Reflections on God 6: Radical Atheism

This is part of God Flux but  split into smaller sections for an easier read.

Radical Atheism

After almost a year of intense email exchanges about god with my friend in Sydney, I went to Edinburgh for my Masters in Neuroscience. (This blog has a series of all the letters I wrote home from there under the name of Letters from Edinburgh (LfE).) Here, due to my interest in the biological origin of belief in god, I met a radical atheist who thought that religion was extremely dangerous to humanity. He introduced me to a heated debate in the western world between the atheists and the Judo-Christian religions. He showed me videos and books by people like Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins etc. where they talk about the contradictions within this religions and the dangers they pose, or debate with leaders of these religions themselves on the same. The reason I call this ‘Radical’ Atheism is because at times their approach was caustic, sarcastic and hurt the beliefs of the people they talked to or about. I would have better commended a more open, rational and peaceful conversation. This friend had a copy of both the Bible and the Koran. When I expressed my moderate and tolerant views to him and asked why not respect everyone’s faith and let them believe whatever they want, he opened the books one by one and showed me sections in which there is use of extreme violence towards children, unfair treatment of women and the brutality with which they dealt with non-believing communities in the name of god. This violence was justified and considered right in the religion. I was so utterly disappointed in these ‘holy’ books. I was so disillusioned and emotionally affected by these sections that at that time I considered their use of the word god a corruption of the concept. I realised that a philosophy which excludes and condemns all possibilities except its own to ‘hell’ is, in it’s very nature, violent. Further, he told me about how in today’s world people get away with unbelievable things like abuse of children because of the respect moderates like me have for their faith. I was swayed by this, especially because it meant that people under the protection of religions didn’t have to answer for the trauma they inflict on little children. The violence of these religions ranged from the obvious acts of suicide bombing for seventy-two virgins in paradise to attacks on the diversity of cultures worldwide through missionaries and conversions. I started to understand how faith can be dangerous too, not just a benevolent source of solace.

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