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Marissa's Blog!

March 5, 2006

Some fun links and a whole lot of stuff about Richard Dawkins

I've been addicted to Boing Boing lately, in a big way (thanks, Kelsey). I didn't find all of these links on Boing Boing, but I wanted to share some of the best links I've been forwarding on to people lately, so everyone can enjoy them!

Boing Boing– It's listed as "A Directory of Wonderful Things". Basically it's a website updated multiple times each day, with links to various things of interest, be they cool websites, news items, games, art, etc. It's great for the ADD crowd, who need to be doing at least two things at once. For me, it's work, gmail chat, and Boing Boing. :D

Political Games Games of different types having to do with modern-day society and it's evils. The McDonald's game is really fun, as are the temp worker games. You can also play a game involving faking an orgasm (you win if the guy doesn't know you're faking). Very humorous!

Quail Hunting School Be Dick Cheney as he tries to shoot quail while drunk! Don't hit Harry! :D

Choose Your Own Adventure Covers Remixed, I've looked at these over and over again and I still laugh until tears are streaming down my face every time. PhotoShopped Choose Your Own Adventure covers. So fucking funny! I think my favorites are "Timmy's First Gay Bar" and "The Ghost of Snoop Dogg's Tomb".

Santino as Tim Gunn doing "Closer" Okay, so you know I'm obsessed with "Project Runway". On the show, the mentor to all of the designers, who critiques their outfits before the judges see them and gives them advice, is Tim Gunn. He has a very distinctive voice that one of the designers, Santino, loves to imitate. Here is Santino as Tim Gunn doing "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. Brilliant!!!

Demetri Martin about MySpace One of my favorite comedians is Demetri Martin, and I've been so delighted that he's been doing regular bits on "The Daily Show" lately. Here is a great segment he did not too long ago about social networking websites like MySpace. I'm proud to say he is one of my friends on the site! :D

Make your own Yoda! I've been learning how to use my sewing machine, and I'm hoping to start making these soon: little felt Yoda dolls! Love it!

And now, for my Richard Dawkins kick. I had read some of his work from The Selfish Gene in college and was very intrigued, but his stuff on religion is right on the money for me. Now, if you are at all religious, I'm just being honest here, but you will probably, most likely, be offended by some of this. But if you keep an open mind, I think you'll find it all very interesting!

Richard Dawkins is a very outspoken athiest, and very British man. :)


The following quotes were all taken from this article. They're not all Richard Dawkins, but they're all in that vein.

"Why should it be that it's perfectly legitimate to support the Labour party or the Conservative party, Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows— but to have an opinion about how the Universe began, about who created the Universe... no, that's holy? What does that mean?" –Douglas Adams

"Let our tribute to the September [11th] dead be a new resolve: to respect people for what they individually think, rather than respect groups for what they were collectively brought up to believe..." –Richard Dawkins

"It is not an exaggeration to say that religion is the most inflammatory enemy-labeling device in history. Who killed your father? Not the individuals you are about to kill in 'revenge'. The culprits themselves have vanished over the border. The people who stole your great-grandfather's land have died of old age. You aim your vendetta at those who belong to the same religion as the original perpetrators. It wasn't Seamus who killed your brother, but it was Catholics, so Seamus deserves to die 'in return'. Next, it was Protestants who killed Seamus so let's go out and kill some Protestants 'in revenge'." – Richard Dawkins

"To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used." –Richard Dawkins

Here are some more, taken from these articles: Misguided Missiles and Time To Stand Up

"If somebody votes for a party that you don't agree with, you're free to argue about it as much as you like; everybody will have an argument but nobody feels aggrieved by it. If somebody thinks taxes should go up or down you are free to have an argument about it. But on the other hand if somebody says 'I mustn't move a light switch on a Saturday,' you say, 'I respect that.'
"But, the moment I say something that has something to do with somebody's (I'm going to stick my neck out here and say irrational) beliefs, then we all become terribly protective and terribly defensive and say 'No, we don't attack that; that's an irrational belief but no, we respect it.'
"Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it because you're not allowed to say these things. Yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn't be as open to debate as any other, except that we have agreed somehow between us that they shouldn't be."
–Douglas Adams

