If religion is so bad, what should be done about it? It should be eradicated. According to Sam Harris, belief in Christianity is like belief in slavery. “I would be the first to admit that the prospects for eradicating religion in our time do not seem good. Still the same could have been said about efforts to abolish slavery at the end of the eighteenth century.”
But how should religion be eliminated? Our atheist educators have a short answer: through the power of science. “I personally feel that the teaching of modern science is corrosive of religious belief, and I’m all for that,” says physicist Steven Weinberg. If scientists can destroy the influence of religion on young people, “then I think it may be the most important contribution that we can make.”‘
One way in which science can undermine the plausibility of religion, according to biologist E. 0. Wilson, is by showing that the mind itself is the product of evolution and that free moral choice is an illusion. “If religion … can be systematically analyzed and explained as a product of the brain’s evolution, its power as an external source of morality will be gone forever.”
By abolishing all transcendent or supernatural truths, science can establish itself as the only source of truth, our only access to reality. The objective of science education, according to biologist Richard Lewontin, “is not to provide the public with knowledge of how far it is to the nearest star and what genes are made or Rather, “the problem is to get them to reject irrational and supernatural explanations of the world, the demons that exist only in their imaginations, and to accept a social and intellectual apparatus, science, as the only begetter of truth.”
What, then, happens to religion? Philosopher Daniel Dennett suggests that “our religious traditions should certainly be preserved, as should the languages, the art, the costumes, the rituals, the monuments. Zoos are now more or less seen as second-class havens for endangered species, but at least they are havens, and what they preserve is irreplaceable.”
How is all this to be achieved? The answer is simple: through indoctrination in the schools. Richard Dawkins has recently issued a set of DVDs called Growing Up in the Universe, based on his Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for children. The lectures promote Dawkins’s secular and naturalistic philosophy of life.
Daniel Dennett urges that the schools teach religion as a purely natural phenomenon. By this he means that religion should be taught as if it were untrue. Dennett argues that religion is like sports or cancer, “a human phenomenon composed of events, organisms,objects, structures, patterns.” By studying religion on the premise that there is no supernatural truth underlying it, Dennett argues that young people will come to accept religion as a social creation pointing to nothing higher than human hopes and aspirations.
As for atheism, Sam Harris argues that it should be taught as a mere extension of science and logic. “Atheism is not a philosophy. It is not even a view of the world. It is simply an admission of the obvious…. Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.”