Monday, 4 June 2007

The Atheism FAQ with Richard Dawkins by Diganta

Richard Dawkins, the author of the NY Times bestseller - The God Delusion - has been interviewed many a time recently. The questions asked were mainly related to his book, the views on atheism, morality and present world.

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Thanks to ranjani for the link.

He answered all questions in a flawless and confident way. Each and every answer speaks about his passion and eagerness to explain his stance on every point. It's an amazing experience to watch him speak. I have tried to pick up a few commonly asked questions and his answers on different topics.

Why are you against faith?

Because, I am a kind of person who cares about the Truth. The religion and any sort of dogma are the biggest obstacle against the Truth. Not only that, I am worried about the position religion enjoys in our society. You can attack other's political view, criticize a football coach but cannot attack one's religious faith. It's a kind of immunity from criticism that religion enjoys, despite being proven to be mostly illogical.

There are billions of people across the world following their faiths and living their life. How do you describe them?

Of course, there are billions of people living their religious life and most of them are harmless people. But, they are carrying a virus of faith with them, that they transmit from generations to another, and could create a 'epidemic' of faith any time. As I said, I am a kind of person who cares about the truth and also want to see people following the truth. The truth is not a revelation, but truth that has been established though evidences and repeated experiments.

There are scientists who are religious. How do you feel about them?

Yeah, unfortunately there are many good scientists who do this. Although, I do not clearly understand their position in life, it seems to me, either they act like religious people consciously for some other purpose or compartmentalize their views based on the context.

Religious people claim they derive their morality from religion. Where from an atheist derive his morality?

Religious people do not derive their morality from religion. I disagree (with the interviewer) on this point. Almost all of us do agree on moral grounds where religion had no effect. For example we all hate slavery, we want emancipation of women - they are all our moral grounds. These moral grounds started building only a few centuries ago and long after all major religions were established. We derive our morality from the environment we live in, Talk shows, Novels, Newspaper editorials and of course by the guidance of parents. Religion might only have a minor role to play in it. An atheist derives his morality from the same source as a religious people do.

But all the religious books have given moral guidance to the people, like not killing the neighbors. Why do you think they are still bad?

The religious books do talk about not killing your neighbors, at the same time they talk about not showing skin of women or killing the infidels. The God of the Old Testament, as I described, is not at all a good 'person'. The God is certainly a lot better in New Testament. However, when you pick and choose the good verses out of a religious book, the parameters, those you use, does not certainly come from the religion itself. For example, when you say New Testament is better, you are certainly not using Christianity as a judge. The parameters you use, are the effect of the morality that is already with you, assimilated from different sources in your life time.

In your book, you've said that God 'almost certainly' does not exist. Why are you leaving open the possibility?

Any scientific people will leave open that possibility, that they cannot disprove whatever unlikely the event might be. I would be the first person to accept God once evidence comes in favour of it.

So you accept Science cannot disprove God. What is the problem if people follow religions till God is disproved?

Science cannot disprove God as well as they cannot disprove Apollo or Juju or Thor with his hammer or even a Flying Spaghetti Monster creating the universe. However, we do not believe them as they are unlikely to exist. We do neither believe in fairies of Hans Andersen although we cannot disprove them. To believe in an unlikely event or a deity only because we cannot disprove it, sounds foolish to me.

Why don't you think that the Universe, huge, complex and mysterious, is not a creation of a Supreme Being, where we see all complex things are in fact created?

First of all if you assume that all complex things are created, then a God, capable of creating such a complex Universe, should also be a complex being and should also have a creator. On the other hand, if you follow the Darwinian Evolution path, you'd see how a complex organism can be built upon relatively simpler beings by the process of Natural Selection. And it is far more logical to believe that we and the Universe in general, started from a simpler start that a complex creator starting it up.

When you stand on the top of a mountain doesn't the vastness of the world strike you? Don't you feel charmed by the beauty of the nature, and the mysterious laws of the vast Universe?

Of course I do. And I have mentioned about it in the first chapter of my book as the spirituality followed by Einstein. He was so charmed about the mysteries of the world and it was such an exciting experience to explore it. It's a kind of spirituality that does not require God, a personal deity to explain the mysteries of Nature. It is quite different from a religion centered around a God who can read mind, keeps track of sins, judges people after death punishes the disbelievers and rules the Universe.

What is your opinion about Stalin and Hitler as Atheists?

I have said in my book that Hitler is not at all atheist, as he was religiously biased against Jewish people. Stalin was following communism dogmatically. I have already said that none of us, in effect derive our morality from religion. Stalin, in fact, used the dogmatic communism as his source of morality - if we call it morality at all. Being atheist does not ask you to become dogmatic or communist, but only ask you not to believe in God. A person working in a Mafia group can also be an atheist although it will be illogical to say that atheism pushed him to the Mafia group. There are other colleagues working with him who are religious.

Why do you link religion with 'Child-abuse'?

I link the marking of children as 'Jewish boy' or 'Muslim child' as a child abuse, since, in childhood they are yet to choose their religious views. Not only that, they are brought up in a way that he gets separated from other religious groups and views so that he follows the religious faith of his parents. Obstructing the view of children clearly comes under child abuse.

Your ambition is that people reading this book should abandon their faith. Isn't it?

There is no harm in aiming high and you can say that is my ambition. But, in practice, we want the people who follow the middle ground, who never have thought deeply on this topic, to think twice and consciously reject God. Also, I can see that in United States 10-15% people are Atheists, larger than any minority religious groups. However, they don't have any political power or a lobby compared to strong Jewish lobby. I want Atheists to come together and establish a God-neutral political view, a view of their own, for a better balanced world.


1) Interview with Jeremy Paxman on BBC.
2) Interview on CNN on Darwin Day.
3) TV Ontario interview (part 1, part 2 and part 3).
3) The Hour interview, (part 2).
4) The debate - part 1, part 2 and part 3.
4) for more video/interview resources.

Diganta Sarkar is a Software Professional. He is curious about the world of science and culture. His aim of writing is to present his logical view to the world. He presents his views in his own blog (horizonspeaks) as well as in desicritics.

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