You’ve heard of a pub with no beer, but a Church with no God?…

An atheist practising minister, in a mainstream church, incumbent with his own congregation, with the backing of both his peers and parishioners. Cloud cuckoo land? Not according to the BBC’s Amsterdam Religious affairs correspondent. Rev Klaas Hendrikse doesn’t believe in God as a ‘supernatural being. The very Rev Hendrikse believes that:

God is not a being at all… it’s a word for experience, or human experience

He goes as far as acknowledging that the Bible is a resource of insight on leading a good life, but clarifies that with his belief that the description of the life of Jesus is a mythical tale and that he may not have existed.

The article also reports that a recent survey by the Free University of Amsterdam has revealed that one in six of the clergy in the main Dutch Protestant Church and several smaller denominations are either atheists or agnostic…

  • between the bridges

    ‘BBC’s Amsterdam Religious affairs correspondent’
    i wonder if he gets to use that title much?

    i have visited the ‘dam’ but never considered attending church, that might change…At the Old Church “in the hottest part of the red light district”, the attractions included “speed-dating”.

    As skimpily dressed girls began to appear in red-lit windows in the streets outside, visitors to the church moved from table to table to discuss love with a succession of strangers…

  • Amsterdam is just the dateline location, not part of his job title.

  • between the bridges

    JW. thanks for that, there was me thinking the BBC where paying him to sit around amsterdam waiting for breaking religious news……(tongue firmly in cheek)

  • I don’t see anything wrong with this. It’s just reversing all the St.Paul rubbish that had nothing to do with Jesus’s teachings.

    I’m fairly sure Jesus had the same insight as many Buddhists and taught that message through parables etc.

    Take a look at the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, it’s similarities between Buddhist teachings and taoist texts is astounding.

  • rhys

    The Rev Henrikse speaks for a lot of people: only cynical and drunken journalists pretend to believe that the Churches still live in the Seventeenth Century, which is a typical example of the way they force a totally false dialogue on us as part of their vacant and noisy defence of capitalism. What on earth do those cruddy hacks mean by ‘God’, and why should we ever pay any attention to them anyway?

  • sonofstrongbow

    This is a modern, and I would say more honest and practical view of religious practice. However it has its roots in the very oldest traditions. Religious people in the ancient world would find it more familiar than than mainstream churches’ approach today.

    It was a by-product of the Renaissance thinking that encouraged religious communities to reconfigure their relationship with the spiritual to meet the new empirical norms that were building. This move away from a natural philosophy and theology where ‘god’, the “other’, was unknowable resulted in the rise of dogma and the need to ‘believe’ in a defined Being.

    The medieval religious peoples better understood the metaphysical and the importance of ritual and practice in helping to live the human experience. To them the Bible was allegory. There was no requirement to ‘believe’ it was the actual word of god. To do so would have diminished the power of their practices and the solace that their contemplative approach brought them.

  • Cynic2

    I can think of a few Churches in NI with very little evidence of God.

  • Cynic2

    “only cynical and drunken journalists pretend to believe that the Churches still live in the Seventeenth Century”

    I think that’s unfair. I am neither but still think that the Catholic Church is stuck around 1550 and the ggod old CoI around 1800. The Presbyterians are probably in the 19th century on doctrine.

  • CharlieMcCarthy29

    I heard an interview about 3 weeks ago on the radio of an evangelical clergy man who talked about losing all of his belief about 2 years ago. He was obviously in great mental distress He still preaches but thinks he is a fraud. He was anonymous since he cannot discuss his problem with anyone, not even his wife. I felt sad for him.

  • It sounds like the Church of England.

  • rhys

    I tried to commend sonofstrongbow (despite his chosen name) but found it was impossible, I don’t know why. Cynic 2 is mistaking what is put on the tin with what people are actually buying the tin FOR. Nobody believes all that old crap, but over here, mostly, they pretend for good reasons, unlike the American fundamentalists who just want more business.

  • sonofstrongbow


    What’s the problem with my nom de poste?

