The Root of All Evil?
I have just come from watching Richard Dawkin's "The Root of all Evil?" I say I was watching it but it would be fair to admit that for part of the time, my son was trying to argue with both me and Dawkins which made concentration hard.
There is no doubt that Dawkins is distinguished in the field of science. However, religion seem to bring out the red mist in him. I could not help but feel that the academic rigour he brings to biology was somewhat lacking in his analysis of religion. Indeed the one point on which I found myself agreeing with the American pastor was regarding the intellectual arrogance that Dawkins displaye, an arrogance that clearly emanates from his intense dislike of the world of religion.
Now, I would not wish to defend all religion. The examples in the programme, be they the superstition of Lourdes (although I think people find inner healing through the prayerful atmosphere there), the anti science attitudes of the US pastor and the dreadul bigotry and tolerance to terrorism of the Muslim convert in Jerusalem, were clear examples of bad religion which I hold no brief for at all. I agree with dawkins when he condemned towards the end of the programme the notion of people prepared to hate and even kill for their God. But that is insuffcient evidence that religion is the root of all evil. Indeed, ther very selectiveness of the evidence presented by Dawkins totally fails to live up to the challenge of fair testing that children learn in Key Stage 2 Science. In short, if he brought such rigour to the world of biology, he would certainly not hold the distinguished post he holds at oxford Universtity.
Dawkins has knowingly misrepresented religion. At Oxford he has been involved in debates with Keith Ward. Ward is an example of a Christian who has embraced scientific discovery. His books do not deny evolution and engages in a positive way with evolutionary theory. He is aware of people such as John Polkinghorne and David Wilkinson who are distinguished physicists in the ministry of the Christian church. Yet lazily he does not engage with them in this programme. He takes the easy way out of devoting his time to the least tasteful, intellectually challenged representations of the Abrahamic faiths. It really is time for Dawkins to realise that much of the world of faith has moved on from Victorian times. Sadly he is caught in the battles of the past or to be more truthful, a parody of them.
Finally, regarding the effects of religion, he is downright dishonest. Plenty to say about war and social control yet failing to tell how often religion has not only led the way on science but also contributed at its best immeasurably to health care, education and poverty relief. He talks of religion causing wars but is silent about the efforts of people of faith who motivated by their faith, work for peace and reconciliation. On the basis of the triteness of his efforts tonight, I suppose Christians would be entitled to blame atheism for the crimes of non believere such as Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Such an argument would be a travisty of proper debate and analysis but it is the mirror image of the level of Dawkins' arguments.
I expected to be challenged in my thinking when I turned on "The Root of All Evil?" Frankly I was disappointed. At bes I would give it a C- and a comment of "Could do Better."
In my disappointment I must instead turn to "Big Brother" to see if my suggestion of putting a Methodist minister into the House to connect with those who do not listen to the Gospel in conventional ways as Galloway is seeking to do for the anti war movement, has been heeded.