Monday, February 26, 2007

We'd be better off without religion

The motion which will be put forth at the upcoming debate hosted by the Intelligence Squared media forum. Unfortunately, I only read about it in today's Guardian and the event is now sold out. However, the guest speakers should make for an entertaining joust.

If anyone who might be reading this is in possession of a spare ticket, please email me at and we can haggle over how much it's worth.

As I said, the debate is mentioned in an article in today's G2 section of the Guardian. Written by Stuart Jeffries, it examines what he describes as "the vicious and uncompromising battle between believers and non-believers." Unsurprisingly Jeffries focuses on the recent struggles over the Danish cartoons, Jerry Springer: the opera, and gay adoption. From the religious side there's some of the usual drivel about fundamentalist secularists being as bad religious extremists. But the most apposite comments Jeffries cites come from Professor AC Grayling: "These groups are trying to be exempt from the effort to be a fair society, and we are faced with the threat of a possible return to the dark ages. We are trying to keep a pluralistic society, and elements in the Christian church and other religions are trying to destroy it."

Amen to that.

Azzim Tamimi, director of the Institute of Islamic Political Thought, sees it differently, "I refer to secular fundamentalism. The problem is that these people believe that they have the absolute truth. That means you have no room to talk to others so you end up having a physical fight. They want to close the door and ignore religion, but this will provoke a violent religiosity. If someone seeks to deny my existence, I will fight to assert it."

I agree with him. Based on the available evidence I am certain I am right: there is no God. But I am certain I can conduct my anti-theism without recourse to fisticuffs. Nor should my anti-theism "provoke a violent religiosity". It is the ideas which I hate but not the practitioners. Nor is anyone's "existence" being questioned. The religious and anti-religious should be able to engage in debate in much the same way as Labour supporters and Tories. I may reflect on a Utopia free of religion and Tories but in reality I know that I will always have to deal with people of faith and deal with Tories. Tamimi's words simply reinforce the point that the religious consider their ideas or faiths to be beyond criticism, that they are to be respected absolutely. This cannot and should not be guaranteed.


At 8:07 pm , Anonymous a. nonymous said...

Not entirely related to this, but not entirely unrelated to this, is a story i read in yesterday's paper. The Scottish Parliament is set to go against Westminster, and allow faith adoption agencies (the Catholic ones) the right to veto couples, based on their sexuality.

Looks like that with MSP elections coming up Jack doesn't want to risk losing any votes.


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