For a long time, I would agree with the phrase that “Religion was one of the main causes of the major problems in the Middle East” but I have learned that this is actually not true. When questioned about the Islamic religion and its ties to ISIS and just how much responsibility it bears in the brutal beheadings carried out by the terrorist group. Richard Dawkins states, “Religion itself is not responsible for this… It’s also this feeling of political involvement. It’s a feeling that it’s ‘us against them.’ And I think that quite a large number of young Muslims feel kind of beleaguered against the rest of the world. And so religion in some sense might be just an excuse, but I do think that a dominant part of the motivation for these young men has to be religion.” His statement is in huge controversy from the opinions of atheists like Sam Harris and Bill Maher, who continue to claim that religion is the primary motivator for radical terrorist groups like ISIS.
He once believed otherwise though. He has claimed before that terrorists had sufficiently effective minds braced with an insane courage, and it would pay us mightily to understand where that courage came from. It came from religion. Religion is also, of course, the underlying source of the divisiveness in the Middle East, which motivated the use of this deadly weapon in the first place. He changes this thought however now, when he claims that politics plays the larger role in such radical forms of unrest and that religion is little more than a pretext for terrorism. When Dawkins was asked about the motivation behind the beheadings and violence, he took a more scientific look at the biological aspect of revenge.
This is a much-needed step for new atheists like Dawkins, who have a following in the millions of people who look to him as an expert on such issues. When he had wrongfully blamed religion as the driving force for acts of terrorism, it did a disservice to those working to address the real issue behind the Middle East’s problems; it’s politics, especially bad foreign policy by the U.S. and its allies, that has always played a bigger role in extremism than religion. Those like Harris seem to ignore this fact and would rather claim that these groups claim to carry out these actions in the name of Allah as proof that they are religiously motivated. Who can blame them though? I didn’t know that these weren’t the effects of religion. The terrorists claim that they do what they do because it is in the Koran and that they are simply following their belief, so why wouldn’t people come to the conclusion that it could possibly be due to religion? It is easy for us to believe that we are carrying out an ethical battle against a religious evil, but to believe so is an illusion and ignores all available evidence.Atheists often want to vilify religion so badly they fail to see the contrary evidence right in front of them. But ignoring the evidence just to serve an anti-theistic agenda does the world no favors. It is time for other new atheists to join Richard Dawkins in accepting the evidence behind the origins of such terrorist movements, and work to solve the problems instead of disparaging an entire religion.