The very title of Richard Dawkins’ 2006 book The God Delusion was intended to provoke, and the Oxford evolutionary biologist has seemingly done nothing but, since taking his stand against religions of all kinds, particularly the big monotheisms that claim most of the world’s inhabitants. Dawkins infuriates theists on the right with his self-assured claim that “there almost certainly is no God” and skeptics on the left, who charge him with sexism and racism. Even journalist and journeyman intellectual Christopher Hedges—no friend to authoritarian religions—accuses Dawkins of the same kind of intolerance as Christian, Jewish, and Islamic fundamentalists.
Meanwhile, thousands of people who may or may not follow Dawkins’ every inflammatory tweet credit him with giving them the courage and conviction to walk away from faiths they found oppressive. In that regard, he’s accomplished his goal, and his Richard Dawkins Foundation continues to advocate strenuously for “scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and human suffering.”
If you’ve somehow missed Dawkins’ message amidst the furor over his method, you can get caught up rather quickly with the film above. Titled, like his book, The God Delusion, the film compiles the two 45-minute episodes of a documentary series produced for BBC 4 called Root of All Evil?, first broadcast in 2006 as a companion to the book. (The producers chose the title to create controversy—Dawkins has called the notion of any one thing being the “root of all evil” ridiculous.) In his introduction to the film, Dawkins proposes to explore “a world increasingly polarized by religion,” and to find out why faith has such a grip on the human mind.
Surveying regions from America’s Midwest to Israel, the film “takes a hard look at the very concept of faith: how it behaves like a kind of ‘brain virus,’ infecting generations of young minds, how it perpetuates outdated and dubious moral values.” Why, asks Dawkins, should religion “demand, and usually receive, our society’s respect”? It’s still a question worth asking, even if you don’t like Dawkins’ answers, or Dawkins himself.