I don't know very much about them, but I suspect the answer is yes. One of the most salient stories of all three Abrahamic religions-the story of Abraham almost sacrificing Isaac-is such an utterly disgusting story, yet it is iconic for all three religions.It's disgustingly cruel, a story of child abuse and violence. You've said that baptizing a child or saying "this is a Jewish child"-that is, pasting a religious label on a child-is child abuse. In your letter to daughter, you ask her to examine what she's told based on evidence. What do you hope the world would be like if all children were raised without religion, according to your theories?

It would be paradise on earth. What I hope for is a world ruled by enlightened rationality, which does not mean something dull, but something of high artistic value. I just wish there were the slightest chance of it ever happening.

So if people lived according to rationalism, you envision, for example, no more war?That might be a little bit optimistic, but there would be a much better chance of no more war. Obviously [there would be] nothing like 9/11, because that's clearly motivated by religion. There would be less hatred, because a lot of the hatred in the world is sectarian hatred. For example, in Northern Ireland, India and Pakistan. You wouldn't have an awful lot of the prejudice and trans-generational vendettas that humanity suffers from.There would be less waste of time. People would concentrate on really worthwhile things, instead of wasting time on religion, astrology, crystal-gazing, fortune-telling, things like that.Some might see the situation in Northern Ireland not as religious, but as class conflicts. The haves vs. the have-nots. There are struggles where religion isn't a factor-in America, whites vs. blacks, even if both groups were, say, Southern Baptist.That's absolutely right. But the thing about religious labels is that they're gratuitous; there's no need for them to be there. You can't do anything about your skin color, but religion could go.You also say critics of religion must speak up and not "tiptoe" around questions of religious belief.Yes. In any other field, you can argue about politics, taste in music, poetry. There's never the feeling that you're supposed to tiptoe away. You're just not allowed to criticize someone's belief if it's a religious belief, though you're perfectly allowed if it's about politics.I would like to raise people's consciousness against this feeling that religion deserves respect simply because it is religion. The essay in the book that most discusses this is called "Dolly and the Cloth Heads." It discusses the tendency of broadcast media, for example, to ask clergy to appear and give their opinion, whenever there's any controversial issue like abortion, simply because they represent those religions. Whereas other people have to earn the right to have their opinion asked by having something sensible to say. You say religion is so ingrained in society that it's like a computer virus. Can it really be eradicated?

Only by education and reason. If people realize that it might be a virus, and saw its resemblance to a virus, they might say, "That's right. That's the way it feels." It's teaching people to think for themselves, rather than just believe and take things on faith.

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