Friday, 15 January 2010

Leading Church Intellectual?

I was reading a very interesting piece yesterday on Canon Dr Edward Norman, one time Canon Chancellor of York Minster and an ecclesiastical historian. He was castigating the C of E for contributing to its own demise through a wishy-washy liberalism that has the synod wringing its hands and coming to compromises over every conceivable issue from women priests to the acceptance of homosexuality, alienating vast swathes of hard-liners within the Anglican Communion in the process.

He left the C of E a few years ago and defected to Rome. His thinking can be summed up by the following statement. "Cathedrals can be a hindrance as well as an aid to faith," says Norman. "They can lead people to luxuriate in emotion. I'd rather they were convicted of their sins."

A hell-fire and brimstone hard-liner then. But he’s right about the C of E imploding under the pressure of its lack of inner conviction. However, that lack of conviction and willingness to debate dogmatic doctrinal issues and expose them to the harsh light of rational critical analysis is probably the greatest contribution to the inexorable move of the UK population toward agnosticism and atheism. Dogma is shown to be based on misogyny, homophobia and the irrational and needless extrapolation of fundamentally flawed and muddled 1st, 2nd and 3rd century scholastic thought that sought to fuse Judaism with Greek philosophical concepts. The C of E is probably the best advert for the atheist holy trinity of Darwin, Dawkins and Dennett.

Dr Norman (among others) has been called a leading church intellectual; however, I would postulate that the phrase ‘leading church intellectual’ is an oxymoron, as religion is certainly not an intellectual issue, but a matter of faith in the supernatural – or the dupe-ernatural, as I like to call it. Blind faith is not an intellectually tenable position.


  1. CB, what's Darwin got to do with Atheism? All he did was point out how reality works, no one (other than him) knew what he really believed on theological matters.

    I think its fair to say that Darwin removed the basis for the grand teleological argument that religious and "spiritual" people often cling to; regardless of Darwin though that argument has always been flawed since it has it's foundation in ignorance.

  2. Steve: I never said he was an atheist, but he is in the holy trinity of people we atheists revere, which was what I meant. Additionally, he did have doubts over the bible, which strained his relationship with his wife, who was devout.

  3. Is this religious week with you Chairman?
    Has a golden shaft of light shone over the caravan and turned you?
    I'm slightly concerned!

  4. Cots: No - just having a go at my favourite Aunt Sally.

  5. I sometimes wonder whether in centuries past people were as religious as we think they were. I think they just went to church because they were supposed to and it was unthinkable not to, especially if you were middle class or, to go right back, a serf...Perhaps agnosticism isn't as modern as we think

  6. CB, ok I agree and I revere him too, not because I'm an atheist so much as because his idea was a such a brilliant one.

    One problem with (strongly) linking Darwin with atheism IMO is that is prevents religiously indoctrinated people with an interest in reality from looking at the facts of evolution, which is a shame because it's awe inspiring. Like the lady on your blog the other day who said she couldn't see how we could have complex bodies and things like eyes etc. without God, if she studied evolution she would learn precisely how etc.