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William Crawley | 13:09 UK time, Friday, 14 December 2012

talktalk.jpgI don't often post an open thread, but some of you tell me it's a good idea because it lets you get stuff off your chest without throwing the direction of other threads. It also permits you to make suggestions about subjects we might give some more substantial space to on Will & Testament. Let's see. Expatiate at will (sorry about the pun). Keep it legal. The house rules still apply.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    Ah, the first new thread in several months. Thanks Will for enabling the conversation here again.

    I came across a Daily Mail article about the results of the 2011 UK census results.
    The short summary of it is that christianity is well down, while all others are up, with by far the largest portion of the up going to non-belief.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2246436/Census-2011-religion-data-reveal-4m-fewer-Christians-1-4-atheist.html

    :)

  • Comment number 2.

    And a Reuters blog page reports that my native country of the Netherlands is set to drop its 1932 blasphemy law and that Ireland may drop its blasphemy law only a few years after its introduction in 2009. Maybe it is the highly troubled, sometimes slightly desperate situation in Greece that makes things go the other way there.

    http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2012/12/05/dutch-blasphemy-law-to-fall-and-irish-one-may-follow/

  • Comment number 3.

    And finally the Christian Union at Bristol University has decided that in line with certain bible passages, women should stfu as far as public speaking is concerned. Or if they must open their mouths, then only in the presences of their husbands.

    http://bristol.tab.co.uk/2012/12/03/christian-union-gags-female-speakers/

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/04/bristol-university-christian-union-women

    Bristol University is one of 24 members of the Russel Group btw, the group of
    universities in the UK with high ranking (medical) research. It's not some small, private institution. Seeing how in the 21st century women at a university are pointed to the bible as a reason to shut up, shows that while christianity in Britain may be declining (see first comment in this thread), it still manages to exert bad influence.

  • Comment number 4.

    One more post, to avoid the criticism that atheists only go after the soft target of christianity and don't dare criticise islam.

    Quran-burning Florida pastor Terry Jones, along with seven coptic christians, has been condemned to death in absentia for his role in promoting the lousy short movie 'Innocence of Muslims'. The violent outrage that the movie sparked among muslims wasn't quite enough of a response for an Egyptian court. So they handed out a list of death sentences. Mostly symbolically, because it is not just Jones who resides in the US, but most of the condemned coptic christians too, and none actually live in Egypt.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/11/28/terry-jones-death-sentence_n_2205511.html

  • Comment number 5.

    Thanks, Will, for the open thread.

    Interesting to see the spin machine in full operation (from both sides) when interpreting the census statistics.

    Allow me to put my interpretation on the figures...

    We have been continually informed by the humanists / atheists / secularists etc that the 72% who claimed to be Christians in the 2001 census were not all really proper Christians, but many were actually just 'cultural Christians'.

    Well, if that is the case, and the figure is now 59%, how can these same humanists claim that the reduction is due to a decreasing interest in Christianity? According to their logic, it is quite plausible that the 13% decrease is due to mere cultural Christians (who are actually non-Christians) being more honest about their position - possibly helped by the BHA campaign. So therefore no actual decline in Christianity at all.

    What I actually find quite remarkable is that even despite the high level of vituperation and hostility to Christianity in the UK a majority still identity with the faith. I don't see this as a great success for atheism at all.

    If "Christian" doesn't actually really mean this for most people who identified with it, then honesty demands that the same argument should be applied to the "No religion" category. "No religion" does not necessarily mean atheism, because it could mean a refusal to identify with any particular outward religious organisation. It says nothing about personal belief in God or spirituality. In fact, I don't actually consider myself 'religious'. It all depends how we define the word.

    Now I am aware that there have been other surveys and polls which have attempted to paint a more accurate picture of the spiritual and religious state of the UK, but, of course, these are limited, and the census is the only comprehensive and official survey.

    The stated aim of the census is as follows:

    The census provides information on housing and population that government needs to develop policies, and to plan and run public services such as health and education. The data are also widely used by academics, businesses, voluntary organisations and the public. At the moment, the census is the only method of providing this information.

    So this information is used by government to develop policies, and in a democracy the will of the majority is of paramount importance (without ignoring minorities). Like it or not, the official position is that a majority of people in this country identify with Christianity. Therefore the situation has not actually changed from 2001. A reduced majority is still a majority, and so it quite fatuous for Andrew Copson of the BHA to come out with the following statement:

    "It is time that public policy caught up with this mass turning away from religious identities and stopped privileging religious bodies with ever increasing numbers of state-funded religious schools and other faith-based initiatives. They are decreasingly relevant to British life and identity and governments should catch up and accept that fact."


    So apparently the assumed views of a mere 25% of the population should ride roughshod over the stated identity of 59% of people (actually 75% of people if you include all religions)!! Since when does the phenomenon of a mere quarter of the population not identifying with religion equate to a "mass turning away from religious identities"? Am I missing something here??

    Christianity is alive and well in the UK, and is also alive and well in many countries where the percentage is minute. The great atheist hope for the demise of what they call 'religion' is just another desperate delusion. We have heard it all before.
  • Comment number 6.

     
    #4

    PeterKlaver,

    Re: Link to Huff Post

    This quote from the article raises questions of jurisdiction -

    "Maximum sentences are common in cases tried in absentia in Egypt. Capital punishment decisions are reviewed by the country's chief religious authority, who must approve or reject the sentence. A final verdict is scheduled on Jan. 29."

    Would such approval, I wonder, remove the symbolism from the verdict and give a green light to anyone who wished to carry out the sentence?

    (Using the fatwa issued against Salman Rushdie as a precedent).

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    What I find most interesting recently is (and I am sure you will not find this a surprise) is that after all the shouting and screaming from the CofE about them being taken to court if they refuse to carry out wedding between couples of the same sex and the government caving in and stating that they will be banned from it to protect them - they (and the church in Wales) are crying about their freedom to do it is being trampled on.

    What is it they want ?????

    Protection from being forced or the freedom to do it if they want?

    Face Palm !!!!!

  • Comment number 9.

    I was very saddened to read that yet another priest has been convicted of a sex crime in Northern Ireland.

    "The former administrator of Newry Cathedral has been convicted of indecently assaulting a teenage girl."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-20728990

    Interpreting Census findings is not easy. If a convicted child sex abuser self-identifies as a Christian what does it tell us?

  • Comment number 10.

    newlach (@ 9) -

    Interpreting Census findings is not easy. If a convicted child sex abuser self-identifies as a Christian what does it tell us?


    It tells us that he self-identifies as a Christian. Nothing more. After all, the British Humanist Association has been telling us that self-identifying as a Christian doesn't mean much if anything, but for some strange reason they don't seem willing to apply exactly the same logic to those who self-identify as "non-religious". Such simple and straighforward honesty seems to elude these people, for some reason.

    If a convicted child sex abuser self-identifies as a non-religious person, what does it tell us?

    I'll leave you to ponder that one...
  • Comment number 11.

    Dave

    As I understand it, the CofE can still be brought to court despite the planned 'legal protections'. I haven't really followed the coverage (bored) to know what you're referring to. Yet it does seem possible to oppose gay marriage, to argue for legal protections in the event it is introduced, and then to criticise the precise form given to those legal protections.

    *

    On the subject of same-sex marriage itself, I was watching Question Time Thursday past and it (once again) came up for discussion. Stella Creasy MP, a member of the CofE, spoke in support of same-sex marriage. She repeated the same point several times 'marriage is about love and commitment between two people'. This, of course, solicited generous rounds of applause - in darker moments I suspect that words like 'love' and 'commitment' have become trigger words that by-pass the conscious mind and lead straight to hand clapping amongst those who think they are enlightened.

    Supporters of these proposals are entitled to justify them how they like - likewise, opponents - but when politicians like Ms. Creasy are still debating this issue based on platitudes it's a sign that public debate has failed (once again). And this applies equally to those against who are still repeating 'marriage is between a man and a woman', who are still appealing to their 'christian belief'.

    It seems to me that public debate has become an event designed to give the illusion that democracy is rational when, in fact, it is not. On reflection this is rather obvious, democracy is about will not reason.

  • Comment number 12.

    'they don't seem willing to apply exactly the same logic to those who self-identify as "non-religious".'

    You misrepresent the views of those who lead the British Humanist Association. In today's edition of Sunday Sequence Andrew Copson was interviewed on how the non-religious are discriminated against worldwide. On the subject of those who self-identify as having no religion he said: "whatever they mean by that". The new president of the BHA, Jim Al-Khalili (the great, great, great grandson of an ayatollah!) appearing on today's Sunday programme also urged caution when interpreting the Census figures, pointing out how they can be used by all sides to show all things.


    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01p9g0g (12th minute)

  • Comment number 13.

    Is there anyone who isn't discriminated against these days?

  • Comment number 14.

    Is there anyone who isn't discriminated against these days?

    I'm not sure about that but isn't not discriminating discriminating against those who aren't discriminated against?

  • Comment number 15.

    Andrew,

    I think the problem lies with the establishment status of the CofE and the fact that they cannot currently refuse to marry people who are otherwise legally free to marry and meet any other requirements of Parish membership. With divorced couples it is up to the individual priest. (At least I think that is the issue that the government is trying to sort out). It does not affect other churches who are free to refuse anyone they like on any grounds (such as divorce, adultery etc) as they are not mandated by the state to provide the service. Why they dragged the church of Wales into it I am not sure as they were disestablished some time ago and seem to suggest that they prefer the scheme which would allow them to opt in freely at a later date should they decide that was appropriate.

    I would still view it as barmy why anyone would want to sue a church who didn't want to marry them. Who would want to be married by someone who was under duress to do so - hardly conducive to a happy day.

    As for your comments about democracy etc - I think I agree and we probably are suffering from consultation overload. I oft think that I wish they would just get on with it (they don't consult on taxes so why other things). If we don't like what they do we can always vote them out later without giving them the cover of 'well we asked you all and it is what you wanted - don't blame us'.

  • Comment number 16.

    Dave

    'I would still view it as barmy why anyone would want to sue a church who didn't want to marry them. Who would want to be married by someone who was under duress to do so - hardly conducive to a happy day.'

    Yes, barmy. People are odd, though. Some very odd.

    'As for your comments about democracy etc - I think I agree and we probably are suffering from consultation overload.'

