"I'm not sure I believe in God, but I'll take Pope Francis over Richard Dawkins any day"


Chris Deerin was a “devout Catholic, altar boy.. (who) wanted to be a priest”. That’s nice. Sadly (or fortunately, whichever side you’re on), he is devout no more. He recounts losing his faith in the Daily Mail (that is, the event/course/discovery of losing his Roman Catholic faith is recounted in the Daily Mail; not that he lost his faith in the Daily Mail [which he may well have done, but probably not while it’s bunging him £500 to write such readable nuggets of entertaining biography]).

Incremental faithlessness aside, he tweeted a rather provocative summary of a residual inclination: “I’m not sure I believe in God, but I’ll take Francis over Dawkins any day”. In his article, he explains:

The welcome given to Pope Francis in the US over the past few days has been inspiring. He is a remarkable Pontiff, in many ways exactly what Catholics need. Humble, generous, thoughtful, hands-on and transparently ordinary, he is the closest the faith has come to finding accommodation with the irreversible liberalism of much of modern life. The two must, after all, find a way to co-exist.

By showing a gentler, more tolerant face to the world, the Pope creates space to be heard in areas where his voice is needed.

..Contrast the warmth in this message with the witterings of the famous Professor Richard Dawkins, who has set himself up as a sort of anti-pope, a preening, pompous padre of poppycock. Atheism’s best-known cheerleader is a Pooterish figure whose Twitter account is a treasure trove of small-minded self-obsession and lack of self-awareness.

Having sipped the water of life and then waded through the material existentialism of modernity, Deerin affirms: “The Gospel according to Richard ain’t exactly an inspiring read”, principally because Deerin finds Dawkins “po-faced and prissy and driven by a comical self-righteousness”. He expounds a latent agnosticism:

In the end, this is what pushes me back towards religion in ways I admit are probably not entirely logical or even explicable. Of the priests I have known in my lifetime, most have admitted to doubts about their faith. Most have had dark nights of the soul. Some I suspect didn’t really believe any more.

But it is this lack of certainty that appeals. Dawkins and his militant ilk profess to know for sure the truth about something that is ultimately unknowable. It seems to me that the concept of consciousness and its source are so unfathomable that only a fool would claim victory, one way or the other.

This is why Deerin would “still rather live in Christianity’s flawed world of hope and doubt than one built on the shaky, ghastly dogmatism of Richard Dawkins”.

It isn’t only Dawkins’ dogmatism, of course: it’s his logical contradictions, moral discrepancies and arrogant denials of his own finitude. Remember, for example, when David Cameron made his “Christian country” pitch last year in order to dupe recidivist Conservatives back into the Tory fold to make a stand for the plainest historical fact that, as the Archbishop of Canterbury observed, “our main systems of ethics, the way we do law and justice, the values of society, how we decide what is fair, the protection of the poor, and most of the way we look at society… All have been shaped by and founded on Christianity”. There was a kerfuffle when an entire bandwagon of atheists wrote to the Telegraph to accuse the Prime Minister of “fostering division“. Their refutation of his thesis was unequivocal: “Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church, Britain is not a ‘Christian country’,” they declared.

And there was an ensuing and rather amusing subsidiary kerfuffle when, among these 50 signatories, it became apparent that the exalted name of arch-secularist-humanist-atheist Richard Dawkins was nowhere to be seen. His mysterious absence was noted in the august pages of the Guardian, Telegraph, Daily Mail.and right across the Blogosphere. Perhaps he was away on a secular crusade when the epistle circulated, or leading a humanist pilgrimage in honour of the non-god to the denial of which he has dedicated his entire life and vast scholarship.

Curiously, a new name was subsequently appended to the letter – that of one ‘Professor Richard Dawkins, evolutionary biologist and writer’. He was manifestly not listed in the Telegraph, but featured as a signatory on the website of the British Humanist Association, who originated the missive. They explained: “Please note, the list is being added to as more individuals respond to our initial request to sign the open letter.”

Better late than never, perhaps, but it was all a little odd. Not so much the attention-seeking redaction or desperate retrospective inclusion, but the fact that the eminent Richard Dawkins put his name to a letter which stated unequivocally that “Britain is not a ‘Christian country'”.

Because previously he has said – equally unequivocally – that Britain most assuredly is a Christian country:

Did you hear that?

“(The Bishop is) absolutely right – this is a Christian country: historically it’s a Christian country..”

Indeed, Richard Dawkins seems in this video to agree wholeheartedly with the reasoned sentiments of the Archbishop of Canterbury. But by signing that letter he joined those whom Justin Welby terms the “baffling” Monty Python inquisitors.

One wonders how such a great mind and supreme intellect – long dedicated and totally devoted to the puritanical science of unbelief – can simultaneously sustain these two mutually-exclusive propositions. Unless, of course, the latter is simply an article of New Atheist belief which must be held by faith in unresolved tension with the former.

Or is the “virus” of religion infecting his mind and sending the world-renowned strident secularist ever so slightly mad?

Or perhaps the eminent Professor had a new fundamentalist book to flog and it was all just a marketing ploy?

It is a curious fact that the country which was Christian when Richard Dawkins was interviewed on the telly was no longer Christian when he put his name to that absurd letter – “Apart from in the narrow constitutional sense that we continue to have an established Church.” Because the Professor clearly wasn’t talking about such a “narrow constitutional sense”: he specified history, tradition, literature and the enduring cultural importance of the Bible.

By negating logic, Richard Dawkins undermined rationality; by holding a truth which is not literally true, he compromised his intellectual credibility. The antagonistic atheist has become a suspiciously nuanced agnostic: profound doubts abound about the precise nature of his unbelief.

So perhaps Chris Deerin is being a little harsh about “Dawkins and his militant ilk (who) profess to know for sure the truth about something that is ultimately unknowable”. Perhaps there is a lack of certainty in the Professor’s atheism/agnosticism.

Perhaps, after all, Richard Dawkins is really a certain sort of liberal Anglican. Either that, or he is slowly sinking into second childishness and mere oblivion.

Mind you, there are some devout Roman Catholics – not to say a few former altar boys and current priests – who are saying that about Pope Francis..

  • Jon Sorensen

    Christians give Richard Dawkins so much air time and they try to find any atheist voice that doesn’t like Dawkins. I think it shows how powerful and influential Dawkins is. Dawkins like Jesus is hated by majority of his contemporaries, even when he brings the good message.

    I think if Dawkins were given untold billions of Euros Pope has, Dawkins would make sure all major diseases HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, polio, and several neglected tropical diseases would be eradicated from the planet. It only takes around 1-2 billion dollars each. Pope has so much more potential to fix world’s problems like clean water, but doesn’t seem to focus on that.

    • sarky

      In fact catholicism is implicit in the spread of HIV, especially in Africa.

      • CliveM

        You do talk garbage at times Sarky.

      • Jon Sorensen

        Yep. No condom policy is just so bad…

        • Inspector General

          If you believe for one minute that young black African men will use condoms, you obviously have not researched young black African men. Depending on where you are, if you upset some of these fellows, they will kill you and lose no sleep over it. And you expect them to bother with etc…

          • Inspector, it’s not just young black African men, is it? And it’s not just homosexuals, either.

          • Inspector General

            Your point being, Jack…

          • Lust is a powerful motivator in all people …

          • Inspector General

            With African men, they would have seen their mother dig the ground for grubs. So condoms are rather like space age technology then…

          • Jon Sorensen

            I’ll ignore your racist undertones, which I disagrees with.

            We evidence based sex education and especially the education of women. Popes have been part of the problem not part of the solution. “In 2010, Pope Benedict XVI characterized condom use as not a “real or moral solution” to the spread of AIDS. John Paul II’s position [was] against artificial birth control, including the use of condoms to prevent the spread of HIV”

          • Inspector General

            Hah! The accusation of racism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Hurts don’t it, to think that in your secular world, we enjoy a liberty, equality, and fraternity with everyone else on the planet which was never there, isn’t there now and never will be there.

          • Jon Sorensen

            You singled out negative behaviour based on skin colour. Racism is never cool.

            “Hurts don’t it, to think that in your secular world, we enjoy a liberty, equality, and fraternity with everyone else on the planet which was never there, isn’t there now and never will be there.”
            At least “secular world” is working to make it a better place. We might “never be there”, but we try to progress. Racism is one thing we need to get rid off.

          • Inspector General

            You singled out negative behaviour based on skin colour.

            The biggest crime against humanity ever, and its going on right now, is abortion. Brought to the world by evil white people who revel in it. Happy now?

