If I believed in a God, I would be thanking Him now for sending me a sign. In yesterday’s newspaper arrived a story to rekindle my atheism.
Just when my disbelief was flagging — not for want of certainty but out of weariness with banging on — comes a report that energises me with anger. The relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux, a 19th-century Roman Catholic nun, have arrived in Britain for a month-long tour of England and Wales.
What? And we’re reporting this deadpan — and not in the Wacky World pages of light magazines? “Organisers said that the arrival of the casket, containing pieces of her thigh and foot bones, was likely to attract hundreds of thousands of pilgrims.” I’m sorry: “pilgrims”? Isn’t the word “dupes”? Does balanced reporting require neutrality even towards the self-evidently preposterous? Would a conference of the Flat Earth Society get giggle-free treatment on the news?
The faithful will apparently be bringing roses, to be blessed by proximity to the bones. According to the BBC, the relics are thought to possess supernatural powers to promote reconciliation and were taken to Iraq; but it didn’t work. The casket will be visiting “28 centres of prayer”, including many Roman Catholic cathedrals. How can bishops sanction this paganistic nonsense? I had been wondering whether Richard Dawkins’s critics were right to complain that his atheism was intolerant; whether we atheists were wrong to rage with such certitude about what is really only an absence of belief. But these relics have performed a miracle: they have re-inspired in me a fiery conviction. We non-believers must rage, insist, proclaim
For pity’s sake, closet atheists of Britain, come out! Don’t “respect” this credulous folly! Don’t let the madnesses of these faith minorities go by default! Stop our politicians kowtowing to nutters! Cease the embarrassed muttering about being “don’t knows” on religion, and shout it out. We do know! It isn’t true! All that is necessary for the triumph of religion is that disbelievers should do nothing. God speed to this ludicrous casket of bones; they have reminded me of an eternal truth: agnosticism is not enough.
quedula says:- But is this all that surprising? Consider the superstitious beliefs that are credited with religious 'respectability' everyday. In the mass, the fundamental rite of the Christian Church, the faithful are invited to pretend that biscuit and wine represent the body and blood of a largely imaginary figure purportedly done to death 2100 years ago.
See also "Degrees of Superstition".