Wednesday, August 22, 2012
Great interview with Richard Dawkins.
Below are a few of my favorite portions, but I definitely encourage you to read the whole thing.
On the religious connection to 9-11:
PLAYBOY: You blame 9/11 on belief in the afterlife.
DAWKINS: Yes. Normally when an aircraft is hijacked, there’s an assumption that the hijackers want to go on living. It changes the game if the hijackers look forward to death because it will get them into the best part of paradise.
PLAYBOY: You mean the part with the 72 virgins the Koran says await martyrs.
DAWKINS: Right. Young men who are too unattractive to get a woman in the real world go for the ones in paradise. But my point is these people really believe what they say they believe, whereas most Christians don’t. If you talk to dying Christians, they aren’t looking forward to it.
On death and despair:
PLAYBOY: What will happen when you die?
DAWKINS: Well, I shall either be buried or be cremated.
PLAYBOY: Funny. But without faith in an afterlife, in what do you take comfort in times of despair?
DAWKINS: Human love and companionship. But in more thoughtful, cerebral moments, I take—comfort is not quite the right word, but I draw strength from reflecting on what a privilege it is to be alive and what a privilege it is to have a brain that’s capable in its limited way of understanding why I exist and of reveling in the beauty of the world and the beauty of the products of evolution. The magnificence of the universe and the sense of smallness that gives us in space and in geologically deep time is humbling but in a strangely comforting way. It’s nice to feel you’re part of a hugely bigger picture.
On the idea of America as a Christian nation and the connection between morals and religion:
PLAYBOY: We hear constantly that America is a Christian nation and that the founding fathers were all Christians.
DAWKINS: They were deists. They didn’t believe in a personal god, or one who interferes in human affairs. And they were adamant that they did not want to found the United States as a Christian nation.
PLAYBOY: But you hear quite often that if you let atheists run things you end up with Hitler and Stalin.
DAWKINS: Hitler wasn’t an atheist; he was a Roman Catholic. But I don’t care what he was. There is no logical connection between atheism and doing bad things, nor good things for that matter. It’s a philosophical belief about the absence of a creative intelligence in the world. Anybody who thinks you need religion in order to be good is being good for the wrong reason. I’d rather be good for moral reasons. Morals were here before religion, and morals change rather rapidly in spite of religion. Even people who rely on the Bible use nonbiblical criteria. If your criteria are scriptural, you have no basis for choosing the verse that says turn the other cheek rather than the verse that says stone people to death. So you pick and choose without guidance from the Bible.
On the future of America, reason, and Sarah Palin:
PLAYBOY: Do you get discouraged by the continuing attacks on reason?
DAWKINS: No. I go on the internet quite a lot and read what young people are saying. I see a great upsurge of good sense, rationality, irreverence. America is split into halves. There’s the Sarah Palin know-nothing idiots on the one hand, and then there’s a huge number of intellectual, intelligent, educated people on the other. I find it hard to believe that the Stone Age types are going to win in the end. An awful lot of people who call themselves religious simply don’t know there’s any alternative. If you probe what they believe, it turns out to be pretty much the same—we all have a sense of wonder and reverence at the majesty of the universe.
"The Sarah Palin know-nothing idiots," oh I know them well.
Like I said the entire interview is well worth your time to read. Of course I am a big fan of Dawkins so my opinion may be considered somewhat prejudiced.