What’s wrong with the ‘left-wing’ newspapers recently?

Putting a DENT in Independent: in one week, Independent publishes outlandish attack on “new atheists” for their being “Islamophobic” and follows this up by giving a free, unedited, unbalanced platform to Andrew Wakefield, utterly discredited and dangerous MMR scare lunatic. Comments not allowed (anymore in either of the articles either.

The Guardian going down the same road, publishing one attack on new atheism after the other and publishing an uncritical “science” piece about a clearly bogus “remote hepatitis C detector”.

What is it about left-wing newspapers lately? Is it the humanities graduates running them? Who never learned to think critically? Who think that in every debate there are two, equally worthy, sides? There’s no need to suck up to religion, superstition and other woo. Leave it, please.

‘Militant secularists’ are not the ones eroding religiosity…

… the religious themselves are.

A fair amount has been written lately about the ‘militant secularism’ remarks by baroness Warsi. I won’t waste more time dispatching of these stupid and bigoted ideas, as this has been done convincingly by others already. Suffice it to say that if current secularists and atheists are seen as ‘militant’, then students, NHS staff, London underground drivers, and members of the Scottish Labour Party, to name but a few, must be deemed positively terrorist – what with like, taking to the streets and protesting en masse, or demanding things. The temerity!

Compare this to ‘militant’ secularists who, er, write articles in newspapers, or take to the court (where, may I remind Warsi and her ilk, the LAW is upheld, nothing more, nothing less). Compare this classic cartoon:







What I want to say here, briefly, as I don’t think it has been said, is this:

Nobody can forcibly take (religious) beliefs away

Why is this realisation important?

Because is this discussion the religious (mostly the christians) make it appear that it is the atheists/secularists (NB these are of course not the same at all, but the distinction is usually lost upon the frothing-at-the-mouth antiatheists) who are forcing the believers out of their churches, taking their bibles away, and thereby effect a decline in religiosity. Of course, nothing could be further from the truth. The only people that can make christians stay away from church, are those that attend in the first place. The only people that can unregister from a church’s membership are those that are a member to begin with. As was once said wittily but truthfully: “If people don’t want to come out to the ball park, nobody’s gonna stop ’em” (Yogi Bera) – the inverse applies here: if people wanted to go to church, no atheist is gonna stop them.

As indeed christians are making that decision for themselves, blaming outside forces is silly. The question that people like Warsi forget to ask (conveniently and deliberately, because to put up a strawman enemy and attack it is so much easier than confronting your own failures as a religion, political movement, or public figure), is why this is happening in the first place.

It’s the arguments, stupid!

If outside pressure is to have any credit, the most likely explanation, then, is that the arguments put forward by secularists and atheists are seen as increasingly valid, and the religious are acting upon this. And if there were no truth in these arguments, I don’t see the problem the church has – all it has to do is simply indicate where these arguments are flawed, and people will start coming back to the churches. Well, I say – good luck with that.

On a side note, and despite loud claims to the contrary, most mainstream media are still overwhelmingly biased towards religion, so to think that people are giving up their beliefs because they are ‘bombarded’ with anti-religious messages, is simply insane. If anything, religious people are on the whole surrounded by reinforcing, yay, indoctrinating, messages, constantly reminding them of how awesome their beliefs are. The fact that atheist messages come through at all, and are even accepted as valid, says a lot about the relative merits of the arguments either side puts forward. However ‘militant’, in loudness of arguing, there still is no contest between atheism and religion.

Also, of course, the continued failings of every major religion are not helping their own cause either, being in turn (or simultaneously) backward, stubborn, wrong, and downright criminal. In this age of internet and fast-spreading news, religion is its own worst enemy – ‘with friends like these, who needs enemies‘.

In short, instead of incessantly trotting out the ‘loud militant bad’ canard, the conservative right slash christian defenders of the faith would be better off asking themselves some tricky questions about exactly why christianity is increasingly seen by its own members as non-viable. Whether they do or not, and whatever answers they find if they do, the outcome to me is likely to be the same regardless.

Opinion | Opinie 29/01/2010

Atheism is NOT a religion!

(…nor is it dogmatic)

More and more often – coinciding with the increased level of atheism amongst the general population – you read the patently absurd claim along the lines of “atheism is just a new religion” or “to be an atheist requires even more faith than being religious”.

Similarly, with the advent of vocal (“new”) atheists, the most famous of which are the “Four Horsemen” Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris, you read things like “oh those atheists are just as dogmatic as fundamentalists – unlike us, the normal believers”.

Well… crap. It’s just plain rubbish. I could (might, will) write more and longer about this subject, because it offends me – it says stuff about me that is untrue, and I can’t stand that.


This is a very easy one to dismiss – so easy that it’s hard to believe anybody can still seriously offer it up. Dogma in the context of religion – which is what we’re talking about here – is a set of doctrines and principles handed down as fixed and true by the authorities. Well, first off there are no atheist authorities to hand anything down, there are no atheist “followers” to hand anything down to, and there is no higher power in atheism to give any credence to such claims either. Second, nothing is fixed in the context of atheism. Atheism (well this is my take on it at least) is the position that, given the lack of evidence, the likelihood of any god/supernatural power existing is so small as to be insignificant to reckon with in day-to-day matters.

That evidence bit is important. If any sort of  god were to provide convincing evidence, I would immediately change my position. How dogmatic is that? It is not. Convincing evidence should not be hard to provide by any sort of god worth his/her/its salt, being powerful and all that. I’m not talking about a five-thousand-year-old story of a talking bush-on-fire; I’m talking “turning Mt Everest upside it’s head and planting it on the moon” kind of stuff.

A Religion?

Well… the absence by definition of any supernatural entity again makes you wonder how people can make this claim. Even other, more casual, comparisons don’t hold any water. Communism and suchlike political systems have many characteristics of religions. Atheism lacks these, too. No infallible leader who can’t be criticised; no party doctrine to which must be adhered; no flags or country to swear allegiance to. Nothing of the sorts. There is also a total absence of any organised atheism; no atheist “church” buildings, atheist clergy, atheist “holy books”. Again, nothing at all.

Atheism only superficially resembles a religion if you want to equate a religion with something (perhaps a way of life or a philosophical position) that people talk about, feel strongly about, and try to convince others of being right. But if that is so, then vegetarianism and veganism, the belief in universal suffrage, freedom of speech, &c, are also “religions”. In fact, people believing in the latter throughout history have often been more violent/militant in pursuing their cause than atheists have been, making these more like religion than atheism.

(this cartoon is appropriate in that context)

The times they are a-…

Fortunately, less and less people subscribe to the truly and properly dogmatic institutions that are organised religions. So, in time, us atheists will have to read less and less of these weird, rearguard actions type of writings by scared (rightly so, but for the wrong reasons) and uninformed (or just cynically manipulative) believers.

Then, we will be truly free to not-believe.