In Edge 92, David Deutsch wrote:
Dawkins, as usual, talked sense, and made several true and timely points.
... . But in one important respect, his remarks did not seem to me to
reach the heart of the issue. He blames religion, and our convention
of "respecting" it. Now, I am no advocate of religion, but religious
belief is surely not central to the present disaster. There are plenty
of terrorists at large who are not pursuing any religious agenda. There
are notorious sponsors of terrorism who are driven by nationalist or
socialist ideologies, not religious dogma. And there are plenty of religious
zealots who are no danger to anybody (except themselves and their unfortunate
wives and children).
That is not to deny that mainstream Islamic culture has exhibited a major moral failure. It seems to struggle even to find the language and the conceptual framework genuinely to oppose the crimes that are committed in its name. Large numbers of peaceful Muslims find themselves in effect condoning mass murder, and painfully few can bring themselves to side with the victims now exercising their right of self defence. Nevertheless it is not the tenets of Islam that have caused the present violence. This is a political evil we are facing, not a religious one. And it is a modern evil, not an ancient one.
Yes, but Dawkins is not blaming Islam; he is blaming religion. Whereas Deutsch seems to be blaming something else:
Moreover, mainstream Western culture has also exhibited a major moral failure: a refusal to distinguish between right and wrong. The unique glories of our civilisation - self-criticism, tolerance, openness to change and to ideas from other cultures - have in many people's minds decayed, under this moral failure, into self-hatred, appeasement, and moral relativism.
Well, many of us are not so sure that we (does Deutsch?) can always distinguish between right and wrong, as do most adherents of religions. (Yes, this has exceptions, too.) Because most religions teach that Faith is a virtue, and teach that morality comes not from reason but from sacred texts that one must be trained to believe. The result, I think that Dawkins agrees, is that religions do not teach those Western Virtues of tolerance, openness to ideas, and above all the virtues of critical thinking. This, in my view is what leads many people into following leaders that we/I see as "evil".
with much of the rest of what David Deutsch says but I feel that
he has missed Dawkins' point: that one way that we can defend ourselves
is by finding ways to reduce the huge numbers of people who have been
trained to follow charismatic leaders by suspending their critical thinking
indeed wince at Deutsch's discussion of Mr. Bush, who,