Richard Dawkins – Militant Atheism
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A. That splendid music, the coming-in music — “The Elephant March” from Aida — is the music I’ve chosen for my funeral — (Laughter) — and you can see why. It’s triumphal. I will — I won’t feel anything, but if I could, I would feel triumphal at having lived at all, and at having lived on this splendid planet, and having been given the opportunity to understand something about why I was here in the first place, before not being here.
1. Use triumphal in an original sentence.
2. Use splendid in an original sentence.
3. Use opportunity in an original sentence.
B. Can you understand my quaint English accent? Like everybody else, I was entranced yesterday by the animal session. Robert Full and Frans Lanting and others — the beauty of the things they showed. The only slight jarring note was when Jeffrey Katzenberg said of the mustang, “the most splendid creatures that God put on this earth.” Now of course, we know that he didn’t really mean that, but in this country at the moment, you can’t be too careful. (Laughter)
4. Use quaint in an original sentence.
5. Use jarring in an original sentence.
6. Use entranced in an original sentence.
C. I’m a biologist, and the central theorem of our subject: the theory of design, Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. In professional circles everywhere, it’s of course universally accepted. In non-professional circles outside America, it’s largely ignored. But in non-professional circles within America, it arouses so much hostility — (Laughter) — that it’s fair to say that American biologists are in a state of war. The war is so worrying at present, with court cases coming up in one state after another, that I felt I had to say something about it.
7. Which word above has the closest meaning to antagonism?
8. Which word above has the closest meaning to hypothesis?
9. Which word above has the closest meaning to group?
D. If you want to know what I have to say about Darwinism itself, I’m afraid you’re going to have to look at my books, which you won’t find in the bookstore outside. (Laughter) Contemporary court cases often concern an allegedly new version of creationism, called intelligent design or ID. Don’t be fooled. There’s nothing new about ID. It’s just creationism under another name. Rechristened — I choose the word advisedly — (Laughter) — for tactical, political reasons.
10. Which word above has the closest meaning to supposedly?
11. Which word above has the closest meaning to planned?
12. Which word above has the closest meaning to current?
E. The arguments of so-called ID theorists are the same old arguments that had been refuted again and again, since Darwin down to the present day. There is an effective evolution lobby coordinating the fight on behalf of science, and I try to do all I can to help them, but they get quite upset when people like me dare to mention that we happen to be atheists as well as evolutionists. They see us as rocking the boat, and you can understand why. Creationists lacking any coherent scientific argument for their case fall back on the popular phobia against atheism. Teach your children evolution in biology class, and they’ll soon move on to drugs, grand larceny and sexual perversion. (Laughter)
13. Which word above has the opposite meaning of proven?
14. Which word above has the opposite meaning of illiogical?
15. Which word above has the opposite meaning of humble?
F. In fact, of course, educated theologians from the Pope down are firm in their support of evolution. This book, “Finding Darwin’s God,” by Kenneth Miller, is one of the most effective attacks on Intelligent Design that I know, and it’s all the more effective because it’s written by a devout Christian. People like Kenneth Miller could be called a Godsend to the evolution lobby — (Laughter) — because they expose the lie that evolutionism is, as a matter of fact, tantamount to atheism. People like me, on the other hand, rock the boat.
16. Which word above has the opposite meaning of unlearned?
17. Which word above has the opposite meaning of different?
18. Which word above has the opposite meaning of ineffectual?
G. But here, I want to say something nice about creationists. It’s not a thing I often do, so listen carefully. (Laughter) I think they’re right about one thing. I think they’re right that evolution is fundamentally hostile to religion.
19. What can you infer from this paragraph about creationists?
a. They are good listeners.
b. The speaker isn’t fond of them.
c. They are nice.
d. They aren’t nice.
20. What word has the opposite meaning of fundamentally?
a. deeply b. intelligently
c. essentially d. superficially
I. I’ve already said that many individual evolutionists, like the Pope, are also religious, but I think they’re deluding themselves. I believe a true understanding of Darwinism is deeply corrosive to religious faith. Now, it may sound as though I’m about to preach atheism, and I want to reassure that that’s not what I’m going to do. In an audience as sophisticated as that — as this one — that would be preaching to the choir.
