Religions, ideologies and remembrance

Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury 



Justin Welby has made his views clear on a wide range of subjects - food banks, same-sex marriage, matters to do with taxation, and many more. He has claimed that the European Union ranks as 'the greatest achievement “since the fall of the western Roman Empire” in the fifth century.


What are his views on non-Christians and the Christian doctrine of redemption and salvation? He gave the sermon at the service at Westminster Abbey on 11 November, 2018. What are his views on the war dead who were commemorated? What kind of consolation can he offer?


'Bishop Welby is regarded by observers as being on the evangelical wing of the Church, closely adhering to traditional interpretations of the Bible ... ' according to the BBC report at the time of his appointment,


Evangelicals in the Church of England don't have identical views on doctrine. Church Society states the views held by many, many Conservative Evangelicals within the Church of England. Extracts from the Church Society Website,


Which of the claims on this particular page does Justin Welby accept and which does he reject? Does he accept these claims, for example, or reject them unreservedly?


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)


 'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51)


'The biblical way of salvation has often been attacked over the centuries, however it is stated clearly in the 39 Articles of the Church of England:


Article 6: Of the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation.

Article 1: Faith in the Holy Trinity

Article 9: Of Original or Birth-sin

Article 2: The Word, or Son of God, who became truly man

Article 4: The resurrection of Christ

Article 11: Of the Justification of Man


 Which of the 39 Articles of the Church of England does Justin Welby accept and which does he reject?


Anglicans who don't believe in hellfire presumably believe that being a Christian does make a difference. They can - should - explain what difference it does make. What are the disadvantages to those who don't believe that the birth of Jesus is at all relevant to them, or who have never given any thought to the matter?


The Labour Party of this country has members with very varied views and has often been described as a broad Church. A less broad, much narrower Labour Party would be much more preferable. A Labour Party without members who are doctrinal anti-Semites would be a vast improvement.


A less broad, much narrower Church of England would be a vast improvement - a Church of England without members who believe that only those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour will be spared hellfire.


The breakup of the Church of England would be a momentous event, one which is unlikely to happen, of course- but I hope that the dispensers of amiable platitudes (there are Anglicans who have more to offer, of course) become increasingly uncomfortable about belonging to the same Church as the preachers of God's wrath against unredeemed sinners - who include devoted parents, holders of the Victoria Cross, scientists, surgeons, engineers, the vast numbers who haven't accepted the Gospel message.



Remembrance Sunday and the Church


The Commonwealth War Graves Commission. A Jewish headstone and two Christian headstones.

'The Church' is specifically the Church of England, which has a special status in Remembrance Day commemorations. The Church of England's present role in the commemorations is indefensible, I argue. I begin with an objection based on a clear-cut principle and then give an objection of wider scope.

The work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission is  beyond praise. At the cemeteries of the Commission I've visited in  Belgium and France, I've experienced the immense dignity and calm of these places, the sobering and harrowing impact of these places. Each marked grave has a headstone, which has a national emblem or regimental badge, and the rank, name, unit, date of death and age of each casualty, with a personal dedication chosen by relatives. The headstone includes a religious symbol, but not in the case of known atheists. In the vast majority of cases the symbol is the Christian cross, but  not for followers of other religions, such as the Jewish man whose headstone is shown above,  Of course, the fact that a headstone has the Christian cross is no evidence that the man who gave his life was a believing Christian. When asked 'What religion are you?' it was usual to answer 'C of E,' Church of England.

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission didn't assume, then, that everyone who made this sacrifice was a Christian and has made an attempt to distinguish between Christian - at least nominal Christians - and believers in other religions, or nominal believers in other religions, as well as people who clearly had no religious beliefs.


The Lions of the Great War statue in Smethwick, Birmingham (which was vandalised just days after it was unveiled) is one of a number of similar monuments. The statue shows a Sikh soldier. Birmingham City Council: the statue 'honours the sacrifices made by South Asian service personnel of all faiths from the Indian subcontinent who fought for Britain in the First World War and subsequent conflicts.'

But in services throughout the country, on remembrance Sunday, not the least attempt is made to distinguish between Christians and non-Christians. When those present are expected to give the responses, what are people who disagree with Christian theology or who have no interest in it to do? What are followers of other religions, Sikhs, Jews or others to do? Stay silent? Mumble insincerely? Asking people or expecting people to show belief when they have no belief shouldn't possibly be expected. The Church of England may have its reasons for expecting people to take part in a Christian service even when they have no belief in Christianity, or to become silent witnesses in these parts of the commemorations, by far the larger part of the commemorations, in general. This is a marginal institution now, and so it may well try to maintain any influence it has, such as this influence over the people gathered to remember the fallen.

This is an Order of Service for Remembrance Sunday:

It contains this:

' ... through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer'

and this bit of Trinitarian theology:
And the blessing of God Almighty,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with you all
and remain with you always.'

What are the Unitarians, the Jews, the Moslems, the agnostics and the atheists who are present to make of this? Is this an event they can witness and take part in wholeheartedly?

Any Anglicans present who are Conservative Evangelicals will have a their own interpretation of the words, 'through Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.' For them, anyone who rejects the risen Redeemer has no hope of salvation. In the past, Christianity was a hellfire religion, almost completely so. That influence has waned, but not nearly so much amongst Conservative Evangelicals. The Jews and the atheists who are buried in the graves of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission are excluded from salvation. They didn't accept 'Jesus Christ our risen Redeemer.' The status of the nominal Church of England members and the Roman Catholics is presumably much the same. I'm very familiar with the repulsive theology but even so, I'll be asking for clarification from Conservative Evangelicals and others. More on evangelical views in the columns to the right, including the column which contains material on Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

If, as I argue, Services of Remembrance on Remembrance Sunday - the ones held in the open air, attended by members of the public with widely varying views on religion, not, of course, the services held in Churches - are indefensible in their present form, what can replace them? This involves difficulties, but they can be addressed. There can be continuity with the past. Very often, a band takes part in the event and I see no objection to the continuing playing of such resonant pieces as 'O God our help in ages past' and 'Abide with me,' but without the words. 'Nimrod,' from Elgar's Enigma Variations, is often played at Remembrance Sunday events and, of course, has no words, only its intense beauty.


Alternatively, a choir could be present to sing the words of a hymn- just so long as the public isn't expected to sing the words as well. The music is far more important than the words to all but committed Christians, and often, far more important to committed Christians as well.


 In the Christmas season, I've listened to carols very, very often - the very popular carols and such carols as 'In dulci jubilo,' 'Es ist ein Ros ensprungen' and 'Adam lay y-bounden.' And, of course, Bach's Christmas Oratorio. Again, the music is far more important than the words to most people.


Remembrance Day commemorations without the involvement of the Church of England would be shorter than before, but the commemorations could be extended. Consideration could be given to commemorating the service of men and women in the British Armed Forces directly after the commemoration of those who fell in previous conflicts. At present, Armed Forces Day is held in late June. Moving these event from June to Remembrance Sunday would make sense. Very often, members of the armed forces attend Remembrance Sunday events and they would obviously take part in the events to commemorate the service of present day members. The general public would be free to attend the earlier part, the commemoration of the fallen or the later part, the commemoration of the present day Armed Forces, or both parts.


A replacement for the present Remembrance Sunday services (again, the ones attended by the general public, not the ones in Churches) is essential, overdue. On November 11 of this year, I attended a Remembrance Sunday service in a nearby park, a smaller event than the one I usually attend, in Sheffield city centre. As always, I found the religiosity dispiriting, but this year more than ever. In this year which marked the centenary of the ending of the First World War, there had been the chance to find out so much more about the soldiers, sailors and airmen who took part in this war, but for most of the time, the stress was not upon human life but upon theology and ecclesiastical generalities. Not in evidence at all was any recognition of complexities, of harshness, the realities which historians have probed. The achievement of historians who have written about the First World War deserves to be much more widely recognized. Their achievement is on a very high level, so often - magnificent. A Remembrance Day event isn't a suitable venue for exploring these complexities, but a Remembrance Day event isn't the place for a clergyman to give his own partial interpretation of historical events, presenting it as obvious or indisputable fact.


This is what the clergyman did at the event I attended. In his address, he claimed that when the guns fell silent, peace had replaced war. This is perfectly true. Peace did replace war, for the time being. But he also claimed that hope had replaced 'futility.' This is surely the claim that the First World War had been a futile war. Many historians have contested this claim and have given arguments and evidence that the claim is mistaken.


In the booklet which gives the format of the service and the text which forms the main component of the service, the words of the Reverend Canon are often followed by the response expected of the public: in bold print.


Examples from the booklet:


After each prayer the following being [sic - insufficient care was given to proof-reading] will be used.


Officiant  Lord, in your mercy.
All          hear our prayer  


So, people at the commemoration who never pray are expected to make an exception now and to offer a prayer, with the expectation that God will hear the prayer? 




