F Rosa Rubicondior: August 2012

Friday 31 August 2012

Inspiring Atheists

One of the more condescending arguments used by sufferers from religion, and ranking alongside their claim to hold a monopoly on morality for demonstrably unjustified arrogance, is that without religion we wouldn't have great works of art, music, etc., because only religion can inspire human beings to artistic creativity.

While there can be little doubt that religious subjects were often the subject of great works of art or musical composition - the breath-taking beauty of Handel's Messiah and Van Gough's "The Sower" spring to mind. (Some might struggle to see the religion in Van Gough's works but it absolutely pervades it. Look at the painting on the right. It's one of Vincent van Gough's most profoundly religious paintings, in my opinion).

I'll maybe write a blog about Atheist artists one day. This one is about Atheist composers.

It will probably come as a surprise to religion sufferers who like to pretend their co-superstitionists have a monopoly on artistic creativity that there is an enormous list of Atheist and non-believer composers, and that many of them wrote 'religious' music. Some of them, like Elgar and Mozart lost faith in later life, so whatever religious beliefs may have inspired their earlier works, they clearly never inspired them to remain religious.

Monday 27 August 2012

The Easter Challenge

Here's a challenge for Christians, especially those who believe the Bible to be the literal, inerrant word of a god, and even those who believe the five accounts of the resurrection of Jesus by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul are an account of an actual resurrection by Jesus.

First, a few words from Thomas Paine:
I lay it down as a position which cannot be controverted, first, that the agreement of all the parts of a story does not prove that story to be true, because the parts may agree and the whole may be false; secondly, that the disagreement of the parts of a story proves the whole cannot be true.

Thomas Paine. The Age Of Reason. 1776
The challenge is to take all five accounts of the events following the supposed crucifixion of Jesus and, starting on Easter morning and, omitting none of the details given in the five biblical accounts, construct a logical sequence of events.

I make no claim of authorship of this challenge which appears in Dan Barker's book 'Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One Of America's Leading Atheists'.

The relevant chapters and/or verses of the Bible are:

Friday 24 August 2012

The Historical Evidence For Jesus.

Icon of Jesus As Christ Pantocrator
by ITI Ion Vincent Danu
[Reformatted and republished to display better on iPhones and hand-held devises]

Is there good, extra-biblical evidence for the Jesus described in the New Testament?

Most Christian apologists and most preachers will usually be able to quote a list of names of ancient 'historians' or other writers who mentioned Jesus and will confidently assure us that these prove beyond reasonable doubt that the biblical Jesus existed and that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are accurate biographies (in spite of the conflicting, contradictory and obviously anecdotal and/or invented details). It's almost as though Jesus was being regularly referred to in contemporary accounts and written about by all manner of historians of his day. No doubt at all that the Bible is real history and can be verified by independent eye-witness accounts.

Or that's the impression apologists want to give you - and some of them may actually believe it. But, as so often, the historical facts were very different to the claims of Christian apologists.

In his book, "Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One Of America's Leading Atheists", Dan Barker tells how, when he became a free-thinker he realised how shallow had been his study of the documentary evidence for Jesus during his four years of religious study at Azusa Pacific College (now University).

Not that it was a bad class, but it seemed so unnecessary. It provided an answer to a question nobody was asking...

The class did not delve deeply into the ancient documents. We recited the roster of early historians and read some of the church fathers, and then promptly forgot them all. I figured that Christian scholars had already done the homework and that our faith rested on a firm historical foundation, and that if I ever needed to look it up I could turn to some book somewhere for the facts. I just never needed to look it up.

p. 251. Perseus Books Group. Kindle Edition.

The usual list of 'historical documents' which 'prove' the historicity of Jesus, and which is routinely trotted out by Christian apologists, is usually a copy and paste from a Christian apologists on-line source. It will normally include:

Wow! Impressive, or what? Clearly masses of extra-biblical evidence!

Er... or maybe not.

Monday 20 August 2012

Debate: Is There Scientific Evidence Only For The Christian God?

Watch expelled seminarian @Sacerdotus panic and run as he realises he's been exposed as a fraud by making claims he couldn't substantiate in free debate:

Terms and conditions

The topic for debate will be the proposition that:

There is verifiable, falsifiable, scientific evidence for only the Christian God for which no possible natural explanation can exist.

This debate will take place between the proposer (the person calling himself @Sacerdotus) and myself. It will be conducted according to the following rules:

The proposer will supply an agreed scientific definition of the Christian God against which the proposition can be tested, precise details of the evidence and how it can be verified, how it could be falsified and how it establishes the truth of the proposition beyond reasonable doubt. Failure to do so will be regarded as conceding the debate.

A neutral referee will be agreed. The rulings of this referee will be final and binding on both parties to the debate. The referee will rule on:
  1. Whether an assertion of fact has been validated with verified evidence.
  2. Whether questions have been answered fully, honestly and without prevarication.
  3. The meaning of words, when these are in dispute.
  4. Whether an argument was ad hominem or not.
  5. Any other disputes when requested by either of the parties to the debate.
  6. Whether a referral to the referee was mendacious or an attempt to prevaricate, divert or otherwise obstruct the normal flow of debate.
  7. The referee may intervene at any time to declare the debate won, lost or drawn.

