Vicar of Drivelly

The Vicar of Putney is sounding off again.

But what resources of self-criticism has atheism developed? Little, it seems. Rarely is a critical lens directed inwards. Once the campaigning atheist has seen the light, they remain on-message, keen to convert all unbelievers. Last week, as Maryam Namazie picked up her award for Secularist of the Year, she proposed “an uncompromising and shamelessly aggressive demand for secularism. Today, more than ever, we are in need of the complete de-religionisation of society.”

What’s his point? What does he mean? What does he think he means? He doesn’t say, he just gives another example of what he takes to be self-evident atheist non-self-criticism. Well, that’s stupid. The fact that a given atheist is a strong advocate for atheism doesn’t (at all, remotely, by any stretch even of the twisted vicarious imagination) mean that she is not self-critical. What an absurd conclusion to draw. Behold. One can be a strong advocate of atheism and be very cautious, skeptical, uncertain, tentative, gradualist about every other subject under the sun. Furthermore, one can be a strong advocate of atheism and be scrupulously, even obsessively self-critical, self-deprecating, self-mocking, self-correcting. The two are independent.

What he probably means is something like ‘atheism doesn’t consider what’s wrong with atheism enough.’ But too bad – that’s not what he said, so he doesn’t get any points for it.

Part of the problem is that many born-again atheists remain trapped in a 19th-century time warp, reheating the standard refutations of religious belief based on a form of rationalism that harks back to an era of fob-watches and long sideburns. One Oxford don has called the website of the National Secular Society a “museum of modernity, untroubled by the awkward rise of postmodernity”. Ignoring the fact that at least three generations of thought have challenged an uncritical faith in rationality, the society continues to build its temples to reason, deaf to claims that it is building on sand.

Attababy, Vic! You tell ’em! You tell those pesky old-fashioned boring dreary old hat modernists how yawn-inducing they are, how unhip, how deaf, how sandy. Above all tell them how bad it is to have ‘uncritical’ ‘faith’ (geddit? faith? he’s a vicar?) in rationality. You betcha. Let’s all have more uncritical faith in irrationality, and see how much better everything will be.

This commitment to Victorian philosophy turns to farce when campaigning secularists describe themselves as freethinkers. In truth, atheism is about as alternative as Rod Stewart. The joke is that many who were converted at university via Richard Dawkin’s The Selfish Gene think of themselves as agents of some subversive counterculturalism. This is ridiculous to Da Vinci Code proportions. Contemporary atheism is mainstream stuff.

Grooooan. He’s arguing from fashion! He’s using the argument from hipness! He’s trying to make atheists feel silly and pathetic because we’re not ‘alternative’ enough. What an idiot. What (again) is his point? God-bothering is hipper than atheism therefore God exists? No? Well what then? God-bothering is hipper than atheism therefore we should believe in God despite the non-existence thing? Yes, apparently. Well why would that follow?

As religion returns to the geopolitical scene with frightening malevolence, secularists ought not to be handing out awards and congratulating themselves. They must first try to understand religious belief. That means dispensing with their own self-congratulatory piety: it’s the only route to an effective challenge.

That’s not funny, that’s just downright disgusting. He means Maryam. Yeah, right, that’s all Maryam does, is sit around congratulating herself – in between being imprisoned and fleeing Iran at the risk of her life, and working for women’s rights in Sudan and having to flee for her life from there, and working for women’s rights and secularism in the UK and being systematically ignored by a media that’s too busy fawning on Iqbal fucking Sacranie to phone her up for an opinion now and then, so the National Secular Society has the almightly gall to try to get her just a little more mainstream attention via this award – only for the Vicar of god damn Putney to come along and drivel about handing out awards and congratulating themselves. That pisses me off!

Sod off, Vicar of Putney. Go be Vicar of Morden for awhile – that would show you.

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