21. Typically, what else can corrode?
a. plastic bottles b. clouds
c. metal d. trees
22. What does preaching to the choir mean?
a. trying to convince someone who already agrees with you
b. showing off what you can do
c. encouraging a group of singers to sing
d. sophisticated people don’t need encouragement
J. No, what I want to urge upon you — (Laughter) — instead what I want to urge upon you is militant atheism. (Laughter) (Applause) But that’s putting it too negatively. If I wanted to — if I was a person who were interested in preserving religious faith, I would be very afraid of the positive power of evolutionary science, and any science generally, but evolution in particular, to inspire and enthrall, precisely because it is atheistic.
23. What two words have the same meaning as militant?
a. confrontational b. passive
c. focused d. aggressive
24. What can you infer from this paragraph about evolution?
a. It can help to preserve faith.
b. It is a negative influence on humanity.
c. It is a part of science.
d. It can be inspiring because it is atheistic.
25. According to the paragraph above, if I wanted to preserve religious faith, what should I be particularly wary of?
a. the military b. science
c. evolution d. positivity
K. Now, the difficult problem for any theory of biological design is to explain the massive statistical improbability of living things. Statistical improbability in the direction of good design — complexity is another word for this. The standard creationist argument — there is only one, they all reduce to this one — takes off from a statistical improbability. Living creatures are too complex to have come about by chance; therefore they must have had a designer. This argument of course, shoots itself in the foot. Any designer capable of designing something really complex has to be even more complex himself, and that’s before we even start on the other things he’s expected to do, like forgive sins, bless marriages, listen to prayers — — favor our side in a war — (Laughter) — disapprove of our sex lives and so on. (Laughter)
26. What does Dawkin say is the difficult point behind biological design theory?
a. People are very complex.
b. Religion is against this.
c. The chance for life to occur is infinitesimally small.
d. Creationists are good debaters.
27. Finish the sentence according to paragraph above:
Because life couldn’t have occurred by chance…
a. we are very lucky to be here.
b. someone must have designed it.
c. life is impossible without chance.
d. it’s designer must have been lucky.
28. Give a different example of shooting yourself in the foot?
L. Complexity is the problem that any theory of biology has to solve, and you can’t solve it by postulating an agent that is even more complex, thereby simply compounding the problem. Darwinian natural selection is so stunningly elegant because it solves the problem of explaining complexity in terms of nothing but simplicity. Essentially, it does it by providing a smooth ramp of gradual step-by-step increment. But here, I only want to make the point that the elegance of Darwinism is corrosive to religion precisely because it is so elegant, so parsimonious, so powerful, so economically powerful. It has the sinewy economy of a beautiful suspension bridge.
29. Which two are not synonyms of parsimonious?
a. thrifty b. economical
c. wasteful d. elegant
30. What is the general question that both religion and Darwinism try to explain?
a. natural selection b. evolution
c. economics d. complexity
31. When Dawkins states that you can’t solve it by postulating an agent that is even more complex, what is the agent he is referring to?
M. The God theory is not just a bad theory. It turns out to be, in principle, incapable of doing the job required of it.
32. What is the job that the God theory is required to do?
N. So, returning to tactics and the evolution lobby, I want to argue that rocking the boat may be just the right thing to do. My approach to attacking creationism is unlike the evolution lobby. My approach to attacking creationism is to attack religion as a whole, and at this point I need to acknowledge the remarkable taboo against speaking ill of religion, and I’m going to do so in the words of the late Douglas Adams, a dear friend who, if he never came to TED, certainly should have been invited. (Richard Saul Wurman: He was.) He was. Good. I thought he must have been.
33. What doesn’t a lobby do?
a. Promotes its own agenda to others.
b. Supports certain politicians.
c. Is always pro-war.
d. Organizes support to its cause.
34. What would be the most likely ending to this following sentence?
In my house growing up, it was taboo…
a. to read books. b. to eat everything on my plate.
c. to go outside. d. to use curse words.
