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Wednesday, 2 December 2009

No respect for no belief

I’ve been forced to ponder why a noted atheist who has written and spoken out against religious ideas should have been remembered at a religious event.

You may remember that Ludovic Kennedy, who died in October this year, was a lifelong atheist. He published An End to Belief? in 1984 and All in the Mind: A Farewell to God in 1999, in which he discussed his philosophical objections to religion, and the ills he felt had come from Christianity. He was a Distinguished Supporter of the British Humanist Association (BHA), an Honorary Associate of the National Secular Society (NSS) and a Distinguished Supporter of the Humanist Society of Scotland (HSS).

In July 2001, he was one of the signatories to a letter published in the Independent, which urged the British government to reconsider its support for the expansion of state-funded “faith schools”, and, in 2003, was a signatory of the BHA petition calling for a public holiday on the anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.

Imagine my amazement, therefore, when I read in the UK’s Daily Telegraph that a memorial service had been held for him in Christchurch Cathedral, Oxford, at which the dean, the Very Rev. Christopher Lewis, gave “a Gaelic blessing” and the Very Rev. John Jury, chaplain Christ Church College, led prayers.

Would Kennedy be turning in his grave, if he had one, I wonder? I also wonder who would have been responsible for arranging such a highly inappropriate ceremony. And, in any case, don’t these God-botherers have any respect at all for a person’s nonbelief?

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