by admin Posted on December 14, 2011
WO THINGS caught my attention last week. One was the total lunar eclipse, which was magnificent to see. The other, not so nice, is a post by someone whose work I have often enjoyed, Julian Baggini, in an unfortunate piece in The Guardian that probably wouldn’t survive a fact-check in an American newspaper.
It concerns what even he says is an unscientific survey of “beliefs” held by British churchgoers in Bristol, UK, using the following procedure:
“The online version [of my survey] was taken by a self-selecting sample of 767 churchgoers, the majority of whom read Comment is Free [his Guardian blog] at least occasionally and who are mostly aged 18-35. This is not a representative sample of typical practising Christians. The paper version was completed by 141 churchgoers in Bristol, again not randomly sampled.”
And with this vote of self-confidence in the result:
“These apparent limitations in some ways make the results even more interesting, because you’d expect the sample group in both instances to be more educated and liberal than the average. We can then be fairly confident that the surveys would not overstate the extent to which people held conventional, some might say more simplistic, versions of Christian doctrine.”
Leaving aside the improbability of anyone taking (or bothering to take) an “I go to church”- survey in England being unrepresentative of an “I go to church”-sample, but more “liberal than the average,” the study is very strange at a number of levels, which already disqualifies it for global significance. It absolutely disqualifies it in America, where religious knowledge is at an all time low, but (predictably) constantly mapped and charted in more empirical ways.
But it also is, as Jonathan Chaplin says, a non-starter in England, a country of smart but lazy people who generally like Christmas but don’t generally like sermons. Chaplin notes the procedural and methodological shortcomings of Baggini’s survey, but focuses most of his attention on the “Four Articles” which the author proposes as a way forward in creating atheist-religious dialogue. Unfortunately, Julian seems intent on wanting religious people to come to the bargaining table naked, presuppositionally speaking. While I applaud his effort to get atheists talking to religious people who are open to a sane view of the world, I’m not at all sure that this survey helps the conversation along.
HE following ORB (1999) Poll tells the story of religion’s decline in the UK, and all subsequent polls show similar southward drift for all religions except, of course, Islam. (The Empire bites back).
About Jesus Christ:
14% do not know who he is.
Less than 50% “believe in Christ”. This probably means that they do not believe that he is the son of God; the exact meaning of the question was not defined.
22% believe that he is “just a story.”
49% identify themselves as affiliated with a religious group.
27% belong to the Church of England (Episcopalian, Anglican). This is a drop from 40% in 1990.
(The latest YouGov poll cited by the British Humanist Association notes that by 2015, the level of church attendance in the UK is predicted to fall to 3,081,500 people, or 5% of the population.)
9% are Roman Catholics, unchanged since 1990.
3% of the population goes to church only at Easter and Christmas.
46% say that they have never gone to church at all.
Baggini’s upshot, if that is the word, is that he thinks that given the choice between Christianity being all about practice or belief, belief wins. He is writing as a philosopher of popular culture whose interest in the subject is correspondingly tentative:
So what is the headline finding? It is that whatever some might say about religion being more about practice than belief, more praxis than dogma, more about the moral insight of mythos than the factual claims of logos, the vast majority of churchgoing Christians appear to believe orthodox doctrine at pretty much face value. They believe that Jesus is divine, not simply an exceptional human being; that his resurrection was a real, bodily one; that he performed miracles no human being ever could; that he needed to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven; and that Jesus is the only way to eternal life. On many of these issues, a significant minority are uncertain but in all cases it is only a small minority who actively disagree, or even just tend to disagree. As for the main reason they go to church, it is not for reflection, spiritual guidance or to be part of a community, but overwhelmingly in order to worship God.
Remember the silly game everyone played five years ago ending every sentence with the non-sequitur “in bed,” and how much you wanted it to be funny but it almost never was? We need to finish that paragraph with, “In Bristol.” Actually, its parochialism doesn’t begin to suggest the problem with the survey: its problem is inherent to the very questions that the surveyor posed. But more on this later….