            Racism is never cool.

            “And that m’lud, is the entire case for the prosecution”. This mysterious entity called racism has always puzzled the Inspector. Is it a felony, is it a misdemeanour, is it anything. Anything other than disdain of the party so apparently injured on perceiving it, to wit, yourself.

            One was reminded the other week that this year is the 21st anniversary of the Rwandan massacre. When black murdered fellow black with agricultural implements because they were of the wrong tribe. Surely not a racist event, Jon? Anything but! Anything but, indeed…

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Happy now?”
            No. Racism against blacks or whites is never cool.

            “This mysterious entity called racism has always puzzled the Inspector”
            People in privileged position never understand the struggle minorities and victims have to endure. Nothing new here.

            “One was reminded the other week that this year is the 21st anniversary of the Rwandan massacre. When black murdered fellow black with agricultural implements because they were of the wrong tribe. Surely not a racist event, Jon?”
            It was a terrible genocide committed by Christians Hutus. Violence was not based on race or biological issues. It was one people group against another.

          • Inspector General

            Today it is the accusation of racism. Yesterday it was that of witchcraft. That this man is not dragged away and thrown into some rat infested cell just shows that finger pointers like yourself no longer enjoy the power you had then…

            So, how should we understand the behaviour of the Rwandans who hunted down and destroyed fellow humanity simply for being different. Towards a million souls, one might add. Could it be these people are still stuck in stone age ignorance, or is it racist to suggest that because they are Africans…

      • Oh, sure, the Church teaches it’s okay to fornicate, to engage in homosexual sex acts, to use male/female prostitutes and to share needles for drug use.

      • Pubcrawler

        I guess that’ll be why those African countries with a large proportion of Catholics tend to have lower infection rates.

    • cacheton

      Yes I have also wondered this – why is RD so prominent in Christian circles? His name was mentioned – AGAIN – in the sermon in our church only yesterday.
      Come on you lot – what kick do you get out of endlessly talking about RD? What purpose is he serving for you?

      • Jon Sorensen

        Christians might need a strong and scary adversary to round up the troops, and get people involved and to donate money. He is like a poster boy in those WWII propaganda posters.

      • sarky

        I suspect there’s a bit of admiration. He has brought atheism to the forefront of people’s minds in ways christians could only dream of.

        • CliveM

          And why would Christians want to bring atheism to the forefront of people’s minds?

          • sarky

            Don’t be facetious 🙂

          • CliveM

            Says the man whose self chosen “non de plume” is Sarky! ;0)

          • sarky

            Fair point 😀

      • Phil R

        I use Dawkins in discussion because there are such a lot of gaffs in circulation.

        E.g. ” there probably is no God”, his “life originated from outer space” etc when the questioning got difficult and his in ability to state what Darwin’s Theory was called.

        It neatly ridicules Atheism and Evolution without effort. Goes down well with an audience.

    • Anton

      The human race had malaria on the run a generation ago but the Greens got DDT banned.

    • Ben Ryan

      He’s not really short on cash though is he? I mean he charges some sycophants up to $500,000 for breakfast and a chat with himself –

      When is that money going to cure all these diseases exactly?

      • Jon Sorensen

        To eradicated a major disease you might need $1000,000,000. It’s probably way more that Dawkins has. In comparison Catholic Church’s turnover just in the US is $150,000,000,000 per year. So Pope would have no problem getting access to $1B pocket change.

        Do you know what people pay to have a meal with the Pope? You can read/google[?] the cases with previous Pope.

        • CliveM

          Do you even know what turnover is?

          • Jon Sorensen

            turnover = the amount of money a business generates

          • CliveM


            1. In accounting, the number of times an asset is replaced during a financial period

            Now tell me how that equates with cash liquidity.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I guess you purposly just want to argue.

            The annual sales volume net of all discounts and sales taxes.

            the total amount of business done in a given time.

            Annual turnover = Your annual turnover includes all ordinary income you earned in the ordinary course of business for the income year.

            My previous definition is correct no matter what you claim.

          • CliveM

            You don’t seem to understand do you. None of the definitions you gave have said anything about profit or liquidity or available cash.

            Now can you tell me if you have £150billion turnover, how much of that is available as profit or cash?

            Btw your original definition is still wrong.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Let’s assume they make no profit and have very little cash. All which is irrelevant to this issue.

            “Btw your original definition is still wrong”
            Yet another “we need to define our terms” Christian. It is not my problem if you disagree with the dictionary definition.

          • CliveM

            Ok so if they are making no profit ie spare cash, how are they meant to allocate £billions or whatever to medical research.

            With regards your dictionary definition, what dictionary? Or can you give me a link.

          • CliveM

            PPS There is a saying “those in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.

        • Dreadnaught

          So now we have Over-indulgences

        • Ben Ryan

          1. I think you misunderstand what turnover is.
          2. Those are random numbers you’re plucking out of the air!
          3. The point stands, Dawkins ahas a significant income and little sign yet of any global good coming out of it. By contrast there are plenty of Catholic charitable projects one can point to supported by the Church.

          • magnolia

            Furthermore there is the whole area of all the non-mechanistic causes of illness, and the healing ministry of the Church. I would think that that alone saves the NHS alone millions. Though I cannot see Dawkins seeking the church’s healing ministry!! Nevertheless many who work in hospitals would, can and do.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “I would think that that alone saves the NHS alone millions”
            Except there is no evidence that praying for sick works, or saves money. Dawkins advocate critical thinking and evidence base medicine to get rid of this kind of magical thinking.

          • magnolia

            There is heaps of evidence, unless a priori assumptions lead you to reject stories of people no longer in wheelchairs who can run, jump and lead normal lives on the grounds that they must have been deluded that they were unwell in the first place! There are so many circular arguments. Let me see, spontaneous remission, cures put down to unknown causes, illnesses redefined in hindsight, or put down to the psychological. Then there are the people who would rather pretend that they were never prayed for. It all happens.

            Dawkins can advocate all the critical thinking he wants. It never healed anyone, unlike Jesus Christ, the best healer in the world. Christian healing is not magic. Unlike magic it doesn’t do tricks. No spells are cast. Just prayer in the Name of Christ. You cannot ever get rid of prayer, so hard luck. Christ has been healing people for over 2000 years, and you aren’t going to stop Him now!! Nor is Dawkins!!

          • Jon Sorensen

            “There is heaps of evidence”
            There is none. Would you like to provide? I guess not because you make claims like “atheist systems causing most bloodshed” but when challenged you run away.

            Christian studies without a priori assumptions have not find any evidence. And we all know why people like Benny Hinn make people sit on wheelchairs before they enter the platform.

            “It never healed anyone, unlike Jesus Christ,”
            Didn’t the previous post tell that Jesus is a myth or did I read it incorrectly?

            “Christ has been healing people for over 2000 years”
            Faith healers in the name of Eir, Isis, Asclepius and Ashvins have been healing much longer.

          • magnolia

            That last sentence just made me laugh, so thank you for that. I have never seen of such a one, nor expect to.

            I personally would not wish to be an advocate for nor ever attend a Benny Hinn meeting. It is conceivable he is genuine, or was once upon a time, but my reason and intuition are both profoundly made uncomfortable by his “show”, his apparent problems with the whole humility thing, his aggressive outbursts, his unorthodox doctrines, and his lifestyle. Put me down as a very suspicious agnostic there.

            But given your antagonism to prayer, and your suggestion that people should be banned by the law from praying for healing for others I would not wish to give examples, because why would I be doing it? What is the point? GIYF, and I am not in the business of putting up people’s lives as target practice for someone to ridicule, or even attempt to target and outlaw in an authoritarian attempt to muzzle free speech and our freedom to express our faith. What would be gained?

          • Jon Sorensen

            “That last sentence just made me laugh, so thank you for that”
            “one man’s religion is another man’s belly laugh” -Robert Heinlein

            “[Benny Hinn] conceivable.. is genuine”
            The radiocom he uses to get “divine revelation” was not connected to God. Read about what James Randi did about it.

            “your suggestion that people should be banned by the law from praying for healing for others”
            I never said prayer “should be banned by the law”. You just made it up. You should stop making things up, retract lies and repent.

            “I am not in the business of putting up people’s lives as target practice for someone to ridicule”
            Neither am I, so what’s your point.

            “even attempt to target and outlaw in an authoritarian attempt to muzzle free speech and our freedom to express our faith.”
            I never attempted that either. You have your free speech and it seems that your religious speech is protected by special laws.

