dimanche 24 août 2008


There will come a time very soon when even use of the word 'atheism' will be met with incredulity. Like the word for 'unbeliever in witches' in medieval times today. But Norman Geras thinks otherwise. He has turned into a contemporary soldier of the endarkenment since his earlier days of relatively left leaning days back in the 90's. Here he is lashing out at some rather mild arguments in favour of atheism by A.C. Grayling,

"Religion is a matter of choice in that, unlike race, age, gender or disability, you can change it, or not have it at all. True, most people's faith was driven into them when they were small children, and belief can be hard to shake off if your community will reject or hurt you for your apostasy. But it is still fundamentally voluntary. As such it should pay its own way and take its place in the queue along with everyone else." [A.C.Grayling]

There are contexts in which it is relevant to stress that a person's race, age, gender or disability are non-voluntary. But to call religious belief or the lack of it a matter of choice and voluntary is, at best, misleading. Matters of belief have to do with what a person thinks is true, and you can't just choose, or not, to think something true in the way that you can choose to take an afternoon stroll. The suggestion that if a person's beliefs turned out to be practically inconvenient in some way they could just change them is not a view worth taking seriously. So if religion should pay its own way, as it should, that's not why it should."

". . . is at best misleading"? This defence of irrationalism here is a major philosophical lapse for any philosopher. It is tied in with his defence of Israel. Religion matters see. If it doesn't, how could Geras' "defence" of Israel gain traction. Of course you can choose your religion. Geras' pious protection of inauthenticity rests on the terrible analogy he uses:- you chose to take an afternoon stroll. That choice (ignoring the question begging nature of the wider argument for the moment) is one minute choice in a wider pattern of living that could be called 'Healthy mind healthy body'. Obversely, deciding to ditch worn out beliefs such as those attached to religious noise, involves not going to a place of worship - and not 'changing inconvenient beliefs' (a stupid thing to say) - arguing against those who hold beliefs in metphysical constructions and pitting yourself against states that found themselves on God derived supremacy.

Geras should reread his philosophy primers - he's lost his touch.