February 24, 2009
I fully intended to write this as soon as I got back from London, but one thing and another have stacked up and I’m doing this to take a break from essaying. It’s a relief to write my own opinion on something I care about instead of just the opinion that will get me marks on something boring.
So on Thursday, Andre and I travelled down to London to represent the Humanist Society at the official launch of the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies at Conway Hall, home of the Ethical Society. The AHS is the umbrella union we were talking about creating a year ago in order to share ideas and resources with all the other irreligious societies around the UK. We held the inaugural conference in David Hume Tower over the summer, and Stuart and Greg attended the second conference in Leeds. It was a superb venue, and one that the AHS will be able to use again for other big events in the future.
The launch itself was attended by such prominent figures such as Richard Dawkins, AC Grayling, Polly Toynbee and Maryam Namazie. I already had Dawkins sign my copy of Unweaving the Rainbow at the Edinburgh Science Festival last year, but that’s who most of the others were really excited about. Instead I got a nice message in my copy of AC Grayling’s Against All Gods.
Each of the speakers gave really supportive messages of the idea for the AHS and encouraged us to work as an ideas factory for the movement as a whole. Dawkins also spoke about how evangelical religious organisations did not belong on university campuses as they poisoned minds and disrupted education. Perhaps more importantly, he said that the AHS would be well place to apply for funding from the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Apparently this was a particularly difficult charity to set up, and at one point he needed to clarify to the government what benefits science and reason bring to society, as opposed to religious groups which have no problem.
In any case it was good to finally meet the people I’ve been corresponding with over the internet for some time. We’re thinking the next conference should be in Warwick, but we’ll see. Keep your eyes peeled for media coverage (although a lot of it has already passed – we got a 2 page spread in the Independent and a fair bit of coverage on BBC Radio). More information at:
Be prepared for another post soon as I’ll crave procrastination and this is at least mildly useful.
September 24, 2008
Just a quick one today because I have a lecture soon. Last night I attended a debate between Alistair McBay from the NSS and David Robertson, author of The Dawkins Letters, entitled ‘Is Faith in God a Delusion?’ Frustratingly, neither party seemed intent on answering the question at hand. Basically, Alistair pointed out a few of the strange things that religious people believe, and outlined the position of the NSS in its fight against the “religious demand for inequality”. David replied by repeatedly calling atheism a “faith” and a “religion”, saying that to a certain extent you have to take everything on faith. His main point, however, was that when you’re talking about this kind of thing, you can’t take in your own preconceptions about what you can count as evidence. This is what I want to discuss.
His inclusion of the word ‘preconceptions’ of course makes atheists sound closed-minded. But I’d like to meet the Christian who approached the subject totally open-mindedly, examining all the evidence not only from science but also from all religions and cultures around the world, and rationally came to the conclusion not only that God exists, but specifically the personal Christian God who intervenes in our lives on a day to day basis. I doubt it would ever happen.
The fact is that although there is no definitive boundary between what we can class as evidence and what we can’t, there is a spectrum as to what we can count as good evidence and what we can count as bad evidence. Here are the 10 evidences for the existence of God as Robertson lays out in The Dawkins Letters, as taken from the blog “Why Believe”
- The human mind and spirit
- Our inbuilt moral law
- The existence of evil
- Human desire to find God through ‘religion’
- Personal experience
- The true Church
- The Bible
- Jesus as revealed through the Gospels
Now, let’s be honest, a lot of this isn’t what we would call good evidence. Some of them are the same idea repeated, some of them are just as good evidence for God as against, some of them don’t really make sense at all. It just so happens, apparently, that all the good, hard, tangible evidence is on the side of science, whereas the soft, mushy, bad evidence is on the side of religion. And Robertson seemingly expects us to give them each equal weighting. I disagree. Maybe later when I have more time I’ll go through each of these evidences one by one.