Tuesday, December 21, 2004



"I have my own disbeliefs, but I don't get in anyone else's way on such matters." - Norman Geras

When I read this I wondered: why not?

Marx described the criticism of religion as the beginning of all criticism. Christopher Hitchens ("the Dude" to Norm, though personally I've gone off him of late) describes himself as not merely an atheist, but an anti-theist. (I do still enjoy Hitchens' anti-religious riffs). Religious views are superstitious, thus anti-rational. My own atheism is important to me as a symbol of my committment to reason, truth and intellectual rigour. Isn't it a part of any rationalist project to disabuse people of false beliefs, whatever they may be?

Yet, being conscious of the epistemoligical and existential-psychological functions which religion performs alongside it's socio-political functions (i.e. that as well as being the "opium of the people" it is "the sigh of the opressed creature, the heart of a heartless world... the spirit of spiritless conditions" to acknowledge for once the dialectical ambiguity of that great passage, known in its more superficial abreviation by everybody), I too feel somewhat nervous about challenging, unprovoked at least, what I view as patently absurd, and usually only vaguely held religious views.

Enjoyable though gentle mockery of such views can be, I haven't yet the stomach to fully commit to a campaign of Nietzschean nihilism, destroying existing values the better to inculcate new ones.* Certainly there are alternative existential consolations to religion - politics, philosophy, literature etc. etc. But one must still recognise the dangers of a religion-shaped vacuum.

Is disabusing people of the religious illusion a necessary step, or at least a contribution to disabusing them of political mystifications (i.e. re: capitalism)? Or does it merely risk disillusion, in the popular as well as the literal meaning of the word? What if happiness and truth, at least for some people, come into conflict?


"For several days and even weeks the mother was able to see some good in books and dreaming. Wasn't it Tarry's romantic talk with Petey Meegan which had excited that man to want to make a liaison with the Flynns? For all that she was sometimes dim to the sense of it all and said so.
'I can't see anything in it at all. What does it mean?'
'What does anything mean' was his answer. 'What does Drumnay and Miskin and Dargan and the work day after day and year after year mean? Does that ever occur to you? Are any of these people going anywhere except to the grave?' For a moment he laid bare the myth of living and was filled with remorse for his sin. That was a real sin - to tear up the faith and show nothing but futility." - from Tarry Flynn, by Patrick Kavanagh .

*Perhaps someone who actually knows something about Nietzsche will correct me if this reference to his nihilism is nonsense.

I am new to blogging and am fascinated by the influence and exposure of Norm, almost cult-like.I didnt care for his Reductionism of the Left piece one bit.Anyway...Religion wouldnt be half as reactionary if it didnt have scripture, a narrative of absolute truth claims in juxtaposition to every other scripture.Add to this the idea of prophesy, or history read backwards and the concept of agency and free will so necessary to our emancipation is turned into damnation,condemnation and a sheep like attitude below the Father.Just wont do.Nietzche was all about will and the individual,to me a little much even but I too am unable to penetrate the intricacies of his thought.I think it takes courage to challenge religious attitudes in the current climate. I admire Sam Harris' work (The End of Faith)
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