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Richard Dawkins / The Agenda

TV Ontario, The Agenda with Steve Paikin featuring Richard Dawkins: Can We Live By Reason Alone? Richard is the author of The God Delusion. The program is an hour long the clips here include only the interview with Richard. Follow the link for the entire program which in addition to Richard includes three apologists for religion. I found it interesting that at the beginning of the clip under the title of Divine Goodness they included Warren Buffett's gift to the Gates Foundation. Neither Buffett nor Gates believe in God, so It seems reasonable to assume their choices are based on reason not divine goodness.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Very nice, Mr. Dawkins.


I always like that idea that what if you get to heaven and it turns out the real god despises the Christian God and makes all his people suffer...

Thanks for the video. I was afraid it was going to be yet another repeat of what he's said many times, but this was the best interview with Dawkins I've seen!

I find it annoying how at the end of many interviews with an atheist, there is some kind of pseudo-attack against them. In this one, there was the "Authors not interested in the wager" thing. It's such a cheap shot. Dawkins could have easily refuted Pascal's Wager.


Atheists are not exactly interested in the wager, you know. It's why things like the Blasphemy Challenge are around. They were actually just supplying viewers with further reading on the subject of atheism if they found Dawkins compelling or interesting. I can't find anything annoying about it at all. It made me smirk, in fact. :)


I know that atheists are not interested in the wager, but many viewers of this program might find it a compelling argument when, as many have shown, it is not, thus it is misleading to include it at the end -- a cheap shot. Most atheists who write book on religion are trying to show that there is no need for religion at all, not that there is a 50-50 chance that religion is correct. Adding Pascal's Wager as a "final thought" is misleading, especially the way they presented it.

He is so good. It seems as though Dawkins has been able to consistently hone his technique in discourse over the countless series of interviews he has endured.

Would we be better off without religion?

Yes. We would be far better off.

If the billions of people who worship this preposterous fiction were to suddenly realize how silly they have been all these years and started to spend their energy, efforts and money in pursuit of more realistic endeavors who know what amazing heights the human race could achieve.

Religion is holding the worlds population hostage. It's a pernicious fallacy that has no place in the modern world.

I chuckled a bit in the middle of the second segment where the host tried to call Dawkins' on what he saw as a contradictory statement about "but God does not exist." It's funny how when speaking about God belief one has to be very careful and politically correct before the stormtroopers of linguistics attack such an otherwise understandable utterance. Like Richard replied, that comment would most likely have not been made if we were talking about fairies or something to that extent.

It is interesting to note that neither Gates or Buffet bow to an imaginary being -- yet they (along with Soros, also a humanist) are the premier capitalists of our time.

Yet I all too often I hear right-wing blowhards associate atheism with socialism!

Larry Ellison is also a self-made atheist and on the Forbes Top 10 list.

And guess what else? The only real GOP types THAT rich are the Walton heirs who clamour for an end to the estate tax while the wealthy Dems give their fortunes back to humanity.

How many myths can be destroyed on this one topic along with the God myth?


Theres many things wrong with Pascal's wager. The most obvious counterargument is that there's a 50/50 chance that a god exists that rewards nonbelievers and punishes those in blind faith.

for those interested, an online poll was conducted by the program asking if the world would be better without religion

by show's end, 82% of respondents voted YES.

According to Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at the Syracuse University, religious people give far more to charities than the non-religious and they also volunteer more to charitable work than non-religious people. Brooks, however, admits that he left out a lot of qualifying information.

This shouldn't surprise anyone considering that religions, by their very nature, are themselves charitable organizations, which encourage giving (especially to their churches). Also important to consider are the reasons why religious people give. Is it really to help others or to help themselves get into heaven? Lastly, many of the charities wouldn't need to exist if it weren't for religious people rejecting scientific advances, social reforms, etc. Mother Teresa, for example, served as perhaps the most charitable Christian of all time, but her stand (and the Catholic Church's stand) against workable prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (condoms and birth control for example), created far more deaths, poverty and suffering than her charitable work could ever have hoped to accomplish.


You said, "Mother Teresa, for example, served as perhaps the most charitable Christian of all time, but her stand (and the Catholic Church's stand) against workable prevention of sexually transmitted diseases (condoms and birth control for example), created far more deaths, poverty and suffering than her charitable work could ever have hoped to accomplish."

Are there statistics on this? That's really interesting.

I think it is very good when people suffer. To me, that is like the kiss of Jesus -- Mother Theresa

See the Penn and Teller Bullshit episode called Holier than thou..

