Tuesday, 1 March 2011

The 'arrogance' of the New Atheists? What arrogance?

I have taken a little flak in the last week about attending a series of meetings in Oxford.  One of the accusations was along the lines of "how can these people have the arrogance to tell others what to think" followed by the almost inevitable "I'm offended that you seem not to have any respect for my beliefs".  There was more, but this conveys the flavour of the conversation.  The fact that my accuser had not attended any of the said meetings was apparently not relevant.

And yes, I did say 'conversation', even that that sounds quite one-sided.  I have found in recent years that it is best to hold my tongue because my few attempts to reply have made matters even worse.  (The accidental use of the expression 'bronze age myths' a few months ago did not go down too well!)  I didn't even think quickly enough to use the defence that we were not hearing about what to think, but more how to think.

I'm not sure whether my developing thoughts are the result of listening to inspiring speakers this week, and meeting some of them in person, or whether I am beginning to recite the new atheist mantra without realising it.  I am definitely getting fed up of my idealogical heroes being called arrogant though.

So . . . thinking out loud . . . what about:

1/ The clergy-man standing up in the pulpit every Sunday and preaching what to think?  Is that somehow better than what I have been hearing?  If this sermonising is not arrogance what is it?

2/  Prayer groups meet every day within a few minutes drive of my home.  I don't go round knocking on the doors of the participants and telling them how offended I am by their gatherings.

3/  Bible studies take place in our parish regularly.  And yet they only seem to study the 'nice' verses in the old and new testaments.  Isn't that telling each other what to think?  (Or teaching each other which bits not to read?) It is definitely not about how to think.

4/  Finally for now - bible reading notes have been a pet hate of mine for many years, even when I was still a Christian.  Whenever I have picked up a copy of 'Guidelines' or another of those platitudinous little booklets I find phrases that make my flesh crawl.  Picking one up now, and opening it at random I read "It is the duty of every Christian, like a lawyer in a court room, to be able to respond to the questions of non-believers coherently and persuasively".  I hope none of them ever have to represent me in court then!

So which side is the greater purveyor of arrogance?  OK, some of the New Atheists are more outspoken than others.  But this week I have heard no ranting from the pulpit (and certainly I have heard that in churches).  I have just enjoyed the reasonable and well presented opinions of reasonable women and men.


Panda said...

Well the flak didn't come from me! lol Coming from a "christian", I have no issue with you going to what ever kind of meeting you want to go to. You can go and listen to a monkey ohh and ahh at you for all I care! That is your right to do that and none of my business to tell you to go or not go.
What I do have is issues with so called christians that want to ram their religion down people's throat. Those kind of people give true christianity a bad name, in my opinion. Sadly, the most outspoken are the so called christians that love to ram it down your throat.
But to your point that when people go to Bible studies or church service, we are being told what to think. Is this not true of most places we go to hear someone speak? It is the persons choice to go and hear it or not and then to believe it or not.
Don't let these people bother you with their issues! You go and listen to whomever you want to tell you what to believe! lol

Anonymous said...

I suspect secularism is scary for most Christians because they are forced to confront topics they find uncomfortable outside of their "sacred space". Most Christians go to a specific place at a specific time to hear the ranting from the pulpit, bible study, pray, etc. (prayer in school and such aside)

As one who is searching for a "fit" within the various aspects of atheism - skeptic, agnostic, atheist, humanist - I must admit it is difficult for me to hear less tactful atheists referring to certain ways of thinking as "stupid" or "idiotic". My pride slows my progress since I don't like to think that I was -or may still be - stupid or idiotic to a certain extent (does anyone?).

So I value those who are more gentle and let me figure things out for myself without name calling.

Vivat said...
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