How to Strengthen Your Faith: A Letter to a Religious Young Person

ScreenHunter_579 Mar. 27 22.08Yesterday was Richard Dawkins's birthday and I wrote to him to wish him a good one. To amuse him, I also sent along a letter I had written some time ago to a correspondent from Karachi. Richard wrote back saying, “Dear Abbas, thank you for this. It is excellent. Is there some way we can post this on” Who am I to say no to Richard? So here it is at his site:

Quite recently I received a letter from a very religious and clearly very intelligent and well-educated young person from Pakistan asking about my personal religious views. This was my reply:

Dear X,

I am not going to speak here about my own religious views but about yours. It seems from what you have written that you are somewhat troubled that I might not share your own beliefs. What I want to do is recommend to you a reasonable, scientific, logical, and quite surefire method by which you may strengthen your own faith.

It doesn't really matter which sect of which religion you belong to, this is what you need to do: pick two or three well-known religions with large numbers of adherents which are as different as possible from your own. From your perspective, the people who believe in these religions are quite wrong about a great number of things, even though you may agree with them about some aspects of their faith. Forget about the things you agree on. Focus instead on their wrong beliefs. The more ridiculous they seem to you, the better. And now ask yourself why such a large number of people find these beliefs to be not only reasonable but often quite self-evident. You must make finding the answer to this question your project for some time. You will essentially be compiling a list of bad reasons for holding a religious belief.

If you think about it (and look into the matter) you will find that there is generally no great difference in the average intelligence of those people who believe in religions very different from yours and the people of your own religion. After all, one can find accomplished and very smart artists, scientists, musicians, mathematicians, writers, philosophers, and so on, from all major religions. (One can, of course, also find imbeciles in every religion, but that is neither here nor there.) Similarly, one can find morally decent people as well as cheats and liars and evil psychopaths from all sorts of religious backgrounds.

More here. My interview with Richard is here.