          • magnolia

            “Dawkins advocate critical thinking, and evidence base medicine to get rid of this kind of magical thinking”.

            I understood that as a desire to banish prayer. Whilst you may wish to banish it slowly rather than litigate against it eventually it is nevertheless authoritarian in its assumptions.

            I have no desire to defend Hinn, as I said, but neither any to support Randi, who also manipulates evidence. I would rather avoid both, given the option. That may be the view of many here!!

          • Jon Sorensen

            “I understood that as a desire to banish prayer.”
            He never advocated this. This is just your imagination.

            “Randi, who also manipulates evidence.”
            Can you provide some evidence to your outrageous claim?

          • Jon Sorensen

            1. Turnover = the amount of money a business generates. What do you think it is?

            2. Not really. You are just too lazy to fact check. Google “catholic church revenue 2012” and you’ll get to Slate article. stating “[Economist] offered a rough-and-ready estimate of $170 billion in annual spending”.
            If you google: “cost of eradicating malaria [tuberculosis or polio]” you’ll find studies suggesting single digit Billion dollar cost.

            3. On the contrary. Dawkins has The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science and he has done a lot for science. Proportionally he has probably spent a lot more money to charity and Catholic charitable projects. I’d be surprised if Catholic Church uses more that 2% of revenues to Charity.

      • Wow, at those prices he must think he’s God!
        I didn’t realise following atheism was so expensive, this takes the selfish gene to another level.

    • James Bolivar DiGriz

      “It only takes around 1-2 billion dollars each”
      Do you have any evidence to support that?

      I would estimate that a lot more than that has already been spent on HIV/AIDS with no hint of it being eradicated.

      • Jon Sorensen

        If you google:
        cost of eradicating malaria [tuberculosis or polio]
        you’ll find studies suggesting single digit Billion dollar costs. Looks like most of the put the figure around $5B/diseases. When Bill Gates foundation started to tackle malaria I read $1B estimations, but the price seem to have gone up.

        You are right that we have spent a lot money for HIV/AIDS, but we also have quite good medication for it. HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentense. HIV/AIDS erradication also requires supporting behaviour changes. Pope’s no condom campaign is not helping.

        • James Bolivar DiGriz

          So you reckon it is that easy to find supporting evidence but you cant, or can’t be bothered, to include a single link. That hardly bolsters your case.

          “HIV/AIDS is no longer a death sentense”
          And that largely demoloishes it.

          Firstly, treatments for HIV/AIDS are very expensive, c. £20,000 per person per year. If you live in the West then these are available and basically for everyone, but elsewhere in the that is fantasy money. More than a billion people live on less than a dolar per day.

          Secondly, you talked about eradicating diseases, not putting people of drugs for life. All of the advances you refer to have brought us no closer to eradicating AIDS or even to having an effective vaccine for it.

          • CliveM

            Don’t, he’s still struggling to accept that his definition of turnover is wrong, pretending he got it from a dictionary! Snort.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            I just clicked on the link in the email and replied to him. Afterwards I looked at his other recent posts and noticed that he seems to have an aversion to actually linking to anything.

            To be fair, what he said is how turnover is sometimes used. However it is a totally inappropraite way to describe the ‘income’ of all of the various part of the RC church and is absolutely nothing to do with how much money is availble to spend any given project.

          • CliveM

            He says it’s the amount of money a business generates, but it needs reference to a period of time. The fact he wasn’t aware of that shows he was quoting, but didn’t understand what his quote was actually saying.

            I was also curious if he understood that turnover has only a loose correlation with profit or available cash (not the same thing). Ask GM!!

            As you say he seems not to.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “So you reckon it is that easy to find supporting evidence but you can’t”
            OMG, are you kidding me. Just google that and first page is full of links to cost estimations. It not difficult…

            We need to do both; help the people with disease and find the cure. I just don’t get people with such a defeatist attitude. We need to look after these people.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            I just don’t get people who say things and when asked to back them up hedge, post hints rather than links, or change the subject without admitting it.

            Someone whose position is supported by information will share it up front or when first asked, rather than hide behind ‘Well you can google for it’.

            You talked about it taking USD1-2 billion to *eradicate* each disease, nothing about treating people.
            – Your first link says, just for malaria, about USD5.9 billion per year for 10 years, with USD0.7-0.9billion of that being R&D.
            – Your second says, just for malaria, about USD4billion per year, with no time limit.
            – Your third talks about having already spent over USD2billion on malaria, without it having been eradicated.
            – Your last link says, again just for malaria, USD8.5billion per year up to 2030.

            So none of them come anywhere close to your figure and they wildly disagree with each other.

            And the cherry on the cake is you realising you have lost the argument and turning to ad hominem, implying that you care for and want to look after sick people and that I don’t.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I showed you how to get info. Then you said I can’t provide evidence. Then I posted the links you could easily found it. Then still complain, and rather than admitting that my original instruction and info is correct you talk about me changing subject…. weird

            “So none of them come anywhere close to your figure”
            You might not be familiar with numbers (sorry) but these are single digit $B dollar figure estimation. Just like I said. And my point stands that this would be achievable for Catholic and/or even Anglican Church, but not for an individual like Dawkins.

            “And the cherry on the cake is you realising you have lost the argument”
            What argument have I lost? You haven’t even stated your position to *start* the discussion and you claim victory. LOL. Please tell me what argument I have lost.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            Why would I admit that your “original instruction and info is (sic) correct” when they plainly were not.

            You talked about it taking USD1-2 billion to *eradicate* each disease. You used your search method to come up with four links which gave eradication costs of:
            – USD 59 billion (or 7-9 billion just for R&D).
            – An unspecified number.
            – Another unspecified number.
            – USD 128 billion.

            “You might not be familiar with numbers”
            Well, clearly more so that you are.

            “but these are single digit $B dollar figure estimation”
            Well 59 and 128 and not single digit numbers, and 7-9 only just scrapes in.

            “Just like I said”
            Actually, nothing like you said. Your original post currently says
            “To eradicated a major disease you might need $1000,000,000”
            and originally it said
            “It only takes around 1-2 billion dollars each”

            If you really think that all single digit numbres are the same then lend me 9 thousand pounds and I’ll repay you, with another single digit multiple of a thousand pounds.

            “What argument have I lost?”
            I was sceptical that any of these diseases could be readicated (your choice of word) for USD 1-2 billion but willing to learn so I asked for information. The clear sub-text was that I thought this was BS.

            You have been unable to produce even a single piece of evidence to support your contention so my original view that you were talking BS is proved correct.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I agree USD 1-2B was too low and maybe $9B is too low too. So let’s say it cost $20B or even let’s take any number you pick. Would you say Catholic church if willing would be able to fund in next 5 years to eradication of Malaria or Polio?

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            So you admit what you posted as ‘fact’ was actually just you making up things out of whole cloth. That was the only point that I queried you on. And at the end rather than just admit it you try and weasel your way out. Really quite pathetic.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “So you admit what you posted as ‘fact’ was actually just you making up things out of whole cloth”
            “making up things out of whole cloth” is just not true if you look at the numbers, but whatever.
            – It took $300M to get rid of smallpox in the 70s
            – To get rid of polio by 2018 it will take $5.5B

            “first you claim “”So you admit” then you claim “rather than just admit””
            Make up your mind which side of insult you want to pick. I’m not sure how I weasel out. I provided you the links and numbers when you didn’t even want to google what I suggested.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            You initially said that it would take USD 1-2 billion now you are saying that USD 9 billion is too low and that maybe, but only maybe, USD 20 billion is more accurate. So you have no idea what a real figure might be but you posted a value anyway. What would you call your original figure other than a number you just plucked out of the air?

            And, unlike you, I did look at the numbers. That was how I was able to show that what you originally posted was not supported by the links you posted.

            ” It took $300M to get rid of smallpox in the 70s”
            I have no idea why you posted that, it is irrelevant to this. As an aside, as you are not good with numbers you may have forgotten about inflation. Calculating inflation for a worldwide activity is complicated but just to give an indication, GBP300 million in 1975 would be £2-5 billion now, depending on what inflation measure is used.

            And the 1970s effort was after a century of work so there was an established & effective vaccine, which there is not for, say, malaria.

            “To get rid of polio by 2018 it will take $5.5B”
            No, they say that their requirements with the aim of getting rid of polio are estimated to be a further USD 5.5 billion on top of what has already been spent. And that is to deal with a disease that has already been totally defeated. World-wide polio cases are less than 300 per year.

            It isn’t an insult when it is factual. You have no idea what the number is but you won’t say that outright.