    One of the issues I think the public debate hasn't been very successful in addressing is the states interest in marriage. Instead most of the focus has been on whether or not we can 'redefine' marriage and then whether we should. Personally, I don't really care if religious institutions (or, whatever) 'marry' whomever and whatever they want, the real issue is the states interest in recognising certain relationships in law. The original proposals were especially curious since they got this a** about face i.e. we're only talking about 'civil marriage' not 'religious marriage'. The reason for this might have been the theological nature of the arguments offered by many opponents of same-sex marriage. For the advocate of same-sex marriage this is a useful way to frame the debate, people's minds will not be changed by theological arguments. The right may as well huff and puff.

  • Comment number 17.

    newlach (@ 12) -

    You misrepresent the views of those who lead the British Humanist Association. In today's edition of Sunday Sequence Andrew Copson was interviewed on how the non-religious are discriminated against worldwide. On the subject of those who self-identify as having no religion he said: "whatever they mean by that".


    Well done. You have quoted Copson's words selectively, thereby distorting his answer. This is what he actually said in answer to Will's question:

    Crawley: "Is atheism now on the rise nationally and internationally?"

    Copson: "Nationally it certainly is. I mean we saw a 70% increase in the census in England and Wales of the non-religious population. That same trend is mirrored internationally. If you look at the various international surveys of religion or belief, some of them based on bringing together national surveys, some of them done internationally, you find that about 59% of people in the world profess a religion and you find that about 23% of people say that they're not religious - whatever they mean by that."


    (My emphasis added).

    Now what do the words "nationally it [referring specifically to atheism as asked by Will] certainly is" mean? It is undeniable what Copson is saying. He then attempts to support his answer with reference to the 70% increase of the non-religious population in England and Wales. On the basis of this answer, it is irrefutably true that Copson is interpreting "non-religious" as "atheist".

    His reference to "whatever they mean by that" concerns not the situation in England and Wales, but internationally. Notice that there were two parts to the question, and therefore two parts to the answer:

    1) nationally

    2) internationally

    Copson has a slightly less dogmatic interpretation of "non-religious" for the second category. Can you not see that?

    Next time, could you please try to be more honest?
  • Comment number 18.

    The tragic death of Savita Halappanavar, and the archaic abortion legistation in both the ROI and NI surely needs to be discussed ?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-20779631

  • Comment number 19.

    LSV

    Mr Copson drew on the findings not only of the 2011 Census but on credible surveys conducted to ascertain how religious people in the UK are. The 70 per cent rise in the non-religious population that he referred to is significant. Could this figure include regular churchgoers? Of course it could, but I very much doubt it would include too many of them.

    Consider the Census findings for the city of Norwich, for example. The figure for "non-religious" here was 42.5 per cent. The Bishop of Norwich doubted the accuracy of the findings, but if taxpayers' money has been given to faith-based projects and charities based on previous Census findings shouldn't it now be cut based on these findings?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-20679514

  • Comment number 20.

    Peter (@ 18) -

    ...archaic abortion legislation...


    Why "archaic"?

    Legislation should be based on what is morally right and workable, irrespective of whether it reflects attitudes of the past or not. I suspect that we probably both agree on what should have happened in this tragic case, but "archaic" has nothing to do with it.
  • Comment number 21.

    newlach (@ 19) -

    You originally claimed that I misrepresented Andrew Copson, and I showed you that, in fact, I had done no such thing. Since you have not addressed this point in your last post, then I assume that you cannot dispute my evidence.

    He is equating 'non-religious' with 'atheist' (at least as far as England and Wales are concerned). By that same logic he has no right to question the legitimacy of the Christian self-identification of a majority of the population of England and Wales.

    But even if we argue that 'non-religious' does mean 'atheist', should the views of a mere 25% of the population ride roughshod over the views of 75%? Is that how secular democracy is supposed to work?

  • Comment number 22.

    As far as I'm aware abortion legislation is a fairly modern thing.

  • Comment number 23.

    LSV

    I accept your point that the increase of 67 per cent in the non religious is not sufficient evidence on its own to justify the claim that atheism is "certainly" on the rise. I would suggest, however, that it would be churlish of you not to acknowledge that many of those who fall within this category are in fact atheists. After all, the BHA itself called for atheists to tick the "No religion" box.

    http://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/census-2011/

    What's this guff about atheists wanting to ride roughshod over Christians! Nothing could be further from the truth. The atheists I know want equality of treatment and wish to see fairness in how taxpayers' money is distributed. With 4,000,000 fewer Christians recorded in the 2011 Census (despite an increase in the population of 3.7 million) local authorities need to look very carefully at how much taxpayer' money they are handing over to projects and charities run by Christians. The figure of 4,000,000 is around 2.5 times the population of Northern Ireland.

  • Comment number 24.

    The census sure does make for good sport.

    Whilst everybody knows Christians are id**ts we can't (yet) be sure that at least some of those identifying as 'no religion' or 'atheist' are also not id**ts.

    An unnamed official informed me that the fanfare has been postponed until this is confirmed. They were, however, able to provide me some footage from rehearsals;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McaiADeflto

  • Comment number 25.

    Scotch Git, post 6,

    The symbolism I mentioned was more in reference to those convicted all living outside Egypt rather than the approval of the death sentences by the chief religious authority in Egypt. None of those convicted in their right minds would ever visit Egypt again, I guess, when those acting in the name of the 'religion of piece' would have them hanged/beheaded/stoned to death/whatever.

  • Comment number 26.

    newlach, post 9,

    "Interpreting Census findings is not easy."

    Indeed, it's hard to tell how much of the 13% drop for christianity is due to 'cultural christians' and how much due to 'real christians' dropping out. Though I don't see much valid basis for the spin put on it in post 5, that *none* of the 13% represents any decline in christianity *at all*. That seems like christian wishful thinking to me.

  • Comment number 27.

    And it's the 21st of December now, and the world doesn't appear to be coming to an end. I guess we can toss that Mayan prediction of the end of the world on the same heap as another list of a few hundred fairy tale based mispredictions (scroll down a little).

    http://www.bible.ca/pre-date-setters.htm

    Anyone holding out for those who put the prediction on the 22nd, rather than the 21st?

  • Comment number 28.

    And finally I'd like to draw some attention to the 3 part BBC series Rome - A history of the eternal city, which chronicles the absorbing of elements of pagan religion into early christianity in the city, the rise of christianity over the old pagan religions, how Rome gained primacy as the centre of chrisitanity and then lost it, to how it regained it and eventually how it developed in a more secular age, when Italy became united as a single country in which papal states or armies no longer existed.

    The story does contain some bits about papal power in the past and how that lead to corruption, debauchery, moral depravity, financial exploitation and eventually the protestant reformation. I've recently watched the drama series The Borgias, about pope Alexander VI and his family, which contains various historic inaccuracies and I had presumed much of that was spiced up. But watching the BBC series, it seems it was actually toned down in a number of areas too.

    For those who didn't see it, all three episodes are on iPlayer, the first here:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01p65l8/Rome_A_History_of_the_Eternal_City_Episode_1/

    It's also on YouTube, though the moderators would probably not allow me to link to that, as the copyright of those YouTube broadcasts seems extremely dodgy. However, a few short clips would hopefully be allowed under Fair Use.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Tj5eE2FZew
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b2svZ7ZkCSw

  • Comment number 29.

    Will, in all honesty I felt some peace that you were on a furlough. Now, your posters surface again, sounding the same as before; as always: the Christian bashing.
    I think you would not increase your following if the same ol’ same ol’ persons continue making the usual noise. I restrain myself or else I will be arguing the same ol’ same ol’ stuff with other usual persons.
    I am a human being after all; and not a limited vocabulary parrot.

    Anyways my best wishes to your good health and writing, Will.

  • Comment number 30.

    Re: Peter Klaver (@ 26) -

    Ah, Peter Klaver is in a generous mood. That means it must be Christmas! It's nice to know that during this season of goodwill, he actually agrees with me on something (in this case, that the logic of the British Humanist Association is suspect).

    Allow me to explain...

    Indeed, it's hard to tell how much of the 13% drop for christianity is due to 'cultural christians' and how much due to 'real christians' dropping out. Though I don't see much valid basis for the spin put on it in post 5, that *none* of the 13% represents any decline in christianity *at all*. That seems like christian wishful thinking to me.


    And the relevant bit from post #5:

    We have been continually informed by the humanists / atheists / secularists etc that the 72% who claimed to be Christians in the 2001 census were not all really proper Christians, but many were actually just 'cultural Christians'.

    Well, if that is the case, and the figure is now 59%, how can these same humanists claim that the reduction is due to a decreasing interest in Christianity? According to their logic, it is quite plausible that the 13% decrease is due to mere cultural Christians (who are actually non-Christians) being more honest about their position - possibly helped by the BHA campaign. So therefore no actual decline in Christianity at all.


    Did anyone notice the word I emphasised which was also in italics in the original?
    Yes, that's right.... "According to their logic..."

    My "wishful thinking" is courtesy of the logic of the BHA (in other words, your dear comrades cannot have it both ways).

    That was the only point I was making.

    And a happy Christmas to you too.
  • Comment number 31.

    At the risk of completely validating sizzlestick's post 29, I suppose I will reply to what LSV said in post 30. :(

    "Did anyone notice the word I emphasised which was also in italics in the original?
    Yes, that's right.... "According to their logic..."

    My "wishful thinking" is courtesy of the logic of the BHA (in other words, your dear comrades cannot have it both ways)."

    From what I know, it would appear that some of what you attribute to the BHA is not a position the BHA has taken, but rather how you would wish things to be. From what statements from the BHA would it follow that all of the 13% decline was 'cultural christians' dropping out and that not any were 'real christians' dropping out? The suggestion that part of the 13% was cultural christians dropping out (thereby indeed not really representing a decline in adherence to christianity) seems reasonable enough, but the idea that *all* of them must have been so and that there was no decline at all, seems more like how you would wish things to be.

  • Comment number 32.

    Hi Will,
    I wondered if there were no new threads because the typing audience is so small and the ones who do post are monotonous.

