Atheism and Religion
1. Dawkins describes religious belief as due entirely to faith and almost entirely inherited from one's parents, scientific belief as due to rational and skeptical investigation. In doing that, he is implicitly comparing the average religious believer with the professional scientist--indeed, with the upper end of professional scientists. The average believer in evolution or relativity or whatever is no more able to provide a convincing account of the evidence and arguments for his position than the average religious believer--both of them hold their beliefs not because of rational investigation but because the people around them told them those things were true. And religious leaders, at least some of them, offer arguments for their positions which are based on more than just faith, whether or not those arguments are correct--offer the evidence of miracles, rational arguments such as those of Aquinas, and the like. It's true that there is more rehashing of old arguments and less new argumentation in religion than in science--but then, religion is an older project than science, so presumably more of the relevant arguments have already been made.
If, after all, everyone got his religious beliefs from his parents, it's hard to see how multiple sects could come into existence. At some point someone, Luther or Calvin or the founder of one or another of the multiple Islamic sects, concluded that his parents' view was wrong, produced his own, and persuaded others to follow it instead of their parents' views.
2. Dawkins complains about four year old children being labelled "Christian," "Muslim," "Hindu." What he is ignoring is that religious labels identify communities as well as systems of belief. For many people the communal identification--"I am a member of this group"--is probably more important than the belief; there are surely lots of members of one Christian denomination or another who could not adequately explain the difference in beliefs between their denomination and others. Seen from this standpoint, it makes as much sense to describe a four year old child as "Christian" as it would to describe her as "French."
I'm reminded of the story of the visitor to Northern Ireland who is asked by a local whether he is a Protestant or a Catholic. He replies that he is a Jew. To which the local responds with "Are you a Catholic Jew or a Protestant Jew?" The religious labels here have become primarily identifications of which faction you are a part of, not of what you believe.
It's tempting to blame religion for a good deal of past violence, but it isn't clear if the fundamental cause was religious beliefs or the tendency of humans to identify with groups. There's been lots of violence between Catholics and Protestants or Christians and Muslims, but also between English and French or French and Germans. And the USSR, whose official religious doctrine was atheism, was also one of the most murderous states in history.
3. Harris, and I think also Dawkins, points out that there are lots of different religions, they disagree with each other, so they can't all be true. That's a persuasive argument against many religious positions taken literally. But it's not a very persuasive argument against religion in general, because there is an obvious rebuttal.
One of the speakers, I think Dawkins, quotes J. B. S. Haldane's speculation that the universe may be too complicated for us to understand. Similarly, it might be that religious truth is too difficult for us to fully understand. If so, different religions might each be giving a partial and imperfect view of the truth, narrowed down to what a human can make sense of.
Consider, for an obvious analogy, the scientific view of the nature of light. A critic could argue that some scientists describe light as particles, some as waves, and they cannot both be true. The response is that they can both be true--we can write down a mathematical description of light that is consistent with all of the experimental evidence. What we can't do is to clearly intuit that description. We can intuit the wave version, we can intuit the particle version, to our intuition they seem inconsistent, but in fact each is a partial description of a single consistent reality.
Part of my skepticism with regard to the efforts of my fellow atheists to demonstrate how absurd the opposing position is comes from knowing a fair number of intelligent, reasonable, thoughtful people who believe in God--including one I am married to. Part comes from weaknesses I can perceive in the foundations for my own view of the world. At some point, I think, each of us is using the superb pattern recognition software that evolution has equipped us with to see a coherent pattern in the world around us--and since the problem is a harder one than the software was designed to deal with, it isn't that surprising that we sometimes get different answers.