  • nightrider

    Many religious rituals are medieval in origin, and simply exist as a comfort blanket, originally to the peasantry and now their contemporary equivalents. As 99% of ‘believers’ adhere to the doctrine of their parents, faith is simply an evolutionary meme.
    Ritual is common to all societies, acting as a kind of pattern to the arrow of time and seasons. Also a social and community provider.
    All these guys have done is get rid of the fairy tale nonsense, in the same way as Christmas occurs without (Adults) believing in Santa Claus.
    Quite a few people only go to Mass or Church to check out the talent anyway.

  • sonofstrongbow

    “most people only go to Mass or Church to check out the talent anyway”. I need to attend your place of worship. My local vicar is aesthetically challenged. Even when there was a lady stand-in she was not that easy on the eye.

  • nightrider

    I didn’t say ‘most’ and wasn’t referring to the clergy.

    Actually, a long time ago, I joined an evangelical christian group at the request of a very aesthetically pleasing blonde girl. my motivation was highly suspect. It was a pretty tedious experience, but I had my eyes on the prize and persisted for some weeks. Neither of us got the result we were looking for.

  • Rory Carr

    Nightrider says (obviously without giving it a moment’s thought):

    “Many religious rituals are medieval in origin, and simply exist as a comfort blanket, originally to the peasantry and now their contemporary equivalents.”

    I challenge him therefore to name one, just ONE, of the “many religious rituals” he intends and then to go on to demonstrate how this ritual was intended only to be observed by the peasantry.

    It will of course be a complete waste of time waiting around for his answer since, like so much that tries to pass itself off as earnest intellectual input, it is really just a lot of ignorant, deeply prejudiced bunkum.

    With such a level of attention to thought it is no wonder that charlatans, money-grubbing evangelists and Holy Rollers of all kinds are able to get away with their chicanery.

  • nightrider

    I’m unsure what specifics Rory Carr is referring to, so a general link:

    The RC Church and CoE are shot through with feudal hierarchies that bypassed the enlightenment. Basically the idea that feudal hierarchies were instilled by divine providence.

    ps By ‘intends’ do you mean ‘attends’?

  • Nunoftheabove


    “I can think of a few Churches in NI with very little evidence of God”.

    I can’t think of a single one with any evidence of God whatsoever. Share with us where this evidence can be found at once, my car’s all revved up here.

  • ayeYerMa

    This is the only type of Christianity that I could relate to. The churches have provided over the years senses of community and morality – these positive and worthy aspects are ruined by all of this “spiritual” claptrap that no one can prove one way or another. While personally I would go further and denounce much of the bible as also being claptrap, many of the stories in the bible do indeed offer good parables / fables and when viewed in that context are worthy of interest IMO.

    I think a few humanist organisations should take over the odd struggling church or two as I think there’d be quite a demand for such a thing. Currently I feel there is a void and lack of a sense of community and values in most areas caused by people seeing the spiritual nonsense for what it is – such churches and humanists should fill this void as it allows people to belong to a community without having to hypocritically pretend to believe “spiritual” nonsense.

  • ayeYerMa

    .., either that or bring back paganism when people worshipped nature, the sun and the moon!

    Given that Ireland is the home of paganism, St. Patrick has a lot to answer for for cursing the ancient and more logical customs with Christianity!!

  • Rory Carr

    I am even more confused by Nightrider’s attempt to explain his assertion on “religious rituals” by a reference to a semi-literate paper on feudal hierarchy, but not obviously as confused as he himself is.

    And…p.s. In reply to the question: “By ‘intends’ do you mean ‘attends’?” No. I was asking you to name one of the ritualsof all the “many rituals” which you intended. Your reply with an obscure semi-literate reference to feudal hierarchy simply comes nowhere near to addressing that.

  • Cynic2

    A truly shocking thread.

    Without the churches where would Ireland be?

    How could we define usuns and identify themuns? How could we rationalize that themuns are different (ie inferior)? We’d have to invent religion all over again.

