A few decades ago, it was unthinkable to express non-Catholic views. If you practice yoga and meditation, the CWL die hards call you a satanist or an anti-christ. If you had Protestant friends – you needed to be “saved”. On the other side of the fence, my Protestant friends wanted to save me from the “Harlot of Rome”. Then the Jehohah witnesses or the INC come knocking at your door after mass. Then comes Velarde, Quiboloy, and the biggest bully of them all the Roman Catholic Church and its local franchise – the CBCP and its retail outlets – the RCC parishes which dot the archipelago.
Pinoy catholics (and their equally rabid towelheads) – seem to think they have a monopoly of the truth – or what they present as truth anyway. As if Catholic morality is the only way of life. Here’s the news buster – RCC ain’t the only morality in town.
With the recent national debates on Jueteng and the RHB, there is a constant name dropping on a return to Catholic morality as the solution to economic problems. Morality does provide a filter through which we view life and make us do the things that we do. However, such morality should guide us in our search for truth and not evade it. It should go beyond the shallow emotions of fear and guilt but it should reach into our deeper capacity for reason, compassion, and a deep understanding of the dystopian world brought into life by irrational beliefs.
As more Filipinos discover that there are alternative belief and value systems which provide a more liberating and enlightening frameworks than just going to an edifice on Sunday, strutting around like a peacock, mumbling a few words here and there, taking a swig of an expensive piece of wafer and consider oneself as free from eternal damnation – and ready to sin again – after all one has a blanket forgiveness from sins because a dude died on the cross two millenia ago. Right.
As a response to the Philppines’ three hundred years of catholic indoctrination, I am posting this provocative video documentary by Richard Dawkins – that takes a diametrically opposite view of faith and religious morality.
The Root of All Evil?, later retitled The God Delusion, is a television documentary written and presented by Richard Dawkins in which he argues that humanity would be better off without religion or belief in God.
The documentary was first broadcast in January 2006, in the form of two 45-minute episodes (excluding advertisement breaks), on Channel 4 in the UK.
Dawkins has said that the title The Root of All Evil? was not his preferred choice, but that Channel 4 had insisted on it to create controversy. The sole concession from the producers on the title was the addition of the question mark. Dawkins has stated that the notion of anything being the root of all evil is ridiculous. Dawkins’ book The God Delusion, released in September 2006, goes on to examine the topics raised in the documentary in greater detail. The documentary was rebroadcast on the More4 channel on the 25th August 2010 under the title of The God Delusion.
In “The Virus of Faith”, Dawkins opines that the moral framework of religions is warped, and argues against the religious indoctrination of children. The title of this episode comes from The Selfish Gene, in which Dawkins discussed the concept of memes.
Dawkins discusses what he considers as the divisive influence of sectarian education, with children segregated and labelled by their religion. He describes the Hasidic Jewish community of North London as cloistered away from external influences such as television, with children attending exclusive religious schools. He questions Rabbi Herschel Gluck to find if their culture allows children to access scientific ideas.
Gluck believes that it is important for a minority group to have a space in which to learn and express their culture and beliefs. Dawkins states that he would prefer traditions taught without imposing demonstrable falsehoods. Gluck emphasizes that although the students believe that God created the world in six literal days and have studied evolution in school, the majority will not believe in it when they leave the school. Gluck contrasts the tradition of Judaism with scientists who “have their tradition”. Dawkins’s facial expression at this point seems to suggest he is taken aback at the assertion that science is based solely on “tradition”. Gluck then goes on to contend that it’s called the “theory of evolution” rather than the “law of evolution”. When Dawkins points out that the term is used in a technical sense and describes evolution as a fact, Gluck suggests he’s a “fundamentalist believer”. However, when Dawkins asks Gluck how many children from his school have grown up believing in evolution, Gluck is lost for words, and eventually admits that most of them probably don’t.
Dawkins expresses concern about increasing religious influence in British schools with over 7,000 faith schools already and the government encouraging more, so over half of the new City Academies are expected to be sponsored by religious organizations. He says that the most worrying development is a new wave of private Evangelical schools that have adopted the American Baptist Accelerated Christian Education curriculum, and as an example calls on Phoenix Academy in London. Dawkins is shown around the school by head teacher Adrian Hawkes and remarks on how the teaching material appears to mention God or Jesus on almost every page; such as a reference to Noah’s Ark in a science textbook. Hawkes responds by saying that the stories could have a lot to do with science if you believe in them, and that the science he was taught at school is laughable today. As an example, he mentions that he was taught that the moon came from the Earth’s ocean and was “somehow flung out into space” during the early years of the Earth’s life. Dawkins says that it should have been presented as a strong current theory. Another lesson talks about AIDS as being the “wages of sin”, so Dawkins inquires whether this might not be mixing health education with moralistic preaching. Hawkes responds that without a law-giver, “Why is rape wrong? Why is pedophilia wrong?” and that if people believe they can get away with committing bad deeds then they will tend to do them. Dawkins responds to this claim by asking Hawkes if the only reason he doesn’t do these things is that he’s frightened of God and subsequently suggests that this attitude is characteristic of the warped morality that religion tends to instill in people.
