To:The Editor                                                               




10 Feb. 2006

"Atheists are a rare breed these days." These opening words of the article by Piers Paul Read in your January 20 issue express wishful thinking rather than fact, for every succeeding social survey of religious affiliation shows a steady increase in non-belief at the expense of orthodox creeds.

In the UK, according to the National Statistics Office, 15.1% of the population now claims to have no religious belief. A further 7.8% of respondents left the question unanswered, and it seems unlikely that many of them would be secret believers. By contrast, Catholics in the UK now number only 8.86% of the population - and that is according to the Catholic Missionary Union of England and Wales, which is hardly likely to have under-estimated the percentage. As for the rest of the world, only in South America and Poland do Catholics lead the field.

Mr. Read may think that non-belief differs from atheism - but in fact they are synonymous, the word "atheist" simply meaning "without god-belief". The idea that atheists claim to be able to disprove the existence of a deity is false: they merely claim that the burden of evidential proof of the factual existence of alleged beings - whether gods, angels, ghosts, werewolves, or little green men - must rest with its believers. And adequate evidence for the existence of any god is conspicuous by its absence.

Yours truly,




26th Feb 2006

SIR - May I respond to the replies of February 17 and 24 to my letter published on the 10th?

James Bogle, supporting Piers Paul Reed's statement that "atheists are a rare breed these days", points to the fact that they number less than 23 per cent of the British population - but is that "rare"'? If so, Catholics, at 8.R5 per cent, are very rare indeed. In the world as a whole, atheists and Catholics are roughly equal in number (one billion each). Of course, people who believe in some sort of supernatural force-are the great majority, but the mutual incompatibility of their beliefs hardly makes them allies.

Ian white quotes one of the New Oxford definitions of atheism - "The theory or belief that God does not exist" - but that is a definition favoured by Christians, not one accepted by -atheists themselves, who claim merely to have no deity.

However, a clear definition of the attributes and function of an alleged deity, put forward by professed believers, may provide atheists with disproof of that particular deity, based on internal contradiction.

If, for instance, believers posit a personal creator of the universe that is beneficent as well as powerful, then the problem of undeniable suffering on earth surely demonstrates the non-existence of any such creator - just as a square circle is impossible. If there really were a powerful creator responsible for the unstable tectonic plates that cause earthquakes and tsunamis and for creatures that can live only by preying on other sentient beings, he/she/it would surely have to be a sadist.

Finally, Philip Goddard claims that god-belief has created "the greatest art, music, poetry and architecture that the world has ever known." But the artists had to earn a living - and in the ages of faith the Church held the money-bags. When the same artists (many of them secret unbelievers) turned to secular subjects, the quality of their work was no less great.

Yours truly,


Yours truly,

Barbara Smoker (Miss)

Barbara Smoker (Miss)

(Former President of the National Secular Society)