Should either party fail to provide evidence for which a claim of its existence has been made, the debate will be considered lost.

Making any claim which is shown to be untrue or unsupported by evidence will result in forfeiture of the debate.

Ad hominem arguments will result in forfeiture.

Failure to respond to an reasonable point, answer a reasonable question or to supply the evidence requested within three days (subject to notified periods of absence) will result in forfeiture.

The debate will take place across two blog sites; this one and @Sacerdotus' own blog. Each party will make it clear which point is being addressed. A record of the entire debate may be published in full at the discretion of either party.

As I expected, though I hoped not, Sacerdotus would not accept these terms and conditions nor was he able to establish the proposition despite his boasts that he could produce scientific proof of the Christian god's existence. Perhaps his definitions of the meanings of the words 'scientific' and 'proof' are private ones and not those used by normal people.

Sunday 19 August 2012

How Christian Fundamentalists Lie To Us

It's never a pretty sight to watch a fundamentalist in melt-down, hilarious though it might be, and I don't normally carry over spats in Twitter into this blog, but this one is too good to pass up.

Of course, you can't draw a general conclusion from a specific example, but this illustrates what can happen when religious (in this case Catholic Christian) fanaticism crossed the boundary between a sincere attempt to convince people of the truth of a firmly-held superstitious belief, and a blatantly dishonest attempt to fool people, having run out of ideas for doing it honestly and with integrity but lacking the moral courage to admit to not having any evidence to use when asked for some.

It also illustrates rather nicely I think, the point I made in an earlier blog - If Creationism Is Science, Why Do They Need Tactics? - to which no creationist has yet been able to produce a coherent reply.

It also illustrates the parasitic viral nature of the religion meme in one of its more pathological manifestations.

These tweets on the right were posted by a fundamentalist who claims to be a trainee Catholic priest but who already has a reputation for dishonesty and is something of a figure of fun in the community of people who follow and post to the #Atheist / #Atheism hashtags on Twitter. He is know by the user-name @Sacerdotus. The tweets were all sent between 16:41 and 16:53 on 19 August 2012 BST.

The first thing to notice is the the link @Sacerdotus includes (sacerdotvs.blogspot.com) does not link to any such challenge, nor is there any reference to one on the site it links to. It is merely a link to his blog.

@Sacerdotus has access to my blog (Rosa Rubicondior) and regularly posts comments but has never seen fit to post his 'challenge' there, nor have I ever received a challenge to him via email. I have never seen a Twitter tweet referencing this 'challenge', although, as @Sacerdustus knows, I had blocked him several months ago having tired of his infantile and dishonest 'debating' tactics there and in accord with the policy I state in my Twitter bio, and only unblocked him yesterday, so maybe @Sacerdotus chose to hide his 'challenge' by tweeting to me when he knew I wouldn't receive it.

But perhaps I am crediting @Sacerdotus with too much intelligence in assuming he would know that to issue a challenge, one needs to communicate that challenge to the person you are challenging, but, even for a trainee Catholic priest it seems unlikely that he would really be that stupid.

Which just leaves us with one realistic explanation: @Sacerdotus is lying again, and hoping again to trick people with deception because he knows that truth and honesty won't work.

And this of course illustrates what Francis Collins, himself a Catholic Christian, means when he says in The Language of God "Young Earth Creationism has reached a point of intellectual bankruptcy, both in its science and in its theology. Its persistence is thus one of the great puzzles and great tragedies of our time". I would also add moral bankruptcy to that charge but then that is to be expected of those who have abdicated personal responsibility in favour of obedience to the diktat of a character in a book, who then provides a convenient scapegoat in the 'God Sez!' excuse.

@Sacerdotus' abandonment of even a pretence of honesty and integrity and his descent into the playground tactics illustrated above in lieu of evidence, reason and logic in civilised debate, shows how religion can pervert the human mind and turn it to it's own purpose at the expense of personal integrity and dignity, just as a virus perverts the host it infects and uses it for the benefit of the virus at the expense of the host.

One wonders just what else sufferers from this psychotic delusion are capable of perpetrating on mankind if they ever regained the power they once held over us in the appropriately-called 'Dark Ages', if this is the sort of response you get to a polite request to validate an assertion or provide supporting evidence for a claim of fact.

Further reading: It Could Never Happen To Us - Zombies Controlled By A Parasite.

[Update]: To see how this subsequently developed and how @Sacerdotus, who turned out to be Manuel de Dios Agosto who was expelled from St Joseph's Seminary, NY because of his behaviour there, and who now spends his days trolling the Internet harassing, abusing and intimidating people, including threatening them with violence, under a variety of guises, see:

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Friday 17 August 2012

Saint Augustine's Blunder

St. Augustin - Philippe de Champaigne (1602-1674)
(Los Angeles County Museum of Art)
Here's an interesting quote from one of Christianity's favourite thinkers - Saint Augustine of Hippo (354-430 CE).

First, a little background information:
[Saint Augustine] was a Latin philosopher and theologian from Roman Africa and generally considered as one of the greatest Christian thinkers of all times. His writings were very influential in the development of Western Christianity...

