Halo Halo! – Rowan Williams v New (and old) Atheism

You almost have to feel sorry for the Archbishop of Cant. It seems that the Church of England is on its knees. With declining attendance, internal disagreement about God’s wishes regarding women and gays becoming bishops, and clergy defecting to the Catholics he has the job of holding the whole circus together and trying to present it as a credible organisation with something useful to say.

Back in February, in response to a report highlighting the problems the Church faces in trying to convince us to take it seriously, he put much of the blame on what he calls ‘new atheism’.
How this differs from old atheism he didn’t say but presumably he was referring to the numerous books published recently attacking the antiquated beliefs that he and his cronies expect us to accept. What was needed, he said, was for the clergy to be more vocal in countering the arguments put by such writers as Dawkins and Hitchens.

Unfortunately he didn’t give any suggestions as to the kind of counter-arguments he expects them to use against the flood of rationalism and science that they face so it’s difficult to imagine exactly what he has in mind. He certainly didn’t volunteer to step in himself and debate against Dawkins on the question of ‘Evolution or Creationism?’ That would be worth hearing.

Maybe he’s busy behind the scenes praying for some undeniable evidence that the story of Adam and Eve and the talking serpent IS true, that the earth really IS only a few thousand years old, and that Noah DID collect together two elephants, two aardvarks, two duck-billed platypus, two orangutans, two hippopotami, etc, etc, etc, and take them all for a ride in his ark.

To be fair to the Archbishop and his mates though, it’s unlikely that many of them believe this tosh any more than we do. And it must be difficult to keep a straight face when they have to mention it. But that’s the problem they are saddled with. Rowan Williams can hardly turn round now and say, “Sorry folks, it’s just a load of old cobblers we’ve been using to remind you of your place in a class divided society”.  Well, he could; but he’s not going to. He may like to be seen as an affable old leftie but he’s certainly no socialist.

As for ‘new’ atheist Richard Dawkins, well, as a scientist and academic he is of course concerned that such unscientific nonsense as ‘intelligent design’ is being taught in schools. And while we agree with him, from a socialist point of view the problem is much deeper.

It’s all very well to point out the lack of logic in religious beliefs, but religion is not simply a jumble of confused ideas. It is a powerful weapon in the hands of the capitalist class. It divides us and blinds us to the class action that is required to overcome the menace of capitalism.

Religion is the ideological expression of a long-gone world and its ancient social conditions, a world of superstition, slavery and little education. Far from providing an answer to today’s problems, it tells us to put our faith in the supernatural hopes of a past age. Instead of uniting us as a class we are to become meek and mild, and to submit to the whims of an ancient god that was dreamt up in the bronze age.

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