Atheist Reading List

I am an atheist. I wasn’t raised in a religious household – though I did my first Communion and went to a couple Sunday School classes because my grandparents insisted- but certainly never believed in what I picked up about Christianity through osmosis. Before I starting thinking about it properly, I believed there was ‘something more’, but was never able to really define what that meant. I used to facetiously say that I believed in The Force.

When I was 19, I saw the film ‘Jesus Christ Superstar‘ (US) and said to my friend, ‘Judas is so cool!’. She laughed and I had no reason why. I hadn’t learned that Judas was hated by Christians for betraying Jesus. When I learned this, it seemed truly bizarre:

  • Surely, Jesus ‘foresaw’ Judas’ betrayal (according to the lyrics in JCSS: ‘One of you here dining/ one of my twelve chosen/ Will leave to betray me…’ or in Matthew 26: 21: and as they were eating, he said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’), so, clearly, Judas had no freewill in the matter. Why should he be ‘damned for all time’ if he had no choice?
  • I didn’t understand why, exactly, Judas should be damned for being a vital part of the Saving of Mankind. Clearly, according to the rules of Christianity, Judas was created by God specifically to ‘betray’ Jesus. Doesn’t seem right to me.
  • Why did Jesus, on the cross, say about the men nailing him up, ‘Forgive them, they know not what they do,’ but poor Judas was damned for eternity?

These logical flaws were the start of my interest in religion.

It’s incredibly easy to accept the ‘truths’ of religion if you a) don’t know very much about the Bible or b) don’t know very much about history or c) don’t know very much about science or d) actively work to delude yourself. If you’re a rational, intelligent person who hasn’t been brainwashed since birth, the second you start to read the Bible, alarm bells start ringing. The more you learn about the historical reality of Israel and the Roman Empire at the time, the more unlikely it all starts to sound. The more you learn about pagan myths the more unlikely Jesus, Son of God, becomes. The more you learn about science, the more ridiculous the ‘miracles’ sound. If you are an educated and intelligent person who is also religious, you must delude yourself in order to remain religious.

I’ve spent 15 years or so devouring books on science, artificial intelligence, technology, psychology amongst many other topics which provided me with a grounding in “reality”. Whenever I’d look at religion and saw what people believed, I’d be shocked and astounded at their, well, to be frank, their ignorance. I have, however, only recently started reading books on Atheism specifically. I’ve subsequently learned that a lot of my own ideas about religion had already been voiced by many people before me.

I thought I’d make a list of a few of my recent favourite books on atheism, in case any of you are interested in reading more.


MY ATHEIST READING LIST

Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan

US Readers:
The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

This isn’t about atheism directly. It’s about the scientific method. It teaches you how to use logic and rationality to recognise reality from ‘baloney’. Every school kid should sit an end-of-year exam on this book. If you only read one book on my list, make it this one. It’ll give you a good grounding in how to think.


Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell

US Readers:
Why I Am Not A Christian And Other Essays On Religion And Related Subjects

This is, for me, the best place to start reading about atheism. The title essay was originally given as a talk in 1927 just down the road from me in Battersea. The other essays were written by Russell between 1899 and 1954. This, I think, is the most logical and simple book on the ridiculousness of religion you can read. It’s unencumbered by modern politics like the other books on this list. Some of the arguments have moved on since then, so those of you who are still actively deluding yourselves with religion may have a few ‘ah! ha! That’s wrong because…’ moments. I would, however, invite you to read the rest of the books on my list before feeling smug.


Portable Atheist edited by Christopher Hitchens

US Readers:
The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever

Now, I love Christopher Hitchens for so many reasons. Mainly because he cracks me up. In this book, he has chosen excerpts from some of his favourite writings on atheism. From Spinoza to Mark Twain; from John Updike to Carl Sagan, this book is filled with brilliance. Each chapter stands on its own so you can jump around throughout the book as you wish. This is the perfect ‘taster’ book.


The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

US Readers:
The God Delusion

I’ve got to put this one here as it’s the one everyone knows. It’s not my favourite on this list, to be honest, though he wrote some very good things on morality and children in this book (I, too, called religion ‘child abuse’ a few years ago) and find the book incredibly readable. I don’t find his arguments as deep as other writers’, but he’s always incredibly clear. I honestly think that if you read this and you’re still religious afterwards, then you are definitely delusional.


God Is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens

US Readers: God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

Hitchens again. Oh, how he makes me laugh. (don’t think he’s funny? Watch this.) If you’ve read the first three books, you’ll definitely be ready for this one. This book is sharp and biting and often very, very funny. This was clearly written to start arguments. I heard recently that Hitchens said he’d be upset if we all woke up tomorrow and no one on the planet was religious. When asked why, he responded, ‘The I’d have no one to argue with.’ I love him.


End Of Faith by Sam Harris

US Readers:
THE END OF FAITH

This one is for ‘advanced atheists’ who enjoy digging a bit deeper into the whole topic OR people who’ve moved on past seeing the ridiculousness of Christianity and have moved onto the silliness (and/or violent insanity) of religious fundamentalism. This is probably my least favourite book on the list, but I mainly enjoyed it for the ‘thought experiments’ (at one point, he actually condones torture… and admits he wasn’t expecting to end up doing that). Most people who have criticised this part of the book have clearly never engaged in similar thought experiments themselves (you can learn quite a lot when you challenge your own beliefs). I also genuinely enjoyed his thoughts on how you can be an atheist AND spiritual (which is something I truly know to be possible). I was also interested to read that he sees religion as a form of mental illness (if I were doing a psychology PhD, I’d be researching the connections between religion and schizophrenia).


THE NEXT BOOK I’M READING

Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

US Readers:
The Varieties of Scientific Experience: A Personal View of the Search for God

Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos (US) was what really kick-started my interest in science. When Brian and I first met and started writing science programmes together, we’d always stop and think ‘What would Carl do?’ We still do that.

We were truly and deeply honoured to have met Carl Sagan’s widow and long-time collaborator Ann Druyan in New York in May. One of her friends had seen Brian speak at TED, so arranged for us all to meet up for lunch when we were at the World Science Festival in New York. For both Brian and I, it was a really huge ‘meeting a hero’ moment.

We saw Ann most recently at SciFoo. She and I took part in a ‘Religion and Science’ discussion there and afterwards I told her how brilliant she was in the discussion, so strong and clear. She flattered me by complimenting me on what I said during the discussion, too. *blush* We then talked for ages about being both scientific AND spiritual people and how we couldn’t see that there is a conflict between the two at all. We talked about our kids and how, when they aren’t brought up with religion, they see religion for what it is perfectly clearly by the age of 5. She talked about Carl. I love when she talks about Carl… God, she must miss him…. I’ve got a total girlcrush on her in the biggest way. I absolutely want to be her when I grow up.

Anyway, let me know if you decide to read any of these books or, if you’ve read any of them already, what you thought of them.

Comments
94 Responses to “Atheist Reading List”
  1. Marie F says:

    Like a lot of people was taken in by the allure of Dawkin’s God Delusion, but must say I didn’t feel inspired by it, partly as it felt odd reading a book I was mostly in agreement with and not being challenged by. Because of this I’ve steered cleared of similar titles- but am glad you have recommended these above and as a result will definitely be checking out the Carl Sagan title you mentioned!

  2. Chad Myers says:

    FYI, the Catholic Church has said that it’s not clear whether Judas was damned. So if that’s your only reason for being Atheist, then you should reconsider ;)

    Again, in light of Catholic Theology (I’m just pointing out some facts for you and your readership, I thought you might find it interesting. I’m not trying to start a religious flamewar or anything — I understand you disagree, I just want to make sure you understand the Catholic position on these matters)

    If Judas was damned, it probably would NOT have been because of his betrayal (for that matter, Peter also betrayed Jesus THREE times, but was later made head of the Church). It would have been because he committed suicide and thus presumed that God would not have mercy and forgiveness. Taking your life and presuming God’s Will are, unfortunately, final acts and you actually take away God’s opportunity to forgive you and damn YOURSELF.

    In summary, it’s not clear whether Judas was damned (the Church never declares anyone damned, it only declares that someone is in Heaven [i.e. a ‘Saint’]). Again, that’s the Catholic take on things, just to make sure you understand.

    One other thing, you said that the more you learn about pagan myths, etc, etc, the more it all sounds unlikely. I’ve heard many of these types of arguments and allegations that Christianity is an amalgamation of prior ‘art’ but these accusations are usually not definitive. Most of the theories I’ve heard along this line usually fall apart quickly because they’re based on some myth or another that turns out didn’t appear until AFTER Christianity. The research on a lot of these things is pretty shoddy and, ironically, the efforts of the author are usually based on the very thing that they allege: That their conclusions are set to match what their beliefs are.

    Finally, I’m delighted that you’re so interested in science because it was, after all, Catholic monks who invented the Scientific Method in order to more fully understand God’s creation. Sure, there were some dark times in the middle ages where bad Popes and zealots persecuted some scientists, but for everyone of those there were a thousand brilliant scientists advancing knowledge by leaps and bounds — all funded and encouraged by the Church. And, despite modern atheistic (note the small ‘a’ here) scientist’s best efforts, so far no one has ever been able to explain what caused the Big Bang (or what caused the cause of the Big Bang, or what caused the cause of the cause of the Big Bang… it’s turtles all the way down).

    Anyhow, great list of books. Some really good, well written and researched authors. I applaud your DEDICATED pursuit of knowledge and understanding. I know many people who call themselves ‘atheists’ but really are ‘agnostic’ and just don’t want to believe in God (or don’t want to do the whole religion thing).

    It’s refreshing to see someone who is taking their beliefs seriously and really trying to find Truth and seek out all avenues of understanding.

  3. Firstly I’m an Atheist so I am in no way arguing against Dawkins or Hitchens (both of which I have read). Dawkins is a scientist but he has made a name for himself on the back of something that defies the scientific methods which always seems a little odd to me. Mention Dawkins and he will be quoted as “That guy who is an atheist” rather then “That guy who is an Ethologist”.

    Hitchens is even stranger. He doesn’t believe in “Gods” but never really proposes a theory on what “God” actually is. “It” is many things to many people and not all of them are necesarily related to religious belief. I agree that they are entertaining though.

    When you mention Carl Sagan, you mention a God in his own right. His journey and writing was truly about understanding people. He is one of the most insightful people I have ever read on any topic.

  4. Geoff Coupe says:

    If Dawkins’ mention of children and morality grabbed your interest, then I heartily recommend Stephen Law’s “The War for Children’s Minds”. As the blurb on the front cover says (by Philip Pullman, no less): ‘Should be read by every teacher, every parent, and every politician’. This book deserves to be on your list.

  5. giagia says:

    Chad- Yea, I understand the Catholic Church has never come right out and said Judas was damned. Re: pagan myths. Easter is a pagan holiday for Eostre, the Saxon’s Mother Goddess. She was celebrated at the Vernal (Spring) Equinox – around March 20-22. As you know, Easter is celebrated on the first Sunday after the first full Moon after the Vernal Equinox… Equinoxes? Lunar Calendars? It’s sounding kinda pagan to me… ;) Also, look into the date of Christmas, Saturnalia, the Winter Solstice and the Julian and Gregorian calendars.

    Basically, there’s nothing ‘holy’ about the times of the year those holidays are held. They have pagan roots.

    Also… I worked out that we shouldn’t celebrate Good Friday, but Good Wednesday instead. It’s in an old blog post that I’ve not ported over from my old blog yet… I’ll find it and put it up.

    Re: The Big Bang. What ‘scientists’ do with things they don’t quite understand yet is give them place-holding names: The Big Bang, Dark Matter, Dark Energy etc. They are merely place-holders until more information is found.

    What religious leaders do with things they don’t understand is say ‘God did it.’ and that’s the end of it all.

    The problem I see for religious people in taking that position is that the more and more Science explains the less and less space there is for God to exist.

    If, however, your God is entirely non-interventionist, then there is absolutely no conflict at all between science and religion. One could say that a “God” could have created the Universe or the Multiverse, poured itself out creating the Laws of Physics, but never intervening again… and there isn’t a scientist alive who could argue with that… The moment you say, ‘Ah, but this God daily and regularly *defies* the laws of physics by performing miracles or answering prayers randomly’, then there’s an issue. The Universe could not exist in that situation.

  6. giagia says:

    Rebecca, I think the biggest problem for most atheists is that there are as many definitions of “God” as there are people who believe in Him/It/Them. When I talk about the Christian God, I tend to mean the average, generic God who created the Universe, gave the Earth his son, is Pure Good, answers prayers, micro-manages Human Beings, is Omniscient and Omnipotent and resides in Heaven where he and his son wait for us to join them after we die. I understand that isn’t what all Christians believe, but it’s the middle ground. If, however, I am discussing religion with one person specifically, then I always, always, always ask them to tell me what *THEY* mean by God. Cos only when I have an idea of what they are talking about, can I have a genuine conversation with them.

    Also, I use the ‘Positive Atheism’ definition of atheism: “The lack of a God-belief.” It’s not that I ‘deny the existence of God’, it’s that I lack BELIEF in any deities whether I have heard of them or not. It’s the proper definition of the word actually. ‘Theism’ means ‘belief in the existence of God or Gods’. The prefix ‘a-‘ means ‘without’.

    I am ‘without belief’. Give me proof… and a 2,000+ year old book written by people is not “proof” any more than ‘Harry Potter’ books and films prove the existence of magic. ;)

  7. giagia says:

    Geoff – It’s on my Amazon list now! Thanks :)

  8. masonic boom says:

    Hello – you left a comment about Sagan on my Flickr and here you are talking about him again, how marvelous. Though it’s a shame that my this comment is going to have to be a slight disagreement, as your blog looks very interesting.

    First, I suppose I should clarify that I’m not an atheist. Perhaps it would be nice to have that kind of certainty about the universe, but I don’t. I’m a little-a agnostic sliding gently towards some kind of deism. I find it strange, that even though I hate Fundamentalism and Dogmatism of all kinds, in these endless internet arguments, I find myself being forced to defend Theism against Atheists.

    My father is a scientist, my mother is a priest, so I have the unfortunate curse of being able to see the good in both sides of the human experience. But what I see more clearly is that this is not some kind of dualistic opposition – it’s not just comparing apples to oranges, it’s like comparing apples to combine-harvesters.

    Yes, Christian texts have lots of internal contradictions. Bits of the Bible were written by a semi-literate tribe that took 40 years to find their way out of a desert the size of Texas. The final format of the book wasn’t even properly decided until several hundred years after its principle protagonists died – in the midst of a political power grab between factions of the movement. As my mum (the priest) explains, “god inspired these people to write it, but he didn’t make them poets or logicians.” (I was lucky enough to grow up within a very liberal and intellectual church – Church of England – do we worship god? No, we worship England – that encouraged critical thinking and study.)

    Yes, the Bible is a big fat myth, loosely based on older mythologies and some other mystery cults that were floating around at the time.

    But because something is a myth, that doesn’t make it a lie. A myth is a story that, although not strictly true, still reveals or attempts to explain something about human nature or the world at large. Myths are “imaginative patterns, networks of powerful symbols that suggest particular ways of interpreting the world… (and) shape its meaning.”

    I am fairly well educated, and I’d like to think of myself as intelligent, (I’m a mathematician by trade) but I can consider myself to be religious, as well, because I understand that things can have *symbolic* meaning as well as literal meaning. Reading more than one layer of meaning is not the same thing as being deluded. Different people interpret the world around them in different ways – some literal, some multi-layered and symbolic. Maybe there’s a link between religion and schizophrenia. There’s also a well established link between creativity and mental illness. Are you proposing we should get rid of imagination, too?