    It’s all too much for me

  • Clanky

    Even worse cynic, could you imagine if this aetheism thing spread to both churches and themuns started believing the same things as usuns, not only would we have to re-invent religion we would have to start a new and better form of true aetheism to make sure that we were still superior to themuns.

    Reformed Free Evangelical Aetheism anyone?

  • Toastedpuffin

    Charlie McCarthy: “I felt sad for him.”

    I have to admit someone drawing a salary for a job in an organisation in whose beliefs they don’t share makes me sad too.

    A man with a cushy job for life, I can hardly see the screen for tears.

  • Cynic2


    Not sure I agree. I don’t think Atheism makes anyone superior. It just makes them more realistic on humankind’s overall place in the universe.

  • Clanky

    Cynic, was thinking more along the lines that if both of the main christian traditions in ireland suddenly embraced atheism then they would need to find doctrinal differences between each other in order to continue to pander to the tribalism that feeds off present theological differences.

    To be honest I don’t think religion itself breeds the sense of superiority that is often atributed to it, I think the problem is more tribal, religion is just a good tool with which to fire up tribal emotions.

    For me the problem in Ireland is exactly the same as racism anywhere or as football hooliganism anywhere, but instead of the distinctions being along the lines of skin colour or shirt colour they are along the lines of flag colour. Many will truly believe that their deeply held beliefs come from their faith or from their deep rooted belief in the British or Irish state, but realistically most have simply had their tribal instincts manipulated by people using religion and nationalism as tools to feed the flames and keep the power where it is, in the hands of the rich.

  • A most interesting report.

    There are many atheists who use christian morals as the basis for an ethical life. Nothing surprising about that.

    The hardest bit to comprehend is the continuance of religious rites and prayer. From what is suggested by some commenters above, this is an excuse for some sort of emotional group therapy which leaves them feeling good afterwards. Surely, though, there has to be more to it than that. With a normal religious prayer, there is a deity to whom it is directed. So who exactly do they say they are praying to?

  • CharlieMcCarthy29

    Not christian morals. Just innate ones that many religions adopt.

  • nightrider

    seems Rory Carr is quite the pseudo academic, and I get the feeling he doesn’t live in ‘God’s country’ anymore, few of his type do.
    Rather than deal with the subject, soup up his own pedestrian ‘spiritual’ guff with polytech marxism and we have the Irish Terry Eagleton who lives in (guess) Islington.
    If not there I’m guessing close.
    Met many, many of this type over the years, they’re young and have a lot to learn.

  • ayeYerMa

    Cynic2, I think religion and tribalism are more linked because the churches formed the cornerstone of our traditional communities (a positive trait which in the long-run has ended up a negative). The community is defined by the church and its schools etc.

    Seymour, could they not just be meditating to themselves or nature to instill more of a positive attitude? “God” being the figurative laws of physics and nature that surround them. Kind of like making a wish?

  • Rory Carr

    Not such a “pseudo academic” however that I cut and paste a semi-literate paper* on feudal hierarchy in defence when challenged to produce evidence in support of a ridiculous statement on the origin of religious rituals.

    P.s. Nightrider is correct on one thing – I do indeed live close to Islington – Tottenham in fact, which is a mere two tube stops from there, but as I live just half a mile from the police station which has been much in the news over this weekend he will appreciate that my (septugenarian) mind has been on matters other than his own nonsense.

    *Some interesting examples from the paper which Nightrider cites as authoritative:

    “By the 11th and 12th centuries, the vast majority of European men and women were peasants who were the land of their lords.”

    “Most serfs never traveled beyond the estate of their lord. Although such an arrangement may strike us as far to local, the family of the serf did maintain a strong sense of family and community, and was also certain of support from his lord or other members of the village community in times of trouble. In other words, people knew what to expect from life.

  • South Belfast Hack

    As this guy correctly identifies there is in people everywhere a universal sense of social justice that it is good for the strong to help the weak. That certain things are right and wrong. From where does this universal sense of morality come, if not from God?

