As we know, the majority of the mainstream news media doesn’t really deal with news anymore. It is predominantly a vehicle for opinions of news that might have happened if the press release it was found in was true or sentences taken out of context to inspire a contrarian view that actually reflects a majority bigotry.
For a few years now, “the new atheism” has been very handy for inspiring ill-thought out pieces filled with conjecture that masquerades as hard fact. Often the piece will start off with the author declaring their hatred of fundamentalist religion. They’ll then go on to say they only thing they hate more than female genital mutilation, sanctioned concealment of child abuse and the executions of homosexuals, more often than not based on flawed readings of texts, are some scientists or comedians saying they don’t believe in deities. This has created what I believe to be a predominantly false war between atheists and the religious – some of my best friends eat the body of Christ on a Sunday.
In an interview with Rowan Williams last week, Frank Skinner said, ‘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.’ This annoyed a few atheists as rationalists and evidence fetishists (that I imagine is what Ann Coulter will one day call any empiricist) don’t like being compared to global warming deniers. My presumption of what he meant is that people like me will miss out on salvation and have a post death existence of infinite agony. I am not sure exactly what the Catholic stance is on non believers entry to heaven but I imagine we might not be in the priority queue. In some ways, Frank Skinner’s statement was made out of compassion. Frank once told me that he suggested a programme to a BBC exec where the two of us traveled around Europe looking at great religious sites and areas of scientific interest (one moment the Large Hadron Collider the next Chartres – they weren’t very interested apparently)
Cristina Odone decided to waste the word count given to her by the Telegraph to bang on about Skinner’s interview.
Apparently Frank Skinner has “taken on the establishment that loves him” and we must stop giving in to atheists in popular entertainment. As any Television viewer knows, it is nearly all atheist shows – Dancing on Ice, Strictly Come Dancing, The X Factor, Red or Black, Midsomer Murders – you name the TV show, I’ll show you the unconcealed god denying agenda. Oh you might think that when someone thanks God on the X Factor they mean God, but no, they mean Great Old Dawkins.
Odone says that Skinner “by outing himself as a believer” has stuck two fingers up to the liberal establishment. The only problem is, if his fingers were up (place anal fingering joke here) then they went up many years ago. Skinner has openly spoken and written about his religion for many years. When he was away on location at weekends, the researchers would be asked to find the address of the nearest Catholic church so he could go and worship on a Sunday. Of course the researchers, who were all Communists and under direct command of an M like Christopher Hitchens who secretly runs all telly, told him to fuck off – except they didn’t. If, as Cristina Odone declares, the atheists are in charge of the media, why have they let her into it? Because she lives in a paranoid fiction where she takes the fashionable position of anyone who is anyway questioned “oh it’s so unfair, I’m the victim here, don’t you see”.
After rabbiting on about how the atheists are in charge, Cristina then declares that Skinner is not alone and names a few high profile Christians who just happen to have profile media jobs. In summary , it seems you are not allowed to be in the media nowadays if you are a Christian and to prove my point here are some high profile Christians who run some of the media.
Oh crikey, I’m so sorry, I am boring myself now.
If, as Odone seems to think, Christians are embarrassed to admit they are Christians, that is nothing to do with atheists. Milton Jones, one of the finest comedians working in this country as far as I’m concerned, is a Christian. I have had many interesting conversations with him on the subject and I don’t remember any coy, blushing moment where he wept in a dressing room as he revealed to me his secret shame. I don’t know of any comedian who behind Tim Vine’s back whispers with vitriol “those jokes are all well and good, but you know the idiot is one of them Abrahamics”.
This is another case of a newspaper article creating a false them and us situation in the desperate hope it will become true.
That’s not to say that some atheists , including myself, don’t get mouthy sometimes and that Richard Dawkins can seem very grouchy on occasion, though rarely as grouchy or hateful as the hate mail he receives from presumably old testament believers who haven’t heard the good news.
For vocal atheists it is important to remember that just because someone is religious, it doesn’t mean that they are a creationist homophobe waiting eagerly to be taken up during the rapture. Though it is not only atheists that can make this mistake. The Infinite Monkey Cage received a complaint from a Christian that by mocking creationism we were mocking all Christians. I believe this will be news to the Christians I know who have balanced their belief in a god with an understanding and acceptance of the theory of evolution. Sadly, falling viewing figures and fears of low circulation lead to each group being represented by the most extreme members. If you need a Muslim hook hands are preferred, if you need a Christian then call on Stephen Green who titles his gang Christian voice and creates the illusion to overworked researchers that he might actually be the voice of British Christians, something which greatly displeases the Christians I have spoken to.
so much is written about “attacking” religion when it is just questioning it. If to question something is to attack it then let all future wars be fought using the medium of pub quiz.