After his conversion to Christianity and baptism in AD 387, Augustine developed his own approach to philosophy and theology, accommodating a variety of methods and different perspectives. He believed that the grace of Christ was indispensable to human freedom, and he framed the concepts of original sin and just war.

When the Western Roman Empire was starting to disintegrate, Augustine developed the concept of the Catholic Church as a spiritual De Civitate Dei (City of God), in a book of the same name, distinct from the material Earthly City. His thoughts profoundly influenced the medieval worldview. Augustine's City of God was closely identified with the Church, the community that worshipped God.

In the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion, he is a saint and pre-eminent Doctor of the Church, and the patron of the Augustinian religious order... Many Protestants, especially Calvinists, consider him to be one of the theological fathers of the Reformation due to his teaching on salvation and divine grace. In the Eastern Orthodox Church he is also considered a saint, his feast day being celebrated on 15 June. He carries the additional title of Blessed. Among the Orthodox, he is called "Blessed Augustine", or "St. Augustine the Blessed".

So, St. Augustine is famous and respected throughout Christendom as a philosopher and one of the fathers of theology whose writings are regarded as at least semi-divine if not actually divine.

Unfortunately he made a crass blunder: he made a testable prediction - something that is almost a cardinal sin in religious apologetics.

Here is what he has to say about the subject of a spherical earth and whether people could exist on the far side of it:
But as to the fable that there are Antipodes, that is to say, men on the opposite side of the earth, where the sun rises when it sets to us, men who walk with their feet opposite ours that is on no ground credible. And, indeed, it is not affirmed that this has been learned by historical knowledge, but by scientific conjecture, on the ground that the earth is suspended within the concavity of the sky, and that it has as much room on the one side of it as on the other: hence they say that the part that is beneath must also be inhabited. But they do not remark that, although it be supposed or scientifically demonstrated that the world is of a round and spherical form, yet it does not follow that the other side of the earth is bare of water; nor even, though it be bare, does it immediately follow that it is peopled.

It is too absurd to say, that some men might have taken ship and traversed the whole wide ocean, and crossed from this side of the world to the other, and that thus even the inhabitants of that distant region are descended from that one first man. [My emphasis]

Source: De Civitate Dei, Book XVI, Chapter 9 — Whether We are to Believe in the Antipodes,
translated by Rev. Marcus Dods, D.D.; from the Christian Classics Ethereal Library at Calvin College.
So there we are, using Bible 'science', one of Christianity's foremost thinkers and the father of theology has proved that, even if earth is spherical, the idea that there could be people living on the far side is absurd because, being all descended from one man, namely Adam, they couldn't possibly have got there.

Yet, when European explorers got to the New World, to the East Indies, the Pacific Islands and the 'Antipodes' of Australia and New Guinea, not only had we shown that earth was indeed spherical and the 'Antipodes' existed, but there were people living on the far side of it, and had been there for thousands of years.

Augustine's confident prediction had been falsified.

Now, when science has a theory which makes a testable prediction which turns out to be falsified this is normally considered grounds for abandoning the theory. Not so with religious apologetics. Augustine's prediction was based on the theory that everyone alive on Earth was descended from Adam (actually the Bible says we are all descended from Noah but be that as it may). Was that theory abandoned when the prediction it made was falsified?

Of course not. Like so much else with theological 'proofs', reality didn't support it and, as is usual with Christian apologetics when the facts turn out to be the opposite of what was predicted, suddenly the 'reasoning' behind the prediction is also dispensed with. For example, you never hear creationist theologians who still admire Saint Augustine, turn his 'logic' round and argue that, because there were people living on the far side of Earth, they could not have been descended from Adam.

Yet, if St. Augustine's argument, that there could not be people on the far side of earth if we are all descended from Adam, was true, then the presence of people on the far side of earth proves we are not all descended from Adam.

Strangely, to a theologian, the brilliance of an argument, the validity of the 'facts' upon which it's based and the reliability of the logic is contingent on the conclusion. If the conclusion turns out to be different to the one required, the once brilliant argument suddenly dulls and loses its utility value, and can be dispensed with. As usual, when the dogma isn't supported by the evidence, the evidence must be ignored.

But of course, the person who dreamed it up in the first place is no less brilliant for being shown to be wrong, just so long as his other arguments still have a utility value for theologians and religious apologists by supplying them with the conclusions and 'proofs' they want.

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Thursday 16 August 2012

Matthew's Bad Beatitudes

Continuing my quest for the source of the 'superior' Christian 'morality' which they are forever telling us they get from the Bible, I turned hopefully to Matthew 5 to read the so-called 'Beatitudes' from the quaintly named 'Sermon on the Mount'. Apparently, according the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus stood on a hill and made a speech to a multitude setting out the basis for a moral code.

For doubters, here is a nice photo of Jesus delivering his sermon.

I've noted before how Matthew reads more like someone trying the discredit Jesus, for example, 'Are These The Silliest Verses In The Bible?', 'Pull The Other One Matthew!', 'Hey Christians! Is Matthew For Real?' and 'Christians - Try Not To Think About Matthew', so I was not really surprised to find Matthew, true to form, showing us a Jesus with the morality of a mule stringer who thinks his charges only respond the threats and promises.

