"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Friday, 5 August 2011

Even I would go to this church

Here is a heartwarming story about an atheist clergyman in Holland who is teaching Christianity as a humanist religion.
"When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible's account of Jesus's life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.
This ticks a lot of boxes for me. For one thing I am pretty sure that the number of clergy worldwide who are in reality atheist or agnostic is a lot higher than might be apparent. Secondly a church that can expound and expand the good in people without recourse to a god is acknowledging what traditional Christians don't which is that people are intrinsically altruistic and don't need to be "saved".
One disappointing thing about the article though is this statement by Robert Pigott the journalist
But the message from Mr Hendrikse's sermon seems bleak - "Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".

That's not a bleak message at all, it's a liberating one that encourages us to be the best we can be in the one life we have without burdening ourselves with guilt and fear about some mythical afterlife.


  1. people are intrinsically altruistic

    I disagree. People intrinsically have the potential to be altruistic, but the environment in which you are raised has a big effect on whether or not you express any degree of altruism.

    This isn't my ultimate evidence for this stance, but it's an interesting article I read recently that reminds me of what I already thought.

  2. I'm sure there are cultural effects and if as seems to be the case, prosocial behaviour is an evolved trait there will always be some outliers that behave more selfishly. Your article link was interesting but it ignores the issue about which group people identify with. It may be that rich people defend wealth because wealthy people are their peer group, whereas the middle classes are just an amorphous "other"

  3. There have been many examples in the church of people who have taught against the faith they claim to represent. The answer is simply that there are "wolves in sheeps clothing", Jesus warned us about that one, but some seem to prefer the hypocrisy to sincerity.

    As long as a person lives with a predudice against God - they will always hide away from the truth. Atheists express their rage against God although in their view He does not exist. --C. S. Lewis

  4. I don't see any hypocrisy here. He has chosen to see biblical historicity as largely allegorical, logically in my opinion and is being perfectly open about that. He is just being honest in a way many christians are not about the blatant cherry picking that needs to be done to arrive at a religion that is benevolent and compatible with our vastly better morality.

    Oh and the C. S. Lewis quote is bollocks! Atheists rarely if ever "rage against god", although they sometimes rage against religion and for good reason.