Archive for June, 2011



The Periodic Table of Atheists and Antitheists

The Periodic Table of Atheists and Antitheists

Another graphic I aspire to be included in. Eventually. Though to be perfectly honest, the people in that table are heavy hitters in the major league… an awe-inspiring collection of awesome atheists…

The graphic is from http://www.ungodlynews.com/p/periodic-table-of-atheists-and.html and you should go check it out. There is much awesome to be found at Ungodly News.

I have to admit I laughed quite a bit when I saw this on twitter. It is particularly funny because it’s not that far off the truth…

Revised science text book for Christians

Revised science text-book for Christians

(If I find out where it’s from I’ll post a link. I’m pretty sure there might be more good stuff where this came from.)

Mathematics Visualised

Mathematics Visualised

Dictionary definition aside, what does the word ‘almighty’ mean to you, in the context of religion? Seriously?

To me, it means “all mighty”, literally, as in: can do anything and everything. Christians refer to their own deity as the Almighty sometimes, implying their deity could do anything if it so pleased. And by “anything” I mean create an apple pie from scratch… create the universe from scratch, create the earth from nothing, create every living thing on it. Create human beings, guide them, know everything about everything they think or do or feel. You know, any conceivable and inconceivable action, this deity has the inherent ability to perform.

So my question is this: why is it that the Almighty Creator of the Universe, God, can only answer questions humans can answer?

No really, think about that. Nowhere in the Bible is a single unknown scientific or mathematical concept. Nobody, in all of history, learnt any new scientific anything from the Bible (whether they learnt anything at all is also debatable).

Christians, the ones around me anyway, absolutely love to say that they have a personal relationship with Jesus. They love Jesus. They follow Jesus. Jesus is their friend. Jesus loves them. Jesus is the son of God.

So, one of three things is true here: either Christians are delusional or Jesus is retarded or Jesus is a prime grade asshole.

I have friends. I know some stuff about some things. Take programming for example. I know a bunch of things about programming that I’ve learnt during my career as a software developer. Now, if a friend of mine (or indeed a random stranger) had to come to me and ask for help with a programming problem, I would do my best to help them out. In fact, I do this all the time; there are some people who I’ve worked with all over the world that ask me programming related questions all the time and vice versa. It’s a pretty simple thing really: I know things about a subject you do not, you ask me some questions, I give you answers to help you out. At some point I might need to know things that you know and I might ask you questions and you might answer them to help me out.

Why is this? Because we’re not assholes.

So Christians have a personal relationship with a being that is one part of a being that created the entire universe and everything in it. The being that quite literally invented every single thing, all the way from quarks and muons to black holes, galaxies and indeed the entire universe. This being literally invented all the natural laws from quantum mechanics (and probably much more) up. This being invented knowledge. Invented bacteria, viruses and disease. By everything, I really do mean everything.

And Christians have a personal relationship with this being. They are friends, best friends from what I can tell.

Why then does this friend of Christians refuse to answer any question that cannot be answered by the poor Christians themselves? It’s not a hard thing to test. Take the most devout Christians you know and get those Christians to answer an unsolved mathematical problem.  The Goldbach conjecture, the Riemann hypothesis, the Collatz problem or the twin prime conjecture, pick one. Get the Christians (preferably two or more… Matt. 18:19) to ask Jesus, who knows the answer to every problem, to prove one of those problems. It should be a trifle and shouldn’t take more than a couple of minutes.

I will put money on Jesus failing to deliver an answer. Christians might object and say that God won’t give proof of his existence, that “that’s not the way God works”. This isn’t a problem you see, they can’t use the claim that God won’t give you proof of his existence because for the vast majority of scientists attributing the solution of one of those problems to Jesus won’t be convincing so no fear that it will break the mysterious law of ‘not giving proof of existence because for no obvious reason 30 years after Jesus went back to heaven the almighty refused to be seen ever again’ (the idiocy behind that ‘law’ is for another post).

Why does God only answer questions the human asking can answer themselves?  Either Christians are delusional or Jesus is retarded and doesn’t know any answers or Jesus is a prime grade asshole.

Virtually every credible scientist is non-religious. God seems to be giving an awful lot of useful info to atheist scientists and very little to hard-core believers. Why is that? Why would man’s best friend not tell us about germs for nigh on two thousand years, condemning hundreds of millions to pretty hard core suffering simply because of a lack of hand washing? That’s pretty assholish if you ask me. Why would Jesus not tell his bestest friends in the world about anaesthetic, condemning hundreds of millions to suffer agony so severe in the attempt to save their lives that half of them actually died from the shock induced by the horrifying agony? He would need to be a gigantic, prime grade asshole to do that.