    And you’re talking about just one set of myths, from one religion. Every single culture in the world has its own set of myths, whether that’s been codified into religion or not. And there are hundreds – if not thousands – of different religions in the world, some very very different from one another – and there are vast variations even within individual religions. (Some don’t even have deities to object to.) There’s something uncomfortably Eurocentric in the way that atheists go after Christianity (and occasionally Islam in more recent years) and hold it up as if it is the only religion or way of addressing spirituality in the world. That’s an awful lot of stuff you don’t know to dismiss it with one brushstroke.

    Whatever religion is, it’s a human invention. Now I can’t say whether god is a human invention or delusion. (Lots of delusions that are purely down to neurochemistry and cultural indoctrination continue to be useful – romantic love is a fairly recent invention that boils down to oxytocin and kin selection, but lots of people still get married and have children quite happily under the influence of that particular delusion.) But I can say that certain needs that I would tag with the label “spiritual” are pretty universal. The political problems that infest organised religion infest almost every successful human institution. The problems lie with humans themselves, and their dominant power structures, not in the existence or non-existence of deities.

    If you didn’t stop reading when I used the g-word, I’m going to recommend you a book by the Philosopher of Science (and Ethologist), Mary Midgley, called “The Myths We Live By.” It’s a well-written, clear and concise book about how reductionism has been been misused, about false dualisms and how they arose from outdated Enlightenment thinking. (Reductionism itself is based on the myth of perfect, indivisible atoms, when physics has discovered existence at the subatomic level to be a much weirder and more complicated realm of complexity and uncertainty and particle-waves.) In short – scientific method: classic, weird ideologies of omnicompetence based on supposedly “scientific” thinking: dud.

    I’d highly recommend it for anyone interested in these kinds of issues. Personally, I’d make it required reading for anyone who considered themselves a scientist.

  9. masonic boom says:

    Wow, that was long! I’m sorry, I didn’t realise. Eep.

  10. giagia says:

    Masonic Boom- Hiya! There’s very little of what you said that I can disagree with… *I* don’t think science and religion are at all similar. I don’t think they cross over at ALL. They are, as you said, like apples and combine harvesters… You aren’t, however, a ‘normal’ religious person. ;)

    I *LOVE* mythology (in fact, in Brian’s next Horizon, he started off in Mexico learning about the Mayans’ myths about Time because I suggested it). I don’t consider the Mayan myths to be *lies* because no one is claiming they are *the truth*. If, however, someone started beheading people daily based on the Mayan belief that people need to feed the Sun human blood in order to ensure that it traveled across the Sky, I doubt you could say that their actions weren’t based on ‘lies’.

    The difference between ‘myths from other cultures’ and modern Abrahamic religions is, of course, that we don’t have people trying to insist our children learn- **IN SCIENCE CLASS**- about…say… how a black bird, Nyx, laid a golden egg. When this egg hatched, Eros, the God of Love was created. The top half of the shell rose up to create the Sky, the bottom half became the Earth. Eros named the Sky Uranus, and the Earth Gaia, and made them fall in Love. Their great-grandchild Prometheus was sent to Earth to create humans in the image of the Gods. “And that’s the real truth of how the world was created, kids. Nothing to do with all that Big Bang, Science stuff.”

    We don’t have leaders of countries saying that Zeus spoke to them and told them to invade Iraq.

    We don’t have people blowing themselves and others up because they take Norse mythology literally.

    We don’t have people committing human rights abuses against women, and ‘unbelievers’ because of a myth about Amaterasu.

    We don’t have people using their belief in Khepri as a justification for hating and killing gays and lesbians.

    If none of the modern believers in the Abrahamic religions took their religions literally- AS THE TRUTH- then there wouldn’t be an issue.

    Your advanced theological thoughts are NOT what most American religious people believe. African Anglicans certainly are nowhere near that. If you were Muslim and said what you said about the Koran, you’d be murdered for being an apostate.

    Those kinds of people aren’t using their religion to “reveal or attempt to explain something about human nature or the world at large”. The vast, vast majority of religious people use their religion in order to justify their hate.

    I think of all of this like the issue of guns in the States. The minority of gun-owners are in the NRA. I believe that the majority of NRA members *are* responsible gun owners… The problem is, of course, that the majority of gun-owners AREN’T in the NRA, they AREN’T responsible, they are FREAKIN’ DANGEROUS… But the NRA keeps campaigning successfully to keep guns legal… and the irresponsible gun owners keep on killing.

    Same exact thing with religion.

  11. Chad Myers says:

    GIAGIA:
    The current day of Easter is due to a.) the Hebrew Lunar Calendar (Passover-based) plus a modification in the middle ages to override pagan festivals.
    Easter’s placement is not based on pagan festivals, it’s placement is meant to override them. The Easter Bunny and such are traditions that have survived the Church’s previous attempts to stamp them out

    Same for the rest of them. This is fairly well know. You should check your history, at little.

    RE: Good Wednesday: I can believe it. Friday is merely tradition. We don’t know when Christ’s birthday was exactly either. It’s irrelevant. The important thing is the commemoration.

    RE: “God did it” God did everything, so that’s a moot point. Science needs to answer all these questions and one day, they will. Except the one thing I don’t think science will ever explain how nothing caused the universe to happen.

    Science and religion are not at odds. Only smaller minds on both sides make it seem so. Science and Religion, both when practiced properly, support and enhance each other.

    RE: Universe’s existence – God created physics, he doesn’t defy them, he is outside of them. When you write a story, you create something and you are not bound by the rules which you create in the story. Same thing.

    It is folly to try to apply the rules by which we exist to the rules by which an extra-existence being adheres (if any)

    Great discussion. Keep it up everyone!

  12. Chad Myers says:

    @GIAGIA

    RE: People blowing themselves up, set.

    So your argument is basically because there are stupid people who happen to believe in religion doing stupid things, we should abandon religion?

    So tomorrow religion is gone and all these stupid people are now atheists. Will they really become un-stupid? I seriously doubt it.

    And, I know of quite a few stupid people who happen to be atheists that do dumb things like kill people and commit atrocities. Should we then say that atheism is wrong because of that also?

    Your logic doesn’t make any sense. Stupid people will be stupid people no matter what belief system they follow. They use their belief system to justify their stupid actions. This is a universal human trait and not limited to the confines of religion, unfortunately.

    RE: Guns – Same kind of argument. Taking people’s guns away won’t stop people from killing each other. Sadly, people were quite effective at killing each other before guns entered the scene (even more so, you might suggest).

    At any rate, most places in the world have very strict gun rules and it seems to have very little effect on violent crime involving firearms. Gun violence is a symptom of a much deeper problem. Banning Guns to solve Gun violence is like banning sex to cure AIDS. Sex isn’t the problem.

  13. mitchell porter says:

    A post on atheism I ran across just yesterday (which induced me to express some of my own views):

    http://adventures-of-a-wetware-hacker.blogspot.com/2008/07/its-been-over-two-years-since-this-blog.html

  14. Chad Myers says:

    @Mary:

    In a sense, yes. By that reasoning, you can go back to early Egyptians and Greeks who had sets of rules very similar to the scientific method. But I consider the true foundations in modern scientific method as those that were established by people like Roger Bacon, Galilelo, Francis Bacon, and Descartes (all Catholics). Yes, yes, I’m well aware of the unfortunate events surrounding Galilelo. But in spite of all this, Europe’s dominance in scientific endeavors after the middle ages are due in a large part (through funding, encouragement, and special favors by various Popes) to the Catholic Church.

    I’m not trying to say everyone should be Catholic, I’m just saying that one shouldn’t be too dismissive of religion or consider it contrary to religion because it is most certainly not. In fact, we wouldn’t really have any concept of science or scientific method if it were not for religion (specifically Catholicism) seeking to better understand the world in which we live and the magnificence and awe of God’s creation.

  15. R J Adams says:

    I spent my formative years at institutionalized Sunday School, bobbed in and out of Christianity until my early twenties, before beginning a search for ‘truth'; the real truth, rather than anything Biblical or orthodoxly sacred. Over time, I believed in a number of differing ‘truths’. Then, finally, I came to realize that five senses may enable us to journey from birth to death on this planet with some degree of capability, but we need many more before we’ll ever fathom the reality of truth, and it’s most unlikely we’ll ever get them.

    Christians can rail against Muslims,Hindus against Buddhists, Atheists against them all. They are nothing more than individual viewpoints with no basis in truth, because, as human beings, we are incapable of knowing truth. Perhaps that’s why we invented faith. Of all people, scientists should comprehend that. They’ve calculated the immense distances around the Universe. That’s no mean feat with only five senses. Yet, they’re no closer to grasping what the Universe is – it’s function, if it has any – and what lies beyond it. All they see is the illusion provided by their five senses, plus a tiny bit more due to the brain’s excellent ability to manipulate theories from fragmented pieces of information.

    I’ve often referred to Atheism as ‘just another religion’, with Dawkins as its high priest. That puzzles some people. Accept religions as nothing more than viewpoints and my meaning, hopefully, becomes clearer. To emphatically deny a God is surely as arrogant as believing oneself to be a ‘Chosen’ of the deity.

    A belief that we don’t know, is the only truth we can be sure of. It’s also a great deflater of ego, and creator of humility.

    Like many of your commentators, I have little time for the views of Dawkins, Hitchins, and the like, for reasons stated above. I do have great respect for scientists methodically working towards finding answers, even If the ultimate answers will surely elude them. Anyone searching for a prophet could do worse than Carl Sagan. He was inspirational because he refused to accept conventional belief in a deity ‘out there’, but recognized the God that exists within us all.

  16. giagia says:

    Hey RJ!! Re: ‘atheism as a religion’. That’s why I prefer the proper definition of ‘atheism’ – ‘lack of belief in deities’- than the religious establishment’s definition of ‘denial of the existence of God’. I can’t logically deny something I don’t understand. Again, this gets back to the fact that there are as many versions of God as there are believers. To some people “God” may be Spinoza’s or Einstein’s definition- ie “EVERYTHING”, so not only the Laws of Physics, but the stars, the Sun, the Moon, you, the computer in front of you make up “God”. How can anyone sensible argue with that? But that version of “God” isn’t a supernatural being which intervenes…

    So if one defines themselves as ‘One who doesn’t believe in God’ (or they BELIEVE in the non-existence of God), then I accept that that is a kind of ‘religious’ belief. I would posit, however, that they’ve not really thought about it all that much and are erroneously using religion’s framing.

    Richard Dawkins is not someone who ‘believes in the non-existence of God’, he lacks a God-belief. If, however, there was *proof* of God, he would happily accept that. As would anyone sensible.

  17. I’m exactly the opposite. I’ve tried to discount God, but honestly can’t.

    I’m a pretty level headed, sensible academic bloke with a sense of humour with a grip on reality and a practising lawyer so fixed with the capacity to logically critique.

    I’m bored of arguments, and very often find that when people want to argue about God, it’s because there’s a nagging doubt inside of them.

    Now, religion… I hate that!

    God bless you!

    ;-)

  18. giagia says:

    Chad- I don’t think we ‘abandon’ religion. Like the NRA, I think religious establishments need to accept certain restrictions. In the same way that I think the NRA needs to accept that no decent, responsible person has a need for a semi-automatic weapon, religious establishments need to accept that their authority has certain limits.

    Instead, we should (in our Western liberal democracies, at least) move past this place we are in right now where we promote the idea that every belief or opinion is of ‘equal value’.

    I’ve written before that I don’t think everyone has the right to be ‘listened to’ (which is different from having the right to say what one wants). This is based on the idea of ‘authority’.

    We, as a society, accept that trained lawyers and judges have ‘authority’ as far as law is concerned, football coaches have authority as far as training a team is concerned and film directors have authority as far as making films is concerned. When it comes to things a bit more complicated, like science and medicine, ‘we’ have started to think that ‘we’ know better.

    The problem is that we can have opinions on whether a legal ruling was correct, whether a football coach has chosen the best starting line-up or whether a film is good or not… ‘opinion’, however, doesn’t come into it when you are talking about DNA, Carbon Dating, the Forces, chemical reactions etc.

    Whilst I am delighted to accept that religious people have authority as far as *religion* is concerned (there’s not a religious person I’ve met who has a) told me that *I* understand religion b) been able to explain why religion is ‘so much more’ than I see it to be), why is it so difficult for religious people (and some others, but that’s a slightly different discussion) to accept the authority of scientists? Why does religion demand authority over religion AND science?

    Also, the whole ‘the Catholic Church is responsible for the scientific method’ stuff is slightly disingenuous. The *only* literate people at that time were in the Church. The only *wealth* at that time was in the Church. Just as the Church wasn’t responsible for Michelangelo’s beautiful paintings – he would have painted just as well if he hadn’t been paid to paint for the Church – Scientists at the time would have been just as capable of discovering the things they did outside of the Church had there been universities or whatever outside the Church.

  19. : RE: “God did it” God did everything, so that’s a moot point. Science needs to answer all these questions and one day, they will. Except the one thing I don’t think science will ever explain how nothing caused the universe to happen.

    Here we run into the problem of the definition of “Universe”. It is currently defined as “Everything that exists everywhere”. Of course, people close to you Giagia will tell you this no longer an acceptable defnition. We live in but one of many “Universes”. In fact, by its current definition, there is no plural.

    With so much to do, God must be a busy person. And it also begs the question, how can God exist outside of this? Particularly when there is no “outside”. It’s turtles all the way down!

  20. masonic boom says:

    Look, Gia, I’m scared sh*tless that one of the superpowers of the earth (yes, the one with its finger on the nuclear trigger) could be democratically ruled by a man who thinks he can repeal the Law of Evolution. That terrifies me.

    However… I may have poor social skills, but even I know that the way to win people’s hearts and minds is *not* by insulting them, calling them deluded fools, or accusing them of child abuse. (Isn’t that really the oldest propaganda in the book when it comes to demonising opponents whose ideology one disagrees with? “The Jews! they eat babies, you know!” etc.)

    Human beings do not need religion as an excuse to kill or oppress one another. That’s an overly simplistic notion, and easily countered with this old chestnut: Look at the great 20th Century secular states – were the Soviet Union and communist China great bastions of rational pacifism without any conflict or bloodshed?

    Almost all human conflict is caused by power struggles over resources (food, land, water, oil, breeding partners) between varying ethnic or cultural groups. The most obvious signifier of cultural difference between similar ethnic groups is religion. Hence it takes the rap.

    Scratch the surface of the examples you give, and there are conflicts which have little to do with religion. It seems unlikely that Zeus or anyone else told Bush to invade Iraq – however, it seems depressingly likely that the controlling interests of Halliburton told Bush that god told him to invade to get all that oil and those lucrative reconstruction contracts.

    People who take Norse mythology seriously tend to blow up Norwegian churches, but that’s another story. The important thing is, no one ever bombed Norwegian death metallers. The violent turn of some branches of Islamic fundamentalism is hugely troubling. I’m more interested in questions of *why* it’s gaining ground. Religious fanaticism may fan the hatred and desperation that drives people to such acts, but it didn’t *create* it. (That would take a couple of hours to explain, long-running conflict between Jews and Arabs, exacerbated by imperial interests of the US and its allies.) In that situation, Radical Islam is one of the few sources of a comprehensive ideology totally opposed to the negative, imperial aspects of American overseas policy.

    Men don’t need Christianity, or Hinduism or Chinese 1-child policies or any other ideology to justify the oppression of women. That comes from viewing your breeding partners as property rather than human beings, as above.

    Culture and religion are inextricably linked. People who blame religion for conflict have made that fundamental schoolboy scientific error of mistaking correlation for causation. Isn’t it just as likely that negative religion is an expression of a culture’s underlying racism, sexism, etc. – as much as the cause of it?

