This essay will be posted in three parts
In the New York Times 10 best sellers list, the book entitled ‘The God Delusion’ by British ethologist Richard Dawkins, Professor for the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University featured prominently. The author argues against other things – that Atheism is the true faith of a logical human being, that why almost certainly there is no God and why Atheism is able to answer mankind’s needs for morals and values.
Whilst, this is not the place to evaluate the author’s arguments on the existence of God and to exemplify his weak grasp of theology about which the London Review of Books says: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology”; There is however another argument that he makes that is of interest for our talk today. The author vehemently argues that religion is at the root of evil, intolerance and violence. Religion he argues, subverts science, fosters fanaticism, encourages bigotry, does not in reality support peace and influences society in other negative ways. Dawkins states that preachers in the southern portions of the United States used the Bible to justify slavery by claiming Africans were descendants of Abraham’s sinful son. During the Crusades, “pagans” and “heretics” who would not convert to Christianity were murdered, and he cites numerous examples of what Islamic terrorists have done and are doing today. He argues that a good atheist would never fly planes into skyscrapers, nor commit such outrageous acts of violence and oppression. Well Prof Dawkins, neither would I – and I am a deeply and passionately religious human being.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure we all agree that religion can be used to generate violence. But it is not alone in this. The history of the twentieth century has given us a frightening awareness of how political extremism and unbridled fundamentalist atheism can equally cause violence and oppression. In Latin America, millions of people seem to have disappeared as a result of ruthless campaigns of violence by right wing politicians and their militias. Up to 20 million perished under the atheistic Stalin’s rule, up to 50 million under the irreligious Hitler’s wars and up to 70 million people perished under Chairman Mao’s oppression. In Cambodia, Pol Pot eliminated his millions and built his castles of skulls, in the name of socialism.
Even as we speak, millions are subdued and dwell in the dungeons and prisons of Muslim countries; they suffer that which no animal on this earth has ever endured – all in the name of measures designed to eliminate religious belief and identity. In their efforts to enforce their atheist ideology, the Soviet authorities systematically destroyed and eliminated the vast majority of churches and mosques during the period 1918-41. The statistics make for dreadful reading. This violence and repression was undertaken in pursuit of an atheist agenda – the elimination of religion. So is religion the culprit in generating violence or does violence have its own religion – or have no religion at all? If religion is the ‘root of all evil’, then how is it that the 20th century saw the mass killing of humans in the name of state-sponsored atheism on a scale higher than the kind of numbers killed in the ‘religious wars’ of past centuries?
Religion must not be blamed for violence done in its name, nor for the fraud done in its justification. To blame a religion for that which a number of its followers may do which is not condoned in that religion itself, is injustice and unwise. Religion is not free from over zealous followers who go to extremes and neither is science or scientism free of it. To blame a religion for a group of its miscreants, would be like blaming all archeologists and evolutionists for something like the Piltdown man hoax which for 40 years rounded up support for evolutionism through the discovery of a skull and jaw bone that later on turned out to be a hoax – the jaw bone from a recent orangutan and skull from a modern man. Why blame religion for fanatics and vigilante violence perpetrated in its name? Why blame religion for that which it is innocent of? If by science we mean pure and authentic science, then by religion we must mean pure and authentic religion!
(to be continued)