    We haven’t evolved this sense, evolution teaches that the strong survive and the weak die, the only morality it teaches is that whatever you do which allows you to survive and reproduce is good. Anything which is self-sacrificing is by definition, therefore, immoral to evolution.

    In recent weeks people all over the world have donated money to help the people in the the Horn of Africa. People have given sacrificially to help others who are not genetically linked to them and who can never ever do anything in return. In a God-free evolution driven world this is illogical.

    I’ll ask it again; if there is no God, from where does this universal sense of morality come?

  • “I’ll ask it again; if there is no God, from where does this universal sense of morality come?”

    There is no “universal” sense of morality.

    Contrary to what you say, morals did evolve. They evolved separatedly and independently in communities throughout the ages. They evolved as a means of regulating people within their community. The evolution of morals is closely associated with the evolution of laws.

    Not all morals are necessarily good, either. For example, criminals have a moral code that they will not “grass” upon one another. Absurd as some might see it, that moral sense evolved from a necessity in the criminal fraternity to limit the number of arrersts.

  • Mayoman

    SBH. Unfortunatelty, the base and literal interpretation of ‘survival of the fittest’ is a massive simplification. There are many example of cooperativity that confer an evolutionary advantage. This is excellently demonstrated in bee hives and ants nests, to give just two examples. Do you think bees and ants rely on the teachings of God to act ‘morally’ to better the overall colony? What is driving them to act in a ‘good way’ towards each other?

    Found this quote here:

    “Moral instinct itself is rooted in the laws of nature (Physics) via the working of the brain. Morality is latent in the laws of nature. It finds expression through the process of evolution”

    Evolutionary theory is not about the survival of individuals with a certain genetic makeup, but how well that genetic make up persists in this earthly realm. Morality confers an evolutionary advantage through maximising the chances that we reproduce and the genes are passed on (even at the simplest level of reducing, rather than eradicating, the chances of killing each other). Morality makes perfect sense from an evolutionary point of view. While it is impossible to close the God versus evolution debate, I think you will agree that there is another very plausible explanation for the presence of universal morality other than ‘God’.

  • South Belfast Hack

    In every society, even those that developed largely independantly of one another the same general morals exist. There is some variation on the finer points. Every culture considers it virtuous for the strong to help the weak. This is completely counter to evolution.

    Where did our instinct to help the starving in Africa come from, it is of no evolutionary advantage, indeed it could be argued that charity is an evolutionary disadvantage.

    The example of criminals not grassing is not a universal urge that we all experience, it’s an example of a culturally conditioned value. Other culturally conditioned values include how we dress, table manners etc these aren’t the basic universal values I’m referring to.

  • Mayoman

    SBH: “Every culture considers it virtuous for the strong to help the weak. This is completely counter to evolution.”

    No its isn’t. A strong colony survives. Not strong individuals. Get that, and you’ll get the underlying logic for ‘morality’ as an inbuilt, instinctive, genetically-based mechanism that improves cooperativity — and its development as part of the evolutionary process.

    The clue is in your own post: “In every society, even those that developed largely independantly of one another the same general morals exist.” That is because the basis for morality is acquired and not learned.

    And can you answer my question on bees and ants? Why do they work so well together? Why do individual ants or bees sacrifice themselves for their colony?


    “There are many examples in nature of insects sacrificing themselves when a colony or nest is under attack, such as when bees use their stings to defend the hive and die in the process.”

  • Nunoftheabove


    Quite right; looked upon from the collective rather than the solipsistic perspective, human solidarity is entirely consistent with evolutionary principles. I do well unto others on occasion because it’s in my personal interests as a member of the species to behave in a manner such that, if in difficulty, I might have some expectation that a similar degree of solidarity would be forthcoming onto me in order to support my survival as a somewhat useful member of the species. Our species operates much better with a degree of this solidarity within it and through it and it’s as simple as that. Likewise, is it in the interests of the species that we allow famines to go on, standing by in a disinterested fashion when we could manageably reduce or eliminate it ? Of course not. Likewise, fascism is inimical to the species as a whole and on those grounds alone it is justified to oppose it forcibly; this is both consistent with sound human ethics which in turn is of course in alignment with sound evolutionary principles.