    Maybe I’m not a ‘normal’ religious person. The irony being, as you hinted at, that it was non-normal religious persons, starting with protestant reformers, who fought for and won our very ability to be having this conversation. Freedom of religion (including the right not to have one) is something worth fighting for, because religion is a cultural signifier that describes a culture’s moral and ethical values.

    I wonder what it is, in America, that is driving the revival of fundamentalist right-wing Christianity. To me, it’s more useful to find out the cultural mythology behind it. I don’t know that human beings can, or should be cured of religion – I think a more useful answer is working towards a more humane and humanitarian religion. Because this same human creation – religion – that drives some people to suicide bombing also inspire other people – such as the Quakers – to organise and protest against unjust wars.

    Perhaps your NRA analogy has some usefulness – but at the same time, Chad’s rejoinder about banning sex to cure AIDS is apt.

    I have a lot more respect for people like my mother, and her colleagues – who reach out to some incredibly marginalised people, and try to educate and empower them – teach them the aspects of this religion that can be a source of community and inspiration and love, instead of hatred and division – than for people who call for the impossible abolishment of religion. Because a religion, like any other aspect of a culture, although it can be shaped by external influences, can only really be *changed* from inside.

    Subscribing to a religious belief and an appreciation of science do not have to be the slightest bit incompatible – and I question the political motivations of anyone (on either “side”) who says that they are.

    This false science-religion dichotomy does a lot of harm – it distracts people from genuine issues. Discount science, and you can bury your head in the sand and pretend that things like climate change aren’t happening. Discount religion, and you exclude exactly the people you need on side to affect change.

    I think, in a lot of ways, you and I probably do agree on a lot of things. We’ve just had very different experiences which lead us to different conclusions. There’s a correlation between ignorance and “bad” religion. You say, get rid of religion, I say – no, get rid of ignorance. The more I find out about the universe, the more I’m filled with a deep sense of wonder, and awe, and yes, a spiritual feeling of the kind you attribute to Einstein.

    Carl Sagan was a brilliant man, not even because of his intellect, but because of his ability to express incredibly complex ideas in ways that were easy for the layperson to understand, and because he was able to present these ideas with charisma and enthusiasm which captured the popular imagination. Science – and not just science, but our world – needs more people like that. (One of the reasons I admire your husband is because he has that populist touch.)

    Looking forward to what he makes of the Mayans!

  21. Chad Myers says:

    @GiaGia:

    Great conversation. Thank you, again!

    RE: ‘disingenuous’, Science, Church, etc:

    I think you’re being a little too dismissive here. I don’t agree that Michelangelo would’ve produced similar results if the Church hadn’t been there since a.) most of his inspiration was religious based and b.) most of his funding came from the Church.

    You said, “The *only* literate people at that time were in the Church.” As if that were some sort of accident or twist of fate. The Church and the Faith enabled people to higher learning by giving them an environment which valued life and love. At the same time, in other cultures, they were not focused on these things and, given the same time and similar resources, were not able to achieve the same things that Christian Europe did. The major differentiator here was Christianity.

    So I don’t think you can honestly dismiss these things so easily because they were crucial in creating the environment under which higher learning could take place.

    The Church founded the first Universities and paid countless sums of money for their operation. These were the foundation stones which led to European technological dominance for many centuries.

  22. giagia says:

    Masonic Boom – believe it or not my husband’s ‘populist touch’ is probably more to do with me insisting that people have a ‘spiritual’ side! I don’t think he’d ever deny that when we first met, he had no interest in nor appreciation for that and was only really interested in ‘the science’. I think it all changed when we were sitting in our hotel bar in Hanoi 4 years ago and I was trying to explain what I meant when I said ‘spiritual':

    I don’t mean ‘magic’. I don’t mean ‘supernatural’. I don’t mean ‘ghosts’. I mean ‘seeing the bigger picture’, ‘seeing that we are both insignificant and the most important things in the universe’, ‘seeing that there is absolutely NO difference between you and a Vietnamese woman who works in a hotel bar’, ‘recognising that we all feel exactly the same emotions with exactly the same intensity’, ‘we all are children’, ‘we will all one day die’ ‘We all share the ‘outside’ with one another, we are all connected, yet ‘inside’ we are all, each of us, completely alone.’ ‘Recognising that you are not the centre of anyone else’s universe except your own.’

    I don’t need “God” to tell me those things… and in fact, in everything I’ve read in the Bible and the Koran, he *doesn’t* really say any of those things- apart from the Golden Rule, which is brilliant, but in no way unique to nor invented by Christianity.

    And I totally, totally agree: get rid of ignorance. If you get rid of ignorance then you remove a lot of trouble… The problem is, of course, that by being all ‘groovy’ and thinking that no ‘harm’ at all can come from religion we get creationism taught in UK state schools. That is NOT getting rid of ignorance.

  23. giagia says:

    Paul- I actually don’t care at all if people believe in God, or believe in magic, or believe that they can read the future in chicken entrails… I do, however, care, very, very much if they ‘force’ those beliefs on others or use those beliefs in order to control, endanger, harm or in any other way have a *negative* effect on others. I think that’s what ‘religion’ excels at…

  24. Steve says:

    Masonic boom: you rule. Nice to hear from someone else who understands this the same way.

    I’ve been working on a project with people who’s beliefs range from Islam through all kinds of new-agey stuff to unswerving atheism (like me). They all understand religion in pretty much the same context as you and the results have been fascinating and inspiring for everyone involved. Keep at it.

  25. Steve says:

    … and to be clear about what I mean by results, the agenda was to look at the problems endemic to organised religion and how they might be usefully approached. Personally, I wish the social/cultural conditions didn’t exist whereby religion still has a function but it seems fairly clear that they do.

  26. giagia says:

    I see ‘religious people’ in the same way I see ‘drug users’. They can do what they want to themselves, in their own space and in their own time. And actually think they should be free to do so. I can respectfully refuse to take part in their activities without making judgments on their personal choices. The moment, however, they step over a very clearly defined border (ie when their personal choices start to impact others who don’t have a choice in the matter- theft, violent crime, telling my children that their choices are the RIGHT choices), then I step in and step in hard.

    What I hear from way too many ‘defenders of religion’ is that I am somehow *wrong* for fighting against this very obvious step across the clearly defined border that religious people are taking more and more, the excuse is always ‘because people *need* religion’… (yea, we all have our addictions, kids…)

    Now, I could easily say that cocaine/heroin/meth users are pretty fucking stupid and completely ignorant and perhaps a media type will come here and say, ‘Hey I take cocaine every weekend and it works for me! Don’t knock it until you try it!! It’s GREAT and so am I!!!’ and then I can mention people I know personally who have had their lives almost completely destroyed by those drugs and still those people will say, ‘Well that’s rare. No one *I* know has a problem with it’ and then I can say, ‘Yep, there was a time in *my* life when I didn’t know anyone who ended up in rehab for cocaine abuse/on the streets of King’s Cross chasing the dragon/working as a ‘money collector’ for drug dealers to fuel their Meth addiction/overdosed’… ‘Well, that’s rare.’

    Yea. Admittedly, it’s only a small percentage of the people I know who’ve done drugs, but those are very, very serious SERIOUS problems and they shouldn’t be swept under the carpet and you shouldn’t think that it’s only a ‘certain type of person’ who gets into trouble… Everyone should be aware that they, too, could end up in that position if they choose to go down that path.

    Then I can point out the percentage of thefts and violent crime committed by serious drug users and how there is a seriously negative impact on the communities within which drug use is rife, ‘Yea, but no one *I* know is a serious drug user. All my friends and I can handle it… So….’

    And it can go on and on… All the while *they* think I am making judgments about people who use drugs or that I am somehow ‘anti-drug’ and want the law tightened etc.

    Can ANYONE see how it’s possible to both *accept* that people have the right to choose to do drugs AND *HATE* the very negative, damaging problems that can happen? Can anyone accept that I might not want the government to listen to drug addicts when restructuring the benefits system ‘we need more tax money set aside to pay for our crackdens’ rent’? Can anyone accept that the idea of having schools partially funded by my tax money and partially funded by a drugs cartel would be offensive to me, especially as they would only really accept the kids of cocaine users (though legally 10% of the parents take heroin, crack or meth, and there’s never any room for the kids of ‘occasional glass of wine drinkers’. And now the government is funding Khat schools?! Honestly, who’s going to send their kids there?!)? Can anyone accept that I wouldn’t want people teaching my son in HEALTH CLASS that taking methamphetamines is a really good way to lose weight?! ‘Works for me!!! *twitch**twitch*’…?

    Why exactly is it impossible to simply map this way of thinking onto religion? I don’t care what people think or believe (or do to themselves). I do care if their (entirely subjective) beliefs impact others who don’t have a choice in the matter. Simple.

  27. James says:

    ‘The more you learn about science, the more ridiculous the ‘miracles’ sound. If you are an educated and intelligent person who is also religious, you *must* delude yourself in order to remain religious.’

    And exactly why is that statement anything but a deluded belief in itself? I can understand why you may not believe in God, but why do you have such venom towards those who hold religious beliefs? Do you believe that the ills of this world would be vastly reduced if people were to suddenly stop praying/meditating?

    The trouble with atheists is that they can be as ignorant and dangerous in their beliefs as the ‘deluded’ theists they claim to counter. You only have to look at the history of the communist (totalitarian) states to see that. The problems of this world are not caused by religion, but by us humans and our ugly nature. Our nature is so ugly that we need excuses to separate ourselves from the very acts we commit. Be it marching in the name of God or (much worse in my opinion) marching under the name of democracy, armies and individuals will continue to commit atrocious acts. It is simply not fair and unrealistic to single out theists.

    To be frankly honest, your attitude towards theists is touching on racism. Presumably, as soon as you are aware of someone being a theist, you have to assume that for some reason they are deluded? In effect, I can argue, you presume upon meaning a theist that they are inferior to you, regardless of whether you know them or not. Surely you can see the flaw here? Why not focus on the good that religious individuals can bring to this world instead the bad? Where do those Christians who make efforts to feed and house the homeless lie on your scale? Feeding the homeless is not something I know heroin users to do on a regular basis.

  28. giagia says:

    James, you don’t have to be religious to feed and house homeless people. Atheists can do that, and do. Compassion for other human beings doesn’t come from God. You do, however, have to be religious in order to believe that if you blow yourself and a bunch of innocent people up, you will gain your place in Heaven.

    Yes, I do think religious people are deluding themselves. If you *don’t* think that, you must, I’m afraid *prove* the reality of God, miracles, the Virgin Birth, the existence of Heaven – if you’re Christian. And if you’re Muslim you luckily don’t have to prove the Virgin Birth, but you must prove that the Koran is the unalterable word of God.

    If you can’t prove them, yet you *still* believe in them as *fact* then you are, I’m afraid, deluding yourself.

    That isn’t a *judgement*, it’s a fact. In the same way that someone suffering from schizophrenia may genuinely, honestly, seriously *believe* that the birds in the trees around their house are taunting and threatening them with a violent attack, religious people may genuinely, honestly, seriously *believe* that there is a Sky God looking over them who intervenes and helps them out when they ask (sometimes).

    Let’s go back to the schizophrenic who is receiving messages from the birds. If you saw that person, what would you think of them? Would you feel they were inferior to you? OR would you find it incredibly sad that this person was living with the torment of their delusions? I would hope your choice is the latter.

    The difference with religious people, however, is that by all accounts and purposes they are *not* mentally ill by our current definition. They are, however, actively, purposely deluding themselves. Again, that’s sad, but I have less sympathy for *willful* ignorance, I’m afraid.

    You asking me to *only* concentrate on the *good* that comes from religion is like a drug addict asking for people to only look at the *good* that comes from drug use. It’s sweeping away the main source of, for example, crime in our society. As a religious person, you *must* accept the bad elements of religion as well. You *must* accept that they happen.

    Re: communism. The promise of Christianity and Islam (they are the biggest problems) is of everlasting existence in Heaven after death. Heaven is a perfect paradise… The promise of Communism was a Utopian society here on Earth…

    In order to attempt to create this Utopia, the Communist regimes had to take away personal freedoms, murder people who opposed them, use propaganda, fear and threats in order to control the population, portray the leaders as “perfect”… That is not a ‘Utopia’… And the way religion operates is extremely similar.

    To me a world where *everyone* can think what they want, believe what they want, make their own choices about how they live their life is as close to “perfection” as humans are capable of. For me living in a society which *only* accepts Christian ways of thinking is as terrifying as living in a society that *only* accepts Muslim ways of thinking or Communist ways of thinking.

    In order to allow a place for *everyone* we MUST structure our society in a way that allows *most* people freedom to choose how to live their life. I say, ‘most people’ because there are ways of thinking that should not be given room to flourish in a society… and one of those ways of thinking is that anyone different from you or who thinks something different from you or who does something different from you should be ‘eliminated’… And some fundamentalist Christians and Muslims believe that anyone different from themselves should be ‘eliminated’ as do some racists.

    As it is right now, as an atheist, I am a target for murder because some people believe in their delusions. Why should I accept that?

  29. James says:

    —–‘James, you don’t have to be religious to feed and house homeless people. Atheists can do that, and do. Compassion for other human beings doesn’t come from God. You do, however, have to be religious in order to believe that if you blow yourself and a bunch of innocent people up, you will gain your place in Heaven.’—–

    I think you have slightly missed interpreted my argument here. Yes atheists can and do have compassion towards others, but so do theists. Equally atheists and theists are capable of the most atrocious acts. I’m not asking you to *only* look at the good carried out by religious individuals, just suggesting that perhaps you should focus a little more on the good that theists bring to this world rather than solely writing off ALL theists as deluded drug users.

    Personally, I think phrases like ‘Muslim terrorist’ are oxymoronic. But even regardless of the academic debate on the nature of Islam, I think much of current terrorist activity can be put down to old fashioned territory wars and human exploitation. It’s understandable, for example, that the Palestinians are pissed off that half of their country was neatly transformed into ‘Israel’-do you think it matters that Palestine is a Muslim country? Your solution is apparently that if Israel was not Jewish and Palestine Muslim, the two countries would be holding hands right now? Surely also, if Jews during World War II and Muslims during the Yugoslav Wars had not been ‘deluded’ enough to hold onto their beliefs, they would not have been subject to exploitation?

    —–‘If you can’t prove them, yet you *still* believe in them as *fact* then you are, I’m afraid, deluding yourself.’—–

    How can you believe in a fact? If something is unmistakably true, i.e. a fact, then where is the need for belief? Argument to be dropped in here is the standard, ‘do you believe in the Big Bang?’ What constitutes proof and evidence here? Is comic background radiation enough? What is the difference between believe that that the Son of God visited Earth and believing the Universe began with a Big Bang and not because of God (who may have caused the Big Bang)? Where are YOUR facts and evidence? I see nothing but speculation and deductive reasoning. Yes it’s all very clever and something the human race is right to be proud off, but your lack of belief in a God is no more scientifically founded than a Christians belief are scientifically founded. The simple point is that science cannot prove or disprove the existence of a God-it is simply a matter of faith. Whether you base your moral code around the belief there is a God or whether you base your moral code around the BELIEF there isn’t a God is irrespective of science. Logically, and perhaps ironically, the scientific viewpoint is in fact surely to accept that there may be indeed be a God and leave it at that?

    My personal viewpoint is that it is an irrespective and distracting question (I identify as a Buddhist). The division between theists and atheists is not one I choose to draw in society. Yes I agree it would be wrong to not teach evolution in schools, but I see no reason why creationism should not be taught either. In fact, my old Chemistry teacher (Google ‘Nick Cowan’ he’s made a name for himself in this regard) used to delight in pointing out flaws in the scientific ‘evidence’ of evolution, something that my biology teachers were reluctant to include their classes. I think having a creationist chemistry teacher actually increased my understanding of evolution. Incidentally, evolution is something I believe in, but not the Darwinian explanation of natural selection, which is after all a Victorian idea.

