Caricature of Atheism (with Polish translation)

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The Bishop of Bradford looks like a nice man, as most Anglican bishops are. But he is as confused as any of them, and that’s saying a lot. Ruth Gledhill, indefatigably earnest religion correspondent of The Times, reveals that Bishop Baines is preparing a paper for a conference at the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Germany (and congratulations to him on his linguistic skills, by the way). The conference brings German politicians and theologians together to discuss “the public space in Europe”. Bishop Baines has been asked to speak on how the Church of England is responding to “non-belief “ and “distance from religious faith”. Ruth Gledhill goes on:-

(see bottom of article for Polish translation)

 



He will distinguish between atheists and “new atheists”. Bishop Baines said: “People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists. I do not have a problem with atheism, but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith. To deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square is both dangerous and irrational.”

He added that there was a backlash against this “caricature of atheism” towards a more “reasonable” atheism in which the religious voice had its place.

This is a good example of what we are up against: religious apologists swallowing whole what other religious apologists have quoted from what yet other religious apologists have lied about what “new atheists” have ever said, or stand for.

Of course I  have never tried to “deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square.” Free speech is precious, and I of course defend the right of anybody to go to any public square and speak, preach or proselytize freely about their religion. I also defend my own right, and the right of my fellow atheists, to go to the same public square and criticize what the religious preacher says. And I defend his right to come back and attempt to criticize what I say in return. Incidentally, one of the most effective ways to ridicule religious beliefs is to quote them, verbatim and without comment.

So, no problem with free speech for religious apologists. What I am against is giving religious people privileged access to the public square simply because they are religious: privileged access for priests, imams and rabbis which is less readily granted to others with greater – though non-religious – qualifications. And there is no doubt at all that, certainly in British and American society and I suspect in most countries of the world, religious spokesmen do indeed enjoy privileged access. The BBC’s notoriously insipid Thought for the Day is the tip of a very large iceberg. Discussion programmes on moral questions, social questions, even political questions almost always invite spokesmen from Christian churches (and nowadays, increasingly, other faiths). Faith schools receive government subsidies despite their discriminatory employment and admissions policies. Parliament still has 26 Anglican bishops, and leaders of other faiths are also frequently appointed to the House of Lords. The title “Reverend” doesn’t quite guarantee access to the Letters to the Editor columns of national newspapers, but who would doubt that it helps!

I discussed the whole matter of privileged access to the public square in my 1997 essay Dolly and the Cloth Heads[1]:

Dolly and the Cloth Heads

A news story like the birth of the cloned sheep Dolly is always followed by a flurry of energetic press activity.  Newspaper columnists sound off, solemnly or facetiously; occasionally intelligently.  Radio and television producers seize the telephone and round up panels to discuss and debate the moral and legal issues.  Some of these panellists are experts on the science, as you would expect and as is right and proper.  Equally appropriate are scholars of moral or legal philosophy.  Both categories are invited to the studio in their own right, because of their specialised knowledge or their proven ability to think intelligently and speak clearly.  The arguments that they have with each other are usually illuminating and rewarding.

The same cannot be said of the third, and most obligatory, category of studio guest: the religious lobby.  Lobbies in the plural, I should say, because all the religions have to be represented.  This incidentally multiplies the sheer number of people in the studio, with consequent consumption, if not waste, of time.

Out of good manners I shall not mention names, but during the admirable Dolly’s week of fame I took part in broadcast or televised discussions of cloning with several prominent religious leaders, and it was not edifying.  One of the most eminent of these spokesmen got off to a flying start by refusing to shake hands with the women in the television studio, apparently for fear they might be menstruating or otherwise ‘unclean’.  They took the insult more graciously than I would have, and with the ‘respect’ always bestowed on religious prejudice  –  but no other kind of prejudice.    When the panel discussion got going, the woman in the chair, treating this bearded patriarch with great deference, asked him to spell out the harm that cloning might do, and he answered that atomic bombs were harmful.  Yes indeed, no possibility of disagreement there.  But wasn’t the discussion supposed to be about cloning?

Since it was his choice to shift the discussion to atomic bombs, perhaps he knew more about physics than about biology?  But no, having delivered himself of the daring falsehood that Einstein split the atom, the sage switched with confidence to history.  He made the telling point that, since God laboured six days and then rested on the seventh, scientists too ought to know when to call a halt.  Now, either he really believed that the world was made in six days, in which case his ignorance alone disqualifies him from being taken seriously.  Or, as the chairwoman charitably suggested, he intended the point purely as an allegory  –  in which case it was a lousy allegory.  Sometimes in life it is a good idea to stop, sometimes it is a good idea to go on.  The trick is to decide when to stop.  The allegory of God resting on the seventh day cannot, in itself, tell us whether we have reached the right point to stop in some particular case.  As allegory, the six-day creation story is empty.  As history, it is false.  So why bring it up?

The representative of a rival religion on the same panel was frankly confused.  He voiced the common fear that a human clone would lack individuality.  It would not be a whole, separate human being but a mere soulless automaton.  When I warned him that his words might be offensive to identical twins, he said that identical twins were a quite different case.  Why?

On a different panel, this time for radio, yet another religious leader was similarly perplexed by identical twins.  He too had ‘theological’ grounds for fearing that a clone would not be a separate individual and would therefore lack ‘dignity’.  He was swiftly informed of the undisputed scientific fact that identical twins are clones of each other with the same genes, like Dolly except that Dolly is the clone of an older sheep.  Did he really mean to say that identical twins (and we all know some) lack the dignity of separate individuality?  His reason for denying the relevance of the twin analogy was very odd indeed. He had great faith, he informed us, in the power of nurture over nature.  Nurture is why identical twins are really different individuals.  When you get to know a pair of twins, he concluded triumphantly, they even look a bit different.

