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← Sermon for All Saints' Day, Cologne Cathedral, 1st November 2009

Sermon for All Saints' Day, Cologne Cathedral, 1st November 2009 - Comments

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 1 by Sally Luxmoore

Paula! Is there anything you can't do?

Edit: This is precisely the same argument that I have seen used to describe atheism as marxist. It seems to be a case of first, pick your bogeyman, second, ascribe anything that you don't like to that same bogeyman.

It is unintelligent and a version of the 'strawman' ploy.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 19:58:00 UTC | #411457

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 2 by Stafford Gordon

What will it take for religious people to realize that our rapport with one another is innate?

It's part of our evolutionary success.

I resent being constantly told that because I don't believe in a sky fairy I'm incapable of distinguishing between good and bad bevaviour,

We have eighteen year old twin daughters, and I'm riddled with guilt about some of my words and actions towards over the years; I'm told I shouldn't feel this way but I can't help it, it's part of my natural make-up.

To a greater or lesser extent we all feel the same; unless we're deranged in some way.

Love hurts! It's meant to.

Incidentally - I can't stop boasting - one daughter is at Trinity College Cambridge reading Life Sciences, and one is at Imperial College reading Biochemistry; so perhaps I haven't done too bad a job; although my wife did most of the heavy lifting.

Anyway, two more women working in the sciences; important.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:02:00 UTC | #411459

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 3 by Paula Kirby

Sally: Paula! Is there anything you can't do?
Oh yes - no shortage of those things at all. Anything requiring more manual dexterity than changing a lightbulb would be numbers 1, 2, 3, 4 ..... 17216, 17217 on the list.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:05:00 UTC | #411462

ridelo's Avatar Comment 4 by ridelo

How sad that a beautiful evolved mind can be used like this. For clarity: not yours, Paula.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:18:00 UTC | #411470

Stonyground's Avatar Comment 6 by Stonyground

The best weapon that they have against us is telling lies. The best weapon that we have against them is telling the truth.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:22:00 UTC | #411474

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 5 by Sally Luxmoore

Man needs eternity. For every other hope is too short for us.


What an extraordinary statement. What on earth does he think he's going to do with eternity?
He sounds like a frightened man, afraid that his life's work is being wasted - which, of course, it is.

He thinks in catholic cliches; his world appears to be entirely black and white. He talks of atheists' 'denial' of his god, as if we were just wilfully refusing to look at something right in front of us.

Still, once again, it is at least an achievement to have got to the point where even someone as convinced of his own rightness as this incredibly smug cardinal considers us a threat.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:22:00 UTC | #411472

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 7 by Sally Luxmoore

Comment #429774 by Paula Kirby

Anything requiring more manual dexterity than changing a lightbulb


Ah, the old joke:

How many atheists does it take to change a lightbulb?
None - they can't see the light.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:24:00 UTC | #411476

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 9 by Cartomancer

One wonders whether our blithering scarlet-robed friend has actually read any of Richard's books, or the works of Peter Singer. Either he has, and is deliberately misrepresenting their sophisticated, nuanced, humane arguments, or he hasn't and is simply working on outrageous straw-man parodies. Given that he is a high-ranking member of the world's largest paedophile ring, either could be possible.

Moreover, the implicit tone of this sermon is actually highly racist. The line that morality can only come from a monotheistic god is one of the most nauseating pieces of stealth racism. He is, in no uncertain terms, implying that cultures without monotheistic religions (or, more likely, without his monotheistic religion) cannot have moral values. He is condemning, at a stroke, everyone in China, Japan, India and much of Africa as intrinsically immoral. Not just atheists, but buddhists, taoists, hindus, followers of shinto, wiccans and the like are all branded as irretrievably immoral monsters.

So why did Nazism emerge in a Germany awash with catholic and protestant sensibilities, rather than in Tibet or Mongolia? Why did Stalinism emerge in the credulous religious society of post-Tzarist Russia, rather than in Japan or the Congo? Surely if morality only comes from monotheism then the history of China should be one long and unblemished catalogue of barbaric atrocities, rather than a majestic tapestry of highly civilized cultural achievement?

