Victoria Coren Mitchell - Writer, Broadcaster & Poker Player

God (with note)

Sunday, 5 December 2010


I’ve been asked by a friend to put this week’s Observer column up on the blog (as well as its normal place on the columns page) because he thinks it’s a good topic for debate. I’m not so sure. Online this morning, it’s the usual divide: furious frothing madness on the Guardian website, punctuated by the occasional refreshing hint of sanity - but I scan through those CiF comments very fast, as I’m not sure they’re good for the soul - and, on Twitter, people generally agreeing or disagreeing with tolerance and good humour. Hurray for Twitter!

  But I don’t know that this column necessarily makes for a good debating topic anyway. It’s about belief in God. I have a feeling that these debates descend quickly into “I believe”, “I don’t”, “I do”, “I don’t.”

  The column is really just a funny story about going to Lambeth Palace, with a point - the only serious point I’m really trying to make - that there seems to be a false distinction gaining ground between “believers” and “rationalists”, when I think neither theism nor atheism is particularly logical. It worries me that a certain vocal group of proselytizing atheists are trying a little too hard to attack the idea that faith is a comfort (what’s wrong with that?) and that taking comfort in faith is ignorant. I say: whatever gets you through the night. If it’s prayer, or faith (whether within a particular church or - as it would be for me - a less specific, less doctrinal sense of higher power that doesn’t currently express itself regularly in any official place of worship) then don’t let people make you feel a fool for that; you aren’t one. Unless you are one. But there are as many non-believing fools as believing fools, and faith has nothing to do with it.

  So I would plead, if we’re going to have a mini blog debate, please let’s not make it about whether God exists or not. That’s a pointless thing to argue about. The interesting question, and what feels topical in modern Dawkins culture, is the plusses v. minuses of trying to take God away from those who do believe. If it were actually possible to remove religious faith entirely from human consciousness (and, obviously, it isn’t), would this be for the greater good? I don’t think so. Clearly, though, some do…

  Here’s the column.

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Gerard Stubbert at 1:17 pm on December 5th, 2010

I read your piece after church today.  We all know that Hubble’s observations proved we have an expanding universe so big bang is right and steady state is wrong.  But who was the astrophysicist/mathemetician who came up with big bang?  Why has nobody heard of him?  Is it because he was Belgian and not allowed to be famous?  Or because he was a Jesuit priest? 
  Monsignor George Lemaitre SJ dealt with maths most mortals cannot grasp at all.  But the teams of mainly Jesuit mathematician/astrophysicists who calculated the age of the universe did.  They all believed in God.

Michael Levin at 1:46 pm on December 5th, 2010

I see the point that religion provides
comfort, but it’s not entirely satisfactory unless you can provide actual proof for God’s existence - so I don’t think one can really evade that quesion.

brian t at 1:53 pm on December 5th, 2010

I’m a bit confused as to why you’d say that atheism is “not logical”. Are you sure you have the correct meaning of the word? It doesn’t mean going around saying “I believe there are no gods”; it’s the lack of belief in any or all such claims, but without claiming the opposite. If there’s no evidence for something, then not believing in that something is about as logical as it gets.

But to try to answer your question: what is this “Dawkins culture”? Is he really trying to take away your beliefs? This reminds me of the fairy tale about “The Emperor’s New Clothes”: the kid at the end wasn’t trying to steal the Emperor’s “new clothes”, was he? ;-)

RomanticRecluse at 2:17 pm on December 5th, 2010

Even if the “new atheist movement” is trying to attack the idea that faith is a comfort does God exist to give comfort?  According to my old Collins dictionary God (with a capital G) is “the sole Supreme Being, Creator and ruler of all”.  If you “believe in God” you believe in his account of history, his prophecies of the future and his values, teachings and laws.

Is it possible to “believe in God” and be intelligent and rational?  Perhaps the answer can be found by trying to answer the following question: what does God think about gambling?

How about the God who wrote The Ten Commandments?

Geoff Bevan at 2:23 pm on December 5th, 2010

Loved the article. There’s more of us about than you might think. Just that arguing achieves nothing.
Check out ‘A Course in Miracles’ - and anything from Tom Carpenter, especially The Forgiveness Movement -
Much love, Geoff x

JazBenz at 3:13 pm on December 5th, 2010

If someone had asked me before, whether I thought that Victoria Coren believed in God, my answer would have been “Yes”.

It’s that spark in your eyes… (or I have a crush on you, not sure) but you are far more enlightened imho than most people realize. You’re a poker-loving nerd who believes in God. In an alternate universe you’d be the love of my life.

You observed it very well. Atheism has become such a strong voice in society, (they can’t help it, they’re just too witty, just check out the amazingatheist on youtube)

Anywho, I have no idea why people gave you a furious response, if they were any confident in their own beliefs (whatever that is, may it be atheism or religion) they wouldn’t get upset about anything.

a big fan of it because I believe the reason why it was created was to control people, and it still does. I am more a fan of believing in God without an organisation telling me what to do in order to get to heaven. I mean, bloody hell (hihi), who do they think they are? I am who I am and nobody, not even God should tell me what to believe or what to do. AND THAT is the kind of God I believe in.

It’s quite lovely to not having to fear God, for me, that is what religion lacks. They’re so worried about approval of God, oh please… God loves us unconditionally, if you realize what that means why would you ever be afraid of anything in life again.

Alex C at 3:48 pm on December 5th, 2010

Trouble is, ‘irrational’ and ‘illogical’ sound bad.

Without wishing to imply anything negative, theism is not “logical”.  As soon as one starts to say “I believe God is like *this* and wants us to do *that*”, based on scripture or tradition or feeling, surely you have stepped away from logic and into the realm of pure faith.  If I’m right and theism is not logical, that makes atheism the logical position - which is not to say that it is better.

We cannot tell whether doing away with faith would be overall good or bad.  Certainly, faith cannot be blamed for all conflict, and there is nothing wrong with faith as a comfort, but faith does cause *some* problems - those clever atheists will give you the list.  This is why secularism, which defends the freedom of religion, is so important.

dg at 4:27 pm on December 5th, 2010

I don’t know, you think you know someone, and then it turns out you don’t know them as well as you thought and, on reflection, you didn’t really have very good grounds for thinking you knew them all that well in the first place, and then you get to thinking maybe you shouldn’t be so hasty in future when it comes to assuming you know a person, especially given the fact that people all so very different and, after all, the only reason you had for thinking you knew them at all was the fact that you’ve seen them on TV.

