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'You just don't understand my religion' is not good enough - Comments

some asshole's Avatar Comment 1 by some asshole

They criticize Dawkins' grasp of theology, yet the only rebuttals they come back with are "you need faith", "you don't understand", "god works in mysterious ways", and the other psychobabble us normal people have grown so tired of.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:09:04 UTC | #888262

crookedshoes's Avatar Comment 2 by crookedshoes

Rule one of intellectual engagement is that everyone should tell the TRUTH. These beliefs that the religious have are "wooly" and vague and uncertain because they are not true. They are afraid of being pinned down because then they would be shown to be contradictory and wrong. This is silly..... wooistic people trying to justify their wooism.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:14:30 UTC | #888266

jimbobjim's Avatar Comment 3 by jimbobjim

Comment 1 by some asshole :

They criticize Dawkins' grasp of theology, yet the only rebuttals they come back with are "you need faith", "you don't understand", "god works in mysterious ways", and the other psychobabble us normal people have grown so tired of.

I'm not sure that is a fair statement. in "Deluded by Dawkins" by ANdrew Wilson. Wilson does a critque of The God Delusion and says that RD raises about 60 objections to religion/God etc. Wilson points out which are irrelevant (to there being a God or not), Untrue and Accepted (ie Christians agree with RD on). Out of the 60, Wilson suggests that only 2 are really worth any discussion (the rest being red herrings or "Straw men"). Wilson then gives a god and simple response.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:22:04 UTC | #888272

tembuki's Avatar Comment 4 by tembuki

I agree with comment #2 and would like to add that it seems like almost the exact same reason that many politicians don't like to be pinned down on having positions on certain issues.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:22:40 UTC | #888273

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 5 by Premiseless

It's clear to me that certain elements of many realities, lived according to myth, or whatever else governed their existence, places them in ipso facto success or failing situations, per unit individual, promoting a tendency to respond by either reaction to or defense of their existential and to a large extent their personal situations. It's not difficult to consider that a person whose 'success' is attributable to whatever makes them that way (myth or rulership) likely feels lots of positive energy in contemplation of what posited them there. If one also considers this was indoctrinated , not just from their youth, but that of their ancestors, its clearer to me how such a multigenerational pseudo-subjective-learning cycle, especially when having incorporated non existent entities as privy to this position, might get waited upon for an answer to the everlasting question mark which has already slain countless millions for having done the same.

The pacifist hopes in an entropy that delivers success. Some of them call it god. The activist forces a situation and calls it reason resorting to unreasonable dominance. Each keep their own philosophies intact, though the one sometimes likelier fails in so doing dependent upon peripheral criteria having evolved favouring one over the other, or both. One lifetime is often no longer enough for everyone to perceive the complex of influences on their own reason and emotions! This in and of itself has become a hard problem.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:28:11 UTC | #888275

God fearing Atheist's Avatar Comment 6 by God fearing Atheist

Good on Baggini. That should stir the pot nicely.

I did chuckle at the photo., however, I'm sure there are photos of RD looking as manic, and we would get upset if they were published, so I don't think newspapers should stoop to such ad hominem photos.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:34:14 UTC | #888279

Aquaria's Avatar Comment 7 by Aquaria

::: Wilson points out which are irrelevant (to there being a God or not), Untrue and Accepted (ie Christians agree with RD on). Out of the 60, Wilson suggests that only 2 are really worth any discussion (the rest being red herrings or "Straw men"). Wilson then gives a god and simple response.::::

Hogwash.

Dawkins only mentioned the STUPID ARGUMENTS CHRISTIANS USE.

