Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Keeping schtum

Research commissioned by the Church of England suggests that four in ten British adults don't think that Jesus was a "real person" who actually lived and nearly a third didn't know anyone who was a practising Christian. Findings like this seem expected these days and although I always take surveys like this with a slight pinch of salt, the general trend would seem to suggest that gradually our society is becoming less (hardcore) religious as time goes on. I think this is good news for all of us; a less religiously biased population is much more inclined to support a proper secular constitution, i.e. a level playing field for everyone without political and financial privilege for members of one particular supernatural belief system. Having spend a fair amount of time over the years talking and debating with religious people and examining their claims I feel there is a fundamental attitudinal shift going on (albeit at a glacial pace), one of the softening of traditional dogmas. Particularly in developed countries there's a general move toward more tolerance on the part of religious constituents, particularly of things like LGBT rights, Women's rights, political arrangements and also education of all stripes, sexual, philosophical, moral, cultural etc. All things that I believe are hard to argue against.

The other interesting finding was that when Christians actually talk about their belief to their friends and colleagues it's more than three times as likely to put them off as to attract them. This is totally unsurprising to me, in my experience English people particularly, abhor talking about religion and politics, perhaps because generally we are all terrified of causing "offence"? There definitely remains a taboo around this subject in polite society, it's invariably an awkward, guarded conversation. This is a shame because in my view there's nothing better for making sceptics and atheists (who would otherwise sit on the fence) than actually talking about religion and trying to rationalise it's truth claims or critically examine it's logical and philosophical/moral incoherences.

If truth be told, most people these days are still indoctrinated into one particular religion (as I was) at home and/or at school (albeit in softer ways than in the past) and most Atheists I know have reached that conclusion through gaining more (balanced) knowledge about religion and philosophy rather than less. Perhaps the CofE needs to accept this fact if they want to remain relevant in modern Britain and to evolve with it, i.e. keep schtum about the more obviously mythological aspects of their tradition! As many people in history have said, the quickest way to becoming an atheist is to actually read the Bible.

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