But enough about Stacey Solomon…

John J. Prescott at 4:30 pm on December 5th, 2010

How can you take any comfort or solace from a god that allowed six million jews to be transported in cattle trucks to concentration camps and then gassed. If your argument is that “God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perfom” then you can’t blame the Nazi perpertrators for these hideous crimes as presumably they were carrying out God’s will. And what about the suicide bomber on his way to heaven? Is he rational?
The flaw in your argument is that intelligent people can’t be ignorant.
I have no doubt that you are extremely intelligent. Unfortunately you don’t know what you don’t know and the knowledge that you do have is insufficient for you to make rational value judgements. The same is true for Dr. Williams and many others so you’re not alone!!

dg at 4:33 pm on December 5th, 2010

Vicky, you’re delusional, but in a nice way. Having said that, it’s difficult to argue with your piece, partly because you’re more capable of putting a well reasoned argument into writing than I am, what with you being so *perfectly* intelligent, and all…

I would say, though, that there is a big difference between “*one* cannot understand the nature of God” and “*I* cannot understand the nature of iPads,” as I’m sure you know. For me, alarm bells always start to ring when people are prepared to use arguments that they are perfectly capable of knowing themselves are unsound in order to defend something that they believe in.

dg at 4:35 pm on December 5th, 2010

Having said that, I personally think that the world would be a better place if everyone simply respected everyone else’s beliefs, and I feel slightly sorry for those believers who are being rudely asked to defend their beliefs (especially when those beliefs are inherently difficult to defend, from a logical stand point). Vive la différence, I say!

Incidentally, I also happen to think that Dr. Williams is an excellent human being. I sometimes think it’s a shame that he’s so misguided (there I go with my crazy beliefs) but, on reflection, it can only be a good thing that, if there has to be a Church of England, the man in charge (in the earthly sense) should be as apparently intelligent and sensible as he is. Mostly. Or, at least, often.

JIM CARR at 5:21 pm on December 5th, 2010

i am an atheist, but i have no trouble with people who believe, unless they try to impose their beliefs, and in some cases have a particular religious belief enshrined in a countries legal system. The jesuits knew centuries ago that if you gave them the child, up to the age seven, they would give you the man(or woman). Those who teach in the mudrassers also know this, and if some children are taught that their god is the only god, and it is ok to attack or even kill non-believers, then religious belief becomes a problem. It may be fashionable to pooh-pooh richard dawkins, but when he points out that,“when there is no religion, good people do good things and bad people do bad things, but with religion good people do very bad things.” he is stating a simple truth.

Keith Williams at 5:26 pm on December 5th, 2010

I don’t think atheists are trying to take God away from those who believe so much as making a stand against the massive role that faith plays in society, and the free ride and protection from criticism it gets.
What I, and other atheists have an issue with is the idea that the comfort it brings people somehow outweighs the many, many nasty things done in the name of religion.
As for whether a society without religious belief would be a good one, I think there are many examples of countries where removal of religion would instantly solve many problems, and I think human life would be considered more, not less sacred if everybody accepted that this life is all there is.

Alison at 5:52 pm on December 5th, 2010

Witty thinkers who can speak up for God? Try the blog of Nick Baines - Bishop of Croydon

Keith Williams at 6:23 pm on December 5th, 2010

There is a very real, non false distinction between “believers” and “rationalists” in so far as rationalists do not think that a belief automatically deserves respect.
(That may seem intolerant, but hey, believers are hardly on firm ground when it comes to tolerance)
Victoria’s belief in a “less specific, non denominational” God who doesn’t require attendance at a church, would rationally seem to be a projection of what Victoria wants from a God, based on her own lifestyle, rather than a result of thinking about what nature God might take. As a modern, independent woman, creating a God who is non-specific, non-doctrinal etc isn’t really any different from creating a vengeful, woman hating God if you are a powerful man who wants to keep women in their place.

dg at 6:39 pm on December 5th, 2010

...what Alex C said.

I have to say, I think it’s a little unfair to blame religion for the nasty things done in the name of religion. Many, many bad things were done in the Second World War (don’t blame me! I didn’t mention it first) in the name of Science (particularly, though not exclusively, the so called science of eugenics) but should we blame Science for that? Before you answer that question, the answer is no.

Ultimately, if you believe what I believe, all the flaws of all the religions of the world are traceable to their human founders (as is all the good stuff). Would a post-religious world be any better, given the fact that it would also be ruled by fundamentally flawed human beings?

p.s. sorry about the patronising contraction…

Terry Mclean at 7:04 pm on December 5th, 2010

Hi Victoria, I liked your appeal for intelligent believers to step up to the plate!
My issue with all religious belief systems is that they put humans at the centre of existence ( even the oh so cool Tao does this)
I think that it’s a weak argument to say that religion helps us get through such difficult moments - so what? People lie to themsleves about all sorts of stuff, and this is just another example.

I agree with you on the aggressive self righteous nature of some extreme atheists and if you want to believe then it’s up to you…

I’ll finish by saying this: My daughter is nearly seven and still believes in the tooth fairy… but one day soon she’s going to have to grow out of it as humanity one day will grow out of religion.

Jelliphiish at 7:19 pm on December 5th, 2010

I gotta say, I believe in a whole host of Gods. This One God to rule them all malarky was a wonderful wheeze but it kinda smacks of insecurity and land-grabbing. That said, belief in Occam’s razor and its statistical ‘proofs’ is mostly just that, belief.. the simplest explanation is very complex all on its own.
I see a lot of ‘the bible says this..,a believer did that ..therefore it was this’ position.. no, that was just people leveraging whatever they felt like doing (mostly to other people) and claiming it was not just the expression of their will. Relligion =/= justification but it’s a useful tool to some people.
Anyway, liked the Observer article and the responses were almost all quite funny. Still think you’re ace and respect you a tad more for standing up and being a Believer.

Steve Withnell at 7:21 pm on December 5th, 2010

Many of the issues raised in the article are debated here:

By the “four horsemen”.  Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris.



Dan at 7:35 pm on December 5th, 2010

‘false distinction gaining ground between “believers” and “rationalists”’  Exactly! There are myriads of possible views between and across this distinction. 

Rightly, scientific conclusions are seen as best knowledge, but materialism is a philosophical view.

Interesting question whether it’s atheists who are finally getting a voice after years of oppression, or whether they are smugly climbing onto quite a comfortably appointed bandwagon thank you, that has been for some time.

This is a debate where fine distinctions get ignored, which is a shame, because they’re very interesting.  Not sure I agree that you will lose morality without God, though it does seem to see a decline in a very materialist society.  Just a few thoughts.  (I’m technically an atheist.)

