Saturday, 19 March 2011

Liberalism, Nationalism and Rationalism

Above is a photo of a fossil I found called 'Osteolepis'. It's a rhipidistia from roughly 400 million years ago; the branch of fish that it belonged to are the ancestors of most land vertebrates from snakes to eagles to humans.

An amazing thought which for me is full of awe, which for me is one of the wonders of science and why I feel faith and science go hand in hand. I feel considerably greater awe at this than the thought of visiting a creationist museum where rubber cavemen in pigskin nappies wander around at the feet of plastic dinosaurs.

In fact the creationist museum would only be entertaining compared to some outlets of the modern atheist movement like this website which is so profoundly vulgar and self-congratulating. In its own words 'it's commentary from a secular, rationalist, skeptical, somewhat lefty-liberal, sort of perspective'

Weirdly enough I think it is more as a Scot than as a Christian that I find these unqualified congratulatory adjectives so alien. I don't know what sort of patter you get from the author of 'the pod delusion' but I'm betting that irony isn't really their forte.

Which is probably why they invite Johann Hari to tell them how wonderful and moral they are and why modern Britain is so wonderful and moral. Being rational and sceptical he's probably come armed with reams of facts and figures to support this claim, hasn't he? Well, no. Apparently gays and women are better of in an atheistic nation (like the USSR or Cuba?).

Whether or not these are the sole criteria for morality, Hari provides as much objective evidence as to their correlation with noisy atheism as he does for any of its other 'achievements': zilch.
And I don't remember being given a questionnaire as to whether I believe in God and whether my faith makes me want to oppress women or gays.

But his idea of womenkind's exalted place in secular Blighty isn't really a consistent theme in his writing, as in this article he proudly linked to recently.

Whilst the theme is hero worship of men who are brutal to women I have to say I emphatically don't worship William Jefferson Clinton who bombed my Orthodox cousins in Serbia. But I would hesitate to call him a rapist given his lack of trial by jury, sound conviction and all (and maybe best not to bring Christopher Hitchens in as star witness when criticising fawning articles about Norman Mailer).

Yet when you read on you get the impression that trial by jury isn't something that matters much to secular atheist fanaticism:

'Why do we so carefully turn a blind eye to the bruised bodies of so many abused women? This selective blindness isn't confined to news coverage; it informs our political life. Imagine if in Britain today, hundreds of thousands of men were being pinned down – in hotels, living rooms, and back alleys – and anally raped by their "friends" or acquaintances, and virtually no one was ever punished for it. It would be one of the biggest issues in British politics. Yet it really does happen to women – so it is a third-tier issue, wheeled out once a decade.'

Uhm, no sane human being denies that rape is a horrific crime. It's just that the law of the land tends to go about these things on a case by case sort of a way: not a quota.

Yet, I increasingly feel that in future this could well change. I feel sympathetic to any primary research on why there is a dissonance between convicted and alleged rape and welcome any rational constructive recommendations (which is not the same thing as increasing conviction anymore than it would be to decrease conviction), but I do feel worried by the thought that anti-male bigotry should be a blinding force for irrational legal reform.

More and more I feel that England is going down a divergent path: that liberalism is growing increasingly intolerant and irrational as its ideals divert from reality. There are certainly aspects of Scots nationalism that I find embarrassing (for readers' benefit I don't have a kilt, Glengarry, Corries collection or Claymore). However, I increasingly think if there is a political division then this will be due more to the irrational energy of mainstream English liberalism than atavistic nationalism on either side of the border.


  1. Great post. I think the extreme emphasis on rationality is driving liberalism off the deep end. Christians from Apostolic traditions, for example, are perhaps more comfortable with mysteries and are therefore better able to deal with the messiness of the real world.

    To hyper-rational liberals, this may seem like intellectual sloppiness, but I think a little bit of sloppiness can go a long way. Perhaps this is why I feel more comfortable in a house that is not perfectly tidy. It seems more "human" to me.

  2. @John
    Tank you for your comment, though I think it is more the cae that hyper-liberalism is warping their concept of rationality rather than rationality warping liberalism. ThoughI agree about the way Apostolic Christianity has more insights about human nature than general liberal humanism.

    Incidentally, have you ever read any of GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories?

  3. Some bad states (USSR/Cuba) = atheists, therefore atheists = bad states. What insight. This is why history should be compulsory, otherwise you end up with arguments as ridiculous as this.

    You also seem to be connecting arguments (such as the one you site about rape trials) to atheism. Just because one athiest talks about it doesn't make it anything to do with atheists! Plenty of religious people make the same arguments, but no one is connecting it to any religion!

    Your entry is ridden with false assumptions - in particular the assumpton that one person (or podcast) speaks for all atheists or humanists.

    It doesn't work the way organised religion does - the vast majority of atheists don't *do* anything about it, they just live their lives and don't have a religion.

    The idea that they have spokespeople is simply wrong (like saying that people who don't believe in ghost have one!), and shows a fundamental lack of understanding of the subject matter.

  4. Hi Gregor,

    Great points.

    No, I have not read any of GK Chesterton's Father Brown stories. I should though, I hear many good things about them.

  5. Hi John and Gregor. I haven't read Father Brown stories either, but I'm a big fan of Father Ted.

  6. Amy,

    'The idea that they have spokespeople is simply wrong'

    Richard Dawkins?!

    I'm also an atheist but I think there is an element of modern atheism that seems to want to pick a fight with religion and religious people in a way that seeks to dehumanise religious belief rather than respect individual rights to come to their own conclusions about human existence.

    3dbloke - you sound pleased about Father Ted.

  7. 'Some bad states (USSR/Cuba) = atheists, therefore atheists = bad states. What insight. This is why history should be compulsory, otherwise you end up with arguments as ridiculous as this.'

    Never made that argument. Just pointed out that Hari's view that people are naturally lacking bigotry until religion creates it is wrong. I'm a Christian yet I've defended the negative liberties of gay people when speaking to some atheists/ agnostics.

    I've probably seen every Fr Ted episode at least 5 times, but if you want to comment here please make a point.

    largely agree with your comment, except that I'm not certain someone can be a spokesperson for a logically negative position. Even with the logically positive position of faith... well for me there's Dostoyevsky, Romanides and Berdyaev. The overwhelming majority of theologians and Christian apologists leave me cold.

    Furthermore, if I were to lose my faith I don't think I could feel anyone who respected Christopher Hitchens as a moral philosopher could really be a spokesman for me. Not just because he supports statist violence against people of belief, he also attacks Russians and Serbs when they were fighting theocrats. Not making justified criticisms of Russian/ Serbian human rights abuses/ massacres but openly supporting their enemies.