Er, quite so.  And if a pair of clones were separated by fifty years, wouldn’t their respective nurtures be even more different?  Haven’t you just shot yourself in your theological foot?  He just didn’t get it  –  but after all he hadn’t been chosen for his ability to follow an argument. I don’t want to sound uncharitable, but I submit that merely being a spokesman for a particular ‘tradition’, ‘faith or ‘community’ may not be enough.

Religious lobbies, spokesmen of ‘traditions’ and ‘communities’, enjoy privileged access not only to the media but to influential committees of the great and the good, to governments and school boards.  Their views are regularly sought, and heard with exaggerated ‘respect’, by parliamentary committees.  You can be sure that, when an Advisory Commission is set up to advise on cloning policy, or any other aspect of reproductive technology, religious lobbies will be prominently represented.  Religious spokesmen and spokeswomen enjoy an inside track to influence and power which others have to earn through their own ability or expertise.  What is the justification for this?

Why has our society so meekly acquiesced in the convenient fiction that religious views have some sort of right to be respected automatically and without question?  If I want you to respect my views on politics, science or art, I have to earn that respect by argument, reason, eloquence, or relevant knowledge.  I have to withstand counter-arguments.  But if I have a view that is part of my religion, critics must respectfully tiptoe away or brave the indignation of society at large.  Why are religious opinions off limits in this way?  Why do we have to respect them, simply because they are religious?

How, moreover, do you decide which of many mutually contradictory religions should be granted this unquestioned respect: this unearned influence.  If we invite a Christian spokesman into the television studio or the Advisory Committee, should it be a Catholic or a Protestant, or do we have to have both to make it fair? (In Northern Ireland the difference is, after all, important enough to constitute a recognized motive for murder).  If we have a Jew and a Muslim, must we have both Orthodox and Reformed, both Shiite and Sunni?   And why not Moonies, Scientologists and Druids?

Society, for no reason that I can discern, accepts that parents have an automatic right to bring their children up with particular religious opinions and can withdraw them from, say, biology classes that teach evolution.  Yet we’d all be scandalised if children were withdrawn from Art History classes that teach the merits of artists not to their parents’ taste.  We meekly agree, if a student says, “Because of my religion I can’t take my final examination on the day appointed so, no matter what the inconvenience, you’ll have to set a special examination for me.”  It is not obvious why we treat such a demand with any more respect than, say, “Because of my basketball match (or because of my mother’s birthday) I can’t take the examination on a particular day.”  Such favoured treatment for religious opinion reaches its apogee in wartime.  A highly intelligent and sincere individual who justifies his personal pacifism by deeply thought-out moral philosophic arguments finds it hard to achieve Conscientious Objector status.  If only he had been born into a religion whose scriptures forbid fighting, he’d have needed no other arguments at all.  It is the same unquestioned respect for religious leaders that causes society to beat a path to their door whenever an issue like cloning is in the air.  Perhaps, instead, we should listen to those whose words themselves justify our heeding them.

Religious apologists should be denied privileged access to the public square, and I have often said this. But what the Bishop of Bradford has done is to delete the word “privileged”, and this led him to attack a straw travesty of what I have said. “Caricature of Atheism” is his own phrase and it is exactly what he has perpetrated.

 


[1] First published in The Independent (1997) and reprinted in A Devil’s Chaplain, 2003, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

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Karykatura ateizmu

Autor tekstu: 

Tłumaczenie: Małgorzata Koraszewska

Biskup Bradfordu wygląda jak miły człowiek, a większość biskupów anglikańskich to mili ludzie. Jest jednak równie zagubiony, jak każdy z nich. Ruth Gledhill,  poważna korespondentka „Timesa" do spraw religijnych, ujawnia, że biskup Baines przygotowuje referat na konferencję w Fundacji Konrad-Adenauer w Niemczech (nawiasem mówiąc, gratulacje za umiejętności lingwistyczne). Konferencja zgromadzi niemieckich polityków i teologów na dyskusję o „przestrzeni publicznej w Europie". Biskupa Bainesa poproszono, by mówił o tym, jak Kościół anglikański reaguje na „nie-wiarę" i „zdystansowanie od wiary religijnej". Ruth Gledhill kontynuuje:

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Written By: Richard Dawkins
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68 COMMENTS

  1. Bishop Baines has been asked to speak on how the Church of England is responding to “non-belief “ and “distance from religious faith”.

    It seems to me that their response was simply a way to ignore the actual reasons why so many people are losing their “faith” and blame the “new atheists” – an easy convenience. (Although I am American, I assume C of E has similar problems found in other Christian churches.) Perhaps they should address issues of homosexuality, sexism, antiquated views on “goodness”, boring services, boring old stories of sheepherders, ease of finding information on the internet, and an general unease of people following the authority of stuffy old men…. What true guidance or relevance do they even offer to society?

    “People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists. I do not have a problem with atheism, but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith….”

    I find this comment to be disingenuous. Does anyone see any truth to this? If anything, atheism is growing and he acknowledges it. It seems as if he is trying to focus on a nonexistent problem within nonbelievers rather than face problems within his own church.

  2. We’ve already out thought these people on a rational level.The only line of defence I see now is to 1st,make things over complicated and muddled in their counter argument,and then try to conjure up some sort of simple,direct phrase to those people watching/listening/reading that haven’t quite made it to the fence in which they may have to sway, in order to pull them back from thinking that we might be right. They have lost the logical argument,and I’m pretty sure there’s a lot of them that know that,but, by jaysus,are they gonna give up at this point…if you can log onto TV3.ie , Michael Nugent didn’t have to say a whole lot on Irish television on Sunday night on a chat program called “Challenging god”. Have a look if you can.I hope it actually gets posted here at some point.