David Young at 7:48 pm on December 5th, 2010

Dawkins wrote a comment piece for the Guardian in September 2001. It explains a lot about his motives:

When you’ve read it, ask yourself how comfortable you are with the thought of Iran’s theocratic regime inching ever closer to having nuclear weapons.

Victoria wonders what’s wrong with taking comfort in faith. The answer depends on what this makes you do to others.

Dan at 7:58 pm on December 5th, 2010

Keith - “There is a very real, non false distinction between “believers” and “rationalists” in so far as rationalists do not think that a belief automatically deserves respect.”:
You seem to beg the question about the falseness of this distinction. Not all “believers” claim a view automatically deserves respect.  But what sort of a world is it where we have to prove everything we believe for our belief to be respected?

“believers are hardly on firm ground when it comes to tolerance”:
You’re assuming the sharp distinction again here and you’re shoving anyone who believes in God into a corral of predefined characteristics.

There’s no space to go on, but the rest of it seems awfully patronising…

Dominic Smith at 8:17 pm on December 5th, 2010

Thanks Victoria for the interesting piece. It seems today that it is acceptable to abuse people for believing in God which is a very different thing from debating the existence of God. I know of far too many people who have experienced such abuse in the workplace. Education is the answer to a more tolerant society.

Keith Williams at 8:20 pm on December 5th, 2010

“Not all “believers” claim a view automatically deserves respect.  But what sort of a world is it where we have to prove everything we believe for our belief to be respected?”
I think that being expected to be able to justify (not “prove”) a belief if one wants others to respect it is the absolute least that any believer in anything should be able to manage. Wouldn’t you agree that if you can’t articulate why you believe something, it isn’t worthy of other people’s respect?

Dan at 8:31 pm on December 5th, 2010

You might think Peter Kaye and Iran’s theocratic regime have nothing in common, but not so.  The former was specifically attacked by Dawkins for saying his faith was of some comfort to him in his hilarious and heart-warming autobiography, “The Sound of Laughter”.

Promoting rational thought is good and necessary, but an advertising campaign across London buses telling people there’s probably no God “so don’t worry” does seems a bit silly.

Markjb at 8:34 pm on December 5th, 2010

The ‘rationality’ versus ‘belief’ debate may be just about what people see as the meaning of words, and what you call logic.
But throw astrology in and then see how the debate changes.

palladian at 9:32 pm on December 5th, 2010

As a believer, I applaud your piece. Esp. the bit about Blair and the mad, stary eyes.

As a poker player as well, it does though make me wonder just how useful it could be to sit down at a big tourney, turn the player on your right and quietly murmur: “Have you let Jesus into your heart yet?” That would be his A game right out the window.

Victoria Coren at 10:05 pm on December 5th, 2010

Keith - I said nothing about the nature of God, nor what God does or doesn’t require. I wasn’t brought up in (nor am I tutored in) any specific religious discipline. Please don’t confuse that with a projection of God in my image. If that’s the way things are, everyone’s in trouble…

“Wouldn’t you agree that if you can’t articulate why you believe something, it isn’t worthy of other people’s respect?”
  No. I wouldn’t agree with that at all.

Amanda at 10:12 pm on December 5th, 2010

Every human culture in the world has a spiritual belief. The need in humanity is great.

The unexplainable trust that an unseen being/spirit is willing to provide you with care and assurance is as intrinsic to human existence as language.

There must be a purpose served by such a widely held contention, just as all humans have sought ways to communicate and develop language.

N b N at 12:27 am on December 6th, 2010

I agree that there seems to be a concerted effort to destroy traditional religion.

There is already a new religion though: environMENTALism; (pseudo)scientists (the ‘experts’ who would more accurately be described as a cabal of intellectual prostitutes) being the new high priests who shouldn’t be questioned.

It seems that people can be made to believe just about anything.  The problem with the old religions was that they give people too great a sense of worth.  This no longer suits the (depopulation) agenda.

(Green on the outside, red on the inside; environmentalists are watermelons!)

N b N at 12:28 am on December 6th, 2010


People who believe that they have been made in the image of God will have a sense of dignity.  They should now consider themselves more as a plague upon the earth.

Check out our debased culture; dehumanising ‘art’ and the like.  As you pointed out, nothing is sacred.

Note: these changes are made from the top down (as usual).

P.S. How do you know what the Archbishop believes?  I wonder why Catholics call Mass “Mass”; perhaps because it is for the masses.

Paul Mullins at 12:33 am on December 6th, 2010

First off I’d like to thank Victoria for being brave enough to put her head above the parapet, her cards on the table (well practiced at that eh?) and create a space for debate. Secondly, state that I am not a believer and thirdly answer the question.
  No, taking somebody’s faith would not be constructive. If in your heart you feel the presence of a divine power, then I think you’re lucky. Life is full of enigma and hardship, anything that provides answers or comfort is a positive. Faith is a positive human attribute. Where it all goes wrong is when individual faith becomes a religion. Most of the people shouting at (the lovely) Ms Coren, are attacking religion, not faith.
  For me religion is often the mindless application of faith, atheism the mindful rejection of it, often, not always.

Karl at 1:39 am on December 6th, 2010

I believe in God. I also know that evolution occurs and is observable, and that the Big Bang happened, thus creating the Universe.
What I don’t know is who or what created the Big Bang, and why. So I call that force ‘God’ and believe in a Creator of All Things in that sense, but have no truck with organised religion. Where organised religions fall down, IMHO, is in the control they seek to exert. Copernicus was a man of the church, yet feared to publish in case he was charged with heresy. Galileo spent ages under house arrest for telling part of the truth about God’s creation. Belief in God is one thing; faith in a religion or a doctrine is something else, and may cause at least as much harm as it does good.

Lorenzo Turrioni at 1:41 am on December 6th, 2010

Dear Victoria,
I’m glad I could finally find an article which exactly described my feelings on the matter. I mean: no one can argue that iPods are the definitive proof of the existence of God, indeed of everything that is too complicated for our little minds to understand. Like divinities. Or income taxes.
Unfortunately, I think you’re following the wrong path when it comes to decide WHICH God you’re going to believe in. The Arcibishop of Canterbury? Really? That’s old news. Let me hereby declare that The Church of The Flying Spaghetti Monster has shone an unprecedented light of comfort and joy on this dark, rationalist, atheist age we live in. I suggest you revise your beliefs in an unspecified “higher power” and joyfully embrace His Noodly Appendage, as I and many others already did.

