Was watching an interesting Channel 4 (UK) documentary entitled "The Root of All Evil," about how science has advanced to the point that religion is no longer necessary, and that anybody who still believes that crap is stupid and dangerous on the current world stage.
Interesting for sure, but Professor Richard Dawkins is, I must say, a bit of an arrogant toss! He complains that religious people are ignorant of the wonders of science, but at the same time he shows total ignorance of what religion actually is to most people - a moral framework within which people are accountable even for private actions, a way of life, a community structure, all things I'd say are overall beneficial for society at least to the extent that the existence or non-existence of a higher being not be factored into any scientific research. And the two can most certainly co-exist within their own spheres - science is really good at the "hows" and the "whens" but absolutely sucks at the "whys." Religion has the "whys" pretty much nailed. "For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son to do some stuff or other" - that'll do for why we exist, why we bother getting up in the morning, and why we shouldn't covet our respective neighbour's Oxen. Now lets let science figure out exactly how it all happened.
Saying that because of certain Christian beliefs (that are not necessarily central to the faith system). science and religion cannot co-exist is to take one extreme aspect of one particular religion and have that representative of all religion forever and ever amen. You could do the same with science. I've met scientists that laugh and walk out the room the moment you propose something that goes against their scientific beliefs, long before you even have a chance to show them your evidence. By this same logic, surely science is as flawed as religion, but to make such a claim would be deemed extremely biased. Touché!
To take it further, he goes on about how stupid people in general are that we don't all just accept evolution as fact. What he fails to realise is that these so called mountains of evidence and over a century of research are just not within the grasp of regular people. I haven't seen it, and what I've read about evolution is way beyond my comprehension. So all I can do really is to take some scientist's word for it, fully aware that in another 20 years they'll be saying something different.
And why should I believe what some scientist tells me? Because he's a scientist? Maybe there is evidence and research to back up his claim that I could research myself if I wished to, but what do you think my reluctance to bother says about how important the topic is to me? And if it's of so little importance to me personally, then what does it matter what I believe - it's whatever gets me to sleep at night.
I'm not religious, but I do recognise that at some level religion serves a useful social and personal purpose. This is why scientists are never much fun to be around. I make a point of never inviting religious fruits, sumo wrestlers or scientists to my house for exactly that reason (though lawyers are fine, providing they keep their lawyering to themselves and don't force it down my throat). At the end of the day though, it really boils down to whether you belive that the entire history of the universe to the point we currently stand at came about by chance, or whether some kind of superior intelligence had a hand in things to a greater or lesser extent at some point throughout the precedings. Science will never prove either of these, and each is as utterly preposterous as the other. So you're mad to even bother thinking about it.
As an aside, here's one to try if you're bored. Get a copy of the Bible, and read it from the viewpoint that God is the bad guy, and Satan is the good guy. Makes for much more interesting reading, and probably makes more sense too. God comes off as this vicious tyrant who rules with an iron glove, while Satan comes off as the tragic hero who sees what's going on but is powerless to stop it as the people just don't want to listen to him. "You don't have to take this! Think for yourselves!" he shouts, but alas to no avail.
Update: Just finished watching the rest of the documentary, and would note another rather dangerous assumption. Dawson states that young kids cannot scientifically analyse information, so they just absorb it at face value, and thus it's dangerous to teach religious values as it will scar them for life. Surely the same would be true of science though? Teach kids that we evolved from apes (not "it's currently believed that..." - this is too advanced for kids to catch), then in another 20-30 years you'll have a whole generation of non-scientists that believe that as fact, despite never investigating it themselves. Say, then, a scientist discovers and can demonstrate that this did not in fact happen, it's going to fall on deaf ears. The only ones who will update their theories will be the scientists, and everyone else will continue to believe what they've always believed. Then you're back to square one.
And with all the talk about the dangers of world religions, it got me thinking. Look at the following list of people. Note anything they all have in common?
Albert Einstein (the guy that invented the atom bomb - you may have heard of him)
S'right, none of them are noted for their religious beliefs, and in fact some of them notably anti-religion, yet they make extremists look like amateurs.