    —–‘Let’s go back to the schizophrenic who is receiving messages from the birds. If you saw that person, what would you think of them? Would you feel they were inferior to you? OR would you find it incredibly sad that this person was living with the torment of their delusions? I would hope your choice is the latter.’—–

    And what about the famous ‘thud’ experiment of the 1970s which concluded (from Wikipedia), ‘“It is clear that we cannot distinguish the sane from the insane in psychiatric hospitals” and also illustrated the dangers of depersonalization and labelling in psychiatric institutions.’ Let’s say for a moment that our ‘schizophrenic’ is in court facing murder charges and is appealing on grounds of insanity? Would you still pity our schizophrenic, or would you resent them for trying to avoid their due punishment?

    And again, why focus on the negative? What if someone said a voice had come to them in a dream, which they may or may not believe to have been the result of some spiritual intervention, and had convinced me to go out and ‘do good’. Hence they ended up tending the sick and lame in Calcutta. Should we pity such an individual or be grateful that there are individuals willing to do good in this world, regardless of whether a voice told them to do it or otherwise?

    —–‘As it is right now, as an atheist, I am a target for murder because some people believe in their delusions. Why should I accept that?’——

    Yet there are how many violent attacks and murders carried out by atheist towards religious individuals each year? Why should we accept that? Religion is even the half of it. Deluded individuals will attack you for simply being an American living in Britain-heck the fact your woman opens you up for an attack. Of course you shouldn’t have to accept any of this and hence why Britain has laws and a police force. Murder is irrespective of religion so again I ask, why are you predisposed towards casting religious individuals in a negative light? Put simply what is your problem with religious faith? Why can you not accept it, why must you write it off as deluded, no better than being addicted to drugs?

    I would go as far as suggesting that religion is causing you to harbour inner demons; you are not an atheist but an anti-theist. I think if you were to change your line of thinking towards God, it would go someone of the way to making you happier as an individual.

  30. Maksim says:

    I’ve gotten a lot of crap in college about evolutionary biology but giving and helping people has evolved to make us more social animals. Just a few thousand years ago people lived in groups of only hundreds of people where everyone knew the other, thus helping someone in this group was often met with a returned favor. Evolutionary psychology shows us that you may justify an act however you like it still doesn’t hide the fact the animals strive to reproduce and nothing is done without at least a subcounscious expectation of returned help.

    My problem with religion is not that they believe something but that they are constantly attempting to undermine science in USA’s schools. Good thing I live in California, but places like Kentucky have parents wasting government resources on arguing a purely philosophical and unapplicable position that evolution is no different than religion.

    And James, if I remember correctly 50% of the USA are Christians and 50% of the prision population are Christians. 10% of the population is atheist and less than 0.1% of the prision population are atheist. It’s probably not the good book that’s responsible for their crimes but there is something statistically significant about that low percentage of actual atheists in prision.

  31. giagia says:

    James, I, like Maksim, am MOST concerned about religious people meddling in schools and with children’s minds. I’m also rather fucking pissed off with them for stopping things like stem cell research in the US, for controlling women’s bodies, for hating gays and lesbians (‘oh we don’t hate the person, we hate the act blahblahblah’), for going to war, blowing people up… Oh they might be helping out at a homeless shelter once a week, but that doesn’t stop them from voting for 100 more years in Iraq or sitting on a school board which votes to redefine what ‘science’ means so that Creationism can be taught in schools.

    As a Buddhist you should be fully aware of what the Buddha said: “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    “Agrees with reason”

    “To the good and benefit of one and all”

    The Buddha absolutely rocks. I studied Buddhism. With a monk. And though wouldn’t call myself a Buddhist, in times of great ‘suffering’ in my life, it has got me thinking clearly again. Being a Buddhist is NOT being a Theist. In Buddhism there is no Creator God. There is no soul. There is no ‘ever-lasting you’. ‘You’ are a result of your physical and mental make-up and of the influences from the world around you. That’s it. The Buddha was a Man, not a God. He doesn’t answer your prayers. Meditation isn’t ‘magic’. The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path are one of the BEST philosophical frameworks to living a ‘good’ life than anyone has ever come up with. Probably *the* best. And even the most ardent of atheists, when they actually learn what Buddhism is all about (and most of them don’t know OR have only learned about Western versions of Buddhism), will concede, at the very least, that ‘it’s the least tainted’ of religions.

    Why you, as a Buddhist, would be defending ‘Theism’ is beyond me. As I always say, ‘Buddhism is Atheism with better Art.” If you think that Buddhism needs ‘faith’, has a ‘Creator God’ or is, in any way, ‘supernatural’, then you have, perhaps, learned a Western (bastardised) version of Buddhism or probably – because of your ‘distracting’ comment- Zen which will mean you’ve not really ‘thought’ about things much as Zen isn’t about ‘thinking’.

    *sigh*, you say so many things that I want to deal with… This’ll get too long though.

    –Whether you base your moral code around the belief there is a God or whether you base your moral code around the BELIEF there isn’t a God is irrespective of science. Logically, and perhaps ironically, the scientific viewpoint is in fact surely to accept that there may be indeed be a God and leave it at that?–

    My concept of a moral code is not based on a ‘BELIEF there isn’t a God’. If you’d read what I wrote earlier, I said atheism is the ‘lack of a God belief’, not a ‘disbelief in God’. The former is logically consistent, the latter presumes the existence of God. I fully accept that a nascent ‘moral code’ came about PURELY because of EVOLUTION and a more developed moral code came about from THINKING. Read a bit more about God and Morality before you start implying that morals came from the Sky Daddy. It’s logically inconsistent.

    For the ‘scientific viewpoint’ to accept the concept of a God, that concept NEEDS to be defined. Again, if your idea of “God” is a creator being who *became* the Universe – so effectively this ‘Creator’ was Hydrogen and the Laws of Physics, then there isn’t ANYONE who would disagree with that other than your choice to use such a loaded word as ‘God’ to describe it.

    If, however, your concept of “God” involves ANY random interference in the Universe, then it does not stand up logically at all. At all at all at all.

  32. masonic boom says:

    Lots of things don’t stand up logically AT ALL AT ALL AT ALL. What you want for lunch. What shoes to wear to a party. What football team you support. Who you fall in love with.

    With all due respect to Marx, there’s some problems with that religion = drugs argument.

    It’s drawing from a quite narrow definition of “drugs.” Some manmade (and naturally occurring) drugs are very harmful in some situations. Others have absolutely turned around the quality of human life. Drug *abuse* is bad, for example – taking opiates as an addition is terrible waste. However, having major surgery without opiates would be a horrific experience. (As is going through a profoundly dark night of the soul without some kind of spiritual framework.)

    Myself, I have to take certain drugs every single day in order to maintain a normal life, and although it’ s not ideal, I thank science that they exist, because they have expanded the length and quality of my life. I would not like to get rid of the entire pharmacological and botanical catalogue because some people abuse some of them. Some people get high on the chemical ingredients in inhalants. Would you like to go through your next asthma attack without one?

    Different strokes for different folks. Some people have a glass of wine or beer with dinner every night without a problem, some people’s lives are ruined by rampant alcoholism. You find Buddhism helps with your dark nights of the soul. Some people find the prayer and ritualism of Catholicism meets the same purpose. Some people get drunk on religion and use it to justify their hatred instead of using it to de-stress and connect with their community/universe.

    We agree that no one has the right to force their beliefs on the matter onto other people. However, that doesn’t gel well with your proselytisation for atheism. You *sound* like you are on a crusade, trying to convert people to think like you do, or they’re stupid. It’s just more of the old “stuff that works for me = good, stuff that I don’t understand or agree with = bad.” I have no time for that.

    Please stop using “religious person” as a synonym for “fundamentalist Christian.” That’s as absurdly narrow (not to mention insulting) as equating *all* scientists with eugenicists who worked for the Nazis. That kind of stereotyping smacks, as James pointed out, of some kind of cultural -ism. (Elitism?) Lazy, bad generalisation weakens your arguments.

    You continue to rail on and on about this straw man of what you believe *all* religion to be based on your particular fears and inner demons. That kind of generalisation isn’t helpful to anyone. Least of all people fighting against the ignorance and greed and hatred that *is* fuelling the problems.

    It’s pointlessly divisive.

    There are FAR more pressing problems in the world than whether someone believes the universe was caused by hydrogen atoms, inflating Calabai-Yau spaces, some mythological deity with a white beard or turtles all the way down. Climate Change, unequal distribution of world resources, overpopulation, etc.

    There was more, but it was wandering off topic into Kohlberg/Piaget’s theories of moral development (what about the 50% of the world that have an IQ below 100? How are you going to reach someone with sophisticated logical arguments when they struggle with elementary maths?) so I deleted it.

    It’s not what you believe, but how you act. Believing that the world was created by a man with a fluffy beard can lead people to act as if “hey, what does it matter, god created dinosaurs, he can create more oil” and others to act as if “GOD MADE THIS BEAUTIFUL PLANET AND HEY Y’ALL ARE DISRESPECTING YR MAKER BY F*CKING IT UP!”

    I’ve, personally, seen some beautiful transformations in the *quality* of people’s lives brought about by good, enlightened religion. Some are Catholic, some are Anglican or Quaker or Buddhist or Rational Humanist, depending on their personality as much as their upbringing. So I’m not prepared to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  33. Maksim says:

    First Masonic Boom, we do know why people have exactly what they do for lunch and we know exactly what love is and why it exists. The key to understanding our behavior is to ask how would such an act have promoted succesful reproduction.

    Second Masonic Boom, religion and belief have their uses in evolution in the exact idea of helping us psychologically deal with the uncertainty of life. Religion and “faith” have a nasty tendency to affect education and science negatively. If it were just a few fundamentalists redefining the word “science” then it would be less of an issue, but when the majority of the country feels “symphatetic” or even a repsonsibility to redefine science; that’s when you have a real problem. Another issue I have found in my interactions is the overall sciencetific iliteracy among the “believers”, even those who don’t believe in a speicifc God but have a “feeling” that there is something God-like out there (in my philosophy class 90% of the students had no idea that an LHC was being built). And don’t forget about how business take sadavantage of this by saying their sports drinks have electrolytes or that shampoos have some unknown kiwi vitamin that rejuvinates your hair.

  34. giagia says:

    “There are FAR more pressing problems in the world than whether someone believes the universe was caused by hydrogen atoms, inflating Calabai-Yau spaces, some mythological deity with a white beard or turtles all the way down. Climate Change, unequal distribution of world resources, overpopulation, etc.”

    Yep, and I would argue that a disbelief in science, a mistrust of ‘intelligence’ and the idea that the highest authority on any matter is some made-up guy floating around somewhere and a book that he either inspired or wrote is the MAIN reason those and many, many other problems exist.

  35. Chad Myers says:

    And for all everyone’s hand-wringing and blaming religion for all the world’s problems, right now the only people out in the most remote areas of Africa and the poorest, most afflicted places in India and S.E. Asia and China setting up schoolhouses and trying to feed people and teach them about hygiene and water source safety are the Catholics. Protestant Missionaries are helping a lot, too. In many places in the world, the only people having soup kitchens and trying to provide a roof over the heads and beds under the bodies of the poorest poor homeless is the Catholic Church.

    I don’t see a lot of Atheist soup kitchens in NYC or anywhere, for that matter. I’m not saying that atheists don’t care, I’m just saying that they don’t have the thousands of years history of dedication to addressing the needs of the poor.

    So you can blame the “made-up guy floating around” for a lot of problems and say that things would be better if he didn’t exist, but then who would be building schools in Tanzania? When the cyclones hit Myanmar and the dictatorship wouldn’t let in any foreign assistance, who would’ve been there already there to treat thousands of victims and provide shelter and food for countless more? When governments collapse in Africa and people are left to total chaos and mayhem, to where would the women and children flea when their husbands and fathers are murdered?

    Today, the Catholic church and pretty much no one else does these things. Would atheists organize and provide these services? History points to ‘no’. They would throw more millions of dollars at a bureaucracy which would graft 80% of it and spend the 20% on programs that have no effect and don’t relieve the plight of the suffering.

    I’ve been following these horribly ignorant and offense posts about ‘drug users’ and other such hateful and dangerous ignorant statements and said nothing, but I can no longer stand by as you people persist in your total lack of understanding of how the real world works.

    For all your hand-wringing and pontificating and theorizing about stuff you can’t possibly understand, people are suffering, starving, bleeding, and freezing and you’re lauded super intelligent group of free-thinkers are doing nothing to help them except trying to take away the only thing they can count on in this world: God and The Church.

  36. Maksim says:

    No one is saying religion does not have a means and a desire to spend vast resources, instead I am talking about those who do not use it to better the world but to hinder scientific progress that ultimatley provides a more effective and affordable means of supplying aid. Stopping stem cell research because it’s against God’s destroy’s the only hopes of millions of people. Stopping abortions forces children to be bron into broken homes that leads to increased crime rates. Stopping real science education in schools prevents people from studying science to one day fix the very problem the religious groups are trying to solve.

    Just becasue the religous groups are the only ones there does not mean there are not hundreds of thousands of scientists, engineers, lawyers, politicians, and others working on a cure or a cheap laptop so that every child can have thousands of text books rather than sahre a few.

    You can keep providing aid to countries in hopes of saving a fraction of the people, but you NEED to focus on a global solution and the only one this world has come up with is scientific advancment. When you can provide third world countries access to the same education and technology the rest of the world can then you see vast imporvments in the education and quality of life.

  37. bruce says:

    Well you guys have covered so much territory here that it is difficult to narrow down on some of the points raised. And I have to say, in comparison to other sites dealing with these issues, the discussion has been both courteous and cerebral. (Who is this Gia person who needs to use naughty words?).
    From my perspective, I think that we all entertain supernatural beliefs to some extent even though we may not be aware that we do. This is why one of the reasons that religions are so powerful and universal is that they resonate with human inclinations that there is “something more” as William James put it.
    The stories and characters change from one account to the next but they all need supernatural elements. It is this sense that there is something beyond our natural understanding that provides the bedrock of all religions (and in my opinion belief in the paranormal). This is why they are profound rather than mundane. I think humans need a collective sense of the profound to create the notion of sacred values. Its these sacred values that hold a collective together. So religions (or cults or sects) will keep re-emerging in my humble opinion so long as we remain a social animal.
    Still interesting read.
    bruce

  38. James says:

    —–‘Why you, as a Buddhist, would be defending ‘Theism’ is beyond me. As I always say, ‘Buddhism is Atheism with better Art.” If you think that Buddhism needs ‘faith’, has a ‘Creator God’ or is, in any way, ’supernatural’, then you have, perhaps, learned a Western (bastardised) version of Buddhism or probably – because of your ‘distracting’ comment- Zen which will mean you’ve not really ‘thought’ about things much as Zen isn’t about ‘thinking’.’——

    Again, you have misinterpreted my argument. I am not defending theism, per say, merely pointing out that your view of theism is very one-sided. Many, many Christians abhor the Iraq, many Christians believe in evolution. Why mention only those who don’t believe in evolution and who support the war Iraq? (Can a true Christian ever support a war?)

    When you talk about theists there is a definite bias in what you say. I’m therefore also guessing that when you meet theists, you don’t meet them with an open mind. Now I’m sure you ‘d agree that is something that does not really bode well with Buddhism, which is why I brought it up on the first place-so you could better understand where I am coming from. Theism, or just the concept of a God, is something which clearly bothers you. You have gone out of your way to assure yourself of your atheism and, equally it seems, you have gone out your way to assure yourself that theists are people to be pitied-certainly not people to trust at least.

