I have enjoyed reading your writings very much
and one of the things I have noticed is that, eh
in your writings we have what we might call a double critique of religion.
There is a sort of intellectual critique,
in your view religions do not have adequate evidential foundations
but along side that I occasionally detect flashes of anger
that this is something that is bad that is evil.
The world would be a better place if things where to change
and so I suppose my question really is this,
why the anger, what is it that makes you cross
about the way religious people think or behave?
I think 2 possible answers to that:
one would be relating to the evidential point,
first. I think that religion teaches people to stop questioning
I'm sure you would disagree with that but the way I see it,
it's such a privilege to be born at all.
It's a very improbable event that either of us are born.
We have the privilege of being in this universe for a few decades
and during that time its an enormous privilege to able to understand
something about the universe in which we live, why we are here,
why we were ever born, where we come from
and I think that is such a wonderful thing to be able to do
that I am hostile, I can get angry
about competing accounts which seem to me
to not encourage that kind of questioning
but instead to say this is how it is, this is how its all written in the holy book, its written 2000 years ago and thats the end of it.
I think that deprives people,
I think that is such a.... um
a belittling, a demeaning view
of the universe and I think its tragic that children are
brought up with that while they could be brought up in a more open minded way.
So thats one reason for the anger.
The other reason we have touched upon. It is that I do think faith,
unsupported by evidence, is a lethal weapon.
Doesn't have to be, of course it doesn't have to be but it can be.
Its a weapon because,
possible unscrupulous people, can hold of often young men
and use them as weapons, as them as human bombs.
The only reason they can be deployed as human bombs
is that they have been brought up from childhood onwards to believe
implicitly, without question,
that whatever the particular religion is, the details don't matter.
The point is that they do believe that it is the will of god
that they should detonate themselves and blow up a bus load of people
or blow up a skyscraper in New York.
I don't think that any kind of reasoned argument
would do that to people
and so I believe that religious faith is an enormous powerful, psychological weapon.
It isn't always used for the bad of course but the fact it can be used for the bad
makes me want to cut it off at the roots.
At the very least to stop the inculcation into children
of the idea that there is something virtues in faith.
I am very concerned,
so I suppose I guess you could call this a third reason of hostility.
I'm very concerned with the way children coming into the world,
innocent and knowing nothing are taken over by the religion of
whatever culture they happen to be born into,
doesn't happen to everybody but it is very common.
And so you see children being labeled,
in northern ireland, this is a catholic child this a protestant child
with all that that implies
in the really appalling cultural circumstances due to the history in
northern ireland. I would much rather say this is a child,
perhaps you could say this is a child of catholic parents
or this is a child of protestant parents
but to tie a label around a tiny child,
this is a catholic child. When the child is clearly to young to know
what it thinks about the
transubstantiation or whatever it is that differentiates catholics from protestants.
And its no argument to say in reply that
the conflict in northern ireland is all about politics and historical grievances,
of course it is but the labeling of children
generation after generation after generation down the generations
only exsaserbates the problem and is bound the do so.
I'm happy with that.