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Is atheism to blame for global warming?

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William Crawley | 14:24 UK time, Tuesday, 1 September 2009

pope_0725.jpgPope Benedict is upsetting atheists again. This time he has been speaking about the environment and suggesting that atheism is dangerous to the natural world. Well, that's how the story has been reported. Terry Sanderson, President of the National Secular Society has dismissed the pope's comments as "inflated" and "self-serving". At the risk of sounding like the pope's press officer, this seems to be another example of a media-driven papal puff piece. Here's what the pope actually said:

"Is it not true that inconsiderate use of creation begins where God is marginalized or also where his existence is denied? If the human creature's relationship with the Creator weakens, matter is reduced to egoistic possession, man becomes the 'final authority,' and the objective of existence is reduced to a feverish race to possess the most possible."

Yes, of course, this could be read as the claim that all atheists are selfish so-and-so's who are driven by an urge to exploit the world. But that's not how I think the pope intended his words to be read. I think Pope Benedict's comments are addressed to believers as much as they are addressed to non-believers. Every person of faith knows what it is like to live without faith -- to confess a statement of belief while denying that confession with their lives. I think that's also what the pope has in mind in these comments.

But some humanists are plainly upset by the comments, in any case, because they seem to suggest that only people of faith can ultimately care for the created world (if that's what Pope Benedict actually said). Some of the world's leading environmentalists, poverty campaigners and human rights activists are, of course, people of no faith whatsoever. Peter Singer, the Australian humanist philosopher at Princeton University, gives 20 per cent of his income to poverty charities, campaigns for animal and environmental welfare projects, and challenges the value system holding together today's international financial activity. He does so on the basis of utilitarian moral principles and without any recourse to supernatural commitments.

Atheist campaigners say this is not the first time Pope Benedict has challenged the moral commitments of secularists.

The fact that the pope's opposition to atheism is news is itself more interesting. It's hardly a suprise to discover that the pope regards atheism as a form of philosophical sin and that the denial of God's existence is A Bad Thing. Isn't that the theological equivalent of Dog Bites Man?

Read the pope's full address here.

post scriptum:
The blog is now under pre-moderation rules, which means you will notice a slight delay before your comments are published.


  • Comment number 1.

    I thought Global Warming was due to the decrease in piracy on the high seas.

  • Comment number 2.

    Is is just me or does the pope look like a huge condom with his dress and hat.

  • Comment number 3.

    Actually I think he looks quite distinguished.

    I don't know what that post says about YOUR subconscious! I thnk pirates, you think contraception...(-;

  • Comment number 4.

    Useful comment, #2. Anyway I have to agree with Will's interpretation of the Pope's comments. And I'm not sure why any humanist would get upset about what the Pope has to say; isn't he an irrelevancy to them in intellectual terms in any case? If the Pope is just a man appointed by men with no real authority, what does it matter what he thinks?

    (As a subtext, it could be argued that people of a certain kind of faith are much less concerned about global warming than atheists. I'm referring, of course, to the correlation between evangelicalism and conservatism particularly in America, which renders evangelicals much less likely to think that global warming poses a major threat and perhaps even to deny that it exists at all.)

  • Comment number 5.

    Ummm, let me think. Was Sarah Palin an atheist?

  • Comment number 6.

    No, I disagree with the pope. I think many atheists do care about the environment.

    But what I find intriguing is that they do so in spite of their philosophy. Take, for example, the fight to preserve endangered species. If evolution is how nature works, then why meddle with it? Just let it take its course. If randomness is really the source of order and complexity, just let it get on and do its noble and wonderful work.

    If, on the other hand, those nasty and terribly misguided people, who call themselves by the unmentionable "C" word (the intellectual equivalent of holocaust deniers, so the august learned professor D wrote recently in The Times), are right, then it makes sense to use our intelligence to intervene in the random and destructive processes of nature.

    Now I am going to press the submit button and run for cover....>>>>>>>>

  • Comment number 7.


    Generally you have a point; it's amusing to hear people talk about the 'artificial' and the 'natural' as though everything human beings do should be lamented while everything other animals do is a wonderful part of nature. Lions kill deer with stealthy instinct and sharp teeth and it's natural; humans kill deer with tools like rifle and scope and it's 'artificial'. The kinds of people who bemoan human activity in general are self-loathing discontents without a consistent bone in their bodies.

  • Comment number 8.

    My experience has been that environmental awareness has little to do with one's spiritual beliefs. I've heard conservative Catholics say that God has given the earth to man to do with what he will. Some Evangelicals believe that the future of the Earth doesn't matter since we are in the end days anyway. And it isn't as though many so-called "Christians" aren't acquisitive.

    But the Pope, if his comments are inclusive, is making a very good point. There is no way that the planet can sustain the sort of mad consumerism that characterized the latter half of the twentieth century.

  • Comment number 9.

    "Take, for example, the fight to preserve endangered species. If evolution is how nature works, then why meddle with it? Just let it take its course. If randomness is really the source of order and complexity, just let it get on and do its noble and wonderful work."

    The fact that evolution is the source of order and complexity has no bearing on whether we should or should not protect endangered species. Evolution is all about the interaction between organisms and their environment and our species has evolved an ability to manipulate our environment as well as the ability to reflect on what we have done.

    To put it another way, you can't get an ought from an is.

  • Comment number 10.

    "Is atheism to blame for global warming?"

