I sat down and watched both episodes of Dawkins’ series, The Root of All Evil? this weekend (because I can!), and I have to say…I liked it very much. I’ve already commented on the first episode, and if you want to know what’s in the second, Dawkins himself has an editorial that summarizes the main points: the pattern of indoctrination of children, the kneejerk rejection of honest criticism, the spreading corruption of education by dogma. It was marvelous to see it all laid out lucidly, in a tidy 50 minute spot. (Hmmm, just the right length that if I wanted to “infuse religion in student learning”, it would fit perfectly in a lecture hour…)
I’ve heard a few complaints about the show. Some point out that Ted Haggard and that Muslim bucket o’ hate on the first episode aren’t really representative of the religious; I have to disagree. They are common enough that they represent many millions of assertive, politically active religious people, and Haggard is regarded as a leader by a large community—Dawkins did not seek out outré Theodore Kaczynski types and prop them up to stand for a majority that detests them. In the second episode, we also meet some other religious types who aren’t as pathologically vile as the fellows in the first, but are more foolishly ignorant—and that’s appropriate to the message that the religious are not evil, but are victims of a pernicious cultural atmosphere that perpetuates ignorance.
I’ve also heard the show dismissed as “preaching to the converted”…which I think is roughly 180° misdirected. If I have any complaints, it is that I am not the audience for the show—what he said was nothing I haven’t thought myself for years. The target audience is actually that great mass of people out there who have never heard a peep of that great body of secular criticism of religion. Seriously, most Americans can go through their lives hearing nothing but repetitive paeans of praise for the virtues of religious life; The Root of All Evil? is one of those too-rare attempts to reach out to the uninformed and explain the freethinker’s argument against religion (unfortunately, the devout seem to be too enraptured with this ‘faith’ nonsense to understand—we just need to repeat our message loudly and with more variations, I hope, and it will sink in). I think it is also prompting some interesting discussion among infamous atheists, so the show is doing its job…don’t judge it by the thickheadedness of the blinkered god-botherers.
I hope the show picks up a sponsor willing to show it here in the states. The hue and cry it would elicit would be extremely entertaining, and I’m sure it would get tremendous amounts of publicity, denunciations, shouts of “Heresy!”, etc., etc., etc. But it would also expose a great many people to a point of view that has been closed off to them.
Oh, and by the way, Dawkins has a diary online. It’s not clear whether this is a one-shot deal or not, and it has a rather stream-of-consciousness feel to it. I was thinking that if it were broken up into a couple of entries, it would look just like a weblog. Somebody get Dawkins a blog, quick! Hey, Seed Media, have you considered approaching Richard Dawkins to see if he’d like some space here?