Lizzy at 1:41 am on December 6th, 2010

Just wanted to thank you so much for this column, it is exactly how I feel. I’m a neuroscience student, and like to think my way through life in a scientific and logical way. I’m also a Christian, and I’m fed up of the assumption (by people who may well not be as qualified in the sciences or have spent so many years thinking through their beliefs) that I am being irrational by believing in God. Your article is a perfect counterargument to this depressing assumption, thanks again, it’s cheered me up :)

Natalie d'Arbeloff at 2:04 am on December 6th, 2010

Victoria, I read your Observer column today and applauded quietly. Yes, please, let’s have more intelligent, articulate, witty and original thinkers to debate the G-word with the likes of Hitchens, Dawkins etc. Tony Blair? Not! I’m a writer and cartoonist and my take on the subject took the form of a comic-strip, then a book, The God Interviews. I’ll happily send you a copy if you wish. One strip (not in the book) is God talking about Dawkins, here it is:

I consider myself to be intelligent, rational and also a believer in God. In my (admittedly biased) view, God is baffled by religion and would remain silent if asked to debate the subject.

Robert at 7:13 am on December 6th, 2010

You can’t be “perfectly intelligent and rational” while also believing in god. It’s a contradiction in terms. Belief in god is necessarily irrational because it lacks any supporting evidence.

Secondly, miss Cohen isn’t especially intelligent. What sort of simpleton doesn’t understand how an ipad works? It’s a standard iOS device running a 32 bit A4 CPU, the OS loaded onto non volatile flash storage and controlled via a capacitive touchscreen display (which differs from resistive in that it detects the electrical capacitance of your finger, hence why a stylus won’t work.)

That’s common knowledge. For atheists, anyhow. I don’t doubt that the inner workings of everyday appliances confound many Christians, because scientific illiteracy is why they’re Christians in the first place.

Keith Williams at 9:25 am on December 6th, 2010

Victoria - can you give one reason why anybody should respect a belief that the holder can’t articulate or explain? (not their right to the belief, which I respect and wouldn’t deny if I could, but the actual belief)
This is the crux of the problem between “rationality” and “belief”: they aren’t polar opposites, one is a process, and one is a stage in a process. One may start off with a belief, an idea or a hunch. Rationality means exploring that idea, and being prepared to abandon it. Belief means to stick by that idea, either not exploring it, or refusing to accept that it may be wrong. Not all belief is dangerous, but religious belief deserves no more respect than say, a parent’s belief that their child is beautiful. Religious belief demands, and gets, a lot more respect than that.

Sian McNeilly at 10:03 am on December 6th, 2010

You write “Let them tell you it’s stupid to believe in something you can’t explain. Then ask them how an iPad works.” One can find out how an iPad works so what is your point here?

Markee at 10:34 am on December 6th, 2010

I agree with the view that atheism is not as rational as it supposes. It’s a simplistic viewpoint that anyone can grasp, but really it’s a denial of something basic; the existence of things, which, even if one day ( we may never reach) we find can be traced to reason, we still need a word for that ( set of) reason(s) that put us here.
Deep down then, no-one can,, or is, denying the existence of that word - so that is why people who make a point of seeing or identifying themselves as religious or ‘believers’ may provoke the atheist reaction. If they set themselves apart as believers, they imply that you are not, unless you follow them in being religious. They see themselves as special, more spiritual than you, and that provokes the reaction or conflict associated with religion.

Clive at 10:39 am on December 6th, 2010

Good article. Victoria - I, too, believe in God; I, too, think Rowan Williams is fantastic. I did study maths at your old college but I am not sure this qualifies me as ‘perfectly intelligent or rational’. If it does, there are now at least two like-minded individuals ..... and judging by the comments here there might be a few more!

infidel at 10:56 am on December 6th, 2010

Where are these big, bad athiests who want to ban religion? If you’re dumb enough to believe in an invisible thing in the sky then believe in it. All atheists are doing is pointing out that the invisible thing shouldn’t have any power or influence over us.
What has an IPad got to do with belief? Take a course and the inner workings of an IPad are there to be learnt. No course can prove the existence of a make believe deity though.
Atheism is not “new”, it has been around for centuries. The thing is that your lot used to kill atheists, or anyone who didn’t believe in the right god, for fun. How many people of faith have non-believers killed in the name of atheism?

Chris at 11:43 am on December 6th, 2010

Enjoyed the column VC but ‘yes’ dangerous ground if there are any zealots/fanatics in town.. that then is my not very sophisticated, point - Most beliefs offer a positive set of values for people to live by/adhere to. It is only when such faiths are hijacked by the fanatical that things go wrong.

Equally, any faith that is intolerant of another/others is flawed.. Live & let live or they’re nothing more than hypocrites..

I thought I was an agnostic.. but someone recently pointed out that it’s not that agnostics “don’t know” only that they know “it can’t ever be known”..??

‘Confused of Oxford’ then

btw. I feel due for putting out a sycophantic complement, so I’ll just say I ‘think’ you’re gorgeous.. of course I’ll never actually know.. :-)

Victoria Coren at 11:44 am on December 6th, 2010

“Secondly, miss Cohen isn’t especially intelligent. What sort of simpleton doesn’t understand how an ipad works? It’s a standard iOS device running a 32 bit A4 CPU, the OS loaded onto non volatile flash storage….”

Oh dear. You’ve gone to all the trouble of explaining in detail how an iPad works, but that line was just a joke. Like Woody Allen’s line, “Why Nazism? I don’t even understand how a can opener works”. A can opener isn’t like Nazism, an iPad isn’t like God, they’re just jokes. But you also got my name wrong, so I’m assuming you didn’t take a close read anyway.

  Keith - we only put up one of your posts this morning; sorry but we are having to stick with the character limit on this one because people have so much to say. In reply to your first, though, I’d say: I think a parent’s belief that their child is beautiful should be respected too. That doesn’t make it true. But there would be no benefit in running a big campaign of posters on the sides of buses to tell people that their children are ugly.

  Note to posters: please do confine your comments to the word count, as we can’t fit lots of successive posts on this thread. If what you have to say can’t fit into the space, please feel free to write your own blog on the subject and post a link to it.

John at 11:57 am on December 6th, 2010

There must be religion otherwise this would be a life bereft of the joys brought forth by the Right Reverend Father Christmas, and the chocolate treats at Easter distributed by St. Cadbury.

