Without religion, the human race will work out its own rules for right and wrong

With Rome and Canterbury at loggerheads over doctrinal trivialities - in reality over power - now is a good moment to make a heartfelt plea for atheism. 

For those of us who embrace that view, it seems the only position for the logical mind. 

It also has the advantage of providing an illuminating, if sometimes uncomfortable, perspective on history and the way that false ideas can grip the world - and not just in the matter of religion. 

Sacred: But the qualities of 'bread and wine' used in holy communion are echoed in other religions

Sacred: But the qualities of 'bread and wine' used in holy communion are echoed in other religions

Discarding Christianity is intellectually easy, though it might be disagreeable emotionally, depending on one's upbringing.

The excuses for retaining the faith have long been feeble. We have Darwin providing the key to the path of physical development of species. 

We have historians and anthropologists who trace the origins of religion and magic back to pre-Christian times, notably in the eastern Mediterranean.

They have written at length about cults whose fertility rites at Easter time, in the hope of good harvests, include the sacrifice of the god king - himself or through a substitute - complete with staged resurrections.

The sacred qualities of bread and wine are also echoed in other cults of corn and wine gods. Christianity is not as new or novel as most of us have been brought up to believe. 

The weaknesses of the religion have always been evident under analysis.

They include the careful selection of the Gospels to be regarded as true (or inspired), the contradictions within the texts, the later interpolations, the problems of identity and so on. These all troubled early scholars.

What troubles believers more today, since they usually accept the Gospels with little analysis, is the lamentable history of religion in practice.

We rail at the savagery of Hitler and Stalin. But various of the popes and their faithful supporters have been just as wicked. 

Explaining all this away has always been a grim task for Christians. They talk of God's wishes being thwarted by human failings.

Our benevolent Almighty gave us free will and, sad to relate, millions of victims suffered the miseries of the damned because mankind chose to misuse it. 

This explains nothing at all. But the problem of the Church's cruelty and indifference to misery is not the only challenge to our senses. 

We are also left with the painful thought that so many of the great achievements of our civilisation, the buildings, the music, the poetry, are based upon a falsehood.

The mind naturally rebels at this idea. 

Some comfort may, however, be gleaned in the thought that their original inspiration does not have to be true for great art to remain great art. 

We already accept that it can spring from false religions, as in the case of the marvels of Islamic architecture.

The atheist should, like believers, contribute to cathedral and parish church upkeep, just as they can to historical monuments. You can love church bells without the need to believe. 

But beyond the aesthetic issue, there is also the need to contemplate the dismal thought that 2,000 years of history have been heavily based on a glorified, mammoth falsehood. 

And yet, why not? You do not have to be an atheist, though it certainly helps, to believe that nonsense is normal in the world's affairs.

No refuge can be gained in a hopeful belief that those who control our lives and influence our minds must, by virtue of their supposed status and intelligence, be above nonsense. 

On the contrary, they are addicted to it. History shows it and current foolishness continues the display.

People will believe what they want to believe, no one more than those who peddle secular faiths - especially if they can bring them power. 

You don't have to be an atheist to believe nonsense is normal in the world's affairs


Atheism is scepticism in its highest form; and without scepticism you cannot properly understand the way of the world. 

Some would claim for themselves that they are both sceptics and believers. But this is only a longing for some sort of insurance. 

If history is about human gullibility, it is obviously important to ponder what new faiths are being launched today. The most obvious candidate is the cult of man-induced climate change. 

It has, like Christianity, its priesthood and the will to excommunicate the unfaithful. 

Its catastrophism bears comparison with the Book of Revelation. 

Naturally enough, devout Christians find atheism shocking. They argue that without a morality based on religious doctrine, mankind will decline into wickedness. 

But when the Catholic Church was all-powerful and when people believed in Heaven and Hell, the world was not just awash with wickedness, the Church itself was an example of it. 

Without religion, the human race, being what it is, will work out its own rules for right and wrong. The Greeks were doing it rather well before Christ.

The key word about devout Christians is devout rather than Christians.

They represent a human urge to try to be good and do good. We should be glad to have them around. 

As for Rome's current power grab, we might all unite in saying that at least it is in character.