A Letter to a Mr. A. N. WilsonBy BluJugganaut on comment
Who would have thought that the source of my next blog would be from the Daily Mail, a British newspaper. Specifically, a man named A. N. Wilson, who contributes occasionally to the paper. The article was about the London riots, and was most probably 90% of the other content. This article however, which I shall link at the end of this blog post, really made me mad for multiple reasons. Looking into this writers backgorund did nothing to help, and brought me to a worrying realisation.
The article, summed up, implied that the London rioters were effectively atheists, or like atheists, and those cleaning up were religious. Such content was based around a story of one man, Tariq Jahan, who’s son was murdered in Birmingham. Basically, Wilson argues that Tariq’s dignified and reasoned response to the rioters showed how religion makes everything so good. Wilson essentially dismissed all but Tariq’s words in writing this article, seemingly missing out some extra details, some common sense, and most importantly, reality.
I usually prefer to keep things calm and respectible when refuting another persons commentary, but for perhaps the first time I think such is not so appriate. The appropriate response would be to point out what an ignorant and dim-witted person Mr. Wilson is. His verbal vomit would be among the worst of sites like Conservapedia, let alone a British newspaper. Perhaps Mr. Wilson could apply for a sysop job at Conservapedia. He would fit in with the other brain-dead self-important idiots.
Of course, such claims require reason on my side. But I have plenty. Throughout the article, Wilson to an almost uncountable numbers of myths and rumours he appears to have revealed from his rear-end or ill-informed blog sites. The first major claim is the overall implication of the article: religious people are good people, and atheists aren’t. Such a statement does not even require a rebuttal, simply because of its breath-taking inanity. However, I feel the need to point out how such an argument is absurd.
Take a look at the Catholic church, and then take a look at me, an atheist. Who of the two of us has raped children on a regular basis? Which of us has denied contraception to millions of Africans? These are just two examples of a list I could probably spend hours writing.
You’ll find that I have done neither, and the Church has done both. Unless Mr. Wilson sees the allowed spread of diseases and the rape of children as good, then his point is already refuted.
Another misguided claim is that we atheists are obsessed with the current celebrity-culture. Atheists generaly hold up people like Amy Winehouse and Jade Goody as role models. He claims, “The misguided and vacuous thinking of these so-called intellectuals is compounded by a sordid celebrity-culture which holds up role models who should be despised rather than admired. Amy Winehouse, a pathetic drug-infused alcoholic girl of very modest talent, is held up as great diva; and when she died, her house was surrounded by fans, laying empty vodka bottles as a ‘tribute’.
Jade Goody, the foul-mouthed, racist daughter of a pimp and drug-pusher who died of a heroin overdose in the lavatory of a Kentucky Fried Chicken, appears on Big Brother and becomes a heroine despite — or because of — her ignorance and tendency to strip off in front of the cameras.”
Let alone the fact that Jade Goody died of cancer and not a heroin overdose (showing that he has not bothered to do any research), my existence alone shows, again, that he has no idea what he’s talking about. I am as anti-celebrity as they come. Of all of my icons, Stephen Fry comes closest to being a celebrity. A similar claims he make in another article (which I will link to at the end of this blog post) is that we atheists have no ear for music. The exact quote: “When I think about atheist friends, including my father, they seem to me like people who have no ear for music, or who have never been in love.”
Does he realise that there are many atheist musicians out there, including myself? Again, a simple 5-second search on google defeats his narrow-minded claim. And before he asks, no, I don’t listen, or like, modern chart music.
I the same article as the last quote I gave, he spews this verbal diarrhoea: ” haven’t mentioned morality, but one thing that finally put the tin hat on any aspirations to be an unbeliever was writing a book about the Wagner family and Nazi Germany, and realising how utterly incoherent were Hitler’s neo-Darwinian ravings, and how potent was the opposition, much of it from Christians; paid for, not with clear intellectual victory, but in blood.
