It’s all very simple.
Let’s face it, the whole spat between A.C. and Maddy over on commentisfree can be summed up in the following episode of I don’t understand.
The more complex reality, which is hateful to the ears of both these writers, is that our passage to enlightened liberal modernity was very a largely a product of one form of Christianity: Protestantism.
If we want to understand the relationship between Christianity and secularism, we must look at the specifically Protestant advance of toleration and liberty.
The cause was forged by ardent Protestants such as Milton and Cromwell – and less ardent but certainly sincere ones such as Locke. These thinkers demanded that toleration was central to a Protestant state, not because they were beginning to reject Christianity but because they saw liberty as essential to Protestantism.
Yes, this revolution was also advanced by a few probable atheists like Hobbes, but they are marginal compared to the countless committed Protestants who fought for it. And yes, I also know that there were, and are, plenty of illiberal Protestants, but that does not disprove the existence of the pro-liberal tradition.
And you can make him rant.
Yes, kids, he’s at it again; this time in A history lesson.
That’s Mr Bamboo to you.
Sorry, Mr Bamboo. You’re such an A.C. Grayling fanboy.
Does seem like that, doesn’t it?
What are you doing? Offering to have his babies?
Of course not. Salma Hayek wouldn’t be a happy bunny.
As I said the last time, I’d probably agree with most of A.C.’s views about religion. I think the problem I have with him is that he’s a Juvenalian and I’m a Horatian.
Grayling’s latest post is in response to one by Madeleine Bunting (These US-style culture wars seeping into Britain are an absurd distraction) who’s attacking Grayling’s slightly iffy grasp of history from his previous entry. She adds
It wilfully omits how Christianity (and, incidentally, Islam) has fostered learning and science (even arches and domes) in Europe for hundreds of years – as well as providing the foundations for human rights and secularism itself.
To which Grayling replies
I challenge her to name one – even one small – contribution to science made by Christianity in its two thousand years; just one…
That sounds like something to which I should be able to give a ready answer because it seems unlikely that Christianity, no matter how unwilling, never made some contribution to science. I could, for example, take issue with the term “science” or question how directly Christianity has to be involved in the contribution. For example, Isaac Newton was a Christian. In fact, this is what Encarta says about his religious inclinations:
Newton also wrote on Judaeo-Christian prophecy, whose decipherment was essential, he thought, to the understanding of God. His book on the subject, which was reprinted well into the Victorian Age, represented lifelong study. Its message was that Christianity went astray in the 4th century ad, when the first Council of Nicaea propounded erroneous doctrines of the nature of Christ. The full extent of Newton’s unorthodoxy was recognized only in the present century: but although a critic of accepted Trinitarian dogmas and the Council of Nicaea, he possessed a deep religious sense, venerated the Bible and accepted its account of creation. In late editions of his scientific works he expressed a strong sense of God’s providential role in nature.
© 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
The question is who exactly has to make a scientific discovery for it to be a “contribution made by Christianity”. The Pope? Some parish priest? Newton seems to fit the bill even if his views were, apparently, a little unorthodox. Alexander Pope wrote
Nature and Nature’s laws lay hid in night
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.
In other words, Newton would seem to be as good an answer as any, as would many other scientists. What about Gregor Mendel, who was a monk? Once again, from Encarta we have
In 1843 he entered the Augustinian monastery at Brünn (now Brno, Czech Republic), which was known as a centre of learning and scientific endeavour. He studied science as well as theology
© 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.
To paraphrase a favourite couplet of mine from Pope’s Essay on Criticism:
A Fool might once himself alone expose,
Now One who blogs makes many more in Prose.
Yes, I’m a fool, but not as big a fool as Bunting.
Increasingly, the stridency with which the non-religious attack the religious belies their own profound insecurity – that the progress they like to attribute to western or enlightenment values is a much-compromised property. It is challenged by almost everything we see around us: climate change, rising levels of mental ill-health, growing economic inequality fuelled by debt and hyper-consumerism. As Oliver James’s new book, Affluenza, makes clear, the nostrums of the west’s “good life” – success, fame, wealth – mask an extraordinary vacuity of purpose, a desperate, restless discontent.
I thought long ago that if religion had been invented in this day and age, it would’ve been a species of escapism, a diversion, a crutch (in some cases). This sounds like the old line that the Jehovah’s Witnesses trot out when they come calling. “Isn’t the world today so terrible?” The implication is that I’m missing some spiritual dimension or that religion is, somehow, going to fix all these problems. If only everyone prayed their little hearts out. Oh hang on. They did that in the Middle Ages and look what happened on a regular basis – plague, pestilence, war, and famine.
