Saturday, October 13, 2007

Rowan Williams

"The Archbishop of Canterbury launched a fierce attack yesterday on the modern cult of atheism and singled out the eminent scientist Richard Dawkins.
Dr Rowan Williams responded to critics of religion by arguing that atheists had missed the point and failed to understand what Christians really believe in."

I find this to be a funny statement...seeing as most atheists were theists (maybe even Christians) at some point.

I love the fact that, in this article, Williams says that many Christians would not recognize their religion as described by atheists. To which my only response is, "fucking, DUH!" Most Christians don't even define the ins-and-outs, and consequences, of their religion on the world. If they do think about negative aspects or consequences of their faith, they rationalize it away and demand special consideration for acts done "for God".


Anonymous said...

"Mummy, the mean ole atheist said Santy Claus ain't real, make 'em stop, WAAAAHHHH!"

And they wonder why we laugh at them.

Ben said...

I read "Tokens of Trust: An Introduction to Christian Belief" By Rowan Williams. Or the first 100 pages, anyway, before I gave up. His justification for believing Christianity to be true was that people in dire circumstances believed it to be true - therefore it cannot be easily dismissed.

I wish I was making that up.

Perpetual Beginner said...

Crud. And the Episcopal church had been doing so well of late, too.

Jez said...

Actually, I think Williams has a point about Dawkins being a good scientist but not a good philosopher. The philosophical arguments presented in Dawkins' book are extremely basic.

Then again, the article doesn't show Williams presenting much of an argument himself. Like what he says about memes:

"I find this philosophically crass and undeveloped at best, simply contradictory and empty at worst."

Nice assertion there - where's the argument to back his point up?

Saurian200 said...


His justification for believing Christianity to be true was that people in dire circumstances believed it to be true - therefore it cannot be easily dismissed.

Why do I get the feeling that, even though you could say this about many religions and ideologies, he would never accept this as a valid defense of anything other than Christianity.

PiGuy said...

No! The issue is that atheists understand precisely what Christians believe.

I wonder how the Archbishop would feel if someone forwarded the argument that Zeus exists because, when people experience dire circumstances, they believed Zeus was real. I'll bet that he doesn't think that Zeus is real.

Anonymous said...

Ben says...His justification for believing Christianity to be true was that people in dire circumstances believed it to be true - therefore it cannot be easily dismissed.

Well, of course. Because, people in dire circumstances always think rationally and employ deep philosophical precepts to get them out of dangers. Not.

I wish you were making that up, too. Unfortunately, I fear that you're correct and Williams is just a blow hard.

Jez, I agree that Williams should bring his justification for his positions to the table.

Russ said...

Rowan Williams hits out at atheist Dawkins

The article notes, "Dr Rowan Williams responded to critics of religion by arguing that atheists had missed the point and failed to understand what Christians really believe in."

To this I would respond by asking the farcical supernaturalist Archbishop Williams, "Since you think you know, please tell us, those you consider to be the woefully misinformed, exactly what it is that 'christians really believe in.'" It is an impossibility.

There are more than 30000 christian sects worldwide with hundreds more added every year. Without a doubt, this defender of the faith does not possess even a passing knowledge of the doctrine of a small fraction of those myriad sects.

That's right, there exist more than thirty thousand distinct variants of "christianity" throughout the world. Now, ask yourself why there are so many. If you reasoned that it is because in the different sects they practice distinct forms of "christianity" with distinct "christian" doctrine, you would be absolutely right.

Williams would do well to actually give this some thought. There are so many twists, turns, convolutions and kinks in christianity because members of the numerous christian sects DO NOT AGREE ABOUT WHAT CONSTITUTES "christian." And, who are the local definers, purveyors of god's word, and enforcers of the distinctions - those life and death, us versus them, saved instead of damned distinctions?: the clergy, of course, the very clergymen Williams should be talking to.

Shouldn't the leader of the Anglican Church know that? If he maintained a dialogue with a reasonable cross section of the "christian" clergy - the snakecharmers, the peyote munchers, the evolution-deniers, the limbo eliminators, the atheists, etc. - he would know that he is profoundly ignorant of the immense diversity that falls under the rubric of "christianity."