"The great unmentionable evil at the center of our culture is monotheism. From a barbaric Bronze Age text known as the Old Testament, three anti-human religions have evolved: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These are sky-god religions. They are, literally, patriarchal— God is the Omnipotent Father— hence the loathing of women for 2,000 years in those countries afflicted by the sky-god and his earthly male delegates. The sky-god is a jealous god, of course. He requires total obedience from everyone on earth, as he is not just in place for one tribe, but for all creation. Those who would reject him must be converted or killed for their own good." –Gore Vidal

"But if it had not been for religion, the very concept of a Jewish State would have had no meaning in the first place. Nor would the very concept of Islamic lands, as something to be invaded and desecrated. In a world without religion, there would have been no Crusades; no Inquisition; no anti-Semitic pogroms (the people of the diaspora would long ago have intermarried and become indistinguishable from their host populations); no Northern Ireland Troubles (no label by which to distinguish the two 'communities', and no sectarian schools to teach the children historic hatreds— they would simply be one community.)" –Richard Dawkins

"Is there no catastrophe terrible enough to shake the faith of people, on both sides, in God's goodness and power? No glimmering realisation that he might not be there at all: that we just might be on our own, needing to cope with the real world like grown-ups?" –Richard Dawkins

"The human psyche has two great sicknesses: the urge to carry vendetta across generations, and the tendency to fasten group labels on people rather than see them as individuals. Religion fuels both. All violent enmities in the world today fuel their tanks at this holy gas station. Those of us who have for years politely concealed our contempt for the dangerous collective delusion of religion need to stand up and speak out. Things are different after September 11th. Let's stop being so damned respectful!" –Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins recently did a show for British television's Channel 4 that sounds very interesting, but of course would NEVER be released on American TV. Here is the description of the two-part show, taken from Channel 4:

The Root of All Evil?

Episode 1: The God Delusion

Richard Dawkins is astounded that religious faith is gaining ground in the face of rational, scientific truth based on hard evidence. Julia Bard reports.

In this two-part Channel 4 series, Professor Richard Dawkins challenges what he describes as 'a process of non-thinking called faith'. Dawkins is well known for bringing to a wide audience the complex scientific concepts that underpin evolution. His first book, The Selfish Gene was an international bestseller.

Truth lies and faith
He describes his astonishment that, at the start of the 21st century, religious faith is gaining ground in the face of rational, scientific truth. Science, based on scepticism, investigation and evidence, must continuously test its own concepts and claims. Faith, by definition, defies evidence: it is untested and unshakeable, and is therefore in direct contradiction with science.

In addition, though religions preach morality, peace and hope, in fact, says Dawkins, they bring intolerance, violence and destruction. The growth of extreme fundamentalism in so many religions across the world not only endangers humanity but, he argues, is in conflict with the trend over thousands of years of history for humanity to progress – to become more enlightened and more tolerant.

At the extremes
He explores the state of the three Abrahamic religions in the world today, from the political influence of rich and powerful Christian fundamentalist institutions in America to the deadly clash of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Middle East. He describes the Holy Land as the least enlightened place in the world, a microcosm of the threat to rational values and civilisation posed by religion, whose irrational roots, he says, are nourishing intolerance and murder.

There are plenty of characters to illustrate his thesis. There are fanatics, like the former West Bank settler who has taken the small step of converting from Jewish fundamentalist to Muslim fundamentalist, transferring his hatred from one side of the looking glass to the other. And the frighteningly charismatic leader of America's National Association of Evangelicals, who believes he has been chosen by God to convert Americans through religious gatherings that resemble rock concerts – though to Dawkins they feel more reminiscent of Nuremberg rallies.

Then there are the desperate, like those carrying burdens of disability or disease, who are among the 80,000 people a year who make the pilgrimage to Lourdes. Dawkins does the maths: out of the millions who, over a century, have placed their faith in a miracle restoring them to good health, there have been only 66 authenticated cures. This is hardly a strong record, he says, arguing that it is better for us to embrace truth than false hope.

A sense of belonging
Drawing on such examples, it is not difficult to demolish the claims of religion as fairytales, and dangerous ones at that. But there is more to religion than ancient stories and articles of faith. Dawkins touches on the sense of belonging promised by religious groups but dismisses this as 'seductive group solidarity', which he describes as a 'shared delusion'. In doing so, he glances off the more subtle dilemmas of how religions and religious traditions are woven through people's notions of 'community', 'history' and 'identity'.

