Monday, October 30, 2006

Atheism fight back

Ethiopia - Obelisk, Axum, originally uploaded by CharlesFred.

After taking a bit of a backseat the past few weeks (we were told yet again on Question Time that the UK was a Christian country - the third week running!), atheism is striking back! It seems that the very excellent book by the extremely clever and articulate Richard Dawkins - The God Delusion - is set to be the best selling non-fiction book at Christmas in the UK. What a triumph of timing! It comes not so long after the Da Vinci Code - a very different sort of book, but one which can hardly be said to be pro-religious - has been a best seller.

So, it seems as if the silent majority in the UK are fed up with all the noises and obstructions and conservatism of the religious groups. Richard Dawkins book gives succour to their innate atheism, by dealing with the main arguments which have been put forward to justify or prove the existence of (a) god(s) and also goes onto show why it is that people have a need for a god, whether or not they exist. He also goes to explain why he thinks religion is mainly a bad thing, although I think he goes a but far here, concentrating too much on the extremists (he mostly targets Christians as most of the people reading his book will be in countries with a Christian cultural background).

But the main thrust of the book is to help people understand that they are, in fact, atheists and how it is that they are atheists, rather than agnostic or passively religious. He encourages atheists to come out of the closet and announce themselves to their friends and family and colleagues as atheists, much the same way as gay people are encouraged to do so.

Mentioning gay people, who along with children are some of the people most oppressed by established monotheistic religions, reminds me that there was another good ruling made by the courts the other day. the Gay Police Association ran advert in The Guardian showing blood coming out of a Bible, under a caption which noted a large increase in anti-gay related violence where people tried to justify their aggression and violence by claiming that their religion does not approve of homosexuality. Some Christian group took the GBA to court claiming that this was not fair. However, the judge, on looking at the evidence backing up the claims of the GBA did not agree there was any case to be had and that what the GBA had published was 'fair comment'.

In the meantime, I am going to go off and wonder what to celebrate this 25th December.. the birthday of Mithras, or Adonis, or Attis, Osiris or Dionysus, because indeed, all these man-gods, were said to have been born on that date, which as we all know is remarkbly close to mid-winter's day.

In the meantime, here is a pre-Christian monument we visited in Axum in Ethiopia this day last year. I remember my late Uncle Hector suggesting that we should make the trip up to Axum and, indeed, it was a fascinating and charming little place right up in the north of Ethiopia, looking across the battlefields towards Eritrea.


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