Doubtless it will take centuries and, indeed, the task will be gargantuan, close to impossible, given past centuries of indoctrination, just for one thing. Just the same, again over the centuries, there have always been men and women, sufficiently enlightened and courageous, determined enough, to argue the case against religious belief. One thinks of Bertrand Russell, the great English philosopher, who died in 1970, and Richard Dawkins, the Oxford professor, a scholar of eminence, who in these times must surely be regarded as the world’s leading intellect on the side of atheism. Now is the time for such people, joined by millions of others that presently choose to stay on the sidelines, to argue more and more and more against the source of so much history-recorded, cruel, anti-intellectual, poverty-creating, truth-rejecting, destructive, widespread content of the human mind.

The inclination to believe things that are patently false seems to be inherent in the minds of a big proportion of humankind. It is easy enough to believe that people of poor intelligence may easily be deluded by the myths of religion. But it is a real puzzle that many intelligent people, who in others areas of living their lives, always seek evidence on which to base their decisions about all kinds of matters, nevertheless do not seek that evidence when it comes to religious belief.

Most of us, in living our lives, have come to realize that, in the case of our own mental performance, we perform much better intellectually in one or more areas than in some other areas. And so we have the student, say, that is brilliant at mathematics but performs badly in another part of his or her intelligence. Perhaps many minds do not handle well the choice of believing or not believing religious dogma. Perhaps one day science will find the answer to the puzzle.

In these last few weeks, the centuries-old, terribly harmful, effects of religious belief and its consequences have been displayed to a world audience. There is no point in saying that the other religions are “good” and that no such thing would be done in their name; history records that other religions have an even worse record than the one presently carrying out evil deeds. And our Prime Minister, John Howard, says that this is not a religious war that is happening now!

The perpetrators are saturated in religious belief. Is there, by the way, a record of such behaviour on the part of unbelievers? No. They are the ones, then, that must take up the task of freeing humankind of its shackles, both intellectual and moral. A world in which unbelievers have very much more influence is a world that should be desired.

By John Rawson