One justice for all?
This week disgraced former All Black Doug Rollerson was convicted for his part in a million-dollar fraud. Rollerson's actions were the key component of the crime, although he himself did not receive any of the stolen money. And what penalty did this convicted fraudster get for his crime? Nothing! Nothing at all. He was free to go.
As CEO of North Harbour Rugby Union (NHRU), Rollerson conspired with another ex-rugby player — wannabe celebrity Brent Todd — and businessman Stanley Malik Champalal Wijeyaratne over the money received from gaming machines or pokies. Rollerson knowingly signed false invoices which allowed Todd and Wijeyaratne to steal around one million dollars that was meant for charity. It seems his sole motivation was to raise money for his beloved rugby, and he saw nothing wrong in stealing from charity to achieve this goal. Seemingly part of the nature of the fraud meant that NHRU unknowingly received more money from the pokies than they would have otherwise.
When asked by a reporter if he accepted what he did was wrong, Rollerson refused to answer and walked away. Even his lawyer said in court that "I've had a devil of a job trying to persuade him at all that what he did was wrong, and this comes back to his naivety." And yet this naïve moron was CEO of NHRU earning $170,000 a year!!! Obviously he was appointed on his rugby reputation and not his intellect. As an aside, perhaps our present economic crisis can be partly attributed to too many CEO's holding their positions because of their celebrity status and not their qualifications.
Yet even though Rollerson wasn't given any penalty, he obviously felt that he shouldn't have even been found guilty, moaning that "What I did I did for the good of the union and never got any personal gain out of it at all." Imagine if I volunteered to be the getaway driver for a bank robbery, but refused to take any of the loot, saying that the excitement of the chase was reward enough for me. Could I really argue that I wasn't a crucial part of a criminal act, simply because I didn't take any money?
So why didn't Judge Rhys Harrison impose any penalty on Rollerson? Seemingly because he felt Rollerson was "financially and emotionally destitute". Say what? By all accounts a large proportion of those being sent to prison are "financially and emotionally destitute", yet to prison they go. Likewsie the courts keep imposing fines on boy racers and drug addicts knowing full well they have no money to pay them. Another excuse provided by Judge Harrison was that Rollerson had "suffered a monumental fall from grace". What about others convicted of theft or rape or child porn? Does this bloody judge seriously believe these people stand in front of him with their reputations intact? If we excused every criminal who was financially or emotionally scarred as a result of being caught and exposed by authorities, then our prisons would be empty.
But could there be more to it? Judge Harrison, no doubt with tears in his eyes, told Rollerson that "it was a privilege to see someone who had made such a contribution to the community". I wonder if he later asked for his autograph or a signed photo? Is this just another case of the 'old boys network' at play? Is this adulation that many have for sports heroes sufficient to override the gravity of the crime? I remember a few years ago when Jonah Lomu — at the peak of his fame — was found driving without a licence, and not charged. He had also driven overseas on an International Drivers Licence that was issued by the NZ Automobile Association, which should never have been granted since he had no driver's licence at all. Two examples of the police and the AA prepared to overlook the law solely because of Lomu's celebrity.
What happened to that noble idea that everyone is treated equally in the eyes of the law? Obviously it is closer to that other saying, "All men are created equal, although some are more equal than others". On the bright side, the SFO say they will review the judge's decision and may appeal, insisting that a penalty be imposed. I hope they do. I want to believe that we live in a just society, where my lack of celebrity doesn't mean that I'll be continually stopped at drink driving checkpoints while current or ex-rugby players are ushered by with a wink and a friendly wave.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Feb, 2009 ~
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Comment by Keri, 15 Feb, 2009
I so support your views in this blog item. As a non-sportsperson - but a taxpaying self-supported citizen, who also supports others - I am really tired of reading about All Blacks who get away with illegal activities. Or have reduced sentences because they were once ABs. They're All Blacks? Whoopdidoo - for life & everything else is subsumed by their AllBlackhood? No way, mate.
Fortunately, I think this decade is the last recredescence of this kind of crap - there are so many ABs, so many yachties, so many other celebs that whatever honour used to attach to the name 'All Black' is fading into deserved oblivion.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 16 Feb, 2009
Thanks for your comment Keri. I think you could be right, or certainly hope you are, that the honour we used to attach to these All Blacks and other celebrities is fading. There are just so many vying for our attention these days that any single one finds it difficult to hog the limelight. Yet still our TV news hour is nearly half full of sport items. If only the general public were equally interested in what academics were up to. We need some new heroes. It's depressing to learn that a sports person earns millions each year and is idolised by millions and a cancer research scientist earns a pittance and is completely unknown.
Can we trust natural products?
I recently read an interesting Kiwi blog post entitled "Vitamin & Natural Health Product Hustle". You may be aware that NZ soils are low in the selenium, and thus the argument goes, we need to boost our selenium intake and according to some, this will give us considerable health benefits. Is this in fact true?
We all know that our bodies need vitamins to function, so taking vitamin supplements can only benefit us... right? Because people accept that vitamins, unlike chakras for example, have been proven to be real and that the lack of them causes certain diseases, for many it seems logical that taking a few extra vitamins might prevent those diseases. Especially nasty ones like cancer perhaps? There's nothing wrong with this thought, but the question is, do extra vitamins really make any difference when you're healthy and already eating a balanced diet? Could too many vitamins — an overdose — even be harmful to the body, causing problems rather than preventing them? Or are vitamins that are extra to what the diet provides simply flushed from the body? Read more about selenium and vitamins here or wait and click on the link at the end of this post.
Rather than just rehash (ie plagiarise) the information they've provided, I thought we'd also have a little rant on vitamins, natural health products and alternative therapies.
In our view, talk of vitamins and "natural" products carry an unwarranted respectability in the minds of many people. Vitamin supplements and the so-called "natural" health products are sold in all "health" shops, many supermarkets and — confusingly — even in some chemists. Like their flawed thinking with vitamins, many people assume that anything "natural" — that is, found in nature — must be both safe and beneficial, unlike artificially produced drugs and chemicals. Their reasoning seems to be that humans and things in nature have evolved in unison and thus our bodies have developed a way of coexisting safely with things in nature. Natural to them implies things that are good, safe, beneficial and the way things should be, and the opposite is unnatural, implying something opposing nature, and so bad, unsafe, harmful and deviant.
When people mention a product that is "natural" or "organic" they imply something that is harmless and/or beneficial to humans. Anything that isn't "natural" or "organic" is artificially produced, man-made, treated with artificial chemicals or grown in an artificial environment. Because these artificial products haven't evolved naturally with humans, and thus our bodies haven't learnt how to deal with them, then their effects on us could be harmful. And this is true, which is why they go through an enormous amount of testing to prove that not only are they safe, they actually do what they claim.
But is this feel good notion for all things natural even remotely correct? Is nature our friend? Can we simply assume that things found in nature are safe and beneficial to humans? Many natural elements are absolutely essential for our body's survival, but many ingested in anything more than minute amounts would be fatal. Would you down a teaspoon of cyanide? Why not, it's in apples, peaches and almonds, it's perfectly natural? Likewise many bacteria are essential for life, yet many are also harmful. Think of staphylococcus, campylobacter and salmonella. All can be in our food and yet all are perfectly natural. Lions and sharks are natural but would you invite either into your backyard or swimming pool? The diseases cancer, AIDS and Ebola are all natural but not so harmless to humans. On a larger scale, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, droughts, blizzards, forest fires, insect infestations etc. are all part of nature, yet organic farmers, rather than live in harmony with them, struggle to eliminate their effect. While free of artificial sprays, organic foods can be full of harmful fungal spores and bacterial toxins. In addition they may have been sprayed with pesticides like B.t. toxin or nasty copper compounds. Both are considered organic because they are found in nature. But simply occurring in nature doesn't necessarily mean they're safe for humans, eg the cyanide we've already mentioned. And is our "organic" food even really natural at all, since there isn't much that hasn't been altered by man from the way it first appeared in nature? Only a small proportion of our natural, organic food is the way "nature intended". Traditional biotechnology has been utilised by man for thousands of years. Wine, beer, bread, yoghurt and cheese don't even appear in nature, neither were poodles and large ears of corn developed by "nature". Nor will you find, for those pretentious latte and espresso drinkers out there, a "real" cup of coffee in the wild.
So calling something natural does not by default mean it is safe or beneficial to humans. And yet nearly all these products and the people that promote them base their sales pitch on this very fallacy. As we've said, artificial or synthetic drugs, chemicals, foodstuffs etc go through extensive, expensive and lengthy testing to demonstrate their safety and efficacy. But since drugs, chemicals, foodstuffs etc found in nature are naively and erroneously assumed to be naturally safe and beneficial, little or no testing is performed. And their promoters, though they shun scientific testing like a vampire shuns daylight, nevertheless shamelessly misrepresent scientific facts and terminology to dress up their claims. They also trumpet any scientific report that might appear to lend vague support to their product while carefully suppressing other scientific reports that discredit their claims. If they were really confident that their product did as they claimed, they would get it tested and accepted as a conventional medicine. The potency, quality, safety and availability of the drug would likely increase, and therefore the number of people that could benefit would increase, as would the profits of the company producing it. The reasons they won't do this are that they either know straight out that it doesn't work or they're not very confident it actually works or they just know that the "natural product" route is the easiest way to make money regardless of whether it works or not.
There is no denying that drugs and chemicals originally found in nature do make up a large proportion of our conventional medicines, and it is to be expected that there are still many new drugs to be discovered in nature. However most of these conventional drugs are now synthetic versions of those found in nature, and all have passed rigorous medical trials. Yet none of the natural healing products have any real evidence supporting them. That's not to say that a few couldn't be beneficial, just that none have proven that they are good for what ails us, or safe. Unlike conventional medicines that earned our trust by example, natural products sell themselves by appealing to our gullibility. They rely on the general public believing that what is natural is naturally good for them. So if a little vitamin E is good for your sex life, then a whole bottle of vitamin E supplements must surely turn you into a veritable Don Juan.
The people pushing these worthless natural products are taking advantage of the fact that they don't have to prove that their products actually work or are safe, unlike real medicines. But they have to be very devious in the way that they market their products or therapy. They need to imply that their products are almost miraculous in their curative powers, but at the same time be very careful not to claim that they really will cure you. They promise both everything and nothing because of their overriding fear of being required to prove their claims, like real medicines must. Like all people running a scam, they fear being exposed. They fill their adverts with vague statements, scientific sounding terminology and give themselves official and impressive sounding titles.
To demonstrate, let's look at some examples from last week's print media in Dunedin. First some quotes from an ad for Naturopath Karen Davis:
N.D. Dip ATM, PMMINZ, MANT, NZAMH, MNZCHP
Sounds impressive doesn't it. Words like "Medicine Practitioner" and "Registered Medical" are all designed to unconsciously make you play word associations, generating phrases like General Practitioner, Doctor, Conventional Medicine, Registered Nurse, Medical Hospital etc. None of which are really associated with this woman. Do you have any idea what those qualifications actually are? And "Chartered" or "Registered" means nothing if the group you're "registered" with is some bogus group of like-minded alternative healers operating out of someone's garage. Would you have more confidence in your local witch if she said she was "registered" with the national coven? Belonging to these groups usually carries no more weight than those bogus university degrees you can order on the Internet. As for the phrase Neurological Integration System and the concept behind it, I could perhaps accept it if it was voiced by a highly advanced pointy-eared alien, but since it isn't, it's nothing but pseudoscience, composed by those ignorant of neuroscience to fool others ignorant of neuroscience. We note that at the end of eleven paragraphs describing what NIS is, how it works and how it heals, she finishes with following disclaimer: "The content reflects personal opinions of the advertiser."
Chartered Natural Medicine Practitioner
Registered Medical Herbalist & Naturopath
Neurological Integration System (NIS) Practitioner
All the principles underpinning NIS are based on neuroscience... NIS employs a series of sequential and prioritised steps to determine correct dialogue between the brain and the neurological centres responsible for all physiological function...
Say what!? So it's not based on facts after all. It's not a system based on evidence or "based on neuroscience" it seems. It's just her opinions. Think about it. If a doctor explained how antibiotics worked or how the heart pumped blood, he would be relating facts backed by strong evidence and theories. He would not be expressing his personal opinion. This woman knows NIS is bullshit or at the very least knows that she can't prove it isn't bullshit, she knows there is no evidence supporting it. Thus she deviously attempts to resolve herself of any moral responsibility or legal liability by saying that her claimed ability to heal you is just her personal opinion (or in my view, her personal delusion). And as we all know, opinions are often wrong and should only be entertained until you can get at the facts.
Here's a quote from an ad for the Lotus College of Natural Therapies in Dunedin:
Ayurvedic Nutrition. Ayurvedic means "the Science of Life"... This science is 3000 years old, and acknowledges our bodies being constituted, constructed from and containing the Elements of Nature: Earth, Air, Fire and Water. These natural elements present themselves through us... Learn the science behind [Ayurvedic Nutrition diagnosis]
What utter rubbish. I'm surprised that any educated person could believe this in the 21st century, but since they run courses on it a lot obviously do. Did they not take basic science at school? Have they never heard of the Periodic Table of the elements — made up of 112 elements (and counting) — none of which are "Earth, Air, Fire and Water"? Ayurvedic is no more a science than ice cream is a vegetable, but even morons know that science demands a great deal of respect and thus will feel that these references to science and "elements" give it credibility.
Then we have a Health2000 ad for Blackmores Detoxification 10-day Programme. Discounted down to $69.90. It's been explained time and time again that the body detoxifies itself perfectly well on its own. Any pills, liquids or tubes you put in your body won't speed up or assist this process one iota. These people are just greedy idiots peddling worthless products to other idiots.
Lastly we have an ad by Paul Crabbe, Holistic Healer. He claims to be qualified to heal people using three different methods — Magnetic, Crystalline and Spirit — and each is as worthless as the others. The main text of his ad is this: "Holistic Healing heals the whole person: root causes as well as the symptoms. Note it in no way replaces doctors and never claims to do so." Note that he makes the unequivocal claim that he "heals the whole person: root causes as well as the symptoms", then straight after saying that he can heal you, he says that you shouldn't even consider not consulting your doctor. But if he's healed you, why pay good money to see a doctor when you're now perfectly healthy? This is a blatant admission that after he's waved a fridge magnet or a colourful crystal over you, or prayed to your guardian angel — then taken your cash or cheque — you'll still be as ill as when you first visited him and your only hope now is to see a real medical practitioner. And hope it's not too late. It's also an attempt at a legal disclaimer so those disgruntled clients can't complain when they don't get better, since his reply would be: 'Well I clearly told you to see a doctor'. It shows you how little confidence these people really have in their abilities, too afraid to stand behind their healing claims.
A final example would be a friend who recently gave another friend grieving over a sudden death a bottle of Rescue Remedy. As most of you will be aware, this is nothing but an expensive — for it's size — bottle of water. That's right, it's a homeopathic remedy. As you'll also be aware, pure water cures very little apart from the likes of thirst and dehydration, and will no more magically alleviate the symptoms of grief than will the careful application of red bell peppers to the buttocks.
So why does a depressingly large proportion of the public put credence in vitamin supplements, natural healing products and alternative therapies like Reiki and Homeopathy? Why do they think they're as valid as conventional medicine and therapies, like antibiotics and kidney dialysis? Perhaps because the media happily print these large, colourful misleading adverts that read more like real articles than simple adverts, and morning TV shows and infomercials shamelessly promote these products and therapies with no critical input whatsoever. Thus the public are bombarded with beguiling claim after beguiling claim, all completely unsupported, and the media happily fill their coffers without a twinge of a guilty conscience. They're out to make money rather than educate the buying public.
When we read or hear about psychics, ghosts or alien abduction in the media even believers acknowledge that these topics are controversial. When was the last time you saw a full page spread in your local paper discussing ways to prevent alien abduction or hints on ghost hunting? Yet it's nothing unusual to see a full page spread discussing the benefits of various alternative therapies like Reiki, Homeopathy, magnets, crystals and overdosing on vitamins. And almost nowhere do you find real medical professionals explaining that all that stuff is bogus. It's their silence on these matters that can assist the public in believing that they must have some validity. When women's magazines have health columns written by naturopaths instead of doctors, then this bogus health advice is all a lot of women are getting. Certainly there are medical professionals, scientists and skeptics debunking all this alternative healing rubbish, but their articles only appear in the likes of the Skeptical Inquirer not the Women's Weekly. They just don't get the exposure that the natural products and alternative healers get. Why not? Mainly because natural product companies and individual healers pay the media not inconsiderable amounts to get their bogus views in front of a gullible public. Information about these products and therapies are not featured in your local rag because its editor deemed them newsworthy, or even likely to be true, they're there simply because they attract advertising dollars. This media saturation by "natural" health products and "alternative" therapies appears to give them a credibility that neither deserves. If you want real health advice and real medical treatment, consult a real professional, not some deluded healer that is unwilling to stand behind their claims. And certainly not a healer operating out of a spare bedroom in their house that either has no medical qualification or has a bogus one that's not worth the paper it's printed on. Likewise consult real chemists and pharmacists not some "Health Shop" assistant with her beauty diploma from Hogwarts.
Now you can click here to read about the selenium and vitamins scam: "Vitamin & Natural Health Product Hustle"
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 08 Feb, 2009 ~
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Comment by Karen, 30 May, 2012
This is Karen Davis N.D.. I have just read your blog in which you have challenged both my professional standing / qualifications, and my practice. I am completely horrified that you are given a voice... I work at the cutting edge of new research in health and quantum physics. A treatment whereby I am able to return health to those in need. Amazing things happen on my treatment table on a daily basis, and mostly these are people medial profession has discharged as "cant help". Maybe you should read some of my testimonials....
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 May, 2012
Sorry Karen, you may be 'completely horrified' that I've been 'given a voice', but I guess free speech is just another disadvantage of living in a free society that we all have to live with.
I'm afraid you lose all credibility by claiming that you 'work at the cutting edge of new research in health and quantum physics'. Quantum physics? Really? Healers that claim to be using quantum physics are simply highlighting their ignorance of quantum physics. You couldn't have offered a worst argument if you had said you worked with witches or aliens. I see nothing in your list of qualifications that gives you an expertise in physics, let alone research into quantum physics, and I see nothing in quantum physics that might be used by a naturopath to heal.
If as you claim, 'Amazing things happen on my treatment table on a daily basis', then hospitals and medical centres would be employing naturopaths and not doctors and surgeons, who as you say, have failed. As for your testimonials, they are just something people offer when they can't produce real evidence that their claims are true. And of course patients that fail to be cured, and perhaps even die, are not going to be writing testimonials.
Comment by Nick, 01 Jun, 2012
Hi John, just saw your chat with Karen Davis, thought you might find this interesting. I just googled her name and found this on the first page of results.
Obviously it's just hearsay, but you have to at least giggle at the "Brain Parasites" comment.
"I bought a voucher last time this deal came up and my 15 year old went to see Karen for a head injury. She came away having been told that she has "Brain Parasites". This may or may not be true, but we have our opinion on how appropriate and professional it was to tell this to a 15 year old on her own. You make your own decision, but Karen was extremely defensive when we approached her about it. We won't be going back."
To paraphrase Dara Obriain; A naturopath is to a dietician what a toothy-ologist is to a dentist.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 03 Jun, 2012
Thanks for the link Nick. I suspect it is more than hearsay, since Davis responded with this comment: 'Sorry to see you were not completely satisfied with your daughters interpretations... ' She didn't even attempt to explain that "Brain Parasites", or something similar, wasn't what she told the 15-year-old. As a parent I would want to know if my child had "Brain Parasites" following a head injury, and Davis is completely irresponsible diagnosing something so serious sounding as "Brain Parasites" and not getting her parents and doctors involved. Of course Davis notifies no one else because she knows her "Brain Parasites" are no more dangerous than gremlins. Davis is also irresponsible to no doubt terrify a 15-year-old by telling her she has "Brain Parasites". A typical quack at work.
Atheist slogans on city buses
I've been reading about an atheist advertising campaign
currently being run in the UK. Around 800 buses "in locations all over England, Scotland and Wales" are carrying large adverts that read: "THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD. NOW STOP WORRYING AND ENJOY YOUR LIFE". This includes 200 buses in London, plus 1,000 tube ads will run on the London Underground and the slogan will screen on two large LCD screens on Oxford Street. Anyone that has spent time in London will realise that the ubiquitous city bus is a great place to put your message, and commuting on the tube will mean that few won't be exposed to the slogan and forced to think. The campaign was started by comedy writer Ariane Sherine (photo right with Professor Richard Dawkins) who became annoyed by
Christian adverts on London buses called the "JESUS said..." ads. These listed a website that
promised all non-Christians — which of course includes atheists — an eternity of
torture in Hell. Christian and Moslem groups have both placed adverts on the buses and the tube in recent years. Kiwis will be familiar with the large adverts on billboards advertising the Christian Alpha Courses. I'm not sure if they ever featured on buses in NZ though.
Here are the additional slogans that are appearing inside the trains of the London Underground alongside the "There's probably no God... " slogan:
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful with having to believe there are fairies at the bottom of it too?"
"It was, of course, a lie what you read about my religious convictions, a lie which is being systematically repeated. I do not believe in a personal God and I have never denied this but have expressed it clearly. If something is in me which can be called religious then it is the unbounded admiration for the structure of the world so far as our science can reveal it."
"That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet."
"I'm an atheist and that's it. I believe there's nothing we can know except that we should be kind to each other and do what we can for other people."
The campaign, supported by the British Humanist Association, hoped to raise £5,500 and put ads on 30 buses in London only, but to date it has raised around £140,000. The unexpected support by the public has allowed them to use 800 buses all over the UK. Not only that, the idea has spread. Barcelona in Spain now has buses sporting the slogan in Spanish, sponsored by Spain's Union of Atheists and Freethinkers. Italy will soon see the slogan on their buses, courtesy of Italy's Union of Atheist, Agnostics and Rationalists. In the USA, in Washington DC, city buses outfitted by the American Humanist Association carry their own atheist slogan, "Why believe in a God? Just be good for goodness' sake". The Atheist Foundation of Australia tried — and failed — to follow suit. They wanted the slogan, "Atheism - celebrate reason" on their buses, but "were rejected by Australia's biggest outdoor advertising company, APN Outdoor". Strangely, of Britain, the US, Spain and Italy, Australia is the last place I thought would have a problem with the ads. Of course it could just be that the ad company is run by timid Christians afraid to anger their god, or more likely, afraid to provoke their fellow Christians into thinking about what the slogan "Atheism - celebrate reason" actually means.
So should we take up the campaign here in NZ? It would be great if we could, but I'm happy to say that it's not crucial that we do. Christians no longer have the powerful voice in NZ they once did. Other religions like Muslims and Hindus have increased in numbers recently but are still a very small minority, and following recent world events, Islam is viewed with suspicion by most. NZ is a secular country with a secular government and an increasingly secular population. In the last census (2006) some 31% listed themselves as having no religion. This doesn't necessarily mean atheist, but it does indicate that religion is not important to them. Even though the majority of Kiwis still identify themselves as Christian when pressed — such as the census — their religious beliefs almost never intrude noticeably into daily life. From their actions and conversations you can't tell whether they are Christian, atheist or Jedi. I remember working occasionally with a few people for over a decade before I discovered that one was a devout Catholic, one was a creationist and three others often held Bible meetings in their lunch hour. I had no idea that they were even religious let alone quite serious about it. They all kept their belief in God secret, holding their tongue when we blasphemed Jesus or discussed evolution or ridiculed silly bible bashers that made fools of themselves on a nearby street corner. Decades ago it was atheists that kept quiet about their lack of faith, staying in the proverbial closet rather than provoke conflict or risk condemnation by their family, workmates, employers and society in general. Now the tables have turned. Today the majority of Christians are as quiet as church mice regarding their belief in God.