  3. In this age of many sources of information it just gets ever harder for people to keep believing in the traditional religious stories. People realize there is no reason to believe them. Without evidence and sound arguments with which to bolster his religious beliefs, Bishop Baines can only defend them by misrepresenting those who have blown the whistle on the great fraud that is religion.

  4. I thought I’d coined the word Strawkins, which describes strawman arguments that are meant to be representative of the views of Richard Dawkins, but it seems that someone else thought of the idea, too.

    At any rate, Strawkins applies in this case and not just to RD but to other gnu atheists whose views are systematically misrepresented by religious apologists.

    [P.S: What a great piece by Richard. I really need to read A Devil's Chaplain.]

    • In reply to #6 by RDfan:
      …[P.S: What a great piece by Richard. I really need to read A Devil's Chaplain.]

      Yes, you should. It is excellent, particularly the pieces “Postmodernism Disrobed”, “The Joy of Living Dangerously”, and especially the touching letter to his daughter Juliet on her 10th birthday. (“Good and Bad Reasons for Believing.”) Plus many more I haven’t mentioned.

    • [P.S: What a great piece by Richard. I really need to read A Devil's Chaplain.]

      Yes, reminds me to read it again. At the end of the book is advice about good and bad reasons for believing, in the form of a letter to his daughter. See link below.

      http://thankgodforevolution.com/node/1950

      In reply to #6 by RDfan:

      I thought I’d coined the word Strawkins, which describes strawman arguments that are meant to be representative of the views of Richard Dawkins, but it seems that someone else thought of the idea, too.

      At any rate, Strawkins applies in this case and not just to RD but to other gnu atheists whose vi…

  5. People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists. I do not have a problem with atheism, but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith…

    I can’t help but wonder if Bishop Baines can even state the notions that Dawkins is allegedly evangelizing.

    Or is Bishop Baines willing to admit he is actively against the use of critical thought when it it applied to authority?

  6. There are people out there wiser than all of this. Why aren’t they being heard?

    Unhealthy atheism can lead to aggressive “talk to the hands” because it is a denial that the term god means anything useful.

    Agnosticism means that we don’t really know, so to “cut it out/quit speakin about it so much already”, is being less aggressive automatically.

    There is an actual useful definition for god where we don’t create hate inside ourselves for some groups of people, or even pity. To turn the “belief” in god to a “simple understanding” which reflects the poetry of bilbles and mythology in general would be really useful.

    • In reply to #11 by SGde3a:

      There are people out there wiser than all of this. Why aren’t they being heard?

      Wiser than what? There are millions who are wiser than this bishop!

      Unhealthy atheism can lead to aggressive “talk to the hands”

      This looks like the stawman circularity I mentioned in the previous comment 13. What on Earth is “unhealthy atheism – apart a personal disparaging comment?

      because it is a denial that the term god means anything useful.

      The term “god” means a multitude of different things to millions of people. List of deities
      I have yet to see a definition which means “anything credible or useful”. How many of them do you think are useful? – (with supporting evidence of their benefits please.)

      Agnosticism means that we don’t really know,

      We don’t know anything for 100% certainty, but we do know many scientific facts to around 99% probability.

      Many god-claims are easily refuted by science and basic reasoning, along with a total lack of any evidence to support the claims of their followers. Most atheists go for 99% probability that no god-claims are valid, so are technically slightly agnostic. The degree of agnosicism depends of the nature of the particular god.

      The “agnostic” who has “no idea” through a lack of study or interest, is hardly a source of advice on any subject! Many are just theists with slight doubts – who often regard THEIR LOCAL GOD as a default position – for no particular reason other than a lack of thought!

      so to “cut it out/quit speakin about it so much already”, is being less aggressive automatically.

      Why should rational people keep quiet when irrational preachers are babbling nonsense in public, and lobbing politicians to inflict their stupid dogmas on the the rest of the population?

      It is their lame claim to be given a free ride for their intellectually feeble nonsense!

      There is an actual useful definition for god where we don’t create hate inside ourselves for some groups of people, or even pity. To turn the “belief” in god to a “simple understanding” which reflects the poetry of bilbles and mythology in general would be really useful.

      There are all sorts of cosmetically pleaseant definitions of gods and strange re-interprtations of the bible – which are trotted out by believers indulging wishful thinking. -

      Then there are news reports and historical records of sectarian and religious wars, armed persecution of those with opposing views, and terrorism, which have characterised religions for centuries! That is religion in the real world which exists outside the fanciful ramblings in this bishop’s head!

    • In reply to #11 by SGde3a:

      Unhealthy atheism can lead to aggressive “talk to the hands” because it is a denial that the term god means anything useful.

      Does god mean anything useful? We cannot even get people to agree upon the properties of a god, let alone God.

      Atheism doesn’t suggest we know anything, only that we treat god with the same skepticism we would any other notion we’ve not been able to detect. If we don’t believe in fairies or Alien UFOs or Santa Claus on the basis that there is no evidence for them, why would we accept the notion of god? Atheism is not about knowing, it’s about being skeptical of anything for which we don’t have cause to believe.

      Agnosticism means that we don’t really know, so to “cut it out/quit speakin about it so much already”, is being less aggressive automatically.

      And this keep to ourselves attitude where we don’t rock the boat is exactly what lead us to our current situation in which religious institutions are preferred by our allegedly secular states over institutions and causes that are not religion based. Ergo justified hatred against women, gays and anyone who doesn’t conform.

      Not any more. Why is it that we tolerate scripture based practices on the because they’re sacred where all other notions are challenged critically?

