Archive for November, 2010


A ritual called “praying”

Jesusianisimists believe that they can communicate with their deity through a ritual called “praying”. This ritual is usually used to petition the deity to intercede in human affairs to the advantage of the “praying” Jesusianisimist or a cause deemed important by the Jesusianisimist.

This ritual can take several forms and, strangely for an exceedingly important ritual fundamental to the Jesusianisimists “faith”, doesn’t have a strictly prescribed method associated with it. Of course there are the “formal” “prayers” performed on important occasions but the vast majority of “prayer” rituals are performed in a very unstructured manner.

One common form employed by many (but not all) Jesusianisimists is a “prayer” ritual called “saying grace”. This usually involves several Jesusianisimists, shortly prior to consuming a meal together, holding hands, closing their eyes and listening to an appointed Jesusianisimist say out loud for everybody to hear, how grateful they all are for the food that was provided by the deity and sometimes to petition the deity for continued good fortune. (This is strange behaviour, since the Jesusianisimists spent some considerable time working to earn money to purchase the food and then more time to prepare it. It is unclear which part the deity played.)

Another common form of the ritual involves the Jesusianisimist, shortly prior to going to bed, kneeling before his/her bed and saying a few words of thanks to the deity and perhaps to petition the deity to continue its benevolence towards the Jesusianisimist and the people the Jesusianisimist holds dear. (Again, it is unclear why the all-knowing deity must be reminded  about things it already knows.)

Jesusianisimists sometimes employ this “prayer” ritual just prior to a sporting match to petition their deity to aid them in beating the other team (A very strange thing to do since often both teams are Jesusianisimists and are asking for the same thing) and shortly after sporting matches to thank their deity… for something, even if they lose. (It is unclear what the purpose of gratitude is when one got exactly the opposite of what one asked for.)

Jesusianisimist often ask for things, help for strangers, relatives, themselves, they ask for rain, they ask for sunshine, they ask for good crops, for money, cars, cell phones, they ask for love, they ask to be saved from punishment, they ask to be healed from sickness, they ask for others to be healed from sickness, they ask every conceivable thing.

Jesusianisimists respect other Jesusianisimists who pray and are very grateful when other Jesusianisimists pray for them or on behalf of their causes.

Jesusianisimists also fervently believe that their deity answers these ritualistic petitions.

My observations are as follows:

  • Jesusianisimists often ask for things in contradiction to each other
  • Prayers obviously don’t always get answered (very often it is impossible to answer all prayers since they often contradict each other)
  • Prayers never get answered consistently
  • Jesusianisimists are quick to remember times when prayers seem to get answered but quick to forget the overwhelming number of times they don’t get answered

Some more observations go like this:

  • Muslims and Hindus also pray to their gods
  • Muslim and Hindu prayers get answered (and not answered) at exactly the same rate as Jesusianisimists prayers
  • Buddhists, Scientologists, atheists, agnostics, Satanists, Wiccans, Sun Worshippers, Witch Doctors, Nazis and Pol Pot often wish for things and their wishes come true at exactly the same rate as Jesusianisimists prayers.
  • There are some things that Jesusianisimists ask for that never, ever happen, such as the healing of an amputee
  • Prayers never get answered in such a way as to conclusively prove that there was supernatural intervention
  • No adequately run scientific study of prayer has ever shown it to be any more efficacious than the placebo effect. To the contrary, some studies have shown that people who know they are being prayed for fare worse than those who do not

Now, one can draw one of three conclusions:

  1. There are no deities that answer prayers and all answered prayers are happy coincidence
  2. Everybody has a deity to do their bidding (even atheists and Buddhists… somehow)  that answers (or doesn’t answer) their prayers and wishes
  3. The deity of the Jesusianisimists also answers the prayers and wishes of, well, everybody, including, oddly, Satanists and atheists

Three interesting possibilities. Only one is likely though and no extra points for guessing which one.