As Dan Barker points out in Godless: How an Evangelical Preacher Became One of America's Leading Atheists, none of these are truly ethical because they are all conditions for a future reward. This is a précis of Dan Barker's analysis of them:

Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.Nothing by way of ethical actions here. All it says is that if you happen to be “poor in spirit” then you're going to heaven. Verses like this have been cited to keep slaves and women in their place.
Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted.Again, nothing by way of ethical actions. Why didn't Jesus tell us to comfort those who are in mourning? That would have been ethical.
Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.This is only stating that if you happen to be a meek person then you're okay because you won’t be left out. This is like saying, “Be nice to Grandma because she might put you in her will.”
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.This is about observing rituals and has nothing to do with ethics. Politically, righteousness breeds censorship, segregation, persecution, civil inequality, intolerance and the death of millions. If “righteousness” means “morality,” then why not just be moral?
Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.This is nothing more than a threat: God won't be merciful to those who aren't merciful. Why would God not be merciful in this situation if mercy is a good thing?
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.What does “pure in heart” mean? Feeling kindly towards others? Not wishing for misfortune for other people? Not being judgemental? Not thinking about sex? Never trying to mislead? Being 'spiritual'? Leaving aside the biological nonsense of believing thoughts occur in a heart, this is just a nebulous cliché which can mean almost anything to anyone. And how can a person be “pure in heart” if we are all sinners by virtue of being born in the first place anyway?
Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.Jesus even flatly contradicted this when he said, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.” In biblical times, peace was a military concept. In Deuteronomy 20:10-11 God told his chosen people: “When thou comest nigh unto a city to fight against it, then proclaim peace unto it. And it shall be, if it make thee answer of peace, and open unto thee, then it shall be, that all the people that is found therein shall be tributaries unto thee, and they shall serve thee.” So 'peace' means turning non-Jews into slaves, or killing them. Are these the 'blessed' to whom Jesus is referring or didn't he know his scripture?”
Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.Again, no specific moral behaviour, just an encouragement to invite and praise confrontation and dispute; to seek persecution for its own sake. This persecution complex contradicts the seventh Beatitude but if you stir up trouble for Jesus, you will be blessed and will receive a great “reward in heaven.” You are supposed to “rejoice, and be exceeding glad” when your actions incite others to treat you badly!

We only need to look at the hate-filled antics of the Westboro Baptists to see what happens when people take this one seriously.

So, again, Matthew portrays Jesus as a sanctimonious hypocrite and purveyor of empty rhetoric - not so much Beatitudes as platitudes - and once again, no worthwhile morals can be found in the Bible. I'm really beginning to wonder if this book of origin myths and accounts of competing primitive sects called the Bible has anything worthwhile to offer at all.

I've shown that the 'Ten Commandments', whichever version you read, are next to useless, so can anyone suggest some other chapter which might contain a semblance of this 'moral compass' that Christians seem to be so sure is in there somewhere?

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Tuesday 14 August 2012

Randomly Refuting Creationism

It's an article of faith of the creationist/ID movement that information cannot arise by a random event, so it was some amusement that I received some information on the radio as I was driving home this evening. It was a classic example of what William Dembski calls 'Complex Specified Information' (CSI).

It almost goes without saying that creationists can ever explain why new information can supposedly never arise by a random event, and few if any of them ever seem to see any need to even try to understand the argument. It's sufficient merely to quote it like a protective mantra when the going gets tough and all the other arguments have been refuted yet again.

The information I heard was that a couple from Suffolk have become millionaires by winning £148,000,000 in a lottery. Here is a BBC TV news item about the same thing. Listen to them telling about how they received the information that they were now millionaires.

The information arose by a random process which was witnessed by millions of people across Europe and is carefully audited to ensure it is indeed entirely random. It involves randomly selecting balls with numbers on them. In the context of an environment in which the couple from Norfolk had previously selected some numbers on a card, this random signal translated into meaningful information just as randomly produced information in a genome can be translated into meaningful information by the environment.

Sorry about that creationists but you're now going to have to find another protective mantra and start looking for another hero who can hide his missing logic under a heap of impressive-sounding verbiage. I'm afraid reality has once again intervened and refuted another of your favourite fantasies.

William Lane Craig's Logical Kalamity

Let's have another look at William Lane Craig's filched (from mediaeval Islam) argument for a god (in his case, of course, not the Islamic god but the Christian god, which is the only one he will allow) the Kalâm Cosmological Argument.

I've previously debunked this fallacy in Favourite Fallacies - The Kalâm Cosmological Argument but a closer look at the argument reveals the basic flaws in logic with which Lane Craig bamboozles his credulous audiences using the same tactics as a televangelist wringing donations out of lonely, vulnerable and gullible people.

This argument isn't mine - I only wish it were - it's from Dan Barker's must-read book, Godless: How An Evangelical Preacher Became One Of America's Leading Atheists.

