"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

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

"Gang up on the atheists" as the comic said to the Archbishop

Catholic comedian Frank Skinner has been in conversation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams at a recent event called “The Gathering”. held at the cathedral.
It seems Frank has a problem with atheists…
Atheists we might see as people like those who deny global warming. You might celebrate their right, and defend their freedom of speech, to deny global warming – but if they're wrong, and millions of other people have taken their view, then it could end in a terrible, terrible disaster for a lot of people.
It’s a pithy but ultimately ironic choice of analogy. In the first place, it is rarely atheists that align themselves with global warming denialists, as we are the ones that appreciate the science and the evidence that anthropogenic climate change is real (I know there are some atheists who won’t agree, but they are definitely the minority). If anything it’s the fundi-evangelical Christian right that foment the conspiracy theories and deny the science. But beyond that is the thinly disguised Pascal’s wager that suggests that if the atheist argument prevails millions will be condemned to hell.
Frank does his best to frame this in an ecumenical way
At a time when secularism is a threat to the salvation of millions, believers should get together, find what we have in common, and sell that
But theologically this doesn’t fly. His own religion denies salvation to anyone who isn’t a Catholic, so there is no point in recruiting all the Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Baptists Ad Nauseam to the fray, let alone the Muslims, Hindus and Jews he is presumably letting into his big cosy theistic tent.
This naïve cuddly, “we’re all believers together” trope is a common one when the religious are confronted with the spectre of secularism. But this appeal to ecumenicalism is really a sham and a convenience that gets dropped once they have to deal with each other on their own terms.
Bizarrely, later in the conversation Frank touches on this himself when he compares faith to his other religion, football.
They all gave some sort of allegiance to his great game, but it’s compartmentalised by tribalism, In the Eighties people would be clubbing each other because they had different colours on, but it’s all about this brilliant game.
Yep! Exactly. Ask a West Ham supporter to be “ecumenical” about Chelsea fans and see where that gets you. You might engender some cooperation in a pub argument with rugby aficionados, but back on the terraces it’s business as usual. It is the same with religion; tribalism wins over cooperation in the end. In fact if that wasn’t the case I doubt that the “New atheists” Frank goes on to strawman as “sitting on leather chairs in gentlemen’s clubs with Dawkins and Bertrand Russell”, would be half so strident if religions really were the benign institutions he believes them to be.
It’s a funny sort of argument in my opinion, but then Frank Skinner is a comedian after all.

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