Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins

Where is Richard Dawkins when you need him? Usually all it takes is a papal appearance on Thought for the Day to bring the shrieking atheist out of his lair, but when a band of bishops attempt to derail the welfare policies of a (more or less) elected government we get silence.

We have had a similar silence from the British Humanist Association which is usually keen to express its resentment at the presence of bishops in the House of Lords.

Instead the BHA at present seems more concerned with Islamist threats and violence, faith schools, abortion, abstinence and anything involving the Catholic Church.

Now some of these issues are of real importance but one would have thought that given an example of blatant interference (although not necessarily decisive) in the affairs of state by the bishops, the BHA would jump at the chance to show they have been right all along, especially on an issue where the bishops seem to be on the wrong side of public opinion.

It can only be that the bishops were championing a non-moral issue that has allowed them to get a free ride from the opponents of religion. Had the bishops been opposing, for example, abortion, one images the reaction would have been a bit more vocal.

Quite why issues like abortion and abstinence are issues which atheists should have a dogmatic view on (in the way that most Christians might) is a mystery and yet it appears to be so. Why should atheists and secularists be so in favour of abortion and against abstinence, especially when respect for science is supposedly a core part of atheist thinking?

This is especially true of abstinence, as someone who practices abstinence, scientifically speaking, is far less likely to have an unwanted pregnancy or contract a sexually transmitted disease than someone who does not.

Just as with abstinence, both sides of the abortion debate can produce studies and evidence showing their point of view to be beneficial for women and that of the other side to be detrimental.

While it is obvious why Christians, Muslims, Jews etc might have set views on abortion and other social issues it is less clear why this would be true of non-believers. After all there is no set text of atheism and allegedly no dogma and yet despite this most "freethinkers" appear to all have the same view, one can only assume that they feel the need to oppose dogma with dogma, regardless of evidence.

After all there is no Christian view as to how to reform the welfare system (or rather there are many conflicting views) and subsequently no faith-based dogma for atheists to oppose. If atheists really want to claim the conceited title of "freethinker" it would be nice to see some evidence of it in the form of differing atheist opinions, otherwise they will be open to the charge of being just as dogmatic as the faithful.