Saturday, March 31, 2012

On blaming the government for this blog

I read on the BBC News Page today that “John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, Karl Turner, MP for Hull East, and Labour Lord Toby Harris are among those who have called for Mr Maude to resign if it turns out his comments contributed to the burns accident suffered by 46-year-old Diane Hill.”

Let’s get this straight.  Mr Maude – rightly or wrongly – told people to consider keeping a jerry-can of petrol in the garage.  He did not say anything about decanting it in the kitchen, with the cooker on. 

Furthermore, this was not a command, it was a suggestion.  Mr Maude did not say “citizens found guilty of not buying and storing extra quantities of petrol shall be fined or banged up in jail.”  We can argue to the cows come home about whether his advice was necessary, but if you went out and bought petrol in a panic it was entirely your decision.  If you were following the news enough to listen to the government’s advice you would also have known that no strike had been set.

I despair at the fact that people blame the government rather than taking responsibility for things themselves.  If you’re going to whinge and demand rights, which people often do, then you can accept that you have responsibilities as well.  Personally, I think that John Mann, Karl Turner, and Toby Harris should resign for encouraging people not to have their own sense of responsibility.

Mind you, I wouldn’t complain if in the face of the next crisis Mr Maude suggested jumping off a cliff.  Think of how much better things would be if we lost a few of those who are really too irresponsible to vote.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

On lighting the blue touch paper

As you probably know, I can sometimes be quite provocative.  My recent tweet linked to my last post certainly seemed to have that effect.  On the positive side, I have really enjoyed seeing people engaging well with the dialogue, both here and on Facebook, and I have to admit that my ego has taken a small boost from the record numbers who landed in this corner of the Blogosphere.

However, on reflection, I realise that some of you may have thought that I was being unnecessarily antagonistic – for which I apologise.  Hopefully if you read the post you realised that there was a context to it and that I am not casting sweeping aspersions on my atheist friends.

I was also reminded that to make bold statements about atheists needing to practise what they preach leaves me open to accusations that as Christians we don’t always practise what we preach.  Which – sadly – can be quite true.  So, whereas I stand by the statement I made, I should be the first to admit that as a Christian I don’t always get it right either.

I have really enjoyed the discussions which have been sparked, and will probably blog about some of the issues raised before long.  In the meantime, there is a whole community of people on Facebook talking about Jesus and if you enjoyed the discussions as well then you might want to take a wander in that direction.

Monday, March 26, 2012

On why atheists should practise what they preach

As a Christian, I often really enjoy engaging in discussion with atheists and agnostics about my faith.  Such conversations can be interesting, can broaden the mind, and can provide something of a challenge.  I feel that it is important to understand the reasons for choosing to be a Christian and to be open to questions.  Faith and worldview are two concepts which are very much entwined, and I adhere to the view that Christianity is – and needs to be to be taken seriously – a reasonable faith.

I have some good atheist friends for whom I have a great deal of respect.  Their beliefs are well thought through, and we often enjoy some reasoned debate.  However, it has come to my attention that there are atheists out there with whom it is harder to have a reasoned discussion.  Only the other day, I decided to respond to a tweet (by someone I didn’t know) suggesting that the Bible is the biggest work of fiction ever, and the resulting dialogue became quite interesting.

There were two others involved in the exchange of tweets, and I decided to ask whether or not they had read the Bible – after all, if you’re going to make a sweeping statement (for example, about the Bible being a massive work of fiction), you should probably have reason to justify it, and ascertaining what was known about the Bible was a good starting point here.

Initially, I didn’t get a straight answer.  One response was “I was bought up with the Bible,” which I took to imply that they hadn’t read the Bible per se but had some familiarity with it – especially in the context of the rest of the tweet, which included “I have read Hawking’s A Brief History of Time.” 

Of course, in this case, “I was bought up with the Bible” can mean anything from “I’ve always had one on my shelf” (in which case, I was bought up with the works of Shakespeare) to “I used to study it every day.”  Clarification was not forthcoming, so I should probably apologise to those concerned in case my assumption was wrong.  But whether or not I was right, the fact is there are plenty of atheists who are happy to make statements about the Bible (and about Christianity in general) whilst only having some familiarity with it themselves. 

I find it very strange that such people are happy to be condescending towards Christians, pointedly claiming that their own views are “based purely on fact and reason” whilst simultaneously appearing happy to make sweeping statements without doing their own investigations.  Ironically, you could argue that they have faith in what they think they know about the Bible, or in someone else’s opinion.

Additionally, I find it very strange that such people are happy to be quick to accuse others of not saying what they mean, whilst simultaneously using ambiguous statements such as “I was bought up with the Bible.” 

Twitter is probably not the place to beat around the bush unnecessarily, and a clear question – “have you read the Bible?” – can be met with a clear answer along the lines of “yes,” “no,” or perhaps “some of it.” At least both sides then know where they stand, and the discussion can proceed accordingly. To be vague leaves you open – fairly or unfairly – to accusations of hiding behind a smokescreen.

If you want to insist on fact and reason, great.  But please practise what you preach; there’s no point in being proud about your need for these things if you get uppity when someone questions the background to your own beliefs and claims. 

There are a huge number of interesting questions out there. My recent foray in to the Twittersphere touched upon such questions as “is the Bible reliable?” and “is there a creator?” and I think that it is good to explore these things.  However, if balanced discussion is the order of the day, then let’s have a level playing field.