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Daring to see the role of faith

"By ignoring the influence of religion on progressive politics, the new atheist orthodoxy reveals itself as stupid and solipsistic." Tristram Hunt has bracing words in the Guardian for the latest flock of atheists.

Hunt points out that". . .not only did much Enlightenment thought - its reasonableness, scepticism and reflexive knowledge of the self - have its foundation in elements of the Protestant tradition, but its practice was closely woven into religious institutions. In England and Scotland, the popular Enlightenment was intimately connected with non-conformist Protestantism, from Matthew Boulton's Lunar Society to Glasgow University to the dissenting academies of the east Midlands. With its flourishing Deism and non-conventional Christianity, the Enlightenment was not everywhere the great anti-religious moment the atheists would have."

Politically, says Hunt, their approach "leads to a heavily flawed rewriting of history in which the motives of those involved in progressive politics - from the abolition of the slave trade to the fight for female suffrage - are recast in a secular, 'humanist' brace with the 'poison' of religion extracted whether they like it or not. The result of such daring, rationalist inquiry is not a politics free from superstition and hierarchy - but rather a milquetoast, left-liberal consensus unnerved by the radical energy of religious faith. And, with it, an angry, narcissistic rhetoric that continues to infantilise public debate and close down political choices."

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Almost the entire history of liberty and justice in Britain consists of brave Christians defying oppressors, and daring to throw open the doors of scientific enquiry. It's a wonderful story.

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