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Another diocese heard from

It seems odd that the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne publishes an article by an Anglican minister, but I guess it’s just the usual ecumenical - interfaith – he hates Them so we love him – any port in a storm deal. Catlicks and Prods join hands to fight the real enemy, Teh Atheists.

the sad atheists are those who do take the God question seriously. They know that the stakes are high and that without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.

Do they? You sure about that?

I ask because it’s also notoriously difficult to make sense of the world with “God.” I claim it’s a good deal more difficult. Since god is generally defined as perfectly good, there is a huge difficulty in making sense of such an entity creating a world in which living organisms develop via natural selection. Natural selection is not the creation of a being who is “good” in any sense we can understand (which is, after all, the one we’re talking about).

Our minister was disappointed by the quality of the last GAC. No thinking, you see.

Where I hope for serious engagement with the issues of atheism and the nature of science, the convention is more like a Christian revival meeting: a rally for the faithful with abundant noise, laughter and loud affirmation. Only the songs and the interjected ‘amens’ are missing. In 2010 it was quickly clear that the gathering was not about debating issues of faith and (non-)belief nor to defend the assumption that science is the only source of truth. The overwhelming and simplistic dogma was that religious people are misguided and unwilling to accept the clear evidence of the natural sciences.

But then he doesn’t do any of that kind of thinking himself, in this piece. He just talks some waffle that’s basically a demand for more deference please.

We need to examine the implications of living in an increasingly secular society where a harmonious future will only be forged through mutual tolerance. Trust can be built, but only when beliefs and values are clear, and when all parties accept the limitations imposed by living in a multicultural democratic state. As Christians we ought to preach the Gospel in word and deed, we ought to persuade others, offering good reasons for our hope. But coercion and manipulation are ungodly and will bring disrepute to the Church and its Lord.

In other words, if we just preach and nag and pressure, but don’t actually kick or hit, please demonstrate mutual tolerance by shutting the fuck up about us, amen.

Comments

  1. 'Tis Himself says

    Shorter Mulherin: Some people don’t share my delusions and are rude enough to announce they don’t.

  2. says

    Wow! It’s not often you come across something quite this shallow and foolish, and even his attempts at wit fall flat. I suspect that the tone of casual dismissal is forced, and thanking god for atheism is a lie. Relgious people are in general smarter than that. Perhaps this minister thinks that by feigning insouciance he is avoiding the usual frenzied religious response, but since he quotes McGrath, he’s obviously familiar with it, so, not mentioning it is telling. Interestingly, he doesn’t seem to mind the subtle put down by his catholic brethren, who call him a “minister,” without recognising the implicit refusal to recognise his “orders,” for if he is an Anglican “minister”, then he was ordained a priest, and the failure to call him one is the ecclesiastical equivalent of calling him a fake.

    The claim that religion is a help in making sense of life is a puzzling one. The problem of suffering is already enough to make any thoughtful person doubt; but what should make this claim a nonstarter is that, in order to maintain it, the believer has to cancel through by every religious belief that differs from his own. That’s the only possible way for a religious person to provide good reasons for his hope. The response to any proposed reason is simply: “That works for you, but what about X, Y and Z? It won’t work for them, because they disagree with you. If they don’t, how come they adhere to a different group with a different theology?” And that works for internal religious divisions (denominations, sects, etc.), as well as inter-religious squabbles.

    Of course, where his slip is showing is in the way he characterises (and taxonomises) atheists — mad, bad and sad. He pretends that he’s being cool calm and collected, but, hey — guess what? — he simply couldn’t stop himself saying something nasty about Richard Dawkins. He’s mad — by which I think he means angry — he even uses the ‘C’ word ‘cranky’! And even cranky ‘as hell’. Now, you know he’s really serious, because he uses the ‘H’ word too. So much for worrying about the atheists and their comic act, and preoccupation with the ‘F’ word! Strong stuff!!

    Pretty pathetic stuff, really, and he’s researching for a doctorate!! I guess those catholic institutions just give them away. It always sounds better if you can say not only “Rev’d” but “Rev’d Dr” as well. It sounds as if they must really know!

  3. Philip Legge says

    This chap Chris Mulherin is the same guy who was invited by the ABC’s Religion department to guest blog about the Global Atheist Convention when it was inaugurally held in Melbourne, back in 2010. (And was roundly criticised for doing a hatchet job on it, seeing as his current article looks like a bit of a rehash if my memory serves me. Mentioning Pataki as the only speaker not to criticise the religious is one tired theme.)

    Random Melburnian observation: when I lived for a while in Melbourne’s famed Italian precinct (centered on Lygon Street, Carlton), my apartment was barely 100 metres from this guy’s parish, St Jude – named for the patron saint of hopeless causes. In Anglican parlance round here, as far as I know, “low church”.

  4. Erp says

    Given the bit at the end “Some of this article is based on one published in The Melbourne Anglican in 2010″, it is probably much the same job.

    Anglicans vary from very catholic to very protestant (swimming the Tiber, aka becoming Roman Catholic, is not uncommon though less likely for low church Anglicans). Roman Catholics looking for a church that ordains women and is accepting of gays/birth control, etc. without losing the ritual sometimes swim the other way.

  5. says

    without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world* or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.

    Nice. The pitch-man describing to others how difficult things are for me without the snake oil he’s selling. Let me tell you, Mr. Minister, that I prefer my reality real. I make sense of the human condition just fine.

    *Oh, by the way, I highly doubt that you believe any of the crap you’re spouting about god.

