Monday, 4 April 2011

In the Bad Books

Te Graun has a corker of an interview with CJ Grayling. CJ provides a veritable trainwreck of logic, which he no doubt thinks is a razor sharp and ice cold analysis of the situation that is facing us:

'It's only in the past decade that these three strands of thought have developed into a public campaign against faith – but it wasn't the atheists, according to Grayling, who provoked the confrontation. "The reason why it's become a big issue is that religions have turned the volume up, because they're on the back foot. The hold of religion is weakening, definitely, and diminishing in numbers. The reason why there's such a furore about it is that the cornered animal, the loser, starts making a big noise."

Well, call me a cornered animal CJ and it really is a red rag to a bull. But who is the 'cornered animal'? It seems to me that the C of E is too much of a poodle to really be much of a cornered animal to have you quaking in your boots CJ. Or is it the Islamists, who seem to be going strong and increasing in numbers? Or is it the unmuzzled rabid dogs of the American Evangelical right who are getting increasing power and seem to have slipped their leashes that are making this thunderous noise so beloved of losers?
He continues:

Well, firstly, I think the charges of militancy and fundamentalism of course come from our opponents, the theists. My rejoinder is to say when the boot was on their foot they burned us at the stake. All we're doing is speaking very frankly and bluntly and they don't like it," he laughs. "So we speak frankly and bluntly, and the respect agenda is now gone, they can no longer float behind the diaphanous veil – 'Ooh, I have faith so you mustn't offend me'. So they don't like the blunt talking. But we're not burning them at the stake. They've got to remember that when it was the other way around it was a much more serious matter.

Well, that's it CJ. Never again will I be able to float behind a diaphanous veil. In fact I think I'd plummet like a lead balloon if I tried. I've heard tell that you can still float behind a diaphanous veil in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia... but can I take it you're not going to set up office there to bring them down to earth with a thud?

Still, I suppose we 'theists' who have never burnt anyone alive at the stake, or stoned people, or thrown acid in faces, or murdered Ossetian schoolkids should be very grateful that you have chosen to make your priority the Census methodology which will really free us from the manacles of the Inquisition and has no doubt saved countless people from being burnt at the stake. But... what's all this about 'they' and 'them' and 'us'? Its like a right libertarian talking about 'government': some bizarre abstract entity that justifies their persecution complex. Except I actually find right libertarians a bit less scary (not to mention a bit more rational given that the world really does have some horrific theocratic regimes, but the Humanist Society's heroic assault on 'Thought for the Day' will do b***er all for the victims).

Still, all is not doom and gloom so let's lighten up. Cj has a very original line in side-splitting humour, which will leave you with aching sides:

'The little jokes and kindly bearing can make Grayling sound quite benignly jovial about religion at times, as he chuckles away about "men in dresses" and "believing in fairies at the bottom of the garden"

I feel poleaxed by these utterly original aphorisms. They are a hammer blow to my faith and make me want to run like greased lightning to embrace atheism.


  1. Great post. I think the New Atheists are missing something in their analysis of the decline of religion in the industrialized countries. What they see as atheism on the march I see more as indifference on the march.

    Although I can’t back up my assertions with hard data, I would think that much of the decline of religion in the First World has more to do with consumerist materialism or the perception that the organized religions are corrupt or uncaring than with people thinking deeply about rationalism and atheist philosophy.

    In the 1940s and 1950s, when the Catholic worker-priests in France and Belgium encountered actual working people in the factories and slums, they learned that the dechristianisation of the workers grew out of a feeling that the Church was not interested in their plight.

    I suspect that the same is true for many people in the First World today. Indeed, while I can’t speak for other countries, in the United States the major decline in church attendance is now taking place among working-class people, a complete reversal of the situation in the 1970s when it was the affluent that were leaving the churches and the working class was the backbone of organized religion.

    Of course, besides class issues, consumerism drives people towards indifference. Advertising suppresses religion by making it seem like an impractical and useless endeavor. “Get every last drop out of life, because when you are dead, that is it!” is essentially the modern ethos of the rich countries.

    The problem for the New Atheists is that these factors are rather crude when compared to what I think men like Dawkins and Grayling wish were pulling people away from religion. Understandably, they would rather ascribe any decline in religious belief to the force of rationalist philosophy than to car adverts.

  2. Thank you for your comment John. In fact for all the triumphalism of Brit atheists, the Orthodox Church is doing very well in Eastern Europe. Perhaps this is because Greek/Romanian Priests tend to be very down to earth (as my mum says of a young local Romanian Priest 'he's one of the boys').

    Ironically, given that the Anglican Church includes a parish that showed 'The Life of Brian' a Bishop who denied the resurrection and generally seems to be filled with uncle tom priests who seem more anxious to get the acclaim of Grayling/Dawkins than to bring the creed to its parishioners, surely the weakness of Anglicanism actually negates the idea that atheism is especially influential.

    Oddly enough, also I notice that official atheists seem increasingly reluctant to define what exactly they are. Are they moral philosophers? If so, then what of the increasingly vocal atheist right? Will they decide that consumerism is the best answer to religion? I fear that this could result in a rater evil pact in future.