Dawkins is the Devil – lying for jeebus…

Previously I mentioned about how Ruth Gledhill had monumentally missed the point with her TimesOnline blog post about the latest Humanist campaign to try and stop people labelling their children without given them a choice.

It seems Ruth is not the only person who has missed the point (for example Jacqui’s comment on my previous post) but, as is often the case, the commenters on her post really set a new standard. I have tried a few times to leave comments on the Times article, but they never seem to make it past moderation…which makes it even more bizarre that these comments have made it through.

The one which really made me laugh was from Iain Carstairs (posted 0725AM, 21 Nov 09). It begins:

Dawkins is a fanatic, true, but he is a more dangerous one than a religious zealot.

Wow. Call the Whitehouse and MOD. Get all the troops back from Afghanistan and prepare to invade Oxfordshire (or where ever Dawkins is living now). The War on Terror was obviously a mistake (“at last!” I hear you cry) and now we need to begin the War on Thinking. (OK, I agree, this has already been going on for centuries in some places).

Joking aside, this is nonsense. But it continues:

A suicide bomber can kill a small crowd, and hardline Christians have been known to shoot abortionists. The Israelis are steadily dehumanising the Palestinians, and are on their way to exterminating them: with the blessing of the US and the UK of course.

No, seriously? With this in mind (if we think of the WTC and Madrid as being a “small crowd”) then the whole furore about terrorism is nonsense. Sadly, I agree, but for different reasons.

But Dawkins is attempting to remove the spiritual dimension from life. It is as if he is attempting to prise the eyeballs out of a billion sockets, simply because there is no scientific proof of God.

ZOMG!! Oh Noes!11!!!1!1! Dawkins is making people THINK. Evil, pure evil. Torture in fact. Wont anybody think of the children. (and so on)

This is so crazy it almost defies belief (puns intended). This is a common misconception from people who are blinded by their belief – they ignore the true majesty of the universe and the beauty that life demonstrates. Look at the deep field pictures from Hubble for examples. They take this grand beauty of nature and spoil it by creating an invisible puppeteer who controls every action for some unknown, yet unarguably cruel, purpose. This is not allowing people to see the beauty of nature, but a cruel way of blinding them and controlling their actions. It is evil.

After some more of this drivel, Iain finishes with:

Without spirituality, we become Dawkins’ descendants: hoodies, yobs, sociopaths.. the greedy and addicted children of materialism, who make this world a living Hell.

Wow. Lets look at this again. The hoodies, yobs and sociopaths that Iain refers to are not “Dawkin’s descendants” they are growing up in the time of Dawkins. At best their children could be described as Dawkin’s descendants as its only in the last couple of years that Dawkins has been in the public domain.

The children who “terrorise” the communities inhabited by Mail readers (and presumably Times readers) are from families where, on the whole, belief still remains prominent. The vast majority of greedy and addicted materialists are religious.

Lying for Jesus is still lying.

Please dont label me

As I am sure most of you are aware (I am still catching up from my travels – lots of strange things have happened while I have been away), there is a new poster campaign:

Please dont label me

Please dont label me

The idea behind this comes from Dawkins, writing in The God Delusion (and a zillion places elsewhere):

There is no such thing as a Christian child: only a child of Christian parents. … Catholic child? Flinch. Protestant child? Squirm. Muslim child? Shudder. Everybody’s consciousness should be raised to this level.

This strikes me (obviously) as making complete sense. As the oft-quoted remarks go we wouldnt describe a three year old as a “marxist child” or any other combination of their parents interests, hobbies and beliefs. We find that normal, while ignoring the oddity of treating “Muslim Child” as normal.

Part of this may be to do with the fact parents who have faith in a particular belief system will begin indoctrinating their children at a very early age. So, for example, children from a devout Catholic family will have learned their prayers by the time they can talk. However, this is not the same as making the informed choice to adopt that belief system. It is telling that religious groups put so much effort into catching children when they are young (and more susceptible to crazy stories about invisible people living in the clouds), hoping to force their ideas to such an extent that a minority stray from the fold – notably, most converts from one cult religion to another turn out to hold extreme views as that is what is needed to break the shackles.

So, that said, it is obvious why the BHA (et al) want a campaign like this, and obvious why religious groups are opposed to it (as always). The idea that children are given a free choice is comical at the best of times – atheist parents will try to leave their children to make up their own minds, while religious groups (under state sponsorship in the UK*) will try to convert them; meanwhile religious parents will continue to indoctrinate. What this poster campaign does, however, is educate adults. It brings the double standards we practice in daily life into public view. Painful it maybe, but this is a good thing.

With that background out of the way, there is an interesting post on Ruth Gledhill’s blog, on TimesOnline:

The two children chosen to front Richard Dawkins’ latest assault on God could not look more free of the misery with which he associates religious baggage.
With the slogan “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself”, the two children, their hair flying and with broad grins, seem to be the perfect advertisement for the new atheism being promoted by Professor Dawkins and the British Humanist Association.
Except that they are about as far from atheism as it is possible to be. The Times can reveal that Charlotte, 8, and Ollie, 7, are from one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.
Their father, Brad Mason, is something of a celebrity within evangelical circles as the drummer for the popular Christian musician Noel Richards.

