Saturday 12 February 2011

Athiesm - The worlds dullest religion

"The world is full of crashing bores" - So wrote Morrissey. Cards on table, I'm a rather bad Roman Catholic, so yup, I'm probably biased. Am I full of doubts? Yep, riddled with them. Why did I decide that this was the religion for me? Three  reasons - firstly because it is the tradition I was brought up in, secondly because after years of soul searching, it seems to be the one which suits me best and thirdly, because it is full of cynics and other like minded people who don't perpetually seek you validition in their own beliefs.

Now there was a time in my mid twenties, when I'd probably have described myself as an athiest or an agnostic. Why? Because at the time, I guess it seemed as if common sense dictated that Athiesm was probably a rather sensible approach to faith. God is unprovable, so he can't possibly exist can he? So what made me change my mind? I woke up one day, thought about it and realised that of all the possible religious beliefs (which  Athiesm surely is, as it cannot be proven) Athiesm is the least logical and dullest. Wheras aa group of Roman Catholics on a night out will hit the bar and have a fantastic time (not mentioning religion at all), an Atheist shindig will always end in hours of ernest discussion as to "why we are so right".

I've searched the planet looking at the way people venerate what Athiests call "The big imaginary friend in the sky". I've marvelled at the sun setting behind the Blue Mosque in Istambul. I've gloried at the art in the Sistine Chapel. I've soaked up the beauty of Buddist Palaces in China and Shambala. I've been overawed at the beauty of the churches of the Kremlin, so beautiful that the Architects eyes were pulled out so he couldn't design a more lovely church for anyone else. I've enjoyed the stark serenity of Glastonbury Tor. I've marvelled at the sheer immensity of Stonehenge.

Take away our belief in God and none of these would exist. The divine inspires us. Where are the great buildings inspired by Athiesm? If God inspires us to build beautiful structures, what does Athiesm inspire? Of course there is the old chestnut about religious wars, but to my mind this is human nature. If we don't have a reason to have a fight, we'll invent one. I can remember a couple of mates in 1977 having a punch up over who was the first one to wear bondage trousers in Mill Hill.  If we look at the most murderous regimes in history, did they need religion? Pol Pot did fairly well on a communist/athiest ethos as did Mao and Stalin. Now of course I don't think the vast majority of middle class Hampstead trendies who are Athiests intend mass murder and genocide. In fact I suspect that most Athiests are, well rather like the rest of us. I just think that subscribing to a religion with no stories, no miracles, no wonder and no hope is rather dull. Every now and then at this time of year, I make my way to the Mill Field in Mill Hill at sunset. As the sun sets over St Josephs college, you get treated to one of the seven wonders of the world. I love to sit there on my own and soak up the moment. One time I was spotted by a mate, who happens to be an athiest who saw me sitting on my own watching the beauty of a brilliant sunset. I said "Have you ever seen a more beautiful sight in the world?". His response was "It's just the defraction of light over a few geological features".

Each to his or her own, I just wish we could all accept each others viewpoint and not feel threatened by it. We've all got the right to our own views, however odd they may seem. For me, I happen to think that it is no accident that if you take a piece of wood, put a couple of coils with magnets in the middle, stretch six thin pieces of wire over it and give it to Jimi Hendrix, you get the most beautiful sound in the world. I can accept some things are cosmic accidents, but whoever wrote the laws of physics to include that as part of the rules must be pretty divine. I guess that I personally can't live in a world with no place for beauty, wonder and mystery, but if we were all the same what a dull place it would be. I'm sure my beliefs seem completely bonkers to many people reading this. I'm sure a few people will tell me why. That's the great thing about a free society and freedom of speech.

