A blow to the New Atheism? Britain is losing its religion - and becoming "spiritual" instead

Modern Britain is “spiritual” but not religious. That’s the headline finding of an opinion poll, and accompanying report, released this week by theChristian think-tank Theos. The ComRes poll - which confirms a trend identified in several previous surveys - found that well over half those questioned (59%) said that they believed in some kind of spiritual being or essence. There were substantial, though minority, levels of belief in specific concepts such as spirts, angels and “a universal life force”, whatever that is. One for the Jedis, perhaps.

Even a third of people who described themselves as non-religious were prepared to own up to having some such ideas, while a mere 13% - and only a quarter of the non-religious - agreed with the statement that “humans are purely material beings with no spiritual element”. And more than three-quarters of the survey agreed that “there are things that we cannot simply explain through science or any other means”.

Theos seems to be impressed by the apparently limited appeal of scientific materialism, seeing in it evidence that hardline atheism of the Richard Dawkins variety has little popular appeal, despite the high media profile it has garnered in recent years. Its director, Elizabeth Oldfield, writes that it is “notable is that those same voices have not managed to convince us that humans are purely material beings, with no spiritual element”. The implication is that there’s a huge untapped reservoir of spiritual longing and that it would be wrong to attribute the decline in religiosity in this country, stretching back decades, to a spread in actual unbelief.

Yet it’s hard to see much comfort in these figures for the future of religion. 

Continue to read at the above link.

Biologist Richard Dawkins makes a case for “thinking the improbable” by looking at how the human frame of reference limits our understanding of the universe.

Richard Dawkins tribute to Christopher Hitchens

Re: Dawkins on Radio4

Dawkins said an “astonishing number couldn’t identify the first book in the New Testament.” But his claim that this indicated self-identified Christians were “not really Christian at all” was challenged by Fraser, who said the poll asked “silly little questions” to “trip” people up.

Giles Fraser: Richard, if I said to you what is the full title of ‘The Origin Of Species’, I’m sure you could tell me that.

Richard Dawkins: Yes I could

Giles Fraser: Go on then.

Richard Dawkins: On The Origin Of Species.. Uh. With, Oh God. On The Origin Of Species. There is a sub title with respect to the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life.

Giles Fraser: You’re the high pope of Darwinism… If you asked people who believed in evolution that question and you came back and said 2% got it right, it would be terribly easy for me to go ‘they don’t believe it after all.’ It’s just not fair to ask people these questions. They self-identify as Christians and I think you should respect that.


To put it as clearly as I can:

The Bible is the foundation of belief for Christians. It is meant to be the inerrant Word of God. It is meant to be the foundation of their morals, ethics etc. They are meant to - and many claim they really do - live by the Bible.

Those people who make those claims, who then cannot identify the name of the first book in the NT? Well, yeah. I’m inclined to agree with Dawkins that it’s a bit ridiculous.

In contrast, Charles Darwin’s book ‘On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservati­on of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life' is a: a much longer title to attempt to remember, b: isn’t the basis for atheism (in fact, it has nothing to do with atheism at all), c: isn’t the basis for anyone’s morals or ethics, d: isn’t a book people live by, e: isn’t claimed as a book people live by, f: doesn’t have any ‘holy’ significance, g: isn’t seen as inerrant, h: isn’t even entirely accurate anymore and scientists readily admit that fact, i: isn’t considered immune to criticism, j: basically it isn’t at all comparable to getting the basics of the Bible incorrect when you claim to be a devout Bible believer

I’ve seen a few tweets suggesting that Dawkins has made a fool of himself and atheism with this failure to remember the annoyingly Victorian title of Origins. I am of the mind that these people should stop and think before making such ridiculous tweets.

Origins has nothing to do with atheism. Atheism has nothing to do with Origins.

Yes Dawkins set himself up for it when he said he could remember the whole title and then couldn’t, but he did not disgrace atheism, only his own memory whilst under pressure.

Failing to remember the full title of Origins is not the same as failing to remember the title of the first book in NT because the comparison is illogical.

Those other people who are also now declaring atheism defunct because of one man’s failure of memory, are being completely ridiculous.

Just my tuppence worth on the subject.


Richard Dawkins celebrates a victory over creationists

Leading scientists and naturalists, including Professor Richard Dawkinsand Sir David Attenborough, are claiming a victory over the creationist movement after the government ratified measures that will bar anti-evolution groups from teaching creationism in science classes.