35. Dawkins says he attacks creationism by…
a. writing letters. b. attacking religion.
c. believing in God. d. supporting Douglas Adams.
O. He begins this speech, which was tape-recorded in Cambridge shortly before he died. He begins by explaining how science works through the testing of hypotheses that are framed to be vulnerable to disproof, and then he goes on. I quote, “Religion doesn’t seem to work like that. It has certain ideas at the heart of it, which we call sacred or holy. What it means is here is an idea or a notion that you’re not allowed to say anything bad about. You’re just not. Why not? Because you’re not. (Laughter) Why should it be that it’s perfectly legitimate to support the Republicans or Democrats, this model of economics versus that, Macintosh instead of Windows, but to have an opinion about how the universe began, about who created the universe — no, that’s holy. So, we’re used to not challenging religious ideas and it’s very interesting how much of a furor Richard creates when he does it.” He meant me, not that one.
36. What is an example of a hypothesis?
37. In his quote, how does Douglas Adams say that religion and science are different?
38. Discuss why Richard Dawkins creates such a furor when he challenges religious ideas.
P. “Everybody gets absolutely frantic about it, because you’re not allowed to say these things, yet when you look at it rationally there is no reason why those ideas shouldn’t be as open to debate as any other, except that we’ve agreed somehow between us that they shouldn’t be,” and that’s the end of the quote from Douglas.
39. What are two synonyms of rationally?
a. sensibly and logically
b. irrationally and logically
c. reasonably and effectively
d. sensibly and especially
40. What reason does Adams give that says why people are not allowed to criticize religion?
Q. In my view, not only is science corrosive to religion, religion is corrosive to science. It teaches people to be satisfied with trivial, supernatural non-explanations and blinds them to the wonderful real explanations that we have within our grasp. It teaches them to accept authority, revelation and faith instead of always insisting on evidence.
41. Which word in the above paragraph works as the opposite of faith?
42. What are the noun and verb forms for corrosive and trivial?
43. What are four examples of supernatural beliefs?
R. There’s Douglas Adams, magnificent picture from his book, “Last Chance to See.” Now, there’s a typical scientific journal, the Quarterly Review of Biology. And I’m going to put together, as guest editor, a special issue on the question, “Did an asteroid kill the dinosaurs?” And the first paper is a standard scientific paper presenting evidence, “Iridium Layer at the K-T Boundary, Potassium-Argon Dated Crater in Yucatan, Indicate That an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs.” Perfectly ordinary scientific paper. Now, the next one, “The President of The Royal Society Has Been Vouchsafed a Strong Inner Conviction” — (Laughter) — “… That an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs.” (Laughter) “It Has Been Privately Revealed to Professor Huxtane That an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs.” (Laughter) “Professor Hordley Was Brought Up to Have Total and Unquestioning Faith” — (Laughter) “… That an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs.” “Professor Hawkins Has Promulgated an Official Dogma Binding on All Loyal Hawkinsians That an Asteroid Killed the Dinosaurs.” (Laughter) That’s inconceivable of course.
44. What literary device is Dawkins using in this paragraph to make his point?
a. similes b. satire
c. foreshadowing d. alliteration
45. “Last Chance to See” is a non-fiction book by Douglas Adams about an important world issue. Guess what this book might be about based on the title.
46. What group is most likely to have a dogma?
a. a baseball team b. a band camp
c. a public school d. a political party
S. But suppose — (Applause) — in 1987, a reporter asked George Bush, Sr. whether he recognized the equal citizenship and patriotism of Americans who are atheists. Mr. Bush’s reply has become infamous. “No, I don’t know that atheists should be considered citizens, nor should they be considered patriots. This is one nation under God.”
47. What is the justification that George Bush, Sr. made when he said that atheists shouldn’t be considered citizens nor patriots.?