That's what he was responding to, not to some phantasm in his head. Oh--wait--that's what the christards do.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:40:06 UTC | #888282

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 8 by Peter Grant

@microphilosophy

I don't find Terry Eagleton's quip at all amusing. He only gets to accuse others of not understanding if he can demonstrate that there is anything which he does.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:41:20 UTC | #888283

ewaldrep's Avatar Comment 9 by ewaldrep

Out of the 60, Wilson suggests that only 2 are really worth any discussion (the rest being red herrings or "Straw men"). Wilson then gives a god and simple response.

christians hardly fall into a simple group, and I doubt that you could not get the different sects to agree on 58 out of 100 things. Most likely, Wilson, or his particular point of view, had two that he was comfortable with responding to and did so. I do imagine that westboro crazies would have issue with all 60. I do doubt that many simple answers/retorts related to an issue as complex as god or religion would be insufficient.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:41:59 UTC | #888285

Richard Dawkins's Avatar Comment 10 by Richard Dawkins

Comment 5 by Premiseless :

If that was a satirical joke, it isn't funny enough to justify its length.

But talking of deepities, the one quoted in Baggini's strapline has got to be the deepity of all time, the mother of all deepities, the deepity that sets the benchmark for theologians of the future : "The archbishop of Canterbury described his faith as a 'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'." You can see why the Archbishop has risen to the pinnacle of the profession of theology. I can't imagine that anybody does it better.

And, talking of theology, the reason Baggini's opening quote from Terry Eagleton is so foolishly wide of the mark is, of course, that the British Book of Birds is about something, namely birds. If books of theology are about anything, we are all waiting to hear what it is.

Richard

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:43:01 UTC | #888286

some asshole's Avatar Comment 11 by some asshole

Comment 3 by jimbobjim :

Comment 1 by some asshole :

They criticize Dawkins' grasp of theology, yet the only rebuttals they come back with are "you need faith", "you don't understand", "god works in mysterious ways", and the other psychobabble us normal people have grown so tired of.

I'm not sure that is a fair statement. in "Deluded by Dawkins" by ANdrew Wilson. Wilson does a critque of The God Delusion and says that RD raises about 60 objections to religion/God etc. Wilson points out which are irrelevant (to there being a God or not), Untrue and Accepted (ie Christians agree with RD on). Out of the 60, Wilson suggests that only 2 are really worth any discussion (the rest being red herrings or "Straw men"). Wilson then gives a god and simple response.

We're talking about defending not the existence of god here, but the validity of a particular religion. Or at least I am.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:52:02 UTC | #888290

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 12 by Sean_W

There are no strawman attacks against religion/God, there are just those that are not familiar with the theism being attacked, and theists that reject everyone but their own out of hand.

Consider for example that no Southern Baptists would deem it necessary to take seriously any man that did not take the Bible to be the literal Word of God, especially where the resurrection is concerned. Yet, I bet to a sophisticated theologian an attack on that stance would be considered a strawman argument against Christianity as a whole --indeed, yep, yep 'n yes. Stranger still though, is the fact that I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to find a Southern Baptist that had managed to keep everything, even the name, but had abandoned a literal interpretation of the events in the bible. Now I know, that renders my first statement false, and that can be somewhat confusing, but then this is theism we is talkin' bout.

Concerning the article, I don't like it. But I think it can accomplish something for some folks somewhere, so best of luck.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:52:49 UTC | #888291

hemidemisemigod's Avatar Comment 13 by hemidemisemigod

From the article:

I need to make these issues clear now because over the coming weeks, in the name of trying to uncross some wires and get some real discussion going, I'm going to be trying to get greater clarity about just what different camps in the religion debate are really maintaining. I anticipate all sorts of objections of the kind I've mentioned: that I'm simplifying; that I'm trying to eff the ineffable; that I am being too literal minded. I want to make it clear right now that these kinds of responses won't work as get-out-of-jail-free cards. They need justification.

Well good luck with that! You are going to need it.

From John Haught's recent open letter to Jerry Coyne:

“Rather than answering my point that scientism is logically incoherent–which is really the main issue–and instead of addressing my argument that the encounter with religious truth requires personal transformation…”

So without undergoing a "personal transformation" I'm never going to understand religion or see the truth in it and I'll remain unqualified to discuss the subject. Damn.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 17:59:03 UTC | #888292

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 14 by Cartomancer

But I'm not only prepared to allow that an intelligent religious faith might have a big fat mystery at its heart, I think it must have. Only the most juvenile gods are like super-humans we can truly understand. If there is a God, it must surely passeth all understanding.

