The Trouble With Atheism, Channel 4

by | Dec 18, 2007 | All, Reviews

Did we like it?

A dogmatic diatribe by Rod Liddle that was forever teetering on the brink of its own crumbling credibility as he set about debunking the sanctimonious pomposity of atheism with a style of prejudicial propaganda not heard on these shores since Lord Haw Haw was silenced.

What was good about it?

• For all of the programme’s faults, it justified its existence through its willingness to address and challenge staid, complacent intellectual ideals. The fact that Rod was so cack-handed in his approach only slightly spoilt the spectacle of provocative television in a slot that on Friday housed the execrable Unanimous.

What was bad about it?

• Rod referred to the lack of God as a negative, as it presupposes that the universe is somehow lessened without a divine being. But as he was referring to the narrow monotheistic Christian faith, is Christianity not a ‘negative’ too as it assumes just one God while Hinduism, for instance, revels in polytheism?

• Whether or not Rod believes in divinity or was simply acting as an agent provocateur is irrelevant as he slanted the argument far too much towards the existence of God. When listing what are commonly seen as the virtues of atheism he spat out the words with utter disdain as if to attempt to dispel their veracity with the tone of his voice alone.

• While the section of atheists against whom Rod was railing no doubt exist and wish to crush every last iota of religious faith beneath their steel-heeled jackboots, he seemed oblivious to the fact that the majority of atheists follow their own credo out of nothing more than apathy and are quite blasé, even sympathetic, to anyone who may follow a particular belief.

• Rod mischievously used the scientists’ own rigid system of proof against them when he discussed what happened ‘before’ the Big Bang. As scientists have no concept of what existed ‘before’ then, Rod and his ilk assume that the hole in their arguments is automatically a God-shaped hole when the Big Bang might just as easily be someone sneezing and all the stellar matter is their snot spreading slowly across the empty universe.

• Rod’s polarised questioning of his subjects. Anyone spouting forth that God does exist was given a smooth ride and little or no challenge was made to their words. Atheists, however, were interrogated to such a degree that Rod was only missing a spotlight and branding iron. And whenever the argument ascended to heights he could not intellectually scale, he simply slagged them off in his voiceover.

• Rod’s efforts to slander the philosophy of Darwin also met a sticky self-delusional end. “At 147 years old Darwinism is getting on a bit” was among his attempts to seed doubt in the viewer’s mind with hogwashed waffle, and he fol-lowed it up with the equally vague: “I’m pretty sure that Darwin’s theory will be superseded.”

• And all the while, he seemed wilfully ignorant that while Darwin’s theories may prove not to be absolutely correct they will only be replaced by other proofs rigorously tested by science and not some nebulous religious edicts. And it is because of science’s willingness to admit it might be wrong that will forever make it a far better barometer of evolutionary truth than religion.

• Rod then proceeded to clumsily stumble into very dangerous territory when he suggested that Darwin inadvertently paved the way for eugenics. Yes, the founder of eugenics may have been inspired by Darwin’s theory of natural selection, yet in formulating such a philosophy threw his own compassion out of the window, a compassion that is a central tenet of human evolution – that of caring for the weakest members of society.

• And Rod mired himself in even swampier ground when he queried: “Is there a connection between Darwinism and Hitler?” This was posited to suggest Hitler may have exterminated Jews because he believed them to be inherently inferior, yet Rod must have known that Hitler’s hatred of Jews was born out him blaming them for the Fatherland losing the First World War and consequent collapse of German society rather than any idea of biological inadequacy, which was no doubt added as a delusional disclaimer by the Nazis once the discrimination began.

• Rod concluded by giving a few highly-selective instances of where societies in which God has been rejected have been even more barbarous than any society adhered to religion. Of course, the obvious example is Stalin’s Soviet Union yet, as was pointed out to Rod, Stalin wasn’t actually killing in the name of atheism; what had occurred is that the Communists had stumbled upon an even more effective way of oppressing the populace than keeping them in line with religion, which until then had mostly been the weapon of choice for despots around the globe.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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