Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Believing in God doesn't make you stupid, it just makes you misguided

Every so often, some columnnist or other becomes bemused that their odd beliefs aren't shared by everyone else, and feels the need to write 1,000 or so words on the topic. Today, it's the turn of Rosamund Urwin, of the Evening Standard.
I believe in God. Right, that's a few more points scrubbed off my estimated IQ by the most zealous atheists. It gets worse, though. I don't just harbour some vague notion of a kind-hearted deity; I am a church-going Roman Catholic — I believe in Jesus, Mary and the donkey too.
All this says to me is that she clearly hasn't examined the issues here. What she's saying is: a baby was born 2,000 years ago that was not conceived by two human beings having sex. And you expect people to let that pass? There's not even a primary school level of biological knowledge there. Badly thought-out statements like that from theists are almost directly responsible for epidemics of smugness among atheists.
It doesn't seem to matter that I spent much of my time at university studying philosophy of religion. That I have read and weighed up works by the anti-God Squad, the Doubting Thomases and the faith brigade. How many avowed atheists can say the same?
Quite a few, I should imagine, if this American survey is anything to go by. I consider myself an atheist precisely because I've looked at religion and decided, perfectly rationally, that it's a load of creaking old codswallop. It's the religious who have little idea what's actually lurking in the depths of religious texts.
Many are intellectuals, most have at least skim-read Dawkins's The God Delusion, yet none has ever put an argument to me for which there isn't a rational reply.
Have you read it, Rosamund? I mean, not just skim-read it?
The media don't help. Yesterday afternoon, Radio 4 replayed the debate “Is religion a force for good in the modern world?”. The speakers were Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair. So while atheists had a well-regarded and witty critic of the Abrahamic faiths to make their case, we were given the King of Mumbo-Jumbo with the permatan and creepy smile.
While the former Prime Minister was fixated on the practical — religion's charitable acts — Hitchens offered a wider critique. He claimed religion imposes a “celestial dictatorship” and said that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. A more philosophical mind than Blair's would have tried to offer that evidence.
Ever wondered why atheists have the smartest debaters? It's not just luck. And this, by the way, would have been the ideal opportunity to display that "extraordinary evidence", Rosamund. But you didn't. You chose to moan about how those pesky unbelievers just keep on coming with their rational arguments.
My problem isn't with most atheists. What frustrates me is that the presentation of the academic arguments for and against God's existence has become unnecessarily one-sided. At least we know whose side the Big Guy Upstairs is on, though.
Just like my problem isn't with most theists. But they really should try to understand exactly why the arguments about God's existence are so one-sided.

It's because only one side actually has a leg to stand on.


  1. Well, at least she believes in donkeys. I was worried there for a moment.

  2. It’s such a pity that when Rosamund Urwin studied Philosophy of Religion she didn’t broaden her philosophical education to include epistemology and logic. Then she would realise that a final irrational leap of faith is necessary when reason fails to lead the believer to the required conclusion. Faith is the final retreat, where those nasty logicians can’t touch you. When she says “…no one seems to accuse atheist parents of brainwashing their children into rejecting religion”, I hear echos of the Creationist argument that belief in Darwinian evolution is as much a faith position as Christians’ belief in God. Had Ms Urwin come across Occam’s Razor she would realize that atheism is the intellectually neutral position, and requires no brainwashing.

  3. Believing in a god makes you morally responsible to obey such a god and to seek out god himself.