Jon Taylor at 12:18 pm on December 6th, 2010

I can’t explain how an I-pod works, but there are people out there who can.  They work at Apple.  Also, the idea that without religion, human life is not sacred makes no sense.  My life is utterly precious as I will have only one.  I don’t think I, or others, are going to live after we die.  It must be far easier to send soldiers to war if you think that they will go to heaven. Ditto the behaviour of suicide bombers who believe they will end up with 72 virgins.  (Is 72 Anne Widdecombes a fate worse than death?) 

Dirk Campbell at 12:33 pm on December 6th, 2010

Religionists who answer all the logical objections to religious belief satisfactorily can only be left with a sense of ‘some power beyond ordinary experience’ - which is perfectly fine. But it is preposterous to then try and justify the nearest available iron-age belief system on the basis of ‘personal experience’! It would be far better, braver and more honest to stick with the sense - which many atheists such as myself also have, but don’t feel the need to codify - that this life may not be all there is.

Rob Tyler at 12:49 pm on December 6th, 2010

It’s a stupid debate anyway, when the believers clearly have the upper hand. Look at the evidence the believers have:

Wishful thinking
Pathetic fallacy (you can tell the rationalists named this one)
Wilful ignorance

Compare that to the evidence rationalists have:

Meticulous study of reality

Ten types of evidence, versus one. Why would anybody listen to those rationalists when belief is plainly the (ten times) more intellectual option?

Roger Young at 1:03 pm on December 6th, 2010

I would find it very comforting to believe that there are no children starving in Africa. If I did, would it be wrong to tell me otherwise?

Jeff Wells at 1:07 pm on December 6th, 2010

Victoria’s intellectual plumbing must have got iced up in the current big freeze. Her discussion of God Stuff, falls well below her usual high standard. Apparently atheists are inconsistent in asserting that one shouldn’t believe in something that can’t be explained - “ask them how an IPad works”.

I’m an atheist. I don’t know how an IPad works - but I know a man who does and he can explain it in great detail, with diagrams. Can Victoria put me in touch with someone who can similarly demonstrate the existence of God - with or without diagrams?

PS I sent this to Letters to the Editor. Usually(!) I love your column.

Drew at 1:08 pm on December 6th, 2010

Surely, if people want to believe in God, or any other figure, then they are perfectly entitled to, as long as it is not forced upon anyone else.
It’s the religious leaders and various preachers that need their ears clipping for preaching evil and dogmas
I feel that people like Dawkins and Hitchens should be commended for placing reason and logic higher than faith.Christopher Hitchens would have won a debate against any speaker for religion. The case for religion is faith based, and by definition, one can’t know.
“The Hitch”  himself has said that religion is ineradicable, and even then would not wish for it to go away.
Anyway life is horrible and far too short (another Woody Allen joke) to get worked up over an internet debate.
Youtube Django Reinhardt.Any opportunity to endorse him.

Ian at 2:34 pm on December 6th, 2010

The thing with religious debate is that both sides will never accept the view of the other.

Where I live there is an Evangelist Church, they knock on doors occasionally.

After Pat Robinson claimed that the eathquake in Haiti was due to a pact with the Devil I asked them whether this was a sign of God, they said it could be seen as such.

I suggested that a pact with the Devil would have a higher priority to God than day to day prayers and if that was the case, taking 200 years to punish Haiti was a little silly as the people got the pact were dead and could not be punished in a physical way, i.e. an earthquake.

They don’t come knocking on my door anymore.

To any believers, I have no issue with your beliefs just please do not try to push your beliefs upon me.

Davison at 3:03 pm on December 6th, 2010

Oh Dear Victoria! I’ve just left the VC Fan Club and you’ve entered the Clever but Silly Club. Isn’t faith belief based on no evidence? In what other aspect of life do you use this principle? I shall still enjoy reading you of course, but now my enjoyment will be tinged with the knowledge that you’re just a bit weird.

Catherine at 3:23 pm on December 6th, 2010

Hi Victoria,
I loved your article. Thank you for writing about a “difficult” subject with humour and clarity. I hope you’ll write about faith again sometime.

S Lee at 3:36 pm on December 6th, 2010

I believe in God because of Professor Richard Dawkins.  Because when I see something as beautiful and complex and intricate as Professor Richard Dawkins, I’m sure that can’t have evolved by chance.

Keith Williams at 3:50 pm on December 6th, 2010

Victoria: I thought the “atheist bus” campaign was misguided, and is directly responsible for the rise of the term “fundamentalist atheist”, since it was a response to the religious ads one sees. I realise that saying “I don’t respect your belief” is antagonistic, so let me clarify: I respect your right to your belief, and I respect your right to believe it without being ridiculed, punished or discriminated against for it, so long as it doesn’t negatively affect others. (the CiF comments to the effect of you being thick bugged me) You, presumably, don’t expect more, but organised religions do demand a lot more respect than that, which is completely unreasonable. In the face of all the power of org. religion, surely non-believers speaking up is to be welcomed, not lamented?

Dan at 4:28 pm on December 6th, 2010

One thing about Galileo’s story, it wasn’t always like that. Copernicus was only worried about being laughed at. The medieval Church fostered the rise of science at many points. Communist societies are officially atheist. There are plenty of examples now of religious killed and persecuted by secular states. People are looking in the wrong places. If you’re acting on a belief and causing harm, you may be asked to justify it, but belief in something you call God isn’t intrinsically harmful. We hold assumptions we haven’t even articulated, let alone justified. “Human life would be considered more, not less sacred if everybody accepted that this life is all there is.” Sacred is a religious concept. I don’t believe in a creator God, or materialism. I agree life is sacred.

Dave Beard at 5:25 pm on December 6th, 2010

I’m not convinced us atheists do want to take God away from those who wish to believe in him.
It is however a really important debate or discussion (especially late into the night when football, poker hands, the lib-con attempts at government and the bad weather have been done to death).
Reading the responses you have been getting it seems there are a fair few of you about. I find this depressing. Right up until your “coming out” article was published you rocked.  A wordsmith, a poker-player, a Stephen Fry challenger, and, forgive me, a babe to boot—what (on earth) is not to like? ......She believes in God

Patrick at 5:45 pm on December 6th, 2010

Regarding Woody Allen’s Nazi quote, he, also, goes on in the same film to make a crushing (as it appears to me) commentary on atheism here (Godless Universe):

Bill Green at 6:03 pm on December 6th, 2010

It only took 9 comments for Godwin’s Law to come into effect. Well done Mr. Prescott for reminding us that this is the internet.

