Richard Dawkins: “Inheriting Religion”

As a Darwinian, something strikes me when I look at religion. Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. The vast majority of people have an allegiance to one particular religion. there are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of those.

Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity.

This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in their religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one.

Truths about the cosmos are true all around the universe. They don’t differ in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Poland, or Norway. Yet, we are apparently prepared to accept that the religion we adopt is a matter of an accident of geography.

If you ask people why they are convinced of the truth of their religion, they don’t appeal to heredity. Put like that it sounds too obviously stupid. Nor do they appeal to evidence. There isn’t any, and nowadays the better educated admit it. No, they appeal to faith. Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. The worst thing is that the rest of us are supposed to respect it: to treat it with kid gloves.

If a slaughterman doesn’t comply with the law in respect of cruelty to animals, he is rightly prosecuted and punished. but if he complains that his cruel practices are necessitated by religious faith, we back off apologetically and allow him to get on with it. Any other position that someone takes up can expect to be defended with reasoned argument. Faith is allowed not to justify itself by argument. Faith must be respected; and if you don’t respect it, you are accused of violating human rights.

Even those with no faith have been brainwashed into respecting the faith of others. When so-called Muslim community leaders go on the radio and advocate the killing of Salman Rushdie, they are clearly committing incitement to murder–a crime for which they would ordinarily be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned. But are they arrested? They are not, because our secular society “respects” their faith, and sympathises with the deep “hurt” and “insult” to it.

Well I don’t. I will respect your views if you can justify them. but if you justify your views only by saying you have faith in them, I shall not respect them.

5 responses

  1. I was born Atheist but became to believe in a non-religiousd God. A Universal conciousness if you will, so I’m not sure of the point you’re trying to make.


    1. You’re not the only person who is a born atheist; EVERYONE is a born atheist. Nobody is born with faith in God, Allah, Yahweh, or any other God/religion as these beliefs are all learned. And that is precisely the point that the author of the article (Richard Dawkins) was making. And that is that most people, not all as there are always exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of people take on the belief-system (faith/religion) of their ancestry (parents) even though that belief is completely arbitrary as no one gets to choose his or her parents. Yet, most people believe that their ‘arbitrary’ belief happens to be the “one true faith” while all others are false.

      For example, there is a much greater likelihood that a child born in Arkansas or Mississippi will be a Southern Baptist upon adulthood than a child born in Afghanistan; there is a higher degree of probability that a child born in Tel Aviv will be Jewish upon maturity than a child born in Pakistan, etc. Why? Because they believe what they are taught to believe. This is true of many things. Kids who are born and grow up in Finland or Canada are more likely to follow hockey than those born in Santo Domingo; who will probably say that baseball is their favorite sport; while a kid from Brazil may enjoy soccer more than one born in the United States, where football is more popular. But this doesn’t mean that one sport is any more real than the others.

      Anyway, i understand that many people believe, as you believe, in a universal consciousness.


  2. That Richard Dawkins does not believe in God is more apparant, not through his words, but through his actions.


  3. […] Richard Dawkins: “Inheriting Religion” ( […]


  4. […] But isn’t religion something you can choose, where as sex isn’t? Well not if people like Dawkins are to be believed. […]


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