How would the average Kiwi respond to atheist ads on buses? Speaking from personal experience, I've had anti-religion bumper stickers on my car for a few years now and, to date, I've had nothing but positive comments. I also often wear a "Born Again Atheist" badge and again most everyone that comments on it loves it. I've probably only had around two or three people mention that they didn't agree with it, and they were all very friendly, calm and non-confrontational. I'm sure there have been some that would have loved to rip it from my chest and have me appear grovelling in front of the Office of the Inquisition (which by the way still exists, they've just renamed it), but they obviously haven't had the nerve to say anything. It would appear that atheists, agnostics, freethinkers, humanists and secular thinkers are the "alpha males" of modern NZ society. Judging by the comments I've received over my public atheist slogans, many Kiwis are sick of listening to silly religious explanations as to how the world works, of following stupid commandments on how we should live our lives or sitting through disgusting descriptions of how we shall suffer in their loving God's hell. They're sick of the odd brave Christian loudly and annoyingly praising god, proclaiming miracles, prophesising the end of the world and protesting over blasphemous TV shows. And they're especially appalled at what some followers of Christianity's sister religion, Islam, is doing in the name of God.
So I think atheist ads on buses in NZ would be welcomed by the majority, if even just as a laugh. A few would protest of course, rip their hair out and accuse us of doing the devil's work, while more moderate believers while disagreeing with the sentiment of the ads, would agree that it was only free speech in action. The probability that the ads would be readily accepted in NZ means that the battle for the freedom of opinion and the respectability of atheism has to a degree already been fought and won. Our last two Prime Ministers openly declared that they aren't religious whereas in the US declaring that you had atheist views would be political suicide. However, like Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and not to mention Britain and the US, there still exists in NZ religious factions trying to turn back the clock to a time when their group had the hearts and minds of the people. So if someone wanted to put atheist ads on buses or any other public site I would certainly support them, especially if it in turn demonstrated our support for those in Britain, Italy, Spain and the USA etc. It does no harm to remind people that they should think carefully about how the universe arose rather than just believing what their parents told them, that some god made it. People go on about supporting freedom of religion and often forget to mention that freedom from religion is also an option. It's still hard to drive more than a few blocks in any city or town without passing numerous symbols of religion, usually churches but now also mosques, synagogues and temples. People, especially young people, need to be reminded that atheism is a valid and respected choice in today's modern world, a choice backed by reason and evidence and hinted at in most science TV documentaries. We can't be complacent and mistakenly believe that no one would want religion to rule the world once again. Brian Tamaki and his Destiny Church are planning just that, to name but one deluded group. And don't get me started on the Muslim fundamentalists.
Well, perhaps just one little mention. Christianity's ascendancy has passed, thankfully, but now the threat to our liberty comes from radical Islam. Remember the terrorist bombings in London, Madrid, Bali and of course the 9/11 attacks in the US? Many secular countries that have opened their borders to Muslims are now feeling their wrath. Think Denmark. Britain is experiencing a growing problem of young British born Muslims turning to radical, fundamentalist Islam. Even easy going Australia is running foul of radical Muslim Australians. Is NZ next in line? Every country on the planet could benefit from ads that gently remind their citizens — often with insightful humour — that atheism makes good sense. Reminded that our freedoms come from law, science and a secular outlook, not any religion. Reminded that all religion if practised faithfully is divisive and dangerous. Reminded that there's little sense in sidelining Christianity if we just let Islam take its place. That said, in the US Christianity is still the force to be reckoned with and a great many Americans could certainly benefit from exposure to atheist slogans on their public transport. It's quite disturbing that surveys show that only 40% of Americans believe that humans evolved, 20% don't believe the Earth orbits the Sun and nearly 50% don't know how long it takes the Earth to orbit the sun. Just over 50% think early humans lived at the same time as the dinosaurs. Not only are they ignorant about science, many make important decisions on abortion, birth control, blood transfusions, euthanasia, genetic engineering and even masturbation based on what ignorant, primitive, desert nomads believed thousands of years ago. NZ doesn't really need atheist ads on buses to get people thinking, but the US certainly does. Although NZ is well down the right track, I'll still keep displaying my own atheist slogans for the benefit of those that have yet to see the light.
In times past it seemed that while people always had a choice, that choice was limited to which god they picked. Now finally in more and more places around the world it is being acknowledged that not only is atheism a valid choice, it is likely the most reasonable choice.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 25 Jan, 2009 ~
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Comment by Bob, 27 Jan, 2009
I am surprised at the attitude of the Australian company. Some companies are so afraid of upsetting customers they steer clear of all controversy. I doubt if New Zealanders would care much.
A bus driver in England refused to take his bus out because of the atheist signs. The bus company allowed him to drive another bus with no advertising. Personally if I was a driver I wouldn't care whether the bus had atheist or Christian signs provided they didn't encourage hatred or extreme divisiveness. In any case such advertising will have minimal effect. What really counts is the attitude of the general public. Over time public opinion changes. Legalising prostitution has changed nothing. Decriminalising homosexuality has done nothing except give homosexuals some peace of mind. The Catholic Church is losing ground all the time. They are not winning on embryo and stem cell research.
I think an advertising war between Christians and Atheists is a bit of fun.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Jan, 2009
Yes I agree Bob, an advertising war would be fun, but it would be completely one sided and unfair. There is already a multitude of atheist slogans around that are intelligent, witty and non-threatening. I've made up several of them as fridge magnets and visitors love them. Unfortunately religious slogans often have the disadvantage of threatening and depressing everyone that reads them. Regardless of who was right, atheist slogans would win the public vote hands down. But it would certainly keep the public amused and thinking.
The Israeli - Palestinian conflict
Last week Mustafa Tekinkaya, the Muslim owner of the Mevlana Café in Invercargill, heard two women in his café speaking Hebrew. Thinking of the present Israeli military action in the Gaza Strip, Mr Tekinkaya obviously thought this would be a good opportunity to air his answer to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was simple, insightful and straightforward, "Get out of my café."
Those he ejected were local woman Natalie Bennie and her sister Tamara Shefa. Natalie is of Israeli origin but has lived in NZ for seven years and is a NZ citizen. Tamara is visiting from Israel. Mr Tekinkaya said that barring those of Israeli origin from his premises while the Gaza conflict continues was "a show of solidarity with fellow Muslims". A nearby Turkish kebab shop owned by Ali Uzun has followed his lead and has also adopted a 'No Israelis' policy. It was reported today that the Strawberry Tree cafe in Kaikoura owned by Shane Cavanagh has for the last two weeks had a 'No Israelis' policy, or to reword it slightly, 'No Jews'.
This is a shameful, backward and totally unproductive response. People wonder why Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East can't resolve their differences without resorting to violence. It's true that in Israel, the Gaza Strip and the West Back people are living daily under the threat of violence and death. They never know when a rocket fired by the other side might rip into their home, and Israelis never know when that Palestinian standing next to them on the bus or in the market might suddenly explode. Both sides will have experienced loathing, intolerance, malice, malevolence, death, carnage and fear, and consequently many individuals on both sides will have developed a hatred for each other. You can understand why many would find it difficult to even contemplate negotiating with the other side, of potentially reaching a compromise where they might find themselves living and working with their old enemy or even living peacefully as neighbouring states. If you view your opponent as evil incarnate then you want them wiped from the face of the earth, not living next door to you. And especially so if your religion supports your hatred of infidels, your god threatening divine punishment for mixing with non-believers. When you live with death and fear, it must be extremely difficult to put aside this animosity and offer a proposal of peaceful coexistence.
So how does this Invercargill café conflict compare to that in the Middle East? Neither the owners of the Mevlana Café nor the kebab shop live in fear of rocket attack, of being stopped at a security checkpoint, of being caught up in a suicide bombing or of being persecuted because of their religion. One would assume that they have had no experience of Israeli aggression, in NZ or overseas, since they are Turkish not Palestinian. It seems they support the Palestinians simply because they are both Muslim. They are united by religion, not rational thought. And as for the Israelis, rather than shun anything that might remind them of Palestinians or the Middle East, they obviously have no problem dining in a café owned by a Muslim, or contributing to his coffers. On the scale of things, the Muslims and Jews in Invercargill are living together in a state of bliss compared to those in Israel and Gaza, with equality, safety and tolerance taken for granted. And yet even here Muslims can't avoid confrontation with Jews. If a Turkish Muslim in Invercargill is incapable of acting civilly to two Israeli women, why should we ever expect those physically and mentally scared by the conflict in the Middle East to talk to each other? By his example, Mr Tekinkaya gives us little hope that Muslims will ever willingly accept Jews in the Middle East. Rather than enter meaningful discussion and demonstrate that Muslim and Jew can coexist peacefully, he chooses to perpetuate a feud from a far away land. On encountering Israelis he says he won't interact with them and bars them from entering his café until they see the error of their ways. How is this different to what Palestinians are accusing the Israelis of, of baring them from entering Israel and participating in normal life? Isn't he committing the same sin that fuels the Palestinian conflict?
On the bright side I guess Natalie and Tamara should be thankful that in NZ Muslims are not allowed to carry AK47s, but it is still extremely disappointing that some immigrants to NZ have brought their ethic and religious hatred with them. NZ is a place where both Muslim and Jew could be friends, but unfortunately one chooses to let anti-Semitism dictate their actions. Remember that Natalie is a NZ citizen and neither her nor Tamara is pursuing a war against Palestinians, Turkey, Muslims or Turkish cafes. Many immigrants often say they fled their own countries to escape these very conflicts, yet some start them afresh at the first opportunity. Rather than look for new solutions they merely fall back on historical stereotypes and failed ideas.
Let's remember that not all Israelis are religious, many are secular, and not all support their government's actions. Just like not all NZers voted for the present National government and not all Americans voted for George W Bush, it is stupid to assume that everyone of a certain nationality is tarred with the same brush. Just like Americans and Kiwis, not all Israelis have the same beliefs, views and politics, so it is utterly stupid to blindly condemn or persecute individuals based on a stereotype. Muslims like Mr Tekinkaya should be intimately aware of this stereotype slur, since they get horribly offended when people suggest that all Muslims are terrorists. Yet here he is, throwing the same insult at his opponents. If Muslims can't even stand an Israeli being in their café, what hope is there that they would ever accept Israelis in the same country?
Note that it is totally illegal under NZ law to refuse service based on ethnicity, race or religion and a complaint has evidently been lodged with the Human Rights Commission and the Race Relations Commissioner. The authorities fine garden shops for opening during Easter, so let's hope they realise this is a far more serious breach. Three premises at present are barring people entry based on ethnicity and religion. NZ can not stand for this type of discrimination unless we want to recreate the Middle East conflict here.
So what is the solution? I know some will insist that the problem all revolves around the "illegal" creation of the state of Israel in 1948, but this is too simplistic. That was the debate 60 years ago, it's not anymore. Just as the Americans are not going to give the US back to the Indians and NZers aren't going to give NZ back to the Maori, Israelis aren't going to give Israel back to the Palestinians. It's time to stop living in the past. Stop saying if only Israel wasn't formed back then. It was, so get over it. Rightly or wrongly, Israel and its citizens are there to stay. The only solution now is to get Israelis and Palestinians to co-exist peacefully. Preferably this would mean Israeli and Palestinian living side by side as neighbours in an integrated Israel. Of course this requires that land be redistributed, possibly to the pre-1967 borders and illegal Jewish settlements be dismantled etc. There will have to be compromise, give and take on both sides. But this can only occur through negotiation and a real commitment to accept the outcome. Both sides must accept that wishing the other side would go away is futile, that their future is intertwined and thinking otherwise will only lead to ongoing conflicts. If Palestinians continue to teach their youth that their land was stolen and that they are living under Jewish oppressors, then revolt, violent or otherwise, will keep making appearances in Israel. Likewise if some Israeli authorities turn a blind eye to illegal settlements being built on Palestinian land or fail to give Palestinians equal status then opposition will naturally continue.
Of course the major component for many in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is religion. It's not Israeli against Palestinian but Jew against Muslim. For fundamentalists on both sides the continued existence of the other is an anathema. Their religions don't talk of compromise with infidels. Fundamentalist Jews believe their God has given them Israel and Palestinians should be evicted to make way for new Jewish settlements. Fundamentalist Muslims believe that they shouldn't live with infidels or under anything but Islamic law. Both seek the destruction of the other and will accept nothing less. These fundamentalists will never negotiate and will never accept a compromise state. If one is forced on them they will bide their time until circumstances allow them to once again begin a revolt. This is one reason why a two-state system is not ideal. Fundamentalists on both sides would be continually looking over the border brooding on what should have rightfully been theirs. As long as one religion teaches their followers that they are right and the other ones are wrong, the seed for potential conflict will continue to simmer under the surface. Thus only secular Israelis and Palestinians or those prepared to compromise on their religious beliefs will be able to enter into honest, meaningful negotiations and form a peaceful Israeli-Palestinian state that will last. And they in turn will have to ensure that fundamentalists are kept in check, that they are incapable of threatening the security of the state. Preferably they would work to remove fundamentalists completely and relegate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an historical context, in the same way that the WWII British-German or American-Japanese conflicts no longer influence modern relationships.
Unfortunately people like Mustafa Tekinkaya and the media tend to give the impression that you must take sides. That it is a black and white issue. As George W Bush said about 9/11 (quoting Jesus from the Bible) "You are either with us or against us." All we see on TV are the actions of the opposing sides, either on the battlefields or on the protest marches. We seldom see the opposing groups discussing their problems with each other, or documentaries explaining the deeper problems behind the conflict. We just see the emotive stuff — the explosions, the victims, the anger and the hatred. An anti-Israeli protestor's banner on the TV news read "One Blood, One People" and in smaller writing, "Palestine we are with you". I don't understand this banner, it appears to push unity, saying we are all one, but then contradicts this by siding with Palestine against Israel. As soon as you take sides you immediately assert that your chosen side is in the right and that the other side is at fault. Wars by default require different sides to work, they require us to take sides to start them and to keep them going. Sometimes the choice of sides is straightforward and can be easily justified, but I don't believe the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is such a case. Discussing the conflict at a dinner party the other night, vocal Kiwi supporters of the Palestinians described Israel as "pure evil". They have taken sides, giving tacit support to Palestinians because Israel is in their view "pure evil", and how could any decent person ever be prepared to compromise with "pure evil"? Once you describe an enemy as "pure evil", is any action unjustified to destroy them? Is a suicide bomber doing anything immoral by fighting "pure evil"? It is this blinded mindset of good and evil that perpetuates these conflicts. If each side has such a mindset, the conflict can never end until one side completely destroys the other. If people in NZ are incapable of seeing that there are faults on both sides, what hope do the real combatants have? If even NZers are going to split themselves between Palestinian and Israeli and march in protests accordingly, if we are in effect fighting their war by proxy — thankfully without the weapons although the conflict can still become quite heated — if even we can't come together to rationally and calmly find a solution acceptable to both, then what hope do those on the frontline have?
I asked those who supported the Palestinians what the solution was. They insisted that Israel should immediately cease their attacks, open all their borders, remove all blockades, dismantle all checkpoints, pump billions into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and return land back to evicted Palestinians. When I asked where all the displaced Israelis would go, they insisted they could stay and live side by side with the Palestinians. They didn't seem to grasp the paradox of Israelis giving the land back to Palestinians and staying on it at the same time, or that to reconstruct historic Palestine both Jordan and Egypt would have to relinquish land as well. Nor could they explain why Palestinians would happily share their land with people who are "pure evil". These black and white solutions will never work. Compromise is the only way forward. You'll note that the above list of demands all favour Palestinians. No mention that Palestinians need do anything, such as rejecting terrorism, no mention that Gaza's Islamist government Hamas should rescind it's refusal to accept Israel's existence, no mention that sworn enemies of Israel — Islamist Palestinian factions such as Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad in Palestine, Popular Resistance Committees, Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and numerous others — should disarm, no mention of Palestinians needing to accept being integrated peacefully with Israel. And surely this is the major concession that Palestinians will have to make, accepting that they are not going to get their entire country back, that Israelis aren't leaving. And sure Israel could open it's borders and remove the checkpoints, but this would only make it easier for Palestinian fundamentalists to rearm and launch more devastating attacks. Until both Palestinians and Israelis accept that they must coexist peacefully, that initially there must be gains and losses on both sides, that they must look towards a unified future rather than a bloody past, until then this conflict will continue. As long as groups on both sides believe they can defeat the other then this conflict will continue. I support Israel's claim to self-defence and accept that no sane country would stand by and let its citizens be subject to daily attacks. I support Palestinians who are evicted from their land by illegal Jewish settlements. Both Israelis and Palestinians must destroy the rogue elements in their societies that are pushing for the exclusion of the other. I was going to say neutralise rather than destroy, but it could be argued that that is merely what the checkpoints and blockades do now, they neutralise the terrorist elements. Both must move beyond simply holding terrorism in check. Both Israelis and Palestinians must strive for unity and learn to live and work and prosper together. This will never happen while some Palestinians photograph their babies dressed in suicide belts or while some Israelis see taking Palestinian land as their divine right.
Of course most if not all the above Palestinian demands will need to happen eventually, but if people think the Palestinians are justified in continuing their violent attacks until all or even any of these conditions are met then they are naïve in the extreme. First there needs to be a ceasefire, weapons smuggling must stop and extremist groups on both sides must stop calling for the others destruction. Both sides need to see convincing demonstrations of a desire for peace and a determination to renounce violence. Both sides must accept the presence of the other and plan for peaceful unification. Acknowledging coexistence and accommodating the needs of both Palestinian and Israeli, past injustices must be rectified as best possible. Negotiations will be complex and work to instigate changes expensive and far-reaching. There will be winners and losers in the short term as reorganisation proceeds, but the result if achieved will be an equitable, peaceful and prosperous future for both Palestinian and Israeli.
One of the most shocking outcomes of the present conflict is the number of Palestinian civilian deaths, which according to many people indicates immediately which side one should support. However the fact that Hamas hasn't killed many civilians compared to the Israelis is a red herring. Their intention without doubt is to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. If they had the same weapons as the Israeli military it's naïve to believe they wouldn't be using them. You don't see them swapping their AK47s for slingshots, stating that they don't really want to hurt anyone. Every chance they get to utilise a more deadly weapon they take it. Their rockets are becoming more powerful and able to target more towns and cities. In a war you can't gauge who is right or wrong by counting how many civilians are killed. You must look at how many they wanted to kill. Yes the Israeli military has killed civilians — and maybe they are guilty of incompetence — but it has not been proven that even one was deliberately targeted. On the other hand, of the comparatively small number of civilians that Hamas has killed, every single one was deliberate. Hamas terrorists simply want to kill Israelis, civilians or military, they don't care which. They shouldn't be considered the innocent party simply because they're not very good at killing people at a distance, hence the suicide bombers. The Israel Security Agency has stated that more than 2,000 rockets and 1,600 mortar shells were launched into Israel in 2008. In total around 5,700 rockets and 4,000 mortar shells have struck Israel since 2005. Each rocket or shell had the potential to kill at least one Israeli civilian, and if Hamas militants had had better luck that would be nearly ten thousand dead civilians at the very minimum. And let's be realistic here, each attack will have been launched with the hope (Allah willing) that it kills at least one person. Thankfully the rockets have been largely ineffective because they can't be accurately targeted. But we know that they are designed to kill and can readily kill if they fluke hitting the target. Thus every Israeli knows that the potential exists. If their house, car etc is struck by a rocket they will likely end up dead. To hint that Hamas attacks are so ineffectual that they can be ignored is ridiculous. It's like the police in NZ saying that there's a mad gunman on the loose, but we needn't worry too much because he's a really bad shot. For all the bullets he's fired he's only killed three people so far, hardly worth mentioning. Would that make you feel safe to wander the streets? Since the year 2000 rocket and mortar attacks have killed 37 Israelis. It may not sound many when compared to the latest Palestinian deaths, but imagine that there has been a serial killer attacking people in your area for 8 years and he has killed 37 people so far. Would you be concerned for your safety and that of your family and friends? Would you push the authorities to stop this killer? Or would you say, "Hey, compared to how many have died in Gaza, we can surely live with 37 deaths." We wouldn't permit even a low risk of being killed, so why should the Israelis be prepared to let killers pick them off one by one with random pot shots?
And to argue that Hamas is only trying to intimidate and terrorise Israel with its ineffectual rockets, not actually kill innocent people, is to forget about one of the other weapons they utilise — the suicide bomber. They're using rockets at present because Israeli checkpoints are preventing them from getting their suicide bombers into Israeli market places and restaurants. These bombs usually kill many civilians and injure countless more with every attack. That is the type of success rate that Hamas would like with their rockets and mortars. That is the carnage they hope for every time one is launched. This desire, this driving force — this intention to slaughter innocent civilians en masse — this is how we should judge Hamas militants.
During our dinner party debate it was claimed that the Israeli military is deliberately targeting civilians. This seems to be a common argument, but it is ludicrous to claim that this is the case. Firstly, every innocent civilian that is killed lessens public support for their actions, from the West, from Palestinians opposed to Hamas and even from within Israel, while increasing sympathy and support for the Palestinians. The last thing military commanders want is to kill civilians and produce martyrs. Secondly, if the destructive power that Israel has at its disposal, not counting its nuclear arsenal, were unleashed on civilian targets the current loss of life would be inconsequential. Think of what happened at the bombing of Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Dresden and London during WWII. That's what happens when you target civilians. Thirdly, the majority of those killed have been Hamas militants, not civilians. If Israel is trying to kill civilians, then like Hamas they are really bad at it. Are we to believe they are accidentally killing terrorists while aiming at civilians?
There is no denying that civilians are dying as a result of the Israeli military engaging terrorists. But rather than falsely accuse them of deliberately targeting civilians, the question becomes whether the military objective of targeting Hamas militants, rocket launchers etc justifies the potential risk of civilian casualties. It could well be that Israel's attack on Hamas is predictably futile, in which case even one civilian death was too many, or it could be that this is the impetus that Palestinians need to finally seek a peaceful solution. It would be wonderful if no innocent person would ever be killed or harmed in the various conflicts around the world, now and in the future, but we all know this is unrealistic. There will always be truly evil people whose behaviour can only be met with lethal force. The Israelis could become pacifists, refusing to strike back against Palestinian terrorists, but anyone that thinks this would deter the militants and suicide bombers is deluded. Equally history has shown us that tit for tat attacks where roughly equal numbers are killed on both sides hasn't stopped the conflict either. Strangely though, today many people seem to indirectly suggest that equal numbers of military casualties on each side would be acceptable to them. They do this by accusing Israel of a disproportionate response, which implies that a proportionate response would be fine. We've already debunked that claim discussing a near identical conflict in 2006 when Israel responded to rocket attacks from Lebanon. Read it here: "Israeli Lebanon Conflict", replacing Hizbollah and Lebanon with Hamas and Gaza.
Asked why Israel is attacking Hamas militants in Gaza, people begrudgingly admit it is because of the rocket and mortar shell attacks. But they then defend the actions of the militants and suicide bombers by continually harping back to the "illegal" creation of Israel in 1948. The events leading up to this point in history make for a very interesting discussion — and for the record I do believe Israel's creation at the expense of Palestine was a mistake — but it is a moot discussion. As I've already said, arguing over whether it should have happened is like arguing over any event in history. It did happen. Israel in some form or another isn't going anywhere. Get used to it.
