(Photo: REUTERS/Altaf Hussain)
Morals aren't begotten from religion, but secular moral philosophy, jurisprudence and dinner table conversation, renowned atheist Richard Dawkins recently argued at the Jaipur Literature Festival in India.
Criticizing ethical systems based on religions like Judaism, Christianity and Islam, The God Delusion author continued to uphold the view that ethics came from secular values and not godly ones.
"We are the 21st century moralists and atheists," Dawkins told listeners Tuesday, according to Indo-Asian News Service.
"We don't need to get morals from our religions ... We don't want to find morals from the holy books. We can have our own enlightened secular values," he emphasized, referring to the Humanist Manifesto III, a document outlining the conceptual boundaries of humanism, published by the American Humanist Association, of which Dawkins was a signatory.
The manifesto maintained that ethical values were derived from human need and interest as tested by experience and that working to benefit society maximized individual happiness among other beliefs.
Craig J. Hazen, founder and director of the MA program in Christian apologetics at Biola University, told The Christian Post that Dawkins' comments on morality and ethics showed his "desperate need for a broader education."
"Dawkins has obviously spent far too much time looking at genes and not enough time stepping back from the microscope to examine human society and history," he shared. "If he did he would know that human beings have tried using 'enlightened secular values' to fix what's wrong with the world in no-holds-barred experiments."
And the results were "off-the-charts horrendous," the author of the novel Five Sacred Crossings explained to CP in an email, citing Hitler's Holocaust, Stalin's Five Year Plan, Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, and Pol Pot's Killing Fields.
"Dawkins and his like-minded 'new atheists' are not just wrong about this. Indeed, they are literally laying the naïve intellectual groundwork for the next secular genocide," Hazen added.
During the literary festival, Dawkins further relayed how 21st century people had "outgrown the racism and sexism of the last century."
"If you look at 20th century fiction, it's shot through racism. Something is changing. And it has nothing to do with religion," the evolutionary biologist noted.
For him, mankind had a genetic propensity for kindness, "a lust for altruism," – referred to in his book The Selfish Gene – which had nothing to do with an intelligent creator.
But the Biola professor could not understand how Dawkins failed to see religion as the reason for many progressive, altruistic movements.
"Religion, indeed Christianity, was the driving force behind the abolition of slavery in Great Britain and the United States and was an essential center point of the civil rights movement in the Twentieth Century," Hazen affirmed. "How in the world does Dawkins square such historical events like these with brutish, naturalistic Darwinism?"
"Again, Professor Dawkins needs to get out more," he added.
Dawkins was among the hundreds of speakers at the Jaipur Literature Festival, which began on Friday and ended Tuesday, Jan. 24. The festival is held each year and is an initiative by the Jaipur Virasat Foundation founded by Faith Singh.
The festival drew an estimated 75,000 people across four days this year and hosted 265 top writers and intellectuals, including A.C. Grayling and Oprah Winfrey.
Dawkins' literary session was held on Tuesday where he spoke about The Selfish Gene, a book explaining how in a world of competition, exploitation, and deceit, acts of apparent altruism existed in nature.
Salman Rushdie, the author of The Satanic Verses, was also set to deliver a video address at the festival but cancelled his appearance due to death threats and protests from Muslim leaders who opposed his 1988 book about the prophet Muhammad.