Tag Archives: Religion

New Statesman – Faith No More

This is good. Various public figures who have stated they are atheists were asked why they do not believe in gods.

For example, here’s Sam Harris, Neuroscientist:

The most common impediment to clear thinking that a non-believer must confront is the idea that the burden of proof can be fairly placed on his shoulders: “How do you know there is no God? Can you prove it? You atheists are just as dogmatic as the fundamentalists you criticise.” This is nonsense: even the devout tacitly reject thousands of gods, along with the cherished doctrines of every religion but their own. Every Christian can confidently judge the God of Zoroaster to be a creature of fiction, without first scouring the universe for evidence of his absence. Absence of evidence is all one ever needs to banish false knowledge. And bad evidence, proffered in a swoon of wishful thinking, is just as damning.

…and there’s lots more like that. Some are clear, some are fervent, some are funny. It’s like a warm bath of reassurance.

Living here in California, I am exposed to quite a lot of new age stuff. I don’t move in those circles, but it is everywhere. A lot of it seems to be very normalized – astrology in particular seems to be accepted and treated as true by people my age who were raised here. What’s funny is that many of the believers in that kind of thing will dismiss mainstream religion while embracing an equally fantastical belief system.

One other aspect of Christianity in particular, as being the dominant supernatural belief system in the US, is the belief that Christianity should be the default, the starting point for belief. Any other system is edging it out, science is wearing it down, other religions are pushing it aside, but what should be there under it all is Christianity.

In terms of raw numbers this perspective could be said to be true, but I think that comes from being dominant for so long.

It reminds me of some forms of conservatism. In the UK in recent years, there was a sense of, “Well, we tried Labour, and it failed, so let’s go back to Tory. We should never have left.” It was as if the default government should be Tory, and anything else is an aberration.

This ties into “The God Of The Gaps”, which is when supernatural forces are called into play to explain anything that science can’t. As science explains more and more, the Gaps that God occupies get smaller and smaller.

But at the same time science discovers more and more that can’t be explained yet. Of course, a theist would say that the more science can’t explain, the more evidence there is for a god. The bigger the gap, the more need for a god.

But science doesn’t have to start with a god and then chip away at it. Science can start with a completely blank page, filling it in as it goes, and discovering that the edges of the page actually stretch off into the distance.

No need for a default, for tradition, for how things have been for centuries – only for what is right.

Naming The Date Was Too Much – But Only Just

Image from It’s not the date, it’s the rapture itself that’s stupid : Pharyngula.


Left Behind – And Lovin’ It!

And to the next person who quotes Matthew 24:36 at me: you’re part of the problem, too.

via Wrong, root and branch; wrong at every cell and molecule; wrong to the core : Pharyngula.

PZ Myers lays it all out. He’s angry, and with good reason. Here in the Bay Area, the Rapture prophecy thing was treated with justified derision, despite this particular false prophet being based in Alameda. I was invited to various parties – I went to a very nice one in Piedmont, with great food and drink and fun people in a beautiful 1909 house. We talked and laughed about the silliness and much else besides, and went home happy.

But as PZ says, the polls say that most people believe that this prophecy will come true in the next 50 years or so, even if it’s not when some thief and charlatan says it will. Evidence for it happening? Not a trace – not true provable evidence.

I was talking to some folks at the party about Pascal’s Wager – it’s a very common philosophical argument, and I probably won’t do it justice (or even get it right) but basically it’s this.

  • If you become a Christian, and you die, and Heaven and Hell exist, you go to Heaven. You win.
  • If you become a Christian, and you die, and Heaven and Hell don’t exist, you just die, and you haven’t lost anything.
  • If you don’t become a Christian, and you die, and Heaven and Hell don’t exist, you just die, and you haven’t lost anything.
  • If you don’t become a Christian, and you die, and Heaven and Hell exist, you go to Hell. You lose.
  • To sum up, the wager you are making (with your “eternal soul”) can only be won by becoming a Christian. So become a Christian, just to hedge your bets. Do you feel lucky, punk?

The extremely simple rebuttal to Pascal’s Wager is this: who says Christianity is the only way to Heaven (assuming Heaven exists)? What about all the other religions, belief systems and so on? It’s not a simple yes and no question. There must be a near-infinite number of belief systems, so how come this one is true?

It comes down to “the Bible says so”, which is like saying Dodge cars are the best because the Dodge commercial says so. What’s to be trusted, solid evidence, or the sales literature? Your holy book can say anything it likes – but your holy book doesn’t apply to everyone.

There was solid evidence that the Cayenne Pepper Mexican Cookies at the party were delicious. And hotter than hell.

Big Fat Whale – Free Speech Free-for-All


Big Fat Whale – Free Speech Free-for-All.

Discovery Institute Abuses DMCA To Censor Critic

After posting a video taking apart the arguments of The Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin (who appeared on Fox News without an opposing view – fair and balanced my arse), Youtube user Donexodus was hit with a cynical DMCA claim from the Institute to take it down, citing copyright infringement. The twisted nature of the DMCA means that it was immediately taken down despite the source video being the property of Fox News, and it clearly falling under the “fair criticism” rules.

Here’s a replacement video. The Discovery Institute are a creationist tribe who dwell in Seattle, and peddle their blinkered blind nonsense to anyone who will listen, which includes Fox News.

And here’s a call to action: