Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dr Evan Harris clarifies: “I hearby solemnly declare Islam is more anti-women and more anti-gay than the Church of England”

And His Grace is deeply appreciative that Dr Harris has made that point of his humanist-atheist-secularist understanding clear (and it is to be observed that Dr Harris compares an entire monolithic faith with one denominational expression of Christianity). His Grace will now fisk Dr Harris’ fisk:
1) I “tweeted a broadside against the Established Church”

I think its contradiction in terms to say one tweet – evn taken out context – is broadside. You must have very narrow sides. Or an over-inflated view of the power of a tweet. Its rather sweet either way.
His Grace is delighted that you find him ‘sweet’: he takes pleasure in being fragrant, and has rather robust sides. Not all do, however, and so your attack upon the Church of England may cause distress to many, for the Church is neither buildings nor institution, but people. Considering that Twitter appears to have been recently responsible for ending careers, getting one joker arrested for threats of terrorism and another sued for libel, a tweet clearly has enormous power. A tweet, by definition, can have no context other than its 140 characters: each one is an isolated unit. This one simply caught His Grace’s eye.
2) I alleged that the Church of England “hates women and homosexuals”

I did not. If I had wanted to say that I would have said it. I said that the Church Of England was mildly misogynistic and homophobic, that is to say that it discriminates adversely against women and gay people. If you had looked at the whole twitter discussion (about the role of women and gay people in the Church of England) and the TV debate it was a comment on, it would be obvious that it was relating to the fact that the Church of England bars gay people and females from being Bishops.

The dictionary (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/misogyny) defines misogyny as hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. But I concede maybe I should have said “sexist” to be clear what I meant.

Again the dictionary (wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn) defines homophobic not as narrowly as just the hatred or fear of homosexuals but also prejudice against homosexual people and homosexuality. However, given the contentious nature of the word in some circles may be I should have exceeded 140 characters to say “discriminatory against homosexuals and critical of homosexual behaviour.”

In any event your guff and bluster about hatred is misplaced.,

Let me clear - it is not my view that the Church of England as a whole hates women or gay people.
Guff and bluster? His Grace uses the OED which refers simply to ‘the hatred of women’ (from Gr misos hatred and gunē woman). There is no alternative meaning. For those who, like His Grace, do not use inferior online dictionaries (from Princeton or wherever), misogyny is hatred, pure and simple, so your denial that you said ‘hate’ is clearly not true.

It is noble of you to concede that you should have used words other than ‘misogynist’ and ‘homophobic’: that, indeed, goes some way to admitting that the words you used were ill-advised and inaccurate, as His Grace alleged. You engaged in unreasoned hyperbole: that was the cause of the objection.

The Church of England’s restrictions on those who may be bishops are drawn from Scripture and have been widely discussed and debated within the Church’s own democratic body, the Synod, and modified or clarified by consensus or accommodation of diverging interpretations. There is no ban at all on homosexual clergy (including bishops). It is noteworthy than you now make clear that you ‘do not believe that the Church of England as a whole hates women or gay people’. But you did not same ‘some’ or ‘part of’: you attacked the whole Church, which some may deem prejudice. The ‘broad church’ approach is characteristic of the Church of England’s via media: your caricature of misogyny and homophobia was a gross distortion.
3) I am “Abortion-supporting”

Ad hominem, off-topic and misrepresentation. I support the right of a woman to choose abortion (as do many Christians of course) but support policies which reduce unwanted pregnancies and thus the need for abortions (as do many Christians)..
You did focus an awful lot in Parliament on this issue as a matter of ‘equality’, and you manifestly favoured greater liberalisation, which very few (if any) Christians do. The requirement for the consent of two doctors ought to be maintained, since doctors are as fallible or prone to bribery as any in authority. It is widely known that your record on abortion (and euthanasia) earned you the title ‘Dr Death’, and you have frequently been accused of ignoring or distorting evidence to maintain your point of view. That is what you have done in this tweet on the Church of England – ignored and distorted. Ad hominem His Grace may occasionally use, but it is not at all off-topic when it constitutes part of your agenda for ‘equality’.
4) “One wonders why he targets only the Church of England, which very broadly accommodates such an array of mutually exclusive propositions and beliefs that some wonder how it maintains believers in communion at all.”

While this is your own dig at the C of E, it is wrong to suggest that my criticism of religious attitudes to women and gay people are restricted to the C of E. Ironically, I have also been attacked by Catholic and Islamic bloggers for “picking on them”. But of course some in each religion delight in seeing themselves or their creed as persecuted and singled out.
His Grace has never seen you tweet ‘Islam hates women and gays’ or ‘Catholic Church hates women and gays’. If you could point to where you have written this, His Grace would be appreciative.
5) “Dr Harris refers to the Constitution, insisting that it should not be ‘linked’ to misogyny or homophobia. But these are not reasons simply to disestablish, but to ban altogether, for the illegality of discrimination on the grounds of gender or sexuality is firmly embedded in statute law.”

This is the interesting bit of your post.

I note that despite the bluster about “hatred” you do here clearly interpret my words as being about the discrimination on gender and sexuality grounds. Well done. It suggests the preamble was a pedantic attempt to create a straw man (allegations of hatred).

However you are wrong. It is not unlawful to be prejudiced against women or gay people. Moreover I often argue against criminalisation of ideas, emotions and thoughts, and indeed the incitement of negative ideas, emotions and thoughts. You are also wrong in that it is (rightly) not unlawful for the church to discriminate on these grounds in appointments to the priesthood and the bishopric. This is specifically protected by the relevant European Directive on employment discrimination and by our Equality laws - Schedule 9(2) of Equality Act 2010.

While I have argued that the exemption should not extend to the employment of youth workers, I have always strongly protected the right of religious organisations to make their own rules on who should be in their priesthood, etc. In fact I have never joined a campaign on women priests (etc) since, not being a member, it is not a matter for me what the CofE does. All I have said is that if I was a member I would support women bishops.

The point is that the CofE is perfectly entitled to bar women and gay bishops, but the nation has a whole – via its constitution - should not be linked to that lawful discriminatory view by virtue of CofE being the established religion. The country has moved on from such discrimination and should leave the CofE separate to determine what it wants to do.
Ah, your own straw man emerges. You say His Grace is wrong because ‘It is not unlawful to be prejudiced against women or gay people’. His Grace never said it was; he clearly used the word ‘discrimination’, which is not at all synonymous with ‘prejudice’. Your sleight of hand on this point is corroborative of your propensity to distort in order to win your argument.

Bizarrely, you state: “I have always strongly protected the right of religious organisations to make their own rules on who should be in their priesthood, etc.” You clearly do not defend that right on Twitter; indeed, to refer to the Church of England as being misogynist and homophobic is a manifest denigration of ‘its own rules’: by criticising and attempting to shame, you are certainly not ‘strongly protecting’ the right of religious organisations to practise in accordance with their own beliefs. The assertion that you are is absurd.

Your argument about disestablishment is one with which His Grace is very familiar, and it is fraught with complexity. To many secularists, it is as simple as a single parliamentary bill: in reality, disestablishment will occupy a vast amount of parliamentary time and political energy: there are much higher priorities than whether or not a Roman Catholic should be able to accede to the Throne.
6) “He appears not to understand that it is neither liberal nor democratic to ride roughshod over the consciences, beliefs and views of minorities; if, that is, the Church of England constitutes a minority, for Christian orthodoxy appears to have been excluded from those ‘protected characteristics’ identified in Labour’s Equality Bill.”

All religious belief is protected by “Labour’s equality bill” (that is the Equality Acts of 2006 and 2010) very clearly. What is not permitted is to use religion as an excuse to discriminate against other people where that infringes their rights and freedoms unless it is covered by exception which in turn requires the discrimination to be for a legitimate purpose and to be a proportionate of achieving that purpose.