Having a sense of one's place in the world is important to everyone but has particular significance for minorities and peoples under political, economic or military pressure. Individuals may even accept Dawkins' atheistic and scientific deconstruction of the myths they have grown up with but still defend and nurture the matrix of institutions, practices and relationships which make them who they are.

Episode 2: The Virus of Faith

How is it, asks Richard Dawkins, that despite science having exposed old religious myths, militant faith is back on the march? The mechanism for perpetuating beliefs that Dawkins describes as leading to murderous intolerance, is by imposing religion on children who are too inexperienced to judge it for themselves.

We wouldn't categorise children according to their parents' political stance, says Dawkins, since they are too young to make up their minds about such matters. But we segregate them in sectarian religious schools, where they are taught superstitions drawn from ancient scriptures of dubious origin, which promote a 'contradictory and poisonous system of morals'.

From generation to generation
Dawkins compares this to a virus, which infects the young and is passed down the generations. Visiting an ultra-orthodox Jewish school, he describes the British-born headteacher Rabbi Gluck's Yiddish accent as testament to the isolation of his community. Gluck says that it's important for members of minorities to have the space to express their own beliefs and traditions. He describes science as one tradition, and Judaism as another. His students are taught about evolution and if only a minority end up believing in it, he says, this is not out of ignorance.

The number of faith schools is increasing. More than half the [British] Government's proposed City Academies will be run by religious organisations and there's a growing number of private evangelical Christian schools. ACE (Accelerated Christian Education) has developed a curriculum which includes a mention of God or Jesus on every page of its science text book. The head of a school which uses this material argues that if there were no lawgiver, there would be no reason to see rape and murder as wrong.

Hellfire and damnation
Transmitting such a 'warped reality' to young people, says Dawkins, amounts to indoctrination. Children are uniquely vulnerable and if they fail to question and shake off such superstition, they remain in a state of perpetual infancy. He talks to a woman brought up in a strict Christian sect who describes the terror of eternal damnation, which dominated her childhood, as a form of abuse.

Hellhouse movies are a new growth industry in the USA today. Graphically filmed, they demonise abortion and homosexuality with the explicit aim of scaring the viewers. Pastor Keenan Roberts explains that the aim is 'to leave an indelible impression on their lives that sin destroys and Jesus saves'. The result, says Dawkins, is a mindset which can justify the murder of a doctor who carries out abortions on the grounds that he is destroying a being created in God's image!

Innate morality
Physicist and Nobel prizewinner Stephen Weinberg describes religion as an insult to human dignity. 'Without it,' he says, 'you'd have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, it takes religion.' Dawkins agrees. It is more moral, he says, to do good for its own sake than out of fear. Morality, he says, is older than religion, and kindness and generosity are innate in human beings, as they are in other social animals. The irony is that science recognises the majesty and complexity of the universe while religions lead to easy, closed answers.

Is there no more than just this life? asks Richard Dawkins. How much more do you want? We are lucky to be here, he says, and we should make the most of our time on this world.

Here is a video clip from the show, from panopticist.com.

And here's a bit from an interview with Richard Dawkins:

Given his outspoken defense of Darwin, and natural selection as the force of life, Dawkins has assumed a new role: the religious right's Public Enemy No. 1. Yet Dawkins doesn't shy from controversy, nor does he suffer fools gladly. He recently met a minister who was on the opposite side of a British political debate. When the minister put out his hand, Dawkins kept his hands at his side and said, "You, sir, are an ignorant bigot."

You've said that raising children in a religious tradition may even be a form of abuse.

What I think may be abuse is labeling children with religious labels like Catholic child and Muslim child. I find it very odd that in our civilization we're quite happy to speak of a Catholic child that is 4 years old or a Muslim of child that is 4, when these children are much too young to know what they think about the cosmos, life and morality. We wouldn't dream of speaking of a Keynesian child or a Marxist child. And yet, for some reason we make a privileged exception of religion. And, by the way, I think it would also be abuse to talk about an atheist child.

How would we be better off without religion?

We'd all be freed to concentrate on the only life we are ever going to have. We'd be free to exult in the privilege— the remarkable good fortune— that each one of us enjoys through having been being born. An astronomically overwhelming majority of the people who could be born never will be. You are one of the tiny minority whose number came up. Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one. The world would be a better place if we all had this positive attitude to life. It would also be a better place if morality was all about doing good to others and refraining from hurting them, rather than religion's morbid obsession with private sin and the evils of sexual enjoyment.



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