Basically, the KCA argues:
  1. Everything that begins to exist has a cause.
  2. The universe began to exist.
  3. Therfore the universe had a cause.
Of course, like medieval Islamic scholars who wanted to prove the universe was caused by Allah and so declared Allah to be the cause, William Lane Craig concludes that it must be his preferred god (or more accurately, his desired conclusion) and so declares the Christian god to be the cause.

It's fun to substitute anything you like for 'God' in Lane Craig's argument and so 'prove' it was anything you want. It works. Try it! You can 'prove' a peanut-butter sandwich created the universe if you want to.

So, where is the fallacy? How come something which Craigites love to tell us proves their favourite god created everything, can also, with equal ease, 'prove' it was anything you like which caused everything to exist? The answer of course is that there is a subtle trick in the argument which Lane Craig hopes you won't see.

The trick Lane Craig pulls is hidden in the first line - everything that begins to exist has a cause. This clearly implies that there is a set things which don't begin to exist. So what is there in this set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist? Can you think of any? Are these natural things? If not, why not?

How do we identify these things and, more importantly, if there are such things, how does Lane Craig eliminate them as candidate causes of the universe?

What Lane Craig does, having created this convenient set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist simply by including the deceptive clause, 'which begins to', is to allow only his desired conclusion to occupy it, and so he rigs the argument by stating it in such a way as to exclude everything but the answer he wants.

If you deny him that right and, with the same justification that Lane Craig uses (i.e., no justification at all) put any number of things you want into that set of things-which-don't-begin-to-exist, you can create as big a range of choices of causes of the universe as you want.

You can also choose, with the same justification, to say this set-of-things-which-don't-begin-to-exist is empty; that there are no such things. After all, if Craig can simply deem his preferred conclusion to be in that set, we can equally deem it not to be. We can, if we assume the same right that Lane Craig claims, declare that there is nothing that could have caused the universe, and conclude that therefore the universe had no cause. QED!

But why should there not be perfectly natural things which don't begin to exist, such as a non-zero quantum energy field, a black hole in another universe, or simply 'something' which may be the default state of existence rather than the nothing assumed by the KCA?

In essence, the KCA as used by William Lane Craig is nothing more than saying, "If the universe had a cause it must have been my god.". It is of course, the religious ploy of fact by fiat. Fiat Deus! Let there be God!

The only thing it proves is that there is a gap in William Lane Craig's knowledge and understanding into which he has projected an imaginary deity. Once you take away his deception of the rigged argument, you open up the possibility of perfectly natural causes of universes whilst still retaining the logic of 'everything which begins to exist' having a cause.

And you don't need to subscribe to that other logical absurdity in the KCA: the notion that there can be such a thing as nothing. How on earth can something which, by definition doesn't exist, exist? How can there be nothing for any possible meaning of the word 'be'? And how can anyone possibly claim to be able to assign properties to it or to make any meaningful statement about nothing, like declaring that nothing can come from it?

This may well be the most absurdly irrational assumption ever made. I'd certainly like to hear of a more absurd one.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Christian 'Logic'

I just came across this outstanding example of Christian 'logic' in a blog by one Richard Bushey entitled Did Jesus Rise From The Dead?. Richard is setting out to 'prove' that Jesus was really resurrected from the dead using 'historical evidence', or so he implies in the tweet linking to it.

So, sit back and enjoy Richard's exposition of this historical evidence which, under normal circumstances would be expected to win the discoverer instant world-wide fame and fortune and a heap of awards:

As a Christian, I do believe that Jesus of Nazareth rose from the dead. God incarnated himself in Jesus, and in confirmation of this, three days after Jesus’ crucifixion, he was resurrected, returned to the disciples and hundreds of others, and ascended to glory and immortality. I believe this, as a Christian, just as I believe that the scriptures are divinely inspired.

But when approaching an issue historically, one cannot take their presuppositions with them. Therefore as difficult as it may be for some people to read, I will not be treating the New Testament as though it were a divinely inspired text. I will be treating it as though it were a collection of historical documents. [My emphasis]

Er... and that's it. Richard is going to treat the New Testament "...as though it were a collection of historical documents", and, presumably, that is enough to turn them into historical evidence. No further verification, authentication, validation with external sources; no analysis of writing styles and/or cultural references. Deeming them to be evidence is all that's needed. To 'prove' your religion you start with your conclusion and works back from there, taking whatever leaps of logic and mental contortions may be needed on the way.

If all else fails, simply proclaim facts by fiat. Let there be evidence!

Well, not quite. Richard couldn't resist presenting us with a last clinching piece of evidence - an authentic photograph of an empty tomb. No! Honestly! Look!

Of course, Richard is only aping other Christian apologists who take great pride in performing these mental gymnastics with scant regard to reality so long as the bottom line comes out the way it's intended. No doubt he too has been impressed with the enthusiastic appreciation of an audience eager for any crumbs of comfort with which to handle the inevitable cognitive dissonance from having to live in the real world whilst still believing in magic.

And it's with 'logic' like this that Christians like Richard Bushey condescend to the rest of humanity, declare our children to be sinners for merely being born human, claim the right to make laws to constrain and compel us, claim the right to relegate half the population to second-class status, claim the right to frighten our children with threats of eternal pain and torture if they don't comply, declare themselves to be the arbiters of human ethics and morality and try to abrogate the right to political power over the rest of us.

