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Atheists reach out to agnostics

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William Crawley | 14:04 UK time, Tuesday, 27 October 2009

RALogowebsite.jpgOver on the New Humanism site, Paul Sims writes:

'In a gesture which dramatically parallels the recent "come-and-join-us" invitation from the Pope to disaffected Anglicans, the Rationalist Association has opened its door to thousands of can't-quite-decide agnostics. A spokesperson for the RA (publisher of New Humanist) pointed out that many agnostics had been unhappy for years about the manner in which their uncertainty about God's existence played into the hands of religious apologists. New recruits to the RA were given some reassurances. "We are," said the spokesperson, "not at all averse to agnostics maintaining some traditional forms of speech, such as 'You can't help feeling that there is something up there', but obviously they'll be expected to gradually forsake their uncertainty about who made the world." In a further gesture of conciliation, the spokesperson confirmed that new recruits would not initially be expected to recognise the infallibility of Richard Dawkins.'


  • Comment number 1.

    A spokesperson for The New Agnostic wants to reciprocate the invitation to atheistic humanists of the Rationalist Association, but has his doubts of achieving anything of value ;)

  • Comment number 2.

    They might inadvertently gain a few members of the church as well !

  • Comment number 3.

    Why should it surprise anyone that among atheists there is an element that would try to contort their beliefs into an invented pseudo-religion to win converts and make money? You either believe, are undecided, or you don't. What do these people expect, to be taken by the hand, led down the garden path, and then at the end to their astonishment find the toll booth with an outstretched hand waiting for a fee for saving them from the evil clutches of religion's missionaries? Satre's play "No Exit" describes the plight of agnostics falling for this pefectly. The door is unlocked, all they have to do is get up, open it themselves, and walk though it. But they don't. That is why it is hell. They have freely chosen to stay in it all on their own. If they can't do it themselves, nobody else can do it for them. They should be allowed to wallow in their indecision interminably. A metaphysical purgatory they put themselves in and fully deserve.

    Dear god if there is a god,
    Save my sould if I have a soul.

    That is the agnostic's prayer. Will it be answered? They are clueless.

  • Comment number 4.

    It is worth remembering that an individual's search for God needs to involve more than the intellect.

    The Bible says: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29v13)Intellectual inquiry on its own simply won't cut it.

    Is it unfair to suggest that many atheists and agnostics seem to look for God in the same way a burglar looks for a policeman?!

  • Comment number 5.

    Speaking about "the evil clutches of religion's missionaries" it's the devil himself. Welcome back pastorphilip, haven't seen your postings here in awhile :-)

    "It is worth remembering that an individual's search for God needs to involve more than the intellect."

    "The Bible says: "You will seek Me and find Me when you search for me with all your heart.""

    Yet it seems to me that many people who call themselves "Christian" try to find god and then sell their findings with just pure intellect such as with the false pseudo-science of Creationism or as it is now re-named Intelligent Design. They try to find god in a testube. In Dover Pennsylvania, the Court was not convinced. One TV televangelist in the US said that when judgement day comes, the people of Dover Pennsylvania will be going to hell to pay for their sins in that case. Yesterday, a court in France found the religion of Scientology guilty of fraud. Funny that a religion that calls itself Christian would ultimately base its dogma on learning the biofeedback technique of controlling the electrical resistance of one's skin. Finding god in a galvinometer...for a hefty fee of course.

  • Comment number 6.

    “He was an embittered atheist, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him.” (George Orwell)

  • Comment number 7.

    "but obviously they'll be expected to gradually forsake their uncertainty about who made the world"

    And replace it with what, certainty about who made the world?

    But it's good to see they're not pushing for instant conversions, bad idea that, I mean... tents and raised hands and..... oh don't go there...

    Now, click your heels three times and repeat after me, "Atheism, it's not a religion, it's not a religion..."

  • Comment number 8.

    Or, as France says about Scientology :

    "Atheism - ce n'est pas un sect, ce n'est pas un sect" !

  • Comment number 9.

    Peter, see? As you now know, even atheists are reaching out to churchgoers. Come and join us! The Church of Jesus Christ Atheist is accepting members :-)

  • Comment number 10.

    I am really struggling with my agnosticism about the authorship of this article "Atheists reach out to agnostics".

    I feel so sure that it must be the product of an intelligent mind - I have such a strong feeling that there must be someone "out there" responsible for the order and meaning within those words; but perhaps the "rationalists" are right? Perhaps the article really was just the product of randomly chosen scrabble tiles?