My point is that humans made these messes and humans are going to have to clean them up. There isn’t going to be and never has been any chance of divine intervention. I’m sure my ancestors must’ve been confused silly by the Black Death. They lived miserable lives; they toiled in the fields; they went to church every Sunday. Suddenly, they’re being told that God is chastising them for their sins. How many wondered how it was that God had decided there was excessive sinfulness in the mid 14th century when no one had been any more or any less sinful than usual?
The National Secular Society even raised the cry of English kings down the centuries last week: “Who runs Britain – the government or the Vatican?”
It’s a little hyperbolic, but the point is obvious.
And the winner is…
Shilpa Shetty. £200K to appear and, having won, now likely to see the revival of a career which had been languishing. [29.09.13. I assume this has something to do with the series of Big Brother in which Jade Goody took umbrage at Shetty for being nice. Another entry which really belonged on Facebook.]
I’d seen the DVD of Flyboys in the shops a couple of times recently and thought I’d check it out. It’s the story of Escadrille Lafayette, the American squadron that fought in France during World War I before the Americans officially entered the war. It was slick, glossy, and implausible.
The special effects weren’t bad, although when Baron von Dachshund shot up Ted Studly’s plane without killing Ted, I began to wonder whether the fuselage was made of titanium. Of course, Ted wasn’t such a poltroon as to whack the Baron with a machine gun. Nope, it was out with his six-shooter to show that smug German how real men fight.
Ted also cut the hand off one of his friends when the latter got trapped in No man’s land when the latter’s plane crashed. It gave a whole new meaning to “one off the wrist”. [Though predictable, this still manages to be painful. –ed.]
Whenever Tom Sizemore is crashing and burning (he must be on the Lindsay Lohan Self-improvement-through-excess programme), he’s always described as the star of Black Hawk Down. Like Flyboys, curiosity got the better of me with this one. This is the story about the Americans and their adventures in Mogadishu in Somalia, and how an attempt to capture some of the enemy leadership went badly wrong. Basically, things went from bad to worse as first one and then another chopper crashed, and attempts to rescue the trapped soldiers kept running into trouble.
At the end of the film it said that 19 Americans had been killed. How many Somalis? 1000. Apart from one scene where some Somali fighter was talking to the captured helicopter pilot, the Somalis were merely a faceless horde who were there to get mown down. Were they really so casual with their lives? Did they really fight like such a disorganised mob?
The film managed to be gritty and dramatic, and managed to maintain its momentum in spite of its length. It also seemed that American forces in Somali had a large Scottish contingent, including two graduates of Trainspotting.
The Case of Francis Bacon’s Non-finite Clauses.
I was reading Francis Bacon’s short essay Of Suspicion when I noticed this sentence:
…and therefore men should remedy suspicion, by procuring to know more, and not to keep their suspicions in smother.
In Modern English, we might say something like this:
…and therefore men should remedy suspicion by procuring to know more and (by) not repressing it.
(All right, so it’s not especially idiomatic.) I did a search of the Essays and couldn’t find any instances of “preposition + not + gerund”. In other words, it appears that in Bacon’s English it was not possible to use such a construction, hence he switches to the infinitive.
Unfortunately, I can’t find any other examples of this phenomenon in the Essays. There are 45 instances of “not to”, but only this one follows a “prep + gerund” construction.
However, Bacon was quite happy to use “do not + verb” and “doth not + verb”, which, I think, was a new construction in English at the time. I’d guess that “prep + not + gerund” had yet to appear. A search of The Spectator (published about 90 years after Bacon wrote his Essays) still yields very few instances of this construction:
I have been so very scrupulous in this Particular of not hurting any Man’s Reputation… (No. 262)
…who is apprehensive either of Torment or of Annihilation; of being miserable, or of not being at all. (No. 381)
…as the Desire of not appearing singular… (No. 576)
…by not considering that… (No. 592)
Curiously, a search through my own writings (albeit using the search function in Windows Explorer which I don’t exactly trust) yields far fewer instances of “prep + not + gerund” than I expected.
[Later the same day.]
I searched through most of the literary texts that I have on my computer and found very few instances of “prep + not + gerund”. The ones that I did manage to track down were all “of not + gerund”. Interestingly, one of them was in Bacon’s New Organon:
Indeed, the desire of not moving is the only appetite they have…
The largest number I found was in Varney the Vampyre, although it was a mere seven instances out of about 215 chapters. Bulfinch’s Legends of Charlemagne yielded
Ogier felt keenly the grief of not having been permitted to embrace his father once more…
where the gerund is complex entity, but was the only example of this construction in that text.