In the past, logic like that was used to excuse the killing of anyone who dared to question it, and doubtless would be again if it ever manages to slip the leash we've managed to put on it in the civilised parts of the world.

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Taslima Nasreen
I have contributed an article about feminism on Taslima Nasreen's Blog 'No Country For Women'.
Taslima Nasreen, an award-winning writer, physician, secular humanist and human rights activist, is known for her powerful writings on women oppression and unflinching criticism of religion, despite forced exile and multiple fatwas calling for her death. In India, Bangladesh and abroad, Nasreen’s fiction, nonfiction, poetry and memoir have topped the best-seller’s list.

It is a huge honour for me to have been asked to contribute to her blog.

The article may be read here: 'Why I Am A Feminist'.

'via Blog this'

The Immoral Bible

"The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp." - God
If you are Christian, imagine reading a story in the Qur'an in which Allah orders the killing of a man who was not harming anyone or anything, merely for providing for his family. Would this induce you to convert to Islam because Allah is such a kind and merciful god and a source of such wonderfully humane and just rules for humanity to live by?

And while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man that gathered sticks upon the sabbath day. And they that found him gathering sticks brought him unto Moses and Aaron, and unto all the congregation. And they put him in ward, because it was not declared what should be done to him.

And the Lord said unto Moses, The man shall be surely put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones without the camp. And all the congregation brought him without the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died; as the Lord commanded Moses.

Numbers 15:32-36

Really? For picking up firewood instead of obeying a god who doesn't even seem sure why we should observe the Sabbath, judging by its change of mind between the different versions of the fourth of the 'Ten Commandments'?

What possible reasons could this man have for collecting firewood? Who exactly is the victim in the 'crime'? Who got hurt or suffered loss?

The only reasons for collecting firewood was for fuel to keep his family warm or to cook food. The man was doing good to others and got killed for the victimless crime of not observing the Sabbath to the letter of the law.

What on earth standard of morality for humanity is that? What does it say of the morals of a god whose ego is so precious that it can't be a little understanding and grant a little mercy to a man who was only trying to provide for his family? In fact, in what way exactly is providing for others not 'remembering the Sabbath and keeping it holy'? Isn't that exactly what people should be doing if they are remembering a kind, caring and benevolent god? The god of the Bible doesn't think so. The god of the Bible wants us to remember a petty tyrant.

"I hear you killed another young son, Mr Smith."

"Surely did. Warned him not to run across the road without looking and what did he do? Ran right on across the road. Had to kill him to teach the other kids a lesson!"

"Guess you had no choice, eh? Killing's the only language these kids understand! Probably going to have to kill a daughter or two myself soon. See you in church on Sunday?"

"Certainly will pastor. Praise the Lord!"
"Do it because I say so and I'll kill you if you don't!" Would you respect a father who brought his children up using the tactics of the tyrant and who saw nothing wrong with threatening his unfortunate children with death if they disobeyed him?

How could society work if the only reason for doing anything was the fear of execution? Why is it that we don't allow employers to stone their employees to death if they fail to comply with a management directive? How about if school teachers could kill disobedient children or police officers could execute any petty criminal without trial?

That's the 'morality' this petty mendacious and vindictive little god is ordering in the Bible. Very clearly we are better than that. And yet this god presumes to lecture us on morality.

And, just in case you're tempted to think somehow Jesus changed all that and replaced God's perfect and omniscient laws with some better, more civilised ones, Jesus enthusiastically endorses it too, with:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-19

No wonder people are rejecting this primitive barbarism in droves and are adopting more humane moral and ethical standard.

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Thursday 9 August 2012

Why Black Athletic Supremacy Evolved

An interesting theory was proposed on BBC TV this eveningt prior to the Olympic 200 meter final, in which Jamaican athletes, Usain Bolt, Yohan Blake and Warren Weir won gold, silver and bronze respectively.

Only one white athlete, the Frenchman Christophe Lemaitre, has ever run a sub-twenty second 200 meters and black athletes have dominated many Olympic events, especially those from the USA, Britain and the Caribbean nations although, curiously, they are noticeably absent from swimming events.

The theory is that this is the result of a Darwinian evolutionary process caused by the slave trade. Almost all the African slaves which were taken to the new world came from West Africa and were selected from amongst the fittest because these commanded the highest prices and were most likely to survive the appallingly inhumane conditions in the slave ships.

So, in addition to fittest being selected initially, another selection occurred on the slave ships, with only the exceptionally fit surviving the journey to the New World.

Then another selection process occurred on the plantations where the work was hard and physical and, with slaves being cheap and disposable, those who failed to work hard enough were simply killed and replaced by more bought from the next slave ship to dock. And of course, a wise slave owner encouraged his fittest (i.e. hardest working and most productive) slaves to breed, just as a herdsman breeds from his best stock.

And so the slave trade produced an intense Darwinian selection for fitness from which today's population of African Americans, Caribbean Islanders and Britain's Afro-Caribbean population is descended. It's not surprising therefore that they contribute disproportionately to the sporting success of their respective nations.

