Britain’s Cultural Divide

According to The Guardian, the “new cultural divide” in Britain is not between different religious sects. It’s between those with faith and those without.

Colin Slee, Dean of Southward, says this:

We are witnessing a social phenomenon that is about fundamentalism… Atheists like the Richard Dawkins of this world are just as fundamentalist as the people setting off bombs on the tube, the hardline settlers on the West Bank and the anti-gay bigots of the Church of England. Most of them would regard each other as destined to fry in hell.

That’s the most questionable, oblivious statement I will hear… until later in the same article. And that’s excluding the fact that atheists do not, in fact, think you are destined to fry in hell.

Atheists are not blowing up buildings. Or stopping you from getting your birth control. Or standing in the way of promising stem-cell research. Or stopping you from getting the same rights as a married couple. Our “religion” (if you want to call it that) is about discussion and tolerance, not violence and bigotry. How are those equal?!

The article’s author, Stuart Jeffries, tries to answer this, but you never seem to hear him mention any truly vile action brought about by an atheist. Nothing that compares to the atrocities that religious fundamentalism has brought.

In fact, when talking about Richard Dawkins, the same article says this:

This is the man so voguishly intemperate that when speaking to the Times recently about Nadia Eweida, the British Airways worker whose employer refused to allow her to wear a Christian cross openly to work, said: “I saw a picture of this woman. She had one of the most stupid faces I’ve ever seen.”

Well, that’s not very nice. But that’s about the extent of it. Dawkins uses strong language to get his point across. Sometimes the strong language is unnecessary. He actually continued that line by saying:

Well, of course, Christians are sodding well allowed to work for British Airways. It’s got nothing to do with it. She is clearly too stupid to see the difference between somebody who wears a cross and somebody who is a Christian.

My point is that if this is one of the best (or rather, worst) examples of “militant” atheism the author can find, it’s a weak case to say “fundamental atheists” are the equivalent of bus-bombing, building destroyers.

Oxford theologian Alister McGrath agrees with Jeffries’ premise, arguing that

The God Delusion might turn out to be a monumental own goal – persuading people that atheism is just as intolerant as the worst that religion can offer.

Dawkins is trying to open up the eyes of those who have never seen anything outside religion. Yes, he can be a jerk about it sometimes, but that’s only in his tone, not his actions. Another writer could publish the same ideas in another voice, and he/she would not be called “militant.”

Say what you will about some of the atheists that get in the media spotlight, they’re harmless when compared to many of the religious spokespeople that get on the airwaves.

If we’re putting faith and non-faith on two sides of a scale, the hatred that is religiously-inspired overwhelmingly tips the whole scale over when compared to the rhetoric of atheists.


[tags]atheist, atheism, The Guardian, Colin Slee, Dean of Southward, fundamentalism, Richard Dawkins, West Bank, Church of England, birth control, stem-cell research, religion, Stuart Jeffries, Nadia Eweida, British Airways, Christian, cross, Oxford, theologian, Alister McGrath, The God Delusion[/tags]

  • emma

    I think it would be useful for people to read Nietzsche on the Ascetic ideal. I’m about to do my 3rd year philosophy exam in nietzsche and think it is fascinating how, one hundred years later, the ‘death of god’ has not yet been achieved. according to nietzsche the overcoming of the will to truth is europe’s fate for the next two hundred years, the age of nihilism. i can but wonder what the next one hundred years will show….


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