen has completely failed to address in the article above.

Richard Dawkins believes religion is a bad influence on people because it encourages unshakable belief in ancient, outdated texts written in a time of comparative scientific ignorance and against an archaic moral background. As Richard says religion discourages investigation, questioning and reappraisal of it's teachings. All of these fundamental properties of religion are totally incompatible with scientific progress and it's through scientific progress that Richard believes lies the best hope for the advancement and betterment of our society.

Richard has demonstrated very convincingly why religious organisations are in conflict with scientific advancement which in terms of societies improvement makes religion a negative force and not something which should be forced upon children without giving them a fair chance to gain impartial exposure to other religious, atheistic and scientific viewpoints.

For the record I entirely agree with Richard Dawkins.

Posted by: Joe at January 17, 2006 10:59 PM
•••

Gilda said:

"Would you subject an elderly, or indeed dying, person of faith of some kind, to the full rigours of your atheistical propagandising - after all, the iron logic of a Richard Dawkins or Tubby Isaacs would cut through the simple sheeplike faith of most of these brainwashed morons like a knife through butter? After all, religion, being the root of all evil, is surely something that we should scrub out of the brains of the vulnerable before they depart this life, the only one we have."

And yet this is precisely what Christians and many others have been doing for many centuries - "repent your sins - you are about to die - admit your errors and embrace Christianity". No I wouldn't try to get someone who is dying to change their mind, because it would be a waste of my time (once they are dead it matters not what they believed) and so very cruel to them to take away that sop of comfort they obviously need. In that, we aethists are probably have a lot more humanity than those of religuous faith who would pursue us to our graves attempting to convert us to their beliefs.

The people to subject to all the rigours of clear thinking are those who are young enough to have time to profit by it.

Posted by: Malcolm at January 18, 2006 12:51 AM
•••

No more Carling for you, Karl :) although I take your point that there are many inconsistencies in religions and particularly the religious. (Especially the white Jesus.....just isn't likely is it?) However, it was entertaining and the posts were a little too serious anyway. And whatever it is you're smokin Robert, don't forget the rest of us.

After watching the second part of the Root of All Evil, Dawkins has very eloquently and elegantly explained why he thinks religious teaching in schools is wrong and I agree with him. Religious teaching has no place in educational institutions. The government should not support the teaching of religious dogma and the taxpayer should not have to pay for it. And the idea of teaching Intelligent Design alongside evolution in a Science class is ludicrous. There is no scientific basis for intelligent design.

There are currently around 7,000 faith schools in England, 600 secondary and 6,400 primary. The vast majority [6,955] are Christian, with 36 Jewish, five Muslim and two Sikh schools. (The Guardian) The taxpayer is footing this bill and I for one would rather see my money go to community schools that are completely secular and less devisive. Education is meant to broaden the mind, promote questioning and curiosity and seeking the truth and yet religion seems to stifle that. The two are incompatible in a learning environment.

The separation of Church and State needs to go one step further. The Church has no place in our educational institutions anymore than it has in our government. Religious freedom in a democratic society is a right but dont atheists also have the right NOT to have religious ideology foisted onto them or their children in a public school system?

Posted by: F. Shaw at January 18, 2006 09:36 PM
•••

Interestingly, many of the bad things about religion are prophesied in the Bible. At the Last Supper, Jesus tell his disciples:

"He who kills you will think he is doing a service to God".

In the book of Revelation, John writes:

"Then I saw another beast, coming out of the earth. He had two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon. He exercised all the authority of the first beast on his behalf, and made the earth and its inhabitants worship the first beast, whose fatal wound had been healed."

In its time, this refers to the priests of Roman Emperor worship, which is a prima facie case of religion being set up in order to exercise political control. More generally, however, the political world invades religion like some sort of parasite in order to subvert its metabolism for its own ends. The Hapsburg Empire, for example, could almost be described as a devil's organ concerto with the Pope being the organ and the Emperor the orchestra (though, as the Sound of Music attests, there was still some good to be found in it). And in our own beloved England, the Church of England has too often served as an organ of the state, enforcing conformity and persecuting both Nonconformists and Atheists.

There are, of course, variations on this theme. In communist countries, the religion and the state are one. However, simply because there is so much bad religion around does not mean that religion itself is bad. Rather:

Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds. (Shakespeare Sonnet 94)

One may hanker after some primal innocence of religion like the other primates, but somewhere, someone (Pithecanthropus, perhaps?) acquired the knowledge of good and evil, and there is no going back.

Posted by: Robert H. Olley at January 23, 2006 07:04 PM
•••

I am concerned about the viciousness of the discussion. Let's have an informed mature debate, and be prepared to consider points raised without any a priori assumptions that they are wrong.

I will answer a few anti-religious arguments now, and present some hard scientific fact to show that science and religion are not opposed (indeed, science started to flourish in Christian nations, sustained by the belief in a world created by a rational god). As I haven't space to elaborate now, I encourage people to query these arguments, in a MATURE way!

F. Shaw,
There are many non-biblical, scientific sources indicating that the earth is far younger than 4.5 billion years, eg: the decay rate of the Earth's magnetic field suggest that it is less than 10k years old. Atmospheric helium from radioactive decay is only 1/2000th of what would be expected from such an old atmosphere. Red blood cells have been found in unfossilized dinosaur bone, these cannot possibly be 65m years old. Even granting generous assumptions, the salt level and rate of change in the sea shows that it cannot be more than 62m years old.

As for the fossil and geologic records, this is directly consistent with a massive watery catastrophe that left billions of dead things buried in water-carried sediment, depositing and vastly changing the land surface in a very short period of time - the Genesis Flood. Anomalies in the evolutionary model that directly fit the Flood model include: lack of erosion and disturbance in the rock strata, lack of soil layers, polystrate fossils, frequent upwarping and folding of multiple layers (indicating they were still soft when bent), hordes of fossils smashed and swept together, fossils buried according to the sorting action of water.