            And as well as being confused by number you are confused by words as well. The difference between “So you admit” and “rather than just admit” is the word ‘just.

            You could have said “I admit that I just made up those numbers” which would have been admitting it, instead you accepted that the number was wrong by tried to say that somehow you were not in the wrong by dragging in lots of other irrelevant numbers.

            So, not just admitting but admitting it in a weasel-like manner. Rather like a child caught red-handed so they who cannot deny the offence but pointing to anything else they can think of to avoid the blame.

          • Jon Sorensen

            I stand by my original number. Those were reasonable estimation to compare the cost of that and Catholich Church turnover. I reject you claim that I’m “making up things out of whole cloth” or I “have no idea what a real figure”. I also reject your snipe “unlike you, I did look at the numbers” as I provided the number and I provided the links to the numbers while you just complained about it.

            I commented the smallpox to show that this can be done and with reasonable cost – around the cost I originally mentions. A cost I juxtaposed with Catholic Church turnover.

            Now you claim that “[polio] disease that has already been totally defeated” so there is no need to spend any of that $5.5B. Clearly you have not idea how to defeat a disease. You might want to study Measles why we need to work against polio.

            “So, not just admitting but admitting it in a weasel-like manner.”
            No. I stand with my original numbers. I was willing accept other numbers so we could move the discussion to my original point, which you don’t seem to be interested. I also stand with my orginal claim with comparison with Catholic Church turnover. I’m happy to take on you on that issue too.

          • James Bolivar DiGriz

            “I stand by my original number”
            Then you are a fool and there is no point in talking to you. Hence this will be my last comment.

            Your original number was USD1-2 billion and from the links you provided the lowest possible figure for malaria is 7 billion just for R&D and a realistic overall figure being more than 50 billion. Subsequently you said
            “I agree USD 1-2B was too low and maybe $9B is too low too. So let’s say it cost $20B”
            but now you stand by the 1-2 billion figure.

            “I reject you claim that I’m “making up things out of whole cloth” or I “have no idea what a real figure”. I also reject your snipe “unlike you, I did look at the numbers” ”
            That does not stop my comments being true. You provided no evidence to support your numbers and what evidence you did provide undermined your case, so clearly you did not look at those numbers before posting those links.

            “I commented the smallpox to show that this can be done and with reasonable cost”
            And that reasonable cost is higher than your upper bound and is based on a century of previous work and spending. So actually not so ‘reasonable’.

            “so there is no need to spend any of that $5.5B”
            But why would one spend that much money? It will only take USD1-2 billion to eradicate the disease and you stand by that figure.

            “Clearly you have not idea how to defeat a disease
            No, what is clear is that you have no idea how to read English. In a world population of 7 billion, 300 cases per year (down from the hundreds of thousands) does mean that polio has been defeated. It has not been eradicated, and guess what, I didn’t say that it had been eradicated.

            “No. I stand with my original numbers. I was willing accept other numbers”
            So you think that your numbers are right, even though you have shown them to be wrong, but you are still willing to accept that they might be wrong.

            Well, I’m glad we have sorted that out.

            “so we could move the discussion to my original point, which you don’t seem to be interested”
            Your original point was that it would only take USD1-2 billion to eradicate each disease.

            If that point is not true, as you have shown to be the case, then any discussion based on that point is totally meaningless.

    • Inspector General

      What an unusual post of yours! Two asinine comments in there for the price of one. The idea that medical breakthroughs are purely dependant on resources spent is ludicrous. And the pope is no more responsible for a clean water supply in third world countries than you are, or Cranmer, come to that. Suggest you enquire as to where the governments of these hapless countries spend the vast amount of aid money given to them, other than on NATO quality military hardware and palaces, that is. We know about that spend already. In the meantime, if you are so eager to assist, you might want to give 20% of your income to overseas aid agencies. But you won’t, will you?

      • Jon Sorensen

        “The idea that medical breakthroughs are purely dependant on resources spent is ludicrous”
        For most of these deceases we already have the tools to fight, no breakthroughs needed. We only need funding and will to do it.

        “the pope is no more responsible for a clean water supply in third world countries than you are”
        It shows the character. If I had access to resources to provide clean water supply in third world without even noticing that in my revenues, I think I would do it.

        “NATO quality military hardware and palaces”
        You are spot on. We probably spent $3Trillion in wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Shame on us.

        “if you are so eager to assist, you might want to give 20% of your income to overseas aid agencies.”
        You are right that I should give more. I do support a Christian overseas aid agency which has one of their goal a clean water. 20% is a lot which I’m not sure I can afford, shame on me. However if Pope would only give 2% he would change the world and would not even notice the revenue change. If fact if pope would go public and run clean water project, he had no problem raising $10B. Pope would be able to do this without his Catholic revenues.

        • Inspector General

          But the pope is already making a contribution to people’s lives, and more important than clean water even. Their spiritual lives, which is sadly neglected by the earthly agencies save the missionaries…

          The question still remains. Why do heathens like you feel free to act as some kind of employment agency for the church. What gives you the damn right to demand this and that so freely. You are nothing to do with Christianity, a mere detractor, so take a walk somewhere else…

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Why do heathens like you feel free to act as some kind of employment agency for the church. What gives you the damn right to demand this and that so freely”
            You should read the article above. It is about Pope and Dawkins, so discussion was about them. Nobody here is claiming “the damn right to demand” church to something. It’s all in your imagination.

  • CliveM

    I’m sure in the privacy of his own home Prof Dawkins is a loving and kind man. But he is a zealot and like all zealots, he is so driven by his beliefs and so believing in his righteousness that he comes across humourless, bigoted and self righteous. Who would want to have a pint in the pub with him? In many ways it is to the good he has no Christian faith, can you imagine what a drag to the spreading of the Gospel he would be!

    • sarky

      I’d have a beer with him 🙂

      • CliveM

        Well no accounting for taste. If you do make sure he pays, it might make it worthwhile.

  • Anton

    Dawkins is above a controversialist. With his “selfish gene” theory he was a controversialist in his own field of evolutionary biology long before he started talking in an uninformed manner about religion. I suspect he is a great albeit unwitting recruiting agent for the churches.

  • Gerhard

    Let’s not forget how Richard Dawkins avoided debating William Lane Craig again and again!

    He sure is confident about his atheism when playing up to the crowds on Twitter, but when faced with a bit of intellectual muscle, the man whimpered away like a playground bully taking one on the nose.

    It’s a shame not more is made if this, but this told me the man had no intellectual confidence in his assertions..

    • Anton

      Yes, he ducked WL Craig and continues to, and I trust that people point this out to him regularly on Twitter. Craig can be seen debating atheists with devastating courtesy on YouTube.

    • I remember the fun of the Oxford bus adverts and the empty chair when WLC did his tour of the U.K. I was even lucky enough to get a ticket to see him at Central Hall.
      I seem to remember that Dawkins’ excuse at the time was “I only debate with archbishops”. Then he got his wish and was still out debated by Rowan Wiliams, although ++Rowan was rather too kind in how he dealt with Dawkins’ arguments, meaning it came across more like a pleasant conversation, rather than Dawkins being made to look rather silly.

  • carl jacobs

    But it is this lack of certainty that appeals.

    Of course. Lack of certainty allows the freedom of autonomy to be combined with some sort of hope in eternal life. It means a man can say “I can live as a please and still hope that my life is more than a meaningless collection of chemicals.” It lances both the dark night of atheist nothingness and the specter of moral judgment. It’s really nothing more than the assertion “Who kniws what God has said? I he hasn’t spoken and yet exists then perhaps he will deal with me as I desire.”

    The great human self delusion – I can have my god and ignore him too.

    • CliveM


      The lack of absolute certainty is why we have faith. To many in IS proclaim absolute certainty, it’s why the believe themselves to be doing Gods work.

      I have moments of doubt, it’s not because I’m trying to have it all ways.

      • carl jacobs

        Absolute certainty is beyond the capacity of man. One would have to be God to possess absolute certainty. Man can know with sufficiency. That is the best a man can achieve given his finite creatureliness.

        Faith is the hope of things unseen. The existence of God is not unseen. His reality is made manifest all around us. If a man tellls you “I see no evidence of God” he is only admitting that he has shut his eyes tight to a manifest truth. Man can know with sufficiency that God exists and because of this knowledge he is accountable to judgment.

        • CliveM

          “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”

          Now I know this can be understood more the one way, but for me it confirms that though there is evidence, it’s the sort of evidence that allows for doubt. God has revealed himself, but not shown himself.