Almighty and a complete dick or might he just not exist?

Unknowing - Nichola Romney

Unknowing - Nichola Romney

My wife and I went to an awesome art exhibition today, held at Rationalist House, called “Blasphemy“. It was the first art exhibition ever held at Rationalist House and it was absolutely fantastic. The art on display can candidly be called “truth” because that is what it is, the visual portrayal of the real, uncoloured truth of religion.

The talented artist whose work was on display is Nichola Romney who made front page news a while ago for creating a different “persona” to prevent (or mitigate I suppose) repercussions from her religious husband and fundamentalist family.

While several of the paintings appealed to me, two in particular stood out.  The first one, titled “Acanthus Crown”, beautifully shows a woman in a crown of thorns and goes on to talk about the wholesale subjugation of women by religion. The artist provides this short description:

The story goes, that Jesus wore the crown of thorns at his crucifixion, as a humiliation. This painting reflects on the issue of ‘subjugation’, and books of religion being woman’s crown of ‘humiliation and subjugation’. In principio erat verbum (in the beginning was the word) – refers to holy books of God’s inspired word.

I think this is an insightful and inspired painting portraying both the truth of the subjugation of women in the Abrahamic religions while pointing out the hypocrisy of the religions doing the subjugation.

The second painting, my favourite, does not prevaricate in its criticism. It is called “Crucifixio – Fiction” and is a painting portraying a Christian cross overlaid by a replication of da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man styled to look like Jesus Christ being crucified on the left while on the right has the following text:

I will sacrifice my perfect & innocent son… to a death by crucifixion. A most slow, painful, gruesome  & humiliating death. I will sacrifice my wonderful son, so that others who sin, may be saved. The man who brutally rapes a girl child, then buries her alive… if that sinner one day ‘believes’ in me, then I shall absolve him of his sins, however many. I shall also give him eternal life in heaven. As for the innocent little girl who was brutally raped and murdered… well that’s a real shame. Her parents were non-believers so she was sinful & unclean. She goes to hell and shall remain there for all eternity.

god is good.

god is love.

god is just.

The artist’s description:

Crucifixio – fiction. Basically stating that the crucifixion of Jesus and the resurrection is ‘made up’. There is not a ‘single piece’ of evidence supporting this story, nothing in archaeology of history that proves it could have happened. There are records available from the time of the ‘supposed’ even but not a single word mentioned about there being a man called ‘Jesus’ the son of God, or even being a prophet. Theologians and researches refer to Jesus as the ‘missing man’. The words in this painting aren’t pleasant, however, preachers & religious books say, if a child is not part of a Christian family, and the child dies, then they spend eternity in hell. A murderer is ‘saved’ if he believes in Jesus.

I have written about this subject a number of times which is probably why the painting speaks to me – it highlights a particularly loathsome horror of a doctrine.

Crucifixio by Nichola Romney

Crucifixio by Nichola Romney

We had a chat with Nichola herself who was present at the exhibit which was quite a treat. It was interesting to be able to engage with the artist about the work on display, to understand her motivation and her inspiration. She’s pretty cool, I have to say.

The exhibit is on until the 19th of June so if you’re in Auckland and up for a bit of controversial “Blasphemous” art, I highly recommend that you make an effort to visit Rationalist House, the only place in Auckland that would host it.

I'm right... everybody else is wrong.

I have found, to my profound surprise that religious people in general know very little about their own religion . They don’t know of the horrors endorsed by it and they don’t know about the idiocy it supports. Or perhaps, somewhere deep down they do know but they do their holy best to ignore it or, even worse, perhaps (or looking at the picture above, sometimes) they do not care… Unsurprisingly, I’ve found they know even less about other religions.

So I ask you, how is it possible for the religious to have the abject arrogance to, from this position of consummate ignorance, tell the rest of us that they are right and everybody else is wrong when they have no idea what we are wrong about or, indeed, what they are supposed to be right about.

So Christian (or insert a suitable  religious label here) … Ever read the Book of Mormon? The Bible? All the versions of the Bible? The Quran? The Bhagavad Gita? No? Then what gives you the impression that you should even be allowed to express an opinion in relation to what is true or not about any religion? If you’ve read none of those books… What do you know about religion?

It’s a question of irony really.

