Thursday, March 13, 2014


One of my favourite actors has just weighed in on the godless side of things.  In a trenchant and let me add plausible attack, Chris O’Dowd, star of Bridesmaids and more importantly The IT Crowd warns that the religions will soon be as despised as racism. 
He contends that “religious doctrine is halting human progress.  It is a weird cult".  He continues in the same vein, “For most of my life, I've been, 'Hey, I'm not into it, but I respect your right to believe whatever you want'. But as time goes on, weirdly, I'm growing less liberal. I'm more like, 'No, religion is ruining the world, you need to stop!'”

I knew why I loved that man.  Just as his career is skyrocketing in the States, O’Dowd risks losing his lustre in the religious parts of the USA, by proclaiming his undying atheism.  He is so gutsy.  And just to make sure that everyone knows he is serious, he opines, “And you know, now America can't have a president that doesn't say he believes in God. So we're fucked! Like, they fucked everything!
"You wanna go and live in your weird cult and talk about a man who lives in a cloud, you do that, but don't (believe it). I mean, you really think that Barack Obama believes in God? No way!"
What do we think of this?  We know what Christians would argue.  They would say several things such as Terry Eagleton said of Richard Dawkins.  Let looks at the possible criticisms. 

The first is “how can you criticize faith if you know nothing of theology?”  I assume that Chris, despite his first name, is as ignorant of theology as I am.  However, as I regard theology as a huge human constructed edifice on the shabby foundations of faith.  To be sure, I and, I imagine Chris O’Dowd, do not understand theology but we can look at the foundations of faith in God and form a view.  I think that is fine.  One doesn’t need the propaganda of either atheist or believer to form a view on God.  You can form a view on God without a thorough understanding of His texts for it is an empirical view.  Either your life experience and learning persuades you of the presence of God or not.  One doesn’t need a deep understanding of theology.  That stuff comes after the first view is formed in the affirmative.  So I say Chris is safe from condemnation if indeed he is, as I hope he is, ignorant of theology.

The second criticism of Chris and other New Atheists is that God is so transcendent that He does not need our love or belief.  He is so ethereal that he does not provide evidence because He does not need to.  Well, that may or may not be true but it is an argument that does not shoot Chris the messenger because it is an assertion devoid of evidence.  It is typical of the mindset of the faithful that such an argument is proffered and believed.  I look at that argument and think it is merely the meandering logic of a person who believes stuff that is manifestly made up.  Others, however, will be persuaded by that argument.  Such is the variety of humanity.  My view is that the talk of a God who does not care to reveal himself is merely self serving and therefore unconvincing.

The third potential criticism has more power.  Chris and the New Atheists may be accused of attacking straw men.  There are vast numbers of innocuous, indeed wonderful believers who are not the mad fundamentalists of our godless imagining.  Whilst there are awful rat bags and nut bags amongst the various religions, there are so many normal, lovely people that we need to avoid stereotyping all religious folk as evil.  It is simply not the case.  Faith is not all bad.  Some parts are uplifting.  We need to acknowledge this and not slag off the whole segment of the community immersed in faith.  There lies a future for atheism as a minority fringe movement.

Finally, a related criticism would be that such adversarial positions like those of Chris and his deceased namesake Chris Hitchins are unhelpful.  My response is that the New Atheists have given strength to both sides.  Atheism is now a movement with a sense of morale.  Just a decade ago, it was a disparate group of people writing boring books for each other.  Chris O’Dowd and others have made atheism so sexy.  They have been aided by the sexual abuse scandal, the continuing religious wars and the utterly nasty weirdoes thrown up by the various faiths.  But New Atheists have also given great power to the faiths.  They love bagging the doctrinaire disciples of New Atheism.  We have to be careful not to be so sure of ourselves that we display hubris.  New Atheism is a big target.  Paradoxically the have pumped up the spokespersons of the churches and put God back into the front pages.  It can be a bit self defeating.

What is your view?

Is Chris O’Dowd your hero?

Is he creating straw men by making rednecks and homophobes the representatives of all faith?

Is he polarizing the world setting up a battle that gives strength to the promoters of faiths?

Over to you guys…