Thursday, October 23, 2008

Credit crunch: atheism to blame?

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice
I wouldn't normally bother with the vomitings of Mad Mel Phillips, but this one has been noticed for her quite touching explanation of the current financial turmoil. Touching, that is, in an everything-is-about-my-pet-hates kinda way.

She writes:

I see this financial breakdown, moreover, as being not merely a moral crisis but the monetary expression of the broader degradation of our values – the erosion of duty and responsibility to others in favour of instant gratification, unlimited demands repackaged as ‘rights’ and the loss of self-discipline. And the root cause of that erosion is ‘militant atheism’ which, in junking religion, has destroyed our sense of anything beyond our material selves and the here and now and, through such hyper-individualism, paved the way for the onslaught on bedrock moral values expressed through such things as family breakdown and mass fatherlessness, educational collapse, widespread incivility, unprecedented levels of near psychopathic violent crime, epidemic drunkenness and drug abuse, the repudiation of all authority, the moral inversion of victim culture, the destruction of truth and objectivity and a corresponding rise in credulousness in the face of lies and propaganda -- and intimidation and bullying to drive this agenda into public policy.

Wow. Clearly, according to Mel, atheism is, more or less, a rejection of all values and virtues. I would defy anybody to see that in the work of, to pluck one out of the air, Robert Ingersoll

And Mel is wrong about unprecedented levels of violent crime. The past was much much more violent than today. See Pinker (text or video). I'm not sure what she means by the 'moral inversion of victim culture', presumably it is something to do with her desire to blame the victims of any injustices perpetrated by her in-group. The rest of the rant seems to be a complaint that people don't agree with her bile so much any more. Diddums.

Alonzo Fyfe likens this hate-speech against atheists to the hate-speech against Jews that was common in the 1930s, in the wake of another crash.

People seeking political power for themselves named Jews as the culprit, either through the corruption of their influence and their values on (otherwise) 'good' Christians, or as a part of a conspiracy to take over the world – or, at least, the global economy.

That vilification of the Jews had some very ugly consequences.

Today, blaming the Jews for economic bad news is not as popular as it used to be. Consequently, bigots need to find a new target group – one that can be effectively blamed where the people might actually believe the hate-mongering that the writers engage in.

I guess here in the UK we don't get quite as upset as this, but maybe we ought to. There is something compelling in the idea that if you have special access to knowledge of truth, beauty, and goodness, then those who disagree with you are on the side of lies, ugliness and evil. It is not just unthinking bigotry, but something that seeks to make bigotry a virtue, and the virtuous,  bigots. Yet, you can find the best and the worst of humanity in virtually every faith-related or other identity group. Liberals included. Remember this if you are tempted. Conservatives and socialists alike seek a tyranny of the good, and differ only in their notions of the good. Liberals recognise that this is an intellectual trap - that we should focus not on the virtue of a would-be tyrant, but on the tyranny.

Which brings me to the real point of this post. Some of Mel's themes are not entirely unfamiliar closer to home.  How's this:

Thus the inevitable decline in church attendance and religious belief, indicating the continued secularisation of British society, marches on. Religion, whilst clearly not the panacea for all the world's ills, at least has pretensions to a code by which it's devotees are to live and behave.

or this

such is the emerging animus towards religion, and such is the underlying utilitarianism of our political culture - that any statements about belief that are not utilitarian, including what we believe about right and wrong, are being similarly sidelined. This has brought with it something of a crisis of values inside the forces of liberalism.

These are quotes from Reinventing the State, the chapters by Lynne Featherstone and David Boyle  respectively.

Luckily what Lynne and David are doing is arguing an ideological point. Mel, on the other hand attacks an entire faith-identity group (atheists), indifferent to the actual, diverse values and practises of the members of this group. It is easy to miss the distinction. Indeed for writing this post, I went back to Reinventing the State, and failed to find the juicier, more prejudiced quotes I thought I had remembered reading.

There is still a danger - that many will not distinguish between disagreeing with secularists and attacking atheists, just as it is often hard to distinguish between disagreements with islam and attacks on muslims. But we have to live with this danger because the debate must be had.

Mad Mel, meanwhile, isn't interested in the debate. She regards people like myself, much like many regarded the Jews of the 1930s. We have corrupted society, because we apparently have no values. What is to be done about us?


Julian H said...

Uch, Philips, for the love of God...

Andrew said...

"Clearly, according to Mel, atheism is, more or less, a rejection of all values and virtues."

I wondered why I went out and killed all those people this morning. Ah, no, wait a minute, I didn't do that did I, I was just nice to people this morning. This bloody atheism - niceness, mass murder, I get so confused. What I really need is some kind of book that isn't in any way confusing or contradictory and doesn't in any way promote violence to show me the way. Now, if only there was such a book. Sigh, back to Mammon it is then.

Charlotte Gore said...

Oh it's such a relief to find myself disagreeing with Mad Mel. ;)

Nice to see your Reinventing the State analysis being recycled too!

George Miller said...

“Mad Mel, meanwhile, isn't interested in the debate. She regards people like myself, much like many regarded the Jews of the 1930s. We have corrupted society, because we apparently have no values. What is to be done about us?”

Put us in gas chambers? If we don't grow some balls and start defending ourselves (militants that don't defend themselves? LOL with a capital fucking L) we're going to find that the scapegoating and bigotry will spiral out of control.

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