Some more amusing questions to entertain yourself with:

  • Do babies, toddlers and children go to heaven even though they have not accepted Jesus as their personal saviour?
  • If that is the case, why not kill your child and guarantee them entrance to heaven? And why are you so sad when a child dies?
  • If a religious mother’s atheist son goes to hell, does she know he’s being tortured for eternity? Can she hear his wailing and the gnashing of his teeth? Is this not a torture in its self? Is going to heaven torture?
  • Why do mass murderers, rapists, child molesters, fraudsters, thieves, pimps and slavers who accept Jesus as their ‘lord and saviour’ go to heaven but fundamentally good people who do not go to hell to be tortured for eternity?
  • Why do no modern civilisations allow the torture of anybody yet the authority, the alleged yard stick for morality, the apparent ultimate good in the universe not only invented the worst kind of torture imaginable but is going to happily impose it on the vast majority of people who have ever existed, trillions of people?
  • How does it happen that a perfectly good, perfectly loving being (God) create the ultimate evil (hell)? How does a perfectly good being even conceive of such an evil?
  • Do people who were devoutly religious their entire lives and believe in Jesus go to heaven or hell if they, after accidental brain trauma, stop believing in God? What if they become really bad ass and deny the holy spirit repeatedly and swear at Jesus?
  • Do all of the people on the planet who lived between the time of Jesus’s crucifixion and the time when it was possible for everybody on earth to have heard of him go to hell? All the Chinese, Japanese, Russians, Australians, Inca’s, Africans, American Indians, Pacific Islanders, who had no chance of knowing about The Almighty Creator of the Universe?
  • Why could the Almighty Creator of The Universe not let everybody on earth learn about Jesus at the same time anyway?
  • Why is the ultimate creator of everything unable to put a reasonably plausible story together? I believe most of On The Origin of Species, why can’t I believe a book written by the alleged creator of the universe?
  • Do mentally handicapped people who never accept Jesus as their ‘personal lord and saviour’ go to hell to be tortured for eternity?
  • Are people who were mentally handicapped from birth also mentally handicapped in heaven?
  • If a person goes to heaven, do they keep all their memories? Even people who go to heaven after Alzheimer’s? Do they get their memories back?
  • If a person with a degenerative brain disorder goes to heaven, do they go as their young brilliant self or their old broken self?
  • If a person who was a good and nice person but changed into a complete asshole due to a brain injury goes to heaven, does he go as the good person or the asshole?
  • If a person who was an asshole but changed into a good and nice person due to a brain injury goes to heaven, does he go as the good person or the asshole?
  • Why does God refuse to give me the information I need to be saved from eternal torture in a way that is believable? Isn’t that evil? He did after all make me a skeptic who prefers empirical evidence.
  • Can you point to the relevant passages in the Bible where these questions are answered?
  • If the Bible doesn’t answer these questions, where should one get the answers from?

I’d love to hear the answers to all of those questions, or, at the very least, what one can do to answer those questions. Let me tell you why I’m pretty sure they can’t be answered: because Bronze Age creation myths are entirely too simplistic, crude and ignorant to take into account the gigantic, virtually unimaginable complexity of reality. There is a very good reason for our modern laws to fill entire libraries with their complicated language defining every last thing in excruciating detail. Because life is complicated and if you want justice you have to define thing in excruciating detail. Could real life be governed by a mere 10 rules, 4 of which mean the same thing? No, which is why we don’t try to. (Ha, more irony, Christians can’t even agree on exactly which lines make up the first ’4′ commandments. I’m serious, see the Catholic Church vs. virtually all other denominations). Sure, I agree, 5 of them make sense and are generally good principles to apply to life but no religion has a monopoly on them, every civilisation has come up with similar ideas.

There is a direct correlation between the level of education and lack of religious beliefs which stem from the fact that, on average, the more educated a person is the better that person knows which questions religion simply cannot address and which of religions answers are flat-out wrong. A bit of education (usually…) also inevitably helps one understand that there are no questions that we need religion to address.

So, what, do, you, know? Virtually nothing. How can you know more? Science. There is, literally, no other way to reliably (or at all) get to know more. Why does religion try to push science out of the classroom these days? Because the more you know, the less bullshit you believe.

The irony is, the people who claim to have the answers, know the least… and yet are believed by the most.


Enjoy some George Carlin awesomely explaining the 10 commandments

The awesome Professor VS Ramachandran

My wife came across some fantastic videos during the course of her studies in linguistics. The videos feature the brilliant neurologist V. S. Ramachandran and his study of temporal lobe epilepsy and the curious effects a split brain has on a person.