1984, geez.

try to actually check your sources, OK? In my opinion there is a lot of horrible stuff espoused by Theresa in the speech you refer to, (for example the statement that "the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion"...what a bunch of horse shit!).

anyway...the quote you were attempting to cite is presumably this:

One day I met a lady who was dying of cancer in a most terrible condition. And I told her, I say, "You know, this terrible pain is only the kiss of Jesus--a sign that you have come so close to Jesus on the cross that he can kiss you." And she joined her hands together and said, "Mother Teresa, please tell Jesus to stop kissing me."

so she is actually making a bit of a joke on this point. there's a lot reprehensible in Mother Theresa's philosophy, and there's also a lot reprehensible in putting words in people's mouths to support your own position. The latter is the kind of crap that Bush and his ilk pull on a daily basis, and you, 1984, should not stoop to that level. for the Dawkins interview...I thought the key moment was when he held ground while the interviewer was asking what makes atheists moral. Dawkins' point was that he would refuse to answer the question when phrased that way, since what makes atheists moral is the same thing that makes everyone moral.

bravo, Dr. D.

Personally, though, I try to avoid using the word 'moral' at all in such contexts. It drips with the fat of the cooked flesh of religion. Instead, I prefer the term 'ethical.'


Very good interview. The interviewer is someone I remember seeing when I was in Canada, but don't really recall. He followed all the usual tropes, 'respect,' Pascal's wager, etc. Dawkins defended his propositions well, although, let's face it: he's had a lot of practice by this point and there don't seem to be any new ones being fired at him. As I've said to people, if the Zoroastrians are right, most of the States is 'blued, screwed and tattooed.'

Serious Canadian TV beats the States by a long shot.

Amen to that Stewf. :)

i find that i have to have 'faith' in some sort of way or the other. dawkins tells me my morals--or ethics, if you prefer, even though there is a distinct difference between them--come from an ethereal, humanitarian "zeitgeist," whereas the christian tells me they come from the west's christian heritage. books like dawkins' would offer 'proof' for his position; books like "Christianity on Trial: Arguements Against Anti-Religious Bigotry" (by Vincent Carroll and David Shiflett) or "For the Glory of God: How Monotheism led to Reformations, Science, Witch-hunts, and the End of Slavery" (by Rodney Stark) would offer me 'proof' that faith produced the philosophy that produced the "zeitgeist" dawkins alludes to. in essence, i either have faith that these moral evolutionary leaps spring from some unknown source, or that they spring from faith in "God."

'ignore the fact that they have always thought it was their faith inspiring them,' says dawkins, essentially, of christian scientists and abolitionsists and philosophers, 'and believe me when i say it was the contemporary zeitgeist.'

how rational is it to take dawkins' word over theirs? i mean, surely these individuals know why they felt inspired to advance the common cause?

Respect people perhaps but respect beliefs I think not. I don't respect the beliefs of bigoted, racist neo-nazis. I don't respect the beliefs of holocaust deniers. I don't respect the beliefs of any religions that I know.

I am an atheist. If god did exist it won't be the simple minded, anthropocentric, egotistical, retarded child emperor of the bible or koran.

Pascal's wager is a stupid argument from someone who I gather was quite smart in fact. It is based on too many presuppositions.

Christopher Hitchens has written a scathing attack against Mother Teresa in one of his books. It seems she was not the nice old women people make her out to be.

'ignore the fact that they have always thought it was their faith inspiring them,' says dawkins, essentially, of christian scientists and abolitionsists and philosophers, 'and believe me when i say it was the contemporary zeitgeist.'

how rational is it to take dawkins' word over theirs? i mean, surely these individuals know why they felt inspired to advance the common cause?

To some extent, I have to agree with you on this. Nevertheless, I've seen no convincing rebuttal to Dawkins' argument that these 'do-gooders' actions do not explain their selective application of biblical 'morality'. By what standard do they choose not to accept some of the insane strictures, those which the modern zeitgeist find to be monstrous - like the stoning of a insufficiently modest woman, that abound in the bible? It is an argument on which religious moderates are always waffling.

By the way, I'm as critical of US media as anyone - but let's not go overboard in patting the Canadians on the back. The so-called panel discussion that ensued after the Dawkins interview was utterly one-sided. Most of the points raised there were easily rebutted - but there was no one on the panel to do so. The level of discourse on the panel may have been more intellectual than Paula Zahn's CNN travesty from a couple of months ago, but the imbalance in the make-up of the panel was equally bad.


This is the second time I've realised that Richard Dawkins is married to the radiant Lalla Ward aka Romana the fellow Time Lord and TARDIS travelling companion during Tom Baker's tenure as Dr Who.


