Anglican Samizdat

April 24, 2010

How Christopher Hitchens copes with futility

Filed under: Atheism,Nothing in Particular — David Jenkins @ 11:10 am
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Albert Camus in his novel, The Plague, makes the point that without God humans live in an indifferent, incomprehensible universe that has no rational meaning or order. Camus’ solution to this little problem is not resignation or stoicism but to fight back even though it may be with the knowledge that the fight is futile. For an atheistic existentialist, life’s meaning is found not in overcoming, but in struggling against  the apparent evil in the natural order of things. This struggle in the certain knowledge of ultimate failure defines man’s freedom: he is not merely a puppet of the natural order that created him.

I think this is a daft way to live but, as can be seen in this exchange with William Lane Craig, it seems to be an energising principle behind Christopher Hitchens’ attempt to live with the futility of his own existence. The difference between Camus and Hitchens is that, whereas Hitchens never tires of expressing his hatred of all things Christian, Camus had a grudging respect for believers who lived by their Christian principles.

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April 20, 2010

Who made God?

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 11:41 am
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Is a question atheists often pose to counter a theist’s argument that a creator God is likely because of the universe’s complexity and appearance of design.

The question, “if God made the universe, who made God?” contains a category error:

A category error occurs when someone acts as though some object had properties which it does not or cannot have. The reason why it cannot have those properties is because the properties belong to objects in some other category or class. For example:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

The above sentence commits at least two category errors. One is the attribution of the property of color (green) to something immaterial (ideas). This is an example of a property (color) which “ideas” cannot have. A second is the attribution of a property of speed/manner (furiously) to an action (sleep). This is an example of a specific property which sleep does not have, even though sleep can have other, similar properties – like soundly or quickly.

God, by definition, is in the category of things that are not created.

The universe began at the big bang; before the big bang it did not exist. It is in the category of things that are created.

To ask “who made God?” can only make sense if it is asked about a created god, not about the uncreated eternal Christian God.

So, for an atheist to ask, “if God made the universe, who made God?” in order to try and weaken the argument for God from design is illogical.

April 16, 2010

Richard Dawkins’ morality

Filed under: Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 5:58 pm
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Is Richard Dawkins trying to protect children in his current efforts to arrest the Pope? Probably not; in this talk with Peter Singer, Dawkins declares that, in the right circumstances, he favours infanticide:

In another section he nods happily as Peter Singer expresses his approval of eating human roadkill – as long as the unfortunate’s relatives agree:

For those who might complain that I have extracted these comments and placed them out of context, go here to subject yourself to the whole bizarre exchange.

Dawkins’ rather primitive concept of morality seems to hinge on a few assumptions: suffering is bad; humans are mere animals. Consequently, depending on the degree of sentience of the animal, killing animals can be as bad as killing humans; animal suffering can be as bad as human suffering; killing someone – including a child – to end their suffering is good; cannibalism is equivalent to eating animals.

This is the man who is attempting to assert himself as a moral authority over the Catholic Church.

April 13, 2010

Atheist says he has converted to Christianity after listening to Christopher Hitchens

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 8:39 am
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After being a hard atheist for 8 or 9 years, the speaker from the audience at the University of Florida says he has converted to Christianity having seen Satan himself – in the guise of Christopher Hitchens – on stage.

Obviously the speaker is not serious, but the reaction of some of the bystanders is interesting – they want to shut him up.

March 17, 2010

How arrogant is Dawkins? Let me count the ways

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 11:08 am
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Well, one way.

Bertrand Russell, mathematician, philosopher and atheist, when asked what he would say to God if he met him after death, answered “Not enough evidence, God!  Not enough evidence!” Although he continued to call himself an atheist, Russell acknowledged that, technically, he was an agnostic, since he didn’t believe in the non-existence of God.

Richard Dawkins, when asked the same question, not only didn’t answer it, but mocked the questioner. Today’s coterie of atheists really do give atheism a bad name and would undoubtedly make atheists of the past wince; even though I still disagreed with them, at least they had a modicum of wit, finesse, decency and understood the philosophical difficulties that hard atheism presents.

