A friend recommended me a long time ago to watch a documentary called the Jesus Camp. Jesus Camp was a summer camp in the US where devout Christians would send their children to spend the summer and learn about Jesus, the bible, intelligent design etcetera. While wiki-ing on the topic I found it interesting what happened after the documentary was released, as one of the pastors appearing in the film appeared in a scandal for using drugs and having sex with a male prostitute. Another interesting effect of the (according to the creators) objective documentary was shut down due to negative reactions of people after seeing the documentary. Wikipedia also provided me with a nice tie-in to another documentary, called The Root of All Evil? by Richard Dawkins.
Also titled ‘The God Delusion’ but spiced up a little by Channel 4 who wanted to create extra controversy around it, this documentary proposes that religion is the root of all evil, and Richard Dawkins travels to various religious areas to talk to religious people and to try and make them see ‘the folly of their ways’. The first two thoughts that sprung into my head were: it’s funny that Dawkins is using the concept of ‘evil’ against religion, as religions were probably the ones who first invented it. The second thing that annoyed me is that he is purposefully seeking out people who don’t believe what he believes and then tries to convince them to change their ways. That’s exactly what most people dislike about religious people. Forcing your beliefs upon someone is bad, mkay.
Dawkins clearly set out on a mission here, which is to try and foulmouth religion as much as possible. He does a bunch of interviews with extremely religious people, lures them out to say stupid things and then uses the things they say as an argument against their entire religion. As a skeptic myself, I side with Dawkins on most of the discussions in the film, but I disagree with the way it’s presented. Some (but not a lot) of the religious people in the film are well-spoken, intelligent people who keep up with Dawkins and counter him at every point. Dawkins then either keeps saying more extreme things to lure them out, or he does a voice-over and cuts off the discussion. I’m pretty sure that religious people won’t be happy with the way they’re portrayed in the documentary. Then again, it’ll be mostly atheists watching this, so he’s preaching to his own choir.
I’m a scientist myself, and I have some (scientist) friends who are also religious. I’ve always been interested as to how they integrate both concepts into their personality. It seems to be a very personal thing, and everyone has their own way of doing it. It’s quite different from the people in the Jesus Camp, who are all indoctrinated in the same way, all belonging to the same group. I think that’s where the big difference lies, or will lie in the future. In the past, if people wanted to ‘belong’, their options were very limited. If you lived in a Christian region, you were Christian. If you lived in a Muslim region then you were Muslim. It’s a stable solution. Until you come into contact with other cultures/religions, a phenomenon which is common nowadays. We’re confronted with different cultures every moment of every day, both in the media and in daily life. People are being shown that a lot of people don’t believe what they believe, and they’re being shown it a lot earlier in life than in the past. Modern multi-cultural society is effectively changing how people believe.
Another main point of this is the ‘belonging’ to a group that I mentioned before. In the past, you didn’t have a lot of choice on where you wanted to belong, depending on the region you were in and the people you had to deal with every day. Nowadays though it’s not uncommon to see people communicating daily with people at the other side of the world but not even knowing the name of their neighbor. Modern technology is also changing how people believe. Or as I prefer to put it: the Internet is the new god.
Regardless of religion, I firmly believe in respecting other people’s beliefs, and not forcing my beliefs upon others. I really do think that Dawkins failed a little bit on that part, even though I agree with most if not all of the points made by him in the documentary.
All that said, you might think I’m an atheist to the extreme, but I don’t think I am. I do believe in a god. You can find him inside Gödel’s incompleteness theorem, but you have to look for it. 🙂