Last Sunday, Richard Dawkins featured on a BBC programme called "Have Your Say". They had many callers phone in, mostly to disagree with Professor Dawkins. Anyway, one of the people they had on air was this guy called Father Jonathan Morris, and he was talking somewhat about the Pope's encyclical about atheism among other things. I'd just like to address some of the things that he happened to argue in this recording.
He firstly says that religion does not have a monopoly on fanaticism, which is a fair statement; there is/has been fanaticism in the name of certain political movements, most famously Nazism and Communism. However, he then compares fanaticism in the name of religion to fanaticism in the name of atheism, which is just stupid. Why? Because I don't think there exists such a thing as fanaticism in the name of atheism.
The only thing necessary to be an atheist is a lack of belief in God. I cannot see how this belief inspires a fanatical approach. There is no other tenets, there is no dogma, there is no doctrine.
Admittedly, many atheists believe that the world would be a better place without religion. But does this belief (of a better world without religion) stem directly from atheism itself? I can kind of see how they would use the logic, however the problem is that premiss 2 cannot be derived from atheism.
(1) Atheism is true and thus religions are false.
(2) The world is better off without false beliefs.
(3)Thus the world is better off without religion.
This also does not seem to tie in with what many atheists actually believe about religion. For instance, many atheists believe the world would be a better place without religion because they have seen the damage religion can do to people's lives, either first-hand or through the news media. This does not stem from atheism, but experience.
I also doubt if every atheist would agree with premise 2, at least not in several situations. For example, a good false belief might be "this medicine will stop me feeling ill" when in fact it is a placebo.
Even if most atheists believe the world is better without religion, that is not fanatical not unless it involves things like destroying religious buildings and killing religious people.
Of course, there is a much easier way to get to fanaticism through either religion or other totalitarian authority. For example:
(1) God says I should kill gay people in the Bible(Lev. 20.13)
(2) God is an unquestionable authority.
(3) Thus I should kill gay people.
These assumptions all stem from the religious dogma --god is right, you should obey god.
Onto Hitler and Stalin. As Professor Dawkins points out in the recording, both of these men did evil in the name of political ideology rather than any religious(or non-religious) belief. But anyway, this was the bit where he really annoyed me, he called the aim of Hitler and Stalin a "utopia of secular humanism." At least that's what I think I heard on the tape, because I could barely believe that he would say something THAT stupid! Oh please, Mr. Morris, tell me where it says in secular humanism to kill gay people a la Hitler, if I knew that was in it I would never have signed up!
He talks about the evils in the name of religion as if he's going "Oh, well that's not my kind of religion" and "they got the Bible wrong because Jesus doesn't condone violence" etc. Eternal Hell anybody? Sigh. *Directs Mr. Morris to the Old Testament, while she's at it*.
[warning:rant] A few other notes on the encyclical. Mostly just one, where he says that the Pope Ratpoison IV is extending a hand to atheists to help stop fanaticism both religious and atheistic? Oh, it's extending a hand now is it Mr. Rat-needs-his-balls-put-through-a-meat-grinder-zinger is it? What happened to "Homosexuality is tendency towards moral evil"? You know me, I'm about as straight as your average San Francisco Pride parade, are you sure the Pope wants to touch me, he might get teh gay disease? Oh wait, the gay disease is the AIDS, which so many Catholics have by this point due to his doctrines he's bound to have caught it anyway. The Catholic Church trying to stop fanaticism is so fucking ironic, the Catholic Church practically is fanaticism with its holier-than-thou, ban-abortion, chain-women-to-the-kitchen-sink, if-you-say-celibate-queer-we-might-just-let-you-live attitude. [/rant]
Yes, I'm aware this started off rather intelligent and degenerated into adhoms at the Catholics, but they just tick me off so much. Possibly even more that the Baptist types, merely cos the Catholic Church has way more influence in Britain than the fundie Baptists.
In short: This Mr. Morris is an idiot, and he talks way too damn loud.
NB: get recording @ http://richarddawkins.net/article,1983,Richard-Dawkins-on-Have-Your-Say,BBC