48. In your opinion, what is a patriot? Could an atheist meet your criteria?
T. Bush’s bigotry was not an isolated mistake, blurted out in the heat of the moment, and later retracted. He stood by it in the face of repeated calls for clarification or withdrawal. He really meant it. More to the point, he knew it posed no threat to his election, quite the contrary. Democrats as well as Republicans parade their religiousness if they want to get elected. Both parties invoke one nation under God. What would Thomas Jefferson have said? Incidentally, I’m not usually very proud of being British, but you can’t help making the comparison. (Applause)
49. Why wasn’t George Bush worried politically about what he said?
50. Why is or isn’t bigotry such an important issue?
51. In which sentence does contrary fit the best?
a. Liberals and conservatives often have contrary political opinions.
b. Are you contrary or available?
c. Where is the most contrary place you have eaten?
d. Margaret Thatcher help people become more contrary to France.
U. In practice, what is an atheist? An atheist is just somebody who feels about Yahweh the way any decent Christian feels about Thor or Baal or the golden calf. As has been said before, we are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further. (Laughter) (Applause)
52. From the context of the sentence, Yahweh refers to:
a. Buddhism b. Hindu
c. Christianity d. Scientology
53. From the context, Thor, Baal, and the Golden Calf must be:
a. angels b. demons
c. superheroes c. non-Christian gods
V. And however we define atheism, it’s surely the kind of academic belief that a person is entitled to hold without being vilified as an unpatriotic, unelectable non-citizen. Nevertheless, it’s an undeniable fact that to own up to being an atheist is tantamount to introducing yourself as Mr. Hitler or Miss Beelzebub. And that all stems from the perception of atheists as some kind of weird, way-out minority.
54. From this paragraph, we are to understand that:
a. atheists are weird
b. Hitler was an atheist
c. atheists are often denigrated
d. atheists often run for political office
55. What word in the above paragraph is a synonym of equal?
56. What prefix is being used that means not? What are four other words that use the same prefix in the same way?
W. Natalie Angier wrote a rather sad piece in the New Yorker, saying how lonely she felt as an atheist. She clearly feels in a beleaguered minority, but actually, how do American atheists stack up numerically? The latest survey makes surprisingly encouraging reading. Christianity, of course, takes a massive lion’s share of the population, with nearly 160 million. But what would you think was the second largest group, convincingly outnumbering Jews with 2.8 million, Muslims at 1.1 million, and Hindus, Buddhists and all other religions put together? The second largest group, of nearly 30 million, is the one described as non-religious or secular.
57. Here, piece refers to:
a. a feeling b. an article
c. a toupee d. a song
58. Which word used in the paragraph above has the opposite meaning of sacred?
a. atheist b. secular
c. minority d. population
59. Which group or person is most likely to be beleaguered?
a. a champion football team
b. a city defending itself from attack in war
c. a winner of an election
d. a taxi driver
X. You can’t help wondering why vote-seeking politicians are so proverbially overawed by the power of, for example, the Jewish lobby. The state of Israel seems to owe its very existence to the American Jewish vote, while at the same time consigning the non-religious to political oblivion. This secular non-religious vote, if properly mobilized, is nine times as numerous as the Jewish vote. Why does this far more substantial minority not make a move to exercise its political muscle?
60. What is the best question to summarize this paragraph?
a. Why don’t atheists have more political influence?
b. Why doesn’t the Jewish lobby have more political influence?
c. Why do atheists need more political influence?
d. Why does the Jewish lobby have more influence than atheists?
61. What is something that might typically be mobilized?
a. a park b. an army
c. a basketball league d. a corporation
Y. Well, so much for quantity. How about quality? Is there any correlation, positive or negative, between intelligence and tendency to be religious? (Laughter)
62. Which of the following is most likely to show a measurable correlation?
a. The amount of time you study and the chance of getting good grades
b. The number of times you brush your teeth and day and the chance of getting into a car accident
c. The color of your house and the chance of it being hit by a falling airplane part
d. The amount of time you spend on the internet and the chance of you liking fast food
Z. The survey that I quoted, which is the ARIS survey, didn’t break down its data by socio-economic class or education, IQ or anything else. But a recent article by Paul G. Bell in the Mensa magazine provides some straws in the wind. Mensa, as you know, is an international organization for people with very high IQ. And from a meta-analysis of the literature, Bell concludes that, I quote, “Of 43 studies carried out since 1927 on the relationship between religious belief and one’s intelligence or educational level, all but four found an inverse connection. That is, the higher one’s intelligence or educational level, the less one is likely to be religious.” Well, I haven’t seen the original 42 studies and I can’t comment on that meta-anaysis but I would like to see more studies done along those lines. And I know that there are, if I could put a little plug here, there are people in this audience easily capable of financing a massive research survey to settle the question, and I put the suggestion up — for what it’s worth.
