Sometimes even smart people can be truly daft for what are essentially religious reasons


Cristina Odone is a journalist, novelist and broadcaster. She is also a Research Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, and a deputy editor of the New Statesman.

That all sounds really impressive, so what’s the problem? What I have choked upon is her latest article in the Telegraph, it is packed full of not just daft nonsense, but claims and assertions that demonstrate a truly shocking degree of ignorance, and so demonstrates that even smart people can adhere to daft religious beliefs.

As I scan the papers I will often face a lot of stuff that leaves me simply rolling my eyes, but this is different, it asserts things that is simply wrong, so much so that I wonder how somebody that well educated can truly hold such a position, but of course you know the answer, in a word, the issue is “religion”, it often successfully blinkers smart people by conning them with psychological tricks, and having suffered the affliction myself in the past I can only sympathise.

She writes about her trip to Westminster Central Hall a few days ago, where the Bible Society was hosting its annual National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. Yes OK, so mixing with grown adults who truly believe that their imaginary friend is real is perhaps not exactly going to be nurture logical thinking. She reports …

Lib Dem Deputy Leader Tim Farron MP … made a crack about how, since he had never seen Richard Dawkins in the flesh, he must not exist, the entire room roared with laughter.

Do believers really think that non-believers don’t believe because they have never physically “seen” God, are some truly that stupid? Apparently yes, if of course we work with the assumption that the joke only works if such a belief was believed to be true, but its not. As I’m sure you are aware, the burden of proof rests with those who assert a God claim and yet they cannot produce any evidence of any kind at all … nada, so the non-believer dismiss the claim. And yet the laughter appears to indicate that they do actually think that not “seeing” is why we don’t believe (yes, time to roll ones eyes at idiots).

Her sneering tone towards non belief not only continues, but goes sharply downhill …

Tony Blair’s press man famously told the world that “we don’t do God”. That sentence condemned Christians and other believers to a life in the shadows.

Bollocks … it has done no such thing, that claim is an outright bold lie. We still live in a nation where the head of the Church of England is the head of state, and the house of lords is packed full of bishops.

So what evidence does she offer for this claim?

A nurse could not pray for her patient

Wrong, a religious nurse visiting an elderly patient crossed the professional line and started dispensing religion with health care. She can pray for whoever she likes whenever she likes, but as a nurse she should only dispense medicine … hint the stuff that works … and not prayer, the stuff that does not work. To be honest, if a religious patient had seen her wearing a cross and perhaps asked for a prayer, that fine as well, the problem is dispensing it in a professional role uninvited.

an atheist councillor could sue his council for opening their sessions with a prayer

That was not about freedom of religion, but rather about freedom from religion … nobody has the right to inflict their beliefs upon others. If a few religious councillors wanted prayer, then they could simply have their own prayer meeting prior to the council meeting. What they don’t get to do is to inject it into the agenda as official council business, no one specific variation of belief should dominate – the judge agreed.

It is under Mr Cameron’s watch, that Christians have been forced to go to Strasbourg to fight for their rights to practice their faith.

And Strasbourg quite rightly stressed the principle that religious liberties should not trump other human rights. Freedom of religion, the court stated, is “one of the foundations of pluralistic, democratic societies” but “where an individual’s religious observance impinges on the rights of others, some restrictions can be made”. But for Ms Odone that does not appear to matter because these poor believers were “forced” (by whom exactly) to go to Strasbourg to demand that their belief must trump everything else … wrong.

It is under his watch that the Churches (and other religions) have been humiliated over gay marriage.

Would that possibly be “humiliated” as in being shown to be bat-shit crazy religious bigots who want to deny gay people the same rights the rest of us have on the sole basis that they have a book cobbled together by desert nomads that tells them people with a different sexuality are an abomination … in which case it would appears that she counts herself among their number, and that perhaps explains a lot.

Believers like to challenge non-believes by asserting that people cannot be good without a God, but non-believers get their morals from exactly the same source that believers do – our culture and normal human empathy – religion has nothing to do with it, it never did … ever. However, when you argue for a special privilege for beliefs, and want those beliefs to have priority above and beyond everything else, then I do seriously wonder how it is possible for people behaving like that to behave in a truly ethical manner.

As for Ms Odone, she is of course free to criticise non-belief, but it would be rather nice if she did so by using factually correct information instead of fictitious claims regarding the oppression of beliefs in a nation that still rather foolishly grants those beliefs special privileges that they should not actually have.

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