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Ex-bishop preaches a kinder atheism - Comments

mrjohnno's Avatar Comment 1 by mrjohnno

Bingo

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:23:00 UTC | #409348

JesperB's Avatar Comment 2 by JesperB

The ex-bishop sounds like quite a decent fellow, but headlines like this one still makes me wince. It seems to imply that other atheists are not kind and thus builds on the "shrill and strident" myth.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:39:00 UTC | #409355

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 3 by Sally Luxmoore

Richard Holloway seems in many ways to be like 'our' Richard - a highly intelligent, cultured, well-read, civilised, deep thinking person, who easily commands respect.

I just couldn't agree with some of the things that he appears to be saying:

the certainty of neo-atheism has a lot in common with the certainty of religion.

This does not make a lot of sense to me. I do not think that atheism of the kind that 'our' Richard describes , ie a 6.9 on the 1 - 7 probability scale, is really a certainty in the same way that religion usually is. I know that the equivalent religious view could be a 1.1 on the same scale, but it's the reasoning required to get to that point that makes the difference. It's the value placed on evidence that is the real divide between the two. OK, maybe I'm nit-picking, but I'm not happy with his statement as it stands.

he chooses to end the book, which takes the absence of god, the devil, heaven and hell as a given, with a peroration on gratitude.

Does he really think that this makes his viewpoint so different from that of the civilised, thinking atheist? Think of 'our' Richard's "We are the lucky ones" paragraph from Unweaving The Rainbow.

In all, what Richard Holloway is talking about is not really religion anyway. It would be nice if he did not feel the need to differentiate himself from the sort of views so often expressed on this site. We seem to be natural allies and he would fit in well in our camp!

(What is it with the name 'Richard'? Holders of that name so often seem to be the possessors of high intelligence. I suppose it's down to the kinds of parents who choose that name being the kinds of parents likely to value education... Am I being elitist? I suppose I am.)

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:41:00 UTC | #409356

alessamendes's Avatar Comment 4 by alessamendes

...if we were more grateful for our own gift of life, we might spend less time interfering in the life of others


I totally agree and like the quote. However, I feel that it’s difficult not to interfere, sometimes, when people are causing harm to others and getting away with it because their actions are considered holy and sacred. “Evil flourishes when good men do nothing”.

I'm, of course, bias to assume that good men = rational thinkers :-) I'm sure those who are religious could spin the quote in their favour.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:47:00 UTC | #409358

HenryFord's Avatar Comment 5 by HenryFord

@Sally
"What is it with the name 'Richard'? Holders of that name so often seem to be the possessors of high intelligence."


I'd give up on that hypothesis. I'm a Richard, and I'm as thick as mince.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:49:00 UTC | #409359

Dhamma's Avatar Comment 6 by Dhamma

He wrote "Godless morality" before he left as a bishop? I'm surprised they didn't toss him out.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 15:59:00 UTC | #409364

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 7 by Sally Luxmoore

Comment #427634 by HenryFord

A Richard called Henry? Or are you sometimes called 'Dick'?
-- Only joke intended, not offence!

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:01:00 UTC | #409365

prettygoodformonkeys's Avatar Comment 8 by prettygoodformonkeys

a debate characterized by accusations and shrill rhetoric
Again with the shrill.

Oh well, at least they're reading things besides the Buybull.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:03:00 UTC | #409366

DeusExNihilum's Avatar Comment 9 by DeusExNihilum

TBH I just can't fathom the position of "Can't we all get along?" because the simple answer is "No.". No ethical person would suggest we should try to co-exist, without confrontation, on the position of racism, sexism or xenophobia so why must we say it about Religion which often joins all three together in the same place?

The ex-bishop easily seems intelligent, well read and any number of nice words you care to think of. But he also seems to of taken the religious view on atheism to heart, Thinking us shrill and equatable with fundamentalists, even having the same warped view on the difference between "Atheism" and "Agnosticism".

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:06:00 UTC | #409367

MAJORPAIN's Avatar Comment 10 by MAJORPAIN

I'm an atheist and I'm never say I'm CERTAIN of anything. I "believe" there is no god. I cannot say there is no god. This lumping all atheists together and saying we're ALL fill-in-the-blank is crap and it is getting really old.

