For all the whining about the “war on Christians” we hear from the fundie set, can you even imagine this show airing on American television? The Root of All Evil? is a two-part series airing in the U.K. on Channel 4 in which Richard Dawkins, the internationally known biologist and evolutionary theorist (his 1976 book The Selfish Gene was a worldwide best seller) delivers a thoroughly reasoned polemic against religion. Not a comparative study — a full-out attack on faith itself.
The show’s website notes that,
though religions preach morality, peace and hope, in fact, says Dawkins, they bring intolerance, violence and destruction. The growth of extreme fundamentalism in so many religions across the world not only endangers humanity but, he argues, is in conflict with the trend over thousands of years of history for humanity to progress — to become more enlightened and more tolerant.
A provocative thesis, but not a crazy one. The historic record certainly bears him out. So why can’t Dawkins get a platform on American television?
If Pat Robertson can go on television and call upon God to redirect hurricanes and bump off Supreme Court justices, and if presidential candidates have to kiss Jerry Falwell’s ring to bolster their chances of getting elected, then why shouldn’t religion be subject to criticism in mainstream venues? If archbishops can threaten people with excommunication if they vote for pro-choice candidates, while creationists work around the clock to dumb down our schools, then why shouldn’t religion be given the same level of skepticism as any other aspect of public life?
When a head case like Fred Phelps uses his church as a platform to attack gays and pickets the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq (like Robertson and Falwell, Phelps believes every bad thing that happens to Americans shows God’s wrath over our tolerance of homosexuality), we often hear the defense that they do not represent “true” Christianity. But how do we determine what is meant by “true” Christianity unless we are ready to examine it with a cold, skeptical eye? And will the answer to that question mean anything unless it is given by people who are ready to infuriate a great many believers?
Interesting questions. Unfortunately, I don’t expect to see any of them even dealt with, much less answered, on American television.