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Thought for the day: Knowledge

There is no harmful knowledge and there is no beneficial ignorance. All evil comes from ignorance and all good comes from knowledge.

Words to live by.

“Science’s only sacred truth is that there are no sacred truths. All assumptions must be critically examined. Arguments from authority are worthless. Whatever is inconsistent with the facts – no matter how fond of it we are – must be discarded or revised.” — Carl Sagan

And that is all I have to say about that.

It is literally impossible to overstate how much I love the experiment in this video. It’s so simple and yet shows so magnificently the existence of things almost impossible to believe. It’s beautiful in every way.

The point of the episode the experiment is conducted for is to explain the evolution of life, one of the mechanisms for mutation to be precise. Brilliant in it’s simplicity.

The religious often ask what an atheist has to live for (as if pretending to know something you do not is a reason to live) since we “believe in nothing”. I can honestly say that seeing an experiment like this, understanding what it means, seeing the results – you can freaking see cosmic rays for god’s sake! – is my religious experience. It’s learning things like this, about the world, that is my religious experience. Acquiring knowledge about the world, the universe we exist in, that is my reason to live. It makes me happy.

You could almost say that this phrase errs on the side of being true:

The universe is my god, science is my religion and Carl Sagan is my personal Jesus fucking Christ.

Or Brian Cox as it were.

Blam! FEEL THE AWESOME!

A talk by Richard Dawkins at Google. There isn’t much more to say than “Richard Dawkins is awesome”. That is all.

Can you feel it? The awesome! Can you feel it?

God can not exist.

All of existence is contained in a super-dimensional field which is lethal to all Gods. This field – known as the Deity Obliteration Field – is undetectable to humans and any instrument humans have ever devised. It cannot be seen, felt or detected in any way and it is lethal to any God of any kind and Gods are the only conceivable beings that could posses the ability to perceive this field. It is especially lethal to any Gods that have the property of omnipotence or omniscience. Nothing – including Gods – can exist without this field – it is the prime requirement for anything at all to have the property of existing.

By definition, the moment a God starts to exist, its existence is summarily ended due to the Deity Obliteration Field.

Unless one can prove that the ODF does not exist, no God can exist by definition. If one is able to prove that the ODF does not exist, that same proof will be applied to the claim of any God existing thereby automatically proving that that God does not exist.

It therefore follows that either the existence of the ODF can be proven or it can’t be proven but it in either case no God can exist.

God does not exist.

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?

Religion, what’s the harm. Some people need a crutch. Let people believe what they want, it comforts them.

And what does it do for the child victims of religion? Girl of 8 married to a 40 year old man who rapes her to such a degree she fucking dies from the injuries? How many other good Muslim men rape little girls to death? And the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of children abused by the Catholic church?

Religion. What’s the harm.

This: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/09/09/bride-aged-8-dies-internal-sexual-injuries-wedding-night-_n_3892892.html

And this: http://onefuriousllama.com/2013/02/05/islamic-cleric-rapes-tortures-and-kills-his-daughter-and-pays-a-fine/

And this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_sex_abuse_cases

And this: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/18/nyregion/after-sexual-abuse-case-a-hasidic-accuser-is-shunned-then-indicted.html?_r=0

Oh, it doesn’t end there and you can’t tell me these are ‘fringe cases’. Four links above cover child abuse by Christians, Muslims and Jews.

But there is a god right? And he loves children right?

I was sent a link to a blog post, an excerpt form an upcoming book by one Mr. Trent Horn, proud owner of a Master’s Degree in Theology. A Catholic who is an apologist and speaker for Catholic Answers…

The post is here: http://www.catholic.com/blog/trent-horn/is-atheism-a-belief-or-a-lack-of-belief

I generally wouldn’t bother writing (or indeed reading for that matter) about a random Catholic’s opinion on atheism – it’s a pretty simple concept to grasp after all – but this piece is so bad, the quality of thinking so low that I feel compelled to write something. I know I probably shouldn’t judge all holders of “Master’s degrees in Theology” by the standard of a single blog post but it does a pretty depressing picture paint.

But the problem with defining atheism as simply “the lack of belief in God” is that there are already another group of people who fall under that definition: agnostics.

