AC Grayling on religion

A couple of months ago I was browsing Waterstone’s for something to read while waiting to meet a friend, and picked up AC Grayling’s The Meaning of Things. I hadn’t heard of him before, but was very pleasantly surprised by this collection of short essays. Originally published in The Guardian, they present a rational philosophy that’s never less than interesting and is frequently uplifting. His thoughts on hope, death, justice etc. are often very much like common-sense, but it’s great (and oddly unusual) to hear somebody saying it so forcefully and eloquently. Irrational belief and cynicism are shown no mercy, and I seem to always put it down happier than I picked it up.

I just spotted his latest piece at Comment is Free, which is a very strongly worded attack on religious privilege:

It is time to refuse to tip-toe around people who claim respect, consideration, special treatment, or any other kind of immunity, on the grounds that they have a religious faith, as if having faith were a privilege-endowing virtue, as if it were noble to believe in unsupported claims and ancient superstitions. It is neither. Faith is a commitment to belief contrary to evidence and reason, as between them Kierkegaard and the tale of Doubting Thomas are at pains to show; their example should lay to rest the endeavours of some (from the Pope to the Southern Baptists) who try to argue that faith is other than at least non-rational, given that for Kierkegaard its virtue precisely lies in its irrationality.

On the contrary: to believe something in the face of evidence and against reason – to believe something by faith – is ignoble, irresponsible and ignorant, and merits the opposite of respect. It is time to say so.

It is time to demand of believers that they take their personal choices and preferences in these non-rational and too often dangerous matters into the private sphere, like their sexual proclivities. Everyone is free to believe what they want, providing they do not bother (or coerce, or kill) others; but no-one is entitled to claim privileges merely on the grounds that they are votaries of one or another of the world’s many religions.

The whole thing’s like that 🙂 As ever with Comment is Free1, you wander into the comments at your own risk. Also, the five-year-old in me demands I mention this particular sentence:

A special case of the respect agenda run by religious believers concerns the pubic advertisement of their faith membership.

And you thought there was a fuss about veils.

  1. Ophelia Benson calls it Talk is Cheap []