Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Who Said It?

  • “After sleeping through a hundred million centuries we have finally opened our eyes on a sumptuous planet, sparkling with color, bountiful with life. Within decades we must close our eyes again. Isn’t it a noble, an enlightened way of spending our brief time in the sun, to work at understanding the universe and how we have come to wake up in it? This is how I answer when I am asked—as I am surprisingly often—why I bother to get up in the mornings.” - I love this! Just reading his description of earth made me giddy and joyful.
  • “The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry.”  - I spent years staying away from anything that could be construed as anti-Mormon literature, without realising that anything that says anything negative, whether truthful or not, about the Mormon church is considered anti-Mormon literature.
  • “Isn't it sad to go to your grave without ever wondering why you were born? Who, with such a thought, would not spring from bed, eager to resume discovering the world and rejoicing to be part of it?”  - I've always wondered why I was born. And I love discovering the world, even on those days when I'm not necessarily rejoicing to be part of it.
  • "The feeling of awed wonder that science can give us is one of the highest experiences of which the human psyche is capable. It is a deep aesthetic passion to rank with the finest that music and poetry can deliver. It is truly one of the things that make life worth living and it does so, if anything, more effectively if it convinces us that the time we have for living is quite finite." - I've never been much of a scientist, but when I learn new things, I do feel that sense of awed wonder. It's beautiful.
  • "We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here. We privileged few, who won the lottery of birth against all odds, how dare we whine at our inevitable return to that prior state from which the vast majority have never stirred?"  - I've been far less afraid of death since realising that I don't believe in the Mormon God. I don't know if there's something greater out there, something larger, something more wonderful than we can even imagine, but I hope there is. But even so, that tremendous fear of death, fear of dying having spent my whole life disappointing God, is mostly gone.
  • "Many of us saw religion as harmless nonsense. Beliefs might lack all supporting evidence but, we thought, if people needed a crutch for consolation, where's the harm? September 11th changed all that. Revealed faith is not harmless nonsense, it can be lethally dangerous nonsense. Dangerous because it gives people unshakeable confidence in their own righteousness. Dangerous because it gives them false courage to kill themselves, which automatically removes normal barriers to killing others. Dangerous because it teaches enmity to others labelled only by a difference of inherited tradition. And dangerous because we have all bought into a weird respect, which uniquely protects religion from normal criticism. Let's now stop being so damned respectful!" - And of course he is referring here to all religion, not just those with which other religions happen to disagree.
  • "Let us try to teach generosity and altruism, because we are born selfish." - Think of a newborn, intent upon survival. That selfishness innate in us from the beginning keeps us alive, and as we grow, we learn generosity and altruism, as a way to help others survive and thrive.
  • "You could give Aristotle a tutorial. And you could thrill him to the core of his being. Aristotle was an encyclopedic polymath, an all time intellect. Yet not only can you know more than him about the world. You also can have a deeper understanding of how everything works. Such is the privilege of living after Newton, Darwin, Einstein, Planck, Watson, Crick and their colleagues." - The Catholic church KNEW Galileo was wrong....
  • "If you want to do evil, science provides the most powerful weapons to do evil; but equally, if you want to do good, science puts into your hands the most powerful tools to do so. The trick is to want the right things, then science will provide you with the most effective methods of achieving them." - You don't have to be religious or a member of a particular group of people in order to want to do good. It's something we learn from people around us, and, as we grow, from within ourselves.
  • "My point is not that religion itself is the motivation for wars, murders and terrorist attacks, but that religion is the principal label, and the most dangerous one, by which a 'they' as opposed to a 'we' can be identified at all." - I remember the people in the Book of Mormon who built themselves a tower and stood upon it thanking god for the fact that they were so much more righteous than the others around them. The Book of Mormon may be fiction (is, in my opinion), but there is certainly no lack of that "us vs. them" mentality.
  • "I do remember one formative influence in my undergraduate life. There was an elderly professor in my department who had been passionately keen on a particular theory for, oh, a number of years, and one day an American visiting researcher came and he completely and utterly disproved our old man's hypothesis. The old man strode to the front, shook his hand and said, "My dear fellow, I wish to thank you, I have been wrong these fifteen years". And we all clapped our hands raw. That was the scientific ideal, of somebody who had a lot invested, a lifetime almost invested in a theory, and he was rejoicing that he had been shown wrong and that scientific truth had been advanced." - My husband still, every now and then, apologises for asking the questions that led me to the answers that ended up in my leaving the church. Me? I'm elated! Sorry to know that I spent the last 30 years believing something untrue, but delighted to know the truth at last.
  • "You've just said a very revealing thing. Are you telling me that the only reason you don't steal and rape and murder is that you're frightened of God?" - I don't steal and rape and murder because I want to be a good person. That's it. I didn't need God to tell me not to do those things.
I could go on and on and on, but I shan't, because I'm going to be doing a lot of reading.

Thanks, Richard Dawkins. You're not the demon I've always heard you to be.


  1. These quotes resonate deeply. The fact that Dawkins has been villainized by religious establishments and believers says more about the villainizers than it does about Dawkins. I haven't read his work yet but now I want to.

  2. I got paid today, and this morning, before I'd even left the apartment, I went to the B&N website and bought a Dawkins book. I'll let you know how I like it.