Alan C at 7:40 pm on December 6th, 2010

I think people need to believe in something that provides them with a spiritual crutch or support,  be it God or a force in the Universe as long as it helps them through life.

brian t at 7:52 pm on December 6th, 2010

I don’t think you need to be defensive about expressing your honest beliefs and opinions! I do find them a bit surprising coming from a poker player: the cards don’t hear you or respect your beliefs about them, and no amount of wishing and praying for a nut flush will make the river come up your way. Why would the rest of reality be any different?

But to answer your question about “trying to take God away from those who do believe”, I just think it’s a little patronising to say, like Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men”, that they “can’t handle the truth”. I’d like to believe that people are a little stronger than that, and that they can face reality without fear.

Reuben Goldstein at 8:23 pm on December 6th, 2010

I really enjoyed this article and I think you made some excellent points. Could I draw your attention to the following article as I think you may find it of interest:

Robert at 8:28 pm on December 6th, 2010

“.......but that line was just a joke….....”

No, miss Coren. You are the joke.

It’s 2010. You’re a grown woman who presumably graduated highschool, and you believe in magic. Angels, demons, spirits and gods. Yet you consider yourself “perfectly intelligent and rational”.

Of course you do. Every Scientologist thinks they’re intelligent and rational, too. Every radical Muslim, every Mormon, literally everyone views themselves that way. But do they fit the criteria? Is their worldview grounded in fact, or in faith? Because if the latter, it cannot be rational.

Science is built on empiricism, which affirms the necessity of supporting claims with evidence. Faith denies that necessity. It is belief in the absence of evidence, and sometimes in spite of evidence to the contrary.

Just a note... at 8:32 pm on December 6th, 2010

I think most here are moderate Christians who consider creationism absurd and frown on it’s denial of science.

But what of the big bang? Are you aware it’s now explicable by natural means? That’s the topic of Stephen Hawking’s new book. It’s why he publicly stated that science has now demonstrated the universe to be self-causing.

Will you pick this point to turn against science, to accept evolution but dismiss the validity of these findings?

What about neurobiology? We can now ‘see’ and quantify things like emotion and memory in the brain using fMRI, and everything we know now points to consciousness being a purely neurobiological phenomenon. When the brain dies, you die.

Will you accept natural causation of the big bang, but choose to deny the findings of cognitive neurobiology?

Roody at 8:54 pm on December 6th, 2010

The beliefs you and others have are such a fundamental part of yourself no external force especially reason will fail to dissuade you from how you see reality.

If this is a debate on the plusses and minuses of experiencing religion then I would like to know the benefits right here and now that theism has over atheism. What does believng in God give you that you cannot find it elsewhere?

I feel you have misconstrued the appearance of atheism as arrogance viewing themselves as superior in rational when I see it more as empathy towards a mindset that restricts creative imagination in the possibilities of life.

C Scott at 9:26 pm on December 6th, 2010

My biggest problem with the interactions of faith and non-faith (and between themselves) is intercessonaries - er, no offense. Much of the reporting of “famous atheist said this” or “Archibishop X said that” seems to take it out of the context of their saying so and into some other terms which make it look bad, or unsatisfactory. There’s a difference between a debate which is, at least theoretically, supposed to stick to discussion of the question and a practical effort. It doesn’t seem particularly reasonable to hold up Dawkins’ or Dr. Williams’ or whoever’s words in a debate or other discussion of a subject and apply it as if they were talking about how we should live our everyday lives; or switch it around and treat general platitudes of life as grave pronouncements on reality.

JT at 9:39 pm on December 6th, 2010

Thank you, you have articulated what I have felt for many years.  I believe in God and I am in good company.

JazBenz at 9:49 pm on December 6th, 2010

I’d like to point out that many here confuse belief in God and religion. Those two can be very different things and people should become aware of that. I know many people who believe in God, but choose to not go to church, simply because their belief has evolved. Just stop following people who tell you what God is like and find it for yourself (if you take that leap of faith about its existence). You can’t find God outside of you anyway, you can see it because it’s everywhere, but to find God, you need to go within. Wisdom of the day for free, doesnt get any better than this.

(my security word here was “progress”, coincidence? I think not =P)

Charles Gray at 10:55 pm on December 6th, 2010

I feel it’s probably worth pointing out that from a philosophical standpoint you have as much of a problem trying to show that causality is a real thing, or that time actually exists (The Unreality of Time is an incredible article) as God. Everyone has to take certain things on blind faith even if it is that the floor beneath them will hold together. The fact that it’s just as logical to hold that we can be certain of nothing as it is that we can be certain of anything should tell us all we need to know about whether belief is necessary, what you choose to believe in really has to be up to you (should you actually exist at all)

Dave at 11:34 pm on December 6th, 2010

Hi Victoria,
Just wanted to raise my hand as an intelligent, rational Christian believer - and make a comment on your article.
Lots I’d agree with (and applaud) - particularly your point on the false distinction between faith and reason. To expect finite human reason to provide a definitive verdict on the existence or nature of a god of “incomprehensible scale” seems pretty irrational to me. At the very least it requires a certain amount of faith…
Personally I’m a Christian because I (rationally!) believe Christianity makes more sense of life than anything else.
The best treatment of the rationality of belief that I’ve come across is ‘The Reason for God’ by Timothy Keller. Christmas is coming - I’ll shout you a copy if you like…
Great article, btw - your prose is, as ever, delicious.

Greg at 11:54 pm on December 6th, 2010

The removal of religious faith from human consciousness would make no difference to the ‘greater good’ because we would still be human. Remove religious faith, and the abyss is still there, waiting to be filled.  For some it’s drugs, some drink, sex, gambling, Mars bars, shopping, Michael Bublé, whatever.

Have ye courage, O my brethren?...He hath heart who knoweth fear but vanquisheth it; who seeth the abyss, but with pride. He who seeth the abyss but with eagle’s eyes,—he who with eagle’s talons graspeth the abyss: he hath courage.

Oh, if the removal of religious faith would also include the removal of Cliff Richard from all human consciousness (the two are inextricably linked in my mind), then I’m all for it.


Andrew Margetts at 12:31 am on December 7th, 2010

Hi Victoria,
I enjoyed your piece in the Guardian re religion the other day.
I’ve only skimmed the posted comments because religion is solely about faith - rational argument just doesn’t touch it.

Al at 12:43 am on December 7th, 2010

Hi Vicky.

Has anyone mentioned Bob Marley yet?  Good weed and Bob led me to becoming a lapsed atheist.  If you haven’t heard it recently, listen to ‘thank you lord’.  Would it be for the greater good if religious faith had been removed from Bob’s consciousness?  Answer me that, Dawkins!

