The Heathen Manifesto

For several weeks I have been commenting on Julian Baggini’s “Heathen’s Progress” essays on the Guardian web site. He has now concluded his series by proposing a “heathen manifesto,” “an attempt to point towards the next phase of atheism’s involvement in public discourse. It is not a list of doctrines that people are asked to sign up to but a set of suggestions to provide a focus for debate and discussion. Nor is it an attempt to accurately describe what all atheists have in common. Rather it is an attempt to prescribe what the best form of atheism should be like.”

This manifesto is being widely read and will be widely discussed. It is a significant step in the attempt to find common ground between theists and atheists. I will comment on it in later posts, but for now, a bare list of his twelve principles will suggest Baggini’s general direction:

1 Why we are heathens

2 Heathens are naturalists

3 Our first commitment is to the truth

4 We respect science, not scientism

5 We value reason as precious but fragile

6 We are convinced, not dogmatic

7 We have no illusions about life as a heathen

8 We are secularists

9 Heathens can be religious

10 Religion is often our friend

11 We are critical of religion when necessary

12 This manifesto is less concerned with distinguishing heathens from others than forging links between us and others

I encourage you to read Julian’s statement in its entirety:

Roger Schriner

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3 thoughts on “The Heathen Manifesto

  1. I have just read Julian’s full statement and I think I agree with all of it. I especially like this bit from no 11:
    “We object when religion invokes mystery to avoid difficult questions or to obfuscate when clarity is needed. We do not like the way in which “people of faith” tend to huddle together in an unprincipled coalition of self-interest, even when that means liberals getting into bed with homophobes and misogynists. We think it is disingenuous for religious people to talk about the reasonableness of their beliefs and the importance of values and practice, while drawing a veil over their embrace of superstitious beliefs. In these and other areas, we assert the right and need to make civil but acute criticisms.”

  2. The problem here is that a number of Pagans, most notably the Asatru, call themselves heathens- atheists adopting it would be a bit of cultural missapropriation, seems to me.

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