In closing, I would like you to take this message away from this post:

Pray for world peace. It’s the least you can do. Literally

Have some trouble understanding that? Let me elaborate. Praying does nothing. Not a damn thing. Giving money to a charity, that does something. Volunteering at a charity, that does something. Not wasting water and electricity, that does something. Recycling, that does something. Praying, does absolutely nothing. Obviously and demonstrably so. It is nothing more than wishful thinking.

Prayer exists so that people can feel like they’ve done something without actually having to do anything.

A wave of reason

The full quote for Bertrand Russell (emphasis mine):

I would like to say two things – one intellectual and one moral. The intellectual thing I should want to say to them is this; when you are studying any matter or considering any philosophy, ask yourself only what are the facts and what is the truth that the facts bear out. Never let yourself be diverted either by what you wish to believe or by what you think would have beneficent social effects if it were believed, but look only and solely at what are the facts. That is the intellectual thing that I should wish to say.

The moral thing I should wish to say to them is very simple – I should say love is wise, hatred is foolish. In this world, which is getting more and more closely interconnected, we have to learn to tolerate each other. We have to learn to put up with the fact that some people say things that we don’t like. We can only live together in that way, and if we are to live together and not die together, we must learn a kind of charity and a kind of tolerance which is absolutely vital to the continuation of human life on this planet.

I think this quote by Voltaire answers the second part of Bertrand Russell’s quote quite nicely:

The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it.

Happily, there does seem to be a wave of reason going around. To think scientifically, the ability to reason is possibly one of the most important things a person can learn. I wish more people would.

The quote by Phil Plait (the coolest astronomy geek in the world):

Teach a man to reason and he’ll think for a lifetime.

Facts, evidence, reason. Science. Truth.

Science is the poetry of reality

I wish I could explain how these video’s make me feel. They inspire me. The make me want to do great things, to learn things, to accomplish things. They are very close to the top of my list of ‘favourite things’.

Symphony of Science is profoundly genius.

Some people think that there might be a bit too much geek in there but I don’t care. I’ve watched these video’s many times and even now they still have the same effect. They make me want to know things… everything.

“There’s real poetry in the real world; science is the poetry of reality.”

Give me science, give me the poetry of reality; keep your bronze age superstition to your self.

If you haven’t watched these video’s, I highly recommend that you do so, post haste: http://www.symphonyofscience.com/

(Click here for a huge JPG version and here for a substantially large PDF version)

I toyed around with the idea of not writing anything further for a while but some comments on the Project Reason website convinced me otherwise.

First, let me state that the contradictions in the Bible are manifold (see picture above). Immediately apologists try to point out that there are errors in the contradiction list, that some of those contradictions aren’t, like, you know, actual contradictions because the context makes <insert contradiction in error here> actually mean something completely different to what the words on the page say. You know?

The point is though, that at face value, the one verse contradicts the other verse and to be totally fair, even if 90% of the contradictions above are complete bullshit you still have a ‘holy book’ contrived by the ‘almighty creator of the universe’ that is filled with contradictions.

A Christian, upon seeing this poster should do what Christians do and stick their heads back in the sand and ignore it. Why? Because doing that looks a lot less stupid than trying to make the argument that: Yahweh, almighty, all-knowing, all-powerful deity, created an entire universe ninety-four billion light years across with hundreds of thousands of galaxies and trillions of stars and gazillions of planets with one planet in particular populated by millions of species of animal  but he can’t get a thousand pages of non contradictory text published? Give a deity a freaking break will you.

What freaks me out is that there are a billion people on the planet who cannot actually see the problem with that.

Anyway, check out Project Reason, there are lots of good things there: http://www.project-reason.org/about/

Read the whole sorry story here: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/13/us/13exorcism.html?_r=1

Kidding right? Nope. Plan “A” to revive Catholicism is to revive the art of exorcism. To be fair, they are allegedly “overwhelmed” by requests from the general public who fear they have been “possessed” by the devil.

How am I or any other rational person supposed to take people seriously who believe in this shit, I ask with tears in my eyes? (And if you’re a Christian of any form it’s a bit of a catch 22 since Jesus cast out demons it MUST be true right? Right.)

What we have here is cause and effect. You teach people to believe bullshit, blindly from birth and they will believe any old bullshit their fear clouded minds come up with.