    Seems to me it's the other way around. There's a lot of hot air that's been generated and escaped from time immemorial every week from church pulpits all over the world. I'm referring of course to everyone else's religion, not yours. Perish the thought.

  • Comment number 11.

    #2: "Is is just me or does the pope look like a huge condom with his dress and hat." - It's just you.

    #10: "Seems to me it's the other way around."- What, Global Warming is responsible for atheism? Hmmm, maybe yo uhave a point (for a change).

  • Comment number 12.

    crosseyes, maybe you can see straight (for a change.)

  • Comment number 13.

    "The fact that the pope's opposition to atheism is news is itself more interesting"

    Whats even more interesting is that everyone is an atheist of some sort.

  • Comment number 14.

    Historically, Christianity taught that God gave man dominion over the earth, which is in any case only a waiting room for eternity, to be plundered at will. Many of the world's leading capitalists believed that God and Mammon went hand in hand, and that their wealth put them among God's elect. In plundering the earth, they were simply doing God's will.

    Of course, the inconsiderate use of the earth also persists when it is overpopulated and its opinion-makers set a bad example. It's more nonsensical to blame atheists for global warming than it is to blame the Pope for overpopulation. Moreover, a papal diatribe against material wealth always appears hypocritical given that he himself lives in luxury in a 72-room palace. As the 'leader' of the largest Christian sect, shouldn't he be setting an example?

  • Comment number 15.

    The Church? Hypocritical? No way...

  • Comment number 16.

    No we aren't princess.

    Some of us are not atheists, not theists, not deists, not agnostics. Some of us think that asking does God exist is simply asking the wrong kind of question and wouldn't dream of labelling ourselves by the answer.

  • Comment number 17.

    Is the pope to blame for Global Warming?

    Ponits of reference to reduce the popes Co2 emissions - and to avert Global melt down.

    1 Does the pope keep the tyres on his popel carrier inflated to at least 32psi

    2 What kind of heating system does the vatican use?

    3 Does the pope use roll on or spray deodorant?

    4 How does the pope explain why the hole in the ozone is over the North pole - is it a matter of educating the eskimos to stop using deodorant?

    5 Why does he continue to fly - when all he has to do is pray.

    6 If the pope and the whole of the Vatican would be willing to wear shorts, and flip flops cutting down on manufacturing pollution - I mean is there a real need for all the garb they wear?

    7 Does Vatican use energy saving light bulbs?

    8 Has the pope the power to pray against Co2 - and therfore eradicating the problem.

    9 Should the pope not hire out advertising space on his garments to promote the green theme - something like the pope is green with envy.

    10 If he could change chapel to web cam - thus stopping people driving to mass.

  • Comment number 18.


    Let me shed some lumen on your 10 points. You can call them the Ten Ammendments, if you like.

    1. The Pope mobile - given Benedicts direction in most other matters, I foresee a return to him being carried around on a throne wherever he goes. Its green and gives him that human/God appearance.

    2. Vatican heating system - the heating system has been switched off since he was 'elected.' The Roman Curia spend all day shaking their heads and saying 'NO' which seemingly keeps them all quite warm.

    3. He doesnt really have much contact with smelly poor people so no need to use deoderant.

    4. Eskimos arent ultra conservative holocaust denying Latin speaking Catholics, as a rule, so he'll just ignore them.

    5. Why fly to meet anyone when you can just issue Papal Bulls which, may I remind you are written on parchment, not paper.

    6. Apart from the Gucci shoes, his wardrobe is all from the Council of Trent, that pinnacle of forward thinking Catholicism.

    7. Oh come on, evoape, get with it. Candles have been invented!!

    8. What is CO2? Speak the language he'll understand. Its COII.

    9. I'm not sure advertising logos on his garb would be appropriate. Can you imagine "The future's Orange" on his vestments?

    10. Confession is already available on line. Last week I got a penance of three Hail Mary's and an Our Father and a weeks pilgrimage to Lourdes. Imagine my annoyance upon my return when I realised that the pilgrimage bit had merely been a 'pop up.' Ah, Pope Ups, there's an idea...

  • Comment number 19.

    I still blame the lack of pirates.

  • Comment number 20.

    Post 18


    I'm not sure advertising logos on his garb would be appropriate. Can you imagine "The future's Orange" on his vestments?


    I wonder would any of the contraception companies be interested in renting some garb space??

    It would be nice to see a green day being ordained by the pope - in which the whole Vatican go green.
    The sorty of thing like St. Patrick's day but bigger - an incredible hulk theme is a must for all priests - a metaphor of david Banner if you like.
    The picture I see is don't make COII - that makes me angry - and you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.
    We then see the popes shoes busting his garb streching - until we finally see the green hero destroying every COII lover in the world,

    The pope saves the day by letting his inner man run free - the code word for making him angry COII of course.
    So when he has rounded up those nasty factory workers, car drivers, and of course Eskimos the world well be saved invoking a world wide worship of Rat****** sorry can't spell his name.

  • Comment number 21.

    Now the Catholic church are telling people to pray before they have sex. They are completely irrelevant to life, keep your misery for yourself, no need to inflict it on others thankyou very much.

  • Comment number 22.

    If the RC church would focus on doing something practical for global warning instead of telling people who to love and who to have sex with then maybe they could redeem themselves a little bit.

    The Pope needs redemption. Wearing a white dress and having an instrument of torture hanging round your neck in gold will not fool the Masses.

  • Comment number 23.

    "Now the Catholic church are telling people to pray before they have sex."