    Why do you feel the need to compare all theists to drug users? ‘Ah’ you say ‘because like drug users, theists need a God. They need their weekly fix; they have deluded themselves to the point of being dependent on something that doesn’t exist. Not only is their “addiction” dangerous to themselves, but worse, like drug users their selfish habit is having negative effects on wider society. This is evident in the way creationism is being given an equal footing in schools as evolution and in the way stem cell research is being kept down by the religious right.’

    I am simply suggesting to do you that if you go round with this belief in your head that all theists are selfish, deluded and trying to force their beliefs on you, you a) causing yourself unnecessary stress and b) being unfair to theists. Theists do not ‘need’ their God even if they do choose to believe in one. Now I’m not denying that believing in a God also brings a sense of happiness and peace which some people crave. As a Buddhist, this is something I disagree with. To even care for an afterlife let alone crave one is detrimental However here again, just because a theist believes in a God does not mean they also believe in, let alone seek, an afterlife. Forgot not as well, those who believe in God do not look to God to make them happy but in fact look for ways they can make their God happy and share the joy to which he has brought to their lives.

    Hopefully you see I am not defending theism, however I think I will take the chance to defend my Buddhism and my beliefs. You suggest that to associate theism with Buddhism is to accept a bastardised western view of Buddhism. On what do you base that? If you look at the Far East, Buddhism is very much tied up with ideas of spirituality, faith and ‘the soul’. I would suggest it has much more to do with Hinduism than atheism. In fact, there are those who believe the Buddha could manipulate the very fabric of the world around him as he had become so in tune with nature. Hence there are inevitably stories of him walking through walls and so on. Doesn’t mean of course that the Buddha didn’t exist and it doesn’t mean I have to believe those stories to believe in his messages.

    Who knows, maybe the miracles of Jesus were exaggerated by a loving and adoring public-Chinese whispers gone mad? Does that lessen Jesus message of compassion? Just think about it as a logical atheist for a moment. Do you think their could be any truth behind the gospels? Why else would such stories come about unless their was at least a kernel of truth somewhere? Do you not think it amazing that 2000 years ago there was a man who martyred himself so that his messages of love and peace would echo throughout the centuries I might even say I love Jesus for what he did. Does that make me a Christian, I do not know. But I do know that I certainly see no harm in people singing his praise every Sunday. Many Christians do forget forget the message of Christ and hence support wars or unduly impose their beliefs on others, yes. However, for me personally, the true Christian message of love and compassion is one to be celebrated. Christians are my friends.

    But none of this matters of course. Unlike other religions, there are no ‘laws’ except perhaps those that suggest we should seek to enlighten ourselves and understand the outcomes of our thoughts and actions. You say that true Buddhism is paramount to atheism, and who am I to argue? Although my response would be that questioning the existence of a God is an irrelevant concern. There are many Buddhists who DO in fact believe in God as there are many who don’t. So what? We disagree, but I think that to not believe in a God is a choice just as much as believing in God is. Agnosticism is perhaps the only true ‘non choice’ as to define yourself as an agnostic is to say you have no opinion. I personally used to take a pantheist view point and believe that the universe itself was alive, or as you suggest, it may even be a God. Now I’m not so sure. My philosophy is now quite simple to be honest. Consciousness (whatever that may be) and then life (whatever that may be) are by far the two most important “things” in this universe to uphold. It is hence why I am vegan and hence why I aim to be compassionate towards humans. Although truth be told, it seems like 90% of the people I know seek to piss me off or something. Maybe it’s something to do with living in Britain?

  39. giagia says:

    Bruce said: -“Who is this Gia person who needs to use naughty words?”-

    Me. Gotta a problem with it? ;)

    I 100% agree that we all have a propensity towards supernatural ways of thinking. We ‘wish’ that we are successful at job interviews, we send ‘good vibes’ to friends who are going into hospital, as we saw a lot in the Olympics, sportspeople have little superstitious rituals they do before competing…

    That is *very* different from creating or passing legislation based on those superstitions. And this is what I am most concerned about. As I’ve said countless times, I don’t care what someone believes, I do care, however, when they want to force their beliefs on others.

    The fact that religions, cults and sects will continue to exist does not mean that the decisions our governments make should be based on their beliefs just because they shout louder. Scientology is pretty well organised (and rich) should we, as a society, listen to *them*? If not, why not? Because what they believe isn’t *real*? Really? To me it’s as ‘real’ as Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Mormonism… Scientology is real to *them*. It’s believable to *them*. “But it’s so illogical!!” Yea and so is choosing your lunch, falling in love (to paraphrase an argument against me!)…

    If we structure our society on the beliefs of ONE religious group, then we *either* become a theocracy based on that one religion OR we have to accept the beliefs of ALL religions (because we’re so groovy and liberal)… OR we don’t take religious beliefs into consideration within our legislation at all.

    At what point do we stop taking people’s *beliefs* into consideration when legislating or educating? Creationism? Christianity? Just Abrahamic religions? Vegetarianism? Homeopathy? Astrology? UFO abductions? Ritual murder? Raping virgins to cure AIDS?

    Where does completely “normal” belief in weird stuff end and plain old weird stuff begin? Can someone honestly tell me that AND allow a place within our society for everyone (and their whacky beliefs) to exist? Well, of course, except for the ritual murderers or the people who believe that raping a child will cure them from AIDS and stuff like that (but why SHOULDN’T they believe that?! Cos it’s not *real*?! Cos there’s no *proof* that it works?! According to what I’m hearing here, ‘belief’ in something seems to be enough to make it acceptable… and asking for *proof* of some supernatural belief is seen as ‘rude’… Hell, has anyone done any research, maybe there’s a placebo effect… If it works for them…)

    I’d also like to point out this study which sought to find out if there were any correlations between ‘religious belief’ and ‘education’. For a quick idea have a look at these tables: 1. Fundamentalism compared to highest degree earned; 2. Interpretation of the Bible compared to highest degree earned.

    Note that the better educated someone is, the less ‘extreme’ their beliefs. If we think that we shouldn’t bother fighting against creeping religion within schools (cos, you know, it’s just so *mean* blahblahblah), then fundamentalist beliefs WILL rise. None of us here want that.

  40. bruce says:

    Gia, of course I knew you had the potty-mouth!

    we both agree supernatural beliefs are prevalent and universal. It’s getting people to abandon such beliefs that is the hard thing. Dawkins applied the “where’s the evidence” approach but as we have seen believers simply apply the logical impossibility retort, “prove me wrong” which of course you can’t. Hence teapots, spaghetti monsters etc.

    All very well but not going to change believers. So that’s why the separation of state and religion is so important in a democracy as you advocate… however in practice as we all know….Correct me if I am wrong here, we still have to wait to see openly atheist leaders in a western democracy. Hopefully it will come before they veto too much important scientific research.

    Interesting study but I am always wary of internet questionnaires as they suffer from a lot of selection bias. Also I am not sure that it is only knowledge and learning that is having the main effect in higher education. It seems perfectly reasonable that the more time individuals spend mixed with others of different beliefs, the less radical they should become. And where better than university. Its when groups feel threatened that they become radicalized by those willing to lead them.

    Henry Tajfel, the famous social psychologist from Bristol, called this the tension between “in-group” and “out-groups” or us and them in common terms. These are the tensions that are always going to exist between competing groups and religion provides a convenient peg on which to hang one’s loyalties. The supernatural side of religion simply makes it more special.

    Anyway, thanks for a fucking great blog

    (oops that slipped out….sorry…. felt the need to lower the tone!)

    b.

  41. giagia says:

    This was just sent to me via email with the subject header “Why real scientists are atheist”:

    Christianity:
    The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

  42. giagia says:

    James, I’m not sure about atheist leaders to be honest. Half of me thinks that politician’s beliefs should remain completely private, the other half of me (after Tony Blair) thinks that one should be forced to declare ones religious affiliation along with ones income etc when running for office.

    France, of course, has for years been fiercely secular (ignoring the current leader who’s brought religion back into the discussion) and the results of a recent poll shows that it *is* possible to change a culture’s attitude towards religion… of course, it takes time… but more importantly it takes clear thought AND leaders who aren’t wimpy and cave into the demands of everyone with a ‘strong belief’.

  43. Note that the better educated someone is, the less ‘extreme’ their beliefs. If we think that we shouldn’t bother fighting against creeping religion within schools (cos, you know, it’s just so *mean* blahblahblah), then fundamentalist beliefs WILL rise. None of us here want that.

    *******

    Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, but I could not agree with you less. The comment you make is, in fact breathtaking.

    The very suggestion that someone who is sold out in a faith is, for want of a better word, ‘thick’ is a rather crass, uneducated and completely unqualified thing to say.

    I’m a 100% sold out evangelical Christian, as are my Consultant Surgeon, Barrister and other professional friends.

    You could suggest that I’m radical or fundamental because I believe the Bible. Stupid? A very odd, general and rather misplaced comment.

    Without wishing to use a hammer to crack a nut:

    Paul Nicholls LLB, F.Inst.L.Ex, GDip(Law), ACIArb, Qualified commerical Mediator, Commissioner for Oaths.

    ….and wasn’t Jesus a carpenter?!? Astonishing that someone so uneducated sets the Western calendar, and has done for a few millenia. I’d love to project myself a hundred years ahead and see if Richard Dawkins has made the same impact. I need comment no further, we all know the answer.

    We can all have our little soap box and place our comments on a small blog on a tiny fraction of the internet, but lets be a little sensible eh?

    I’m not entirely sure that Mother Theresa relied on a doctorate to show compassion and make a noticeable difference in the World.

    Perhaps you could qualify your reference to those with conviction & beliefs that are considered radical are generally uneducated.

  44. James says:

    Bruce Said:

    —–‘we both agree supernatural beliefs are prevalent and universal. It’s getting people to abandon such beliefs that is the hard thing. Dawkins applied the “where’s the evidence” approach but as we have seen believers simply apply the logical impossibility retort, “prove me wrong” which of course you can’t. Hence teapots, spaghetti monsters etc.’—–

    That’s wrong on two counts. First of all, if there was any evidence then there wouldn’t be any need for belief, which is a simply retarded thing by Dawkins to say. Incidentally here, can Dawkins *prove* evolution? Of course he can’t, no one can. Hence why there are umpteen different *theories* on evolution. Of course Dawkins ignores this and larks on about the ‘survival of the fittest’ theory like every evolutionist agrees with him. Personally, I think Dawkins is an overrated boon to the world of biology, but what can I do about it? Second of all, religious persons do not say ‘prove me wrong’, they say ‘what is wrong with the ethical practices that my religion teaches me. Questions of origin are irrelevant to this life and my faith, heck I even believe in the big bang, evolution etc.’

    Which brings me on to your next quote:

    ——‘All very well but not going to change believers. So that’s why the separation of state and religion is so important in a democracy as you advocate… however in practice as we all know….Correct me if I am wrong here, we still have to wait to see openly atheist leaders in a western democracy. Hopefully it will come before they veto too much important scientific research.’—–

    You suggest separating the state from religion like that some how provides a magical fix; your forgetting human nature. As I’ve already pointed out to Gia (who wrote interesting reply to me), the first countries to historically separate religion from the state have been the communist states. Of course, the human rights records of the communist states is atrocious. Religion was removed and it was replaced with a new set of ideals and new banner under which to walk and under which humans find excuses for the most evil acts. In fact I would suggest that even within it’s limited history of governing countries, atheism has a lot more to answer for than religion.

    Gia Said:

    —–‘As I’ve said countless times, I don’t care what someone believes, I do care, however, when they want to force their beliefs on others.’—–

    Which works two ways of course. Now don’t get me wrong, I think the large hadron collider is a brilliant thing but, for example, there are those who consider it a waste of money and who genuinely believe that it should not have been built (just focussing in on the money issues for a moment). So by supporting the building the thing, aren’t you helping to force your beliefs on society Gia?

    The truth is, it’s impossible to not be exposed to, or not have our children exposed to, ideas, beliefs etc. that we may not agree with. The truth is balance. So it’s right that Muslims should be allowed to build mosques in this country and it’s also right that the LHC exists. But as you point out:

    —–‘At what point do we stop taking people’s *beliefs* into consideration when legislating or educating? Creationism? Christianity? Just Abrahamic religions? Vegetarianism? Homeopathy? Astrology? UFO abductions? Ritual murder? Raping virgins to cure AIDS?’—–

    I think the reverse of your question is more interesting actually. Is right that *everyone* has to pay for Britain’s nuclear stockpile when an awful lot of people disagree with it? Why should state defence be an everyone in affair whilst vegetarians and other belief groups have had to fight at every point for the smallest of recognitions? (Hmm, vegetarianism and nuclear weapons in the same paragraph. Perhaps a little too ‘groovy’ – sorry!)

    —–‘James, I’m not sure about atheist leaders to be honest. Half of me thinks that politician’s beliefs should remain completely private, the other half of me (after Tony Blair) thinks that one should be forced to declare ones religious affiliation along with ones income etc when running for office.’—–

    Aha! We agree on something at last, I think? Are you saying you don’t mind politicians holding religious beliefs then? If politicians were forced to admit they believed in a God, do you think that would make you less likely to trust them?

    Oh and finally:

    —–‘I’d also like to point out this study which sought to find out if there were any correlations between ‘religious belief’ and ‘education’….Note that the better educated someone is, the less ‘extreme’ their beliefs.’—-

    Iinteresting study here that links vegetarianism with a higher IQ and a better education. Though for some reason people who eat chicken and fish were included as vegetarian????? Anyway, do you count vegetarianism as a ‘religious belief’? If not, why not?

  45. James says:

    [Ahhh…I see I can use HTML Code in my replies. Handy]

  46. James says:

    [Oh ok…maybe not. It is just HTML links that work then?]

  47. James says:

    —-‘We can all have our little soap box and place our comments on a small blog on a tiny fraction of the internet, but lets be a little sensible eh?’—–

    Says the guy writing in a comment box on Gias blog? That’s not really fair now is it. Gias blog is well put together and pretty popular actually. I would imagine it’s reached at least several thousand people by now.

    Oh and it’s a little, I don’t know, ‘vulgar’ to list the professional qualifications of your friends. I suspect a good 25-50%+ of people who read this site are professionals in some capacity or other. However, I do agree with everything else you said:

    —–‘I’m not entirely sure that Mother Theresa relied on a doctorate to show compassion and make a noticeable difference in the World.’—–

    My line of thinking really. Theists presumably aspire to different goals in life, in which education may or not may play part. I know my girlfriend’s sister was a little torn between continuing as a school teacher or pursuing a position within her Jehovah’s Witness church.

  48. James, I’m subscribed to Gia’s blog – and have been for some time. I think you may have misunderstood my line of thought, either that or you try to move the spotlight away from the real meaning of my thoughts. I’m not demeaning Gia’s blog, far from it, but I’m sure you know that.

    Anyway, lets move out of the cul-de-sac and talk turkey.

    Comments on internet blogs are all very well, but there are plenty of people MUCH more qualified than you, me or anyone posting here who could provide much more insight from both sides of the fence. I hope to God that people who read these comments are not stupid enough to think we’re providing the answers to life’s great mysteries.

    The study of Theology has challenged the great and good at Oxford and Cambridge for many, many years. Richard of Chichester (mid thirtheenth century) who reached the pinnacle of theological academia at both Cambridge and Oxford makes Dawkins and all contributors here look positively stupid in academic terms.

    Yet, look at the life that ROC had. An academic who was paupered by the church had a real love for people. He didn’t crow about it, didn’t preach hell fire and damnation, he got amongst the people and made a difference in practical terms. That’s where the rubber hits the road. Debate is merely hot air and makes no positive practical difference.

    Fundamentalism doesn’t mean the tabloid picture of dynamite in a Haversack, it can and indeed does mean the devotion of a life to others. I can picture dozens of these ordinary, hardworking folks who do just that and seek absolutely no limelight.