He does seem like a nice chap though.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:13:00 UTC | #409370

severalspeciesof's Avatar Comment 11 by severalspeciesof

3. Comment #427631 by Sally Luxmoore

Sorry to be nit-picking here, but from what I read in the article, it's not Holloway that said "the certainty of neo-atheism has a lot in common with the certainty of religion." but rather the person who wrote the article. That person may be putting words into Holloway's mouth (Though I'm not at all familiar with the ex-bishop, and so I may be wrong here)

But over all, I'm now interested in what Holloway says, so I'm going to try and track down some of his books...

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:21:00 UTC | #409372

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 12 by Jos Gibbons

Kinder? RD’s not kind? I’m not going to like this.
This article’s nameless author, hereafter Anon, wants to make a “and now, just when” news story out of that which has been going on for a decade. Typical journalists. (They also repeat, every now and then, as if it’s news, the fact that there’s an observed correlation between intelligence and high birth weights.) But Holloway lacks Anon’s annoyingness. Kudos to RH for, as the photo’s caption indicates, having the chutzpah to write and have published “Godless Morality” whilst still working for the Church!

the certainty of neo-atheism has a lot in common with the certainty of religion.
For the umpteenth time – Dawkins scale, number 6. Stop lying.
It [the great fiction] deserves more respect than the neo-atheists pay it, he figures, and less obedience than religionists generally insist on.
I don’t know whether this vagueness is RH’s fault or is the product of Anon’s filtering. Either way, let’s clarify it: the second part means we shouldn’t ram fiction as fact into kids’ heads and breed bigotry and other dangers and demand tax exemption, immunity from criticism and special privileges why we do it. The first part means we’d better value its utility as fiction like we do everything else. Oh wait, the neo-atheists do. (Jeez, why neo repeatedly? Does Anon love showing off a knowledge of prefixes?) Example: RD waning religious music on Desert Island Discs; judging by his interviewer’s confusion, it’s journalists who don’t know how to treat false religion as a useful fiction, not the people Anon insists on criticising.
a position that many, religionists or not, feel in their gut is probably the right one.
Argument from popularity – irrelevant.
In a debate characterized by frank criticism and clarity, Holloway speaks in obfuscation laced with important-sounding references to church history without the bad bits, cryptozoology
There. Fixed.
who does not believe in god or heaven but has no desire to convince you that you shouldn't
Oh he’d rather people stay in his opinion wrong, presumably because they need to be sheltered from harsh truths he can handle. Why are these third way types always so self-important?
He couldn't be less like the neo-atheists, who are by comparison only dimly aware of the histories and complexities of the faiths they mock and denounce.
Anon can’t have read any of their books to say that.
a new synthetic way of living with religion
You’re not religious, RH, so you’re not “living with religion”, except perhaps other people’s.
it's a particular undervaluation – of gay priests and homosexuality in general by his former church – that propelled him out of faith in the first place
Was that really the reason? Because I’m not sure it’s very good reasoning for the non-existence of a deity. I mean, it’s nice to have RH on the “right” side, but I’d prefer him to also be on the rational one. His discussion of rationalism reveals, sadly, that he’s nothing of the kind.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:28:00 UTC | #409374

robotaholic's Avatar Comment 13 by robotaholic

So the man doesn't believe in heaven or hell, but thinks there is some sort of utility to it?

He couldn't be less like the neo-atheists, who are by comparison only dimly aware of the histories and complexities of the faiths they mock and denounce.


I would have to stridently disagree. Richard was born and raised as a Christian. He knows the intricacies of that religion.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:30:00 UTC | #409377

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 14 by Sally Luxmoore

Comment #427647 by severalspeciesof

Thanks!
In that case I think there's even less that divides him from us.

Comment #427652 by robotaholic
I think this is another 'difference' perhaps invented by Mr Anon.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:43:00 UTC | #409382

Coel's Avatar Comment 15 by Coel

Robotaholic writes:

Richard was born and raised as a Christian
*Born* a Christian?? You're in trouble now, I'd edit that quick before RD sees it! How can you be "born" a member of a religion? Raised, yes, sort of.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:45:00 UTC | #409383

JackR's Avatar Comment 16 by JackR

...if we were more grateful for our own gift of life, we might spend less time interfering in the life of others


If you shake off the cosy, Hallmark-greeting fuzziness of that remark and replace the loaded word "interfering" with "interacting" you realise what a shockingly self-centred attitude it represents.

