Humanism, atheism, some politics and lots of common sense.

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

One God Further

Here is a quote by Richard Dawkins I stumbled upon;
“Modern theists might acknowledge that, when it comes to Baal and the Golden Calf, Thor and Wotan, Poseidon and Apollo, Mithras and Ammon Ra, they are actually atheists. We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.”

The Bradford Spring

I’ll be blunt, I’ve no respect for the George Galloway MP, who ironically stands for the Respect party. His victory in the Bradford West by-election in the news today was celebrated by George before the result was even announced. In his winning speech he crowed it was the greatest ‘by election victory ever’, it wasn’t.
Afterwards George was held aloft by his supporters in the street but was also attacked by someone throwing eggs. Why don’t I like George? well where should I begin, the list would be extensive. This is a man after all that shook hands with tyrant Saddam Hussein and said “Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability”. One thing is for sure, the people of Bradford won’t be represented by him that much as he hardly attended parliament sessions when he was MP for Bethnal Green and Bow.
George is very much an ego, this is a man who boasted about bedding women in Greece during during the War on Want conference which in 1988 led to tabloid front page news which led to a vote of no confidence in him from his constituency Labour party. Later in 2003 he was expelled from the Labour party of comments regarding the Iraq war and the leaders behind it. In his winning speech today he proved the wounds of expulsion are still there as he rounded on the current Labour party and Tony Blair, though personally speaking he can carry on doing that as I’ve no time for him either. George wants Labour as it used to be, the point to mention here is that the old Labour party never won elections, hence Thatchers long reign. The simple fact is, Labour had to modernise in order to become electable and Blair did at least facilitate that shift.
George defends regimes in the Arab world knowing full well of human rights abuses, he even defended Iran by saying gay and lesbians weren’t at risk of execution, a claim that has been refuted by all every reputable human rights organisation.
Then we could move onto the fact that when he was a sitting MP he went on the reality tv show Big Brother which showed scenes of Galloway in mine and many others opinion bullying fellow contestant Michael Barrymore. I’ve no liking for Barrymore, he gets on my nerves but it didn’t take an idiot to realise that at the time Barrymore was emotionally unstable and not in a good place. After initially befriending him and commenting what a difficult time he’d had at the hands of others George had no qualms in moving in for the kill when a disagreement occurred.
I recently heard George Galloway on a radio programme, the subject of Christopher Hitchens recent death came up and he gloated about it, remarking along the lines of ‘I hope he now knows god is not only great but is merciful’. This comment following plenty of derogatory remarks of Hitchens, and George stands for a party called Respect, hard to believe eh?
There’s no doubt Galloway is a half decent orator and has character to a degree, though I personally find him boorish, egotistical and self centered. Whilst Galloway winning Bradford West has no doubt rocked the Labour party I suspect his cry of this is the ‘Bradford Spring’ will see little bloom in the political winter I feel that we are now in. Galloway has a receptive audience in Bradford because of his links and knowledge of the Asian community both at home and abroad. It was an easy sure fire win for him. This is not really a great victory for Galloway, its just the people of Bradford west either not voting or saying they’ve had enough with the current political parties and recent cuts, which as a nation we all have.
Some interesting articles here regarding George Galloway;
The Commentator
The Telegraph has articles here and here
The Independant

A Rational Man, Executed Irrationally

So the pope is almost done in Cuba and thousands have flocked to see him. I find it ironic that the Pope had said before visiting that communism ‘doesn’t correspond with reality’, that’s rich coming from a man that has a hotline with an imaginary guy in the clouds. I watched Castro meeting the Pope and mused which one would out live the other and which will remembered in history more? The answer was clear to me. I’ve got a book on Castro that is yet unread, maybe I’ll read it one day as he does interest me. My politics are left of centre though I’m no communist.
What I did think about today when they where all talking Spanish on the Tv was about Francisco Ferrer who was educator born in Spain in 1859 and later opened the first modern school in Barcelona in 1902. Ferrer was obviously a man of secular and rational ideals, he opened more such schools to rich and poor alike and organised an international league of rational education. He was accused by the powers that be back then of being anti religious and against conscription and following a military trial in 1909 where defence witnesses were excluded he was executed.
Pope Pius X sent the prosecutor a gold handled sword engraved with a message of congratulations.
Written on the wall of his prison cell before his execution Ferrer wrote;
‘Let no more gods or exploiters be served. Let us learn rather to love one another.’

