Here, Then There, Then Somewhere Else

Lot of people around saying weird things today. Is there something in the water?

Andrew Brown for instance. He seems to change direction with every paragraph, and much of what he says in the process seems snide and silly.

It is hard being an atheist with a sense of proportion. No one in this country will persecute you and it’s not really very hard to disbelieve in God, but the temptation to strike attitudes in front of the universe persists…Thus, Daniel Dennett writes early in this book: “I for one am not in awe of your faith. I am appalled by your arrogance, by your unreasoning certainty that you have all the answers” – and he’s not talking about Richard Dawkins.

Oh, ha ha, that’s so amusing. But what is so dang arrogant about Dawkins? He’s sometimes blunt (and a good thing too), but arrogant? Not particularly, not unless you simply assume that it’s arrogant to think there’s not much reason to believe religion gets things right. But why assume that? And why call Dawkins arrogant when one could call Ted Haggard arrogant instead? But there’s this dopy truism that Dawkins-is-arrogant, so it has to be trotted out to strike attitudes whenever religion is criticised. Temptation to strike attitudes yourself.

So, after the preliminary pep-talk to the choir, he gives a very forceful and lucid account of the reasons why we need to study religious behaviour as a human phenomenon: apparently this programme comes as a tremendous shock to those Americans who have never heard of Hume, William James, or even Terry Pratchett.

Yes – and? Your point is? Surely not that such Americans don’t exist? So what, then?

Dennett understands there are vast differences between primitive or animist religions and the sophisticated beliefs of a modern Jesuit.

Sophisticated – hmm. Sophisticated in what sense?

Richard Dawkins might regard Romney’s professed beliefs as evidence of simple insanity. Dennett sees that their status is more complicated and interesting than that.

Did Richard Dawkins once give Andrew Brown a decayed olive at a dinner party or something? What’s his problem? What’s with all the straw man stuff? Dawkins might regard Romney’s professed beliefs as delusional (and so would I), but as evidence of simple insanity? That looks like a silly spiteful canard, to me.

Few of us in this culture are in favour of fanaticism; but it is obviously possible to be a fanatical atheist, so it turns out to be fanaticism that’s the problem, not religion.

Uh – what? Where does that ‘so’ come from? For that matter, what does that entire sentence mean? It seems to say three quite random unconnected things, while pretending they are somehow linked. The ‘but’ doesn’t make any more sense than the ‘so’ does. Well, who knows, maybe Brown has been chatting with Michael Ruse.

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