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Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Light of Reason.

Like nearly all children of my generation in the UK, I was brought up as an Anglican. My maternal grandfather was a fundamentalist Christian and church warden who had raised a family of 12 children and had taught them all to ‘fear god’.

My mother dutifully went to church on Sunday and sent us to Sunday school where we were taught about baby Jesus and sang hymns like ‘All Things bright and Beautiful’, which told us God has created us in our place (i.e. as rural working people at the bottom of the social ladder - but at least we weren’t black like those unfortunate sub-human African and Asian people).

All we had to do to get to Heaven when we died, was to know our place, to work hard for our masters and betters and say sorry to God for being such awful sinners. If we were very lucky, God would forgive us and we could go and join baby Jesus.

But I learned to read.

I read anything and everything. I read every book in the house, including anything about nature – animals, birds, plants, fish – you name it I read about it if I could. I asked for books on birds for my birthday.

And I read ‘history’.

In those days schools had radios and the BBC broadcast educational programs for schools. One of these was history which, bizarrely, included Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. We learned of the wooden horse of Troy, of the battle on the Plains of Marathon, where Pheidippides heard God Pan talking to him. We learned about Jason and the Argonauts, where gods frequently spoke to men.

We heard about Zeus and Apollo and Ra and Isis and how men fought for and died for their gods and how gods directed the affairs of man. I loved Greek and Roman ‘history’ with its heroes and mythical beasts and talking gods and people who believed in them and obeyed their commands.

But they were wrong, obviously, weren’t they? There is only one God and only the Hebrews knew about him. Only the Hebrews had the correct version of history. The Jews had been chosen by God so only they knew the real truth. All those other people? Well they were obviously wrong because they weren’t right. The Bible said so...

But THEY thought they were right; THEY heard their god’s voices, just as Abraham and Moses, Job and David, Mary and Elizabeth and Paul and John had...

So how do we know the Jews got it right, and correct in every detail, when all the others got it wrong?

And we haven’t even looked at the Hindus and the Buddhists... We’ll, they can be dismissed because they’re inferior humans unlike the noble Romans and Greeks... and the Egyptians before they became Arabs.

But still, they believed it, didn’t they?

Obviously they were wrong because they weren’t as civilised or intelligent as the English... but then nor were the Jews, were they?

Hmm...

Nope. It didn’t make sense. Obviously we had it right and they were wrong. No question about that. We’re English after all...

Then one day, when I was nine, the Anglican school I went to had an end of term service at the local church. Sitting there listening to a vicar droning on about something or other I noticed a stained glass window. It may have been some saint or other but I thought it was God. He was wearing a purple Roman toga, as they do.

Suddenly a light switched on in my mind.

How come they believed they were right and we believe they were wrong? Obviously we can't ALL be right!

No, but we can all be wrong! Easy. Christianity is just another Roman myth!

The God of the Hebrews and the Bible is no more real than the gods of Pheidippides and Paris; of Hector and Jason. It is just another myth. (Tweet this)

It was an exhilarating feeling; suddenly everything made so much more sense. We lived in a world not full of things which we couldn't understand, but a world full of things we could understand. All we had to do was find things out. The greatest liberation of the mind comes from discovering that we don't know everything; in fact, we know very little.

I have been an Atheist ever since and have never stopped finding things out. Everything I have learned about biology, physics, chemistry, history, politics; of art and music and human culture; of moral development and memetic evolution; of cosmology and quantum physics, has reinforced that sudden realisation.

God is just another myth.

God merely fills the gap in the minds of the ignorant and provides a means by which the unscrupulous control and exploit the credulous and gullible. God justified the class system which had held back my people for generations and prevented them getting above themselves with ambition and by questioning their betters. God "created the high and lowly and ordered their estate".

Did he chuff?! Jack is at least as good as his master!

And God gave us dominion over the animals, the birds, the fishes and the plants so, if we couldn't eat them, wear their skins of hunt them for sport, they were vermin to be exterminated.