    I mean, how could any logical, rational human being be so stupid and ridiculous as to imagine that such an article could conceivably have been written by an intelligent mind? Of course the words are randomly and blindly assembled! Goodness me, it is soooooo obvious! Anybody can see that. How could anyone be so primitive as to doubt it?!

    I really must give up this agnosticism lark and finally come to my senses and see the glory and beauty of total chaos and mindlessness.

    Yes! Oh joy, I have at last seen the light! That randomly assembled bunch of atoms and molecules called the revered professor D really is infallible. I am now absolutely certain that this article could definitely not have been the result of intelligent thought.

    Ah, freedom at last....

  • Comment number 11.

    Vanitas sine logica, are you feeling OK? Are you familiar with the concept of randomness and its role in the scientific view of the universe? It would appear not. Evolution (which is the process that gave rise to you and Will and the rest of us apes, mammals, vertebrates, critters) is the result of highly NON-random selection from (effectively) randomly generated variation. I suggest a little more education might be in order. And a wee lie down.

  • Comment number 12.


    I know you're reaching out, but you just can't do it as well as we can! :D



    I know I know, don't ask!

    Here, was your band as good as Larry and the boys?

  • Comment number 13.


    "Come and join us!"

    What do you mean US? There is no US. This stupid invention of a "Church of the Congregation of Athiests" is nothing more than a trick to make money. Any athiest who is so insecure in what he believes and doesn't believe....should get counseling....from a priest...or a minister, or a rabbi, or an imam, or....Doctor Phil....or Larry Flynt.

  • Comment number 14.


    That's what I've been trying to tell him too!

    But he's a doubter... and you know H, maybe there is something behind it all (or was that 'up there'?), you know, like the wizard, behind the curtain, in Oz.

    And you see this Veggietale hooey, you atheists aren't behind it, are you?

    And remember, Atheists churches don't do miracles, but if they did they'd probably be the best miracles in the world.

    Come Marky, throw 'em a dollar or two!

  • Comment number 15.

    Right enough, lads, I'm rolling in it. The cash is flooding in. Markie, if you wanted to do a bit of free thinking, rather than whatever it is you call *that*, you're welcome to come along too. The mission is not to convert, but to develop a Christianity Compatibility Layer to allow atheists to sing your wee songs without feeling like a right plonker.

  • Comment number 16.


    "And you see this Veggietale hooey, you atheists aren't behind it, are you?"

    I am not a vegitarian, have never been a vegitarian, and from my own studies, those who are vegitarisns who do not know exactly what they are doing are in grave jeopardy of serious illness. I attribute my next door neighbor's miscarriage with her first pregnancy to her vegitarianism. Right now between my freezer and the freezer comprarments of my refrigerators, there's proably around 200 pounds of beef and a hundred pounds of pork in my house. I usually eat meat at least once a day, sometimes several times a day. And I like my steaks rare.


    "if you wanted to do a bit of free thinking, rather than whatever it is you call *that*, you're welcome to come along too."

    I don't need anyone to tell me what to think or what not to think. That is because my education was geared at teaching me how to think....for myself. I'm as good at it as anyone. And I'm sure when this whatever its called gets going, it won't be so free anymore. In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.


    An excellent book BTW about growing up in the Midwest during the depression by one of America's greatest racanteurs, Jean Shepherd. His radio show on WOR in NYC every week night for years was not to be missed.

  • Comment number 17.


    when yooz have finished your banter could you cast your eyes over this for me and let me know what you know of the speakers. (I know what I think of the audience who will attend, but I'm not up on who's who in the creationism department and would like to know what Rome is about to unleash on us now.)


  • Comment number 18.

    Hi RJB,

    "I'm not up on who's who in the creationism department"

    I may be more familiar with a number of the well-know creationists, but the names on the url you posted are new to me. Suggesting they're not the bigwigs of creationism.

  • Comment number 19.

    Thanks PK

    As I suspected.

  • Comment number 20.

    I am treating this piece as satirical comment on the RC churches approach to the Anglican community but I'm not sure everyone on this blog is reading it the in the same way!

  • Comment number 21.


    It is so blatantly obvious (won't have to accept the infallibility of Dawkins, come on), that apart from pastorphilip I think everyone posting in this thread would be smart enough to get it.

  • Comment number 22.