Officiant  Will you seek to heal the wounds of war?
All          We will.


The officiant, like most of those attending, or perhaps all of them, has no way of healing the wounds of war.


Officiant  Will you work for a just future for all humanity?
All  We will.


  Any idea that injustices in vile, corrupt states - or injustices in liberal, enlightened states can be ended, so that all humanity has a just future, is utopian, impossible, deluded. Any idea that people attending the service should be expected to give assent to the notion is ridiculous.


The service included five 'Regimental Collects,' not delivered by the officiant. This is the first of them, the prayer for the York and Lancaster Regiment (the mangled opening is another instance of poor proof-reading:


'Almighty God who cans't save by many or by few and dost bid us to endure to the end that we might be saved, strengthen we pray thee, The York and Lancaster Regiment, that, as our perseverance has not been found wanting in battle, so we may be blessed in enduring all temptations, and at length, receive the crown of life, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All  Amen.


This is a prayer which amongst other things asks God to strengthen The York and Lancaster Regiment. Our national defences are badly in need of strengthening. There are insufficient recruits, there's insufficient funding, the armed forces aren't given the resources to meet the very serious challenges they face. National defences are strengthened by well-known means, finding more recruits (recently, the decision has been taken to find recruits from other countries) by changes to the national finances, and the rest. Is it worth asking God to strengthen the national defences? Surely not, and it's no more worthwhile to ask God to strengthen the York and Lancaster Regiment.


The Collect makes clear reference to the Christian doctrine of salvation: ' ... that we might be saved.' This is an aspect of Christian doctrine which I've discussed in other places. Which people, according to the officiant, according to Justin Welby, to name just two people, are saved? What are the criteria? The evangelical answer is that very restrictive. The saved are far fewer in number than the damned.


I do, though, commend the last paragraph of the text in the booklet and specifically the last sentence:


'Lest we forget. The First World War came to an end at 11 am on 11th November 1918. The Second World War ended on 8th May (Europe) and 15th August 1945 (Far East.) Let us also remember all the members of the British Forces who are currently deployed in operations, world-wide.


As I've explained, a dual commemoration, of the present-day service of the British armed forces after a commemoration of those who have fallen in war, seems to me to be a promising development.


Not all the prayers used in the service are given in the booklet. There was, for example, a prayer for our political leaders, asking God to grant them 'wisdom.' Will our political system be strengthened in the least by asking God to grant wisdom to Theresa May (who is a Christian.) Would it help Jeremy Corbyn if prayers are offered to God to grant him wisdom as well? The complexities and realities of politics are far away in this mechanical, routine exercise of prayer and response. To expect the public to take part in the charade is nonsensical.


The Church of England may well expect, or hope, that some of the people who attend a Remembrance Day service and who aren't church goers will go on to become church goers. It would be unfair to claim that this would be the primary motivation of the Church. In individual cases, this may happen, but far more likely is this outcome: people who attend who have lost a relative in a war, people who have a more general interest in the enormity of the major conflicts, the enormity of the losses, the devastating effects of much smaller conflicts, will be dismayed and deterred by the nature of the service, led by the clergy, with public activity confined to the responses to the prayers of the clergy, the saying of the Lord's Prayer, and, of course, the singing of hymns. This is an utterly inadequate way to respond to the upsurge in public interest occasioned by this Centenary.

The Menin Gate Memorial at Ieper / Ypres recording the names of 54 389 officers and men from United Kingdom and Commonwealth Forces who died in the Ypres salient before 16 August 1917 and who have no known grave.


The Conservative Evangelical attitude to most of the names here is utterly repulsive, unless these Conservative Evangelicals happen to believe that there's no penalty at all attached to disbelief in Jesus Christ as Redeemer or lack of interest in Jesus Christ as Redeemer. Meanwhile, more liberal Anglicans can try explaining what possible disadvantages there can be to being a Jew or an agnostic or an atheist.

Of course, not all deluded beliefs are Christian beliefs. There are so many outstanding Christians, including outstanding  evangelicals, and so many unimpressive non-Christians. Much as I dislike evangelical beliefs, I dislike - loathe - the view that wearing a poppy amounts to a 'glorification of war.'




Why the Christian God didn't love the world



For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' John 3: 16 (World English Bible).


Were there two kinds of slaves who were flogged in the American slave-owning states before the abolition of slavery (one of them is shown here, after a flogging), the ones who  accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, the ones whose sins were forgiven, the ones who did not perish but  have  eternal life? And the slaves who were flogged - they may well include the slave shown here - who never gave much thought to Jesus or any thought to Jesus. They were too preoccupied with other matters - enduring back-breaking work, enduring another flogging, or the prospect of being parted from husband or wife or children, as could easily happen if members of the same family were sold to a now master (or mistress.)

Were there two kinds of slave-owners? The slave-owners  who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savour, the ones whose sins were forgiven, such as the sin of flogging slaves, who did not perish but have eternal life - and the slave owners whose sins were unforgiven, like the slaves who for one reason or another never made the all-important decision - to accept Jesus Christ as their saviour.


Of the three people shown here  a slave owner and her two slaves, which of them, if any, went on to 'eternal life?'


To suppose that it was obviously the two slaves, not the slave owner, is to ignore the 'teaching' of the Bible and the 'teaching' of the Church - although the interpretation of the Bible and the guidance of the Church are the subject of discussion, dispute and action - the 'action' includes, of course, in the past, burning at the stake - but there's the inconvenient insistence that Christ came to save sinners, including, of course, the woman slave owner here. 'On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners." ' (The Gospel of St Mark, 2:17.)

An illustration, not of God's redeeming work or the Gospel in action, but of a practice which is a decisive objection to the Christian view.

Until the abolition of child labour, for so many, childhood, and youth, was the time for back-breaking work in almost complete darkness, youth was the season for hauling almost impossible loads, for inhaling coal dust, for risking crushing, drowning in the underground waters, and for being torn limb from limb.


Christianity makes human sin (a form of human error) responsible for a vast amount of human misery. In the past, human sin was often supposed to be responsible for earthquakes, but present-day Christians are far less likely to believe in that, more likely to believe in the scientific explanations for earthquakes, in this case, seismology. Traditional Christianity gave explanations for the occurrence of coal seams and copper ore - 'In the beginning, God created Heaven and earth.'  Science gives explanations for the occurrence of coal seams and copper ore too. The traditional Christian explanation leaves us wondering why the coal seams and the copper ore should have been placed in such a way as to require back-breaking, dangerous work to make use of them.


Were there two categories of child labourers in the coal mines - the ones who accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, and the ones who may have heard about Jesus at Sunday School, if they ever attended Sunday School, but who gave no further thought to  the salvation of their souls, being too preoccupied with the horrors of life underground?

Are there two categories of loving mothers and loving fathers, the ones who  never qualified for eternal life, and the ones who did meet the Christian criteria?

Are there two categories of builders and other skilled trades - including the builders and others who have built churches  - plasterers, roofers, scaffolders - and two categories of architect, structural engineer and mechanical engineer - without whose work people would be living in the open or in crude shelters - the believers in God's 'one and only son' and the rest, the majority, deprived of 'eternal life?'

Justification by faith and justification by works are too very different positions in Christian theology. In that chaotic work 'The Bible' there's support for 'justification by works' in  the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats: good deeds are the way to salvation, not so much belief in the saviour. Given the hideous complexities of reality, even an omnipotent God would surely be unable to direct people to the grossly simplified alternative of 'sheep' or 'goat.'


When God takes into account the competing claims of Bible-reading, praying to Himself, attendance at Church services, eliminating the agents of Satan, eliminating witches, engineering work to provide safe drinking water, bacteriological advances to identify and reduce the risk of pathological bacteria, advancing pure mathematics, furthering enlightened administration, overcoming or failing to overcome a hideous childhood, how does he decide to award the coveted status: 'Worthy of eternal life?'


From my page on the death penalty:


'Chronically psychotic and brain damaged, Johnny Garrett had a long history of mental illness and was severely physically and sexually abused as a child, which the jury never knew. He was described by a psychiatrist as "one of the most psychiatrically impaired inmates" she had ever examined, and by a psychologist as having "one of the most virulent histories of abuse and neglect... encountered in over 28 years of practice". Garrett was frequently beaten by his father and stepfathers. On one occasion, when he would not stop crying, he was put on the burner of a hot stove, and retained the burn scars until his death. He was raped by a stepfather who then hired him to another man for sex. It was also reported that from the age of 14 he was forced to perform bizarre sexual acts and participate in pornographic films. Introduced to alcohol by his family when he was 10, he subsequently indulged in serious substance abuse involving brain-damaging substances such as paint, thinner and amphetamines. The US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld a state court finding that his belief that his dead aunt would protect him from the chemicals used in the lethal injection did not render him incompetent to be executed (for a murder committed when he was aged 17.')