Watching these videos leads me to believe that “The Almighty Creator of the Universe” has a terribly screwed up sense of humour. In fact, I think what happens to the poor bastards referred to in the videos must be more than adequate proof that there is indeed a God since no mere human being could be fucked up enough to conceive of the situation they have been put in. It is absolute genius, on a divine scale.

Curious yet? Let me explain:

In the first two videos titled “Ramachandran, The Temporal Lobes and God” there is a young gentleman called John who developed severe epilepsy at age 17. His epileptic fits cause him to have intense religious experiences (temporal lobe seizures often cause feelings of ‘oneness’ with the cosmos or feelings of being ‘visited by god’). They are so violent that he goes unconscious during the seizures and he has them up to 8 times a day. After the seizures the epilepsy sufferers often become preoccupied with religious matters.

John had never been religious before but since he started having seizures he’s become intensely religious and preoccupied with religion. Looking at him he looks a lot like somebody who is about to start a religion; the seizures cause him to believe what he believes with profound conviction.

This puts poor John in a supremely shitty situation. He either continues to suffer with the epilepsy and gets to go to heaven or he can choose to get treated (with surgery and/or drugs), which will cause him to lose his ‘religious beliefs’ and burn in hell. (What’s even more amusing is if he prays to Jesus to cure him, and he is cured and the cure causes him not to believe in Jesus. But that’s another post.)

The massive irony is in this situation, that his religious beliefs are caused by these seizures.

In the last video, Professor Ramachandran talks about a person who has had their brain split. By split, I mean he has had the two lobes of his brain surgically separated. This kind surgery is a last resort treatment for grand mal epilepsy.

Professor Ramachandran did an experiment with this chap, which involved him asking each ‘side’ of the guy’s brain if it believed in God. The result of the experiment was that one half of the subject answered that it believed in God and the other half answered that it did not. One half of his brain was an atheist and the other half believed in god… what kind of fuckery is this and how fucked up is the sense of humour of deity who conceived of this peculiar kind of torture?

To attempt to understand how the brain makes the distinction between logic and woo, one must first understand that the two hemispheres of our brains are able to act entirely independently of one another. In normal circumstances, the brain is connected by a bridge of sorts called the Corpus Callosum which facilitates inter-hemispheric communication. In what’s known as the ‘epilepsy operation’ (or, jokingly, the ‘personality transplant’), the Corpus Callosum is cut out, which causes a range of strange and permanent symptoms.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corpus_callosum

A patient with a split brain, when shown an image in his or her left visual field (the left half of what both eyes take in, see optic tract), will be unable to vocally name what he or she has seen. This is because the speech-control center is in the left side of the brain in most people, and the image from the left visual field is sent only to the right side of the brain (those with the speech control center in the right side will experience similar symptoms when an image is presented in the right visual field).

Since communication between the two sides of the brain is inhibited, the patient cannot name what the right side of the brain is seeing. The person can, however, pick up and show recognition of an object (one within the left overall visual field) with their left hand, since that hand is controlled by the right side of the brain.

From Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cerebral_hemisphere

Scientists have also studied people born without a corpus callosum to determine specialization of brain hemispheres.

Linear reasoning functions of language such as grammar and word production are often lateralized to the left hemisphere of the brain. In contrast, holistic reasoning functions of language such as intonation and emphasis are often lateralized to the right hemisphere of the brain. Other integrative functions such as intuitive or heuristic arithmetic, binaural sound localization, emotions, etc. seem to be more bilaterally controlled.

Dr Jill Bolte Taylor explains (terribly eloquently) in this video that after her massive stroke, as a neurosurgeon and as a human being suffering a severe brain trauma, she was suddenly acutely aware of two distinct thought processes. This realisation came in waves as she flitted from not recognising her own limbs, to an absolute euphoria and, as she called it, “lala land”.

If she (or another brain injury victim) were to spontaneously develop or lose religion… what would Jesus do? The Bible seems pretty straight forward in its proclamation: believe in Jesus, accept him as your lord and saviour and to heaven you will go.

Your fragile, easily damaged brain entirely determines what you ‘believe’. God requires a certain ‘belief’ for you to be ‘saved’. The irony is that nowhere in his instruction manual does God ever mention anything about brain injuries, exceptions or leniency (quite to the contrary actually) and his followers, securely in lala-land, enforce idiocy upon themselves.

