Friday, November 16, 2007

'Defenders of the faith' don't like it up 'em!

reposted from:
Chris Street comments are in bright green; highlights in blockquotes (yellow).

AC Grayling

Mind your manners

'Defenders of the faith' on Cif should reflect that we atheists are only injuring their sentiments - unlike their predecessors in the cause

November 15, 2007 10:30 AM

The blogosphere, as I once before described it, is the biggest lavatory wall in the world, on which anonymous graffitists scrawl their wit, wisdom, fatuities and futilities. Some ("some" being the operative word) of what appears there is very good. Much is garbage. Given that bloggers are probably a skewed section of the population - skewed towards the nerdy, get-a-life end of the spectrum, more male than not, in the younger age brackets - they are not a reliable sample of anything other than themselves. But even the obviously certifiable among them can sometimes prompt one to think, mainly about the lack of historical knowledge, the lack of logic, and the lack of an ability to read attentively (or indeed to read anything much apart from blogs, it seems) that some of them display.

I confess to a certain mischievous pleasure in provoking the more hysterical among them on the question of religion. My responders here on this subject consist of the same rather small coterie of defenders of the faiths, all but a couple of them luminous examples ("by their fruits ye shall know them") of the virtues and charity of what they profess; for anonymously they eject their streams of ad hominem bile, reminding one of what TH Huxley once wrote to Darwin about criticising ecclesiastics: they are like pigs, said Huxley, who all squeal together when one of them is poked. Faith's defenders on Cif are such that when the ideas they subscribe to are attacked, they attack the person who attacked their ideas; to small minds, a fair exchange.

But the really interesting point is this. For hundreds and hundreds of years - and still to this day in the world's second largest religion - anyone who rejected religion's claims was either murdered (eg by the Inquisition) or, at best, shunned, vilified and laden with opprobrium and civil disabilities. It was only in the late 19th century in Britain that a small group of courageous individuals stood up publicly to avow their rejection of the ancient superstitions, and to form the Secular Society and the Humanist Association. Until earlier in that century (read about the repeal of the Test and Corporation Acts in 1828)

anyone who refused to accept the 39 articles of the Church of England was excluded by law from the universities, parliament, and other public opportunities and offices.
In short - and one could go on at very great length about the oppressions, punishments, disabilities, exclusions and dangers faced for nearly two thousand years of our "Common Era" by those who rejected religion - agnostics and atheists were the subject of persecution and discrimination, to the frequent actual point of death.

Nowadays, following a series of outrages in which religious motivation has played a major part,

those who reject religion have had enough of pussy-footing around its votaries' sanctimonious self-regardingness, and are talking back.
Are they saying that people who believe the ancient superstitions should be burned at the stake? Banned? Forbidden to congregate and "worship"? Forbidden to run schools to proselytise their own small children? No. Nor do they for a instant suggest that the holy should get a taste of the medicine they dished out during these past two millennia - though to hear the squeals from our anonymous ad hominem vituperators you would think so.

What they are saying is that

religion has far too large a slice of the public pie, and far too great an influence (especially in proportion to the numbers of their active votaries) on public policy (churches are self-constituted civil society organisations like trades unions, and are entitled to have their say, but no more than any other such institution); that people can believe what they like, but please do it in private; that they should pay for their own schools and are not entitled to our public tax money for them; and, in general, that they can think and do what they like so long as they do not insist on stuffing it into other peoples' faces - or in the extreme, killing them for believing or behaving differently.

They are also pointing out that the intrinsic credibility of religious claims is null, and worse: is full of nonsense; and worse still: that some of that nonsense is very dangerous.

That is the sum and head of what the "new militant ferocious terrible fundamentalist atheists" are saying.

Now, it is understandable enough that the little coterie of anonymous and personally vituperative defenders of faith on Cif should get so steamed; for they do not at all, to employ Corporal Jones's immortal phrase, like it up 'em. But I think they should reflect a little on the fact that they are getting it up 'em only figuratively, whereas their predecessors in the cause indefatigably did the real thing to my predecessors; and it is my predecessors who eventually made the world civilised enough for their predecessors to suffer injury only to their sentiments rather than their bodies and lives.

Once they grasp this striking and rather encouraging fact, Cif's defenders of the faiths might then go on to acquire some manners.

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