Since "christianity" - nebulously defined as it was even at its inception - began its social and cultural pathological infection of the world centuries ago, it has metastasized everywhere it has gone. Missionaries, faced with either allowing their own personal version of "christianity" to blend with local gods and customs or abandoning their efforts at conversion, they essentially universally chose to merge their religion with that of the locals. As a result there are thousands of religions called "christianity" with doctrines of voodoo, headhunting, animal sacrifice and worship, use of regional psychoactive drugs, the worship of many gods, goddesses, and demons. Those hawking religion under the "christian" banner have been quite successful at disseminating the name, but they have in fact failed completely if their intention was to spread a set of common ideas along with it.

The variability among christianities is reinforced if we restrict our view to catholicism, a christianity which prides itself on enforcing uniformity of defined dogma and practice through mindless rote repetition, because adherents give numerous distinct definitions of their deity, the biblical god. In one study, in a 300 member catholic parish, the researchers identified more than 50 definitions of their god. So much for imposed uniformity.

The variability is so vast as to be uncapturable by the mind of any single person in a lifetime. I have been studying this material regularly and concertedly for more than forty years and I feel that I have but scratched the surface.

It cannot be overemphasized: there is no such thing as "christianity." There are instead thousands of them with the only commonality being the name.

One would hope that Williams could be honest enough to recognize this.

This missing acknowledgement is, in part, what is meant when an author says that theological study is useless. I'm sure that Williams would be able to burp up Anglican doctrine all day long, but remember Anglicans, themselves a doctrinally varied christianity, are but a tiny part of christianity as a whole. He is not prepared to and is not in a position to speak for all christianities. For all of his theology background, he tells us neither what it is that "christians" believe nor how it is that the Dawkins critique has gone wide of its mark. One might inquire after the value of Williams' theology training when he has such a narrow so very parochial view of christianities.

Williams said: "There are specific areas of mismatch between what Richard Dawkins may write about and what religious people think they are doing." So, tell us what is it that religious people 'think' they are doing.

Mr. Williams "described Prof Dawkins as a "lively and attractive writer" but said his arguments were not fully engaging with religion." What does it mean to engage with religion? More mumbo jumbo.

The article says, "He suggested that Prof Dawkins, the author of the best-selling The God Delusion and a leading Darwinist, was a good scientist but a poor philosopher." Well, since anyone can make up there own religion, including their own christianity - think Joseph Smith of Mormonism; think Mary Baker Eddy of Christian Science; think Martin Luther of Lutheranism; think Jim Baker or Ted Haggart of ... whatever the hell they are - how can one levy a critique on their merits as a philosopher? We can all make our own religion and be the one and only expert on it, which is exactly what those named above have done, and entirely disarm all practicing philosophers. Then, we can keep it a secret just as the archbishop has done with "what Christians really believe in."

"Our culture is one that deeply praises science, so we assume because someone is a good scientist, they must be a good philosopher," Williams said in a lecture at Swansea University. It is in fact the case that no philosopher would undertake a discourse when the object is as ill-defined as christianity is. When working in a christianity, or any other religion, philosophers restrict themselves to a well-defined set of starting premises, however false they may be, and reason from there. When reality does not intervene, you might make for yourself an enjoyable intellectual exercise, but you are not in pursuit of anything of practical importance to mankind as a whole. You start with imaginary premises, reason yourself to imaginary conclusions, and you have produced something as useful as a filled-in Sudoku puzzle.

Wiliams states: "Don't distract us from the real arguments by assuming that religion is an eccentric survival strategy or irrational form of explanation." I must ask how it is that we should not consider religion to be an irrational form of explanation when there exists no supernatural reality against which the truth of a religious proposition can be gauged. This leads to the great proliferation of sects we see today. Set the current pope down across the table from, say, Pat Robertson(or the likes of Jerry Falwell) each with a hotline to a god who knows all, and let us see how much agreement we see. Even more interesting would be to set the current pope down across the table from, a reformation-era pope again each with a hotline to a god who knows all, one might even guess the same god in this case, and let us see how much agreement we see. Religion is indeed an irrational form of explanation arising from the ignorances, biases, superstitions, and perceptual quirks of the believer.

"Dr Williams said many fellow Christians would not recognise their religion as it was described by critics." It is no doubt true that MANY fellow Christians would not recognise their religion as it was described by critics since Dawkins could not possibly, even if he dedicated his entire life to it, investigate all the christianities floating about religious meme-o-sphere. That is, he will miss MANY christianties simply due to the combinatorial explosion of them over the centuries. But, for my money, as one who has made an enormous effort to understand many of the christianities, he accurately characterizes a significant fraction of the major christianities in the developed world.

