Charles Moore, the former editor of The Daily Telegraph, The Sunday Telegraph and The Spectator, has written a rather silly article in The Telegraph entitled, “The sad business of trying to disprove God“. You would hardly know it from the froth and spittle that flows freely, but this article is actually a review of a book called “Atheists: The Origin of the Species” by Nick Spencer, and in reality appears to be an excuse for Mr Moore to stick the knife in and twist it a few times.
You get the distinct impression that those that do not believe are in the crosshairs here, but then he is a devoted Catholic, so that perhaps explains his dislike for individuals who point out that adults having imaginary friends is a tad odd.
He starts off with the assertion that God claims are not within the domain of science …
Already, you are plunged into the thick of the problem, which is one of category. The teenage thinker treats the existence of God as a scientific matter, but it isn’t. Science can certainly disprove some claims that believers make about their God – or, to be more exact, it can prove that these claims are incompatible with science – but it can have nothing to say about something that lies outside its realm.
That is of course complete nonsense, the claim that there exists an entity that not only created our universe, but personally intervenes in it, and has been doing so since day 1, is both testable, measurable, and is very much a scientific question that is open to a method of enquiry. We can for example conduct clinical trials of prayer and see what happens (It has been done and found to not work – so what can we conclude?)
He also then goes on to assert this …
… For the most part, however, they devote themselves to the wearisome and surprisingly difficult business of trying to prove a negative
.. and so we have yet more nonsense, this time on stilts. No, most atheists are not trying to prove a negative, but instead simply make the observation that the burden of proof rests with those who make the “God is real” assertion, and that in all of human history they have so far have failed to come up with just one jot.
So about one third of the way into his “book review”, he finally starts to introduce an author, and with a bit of flourish announces …
Nick Spencer is research director of the (excellent) “religion and society think tank” Theos, and so he views the subject with a quiet Christian scepticism
Well yes, Nick Spencer is indeed the director of studies at the think tank Theos, which is essentially a group that advocates the idea that you can’t understand the modern world without understanding religion. That may in fact be true because you probably can’t grasp why things have happened without knowing about the daft beliefs that have motivated so much lunacy. So the goal of this group is to engage in a “discussion” that is really all about promoting the idea of believing stuff that is not actually true is a good thing to do. I note that Mr Moore also slips in the suffix “scepticism” after the word “Christian” and that is indeed a wet dream for a non-believer because the term “Christian Sceptic” has another simpler word that fully describes such a combination of words – “atheist” -and so I do not think it means what he thinks it means.
So what comes next, a detailed discussion about the contents of the book, and perhaps his thoughts on it?
Heck no, his article feels rather akin to having a discussion with somebody who is very easily distracted and drifts off into some completely unrelated random direction. He starts to point out that Mr Spencer discusses Law and belief for about two sentences, and then suddenly is off on his anti-atheist rant once again …
In his Commentaries on the Laws of England in the 18th century, William Blackstone argued that the oath in court was the necessary foundation for justice: “All moral evidence… all confidence in human veracity must be weakened by irreligion, and overthrown by infidelity.” An atheist was therefore not only mistaken, but failed in his duty as a citizen. Laws against the preaching of atheism resembled those against the preaching of racism today: it was thought intolerably injurious to society. What God had revealed, the state had a duty to uphold.
Well yes, that is indeed once how people truly thought about belief, and one gets the impression that Mr Moore greatly misses all that and wishes we could once again return to an age when belief in a god was enforced like this, but luckily we have managed to work out that believing stuff that is not actually true is a rather bad idea and so many people are putting that all behind them these days.
Does he persist with his pattern of claims that are not actually true at all?
Yes he does …
…in the current era of Richard Dawkins and the New Atheism, many atheists call themselves the “Brights”, pleased to make the rest of us out as dullards.
I honestly do not know one single atheist who uses the label “bright” (and I know lots), nor am I aware of any who label believers as “stupid” or to use his term, dullard. It is true that at one point Paul Geisert tried to popularise the term “brights” as a better alternative to “godless” back in 2003 via a website and while a few signed up, it never gained much traction and has been long forgotten by most except perhaps Mr Moore who appears to take personal offence over it more than one decade later.
It is however true that silly ideas are identified as stupid, but this is not a slur of the character of those that believe, but rather the factual observation that the ideas being promoted are truly daft. Try this … a god gave birth to himself, so that he could sacrifice himself to himself to appease his own anger towards all of us because a talking snake tricked an ancestor of all of us into eating some fruit … you are buying into this idea right, you think this is the most rational sensible idea going … yes?
Those that no longer believe perhaps once embraced such ideas for what could be best described as cultural and emotional reasons, and so you will find that while such ideas are labelled silly, there is also a sympathy among those who no longer believe for those who are still ensnared by such thinking.
Now moving on, no collection of daft assertions is complete without playing both the morality card and Hitler, and sure enough Mr Moore does not disappoint …
Friedrich Nietzsche saw more deeply how European society’s moral order would collapse with the destruction of faith – but welcomed it. Christianity was a “slave morality”, he said, celebrating weakness and preserving “too much of what should have perished”. People such as Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler took up such thoughts with deadly enthusiasm.
So Lenin, Stalin, Mao and Hitler were disciples of Nietzsche … that has got to be the silliest assertion … ever. You know what he is getting at of course, here are some genocidal psychopaths, so let’s implicitly assert that this was all motivated by non-belief in a god. Nope, fanatical irrational beliefs, in this instance political ones, were the root causes there. Do you think that it might be worth pointing out that Hitler was also Catholic, the same faith as Mr Moore, and also make the observation that we are not too distantly removed from a time when fanatical Catholic belief inspired the murder of people for simply not embracing that specific belief, or that the Catholic Church got into bed with the Nazis … then again, perhaps it might be better to simply invoke Godwin’s law.
As for the next silly assertion, well we have this …
Spencer believes that the New Atheism is an expression of anger at the curious phenomenon that all over the world, except among white Westerners, God is back.
Mr Spencer might indeed believe that, and so might Mr Moore because he plucks this phrase out for his “review”, but then they both tend to believe rather a lot of stuff that is not backed by any evidence at all. The truth is that we live in an age in which the nones are the rapidly growing social demographic, not the theists.
So he finishes his “book review” with this quote …
Ludwig Wittgenstein, the great philosopher, who understood religious belief throughout his life, mostly without quite sharing it, wrote: “Faith is faith in what is needed by my heart, my soul, not my speculative intelligence… Only love can believe the Resurrection.”
That is perhaps an observation the belief is not fact-based, nor reason based, but is instead an emotional relationship with an idea that has no evidence at all. To help you out here a bit, the word “faith” means that he is pretending to know things that he does not really know at all.
Perhaps as an example of that, the idea that Mr Moore’s article was just a “book review” requires a considerable degree of “faith”