Atheism UK to appear in Islamic documentary. What are the failures of organised religion?

Update 9th April 2017: The ‘on camera’ interview with Ahlulbayt TV lasted 90 minutes. I spoke about many of the points raised by the twenty supporters/members of Atheism UK who emailed me or left comments on this post. Thanks all, for your comments.  If any ex-Muslims would like to give their views about the failures of organised religion, let me know and I’ll put you in contact with Ahlulbayt. The documentary will be aired on Sky 831 channel during Ramadan (27th May – 25th June 2017) – I’ll add the precise date when known.


Atheism UK will be interviewed by the Islamic channel Ahlulbayt TV (Sky 831 channel) this Wednesday morning (22nd March 2017).

I’d be interested in any comments (today or tomorrow, 20-21st March) from Atheism UK members and supporters about “What are the failures of organised religion?”

I will discuss their documentary looking at rising rates of Atheism in the UK. The aim of this documentary is to explore the growing areligious trend in the UK. Ahlulbayt TV wishes to look at the reasons why more and more people are disassociating with religion in general, be it from a theological/philosophical point of view or as a result of organised religion and its various flaws.

Ahlulbayt TV say:

“They want to look at some of the more prominent atheistic ideals or tenets (for want of a better word), for example the scientific method, the theory of evolution, Multiverse theory, the problem of evil etc. They wish to highlight how and why such understandings have overtaken what were once accepted understandings of the world around us.”

They want to look at how changing demographics are shaping or affecting relations between communities with a look at how best we can cooperate and work together.

Please email or (preferably) leave a reply (today or tomorrow) at the bottom of this post about what you think are the failings of organised religion. But keep your comments short! Thanks.

Chris Street,

President, Atheism UK

7 Replies to “Atheism UK to appear in Islamic documentary. What are the failures of organised religion?”

  1. I think religion has become more polarised with moderates pulling more and more away from organised religion, because of the religious extremes they see/hear in the media. Be that pedofilc catholic priests or Islamic terrorists etc etc.

    1. Damien, thanks for your response. seem to be one of the moderates.

      Chris Street

  2. some questions for the debate.
    Q. Would it help religious understanding, to have some atheist commandments written in stone?(or a set of basic rules.)
    for example (thou shalt) only rely on knowledge based on documented evidence.

    a different approach to the same question.
    Q. There are many white papers with documented evidence on which theories are based, how can religions base there beliefs on documents that do not have such robust evidence.

  3. “…the failures of organised religion?” depend on what organized religion is trying to achieve. If the aim is to spread superstition about gods, especially Abrahamic god(s), it has been successful. It has also created sectarianism and tribalism based on ‘belief systems’ that are held ‘sacred’ and so rendered immutable. It has induced some intelligent people to dismiss evolution with Creationism and Intelligent Design. Circumcision is religiously motivated child genital mutilation and Kosher/Halal is prioritized over animal rights. Like faith (i.e. segregated) schools these aren’t ‘failures’ they are successes of organized religion.

  4. One of the main reasons Organised religions have failed is because of
    1-their lack of progress and motivation in science and education of our time.
    2- Their concrete rules and regulations and eagerness of severe punishments which completely fail today’s understanding of human rights.
    3-Believes that are based on highly motivated political agendas that make tolerance and coexistence very hard to practice.
    4-The idea that everyone’s thoughts and personal lives must be supervised and controlled just kills any idea of freedom and privacy.
    5- The scope of interpretations that means that anyone can take any meaning out of the scriptures which suits them even if it neglects the rights of others.
    6- Promotes bigotry and racism sometimes openly or hidden.

    and their are many more reasons i have generalized as much i can think of at the moment

  5. Failures of organised religion

    They want to look at some of the more prominent atheistic “ideals” or “tenets”
    the scientific method
    the theory of evolution
    Multiverse theory
    the problem of evil etc

    …how and why such understandings have overtaken what were once accepted understandings of the world around us.

    What were the “once-accepted understandings of the world around us” ?
    One way of understanding this question is to look at the argument from common sense. This is based on “common-sense” intuitions: the sun appears to rise and set, so common sense would simply accept that the sun really does this. We know that in fact the earth revolves from west to east, giving the impression that the sun rises and sets. Common sense does not tell us the truth, but because it works in a practical way there is no point in worrying about the disparity between appearance and reality except when we need to be factual. And so it is with stars (not painted on) and species (not just so, and mitochondrial Eve predates Y-chromosomal Adam by rather a long time).