    Hi PK, with some of the posts its a bit hard to tell eg no.3 or no.2 but I was'nt questioning anyone's smartness, just their sense of humour.

  • Comment number 23.

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

  • Comment number 24.


    I wrote a comment to you about your thoughts on singing our 'wee songs'.

    There was nothing in it that I could see would be of concern, never mind offensive. At one point I was actually very nice about you, and wished you all the best for Nazareth, and I don't remember including a link, but it's gone.

    I queried why you'd want to sing the songs and I said a bit about my own (negative) attitude to them at times.

    I'd post it again, but I don't know which bit to leave out?

    I've no idea.

  • Comment number 25.

    #17 -

    Re: Scientific Conference Refuting Evolution - St. Pius V University, Rome

    Will the evidence of the sedimentologist, the geneticist, the two physicists and the geophysicist (all who appear to be qualified scientists) be seriously considered by the scientific establishment in the spirit of true scientific enquiry?

    And the answer to that is: no.

    If their evidence does not accord with the theory of evolution, then they will be excommunicated according to the magisterium of the scientific Curia - i.e. according to their dogmatic catechism which must never be questioned. The scientific establishment appears to be subsuming science under a particular philosophy (naturalism). This is the very accusation the rationalist free-thinkers levelled at the Church - science had to play second fiddle to a particular philosophy (theism).

    Oh, the irony of it all. Galileo will be turning in his grave!

  • Comment number 26.

    Oh LSV stop, you're making us laugh too hard!

    "If their evidence does not accord with the theory of evolution......"

    Care to tell us in which journals they ever published their 'evidence'? Oh right, they just put it up on their websites or in their non-peer reviewed books. Never adhering to the usual scientific process that combs out the worst of the rubbish from what is offered. And I do say 'worst of', since peer-review is by no means infallible. Bad papers still get through now and then. But the creationists can't even squeeze themselves through that leaky filter.

    And the comparison to Galileo, oh boy, a sure sign of dealing with a crackpot, see


    point 35. It is a common empty cry, 'Help, help, we're being repressed, just like Galileo'.
    Where is the evidence LSV? We've been here before. On an older thread, about the tree stump apparition, you boldly set out to make scientific claims in several areas (chaos, probability of evolution, etc) but when called out over it, you couldn't deliver anything, remember? See


    Lateron in that thread I challenged you again about your unfounded claims, but you didn't respond:


    And it seems to be the same story here. No credible evidence to present, just some guys with PhDs. In other words, what you have is no more than an argument from authority, no substance.

  • Comment number 27.

    Nice to see the ad hominems back again PK. For a few days I thought you may have discovered manners, if nothing else.

    Ah, well...

  • Comment number 28.

    Manners where manners are due Graham, and crackpot index urls where crackpot index urls are due. If you look at the page, you'll see that the comparison to Galileo wasn't the only criterion on which LSV scored some crackpot points.

    But of course LSV can turn it all around by just presenting some of this evidence he keeps on about. That would show me to be entirely wrong and nothing but a nasty atheist who says unfounded nasty things to believers on this blog. Should be as easy as taking a penalty kick at an open goal for LSV, right? If there was such great evidence, that is.

  • Comment number 29.

    PK -

    Calling someone a crackpot doesn't count as scientific evidence - something the atheists on this blog don't seem to have worked out yet (but yet again that seems to be the only tactic they can resort to).

    If you had actually bothered to read my post - instead of being so irrational and emotional - you would have seen that I was not offering to present any evidence, but rather making the point that if evidence is presented by those scientists it should be considered IRRESPECTIVE OF ANY PHILOSOPHICAL PRESUPPOSITIONS. And it was the prejudiced imposition of philosophical presuppositions that Galileo objected to. Try to read someone's words with a bit of logical care - if you are able, that is.

    Crackpot or not, I have been arguing clearly and logically that naturalism does not fulfil logical epistemological criteria, and I have noticed that you and your ilk have failed consistently to answer this argument. And the reason you have not is because you cannot.

    So insult me as much as you like. The more childishly you behave, the more you demonstrate the falsity of your own misguided philosophy.

  • Comment number 30.

    PeterM, I don't know why your post was pulled - I didn't see it. As you know, I would not have taken any offence, so I would like the mods to reinstate it if possible. You're a nice guy. I can't imagine you would have said anything [*gasp*] HORRID!