I find this time and time again with these accommodationists: they speak in anodyne soundbites but have nothing of real substance to offer. They are also every bit as capable of dishonesty about the positions of those they disagree with as more fervent religionists, they're just a bit more delicate and veiled about it - as we see here.

None of this strikes me as being in any way admirable. In fact, I find it distinctly gutless. People like Holloway and Karen Armstrong are relentless appeasers, and they do not properly tackle the very serious criticisms levelled against the thing they defend through their appeasement.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 16:47:00 UTC | #409385

sdando's Avatar Comment 17 by sdando

It's absolutely disingenuous to say that we don't understand the religions we criticize. It is much more likely that those who stay in them don't fully understand the history.

I had a room full of trophies for "bible quizzing" growing up in an Evagelical Christian family. My knowledge of the text is much more thorough than most. And I can say with certainty that it's absolute hooey. I can also say that what is taught to children unfortunate enough to be in the same situation about the origins and authorship of the bible is absolute hooey as well.

Richard really focuses his criticisms on the Abrahamic faiths not because he doesn't think the others are nonsense but because he knows those so much better due to his background.

What an idiotic piece of tripe this article is.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:06:00 UTC | #409389

MMAtheist's Avatar Comment 19 by MMAtheist

"I'm not a rationalist in the ultimate sense," he says. "If you're a crusading rationalist, if you think rationality is the ultimate good, therefore, that might make you a missionary. I think Richard Dawkins is a missionary for rationalism. I think that we're much more complicated than that. I think that we have a level of rationality, but there are dark, brooding things under us as well. We die, we know we die; there are lots of inherited fears and anxieties from the depths of our pasts, so I think rationality is one tiny element in the human experience."

What is his point here?
Besides using ridiculous words like "crusader" and "missionary" and telling us we're not always rational, he's not really explaining how rationality in fact isn't "the ultimate good".

Just pointless rhetoric and going along with the ridiculous notion that criticizing religion is mean and rude.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:06:00 UTC | #409391

carbonman's Avatar Comment 18 by carbonman

I know I'm being a pedant but the journo meant 'compulsion', not 'compunction'.

The journo is right, though, that gratitude implies someone/thing to be grateful toward. I'd prefer 'value our own privilege of life' over 'be grateful for our gift of life'.

This bit is particularly rich.

I think that we have a level of rationality, but there are dark, brooding things under us as well. We die, we know we die; there are lots of inherited fears and anxieties from the depths of our pasts, so I think rationality is one tiny element in the human experience.
The structure premise - so - conclusion sounds so awfully rational. So he seems to be rationalising the need for a limit to rationality.

I always get a bit tetchy when people start extolling the virtues of non-rationalism. If someone walked up to them in the street and slapped them across the face with a wet kipper, wouldn't their first question be 'Why did you do that?' Abandoning rationality is fine as long as you're the one in control. Otherwise, freedom from rationality quickly loses its appeal. Holloway is getting dangerously close to the 'fencing game' I detest so.

His example of needing to drop rationality to cope with death is a bad one. I think there are rational ways of dealing with death, both that of loved ones and eventually of oneself, that outclass empty, vapid mysticism.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:06:00 UTC | #409390

irate_atheist's Avatar Comment 21 by irate_atheist

Respect fiction that tries to worm it's way into public life?

Whose rancid story tellers sit - unelected - in our second chamber.

Whose adherents have over the millenia slaughtered countless thousands (if not millions).

Whose proponents wish to infect our children's education with their lies?

Don't get me started, bish.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:11:00 UTC | #409393

severalspeciesof's Avatar Comment 20 by severalspeciesof

16. Comment #427660 by Jack Rawlinson

if we were more grateful for our own gift of life, we might spend less time interfering in the life of others
If you shake off the cosy, Hallmark-greeting fuzziness of that remark and replace the loaded word "interfering" with "interacting" you realise what a shockingly self-centred attitude it represents.
I don't think this quite qualifies as a Hallmark-greeting fuzziness...

Much of religion is based in the de-valuing of our own life, a 'You're no good without god' type of thing. Religion, in many ways makes the life of the believer almost unbearable to him/herself, i.e. "You're a sinner!! And there's nothing you can do about it except..."

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:11:00 UTC | #409392

blakjack's Avatar Comment 22 by blakjack

"Sally: Or are you sometimes called 'Dick'?"

