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The Root of All Evil?: Part 1—The God Delusion (review) 1 July 2006

Posted by Todd in Christianity, Cultural Critique, Documentary Film, Islam, Judaism, Philosophy of Science, Political Commentary, Religion, Reviews, Science.
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[My review of Part 2—The Virus of Faith can be found here.]

There has been much ado about Richard Dawkins’ Channel 4 two-part documentary, The Root of All Evil?, mainly because of Dawkins’ almost strident atheism and because of the relatively inflamatory title. [The video is not yet available in North America, but both parts are currently downloadable from Google Video, Part 1 here and Part 2 here.] Having been raised in a pretty orthodox Mormon household and having family on both sides who are quite religious now, I tend to be less afraid of religiosity in general than Dawkins seems to be. And I do sympathize with the religious impulse, the desire to beleive in something greater, for an explanation of both the uncertainty and fickleness of life as well as the disappointment with the realities of our existence.

When I realized I no longer believed in God, I found myself with twin wounds, one left by the loss of community, the other by the loss of submission to something greater. Dawkins seems to miss these dynamics completely, the importance of communal bonds and identity formation in people’s desire for and attachment to their religious beliefs. On Bill Moyers’ new series, On Faith & Reason, Collin McGinn said that when he left faith behind he found the world without God to be so much more vibrant and rich than it ever was with God. Although I did also eventually arrive at that conclusion, the years it took me to separate myself from religion were painful and transformed my most basic world view. The difficulty in replacing one’s world view and/or accepting the full implications of rationality and science can be quite overwhelming, but the documentary presents Reason as an easy englightenment, to which folks should easily convert.

So the main problem I had with the documentary emerges from my personal experience combined with my training as a sociologist: Dawkins doesn’t seem to fully understand how and why religion has the power it does on people, the role that it actually plays in people’s lives to give them meaning. All he seems to be able to see is its irrationality and anti-scientific mindset, along with the horrifying moral consequences of such belief. I had no qualms or disagreement with Dawkins on these points, but the documentary seemed to set up two categories of religion and science without addressing the complexities of why people believe in the first place and why it can be so hard for an individual, emotionally, socially and psychologically, to leave a faith-community. An exploration of these dynamics can help us understand more deeply why people refuse the evidences of science and rational argument; and more importantly it could help us understand to have more productive dialogues with the faithful, something of utmost importance if we are going to save our democracies around the world from collapsing into theocracies.

Another quibble I had was that the documentary painted religion with such a big brush that suicide bombers and rabid fundamentalists are lumped in with the millions of religious who fight injustice, hunger, and violence world wide. Human religions are vastly diverse and have multiple and contradictory consequences in the real world. It is problematic to ignore these deeply moral aspects to many of the world’s religious. I don’t point this out as an apology for religion, but rather to insist on seeing religion as a form of culture in all its complexity. Dawkins’ points about rationality and science stand even in the face of the morally positive aspects of religion.
[Dawkins has responded to many aspects of these and other criticisms in The New Statesman and in a great interview with the Infidel Guy.]

In all other aspects, I found the documentary to be a solid explanation of why scientific thinking and rational thought should prevail over religious belief, especially in the public sphere. Dawkins’ discussions with the likes of Ted Haggard illustrate clearly the problems of having rational discourse with some kinds of faithful. Haggard refuses the most basic premises of rational thinking and evidentiation of argument and insists, in an odd religious postmodern twist, that all ideas are of equal value and should be given equal time. He even goes so far as to accuse Dawkins of arrogance for making scientific assertions. In another interview on Point of Inquiry, Dawkins points out the arrogance is actually making assertions for which you have no evidence whatsoever and expecting that no one will criticize your position.

As I’ve been musing lately about the merits of rationality and especially about my own work in social theory and method, I find myself frustrated by the simple fact that many people simply, willfully refuse to accept the basic mode of rational thinking. McGinn pointed out that both the academic left and the religious right have been assailing rational thought in an odd sort of allegiance for the past 30 years, where on one hand postmodern philosophy and on the other fundamentalism make similar claims that require belief without evidence and refuse the most basic of rules of logic and empirical reasoning. It may simply be that it is impossible to have that discussion where those premises are not shared. For the academic left, perhaps more empirically and rationally minded researchers can work harder to actively engage in advocating the methods of rational inquiry; and perhaps for the religious right, the best we can do is continue unceasingly to fight for the fundamental principles of democracy that would allow them their religiosity without infringing on social progress. One debate, on the left, is ongoing and will probably work itself as postmodernism continues to lose its caché outside of the humanities; but with Dawkins, I do fear the power of the fundamentalist mind whose morality is clear and justifies violence and coercion to remake society in his or her image.

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Comments

1. Todd’s Hammer » Blog Archive » The Root of All Evil?: Part 2—The Virus of Faith (Review) - 5 July 2006

[…] The Root of All Evil?: Part 1—The God Delusion (review) […]

2. nick - 2 October 2006

It may be that the similarities between American fundamentalists and post-modernists is the beginning of post-modern sentiment in Europe as a far-right ideology.