    Well, you don't know who they have to sleep with. When all hope is gone...

  • Comment number 24.

    Do you think the pope beats his bishops - at chess

  • Comment number 25.


    Its actually R-A-T-Z-I-N-G-E-R.

    I use it to refer to him instead of Benedict. Benedict has the feel of an apperitif, or even a nice sunny island where you could go to enjoy a relaxing holiday.

    So Ratzinger it is then.

  • Comment number 26.

    I see we're all on pre-moderation, perhaps global warming is to blame.

    I feel a winter beach, a good book and a surfboard beckoning.

  • Comment number 27.

    Graham - where have you been??

    Surely piracy on the High Seas has seen a massive increase in recent years and, one might reasonably assume, there will have been a concomitant rise in the number of pirates. I would have thought that point might have been grounds for you to challenge a key element of FSM farinology.

  • Comment number 28.


    I'm sorry about this, but really, ammendments aren't enough, nothing but complete reformation will do.

    Remember, 'Wittenberg, probably the best theology in the world'!

    And BTW, I'm still not sure I know what Graham meant by post #1

  • Comment number 29.

    #18 romejellybean

    Regarding your point 5 - surely these Papal Bulls would cause global warming through flatulence? I thought this was well-publicised fact concerning bovines?

  • Comment number 30.


    Lol. From what I can see, complete reformation is.... just a few ammendments.

    I didnt know what Graham meant either until I was walking the dog along the beach today and I saw a big fat lady getting out of the water. "Aaaah", I thought, "He has a point!"

    At which point an apple fell on my head and I suddenly had this amazing theory. I wont bore you with it as its probably just a load of hot air.

    And dont be picking on Graham for posting exeedingly clever comments. People in glass houses....

    Right, now to send this to the cyber Inquisition...

  • Comment number 31.


    How dare you criticise one of the ten ammendments!! Science may have claimed that methane contributes to global warning, but it is rubbish.
    Can you show me a fossil of a pump, bovine or otherwise? ( I actually put an f and three asterixs and got moderated!)

    Moderator, sometimes a cigar is just a cigar!

  • Comment number 32.

    #26 - petermorrow -

    "I see we're all on pre-moderation..."

    I wish Auntie would tell us what we've all done wrong.

    The longer I have to wait to see if the mods have posted my comment means the longer I have to keep my computer on, therefore I use more power, therefore I do greater damage to the environment.

    So now we know. It's not the atheists who are causing global warming, is it?


  • Comment number 33.


    You're lucky they allowed you to keep the 'ph' at all. (I'm using phonics, just in case!)

    But I'm wondering if it would help to mock the moderation policy?

    Let's see, here's another asterix:


    If the link is removed you'll know I've been moderated.

    And, "From what I can see, complete reformation is.... just a few ammendments."

    Maybe so, but that's why we put in the caveat, semper reformanda! Go on, argue against that one if you can! :-)

    But back to pirates, Graham wrote in post 1 "I thought Global Warming was due to the decrease in piracy on the high seas.. Now it occurs to me that perhaps he meant papacy but spelled it incorrectly. Do you guys have boats?


    Yes, I know what you mean, I've been waiting around too, to see if my comments are posted, but you know what, maybe we should trust the moderators more, blessed are those who believe but have not seen.

  • Comment number 34.

    And here, RJB, you see the picture at the top, who is Pope Benedict welcoming?

    Is it a new ad for EWTN's, 'The Journey Home'?

  • Comment number 35.

    Come on mods, hurry up (!) it's been a whole 14 minutes since I posted #33, and it's getting warmer all the time!

  • Comment number 36.

    Wouldn't you know it, it said 11:15pm on the preview, and 11:16pm when I posted, tricky business this keeping up.

    What time's it now?

  • Comment number 37.

    And now I feel as if I'm talking to myself.

    Here Beeb, can we have some background music while we wait, and a little message, "Thankyou, for posting; all our moderators are busy right now and your comments are in queue, we will attend to them as soon as possible"

  • Comment number 38.


    No 33 I have an aversion to Latin these days. Still have too many vivid memories of what and who came with it!! (Very dark humour.) Anyway, my church is going backwards so quickly at the moment that when we get back to the Reformation, I'm gonna jump ship.

    Speaking of which, we dont have boats, we just walk on the water.

    No 34 As I said above, Benedict has connotations of something pleasant. The photo to which you refer is of Ratzinger. Have a close look and tell me where you can see any pleasantness.

    All your other posts - a few suggestions for musak while awaiting moderation of posts-

    The green, green grass of home.

    I gas thats why they call it the blues.

    Anything by Nat King Coal.

    We didnt start the fire.

    A hard rains gonna fall.

    This summer there wont be a cloud in the sky.

    I can feel it in the aerosol tonight.

  • Comment number 39.

    While we are on the subject of greenness and catholicism.

    A Spaniard comes to Glasgow for an interview for a job. Interviewer tells him that he needs a good command of English for the job. Spaniard says, "Yees boss, me speaka dee Eengwish berry weel."

    Boss says, "Okay, give me a sentence with the words GREEN, PINK, YELLOW and STATUE, in it."

    Spaniard thinks hard for a minute then exclaims, "Okay, Boss, I goat eet!"

    - I was seeting in da hoose and da phone goes GREEN, GREEN... GREEN, GREEN! So I PINK up dee phone and go YELLOW, Pedro, STATUE?"

    Aye, I know, bed.