I'm not sure "intelligent" is a word that can actually be applied to religious faith, since faith - belief without or in the face of evidence - is the very antithesis of intelligence.

What Baggini means here is "sophisticated" religious belief, which is a concept better expressed by leaving the "-ated" bit off the end. Sophistic religious belief might sound more intelligent than straightforward religious belief, but that is only because it uses more, longer, and more obscure words.

Necessarily having a big fat mystery at its heart, though, is the very antithesis of a ringing endorsement. It's saying nothing less than that there is nothing there to understand, because we can't fundamentally understand it. If the mystery is necessary then understanding is not a concept that can be applied to the statement. What a concept that is necessarily ungraspable is, is irrelevant to anyone.

Which seems a fairly good encapsulation of the phrase "silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark". I'd say that easily qualifies as "irrelevant to anyone".

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:19:17 UTC | #888294

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 15 by Peter Grant

I think I'm offended by Eagleton's disrespect for Ornithology, bit of a twitcher myself.

Comment 10 by Richard Dawkins

And, talking of theology, the reason Baggini's opening quote from Terry Eagleton is so foolishly wide of the mark is, of course, that the British Book of Birds is about something, namely birds. If books of theology are about anything, we are all waiting to hear what it is.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:23:36 UTC | #888295

RH's Avatar Comment 16 by RH

One of the reasons "sophisticated theologians" trade in poetic generalities is they benefit from the perception that it represents wisdom.

The problem starts with the fact that wisdom very often DOES involve abstracting from specifics to generalities, to stepping back from specifics to look at the whole picture and draw out patterns.

So quotes like:

“One cannot step twice in the same river.” – Heraclitus (ca. 540 – ca. 480 BCE)

Every problem contains the seeds of its own solution. (Stanley Arnold)

Kindness is the language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see. (Mark Twain)

...and countless other quotes are poetic, "big picture" claims that purport to describe some general pattern from all the specific instances. A scientific theory, for instance Evolution, can be seen to do this as well. So in many instances (so long as the insight is sound), poetic generalities CAN be the mark of wisdom, intelligent insight and sometimes a more subtle mind.

The problem is: Not always. Used at the wrong moments, poetic generalizations become the opposite: marks of obscurantism if not outright ignorance or idiocy. Because SPECIFIC questions demand more SPECIFIC answers. It's the only way we really progress.

For instance, a judge presides over a murder case: Did John murder Martha? The judge sentences John to death. Yet no evidence or argument has yet been produced to establish John's guilt. To this objection the judge says of course John is guilty. The judge quotes Voltaire: Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do.

Well..uh...yeah. But even IF one accepts that statement as having some truth, it doesn't answer the specific question worth a damn! Is John actually personally guilty of murdering Martha? Appeals to poetic generalizations simply won't do in solving these questions. This is when you really have to deal with specifics: did John specifically have a motivation to kill Martha? Did he have the opportunity? Is there any empirical evidence linking John to Martha's death, etc.

There are simply many times when zooming away from answering specific questions, by appealing to generalities, will be the wrong thing to do. And when someone does this, it carries the mark of obscurantism. To the question of whether God exists, or if his belief in God has justification, his description: 'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'. Is pure waffle and doesn't answer any question with any substance.

But liberal Christians, critics of New Atheism and wooly-headed theologians can't get this fact. They are so addicted to seeing obscurely worded propositions, and Big Picture Generalities as marks of wisdom, that when someone like Richard comes along, sees through the fog and asks the right specific questions, and asks for the specific answers necessary for answering those questions, he is marked as being naive, crude, simplistic, lacking subtlety and nuance etc.

So Theologians will always trade on this "mark of wisdom" that comes from offering generalities that do not address specific questions. Should any specific question become troubling, they put on their philosophical, rhetorical jet pack and zoom away from the specifics to pontificate on the Big View and pronounce others doing the actual leg work down there as being "naive...crude...ignorant...unsubtle...fundamentalist...."

RH

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:32:41 UTC | #888298

ZenDruid's Avatar Comment 17 by ZenDruid

At bedrock, every theologian is merely a storyteller.

