The Concept of ‘Passionate Agnosticism’ on Boxing Day 2006
I was at church yesterday on Christmas Day, and I was also at church on Christmas Eve. I am a protestant by upbringing and tribal affiliation, but like Richard Dawkins, an atheist by conviction. But unlike Dawkins I am not against religion.
Richard Dawkins has just written a new book ‘The God Delusion’ and it has been described as:
“A hard-hitting, impassioned rebuttal of religion of all types and does so in the lucid, witty and powerful language for which he [Dawkins] is renowned. It is a brilliantly argued, fascinating polemic that will be required reading for anyone interested in this most emotional and important subject.”
But according to Michael Fitzpatrick writing for Spiked Online in a piece entitled‘The Dawkins Delusion’, Dawkins fails to recognize environmentalism as the new religion of choice for urban atheists:
“The most curious feature of Dawkins’ crusade against religion is that it is mounted at a time when the social influence of religion is at a low ebb. In the USA, Dawkins follows liberals in grossly exaggerating the influence of the religious right as a way of avoiding any reflection on the lack of popular appeal of their own agenda. In the UK, Dawkins concentrates his fire on one school in Gateshead where creationism has crept on to the curriculum (allowing him to sneer at Peter Vardy, the vulgar ‘car salesman’ millionaire who has bankrolled the school). Yet, while he happily tilts at windmills, Dawkins ignores much more influential currents of irrationality – such as the cult of environmentalism – which has a far greater influence on the national curriculum than notions of ‘intelligent design’.
While Dawkins can readily identify common features between South Pacific cargo cults and the Christian churches, he seems oblivious to the religious themes of the environmental movement. Just like evangelical Christians, environmentalists preach a ‘repent, the end is nigh’ message. The movement has its own John the Baptist – George Monbiot – who has come out of the desert (well, Oxfordshire) to warn us of the imminent danger of hellfire (in the form of global warming) if we do not repent and embrace his doctrines of austerity and restraint (3). Beware – the rough beast of the apocalypse is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born! “
I don’t have any real difficulty with the religous themes within environmentalism and I don’t particularly have a problem with the doctrine of austerity and restraint, but I do have a real problem with the way in which many environmentalists wrongly appeal to ‘science’ to support these themes.
Many environmental organisations have professors of science in key leadership positions and often these same people confuse ‘the scientific evidence’ with their misguided belief that everywhere the natural environment is in crisis.
For me evidence and faith are two very different things.
Sitting in church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day I was reminded again about the importance of faith to the Christian and also the importance of ‘helping’ in particular the needy.
Many environmentalists want to believe the environment is being harmed by people and they want to help the environment, but they often lack an understanding of science. So their approach to ‘helping the environment’ is often confused and in some instances is harmful.
In Science, Religion and the Meaning of Life, Mark Vernon, “confronts the lust for certainty found in the dogmatism of conservative religion and militant science. He believes that a committed even passionate agnosticism is vital for the future of our planet and our souls.”
As a committed environmentalist and atheist, who is often accused of being an extreme skeptic, I find the concept of ‘passionate agnosticism’ appealing.