23 January 2006

Religion's privileged position needs to be challenged.

Talk-Politics writes more eloquently then I ever could on the reaction to Dawkin's C4 programmes on religion (damn my rubbish comprehensive education). Highly recommend you take a look.

I've always been a fan of Talk-Politics, but I imagine he is no longer a fan of mine. I have probably upset his civil libertarian sensibilities lately with my support for ID cards and Blair's respect agenda.

The main point I would make about the religious backlash to Dawkin's programmes is that most of it is just ad hominen attacks.

As Bertrand Russell suggested, arguing with those indoctrinated with religion can be very hard work because;

"What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason. Then I think the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people's desire for a belief in God."

Talk-Politics post goes on to question the need for Dawkins programme suggesting it will not change anybody's opinion either way. I disagree, I think programmes like this always have an effect. In fact we need to hear from more vocal anti-theists if we are to stem the rise of the fascist religious fundamentalism which is threatening a takeover of the body politic in the US and elsewhere.


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  2. Neil:

    1. I had a comprehensive education too, y'know.

    2. I certainly don't agree with your take on civil liberties but I do think that some of the ad hominem comments directed your way have been rather unfair. Bit too much playing the man not the ball of late.

    I suspect that you don't quite 'get' where we're coming from on this issue, in part because none of us are particularly articulating why this issue matters so much to us.

    I may try to do just that but in the mean time you could do much worse than dig out a copy of Orwell's essay 'The Lion and the Unicorn' - you should find it easily via Google to save time and on the cost of buying a copy of his essays in full - and look at his characterisation of what it is to be English/British in that, as that explains pretty well the philosophical standpoint that underpins the libertarian view of these issues.

    Its not a case of not being a 'fan' so much as taking the view that law and order issues are perhaps not your strong suit and that the blogosphere, by its nature, is a bit of rough arena in which to question the value of civil liberties.

    If its any reassurance, you're still on my RSS feeds, which is more than can be said for some - especially Stephen Pollard.

    3. I don't think that I really question the need for Dawkins documentary, merely note that its deals with a subject in which views are so strongly held that its not going to change many minds - you're either for him or agin him.

    The real value in it, as I see it, is that whatever else it does, it does challenge the privileged position of religion in society and raise questions as to why we should treat faith any differently from any other form of belief.

    We wouldn't permit someone to discriminate against homosexuals on the grounds that they're a Tory and believe homsexuality is wrong so why should we accept such a practice just because someone is a Christian or a Muslim?

  3. Unity:

    1. You obviously learned more at your comprehensive than I did. I spent most of my time avoiding punches and being glad to go home at the end of the day still alive.

    2. I probably deserved 'some' of the abuse I received for my respect post because my original argument was so clumsily written, but glad to hear I'm not enemy number one as far as you are concerned.

    Maybe you are right, I don't quite 'get' it.

    The principle of 'innocent until proven guilty' is of course a fantastically important one. I would certainly argue it is worth upholding the present due process for custodial punishments, but we already have accepted a further eroding of that principle than Blair is proposing with his respect agenda.

    We already lock innocent people up when we place them on remand. Surely this locking up of the innocent is far worse than fining the innocent.

    Like I've said no system is perfect and it is always a balance between how much this inaccuracy leads to punishing the innocent or letting the guilty go free.

    In the case of cracking down on anti-social behaviour, the case for moving this balance back towards punishing the guilty at the expense of the innocent is that not only is this in the interests of the law abiding majority but also in the criminals interest because they are less likely to progress to more serious crime and a lifetime of intermittent incarceration.

    3. On Dawkins, you are absolutely right to ask why religion should be able to discriminate and be protected from criticism.

    I think the Dawkins programme will change more minds than you think and is absolutely essential in a society bombarded with religious propaganda.

  4. I really don't see the same religious threat as you. The idea that religious indoctrination or propaganda is increasing, and increasing to a threatening level, just doesn't ring true at all for me. We've been going on about US fundamentalists for years, it's only really the recent education proposals that have caused a stir.

    It seems to me we've all spent years using lousy arguments about the impossibility of the existence of god, which are entirely unconvincing to the religious, and atheists have really let things slip, intellectually. *We* needed the shot in the arm.

    The Dawkins program didn't really raise itself much above that level, but at least in the furore that has followed, better and more pertinent arguments (such as TP's list of special favours - beyond toleration - that religions enjoy, and the state powers they may wield) are being heard - or at least demanded and expected. So in that respect Dawkins has been a good - what's the word - lightning conductor.

  5. The fastest growing religious movements in this country are the evangelicals and fundamentalists, not the easy going liberal anglicans.

    The fundamentalists have views as extreme as the BNP, yet we atheists are standing idly by letting their growth go unchallenged. We need to mobilise, just like we have against the rise of the fascist BNP.

    If you want to see how frightening their views are, go to the Baptist Church on Montpelier Place (Junction with Norfolk Terrace) and listen to the lectures slagging off homosexuality, evolution and abortion.

  6. The Blue Foxxx27/1/06 10:55 pm

    The BNP espouse essentially secular views. The problem, generally put, is intolerance of difference and fundamentalism (linked to essentialist beliefs), this is not a problem confined to the religious.