Friday, November 10, 2006

A lesson in sematics

AC Grayling gives the "Theos" thinktank (sic) a well-placed kick in the gonads:
"In the foreword to the confused document produced by the religious thinktank Theos this week the Archbishops of Canterbury and Westminster, in a joint statement whose very existence does the latter great credit given that he officially thinks the former is damned (it is official Roman Catholic doctrine that there is no salvation outside the church), iterate the claim that "atheism is itself a faith position". This is a weary old canard to be set alongside the efforts of the faithful to characterise those who robustly express their attitude towards religious belief as "fundamentalist atheists".

This is classified in logic as an "informal fallacy" known as a "tu quoque" argument. We understand that the faithful live in an inspissated gloaming of incense and obfuscation, through the swirls of which it is hard to see anything clearly, so a simple lesson in semantics might help to clear the air for them on the meanings of "secular", "humanist" and "atheist". Once they have succeeded in understanding these terms they will grasp that none of them imply "faith" in anything, and that it is not possible to be a "fundamentalist" with respect to any of them. I apologise to those who know all this of old, but evidently if our archbishops remain in the dark about such matters, there must still be a need for patient iteration of - what else? - these fundamentals."
He also patiently explains a little of the history of secularism. If you read the Theos report, you'll understand this is a necessary and timely exercise in remedial education.

I've asked rhetorically before but now I'm really starting to wonder - where do we get all these dim clerics from?

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