And to think that I've just applied to the British Academy for a postdoctoral fellowship to study medieval sermons. I could just hang around Cologne cathedral and save myself the palaeography.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:28:00 UTC | #411479

Dr. Strangegod's Avatar Comment 8 by Dr. Strangegod

Just as the National Socialists saw the individual primarily as the carrier of his racial inheritance, so too the leader of the new atheists, the Englishman Richard Dawkins, defines the human as ‘packaging for the only thing that matters: genes’, whose preservation is the primary purpose of our existence. To his Australian ally Peter Singer a pig or a monkey has more value than a helpless baby or an infirm old person, either of whom could in principle be killed or used for research if the interests of their relatives did not stand in the way. This is not some horror story that is being told here: this is the spine-chilling reality which the so- called atheist scientists have conjured up.
So we've jumped from comparing Darwin to Hitler straight to comparing Richard to Hitler? Sigh... They must be getting desperate. Thanks for the translation, Paula.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:28:00 UTC | #411477

paul fauvet's Avatar Comment 10 by paul fauvet

How dare a senior figure in a church led by a former member of the Hitler Youth compare Richard Dawkins to Nazis!

Ratzinger was also a member of a German anti-aircraft unit, and so was presumably taking potshots at the allied aircraft trying to liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny.

In what other international organisation could a former Nazi rise to the top position with so little questioning? (Yes, Waldheim became UN Secretary-General, but at the time the details of his war record were not fully known).

Ratzinger's excuse is that every German got conscripted into the Hitler Youth and into the army. In fact, a small minority of Germans resisted such conscription and refused to fight for Hitler - Ratzinger was not one of them.

Ratzinger only deserted when his unit had disintegrated, and the Third Reich was in a state of terminal collapse. Not much heroism or principle there.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:31:00 UTC | #411480

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 11 by aquilacane

Scared man.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:32:00 UTC | #411481

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 12 by Stafford Gordon

Their down on their uppers; let's press on!

Just keep them away from children.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:42:00 UTC | #411485