The interviewer could be a real dink at times, but in spite of that, this was one of the best Dawkins interviews. Most likely because it was on a "PBS"-like channel where you could have 30 minutes of uninterrupted discussion.

Pascal's wager as quoted at the end of the clip reminds me of an episode of Corner Gas. A woman is asking the police why they need riot gear in such a small town. She says "what are the odds of having a riot here?" The cop replies, "well, 50-50." "50-50?" "Either there's a riot, or there isn't!"

"By what standard do they choose not to accept some of the insane strictures, those which the modern zeitgeist find to be monstrous - like the stoning of a insufficiently modest woman, that abound in the bible?"

simple! by the Jesus Standard, of course, which goes something like this: the monotheists before and up to jesus stoned as it was commanded of them, no doubt. jesus let the adulterous woman go free (where is evidence of the invisible hand of the zeit here, with this lone rabbi singlehandedly reversing stoning, as far as his believers would be concerned?), and to date, even though christianity was born out of a middle eastern culture that clearly allowed--and allows--stoning, i'm not sure there has been a single case of someone stoned by christian religious leaders for adultery since.

i find it hard to believe that dawkins cannot reason out the Jesus Standard on his own: this jesus person is the 'filter', as it were, of how much of the old testament practice made it into the new. christians have not been as willy-nilly selective as dawkins has tried to make out, making him either a.) truly ignorant of why christians do NOT slaughter livestock on a hill around jerusalem but DO revere the 10 commandments; or b.) intellectually dishonest. i can't yet figure out which.

Well, Jon, if you can tell me why the Christians replaced 'stoning' with 'burning people alive tied to a stake' during the Inquisition, you may have a point.

They also may have improvised on the Bible a little with the drowning of women accused of being witches in Salem, Mass. I could be wrong-it might be somewhere in the Bible. Just curious.

Or was it just a matter of environment......not enough stones but plenty of firewood?


There's that story about Jesus again. The one about the "without sin casting the first stone" was a story written hundreds of years after Jesus, in the margins of a new testament manuscript, that was re-copied many times until it has become "scripture". This was a story written by someone imagining what kind of person Jesus would be . . . See Bart Erman's "Misquoting Jesus" for other examples.

shano, you really don't get faith, do you? in order to answer your question, let's leave the theistic faiths aside for a moment and ask ourselves something--integral to understanding 'faith'--about, say, a major non-theistic religion such as buddhism. a.) have many or few buddhists live up to the example of the gautama? b.) what, then, does it say about the teachings of the buddha? i'd imagine the answers are a.) few; b.) nothing at all. they are foolish questions, of course, but they lie at the heart of your accusations against christains. better to ask, do these matter when addressing the merits of buddism itself?

again i would remind you that jesus clearly held that many would follow him claiming to be followers of his, but would be wolves bleating as sheep; the Jesus Standard then held that the way to distinguish between them would be by their "fruits". "good fruits" meant adhering to 2 simple rules, according to the Standard: 1. love God; 2. love neighbor, with the Standard going further, saying #1 was impossible without #2. "bad fruits" meant violating #2. the late pope offered one mea culpa after another for the past sins of the inquision in particular, so obviously christians recognize--and always have--that any time the inquisition burned or killed someone, it only did so by violating the Jesus Standard.*

what is so hard about this? how is it possible for irrational, undereducated persons of faith to be able to distinguish between such elemental things as, say, sin-vs-sinner or buddist-vs-buddism but you--and apparently mr. dawkins--cannot?

(*and should you think john paul II was merely acting under the current geist, consider that sixtus IV, pope from 1471-84, tried again and again to rein in torquemada, his appointee, unsuccessfully; read more in jewish historian Henry Kamen's "The Spanish Inquisiton". as he points out, the inquisition has always left meticulous--and historically empirical--recordkeeping in its wake. do you know what its true purpose was? do you know how many times it strayed from that purpose to burn people? if you do not, can you or anyone else who believes as you do credibly accuse people of faith of being selective in their study of historical truth?)

plum, like mulder, i want to believe, but Ehrman's work is just too sloppy for me to take seriously. he says that because that passage in john is stylistically different, it must be from an altogether different source. that's a leap in and of itself, but Ehrman then goes on to theorize (and he covers his backside by never saying he's doing anything but) that some (medieval?) copyist must have introduced that portion, sans original texts, sans original commentary, etc. too many fellow scholars--not all christians by a long shot--disagree about the ages or authenticity of the papyri he uses, or on his findings in general. ergo, when a better critic of the texts comes along, i'll give the idea more credence.

even allowing for Ehrman's thesis, however, how obvious is it to us who'd like to believe dawkins that for dawkins' Zeitgeist Theory to be right, this text should never have been introduced in the first place? leastways not before the 20th century, seeing as it was WAY ahead of the zeit or the geist.