Actually, the entertainment industry has come a long way since the bronze age. Forcing the villagers into the sabbath barn for a weekly dose of the Bogeyman is not really entertainment, although the cash flow makes it worthwhile for the storytellers.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:43:53 UTC | #888299

Vorlund's Avatar Comment 18 by Vorlund

I believe in something so awesome it is impossible to comprehend, it is everywhere, invisible, all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, without time and unbounded by space. I don't have any evidence for it I just know its there and it created all of energy and matter. But you haven't studied our doctrines or followed my belief for years as I have so you don't understand do you?

Nope I fekkin well don't and it is hard to see why I'd have to stand on my head in shit for half a lifetime in order to realise that drowing in shit is a rather unpleasant and pointless passtime. Merely trying to comprehend the ridiculousness of the proposition is enough to reject it out of hand, rather like your beliefs.

There are mysteries enough for our scientific enquiries without making up fairy stories, piffle and bollox.

Why does Williams look like a startled druid? has he sat on a sprig of mistletoe?

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:48:31 UTC | #888300

Fujikoma's Avatar Comment 19 by Fujikoma

@ 3 The fact that someone thinks that only 2 arguments are worthy of discussion is irrelevant. Dawkins has helped shape some of my arguments I have with nutters for the better (as have other writers and individuals on these types of boards). For myslef, the discussion is not for the benefit of the nutters, but for those listening in. People need to understand that there is another choice. Doesn't mean that there won't be repercussions for that choice, but they can decide for themselves. I personally think that people need to see someone stand up against these nutters, so that they see that they aren't as powerful and all-knowing as they claim. I find it difficult that only two arguments are worthy of discussion. Considering what I read, a lot of points that Dawkins make are worthy, even if I don't always agree with the reasoning behind them. It's not really the point. I can't speak for Dawkin's writings, but thinking about the 'why' of belief is very relevant to the discussion, even if the 'is it true' part is ignored.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:52:05 UTC | #888302

alaskansee's Avatar Comment 20 by alaskansee

@Comment 13 by hemidemisemigod

Yes, I liked the loose use of the phrase "personnel transformation" as a substitute for "fallen hook line and sinker for my brand of fantasy".

The arguments in defense of your own type of crazy are improved when you have "personally transformed" into a lunatic.

I'm sure this is exactly what Julian Baggini was asking them to stop but they just don't understand asking someone to be convinced so that you can convince them doesn't work!

It's that whole you have to have faith crap that they like so much.

Also that was a great "Hichslap" in comment #10, can we start calling them "Richslaps" or perhaps "Dawkindunks"?

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:55:52 UTC | #888305

Quine's Avatar Comment 21 by Quine

It has often been stated, here, that the invisible and the non-existent look very much alike. The same kind of thing applies to the unsupported internal knowledge of truth, and wishful thinking. The claims of lack of understanding are themselves unsupported without a science of belief itself, and continue to have no more substance now, than they had when exposed by the Courtier's Reply.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 18:56:35 UTC | #888306

NMcC's Avatar Comment 22 by NMcC

A friend of mine wrote, in my opinion, the perfect riposte to Eagleton’s nonsense at the time his ludicrous review appeared. It’s overlong for a post, I think, so if the mods want to truncate it, please feel free to do so. However, as far as I know it’s never been published elsewhere, and, again in my opinion, would be a great addition to Rd.net’s ‘originals’. The writer is a guy called Richard Montague, now in his 86th year, he’s a lifelong materialist, and, consequently, atheist.

Terry Eagleton, who still claims to be some sort of Marxist, now Professor of English Literature at Manchester University, has done a hatchet job in the current issue of the London Review of Books on Richard Dawkins’s latest book The God Delusion. But he only exposes himself as a victim of that delusion.

Eagleton begins his review with "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is The Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology", thus revealing that he equates the study of myths and superstitions with the science of biology and, since he is not a theologian, disqualifying himself from comment.

