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Atheist philosopher AC Grayling turns down Assisi invitation

By on Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A C Grayling accepted the invitation from the Vatican thinking he would have a discussion with the Pope (Photo: PA)

A C Grayling accepted the invitation from the Vatican thinking he would have a discussion with the Pope (Photo: PA)

British philosopher A C Grayling has withdrawn from attending an interreligious event to promote world peace hosted by the Vatican.

Although the professor of philosophy had originally planned to attend the third “Prayer for Peace” in Assisi, Italy, he later changed his mind on discovering that it was an event for pilgrims.

Professor Grayling told The Catholic Herald: “I thought it was originally to have a discussion with the Pope about the place of religion in society but then it turned out it was a minor event and what they wanted was these guests to accompany the Pope on a pilgrimage. So I decided to withdraw.”

The invitation to Professor Grayling is surprising given his criticism of Pope Benedict XVI in the run-up to the papal visit. In May 2010 he wrote an article for the Independent entitled, “Why no Asbo for the Pope?” stating: “Is the Pope in any danger of receiving 100 hours of community service for hiding hundreds of paedophiles from the law all round the world? Is he likely to get an Asbo? Or has he been invited to the United Kingdom as an official visitor who will meet the Queen and be feted and courted, secure in the knowledge that efforts to arrest him and put him on trial for heading a huge criminal conspiracy will fail?”

Pope Benedict is reported to have invited several other prominent non-believers to the interreligious event in Assisi, in accordance with the Vatican’s “Courtyard of the Gentiles” project, which seeks to promote discussions between Christians and non-believers around the world.

Other atheists expected to attend and participate in a panel discussion include French philosopher Julia Kristeva, the Italian professor Bodei Remo and Mexico’s Guillermo Hurtado, founder of the philosophy magazine, Dianoia.

The event is due to take place next week to mark the 25th anniversary of the first Assisi gathering. The inaugural event took place in 1986, under Blessed John Paul II’s pontificate, and drew together many Christian denominations and members of other faiths.

  • ms Catholic state

    When people don’t believe in Hell…..they are more likely to commit atrocities….as they fear no retribution.  History bears this out.  And I love the way atheists pretend to care soooo much for children.  But their actions belie their true beliefs…..they use contraception and abortion to make sure children do not exist….and then they support divorce which allows parents to discard their natural duties of responsiblity and care for those they bring into the world.

    Very very callous and unatural.

  • ms Catholic state

    Please don’t insult the poor.  The way things are going….we in the West will be poor while the developing world will be striding ahead.  If they can avoid the pitfalls of secularism that is.  Things always change…..and poverty ensues if society doesn’t act morally and take its responsibilities.  Wealth can never be taken for granted.

  • ms Catholic state

    Actually…..the numbers of Seminarians are increasing in the UK….and have been for the past 5 years!!  Even the BBC reports so.

  • ms Catholic state

    Baby selling still goes on ….with the consent of the authorities and mothers who seem to have lost all maternal instinct.  Consider for example….where is the mother of Michael Jackson’s children?!  Odd that nobody has mentioned her as cutodian for her children now that Jackson is dead.  Very sinister!

  • Bob Hayes

    ‘This man has an insatiable appetite for applause.’  That is merely your interpretation, and in the secularist world you must accept that mine is different – because in the secularist world there are no specially privileged viewpoints, all are equal are they not?

  • BTyler

    We have much to learn from the poor and illiterate.

    What is superstition to you is truth to others. ‘Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen’. It is a gift offered to each of us. You have refused it, other have accepted it. 

  • Bob Hayes

    What is it about some atheists (also some secularists and humanists) that makes them so aggressively evangelical? If – as they claim - people of faith are ‘deluded’, why don’t they just ignore us? I have no interest in English Premier League football, so I ignore it. I don’t write to the press and post on football forums denouncing football fans for spending their money on season tickets, shirts and scarves and following teams. 

    There is something very odd about evangelical atheists – all the more so when they shy away (A.C. Grayling) from engaging in a civil fashion with people of faith.