  • Comment number 40.

    Re: The pirates

    This is extracted from the "Open Letter To Kansas School Board" which infamously stated

    "Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster."

    The letter went on to argue...

    "You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s... there is a statistically significant inverse relationship between pirates and global temperature."

    So now the Pope knows.


  • Comment number 41.

    Hoy! They pre-moderated me! What gives - I'm not a new member.

    The cheek. School hasn't even started yet.

  • Comment number 42.

    Who moderates the moderators?

    A question all Presbyterians should ask.

  • Comment number 43.

    I'm now writing random comments to annoy the moderators.

  • Comment number 44.

    Does anyone know any moderator jokes?

  • Comment number 45.


    I've been hiding from Fundamentalists. Not all the WWers were fundies. Some very nice folk among them. And if the guy who started all the personal antagonism is who I think he is, then he probably is within his rights. It was nearly twenty years ago, but I was "a boring and deeply unpleasant" sixth former. I would have said some things in his company that he would have found hurtful.
    Of course I'm quite different now. I'm not a sixth former.


  • Comment number 46.

    No - but I know some good church organist jokes... this one does the rounds: what's the difference between an organist and a terrorist? You can negotiate with a terrorist.

    But what about this one: What does the organist and the terrorist have in common? Neither can give up their arms.

    Still makes me laugh that one.

    Do pipe organs contribute to global warming?

  • Comment number 47.

    #44... could we see if we come up with any?

    "How many moderators does it take to change a lightbulb?"

    Note this is still within the subject of this post, ie the lightbulbs. But obviously not the BAD ones which we're not allowed to buy anymore.

    (I'm assuming the moderators can be either the Presbyterian variety or the ones who read our posts.)

    I await the punchlines.

  • Comment number 48.


    If you don't like church organists, then there's a simple solution... But, generally, well done, you guys. I see that you've all treated the Pope's diatribe with the contempt it deserves. We atheists will convert you all yet. Or maybe we should just sit back and let the most reactionary pope in modern times do the job for us.

  • Comment number 49.

    How many atheists does it take to change a lightbulb?

    None. They refuse to recognise the existence of a higher power.

    ... and remain in the dark.

  • Comment number 50.

    #48 - brianmcclinton -

    "We atheists will convert you all yet."

    Why? You sound very religious to me - with that comment!

    And if we don't convert, who (in your philosophy) can say that we are "wrong"?

    And if in our little lives (which will, according to you, end in oblivion) we find that our so-called "delusion" makes us happy, what difference does it make? I am not harming anyone by being a Christian (although people who don't believe in freedom of speech may believe that I am), and object to being lumped with people who do.

    In other words, what I am saying is: what does atheism have to offer anyway, that anyone should want to convert to it?

    (And don't say "truth" - that really would be opening up a philosophical can of worms...)

    PS - sorry for "un-lightening" the tone of the conversation!

  • Comment number 51.

    In the same spirit of #50, I've always wondered what atheists sing, ie in terms of realities outside of themselves, as they think beyond themselves (in the manner Christians might do). I'm harping back to pipe organs again (#46)... and obviously harps too. Any instrument in fact - like the many instruments mentioned in the book of Psalms. How would an atheist 'psalm-book' read and what would it sound like? What do atheists sing?

  • Comment number 52.


    No need for apologies: the thread had petered into light bulb jokes. But why do the religious persist in thinking they can highjack the language?

    1. Definition of conversion: “an event that results in a transformation”. This need not be religious: the 18th Enlightenment was often irreligious.
    2. Definition of wrong: incorrect, contrary to law or morality, unjust, harmful.
    3. Definition of delusion: a false belief that is resistent to confrontation with the facts. People are often easily misled, and religion is a common device used to mislead them.
    4. Religion makes you happy; so does laughing gas, and so does whiskey.
    5. Don’t mention truth, but delusion is okay.
    6. As well as promoting truth, atheism makes you free.


    Funny you should mention music. I was listening to bits of Bach's St Matthew Passion before the ODI cricket started. I can let the music flow over me: "Erbarme dich, mein Gott" - what does it really mean? Who cares?
    What does 'Sad-eyed lady of the lowlands' mean? "Whatever is too stupid to be said can always be sung" (Samuel Johnson)

  • Comment number 53.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 54.

    How many bloggers does it take to get fed up with a moderator?

  • Comment number 55.

    #52 - brianmcclinton -

    "...atheism makes you free."

    Yeah, I must admit I feel really bound up and cramped at the moment. The peace, joy, hope and purpose is beginning to make me feel a bit claustrophobic, I must say. Maybe I ought to return to my days of unbelief: despair, hopelessness, depression, meaninglessness and misery. That's the kind of freedom I reckon I need!

    As for talking about truth...

    ...I feel some more epistemological posts coming on... :-)

  • Comment number 56.

    I was just having another look at the picture of Benedict. I think someone earlier wanted to know the context of the photo.

    Is he saying, "You should have seen the size of the lightbulb! It was this big!"

    ...or is he singing hymn number 1 in the atheist psalm book, Sinatra's "I did it my way"

  • Comment number 57.


    "How many moderators does it take to change a light bulb?"

    Only one; but every single bulb is checked before it is fitted and there will always be a delay before it it lit.


    The solution for those who don't like organists is already in place, it called a Praise Band and a power point slide show. As you can see, we Christians are concerned with deep issues!

