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Monday, 6 April 2009

Atheist foghornism

So atheists have been guilty of foghornism, according to Madeleine Bunting, writing in the Guardian.

Her piece is about Holy Week, which began yesterday in the Christian calendar with Palm Sunday.

She then says we can no longer assume that everyone will be aware of the days that make up this week (Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunday), because “in a recent UK poll, only 22% could identify what Easter was celebrating”.

Yes, that is shocking, because it’s a matter of general knowledge and history. But, then, I would guess that most people don’t know what several special days are in the calendar, be it a saint’s day or the exact date of the Queen’s birthday or International AIDS Day. Perhaps many don’t know the significance of Bonfire Night or the anniversaries of famous battles.

However, Bunting uses this to “presume” that the “New Atheists” will hold a “fabulous party” to “celebrate” the fact that Christianity as a belief system is collapsing.

Then she has a nasty go at Richard Dawkins by saying he might “stump up for the crates of champagne out of his sumptuous royalties from The God Delusion”.

The implication here is that she thinks his earnings from that book are somehow ill-gotten gains, that, because of the subject matter, he perhaps doesn’t deserve to be paid for his work.

Maybe he will buy a crate of champagne, but that’s entirely up to him, as it’s entirely up to you, Ms Bunting, if you choose to help to pay for a crate of Communion wine for your local church out of your salary.

Increasingly, one hears a distaste for the polemics of the New Atheist debate and its foghorn volume, and how it has drowned out any other kind of conversation about religion: what it is, the loss of it, whether it matters, and what happens in a post-religious society?

Drowned it out? Stop being such a silly cow! Religion is all over the BBC, our national broadcaster. It’s in schools, being shoved down pupils’ throats, whether they want it or not. It gets to lead national days of mourning and celebration.

She goes on:

From sometimes surprising quarters there is an anxiety about the evangelical fervour and certainty of the New Atheists: they are so sure they are right, but there are plenty of people – and many of them would not count themselves as believers – who can’t share their contempt for religion.

She then gives one or two examples.

One wonders where Bunting has been living for the past few years. There’s evangelical fervour aplenty among religionists in this country, and they, too, are sure they are right.

Of course they think they’re right. No one blames them for thinking they’re right any more than atheists should be blamed for thinking they are right.

What so many of the Deluded Herd tend to forget is that religion has had a hold for long enough, and it’s outlived its usefulness. This can be seen by dwindling church numbers and the fact that so many people are now trying to get themselves debaptised.

Then there is the fact that religion is responsible for so much conflict, leading to segregated communities, violence and death. As Richard Nixon once said, “The bloodiest wars in history have been religious wars.”


Stuart Hartill said...

If Christianity is on the way out Christians have only themselves to blame for coming up with such dumb fiction in the first place.
What do they offer as an Easter present - a self-pitying masochist who apparently has the power of life or death over everything but chooses instead to get himself nailed to a bit of wood until he croaks?
What a crap role model!
'For God so loved the world that he gave us...chocolate bunnies' - now THAT might at least make small kids sit up and take interest!

Anonymous said...

There was a bible test you could take online. I scored up around 75% Being the last time I looked at the bible was well over 25 years ago I'd consider that pretty good. I challenged the religious to take the test and report back their results. Didn't get any takers.

Baal's Bum said...

If the easter weekend was based on a factual event it would be tied down to a certain date. However the date moves because it marks the third moon after the winter solstice.
I am now of the belief that the so called Easter myth was actually a winter solstice myth that the Romans moved to supplant the Oestre/Mother festival, celebrating the return of spring.

Andy Armitage said...

Truthspew, I did the same recently on a different test. I suspect there are several to be found all over the Net. I forget my score, but it was pretty good. I don't eschew learning bits about the book that informs the religion that is part of our history, and that's why I feel shocked that so many people don't even know what Easter is supposed to represent in the Christian calendar (since the Christians hijacked the period for their own purposes, of course – because we all know it was pagan).

We had a major supermarket chain put out an embarrassing press release a couple of years ago to sell its seasonal chocolates and other calorific bombshells, saying that Easter represented the birth of Christ! Oh, dear! You can imagine how the media battoned onto that. Yet survey after survey tells us that many people don't know, so wouldn't have spotted the gaffe in the first place.

It's only a matter of general knowledge, and I don't say people should believe the stories, but, set within the historical context of where religion has played a part in our various countries' past, it's general knowledge that ought to be generally known, and it ain't.

I would make a claim that knowledge of Greek mythology and the beings who dwelled atop Mount Olympus was similarly important knowlege for people to have picked up at school and be familiar with. The enjoyment of much music – for those into more than pop and rock, important though those genres are – would be enhanced by a knowledge of scripture, too, because much of it is inspired by it (which is not to say it can't be enjoyed without such kowledge, but I did say enhanced).

But Truthspew's comment does illustrate that often those who don't profess to believe in the horsehit know more about it than many who do so profess. They just like the bells and smells and a belief that they really believe just follows.