Just saw [i:1de5a52b0f]The Root of All Evil?[/i:1de5a52b0f], a two-part BBC series from Richard Dawkins. He looks at the irrationalisms of the three modern-day religions of the Book (Judaism, Christianity and Islam). Although it will appear superficially as though he has cherry-picked his "believers" as extremists, in fact if you pay careful attention, these are not extremists at all, with one arguable exception. They aren’t precisely "moderates" either (again, with one exception), but are pretty mainstream orthodox believers of all stripes.
I must say that Dawkins comes across as a very courageous man, almost foolhardy, in that he was willing to confront very strong believers on their own home turf (even in Jerusalem) with some quite pointed questions about their religious beliefs and practices. This works well to show that these beliefs are unfounded, irrational, and often dangerous.
On the one hand, Dawkins is probably not the most sympathetic host for a general audience. He is clearly quite angry about the nonsense of religion. He has clear opinions and beliefs about what science tells us of the world, and this clarity does come across (admittedly, to scientific illiterates) as arrogant. Likely it would come across to a normal primetime TV audience as arrogant as well, given that the normal primetime TV audience knows as little about science as the people Dawkins was interviewing.
On the other hand, Dawkins’s very firm belief in science and his quasi-moralistic support of it is, I think, particularly galling to the mainstream and fundamentalist religious believers he confronts. I expect they would be more expecting scientists and science supporters as generally more indirect or milquetoasty in their questioning of religion. Usually it is the religious who preserve for themselves the intense moralism. Dawkins, on the other hand, is pretty relentlessly direct.
And throughout the interviews the responses of his detractors comes back to: "As an atheist you must have no morality." This seems to be the only response they have to him. But this hasn’t been a good argument for over 2,500 years: Plato demolished it in his dialogue the Euthyphro. More generally, as Dawkins puts it, it is not particularly moral to act just so as to ‘kiss up to God’.
By the end, Dawkins has made a very clear and persuasive case that schools should be universally nonsectarian, and that faith-based religious world views are on the rise worldwide. But he leaves little in the way of suggestions for what to do about it. So it is a pretty depressing piece!