Too Late?

Fascinating article here about humans killing off giant vertebrates in Australia some 40,000 years ago. Me thinks Noah’s Ark was a bit too late for these, not that anyone even knew about Australia during biblical times. With varying estimates (including catalogued species) of how many species there are globally, seemingly well over 8 million that must have been some boat he had.

The Jesus Business

The first thing that strikes me about the Moonies is that it seems like a global dating agency on speed. Let’s not confuse it with a religion though, it’s a cult. It’s another person proclaiming to be Jesus or have some divine mandate to carry on his work, in this case arrange lots of weddings for people that have hardly or never met. It’s a great incentive for desperate single people I guess, a ready made wife through something of a lottery. The BBC article regarding Moonies today tells of a British man marrying an American woman, the match being made by his parents, and you thought only some Asian, African or some Jewish cultures marriages were arranged one right?
It’s amazing how many people have professed to be Jesus or some reincarnation of him, see here for a list. Personally if I was going to set up shop as a historic figure then I’d go for somebody with more historical evidence than Jesus. That said, Sun Myung Moon (not his birth name) head of the Unification church has done very well out of it, in fact he’s rumoured to be a billionaire. Jesus still continues to be big business and people continue to be weak when it comes to buying into religion.

Does God Wear A Sombrero?

Pope Benedict XVI visits Mexico. What does he have to say on the death of some 50,000 people in the last 5 years to drug related crime? I’m sure there will be the usual papal rhetoric during his visit, the usual statements of catholic values and that they must turn to god in order for the violence to stop. I’m not going to come down on the catholic church over this one, though if the Mexicans are praying to god he’s obviously not listening because like the old Aztec gods, he doesn’t exist. Nope, religion isn’t really culpable for the drug problems, like religion it’s a man made problem and only humans can sort it out themselves.

Hitch Slaps

There’s lots of good videos on YouTube I could post on here but I don’t really want it to be that type of blog, an endless stream of videos of other people. However when I stumble on good ones I’ll add them. The late Christopher Hitchens was a very big influence on me (still is, and always will be!) so it is only fitting I should share this compilation of what are termed ‘Hitch Slaps’ of the great man in debate with others.


Report of Shame

So the Vatican have published a report about abuse within the ranks of the Catholic church. The world was of course already aware of it, reading the news article on BBC News website we get the same old spiel. The scandals had “opened many wounds”, it said, and lay people had “lost trust in their pastors”. Then we get to the moving on from it and they should be making known the truth of the gospel (truth?) and the churches life, I wonder how many truths won’t actually see light though or how many victims won’t come forward because of the shame and painful memories they have?
Apparently this report was promised two years ago by Pope Benedict the XVI in a letter to the Irish people, I suspect those two years were used more to cover up and sweep things under the carpet than to actually investigate further. When if comes to everyday realities the church is just as good at hiding the facts as it is as good at promoting yesteryears fiction.

