Last week I blogged about how it’s the common conception that (with the exception of the US) bigotry against atheists is something that exists at the margins of religion in the developed west, and asked if a few examples of mainstream bigotry were mainstream enough.
Some of you may already be familiar with the story, but now ex-British PM and political father of the Faith School, Tony Blair, in much the same style as the Pope did with environmental issues, is blaming godlessness for what our PM, Kevin Rudd, calls “free market fundamentalism”, and for the subsequent World Financial Crisis.
Talking about materialistic individualism under the title ‘Without God’s Truth at its centre, no community can fulfil its potential‘, Blair tells us that…
“The danger is clear: that pursuit of pleasure becomes an end in itself. It is here that faith can step in, can show us a proper sense of duty to others, responsibility for the world around us, and can lead us to, as the Holy Father calls it, caritas in veritate.”
(Tony Blair, 2009)
For a start, he’s got his logic wrong. Blair starts out arguing for the logical necessity of his favoured cause, so asserting instances of how it can be the case isn’t enough. One needs to establish that alternatives are impossible (i.e. in “no community” is it possible without “God’s Truth“).
And it would help if exceptions to the alleged faculty of his favoured cause weren’t undermined by well established history. If only Tony Blair had used his relationship with George Bush Jr, so as to get him to more involve his religion in politics, Wall Street would be a-okay right now! Oh, wait!
I is in your industries, winding back your economy.
Blair’s ill-thought-out polemic is nothing more than dog whistling to anti-atheist prejudice, with a halo.
And it’s directed largely towards mainstream religion, not the fringes. Nor is it delivered in such a denominationally specific manner as the Pope’s blaming atheists for environmental woes – it’s interfaith. By the terms of Blair’s argumentation, any God will do.
If you are of the interfaith persuasion and you buy Blair’s line, please spare me the pretense of tolerance. This rubbish has far too great a similarity to tales of greedy Jewish bankers ruining European economies.
But it’s not just economic woes as a result of atheistic, secular materialism (which for reasons of obvious convenience, always seem to get surreptitiously treated as synonymous with practical and/or philosophical naturalism). Blair brings out the old chestnut of Fascism/Sovietism/Maoism.
“After the experience of fascism, Soviet Communism or viewing life in North Korea or the cultural revolution in China, it is easier for us to grasp the dangers of a too-powerful state.”
(Tony Blair, 2009)
What has this to do with secular societies? Specifically, how is the totalitarian state a logically necessary outcome of secularism?
Hello! Denmark! While a secular nation like Denmark is capable of not being totalitarian, totalitarianism can not be a logically necessary outcome of secularism. Unless Blair is going to equivocate with a new definition of what a community/nation’s “full potential” is (which could have other, possibly more disturbing consequences than just poor logic) Denmark breaks Blair’s entire case! (While there is a national church, the populace – the community – is very godless as is the governance).
And just how is the theocracy in Iran treating its own religious communities? And how’s the supposedly reformed, and deeply religious Afghanistan going? Men can still legally beat their wives and misogyny is rife. Apostates can still be executed and the constitution prohibits the passing of any law contrary to the word of The Prophet. Which word of The Prophet of course depends entirely on which sect is in power at any given time.
Of course, only to a man like Blair with the blood of thousands on his hands, a public funded faith school legacy that discriminates on the basis of a student’s religion, and an uncanny ability for mental gymnastics, can examples of religious persecution like this not contradict his claims of categorical religious moral monopoly. Naturally he won’t see exceptions to his thesis – he won’t let himself.
Blair finishes of by praising the latest Papal encyclical, one that condemned atheism – painting atheists as necessarily environmentally irresponsible, and claiming that relativism and self-serving individualism were the only alternatives to God. Of course as has been typical with these childish Papal outbursts, Godless ethical systems such as preference utilitarianism, which are neither self-serving, nor relativistic, aren’t mentioned. Why mention the existence of something if it prohibits your claim of logical necessity, right?
The standard line is that it’s either God or self-interested nihilism. This is absurd. The mere existence of ethical philosophies such as that of John Stuart Mill (again, neither self-serving nor relativistic) show this standard line to be a false dichotomy. The fact that these secular ethical systems have been popular in philosophical thought since the 19th century, shows how mind-bendingly ignorant the standard line is. If you consider a godless categorical imperative (also not self-serving, nor relativistic), you can extend this willful ignorance back to the 18th century.
And what I’ve mentioned doesn’t exhaust the list of non-self-serving, non-relativistic Godless ethical systems anyway. (You only need one example of an exception to break alleged logical necessity, so I won’t expand the list further.)
Nobody is necessarily bound to ethical relativistic nihilism in the absence of God. This is basic philosophical history and the fact that Tony Blair and The Pope flunk it in order to prosecute a grudge against atheism is rather telling.
How telling is it then, when religious moderates take this tripe seriously? And how many moderates do you think are likely to take it seriously.