          So yes man can know with sufficiency, but to believe requires faith, because sufficiency can’t remove doubt.

  • David

    Firstly thank you, Your Grace for a truly hilarious article. That was most enjoyable !
    However the photo of Dawkins is a bit scary.
    Secondly to say, that committed Christian that I am, like most people of faith, I do occasionally have some doubts about God’s existence. But it doesn’t last long as I remind myself of the reasons why I believe in God, which for me mainly comprise the scientific evidence from Physics. I also remember all my “coincidences”, which are occasions when having prayed for an event, later it happens.

  • CliveM

    Why do you think the Popes faith is blinkered?

    What makes a person spiritually bankrupt?

    • Tutanekai

      Anyone who believes something without reasonable proof is blinkered, which is the closing off of the mind to everything except what you want to believe.

      The Pope doesn’t say he thinks there could be a God, but that perhaps there isn’t. He says there is. That’s blinkered. It’s the closing off of the mind to all possibilities except the one he wants to believe in. He wants there to be a God, therefore he decides there is one. But what if there isn’t? He can’t prove that his God exists. So why doesn’t he admit he might be wrong?

      • CliveM

        Not exactly a dictionary definition, however;

        “In fact, Pope Francis has explicitly endorsed doubt in the life of faith. In a 2013 interview published in America Magazine, the pontiff said that the space where one finds and meets God must include an area of uncertainty”

        The Pope doesn’t even seem to meet your definition.

        Ok what about spiritually bankrupt?

        • Tutanekai

          Uncertainty about what? About God’s existence, or about the form he takes, or what he wants from us?

          You’re extrapolating what the Pope reportedly said and assuming he meant uncertainty about God’s existence. I see no justification for this, especially when the Pope is constantly talking about God in such definite terms in all of his public prayers and homilies. It is reasonable to believe that the Pope believes in God, otherwise why would he have accepted the job?

          Spiritual bankruptcy is a given if the spirit you believe in doesn’t exist. I can tell everyone that I’m a multi-billionaire in Galleons, Sickles and Knuts, but unless I can produce a fistful of cash and persuade a Muggle to take it in exchange for goods and services, I’m financially bankrupt. The Pope is in a very similar situation. He can talk all he likes about the love of God, but if nobody values that currency (and who can when it’s so completely intangible?) then his purchasing power is nil.

          • CliveM

            Believing that God exists is not the same as being blinkered.

            I don’t see how your definition of spiritual bankruptcy applied.

      • Sybaseguru

        Sorry but scientists spend their time proposing hypotheses which they then try to prove. In Maths we have a strong belief in the Riemann hypothesis, but no one has proved it, nor disproved it. Internet security is based on it being true!
        The true test is which is most probable.

        • Tutanekai

          My point exactly. Scientists can have as much unfounded faith in their unproven hypotheses as Christians do in their unproven religion. The difference is that (most) scientists are actually searching for proof, and if the facts contradict their theory, most of them will abandon it and try to build a hypothesis that fits the known facts. Christians just keep on believing in God. This is why I probably have more respect for the scientific position, which accommodates reality, than the religious position, which so often seeks to ignore it.

          • Jon Sorensen

            “Scientists can have as much unfounded faith in their unproven hypotheses as Christians do in their unproven religion.”
            This statement is just so wrong and shows lack of any understanding of science.

            “The difference is that (most) scientists are actually searching for proof, and if the facts contradict their theory, most of them will abandon it and try to build a hypothesis that fits the known facts.”
            This is even more wrong if possible

  • Sybaseguru

    One must be right – is there a God or not – its a binary question. If you think mankind is special then there has to be a God, otherwise if you go with the science alone then man is not special – just another animal in the flow of time and genes. In the latter case no form of morality makes sense as it would be a non-optimal selection for an individual to make.

    • sarky

      What is your definition of morality?

    • Tutanekai

      You’re right, there either is or isn’t a God. But neither the Pope nor Dawkins have proven which it is. Nobody has.

      And as for morality, Man is a social animal and therefore has to cooperate with other Men in order to survive and reproduce. Morality is merely the name we give to the rules that regulate that cooperation. Its existence doesn’t prove there’s a God. But it doesn’t disprove it either.

      • carl jacobs

        Just curious. What is the standard of proof for God?

        • The one made available to Lucifer and all the Angels and/or the personal encounter given Thomas and Paul. It has to be verifiable …

        • Tutanekai

          In general, the more outlandish the claim, the higher the standard of proof needed to support it.

          For example, I can believe there are platypuses in Australia even though I’ve never seen a platypus. But a platypus is an animal, and I’ve seen thousands of animals, and they come in such a variation of unusual configurations that one more unusual configuration, even if it’s very unusual indeed, requires no great leap of faith to believe in.

          God however does require a leap of faith.

          Firstly, he’s unique. There’s nothing else like him, so there’s no correlation we can draw with existing beings whose existence we’re already convinced of.

          Secondly, he’s nowhere to be found. There’s no clump of matter that anyone can point to and say “there’s God”.

          Thirdly, he reportedly does things that contravene the laws of nature and physics as we know them. The reports are numerous, but the evidence shown to back them up is non-existent. So really it’s just hearsay against the known facts of science. Human imagination being what it is, it isn’t hard to dismiss hearsay as fantasy and myth.

          None of this means that God doesn’t exist. But none of it proves that he does. However, if God came along and showed himself in all of his uniqueness, and started to perform some of these nature-defying miracles we hear so much of but never actually see, well then it would be hard to deny his existence.

          Until that happens, he remains in the realm of the putative.

          • Inspector General

            Considering what we are, and the rather excellent conditions we have in a friendly planet, then not believing in a creator is the somewhat foolish position. Thus, it is upon you to convince us all that we are the result of convenient reactions with whatever you wish to call inert dust…

          • Tutanekai

            I don’t want to convince anybody of anything because I don’t know whether there is a God or whether we’re just a cosmic accident.

          • sarky

            So how do explain all the other planets we are discovering that are in the so called goldilocks zone?
            How do you explain the announcement yesterday of flowing water on mars, that I’m sure will lead to the discovery of life there?
            If that happens your whole creator argument will fall flat on its arse.

          • Inspector General

            [Possible discovery of water on Mars] “…that I’m sure [sic] will lead to the discovery of life there? If that happens your whole creator argument will fall flat on its arse.”

            You have the intellectual capacity of a cheese burger…

          • sarky

            How? Or has the bible forgotten gods little side project?

          • Inspector General

            Do run your latest dribble past this man again. As it stands it is nonsense…

          • sarky


          • sarky

            You said the excellent conditions we have in a friendly planet are proof of a creator. I was pointing out that we are not the only planet thought to have these conditions. I was also pointing out that if life is discovered on mars, and the discovery of flowing water makes this a real possibility, then it creates real problems for christians who believe we are a unique creation.

          • Inspector General

            If you do anymore thinking, and it is rather obvious you are not used to that exercise, you might start understanding that there is no way in this universe that we have got to this stage in human development purely down to chance. How can there be, without a template not of our making. Anyway, that’s enough mental exercise for you to dwell on tonight, sarcastic thing, as we don’t want your head to fall off…

          • sarky

            I do think and it is through that process that I have quite easily discounted a creator.

          • Inspector General

            Oh dear. There’s no helping you slip up, is there. When it comes to whether there is a creator or not, nobody ‘easily discounts’ one view or the other. Not if you have a brain you don’t…

        • Tutanekai

          I thought I answered this, but this Disqus thing seems to have eaten my response.

          I don’t have the time to type it all out again. So short answer this time.

          The standard of proof for God is the same as the standard of proof for anything. It has to convince. For example, if I want to know if apples exist, I find an apple, I observe it and analyze it and then maybe eat it, and I conclude that apples are not a myth because there’s one in my stomach and the taste of it is in my mouth.

          Can’t find God. So I can’t eat him. I can’t even see him. I can’t feel him. I can’t smell him or sense him in any way. So if he exists, he’s invisible and intangible. Nothing else I know of is invisible and intangible. Even bacteria and viruses can be seen and observed if you have the right microscope. So God is beyond my capacity to observe. There can only be two reasons for this: either for reasons known only to himself he wants to remain hidden; or he doesn’t exist.

          I don’t know which it is, but as I’m pretty sure that every other invisible and intangible being that we talk about is just a myth – like fairies and ghosts and will o’the wisps – why then would God be real?

          • Inspector General

            You’d be bloody hopeless when it comes to higher mathematics then. That’s all about probability and conjecture. It would be worthwhile for you to acquaint yourself with that branch which if it didn’t exist, would severely restrict man’s future advancement. Indeed we owe so much to date to that side of the most valuable knowledge of all, the ability to do sums.