Did God decide that Johnny Garrett deserved to be included with the sheep or the goats? Were his good works sufficient for him to be included with the sheep?  According to the alternative criterion, did God decide that Johnny Garrett should not perish but have everlasting life, since he'd accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Lord and Saviour? Very unlikely.

What of his executioner, the one who pressed the button to end his life? Was this a good act or a bad act, was the executioner a sheep or a goat? Or, alternatively, according to a contradictory aspect of Christian theology, was the executioner someone who believed in Christ or not?

Eternal damnation isn't stressed nearly as much in Christian circles now, but every Christmas, Christians - the ordained in fancy dress at the King's College Christmas eve service and the less lucky ones in city churches vandalised every so often - insist that being a Christian gives certain advantages. What advantages, exactly? Are there long-term consequences (well short of eternal hellfire, of course) for non-believers, the ones too busy to believe or to investigate the advantages of belief, the ones too chronically abused to believe or to investigate the advantages of belief, and all the others who fail the test?


The Church of England is a 'broad Church,'  including believers in the main doctrines recognized by soteriologists (specialists in the ludicrous field of salvation theory. Meanwhile, other patient investigators and recorders toil in nearby unfruitful soils, such as patrologists, ecclesiologists and Christologists.)  There are believers in hellfire and damnation (even if the realities are portrayed more tactfully.) Damnation is for everyone except people who have accepted Jesus Christ as their 'personal lord and saviour (most Evangelicals). There are believers in hellfire and damnation for everyone whose good works aren't of the required standard (including many Anglo-Catholics). There are believers in Hell who believe that there's nobody in Hell, since God will forgive all sinners. There are believers in Heaven for everybody, including Hitler.  And, of course, Anglicans whose Anglicanism is difficult to tell apart from agnosticism or atheism - but they leave room for vague feelings that there's Something More to Life, Something Spiritual, in fact.


On this page, and in many places on this site, there's a distinctive approach to humanitarianism and harshness which is very different from all these Christian perspectives. An image above shows a child labourer in a coal mine. This is a poem of mine on the same subject, one of the poems on my page Poems. (The page also includes a poem, 'Mill' on child labour during the industrial revolution.) Some of the poems are 'concrete poems,' where the words form a visual design. Here, the words don't form a visual design but are placed in a visual design, the vertical shaft of the coal mine to the left, with horizontals to the right, the tunnels where the words are placed. These 'word tunnels' are about the tunnels in the hard, harsh, dangerous material world. Chapter Two of George Orwell's 'The Road to Wigan Pier' is an unforgettable account of the immense dangers of coal mining at a time when the dangers had been reduced by technological advance. In previous centuries, the dangers were even worse - far worse. Liberal Anglicans, Evangelical Anglicans, Anglo-Catholic Anglicans, other Christians, and others,  would do well to read his account. 



And a poem about an aspect of life during the Industrial Revolution, which caused so much suffering but which has relieved so much more suffering.







Remembrance Sunday and the Church (2nd column)

Why the Christian God didn't love the world (3rd column)
 Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury (4th column)
Religious stupidity and non-religious stupidity
     Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral
     George Pitcher

Aphorisms: religion and ideology
What is an ideology?

See also the pages            

Ethics: theory and practice

Nietzsche: against

Nietzsche is an opponent of pity as well as Christianity. In my page on Nietzsche I defend humanitarian values and criticize some of the delusions, distortions and falsifications of Nietzsche - from a non-Christian perspective.

This page contains material which is the most recent on the site. It will be revised and extended.

The page uses Large Page Design - it's wide as well as long. It can't be viewed adequately on a very small screen, such as the screen of a portable device.


Threats to the mind aren't important to many people. If beliefs are deluded but the people holding them are 'harmless' (not terrorists, not advocates of indiscriminate violence which threaten the body), then this is of no account. I regard threats to the mind as well as to the body as important, as far from harmless, as threats to be resisted. 'Threats to mind and body:' the phrase is a concise way of expressing the conviction that harmful forces may threaten not just the body, by killing and injuring, but the mind, by threatening free thought and free expression,  artistic expression as well as intellectual expression.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who regard Christianity as the most harmful  force in the world today. In the twentieth century, fascism and Stalinism and other forms of communism completely eclipsed Christianity as a threat to body and mind.

Hume, writing in the 'Treatise concerning Human Understanding: 'Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.'

A partial updating of Hume's view: the errors in religion may be  dangerous but the most dangerous errors come from non-religious ideologies. In the past, the most dangerous errors have been Nazism and Communism, and of communist ideologies,  particularly Stalinist communism.  The other-worldly aspects of religion, the stress upon ritual or correct thinking or a holy book, and all the other varied characteristics of religions, have lessened their capacity for causing harm. The cruelties of Christianity, such as the Inquisition and the cruelties sometimes carried out by Islamists, such as amputation of limbs and stoning to death, have never been on the same scale as the savagery of Nazism and Stalinism, or the atrocities committed by such regimes as those of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who overlook the many, many impressive Christians and followers of other religions. Their assumption that non-religious people must always be superior to religious people could be called childish, but I use the word 'unformed.'

In the twenty-first century, Christianity is negligible as a threat to mind and body whilst the dangers of  Islamism have become obvious, to anyone with any sense, and  {adjustment} is needed to recognize these changing realities. But it isn't enough to recognize the chief threats, there has to be quantification of the threats. Even radical, terror-supporting Islamism is obviously far less of a threat to body than Nazism in the past. Its outrages are horrific but generally localized. No Islamic state or terrorist organization has perpetrated a fraction of the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany, again, despite the horrific atrocities they have inflicted, in  part because  radical Islamism generally seems to be incompatible with highly developed economies, social organizations and scientific and technological expertise.  When an Islamic state is an exception to this - Iran is the prime example now  - then the potential threat to the body is very great. If ISIS did have the power and the resources, then its atrocities would equal those of Nazi Germany.

On this page, I criticize not just the religious but some of their opponents, such as some humanists (supporters of groups such as the British Humanist Association.) To see through some illusions and forms of stupidity is no guarantee that someone will not be subject to other  illusions and forms of stupidity.  Illusion and stupidity aren't evaded too easily. A humanist who can see through the arguments intended to show that the gospel records are largely reliable, that Jesus rose again, that prayer works and is worthwhile (although not, nowadays, that praying for good weather works and is worthwhile), may well be in the grip of delusions more harmful  than any of these.

In various places in this site, I argue against pacifism. A Christian who believes that Jesus rose again may well recognize the harsh realities that make pacifism unworkable and disastrous in some circumstances, may have delusions about prayer but recognize that to defeat Nazi Germany or the Taliban requires practical action. The humanist who airily dismisses the need for action by force of arms in some circumstances is suffering from a more severe form of delusion. The believer's common sense and good sense may be left unaffected by theological illusion.

I criticize the Anglican priest George Pitcher on this page. This is someone whose superficiality should be obvious. He shares the illusions of so many secularists in such practicalities as defence, Islamism, migration and other issues but he has religious illusions as well. They include his incredible belief that the Church of England can still be taken seriously - provided, of course, its Public Relations are conducted in a more sophisticated way, by making full use of social media, for instance. He would like other things to happen as well, things which are unlikely to happen.

The strengths of this age co-exist with stupidities. The stupidities of previous ages were different but often as bad or worse. When Protestant persecuted Catholic and Catholic persecuted Protestant and both Catholic and Protestant persecuted non-believers and believers in other forms of Christianity, tolerance was an overwhelmingly important necessity. Today, tolerance can be stupid and dangerous, as is increasingly recognized. Giving sanctuary to the persecuted is noble but giving sanctuary to the persecuted who would be only too glad to persecute, given the chance, is usually very mistaken. To distinguish between people worthy of a safe haven in a liberal democracy and people who aren't in the least an asset to a liberal democracy, who are a threat to a liberal democracy, may be very difficult, but the attempt has to be made.


But this isn't in general a tolerant age. Political correctness has replaced Christianity as a threat to the mind.

It would be a great mistake to suppose that only religious beliefs which are aggressive or grossly intolerant are dangerous, that religious beliefs which are placid and tolerant can never be  dangerous, or that philosophical beliefs can never be dangerous - with {restriction} of  attention here to physical dangers, the dangers to body. Only a little thought and reflection are needed to realize that Buddhism and Quaker beliefs  (which are peripherally religious) can be  potentially dangerous and actually dangerous. This is for the reason that any set of beliefs, religious or otherwise, which fails to recognize and to act against dangers by giving  support to inaction is itself dangerous. If ruthless militarism is a great danger, so is pacifism in the face of ruthless militarism.


David Hume, the 18th century philosopher, the greatest and most influential of English-speaking philosophers and a very versatile  writer,  was born in Edinburgh, studied at Edinburgh University, was a librarian at Edinburgh University and lived for much of his life in Edinburgh - but he didn't  secure a chair at the university.  Edinburgh ministers petitioned the town council not to give the chair to him on account of his atheistic views.