Not only was Hitler Catholic, he was also rather critical of Darwin and the Theory of Evolution in many of his speeches. If Hitler wasn’t Catholic, then why did German Nazi soldiers wear the words ‘God Mit Uns’ (God with us) on their belt buckles?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gott_mit_uns Not only that, but even criticised atheists as Germanys “communist enemy”. Again, quick googles searches. People without a brain can find this stuff.
So let’s finish with the worst of the worst, the final sentance of the first article I mentioned, and I will leave you to refute the claims myself. You don’t need me for this one.
“By his religious response to his son’s death, he humanised not only the dreadful and immediate tragedy. He showed us that without a religion we are all less than human.”
First article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-2025393/UK-riots-Haroon-Jahan-death-Legacy-society-believes-nothing.html
Second article: http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism
I think you need to re-read his article. One example: he is quite clearly referring to Jade Goody’s pimp, drug-dealing father, who did die of an overdose! Re-read please!
Ok, having re-read that it seems there was a mistake. However what does the father of a celebrity have to do with the celebrity themselves? Whilst she might not have been a well read individual she seems to have come out of her childhood as a productive member of society holding down a full time job. I’m no fan of Jade and I do think she showed a few significant wholes in general knowledge in terms of the geography of this country. I don’t even know if she was a theist or an atheist but the fact of the matter is the article by Mr Wilson was an emotive opinion piece that had little to no resemblance to reality.
I apologise for any mistake I made when writing this article. Rage can get the better of me sometimes. =P But my overall point is still valid despite this mistake.
Thanks for reading =D
BluJugganaut, what is your overall point? I have to say your critique comes across to me as less measured than Wilson’s article. I found this critique because I was interested to hear what others had to say about it. I myself am not a “religious” person but I hope that I give all sides a fair hearing and understanding. This is the only article I have read of his (I’m not going to read the other one you post), but let’s look at this article more specifically.
The essential questions are these: why did a good number of young people turn to rioting and looting? Why did they do things in such an undignified manner and why was Tariq Jahan so dignified? These are fair questions and can be the basis of any sociological academic paper. Tariq Jahan is “religious,” but in this context, you could argue that Tariq Jahan holds certain values, values that are shared by the major faiths. The looters and rioters do not hold his values; theirs are based on judging a man by the size of his wallet, by the clothes he wears, the cars he drives…etc. In essence, these youth have become dehumanized; there is something wrong with the form of capitalism that we practice. Wilson is arguing that we need a little more humility to make this economic and political system work, and religion “can” provide that. It’s a very complex issue but I think he should at least deserve credit for raising an important question.
The question is why have we have even got to a stage whereby someone like Jady Goody is a national personality. What did she do to achieve that? She was nasty and vile and her values were abhorrent; her father is very relevant, because it is a question of values, and where do we get those from? How do you think she would’ve turned out if Tariq Jahan were her father? One thing is for sure, the youth of today would not know her. For the youth of today lament the death of Amy Winehouse by turning up to her funeral with empty vodka bottles. It was an emotive piece, but it was tightly argued, though certainly biased by his general ideology. But it’s time for some real emotion, some real passion as we start to consider the society in which we live in. A dehumanized society where people like Amy Winehouse are lauded, someone who pumped drug and alcohol into her human body, making her become less and less so.
Whilst there are good reasons for questioning things related to the state of society today and the ‘It’ type celebrities and the general idolisation of celebrity status I think that the article by Wilson was abhorent in itself. He ends it by saying that those without religion are less than human, Tariq spoke out as a grieving parent calling for calm and to prevent more senseless deaths not as a person of religion. Yes his religion is important to him and may or may not have a significant impact on how he lives his life and how he raised his child/children but being a religious person does not guarenty that you won’t go out and do things that are immoral or unethical. To pull a comment from Blu’s post what about the Catholic Priests that molested children? If religion really makes someone that moral and the like then why did those Priests do those things? My answer to that is that religion is neither here nor there when it comes to what makes a person good, you have good people that are believers and non believers and you have bad people that are believers and non believers. And as a non believer I do genuinely find it offensive to read a comment along the lines of non believers being less than human, if religion makes someone so good why would they say something like that?
