Category: Comment


On morals, actions and humanity.

Consider the following. For the sake of argument, assume you had to choose between these two options:

  1. The ability to take action and the taking of action to prevent one man – Sam Adams – from murdering another man – John Smith.
  2. The ability to, and taking action to punish a man – Sam Adams – for murdering another man – John Smith – by whichever means you’d like.

I suspect the skew toward the first option will be dramatic across every demographic. Why is that? Because no amount of punishment will bring Mr. Smith back to life? Probably – that’s my opinion at least. So as far as I can tell, the near universal moral choice would be to not have the murder take place instead of punishment after the fact.

Consider this example – choose between these two options:

  1. Having the ability and taking action to save a child – Mary Smith – from being gang raped to death over several hours.
  2. Having the ability and taking action to punish a gang of child rapists after the rape and murder of Mary Smith by whichever means you’d like.

Again I suspect the skew towards option 1 would be common across every demographic. Why? Because no amount of punishment will undo the suffering and death of Mary Smith? There is nothing one could do to a gang of child rapists that would undo the damage they did. Not having the damage done in the first place is clearly a better option.

Preventing the atrocity is the universal moral option.

Consider these articles:

There is a quote that says:

“If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your god.”

Human morality is clearly superior to that pushed by, at the very least, the religions of the Abrahamic tradition.

I’ve spent a significant percentage of my life, firm in the understanding that: a supposition is a guess, perhaps an educated one which one thinks might be true; an hypothesis roughly equals a proposal, idea or a guess which you don’t yet believe to be true and a theory is an established, proven principle or body of principles that explain some natural phenomenon. I’ve been under the impression that testing a hypothesis – several times – and proving it to be correct, results in a theory. Which is to say, a supposition is something without evidence that one might believe anyway, a hypothesis is an idea which isn’t believed that is to be tested and a theory is empirically tested truth; facts.

Now, I have to tell you, I seriously hope I’m not wrong about this and haven’t been wrong about this for what essentially amounts to my entire life. I have never considered those three words to mean the same thing or even similar things. They are explicitly not the same thing.

And if that is true, then will somebody please explain to me what the actual fuck is going on here:

Supposition

Google definition: Supposition

sup·po·si·tion: noun: “an uncertain belief.” | Synonyms: …theory, hypothesis…

Hypothesis

Google definition: Hypothesis

hy·poth·e·sis: noun: “a supposition or proposed explanation made on the basis of limited evidence as a starting point for further investigation.” | Synonyms: …theory, supposition…

Theory

Google definition: Theory

the·o·ry: noun: “a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something, esp. one based on general principles independent of the thing to be explained.” | Synonyms: …hypothesis, supposition…

Synonym

syn·o·nym: noun: "a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close."

syn·o·nym: noun: “a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word or phrase in the same language, for example shut is a synonym of close.”

I’ve used Google’s Search with a “define” many thousands of times to get the definition of words. And now I wonder…

Surely, supposition, hypothesis and theory are not synonyms. Surely they are not “exactly” nor “nearly” the same thing. Surely they are not interchangeable? Surely?

How do you explain to your average religionut that a theory is empirically supported fact, not a guess nor a supposition nor an idea without evidence when that same religionut can go and do a Google search and prove to you that a theory, hypothesis and supposition are, in fact, synonyms. Interchangeable. Nearly or exactly the same.

It’s either a disgrace or I am sadly mistaken. I hope I’m not sadly mistaken.

I’ve heard many Christians claim many times that their life would be meaningless without God. That God and/or Jesus give their life meaning or that without their faith they would have nothing to live for or would lead an aimless existence. I’ve always found this notion a very curious thing but haven’t been able to satisfactorily articulate what precisely the problems were with that way of thinking.

Recently, I came across this quote by Dr. Peter Boghossian, a philosopher at Portland State University and author of an upcoming book “A Manual for Creating Atheists”:

If life has no meaning for someone unless they pretend to know something they don’t know, then I would strongly and sincerely urge extensive therapy and counselling. This is particularly true if feelings of meaninglessness and lack of purpose lead to depression, which is a serious illness. Absent a mental disorder, or head trauma, there is no reason an adult should feel life is meaningless without maintaining some form of delusion. — Peter Boghossian

That quote adequately explains what I’ve felt but have been unable to properly articulate. A person who has to pretend to know something they do not and maintain that pretence just to feel like their life isn’t completely worthless has some psychological problems. Of course, most religious people don’t think they’re pretending but having spent considerable time at youth groups myself and experiencing first hand the bizarre behaviour of impressionable young people in such an emotionally charged, peer pressure environment, it’s not surprising to me that people are able to convince themselves that what they’re feeling – which is real – must be caused by what they are being told – a supernatural, spiritual force – which clearly isn’t real.

