Archive for the ‘Secularism’ Category

“The picture of religion that emerges from New Atheism is a caricature and both misrepresents and underestimates its real New Atheism RIPcharacter”. Caspar Melville Beyond New Atheism, in the Guardian

Caspar Melville, a defender of New Atheism (at least up until yesterday) seems to suggest that this movement is a FAD (my own interpretation) and might have reached its end of the road and now it is time to move beyond New Atheism. In this article he seems to suggest that New Atheism, and its prophets (where he is one among them), are wrong in a lot of things. He is not shy to also admit that there is (or there was?) an economic benefit for this a-religious movement (they did not manage to build themselves an equivalent to a ‘Vatican state’ yet). It is no doubt that the High Priest Dawkins has also pocketed a small fortune from this enterprise.

I wonder how will this ‘beyond New Atheism’ look like? Suggestions please.

Mark Vernon attended the event Caspar Melville mentions in his article wrote a post about it on his blog. Not sure what agenda was/is beyond this apparent ‘shift’?


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Whenever I hear Christians bashing ‘secularism’ I wonder what do they mean and have they really considered what secularism is before joining the bandwagon. I wonder if secularism (as a concept) has been hijacked (as humanism has been) by extreme ideologies which skew its meaning to either get popularity or to find a hobby horse. In this process the concept is emptied of it’s wider meaning and devalued. For example modern humanism traces it’s birth within the Christian context – and I am bemused how today is used with such impunity to claim exclusion of faith.

Last week I heard the Pope bash again secularism as one of the ills of our society. While I agree that the Catholic Church might have an axe to grind with secularism – as the arrival of secularism announced the demise of political power for the Catholic Church – I don’t understand why this has to be a threat to Christians and their faith. The Protestant church, to my knowledge (and I am not a church historian), has been an advocate of secularism (well with some exceptions) since the Reformation. Secularism for me in simple terms means separating the political from religious and in practical terms making a safe space for all where religion does not dictate to society what to do but at the same time it is not excluded from society – an alternative to theocracy. Secularism per-se does not, and cannot, eliminate faith out of the public sphere – otherwise it looses it’s core principle – neutrality. Secularism is not atheism.

Simon Barrow with other members of Ekklesia have done recently a good amount of work to try and reclaim secularism as a concept.

Evan Harris published at the weekend a Secularist Manifesto in the Guardian which I find to fit with what I think secularism is. There is nothing in this manifesto that I could not say amen to and I don’t think many Christians would object to the ethos of this manifesto (some Christians though might find some aspects harder to accept). Here are the main points:

“A manifesto for secularist change would look like this:

1. Protect free religious expression that does not directly incite violence or crimes against others or publicly and directly cause someone distress or alarm.

2. End discrimination against nonreligious belief systems or organisations.

3. End unjustified religious discrimination


I would be interested in feedback.

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The coordinator of the atheist bus campaign, Ariane Sherine, has just announced that the final phase of atheist (last ‘installments’) bus adverts are being displayed this week in London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast (the capitals), however not on buses this time but on billboards! The adverts target the indoctrination of children.

I wonder whether one could argue that the neo-atheists are in their turn a kind of indoctrinating preachers? Should not Dawkins’ children summer camps be seen also as ‘indoctrinating’ camps? I hope that Ariane sees the irony of this last campaign!

Here is the poster as published on the Guardian site:

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A polemic started on Guardian website on whether a schism begins to emerge within the atheist ‘movement’ (but some don’t even see atheism as a movement). The polemic is getting hotter and hotter (by the day, if not the hour). It was started by Michael Ruse with an article “Dawkins et al bring us into disrepute”.

In this article Ruse unleashes a devastating attack against “new atheism”, seeing it as dangerous as all religious forms of fundamentalism. Here is the final paragraph from Ruse’s article. 

“Back in 1961, in the depths of the cold war, terrified as we were by the threat of nuclear annihilation, John Whitcomb Junior and Henry Morris published The Genesis Flood, a six-day-creationist account of origins. Because of its dispensationalist message – God clears things out every now and then, as he did at the time of Noah, and we should expect the next (literal) blow up fairly shortly – it became the fundamentalist bible. But don’t worry. It’s all part of God’s plans, even the Russian bomb. Today, nearly a decade after 9/11, terrified as so many still are by the terrorist threat, the atheistic fundamentalists are finding equally fertile soil for their equally frenetic messages. It’s all the fault of the believers, Muslims mainly of course, but Christians also. But don’t worry. In the God Delusion, we have a message as simplistic as in The Genesis Flood. This too will solve all of your problems. Peace and prosperity await you in this world, if not the next.

Forgive me if I don’t sign on”.

I am looking forward to see where the debate will go.

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Henry Potter poses some legitimate questions in this article, The right to offend. See how many agree with him.

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Today’s Sunday Times reports on a study on children’s brains, which not only suggests that humans are born with the inner ability to believe in God, but it also suggests that religious belief has played a significant role in the ‘survival’ and development of human society. Mr Dawkins might have to sharpen his pencil for a little while longer! But then again he might say, I told you so, faith is a childish experience. But one thing I can be sure of: the debate will go on and on for much longer.

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Kenan Malik’s observation that religion today has become more a badge of identity or belonging than what is traditionally understood, as a search for spirituality and divine could be valid for some (and that could be a significant number of people), but I think there is more to it than that.

What do you think?

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