They then go on to say that Palestinians are still having their land stolen, the Gaza Strip is blockaded and they have been further degraded by having to submit to Israeli checkpoints. I note though that no one condemns Egypt for closing its border with Gaza, only Israel. It is true that many Palestinians have lost their land unjustly and that some fundamentalist Jews are still illegally driving Palestinians from their land. This is wrong of course and needs to be addressed, but show me where the crime of illegal land confiscation permits someone to slaughter an Israeli family chosen at random? Explain to me how someone who murders an innocent person because of stolen land or an embarrassing incident at a checkpoint holds the moral high ground? This belief that Palestinians are justified in killing and trying to kill innocent Israelis because of past and present injustices, both real and perceived, can never be morally justified. In NZ we can't even — both morally or legally — go out and kill someone we know is guilty of murder, let alone kill an innocent person just to highlight a gripe we might have with the government. To argue that Palestinians have this right is reprehensible. To argue that we should condemn those stealing land and treating people inhumanely at checkpoints while supporting those who kill innocent civilians with rockets and suicide bombs is to demonstrate that you really don't understand the conflict at all, nor do you know which is more valuable, land or life. Which is the worse crime, theft by the Israelis or murder by the Palestinians? If you argue that the only way Palestinians can force the Israelis to give them their ancestral olive grove back is by murdering innocent people, at what cost have they achieved their objective? How many innocent people would you feel comfortable killing to get your house back? What about your car or your MP3 player? I don't care how provoked people claim the Palestinians are, theft or mistreatment is not justification for murder. Perhaps Palestinians et al should look to the likes of Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi.
Yes the Palestinians have been wronged and the Israelis need to address these matters, and while a suicide bomb may highlight the conflict, slaughtering innocent people is not the answer. Palestinians that say they will continue to terrorise Israelis until they leave Israel are delusional, since this is not going to happen. Palestinians terrorising Israelis until they at least return some of their land and give them equality with Israelis may bring results, but how stable would this peace be? I know if someone slaughtered my family I would not feel inclined to invite their killers to share my land. Being forced to share a country with your enemy, a situation brought about solely by blackmail, terrorism and murder, does not make for a peace that will last.
As for these checkpoints, are they such an evil thing? Why do they even exist? Are Israelis subjecting Palestinians to checks because they believe they are smuggling pornography or fake Gucci handbags? No, they're looking for suicide bombers, radical Palestinians with high explosives strapped under their clothes who are on their way to slaughter as many innocent men, women and children as they can manage. But would we in NZ ever allow these checkpoints? Of course, we have them already.
We insist that our Customs and Border Control organisations screen incoming passengers, baggage, shipping containers etc to prevent criminals, terrorists and dangerous animals and organisms from entering the country and threatening NZ citizens and/or our economy. Every time a snake, mosquito or other non-native organism is discovered we berate the authorities. How did it get past the checkpoints we ask? Our banks refuse entry to people wearing full-face crash helmets since they hide their identity and thus would aid those attempting to rob banks. No one but a moron — or a disgruntled bank robber — would complain about this restriction. There are numerous examples in NZ where authorities stop us as we go about our daily routines. They ask for photo identification at airports and pubs, they search our bags when entering sports stadiums and leaving shops, they test to see whether we've been drinking while driving and whether our vehicles are legal. Yet many New Zealanders insist that Israeli authorities shouldn't stop people and check them for bombs. They really do need to take a reality pill.
I think it helps if you ask yourself how you would react if a particular situation were happening to you, here in NZ. Forget about Israel and remove the emotional component. Imagine if a radical group of animal liberationists or rouge environmentalists from the Green Party or a fundamentalist Maori group intent on independence suddenly started planting bombs around New Zealand to highlight their cause. Would you insist that the police allocate extra resources to search suspicious people, vehicles, packages etc? If you worked in one of the areas that was being targeted, would you insist on checkpoints and extra security to prevent these killers from just walking into your workplace? Would you believe that searching innocent people and possibly annoying a few of them is preferable to getting killed or maimed? Or would you say that we shouldn't demean innocent people by insisting on blanket searches, just to expose a few killers? I suspect that any sane New Zealander would support the heightened security and would deliberately avoid those organisations or areas that refused to take precautions.
No doubt innocent Palestinians get frustrated and annoyed at the lengthy delays and searches at these checkpoints. But they shouldn't blame the Israelis, they should blame their fellow Palestinians for joining them in the queue with bombs. If their fellow Palestinians renounced violence the checkpoints would be dismantled tomorrow. No doubt there have been occasions of Israeli guards acting inappropriately, but imagine the stress that these guards must be under. Everyone that they check could be a potential suicide bomber, and if the bomber realises that they have been discovered, they will detonate their bomb. Although killing a single guard is not as good as dozens in a market place, one dead Israeli is better than none. That tempers flare and insults are exchanged at these checkpoints is to be expected. But I say once again, these checkpoints do not exist merely so Israelis can abuse Palestinians. The end of suicide bombers and weapons smuggling would see them close overnight. When the checkpoints disappear is up to the Palestinians.
To conclude, taking sides is not the answer. Highlighting the flaws and mistakes of the opposing side while conveniently ignoring those of your chosen side will only prolong the conflict. Both sides have committed atrocities and have elements that desire nothing less than the destruction of the other. Neither side is composed of angels, although both sides have humanitarians striving for a peaceful resolution. Looking to religion is not the answer. Continually harping back to the past is not the answer. Barring those of a different religion and ethnicity from your café is not the answer.
The answer is a permanent ceasefire leading to negotiations by parties desiring peaceful and equitable coexistence. If the religious fundamentalists on either side continue to reject this option, then conflict at some level will continue indefinitely.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Jan, 2009 ~
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UNCENSORED conspiracy theories
A few weeks ago I was given 4 recent copies of the NZ magazine UNCENSORED to peruse. I wouldn't be surprised if you've never read it or even heard of it. I wish no one had. It's basically a glossy magazine for conspiracy theorists, full off articles that mostly seem to have been dredged from the dank recesses of the Internet. Remember what some men used to say about Playboy magazine — "I just buy it for the articles", well you can't even use that excuse for this piece of crap. The articles are mind-numbingly bad, and disappointingly there are no pictures of naked women. At least that might have redeemed it slightly and go some way towards justifying its $9.90 price tag. The articles are pure drivel and this is ironic since the phrase that appears on the cover above the title is: "Challenging the Drivel of Mainstream Media".
(Click picture to view larger image)
All the well known conspiracy theories got a mention to varying degrees, especially the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but also President JF Kennedy's assassination, the Moon landing, Princess Diana's death, alien cover-ups, alternative ancient world histories and world conquest by secret organisations. Also numerous other wacked ideas that I had never heard of before.
Why do some people devour these magazines (and the equivalent books, documentaries and websites) and yet never bother to read about real science and real history? Admittedly most scientists and historians don't waste their time commenting on these conspiracy theories, but reading about real science and real history will still give you a strong base from which to analyse these alternative views and judge whether they have any merit. A basic grounding in science and history, a good dose of critical thinking and the willingness to do a little research will normally shoot these silly conspiracy theories full of holes. In fact critical thinking alone is usually sufficient to throw enormous doubt on their claims. You can judge whether a layperson is likely to have the knowledge and expertise to challenge the world's scientists. For example, if literally thousands of scientists and engineers say that man has landed on the moon and one retired carpenter claims we haven't, why would anyone believe the carpenter over the scientists? And yes, the main proponent for the moon landing hoax is a retired carpenter, the others are a librarian, a video producer and a photographer. Morons that probably have trouble navigating their car into a park at the local mall are challenging scientists that can remotely navigate a spacecraft to the surface of Mars. This is a major flaw with nearly all conspiracy theories, that a multitude of experts are called stupid and deluded by a handful of people that have no expertise whatsoever in the field they are challenging.
When debating quantum mechanics, evolution, history or medicine, someone's experience as a plumber or real estate agent doesn't put them on equal footing with a physicist, biologist, historian or doctor. Yet most conspiracy theorists and their supporters have no qualifications or experience in the field they are disputing. Regarding the moon landing for example, why does a retired carpenter believe he knows more about astronomy, physics, astronautics, human physiology, engineering etc than do the relevant scientists, engineers and doctors? Why in matters of science do some of the public put their faith in the carpenter rather than the scientists? Even when the carpenter has expressed his concerns and scientist after scientist has explained the flaws in his theory, the carpenter's thinking is not affected one iota. Nor does support for the carpenter waver all that much. Is it simply because science can be difficult to understand compared to simplistic but bogus views expressed by laypeople? Is it easier to believe the world is flat than trying to understand Einstein's theory of gravity?
If one is prepared to look, there are a small number of academics that do take the time to specifically debunk the claims of these conspiracy theorists. There are books, magazine articles, websites, TV documentaries etc out there that convincingly show why these theories don't hold water. My experience is that supporters of conspiracy theories haven't read or viewed any of them.
Another major problem that conspiracy theorists can't seem to grasp is the enormous number of people that would be required to keep a conspiracy secret. The enormous number of people, usually highly educated, that were intimately involved in a specific event and are either willing to lie or else are too stupid to see the flaws in the conventional explanations.
Let's look at a popular conspiracy theory — that the moon landing was a hoax — and compare it to the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky oral sex incident. 50% of the people that had knowledge of the Clinton/Lewinsky story couldn't keep the secret. And yet with the major conspiracies around today there would be hundreds at the very least that know the truth — or part of it — and not one has spoken out. Take the moon landing, not one member of the supposed film crew or scientist or engineer at NASA or government official has blabbed. Not one. Every accusation of hoax comes from people that had no connection with the moon landing. Why aren't half of them telling their friends as Monica Lewinsky did, or 10% or even 1%? Surely there must have been at least one "Monica Lewinsky" type working for NASA or the government during the moon landing that just had to tell a friend? What would ensure that all these people would take the secret to the grave? And think of that large group of people that would have loved to show the moon landing was a hoax — the Soviets. They were in a race with the Americans and tracking and monitoring the moon landings. If the Americans hadn't gone to the moon they would have known and blown the whistle. And yet not one reputable Soviet scientist or official connected to the space race has spoken out. Not one. Why were the Soviets willing to lie for the Americans?
Now let's compare Monica's story with 9/11. A guy gets a blowjob, which is not at all illegal in Washington although I believe it is in some US States, and half the country screams for justice to be done. Of the one or two people Monica told of the affair, most if not all are willing to reveal what they know. Yet on 9/11 planes are flown into buildings killing around 3000 people, supposedly on the orders of President Bush, and not one of presumably hundreds of people with some knowledge of the plot is outraged enough to speak out. A president secretly getting a blowjob must be thrown from office, yet a president secretly slaughtering thousands of innocent citizens must be protected.
Which activity would you or most normal people feel the need to immediately speak out on? Conspiracy theorists want us to believe that we would scream blue murder about sexual shenanigans and keep mum about mass murder. That Americans wouldn't stand for one president misusing a cigar but are happy to keep silent regarding another president sacrificing thousands of their fellow countrymen to further his personal goals. And remember it only takes two to get a blowjob, and therefore two to keep quiet, but it would take literally hundreds if not more to carry out the 9/11 attacks and make it appear the work of Muslim terrorists. Perhaps only a handful would know all the facts, but hundreds would have snippets of knowledge that didn't stack up with the "official" report of terrorists. For example, conspiracy theorists claim that people in the airforce knew that they had been told to stand down during the attack. Jews knew that they had been told to stay away from the WTC on 9/11. Military demolition experts had been told to place explosive charges in the WTC. Security staff saw that government agents had deleted video footage of the Pentagon attack. Government agents knew that they were destroying and suppressing valuable evidence etc. An enormous number of people would have testimony and evidence that contradicted the "official" report. And yet conspiracy theorists want us to believe that they're all keeping their mouths shut. None are going to the police or their lawyers, none are writing exposé books or going on the TV talk show circuit. Not one person that has any credible evidence is disgusted or outraged enough to spill the beans on President George W Bush? As the Tui billboards would say, 'Yeah right'. It just staggers belief that all these independent people would happily support the conspiracy. Since no one involved in the alleged conspiracy is talking, anonymously or publicly, it's logical to assume that there isn't one.
Conspiracy theorists often go to great lengths to explain how a specific event was carried out and how that conflicts with the public version of the event, yet they never explain how those involved in the event are convinced to keep their mouths shut. They need to do this before they can have a hope of being believed.
Everyone I know that suspects the moon landing was a hoax has seen the TV documentary pushing the hoax view, none have seen the one debunking it (nor do they want to see it) or read the view of scientists. Of associates that believe Diana was murdered, none have taken me up on watching two sceptical documentaries that I have that challenge this view. People that believe governments are hiding aliens exhibit no real knowledge of aliens or science when questioned, in fact their views bear great similarity to episodes of The X-Files. Likewise those that believe the 9/11 terrorist attacks were the work of the US government and not Muslim terrorists, that nuclear bombs brought down the WTC and a missile hit the Pentagon, these people are only familiar with the conspiracy theories that push these views. They have spent little or no time examining how real experts respond to these silly theories. They pick up a conspiracy theory with no more effort or thought than they would use to pick up a coin in the street, and yet they go on to vigorously defend this conspiracy theory at the pub and barbecues with ignorance and naivety.
Is it all psychological, where a desire for a certain outcome or worldview overrides reason, logic and evidence? One definition of paranoia is an extreme, irrational distrust of others, and one key element of all conspiracy theories is certainly an irrational distrust of what authorities say, whether they are scientists, historians, government officials or police etc.
I suspect that many supporters of conspiracy theories are merely lazy, happy to accept simplistic answers to what can be complex or unexpected events. I say this because I have convinced a few to reject conspiracy theories. When the evidence against conspiracies and for conventional explanations are presented in a clear and logical manner, many immediately swap sides, proving that for some they merely lacked sensible answers. They had accepted the conspiracy view because no one had explained — in a simple manner — why it was rubbish. Those that actually invent conspiracy theories are a different matter though. I get the impression that no manner of evidence, of critical thinking, of clear demonstrations that their views are scientifically flawed would cause them to reconsider their claims. They are truly paranoid, believing that they are being lied to by all and sundry.
I think how many conspiracy theories one strongly believes in is a good test of whether one can be saved or whether one is truly paranoid and a lost cause. If you believe in completely disparate conspiracies such as 9/11, the moon landing, Princess Diana, JFK, the government is hiding aliens in Area 51, Jews are secretly running the world, diseases such as AIDS and bird flu are engineered to control the population, alternative ancient world histories are true, evolution is false and humans were engineered from reptiles by aliens, vaccines kill more people than they save, Elvis is still alive etc etc, then the odds are you're paranoid. If you have your suspicions about only one conspiracy theory, say 9/11 or perhaps JFK, but don't for a minute accept all the other conspiracy theories then there is hope for you. You've clearly been able to recognise the numerous flaws in the majority of conspiracy theories, rejecting them as outlandish suggestions, and you demonstrate that possibly reason and more evidence could cause you to reject your pet conspiracy theory as well. However readers of magazines like UNCENSORED, while they tend to have their favourite conspiracy theory, also tend to give tacit approval to most if not all the conspiracy theories featured. For them the world is just one giant web of deceit. They seem to revel in the secret knowledge that these magazines provide them, knowledge of how the rest of us are being deceived.
And yes, people are definitely being deceived, but it is the readers of magazines like UNCENSORED (Nexus is another) that are having the wool pulled over their eyes. To illustrate this, let's quickly look at some quotes from UNCENSORED articles that clearly demonstrate how weird some of their thinking truly is:
"Uncensored was the first magazine in NZ to break the story of 9/11 being an inside job."
Note that they just say they were the first in NZ to spread a silly rumour, not that they proved it was true.
Our governments have known about and have been working with aliens for decades it seems:
"Underground cities [133 in the US and many hundreds worldwide] are also co-habitated by extraterrestrial alien groups that the secret government has made treaties with for technology exchange and human alien hybrid breeding programs... Due to the access to certain alien technologies — including interplanetary space flights — which became available to the American government as a result of the Greada treaty signed by President Eisenhower and aliens in 1954... Bases on the Moon and Mars have indeed been built and have been in operation since the late 1950s."
I can't think of what 1950s technology advanced space-faring aliens would want from us, nor why our spacecraft are still so "primitive" if we've been effortlessly flitting to Mars for the last fifty years. And why has no one noticed the construction of these hundreds of underground cities worldwide, and why has not one of the thousands of construction workers blabbed about it?
Have you ever seen one of these:
"Chemtrails are high altitude sky trials made by chemical, metallic and biological sprays — NOT to be confused with "contrails"... [and they're] a "black op" from the US... designed to reduce substantially the population of the earth. Genetic Engineering of the food supply, AIDS, the cancer epidemic, the planned Bird Flu pandemic and the worldwide push to outlaw vitamins complement this plan.
Everything these morons don't understand is a devious plan by the government to kill them. And think about their silly claim of making some of the spray planes invisible. These sky trails aren't unusual and we all expect to see a plane, so making the plane invisible when you didn't need to would just create suspicion and reveal top secret technology. If you wished to test your cloaking technology you wouldn't create a trail to indicate where the plane should be. As for cloaking technology, these idiots have watched too many episodes of Star Trek.
Have you noticed that sometimes a spray plane isn't visible?... This is evidence of cloaking and stealth technology being used... "
More evidence of ignorance, racism and paranoia:
"AIDS, Ebola, Gulf War Illness (GWI) and many other "new" diseases were intentionally bioengineered in laboratories in the US... The HIV virus which causes AIDS was introduced and spread throughout the majority of the black population via the World Health Organization (WHO)."
They fail to realise that when AIDS first surfaced scientists didn't have the ability to "bioengineer" or genetically modify viruses. Of course they'll borrow from another conspiracy theory and say aliens helped them. Also AIDS was first noticed in the homosexual population in San Francisco, not the black population. This conspiracy theory was invented by some in the black community claiming that whites are trying to exterminate blacks.
A knowledge of science and something called scaling would have told the following idiot that the skeleton is not real:
"Pictured at left is what purports to be the remains of a 36 foot tall humanoid skeleton found in... Saudi Arabia... It does appear to be real... "
In London, the roughly one square mile financial and commercial area is called "The City". While it is true it is separate from London proper and run by the Lord Mayor and not the Mayor of London, it is still part of England. Here's how UNCENSORED falsely describes it:
"The City" is not part of England. It is not part of the Sovereign. It is not part of the British parliament. Like the Vatican in Rome, it is a separate, independent state."
How about mind control:
"Is Christian Fundamentalism a CIA Mind-control Cult? [Have you] heard of Operation Mind Control before? ...mind control of groups rather than individuals — the creation and management of cults. People's Temple & Reverend Jim Jones, Waco & David Koresh, these and other [cults] were CIA research projects. A charismatic would-be cult leader was identified, his group was infiltrated by CIA operatives, and then the group was protected from police interference while the experiment was being carried out. When the research was complete — or when exposure was threatened — the evidence was destroyed. The cult-member research subjects were poisoned or incinerated en-masse, along with the cult leader. Dead men (and women and children) tell no tales. The Taliban, and the whole Jihad movement, are also cult movements created by the CIA... to further the development of the empire. But perhaps the most important of the operational mind-control projects is the Christian fundamentalist resurgence in the US."
They claim that "the evidence was destroyed... Dead men... tell no tales." If they knew anything about Jonestown and Waco they'd know that not everyone died, the evidence was not all destroyed, and yet not one of the survivors blamed the CIA. If they say that the CIA infiltrated these groups, that it was all undercover and the members didn't know then there would be no need to utterly destroy them all. Blaming every psychotic and mentally screwed up person on the CIA is pretty lame.
"John Lennon [was murdered] by CIA mind-control subject Mark Chapman."
What threat was John Lennon to the USA? If they were merely testing their assassin, why kill such a prominent and innocent person, why not kill a Mafia boss?
And what type of person would believe this:
"Given that [President George H.W.] Bush is reported to have participated in parties where child prostitutes were sodomized and otherwise abused... "
President Bill Clinton got a blowjob from Monica Lewinsky, and while there was nothing illegal about that, all hell broke loose. Yet we're expected to believe President Bush Snr regularly sodomised children and no one gives a damm?
It seems both scientists and theologians have been lying to us. It's not evolution or creation, we're reptiles that have been modified by aliens:
"The popular misconception that man arrived on this planet well after the age of the dinosaur, has been shattered by the 1968 discovery, in Utah, of human footprints showing the crushing of a trilobite... Is it therefore possible or even likely that in our distant past, we were the creation of an alien reptoid race?... By scientific consensus, the lower brain [the human brain stem] is that of a reptile... the more important question is: where did the rest of the brain come from? To date, we can find no fossil record for the existence of a reptile fitting the description of what we call 'modern man'. This does not mean they don't or did not exist. It is likely that we have discovered the link between the modern human brain and the foundation reptile brain and failed to recognise it... There must have been a third group of beings that were capable of combining the two elements of reptile and Homo erectus into a single working entity we know as 'Homo sapiens', modern man... The reptilian brain stem IS the mechanism our reptilian creators hardwired into our brain structure to limit our ability to perceive the universe as it really exists... Whoever designed us certainly knew what they were about... we are no accident of the genetic soup; that dismissive nonsense offered by a scientific community unable to admit where we came from... or perhaps the answers terrify them? What is now certain to every thinking person is the fact that we, and the reptiles, didn't originate on this planet. Darwin's theory of evolution is fatally flawed and undoubtedly was known to be so from the time it was employed to divert our attentions await from our real origins. So who got here first... them (the reptiles) or us? I'd have to say it was the reptiles... Are we really related to the great ape? Given the genetic differences this seems unlikely... there is no evidence even remotely supporting such claims... [Biblical scholar] Sitchin claims we were created to work the planet for our new 'masters' the Anunnaki, that arrived on earth in the distant past — possibly 800,000 years ago... And is this why we have a brain of which approximately 80% remains permanently unused?... What is the reptilian brain stem preventing us from accessing?"
The amazing thing is that you have to have read a little science to write the above bullshit, but then the author completely misunderstands what he has read and corrupts real science into pure fantasy. These people generally claim to have a fascination with science and yet continually use it to demonstrate that all its conclusions are false. Yet if science is wrong and scientists are lying to us, why can we believe them when they say we have a reptile brain? Why do these idiots happily take certain scientific concepts and weave them with silly myths into really bad science fiction? And yet insist it's not fiction, it's the truth?
We may have the Apple computer, but evidently the ancient Mayan Indians had them too. Perhaps they called theirs the Pumpkin computer:
"Mayan Crystal Skull... Supposedly ancient civilizations used crystal in their computers... "
And if you thought fluoride in your water was to reduce tooth decay:
"Fluoride as a mind control agent: Hitler... envisioned a world to be dominated and controlled... and German scientists worked out a very ingenious and far-reaching plan of mass-control. The plan was to control the population in any given area through mass medication of the drinking water supplies... The real reason behind water fluoridation is not to benefit children's teeth... [but] to reduce the resistance of the masses to domination and control and loss of liberty."
Ever wondered about little green men from Mars:
"We published the PROOF that NASA has been lying about the existence of life on Mars...
Strange "tubes" crisscross the surface (and sub-surface) of Mars... Are they conveyors of water?...
When you select and process many of the images [of Mars]... down there on Mars is what looked like communities, roads, tubes, and buildings of incredible architecture."
Isn't it strange that no other magazine, let alone a reputable scientific journal, can be bothered publishing their PROOF that life exists on Mars. Nor it seems are the TV networks even remotely interested although we just must be told about Britney Spears latest scandal and what ankle problems a certain rugby player might have.