No! I don't know where she got it from, but my mother, who seemed to know everything about birds, animals, wild flowers and trees, taught us that everything has a right to life. Even spiders were caught and gently taken outside unless it was very cold, or wet, then they were allowed to stay in. No one owns nature. We just share the same planet.

God justifies behaviour and attitudes which could never be justified by humanity and love for one's fellow beings and for the planet upon which we have the great good fortune to experience life.

God inspires the worst in Man.


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Thursday, 23 June 2011

Fundamentalists Have a Problem With Numbers

Just when you thought they couldn’t get more moronic, theists prove you wrong. In just two days now I had the numbers argument thrown at me, apparently in the belief that I’m going to be stupid enough to find it convincing and start worshipping some evidence-free sky pixies or other and taking some ancient texts written by primitive people as the source of all truth.

Briefly, the numbers argument goes, "My god must be real because X number of people believe in it."

In the last two days this has been given to me as a reason to believe both in Islam and Christianity. On one occasion a few months ago, astoundingly, I was told Christianity must be true because a few million Chinese believe in Jesus, conveniently ignoring that some 98% of them don't. Obviously, whilst a few million Chinese can't be wrong, well over a billion of them can be and most definitely are.

But let's look at the numbers argument for a moment.

No know religion has ever been believed by a majority of the world's people, but how does the number of believers in an idea determine whether that idea is right or wrong? Answer: it doesn't. An idea is either true or false. It matters not one tittle nor jot how many people believe it.

Fundamentalists would have us believe that, somehow, an idea becomes more right as more people believe it, including their gods, it would seem. And, when no one believes in it, an idea or a god is false.

Taking this to its logical conclusion, Christianity was false before Jesus said anything about it and Islam was false before Mohammed believed it. At that point of course, Buddhism and Hindu were the most right religions because they had the most followers. Northern European pagan religions were also fairly right, but not as right as Hindu and Buddhism.

At some point in history, as more and more people were persuaded to believe these, then false, religions, the number reached some threshold at which point they became true and both Allah and Yahweh came into existence. That would appear to be what the fundamentalists believe at any rate.

Maybe this works on a geographical basis. One Christian told me that "Over 90% of Americans believe in Jesus". Leaving aside the traditional exaggeration (to be charitable) in that figure, what has that got to do with anything? Presumably Christianity is 90% right in America? If that works then, in UK where now only 36% call themselves Christian and 51% say they have no religion, Christianity is only 36% right (and 64% false).

In my household, all religions are 100% false on that basis.

Just imagine if science proceeded on the basis of opinion polls conducted amongst people who had been indoctrinated from birth to only believe this or that theory. We would still be in the scientific Bronze Age, which is precisely where religions are today.

Yep! That’s fundamentalist logic there folks.





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Sunday, 19 June 2011

The Daft Things People Believe

Imagine.  You’re walking down Main Street one day and you bump into man who is talking to the people in the street as though they’re a public meeting.  Because you have nothing better to do you slip him some spare change for a drink and get into conversation with him.

He tells you he has come with a special message to the world.  Everyone is in mortal danger and only by following him can they be saved.

You decide to humour him a little and ask him how he knows this and what makes him think he’s a messenger. 

He tells you his mother was a virgin.

“Okay”, you think. “Let’s see where this is going”. You ask him about this mortal danger that we’re all in.

“It’s my father.” He explains.  “He has something especially unpleasant prepared for you and only I can set you free from it."

“Er... I thought you said your mother was a virgin!  How does that square with having a cruel and threatening father?"

“That’s not the point!  My mother WAS a virgin because I’m pure so she MUST have been.  Anyway, my father is invisible and doesn’t live on Earth.  He didn’t make her pregnant in the normal way.  She saw a man with wings and he told her she was pregnant."

"And another thing! My father isn’t cruel.  He’s only like that because he loves you.  You wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for him!”

Dilemma: should you cross over to the other side of the street out of harm’s way, or should you stay with him to look after him until something can be done for him?

Extraordinary to think that, before we understood mental illness, people used to think this condition was caused by magical beings living inside you.  A few people still think that way, apparently.

Is There Anything More Bizarre Than Religion?

