Faith faith faith, and Slee
Stuart Jeffries piece on faith and unbelief is an example of a certain kind of liberal intellectual position which seeks to stand above the current debates about the place of religion in contemporary society…He quotes without challenge the preposterous assertion from Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark, that “atheists like Richard Dawkins are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube” (since when is writing books and making arguments comparable to mass murder?)…Jeffries is quite right to point out that these days secularists seem exasperated. But who can blame us when the case against unaccountable and undemocratic religious privilege is so misrepresented by articles like his?
Well exactly. If people like him didn’t keep saying silly things like that, people like us would be better-tempered and sweeter and would stop blowing up tubes and buses, or rather not so much blowing them up as, well, not blowing them up. We wouldn’t stop not blowing them up – we’d – oh never mind.
David Thompson also comments.
What we’re hearing instead, and hearing very often, are statements like another quoted in Jeffries’ article, by Oxford theologian Alister McGrath: “We need to treat those who disagree with us with intellectual respect, rather than dismissing them – as Dawkins does – as liars, knaves and charlatans.” This rather presupposes that intellectual respect could in all fairness be assigned to a person who presents no credible argument to support grandiose claims regarding the origin and nature of existence, and the alleged preferences of a hypothetical deity on whose behalf he affects to speak. Well, if you want to avoid being viewed as a knave or a pompous little fraud, it helps to have the goods to back up your claims.
And it’s just asking too much to demand that we treat all those who disagree with us with intellectual respect. What if they’re not intellectually respectable? Civility is one thing, but intellectual respect is another.
David cites that comment by Colin Slee too – I daresay everyone who discussed that article cited that comment. It certainly did stand out! So much so that it caused me to lapse into a rare but sincere fantasy about violence.
Stephen Law has posts about the ever-popular ‘atheism is faith’ trope here and here. He also has ones on cultural relativism here and several other places – I don’t have the strength to link to all of them: you should just go explore the whole blog.