How do you then account for the fact that church policies, coming from this same Holy Book, are causing the deaths and misery of millions today?

This is the result of religious edicts against condom use, and birth control in general, mandated by religious authorities of many Christian faiths.

The AIDS epidemic is killing millions of people worldwide, but especially in Latin America and Africa. Condom use would aleviate some of that but is forbidden by the predominant religious thought there.

Sorry, but untill religious people are able to use common sense associated with science, their 'faith' means nothing.

I should clarify that overpopulation is the biggest problem in Latin America. When you can buy diapers in the aisles of stores but have to ask the pharmacist behind the counter for tampons or condoms, it tells you something about the society.

A predominately Catholic society, doomed to poverty and dwindling resources, environmental degradation and water shortages because of huge population pressures.

Birth control is unthinkable because of predominant religious thought.

And I really resent that it has creeped into our International Family Planning organizations because of this same kind of religious pressure.

And then there is this: Outraged Indian leaders in Brazil said Monday they were offended by Pope Benedict, who said the Church had not imposed itself on the indiginious peoples of the Americas. Instead, they "were silently longing for Christianity".

Millions are thought to have died as a result of the European colonization backed by the Church since 1492.

"Its arrogant and disrespectfull to consider our cultural heritage secondary to theirs". said Mawe, coordinator of the Amazon Indian group Coiab.

Another spokesperson said, "To say the cultural decimination of our people represents a purification is offensive, and frankly, frightening."

Add this modern day Jesus Standard to the past horrors of Manifest Destiny in North America.

I'm running short on time when I watched this so someone might have already touched these points:

Dawkins doesn't need to be respectful to anyone who has religious beliefs. Atheism is often ridiculed and highly misunderstood. Atheists are pointed out as immoral and confabulated about in order to make us look wrong. Religious nuts are constantly justified as being piously good despite their offensive rhetoric and for demonizing people who don't believe their same branch of belief. They don't deserve respect when they take advantage of tax breaks and people's naivete and fear.

There is really no end to that list. In the first portion they say that atheists need to be more politically involved and that they need positions of power. Precisely, the media provides a voice to those of us with simmilar beliefs. That in itself is a form of power because mindless people have a tendency of repeating what is on the media and of giving it more credence if it is in writing or in a visible form. People like Dawkins and Hitchens are providing a voice for atheism because barely does anyone take the difficult job of fighting of fallacious arguments against atheists.

Dawkins did a superb job at describing where atheists (and everyone else) get their morals.

This thread got me thinking about Pascal's Wager, and how for some reason I know Pascal's Wager is absurd without having to pick the argument apart. I had not bothered to think about it before and exactly why it is foolish. Now that I think of it, the false dilemma takes care of it neatly, but I think you could go on from there. Anyway, you know, there are a lot of people who will listen to Pascal's Wager and automatically think it makes sense in the same way I thought it didn't make sense. I think we could safely call those people "fools." However, I think that religion actually encourages people to become fools and in fact turns them into fools. What concerns me, though, is that this interviewer sounds like he actually knows all the arguments he is throwing at Dawkins are foolish. This would be all well and good if the guy was doing it as "Devil's" advocate, to borrow a religious term. However, this guy sounds genuinely inquisitorial when he hounds Dawkins on that one question, even though the interviewer seems to understand he is presenting a fool's argument. This reminds me of one time I even heard Bill O getting cornered on the religion issue and he actually spit out a version of the "Well, maybe it isn't true, but isn't it good if we act like it is" argument. It was couched a little more deeply than I just presented it, but it was there, and nobody called him on it. So, how many of these broadcasters are really the same kind of charlatans that the clergy are? (Rhetorical question.)

I too agree that this was perhaps the best Dawkins interview that I've seen. The reason being that, by offering up all the standard arguments, the host provided the perfect foil to Dawkins' own well-honed arguments. He kept "falling into the trap". It was like watching the Harlem Globetrotters playing the Washington Generals.

As for the point about atheist political organization or lack thereof, a place to start might be GAMPAC at

shano, you make a couple of points, but i think your hatred of religion has blinded you to the facts on the ground. i lived in tegucigalpa for nearly a decade in the 80s, and, after being away for almost 20 years, went back this past christmas, only to find it a completely different country. before NAFTA (and its latest incarnation, CAFTA), the city had its shanty towns, sure, but the countryside was alive with small, independent farmers living off the land as people have done for millennia. they were poor but proud and independent, and their currency was 3-1 against the dollar. today, after the aggressive economic dictatorship exercised by the US, they are being herded into the drug-infested, overcrowded cities to beg and starve. is this illusion of 'overpopulation' in latin america--a truncated view of anyone who doesn't go in-country--suddenly the catholic church's fault? as you point out, the church has been in these countries for five centuries; needless-to-say, contraceptives have never been permissible before, so why are you all-too-quick to heap blame for modern problems on this ancient institution? did it invent the modern problems, or did moderns?

on another note, you issue these statements as if they were true by your fiat:

  1. [O]verpopulation is the biggest problem in Latin America.

