October 2018

Saudi Arabia has been named the worst country in the world to be an atheist in a new report monitoring the rights and treatment of the non-religious. On Monday the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) published the latest Freedom of Thought Report, which ranks the best and worst countries to be an atheist.

September 2018

The number of Britons who say they have no religion has hit a record high, new data has revealed. More than half of the British public (53 per cent) say they are not at all religious - a figure that has increased by five percentage points since 2015 and by 19 percentage points since 1983, when just three in 10 people deemed themselves non-religious. The news has prompted fresh calls for the Government to cut the amount of public money going to the church and reduce its influence in society.

A Personal Relationship

If I had a dollar (or a pound, since it's much the same since we Brits rashly decided to throw ourselves out of Europe) for every time a theist has tried to tell me we atheists can't understand their relationship with god I'd be ... well I wouldn't actually be rich but I'd probably be able to buy my family a decent curry and several beers each. Suffice to say, it's a common claim but it's also wrong and here's why.

A Personal Relationship With God In my experience, extensive experience I assure you, the vast majority of atheists tend to be refugees from religion so you'll excuse me if I don't accept the premise that atheists don't "get" religion. I have sixteen years of Catholicism, twelve of Catholic schooling and around twenty years of debating theists so I'd say I have a fair bit of experience of religion. Unfortunately, the claim sounds just a little too familiar to sceptical ears, the clarion call of the theist that we (the unwashed heathen masses) cannot possibly understand their relationship with their god unless we too "try it on for size". I mean come again? That's right, theists actually expect us to become religious in order to understand religion which is, perhaps, one of the biggest pile of fetid dingo's kidneys I have ever had the displeasure of hearing. This argument isn't philosophy, or at least not real philosophy in the sense I understand it, it's merely religious apologetics and even when theists aren't saying such daft rubbish you can often almost sense them thinking it.

Some apologists have tried to compare it to art-lovers and those who lack an appreciation of fine art and it happens that, as the cynic I am, I do. The comparison between a person's lack of appreciation of art and another's lack of understanding of religion is just clumsy; despite arguments to the contrary, the appreciation of art is ultimately a popularity contest. I know, I know, you think I'm wrong ... most people, especially most who fancy they know something about art, would but if I am actually wrong then tell me the rules, the formula that distinguishes good art from bad. There must be a way, something empirical, else all it is opinion, granted the opinion of so-called "experts", but opinion nonetheless. On the other hand, of course, irrelevant comparisons of this kind fly dangerously close to that old evangelist favourite debate tactic, that of the strawman argument.

In my experience atheists do not simply dismiss religion as "stupid, pointless and false" because they don't "get" religion, most dismiss it because the central claims have no supporting validatable evidence, because whenever science turns its eye to such facile claims, they invariably turn out to be bogus or explicable in other ways. Most atheists consider claims to the existence of deity premature given that science has yet to explain all of the universe we live in and gods always appear to live somewhere in the gaps of our understanding. This claim is frequently referred to as "The God of the Gaps" argument because, if a god or gods exist somewhere outside of our current knowledge and we humans are on a quest to explain all that we can observe then someday, one presumes, such gods are likely to be found and explained or not found and (quite rightly) dismissed. As an atheist I absolutely concede there may be one or more gods out there but here's the thing ... we haven’t found one yet and none of the explanations so far accepted as valid by science either require or request the action of deity. Technically I suppose that makes me agnostic but, as you might expect, I disagree.

But I digress, I think most atheists more than understand (at least intellectually) theists claims to having a personal relationship with god ... they simply don't buy into it. Moreover, there's a place for people who talk to and have relationships with invisible people ... a place where they drug you, strap you down and look after you. That said, I hear the men and women in white coats are nice :)

About UK Atheist's Founder

As an author, socialist and atheist, I've been debating fundamentalists and theists for nearly thirty years.
Growing up Catholic, I began to question the existence of "God" around the age of thirteen in parallel with an "addiction" to science fiction which taught me the basics of science. I graduated with an honours degree in Applied Biology moving into science and then science computing and it was there that I was exposed to creationism. It struck me that science had not only take its eye off the ball, creationists were a well-funded and organised body determined subvert science. Like many others, I took up the fight to defend science building communities and supporting websites with my greatest success being a government response to the "Science, Just Science" campaign assuring us that creationism could not be taught as science in any state-run UK science classroom. Modern social networking is not ideal for debate but it today's format and it is why I co-founded the Facebook group:

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Richard Dawkins Whenever a system of communication evolves, there is always the danger that some will exploit the system for their own ends.