Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Inexplicable statement of the day

I try not to get cross about my atheism. I think of it as a quiet, personal thing. My default mode is: each to each is what we teach. (Which of course originally came from from each according to his ability etc etc, but which I have bastardised into everyone must think what they will, as long as it is not cruel and unusual.)

The weedy liberal in me thinks: there is good and ill in the religious and the secular. It really is not four legs good, two legs bad. Religion does horrifying things - child abuse, blowing people up, oppression of women - and marvellous things - charity, solace for the afflicted, needed human ritual. Secularists may be anything from the selfless carer to the homicidal maniac.

Then Baroness Warsi comes along and compares me to a totalitarian regime. (Yes, I damn well am taking this personally.) Militant secularism, she says, is taking over society, and demonstrating traits last seen under totalitarians, by which she must mean Stalin, Mao, the Jong-ils, or similar. At which point, the muscular liberal in me stands up and starts shouting about freedom of expression and thought. The pedant starts yelling about intellectual laziness.

I really do try to avoid ad hominem, but this is such a stupid thing to say. It is simplistic, offensive, and empirically incorrect. Why would anyone in public life think this is an interesting or useful thing to state? Quite apart from being provably wrong, it has no utility.

You can read all about her very odd speech here, and see why it made me quite so grumpy. If anyone says anything else like that, I shall have to start going about invading places and getting the populace to perform daily leader worship. Because that is what we secularists really, really like.

The Guardian also covers it here.

Rather brilliant photograph sadly uncredited.


  1. The sad thing about religion is that it has never historically sought to use logic to persuade people. Heaven/Damnation and execution have been much more effective as a sales pitch. Only in recent times but not in all religions is that not a selling point.

  2. Since when did anything have to contain facts or logic to appeal to the swivel-eyed, snorting Daily mail reading public?

  3. @Anonymous: Religion has historically tried to use logic to persuade people. Scholasticism was the dominant philosophical method of the medieval period, and endeavoured (among other things) to prove various facets of religion.

    It probably failed at that particular task. But it did help found universities and a way of thinking that grew into empiricism, and rescued a great deal of Greek philosophy.

    So having disposed of "the sad thing about religion", will you try another line of attack?

  4. Brilliant - a debate is developing. Always wanted one of my posts to fire actual argument, and this is hardly ever achieved. Yes, yes, more points of view, please. :)

  5. Is she a real person? I thought it was some kind of joke.


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