    I can sing songs. I can sing "It's Raining Men" without compromising my sexuality; I can sing "Jesus wants me for a sunbeam" without my brain drizzling out my ears; I can sing "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" without believing in a cloud-dwelling sky-nanny.

    And, although I will argue the bit out with any punter that comes my way, and defend my views vigorously (and I hope with good humour, even if that should occasionally lapse), I wish to retain cordial relations with the other clever apes I share the planet with, and with my culture, history and background. I'm a nice guy too :-)

    Toodle pip!

  • Comment number 31.


    I risk a version of the post again. The only bit I can think of which might have been a problem was when I named a particular christian ditty and said that I shouldn't be expected to sing it and keep a straight face. That song is now nameless.

    And the gist of what I said is to follow.

    It concerns why you'd want to sing the songs in the first place, in other words what's driving the continuing association with Christianity?

  • Comment number 32.

    OK Helio, here goes.

    Here's something I struggle to get my head around.

    You say, "The mission is not to convert, but to develop a Christianity Compatibility Layer to allow atheists to sing your wee songs without feeling like a right plonker.

    Yea, some of the songs are 'wee', right enough!, but what I don't get is why you would want to sing the stuff in the first place. (I note now that you've said you can sing stuff, but I'm wondering why). I don't want to sing some of the stuff, sometimes I don't sing the stuff, sometimes some the the words can put your mind into that much of a tail spin that by the time you've figured out what might have possessed someone to write them in the first place the organist has played the last bar, (or the worship leader has sung the last line for the final, final time) and all you have to do is sit down again. And sometimes I'm thinking, what was all that about?

    But it seems that this is about more than singing songs. I can think of reasons why some people would wish to continue to be associated with Christianity, some of which I mentioned on the 'Evensong' thread; for example, maybe there are reasons of social or family interaction or pressure. And I know that can go on in a place like NI and I know that there are people who just pay lip service to it all for reasons, say 'respect' or whatever (that's one of the reasons I like the 'new' churches and their lack of social/national tradition, you're less likely to turn up there just to fit in) but I'm not sure that that's all you are saying. You seem to be going further. You seem to be talking about participation, without... participating? Not trying to be funny, I'm just confused.

    If I really didn't buy the Jesus stuff, if for some reason or other I turned from faith, I wouldn't go, I couldn't go, it would be painful to go. I'd surf, I eat breakfast with the kids, I go on picnics, I'd watch movies, I'd probably even do a satirical website, a real cutting one (in fact I could probably do that now, and I do *believe*!), but sing (missing Christian song), with a straight face? (That's a tall order as it is!)

    Helio, of all the atheists on this blog, I really like you, I've learned lots from you and I suspect we'd see lots of things the same way, but you and this church thing, I'm not sure I get what's going on.

    It's almost like the story, recorded in Mark, of the boyo who spoke with Jesus, only in reverse, "I do doubt, help Thou mine belief."

    And on that one, sometimes I say it the way it's recorded in Mark 9:24, and sometimes I say it the way I just wrote. It works at all sorts of levels!

    And all the best of Nazareth, as we say in PCI, I'll be thinking about you, and I trust it goes even better than you've hoped for.

  • Comment number 33.


    But that was an interesting thing.

    You chose and named a song written over 100 years ago with, presumably, no copyright. I was dumb enough to question one written within living memory!

    So, a lesson for us all. If you go back far enough you can basically say whatever you like, or, even, change the words of hymns written by people long since dead and publish them in your new book, even though it's disrespectful to the author, all in the name of being cool and trendy and with it and relevant! (sorry, couldn't resist) :-)

    And for goodness sake, Mary Poppins isn't magic, it's her umbrella.

    But coooool spelling!

  • Comment number 34.

    Come and join us! The Church of Jesus Christ Atheist is accepting members :-)

    My mum wouldn't approve Helio !

  • Comment number 35.

    But guys, that's the brilliant thing - [sotto voce] Mum need never know!

    Anyway, just to interrupt the love-fest for a moment, LSV needs a bit of a sorting out here:
    Crackpot or not, I have been arguing clearly and logically that naturalism does not fulfil logical epistemological criteria, and I have noticed that you and your ilk have failed consistently to answer this argument. And the reason you have not is because you cannot.

    Does it help if we turn it around? If you *don't* accept "naturalism"; if you *don't* accept that there is such a thing as rational appraisal of evidence and drawing reasonable conclusions, all the while leaving the door open in principle to a better explanation (which is what naturalism boils down to), then you have no basis to assert that viewpoint, and counter-naturalism fails.