If you've read all the way down to here, you'll probably be rather surprised at the point I'm trying to make, which is actually not about religion at all (the preamble was just to get you thinking). In Egypt today, a despot and dictator has gone. A new dawn emerges. I sincerely hope that whoever or whatever replaces Mubarak, a blog such as this is tolerated. One of the key moments of the revolution was the moment when a blogger was murdered by the police. I've written all manner of things about religion, politics and life. I've never once worried about the police killing me for what I wrote. In many countries, I'd have been toast long ago. I specifically wrote about something fairly random and off the wall, to illustrate the point that in some places even this would be a criminal activity. Whatever you think of me, my views and my blog, please join me in expressing your solidarity with the people of Egypt today and lets hope (and pray if that's your thing) that whoever replaces Mubarak allows a Society to flourish where writing a blog is not a dangerous activity.

Whatever your religion (or lack of it) have a great Saturday night.


Jaybird said...

Dear Rog
Without wishing to denigrate your faith, there are a couple of points I would like to take issue with.

Firstly, the idea that religious wars are just human nature and would happen anyway. I would say the reasons any war begins are complex and multi-factorial but if you have groups of people who believe they possess a received truth and who privilege faith over reason, compromise and negotiated peace is always going to be more difficult.

Secondly, for those of us who privilege reason over faith the world is still an extraordinary and beautiful place. The counter-intuitive nature of science makes me appreciate the world more, not less. So, although I can watch a sunset and intuitively know that the sun is setting in the west, having risen in the east, it makes me dizzy to think that in fact that is not correct; we are spinning and revolving around the sun itself. When I run my hands over the rough bark of a tree, it is even more lovely and amazing to know that this very tangible thing is made entirely of sunlight water and air. And as for evolution, the elegance of the theory makes the random weirdness of life on Earth even more amazing to me. I'd recommend "The Unnatural Nature of Science" which is not about religion, but just about how scientific knowledge can inform and deepen appreciation of beauty.

baarnett said...

Further to Jaybird's remarks, I find equal wonder - and even possibly comfort - in this suggestion:

That, as we study the physics of the universe in more and more advanced ways, we may have to conclude that the ever deeper layers are effectively beyond our understanding.

We are sentient creatures evolved to be successful in our environment, and we were not necessarily designed to fully understand 11-dimensional space, or whatever.

And none of that needs a god (sorry, I don't believe he needs upper case on his name).

On the other hand, our universe may be merely a pimple on the back of a giant elephant, and God says, "Gotcha!"

Rog T said...


I have a deep fascination with science. Despite being dyslexic, I got A levels in Physics, Biology & Maths and was offered a University place at QMC to study Physics. I decided to go to Stockholm and expand my mind instead. I'm sorry to say that I find books arguing the virtues of Athiesm crushingly boring. I have ploughed through a few, but really can't be bothered anymore. I don't say this meaning to be rude, but just to explain that I've read the arguments. We're all different, if it gives you the answers you want, that's great. I do get pissed off with the fact that I always get told to go off and brush up my education when I write blogs such as this. Right now I'd rather spend my time reading stuff that I can put to practical use in the campaign against the stupidity both locally and nationally. I don't mind people denigrating my faith, if you put your head above the parapet, you get shot at. I'm not trying to convert people, just explain my views on life. We all walk a different path. I would agree that people who "believe they are right" are dangerous, be it in religion, politics or most other walks of life. Personally I like a bit of debate and I enjoy thought provoking discussions (hence the occasional blog like this one).

If it has come over as "I'm right and you're all wrong" I apologise as that isn't what I intended. It always amuses me that of all the faiths and creeds, the Athiests I know are the ones who are most absolutely certain they are right, when in fact it is just a belief, like any other.

I think we've all got our own views and none of can ever be certain if we are right or wrong until it's too late :^)

Jaybird said...

Rog, the book I mentioned has nothing to do with atheism; it is about science and wonder and how we educate our children about science. It is a quick, light read.

I mentioned it because I wanted to challenge your view that atheism makes the world a duller place and that people without a faith have a less rich experience of life on Earth. That is not my view, my observation or my experience.

I am quite sure it is possible for us both to celebrate our own perceptions without judging or denigrating the others, so apology accepted.

