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Spiritual Meditations (25 Jan 2012 NewAgeIslam.Com)

'The Biggest Damage Religion does is Brainwashing Children'

Richard Dawkins in an interview with Vineet Gill

Jan 25, 2012,

Richard Dawkins is amongst the most provocative thinkers of our times. The Oxford University geneticist has waged a blazing intellectual war on religion, calling for the rule of science and rationality. At the recent Jaipur Literature Festival, Dawkins spoke with Vineet Gill about why he prefers science over faith, whether he is an 'atheist fundamentalist', - and issues such as immortality:

What are your views on moderate religion today? You've earlier called this 'a seedbed for extremists'?

I have said that a¦ I fear it's true that if children are taught, however moderately, that faith is a virtue, that you don't need evidence to believe something, then that paves the way for a minority to be extremists. Everybody has been indoctrinated with this view that if it's their faith, you can't argue with them. I think that is pernicious. If children are taught they don't need to defend their beliefs with evidence, that paves the way for extremisma¦the biggest damage religion does is indoctrinating and brainwashing children.

You believe passionately instead in science - but what happens when science gets it wrong?

Science doesn't actually claim to know all the truth. It works hard by getting closer and closer to the truth, but of course science learns by its mistakes and advances by disproving hypotheses and getting things wrong. One of the virtues of science is that it is prepared to change its mind when the evidence warrants it. Public sharing is an important part of science. No scientist will ever say - 'Oh, it's true for me, it may not be true for you.'

Science gets space for research and development - why can't we look at religion too as a living laboratory with people developing their thoughts, rather than just dismissing it?

It would be very nice to study religion in anthropological and psychological ways. By the way, i do think children need to be educated about religion. They just shouldn't be told you belong only to this or that religion. They should be told, there is this religion and that religion. And when you grow up, you may - or may not - choose to join any of those.

If science were to triumph over time, would you like to become immortal with its help?

No. I think if there's something frightening about death, it is eternity. And it's equally frightening whether you're there or not. Actually, it's more frightening if you are there. Just imagine billions and billions and billions of years - terribly boring! I prefer to spend eternity under a general anaesthetic - and that is exactly what's going to happen.

Stepping out of science, how do you explain the powerful effect faith has on people?

It is fascinating. What is it about faith that can make somebody kill? Patriotism is another one - people believe my country is right or wrong. In the World Wars, people were perfectly able to shoot other people just because they belonged to the wrong country, without ever asking what their opinions were. Faith too is like that.

Rejecting belief outright, are you an atheist fundamentalist?

The term 'fundamentalist' means you stick to a holy book and never change your mind. I will change my mind whenever the evidence warrants it.

Finally, your thoughts on your friend and legendary fellow atheist, the late Christopher Hitchens?

Christopher Hitchens was a great warrior, a magnificent orator, a pugilist and a gentleman. He was kind, but he took no prisoners when arguing with idiots.

Source: The Times of India, New Delhi

URL: http://www.newageislam.com/NewAgeIslamIslamSpiritualMeditations_1.aspx?ArticleID=6473



  • I believe this piece of information does belong here for the sake of related information.  "Dawkins made it to my sociology class".  It does affect our thinking one way or other.

    By Syed Rizvi - 2/10/2012 9:29:31 PM

  •  I just ran into this old piece again while browsing around the site and a thought occurred to me that I want to share; maybe some readers would like to comment on it.

    Am I correct in my observation that people with faith and a set of a belief system are easily disturbed  when reason and logic are brought into the equation?  But it is not the other way around.

    By Syed Rizvi - 2/10/2012 11:00:36 AM

  • Rashid Sb is right regarding the following Ayat    5-35, “……that if any one slew a person --unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole humanity and if one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of a whole humanity.
    In fact, there are many fine Ayas of that sort --- no question about it.
    The good part is that the book has everything for everyone where people can pick and choose depending upon their own upbringing, temperament and convictions.

    By Syed Rizvi - 1/28/2012 5:44:55 PM

  • Mr Rizvi, your point is valid looking at the state of affairs of the Muslim world and in particular what the young-passionate-‘religious’ man says in the link you provided. There are many such links in any one day around for the world at large to read and watch, more than enough to form a particular opinion of so called Muslims, based on them only.


    But in all mature fairness, if one quotes just one reference from the Book, will we be correct in concluding that it was quoted out of context? Here it is just in relevant part as an example:-


    5-35, “……that if any one slew a person --unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land—it would be as if he slew the whole humanity and if one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of a whole humanity …..yet even after that many of them continued to commit excesses in the land”. Verse 36 and 37 form a connecting chain for this argument, and there are others such as 8-39.

