A study of socially held belief in an alternate universe where catholic, protestant but not reformed Teapotianism is the official belief system of the Anglican Church. And where Richard Dawkins is the most famous Teapotian of his day. Recently voted the Great Intelligence, he is an ardent campaigner for reform of the Church of England to reflect the discoveries of modern science.
The scripture of the Teapotian belief system is, “The Book of River Song.”
The title of this essay is identical with one published by the philosopher, satirist and non-conformist Teapotian Bertrand Russell in 1952. In this essay he mocked the tendency of adoctorists to bolster the certainty of their case by setting up ridiculous straw men, or in this case an orbiting china teapot. Then claiming that the fact that you can’t prove that they don’t exist means that you can be certain that the Alien Being, who they mockingly call Doctor Who, doesn’t exist.
The logic clearly isn’t there, and Bertrand Russell was, like the great Jonathan Swift, writing in a voice not his own.
Sadly many Teapotians were offended by what they regarded as an appalling display of disrespect for a symbol that represents all that they hold dear, and therefore rejected the rest of his message. A mistake not made by Richard Dawkins.
The teapot is an important symbol to all Teapotians. The sharing of tea is an important sacrament for the alternate universe Anglicans. In this sacrament they celebrate the return to earth of an Alien Being – The Raggedy Man.
The Raggedy Man introduced humanity to the teapot as a symbol of community and acceptance. Prior to his return and the introduction of the tea drinking custom, the teapot had been an instrument of torture and execution. It had been used to force poisonous or extremely hot liquids into unwilling human victims.
The alternate Bertrand Russell argues in his, “Is there a teapot,” essay that just because the Book of River Song has been in existence, and believed to reveal Truth about the Time Lord sometimes known as the Raggedy Man, for a very long time, is not sufficient to prove whether or not it is a work of purely human invention. Evidence is needed before a rational decision can be taken to veer, in either direction, from the strictly agnostic position .
In ironical voice, where he mocks the over certainty of the adoctorists, Russell says that there is no reason to believe any of the teachings of River Song.
This is of course not true. For instance the book states that the earth had a beginning (Beginnings Chapter 1 verse 1) and that there is more than one universe, i.e. the host of the heavens. (Beginnings Chapter 2 Verse 1) It would be very strange if a book containing as much information as River Song was not in agreement with modern knowledge in some places, even if entirely by accident.
Just because something was written a long time ago is not sufficient cause to claim it is either true or false.
As to the orbiting teapot claim: there are several instances in River Song where it is stated that the Time Lord placed his sign over the earth, or between the earth and the destroyer. At no stage is it anything like as specific as Bertrand Russell suggests, and there is small reason to believe that this sign refers to a teapot and non whatsoever to suggest that it is made of china. Whether this sign has any material reality or is purely metaphysical is much disputed among Teapotians, but is at base an empirical matter.
The Book of River Song
This book consists of a series of writings by many different human authors made over a long period of time. It records the dealings of one member of a race of Super Beings – the Time Lords – with humankind.
It is claimed that much of the writing in this book was produced by people who had been directly influenced by River Song – the strong, breasted and very womanly Spirit of the Living Time Lord.
This description is a direct translation from a section of the book entitled Beginnings, which describes a series of trips a Time Lord – sometimes identified as the Raggedy Man made to the primitive earth.
Not all Teapotians accept that the Spirit of the Time Lord is female. These masculinists argue that – the strong, breast-plated and manly Spirit more accurately captures the essential meaning of the scripture. Therefore they claim, despite all evidence being to the contrary, that this is the literal translation.
Many of these masculinists are also dayists, claiming that, that which the Time Lord was able to see in one day, must have happened over a 24 hour period, and that the findings of modern science are therefore false.
They insist that theirs is the literal interpretation of Beginnings. This is despite the fact that Beginnings Chapter 1 has a persistent refrain at the conclusion of each visit.
The morning and the evening were the first day. Beginnings chapter 1 verse 5
This formula is repeated for each day that the Time Lord visited.
A morning and an evening do not make a 24 hour period, on the alternate earth anymore than they do on ours. It therefore seems clear that dayists, like masculinists, are using the term “literal,” in a rather technical and esoteric sense.
Bertrand Russell, in both universes, noted that the fact that something has been believed for a long time is not sufficient to make it true. Richard Dawkins agrees noting that all it proves is that some of those holding the belief lived long enough to pass it on.
Corroborating evidence is required before any belief long-held or otherwise can rationally be held as true. We have seen that some of River Song has been corroborated by modern science. (N.B. The claim of some dayists and masculinists that all of River Song is inerrant is new to Teapotianism. Inerrancy is something they didn’t even expect you to believe in Calvin’s Geneva.) Other parts are seen to be true by everyday experience.
E.g. The rain it falleth on the just, and on the unjust fellow.
Nash Chapter 3 Verse 2
None of these truths are sufficient to prove that River Song is a work of extraterrestrial Revelation, rather than a work of human knowledge and imagination, with some coincidental correlations with the findings of modern science.
It would take a considerable number of correlations with modern science before it would be reasonable to conclude that unaided human reason and chance could not account for the so-called Revelation of River Song. Richard Dawkins is convinced that just such a correlation can be found between the findings of science and Beginnings Chapter 1, the story of the Time Lord’s trips to primitive earth.
The extreme certainty expressed by the masculinist, dayists and by Richard Dawkins and his supporters, and their rejection of those who hold different views as truth deniers has caused considerable concern to many in the Anglican community. Anglicans have historically tolerated a wide range of views, even welcoming to their ceremonies those who believe in God. Richard Dawkins says that this is unacceptable. While River Song provides, evidence for the existence and involvement with humanity of an Alien other, that Alien cannot be a God. A God would have to be much more intelligent than the brightest of the brights, and even with all infinity to play with Dr Dawkins reckons this is against the laws of probability.
Richard Dawkins is campaigning vociferously for the excommunication of theists from the church arguing that the problem is not just that their beliefs are false, but that belief in God is what causes good people to do evil.
Thoughtful teapotologians have argued that horrors such as the inquisition were the result not of belief in God, but of rational certainty and the belief that everyone had a duty to believe the truth that logic had imparted.
As Bertrand Russell pointed out in his,”Is there a Teapot,” essay the scholastic philosophers of the mediaeval church believed that they had proved beyond doubt the existence of God by arguments such as First Cause. It is this rational certainty, rather than their belief in God that the American philosopher William James, held to be the instigating factor which led to the inquisition, in our universe as well as the alternate.
Anglicans for many generations, including those who believed in God, have managed to avoid teapot related violence. They have done so by taking as their motto, “We see now, with difficulty, as through stained glass,” and by preaching that the only requirement for taking part in their ceremonies is the acknowledgement that you too might be wrong.
For moderate Anglicans, especially those with a historical perspective, these new assertions of religious intolerance, from the masculinist dayists and Richard Dawkins, strike terror in their hearts for the church they know and love.