3. Todd - 3 October 2006

Hey Nick,
I don’t have time for a detailed explanation right now, but I definitely see a connection between postmodern philosophy and extreme right politics (religious or secular). In the U.S., the far right has been using the nihilism of postmodernism in a bizarre way to undermine their oponents’ moral positions and to justify their own. There is a lot of good social-theoretical work done on the close alliance of the far left and far right in Europe as well, all of which argues exactlyw hat you say: that they are united in their postmodern ethos.
Todd

4. someone - 21 November 2006

it was always stroking my mind that the tv program was making things very simple. Just turning into atheism and every thing will be all right. That might be a slippery slope fallacy because if we imagine that every one in this gobe has turned to atheism there will be an other harder question what then?
I have suffered the wounds you talked about. When once I left Islam and no longer believed in god I was about to commit suicide. Since I was very religious and god represented for the absolute protection and love. He, god , was more than a father. And his non-existence represented his death. I know someone who went even more farther, than me by actually killing himself! The second wound I’m suffering is the loss of all bonds between me and the rest of the believers even my mother. I try to be a Muslim sometimes to only satisfy her, but it is the hardest thing to be a true Muslim!
Dawkins considered faith as a virus and the atheism as the antivirus but it is not so easy in reality because the process of killing the virus needs a surgery. And not every one has the capacities for this.
Since I live in a surrounding were religion is the most important thing in life, Algeria, I can see that this documentary is the most stupid things in the people’s eyes because it doe not give any single answer to their questions about the universe and all the complexity of the world as religion gave to them! Of course the answers relgion gave are of nonsense but at least they are answers for a them. The only thing may be that mentioned this in the documentary was in evolution and the mountain probable In a few minutes! Versus life time documentary about creationism being forced to watched from their very first childhood. Religion for them is the absolute fulfillment of their needs(paradise) and the absolute loss of their needs(hell)…..
Your article made me feel happy to know that there are people who are fair-minded thinkers like me.
I’m sorry for the very simple language(with plenty of mistakes) and ideas in this message

5. Petra - 28 August 2007

I’ve never believed in god or such, being brought up in highly athiest family. So I shouldn’t know what you mean, but weirdly I do understand. I sometimes think it would be best to leave them to they’re own beliefs. It would make no difference! But I’ve spent alot of time with religious people and they dedicate they’re ENTIRE lives to it. They won’t make friends caus only god can be their friend, they sacrifice the pleasures of their life, but mainly, most of them are completly mad. They go in spazms screaming god is entering them. It’s not interesting. It’s scary. It’s ok to believe, most people do because they are unable to explain things or some can’t exept the unimportance of themselves, but don’t get to into it.

6. The gods feed evil with their positioning - 16 August 2011

THE WOMEN IN YOUR FAMILY ARE YOUR “HOLY PEOPLE”!!! THEY ARE YOUR INTERFACE WITH THE GODS!!!
Their role throughout history is to communicate the god’s wisdom so the entire family can progress when reincarnated. Effectively acomplishing this task may buy them a quality opportunity to ascend in their next life.

Your job as a future mother is to learn the god’s ways and to help your child understand despite the negative reinforcement and conditioning of today’s society. Without consciousous parents the child will have no hope, and may even exaserbate their disfavor by becoming corrupted in today’s environment.
Your ultimate goal is to fix your relationship wiith the gods and move on. You don’t want to be comfortable here, and the changes in Western society in the last 100 years has achieved just that.
1000 years with Jesus is the consolation prize. Don’t be deceived into thinking that is the goal.

Much like the other prophets Mohhamed (polygamy/superiority over women/misogyny) and Jesus (forgiveness/savior), the gods use me for temptation as well. In today’s modern society they feel people are most weak for popular culture/sensationalism, and the clues date back to WorldWarII and Unit731:TSUSHOGO, the Chinese Holocaust. They used this Situation to bury Japanese atrocities.
It has been discussed that, similar to the Matrix concept, the gods will offer a REAL “Second Coming of Christ”, while the “fake” Second Coming will come at the end and follow New Testiment scripture and their xtian positioning. I may be that real Second Coming.
What I teach is the god’s true way. It is what is expected of people, and only those who follow this truth will be eligible to ascend into heaven as children in a future life. They offered this event because the masses have just enough time to work on and fix their relationship with the gods and ascend, to move and grow past Planet Earth, before the obligatory xtian “consolation prize” of “1000 years with Jesus on Earth” begins.

