Chalk and cheese…

Charles Cowling

 

Posted by Richard Rawlinson 

 

…Venus and Mars and all that: relations between those with and those without faith can get prickly, something which inevitably affects discussion of funeral ritual and belief in the afterlife.

Two small pleasures of posting here are occasional positive feedback, and amicable sparring when there’s polite disagreement. A more shameful pleasure is gleened from niggling an intemperate minority who would prefer it everyone spelt God and Christian without the capital G and C.

This situation is clearly a microcosm of the wider debate about religion. Yes, crackpot Creationists get up people’s noses. Yes, some atheists are militant, too. But there’s plenty of common ground to be explored between the moderate majority.

The gist of a typical argument now is:

A: ‘Only a brain-washed idiot could fail to realise that God is a delusion.’

B: ‘Well, I believe in God, and I don’t consider myself a brain-washed idiot, so I don’t think I can agree with you there.’

A: ‘See, I said you were brain-washed’.

Inane stuff, eh? The root of the problem is mutual suspicion that we’re trying to change each other’s attitudes. Of course we debate because we want others to understand our world view, but we’re also realistic enough not to expect to change minds. But does this mean a debate that transcends name-calling is not worthwhile?

For an example of a reasonably good-natured and illuminating discussion between an atheist and believer, check out the below link to BeliefNet. Hats off to Sam Harris for choosing to debate not with a loony literalist but with a thoughtful Christian like Andrew Sullivan. 

 http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Secular-Philosophies/Is-Religion-Built-Upon-Lies.aspx

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Richard RawlinsonJenny UzzellEvelynGloria MundiVale Recent comment authors

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Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

A busy week so a belated return to earlier comments from GM and Jenny about the secular state. GM says secularism controls the fundamental excesses of religion, adding that if Cameron’s talk of our Christian country refers merely to our historical legacy, fine, but it risks alienating others in pluralist Britain from Hindus to agnostics. Jenny suspects Cameron is setting his face against the secularisation of society, and suggests that only in a secular society can religious freedom prosper. I’m glad we live in a secular society that allows freedom of religion. The few theocracies and atheist communist regimes remaining… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Evelyn, well put!

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Jenny, I’m sure the blessed carninal would like nothing more than to join you in debate on this.

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

I do take issue with your quote from Newman. We do not choose what to beleive…trust, me, I’ve tried!

Evelyn
Guest

RR ah well it depends who I’m talking to….Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God….or is it whosoever will be an enemy of the world is a friend of God? (Whosoever is such a good word)

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Vale, you make a good point about faiths being so firm about their rightness that ecumenical dialogue in search of possible compromise can seem futile. But there can still be respect even when X faith believes it is the guardian of the truth, and therefore believes Y’s protestations are wrong. Clear parting of ways might be healthier than the muddle of relativism. The Catholic Church is often deemed the enemy of fashions when it points out that some new ideas are simply old mistakes. However, it is responsible for many new ideas through the ages that seemed radical at the… Read more »

Gloria Mundi
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Gloria Mundi

Interesting point about the USA, Jenny,, but I guess there’s a big difference between a secular society and one that merely doesn’t have an established faith linked to governance. We have an established church, but we seem to me to be a much more secular society than the USA.

From Richard’s quotes above, I’d like to agree with R Davies, it seems satisfyingly true in general, but how doubting are the psychopaths who slaughter innocents in the name of a religion, whether in London or Norway?

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

“I believe; help my unbelief.”

“Faith isn’t believing without proof, it’s trusting without reservation.” William Sloane Coffin (great name!)

“For those with faith, no explanation is necessary. For those without, no explanation is possible.” Thomas Aquinas

“Fanaticism is overcompensation for doubt”. Robertson Davies

“Man is what he believes”. Anton Chekhov

“We can believe what we choose. We are answerable for what we choose to believe”. John Henry Newman

“The point of having an open mind, like having an open mouth, is to close it on something solid”. G.K. Chesterton

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

I suspect that he is actually setting his face against the ‘secularisation of society’, although I suspect that it is only in a truly secular society that religious freedom can prosper. Having said that, America is a secular society. ’nuff said.) I have heard (I believe it was in ‘How God made the English’) that the Church of England is best placed to encourage interfaith dialogue and tolerance. Whilst I have great respect for Rowan Williamson, I seriously doubt this to be true. If Mr Cameron is suggesting that Christianity somehow reflects or epitomises ‘Englishness’ then we may well be… Read more »

Gloria Mundi
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Gloria Mundi

Much of the time, I think, we make belief-enemies because we seek to strengthen and defend our own beliefs- avoiding our own doubts, perhaps. If Vale is right (and aspects of recent middle-Eastern history support his view) then we need a tolerant secular culture to hold the ring. If that weakens, then maybe firmer opposition becomes essential. As it happens, I find myself increasingly with Jenny’s middle ground, and I’m getting increasingly tired of Mr Cameron telling us it’s a Christian country. It is also a Hindu, Muslim, agnostic etc etc country, to state the bleedin’ obvious yet again. If… Read more »