    The church I attend reaches out into the community, assists those with nothing, feeds, clothes and houses the unwanted, runs a programme for teen addicts, supports an AIDS orphanage in South Africa, counsels teens and single mums and does it all for nothing. To wave one’s hand and pass these people off as stupid is arrogance beyond belief. I’m one of those people and I love seeing three dimensional christianity work.

    It saddens me to hear people who have absolutely no idea at all about what real christianity means in positive terms theorise. Spend a week or two with a church that has a social programme, then comment.

    Bring your Richard Dawkins Books and theories on the soup bus in Central Birmingham, or to the re-housing programme, or make a difference and read Acts Chapter 2 to see how YOU can make a difference.

    Talk / debate is cheap. Attempt to live the life, get amongst the people who make a difference, then comment.

  49. giagia says:

    I will try and answer some stuff tomorrow afternoon- but I’ve got an audition tomorrow and need to spend time memorising stuff… Until then here are a few things you need to understand:

    *I have a relative who once sent me a link to the ‘Sounds of Hell’ (you know, the story about drillers in Siberia finding Hell in the Earth and putting a microphone down the hole to record the screams? Google it) and she said she was terrified because she believed it was true.
    *I have at least one relative who had forbidden their child/ren from speaking to me because I am an atheist.
    *At LEAST two relatives who don’t believe in Evolution. (I suspect the actual number is a lot higher)
    *At least one relative who thinks my grandmother went to Hell because she stopped being Catholic and believing in Jesus before she died.
    *At least one relative who prays for me daily to be saved.
    *A whole section of my extended family who won’t speak to me because I’m a ‘liberal atheist’.
    *Probably there are several others who are ‘nice’ to me, but are terrified that I’ve been taken over by Satan who’s dragged me away from God.

    I could go on.

    So, you know, it’s not like I sit here in an Ivory Tower with no understanding of what ‘real religious people are like’. These are members of my family, people I grew up with, people who used to be far less ‘extreme’, people who have provided me with TONS of brilliant childhood memories who now effectively hate me (oh no, of course, they don’t ‘hate’, they are Christians after all, but it doesn’t ‘feel’ like love to me…)

    I could also give some example of relatives of mine doing things in the name of their religion that I’m 100% positive EVERYONE here would find absolutely abhorrent… but, well, too many of my relatives read my blog and some of them mightn’t know the details (even the things above are fairly vague so as to not pinpoint anyone in particular and I’ve left out TONS of things that would pinpoint people…). One day if we meet in person offline, ask me.

    (Of course, if there is anyone reading this from my family who *would* like to give some examples, feel free…:-/)

  50. James says:

    —–‘The church I attend reaches out into the community, assists those with nothing, feeds, clothes and houses the unwanted, runs a programme for teen addicts, supports an AIDS orphanage in South Africa, counsels teens and single mums and does it all for nothing. To wave one’s hand and pass these people off as stupid is arrogance beyond belief. I’m one of those people and I love seeing three dimensional christianity work.’—–

    Hey! That’s what I’ve been saying, stop copying! But Gia wondered why I was defending theists if I wasn’t a theist myself (I’m a Buddhist)… *looks down at the ground, saddened, defeated*

    However, I do disagree that any one person can be somehow ‘more qualified’ to discuss matters of theology. Being an Oxford of Cambridge graduate (that old chestnut), or having a textbook knowledge of medieval literature doesn’t really add to anything. As you say, Jesus was a carpenter (the Buddha was a prince).

    In the end, it all boils down to opinions and what someone is willing to believe. Reading literature in particular is dependent upon initial beliefs. The bible has no meaning to those who do not believe in its stories from the offset, no matter how many times someone may read it.

    Hence, I ask you, what is ‘real’ Christianity? What makes you or anyone else a ‘fundamentalist’? Is it because you take the bible more literally than others? After all, the bible is open to interpretation surely?

    As a Buddhist, I believe that literature and discourse only act as sign posts on the long journey that is my spirituality. People may help guide me, but the journey is my own. I have to develop my own moral ethics and standard of living.

    I’d suggest to you that as a Christian, you also have also a personal journey to undertake, the journey shared only by your God and you. I believe literature and ‘qualifications’ are somewhat irrelevant to that task.

  51. James says:

    Good luck with the audition Gia! I’ve got precisely eight and a half hours to get a project write up finished so I shouldn’t be on here either really. But it’s too interesting a debate!

    Hmm, I think I can begin to see now why you have, what I would call, an irrational disdain towards theists. Well maybe it’s not irrational given your personal history…

  52. giagia says:

    Paul-

    If you look at the tables I linked to, there is a very clear correlation between higher education and less fundamentalism. This doesn’t mean that *you* and your friends *aren’t* educated and ‘fundamentalist’, it means that you are, amongst people educated to the same degree as you are, more rare.

    To disagree with it is like me disagreeing to the statement ‘Only 10% of Americans have a passport and have traveled outside of their country.’ Well, every American *I* know has traveled outside the US, so that blows that out of the water!!!… Clearly, I just don’t know anyone in the other 90% of the population…

    I think you disagreed with something else I linked to a while ago on Twitter, yet it was clear to me you didn’t understand what it was saying. There was a study which found that people who considered themselves to be unhappy were more likely to believe in the supernatural, God or be religious (I don’t have time to look for the study again!)… You said something like, ‘I’m religious and I’m happy, so that blows that out of the water!’ Except the study wasn’t ‘religious people are more likely to be unhappy’ it was ‘unhappy people are more likely to be religious’.

    There’s a difference.

  53. Alex says:

    I got here a bit late…

    …but I would like to add one more book to the reading list.

    The Bible.

    Really. If you read it, you will realize how ridiculous it really is.

    Here is a short list of things you will find:

    God orders his chosen people to murder of children and commit genocide. God sends the angels to kill “first borns.” Animals talk. Plants fucken talk. All living things (in pairs) fit on ONE FUCKEN BOAT. Adam and Eve (only two humans) have children and they go off and find WIVES (where did they come from?). God becomes jealous of Man and forces man to fight eachother (see destruction of Tower of Babel). God orders his follower to MURDER HIS SON in a HUMAN SACRIFICE to prove his belief. You are not allowed to eat pork or shrimp. You are not allowed to fuck before you get married. You are not allowed to get divorced (yeah, that’s right…there are no divorces in the eyes of God). Masturbation is a deadly sin – but only if you “spill your seed.” So I guess your girlfriend or boyfriend better swallow. Wives are to obey their husbands (I kind of like this one). Parents are allowed to kill their kids – and even sell them as sex slaves if situation calls for it. Idol worship is not allowed – so you better remove all those crosses hanging on your walls and those you wear. Earth is the center of the Universe. Humans are copies of the divine. We were all damned except the Jews (the chosen people). Money is bad – so we should all be socialists (do you hear that you capitalist pigs?). Charging interest is a sin (do you hear that you capitalist…oh I already said that).

    Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings will seem more probable.

    Of course you have to read ALL the versions of the Bible. Read the Mormon one too.

  54. and have you read the Bible Alex?

    A good version is ‘The Message’ It’s written in contemporary language, I love it.

  55. Alex says:

    Few more things you will find (or not find) in the Bible…and how you are all fucked.

    There is no devil.
    There is no hell.
    There is no purgatory.
    There ARE demons – and they can take over your body.
    Men are not allowed to shave.
    If you accept Jesus as your savior, you will join God when you die. But if Jesus was not the true Messiah, then you should have waited (like the Jews)…and worshiping the false Messiah means you are going to “hell.” But since there is no “hell” I guess you won’t be joining God.
    If the later of the above is the “truth” and if you were not born a Jew, you are pretty much fucked – you are going to “hell.” Because you were not “chosen” as one of the “people” God wants to keep the true faith. I guess you are here on Earth as an extra (non-speaking role…or to you gamers, you are a NPC).
    But, if you were born a Jew and Jesus was the true Messiah, then you are fucked if you do not convert to Christianity.
    Oh and if you were born in some butt-fuck country in the middle of nowhere and was not “told” of the “truth” well then you can find a cure for cancer and AIDS, but you are still going to “hell.” So you are fucked.

    Whatever rules you live by – rules and laws of Man – if they contradict God’s laws you should not obey.

    Except, governments (and Kings) are ordained by God to rule…so you should obey them as God’s will. So don’t disagree with the government.

    Uh…so if there are contradictions, you are fucked.

    Confused yet? So is the Church and all those who study the faith(s). And they study the ENTIRE scripture – not just the Reader’s Digest versions we all have access to. So even if you have read the condensed Reader’s Digest version of the bible they hand out in hotel rooms, you don’t know shit and so your understanding of God is incomplete. So you are probably living your life breaking God’s laws…so you are fucked.

    Conclusion…no matter what you do or not do, you are probably fucked and going to “hell” that does not exist.

  56. Alex says:

    To Paul:

    Yes, I have read the bible. That is why I am no longer a Christian.

    It probably helped that I studied Physics, Chemistry, Biology/Biochemistry, Physiology, History, Anthropology, and other “ologies” in my time.

  57. Alex says:

    What really annoys the hell out of me about people who claim to be ‘religious’ is that they are not fully committed to their ‘faith.’ They only have one foot in the door. They pick and choose only those portions of the ‘faith’ that conveniently fit their lives, and ignore the rest.

    They sign up to designate themselves as a part of a group so they feel better about themselves over the “others” but they do not completely embrace the ‘faith’ as required.

    You show me one atheist who is not religious, then I shall show you two religious people who are not religious.

  58. I’m obviously not as clever as you Alex as I haven’t studied many ‘oligies’. I am thinkin about a Masters in Theology as it happens!

    I love reading the Bible and find that I draw lots of strength from it (as do millions of people around the world and millions over the ast two millenia). I’ve been reading it for nearly thirty years now and have a real thirst for it.

    Your post demonstrates a real anger and vitriol to Christianity. Christianity has teased out the quality in me to be compassionate to others. So, a burning hatred to a faith, or a true compassion to people. Hmmm, I know which one I choose. Bitterness eats away at you and isn’t good for the body, let alone the soul.

    I do often smile to myself when I see such vitriol to Christianity. It obviously matters to you. I hate prawns as I’m allergic to shellfish. They make me throw up and bring me out in hives. I cannot bear the smell of mackerel, it makes me heave. Even the sight of prawns or mackerel make me throw. Yet I have no burning desire to write books on the dangers of shellfish, or seek to demonise prawn eaters. The truth is, I don’t really care much about prawns / mackerel and stay away.

    Whilst I cannot understand cannibals or paedophiles, I have no desire to line them up and shoot them, or write scripts on why these people are allowed to exist. I just move on.

    To hate something means that you have an emotion towards it. I really hope that God is under your skin and that you continue to think about Him. The best form of evangelism is probably the discussion of atheism! This is great, keep it coming!

    ;-)

  59. Alex says:

    I do not mind Jesus or Christianity. To me they are fiction…like Scientology or Mormons or Buddism. It is the (purported) Christians that I do not like. Or those who read the King James version and think that is all you need to be in God’s grace.

    And since you bring it up, to me, pork is divine. So tasty. I love shrimp and mackerel (especially raw). I love octopus and squid. I love exploring my senses…all of them. And so many religions teach that if it feels good, it’s a sin. Well, fuck that. If it feels good, then it IS good.

    I am not only picking on Christianity…I think other religions are pretty much fucked up too. Buddhism – which is becoming more popular these days in the Western cultures – has its own fucked up answers to Life, Universe, and everything. So does Isam.

    The point is, you go believe whatever you want to. Just leave the rest of us alone. Stop shoving your engorged sense of righteousness down my throat. There is no God. God is an invention Man created to make Man feel better about himself (not herself because women don’t matter – in most religions women are chattle). So I am happy that reading the bible for 30+ years makes you feel “better” about yourself. Personally, I like to read Foxtrot or Dilbert when I need a good laugh.

  60. Alex says:

    To Chad Myers:

    “…the only people having soup kitchens and trying to provide a roof over the heads and beds under the bodies of the poorest poor homeless is the Catholic Church.”

    – While the Pope lives like an Emperor in a city-state being served like a “god.” Don’t even try to preach that the Catholic Church helps the poor. What little charity they do is insignificant to their wealth.

    “I don’t see a lot of Atheist soup kitchens in NYC or anywhere, for that matter. I’m not saying that atheists don’t care, I’m just saying that they don’t have the thousands of years history of dedication to addressing the needs of the poor.”

    – Atheists who are Scientists are doing all the work. If we had priests, monks, and nuns to rely on, we would all be riding cows to work. We would not have such advancements in technology, medicine, and the understanding of the Universe as we do today if we did not set aside what was being taught by the Church and decided to figure it out ab initio. So yeah, the Church serves soup. We give you airplanes, cars, bullet trains, electricity, indoor plumbing, and soon, bio-engineered sharks with lasers on their head (for one million dollars!).

    “…if [God] didn’t exist, but then who would be building schools in Tanzania?”

    – Uh…Tanzanians? What gave the Catholic Church dominion over education in Tanzania? Building schools to teach the bible is like building hospitals for faith healers. Useless.

    “…Would atheists organize and provide these services? History points to ‘no’.”

    – So the Catholic Church invented charity and schools? OK, you need to go study Ancient Civilizations 101. Human civilization started way WAY before Christianity. Greeks, Romans, and Chinese civilizations…really go look them up.

    “They would throw more millions of dollars at a bureaucracy which would graft 80% of it and spend the 20% on programs that have no effect and don’t relieve the plight of the suffering.”

    – That’s right, the Catholic Church does that already…you ARE talking about the Church right? I mean, just look at how the Pope lives! He is da playa, boy!

    “I’ve been following these horribly ignorant and offense posts about ‘drug users’ and other such hateful and dangerous ignorant statements and said nothing, but I can no longer stand by as you people persist in your total lack of understanding of how the real world works.”

    – And thank you for adding your total lack of understanding of how the real world works to the mix. You have just lowered the intelligence quotient of this blog by 50.

    “For all your hand-wringing and pontificating and theorizing about stuff you can’t possibly understand, people are suffering, starving, bleeding, and freezing and you’re lauded super intelligent group of free-thinkers are doing nothing to help them except trying to take away the only thing they can count on in this world: God and The Church.”

    – Damn right…the Pope should put together an armed force and start invading nations and force people to … I mean SAVE them. Oh wait…the Pope already tried that once…twice…err…many times. That brought us the Dark Ages and the Black Plague. I am truly amazed at the vacuous nature of your knowledge.

  61. Alex says:

    More for Chad:

    “Europe’s dominance in scientific endeavors after the middle ages are due in a large part (through funding, encouragement, and special favors by various Popes) to the Catholic Church.”

    – Are you fucken serious???

    Europe’s understanding of science, medicine, and mathematics came from the middle east during and after the Christian invasions. The crusaders brought back knowledge that formed the foundation of EVERYTHING of worth from the Islamic nations. Before, Europe was a vast wasteland of ignorance and superstition.
    Really…stop and start reading some books – I mean real books, the ones without pictures. Sir, you are an idiot.

  62. Alex,

    Perhaps you could join me on a prison visit and explain your theory to a paedophile, rapist and burglar that if it feels good, is it good.

    I eat pork too… I’m not a practising muslim or jew. Your wandering of topic and continual spewing of hatred is something I’ve commented on above.

    I don’t need to remind you that this is a post on Atheist reading.

    As for my engorged sense of righteousness…. if you mean spending time helping the homeless, supporting an AIDS orphanage and social welfare programme, then thank God for Christians.

    I feel terribly sorry for your bitterness. God can sometimes only speak to those who are broken. Sadly it sounds as though you’re on that path, despite your ‘oligies’.

