Monday, March 30, 2009

The ABC of apologetics

You have to hand it to those religious folks; they really know how to suck up to each other.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has been up to his usual tactic of divide and conquer once again, one wonders why Muslims would publicise such an obvious mutual masturbation session but then I suppose that good news is scarce in some camps these days.

I'm referring to an article that appeared in the "Muslim News" last Friday that outlines an interview with the ABC in which there appears some cracking new one liners for us atheists to ponder, no really, we are seriously plumbing new depths of irony here, in fact I would go as far as to say this is Olympic standard. You can read the full article here, but for expediency let me relay a couple of my favourites,

"I think Islam has made a very significant contribution to getting a debate about religion into public life" - Well, yes you could say that, honour killings, 9/11, Iraq, Danish cartoons, tube bombing, book burnings, beheading, flag burning, indoctrination, state-sponsored terrorism and to top it all the thing with the teddy bear – yes sir, you can't deny that the "debate" is well and truly in all our faces now!

"We can't really be human unless we have a relationship with God" - Just peachy, I think I'll be a teapot now then, what an idiotic thing to say!

On the current economic crisis, "I would blame all of us for having repeatedly voted for governments since the 1980's that have pushed for growth that doesn't always deal with poverty" - So this is some kind of punishment then? Silly me I thought it was caused by a bunch of greedy Americans who borrowed to much money to buy material possessions that they couldn't really afford (80% Christian) and a bunch of Europeans who lapped up without question the collateralised debt that the canny Americans conned them into buying (60% Christian)

Roll on separation of church and state in this country, we need it now more than ever.


Oranjepan said...

Hanif Kureishi has an interesting take.

Artful, not atheist.

Steve Borthwick said...

Thanks for the link Oranjepan;

It does seem like he is teetering on the edge of "coming out" but can't quite bring himself to say it.

Oranjepan said...

I don't know about that.

He does say "God is mankind's finest creation" which is an intensely complex thought which would have profound consequences for our understanding if *true*.

It's a third position close to agnosticism, but still spiritual.

Steve Borthwick said...

O - On second reading I think you are right; I do get the sense though that he might be one of those people who believe in the idea of "belief" but don't actually go along with any particular dogma, a Deist perhaps.

You know, I hate that word "spiritual", what does it really mean; does it just mean "superstitious" or is it simply an admission that there is stuff in the universe we don't understand. I have friends who say things like, "I'm not religious but I'm a very spiritual person", ok but.. ??

Oranjepan said...

He's a creative type so my I guess he's talking about it in an artistic sense.

I don't know much about 'holy spirit' but I can easily understand something like 'team spirit' or 'community spirit'.

From conversations with people from many different faith systems and the thing which always strikes me is that they all describe their understanding of their belief differently.

It was odd to have it pointed out to me that it is only because of our cultural upbringing that we have this conception of 'God' as a great tooth fairy in the sky, so whenever I get harrassed by the growing numbers of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Chirstadelphians etc who prowl around Reading I ask them what they believe and then tell them to try to agree among themselves before I can consider agreeing with any of them.


Steve Borthwick said...

I bet those (street) conversations can get interesting!

I think its true that a lot of crappy memes get spread around because no one bothers to ask the most obvious questions.

Mind you, when you think about it meme's evolve by definition, and if true that's probably what happens with mythology and religion. As the story or dogma moves from one brain to the next it mutates slightly. As time passes the useful mutations survive and the naff ones die out. Perhaps that's why the ideas we are left with are so powerful and so persistent, they have evolved that way!. The philosopher Dan Dennet has some useful ideas around this topic IMO.

Funny you should mention Jehovah's Witness; I used to work with a JW, great guy, we really enjoyed debating stuff and learnt a lot from each other. I put him straight on science and he taught me about some of the social advantages that "believing" can accrue, although he could never convince me that the particular belief set was that important. It was more about a community than anything else for him.

Oranjepan said...


Well, my philosophy teacher (guru?) explained it to me thus: the difference between knowledge and belief is impossible to measure when it's in the heart or in the mind, it only becomes clear when it's written on a piece of paper.

The problem lies in knowing the limitation of our own understanding - so what happens when we try to explain something we've never seen before?

whither originality?

Even though we might not understand something (and how much do any of us understand fully?) it doesn't stop us from trying to explain our instinctual responses. The process of making an attempt can help us learn too.

I get a perverse amusement from anyone who tries to proselytise to me because all I see are their doubts and insecurities, and their need for affirmation of their beliefs.

In one street conversation I had (my patience lasted about 5 minutes) I let this woman do all the talking and it sounded like she was digging a hole and was effectively unconverting herself .

I still feel a bit embarrased about it - I should have asked her to come for a coffee!