John Humphrys in search of God

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10 Responses

  1. Margaret Nelson says:

    … my reaction to hearing Williams waffling on. He’s so vague it’s like drowning in custard.

    I don’t understand why Humphrys wants to believe. You either believe, or you don’t. Has he said what advantages being a believer could offer? Couldn’t be bothered to listen long enough to find out.

    • Stan Beanland says:

      I know what you mean about the waffle, but I find it amazing how these guys spin a web of belief using words in a way that would put a Labour spin-doctor to shame. I think, and hope that Humphrys is using the notion of wanting to believe to tease some sort of sense out of the Arch-Bishop, and perhaps emulate the wavering agnostic listener, if so it didn’t work. I did endure the whole broadcast and even laughed out loud twice at the sheer lunacy of some of the circular ‘logic’. But maybe you were right to switch off as I did not hear one shred of evidence to convince me there was any advantage in belief. in the interest of balance I suppose I should listen to the Jew and Muslim but where is the Humanist?

  2. Margaret says:

    … he could have saved himself the bother and asked us. As Dawkins says, we can be pretty sure there isn’t one. Douglas Adams expressed it so well:

    I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me, “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian beaver cheese is equally valid” – then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such as thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’ve got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

    • Nathan Nelson says:

      Who was Humphrys going to ask for a Humanist viewpoint? The challenge he was laying down in the program was for Rowan Williams to make any sense at all, which he unsurprisingly fluffed. Who is the Humanist equivalent of Rowan Williams? And isn’t the point that there isn’t one? Instead, people are required to do their own research and come to their own conclusions. Or do Humanists need to provide people with a guidebook?

      “So You Don’t Believe in God – What Now?” – available at all good bookshops.

      • Stan Beanland says:

        Perhaps I should have followed Margaret’s lead and hit the off button (see posting above 02/11/2006). Having ‘stuck with it’ and just listened to the third of these three programmes I do however detect a common thread. All the religious leaders listen politely to Humphrys and usually after a Godly pause ask themselves a different question and one they feel better able to answer. No change then to Humphrys day job.

        A rather pointless exercise in the end. However if any of you are having trouble sleeping at nights you could try the extended versions of the original broadcast.

  3. MarkAaron says:

    I think it’s important that Humanism doesn’t appear as militant in it’s zealous pursuit of anti-religion. John Humphries statement that he ‘wants to believe’, merely reflects the ability within us all to require answers and to want to experience a sense of numinous.
    For me, humanism is firstly about tolerance and secondly that their is a constructive and wholesome life without god and without the indifferences that religion promotes.
    I like the quote posted attributed to Douglas Adams.
    Regarding the last post about ‘who is the humanist equivalent of Roman Williams?’, I’d argue that humanism doesn’t need heroes, as this would enshrine the cult of personality above merit.

    • Margaret says:

      Sorry Mark, but I don’t think we all “want to experience a sense of [the] numinous”. The OED definition is ” adjective – having a strong religious or spiritual quality” from the Latin “numen”, meaning “a spirit or deity that presides over a place”. That’s too spooky for me.

      There’s been a lot of debate about the use of the term spiritual or spirituality in relation to Humanism in the past, particularly with reference to “spiritual development in education” – a BHA briefing produced a few years ago in response to the Christians’ apparent claim to the word/s. The DES’s guidance on this area of the curriculum included the following definition: “SPIRITUAL: The spiritual area is concerned with the awareness a person has of those elements in existence and experience which may be defined as inner feelings and beliefs; they affect the way that people see themselves and throw light on the purpose and meaning of life itself.” This definition was quoted in one RE syllabus with a comment that began, “For some people this awareness relates to God…” I have a problem with the “purpose and meaning of life” part. Religionists interpret this as meaning that our purpose is already established.

      I did a thought for the day on The Meaning of Life in 1996, which included, “If you define meaning as purpose, as in ‘What’s the purpose of your life?’, you might get an answer like, ‘To make the world a better place’, which is the sort of thing that beauty queens used to say. The poet Keats wrote of a fieldmouse, ‘The creature hath a purpose and its eyes are bright with it.’ The fieldmouse’s purpose is staying alive to pass its genes on to the next generation, to go on living. ” To read the whole thing you can download the collected thoughts from the Thought for the Day page.

      The Adams quote is from an interview he gave to The American Atheist magazine which is included in The Salmon of Doubt, a collection of his work and other stuff, published posthumously.

      Humanism needs heroes, in the sense that it needs role models. The BHA produced a collection of information sheets for use in schools a few years back, called Key Figures in Humanism, 500 BCE – 2000 CE. It includes Protagoras, Epicurus, Mary Wollstonecraft, Marie Curie, Charles Darwin, Jawaharlal Nehru and Gene Roddenberry, amongst others. I often refer to it.

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