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Atheism's aesthetic of enchantment - Comments

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 1 by Cook@Tahiti

Two centuries on we still have a national church, faith schools, bishops in the House of Lords, and even the atheists vote for religious political leaders.

We're a conservative species. Change is glacial.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 10:50:01 UTC | #610658

Alan4discussion's Avatar Comment 2 by Alan4discussion

He entitled it The Necessity of Atheism, and 2011 is the bicentenary of his being expelled from the university for printing it.

They were working in universities at that time, to the usual standard of theist debate I see.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 10:50:33 UTC | #610659

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 3 by the great teapot

Has oxford youkneeversecity ever made a public apology for it's sexist and anti free thinking stance.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 11:12:41 UTC | #610665

danny james dio's Avatar Comment 4 by danny james dio

you shoud look at the comments on the actual page, these people are sad as fuck, i just imagine, especially "dickstoneheart" sitting in an expenisive chair somehow manaing too stroke his beard in contemplation whilst his unimaginably massive head is up his own perfect fucking arse

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 11:17:26 UTC | #610668

Hendrix is my gOD's Avatar Comment 5 by Hendrix is my gOD

Shelley was one of the greats. He not only spoke up against the superstitious ignorance and the hypocrisy of its priests, but despite his life being tragically cut short, he lived it to the fullest, in defiance of their demands of self-sacrifice to the invisible god and their ludicrous taboos.

... why occupy ourselves with him? IF HE HAS SPOKEN, WHY IS THE UNIVERSE NOT CONVINCED?

...

When you can discover where the fresh colors of the faded flower abide, or the music of the broken lyre, seek life among the dead. Such are the anxious and fearful contemplations of the common observer, though the popular religion often prevents him from confessing them even to himself.

-- The Necessity of Atheism

...

And priests dare babble of a God of peace, Even whilst their hands are red with guiltless blood, Murdering the while, uprooting every germ Of truth, exterminating, spoiling all, Making the earth a slaughter-house!

 -- from Queen Mab: A Philosophical Poem (1813)

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 11:26:05 UTC | #610676

Hendrix is my gOD's Avatar Comment 6 by Hendrix is my gOD

Comment 1 by Rtambree

Two centuries on we still have a national church, faith schools, bishops in the House of Lords, and even the atheists vote for religious political leaders.

We're a conservative species. Change is glacial.

But for us few atheists, is it our duty to the still-ignorant to sacrifice our selves trying to save them, or should we like Shelley be their role-models of standing up to the oppressive world we find and refusing to be held down.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 11:37:30 UTC | #610680

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 7 by Cook@Tahiti

Comment 6 by Hendrix is my gOD :

...is it our duty to the still-ignorant to sacrifice our selves trying to save them, or should we like Shelley be their role-models of standing up to the oppressive world we find and refusing to be held down.

We should be like Shelley and abscond to the Continent with two 16 year old sisters, smuggled out of their parents' house in the middle of the night, after getting one of them pregnant on her mother's grave. :)

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 12:58:42 UTC | #610719

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 8 by Schrodinger's Cat

Oh dear. He references Shelley but then goes on to completely slaughter Shelley's whole argument....

"The testimony of others – a third-rate source of knowledge in any case – is invariably contrary to reason."

No....that is not at all how Shelley puts it. I would otherwise have to reject the whole of science....the vast bulk of which is the testimony of others ! I realise the Guardian is a bit strapped for space......but here is what Shelley actually says....the argument is much more one of insufficient evidence and incredible claims requiring incredible evidence.....

The 3rd. and last degree of assent is claimed by Testimony---it is required that it should not be contrary to reason.---The testimony that the Deity convinces the senses of men of his existence can only be admitted by us, if our mind considers it less probable that these men should have been deceived, then that the Deity should have appeared to them---our reason can never admit the testimony of men, who not only declare that they were eye- witnesses of miracles but that the Deity was irrational, for he commanded that he should be believed, he proposed the highest rewards for faith, eternal punishments for disbelief---we can only command voluntary actions, belief is not an act of volition, the mind is even passive, from this it is evident that we have not sufficient testimony, or rather that testimony is insufficient to prove the being of a God, we have before shewn that it cannot be deduced from reason,---they who have been convinced by the evidence of the senses, they only can believe it.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 13:44:06 UTC | #610742

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 9 by Peter Grant

Freedom of belief is a right because it is involuntary, not because it is a choice. I think it is an important point which this piece, and Shelley, make very well.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 14:09:41 UTC | #610760

aquilacane's Avatar Comment 10 by aquilacane

One of the most upsetting stories I was ever told was by a young humanist from Saudi Arabia who grew up so frightened of what would happen if he spoke out loud about his beliefs to another person that the only outlet for his thoughts was to go on long walks away from all people, and speak his mind only to the air.