Religion as a virus
Next, Dawkins discusses specifically the idea of religion seen as a virus in the sense of a meme. He begins by explaining how a child is genetically programmed to believe without questioning the word of authority figures, especially parents – the evolutionary imperative being that no child would survive by adopting a sceptical attitude towards everything their elders said. But this same imperative, he claims, leaves children open to “infection” by religion.
Dawkins meets the psychologist Jill Mytton who suffered an abusive religious upbringing in the Exclusive Brethren – she now helps to rehabilitate similarly affected children. Mytton explains how, for a child, images of hell fire are in no sense metaphorical, but instead inspire real terror. She portrays her own childhood as one “dominated by fear”. When pressed by Dawkins to describe the realities of Hell, Mytton hesitates, explaining that the images of eternal damnation which she absorbed as a child still have the power to affect her now.
Then Dawkins visits Pastor Keenan Roberts, who has been running the Hell House Outreach program for 15 years, producing theatre shows aimed at giving children of twelve or older an indelible impression that “sin destroys”. We see rehearsal scenes depicting doctors forcing an abortion on a woman despite her changing her mind, and a lesbian gay marriage ceremony presided over by Satan in which the women swear to “never believe that you are normal” and Satan cites First Corinthians 6 as God saying homosexuality equals sin. Roberts absolutely and unapologetically believes the scriptures about sin, and when Dawkins questions this basis for morality, replies that it is a faith issue.
Next, Dawkins questions whether the Bible really does provide a suitable moral framework, and contends that the texts are of dubious origin and veracity, are internally contradictory and, examined closely, describe a system of morals that any civilised person should find poisonous. He describes the Old Testament as the root of Judaism, Christianity and Islam; and, as example, readings are given of Deuteronomy 13 which instructs believers to kill any friend or family member who favours serving other gods, and Numbers 31 where Moses, angered at the mercy his victorious forces show in taking women and children captive, instructs them to kill all save virgin girls, who are to be taken as slaves: an act Dawkins describes as genocide. Dawkins also questions another story from Judges 19 in which Lot, an old man, offers his maiden daughter out to an angry mob of “wicked men” to be raped and humiliated to save his male guest from being raped by the “wicked men”. In Dawkins’s opinion, the Old Testament God must be “the most unpleasant character in all fiction”.
Dawkins then discusses the New Testament which, at first, he describes as being a huge improvement from the moral viewpoint. But he is repelled by what he calls St Paul’s nasty sadomasochistic doctrine that Jesus had to be hideously tortured and killed so that we might be redeemed – the doctrine of atonement for original sin – and asks “if God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them? Who is God trying to impress?” He says that modern science demonstrates that the alleged perpetrators Adam and Eve never even existed, undermining St Paul’s doctrine.
Dawkins then interviews Michael Bray who interprets the Bible literally – he would like to see capital punishment enforced for the sin of adultery, for instance. Bray was a friend of Paul Hill, who was executed in 2003 for murdering a doctor who performed abortion and the doctor’s escort, James Barrett. Bray defends Hill’s actions and speculates that he is now “doing well” in Heaven. Later, Dawkins converses with his friend Richard Harries, the former Bishop of Oxford and a liberal Anglican. Harries sees the scriptures as texts which should be read in the context of the time they were written, and interpreted in the light of modern insights. Dawkins asks Harries about his attitude towards miracles – does he believe in the Virgin Birth, for instance? It’s not “on a par with” the resurrection, says Harries.
Finally, Dawkins searches for an explanation of morality based upon evolutionary biology, which he considers more hopeful than ancient texts. Together with the evolutionary psychologist Oliver Curry, he discusses the primordial morality to be found among chimpanzees. Curry explains his view that we don’t need religion to explain morality and if anything it simply gets in the way. Instead, he claims, a more convincing explanation is to be found in the concepts of reciprocal altruism and kin selection.
After briefly addressing the rise of secular values, Dawkins goes on to discuss morality with the novelist Ian McEwan. McEwan takes as his starting point the mortality of human life, which he says should naturally lead to a morality based on empathy – one which he claims should confer upon us a clear sense of responsibility for our brief span on earth.
Dawkins finishes by arguing that atheism is not a recipe for despair but just the opposite; rather than viewing life as a trial that must be endured before reaching a mythical hereafter, an atheist sees this life as all we have, and by disclaiming a next life can take more excitement in this one. Atheism, Dawkins concludes, is life-affirming in a way that religion can never be.
The Virus of Faith (1/5) – Richard Dawkins
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The Virus of Faith (2/5) – Richard Dawkins
The Virus of Faith (3/5) – Richard Dawkins
The Virus of Faith (4/5) – Richard Dawkins
The Virus of Faith (5/5) – Richard Dawkins
These are interesting times for the Philippines – CBCP, meet Richard Dawkins.
If the Philippines is to think itself out of the paperbag it has trapped itself in – it needs reason not superstitition.