Root of All Evil?

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From the start, I didn't like the title and fought it hard. Religion is not the root of all evil, for no one thing is the root of all everything.
—Richard Dawkins[1]

Root of All Evil?[2] is a television series authored and hosted by Richard Dawkins as a companion piece to his book, The God Delusion. It was first broadcast in 2006. It is available on Google videos: see the external links below. The series was later renamed The God Delusion to be a more obvious link to the book.

Overview[edit]

Part One: The God Delusion[edit]

Dawkins starts the series with an appeal to reason, as well as one to fear (as the title would suggest): that there were religious folk of such fervent devotion they were willing to kill you via suicide bombing.

He visits Lourdes, interviews a few tourists and a Lourdes official, and reasons that miracles do not occur at a place where thousands of Catholics visit every year.

He talks of the improbability of intelligent design compared to the more reasonable, slow growth of evolution because it raises the bigger question of "Who designed the designer?"

He touches on fundamentalism and Christianity (specifically evangelists such as Ted Haggard) forming churches to "save" souls, collect money, influence politics and deny science. After visiting the New Life Church and getting yelled at by Haggard, he visits a freethinkers' group.

He compares Islamic fundamentalism to Christian fundamentalism (using the term "American Taliban"), asserting that the war between "good and evil" is actually a war between two evils.

He visits Jerusalem, the centerpiece of all Abrahamic religions that appears as a tourist trap but is, in actuality, the center of all religious violence in the Middle East.

Dawkins finishes the episode with the disappointing view that as long as religions insist upon themselves being not only correct but truth, humanity will never know peace. He asserts science is the answer, even though it doesn't have all the answers and probably never will. He invokes Russell's teapot, fairies, unicorns and Thor as analogs to religions, being equally disbelievable. His last line is his famous "one God further" line.

Part Two: The Virus of Faith[edit]

Dawkins starts the episode by discussing the inanity of indoctrination and labeling of children by the religion of their parents—in addition to the teaching of mythological falsehoods and the increasing number of private evangelical schools—describing it as a form of child abuse.

One interview with a sectarian instructor (Adrian Fawkes) reveals a warped vision of morality—the suggestion that people will rape, murder and steal if they thought they could get away with it does not gel with the realities of humanity.

Dawkins reinforces his view that religious indoctrination is a virus (specifically a meme) that infects the minds of children and are passed on down from generation to generation unless inoculated with a dose of rational thought (or subjected to psychological treatment which repairs rational thought processes).

He discusses the use of Hell Houses to indoctrinate children as a form of psychological torture.

He criticizes the morals of the Old Testament as no longer relevant to today's society, yet some people still believe in them; e.g., capital punishment is an acceptable penalty for adultery, apostasy, blasphemy, etc. He also suggests that Abraham and Moses are all equally horrible moral role models, and Jesus isn't much better. He reasons that the story of the crucifixion and the reasoning behind it is anything but reasonable.

He interviews Michael Bray, friend and defender of Paul Hill, who was convicted and executed for murdering an abortion doctor, as justified by the Bible.

He then interviews Richard Harries, from the Church of England, who believes in a more liberal interpretation of the Bible so as to accept homosexuals into their flock, but questions why fence-sitting (e.g., cherry picking) might be preferable to discarding the whole belief system altogether. To this point, he questions the roots of morality, asserting an evolutionary explanation for moral codes based on altruism.

He finishes the show by asserting that life is a bit of a stroke of luck, and we as humans should make the most of it while we're here (that is, alive) and not spend it worrying about, or preparing for, what comes after.

Reception[edit]

The programme, naturally, received predictably mixed reviews. Religious proponents accusing Dawkins of everything from journalistic dishonesty to concentrating on the bad aspects of religion, whilst ignoring the potential good. On the other hand, Dawkins's fans and anyone happy to see potshots taken at the church on mainstream TV loved it.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. The God Delusion, "Preface", p. 23
  2. The title was not Dawkins' choice: the producers wanted to create a controversy, as if the subject matter wasn't enough. Dawkins thought the usage of the word "All" was a bit absolute and had the question mark added.