63. What is the conclusion that Paul Bell makes?
64. What is most likely to show and inverse connection?
a. The amount of money you make and the quality of your car
b. The time spent practicing the piano and the skill you acquire
c. The amount of time you spend skiing the number of broken bones you have had
65. What suggestion does he make at the end of the paragraph to the audience members?
Aa. But let me know show you some data that have been properly published and analyzed on one special group, namely, top scientists In 1998, Larson and Witham polled the cream of American scientists, those who’d been honored by election to the National Academy of Sciences, and among this select group, belief in a personal God dropped to a shattering seven percent. About 20 percent are agnostic, and the rest could fairly be called atheists. Similar figures obtained for belief in personal immortality. Among biological scientists, the figures are even lower, 5.5 percent only, believe in God. Physical scientists: it’s 7.5 percent. I’ve not seen corresponding figures for elite scholars in other fields, such history or philosophy, but I’d be surprised if they were different.
66. What is the difference between atheist and agnostic?
a. An atheist doesn’t believe in any god. An agnostic is believes in a god.
b. An atheist thinks a god or gods may exist. An agnostic believes in one god only.
c. An atheist is a scientist. An agnostic is from other fields.
d. An atheist doesn’t believe in any god. An agnostic believes that a god or gods may exist but probably doesn’t.
67. According to the information given, what is the correlation between top academia and the belief in a god or gods?
68. What is another terms for personal immortality?
a. an afterlife b. God
c. church d. spirituality
Bb. So, we’ve reached a truly remarkable situation, a grotesque mismatch between the American intelligentsia and the American electorate. A philosophical opinion about the nature of the universe, which is held by the vast majority of top American scientists and probably the majority of the intelligentsia generally, is so abhorrent to the American electorate that no candidate for popular election dare affirm it in public. If I’m right, this means that high office in the greatest country in the world is barred to the very people best qualified to hold it, the intelligentsia, unless they are prepared to lie about their beliefs. To put it bluntly, American political opportunities are heavily loaded against those who are simultaneously intelligent and honest. (Applause)
69. What is the subject of the second sentence?
70. What is the consequence of being an honest academic?
a. You aren’t likely to affirm your beliefs.
b. The public finds you very qualified.
c. You aren’t likely to be elected to public office.
d. You have many political opportunities.
71. What would someone most likely to find abhorrent?
a. puppies b. cheese
c. cars d. murder
Cc. I’m not a citizen of this country, so I hope it won’t be thought unbecoming if I suggest that something needs to be done. (Laughter) And I’ve already hinted what that something is. From what I’ve seen of TED, I think this may be the ideal place to launch it. Again, I fear it will cost money. We need a consciousness-raising, coming-out campaign for American atheists. (Laughter) This could be similar to the campaign organized by homosexuals a few years ago, although heaven forbid that we should stoop to public outing of people against their will. In most cases, people who out themselves will help to destroy the myth that there is something wrong with atheists.
72. Why does he think that it might be unbecoming for him to make this suggestion?
73. What is the suggestion that he is making to the TED audience?
74. What is he hoping does not happen?
Dd. On the contrary, they’ll demonstrate that atheists are often the kinds of people that could serve as decent role models for your children. The kinds of people an advertising agent could use to recommend a product. The kinds of people who are sitting in this room. There should be a snowball effect, a positive feedback, such that the more names we have, the more we get. There could be non-linearities, threshold effects. When a critical mass has been attained, there’s an abrupt acceleration in recruitment. And again, it will need money.
