This was originally posted on richarddawkins.net
Pardon my lousy english..
No rational person can deny that religious extremism is dangerous without giving up intellectual honesty. Absolutely [i:d8de7cc5ae]nothing [/i:d8de7cc5ae]is so immoral, barbaric, intolerant or unjust that a false conviction of sufficient strength cannot make it right in the minds of the faithful. It should be obvious to everybody that if faith can make you think something is absolutely and unquestionably right, it can also make you [i:d8de7cc5ae]act[/i:d8de7cc5ae] according to this conviction, wheter it [i:d8de7cc5ae]is[/i:d8de7cc5ae] in fact right or not. The main evil that we have to fight is therefore above all [i:d8de7cc5ae]false certainties[/i:d8de7cc5ae].
There is a snag however: What we atheists call "false certainties" is more or less synonymous with what most people call "faith". Faith is just another word for "belief in the absence of evidence" or "belief for the [i:d8de7cc5ae]wrong reasons[/i:d8de7cc5ae]". The [i:d8de7cc5ae]same kind of wrong reasons[/i:d8de7cc5ae] that motivates some believers to dedicate their life to helping the poor, motivates others to fly planes into buildings or blow themselves up on a bus. Let me therefore make the following changes to the last sentence of the former paragraph: "The main evil that we have to fight is above all [i:d8de7cc5ae]faith[/i:d8de7cc5ae]".
Now even among many secularist there is a remarkable unwillingness to recognize this simple fact, or to even call the problem by its right name, since we have been brought up to think that "faith" is something that should automatically be respected. And in this context "respect" simply means "immunity from criticism". Some of us are no longer willing to grant religion any such special treatment. To religious moderates and secularists who - as Dan Dennet puts it - believe in belief ("I’m an atheist, [i:d8de7cc5ae]but[/i:d8de7cc5ae]..."), this makes us no better than the fundamentalists. The problem according to them is not faith itself but only extremism, which they take to include both the religious fundamentalists and us. What they are suggesting however is little more than a perpetuation of the approach that has [i:d8de7cc5ae]already failed[/i:d8de7cc5ae], namely keeping the conflict under the table and essentially doing nothing.
The "Churchill" school of atheists sees things [i:d8de7cc5ae]very differently[/i:d8de7cc5ae]: The conflict between faith and reason is real whether we are willing to admit it or not. This conflict is in no way limited to specific issues like evolution or stem cell researc, not even the (non) existence of God or the supernatural, but more generally: [i:d8de7cc5ae]why we believe things[/i:d8de7cc5ae] in the first place. I see the damage inflicted on science by creationists etc. as little more than random side-effects or symptoms. The real "disase" in my view is [i:d8de7cc5ae]believing things for the wrong reasons[/i:d8de7cc5ae]. What the compatibilists are in fact saying is: "Just [i:d8de7cc5ae]keep the wrong reasons[/i:d8de7cc5ae] as long as it doesn’t have any undesirable side-effects."
What we are advocating is not [i:d8de7cc5ae]discrimination[/i:d8de7cc5ae] against religious believers, but only that religious ideas should not be immune to the kind of criticism that [i:d8de7cc5ae]would be a matter of course[/i:d8de7cc5ae] if they were [i:d8de7cc5ae]not [/i:d8de7cc5ae]religious. Just imagine for a second the public scandal and moral outrage if an [i:d8de7cc5ae]atheist[/i:d8de7cc5ae] such as Dawkins or Sam Harris had promoted anything even remotely like this - without resorting to faith as an alibi - and you get an idea about the kind of reaction we [i:d8de7cc5ae]should[/i:d8de7cc5ae] be seing against religion:
To quote Sam Harris:
[quote:d8de7cc5ae]This idea, that we respect other people’s beliefs is a myth. We [i:d8de7cc5ae]do not [/i:d8de7cc5ae]respect other peoples belifes in any other area of human discourse, [color=red:d8de7cc5ae]we evaluate their reasons for what they believe[/color:d8de7cc5ae] [...] but on the subject of religion we have introduced a fundamental double standard.[/quote:d8de7cc5ae]
While i could not agree more with the above quote, i would like to add that this politically correct flattery of religious people is not just dishonest but actually - at least in my opinion - [i:d8de7cc5ae]disrespectful[/i:d8de7cc5ae]. You show people respect by taking them seriously and treating them as grown up, rational and responsible individuals. The only way to do that is to correct them if they are being unreasonable, without pussyfooting around the issues, and [i:d8de7cc5ae]expect[/i:d8de7cc5ae] them to react rationally and correct their behaviour. Telling people only what they [i:d8de7cc5ae]want[/i:d8de7cc5ae] to hear is to show a lack of respect, because it assumes that they are not rational and mature enough to deal with the truth. This may of course be true of many believers, but that is irrelevant as far as [i:d8de7cc5ae]respect[/i:d8de7cc5ae] is concerned.
While i normally admire and respect the "nice guys" of skepticism, such as Michael Shermer and Carl Sagan, i do think they are/were too often guilty of granting true believers a kind of victim status that i find truly infantilizing. Shermer may have a legitimate point in that we are not going to start a constructive dialogue by telling people their most cherished beliefs are nonsense. Still i think Dawkins and Harris have an even stronger point in that the false respect and immunity from criticism granted to religion poses a greater obstacle to solving the deeper problems. I take the many hostile reactions to Dawkins’ and Harris’ books as a sign that they have hit a nerve, i sure hope so…
Now, i used to lean rather strongly toward the "nice" end of the spectrum myself. What ultimately turned me over to the "angry" side was in fact reading the Bible. Since then, i am no longer willing to apologize for anyone who gives legitimacy to this book. Yes, as matter of fact i [i:d8de7cc5ae]do[/i:d8de7cc5ae] blame them and i am [i:d8de7cc5ae]never[/i:d8de7cc5ae] going to stop blaming them until they utterly reject its morals. I think what they are doing is [i:d8de7cc5ae]wrong[/i:d8de7cc5ae] and they are [i:d8de7cc5ae]without any excuse[/i:d8de7cc5ae] for doing so. It may not be politically correct to say this, but that is the truth. If this makes me arrogant and dogmatic, then so be it.