It really is about time the Guardian pensioned off Andrew Brown. Surely his poorly argued articles must be an embarrassment to them – perhaps they could trade him to the Huffington Post, or something. Take a look at his latest post where he claims that Militant secularists fail to understand the rules of secular debate. Really? Who are these “militant” secularists Brown refers to? Here’s how he defines them:
There are three kinds of people in Britain today who might be taken for militant secularists: that is to say people who are not just themselves unbelievers, but have an emotional investment in the extirpation of religious belief in others. There are the adolescents who have just discovered "rationality"; there are gay people who feel personally threatened by traditional monotheist morality; and, in this country, there are parents frustrated by the admissions policy of religiously controlled schools.
Well, I’m not a teenager, a gay person or a parent in the UK so I guess I’m not a militant secularist. But I’m also not engaged in warfare or combat, so perhaps Brown is, inadvertently, partly right for once. But he’s still mostly wrong.
But what about his main contention – how does he justify his headline, that militant secularists don’t understand the rules of secular debate? To find out, you have to read to Brown’s penultimate paragraph. There you will find his argument, which I reproduce in its entirety:
But the militant secularist takes for granted that "the religious" have no access to reason. There can be no reasoning with his opponents. All he can do is to repeat himself more loudly until the idiots understand.
One can only marvel at the vacuousness of that paragraph. What evidence does he offer to show that the militant secularist “takes for granted” that the religious have no access to reason? Well, none. He offers no evidence, not even one example. One could say that he just assumes, or takes for granted, that they do this. And it’s a ridiculous assumption. Just take a look at any atheist or skeptical blog, or any book by any of the leading atheist writers, and see if the arguments presented are based on just taking for granted that the opposition are not rational. On the contrary, you will find thousands of words analyzing the writings of religious apologists to demonstrate that they are irrational. Look at this post – I don’t take anything for granted, I demonstrate that Brown doesn’t offer any evidence (ie is not using reason) to support his contention. If you present arguments to show something then by definition you are not taking it for granted.
To paraphrase Brown’s sub-headline, Andrew Brown just assumes that “militant secularists” assume that 'the religious' have no access to reason – all he does is repeat himself, loudly. The only interesting question arising from Brown’s post, is who the hell is Andrew Brown any why does someone with such a poor grip on rational argument get to have a regular column in a national newspaper?