AGGINI’S survey may play well with atheists who are looking for any reason, any at all, that church-going is eo ipso irrational, but it is embarrassing for those of us who pore over serious literature and surveys of the morphology of belief. Not that everyone needs to have read everything on the topic, but it beggars imagination that he does not bother to know any of the recent literature on faith and practice in its wider context: Stephen Prothero’s Religious Literacy (2008) and his American Jesus (2003) for starters, but even (the work of someone with whom I rarely agree) Rodney Stark’s What Americans Really Believe (2008) is statistically important, and University of Chicago sociologist of religion Alan Wolfe’s superb book The Transformation of American Religion (2005). If on the other hand he intended his survey to be limited to Bristol, why call the survey, grandly, “The Myth that religion is more about practice than belief”? Them’s fightin’ words.
While the professional God-haters try to persuade us that religion is the same old bugaboo that it always was (All the better to melt your brain my dears) serious researchers like Wolfe have come up with a very different picture: American culture, he says, has come to dominate American religion to such a point that “We are all mainstream now.” The stereotype of religion as a fire-and-brimstone affair is obsolete. Gone is the language of sin and damnation, and forgotten are the clear delineations between denominations. They have been replaced with a multi-dimensional God and a trend towards sampling new creeds and doctrines. “American religion is less radical, less contentious, and less dangerous than it is generally perceived to be.”
I am not entirely convinced that every part of Wolfe’s assessment of the transformation of religion in America is dead-on accurate, especially in political terms, but the trends he discusses are real enough and the transformation of evangelical Protestantism shows that it has been as much affected by being “mainstreamed” as it was effective in influencing the mainstream. A part of this transformation has been doctrinal accommodation, the process first described by Peter Berger in The Sacred Canopy and much revised in his 2008 study, Religious America. Berger was surprised that the process of secularization was not irreversible (i.e., does not lead to the eradication of religious belief) but transformative: religion learns to live within and to transform a culture. The prophetic version of the same idea was put forward in 1951 in H. Richard Niebuhr’s Christ and Culture.
The larger question is implied by Baggini’s verdict that religious practice is a discrete matter, separate from faith or at least from certain metaphysical propositions. As a philosopher he is undoubtedly thinking of the Kantian tradition where this bifurcation is normative. Practice is the realm of the senses, and usually means à la Schleiermacher and his successors, doing good or doing what duty (Pflicht) requires. If it can be shown that religion relies heavily on irrational propositions offered as “claims,” however, then the do-good part of religion might be rendered comparatively minor, which, of course, is where a certain kind of atheist might struggle to keep it–in the chambers of some discredited rule-ethics hell. But this approach, even in Bristol, would require us to turn the clock back on the understanding of faith and practice three hundred years, dig up Bishop Ussher (or Michael Wigglesworth if you prefer), parade him through the streets and say, “Scary, isn’t he?”
Most Christians experience faith and practice as two prongs of the same fork. More important perhaps, the terms “faith” and “practice” are theological conventions going back to the fifth century writer Prosper of Aquitaine, not scientific ones. Anthropology since the late nineteenth century has operated on the assumption that doctrine and to a lesser extent dogma are rationalizations of religious behaviour: practice precedes doctrine (belief in a systematic and codified form) and liturgy (codified behaviour) and also modifies it. The ritual (practice)-myth (story) relationship has been a topic since E. B Tylor first studied indigenous cultures in the late nineteenth century, though he thought ritual came second in the order of religious culture. The myth/belief- first and the ritual/praxis-first debate has been lively and inconclusive, but it is increasingly rare, as Melentinsky surveys the relationship over a number of decades, to think of belief and practice as separate domains. Proclaiming “faith” the winner over “practice” on the basis of what 700-plus Bristol Christians think about Jesus is fatally vulnerable to scientific critique and edges near to being a false dichotomy. The late archbishop of Canterbury Robert Runcie recounted a sermon he once gave at a Yorkshire parish on the divinity of Jesus. It was, he said, like the belief, a bit obscure. Following the service, an earnest old parishioner shook his hand vigorously and said to him, “You’ve convinced me sir, but then I never had a doubt, that Jesus were a very nice man.”
In previous work Baggini has at least acknowledged that religion can be relatively benign. If Jews and Christians acted out their faith in ways that a troubling number of Muslims still do, Christianity would be a monstrosity. But (to parse Bultmann on why he didn’t believe in the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus) it’s not in the newspaper. The Christian-right moral agenda is a monstrosity. American Christians meddling in politics and attempting to leverage political outcomes is a monstrosity. The attitudes and personalities and self-righteousness of extreme-right Christian organizations, not towards just unbelievers but towards other believers is a monstrosity. But, marvelous to note, these things, collectively, seldom add up to catastrophic outcomes. The stories of Waco and randy Mormon elders with fourteen year-old child-brides are only newsworthy because they are exceptional–and (I have to say it) not the kind of thing that happens in Bristol.