March 16, 2010

A new form of Christian evangelism: atheist conferences

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 9:17 am
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The blustering rudeness of contemporary atheists appears to have driven at least one person closer to God:

THE Global Atheists Convention in Melbourne last weekend worked a miracle on me.

I’ve never felt more like believing in God. Especially the Christian one.

My near conversion occurred because the convention’s speakers managed to confirm my worst fear.

No, it’s not that God may actually exist, and be cross that I doubted.

It’s that if the Christian God really is dead, then there’s not much to stop people here from being barbarians.

I’d have hoped that the Atheists Convention’s speakers would have reassured me not just by fine words but finer example that a godless society will nevertheless be a good one.

But what did they show me instead? First there was the world’s most famous atheist, former Oxford don and Selfish Gene author Richard Dawkins, who smeared Joseph Ratzinger as the “Pope Nazi” and mocked Family First Senator Steve Fielding as dumber than an “earthworm”. The insult to the Pope (right) is truly vile. As a 14-year-old, Ratzinger was conscripted by the Nazi regime into the Hitler Youth, then compulsory for all German boys.

Yet Dawkins was far from the only speaker to unleash the hatred he claimed Christianity inspired. ABC Science Show presenter Robyn Williams boasted he could mount “a devastating argument against religion in two words: ‘Senator Fielding”‘, an insult which the hooting crowd clapped.

Added Williams: “Richard Dawkins said his IQ is lower than an earthworm, but I think earthworms are useful.”

Rationalist Society president Ian Robinson joined in, asking if there were any believers in the audience, adding: “OK, I’ll speak really slowly.”

The fourth speaker, Age columnist Catherine Deveny, saved her worst for the ABC’s Q&A show on Monday, tweeting from the set that fellow panellist Peter Dutton, the Opposition health spokesman, had “a face of a rapist”.

March 15, 2010

Atheist insecurity

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 12:47 pm
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Melanie Phillips has an excellent article on the recent Australian atheist convention:

Dawkins preaches to the deluded against the divine.

LIKE revivalists from an alternative universe, 2500 hardcore believers in the absence of religion packed into the Global Atheists Convention in Melbourne last weekend to give a hero’s welcome to the high priest of belief in unbelief, Richard Dawkins.

The bestselling author of The God Delusion was similarly fawned over by the Australian media, which uncritically lapped up everything he said.

This was even after (or perhaps because) he referred to the Pope as a Nazi, which managed to combine defamation of the pontiff with implicit Holocaust denial.

By comparison, Family First senator Steve Fielding may feel he got off lightly when Dawkins described him merely as more stupid than an earthworm.

For someone who has made a career out of telling everyone how much more tolerant the world would be if only religion were obliterated from the human psyche, Dawkins manages to appear remarkably intolerant towards anyone who disagrees with him.

Today’s anti-theists resort to insulting their opponents, are sanctimoniously self-righteous about atheistic morality, are irrational, fundamentalist, angry, untruthful, bigoted, arrogant and intolerant. And, according to Melanie Phillips, insecure.

Other than that they are a lovely bunch.

March 13, 2010

Atheists sawing through the branch they are sitting on

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 11:01 am
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As they meet in Melbourne to celebrate their lack of faith:

More than 2,000 atheists from around the world are gathering in Melbourne, Australia, to celebrate their lack of religious belief.

It is thought to be the world’s largest gathering of atheist thinkers. There is a determination to avoid what one session calls Atheistic Fundamentalism, says our correspondent.

Participants will be urged to avoid “missionary zeal” in their determination to promote their non-religious message to the world.