President of the National Academy of Fairy Tales
Imagine a world in which the President of a national Academy of Science issues a statement that the truth about the origin of the universe has been revealed to him. It DID originate as a singularity in a black hole from another universe and this is now the official position of the Academy.

Furthermore, since this is revealed truth, no evidence will be presented as none is needed. Revelation is enough and transcends any need for evidence. There will now be no further controversies in science since all remaining issues will be resolved by the President meditating on the matter and he will announce his revelations in due course.

Henceforth, all true scientists will meet in laboratories every Sunday morning and will declare their adherence to the Academy’s edicts on this and any other matter and will be told this week’s revelations. These meeting are to be conducted by heads of departments who will wear robes appropriate to their rank and dignity.  The audience will listen quietly and respectfully.  No discussion or disagreement is to be permitted.

Any disagreement will result in expulsion from the Academy and heretics will be forbidden from practicing science or associating with any scientists.

Furthermore, the President is now to press for an urgent meeting with senior politicians, legislators and judges to demand that he now be consulted on all matters of public policy which must receive his personal approval before becoming law.  All areas of government, including the military, policing, welfare and education are to be subject to oversight by the Academy.

What a truly bizarre world that would be.

In reality, of course, such a person would be swiftly removed from his post and, in a civilized society, would receive the psychiatric support and medication needed.

Why then does religion operate in just this way?


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Monday, 13 June 2011

Inspiring Words

Christopher Hitchens.



Stephen Fry (Part 1).



Stephen Fry (Part 2).



10 Questions Every Intelligent Christian Should Answer.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Christian Morality

No doubt they'll tell you these weren't 'real Christians' either.

Remember, if you're a closet Atheist living in a Christian community and afraid to stand up for what you really believe, you're pretending to be a member of a faith which not only does this to children but will do almost anything to keep the truth from being known.

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Thursday, 9 June 2011

Impotence Of Undetectable Gods

If a god can’t be detected by science, it is utterly impotent. There is no escaping this. An undetectable god is indistinguishable from a non-existent god.

Firstly, how does science detect anything?

At its simplest level, science detects the effect of something by measuring or observing its effect on something else. For example:

  • We know how much electricity is flowing through a conductor because of the effect it has on a voltmeter  - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltage
  • We know about gravity by measuring how objects move in a gravity field.
  • We know about photons by measuring the effect they have on photo-sensitive chemicals or photo-electric plates.
  • We know how hot water is by measuring how much the heat expands a column of mercury, a metal bar, how it changes resistance of an electrical conductor, etc.
  • We know about wind-speed by measuring how quickly it rotates a wind-speed detector or anemometer.

Try this for yourself. Can you think of anything science can detect which doesn’t depend on detecting its effect on something else?

In other words, to be detectable by science, something must exert an effect, and to exert an effect on anything means that that effect can be measured. Therefore, anything which cannot be detected cannot possibly be influencing or changing anything in any way, otherwise we could measure it.

An undetectable god is an impotent god and is indistinguishable from a non-existent one. Such a god would be utterly incapable of communicating anything or of creating anything. A universe in which such a god, or gods, exists would be indistinguishable from one with no gods whatsoever.

So, theists, when you use the ‘undetectable by science’ excuse for your god, you are actually telling us your god is utterly impotent. (Tweet this)

So, if your god isn’t impotent, why can’t it be detected?

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Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Eric Hovind's Very Silly Questions

I'm not sure who they're aimed at - not people of normal intelligence, that's for sure - but these astoundingly facile questions are what Eric Hovind believes are killer knock-down questions for non-Christians. (Apparently little Eric is either genuinely unaware that other religions offer answers to all these, or is feigning ignorance and relying on his target audience's ignorance to get away with it).

He is also ignorant of, or is feigning ignorance of, the answers to several of these questions which can be found by a moment's search on the Internet, or by going to a decent reference library or any good book shop.

The originals can be seen here: http://www.drdino.com/questions-science-cant-answer/

Let's take a look at them (in red)

Why am I here?
Because you were born. You'll need to talk to your mummy and daddy about how that happened.