It's ironic that they tend to subscribe disproportionately to a religious superstition which teach that Darwinian Evolution by Natural Selection doesn't happen. A religion moreover which slaves were originally forced to adopt because it made them easier to control by accepting a place allotted them by the slavers' deity, using scriptures in the slavers' Bible, and so less likely to use their superior fitness against the slave traders and the slave owners, who of course had all the guns, dogs and instruments of torture and execution, the better to ensure obedience and adherence to the 'faith'.

A 'faith' which sold them the lie that accepting your place without complaint in this world would ensure freedom and happiness after death (when they were no longer any use and couldn't complain) and which, in some countries, is still being used to give false hope when all real hope is being denied by those who still depend for their wealth on a supply of cheap, compliant and passive labour who humbly accept their place as allotted by a 'white' god.

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Tuesday 7 August 2012

I Have Mail

Rt.Hon. Michael Gove, MP, Secretary of State for Education
I, along with tens of thousands of other secular humanists, recently emailed the Education Minister, Rt.Hon. Michael Gove, MP, to protest about possible plans to allow 'Free Schools' to teach creationism and even to allow it to be taught as a valid alternative scientific theory. Michael Gove recently spent public money on supplying a new Christian Bible to every school in England and Wales.

'Free Schools' are schools which have been taken out of the control of elected local government. This has opened the door to 'faith groups' taking a much closer control of the syllabus than they previously could.

There have already been attempts to implement the American fundamentalist Christian neo-conservative 'Wedge Strategy', which seeks to get the Christian superstition with which the American ruling class controls the under-class, in the form of creationism and 'intelligent design', inserted into mainstream science teaching in state schools, to get at our children whilst they are still young and gullible.

It's pleasing to see that, almost certainly due to the campaigns run by various secular Humanist groups like the BHA and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, that Michael Gove has now clearly stated the Government's position on this issue and confirmed his earlier u-turn.

It will be interesting to see if this policy is maintained:
Dear _______________

Thank you for your recent correspondence, addressed to the Secretary of State, expressing disagreement with his decision to support a number of Free School projects that you believe intend to teach creationism. I hope you will appreciate the Secretary of State for Education receives a vast amount of correspondence and is unable to reply to each one personally. It is for this reason I have been asked to reply.

No Free School is allowed to teach creationism. The Free School application guidance published by the Department now specifically says creationism, intelligent design and similar ideas cannot be taught as valid scientific theories.

Furthermore, the funding agreements for all Free Schools state that divine creation should not be taught as an 'evidence-based view or theory' (a scientific theory) in any lesson: so if a school did do this they would be putting their funding at risk. We are confident that the Free School projects you mention will follow the rules, having explored these questions robustly with them at interview.

Prior to entering into a funding agreement, the Academy Trust is required to carry out a consultation about their plans to open a Free School. Consultations can be run in a number of ways including surveys, the launch of a simple website, meetings of key individuals and open public meetings.

Academy Trusts also need to demonstrate that they have considered the views of their stakeholders. Most do this by publishing a report setting out the key findings of their consultation.

Every application approved, including those mentioned in your letter, has had to demonstrate that the new school will provide a broad and balanced curriculum. Free Schools are subject to Ofsted inspections in the same way as all other state schools, and the government has powers to intervene in a school where there is significant cause for concern.

Please be assured that the Department will be working with the projects mentioned over the coming months to ensure that the assurances they have provided us with are honoured.

As part of our commitment to improving the service we provide to our customers, we are interested in hearing your views and would welcome your comments via our website at:


Yours sincerely

Alison Owen
Public Communications Unit

Now what we need is a ban on teaching any religion or religious doctrine or dogma as factual in any UK school. If religion has any place in schools it is only as part of a humanities course like sociology, history, psychology or mythology.

Our children should not be taught falsehoods as fact just to suit someone else's political agenda.

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Sunday 5 August 2012

What Jesus Thought About Slavery

Here's Jesus's opinion of slavery, according to whoever wrote the Gospel According to Luke:

Peter said, “Lord, are You addressing this parable to us, or to everyone else as well?”

And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.

But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers.

And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more."

Luke 12:41-48

So, slaves have their rations at the allotted time, just like feeding the livestock, and if you leave one in charge of the others, there is a good chance they'll abuse the others, eat your food and get drunk, because it goes without saying that you can't trust a slave. No protection from the law for slaves; no right to fair trial. No value as human beings and no right to respect and human dignity.

If they know what the slave owner wants but don't have it ready they are to be beaten severely but if they didn't know what he wanted, they can be let off with a not so severe beating. So, no protection from assault for slaves. Their fate is at the whim of their owner.

Never once does Jesus condemn slavery or give any indication that he saw anything wrong with it. Never once does he point out the moral repugnance and inhumanity of owning another human being in the first place, let alone the denial of human dignity it entails. No where is there any indication of any principle of equal worth as human beings or of all people being created equal.

The fact that Jesus never condemned slavery and that slavery is only mentioned incidentally and not condemned by the 'Ten Commandments' or anywhere else in the Bible, was used to justify the slave trade in the first place.