      This is the question that is asked within the New Atheism movement.

      And you know, every other movement towards a change in culture has received resistance and been told that they should just shut the Hell up.

  7. “People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists. I do not have a problem with atheism, but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith. To deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square is both dangerous and irrational.”

    Yawn, yawn, yawn. The aggressive new atheists vs the venerable, respectable atheists of old. Blah blah blah. It’s just unbelievable how many religionists keep reciting the same silly ideas, and always in a manner that’s intended to convey that it’s their own idea.

    But then I suppose it’s not that surprising, as religion is founded upon repeating the same nonsense over and over again until people become convinced that it must be true.

  8. @OP – He will distinguish between atheists and “new atheists”. Bishop Baines said: “People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists.

    Ah! Dressing up the minority of wish-washy apologist atheists as “Trooo Atheists” and pretending that they are “more rational” by accepting fudgist faith-thinking! (No True Scotsman ).

    I do not have a problem with atheism,

    As long as it keeps quiet and does not challenge religious false claims and stupidities!

    but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith.

    Yeah! Religious drivel spouters are being challeged in rational debates, where they cannot cope, so they want uncritical acceptance of their views of magic-fairy activity to be the norm.

    To deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square is both dangerous and irrational.”

    This is a bishop with a public audience playing the martyr to a public audience! You would need to be an uncritical sheeple to swallow this posturing!

    He added that there was a backlash against this “caricature of atheism” towards a more “reasonable” atheism in which the religious voice had its place.

    A tiny backlash from the bishop and co. – So he goes for the strawman reverse thinking – with a bit of psychological projection and the pretense that there is a “more reasonable blacklash” against those involved in scientific logical reasoning. This is basically defining “faith-thinking” (belief without evidence of proof) as its opposite. – Scientific understanding based on evidence and logical/mathematical proofs.

    It is the usual faith-use of the word “reasoning” as a badge of authority, stuck on to supernatural assertions to make them sound more intellectually plausible.
    It is the use the Vatican describes as “right-reasoning” – which is the “fallacious circular thinking”, they claim over-rides “logical reasoning”!

  9. “now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith.”

    It’s not atheists who come knocking on my door or approach me in the street evangelising and propagandising their beliefs…

  10. It is ok for Anglicans to evangelise but not atheists. I see.

    Anglicans are stopping to think, and are dropping that faith that has nothing to support it. It is only to a secondary degree that Dawkins and friends are pointing out the holes in Anglican faith.

    The problem for Anglicans is not the siren song of atheism. The problem is the idiocy of Anglican belief if you but take a few hours to look at it. The problem is the way the clergy betrayed the trust of the whole community when children where entrusted to them. They can’t blame Dawkins for that.

    Anglicanism has clung to anti-women, anti-gay teachings even after the secular world has progressed. Who wants to be associated with bigots like that? They can’t blame Dawkins.

  11. Hello Richard,

    Next time you find yourself in a studio discussion with a Catholic bishop, wait till he makes some “Im up to date” statement about Adam being a metaphor then hit him with this quote from the supposedly “infallible” Council of Trent.
    >
    If anyone does not confess that the first man Adam … blah blah blah … let him be anathema

    • In reply to #18 by Logar:

      Next time you find yourself in a studio discussion with a Catholic bishop, wait till he makes some “Im up to date” statement about Adam being a metaphor then hit him with this quote from the supposedly “infallible” Council of Trent.

      If anyone does not confess that the first man Adam … blah blah blah … let him be anathema

      I’m afraid that would just be an invitation to trot out the Vatican I pararagrahs 9 and 10 on peudo-science and pseudo-reasoning, along with another collection of anathemas http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic-Church-and-evolution#Pope-Pius-IX – {even a universe from nothing!} from the self proclaimed “infallible” Pope Pius IX.

      • In reply to #19 by Alan4discussion:

        I can’t see how you think Paragraphs 9 & 10 of Vatican 1 would come to the rescue of a bewildered bishop.
        These paragraphs seem to have been written in a kind of collective wishful thinking that Science would one day come round to support the councils’ majority pre-Darwin beliefs. Of course no such thing has happened.So these paragraphs can be used to reinforce my argument.

        Science and reason says there cannot have been a “first man Adam”, and I suspect most well educated Catholics would agree (in private at least).

        Vatican I defines that faith and reason can never be at odds (as per your quote).

        But Trent requires “the faithful” to believe all sorts of nonsense about a “first man Adam”.

        • In reply to #23 by Logar:

          I can’t see how you think Paragraphs 9 & 10 of Vatican 1 would come to the rescue of a bewildered bishop. These paragraphs seem to have been written in a kind of collective wishful thinking .

          That would depent on the audience. For an RCC audience brought up to think “faith” and RCC dogmas over-ride both science and logic, as per my links, pretzel circular “reasoning” rules.

          that Science would one day come round to support the councils’ majority pre-Darwin beliefs. Of course no such thing has happened.So these paragraphs can be used to reinforce my argument

          They would only reinforce your arguments in the eyes of a rational educated audience. An indoctrinated sheeple audience would accept that dogma over-rules science and logical reason when there is a disagreement.

  12. Educated Britons are leaving the churches in droves.
    The bishop needs some scape-goat to blame for their rejection of his mumbo-jumbo!
    He has a need for future employment – which seems to be being funded at present by selling redundant churches.

    Around twenty Church of England church buildings are closed for worship each year. The list shown below gives information about buildings that are available for disposal and are being marketed for a suitable alternative use.