    It’s pretty much pointless chatting to you any further. Speaking with you is somewhat reminiscent of the Monty Python argument sketch.

    God Bless anyway,

    Paul

  63. Alex says:

    “As for my engorged sense of righteousness…. if you mean spending time helping the homeless, supporting an AIDS orphanage and social welfare programme, then thank God for Christians.”

    – There is your self-righteousness. As if only Christians show charity. I know plenty of Atheists (and people of other beliefs) who give money and time to the same causes you do. Thank [themselves] for Atheists.

    I’m not bitter. I was raised Catholic. I did the whole alter-boy, choir boy thing. Sunday school, eathing of his flesh and drinking his blood. Yeah, been there, done that.

    But if you have a reasonable mind and the curiosity to ask “what is this and why do we do this?” And read the Bible in an analytical way, any reasonable person would see it as what it is. It is fiction. It is nothing more than a compliation of fairy tales.

    It is NOT the TRUTH.

    Look at is the insanity behind the faith. Walking on water? Turn water to wine? Staff to snakes?

    I mean, COME ON! It’s the 21st Century.

    How can you use a COMPUTER that uses minute amounts of electrons to flip states of matter in a micro transistor that calculates these bits at a rate of thousands of times per second wherein the entire device is connected to the internet powered by alternating current delivered from a generator miles away…
    …AND YET continue to believe that Eve was created from Adam’s rib – a snaked convinced Eve to eat a fruit from a magic tree – or that a man walked on water?

    Has reason abandoned you?

    And you call ME broken? See that is another thing that annoys me. You see YOUR SELF to be saved so you gloat over others you see to be “broken.” Vanity – it’s a sin you know.

  64. Really is getting to you isn’t it Alex? Obviously gnawing away at you. You need a sense of peace mate.

    I’ll continue with my ‘engorged sense of righteousness’ (helping others in my own time and at my own cost) while you simmer and type away, it’s sadly futile typing back and forth.

    God is obviously speaking to you as you’re searching. As I say, if you were not so angry you’d simply move on. I keep getting email prompts from Gia’s blog. I’ll stop now and put you out of your misery.

    As you continue to use your computer with its electrons and micro whatsits, take a break, then sit and look up at the stars and contemplate the vast universe. Think about it sensibly. There’s more to life than you and your consciousness.

    I’ll not answer you again Alex, but I will pray for you. That’s not a patronising comment, it’s a promise.

    God Bless again.

    Paul

  65. Shaun says:

    Hi,

    I’m not here to debate just to comment on the original post and the reading list. Or should I say add to it. I would strongly recommended two books that date back to the 18th Century. The first is called System of Nature (Système de la Nature) written by Paul-Henri Dietrich Holbach in 1770. Some have called it the “Atheist Bible” but it’s not a term that appeals to me. I would recommended reading in French if possible. The following is the start of chapter 1:

    “Men will always deceive themselves by abandoning experience to follow imaginary systems. Man is the work of Nature: he exists in Nature: he is submitted to her laws: he cannot deliver himself from them; nor can he step beyond them even in thought. It is in vain his mind would spring forward beyond the visible world, an imperious necessity always compels his return.”

    The second book predates System of Nature. It was written by, of all people, a French Priest. Upon this man’s death in 1729, it was discovered that he had written a very strong and passionate criticism of christianity. The author is Jean Meslier and his “Testament” is now titled “Mémoire contre la religion” in French. I don’t believe it has ever been translated to English. He remains a relative unknown tothis date. Even the documentary “Brief History of Disbelief” makes no mention of this book. It’s quite unfortunate as its author has an extensive knowledge of the bible and is one of the very first writers to identify himself as atheist, albeit after his death.

    Hope people find them as interesting as I did.

  66. I am a Christian. For a long time I was not a believer, I thought religion was all a bunch of rubbish. One of the big things in my conversion was reading C.S. Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”. I recommend it to anyone that wants to here the other side of the story.
    C.O.

  67. giagia says:

    Shaun- thanks for the recommendations! Brian has sent me a book which he says HAS to go on this list. It was given to me by Chris Morris for my birthday, then Brian took it and read it before I did. He wants to keep it so has bought me another copy. I will add it when it comes.

  68. giagia says:

    Paul said: “I hate prawns as I’m allergic to shellfish. They make me throw up and bring me out in hives. ….Yet I have no burning desire to write books on the dangers of shellfish, or seek to demonise prawn eaters. The truth is, I don’t really care much about prawns / mackerel and stay away.”

    If, however, a growing percentage of the population was convincing the government that EVERYONE had to eat shellfish even if they were allergic to it because it was the sacred food of their creator- The Big Mussel In The Sky- then you might have something to say about it.

    I AM ALLERGIC TO RELIGION I WANT TO AVOID IT AT ALL COSTS. EVEN A SNIFF OF IT MAKES ME BREAK OUT IN HIVES. PLEASE DON’T FORCE IT ON ME.

    Thank you. :)

    -“Whilst I cannot understand cannibals or paedophiles, I have no desire to line them up and shoot them, or write scripts on why these people are allowed to exist. I just move on.”

    I *could* of course say “I really love coffee. It makes me feel so happy and awake in the morning. Clears my head. Makes me ready to face the world. But you don’t see me writing books about it or going on about it all the time.” in reference to all the religious people who write books on God and religion.

    Come on, Paul, surely you’re better than this? You can think clearly, can’t you?

    Also, maybe you’re just not a creative type and *that’s* why you don’t write…

    I know one atheist who is a very reluctant atheist – he WISHES he could believe, but he’s really just too analytical and finds it all so illogical. He wants to believe because as he says, ‘Ignorance is bliss’. He’s not just concerned with dying, he concerned with the ultimate end of the universe. He *wants* there to be a point, but knows logically that there isn’t. And he deals with this in almost every book and film he writes. Though none are specifically on religion.

    Another atheist I know is mainly interested in politics, but has become interested in religion – Islam specifically- because of that. And he is doing a film on it though it’s not about Islam, but about the people behind the acts of terrorism.

    Most of the atheists I know aren’t even interested in religion at all. Some of them write books or have columns in newspapers, some make tv programmes or films. None of them write about religion specifically, hardly any of them are particularly vocal about atheism in public at all. Other atheists I know aren’t in ‘creative’ industries…

    I am vocal about my atheism *here*. ‘Elsewhere’ I couldn’t LIE and pretend that I am not an atheist. I couldn’t be an apologist for religion. I couldn’t be flippant about it. (In the way that Brian REFUSED to mention that some people think the Moon landings were faked on Horizon…) I, of course, have the right to say what I want… you, of course, don’t have to listen!

    My point is there are millions of atheists who may not even be interested in religion and who *don’t* write about religion and a small handful of those who do.

    *I* am interested in religion because I am interested in politics. I am interested in religion because sooooooooo many people use ‘It’s God’s word’ as justification for their bigotry and hate (which is when ‘proof of God’ is required). I am interested in religion because it’s this INSANE magic thing that so many ADULTS believe in literally. It’s madness!

    (heh. I just got a Satanic mp3 as my Captcha!)

  69. giagia says:

    CO-

    I’ve heard about that, but never read it. He was Church of England, wasn’t he? CofE theologians don’t really believe in anything. Listen to Brian’s discussion with The Very Reverend Victor Stock to hear things like “Religious people in the 21st Century need to move out of our comfort zone where we think we have ‘the answer’. Religion doesn’t have all the answers.” or “Religious language is much more like poetry than the instructions on the back of a washing machine. But a lot of simple people read it off as if it’s the instructions on the back of a washing machine.” or “For the religious person there is a tradition of being opposed to happiness.”

    Victor also believes that God more or less sacrificed himself in order to create the Universe… so the Universe is God/God is the Universe. He doesn’t believe that Jesus is the literal Son of God, he said it was an honorific title for a very ‘good man’. He said that the Virgin Birth wasn’t real, again it was an honorific: “No one’s believed in the Virgin Birth since the Reformation.” He also said that if he had been born in India he would have been a Hindu – meaning that Christianity is no more ‘correct’ than any other religion…

    There’s very little that one can disagree with when talking with someone like Victor. But CofE theologians are not causing the worst problems in the world (though, of course, that doesn’t mean the whole of the Anglican church is past being closed-minded and bigoted)… it’s the ‘simple people’ who take the Bible to be like “instructions on the back of a washing machine” that are causing the problems. THAT is what I have an issue with.

    Reading about how you should turn the other cheek or do unto others etc and finding some comfort in that is VERY different from something like this

  70. giagia says:

    This video is a very good example of the kinds of things that atheists hear from Christians All. The. Time. Honestly, I’ve never really heard anything different from this… though admittedly with less swearing. ;)

  71. Politics and religion should not mix.
    C.O.

  72. Alex says:

    Science and Religion should not mix.

    See “Atheism could be science’s contribution to religion”
    Correspondence Section of NATURE:Vol. 454:28 Aug. 2008

    Because Science is now asking questions Religion cannot even contemplate asking, let alone try to understand.

    Religion: God created the Universe.
    Science: What is the Universe made of?
    Religion: Spirits, demons, angels, and other unseeable things.
    Science: Actually the Universe is made of molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, muons, neutrinos, etc.
    Religion: Heretic! You must die!
    …[some time later]
    Religion: Yes, actually Science was correct BUT it was God’s design and plan. But we are still the most important thing in the Universe and the Universe revolved around the Earth as God created Earth first and then the rest of the Universe.
    Science: Actually we believe it was the Big Bang that created the Universe…which came first…much earlier than Earth…and there seems to be multiple dimensions and the Earth revolves around the Sun which revolves around other big things and thus, we are insignificant.
    Religion: Heretic! You must die!
    …[some time later]
    Religion: Oh yes, well, actually, the Earth does revolve around the Sun, but we are still the most important thing because we were designed and created by God in his image.
    Science: Actually we believe living things, including us, evolved.
    Religion: Heretic! You must die!
    …[some time later]
    Religion 1: Um, yes, actually, evolution is a correct theory, but that only explains how humans became humans and that was still God’s intent and design.
    Religion 2: Fuck you! Evolution is Satan’s way to confuse us. It was God’s design. He made us as we are today back 5000 years ago. Earth is still flat and the center of the Universe! And Jesus rode on dinosaurs!
    Science 1: …*face palm*…
    Science 2: Why am I wasting my time trying to educate these idiots? I’ll be over here cloning Gemma Atkinson.

  73. Martin Moran says:

    Would any of you Atheists concede that you may be wrong? If not, what makes you so sure? I mean from a scientific point of view, be honest with yourselves.

    It seems to me that your whole belief or lack of it is based on the fact that there are mistakes in the Bible and mistakes in general from religious people. Well that’s man for you and the Bible was written by a man…

    When most science types do God their own rules go out of the window, I hate to go on about Dawkins everyone seems to, but I relatively recently saw the man soundly beaten in an argument (by a Catholic child) live on British television. I certainly did not gain any pleasure from this, which was an odd feeling for me being religious, the audience certainly did laugh out loud. I guess we all know that Dawkins discredits science (as does anyone who thinks science can either prove or disprove God). I love science and have no conflict. At least I am honest with myself

  74. giagia says:

    Martin- Are you wrong in not having a belief in ‘lemon heart sandwiches in love’?… “What’s a ‘lemon heart sandwich in love’?” Ahhhh it’s a mystery and only true believers really understand. And you are less of a ‘citizen’, less of a human being if you don’t believe in them. You are incapable of being a good person and apparently only people who believe in ‘lemon heart sandwiches in love’ are doing good things in Africa.

    What do lemon heart sandwiches in love do? Well, everything. They are responsible for everything. That’s why if you don’t believe in them you are evil because you don’t believe in everything. And that’s bad.

    What *is* a lemon heart sandwich in love? Well, that’s the big question. The Cirtolics think it’s an actual *heart* made out of a lemon! Crazy people. They’re mad. That’s why they helped those bad guys who Killed the Juice in WWII…

    Me, I think it’s all symbolic… And *ANY* citrus fruits are better than none. I still think banana eaters shouldn’t be allowed to eat bananas… but, you know, I don’t HATE them, I hate the bananas.

    Martin, did you ever think YOU might be wrong, huh?

    (This is what religion sounds like to me… crazy crazy crazy crazy… and when you ask if I might be wrong, well, it’s just… crazy)

  75. Martin Moran says:

    GIAGIA thats why I love you, you are funny.

  76. Alex says:

    To: Martin Moran

    “Would any of you Atheists concede that you may be wrong? If not, what makes you so sure? I mean from a scientific point of view, be honest with yourselves.”

    – Science almost never state things to be absolutes. When people ask “Can HADRON destroy the Universe?” Scientists reply, there is always a chance that CAN happen but it is so remote it is highly unlikely (although they are thinking “What a retarded question – you are an idiot for even thinking it”).

    It is religion that always claims to have the absolute answer.
    Scientists have theories about evolution. Quantum mechanics is a theory. Classical mechanics is a theory. Theories are not complete, by definition. And they change with further discoveries.

    Religion on the other hand are nothing BUT absolutes. Faith is inflexible. Not negotiable.

    When you get to the gates of Heaven, St. Peter will say:

    James, you saved millions of people by discovering the cure for cancer…but unfortunately you masturbated You get to go to HELL under God’s rules.

    Susan, you saved the environment from global warming, but ate pork. Go directly to hell.

    Don, you brought world peace and everlasting love to the planet, but you believe in Buddha…wrong God. You get to join him…in HELL!

    Don’t you see how ludicrous that is? That is religion…plain and simple.

    “It seems to me that your whole belief or lack of it is based on the fact that there are mistakes in the Bible and mistakes in general from religious people. Well that’s man for you and the Bible was written by a man…”

    – Oh well, then you don’t know your own religion very well. Are you admitting that the Bible has mistakes? Errors? Words of GOD?!?!?!

    Well, I guess I will see you in hell. I think you need more Sunday Schooling…you seem to have missed that day.

    “When most science types do God their own rules go out of the window, I hate to go on about Dawkins everyone seems to, but I relatively recently saw the man soundly beaten in an argument (by a Catholic child) live on British television.”

    – So you saw an idiot on TV. I know plenty of idiots who claim to be religious. So what’s your point?

    One idiot on TV does not represent all Atheists. Just like you don’t represent the views of all religious people. See the analogy there? No? OK, keep reading.

    “I love science and have no conflict. At least I am honest with myself”

    – And the truth is that you know neither science nor religion. You are happy in your own pool of ignorance.

    You have just proven one doctrine: Ignorance is bliss. Just one question remains…how do you remember to breath with only one neuron firing?

  77. Martin Moran says:

    What evidence have you provided for any of your views? You talk of a pool of ignorance but that?s better that a pool of arrogant ignorance

  78. James says:

    Gia said:

    —–‘it’s the ’simple people’ who take the Bible to be like “instructions on the back of a washing machine” that are causing the problems. THAT is what I have an issue with.’—–

    I like that, I like that a lot actually and it’s very hard point to refute. BUT, I don’t think you can resent such people because they are honest in their beliefs and provided they are given a good set of washing machine instructions, they make respectable (clean clothed) citizens. Religion is the opium of the masses and all….

    However, I think certain religious “leaders” have been sending out dodgy washing machine instructions. Still, I do not fear or resent ALL theists, and I guess this is all the more reason why non-believers should be willing to integrate more and offer their friendship and guidance rather than take a distant, militant standpoint.

  79. giagia says:

    Ah, see, *I* think that the “normal” religious people- you know, the ones who DON’T think the world was created in 6 days, 6,000 years ago, the ones who DON’T think that religion and politics should mix, the ones who DON’T think that gay people shouldn’t be allowed to live or love, the ones who DON’T think that everyone who doesn’t think like them should be eliminated, the ones who DON’T think that their book holds ALL the answers – should deal with the ones who DO think those things. They should be willing to stand up for rationality and intelligence. They should stand up for science and evolution. They should stand up for free speech and free thought…

    As it is, they just seem to do a lot of fighting with atheists.