This is pretty much my day-to-day life but I don't do it out of fear, I do it to have a half decent conversation. I pretty much talk to myself about everything, sometime out loud. When your thoughts and ideas don't mesh with or interest the vast majority of those around you, it's the only way to have a good talk about something you like.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 14:44:03 UTC | #610780

quarecuss's Avatar Comment 11 by quarecuss

A month ago I finished reading Richard Holmes's The Pursuit, Shelley's biography. It was a revelation to me. I'd always thought he was a romantic, flighty sort of poet based on my Catholic school poetry anthology which steered well clear of works like "The Masque of Anarchy". He was an atheist, when being one was bloody dangerous, especially in the British Isles. His support of Catholic Emancipation and the United Irishmen gave me a whole new perspective on him. Good to see Percy Bysshe getting an airing!

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 15:13:43 UTC | #610806

jameshogg's Avatar Comment 12 by jameshogg

There isn't any pleasure to be taken from atheism. Science on the other hand has plenty of pleasures to be found. There is only so long I can feel good from not believing in zombies before I have to move on to something else.

Comment 9 by Peter Grant :

Freedom of belief is a right because it is involuntary, not because it is a choice. I think it is an important point which this piece, and Shelley, make very well.

Absolutely. Anyone who even dares suggest that a law ought to be passed that forbids believing in anything can be rightly ridiculed and compared to thought-police. That also goes for the occasional obsessed person who perhaps wants to intrude in the private lives of others and find a reason for locking them up for believing in nonsense.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 19:21:44 UTC | #610918

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 13 by Peter Grant

jameshogg's Avatar Comment 12 by jameshogg

Comment 9 by Peter Grant :

Freedom of belief is a right because it is involuntary, not because it is a choice. I think it is an important point which this piece, and Shelley, make very well.

Absolutely. Anyone who even dares suggest that a law ought to be passed that forbids believing in anything can be rightly ridiculed and compared to thought-police. That also goes for the occasional obsessed person who perhaps wants to intrude in the private lives of others and find a reason for locking them up for believing in nonsense.

True, but I think more importantly from an atheist and a secular perspective these days, one cannot claim a right based only on a belief.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 20:41:46 UTC | #610958

jameshogg's Avatar Comment 14 by jameshogg

Yeah of course. It's just I hope the attitude isn't taken that private religious beliefs, which are also in favour of secularism, are attacked as well. It's unreasonable to judge people morally for what they do in private.

Sat, 02 Apr 2011 21:55:36 UTC | #610988

RomeStu's Avatar Comment 15 by RomeStu

Despite Shelley's atheism, the dominant religionists got him in the end. He ended up buried in TWO christian cemetaries!!!

After his shipwrecked body washed up on the beach at Viareggio in Italy in 1822 he was cremated on the beach with other poets in attendance. His heart did not burn however and was given to his widow Mary.

His ashes were interred in the Protestant Cemetary in Rome, his heart lies in St Peter's Churchyard in Bournemouth.

Sun, 03 Apr 2011 13:20:04 UTC | #611239

hitchens_jnr's Avatar Comment 16 by hitchens_jnr

Of course University College, Oxford, which booted Shelley out because of his non-belief, now boasts a rather wonderful statue of him and usually puts him near the top of their alumni lists.

I always enjoyed Shelley's infamous two-sentence obituary in the Courier newspaper from 1822: "Shelley, the writer of some infidel poetry, has been drowned. Now he knows whether there is a God or no."

Sun, 03 Apr 2011 14:35:27 UTC | #611277

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 17 by Vorlund

Comment 2 by Alan4discussion :

He entitled it The Necessity of Atheism, and 2011 is the bicentenary of his being expelled from the university for printing it.

They were working in universities at that time, to the usual standard of theist debate I see.

It is not that long ago when you had to be 'seen to be' an orthodox christian to go to university. That's why quakers concentrated their wits on business instead.

Mon, 04 Apr 2011 08:35:13 UTC | #611622

GermanHumanist's Avatar Comment 18 by GermanHumanist

Reminds me very much of "Hitchhiker's Guide":

"I refuse to prove that I exist," says God, "for proof denies faith, and without faith I am nothing". "But," says man, "the Babel fish is a dead giveaway, isn't it? It proves you exist and so therefore you don't. QED." "Oh dear," says God, "I hadn't thought of that," and promptly vanishes in a puff of logic.

;-)

Tue, 05 Apr 2011 09:58:45 UTC | #611968

Cook@Tahiti's Avatar Comment 19 by Cook@Tahiti

For those wanting to have a listen to Mark Twain's indictment of Percy Shelley, Librivox just released this...

http://librivox.org/in-defense-of-harriet-shelley-by-mark-twain/

Tue, 05 Apr 2011 10:46:57 UTC | #611979