    As for conversions, the journey from atheist to a theist is 'only a spacebar away'. Go on, go on, press the button. ( 'Only a Spacebar Away', coming to a church billboard near you, soon!)

    And organs use less electricity.


    "And don't say 'truth' - that really would be opening up a philosophical can of worms"

    He said 'truth', he said 'truth'

    But be careful, remember what happened the last time you opened a tin can on the tinned sinned thread?


    It's not that we religious think we can hijack the language, it's just that every one of your 6 points burst with meaning, we could take them all apart.

    And, apparently "Erbarme dich, mein Gott", means more than yada yada yada, then again maybe not if there's no God.


    # 53. Does this mean you've been excommunicated?


    As for Pope Benedict, perhaps he's saying, "Ah, my patio heater."

  • Comment number 58.

    And LSV

    epistem what?

  • Comment number 59.


    I was only responding to the question, how many moderators does it take to change a lightbulb?

    Seemingly putting seven asterixs infront of the answer 'one' is excommuicatable.

    They sent me a cyber bull to confirm it stating, anathaema sit.

    I replied with geezum unum breakium!!

  • Comment number 60.


    as long as it's not a heretic fuelling the patio heater.

    Yet... "Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle, by God's grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out."

    Aah, the global warming of Wittenburg... post tenebras lux!

  • Comment number 61.


    I think I know your problem, it's multiple asterixesess! I only used one, and got away with it.

    Caspar Canute

    Yes, never, never, never. I feel a song coming on, but I suspect it won't be allowed, so I won't post it, and anyway, I don't have my flute handy. Odd though, don't you think, that there is such good humour on this thread; the Pope uniting Protestants, Catholics and Atheists, whatever next?

  • Comment number 62.

    I also seem to have got away with #58

  • Comment number 63.


    What is this pre-moderation deal? Why is it happening? Why is it necessary? Do they want us all to get fed up and go elsewhere where we can have proper conversations without the lag time? Has anyone given a proper explanation of why this is necessary?

  • Comment number 64.

    How many moderators does it take to change a light bulb?

    Depends whether they are moderating the light bulb or the light that the light bulb produces. The whole point of a light bulb is to produce decent light, so it must be the light that is moderated.

    It also depends whether they are pre-moderation moderators or post-moderation moderators.

    If they are post-mod mods then it's easy. Just one mod puts the bulb in, sees that it's producing a decent looking light, and if not, turns it off.

    But there's a problem with pre-mod mods. Somehow the pre-mod mod has to check the light is OK before anyone else can see it. How can he do this?

    Of course the big question is: is there anyone else in the room in these "light bulb" jokes? So first we have to decide the rules that govern these jokes. It's called questioning your presuppositions - not something that certain dogmatists are prepared to do - on both sides of the theism / atheism fence! (For example, some people talk about "truth" or "morality" as if it goes without saying that they have a philosophical basis for even believing in something called "truth" or "morality").

    If we accept that other people (other than moderators) are in the room while the light bulb is replaced then pre-moderation can't work unless there is some elaborate device used to shield everyone else from the light while the pre-mod mod checks it before giving it a clean bill of health. Then who holds this device? Another pre-mod mod? So that makes two pre-mod mods (or one pre-mod mod and his mate) needed to change a light bulb. All very complicated.

    So doesn't this "prove" that post-moderation is so much better!!! ;-)

  • Comment number 65.


    You questions. I am reminded of the opening chapter of The Iron Man, by Ted Hughes.

    What is this pre-moderation deal? Nobody knows.
    Why is it happening? Nobody knows.
    Why is it necessary? Nobody knows....

  • Comment number 66.

    Tut Tut!! All this talk of changing light-bulbs and not one person to date has asked if the light-bulb actually wants to change? Has nobody learned anything??

  • Comment number 67.

    On the question of how we get passed being moderated. Lets all swear in Latin.

    (Sorry to all of you who are cafflikly challenged.)

    On the question about how many moderators does it take to change a light bulb-

    That depends on the moderator's perception. See the very, very, very, first guy in history who milked a cow... what did he THINK he was doing?

  • Comment number 68.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 69.

    Doesn't work RJB - the moderators are insufficiently classically challenged! I tried an appropriate quotation from sweet Catullus and they rejected it out of hand.

  • Comment number 70.

    They're not that clever, Parrhasios, you began your last post with sixty nine.

  • Comment number 71.

    Graham - post # 45

    I actually meant where had you been that you appeared unaware of all the recent news stories about ship-hijackings and Somalian piracy!

    I was aware of the other situation - I have had plenty of leisure to peruse the Whitewell threads and all I can say is that you are far too charitable. I find it impossible to get the stench of sulphur out of my nostrils.

    Those threads exhibit some of the nastiest traits of humanity and I would not hesitate to say that the ministry of a church which bears such fruit can not be considered in any sense (other than nominally) a Christian ministry.

    As for the earlier you, I would have thought "boring and deeply unpleasant" was simply par for the course for a sixth former. That person's behaviour is still deeply unpleasant today and lacks the excuse of teenage angst.

  • Comment number 72.

  • Comment number 73.

    A note about pre-moderation: Will & Testament is now under pre-moderation rules. That's no offence to anyone; it allies to all comments posted here, included my own. There will be a slight delay before your comments are published, that's all. That delay may even give you a chance to think about your next comment!

  • Comment number 74.


    In what way was your post # 73 in any way about atheism and global warming? Surely you, above all people, should stick to the subject of the thread!!

  • Comment number 75.