The Department for Education has revised its model funding agreement, allowing the education secretary to withdraw cash from schools that fail to meet strict criteria relating to what they teach. Under the new agreement, funding will be withdrawn for any free school that teaches what it claims are “evidence-based views or theories” that run “contrary to established scientific and/or historical evidence and explanations”.

The British Humanist Association (BHA), which has led a campaign against creationism – the movement that denies Darwinian evolution and claims that the Earth and all its life was created by God – described the move as “highly significant” and predicted that it would have implications for other faith groups looking to run schools.

Dawkins, who was one of the leading lights in the campaign, welcomed confirmation that creationists would not receive funding to run free schools if they sought to portray their views as science. “I welcome all moves to ensure that creationism is not taught as fact in schools,” he said. “Government rules on this are extremely welcome, but they need to be properly enforced.”

Free schools, which are state-funded and run by local people or organisations, do not need to follow the national curriculum. Scientific groups have expressed concerns that their spread will see a reduction in the teaching of evolution in the classroom.

Several creationist groups have expressed an interest in opening schools in towns and cities across England, including Bedford, Barnsley, Sheffield and Nottingham. Critics say they seek to promote creationism, or the doctrine of “intelligent design”, as a scientific theory rather than as a myth or metaphor.

One creationist organisation, Truth in Science, which encourages teachers to incorporate intelligent design into their science teaching, has sent free resources to all secondary schools and sixth-form colleges.

A BHA campaign, called “Teach evolution, not creationism”, saw 30 leading scientists and educators call on the government to introduce statutory guidance against the teaching of creationism. The group said if the government would not support the call, an explicit amendment to the wording of the funding agreement could have the same effect. Last week the Department for Education confirmed it had amended the agreement, although a spokesman denied it was the result of pressure from scientists. He said the revision made good on a pledge regarding the teaching of creationism given when the education secretary, Michael Gove, was in opposition. “We will not accept any academy or free school proposal which plans to teach creationism in the science curriculum or as an alternative to accepted scientific theories,” the spokesman said, adding that “all free school proposals will be subject to due diligence checks by the department’s specialist team”.

The revised funding agreement has been seized upon by anti-creationists who are pressing for wider concessions from the government.

"It is clear that some faith schools are ignoring the regulations and are continuing to teach myth as though it were science," Dawkins said. "Evolution is fact, supported by evidence from a host of scientific disciplines, and we do a great disservice to our young people if we fail to teach it properly. "

A spokeswoman for the BHA said: “The government’s new wording is quite wide and in practice could prevent those who promote extreme religious or particular spiritual or pseudoscientific approaches from including them as part of the school curriculum as science or as evidence-based.”

The Guardian

Thanks to pintucks for the submission :) 


Muhammad cartoon row: student atheist society claims victory

A university atheist society which sparked a global debate over the publication of a cartoon depicting Jesus and Muhammad on a webpage has declared a victory for freedom of speech after its student union backed away from a demand that the cartoon be removed.

The University College London's Atheist, Secularist and Humanist societygarnered high-profile support from the secularist Richard Dawkins after it refused the student union’s request to remove an image of Jesus and Muhammad sharing a pint from a Facebook page advertising a social event.

A spokesman for University College London's student union said the request to remove the cartoon remained in place, but that decisions regarding advertising for events remained at the discretion of individual societies. “Society presidents take responsibility for their own publicity, and it is not vetted by UCLU prior to distribution,” the union said. “They are provided with equality training prior to running a society, to help them understand the balance between freedom of expression and cultural sensitivity.”

But the atheist society took the move as a climbdown and thanked the thousands of secularists who signed a petition in its support.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the society’s president, Robbie Yellon said: “University College London Union has recognised that mistakes were made and that the initial correspondence with our society was flawed. The union is to review its stance on such matters and has said that this will not happen again. They can no longer call on us to withdraw the image. We welcome these developments, which set an important precedent for other universities. We also feel it appropriate to recognise the swift response of the union, which certainly helped us reach this positive conclusion.”

A spokesman for the students union said that the atheist society had agreed to show more consideration about how it advertised social events, but because of the union’s procedure the society could still face disciplinary action.

"If people continue to complain then we are going to follow normal procedure," said James Skuse, the union’s democracy and communications officer.

