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How wrong is Rowan Williams?

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William Crawley | 19:25 UK time, Thursday, 25 September 2008

rowan_williams.jpgOne of my regular Will & Testament bloggers thinks Rowan Williams's analysis of the international financial crisis is "wrong". In fact, John Wright thinks the archbishop is this wrong:

"I couldn't object to a single paragraph more than if the devil himself boomed it from hell with flaming nostrils. Williams is wrong, wrong, wrong. He couldn't be more wrong than if he claimed Clay Aiken isn't gay after all. He couldn't utter a more contemptuous statement than if he was telling us that the church planned to raise Harold Shipman from the dead and ordain him as a bishop zombie. The statement is as wrong from right as George Michael is from Albert Einstein. It's as objectionable as a pedophile in Disneyland. It's as idiotic as Hitchens being waterboarded. If my own precious five year old child said something like that, I'd spank his face with a Louisville Slugger. It's enough to make a drunk sober. It's enough to make Mother Theresa flip a middle finger from the grave. This Rowan Williams. He's sipping from the Fallacious Cup. He's eating from the Bonkers Bowl. He's a maniac. He's wrong."

Does Rowan look bovvered?


  • Comment number 1.

    Love the pic!

  • Comment number 2.

    John, well said, man! I don't know that I altogether agree (I think *everything* needs a Dawkins and a Hitchens, including Dawkins and Hitchens, and *especially* religion, so I assume that Rowan W is welcoming that), but that is a work of considerable erudition.

    But don't hold back - tell us what you *really* think...


  • Comment number 3.

    Is it right that one man can become a multi millionare from other's misfortunes ?:


    Did anyone benefit from the events of September, 1992?

    George Soros, the Hungarian-born global financier is reputed to have made a $1bn profit at Britain's expense.

    He had borrowed heavily to bet that sterling would be devalued. Mr Soros showed the amounts of money that could be made by well capitalised, risk-taking traders.

    I distinctly remember widespread panic amoungst the UK population at large over the massive hike in interest rates until Norman Lamont took the decission to leave the ERM. I think Williams has a point.

    Still, as it says in 1 Timothy 6 vs 7

    For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

  • Comment number 4.

    John, he wasn't *that* wrong. In fact if one were to broaden the scope of the debate his comment, "And ascribing independent reality to what you have in fact made yourself is a perfect definition of what the Jewish and Christian Scriptures call idolatry." is one which ought to chasten us all.

    Interesting run of similes though! Did you stop for breath?

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm a nonconformist in both senses of the word. That said, I appreciate the Archbishop's comments and find his writing rather interesting. He's one of the few major religious figures I actually would like talking to, and his comments are spot on. I'd like more biblical references (like Luke 12:15 ("And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.")), but it's still an excellent piece of work.

    And I also find it interesting that he subverts Hitchens and Dawkins by backhandedly praising them. It's not the first time he's done this (Remember his Christmas message?), but perhaps it's a better way to win Dawkinsites over than merely denouncing him.

  • Comment number 6.

    John, don't hold back. Open up and tell us what you really think.

  • Comment number 7.


    I understand that some people might have problems with Rowan's analysis of the finantial situation but apart from insulting his comments, is there any serious argument against it?

    If I haven't misunderstood his words it seems clear to me that his own criticism is against the 'idolatrization' of the capitalist system. Can we have a serious argument against this criticism instead of just what we've had so far?


  • Comment number 8.

    While I agree with very few of the comments that appear on this blog it does consistently bring a smile to my face. Great comment from John and even better put down.

  • Comment number 9.

    Rev Ian

    You forgot to give us the address for your blogspot. www.theevangelists.blogspot.com

  • Comment number 10.


    After a quick lunch time scan of various threads, it strikes me that you are being a little impish today!!


  • Comment number 11.

    Jose, that was serious criticism of Williams. He's asserting that capitalism = idolatry. That's balderdash. The end. (To discuss it further, you may want to look at this thread.)

  • Comment number 12.


    calm down, capitalism = idolitary! of course thats balderdash, but its not what he says!

    just because someone quotes marx doesnt mean you need to have a fit!

  • Comment number 13.

    It seems to me that Christianity and Marxism have much in common. Both are based on the Robin Hood mythology, rob from the rich to give to the poor. Both employed tyrannical means whereby this was enforced and the enforcers sticky fingers skim much of the booty for themselves. Modern liberalism is a watered down version of this. The notion of charity, social re-engineering, social democracy, from each according to his ability to each according to his need etc. are all based on the same philosophical argument that says you toil and work to make bread and I'll eat it. The Communists make no bones about it, the term dictatorship of the proletariat means dictatorship in its most pernicious form. It is most interesting how capitalist Christians can go listen to their Sunday school sermons about charity to the poor, how the meek shall inherit the earth, and how the rich will have less chance of getting into heaven than a camel will pass through the eye of a needle and then on Monday go right back to their daily routine of rip, raping, and scraping every dime they can get from anyone and everyone they can get it from. This by the way includes the Christian clergy themselves. Anyone seen Jim Baker around or is he visiting his dogs in their air conditioned dog house he built with charitable donations to his church?