And think about this one:
"Pics by NASA of UFOs Buzzing the Space Station"
Isn't it curious that in all other cases NASA is actively trying to hide the existence of aliens from the public and yet here they happily release photos of alien spacecraft?
Finally, the following are the titles of just some of the articles in the UNCENSORED issues that I was given. They give you an idea of the type of paranoid mindset that you need to believe what you read in this silly magazine:
"The Satanic Cult that Rules the World
So if you come across the UNCENSORED magazine, by all means skim through it for a good giggle, but be warned that it will also depress you when you realise that there are people out there who believe every word. And unfortunately these deluded people are allowed to vote on important issues like genetic engineering, space exploration and scientific research, vaccination and disease control, water fluoridation, immigration, international relations etc.
What is the Real Reason for all the Secrecy about ET Encounters?
Have Scientists Discovered a Way of Peering Into the Future?
Russian Human Genome Project discovers Extraterrestrial abilities to modify DNA through a "biological internet"
George W Bush Authorised 911 Attacks Says Government Insider
The Case for Nuclear Explosions at the WTC on 9/11
Population "Control" [by the secretive Illuminati group] — New World Order Style
More Evidence for "Orbs"
Merck Vaccine Scientist: Polio Vaccines Contained Cancer Virus
Diana: Cover-up of a Royal Murder
Diana Dossier 'Disappears' from Paris Archives
U.S. Govt Admits Vaccines May Cause Autism
Diet Soft Drinks Are Poison
The Avian Flu Virus has been Weaponised
Who is the Real God of the Bible?
Did the Zionists Rewrite the New Testament?
German Government Promotes Incestuous Paedophilia as Healthy Sex Education
Israeli Company has Security Control of US Nuke Arsenal
Astonishing New (2008) Crop Circles in the UK
The Secret Science Behind Demons
Project Mannequin, UK Cloning, Mind Control And Genetic Enhancement Program
Why Doctors are Idiots"
The magazine shouldn't be called UNCENSORED, it should be called UNINFORMED, since that is clearly what they are.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 22 Dec, 2008 ~
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Comment by Bob, 23 Dec, 2008
Give up John. The ignorant will always be with us. Those who write this garbage are cynics prepared to exploit the gullible. One thing I learnt a long time ago is that there are many competent writers such as journalists who can write but have nothing to write about. They would dearly love to write the great novel. Lacking the great subject to produce a best seller they fall back on the tried and true - conspiracy theories, the supernatural, Nostradamus, crime. They might not make a fortune but it pays the rent. Over the years I have read some incredible books. At first I could not understand how a writer could compose 300 pages of sheer unbelievable drivel. I know better now. Writers will produce shoddy work as readily as a manufacturer will produce shoddy goods knowing they will make money but have no quality.
Drivers and roundabout confusion
I've just read the ODT's Prestor John's Talk of the Times column where he discusses annoying driver habits, most of which I agree entirely with. However when discussing signalling confusion at roundabouts, while it is indeed confusing for many, he (I assume it's a "he", the column is printed under a nom-de-plume) only exacerbates this confusion by printing bogus advice from one of his readers claiming to be quoting the law. 'Prestor John' validates this view by stating "Sounds like a classic example of "the law is an ass" to me."
Regarding indicating correctly at roundabouts, the reader claims that "if you were travelling straight ahead, you would signal right, then quickly switch to the left."
This is completely false, and printing it in a major newspaper will only make matters worse. It is these very people that are causing the confusion.
The main thing to remember is that if you're going straight ahead or straight through a roundabout, you DO NOT indicate right, as this reader falsely claims is the law.
Indicating at roundabouts is quite simple. If you're turning left, you indicate left. If you're turning right, you indicate right. If you're going straight ahead, you don't indicate at all. This is the same as any intersection, you don't indicate if you're not turning. The difference between roundabouts and normal intersections is that once you're in the roundabout you then indicate which 'exit' you're going to take. However both the police and the Road Code acknowledge that it might not be possible to indicate your exit in many of the small roundabouts. The rule to indicate your exit is really designed for large roundabouts where your exit is a considerable distance from your entry.
In theory and for large roundabouts these rules make good sense, but for the great majority of small roundabouts the requirement to signal to your exit doesn't work and only causes confusion. To say that you must signal your exit for three seconds before you turn is ridiculous, since it often takes less time to go through the entire roundabout.
Here's what the NZ Road Code states:
If you are going 'straight' through a roundabout:
That said, because of these new laws and driver confusion you now can't take any notice of any vehicle's indicators at roundabouts. Some get it right, most don't, so you have to assume for safety's sake that they're a confused driver like the correspondent above and wait until they go past or exit the roundabout. It's a shame that once many people get their licence they never again study the Road Code. For many people the laws of the road remain pretty much what they were when they got their licence. People that got their licence before multiple lanes and red turning arrows drive as if they weren't there. Will it take another generation before we can rely on driver's indicators at intersections?
- don't signal as you come up to the roundabout
- signal left as you pass the exit before the one you wish to take. At some small roundabouts it may not be possible to give three seconds warning, but it is courteous to give as much indication as you can.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Dec, 2008 ~
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Comment by Jonathan, 15 Dec, 2008
Great topic! I live in Christchurch and the number of drivers that can't get this right is unbelievable. I emailed the LTSA asking them to investigate the problem since this seemed to become a serious problem just after they had the advertising campaign to promote indicating at roundabouts (with the object of reducing confusion at roundabouts). Of course, I never heard back. This is a good case of how promotional campaigns can back-fire.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 21 Dec, 2008
In Prestor John's next column he noted that some (me included) had pointed out that his comments on roundabouts were wrong. He then spelt it out in no uncertain terms that he had made a mistake and what the rules really were. It's always pleasing to note when someone is willing to acknowledge an error and publicly set the record straight. Many people would have kept quiet about email complaints and simply moved on, keeping their readers in the dark. Well done.
Comment by Mario, 12 Jan, 2009
Hi John, from experience I think that the most important aspect about "roundabout" is not when or how to signal for an exit, but rather making a difference between a roundabout and a "traffic circle". For the former, the entering vehicles do not have the right-of-way, in the latter they do. Naturally, this is quite different and can cause a major accident if you fail to realize this. There are roundabouts and traffic circles in the USA as well as in Canada. In France, most are
roundabouts, although exception exists, and no signs tell you that. The traffic circles I have seen in Canada have yield signs once in the circle to remind you that you are not in a roundabout.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 14 Jan, 2009
Thanks for your comment Mario, although in NZ it's a little easier since we only have roundabouts, no "traffic circles". One rule applies for all situations. However your comment does clear up for me the difference I have encountered — as a passenger — in places such as France where the right-of way does seem to reverse from place to place. Your description of "traffic circles" would seem to explain my confusion, and I agree that this must cause a few accidents. The drivers I was with were New Zealanders and were ignorant of the difference. It has always amazed me that so many countries let people from other countries drive on their roads without them having to prove that they have studied the road rules for that particular country.
Catholic Priests and sexual abuse
Earlier this month we learnt that the Catholic Church is to increase the use of psychological tests to expose homosexuality in young men seeking to become priests. They've decided to do this in an attempt to reduce the number of sexual abuse cases in the future. As you will recall, thousands of children worldwide have alleged they were sexually molested and/or raped by Catholic priests and it has cost the Vatican and individual churches billions of dollars in settlements. The Catholic Church has admitted that they have a major problem with sexual abuse by priests.
(Click picture to view larger image)
So now the Vatican will attempt to stem the tide of abuse by weeding out those applicants that appear to have "deep-seated homosexual tendencies", "uncertain sexual identity", "a difficulty living in celibacy" and a "sexuality identity that is confused or not yet well defined." They state priests must have a "positive and stable sense of one's masculine identity".
This crap that stopping homosexual men from joining the Catholic Church will fix the sexual abuse problem is just a smokescreen, especially since it does nothing to address the homosexuals already in the Church. The Vatican knows full well what the real cause of sexual abuse is — the enforced vow of celibacy that is placed on priests and nuns. So why not get rid of the celibacy requirement would be the obvious question? Well because the Catholics have something they call Papal Infallibility. This means that the Pope is deemed infallible, meaning nothing he ever says can be wrong. Thus once he has said priests must take a vow of celibacy, that it is God's will, he can never go back on this. To change his mind would show that he is merely human and that his proclamations aren't coming from God after all. If the Pope can't renounce the true cause of sex abuse or even acknowledge it, he must try and point the blame elsewhere. Thus he accuses homosexuals of causing the problem. After all, their God teaches them that homosexuals are vile, disgusting, detestable and sinful, deserving of persecution and even death. And strangely enough, a large percentage of Catholic priests do appear to be homosexual, so does he have a case?
Yes homosexual priests are having sex with children, but so too are heterosexual priests. Remember that both young girls and boys in the church have been sexually abused. Let's be honest here. Given free choice homosexuals and heterosexuals don't normally target children, so why do they when employed by the Catholic Church? Simple, the Vatican enforced vow of celibacy. Unable to release sexual urges — homosexual or heterosexual — in normal relationships with other adults in society, they prey secretly on children. Most other religious denominations and other groups like Boy Scouts etc have all suffered episodes of child sex abuse (minor in comparison to the Catholic Church), but these have all been carried out by pedophiles, not homosexuals or heterosexuals. And like some leaders in the Boy Scouts, many pedophiles do join the Catholic Church to gain access to children. So many of the sex abuses cases in the Catholic Church will have been committed by pedophiles of both sexual orientations, homosexual and heterosexual. Yet quizzing a pedophile will not necessarily reveal homosexual tendencies. He will honestly say he has no attraction to other men, he doesn't want to spend time with other men nor does he enjoy musicals. The Vatican will employ a man that secretly desires sex with children while rejecting a man that secretly desires sex with adult men. They claim that they want to employ men that if they were to have sex, they would desire to have sex with women. Having established this desire, they then prevent them from acting on it, or even thinking about it. The fact is that the Vatican must know that whoever they employ as priests, all will have sexual desire, be they pedophile, homosexual or heterosexual. All these groups contribute to the sexual abuse problem. The pedophiles actively seek out the children, whereas the homosexual and heterosexual priests are sexually abusing boys and girls because they are unable to seek adult sexual gratification in the real world. The celibacy vow, which they find themselves unable to keep, forces them to prey on children in their parish. They chose children over adults not because they desire children, but because they think they can force children to keep their secret. They also know that their fellow priests and the Vatican will shield them and maintain their secret if discovered. A US court this week mentioned a "1962 Vatican mandate which outlined a policy of "strictest" secrecy regarding allegations of sexual abuse by clergy and threatened those who spoke out with excommunication."
Thus there are three groups of priests abusing children — first and foremost the pedophiles, then secondly homosexuals and heterosexuals. The Vatican focusing solely on homosexual priests might reduce the problem, but the pedophile and heterosexual priests will still continue to abuse children. Thus to keep children safe, EVERYONE must be prevented from becoming priests, not just homosexuals. No existing priest can be allowed access to children and no more new priests can be inducted into the church, be they homosexual or heterosexual. The priesthood will be extinct within a generation and this is the best way to ensure the safety of children.
That said, the flawed tests the Vatican have implemented, if taken seriously, would in theory solve the problem of abuse. Not because homosexuals are the problem, but because the tests if applied rigidly would in fact exclude EVERYONE from being a priest — pedophiles, homosexuals and heterosexuals. Thus by default they would bring about the collapse of the priesthood. No priests, no abuse.
Think about this. The Vatican says they will bar any male that displays possible homosexual tendencies, and here we have young men who want to give up any and all sexual — and even platonic — relationships with women and spend their entire life with other men. Surely this attitude alone, of willingly shunning women and choosing the company of men should bar EVERY applicant from the priesthood? It's almost like it's a trick question. Anyone that wants to enter the priesthood obviously isn't suitable!
And remember that this applies equally to women entering the Catholic Church as nuns. Nuns have also been guilty of sexually abusing children, both girls and boys, although on a much smaller scale. It seems nuns unable to suppress their sexual desires steer towards lesbian relationships with other nuns rather than children, which reduces their offending.
Those entering the Catholic Church can now supposedly only do so once they demonstrate they have no homosexual tendencies, which logically means they need to exhibit heterosexual tendencies. Once they have acknowledged these desires, they must then suppress them forever. Does the Vatican really believe this is even possible, or is it just a silly pretence they want the rest of us to swallow? The Vatican says that all applicants that have a "difficulty living in celibacy" will be rejected, yet this stipulation should obviously bar most from entering. For humans it is not natural to be celibate, and even if someone chooses to be, this choice once made does not magically suppress sexual desire. Sexual attraction and arousal is not a conscious decision, and for those picking celibacy, these feelings must be continually fought against. It will be an ongoing challenge, a difficulty that they will face every day. And unlike real world celibacy, in the Catholic Church version of celibacy it's not sufficient to simply avoid physical sex acts with others. Masturbation, sexual thoughts and even unconscious sexual arousal are equally sinful. Every priest, if they are at all typical, must have "difficulty living in celibacy", thus none should have been made priests. Forcing celibacy onto men and women is like telling a lion he's now a vegetarian. Every basic subconscious instinct in their mind will be fighting this decision. Celibacy is unnatural and if adopted would lead to the extinction of the species in one generation. It is an unnatural, conscious choice that opposes our natural, unconscious urges. Thus barring men for whom celibacy doesn't come naturally and easily would effectively bar all men. Again, if the Vatican took this requirement seriously, they would solve their sexual abuse problem.
Unfortunately the Vatican won't take the results of their psychological tests seriously or to their logical conclusions. This superficial attack on the "evil" homosexual is merely an empty ploy to placate an angry public. As long as the celibacy requirement exists, sexual abuse will continue. Existing Catholic priests that have abused children or that are suspected of abuse will continue to be hidden from the public by the church hierarchy.
While there are a small number of people for who sex has no importance, just like others have no desire to climb mountains, it is not these people that generally flock to the Catholic Church to become priests. A lack of sexual desire does not mean that the only vocation open to you is the Catholic Church. And for the one or two priests that might genuinely have no sexual desires, they are ill placed to counsel others. I've always thought it strange that married couples would take advice on marriage and sexual matters from a priest that has never been in a relationship and is supposedly a virgin. It's like asking a Hindu what it's like to be a Muslim.
Remember too that originally celibacy was not part of the Catholic Church. All the early popes and priests were married or sexually active. Their positions of authority often allowed them to indulge to excess. Forced celibacy was brought in by the Vatican as a way of increasing their wealth. They figured that if their priests had no families to leave their land and other assets to then it would become church property when they died. Celibacy was instigated by Vatican greed. It was all about preventing wives and children that could inherit assets, it was not about sex per se. The Vatican didn't really care if priests had sex as long as they didn't have families. No doubt this is why the Vatican has turned a blind eye to sexual shenanigans for centuries since sex with the altar boy won't make him an heir.
Even though they have sworn a vow of celibacy, there is no denying that many priests haven't been able to suppress their sexual urges, regardless of what they tell us. Likewise the sexual abuse of girls proves it is not solely homosexual priests at fault.
There is a simple fix that would considerably reduce offending by both homosexual and heterosexual priests in the church, and that's the immediate removable of the celibacy vow. If Catholic priests were permitted normal sexual relationships and the chance to have families like the rest of us, then child sex abuse would no doubt plummet to the much lower level of other Christian denominations. You won't reduce it to zero until a reliable method of identifying pedophiles is discovered, and of course anyone, not just priests, with pedophile tendencies must be forever barred access to children.
There have been many people that have pressed the Vatican to get rid of the celibacy vow. They've told them
that their refusal to allow priest's to have sexual experiences with other adults is at fault, not the priest's sexual orientation. No doubt the Vatican knows this only too well, but unable to renounce celibacy because of Papal Infallibility, they use homosexuals as scapegoats. Many Catholics will accept this ploy since they are taught to detest homosexuals, so it will seem only natural that they are committing the abuse. Meanwhile the Vatican will be improving methods to hide this abuse. Remember that these future priests, homosexual or not, are not the cause of the past and present abuse. It is the priests that are in the Catholic Church right now that are abusing children. Until these disgusting child molesters die or are exposed and locked up, the Catholic Church is a threat to children. And since their futile ploy of targeting future priests with homosexual tendencies won't solve the problem, the Catholic Church will remain a threat to children as long as it exists.
Of course there's another way of looking at sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a more devious way. It's almost as if it's the priest's vocation to sexually abuse children, that that is exactly the reason they joined the Catholic Church. I say this because the Catholic Church does have the ability to identify every priest that has sexually abused children — past, present and future. And yet they don't, they say they have no idea. Being able to identify the abuser but refusing to do so suggests that they approve of his actions and are protecting him. It suggests that the priests really get off on abusing children but at the same time wish to portray a face of innocence to the public. Are they just a large old boys club for pedophiles? I say they are hiding information about the abuse since the leader of their organisation has intimate knowledge of every priest's activity. Every priest knows that his leader has an accurate file on him, he knows every room he enters is bugged and that he is under constant surveillance. That he still abuses children knowing that his leader is watching him signifies that he is not fearful that his leader would disapprove or punish him for his actions. It's as if the Catholic Church was set up to provide a hiding place and ready source of children for pedopiles, while gratifying the voyeuristic desires of their ageing leader in the process.
You've probably already guessed whom I'm referring to as the leader of the Catholic Church. Not the Pope of course, but God himself. He watches every choir boy get raped and does nothing, at most perhaps rewarding the priest with an extra powerful orgasm. He has not only observed every incident of abuse that has occurred, he has experienced every feeling, every emotion that the priest experienced and simultaneously every feeling of pain, disgust and shame felt by the child victim. And yet not once has God felt the need to speak out in support of the child. Instead he sides with the priest, his employee, refusing to reprimand him or show disapproval of his actions. If anything, he usually gets promoted. And if the police ever do turn up to investigate a complaint, God is always out of the office, no where to be found. He refuses to incriminate his employees by revealing what he knows. If the Pope and his priests really believe in their God, a God that will punish them horribly for inappropriate acts, then they must believe he approves of their deviant behaviour. Thus God and his priests are nothing but disgusting child molesters and deserve our contempt.
On the other hand, if priests don't really believe that there is a god watching them, which seems to be the case, then this is just one more reason to utterly reject the Catholic Church. If the very people that supposedly know more about god than anyone don't believe in him, then Catholic parishioners should realise that priests aren't just screwing their kids, they're screwing them as well.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Nov, 2008 ~
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Comment by Bob, 06 Dec, 2008
I think the reasons for pedophiles among priests is fairly simple. Pedophiles will go where they can get at children. Cases have come to light recently of abuse in the Catholic Church, other churches, boy scouts and government run children's homes - anywhere children can be found particularly if the person can get into a position of authority over children. It doesn't surprise me that there are possibly a high number of pedophiles and homosexuals in the Catholic Church. Normal heterosexual men have a lot to give up by rejecting marriage and having their own children. That is obvious by the fact that the Church has difficulty attracting new priests. The present crop are mainly over 50 years of age. Homosexuals don't have that problem so presumably would be more likely to become priests. I think the Church has problems with homosexual priests pairing up and separates them when they realise what is going on. Presumably pedophiles will give up marriage for the promise of contact with children.
In the past the Catholic Church helped create the position they are in now by their attitude to abusers. They considered themselves above the law answerable only to God. Errant priests were neither kicked out nor handed to the police. It was considered they had sinned and needed to seek forgiveness. At the same time because they were an embarrassment they were quietly shifted elsewhere leaving complainants to think they had been effectively dealt with when in fact they were often able to abuse a new lot of kids.
The best answer would be to have married priests, even a combination of married and celibate priests, a sort of two tier. However they won't because they don't want the financial burden of families. The excuse is that Jesus had only men around him so the Church has to be patriarchal. But in the past priests were married then the rules were changed. Books written usually by ex-priests are quite revealing.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 07 Dec, 2008
You make a good point Bob in that there could be a high proportion of pedophiles and homosexuals in the Catholic Church simply because they would have had much less to lose in becoming priests. Being forced to give up something you don't even want — sex with women — is no hardship. Many could even have used the Church to hide their sexuality, stating that their disinterest in women was solely because of their vows, not because they were homosexual.
And yes, the Catholic Church's arrogance that they are only answerable to God, that God will dole out any punishment required, this allows the problem to continue unabated. Secretly moving priests to other communities where they could continue the abuse is another crime in itself. As you say, pedophiles will go where they can get at children, but any organisation that harbours them once discovered simply to protect their image is abhorrent.
I've just looked at part of a TV documentary called Flesh and The Devil that I recorded a year or so ago that looked at the sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. Regarding celibacy it said, "For over a thousand years priests, monks and 39 popes, including St Peter himself, married. It wasn't until 1139 CE that celibacy was mandated." "In the early years of the mandate the Church almost lost control. With marriage forbidden, priests, bishops and even popes committed adultery and incest. John, the so-called anti-pope, was rumoured to have seduced 200 women during his five-year reign. Pius II and Innocent VIII left trails of illegitimate children. Julius III entered a long-term sexual relationship with a rent boy he picked up on the streets of Parma and eventually made a Cardinal."
The documentary also noted that the Catholic Church isn't just having a massive problem finding new priests, it stated that "since 1960 200,000 priests have renounced their vows" and "since the mid-1960s 300,000 nuns have left Holy Orders".
The fact is that enforced celibacy doesn't work. Sexual urges are not something you can switch off. The documentary also mentioned that, "Sexual lapses have been a fact of monastic life. Monks fathered sons and so many harassed novices that it was said "With wine and boys around, monks have no need of the Devil to tempt them."
Comment by Bob, 09 Dec, 2008
Regarding the Catholic Church, I don't know if arrogant is the word to describe them. They do live in a fantasy world. Felix Donnelly was a Catholic priest around the 1960s. In the 1970s he fell out with his Church and left. He wasn't very good at parish work but found he had a talent for helping people with problems so became a counsellor. The trouble was his view of people from his experience varied from the official Catholic lines particularly in regard to homosexuals. He found they were not the sinful creatures of Catholic dogma. While they were out of step with the majority in preferring their own sex they still wanted companionship and love. He also found many were more to be pitied than blamed. He came to the conclusion homosexuality was a normal variation. What concerned him was that homosexuals were not accepted and as a result many suffered anguish and psychiatric problems trying to live up to society's expectations with unhappy marriages etc. Inevitably he ended up arguing with his superiors and was refused permission to conduct the Church's rites. So he left and became a private counsellor trying to persuade society to be more tolerant of difference. He was accused of being a closet homosexual for treating homosexuals. He used to say "I counsel unmarried mothers. What does that make me?" The Catholic Church won't change but if any members don't agree with the official line they are out.
Felix Donnelly wrote a book on his experiences generally critical of the Catholic Church. He said that celibacy leads to parish priests leading very lonely lives. He attended one meeting of parish priests and said he detected in their faces the same look of emotional deprivation he saw in clients who lacked companionship and personal love. They spent their lives talking to parishioners about church matters but had no one to confide in or talk to about their own personal feelings. In short they were emotionally deprived. One priest who lived by himself went to his bishop and said he was lonely. He was told he shouldn't be lonely as he had Jesus. He had to pray and develop a better relationship with his Lord. That is what I mean by living in a fantasy world.
I have read a lot of Catholic articles on line. They never have any feedback. Information comes down but never goes back. At school we were told not to think for ourselves because we can't possibly think better than Catholic scholars and will only be led into error. I watched a discussion programme on TV on euthanasia between several people including one Catholic priest. The priest's objections were confined to the same objections we might all have such as the possibility of abuse of the right to die and should people who are merely depressed be allowed to die. What annoyed me was the priest was not honest. His real official view had to be that only God controls life and people must wait until death comes naturally regardless of how much physical and mental pain the person is suffering. I felt so incensed at his dishonesty that I rang the Catholic information office. The lady in charge couldn't answer me so she put me onto some man. But he didn't acknowledge my point so I got nowhere. It's no wonder that as people become better educated they throw off the religions.