    Thankyou for post #73 and the degree of information it provides, no offence taken, sometimes these things need to happen, that is understood.

    However, none of us actually seem to know why this action has been deemed necessary, and for those of us who have been around long enough, and who have batted some pretty intense comments backwards and forwards without need of pre-moderation (a significant number of whom have posted here on this particular thread) this lack of clarity leaves us in the position where we might, perhaps, draw our own conclusions. Sure things got pretty tight at times, but in the past most people seemed pretty good at flagging up what was or was not unacceptable to other bloggers, and sometimes long term posters were challenged directly about offensive comments especially when they became too personal, and of course there was always the safety net of the complaint button. Goodness, we even pulled you up on your entries, and it's your blog!

    This seems to be an unfortunate development, and, to be honest, it's a decision which I find difficult to separate from some of the more recent contributions which have tended towards the discourteous. I could be wrong of course, but if there are specific reasons for placing Will & Testament on pre-moderation then that's a pity, because this is a blog well worth the visiting, I have benefited immensely from it and have learned lots, and I do hope that the presents situation can be reviewed as soon as possible.

  • Comment number 76.


    The questions you asked me on the 'Compassion' thread have lingered with me too long, and so, if I am permitted to post an answer here, as this seems to be one of the only live threads at the moment, I'd like to attempt one.

    You asked a couple of specific questions about WW and then, "I would honestly love to know why you think this manifestation has damaged evangelical Christianity."

    I answered you by poem and gave you some reasons why, and valid though those reasons were, it was also deliberately evasive. :-) (you probably knew that too!). I sought to evade your question, partly because I was struggling to find a way of answering which did not sound judgmental, how, I wonder at times, is it possible to say, 'would you guys stop sounding so smug about your always being right', without saying, 'actually my way's right', and also because I'm not sure if I have an answer. And it's this second point which is of most concern to me.

    Without writing my past history, it is sufficient to say that I have been saturated in the sub-culture of evangelicalism all my life, everything from Calvin to the Charismatic, and it is something which I might describe as a rather grey landscape with the odd flash of colour. There are aspects of evangelicalism I find unsavory, indeed there are times when we are a loutish bunch, we preen and we strut, and we like to be right, and we're pretty adamant about it. Our way always seems to be the right way and each faction within the grey kaleidoscope which is us, has a tendency, from time to time, to square up to the other and flex it's muscles and of course God is always on 'my' side. I don't like writing this, but, I have found it to be true, and while I don't plan writing a sociology of my Christian world, this being 'right' is complicated by the accompanying assertion that we are those who say we know the 'mind of God', we are those who have a 'personal relationship with Jesus', so, you'll see how it is impossible to be wrong!

    The recent WW episode then brought into public view a feature of the evangelical church which I have seen before, and one which lurks just below our surface. It is however one which is mostly contained, perhaps we feel we can control this monster, and so we tend not to slay it. But it most certainly is a monster; however, I fear we have come to think of it as 'christian' when it is not. What I is mean is that we seem to have come to think of this, our 'theological asserting', our 'being right' as something akin to defending the truth. It is as if our endlessly defending our position is the outworking of the biblical call to 'hold fast to that which is good', but in doing so we have forgotten what the 'good' is.

    My trouble is this, the discourtesy of recent comments, and the conceit it exposes cannot be confined to one particular church, it is unfortunately cast abroad, and it is unbecoming, it is unchristian, it is a carcinoma, malignant on our hearts, and we seem to lack the ability to be honest enough with ourselves to admit that it is there.

    I however cannot distance myself from it, I am in evangelicalism and it is in me, but we are in trouble and inspite of the many public exposes of our malady, the penny has yet to drop.

  • Comment number 77.

    Peter M

    My ten years as a christian have seen me move through the forests of Evangelicalism - forests can be peaceful and relaxing - or ugly and dangerous.
    That's how I would define my jouney through various theologies and church governments.

    Lookimg back it is - who i met outside the denominations that helped my faith in Christ - like work friends - people I met through life and so on.

    Things get ugly when false doctrine or immorailty get in amongst the church.
    Two problems exsist - those of us who believe we know everthing and those who refuse to stand for anything.
    Postmodernism has caused a lot of problems - christians now see it their right to disagree with the fundamentals - it's like you have your truth -I have mine and we should all just get along.
    The other extreme is those who refuse to fellowship if we disagree on minor things.

    For me I used to think I knew everthing - but now find I know very little.
    It would be great to have a real assurance on doctrine and how we outwork truth.
    This generation of churches reminds me of Paul's teaching - those who are ever learning and not able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    We have Jews who seek after signs *pentecostals* and the Greeks who seek intellectual wisdom from man's opinons *reformed churches*.

    Would be nice to have a balance of the subjective and the objective in that we would rely more on the spirit - but not to the extent we refuse to study to show ourselves approved.


  • Comment number 78.

    #76 - peter -

    "There are aspects of evangelicalism I find unsavory, indeed there are times when we are a loutish bunch, we preen and we strut, and we like to be right, and we're pretty adamant about it. Our way always seems to be the right way and each faction within the grey kaleidoscope which is us, has a tendency, from time to time, to square up to the other and flex it's muscles and of course God is always on 'my' side."

    Sorry to butt in, but having just read this post, I am wondering what you believe is the point of blogs.

    I would have thought it is a good thing for people to be allowed to express what they believe, and if we are all under the regime of pre-moderation, it is the job of the moderators to moderate. You cannot condemn people for having opinions.