THE PLUG – my 2014 tour mixes up Skeptics in the Pub gigs, Shambles shows with Josie Long and Grace Petrie, and my new solo show about the mind. Off to Leeds, York, Hull, Norwich, Nottingham, Edinburgh, Bristol and lots more. All dates HERE
I know you’re being facetious, but war as pub quiz – that’s a bloody good idea. Kevin off of the Eggheads would be like Alexander the Great.
“if to question something is to attack it then let all future wars be fought using the medium of pub quiz.” Heh! Fabulous.
Any tribal (or just cynical) attempts to enflame a ‘Them & Us’ situation are always tiresome.
Frank Skinner, though, has read The God Delusion. Is a funny, likeable man who will be aware of most of the things any atheist could throw at him. So exactly why he remains a catholic will continue to be a source of bafflement to some. And to me. I find it interesting in a non-tribal way.
If we can get to the bottom of that. Sensibly, psychologically, and factually. Then that would be a step towards ‘understanding’ the WHOLE THING. Whereas currently, we tend to be presented with ‘group Vs group’ ideas, or explanations as to why the ‘group Vs group’ perception is flawed. But either way, gets too focussed on mud-slinging.
“Frank Skinner, though, has read The God Delusion. Is a funny, likeable man who will be aware of most of the things any atheist could throw at him. So exactly why he remains a catholic will continue to be a source of bafflement to some. And to me.”
“If we can get to the bottom of that. Sensibly, psychologically, and factually. Then that would be a step towards ‘understanding’ the WHOLE THING.”
I know plenty of Christians who’ve read The God Delusion, myself included. I don’t reckon it’s necessary to get into a debate about it here – there’s already a lot of literature both critiquing and defending Dawkins – but what it comes down to is that Dawkins’ intended attack on religion is in fact only relevant to a relatively small number of religious people. Most Christians (in the UK, at least) are perfectly happy to accept evolution, and that the Bible contains inconsistencies (if read as if it were one continuous narrative, which it isn’t), and that there are tough passages particularly in the OT (such as Deuteronomy 7:2) that need to be read historico-critically, and that religion has been used as a vehicle for the abuse of power on many occasions, &c. &c.. Much of what Dawkins writes isn’t particularly radical, and he’s wrong to think that many of those attacks are relevant to the average religious reader of the book.
The other thing to bear in mind is that, on many counts, he is just plain wrong. His contributions to philosophical arguments about God’s existence are several centuries out of date, and his general assumption that people believe in the existence of God in the same way that they might believe in the existence of fairies or Father Christmas reveals a profound misunderstanding of the epistemological mindset of most religious people. His arguments are rooted in the assumption that philosophical materialism is the only rational way to talk about our experiences, and that is something that most religious people will fundamentally disagree with (though not necessarily using those terms). Again, this isn’t about whether he’s right or not – I’m just trying to point out some of the inadequacies of his arguments from a religious perspective.
Skinner quip in the interview with the Archbishop sort of got at your question a bit: “People dancing are thought mad by those who cannot hear the music.”
Well put… The thing that really burdens me, is that if Skinner was to be assumed right about there being “terrible consequences” at the “end”… Then surely if he’s picked the wrong god or wrong religion, then the consequences would be far worse?
It depresses me because evangelism has and always has been a major part of almost every religion. You’re meant to talk about it, tell people about it, spread the word. And that’s fine. But now atheists are doing the same thing and suddenly it’s not fair.
One rule for the religious, another for atheists. Because there is an old book that has their rule in it so it must be more important right? The funny thing is if you replace ‘atheist’ with ‘muslim’ in that article you get a piece that even the Mail would shy away from publishing.
Awesome job sir!
Something of this “Atheists Control the media” argument strikes me as a bit dirty, and reminds me of how people used to claim the Jews control the media in Hollywood etc.
Wrong then and wrong when applied to atheists.
It’s rather baffling why Frank, who seems a generally intelligent and humane man, would be so enthusiastic about a god that punishes people for a thought crime. Hell was one of the concepts that first pushed me away from religion at a young age. It’s repellent. Disappointing that Skinner buys into it.
“The Infinite Monkey Cage received a complaint from a Christian that by mocking creationism we were mocking all Christians. I believe this will be news to the Christians I know who have balanced their belief in a god with an understanding and acceptance of the theory of evolution.”