Jos Gibbons's Avatar Comment 13 by Jos Gibbons

scientific atheism
Who said that?
no truth
Not even the truth that there's no truth, or the truth from which you deduced that? It should be obvious he's invented a straw man. I won't list every other misrepresentation of atheists' opinions, but some other comments are worth highlighting.
supposedly scientific reason loses the corrective for its thoughts and deeds
When did religion ever correct science?
The man created by man ... can be selected in accordance with requirements of our own choosing.
If not being a product of God removes a person's rights in your eyes, it is you who is evil.
the systems of National Socialism and Communism showed us where this leads
What did they do that was analogous to cloning?
ultimately to the extermination od mankind
Why would you kill people because you like cloning them? Plus, extermination of HUmankind (there, fixed!) implies killing the clones you made too. Is he really stupid enough to think his opponents are that stupid?
it is the belief in God...that lifts the worry and the burden from us and gives us joy in life and great resilience in the face of life's troubles.
Not for all of us. BTW why did God create a life with troubles? So we'd have to believe in him? That's mean.
[Our being in God's household] gives us a dignity and meaning which cannot come from man
The poor non-Jews were condemned by Ephesians, then? How unkind.
now this so-called scientific atheism is celebrating a joyful resurrection
AFAIK it's only so-called by you.
[Atheism] can literally cost many people their lives.
What costs people their lives is letting someone tell them what to do. After communism made us tired of permitting this of governments, the only authorities for whom this right is still defended are people like the Archbishop.
The positivistic materialism and evolutionism of the new atheists does not only seek to eradicate belief in God, but also the Christian view of man as made in the image of God and as a moral entity with the gift of reason.
(1) Who still supports positivism? (2) Are you denying evolution? I thought the Catholic Church had (sort of) stopped doing that. (3) The made in the image bit may be denied, but the moral bit isn't. If you couldn't view us that way without God having made us, that's appalling.
we must also renounce a substantial basis for human rights and human dignity.
What human right did Christianity pioneer? Mass?
Just as the National Socialists saw the individual primarily as the carrier of his racial inheritance, so too the leader of the new atheists, the Englishman Richard Dawkins, defines the human as 'packaging for the only thing that matters: genes', whose preservation is the primary purpose of our existence.
(1) "Just as" suggests a good comparison, but racial purity is not advocated by RD, a man who has said he wishes he could tick "human" on ethnicity censuses. (2) Atheists have no leader. You are the one with a pope. Maybe that is why you couldn't rise to calling RD that, as many have. Too bad you are guilty of other hypocrisies. (3) When did RD say that? (4) By purpose, he means why it happened, not what was intended (nothing was before us) or what is good (many other things are).
[Singer thinks] a pig or a monkey has more value than a helpless baby or an infirm old person, either of whom could in principle be killed or used for research
How dare you make that accusation. Singer thinks nothing of the kind.
this is the spine-chilling reality which the so-called atheist scientists have conjued up
(1) Liar. (2) Many scientists are atheists, whether atheism is scientific, "so-called scientific" or otherwise.
[The denial of God making us] has led some such researchers to authorise themselves not only to decide whether human beings are truly human but also to genetically improve the human or even to create a new human from scratch.
(1) Authorise themselves to decide? Who does that, with anything? I don't authorise myself to decide what I shall eat for lunch; I just decide. Again, I'm amazed he's stupid enough to think others would be stupid enough to do or think something. (2) What's wrong with improving or creating humans? I for one want to see an end to chronic back pain, vitamin C deficiency etc.
we see heaven standing open.
If only we had such evidence it's real.
Man needs eternity.
How greedy.
If it is true - and it is true - that death is not the end
Prove it.
if the death of man has no dignity, then life has no dignity
(1) Things can have different properties during and after a process. (2) Why do keep saying man, and not something like human? It is understandable only in your patriarchal church's context.
Where man ... [becomes] garbage, then he ... can be discarded - even before his death.
(1) If we become garbage at our deaths, then we can't be thrown away before then. (2) "his"? There you go again. Do you plan on defending women's rights at all? (3) You keep fearing we'll be able to do something horrid - but we wouldn't want to anyway. People never kill others, unless they also feel they ought to, or can benefit from it; indifference doesn't do it. Nihilism, when it is really nihilism, is not sad, but neutral (or perhaps not even that).
if eternity is what he is worth, then this worth holds always and everywhere and determines our whole life.
Again, he doesn't get the idea of change. I'm not surprised he wants to determine our lives either. I bet I know what it will involve.
The misappropriated heaven is the definitive human disease
I thought you people thought non-human animals had nothing to do with heaven either. Anything definitive of humans (glad to see you including the hu- prefix at last), it is when we get in on religion. As Mark Twain observed, we are the only religious animal, having several one true religions.
the church has no more humane gift to offer than the Feast of All Saints' Day
It won't feed the poor for long, will it? If only you had billions of dollars' worth of gold ingots to help others ... oh wait, the Vatican does, and in total is worth $750,000,000,000.00 (look at those digits).
[The day is Catholics'] assurance of victory.
2,000 later, the Catholics have only a fraction of the population. How many more will you persecute before you're satisfied you are victors? Presumably that will require all to convert.

Most religious arguments are just (laughably) wrong, but this is positively sickening. THIS is why I hate religion.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:53:00 UTC | #411490

flying goose's Avatar Comment 14 by flying goose

Cartomancer

I am intrigued by your interest in medieval thought.

I just get the sense of a sympathy you have for these medieval thinkers. You do not let your atheism ride rough shod over them. You are always very fair minded about medieval thinkers where there are others who are just dismissive.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 20:56:00 UTC | #411491

MUNRO1's Avatar Comment 15 by MUNRO1

Deluded, as a word, just does not do this man justice.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:11:00 UTC | #411498

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 16 by Cartomancer

I just get the sense of a sympathy you have for these medieval thinkers. You do not let your atheism ride rough shod over them. You are always very fair minded about medieval thinkers where there are others who are just dismissive.
If, as an historian, I were to condemn the thinkers of the past for simply being wrong, then I would end up having to condemn pretty much all of them without exception. I don't believe in Aristotelian physics or Galenic medicine or Ptolemaic cosmology, but that does not stop me from studying those who did, and trying to understand how their minds worked.

The difference between the Middle Ages and now, I think, is that back then a theistic stance on scientific and ethical matters was entirely understandable and entirely forgivable. It is not the case that the church actively suppressed non-religious paradigms, it's that nobody really knew any better. If one goes through the reasons one might believe in gods (as outlined in the earlier chapters of The God Delusion as well as anywhere), and the modern rebuttals we have of those reasons, it becomes apparent that hardly any of them could have been made in the Middle Ages.

