Speaking at the Cheltenham Science Festival, the evolutionary biologist claimed that moderate Muslims were the biggest victims of fanatical Islamic ideology.
It’s tempting to say all religions are bad, and I do say all religions are bad, but it’s a worse temptation to say all religions are equally bad because they’re not. If you look at the actual impact that different religions have on the world it’s quite apparent that at present the most evil religion in the world has to be Islam.
It’s terribly important to modify that because of course that doesn’t mean all Muslims are evil, very far from it. Individual Muslims suffer more from Islam than anyone else.
They suffer from the homophobia, the misogyny, the joylessness which is preached by extreme Islam, Isis and the Iranian regime.
So it is a major evil in the world, we do have to combat it, but we don’t do what Trump did and say all Muslims should be shut out of the country. That’s draconian, that’s illiberal, inhumane and wicked.
I am against Islam not least because of the unpleasant effects it has on the lives of Muslims.
His words were reported by the Telegraph on the same day (June 11) that the Guardian carried an op-ed by Sara Khan, above, author of The Battle for British Islam: Reclaiming Muslim Identity from Extremism, who slammed British authorities for their:
Comatose response to growing religious fundamentalism … We defended the right of extremists to free speech in the belief that the most effective way of undermining them was for us to counter their speech.
This was nice in theory; there was, however, one rather large problem. Apart from a handful of people, no one did counter them. And those who did were promptly labelled ‘Islamophobes’.
Dawkins also made a strong case for religious education, saying it is crucial for British children to understand their history and culture.
He said that it was virtually impossible to study English literature without knowing the background of Christianity.
When asked whether religious studies should be abolished in schools, over fears that schoolchildren were being brainwashed, he said:
I think that it is an important part of our culture to know about the Bible. After all so much of English literature has allusions to the Bible, if you look up the Oxford English Dictionary you find something like the same number of quotations from the Bible as from Shakespeare.
It’s an important part of our history. So much of European history is dominated by disputes against rival religions and you can’t understand history unless you know about the history of the Christian religion and the Crusades and so on.
I would not abolish religions education. I think I would substitute it for comparative religion and Biblical history and religious history.
Comparative religion is very valuable partly because the child learns that there are lots of different religions not just the one they were brought up with. They learn they are all different and they can’t all be right, so maybe none of the are right. Critical thinking is what we need.
However he said it was “deeply wicked” and “evil” to use religion to scare children with warnings of “hell fire”.
Dawkins, who was promoting his new book Science In The Soul: Selected Writings of a Passionate Rationalist, also urged people to stop referring to evolution as a “theory”.
He said it was time to abandon the phrase “theory of evolution” because the word “theory” caused people to think that it was not scientifically proven.
I would recommend not calling it a theory, I would call it a fact. The word theory is clearly misunderstood. Evolution is a fact and there is absolutely no question or doubt about that. Look at the evidence, it is overwhelming.
I’ve given up hope of ever clearing up that confusion. It’s much better to abandon the word ‘theory’ altogether.
Darwin did it because it was the 19th century, fair enough, but it is a fact, it is established as strongly as any other fact in science.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn (Dawkins report)