75. In the first sentence, what is a better word to use than that? Why?
76. What will be needed for there to be an abrupt acceleration in recruitment?
77. Describe the snowball effect.
Ee. I suspect that the word “atheist” itself contains or remains a stumbling block far out of proportion to what it actually means, and a stumbling block to people who otherwise might be happy to out themselves. So, what other words might be used to smooth the path, oil the wheels, sugar the pill? Darwin himself preferred agnostic — and not only out of loyalty to his friend Huxley, who coined the term.
78. Who was the first person to use the word agnostic?
79. According to Dawkins what is the problem with using the word atheist?
80. What is an expression used in this paragraph that means to make something less difficult to accept?
Ff. Darwin said, “I have never been an atheist in the same sense as denying the existence of a God. I think that generally an agnostic would be the most correct description of my state of mind.”
81. How did Darwin think of himself regarding the existence of a god or gods?
Gg. He even became uncharacteristically tetchy with Edward Aveling. Aveling was a militant atheist who failed to persuade Darwin to accept the dedication of his book on atheism — incidentally, giving rise to a fascinating myth that Karl Marx tried to dedicate “Das Kapital” to Darwin, which he didn’t. It was actually Edward Aveling. What happened was that Aveling’s mistress was Marx’s daughter, and when both Darwin and Marx were dead, Marx’s papers became muddled up with Aveling’s papers and a letter from Darwin saying, “My dear sir, thank you very much but I don’t want you to dedicate your book to me,” was mistakenly supposed to be addressed to Marx, and that gave rise to this whole myth, which you’ve probably heard. It’s a sort of urban myth, that Marx tried to dedicate Kapital to Darwin.
82. Without looking it up in the dictionary, which underlined word means bad-tempered?
83. There is a matching verb and noun in this paragraph. What are they?
84. What is the false fact that many people think is true?
Hh. Anyway, it was Aveling, and when they met, Darwin challenged Aveling, “Why do you call yourselves atheists?” “Agnostic,” retorted Aveling, “was simply atheist writ respectable, and atheist was simply agnostic writ aggressive.” Darwin complained, “But why should you be so aggressive?” Darwin thought that atheism might be well and good for the intelligentsia, but that ordinary people were not, quote, “ripe for it.” Which is, of course, our old friend, the “don’t rock the boat” argument. It’s not recorded whether Aveling told Darwin to come down off his high horse. (Laughter)
85. What sentence has the most likely use of the word retort?
a. The child retorted, “I like chocolate,” when asked what flavor he would like.
b. Bob retorted loudly that there is no way he will give any of his money to a political party when asked for a donation.
c. “Puppies!” the girl retorted when asked about her favorite kinds of animals.
d. If you don’t stop dancing, someone will retort!
86. What does “don’t rock the boat,” mean?
a. Remain calm. b. Try your best.
c. Don’t make problems. d. Don’t go on rocky boats.
Ii. But in any case, that was more than 100 years ago. You think we might have grown up since then. Now, a friend, an intelligent lapsed Jew, who incidentally observed the Sabbath for reasons of cultural solidarity, describes himself as a “tooth fairy agnostic.” He won’t call himself an atheist because it’s, in principle, impossible to prove a negative, but agnostic on its own might suggest that God’s existence was therefore on equal terms of likelihood as his non-existence.
87. Lapsed is short for:
a. collapsed b. relapsed
c. slapped d. burlap
88. Why does Dawkin’s friend observe the Sabbath?
Jj. So, my friend is strictly agnostic about the tooth fairy, but it isn’t very likely, is it? Like God. Hence the phrase, “tooth fairy agnostic,” but Bertrand Russell made the same point using a hypothetical teapot in orbit about Mars. You would strictly have to be agnostic about whether there is a teapot in orbit about Mars, but that doesn’t mean you treat the likelihood of its existence as on all fours with its non-existence.