Trouble is that the blowhards dominate the type of discussion that you’ve invited, in terms of numbers and volume rather than merit.  Same goes for this medium.  (“Blowhards” apparently doesn’t mean quite what I thought it did but I assume most people will be alive to its connotations.  Maybe one for the next series of your Balderdash thing.  Gosh you are busy.)

So, eh, yeah - overbearing organised religion can be pretty rubbish but so can overbearing atheists.  Bob sounds better on vinyl, mind.

J Knowles-Smith at 1:00 am on December 7th, 2010

Dear VC,
For a few years you’ve been a regular feature of my who-I-might-like-to-sleep-with-when-my-novel-is-published fantasies, now I’m not so sure. You’d have to get me quite, quite sauced with crème de menthe first.

James at 3:06 am on December 7th, 2010

One part of the article that really did upset me was this statement:

“In place of the comfort which faith can provide [...] they offer nothing”

Personally, I find the scientific perspective incredibly comforting. For example, the idea that the energy that composes us will exist forever. This has been true since our universe began (and maybe before). By contrast, the idea of ineffable and strictly non-interventionist creator (an idea that disappears with the last human) never could.

If you’d rather believe in heaven, fair enough - but don’t think that rationalist atheists have no comforts to offer against death, grief and loneliness. The difference is that unlike religion, our philosophies are rooted in the demonstrable and observable. From stars we came, and to stars we shall return.

Dom at 3:35 am on December 7th, 2010

What’s the record for most comments on the Guardian website? You’re definitely in with a shout for most comments that are completely unrelated to the point of the article.
Next time - throw in some climate change denial and a Star Wars reference.
May the force (or whatever) be with you… always.

Chris at 5:09 am on December 7th, 2010

It’s sad to note, but certainly not unexpected, that some contributors feel the need to ‘make their argument personal’ and insulting. I’m guessing that you, VC, will have blocked the worst from our gaze. I hope your own faith is strong enough that you don’t feel hurt by them.
IMHO ‘Live and let live’ seems to be a rather out of fashion belief these days.. Seeing life in black and white absolutes has its advantages no doubt but I’ll settle for being a fence sitter on this one. I think politics may be safer ground VC.. unless you’re a certain Swedish lawyer of course!

JazBenz at 5:31 am on December 7th, 2010

@Robert - she never said she believed in Angels, Demons, spirits or gods, she merely said “God”.

Your kind of reaction was exactly Victoria Coren’s point. In a way you are not much different from the crazy christians. You judge the same way, but with a different opinion. I haven’t seen science prove that God doesn’t exist and it is foolish to assume that just because you don’t see a thing, it doesn’t exist.

I also wonder how it affects your life if other people believe in God… lol… it’s not like anyone wants to convince you that God exists, so why do you try so hard to convince “believers” that they shouldn’t believe? Do you need to confirm for yourself by convincing other people that nothing exists cuz unconsciously you have doubts yourself? Yup, bullseye.

Stephen at 5:49 am on December 7th, 2010

I don’t.

David Young at 7:13 am on December 7th, 2010

The problem with saying that religion offers benefits to believers are these:

1) It’s intellectually dishonest to believe something just because you like the way it makes you feel.

2) It doesn’t tell you which religion to believe in.

3) It may cause you to commit wicked acts (crusades, jihads, widow-burning, human sacrifice) which you wouldn’t do otherwise.

4) It can sow division in societies and has been used to defend bigotries against women, gays, minorities, as well as slavery.

5) It can cause you to neglect earthly affairs to the detriment of mankind.

All in all then, far better to get used to the idea of a godless universe. Mankind is mostly good and should be trusted to make progress without the need for belief in the supernatural.

Markee at 9:05 am on December 7th, 2010

Don’t worry Vicky, not even Albert Einstein knew how an ipad works.

As for these famous cool atheists, are they in it for the money, to sell books etc?
They pick on easy targets, like the creationists. I don’t need anyone to tell me that creationists are irrational. Let them have their dream, where’s the harm?
But when it comes to G"W” Bush getting the vote because he declared himself a ‘christian’ or Tony Blair backing him up, taking us to war, where was Dawkins, or any other famous atheist, when we needed someone to say these guys are religious nutters, who should be listening, democratically, to the people, not the holy voices in their heads.
Presumably it is more important to stay being ‘cool’ rather than speak up for your beliefs

Markoxo at 9:25 am on December 7th, 2010

An ipad relies on quantum physics, so it’s fair to say that nobody knows how it works.
Until we know the reason for quantum physics and it’s spooky implications we don’t have a basis on which to say belief is irrational.

Jeanette Forster at 9:27 am on December 7th, 2010

Victoria, as you say, you weren’t raised in any particular doctrine, in which you differ from people such as Dawkins and myself. While many atheists try to appear terribly dispassionate about believers in order to hold the moral high ground, the truth is that many of us were hurt by religion. It’s foolish to pretend that the personal doesn’t enter into matters of belief and truth is, when someone tells me they have faith, I can’t help an involuntary recoil, much like when people tell me there’s something in astrology and palm reading. It doesn’t jibe with my world view and I don’t like it, no matter how tolerant of others’ beliefs I tell myself I am. So both sides can be irrational. But I will not have God in my daughter’s schooling,and I don’t care how intolerant that makes me. Sorry.

Paul Bacon at 9:28 am on December 7th, 2010

Hello, Victoria. I just wanted to thank you for writing the article, as it has triggered some fascinating internal debate for me. As a gentleman of the homosexual persuasion, I have often found myself fighting the urge to view the traditionally faithful as “the enemy”.  As silly as it sounds, your sentence, “Believers can still argue back”, has helped me enormously.  This simple observation had never really registered in my feeble brain before.  I suppose I have to admit that, shamefully, watching one too many Dawkins documentaries has brainwashed me into viewing the religious as being little other than evil (and rather dim) robotic sheep. A view which makes me no less prejudiced than the homophobes I detest. You have made me feel rather foolish.  But in a good way.  Cheers!

penhughes at 9:30 am on December 7th, 2010

I, too, just wanted to say how delighted I was, as a Christian, to find a funny, well-written affirmation of a shared faith, and a shared admiration for the Archbishop. Thank you so much!

Robert at 9:35 am on December 7th, 2010

Andrew Margett’s comment is extremely helpful:

“I’ve only skimmed the posted comments because religion is solely about faith - rational argument just doesn’t touch it.”

