KNOWLEDGE AND RELIGION:
ENCOUNTER WITH RADICAL ATHEISM
This is one of the few pages on the TOK Resource site that does not lay out an overt class activity. The heartfelt comments from four famous atheists echo many of the themes addressed more tentatively in the other four Religious Knowledge System units.
Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel C. Dennett all have books on best-seller lists, viral videos, public talks and articles on the subject of uncompromising atheism. They have their own internet meme: The Four Horsemen!
“Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”
― Christopher Hitchens, God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
I have given the last word to Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) whose widely read book, Why I'm not a Christian was published in 1927. Russell was a famous philosopher of math and logic at Trinity College, Cambridge.
In TOK we encountered "Russel's paradox" in This Statement is False in the Mathematics Area of Knowledge. Russell mentored philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein whom we met in Wittgenstein and the polysemy of language unit in Language as a Way of Knowing .
Russel was a member of the British aristocracy and was a controversial public intellectual throughout his life. He became a high profile pacifist during the First World War. For this perceived betrayal he lost his academic position and spent time in jail. Later he became an indefatigable campaigner against nuclear weapons. Here is his telegram to President Kennedy during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
"YOUR ACTION DESPERATE. THREAT TO HUMAN SURVIVAL. NO CONCEIVABLE JUSTIFICATION. CIVILIZED MAN CONDEMNS IT. WE WILL NOT HAVE MASS MURDER. ULTIMATUM MEANS WAR... END THIS MADNESS."