    Forgive me if I am misreading what you are saying, but I have noticed that there seems to be a subtle form of censorship going on at the moment. I had a discussion with puretruthseeker on the "Compassion" thread about an extremely important issue. But certain people popped up and said things which seemed to suggest that even having this dicussion was tantamount to being unpleasant. So why bother even communicating at all?

    You say that evangelicals seem to be entrenched in their position of rightness. That may be true, but this is nothing compared to the views of those of another philosophical persuasion, as I am sure you must know from this blog!! Therefore you should be criticising them as well - and as vehemently!

    The whole point of this forum is to allow people to express themselves, which they are often not able to do in church life. If you want honesty, then let people be honest.

    I, for one, am sick and tired of this culture in the church that accuses people of being "unloving" and "phoney" just because they have strong views and wish to express them. It is not a sin to believe in truth, and to have confidence in your position. Of course, we should be open to being corrected if sound evidence is presented, and that's how this blog should work.

    Don't let's start censoring each other now we're all under pre-moderation. That really would be daft!

  • Comment number 79.

    Peter Morrow

    Some of the discussions on various threads have been about how one recognises "authority." (Authority to teach, preach, lead, etc..)

    They discussed how you can tell such a man and gave references from the Bible and argued their case.

    They failed to recognise, as always, that there was such a man among them. A man who has consistantly shown openness, compassion, humour, sensitivity, understanding, justice, fairness, thoughtfulness, forgiveness, gentleness and love.

    That man is you.

    I hope you realise this.

  • Comment number 80.


    I have no problem with you butting in, in fact I don't think you are butting in, it was obvious that more than Parrhasios would read my comments.

    My concern is not about censorship, I have no wish to prevent other from expressing their point of view, and I have no problem with those views being expressed forcefully, this was not on my mind and I'll come back to this point in a minute.

    First though, those of another philosophical persuasion may well be entrenched in their positions, and yes I agree, it is perfectly reasonable to challenge their thinking, but, the recent threads about WW brought with them a particularly acerbic from of personal attack, if I were to use a colloquialism I would say that some were, 'cutting the tar out of one another'. Time and time again came the assertion, (in one way or another) 'I am the one who is correct, I am the one who is acceptable to God', and there was very little listening, and, I'm sorry to have to say that in my experience of evangelicalism, there is very little listening generally. Time and time again we evangelicals fracture from one another because of doctrinal disagreement and supposed searching after purity, and we become, again and again, 'the separated ones'. Yet, I say this not because I am against evangelicalism, but because I am largely for it and endless infighting and feuding is other than the gospel and we need to be freed from it. If the church is a 'shop window' for Christianity, then our particular shop window resembles a chimps tea party and we need to 'catch ourselves on'! (and yes, yes I know, no one is perfect but too often we don't even take account of the mess.

    As for expressing one's point forceably or having confidence in one's position, yes, of course we should; actually I think the church needs more of this, not less of it, I'm most certainly not arguing for bland acquiescence, but we need debate which leads us somewhere, debate which leads us to express the gospel in word and deed, debate and conversation which provokes in us, which provokes in me, redemptive transformation, and that for the benefit of the community. And yes I know there is good in the church, I know that many good people live sacrificial lives of the benefit of others, but as I said, we have a dark side, it is our enemy, it betrays us and when we feed the monster of religious pride and exclusivity we betray ourselves.

    So by all means, let's debate, let's debate and debate and debate some more, but let us also learn to love one another, let us also learn that sometimes our side doesn't have to 'win' the war of words, let us learn to relinquish our rights and do good to those who hate us, let us learn to forgive one another, as we claim to have been forgiven.

    And look, these thoughts are aimed at no particular individual on this blog, (I'm speaking generally) but I suggest that we have to face the fact that the 'discussion' about WW went way beyond what was civil, and when those who claim to believe in no god other than the decency of humanity demonstrate more courtesy than those of us who call ourselves Christians (with all that we imply by the use of that term), we bring the gospel into disrepute.

    All I'm trying to do is see myself (an evangelical, of sorts) as an outsider might see me. I read the comments written by the atheists here with great interest and I ask myself, why should they believe, and I ask myself if I weren't a christian, would I believe based on my interactions with christians here? I'm trying to learn a little more about me, from them, and one of the things that I've learned from these and other church 'outsiders' is that we in the evangelical church are absorbed with ourselves, and I get the feeling that a lot of our community isn't listening to christianity any more, and I'm wondering if it's fair to blame them when they don't.

  • Comment number 81.

    #80 - petermorrow -

    I hear what you are saying, but I just think that we should not use "love" or "fear of a bad gospel witness" as a way of silencing people. There is a tendency in some parts of the Church to use the accusations of "gossip" and "contention" to prevent people from sharing legitimate concerns. And sometimes when people feel that they are not really being listened to, they may shout ever louder, which only increases the likelihood of their being on the receiving end of yet more accusations of "contentiousness".

    William invited people to continue the WW discussion on the "Sunday Sequence visits WW..." thread, and immediately there were posts on that thread discouraging people from contributing. I object to that.

    If the media are encouraging freedom of speech, then we should not disallow others from responding. Of course, the moderators should do their job to prevent foul language and defamation, but surely it cannot be right to try to silence people by accusing them of being unloving. That is what I meant by censorship.

    And furthermore... has the church actually addressed the issues that people have raised?

    Because if it has not, then these people should certainly shout ever louder, and who can blame them?