The definition of the [secular] SETI program instantly identifies the DNA code of life as having an intelligent origin, and there are countless other convincing arguments. You are undermining your professed need for school freedom by refusing to allow children to hear both sides of the argument and make up there own minds!

Phil W.
There are thousands of stories from many cultures and religions, each with features in common with the Biblical accounts, talking of such things as a global flood (Noah's Flood) and a people/language dispersal (Tower of Babel).

Ian,
It's not that atheists don't have anything worthwhile to say on moral issues - they do - but without any absolutes from a qualified source on which to base a moral view, they will always fall into the Relativism trap - a moral judgement cannot be justly imposed on others, and law and order becomes meaningless. A law not based on absolutes is just one opinion imposed on others who may not accept that opinion.

Karl,
I would avoid labelling all Christians with your image of a few, possibly not Christians at all despite the rhetoric. Drinking (reasonably) is NOT a sin, Jesus wan't white, and sex was a gift from God to Adam/Eve (and to us) for a man and wife (committed for life) to be united as one, for procreation AND pleasure. The Fall of Adam means that sex these days, tainted by sin, is often used perversely - but for a Christian married couple it can still be the way God intended.

Chimps? Evolution? Prove it! This demands a faith more incredulous that the Christian's faith in God and his creation as outlined in Genesis. I can reasonably present this point all day, such is the subject material!

Phil,
Christianity did not COME from the Roman Empire. The newly Christianised Empire simply took what was already considered authoritative and proven accurate. Again, I could elaborate all day, but I suggest you read Lee Strobel's "The Case For Christ".

Joe,
Athiesm (religion!) is also equally adept at causing harm - eg, the evolutionary theory of people origins logically justifies racism, and has been used as such. A Bible-believing Christian must logically abhor racism - ONE race of ONE blood - "there is no jew or gentile, barbarian or scythian, slave or free, for all are in Christ, and Christ is in all".

TO ALL: As well as being a Christan, I have studied many branches of science and philosphy in depth, I am logical and I seek evidences and consistency. I choose Christianity as it is LOGICALLY DEFENSIBLE. I deeply resent the accusations that to be religious is to be, at least in part, delusional, narrow-minded, and incapable of clear thinking. Reasonable arguments are readily available - you just have to ask, AM I PREPARED TO LISTEN!!!

Posted by: Philip at February 7, 2006 02:12 AM
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Oh, and Robert Olley, Pithecanthropus - Java man - is recognised as being of the Homo Erectus kind, which is now understood as being a modern human, to be recognised with, or even as, Homo Sapiens. Far from being a link between apes and humans, it fits the Creation model.

Even Darwin himself recognised that there are no fossils showing transitions between orders, as required for evolution. Colin Patterson of the British Natural History Museum said, "I will lay it on the line - there is not one such fossil for which one could make a watertight argument".

Note: Natural selection and speciation is NOT evolution! This is a downward trend (devolution!), involving the LOSS of information and genes.

And evolutionary theory violates the Laws of Thermodynamics, mainly, the so-called "Natural Law" of things to run down and deteriorate!

Posted by: Philip at February 7, 2006 02:30 AM
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What a review? First we are treated to name calling not only for Dawkins (in-house egoist) but his views (parade his prejudices) all by a man who is paid to pontificate based on nothing more than faith. In addition he converts Hitlers, a Catholic who never repudiated his church nor was ever excommunicated by it, into an atheist.

Therre certainly is plenty of evidence that Marxism was treated like a religious belief. And many advocates of free markets have advised that the fervour of Marxism comes from the way in inculcated Christian values into it’s own system. The hatred of the rich for being the rich for example. The New Testament is filled with envious hatred of wealth with no reason given except that the people are wealthy. The Marxist said that self-interest was evil, so did the Christians. The Marxists said one must live for the sake of others, so did the Christians. No wonder the precursors of Marxists dictatorships in the world, were Christian: the Anabaptist dictatorship in Münster for instance as well as the Christian communal dicatatorship of Hung Hsiu-ch’uan that lead to the deaths of 20 million Chinese between 1850 and1873. The early church practiced communal property as did the Puritans when they first settled in the US.

These views undermine the spirit of classical liberalism, private property and the competitive economic order.

It is absurd to think that any atheist thinks we are “set foreverf on the slope that leads to the sunlit uplands”. Flowery rhetoric pehaps but false, I suggest dishonestly false as opposed to merely based on ignorance. But the good Reverend here spend most of time flinging insults instead of arguments. I guess if I had to defend fantasies and fairy tales I would be forced to do the same thing. He is also distorting the facts of Christianity. He says Christians believe in free will -- true, many do but not all. In fact the Calvinists are staunchly opposed to that idea though they do have the low view of humanity that the Reverend apparently shares with them. One could almost say a concept for humaness. I find it odd that he speaks of self-respect and human dignity right after describing full grown adults as “flawed, frail children of dust and feeble as frail” who “tend to go to the bad”. Self-respect? Dignity? What would contempt and dislike like?

He clearly distorts Dawkins or doesn’t understand him (the latter mnore likely) when he says Dawkins insists we are “controlled by our genetic makeup”. Mullen simply distorts not only Dawkins but history to make his case for his wishful thinking.

And the real danger of this god-talk is that the ethics that goes with it undermines the free society and the liberal capitalist order. The great difference between the New Testament and Marxism was that the latter said you the proletariat can get the rich in this life and the New Testament promised revenge in the next.

Posted by: Gdls at November 3, 2006 08:04 PM
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