"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

Monday, 20 February 2012

Slurs on Dawkins prove the battle is won

You know you’ve won the argument when all the opposition can do is attack you personally. Or even better when all they can do is attack one of your remote slave owning ancestors and then imply you are guilty by association. Or better yet, when they make a scene over falling for a “gotcha” question on a live radio interview. Yes, I think we can safely say that Richard Dawkins’ excellent piece of research, commissioned from Ipsos Mori on the real extent of Christian belief in this country has got a few people rattled. The results available in the link above are devastating to those who would argue that Britain is to any meaningful extent a “Christian nation”. For one thing a preliminary conclusion is that only 54% of census forms were returned with Christian as a religious affiliation, down from 72% last time. We await the full census results to verify that figure but if true it is a significant decline.
But of those self-selected, self-describing Christians polled by Ipsos-Mori on behalf of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science a significant number do not know or believe in the central tenets of the faith, do not pray, and do not go to church. The question that led to Richard Dawkins’ faux pas on the today program was this one from the poll

Q23. What is the first book of the NEW Testament?
  •  Matthew 35 %
  • Genesis 19 %
  • Acts of the Apostles 3 %
  • Psalms 3 %
  • Don’t know 39 %
  • Prefer not to say 1%
 So 39% of these self selected Christians honestly knew they didn’t know and 19% can’t tell the OT from the NT.
I’m actually very surprised by this result as I would expect most people, religious or not, educated in our school system to know this, especially as it is presented as a multiple-choice question. It was therefore a pertinent point for Dawkins to make when interviewed on Radio 4’s today program.
In response co-interviewee Reverend Giles Fraser asked Dawkins to name the full title of Darwin’s Origin of Species (On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in The Struggle for Life), which apart from or perhaps because of its irrelevence caught him off guard.
The point is, that all weekend Dawkins has been the subject of attack and attempted ridicule on totally spurious grounds because an independently commissioned scientific poll has proved something we all knew, but has been denied by interested parties; that the relevence of the Church to public life is minimal and that our constitutional religion is a sham making the case for secularism even more sound and negating the assertions of Baroness Warsi that faith and God should be central to our way of life. More interestingly the reactions from the press and the attempt to use Dawkins’ ancestral family and personal foibles to detract from the unassailable conclusions of this research prove that the intellectual battle is won. Let the culture war begin…

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