Not really, generally when people mock creationism they adopt a scatter gun methodology that ends up insulting all Christians. They can bluster all they like but just as there may be debate in atheism there may be debate in Christianity and a lot of atheists don’t seem to realise that.
well, on the show I am talking about a brief mention of creationism led to the Christian’s complaint, we did not then mock religion. As i said before the sentences you quoted, it is important not to presume that because someone is religious they are immediately a crazed fundamentalist believing the nuttiest ideas
Excellent article. As one of those non-Creationist Christians who get flack from both sides (by being a liberal Christian you are supporting the atheists/by being a liberal Christian you are a quisling for the Creationists), there is a commonality between both the aggressive groups, which is nothing at all to do with opinions about God. Both groups, anti-Christians and anti-atheists, see the existence of people who significantly disagree with them as troubling, and can find threat where there is very little threat. The issue is not a theological or scientific one, it’s a personality thing. Instead of starting from where we are (ie intelligent people believing contrary things) they start from where they want us to be. If we could see it as a personality issue rather than a dogmatic or scientific one, it might help to put it in its appropriate context, if not resolve the problem.
Rob, you’re a poof.
All this seems like is you, a ‘funny man’, sticking up for another ‘funny man’ (though last time Frank Skinner was funny was in Packet of 3). This at the expense of a nasty journalist.
Frank said what he said and got a shoeing for it. You’re criticising Christina for being a knobhead, and yet you fail to criticise Frank in the first place. Either say nothing about either of them, or show some impartiality.
And no, I’m not Christina’s mum either. I couldn’t give a rat’s ass for her or Frank.
Love and hugs,
(Yes, THAT one).
it wasn’t about sticking up for Frank Skinner, it was about the creation of a myth. The fact I disagree with Skinner’s position has nothing to do with the misinformation in Odone’s article, they are separate issues.
And Frank didn’t create a myth either when he said ‘Atheists we might see as people like those who deny global warming’ ? What Frank meant to say was ‘I see Atheists like people who deny global warming’.
Do the religious really see atheists in this way, or was Frank being mischevious?
(Yes, her… genuinely her)
I think I’d like to see a Today Programme adversarial-style interview with Stephen Green on one side ‘representing’ Christianity and Tim Vine on the other side, simply being a Christian.
Great stuff thanks for this. Most of the Christians I know much prefer to campaign against nuclear weapons and FOR peace than worry about who’s doing what with who in the privacy of their own bedrooms provided they’re both (all?) consenting adults of course.
The fact is that the ‘ok’ ones, the moderate, unassuming church goers do so for a reason. It gives them comfort and social structure, and a motivation to be a better person.
Yes, I know it isn’t necessary to be religious to have a sense of morality, I’m an atheist and doing ok, although I do say cunt and fuck too much, but until atheism, in whichever humanist guise, can replace this then people will keep building that straw house back up, no matter how many times it’s blown down.
Nice one Robin
I think Frank was just giving a modern take on an old philosophy of religion argument that sort of goes:
‘If I’m right then you’re wrong. If I’m wrong, then there shouldn’t be a problem.’
I guess we can’t all agree with whether that argument works or not, but that’s the point really.
I do get pissed of with the use of stereotyping in the area of faith & belief. There doesn’t seem to be any room for people (like me) who are pretty orthodox in their Christian beliefs but pretty liberal from a social perspective, or conversely, considered atheists who are also homophobic or racist.
I think it seems to come from some idea that people who have some belief or opinion about god must necessarily be quite angry. Have they even seen the Church of England?
That argument may be consistent; but it’s not very helpful. I can accept the logic that if there’s no god, it’s not a problem for the religious, but if there is a god it could be a problem for the irreligious (and the religious who accidentally read the wrong book).
But I still don’t believe; and the risk of being punished by a callous and spiteful potential being doesn’t make me believe. Indeed, being told that this omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being is such a childish bully makes it even more difficult for me to take the possibility seriously.
well, it’s just the old Pascal’s wager argument really. As Dave allen said , i think God might prefer atheists because they don’t keep bothering him all the time
Yeah, I can’t say I was ever convinced that the argument could convince anyone to change their beliefs. It feels like an attempt to make believers feel more comfortable.
With the reading the wrong book thing and the childish, bullying God thing – I think those issues are far deeper than the broad-brush way that they get discussed in atheist/theist debates.
I was driven to such levels of confused anger by that John Gray piece that I briefly thought I could launch a comedy career for myself about being angry and confused.
Even after three readings I still can’t work out what the heck he’s trying to say, the best I’ve managed is that “People shouldn’t believe anything, therefore religious people shouldn’t have their beliefs questioned”.