  13. I say publish and be damned.

    this cliche needs the light of day to kill it off. people i thought of as intelligent have subscribed to the “In my opinion, these new atheists are no better than religious fanatics”. apes will always repoeat things other apes say with the tagline “in MY opinion” and to me it reads no differently to the sort of things people used to get away with when justifying other bigotries (“I’m all for equality but lets face it, women are going to have babies at some point so you can’t promote them too far” or “I’m no racist but they do all seem to stick with their own kind don’t they?” or who could forget “I’ve nothing against gays but why can’t they just keep their sexuality to themselves?).

    History is vary good judge I find. Bigotry is maintained by lazy thinking and received wisdom and there will always be those who rise above all this and society reluctantly follows. most will be able to forget what they used to say and agree with and even pretend they never held these views but some will have to live with the fact they committed their ignorance to print and congratulated themselves on it.

    One day they’ll need our forgiveness

  14. Let’s paraphrase what men of the bishop’s ilk are saying.

    Atheists you may stick around as long as you show us the appropriate reverence we deserve by virtue of being the top dog for centuries.Say you respect our myriad beliefs and let us go on as we always have.Don’t take away our many perks.As representatives of the Most High it is ours by fiat.

    If there is anything that makes our gentle blood boil,it is these johnny come lately atheists.A new breed of ill-bred atheists who insist on speaking their minds in a manner most strident.They are publishing books that denigrate our god-given work.They engage our people in debate and feel no qualms at all about making us look foolish.We are beset on all sides, our people do not respect us as they should and many are leaving the church.

    It is troubling that a great many of these ‘new atheists’ are scientists or science lovers, and they are constantly rubbing our noses in the fact that our achievements compared to those of science are non- existent like our god.

    IF ONLY THEY WOULD SHUT UP.IF ONLY THEY WOULD GO AWAY!.Oh for the good old days when our Word was law!We would have stopped them cold.They are treading heavily on our turf and we cannot stand it.Also, we are not fit for useful work..God help us,all we can do is pray.

  15. Richard, this bit in the middle were you say:

    “Parliament still has 26 Anglican bishops, and leaders of other faiths are also frequently appointed to the House of Lords.”

    Is really open for people to quote-mine in a strawman style. I know what you’re complaining about but the words you used don’t make it clear that the complaint is about the fact that these seats are RESERVED for the explicit purpose of being held ONLY by Anglican Bishops.

    It’s ripe and waiting for someone to twist that into claiming that you’re insisting that being an Anglican Bishop should disqualify someone from being considered for holding a seat. What you stated there sounds like you’re just complaining that there are 26 members that happen to be Anglican Bishops, rather than that there are 26 seats that are required to be Anglican Bishops.

  16. My local evangelical church has a ten foot sign that says “The fool in his heart has said there is no God.”
    If I put a sign up saying “Only a fool would believe in God” I’m fairly certain the council would order it removed, the police might well pay a visit and charge me with hate crimes and I suspect a brick would come through my window.
    I wouldn’t go out my way to offend people in such a way but this is the public space we are talking about.

    • In reply to #26 by mr_DNA:

      My local evangelical church has a ten foot sign that says “The fool in his heart has said there is no God.”

      That is because they have not yet worked out that thinking is done with the brain, and speaking is done with the mouth!

      Those four humours keep permiating the etherial whimsicality of evangy medicine!

    • In reply to #26 by mr_DNA:

      My local evangelical church has a ten foot sign that says “The fool in his heart has said there is no God.”

      No, you should hang a sign that says “The fool on the hill sees the sun going down, and the eyes in his head see the world spinning ’round.”

  17. What I am against is giving religious people privileged access to the public square simply because they are religious:

    I agree, but the root of the problem in England is that so far, no one has been able to replace the 1689 Bill of Rights with something better.
    Although this is considered the earliest Human Rights bill still in force in England, it is obviously reinforcing the privilege of the Church of England.

    And whereas it hath beene found by Experience that it is inconsistent with the Safety and Welfaire of this Protestant Kingdome to be governed by a Popish Prince or by any King or Queene marrying a Papist the said Lords Spirituall

    So long as the CofE retains the “Lords Spiritual” privilege, other “faiths” (including Catholics who must have felt slightly miffed by this Bill) will also be demanding privileges in the public space.

  18. Speaking as one of the “old atheists” who had never heard of Richard Dawkins until I was well into my 30,s ,I do not feel in any way shape or form alienated by the “new atheist movement”. Just the opposite in fact,I say thank goodness for outspoken rationalists who are getting my point of view across in a way that I could not.

  19. In my country (Latvia) parents are allowed to homeschool kids if they believe that school will make them sinners. But nobody has yet developed any rules or regulations who is educating and how it is checked (9 years long education is after all compulsory)….And the other issue, of course, is the so called “traditional” religions – why should a self-proclaimed secular country care about this. Yet division between the traditional and the others were one of the things Latvia did after restoration of independence …. But both established orders go without saying. After all religious people are paying taxes (only them?) and there are paedophiles and immoral persons among teachers (and police pays no attention to it?). And there are immoral persons among atheists (should not even a good Christian first prove that?)….
    Luckily Cardila Pujats were only the first of several to be asked about the need of compulsory health education. However nobody knows when if anytime kids will be educated about healthy diet, exercise, harm of smoking and boozing and, yes, about sex and contraceptives.

  20. I wish religious people would define what they mean by public square. It certainly doesn’t mean being able to build churches on the public square or preach in a public square. That is protected. But what they really want is to be able, as they did in the past, is to have a place on the dais at public events. They want to make sure every dedication of a public building has an appropriate prayer or two, every graduation at a public school has a benediction, every legislature has prayers, etc. And we say no. Just as we would not want to promote atheism at any of these events

    • In reply to #33 by lauracars:

      “People such as Richard Dawkins are aggressively evangelistic in a way that is alienating many sensible, rational atheists.” – Nothing but a big fat red herring.