  • Comment number 14.

    Mgnbar- I'm very calm. And I'm calmly telling you the man has become the wart on the arse of discourse with this latest comment.

  • Comment number 15.


    Given that you are unable to answer any of my comments on the Bible for journalists thread, maybe you could clarify the ones you have written here.

    So you don't like Robin Hood or the Maid Mary lady. (was she a virgin?) They rob the rich to give to the poor, but they don't actually give to the poor. And then the rich christians, after ignoring the poor, get back to their capitalist ways come Monday. Yep, the bible has a lot to say about that, it's called hypocrisy. (BTW I thought you liked capitalism) Maybe you just don't like capitalist christians, or christian capitalists or maybe just christians.

    Let me be clear though, when it comes to 'christians' like the lot on TV, that's called the rich robbing the poor to give to themselves, and we ought to be outraged at that. But when it comes to christians sharing what they have with each other, rich or poor, they don't do it to buy a lump of coal for their christmas stocking.

  • Comment number 16.

    "Given that you are unable to answer any of my comments on the Bible for journalists thread, maybe you could clarify the ones you have written here."

    Unable or unwilling? What was the question again? That thread is so long winded I decided not to plow through it.

    "Maybe you just don't like capitalist christians, or christian capitalists or maybe just christians."

    I thought I made it rather clear over the years that except for a handful of individual exceptions close to me, I don't like anybody. The older I get, the stupider the world seems to be. I don't know if its the dumbing down of the world, the smartening up of me or both. Or maybe that's what happens when you get older. You don't think the world is getting stupider? Look at how many ways it seems headed for its end. The choices seem to be so many that you can hardly pick which one will most likely be its final undoing. If its lucky, global warming will be the one, it will take the longest. Maybe a few more decades.

    "But when it comes to christians sharing what they have with each other, rich or poor, they don't do it to buy a lump of coal for their christmas stocking."

    If I ever meet a Christian, I'll let you know. I've met lots of pretenders who say they are Christians though. My experience is that Christians like most vendors of salvation are ready to share their secrets of their path to heaven after death for as much of your money and time as they can get out of you before death. Sooner or later they ask you to make a contribution, come to their meetings, and donate your time and effort to their latest scheme. It seems to me they want to sell you your ticket to salvation from an eternity of excruciating hell they paint that they do not have one shred of proof exists. I'd sooner take my chances with the devil. At least I'd get to meet Dante' or Don Juan. Heaven sounds like it's full of the most boring people who ever lived anyway.

  • Comment number 17.

    MA2 - this is my third such intervention but I can't resist playing Walter Map to your St Bernard - Dante was 'only passing through'...

  • Comment number 18.

    portwyne, I've often heard it said that it's smart to be nice to the people you meet on the way up, you may meet them again on the way back down. I just might get to meet Dante after all. Forever is a long long time.

  • Comment number 19.


    The question? Actually the question was your question. The one about knowing God.

    My answer was succinct. I suggested you begin by applying the same level of doubt you have about God, and obviously the rest of the people on the planet, to yourself.

    What we do in life echoes in eternity. It was, I think, a friend of yours who said that once.

  • Comment number 20.

    I already answered that but you just didn't like the answer I gave you and chose to ignore it. So I will say in againg in differente words. Once again petermorrow you talk in the jibberish of poetry, metaphors, sophistry, and other pure nonsense. Insofar as my own existance is concerned, I seem to be conscious most hours of most days and I remember many days like it, in fact what seems to be a whole lifetime of it. I'll admit that isn't a whole lot of evidence to go on but it's better than nothing and the only thing I have. The existentialists would tell me it's an illusion and I have no way to prove that they aren't right. On the other hand, insofar as believing in god, I have no evidence whatsoever and neither you nor any of the other countless proponents of this theory have ever offered me anything to suggest to me that they might be right. So its the little I have or the nothing you and your fellow believers offer. BTW, during the hours I'm asleep, I would find it impossible to dispute the existentialists.

    This business of echoing in eternity is more sophistry. Not surprising from the isle of blarney. Now unless you have anything better in the way of concrete evidence, I don't see what there is to discuss.

  • Comment number 21.

    A reply to the writer of post 20, whoever he may be.

    Presuming that he exists and is not asleep I shall respond to the accusations of sophistry.

    Here is a man (is he a man?) who seeks concrete evidence of the existence of God yet is unable, or possibly indeed unwilling, to offer any concrete evidence of himself. The Marcus Aurelius I know was once Emperor of Rome, but what is Rome? There was once a dream that was Rome. You could only whisper it. Anything more than a whisper and it would vanish, it was so fragile.

    Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained? Is that not why you are here?

    Entertainment indeed. Given though, that I am a light sleeper, I have seen those who slumber and they appear as real to me. Strange however that they offer me no evidence of their existence, maybe they appear only as a changeling. How then shall I know them? Shall I trust my senses? When they speak shall I listen? When they awake, shall their eyes respond to mine? Shall the aroma of their presence assure me of the truth of their being?

    Or shall we ask the ancestors for guidance? Ancestors, I honor you and will try to live with the dignity that you have taught me.
    But what is their guidance? What is real? What is Rome?

    I have seen much of the rest of the world. It is a brutal and dark place, Rome is the light (although I hear if they don't bailout the rouges on Wall Street by $700 billion then the sucker could go down.)

    And that's what we might call robbing the poor to pay off the rich.

    Tell me again, Maximus, why are we here?
    For the glory of the Empire (and the land of the free.)
    For the glory of ourselves.


    Rowan was right about one thing, there's a lot of idolatry around.

  • Comment number 22.

    Well, "idolatry" could be one word for it. "Faeces" might be another. There seem to be a number of folks who subscribe to the "well, if I can't have you, no-one else will" school of thought - toys out of pram.

    I can (at least in principle) demonstrate that MarcusA2 "exists" in some sort of sense. My criterion for this is that I can fire protons at him. When one of you theist bods comes up with a mechanism for firing protons at the gods, we can set about determining whether they actually exist or not. Until then, Rowan's charge of "idolatry" equally applies to those who worship. Whatever they worship.

    Now, let's see how quickly we can get the LHC operational again; if you guys can give us some co-ordinates, we'll see if we can find the "god bozo".

  • Comment number 23.

    Helio, hi

    I take it you've fired protons at yourself.

    Maybe we should fire them at the bonkers, sorry I mean bankers in Wall Street instead of the $700 billion they want.

    And as for MA2, you could only fire protons at him if you could find him and even if you did, you'd then have to accept his self revelation of himself. The protons won't do that for you.


    Proposal for caption for above photo of Rowan.

    "Hi Rowan, is that a proton in your pocket or are you just pleased to see us?"

  • Comment number 24.

    petermorrow, I've already conceded that I have no way to prove that I exist, I can't even prove it to myself. I only take existance of the outside so called real world as a tentative assumption and go from there but in the back of my mind, there is always the possiblity that it doesn't really exist except in my imagination. This is more than just a philosophical thought. In 1990 I was in a near fatal car crash in which I suffered a concussion. It left me dazed for many months during which time my mental faculties such as they are were not at their full power. During the period just after the crash I thought about the story written by Ambrose Bierce, "An Occurrance at Owl Creek Bridge." I saw it adapted as an episode of the TV series Alfred Hitchcock. I wondered for several weeks if the events that were happening, that I was experiencing were real or not. Do you think you will relive your entire life over again in the final moments before you die? The human brain is a funny thing. It workings are almost entirely unpredictable so far.

    Despite your protests, neither you nor anyone posting here have offered even one shred of evidence that god exists. I am hardly surprised. Far better than you have tried and failed at it. I'm still waiting to see if anyone will ever come along with anything but I doubt it. The efforts have been accumulating for thousands of years with no positive results. And it certainly will not be found by someone arguing about bananas and oranges. Nor by someone who has a flawed understanding of the second law of thermodynamics. What's the old saying about the blind leading the blind?

  • Comment number 25.


    "the wart on the arse of discourse"

    what does that even mean?

  • Comment number 26.

    Mgnbar- Either you don't possess a sense of humour at all, or yours is so evolved so as to make mine meaningless to you. Either way, time to give up trying to understand this thread I think!

  • Comment number 27.

    Helio #22

    I have frequently said that the concept of existing is meaningless when applied to God so this question is asked merely out of interest: there is general agreement that Capitalism exists - can you fire protons at it?

    On a general note, I have objections to the premise behind this thread. John's response was extremely witty and I greatly enjoyed reading it much though I disagreed with it. The creation from it of a new thread, however, made the response the issue rather than the very important things the ghastly Rowan was saying. I do not think that is a good journalistic principle and, in this case, there was nothing of sufficient importance in the response to justify it.

    I note that John himself has pointed people back to the original thread and the discussion there and all credit to him for that.

  • Comment number 28.


    What exactly is the problem with the US economy? Are you ready to concede that it was deregulation after all?

    it seems like your idealized "free market" is under a bit of scrutiny at the moment, where have all your usual "reasoned" explanations gone. maybe you can explain... or maybe you cant.

    I'm not claiming that i have all the answers, but you seem to have quite a strong opinion. so lets have some answers then


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