Thursday, 27 December 2007

Walking in a Winter(val) Wonderland

There was a story on the BBC website last week about the Christmas message from the Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan (full transcript can be found here) in which he rails against 'atheistic fundamentalism'.

I think I would agree with him when he says that fundamentalism of any kind is dangerous, but I would certainly disagree on his point that atheistic fundamentalism is comparable to religious fundamentalism in either occurrence or danger.
He lists a number of perceived instances of atheistic fundamentalism, many of which are well known myths (addressed nicely by Oliver Burkeman here) or else simply smaller incidents blown out of proportion (such as the BA uniform controversy). In these smaller incidents, such as the BA situation and a couple of those mentioned in Burkeman's article, the decision or policy was reversed or amended in response to the situation, but this is rarely reported when the incident is brought up later by the media.

I mentioned in an earlier post about Mark Prichard's comments that I thought a lot of the instances of 'Christianophobia' that he mentioned were simply caused by changing social norms and increasing multiculturalism, and I think that the same point stands here. To take the BA example, as the company took on more and more Sikh and Muslim workers, there was bound to come a point when it would need to address its uniform policy on religious garments, and this is what happened. The problem is that the incident is not remembered as the point that BA was prompted to amend one of its employee clothing regulations, it is remembered as the point that a Christian employee was suspended from work for being a Christian.

Dr Morgan says: "
To have a coherent and rational debate about the tenets of the Christianity is perfectly natural. To have a virulent, almost irrational attack upon it claiming that what is being said is self evidently true is dangerous". I think I agree with this point, but I think also that it is a point that could be applied to any religious position. I don't believe that he has provided any examples in his address of anyone (particularly anyone expressly atheistic) exhibiting "virulent, almost irrational attack[s]" on Christianity (or, indeed, any religious position), while at the same time, anyone who has heard a sermon in Church has heard a religious leader "claiming that what is being said is self evidently true".

I suspect that there are people out there who fit Dr. Morgan's criteria for a 'fundamentalist atheist', I just don't believe that there exist any in a position of power or influence comparable to those positions held by fundamentalists from other religious views.

The rest of his address does not seem to really touch on atheistic fundamentalism again, since he begins to talk about "the language of expulsion and exclusivity, of extremism and polarisation, and the claim that because God is on our side, He is not on yours". This clearly doesn't make sense with regards to atheistic fundamentalism, and neither does his use of the story of the reaction to Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry: "The God they want is a far more tribal figure, a God made in their own image, a God whom they can control and manipulate and manage", since the atheistic fundamentalist would have no desires at all about the attributes of something non-existent.

1 comment:

Andy J. Wotherspoon said...

I think that this whole Christian oppression thing is mostly rubbish. Just because some Christian traditions are being forgotten about should in no way effect (affect?) a Christians existence, what are we intrinsically linked to our country of origin's religion, no.

I did moan about how Christmas wasn't what it should be, which is true in a sense, but also pointless.
I don't see how the way in which others celebrate Christmas should have any bearing on me as a Christian or even as a person.

Christians could do with being made to step out of their comfort zone and realise that being a Christian isn't about traditions or being allowed to wear a cross at work. It's about much more important things.

Although I do think that political correctness can be a bit stupid, who's going to get offended by a cross (or even a burkha).