There's nothing like a good stoning!
A disgusting display of barbarity that occurred last week was given only passing comment by most news media. Relegated to a few lines in the local paper and not even mentioned on TV3 news to my knowledge, the stoning to death of a woman by religious fundamentalists was seemingly something that we didn't need to know about, or if we were told, not something that we needed to reflect on. A 23-year-old woman, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow, was executed in Somalia for adultery by Islamists. Islamists are Muslim fundamentalists, people that really do believe their religion is true. She was buried in a hole up to her neck and pelted with stones by fifty men (according to one report) while hundreds watched. She was removed from the hole three times to see if she was dead. A detailed account can be read here. When some relatives surged forward Islamists opened fire killing a child. And don't think stoning to death is just something Muslims do. The Bible is full of circumstances of where good Jews and Christians should be stoning their fellow citizens to death. Remember John Cleese playing a Jewish Rabbi and trying to control a stoning in Monty Python's "Life of Brian"? The only difference is that few Jews and Christians believe they could still get away with it in the 21st century. But the Biblical commandments from God are still there, they haven't been rescinded, and a frightening number of Jews and Christians would implement them in an instant if they had the power. Thankfully they don't, but in many places Muslims do still have the power to carry out God's commandments. Places like Somalia, where Islamic Sharia law drags the population back to the 7th century. To a place and time where a preposterous work of fiction called the Koran was thought up as a sequel to the equally silly Jewish Torah and its fanciful follow up, the Christian New Testament. A difficult to read trilogy that all recommended stoning in generous amounts. The blasphemy that I have uttered in this post has condemned me to a good stoning.
It's shameful that the news media ignored this cruel, savage murder of a young woman by ignorant thugs acting in the name of religion. Yet the media still has the time and feels the need to show us every try and goal in numerous sporting events, and then enters into deep discussions with players, coaches and the 'person on the street' into how their sporting performance can be improved. Any possible ankle or wrist injury that an All Black or Silver Fern might have is revealed to us along with its possible ramifications. And yet the ramifications of a woman being slaughtered by devout Muslims is unimportant, even as we in the West are being encouraged to go out of our way to accommodate and accept the ways of devout Muslims in our midst. How long before they demand Islamic Sharia law in NZ, as they have in Britain? We evidently already allow Muslims to ignore the requirement that animals have to be slaughtered humanely. A Canterbury University student recently told me that there are around nine religious groups pushing their myths at his Uni, the Born Again Christians being the most annoying and the Muslim group the "most mellow". Born Again Christians can be more forceful and outspoken since they are the majority religious view in NZ, whereas Muslims are the minority, often treated with suspicion and mistrust, and so they have to show a non-threatening and "mellow" persona. As did the Muslims in Iran, Iraq and Somalia until they got the power to do as they wished, or more specifically, as their god wished.
We must be informed of atrocities like the stoning in Somalia, and local Muslims must be asked their views. Do they agree with stoning to death for adultery and numerous other actions that we in secular societies don't even consider crimes at all? If they had the opportunity to bring in Sharia law would they, or would they reject it outright? I remember our only Muslim Member of Parliament being asked this question a few years ago. Labour MP Ashraf Choudhary said that he agreed with the death sentences passed down by the Koran but that they weren't appropriate in NZ. In other words, he didn't have the power (or the guts) to say that they should be applied in NZ at present. But given sufficient support you can guarantee that he would suddenly be saying that Sharia law should apply in NZ as it is the will of Allah.
When a devout Muslim — following the whims of his god — commits what any rational, humane person considers an atrocity or injustice, he must be brought to account if possible. We spoke out against racism in South Africa, why are we ignoring barbaric acts in Somalia? Likewise others in the West claiming to be Muslims must be queried as to whether they support this religious action by their fellow Muslim, and why. Why they support the authority of the Koran but not in NZ, or why the Koran is wrong? Just as devout Christians, Jews, Hindus etc must be questioned on the actions of their religion. Do Christians believe homosexuals should be executed? What about abortion doctors and atheists? Do Jews believe likewise? Do Christians and Jews in NZ support those in foreign countries that do persecute homosexuals etc even though they can't do it here? Are they, like the Destiny Church, wishing that we could return to a time when their religion was in control? Most Kiwis are quite prepared to openly say that the likes of Bishop Brian Tamaki are bigoted, ignorant people following primitive, superstitious notions, yet the same people are often very guarded as to how they describe Muslims and Islam in public. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all derive from the same fairytale. The atrocities and injustices they all push must be equally exposed, condemned and rejected. Jews and Christians have lost the power to intimidate us, we must not now hand it over to Muslims.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 05 Nov, 2008 ~
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Comment by Steve, 12 Dec, 2008
This article is incorrect saying stoning was not rescinded in the bible, it is, as it was for a specific time, people and purpose all of which have passed.
The portions which covers this topic no longer applying are found in the books of Matthew, Luke, John, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Acts and Hebrews.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Dec, 2008
Your argument that certain commandments or "Law" from the Old Testament have been rescinded no doubt convinces other Christians but just raises more questions for us non-believers.
Firstly, does not Jesus himself clearly say:
"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (MT 5:17-20)
Thus Jesus is confirming that God's commandments, of which there are some 613 in the Old Testament, not just the 10 that most people have heard of, are still valid. None lose their authority until the earth disappears, which I don't believe has yet happened. Of course I'm sure that you can quote something from Jesus, or someone professing to know the thought's of Jesus, that suggests that many of God's embarrassing commandments have been revoked. But this just illustrates that the Bible is contradictory and muddled, able to support whatever view you wish to take, as long as you pick and choose your quotes.
But regardless of whether some laws have been rescinded, you acknowledge that your God did put laws like stoning in place. So why did he consider it just and humane for his chosen people to execute family members and friends for "crimes" as innocent as talking back to your parents? (EX 21:17, MT 15:3-4) Why should a virgin who was raped be stoned to death? (DT 22:23-24)
I could accept that a group of men made laws that a later group decided needed to be changed, but not that a perfect god could make imperfect laws. I can accept that men can examine existing laws, add new ones and reject unjust, barbaric and irrational ones. But I can't accept that an all-knowing god would do this, and yet this is what Christians believe, that God forced his barbaric laws onto his chosen people for millennia and then suddenly realised there was a better way. He then went down in disguise to hand out his amendments, which would become known as the New Testament. And 'testament' simply means 'covenant', 'agreement' or 'contract', meaning God is ripping up the previous contract and issuing a new one. Yet new agreements or contracts are only issued when the existing ones prove inadequate, outdated, or in this case, badly flawed. But an all-powerful, all-knowing god wouldn't have been able to write anything but a "perfect" contract in the first place. There would be no need for an update to fix the bugs in the first version.
Honest Christians on a good day acknowledge that much of the Old Testament is a major embarrassment, one that they could well do without. They thus pick and choose which parts of the Old Testament or original contract their God got right and which he got horribly wrong, as did Jesus seemingly. For example, many Christians that persecute homosexuals or oppose abortion, contraception, masturbation, sex outside marriage etc do so because of commandments in the Old Testament. Why can they find reasons to revoke the commandments on stoning and slavery (especially since Jesus never spoke out against slavery), but not homosexuality? Admittedly some can, but equally others reading the same verses can't.
My real problem is, even if God did rescind the stoning laws in the New Testament, how can he justify them being in the Old Testament in the first place? Why did he get it all so wrong? And more importantly, why do Christian's continue to defend God's barbaric actions in the Old Testament? As you said Steve — "it was for a specific time, people and purpose all of which have passed" — implying that you fully support God's use of stoning.
It is this attitude that was the main thrust of our article, not stoning per se. It's about Muslims, Christians, Jews etc being fully accepting of atrocities committed by their god or in their god's name. It's about some, if permitted, going on to force their unjust and barbaric punishments, beliefs and requirements onto others. It's about standing up to those who believe their holy books tell us who we should love and who we should persecute, and to prevent them dragging us back into a primitive, ignorant and dangerous culture. And you obviously believe your holy book tells you how to live, and how I should live, although your references are rather vague. They remind me of a quote from Homer Simpson, who while trying to defend one of his actions said something along the lines of: "It's in the Bible, somewhere near the back I think."
Don't explain why I can't now stone people, explain why your god told us to in the first place, and why you're not condemning him for it?
Comment by Steve, 24 Dec, 2008
There were 6 laws that were capital offences where stoning was the stated method, plus one instant covering an animal, also some one off stoning events, some at God's direction, some by assorted people at their own direction. The time period that these laws operated was from the time Israel left Egypt until the death of Jesus Christ. They were only for the nation of Israel and any non jews who desired to live under them.
Why did God give these laws? The law was given to show the standard of righteousness needed to reach God's standard. They were to act as an outward check on desires... making the consciousness of sin more acute. It was to teach that since no-one is able to overcome sin by themselves people could be guided to Christ who could and would rescue and save them from the penalty of their sin. The law revealed to mankind their natural state... explaining the broken relationship between man and God... showing humanities need for the promise of life through faith in Jesus Christ.
Do I condemn any or part of the law? No. Because: This discussion pre-supposes the bible is true... God is real, sin is real... there is right and wrong, good and evil... it's not my idea of right and wrong, it's God's standard of righteousness... his choice. Somewhat like your choice of telling me not to inform you about the reality of the current state of the law, it's your site, you make the rules.
Because: It was a law that was put to the nation of Israel for the vote. Is this the law we want on our statute books?... a unanimous yes vote, 40 years later the next generation put it to the vote again... do we still want to have these laws as our laws... a unanimous yes again.
A couple of points of interest? The old testament doesn't refer to the law, it refers to the promise God made to Abraham, which God told Abraham that the promise would partially happen during his lifetime, coming to completion when Christ came to live and die on earth. It wasn't a surprise
situation. It was promised, explained, expected. When Christ said this in the NT he was referring to the completion of a covenant promise, not a broken idea that needed fixing.
The reason I gave an assortment of NT books in my previous comment is that if a person just quotes a bible verse you can make the bible say almost anything you want. One of the rules for studying historical documents is "context". When you pick one verse out you often lose the context and give a false impression of what's really being said, eg Mt 5:17-20, Ex21:17, Dt 22:23-24. Take the matthew passage, a person could read that, flip over a few pages and read a verse that states the law no longer applies, flip back a few pages and read if you've never heard of a particular law it doesn't apply to you. Need context to get the truth, hence my reading list of complete books. You need to read entire passages otherwise wrong conclusions are drawn most of
Galations is a good book to read on the subject under discussion, short, concise, informative. You are correct, Jesus didn't teach specifically against different practices — slavery — although of course God had laid the foundation and dealt with the subject in Genesis 1. What Jesus did major on was putting others above yourself, treating people as you wanted to be treated, counting those
who hate you as more important than yourself, live a life of serving not being served.
You may not believe in me but I believe in you was His message. You may not love me but I love you.
God shows His love for us, while we were still sinning, Christ died for us.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 13 Jan, 2009
Thanks for your reply Steve. You say that the stoning laws were introduced by God to teach people the "standard of righteousness needed to reach Gods standard". I think there is a huge difference in the behaviour that God wanted from his servants and the method he used to try and achieve it. That's like a loving father demanding that his children be polite at the dinner table and then slaughtering them because they forgot to say 'thank you'. If reaching God's standard requires us to become cold-hearted butchers, then it's not a standard I aspire to.
You say the consequences of the stoning laws would teach the people about sin and would therefore guide them to Christ, yet you also say the stoning laws only applied up until the time of Jesus. How could the laws reveal "the promise of life through faith in Jesus Christ" to a people that had never heard of him? It would seem that God forced stoning deaths on his people for millennia by withholding the knowledge of Jesus from them. When he finally tired of barbaric executions God (according to Christians) washed his hands of the Jews — his chosen people — and sided with the Christians instead. Although it seems that before the newly formed Christians would accept the transfer of Jehovah from the Jewish camp to the Christian camp, he was forced to leave behind some of his more barbaric practises.
You say you don't condemn any of God's laws, no matter how disgusting, barbaric and unjust people like myself believe they are. You say he makes the rules, it's his choice and even though his laws are not your idea of right and wrong, you'll still follow his laws obediently. This raises the old problem, is something good because it is innately good, or is it merely good because God on a whim says it's good? God felt it was right and good for someone to be prepared to murder their own innocent child, no questions asked, merely on God's request (Abraham and Isaac). If it was considered right and good thousands of years ago, why is this attitude condemned today? If it was good then it should still be good. Good is good. It shouldn't change. The fact that it isn't anymore indicates that what God and other Bible characters deem to be good and bad changes from chapter to chapter. You say that what is good and bad is God's choice, rather than actions being good or bad in their own right, so this means that God could change his mind yet again tomorrow and decide that executing our children is the right thing to do, again.
That's what worries me about devoutly religious types. They claim that this world is God's world, that he makes the rules and they will blindly follow them, no matter how much they may personally disagree with them. As abhorrent they may believe his laws are, they will not condemn them.
As for the claim that the ancient Hebrews twice voted to retain the stoning laws, when all the voters sincerely believe that a vengeful, murderous God will do evil things to them if they cross him, they are hardly likely to vote against his laws. When an omniscient god knows how everyone voted, this is not what you would call a free election.
Going by what you say, it seems that even when God was starting out with his new religion — Judaism — he had already decided that he would need to kill himself horribly on the cross because his chosen people — the Jews — just weren't going to live up to his high ideals. For a god that knows the future, I don't know why he didn't just skip the Jews and go straight to his suicide on the cross? Especially since for many Christians the stories of his exploits in the OT are a major embarrassment.
I'm glad you accept that you can make the Bible say almost anything you want, since it has numerous apparently contradictory passages. This is perfectly understandable since it was written as completely independent documents over thousands of years, with the numerous authors having no knowledge that they would eventually be gathered together as a single "coherent" book. Many would have been ignorant of the other documents and/or not concerned whether their stories aligned with them. They were writing the story as they saw it. This problem of contradiction and ambiguity makes perfect sense when you realise the Bible was a human construct. However it makes no sense whatsoever if the Bible is, as claimed by Christians, the work of an all-powerful, all-knowing god. He would know in advance that his book — as it was going to be written — would be misinterpreted by millions and cause his religion to splinter into thousands of different denominations. We all know of modern authors that write clearly and concisely, whose books contain no contradictions or ambiguities, and where everyone is in perfect agreement as to their message. They do this because they have complete control of the entire book, they strive to maintain continuity, and they are naturally skilled at storytelling. If a lowly creation of god can manage this task, why can't an all-powerful, all-knowing god that is only capable of perfection? To claim that the Bible is a result of God's effort is a monumental insult to his claimed powers.
Also by accepting that "wrong conclusions are drawn" and that these result in differing religious views, you by not providing convincing reasons why your particular interpretation is correct takes us no further ahead. Other Christians using the same argument and other passages would insist that your reading has in fact drawn the wrong conclusion. Again, a perfect god wouldn't have created the shambles that is the Bible, or any of the other holy books for that matter. Remember that Christianity arose essentially because God felt that his people had lost their way, that they were misreading his message and thus needed a new handbook — the New Testament. The same can be said for Islam, having failed twice, God once again issued another handbook — the Koran — in the hope that mankind would finally get what he was trying to say. And yet once again he produced a literary nightmare.
As for what you say Jesus taught, the sensible stuff was around long before Jesus lived, for example the "Golden Rule" you mention was discussed, and debunked, by Confucius in the 5th century BCE. As for viewing yourself as less important than those who hate you, this is pretty twisted thinking that could only result in emotional self-harm. Likewise if everyone wants to serve others, who are the "others" that are being served? Should all KFCs be staffed by Christians to only serve non-Christians? You say that even though I don't believe in Jesus he believes in me and loves me. Then why does he never call?
Comment by Steve, 17 Mar, 2009
I shall endeavor to answer your queries but ask that you bear with me as I'm only a one fingered typist at the best of times and may have to reply in portions.
A question first, you state that the Koran orders stoning as a method of death penalty, could you tell me where about please?
Also thank you for your admittance about being wrong about what Darwin said of survival of the fittest although a private correction to a public rebuttal seems a tad strange.
You give me the impression that you see the Bible primarily as a standard of morality, (flawed though it be in your eyes), nothing could be further from the truth. With that in mind I'll address your last comment: why doesn't Jesus call?... as that question deals with the primary purpose of the Bible. I see your line of argument is to often distort or to be academically insincere with your reading and reporting of the Bible, whether because of genuine ignorance or religious fervor for your own faith I am unable to decide, but let's go on.
Forgive me if I'm wrong, I can see only two meanings to this question, why doesn't Jesus call you personally or why doesn't He return to earth physically?
Jesus does call to people on a one to one basis, eg Matt 5:18-20, Mark 2:14-15, with the same initial message of follow me. He then passed the responsibility to those who follow Him to call on others with this request: follow me, Matt 28:18-19, Acts 1:8, 2 Cor 5:20. So He calls on you through His followers: Christians commonly called, so if a Christian reveals to you some thing of Christ: Jesus says I'm calling to you through that person.
In my life He called on me several times from age 16 onwards. I had been raised and taught with an evolutionary mindset so for many years I said get stuffed, that's a fairy tale, don't waste my time with religion. We have that choice/ability to ignore His call. I often thought it was like the selective hearing of my children, if I asked them to bring the washing in I'd get later on "I didn't hear dad", but tear open a packet of chips and they would hear that from 200 meters.
When I was 32 Jesus called again to me via my wife (whose specialist field is micro-biology which paid a part in Him getting my attention), and this time I chose to listen and understood the reality of Christ. So if you are anything like I was Jesus has called on you and you haven't given Him the time of day. When did He call me you may ask: 24/12/08 comes to mind. The bible also says He won't give up calling on you: 2 Cor 6:1-2.
That's the primary purpose of the Bible, to get to know and understand Christ.
If your query was why doesn't He return to earth: He has promised to, eg John 14:1-6, Acts 1:9-11. He's indicated when, Matt 24:25, and He says be ready because when the world least expects it that will be the day. He's also said there's a condition to be completed before that day comes. 2 Peter 3: 9.
I apologize for not writing out all the verses. Trying to save time as it's taken me an hour plus to type this as it is.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 19 Mar, 2009
Thanks for your comments Steve. Firstly I'm a little confused over your comment: "Also thank you for your admittance about being wrong about what Darwin said of survival of the fittest although a private correction to a public rebuttal seems a tad strange." The comments I sent to you were actually placed on our webpage even before I sent your email. If we are wrong about something we're quite happy to admit it publicly. Perhaps your internet browser is displaying an old page from your computer's cache. Try clicking on the reload button.
You ask, "A question first, you state that the Koran orders stoning as a method of death penalty, could you tell me where about please?"
The Koran itself doesn't specifically mention "stoning" as a method of execution, but many Muslims do believe that Islam does support stoning, as evidenced by it being carried out in many Islamic countries operating under Islamic or Sharia law. Like Christians they have been forced to interpret their rather vague and confusing holy book. When it says to execute an adulteress, they needed to look elsewhere to determine how their god would like this to be carried out. The article, Should Sharia laws be reconsidered?
states: "Although executions by stoning are not mentioned in the Koran, the Islamic legal scholar Tarik Abdul-Rahman states they are part of the Hadith (collections of sayings and acts of the Prophet), and go back to the Pentateuch (first five books of Hebrew Scripture)." Obviously since God (Allah) specified stoning in his early years for adultery, it makes sense to assume that he'd be pleased to see his followers take it up again. My point was that Jews, Christians and Muslims have all found justification in their religion to stone people to death. The fact that the Koran doesn't specifically mention stoning is missing the point. Muslims believe their overall religious beliefs do justify it, in the same way that Christians thought God wanted witches to be burnt to death, even though the Bible doesn't mention burning as the way to kill them.
However you seem perhaps to have forgotten the main theme of our post — a woman being stoned to death for adultery. I'm not complaining about how they killed her, I'm complaining that she was killed, full stop. I don't care if she was killed by stoning or by being tickled to death. They still killed an innocent woman simply because they believed this is what their god wished, and what was required to guarantee a place for them in heaven. Muslims are doing nothing different than what Christians and Jews have done for centuries. The only difference is that our present laws and the conscience of most modern Christians and Jews won't allow them to do everything their god would like them do. Some still murder abortionists and homosexuals, but thankfully most draw the line at simple persecution. Some Muslim countries unfortunately have not reached this stage of enlightenment. The Hebrews have had their wars of genocide and the Christians have had their witch burnings, inquisitions and crusades, now it seems the Muslims want their turn at being barbarians.
You state that "You give me the impression that you see the Bible primarily as a standard of morality... nothing could be further from the truth... the primary purpose of the Bible [is] to get to know and understand Christ."
I don't see the Bible as a standard of morality, just the opposite, it contains some of the most reprehensible advice ever offered. It is Christians who view the Bible as a standard of morality or in your words, a "standard of righteousness needed to reach God's standard". However I do agree that Christians view the Bible as more than just a handbook of God given morals, and that its main purpose is to offer everlasting life in paradise. But there's a catch. Just as when a fast food outlet asks, 'Do you want fries with that?' and we discover that the fries aren't being offered for free, likewise to get the everlasting life with Jesus we have to live this present life according to the moral code set out in his Bible. And this is when we discover that the bonus he offers is anything but free. We have to be prepared to sometimes treat fellow human beings in barbaric, disgusting, unjust and inhumane ways. At various times throughout history we have had to have been prepared to stone an adulteress to death, as well as homosexuals, mediums, heretics and disobedient children. Certainly most Christians wouldn't think of executing these people today, although many still persecute some of them, eg. homosexuals, atheists and abortionists. To say that the main purpose of the Bible is to get a relationship with Jesus is to overlook the often immoral things people have to do to maintain this relationship. You have said that you will not judge what God demanded that people should do in the past and should still sometimes do today. You it seems will blindly do what ever it takes to reach this relationship with Jesus, and the promise of immortality. It is the disgusting acts that some religious people are prepared to perform simply to satisfy the conditions of their immortality that I am railing against. Such as the Islamists stoning an innocent woman to death or Christians murdering abortion doctors and homosexuals just to keep on the good side of their god. Even if a relationship with Jesus, or Allah for the Muslims, was something to strive for, the things that I would be required to do to maintain this relationship are simply unacceptable.
Moving right along, you say, "I see your line of argument is to often distort or to be academically insincere with your reading and reporting of the Bible, whether because of genuine ignorance or religious fervor for your own faith I am unable to decide."
I certainly don't attempt to distort Bible verses. If my interpretation is different to yours it is because the Bible is so vague that often numerous meanings can be taken from the same verse. You no doubt base your interpretation on the assumption that the Bible is true and Jesus and God would only have good intentions. If a passage literally says something horrible or immoral you reject it and try and guess what hidden message it is really trying to get across. I base my interpretation on what it actually says, how it relates to other passages and importantly how it relates to what we know to be true outside the Bible, facts from science, history and ethics. I don't believe an all-powerful, all-knowing god that desperately wants us to love him would make a cryptic Bible. Let's remember that this confusing book is why we have so many different Christian denominations. Until Christians speak with a united voice then atheists like myself wouldn't even know which sort of Christian to approach if we were having doubts.
