Among the foremost atheist scientists in the world, evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins believes that education is the only ‘antidote’ to religion. “We need to protect children from being indoctrinated. It goes on to the next generation and then they see that their children get indoctrinated. Children are getting educated into the religion of their parents. We shouldn’t just assume that a child of a Christian becomes a Christian,” he says.
“If children are taught, however moderately, that faith is a virtue, they are taught that they don’t need evidence to believe something; that they can believe something just because it’s their faith, then that paves the way for the minority to become extremists. If children are taught that they don’t need to defend their beliefs with evidence, then that does pave the way for extremism.”
He believes that atheism will soon become a more popular framework for people. “There seems to be a correlation with education. It’s certainly true within the US — the more educated people are more likely to give up religion. I’m sure that’s true in India as well,” he says, adding that even US presidents may have been atheists but they’re not allowed to say so or they won’t get re-elected. “I think Lincoln, Kennedy, Clinton, Obama may well be an atheist. Obama’s a very intelligent man. He probably is an atheist,” he says. “There are 535 members in the US congress. Presumably some of them are reasonably educated. It’s inconceivable that only one of them is an atheist. There’s got to be at least 50% of them.”
He seems so opposed to religious fundamentalists that one would think he’s sort of an atheist fundamentalist. “A fundamentalist is someone who doesn’t change his mind at all. I’m open to any argument that has compelling evidence to support it,” he says. As a man of science, he feels that science learns by its mistakes. “Science advances by disproving hypotheses and getting things wrong. In the case of the neutrino experiment — the suggestion that neutrinos may travel faster than light — if that’s true, it’s a revolution in physics. But there’s also a very good chance that that’s an error, not necessarily a deliberate one,” he says.