Saturday, October 30, 2010

Julian Baggini, an atheist philosopher, preaching at Westminster Abbey

Andreas directed me to this news where Julian Baggini was asked by the Westminster School's chaplain to a group of students, explaining why he is an atheist. The invitation was "strange" and even "shocking" to the atheist philosopher himself.

"The problem is that while the word atheist itself means nothing more than "not-theist", it seems that for many, "a" stands for anti.

If being an atheist meant being anti-theist, then I would not be one. I am an anti-dogmatist, an anti-fundamentalist, yes. But I have no hostility to theism as such, and have no desire to strip all theists of their faith. Of course I think theists are mistaken, but no one should be automatically hostile to everyone they disagree with. Hostility should be reserved for the pernicious, the wicked and the harmful.

One of the points brought up by Julian is the divisive category of believers and non-believers:

"Dividing the world up into believers and non-believers, while accurate in many ways, doesn't draw the distinction between friends and foes. I see my allies as being the community of the reasonable, and my enemies as the community of blind faith and dogmatism. Any religion that is not unreasonable and not dogmatic should likewise recognise that it has a kinship with atheists who hold those same values. And it should realise that it has more to fear from other people of faith who deny those values than it does from reasonable atheists like myself."

This is a good point though it is not being pursued far enough. I, like Julian, am more inclined to talk to a non-Christian who are reasonable than a Christian who doesn't talk reason, yet must not allow this inclination to divide in the sense of alienating those who are different from us. Whether we agree or disagree, there should not be alienation.

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