The rest of the first paragraph might make you feel that Dawkins had inherited from Bertrand Russell a debt of malice due to Professor Eagleton. With Jesuitical vitriol he goes for Dawkins’ philosophical jugular with accusations of "vulgar caricatures" of religious faith from those whose detestation of religion is surpassed by ignorance of it. Yes, indeed, it appears that atheists are ill-informed and grossly acerbic.

Actually, Dawkins deals with this type of overbearingly indulgent unbeliever early in his work, only Eagleton, unlike a critic of naked belief, writes like an eager Christian demanding respect not for their right to hold religious opinions but for the opinions themselves.

Essentially, mainstream religious belief is in a Thing, Being or Force called God that either created itself or always existed outside time. God is omnipotent, by definition, therefore, conditionless; He - to use the capitalised pronoun of the scriptures - is omnipresent, even to the falling of a sparrow; He is all-merciful and compassionate yet jealous and vengeful; His strictures are absolute, promising His presence (the Beatific Vision) as eternal reward to those that discern them and who hold to them and terrible, eternal punishment to those who contravene them. Thus the Divine Architect Who according to the various contradictory holy books created the universe and breathed life into matter.

Not only is it an unlikely story but as an explanation for First Cause it is a simple repetition of the question; it is unsupported by any form of factual evidence and is in conflict with all the human experiences and observations encapsulated in science. As for its moral strictures it presents a divine Role Model that is evil beyond the cumulative crimes of the human race.

Outside the bitterness, division and hatreds historically generated by self-interested forces through the medium of religion, civilised society in its limping democracy has learned to tolerate the most outrageous opinions. In a free society the right of someone to hold to an opinion should be sacrosanct but it is an entirely different matter to confuse respect for the right to opinion with respect for opinion and, unlike religion which historically promulgates its right to banns, bars and embargoes Dawkins, while exposing the obvious improbability of Godism, would no more challenge the right of the religious to their beliefs than he would challenge the right of Darryl M Gill to believe in fairies or Old Mother Hubbard to have her fortune foretold from the leavings in a teapot.

Eagleton nowhere in his harangue shows the fallacy of any of the evidence presented by Dawkins against the God notion. Instead, in pukka religious fashion he slates the messenger and not the message, indeed as a proxy godist he is offended that Dawkins should offer challenge to the innocuous, even benign, influences of belief in a Divine Dictator.

The great bulk of Eagleton’s review is taken up with sanitising the absurdity and vulgarity of religion. What he presents as religion, especially Christianity, is the middle-class, drawing room refined version, the modern last bulwark model behind which science has forced the educated and un-vulgar to retreat; the vintage that is embarrassed by Limbo, virgin birth, resurrection and the ancient Faith of Our Fathers; the type for whom, to quote Eagleton, "…it would be perfectly coherent for religious types to claim that God does not in fact exist".

Unfortunately the overwhelming majority of religious people throughout the world do not share this polite view of God and religion. Bishops might wax philosophical over their brandy but down below in the real world the same dangerous nonsense can remain maliciously active. Popes may have been forced to learn that statements advising the faithful that the wages of the working man "…ought not to be insufficient to support a frugal well-conducted wage earner" (Pope Leo X111, Rerum Novarum - On the condition of the working classes) but the Papal stricture against contraception (Pope Pius X1, Casti Connubial - on Christain Marriage) is a currently dangerous and evil edict that in places like Gambia helps to frustrate the fight against the terrible scourge of Aids.

As a socialist, my criticism of Dawkins’ approach to the question of religion is that for him it is an academic issue; a mere question of scientific truth as opposed to myths and superstitions. If it was as innocent as that we could be tolerant of it; but it is not. All the main churches are premised on values arising out of property-orientated societies. They act as social suppressants and while Rome - in its silence on the subject - may be less strident in cautioning against democracy than it was heretofore, together with its competitor-colleagues in the God business it offers a bromide against the indignation of the exploited and underscores perverted codes of moral concepts that justifies the exploitation of the many by the few; the right of a privileged economic oligarchy to own and control the means of life of society as a whole and the right of a minority to impose conditions of servitude on the mass.