Are you maybe assuming that you are so special that you have some special purpose or other? I'm afraid you're just not that important.

What happens when you die?
Your body's physiology ceases, then you begin to decompose. From then on it depends on what people do with your body - cremation, burial, etc. If you're very unfortunate you get eaten by a predator. In extremely rare circumstances, like falling into anoxic sediment or a tar pit, your bones may even become fossilised so biologists of the future can examine you to see what an earlier hominid looked like.

What is the purpose of my life?
What ever purpose you chose to give it. Are you waiting for someone to do that for you?

What determines “Good” and “Evil”?
Human beings have evolved cultural norms which enable them to live and work together in co-operative groups. These are acquired from our parents, peers and authority figures in our culture during our long childhood. The units of cultural inheritance are known as 'memes'.

Where did love come from?
It evolved along with other human emotional responses. To understand it you need to study a little of neurophysiology and how hormones work. I take it this is a closed book to you?

Why does mankind abuse and kill its own?
Often because religious people believe people with different religions are evil and deserve to be killed. Some unfortunate people are born with psychopathic personalities which means they can't tell right from wrong. Many of these rely on a hand-book such as the Bible or Koran, though most who say they do so actually just cherry pick the parts they agree with by reference to their own cultural norms.

Where did the first teeny-weeny molecule of matter come from?
You really don't know much about this stuff do you?

Molecules formed when atoms formed, when the nascent universe had cooled enough to allow electrons to be captured and held by protons. This happened about 300,000 to 500,000 years after the big bang, when the universe had cooled to 6000 degrees Celsius.

This can be found on the Internet or in any decent general science book.



Does a physical world exist beyond my mind?
Yes. You really aren't that important, you know.

Why are there male and female?
Because there is a clear evolutionary advantage, especially in multi-cellular organisms, of frequent re-mixing of genes. This increases the variance upon which natural selection acts and also increases the probability of new combinations of genes with a synergistic result.

Why does it take both sexes to create a new life?
It doesn't. Many organisms reproduce asexually and in those which do reproduce sexually, both gametes (sperm and ovum, ovule and pollen, etc) are already alive at conception, having been produced by living tissues.

Life is not created at any point in the reproductive process. Biology seems to be another area of which you managed to remain ignorant. It's very apparent from that question that you have not much idea what you mean by 'life', or about basic biology.

What is life?
It’s quite obvious that you don’t know what you mean by ‘life’ or have a very hazy notion of what it is, so how would you know if your question has been answered? Are you talking about physiology or some other 'magic' ingredient which you want included and explained so it conforms to some pre-conceived superstition or other?

If the former, it's just chemistry. If the latter, YOU explain what it is; it's not science to make up stuff just to satisfy infantile superstition.

Where did laws come from?
Which laws? Human laws or 'natural' laws? Natural laws are simply descriptions of what happens. They didn't come from anywhere any more so than your weight came from somewhere independent of your body. Maybe you're confusing scientific laws with man-made, proscriptive or prescriptive laws. it's an easy mistake for people who know nothing about science.

If you mean human laws, then there is probably little I can do to teach you if your basic education was that deficient. Were you home-'schooled'?

How did Time, Space and Matter come into existence?
See the answer to that same question which your dad also asked. Kent Hovind's 10 Fallacies Refuted

It's one of the answers both you and your dad have been ignoring and pretending hasn't been answered for months now. You could also have looked it up on the Internet or in any decent book on cosmology and quantum physics.

How did something come from nothing?
You'll find the answer here: What Makes You So Special?

The pertinent paragraph is:
In this universe all observations confirm that gravity is equal to the sum of the other three forms of energy and that, if gravity is the opposing form of the other three, the grand total of energy in the universe is zero. In total energy terms the universe is nothing.
But you'll need to read the earlier part to understand this. I know! I know! That means you'll have to risk learning some basic science, but that's the way it is.

Well there you go. Not exactly up to your dad's standard, laughable though that was, but I'm sure you did your best, even if you DID have to copy some of your dad's old questions to reach 10.

So, now you know your questions can be, and have been, answered, will you continue to claim science can't answer them?


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