Darwin had not yet alerted the world to the explanatory power of cranes - it was skyhooks all the way down. In the Middle Ages, they could see the Greatest Show on Earth, but the Only Game which properly explains it had not yet come to town. All the alternative cosmological systems available - Plato's, Aristotle's, the classical folkloric tradition - were just as scientifically unsatisfactory as the christian one, and rather less well understood. Forensic biblical scholarship had not yet arrived, and there was no serious challenge to the fantastical authorship claims of scriptural texts (for example, people quite seriously believed in the miraculous congruence of the seventy translators of the septuagint). Also, many modern atheists achieve their atheism through noticing the wide diversity of religions and cultures in the world. Medieval Europeans generally only had christianity, judaism and islam on their radars, as well as poorly understood accounts of classical and dark-age paganism. When hardly anybody traveled further than the next village, and everything was Abrahamic monotheisms, the comparative approach could not get a foothold.

But perhaps the main reason I find medieval theism entirely unproblematic, but get highly infuriated at modern theism, is that modern theism actually matters. The past is the past, and we cannot change it. Making judgements as to how wrong or cruel or stupid our ancestors were is not going to get us anywhere, save by direct comparison to what we know now so that it doesn't happen again. The past must be studied for what it was, but the future can be changed. And we DO know better now - we no longer have the circumstances of medieval society to contend with, which might excuse a theistic viewpoint.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:22:00 UTC | #411501

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 17 by MrPickwick

Yes! It is disgusting what these filthy atheists are doing: talking, writing books and, and... mmm well... talking, writing books...

...the Englishman Richard Dawkins, defines the human as ‘packaging for the only thing that matters: genes’, whose preservation is the primary purpose of our existence.

How to answer this? Oh yes, I know (In Dara Obrians words): "Get in the fooking sack!"

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:24:00 UTC | #411504

Paula Kirby's Avatar Comment 18 by Paula Kirby

What fascinated me most about this sermon - leaving aside the nonsense about National Socialism and Communism, and his apparent rejection of evolution - was the extent to which it was all just blatant wishful thinking. It reminded me very strongly of John Lennox when he gave a lecture in Inverness a year or so ago. This is from the notes I wrote up about it afterwards:

But how, thundered Lennox, could we “enjoy life”, as enjoined by the atheist bus adverts, if there was no absolute morality? If most people won’t ever get justice? If there is no god, no final judgement, and morality is just an illusion? This would damage the whole fabric of society’s fundamental morality and create a totally pitiless world. It would be very serious, said Lennox, if there were no fundamental justice, because it would mean we’d all been deceived.

And that was it: there must be fundamental justice because if there weren’t it would mean we’d all been deceived; and, according to the ludicrous Cardinal, we must live forever because a human lifetime isn’t enough for us.

I simply cannot understand how supposedly intelligent people can fail to see how inadequate these positions are. What, I would love to know, are the mechanisms by which religion blinds its followers to its absurdities?

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:30:00 UTC | #411506

MrPickwick's Avatar Comment 19 by MrPickwick

Comment#20

I simply cannot understand how supposedly intelligent people can fail to see how inadequate these positions are. What, I would love to know, are the mechanisms by which religion blinds its followers to its absurdities?

The last 10 seconds of this video (Dawkins interviews Coyne) sheds some light upon this:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwDTBW8oxug

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:37:00 UTC | #411508

GalacticAtom's Avatar Comment 20 by GalacticAtom

If I were Richard Dawkins or Peter Singer, I might consider investigating German libel law.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:39:00 UTC | #411510

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 21 by Bonzai

The Catholic Church is one of the most vile criminal organization there is on earth. These fools should spare us their piety. A really intriquing question is how can seemingly intelligent people be Cathoics? I can sort of understand why some intelligent people would believe in some kind of God, or even the Christian God based on some kind of revisionist intepretations. But Catholicism? It is nothing but a Mafia's version of Christianity, I just don't get it.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 21:50:00 UTC | #411512

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 22 by Bonzai

Cartomancer

If one goes through the reasons one might believe in gods (as outlined in the earlier chapters of The God Delusion as well as anywhere), and the modern rebuttals we have of those reasons, it becomes apparent that hardly any of them could have been made in the Middle Ages.


It is actually not true, as many pre-Chrsitian pegan civilizations didn't believe in a personal creator God, including the Greeks. Even if these cultures had gods, they were secondary creatures created by some impersonal primal order. The notion of God as an all encompassing sky dictator is rather recent. It was not the natural way of thinking for many pre-Judeo Christian civilizations. We tend to forget that because Christianity has become so deeply anchored in Western civilization.

