Sex, death and the meaning of life. Part 1, Sin.
- Dawkins, Richard.
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About this work
This three-part documentary looks at the meaning of life in the modern world. Throughout the series, presenter Richard Dawkins attempts to uncover reasons why an atheist, such as himself, should get out of bed in the morning. In order to answer this question, Dawkins asks whether science has the capacity to take the place of religion; to inspire as well as to guide our lives and whether or not science can bring understanding about death without belief in an afterlife. This, the first of the three-part series looks into the role of religion in the modern world, in particular the notion of sin. In order to assess this Dawkins travels the western world asking whether civilisation is still governed by a set of ancient rules laid down by a desert tribe. His first stop is an inner city London youth group run by a man named Ray Lewis, who believes that by teaching the young men that attend ‘Eastside Young Leaders’ Academy’ that they will be held accountable for their sins in this life or the next; he believes he is guiding them into leading a moral life away from crime. Dawkins disagrees with Mr Lewis, instead believing the idea of sin to only cause feelings of guilt. Far from preventing people from sinning, for him, religion only causes believers to live a lie. To support his theory, Dawkins talks to Darryl Ray, author of ‘Sex and Secularisation’ who surveyed 14,000 individuals who had left the Church. He found that there was no difference in the sexual practices of those that came from a strict religious background and those that were brought up in a loosely religious environment. The only difference found appeared in later life; individuals from a strict religious background were more likely to watch pornography and in fact surpassed even non-religious people in this activity. The next piece of evidence Dawkins uses to prove his theory is that of women who are opting to have plastic surgery to reform their hymen, in effect turning them back into virgins and in their minds restoring their integrity. After evaluating the role of sin Dawkins goes on to assess the scientific origins of morality; human reason. When Dawkins is forced to watch a video of two males having sex, he responds with what he calls the ‘yuck reaction’, an innate response to something thought to be unpleasant. Later on however, he discusses the idea with Michael Parris, a journalist and former MP, like Parris, Dawkins believes the growing tolerance of homosexuality is due to 'mind over matter', namely human reason. Finally Dawkins interviews Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist who believes that the secularisation of the western world has in fact led to a decrease in violent crime. After looking at the data from the British Home Office as well as the United States Bureau of Justice he found that over the last 40 years, the number of reported cases of rape had decreased by 80%, as well as the number of domestic abuse cases, child abuse cases and negative views against religious minorities. Dawkins believes this to be evidence that as society becomes more and more secular we are actually becoming more civilised. Dawkins argues that human beings are governed by reason and empathy, which for him is aiding society in the development of a new form of morality, one without religion.