      Actually it’s a straw man argument. Although it does contain a bit of “argumentum ad hominem” (argument against the person) as well which gives the whole thing a fishy kind of aroma. ;-)

      Logical fallacies can sometimes be difficult to classify accurately.

  21. Hah ! This mealy mouthed Bishop of Bradford is going to speak in German, in Germany ! Wow such erudition !

    This well educated Bishop is a representative of an organisation that believes that God is divided into three, that one third died , but didn’t die, that the third who died, before he died, was born of a virgin, also walked on water, turned water into wine, cured blindness in one and rose Lazarus from the dead among other things ! Oh and the third of God who “died”, also came back from the dead and floated off to heaven to sit beside Himself ! Oh and before all this happened the very same 3 in 1 God had created the universe !

    And now the good Bishop is mouthing off about people who are not ashamed of ridiculing such beliefs ! It really will be the discussion (in German) about what tunes the band of the Titanic should be playing !

    • In reply to #35 by Mr DArcy:

      Hah ! This mealy mouthed Bishop of Bradford is going to speak in German, in Germany ! Wow such erudition !

      The Bishop has a degree in French and German from Bradford University and worked as a linguist at GCHQ, according to his website.

    • I don’t understand this hostility to the bishop’s ability to speak German. I’d be proud to be able to speak German.

      Richard

      In reply to #35 by Mr DArcy:

      Hah ! This mealy mouthed Bishop of Bradford is going to speak in German, in Germany ! Wow such erudition !

      This well educated Bishop is a representative of an organisation that believes that God is divided into three, that one third died , but didn’t die, that the third who died, before he died, wa…

      • In reply to #44 by Richard Dawkins:

        I don’t understand this hostility to the bishop’s ability to speak German. I’d be proud to be able to speak German.

        Richard

        Maybe if he’d known you wouldn’t understand maybe he’d have published his original comments in German too.

        • In reply to #45 by bob-e-s;

          Maybe if he’d known you wouldn’t understand maybe he’d have published his original comments in German too.

          It’s a long-standing tradition.

          For centuries English speaking congregations were preached at in Latin, by priests (who half understood bits of it), with highly educated airs of superior knowledge.

          Not to mention the “scholars”, who spent years (mis)translating ancient fairy-stories and mythology, to inflict their “interpretations” on others while repressing rivals!

          The postmodernists and academic theology, have a new form of this, where the actual listener’s language structure and vocabulary are used, but the terminology is meaningless and unintelligible.

  22. One of the most eminent of these spokesmen got off to a flying start by refusing to shake hands with the women in the television studio, apparently for fear they might be menstruating or otherwise ‘unclean’.

    This comment precisely sums up what I dislike most about religion.

    I found this online: (Not by a religionist, but funny just the same.)

    “PLINY the Elder (a naturalist from the Roman Empire) published the Naturalis Historia encyclopedia. He wrote that:

    Contact with the monthly flux of women turns new wine sour, makes crops wither, kills grafts, dries seeds in gardens, causes the fruit of trees to fall off, dims the bright surface of mirrors, dulls the edge of steel and the gleam of ivory, kills bees, rusts iron and bronze, and causes a horrible smell to fill the air. Dogs who taste the blood become mad, and their bite becomes poisonous as in rabies. The Dead Sea, thick with salt, cannot be drawn asunder except by a thread soaked in the poisonous fluid of the menstruous blood. A thread from an infected dress is sufficient. Linen, touched by the woman while boiling and washing it in water, turns black. So magical is the power of women during their monthly periods that they say that hailstorms and whirlwinds are driven away if menstrual fluid is exposed to the flashes of lightning.

    Never mind the studies that consistently show that women in restrooms wash their hands more frequently than men. I know many women who are fastidious about their cleanliness, organization, and grooming. The fact that religions perpetuate this garbage to this day is mind boggling.

  23. I was labeled a “Deist” at my first entry to this site. Why did I enter? I enjoy free and unfettered discussion. debate if you will. I had thought that your Foundation might be a place to read fresh views on how to live, how to love and how to expand my sphere of friendships. Thus far, I have not sensed much of that, but my sampling of your message(s) is very limited, so I am as yet unprejudiced.

    I wish that we could dialog without the tenor of an intellectual jousting match. I see neither the need or gain in trying to modify anyone’s beliefs. I do see the need and the gain in digesting the wisdom of diverse people so that I may know more. Is that a possible understanding for us to engage?

    • In reply to #37 by user:

      I see neither the need or gain in trying to modify anyone’s beliefs.

      Possibly not much for the person modifying your beliefs but perhaps some benefit for you. Do you find it difficult to understand that gods are mythical beings?

    • In reply to #37 by user:

      I enjoy free and unfettered discussion. debate if you will. I had thought that your Foundation might be a place to read fresh views on how to live, how to love and how to expand my sphere of friendships.

      Free and unfettered debate tends to not be along the same lines of how to live, how to love, how to find friends and so on. richarddawkins.net has a bit of both, which are easy to parse out in the topic titles. But one of the things we do is rant about less-than-sociable behavior of the religious community, especially when its directed towards groups they’d rather not have to tolerate, such as gays, women, rival religions or atheists.

      Please also don’t mistake that as the presumption that atheists or antitheists are somehow more moral than theists. Humans like to categorize into small numbers of groups, to generalize based on small samplings and such. But we try to avoid doing just that. But we also will point out when others do, and that is the case here with Bishop Baines.