I guess it’s a typical strategy, especially in the US of A. Teach people to not think critically, scare the shit out of them and they will do exactly as you tell them.

I have a thought: how about the Catholic church stop raping children and hiding the offenders first and THEN try to convince their sheep to come back and hand their money over

“The ordinary work of the Devil is temptation,” he said, “and the ordinary response is a good spiritual life, observing the sacraments and praying. The Devil doesn’t normally possess someone who is leading a good spiritual life.”

Well, no. The Devil doesn’t possess anybody… ever. And the “ordinary” response to any claims of possession is to loudly exclaim “BULLSHIT” and demand the fucking EVIDENCE.

Happy Sunday.

Hitler!

Because lying is a sin… except when you’re lying for Jesus of course! And anyway, Jesus himself, in his own quotable words (Matthew 5:18-19) did away with those pesky laws against lying, murder and ox coveting right? Right. Amen brother.

Check out the rest of NonStampCollector’s genius video’s here: http://www.youtube.com/user/NonStampCollector

Epic.

That is what I think. That, is what I believe.

Fucking. Epic.

Some more video’s by Phil: http://www.youtube.com/user/philhellenes

I have a friend on-line who recently realised that the religion she has belonged to all her life is… basically not all its made out to be, to put in mildly. This post is written with her in mind but it is still applicable to anybody who has recently lost their faith or is in the process of losing their faith.

I say process because de-conversion really is a process. There usually isn’t a definable point where one says “OK, yesterday I was a Christian, today, I am an atheist.”.  The process starts differently for different people. Some people are lucky and weren’t religious to start with, making the process easier, others are somewhat unlucky in that they and everybody they know are ultra religious and the de-conversion process is horrifyingly painful.

I was one of the lucky ones. I was baptised Methodist and went to Methodist Sunday school most Sundays for my entire childhood. Part of my teenage years was spent going to Dutch Reformed church (sometimes twice on a Sunday) where I got confirmed; I also went to Baptist youth and Baptist cell during the week. Do I know what Christianity is about? Why, yes I do. My parents, thankfully, are very easy-going, accepting people and my complete de-conversion was mostly uneventful. I was never a firm believer to begin with but there was a long time when I wanted very badly to believe.

Losing your religion is a pretty profound experience. When I say profound, most Christians will picture how they felt when they were ‘saved’ or ‘born again’. This profound, is nothing like that feeling (which isn’t even unique to Christianity, consider that for a bit). This kind of profound contains a lot of stark reality that you at first don’t want to accept. It is neither beautiful or ugly, it is the truth.

De-conversion usually begins with a person realising that there are a multitude of inconsistencies and contradictions with what they believe. Christians, Christian society and Christian dogma works hard to keep the reality of these inconsistencies hidden from themselves and others. Realising that these inconsistencies exist is the first crack.

Once you’re aware that there are problems with what you and those around you believe, you can’t help but look out for them, listen for them. The more you look, the more you find. This can be very unsettling. You’re not quite doubting what you believe yet, but you know deep down inside something is not right. A lot of people throw themselves into religion at this point, going to church more often, going to Bible study, joining or leading cell groups all in an attempt to dull and drown out the nagging doubts. Presumably, sometimes this works and people forget (temporarily at least) the issues that they saw previously.

For others, their attempts at ‘revitalising’ their religion is an empty experience and this is where the slippery slope to reality really begins.

Reading the Bible at this point is a fantastic idea, I definitely suggest it and it is usually what happens; because seriously, what else is there to Christianity than the Bible?

“I gave my daughter a Bible. That’s how you make atheists.”

Reading the bible without blinkers on is the fastest way to progress yourself down the road to complete de-conversion. Christians seem to have a mental block against the ridiculous collection of horror stories they claim is the unchanging words of the creator of the universe. Horrifying stories of rape, incest, murder, genocide, infanticide, cruelty, slavery and just plain old bullshit. Fortunately, when the self-imposed blinkers have come off and you read the bible, the manifold issues quickly become apparent, obvious even. The sheer scale of the contradictions and flat-out errors in the New Testament is epic, if only you’re willing to look.

