Clarkson on religion

Jeremy Clarkson has written an article entitled “Unhand my patio heater, archbishop”, in which he responds to a sermon by Archbishop Rowan Williams talking about global warming. The gist of his argument is basically that religion has killed far many more people than global warming ever has, and so we should give up religion rather than our patio heaters (etc).

I know that Jeremy Clarkson is… well, let’s just say I don’t think he’s beyond saying something controversial just to get people going. In fact, I think it wouldn’t be going too far to say that he actively courts controversy, just because it’s amusing. Given that, it’s probably not wise to dignify one of his articles with a response because it was written just to get people going. Having said that, I’m going to do a sort of response anyway because it ties in with something else I’ve been thinking about recently — whether religion is the cause of wars or violence. There are a few other points he makes though, which I also want to mention.

Firstly, Clarkson says “Many, many more people have died in the name of God than were killed in the name of Hitler.” Were they really? Could not there have been some other factors – politics, for example? I’ve found an interesting article entitled “Does Religion Cause Violence” (PDF), which has some interesting thoughts:

In the course of a detailed historical study of the concept “religion,” Smith was compelled to conclude that in premodern Europe there was no significant concept equivalent to what we think of as “religion,”and furthermore there is no “closely equivalent concept in any culture that has not been influenced by the modern West.”

And then goes on subsequently to talk about the issue of religion and violence, which is worth reading and I won’t bother repeating the points made in the article here!

The other thing I should mention here is that you shouldn’t judge a religion by what its adherents do, you should judge it by what it tells them to do. Is Christianity a violent religion? I don’t believe it is. Anyone who has perpetrated violence in the name of Christianity surely has had another agenda.

Back to Clarkson: “I genuinely believe we are born with a moral compass and we don’t need it reset every Sunday morning by some weird-beard communist in a dress”. The whole point of Christianity is not that we don’t have a ‘moral compass’ – but that we often choose to ignore the ‘moral compass’. The problem isn’t that we don’t know what’s right and wrong, the problem is that we do what’s wrong rather than what’s right – knowingly. This goes right back to the garden of Eden – I’m rather disappointed in Jeremy here 😉

Well, I think I’ve rambled on for long enough now, so I’ll leave it there!

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5 thoughts on “Clarkson on religion

  1. “Many, many more people have died in the name of God than were killed in the name of Hitler.”

    How long did Hitler spend systematically wiping out Jews? Maybe a decade or two? Not really surprising then that he didn’t manage to kill as many people as have been killed in the last few millenia by ‘religious people’! That’s like comparing the amount of light given off by a small bonfire as opposed to the amount of light given off by the sun in its entire lifetime. A more useful comparison would be between the number of people killed as a direct response to God saying “kill that person” and the number of people killed by people off their own backs.

  2. At least until he became archbishop and got bogged down in various problems, Rowan Williams was one of the foremost theological minds in this country. Clarkson is a random car journalist stringing together clichés for flamebait.

    I personally think the word ‘religion’ is unhelpful in this context. Everyone has beliefs, some people follow a more formalised set of beliefs (‘a religion’) and other people believe what they have randomly ingested from society or TV or whatever.

    A Christian believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. An ardent atheist believes that God does not exist. Both equally believe something.

    I believe I am looking at Phill’s blog which I believe is worth reading. The only person that does not have to believe anything is God himself.

    Religions don’t kill people, people kill people, people in cars especially. Drivers going too fast or not paying attention kill millions of people every year, people of all religions or none.

  3. A colleague showed me Jeremy’s article today. I know Jeremy from the popular show “Top Gear” so I’m acquainted with his iconoclastic humour, and this is how I choose to read what is probably a tongue-in-cheek poke at confused clergy who take as
    gospel, for example, the ranting of global-warming prophets.
    I do not agree with his rekoning of 809 million deaths caused
    by religion, these are facts which can be checked historically.
    But my sympathies are with Jeremy: there is a lot of bull being
    preached in the name of religion. As a Christian, I take exception to the squandering of spiritual authority by my overseers, who neglect my soul while presuming to save my body.

  4. This is typical Christian. “we don’t need to take responsibility when we do something wrong, we don’t have a moral compass. If we pray we have atoned.” If you do wrong things knowing they are wrong you should be in prison

    • “If you do wrong things knowing they are wrong you should be in prison”. By that logic, *everyone* should be in prison.

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