Monday, 21 April 2014

Militant atheists?

 So several prominent British humanists have written to the Times objecting to Cameron's description of Britain as a Christian country, saying this is not accurate. Well, I am pretty lukewarm towards politicians who bring up religion anyway as I am cynical enough to wonder whether the desire for votes lies behind the show of piety. I also think the objectors may have a point querying the christian nature of modern day Britain. However, I laughed out loud when I heard on the radio today that one of the signatories (can't remember who it was) had said he was "offended" because Cameron might be implying you couldn't be fully British without being Christian. Offended by something which may or may not have been implied - and most likely wasn't! Offended, really?
To quote the teenagers I know, "get over yourself!"
 They're an arid bunch at times aren't they? I really don't care for militant atheists any more than any other form of extremist.I suppose it is good to know that the different camps can be equally pompous and silly.


  1. The problem is – as Jesus is reported as asking: ‘What is Truth?’

    Another fine series by Ian Hislop finished last night... Our notion of the ‘Olden Days’ is usually a case of history being told to suit the needs of the present, rather than any real concern for facts. I think much of our understanding of Britain’s ‘Christian Past’ falls into a similar category.

    As I’ve noted... there is a tendency to believe there is a ‘one-size-fits-all’ Christianity: usually when Christianity is being used as a means of gaining the reflected glory of the work of this or that Christian or Christian group or as a means of giving weight to this or that view or argument... e.g. A few posts ago on the [God & Politics' Blog], Christians were presented as a group who somehow hold human life in greater reverence than those ignorant fellows who live without belief. Whereas of course, in reality, SOME Christians - particularly today – may hold human life as precious; however history tells us that although Britain was ‘Christian’ for centuries, human life was seen as pretty cheap (particularly the lives of the working classes, wrong-doers, subjects of the Empire, slaves etc.) for much of that time. At this point someone usually chips in and says ‘Yes, but there were Christian reformers...’ – and yes there were, but my point is that they were ‘reformers’ in a society that was a ‘Christian society’ – and there is the real issue for consideration.

    The problem is that there will never be an agreement on such topics or an understanding of history. As noted, it is in the self-interest of Christians to push a particularly view of history – one that tends to show themselves in a rosy glow and conveniently side-steps some awkward questions concerning the ‘wholesomeness’ of Britain as a ‘Christian’ society. In reality of course there is no such thing as a unified Christian view or history – there are individuals and groups with divergent views which shelter under the umbrella (and make use of the symbolic capital) of ‘Christianity’: some do good in society (I would suggest the majority) others are divisive and veil self-interest and prejudice in piety and do great harm. Both are ‘Christian’ – there is no one-size-fits-all Christianity.

    As for the secularists – I don’t think they are any more arrogant than many of our Christian chums – they have their own axe to grind and likewise tinker with history to present their own view in the best light. However, as that old windbag, John Millbank has said ‘Once there was no ‘secular’...’ (his ‘Theology & Social Theory’ is staring at me from my desk, as I write...). Yet there has never been a unified whole when it comes to the religious or theological views of Christianity or any religion for that matter. And more importantly, when Britain didn’t have a concept of the 'secular’ the lot of the vast majority of its population (as regards to social rights, share of the nation’s wealth, rights before law, social opportunity etc.) was far, far worse off than now. Which kind of limits the ‘authority’ of the ‘religious’ heritage of Britain argument.

    There is arrogance on both sides of the argument – yet given the continual disproportionate power of religion in Britain, in terms of the number of Brits who actual participate in congregational religious activity vs. the social privilege, financial support (tax breaks, gift aid etc.), political power (bishops in the legislature) faith leaders co-opted onto this or that QUANGO or committee etc. religion receives in Britain, I wouldn’t get too huffy about a few secularists who have written a (not very good) letter in a newspaper. I think the secularists have a point – but they are incorrect: Britain is a Christian society, in terms of its history and tradition. Thankfully, we’ve moved on... and the limitations and failure of religion to produce wholesome and just societies is what they should be pushing.

  2. I wouldn't say I get huffy about them. I do find their self righteousness irritating- but then it is quite delightfully ironic that they are as narrow and repellent as the each and every one of the religious fundies they dislike. I agree that their letter isn't particularly good- it lacks subtlety, careful thought, and is not particularly well written. I am rather disappointed by their lack of intelligence to be honest.

  3. Is God really God ?