Dear Dr Dawkins
I must admit rather embarrassingly I quite accidentally stumbled onto this discussion quite by accident ! (As is with the web sometimes when reading you just don't know where you'll end up! i was researching for some illustrations for some drawings!)
It all started with watching a thoroughly enjoyable Christopher Hitchens debate, then discovering, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Lawrence Krauss, Sam Harris, Noam Chomsky, and Norman Finkelstein!)
All of you are such inspiring and much needed voices of reason. I haven't in such a long time enjoyed to hear such wonderfully articulated thought, razor quick wit, reason and argument. (what is wrong with Television why wasn't this there!)
I guess like most people I had always thought that religion had been responsible for instilling in us a moral code... and for that reason alone i have let religion sit in the background bubbling, knowing that although i dont agree with it in whole that it was at least its one redeeming feature... (Morality/Empathy) that it had at least given humanity the gift of moral thought and beginning of the humanist view.
Organised religion really has very successfully stamped into our minds "its better to belong to any church than not belong at all!"
(for example my grandmother ever the pragmatic! used to attend a Presbyterian church - then on having three children and finding it difficult to cross the very busy road safely with her children (and the fact it was a rather long walk) decided to switch to the closer church of a different denomination!) to me illustrating that she didnt really think much of the scriptures - she enjoyed the social side of the church and loved people, was a very warm and caring person who loved the sense of community and wanted to fit in the social norm.
So I found it very interesting in your argument that the church never gifted mankind with humanity the gift of moral thought, that we as a very social creature already innately have this (that religion never created this.) for me this was an amazing and new thought!
after more reading on this point I found in particular Frans de Waal's study of primates very convincing, he finds evidence of Empathy, cooperation, fairness and reciprocity -- caring about the well-being within the animal kingdom.
There are in fact many more examples.. (but i really should be drawing not writing :P)
What i find baffling is the very strong reaction of all believers of any religion, that a person could have morals without religion, they seem genuinely surprised that we could, or unbelieving that we could!
(Perhaps you have some insight as to why religious people react this way to us, or are they simply trying to dehumanise non believers to attempt to invalidate our view?)
This is something I find very sad and frustrating as I believe deeply in humanity, value human Kindness, Compassion,Loyalty, Love, Humour, Honesty and hold many similar values to name a few - the only difference is I don't believe in a god/or the bronze age texts that accompany this tradition, especially when they are so divisive!
My thought is:
If texts and mention of gods could removed from school education (and segregated schooling for religion absolutely banned) I wonder if some progress could be made towards a more rational discussion about what are the values that bind us as humans together really are, what would make society better.
Surely that should be the real conversation. us as humans together.
what our best qualities are, what is moral, what is the best about humanity, what we want and need for the future. so many important discussions that require good rational discussion.
for those students of different religions it would be a chance to look rationally at other humans without the ever divisive wall of scripture. To hear that we all value Kindness, Compassion,Loyalty, Love, Humour, Honesty etc in an honest 20th century dialogue. and stop this cycle of us vs them.
Well I live in hope of this and better get back to my drawings after many fascinating hours of absorbed procrastination!
Thank you again for the wonderful trove of topics on youtube I know I will have many hours of very enjoyable thought provoking viewing ahead.
and wish you the best of luck and success in your endeavours,
with many kind regards