    The emphases of the italics are just to draw the readers' attention to the context of spreading mischief in the land, obviously a crime against humanity!


    This is only because I was specifically addressed.

    By Rashid - 1/28/2012 7:37:13 AM

  • Mr. Rashid says: if it is predicated on killing a person of another faith to prove its own correctness, obviously cannot be a faith in the meaning of myriads of faith -philosophies that have sprouted in Humanity over the ages.
    However, I am not sure he speaks for all faiths.
    I admire this man in the video because at least he is telling the truth what the scripture actually says in black and white.
    Although it is very easy to say he is taking it "out of context." . If that happens to be the case, then we need to compile an extensive list and spell it out which of the Ayas if quoted at their face value are to be considered as "out of context" and which ones we can use as they are without having to worry about them being taken out of context.
    However, that would be a huge task and will require a major review and scrutinizing of the book. And I am not sure our Mullahs and their followers will buy that.
    Labeling embarrassing lines as "out of context" is a good cop-out but I am not sure how far we can stretch that.

    By Syed Rizvi - 1/28/2012 3:19:13 AM

  • Martin of Minnespta said:   ....If I am wrong, I would humbly beg your willingness to correct me. ....Very best wishes--   Martin

    My response:

    What I said was meant to be a satire.

    My apologies for my dry sense of humor.

    Syed Rizvi

    By Syed Rizvi - 1/28/2012 12:57:33 AM

  • Dear Martin,

    Any Faith, that is supposed to make the Faithful a better person - for doing ‘good for goodness sake’; if it is predicated on killing a person of another faith to prove its own correctness, obviously cannot be a faith in the meaning of myriads of faith -philosophies that have sprouted in Humanity over the ages, including Atheism.

    “Just war”  is a Church based, ala religion based dogma coined to justify ‘religion based war’ and therefore killing. Even an intellectually one–eyed person can work out that ‘Justice”—an act of doing good - can not exist side by side with ‘War’ – a business of killing!

    Giving or taking life to defend faith to me, is a gross contradiction of my faith and same as yours.

    Best wishes to you.

    By Rashid - 1/27/2012 5:55:10 PM

  • Robert Evans,

    (1) Atheists argue that postulation of a Creator does not in any way help to explain the creation of the cosmos.

    (2) Dawkins recently trashed morality derived from religion.

    (3) Of late atheists have been increasingly aggressive in trying to tear down religious beliefs.

    (4) The main point here was that since one cannot prove either the existence or the non-existence of God, this discussion is futile.


    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 1/27/2012 3:36:52 PM

  • My biggest take away from this interview is Dawkins' positive exhortation to impart to children knowledge of different religions. Endowed with an inherently syncretic worldview , we in  India are uniquely placed to teach our children the core essence of major traditions , highlighting the commonalities---  initially through tales and parables of saints from across cultures and later through a comparative study of the basic tenets. The freedom of thought and belief that Dawkins alludes to informs the worldview of our ancient wisdom as enshrined in the vedas which proclaim again and again that the same Truth is articulated by diverse wise men in various ways.It is this attitude that enabled us to assimilate ideas from all over the world.  It is this idea of unity in diversity that  needs proactively and affirmatively to be instilled in young minds. 

    By Rajat Narain - 1/27/2012 12:59:33 PM

  • Dear Mr. Rizvi--

    First, may peace be with you. 

    Second, we who have faith believe that we have the perfect faith.  But what if we are wrong?  I, who am a Christian, believe things that a follower of Islam might think are falsehoods.  Can we both have the perfect faith?  Of course not!  What then are believers to do?  If there is a conflict between the call of faith and the call of reason, I believe that the best course may, sometimes, be to follow reason--it may help keep us from doing evil things. 

    As for giving one's life to defend one's faith--that may be a good thing.  However, I am less certain about killing another to defend one's faith, and I think that tolerance is a greater virtue than faith.  As I say, "Tolerance is what keeps people with convictions from killing each other."

    If I am wrong, I would humbly beg your willingness to correct me. 

    Very best wishes--


    By Martin in Minnesota - 1/27/2012 10:02:44 AM

  • 1/25/2012 12:12:05 PMGhulam Mohiyuddin
    (1) Postulation of absence of a Creator does not in any way help to explain the creation of the cosmos.

    (2) There is no evidence that the morality of atheists is better than the morality of believers.