He said: "When believers pick up Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens, we may feel as we turn the pages: 'This is not it. Whatever the religion being attacked here, it's not actually what I believe in'."

I say, other believers will however have their asses chapped raw by Dawkins' analysis. Mr. Arch B. Williams again dishonestly tries to make it appear as though he speaks for all non-Anglican mutant strains of christianity.

The article said, "He told the audience he wasn't simply interested in defending his beliefs, but also in upholding the principle of intellectual debate."

This is a lie pure and simple. Here, he seeks only to defend his indefensible beliefs, however irrational. If the Ol' Arch could demonstrate that any of his religious beliefs were true, or if he could honestly consider them with a skeptical eye, he would by default uphold be upholding the most meritorious principle of honest intellectual discourse. Note this, however, formal debate is an intellectual competition with a clear winner and loser - at least in the eyes of the competitors supporters - not an honest impartial seeking after what most closely aligns with reality. Here, Yea Ol' Arch is banking on the audience assuming that his stated "principle of intellectual debate" implies a seeking after truth, as opposed to doing whatever it takes to leave the desired, albeit dishonest, impression with those who fill the coffers.

Russ said...


When I read Williams' article, at the bottom of the page was a link to

Find The Perfect Religion

If you go to the site, you find a series of questions to answer. That is, you are told to profile the religion you want based on your personal preferences for points of doctrine. It does, in effect, assist you in making up your own religion.

Yes, it will refer you to churches based on your responses, but one might just as well hang up their shingle - The Arbitrary Church of Cauliflower - and start raking in those tax-free love offerings.

Call me Reverend Russy.

John r said...

Do you swear in front of your children? You have a rotten mouth. You atheists are sure a sensitive bunch. I happen to think Rowan Williams is smart. He's sure got your number.

I think Russ is full of shit. There are not 30,000 sects of Christianity. There is one belief in Jesus Christ as our savior. That is the only thing you are asked to believe as a Christian.

Your pictures from Disneyland show your wicked materialism. Disney is a corrupt company. Good parents and Christians know the truth about Disney. They promote bad attitudes in children and violence.

Saurian200 said...

John R,

You do realize that everyone is just pointing and laughing at you, right?

I mean, all you are accomplishing is making yourself and your religion look bad.

At least put some effort into it. Look at this:

Your pictures from Disneyland show your wicked materialism. Disney is a corrupt company. Good parents and Christians know the truth about Disney. They promote bad attitudes in children and violence.

Your old stuff was still junk but at least it showed SOME effort. This is just sad. Your going from a somewhat entertaining troll to a pathetic stalker.

Since your heart really isn't in this I think it's time you start seeing other blogs.

Russ said...

"I think Russ is full of shit. You have a rotten mouth. You atheists are sure a sensitive bunch."

I see your point, John, and I can tell from your exemplary verbiage that you are clearly far more sensitive than I am. I'm sure, John, that when you get to heaven, Jesus will softly whisper in your ear, "You are much nicer than Russ," and then he'll give you a full deep tonguey kiss to show his love for you. Gods are like that, you know.

You asked, "Do you swear in front of your children?" I can't speak for others here of course, but I do not swear in front of my children. When I'm pissed at my kids, I always resort to Bible passages.

I threaten my daughter with being sold into slavery. What's more, when my daughter is menstruating we lock her ass in a shed we built special for that purpose. It gets pretty hot in there in the summer, so we have to chain her, but since she is Biblically basically livestock, that don't bother us none. The shed doubles as a coop for doves so that when her period is over we can sacrifice a few fowl according to Biblical dictates to make sure we put everthang right with the Lord.

I let my son know that if he is stubborn or rebellious, I will, with full Biblical endorsement, and with all the neighbors joining in to round out the party, stone his ass to death. Makes me feel powerful to threaten faith-based murder and mayhem, just as any truly loving father would.

"I think Russ is full of shit. There are not 30,000 sects of Christianity." Actually, Russ is not full of shit, John. You really should get out more. It's quite ironic, but even a full reading this atheist blog at PMomma's, would make you far more informed about the christianities so numerous it boggles the mind.