The courts have consistently held that when it comes to delivery of public services and the receipt of commercial services, discrimination against gay people on grounds of religious conscience is not lawful. Just as it would not be right tom allow religious doctrine as a get-out for racial discrimination (qv South African Dutch Reform Church) or to allow some non-religious creed (eg the BNP) a similar loop-hole with which to discriminate against gay-people.
It is here that you show your intolerance of Christianity and a manifestly illiberal attitude towards the religious conscience. The rights and freedoms of some conflict with the rights and freedoms of others: Labour’s Equality Acts have created a ‘hierarchy’ of rights, and it is evident that the Christian conscience is being subsumed to a totalitarian act of sexual uniformity. Parliament has defined marriage by authorising the Book of Common Prayer as being between one man and one woman: the Church holds to that definition, which (you aver) discriminates against the rights of homosexuals to marry in a church building. Why should that be a ‘right’? And if it be, what of the priests and bishops who oppose such freedoms and thereby refuse to officiate? Should they be prosecuted for discrimination? The Church of England offers the ultimate ‘public service’ to all, but you would have it conform to the gay rights lobby and sex equality advocates regardless of its customs, traditions and orthodox beliefs. That is not liberal: it is Marxist.
7) “The [Liberal Democrat] party has proportionally fewer women MPs [just 12%] than both Labour [31%] and the Conservatives [16%]). Is that evidence of LibDem misogyny?”

The difference is that Lib Dems and the other parties do not have rules in place to prevent women being approved or selected, and are actively seeking ways to increase the proportion. The Church of England’s current official position is that 0% women bishops is the currently right number.
The Church of England is not a political party: it does not need to pander to every whim or appeal to every opinion in order to garner votes. It is not concerned with sophistry and lies, but with integrity and truth.
8) “would Dr Harris advocate the re-writing of history to accommodate Christ’s femininity or expound his homosexuality? Jesus chose 12 male disciples and did not marry: does that make him a misogynist? If God is our Father, and God is love; if Christ is the Son, and Christ is love, then there is no hatred – mild or otherwise – in the expression of maleness that lies at the heart of Christian divine ontology. Indeed, it is manifestly illiberal to seek to emasculate this God or androgynise the faith on the basis of a tyrannical desire to impose ‘equality’. How can that be love?”

I am sure you can find someone interested in that theological discussion.
Your reluctance to engage proves that you are oblivious to the logical corollaries of your equality agenda. God is Father and Christ is the Son: if that is misogynistic, you are advocating a completely different religion.
9) “please, Dr Harris, the Church of England is the least of sinners when it comes to grappling with complex issues of gender and sexuality: why don’t you pick on another religion whose hatred of women and homosexuals is – how she His Grace put it – rather less mild?”

I hearby solemnly declare Islam is more anti-women and more anti-gay than the Church of England.

Happy now, Cranmer!

I would point out that it is difficult to squeeze an attack on Islam’s doctrine into a 140 character tweet about the established church!
His Grace is happier, indeed. For you have clarified your views on Islam and conceded that your tweet was poorly worded and inaccurate. You have admitted that you engaged in unreasoned hyperbole, and so His Grace was justified in his objection.

He notes, however, that you have not addressed any of the points he made alluding to the tyranny of the majority or Mill’s defence of minorities. The Church of England is a benign institution: if Liberal Democrats can find no space for exemptions in law on the basis of the Christian conscience, you have ceased to be liberal, at least in the sense that your forebears from Mill to Gladstone would understand.

69 Comments:

Blogger Johnny Rottenborough said...

I hereby solemnly declare Islam is more anti-women and more anti-gay than the Church of England.

Good for you, Dr Harris. Now tell us how the Liberal Democrats will force Islam in Britain to abandon its anti-women, anti-gay, anti-atheist and anti-infidel teachings.

20 March 2011 at 20:37  
Blogger john in cheshire said...

I'm glad he's not my MP.

20 March 2011 at 20:39  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liberalism isn't about forcing people to do anything (that's the point).

20 March 2011 at 21:26  
Blogger monkey for sale said...

john in cheshire

I'm glad that you're not my neighbour.

20 March 2011 at 21:29  
Blogger McDuff said...

"it is to be observed that Dr Harris compares an entire monolithic faith with one denominational expression of Christianity"

Of course. Because en masse Christianity vs Islam is pretty much a wash.

Does His Grace have anything to say about the population of commenters who do not extend the same nuance when discussing the various sins and flaws which appear to them intrinsic to Islam?

20 March 2011 at 21:32  
Blogger McDuff said...

"You clearly do not defend that right on Twitter; indeed, to refer to the Church of England as being misogynist and homophobic is a manifest denigration of ‘its own rules’: by criticising and attempting to shame, you are certainly not ‘strongly protecting’ the right of religious organisations to practise in accordance with their own beliefs. The assertion that you are is absurd."

Tosh and nonsense. The principle of defending freedom of speech and principle in no way implies that one should refrain from criticism.

If the church's position on this is so fragile that a single tweet from an MP actually constitutes some kind of threat, that is probably all the more reason to suggest its position is wrong.

20 March 2011 at 21:36  
Blogger Archbishop Cranmer said...

Mr McDuff,

His Grace has made that point ad nauseam upon his blog: Islam is as riven with divisions and sects as Christianity; and there is no authoritative 'pope' to decree orthodoxy.

20 March 2011 at 21:36  
Blogger McDuff said...

"God is Father and Christ is the Son: if that is misogynistic, you are advocating a completely different religion."

No, I believe that if that is misogynistic it would imply a deep misogyny at the heart of Christianity, and indeed probably a common thread that we could find running through all the Abrahamic religions.

To which the only response seems to be that you said it first.

20 March 2011 at 21:40  
Anonymous Liam Godden said...

Cranmer: As you've abandoned reason for abuse I challenge you to a fight! After all, that's basically what you've done!

20 March 2011 at 21:46  
Anonymous len said...

It is interesting that religion(or some of its practitioners might be 'homophobic' but Jesus Christ often got into trouble for keeping company with those outside the religious fraternity.
Jesus said he didn`t come to judge the World but to save it.
Jesus never condoned sin,and sin was judged and defeated at the Cross of Calvary.
People will not be judged for their sin but for their refusal to accept God`s solution for sinners...................which is the atonement and the redemptive process available through Jesus Christ.
There is a hierarchy of rights and some claim theirs to the exclusion of others.
Do 'gay ' rights trump Christian rights, and who decides this?And does anyone have the right not to be offended?
Can anyone see the farcical nature of Political Correctness?

20 March 2011 at 22:03  
Anonymous len said...

We live in a society which is totally focused on self.
People might'disrespect me' and because of that they will have to be stopped(seems to be the prevalent attitude)
MY rights are the most important thing,more important than any others ,seems to be the attitude to take!
Human Rights might seem to be a good idea for those who are seriously oppressed but everyone has taken this on board and is used as a'lever'to get ones own way! Everyone wants to get on the 'bandwagon'and get their 'rights' enforced regardless of others rights and the resultant loss of free speech and exchange of different ideas and Philosophies.

Free speech will have to be completely banned if we are to continue with this Politically Correct madness!

20 March 2011 at 22:20  
Blogger William said...

I love the way Dr Evans proposes a reason for disestablishment via a medium that restricts him to 128 characters. It's so succinct. It's so now. It's so Liberal Democrat.

How's this for a counter-argument:

Atheists are (albeit mildly) mad and should not be taken seriously. Anyone who defines himself by a non-belief is clearly a few oops run out of

20 March 2011 at 22:41  
Anonymous Atlas shrugged said...

We live in a society which is totally focused on self.

Not at all Len.

We live in a society which is increasingly focused on self-sacrifice, and therefore just about everything else but self.

In the material world rather then the spiritual, it has always been highly advisable for mankind to co-operate with others for their individual betterment, and in many cases survival.

However in the spiritual realm SELF is all, there exists nothing but SELF of any value whatsoever.

IMO organized religions, has not been helping our utterly confused situation, to say the very least.

For organized religion relies on belief, or even worse FAITH, based on corrupted truth or uncorrupted fairy-stories. Whereas spiritual ascendancy relies greatly on real TRUTH or KNOWLEDGE.

For example if we KNEW God, rather then half blindly believed in him, we would without doubt be better human beings in every respect.

The Powers that be don't like GOOD intelligent, well educated people. They love profound unwitting ignorance, violence, corruption, criminals, and all other abominations of the Earth.

Which is why the powers that be over thousands of years have done all in their considerable power to hide the truth contained within our Bibles, and just about every other important truth, thus keeping the power of truth all to themselves.

Common sense dictates, and our owners know only too well, that you cannot long retain FREEDOM without personal responsibility.