  2. [Latin America is] doomed to poverty and dwindling resources, environmental degradation and water shortages because of huge population pressures.

and this non sequitur:

"Add [European colonization as a] modern day Jesus Standard to the past horrors of Manifest Destiny in North America."

read your history more carefully: without the church, and specifically the dominicans, the indians would have suffered more--because of dominicans such as Montesinos, Pedro de Cordoba, Francisco de Vitoria, and, of course, Bartolome de las Casas, latin america never experienced institutionalized slavery like north america did. this single religious order--acting out of moral conviction, not geist or zeit or whatever--provoked the spanish crown into launching a probe of the morality of its empire running, effectively ending the way business was done. what atheist group is doing the same in the US today? watch the canadian indie documentary "A Place Called Chiapas." whom do the zapatistas trust to speak on their behalf? their local bishop. where are the atheists, i wonder? why was oscar romero killed? what atheist replaced him as the spokesman for the downtrodden of el salvador? your myopia astounds me...

as for the AIDS epidemic, your suppositions just don't add up: take the worst case of AIDS in africa, that in south africa. catholics* make up just over 7% of the population, condoms have been available since the 60s, and yet the epidemic rages on. what gives? whatever it is, condom use isn't helping--and catholicism isn't hurting--the situation, currently standing at a more than 20% infection rate among adult south africans.

(*catholicism is the only major christian denomination that still prohibits contraceptive use.)

put into context, the average percentage of HIV-infected persons in latin america as a whole is .05%. in the US, it's .06%. (see now, that percentage rises and falls thoughout latin america, obviously, with guyana (NOT predominantly catholic, but protestant and hindu, and therefore open to condom-use) on the higher end, averaging 2.4% of the population and bolivia (predominatly catholic) on the lower end, averaging .01%. so your facts about religious opposition to contraceptives causing this thing suck and only make of religious belief a convenient whipping boy.

(in europe, which obviously has no problem with condom use, HIV-AIDS is on the rise: )

You make assumptions that I 'hate' religion.

Well, I must say you have some interesting statistics there, but come to some dubious conclusions. Catholics didn't kill all the natives in place, like most Christians did in North America. But the reason was to have a native work force and more souls for the Church. The Europeans didn't build those huge cathedrals on their own.

I dont think the trade off was that great culturally. A class structure developed that is still in place, European first, then mestizo, then indiginous.

But the Church has a great responsibility for attitudes toward family planning, the role of women, and other elements of society. Contraceptives were never permitted before in Mexico because of the Church.

Yes, religious folk do provide some relief to the poor, but secular institutions provide much more.

What you see of the country people fleeing to the city probably has alot to do with the drug wars, on both sides. This drug war is ruining the rural economy in Mexico for people who refuse to be involved, often in fear of their lives. I would wager that some of the drug war is tainted with our Puritan past.

If you cant see the explosive growth of population in Latin America, then you are blind.,, I am sure the stats could be found. In Sonora, the major cities are running out of water exacerbated by population growth. Why doesnt the head of the Latin church give his blessing to contraceptives?

The poor are the indiginous because of the class system practiced for centuries and endorsed by the church.. If you think going to a Bishop for help, instead of their own shamans after their culture has been destroyed by European religion, fine. But alot of knowledge was destroyed also.

Our International Planned Parenthood is now forbidden to work with groups that deal with prostitution in any way, the groups that need this type of information and help the most. This is a form of American religious thought putting its values before science. Probably is a big factor in Africa.

As far as AIDS, Reagan could not even say the word, his religious beliefs prevented him from addressing the problem untill it became apparent that it was a health issue for everyone, not just the gay population.

Why doesnt the church give its blessing to condom use in this age of AIDS?
It influences attitude, because of the special priviledge religion holds even among non-believers, which is one of the things Dawkins is trying to change.

I think we have taken this thread way off topic. But if your stance is the Jesus Standard alone, then you should be able to see the problems the Bible is causing in modern times. The fact that to get to God you must go through Jesus is still causing conflict.

TheRealChristopher (regarding Dawkins' wife, Lala Ward): An interesting fact is that Douglas Adams introduced them.