As this article notes, Dawkins’ brand of neo logical positivist scientism rests as much on faith as Christianity, Judaism or the foam-flecked ravings of a benighted pagan animism  – also known as Anglican-nouveau:

The truth is that science, like religion, starts off beyond reason and then becomes rational. Science is based on faith that the universe is rational. No scientist would begin to do science if they presupposed the universe is beyond understanding. The scientific search for the most simple and elegant theory is motivated by faith that such a theory exists. Charles Townes, a Nobel Prize winner for physics, said: “Science is so successful we are enthralled. Many people don’t realize that science basically involves assumptions and faith . . . nothing is absolutely proved.”

March 11, 2010

The denaturing of evil

Filed under: Christianity — David Jenkins @ 2:53 pm
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The New Statesman would like to substitute “damaged” for “evil”:

Bulger killers were damaged, not evil.

Why can we not see Jon Venables and Robert Thompson as both victims and perpetrators?

Since the 1993 murder on Merseyside of the toddler James Bulger, the single most profound shift in our understanding of what creates disturbed children comes not from the criminal justice system, but from neuroscience. It is the graphic evidence for something many parents instinctively feel: that love is as vital to children as breathing. Brain scans conducted in the 1990s on children from Romanian orphanages deprived of almost all human interaction show a virtual black hole where the part of their brains dealing with managing emotions should be. The scans suggest the infant mind is not born but made, building itself like a muscle over the first two years of life as parental attention triggers physical responses in the brain.

In Samuel Butler’s Erehwon, the sick are treated as criminals and those who commit crimes as people in need of healing. For today’s elite, having largely abandoned the idea that the will exists independently of the brain, the latter of Butler’s ideas does not seem too far-fetched. Evil, for an atheist, is not rebellion against absolute moral law, it is simply something he doesn’t like, something that disrupts the harmony of the information processing capacity of his neurons. For example, in Christopher Hitchens’ case it is something that seeks to diminish his ego.

Most people, though, even though they may be adiabolists, instinctively understand that evil is real. In the case of Venables and Thompson, their killing of a helpless toddler was an act of evil for which they bear responsibility; to claim otherwise is to make them less than human – it assumes their freedom of choice had been “damaged” to such an extent by their parents that it no longer existed.

Nevertheless, there is still hope for Venables and Thompson: it is in acknowledging the evil they have done and in the saving power of Jesus Christ.

March 8, 2010

Arguing with atheists

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 7:21 pm
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An interesting article by the other Hitchens, Peter; read it all here

He [Christopher] often assumes that moral truths are self-evident, attributing purpose to the universe and swerving dangerously round the problem of conscience – which surely cannot be conscience if he is right since the idea of conscience depends on it being implanted by God. If there is no God then your moral qualms might just as easily be the result of indigestion.

Yet Christopher is astonishingly unable to grasp that these assumptions are problems for his argument. This inability closes his mind to a great part of the debate, and so makes his atheist faith insuperable for as long as he himself chooses to accept it.

One of the problems atheists have is the unbelievers’ assertion that it is possible to determine what is right and what is wrong without God. They have a fundamental inability to concede that to be effectively absolute a moral code needs to be beyond human power to alter.

On this misunderstanding is based my brother Christopher’s supposed conundrum about whether there is any good deed that could be done only by a religious person, and not done by a Godless one. Like all such questions, this contains another question: what is good, and who is to decide what is good?

It is striking that in his dismissal of a need for absolute theistic morality, Christopher says in his book that ‘the order to “love thy neighbour as thyself” is too extreme and too strenuous to be obeyed’. Humans, he says, are not so constituted as to care for others as much as themselves.

This is demonstrably untrue, and can be shown to be untrue, through the unshakable devotion of mothers to their children; in the uncounted cases of husbands caring for sick, incontinent and demented wives (and vice versa) at their lives’ ends; through the heartrending deeds of courage on the battlefield.

I am also baffled and frustrated by the strange insistence of my anti-theist brother that the cruelty of Communist anti-theist regimes does not reflect badly on his case and on his cause. It unquestionably does.

He has bricked himself up high in his atheist tower, with slits instead of windows from which to shoot arrows at the faithful, and would find it rather hard to climb down out of it.