They could not easily take our freedoms away, so they took our personal responsibility away first.

In the safe knowledge that we would eventually beg them to take our freedom away, only a generation or two later.

Some may call this Marxist Socialism, Fascist Socialism, our worst possible nightmare coming true, the work of the Devil, or just plain old fashioned insanity. They would of course, all be perfectly correct.

20 March 2011 at 23:19  
Anonymous non mouse said...

Yeah. Well.

Britons, under Christianity, had rights to privacy and individual choice. We didn't need the euSSR breathing its fetid smoke in our faces and making us talk about private matters.

Now we are required to argue about them ad nauseam, while the b*s quietly impose a new set of Directives:

1. eu is the dominasum, thou shalt have no other god but indeterminate gender.

2. The image of the eu will superimpose itself on every face.

3. Thou shalt not speak against eu, if thou dost, thou shalt be shouted down or else ignored -- Until we can get away with worse.

4. Thou shalt have vacations - full time; thy slaves will be useless idiots.

5. Thou art eu property. If thou remainest with thy father or thy mother, thou shalt inform upon them.

6. Thou shalt kill thine own people first. After that.there's always the eu army or militia.

7. Thou shalt be adulterated by anybody and everybody: that is their eu right.

8. Thou shalt steal from everybody and give the proceeds to the eu.

9. Thou shalt practice the art of character assassination to the same effect as in 6, above. In addition, thou shalt turn thy neighbours against each other so that the eu army can come and mow them down.

10. Thou hast more right to thy neighbours' goods than they do, so covet to thy heart's content. The eu will give thee a piece of the action if thou keepest 1-9 of these directives.

20 March 2011 at 23:23  
Anonymous not a machine said...

The strange case of Dr Evan Harris, re emergence onto the political scene is of some curiosty , mps who lose seats perhaps do have difficulty in finding another job/position after being a nexus at a national level.We have had Jaqui Smith investigates , Prescot does norf and sarf (not that program didnt manage to gloss traditional predjudices and skip the many still abondoned areas). At the lib dem spring conference we had the further rumblings of NHS reforms (somthing perhaps which Dr Harris holds close to his ideas). Yet constitutional reform is also another one his previous ideas when an MP.
He has that matter of fact , bedside manner , of a professional considered opinion , with a slight sigh , of you will feel much better if you take his perscription . Constutional reform is not a disease , unless of course we are to forget our constituion , which will no doubt lead to endemic illness and sadness.
You can of course dislike the CofE in the political sense , if you view religion as being a touchable superstitous relic , that will be ended with some physcology and the idea that life would be better without it. He is a classic liberal in that he chooses the church as being an obstruction to liberal athiesm . Classic liberal athiesm always does quote choice imbalances , sees no reason for any approval or disapproval as life can be condensed ,to breathing and living in a socialist construct .
Whilst I enjoyed fisk no8 , to clarify that Islam is more not to his ideals than what he had previous had to say , not only shows the lack of any real debateable differences within the lib dems , often presented as style, but that they dont really ask any questions other than what may work on a pamphlet or seduce some funds (although some other parties have sadly taken that route).

I perhaps shouldnt give the BNP much air , as they sometimes have untuned provocative ideas, but Nick Griffins recent video talk on the Frankfurt school , shows that socialist ideas became very intellectual and progandised for delivery to a public niave about the power of mass media .

Dr Evan Harris does not say what he believes in himself about religion (that would define him as ego centric), but he does say that the constitution is a problem which must be reformed. I dont know if the lib dems can set there members into bleat reform mode, but it is pretty clear that going half baked into the subject without being buddy echo to labour when in power , ensures you can be painted on the radar with a greater degree of accuracy than previously accoustomed to when addressing the public , with veneers and calling it solid quality , finest craftsmen etc etc .

I am assuming libya is proceeding as it should , despite the twists and turns , the urban night terror he seems to have managed to install is unwelcome ,I can only hope that the freelibyans know what to do with surenderring troops and can get there message to take hold in the towns they reach whilst being mindfull of being organised of medical and ecnomic needs of taking control.
I hope the suffering is as minimal as is possible , but given previous exchanges I expect we shall be mourning the dead of urban fighting before it is finished if they do not surrender .

21 March 2011 at 02:25  
Anonymous Hank said...

Your Grace, you rock. We need more folks like you in this world.

21 March 2011 at 02:59  
Anonymous Voyager said...

Evan Harris (DR is a courtesy title he is only a Bachelor and never really practised being an administrator) has views on Islam and Christianity but reveals none about Judaism with which he is more familiar.

There is little information on why a South African educated at a Californian secondary school can predicate his understanding of British constitutional structures from time at Wadham College, Oxford, the dorm for The King's Arms pub.

The only reason to play with The Act of Settlement is to abolish the Club of Fools in Westminster and turn it into a museum. Disestablishment of the Church of England would be worth it to abolish both Commons and Lords and replace it with a Council of The North in Durham, and a Council of The South and build a Confederate Grand Council of England in Birmingham in place of Westminster and the Window Twankey Tendency

21 March 2011 at 05:32  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"Do 'gay ' rights trump Christian rights, and who decides this?And does anyone have the right not to be offended? Can anyone see the farcical nature of Political Correctness?"

It's not Political Correctness nor Health and Safety, and it's not necessarily Gone Mad. No-one ought to have the right not to be offended, and that includes Christians and gay people.

However, at the systematic level 'giving offence' becomes 'discriminating against and limiting the life chances of' which is a Harm. Harms are what liberals are interested in reducing.

So, Christians discriminating against gay people when providing goods and services in the public space is a Harm. Gay people offending Christians by possibly doing gay things in private where straight people do similar things is a mere Offence.

This is what complex liberal societies are all about: having processes for arbitrating between special interest groups. It's not Stuff Gone Mad in many cases, it's just arbitration I think. At some point, everyone will reach an understanding about an issue. In the case of (some) Christians and gay people, the issue is about the reach of Christianity into the lives of non-Christians.

21 March 2011 at 06:18  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJO needs to rediscover the love of God which he once knew and give up a lifestyle that will only lead to unhappiness. He needs to invite that presence back into his soul. Causing harm to one's soul while hating God is not a good thing. Finding God's purpose for our life is the best and most fulfilling thing possible.

Alana

21 March 2011 at 07:01  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr Harris is an atheist South African Jew (if 'Jew' means anything to him) who hates Christianity, not least because a Christian woman (and trained opera singer, also of South African parentage), Dr Nicky Blackwood defeated him in May 2010.
He is bitter about this and takes his bitterness out on the Church of England.

21 March 2011 at 07:04  
Blogger Gnostic said...

This is O/T, Your Grace, but I thought you might find it interesting since the secular vs Church argument is being chewed over Down Under. In New South Wales to be precise.

It also seems to be further proof that green is absolutely the new red because we are seeing a proposal for large funds being redirected to a victim group, in this case the poor. This is a classic symptom of socialist "justice" aka divide and conquer. One can hear the distant echo of Phoney Tony's call to arms. "Education! Education! Education!" Which of course delivered anything but.

21 March 2011 at 07:22  
Blogger Ernst Stavro Blofeld and Tiddles said...

Non Mouse descended from Mount Europa carrying 2 blasphemous tablets of EU Laws 20 March 2011 23:23

Ernst has not the words to express his deepest admiration for your brilliantly cutting comments, my boy. I am unworthy.

5 Gold Stars and Ernst going down on one knee.

Ernst

21 March 2011 at 10:57  
Anonymous Gordo said...

"Dr Harris is an atheist South African Jew (if 'Jew' means anything to him) who hates Christianity, not least because a Christian woman (and trained opera singer, also of South African parentage), Dr Nicky Blackwood defeated him in May 2010.
He is bitter about this and takes his bitterness out on the Church of England."

Well said.

21 March 2011 at 12:10  
Anonymous Don Harrison said...

Dr Evan Hariss the Archbishop is in a precarious position as the head of the world Anglican Church. He has to avoid a schism where in Africa there are countries which are homophobic with a large capital “H”..

The Archbishop of Canterbury has said he has "no problem" with gay people being bishops but they must remain celibate. Who is going to check than one out?

Last spring after the Lambeth Conference I spoke with Bishop Anthony of Ely who told me that in ten years time everything sorted out.