Eagleton rightly makes the point about Northern Ireland that religion is not the basic cause of conflict; no, indeed, nor is it elsewhere. But it is a viable instrument in the hands of the self-interested in marshalling the battalions of the ignorant to their banner.

Most of the moral strictures of religion are against ‘sins’ like stealing, deceiving, coveting, desiring, killing; effectively activities that in the main arise out of the material conditions rampant in class society and especially in capitalist society. Again they promote the notion that the current form of social servitude is eternal and desirous. Religions throughout the ages have lent themselves either actively or passively to the naked savagery of war, and economic murder apart from the run-of the-mill every-day miseries of capitalism. Sometimes they may rant against the effects of the present system of social organisation but they are both morally and economically embroiled in that system. Canon Law might be proclaimed as superior to civil law but when the capitalist state says ‘kill’ there is no echo from the churches reminding the faithful that they ‘shalt not’.

But the debate between Dawkins and Eagleton is about an abstraction elevated into the genteel and improbable deism of the drawing room or debating chamber. It is far removed from the God of the masses, the God who works for the warlords, the God who strikes fear into the heart of the ignorant, the God who confuses and makes work for psychiatrists. Even Eagleton and the College of Cardinals could not make this tyrant a subject for rational debate.

Then to the rolling Heav’n itself I cried. Asking, "What lamp had Destiny to guide Her little Children stumbling in the Dark?" And, "A blind understanding!" Heav’n replied. (Omar Khayyam)

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:12:21 UTC | #888310

Atheist Mike's Avatar Comment 23 by Atheist Mike

The archbishop of Canterbury described his faith as a 'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'.

While holding the most prestigious religious position in the country. How convenient...

Give me power and I'll be willing to faithfully wait for the holy teapot to descend upon the Earth and justify my ridiculous privileged position in society. After all isn't life mysterious?

Now where are my crumpets?

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:14:32 UTC | #888312

Premiseless's Avatar Comment 24 by Premiseless

Comment 10 by Richard Dawkins :

Comment 5 by Premiseless :

If that was a satirical joke, it isn't funny enough to justify its length.

It half seems it, I can see that, but alas reality is oft too close not to approach satire. I genuinely think there too many humans who are ipso facto deluded by their existential and their associates to ever be able to approach anything other than what already is their situation. If you like, the evolutionary sacrifices would be too great and too difficult for the single human that they are to successfully remedy within the course of their own lifetime, what their life has already been hoodwinked into reaching. It takes personal catastrophie to catalyse it I'd say. In a way the successful actor becomes a preference to the failed scientist. The mindset and emotions, not to mention that of supportive associates to their position, is so endemic as to render their reality a fictional truism - or a play worth being an actor in the next scene rather than walking the streets realtime. We already know this has been going on throughout the history of humanity so in a way it comes as no surprise. And whilst science per se renders it plausible that reason might overthrow such arcane powers that preserve the global infection, the inflation of its endemic entropy has become too great a component to simply brush aside by education alone. The global infrastructure has, if you like, been poisoned or 'blind alleyed' beyond remedy, for the majority at least. I'd take it further in fact and say it's even infiltrated the science that otherwise would redirect it but that's another story. It's, at least, an interesting feature of humanity in the light of Darwinian selection. Which mindsets win out? Is chaos in control?

But talking of deepities, the one quoted in Baggini's strapline has got to be the deepity of all time, the mother of all deepities, the deepity that sets the benchmark for theologians of the future : "The archbishop of Canterbury described his faith as a 'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'." You can see why the Archbishop has risen to the pinnacle of the profession of theology. I can't imagine that anybody does it better.

I think him kowtowing a buddhist line, maybe by the Jesus sacrificial lamb mindset as winning out ( in the land of make believe) in the end. It seems a double dose of doing nothing might be doubly effective kind of mindset - the waiting on pacifism for pacifism to rise to the surface as if a multiple placebo might become exponentially effective. It's what most people keep doing the lottery think each week. It works for one so why not everyone? His problem is that he thinks it might work for EVERYONE! He's in the ideal position to think that of course.

And, talking of theology, the reason Baggini's opening quote from Terry Eagleton is so foolishly wide of the mark is, of course, that the British Book of Birds is about something, namely birds. If books of theology are about anything, we are all waiting to hear what it is.

