SACKUR: It seems to me you posit the idea that religions are evolving. That, in essence, they're evolving in a way which is going to leave them extinct. They are no longer necessary or useful for human beings. Am I right?
DENNETT: Well, first of all, even if they're no longer necessary or useful, they might not go extinct. The common cold is not necessary or useful; it's not going extinct, is it?
SACKUR: Richard Dawkins talks of religion in a way -- to think of it almost like a virus.
DENNETT: That's why I used that example. There are lots of symbiotes, lots of parasites and viruses and bacteria that thrive on us and other species, and some of them are very useful to us. We couldn't live without them. The flora in our guts, for instance. We couldn't digest our food without it. Some are just along for the ride, they don't hurt. And a few of them -- a small minority -- are really harmful. They're bad for us.
SACKUR: And in that sense, in the intellectual sense, in the idea sense, religion is bad for us, and therefore we need a cure. Is that what you're saying?
DENNETT: A cure... yes, yes indeed, I think a lot of people are really afflicted by their religion, and I would love to see them cured.
And just for reference, here is a quote from Richard Dawkins in 2006 to which they are perhaps referring: "Let me explain why; when it comes to children, I think of religion as a dangerous virus. It's a virus which is transmitted partly through teachers and clergy, but also down the generations from parent to child to grandchild. Children are especially vulnerable to infection by the virus of religion."
So, let me get this straight - these leading atheist leaders are the bright, shining pathway to a glorious future of humanity, and anyone who gets in their way is a virus that needs a good shot of the penicillin of atheism to cure them (or kill them off).
Before we get too caught up in the wonderfulness of atheism and it's potential to bring humanity to a new and brighter future, let me remind my readers of the history of atheism in the last century or so:
- Soviet Union (Lenin, Stalin, and their successors)
- Nazi Germany (Adolph Hitler)
- Facist Italy (Benito Mussolini)
- Red China (Chairman Mao)
- Cambodia (Pol Pot)
- Viet Nam (Ho Chi Minh)
- North Korea (three generations of Kim)
- Cuba (the Castro's, not to mention Che Guevara, who is dead)
- A host of other lesser lights like Ceausescu, Amin, Chavez, and Mugabe.
Frankly, you see where the current crop are going in the dismissive way that Dawkins and Dennett look at religion and religious people. They are a problem to be gotten rid of. Re-educated if possible, but gotten rid of as an infestation like they were a bunch of termites. We see the characteristic thinking of all those on my list in these these men - willing to kill those who don't think like they do. And make no mistake - if they are in power they will kill you if you don't convert to their atheism.
Now, the atheists will take my remarks here and point to the religious wars of history and say "see - you're just as bad!" Take Jillian Becker, atheist and contributor to The Wall Street Journal and The Telegraph, who wrote in 2012: "Has anything caused as much human suffering as religion? You might say disease, but religion itself is a disease, of the human race and of individual minds. Persecution, war, torture, terror, bodily pain, mental anguish, profound misery, wasted lives are the chief products of religion."
Ms. Becker - I answer emphatically: YES - ATHEISM! See my list above for examples.
Have there been religious wars? Yes, absolutely. Atheists like to point to the Crusades as a major case in point, and the standard line is that the Christians made war on the muslims for religious reasons. Well, the truth is, the Crusades were a response to the Islamic expansions into Southern and Eastern Europe, and to the slaughter of Christian pilgrims in the Holy Land (after many years of peaceful co-existence). Many myths have been promulgated over the last century as to the reasons for the Crusades, which we are now finding to be false. Myths like a population explosion in Europe and needing more land for all those children, or non-firstborn sons who would not inherit family lands being the ones to go on the Crusade, or even that it was as much against the Jews as it was against the muslims.
But let's say all the myths are actually true. Let's say that it was everything that standard history says it was, and more. Let me then ask this question: has this mindset continued through to today? Do we see Christian armies plundering and pillaging and laying seige and taking over? Let's expand it and ask the same question about Buddhist or Jewish or even Scientologist armies doing that? Have we seen that over the last hundred years? 200? 300? (and if you say George W. Bush I'm going to smack you because you know that isn't true!)
One could say that in a sense Stephen Sackur was right when he said that religions are evolving - at least some of them are. Evolving to the point were they are more interested in establishing and maintaining peaceful relationships with other countries and even other religions than they are conquering and ruling over them. But somehow this is a bad thing in the eyes of atheists. It's a virus that has to be cured.
I have tried to use neutral terms such as "religion", or give a list of religions as examples, rather than to focus on one specific religion. However, I think Jesus has something to say on this issue:
"For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.If we are honest, I think we have to look at the world and at history, and judge the fruit of these different systems. Which ones have produced good fruit? Which ones have produced bad fruit?
On the whole, I don't think there is any question where the atheists fall on that scale.
Ultimately, this argument is about truth. Is there such a thing as truth? If so who or what defines it? And where does your truth lead you, in terms of how you view the world and the people in it?
Where do you think atheism lands in that discussion? What fruit has it produced? Has it evolved to the better?