I have, however, the more modest hope that he might one day arrive at some sort of acceptance that belief in God is not necessarily a character fault, and that religion does not poison everything.

Beyond that, I can only add that those who choose to argue in prose, even if it is very good prose, are unlikely to be receptive to a case which is most effectively couched in poetry.

Peter Hitchens makes the interesting point that an atheist world view – particularly that of Christopher Hitchens – is rooted in the emotional, or poetic, rather than the rational.

That is why having an argument with an atheist is a bit like this:

February 24, 2010

Richard Dawkins keeps attracting the wrong sorts of people

Filed under: Atheism,Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 9:28 pm
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Richard Dawkins is re-vamping his forum – which he modestly calls “a clear thinking oasis” – and, because of that, people have been calling him names.

Dawkins puts this down to there being something rotten in the Internet culture. He might have a point to a degree, but, comically, the rather obvious thing he has overlooked is that a forum devoted to atheism attracts a lot of people who are more interested in irrationally venting their spleen than in calm reasoned argument.

From the exchanges with atheists on this blog, I have noticed that most atheists – all who have commented here – are emotional atheists: their belief system is based mainly on feeling. When a visiting atheists is asked to explain himself, one is confronted by a torrent of chaotic, emotive, unexamined aphorisms and clichés.

Just as he overlooks the obvious reason for Creation, Dawkins overlooks the obvious reason for the name-calling. Here is some of Dawkins’ response:

A Message from Richard Dawkins about the website updates

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this:

Dear forum members,

We wanted you all to know at the earliest opportunity about our new website currently in development. RichardDawkins.net will have a new look and feel, improved security, and much more. Visits to the site have really grown over the past 3 1/2 years, and this update gives us an opportunity to address several issues. Over the years we’ve become one of the world’s leading resources for breaking rational and scientific news from all over the net and creating original content. We are focusing on quality content distribution, and will be bringing more original articles, video and other content as we grow.

The new RichardDawkins.net will have a fully-integrated discussion section. This will be a new feature for the site, similar to the current forum, but not identical. We feel the new system will be much cleaner and easier to use, and hopefully this will encourage participation from a wider variety of users.

We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value. When the new website goes live, you are welcome to submit these posts as new discussions. The forum will then be taken down from the web. You will not loose your username on the new system.

The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as “Education”, “Children”, and “Critical Thinking”. Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation’s goals and values.

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible.

We’re confident that these changes will improve the site experience and we look forward to seeing what you do with the new system.

Many thanks again.

[…..]

Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.

Richard

Update: Ruth Gledhill has more on this here and here.

February 23, 2010

Richard Dawkins likes the King James Bible

Filed under: Atheism,Richard Dawkins — David Jenkins @ 1:23 pm
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In speaking of the King James Bible, Richard Dawkins makes the extraordinary claim that “religion must not be allowed to hijack this cultural resource”.

Evidently it hasn’t occurred to him that he is the one doing the hijacking.

To rob the Bible of “religion” is to expunge its meaning and make it merely aesthetic. Someone should tell Richard that he is too late: this has already been tried by the Anglican Church.

Mindful things

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 1:02 pm
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The existence of Mind presents one of the greatest problems for atheists. In attempting to understand the universe, Descartes began with what most certainly exists – I think, therefore I am – and then used the ontological argument to demonstrate the next most certain thing to exist: God.

Materialist atheists, though, start with the assumption that all that exists is the material; mind must be explained as a result of the material. Although some softer atheists like Christopher Hitchens like to claim that the material, in producing Mind, has created the numinous, the Dawkins breed of atheist would not agree – and, indeed, Hitchens’ position doesn’t make much sense. So the atheist is left with this problem:

If God does not exist:

Mind is the product of the material
No thought can exist that is not the product of the material
Belief in God is a thought
Some people believe in God
The material creates thoughts that are unreliable
Thought that claims to explain the working of the universe is unreliable