I am not sure, exactly, what the motivation behind this item was, but it seems to be massively missing the point while proving the whole reason behind the campaign. It is hard, to work out where to begin with this, it all just seems a bit misguided.

First off: The pictures are from a stock photo gallery. When they were chosen there was no “background check” (despite how much we get off on that sort of thing in the UK) carried out and nor should there be. Can you imagine if iStockPhoto (or the like) demanded to know the religious background of any of its models. Rightfully, newspapers like the times would be outraged.

Secondly: Some minor “celeb” (dont make me laugh) drummer for a (ahem) popular Christian musician does not make them “one of Britain’s most devout Christian families.” That is just meaningless words where Ruth has lowered herself to a tabloid standard while trying to mock the post campaign. Its comically pointless.

Thirdly: This underscores the need for the campaign. These children are aged 8 and 7. They are too young to vote, drink alcohol, drive, own a gun, smoke, etc. They are below the age of criminal responsibility so they cant, legally, be held accountable for their actions. They can not, in any way, have made the concious, informed decision to commit to a religion. They are not “Christian Children” but “Children of Christian Parents.” Ruth seems to massively miss this point, but it not her worst blunder here.

Lastly: Where does it say they are, or should be, atheist children? The idea is not that only atheist children are happy, it is not that all children are atheists (although they are born that way), it is that we should stop labelling them. There is nothing wrong with having “children of Christian parents” on the campaign poster. This is a campaign that, should, be equally supported by every religion. It gives a greater chance for Christians to “save” children from Muslim, Hindu or Jewish families – sadly for them the opposite is true.

All Ruth has done with her post is show how quickly we fall into the trap of labelling children based on what ever ideas their parents have. No mention is made of the children being interviewed, just their father who appears to be speaking on their behalf.

Obviously you can be too young to think for yourself, but not too young to believe…….

I have missed this level of irony during my travels.

[EDITED TO ADD]

It seems great minds think alike :-) and The Freethinker has taken the times to task over this madness.

[END EDIT]

* yes, I know you can ask for your child to be excluded from communal prayer and other religious based teachings, but Religious Education is still mandatory and, in reality, who would want their child to be singled out for the dreaded “special treatment” in front of their school mates. It must be torture. On the positive side, mandatory RE / prayer never managed to even come close to convincing me, or anyone I went to school with, that God exists….

Killing off the needy

I am sure pretty much everyone in the UK knows that Northern Ireland is cold and wet. It really is. Some summers are fantastic, but the best you can hope for is a few decent months to break up the wet and cold weather.

Last winter the city centre, and major motorways, were closed for days as a result of huge amounts of snow.

It really is cold.

So then, I find (on good old BBC News) an interesting piece which seems to be a Christian “charity” planning to slowly kill off people in Belfast who need access to social housing:

Dozens of new homes will be so energy efficient that they are to be built without central heating systems, those behind a new venture have announced.

More than 50 social housing properties will be constructed over the next three years in the scheme which is led by by Habitat for Humanity Northern Ireland. (from BBC Northern Ireland)

Wow. Can you imagine sitting there, without central heating, while enough snow falls to close down the busiest motorway in the country? I can understand making them so heating efficient that central heating could be sparsely used – however not providing the facility strikes me as a cruel and unusual punishment for two main reasons:

1 – Should unpredictably bad weather arrive, or the house has been unoccupied for two weeks in a cold spell etc., there is no easy, cost-efficient way to reheat the home to a habitable temperature. Do they expect the needy to shiver for a week, or burn furniture?

2 – The house has no resale value. No one would willingly buy a house like this other than those in desperate need. ‘Nuff said.

Its not that simple though, not only are those in need of social housing expected to freeze to death in the winter, they still have to pay 80% of the price of a normal house in the area:

Construction is set to begin shortly at Madrid Street and the first completed houses will cost in the region of £100,000.

That is not enough for the cruel, greedy, Christians though:

People who want to live in the properties will have to get their hands dirty though. Habitat for Humanity is a Christian organisation which helps families to build their own homes, with the help of volunteers. The entire project will require 84,000 hours of volunteer time.

So they have to pay to build their own house. Wow. How “charitable.” It gets weirder though. Just in case these selfish needy people manage to survive the winter in their social housing, there is one last sting in the tail:

The properties will be made air-tight and will be fitted with triple-glazed windows.

Is this legal? While I cant be bothered calculating the volume of air they will have, surely life wont last long…

Aren’t Christian Charities Wonderful…………

Darwin and the Tree of Life

Possibly the best “educational” program I have seen on television in as long as I can remember. Better than Michio Kaku, better than all the discovery channel shows, better than all the rest.

I am talking about a wonderful BBC1 program – Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life – which has just finished. If you missed it, I cant stress how much you really should watch this on iPlayer. It is a part-Open University funded education program, supported by an interesting BBC Darwin website, where you can catch a glimpse of the program if it isnt on the iPlayer yet.

In a nutshell, David Attenborough shows his fantastic qualities as a presenter and takes the viewer on a tour through the history of the theory of evolution. He is genuinely enthusiastic about the science and has a presentational style that is unmatched. I was actually saddened at one point in the program, when I realised that 30 years ago people were more accepting of evolution and our place in the world than they are today. Thanks to the idiocy of fundamentalist religion we really are going back in time.