Pretending that something is real, however, is not the same as deriving self-worth and life meaning out of that pretence. People who’s self-worth and life-worth is dependant on pretending to know something they do not, have psychological issues and religion is fundamentally constructed and finessed to play to those psychological issues. The whole concept of faith, prayer, divine knowledge and a relationship with an unseeable, un-hearable, intangible being that speaks to you in your mind is a dangerous and perfectly positioned proposition for people who have psychological problems. Is it any wonder that people with psychological problems are drawn to religion?

A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything. — Friedrich Nietzsche

What is the difference between Christians who talk to their god and derive life worth from that relationship, Muslims who speak to Muhammad and derive life worth from that relationship and clinically insane people who speak to carrots and derive life worth from that relationship?

I would venture that there is little distinction between them. Opinion certainly as I am not a qualified psychiatrist but it does go some way to explain why religious observance, rules and customs are generally so far removed from what should be normal human behaviour, that to those who are not caught up in it… it mostly seems bizarre and insane. Eat the body of a deity and drink his blood? Magic underwear? Exorcisms?  Transferring your sins to a freaking chicken? Baptising the dead? Refusing life saving blood transfusions?

Not all religious people are clinically insane, I’ll admit that. It does however seem to me that a great many religious people have psychological issues and it seems pretty clear to me that people who have psychological issues are drawn to religion because religion has been constructed in such a way so that it will appeal to them.

Religion. What’s the harm, right?

I found a link on Google+ to an article titled:

Chief Rabbi: atheism has failed. Only religion can defeat the new barbarians

I read a comment on the article before reading the article and my opinion is that the comment was perhaps more insightful than the article itself. The Spectator feature was written by Jonathan Sacks who is – I believe - Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Sounds important. And of course it goes without saying that I don’t believe that any kind religion is going to defeat anything, ‘the new barbarians’ especially.

The article itself is, while reasonably well written, definitely heavily coloured by religion tinted glasses. To be fair, some passages are pretty good but on the whole I feel it falls far short from reflecting reality. It did get me thinking though, since a couple of the points the (presumably) good Rabbi makes about atheism and secularism rings true to me. Some of his other points seem to indicate that he’s managed to form an opinion on ‘new atheism’ and ‘new atheists’ without actually having read any Harris or Dennett to name a couple. My intension was to write about atheism but I feel compelled to at least make an attempt to temper the Rabbi’s article with a little reality and reason.

The article can be found at: http://www.spectator.co.uk/features/8932301/atheism-has-failed-only-religion-can-fight-the-barbarians/

Early in Mr. Sacks’ piece he states, speaking of modern “serious atheists”:

Where is there the remotest sense that they have grappled with the real issues, which have nothing to do with science and the literal meaning of scripture and everything to do with the meaningfulness or otherwise of human life, the existence or non-existence of an objective moral order, the truth or falsity of the idea of human freedom, and the ability or inability of society to survive without the rituals, narratives and shared practices that create and sustain the social bond?

Clearly, that was not one of the better passages. Perhaps the fact that he doesn’t participate in atheist and secular discussion is the reason he’s unaware of the godawful amount of debate between atheists and Christians around objective morality. It might be the same reason he’s unaware about Harris’ writing and debates on free will. Maybe he just doesn’t know about Alain de Botton’s writing and lectures and proposals around secular rituals, narratives and shared practices…

…because religion has social, cultural and political consequences, and you cannot expect the foundations of western civilisation to crumble and leave the rest of the building intact. That is what the greatest of all atheists, Nietzsche, understood with terrifying clarity and what his -latter-day successors fail to grasp at all.

Time and again in his later writings he tells us that losing Christian faith will mean abandoning Christian morality. No more ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’; instead the will to power.

I’m guessing I need not point out that it’s again not one of the good passages. Christian morality? I get the feeling the man’s head is located very close or indeed in the immediate vicinity of his rear end, to put it nicely. Christianity – and its cousin Islam – along with its lauded morality is responsible for a tragic amount of death, suffering and horror. I’d like to point out that ‘love your neighbour’ only goes as far as a Christian’s literal neighbour who more than likely is also a Christian. A generalisation perhaps but close enough I think. If Christians were to actually pay attention to the ‘morality’ they are taught and claim to follow – and this is just a guess – the divorce rate would be somewhat lower than it is now among other things. Contrary to the Rabbi’s statements and a majority of American’s opinions, Christian morality is not what holds Western civilisation together, it is secular laws and secular justice, hard-fought and won against non-secular opposition every step of the way.