T’S POSSIBLE, of course, to reduce Christian belief to the presumed “absurdities” that historical Christianity has embraced over the centuries–everything (one can argue) from the trinity to the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy (which is not the same East to West) to the doctrine of the Real Presence for Catholics, which is not literally maintained outside the Roman tradition. It is also possible to embrace a more radical solution to the matter: since all of these beliefs have the same source, they differ only in degree of irrationality and can be dismissed tamquam idem.
But to equate the most absurd things Christian extremists in the Bible Belt [see postscript below] believe with what the vast majority of Christians believe is simply statistically false. Most Christians in Bristol (though fewer of them) are a lot like most Christians in Milwaukee. They go to church to worship God, it is true; but that their going to church expresses a robust commitment to the irrational isn’t true. They may well go to church, as William James would have calculated, because they regard churchgoing as a “live choice”– an action with an internal and subjective appeal, not a rational or forced appeal. Or as Schleiermacher wrote in 1799, out of intuition and feeling.
Most troubling of all is Baggini’s notion that asking questions about the divinity of Jesus is of the same order as asking about the weather–ripping a first century nomen out of context and asking a naive parishioner whether he “believes” it. Countless surveys in America show that religious knowledge is at an all time low. And assuming that there is some correlation between what I know (i.e., what I can define) and what I believe, “at face value,” to quote the Baggini criterion, it would appear that the real story is that many Christians act without direct reference to anything in the doctrinal treasure chest. Ubi ignorantia ibi nihil, as a Benedictine teacher of mine used to smile when I didn’t do my homework. All I can assume is that Julian’s teachers weren’t Benedictine, but I know they were Catholic.
I DON’T KNOW how you can take anything at face value if you don’t know the face value: Catholics in America don’t know by 50% that their church teaches that the bread, in the Eucharist, is transformed into “the body, blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ,” the central doctrine of the Real Presence. The corollary of that is that they don’t know much about the sacrament of ordination, which confers this mysterious power on a priest. This might imply similar gaps in their knowledge about even more esoteric things, like the Immaculate Conception, which their grandmother probably didn’t quite get. No wonder they don’t know whether to genuflect or bow politely on entering the pew. When they did know, they bent their knees.
More startlingly, a number of studies have shown the reverse of Baggini’s conclusion: that believers throughout the Catholic world do not know or do not accept their Church’s teaching on abortion and contraception–the effect of years of disinformation and irrelevance, ignorance and indifference as to papal infallibility, and skepticism about the authority of the church in general in ethical matters. The Pew Forum Poll showed that only about half of those questioned could name the four gospels, and only 16% knew that Protestants, rather than Catholics, teach that salvation comes through faith alone. It is difficult to imagine, given this intellectual lassitude, that anyone in America can be trusted to define the larger doctrinal issues and warrants: trinity, the divinity of Jesus, salvation and atonement, and justification even at a depreciated value. Other polls have described the enormous elasticity not only of specific beliefs, but also the core beliefs of the Christian faith, including those associated with God and the divinity of Jesus. Belief in God is not a constant even among worshipers who have a strong belief in god, and definitions and ideas of God differ dramatically from denomination to denomination and region to region. Yet, many continue to “practice” their faith, perform works of kindness and mercy, and act charitably towards each other as Jesus commended.
MODEST PROPOSAL: Reactive and Non-reactive Beliefs
It is pretty clear to anyone who studies the nature of belief and doctrine historically that Christian teaching can be divided into two categories: Reactive belief and Nonreactive-belief. Think of reactive belief as radioactive: it has the potential to do harm because it invites defensive and aggressive behaviour from its proponents.
Nonreactive belief is the essentially harmless and deradiated form of beliefs that are harmful and toxic: it is the tribute money Christian faithful pay to the tradition, without being adamantly committed to any of them or especially knowledgeable about any of them to any significant degree. It is not that they are entirely negotiable, but they are subject to the form of negotiation called interpretation. Many Christians are not especially curious about them, though some are. Most reactive belief is dogmatic. Most nonreactive belief is intuitive, though sometimes it is expressed in doctrine.