      Now, I cannot speak for anyone else here, or for Professor Dawkins, but I, for one will evangelize the use of skepticism and critical thought when it comes to the rules that we live by (rather than, say, appealing to authority, such as a religious text or a body of codified law, or an officer of state) given that the success of democracy depends on an informed people who consider and vote in their best interests. So if Bishop Baines is looking for aggressively evangelistic atheists he need not look any further than me. But I doubt that I am somehow alienating many sensible, rational atheists by my position.

  24. ” I do not have a problem with atheism, but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith.”

    The use of ‘evangelizing’ and ‘faith’ in Mr. Baines’ statement sounds like an attempt to trick an audience into falsely assuming that the criticisms of religion from atheists hold no more truth than the religious/supernatural claims they criticize, regardless of actual content or evidence presented.

  25. Its interesting to observe that religious apologists (RA) are so quick to use distortions of facts and outright falsity to bolster their arguments. If their way of life was so ‘pure’ why would they stoop to such mendacity? Possibly as the bible is open to many (equally ‘correct’) interpretations RA are used to fudging evidence – it goes with the territory. And results in rhetorical performance often triumphing over cogency of argument. Science is at an apparent disadvantage in any exchange with RA. It must stick to the facts (with all the necessary qualifications) while RA spokespersons can jump and wave their arms about wildly, bleating any strange utterance that seems to support their dogma. They’re either habitual liars or stupid/ignorant. Its probably not the latter as they seem to pay their taxes and cross the road ok.

  26. Interesting that Richard uses Art History as an example of a subject where parental withdrawal of children from a class would evoke horror. I once had a neighbour — an artist — who for many years actively prohibited her son from looking at books whose illustrations fell below her opinion of good art. I once asked how he would be able to judge different qualities of art if he never saw the bad stuff. I got no coherent reply.
    I think Richard’s frequent emphasis on the iniquity of labelling children by their parents’ chosen superstitious beliefs is one of his most important challenges. We need more schools that actively encourage rational consideration of moral philosophies and many fewer that are based on dogma indoctrination.

  27. I have difficulty in seeing why any adult that publicly states that they believe an anthology of fantasy books is true should ever be afforded any respect. After all, if any adult publicly claimed that the Harry Potter books were true, that a Hogwarts school really existed, that there was a ministry of magic, they would not be taken seriously, they would be ridiculed. There is no difference between the Harry Potter series of books and any religious books (except that we know that the Harry Potter books are explicitly written for children who know them to be fantasy).

    So, as far as I’m concerned, any time that someone states that they believe any religious books to be true, any respect I may have had for them is diminished.

    • In reply to #48 by jel:

      I have difficulty in seeing why any adult that publicly states that they believe an anthology of fantasy books is true should ever be afforded any respect. After all, if any adult publicly claimed that the Harry Potter books were true, that a Hogwarts school really existed, that there was a ministry…

      While I agree with this point, I would expect it to be given short shrift by theists. But I think it’s a valid question.

      If the analogy of Harry Potter (i.e. modern fiction) stretches the point too much, then why not use the example of the Iliad; a semi/factual account of some real history, weaving in elements of fiction and myth. No-one worships Zeus or believes that Athena was born from his forehead; you would be ridiculed if you said you did. How is this different to the Abrahamic myths of the main religions?

      More to address the OP; would you be given a place in the public square to air your views and comment on the affairs of the day from the point of view if you proclaimed yourself as a worshipper of the Greek pantheon?

      • In reply to #49 by bob_e_s:

        More to address the OP; would you be given a place in the public square to air your views and comment on the affairs of the day from the point of view if you proclaimed yourself as a worshipper of the Greek pantheon?

        I would argue that Hellenists better deserve a voice in politics. At least they’re not stating that their morality is dictated to them from perfect beings from beyond, as is the case with the biblical trinity. The Olympians were notoriously bad role-models, but their tales of mythology are all used as allegory or as a applicable to circumstances. (And recycled continuously in fiction) Athena and Arachne is considered no more a literal tale or a moral dictum than Luke Skywalker in the Death Star trench.

        In fact, Harry Potter, LotR and Star Wars would be excellent foundations for contemporary era religion on the basis that we know in advance they are fiction and thus can interpret them allegorically as we need to, so long as they can achieve death of the author status.

        • In reply to #57 by Uriel-238:

          In reply to #49 by bobes:

          In fact, Harry Potter, LotR and Star Wars would be excellent foundations for contemporary era religion on the basis that we know in advance they are fiction and thus can interpret them allegorically as we need to, so long as they can achieve death of the author status.

          Modern fantasy fiction (LOTR, Star Wars, Wheel of Time) seems to make a much more concerted attempt to comment on morality, giving more universal definitions of good and evil.

          Yaweh could definitely play the bad guy in any of those books without any alteration of the biblical stories.

  28. Richard Dawkins

    I don’t understand this hostility to the bishop’s ability to speak German. I’d be proud to be able to speak German.

    Richard

    In reply to #35 by Mr DArcy

    Perhaps I put it badly. There is no hostility from me to the bishop’s speaking German. My point was the Bishop is highly educated, and clever enough to deliver a speech in German, – but that he believes in nonsense.

    • In reply to #50 by Mr DArcy:

      he believes in nonsense.

      Surely not? His ‘intolerant’, ‘militant’, ‘strident’ etc remarks about inconveniently articulate non-believers is crude propaganda but not nonsensical. I expect he’s one of these metaphorical Christians and doesn’t have a very clear idea of what he believes.

  29. “What I am against is giving religious people privileged access to the public square simply because they are religious:”

    (Premise: sorry for my bad English)

    Dear Professor Dawkins,

    in my opinion you are complaining of a little thing compared to the problems we have in Italy with the Catholic Church. Not only they want privileged access to the public square (TVs, papers, institutions) bat they do the same, or more, for what concerns the money.