    To the question:

    Alcohol, the gateway drug.
    Will you did present a few excellent Everyday Ethics broadcasts on the subject and that one needs more work. Last week on Any Answers Anita Anand had call ins on the topic of Drug Legalization. It drove me crazy to listen to one man who had lost a son to drugs, fair enough. The journalist failed however and instead of asking some very direct questions as much as said there, there, have a nice cup of tea. The population of the UK is so mired in alcoholism and instead of focusing on that takes a rather ignorant attitude towards even something as simple as Cannabis .

    Anand should have asked about how much alcohol the kid drank, what is the level of alcohol use in the family and how many alcoholics are included in the group. I guess even if the question was asked that the denials would start.

    I lost a younger brother to alcohol a month ago. My sister-in-law died on the streets of Vancouver from alcoholism. I tried to warn my alcoholic inlaws about their daughter but they ignored me. Now my mother-in-law has dementia, no doubt caused by that terrible state sponsored drug.

    The symptoms of alcohol dementia are essentially the same as the symptoms present in other types of dementia, making alcohol dementia difficult to diagnose.

    Alcohol Dementia

    "There are very few qualitative differences between alcohol dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and it is therefore difficult to distinguish between the two. Some of these warning signs may include memory loss, difficulty performing familiar tasks, poor or impaired judgment and problems with language. However the biggest indicator is friends or family members reporting changes in personality."

    Given the glut of dementia suffers that continues to grow in the UK isn't it about time that the taxes on booze be raised to cover the care and that the people start to accept responsibility?

    and then ....

    Abortion - when will journalists start to address male culpability for unplanned, unwanted pregnancies? Women and children have suffered for too long and this must stop. We have to start blaming men. Perhaps there should be a huge financial penalty for any man that doesn't use contraception when a pregnancy ensues. I do not know of many or any cases in which a female delivers to term and the man takes the child.

    Contraception should be a global human right.

    I do wish you good luck on trying to modernize N.I. The last few shows about the ridiculous violence over trivia there have had excellent panelists.

    Getting religion pushed to the back burner, of course only comparatives classes should be offered, not indoctrination. Here in Ontario public schools, the general form of education offer no religion except in mythology. It is quite shocking to me to hear about the continued influence of priest/magicians on the culture. That has been what held yours back. Faith schools do exist here, Roman Catholic ones were part of our history as appeasement to France and that part of Canadian society lagged behind and is only now catching up/

    We are all Atheists, all the generations too. For our brother we created a fantastic memorial that had no religion and was moving thanks to my son and his son speaking so eloquently and story telling. We were proud.

    On Christmas Eve the family will congregate at our house. We will have a wonderful meal, play board games, tell stories and there will be no alcohol.

    I'll also say that my husband and I financially support a wonderful church in downtown Toronto as we are huge fans of the historic pipe organ and attend the weekly recitals as the 'front pew Atheists'.

    Thanks for Andrew Copson's interview. If only everyone could be Canadian.

    Will you are an excellent journalist and I really look forward to the podcasts.

    All the best in 2013, Linda, Canada

  • Comment number 33.

    Peter Klaver (@ 31) -

    From what I know, it would appear that some of what you attribute to the BHA is not a position the BHA has taken, but rather how you would wish things to be.


    The evidence from the BHA site:

    Of course these figures still exaggerate the number of Christians overall – the number of believing, practicing Christians is much lower than this and the number of those leading their lives with no reference to religion much higher.


    I won't quote the rest of the BHA article, because it may be deemed to go beyond 'fair use' on this comment board, but if you read it you can see clearly that the BHA believe that the adherence to Christianity is exaggerated. That was the whole point of their campaign to encourage people to state that they were non-religious, if that was the case. I am simply assuming that this campaign was relatively successful (giving the BHA the benefit of the doubt), and this may explain the reduction in the percentage for Christianity. Of course, it's possible that some committed Christians have 'deconverted', but it is also possible that Christian commitment has increased, but this is hidden in the figures. We just do not know, because we cannot read people's minds.

    All I can say (and you can call this "wishful thinking" if you like, although it seems atheists are not immune to this weakness) is that the effort of trying to deconvert committed Christians is probably fairly unsuccessful, and much of what goes for 'atheism' is just a kind of apathetic non-religiosity more akin to agnosticism, rather than the aggressive and doctrinaire stance promoted by a tiny vocal minority. After all, how many people positively stated their identification with atheism / humanism in the census? They had the opportunity.
  • Comment number 34.

    LSV, re-read what I said in post 31. You're hardly even addressing the point I made. Which was that your idea that the 13% decline does not represent any reduced adherence to christianity at all, has no solid basis. You seem to be nearer the mark when you say "We just do not know". So it would seem wiser to hold off on the perhaps somewhat triumphalist/denialist claim that there was no decline at all.

  • Comment number 35.

    Peter Klaver -

    Actually you don't seem to be paying any attention to what I originally wrote. Please try to look at the context. I was drawing out the logical implications of the logic of the BHA. If they are claiming that most "Christians" are not actually real Christians, and their campaign was designed to encourage these phoney Christians to "come out" as non-religious, then, on the assumption that they succeeded in this aim, they cannot claim that the reduction in Christian self-identification represents a genuine decline in Christianity (i.e. Christian belief and commitment), but only an increase in honesty among the non-religious.

    I think this is the obvious logical implication of the BHA's logic. But you don't seem to be able to see this, which I find rather puzzling.

    I am not saying that I categorically believe that there is no reduction in the numbers of committed Christians (unless you want to take one sentence from post #5 completely out of context). I was only proposing that as a plausible position on the basis of the logic of the BHA. (I note that you seem to have ignored my use of the word 'plausible' in post #5).

  • Comment number 36.

  • Comment number 37.

    LSV,

    Nothing in your entire post there undoes that while you are likely right to some part on the real/cultural christians considerations, your notion of there not being any decline at all is without any solid foundation. Wishful thinking would instead seem the best explanation. And when I say 'your notion', it really is your notion. You say things like

    " I was drawing out the logical implications of the logic of the BHA."

    "I think this is the obvious logical implication of the BHA's logic."

    If I were the BHA, I wouldn't let you be the spokesman for their positions!

  • Comment number 38.

    I'm not entirely sure it matters to 'secularists' whether one is a 'real' or 'cultural' Christian. Presumably organisations such as the BHA are mostly interested in religion insofar as it impacts upon public policy. That's to say, they're probably not concerned over who is and isn't in the Kingdom of Heaven.

  • Comment number 39.

    Peter Klaver (@ 37) -

    If I were the BHA, I wouldn't let you be the spokesman for their positions!


    I suppose if the BHA is an organisation that doesn't expect anybody to take them seriously, then, of course, your comment has some merit.

    My big 'sin' on this thread is to believe what they say and assume that they mean what they say. And then - gasp! - to dare to think logically about the implications of what they say.

    Also, I am not aware that I am attempting to be the 'spokesman' of the BHA. All I am doing is expressing a point of view about a topic that has recently been in the news. Or is thinking for oneself (i.e. proper freethinking) not allowed?
  • Comment number 40.

    newlach (@ 23) -

    What's this guff about atheists wanting to ride roughshod over Christians! Nothing could be further from the truth. The atheists I know want equality of treatment and wish to see fairness in how taxpayers' money is distributed.


    It's interesting, in the light of this comment, to read what LucyQ wrote (in post #32):

    Getting religion pushed to the back burner, of course only comparatives classes should be offered, not indoctrination. Here in Ontario public schools, the general form of education offer no religion except in mythology.


    On the assumption that atheists never ride roughshod over Christians (or other religious people), I assume that the public (therefore tax funded) schools in Ontario also categorise non-religious views as mythology?? After all, all atheists want is equal treatment for everyone (according to you), and so no unfairness and discriminatory practices, as concerns educational bias!!

    Or perhaps Canadian atheists haven't quite heard the rallying call to treat everyone equally?
  • Comment number 41.

    Andrew,

    What you say is correct I think, as far as secularists not wanting public policy formed on the basis of religious ideas, whether people truly hold to these ideas or merely pay lip service (pen service, mouse click service?) to them in a census.

    Though one area where it does make a difference is when religious leaders speak out and claim to speak on behalf of e.g. the overwhelming majority of people in the country. In post 11 you said that democracy is about will, not reason, which I think has a good deal of validity to it. From that point of view, the question of whether people are true or merely cultural believers can be relevant.

  • Comment number 42.

    LSV, post 39,

    "My big 'sin' on this thread is to believe what they say and assume that they mean what they say."

    No, you draw conclusions that seem very much to be your wishful thinking rather than the logical implication of what the BHA has said. And after several posts you have still not shown anything good to suggest different. Instead, you have said at least some bits, like e.g. how we just don't know, that show how the 'logical implications' that you draw are in error.

    " And then - gasp! - to dare to think logically about the implications of what they say."

    Claiming logic on your side. Just as you have mentioned evidence already several times again in this thread. But any long-time reader would know that coming from you, those words are just window dressing and that they are not attached to any of the positives (like intelligent thinking) that they are normally associated with.
    I do somewhat like it though, that you try to gain credibility for your posts by borrowing the language of an opposing world view. You never hear the science-minded atheists here try to improve the credibility of their their posts by wrapping them in faith language, do you? Your implicit admission as to which is the more credible world view is gratifying. :)

  • Comment number 43.

    Before W&T was suspended, transparently to close down debate about the arrival of an abortion factory in Belfast, named after nazi spy and eugenicist Marie Stopes, one of my last contributions was an extract from some writing i was doing, about Japan. If i may, i'd like to post another extract, this time from an account of a visit to Mexico:

    "With the promulgation of the Bull Sublimis Deus on June 9th 1537, Pope Paul III decreed that;

    “We…consider that the Indians are truly men and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic faith, but, according to our information, they desire exceedingly to receive it. …the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property, even though they be outside the faith of Jesus Christ; they may and should freely and legitimately, enjoy their liberty and the possession of their property…nor should they be in any way enslaved; should the contrary happen, it shall be null and of no effect.”

