By VINEET GILL - THE TIMES OF INDIA
Added: Tue, 24 Jan 2012 03:32:09 UTC
JAIPUR: Richard Dawkins - scientist, bestselling author and the world's foremost atheist- comes across as mild-mannered and genial but doesn't believe in pulling his punches. He certainly didn't on Monday at the Jaipur Lit Fest as he blasted the "lamentable disgrace" of Salman Rushdie's enforced absence. He also launched a broadside against the "virus of faith", and said he looked forward to the "complete death of organized religion" in his lifetime.
"Far too much sympathy is shown to people who claim to be motivated by religion - sympathy that would not be shown to people acting from mere prejudice. I have a problem with Santa Claus, baby Jesus and Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, but I can't act on this without being held accountable. I may, on grounds of taste, want to murder a TV personality, but I can hardly do so. And yet, it seems it is somehow acceptable for someone to act without accountability simply because his religious sentiments have been hurt," said Dawkins.
Reading from a modified statement that he had originally written after the fatwa was first pronounced against Rushdie, Dawkins pointed out that in the 16th century, some Catholics in England had written to a senior figure in the Vatican asking if it was acceptable to murder Elizabeth I. The answer was that since the Queen had led millions away from Catholicism, her murder would be a commendable act. Dawkins didn't spell it out, but two points were clear- he wasn't targeting a faith but all of them, and nothing much has changed in almost 500 years. "Religion is deadly because it makes people willing to die and kill for it without a shred of evidence to back up their beliefs," he said.