It seems like the man is insinuating that agnostics have a monopoly on “the lack of belief in God”? Strange. Let’s see what the Oxford English dictionary defines atheism as:

atheism
Pronunciation: /ˈeɪθɪɪz(ə)m/

noun
[mass noun]
disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.

Perhaps Mr. Horn feels he can redefine the meaning of the word?

An illustration might help explain the burden of proof both sides share. In a murder trial the prosecution must show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the murder. But if the prosecution isn’t able to make its case, then the defendant is found “not guilty.” Notice the defendant isn’t found “innocent.”

I think that perhaps Mr. Horn hasn’t heard of: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Presumption_of_innocence. Which would be strange, since its the basis of the secular legal system he operates under. It’s a pretty fundamental principle… “innocent until proven guilty”. Sort of says you don’t need to be found innocent since you are innocent until proven otherwise.

“Presumption of innocence” serves to emphasize that the prosecution has the obligation to prove each element of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt (or some other level of proof depending on the criminal justice system) and that the accused bears no burden of proof.

He goes on:

Likewise, even if the theist isn’t able to make his case that God exists that doesn’t show God does not exist and therefore that atheism is true. As atheists Austin Dacey and Lewis Vaughn write, “What if these arguments purporting to establish that God exists are failures? That is, what if they offer no justification for theistic belief? Must we then conclude that God does not exist? No. Lack of supporting reasons or evidence for a proposition does not show that the proposition is false.”

You see, Mr. Horn completely and strangely misunderstands how reality works. If a theist isn’t able to make his case that his god exists then one is entirely justified in concluding that god doesn’t exist. If I claim that a pink invisible dragon lives in my garage but can’t prove it then clearly one is justified in concluding it doesn’t exist. Under Mr. Horn’s system of thinking, I can claim anything, literally anything without evidence and the only valid conclusion must be suspension of judgement and that is patently absurd.

If you claim something fundamentally ridiculous – fairies in the garden, leprechauns and gold at the end of the rainbow, talking donkeys, global floods, deities who care where about the location of your penis – without evidence, it can be dismissed, without evidence. And the more ridiculous your claim – Yahweh created a man-god out of himself to sacrifice to himself to change his own opinion, for example – the more evidence you’re going to need to prop up the proposition.

The primary mistake in Mr. Horn’s thinking is that he feels his claim that Yahweh and Jesus Christ exists is somehow different, more important or somehow more special than a claim that flying pigs exist, great big invisible farm llamas live behind Jupiter or that Krishna is real. It is not. Once Mr. Horn and the religious in general understand this fundamental point, their world view will change.

If he wants to demonstrate that atheism is true, an atheist would have to provide additional evidence that there is no God just as a defense attorney would have to provide further evidence to show his client is innocent as opposed to being just “not guilty.” He can’t simply say the arguments for the existence of God are failures and then rest his case.

I don’t need to demonstrate that atheism is true. See the Oxford English definition for the word. Atheism is the default position on god: there isn’t one since I have no reason to believe there is one and never have. Before the invention of Christianity, every living person was an atheist with regards to Jesus Christ since that’s the default position. Before the invention of religion, everybody was an atheist with respect to every god invented since. Why? Because atheism is the default position. Innocent until proven guilty. Reasonable.

The religious try to change the default position of non-belief with a claim and that claim either has evidence or it doesn’t. If it has convincing evidence, the position changes. The religious have yet to provide any evidence what so ever. For any of the thousands of deities invented by men in history.

Mr. Horn’s religion is one of many. It’s mutually exclusive to all other religions. His only evidence is a book, compiled by a committee of men with an agenda, written by anonymous authors with agendas, from second or third hand accounts, translated over and over by scribes with agendas who were prone to mistakes and no originals remain at all. As far as evidence goes, it’s more than little thin I would say.

I might give an illustration of my own to show what Mr. Horn thinks is a viable legal trial:

In a murder trial a man is accused of killing another man. There is no body, no murder weapon, no witnesses. There is no proof the murdered man even existed. In fact, the only evidence the prosecution brings is a hand written note. The note claims the accused murdered a man. Nobody knows who wrote the note, when it was written and to make matters worse, the note was originally written in a language nobody understands. The note presented to the court isn’t the original, it’s a copy of a copy of a translation. Nobody knows who did the translation or when the translation was done. There are also other notes – similarly translated from copies of copies – which contradict the note that the prosecution has chosen to make their case.