    It is not within the scope of this account to make a detailed defence of the record of 16th century Spanish colonisers of the New World, except to say that many commonly held Anglo-Saxon assumptions (along with hackneyed clichés about the Inquisition) can be traced back to the 1580s, when England and Spain were at war. One need only think of the gratuitous demonisation, for instance, of the Serbs in the Yugoslav Wars, to be reminded that public opinion can be thoroughly manipulated in the interest of achieving a military objective. Even so, it’s clear that not all Spaniards, even among the clergy, kept either to the spirit or the letter of Pope Paul’s words, and moreover it also appears that previous and subsequent Papal pronouncements were more ambiguous on the question of indigenous freedoms, and therefore open to willful misinterpretation. Nevertheless, with this Bull the Papacy set down in clear terms its position that the Indians were human beings. In this respect one can make an interesting comparison with the status of Indians in the (Protestant) USA, where not until 1879, in Omaha, was it ruled for the first time that “an Indian is a ‘person’ within the meaning of the laws of the United States.”

    In recognising and insisting upon the inalienable human dignity of unborn children, the Catholic Church is similarly a long way ahead of its time. You can’t deny someone their status as a human being, simply because they aren’t old enough. This question possibly has a greater urgency for people born after the liberalization of abortion laws in western countries in the 1960s and 70s, because they themselves, but for the grace of God, could have been engulfed in the abortion holocaust. Your mother terminated her pregnancy in the best way possible: she gave birth to you. Civilised countries should be in the business of trying to protect everyone’s right to have a birthday. Given the cultural and historical context of the apparitions of the Virgin of Guadalupe, discussion around her inevitably turns to the subject of the practice of human sacrifice. And when people have stopped talking about abortion, they sometimes address the subject of Aztec religious customs."

  • Comment number 44.

    PeterKlaver

    That programme on Rome was excellent. It was interesting how the Christians substituted the Virgin Mary for the Magna Mater. Will now watch the second part about Christians. This Thursday:

    "Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss the cult of Mithras, a mystery religion that existed in the Roman Empire from the 1st to the 4th centuries AD. Also known as the Mysteries of Mithras, its origins are uncertain."

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pg5nt

  • Comment number 45.

    Peter

    I think it would depend on what the religious leader is claiming support for. What do you have in mind?

  • Comment number 46.

    Peter Klaver (@ 43) -

    I do somewhat like it though, that you try to gain credibility for your posts by borrowing the language of an opposing world view. You never hear the science-minded atheists here try to improve the credibility of their their posts by wrapping them in faith language, do you?


    I use the language of an opposing world view?

    Do please feel free to explain.

    Could you please list the words and phrases that I have used which apparently I am 'borrowing' from an opposing world view. (I assume that this world view is philosophical naturalism, so I would be interested to know which terminology can only logically be used by those who subscribe to it).

    I'm looking forward to this...

    (Of course, failure to provide this list of vocabulary will inevitably lead me to draw a rather obvious conclusion.)

    Your implicit admission as to which is the more credible world view is gratifying. :)


    One sure sign that a world view is imploding is when its advocates start coming out with the following kind of statement regarding their opponents: "you know you're wrong"; "you know it's a myth" (seen on atheist billboards in America); "why don't you just admit you're wrong..."; "secretly you know I am right, but you are just too dishonest to admit it..."; "you know full well that you are just indulging in wishful thinking..." etc etc ad nauseam.

    Instead of engaging with arguments in a proper grown up way, such people resort to this kind of desperate psychological technique. I wonder why...?
  • Comment number 47.

    The programme on Rome was, indeed, excellent - one of the comments I found particularly interesting, was, "Caesar's rise to power came at a time when violence, cynicism and corruption were had taken hold of the Holy City."

  • Comment number 48.

    Another anti-Christian myth debunked as knowledge progresses...

    At this time of year many people think about the advent of Jesus Christ and, of course, central to the nativity accounts is the reference to the town of Nazareth.

    The internet is full of sites proclaiming that "there is no archaeological evidence that such a town existed at the time of Jesus" and some go so far as to suggest that this is evidence that even Jesus himself did not actually exist. One of the key works that is cited is Rene Salm's book The Myth of Nazareth: The Invented Town of Jesus. On the back cover is the following quote (which really tells us something about the bias behind this work, or at least of those who promoted it): "I am amazed by your work and can't wait to see the pathetic attempts to reply!" - Robert M. Price, author of 'Jesus is Dead' among other works.

    I've just sat through James Randi expatiating on the same thesis and he proclaims: "The facts are that no demonstrable evidence dating either to the time of Jesus or to earlier Hellenistic times has been found at Nazareth. It is a late Byzantine Roman village, not a mythical settlement at the turn of the era. As author Salm says, 'That question has already been answered and answered convincingly.'"

    Rene Salm insinuates that any evidence that does appear following the publication of his thesis will have to be regarded as suspect, hence Randi's comment: "He (Salm) also tells us not to be too surprised if remarkable finds at Nazareth conveniently appear in the next few years." (Salm's book was published in 2008 by American Atheist Press).

    So clearly this work is supposed to be the final word on the subject and any contrary evidence that subsequently appears is to be regarded as 'pathetic' and suspect. What breathtaking scientific rigour and intellectual honesty we are seeing on display here!!

    It is not clear when Randi produced this video, but it was uploaded on 9th November 2010, and, of course, it has not been taken down or modified in the light of current knowledge.

    Now why is it that these self-styled debunkers of Christianity seemingly refuse to keep up with the latest intellectual developments? This does seem rather ironic, given their propensity to claim that Christians are living in the 'ignorance' of the past.

    As it happens Salm's and Randi's position has been debunked.

    In December 2009, an archaeologist by the name of Yardena Alexandre, excavation director for the Israeli Antiquities Authority, oversaw the excavation of a building in Nazareth which has been dated to the time of Jesus. Here is a report about the find.

    To quote the article:

    Archaeologists in Israel say they have discovered the remains of a home from the time of Jesus in the heart of Nazareth.

    The Israeli Antiquities Authority said the find "sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus" in the Jewish settlement of Nazareth, where Christians believe Jesus grew up.

    The find marks the first time researchers have uncovered the remains of a home in Nazareth from that time period, the Israeli Antiquities Authority said in a statement.


    Now should we regard this demonstrable empirical evidence as 'pathetic' and suspect? I think not.

    We now know that there was a settlement dating from the time of Jesus at the site of the town of Nazareth. Of course, one could argue that we don't know for sure that this settlement was actually called Nazareth in the first century AD, but given that there is evidence that Nazareth certainly existed in the third century (a Hebrew inscription found in Caesarea dating to the late 3rd or early 4th century mentions Nazareth as the home of the priestly Hapizzez family after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 132-135 AD), then it is extremely probable that the settlement did not change name between those dates. Certainly this concrete evidence blows the anti-Christian theory out of the water, because there are now no grounds at all to the idea that "no demonstrable evidence dating either to the time of Jesus or to earlier Hellenistic times has been found at Nazareth."

    Another article here gives some more information about this find.
  • Comment number 49.

    LSV, post 46,

    "I use the language of an opposing world view? Do please feel free to explain. Could you please list the words and phrases that I have used which apparently I am 'borrowing' from an opposing world view. (I assume that this world view is philosophical naturalism, so I would be interested to know which terminology can only logically be used by those who subscribe to it)."

    Words you are borrowing from an opposing world view would be the ones of which I already mentioned a few, like the word evidence. As you have been told several times already, my world view is not philosophical naturalism. It is a view that is accepting of ideas that have good evidence in favour of them. This is the mirror opposite of how you go about things sometimes, when you don't accept evidence, not even because it necessarily contradicts some religious mythology that you hold dear. For example, there is a huge pile of evidence for an old earth from a wide variety of scientific fields. Even though you say you are not sure about how to read the age of the earth from the bible (so the scientific account needn't necessarily contradict it), you do not accept what science has to say on the age of the earth.

    Therefore, you going on about things like evidence and logic, or calling for seriously engaging with arguments, is a bit silly in its self-contradiction. It is so very opposed to what your world view is about.

  • Comment number 50.

    I think all contributors to this blog (the younger with hoplite physiques and the older with harder-to-define but no less potent sexual magnetism) will be relieved that they do not live in Iowa, where the Supreme Court recently ruled that a person can be sacked because of their good looks.

    '"The question we must answer is ... whether an employee who has not engaged in flirtatious conduct may be lawfully terminated simply because the boss views the employee as an irresistible attraction," Justice Edward M. Mansfield wrote for the all-male high court.'

    http://bigstory.ap.org/article/iowa-court-bosses-can-fire-irresistible-workers

  • Comment number 51.

    Peter Klaver (@ 49) -

    Oh I get it... I am not allowed to use the words 'evidence' and 'logic' unless I accept a particular interpretation of data which conforms to your view of reality.

    You have only given one example to support this absurd act of special pleading: the age of the earth. If you had actually bothered to read my posts instead of jumping to conclusions, you would have worked out that I do not take a dogmatic position on this issue. In other words, I reserve my judgment on it (which is actually the only intellectually honest position when dealing with events before the advent of recorded human history). But you seem to insist that I am not considering the 'evidence' because I ask some rather obvious questions about the methodology of dating methods (such as, how do we know the initial conditions from which to calculate the reading? This was a question that, as far as I recall, was never answered).

    Unlike you (it seems), I am able to tell the difference between 'evidence' and 'assumption'.

    I suggest you write out your list of words, and then look up the definitions in a decent dictionary - for your own education.

  • Comment number 52.

    newlach (@ 50) -

    It's not often we agree with each other, newlach, but let me just say that I utterly and totally deplore this judgment from Iowa. It's a travesty of so called "family values", not to mention basic justice. Of course, 'religion' (whatever that is) will be blamed, and probably with some justification. I am no fan of unqualified religion, as I am sure you have guessed by now.

  • Comment number 53.

    LSV, post 51,

    "Oh I get it... I am not allowed to use the words 'evidence' and 'logic'"

    Feel free to use, I'm just pointing out that it makes no sense coming from you, seeing how you don't go where evidence leads you, but rather where you can maintain your mythology-based world view. As is clear from your non-acceptance of things that are among the most certain that science has to offer (a single example, but comprising many different fields of science, plenty of them not at all dependent on assumptions about initial conditions).



    But while I'm in a very different time zone, it's almost xmas even in the UK. Better things to do than intellectual fly squatting against LSV. Let's have something more positive.

    Merry xmas everyone.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B767SyhOptM

  • Comment number 54.

    'Twas the night before Christmas...

