Oh dear. The World Cup is nine months away, but we may not see a greater own goal than Greg Craven’s attack on the neo-atheists in today’s Age (sorry, National Times, the brave new collection of all the stuff that was available on Fairfax anyway) .

The neo-atheists – Dawkins, Hitchens and others – are an annoying bunch, taking the most literal version of monotheism, and then guffawingly mocking it (‘oh a whale, really’) in a tone not unlike the baby in the Family Guy.

Trouble is Craven sounds worse…

If you’re going to oppose atheists, you better give a more sophisticated account of what belief is, because even those of us sympathetic to the possibility of meaningful belief do sometimes wonder what exactly it is intelligent religious people believe.

Does Craven, G, for example, actually believe that God is some form of higher consciousness watching our every move like it was a billion films unspooling and occasionally intervening? Or is it more abstract? In a scientific civilisation there is at least a case to answer.

Craven G avoids them all, being both supercilious (‘such dislikeable creatures’), put-upon (‘ohhh how they hate us’) and skirting genuine issues, such as school funding and child abuse.

This won’t do. Craven G’s tone simply feeds the darkest atheist suspicion about intelligent religionists – that their beliefs are a form of bad faith, designed to avoid the tough issues posed by a universe that comes with no big Meaning supplied.

The treatment of child abuse is stupidly blithe — does Craven G think we haven’t noticed that whole sections of the Church, such as its entire child home system in Ireland for decades, functioned as a sadistic and predatory gang? Quite aside from the suffering involved, might this not suggest a church whose core beliefs have corroded away, leaving nothing but a wealthy political organisation with schools, universities…and generous tax breaks?

Does Craven G think it would be both wise and necessary to make a better case? And that maybe he should be a little more down in the Lions’ den, and a little less up himself.

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