  • South Belfast Hack

    Mayoman – Have you ever seen bees helps bees from another hive?

  • South Belfast Hack

    Nun – the starving people of Somalia can do nothing to return the favour to me. If they die then more of the earth’s scarce resources are available to me and those who are genetically close to me. I do understand evolution quite well, there is no basis from evolution for me to help them.

    If I evolved from a simple single celled organism then EVERYTHING about me must be the result of evolution, so why can’t I shake this desire to help them? It makes no sense!

  • Nunoftheabove

    South Belfast Hack

    You appear unwilling or unable to work through the solipsism – try a bit harder and you might make it and remember that your parents were right – the world really doesn’t revolve around you. Your argument on the availability of resources doesn’t stand up as there quite simply is no such scarcity. Also consider why it is, here, that it has never been necessary to induce people to donate blood for their fellow primates. That’s a very basic act of what I would call human solidarity that costs the donors nothing, benefits them none at all and helps their fellow beings without any knowledge of who the beneficiary is. I would say that that’s a pretty agreeable alignment of need and well exercised choice and a not untypical example of what helps the species as a whole survive and thrive.

  • Mayoman

    Why is that relevant SBH? I don’t want to get flippant (and for the record, there is evidence of inter-colony cooperation between certain species of ant), but the point is, bees do not need to go to mass to know that sacrificing themselves for the sake of others in the hive is a ‘good’ thing. There are other reasons for all animals acting in a ‘good’ way.

  • South Belfast Hack

    There’s no need to be patronising Nun, if people of religion were stupid we’d have died out thousands of years ago, would we not?

    I fully accept that there are good evolutionary reasons why I might choose to help someone who (a) is genetically related to me or (b) might be able to help me in some way in the future.

    You haven’t provided adequate explanation as to why evolution would drive me to help someone, not of my genetic group who won’t be able to help me in return.

    Your illustration of donating blood is a good one, of course it’s in human nature to help someone if we can, especially if the cost to ourselves is low. But there is no explanation from to evolution why I would choose to do this, but as you say the cost to myself is low so I might do it.

    Move to a situation where the cost to myself is high, I can’t expect any repayment from the beneficiary and the beneficiary is not from my genetic group. How and why would I have evolved the instinct to help someone under those circumstances?

  • Nunoftheabove

    South Belfast Hack

    Genetically we’re ultimately all related to one another to some extent so that point falls with immediate effect.

    I didn’t say that evolution ‘drove you’ to do so; our primate instincts predispose us to understand the difference between threat from our fellow primates (say, fascists, psychopaths, sociopaths etc) and the need to co-exist in a fashion that’s agreeable to the rest of us to a sensible extent, not least due to our material interdependence. It’s not because we’re ‘kind’ in some soppy sentimental bogus religiously ordained manner (after all, they’re only kind because an imaginary being tells them they have to be and threatens them if they’re not) but rather because it’s good commonsense ethics. There’s an ultimate degree of self-interest in a lot of giving, caring, loving and supporting one another as you will acknowledge. I think you put your finger on the button when you say that it’s human nature for us to help one another, within limits – evolution gives us that alongside the capacity – need, requirement – to compete and to fight to protect and prolong our existence in certain circumstances, occasionally at the expense of others. Evolution gives us both. Religion gave us none of that.

    Turning to your example, we have the capacity for free will (after all, we don’t have a choice not to have it…) and to make those calculations rationally. You’re again looking at this from a distinctly personal point of view though which is inhibiting your ability to understand or to accept the point.

    Contrary to much immoral and fatuous religious teaching, the universe wasn’t created with you in mind, I’m awfully sorry. Best to bear in mind what Auden said: “Looking up at the stars, I know quite well, that, for all they care I can go to hell”.