This is why it is impossible to reason with a religious person. Faith gives them an excuse to simply ignore all contradictory information. There you have an example of it, in that quote, straight from the mouth of a believer; “I don’t need to listen to any information that challenges my beliefs, because faith absolves me of that responsibility”.

Let’s start calling faith what it really is: Closed mindedness.

Jonathan Wooding at 9:57 am on December 7th, 2010

Rowan Williams is a good poet. See his poem on Simone Weil. And she may be the place to start for intelligent thinking about God. Rowan himself writes an essay about her - The necessary non-existence of God. And of course Iris Murdoch is important too - Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, where she points out that to worship something which exists would be idolatry (therefore God necessarily doesn’t exist (but has a reality nonetheless)). The atheists don’t know what they’re missing. (Though they claim to!) So-called “atheist priests” go to the Sea of Faith Network - see Graham Shaw’s “God In Our Hands” - we are no longer in God’s. And see Bonhoeffer’s powerless God. As a gambler (I think you are) you’ll know about Dostoyevsky and atheism - see Rowan’s new book.

John E Miller at 10:00 am on December 7th, 2010

A witty and timely article, Victoria. I have never understood why people have to put up a divide between science and religion, one consequence of which is the whole `believers` versus `atheists` controversy. There need be no conflict between science and religion. They are not mutually exclusive but are addressing different aspects of the same reality. Try googling some of the following who respect both scientific findings and religious belief: John Polkinghorne, Owen Gingerich, Arthur Peacocke, Russell Stannard, and David Wilkinson (Durham).

Dan at 10:24 am on December 7th, 2010

To Just a Note… - Are you sure Stephen Hawking has actually said that? I’d be very surprised.
“ everything we know now points to consciousness being a purely neurobiological phenomenon.”
Absolutely not.  Even if we accepted the premise about MRI, it’s an impossible leap to this conclusion. There are very few philosophers left who insist on pure eliminative materialism.  There’s a lot to say for academic philosophy. It’s certainly rigorous. (Rational even.)
The conclusions of science are the best knowledge we have to go on, in their respective fields. Good science minimises the positing of entities, eg this metaphysical materialism people want to project on results. Good science knows it may have limits, and that what these limits are may be impossible to trace.

Dan at 10:39 am on December 7th, 2010

Also wanted to support what Charles Gray said, especially the first part. Causality is fundamental to the way we structure appearances, yet you can’t find “cause and effect” in the world like you can find a star or a blue piano. (Borrowing from Hume and Kant here.) Perhaps all we can say about it is that it is a necessary precondition of our experience. A demonstrably consistently rational human is hard to imagine.

Jennifer at 10:45 am on December 7th, 2010

The ancients said “the universe is so complex, it must be controlled by an immense intelligence”.  They were wrong. The universe is not top-down, it’s bottom-up, complexity arises from simplicity, and the notion of a cosmic controlling superintelligence isn’t even a sensible hypothesis. Seriously, derive your worldview from reality rather than mythology and the concept never even arises. And that’s why the statement “I believe in God and I’m perfectly intelligent and rational” is twaddle. You believe in a fictional character invented to explain a view of the universe that is itself wrong. Not as in “slightly off”, but as in “the complete opposite of right”. Believing in a god is not an intellectual position. It is anti-intellectual, it is irrational, it is ignorant, it is insane.

Ken Singtone at 11:39 am on December 7th, 2010

Thank you Victoria, you may have inspired me to set up my own blog. Perhaps, next year it will be there.
In the mean time, I suggest that religions are collections of ideas.  Belief in God might be used to validate them, but the absence of a God does not mean they have no value.  There is a danger that atheism becomes an excuse for not finding out exactly what believers do believe, and evaluating it properly.  Believers, of course, can be equally lazy. 
It would be unfair to level this criticism too heavily at Dawkins et al. but his bewilderment at the survival of religion in the modern world may be because of his focus on the question of the existence of God.  It’s a bit like trying to sell the motor car as the future before a road network has been built.

Kacey Slorige at 11:47 am on December 7th, 2010

And let me tell u another thing ¬ I think ul find that cheerleading is a great way for girls to keep fit and boosts confidence and makes us work together as part of a team together and it’s’ also a great form of excercise with no bitchiness ATALL
So next time think about that before u write something like that again about cheerleading. U should come to a show and see what things are really like, but I bet u won’t see anything being so high up in ur ivy tower ‘ooh look at me, I’m Mrs Cohern and I’m so important because Im on the tv and write for the daily times”’
I’m super psyched for the next tourney! but that fat arsed Stacey better not be there. dont know what she’s playing at, grinding her flubbery whale cheeks in Chad’s face. He’s not interested Stacey DEAL WITH IT

I love u Chad :-(

jim carr at 11:59 am on December 7th, 2010

pandora,are you sorry you opened the box?  xx

Fiona at 11:59 am on December 7th, 2010

I’m with Geoff. What’s the point in arguing. Of-course some people who believe in some form of god are rational. Others have no wit at all. The same goes for atheists.

There’s no point in saying that removing religion would remove
war and hatred. We’ll always find something to fight about: power, money, food, oil, sex, Strictly/X-factor .

Some believe, some don’t, lets not go on about it.

I’m an educated Christian by the way.

Andrew Ryan at 12:39 pm on December 7th, 2010

Atheism and agnosticism are not alternatives. The first deals with belief, the second with knowledge. Hence one can be an agnostic atheist, a gnostic atheist, an agnostic theist, or a gnostic theist.

For example, an agnostic atheist, doesn’t believe in God, and also believes that perfect knowledge of His existence is no possible.

Stuart Bentley at 12:44 pm on December 7th, 2010

A glossary of terms, courtesy of Prof. Dawkins: Theism: belief in a God who intervenes in human affairs. Atheism: non-belief in the above. Deism: belief in a God who does not intervene in human affairs. ’Religion in the Einsteinian sense’: Spiritual wonder on contemplating the universe. Fundamentalism: literal interpretation of ‘sacred’ texts. (As no texts are sacred to atheists, there is no such thing as a fundamentalist atheist). Agnosticism: an acceptance that certain things are unknowable. (As you say in your article, this is the only ‘logical’ position). ‘Belief’ and ‘faith’ are more difficult. Briefly, belief is evidence based, while faith implies a choice to accept a particular viewpoint. Your beliefs may not be so far from Dawkins’, after all!

Victoria Coren at 12:57 pm on December 7th, 2010

Ooh - that’s a rather fortuitous final post, Stuart, it seems very neat!

This thread is now closed for comments; thanks for all your points and opinions. VC

Victoria Coren

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