But even forgetting about all that, there were certainly good reasons even in the Middle Ages for not believing in the particular version of God taught by Catholic dogmas and many did just that. They were ruthelessly persecuted and cruelly killed.

So forgive me for being a lot less charitable to official theologians who were, in my opinion, at best half scholars and half thugs.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:01:00 UTC | #411514

flying goose's Avatar Comment 23 by flying goose

Cartomancer

Thank you.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:05:00 UTC | #411516

RichardofYork's Avatar Comment 24 by RichardofYork

The Church and its lengthy period of Cheyne Stokes syndrome

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:13:00 UTC | #411520

Bonzai's Avatar Comment 25 by Bonzai

The invocation of National Socialism while mentioning Dawkins shows how desperate some of these fools are getting. Even though I don't always agree with Dawkins but I applaude him just for making these popmpous religious clowns squirm.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:17:00 UTC | #411522

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 26 by Sally Luxmoore

Comment #429820 by Paula Kirby

What, I would love to know, are the mechanisms by which religion blinds its followers to its absurdities?

To me it panders to and encourages a monumental form of egoism. This cardinal is the tantrum prone toddler demanding that the world be the way he wants it to be. His is the reaction of someone horrified that he might not actually be as important as he feels he is.
The heliocentric solar system was the first major blow, but for each of us to be a mere carrier of genes really is the final insult to the ego. I don't think it's an accident that he singled Richard out.
In this mind set, Richard (he of the Selfish Gene) is as dangerous a heretic as Copernicus or Galileo. As far as the Cardinal is concerned, Richard has personally threatened him with the removal of his immortality. In a way, that's worse than either Marxism or Fascism. Even the devil does not remove your soul.
In an odd way, I think the cardinal has actually understood the Selfish Gene properly, unlike those who concentrate on the word selfish. He just rejects in horror the conclusion that inevitably results. The poor man has been so brainwashed himself that he cannot go beyond this reaction; the lack of any ultimate personal significance is too horrifying to him.
Religion as sycophancy to the ego - that's what this piece communicates to me.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:18:00 UTC | #411523

Muetze's Avatar Comment 27 by Muetze

[…] the church would still be singing the Easter Hallelujah when scientific atheism was consigned to the history books as a relic of human folly.


I love quoting Richard, and this nugget from his interview with Ted Haggard seems fitting:

“You want to bet?”

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:21:00 UTC | #411524

Misc's Avatar Comment 28 by Misc

Goodness, there really goes by no year without this brain-dead imbecile Meisner vomiting from the pulpit. Worse still, he about always receives the attention and so gets to continue his schtick.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:29:00 UTC | #411527

EvidenceOnly's Avatar Comment 29 by EvidenceOnly

Nonsense like this uttered by the delusional followers of any superstition (and that includes all religions) is further evidence to me that evolution has no purpose, is a gradual refinement of what already exists, and can never start all over from scratch.

How else can a large proportion of the world population be so dumb to use their evolved brains in order to enslave themselves to an imaginary sky daddy who in the so called holy books that most have never read is portrayed as an egomaniac and celestial dictator?

Ah! It's all about a few pretenders to hold all the power over the masses.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:32:00 UTC | #411529

Sally Luxmoore's Avatar Comment 30 by Sally Luxmoore

An interesting article on the cardinal. Title:

The isolated Cologne archbishop, Cardinal Joachim Meisner: imposed on Cologne, rejected by priests, another John Paul II bishop radically divides the faithful

http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0MKY/is_13_29/ai_n15627705/
the most feared prince of the church in Germany, "the spokesperson of Germany's fundamentalists." ...
Ulrich Harbecke, former leading religious reporter for Cologne public television, wrote a book on the Cardinal and called him "extremely unchristian and heartless"

And:
A great number of law suits have been filed against Meisner for discriminating against homosexuals, but they have been subsequently dropped.
Why dropped, I wonder?

Nice man. The more he speaks, the more people must sympathise with those he attacks.
Edit: Yes.
The number of Catholics have dropped by 250, 000 since he has been in charge of the diocese, faster than anywhere else.

Thu, 05 Nov 2009 22:41:00 UTC | #411532