As to your questions about how we got to where we are in society I don’t know the answers to those questions. I would question your assumption though that Jade’s fathers values were her values. Yes it’s true that parents can do a great deal to shape the values of their children, and good parenting will instill good values, but parents arn’t the only ones that will shape a childs values. I say this because it’s important to remember that some parents work their very best to raise their children well and dispite that said children can still go off the rails, and you can get the opposite with hard working children coming out of a family that might not be instilling good values. Passion and emotion may be very good at giving us some drive to sorting out whatever ails our society (I’m assuming that you are also in the UK) but they are no substitute when it comes to fair, balanced and unbiased reporting and conduct.
My point is that his entire article depends on an unsubstantiated claim followed by baseless generalisations. He first implied that Tariq’s dignified response was essentially because he was religious, seemingly deciding that no one who is not religious can also act in such a dignified manner and that anyone who does speak with dignity does so because they are religious. His whole arguement appears to be based on these implications.
He then goes on to argue that atheists are the ones responsible, or at least most involved, with todays celebrity-culture. Where is the study to show that atheists are more likely to be obsessed with celebrities? As far as I am concerned, this claim has absolutely no backing, and not only that, is relevent to the riot issue at hand.
From what I read, Wilson’s arguement goes something like this: A religious man says something dignified, therefore atheists have no moral values because they like celebrities, and Hitler believed in evolution. In conclusion, religion makes people better and atheists are less than human.
Womble and BluJ, overall, I think by the gist of your posts, I would get along with you since I would say that we share a certain political leaning. However, I think Wilson is on to something that you’re both missing. Let’s put it another way, why did none of the sikh and muslim youth out righting in the numbers that their white and black counterparts were? it certainly had nothing to do with racial genes. there had to be some cultural aspect. Wilson is arguing that it was religious values. But it’s important to note how he is defining religious here; he is explicitly referring to those general values that most decent people would agree, religious and atheist included. He just thinks that those values of religion could be helpful in us coping with our economic and political system. And by the way, that should not be taken for granted; that is at the crux of why our society is the way it is. Come on, don’t you see that? And the real crisis is that the liberal intellengsia (as Wilson refers to them), while advocating for certain social values (equality of sexes, sexuality, color…by the way, all of which I am favor of) have stopped critiquing our capitalist society, kind of very laissez-faire.
I’m sorry Wombe, but parental transmission of values is crucial in an individual’s development. Of course, there are anomalies (genetic perhaps), but at the end of the day, why are there such categories like working class and why do families through generations stay at the bottom of the ladder. It’s not genetics it’s cultural values. The question is how you go about changing these values.
Btw, I am British but currently writing from the states. But I grew up in a poor community in England and I would love to see things improve. For me, many liberals have forgotten about that aspect of politics; improving the situation of the poor, the weak, the marginalized.
I don’t think the values of the religious over the non religious are more helpful, that implies that there is something inately lesser about the values of the non religious. People are decent, or otherwise, irrispective of their religious nature. And yes our society may have some issues with being overly materialistic and for instant gratification but at this moment in time it is not right to started making assumption on the demographics of the rioters. We don’t know how many where of white, black, asian, arabic or other ethnicity/decent so making assumptions that groups X rioted over group Y is to enter the realm of unsubstantiated claims. Wilsons bigoted views are abhorent, would you be so willing to accept them if they were race related? I know I’d find them equally abhorent, and thats the crux of my views on Wilson, he is coming over as an abohrent little cretin that shouldn’t be writing a column in ANY British paper. Now if Wilson wrote his article and slammed the growing comercialisation of this country and not those without religion then I might have been more inclined to at least accept the general concept behind his article, however such an article would still have contained many baseless comments and shoddy generalisations.