  • Construction

    My atheist friends may think me deluded, that’s up to them, the reason most of them tend to be evangelical is the see churches trying to manipulate governments to give them more religious priviledge, they see people trying to manipulate science lessons in order to exclude evolution, and teach creationism instead.
    There are many many reasons like these that they feel should not be forced on anybody.
    We only have to look at our own church to see we must get our own house in order before worrying about non belivers. Whilst our church is protecting paedophile clergy and dealing in children in spain, it is difficult to claim the moral high ground. Its not the lay people they are concerned about, it’s the sikos and sikos protecting them 

  • Bob Hayes

    Sorry, I am at a bit of a loss to understand the point you are making. What are ‘sikos’? Also – let’s be clear that our Church does not protect ‘paedophile clergy’. Too much tabloid press can fog the mind.

  • Anonymous

    ever heard of the soft sell? I thought not!

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Your reasoning is so much in deficit, it’s hard to know where to start your education. But you have already been shown that your morals are just as amenable to change as anybody. The only different being that someone tells you their morals and you accept it without thinking. So how can having morals that you think about, mean that you can do anything you like? It doesn’t make any sense.

    But, does believing in something stop you committing atrocities, being cruel to children, denying women their babies because you disagree with the way they live? Well, there’s plenty of proof that it doesn’t.
    In fact, believing in some ancient concept of the supernatural seems to give people the moral right to do all these things. 

    The belief in a god is a powerful emotion and there is evidence that there is a genetic component to it. Just as atheists rise above the ‘might is right’ concept and are able to conceive of a better morality than handed out by someone else who obtained it eventually from the bronze age, you might consider being strong enough to transcend such things. It’s hard to reject the peer pressure you undergo and if you are American, being an atheist is not an easy choice at all. But I assure you, the ability of examining the world without filters is very rewarding.

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

     I don’t agree with the indoctrination of children by advertising etc, but what has that to do with argument. Surely you realise that the font of consumerism is one the most ‘devout’ countries in the western world. Are you trying to say that there are no christians, muslims or jews in marketing or advertising?

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    A belief in the equality of all people? Yes I think that is a good desire and not always possible, but I don’t hold it as an absolute truth for many reasons. One major reason is that I would never want to be trapped into the belief that I am absolutely right, or that my morals are absolutely correct. It’s that ability to listen and adjust to other people’s cogent arguments which separates believers and non-believers. 

  • http://twitter.com/Acleron1 Acleron

    Thanks for the references, I’m out for a day so will take some time to examine them.

    Bonobo apes have evolved for exactly the same time as humans since a common ape-like ancestor. Their behaviour has much to recommend it however, they seek to reduce and resolve social tensions with sex. Excellent idea, but you may have noticed we evolved somewhat differently, I don’t advise you to watch a pair of humans to catch my drift…

  • Jimmy Martello

    What a shame Prof. Grayling hates the pope more than he loves an honest exchange of philosophical thought on the subject of peace. He is missing a substantial opportunity to bring challenges to areas he sees as warranting attention. It seems extremely short sighted to me.

  • Lux49

    There will be also Walter Baier (coordinator of transform!europe, a leftist network) on the train towards Assisi.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    ‘The Catholic Church doesn’t need to ponce about having meetings or conferences with anyone.’
    Hi Simon. Look, speaking as one of those poor benighted Catholics you need to save from our ignorance, wouldn’t it be a good idea for you to meet with us to explain your ideas? If Julia Kristeva can be bothered to turn up to try and help us out of our stupidity, wouldn’t it be quite charitable of Grayling to do the same?

    Or do you think trolling on Catholic websites with charming posts like this is likely to convince us?

  • Anonymous

    It is atheism which makes the sadists perverts and murderers who prey on the innocent. Everyone comes into the world as a baby, and it is atheism which kills and corrupts. Those innocents which atheism cannot corrupt are killed in the womb, and those who are corrupted go into every walk of life killing and corrupting as they go. There are corrupt politicians, police, soldiers, academics and yes even clerics, but they are coming from outside of the church, from the atheistic society around it. The church will stand – atheism is doomed. Put simply Grayling – the atheist - is bottling out.

