Controversial scientist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins, dubbed “Darwin’s Rottweiler,” calls religion a “virus” and faith-based education “child abuse” in a two-part series he wrote and appears in that begins airing on the UK’s Channel 4, beginning tomorrow evening.
Entitled “Root of All Evil?,” the series features the atheist Dawkins visiting Lourdes, France, Colorado Springs, Colo., the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and a British religious school, using each of the venues to argue religion subverts reason.
In “The God Delusion,” the first film in the series, Dawkins targets Catholicism at the pilgrimage site in Lourdes. “If you want to experience the medieval rituals of faith, the candle light, the incense, music, important-sounding dead languages, nobody does it better than the Catholics,” he says.
Dawkins, using his visit to Colorado Springs’ New Life Church, criticizes conservative U.S. evangelicals and warns his audience of the influence of “Christian fascism” and “an American Taliban.”
The backdrop of the al-Aqsa mosque and an American-born Jew turned fundamentalist Muslim who tells Dawkins to prepare for the Islamic world empire – and who clashes with him after saying he hates atheists – rounds out the first program’s case for the delusions of the faithful.
In part two, “The Virus of Faith,” Dawkins attacks the teaching of religion to children, calling it child abuse.
“Innocent children are being saddled with demonstrable falsehoods,” he says. “It’s time to question the abuse of childhood innocence with superstitious ideas of hellfire and damnation. Isn’t it weird the way we automatically label a tiny child with its parents’ religion?”
“Sectarian religious schools,” Dawkins asserts, have been “deeply damaging” to generations of children.
Dawkins, who makes no effort to disguise his atheism and contempt for religion, focuses on the Bible, too.
“The God of the Old Testament has got to be the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous, and proud of it, petty, vindictive, unjust, unforgiving, racist,” he says. Dawkins then criticizes Abraham, compares Moses to Hitler and Saddam Hussein, and calls the New Testament “St Paul’s nasty, sado-masochistic doctrine of atonement for original sin.”
John Deighan, a spokesman for the Catholic Church, took issue with Dawkin’s denunciation of religion, telling the Glasgow Sunday Herald, “Dawkins is well known for his vitriolic attacks on faith, and I think faith has withstood his attacks. He really is going beyond his abilities as a scientist when he starts to venture into the field of philosophy and theology. He is the guy with demonstrable problems.”
Madeline Bunting, a columnist for the Guardian, who reviewed the series, wrote: “There’s an aggrieved frustration that [atheist humanists] have been short-changed by history – we were supposed to be all atheist rationalists by now. Secularization was supposed to be an inextricable part of progress. Even more grating, what secularization there has been is accompanied by the growth of weird irrationalities from crystals to ley lines. As G.K. Chesterton pointed out, the problem when people don’t believe in God is not that they believe nothing, it is that they believe anything.”
Dawkins, perhaps best known for his much-cited comment that evolution “made it possible to be an intellectually satisfied atheist,” appeals to John Lennon in a commentary he authored for the Belfast Telegraph on the eve of his program’s premiere: “Religion may not be the root of all evil, but it is a serious contender. Even so it could be justified, if only its claims were true. But they are undermined by science and reason. Imagine a world where nobody is intimidated against following reason, wherever it leads. “You may say I’m a dreamer. But I’m not the only one.”