    (3) People have a right to believe in God or in the absence of God, but claiming that one's belief system is a great insight and touting it as being superior to the belief system of others is unwarranted.

    (4) Since one cannot prove either the existence or the non-existence of God, this discussion is futile, but it has earned millions for Dawkins and Hitchens!

    From: Bob Evans

    In response to Ghulam Mohiyuddin's four points:

    1) Why should it? 
    2) Who said there is such evidence? Certainly not Dawkins.
        Atheists are humans also and make mistakes, sometimes serious ones like anyone else.
    3) Of course people have the right to hold both philosophical positions. But I think any objective observer will agree that the "touting" of superiority is something practiced far more by believers than by atheists. Those of us who have similar views to Dawkins are, as he said, always open to evidence-based correction.
    4) I think you will find that the two books you obviously refer to by Dawkins and Hitchens were written in the past few years in response to what they perceived as a domination of the bookshops and airwaves in the United States and Europe by the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of volumes and homilies by the religious, of all stripes. Whether they made "millions" I strongly doubt. But certainly writers expounding religious positions -- Paulo Coelho for example -- have. And how many "men of religion" in the United States have used their faith to accede to riches through "contributions" from their followers, and in Islamic and some other countries to accede to positions of political power which bring  them all the earthly riches that they can possibly desire?  

    By Robert EVANS - 1/27/2012 8:28:29 AM

  •  Dawkins is quoted as saying "if children are taught, however moderately, that faith is a virtue, that you don't need evidence to believe something, then that paves the way for a minority to be extremists." This is true. But the real issue here is not whether faith is a virtue or not, but whether faith is a necessity. However, when I say that, I don't necessarily mean a religious faith. For, even in a secular or atheist society as envisaged by Dawkins, faith cannot be eliminated. Every scientist tries to find  out how things "actually are". That implies an assumption, that is an act of faith,  that there is a state in which things " actually are" in whatever sense this is interpreted. It implies an assumption that there is an order, or a type of uniformity, in the universe. Dawkins' writings are high in polemic, but weak on the underlying logical, philosophical  and epistemological foundations which alone can supply a strictly scientific and logical basis for his ideas. Way back in the 1930s, the mathematician and logician Kurt Godel proved (and I mean proved!) that there are true statements that cannot be logically deduced. That does NOT mean that anything we care to believe must be true, so "get lost" all "fundamentalists" and extremists of whatever persuasion! But it does mean that our knowledge is intrinsically incomplete and that reason has its limits.
    By Rodney Nillsen - 1/27/2012 3:52:45 AM

  • It could be that the Atheist, some very intelligent scientist have failed to articulate their fear of the religious god or gods, but have an innate idea of a ‘clock maker’ that has created the universe that works like a precision clock; and that they call it him/her/it a ‘chance’.

    After all this chance is also a nebulous entity, unprovable like god(s), except by scientific laws and phenomena climaxing in the Big Bang theory for them.

    When asked how did the big bang occur, they answer that it just happened- a chance! This then leads to many further W type questions that eventually result in the never ending saga as the nursery rhyme “there is a hole in the bucket dear…”.

    Hence one is apt to conclude that like all religions, theirs too is a religion, a belief. The study of Science is therefore their religion except that happens to be the truth an absolutely essential for mankind to prove this point but mankind is long way off frm eaching that conclusion yet.

    On a serious note a very clever man from US said and it may be quoted here to explain in detail—

    “There are known knowns; there are things we know we know.
    We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know.
    But there are also unknown unknowns – there are things we do not know we don't know.”

    Does this not make it very clear now?

    By Rashid - 1/27/2012 3:21:47 AM

  • In practice, religion is used as brainwashing den.   In the name of discipline, the rigidity and hatred is perpetuated by the religious leader who wants to be become the political power.

    Faith is the one which can open up the intuition which is beyond the realm of knowledge which is nothing but the accumulation of experience of the mankind.
    It might be interesting to read about certain eastern thoughts about the creation of the world which has been used in the movie matrix.  World exist only in the awareness of the individual and it does not exist if that awareness loose.  It is lost in sleep, dream and madness.   It says that the individual ego must cease to exist when it merges into divinity.  It is more like a sleep where you can to bed but would not know when u fall into sleep.
    By satwa gunam - 1/26/2012 10:07:27 PM

  • When there is a conflict between faith and reason, the faith must win  if your faith is strong.  And the stronger your faith is more likely you will be ready to give your life to defend your faith; which of course is a virtue.

    By Syed Rizvi - 1/26/2012 3:25:16 AM

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