Sunday, 4 August 2013

Humanists and Non-Conformists

I once came across someone* who described himself as "a Christian atheist". I was unfamiliar with the term and asked what it meant. He replied that he himself was an atheist but could not deny that (I`ll have to paraphrase from memory) Christian beliefs were at the root of all that is progressive.

At the time I was a bit stumped by this. To take an area I`m familar with, it`s certainly true that many anti-slavery campaigners and others involved in social uplift of one sort or another were motivated by religious beliefs, but it`s equally  true that reactionary elements such as supporters of slavery have a also claimed a Biblical sanction for their actvities.

I suspect my `Christian atheist` acquaintance was actually referring to a more sophisticated argument, whereby it is the values shared by Christians that underlie much that is progressive. That is the view expressed by one Church of England bishop ; 

"The dignity of all human beings is clearly drawn from the Biblical idea that human beings are made in God`s image Or it might be the question of equality, or it might be liberty, freedom of expression."**

Moving on to something more concrete, I thought it might be interesting now to turn to the role of Non-Conformists and other `religious radicals` in British history.

Fortunately, I can be quite lazy about this and simply give you some links to click on ;

After that exhaustive research, it`s time for me to have a cup of tea, but I will close with a couple of general observations.

Human progress is a pernickity pelican and I have little sympathy either for atheists who claim all that is good and progressive comes from the secular tradition or for their religious counterparts who claim the opposite. No creed or doctrine has a monopoly on wisdom and it`s foolish to pretend otherwise.

My own feeling is that Humanists would do well to emulate atheist Robert G Ingersoll, who, I`m told,  was noted for respecting those whose views he did not share, and for advocating alliances with people of faith on matters that were important to him.

* It was horror movie buff Matthew Coniam, who was good enough to send a friendly message after I mentioned an article of his ( see `Vampires Visit Yorkshire Coast`, this blog, 17 May 2012).

** Bishop Michael Nazir Ali - Radio 4 Today programme 6 Nov 2006, as quouted in BHA publication `The Case for Secularism : A Neutral State in an Open Society`.

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