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Monday, 9 July, 2007 9:13 PM
From: "Rory Connor"
To: "Professor Vincent Comerford", "Ronan Fanning", "Dr. Colum Kenny" , "Daire Keogh" , "Dermot Keogh" , "Dr. Eoin O'Sullivan" , "Professor Irene Whelan", "Editor History Ireland" , "John Horgan" , "Louise Fuller Maynooth"


 The debate between Richard Dawkins, author of "The God Delusion," and David Quinn, columnist at the Irish Independent and former editor of the Irish Catholic,  took place 9 October  2006 on "The Tubridy Show." The show was hosted by Ryan Tubridy and broadcast RTE Radio 1. The full text of the debate is on the Christian website

The following is an extract that refers to Richard Dawkins claim that religion is responsible for most of the evil in the world. The discussion also refers to the topics of Fundamentalism and of Free Will, both of which have something to do with Evil and the causes thereof.

Tubridy: Can I suggest that the next question, it is quite appropriate, is on the role of religion in wars. When you think of the difficulty that it brings up on the local level, Mr. Dawkins, do you believe the world would be a safer place without religion?

Dawkins: Yes I do. I don't think religion is the only cause of war, very far from it. Neither the Second World War, nor the First World War were caused by religion, but I do think that religion is a major exacerbator, and especially in the world today, as a matter of fact.

Tubridy: OK, explain yourself.

Dawkins: Well, I think it's pretty obvious if you look at the Middle East, if you look at India and Pakistan, if you look at Northern Ireland, there are many, many places where the only basis for hostility that exists between rival factions who kill each other is religion.

Tubridy: Why do you take it upon yourself to preach, if you like, atheism -- and there's an interesting choice of words in some ways. You've been accused of being something like a fundamental atheist, if you like, the high priest of atheism. Why go about your business in such a way that you try to disprove these things? Why don't you just believe in it privately, for example?

Dawkins: Well, fundamentalist is not the right word. A fundamentalist is one who believes in a holy book, and thinks that everything in that holy book is true.

I am passionate about what I believe because I think there is evidence for it. And I think it's very different being passionate about evidence from being passionate about a holy book.

So, I do it because I care passionately about the truth. I really, really believe it's a big question, and it's an important question, whether there is a God at the root of the universe. I think it's a question that matters, and I think that we need to discuss it, and that's what I do.

Quinn: Ryan, if I can say, Richard has just come up with a definition of fundamentalism that suits him. He thinks that a fundamentalist is someone who has to believe in a holy book.

A fundamentalist is someone who firmly believes that they have got the truth, and hold that to an extreme extent, and become intolerant of those who hold to a different truth. Richard Dawkins has just outlined what he thinks the truth to be. It makes him intolerant of those who have religious beliefs.

Now in terms of the effect of religion upon the world, I mean at least Richard has rightly acknowledged that there are many causes of war and strife and ill will in the world, and he mentions World War I and World War II.

In his book he tries to get neatly off the hook of having atheism blamed, for example, for the atrocities carried out by Joseph Stalin, saying that these have nothing particularly to do with atheism.

Stalin, and many communists who were explicitly atheistic, took to view that religion was precisely the sort of malign and evil force that Richard Dawkins thinks it is, and they set out from that premise to, if you like, inflict upon religion, as sort of their own version of a final solution, they set to eradicate it from the earth through violence, and also through education that was explicitly anti-religious.

And under the Soviet Union, and in China, and under Pol Pot in Cambodia, explicit and violent efforts were made to suppress religion underground, religion was a wicked force and we have the truth, and our truth would not admit religion into the picture at all, because we believe religion to be an untruth. So atheism also can lead to fundamentalist violence, and did so in the last century.

Tubridy: Can we let Richard in here?

Dawkins: Stalin was a very, very bad man, and his persecution of religion was a very, very bad thing. End of story. It has nothing to do with the fact that he was an atheist.

We can't just compile lists of bad people who were atheists and lists of bad people who were religious. I am afraid that there were plenty on both sides.

Quinn: Yes, but Richard you are always compiling lists of bad religious people. You do it continually in all your books, and then you devote a paragraph to basically try to dissolve atheism of all blame for any atrocity throughout history. You cannot have it both ways.

Dawkins: I deny that.

Quinn: Of course you do it. Every time you are on a program, talking about religion, you bring up the atrocities committed in the name of religion, and then you try to minimise the atrocities committed by atheists because they were so anti-religious, and because they regarded it as a malign force, in much the same way as you do. You are trying to have it both ways.

Dawkins: Well, I simply deny that. I do think that there is some evil in faith, because faith is belief in something without evidence.

Quinn: But you see, that is not what faith is. You see, that is a caricature and a straw man, and it's so typical. That is not what faith is. You have faith that God does not exist.

Dawkins: What is faith?

Quinn: Wait a second. You have faith that God doesn't exist. You are a man of faith as well.

Dawkins: I do not. I've looked at the evidence.

Quinn: I've looked at the evidence too.

Dawkins: If somebody comes up with evidence that goes the other way, I'll be the first to change my mind.

Quinn: Well, I think the very existence of matter is evidence that God exists.
And by the way, remember, you're the man who has problems believing in free will, which you tried to very conveniently [push] to one side earlier.

Dawkins: I'm just not interested in free will, it's just not a big question for me.

Quinn: It's a vast question because we cannot be considered morally responsible beings unless we have free will. Otherwise we do everything because we are controlled by our genes or our environment. It's a vital question. [END OF DISCUSSION]