PS I see Ross Clark name checked Barnet Council as "loony right" in the Spectator.

somersetchris said...

It seems that my comment in your previous post has certainly ruffled your feathers. You have also seem to have jumped to the same conclusion about atheists as a lot of people. First of all atheism is not a religion. I believe that a lot of people are so caught up in their own religious beliefs that they cannot imagine any person living without religion of some sort.

I am not going to go through every point you make, but I appreciate the art and architecture of the places you mention and many more. I also enjoy sunsets and sunrises as well! I do not have to be religious to enjoy these. As to what has happened in Egypt where a blogger has been murdered by the police, there have been countless people murdered worldwide because of their beliefs (religious and non religious) and this is still happening today. In the Bible there are laws that command that people be killed for absurd reasons such as working on the Sabbath, being gay, cursing your parents, or not being a virgin on your wedding night. People die in the name of religion every day.

My main point, which is also true for your previous blog post, is that children are not born of any faith. They are born children and for that reason I believe that they should not be segregated into various schools because of whatever imaginary sky friend their parents believe in. They should be taught together and yes, they should have religious education. But this should also include Thor, Zeus, the Sun, Isis, Neptune and loads of others I cannot remember at the moment. We would not dream of segregating children because of the colour of their skin, so why should children whose parents believe in one religion get priority to a certain school?

Rog T said...


Sadly rather than ruffling feathers you just demonstrated and crystalised many of the things I already thought. You posted a link to an article which among other "facts" claimed that "In 2005 96% of New Statesman readers thought that Tony Blair should end his support for faith schools." as if that was some empirical measure of what the general public thought. The arguments were spurious and flawed in extremis, to the point of extreme irritation.

I had the benefit of attending Orange Hill Senior High School for the last three years of my education. This was secular and mixed sex. This was my best educational experience by a mile. Having expereinced both types of school, I think it's fair to say that I think I've got a balanced view. Orange Hill was a superb school with great teachers and was an establishment that all schools would do well to emulate. It made a huge difference to me, but the ultimate point was that schools must deliver a good education before anything else.

Attending FCHS gave me a strong sense of identity and community (as did St Vincents). I happen to believe that knowing who we are and our cultural roots is a vital part of education. I was lucky enough to have both aspects. I don't think friends who had a wholly secular or wholly religious schooling had a worse eduction as a result, just different.

I can honestly say that the most positive benefit from my attendence of FCHS is my lifelong hatred of injustice. I'm not saying other schools don't imbibe this, but it strikes me that this a massive benefit of a school such as FCHS. It is interesting that Alex Clayman, who lead student protests against cuts is an FCHS pupil.

As for your other comments, I don't think Athiests can't appreciate beauty, it's just that those that I know always have a rather irritating tendency to try and rationalise it, rather than just appreciate it. Your argument does this. As to "people dying in the name of religion every day". How many people are killed every day in the name of the the biggest "religion" of all - the creed of greed.

I happen to believe that materialism is biggest cause of death destruction and unhappyness in the world. This is the issue that most Athiests duck. I write this blog because I believe in community and social justice. These values are not unique to any faith and it doesn't matter what you believe in so long as you respect these values. I've seen no credible evidence at all that Faith schools are bad for society, cause harm or social division as a genre. I accept that there are failing schools of all types. These are the issues we need to address.

Mrs Angry said...

Present company excepted, of course, I think many atheists simply lack imagination, and reject a view of God which is too narrow and simplistic an interpretation. The whole point of faith is that is mystical, and often indefinable - a voyage rather than a destination. I would hate to live in a world where only the explicable and empirically proven were respected as truth, and there was nothing lurking at the bottom of the dark void of the universe but a hologram of Richard Dawkins.

baarnett said...

I'm sorry, Mrs Angry, but there I was, agreeing with much of what Roger-the-blogger was saying, and then you have to go and spoil it.

You are horrified at the thought that might be "nothing lurking at the bottom of the dark void of the universe but a hologram of Richard Dawkins."