This is from Richard Wollheim's introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which contains the classic 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other texts, including 'Of Miracles' (Section x, An Enquiry concerning Human Understanding.)

'Looking back upon eighteenth-century Edinburgh, we tend so readily to think of it as bathed in that soft 'Athenian' light, in that glow of radiant liberalism, which distinguished its middle and later years, that we quite forget at how narrow a remove it stood, both in time and place, from fanaticism and intellectual barbarism.'


This was David Hume's attitude to illusion and ignorance and people in the grip of illusion and ignorance:


' ... it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, a propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [the belief that during the Catholic mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the literal body and blood of Christ, without any alteration of appearances] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed ... '


Many, many Catholics and other Christians have been and are not just people of good sense but outstanding, to give just one example, the Christian people who sheltered Jews facing extermination, at enormous risk to themselves. A belief in transubstantiation can co-exist with clear-sighted views - and humane views, as well as great abilities in the sphere of practical action. Many, many secularists, who can see the absurdity of transubstantiation  have views which are ridiculous and stupid.


This isn't in the least a scholarly page, but I can claim knowledge of theological scholarship, including study of the New Testament in Greek, as well as extensive study of wider theological debate and discussion.


It's my policy that any emails I receive, on any issues whatsoever, are regarded as private, and won't be published or mentioned on the site unless I'm given the permission of the sender of the email. So, anyone who is critical of my views on religion (or a particular ideology) is free to contact me by email and the criticism will remain private. I'm also glad to discuss these issues in the public domain (provided I have the time - the Home Page will show that there are many other issues that interest me and concern me.)

Religious stupidity and non-religious stupidity

'For Christianity and all existing creeds Hume had, and always displayed, the greatest contempt: and he used the attribution of orthodoxy as a standard form of abuse. Writing for instance, to his old friend, the Moderate minister, Hugh Blair, Hume referred to the English as 'relapsing fast into the deepest stupidity, Christianity and ignorance.' (From Richard Wollheim's  introduction to 'Hume on Religion,' which includes 'Dialogues concerning Natural Religion' and other essays by David Hume.)

When Hume wrote these words, and for many centuries before, stupidity took the form of Christianity more often than not in this country and the rest of Europe.  In a largely post-Christian age, stupidity more often takes other, secular, forms. Many of the English, and other nations, have relapsed fast into the deepest stupidity and ignorance which are completely unreligious. Even so, the prevalence of Christian stupidity in the United States can't be ignored.

One of the post-Christian stupidities - there are many more - is extreme hedonistic stupidity. A sticker seen on a car near here: 'If it's not fun, don't do it.' (The temptation was strong to go home, print out a large poster  and stick it on one of the car doors, the poster containing just these words:  'If removing this poster isn't fun, don't remove it.)

'The  sentiment of the sticker is ridiculous, infantile in its view of the world, hopelessly unformed and  mindless. The defence that it's nothing but a little fun in itself won't work. There are many, many people who believe it, believe in it, or something ridiculous and infantile  but less stupidly ridiculous and infantile. If very many people followed it - but that  would be impossible - then societies of any worth would be impossible. These societies would certainly be incapable of defending themselves.

Religious people have included many, many mawkish sentimentalists, but they have often  had a view of the world which is strenuous, which recognizes duties, such as caring for the sick even when the duties involved no gain for the carer, let alone 'fun.' The objections to 'If it's not fun, don't do it' are obvious and include the objection that when people who believe this fall sick, they will be looked after by people with very different views. Secular views, like religious views, may be clueless, secularists, like religious people, may be clueless.

Richard Wollheim, on Hume's attitude to the ignorant: 'He was convinced that the ignorant ... would always have their superstitions: it might be possible to liberate them from this illusion or that, but it would only be replaced by another. 'In a future age,' he wrote, à propos of the doctrine of transubstantiation [to people unfamiliar with the Catholic doctrine, the notion that during the Mass, the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Christ - not symbolically but in actual fact the body and blood of Christ] 'it will probably become difficult to persuade some nations, that any human two-legged creature could ever embrace such principles.' Then with characteristic wryness he added, 'And it is a thousand to one, but these nations themselves shall have something full as absurd in their own creed, to which they will give a most implicit and most religious assent.'

Since Hume wrote, the creeds have usually been of an informal kind. Stupidity has often been too vague-minded for inclusion in a creed. Hume seems not to have anticipated the dangers and stupidity of some non-Christian and post-Christian beliefs, which now dominate our world.


Some of the polemical pages of the site have a large number of profiles. These are pages which are far more extensive than this one, including the page where I give arguments and evidence in defence of Israel. For a time, the page on Israel contained a profile of a Church of England clergyman, an outspoken opponent of Israel. I removed the profile when I found out that he was suffering serious ill health.

For the time being, this page has only two profiles. 

Adrian Dorber, Dean of Lichfield Cathedral

See also my page   Israel, Islamism, Palestisias ideology

The Dean has been heavily criticized for his role in a blatantly biased conference which was suppposed to shed light “on the Israel/Palestine Conflict and the prospect of peace” but which obviously did nothing of the kind. From the graphic account written by David Collier of the conference 'Holding Palestine in the Light,' held at Lichfield Cathedral.   The full account is at

An extract:

... sitting next to me with her hand raised is Mandy Blumenthal. Zionist to the core, Mandy had asked a question of Yossi Meckleberg earlier in the day.  She had wanted to know why Yossi had seemed to imply settlements, rather than Arab rejectionism and violence was a (the?) major stumbling block. This time, with the knowledge that Mandy was a Zionist, the Chair was visibly ignoring Mandy’s raised hand.The Chair was desperately seeking questions from elsewhere in the audience. The questions had dried up. It was a stand-off. Mandy became vocal:

‘why won’t you let me speak?’

‘Because you spoke earlier’ came the reply.

As an answer it did not suffice. Several people had asked more than one question. The situation was absurd. There were no more questions. Only Mandy’s hand remained aloft. There were still 10 minutes left till the end of this session.

Several people became visibly agitated. A member of the audience asked why the chair was ignoring Mandy’s question. Mandy spoke up again:

“Isn’t this a conference, why is only one side allowed to be heard?”

Open confrontation. This was not what the Dean had wanted, he stepped in to soothe the situation and offered Mandy Blumenthal the microphone. Yet as he did this and as Mandy stepped up, the Chair led Kamel Hawwash off the stage. The ‘Jew’ question need not be answered. An awful, vile slur. In the end, Hawwash did return but only to claim that Blumenthal had lied.

It was break time again. There were several cries of “shame on you”, but I am not sure to who it was directed.  Someone came straight up to Mandy to apologise. ‘This is my town and I am Christian but that was unacceptable’. ‘I do not know why it happened’. Others started to get involved, some suggested they had not expected this conference to be so one sided. This time as I mingled I was approached by a young activist. He identified himself quite quickly as a ‘BDS supporter’, he did not understand why anyone was upset. I wanted to tell him.

My comment, one of the ones published below David Collier's absorbing and disturbing article:

The Church of England is often regarded as naive, blundering, ineffectual – but some naive, blundering, ineffectual people in the Church can cause real damage. Adrian Dorber, the Dean of Lichfield Cathedral, is one of these. (As I make clear later, I regard generalized criticisms of Anglicans as very unjust.)

 The Bishop of Lichfield claims that he couldn’t have stopped the Conference, but it was naive of him – more than that, a serious blunder – not to have realized that a Conference on this topic would be controversial. He ought to have intervened and made sure that the Conference would be fair-minded and balanced but failed to do that. Justin Welby says that ‘He has no direct authority over the Dean,’ but he’s admitting, in effect, that he, the Archbishop of Canterbury, is sometimes unable or unwilling to do anything about the anti-Israel propaganda which is allowed to go unchallenged far too often in the Church of England.

A sermon preached at St Marks Church, Sheffield in 2014 included this:

‘The Revd Dr Stephen Sizer, who has researched and published broadly in this area, concludes ‘that Christian Zionism is the largest, most controversial and most destructive lobby within Christianity. It bears primary responsibility for perpetuating tensions in the Middle East, justifying Israel’s apartheid colonialist agenda and for undermining the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.’ ‘

What? The intractable problems of the Middle East, the atrocities in the Middle East, largely caused by Christian Zionists? The Revd Stephen Sizer is yet another naive and blundering Anglican, but a particularly dangerous one. He gave a link to an article which claimed that Israel was responsible for the 9 / 11 attack on the World Trade Center!

The Bishop of Guildford acted decisively: he made it clear that Stephen Siver was in danger of losing his job, as reported in 'Thhe Church Times' and other places,

The Bishop of Lichfield needs to take strong action too, but there's an obvious difficulty - he failed to act at a time when he should have acted. If he'd acted, he could have prevented this embarrassing and ridiculous but very harmful series of events.