Attenborough calmly and politely mocks the ideas that all species were created as they are with no change and gives a wonderful (if brief) example of how the eye is a good example of evolution at work. It is all well done and while the hardened scientist may object at some simplification, this is a program which explains evolution in an hour for the general public. To that end some abbreviation of the tree of life is understandable.

Sadly, the BBC website sort of undermines Attenborough’s fantastic work with this line:

David shares his personal view on Darwin’s controversial idea.

Now, while it was indeed controversial in the 1860′s it is now valid science with solid evidential backing. The controversy is not real. Implying it is still there plays into the hands of the idiots and anti-educationalists. Shame really.

This program shows that, despite its faults, the BBC really can pull it out of the bag when it comes to “important” programs.

Stupidity and lies for Jesus

Always willing to flog a dead horse, I’ve stumbled across more mind-bending nonsense on the crazy-fest that is Yahoo! Answers. As I mentioned previously, this (*) is a haven for the weird and wonderful ideas people can come up with. Sadly, in the best of Web 2.0 traditions, idiocy, bad education and lies rise to the surface while real education gets drowned under the stupidity of the commons. I honestly think that if a good answer ever turned up it would be drowned under the idiocy (and get so many thumbs down) it would quickly flee for its life.

The most recent idiocy to draw my attention is a month old question titled “Do fossils of now extinct creatures such as dinosaurs prove evolution?” (see original)

At first site this looks like a legitimate question. It is the sort of question you would expect inquisitive school children to ask. It gives the chance for a well thought out answer about the nature of fossils, what evolutionary theory is and how scientific proofs work. You can imagine it being the sort of question a teacher would set a class to see what research they carry out. Well, Toutatis forbid they type the question into a search engine. The results are shocking. To an otherwise ignorant person seeing to improve their education, this search would be disastrous. Anyway, back to the question.

After an innocent start (obviously to trick the unwary), the question continues:

The fact that dinosaurs once lived and are now extinct is no proof of evolution. Such fossils merely show us that certain species once living were destroyed and became extinct. Theorists have been able to reach no general agreement on the cause or causes of extinction. The theories on this subject are numerous and sometimes very imaginative. Since most fossils are found in sedimentary rocks and show signs of catastrophic burial, they seem to point to a global flood as the principal cause of extinction. They must have lived on earth at the same time, just as the Bible implies.

Oh dear Belenus! It is true that the fact dinosaurs lived once and not any more is not proof of evolution. After a promising start it crashes down into a pile of blithering idiocy. So far so uneducated. Next we get:

If the flood-geology interpretation of geological strata is correct, all or most dinosaurs became extinct at the time of the flood. Until that time, then, man and dinosaurs lived on the earth at the same time.

Its good that he uses an “if” to start there. I agree that if the flood geology interpretation were correct dinosaurs died at the flood. However it isn’t. It isn’t even close. Man and Dino did not live on Earth at the same time. It really is that easy.

So far this is just standard creationist idiocy. It is the sad product of poor education, poor understanding and religious doctrine combining. As always though, the monumental lack of evidence to support creationism causes problems and the TRUE BELIEVER© is forced to lie for Jesus. It happens all the time. In all types of debate. The stronger the persons faith, the more they seem willing to lie for their deity. I find the irony very entertaining. Here we have:

Is there any EVIDENCE outside of the Bible to support this view? Yes, there is. It is well known that along the Paluxy River in Texas many dinosaur footprints have been found in limestone strata classified as Cretaceous. Not so well known is the fact that for about fifty years human footprints have been reported in the same strata.

Taranis give me strength. Don’t you just love it when some one asks a question that they answer themselves? Yes. (all puns intended). The only evidence to support humans and dinosaurs co-existing is in the minds of creationists. It isn’t even in the Bible. It is pure fiction. The Flintstones is not real. Lying for Jesus is still lying. The crazy questioner finishes off with his bit of conspiracy theory for Jesus nonsense:

Source: Footprints in Stone(color-sound film)
But since the concept that man lived with dinosaurs is incompatible with the theory of evolution, many Scientists dismiss this documentary for the persuasive evidence unfolded.

Man living with Dino is not incompatible with evolution. The “documentary” evidence cites is not dismissed for that reason and it really is not persuasive…

The screaming stupidity that is Yahoo! Answers comes out in the “best answer” chosen by the “asker.” As is so often the case, the person chooses a best answer that restates whatever idiocy they agree with. This is no different:

I do agree with you to some extent. It is impossible for humans to prove the actual “age” of the extinct dinosaur remains. When scientists try to “determine” the age of the dinosaur remains by soil composition and “carbon dating” etc, I just shake my head. Anybody can make an assumption about life that way. It is also impossible for humans to determine exactly how old the history of mankind is as well. Remember, in the early days of creation, people lived much longer then we do now. Of course they did. Adam lived for 930 years, and his son Seth lived for 912 years. Before the flood, many people lived well into their hundreds. There was a wonderful balance of nature then. No pollution or anything “man-made” existed to destroy that balance. God knew what he was doing right from the very beginning. His creation and existence is perfection in itself – he is the superb mastercraftsman! I bow to his absolute genius…

It is mind-numbing in its stupidity. What on Earth is age doing in quotes? What is the idiot trying to say? Putting determine in sneer quotes – what is that all about? The whole answer manages to be so far from the truth it is almost beyond belief. It isn’t even internally consistent. Even in Biblical terms there were lots of man-made things before the flood – the Ark for example…

The wonders of the internet (and specifically web 2.0) push this stupidity to the top of a search engine query. The miracle of Web2.0 gives the asker the chance to give prominence to the madness that the person asking the question wants to be seen as the answer. Yes, if you scroll down you can find better answers but not everyone is going to do that and, crucially, when they have had their reasoning tainted by the initial two bits, they will be more sceptical of the truth than of the idiocy.