Richard

I think this comment was poorly designed to inflict us all with a nervous twitch. Of course theism has kids twitching every time they take a pee. God and his monocle.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:29:37 UTC | #888316

achromat666's Avatar Comment 25 by achromat666

No understanding of any religion has offered evidence for a single claim made by them. If the best theists can do is evade answering questions and offering up the mysterious (or the ridiculous God works in mysterious ways in it's many variations) then nothing has or is likely to change.

Religion, Theology, and World Mythology are sll subjects that are fine to discuss if there is no predication that any of it is anything but an ancient way of seeing the world. I've read on mythology (including the bible) since I was a kid, it's fascinating to observe how ancient cultures saw the world around them, and how it connects to the cultures that sprung from them. But that is the extent of it. Those views are a part of history and should be relegated to such.

I remain baffled how this continues to be a problem so ever present in the modern world.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:42:47 UTC | #888321

Mr DArcy's Avatar Comment 26 by Mr DArcy

Well Rowan (Backwards) Williams, the ABoC, certainly must in the running for the Olympic medals next year in the Theospeak sprints:

'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'.

What's all this "waiting on the truth" bit? Hasn't his God already revealed Himself and indeed sacrificed Himself whilst living under the alias of a man? Is Williams waiting for Jesus to come back, for the 4.15 to Portsmouth from Waterloo, or is he stuck on a crossword clue?

"pure sitting and breathing...." Well how profound! After about a minute, I suspect most of us have difficulty doing without the breathing bit!

"......in the presence of the question mark". How does this Welsh waffler get away with this stuff? Doh! It's not what he says, it's the way that he says it!

But then maybe it just seems waffle to me because I don't understand his religion!

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:44:09 UTC | #888322

baon's Avatar Comment 27 by baon

So without undergoing a "personal transformation" I'm never going to understand religion or see the truth in it and I'll remain unqualified to discuss the subject. Damn.

Yes, it's theology's version of the Dunning-Kruger effect. You are only competent to evaluate the performance of a theologian if you are a theologian. Mere competence with language or logic is of no avail because those things are not the actual core of theology...

: )

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:49:39 UTC | #888323

Sean_W's Avatar Comment 28 by Sean_W

I think I understand Rowan Williams perfectly well, it's just such a stupid thing to say in defense of Christianity that I can't believe he would risk betraying how little he believes/knows by offering it up.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:52:22 UTC | #888325

susanlatimer's Avatar Comment 29 by susanlatimer

The archbishop of Canterbury described his faith as a 'silent waiting on the truth, pure sitting and breathing in the presence of the question mark'.

No, it isn't. Christianity makes claims in the presence of the question mark, the evidence for which it doesn't produce. No matter how allegorical and convoluted the interpretations, it clings to the unwavering assumption that there is a "divine" and that Christianity is about a relationship with that "divine".

No matter how much has been accomplished by science and reason (which are never content to simply sit and breathe) all of us are faced with the "question mark".

Unless we have real strategies for answering the questions, "silent waiting" isn't such a bad idea. But this isn't what Christians do, including sophisticated theologians.
.
This description of faith couldn't be more wrong.

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:55:14 UTC | #888326

Stafford Gordon's Avatar Comment 30 by Stafford Gordon

This debate could develop nicely, coaxing some silly, infantile, antediluvian ideas out from their shady, dusty corners into the full glare of reality.

No it won't, it'll end in tails being chased as usual.

My dad used to say that if you ask a silly question you get a silly answer; by the same token, if a silly statement is made it only qualifies for a silly response, and shouldn't be graced with a sensible one. Hitchens senior is a passed master at this approach.

Perhaps the religious should just be laughed at, and denied the chance to patronize rational individuals, as they so often do, by accusing them of a lack of scholarship and imagination.

Maybe it calls for Fools to their Lears. They've got funny hats "frocks" and props, so why can't their adversaries dress as clowns when debating with them?

Mon, 07 Nov 2011 19:59:15 UTC | #888327