 Lose the Judeo-Christian sanctity of life and there will be nothing to contain the evil men do when given the chance and the provocation.

Somehow the Jewish Rabbi manages to forget the Catholic church’s lack of opposition if not necessarily outright support of one Mr. Adolf Hitler. He seems to forget the soldiers in the SS, at the time of executing what is possibly the worst thing humanity has ever done, wore belt buckles claiming “Got mit uns”. Good Christians soldiers one might say.

But if asked where we get our morality from, if not from science or religion, the new atheists start to stammer

Unless one could call the following quote from Richard Dawkins stammering, that previous statement is probably also wrong:

I think I want a morality that is thought-out, reasoned, argued, discussed—based upon, almost say—intelligent design. Can we not design our society which has the sort of morality, the sort of society we want to live in?

The article goes on to make a vast number of unsubstantiated claims, factual errors and delivers some pretty biased opinion but I’ve digressed terribly.

The first point he makes that I find interesting is:

In one respect the new atheists are right. The threat to western freedom in the 21st century is not from fascism or communism but from a religious fundamentalism combining hatred of the other, the pursuit of power and contempt for human rights. But the idea that this can be defeated by individualism and relativism is naive almost beyond belief.

Another is:

Humanity has been here before.

These were two great civilisations on the brink of decline. Having lost their faith, they were no match for what Bertrand Russell calls ‘nations less civilised than themselves but not so destitute of social cohesion’. The barbarians win. They always do.

A third is:

But Durant’s point is the challenge of our time. I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other.

Keeping those three points in mind, the comment that I read and liked is:

Bertrand Russell is right, unfortunately.  Religion is tribalism and may the most cohesive tribe win.  Atheism is the way of the individual to escape the mental prison of the tribe.  But even if you live among idiots, you do not have to be one.  John 15:19.

The comment makes a startlingly good point in my opinion. Religion is tribalism. Atheism is… nothing except a lack of belief in a deity no matter how much some people want atheism to be more. I used to subscribe to that way of thinking but I’ve been painfully disabused of that notion by a particular conglomeration of so-called atheists and skeptics. No, atheism is not a uniting anything; it is nothing more than a lack of belief in a deity. Religion is tribalism. And the most cohesive tribe wins. Atheism is – besides for being an acceptance of reality – a way for the individual to escape the mental prison of the tribe. It has most definitely been my experience and that of a great many other atheists that atheists are highly individualistic. It has been said more than once that organising atheists is like herding cats. Atheism+ and the mixing of extreme and delusional feminism with atheism and the schism it has caused in the loose online community of atheists being a prime example of how the ‘atheist movement’ is far from cohesive and exhibits a number of the least productive aspects of a religion.

The biggest threat to Western freedom in the 21st century comes from religious fundamentalism. Not just from Islam but mostly from Islam in my opinion. Not the religion itself but the views it breeds in its adherents, particularly in the fundamentalists: contempt for human rights, contempt for freedom, a warped and barbaric sense of justice and xenophobia.

I don’t necessarily agree that a ‘loss of faith’ is what caused the demise of any nation let alone a great one but I use the word necessarily since I do believe that a loss of social cohesion might be a contributing – or more – factor. If in reality a ‘loss of faith’ translates to a loss of social cohesion – and I can’t say for sure either way – then that comment might not be far off the mark. What I do agree with is that a socially cohesive barbarian horde is more powerful and more likely to succeed than a civilised, highly individualistic society that lacks cohesion.

Atheism alone is not something that is ever going create social cohesion. I was once hopeful for that but reality has dispassionately proved otherwise. The third passage that I highlighted that reads “I have not yet found a secular ethic capable of sustaining in the long run a society of strong communities and families on the one hand, altruism, virtue, self-restraint, honour, obligation and trust on the other” is not entirely wrong either in my opinion. Make no mistake, I would love to be proved wrong. Nothing would make me happier but so far I haven’t seen any secular ethic that comes even close to inspiring and maintaining the kind of tribalistic social cohesion found in every religion. I find that both disturbing and disheartening.