Web 2.0 is not about empowerment and it certainly is not about the shared wisdom of the masses. The tragedy of the commons seems so much more appropriate.

* I suspose this may be a specific problem to the Religion and Spirituality part of Yahoo Answers, but the other sections seem to be riddled with nutjob answers…

Proof Of God – Christian Voice

Who would have thought Christian Voice would have cracked under the pressure of the No God bus campaigns in London? OK, most people I suppose. Still it is entertaining that they are riled by a simple poster to the extent they are demanding the UK’s Advertising Standards Agency to rule on the proof of God.

From the BBC:

An atheist campaign claiming “There’s probably no God” has been reported to the advertising regulator.
Posters with the slogan appear on 800 buses in England, Scotland and Wales, as well as on the London Underground.
But organisation Christian Voice has complained to the Advertising Standards Authority saying they break rules on substantiation and truthfulness.

Pardon me for a moment while I fall off the chair laughing.

They are saying that the claim there is probably no god is insubstantiated and / or not truthful. How on Thor’s hammer do they intend to convince the ASA of this one wonders…

But Stephen Green, national director of Christian Voice, said: “There is plenty of evidence for God, from people’s personal experience, to the complexity, interdependence, beauty and design of the natural world.
“But there is scant evidence on the other side, so I think the advertisers are really going to struggle to show their claim is not an exaggeration or inaccurate, as the ASA code puts it.”

More laughter rings out around WhyDontYou Towers. Evidence for God exists in “personal experience” – surely this alone is a self defeating argument because if I do not have that experience the advertisement is accurate as stated. I do not have that personal experience, therefore (should the ASA be reading this) the banner is 100% correct. Thank you Christian Voice.

I assume Christian Voice have lodged similar complaints over any advertising that mentions non-Christian religions, so any posters for Mosques, Temples (etc) will have to come down. I would never suggest people be petty enough to go through Christian advertising with a fine tooth comb – each day on the way to work I see a huge poster telling me that I will die for my sins, where is the proof of that I wonder?

In a wonderful bit of understatement (and acting a lot more adult than Christian Voice…), Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said:

“I am sure that Stephen Green really does think there is a great deal of evidence for a God (though presumably only the one that he believes in), but I pity the ASA if they are going to be expected to rule on the probability of God’s existence.”

Indeed, it will be interesting to see what their decision is…

Is this Britain?

In the past (“Emailing a myth“, for example) I have commented on how people send out emails which are basic rants by right wing Americans, but they change a few references and try to pass it off as meaning the same over in this green and pleasant land. It seems, however, that there is still a hard core of people who do not realise that the UK and the USA are different countries, and have different histories.

In the online edition of the Mail today (yes, I know, the only reason that you would buy the paper version is if you ran out of toilet paper), there is a comical ranting “news” item about a woman who is upset that the Nintendo version of Scrabble had some rude words in. From what I can see the words she objected to were tits, fuckers and shit. Oh, woe is me. The evil of language. Now, before I go on, I have no real issue with her for being upset. As the parent of a child under the age of majority, she really does get to decide what words her 8 year old is exposed to at home. I may think different words would be better, but I have no say in their house. It is comically likely that her 8 year old son is already fully conversant with all three words from the school playground but that is another conversation.

The only issue I have with this woman getting newspaper space to complain about this is the basic lack of parenting she shows. If she wants her son to learn new words, while still controlling what those words are, she needs to spend time with him. Real time. Talking and playing time. Not buying him a Nintendo and fucking him off to his room time. (mini rant over)

Predictably, the real comic value comes from the comments. I am sure the only reason rags like the mail have comments is so that idiots can stand up and think they are important. Equally predictably, it is the religious right that wade in. Look at this line in baffling idiocy:

No OUP, Britain is not a modern, multicultural and multi-faith country, it is an historic, British and Christian country and publishers like you do not have the right or the place to delete words from our language and replace them with one’s of your choosing!
Nigel, Somerset, 7/12/2008 12:14

Mindbogglingly, this has been rated “up” at over 30 times. Sadly for Nigel, pretty much everything he has said is wrong. It is hard for him to be more wrong. (I suspect this is the mail fucking up its comments and this was in response to a different article)

Britain is a modern, multi-cultural and multi-faith country. No matter how much he may want to cry otherwise. We have mosques. We have Hindu temples and Jewish synagogues. We pretty much cater for every current world religion to at least some degree. You can put your head in the sand and claim otherwise, but reality will prove you wrong every time.

Being “Historic” is not the polar opposite of modern. You can be a modern country with a long and proud history. In fact, Britain pretty much meets that, as do most countries with a “long and proud history.”