Last year the bishop of Willdon Pete Broadment, chaired debates in Skegness at Spring Harvest on Homosexuality and the Church where Andrew Marin, Steve Chalke and another baptist minister were talking.

So lets see what happens,
Don.

21 March 2011 at 13:04  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "DanJO needs to rediscover the love of God which he once knew and give up a lifestyle that will only lead to unhappiness. He needs to invite that presence back into his soul. Causing harm to one's soul while hating God is not a good thing. Finding God's purpose for our life is the best and most fulfilling thing possible."

DanJ0 does not believe the Christian god exists so it is rather hard to hate it. As it doesn't exist, one's life only has the purpose one gives to it oneself. Also, his current lifestyle is not leading to unhappiness at all so that is not a driver for change to a religious ideology. DanJ0 thinks ideologies are generally not Good Things.

21 March 2011 at 13:15  
Anonymous Dreadnaught said...

There is an obvious coterie of antiSemites here professing to be 'Christians' but are so bigoted and blinded by their own bile that they spew forth nonsense about a man about whom they obviously know absolutely nothing.

According to easily accessed information Harris was born in the UK of South African parents. Yes they are/were Jewish but he is atheist. He is openly homosexual. He is a British qualified medical practitioner. He, unlike his detractors here is an articulate educated man, un-blinkered by any religious affiliation, who has worked as an elected representative in Parliament and has a thorough understanding of British political and constitutional history.

And what does Voyager come up with? - a thinly veiled racist remark that he must know nothing of Christianity, Islam or the arguments for British constitutional reform because his parents were Jews from South Africa.

21 March 2011 at 13:23  
Anonymous Paul said...

Methinks D. Harris does blither too much ! He is another militant atheist with an axe to grind ! One tires of hearing their rants.

21 March 2011 at 14:47  
Anonymous Flossie said...

Dear Your Grace - reading this has given me much pleasure! This odious man, ‘Dr Death’, is inciting hatred of Christians by misrepresenting their beliefs and then slagging them off for them. I think it should be classified as ‘hate speech’.

Thank you, oh thank you, for the masterful demolition job.

21 March 2011 at 15:13  
Anonymous berserker-nkl said...

All these blatherings about Christians, atheists, feminists and Aunitie Tthomasina and all...

I am sick of hearing from religionists and non believers of any ilk. It would be nice to have a nice bit of philosophy for a change. Or is existentialism's search for meaning good for a laugh? After all you can have Christian Existentialism.

There is no material reality outside of our perception. We are all ideas in a mind.

So what's all the fuss about?

21 March 2011 at 15:28  
Anonymous berserker-nkl said...

Last post should have read: Auntie Thomasina cobblers and all...

21 March 2011 at 15:32  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Flossie: "This odious man, ‘Dr Death’, is inciting hatred of Christians by misrepresenting their beliefs and then slagging them off for them. I think it should be classified as ‘hate speech’."

Or, 'the cut and thrust of normal discourse and debate' to most people.

21 March 2011 at 16:26  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"DanJ0 does not believe the Christian god exists so it is rather hard to hate it."
But you did believe once. What caused you to lose your faith? Did you suddenly become omniscient? How did you gain this god-like power? Do you know better than Jesus of Nazareth?
"As it doesn't exist, one's life only has the purpose one gives to it oneself."
No, you re not the creator of yourself. You wwere made in God's image to know Him as your Father. This is the true purpsoe of human existence.
"Also, his current lifestyle is not leading to unhappiness at all so that is not a driver for change to a religious ideology."
Truth is the driver for change. Jesus is the Truth. Conscience cannot be dulled for ever; it has its revenge.
"DanJ0 thinks ideologies are generally not Good Things."
You're right - but you don't grasp that you have adopted an incoherent ideology yourself, by professing atheism and not realizing that relativizes and refutes any claim to moral meaning. Why so? Because moral language only makes sense in terms of a transcendent Lawgiver. If atheism is true, thenm orality is finally meaningless. Read C S Lewis's 'The Abolition of Man' for the philosophical basis for this fact. DanJO, you are much too superficial. You need to look more deeply into the meaning of moral terms. And into the face of Christ.
alana

21 March 2011 at 18:57  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "But you did believe once. What caused you to lose your faith? Did you suddenly become omniscient? How did you gain this god-like power? Do you know better than Jesus of Nazareth?"

Do you know me better than me? I have never had faith. I was brought up as CofE by my agnostic parents. One attends Sunday School as a child, learning about exciting stories about Daniel in the Lion's Den. One attends church after ATC parades. I was a child and later a young teenager. Who has belief at that age? That's not the purpose of going, the purpose of going at that age is to get the foundations of the religion. To become comfortable with the bizarre.

"No, you re not the creator of yourself. You wwere made in God's image to know Him as your Father. This is the true purpsoe of human existence."

Mere assertion based on your religious ideology.

"You're right - but you don't grasp that you have adopted an incoherent ideology yourself, by professing atheism and not realizing that relativizes and refutes any claim to moral meaning. Why so? Because moral language only makes sense in terms of a transcendent Lawgiver. If atheism is true, thenm orality is finally meaningless."

I have a degree in philosophy. That's not my vocation but it means I almost naturally look at arguments for their assumptions and weaknesses, identify their premises, and so on. Of course, that doesn't mean I have the answers but I have the technique. For instance, your paragraph there is full of unfounded assumptions and assertions. You realise that, right?

The thing with self-identifying as an atheist is that usually it means one has thought about what it actually means. It's not like agnosticism in the laissez faire sense where one could be said to drift into it. Being an atheist is a passive state in as much as it is a non-belief in the available theistic beliefs in the world, but it is an active thing in that one has looked at those offered beliefs and rejected them.

"DanJO, you are much too superficial. You need to look more deeply into the meaning of moral terms."

Thanks for that. You yourself are almost certainly living under a delusion which is usually inculcated by one's parents, and/or by one's school, or by one's spouse, but occasionally by a charismatic charlatan. I have read various CS Lewis books and I find them a bit creepy to be honest. I spent some time some years ago reading various books sent over by my American cell church person. Not great, I have to say. I have read Muslims educational books given by friends and found them wanting. All thought they were very persuasive. I suspect I don't have a genetic predisposition to be religious whereas you perhaps do. I am not in danger of becoming an alcoholic for probably a similar sort of reason.

22 March 2011 at 04:43  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJO: You clearly do not understand the capacity for belief and spiritual knowledge among children and young people.
I too have studied philosophy for years at university and beyond. I find atheism intellectually lacking and inadequate to fundamental questions of knowing and existence. If you have studied philosophy carefully, you will be aware of the questions of existence and knowledge raised by Plato and Aristotle, and how the Western tradition has grappled with these, in conjunction with the teaching of the Bible - I mean of course Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin etc.
Maybe you have heard of Alvin Platinga. You should read his 'Warrants for Belief'. A simpler, more accessible form of his arguments is given by William Lane Craig on the 'Reasonable Faith' website. Faith in God agrees with reason. Atheism is fundamentally unreasonable - a failure to engage with the questions of existence and morality at a deep level.
You clearly haven't read Lewis's 'Abolition of Man', which is on the internet.
Nor have you understood my point about the need for a transcendental basis for morality, otherwise you are in a sea of relativism.
God is real and God is good. Jesus Christ is his human face. Opwn your heart again and discover this life-changing truth.
alana

22 March 2011 at 06:33  
Anonymous Flossie said...

'...the cut and thrust of normal discourse and debate'...

You jest, of course, DanJo. It is not Christians who squeal like stuck pigs whenever anybody breathes a single word of criticism, nor is it Christians who demand that harmless iphone apps be removed for not supporting them 100% or suggesting that there may be other ways of doing things. Nor is it Christians who campaign to get the sack for anyone who disagrees with their way of life.

Good grief!

22 March 2011 at 07:43  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Flossie: "You jest, of course, DanJo."

Not at all. You appear to be unaware of your surroundings. Dr Evan Harris makes a tweet, maximum 140 characters, and we have two huge blog articles as a result assessing his life and beliefs and apparently finding them wanting in many respects. Not that I care about that in the least but it rather makes a mockery of your "It is not Christians who squeal like stuck pigs whenever anybody breathes a single word of criticism" doesn't it? Good grief with knobs on!