Jon, I highly respected your post up to the point where you started saying that there was no institutionalized slavery in Latin America. Either you're going to have to come up with details as to how institutionalized slavery was not the same as in the U.S., or research your history more carefully.

Latin America made extensive use of slaves as much as the U.S. did. The Spaniards were in fact, extremely racist in how they viewed Indios and anyone else in the New World who was not from Spain. So much that each one had a unique name and category: Mestizo, Criollo, Mulato, etc. My greatgrandparents lived as owned slaves. If there was a difference between U.S. and Latin American slavery, it was that miscegenation was not so much frowned upon in the latter. I don't know how the arrival of the Catholic order helped the conditions of slaves in Latin America if only to make them more submissive and pliable. I know people who witnessed towns in Mexico getting on their knees everytime they heard the Church bell ring. The Catholic Church actually had a lot of control in politics in Latin America until politicians had to take the exact same measure the fathers of the United States did: separate Church and State.

In between the Zapatistas and the Catholic church... Who has the guns there and who is desperate? The local churches can't be so stupid to wage their power in the wrong direction and make themselves look bad. Also, the Mexican government and International influence is so corrupt that the Church is probably the most trustworthy party at this point. The Dawkins video made mention that Atheist don't congregate and make plans to save the world because we are independent thinkers. Atheists as individuals do great things. We don't congregate in groups and scream out our beliefs because it is not what we are about. When approaching a goal that serves everyone, it is better to aggregate people despite different beliefs.

In the midst of you stating condom use and AIDS incidence, you're pretty much stating that abstinence taught by Catholicism works better than using condoms. I saw the numbers you were referring to and you're full of errors. First of all, numbers by themselves don't tell you about who is getting infected and why. The incidence of infection in Sub-Saharan Africa is high throughout the population who are extremely poor. Culturally, men believe they are safe if they are married, and condoms are known NOT TO BE USED despite many campaigns to encourage couples. Women can't ask their male partners to use condoms because they risk being accused of being prostitutes. It is such a strongly rooted belief that there was an anti-HIV treatment being developed so women can put it in themselves after sex.

Also, are you making comparisons between continents and individual countries? Not to mention the discrepacies in population numbers and what those numbers mean in relation to them. Brazil is Catholic but represents 40% of the statistic. Did you read what the site has to say about those numbers? Injection sharing is also a huge problem in many of these countries obviously related to the problems with drugs. Honduras is a country which has 1.5% incidence of people living with HIV, and it is also a country which was dominated by Spain.

I don't know what prompted you to choose and pick numbers other than than your own convictions and beliefs. Reality is much more complicated than what religion provides and does not provide. The use of condoms still provides a measure of protection against a lethal disease. Besides, Abstinence programs have been shown to not prevent sexual relations in teenagers, and a teacher in a local Christian University stated to me that there are as many premarital pregnancies in their University as in Secular ones.

And as an FYI for many people who have never lived in Latin America, Mexico despite being and having been a predominantly Catholic country, is still more secular than the Christian indoctrinated populations in the U.S. Contraceptive use is widely practiced at least in Mexico. Latin American males are more self-rightiously promiscuous than any other male population I've so far met.

I do agree in your point Jon, about NAFTA and CAFTA. Because I lived through their implementation and I saw the country slowly sinking to the gutter because of it. I saw exactly the same phenomenon you witnessed.


Dawkins is such a likeable guy. he is firm in his stance and yet at the same time you can't help but like him. At least a little bit. =)


You have mischaracterized Ehrman's thesis. (thanks for the correction on spelling - I knew there was an h in there somewhere). According to Ehrman, when you create the family tree of texts (you can tell which was copied from which by the accumulation of changes), the stoning the woman taken in adultery story is not in the oldest new testament manuscripts. It then begins to appear in manuscripts that have a common ancestor. And, I believe, he does claim that scholars have the manuscript with the original story written in the margin. So it is certainly not merely a matter of "style".

and more souls for the Church

It’s quite interesting how the Church went out of its way to attempt to convert the indigenous people of Nueva España. In an attempt to lure these people into the Catholic religion they needed to devise a plan—or rather, a belief—that could sway them into accepting it. One method was by concocting a tale of the apparition of the so-called Virgin of Guadalupe which was technically a fusing of the Virgin Mary and the Aztec lunar god Tonantzin which is why she is stepping under a crescent moon signifying greater importance and in front of the sun rays of Quetzalcoatl. It is important to also mention where the Basilica of Guadalupe was built upon: the ancient Tonantzin pyramid. By Christianizing this ancient goddess they were able to create a bridge between their faith and the Catholic one. This is why even today ancient Aztec superstition is intertwined with the Christian religion and celebrations and traditions in Mexico might seem a bit peculiar to a Christian foreigner.