At this point, a person may still consider themselves a Christian, but they’re pretty close to not believing. They start making excuses internally to themselves, trying to gloss over the obvious issues, desperately forcing themselves to believe something they know now, but don’t want to admit, to not be true.

You see, Christianity has a couple of built-in safeguards to keep you believing and wanting to believe. First, to avoid getting tortured for eternity you must ‘believe’ a ‘certain thing’. Any kind of doubt causes major anxiety for obvious reason. Getting tortured for eternity is sure to be terribly unpleasant. Second, you’re being watched, every minute of every day, every single thing you say, do and think, by the entity who is going to condemn you to eternal torture if you so much as think the wrong thing.  If ever there was a persuasive reason to lie to yourself, that is probably it. (Ever considered what this ‘knowledge’ does to a child?)

The need for truth though is usually stronger than the slightly dimmed fear of eternal torture. Make no mistake, you’re still anxious as all hell, probably scared, genuinely worried and quite possibly not telling another soul about the heretical thoughts you’ve been having.

You think about it, you obsess about it…

Then one day the stone cold reality sets in: there is no God.

You’re an atheist then? Nope, you’ve just gotten past step one. You know there’s no Christian God, but actually accepting the fact that there is no god at all after a lifetime of thinking, wishing and hoping that there is and having that reinforced by everybody you know, is not a simple or a quick thing.

Typically, after leaving full-blown Christianity behind, you become ‘spiritual’ because, “there can’t be nothing, right”? Most people in de-conversion do this, it’s not strange. Spirituality, Buddhism (very popular with fresh heathens), deism, and pretty much any other non-specific form of theism/deism are par for the course at this point. People research their new spiritual subjects obsessively, usually because they are trying to console themselves about the unpleasantness of death. Fear of death being the third thing dissuading one from dropping Christianity in the first place (strange as this may be, since you’d think people sure of eternal paradise should be chomping at the bit to die…)

Eventually, having just gone through thinking critically about what should have been the most important thing in their lives (religion, Christianity), people start to think critically about their spirituality. Thinking, thinking about science, reality and being just a bit skeptical of things results in:

Oh my hat, there might not be any god at all… but I’m not sure.

And another agnostic is born.

I myself spent a number of years as an agnostic, holding the firm belief that: “it would be silly to think that we are the pinnacle of what is possible in this very large universe”. It took quite a while, many, many pub discussions with Hamish and the good book to come to the inevitable conclusion: there is, no, god, at all.

Some people remain agnostic, some people realise there is no need to even be agnostic and end up atheists. Why?

Agnostics: claim they do not have enough knowledge to know that a god does or doesn’t exist.

Atheists: know that there is no good reason to believe that any god might exist, though it is not completely impossible.

If you’re on the journey of de-conversion, take solace in the fact that many of us have gone through what you are going through, fought the same internal battles, dealt with the same pressure and doubt and have come out the other side, happier, rational people. You may not realise what damage the fear of eternal torture has done to you yet and you may not yet realise how epically great and wonderful the world is experienced through a rational mind. It will come.

I try not to argue with religionuts any more. It is frustrating to see otherwise intelligent, nice people force themselves to be stupid, to ignore the otherwise obvious bullshit their religion sells.  There is no point in arguing with a religious person:

You cannot argue or rationalise somebody out of something they were not argued into in the first place.

What a religious person believes is not because it’s true and rational and no amount of rational argument is going to change that. People who de-convert do so because they have realised on their own the problems and contradictions inherent to their religion.

Happily, a lot of us see the light.

There is one feeling that stands out when you’re done with religion: life, this life, your life, becomes more important. When you realise this one is all you have, all you will ever have, you want to have it all with a vengeance.

If you’re in the process, do yourself a favour and watch these video’s from the beginning, they are epically good:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Evid3nc3#p/c/A0C3C1D163BE880A/1/JOmSYHzeoNA

Start at number 1, and watch the whole de-conversion series. It’s well worth it (even if you’re a Christian ;)

And then read the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. And watch every Carl Sagan video.

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