Let’s keep up the pressure on the Church of England and other organizations which far too often distort and falsify, accusing Israel and failing to examine fair-mindedly the multiple failings of Palestinian society. Above, in the section 'Palestinians: harsh realities,' I quote some findings of the Pew Research Center which give disturbing insights into attitudes in the Palestinian territories.

I posted a comment on David Collier's site and quickly received a reply from Ian G. His reply can be viewed by using the link above. This was my reply to Ian G. It gives further information about these matters.

Thanks so much for your comment, Ian G. I do take issue with some of your claims. Stephen Sizer wasn’t made to resign. It was made clear that he would have to go if he continued to engage in anti-Israel campaigning, as the Bishop of Guildford made clear to me in an email. Stephen Sizer is still at Christ Church, Virginia Water, Surrey. It’s not true that he resigned, and it’s not true that the current Bishop of Lichfield has only been in post for ‘a matter of weeks.’ According to the information I have, he became Bishop on 10 June, 2016. He’s been Bishop for about four months, then. He had ample time to examine very carefully the list of speakers at the Conference and to make representations. At that time, the case of Stephen Sizer was very well known . He should have realized that this conference could cause enormous difficulties for the Church, as it has done. I don’t accept that his power to influence events was so limited or that the Dean had almost unlimited power to do as he wished. Do you claim that if, next month, an event was planned in some diocese which included Stephen Sizer or even a holocaust denier, that the Bishop would be powerless to act? I accept that the Bishop of Lichfield and the Archbishop of Canterbury have spoken out against anti-semitism, but they haven’t so far been nearly as decisive in action as they could have been, given the importance of the issue. You write, ‘The conference was organised at a time when everybody else was very busy doing other things.’ I doubt very much that many of the things that preoccupied them were nearly as important as this. The neglect has had very damaging effects on the reputation of the Church. They should have given up some of their time – a great deal of time – to this very, very important matter. If they were aware of the case of Stephen Sizer, and it would be a grotesque oversight if they weren’t, then they should have regarded this conference as one of their priorities.

Bishops, like so many other people, have their specialities. Michael Ipgrave, the Bishop of Lichfield, has a great interest in the relations between Christians and other religious groups. You'd think, then, that he'd take a very close interest in this conference, where the relations between Christians, Jews and Moslems play an important role.  He was appointed Diocesan Chaplain for relations with people of other faiths in 1992. Later, he became Inter-faith Relations Advisor to the Archbishops' Council and Secretary of the Anglican Church's Commission on Inter-faith Relations. In the 2011 New Year Honours List, he was appointed an OBE 'for services to inter-faith relations in London.' And, he's the author of a book on inter-faith dialogue and has contributed to other publications on inter-faith matters. He was Bishop of Woolwich before he became Bishop of Lichfield.

Despite all this experience, general and specific, he failed comprehensively in this instance. He failed to do what was within his power, he failed to ensure that there was some degree of fairness in this disastrous conference.

President Harry S. Truman had a sign 'The buck stops here' on his desk. Recommended: that the Bishop of Lichfield has the same sign on his desk to remind himself of his responsibility.

It would be a bad mistake to generalize - to suppose that all Anglicans are naive, blundering, ineffectual. My page on Religions and ideologies contains this:

'There are still old-fashioned atheists who regard Christianity as the most harmful  force in the world today, ignoring the need for  {modification} of attitude.  In the twentieth century, fascism and Stalinism and other forms of communism completely eclipsed Christianity as a threat to body and mind. There are still old-fashioned atheists who overlook the many, many impressive Christians and followers of other religions. Their assumption that non-religious people must always be superior to religious people could be called childish, but I use the word 'unformed.'

There are and have been many, many outstanding Anglicans, the Bishop of Lichfield amongst them. His failure to act effectively in this particular instance - as I see it - isn't evidence of wider failings on his part.

My view of human imperfection is very different from the Christian one. I don't accept the Christian view of sin but I do accept the reality of human imperfection. (My view is very, very different from most others. (See my page {restriction}). I think that the Christian view takes far more account of realities than some non-Christian, atheistic views - and not just the ones which are utopian. The Christian view that a person can  put aside faults, including very serious faults, can go beyond them, can evolve, in moral terms, deserves to be treated very seriously. We must often criticize and condemn, but compassion is one of the most important of all virtues - and not, of course, a purely Christian one.

Professor Kamel Hawwash didn't like David Collier's account one bit.

Compare and contrast the cool, supposedly 'objective' tone of this

'Reflections of a diaspora Palestinian   Professor Kamel Hawwash'

and this, the Professor's mini profile

'Professor Kamel Hawwash: a British/Palestinian and a long standing campaigner for justice for Palestinians'

both to be found on Lichfield Cathedral's Website page on the recent conference on Israeli-Palestinian issues

- and the article written by Kamel Hawwash which has this headline

Lichfield Cathedral stands strong in the face of bullying by the pro-Israel lobby

and which refuses to consider any possibility of reasoned dissent, dissent based on arguments and evidence, and was published in that well-known purveyor of  ideological claptrap the 'Middle East Monitor'

and also published on the evasive Website of Professor Kamel Hawwash

who has every reason to be taken seriously as an academic civil engineer but has no reason to be taken seriously as a commenter on such issues as the politics and military conflicts of this particular area of the Middle East and the ethical issues which arise from them.

Lichfield Cathedral too has abandoned the basic principles of fair-mindedness and has become a purveyor of ideological claptrap, at least in this hideous fall from grace.
But the organization's distortions and evasions and selective use of evidence and misuse of evidence are often much more serious than this simple incompetence.  For example, 'Labour Friends of Palestine' claims that Israel has sentenced prisoners 'without a proper trail, which includes the right to present evidence, call witnesses and be represented by a lawyer who can visit them freely' but the safeguards of the Israeli legal system are vastly greater and more effective than those in Gaza. On 22 August 2014, 18
suspected collaborators were executed by Palestinian firing squad in different parts of the Gaza strip, without representation by a lawyer, without a proper trial or any trial at all. In the legal system of Gaza, homosexuality is a criminal offence, punishable with imprisonment for up to
ten years. A mother may be imprisoned for having a baby when unmarried. I've already written to some of these South Yorkshire MP's giving much fuller evidence and arguments than can be given here, including material relating to armed conflict and ethical issues during armed conflict. I'll contact the others soon.

George Pitcher

The Wikipedia entry for George Pitcher can be strongly recommended. It makes clear that this is someone with a record of substantial, sustained achievement, including achievement in an unexpected but very important field, industrial reporting. If my own account draws attention to some shortcomings, I recognize his achievements. The shortcomings don't cancel his achievements or diminish his achievements. He's not in the least one of those ineffectual clerics with no interest in practical matters.

George Pitcher is a very unusual, unconventional priest of the Church of England - but a priest with some of the usual, conventional faults and failings, I think.

A very brief, very revealing  introduction to some of his 'thinking' is published in the 'Church Times.'

So, 'ten media tips,' not ten commandments. In his 'top tips' article in the top Anglo-Catholic megaphone (not that it can transform negligible thoughts, of next to no interest, into resounding, convincing demonstrations of Truth), he accuses critics of Islamism and left-wing thinking of cowardice:

'Islamophobic, blogging rightards had gone strangely quiet.' (Here, 'blogging' seems to be yet another insult, like 'Islamophobic' and 'rightards.')

His claim is ridiculous. Nothing like that had happened. Is he quite sure that all or most - or any - opponents of Islamism and left-wing views had 'gone quiet?' Could he name a few? Could he name a large number? Can he be sure that if a few had 'gone quiet' there wasn't an alternative explanation?

I'm a critic of Islamism and left-wing thinking too, and a critic of George Pitcher. I don't think it's likely in the least that he'll give serious answers to the criticisms I make of Islamism, left-wing thinking and George Pitcher. Most of the criticism (but not the criticism of George Pitcher) is on other pages, not this one. If he can spare the time, he could read some of it . -

Let's make a direct challenge to George Pitcher and find out if he can answer the objections or if he'll go 'strangely quiet.'

His top-tip number 2:

'Stop being a victim: get on the front foot, and stop whingeing about how badly you are treated. This is not Pakistan or Palestine, and you are not being persecuted.'

When he refers to Palestine, he's not referring, of course, to any oppression by Hamas or to oppression of homosexuals in Gaza (homosexuality is illegal there, and women who have children whilst unmarried can be imprisoned and are imprisoned.) Of course, he's referring to the Israelis.

My page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology gives a comprehensive discussion of some of the faults of Palestinian society.

In the same 'top tip,' he writes,

' ... use your freedom. Head-butt the bullies, by which I mean give as good as you get: journalists respect, albeit grudgingly, those who fight back.'

I'm not a journalist but I'll respect George Pitcher all the more if he decides to fight back, to oppose me and my views - if he can, that is.

