Richard Dawkins made the point during an interview on Al Jazeera, a broadcaster owned by Qatar whose state religion is Wahhabism, the religion that places its children in madrassas to replenish the ranks of the Taliban.
Dawkins, a self-styled man of reason, ignores this and concentrates instead on Christianity – in its Catholic expression – a religion whose founder became a child in order to redeem mankind and, when children came to him, said: “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these”.
His reasoning is based on the contention that Catholicism teaches something that it doesn’t actually teach: that the eternal destination of protestants, including children, is hell. Based on an anecdote from one person, he reaches the conclusion that paedophilia is merely “yucky” – a free expression of the Selfish Gene – and Catholicism is a malignant spawn from the eighth circle of, where else – hell.
The remarks are due to be broadcast tonight by Qatar-based TV network Al Jazeera.
Interviewer Mehdi Hasan asked Professor Dawkins about previous comments he made, when he said: ‘Horrible as sexual abuse no doubt was, the damage was arguably less than the long-term psychological damage inflicted by bringing the child up Catholic in the first place.’
Mr Hasan asked: ‘You believe that being bought up as a Catholic is worse than being abused by a priest?’. Professor Dawkins replied: ‘There are shades of being abused by a priest, and I quoted an example of a woman in America who wrote to me saying that when she was seven years old she was sexually abused by a priest in his car.
‘At the same time a friend of hers, also seven, who was of a Protestant family, died, and she was told that because her friend was Protestant she had gone to Hell and will be roasting in Hell forever.
‘She told me of those two abuses, she got over the physical abuse; it was yucky but she got over it.
‘But the mental abuse of being told about Hell, she took years to get over.’