Pharyngula

Godless, 1205: Godly, 778

We win! In a debate in London pitting Hitchens, Dawkins, and Grayling against a team of theists, Neuberger, Scruton, and Spivey, the audience voted solidly in favor of those obnoxious atheists.

I’m not sure what the consequences are, but it may mean that every Christian in England has to leave the country. Expect mobs of pious Anglicans to start washing up on beaches in Virginia and Pennsylvania any day now.

Comments

  1. #1 Blake Stacey, OM
    March 29, 2007

    There are enough pious Anglicans left to constitute a mob?

    :-/

  2. #2 wjv
    March 29, 2007

    Wow. Imagine having to debate Dawkins, Grayling and Hitchens all at the same time. I feel… pity.

    Nah.

  3. #3 Kristine
    March 29, 2007

    the philosopher Professor AC Grayling and the evolutionary biologist Professor Richard Dawkins, to whom Mr Hitchens referred tongue-in-cheekly as a “spokesman for the moderate wing” of the atheist movement

    Hahaha! Inyer face, Dawkins critics! (Hitchie must be scoping out a mate, dragging out the humor n’such.)

  4. #4 Saint Gasoline
    March 30, 2007

    I wish I could have heard that. I love Dawkins, and even on the theist’s side I must say that I’ve found Roger Scruton’s philosophy books rather entertaining. This would have been a great event to attend. Too bad I live in Missouri.

  5. #5 Hieronymous Cowherd
    March 30, 2007

    If I might be permitted to consider this as a case ad hominem, I’m amazed the voting went that way considering the parties on either side.

    Dawkins is Dawkins, and, probably due to being married to a time lord, is well on the way to being regarded in the UK as a crank. We like cranks, but it tends to diminish the authority of their arguments.

    Grayling is well known as a publicity whore who unselfconsciously wears a cape. And gives his students reading lists of books out of print, which is unforgiveable if you happen to work in the philosophy department of Waterstones in Gower Street.

    And as for Hitchens, well, Hitchens is pretty much banned from liberal England now on the basis of his slavering devotion to smiting Muslims wherever they occur. It’s also worth noting that Peter Hitchens (journalist) is the brother of Christopher Hitchens (journalist), a hyper conservative pious Anglican, and both brothers’ careers are entirely based on disagreeing with the other brother. A quick dose of family therapy and the British public could be saved thousands of words of sententious ill-thought out journalism.

    On the theists side Nigel Spivey is a tweedy classicist of the sort that probably pops into mind when Hollywood is trying to cast a tweedy classicist and Julia Neuberger is a lovely person marred only by the fact that she expresses that loveliness through religion. Both charmers, basically.

    The fly in the ointment is Scruton, Graylings great UCL rival as philosopher who gets on the radio every time there’s something a bit philosophy-y to discuss. (There was a period in the late 90s when Scuton went quiet – perhaps he was actually working?) and Grayling stepped in to fill his place. Readers may like to note that the UCL philosophy department is a pleasant 15 minute walk away the BBC’s radio studios. Philosopher’s at further flung universities stand no chance of publicity.

    While Grayling’s MO is to be reasonable about everything except religion, Scruton’s philosophy can best be described as contrarianism. He also has one of those very very upper class accents we Brits have long learned to despise. (Never underestimate class as a driver of British society: there was a report on Newsnight last night about child labour on cocoa farms in africa, but I couldn’t concentrate on it because the reporter insisted on pronouncing “down” as “dine”).

    The upshot is that the theists should have carried the day on charm alone. Perhaps the anti-cult of Scruton is still strong enough to overcome the combined egotism that was the atheist bench.

    Meanwhile don’t read too much into the 63% poll listed above: the key question was “do you regard yourself as ‘religious’?”. As a good chunk of christians answered that in the negative, it’s obvious that some people simply regarded the question as meaning “do you go to church” not “do you believe in God”. For the record only 16% of people in the last census (2001) identified themselves as having ‘no religion’. The UK census sample size is slightly less than 60,000 times that of the ICM survey. 16% still makes us one of the most irreligious nations in Europe and pisseth on the US theocracy, but it’s not 63%.

    The trick here, as I see it, is to have an established church. You therefore get the stupid hypocrisy of organised christianity shoved in your face all the way from age 5 (until recent reforms religious studies were the only mandatory subjects in British schools). Christianity therefore ceases to be part of your identity and associated instead with stuff you struggle against to form that identity.

  6. #6 Richard Harris, FCD
    March 30, 2007

    Great post, Hieronymous Cowherd! The only bit that surprised me was “Dawkins is Dawkins, and, probably due to being married to a time lord, is well on the way to being regarded in the UK as a crank.”

    Really? (I mean the crank bit.) I don’t get out much, but I hadn’t heard that.

  7. #7 Hieronymous Cowherd
    March 30, 2007

    @mah9, yes, since the advent of the national curriculum. I’m old enough now to regard that as recent.

    @richard harris, I was exaggerating throughout for effect, obviously, but it’s more that I think Dawkins is in danger of becoming a perceived as a crank in Britain. Not necessarily a harmful drank, but a stock figure in the public life who is ignored because you know exactly what they’re going to say and they’re likely to embarrass you when they say it. A bit like the Archbishop of Canterbury.

    A more visible sense of humour and a little less laser-like focus would do Dawkins’ public persona a world of good, but the weaknesses I perceive play very well in the US, where there is obviously much work to be done.

  8. #8 David Marjanovi?
    March 30, 2007

    Using Internet Explorer 7 and Windows XP here, I should mention that the main page often doesn’t finish loading. Now, for example, I’ll have to follow the link to the previous post maybe 5 times to reach the post I want to reach.

    And no, I won’t uninstall my Flash player. I need it sometimes.

    “Alexender dert” is indeed obviously spam.

  9. #9 David Marjanovi?
    March 30, 2007

    Using Internet Explorer 7 and Windows XP here, I should mention that the main page often doesn’t finish loading. Now, for example, I’ll have to follow the link to the previous post maybe 5 times to reach the post I want to reach.

    And no, I won’t uninstall my Flash player. I need it sometimes.

    “Alexender dert” is indeed obviously spam.

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