Tag Archive | Richard Dawkins

Thanks and apologies to my readers

TypingAs you may have noticed, I tend to be a bit down on religion. Not entirely, and I hope not without good reason, but it’s largely due to the nature of my story. I’m still on a journey from my former conservative evangelical beliefs, with various stops along the way, and a lot of my thoughts are directed towards ideas I used to hold and am now questioning or rejecting.

I know that I have a number of followers who are religious in some form or another, generally with a sensible, progressive or liberal approach and an awareness of the various problems with the sort of beliefs I usually criticise. I respect them both for their beliefs (even if I disagree) and particularly for their interest in reading things that are often less than flattering about religion. They are a valuable addition here, and I’m grateful for that. Read More…

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Dear Theos, Please learn to handle survey data

Cross SunsetTheos, a Christian think tank, have been in the news today with a survey on the subject of belief and spirituality. They claim that their report, “The Spirit of Things Unseen: belief in post-religious Britain”, which has been released to promote and coincide with a new podcast (telling you all you need to know about its objectivity), challenges a belief that Britain has become “more secular, or more sceptical, or more rational”. The very first paragraph of the executive summary reads in full:

For all that formalised religious belief and institutionalised religious belonging has declined over recent decades, the British have not become a nation of atheists or materialists. On the contrary, a spiritual current runs as, if not more, powerfully through the nation than it once did

This is where the first gaping chasm between responses and interpretation arises – despite claiming to challenge this idea of a trend, nowhere do they present any baseline data to compare these figures with earlier surveys to discern a direction of travel. Read More…

Richard Dawkins, winged horses, Islamophobia and a hierarchy of nonsense

I’m going to assume that anyone who’s interested in Richard Dawkins’ latest spat on Twitter already knows all about it, but in summary, he mocked Mehdi Hasan as a journalist (and the New Statesman for publishing him) over Hasan’s belief (common among Muslims) that Mohammed was carried up to heaven on a winged horse.

This caused a lot of fuss, with reactions to it ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, before Dawkins posted a more thorough explanation of what he meant by his tweet, without the constraint of a 140-character limit.

PegasusI don’t see any benefit in revisiting this in detail, but the question that’s been on my mind, given that there have been various accusations of atheist Islamophobia recently, is how atheists, particularly Western atheists in broadly Christian societies, should handle Islam and the beliefs of Muslims, and when rational criticism becomes prejudice and bigotry. Read More…

Religion is the smile on a dog

Dog FaceNo no, it’s alright – I know, he’s a bit big and he looks quite scary, but he doesn’t bite – Down, boy, down! – he just wants to play. He loves old people, he’s always fussing around them wagging his tail, hoping for a treat. And children, too – he just loves children. Actually, now I think about it, maybe he loves children a bit too much…

Anyway, he’s a lovely pet, and really nice to have around. He’s so friendly, and he loves playing. I suppose you could say he’s got a bit of a one-track mind and I don’t think he handles complexity or change very well, but give him a familiar environment and he’s fine. Look, boy – see the relic – go fetch! Fetch it! Good boy. Aren’t you clever? Yes you are. What a clever boy.

Read More…

Majority belief or persecuted pariahs? Christians need to make up their minds

Mark it on your calendar – it appears that I’m in agreement with the Coalition for Marriage (C4M) about something. Specifically, that it’s very good news that Adrian Smith has won his case against Trafford Housing Trust after being demoted for expressing a personal view in a personal context. Whatever the rights and wrongs of his position (mostly wrongs, it has to be said), the McCarthyite approach of disciplining people for opinions is dangerous and illiberal.

Wedding RingsBut that’s where my agreement ends. Strangely, even as they celebrate this victory, they’re claiming it as proof of the dangers of changing the law. Smith won his case, and there’s widespread agreement on both sides that he should never have faced any action against him. But while acknowledging and even celebrating these facts, C4M somehow seem to believe that this demonstrates a genuine risk of persecution for their views. Read More…

Michael Gove and King James

Michael Gove is giving a lot of commemorative King James Bibles to schools, to mark the, er, 401st anniversary of the publication of the original (thanks to typical government efficiency), and a lot of people are unhappy about it. Atheists and secularists are unhappy at religion being pushed into schools, while many Christians are furious that their holy book has been turned into a cultural artifact, doled out in a form of political patronage with Gove’s name on the spine. And then, just when it seemed that there was a clear consensus against the Bibles, Richard Dawkins made headlines by saying they were a jolly good thing. Read More…

Could The God Delusion change anything?

One WayI promise this is the last I’m going to write about The God Delusion. I’ve been trying to move on, but I keep thinking about this, and I think it’s worth developing a bit further. I’m feeling rather unsatisfied with my reaction to the books I read – not because I’ve changed my mind, but in a strange sort of way because I’m not sure if I could have changed my mind. Read More…

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