As for your suggestion that I might have a "religious fervor" for my "own faith", I should repeat that I'm an atheist. I know you might simply mean that I argue for atheism in an "extremely scrupulous or conscientious" manner, but I do believe that when talking about atheists, this is one occasion when the words religious and faith are totally inappropriate and misleading. They seem to imply that even atheists are in some sense religious, and that we reach and hold our views — our faith — in the same way that religious people do. I have reached my views through reason and evidence and both are sufficient to let me maintain them. I do not need faith of the type that religious people need and continually refer to.
Returning to what you see as the main purpose of the Bible, unfortunately those Bible verses you mentioned that want us to believe in Jesus and follow his teachings all require one thing. That you believe the Bible is true. My parents used to say, 'Be good or Santa won't reward you with toys come Xmas'. I see this as no different than Christians saying, 'Be good or Jesus won't reward you with eternal life come your death (or the second coming, which ever comes first)'. Quoting from the Bible is no different from getting me to watch a Santa Claus movie. You first have to convince me that Jesus or Santa might be real, because while the events described in the Bible and Santa stories might have made sense when I was a naive kid, they don't anymore. As an adult, trying to modify my behaviour by quoting Jesus is just as empty as quoting Santa.
For example you insist that the Bible has told us when Jesus will return "See, I have told you ahead of time" [MT 24:25], but you also say that Jesus asks us to "be ready because when the world least expects it that will be the day". This is just silly. Imagine that an airline refused to refund your fare because you missed your flight, insisting that they told you ahead of time when it departed. Yet on your ticket all it said was, "Departure Time: When you least expect it."
You said that as regards the return of Jesus, "there's a condition to be completed before that day comes", and that is: "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" [2PE 3:9]. If the second coming is not going to occur until I repent, then it is not going to happen in my lifetime. Since the majority of the world's population are not Christians and show no inclination of becoming repenting Christians, then taking a very optimistic outlook, the date of the second coming must at the very least be millennia away, as people slowly come to believe in Jesus and repent. However, since the proportion of the world's Christian population is actually decreasing in the likes of Europe, Australasia, USA etc, then the number of non-believers that Jesus will be waiting on to repent will only get larger. It seems that while there are non-believers around, Jesus will postpone his return, ergo he will never return.
As for my flippant remark "You say that even though I don't believe in Jesus he believes in me and loves me. Then why does he never call?", 99% of the email I receive is spam, from devout Christians wanting to tell me about millions of dollars that is waiting for me in a Nigerian bank account or on how I can improve my love life or get a mail order university degree. My insurance, telecommunications and power companies also seem to have no trouble getting invoices to me. Even you have managed to make contact. Why can't Jesus? I often think people forget how easy this would be for an all-powerful being! He could send out emails, letters, phone calls or even visit in person everybody on the planet simultaneously with less effort than it takes me to blink. They seem to think that Jesus is some busy CEO come carpenter frantically preparing a place for them in heaven and thus it's understandable that he hasn't got time to phone, drop them an email or visit in person, and not just them, but anyone at all it seems. The fact that an all-powerful god who knows that belief in him is dropping hasn't made verifiable contact with anyone on earth for over 2000 years must be disturbing for Christians. As Time magazine once asked, "Is God Dead?"
I see no reason to believe god exists, meaning the Bible isn't true, so quoting from it for support is no more convincing than if you were quoting from Harry Potter. As I've said, first you would have to convince me that a god exists, then that it was the specific god that you talk about, and not deists or Hindus for example, before I could take the Bible seriously. That said, my gripe is not with good, clean living Christians who are no threat to society solely because they have "reinterpreted" their Bible to match modern ethics and laws, but from religious fundamentalists — of whatever religion — who take the barbaric commandments in their holy books the way they were intended — literally.
Comment by Steve, 15 Apr, 2009
So another of your comments is "who to say one persons understanding of the bible is any more reliable or authentic than anyone else", or words to that effect. That's a very valid point. I had favourite biblical arguments in days of arguing against the bible but I tended to look with a bias because I wanted to prove God was rubbish more than being genuinely worried about what the bible was really saying. Of course you can now accuse me of being biased the other way and while that's true I've had to be careful about reading into the bible what I want to see there.
To that end I had to go back to school to learn etymology and hermeneutics. By following the study rules that apply to any historical document interpretation becomes consistent. There can't be many truths, some must be wrongs. Even if a person sincerely thinks their understanding is correct they may just be sincerely wrong.
When I read statements on this site that Darwin didn't use the term "survival of the fittest" or "the Koran directs stoning as a punishment" I conclude that the methods of interpreting being used on historical writings is not that reliable. I would be interested to know some of the rules you follow in reaching your understanding of the bible, it may help me in responding better to your comments. I am assuming that as you take a stand against theism and bible theology you must have studied under some bible scholar to reach your understanding but I can't see a consistent pattern that aligns to any recognized rules of study.
I disagree that faith and religion are words that don't describe atheism. I base that on my Webster dictionary which defines religion as "a principle or practice regarded with veneration and persistently observed". Collins says religion is any system of faith. A lesser but still relevant reason is Richard Dawkins who supports his book "the God Delusion" replacing all faith books in school libraries. He makes many faith based statements in his writings (you may not agree that Dawkins holds a place of authority in the world of atheism).
You have made a faith based statement regarding the outcome of your life (unless you are claiming to foretell the future) a statement that can't be proven by science & I made the same sort of claim myself once. An atheist who holds to the viewpoint that science will eventually supply all the answers to life is an atheist who is living a life of faith.
Darwin said the fossil record will one day prove my theory and if it doesn't my theory is not disproved — not an exact quote I know — but Darwin lived by faith... for these types of reasons atheism is considered a religion.
Don't be to confident that religion is on the decrease, while Christianity may be declining in NZ it seems to me that folks are just replacing it with some other "silly belief" if the explosion of spiritual ads in our local paper — Taranaki daily news — is anything to go by.
It's somewhat difficult to discuss the bible without quoting the bible to prove what it says so I think that's a fairly tough restriction you've put in place, and you get to quote Homer Simpson and Monty Python to prove your points, hardly fair. lol
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 17 Apr, 2009
Hi Steve. You're right, the interpretation of historical documents is difficult, and it is not something I am trained in. As regards the Bible, I do not understand ancient Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek, nor any of the languages of their contemporaries, eg the Romans. Even the old English used in the likes of the King James Bible often confuses me. Thus I rely on historians to interpret ancient texts. The rules that I follow in deciding which academic to believe are easy. I simply accept the argument that makes the most sense, both rationally and logically and that also has good supporting evidence. I do not have to study under a biblical scholar before I can have a view on what the Bible says, anymore than I have to be a politician before I can vote. If this were the case, then nearly every Christian's view of the Bible would be equally flawed since almost none have studied it under a biblical scholar. And to take the opposite tack, you take a stand against atheism and evolution, so have you studied under an "atheist scholar" and evolutionary biologist respectively?
If the Bible does indeed require prolonged academic study to understand what it really says, then this is just another argument that an all-knowing, all-powerful god didn't produce it. I agree that years of academic study are required to fully understand quantum mechanics, but surely this shouldn't be the case with the Bible?
And even if I was to study under a biblical scholar, which one would I choose? Dr Michael Shermer, author of "How We Believe", in a personal email informed me that "there are something like 1500 different sects of Christianity just in America". Every one of these sects will have one or many biblical scholars that teach their interpretation of what the Bible really says. Your understanding of the Bible will be based on only one of these schools of thought. If by studying etymology and hermeneutics and by applying specific rules to any historical document, we automatically arrive at a consistent interpretation, then biblical scholars representing Catholics and Protestants and Mormons and Born Again Christians et al. would all agree on what the Bible says. They don't. Prof Lloyd Geering is probably NZ's most famous biblical scholar, and while I agree with much of what he says, most Christians don't. Biblical scholars are no closer to a unified interpretation of the Bible than your average Christian is. So I say again, before Christians can hope to convince atheists that their version of history is correct, they first have to convince their fellow Christians.
You also said that when you were a non-believer you wanted to prove God was rubbish, whereas I don't have that desire. I am merely interested in finding the best explanation for life and the universe, and on examining arguments and evidence from many perspectives, such as science, philosophy and religion, the "god is rubbish" answer has certainly popped out, but I wasn't specifically seeking that answer. I don't "desire" that there is no loving god and eternal life, brute facts simply suggest to me that this is the case.
As for your contention that faith and religion are words that describe atheism, I suspect you are being a little selective in your Webster's and Collin's definitions. The Webster's Online Dictionary defines religion as:
1. A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.
The online Collins Essential English Dictionary 2nd Edition 2006 defines religion as:
2. Institution to express belief in a divine power; "he was raised in the Baptist religion".
1. belief in or worship of a supernatural power or powers considered to be divine or to have control of human destiny.
The essential element with every dictionary definition is belief in supernatural or divine powers. No mention of atheism or science or a lack of belief in gods. When someone says they're religious, no one thinks, "Ahhh, so you're an atheist" or "So you're a scientist then?" We have written more on this topic in our Ian Wishart article: Atheism is a religion.
2. any formal expression of such belief: the Christian religion.
3. Chiefly RC Church the way of life entered upon by monks and nuns: to enter religion.
Now let's look at "faith" from the same dictionaries. The Webster's Online Dictionary defines faith as:
1. A strong belief in a supernatural power or powers that control human destiny.
The online Collins Essential English Dictionary defines faith as:
2. Complete confidence in a person or plan etc.
3. Institution to express belief in a divine power.
4. Loyalty or allegiance to a cause or a person; "keep the faith".
1. strong belief in something, esp. without proof.
Finally "faith" from The American Heritage® Dictionary:
2. a specific system of religious beliefs.
3. complete confidence or trust, such as in a person or remedy.
4. allegiance to a person or cause.
5. bad faith dishonesty.
6. good faith honesty.
1. Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.
Again no mention of science or atheism. Scientists and atheists don't have a "strong belief in something, esp. without proof". They don't have a "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence". They don't have a "strong belief in a supernatural power". Scientists, and by extension many atheists, have confidence in their views because they actually do have logical proof and material evidence. Yes, atheists and scientists can have "faith" in a person or a plan or a theory, but this is a rational type of faith, based on reason and past experiences, not a religious type of faith. It is disingenuous to suggest that scientific theories have no more support than Jesus walking on water does, or that my faith in my parents is just as flimsy as a Christian's faith that Jesus is off preparing a room for them.
2. Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence.
3. Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one's supporters.
4. often Faith Christianity The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God's will.
5. The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.
6. A set of principles or beliefs.
Scientists do not — or at least should not — have "Loyalty or allegiance to a cause or a person". They should never have "Complete confidence in a person or plan etc". As history has shown, they will reject a theory if evidence shows it is flawed and adopt a better one. This willingness to change conflicts directly with every religion. Scientific knowledge has changed and improved immensely over the centuries solely because they don't have this "Complete confidence" that their first answer was the correct one. They don't have this blind faith that their views are still correct even when the evidence contradicts them. The theory of evolution by natural selection exists solely because Darwin refused to maintain his faith in religion. To say that scientists like Darwin and Dawkins use faith to support their claims is false. They both use evidence to demolish faith. Again, we have written more on this topic in our Ian Wishart article: Science is based on Faith.
I wouldn't quite say Richard Dawkins "holds a place of authority in the world of atheism". He is certainly respected, knowledgeable and outspoken in its support, but he carries no authority in the way that a pope, imam, Dalai Lama or rabbi does. He has no power to issue commands or expect obedience. He gains supporters only by the strength of his arguments.
I disagree that "An atheist who holds to the viewpoint that science will eventually supply all the answers to life is an atheist who is living a life of faith". The belief that science will eventually provide all the answers is of course a tad over optimistic, but barring another "Dark Ages", we can have confidence that our scientific knowledge will increase enormously in the future. We will never know everything, but based on the progress of the last one hundred years alone we can expect great advances. Expecting science to explain more and more mysteries is not "living a life of faith", it is simply common sense.
I agree that many people are rejecting mainstream religion for New Age religions and other silly beliefs, but perhaps you saw the recent Massey University survey where "40 per cent said they had no religious affiliation compared to 29 per cent 17 years ago". I doubt that religion in some form will ever disappear completely, perhaps many will revert to deism, the vague belief in a higher power and leave it at that. But the western world is certainly seeing a decline in religious belief, even the USA, where "the latest statistics show that Atheism was the only "belief system" that increased in every US state". However poorer nations with uneducated masses in the third world is a different story. But simply noting that ignorant people are hanging on to religion is hardly a powerful argument in its favour.
You say that "It's somewhat difficult to discuss the bible without quoting the bible to prove what it says", but this is a flawed circular argument, in the form of, "The bible is true because the bible says it's true, and the bible says it's true because the bible is true, and the bible is true because... "
Yes I quote Homer Simpson and Monty Python, but because they illustrate a point (and are humorous), not because I suggest that we should believe anything that Homer Simpson says. Saying that Jesus said such and such and that must be a fact because it's in the Bible, is just as flawed as me saying Homer said such and such and that must also be a fact because it's in a real TV show. You would insist that I first prove that the information on The Simpsons is factual by using evidence external to the show. You wouldn't accept Homer's assertion that he's telling the truth. Likewise I won't simply accept the assertion of Bible writers that they are telling the truth. You must first prove the Bible is factual by using evidence external to the Bible, such as other historical documents, scientific evidence etc. You can't "quote the bible to prove what it says".
I am a great fan of the use of science and reason to understand the universe. That thousands of undeniably impressive intellects over the centuries could explain so much about our world is truly amazing. It's also obvious that they made many mistakes, made many false assumptions and took many false steps in building up our modern vault of knowledge. Thus to ask me to believe that a handful of uneducated, primitive, superstitious Bronze Age desert nomads had already written down all these answers in a single book without making a single mistake is asking the impossible. That this book conflicts with what modern science claims is blatantly obvious. This is why we still have both science and religion. So which describes the real world? Science explains lightning, cures disease, lands rovers on Mars, religion doesn't. If religion is describing a real world, it certainly isn't this one.
I view the Bible in the same way that you no doubt view the Koran, the Hindu Vedas and the Egyptian Book of the Dead, as ancient, badly flawed attempts at explaining the world by a primitive people. Ancient texts that are considered factual and sacred by millions, but nevertheless completely false. And you believe you can understand why they're false. Ask yourself what evidence you would require before you would accept that the Koran or the Egyptian Book of the Dead was actually true, then provide the equivalent evidence to me for the Bible. No doubt you wouldn't accept a Muslim "quoting the Koran to prove what it says".
Comment by Steve, 24 Apr, 2009
Re your comment "if the bible requires long academic study... ", the basic message is straight forward and doesn't require heaps of study e.g. Romans 3:23, 5:8, 6;23, 10:9, 10:13. Study is needed to discern the intents of God and to be aware of those who distort the meaning for their own agendas. You don't need to be fluent in the original languages [although having Greek, Hebrew, Aramaic dictionaries are great aids]. But if you don't understand the rules of your own language you forever have to rely on someone else's interpretation. So I'm still trying to understand why this site makes so many fundamental errors in explaining bible verses/passages and I see you turn to historians for help, perhaps you could identify 2 or 3 that you use. 1500 sects and 1500 interpretations maybe means they also don't know the rules of language study or they want to deliberately distort the bible for their own means, not that there are 1500 valid meanings [of] the same paragraph.
I was being selective in the definitions of religion I supplied, as you are. I couldn't see the point in supplying the ones that didn't relate to your faith, only the ones that describe your religion.
My teachers in atheism were Dr. A. J. Oram and K.S. Richmond. Evolutionary biology, main influence was Carol Landreth.
External evidence for the bible can be used to support it: archeology might show that there was a place called Bethlehem, astronomy might show that the earth is round, but the bible is a collection of eye witness accounts [the historical record] bound together in one cover. If we discount the eye witness evidence of the 4 gospels that record the life death and resurrection of Christ then we fall into the realm of discounting all historical accounts, ie Cook's voyage in the Pacific, slavery in America, the holocaust — the David Irving way of looking at history.
Not familiar enough with the book of the dead, or the Vedas but I have no doubt that the Koran gives an accurate portrayal of the life and teachings of Mohammed.
You say the bible and science conflict. The bible isn't a book of science, it's a different subject altogether, it's about man's relationship to God. Allow me to paraphrase your point — that this book conflicts with modern engineering is patently obvious, engineering explains skyscrapers, bridges, ships and aeroplanes, religion doesn't. Science doesn't explain our relationship to God and the bible doesn't explain cars on mars.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 27 Apr, 2009
Hi Steve. Looking at the big picture, I can't see any real difference between your interpretation of the Bible, from whatever domination or faith that might be, and that of Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists. Or for that matter between Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists or Jews. You all believe that an ancient holy book with a relatively small amount of obscure, ambiguous, confusing and vague text explains how the world came about and how we should live our lives. Yet none of you can provide convincing evidence that the basic theme of your chosen book is anything more than fantasy. This battle between which religion is correct has endured for millennia with no winner. In fact, in recent centuries religions have ever begun fighting amongst themselves as to who has the more correct interpretation, Christian against Christian, Jew against Jew and Muslim against Muslim. Any apparent success of one group over another has been due to the likes of the sword and not supernatural assistance. Recently added to this competition has been a new player, science, which has taken a different tack to religion. It has attempted to explain the universe and life through reason, observation and experiment, and has proved phenomenally successful. Each advance in science has meant a retreat for religion. The amount of evidence supporting a naturalistic universe continues to grow while that supporting a universe of supernatural design is simply non-existent. Holy books like the Bible or the Koran no more support belief in god than the Harry Potter books support belief in magic.
You view your Biblical interpretation as correct and see our statements as "fundamental errors" whereas of course we believe just the opposite is true. You believe this because, among other things, you "understand the rules of your own language". Yet everyone that reads a Bible in English is relying "on someone else's interpretation", including you. The English text you are studying is already an interpretation, and since the originals no longer exist, no one can refer to them to check its accuracy. Your interpretation rests on a stack of prior interpretations of copies, never the originals. Studying the Bible in English as you're doing is to assume that those who translated it from Hebrew or Greek copies did so correctly. Yet one of the key drivers behind the Reformation and the splintering of the Catholic Church was the claim that they didn't. And even if we had the originals, there is much more to whether a document can be believed than the study of the language used. A document can be beautifully written and false, or poorly written and true.
On our site all we do is quote what the Bible says, and then explain what any rational person could expect this quote to mean. If we get it wrong then a very poorly written Bible must take the blame. I normally use the popular NIV Bible (New International Version). If this Bible's interpretation isn't consistent with what you believe, then obviously it's not just me that you haven't been able to convince. Again I repeat that the Bible can not and does not expect its readers to under go extensive study before they can comprehend what it says. Even you agree that the Bible's "basic message is straight forward and doesn't require heaps of study", but then you query me as to what historians are helping me understand it. Either the Bible can be read by the man on the street or it can't. I just can't comprehend a loving god that would write a passage whose apparent meaning isn't the correct one, or would allow someone to mistranslate his message and do nothing to correct it. Remember we're talking about God here, not some second rate novelist. When the Bible talks about love Christians say that's exactly what it means, that God wants to get his message across in clear terms. But when it talks about hate Christians then insist we need to undertake Biblical analysis to see how those negative statements don't mean what they appear to say. This just smacks of hypocrisy, of Christians trying to make the Bible say what they want it say, editing and censoring God's word to fit the modern world but still leaving his name on it.
You may be familiar with a fictional device called a "universal translator" that features in sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Farscape and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where people can automatically understand the language of any alien they meet. Everyone appears to be speaking English, although aliens of course believe you are speaking their language. Why couldn't God have made the Bible like that? Written only once and in special code, but who ever opened it would believe it was written in their own language. It's not a translation of a translation of a copy but the original text as God intended in your own language. No confusion, no mistranslation, no misprints, no additions or deletions. While this device would be horribly complex if not impossible for humans to build, for an all-powerful god that can make the universe it would be child's play. Not only that, it would be positive proof that an amazing intellect was involved in its creation. Instead, opening the Bible reveals an ancient, primitive and extremely simple tool — a book. The original has been long lost, and no one can prove that the numerous translations of copies that we now possess are still true to the original, and as a result Christians have fought each other for centuries to keep their particular translation as the one true Bible. Hardly something an all-powerful, all-knowing loving god would put his name to. Even if one translation has remained faithful to the original, which one is it and why hasn't god caused the demise of the rest to prevent this blossoming of different Christian faiths? It's almost as if the Bible was written solely for people that spoke ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, as if the writers and the god they spoke of had no thought of it needing to be read by speakers of English, Chinese or Polish.
As for suggesting that the likes of archaeology or astronomy support the Bible, this is misleading. No one denies that Bethlehem exists, that the Earth is round, or that the Jews, Egyptians and Romans existed. What we question are the supernatural elements of the Bible, and for those no external evidence exists. By taking a similar tack numerous elements in the Harry Potter books can be proven to exist, such as London, colleges and owls. Yet few people believe this supports the magical part of the story. The same with The Da Vinci Code. Much of it was factual, and can be proven to be so, yet it is still a fictional book. Historical novels are usually fictional stories woven around real history. Ditto the Bible. It doesn't matter how many mundane and natural claims that the Bible makes that are in fact true, there is not one shred of evidence that proves any of the supernatural claims made in the Bible actually happened. Perhaps the Hebrews did flee Egypt, perhaps they did slaughter all the tribes in Canaan to steal their land, perhaps a carpenter called Jesus existed, perhaps he was crucified. Even if actually proven true none of these Bible stories would lend any support to the claim that a god was involved or that this Jesus turned water into wine. Proving Jesus existed only proves a man called Jesus existed. And that doesn't break any laws of nature, or lead me to worship a long dead carpenter.
But you go on to state that the real evidential strength behind the Bible is its "collection of eye witness accounts [the historical record]", such as the gospels. However, while many Christians believe that the gospels were actually written by real eyewitnesses called 'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John', no knowledgeable Christian and certainly no Bible scholar believes this. The fact that the Bible suggests that they were eyewitnesses and that the early Christian fathers furthered this deception by calling the originally anonymous gospels 'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John' further reduces their credibility. It is perfectly acceptable for a rational person to discount those parts of a story that recount events for which there is no evidence, and for which all modern knowledge suggest are impossible and therefore likely to be pure fantasy. For example, we no longer believe accounts of witches flying around on brooms, even thought they were recounted by devout Christian "eyewitnesses". You fall into the trap of thinking that if some of the Bible is true then it must all be true. You claim that if we don't believe Biblical eyewitnesses then we should also discount eyewitness accounts from other historical events, such as Cook's voyage and slavery. Yet no eyewitness claimed that Cook walked across the Pacific, that slaves rose from the dead when they died from exhaustion or mistreatment, or that the Jews in the Holocaust were killed by being magically turned into pillars of salt. If they did, then rational people would discount them. In fact sailors did make fanciful claims of seeing mermaids and sea monsters, and Jews did make claims that Holocaust victims were turned into soap. They have been discounted due to lack of evidence, but we still believe in Cook and the Holocaust. Modern history will consider rational events and stories of normal human beings but not accounts of supernatural shenanigans, whether they happened in Cook's voyage or in the Bible.
Your gospel "eyewitnesses" further destroy their credibility by recounting events for which they tell us there were NO eyewitnesses. For example when Jesus was alone in the desert or with the Devil overlooking the world or in Gethsemane when only Jesus was awake. How can the gospel writer tell us what Jesus said and did when he or no one else witnessed it? Even if we were to accept the eyewitness bits, these accounts were obviously invented by the writer, making Jesus say what the writer wanted him to say. All fiction writers do this to give their story more detail, but it can NEVER happen in a factual account. Your study of rules for examining historical documents should have told you this. When parts of the gospels are shown to be pure fabrications, then their authors lose credibility.