Western culture will inevitably become more secular. The prevalence of science, our reliance on technology and the free access to knowledge that technology gives us ensures a path towards a secular society. The inherent qualities of fundamentalist Islam and Christianity that precludes integration, that in most cases actively fights against integration, modern scientific knowledge and modern morals and justice is secular society’s biggest threat.

We must find secular social cohesion or run the risk of being overrun by the barbarians.


Before anybody even tries to make the absolute horse shit claim of ‘Islamophobia’ let me be candid. I do not fear all Muslims most especially not irrationally. Let me help you out:

pho·bi·a: Noun: An extreme or irrational fear of or aversion to something

You do not get to claim my opinion of Islam is a ‘phobia’ while we know and have seen the actions and results of people who actually believe what they say they believe and those beliefs include lovely and peaceful things like: God promises to “cast terror into the hearts of those who are bent on denying the truth; strike, then, their necks!” (Koran 8.12). God instructs his Muslim followers to kill unbelievers, to capture them, to ambush them (Koran 9.5). Everything contributes to advancing the holy goal: “Strike terror into God’s enemies, and your enemies”

Who are you to say that fundamentalist Muslims do not actually believe these things? Their actions cannot be denied.

Sharia law is disturbing take on barbaric justice, the treatment of women in Islamic countries is detestable and Islamic abuse of basic human rights is unconscionable and unacceptable.

Any fear inspired by Islam is well founded. Something else I’d love to be proven wrong on but I’m not holding my breath.

Christopher Hitchens on faith

Faith is the surrender of the mind; it’s the surrender of reason, it’s the surrender of the only thing that makes us different from other mammals. It’s our need to believe, and to surrender our skepticism and our reason, our yearning to discard that and put all our trust or faith in someone or something that is the sinister thing to me. Of all the supposed virtues, faith must be the most overrated.” - Christopher Hitchens

Today, April 13th, is the first birthday of Christopher Hitchens after his death on the 15th of December last year. Today is Christopher Hitchens day.

Happy birthday Hitch.

I had a bit of a laugh today when my wife pointed out this status from a Facebook friend of ours. I find it terribly amusing and not just a little bit ironic.

I will never again in my life drink a Red Bull. It is one thing to have fun with ads, but completely unacceptable to depict the Jesus, whom a large number of us on this planet consider to be the Son of God in such a manner.

Seems a bit like a Muslim sentiment no? Isn’t that amusing.

The indignation comes from a Red Bull advert. It seems the poor guy had his sensibilities insulted when he read this article on South Africa’s News 24 site: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/Jesus-ad-doesnt-fly-with-Catholics-20120313 and then watched the horrifyingly offensive video.

The Red Bull energy drink’s “Jesus walks on water” campaign should be cancelled, the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) said on Tuesday.

“We question the timing of the release of the advert – which seems to be part of an international campaign,” spokesperson Cardinal Wilfred Napier said in a statement.

“While the Red Bull adverts are characterised by their cleverness, we believe that Red Bull South Africa have overstepped a mark.”

Napier said the SACBC welcomed the halting of the campaign, but asked Red Bull SA to cancel it completely.

And now… for the horror video. Are, you, ready, for… RED BULL JESUS!

Well torture my ass and condemn me to hell. The horror. Red Bull Jesus.

Haha that’s pretty funny – I love it! I think the advert is great. Of course, I may be biased. Red Bull is, after all, the greatest drink the world has ever beheld.

You see, here is the problem. I asked ANOTHER Christian what he thought of the advert. And THAT Christian loved it. Both Christians talk to Jesus. Christian B reckons Jesus doesn’t have a problem with the ad. Christian A is royally pissed off.

So my question is… which one of them is lying? I mean, before approving it or decrying it… surely they bothered to get the opinion of the figment person deity on who’s behalf they are doing it right? Yea… right.

The religious will never cease to amuse me. Brain. Fail.

Clive Solomon

Clive Solomon: Your magic spells. They are powerless against me.

So, the Wanganui District Council has finally seen the light. And, like every other societal advance, the Christians fought it kicking and screaming right to the end. Thankfully Dr. Clive Solomon persevered and the council has eventually seen the light. Of reason. Finally.

Here’s the press release by the NZARH:

The New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists (NZARH) welcomes todays decision by the Wanganui District Council to remove prayer from the formal proceedings of all Council meetings. We believe that this is a victory for all the residents of Wanganui and for the wider New Zealand community representing, as it does, the first step towards a true separation between church and state. The signal that this sends to the entire community of Wanganui is that the Council is not prepared to tolerate discrimination on the grounds of their religious beliefs or lack thereof.

