Motes and Planks

BBC: Archbishop attacks public atheism

The Archbishop of York has condemned what he called the systematic erosion of Christianity from public life.

Dr John Sentamu told lay readers illiberal atheists were undermining Britain's religious heritage.

In exactly the same way, presumably, that the arrival of St Augustine on the Isle of Thanet, the Synod of Whitby, the Protestant Reformation, heliocentrism, Catholic Emancipation, the Theory of Evolution by means of Natural Selection, the legalisation of homosexuality and the enthronement of the first black archbishop all undermined our religious heritage.

Sometimes change can be for the better, archbishop.

The day your practising-gay successor is enthroned by a female Archbishop of Canterbury will be the day, perhaps, on which we should start discussing the issue of illiberal atheists.

See also: AC Grayling: Gotta have faith? (Guardian)

Richard Carter

A fat, bearded chap with a Charles Darwin fixation.


  1. Richard I'm so pleased, almost proud that you wrote that...and I can read this sort of thing in a (hopefully) free country. Everything in this world is change, and though it pains us that some things we held dear are swept away there is so much more of real worth to replace it. I happen to believe that all people are basically good and altruistic (except when pressures of life let us down), and that although the church would like to credit for shaping current western civilization, we would have all turned out this way anyway (give or take a few wars!)So thanx Christianity for a few good hymns and feel good moments, but don't slam the door on the way out. Keith

  2. Keith, I agree with almost everthing you say (especially the bit about all most people basically being good and altruistic—it's when theyorganise themselves intogroups that things often start to go wrong), but you are wrong to credit Christianity with a few good hymns... Nearly all of the good hymns have musical scores stolen from traditional English folk music: it was a way of guaranteeing that common folk would know the tunes when they came to sing them in church. So add plagiarism to the charges against the church.

  3. When I was a baby, my mother took me to be weighed at some clinic or another, in the days when the NHS had such things. She was asked what religion I was; her magnificent reply was that she didn't think I'd made my mind up yet.

    Subsequently, I did make up my mind and I'man atheist.

    Now, I like to think that I'm a liberal atheist and I was certainly raised by liberal atheists (wavering towards agnostic from time to time in father'scase; he was persuaded to have me christened by the cunning argument from the Dean of Jarrow: "Yes, but what happens if you're wrong?") but much more of this nonsense from the Church and illiberality is certainly an option.

    Considering the damage done in the name of organised religion down the ages, it's a bit rich to have the downfall of western civilisation blamed on us non-believers!

  4. My old headmaster-cum-divinity teacher tried to use the Dean of Harrow's argumenton me, although he said it was René Descartes argument. I've just checked Wikipedia, and I think Decartes was being a bit more subtle than that.

    My favourite argument when discussing religion with believers is, if god (small-g) is omniscient, he must know everything I am going to do before I do it, so where does that leave free will? It usually floors them.

    It turns out my argument is far from original, but I was rather pleased with myself when I worked it out for myself at school. I guess that's what having a free will is all about.

  5. 'Archbishop attacks'....people have been attacking in the name of religion for countless centuries. It's a way to rally the population under a communial banner, fill them with hatred& use them to pillage far off lands, in order to line their own pockets. Nothing changes, does it?

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