My sense is that you don't just think religion is dishonest. There's something evil about it as well.Read the whole thing. Dawkins, author of the wonderfully readable "Selfish Gene," has a new book, "The God Delusion."
Well, yes. I think there's something very evil about faith, where faith means believing in something in the absence of evidence, and actually taking pride in believing in something in the absence of evidence. And the reason that's dangerous is that it justifies essentially anything. If you're taught in your holy book or by your priest that blasphemers should die or apostates should die -- anybody who once believed in the religion and no longer does needs to be killed -- that clearly is evil. And people don't have to justify it because it's their faith. They don't have to say, "Well, here's a very good reason for this." All they need to say is, "That's what my faith says." And we're all expected to back off and respect that. Whether or not we're actually faithful ourselves, we've been brought up to respect faith and to regard it as something that should not be challenged. And that can have extremely evil consequences. The consequences it's had historically -- the Crusades, the Inquisition, right up to the present time where you have suicide bombers and people flying planes into skyscrapers in New York -- all in the name of faith.
But don't you need to distinguish between religious extremists who kill people and moderate, peaceful religious believers?
You certainly need to distinguish them. They are very different. However, the moderate, sensible religious people you've cited make the world safe for the extremists by bringing up children -- sometimes even indoctrinating children -- to believe that faith trumps everything and by influencing society to respect faith. Now, the faith of these moderate people is in itself harmless. But the idea that faith needs to be respected is instilled into children sitting in rows in their madrasahs in the Muslim world. And they are told these things not by extremists but by decent, moderate teachers and mullahs. But when they grow up, a small minority of them remember what they were told. They remember reading their holy book, and they take it literally. They really do believe it. Now, the moderate ones don't really believe it, but they have taught children that faith is a virtue. And it only takes a minority to believe what it says in the holy book -- the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Quran, whatever it is. If you believe it's literally true, then there's scarcely any limit to the evil things you might do.
And yet most moderate religious people are appalled by the apocalyptic thinking of religious extremists.
Of course they're appalled. They're very decent, nice people. But they have no right to be appalled because, in a sense, they brought it on the world by teaching people, especially children, the virtues of unquestioned faith.
ADDED: I edited the title to this one. It was hard to cut down the quote to fit the character limit Blogger imposes. I wish I could collect unused characters from all my many short titles to use for an occasional extra-long title. Or maybe Blogger could put in the equivalent of the old margin release buttons found on typewriters. The machine tells you not to go further, but you still have the power to override the machine. On a typewriter, you could keep typing right off the edge of the paper and onto the platen.