The Power and The Glory

Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity | Richard Dawkins | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

Should Ratzinger, then, be welcomed as the head of a church? By all means, if individual Catholics wish to overlook his many transgressions and lay out the red carpet for his designer red shoes, let them do so. But don’t ask the rest of us to pay. Don’t ask the British taxpayer to subsidise the propaganda mission of an institution whose wealth is measured in the tens of billions: wealth for which the phrase “ill-gotten” might have been specifically coined. And spare us the nauseating spectacle of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and assorted lord lieutenants and other dignitaries cringing and fawning sycophantically all over him as though he were somebody we should respect.

There are many things that get on my wick about Richard Dawkins. And this paragraph highlights one of them. Yeah, he’s big into the extreme voluntarism of having the power to turn against our creators. But in his own case, this power doesn’t even go as far as realising that the spectacle of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh is already nauseating, without the need to add the Pope to it. What does Dawkins think the Queen is for? To show respect to people ‘we’ should respect? What does he think about the propaganda mission of that other institution ‘whose wealth is measured in the tens of billions: wealth for which the phrase “ill-gotten” might have been specifically coined’: the British Crown? Oh. He thinks it should have nothing to with the Pope. Well whoop-de-do.

Advertisements

7 Responses to “The Power and The Glory”


  1. 1 atheocrat September 23, 2010 at 12:44 pm

    No idea why you should think that Dawkins should hold the establishment in great respect. Can you provide a quote from one of his books or interviews that suggests as much?

    Let me put it another way. I personally think the monarchy should be abolished. Yet I could happily have written the above (Dawkins quote), because the excruciating mutual sycophancy between those two autocratic institutions in my opinion makes each look even more foolish.

    As for the implied slight against your alleged creators, well the overreaction from believers is getting rather boring and predictable. Religions claim the moral high ground. Secular humanists and others are challenging that perception with logic, and a touch of hyperbole now and again. When we start flying places into high buildings, feel free to get justifiably upset.

  2. 2 Hugh Green September 23, 2010 at 2:13 pm

    They’re not ‘my’ alleged creators.

    “Memes, The New Replicators”

    We can even discuss ways of deliberately cultivating and nurturing pure, disinterested altruism — something that has no place in nature, something that has never existed before in the whole history of the world. We are built as gene machines and cultured as meme machines, but we have the power to turn against our own creators.

    And it is not a question of Dawkins venerating the establishment, but the fact that he focuses on specifically religious power and is broadly silent on other forms of illegitimate power.

    Also, I find your demagoguery about secular humanists revoltingly sectarian. I’m a secular humanist: you don’t speak for me.

  3. 3 atheocrat September 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    If you were referring to rebelling against our genetic and memetic drives above rather than the more usual perception of a creator, that wasn’t particularly obvious in your blog.

    Because he concentrates on one particular area of concern doesn’t mean that Dawkins holds the privileged members of the British establishment in any higher regard than the Church of Rome. Nor does it diminish his arguments in any way. Your rationale seems to be that as Dawkins criticises religion rather than certain other privileged elites, he is some kind of hypocrite and/or his arguments somehow carry less weight.

    We are entitled as individuals to address specific issues, and that is what Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens etc are doing. It is pure sophism to suggest that they and their arguments are somehow diminished by concentrating on their fields of expertise.

    I have not the slightest desire to talk for you or any other secular humanist. Mentioning the horrors that result from religious extremism and pointing out that a shirty Dawkins is hardly guilty of “aggression” in comparison? An appeal to emotion with which most people can identify. Less of the hyperbole and unsupported nonsense about sectarianism and I wouldn’t have been moved to respond either to your superficial blast at Dawkins, or to your testy reply.

    • 4 Hugh Green September 23, 2010 at 4:21 pm

      ‘It is pure sophism to suggest that they and their arguments are somehow diminished by concentrating on their fields of expertise.’

      Religion is not Dawkins’s ‘field’ of expertise, but there is no requirement that he or anyone else should confine his or her activities to such a field. My problem with Dawkins is that his characterisation of religious practice and experience (witness the remark about Jesus turning into a wafer) is simplistic in the extreme, and relies on a distinction between the religious and the secular which, if we are talking about systems of illegitimate power, is both mystifying and sectarian.

      Mentioning the horrors that result from religious extremism

      This is precisely the sort of distinction I am talking about. How can you talk about specifically religious extremism as though this were some sort of transhistorical essence? Yes, all manner of atrocities have been perpetrated on account of religion. But religion and state power are and have been closely intertwined all over the place. You cannot talk about religious extremism as though this were extricable from the state.

      And another thing about ‘religious extremism’. Why should such an extremism always involve violence and oppression? Couldn’t you just as easily claim that religious extremism entails standing up to oppression?

  4. 5 Eoin September 23, 2010 at 9:35 pm

    Grey area warning, atheocrat may wish to look away now: I work for the Irish Catholic bishops, I would think of myself as a humanist, my life is mostly ‘secular’ (whatever that is) and, wait for it, I agree with what Hugh is saying. Sometimes I find myself in agreement with priests I work with, sometimes I argue with them. (Seems like all replies in blogs are ‘testy’, especially those we disagree with.) Dawkins and friends advocate a humanism that somehow exists as a point zero, external to context, meaning, performance and belief in anything. We can only understand the boundaries of the secular if we know the boundariess of the religious. Both are about power.

    Religious belief can no more validate God’s existence than science can muons.

    Mark Vernon has a good piece here: http://gu.com/p/2jpnj

  5. 6 atheocrat September 27, 2010 at 7:44 am

    “My problem with Dawkins is that his characterisation of religious practice and experience (witness the remark about Jesus turning into a wafer) is simplistic in the extreme”

    Some religionists who have been on the receiving end of his incisive arguments in debate might beg to differ. There is also a certain irony in your sweeping and generally unsupported statements about Dawkins, given your criticisms of his “simplistic” approach to religion. I realise you were to a degree writing a blog for effect, but in some respects that is precisely what Dawkins is doing. Sometimes appeals to emotion – based largely on fact in my opinion – are the only way get us to sit up and take notice when so many other distractions are competing for our attention. Fundamentalist believers – call some of them traditionalists if you prefer – circumcise young girls, encourage the spread of AIDS by disseminating the lie that condoms don’t work, preach that a zygote is somehow human, have seriously hampered the speed of stem cell research, subjugate women, define homosexuals as some kind of sub-human, indoctrinate children from a very early age, perceive both non-believers and followers of other religions as somewhere between enemies, damned, and outright evildoers. Fly planes into buildings full of innocent civilians. I could go on, at great length. Of course not all of them do all of these things, but I’m sure you get my drift.

    It goes without saying that not only religionists are responsible for some of these ‘sins’, but this in no way diminishes the criticisms levelled against certain elements of the religious establishment as well as its fundamentalist offshoots. Address these arguments, don’t make simplistic attacks on individuals such as Dawkins. Dawkins would be the first to agree that religious extremism isn’t some kind of isolated phenomenon. He’s a neo-Darwinist after all, and no doubt has a somewhat better understanding of the evolution of the behavioural mechanisms at work than you or I, given his principal field of expertise!

    I’ve no idea why you should think that the state and religious extremism are inextricably linked. They are on occasion, of course. On other occasions the only link is that the state is the target of religious extremism.

    I don’t follow why you should wish to confuse the issue by characterising religious extremism as standing up to oppression. I thought – correct me if I’m wrong – that one aim of religion, in the moderate, liberal sense, was standing against social injustice. Yes I know, the extremists ‘believe’ that their cause is just – based on whatever mythology they consider to be the inerrant word of whichever god. Which is why some of them think that stopping girls from going to school by pouring acid on their faces is acceptable. Some justice.

    Eoin:

    Dawkins is obviously – once again, given the evolutionary psychology offshoot of his main area of expertise – perfectly aware of all the influences on humanism, secular or otherwise. And he would be the last person to suggest that humanism represents some kind of arbitrary “belief in anything”, given evolutionary psychology’s theories on the development of morality amongst social animals.

    • 7 Hugh Green September 27, 2010 at 9:57 am

      Some religionists who have been on the receiving end of his incisive arguments in debate might beg to differ.

      Oh yah, and some atheists who have been on the receiving end of Pope Benedict XVI’s incisive arguments in debate might beg to differ. Same cringing veneration.

      There is also a certain irony in your sweeping and generally unsupported statements about Dawkins, given your criticisms of his “simplistic” approach to religion.

      Well, it’s a blog, not a thesis. But I support with Dawkins quotes when required. Like I did in the initial post.

      Of course not all of them do all of these things, but I’m sure you get my drift.

      Look, you can bang on all you want about the revolting activities of religious believers: I don’t disagree that religious believers do all these things. But plenty of religious believers don’t do any of these things. So laying the blame at the foot of religion tout court simply doesn’t follow.

      Address these arguments

      See, this might not seem all that humble of me, but I think my own criticisms of religion are -despite their casual blog format- a lot more useful than those of Dawkins, because they at least try to probe how power and religion are inter-related. You can read some of them
      here, here, here, and here.

      I’ve no idea why you should think that the state and religious extremism are inextricably linked. They are on occasion, of course. On other occasions the only link is that the state is the target of religious extremism.

      Of course they are. Here’s a line from The God Delusion:

      ‘From Kosovo to Palestine, from Iraq to Sudan, from Ulster to the Indian sub-continent, look carefully at any region of the world where you find intractable enmity and violence between rival groups today.’

      Leaving aside the mystifying nonsense about ‘intractable enmity’, these are all areas where state power and imperialism has shaped the development of rival religious identities.

      I don’t follow why you should wish to confuse the issue by characterising religious extremism as standing up to oppression. I thought – correct me if I’m wrong – that one aim of religion, in the moderate, liberal sense, was standing against social injustice.

      I’m not saying religious extremism entails standing up to oppression: I’m saying that just as it might be said that blowing someone up for apostasy is religious extremism, then it could be said with equal legitimacy that standing against social injustice to the point that you’re crucified for it would be extremism too.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s




I on Twitter

September 2010
M T W T F S S
« Aug   Oct »
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

%d bloggers like this: