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Beyond belief

10 Jan 2006 / in going off on one, hellbound

Imagine there’s no countries

It isnt hard to do

Nothing to kill or die for

No religion too

Imagine all the people iving life in peace…


-John Lennon, 1971

Professor Richard Dawkins was on Channel 4 last night, tackling the ‘holy of holies’ – religion. Using logical arguments based on reason, thought, questioning and evidence, he described why he felt the religion was the Root of All Evil.

It is brave subject to tackle in these politically correct times! It wasn’t long ago in Britain you could have been hung for being an atheist and in some countries, including the US, to be ‘out’ as an atheist can adversely affect your career and ability to get on.

Dawkins was not only brave to tackle the subject, he was brave to face a number of deeply religious characters. He interviewed scary born-again US preachers and fundamentalist islamists who called him a liar, damned and insulted him was part of the TV spectacle. What was he meant to do in response to this – sit meekly and not respond? No, he challenged them and questioned them. They didn’t like it!

He was right to note that religious fanatics bomb our cities and make war in the name of god and ask why we don’t sit up and question the role of religion in society when clearly its killing our brothers and sisters.

He was right to wonder why on earth we pussyfoot around using politically correct language when talking about religion, in a way we don’t do for anything else. It certainly doesn’t occur to the street preacher in Oxford who as I walk to work, calls me a sinner.

I applaud Dawkins for standing up and questioning the world’s ‘great’ religions and say it’s OK not to believe. I liked the charged language Dawkins used: ‘deviancy’, ‘virus’, ‘indoctrination’. It provoked reaction in the viewer. It had me cheering! But it would have others fuming. But that was surely the whole idea: to get people to think, to question, to reason, to examine and if necessary to disagree, but above all – to think it out for themselves.

I will fight for the right for anyone to believe whatever they choose. But I also expect the same respect in return. Respect of this nature doesn’t preclude discussion, debate, exchanging of views in a bid to understand one another’s point of view. (Not convert or preach, but understand and learn.) Atheists often don’t get it. Instead they get told (usually by moderates or liberals) they are as bad as fundamentalist religious types preaching some doctrine or other from a Middle Eastern Iron Age death cult.

So how can atheists express their deeply held views? Does having strong opinions make us dangerous fundamentalists? I think not. It simply makes us intelligent human beings.

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