As to the transmition of values from one generation to the next the transmission of parental values are important but it’s not the be all and end all. There are people that recognise aspects of the parents values but don’t hold those values themselves, admittedly this is when the child is old enough and mature to evaluate what they think is important. Working class is a legacy of when the country had a proper class system, I know I’m middle class by that standard, but for the last however many years and decades we’ve actually had a good level of mobility between the different class levels of old. I’m also aware that there are some that think the chav/underclass thing has gutted what was once the working class, and given the time of morning my brain isn’t yet fired up enough to say if this is a comment from TV or talking to friends. However the question I’d ask in light of that and what you said earlier about values is would it be the values as derived from ones religion of the values of you do a decent days work for your money? Something which certainly was held true of both the working and middle class families back when this was more formal. There’s probably a much stronger case for saying that the recent riots were more connected to our apparent loss of work ethic in parts of the community than the notion of religious values.
The final thing i want to pick up on is the notion of liberal intellegensia. Given that I am writing whilst half asleep (it’s a day off and i’ve returned from dropping someone off at the train station when i’m expecting a lie in) my brain is congugating more of a ‘wtf do you mean’ by liberal intellegensia. The social values in relation to equality are equal opportunities, something which I am a strong proponent of and for which I would be called a liberal for supporting but I see those as vital for both individuals and society and nothing to do with being liberal, especially as for myself whilst I know i might have some views that are liberal I am not a liberal. The use of intellegensia clearly refers to those of an academic leaning, which is more fitting for myself given that I am currently working on furthering my knowledge and given that I’m a strong proponent in other people doing the same and learning for the sake of learning. But to be honest I can’t help but think that the way Wilson intended for that to come across was to be more of a slur, the notion of people that have lost touch with reality. In fact the more I think about it I do strongly suspect that he’s using this to create some manner of juxtaposed us and them issue to argue against…….so essentially he’s committing a strawman type of fallacy.
Lets not forget that it was Labour that was in power when they brought in a large number of things like the 50% of school leavers to go to university (and thus forcing some for whom university wasn’t the right option either academically or for what they wanted into the university system) that meant that fee’s needed to be introduced to the point that we’re not looking at £9k a year to go. Bear in mind that back in 1997 prior to the election the Conservatives were talking about the fact that they might have to introduce fees for university and Labour turned around and said that they would not. And that because of over a decade of Labours poor excuse for fiscal management the country is now broke and needs to make massive cutbacks on spending so that the economy can be recovered. Improving the situation for those that are poor, weak or marginalised isn’t really behind the motivations for the Labour party I would say, if it was then they would have looked at long term viable options for supporting them and not spent like crazy. By flooding universities with people and expecting them to pay fees you’ve got people assuming that they should get high grades dispite the work they do (which does happen) and on the more pragmatic level you are devaluing the currency of a degree. How can a degree really be a sign of having accomplished something when every other person has one? What justification does that give to someone from a poor background to take the risk of aquiring the debt associated with university study if the degree doesn’t pay out with a job at the end? People might not have liked the more limited university places in the past but once you got your degree you’d be almost guarentied of getting a job making it less risky building up the student debt, which actually didn’t exist as we could afford to give students a grant to live off not the present student loans scheme.
Now whilst I might have just gone off on a tangent there it does underline what I think might be a better approach to things that should make things farer for everyone. If we can end this obession with sending every school child to university, because (and this bit might have some people ranting at me) some people no matter how hard working arn’t going to be bright enough to cope with a degre. Get back some of the training and education options that people could seek between school level education and university so that people do have the opportunity to continue their education after school and stand a good chance of getting a job and an income. And if we’re not sending so many kids to university then there might be more money in the education pot to at least cut down on the fee’s thing so that the education itself is free even if they have to still take out loans to support themselves and reduce the amount of debt.
Also as a quick aside, and i apologise for the sources I’m using, not all religiously raised people are innocent of the riots.
Nasser, yours and Wilsons arguements would be a little more agreeable and debatable if the last sentance from the article was missing. Saying that atheists are less than human makes it quite clear that he’s making this article against atheism or at least its concept.
I see your point, and it’s a valid arguement to say that certain religious upbringings leave kids better off. But then, you could look at atheist families that didn’t riot and say that their atheist upbringings left their kids better off. Wilsons article seems to miss all this stuff out in order to make atheism look bad. It is completely dishonest and misleading and to say otherwise is absurd!