  • http://cumlazaro.blogspot.com/ Lazarus

    ‘The belief in a god is a powerful emotion and there is evidence that there is a genetic component to it.’
    Won’t there be a genetic component to atheism as well? Indeed, if you’re accepting some version of evolutionary psychology, how could there not be? 

    There’s clearly an emotional pay off: the feeling of superiority your posting evidences. 

    It’s hard to grow out of that adolescent feeling of being a rebel and the affirmation that brings from other adolescents. But I assure you, the ability of examining the world through a tradition passed on and developed by some of the finest human minds enlightened by the Holy Spirit is very rewarding.

  • Anonymous

    It is atheism which makes the sadists perverts and murderers who prey on the innocent. Everyone comes into the world as a baby, and it is atheism which kills and corrupts. Those innocents which atheism cannot corrupt are killed in the womb, and those who are corrupted go into every walk of life killing and corrupting as they go. There are corrupt politicians, police, soldiers, academics and yes even clerics, but they are coming from outside of the church, from the atheistic society around it. The church will stand – atheism is doomed.  The prince of darkness will never prevail against the light of Christ and Grayling has chosen the temporary security of darkness. Put simply he has bottled out.

  • Bob Hayes

    The point I make is that children (and indeed adults) are bombarded by ‘information’ from a huge range of sources. To single out religion as ‘utterly despicable’ is subjective in the extreme. Your allusion to the ‘devout’ USA is illustrative of this subjectivity, as you seem to conflate religious ceremonial participation with religious faith. While it is true that ceremonial participation is high in the US conscript Christianity is not the same as living the life taught by Christ.

  • Bob Hayes

    ‘It’s that ability to listen and adjust to other people’s cogent arguments which separates believers and non-believers.’   —   There’s more than a hint of ’1984′ in that statement, which is a fine illustration of atheist intolerance! Apparently we believers do not possess the ‘ability to listen and adjust to other people’s cogent arguments’. With a sweeping statement like that it is easy to see why so many atheists find the suppression of religion attractive.

  • Jake

    Please do your trolling on richarddawkins.net where it will be much more welcomed.

  • Jake

    Secularism doesn’t protect unborn children from being systematically murdered on a scale that would make even the Nazis blush. Take a look at the incredibly distressing story of YueYue in China a girl ran over by a van and ignored by 18 passers by, I suppose this is what happens with an incredibly atheistic, self absorbed and materialistic society. Lets not forget about social darwinism and eugenics which are all the fruits that atheism has to offer.

  • Mj-tyra

    Simon Norwich, you are absolutely an idiot!! you don’t know what you are talking about . show to the world that you can make peace  to all the nations on the planet. even you yourself are also one of the child abuser but doesn’t wnat to admit it . hope you are pleased with yourself.

  • Ian

    You call SimonNorich a child abuser. Are you serious??

    Words fail me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003003505198 Lloydie Vuitton

    Pope Benedict made the RIGHT decision. This meeting casts a heretical impression on the Roman Catholic Church as if it is on equal footing with other faiths and religions. You may disagree but Traditional Conservative Catholics DO NOT like this at all. 

    Remember the Buddha they placed on the altar next to the Cross in 1986? Remember the witches and voodoo shamans blessing the Pope of Rome? Disgraceful and utterfly deplorable.

    NO WONDER Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger at the time did not attend this event—–and with the lack of joined prayer—-it calms many conservative Catholics but still cast disapproval for attending such event.

    Grayling, the Atheist professor was wise to remove his invitation from the event. He thought he was going to get a chance to debate and discuss with the Pope as if it was a discussion panel and was clearly dissapointed to learn that it was a pilgrimage event dedicated to the idea of social peace, not doctrinal dialogue. They are not on the same equal footing and they will never breathe the same social air. Personally, I don’t even agree that Pope Benedict XVI should allow this event to go on, period. It is a great slap and disgrace to many faithful Roman Catholics who are extremely orthodox and loyal to the doctrinal papal teachings of the Church.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003003505198 Lloydie Vuitton

    Unfortunately, these Satanic Atheists and simpletons don’t even recognize the FACT that the Roman Catholic Church, under the approval of Pope Pius XII opened many churches, convents and buildings to house the persecuted Jews during the holocaust. All they see is the poison that their secular demons fill their heads with. Truly, sin and evil really twist the mind of the “most intellectual” scholars nowadays.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003003505198 Lloydie Vuitton