Saying Britain is British is comical, so I will ignore that, but saying Britain is a Christian country is interesting. Yes, we do have a state religion but you are not forced to subscribe to it. We are not a “Christian” country in any meaningful sense.

Lastly, this is the Junior Oxford English Dictionary. It is for young people. It has a limited set of words it can hold, so logic screams out that more popular words should be included. I dont agree with the word choices but I am more than capable of teaching my children the missing words. For the record these are the ones removed: (categories made by the Mail not me)

NATURE
Bluebell, budgerigar, cygnet, dandelion, gerbil, goldfish, guinea pig, kingfisher, magpie, marzipan, minnow, newt, piglet, primrose, starling, willow, wren.
CHRISTIANITY
Carol, cracker, holly, ivy, mistletoe, abbey, altar, bishop, chapel, christen, disciple, monk, nun, pew, saint, sin
HISTORY
Coronation, duchess, duke, emperor, empire, monarch, decade

Now I am intrigued why cracker is “Christian” rather than a food, but I suppose PZ Myers has a lot to answer for… At the end of the day, there will always be some words excluded. Get over it. There are more nature ones missing, and I very much doubt evolutionary biology terms get much space.

The next (and last) comic comment I want to poke is:

It is disgrace. This country is based on Christian principles and through these principles this country became prosperous. Why this country started hating itself? Who these modern politicians want to please by fighting Christianity? What is the ultimate aim of multiculturalism? We’ve had enough of this “modern” liberal nonsense.
Alex S, London UK, 7/12/2008 16:37

What blatant nonsense. What christian principles? Does Alex mean the invasion, enslavement and economic warfare that characterised a significan period of our history as Great Britain. Which Christian principles had the Irish subjugated, the Scots slaughtered and Catholics in hiding? What Chrisian principles allowed us to enslave half of Africa? Crucially, this is a country that has been in existence since long before Christ, so how can we be based on his teachings? Does Alex S think we have a pledge of allegiance and watch the superbowl?

I am not sure where Alex has aimed his comment, I can only assume it is also for the dictionary one. Removing some words with Christian connotations from the dictionary is not an attack on Christianity.

Why are Christians so quick to cry oppression and suppression?

Church says “Sorry,” believers furious

(I know it was a week ago, but I missed this first time round)

It seems that the Church of England has decided to apologise to Charles Darwin for heaping abuse and disbelief on him in the mid 1800′s. From the Daily Mail [Online version]:

The Church of England will tomorrow [14 Sep 08] officially apologise to Charles Darwin for misunderstanding his theory of evolution.

Wonderful. I know decisions are slow in large organisations but this is a bit weird. It has taken them almost one and a half centuries to decide to say “sorry, we were wrong.” Still, better late than never I suppose. In this instance, it is no better or worse than people apologising for the slave trade. It is just one of those things organisations need to do so they can feel better about themselves.

The Mail article continues:

In a bizarre step, the Church will address its contrition directly to the Victorian scientist himself, even though he died 126 years ago.

Now, this isn’t actually all that bizarre. Well, if you are a Christian anyway. Look at it from the truly faithful’s point of view. Darwin isn’t dead in the secular sense – he is just no longer on the Earth. He is either in Heaven or Hell so an apology to him personally is actually totally appropriate. If you really believe in an afterlife, why cant big old Charlie be reading the Church of England’s newsletter and watching their cermonies. I mean, the man was a minister after all…

As even the most dense of lifeforms could have predicted, such PR stunts dont always attact postive commentary. Take this bit of ironic waffle:

Former Conservative Minister Ann Widdecombe, who left the Church of England to become a Roman Catholic, said: ‘It’s absolutely ludicrous. Why don’t we have the Italians apologising for Pontius Pilate?‘We’ve already apologised for slavery and for the Crusades. When is it all going to stop? It’s insane and makes the Church of England look ridiculous.’

Poor old Ann, it isn’t even a good parallel but then, she is a tory minister so you cant expect too much. The thing that interested me the most, though, was why on Earth should she care? She is no longer CofE – she defected to the evil Catholicism. What makes her opinion on an organisation she spurned remotely valid? (Add to which, that is possibly the LEAST flattering photograph of a living person I have ever seen).

The only good “professional” comment comes from the National Secular Association (no suprise there, then): [Emphasis mine]

‘As well as being much too late, the message strikes me as insincere, as if there is an unspoken “but” behind the text. However, if it means that from now on the Church of England will say “No” to the teaching of creationism in school science lessons, then we would accept the apology on Darwin’s behalf.’

I couldn’t agree more. (continues below the fold) Continue reading

The BBC Must Not Waive Court Costs!

Sorry, this is a petition that I had meant to publicise a while ago (hat tip: Nullifidian).

Basically a bible bashing crackpot took out a frivolous court case against the BBC for the “Jerry Springer – The Opera” show and lost. In losing he has been saddled with court costs which are really not cheap. Now, the slimebag has decided that it would be the “decent thing” for the BBC to waive the costs and, in effect, all the British licence payers should fund his pointless posturing. This is the message:

I wanted to draw your attention to this important petition that I recently signed:

“BBC and Avalon must NOT Waive Springer Costs”
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/bbc_springer_green?e

I really think this is an important cause, and I’d like to encourage you to add your signature, too. It’s free and takes less than a minute of your time.

