Loyal to the Tribe

I have been re-reading Richard Dawkins’ closely reasoned ‘The God Delusion”, since one of my students gave me a free .pdf copy of it. The writing is compelling, a behemoth of linear, unassailable reason, trampling lesser intellects before it. There is a chink or two in the armour, however. Apart from overt and perhaps unnecessary contempt – politely put  with a deftly derogatory adjective here and there – for those who adhere to inexplicable religious views, I rather wondered why he felt it necessary to seek the opinions of his friends – great and good as they might be – to support the argument. Swerving dangerously close to logical fallacy, an irrelevant appeal seeks to persuade by citing what someone else, a perceived authority, thinks on the subject, as if that resolves the question. The degree of support that such an appeal lends to a claim varies depending on the particular authority in question, the relevance of their expertise to the claim, and other factors, but in all cases is limited.  The opinions of those whose mental powers are greater than one’s own, no training in theology or experience in grace notwithstanding, might sway some and sell a few more copies, I suppose.  
He writes: 
“Great scientists of our time who sound religious usually turn out not to be so when you examine their beliefs more deeply. This is certainly true of Einstein and Hawking. The present Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society, Martin Rees, told me that he goes to church as an ‘unbelieving Anglican . . . out of loyalty to the tribe’. He has no theistic beliefs, but shares the poetic naturalism that the cosmos provokes (in other scientists) In the course of a recently televised conversation, I challenged my friend the obstetrician Robert Winston, a respected pillar of British Jewry, to admit that his Judaism was of exactly this character and that he didn’t really believe in anything supernatural.”

Leaving aside for the moment Dawkins’ shameless leverage, and consequent speculation about the fellowship of light with darkness, I was left wondering about ‘unbelieving Anglicans’. As a kind of flying buttress or loosely tethered barrage balloon to the Church of England, I have more opportunity than most to privately speculate whether I know any of this particular species of ‘believer’, loyal to the tribe. Dawkins believes that there are more of these than you can shake a stick at, a silent, monumental fifth column of Laodicean terracotta warriors. The parable of the sheep and the goats comes to mind and given that since they look alike here and they are only distinguishable by the shepherd, I am wasting my time in such speculation. Nevertheless, their presence in a company of the redeemed is unlikely to raise the worship to transcendent heights, I suspect. But hey, what do I know?
The letters in the image are an anagram of, inter alia, “A Ethic Husk Owl”. Curious.

13 thoughts on “Loyal to the Tribe

  1. In about a week, you have: given your certificate of approval to the Nobel committee for having done a good job (this time around); provided your own design of how worship should be; told us how silly Hawkins has been; how ‘B16’ is being so anal over a rubber balloon; how a Catholic priest used a mass to beat people up; how beatification of Newman was a bizarre event; how Catholic doctrine has bolted-on absurdities; and now, how shameless the perceived leverage of Dawkins has been.

    I don’t want to represent the negative thoughts of many who do not wish to express them- for they are nicer people than I. I also do not want to question your wisdom in your above observations- would it change a thing?

    But I do request you to be kind to those you call species of ‘believer’, loyal to the tribe. Please sing your own praises without ridiculing the nice people who do not retort! Or better still, try ridiculing those who do retort and the consequence will develop in you some sense of respect for those whose forgiveness you feed on.


  2. I can understand that while speaking, one may make a statement without thinking, and on realizing it say, “But hey, what do I know?”. But when one writes such a thing, it is obvious that the writer wants to make a statement, anyway, but also lacks the guts to accept the responsibility and avoids it by saying, “But hey, what do I know?”
    I mean, if you doubt what you know, why not remove the post?


  3. Alrighty, then. Expressing your opinion in a cynical, articulate, and hilarious manner on your own blog is offending someone. You should be ashamed of youself…or something.

    I have always wondered why someone like Dawkins would expend the mental energy trying to prove the non-existence of God. Why does he care if G-d exists or not? Why isn't he protesting the deities of Hindus or Buddhists, or Bahai? I know that I'm scientifically challenged, I admit it, but I thought trying to prove a negative blows a hole in the universe or something.

    On a personal note, I've always thought that Dawkins' wordy and self-pretentious writings smacked of opportunism. Bashing God is sexy these days, and he's made a lot of money flapping about it. But I could be wrong. Maybe he's a true believer in vacuums. Everyone's gotta believe in something.


  4. I am, of course, prostrate with contrition and I have to agree that the good professor's preoccupation with a theory of nothing carries a certain perverse logic. Although G_d bashing might be a pastime more suitable for the twittering classes, it's about as sexy as a Gaza slum.


  5. I am not quite sure i've understood everything, but i found the whole lot of your texts utterly interesting. Personally,and being a Catholic-born non-practising but firm believer (Saint John The Baptist-tendancy), i have a much simpler kind of faith, like i do not pollute, i do not do harm to any one (only to me, but i stopped that when i quitted drinking alcohol), i try to follow a quite universal motto, “le Beau, le Bon, le Vrai”, and i can't help remembering that Anglicanism started mainly because Henry VIII didn't really figure out how to marry Ann Boleyn and that's why he splitted up with his otherwise quite good mate the Pope. Or am i totally wrong ? By the way, did you know that God lives in the south of France, in a tiny village, and she is quite happy, apparently, from what she whispered in my inner ear the other day… And at the same time, i agree with you, being a Papist isn't a good thing to boast about, so let me give you a kind-hearted kiss from a true Jesus-Christian. Claude Califano.


  6. An embarrassment of execrable French sans accents prompted me to remove the kindly post from someone who might know someone I know and has the inside track on rural France. *note to myself…must get a chainsaw*


  7. And even if you were right, my English would not allow me to talk at length about such serious, complicated, and non-“laïque” topics. But i do appreciate what you write, and i don't mind putting myself to the test of being read by a whole bunch of… of Anglicans. Catholicism has been deprived of its inital meanings and ideals by Paul, who was not a Christian as such considering he invented the business, but i feel that being baptized, i have the right to speak up for a religion who is slowly losing its blood while closing its churches (cathedrals are still open, but that's because of the tourists…). Things on my chest i need to confess (Johnny Cash).


  8. I have to say, I rather resent being made to queue and pay to enter 'la maison de Dieu', Notre Dame being a prime example. Catholics cling to the notion that G_d 'dwells in buildings made with hands'.
    Second Corinthians 5 – written to an adolescent church, error-prone and worldly – from the elder statesman does make this clear…


  9. Well, initially, cathedrals were used for all kinds of purposes,going from some sort of gathering places where fairs and cattle markets took place, to a kind of sanctuary in which the laws of men didn't hold any power on people in need (thieves, whores, anyone needing to escape from a danger, like being falsely accused and having to find a shelter). It's funny, because here in Lyon, in the early 16th century, the guy in charge of the cathedral decided to set a bit higher (just a little too high for the fugitive to reach it) the bell giving the signal that somebody was justly claiming for shelter, so that himself wouldn't be bothered anymore and wouldn't have to rush to the cathedral's gate in order to let the person in… Did i tell the story right, and have i made myself understood (English is a marvellous but difficult langage)? In fact, cathedrals were the actual home for the community. And Catholicism being the rule, the Church was generally despised – and feared – by the common folks because of the very temporal power it imposed on the men and women of these times… But nevertheless, churches and cathedrals meant that God's teachings were both respected and a superior authority (even when the archibishop or whoever was a simple career-minded politician). Next time, i'll tell you all about the “reclus” and the “recluses”, an extremely weird phenomenon which lasted roughly till the middle of the 18e century.


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