22 March 2011 at 08:35  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "Nor have you understood my point about the need for a transcendental basis for morality, otherwise you are in a sea of relativism."

Well, not quite, as I have explained in the past. Of course I do understand it, how could I not? Your thinking that I must have misunderstood it suggests that you simply don't realise your own assumptions there.

"Atheism is fundamentally unreasonable - a failure to engage with the questions of existence and morality at a deep level."

You see, that sentence alone shows multiple failures. Atheism, that is a-theism, is essentially a lack of a belief in a god or gods. I am not asserting that a god doesn't exist, just saying that I don't believe in the huge plethora of gods presented in the past. I remain to be convinced as do all reasonable atheists.

Atheism doesn't deny that fundamental questions exist about our existence ie. the very existence of the universe. That it doesn't have an answer is not a failure of it, nor is it a sign of being unreasonable. Conversely, that (say) Christianity attempts to answer them is not a sign of reasonableness. Anyone can make an argument like that if the truth of the premises don't matter or aren't verifiable.

22 March 2011 at 08:48  
Anonymous Flossie said...

Er - Evan Harris MP hasn't just popped out of the woodwork! He has a shameful track record. He thought he could make a smart-arse remark and get away with it. I hope he has learned his mistake.

At least His Grace wasn't mean enough to remind everybody about this man's disgraceful expenses scam. But I am! (He claimed thousands of pounds to enhance the value of his taxpayer-funded home then sold it to his parents for a profit.)

No-one could have been more delighted than me when he was ousted by an evangelical Christian. Listen and learn, Evan Harris MP.

22 March 2011 at 09:25  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "You clearly do not understand the capacity for belief and spiritual knowledge among children and young people."

You're right about that. Of course, children are the ultimate believers in that they have an amazing capacity to believe in tooth fairies, Father Christmas, monsters and so on. All sorts of patently absurd things, in fact. But I don't think they have the intellectual capacity for belief. Faith, I mean. How could they, really. It is only at around 10 years old that a child has reached the stage of mind development to make moral decisions in any meaningful sense. Hence, why the age of criminal responsibility is set as it is.

22 March 2011 at 10:09  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Flossie: "Er - Evan Harris MP hasn't just popped out of the woodwork!"

But it doesn't change the point. Here we have a great example of a strong reaction to critcism of the church, contrary to what you claim. Were you just jesting? I should have thought so since there are lots of public domain examples of similar things. Stephen Green's reaction to the Atheist Bus thing, for example. A campaign that wasn't even critical, just assertive in the face of regular Bible quotes advertised across transport in London. No doubt we are 'militant atheists' for that. Or possibly 'aggressive secularists' since the two things are almost interchangeable for many religionists despite their differences. We were probably 'ranting' too. That one is very popular when a quietly reasoned message is poorly received.

22 March 2011 at 10:28  
Anonymous MrJ said...

Reading this refutation for the first time this afternoon, together with the comments pro and con above, MrJ would only wish to add that Cranmer has concisely expressed the nub of the matter (which extends far beyond the activities of Dr Evan Harris) in those words "it is evident that the Christian conscience is being subsumed to a totalitarian act of sexual uniformity".

He continues more specifically: "Parliament has defined marriage by authorising the Book of Common Prayer as being between one man and one woman: the Church holds to that definition, which (you [Harris] aver) discriminates against the rights of homosexuals to marry in a church building...

22 March 2011 at 17:21  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJo comments on my words "Atheism is fundamentally unreasonable - a failure to engage with the questions of existence and morality at a deep level" as follows:

"Atheism, that is a-theism, is essentially a lack of a belief in a god or gods. I am not asserting that a god doesn't exist, just saying that I don't believe in the huge plethora of gods presented in the past. I remain to be convinced as do all reasonable atheists."

No, you don't understand what atheism is then. Atheism is the positive assertion that God doesn't exist - assuming we are clear about the meaning of "exist" as well- not as simple as you may naively assume! I imagine you have never read Aquinas, let alone Platinga. If you really mean you simply DON'T KNOW, then you are an agnostic - which is a humbler and more intellectually reputable position to hold. Atheism is really a claim to omniscience about the universe, which is absurd for anyone aware of his own ignorance.

"Atheism doesn't deny that fundamental questions exist about our existence ie. the very existence of the universe. That it doesn't have an answer is not a failure of it, nor is it a sign of being unreasonable."

Yes, it is when it asserts that a non-existent universe caused itself to come into existence.

"Conversely, that (say) Christianity attempts to answer them is not a sign of reasonableness. Anyone can make an argument like that if the truth of the premises don't matter or aren't verifiable."
The truth of Christianity can be verified. It stands or falls by the word of Jesus Christ, who claims to be the Way, the Truth and ther Life. Come back to him and find purpose, love and meaning for living.
alaln

22 March 2011 at 19:45  
Blogger Manfarang said...

Mr J
You mean Church of England building.

23 March 2011 at 02:43  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "No, you don't understand what atheism is then. Atheism is the positive assertion that God doesn't exist - assuming we are clear about the meaning of "exist" as well- not as simple as you may naively assume!"

Well, we seem to have an impasse since I certainly don't accept what I think is a rather simplistic view of it. You are essentially creating a straw man to hack away at while I stand observing from the sidelines.

The definition you provide is the favourite one for religionists, despite its lack of support amongst atheists, since it provides a way for religionists to write atheism off as irrational and imagine that it is a belief system like a religion.

All I can do is suggest you go to one of the websites that specialise in atheism for the common or normal definition. There are nuances, of course, though some of them are a bit fringe. Agnosticism is also more than you seem to be saying too.

Here's a sense of the meaning. Note to others: I am not submitting an academic paper here, just commenting on a colloquial site where informal sites such as wikipedia are entirely appropriate for what I want:

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Atheism

and

http://www.positiveatheism.org/faq/faq1111.htm

23 March 2011 at 11:38  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

alana: "I imagine you have never read Aquinas, let alone Platinga."

I have read the former, but not the latter. It's interesting that you seem to think philosophy undergrads spend their time reading these sort of things. Philosophy is much more than just theology-oriented stuff or moral philosophy. There's philosophy of the mind, which is a big subject in itself, political philosophy, the philosophy of science, and so on.

23 March 2011 at 11:49  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJo: If any undergrads do much reading today, I would be glad.
I know also that agnostics (not atheists - you have yourself said you don't know, which is the beginning of Socratic wisdom, is it not?), like immature believers, stay away from unsettling things they're fearful of, like ontology and the radical critique of unreflective morality by Nietzsche.
It was reading people like Sartre and Camus (Malraux too) that showed me the sad and barren emptiness of existential despair, born out of atheism. Surely you understand thast philosphy of the mind is a subset of ontology, and political philosophy is a subset of moral philosophy?
I asked if you knew of Plantinga because you speak with wonderful confidence. You could do well to investigate the Anglo-American analytical tradition. Christian philosophy is very strong today.
Open your heart to God's love.
Alana

23 March 2011 at 13:18  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"I know also that agnostics (not atheists - you have yourself said you don't know, which is the beginning of Socratic wisdom, is it not?), like immature believers, stay away from unsettling things they're fearful of, like ontology and the radical critique of unreflective morality by Nietzsche."

I wrote a reply earlier that hasn't arrived despite clearing cookies so I will repeat what I said. Apologies if it ends up duplicated.

"No, you don't understand what atheism is then. Atheism is the positive assertion that God doesn't exist - assuming we are clear about the meaning of "exist" as well- not as simple as you may naively assume!"

We appear to be at an impasse here as your definition of atheism looks very simplistic to me and not in accord with what most atheists accept as far as I know. Moroever, your definition of agnosticism also looks rather simplistic to me as a-gnosticism i.e. without-gnosticism is one meaning which provides a firm statement in itself.

Your definition is of course popular with religionists, despite it not actually describing most atheists, because it allows them to claim atheism is irrational and that it is is similar to a religion. In that regard, it's merely a straw man which doesn't touch most of us.