I don't regard myself as a bully, and I think that the advice to head-butt is disastrously misguided. He leaves unexplored the glaring contradiction between this advice and Christ's commandment to 'turn the other cheek.' The people he calls 'bullies' include people of very different kinds. Most of them, I'm sure, are anything but bullies. They're often people who, unlike the head-butter, give arguments and evidence, but arguments and evidence he doesn't like at all.

My attitude to opponents is very different from George Pitcher's. My pages on feminist ideology, Palestinian ideology, Green ideology and universities include a large number of profiles. This page, an undeveloped page, so far includes only this one, the profile of George Pitcher.

In general, the profiles on the more developed pages are very critical, but I try and find out a great deal about the people I criticize. I've removed profiles and decided not to write profiles when I've found out that the profiles concern people who suffer from a very serious health condition, or have a relative with a very serious health condition. It's essential, I think, that polemics, like the waging of war, shouldn't be unrestricted. Human values should inform polemics. George Pitcher's bright and breezy, unformed and superficial advice to 'head-butt' the bully - the alleged bully - is wrong.

His 'top tip' number 8 is this: 'Rapid rebuttal: don't whine that you have been misrepresented. Hit the phone and tell the journalist in monosyllables. It not only does good, but feels good.'

Once I've been able to revise and extend this preliminary criticism, then I invite George Pitcher to 'hit the phone' and give a 'rapid rebuttal' of my arguments (including the arguments I give in my page on Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology.') Again, I'm not a journalist, but I hope he won't take the view that my arguments can be disregarded just because I don't publish in a print newspaper.

If he does decide to phone, then it's very easy: I'm in the phone book. If he hasn't the boldness to phone me, he can email. This is my policy on emails to me:

'Emails sent to me won't be released into the public domain, including publication on this site, unless I have the permission of the sender. Anyone who emails me can criticize me as much as they want and the matter will remain private.'

If George Pitcher would like to criticize me and my views on Twitter or a blog or a Website, then I'll be glad to publicize the criticism here, by giving a link to the Twitter page or the blog or the Website. I don't think I can do much more to make his criticism of me readily available to anyone who may want to read it.

His advice to 'tell the journalist in monosyllables' is moronic and ridiculous, of course. When I hear from him, if I do hear from him, if he criticizes me by phone call, tweet or any other means, he's absolutely no need to use too many monosyllables.

George Pitcher isn't quite 'Renaissance Man,' but he has found the time to combine some very diverse roles: Anglican Priest, Friend of the Media but Scourge of Journalists. He's also someone with a sustained record of success in very varied fields, as the Wikipedia entry makes clear. There are many, many critical profiles on this site. Of all the people profiled, I have most respect for him. He seems to me the most interesting of the lot.

Aphorisms: religion and ideology


I share, to an extent, Nietzsche's view of the possibilities and the importance of the aphorism form, but I don't share his high opinion of himself. The section which contains this (section 51 in his book 'Twilight of the Idols.')


'the aphorism ... in which I am the first master among Germans ... my ambition is to say in ten sentences what everyone else says in a book - what everyone else does not say in a book ...'


also contains this ludicrous claim:

'I have given mankind the profoundest book it possesses, my Zarathustra.' (R J Hollingdale's translation.)


From my page Aphorisms which gives most of the aphorisms I've written.


The great achievements of religious architecture, painting, sculpture and literature are no evidence for religion but evidence that people with artistic gifts may have far less talent for critical thinking.


This world is inexhaustible and unfathomable. We need speculate about no other.


Mystics who are 'deep' are out of their depth.


Humanity can be explained only partly in natural terms but not at all in supernatural terms.


The horrific imperfections of the world foster courage and ingenuity. Why not skepticism?




The understandable fear of becoming lost, of leaving behind roads and paths, helps to explain the refusal to follow an argument wherever it leads, the reassurance of religions and ideologies.


The Christian revelation has taken away from life the mystery which for non-Christians remains. For skeptics more than for Christians, this is a mysterious world and sometimes a magical one.


The Christian God has become softer and gentler, a God who's 'only human,' although no more so than the old vengeful God.


My atheism is far from being the most important thing about me, otherwise there would be a strong linkage between me and the atheist Stalin.


To know that someone is a Christian or an atheist tells me almost nothing about the person.


Self-evident untruths and half-truths will always be popular.

Honest people may well reinterpret their lives at intervals as drastically as totalitarian regimes reinterpret their own history.


I detest your ideology and the ideologies you detest.


Oppose mindless tolerance as well as mindless intolerance.



If the world were imperfect in the way that Christians or communists suppose, Christianity or communism might be true, but it's imperfect in a way that refutes them. And so for other theisms and ideologies.


The world, like some faces, can look better seen in a distorting mirror.

What is an ideology?


 I explain my conception of ideology here, using feminism as the illustrative example. In this section, I make use of {themes} in a few places. These are introduced  in my page Introduction to {theme} theory.

A number of disparate conceptions of ideology have been employed since the term 'idéologie' was coined by Destutt de Tracy in 1796. He envisaged ideology as a general science of ideas, their components and relations - or {linkages}, as I would term it.

The word ideology is predominantly given a normative meaning now. An important stage in the transition to a normative meaning occurred in the 1840's. Marx and Engels in 'The German Ideology,' ('Die deutsche Ideologie'), criticized the Young Hegelians. Their view, it was claimed,  regarded ideas as 'autonomous and efficacious' and failed to grasp 'the real conditions and characteristics of socio-historical life.'

Karl Popper regarded Marxism, and the views of Freud and Adler, as pseudo-scientific.  His account in Chapter 1 of  'Conjectures and Refutations' has great importance in the study of ideology. The book's index reference to this material  is 'total ideology.' I don't endorse in its entirety his view of Freud and Adler. I regard his criticism of Marxism as valid. I don't provide amplification here.

From Introduction to {theme} theory:

Expansion brackets are useful for the process I call 'amplification.' A writer who is pursuing a main argument will sometimes make claims or comments or provide evidence which amount to a brief mention, without any attempt to substantiate the claim or comment or to explain such matters as the degree of reliability of the evidence. Very often, it would be impractical to do so. It is not always possible to present every aspect of an argument thoroughly. 

Popper writes,

'I found that those of my friends who were admirers of Marx, Freud, and Adler, were impressed by a number of points common to these theories, and especially by their apparent explanatory power. These theories appeared to be able to explain practically everything that happened within the fields to which they referred. The study of any of them seemed to have the effect of an intellectual conversion or revelation, opening your eyes to a new truth hidden from those not yet initiated. Once you eyes were thus opened you saw confirming instances everywhere: the world was full of verifications of the theory. Whatever happened always confirmed it. Thus its truth appeared manifest; and unbelievers were clearly people who did not want to see the manifest truth; who refused to see it, either because it was against their class interest, or because of their repressions which were still 'un-analysed' and crying out for treatment.'

All of the criticism here is applicable to the feminist views I criticize, although the 'unbelievers,' of course, are the non-feminists who refuse to see 'the manifest truth' because it was against their gender interest, as males, or because of some deep-seated psychological conditions. Feminist 'consciousness-raising,' when successful, is held to open the eyes of the woman (or man), who now sees confirming instances everywhere of the deadly effects of patriarchy and the truth of feminism. The world is full of verifications of feminist theory. Women who act in non-feminist and anti-feminist ways, for example, are held not to falsify the theory. Their behaviour is due to the malign influence of patriarchy.

Popper adds, 'A Marxist could not open a newspaper without finding on every page confirming evidence for his interpretation of history.' The corresponding feminist will find confirming evidence for an interpretation which finds 'sexism,' not perhaps everywhere, but permeating so many areas of reality, including personal, social, historical and economic reality.

In Chapter 9 of  'Unended Quest,' he explains the development of his thought during an early period of his life: 'I developed further my ideas about the demarcation between scientific theories (like Einstein's) and pseudoscientific theories (like Marx's, Freud's, and Adlers). It became clear to me that what made a theory, or a statement, scientific was its power to rule out, or exclude, the occurrence of some possible events ...' This is the concept of falsification which he elaborated in 'The Logic of Scientific Discovery' ('Die Logic der Forschung.')

Falsification is a concept which has very great importance in the study of philosophy of science but its applicability to the study of ideology, including the ideology - as I see it - of feminism hasn't been adequately explored. I introduce two technical terms which I think are useful in discussions of falsification and attempts to falsify: 'falsificans,' the falsifying arguments and evidence, and 'falsificandum,' the application-sphere of the falsificans. The falsificandum is more general than scientific subject-matter. An ideological falsificandum is, however, falsified less conclusively than a scientific falsificandum.