In fact real "historical records" contain numerous references to amazing events and beings. Witches, leprechauns, dragons, fairies, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Merlin, Loch Ness monster, Yeti, Lost City of Atlantis, the Sun gods of the Aztecs etc. Eyewitnesses supposedly saw all of these things, and yet few people today believe they really existed, not even Christians. Why can all these eyewitness accounts be discounted but equally fanciful accounts made by the equally ignorant and superstitious writers of the Bible be believed? I reject all eyewitness accounts of magic and the supernatural in all the numerous holy books, and you do the same in all but one, the Christian Bible. How can you discount Brahma creating the world and Maui fishing up the North Island and yet challenge people that don't believe in the Bible's equally silly stories? Isn't this a little hypocritical?
You also say that "The bible isn't a book of science", and I agree completely, but this isn't the same as saying a cookbook or philosophy book isn't about science. For most of its history the Bible was considered as providing the answers as to how the world came into existence and how it functions, and many Christians believe it still does. That's why many want it taught in science classes. There is much in the Bible that claims, especially in the Old Testament, to serve the same function as science, and it is to this I refer when I say that the Bible and science conflict. You can ignore this and concentrate on man's relationship with God, but it still remains in the Bible alongside what you see as the more important message. It still needs to be explained why "eyewitnesses" in the New Testament supposedly got everything right, and can be believed, and yet those in the Old Testament got it so wrong, and can be ignored. Maybe the relationship message you refer to is what God considered important, but still, why did an all-knowing God get his science so badly wrong? Think of God explaining to Job about how the world works. Christians have to either explain why the Bible's forays into scientific explanations are absolutely correct, or in your case, explain why bogus explanations about the world under God's name still remain in the Bible. Science openly rejects failed theories and removes them from their textbooks, why won't Christians do the same with the Bible?
You did say one thing that confused me. I suggested that you no doubt viewed the holy books of other religions as false explanations of the world, yet you refused to pass judgement on the Hindu Vedas or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. To me this implies something along the lines of, 'They might be correct, I haven't read them to know one way or the other.' Not only that, you asserted that you "have no doubt that the Koran gives an accurate portrayal of the life and teachings of Mohammed". Yet not only does the Koran contain numerous inventions regarding Mohammed and errors of real history, more importantly Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus and that he rose from the dead. If you have "no doubt" that these "teachings of Mohammed" are accurate, then how can you claim to be a Christian, shouldn't you be a Muslim? Likewise if the Hindu or ancient Egyptian take on religion might be correct, and you're not prepared to say it isn't, then how can you be so confident that the Bible contains the ultimate truth? Logic would dictate that if the Bible is correct then ALL other religions must be false. I don't understand how you can insist it is correct but still leave the door open to these other religions? You confidently state that the 1500 Christian sects in the USA are mistaken or deliberately deceptive, along with scientists and atheists, yet won't make the same judgement call on Hindus, sun worshipping Egyptians or Muslims. Why not? And please don't say that when you claimed that the Koran is accurate you were merely talking about its mention of Mecca and Arabs. By this specious reasoning Harry Potter is also accurate. When people talk about whether a holy book is true they obviously refer to whether its talk of gods is true.
What Christians either refuse or fail to do is provide evidence or good reasons for why their holy book is true. Claims like 'Statements in the Bible prove it's true' don't work because obviously the same claim could "prove" any religion, eg 'Statements in the Koran prove it's true'. Likewise using modern knowledge to place extreme interpretations on vague, confusing Bible passages is nothing less than rewriting the Bible, making it say something that was never intended. For example, claiming that one single vague statement might be interpreted with hindsight as showing that God told the Hebrews that the Earth was a sphere floating in space, only works if one ignores the numerous passages that clearly suggest a flat Earth. It's revealing that scientific discoveries are often coupled with a furious attempt to reinterpret some passage in the Bible or Koran to show that ancient tribesmen already knew about DNA, quasars or quarks courtesy of their handbook from God. It's a shame that they refuse to tell us this beforehand, which would save the scientific community time and money in research.
Another reason why I believe our interpretation of the Bible is correct rather than yours Steve is that our interpretation mirrors scientific, historical and ethical progress. The more our society advances oblivious to and often in conflict with Biblical knowledge the more confidence I have that the Bible is just as flawed as the thousands of other holy books. For anyone, including you, to convince me that their holy book is true in its claims of gods, then they need to front up with real evidence, not Biblical quotes. Show me the evidence that God made the world in six days and woman was made from a rib, that stars fell to Earth and serpents talk, that a man born of a virgin drove demons into innocent pigs which he then drowned in the sea. It is these things, not the mention of Bethlehem, that sets the Bible apart from reason and science and it is these things for which evidence is non-existent.
Comment by Steve, 27 Apr, 2009
Dear pot calling the kettle black,
Who were those historians again?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 29 Apr, 2009
I didn't list any historians because I haven't studied under any and don't specifically use any as such. My mention of "historians" was simply to acknowledge that I personally don't translate and analyse ancient documents in an attempt to understand the Bible, nor am I studying to do so. I let historians do that and either read their conclusions or read other writers that summarise and explain their conclusions. Unlike you feeling the need to study etymology and hermeneutics before you can trust what the Bible says, I rely on others to do the complicated research.
My dictionary defines 'historian' as, "A writer, student or scholar of history". I view anyone that has seriously studied a period of history as an historian, even though they might not be an academic in some university history department. I believe that a biologist or physicist can comment on historical events in the same way that a priest or lawyer believes they can comment on evolution. That's not to say of course that their comments are necessarily valid, and that's why I said that, "The rules that I follow in deciding which academic to believe are easy. I simply accept the argument that makes the most sense, both rationally and logically and that also has good supporting evidence". To this end, each writer that attempts to give me their take on history must convince me that their interpretation is more likely to be correct than other alternatives. You don't need to be an historian to read about history, any more than you need to be a biologist to read about evolution or a chef to read a cookbook. You've mentioned evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins several times, so I assume you've read some of his books on evolution. Do you have to be an evolutionary biologist to understand and either accept or reject his view?
That said, one of the books I've read recently is by someone that does have a Master of Philosophy in ancient history, and includes a section describing the methods used in historical research. The book is Sense and Goodness Without God by Richard Carrier. For the record, some other authors that I've read that have commented on the Bible and its apparent connection with history, philosophy and science are:
Philip Kitcher, Frank R. Zindler, Phillip Adams, Tamas Pataki, Karen Armstrong, Robin Le Poidevin, J.J.C. Smart, J.J. Haldane, Julian Baggini, David Ramsay Steele, Michel Onfray, George H. Smith, David Mills, Daniel C. Dennett, Jack Miles, G A Wells, Uta Ranke-Heinemann, Alexander Waugh, Jonathan Kirsch, Christopher Hitchens, Victor J Stenger, Peter Kreeft, Ronald Tacelli, Bertrand Russell, Karen Farrington, Michael Shermer, John F Ashton, John Drake, A. N. Wilson, David Eller, Jonathan Sarfati, Pascal Boyer, Taner Edis, James H Jauncey, Chet Raymo, Ian Plimer, Thomas Paine, B C Johnson, Nick Page, P A H Seymour, Gerald Priestland, Hugh Ross, Sam Harris, A. C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Russell Stannard, James D. Tabor, Bart D Ehrman, Spinoza, Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, Timothy Freke, Peter Gandy, R A Sharpe, Mark Mahin, Tom Harpur, Clifford A. Pickover, Stephen Law, Steve Cooper, Robyn Williams, Henrietta C. Mears, Ibn Warraq, Lewis Wolpert, Michael Martin, Gerald L Schroeder, Robert M Price, Lynne Kelly, Paul Davies, Carl Sagan, Mark Isaak, Earl Doherty, Eugenie C. Scott, Stephen Jay Gould, Flavius Josephus, Martin Gardner, Jonathan Miller, the 'Jesus Seminar', Colin McGinn, Lloyd Geering.
These authors of course make reference to a multitude of historians and Biblical scholars. They have all influenced my view of the Bible and its reliability. You'll note that this list doesn't only contain authors that reject the notion of gods. What I see as flawed arguments in favour of the Bible also influences my thinking. As for the people you mentioned that influenced you, unfortunately I've never heard of them.
Now onto your extra comments regarding my previous reply. Please note that my original text is in black, your comments are interspersed in red CAPITALS and my new comments follow in blue.
"Hi Steve, looking at the big picture, I can't see any real difference between your interpretation of the Bible, from whatever domination or faith that might be, and that of Catholics, Baptists, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses or Seventh Day Adventists. Or for that matter between Christians and Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists or Jews.
REALLY... YOU CAN'T TELL THE DIFFERENCE?
No I can't. One simple sentence describes them all — superstitious humans believing in gods that are mentioned in ancient holy books.
You all believe that an ancient holy book with a relatively small amount of obscure, ambiguous, confusing and vague text explains how the world came about and how we should live our lives.
HOW FORTUNATE THAT YOU'RE ABLE TO PROVIDE THE ONLY RATIONAL INTERPRETATION
Don't mention it. You're welcome :-)
Yet none of you can provide convincing evidence that the basic theme of your chosen book is anything more than fantasy.
YOURE RIGHT... JESUS COULD BE RAISED FROM THE DEAD AND THAT STILL WOULDNT BE CONSIDERED CONVINCING
You're missing the point. Of course evidence of a resurrection would be convincing, but there isn't any evidence, and the lack of that evidence isn't convincing. Mention of a miracle in a single book isn't evidence, it's fanciful tales, like tales of sirens in Homer's Odyssey.
This battle between which religion is correct has endured for millennia with no winner. In fact, in recent centuries religions have ever begun fighting amongst themselves as to who has the more correct interpretation, Christian against Christian, Jew against Jew and Muslim against Muslim. Any apparent success of one group over another has been due to the likes of the sword and not supernatural assistance. Recently added to this competition has been a new player, science, which has taken a different tack to religion. It has attempted to explain the universe and life through reason, observation and experiment, and has proved phenomenally successful. Each advance in science has meant a retreat for religion. The amount of evidence supporting a naturalistic universe
KEEP WORSHIPING NATURE... THAT'S BIBLICAL
You need to stop placing religious intentions onto others. You may worship God, but I do not worship nature. Accepting that something is true or reflects reality, eg the Holocaust happened, is not worship.
continues to grow while that supporting a universe of supernatural design is simply non-existent.
IS THAT WHATS CALLED A OXYMORON?
No it's not. An oxymoron combines contradictory terms. If I said there was evidence for BOTH a natural and a supernatural universe, then it would be an oxymoron.
Holy books like the Bible or the Koran no more support belief in god than the Harry Potter books support belief in magic.
You view your Biblical interpretation as correct and see our statements as "fundamental errors" whereas of course we believe just the opposite is true. You believe this because, among other things, you "understand the rules of your own language". Yet everyone that reads a Bible in English is relying "on someone else's interpretation", including you. The English text you are studying is already an interpretation, and since the originals no longer exist, no one can refer to them to check its accuracy. Your interpretation rests on a stack of prior interpretations of copies, never the originals. Studying the bible in English as you're doing is to assume that those who translated it from Hebrew or Greek copies did so correctly. Yet one of the key drivers behind the Reformation and the splintering of the Catholic Church was the claim that they didn't.
It was called the Reformation because it aimed to reform Biblical doctrines and rituals derived from them, brought about by study of ancient texts. Only some Catholics would argue that Biblical interpretation prior to the Reformation was completely accurate.
And even if we had the originals, there is much more to whether a document can be believed than the study of the language used. A document can be beautifully written and false, or poorly written and true.
On our site all we do is quote what the Bible says, and then explain what any rational person could expect this quote to mean. If we get it wrong then a very poorly written Bible must take the blame.
I'VE BEEN MISTAKEN ALL THESE YEARS.....YOU'RE GOD...NOT ALMIGHTY CAUSE YOU GOT DARWIN AND THE KORAN WRONG, BUT RIGHT UP THERE... LOL
While I disagree about your view on Darwin and the Koran, are you suggesting that because you believe I made mistakes I'm right up there with God? Am I god-like? Does God make mistakes? Or are you saying that only God can quote a Bible passage and explain what it means? Oh, and you of course.
I normally use the popular NIV Bible (New International Version). If this Bible's interpretation isn't consistent with what you believe, then obviously it's not just me that you haven't been able to convince. Again I repeat that the Bible can not and does not expect its readers to under go extensive study before they can comprehend what it says.
WHERE DOES IT SAY THAT? THERES PLENTY OF PASSAGES SAY THE OPPOSITE.
OK, so you're saying that there are plenty of Bible passages that state Christians must undergo extensive study before they can comprehend what it says. To avoid a contradiction this means that there can be no passages that say a simple reading of the Bible is all that is required to understand God's intentions. Yet the common Christian message we hear is that anyone can read the Bible and understand its message. Even you say that the "basic message is straight forward and doesn't require heaps of study". But then you add an extra condition — additional study is required. Is this just a ploy to be directed at atheists, to explain why we keep "misinterpreting" the Bible? Remember that almost no Christians have completed or are undergoing Bible study, and especially not study in "etymology and hermeneutics". If additional study is required then this would mean that nearly every Christian is also "misinterpreting" the Bible. Is the Christian faith only maintained by the ignorance of its followers?
Even you agree that the Bible's "basic message is straight forward and doesn't require heaps of study", but then you query me as to what historians are helping me understand it.
I THOUGHT YOU TOLD ME THAT?
I told you that a Bible provided by an all-knowing, all-powerful loving God should be easy to read and understand. You agreed and disagreed, which confused me. I don't believe we should need the help of historians to understand a book written by God. The fact that we do argues for it being written by ancient man, not God.
Either the Bible can be read by the man on the street or it can't. I just can't comprehend a loving god that would write a passage whose apparent meaning isn't the correct one, or would allow someone to mistranslate his message and do nothing to correct it. Remember we're talking about God here, not some second rate novelist. When the Bible talks about love Christians say that's exactly what it means, that God wants to get his message across in clear terms. But when it talks about hate Christians then insist we need to undertake Biblical analysis to see how those negative statements don't mean what they appear to say.
SWEEPING GENERALISE STATEMENTS ARE ALWAYS HELPFUL IN DISCUSSIONS
It's not a sweeping or indiscriminate statement. You yourself quoted some passages from Romans which evidently mean exactly what they say, but added that other passages actually require study to understand their real meaning. Evidently the Bible is full of passages that can be taken on their face value and numerous others that say one thing but mean another. But there is no key as to which need deciphering. Again, not the sign of an all-knowing God trying to get his message across.
This just smacks of hypocrisy, of Christians trying to make the Bible say what they want it say, editing and censoring God's word to fit the modern world but still leaving his name on it.
You may be familiar with a fictional device called a "universal translator" that features in sci-fi shows like Star Trek, Farscape and Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, where people can automatically understand the language of any alien they meet. Everyone appears to be speaking English, although aliens of course believe you are speaking their language. Why couldn't God have made the Bible like that? Written only once and in special code, but who ever opened it would believe it was written in their own language. It's not a translation of a translation of a copy but the original text as God intended in your own language. No confusion, no mistranslation, no misprints, no additions or deletions. While this device would be horribly complex if not impossible for humans to build, for an all-powerful god that can make the universe it would be child's play. Not only that, it would be positive proof that an amazing intellect was involved in its creation. Instead, opening the Bible reveals an ancient, primitive and extremely simple tool — a book.
THE WRITTEN WORD ANCIENT, PRIMITIVE AND SIMPLE... DO YOU HONESTLY BELIEVE THAT DESCRIBES YOUR WRITING OR ARE YOU EXEMPT?
You again miss my point. I wasn't describing the written word, but the object it was contained in — a book. It wasn't about the message but how it was conveyed. Why did God go all out on the complexity of a human cell and yet store his important message on such a primitive thing as papyrus that he knew would lead to massive confusion and even this very comment from me?
The original has been long lost, and no one can prove that the numerous translations of copies that we now possess are still true to the original, and as a result Christians have fought each other for centuries to keep their particular translation as the one true Bible. Hardly something an all-powerful, all-knowing loving god would put his name to. Even if one translation has remained faithful to the original, which one is it and why hasn't god caused the demise of the rest to prevent this blossoming of different Christian faiths? It's almost as if the Bible was written solely for people that spoke ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek, as if the writers and the god they spoke of had no thought of it needing to be read by speakers of English, Chinese or Polish.
As for suggesting that the likes of archaeology or astronomy support the Bible, this is misleading. No one denies that Bethlehem exists, that the Earth is round, or that the Jews, Egyptians and Romans existed. What we question are the supernatural elements of the Bible, and for those no external evidence exists. By taking a similar tack numerous elements in the Harry Potter books can be proven to exist, such as London, colleges and owls. Yet few people believe this supports the magical part of the story. The same with The Da Vinci Code. Much of it was factual, and can be proven to be so, yet it is still a fictional book.
THAT'S A GREAT POINT... PUTTING LANGUAGE STUDY RULES TO LEGITIMATE USE
OK, so if my use of "language study rules" can expose Harry Potter and The Da Vinci Code as fictional, and you accept this, why don't the same rules work on the Bible?
Historical novels are usually fictional stories woven around real history. Ditto the Bible. It doesn't matter how many mundane and natural claims that the Bible makes that are in fact true, there is not one shred of evidence that proves any of the supernatural claims made in the Bible actually happened. Perhaps the Hebrews did flee Egypt, perhaps they did slaughter all the tribes in Canaan to steal their land, perhaps a carpenter called Jesus existed, perhaps he was crucified. Even if actually proven true none of these Bible stories would lend any support to the claim that a god was involved or that this Jesus turned water into wine. Proving Jesus existed only proves a man called Jesus existed. And that doesn't break any laws of nature, or lead me to worship a long dead carpenter.
But you go on to state that the real evidential strength behind the Bible is its "collection of eye witness accounts [the historical record]", such as the gospels. However, while many Christians believe that the gospels were actually written by real eyewitnesses called 'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John', no knowledgeable Christian and certainly no Bible scholar believes this.
GIVE 20 BIBLE SCHOLARS THAT AGREE WITH YOU [&] I'LL GIVE YOU DOUBLE THAT DISAGREE WITH YOU.
The truth of the matter is not arrived at by taking a vote or by a show of hands. As I said, many Christians do believe that the gospels were written by the named eyewitnesses, but as this article explains, "modern critical biblical scholarship does not support the traditional attribution for any of them". Even the believers' arguments don't make sense as this article explains, eg "Tradition has it that the Gospel According to Mark was written down by Mark, a companion of Peter, who simply recorded what Peter preached in Rome (1 Peter 5:13)". This is admitting that even if someone called Mark did write it, he was not an eyewitness. None of these gospel writers would be seen as credible eyewitnesses in a court of law.
The fact that the Bible suggests that they were eyewitnesses and that the early Christian fathers furthered this deception by calling the originally anonymous gospels 'Matthew, Mark, Luke and John' further reduces their credibility. It is perfectly acceptable for a rational person to discount those parts of a story that recount events for which there is no evidence, and for which all modern knowledge suggest are impossible and therefore likely to be pure fantasy. For example, we no longer believe accounts of witches flying around on brooms, even thought they were recounted by devout Christian "eyewitnesses". You fall into the trap of thinking that if some of the Bible is true then it must all be true. You claim that if we don't believe a Biblical eyewitnesses then we should also discount eyewitness accounts from other historical events, such as Cook's voyage and slavery. Yet no eyewitness claimed that Cook walked across the Pacific, that slaves rose from the dead when they died from exhaustion or mistreatment, or that the Jews in the Holocaust were killed by being magically turned into pillars of salt. If they did, then rational people would discount them. In fact sailors did make fanciful claims of seeing mermaids and sea monsters, and Jews did make claims that Holocaust victims were turned into soap. They have been discounted due to lack of evidence, but we still believe in Cook and the Holocaust. Modern history will consider rational events
THE HOLOCAUST IS RATIONAL? O WELL ADOLF WOULD GO ALONG WITH THAT, I SUSPECT RICHARD DAWKINS WOULD AS WELL IF HIS LECTURES ARE SINCERE
Yes the Holocaust can be considered as a rational event, in that it is "consistent with or based on reason". Everything that caused or happened during the Holocaust is explainable as part of a naturalistic universe rather than a supernatural one. And I have no doubt that Hitler and his henchmen were acting rationally. He believed he had perfectly good reasons for exterminating the race that, among other things, murdered the messiah. Like many God sanctioned acts of genocide described in the Bible, he no doubt thought he was acting morally as well.
and stories of normal human beings but not accounts of supernatural shenanigans, whether they happened in Cook's voyage or in the Bible.
Your gospel "eyewitnesses" further destroy their credibility by recounting events for which they tell us there were NO eyewitnesses. For example when Jesus was alone in the desert or with the Devil overlooking the world or in Gethsemane when only Jesus was awake. How can the gospel writer tell us what Jesus said and did when he or no one else witnessed it?
WELL THOUGHT OUT SIR, CARRY ON AND YOULL REASON OUT THE FLAW IN YOUR CONCLUSIONS
Why the secrecy? Your entire reply is to point out my errors, so why won't you reveal what the flaw is? How did the "eyewitness" see and hear what he didn't witness?
Even if we were to accept the eyewitness bits, these accounts were obviously invented by the writer, making Jesus say what the writer wanted him to say. All fiction writers do this to give their story more detail, but it can NEVER happen in a factual account. Your study of rules for examining historical documents should have told you this.
IT DID AND I APPLIED THE BASIC RULE FOR THAT SITUATION AND IF YOU APPLIED IT YOU WOULD NEED TO RE-ASSESS YOUR STATEMENT
Again, why the reluctance to expose the details behind my alleged mistake? Is the "basic rule for that situation" simply to tell the person that they've made a mistake and move on without revealing it?
When parts of the gospels are shown to be pure fabrications, then their authors lose credibility.
In fact real "historical records" contain numerous references to amazing events and beings. Witches, leprechauns, dragons, fairies, Robin Hood, King Arthur and Merlin, Loch Ness monster, Yeti, Lost City of Atlantis, the Sun gods of the Aztecs etc. Eyewitnesses supposedly saw all of these things,
OK I GIVE IN, GIVE ME SOME HISTORICAL TITLES I CAN CHECK OUT
Well, you can start with your the Bible, which has (or used to mention prior to modern editing) witches, unicorns, dragons, satyrs, fiery serpents, flying serpents, cockatrices, and let's not forget the talking serpents and donkeys. As for the other beings like leprechauns, fairies, gods of the Aztecs and places like Atlantis, surely you realise they come to us from history? Maybe you consider them as mere fairytales rather than historical, but let's remember that once they were considered as real as you now consider god is, and people of the time wrote about them in the same way you write about god and I write about rabbits, as real things.
and yet few people today believe they really existed, not even Christians. Why can all these eyewitness accounts be discounted but equally fanciful accounts made by the equally ignorant and superstitious writers of the Bible be believed? I reject all eyewitness accounts of magic and the supernatural in all the numerous holy books, and you do the same in all
DO I ...YOU REALLY HAVE GOT POWERS, NOT ONLY CAN YOU FORETELL THE FUTURE NOW YOU CAN READ MY MIND
My apologies, I assumed by your previous comments that you were a devout Christian, and as such wouldn't also believe in or even entertain the possibility of the gods of the Hindus, of the ancient Egyptians, of the Aztecs, of the Babylonians etc. Every religious person I've met believes firmly in their religion and their holy book, and if questioned, rejects the notion that other opposing religions might actually be true. Might I therefore assume that you're still looking for the true religion, and are you sincerely suggesting that I should also be seriously considering religions other than Christianity?
but one, the Christian Bible. How can you discount Brahma creating the world and Maui fishing up the North Island and yet challenge people that don't believe in the Bible's equally silly stories? Isn't this a little hypocritical?