          • Tutanekai

            Whatever sums you can or can’t do in your head or even on paper, the numbers don’t actually exist. You may correlate them to actual objects, but you can’t reach out and touch a number. And, more importantly, a number can’t reach out and touch you. It isn’t a material object. It isn’t sentient. It doesn’t exist as anything more than a concept in your mind.

            Our minds have built a complex mathematics to help us categorize and make sense of the world around us. Atheists would say that God is very similar. An outworking of human intelligence used to make sense of the world around us, but not actually real.

            I see the logic in that argument. It could be true. But I don’t know if it is. Is God in our heads or is he real and floating about on a cloud somewhere? Who’s right? Dawkins or Poussin?

            I don’t have enough evidence to decide either way. Do you?

          • Inspector General

            Pity you feel like that as sums has given us the Big Bang. Beloved of astronomers and evangelical atheists alike…

          • Tutanekai

            The Big Bang is, just like God, an unproven theory.

          • Inspector General

            In astronomical circles, if you do not agree with the Big Bang theory, you are treated with the utmost suspicion. Such is the herd mentality they enjoy. As for any astronomer suggesting God played a role in the universe, then that would surely be near career suicide, by extrapolation…

          • Tutanekai

            Serious scientists have put forward theories that do away with the need for a Big Bang, and they haven’t been drummed out of the profession. In my experience, it tends to be Christians who espouse a “dissenter as heretic” attitude.

            Trying to push some of the crazier theories like “Intelligent Design” or good old Southern Fried “Creationism” probably will get you laughed out of science club. But if your theory has good data behind it, it will be taken seriously enough.

          • Inspector General

            Like all good science disciplines, all ideas are listened to and given a polite hearing at that (…so long as God is conveniently ignored…) on the grounds that thinking out of the box has got them to the stage they are now.

            In fact, new theories in astronomy have never been more welcome ever since they ‘mislaid’ 86% of matter. An incredible achievement and the source of much shameful embarrassment…

          • Tutanekai

            You can’t “mislay” something you’ve never seen.

            The existence of dark matter is proposed by the Standard Model as a solution to a specific problem in the theory of gravitation. There is insufficient visible matter to account for the gravity that keeps galaxies together. Something must be generating the requisite amount of gravity, and as matter is the only known generator, it is therefore reasonable to infer the existence of a kind of matter than we cannot see or otherwise detect (not yet at least).

            Experiments are underway to try to detect dark matter. As yet, none have succeeded. Does this mean it doesn’t exist and that scientists should be looking for something else? Is the source of all this extra gravity actually God? Does the Holy Ghost generate gravitonic particles when it interacts with visible matter? Or is there some other force out there that our physics just hasn’t come to grips with yet?

            Who knows? What we do know however is that the predictions of the Standard Model have been consistently borne out by experimental findings. For example, the Higgs boson was predicted long before it was found, and yet when it was found, it was found to behave pretty much exactly as predicted. As the Standard Model predicts the existence of dark matter, it is therefore likely that dark matter exists, although we can’t say it does for sure until it’s actually found.

            Rather than pooh-poohing a theory because it doesn’t fit with your predetermined idea of how the universe works, a more intelligent approach would be to study the idea and compare it to what we already know about the universe, and then try to find evidence to support it, or refute it, rather than just declaring it to be true or false. Such declarations say a lot about the people who make them and their desire to impose their vision of things on everyone and everything else. But they tell us nothing about how the universe is made.

          • Inspector General

            One concurs with what you say. However, an even more intelligent approach would be to rule nothing out, and that includes a creator. On that subject, your twisting and squirming reveals a somewhat closed mind to that possibility. Rather disappointing then as we both seek out the truth…

          • Tutanekai

            But I haven’t ruled out the possibility of there being a Creator!

            There could be a God. There could be an Allah. Or a Vishnu. Or any other deity known (or even unknown) to Man.

            The point is that there’s just no evidence that any of them exist. This doesn’t rule out their existence. But it does mean that believing in them has to be an arbitrary and unsupported decision.

            If God comes to earth in a blaze of glory and provides sufficient proof of his identity, of course I’ll believe in him. Until that point, I see no reason to believe in something that just isn’t proven. Christians may try to scare me into believing by saying that if I don’t, I’ll be sorry. They can talk about Hell and eternal damnation. But that’s just another unsupported belief, which is just as unconvincing as God himself.

            If there is a God, and he created me as a rational being, and he wants me to believe in him, then he’ll provide me with rational evidence that he really does exist. As of today, I have seen no such evidence. So as far as I’m concerned, God remains as an unproven, if interesting theory.

          • Deuteronomy 4:29. ‘You will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.’

          • Tutanekai

            Yes, the Bible is full of self-fulfilling prophecies, isn’t it? If I seek God, but don’t find him, it won’t be because he’s not there, but rather because I didn’t look hard enough.

            On that basis, there really are fairies at the bottom of my garden and Narnia really is lurking in the back of my wardrobe. I looked for them as a child, but never found them. Must be my fault, eh?

      • Sybaseguru

        If everyone else is being moral then its usually advantageous to go against it. Eg if morality is ” no sex before marriage” then I’m not going to get an STD by breaking it. Without that morality I have a great chance. Therefore morality always collapses in the absence of God. Morality is a version of game theory.

        • Tutanekai

          Sorry, but that makes no sense at all. First you say that breaking with morality is advantageous, then you say that breaking with morality leads to infection with STDs. Do you think it’s advantageous to catch a disease? What’s the advantage, exactly?

          I also wonder how many devout Christians have caught STDs, either because they sinned by sleeping around, or through no fault of their own because of an unfaithful partner? If a devout Christian woman gets the clap because her husband cheated on her, how did the presence of God in her life prevent “morality from collapsing” around her?

          Whether God is there or not, morality is supported by human beings and stands or falls by their behaviour. If God does exist, we can’t know what his morality is because he chooses to keep silent about it, just like he chooses to keep silent about everything. It’s people who are doing the talking, therefore morality as we know it is an entirely human concept.

          • Sybaseguru

            I think you have missed the principle. Morality is of benefit to the group as long as everyone sticks to it. But if too many break from it then it collapses. This is game theory. Morality fails without God as has been demonstrated by the current state of play in the UK.

          • sarky

            Has it though???? The vast majority play by the rules. Murder is low compared to other countries, crime is falling, teenage pregnancy rates are falling. Sorry but im struggling to see the moral collapse that should be happening if you are right.

          • Anton

            Divorce stats and stats for single-parent families have gone up 10-fold since the war. I believe they are a reasonably accurate measure of misery.

          • sarky

            Unlike the misery of being forced to stay in an unhappy marriage?
            And believe it or not there are some single parent families that actually thrive, but you would ignore all this wouldn’t you, because it doesn’t agree with your worldview.

          • Anton

            They are the exceptions to the rule. That is shown in the secular study Sex and Culture by JD Unwin (1934), who found that a culture rose in power when its family structure was stable and fell within a generation or two of going promiscuous. You can argue why but you can’t argue with the facts.

            Marriage is not just about the man and woman but the children. One friend said that she and her brother, offspring of an unhappy marriage which ended when the husband died suddenly, could stand their parents fighting but dreaded that they would split up.

          • Tutanekai

            The UK is no worse off now than it’s ever been. Indeed by most measures it’s doing pretty well.

            It doesn’t really matter what actually happens, Christians will always seize on anything they perceive as bad and claim it as proof the country is going to the dogs because they’re not in charge. However the truth is that bad things happened just as frequently when they were. Abortion, for example, if you think that abortion is bad, which I assume you do. Abortion still happened, and happened frequently, in the days when Christian morality governed the country and made it a crime. Or gay relationships. Men still had sex with each other and lived together when Christian priests and their followers deemed their actions to be criminal.

            What you seem to be advocating is a return to hypocrisy. Ban abortion and gay marriage and pretend they don’t happen and suddenly everything is right with the world. What matters is appearances, right? So sweep the people you don’t like and their actions under the carpet and suddenly the country will be perfect again?

            I don’t think so. If you make a practice illegal, you drive it underground. Your morality has triumphed only in appearance. Perhaps that’s enough for you and God, if he exists, is happy with a semblance of a moral society. But while you and he are busy pretending that all is well in the rose garden, down below the pretty flowers things will be going on pretty much as they are now – and always have been.

  • DanJ0

    “Dawkins and his militant ilk profess to know for sure the truth about something that is ultimately unknowable.”

