I just watched a great documentary by Richard Dawkins titled Root of All Evil. I found it via boingboing, and it intrigued me. So I went searching for a download. Thanks to the wonderful world of of p2p I found both part 1 and part 2 of this show.
Just a warning – if you are devoutly religious, poorly educated, or both – this show may offend you or piss you off. On the other hand, if you are like me – and you proudly display the FSM logo on you page, you might get a kick out of this.
Dawkin’s point is simple – blind, unquestioning, uncompromising fate is bad. All organized religions are guilty of encouraging groupthink, breeding prejudice and often clouding people’s reason and logic. Everyone gets roasted here – Catholics, Evangelicans, Jews and Muslims are all criticized.
All these religious groups are set in their ways, intractable, and determined to convert others to their way of life. Dawkins shows how this leads to escalating tension and conflict between members of the worlds major religions.
The most notable bit from part one is of course Dawkin’s visit to one of the biggest Evangelican churches in the country. There he has a chat with a bigoted, and ignorant pastor who tries to preach creationism to him. Dawkins marvels at the near-militant rejection of science among the evangelicans. His analysis of that movement leads him to believe that religion and science cannot coexist because they contradict each other.
I think that for the sake of sensationalism, and controversy he overgeneralized this. In essence, he concentrates on studying on what can be only described as the Kierkegardian “religiosity”. A shallow, and superficial faith based on groupthink and social conditioning. Religiosity can easily produce zealots, whose faith is only skin deep. Their religious zeal is simply a thinly veiled prejudice, bigotry and ignorance channeled through the filter of religious devotion.
In my opinion, these people do not even deserve to be called “religious”.
Real religion is in fact philosophy of the infinite and paradoxal. It is not a doctrine, and it does not require blind obedience, or zealotry. In fact it demands intellectual involvement, introspection, and a flexible mind. The domain of religion is the metaphysical, the unanswerable and the intangible. It is the study of the infinites, and the logic of paradox. It is the home of allegory, fable and mythos.
The true religion is not providing you with moral templates, or answering any questions with dogma. True religion poses questions and forces you to deal with them. All religions in a way try to give you a framework, or a road map to some kind of enlightenment or spiritual betterment.
Nothing in the Bible (or any other holly scripture) needs to be factual, or real. All biblical stories are allegories, that should not be read literally. Bible was heavily edited, and re-translated thousands of times. Names, places, and events might have been changed in the process. But that doesn’t matter. It is still a profound piece of literature that forces your brain to deal with infinities, and paradoxes that are hard to comprehend.
Thus, the one thing on which I do not agree with Dawkins is this: religion and science can coexist. They are supposed to be mutually disjoint. The fact that some religious organizations seem to be hell bent on overthrowing modern science, and replacing it with medieval mythos does not change the primary function of religion.
I used to think just like Dawkins, but then I met some truly amazing philosophers and religious scholars. People who were not only brilliant, but also open, tolerant, and approachable, while at the same time being deeply religious. We had some of these people (and still have them – I home) in the Philosophy and Religion dept. at MSU. :)