Following the decision Peter Harrison, spokesperson for the NZARH said “We are very pleased to hear that the Wanganui District Council has decided to conduct prayer outside official Council business. This approach is in accordance with the Bill of Rights, and recognises the importance of a tolerant multicultural society.”

Annette Main, Major of Wanganui commented on the decision, saying “I believe that the decisions we have made today are pragmatic and provide a reasonable compromise. It will allow those who wish to participate in a prayer or reflection to do so immediately before our Council meetings start. Those with an alternative view will also be provided for by removing the prayer from the meeting agenda.”

The NZARH recognises the instrumental work of Clive Solomon in standing up for religious equality in the face of sometimes emotional resistance. We also applaud the Councilors of Wanganui for coming to a resolution that is a credit to their city.

The NZARH sincerely hopes that the divisions caused by this issue will be quickly healed so that the Wanguanui District Council can continue it’s good work.

(http://www.nzarh.org.nz/news.htm#wanganui)

There is an article in Stuff about the result of Clive Solomon’s battle against bronze age magic and superstition:

The change of heart was prompted by a judgment from the High Court of Justice in Britain last month, which ruled that reciting prayers as part of a formal council meeting was not lawful under its Local Government Act.

However, the court did not believe reciting a prayer discriminated against councillors with no religious beliefs.

Councillor Clive Solomon, who first raised an objection to the prayer back in April, tabled the new information.

Dr Solomon indicated he would mount a legal challenge if his request to remove the prayer was defeated yesterday.

(http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/6563096/Wanganui-District-Council-abolishes-prayer)

Well done Clive, your tenacity in fighting this idiocy is an inspiration to all of us.

The only down side to this debacle is that the Wanganui District Council wasted $24,000 of tax payer money on legal fees trying to keep their magic spell as part of a secular government organisation agenda. That’s a bit tragic but it’s also par for the course when it comes to the religious. Thankfully, they do seem to eventually see reason.

I think this quote by the most brilliant Mr. Robert G. Ingersoll is most apt:

“I know of no crime that has not been defended by the church, in one form or other. The church is not a pioneer; it accepts a new truth, last of all, and only when denial has become useless.”
- Robert G. Ingersoll

Inventing religion

Just because you want it to be true, doesn't mean it is true.

I have a question for… I’m not even sure what to call them. The question is for those people who consider themselves to be Christian but who don’t follow any of the traditional Christian denominations or denominational rules.

My question is this:

How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself?

Let me explain.

From my point of view there are several types of Christian. By that, without getting into too much detail, to an average outsider it looks like there are Catholics, Methodists, Anglicans, Baptists and Pentecostals for example. Now I realise that’s not an exhaustive list and even in the few I’ve mentioned there are many sub divisions but I can’t very well list all 38,000 odd denominations. I think this few will serve the purpose.

There are the hard-core fundamentalist Christians and the Biblical literalists who take the religious thing very seriously. Then there are Christians that go to church every Sunday and follow the rules of whichever denomination they belong to and I feel like this is the majority of Christians  - average Christians if you will.

Then you get another kind of Christian. I’ve noticed this new kind of Christian becoming more popular and more prevalent lately. I classify this new kind of Christian into 3 sub groups (as one does with Christian denominations…): Holiday Christians, Creative Christians and Christians-By-Default.

I know a couple in each group and they are the ones I have in mind. Holiday Christians are – and you often find these in the Orthodox denominations – those Christians who go to church for the big holidays like Easter and Christmas and possibly a wedding or the odd communion in between.

Creative Christians are an interesting bunch and they’ve really been popping up everywhere recently. I call them Creative Christians because they say things like “I hate religion but I love god” or “I am a passionate follower of Christ” or “I’m not religious, I follow Jesus”. These people – I really do hesitate to call them Christians since most of them avoid even calling themselves Christian – eschew the standard religious practices in favour of… well, something else. They might even join in when one pokes a bit of fun at their more traditional Christian compatriots and their traditional Christian views. Some Creative Christians even think that religion is a bad thing! I know a couple of people who fall into this category.