    Except he doesn’t.

    • Darter Noster

      You must admit, though, the man is a puffed up gobshite who strays a very long way from his academic specialism in order to pour bile on believers who, when it comes to theology and history, know a lot more than he does.

      • Jon Sorensen

        So much Christian hate 🙁

        • Phil R

          You wonder..

          He said children should be taught ‘religion exists’ but not taught it as fact
          Dawkins repeating claims that sex abuse does ‘arguably less long-term
          psychological damage’ than being brought up a Catholic

          He said

          “children should be taught ‘religion exists’ but not taught it as fact”

          “claims that sex abuse does ‘arguably less long-term
          psychological damage’ than being brought up a Catholic”

          • Jon Sorensen

            So? what is your point?

          • magnolia

            Well Dawkins is being intentionally provocative, but it is just a vastly sweeping statement with no academic merit. Hundreds of thousands of different verifiable stories (given the no.of Catholics worldwide) would need collating for a fair sample and for it to have any academic verifiability of the sort to which he would give credence according to his own writings, for otherwise it is finger in the wind and flaunt your prejudices time, according to his own criteria.

            He thinks he can hide this under the word “arguably”, but it isn’t really arguable other than by hauling out all the worst samples in the Catholic camp, and all the minor cases of sexual abuse, and that has no academic credibility as a method whatsoever, creating flawed results and an absurd conclusion. Which he must actually know very well.

          • Jon Sorensen

            Yes, Dawkins is often intentionally provocative. Good for him.

            He has academic merit in his field, why can’t he make statement on other field like you do?

            “Hundreds of thousands of different verifiable stories” of what? If it a miracle one would be enough.

            “hauling out all the worst samples in the Catholic camp, and all the minor cases of sexual abuse”
            Well someone must do it. Catholics are not cleaning their house. Other Christians are not calling them out because their own sexual abuse hiding.

            “has no academic credibility as a method whatsoever”
            What kind of credibility is required. You make statements about history of violence. Do you have academic merits or credibility?

            Dawkins has done great work. You should support him.

          • magnolia

            First I differ on intentional provocation, which I regard as a bad idea almost always.

            I never questioned his rights to free speech, nor to speaking in disciplines other than his own. I deeply appreciate polymaths, but he isn’t an obvious example. His statements are at the level of public attention he has sought, which is high. Therefore his standards should be high, and the scientific methodology he so lauds consistently applied. That is only fair.

            With miracles we are looking at unusual events. Most incurable diseases proceed to death and not to full health. Therefore by definition research methods applicable to exceptions are applied.

            His comparison was sexual abuse v being brought up as a Roman Catholic : which does the more harm? You have conflated the two, which while it may be an underlying intended echo is not actually the comparison being made. The usual research method in such a comparison if anyone were to attempt such a ridiculous piece of research would be to take a representative sample, of all ages, genders, social classes and ethnicities and compare their stories. One or two isolated stories do not hack it. It is not too much surely to expect a scientist to expect a rigorous approach of method, results and conclusion, so lauded by him elsewhere, almost ad nauseam?

          • Jon Sorensen

            “First I differ on intentional provocation, which I regard as a bad idea almost always.”
            So when Jesus was intentionally provocative that was bad? Does this depend on who does it or the subject.

            “Therefore by definition research methods applicable to exceptions are applied.”
            What are these “research methods applicable to exception”? Why are these special cases that scientific method does not apply?

            “It is not too much surely to expect a scientist to expect a rigorous approach of method,”
            Dawkins talked about his own experience, just like you are. He did not claim there study about it. You seem to advocate high research standard for other, but you don’t apply it to yourself. When are you providing evidence of your claim I wrote in the post above?

          • magnolia

            I am not sure Jesus was intentionally provocative. I would rather think the intentionally provocative person gets in first to stir things. I think Jesus was more reactive.

            If you see someone beaten up on the street and step in to stop it and shield the victim you are not provocative, for instance.

            I am wondering which passage you are thinking of. If it should be the cleansing of the temple that is reactive, if you are thinking of his tough answering questions to tough questions, ditto, if you are thinking of his healing on the Sabbath he was reacting to need. I don’t know whether you are thinking of something that doesn’t come to my mind readily.

            As for Dawkins I was merely advocating internal consistency of approach! I do not pretend to be speaking to a large group of avid followers as he is!!

          • Jon Sorensen

            Jesus advocated following the law “not jot and tittle” and not following the law “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them”. One of those is provoking.

            Can you point out where Dawkins does not have “internal consistency of approach”?

      • DanJ0

        He certainly comes across that way when writing as an atheist. In person, he seems to be polite and mild-mannered. It’s a curious thing that he excites so much antagonism from Christians when he’s not an intellectual heavyweight or an accomplished philosopher. Surely he’s better ignored in the scheme of things if he’s no threat?

        • Pubcrawler

          This man generally ignores him, but it would be easier if he weren’t the poster boy for a certain type of anti-religious who cite him as if he’s the last word on the matter.

        • magnolia

          Interesting observational response for which thanks. I did think the Deerin alliterative diatribe might have found some nice “p” s to mix in!! “Polite in person” might be a good place to start with! After all he is a human being, even though one prone to irritate some of us!

          It is a feature of academics that they are often gentle in person but can become incensed and even quite ad hominem when taking different sides, but then most educated people can be fiercer in print than in person. I think that is fair and I would hold up my hand, as a partially educated person, to that myself. Maybe it is because we see the ideas in print as more divorced from real people and ideas don’t hurt if you give them a bit of a battering, but people do. Someone will put it better than that, but maybe that is a start. At any rate, we are all at our better selves when we avoid ad hominem argument whenever possible.

  • Inspector General

    Now, let’s see. What is Cranmer about today. He’s making much of Dawkins’ acquiescence that Britain is essentially a Christian country, and that its culture is so derived accordingly. Can’t see how that alters the Dawkins position. What Dawkins is effectively saying is see that village, see that building in the centre. That is called a Christian church. It’s been there in its stone form since the 12th century. There was almost certainly a wooden structure on the site for the same purpose going back far longer…

    The Inspector has met surprisingly few reasonable men, for the number he has met in his lifetime. And should he ever meet Dawkins, then Dawkins would not be one of them either. The reasonable man would hold the following on our origin. We are either a product of complete chance, or that of ultimate design. Either way, it is absolutely amazing we are here at all. A stunning existence in this spaced out universe, the little we know of it. You takes your choice then. There is much to be said for design. We seem to fit, here, on earth. Everything is laid on for us – isn’t electricity and radio waves real wonders to behold? Conversely, there is little to be said for mere chance. Following the law of cause and effect, hardly anything is the result of nothing, if indeed hardly anything is not in itself a great exaggeration as one cannot give an example straight off other than the big bang, though some say even there it’s not as straightforward as it reads…

  • chiefofsinners

    Richard Dawkins does not exist.

    • Anton

      “Why I no longer believe in Richard Dawkins”

      • chiefofsinners

        Available in all good bookstores at just £32.99.

  • Jon Sorensen

    I think Pope wants more Twitter followers than Dawkins. According to media “The Vatican is taking a modern approach to one of its oldest traditions, by offering indulgences to Twitter followers of the Pontifex’s social media account (= Get time off in purgatory by following Pope on Twitter)”

    Pope is definitively nicer that Dawkins! Now the Pope has almost 2.7 million followers on Twitter. It’s a miracle.

  • Phil R

    There are lots of posts here stating that Christians are angry at Dawkins for no reason

    Read what Dawkins’ definition of child abuse is and it is clear that we have every right to be angry.

    • Jon Sorensen

      “right to be angry”. Where did you get this right?

      Why don’t you challenge his definition if you think he is wrong, rather than getting angry.

      • Phil R

        I challenge his definition and get angry

        We Christians need to learn from the Muslims and find our backbone again

    • sarky

      I believe indoctrination is a form of abuse. The fear of hell stayed with me for a long time.

      • dannybhoy

        I met someone years ago who had been brought up in a church that taught irresistible grace and election.
        So he was guaranteed Heaven even though (evidently), others in his circle of friends and family weren’t.
        He found this somewhat overwhelming and actually it made him extremely unhappy. It took a while for him to realise that God doesn’t force anyone to accept salvation, and when he did he was glad he was..
        I do agree that some Christian thinking does far more harm than good.
        I remember another lady in a church I attended, who suffered terribly with depression for years after giving birth. The elders would pray for her, she would be encouraged to fight it and take hold of healing etc.
        In the end she was treated with lithium and the depression was lifted…

        • sarky

          And the cancer sufferers told to stop taking their medicine, children disowned by their parents etc etc.
          look on the website exchristian, some of the ways people have been treated isappalling.

