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Discussions with Richard Dawkins, Episode 1: The Four Horsemen (2008)

Richard Dawkins is joined by Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens to discuss science, god, religion and much more.

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Richard Dawkins is joined by Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens to discuss science, god, religion and much more.

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Highly literate discussion, not just for atheists
19 October 2009 | by (Boulder, CO) – See all my reviews

This documentary consists of a round table discussion among four noted atheists: Richard Dawkins (British scientist and author), Christopher Hitchens (journalist, critic), Sam Harris (writer, neuroscientist), and Daniel Dennett (philosopher).

You will most likely find the discussion more to your liking if you are an agnostic or an atheist, but the film should appeal to anyone with an active interest in religious topics. The discussion is highly accessible and does not get bogged down in jargon and technical issues, as do many discussions among leaders in most fields.

A person of faith could find this interesting, since it gives a behind-the-scenes look at four highly intelligent atheists talking candidly among themselves--one has the feeling that the conversation would have been pretty much the same if it had not been being filmed.

If considering answers to questions such as the following interests you, then I recommend you see this film:

1.) How is it that religions obtained their charmed immunity to criticism?

2.) Is is possible to criticize religions without being rude?

3.) How do atheists account for extraordinary, transcendent experiences?

4.) Do atheists represent a religious fundamentalism of their own?

5.) Can science and religion co-exist?

6.) What life experiences do, or would, cause an atheist to question his position?

7.) What are atheists trying to accomplish?

8.) Do atheists want to see a world without faith, with all churches and mosques empty?

9.) Should atheists be selective, or even-handed, in their criticism of the various religions?

10.) Should atheists study the Bible?

11.) Is totalitarianism an essential tenet of all religions?

12.) Does atheism imply amorality?

13.) Is living with cognitive dissonance necessary for survival?

There is far from universal agreement among the participants as to answers to the above.

Some of the comments may surprise you, like the following (slightly paraphrased) from Dawkins:

I want to live in a world where people think skeptically for themselves and look at evidence. If you go through the world thinking that it's O.K. to just believe things because you believe them without evidence, then you are missing so much. It's such a wonderful experience to live in the world and understand why you're living in the world and understand what makes it work, understand about the real stars, understand about astronomy. The universe is a grand, beautiful, wonderful, mysterious place and it's impoverishing to view it through the lens of supernatural creators and supernatural interferers.

Some comments seem profound, like the following from Hitchens:

Eagerness to abandon, or discard, the one thing we got that makes us higher primates (the faculty of reason) is always deadly.

The conversation has a tendency to ramble, given the number of topics addressed. For those who would like to delve deeper, each of the participants has published major works in the area.


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