    Father Christmas, of course was/is a perfectly 'real' individual. Bishop of Mira, now Demre, Turkey, in the 4th century, and known for exceptional kindness and generosity, he is believed by some scholars to have played a key role at the Church council, at which 25th December was laid down as Our Lord's birthday. Obviously, most people nowadays in western countries do not immediately associate him with 'religion', as such, but it was perhaps interesting that the Italian port of Bari, and the Basilica of St Nicholas, whence his relics were removed (some say stolen) in the 11th century, was the first place outside Rome visited by Pope Benedict after his election in 2005. This is very likely connected with his profound desire to see progress in the sacred cause of Unity among Christians, since St Nicholas (often styled 'the Wonderworker') remains highly prominent in the Eastern Churches.

  • Comment number 55.

    When Joseph Ratzinger was elected, there were seasoned Vatican watchers who chortled "The turkeys have voted for an early Christmas.." - but in fact, thanks to his leadership, the faithful can be confident of celebrating Christmas on the same day, for very many years to come! Ho ho ho...

    Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year.

  • Comment number 56.

    'This is very likely connected with his profound desire to see progress in the sacred cause of Unity among Christians, since St Nicholas...remains highly prominent in the Eastern Churches.'

    Humbug! The principle of unity for Pope Benedict is submission to the authority of the Papal office. That's non too appealing, if you ask me.

  • Comment number 57.

    newlach, thanks for the heads-up in post 44. Haven't listened to it yet, but it seems it might be interesting.

    Another BBC tip that looks as if it could be good is the upcoming series Wonders of life, which is described as

    "Professor Brian Cox examines the story of life through physics in a major new series for BBC Two - Wonders of Life."

    The teaser clip for it is here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p012w75j

  • Comment number 58.

    Peter Klaver

    I watched the clip for the programme and it looks like it will be a very good series. I enjoy his series The Infinite Monkey Cage which is broadcast on Radio 4. A more humorous programme about Brian Cox was broadcast a few days ago. Entitled Brian Elliott it lasts 15 minutes and is about a boy who D-reams about being a scientist and breaking free of the family tradition of being a keyboard player!

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pg54q

    I am concerned that 166 politicians backed a Ten Minute Rule Motion in the in the House of Commons seeking leave to bring a bill to amend the Charities Act 2011 "to treat all religious institutions as charities; and for connected purposes". I can see why religious institutions would like this - no matter how repugnant or divisive their activities they would still gain financially!

    Both Mark Durkan (SDLP) and Nigel Dodds (DUP) have voiced their support for a change in the rules concerning the charitable status of religious institutions which could increase the risk of taxpayers' money being squandered on projects of dubious worth.

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm121113/halltext/121113h0002.htm

  • Comment number 59.

    newlach (@ 58) -

    I can see why religious institutions would like this - no matter how repugnant or divisive their activities they would still gain financially!

    Both Mark Durkan (SDLP) and Nigel Dodds (DUP) have voiced their support for a change in the rules concerning the charitable status of religious institutions which could increase the risk of taxpayers' money being squandered on projects of dubious worth.


    Please could you let us all know what these "repugnant or divisive" activities are?

    And also... please could you define "projects of dubious worth". What are the criteria by which a project is judged to be "dubious"? And what is the moral, philosophical and political justification for these criteria?

    I look forward to your reply (especially in the light of your comment in post #23):

    What's this guff about atheists wanting to ride roughshod over Christians! Nothing could be further from the truth. The atheists I know want equality of treatment and wish to see fairness in how taxpayers' money is distributed.
  • Comment number 60.

    "Please could you let us all know what these "repugnant or divisive" activities are?"

    If no attempt is made to properly account for how charitable bodies use their funds abuses are likely to occur. Why should religious institutions be exempted from the public benefit test?

    Of course I cannot say what the activities "are" but your question brought to mind someone previously discussed on this blog: Todd Bentley. He is the Canadian pastor who was refused entry to the UK some months back. The one who drove his sturdy biker boot into the face of some vulnerable unfortunate at one of his "healing" jamborees. God told him to do it. What's the public benefit of this? An extreme case, I admit, but what about a group of people who simply pray for a better world? No public benefit here either.

  • Comment number 61.

    newlach, post 58,

    You don't need to go all the way over to Westminster to be concerned about money being spent on religious causes of dubious merit, you can just survey the local scene in Northern Ireland. The churches have managed to get £1.3 million in money from the EU plus more from the office of the PM and deputy PM and the Irish government, for a 'new peace initiative'.

    http://www.presbyterianireland.org/news/news2012/news0840.html

    One of the aims of the program is to

    ".......facilitate a process by which the main denominations speak more frequently in the public sphere with a united voice on social and political issues, and through that to model positive cross-community cooperation and undermine the vestiges of sectarian politics. "

    Do the churches needs between 1 and 2 million in public funds to help them speak out in public on social and political issues? They seem to manage that quite well by themselves when issues like gay marriage and the position and rights of women are concerned! And even if they couldn't manage by themselves, should they be publicly funded to do so?

    And given the role of churches in perpetuating an 'us and them' atmosphere of division during the Troubles, the bit about the 'united voice' seems even further off to me. It almost seems like handing over a bag of cash to the CEO and board members of Goldman Sachs in the expectation that they would run a charity from it. Though church leaders themselves wouldn't see their past role in any such way at all. On Sunday Sequence of 23/12, the church peace project was discussed, with bishop McKeown proclaiming that it was the churches that held society together during the Troubles.

    I expect you, newlach, would join in my doubts about this project, but I wonder if believers among the regular posters here would think it right for churches to be getting £1.3 million+ to spend part of it on speaking out, in a united voice? And if they think the voice of the churches will be and has been one to unify? Even to the extent that it was the churches that held society together during the Troubles?

  • Comment number 62.

    Peter K

    '...I wonder if believers among the regular posters here would think it right for churches to be getting £1.3 million+ to spend part of it on speaking out, in a united voice?

    In principle I don't think they should be getting any of it for any reason. But then I don't agree with our present tax system or membership of the EU.

    On the more general issue of churches involved in social and political issues, I'm not convinced that's their job. I'm reminded of J. Gresham Machen's conclusion from his essay 'The Responsibility of the Church in Our New Age':

    'The responsibility of the church in the new age is the same as its responsibility in every age. It is to testify that this world is lost in sin; that the span of human life–no, all the length of human history–is an infinitesimal island in the awful depths of eternity; that there is a mysterious, holy, living God, Creator of all, Upholder of all, infinitely beyond all; that he has revealed himself to us in his Word and offered us communion with himself through Jesus Christ the Lord; that there is no other salvation, for individuals or for nations, save this, but that this salvation is full and free, and that whoever possesses it has for himself and for all others to whom he may be the instrument of bringing it a treasure compared with which all the kingdoms of the earth–no, all the wonders of the starry heavens–are as the dust of the street.' Selected Shorter Writings, edited by D.G. Hart, pg 376


    That about sums up my position (although, as ever, the fun is in the detail).
  • Comment number 63.

    Peter Klaver

    I listened to the discussion on Sunday Sequence and it was very interesting. If Donal McKeown had his way the whole budget for Northern Ireland would first pass though a church inspection process before being approved! At least the Presbyterian minister, Doug Baker, acknowledged that "the churches have been part of the problem" and John Simpson (economist) made a sterling contribution.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01phltr (33rd minute)

    You are right, I do have great doubts about the value of this project. John Simpson questioned the likelihood of rival churches working together to achieve the aims of the project, pointing out their lack of previous success. It is obvious that churches will seek to protect their own patch and the money that will go to "people on the ground who can help" will most likely go to those who belong to one or other of the churches involved. I do not see why the £1.3 million allocated to this project could not have been allocated to community projects unguided by churchmen. Increasing the involvement of churches in public life is not likely to reduce levels of sectarianism and deprivation in Northern Ireland.

  • Comment number 64.

    Churches and state money. Yea, well, I'm more or less with Andrew on this one, for all sorts of reasons; but it seems to me that if, from a purely secular point of view, an organisation like a church is going to be involved in leading a social/community/anti-sectarian project, one which shares similar goals to the state and is subject to all the usual criteria required by such state projects, then those who oppose funding are going to have to be quite clear why they oppose funding; I've read nothing in the last few comments which comes close. What I'm also not clear on, Newlach, is how any of this is important to you, if, as the other thread might suggest, your view amounts to, "any 'truth' will do".

    And, by the way, have some of the churches been part of our problem? of course they have; and some of them have been part of the solution. (Unless you paint with a yard brush.)

    Me, apart form Andrew's concerns, I just happen think that any social and/or community work done by the church should be funded by the church as this will allow the church to retain its particular distinctives - it's kind of impossible for Christians not to be motivated by God at some point.

    (Then there's the detail!)

  • Comment number 65.

    PeterM

    There is a lot of sense in what Andrew writes, but I fork off at the quote. I have no time for this sin malarkey, though I am all in favour of seeing wrongdoers dealt with appropriately by secular courts.

    The problem with putting churches in the driving seat, as it were, is that the route they take is likely to be influenced by beliefs that act as an impediment to progress. Peter Klaver has drawn attention to the role churches have played in perpetuating discrimination in the fields of gay rights and the equal treatment of women, so what makes you think they will ditch their pernicious ideologies now?

    Whatever the outcome of this project the churches will gain. The three jobs currently advertised will soak up over £160,000 of the funding, though the possibility that a lesbian non-believer becomes director cannot be ruled out!

    'your view amounts to, "any 'truth' will do".'

    I am intrigued by this comment. What specific evidence have you used to make it?

    ...........................................................

    Last year in Scotland humanist celebrants conducted 2,486 marriage ceremonies. The Catholic Church conducted 1,729 marriage ceremonies in the same year.

    'The Scottish Government wants to create a third category of marriage, called "belief" marriages, as an alternative to religious and civil ceremonies.'

    http://www.scotsman.com/news/belief-weddings-a-new-third-way-1-2712264

  • Comment number 66.

    Newlach

    'There is a lot of sense in what Andrew writes, but I fork off at the quote. I have no time for this sin malarkey...'

    Of course you don't accept the claims of Christianity. The quotation wasn't asking you to, either.

    '...though I am all in favour of seeing wrongdoers dealt with appropriately by secular courts.''