89. What are the three things mentioned that an agnostic would say have a small but unlikely change to exist?
a. a teapot orbiting Mars b. God
c. the tooth fairy d. Bertrand Russell
Kk. The list of things which we strictly have to be agnostic about doesn’t stop at tooth fairies and teapots. It’s infinite. If you want to believe one particular one of them, unicorns or tooth fairies or teapots or Yahweh, the onus is on you to say why. The onus is not on the rest of us to say why not. We, who are atheists, are also a-fairiests and a-teapotists. (Laughter)
90. Looking at the last sentence, what does the prefix a- mean?
91. Who’s onus is it to make a child is taken care of?
a. the child’s b. the child’s parents’
c. the child’s teachers’ d. the government’s
Ll. But we don’t bother to say so, and this is why my friend uses tooth fairy agnostic as a label for what most people would call atheist. Nonetheless, if we want to attract deep-down atheists to come out publicly, we’re going to have find something better to stick on our banner than tooth fairy or teapot agnostic.
92. What does Dawkins say isn’t going to be enough to encourage more atheists to not be so secretive about their atheism?
Mm. So, how about humanist? This has the advantage of a worldwide network of well-organized associations and journals and things already in place. My problem with it only is its apparent anthropocentrism. One of the things we’ve learned from Darwin is that the human species is only one among millions of cousins, some close, some distant.
93. What are the advantages of changing the label to humanist?
Nn. And there are other possibilities like naturalist. But that also has problems of confusion, because Darwin would have thought naturalist, naturalist means, of course, as opposed to supernaturalist. And it is used sometimes. Darwin would have been confused by the other sense of naturalist, which he was, of course, and I suppose there might be others who would confuse it with nudism. (Laughter) Such people might be those belonging to the British lynch mob which last year attacked a pediatrician in mistake for a pedophile. (Laughter)
94. What kind of confusion might occur from changing the label to naturalist?
Oo. I think the best of the available alternatives for atheist is simply non-theist. It lacks the strong connotation that there’s definitely no God, and it could therefore easily be embraced by teapot or tooth fairy agnostics. It’s completely compatible with the God of the physicists. When people like — when atheists like Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein use the word “God,” they use it of course as a metaphorical shorthand for that deep, mysterious part of physics which we don’t yet understand. Non-theist will do for all that, yet unlike atheist, it doesn’t have the same phobic, hysterical responses. But I think, actually, the alternative is to grasp the nettle of the word atheism itself, precisely because it is a taboo word carrying frissons of hysterical phobia. Critical mass may be harder to achieve with the word atheist than with the word non-theist, or some other non-confrontational word. But if we did achieve it with that dread word, atheist, itself, the political impact would be even greater.
95. What are the four advantages of using the word non-theist instead of atheist?
96. What is the advantage of trying to achieve change using the word atheist?
Pp. Now, I said that if I were religious, I’d be very afraid of evolution. I’d go further. I would fear science in general if properly understood. And this is because the scientific worldview is so much more exciting, more poetic, more filled with sheer wonder than anything in the poverty-stricken arsenals of the religious imagination. As Carl Sagan, another recently dead hero, put it, “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The universe is much bigger than our prophet said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
97. Why should the religious fear science if it is understood properly?
98. What advantage would a religion that embraces science have over one that doesn’t?
Qq. Now, this is an elite audience, and I would therefore expect about 10 percent of you to be religious. Many of you probably subscribe to our polite cultural belief that we should respect religion, but I also suspect that a fair number of those secretly despise religion as much as I do. (Laughter) If you’re one of them, and of course many of you may not be, but if you are one of them, I’m asking you to stop being polite, come out and say so, and if you happen to be rich, give some thought to ways in which you might make a difference. The religious lobby in this country is massively financed by foundations, to say nothing of all the tax benefits, by foundations such as the Templeton Foundation and the Discovery Institute. We need an anti-Templeton to step forward. If my books sold as well as Stephen Hawking’s books, instead of only as well as Richard Dawkins’ books, I’d do it myself.
99. What would someone be likely to despise?
a. puppies b. chocolate cake
c. politics d. trees
100. What are public libraries financed by?
a. taxes b. churches
c. movie studios d. schools
101. What does Dawkins advise the audience members who are not religious to do?
Rr. People are always going on about, “How did September the 11th change you?” Well, here’s how it changed me. Let’s all stop being so damned respectful. Thank you very much. (Applause)
101. How has Dawkins changed after September 11, 1991?
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