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In the post-Christian West, it is an article of secular faith that religion and reason repel each other like magnetic poles. Religion, it is said, is not rational and reason cannot embrace anything that lies outside materialist explanation.

In recent years, this disdain for religion has grown into a virulent animus, not least in response to the Islamic jihad that poses a mortal threat to life and liberty from a religious fanaticism that would bomb us back to the seventh century. 

Illustration by Lara Harwood 

By contrast, the West is perceived to embody reason, science, modernity, liberty, equality, tolerance and human rights — all of which, it is assumed by many, are evidence of the benefits of secularism and stand as a rebuke to God and all his doctrines.

It is therefore odd that the great ideologies which currently consume the West — such as man-made global warming, scientism (the belief that science alone can explain the world), anti-Americanism and hostility to the state of Israel — all share characteristics of religious belief such as dogmatism, intolerance and evangelical fervour. 

Even odder, they all display specifically Christian motifs of sin, guilt and redemption. Odder still, they all exhibit features of the millennarian apocalyptic beliefs associated with medieval Christianity, the pre-modern world and Islam throughout the ages.

Millennarianism is a religious belief in the perfectibility of mankind and life on earth through the collective redemption of sin. Contemporary secular ideologies identify the sins committed by humanity — oppression of Third World peoples, despoliation of nature, bigotry, poverty, war — and offer redemption and salvation by a return to the path of righteousness. 

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martin rabson
August 12th, 2010
2:08 PM
Haven't you fence sitters heard of punctuation, you may well have interesting ideas, but huge contiguous blocks of text are impossible to read with anything less than 20/20 vision? Do you always just rush headlong to the Post Comment or send button, without reading or editing your thoughts? Writing workshops for the lot of you! Now I'm hoping that the forum software doesn't strip the punctuation from this rant!

D Sutherland
May 28th, 2010
12:05 PM
As usual, Phillips doesn't even understand the basics of the issue: It's not Religion vs. Reason, it is FAITH vs. reason. Of course it is possible to reason incorrectly - but errors in reasoning can be discovered and corrected. "Faith", on the other hand, is belief without recourse to reason - you simply "believe" that something is true regardless of reason. In that case there is NO mechanism for checking for errors or correcting them: You can't reason someone out of a position that reasoning didn't get them in to.

Jan O'Reilly
May 16th, 2010
10:05 PM
I think Melanie makes some interesting points even if she has an extremely drab writing style. I thank her, however, for being one of the few rational writers in the media today and for representing the indigenous people of England.

G. Hunter
May 14th, 2010
5:05 PM
Is any of this true? In the broad sense that some facts do correspond to some of her statements, Melanie may have a some valid points. The vilification aimed at Israel, big business and climate change deniers often comes from an angry left-wing type who needs an unjust ruling class to rebel against, a powerful bogey-man who can be contrasted with the unmitigated good spread through reason and tolerance. However much of the "left wing intelligentsia" worth reading is far closer to Orwell than George Galloway and the kind of evangelical progressive secular rationalist caricature Melanie paints is no more accurate than the one she criticizes them for inventing to attack "heretics". The fact that reading this article could only ever disgust and anger anyone it is aimed at or confirm the smug righteousness of people who agree with it is evidence enough of how pointless it is. I am somewhere in between the position Melanie criticizes and the position she herself holds (I admire both Burke and Marx; I can understand why the west has self-hating voices whilst completely endorsing 'western' values ). Anyone who feels no need to take sides in the 'culture war' will find themselves unmoved and irritated by this trite article. I wonder if Melanie realises this and I wonder if she even cares.

May 8th, 2010
10:05 AM
One of the main expressions of irrationality in 2010 is the completely irrational hysterical response to Barack Obama as the USA President. Apparently one in four people believe that he is the "anti-christ", whatever that could possibly be. Of course such people would all be on the right side of the culture wars. And the Tea Party movement too which is energized by emotionally manipulative button words--words which do not in any way refer to anything real, either about Obama or the changes which he wants to make to the USA body politic.

