In a material world of blind indifference

One rather peculiar response from a reverend:

@CLGrossman @RichardDawkins @OpheliaBenson Well said but why/ How? In a material world of blind indifference who decides what is is “civil”[?]

That’s not peculiar for a reverend*, of course, but it’s peculiar in itself.

Who decides? Human beings decide. We decide because we’re the ones affected. We decide because we want various things. We want to be able to have reasonable conversations. We want to be able to talk without fistfights or insults or taunts. We want at least a minimal baseline of peace and co-operation.

That’s who decides. The people who have a stake decide. That’s true even in a material world of blind indifference. The material world is blindly indifferent to me (and you and us and them and her and him), it’s true, but that doesn’t mean we are all indifferent to each other or to ourselves.

That’s true even if you do believe in a god. In that sense it actually is somewhat peculiar for a reverend to ask the question. Does he really think atheists are blindly indifferent because the material world is? Has he never met a single one?


*His profile says he’s Vicar at Christ Church Lye, in the West Midlands.


  1. says

    Religious people are always wrestling with their cartoon of us….rather than our actual arguments… They keep repeating what they believe are these inane “gotcha” questions – While never EVER answering seriously – our questions.

    It should embarrass them.

  2. Blanche Quizno says

    Funny, isn’t it, that despite the fears of the good vicar and his ilk, the countries with the highest rates of naturally occurring atheism and non-belief have far healthier societies than those with the highest rates of god-belief? The unbelieving populations have lower rates of divorce, teen pregnancy, homicide, poverty, violent crime, racism, misogyny, anti-choice, homophobia, child abuse, and higher rates of higher education completed – across the board, the unbelievers get the highest marks for good behavior, and the believers get the lowest. Just look at the Bible Belt – for all those Christians and all those churches, it’s a social disaster! And it’s not getting better. If we were simply to look at the correlations, we’d find it impossible to escape the suspicion that god-belief is harmful to society.

  3. Ed says

    I am so tired of this kind of criticism of atheism, especially when it is inserted out of the blue by theists who are either not involved at all in the issue at hand(the conflict within our subculture) or are have the same stake in the issue as atheists in the same setting (mourning the victims of a mass murder and promoting policies to reduce future violence, for example).

    Why do you care about civility in an amoral universe?–this Vicar.

    Why does the VA Tech massacre bother you when you believe that all actions including murder are merely molecules acting on molecules?–Dinesh D’Sousa (seriously, what an ass!!)

    The fact is that believing that the universe is amoral on the grand cosmic scale of infinite space and the microscopic scale of particles doesn’t mean that morality is irrelevant on the level of experience we actually define ourselves by living in. I don’t give a damn that human interests mean nothing to nebulae or electrons. They mean something to us on the human (and to a large extent other sentient animal) scale.

    The fact that nature doesn’t care if we suffer painful heat, increased risk of skin cancer and breathing problems for some of us in a hot, humid summer isn’t a reason to despair and do nothing but to avail ourselves of air conditioning and health products created by humans who realized that in any relevant sense comfort is better than suffering and health is better than sickness.

  4. says

    Before getting a quip in, I thought it’d be relevant to mention this article about Dostoevsky, and the history of attributions to him of “If God does not exist, then everything is permitted”…

    The quip: Neither Dostoevsky, nor the Vicar at Christ Church Lye had the opportunity to get between myself and my pizza. There is no God, I don’t think I’m God, and I won’t permit it.

    There are a great number of things people (human and non-human animals) do care about in this world, and I doubt a good neuroscientist would deny that this caring is very much a part of the material world. This care doesn’t even have to be viewed as existing off in some Platonic realm.

    It’s fair to say that rocks aren’t capable of this material kind of caring, but unless people have rocks in their heads, this isn’t an issue. The Vicar just has to drag himself into the 21st Century (and maybe intersperse the Keats with something a tad more modern).

  5. sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d says

    Surely civility is an entirely human definition? In fact, I’m surprised the Rev hasn’t considered the fact that Jesus was famously uncivil about and to hypocrites and Pharisees. For most of history christians were uncivil about nonchristians and the wrong kind of christians- when they weren’t crusading against them, hanging them, roasting them alive or generally using drastic measures to vitiate their future careers and persuade them to change their opinions.

  6. moarscienceplz says

    So, essentially the good Reverend is saying, “If you kids atheists don’t pipe down this instant, you can’t have any dessert!

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