He said disciplinary action, which could entail forced resignation of committee members, or disaffiliation from the union, was “one possibility out of many”.

The atheist society used the title page from a comic book, Jesus and Mo, by a pseudonymous British cartoonist called Mohammed Jones, on Facebook last week.

Following complaints from students it was advised by the union on Tuesday that it would be “prudent” to take the cartoon down. The society refused, launching an online petition to “defend freedom of expression at University College London” and criticising “attempts to censor” the society.

By Thursday morning the petition had nearly 3,000 signatures, including that of Richard Dawkins, who left a comment stating: “Jesus and Mo cartoons are wonderfully funny and true. They could offend only those actively seeking to be offended – which says it all.” It also received support from the British Humanist Association, the National Secular Society, the National Federation of Atheist, Humanist and Secular Student Societies and the New Humanist magazine. The society said it had been astounded by the “unending support”.

The student union said it had “a duty to foster and encourage freedom of expression among our members, ensure diversity of our membership is recognised and pursue equal opportunities for our members”.

The society had been asked to remove the advertisement “because UCLU aims to foster good relations between different groups of students and create a safe environment where all students can benefit from societies regardless of their religious or other beliefs”.

The union had a duty to ensure students were not harassed because of characteristics which may make them appear different to others, including race, gender, religion, nationality or sexual orientation.

The atheist society said it would resist any disciplinary action. “Unfortunately, the union has considered the possibility that posting the image might have constituted an act of bullying, prejudice, harassment or discrimination,” it said. “We firmly believe in the protection of our fellow students through university and union policy; however we cannot accept such a suggestion.”

The society’s president, Robbie Yellon, said he believed disciplinary action was unlikely and dismissed the idea that the society could be guilty of bullying or harassment. “As far as I, and the society, is concerned, that’s an absolutely shocking accusation. If it does happen we will face it and do everything in our power to fight it.”


Preview: Richard Dawkins interviews Christopher Hitchens

Exclusive extracts from the writer’s final interview.

The Tools of an Atheist Debater


  1. Occam’s Razor: Since the existence of a deity is unnecessarily complex and the nonexistence of a deity is simpler of an explanation, the nonexistence is more likely.
  2. Problem of Evil: Since evil exists in the world, even as a deficiency of good, and since suffering exists, there can be no benevolent and omnipotent god since all of those would necessarily create a world free of evil.  If a god can stop suffering and hasn’t, they aren’t benevolent.  If a god can’t stop suffering, they aren’t omnipotent.  Note: This is the most powerful argument
  3. Russell’s Teapot: used to invalidate “you can’t completely disprove god,” since you can’t completely disprove the existence of a teapot between earth and mars.  Basically an argument of absurdity.
  4. Argument from Poor Design: An omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent god would create beings of optimal design, however there is suboptimal design everywhere.  (Giraffe’s Larynx is excessively long, for example).
  5. Fate of the Unlearned: If your theology if correct, what about people who either are nor aware of it now or couldn’t possibly have been aware of it.  For example, Christianity was never introduced to the Indians until the 15th century, so have they all been damned for reasons beyond their own capacity?  WARNING: Encourages evangelicalism
  6. Who Designed the Designer (Ultimate Boeing 747): If a designer created everything, who created the designer.  Argument of how a god arises. (Richard Dawkins)
  7. Problem of Hell: Hell punished the bad which is inconsistent with a benevolent and forgiving god (this is weaker).

Responses to Arguments for:

  1. Ontological Argument: This argument is that the highest being that can be conceived must necessarily exist since it can be conceived.  Counters: Since you can imagine there being no being at all, that must also exist, thus the argument is fallacious or false.  Also a lack of evidential reasoning, also conceiving it does not mean it has to exist.
  2. God of the Gaps: The proverbial “tide in, tide out, sun up, sun down” argument.  Since we can’t explain a phenomenon, a deity must have caused it.  Science invalidates, gets back to Occam’s Razor.
  3. There is good, etc: See Problem of Evil

These are your tools if you want or are put in a position to argue against god.  Use carefully.

(Source: rincewindsapprentice)

Richard Dawkins: 'Somebody as intelligent as Jesus would have been an atheist' - video interview

In the latest in John Harris’s National Conversations series of interviews, Richard Dawkins is invited to defend his atheism. What about the comfort, community, and moral education offered by religion? 

