Letter: Reason, ridicule and religion (1)

October 26, 2001

Peter Atkins's incitement to "Pure religious hatred" (Letters, THES, October 19) one might think him an agent provocateur for the religious, so effectively does he discredit his cause by fallacious reasoning and abusive language.

Religious people such as St Thomas Aquinas have long forcefully deployed "the power of human intellect to reason out understanding". Many scientific discoveries have been and still are made by deists and Christians trying to understand the divine laws governing the universe: hardly evidence of a "self-deceiving concealment of ignorance".

Atkins's real subject is the events of September 11 - but restrictions on individual freedom and acts of mass destruction are also the fruit of atheistic ideologies such as Marxism and fascism, which were endorsed by rational, scientific thinkers. In any case, if religion can provide "the self-control necessary to steer airliners into skyscrapers", it can also furnish the self-discipline required to spend one's life working for those suffering from the poverty and man-made disasters caused by the 20th-century's clash of secular ideologies and from capitalism unrestrained by ethics.

There are violent and intolerant believers, but Atkins, in his undiscriminating hatred, is closer to the fanatics who attacked New York than to most religious people.

David Trim Newbold College, Bracknell

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