The two terms, like the word 'falsify,' come from late Latin 'falsificare,' from 'falsus' and facere. They have a linkage with the established terms 'explanans' and 'explanandum,' from 'explanare.' Carl Gustav Hempel and Paul Oppenheim proposed a deductive-nomological model of scientific explanation (not given expansion here):

' ... the event under discussion is explained by subsuming it under general laws, i.e., by showing that it occurred in accordance with those laws, by virtue of the realization of certain specified antecedent conditions' and 'By the explanandum, we understand the sentence describing the phenomenon to be explained (not that phenomenon itself); by the explanans, the class of those sentences which are adduced to account for the phenomenon.' ('Studies in the Logic of Explanation,' 'Philosophy of Science,' XV, p. 152.)

 Popper's concept has been criticized by a number of philosophers. One of them is the Australian philosopher David Stove, who was strongly anti-feminist. Some limitations of David Stove's approach have been very well explored by PatrÝcia Lanša in her article

David Stove against Darwin and Popper: The Perils of Showmanship. (Originally published in 'The Salisbury Review,' Summer 2001.) I don't include her discussion of David Stove's criticisms of Darwin and Darwinism, but I do include her brief, critical, mention of feminism and her criticism of relativism. Many feminists include science in their relativistic views. What she has to say about the manner of criticism is very important for critics of feminism, although I favour a mixture of styles, including ridiculing the ridiculous.  She writes:

'THERE IS ALWAYS something immediately enjoyable about watching, listening to or reading apparently outrageous attacks on received opinion. Reductio ad absurdum is, after all, a time-honoured trick of rhetoric. The attempted dictatorship of 'political correctness' nowadays makes the trick even more liable to work. According to those who listened to the lectures of the Australian philosopher David Stove, he was a virtuoso in the genre. Professor Michael Levin says: 'Reading Stove is like watching Fred Astaire dance. You don't wish you were Fred Astaire, you are just glad to have been around to see him in action'.

'There is, however, a problem with ridicule, especially if we ourselves have our own reasons for not liking its victims. It is liable to obscure solid grounds for criticism and play into the camp of the adversary by providing facile, spurious or distorted arguments. This would seem to be the case with some of Stove's writing as exemplified in the two books under review. Not that he isn't worth reading. His provocative style is such as to make many readers stop, think and re-examine their own preconceptions. On the other hand, those unfamiliar with the subject matter, especially among the younger generation, are likely to be seriously misled about some of his targets and to mistake rhetoric for serious argument.. Stove, who died in 1994, was a conservative, an anti-communist and desperately at odds with the fashionable Left-wing views prevalent in the academy ...

[On his criticism of Popper]

'It is not easy here to produce a rebuttal of the required brevity or to embark on a boringly technical argument for and against Popper's epistemology, but justice does require some attempt to be made. It must first be stated quite unequivocally that certain of Popper's epistemological positions, once widely accepted, have in recent years come under forceful criticism from many quarters ... Nevertheless it is one thing to criticize and quite another to misrepresent.


'It is indeed ironic that the anti-communist Stove should find Popper so objectionable when there is probably no academic figure in the last half century who has done as much to combat their common enemy. In fact on many matters Stove and Popper were on the same side. Against irrationalism and relativism, against Freud, against philosophical idealism, against scepticism, critical of some aspects of Darwinism, and, much else.

'So, Popper concluded, scientific laws are not immutable but are always hypotheses. All you can have are better or worse theories and the scientist's work is to produce ever-better theories. The only logically and practically acceptable way to do this is to try to falsify your theory by appropriate testing: the method of trial and error. This, Popper says, is what scientists actually do in real life. Scientific method is basically one of testing, making public and criticizing. Failed theories are abandoned and the search begins again, either by trimming or adapting the old theory or formulating a new one. So a good scientific theory should be framed in such a way that it is testable, in other words falsifiable. If this is not the case then the theory is neither a good theory nor even a scientific theory.

'Demarcating science
Popper was interested in finding a criterion for demarcating science from non-science and he concluded that such theories as Marxism, Freudianism or astrology do not meet the criteria required of a genuinely scientific theory. They are couched in such broad terms that they are invulnerable to falsification. Whatever happens their proponents regard them as either corroborated or unfalsified. They are theories against which no arguments or criticisms can count.

'Whatever the justice of his views on induction, Popper's conception of falsifiability proved a rich field and he mined it for theories in the realm of his other passion: politics and social questions.. Having thrown out positive corroboration as crucial in favour of its negative, namely falsifiability, and having made criticism the essential method for this, he proposed a similar approach in the political and social spheres. The aim of government, of the State, should never be the positive one of trying to make people happy, a quite impossible aim. Happiness is a private matter and conceived of differently by each individual. On the contrary the only feasible objective of government is the negative one of reducing misery. Suffering, starvation, disease and the rest are objective, public and measurable and it is the State's job to try to minimize them because the only justification for the existence of government is the protection of the citizen. To this end freedom to criticize, to discuss and debate solutions is essential. So for Popper democracy means freedom of criticism and institutional arrangements that provide for the removal of unsatisfactory rulers without bloodshed. He deduced from this position the enormous importance of institutions and an institutional tradition, of gradual reform as against revolution, and wrote and lectured widely on these subjects, declaring untiringly that the political systems of Britain, America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were the best models so far known.

'Popper’s philosophy of science
Now none of this can be unacceptable to a reasonable person, least of all to a conservative. What has stuck in the throat of many people is that Popper makes his anti-inductivism bear too much weight. To deny the possibility of inductive knowledge is to fly in the face of everybody's everyday experience, including that of our dogs, cats and most other sentient beings. If we did not start by assuming regularities and their more or less indefinite replication none of us would survive for a moment. Indeed, we would be unable to learn anything at all. It would seem, in fact, that all of us, including animals, have an innate predisposition to use induction. Popper did not accept this: he thought that what is innate is the predisposition towards using methods of trial and error. However, to object to induction on the grounds that it does not use the rules of entailment of deductive logic, is to extend the criteria of formal systems and mathematics beyond what is appropriate. Deductive logic is one thing, inductive logic is another and their modes of justification are distinct. In science both logics would appear to have their place. Indeed in the areas of logic and epistemology we can find an ever-growing literature in which even deductive logic is questioned and alternative logics proposed.

'Popper's great contribution to the philosophy of science was to highlight the importance for good theorizing of the need for clear articulation so that it is immediately, or as immediately as possible, apparent what would be the conditions for falsification. Such procedure is both practically and intellectually economical and nurtures the critical approach and in no way encourages relativism.

'Stove will have none of this. In a dizzying dithyramb he inveighs against Popper, not only ignoring his closely woven arguments, but accusing him of such crimes as denying the accumulation of scientific knowledge, of irrationalism and of self-contradiction. The aim of science in Popper's view, Stove alleges, is not to seek truth but to find untruth. Popper's insistence on the provisional nature of scientific theories, on what he calls 'conjectural knowledge' is regarded by Stove as irrational in the extreme. Popper, in effect, denies the accumulation of scientific knowledge because, if it is all provisional, then it cannot be knowledge. Knowledge, for Stove, always means knowledge of the truth, and truth cannot bear the adjective 'conjectural' (as though truth were absolute). He implies that to talk about 'conjectural truth' is rather like talking about somebody being 'a little bit pregnant'. So the concept of 'conjectural knowledge' is a nonsense, a contradiction in terms and meaningless, and leads to the denial of objective truth found in the relativists. Stove makes much of this with his usual darting wit. But his objections are unconvincing. Without entering into the sorely disputed question (among philosophers) of what constitutes truth it seems no more unreasonable to talk of 'conjectural knowledge' than to talk of 'partial knowledge', which everybody does without batting an eyelid. All Popper means by 'conjectural knowledge', is 'the knowledge we have so far on the basis of our unfalsified theories', that is, those theories which when tested are found to have verisimilitude with empirical facts. This is something we hear every day when we are told about 'the present state of knowledge'. So the proposition that absolute truth is unattainable does not entail relativism and, indeed, seems undeniable to most people.

'That Popper believed fiercely in objective truth (in its non-absolute sense) is evidenced from his constant stress that the job of the scientist is the quest for truth. He also thought that this was an unending quest, for our ignorance is infinite before the infinity of what is to be known and the finite nature of our knowledge. This is not the place to examine Popper's somewhat bizarre theory of 'epistemology without a knowing subject', what he called World Three, that mysterious sphere in which are stored books and all man's artefacts, but any serious study of this shows just how much Popper believed in the objectivity of knowledge.

'So, because of his misreading, Stove sees Popper as the ultimate progenitor of the real irrationalists including the unspeakable Feyerabend whose relativism led him quite openly to declare that schoolchildren should be taught astrology and myth as equally valid explanations of the world along with science. Popper's frequent and extended criticism of these attitudes is regarded by Stove as mere quarrelling between inmates of the same stable. He totally ignores the historical fact that the actual forerunners of relativism in philosophy of science were the sociologists of knowledge going back to Mannheim, examined and combatted by Popper himself in many writings. Today, of course, relativism in science studies, rather than coming mainly from Stove's three musketeers has sadly been given a new boost by philosophers of cognitive science in conjunction with artificial intelligence theory such as Stitch, the Churchlands and their disciples.