    In Italy we have a law called “8 x 1000”. (law n. 222 – 20/05/1985)
    Tax-payers are allowed to assign 8 x 1000 of their IRPEF (the main tax of State on the personal income) to one of seven predefined subjects: State, Catholic Church, and other five minor religious groups. It is also allowed not to choose.

    The law states that the 8 x 1000 IRPEF of the people that haven’t chosen will be divided in proportion to the percentages of the other tax-payers that have chosen.

    To make the choice you have to sign in the box corresponding to the subject to which you intend to assign your 8 x 1000 of the IRPEF in your annual declaration of the incomes. If you sign none, you have chosen not to choose. In every case you are recorded on religious base. Many people do not like to be recorded on religious base so the majority of the tax-payers chooses not to sign (about 60%). The remaining 40% of the tax-payers subscribes (around) so: 87% for the Catholic Church, 10% for the State, and one-digit percent or less for each of the other five subjects.

    The conclusion is that the Catholic Church takes more than one billion Euro par year of the 8 x 1000 IRPEF of all tax-payers, of this billion about 600 million Euro are money that nobody has expressly assigned to them.

    To examine two personal cases can lead you to a better comprehension of what kind of fiscal discrimination, based on the religion, represents this law.

    If we have a tax-payer (say A) that have an income whose 8 x 1000 IRPEF is 1000 Euro and he or she signs for the Catholic Church then about 870 Euro will go assigned to the Catholic Church and the remaining 130 Euro will go assigned to the other subjects.

    If we have a tax-payer (say B) that have an income whose 8 x 1000 IRPEF is 1000 Euro and he or she signs for the “Valdesi” then about 12 Euro will go assigned to the “Valdesi”, 870 Euro will go assigned to the Catholic Church and the remaining 118 Euro will go assigned to the other subjects.

    This way we have the tax-payer A whose wish to assign his or her 1000 Euro to the Catholic Church is respected in the measure of 87% and the tax-payer B whose wish to assign his or her 1000 Euro to the “Valdesi” is respected in the measure of 1,2% (one point two percent)!

    So maybe now you know better with what kind of people we have to fight. They have made a law that organizes the pretence of the right of choice.

    I hope our worse situation can bring relief to your dissatisfaction about the discussion on the “access to the public square”. In fact we are treating of the “access to the private wallet”.

    Further information: http://www.occhiopermille.it

    Best wishes

    Fiorenzo

  30. Point, well taken. It is every rationalist’s responsibility to challenge religionists at every turn. Of course, we have little hope of convincing or converting them, but every intention of annihilating the “privileges” they have assumed, hijacked, usurped and abused under the aegis of religious tolerance and freedom. In the end it is not about honoring ideological freedom, but eliminating socially permissible practices of exploitation and ignorance .

  31. aldous:

    Surely not? His ‘intolerant’, ‘militant’, ‘strident’ etc remarks about inconveniently articulate non-believers is crude propaganda but not nonsensical. I expect he’s one of these metaphorical Christians and doesn’t have a very clear idea of what he believes.

    Well if he believes in the Nicene Creed as he should do, being a CoE bishop, then he believes in nonsense, IMO. Others have dealt with the way he misrepresents the likes of Richard.

    • In reply to #55 by Mr DArcy:

      Well if he believes in the Nicene Creed as he should do, being a CoE bishop, then he believes in nonsense, IMO.

      Religious faith is non-rational. Isn’t the Nicene Creed the same sort of thing as

      Hey, diddle, diddle,

      The cat and the fiddle,

      The cow jumped over the moon;

      The little dog laughed

      To see such sport,

      And the dish ran away with the spoon.

      • I liked that verse so much I went to the trouble of looking up “Nicene Creed” , only to find a boring text :-(

        In reply to #56 by aldous:

        Hey, diddle, diddle,

        The cat and the fiddle,

        The cow jumped over the moo…

  32. but now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith. To deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square is both dangerous and irrational.”

    Does this quote strike anyone else as a tacit admission that evangelism seeks to deny free speech to others?

    • In reply to #59 by Matthew Lehman:

      Does this quote strike anyone else as a tacit admission that evangelism seeks to deny free speech to others?

      No one likes evangelism (proselytizing, marketing or campaigning) for notions or products with which they don’t agree.

      And yes, in the contemporary era, we know enough about human manipulation that these are all mind-control, at least in that you’ll snag some people in the crowd.

      Technically evangelism specifically has to do with Christianity and execution of the Great Commission. But we figure that’s not how he meant it.

  33. Religious apologists should be denied privileged access to the public square, and I have often said this. But what the Bishop of Bradford has done is to delete the word “privileged”, and this led him to attack a straw travesty of what I have said.

    The Bishop of Bradford might be right: if he agrees “no privileged access” equals “no access” (eg. in case of TV), then effectively there is no difference.

    • In reply to #63 by ridelo:

      Is this misrepresentation by the bishop willful or only stupid?

      Do you really think it’s such a big misrepresentation? Does Richard believe the religious people would take part in those Dolly’s broadcast and televised discussions of cloning or have any “Thought for the Day” if his recommendations were accepted? I don’t think so.

  34. So far I’ve only got to the Bishop Baines quote. Which is already amazing.
    “I do not have a problem with atheism, but”. We’ve heard that kind of line before, the some of my best friends are gay BUT…

    “… now you have the new atheists evangelizing and propagandizing their own faith.” In other words, now the athiests are out and… oh lordy!!… they are talking. They should stop doing that, they are a blight on the public square. Then (following on without taking breath)

    “To deny anyone with religious faith any access to the public square is both dangerous and irrational.” Said by he who wishes to silence those without faith.

    (Oh, and I think he should look up “irrational”.)

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