So, if you are a British licence fee payer, please take a trip and sign the petition.

When Education Fails People…

Well, the wonderful Atheist Ethicist blog has pointed to some, frankly, insane ramblings coming out of one of the Professors at Baylor University. Alonzo has pretty much summed up the logical faults with the ramblings by Dr Roger Olsen so I am largely left to simply poke fun at the complete lack of any form of understanding or critical reasoning abilities his writing demonstrates.

Basically, it is shameful that a professor (albeit of theology) is so incapable of following the basic process of reasoning and it is a sad indictment of the effects of “faith” that it has made him blind to the monumental confusion his posts displays. If Dr Olsen were an undergraduate, you’d hope this sort of writing would pretty much end up with an “F.” At best.

If there were any form of World Justice, this sort of nonsense would soon cause people to stop enrolling at Baylor. Unfortunately, I suspect it will have the opposite effect when other members of the “faithful” see this sort of thing and decide they would rather avoid an education at Baylor than elsewhere.

Dr Olsen sets the tone for his gibberish article with:

I feel sorry for atheists. They are so much in the minority in American society and they are bound to feel some marginalization if not persecution.

Oh what wonderful patronisation. I am not an American so I have no idea if this is true or otherwise. However it speaks volumes as to the true nature of Dr Olsen. Here he is claiming “Atheists” are a tiny minority who feel persecuted. Rather than demonstrating the “Christian charity” he is more than happy to continue, and increase, the persecution. If the word “atheist” were replaced with any other minority group, he would never have had the temerity to write the words which follow on. Equally interestingly, if Atheists are such a minority, why does Dr Olsen care?

With an interesting twist of linguistics and some (frankly confusing) logic, Dr Olsen continues with this wonderful snippet:

Christians should be the last people to persecute anyone — including atheists. But that doesn’t mean Christians have to accommodate atheism as they tolerate and love atheists.

I am intrigued as to how you can “tolerate atheists” while not accommodating them? Obviously Dr Olsen is one of those confused people who believes that freedom of religion does not mean freedom from religion and would rather someone worshipped Baal than didn’t worship any gods.

The confused diatribe continues. Dr Olsen seems to mainly hate atheists because:

So far, at least, atheists haven’t demonstrated their concern for others in any organized way.

Blimey. Here we fall once more into the weird idea that “Atheists” have to become an organised religious group before it can be tolerated. In some respects this is not completely different to some of the ideas kicked around by prominent non-theists such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers, where there seems to be some urge to organise and politicise atheism. This is something which has been mentioned here in the past, and largely I am not in favour of it. Atheists only share one thing in common and can cover the full political spectrum as well as demonstrating varying levels of rationality. Creating a Church of Atheism is (IMHO of course) foolhardy and does nothing but pander to the thoughts of nutcases like Dr Olsen.

As Alonzo points out on his blog, atheists do huge quantities of good deeds, build hospitals and donate fortunes to charities etc., but they are generally not done under an “atheist” umbrella. From Dr Olsen’s post, he seems to acknowledge this but continues to rail against atheism for no reason other than the lack of organisation. This really confuses me.

Does Dr Olsen honestly think it is such a big deal? Is every religious organisation a “Good Thing” or are they a combination of good, bad and indifferent? Atheists support religious groups and non-religious groups. Is Dr Olsen completely unaware of any organisation which seeks to help others and is not religiously motivated? If so, I suspect he really does need to broaden his horizons somewhat.

As he continues, Dr Olsen shows that having a doctorate and a professorial appointment is no indication of anything beyond a basic education outside your own highly specialised field (in this case, invisible people theology):

And atheism has no answer to social Darwinism — the idea that society should not help the weak because it’s nature’s way to weed out the less fit.

This is mind boggling. Fifteen year olds come up with more robust arguments. Here, Dr Olsen shows he has no understanding of what “Darwinism” really means, so one is led to suspect he is firmly entrenched in the creationist corner. If he honestly thinks this is either true or a good argument against atheism, I am truly ashamed for Baylor university.

Sadly, it seems he does think this:

Helping the weak goes against nature and if nature is all there is, well, why should we fight it? A person might choose to, but not because of any transcendent, objective obligation (such as that all persons are created in God’s image).

Obviously, Dr Olsen believes that without belief in a deity (any deity) people will not help the weak. He is so woefully unaware of nature that he must either think animals have gods or he has never seen herd animals (for example) helping their weak and sick. That aside, it is simply an empty argument. Belief in a deity is not required to make people help others – atheists who help others disproves it immediately – therefore having this as his basic premise shows his entire line of argument is logically flawed.

Dr Olsen seems to think that if a person chooses to do good simply because they are good person it really means they are an evil atheist. Whereas a person who does good against their will because they are scared the invisible Sky Elf will punish them is actually a good theist.

Madness. Pure Madness.

For Dr Olsen, once he set off on this path of logical fallacy, there was no turning back:

The only logical option for the atheist is nihilism — belief that nothing has any objective meaning or purpose.