    You read too much tabloid trash biased against the Roman Catholic Church. How dare you judge many good priests (I have relatives), nuns and deacons who are extremely Orthodox and loyal to the church by smearing their reputation for few bunch who tainted the church. The Church will continue to be persecuted towards the end of days and this type of Renewal is exactly what is necessary to strengthen the faith and chastise the immoral sinners like yourself who Reject God and submit to the Devil. God have mercy on your soul for being MORALLY BANKRUPT.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Someone really ought to spell it out to the Pope – if he insists on lying down with dogs, he’s bound to end up with fleas.

    So much for all the baloney from Atheists & Others about “respecting other people’s beliefs.”  They forget to add “except the beliefs of Catholics.”

    Hypocrites.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    I was away to click “like”there until I saw your final sentence.  Make way for a return to the Traditional Catholic Faith, is what will make a difference.

    The ordinariate Anglicans are  set to get their own “Mass “(according to today’s Catholic Herald) so we’ve had enough of “new” – the “new” Catholicism has failed  every bit as much as secularism.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Since you see human beings as “atrocities”, given your devotion to contraception, you have absolutely nothing to offer anyone. Head off to China where they, too, hate human beings.  In this week alone, there’s been reports of a toddler knocked down who was ignored by the (literally) passers by and the woman, six months pregnant, forced to have an abortion for the crime of having had a child without permission. That’s secularism for you.  No thanks.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Garbage. Hitler was not raised as a Catholic.  He repudiated Catholicism at the first opportunity and treated Catholics with a particular savagery – not that you’d know it because the propaganda is that only the Jew suffered under Hilter. Not so.  And how dare you insult Catholics by effectively labelling us all as anti-Jewsih.  How DARE you.  If I posted on a secularist webiste (which I’ve absolutely NO desire to do) my posts would be blocked by the intolerant “liberals” who want the freedom to insult Catholics without allowing us right of reply. 

    Thanks to the fact that – as the editor of the Catholic Herald knows – we have nothing to fear except the boredom of having to listen to the same ridiculous and nonsensical accusations, you are permitted free access to this and no doubt other Catholic sites.  Thus, show some respect. If you HAVE to blog here, at least do your homework.  If it’s not “absolute truth” (or more accurately “hate crime”) to denounce certain evils – immoral behaviours – in our PC society today, what is it?  You’ll never go to prison for insulting Catholicism but I could well be charged with a “hate crime” for upholding Catholic sexual morality. “Equal terms” you say?  Baloney.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    And let’s not forget the Chinese woman, six months pregnant, forced to have an abortion, thanks to their one child policy. Good old secularist China.  The same idiots who support that atrocity, hesitate not to take every opportunity to whinge about clergy child abuse.  Hypocrites!

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Well, at least Libya is set to have “democracy” – with Sharia Law as its basic.

    Goodness, you really couldn’t make it up, could you?

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Typo:  “- with Sharia Law as its basic” should, of course, read “with Sharia Law as its basis.”

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Yeah, well, “get them when they’re young” is EXACTLY what  Peter Tatchell states in his book “Beyond Equality” where he says “nothing should be off limits.” 

    No thanks.  We’ll stick with healthy teachng about purity and chastity – which means proper use of God’s give of sexuality.  You atheists / secularists are welcome to Tatchell Terrorism. Catholics want the best for their children and exposing them to umpteen venereal diseases, not to mention emotional distress, doesn’t rank on the list at all.  

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    No if the Vatican wants to ACHIEVE world peace the Pope should obey Our Lady of Fatima, consecrate Russia in concert with the world’s bishops and forget about making pilgrimages with pagans and protestants. It is truly unbelievable that the Pope is so blind as to take this crazy train filled with people who are either following false religions or denying God’s very existence.  What on EARTH is he thinking of? 