The Prince of Darkness, battling the gods over the souls of the Damned.
It is the gods who have created this environment and led people into Damnation with temptation. The god’s positioning proves they work to prevent people’s understanding.
How often is xtian dogma wrong? Expect it is about the Lucifer issue as well.
The fallen god, fighting for justice for the disfavored, banished to Earth as the fallen angel?
I believe much as the Noah’s Flood event, the end of the world will be initiated by revelry among the people. It will be positioned to be sanctioned by the gods and led for “1000 years with Jesus on Earth”.
In light of modern developments this can entail many pleasures:::Medicine “cures” aging, the “manufacture” of incredible beauty via cloning as sex slaves, free (synthetic) cocaine, etc.
Somewhere during the 1000 years the party will start to “die off”, literally. Only those who maintain chaste, pure lifestyles, resisting these temptations, will survive the 1000 years. Condemned to experience another epoch of planet’s history for their ignorant pursuit of xtianity, they will be the candidates used to (re)colonize (the next) Planet Earth, condemned to relive the misery experienced by the peasantry during history due to their failure to ascend into heaven before the Apocalypse.
Never forget:::It is not a house of Jesus.
If this concept of Lucifer is true another role of this individual may be to initiate disfavor and temptation among this new poulation, the proverbial “apple” of this Garden of Eden. A crucial figure in the history of any planet, he begins the process of deterioration and decay that leads civilizations to where Planet Earth remains today.
Which one is it?:
One transitions into the other, allowing the gods to wash their hands of obligation to their Chosen One. My personal “consolation prize”.
And since the gods never committed despite tens of billions in mass media, product development and natural disasters/tragedy they will employ the freedom they positioned into the Situation and CHEAT me out of everything.
Unfortunate for me, the gods can claim they never intended this, despite being control freaks who guide everything specifically and have the power to force it with AI, and now they are free to fuck my brains out, just as they did throughout my childhood.
The gods were pimping me when I was a 3 year-old boy, only to exploit me and cash in decades later.
Pre-pubescent prostitution is rampant in black communities. Now we see where it comes from.

Consistant with “reverse positioning” understand the REAL Second Coming would equate with The Matrix’s Anti-Christ, the fake battle of good and evil which will come at the end.
Understanding how they use the political encviornment to redefine people’s value system, realize anyone who speaks of the old world and its ways will envoke hatred. So when/if the Anti-Christ comes along speaking of reverting back to what liberalism would consider regressive and unfair, it may be the only hope to salvage the god’s favor and keep moving forward rather than begin the 1000 year clock. The fake Second Coming will feed into this political enviornment.
Also consistant with “reverse positioning” recognize the gods will offer a REAL Anti-Christ, also known as The Beast. I have addressed these issues in years past::::
The gods will offer clues throughout every dynaic of life. Geographical features onthe world map is yet another.
The Beast is not a person, as the xtian Bible would suggest. It is a place:::The San Francisco Bay Area. And it refers to the socio-political poison the region exuded in the latter 20th century which promoted indecent behavior among the people whose favor was rapidly deteriorating. This decay spread to other states and countries, fulfilling the region’s role as The Beast of the Apocalypse.
Another feature which the Gods offer as a clue is very foreboading. Mt. Zion is a mountain to the north of the eye of The Beast Diablo and one which has a working quarry at its base. Consistant with the decay we experience in society, Mt. Zion is being eaten away, slowly stripped of its resources, until one day paradise will be gone forever.

10:47a
So many theme oriented movies lately. Pills that make you smarter, now a movie focussed on time, immortality. The gods are taking steps in preparation for the Apocaplypse, 1000 years with Jesus on Earth.
The gods are preying on the people, ramping up temptation and compelling them to engage in behavior which will ultimately cost them.
What I teach is the truth:::The gods extensively use clone hosts and manage Earth through them, people who ultimately are reincarnated into lesser life forms because of their fatal decision.
You’re all falling prey to the god’s royal scam.
Any enviornment/perception can be created with their power. Never fail to recognize the power they have at their disposal. There is NOTHING it can not do.
They still sell “going up” to the reals and their clone hosts, for living on Earth doesn’t sound so appealing to them, nor preditors like my family. But the gods are creating an enviornment which will fulfill their promise made in the Bible to stupid white people and the fools who fell for xtianity.

Navy SEALS helpcopter crash of 8.6.11 was revenge for Osama bin Laden.
So confident in their relationship with the gods. Live in comfort in “the greatest country in the world”, bright future, kids do great.
The gods have sent a very contradicting clue to the families of the 20 Navy SEALS killed in Afghanistan.
The gods did this to you. This is punishment for the evil of your country, killing of a superior in the god’s eyes.
Do you even pray? Have the gods already told you to stop going to church? Because Muslims pray 7 times a day, and you fucking white trash ridicule their favor.
You fell for it. And now you will pay dearly. The United States is the empire of evil.
The clue has been sent. Let’s see what you do with it.
Even with all the corruption of the Republicans this wasn’t going to happen on W’s watch because the conservatives are the good ones. It is the liberal social decay which was the trademark of The Beast, and what has primarily destroyed our favor with the gods.
One day default will bring insolvency, while the wealthy you bailed out with multi-trillion dollar stimulous package leaves you behind in the ruins. When this day comes don’t forget to pray, for the economic devestation and carnage which will surround you will be a deliberate motivator.


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