Another way to look at this – although it doesn’t solve the above problem – is  that without the transcendent, to explain conciousness we have to resort to something called panpsychism; if Mind is real and there is nothing other than the material, then the material must contain consciousness and all things must posses a degree of being conscious. Thus the atheist’s never ending quest to seek the least likely explanation for existence reaches new depths of unbelievability:

Daniel Dennett is a panpsychist. He wouldn’t admit it in public, and he might not even realize it. Yet Dennett, one of the foremost materialists in the early part of the 21st Century, advocates views regarding consciousness, biology, and philosophy that unavoidably lead to that most ridiculous of philosophical views: that all things have some degree of consciousness, otherwise known as panpsychism.

For those who don’t know, Dan Dennett is a professor of philosophy at Tufts University in Massachusetts. I had the good fortune of meeting Dennett recently and found that he is in fact a very pleasant man, courteous and with a great sense of humor.

Dennett has written numerous books, including, most recently, Breaking the Spell, an anti-religion screed that places him firmly among the “new atheists” school of thought. The new atheists, which include Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and others, take as their primary target the traditional view of God as a creator and patriarch who exercises an ongoing role in his creation. This traditional view, known as theism, is quite hard to defend for anyone who has scientific or philosophical training. But Dennett and the rest of the new atheists go too far, rejecting most notions of divinity as part and parcel of their rejection of traditional religion.

Dennett has also written books on Darwinian evolution (Darwin’s Dangerous Idea) and consciousness (Consciousness Explained and Brainstorms, among others). He is, with the British biologist Dawkins, probably the best-known proponent of what I call “crude materialism.” Crude materialism is the hardcore – some would say dogmatic – version of materialism. It is the view, in essence, that the universe is all just matter and space, there is no God, and all things can in principle be explained fully through human inquiry and theorizing.

Crude materialists believe, to speak very generally, that mind (consciousness) is “merely” what brains do. Once we explain the brain’s various functions we have then explained all that there is to explain. Explain the brain and we have explained the mind.

Dennett has acknowledged, however, that “subjective experience” is real. The phrase subjective experience refers simply to the first-person perspective (I, we) as opposed to a third-person (he, she, it, they) perspective. It is the sense of being here—right here, somewhere behind my eyes and between my ears, or so it seems. When philosophers talk about explaining consciousness, or when they speak of the mind-body problem, this is what they are trying to explain.

Dennett has also argued forcefully against the idea of conscious experience being something fundamentally different than what is simply matter. Dennett seems to be most opposed to what is called “dualism.” Descartes was the best-known dualist and he argued that there is physical stuff and there is mental stuff. There is also some organ in the body, most likely the pineal gland at the base of the brain, which allows these two different stuffs to interact. For Descartes, only humans had mind, so all other animals were considered mere automatons devoid of any kind of consciousness or spirit. Dualism is not a common position today among philosophers or scientists, but it’s still fairly common in religious views of the world which refer to “spirit” or “soul” as something separate from mindless matter.

Dennett often mentions the history of “vitalism” in biology, as an argument by analogy, to show why dualism is wrong. Vitalists argued that there is something special, some élan vital, imbuing certain kinds of matter with properties that make it “alive.” Vitalism was a fairly common view until the early 20th Century. This argument has long since been (rightly) discredited because we have found that there is nothing else to explain about “life” once we explain the functions of living organisms. In other words, according to anti-vitalists like Dennett, “life” isn’t a quality or a thing, it’s just a label we give to certain types of matter that exhibit more complex behavior than what we generally think of as being not alive. But there’s not a clear dividing line between life and non-life.

Now here’s my main point, though it’s admittedly a fairly subtle point. If Dennett is a materialist, and he admits that subjective experience is real—and he is an anti-vitalist and anti-dualist—then he must also be a panpsychist. This is the case because if materialism is true, and at the same time subjective experience is real, then matter must include subjective experience—consciousness itself.