There’s a video and a longer audio clip of the interview at the link.

I don’t know if you’ll be able to view this outside of the UK - but you can give it a go at least!


Author speaks out about country club’s speech cancellation

One of the world’s noted atheists says a Rochester Hills country club canceled his speaking engagement after learning about his views.

Richard Dawkins, a scientist from England who is known for his outspoken defense of atheism, planned to speak tonight at the Wyndgate Country Club at a fund-raising dinner for the Michigan branch of the Center for Inquiry — a group that defends secularism.

But on Thursday, an official with the country club contacted the Center for Inquiry and canceled his appearance because they found out Dawkins is an atheist after watching him on “The O’Reilly Factor” on the Fox News channel, said Dawkins and center officials.

"This is sheer bigotry," Dawkins said. "If the country club had said, ‘I’m not having Dawkins speak because he’s a Jew, or because he’s black, or because he’s gay,’ they would never get away with it."

Managers with the Wyndgate Country Club did not return calls and messages seeking comment.

Dawkins plans to speak tonight at a hotel in Rochester Hills; he also is to speak Thursday at Oakland University and on Sunday at the Birmingham Temple, a Jewish humanistic center founded by an atheist rabbi.

Dawkins said what allegedly happened to him is part of a general prejudice that atheists face in society, a prejudice he tries to counter by speaking out.

"It clearly violates the spirit of the Civil Rights Act," he said.

Last week, Dawkins appeared on Bill O’Reilly’s show and discussed his new book, “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True.” Dawkins said he was not promoting atheism on the show, but science. Dawkins said O’Reilly “twisted” what his book was about.

"He made it seem like it was atheistic propaganda aimed at children," Dawkins said. "It’s nothing of the sort."

Dawkins said he’s concerned that the country club official who decided to cancel his talk “believed Bill O’Reilly rather than reading the book.”

From Detroit Free Press

I actually bought ‘The Magic of Reality’ last week and have been reading it off and on. It’s a science book through and through. Sure, it goes into explanations of how to tell the difference between fiction and reality - but that’s not inherently atheist, it’s just critical thinking. 

It’s a good book, actually, I’d recommend it to any lay person, and definitely those who want to help their kids in the sciences. 


(Source: , via creatorbreakdown)

“There is something infantile in the presumption that somebody else has a responsibility to give your life meaning and point… The truly adult view, by contrast, is that our life is as meaningful, as full and as wonderful as we choose to make it.”

Richard Dawkins

RELEASE: Atheist Convention to present Christopher Hitchens with prestigious award named after Richard Dawkins

At the Atheist Alliance of America (AAA) Convention, held in conjunction with the Texas Freethought Convention. AAA will present the 2011 Richard Dawkins Award to Christopher Hitchens for his outstanding contributions to freethought.   The Convention, with a theme of “From Grassroots to Global Impact”, will be held from October 7-9, 2011 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston Texas.  The line-up includes prominent speakers such as Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, and Victor Stenger, as well as entertainment..

 The Richard Dawkins Award has been presented annually since 2003 to notable individuals for their work on behalf of promoting atheism and freethought around the world.  Past recipients include Susan Jacoby, Bill Maher, Penn and Teller, Julia Sweeney, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Daniel Dennett, Ann Druyan, and James Randi.

 This year, Richard Dawkins himself will present AAA’s Richard Dawkins Award to Christopher Hitchens, who may accept in person or in absentia as his schedule permits.

 Christopher Hitchens is one of the most prolific modern writers and exponents of atheism; he has appeared on every major news and political television show offering opinions on political and social issues.  He has contributed to Vanity FairThe NationSlate, the New York Times Book Review, and Atlantic Monthly, among many other publications.  His books include Hitch 22: A MemoirGod is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and The Missionary Position: Mother Teresa in Theory and Practice.

 Hitchens was born in Portsmouth, England and educated at The Leys School in Cambridge and Balliol College, Oxford. He holds an honors degree in philosophy, politics and economics. Hitchens emigrated to the United States in 1981 and became an American citizen in 2007.  In June 2010, Hitchens was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

 Nick Lee, President of Atheist Alliance of America said, “The Atheist Alliance of America is proud to recognize Mr. Hitchens for his prominent role in the public debate over the impact of religion in modern society.”   

From Atheist Alliance America