And then there are the Christians-By-Default. I know very many people who fall into this category and to be honest, their ‘beliefs’ seem a little bizarre to me. Where the Holiday Christians have re-invented Christianity to be easier to live with while still keeping up pretenses and the Creative Christians have invented an almost entirely new ‘spiritual religion’ loosely based on Christianity, the Christians-By-Default have not bothered to change or re-invent anything, instead watering down a fine, if a bit diverse, two thousand year tradition to a basic, effortless superstition. For example, I know a bunch of people who call themselves ‘Christian’ who have not once in their lives set foot in a church, do not own a Bible and have never read it, who do not normally pray, do pretty nasty things and are generally pretty indecent people. Yet, they firmly believe that they are Christian and will be going to heaven – based purely on the luck of being born into a moderately Christian environment I would imagine.

I have very little respect for any of the three categories. To be fair, I have a really hard time respecting any religious person – for obvious reasons – but I do respect the ones who take their religions seriously a bit more than the ones who don’t. Anybody who claims to believe that there is a God and that eternal happiness and eternal torture is in the balance and doesn’t take it seriously is in my opinion the worst kind of…. stupid? Hypocrite? Fool? I just can’t understand how it’s possible to ‘do religion’ in such a disgustingly half-arsed way. If you believe it’s true, and the consequences are pretty damn severe, it should matter a lot. It should matter much more than anything else in the world matters.

So why doesn’t it I wonder.

The Holiday Christians that I know are a little… perplexing. They love the big orthodox church ceremonies and superstitions. Some of them claim to be Christian but they don’t read the Bible and don’t go to church any other time outside of Christmas or Easter. Some of them claim they think the Bible is rubbish but that ‘there must be something’, ‘there has to be a God’ and ‘there can’t be nothing’. And they flat-out argue this point and insist that one day I too will know (presumably when something bad happens to me). This is confusing. You have to wonder how do they arrive at ‘there must be something’ without even having so much as a Bible to refer to? What evidence could bring them to this conclusion if they admit that the Bible is hogwash and every other religion is wrong? I find their attitude very curious. It seems to me that they’ve invented a fairy tale of their very own to believe in that is really easy to follow since it doesn’t take much to get up early (or stay up late) for church twice a year while still believing you’re going to see dead friends and family in paradise. Convenient; reassuring perhaps, but baseless.

The Christians-By-Default are pretty much useless, some of them even useless as people (at least the ones I have in mind). So intellectually lazy that they couldn’t be bothered to learn the first thing about the religion they claim to be a part of. So ignorant of basic Christian doctrine they’d be hard pressed to state the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament. What’s there to say? They’ve warped a religious belief so much that the convenient superstition that now features briefly in their lives when things get a bit shitty is barely recognisable. And based on what? Nothing but what is the easiest most convenient outcome for them.

And Creative Christians? How did they come up with this new ‘spiritual Christian’ philosophy? How are they getting it right where a billion Catholics are not?

Which is how I got to my original question. How did they come to the conclusion that it would be just dandy to invent their own religion? I guess the answer lies in the 38,000 odd denominations of Christianity. It seems every second Christian invents his or her own flavour.

Do none of them find this strange? They all claim to speak to the same God. Since they all seem to be getting a different message, are they all right? Does God really enjoy this much variety? It seems a little unlikely to me since He picked only the Israelites to be his extra special people back in the beginning and showed the finger (and the ugly edge of genocide) to the rest. And that’s after granting the even more unlikely situation of this deity existing in the first place.

Before you can even begin to answer how it’s OK to invent your own religion, there are several fundamental hurdles a Christian must cross before being able to legitimately invent a new kind of Christianity.

Jesus Christ said point-blank that you have to obey all of the old laws, all 613 of them in the Old Testament. I guess if your new religion includes all the ‘old laws’, no problem there; however, none of the Christianity 2.x religions I describe above do… A bunch of them want to do away with the Bible even (for good reason, it’s chock full of bullshit and contradictions).

Which sort of begs the question of how you know about Jesus Christ without the Bible. They can’t have it both ways: either the Bible is in or its out. If its out, you can’t be a Christian and you have no other way to know about Yahweh.

Unless… Jesus is speaking to them!

But he’s not. It’s simple to prove and any honest Christian could prove it to themselves pretty quickly. They just need to pray to Jesus to put a verifiable fact that they could not possibly know into their brain – preferably one that’s really good and useful like the cure for cancer or a way to end world hunger.

That’s two birds with one stone. Nothing will happen which proves that prayer doesn’t work and Jesus doesn’t talk to anybody.