Before I go on, I feel compelled to admit, John, that I am not a chrisitian of any hue. I'm sure from the way I claimed to abuse my children, you would think I was a true christian fundamentalist, but I assure you I am not. No, really, John, I'm not a christian thing of any sort. It seems that whenever I talk in jest to christians about domestic abuse of any sort, they immediately want to know what flavor of christian I am, but I'm completely serious, John, no matter how stoned, drunk or abusive I seem, I'm really not a christian of any form.

John, you said, "There is one belief in Jesus Christ as our savior." In reality - that curiously non-supernatural place where you actually live whether you like it or not - there are christianities that are fully atheist having no belief in the supernatural whatsoever. I have two brothers and an uncle all three of whom are atheist christian clergymen. If you care to check out, you will discover a christian clergyman who is open and upfront about his non-belief, no divine Jesus, no God, no supernatural hocus pocus at all. Clearly, John, you like Rowan Williams have no idea how diverse the range of belief really is among the thousands of extant "christianities."

John, you also said, "That is the only thing you are asked to believe as a Christian" after you said, "There is one belief in Jesus Christ as our savior." As christian as you might like to think of yourself, let me preach at you a bit. Even more important than believing that Jesus Christ is your savior, is not saying "I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit." I hope you didn't accidentally read that or you will, at least according to the ol' Bible thing, be damned to the fiery furnace with no possibility of being forgiven. Personally, I deny the existence of the holy spirit, gods, God, and anything else supernatural, but you, as doctrinally enslaved as you are, are not free to say "I deny the existence of the holy spirit." Being an atheist exempts me from such stupid little word games and the associated torment and anguish. So, please, don't say, "I deny the existence of the holy spirit." I say, "I deny the existence of the holy spirit" all the time, but you are not allowed to, you are not free to. Whatever you do, do not say "I deny the existence of the holy spirit" or you will be right down the holy shitter forever. That you are not aware of the only unpardonable sin in a bunch of christianities, probably yours, too, tells me, John, that you are not very well-informed about your own christianity. Feel to ask me about your peculiar twist on christianity. I can probably help you to better understand it. Which of the thousands of christian sects do you think is the "true christianity," John? Which version of christianity is practiced where you most often attend?

In your statement, "Your pictures from Disneyland show your wicked materialism. Disney is a corrupt company. Good parents and Christians know the truth about Disney. They promote bad attitudes in children and violence," you bring even more of your ignorances to the fore.

Now, Johnny, before you criticize PMomma for her wicked materialism, or possibly you're actually thinking consumerism, think of how you and your church is supported. Do you, people in your family, or fellow congregants in your church work in retail? That is almost certainly the case. You seem fairly ignorant, and unless you're somehow pulling the wool over our eyes, you or persons close to you must work in the low paying retail sector tailor-made for those with not too much on the ball. Tell me if I'm getting warm. Since you or your church stay afloat in part through support provided by the retail sector a la Disney, you should be a bit more respectful.

More than that, remember that this is the United States of Religious Something or Other, and so almost every person walking into the blinking Magic Kingdom will be some mutant strain of christianity. It's inescapable. If Disney had to rely on the revenue from atheists to stay in business, they would soon go under. Disney lives on cash from theists, almost exclusively some wart on the ass of christianity.

John, when you say, "They[Disney] promote bad attitudes in children and violence" I laugh out loud. In this instance I am laughing at your once again exhibited ignorance. Your quote here may stem from the ideology of whichever perversion of christianity you choose to associate with, but I see no demonstrable bad attitudes or violence promoted by Disney. On the other hand I do see christian video games like the "Left Behind" video games which overtly endorse gruesome violence against all non-christians and all of the wrong kinds of christians, like catholics.

John, ignorance of the kind you possess like your ignorance about christianties including your own can be overcome. Desire and a little hard work will assure you of slow steady progress, but shitcanning your religion would let you grow by leaps and bounds.

Anonymous said...

First, John; you would do well to listen to Russ.

Do you swear in front of your children? You have a rotten mouth.
Occasionally, but I try not to. What I find to be amazingly funny is the fact that you accuse me of having a dirty mouth, but then you go on to say that Russ is full of shit. Hey, Pot...allow me to introduce you to the kettle.

I happen to think Rowan Williams is smart.
Are we having a state the obvious contest again?