    Freedom of speech may have its problems, but the alternative is too terrible to contemplate, especially for Christians.

  • Comment number 82.

    Guys, I love these introspective thoughts about this blog and what it's used for, and how people - esp. Christians - conduct themselves on it. For people like me, this blog is primarily (98%) about discussion and debate of a fairly academic subject matter; politics, science, religion, etc. Sharing in more personal ways has never been my interest.....


    It's been nice to see a community emerge over the past 6 years, and for it to be so diverse, particularly on religious matters. Life is lonely sometimes for everyone, I think, and online communities naturally become about more than the original intent. It's good to see people connecting, and I admit even in the midst of my Facebook-heavy, Twitter-heavy, media-heavy life, Will & Testament is a gathering of folks who have one thing in common: an interest in connecting mentally on many issues, and I've enjoyed seeing more and more join the crowd over that time, and I've found myself getting to know you all and appreciate you all in many ways. That was unexpected. But cool.

  • Comment number 83.

    Re: post 73
    Like Peter said, I don't think the "old-timers" feel that the pre-moderation is aimed at us. My guess is that we're a bit irritated that we're experiencing pre-moderation because the blog has been colonised by tribal warriors (apologies to RevDoc, Sam, etc.)
    Like Peter Morrow said, we could be very rough with each other on this blog. As a matter of fact, it feels a bit weird not having PK around to throw insults at me. But off-line friendships and discussions could develop: there is a certain loyalty amongst the regulars.
    I can understand the need for pre-moderation. I can't really see an alternative. I think we were expressing frustration rather than criticism, if you see what I mean.


  • Comment number 84.


    While we're having a group hug, I have to say that your contributions on the media have been very helpful in RE.
    AQA have removed the media and religion from GCSE RE, so I'm moving it into the Key Stage 3 curriculum. It's proved to be the most popular topic in RE. I don't know why AQA dropped it. I think there was criticism from conservative groups about "real" education, and how media studies doesn't count.

    Those groups don't understand religion, and they don't understand media studies.


  • Comment number 85.

    LSV - your post # 81 et al

    Roy Hattersley, writing in The Observer yesterday, spoke of his often intense verbal duels with Keith Waterhouse as being assault without malice. I think that phrase, with occasional unfortunate exceptions, accurately described the house debating style of the blog prior to the arrival of the Whitewell threads. It was a style I often used myself. Assault allowed one to find clarity and encouraged frank and open debate. What was key, however, was the without malice bit.

    What screams from the Whitewell threads, however, is the undisguised malice of so many of the contributors. I do not object to the debate. I do not object to the many pertinent questions rightly raised. I object to the tone, the personalisation, the self-indulgence.

  • Comment number 86.


    L Ron Hubbard is alleged to have said something along the lines of "If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion". He went on to prove his point.

    It requires a lot of effort and imagination to invent a whole new religion but there are undoubtedly opportunities for profit with slightly less radical versions of the same business model. You do not need to invent a new religion: an unscrupulous and avaricious individual only needs to start his own church to start coining it.

    The activities of, say, McDonald's do not damage evangelical Christianity and, I may be wrong, but I just cannot imagine your ever saying "Big Mac, fries, and coke - and super-size me!"

  • Comment number 87.

    GV- Excellent. You're doing your students a service by thinking so carefully about it.

  • Comment number 88.


    No!!! Atheism is not the reason for global warming...

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 89.

    Pre-moderation (State of)

    Announcement - The Will and Testament blog site will return to normal.... when all the Christians on it stop their swearing, hateful comments, threats, abuse, ill-feeling, ranting, personal insults, gossip, back-biting, persecutions, and aggression.

  • Comment number 90.



    But you forgot to mention threat of legal action.


  • Comment number 91.

    How does, The Pope comes up with the Rationale to make this assumption???

    =Dennis Junior=

  • Comment number 92.

    RJB #89

    Now hold on a minute! There's nothing fair about any of that. Why pick on the Christians?! If I can't swear (or the like), then there's no (I almost put an asterisk in there) way anybody should be allowed to swear, it's just natural justice. Why should non Christians get away with it if I can't.

    No, it won't do! An eye for an eye, that's what I want! What do you expect, do you want me to show mercy or something?!

    And how would you expect me to live like that anyway, surely that would require a some kind of character transformation; now who is it speaks of that kind of remaking?

  • Comment number 93.


    Lol. Incase you hadnt noticed (which I know you have), its actually the atheists and non Christians on here who dont swear etc..

    They do have a tendency to extract the Michael, which I suppose is not very Chritian, but then, we are claiming that there is a big Pixie in the sky. We probably deserve all we get.

  • Comment number 94.

    I love all this moralising. Please, RJB, give me some more. My 'should/should not' list is getting too short.

  • Comment number 95.

    "My 'should/should not' list is getting too short."

    Well then, John, you should lengthen it.

  • Comment number 96.


    Shurely should/should not should be two lists and of differing lengths, should'nt they? I'm shure they should.

    Shurely there are far more should nots than shoulds. You should know that, should't you? Should you wish to find more should nots, you should check the moderators rules, should you not?

    Sean Connery.

  • Comment number 97.

    Well RJB, it took a minute or two, but eventually... I got it. Only thing is when I say it, it comes out like Rab C!

    Very funny.

  • Comment number 98.

    Is atheism to blame for global warming?

    No idea, I'm just looking for a solution to the moderation problem!


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