29 November 2008


It's too early on Saturday morning - but I often find this a productive time to work. No emails coming in, the Mo Dutta show on Radio 2.... what more could you want? (Cup of tea? We can sort that.)

Just been knocked sideways by the idiocy of the 'thought for the day' slot at 6.15am (you should be able to hear it if you listen again - I think Mo has an unbelievably long show, from 4 to 8am). For those not familiar with the Radio 2 early morning religious slots, they are a hilariously toned down, Ikea flatpack version of the Radio 4 'Thought for the Day' - "designed not to be too intellectually taxing" would be a nice way of putting it. Anyway there was this chap on who was a Christian minister of some denomination - I didn't catch which one - and he said something along the lines of the following: living involves innumerable acts of faith. When we get in a plane we take it on "faith" that there's enough fuel in the tanks to land safely. When we drop our kids off at the school gate we take it on "faith" that they will be safe until the end of the school day... etc. And, apparently, faith in God is 'a logical extension' of this.


That's the worst argument I've ever heard for anything, ever. Richard Dawkins - or even Christopher Hitchens - would have had this guy for breakfast. 

When I get in a plane and assume that I'm going to make it through the journey alive (which actually I don't do - I have an irrational fear of flying. But never mind...) my confidence in the plane's safe passage - or the confidence I would have if I had a brain - is based on the fact that a plane company which experienced a high proportion of fatal accidents wouldn't be in business very long. Similarly, if I had kids, I'd assume that they would be safe at school, or else I could sue the school's ass. It doesn't always pay to be trusting - just look at the kids who were in care in Jersey, for example - but confidence in these situations is based on a rational assessment of the reliability of our institutions to do the job, whether they be market-based or political. 

Thus, it's no kind of "faith" at all. And it's nothing to do with religious faith, where the believer is asked to believe a load of stuff (for want of a better word) on the basis of no evidence other than the evidence offered up by the people who have a vested interest in you believing it (i.e. the church authorities, whose authority - and financial standing - is boosted, the more their congregation goes up.) 

I don't just believe that the plane will get me there safely because Ryanair, Easyjet or whoever tell me so. In fact I believe that the airlines are a load of bullshitters and I don't trust a word they say. So why believe in God because (for example) the Pope tells you to?

If the religious authorities want to increase their intellectual grip on the country they're going to have to come up with something better than this tosh. But it did provide a useful 20 minutes' diversion for me. 

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