28 July 2007

Western Culture? There's No Such Thing.

Don Cupitt came to Secular Hall on Thursday (26th July) to speak on "The Meaning of the West: Secular versus Religious Interpretations". He maintains that "'Western Culture' is ... the most powerful and dynamic cultural tradition that has yet appeared among human beings". He is right to put 'Western Culture' in inverted commas here, because there is no such thing. The term 'Western Culture' is a label used by those who want to polarise the development of ideas into an Us and Them, East versus West battle. We must be careful not to fall into this trap.

What is in reality "the most powerful and dynamic cultural tradition that has yet appeared among human beings"? The answer is the culture of reason and of human-based rational ethics and of scientific method. And this is not 'Western Culture' it is Rational Culture, it is Humanist Culture, it is Scientific Culture, it is Enlightenment Culture, and most of all it is World Culture. Contributions to this Culture have been made by all the peoples of the Earth. It is a heritage open to all the peoples of the Earth. Its opposite is not 'Eastern Culture', its enemy is all forms of irrationality, ignorance, incoherence, obfuscation and superstition.

Unfortunately Don Cupitt's thesis, as expressed to us at Secular Hall, is to hijack this World Culture in the name of the ghost of Christianity. In order to do this he has to play down or even to deny that Eastern Cultures have made or are even capable of making contributions that count. The Chinese, Indian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Arab, and other Pre-Christian contributions to science, to logic, to democracy, to philosophy, to ethics, to the whole world of ideas for him do not count. His thesis is that only Christianity is responsible for modern humanitarianism, self-examination, critical thinking and progressive reform. What nonsense! To speak plainly, besides being self-delusion, this verges on being Racist.

One can understand Don Cupitt's motivation. Having devoted a life to trying to save the religion of Christianity in which he was brought up and thoroughly immersed and enmeshed, and having sought to bring about the modernisation of Christianity, he now finds it impossible to let go, to just let it fade away and die. There must have been some purpose in it he despairingly thinks. He actually says in the handout circulated at the meeting that "the decline of the religion was also the beginning of Christianity's extraordinarily successful afterlife as modern Western Culture"! Sorry Don: The truth is that Cristianity is Dead, it was killed by the Scientific Enlightenment, and there is no Life after Death.

10 July 2007

No Ex-Muslims in Leicester?

The following is a message I sent to Leicester Mercury on 28 June, using their website form. Since I got a blank screen for reply I sent it again by email on the 30th June. It has not been published.

Dear Editor,

In view of the large Muslim population in Leicester, I'm surprised that you do not seem to have given any coverage to the setting up of the "Council of ex-Muslims of Britain". [This was set up by Mariam Namazie, Secularist of the Year in 2005, who spoke about Humanism at Leicester's Secular Hall in February this year.]

Many Islamic states still threaten people with death under Sharia law if they leave Islam.

Telegraph News Item

Your recent defence of free speech by support for the knighthood to Salman Rushdie is admirable. But one wonders how many people in the Muslim community are afraid to express their doubts about religion in view of the many threats against infidels that one reads in the Quran.

Not all local Muslims are regular attenders at the Mosques. In fact I notice that the large Mosque on the corner of Conduit Street appears to be in a state of neglect in view of the uncleared weeds and rubbish accumulating around it.