  6. Kevin Alexander says

    To borrow someone else’s analogy, to make sense of the world without god is like trying to make sense of a fish without a bicycle.

  7. godlesspanther says

    “… without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.”

    Yes, and it SHOULD be difficult to make sense of things if they matter to you at all. Sure, if you have a magic thing in the sky that is whatever happens to be convenient to you at the time and you have a magic book that is always right and means whatever you want it mean then — that is easy. But it’s also lazy, ignorant, and just plain wrong.

  8. Brian says

    So, the same guy who was working towards his doctorate two years ago, spouts lazy crap about the GAC and atheists in general. Perhaps he should focus on getting his doctorate in magical thinking more, lest he still he find himself doing the same thing before the next GAC?

  9. John Morales says

    From the OP:

    But coercion and manipulation are ungodly and will bring disrepute to the Church and its Lord.

    The Catholic Church claims authority as the continuance of Jesus’ apostleship, boasting of an unbroken chain from the earliest days — but history shows that it hasn’t been (and isn’t!) above coercion and manipulation.

    (Do I sniff a trace of fatwa envy? ;) )

  10. John Morales says

    PS

    But coercion and manipulation are ungodly unethical and will bring have brought disrepute to the Church and its Lord mythical god-man.

    FTFY.

  11. sailor1031 says

    “it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself”

    It is if you insist on relying on the completely discredited forged texts from 2000 years ago that cannot pass the test of reason let alone knowledge. But if you’re too fucking lazy to try to sort it for yourself that’s what you get – total confusion and endless rationalization.

    I prefer to stick with truth, obtained via reason and science; it makes it much less difficult to understand all that human life stuff – and other life too!

  12. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    “… without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.”

    How, exactly, does believing in the Christian god make sense of the world? Their answer – because God wants it that way – isn’t an answer at all, because it then leads (or should lead) one to ask ‘Why does God want it that way?’ – a question to which none of them has ever come up with an answer.

  13. says

    Apparently, “notoriously” means “a bunch of apologists on my side have said so”. This must be some peculiarly Australian usage of the word with which I am not familiar.

  14. jamessweet says

    They know that the stakes are high and that without God it is notoriously difficult to make sense of the world or of human life or death or joy or pain or love-making or justice or even, at the philosophical end of the spectrum, of truth itself.

    What’s with “love-making” being thrown in there? The rest of them I’ll grant are philosophically challenging topics; and I’ll also grant that if you try not to think about it too hard, “it’s all cuzza da Jeebus” is a superficially satisfying answer to those philosophical challenges, at least for some people.

    But what’s philosophically challenging about sex? Sure, there are all kinds of issues surrounding it, but they aren’t really philosophical issues. Maybe I’m missing something…

  15. says

    @15: But what’s philosophically challenging about sex?

    Well, without God, what are you supposed to yell during orgasm? ;-)

    (I know: old joke, and recent SMBC IIRC).

  16. says

    The oft-quoted line on sad atheists repeats the standard refrain among our critics that atheists seem to want to abolish all expressions of subjectivity. This hinges on a type of epistemological category error in which expressions of subjective experience (which may or may not be common to other human beings) are taken to be objective statements about the world. Since all “evidence” regarding the reality of God (which is a conclusion about the world, not about one’s experience of it) is based upon subjective experience, virtually all of the faithful must, and will, make this category error. They believe in magic–specifically in divination.

    Having convinced themselves that subjectivity yields other ways of knowing (that is, knowledge about the world), they will accuse of scientism anyone who simply notes the fact that the modern scientific method is the only proven approach to objective knowledge. Since no line is drawn between the objective and the subjective, they see any attempt to draw that line as a denial of all subjectivity, and all expressions of subjectivity. So, they believe that by emphasizing science as a means of obtaining objective knowledge, we are denying the value of all the arts. We do not feel. We are somehow less than human.

    The distinction between subjective and objective, and between arts and sciences, is particularly embarrassing to theology, which behaves entirely like an art form, a mode of subjective expression; branching, proliferating, constantly mutating and breaking off into new schools and forms. It is therefore critically important to religion to blur the distinction between objectivity and subjectivity, and to keep belief in divination alive.

  17. jerthebarbarian says

    jamessweet @15

    But what’s philosophically challenging about sex?

    I have to say that the question of why something so pleasurable as sex and so necessary as human reproduction has been a likely death sentence for women who have borne children for most of human history is a philosophically challenging one. Even today in the US, giving birth to a child is a harrowing experience that still sometimes leads to the death of the mother.

    I’d say it counts as much as the rest of them do, even though “why” questions whose answers boil down to “evolution due to natural selection is a harsh, harsh mistress” and/or “the world is not actually inherently just, deal with it” are not things that I personally consider “philosophically interesting” any more. I’m much more concerned with the question of “okay, so the world is a harsh place – how do we make it better”.

  18. says

    jerthebarbarian @18:

    From a religious perspective, the answer is simple: God condemned women to have painful (and often life-threatening) childbirth in punishment for Eve’s sin in the Garden.

    From an evolutionary perspective, the answer is also simple: Sex is pleasurable because that’s the way DNA makes more DNA. Human birth is problematic because we have a pelvic structure for bipedalism, but babies with big heads to hold their big brains. Obviously, enough babies and mothers survive so that such things are not selected against. It’s interesting biology, but aside from being just another part of the challenge of theodicy, it’s not particularly interesting philosophy. (Of all the nasty things inflicted by gods, I would have to put human suffering in childbirth as one of the minor ones, and I say this as someone who had minor complications in the birth of one of my kids that without medical intervention would have likely led to the death of me or my son or both.)

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