21 Aug 2014 Comments 0

I've been lecturing for years, but not as long as Sue Blackmore.

Sue is an English freelance writer, lecturer, sceptic, and broadcaster on psychology and the paranormal, and is best known for her book The Meme Machine. She has written or contributed to over 40 books and 60 scholarly articles and is a contributor toThe Guardian newspaper.

She is a self-styled 'vociferous atheist' who assuredly calls religion 'a virus of the mind'.


Sue recently lectured a group of young would-be students in Oxford, and was taught a much-needed lesson in humanity. Her inability in her reflection on the experience to recognise her obvious mistake is instructive.


In a lecture theatre, in front of a multic-cultural and often multi-faith audience, one thing you learn quickly is how to respect students' beliefs while simultaneously challenging them. A teacher's job is to challenge and instruct, but also first to account for the humanity in the room.

Sue bewails the 'closed-mindedness' of the young people in her lecture but unaccountably fails to recognise her own arrogance in assuming that she can present 'vociferously atheist' views to an audience without first canvassing that audience to see how many of them are 'of faith'. That's just plain old 'Lecturing 101'.

She proudly rode roughshod over an entire audience and was then surprised and dismayed at their stupidity.

All religion has often very rightly been accused of haughtiness, but to assume that everyone in this 'post-religious' era is by default as derisive of religion as atheism is is to be just plain old disrespectful.


Sue was taught a lesson in basic humanity. It wasn't what she was trying to teach, it was how she taught that got her in trouble. An arrogant atheist is once again proved to be only slightly more intolerable than a pompous religious adherent. Because let's be honest, atheism is a religion too.


Read Sue's reflection on her experience at Oxford here.


Watch Sue give a TED talk on "Memes and Temes" here.

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