          • dannybhoy

            All true Sarky, but imo no reason to refute Christianity, only distortions of it.
            I have never been taught to throw away my commonsense or to believe that God rewards foolishness.
            The value of Christianity lies in the gift of salvation, the inward transformation of the person by the Holy Spirit. That awareness of forgiveness and reconciliation, and being able to pray and have prayers answered. To start caring for other people where once one only cared for one’s own happiness.

          • sarky

            I understand, but if that’s the case why are so many wounded by it?

          • dannybhoy

            I could trot out the line that the ‘enemy of our souls’, always seeks to corrupt the truth and keep people in the dark.
            And I do actually believe that. I do believe that there is a dimension beyond the physical realm.
            But because I doubt that you do (being an atheist and all), I won’t go into that…. ;0)

            I will instead share with you that I think we all need to be loved and accepted. We seek approval and recognition from those we respect and love. Because we are tribal creatures; sociable not solitary and we need other people to make us more fulfilled.
            When we are presented with something either philosophical or religious, our response is to some degree dependent on who is presenting it, and whether what it offers meets a need or an ideal/aspiration within us..
            In my own Christian journey I have met people who were seriously damaged by past experiences. People who were deceived or exploited. People who were extremely gullible and vulnerable.
            That is why I believe the heart of the Christian gospel is love. Unconditional love. And people need to be loved, not condemned or conned or controlled.

          • sarky

            The problem is most religion is all about condemnation and control!

          • len

            I agree that`s what put me off religion too.
            Jesus Christ came to set men free from religion …and look what religion did to Him!.

          • sarky

            Not a great advert!!

          • dannybhoy

            this isn’t the vidclip I was thinking about, but this one between an intelligent atheist and a bloke called Joshua Feuerstein is quite good. Whilst I disliked the Christian’s presentation, the atheist also had some misconceptions..

          • sarky

            Sorry Dannybhoy, I refused to read or watch anything by Mr Feuerstein after he urged christians to fight gay marriage with guns.

          • dannybhoy

            Really? You got a reference for that, because I find that hard to believe..

          • sarky
          • dannybhoy

            Wow! Not good.

          • sarky

            Just what America needs at the moment, more idiots with guns.

      • Phil R

        State indoctrination is very much back in fashion

        • sarky

          Not really an answer.

  • len

    Pope or Dawkins …Dawkins or Pope?….not a lot of choice here….Dawkins as an unbeliever has the possibility of getting saved…The Pope on the other hand thinks he already is saved so Dawkins has the greatest potential for salvation……

    The image of Dawkins as Pope is truly disturbing…..

  • len

    OK lets get scientific and logical here (both aspects loved by secularists) can God be proved or disproved?
    God`s existence can definitely be proved(for those who really want to know)

    God has laid out in His Word and His Creation evidence that only those who do not want to find evidence will deny.Bible prophecy and the intricacies of Creation (which man is still discovering) are irrefutable.
    ‘Evolution’ as a theory is becoming less and less credible in the light of scientific fact and evolution still exists only as a ‘comfort blanket’ for those who tremble at the thought of being accountable to a Higher Being.

    We can perform religious rituals as the Pope does to impress his followers or deny God as the atheists do but both of these must grieve God for He has already laid out his plan for salvation for all to see.Salvation has a Name..Jesus Christ.

    • sarky

      I’m an adult, I don’t need a comfort blanket.

      • dannybhoy

        Christians don’t need comfort blankets either. Where you get that idea from is puzzling. You have on this blog one man who has serious heart problems, one man with undisclosed health conditions, one man (me) who has COPD and who expects to be gone in the next five years. There are probably others who don’t like to let on what their ailments are, but my point is that none of us blogs like people who need a comfort blanket, who are anxious to stay on good terms with God or fearful of death and hell..
        So where do you get this idea of Christian comfort blankets from? Do they offer them at Christian inspired food banks??

        • sarky

          Read the comment I was replying to, then have another go. (Where did I even mention christians?)

          • dannybhoy

            Oooops my bad. I did read it but not as well as I should have.
            Apologies Sarky.

          • sarky

            No problem 🙂

  • dannybhoy

    “In the end, this is what pushes me back towards religion in ways I admit
    are probably not entirely logical or even explicable. Of the priests I
    have known in my lifetime, most have admitted to doubts about their
    faith. Most have had dark nights of the soul. Some I suspect didn’t
    really believe any more.”

    I love this! I love it because it has echoes of Job’s great cry, “Yea even though He slay me, yet will I trust Him!”
    The beauty of faith in God is not that we can prove His existence, but that we can show His influence in our lives. That believers are not spared the vagaries of life, the hurts and pains, but that in all of them He will be there with us; seen or unseen.
    Then consider our Lord Jesus, who has inspired love, devotion and service in so many down through the centuries.
    Seen or unseen, provable or not, we believers have the privilege of connecting with Him who framed the heavens and the earth, knowing that He wno loves eternally once walked the earth alongside us.

    Richard Dawkins and all his ilk have nothing to offer men and women struggling to make sense of life, nothing that may cause them to lift their eyes from their hopelessness to consider Him who offers true and eternal life.

  • Inspector General

    Interesting. You see, one personally cannot make sense of this complicated world, complicated by the presence of the complicated human, without the benefit in a belief in a creator and a design to which we follow like animals guided between fences, destined for the dip.

    Part of our preprograming is the capacity to, well, need is the best word, to appreciate a higher state. We see it in the religious, we see it in the football fan, we see it in the eco types who worship the soil all but. Now that is rather surprising consider the sheer arrogance of us beasts.

    Which brings us to the pain atheists endure when they proselytise against the phenomenon. Don’t think your struggle to show defiance is not lost on this man. You fight the tide, bravely, but you are trying in vain to convince, not just us, but the part of you that secretly longs for illumination. That you cannot find it in yourself leads you to wail about not having been given visual, touchable, smellable proof. Astrology seems to help you, for some odd reason. That nonsense concocted by deluders and cheats over time. You are grasping out, but all you pull in are weeds….

    If you have not found evidence of a creator, then that is your laziness. You could start by investigating what we know as mother nature. And see the act of creation death and renewal in action.

    • Tutanekai

      What you’re really saying is that I should fill in the gaps in my knowledge with an unsubstantiated story that makes little or no logical sense solely on the basis of your belief in it.

      This is one of the weakest arguments the religious can make. “I believe, therefore it must be true”. But who gifted you with infallible discernment? Why is the fact that you believe relevant to anyone else?

      We can only rely on our own judgment, and mine tells me that the case for Christianity is extremely weak given the total lack of evidence for it. It can’t be entirely discounted because I don’t have proof positive of its falsity. So it remains as an unproven theory, which might be true, although there’s no reason to think it is.

      Of course the same can be said for atheism. Nothing proves that God doesn’t exist. As I have no evidence either way, all I can do is reserve judgment and say that I don’t know.

      • Inspector General

        Well quite – the same can be said for atheism. So it comes down to whether you like your glass of philosophy half full or half empty. Half full is much better. It’s more positive, you see.

        • Tutanekai

          Again, we’re back to what you want as opposed to what actually is. We don’t know what is, so you substitute what you want and claim it as being real. That’s just making it up as you go along, which isn’t necessarily positive. Living your life according to the dictates of wishful thinking can get you into some pretty awful scrapes.

          I prefer to admit that I don’t know what is. This is neither positive nor negative. It’s a neutral stance. If I don’t impose my own vision of reality on the world, I may be able to discern what reality really is, as and when information about it becomes available. If I make my mind up based on spurious and invented explanations, then my dogmatic certainties will close my mind to the true nature of reality forever.

          For example, ancient Israelites believed that the rainbow was a sign from God that he would never again send a flood to wipe out Mankind. But we know that it’s just light refracted through water droplets, and that rainbows have been with us as long as there’s been water and sunlight. The religious viewpoint may be picturesque, but it’s also misleading and inaccurate. The secular viewpoint of waiting until we have enough information to discern the reality of a phenomenon actually leads us to truth. And what is more positive than truth?

          • Inspector General

            You are much too set on perfection. Ts crossed, Is dotted, that kind of thing. Take a leap of faith, why don’t you. It’s all we can do when so much is not made available to public view. In order words, take a chance on it all. Be a chancer in the best definition of the word. Effectively, that’s what we religious types have done, Weighed it up, and jumped the one way and not the other.