  80. James says:

    Hmmmm. I was more thinking of the extreme cases. For example, clerics whose only job it seems is to recruit naive but ambitions teenage males to fight in wars they do not understand. But then I do not think such clerics are *religious* leaders in any sense I would recognise; are such recruitment drives any different to how the British army rounds up 16 year olds?

    What does it matter if someone believes the Earth is only 6000 years old? How can religion, which are after all simply collections of beliefs, be any less separate than any other belief system? You believe in the big bang, should that be seperate from politics or should we continue to fund research reliant on this belief?

    Do 100% of atheists believe in gay marriage or gay adoption? Why can’t gays and bisexuals give blood? Last time I checked, the church wasn’t running the NHS-it was being ran by a team of scientists. In fact, how many gays believe that homosexuality is the result of some genetic defect or developmental problem in the womb? Such beliefs seem to make homosexuality sound an awful lot like a disease to me, yet why do so many gays seek ‘the reason why’? (And why do so few bisexuals care about ‘sexuality’?)

    Does the bible not contain a lot to ‘make you think’, if not ‘all the answers’? Have you ever read it? I haven’t but fortunately for me, my girlfriend knows it backwards and I can always just reference her if I have a question. Anyway, I do know that it is full of stories that detail the complex nature of humanity. Stories of slavery, triumph, remaining strong in the face of adversity are all in there. Individuals with strong moral guidelines routinely challenge the state of affairs they find themselves living in. Jesus taught meditation and self-awareness, as well as compassion and love. Are these bad teachings?

    I think above all though, the bible is honest. It is certainly more than a leaflets worth of instructions. Nitpickers will point to contradictory statements within the bible or apparent ‘logical flaws’ in some of its stories. Well done you spotted them, so why not take the next step and address the questions you have raised? To find a contradiction in the bible and simply reject all those who try to follow its teachings is no different to rejecting the world of physics because it provides no definitive answer to the EPR paradox. They still both contain beneficial ‘teachings’ don’t they?

    Oh and what the hell are ‘rationality and intelligence’? They seem to be the two holy spirits that atheists cling on to. Does the holy scripture ‘On the Origin of Species’ not teach that characteristic traits like ‘intelligence’ can be bred into and out of a population? Would it therefore not be ‘rational’ to force the evolution of higher intelligence into the human race? Maybe by ‘survival of the fittest’? Or is there something immoral about such Nazi like ideas?

  81. giagia says:

    -“What does it matter if someone believes the Earth is only 6000 years old? How can religion, which are after all simply collections of beliefs, be any less separate than any other belief system?”-

    Religion ISN’T any more important than any other belief system. The Christian idea of God and Heaven is equal to the Aztec idea or the Dogon Tribe’s idea and the list goes on. The conflict arises, of course, when religious people (ie Christians and Muslims in the UK, for example) THINK that their idea is more important.

    Does is matter if someone believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old? I personally don’t give a shit WHAT someone else thinks at all. If they want to, in their own time, brainwash their children into thinking that as well as brainwashing them to think that scientists are ‘evil’, that reading books is bad and that thinking too much will take you to Hell… that’s actually fine with me. I do, however, reserve the right to NOT pay for those parent-produced imbeciles when they grow up and can’t function in society. I WANT all the religious fundies in the States to take over South Carolina and secede… and NO LONGER rely on Fedral money to look after them. We’ll see how long they last.

    No, my issue is- as I’ve stated how many times here? – that those religious beliefs should NOT be used as ‘evidence’ in public matters or law and should not be in schools. Keep it private.

    -“You believe in the big bang, should that be seperate from politics or should we continue to fund research reliant on this belief?”

    I “believe” in gravity as well, but there isn’t really a good scientific explanation for it. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t “real”. That doesn’t mean that a scientific explanation WON’T be found. If you think that something which can’t currently be explained by science ISN’T real, then I invite you to jump off a tall building.

    What science does is give ‘big names’ to things it doesn’t yet understand – Big Bang, Dark Matter, Dark Energy etc- as PLACEHOLDERS until they find the answer. What religion does with things it doesn’t understand is say ‘God did it and that’s the end of it.’

    -“Does the bible not contain a lot to ‘make you think’?”-

    Nope. Not at all, Yes, I’ve read it – KJV – and it’s, quite frankly, a pile of rubbish. It’s not actually even well written. Why is it that God wasn’t able to inspire the writers of the Bible to actually write better than, say, Shakespeare? Always perplexes me, that.

    -“Oh and what the hell are ‘rationality and intelligence’?”

    No answer to that. Just pointing out that it was asked.

    -“Would it therefore not be ‘rational’ to force the evolution of higher intelligence into the human race? Maybe by ’survival of the fittest’? Or is there something immoral about such Nazi like ideas?”-

    No answer to this, just using the opportunity to link to something

  82. Steve says:

    Re: Gia’s last comment

    This is why it is counter-productive to blanket-attack ‘religious people’ as being crazy and/or stupid as opposed to promoting and teaching the demonstrably self-empowering values of rationality, free thought etc for *everyone*.

    Highlighting hypocrisy, manipulation and corruption in the business/politics end of religion is a completely different matter. But when you make it even easier for the scumbags to frame it as an anti-faith battle they laugh their arses off.

  83. Steve says:

    Sorry- not Re: last comment, I was referring to the one before. Typing is a slow business when you have two 5-year-olds on a massive sugar rush trying to maim you.

  84. James says:

    Yes I know Godwin’s law and it’s all very clever (and illustrates how internet forums tend to lack imagination). There have umpteen occasions where I have had to stop myself referring to the Nazis for this topic, but that typical nonsensical statement of ‘rationality and intelligence’ that plagues religious debate is what I consider to be the bigger cliche. Also, to be fair myself, look what happens when you google eugenics.

    —–‘What science does is give ‘big names’ to things it doesn’t yet understand – Big Bang…..’—–

    Except the phrase ‘Big Bang’ was coined by Fred Hoyle, one of the developers of the steady state theory and someone who considered the idea of a ”big” ”bang” creation a complete joke. There are still many scientists who believe Hoyle was right.

    You seem pretty confident that science can ”find the answer”. The scientific method is probably the most ingenious invention of the human race, save for maybe language…and then maybe mathematics. However, it is not infallible. Take the gravitational constant ‘g’. Classical gravity was very nicely described Einstein, but for calculating the magnitude of the gravitational field surrounding an object, his equations still rely on the constant g. The problem with g is that we can only experimentally determine it here on Earth. At most perhaps, we can say that are value for g is correct for our solar system.

    However, there is no way of knowing if the constant as we measure it isn’t just local to our solar system, or perhaps to our galaxy. Now there are some very nice reasons to want to eliminate thinking of g as universal constant. For one, dark energy and dark matter could be accounted for in a jiffy. Yet at the same time, there is no reason to believe that g isn’t universal and there are reasons to want to keep it universal. For example, the current popular belief for the Big Bang theory would have to be called into question.

    So what is a ‘scientific explanation’? Aside from relatively simple matters such as determining the boiling point of water, scientific evidence is rarely clean cut and definitive. The problem is of course that textbooks in schools will bleat out phrases like ‘scientists now believe the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that it all started at one point and has been continuing to expand ever since.’ This is, as far as I’m aware, effectively the only understanding of ‘scientific explanation’ for the origin of the universe that most school children are exposed to. It has become ‘THE theory’ and stands side by side next to ‘survival of the fittest’ in the textbook ‘scientific explanation’ for humans being on this earth.

    Now that is brainwashing children if you ask me. The sad state of affairs of course is that seemingly the only people willing to challenge the way these theories are currently taught in schools are the creationists. I remember being given a creationist leaflet in school that took the time to explain that, regardless of belief or intention, pointed out the gaps in the fossil record and the flaws in the methods used to date fossils, and the Earth. I found this incredibly inspiring, if only because it made me determined to ‘prove’ to myself the Earth was older than 6000 years.

    Is a teacher inspiring their students to question what they read in their textbooks really a bad thing? After all, we know for certain the Big Bang happened right? If science is so certain of its knowledge as everyone believes it to be, then why not let it be challenged? If anything, surely you must believe that creationists would ultimately falter under the challenge? By not letting creationists argue their view point, are YOU no guilty of brainwashing your children? To not let them make their own mind up over religion, to not expose them to the ‘other side’, you are forcing YOUR atheists beliefs on the next generation. They may even resent you for it.

  85. Steve says:

    James, anyone teaching children that the world is 6000 years old is a fool and should be challenged by any responsible person of any faith.

    You say that: “textbooks bleat out phrases like ’scientists now believe the universe is 13.7 billion years old and that it all started at one point and has been continuing to expand ever since.’”

    What’s wrong with that? Scientists (the most highly qualified people using the best methods and resources available to our species) BELIEVE this to be true and with good reason. That’s what our schools are for, to teach people to the limits of our knowledge and encourage them to take it further. Religion does not belong in a classroom unless you’re explaining it in an unbiased, accurate, historical and sociological context.

  86. giagia says:

    James,
    “Big Bang”… there may be *some* scientists who think that the Universe just suddenly (magically?) appeared with a “bang”… but very few. All *anyone* knows for sure is that the “Universe” was incredibly hot and incredibly dense 13.7 billion years ago. That’s it. Nothing more. You get to this answer by observing the expanding Universe and winding the clock back. But that’s it.

    This is what I mean by ‘placeholder’.

    The actual answer will be certainly loads more complicated than a literal big bang (my personal favourite theory is the one espoused by Neil Turok… unfortunately, it involves string theory which sounds like bollocks to me, but it apparently rather pleasing mathematically… whatever… at least it’s not the quantum theory of multiple universes which makes me fucking FUME…). I am satisfied with a ‘placeholder’. I am content and not at all panicked with a ‘we don’t know yet’.

    It’s so much more satisfying than a ‘God did it as it said in a book written 2,000 years ago so stop asking questions.’… cos then, as usual, I’ve got to get a definition and ‘proof’ of God. And that’s never happened yet…

    Please can one of you people attempting to defend religion PLEASE tell me where the information content is in the sentence ‘God did it.’ All I ask is that you explain to me exactly what that content is in those 3 words. Please. Three words. Clearly, it’s blindingly obvious to you, so you must be able to tell me what ‘God did it’ means. Go on.

  87. James says:

    I personally favour the cold death followed by rebirth scenario for the origins of the Universe. Not too sure whose taken credit for it or even what if any work exists to support it (but I am fairly certain Roger Penrose is a supporter and may actually be its ”founder”). Basically, the idea goes that the Universe will continue to expand and decay such that the energy levels in the Universe will eventually tend to zero.

    The leap of faith is then to say, if the Universe reached such a state then the concepts of time and space lose any credible meaning. You’re left with absolutely nothing, a void. Perfect conditions for another big bang.

    I think the paradox has to be that there was no ‘origin’ to the Universe. Either this Universe is infinitely old of there have been infinitely many Universes before this one. I think I’m right in saying that the brane collision theory supports an infinitely old Universe (where the Universe is now defined as being beyond the 4D creation we live in to include the higher dimensions of string theory)? Speaking personally, I think an infinite Universe is also one which chimes well with Buddhist teachings; there having been an infinite opportunity for intelligent life, it becomes a bog standard certainty. The human race thus loses its self-importance and its identity. Leaves on a tree that die in the autumn but which will return again one spring. Not the same leaves of course but then neither different to the leaves that went before; true reincarnation.

    Anyway, requiring infinities is one area where ‘religion’ and ‘science’ would seem to agree. The difference is of course that theists believe in an infinitely powerful God. Who knows, maybe people switching to believe in an infinitely old Universe instead of an infinitely powerful God will prove to be the last nail in the coffin for theism?

  88. Alex says:

    Speaking of reincarnation, consider this…

    Every atom that you were born with are no longer in your body – or rather make up your body.

    All the atoms have been replaced…and they are continuously being replaced.

    So in essence, you are continuously being “reincarnated” – yet you are still YOU.

    Isn’t that wonderful?

  89. James says:

    ‘Isn’t that wonderful?’

    Yes it is. Another one is that every seven years, every cell in the human body will have been replaced at least once. Seems like the information that makes up an individual lasts a lot longer than the arrangement of cells and atoms that make up that individual. Does that count as a soul?

    I’ve heard it be likened to wind blowing in a dessert. The wind may blow sand grains together such that they form a pattern, but without the wind, the grains just fall to the ground. The sand is lifeless, it is the wind that is important.

    Seems like life is just a flow of energy. In entropic terms at least, life does hold a particular scientific curiosity.

  90. Rob (formerly @ ConNiPtioNs) says:

    Gia,
    Great post and discussion.

    I could never understand christians’ hatred of Judas either. After all, if Judas had not “betrayed” Jesus there would be no crucifixion, no resurrection, no christianity as we know it. I like the interpretation of Jesus in The Last Temptation of Christ–the person who keeps Jesus on track and the one whom Jesus entrusts to turn him in. This Judas more closely resembles the Judas of the Gospel of Judas–see Elaine Pagels’ The Gnostic Gospels.

    -R

  91. bruce says:

    ‘Isn’t that wonderful?’

    Only if you believe in the self as an individuated body of matter that maintains identity over continual change rather than an emergent property of a biological computational system that continually updates it own operating system and working parts.

    Sorry guys but we are just meat machines… really sophisticated … but meat machine nonetheless.

  92. Yasmin Bee says:

    I adore you Gia and I always will – but I just don’t understand your anti-Christian stance.

    If you delve even slightly into Christ Consciousness (as opposed to the Christ served up in the Bible Belt and by nasty nay evil US policitians) you will see that your idea of “The Force” is a pretty damned good analogy for Spirit!

    I am certainly no Bible basher, never have been and never will be but I do think there is a FORCE and there is plenty of your luscious science to back it up.

    Want to know more? Read Hands of Light by Barbara Ann Brennan or e me.

    Hope you are well. Have been watching Brian at work on various youtubes etc and he’s ace. Love and hugs,

    Yasmin xoxoxoxox

  93. giagia says:

    Yazzle! The Force could also just be electromagnetism- it surrounds us, penetrates us, binds the universe together. It is radio-, visible light, micro- and x-rays waves. So it allows us to communicate with one another across long distances, it allows us to see the Sun set or the smile on our babies’ faces, or it allows others to see deep inside us to look for things that may be causing us pain and then remove them.

    I don’t have to ‘believe’ in it, it exists. It’s real. It’s understandable. It’s observable.

    The problem as *I* see it, it that these real, understandable, observable things are NOT given reverence by most people. Most people seem to want myths, stories and mysteries, yet ignore the awe and beauty surrounding them in the real world.

    I can’t start a war over the existence of electromagnetism, but I can start a war by thinking my God is the most powerful or the only ‘real’ God and wants me to spread his word by force if need be. I can’t allow a whole continent to continue to be overrun by an epidemic, but I can allow AIDS to destroy Africa because I think my God believes that ‘life’ is sacred (oh, the irony). I can’t force anyone else to live their one and only life in the way *I* choose, because of the existence of electromagnetism, but I can if I believe my God wants me to. Boy can I.

  94. Paula Thomas says:

    @Yasmin Bee

    Well you see that is (one of) the problem(s) with religion. Every believer I’ve met has a different interpretation and countering them is like trying to nail jelly to the wall.

    @GHIAGHIA

    Another book for your list (not about religion directly but about junk ‘science’) is Ben Goldacre’s recently published ‘Bad Science’ which is based on his blog and Guardian column. He takes apart Homeopathy, Gillian McKeith and others. It is an excellent read.

    Paula