'Those who wish to have a more informed and balanced view of Popper's ideas would do well to read Anthony O'Hear or Susan Haack. The latter should be of especial interest also to adversaries of all forms of relativism, gender feminism and the corruption of the academy.

'For anyone acquainted with what Popper actually wrote, Stove's wholesale condemnation, can only be regarded as dogmatic and unjust. This is serious because in the present academic atmosphere of relativism, irrationalism and sub-marxism, there could be no better antidote for today's students than to read what Popper has to say about these matters.

'Reading Stove's opinions about him will do little to encourage them in this direction. The trouble is, as indicated at the beginning of these comments, that Stove's style is frequently so engaging and humorous that many readers will be taken in.'

Popper's account of  'pseudo-scientific' theories is a suitable starting point in explaining my own view of ideology. I regard the concept of falsification as important in demarcation, although not the demarcation which Popper employs. The demarcation here is demarcation between two non-scientific interpretations, ideological and non-ideological. I replace 'demarcation' with the {thematic} operation of {separation}, symbol '//' which has material as well as non-material application-spheres. As my concern on this page is feminism rather than Marxism, I give no account of my reasons for thinking that Marxism is ideological, or the views of Freud and Adler.

Outside science, falsifiability has a legitimate use in deciding which views to do with  human nature, human achievement, and other aspects of humanity - I'll refer to 'human studies' -  are securely grounded or the product of ideological distortion. If the distinctive conclusiveness of scientific falsification is lacking, the claim that an argument has been falsified may have great cogency, the argument that an argument has withstood the process of testing far less cogency. 'People are benign' is a statement which can't be tested, or falsified, by the methods of science, but it can be tested, and falsified, to a high degree of probability, by non-scientific methods. 'Women are benign' is a statement which can be tested and falsified too.

Facts are used differently in ideological and non-ideological theories and views. Facts in non-ideological theories and views may often be problematic but they are assessed by using independent methods and techniques, such as comparison of source materials, avoidance of demonstrably unreliable witnesses.

Facts in ideological theories and views avoid the use of methods and techniques external to the ideology. Ideological theories and views are based on the distinction between appearance and reality. Facts belong to the world of appearance, which is regarded as illusory. Facts which are demonstrably true, passing the most thorough and comprehensive tests, belong only to this world of appearance if they conflict with facts which support the ideology. If not in conflict, they are admitted to the world of reality.

'Ideology' derives from the Greek λόγος and ἰδέα.  Liddell and Scott give three basic meanings for ἰδέα in the Greek Lexicon, (1) form (2) semblance, opposed to reality (3) notion, idea. The third is taken to be the meaning applicable in 'ideology,' but an ideology makes use of the second meaning. Liddell and Scott include an interesting illustration for this second meaning, from Theognis: γνώμην ἐξαπατῶσ’ ἰδέαι 'Outward appearances cheat the mind.'

It's essential to distinguish between facts and the explanation for those facts, the context of those facts. The sphere of facts, although far from straightforward, is much simpler than the sphere of explanations and context. I don't accept that facts are themselves interpretations, that there aren't many, many well-grounded facts in human studies.

A feminist could claim that the generalization 'all women lack serious vices' (without {restriction} to sexual vice, of course) should be considered in context, which supplies a cause. The many women who could be cited as counter-examples, the women who obviously have serious vices, are so on account of the manipulation and control exercised by men. A wide variety of other claims about women which seem to challenge feminist views could be countered in a similar way. The feminist would then have to explain, or explain away, the unflattering view of many women which is required here - women as weak and malleable.

If X is the subject matter - class in society, women in history or whatever may be treated in an ideological or non-ideological way - then the crucial difference is that the ideological and the non-ideological way are different in the reasons for {modification} and the use of counter arguments and contrary evidence. {modification} has /{revision}, an example of a 'specific' {theme}, with {restriction}:- general applicability, and the capacity for /{revision} is the term in non-thematic form 'revisability.' Revisability is common to scientific theory and a non-scientific theory, as well as, more loosely, a 'view,'   which is non-ideological.  {modification}:- [ideological theory or view] has as agents not counter arguments and contrary evidence but, as examples, the forces which change an ideology and give it different forms, perhaps as a result of the very different social contexts in which the ideology is found. Similarly, the language in which an ideology is expressed may develop different 'dialects,' for similar reasons.

An ideology may exhibit drastic and abrupt {modification}, as in the case of the communist supporters who abandoned criticism of Nazi Germany, but this was not as a result of counter arguments and contrary evidence but the fact that Soviet Russia entered into a pact with Nazi Germany at Stalin's instigation.

If counter arguments and contrary evidence lead in all cases to no, or practically no, /{revision} of a theory or view, then the theory or view is likely to be ideological.

/{revision} of a non-ideological theory or view, like /{revision} of a scientific theory, allows of quantitative differences. The most drastic form is abandonment. Of course, there may be abandonment of an ideological theory or view, as in the case of communists who became non-communists. Counter arguments and contrary evidence of value may be rejected for a time but eventually have an effect.

'The God That Failed,' published in 1949 book, contains  six essays by prominent writers and journalists who decame disillusioned with communism and abandoned it. The six were Louis Fischer, André  Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender and Richard Wright.

A critique of a possible feminist defence is only given in outline here. On this page, as in so much of the site, evidence and argument is often given in a dispersed form. I examine feminist arguments in many places on this page and there are many places in other pages of the site where material can be found which has relevance to this page.

I see the need not to confine attention to the arguments and evidence but to the factors which may prevent the arguments and evidence from being understood or appreciated. This is particularly necessary when considering the totalitarian ideologies, above all Stalinism and Nazism, the subject of Hannah Arendt's 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' in three parts. Evidence may require insight and sometimes empathy to appreciate. Hannah Arendt could obviously enter the world of totalitarian ideology. She possessed a a far deeper degree of distinctively personal insight, over a far wider range, than, say, Karl Popper. Intellectuality of very great distinction, such as he possessed, can probe some things far more effectively than others.

In the last chapter of the third volume of 'The Origins of Totalitarianism,' significantly entitled 'Ideology and Terror: A Novel Form of Government,' she gives, too late in the book, it has to be said, a formulation of ideology. The formulation isn't a good one: 'Ideologies - isms which to the satisfaction of their adherents can explain everything and every occurrence by deducing it from a single premise - are a very recent phenomenon and, for many decades, played a negligible role in political life.' No ideology explains everything or every occurrence. This is much too wide a claim. Ideologists don't claim to explain, for instance, most natural phenomena. The use of the logical term 'premise' isn't appropriate, and ideological explanations and directives may be derived from a small number of basic beliefs, not necessarily a single one.

Hannah Arendt elicits very different responses. Two very different responses, those of David Satter and Bernard Wasserstein, are given in an excellent  Symposium: Is Hannah Arendt still relevant? I very much believe that she is.

In general, ideologists see no need to defend a thesis against the arguments and evidence which comprise a legitimate anti-thesis. The reference to 'ideology' can be removed, since the claim that the thesis is ideological is often part of the claim of the anti-thesis. I think that these terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' are useful in examining the reaction of feminists to criticisms, and their lack of reaction.

The evidence and arguments put forward by opponents of feminism amount to a substantial case to answer, surely, and I claim to have added to the evidence and arguments. I think that the thesis is substantial but that the anti-thesis is far from substantial.

Argument and the presentation of evidence and the giving of counter-argument and counter-evidence are of fundamental importance and my terms 'thesis' and 'anti-thesis' express these necessities of debate concisely. If the views often summarized as 'political correctness' seem to avoid debate on these terms, it's cause for particular alarm that this is so often the case in universities and colleges.

Thesis can become anti-thesis and anti-thesis can become thesis. If a feminist criticizes the arguments I use and denies that the evidence I put forward is convincing, then this anti-thesis becomes the thesis which it is for me to answer as an anti-thesis.

It's possible that a synthesis will emerge from the contending thesis and anti-thesis, but often this is not the case.

When a very powerful thesis - one with very strong arguments and accompanied by very strong evidence - is challenged by an anti-thesis which has neither, a synthesis is very unlikely. In this case, I use the simple symbolism (thesis) >> (anti-thesis). If the anti-thesis is better supported, then (thesis) > (anti-thesis).

This simple scheme, using this simple pair of terms, has to be supplemented and extended when there are more than two opposing viewpoints, but it can often be used if single aspects are the focus of attention: this is to practise {resolution}.  Often, a practical decision is the issue. A measure may become law or not and there may be support for the change in law or opposition to the change. Supporters of the status quo and opponents of the status quo may have various reasons and may supply different arguments and evidence but the decision may well be a clear-cut one. Support for the status quo is the thesis and opposition to the status quo is the anti-thesis. All that is needed is to distinguish the diverging views which make up the composite thesis and anti-thesis.