    In my estimation this is a mistake. I don't conflate sins with crimes. The bible doesn't. You shouldn't either.

    On marriage in Scotland, the sudden interest (seemingly everywhere) in distinguishing between different 'types' of marriage is humbug. Part of that's to do with how opponents have argued against 'homosexual marriage' using religious language, the religious/civil bifurcation bypasses such opposition. The distinction from the states point of view, however, is a phantom. A useful hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 67.

  • Comment number 68.

    Newlach

    As ever, comments here only serve to illustrate the difficulty of communication. Where to start?

    ”The problem with putting churches in the driving seat, as it were, is that the route they take is likely to be influenced by beliefs that act as an impediment to progress.”

    Well, what does that mean in the context? That church involvement will perpetuate sectarianism, the opposite of the stated aims of the project?

    ”Whatever the outcome of this project the churches will gain.”

    And? Wouldn’t all charitable organisations? Wouldn’t society? An EU funded project, would, I expect, be outcome driven, so, if, as I have already suggested, the shared aims of the project are met, and met within the stated criteria, on what basis would you withhold funding? This is a problem for secularism, not the church.


    ” The three jobs currently advertised will soak up over £160,000 of the funding”

    And?

    ”though the possibility that a lesbian non-believer becomes director cannot be ruled out!”

    Did you just contradict yourself? Here's a thing - if a church decides to avail itself of public funding in this manner then whatever my other views on this issue I see no reason why the director shouldn't be a "lesbian non-believer".

    ”I am intrigued by this comment. What specific evidence have you used to make it?”

    I was thinking of you comments in the other thread - specifically this one, “People who hear such statements and who accept them as being true are less likely to be troublesome.” #16 At the least, this implies that something accepted as true may not indeed actually be true and may be known not to be true by some."

    ”'The Scottish Government wants to create a third category of marriage, called "belief" marriages, as an alternative to religious and civil ceremonies.'”

    Belief in what? I’ve been thinking for ages now that ‘belief’ was a pejorative term, as applied to religion; so, if someone could explain what makes a 'Humanist' 'belief different from a 'civil' 'belief', that'd-be-great. I mean, are they arguing that people be permitted to act differently on the basis of some 'belief' or other?

  • Comment number 69.

    Professor Richard Dawkins makes an extraordinary foray into David Icke territory:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AknD2JyMdmI

  • Comment number 70.

    Theophane (@ 69) -

    Thanks for that link. It is truly fascinating to realise that Richard Dawkins has now strayed into Peter Klaver's "anti-science" territory.

    Well I never...

  • Comment number 71.

    newlach (@ 65) -

    The problem with putting churches in the driving seat, as it were, is that the route they take is likely to be influenced by beliefs that act as an impediment to progress.


    I note that you say "churches" and fail to qualify that noun, even though (unless you are incredibly ignorant) you know that not all churches hold to the two beliefs which you mention. So why did you not write "some churches"?

    Or perhaps you are thinking of more beliefs than the two you mention?

    If so, what are these other beliefs that are "an impediment to progress" and could you please define what you mean by 'progress' (preferably with a coherent justification).

    (Remember: you have already clearly stated that atheists do not "ride roughshod" over Christians. Please keep that principle in mind when you frame your reply. I wouldn't want to think you were being less than honest when you made that earlier remark).
  • Comment number 72.

    PeterM

    "That church involvement will perpetuate sectarianism"

    I do not see how giving taxpayers' money to churches to boost their prominence in society will reduce sectarianism. Many of those who perpetuate sectarianism want nothing to do with the churches and some of the most sectarian people on earth are deeply religious. What contentious issues there are in Northern Ireland that require taxpayers' money to sort out would be better dealt with by a non-religious body that discriminates against no one. My main concern, however, is that taxpayers' money is being used to fund a project designed to increase the participation of churches in public life. This is a step backwards for Northern Ireland. I do not think this funding will make any difference to their attitudes on various social and political issues. If a "united voice" does emerge it will be united on a narrow spectrum. I would prefer the churches to reduce their involvement in public life and to stop discriminating against people on the grounds of sex and sexual orientation.

    "An EU funded project, would, I expect, be outcome driven"

    John Simpson questioned how outcomes could be measured given that it is a "hearts and minds" project. It seems all very woolly to me, and much of what the churches are getting funded to do are things they are currently doing. Perhaps the assessment of the project will include a survey designed to show how people have become more tolerant of the "other"?

    "Did you just contradict yourself?"

    No. I do not think she would get the job, if she bothered to apply. When churches run projects it limits the pool from which potential employees are drawn. This is a "jobs for the boys" project. I agree that she should not be excluded from the job on the grounds of her sex, beliefs or sexual orientation; but churches do discriminate on the grounds sex, beliefs and sexual orientation. For example, British law provides exemptions that permit religious schools to hire and fire teachers because of their beliefs or sexual orientation.

    The "truth" thing.

    I would put it more prosaically: politicians tell lies that people believe. In fact, in certain circumstances I too tell lies (not many) but this does not mean that for me '"any 'truth' would do".' Mostly I prefer the truth, but in some case I wouldn't want to ask particular questions of certain people that might compel them to lie. Thoughts of whether X is true drift out of my mind . It is all very complicated and context is important. When I listen to people speaking I assume that they are speaking the truth unless I have a reason for thinking otherwise.

    William is on tonight at 8pm - Northern Ireland: Who Are We Now?

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01phfn3

  • Comment number 73.

    Newlach

    ”I do not see how giving taxpayers' money to churches to boost their prominence in society will reduce sectarianism.”

    Is that what they are being given the money for? I’d missed that.

    ”John Simpson questioned how outcomes could be measured given that it is a "hearts and minds" project.”

    As well he might; anyone with any understanding of outcome driven anything will know that outcomes can be written in order that they are achieved, and that in a particular way - but this applies to every organisation; if the organisation meets the targets set, I’m still wondering why they should be discriminated against - again, though, this isn’t a problem I face - I’d rather they didn’t take the money either, all be it for different reasons.

    ”It seems all very woolly to me,”

    But sufficiently ‘concrete’ to cause you concern...

    ”and much of what the churches are getting funded to do are things they are currently doing.”

    What? Reducing sectarianism? But you don’t see how sectarianism will be reduced? And they are an impediment to progress?

    ”Perhaps the assessment of the project will include a survey designed to show how people have become more tolerant of the "other"?”

    Probably - I’m not saying I have any confidence in the project - just that I’m not sure how you assert discrimination against churches being involved if they are acting within criteria set, except that it is a 'preference'.

    ”I do not think she would get the job, if she bothered to apply.”

    But ‘what you think’ is not really the point, if discrimination is involved - it’s either against the law, or it’s not, unless it’s sin... which I expect you doubt.

    ”This is a "jobs for the boys" project.”

    It is? Andrew, should we apply?

    ”William is on tonight at 8pm - Northern Ireland: Who Are We Now?”

    Well, if he knows the answer to that...

    Anyway, happy new year.

    And this is interesting:

    "in some case I wouldn't want to ask particular questions of certain people that might compel them to lie."

    In what way does asking a question *compel* people to lie?

  • Comment number 74.

    While it's still afternoon in my time zone, I might as well make my last posts of the year here on W&T before going off to New Years eve celebrations. :)

    Peter Morrow, post 64 and after,

    You say you see no reason to oppose funding for the churches participating in the project. I do. The economist on SS mentioned their previous lack of success (however that was measured, it didn't say during the discussion on SS). To me, that sounds like a good starter to have doubt against them receiving more public funding for a similar project now.

    Do you know of reasons why we should expect things to work better this time? You say you expect the project to be outcome driven. Can you elaborate a bit more in that please? Wouldn't you expect that that was also the case for previous similar projects, where an outcome driven approach didn't result in success? How many rounds of poor results would you say there should be, before it becomes a valid consideration to deny further funding of such church projects?

    Since it's past midnight over in N. Ireland, happy 2013 to you. :)

  • Comment number 75.

    Theopane, LSV, posts 69, 70,

    Well you two certainly didn't end the year on an intellectual high there. :(

    Theopane posts a url to a clip from an Intelligent Design creationism movie, while the Vatican has denounced ID as both bad science and bad theology.

    Well I never...



    But I'll look on the bright side around this festive time of year, and realize that in 2013, your contributions about science and religion on W&T surely can only get better.

    Happy 2013 to you both, as well as to everyone else here. :)

  • Comment number 76.

    PeterM

    'Andrew, should we apply?'

    I can't see why not, we'd be dead certs. Would we have to subscribe to any creeds or confessions?

    PeterK

    I'm not sure Peter's point is that there is no reason for opposing funding. Rather, given that you and Newlach seem to oppose funding, why do you oppose it?

    My understanding of PeterM's last number of post is along the following lines:

    If there is a principled objection then the success of the project is irrelevant; regardless of whether or not the project is successful it should not receive state funding.

    Then there are two kinds of principled objection from a political standpoint;

    1) All such funding
    2) Funding to particular kinds of groups

    My position is, more or less, the first and I have my reasons for that. In the case of the second one must provide a justification for why some groups but not other groups. So far the reason seems to have something to do with 'religion'. But in what sense is 'religion' a relevant objection in this instance given the (for the sake of argument) oversight of regulatory bodies and the outcome driven nature of the project?

  • Comment number 77.

     
    HAPPY NEW YEAR!



    Slàinte mhath!

  • Comment number 78.

    Peter:

    Happy Dutch New Year.

    Yes, re Theophane/LSV (69-70):

    The Dawkins interview is 4 years old, not ‘now’, and the commentary on it is also a totally inane misrepresentation.

    Perhaps they should take the trouble of actually reading ‘The God Delusion’ instead of relying on distorted dismissals of it. In particular, they should read pages 47ff, where he talks about two types of agnosticism.

    In the interview, Dawkins says he is agnostic about the origin of life, a perfectly scientific position, indeed the only one at present. He then speculates that our earth COULD be peopled by beings originally created by a higher intelligence in another part of the universe BUT which itself was designed and evolved. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable hypothesis.

    It’s light years away from the ‘Intelligent Design’ of theists who talk about an original single creator who is all powerful, all-loving, all knowing etc. In other words, if there are higher intelligences, they are unlikely to be perfect or self-created and there may be lots of them.

