More from Humpty Dumpty

More of the old let’s redefine atheism so that we can declare it illegitimate ploy. This one just runs and runs and runs.

In practice, it is possible to reject religion with a reforming, missionary zeal. This of course is [Grayling’s] position, and that of Dawkins. There is indeed a faith dimension to their non-belief. By contrast it is possible to reject religious belief in a less ardent way: this is known as agnosticism. What distinguishes the atheist from the agnostic is his belief that religion ought to be eliminated, that the world would be radically better off without it. Atheism entails a certain narrative about historical progress: we can move to a new and better age once we have dispensed with superstition. The prospect of a future without religion is good news. The atheist is an evangelist, a communicator of the true cause that will set humanity free. By contrast the agnostic is reluctant to condemn religion as intrinsically bad; he sees it as too complex and contradictory to generalize about.

Yes, certainly. And cucumbers are heavy orange rectangular things that are useful for building walls or heaving through atheists’ windows, and sailboats are fiercely hot little green things you can put in beans or stew or atheists’ eyes, and winter is that very stocky bald guy in the red jumpsuit over there who might be an atheist by the looks of him. In other words, what a ridiculous display of free-association. All those things fit the description of some atheists and agnostics, no doubt, but they’re certainly not part of the meanings of the words. Back to argument school for Theo Hobson.

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