It’s been impossible to get onto The Guardian since last night. I can get to the site, but at best it loads in part and then spins on its wheels until I get annoyed and give up on it. The progress bar, which I take as a thoroughly reliable indicator of the degree to which a page has loaded, usually stands at 90% or more while nothing happens. I hope that this is a sign that the undersea cable is being repaired.
Live update! The Guardian now appears. The Catholics can’t opt out over gay adoption. Not sure what that’s about. Do Catholics have to be gay to adopt? Or do the children have to be gay to be adopted by Catholics? These are troubling times.
In another story, the Chinese will soon be the world’s most numerous Internet users – in a couple of years. (Yes, people, it’s a dejà vu moment. Tangential thought: what about India?) Of course we had to have
Online leap reported despite heavy censorship
Beijing is aware that the internet is a powerful tool in shaping public opinion and encourages web use for education and business, saying its aim is to only block material the authorities consider subversive or obscene.
But we can still buy Japanese AV from DVD shops. Way to be consistent, Nanny. What’s the bet that the biggest buyers of porn in China are the Party boys? [04.08.14. There was a recent case (in Hubei, I think) in which some corrupt official was found to have hidden is stash of porn under a statue.]
I thought from another comment that wikipedia might’ve been unblocked, but apparently not so from my attempt to get onto the site just now.
As I’ve noted before about online censorship here, it seems to affect the expat community more than it does the Chinese whose experience of the Internet is probably predominantly limited to the Chinese part of Cyberia because language is a natural barrier for most surfers here. None of the pupils I’ve ever taught here, barring one I can think of, would have a chance of understanding articles in The Guardian or have the perseverance to struggle through just one.
Anyway, Simon Underdown is taking a swipe at Intelligent Design in Survival of the thickest. The post comes from an article about Intelligent Design in RE classes. (Intelligent Design to feature in school RE lessons.) That’s not all.
In a move that is likely to spark controversy, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority has for the first time recommended that pupils be taught about atheism and creationism in RE classes.
Two things. One, what has religion got to do with a secular education? Two, how does atheism fit into religious education classes since it’s not actually a religion in the first place? (Perhaps we’ll get the old argument that atheism must be a religion because we all worship Richard Dawkins.) Actually, a third thing. Creationism? Are you kidding?
The article (ID to feature etc.) ends
The new guidelines for key stage 3 (11 to 14-year-olds), published yesterday, say: “This unit focuses on creation and origins of the universe and human life and the relationship between religion and science. It aims to deepen pupils’ awareness of ultimate questions through argument, discussion, debate and reflection and enable them to learn from a variety of ideas of religious traditions and other world views.“It explores Christianity, Hinduism and Islam and also considers the perspective of those who do not believe there is a god (atheists). It considers beliefs and concepts related to authority, religion and science as well as expressions of spirituality.”
It’s still making religion seem to be the unmarked state beside which other states of existence are implicit aberrations. Wouldn’t classes in philosophy be much more useful instead of time being wasted on this?
I think, though, that it’s important to distinguish being taught about a religion from being taught about some of its nonsensical accretions as if they have some sort of validity. (Yes, I’m kind of aware that I’ve probably blithely blundered through several fallacies in logic because I’m sure that other accretions have been controversial, but the whole matter is now in the past just as current issues such as ID and creationism may be added to the catalogue of religious follies in the future.)
The decision by the QCA does rather seem to be an instance of jumping on a contemporary bandwagon. Right now, ID, creationism and atheism are getting a lot of airtime (at least in The Guardian). Sooner or later, should I expect to see these as topics of IELTS writing task 2 which is often on subjects that I recognise as (formerly) controversial?
[04.08.14. The Guardian has now been blocked, probably permanently, after it posted a story about the devious doings of the rich and powerful back in January. Ironically, Emperor Frog Face has been conducting an anti-corruption campaign whose natural targets ought to include the people in the Guardian article. In fact, while the campaign appears genuine, Frog Face seems to be using it to strengthen and widen his grip on power.
As far as I can tell, Emperor Robot I not only caused Robot II problems throughout his entire reign, but his people remain influential today, and, apparently, somewhat of an impediment to progress. According to the savvy punters, Shanghai remains problematic because of this.]
Let Budgell charge low Grub-street on his quill,And write whate’er he pleased, except his will;
Thrice Budgell aim’d to speak, but thrice suppress’d
By potent Arthur, knock’d his chin and breast.
‘Thrice Budgell aim’d to speak:’ famous for his speeches on many occasions about the South Sea Scheme, &c. ‘He is a very ingenious gentleman, and hath written some excellent Epilogues to Plays, and one small piece on Love, which is very pretty.’ Jacob, Lives of Poets, vol. ii. p. 289. But this gentleman since made himself much more eminent, and personally well known to the greatest statesmen of all parties, as well as to all the courts of law in this nation.—P.