'The problem with religion, which is like a virus, is one of blind faith'

January 13, 2006

The renowned scientist Richard Dawkins has religion in his sights, and he pulls no punches in his TV series

Richard Dawkins again attacks religion as a major cause of pain and suffering in a new two-part television series.

Professor Dawkins, chair of the public understanding of science at Oxford University and renowned evolutionary biologist, is known for his controversial views. In the Channel Four series Root of All Evil? The Virus of Faith , Professor Dawkins describes God as the most unpleasant character in all fiction. He says religion is like a virus to which the young are particularly susceptible. "The problem with religion is mostly a problem of blind faith. If you go to the US, you are bombarded with religion at every turn. America is in the grip of a religious mania," he said. In the programme, he deplores the rise of faith schools in Britain.

The series contains interviews with a Hassidic rabbi, an American pastor who puts on "Hell House" morality plays, and a reverend who opposes abortion. The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster declined to be interviewed for the programme.

Professor Dawkins suggests that the roots of human morality lie in our evolutionary past and not in religion. Faith in God is impossible given the lack of scientific evidence of a deity's existence, he argues. He will develop his points in a book, The God Delusion , to be published in September.

Professor Dawkins made his name with The Selfish Gene , which argued that memes, or cultural transmissions, are passed on vertically down the generations and horizontally like an epidemic. Most memes fall victim to natural selection, but the religious meme, he argues, has survived.

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