That minor head trauma as a child could turn out to be a sentence for eternal torture, this is the holy sense of humour.

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything –Frederick Nietzsche


Ramachandran, the Temporal Lobes and God


Split brain with one half atheist and one half theist

A very faulty premise...

I have a hard time engaging in ‘dialogue’ with the average Christian and there’s a bunch of reasons for that. There is, however, a primary reason that dissuades me from doing so…

When discussing anything OTHER than religion everybody is happy to agree that scientific principles should apply. In every area of life other than religion (and other superstitions of course…) the scientific method is an acceptable framework to investigate basically anything, even to fundamentally religious people.

When it comes to a person’s religious belief, for reasons which escape me, the scientific method is no longer acceptable. You’ll stake your life and the lives of you children on science in every other conceivable way but it’s no good when investigating religion…

The problem with talking to a Christian (for example) about their belief is that they start with a faulty premise. With religion, people start with the assumption or preconception that God exists and then try to support this idea, discarding any evidence to the contrary. This is called confirmation bias, “a tendency for people to favor information that confirms their preconceptions regardless of whether the evidence is true or not” (Wikipedia).

What should be done is to start from the assumption that there is no god and then one should set out to prove that there is, using empirical, verifiable evidence.

Why this is so is very obvious, to me at least, and this is where the main sticking point is for religious discussions. If you can claim anything without evidence then anything that can be claimed is true. It is illogical and… stupid. Nobody, except perhaps a deranged (religious?) person, will agree with the claim that there is a 100,000 foot cosmological llama, swimming in space, between Uranus and Neptune repeatedly singing God Save the Queen. Why? Because its freaking absurd.

If I made that claim along with, say, four or five Hubble observations clearly showing a 100,000 foot llama in the outer solar system and then two other observatories independently observe the same thing while some cosmology students calculate its orbit and then predict its position at a certain date and time, which is then verified again through observation… it’s not so absurd. Reasonable people would then be convinced that there is indeed a cosmological llama and a new field of study would be created.

The point is that the claim is not assumed to be true. It is completely reasonable to not assume it to be true. One must then apply the same rule to everything else, including the claim that a God exists.

So a reasonable conversation with a religious person then starts with: prove that (any) God exists. As an example, one might want to argue that the Bible proves that God exists. But for the Bible to even begin to be relevant, God (Yahweh, specifically) must exist (to have inspired it) but we have not shown that this is the case at all, so the Bible cannot be used as evidence (since the only authority the Bible has comes from the God who’s existence has not been established; no God, no authority, no evidence). Not, however, that a reasonable person would ever consider using the Bible as evidence for anything (have you READ it?) other than the possible historical existence of barbarians.

So the conversation goes nowhere because there is no freaking evidence for ANY god’s existence. You cannot productively discuss a religion if there is no logical way to progress from the fundamental issue around the existence or non-existence of a deity.

So, for a conversation to happen the religious person must first correct their faulty premise: that there is a God in existence at all.

Correcting this faulty premise is much akin to John Loftus’ “Outsider Test For Faith” which in essence asks a religious person to examine their own beliefs with the same skepticism that they examine the beliefs of people from other religions. There are three pertinent points that come from the Outsider Test For Faith: 1) religious people automatically assume the other person’s deity doesn’t exist, 2) religious people overwhelmingly assume the religion of the culture they were born in and 3) all religions have the same ‘evidence’ and the same problems and when evaluated objectively are found to fundamentally BE the same (and can be discarded the same).

If a religious man can assume another man’s deity doesn’t exist, he has laid the groundwork for examining his own beliefs in a similar manner; he has shown that he is capable of starting from a point of disbelief related to religion and the fact that a man is (usually) the religion of his parents explain WHY he believes what he believes in the complete absence of evidence. Children are programmed to accept the authority of their elders and if you tell a child that God exists with enough conviction, the child will believe this without evidence. This child then becomes an adult, evidence-less beliefs included.

So, why is it so hard for the religious to correct their faulty premise?

If a religious person corrects their faulty premise, the assumption that a God exists, and makes the point of departure the non-existence of God then there is no way to follow a logical path back to their religion. No religious person has, in several thousand years, adequately proven that any God exists, let alone a personally involved, loving God, something that should be trivial if that was the case. Without  any God at all, what is the point of discussing anything else in any religion… unless the point is to discuss the quaint and barbaric superstitions of primitive bronze age tribes people. What IS religion without God if not a ridiculous collection of bronze age superstitions?

“That which can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.” — Christopher Hitchens

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