Tell me again, Mr. Horn, how we should suspend judgement on the veracity and truth of the claim instead of summarily dismissing it for the garbage that it is.

Religion. It’s a curious thing. I look at religion and religious people from time to time and wonder how anybody could be so stupid. Other times I look at religion and religious people and the depth and power of the stupidity is so appalling that I feel obligated to write about it. Or slap some fool till they snap out of it. Or at least fantasise about slapping some fool out of their religion induced reason-coma. This won’t be the first post I’ve written on the subject and god knows it won’t be the last. Which is really sad and mostly depressing considering the subject.

Religion claims the moral high ground. Religion claims knowledge where none exists. Religion lies to children. Religion tortures and kills babies.

Too far? Not quite. You see, in New Zealand we have secular laws based on reason – perhaps not always flawless but certainly better than the alternative – and we have religion, information apparently directly from the almighty creator of the universe. We have people in New Zealand. Judges who manage the application of secular laws through the legal system and we have other people who claim to follow the instructions of the loving almighty creator of the universe.

And we have stories like this one: http://health.msn.co.nz/healthnews/8719800/nz-baby-to-get-life-saving-treatment

If you read that story I think you will find that a good Kiwi Judge is using secular law to try to save the life of a 10 month old baby whose parents have decided – based on instruction from their god himself – to let it die of cancer. That is correct. The secular legal system of New Zealand has to save little babies from their criminally delusional, religious parents.

The parents are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Jehovah’s Witnesses, an especially delusional sect of Christianity, have at some point in their organisation’s past, pulled the profoundly idiotic notion out of their collective asses that blood transfusions are an abomination because… well god said so. Maybe. In a verse in the Bible that doesn’t actually say that.

In August, doctors found a large cancerous tumour in the right side of the 10-month-old’s chest and she was diagnosed with stage four cancer in her bones. She has been given a 90 per cent survival rate with treatment, but is likely to need a blood transfusion and her parents will not consent because they are Jehovah’s Witnesses. There is a high risk she would develop life-threatening complications if she was unable to have a transfusion. In a recent decision, the High Court granted the Auckland District Health Board’s application to place her in the guardianship of the court for nine months to allow her to receive transfusions.

The baby has an exceedingly good – 90% – chance of survival and a normal life with treatment but will need a blood transfusion. What do the parents do? The most detestable thing. They say no, let the child die. Horribly.

Jehovah’s Witnesses are unfit parents due to their religious beliefs. There no other way to put it. Their profoundly stupid and harmful belief, based on no evidence what so ever, is a danger to their children. They fail in the single most important duty of a parent: keep your child alive.

Religion is dangerous. It’s dangerous to the children of religious parents. It’s dangerous to the rest of us. To quote a great man: “religion poisons everything”. Between anti-vaccination crazies who are undermining societal herd immunity – hard-won at a terrible cost against disease over generations – with their anti-science idiocy to religion inspired wars to charter schools who insist on teaching creationism as factual science in science class, the rest of us reasonable people are under an assault with weapons grade idiocy.

The great irony is that, while the rest of us have to cope with the horrendous stupid of the religionuts, it’s their own children that suffer the most. And that from a group of people who claim to worship a deity who allegedly has a soft spot for children.

How can people be so goddamned stupid?

So… I got some mail. It’s probably spam. I can’t really tell. But seriously, check this out:

From: Calculated Energy

I have unprinted book. The book is special from all book on earth.
The book depends on nature and calculated energy. You,atom,electron,green light,earth,sun, the solar system,galaxy,the univers,the cosmo… are calculated energy. Calculated by the energy calculator. You are calculated to be the mind of earth. The book is written amharic. Will you help me to publish the book ?

Yeah, so, what to say about that. An unpublished, special book, written in/about/for/by ‘amharic’? And it’s about something… something… *drool*.

And that is all I have to say about that.

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