Stay Clear of Credo

Almost every week in my local newspaper there’s a column called ‘Credo’ which is written by leading members of the ecclesiastical community from in and around town. Personally I find it a very patronising little section of the newspaper, thankfully it’s usually tucked out of the way but reading it as I do you always find really unsubtle references to the theme of embracing religion before it’s too late and life after death if you  join their ranks, I’m sure you’ve read such articles before. Such pieces are written to make you feel guilty and evoke other emotions but don’t despair because god and jesus are on hand 24/7 should you want to debase yourself before them and tell them how good they are.
This weeks nugget of Christian knowledge written by Rev David Allen (retired) of the Everyday Champions Church related to diminishing numbers in church and the topic of hell. The basic content of the article mentions that figures have fallen in UK churches because many have become too liberal in their preaching and hell has become taboo and glossed over where as in America statistics show a rise in attendance where ‘hell and judgement are taught as an integral part of regular preaching’. So the conclusion is liberal congregations are failing and the more hard hitting ones are flourishing, he ends the article with ‘We don’t like to think of hell but to ignore it is surely foolish.’
As for my thoughts, its really simple, hell doesn’t exist and neither does heaven. Both imaginary realms are used as the leverage when attempting to win weak minds over, scaremongering in its most base form. Let’s just suppose both heaven and hell do exist and we end up there having embraced god and Christianity. There we stand looking down, knowing people are suffering eternally for whatever reasons they have been judged on. These people could of course be people we are aware of, friends, loved ones or they could be perfectly moral people that like me have chosen to be a humanist or atheist. They could be children or tribes people with no knowledge of god or heaven, no concept of Christianity – all suffering because they didn’t submit to the will of a celestial dictator, a self proclaimed jealous god that allegedly created us, screwed us over then wants us to stroke his ego with total submission …. or else.
Would any sane rational person want the above? If heaven existed and eternal boring immortality awaited, then that’s where the Orwellian big brother sinister stuff really begins. We don’t like dictatorships on earth so who would want a sterile eternal one in some make believe realm? The only way to topple celestial dictators is by not buying into it all, by not being afraid to be your own person and have perfectly normal morals and goals without fear of some mystical reward or punishment system. Let’s stride forward and leave behind intellectual repression from the dark distant past. Lets not be afraid to have an open inquiring minds that dare to question and most of all don’t be afraid to be yourself and be human!


Countering the Platitudes

I can’t deny I’m something of an atheist activist though some would term it militant atheist, I just consider it very much my own atheism/humanism as I’m not involved with any group. In my small town there are three pro-active religious groups amongst many groups or demoninations, these are the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Evangelicals and the Everyday Champions church. The Witnesses do their door to door preaching and leaflet posting, the Everyday Champions are involved in local projects I believe and the Evangelicals like to stand just off the market square on a Wednesday yelling at people that they are sinners.
Depending on my disposition or how busy I am then I’ll engage religious groups if they are out and about and we cross paths. By engage I don’t mean I’m openly hostile, I’ll just talk to them if opportunity presents itself. When getting involved in such debates you can always be sure the bible gets opened up and quoted from whether its relevant to the subject you’ve decided to talk about or not. So out comes the first century platitudes and rhetoric along with the usual guilt smack downs they often try to pull, especially the hard core evangelicals. They are adept mongers of fear and guilt where others are concerned as they love to bandy words such as hell, sin and salvation. No matter how much you reason or counter with practical common sense they’ll either ignore what you’ve said if they can’t answer or quote something from the bible to side step it. The irony is that science never claims it has all the answers where as religion does. You have to take into account when debating openly with such people that they’ll refer to the bible often, they’ll have total conviction in what they are saying regardless of what pragmatisms you put their way and lastly the fact they are out in public shouting the odds shows they have balls, so they’ll often be fired up with rhetoric and religious fervour.
If you read quite a bit of history and humanistic books like I do then there’s very good questions you can pitch to them and very good answers you can retort with. They generally don’t like it when they come up against someone that valid points and knows their stuff as they are used to people just being rude or abrasive back or just telling them they think its nonsense. My advice when engaging such people is calmness, confidence and considered thought in what you are going to say and without saying – rationality, keep it real.
The good thing is you don’t have to have read tons of books if you feel inclined to debate back but two ideal starter books if you are interested are ‘Humanism’ 5th Edition by Barbara Smoker which I believe has been used in widely in schools and can be found in good bookshops and libraries, its also available on the net to buy from various sites. It’s a well written little book which covers the history of Humanism briefly and contains great arguments for morality, evolution and existence among others.
Another great starter book is ‘Atheism, a very short introduction’ by Julian Baggini who is a notable writer on philosophy and manages to cover lots of things in this brief introduction. Both books are compelling reading for an inquiring mind the first book being especially good for younger people who have questions they may need answering. Reading either of these books will give you some excellent arguments and reasoning’s to unsettle even the most dogmatic street preacher.

Atheism, a very short introduction is by Julian Baggini, published by Oxford University Press (ISBN 978-0-19-280424-2). His website can be found here.
Humanism 5th Edition by Barbara Smoker, published by South Place Ethical Society (ISBN 978-0-902368-25-5). Probably not as easy to get as the above but well worth seeking out and buying, even if second hand.

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