    It's all very simple, LSV - you are indulging in the logical equivalent of a divide-by-zero. You are simply making an error that "naturalism" (as you quaintly term it) bases itself on some sort of fundament, before we can build back up to where we are now, but as I pointed out to Bernie ages ago, that is not the case. Indeed, it's trivially nonsensical. In our scientific approach to the universe we start where we are NOW, and work both up and down. We make no pretence at having uncovered some epistemiological bedrock (which, incidentally, you don't have either; you simply *declare* that you have, but you're a bad fibber). We expand our little circle of knowledge outwards, and whatever we hit, we deal with it.

    Personally I find that a most congenial way of dealing with the unknown. It doesn't scare me into denial, the way it seems to do with you. Take a deep breath and let go of the apron strings - they're not attached to anything anyway...

  • Comment number 36.

    "But guys, that's the brilliant thing - [sotto voce] Mum need never know!"

    You mean like singing, so high you can't get over it, with your fingers crossed?!

  • Comment number 37.


    What Helio says in post 35 makes sense. But we don't need to go into any philosophy to note that you were making claims about how evidence was going to be considered . I think it's worthwhile to point out again that prior to your complaining, none had actually been presented or been responded to. And that, based on previous experience with you, we can safely assume that none will be forthcoming from you. So I do consider your cries (and I do say cries, when you post lines in all capitals) as premature and empty.

  • Comment number 38.

    PK & Helio ...

    "Crackpot" here again...

    Since I am fed up with rewriting my posts I will just lift something I wrote somewhere else (not on W&T).

    Here it is...

    "You [referring to an atheist I was debating with] wrote about not trusting "unverified truths". By what means is a concept verified to be true in your philosophy? Presumably by the empirical method, dependent on observation and experimentation. Naturalism depends on the validity of empiricism. The problem that I have with empiricism is that the fundamental claim of empiricism, namely, that "knowledge can only derive from sense experience", cannot itself be verified empirically. There is no experience that we can have within nature that requires us to believe that "knowledge can only derive from sense experience". This is a premise brought to experience, not derived from experience.

    Therefore there is a contradiction at the heart of naturalism.

    It is possible that some naturalists may object to the idea that naturalism depends entirely on empiricism, as they would claim that we possess innate ideas that we can validly bring to experience. The problem with that, however, is that (according to naturalism) nature has been the source of those innate ideas, which could only have developed within the human mind as a result of the psychological reinforcement of a pattern of experiences of the evolving human organism, seeking to survive within the process of natural selection. All such ideas would simply be devices to enable a certain animal to survive and tell us nothing about "objective truth".

    Within this philosophy, any truth claim can only be verified pragmatically, and on this basis even belief in God could be verified if it helps some people achieve their goals. Religious people have every right to claim that their goals are as valid as the non-religious person's goals, and therefore the means to achieve those goals become valid also - this is the implication of pragmatic verification. Naturalistic epistemology, being entirely pragmatic, as I have argued, cannot therefore condemn religious beliefs, yet the philosophy of naturalism, being materialistic, of course must exclude religious beliefs: it is a complete contradiction.

    So I find it strange that naturalists claim to be committed to "truth", and often accuse those who are not naturalists of abandoning "truth" in favour of "experience". Yet, as I have argued, the epistemology of naturalism is built entirely on the foundation of experience (what, after all, is sense perception if it is not experience?)"

    I would also like to add to this post concerning the drive to survive within natural selection which (allegedly) produces innate ideas. There is nothing in nature (left to its own devices) that demands that any system or organism should survive rather than die. This is a law which is being "read back" into nature. Since nature is blind, life and death are meaningless concepts - all reality is simply reducible to the movement of atoms, molecules, bosons etc. So therefore the innate ideas resulting from natural selection (which are fashioned to aid survival) cannot reflect objective reality, and therefore tell us nothing about "truth".

    It is for this reason that I reject the philosopy of naturalism, materialism - or whatever you wish to call it - which undergirds atheism. Why? Because it can offer no logical basis for any truth claim. It fails therefore at the very first hurdle epistemologically.

    Helio talks about "starting where we are now" and working outwards, but you still have to have a valid basis from which to work. To suggest that you don't is simply naive - or to use Helio's favourite word: jejune.


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