Jenny Uzzell
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Actually, to the best of my knowledge, it is generally only Christians and Muslims who claim to be exclusively ‘right’. Even there, amongst those who engage in inter-faith dialogue there tends to be a pluralism that allows genuine understanding and tolerance without loosing ones own beliefs. Again, I suggest that there is a position that is neither believer nor non-believer (and not ‘don’t-give-a-damn-er’) In fact I know there is, because I’m in it! The problem comes in debates between what for want of a better term could be called ‘extremists’ on both sides.In that area, I suspect, genuine ‘debate’ (rather… Read more »

Vale
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Vale

It’s a good question Richard. It seems so uncivilised to start talking about enemies in the context of this civilised debate. But I’m not at all sure it isn’t the right word. When I see sceptic and believer in discussion or – even more so – look at the chummy ecumenism that is so often presented I do wonder about the strength and value of the beliefs of those involved – and worry that there may be some (self) deception about the whole business. Most faiths are founded in the belief that they are right. This is usually a non-negotiable… Read more »

Richard Rawlinson
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Richard Rawlinson

Who is the enemy, Evelyn?

Evelyn
Guest

I gave up ‘debate’ with the enemy long ago – it’s like trying to explain ‘blue’ or ‘sky’ or ‘thinking’ to a blind man… no wait, he should be able to understand thinking…

The other less erudite thought I had was concerning Hare’s bliks – which immediately transmogrified into Herr Flick from ‘Allo ‘Allo it must have been the Madonna that did it. Apologies to those who like a serious discussion, just trotting through…….

Belinda Forbes
Guest

We have a very entertaining discussion of our own. I’m not familiar with RC practices so I was completely taken in by the trotting of children at confession. Still chuckling!

Richard Rawlinson
Guest
Richard Rawlinson

Good points all and I hope you enjoyed the Harris/Sullivan debate – long but pretty civilised.

Interesting what you say about bliks, Jenny, and what you say about common purpose, GM. I even liked the jokes about Catholic paedo vampires. Well they sounded friendly anyway!

Hope you all had a blessed Easter. Pax vobiscum!

Ru Callender
Guest

Vatican organised, whip-point trotting races for toddlers. Finally, a sport I can get behind.

gloria mundi
Guest
gloria mundi

Ah, a like-minded soul (er, metaphorically speaking..) Jenny! vide your last full para above. Perhaps the Sullivan vs Harris frame of argument might be tempered or avoided by acknowledging, if possible, that your point about assumptions is key. If: It is valid to say that human need to create meanings to feel comfortable – at home – in the vast and vastly complex universe around them. That universe is impossible, ultimately, to be absolutely certain about. We share meanings, up to a certain point or level. But if A’s way of creating meanings is largely and basically different from B’s,… Read more »

Jenny Uzzell
Guest

GM makes an excellent point that the more useful discussion is, perhaps on how best to make the world a better place. A basic concept on which I believe most, if not all non-pychopathic people are agreed regardless of their perspective on religion and spirituality. Which is not to say that discussions between theists and atheists are not interesting. Personally, much of my life has centered around them in one way or another. I am doubtful that anyone has ever been converted to a religion through reasoned discussion…it tends not to happen like that although it can, of course, be… Read more »

gloria mundi
Guest
gloria mundi

That should of course be “torturing, in my carefully thought-through and well-typed comment, not “trotting.” I believe your trotting races for toddlers at whip-point were outlawed in Vatican XXXVIIIZZZZzzzzzz.

Hell fire and damnation on auto-correct, or whatever the Satanic invention is called! (H’m, your lot does supply occasionally useful invective…)

gloria mundi
Guest
gloria mundi

You see, there you go with your calm and good-natured approach, when we all know that your lot seize small children and, if you can’t brain-wash them at your horrid secret midnight “mass” orgies, after trotting them at “confession,” you drink their blood whilst cursing Abraham as a wimp and chanting “Isaac had it coming?” It’s an excellent exchange, thanks, but a lengthy one I have to go at bit by bit. After a while I tend to fall off the exchanges about faith between atheists and Christians, I suspect because I’m actually more interested in what can be done… Read more »

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

Of course there’s the what could be considered equally inane discussion that starts

C. Do you know where you’re going when you die?

D. Err, in an urn?

C. Well, the Bible suggests that you are going to Hell if you don’t believe in the Lord Jesus.

Where C = Christian
and D. = Doubter

Jehdeiah
Guest
Jehdeiah

I’m up to page 3….it’s hotting up …