Saturday, 15 January 2011

opinion for mid-January

Jane Williams continues her Comment is free belief series: The Book of Genesis, part 5: Genesis and the imagination. “In Genesis’s surface narrative of reality, it is important to remember that God is a player in this drama, too.”

Also at Comment is free belief in The Guardian this week are:
Theo Hobson: Putting the fun in US fundamentalism. “The rise of Christian theme parks in America should be seen in a positive light – it encourages a lighter-hearted view of religion.”
Holly Welker: Why people abandon religion. “Tension between religious dictates and personal wants is forcing people to follow their desires – and reject religion’s decrees.”
Richard Phelps: The new vocal, visible religiosity. “Olivier Roy’s book presents globalisation and secularisation as contributing to the divorce of religion from culture.”
Mark Vernon: Death and loss belong to us all. “A vicar who removed silk flowers from a child’s grave was right to do so – graveyards and mourning are part of the public sphere.”
Savitri Hensman: The best path to peace. “Are there fatal flaws in the Archbishop of Canterbury’s approach to reconciliation?”

Mark Meynell writes on his quaerentia blog about The King James and the possibility of upward desecration.

Giles Fraser writes in the Church Times about Why life can begin at 46.

Posted by Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 11:00am GMT | TrackBack
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Once again, I am amazed by the tenor of the comments on Jane Williams' piece. Doesn't anyone with an understanding of how myths reflect reality (which is really what Jane is discussing in all this) read that newspaper or its online version? Is its readership really restricted to cranky atheists?

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 11:48am GMT

Re Theo Hobson's piece about the fundy theme parks: do you have such things in England? If not, and someone built one, would it flourish or flop? Or is biblical literalism and anti-evolutionary idiocy confined to my side of the Pond?

I live near a commercially run cavern that attracts tourists, who take a guided tour. Luray Caverns have been 'groomed' in a way that would not be done now. The tour is none the less fun on a hot day. I was with visiting friends taking the tour when the guide pointed out a huge fallen stalagtite? stalagmite? [I can never remember which is which] that had fallen from the ceiling of the cave, saying nobody could know how long ago that happened.

A young woman standing next to me announced confidently, "That was Noah's Flood that caused that, so about5,000 years."

The guide did not comment.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 2:06pm GMT

I have found the first column-foot or so of the comments on Jane Williams's articles to be more thoughtful and reality-based than her Sunday school pleasantries. Yes, some cranky atheists do weigh in, but there is something about orthodox smugness that engenders crank.

Posted by: Murdoch on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 7:09pm GMT

"One is inclined to sneer at this sort of thing as absurdly showy propaganda for fundamentalism." – Oops, I’m busted.
On another article, I agree whole-heartedly with the author who said that too many religions, at least in actual practice, put more emphasis on women's “purity" (yech!!!!) than men's.
When was the last time a religion had men physically punished, or decreed the ultimate punishment, who were adulterous? But, let a woman stray, and it's burial, beheading, stoning, shunning, etc.
I recall the Gospel story of the adulterous woman being prepared to be stoned, not the adulterous couple ...
Oh, but women have to be pure so that men may not stray! Women have to look like "large black amorphous objects" so men may not stray. Women can't show their hair, their ears, or their bare arms or legs, so that men may not stray. Because women are inherently more pure, and men are inherently randy goats, women have to sacrifice so that men don't stray. The phrase I'd like to reply with is unprintable, so, Poppycock! Stuff and nonsense! It's an excuse so that men don't have to blame their fellow men, don’t have to own up to their own responsibility for their thoughts and actions. There are egregious examples where a woman who was raped was killed for being adulterous, while the man got off with a "boys will be boys, but don't do it again" type sentence.
Don't blame women for men's failings. Don't exclusively blame the Q'uran. For one thing, I believe that the prophet Mohammed told both men and women to dress modestly. And the attitude is right there in the first chapters of Genesis. God spots Adam and Eve wearing clothes, and is upset, suspecting they violated his command not to eat a certain kind of fruit. When God confronts Adam, what does Adam do? He blames Eve!
And certain people still blame Eve. It's still used as an argument against women's ordination, for example.

Posted by: peterpi - Peter Gross on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 7:35pm GMT


The UK does have Noah's Ark Zoo

which is owned by a creationist couple. The Wikipedia article on the Zoo is very critical

and so is this website:

I cannot personally vouch for the accuracy of these articles, although I did once meet one of the owners at a social occasion where he tried (quite unsuccessfully) to convince me of the truth of his creationist views.

Posted by: Peter Owen on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 8:15pm GMT

Pat O'Neill - your comment prompted me to read the comments you refer to, and I agree. Why do anti-religious people so often insist on setting up a cardboard fundamentalist, non-scholarly version of the Bible and then knocking it over? Have they never had a conversation with an intelligent Christian? They seem to be as innocent of scholarly knowledge of the biblical text as any local American fundamentalist.

Posted by: Cynthia Gilliatt on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 8:41pm GMT

FTR: stalagmite=grows from the ground; stalactite=grows from the ceiling.

The mnemonic is g=ground, c=ceiling.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Saturday, 15 January 2011 at 8:56pm GMT

"The mnemonic is g=ground, c=ceiling"

Or "mites grow up and tites come down" :-)

Posted by: Laurence C on Sunday, 16 January 2011 at 10:19am GMT

Or as I was told, the stalagmites "might" make it to the top, and the stalactites have to hold on "tight" so they don't come down.

Posted by: Christopher (P.) on Sunday, 16 January 2011 at 7:20pm GMT

Cynthia, who is setting up a "cardboard fundamentalist, non-scholarly version of the Bible"?

Jane Williams wrote: "This is not to say that the story of Joseph is without historical roots, though they have proved hard to pinpoint precisely." Hard to pinpoint? Like, totally lacking archaeological or historical evidence?

"There are profound insights in the Joseph story for a people looking back over their history and trying to make sense of what has happened . . ." Like, looking back over the legends and fictions codified by scribes in sixth-century Babylon? Williams constantly does this, shifting between awareness of critical problems and taking the text at face value.

Commenters on the Guardian pages call her on it, many of them calmly and rationally. "Conversation with an intelligent Christian"? Well, Williams is intelligent, and indubitably Christian, but not really scholarly. If you're not into drawing morals from Sunday school stories, there's not much to discuss with her.

Posted by: Murdoch on Sunday, 16 January 2011 at 10:20pm GMT

"If you're not into drawing morals from Sunday school stories, there's not much to discuss with her."

But that is the whole point of Williams' pieces...that these stories are not MEANT to be historical or scientific; they are intended for drawing morals. If you're not going to approach the material on the same level as she is, why comment at all? After all, I don't write into the newspaper every day to complain that the horoscope column is bull.

Posted by: Pat O'Neill on Monday, 17 January 2011 at 11:41am GMT
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