Wow. The only people who think this is true are poorly educated, ignorant, theists. I feel sorry for people like this because they really are lost sheep. They would be out in the streets killing, raping and stealing before they killed themselves if it wasn’t for the basic fear they have of the apparently kindly-yet-massively-vengeful deity who watches their every movement.

The reality is for atheists life on Earth tends to have much more meaning and purpose because it is all we have. There is no afterlife where we can relish the rewards for our Earthly behaviour. There is no atonement for every sin. There are no virgins waiting to serve us if we kill ourselves and take a few infidels along for the ride. All we have is here on Earth so, generally, Atheists will (or at least should) do their best to make it the best possible Earth.

As he gets his full head of gibberish going, Dr Olsen writes:

Küng admitted that atheism is a rational “basic choice” and it cannot be proven wrong in any kind of absolute way.

But most atheists demonstrate their basic trust in the meaningfulness of reality by being outraged at evil and injustice, thereby demonstrating that atheism cannot be lived out consistently.

What makes something evil or unjust if nothing like God exists — if nature is all there is? Only subjective choice either by an individual or a society. But that can change and it often does. Without God, the social prophet has no way out of relativism.

Wow. Küng wrote it therefore Dr Olsen’s interpretation must be 100% true…

The massive ironic part of this is that the Religious definitions of good and evil have changed over time along with society. Despite the stone-like qualities of the ten commandments, even these are not set in stone. Nations Under God are allowed to kill if the secular nation decided it is in its best interests. God does not decide, people do. Activities which were “sinful” a thousand years ago are commonplace now and vice versa. Can you imagine picking up a sword, killing fifty people then paying a priest to absolve you of your sin? Well if you believe in God this was acceptable for most of the history of Christianity.

Fundamentally, pretty much everything Dr Olsen has wrote is incorrect or logically flawed. His basic premises are complete nonsense:

  1. Being organised does not make good deeds better, not being organised does not make them worse.
  2. Religious definitions of “good” and “evil” have changed over time in keeping with society.

That such nonsense could be written by a “Professor” (even one of theology) is mind boggling. He seems unable to carry out basic research into anthropology, evolution, history (etc). What does this say about Baylor university…

Baylor and universities like it exist to promote objective values and meaningful existence.

Obviously anything resembling an education is a very distant runner up.

Dr Olsen finishes with:

Finally, let me repeat that I have nothing against atheists as persons and neither does Baylor University.

But in my opinion, they are people of character and virtue in spite of their philosophy of life — not because of it.

In a similar vein, I have nothing against people who believe in fairies, elves, ghosts, trolls, demons, deities etc. In my opinion they are, generally, people of character and virtue in spite of their madness belief, not because of it.

What pills would Jesus take?

Months late to pick this up but this clip from Current TV still interesting if you haven’t seen it. It’s a piece about a Christian “aid organisation” distributing pills with a cross and “Jesus saves” stamped on them (a sort of medicinal LoveHearts, for those who know the traditional cheap British sweets) to Indonesian Muslim tsunami victims.

Lots of comments claimed that it doesn’t matter what’s on the pills if people in need get medicine. A commenter called danm8r made the excellent point that:

I would love to see a medication distributed in this country (US) with the inscription “Allah Akbar” printed on it. I’m guessing it would be the people posting approvingly of the “Jesus Lives” medication that would be the first to freak out about a Islamic phrase on their medication.

And Skullboy said, in another spot-on comment:

Imagine how pissed a person of the Christian faith would be if they took a pill with an upside down cross or a pentagram on it. It’s Christians taking advantage of a peoples losses and the poor.

.

On one hand, there are lots of people with strong religious beliefs who are helping people in need. I think there many more people doing it just out of a sense of common humanity. In any case, all our attempts to help people can easily have unintended consequences that are bad.

In this case, the unintended bad consequences seem almost willfully present right from the start. The level of stupidity is awesome.

What were they giving out anyway? An anti-worm medicine seemed to have been taken as a toothache remedy by one man, as far as i could make out.

What sorts of lunatic distribute medicines to try and sneak fresh adherents into their fold?

Did they believe that writing Jesus messages in English on pills would mean anything to non-English speakers.

Did they assume the “Jesus saves” words would have a magical effect and heal the sick at the same time as insidiously converting them?

The most obvious impact this sort of activity does is to breed justified suspicion of medical aid ventures.

This justified suspicion of many forms of Western-originating medical aid is the very thing that is having a disastrous impact on world efforts to deal with diseases that threaten billions. The reaction to proselytizing western government actions and religious NGOs can be seen in a swathe of bad effects: HIV denial. Adoption of local diet and plant-based “AIDs remedies” that cure nothing. Refusal of polio vaccination as somehow “un-Islamic.” The spread of stories that make you want to kick the people responsible – such as the (physically impossible) idea that European condoms are deliberately infected with HIV.

Turning the other cheek?

An advert on Wingnut Daily leads to “The ultimate biblical exploration of self-defence”, a book with the title Shooting Back also available as “an exciting DVD.”

What would you do if armed terrorists broke into your church and starting attacking your friends with automatic weapons in the middle of a worship service?

Well, that is one form of terrorist attack that is never going to affect us non-believers….. You might therefore think a common-sense solution to that imaginary scenario for phobic believers might be to maybe stop going to church, but this book doesn’t go down that route….