    Arguably, Christianity is closer to David Icke territory than this position, for Dawkins says he is only speculating whereas they actually BELIEVE without any evidence whatsover. Also, Dawkins says nothing about the intentions of these hypothetical alien creators, whereas both Icke and Christians postulate a ‘divine’ plan and a final battle between good and evil.

  • Comment number 79.

    Peter Klaver (@ 75) -

    Happy New Year.

    Theopane posts a url to a clip from an Intelligent Design creationism movie,...


    So what? Either RD said this or he didn't. Did he mean what he said? Yes or no? The intentions of those who used this clip are completely irrelevant, unless it can be shown that RD's words are being twisted completely out of context. Brian McClinton's comments suggest not.

    ...while the Vatican has denounced ID as both bad science and bad theology.


    From the Catechism of the Catholic Church (taken from the official Vatican website):

    Paragraph 4. THE CREATOR

    279 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Holy Scripture begins with these solemn words. the profession of faith takes them up when it confesses that God the Father almighty is "Creator of heaven and earth" (Apostles' Creed), "of all that is, seen and unseen" (Nicene Creed).

    ...

    282 Catechesis on creation is of major importance. It concerns the very foundations of human and Christian life: for it makes explicit the response of the Christian faith to the basic question that men of all times have asked themselves: "Where do we come from?" "Where are we going?" "What is our origin?" "What is our end?" "Where does everything that exists come from and where is it going?" the two questions, the first about the origin and the second about the end, are inseparable. They are decisive for the meaning and orientation of our life and actions.

    283 The question about the origins of the world and of man has been the object of many scientific studies which have splendidly enriched our knowledge of the age and dimensions of the cosmos, the development of life-forms and the appearance of man. These discoveries invite us to even greater admiration for the greatness of the Creator, prompting us to give him thanks for all his works and for the understanding and wisdom he gives to scholars and researchers.


    There is absolutely no doubt at all that the Catholic Church officially affirms God - an eternal, intelligent, personal being - as the creator of the universe and of life. Now how exactly is this different from the affirmation that there is an intelligent creator, which is the most general definition of ID?

    Either the Vatican has contradicted itself by denying God as the creator (which makes one wonder who they think God actually is), or they define ID in a far more specific way than I do.

    You can't have it both ways. You can't accuse someone who affirms the role of an intelligent creator as being "anti-science" without also levelling the same accusation at someone who affirms intelligent design, but speculating that these designers were aliens. It is still intelligent design, because it involves the intelligent ordering of matter.

    I also find it interesting that Dawkins insists that these alien life forms would need to have come into existence by some Darwinian process (which he describes as "explicable"), even though he has no empirical evidence of their existence. Thus he implicitly acknowledges that the hypothesis of Darwinian development can be affirmed to be true in the absence of evidence. This, of course, is a position of faith, not reason.

    Brian McClinton (@ 78) -

    Arguably, Christianity is closer to David Icke territory than this position, for Dawkins says he is only speculating whereas they actually BELIEVE without any evidence whatsover.


    Since you appear to be a champion of 'evidence' I am sure you won't mind letting us all know who these Christians are, who believe what they do "without any evidence whatsoever". I have certainly met Christians who play fast and loose with evidence and logic, but I have never met anyone who believes what they do in the absence of any evidence whatsoever! And I am certainly not one of these strange types. It's not a lot to ask for you to substantiate your comments.

    As it happens there is overwhelming evidence for Christianity, but I suspect that some people don't really know how to define the word 'evidence', and imagine that 'evidence' is defined as "only that which they are prepared to accept as evidence" - i.e. 'evidence' which fits their preconceived conclusions.

    In other words, if there are higher intelligences, they are unlikely to be perfect or self-created and there may be lots of them.


    Self-created???

    A completely irrelevant concept as far as God is concerned. It's actually naturalism that affirms self-creation. That is one of its big problems!

    Oh... and a happy New Year to you too.
  • Comment number 80.

    Peter

    Happy new year to you too, and all the other contributors.

    At the risk of repeating what Andrew has already said... I have set my query within the sort of conditions normally set for this kind of publicly funded project, regardless of the organisation delivering it. It is usual for such projects follow set criteria, and while none of us know exactly what the particular criteria is in this case, we can expect that there will be some - this is what I mean by an outcome driven approach: targets are set, money is allocated and audited, targets are reviewed, projects are evaluated and so on. In this context then, what objections are raised against a religious body delivering such a time-bound project?

    In relation to the “economist on SS” and the “previous lack of success”, it’s difficult to comment on this without further detail; generally, however, I would expect that if a/any project failed to deliver on set targets, it would be subject to review, and that an organisation may indeed be unable to participate in future initiatives; or, that the value of particular kinds of projects would be questioned and alternative approaches considered. None of these problems, however, are particular to the inclusion of religious bodies.


    Andrew

    ” Would we have to subscribe to any creeds or confessions?”

    Probably; but I expect that "any creed or confession" would do!


  • Comment number 81.

    LSV:

    Once again, we are in the territory of obfuscating and loose language. “There is overwhelming evidence for Christianity”. If you mean the belief, then yes, lots of people believe it. But repeating a belief doesn’t make it true, you know, even when you are reciting a Bible, a catechism or any other ‘holy’ text.

    There is no evidence for the truth of Christian assertions about a god. Alas, too, there is poor evidence for the triumph of Christian morality, which has much to commend it in terms of its adherence to love, tolerance, etc (not, though, to ‘atonement’, a totally immoral concept).

    Also, are you saying that there is no evidence for Islam? Or none for Judaism? What about the Greek gods? Is there any evidence for Zeus? Or Hermes? To quote Dawkins: “We are all atheists about most of the gods that societies have ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further”.

    “Self-created”? Well, if you don’t like this term, how about ‘uncreated’? The idea is basically that you believe your god was always there and was not created by any other agency, whereas scientists reject the idea of an uncreated creator on the basis of the existing evidence. There is absolutely no evidence that any living thing is immortal and all existing evidence points to the contrary. And if you don’t think that your god ‘lives’ but instead just ‘is’, then there is even less evidence for such a ‘being’, ‘entity’, or whatever you want to call ‘him’, ‘her’, ‘it’, ‘them’. It’s just blind faith. And, again, to quote Dawkins: “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence”.

  • Comment number 82.

    Speaking of reading the God Delusion, I came across an atheist the other day on Youtube (oh my) who was chastising people for presenting themselves as experts on Christopher Hitchens without having read it (TGD). A funny thing about many atheists these days is they think being an atheist makes them informed, makes them intelligent, makes them rational but as I alluded to in #24 there are id*ots everywhere. So much in fact I can't help but think the decline in religious belief will not inaugurate the 'secular' paradise as foretold. Personally, I'm not that disappointed. We Christians have our own version of the eschaton.

    Brian

    'It’s light years away from the ‘Intelligent Design’ of theists who talk about an original single creator who is all powerful, all-loving, all knowing etc.'

    Intelligent Design advocates may be traditional theists, and they may talk about an original single creator who is all powerful, all-loving, all knowing, but to my knowledge their argument does not depend on these things to obtain.

    'Arguably, Christianity is closer to David Icke territory than this position, for Dawkins says he is only speculating whereas they actually BELIEVE without any evidence whatsover.'

    Surely you mean Christians not Christianity?

    You also seem to have confused the requirement for evidence and the availability/existence of evidence. That evidence is required isn't really disputed. What is disputed is the evidence one thinks justifies their belief.

  • Comment number 83.

    PeterM

    Probably; but I expect that "any creed or confession" would do!


    Ecumenism, eh? I should have known.

  • Comment number 84.

    Hi Andrew:

    “Intelligent Design advocates may be traditional theists”. May be? Do you know of any who aren’t?

    Your point is strictly speaking correct, but you have to accept that intelligent designers who were themselves designed is light years from a prime mover who was not designed.

    Also, you cannot postulate perfect attributes of such a designer(s) merely on the basis of an ‘intelligent design’ argument. ‘Intelligent’ doesn’t mean perfect. I mean, for example, if we were designed by such a being(s), then arguably they were flawed architects because, for example, they unaesthetically placed the toilet in the playground.

    No I mean Christianity, but it depends on your definition. As an ideology it is an essentially contested concept, which means you can define it as you wish. For most Christians it posits an all-good, all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the universe. As such, it is untrue, in my view.

    It does have some relevance in terms of its ethical code, but alas in this sense “the last Christian died on the Cross”.

  • Comment number 85.

    brianmcclinton (@ 81) -

    There is no evidence for the truth of Christian assertions about a god.


    What you mean is that you are not convinced by the evidence that is presented - and has been presented over the centuries and in numerous debates and works of Christian apologetics. The fact that this evidence does not personally convince you does not mean that it is not 'evidence'. How many books of Christian apologetics simply tell people to "believe and ignore evidence and reason (logic)"? None.

    Just because you are not convinced by this evidence does not mean other people dismiss it. But you assume that such people are only convinced by Christian claims on the basis of what you erroneously call 'faith' and you define it in a quite perverse way, which has nothing to do with the biblical definition of faith.

    This assumption about other people who hold views with which you happen to disagree is incredibly arrogant and patronising. You are effectively calling all Christians "non-thinkers" or even "anti-thinkers". Dismissing billions of people as effectively 'brainless' is just spiteful, and it amazes me that you have the gall to come on here and preach about morality (especially considering that your naturalistic worldview gives us no indication at all as to what is morally right).
  • Comment number 86.

    LSV:

    More ad hominem stuff. Is that Christianity is all about? Instead of personalised attacks, why not state one piece of evidence?

  • Comment number 87.

    Hi Brian

    'May be? Do you know of any who aren’t?'

    I'd say that's besides the point. It isn't a necessary condition.

    'Your point is strictly speaking correct, but you have to accept that intelligent designers who were themselves designed is light years from a prime mover who was not designed...'

    Indeed, my only point was that intelligent design as a theory makes minimal claims about the designer. That intelligent design theorists may also believe in an ontologically perfect being is, therefore, not relevant in disputing ID since its conclusion does not depend on such a premise.

    'No I mean Christianity, but it depends on your definition.'

    Christianity does not believe anything. People believe things, with or without evidence.

    'It does have some relevance in terms of its ethical code, but alas in this sense “the last Christian died on the Cross”.'