In the Reactive category, I would put the following:
- The plenary inspiration or uniqueness of a sacred text, whether the Bible or Qur’an
- Any ethical or moral system derived from that doctrine
- Doctrines and theories of war or social practice based on the theory of inspiration
- A political system or theory of the state, church or mosque that took its guiding principles from a scriptural perspective, or understood that perspective as normative
- Any claims that scriptural teaching possesses historical, humanistic or scientific authority over scientific inquiry, experiment, and investigation
- Eschatology (a “lively” belief in the end of the world, punishment, reward); especially the doctrine of satisfaction, or the physical pleasures of the elect, as in Islam and some minor sects of Christianity
It would be interesting to see a survey in which only questions about these beliefs were asked. Anyone who holds such beliefs could not be expected to have a serious conversation with a non-believer; nor would he be likely to have a very long conversation with most Christian believers.
In the Nonreactive category, I would place all intra- and supra-biblical doctrines that (even if they claim scriptural warrant) have no practical implications and no clear relevance to ordinary life. These beliefs have largely been rendered harmless through millennia of development and, especially, interpretation. They are the core beliefs of Christianity in an “honorary” or traditional sense, and are therefore irrelevant to any discussion between atheists and Christian believers.
- Belief in God and interpretations of that belief
- The “divinity” of Jesus, including the story of his resurrection
- Much of the non-apocalyptic teaching of Jesus (e.g., love of neighbour)
- The doctrine of merit earned through human achievement
- Belief in the special status of the human person
- The mortal existence of the human soul as an expression of humanity
- The worship of God as a communal expression of faith
- Many parochial and specific doctrines of a largely devotional nature, e.g, the eucharist
I cannot help but notice that Julian Baggini’s survey largely focuses on questions about the non-reactive and “honorary” beliefs of the faith. (Respondents could hardly have been counted on to endorse the most reactive ones.) There are connections between the two lists, of course, and anyone not wont to make distinctions or explore the process of theological development can be forgiven for putting a pox on both lists. I understand categorical rejection of religious beliefs; I just do not support it.
But categorical rejection isn’t as easy as it looks. It is not as simple as saying, for example, “The divinity of Jesus is based on the doctrine of plenary inspiration” and is thus reactive. In fact that is not true. The divinity of Jesus is an interpretation that cannot rely on the “clear and obvious sense” of the Bible. It isn’t the case that the belief in revelation entails plenary inspiration, or that salvation entails doctrines of heaven and hell–not even in their biblical form. The resurrection of Jesus, like the account of the creation of the world in Genesis, are stories rather than beliefs or doctrines. Neither appears to be ‘reactive’ to me, though at a literal level they are false..
The disjunct between reactive and nonreactive doctrines is also clear from the practice of most Christians: the Christianity most critics of fundamentalism deplore consists of attempts to export and impose reactive beliefs. The essentially irrelevant Christianity that bothers almost no one and seems to interest fewer and fewer people, except hardshell atheists, is essentially nonreactive.
POSCTSCRIPT: The Bible Belt
NATURALLY when it comes to religion, context matters. I once heard a “British evangelical” described as someone who still believes church services are held on Sunday. Pollsters have operated for decades now on the knowledge that Christianity is really “Christianities,” to remember Oxford religionist Peggy Morgan‘s famous caution about “religious ethics.” Christianity is stratified by doctrine, first of all, but then geographically as well. ”Geographically” moreover does not mean just London, Paris and New York, but sectorally across the United States. H. L. Mencken was the first person to use the term Bible Belt as a description, but he was simply being attentive to what later sociologists would graph as “audience” for religious radio (later TV), and core traditional-conservative protestant values and beliefs. BB-Christianity tended to be poor, white, southern or southwestern uneducated and defensive–almost isolationist–rather than aggressive. Core beliefs included the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus, salvation by faith-experience (born againism), and of course the source of all of it: the inerrant authority of the Bible. Two early, and still readable, basic studies were George M. Marsden’s Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925 (1980) and S.W. Tweedie’s seminal article “Viewing the Bible Belt” in the Journal of Popular Culture (11; 865-76). The worst study of the subject, alas, because he was a first-class biblical scholar in other ways, was Oxford’s James Barr’s crack at understanding it in his 1978 book Fundamentalism.
