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My views on religion in politics


'I'm an aggressive atheist'
Oliver Sacks Scientist
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I’m robustly and even aggressively atheistic. I’ve been so all my life and increasingly so with age. I’m practically ready to... to draw swords with a creationist. I... I’m certainly appalled at the entry of religion into the public realm in America. I think religious extremism everywhere is the most dangerous thing on the planet, and it goes with... with bigotry and hatred and fanaticism and violence. I find it incomprehensible that 80% of Americans believe in angels or aliens and... and can be biblical literalists, although I do appreciate the... call in... in human nature for an explanation of everything and a feeling of support and benevolent protection, although I think the... the god of religious extremists has a machine gun rather than a sceptre or... or a healing hand.

But there can be evangelical atheists like friend Dawkins and others, and I don't... I think that’s a form of extremism and I’m not sure that I... I like that.

Oliver Sacks (1933-2015) was born in England. Having obtained his medical degree at Oxford University, he moved to the USA. There he worked as a consultant neurologist at Beth Abraham Hospital where in 1966, he encountered a group of survivors of the global sleepy sickness of 1916-1927. Sacks treated these patients with the then-experimental drug L-Dopa producing astounding results which he described in his book Awakenings. Further cases of neurological disorders were described by Sacks with exceptional sympathy in another major book entitled The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat which became an instant best seller on its publication in 1985. His other books drew on his rich experiences as a neurologist gleaned over almost five decades of professional practice. Sacks's work was recognized by prestigious institutions which awarded him numerous honours and prizes. These included the Lewis Thomas Prize given by Rockefeller University, which recognizes the scientist as poet. He was an honorary fellow of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and held honorary degrees from many universities, including Oxford, the Karolinska Institute, Georgetown, Bard, Gallaudet, Tufts, and the Catholic University of Peru.

Listeners: Kate Edgar

Kate Edgar, previously Managing Editor at the Summit Books division of Simon and Schuster, began working with Oliver Sacks in 1983. She has served as editor and researcher on all of his books, and has been closely involved with various films and adaptations based on his work. As friend, assistant, and collaborator, she has accompanied Dr Sacks on many adventures around the world, clinical and otherwise.

Tags: Richard Dawkins

Duration: 2 minutes, 3 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2011

Date story went live: 02 October 2012