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Athiest hedonism: Their poster campaign on London buses in 2009 was supported by Richard Dawkins (right). Its fatuous slogan gets to the heart of why people have turned away from biblical religion — not because it is irrational but because it puts constraints on their behaviour

To judge from what we are reading and hearing almost every day at the moment, it would seem Britain is in the throes of a war of religion. A war, that is, between religion and atheism. Professor Richard Dawkins, the Savanarola of atheism, regularly hurls his thunderbolts at believers. Christianity, says the church, is under siege. Christians are being prevented from wearing the crucifix at work, being barred from adoption panels. Even Delia Smith has now brought her rolling pin to the fight to defend the faith.  

At the heart of this great argument lies the assumption on the part of the anti-religion camp that this is a battle between reason and obscurantism, between rationality on the one hand and knuckle-dragging ignorance and prejudice on the other. And of course, that anti-religion camp is on the side of reason, and thus of intelligence, science, progress and freedom; whereas religious believers would undo the Enlightenment and take us all back to the dark ages of credulity, superstition and the shackling of the mind.

This assumption is based on a further given: that in the West this is the age of reason. And we think this, in large measure, because we have put religion, or faith, in a box labelled in very large letters, "Un-reason". Faith and reason, religion and science are supposedly inimical to each other. There is no overlap. They knock each other out.

So it follows that people who are intelligent can have no religious faith; those who are religious are either imbeciles or insane. Not only that, religious people are narrow, dogmatic, intolerant and unpleasant. Those with no religious faith are broad-minded, open, liberal and thoroughly splendid people whom you'd be delighted to meet at a dinner party. Little casts a chill over a fashionable table more than the disclosure that a guest believes in God. 

I have a rather different take on this great division of our age. My view is that while we may be in a post-biblical — and post-moral — age, we have not disposed of belief. Far from it. We have just changed what we believe in. Our society may have junked the Judaeo-Christian foundations of the West for secularism. But this has given rise to a set of other religions. Secular religions. Anti-religion religions.  

These are also based on a set of dogmas. They proselytise. They involve faith. But unlike the Judaeo-Christian thinking they usurp, these secular anti-religions suspend truth and reason. What's more, I would say that it was the Judaic foundations of the West which, far from denying reason, gave the world both reason and science in the first place.

God has been pronounced dead, and in his place have come man-made ideologies — in which people worship not a divine presence but an idea. 

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Peter Alexander
February 23rd, 2016
2:02 AM
Probably no God? Of course there is One God, the Creator of the Universe. I will not go into detail, since most know some of the basics of the Christian faith and Bible stories, even if not following the faith and a believer. So, I will encourage each of you to research the Christian faith and the existence of God. Thomas Jeffferson said, Question boldly, even the very existence of God, so please I urge you to take some some and open your mind and slow down any attitude against Christianity for the research period and be objective. Goodgl several books, the Case for Christ and the Case for God, by a former atheist and covert to christianity after his research. Don't worry, it is ok if you have a converse experience furing your research or not, be open minded and consider the facts. I trust that many who are willing to research the Christian faith will expand your knowledge and at least recognize the possibility. In the end we can consider for ourselves...Eternity, smoking or non-smoking? Enjoy the process of scientific researcher. Peace, Peter ~

June 12th, 2012
12:06 PM
There were problems in Medieval Christendom, as there were in all of Europe in all of time, but they were far less problematic than the problems of the Reformation and Anglican split would be. When the medieval church did go after dissenters, it was because they had started some sort of political or military upheaval. And these violent rebellions only got worse as the Reformation and Enlightenment took hold. It was often the medieval church that was responding to violence, not initiating it.

June 12th, 2012
4:06 AM
It is ironic that in decrying the legends of the Enlightenment, Melanie succumbs to them as well. The "pre-modern despotism" she complains about was not the result of the Church, but of secular encroachment on the territory of the church. I'd also recommend that anybody who seriously thinks that Medieval Christianity was anything like contemporary Islamism to read Rodney Stark's "God's Battalions". This essay has a lot of positives, but sadly Melanie holds on to too many wrong-headed Enlightenment ideas. "Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried."

May 30th, 2012
6:05 PM
Ms. Phillips' argument basically boils down to this: Sure -- if you define "rationality" as belief in the evidence of the senses, scientifically reproducible results based on quanitifable data, a common set of observational tools and principles that can bridge disparate cultures, and a trust in logical and verifiable facts and explanations, that makes you "rational." But if you define "rationality" as "belief in the supernatural," as I do, then I'm rational too. I win!

Citizen Ghost
May 23rd, 2012
8:05 PM
Melanie writes: "A committed atheist, Francis Crick found it impossible to believe that DNA could have been the product of evolution" Nonsense. Francis Crick found nothing of the kind. Of course even Francis Crick or Richard Dawkins DID postulate a theory of panspermia, how on earth is that an example of "intolerance?" Very strange article.

Gerald Duffy
May 7th, 2012
11:05 PM
Excellent article, Eric Voegelin in his book Science, Politics and Gnosticism details at length the Gnostic mentality that underpins many of the mass movements that are unwttingly destroying western civilisation. Most notably he describes the prohibition on questions that would undermine the ideologies on which these movements i.e. Enviromentalism, multiculturalism, Scientism, Egalitariarianism, etc. are built. Much of the academic and media establishment are a major factor in this process.

May 3rd, 2012
8:05 AM
So Judaism gave rise to reason and rationality that gave rise to science grew from? Well then how did people build the pyramids pre-genesis the pyramids are a feat of engineering, of maths and physics. If people were irrational and had no reason how did they construct them? Infact how did all the pre-biblical civilisations build any constructions and what about the agricultural revolution nearly 10,000 years ago how would people of worked out how to farm if they were irrational? How about cavemen. All over the world we found spears that early man hunted with there lightweight with sharp ends, in other words they were designed to kill from a distance, this is tens of thousands of years ago, it took reason to design them, but how is it possible if there was no reason before Judaism? What about if we don't look at people let's instead look at lions how do they hunt? The lionesses lay in wait hidden in the grass for the perfect time to pounce then out flank the weakest wilderbeast. If lions were irrational they would charge straight in be seen and not catch anything. But how can lions hunt with reason and rationality if there not Jews or Christians? It's because lions, like humans, have EVOLVED to have rational working minds for survival purposes no matter what you religious windbags say!

April 28th, 2012
1:04 PM

April 28th, 2012
1:04 PM
I agree that Dawkins' tiresome intolerance and blinkered intellectual bullying seem as narrow-minded as the worst religious bigot. So to, the progressive left seem to thrive on social pressure to believe their 'rational' version of events. But I think you've slightly misrepresented or misunderstood Crick. Sometimes his theorising led him in odd directions. Panspermia is simply a theory with no hard evidence to support it. Scientific impatience from Crick, and probably wrong. To claim that this discredits science is weak. Science makes verifiable observations and predictions based on theories. You have to go through many wrong theories to get closer to 'truth' Religion tried to do this, but can't compete. But it gives human life a purpose which science cannot do. So religion & science should not be at odds. They very seldom overlap and disagree.

April 27th, 2012
11:04 AM
Way to go, Melanie! You should also refer to Vishal Mangalwadi's thesis in an article he wrote recently that much of this has come about due to Christians themselves abandoning the concept of "truth" to the secular folk and embracing only "faith". Whereas, after all, Jesus' clear claim is that He is the truth (and the way and the life) and, as you have shown admirably in your speech, that it is the Biblical worldview that gave rise to reason. So when I read in your speech about Dawkins et al labeling you as "lying for Jesus", I said to myself - go, Melanie, go - keep shouting the truth!

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