First, here are a few more clips from Richard Dawkins via YouTube:
It should also be noted that Dawkins was against
the title, The Root of All Evil?
and protested. BBC won, but the inclusion of the question mark was their consolation to Dawkins.
Second, I'll offer a quote by theoretical physicist, Steven Weinberg:
Originally Posted by Steven Weinberg
Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.
As an anthropologist, I find religion a fascinating topic. Clearly, humanity is hardwired to "believe" and to engage in magical thinking. The evidence is abundant to support this hypothesis and found in neurology, biology, and anthropology. I won't bore anyone with the details unless requested, but suffice to say that there are repeatable and predictable experiments that show there to be neurological causes of religiosity and through anthropology we can evaluate human cultures to see religion to be a common element.
That there are so many religions in human culture, both geographically and temporally, is suggestive that there are none which are genuine in their claims of supernatural agency.
But to answer the question of whether or not religion is evil would require two definitions: one of religion and another of evil. I'll answer the first here.
To define religion, I agree with Daniel Dennett's assessment: "social systems whose participants avow belief in a supernatural agent or agents whose approval is to be sought."
I won't attempt to define evil, I think we can all come to some mutual agreement that evil means bad for you and others. But I'm afraid I cannot agree that religion, in the broad term of the word is "evil." Certainly, there are those within
specific religions that are evil and, certainly, there are those religious sects and cults that are evil in their deeds (most cults of christianity and islam come to mind). But religion on the whole is a social system and is not capable of being either good or evil.
Weinberg suggested that for man to be truly evil, religion is required, but I think this also gives too much credit to a social system. I do, however, think that religion enables
the worst in humanity to come out and religion has traditionally been one of the main points of contention in wars and the justification for the persecution of "others."
But the poll question itself is, does religion do "more harm than good"? I would say this depends upon the individual society. But if it is modern western society (American society) we're talking about, I would have to agree.
Religion does more harm than good. There simply is no evidence that religious ideals influence people to live morally and ample evidence that religion has failed to give positive results. Those that consider themselves religious have all the problems they say are immoral: abortion, addiction, crime, adultery, etc. Moreover, religious superstition threatens the advancement of science and world peace.
Religion inspired civilizations of prehistory to build monumental architecture and develop agriculture. For that, ancient religion should be praised. But, in modern times, that same ancient religion is obsolete and getting in the way of the progress it once inspired.