  • someone mentioned myth

    read this

    A man was riding on his ass, journeying between 2 places, the ass deviated off the road into a field and the man smote the ass to get her back in the right direction. On the road there is a wall on the left and on the right and the ass thrust her side into the wall, crushing the riders foot against the wall. The rider smote the ass again. Further along the road the ass fell down under the rider and the rider smote the ass again.

    Then the ass had a conversation with the rider. Yes a conversation, not learned words like a trained parrot would say. I kid you not, a conversation, No this has nothing to do with Shrek the movie. The ass spoke to the rider, “What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times?” Then the rider spoke to the ass, answering the ass’s question, “Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee.” The ass then replied “Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And the rider replied “Nay”

    Believe it? Truth or myth?

    If you are a Christian you will believe it, If you are not a Christian you will not.

    True story, has to be true, its in the Bible, It’s all true, they say.

  • South Belfast Hack

    “Genetically we’re ultimately all related to one another to some extent so that point falls with immediate effect.”

    We are all related to one another, but equally we share a lot of genetic code with other primates, quite a bit with other mammals and at least some code with most of the other higher life forms on the planet. A species survives under evolution if those with the stronger traits survive and those with weaker traits are weeded out. It makes evolutionary sense for you to help those from within your family group, perhaps your extended family group. I have seen no argument from evolution that explains going out of your way to help distant members of your species to whom you have no close genetic connection.

    I have to disagree with you on “our capacity for free will” if evolution is correct then you don’t have free will, you are a self-perpetuating biochemical reaction. If your instinct motivates you to do anything it must be because a process of trial and error over millions of years has taught you gentically that that action will increase your chances for survival and reproduction.

  • Nunoftheabove

    ” I have seen no argument from evolution that explains going out of your way to help distant members of your species to whom you have no close genetic connection”.

    I- don’t see why you’re so keen to draw limits down on the human capacity for and need for solidarity; family, wider family, community, clan/tribe, town, state, country plus of course all the other sub-divisions we know of. Not that complicated, is it ? It’s pure common interest. If your interests don’t happen to coincide with, say, some Bolivian coffee-picker in trouble with the local municipality rozzers it desn’t prevent you from helping him (conceivably without any prospect of him ever helping you) but it doesn’t dictate that you don’t have any moral or biological obligation to do so; I haven’t argued that it does.

    “if evolution is correct then you don’t have free will, you are a self-perpetuating biochemical reaction”.

    – What are you basing that argument on or have you just made that up ?

    “If your instinct motivates you to do anything it must be because a process of trial and error over millions of years has taught you gentically that that action will increase your chances for survival and reproduction”.

    – Very possibly although instinct is instinct, whether innate or learned. if you’re right on this point, that’s a plus for me and a minus for your argument.

  • rhys


    What’s the problem with my nom de poste?’

    Little local difficulties in Ireland once upon a time.

  • rhys

    Toastedpuffin siad

    ‘I have to admit someone drawing a salary for a job in an organisation in whose beliefs they don’t share makes me sad too.

    A man with a cushy job for life, I can hardly see the screen for tears.’

    Who decides which persons in the organisation are supposed to say that what THEY pretend to believe is required of all the others? And if you think it is a cushy job, think again: it is a shitty job, with hypocrites constantly trying to make the holders as hypocritical as they are themselves.

  • Shortshrift

    Evolution is clearly a much mis-understood phenomenon. At its essence is the idea of the replicating molecule – those that replicate more turn up in bigger numbers. It’s a long, long way from that essence to the development of the mammalian brain or the evolution of society in many species, including humans. It seems from this debate that a few things have been lost along the way!

    It seems that religion may have contributed significantly to the development of civilisation, so we should be careful about being too critical. But then it’s easy to be critical when many folk, steeped in religious folklore from childhood as many of us are, don’t bother to properly understand evolution before attacking it. It is, for example, entirely possible to explain the development of altruism (or love or kindness) in species without needing to invoke a god figure.

