This word has lodged itself in my brain today: saeculum (sigh – q – lum). Or more precisely the SAECULUM – partly because Dr Ryan always puts Latin in capitals on the whiteboard and partly because he pronounces it with deep emphasis. It means a period of time; in the context of Augustine‘s Christianity ‘the’ saeculum means a very specific period of time between the coming of Christ and Judgement Day. The logic is actually as typically tortuous and profoundly silly as with all the rest of it, but we’ll play along. We know the world was created in six days. (Shut up.) We know that on the sixth day, God created man. But we also know (and I’m using ‘know’ in a deeply loose sense) that a day with the Lord is worth a thousand days! So in a world without radiocarbon dating it turns out that Jesus came – to ‘re-create’ man – at the beginning of the sixth ‘age’. Nifty.
Augustine then goes on to decide that the saeculum is actually a non-sacred period of time, which carries the uber-convenient property of being immune from Biblical prophecy. Which I suppose means that anyone claiming that they can apply Biblical prophecies to today is really messing with St Augustine – is that wise?
But whatever – I just love the word. I want SAECULUM t-shirts. I want people to put ‘THE SAECULUM’ at the end of my address on post. And looking it up on Wikipedia makes it clear why: emerging from this curious and strange word comes the sight of a dear friend – ‘secular’. Of course! Ah – the beautiful secular world. And its buses.
(And to profoundly alienate everybody who struggled through a linguistic post, here’s a political bit to finish you off with: this BBC story made me smile today. It’s on an OECD report pointing out the “remarkable” redistribution which Labour really did manage to sneakily carry out from 2000 onwards. At a time when the New Labour narrative is clearly at an end, it’s nice to see what really was achieved.)
You stole my blog title thing again.
(I don’t mind.) (At all, actually.) (But do you not see what I mean when I say the blogs are incestuous?)
Alright, you win.
I claim prior art! http://dominicself.co.uk/blog/2005/08/on-the-nature-of-patience
(But yes, of course you’re right.)
Hum, I think the bus thing is rather petty. Typical of you atheists to do the whole one-upmanship thing. But all’s fair in love and war, I suppose.
Oh what? We’re one-upping no-one: the move is actually rather moderate ( "Probably" ) compared to the Christian buses (which, I remember, threatened hell to all we non-believers). Obviously, it’s pointless, but then so were the Christian buses: these are just an attempt to even out the playing field.
The worst thing about them is how they add to the whole "atheists against theists" (as opposed to smiling disagreement) culture of the moment.
And that wink was supposed to be the end of a bracket.
Please imagine it was so?
I’ll do you one better and make it so…
And you took the words right out of my mouth. They are silly, but the outraged reaction they will probably generate with some people is deeply revealing in itself. The story is always the same: atheists should be polite, which equates to being silent and invisible. They’ll still be wrong and going to hell, but at least they’ll be around to chip in with "oh, but I do have the deepest admiration for faith!" every so often.
And whilst they are pointless in London, they could be rather revolutionary in lots of other places (e.g. Bible Belt of the States). There you really are dealing with a situation where people are too scared even to express what they really believe…
The best thing about atheism, I’ve always thought, is that it honestly attempts to understand the world. It doesn’t have any of the little things that interfere with religion, that, ur, are religion and that stop it from changing to fit the evidence: things like community and tradition and hierarchy and Hell. (Which isn’t to say atheists don’t have these things (apart from Hell) or that they have no worth (apart from Hell and hierarchy and often tradition). It’s just that we don’t mistake them for science). But when things like these buses happen, we do seem to be getting distracted into a fight with the theists. A pointless one that no-one will win. Creating argument is always good, but isn’t evidence better than mere claims? Isn’t logic better than shouting "probably"?
I think it’s possible to distinguish between atheism and an ‘anti-religion’ feeling.
Atheism is really either just the absence of a belief in god or the belief that there is no god. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weak_and_strong_atheism) Both positions, it must be stressed, are always open to re-evaluation in the light of any new evidence. (Otherwise they would be a faith, as it is so often alleged they are )
The sense that religion is a negative force – and therefore that ‘it would be a generally good thing’ for atheism to spread – seems rather separate. After all, this is a subjective claim about what would be ‘good’ for the world rather than an objective claim about what exists or not. And whilst I certainly subscribe to both things wholeheartedly, you’re right that it’s atheism itself which is ultimately ‘stronger’. But sadly there are very few theists who actually want to discuss these things in terms of evidence and logic…
(Cynically: I wonder why
Open-mindedly: It’s ‘faith’ which – it is genuinely believed – must bypass both evidence and logic.)
I quote: "Obviously, it’s pointless, but … just an attempt to even out the playing field."
You proved my point, darling
And: "The best thing about atheism … is that it honestly attempts to understand the world."
Er, what? So theism *doesn’t*?
And: "… any of the little things that … stop it from changing to fit the evidence".
I would argue that in fact religion (by which I’m assuming we all mean Christianity) has changed immensely from its beginning to its present-day forms. Just think about it.
I’d like to be the theist vote for agreeing with Dom that there is a crucial difference between God/theism and religion. I think we all know religion is not always ‘good’ for the world, but I can say with certainty that God is. It’s a funny line to tread a lot of the time, because people can’t always distinguish.
I don’t know where I’m taking this. I’m v. tired. I just spent all evening editing ‘sample creative writing’ for UEA. Scary.
Woah – steady on there I most certainly did not draw a clean line between ‘God / theism’ and ‘religion’ – I made a distinction between *atheism* and seeing religion as a negative force. By ‘religion’ I certainly included both mass organised religion and private theistic belief!
There are atheists who think that it’s a ‘good thing’ for people to believe in God, atheists who don’t care and atheists who think it’s a bad thing – and the reasons for the last option range from simply ‘because it’s untrue’ to general societal stuff.
(And evening the playing field isn’t one-upmanship, it’s attempting to catch up with someone else’s one-upmanship )