A few other comments. Mexico city has the second highest population of any city in the world, 19 some million-and 90% of these people are Roman Catholic (slowly declining). If the church changed its stance on birth control some misery might be alleviated. NAFTA and CAFTA are amplifying the problems of overpopulation.

Acceptance of birth control is going to help, the birth rate is slowly declining. No thanks to the church on this improvement in social acceptance.

By taking me to task for questioning religious thought or positions, you are proving Dawkins point. Criticism of political applications is more easily digested than criticism of religious applications.

By criticising NAFTA, would you accuse me of 'hating' politics? NO.

Dawkins is right.

thank you all for your comments; i think it works best for all of us if we keep the conversation between atheists, agnostics, and theists civil, as you all have done, and i appreciate it.

shano, i did indeed assume that you 'hated religion' and it was wrong to do. nonetheless, i still can't see through some of the quasi-logical leaps in your post, like "In Sonora, the major cities are running out of water exacerbated by population growth. Why doesnt the head of the Latin church give his blessing to contraceptives?" you are assuming (without any stats that i could see) that cities along the border are experiencing acute water shortages due strictly to the population growth, whereas i would suggest--as many an environmentalist has--that the shortage has less to do with overpopulation than it does with the pollution of clean water sources. have you heard of maquiladoras or the film "Maquilapolis"? the very reason i believe there IS a concentration of latin americans--and not just mexicans-- (which, like i said before, if properly distributed throughout latin america, wouldn't seem like 'overpoluation') along this border is because of the job surplus caused by these carpetbagging corporations which rape, pillage, and pollute in a manner no crusading army or mongol horde ever did, and it is my opinion that if someone wants to effect real change, they should seek to understand the interplay of economies taking place here rather than scapegoat the tired old hobgoblin of organized religion. if it hadn't been said in the bible, i think most of us would have no problem believing that the love of money is indeed the root of most evil.

miui, i've always found it interesting that the same individuals who laugh at the church's attempt to enforce their ban on condoms by assuming no one is abiding by that stricture anyway are the first to accuse that same stricture of, in the words of another, "...causing the deaths and misery of millions." these are mutually exclusive assumptions: either people are abiding by the condom prohibition and killing themselves in the process or they aren't and the church's regulation is a dead letter; it can't be both ways. you state, on the one hand, that mexico is "predominantly [a] Catholic country" but, being more secular than the US, "contraceptive use is widely practiced." then what does it matter to you that the church, i.e., the ol' windbag no one is paying attention to, relaxes its stance on condom use? this fallacious argument, i believe, lies at the heart of the misunderstanding many have concerning the effect religious belief has on societal behavior. i heard hans kung once state, unjokingly, that the pope had the blood of millions of aborted fetuses on his hands for not relaxing the ban on contraceptives. what kung--and many--assume, in a BIG way, is that catholics who feel the pang of conscience when they want to put on a condom have no such pangs of conscience when it comes time to end the pregnancy. SURELY kung understands that abortion is, to a practicing catholic, a far, far more heinous act than using a prophylactic? (and of course he ignores the evidence that suggests that the majority of women who seek abortions do so because their contraceptives failed them--see link below.) likewise with all of the handwringing about church officials not 'allowing' prostitutes their condoms: this is a straw man, folks, plain and simple. condoms are available in every major city of latin america; if a person is already in such gross violation of christian belief as to be making a living as a prostitute, they are not likely to have a problem using condoms. it's an asinine premise on its face. likewise with someone committing adultery, fornication (not to sound puritanical here, but there simply isn't a more encompassing term), or living as an active homosexual--not only are these individuals not going to have moral qualms about condom use, they are individuals who have a hand in the spread of STDs like AIDS. which is why, miui, i do indeed think that, the "abstinence taught by Catholicism works better than using condoms," with this caveat: IF the person is in fact abstinent, and it is possible to be so, it provides a measure of protection against infectious diseases like no condom can. likewise with your argument about proper use of condoms: IF properly used, they are more effective in preventing the spread of communicable disease than using nothing at all. i simply find it appalling, however, that those who would disparage the abstinence programs are usually assuming that, regardless of whether or not they work, individuals cannot moderate their risk-prone behavior, a very condescending view of humanity in general, and one that has little to do with whether they will not.