  • Anonymous

    Well, Simon, you are right about one thing:  “The Vatican doesn’t need pompous conferences to debate world peace. It could start TODAY to have a real effect on world peace…”  Your list is WAY off track, however.  Confused individuals, like yourself, are so quick to spew the tired old cliches that have been refuted time and again throughout century after century of human and diabolical persecution, as well as human weakness on all sides.  The bottom line is, in order for there to be true, lasting, GLOBAL peace, the Holy Father needs to (in union with all the Catholic bishops of the world) consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as Our Lady requested at Fatima in 1917.  It’s that simple. 

  • Tomas de Torquemada

    These Assisi get-togethers are a disgrace and scandal.  They facilitate and encourage religious indifferentism and syncretism, and risk untold numbers of souls by holding in heretical disdain the definitive and immutable teaching, extra ecclesiam nulla salus (outside the Church there is no salvation).  The Catholic Church is the one and only Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself, and all other religions are false.  This truth must once again be shouted from the housetops.

  • Wulfrano Ruiz Sainz

    This nutball needs a straightjacket.

  • Anonymous

    A.C Grayling who tends to like to discuss euthanasia, legalisation of drugs, human rights and particularly secularism would be delighted to stir up mischieve were he to be part of a disputation with clerics. This being said, I do respect the man’s intelligence and am sure that he is a man of peace. So with these circumstances in mind, I do believe he is doing the right thing in turning down the invitation.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_NNP4B6OPQNSGIVIWLRJZJ3JSTU Viv Mc

    Also add:  Stop anti-Catholic bigots from spouting off their ignorance in public.  The public media needs to be completely truthful when reporting on clergy “pedophiles” and admit that the majority of these abuses are from homosexuals who prefer young boys! 

  • Brian A Cook

    How do you explain the atheists who are decent human beings? 

  • Brian A Cook

    How else is he supposed to reach out to human beings? 

  • Brian A Cook

    Where did Pope Benedict deny Christ? 

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    At each Assisi event, the popes are breaking the First Commandment – they are acknowledging false god.  Let;s see if this Pope preaches Christ as the one and only Saviour, at Assisi tomorrow.  If he fails to do this – as his predecessor failed to do in his silly, futile hope that God will bless the world with peace through these gatherings – then he is absolutely and clearly, explicitly denying Christ.  At the moment it’s implicit.   

  • Brian A Cook

    Where did they worship other gods?  Can you provide quotes proving that they worship other gods?  The last time I checked, they simply acknowledge human beings who wish for peace.

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Without pointing out, yet again, that the Pope could bring about world peace in the space it takes to get the bishops together and consecrate Russia as Our Lady instructed, I have to correct your essential error. The Pope is NOT simply acknowledging human beings who wish for peace.  He is affirming them in their various religions and encouraging them to pray to their own “gods” – I’ve quoted their own words before,ad nauseum in our newsletter and on these blogs, so am not going to bother doing so again.  Google and you’ll find them eventually.

    In any case, here’s what Cardinal Taurun is saying on Vatican Radio today (you can see the blurb at our website right now – but here’s a telling extract):

    “The purpose (of Assisi III)  is to recall that there is another dimension another solution than
    that of armed conflict in order to gain one’s own right; that is prayer. Prayer
    that expresses our relation with the Supreme power who goes beyond our human
    capacity”.

    “The Supreme power…” – not God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost but the New Age euphemism…

    This is not a Catholic event.  Popes who make provision for pagans and Protestants to pray to their various gods or, in the case of Protestants, acknowledging  (as if lawful) their man-made version of the Christian Faith, is to break the First Commandment.

    Would you, Brian, make provision in your home for a Muslim or other non-Christian to pray?  A snake worshipper – would you?

  • http://www.catholictruthscotland.com EditorCT

    Further to my post below, I thought you would recognise the ring of truth in this link, highlighting my key point below that it is shocking for a Pope to make provision for people to pray to false gods.  It is tantamount to acknowledging them.  He is not being a true pastor of souls. He should be seeking the conversion of every soul to Christ, not worrying about world peace – except to obey Our Lady to bring it about. If she’d wanted him to engage in politics or pilgrimages to achieve world peace, that is what she’d have asked for. She didn’t.  Our Lady of Fatima, pray for us tomorrow when this horrendous scandal takes place.
    http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2011/09/sspx-on-assisi-2011.html