    Churches etc do seem to provide something of enormous worth to many people, so perhaps it is good that some of them at least are moving away from the supernatural to focus more on the spiritual needs of the only spirits we really know exist – those in our own heads. There is a crying need for a caring, sharing society, with less of a focus on the supernatural and more of a focus on real human need and how to manage a world with so many of us competing for increasingly limited resources.

  • Nunoftheabove


    It would be dishonest to claim other than that religion has contributed something to civilization. Past tense, though. Very largely, the main textual works of the religions themselves were mankind’s first substantial attempts at philosophy, at morality, an attempt to explain the derivation of life and its meaning. The trouble the religious have is that a lot of what is in there has been superseded by what we as humans now know to be true. In other words, it no longer provides adequate explanations for anything. A lot of what’s in the bible can therefore be dismissed even if we were to choose to believe it, which we ought not to do. It is also, when you think about it, an elaborate conspiracy theory, as much early geographic, scientific and even medical thinking was and, to be fair, virtually had to be in absence of more advanced thinking, technology and available adequate alternative explanations for the world as it actually seemed to be then.

    What we mustn’t allow the religious to do however is to claim that if it wasn’t for religion mankind would have no morality. This is false. Worse yet, they mustn’t be allowed to claim – as many still dementedly, indeed feverishly, do – that they invented morality and that before religion there was none or that the only pre-religion morality we as a species had was false and/or innately immoral. That’s insane rubbish which must and will be challenged.

    What must also not be off limits is a full and frank recognition of a lot of the immorality within the bible and its other religious ‘rival’ texts. Some of it is positively wicked. As a species we have the ability to move on from the superstition, the childish nonsense, and create a better more morally sound world. Religion represents a substantial handicap to us doing so as a species.

  • Shortshrift


    Completely agree with the point you make about morality – it’s instinctive and we build religion and other things around it. I also agree that there is much that is immoral and wicked to be found in religion and religious texts.

    I find myself though less comfortable that humanism/atheism has yet come up with anything to rival religious communities in terms with what they can provide (at their best) to ordinary people in terms of a satisfactory structure for life. I completely understand that it is most unsatisfactory for deep thinkers, but most people frankly don’t particularly want a world view, just something that, say, keeps their kids on the straight and narrow at key stages in their lives and that occupies their time, often productively. Or the avoidance of confronting an ailing and elderly relative with unpleasant truths when a life has already been lived. Many are prepared to forego their own reservations about the truth of it all in order to obtain the benefits that accrue at a more basic level of living.

    That’s why the “atheists in church” development is so interesting. Evolution of religious institutions may ultimately be the only option as I don’t see that humanism/atheism is capable of filling the void that the absence of religion would leave in many lives.

    It’s the old “blank sheet of paper isn’t available” issue again.

  • abucs

    I find it is the deep thinkers who look to a level of existence and direction beyond the material and it was these men who built western science.

    On the other hand i find it is usually the superficial thinkers who see nothing more than the material and fail to grasp the inadquecies of that philosophy with regards to modern science.

  • Shortshrift


    I used to think something along the lines you suggest … and then I began to think even more deeply. But it is a real challenge to open your mind to the possibility that there is another uncomfortable truth about existence, which once absorbed fits the facts and feels right.

    It is however quite possible not to believe in gods and at the same time to be deeply spiritual and not materialistic.

  • Greenflag


    ‘What must also not be off limits is a full and frank recognition of a lot of the immorality within the bible and its other religious ‘rival’ texts. Some of it is positively wicked.’

    Indeed and the excuse usually made by the religious is that back at the time the bible or koran or talmud was written what is now seen as positively wicked was not seen as such then. Human slavery was compatible with Christianity into the 19th century and the treatment of women as second class ‘chattels’ or merely ‘property ‘ is still extant in some Islamic societies . Even in Ireland the recent Church scandals have revealed the extent to which women were victimised by a patriarchal church hierarchy .

    The good news is that the Dublin Archdiocese is now reported as being close to financial collapse given the financial expenditures re compensation to victims of clerical abuse and the drop in church attendance and revenue collection.