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Jaipur Lit. Festival : ‘Forget religion, get 21st century morals’


Richard large_l

Jaipur : Salman Rushdie may not be here, but the shadow of god looms large over the Jaipur Literature Festival, with philosopher and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins dismissing god as a “computer virus” and asserting that we are what we are because of genes and evolutionary history.

“If you want to believe in god, don’t look to arguments from biologists and scientists. You won’t find answers to god in science,” Dawkins told hundreds of people who had gathered to hear him at the Front Lawns of Diggi Palace here Tuesday.

“We have different philosophies that don’t postulate the existence of god,” said Dawkins, the world’s most preeminent atheist known for questioning the existence of god and debunking theories about “the intelligent creator.”

“Religion is a form of wickedness, a corruption of the minds of children,” said Dawkins who has called for the death of organised religion.

“The belief in god is like a computer virus,” he said.

In his 1986 book “The Blind Watchmaker”, Dawkins had argued against the famous watchmaker analogy which justified the existence of a supernatural creator based upon the complexity of living organisms. The author likened the evolutionary processes to a blind watchmaker.

Critiquing the ethical systems based on the religions of the book – Judaism, Christianity and Islam — Dawkins, the author of “The God Delusion”, pressed for 21st century ethics based on secular values.

“We are the 21st century moralists and atheists. We don’t need to get morals from our religions. We are getting morals from secular moral philosophy, secular jurisprudence and dinner table conversation,” said Dawkins to much applause from the audience.

In historical time, humanity has been getting better and kind and it’s not because of religion, said Dawkins while citing how in the 21st century people have outgrown the racism and sexism of the last century.

“If you look at 20th century fiction, it’s shot through racism. Something is changing. And that has nothing to do with religion.”

“We don’t want to find morals from the holy books. We can have our own enlightened secular values,” said Dawkins. He called this new secular ethics “the humanist manifesto.”

“An idea whose time has come spreads like a wild viral, it goes viral,” he said.

Citing his book “The Selfish Gene”, which popularised the gene-centered view of evolution, Dawkins said mankind has a genetic propensity, a lust for altruism, to be nice and kind to other people.