It’s advice for his fellow worldnutters from a South African who was in a church that was attacked in 1993. (Don’t ask me if it was one of those extremist Terre-Blanche-style-white-hate-”churches” because they don’t actually mention that small detail. )

….But van Wyk was not defenseless that day. Had he been unarmed like the other congregants, the slaughter would have been much worse.
“Instinctively, I knelt down behind the bench in front of me and pulled out my .38 special snub-nosed revolver, which I always carried with me,” he writes in “Shooting Back,” a book being published for the first time in America next month by WND Books. “I would have felt undressed without it. Many people could not understand why I would carry a firearm into a church service, but I argued that this was a particularly dangerous time in South Africa.”

Many people indeed might not understand why someone would carry a firearm into a church service.

(I am a mite distracted by the odd physical conformation of someone who is naked without a gun. How much human flesh can a gun cover? Is he a really odd shaped human? Is it a pretty large gun like an anti-aircraft weapon. That might cover enough flesh to constitute an article of clothing. However, it would be hard for it to pass unnoticed by even the dumbest church-attackers.

If he put the gun behind a bench, was he was therefore conceptually naked in his church? No, my misunderstanding. The gun wasn’t behind the bench. To cover his conceptual nakedness effectively, it must have been stashed somewhere about his person that he couldn’t get at without having to do the modest thing and get behind a bench. )

Now, maybe I am being a bit too biblically literal here but from my school Religious Knowledge lessons, I don’t remember much in the New Testament about fighting back with maximum firepower? I thought it was all about loving thine enemies and turning the other cheek. My misunderstanding. That was another New Testament altogether.

But, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. In fact I’ll see his paranoid advice and raise it.

I myself feel in a state of mortal terror unless I’m armed with at least a couple of dozen inter-continental ballistic weapons. I mean, you never know when you might come under attack and have to protect innocents around you. So I always feel that a few medium-to-long range nuclear weapons gives you all the security you need. Why stop at carrying mere hand-guns into church?

And indeed, what utopian fool would go anywhere without wearing at least an NBC suit over a set of Kevlar underwear? And carrying a light submachine gun. We live in a dangerous world.

The Anglican Church

Sadly, I am quite short of time to blog at the moment because I have just come across a priceless news item on the BBC.

Headlined “Nervous support for Church rules,” the BBC have examined the early signs of the Anglican Church’s move away from their founding principles – all because of the “risk” of Gay Bishops. I dont have time to dissect this properly, but to give you a flavour, the article begins:

The Church of England’s ruling body, the general synod, is backing a set of rules – or covenant – aimed at resolving disagreements in the Anglican Communion, such as that over the ordination of gay bishops.

While some see the move as a necessity, others believe it goes against the traditions of the Church.

Strange how a religion which is supposed to teach love, compassion and forgiveness can get its cassocks in such a twist over gay people.

[tags]Religion, Philosophy, Society, Anglican, Church, Christians, CofE, Nutters, Bigots, Discrimination, Culture, Synod[/tags]

Capricious Pedantry

I know I should have learned my lesson long ago and I promise to stop responding to Parabiodox’s baiting after this post… (At least I will try).

Previously, I made a post about Christian humour in which I commented that the expected answer to a ranting comment would be “Atheists (agnostics etc)” rather than the Abrahamic religions I previously claimed. Now, I never meant this to imply Atheists were the same as agnostics, and if anyone did take away that impression from my (lengthy) post than I apologise wholeheartedly.

I am fully aware Atheism is not Agnosticism, and personally I do not find “agnosticism” a reasonable viewpoint which can be counted as an opinion. Agnosticism is (remember this is my personal viewpoint!) a good point of view for something about which you have no opinion. I am agnostic as to the existence of life on a planet orbiting Beta Canis Major for example. I am not agnostic about the existence of Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Leprechauns, Pixies, Elves, Orcs, Gobilins, Demons, pink Unicorns or all manner of imaginary nonsense. What on Earth gives a particular religion special privileges about it’s claims to the existence of one (or more) deities? I will return to this.

Continue reading

Ray Comfort – Did I miss something?

Amazingly, it seems not everyone thinks Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron made fools of themselves during the debate with the “Rational Response Squad.” It has been mentioned on this blog, Nullfidian’s Blog and Pharyngula if you want to read more / watch the footage.

I should point out, the footage is painful. Comfort / Cameron are broadly clueless and debate in the style of 10 year olds (as do the RRS, but at least they are young and enthusiastic). Comfort claims to be able to prove the existence of God without using the bible, but opens the book pretty much every time. The whole crux of the theist argument is an appeal to fear. They should be ashamed of themselves.

Oddly, despite this, some theists think Comfort did well. Seriously. And more than one theist crackpot thinks this… On the Shepherds Scrapbook site, the post begins:

Ray Comfort’s “debate” happened this afternoon (watch here). I’m at least very thankful for his presentation of the gospel message, although he said he would not open his Bible.

Amazing really. Theists are wonderful creatures, I just don’t think I can eat one whole.

[tags]Atheism, Belief, Theism, God, Religion, Debate, Rational Response Squad, Christians, Bible, Philosophy, Society, Culture, Logic, Arguments, Logical Fallacy, Kirk Cameron, Ray Comfort, Stupidity, Woo[/tags]