Dickie Dawkins. Has a certain ring about it.

Jack

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 17:46:00 UTC | #409403

Nunbeliever's Avatar Comment 23 by Nunbeliever

And now, just when Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are looking like the only intelligent opposition to anti-evolutionary lunacy, it's a Scot named Richard Holloway who reminds us that the certainty of neo-atheism has a lot in common with the certainty of religion.



Ok... I should have stopped reading there, but for some reason unknown I read the whole stinking peace. I'm SO tired of articles like this. "Of course we don't believe in god, BUT damn those who actually confess that they don't". I still haven´t found a single good argument for why Dawkins is to be considered strident. He obviously just IS strident. Because he IS... because he IS!! (repeat mantra until convincded)


I think Richard Dawkins is a missionary for rationalism. I think that we're much more complicated than that. I think that we have a level of rationality, but there are dark, brooding things under us as well. We die, we know we die; there are lots of inherited fears and anxieties from the depths of our pasts, so I think rationality is one tiny element in the human experience.


It's kind of ironic that he's blaming Dawkins and Hitchens for being dogmatic, when he's fighting strawmen himself. I have not read that Dawkins or Hitchens have said or written that humans are entirely rational. Or that we do not have emotional needs that are not entirely rational. On the contrary, if one truely understands the theory of evolution this is to be expected. So lame.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:05:00 UTC | #409408

DamnDirtyApe's Avatar Comment 24 by DamnDirtyApe

Woohoo, its not gone all David Robertson in Scotland then. :)

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:11:00 UTC | #409410

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 25 by Border Collie

I'm only dimly aware of many fairy tales. And, no matter how acutely aware and educated I might become about such, they are still fairy tales.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:15:00 UTC | #409411

Janus's Avatar Comment 26 by Janus

Ex-bishop preaches a kinder atheism


Where "kinder" means "more respectful of bullshit".



"I'm not a rationalist in the ultimate sense," he says. "If you're a crusading rationalist, if you think rationality is the ultimate good, therefore, that might make you a missionary."


We're all "missionaries" about what we think is the ultimate good, except for people who are utterly apathetic about everything, so that's not much of an insult.

As for (epistemic) rationality being the ultimate good, of course there's not a single human who feels that way, not even Richard Dawkins. However, some of us have realized the obvious: Rationality is necessary for the seeking of nearly any other good. In other words, in order to do something, you need to make a decision, and in order to make a decision, it's usually a good idea to have accurate beliefs about reality. Most of the exceptions to this are people for whom happiness is the ultimate good and who are incapable to find sources of happiness in the real world, or even in fiction; those people are 'forced' to delude themselves with religious beliefs, New Age nonsense, or drugs.

The rest of us, however, are better served by putting truth very high on our list of priorities, even if not at the very top of the list.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:18:00 UTC | #409412

SaintStephen's Avatar Comment 27 by SaintStephen

18. Comment #427665 by carbonman on October 28, 2009 at 5:06 pm

I always get a bit tetchy when people start extolling the virtues of non-rationalism. If someone walked up to them in the street and slapped them across the face with a wet kipper, wouldn't their first question be 'Why did you do that?' Abandoning rationality is fine as long as you're the one in control. Otherwise, freedom from rationality quickly loses its appeal.
Nothing tetchy about this fine piece of persuasion.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:19:00 UTC | #409413

Quine's Avatar Comment 28 by Quine

Some try to defend nonsense by pointing out that there are limits to rationality. This is the same as the "science doesn't know everything" canard we so often hear. Science does know, with certainty, that the Earth is not flat. In the same way there are any number of ideas that the rational process can identify as nonsense, without the need to show that it can weight all propositions.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:31:00 UTC | #409417

Border Collie's Avatar Comment 29 by Border Collie

This is just my opinion, but I see Richard, Dan, Christopher, Sam and others as beginning to open a way for us to see our lives in a much more vast, interesting, stimulating and open context. In fact, so vast and open that most people simply don't want to see it and will choose to remain in their little, closed protected worlds. I think of Merlin's little speech to Arthur, about the dragon, in the movie Excalibur.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:33:00 UTC | #409419

mordacious1's Avatar Comment 30 by mordacious1

A kinder atheism?

*slowly hides baseball bat behind back*

Yup...that's me.

Wed, 28 Oct 2009 18:43:00 UTC | #409422