I can only suggest you read more about actual real-life atheism. Here are two resources which might help. Atheism has nuances and a variety of positions of course but, like Christianity, there is a mainstream position. A note for others here: I am not writing an academic paper, this is a colloquial medium and informal sources are fine for what I want to do. :)

http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Atheism

and

http://www.positiveatheism.org/faq/faq1111.htm

The FAQ in particular addresses much of the nonsense religionists write about atheism.

Finally, I am not an undergrad nor am I particularly young. Furthermore, I took the philosophy course out of a lifelong interest supported by numerous books, I already had a vocation degree.

23 March 2011 at 15:14  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

Enormous trouble posting here now for some reason.

23 March 2011 at 17:26  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"Open your heart to God's love."

The heart is simply a muscle for pumping blood around the body. Opening my mind, if that is what you mean, is not really the same as being open to religious belief. I'm very sceptical by nature, you see, and religious belief is a strange thing.

You know, I find it is quite common for people to be quite superstitous, even here in the UK. Yet I am not. I happily sit in seat 13 (if there is one). I walked under ladders (when there is no-one on it). I rip up chain letters without thinking about it. I don't think one can 'tempt fate'. Black cats, cracks in the pavement, spilled salt ... they cause me no worry at all. It's strange that it does to some, isn't it?

I honestly think some people are probably prone to religion ... and/or superstition. I also think our species is inclined to pattern-match to such an extent that we see patterns were none actually exist. There are some very strange quirks in our species in the way we tend to think.

I don't really doubt you feel what you think is your god's love. I don't really doubt that you have a strong belief. However, I doubt very much that it has foundation. Why? Well, lots of reasons. One is that Christians do not get seem to get verifiable information from it.

Christians interpret moral issues differently, where one would expect the Holy Spirit to have a consistent impact. Christians don't seem to agree on religious practice at all. Why would that be? The Toronto Blessing is an interesting phenomenon in this area. Mainstream Christians and Mormons have different religious books yet most seem to believe they have a personal relationship with Jesus. Is it the same Jesus?

Adherents to other religions, such as Islam, seem to have equally strong beliefs. Some buddhists seem to get quite close to 'enlightenment' through devotion. From the outside, it seems like some people can convince themselves, or be convinced by others, that very disparate things are true to the point where they are prepared to die for them. Strange, huh?

23 March 2011 at 21:44  
Anonymous len said...

Strange indeed!
Having spent the greater part of my life as an Atheist(before conversion)I know exactly where you are coming from Danjo.
However,
Much of religion (if not all) is a function of the soul( which can put on a good show of spirituality) but lacks the power of the Holy Spirit to give any lasting success.When under pressure the religious performance evaporates.
Men sometimes hold to the outward appearance of religion but repudiate its reality. Paul has described those "holding a form of godliness, but having denied the power thereof" (2 Tim. 3:5)

Unless you are born again you will have a dysfunctional spirit attuned to all sorts of deceiving spirits all proclaiming themselves to be'god'.
It is only when you know the authentic that the counterfeit becomes only too obvious.

23 March 2011 at 22:41  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"Unless you are born again you will have a dysfunctional spirit attuned to all sorts of deceiving spirits all proclaiming themselves to be'god'. It is only when you know the authentic that the counterfeit becomes only too obvious."

Obviously I cannot make much of your subjective experiences other than what you and other say about them. Brandon Flowers (the Mormon singer) appears to be completely enlivened by his subjective experience. The proselytisers from the JWs who spent time trying to convert me appear completely committed to their beliefs just like you. All have a Jesus, just a slightly different one to you.

Perhaps you have had counterfeit gods before your current one so you know the difference now. Is that what you are actually saying? Logically of course, there may be a better one than your current one waiting in the future which will make you think the current one is a counterfeit. Who knows.

The most compelling evidence of a loving god which feeds into one's consciousness is a sudden, solid. permanent change in personality for the better. A life change, I mean. One which shocks the people around them. They may not quite be as rare as rocking horse dung but they're in that ballpark in my experience.

There are millions of committed Christians but they just appear like everyone else to me, except that they belong to local churches which appear to regulate their outer lives according to church mores. That is all socially explainable and even expected, behaviour-wise. Just watch online though when the regulation is not there. It all seems to go out of the window as evidenced time and again.

24 March 2011 at 06:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

DanJo writes: "You know, I find it is quite common for people to be quite superstitous, even here in the UK. Yet I am not. I happily sit in seat 13 (if there is one). I walked under ladders (when there is no-one on it). I rip up chain letters without thinking about it. I don't think one can 'tempt fate'. Black cats, cracks in the pavement, spilled salt ... they cause me no worry at all. It's strange that it does to some, isn't it?"
I'm with you all the way there. But true faith and superstition (German: Aberglaube) are two different things. You certainly seem to know a bit about popular cultural manifestations of Christianity. That is useful but it also has its limitations, not least because popular thought is vulnerable to the kind of questions you raise. So more rigour is needed. That is why we have systematic theology and its relation to the different types of philosophy - something Catholics understand better than most Protestants.
My life-long conviction is that Christianity is fundamentally reasonable and not irrational; but I am working with the classical understanding of reason, not the shallower version of Englightenment scientism and rationalism. I believe that independent of special revelation, you can reasonably arrive the existence of the personal Creator - but then you need the revelation of his word to enter into the kind of personal relationship you mention. So reason and revelation belong together.
My point about agnosticism vs. atheism is simply that it is arrogant nonsense to say you 'KNOW' something that a limited human mind couldn't know - and if pressed, even Dawkins would agree with that. That many people are *practical atheists is not disputed. The consistent naturalist should be able to say: "Maybe in 100 years science will have overthrown just about everything we currently think is true - because that has happenee before, too."
But there is a further question that bien pensants don't usually understand: namely, that God doesn't "exist" in the sense that anything else "exists". What I mean is that classical theism asserts that God's (eternal, unlimited) self-existence is of a different kind to ours and everything else we see in nature. This is the point that the village atheists constantly miss.
Do you have a soul? Will physical death mean your personal extinction?
alana

24 March 2011 at 10:09  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"My point about agnosticism vs. atheism is simply that it is arrogant nonsense to say you 'KNOW' something that a limited human mind couldn't know - and if pressed, even Dawkins would agree with that."

Dawkins doesn't need to be pressed. He is quite open and explicit about it. I feel a bit sorry for Dawkins, he must get quite annoyed by the caricatures of himself flying around.

I'm chuckling a little at your comment there. Obviously, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don't know we don't know. If you see what I mean. :) *high-fives Donald*

"What I mean is that classical theism asserts that God's (eternal, unlimited) self-existence is of a different kind to ours and everything else we see in nature."

Isn't that sort of obvious? Of course, religionists need to think of god as not being bound to the consequences of logic. If the universe must have a creator then a creator must also have, and it ends up in the famous infinite regression. The answer of course is to make it a mystery, or a cop-out to the rest of us.

I am quite comfortable not knowing how our universe came into being. It has no effect on my daily life at all. It may be that it is simply the product of another process outside of our space-time, a process that is unconcerned by our presence either intelligently or not. I doubt whether our universe is actually what we think it is now anyway.

"Will physical death mean your personal extinction?"

Is that a rhetorical question? If not then it is my working assumption that it does mean exactly that. My mind/consciousness appears to be a product of my brain and if my brain dies then I think my mind dies. I see no compelling evidence of a spirit/soul outside of religious imagination I'm afraid. I rather like the idea to be honest as it makes my life more precious.

24 March 2011 at 12:30  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"My point about agnosticism vs. atheism is simply that it is arrogant nonsense to say you 'KNOW' something that a limited human mind couldn't know [...]"

Incidentally, you obviously have not even skim-read the contents of those links to say that. If you have things to say about atheists and atheism then you must at least try to understand what it all actually means if you want to be seen as intellectually honest. I mean that sincerely rather than aggressively. It achieves nothing for anyone to argue against a cardboard version of atheism.

24 March 2011 at 13:13  
Blogger srizals said...

Len, something about the Holy Spirit and Jesus, written by a British, John Biddle.

http://answering-questioning.blogspot.com/2011/03/john-biddles-twelve-arguments.html

I don't think he depended on Islamic view in his own view. He was not a Muslim, Len. But, I could be wrong.

24 March 2011 at 17:32  
Blogger srizals said...

"After a close study of the Trinity, he published a pamphlet in 1644 entitled “Twelve Arguments Refuting the Deity of the Holy Spirit”, addressed to “the Christian reader”.