If you are a descendant of a former slave, biblical passages like this were almost certainly used to justify slavery and the inhumane treatment of your recent ancestors. Your great great grandparents were treated like this by people who quoted Jesus to justify it.

Was Jesus right to say when slaves should be beaten by their owner, how severely slaves should be flogged and to never condemn slavery?

If so, why do you think slavery is wrong?

If not, why do you worship someone who taught that slavery was okay and on what basis do you justify holding different moral values to Jesus?

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Makes Perfect Sense!

The belief that there was nothing then a magic man made from nothing popped up and made everything from nothing then made a man from dust and grew a woman from a cutting, then made a talking snake.

Then he killed nearly everything because he loves it.

And he hates gays, people who wear cotton and wool together and foreskins.

Yep! Makes perfect sense [giggle].
LOL At Creationists

Saturday 4 August 2012

Refuting God With Simple Logic

A god cannot be both just and merciful, let alone just and infinitely merciful.

I'll let Dan Barker explain it. He had been debating with an Islamic scholar, Hussanain Rajabali, who had stated that Allah is a "just" god as well as an "infinitely merciful" god. Oops!

Justice means that punishment is administered with the exact amount of severity that is deserved for the crime that is committed. We don’t put children in prison for stealing cookies, and we don’t merely fine a murderer $50. Mercy, on the other hand, means that punishment is administered with less severity than deserved. When the police officer lets you off with a warning instead of a ticket for breaking the speed limit, that is mercy. If God is infinitely merciful, he can never be just. If God is ever just (not to mention infinitely just), then he cannot be infinitely merciful. A God who is both infinitely merciful and just not only does not exist, he cannot exist. This is one of the positive arguments for the nonexistence of God based on incompatible properties (or incoherency). If God is defined as a married bachelor, we don’t need to discuss evidence or argument; we can simply claim a logical impossibility."


[If] God is infinitely merciful, then I cannot go to hell. It wouldn’t matter how I lived or what I thought, infinite mercy would absolve me of any crime, no matter how great, including the crime of refusing to believe in God, accept his authority or admit that I had done anything wrong.

An exquisite example there of how religions require their followers to hold two or more mutually exclusive views simultaneously, like the belief in an omniscient god and free will. Don't you just love it when those simple little arrows of irrefutable logic hit home like an Exocet and destroy centuries of unthinking dogma? What could mankind have achieved if ignorant superstition hadn't been allowed to hijack our cultures and condition our thinking, replacing reason and logic with dogmas and knee-jerk reflexes, just to provide an easy living for a parasitic class of religious clerics?

What a waste of two thousand years!

So Muslims, is Allah just or is Allah infinitely merciful, and how did Mohammed get it wrong about the other one?

If Allah is infinitely merciful, why does it make any difference how you conduct yourself or what you believe?

Christians and other theists, before you rejoice at the discomfort of those you hate, you might like to consider helping Muslims out here, because this argument comprehensively refutes your god too, unless you want to tell me your god isn't "just" or isn't "merciful".

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More Infinitely Impossible Gods

Theists who believe in an infinitely omniscient (i.e. all knowing, with special emphasis on the 'all') deity believe in a god which must hold a conceptual model of the entire universe, and, if there are other universes, of all of those as well. This model will need to be constantly and instantly updated even to the exact position of every elementary particle and every vibration of every super-string.

Have you ever done that thing with a mirror where you hold it up to another mirror and see a tunnel of diminishing mirrors disappearing into the distance, usually round a bend, unless you're holding the mirror exactly parallel to the other one? This looks like an infinity of mirrors, but there is a lower limit to the size of the image of the mirror you are holding which can be reflected back to you, even if your eyesight is perfect. This is directly related to the wavelength of light. Below that distance, using visible light two objects will appear as one.

Near Beaconsfield, just a short ride west down the M40 from London, UK, is a model village of Bekonscot, reputedly the world's oldest, and as accurate as its creator could make it in 1929. It includes a model of the model village in which there is a model of the model village... and so on, until it becomes a shapeless blob, because, with the best of intentions no one could create accurate buildings, streets, roadside furniture, etc to sufficient detail to be seen by human eyes.

In the theists' god's conceptual model will be a model of itself complete with it conceptual model which will also need to be constantly updated in real time, as will the conceptual model of itself within that conceptual model of itself, and every other infinitely diminishing model within it.

Friday 3 August 2012

Evolution For Creationists Who Can Recite Jack & Jill

Okay! If you're still having a problem understanding evolution, try this mind experiment. It should only take a few minutes.

Imagine you have thousands of robots which have only three instructions:
  1. If you can, step up.
  2. Never step down.
  3. Otherwise move in random directions.
Now, place those robots randomly in a landscape which includes hills and valleys, a bit like the one on the right, and leave them to wander around for a few months.

Now answer these two questions:
  1. Where will your robots be when you go and look for them?
  2. Will they still be randomly distributed in the landscape?
Correct answers win the Grand Old Duke Of York Award for understanding evolution.

For those few who still don't get it, I'll explain it in a few days.

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