What about self-labelled ‘passionate followers of Christ’? They might avoid the ‘Christian’ label but the Bible makes a couple of suggestions about ‘following Christ’. Have they sold all their possessions to follow their deity as he suggested? Do they take no thought for the morrow? Do they ever put their own family before their deity? Do they avoid getting rich so that it will be easier to get into heaven? Every single one of the examples I can think of do exactly none of those things. And why not? If they really believe and they sure claim to believe, why do they not do the things Jesus said they should do to increase their chances? Why do they not put everything they have into this belief that is supposed to be the difference between eternal happiness and eternal torture? Or have they also edited out the eternal torture part? I find it very strange that people who claim to believe only do barely enough to satisfy their own conscience or keep up appearances.

How did you come to the conclusion that it was OK for you to invent your own religion and how do you continue to justify it to yourself.

I have a hypothesis.

Holiday Christians are desperate and a little full of crap, Christians-By-Default are flat out lazy and Creative Christians have recognised that Christianity is bullshit but are emotionally invested in it for whatever reason and so are changing arse-backwards bronze age myths into something more palatable, something more ‘modern’, something they can and want to believe but which is no less ridiculous.

If you have a different hypothesis, I’d love to hear it.

Yesterday morning while I was having my morning shower I found myself wondering about the atheist and the skeptic movements. In particular, I was pondering why we tend to disagree so vehemently on so many subjects. In fact, there is very little we agree on. Fundamentally, atheism is a lack of belief in any god right? But us atheist don’t really even agree on that point. Some of us are quite convinced that there is no god, never was, never will be. Others insist that there probably is no god but you can’t really know. Others reckon you don’t have enough information to make up your mind either way. I think the closest we do come to agreeing on anything is the idea that it is much less likely that a god exists than the converse.

One of the things I find most trying about dealing with other atheists, especially in groups, is that you have to defend every single point you make since very few people ever agree with you completely. You very  infrequently experience agreement purely for the sake of a feeling of community. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it forces you to avoid making statements for the sake of making statements and to seriously consider what it is you want to relay; your logic, thought process and conclusions will be questioned and best you be prepared to back everything up with some convincing evidence. This can sometimes makes informal conversation… exhausting.

“How much easier the religious have it”, I briefly thought with a pang of self-pity, “the Christians especially get to go to church and everybody just gets along and agrees…”.

Then I laughed. Hard.

I’m going to pick on Christians now because they’re in the news again. You see, at the core, Christians have something fundamental in common. They all read the same manual, the unchanging perfect words of the almighty creator of the universe; the super being who can do no wrong. You’d think, then, that they all agree and get along.

Christians do not agree and they do not get along and I find this hilarious to say the least.

There is a church in Auckland city that puts up some pretty risqué billboards; you can check out their site here: http://stmatthews.org.nz/. Now, I can appreciate this, at least they’re trying to get their Christians to think about what they’re doing a bit. The latest billboard was of the virgin Mary with a positive pregnancy test.

You might not think there’s much to that. Christians do, after all, believe a virgin, Mary, was impregnated by the almighty creator of the universe and bore its son whom they called Jesus Christ. Mary, virgin, pregnant. If you’re a Christian, that’s what you believe and that’s what the poster shows: Mary, surprised, pregnant.

Apparently not. One Mr. Arthur Skinner from the Catholic Action Group took great exception to this poster. “Blasphemy!” cried Mr. Arthur Skinner. He was, in fact, so pissed off with this blasphemous affront to his personal version of Christianity that he took to the poster and cut the positive pregnancy test right off. Clearly, the poster is now much less blasphemous since the removal of the proof of pregnancy… or something.

The "blasphemous" billboard - Before

The "blasphemous" billboard - Before

The "blasphemous" billboard - After

The "blasphemous" billboard - After

From the New Zealand Herald article at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10773887

Catholic Action’s Arthur Skinner, from Whangarei, said they were protesting because the image was blasphemous.

Strange, it was put up by Christians who obviously didn’t find it blasphemous… I guess Mr. Arthur Skinner must have a different line to the almighty that says something else. Which, too, is a little strange, no?

Yesterday, stunned passers-by watched as a scissors-wielding zealot slashed the billboard and tore off a large chunk.

Skinner later claimed responsibility for the incident. He was believed to have earlier phoned St Matthew’s vicar Glynn Cardy to say he would “roast slowly in hell” for erecting the billboard.

“He told me I would burn in the fires of hell, that would be my final destination,” Cardy said.

Let us consider this situation for a moment. Both Skinner and Cardy claim to worship Jesus Christ. Both of them claim to have Jesus as their personal lord and saviour, to have a personal relationship with him. Seems to me somebody should just ask Jesus if he has a problem with the poster or not. Get an answer and have the deity in question settle the dispute. Seems pretty damn straightforward to me. Pray, get Jesus to tell each of them at the same time if the poster is ok or not. Simple right?