In 1645, the manuscript of the “Twelve Arguments” was seized and Biddle was imprisoned. He was called to appear before Parliament, but he still refused to accept the Deity of the Holy Spirit. The pamphlet was reprinted in 1647. On the 6th of September of the same year, Parliament ordered the pamphlet to be burned.

On the 2nd of May, 1648, a “Severe Ordinance” was passed, which stated that those who denied the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit, would suffer death without the benefit of clergy."

Now you know the heritage of Christianity that Europe has.

24 March 2011 at 17:41  
Blogger William said...

Danj0

"It achieves nothing for anyone to argue against a cardboard version of atheism"

This "cardboard version of atheism" is actually due to your own sleight of hand:

Atheists can be described variously, for instance:

A) Someone who just has an absence of belief. Their non-belief is no more remarkable to them than their non-belief that Julius Caesar was a Martian. In fact is makes little sense to have a word to describe this non-belief anymore then it would make sense to have a word for someone who does not collect stamps. These people certainly would not consider contributing to a religious blog on the basis of their non-belief. One could also imagine young children in this category.

B) Someone who has come to a conclusion that it is rational to have a non-belief (and probably irrational to have a belief) in a God or gods. These people will usually base their beliefs on science or even (as you yourself imply) on their perception of the deeds of the people who espouse theism (Christians do indeed sometimes fall short in that we do not reflect our Lord Jesus as we should - to our shame). Although atheism may not be a religion for them, there is usually something else in which they put their faith e.g. science or secularism. Little realising that they can only go so far. Relying on science to prove everything is hopeless as it cannot prove anything metaphysical including its own scientific method. And institutional secularism leads to all manner of evils (e.g. Stalin), but one can look at the secular EU for a modern example - eroding our liberties and democracy with each step.

C) Someone who has come to the conclusion that there is no creator and that to say otherwise is some kind of heresy. These people tend to be hard-core evolutionary gnostic atheists. For them atheism is a religion and evolution is its dogma. They have their religious books they have their web-sites where they try to convert people, they have their charismatic prophets. They will sometimes twist science to fit their view and when that doesn't work they will use pseudo-science (e.g. memes) instead.

You will often find a person of type B or C disingenuously describe themselves as a type A. However, by their fruit you will know them.

24 March 2011 at 23:42  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

William, I have not done a sleight of hand. As you may note, I have provided links which explore the details and I have talked about mainstream positions thereby indicating the existence of other positions. I was told that atheism "is the positive assertion that God doesn't exist" and I have argued against that. Isn't that the issue at hand here? That's the cardboard version.

What I have asserted is that there is a mainstream position. I have not conducted a survey so it is an assertion but I come across quite a few atheists online and in person and I think I have it about right. Dawkins is not particularly mainstream in my opinion and does not speak for atheists in general.

Initially it seems like I am in the B camp in your set. All good so far ... until you say this: "Although atheism may not be a religion for them, there is usually something else in which they put their faith e.g. science or secularism. Little realising that they can only go so far." That really looks like wishful think to me. I am not unfamiliar with the philosophy, and therefore the limits, of science at all. So, camp B seems like a construction to me. A mere artifice for your argument.

So, perhaps I am not in camp B afterall. You offer camp A too so does that fit? Well, I think it would if I never came across any theists. Afterall, I have an absense of belief in Zeus but that is unremarkable in the way you say. I know about Zeus of course but my life is not intruded upon by his believers.

Believers in Zeus are not trying to hold up stem cell research, or trying to deny women rights over their bodies, or influencing AIDS policy in Africa, or trying to marginalise gay people, etc. So it remains a largely unremarkable non-belief for me. I expect you have an unremarkable non-belief in Zeus but I bet you have a remarkable non-belief in Allah even though you think both do not exist.

You say of camp A people: "These people certainly would not consider contributing to a religious blog on the basis of their non-belief." Is that true? If camp A people are subject to religionists using their own beliefs to intrude on them then what should they do? You offer camps B and C if they do not passively accept the intrusion. Well, I think there are more camps, and space between camps, than that I'm afraid.

As such, I reject your reasoning. I think you've built some nice artifices to try to force your conclusion because the alternative is uncomfortable for you. I don't think you can deal with someone who is without belief in a god or gods, who enjoys the fruits of scientific investigation and understands the limits of science, who is entirely comfortable not knowing how our universe came into being, who is prepared to accept an undefined god or gods may exist in some way, but does not accept the god hypotheses presented to him so far.

25 March 2011 at 11:51  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

By the way William, thanks for the ted.com link. I haven't seen that before and I like listening to Dawkins even though I think he goes too far some of the time. It's facetious and lightweight but I like the agnostic thing at about 23:00. Was there anything in there that bothers you in particular?

25 March 2011 at 17:29  
Blogger William said...

Danj0

"As such, I reject your reasoning. I think you've built some nice artifices to try to force your conclusion because the alternative is uncomfortable for you. I don't think you can deal with someone who is without belief in a god or gods, who enjoys the fruits of scientific investigation and understands the limits of science, who is entirely comfortable not knowing how our universe came into being, who is prepared to accept an undefined god or gods may exist in some way, but does not accept the god hypotheses presented to him so far."

I must admit that I find it strange that someone would believe that God may exist and yet say that he has not revealed himself in any of the theist religions. I do indeed find that odd, but the other stuff I am quite happy with; my reference to those who put their faith in science to explain everything was meant as an example of other religions and not as a description of you. However, if the unbeliever is advocating a secular state (more specifically the removal of all theism from the state apparatus), then I cannot except that they are doing this merely on the basis of an unbelief.

"By the way William, thanks for the ted.com link. I haven't seen that before and I like listening to Dawkins even though I think he goes too far some of the time. It's facetious and lightweight but I like the agnostic thing at about 23:00. Was there anything in there that bothers you in particular?"

No. It was just an example of an atheist preacher. Dawkins is very good at it - always entertaining.

25 March 2011 at 22:36  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"I must admit that I find it strange that someone would believe that God may exist and yet say that he has not revealed himself in any of the theist religions."

You're assuming it is especially interested in homo sapiens. If we are just a product of the real interest then why reveal at all? We might even be too insignificant to notice. Or as Haldane noted, it seems to have an inordinate fondness for beetles so perhaps they are its real focus instead?

In reverse, I find it strange that a god would create the mind-blowing immensity of space and the stuff in it simply to house on one small planet a single species which exists just to worship it. Why not just create a solar system? Or a flat earth with edges and nothing in the sky? Sort of like a larger version of the Truman Show environment?

In that ted clip, Dawkins quotes Carl Sagan: "In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."" That really captures religion for me.

And in true Dawkins style, he juxtapositions all that with some religionists' version of a god who is particularly interested in our sex lives and what goes on in the bedroom.

"However, if the unbeliever is advocating a secular state (more specifically the removal of all theism from the state apparatus), then I cannot except that they are doing this merely on the basis of an unbelief."

You're on a religio-political, as his grace describes it. It's not just a religoious blog, and religion doesn't exist in a vacuum divorced from the rest of society. Religion is a political topic involving all of us.

As most of the regulars recognise, Islam appears to be some sort of threat to our way of life. At best, we have to make space for it here. At worst, we are moving to a clash of civilisations. I think secularism is a necessity to get through this. In fact, I'm amazed Christians aren't pushing for it too for protection.

26 March 2011 at 06:09  
Blogger William said...

"You're assuming it is especially interested in homo sapiens. If we are just a product of the real interest then why reveal at all? We might even be too insignificant to notice. Or as Haldane noted, it seems to have an inordinate fondness for beetles so perhaps they are its real focus instead?"

So in fact you are saying that he has not revealed himself to us in any significant way and so logically we should carry on as if he does not exist because, to all intents and purposes, he does not.

"In reverse, I find it strange that a god would create the mind-blowing immensity of space and the stuff in it simply to house on one small planet a single species which exists just to worship it. Why not just create a solar system? Or a flat earth with edges and nothing in the sky? Sort of like a larger version of the Truman Show environment?"

Is a solar system not awesome enough? Is is not utterly mind-blowing that something as complex as a beetle should exist at all? If God can create a beetle and indeed a Beatle then the vastness of the universe is probably just an afternoon's work. I have no problem believing that there are other beings in this universe.