    I'm pretty sure that if I wasn't a Christian I wouldn't be too bothered about Christ's 'ethical code'. Each to their own, I suppose ;)

  • Comment number 88.

    brianmcclinton (@ 86) -

    Instead of personalised attacks, why not state one piece of evidence?


    Yes, let's refrain from personalised attacks, and so I'll take it that you have withdrawn your unjust and insidious accusation against Christians, by claiming that we ignore evidence? (Or don't you apply your moral rule to yourself?)

    Anyway, there are actually many pieces of evidence, encompassing the whole of reality:

    1. Historical evidence.

    2. Documentary evidence.

    3. The evidence of free will.

    4. The evidence of moral conscience.

    5. The evidence of consciousness.

    6. The evidence of the objective validity of reason.

    7. The evidence of the complexity of living systems, requiring high levels of order and information that only an intelligence can supply.

    8. The evidence of personal experience and testimony (yes, this does actually count as evidence, because personal testimony counts in a court of law).

    9. The evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

    10. The evidence from cosmology, e.g. the evidence of first cause.

    Many of these items of evidence completely debunk philosophical naturalism, by the way, such as, for example, free will, the objective validity of reason, first cause and morality.

    One other thing: coming up with far-fetched and highly improbable alternative naturalistic explanations for these items does not undermine their legitimacy as evidence for the theistic (and Christian) world view. Then we are in the realm of interpretation which relies on philosophical assumptions. You made a claim that there is no evidence for Christianity, so the burden of proof is on you to substantiate that and show that none of these items can count as 'evidence'. In other words, it is incumbent on you to falsify each of these as they relate to Christianity, which goes way beyond simply coming up with alternative competing explanations. I am sure you must understand that an alternative explanation does not necessarily falsify or refute another position.

    Over to you...
  • Comment number 89.

    Andrew:

    Don't get hung up on labels. The term 'intelligent design' is open to interpretation. Obviously the theistic conception of it bares no relationship to an agnostic/atheist conception. So the differences remain and are crucial whether we use the term or not.

    The same point applies to Christianity. You say:"Christianity doesn't believe anything".
    I take Christianity to be the same as any 'ism', like Judaism or communism; and isms are systems of belief.

    You write under the mistaken conception that terms like intelligent design or Christianity have objective meanings. On the contrary, they are inherently subjective concepts, whose histories comprise a series of radical disagreements about their basic meanings.

    If we stick merely to contesting the supposed intrinsic components of these ideas, then we shall not progress very far.

  • Comment number 90.

    LSV:

    You are twisting the argument (as usual). I did not state that you ignored the evidence. I said you had no evidence. Giving a list like 'historical evidence', etc, is not evidence, but merely a statement that there is that kind of evidence. To repeat, merely stating a thought does not make it true.

    The burden of proof never rests with someone who doesn't believe something but with the believer. If someone believes that the moon is made of green cheese, then it's not up to me or you to refute him but instead the burden lies with him to give evidence, especially when his belief seems to run contrary to the knowledge that we have (e.g. that cheese doesn't goes off quickly, is not strong enough to support rockets and moon landings etc). Similarly, when someone posits notions about virgin births and resurrections that are somehow more 'real' than all the other mythical such events in the past, then my dear LSV, the onus is definitely on him.

    So I lob the ball back to you.

  • Comment number 91.

    Andrew:

    Also, on the question of ethical codes, most Humanists seek to be good without a god. We look at the history of ethics and detect that many figures in the past expressed values that are important. Jesus falls into that category, as does Confucius and the
    Buddha among others. None of these codes is perfect (the Jesus of the Gospels was not particularly loving towards his enemies and condemned them to Hell), but they contain elements that are worth preserving.

  • Comment number 92.

    Brian - A Happy New Year to you.

    I realise that you are debating on a couple of fronts already, but, is there any kind of ‘proof’ (or evidence) for the existence of God which someone could offer you which you would not dismiss as already assuming the existence of God?

  • Comment number 93.

    Brian

    Thanks for the reply

    'Obviously the theistic conception of it bares no relationship to an agnostic/atheist conception.'

    Sure, if one is a Christian then the intelligent designer is the God of the bible. It's obvious that's not something an agnostic or atheist would believe. But, as far as I'm aware (correct me if I'm wrong), there would be no relevant difference between a Christian and atheist making an argument for a designer from, say, biological complexity. So when you speak of the 'intelligent designer of theists' it is not intelligent design as such but the kind of ontological claims that theists make concerning God, but this has sod all to do with the argument(s) advanced for 'intelligent design' (again, as far as I'm aware).

    'The same point applies to Christianity. You say:"Christianity doesn't believe anything". I take Christianity to be the same as any 'ism', like Judaism or communism; and isms are systems of belief.'

    A 'system of belief' does not form beliefs.. Christians have beliefs, Jews have beliefs, communists have beliefs.

    'You write under the mistaken conception that terms like intelligent design or Christianity have objective meanings.'

    Not really. I write under the conception that words having meaning(s), and that clarity is found by narrowing this down. Following this my use of 'intelligent design' is analytic rather than synthetic. In this case mostly what it doesn't mean. My use of 'Christianity' in the last number of posts doesn't suppose much about its content, only that it's propositional.

  • Comment number 94.

    The history of Humanism dates back to the reformation, as far as I'm aware !

  • Comment number 95.

    Hi PeterM:

    Happy New Year to you too. An interesting question. You are not divulging your own doubts here, are you? Do YOU think all the arguments for the existence of a god assume what they try to prove?

    Proof is a strong word. I don't ask for it. Merely some evidence that might conceivably point in that direction.

    True, I have never read, seen or heard any. The gods in whom people believe also tend to be elusive creatures, hiding themselves away and, by their 'tricks', making it difficult if not impossible to WANT to believe in them – a sort of sinister game of hide and seek, which may not be much fun to the participant/victim. "As flies to wanton boys are we to the gods, they kill us for their sport" (King Lear).

    Which god are we talking about anyway?

  • Comment number 96.

    Andrew:

    I'm off to bed, befuddled. You've lost me, I'm afraid.

    "A system of beliefs does not form beliefs".Yes, sure, but people form systems of belief. So what?

    I'm at a loss to know what we are arguing about?

  • Comment number 97.

    Peter:

    The history of Humanism goes back much further. I think actually you mean the Renaissance, which preceded the Reformation. For example, Michelangelo's David, finished in 1504, is generally regarded as an expression of Humanism. It predates Luther's 95 Theses.

    Humanism can be traced back at least to ancient Greece.

  • Comment number 98.

    Hi Andrew, post 76,

    I would not class my objections to the funding as principled. In general, I think religious organizations should be able to compete for such things. My doubts about funding them for this particular project would include

    - expected lack of effectiveness, based on previous experience
    - their goals including the boosting of their own voice in society first, with reducing sectarianism being only an indirect, mostly unspecified step 2 (see bit I quoted in the first post on the subject, post 61)
    - that judging from their somewhat recent past some may have been part of the very problem that they now aim to solve. Call me skeptical if you like, about how quick and dynamic churches are to abandon previously held positions and accepting drastic changes that would be needed to go from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. I will admit my ignorance about the role the 4 churches in this project played, so this point may be hypothetical.
    - overlapping perhaps somewhat with both the expected lack of effectiveness point and the point about their felt need to boost their voice in society first: the reduced moral authority that churches enjoy among the population.



    Peter Morrow, same subject in post 80,

    As you may have guessed from what I wrote to Andrew, I agree with the bit you wrote towards the end,

    "None of these problems, however, are particular to the inclusion of religious bodies."

    Though from the first part of your post it still seems to me that you are making an unduly optimistic assumption about the checks about effectiveness. My negative angle stems from a pretty limited piece of information presented on SS (now expired from iPlayer). Though I get the impression that yours is based solely on an assumption of 'Surely, it must be so', with even less specific basis than mine. Therefore, limited as both our insights may be, I don't think the small net weight of both our considerations supports your reassured view.

  • Comment number 99.

    Hi Brian, post 78,

    "Happy Dutch New Year"

    It's actually an American new year. The Dutch new year would have happened earlier than in Belfast, not later. :)
    Things aren't all fine here, with politicians mucking about and thus far failing to fix the whole fiscal cliff saga. But Rachel and I didn't let that stop us from enjoying a short break, including a visit to the aircraft boneyard and Pima air & space museum near Tucson, as well as seeing lots of giant cacti.


    Regarding Dawkins, Intelligent Design, etc, it seems quite hopeless for LSV to want to enlist the Vatican for his position. When he mentioned ID here on the blog over the last several years, it has almost always been in the context of rejecting evolutionary biology. Using a disproven concept like irreducible complexity or with ignorant jargon terms from information theory, going on about impossibility for some of life's macromolecules to form through natural processes, etc.

    When talking about ID in that meaning, as was his usual story, the Vatican could hardly reject his position more firmly. When it comes to the mechanics of life, their position is mostly one of theistic evolution, i.e. accepting Genesis as being metaphor or allegory rather than a real literal explanation, accepting an old earth and accepting the theory of evolution as the best, at present only viable explanation for how the diversity of life on earth came about during those billions of years.

    As an example of how much at odds the Vatican position is to LSV's usual form of ID advocacy, here is a report on how far the acceptance of evolution has progressed since pope John Paul II's perhaps slightly more tentative 'more than just a theory' words, and how strongly people inside the Vatican reject ID:

    http://ncse.com/news/2009/10/latest-evolution-from-vatican-005083

  • Comment number 100.

    Brian

    Am I divulging my own doubts? Not particularly - we all have doubts, of course, and that about all sorts of things, including God and his existence, or non-existence.

    It was more a case of wondering if this notion of ‘the burden of proof’ can really be resolved in these kinds of arguments - for example, some/any of the ideas (or evidence) which Christians may offer as pointing us towards god, will be rejected by a non-Christian who will conclude that they point us to something else.

    Perhaps the problem could be described this way: none of us think with with a previously empty mind - we all bring a set of assumptions to our thinking - so it may well be that the ‘burden of proof’ or ‘burden of consistency’ (?) applies to each of us equally, not, however, to convince the other of the validly of our position, but in requiring that we investigate the validity and consistency of our own and its relationship to how we live. In the end, each of us has to find a way of explaining ourselves.


 

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