Author: Stephanie

Science shows us the wonder of reality.

Dear Richard,

I have just finished reading ‘The God Delusion’ and felt compelled to write to you to let you know how much of an impact it has had on my thinking.

I am a gay man, brought up to Irish Catholic parents. My mother was a wonderful, kind-hearted woman from the country, and my father was a very well-intentioned, but highly religious man(iac). Having practically abandoned any kind of actual religious belief long ago, I still felt a distant affection for the rituals of the church, along with residual guilt-resonance whenever I did anything un-catholic (sex, usually).

I now feel quite happy to say categorically that I am an atheist. I will still happily sing church music (I was a choral scholar and lay clerk at Oxford at around the time you wrote the book) but will appreciate it for its artistic value, without attaching any mystical meaning to it.

I’m currently sat in a cafe in Nepal, having just finished the final chapter. I am very taken by your passion for science and your explanations of the alternative ways of perceiving quantum theory. This jogged a long-forgotten memory of applying to be a choral scholar, as one of the stages of the process, I was required to have an interview with the then Chaplain. We were required to write a short statement explaining how we would uphold the Christian values associated with being a choral scholar. As an enthusiastic teenager fresh from a Physics A Level I waxed lyrical about the wonder of the natural world and included something about how quantum physics might better help us to understand the nature of God. I remember vividly the chaplain taking me to task on this, taking me down a peg or three, suggesting that I had no idea what I was talking about and that I shouldn’t even make such stupidly ill-informed suggestions. I was thoroughly deflated by the encounter, but I now realise that perhaps I had hit a raw nerve. It is also possible that he was just an arsehole.

In any case, I just wanted to say thank you, thank you, thank you. I have never written to an author after reading one of their books, but felt the need to do so today. It’s always nice for us to hear that our work has a positive impact on people, so I just wanted to let you know that I’ll buy you lots of drinks if our paths ever cross.

All best

The Necessity of Secularism, pg 75

I”n any event, it’s obvious that the belief that atheists are immoral is not based on relevant factual information. It is noteworthy that this prejudice took root long before open expression of disbelief in God was a common phenomenon. Until the nineteenth century, it was exceedingly rare for atheists to be open about their disbelief – with good reason, as a public declaration of atheism was sure to end in social death if not actual death. In fact, it’s only been fairly recently that large numbers of people have voluntarily identified as atheists, agnostics, humanists, or just plan “not religious.” So it’s not as though people studied and compared the behavior of believers and nonbelievers and drew the conclusion that nonbelievers are a bad group of people. To the contrary, many believers have simply assumed that the conduct of atheists must be worse than the conduct of theists because in their minds God is closely, if vaguely, associated with morality.”


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Question of the Week- 2/28/2018

The Winter Olympics have come to a close, and one can’t help but wonder: What if there were an Olympics for science? Could there be a gold medal in experiment replication? Record times achieved in exoplanet discovery? What kind of events could there be in a Scientific Olympics?

Our favorite answer will win a copy of Brief Candle in the Dark by Richard Dawkins.


Want to suggest a Question of the Week? E-mail submissions to us at qotw@richarddawkins.net. (Questions only, please. All answers to bimonthly questions are made only in the comments section of the Question of the Week.)

The Necessity of Secularism, pg 148

“Can Civilization Survive Without god?” was the sensationalized title given by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life to a 2010 conversation/debate between Christopher Hitchens and his brother, Peter Hitchens. That the Pew Forum, a project of the nonpartisan and respected Pew Research Center, would hold a conversation on this topic is by itself revealing. No respectable organization would hold a symposium on the topic “Can Civilization Survive Christianity?” or “Can Civilization Survive Islam?” At least no organization could do so without engendering severe and immediate public criticism. Atheism, though, not only threatens many people, but it is still considered acceptable among some to label it as a threat. Even if it is conceded that the individual atheist may be a good person, there is an abiding concern that the spread of atheism bodes ill for civilization. The spread of atheism is regarded like the spread of the plague – or perhaps the invasion of the body snatchers. ”

–Ron Lindsay, The Necessity of Secularism, pg 148


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Life Driven Purpose, pg 168

“Why does life have to have a point? If there were a point, then whatever makes the point would itself need a point. If whatever makes the point has a point, then whatever makes that point would have no point in itself. And so on. Eventually, we have to come to a place where we stop asking, “What is the point?” and just start accepting life for what it is. If there is a god, he (she/it) would be in the same situation. He would have to say something like, “My life is my life, and that is that,” with no further explanation, no ultimate meaning. Why can’t we do the same thing, simply accepting the good fortune of being alive? Life is not only beside the point, it is above and beyond the point. It is precisely when we realize that there is no point, that we should not want there to be a point, that we can smile and say: ‘Life is life.’”

–Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 168


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Coming Out Atheist, pg 186

But if it’s someone else’s personal space, such as their Facebook page or twitter feed or blog, they have the right to not listen to you blather about atheism, just like you have the right to not listen to them blather about religion. In their own space, they have the right to tone-troll, to shut down discussions that are making them unhappy, to ban atheists or Star Trek fans or people whose names begin with W. You can make your own decisions about whether their guidelines are okay with you, and whether you want to participate in their space. And of course, you can try to persuade them that their guidelines are problematic. But do it with basic respect of their right to curate their space any damn way they please. Pulling the “You can’t handle the truth!” number just makes you look like an entitled douchebag who thinks they have the right to spew anywhere they want.”

–Greta Christina, Coming Out Atheist, pg 186


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Life Driven Purpose, pg 118

“I think “religious morality” is an oxymoron. Morality is morality, and qualifying it with the word “religious” does no strengthen it. It weakens it. (The same is true with the phrase “alternative medicine.” Medicine is medicine. Sometimes “alternative medicine” actually works, and when it does we call it “medicine.”) As I mentioned in the previous chapter, “religious morality” reduces human behavior to a monochromatic one-size-fits-all orthodoxy that is actually more dangerous than the broader humanistic principle of reducing harm. I think religion actually compromises moral judgment.”

–Dan Barker, Life Driven Purpose, pg 118


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In Tax Debate, Gift to Religious Right Could Be Bargaining Chip

By Kenneth P. Vogel and Laurie Goodstein

WASHINGTON — For years, a coalition of well-funded groups on the religious right have waged an uphill battle to repeal a 1954 law that bans churches and other nonprofit groups from engaging in political activity.

Now, those groups are edging toward a once-improbable victory as Republican lawmakers, with the enthusiastic backing of President Trump, prepare to rewrite large swaths of the United States tax code as part of the $1.5 trillion tax package moving through Congress.

Among the changes in the tax bill that passed the House this month is a provision to roll back the 1954 ban, a move that is championed by the religious right, but opposed by thousands of religious and nonprofit leaders, who warn that it could blur the line between charity and politics.

The change could turn churches into a well-funded political force, with donors diverting as much as $1.7 billion each year from traditional political committees to churches and other nonprofit groups that could legally engage in partisan politics for the first time, according to an estimate by the nonpartisan congressional Joint Committee on Taxation.

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The Necessity of Secularism, 78-79

How do moral norms serve these functions? In following moral norms we engage in behavior that enables these functions of morality to be fulfilled. When we obey norms like “don’t kill” and “don’t steal” we help ensure the security and stability of society. It really doesn’t take a genius to figure out why, but that hasn’t stopped some geniuses from drawing our attention to the importance of moral norms. As the seventeenth century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes and many others have pointed out, if we always had to fear being injured or having our property stolen, we could never have any rest. Our lives would be “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Besides providing security and stability by prohibiting certain actions, moral norms also promote collaboration by encouraging certain actions and by providing the necessary framework for the critical actions of the “promise” – that is, a commitment that allows others to rely on me. Consider a simple example, one that could reflect circumstances in the Neolithic Era as much as today. I need a tool you have to complete a project, so I ask yo to lend it to me. You hesitate to lend me the tool, but you also believe you are obliged to help me if such help doesn’t significantly harm you. Moreover, I promise to return the tool. You lend me the tool; I keep my promise to return the tool. This exchange fosters trust between us. Both of us will be more inclined to cooperate with each other in the future. Our cooperation will likely improve our respective living conditions.


Multiply this example millions and millions of times and you get a sense of the numerous transactions among people that allow a peaceful, stable, prospering society to emerge. You also can imagine how conditions would deteriorate if moral norms were not followed. Going back to my tool example, let us imagine you do not respond positively to my request for assistance. This causes resentment and also frustrates my ability to carry out a beneficial project. I am also less likely to assist you if you need help. Or say you do lend me a tool, but I keep it instead of returning it as promised. This causes distrust, and you are less likely to assist me (and others) in the future. Multiplied many times such failures to follow moral norms can result in mistrust, reduced cooperation, and even violence. If I do not return that tool peacefully, you may resort to brute force to reacquire it.

–Ron Lindsay, pgs 78-79, The Necessity of Secularism


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The Economist The Economist asks: Richard Dawkins

Anne McElvoy and Jan Piotrowski ask one of the world’s best-known evolutionary biologists whether science can guide us through a turbulent world of post-truth. Can there really be an objective truth, or will our existing biases win out?