“It doesn’t work like that”, I hear them say. No? Then how the fuck does it work if you both speak to the same freaking god? If your god can’t even settle this one little dispute between devout followers amicably, what, precisely, can he do?

You see, here’s the problem with religion, Christianity in particular. They all (mostly – the Mormons had to go write their own addition to the unchanging words of the almighty) read from the same (by ‘same’ I really mean ‘similar’ since some of them took liberties in the many translations…) unchanging perfect word of the almighty creator of the universe. They all have a direct line to Jesus Christ who personally saved them and with whom they have a relationship with. And yet there are over 38,000 Christian denominations.

I shit you not. Thirty eight thousand different denominations. Thirty eight thousand different interpretations of what, exactly, it is, that Jesus Christ and his dad want from the world.

Some of the major Christian disagreements

Some of the major Christian disagreements

Look, Christians, if you people can’t even agree on the basics, how the fuck do you expect to convince us unbelievers of The Truth (… as you currently see it anyway…). Tell me, which one of you has it right at the moment? Yea, of course…

Some of the major Protestant disagreements.

Some of the major Protestant disagreements. Seriously. They even read the same holy book.

Disagreement and discord, those are very human characteristics. It is normal for human beings to disagree, to see every little thing differently. The way you view the world is shaped by unimaginably complex processes. Things like physical brain structure, brain, body and environmental chemical levels, hormone levels, altitude, electrical signals, external stimuli, culture, family, surroundings, the food you eat, the stuff you drink, the gasses you breathe, the things you’ve read, heard, watched, the parasites you carry, the diseases you’ve had, the diseases you currently have and all of this over the span of your entire life.

How could we NOT disagree? We are so fundamentally different, we have to disagree. If there was no disagreement what so ever, that would go a long way towards proving the alleged divine origins of religion since it would take a massive miracle and an almighty super being to get humanity to agree completely on any given point unquestioningly. That there is disagreement among the faithful says everything that needs to be said about that ‘faith’.

You Christians do not have a personal relationship with the same deity. You, fucking, do, not. It’s clear as daylight to anybody who looks. Grow up, accept that. There is no god. You’re making that shit up.

We do not agree on anything and we never will. The ability to compromise and work together despite our disagreements, that is what sets us apart. That is what makes us special.

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

Don't take Jesus literally, well, maybe...

Don't take Jesus literally, well, maybe...

Sometimes I wonder if Christians ever take the time to consider this particular aspect of how they go about their beliefs. Actually, I know many, if not all of them, have considered this because I asked a while back and a Christian responded. Here’s what I asked:

2. If Jesus Christ, son of the almighty creator of the universe, your God, has said, to be perfect, you should sell everything you own and give the proceeds to the poor:
a) Why is every Christian in the world not doing this?
b) Eternity is a long time, presumably more important that a hundred years; if you truly, honestly believe 100% in Jesus Christ, why are you not following your God’s suggestions and selling everything you own right now?

And here’s what John (a Christian) responded:

Jesus was making a point and exposing the rich man, that he cared more about his fortune and wealth than he did about God. It is not an instruction to Christians to sell all their stuff.

That’s a reasonable answer I think. Provided you feel no obligation to try to imitate Jesus or follow what he preached. I am willing to accept that in that particular context Jesus wasn’t commanding Christians directly (I mean, obviously, since there weren’t any Christians yet…) to sell all their stuff.

What I do think is that it’s a bit convenient though, like the cartoon points out, that Christians accept (or allege to accept) all the profoundly ridiculous things in the Bible, as well as the other teachings of Jesus who were, quite frankly, also not aimed directly at Christians either. But the second something crops up that might inconvenience them, then that wasn’t directed at them, it was to teach a rich man a lesson and Christians can safely ignore that inconvenient bit of the Bible.

So what, can’t Christians learn from their deity’s lessons to other people? Apparently not. Not when it involves, you know, actual personal inconvenience.

Here’s what I think: if Christians really, truly, honestly believed what they profess to believe they would do as their god did and commanded 100%. They would follow every single thing in the Bible to the letter and they would spend everything they have, every waking moment doing exactly what they expect and look forward to do for eternity in heaven: worship their God. They would act more like Hasidic Jews or Muslims who pray five times a day. They would take their religion seriously.

That they don’t speaks volumes.

(Cartoon from Freethunk)

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