"In that ted clip, Dawkins quotes Carl Sagan: "In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, "This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed"? Instead they say, "No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way."" That really captures religion for me."

I agree that there can be a tendency to belittle God and I think that Sagan is right that science shows more and more how awesome he truly is.

"And in true Dawkins style, he juxtapositions all that with some religionists' version of a god who is particularly interested in our sex lives and what goes on in the bedroom."

Personally I don't think God is nearly as preoccupied with sex as we are. He is far more concerned with love. At times it seems that, as a society, sex is all we ever think about. Nevertheless, I believe that God invented sex in the context of a lifelong commitment between a man and a women. Sex outside these parameters leads to all sorts of problems.

"As most of the regulars recognise, Islam appears to be some sort of threat to our way of life. At best, we have to make space for it here. At worst, we are moving to a clash of civilisations. I think secularism is a necessity to get through this. In fact, I'm amazed Christians aren't pushing for it too for protection"

I do not share your faith that secularism will remove the threat of Islam. I believe that Islam will become stronger with the removal of the Christian foundations of this country. I also believe that your adherence to secularism is due to religious as well as political convictions.

26 March 2011 at 10:06  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"So in fact you are saying that he has not revealed himself to us in any significant way and so logically we should carry on as if he does not exist because, to all intents and purposes, he does not."

Actually, that's pretty close.

Of course, Christians say that it has revealed itself privately to each and every one of them so it doesn't really help that much.

Unless it reveals itself to me, I intend to carry on as though it doesn't exist. I recommend others in a similar position to do the same. Afterall, any one of the numerous religions could try to make a claim on us.

"I also believe that your adherence to secularism is due to religious as well as political convictions."

Why? You may be right I suppose. I'm open to comment there. I just don't see how religion which affects me is not political anyway.

I've become much more committed to it since the likes of the Christian Institute, Cormac Murphy O'Connor, and those numpties from Finsbury Mosque started making a fuss.

Sexual orientation plays a part too. I am clearly best served with the law as it stands overarching religionists who want to intrude on my freedoms and deny me my rights.

26 March 2011 at 19:24  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"I have no problem believing that there are other beings in this universe."

I want to treat this separately as it's quite interesting. How would Jesus fit into this? Might the Trinity be a Multitude instead, with one Jesus-like being for each world with moral beings on it? Or might other worlds not be 'fallen' like ours and therefore not need a Jesus?

26 March 2011 at 19:28  
Blogger William said...

"I want to treat this separately as it's quite interesting. How would Jesus fit into this? Might the Trinity be a Multitude instead, with one Jesus-like being for each world with moral beings on it? Or might other worlds not be 'fallen' like ours and therefore not need a Jesus?

Not sure I can comment on any of your hypotheses I'm afraid. Probably way above my pay-grade. :)

27 March 2011 at 20:25  
Blogger William said...

"Unless it reveals itself to me, I intend to carry on as though it doesn't exist. I recommend others in a similar position to do the same. Afterall, any one of the numerous religions could try to make a claim on us."

Out of interest; what kind of revelation would be enough to convince you of his/its existence?

27 March 2011 at 20:42  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"Out of interest; what kind of revelation would be enough to convince you of his/its existence?"

The unexpected, knock-me-off-my-feet one like Saul of Tarsus apparently got, perhaps. My suspicion, you see, is that people get what they expect. Whenever I ask Christians in a group what it is like, they seem to go very shy as though they might reveal something to one another which is not correct.

I've mentioned the Toronto Blessing here before. I asked the vicar in my local Elim church about it at the time. He had an interesting response: he said he didn't encourage it and would prefer it not to happen. He said some of his congregation felt they were not good enough Christians if they didn't experience it and it put them under a lot of pressure, especially in front of their peers.

If it were ethical then I reckon one could conduct an experiment in this area. My hypothesis is that it is a learned response and state of mind. One expects a sense of being loved and fulfilling a purpose, and that is what one gets with the right environment and stimulus. One could probably test what happens with differing expectations between different, isolated groups.

One of the many reasons I am suspicious is behaviour over time. If the omniscient and omnipotent creator of the universe, who knows my every thought, revealed itself to me as the Christian god then I think that would be it. Born again wouldn't really describe it. I think I would be incapable of working day-to-day. I would end up like a disciple of Jesus, throwing everything away. Possibly, I would be a monk. Or a hermit.

I simply can't match the Christians around me with my expectation of what it ought to do. The abusive priests in Ireland and elsewhere couldn't possibly ever have been Christians to my mind. Mother Theresa can't have believed given what she privately wrote. The Christians involved in internecine fighting with each other? No chance. And so on.

28 March 2011 at 13:16  
Blogger William said...

"If it were ethical then I reckon one could conduct an experiment in this area. My hypothesis is that it is a learned response and state of mind. One expects a sense of being loved and fulfilling a purpose, and that is what one gets with the right environment and stimulus. One could probably test what happens with differing expectations between different, isolated groups."

You can only go so far with this kind of proof and these sorts of experiments are always inconclusive. Trying to (dis)prove the existence of God scientifically is doomed to failure.

"One of the many reasons I am suspicious is behaviour over time. If the omniscient and omnipotent creator of the universe, who knows my every thought, revealed itself to me as the Christian god then I think that would be it. Born again wouldn't really describe it. I think I would be incapable of working day-to-day. I would end up like a disciple of Jesus, throwing everything away. Possibly, I would be a monk. Or a hermit."

Well some people do indeed go down that route, but Christians will react to God in as many different ways as there are different personalities (thank God). We are, after all, unique human beings.

"I simply can't match the Christians around me with my expectation of what it ought to do. The abusive priests in Ireland and elsewhere couldn't possibly ever have been Christians to my mind. Mother Theresa can't have believed given what she privately wrote. The Christians involved in internecine fighting with each other? No chance. And so on."

Really the most reliable evidence for the existence of God is Jesus himself. One can spend a lifetime analysing the faults of his (sometimes so-called) followers, but ultimately one has to decide whether to believe in his words/actions/life or not.

29 March 2011 at 20:35  
Anonymous DanJ0 said...

"You can only go so far with this kind of proof and these sorts of experiments are always inconclusive. Trying to (dis)prove the existence of God scientifically is doomed to failure."

Well, quite. However, it's not trying to disprove the existence of god ... an impossible task give the usual definition of it. What it is doing is assessing the general claim of divine revelation. That's a different thing.

One of Christianity's stronger points is the idea of the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, it's just like most other religions i.e. easily dismissed as wishful thinking. The revelation thing is intriguing and I have a technically open but pretty sceptical mind about it.

It's similar in many respects to spiritual mediums. I've pretty much written those off as charlatans (I'm not saying that most Christians are charlatans here!) but every now and something piques my interest. They're fairly easily testable of course given that actual communication is alleged to take place.

"Really the most reliable evidence for the existence of God is Jesus himself. One can spend a lifetime analysing the faults of his (sometimes so-called) followers, but ultimately one has to decide whether to believe in his words/actions/life or not."

That's the thing. On what basis does one do that? My lack of belief there is to do with supporting 'evidence' from all sorts of angles. As a whole, it makes it look very, very unlikely. It's like the theory of evolution by natural selection, in the opposite sense, which is to all intents and purposes a scientific fact even though technically it's a theory because it matches expectations on so many and varied fronts.

A few years ago, I suspended disbelief as much as I possibly could and followed 'the Roman road' as my American cell church man suggested. I gave it a very good shot, it has to be said. I 'listened' with my 'heart' and tried to interpret feelings/intuition and match up events as affirmative revelation.

This was because he told me a story about a guy who ran a church (I think) who never deliberately raised funds but left it all to god's largesse which always seemed to come in one form or another. He linked it to Matthew 10:29 as I recall.

You know, he was right in a way. By doing that, one starts to interpret situations in a certain way and it is quite seductive thinking that one has a religious purpose and is ultimately being cared for whatever happens. But no, I either 'failed' or I saw reason in the end, depending on one's view. The human mind is very good at 'pattern matching' even when there is no pattern, and it is very susceptible to beliefs which chime with desires. I thought that was ultimately what was happening.

30 March 2011 at 07:10  

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