May 5th, 2010
11:05 AM
The kind of religion that Melanie and all of those on the right of the culture wars, promote is only the most superficial and factional and most often dim-minded and perverse expression of ancient national and tribalistic power and control seeking cultism, or the competing factionalisms of the "great religions" (which are nothing more than the historically dominant cults). And at last and inevitably, the ancient exoteric rulerships have failed, and "official" (once power dominant) exoteric Christianity, along with all the other "great world religions", is now reduced to all the impenetrable illusions and decadent exercises that everywhere characterize privileged aristocracies in their decline from worldly power. Christianity is now nothing more than a chaos of power seeking corporate cults and Barnumesque propagandists (in funny hats and clothes, permeated by the stench of "holiness") that "rule" nothing more than the chaotic herds of deluded consumerist religionists seeking nothing more than consolation. Therefore, the myth of the "cultural superiority" of "official" Christianity, and of even all merely exoteric religions, has now come first circle. The "religious" mythologies of the inherently totalitarian power and control seeking semitic religions (in particular) are not only now WAGING GLOBAL WARS with one another, like so many psychotic inmates of asylums for the mad, each confronting the other with obnoxious exclusive claims of personal absoluteness. And the public masses of religion-bound people -- who, all over the world, for even thousands of years, have been controlled in body and mind by ancient institutions of "religiously" propagandized worldly power -- are now in a globalized state of grossly bound "religious" delusion and social psychosis. Such is the "religion" that Melanie proposes and defends.

terence patrick hewett
April 30th, 2010
5:04 PM
It may be instructive to consider why atheist thought appears to be resolutely buried in the 19th century. The atheist world is a world that is described by the Classical Physics of Isaac Newton (Principia Mathematica 1687), the equations of James Maxwell (A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism 1873) and Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection 1859). These ideas, their precursors, their extrapolations and their interpretations have been repeatedly turned over during the last 120 years by such luminaries as Wells, Huxley, Chesterton, Belloc and many, many; oh so many others. Although both Newton and Maxwell are mathematically derived, they and Darwin may be easily understood by the non-mathematical given a bit of perseverance; Newton can be understood by using readily observed everyday phenomena. They are all empirically deduced and accepted. That is, until the apple cart was well and truly upset by Albert Einstein's theories of Special Relativity (1905) and General Relativity (1915). To add insult to injury, a pair of corner boys called Erwin Schrödinger and Niels Bohr proceeded to smash up the cart and kick everything into the ditch. The implications of Relativity which deals with the extremely large, and Quantum Physics which deals with the sub-atomic, are unlike Classical Mechanics, and not easily understood. To us, who exist in a world proscribed by Classical Physics, they are counter-intuitive and are only really understood in mathematical terms. We enter strange, sometimes multi-dimensional worlds where gravity, mass and time do odd things or may not exist at all; we have to question the very nature of time itself. Interestingly it is religion, whose stock in trade is the contemplation of the infinite, who have adapted most readily to this. Atheism has chosen either to misinterpret or in the case of Quantum Physics to ignore it. All it has produced is Moral Relativism, a misinterpretation of Relativity which distressed Einstein intensely; regretfully Darwin is similarly being misapplied. Justifying the existence or the non-existence of God is not the business of science; physicists, if they think about it at all, simply regard it all as not proven. However they would be dishonest if they didn't admit that the ultimate objective is to know all there is to know; in other words, to know the mind of God (literally or figuratively). The sum of human knowledge so far, is a grain of sand in a desert of sand; and given that Quantum Mechanics, Classical Mechanics and Relativity do not equate with each other, everything is up for grabs. Darwin gives no explanation of Quantum Physics but Quantum Physics is starting to explain Darwin; Google "why does matter exist" and have a jolly good time. The survival of the human race demands we keep our eyes firmly on the Cosmos, and atheism although a perfectly respectable intellectual position, (although Huxley maintains that only for agnosticism), is notable for its low expectations of humanity and the poverty of its ambitions.

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