I’ve rarely seen it so starkly said:
“We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism,” says Colin Slee, the Dean of Southwark. “Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England. Most of them would regard each other as destined to fry in hell.
“You have a triangle with fundamentalist secularists in one corner, fundamentalist faith people in another, and then the intelligent, thinking liberals of Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, baptism, methodism, other faiths – and, indeed, thinking atheists – in the other corner. ” says Slee. Why does he think the other two groups are so vociferous? “When there was a cold war, we knew who the enemy was. Now it could be anybody. From this feeling of vulnerability comes hysteria.”
Wow. So Dawkins is setting off bombs, appropriating religious people’s land, and hates gay people? And he thinks Christians and Muslims are going to hell? Talk about not getting it…
I like how he categorizes people of faith as the reasonable ones, with a few “thinking atheists” tossed in so he can sound inclusive.
The article really doesn’t get any better from there. It makes the premise that atheism is identical to fundamentalism, and ties it to violence and attempts to deprive people of their civil rights, all claims completely contrary to the evidence (but who cares? It’s OK to slag mere atheists with lies), and it’s all wrapped up in a hysterical frenzy of anti-Dawkins terror. That guy really hit a sore spot, didn’t he?
As usual, there’s the expected whining about Dawkins’ book by people who, if they even bothered to read it, didn’t understand it. I like this attempt to escape the anti-religion logic:
Gray argues that this fixation misses the point of religions: “The core of most religions is not doctrinal. In non-western traditions and even some strands of western monotheism, the spiritual life is not a matter of subscribing to a set of propositions. Its heart is in practice, in ritual, observance and (sometimes) mystical experience . . . When they dissect arguments for the existence of God, atheists parody the rationalistic theologies of western Christianity.”
Shorter John Gray: “We know religion is stupid, but it makes us feel good.”
If that’s all religion is, I suggest he take up Tai Chi for the ritual, go sit in a forest or by the seashore for a ‘mystical’ experience, and join a book club for the sense of community. I have to despise these arguments that try to pretend religion is not what it is—they are in essence conceding that the atheist’s criticisms are valid and that they have to redefine religion to avoid them, but they are not intellectually honest enough to admit that the existence of gods, souls, an afterlife, and the efficacy of prayer are indefensible propositions.
And then there’s Rabbi Julia Neuberger.
Neuberger is to take on Hitchens, Dawkins and Grayling when she speaks at a debate against the motion We’d Be Better Off Without Religion next month. The debate has been moved to a bigger venue. “What I find really distasteful is not just the tone of their rhetoric, but their lack of doubt,” she says. “No scientific method says that there is no doubt. If you don’t accept there’s doubt in all things, you’re being intellectually dishonest. “
Hasn’t. Read. The. Book.
Atheism, even that firebrand atheism Dawkins is pushing, certainly does admit to doubt, and Dawkins wrote at considerable length about it. All the good Rabbi has to do is expose us to some evidence for her religion, and we’ll consider it. Too bad these religious kooks never have any.
If that’s going to be Neuberger’s tack, though, this debate is going to be entertaining—Dawkins will mop the floor with her. There’s something wonderful about a debate opponent who not only charges in with a silly proposition, but does so by completely mischaracterizing the other side; it should be a real Emily Litella moment.