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The Root of all Evil

Richard Dawkins' Documentary

Is faith really 'the root of all evil',  as Richard Dawkins claimed in his Channel 4 analysis of Christianity, Islam and Judaism? Are faith and reason totally incompatible?  Can religion only exist by fear, hatred, and intimidation?

Darwin's Rottweiler
Prof. Richard Dawkins has a reputation as 'Darwin's Rottweiler.  But in these two programs he is 'the still small voice of calm' in a tumult of fundamentalist sound and fury.

Here's some stuff from the first few minutes of 'Root of all evil':

"There are would-be murderers all around the world who want to kill you and me, and themselves, because they're motivated by what they think is the highest ideal. Though Middle Eastern politics and social deprivation in Bradford are contributory factors, as we wake up to this huge challenge to our civilised values, don't let's forget the elephant in the room. The elephant called religion. The suicide bomber is convinced that in killing for his God he will be fast-tracked to a special martyrs' heaven. "

Faith is a deliberate process of non-thinking and there is a profound contradiction between science and religious belief. The 21st century should be an age of reason, yet irrationality is back on march.

"We want kuffar out of it."  -  "The issue for the next generation is going to be the Islamification of Europe" are quotes from opposing fundamentalists.

"In Britain, even as we live in the shadow of holy terror, the government wants to restrict our freedom to criticise religion. Science, we are told, should not tread on the toes of theology... The time has come for people of reason to say enough is enough. Religious faith discourages independent thought and is divisive and dangerous. "

In the Bible Belt of Middle America evangelical Christians are fighting back against science. Fundamentalist Christianity is on the rise among the electorate of the world's only superpower. Around 45% of Americans, that's 135 million people, believe the universe is less than ten thousand years old.

"I used to think reason had won the war against religion. Science and religion are deeply opposed. Science is a discipline of investigation and constructive doubt. Faith demands a positive suspension of the critical faculties."

The F-word
If manifestations of collective insanity such as toonophobia mean that 'Faith' is rapidly becoming an F-word among rational people, then where does that leave Buddhism?

Perhaps Buddhists need to place greater emphasis on their philosophical roots to avoid any 'guilt by association' with violent, irrational and in some case murderous faith-based fundamentalisms.

Buddha said "Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it."

Buddha, uniquely among religious leaders, allowed and indeed advised his students to question his teachings. Why?

Buddha didn't tell us to criticise and examine his teachings for no reason. He knew that his Dharma rested on the unassailable metaphysical foundation of sunyata.  The more you attempt to refute sunyata, the more convinced you become of its truth. 

Maybe Buddhists should place less emphasis on the F-word and more on the Ph-word, if the Dharma is to flourish among the 55% of Americans and 75% of Britons who don't believe the universe is less than ten thousand years old.

Christian versus Buddhist worldviews


If we regard Buddhism as a combination of a philosophy, psychology and religion, then how much mileage can we get from the first two aspects before we have to start invoking religious faith?

Buddhism in Everyday Life
The Daily Meditation