Tuesday, October 24, 2006

God (Be) Damn(ed)

Since my last journal entry, I have spoken at Harvard, Maine and Montreal....

Finally got to bed in Montreal at 1 am, then had to get up early to have breakfast with the Dean and two colleagues from McGill, my hosts for the day. Very interesting breakfast discussion about a problem Canadian scientists are having with a government granting agency, which seems to have been infected with creationist sympathizers or fellow-travellers. Interestingly, the problem seems to stem not from the religious sources that would be expected in the United States but from some kind of dopey ‘postmodernist’ or ‘cultural relativist’ liberalism: ‘science has no monopoly on the truth, and if it feels right for you it is true for you’ and that kind of daffy stupidity. The good guys in Canada are fighting the case with all the intellectual big guns on their side, and it remains to be seen what will happen. For details, see the excellent Canadian magazine Humanist Perspectives, Issue 157, Summer 2006....

My talk at McGill was greeted, like several others, with a reassuringly wholehearted, and almost universal, standing ovation. I am under no illusions that I deserve these enthusiastic receptions personally, or that they reflect the quality of my own performance as a speaker. On the contrary, I am convinced that they represent an overflowing of bottled-up frustration, from masses of decent people pushed to breaking point and heartily sick of the sycophantic ‘respect’ that our society, even secular society, routinely and thoughtlessly accords religious faith. Time after time, people in the signing queues thank me for doing no more than say in public what they have, in private, long wanted to say, and probably could say more eloquently than I can. I think people are fed up to the gills with the near universal expectation that religious faith must be respected. Let us, by all means, respect what people say when it is well thought-out and makes sense. Let us not respect it just because it shelters behind a citadel of ‘faith’. Faith is nothing. Faith is empty. Beliefs that are worth respecting are beliefs that are defended with evidence and reason.

Richard Dawkins
author of The God Delusion

And thinking, humane people everywhere are (or should be) extremely grateful that Dawkins and others of his ilk have the courage to stand up and be counted.


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