Since those studies, conservative Christianity has grown wildly, and the Bible Belt like the rest of America has become fat. In the map following, the areas usually associated with the Belt are shown in red, but by all accounts, even Tweedie’s study, it has both a northerly and westerly direction. Some studies identify it closely with the beliefs of about 24 conservative protestant groups; others see it more strongly and organizationally tied to the Southern Baptist Convention, which recently went on record as wanting to change its name because of “bad press” and misunderstanding of its goals.
To complicate things, there are export Bible belts as well as indigenous ones in Australia, Canada, and even the U.K. (for some reason, in Surrey, southwest of London). Moreover, the term is often applied outside the United States to areas which simply show a statisticaly higher than average degree of church- attendance, and which blend familiar anti-science rhetoric with socialist politics. The Free Churches in the United Kingdom, for example (for historical reasons) are associated with Unitarianism and have a very low doctrinal profile, but their belief would be completely out of line with the agenda of the Unitarian community in North America.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged atheism, Barna, Baylor 2006, Butterflies and Wheels, catholic church, Comment is free, Jerry Coyne, Julian Baggini, Pew Forum, R. Joseph Hoffmann, Religion polls, The Guardian (UK), why evolution is true. Bookmark the permalink.
On the plus side, Julian’s piece exposed the confirmation bias of the “Gnusies”. So much for being hard-headed empiricists, eh?
One wonders whether Julian Baggini has any clue as to just how silly his observations look; the answer is probably not. Anyone familiar with Guardian Comment on Belief who believes that they are going to get an honest response from the anonymous ranks is, to be blunt, deluded.
There are some interesting questions, which he naturally does not tackle, as to the tensions between what one is supposed to believe and what one does believe.
The New Atheists do not believe in evolution in much the same way as the massed ranks of devout Catholics do not believe in transubstantiation; neither group knows what it is they are supposed to be believing.
They are, therefore, not examples of that tension; they are merely ignorant.
Bach, on the other hand, was not ignorant. He was perfectly aware of the theological view of Good Friday as it was decreed at the time when he was composing St Matthew’s Passion; the words are exactly those prescribed.
But the music says otherwise, and the music wins…
Greetings from the Bible Belt. Right here in good ‘ol Tulsa, America. Having lived in this area for more years than I care to admit, and having a family that includes several “born-again’s,” and living as I do only a few blocks from where Oral Roberts, the acknowledged father of televangelism, created his namesake university, I believe I am fully qualified to discuss the “Faith, Practice and Religious Literacy” issues that you have brilliantly described above.
First of all, here in the Bible Belt, we don’t intellectualize about much of anything, much less wander around in the metaphysical forest looking for religious self-analysis (as opposed to analyzing self-righteousness). It boils down, as I have said many times here and elsewhere, to gut reactions, emotional responses, psychology. Listening to the choir, smelling the candles and the flowers, speaking the words that came from on high, produce many more pheromones than trying to figure out the difference between Pure and Practical Reason. (Yawn) Evangelical orgasms trump intellectual pundants every time.
In my blog next door, “The Humanist Challenge,” I wrote the following in Part 3 of my series. “The Alchemy of Religion and the Quantum Theory of Humanism” that seems pertinent here, sans the pictures:
“On May 22, 2011, my hometown of Joplin, Missouri, was savagely attacked by an EF-5 tornado, with wind speeds estimated between 261 and 318 mph. Several of my family members live there and, thankfully, none were hurt. However, my niece and her family lost their home, or, as shown in the adjacent photo, most of it. The pictures and video of the extensive damage, about one-third of the city, were painful for me to see; childhood memories made unrecognizable by the fury of wind. The city will no doubt recover, as most cities do after natural disasters.
“From recordings made during the storm, and in interviews after it had passed by, almost all of the victims invoked some reference to prayer, with the occasional mention of “a miracle” thrown in as they stood amidst the terrible destruction. Of course, what they really meant was that they, and their family and friends, had pleaded for and were granted safety from physical harm, or even death. This, they attribute to Devine intervention. Their prayers worked, miracles happened, and they survived.
“Being a Humanist, I found myself empathizing with these folks. They were, after all, looking for an explanation for the inexplicable, while, at the same time, trying to shield themselves from the anguish and grief that always attend such tragedies. I could feel their pain and it was made more intense because this city was my home for the first eighteen years of my life. And that pain was intensified after I saw the extent of the damage up close and personal.