    If religious dogma is based on the appearance (for want of scientific methods to confirm or deny) then we have the problem that religious people have based their notions of God’s will on a merely human misapprehension. This matters when a religion is “organised”— and by “organised” I mean that doctrines (things taught) are declared as essential beliefs and that conformity is overseen by some accepted religious authority. Once authority declares itself, it is difficult for reality to make any headway. I think that this inevitably produces a situation in which reality is sidelined in favour of a doctrine which need never have been established in the first place and innocent people suffer as a consequence. It is the habit of organised religions to make pronouncements for the faithful. Perhaps it is the habit of the faithful to desire absolute pronouncements on the nature of things. Whichever way it is, there must come a time when reality obtrudes and disturbs the settled order of all those things hitherto taken for granted.

    It is in the nature of organised religion that a core of doctrines is established. Otherwise, how can a religion become “organised”? But religious doctrines are predicated on a certain view of the world, and because views of the world change over time there is inevitably a conflict between new knowledge and that notion of “truth” which is based on a worldview which no longer agrees with the conclusions we come to when what is observed is subject to rigorous investigation. The fact that I can pick up an inert piece of matter lying on my desk and use it to hold a conversation with someone in a different country would seem mere magic to a person of the generation of Moses or of the social background of Mohammed, and the knowledge of the natural world that is presupposed by the existence of a mobile phone is now light-years away from wondering where the sun rises and supposing that menstruation is an illness.

    “atheistic ideals or tenets”

    Is that what they really said? Well, supposing it is, we need to look at it.
    Presumably, atheists are perceived as a united front. I think that some atheists would aspire to that. However, atheism is no more and no less than a lack of belief in a god. That is insufficient to bring about a united front. There are those people who care about social justice, and some of those are of course atheists (I pass over the obviously frivolous observation that the Labour Movement in Britain is rooted in nonconformist Christianity), and those atheists will tend to band together on certain issues. So it is important to be clear about this. It is natural for the conservative mind, and (I think) for the believing mind, to simplify and endeavour to maintain a comfort-zone in their immediate emotional and social vicinty. But the perception of these united atheists with “tenets” and “ideals” is very much a product of this desire to simplify and settle things. Despite the best efforts of certain prominent and very vocal atheists, the problem quaintly described as that of “herding cats” is a real one. The only thing on which all atheists agree is the thing that makes them atheists. In so far as persecution by organised religion is a historical (and in some places a present) reality, you will naturally find that people are forced together. But in thirty years of being an atheist, I have never yet had reason to believe that “atheism” is a thing which can justifiably be claimed to have “tenets” and “ideals” rather than being merely a lack of belief in one single proposition. It is important to understand that only vocal people who do have such things and who are also atheists are the ones that you will hear from. I am obviously one of them, so here I am.

    Some religious people and those odd beings who call themselves — or are called — “accommodationists” try to seek “common ground” between believers and atheists (the ones with tenets and ideals, or maybe just voices). We have (we are told) common humanity (I believe it) and this means that we can understand one another — I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it because the attitude of faith and the attitude which accepts all impressions and seeks rational understanding of them bring about worldviews so opposed that they cannot be reconciled. Imagine that a believer and a nonbeliever are in the same room. One person already knows what the room is like without even looking, because doctrine has declared the nature of things and what is seen will confirm it; the other is looking at whatever is there to be seen without any reliance on preconceptions. How are they even in the same room? On the one hand, all things are referred to an authority which interprets what is seen before it is seen, and which (at least in hope) safeguards the believer from falling away from a preconceived “truth”; and on the other there is a uniqueness of impression and of observation which will conceivably never recur in the entire history of the universe: this person at this moment in this place. Every moment is lost forever. Those who accept this accept that life is in the change from moment to moment. Those who cannot accept this seem to desire to freeze one moment for all eternity. But a moment cannot exist so — a moment has no reality except in the change from one moment to the next (the word originally meant “a moving”); we can only perceive it in the past. Eternity, then, is merely death, and the desire for eternity (death with the lights on?) is our fear of death.

    The problem of evil. Well, this is a problem for religious people (well, some of them, anyway: dark nights of souls and all that). Religious people have lots of fun inventing arguments about this, and it certainly keeps them occupied. One could point out that life is very badly designed. Or one could argue that evolution is working very well, thank you. What can we do about the fact that the experience is uncomfortable more often than not? Well, nothing really, though perhaps by dint of a few sensible observations we might manage a few small improvements here and there, like democracy or the NHS or secularism. So much for the problem of evil.

    I think I’ve now covered most of your E-Gs: scientific method and evil and even evolution by implication. As to the multiverse, I’m not sure if your interviewers suppose this to be an ideal or tenet. I gather that there is now more than one multiverse, and as nobody agrees which if any is correct, my preference is to wait and see. What, one wonders, will we think of next? Hypotheses are useful things to have before we know better, but only a believer would mistake them for truth.

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