But that creates the worse possible source of religion, which is the desire to invent something - anything - to counter the thought that the world is entirely 'rudderless'.

We may not know how the universe works, and why it exists, but we may be getting there.

It is not our fault it is possibly a lonely, amoral universe without greater meaning. But it is up to us to create a respectful and moral society on our green and blue planet, despite that.

Rog T said...

My biggest problem with (some) athiests, Born again Christians etc is there absolute certainty of rightness. I accept that there is a good chance I'm wrong about loads of things. With things like religion, we just have to learn to be tolerant of other viewpoints. I can't say I blame the likes of Chris for being unimpressed with elements of it, but it strikes me that in some ways he's as blinkered as the most fundamentalist Christian. I don't want a theological debate as I'm far too thick about many matters, but one of the reasons that I subscribe to the faith I do, is because Vatican II ruled that it wasn't necessary to be a Catholic to go to heaven and it wasn't for us to judge others. The sad thing is that the Church doesn't exactly broadcast this fact. Even more interesting was the recent news that the Vatican announced that the existence of extra terrestrial life was not something which presented any issues for the religion as it was all part of Gods realm. Of course to an Athiest big imaginary friend in the sky perspective all of this is nonsense, but to me it makes perfect sense.

somersetchris said...

Rog, I also do not want a theological debate. I am also not here to prove that there is a God or there is not. I am also not here to make people change there minds. I most definitely do not knock on doors or stand at Tally Ho corner trying to convert people towards my way of thinking. I am quite happy in my belief that Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc are just modern day versions of Sun worship, but if people wish to believe in their religion, I am happy for them to do so as long as it does not affect me. I am here because you write a very good local political blog. I made my comments on your post a couple of days ago because of your comment - "It is fair to say that faith schools generally provide a higher standard of education". As you probably now realise that is something that I do not believe is correct and will comment about with sources to back it up.

The thing I most vehemently believe is that there is no place for religion in modern day politics and education, especially where taxpayers money is being used in their promotion. What I want to see is the separation of Church and State. I also believe that the faith school system is discriminatory and children should not be separated because of the religion of their parents. This is even more so at the moment with rising tensions over race and religion.

Rog T said...


I believe in separation of Church and state. A state religion, be it CofE, RC, Islam or Athiesm cannot be defended as such things are a matter of private conscience.

Education is a different matter. It strikes me that the anti faith school lobby is really the anti faith lobby. It seems to me that there is an objection to people raising their children within their own tradition.

I am rather disturbed by your talk of "rising tensions over race and religion". I do not recognise this as being an accurate description of the UK. We generally have good race and inter faith relations. I would be most disturbed if the humanist lobby was "talking up" the BNP purely as a tool to beat the faith lobby. I would say we are more integrated now than ever. At the last elections the extremist parties were wiped out in London.

I don't mind having a discussion about issues here, but I object to such parties being talked up. I'm sure that wasn't your intention, but I guarantee that such organisations will welcome interventions in such terms.

Thanks for the compliments re the local politics side of the blog.

Moaneybat said...


Mrs Angry said...

baarnett: maybe when you believe in something, it creates its own reality. That sounds a bit Walt Disney, I admit.
Chris: show me a secular state school where children from all cultures and religions are truly integrated and do not live effectively separate existences in and out of school, and I might be persuaded that is the way forward. The other problem is that unless you ban all selective and independent schools, the aim of integrated education would never be attained: and there is no way on earth that you would ever abolish the selective/private sector.
And now I am off to say the rosary for you naughty atheists. Or I would if I could remember how to.

Moaneybat said...

However, Rog is quite right in suggesting the danger of the far right and the BNP because my only criticism of 'Laïcité' in France and Belgium, it can be used to discriminate rather than seperate.

Rog T said...

My trips to Eastern Europe & USSR in the 1980's and China in 1990 radically changed my views on Athiesm and religion. Interestingly France has one of the largest extreme right parties, although I don't think that is because of secularism.