He's sure got your number.

Well, let's hope he doesn't write it on bathroom walls.

There is one belief in Jesus Christ as our savior. That is the only thing you are asked to believe as a Christian.
Setting aside the fact that, to believe, Christianity forces you to ignore reason, logic, and evidence to the contrary, you're completely full of crap! There are multiple hoops for each sect of Christianity - Catholics do this. Protestants do that. Pentacostals do this. Baptists do that. And, what they consider to be "important"...what they cherry pick as a command they will follow, varies from sect to sect. Do you, John, practice the sacrament of the Eucharist? Do you practice infant baptism? Do you forbid women from cutting their hair? Do you practice pacifism? What's your stand on birth control? Do you believe in the trinity? Do you have a beard? Is their salvation through grace or works or both?
All of these, and many more, are nit-picky things that sects hang their identity on. And, all of them consider themselves to be Christians.

Your pictures from Disneyland show your wicked materialism.
Materialism? Are you confusing your "isms"?

Disney is a corrupt company.
$20 says you have no problem with Walmart, though?
Disney is a major, international corporation. I'd call bullshit if there WEREN'T controversies in such a large organization. You can't please everyone! I read some of the articles on the site you gave and I was not impressed. The claims are, like yours, exaggerated and without sufficient evidence. Most were a bit laughable. I consider myself, as you noticed, to be someone who thinks modesty is a good thing. But, I'm not going to foam at the mouth because the Little Mermaid wears a bikini. Why? Because, MERMAIDS are usually topless...the bikini is a step up from the Hans Christian Anderson version! Did you expect Disney to draw Ariel in a wetsuit? Another claim on the link you provided: "Disney promotes violence." As someone who doesn't care for violence, I just have to ask if you consider your Bible to be free of violence? Mulan has nothing on the Old Testament. Compare the Passion of the Christ with Beauty and the Beast and then tell me which one contains more violence! And, I have to point out the completely prejudicial and racist commentary that I'm reading with regard to Aladin. Are you guys fucking serious? Get a life! While it is assumed that Jasmine and Aladin are Muslim, it is not directly stated, nor is there any suggestion that children should consider Islam to be glamorous BASED ON THE MOVIE. If you're worried about your child being exposed to Islamic tradition based on a Disney movie, then you are a prize fool.

parents and Christians know the truth about Disney. They promote bad attitudes in children and violence.

Guess it's a good thing I'm not a Christian, then, huh?
As for the promotion of bad attitudes and violence - I can only hope that my daughters embody some of the characteristics of the fictional characters of; Mulan, Violet (from the Incredibles), Sally (Cars), Pocahontas, Belle, and other Disney heroines. Mulan highlights the virtue of honor and bravery. Violet illustrates the concept of self-worth and girl power. Sally cares about the "cars" around her and is a champion for things forgotten. Pocahontas, while highly fictionalized for the movie, shows the courage it takes to stand up against your own crowd to save the life of another. Belle is an unaffected book worm with a heart of gold.

There are cetainly worse characters of fiction to admire. Most of them can be found in your Bible.

Sean the Blogonaut F.C.D. said...


Just open up both barrells next time good buddy ;)

back away now, in case you didn't just realise Russ tore you a new asshole.


You are in exceptional form as well. All round good rollicking read.

Perhaps you could interview Russ for your podcast?

Perpetual Beginner said...

John R - Thanks for giving me my morning snort.

Rowan Williams is a smart man - granted. You don't generally get to be Archbishop of Canterbury by being a fool. However smart people can also be idiots on occassion, no one's immune from that.

In this case, about there being one Christianity? There are at least two major attempts at schism going on right now in Rowan's own church. Churches, at least two diocese, and possibly even a country or two are threatening to break out of the main Anglican fold over the issue of who is ordainable and who is not.

In the theoretical, sure, all Christian. In real life, when two sets of people believe such different things that they aren't willing to acknowledge each others sacraments, and behave in completely unChristian ways to each other, we call them different religions, and with good reason.

Or to quote the ever quotable Yogi Berra - "In theory, there's no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is."

Poodles said...

So John, did it hurt when Russ tore you that new asshole?

I agree with Sean, you should get Russ on your podcast.

tina said...

John R. You are more than welcome to visit, "ungodlycynic". :)

As usual,PM, you have the most hilarious stuff happen to you!

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