“But I was not always empathetic. When tragedies like this had struck in other places where, with declarations of prayers answered and miracles performed, I was more of a mind to mock and ridicule. After all, I knew what the religionists were afraid to admit, that there is no supernatural force that answers requests to perform magic tricks, no wizard behind the curtain. I’m not too proud of that now. A non-theist with attitude is a New Atheist, I tell myself. The intolerance and disdain of religion by the Gnus are not desirable attributes for a Humanist; not this one anyway.
“The bigger question here is what causes an almost ubiquitous appeal to some greater power in times of tragedy and thereafter by those affected. Superficially, the cause seems to derive from the local culture, a tribal kind of thing; the nurture aspects. But I think it runs deeper than that. I think it’s an integral part of human nature and that it rests on the cusp of the physical and the psychological.”
I would only add that since that tragedy, there have been no less that 86,500 volunteers from all around the country who came to Joplin, a city of only 50,000, to volunteer their time. I would guess the vast majority were from the religious community–church groups mostly. But they didn’t come to proselytize. They came to work. They had no interest at all in deconstructing religious dogma much less trying to figure out whether they were reactive or nonreactive. Religious literacy doesn’t heal or help to rebuild . . . in bed.
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MacDonald’s blog lives up to his name: a crap diet at discounted prices with no nutritional value and volumes of waste that disintegrates slowly and pollutes the environment. I thought at first his blog was just the meandering of a senior citizen with an arthritic conscience. Now I realize it is the work of an old man who can’t read.
That’s a disgusting thing to say. Last spring you called him a “smeg-head”…but you eventually apologized. Now you’re jeering at him for being old. Pathetic.
I do not recall using the term “smeghead” to refer to MacDonald. It’s not a term that comes naturally to me–but I can’t deny I said it. If I did I apologize. However, there is plenty of proof that he can’t read, and that is not my fault. When the most someone can offer from their word hoard is “bullshit” it doesn’t doesn’t suggest much about his powers of observation. He only adds to this that he had a liberal, episcopalian theological education which he seems to have got over. If there is even a tangency between that biographical insight and his inability to respond to a statistical argument, let’s know it. Otherwise, I have to conclude he cannot read or is not reading. This looks like a clear case of –what is it lawyers say–If the facts are on your side argue the facts, and when they’re not [paraphrase] use the word bullshit. I have yet to see a constructive response from him to any critique, which gives him the unassailable rightness of a man playing his own game.
Schleiermacher’s wise words to religion’s cultured despisers selected here, are immortal, compassionate, and true. Religion’s despisers are are little less ‘cultured’ now, and wising them up is more of a difficult task but probably just impossible. The contemporary trends are expressed with lucidity and clarity in this essay, and the reactive and non reactive proposal is the most efficient model and suitably sufficient to describe the two distinct flavours in religious belief today.
What is going on over at the king of critical blogs might be of interest. At: Ed Jones Dialogue Vridar
What? Who? KCBs and that, be an oxy moron, Ed. 😉
Ed Jones Dialogue on the ‘Genesis Problem’ – Comment 2/6/12 Steph FYI
“A major paradigm shift – a Copernican revolution of sorts – a radical new scientific Discovery which posed serious threats to existing understanding of the universe”. Such announcement took place at a conference held at Cambridge University to honor Stephen Hawking on his 70th birthday, entitled “State of the Universe”, a Meeting of some of the most notable minds of the scientific community. A New Science editorial: Why physicist can’t avoid a creation event, made the comment: “You could call it the worse birthday present ever” (forcing so much mind changing).
A prerecorded message from Stephen Hawking who was ill unable to attend: “A point of creation would be a place where science broke down. One would have to appeal to religion and the hand of God.” What really broke down was Hawking’s Grand Design, his M-heory caiming that with gravith there was no need for a Creator.
Then Cosmologist Vilarkin introduced mathematical formula that basically imply the universe was created ex-nhilo, a singular beginning. Unlike Hawking, Vilarkin was able to swallow some humble pie and admit that his previous solutions regarding the universe were wrong. His numerous papers supporting the possibility of Multiverse and ;arallel universes, but new equations refute these theories.
Surprised to see Baggini venturing a bit below the belt. For a better sample of his thinking, one might want to try “Making Sense: Philosophy behind the headlines”, or “The Philosopher’s Toolkit” with Peter Fosl.
Moreover, he’s almost always right on target when he talks about Hume.