Thursday, December 21, 2006

Respecting believers

Timothy Garton Ash has a good piece in CiF where he argues that it is possible to respect believers without respecting what they believe.

He's right - although it's a bit like when Christians go on about hating the sin whilst loving the sinner in that the maxim tends to be honoured more in the breach rather than the observance.

There's a reason for this, I think. While Christians may profess to believe that everyone is a sinner and they are only saved by grace - deep down I suspect many don't really believe or feel this. This leaves them, despite their protestations to the contrary, with an inability to love the sinner because they really think they are not like them.

Same with many atheists. Their inability to respect believers stems from their self-image as people motivated purely by reason, and who - unlike the believer - have no space in their hearts and minds where they embrace irrationality.

I'm not going to excite any hardcore atheists by describing their position as a belief. It isn't. Interesting, though, the way that in this case belief and non-belief both produce in people the illusion that they are a different order of human being.

16 comments:

Anonymous said...

"more in the breech"

That would be the artillery version of the problem, I suppose.

Teachers, eh?

Shuggy said...

Commentors: more efficient than spell-checkers - albeit a bit slower.

Don said...

' self-image as people motivated purely by reason,...'

Excuse me? as an atheist I'll have you know I am motivated be greed, fear, lust, envy, vanity, malice and existential despair just as much as I am by reason.

David Duff said...

"[I]t is possible to respect believers without respecting what they believe".

For me, just at this moment, a very apt remark. I have just finished a history of 'The Red Orchestra', the communist espionage 'apparats' set up in western Europe by the Soviets in the '30s and '40s. Naturally, the Gestapo were soon on the hunt and, in another context, if I hear anyone else tell me that torture doesn't work I shall recommend this book! They were mostly rolled up by 1943 and suffered in much the same way, I guess, as the early Christians. Incredibly brave, most of them, but one can't help wondering at such fortitude and courage suffered under the regime of one monster in furtherence of the interests of yet another, even worse, monster.

And at the risk of boring for Britain, I still maintain that atheism *is* a belief.

My seasonal greetings to you and yours and thanks for an always interesting blog.

james higham said...

...While Christians may profess to believe that everyone is a sinner and they are only saved by grace - deep down I suspect many don't really believe or feel this...

This is a circular argument. The very definition of Christian is someone reborn and for that to happen, you must have been a naughty boy [or girl].

Original sin is another matter of course.

james higham said...

By the way, something nice happen to your blog? Love the colour.

FlyingRodent said...

I agree entirely, Shuggy.

I'm an atheist, and believe that religious types are nought but a crowd of self-deluding fantasists.

Yet, at the same time, I believe fervently that Celtic are on the verge of Champion's League triumph.

Who's fooling themselves more profoundly?

dearieme said...

Christians are atheists too - I mean they don't believe in Jupiter or Thor or fairies at the bottom of their gardens. It's just that they have one wee gap in their disbelief. My disbelief is more consistent, that's all.

Shuggy said...

Christians are atheists too


Isn't that what the crowd in the Circus used to shout - "Send out the atheists"?

James Burns said...

There is a different dynamic to religion which is altogether ignored by traditional reactive critiques, and it is perhaps the greatest indictment.

It's the fact that religions are merely political choices. This is why so many religious people hide behind the defence of being 'offended' by a political attack on their belief.

I respect the athiest inside every religious person struggling to get out, and nout else.

Since the totality of the political arena is in flux it would be a politcal mistake to allow the wiggleroom of Voltaire's philospohy to be seen as reasonable.

Beatrice Hall
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."
-- The Friends of Voltaire, 1906

I can't agree with that. Religions are political movements responsible for far too much human prostitution, enslavement, suffering and alienation.

dearieme said...

That last comment applies in spades to the 20th century socialist movements, of course.

James Burns said...

I'd be much happier to have and win a political argument with a religious nut about what to do with the world, socialize it or fight to the death over it, than debate whether the tool that gives his political masters their authority and mind control exists or does not exist.

Shuggy said...

It's the fact that religions are merely political choices.

This is quite wrong. The allegiance people show to their religions belongs to the opposite range of human attachments - those formed by birth, rather than choice. Where I would agree with you is that, given any holy book is capable of a number of different interpretations, the manner in which it expresses itself socially is a political choice.

This is why so many religious people hide behind the defence of being 'offended' by a political attack on their belief.

I don't think they're hiding - at least not most of them. Most of the 'offence' is sincerely felt, in my view. But again where I would agree with you is in the utter repudiation of the idea that the easily offended have an extra layer of human rights - which is what I think you're getting at.

David Duff said...

Not that I'm an expert in either but on the whole, taken in the round, by and large, as it were, my impression is that the ten commandments are a better basis for a civilised life than the Communist Manifesto.

And in my view it is not politics or religion that are "responsible for far too much human prostitution, enslavement, suffering and alienation" but people!

James Burns said...

heh. Well, without rising to the scatterbrained conservative bait lying around here about history and socialism, I'd like to say that it does become your choice once your an adult.

And yeah I know the arguments well, so, despite what the jesuits said - I reckon people just need a pinch of encouragement to get clean of their religious habits. i.e.:

60 per cent of people in Britian regard themselves as Christian.

30 per cent of people in Britain say they are religious.

I think secularist sense is quietly coming whether the flat earthers like it or not.

David Duff said...

James, I don't wish to be argumentative during this festival celebrating what has been so beautifully expressed in the age-old words: 'Forcibly expropriate from each according to what they're worth and give it to those who support us' - ooops, sorry, wrong one, I mean 'Peace and goodwill unto all men', but how many people do you know whose own self-assesment matches the observable facts? Or to put it another way, all polls are poop!

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