If anti-vitalism is true, life does not suddenly appear where it was not present before. It must exist in a continuum from the simplest forms of matter through the chain of being all the way to us, human beings. As an anti-vitalist, Dennett can’t argue consistently that consciousness materialized at some arbitrary point in the history of the universe. Ergo, life and consciousness are present, in some amount, in the simplest forms of matter as well as the most complex forms we know of today. In other words, all things are alive to some degree, and all things are conscious to some degree. This is panpsychism.

A difference between what we consider to be “life” and what we consider to be “consciousness” is that explaining the functions of consciousness does not explain consciousness itself. The various functions of human consciousness, such as sight, dreaming, etc., we may explain, but these functions presuppose a first-person point of view, subjective experience. We must explain this first-person point of view if we’re seeking insight into the nature of the universe—or “merely” of consciousness.

I have in recent years come to the position that panpsychism is the best explanation we have of mind, matter, and spirituality, after pondering these issues for over 20 years. The best-known panpsychists in western history include Spinoza, Schopenhauer, William James, Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, J.B.S. Haldane, David Bohm, and many others. Unfortunately, panpsychism is still not taken seriously by most scientists or philosophers. But it should be.

So why does all of this matter (pardon the pun)? It matters because it shows that crude materialism, an increasingly common worldview in the Western world, holds inherent contradictions, the surest sign that a theory or paradigm is problematic.

And it shows that consciousness is not, as materialists generally argue, a property particular to complex forms of matter (such as human beings). Consciousness is in fact a property of all matter. As matter has complexified, through the process of evolution, consciousness has complexified. This can form the basis for not only a satisfying and consistent philosophical and scientific worldview, it also forms the basis for linking science and spirituality in a rational framework that incorporates areas more traditionally left to faith.

February 1, 2010

Atheists whine for government support

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 12:42 pm
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An atheist convention in Melbourne has sold out:

AN ATHEIST convention in Melbourne has sold out six weeks before it opens despite no aid from any level of government, organisers said yesterday.

Convention organiser and Atheist Foundation of Australia president David Nicholls said the state government had ”stabbed the people of Victoria in the back” by not helping, forcing organisers to hire smaller venues.

It is a mystery why atheists feel entitled to support from taxpayers, particularly when one of the speakers is Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University. Singer is a utilitarian whose notion of “ethics” would be more at home in a Nazi eugenics lab than in a civilised society. Among other things, he approves of killing disabled babies, euthanasia for those he regards as mentally deficient and  recreational bestiality.

Singer is, effectively, Dawkins unmasked.

January 29, 2010

Dawkins for bishop

Filed under: Atheism — David Jenkins @ 1:02 pm
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Richard Dawkins has written a characteristically emotional anti-Christian philippic in the Times:

Where was God in Noah’s flood? He was systematically drowning the entire world, animal as well as human, as punishment for “sin”. Where was God when Sodom and Gomorrah were consumed with fire and brimstone? He was deliberately barbecuing the citizenry, lock, stock and barrel, as punishment for “sin”.

“Oh but that’s the Old Testament. No one believes those stories literally any more. The New Testament is all about love.” Dear modern, enlightened, theologically sophisticated, gentle Christian, you cannot be serious. Your entire religion is founded on an obsession with “sin”, with punishment and with atonement. Where do you find the effrontery to condemn Pat Robertson, you who have signed up to the odious doctrine that the central purpose of Jesus’s incarnation was to have himself tortured as a scapegoat for the “sins” of all mankind, past, present and future, beginning with the “sin” of Adam, who (as any modern theologian well knows) never even existed?

George Pitcher reckons that Dawkins is not only an embarrassment to thinking atheists, but is an effective recruiting tool for Christianity. He has a point; ten minutes of Dawkins’ rodomontade in an Alpha course would drive out any doubts lingering in the mind of a potential believer.

Pitcher would prefer to make him a bishop:

As I’ve said before, Dawkers is a great recruiting officer for faith. He repels tolerant atheists and inspires uncommitted inquirers to look further into what he so ludicrously and entertainingly misrepresents. I think he should be made an honorary bishop.

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