on another point, miui, you asked me clarify about institutionalized slavery in latin america and the US--it is a fact that some south american countries fully emancipated their slaves well after the US did (assuming here, that full emancipation in the US came in 1865 and not, say, 1968), but not all slave institutions were created equal--take brazil, the last south american country to emancipate is slaves: slaves were baptized, confirmed, married, etc. in the church (a powerful symbol, if that's all you think it is, of their very real equality of worth), could not be separated by sale, could accumulate property, sell their labor on their days off the plantation, and could save up towards buying their freedom. in what possible way does this resemble latter-day american slavery? Stanlety Elkins, in his "Slavery: A Problem in American Institutional and Intellectual Life", almost begrudgingly admits that, "It may be asserted that the [Catholic] church, functioning in its capacity as the guardian of morals, was responsible for whatever human rights were conserved for the slave within the [Latin American] system." the role of protestant americans and britains within the abolotionist movement is so well documented that the movement would not have gotten off the ground had it not been for calvinist puritans like john brown. that is fact, and that is history. besides, are we not again bumping into capitalist greed here? greed, and greed alone would seemingly compel someone to seek to own another, and even if the churches had looked the other way, the religious belief they espoused wouldn't be at the root of the problem--love of money would be.

all of that aside, however, if these are problems of churches having too much sway with governments, then the question must be asked: have we had examples of 'atheist governents' in the past? how well did they do--without the meddling interference of some church or religious group--regarding the environment, civil rights, and fighting AIDS or disease in general? (assuming these are things you stand for, as i do.) because after we're done throwing facts and stats and opinions around, isn't that the underlying question? are governments indeed better off without being influenced by religion? well, the examples we do have of states declaring themselves atheist in law--those of the former soviet union and the eastern bloc; and currently china, north korea, cuba, and vietnam--are not exactly stellar examples of some utopian progressivism anyway; hence the challenge to atheists like dawkins--in what way would your atheist system be better than a.) the systems unduly influenced by religion, and b.) atheist systems we've seen before? if religion failed to provide a moral rudder for governments in the past, then what would act as the moral rudder for the truly atheistic society? (i.e., how to impose the "zeitgeist" model on a government?)

miui, you said something i liked very much, though: "Reality is much more complicated than what religion provides and does not provide." very, very true. now replace the word "religion" with "science" or "philosophy" or even "atheism" and i think we have the winning quote.

[i'd like to thank our host for allowing this thread to get so far off topic, like shano pointed out earlier.]


plum, let's assume i did indeed misrepresent Ehrman's work. now, the greater question, vis-a-vis dawkins' premise of the contemporary zeitgeist being responsible for any commonality in our morals, remains: how obvious is it that for dawkins' Zeitgeist Theory to be right, this text should never have been introduced in the first place? at least not before the 20th century, seeing as it was way ahead of the zeit or the geist in its seemingly lenient take on adultery.

There is no doubt that Jesus' (reported) take on the world was a pretty unique one up to that point. The world was about to end, the social order was about to be completely upended, and therefore we should LOVE each other? Definitely radical stuff.

The story of the woman taken in adultery is a wonderful, imaginative take on what such an iconoclastic, mysterious, and merciful thinker might have done in such a circumstance - and the truthiness of the tale was good enough for it to be included as canon. In as much as someone preaching love and mercy in the first century is anachronistic, then it is pretty special. But that doesn't mean Dawkins' theory of where morality comes from is wrong. After all, even if you consider Jesus' emphasis on love to be divinly inspired, all of the writings and reaction about him have been done by human beings responding to a zeitgeist that INCLUDES Jesus' teachings. People liked what he had to say, and they adopted some of it. That is very much a part of what Dawkins is talking about here - picking and choosing those values and behaviors we find that we admire in others to adopt as our own.

There is no doubt that Jesus' (reported) take on the world was a pretty unique one up to that point.

Unique? Hardly!

Why not say the Bible was influenced by the zeitgeist of history before it? Because it most certainly was, by the Sumerians, by other creation stories, by history.

And why not Plato? Because he explores the same issues of what is good, beautifull, etc., only in a different way.

As to so-called Athiest governments, facism and communism employ the same kind of dogma that plagues religious thought. It is either-or, not taking into account any nuance or complexity. The laws of faith can be just as dehumanising as the draconian laws of state power.

A good example of this would be Falwell, who believed that if you were not born again, you were a failure as a human being. Extreme.

Let humanism, science, and other modes of thought have the same weight in affairs. Then you may develop solutions to very real modern problems.

apollonius of tyana--seriously? we think jesus is a made up figure because his followers wrote down his story a few decades after his death, but apollonius of tyana doesn't get a mention until approximately AD 220 and he's a credible historical figure? bias there....


Great interviewer. Great questions.

Who made the claim that Apollonius was ever a credible historical figure?


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