NO YOU LOOK AT THE EVIDENCE OF THE VARIOUS CLAIMANTS
Again, since you won't openly reject other religions as false, then either you haven't examined other religions and therefore refuse to comment, or you have and find them plausible. Which is it? Either way your commitment to Christianity has taken a serious hit. Doesn't one of the Ten Commandments say "You shall have no other gods before me... You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation...". Isn't your reluctance to deny other gods a dangerous move, especially for your innocent descendants? Or have I "misinterpreted" another Bible passage, misunderstanding what your jealous god intends to do to all those children?
You also say that "The bible isn't a book of science", and I agree completely, but this isn't the same as saying a cookbook or philosophy book isn't about science. For most of its history the Bible was considered as providing the answers as to how the world came into existence and how it functions, and many Christians believe it still does. That's why many want it taught in science classes. There is much in the Bible that claims, especially in the Old Testament, to serve the same function as science, and it is to this I refer when I say that the bible and science conflict. You can ignore this and concentrate on man's relationship with God, but it still remains in the Bible alongside what you see as the more important message. It still needs to be explained why "eyewitnesses" in the New Testament supposedly got everything right, and can be believed, and yet those in the Old Testament got it so wrong, and can be ignored.
CAN THEY ...WHO SAYS?
Anyone that examines the Bible from a scientific perspective can and should ignore passages that purport to explain how the world works, even quotes from God himself. Claims that hail is kept in storehouses, gates hold back the sea and stars can fall to Earth. Anyone that believes these claims to be true is deluded, and anyone that pretends they don't exist and that the Bible contains nothing that we need to ignore is deceptive.
Maybe the relationship message you refer to is what God considered important, but still, why did an all-knowing God get his science so badly wrong? Think of God explaining to Job about how the world works. Christians have to either explain why the Bible's forays into scientific explanations are absolutely correct, or in your case, explain why bogus explanations about the world under God's name still remain in the Bible. Science openly rejects failed theories and removes them from their textbooks, why won't Christians do the same with the Bible?
THAT CANT BE TRUE ALWAYS FOR ALL TIMES, I WAS TAUGHT SCIENCE TRUTHS THAT WERENT TRUE, HAD ALREADY BEEN PROVEN TO BE FALSE.
Then it was your teachers that failed you, not science. You don't mention what false science you were taught, however since you don't accept evolution, might I be correct in assuming that it's evolutionary science that you believe has been disproved and yet is still taught? But regardless, again you avoid the question I asked, which is why Christians won't correct mistakes in the Bible? Is it your argument that since you believe you were taught faulty science then it's perfectly acceptable for the Bible to do the same?
You did say one thing that confused me. I suggested that you no doubt viewed the holy books of other religions as false explanations of the world, yet you refused to pass judgement on the Hindu Vedas or the Egyptian Book of the Dead.
HARD TO JUDGE SOMETHING I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT.
Which means you must accept the real possibility that the Hindu gods or Egyptian gods are the real gods behind the existence of the universe, that there might be far more evidence for their existence and therefore your Christian god might well be a complete fantasy. To deny this would be to pass judgment on something you know nothing about. Again, your apparent commitment to Jesus seems to be at the expense of what you admit might be other equally plausible religions. It's as if you picked the first religion that knocked on your door, and didn't have the energy or curiosity to look further. Aren't you afraid you might have picked a dud? Regardless of all the wonderful promises that the Bible makes, might not other religions offer even more? You argue against atheists and evolutionists who you see as opponents, so why not other religions who are as equally convinced that your god is false?
To me this implies something along the lines of, 'They might be correct, I haven't read them to know one way or the other.' Not only that, you asserted that you "have no doubt that the Koran gives an accurate portrayal of the life and teachings of Mohammed". Yet not only does the Koran contain numerous inventions regarding Mohammed and errors of real history, more importantly Muslims deny the divinity of Jesus and that he rose from the dead.
YOU ARE READING MORE INTO MY ANSWER THAN WHAT WAS THERE
If you have "no doubt" that these "teachings of Mohammed" are accurate,
NOW YOURE REALLY MISCONSTRUING WHAT I SAID, ACCIDENTLY I TRUST
I can only read what I'm given. When someone says that they believe the Koran gives an accurate portrayal of the teachings of Mohammed, and my Muslim friends have said exactly this to me, I must assume that they are referring to his teaching about Allah and his relationship with us. The Koran is not a cookbook or a desert survival manual. If you're not referring to Mohammed's religious teaching then saying the Koran is accurate is as misleading as saying Harry Potter is accurate.
then how can you claim to be a Christian, shouldn't you be a Muslim? Likewise if the Hindu or ancient Egyptian take on religion might be correct, and you're not prepared to say it isn't, then how can you be so confident that the Bible contains the ultimate truth? Logic would dictate that if the Bible is correct then ALL other religions must be false. I don't understand how you can insist it is correct but still leave the door open to these other religions? You confidently state that the 1500 Christian sects in the USA are mistaken or deliberately deceptive,
I THOUGHT I THREW A MAYBE IN THERE, MAYBE I DIDN'T MAYBE I SHOULD HAVE, PROBABLY MY LACK OF LANGUAGE SKILLS OR DO YOU UNDERSTAND A MAYBE MAYBE A STATEMENT OF CONFIDENCE
Yes you did say "maybe", but what I was trying to show is that you aren't prepared to say if Hindus are mistaken in their interpretations, and if they are, why that might be. But you confidently assumed that the 1500 Christian sects in the US were wrong and gave two possible explanations as to why — maybe they don't know the language rules or maybe deliberate deception. (Of course you realize your particular Christian beliefs may match one of these US sects?)
along with scientists and atheists, yet won't make the same judgement call on Hindus, sun worshipping Egyptians or Muslims. Why not? And please don't say that when you claimed that the Koran is accurate you were merely talking about its mention of Mecca and Arabs. By this specious reasoning Harry Potter is also accurate. When people talk about whether a holy book is true they obviously refer to whether its talk of gods is true.
I MAY NOT HAVE QUITE THE PRECISE MEANING FROM THE YOUR STATEMENT SO FORGIVE IF MY ANSWER IS NOT WHAT YOURE LOOKING FOR. SO HERE GOES... I DON'T BELIEVE THAT MUSLIMS, SUN WORSHIPPING EGYPTIANS OR HINDUS HAVE CORRECTLY UNDERSTOOD/INTERPRETED THE CHRISTIAN BIBLE. I BELIEVE JESUS IS THE ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN
And a Muslim for example would say exactly the same thing to you, that you haven't correctly understood the Koran. Would this plea cause you to seriously think about becoming a Muslim? Every religious person can make this claim against other religions, that they have failed to embrace the one true religion only because they haven't correctly understood it. Yet you admit that you know little or nothing of other religions, so why might it not be their religion that is the correct one? This is your argument to non-Christians — understand my religion and you will believe. Muslims, Hindus etc. are following false religions solely because they haven't studied other ones, specifically Christianity in your view. But neither have you studied other religions so you are hardly in a position to claim that the Bible makes more sense than the Koran or the Vedas. A Muslim, Hindu and Christian all say that if others only studied their holy book then he or she would become a believer. Who should I believe is telling the truth? You have picked the Bible and ignored the rest. How do you justify this? Why can you accuse non-Christians of ignoring the Bible when you're ignoring their holy books?
What Christians either refuse or fail to do is provide evidence or good reasons for why their holy book is true. Claims like 'Statements in the Bible prove it's true' don't work because obviously the same claim could "prove" any religion, eg 'Statements in the Koran prove it's true'. Likewise using modern knowledge to place extreme interpretations on vague, confusing Bible passages is nothing less than rewriting the Bible, making it say something that was never intended. For example, claiming that one single vague statement might be interpreted with hindsight as showing that God told the Hebrews that the Earth was a sphere floating in space, only works if one ignores the numerous passages that clearly suggest a flat Earth.
THAT'S WHERE THOSE ALL IMPORTANT LANGUAGE RULES COME INTO PLAY. IGNORING THEM IS FOOLISH
But it was you that suggested that the Bible tells us that the Earth is round. Shouldn't your analysis have shown that this was likely to be a false interpretation?
It's revealing that scientific discoveries are often coupled with a furious attempt to reinterpret some passage in the Bible or Koran to show that ancient tribesmen already knew about DNA, quasars or quarks courtesy of their handbook from God. It's a shame that they refuse to tell us this beforehand, which would save the scientific community time and money in research.
I THINK PEOPLE REFUSED TO LISTEN
I think you've got it backwards. For most of our history the Church told us exactly how the world worked and everyone listened. Most were afraid not to. It was the Church that refused to listen when people like Galileo, Copernicus, Giordano Bruno and Darwin suggested things worked differently. There is an enormous amount of historical documents from Christians explaining how the world works that are now known to be false. Newton wrote more on alchemy and religion than science, and all the non-scientific stuff is ignored today by both Christians and scientists alike. No religious documents show scientific knowledge derived from the Bible. Yes many Christians made advances in science, but this was due to scientific observation and experimentation, not looking for clues in the Bible.
Another reason why I believe our interpretation of the Bible is correct rather than yours Steve is that our interpretation mirrors scientific, historical and ethical progress. The more our society advances oblivious to and often in conflict with Biblical knowledge the more confidence I have that the Bible is just as flawed as the thousands of other holy books. For anyone, including you, to convince me that their holy book is true in its claims of gods, then they need to front up with real evidence, not Biblical quotes. Show me the evidence that God made the world in six days and woman was made from a rib, that stars fell to Earth and serpents talk, that a man born of a virgin drove demons into innocent pigs which he then drowned in the sea.
I CANT SHOW YOU ANY OF THOSE EVENTS. I CANT PROVE ANY OF THOSE EVENTS.
And every religion is the same, none can provide proof for what is written in their holy books. Science on the other hand can. It doesn't just say the Earth is round or that the Big Bang happened around 13 billion years ago, it provides robust evidence that supports these claims. If you have a hundred religions, none of which can support their claims, and one avenue of research called science that can, and is learning more each day, why go with a worldview that is unsupported?
It is these things, not the mention of Bethlehem, that sets the Bible apart from reason and science and it is these things for which evidence is non-existent."
HOWEVER I KNOW JESUS AND THAT'S WHY I TURNED FROM AN ATHEISTIC LIFE AND BELIEF BECAUSE HE SHOWED HIMSELF TO BE TRUE REAL RELIABLE.
And yet I suspect you've never actually met him have you? Or received a phone call, letter, email or even seen him talk on TV. You've never read any of his books, because he never wrote anything, or even read a book by someone that had met him. Paul, the first person in history to write about him even admitted that he hadn't met him. You have no idea what he looks like since no painting or description exists. You don't even call him by his real name, preferring to use an English translation of a Latin translation of a Greek translation of a Hebrew name. Hardly the sign of a close relationship. In fact you know little more about this alleged historical figure than what you've read in a confusing translation of a single ancient book that the majority of people believe is fiction. You really are stretching the meaning of words when you say you KNOW Jesus and that he has SHOWED HIMSELF to be TRUE, REAL and RELIABLE. Can you really imagine your testimony being accepted in a court of law, or would the judge declare that you are describing an imaginary friend and an imaginary relationship?
As I've said, Muslims, Hindus and Jews are just as committed to their religious beliefs as you are. If all four of you were trying to convince me over a coffee that I should accept a particular religion, what arguments would you provide that would show me that their religions are false and that Christianity is true? Quotes from the Bible aren't sufficient since they will be cancelled out by quotes from the Koran etc. I'm an atheist because I find the arguments from science and philosophy very convincing, and those from religion — all religion not just Christianity — weak in the extreme. I am receptive to reason and evidence only, blind faith in outlandish promises made in an old book that will only come true when I die are not something that I can relate to. Do you have any rational arguments that might shake my conviction?
Comment by Steve, 29 Apr, 2009
Would you provide the names of 2-3 historians that would best illustrate the ones that you would turn to interpret the bible as an historical text?
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2009
If I were compelled to select 2 or 3 "historians" to analyse the Bible for me, I would perhaps approach Richard Carrier, Frank Zindler and David Eller. And these people would of course consult other experts in their research on my behalf. This is not to say I would believe everything they propose, but I do believe they would provide an intelligent, unbiased assessment of the Bible as an historical document. At the end of the day, I do not blindly support one historian over another, it's their arguments based on reason and evidence that I support or reject. I try to sideline the author of a claim and look solely at whether it makes sense. The authors of some books I've read may be the most arrogant, annoying or socially inept people on the planet, or the nicest, but I don't care. I only read them for their insights. The three I mention above (who do seem like nice people) have written critical analysis of the Bible which I find convincing.
Comment by Steve, 30 Apr, 2009
Your statement about eye witness accounts of various sightings of places/creatures, I'll settle for one eye witness document, say dealing with Atlantis.
I'm a Christian, you can't be a Christian without meeting Jesus, I've met Jesus.
I've been made aware of the Muslim faith, still a Christian, been talking with a local Hindi priest, he hasn't fully or even mostly laid out his position, still talking.
I'm not trying to convince you of the reality of God, I'm trying to point out a lack of correct bible representation on this site and suggesting that with a better understanding of how language works and the rules that apply to the written word you would be able to correctly inform of the teaching of the bible. Perhaps you aren't interested.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2009
The earliest account we have of Atlantis is from Plato, 360 BCE. Evidently Athenian lawgiver Solon was told about Atlantis by an Egyptian priest while on a visit to Egypt, who related this history from ancient records on papyri. These original documents, like most Egyptian records, and all the original Bible documents for that matter, have never been found. However the lost documents evidently did relate eyewitness accounts of Atlantis. You may claim that Plato's account is not a true eyewitness document, and since the actual eyewitness account can't be produced, then it is just hearsay. This is correct, and for the same reason all of the Bible should be considered hearsay, since the original eyewitness accounts can't be produced either. If Atlantis can be discounted because of the lack of the original documents, so too can the Bible. Your choice. Of course I don't believe Atlantis did exist, but some ancient writers did, including the philosopher Crantor, and ancient historians and philosophers Strabo and Posidonius. Even 5th century Christian historian Proclus reported on Atlantis.
For accounts of witches you could consult the Malleus Maleficarum, the documents relating to the 1692 Salem witch trials and Roman documents detailing special councils to punish witches. As for fairies, Anne Jefferies claimed she was abducted by fairies in 1645. Elsie Wright and Francis Griffiths claimed they saw and took photos of fairies in 1917 and 1920. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, creator of Sherlock Holmes, was an outspoken supporter of the girls' claims. There are hundreds of recorded sightings of the Loch Ness Monster, and Roger Patterson is one of many who claims to have seen Bigfoot.
The point is not whether these things actually exist, it's whether some people thought they had seen them, and so caused an account of their sighting to be recorded in either oral or written records. We only know of these historical sightings because people recorded them. No one continues to believe in beings — fairies, demons, Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot etc — for hundreds of years if no one has ever seen one. Everyone that believes in one of these beings believes that there has been at least one eyewitness some time in the past. My point was that since history is full of stories about creatures and miraculous events that we no longer believe exist or happened, then what are the odds that those strange creatures and miraculous events from the Bible are still true?
You say you've met Jesus. I still insist that your claim is delusional and would never stand up against any real test, legal or scientific. What evidence would you produce for this meeting? This is no different than a Muslim saying they've spoken with Allah or me saying I've played chess with Mr Spock on the Starship Enterprise. What if a murderer said the Devil had ordered him to kill his neighbour? Would you believe him, as you expect me to believe you? Would you believe a Hindu saying they've had lunch with Shiva, which if you do, would mean that the Hindu gods are the true gods? I suspect you wouldn't believe the Hindu for the same reason I don't believe you.
You ask if I'm interested in presenting a "correct bible representation", and of course the answer is yes. What I think you want to know is whether I'm interested in presenting what you believe is the "correct bible representation". I'm certainly not interested in becoming a Christian apologist, and that's all I'd be if I put forward your interpretation. Think about what you're asking here. Put yourself in my position. Jews believe that Jesus is not the Son of God, and every time you describe him as the messiah and the way to salvation they believe you are giving a false representation of the Tanakh, their "Bible". Could they convince you to change your interpretation so as to "correctly inform of the teaching of the" Tanakh? I suspect you would answer this challenge by stating that you believe your interpretation is the correct one and until they provide convincing reasons that the Jewish view of the New Testament is the correct one, then you will continue to believe in Christ. As the Jews would first need to convince you before you agreed with their interpretation, so you need to convince me. Your heartfelt convictions are not sufficient. As you've said, you've been drastically wrong in your beliefs about gods before, why might it not be so again?
Comment by Steve, 30 Apr, 2009
It seems the problem with [your] advisors is that they don't understand theology, at least from what I can ascertain from their sites when I googled them. My local library doesn't carry any of their books or periodicals [Carrier's "The guarded tomb" especially id love to read], also Zindler apart from some video debates [which I didn't watch] has access denied come up on my screen... reason... hate site... so I possibly wont get to read their thoughts.
Unless perhaps you're interested in doing a practical bible study as a way of understanding what I'm burbling about I shall from this moment on leave you in piece. Farewell.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 30 Apr, 2009
Yes the books from the authors I mentioned aren't as popular as rugby biographies, a Princess Diana exposé or a King James Bible. I had to order them from Amazon. No thanks to the practical Bible study offer. I fear I would ask far too many probing questions and be expelled for being too disruptive. But thanks for your thoughts and comments. Always interesting to hear from a different perspective.
Bowen Therapy — "I did my mate's baby"
Have you heard of Bowen Therapy? It's an alternative health therapy, alternative meaning that there's no good evidence that it works and therefore can't simply be called a health therapy. Last month I read an article promoting one its practitioners in "The Invercargill Eye" (Oct 10, 2008), a free weekly paper. Then last week I read a similar article in "D Scene", (Oct 31, 2008), a free Dunedin weekly paper. The Invercargill article featured a Bowen therapist called Alister Jones, 'a scaffolder by trade'. The article began with: "I did my mate's baby. He came to me and said 'oh my baby's broken can you fix it'". You'd think he'd been asked to fix a toaster not heal a baby. What sane person would take a two month old baby to a scaffolder who claims to be a healer to 'fix' it? And what doctor do you know that after treating a patient would say "I did my mate's baby"? Jones claims that "Bowen can be used to treat any kind of injury because it resets the muscle's cellular memory". Rubbish, this is pure pseudoscience speak. Using scientific sounding terms like cellular memory as if they referred to real things may impress a scaffolder's mate but they are bogus. Belief in cellular memory is just as silly as belief in chakras and auras. (We've written an article debunking cellular memory here.) Unfortunately Bowen therapists do believe in chakras and auras as well. Here's what one Bowen website claims "The Bowen Technique affects very strongly the Chakra system and Auric field... After receiving a few Bowen moves, the energy in the auric field will... clear and shift to white light or gold high vibration energy. The patient's energetic field will become radiant." Yeah right, sure it will.
The Dunedin article featured Bowen therapist Sarah Knowles. She states she has a Diploma in Bowen Therapy from the Bowen Therapy Academy in Australia, but what does this really mean? You can get bogus diplomas on any number of bogus alternative therapies, including Reiki, homeopathy and guidance from angels. She said her training took eight months, but I doubt it was full time or even required going to classes proper. Why can't we train our doctors or even our physiotherapists in eight months rather than years of university training? Some websites say you can become a Bowen therapist with only two weeks training.
Knowles says that "Bowen technique is a gentle form of bodywork in which subtle moves performed over muscles and connective tissue send messages deep into the body." Like many similar bogus therapies such as Reiki etc that involve touch and body energy fields, the therapist doesn't have to have the faintest idea what is actually wrong with their patient. They are merely a conduit or instigator. Their actions cause the body to diagnose the problem and heal itself. It's like having a problem with your computer and pressing the RESET button. You don't have to know anything about computers, it will diagnose itself and reboot with the problem fixed (hopefully). All these wankers are really claiming to do is pushing the body's RESET button. This just shows their ignorance as the human body doesn't have a RESET button. Yes the body is continually detecting and correcting problems without our knowledge, but we don't need to pay a Bowen therapist to pretend that they are initiating this healing. If the body can effect a cure it will do so. If it can't then we need real medical help, from real medical professionals, not from modern day witch doctors whose common sense was left on some astral plane.
For an interesting intro to Bowen Therapy from a skeptical perspective, try this article -- Bowen Therapy 1: An Introduction
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 04 Nov, 2008 ~
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Comment by Bob, 11 Nov, 2008
The Bowen Treatment is obviously just another variation of all the garbage alternative treatments. It relies on the fact nature will eventually cure the problem or the client dies or simply goes away disappointed he is no better. Over the years there have been numerous black boxes promoted by people who usually refuse to let anybody look inside them. Then there is my favourite, the claims around "energy". Energy is everywhere waiting to be tapped. A healer can pass energy to his client by a wave of the hand or feel the client's energy or draw on universal energy or get get energy from a crystal - this fabulous "energy". I would suggest putting a torch battery between your hands with a finger on each terminal. A small amount of current will flow especially if the hands are wet. Apparently that sort of energy doesn't count. More likely it would be too difficult to make money out of it.
There is only one way to kill this sham and that is by education, teaching critical thinking. I was glad to see recently according to a survey that only 55% of New Zealanders believe in God. I was also glad to see that neither Clark nor Key when questioned on their religious leaning believe in God or survival after death because of the lack of evidence. Yet in the US an aspiring politician would be signing his political death warrant saying that.
Certainly logic and scepticism are increasing here. There are however still too many gullible people throwing their money down the drain.
Jehovah's Witnesses and "Bible truth"
A strange thing happened the other day — I had a religious pamphlet poked under my door by a roving band of Jehovah's Witnesses. It's not strange that Jehovah's Witnesses are out bothering people, but strange in that they didn't bother me. They didn't knock, just dropped the pamphlet and left. They've been here several times before and always try and engage me in discussion, so what's changed? Were they pressed for time or have they finally written me off as a lost cause and/or too subversive?
One assumes they keep some sort of record of how receptive various households are to their evangelising. To track potential converts surely they need to know which houses to return to and which to avoid, rather than just randomly targeting different addresses? Thus they should know I'm an atheist, and if they've forgotten, they have to walk past my car that proudly displays anti-religion slogans, such as 'Born Again Atheist'. I wonder if they see me as a challenge, since it's a waste of time going to houses that already agree with them or those that refuse to listen to them? I've noticed them approaching before and they come directly to my door, usually going to none of my immediate neighbours, as if they're seeking me out. I suspect most people just tell them they're not interested, whereas I usually accept their free handouts. But only after politely pointing out the numerous flaws in their claims and leaving them in no doubt that I believe their god to be a fantasy, and that I have plenty of reason and evidence to back up my view. So it's surprising that they keep coming back. Are they not too bright or do Jehovah's Witnesses have some kind of super challenge where converting a knowledgeable atheist earns them extra bonus points? Maybe they get a special badge or something? Or are they just using me to train their evangelists, to give them a taste of a real opponent and letting them try out various responses? Surely they don't think that by me accepting their handouts I might be having serious doubts? I take them for two reasons. One, it lets me examine their arguments since one must always look at both sides of a debate, and two, this examination of their arguments usually provides me with much amusement. Quite frankly, if I did have a nagging doubt that religious types might have good reasons for their beliefs if I only looked close enough, these evangelists with their silly handouts only serve to bolster my resolve, not weaken it. They would do more for their cause if they kept it a mystery and stopped trying to explain it.
The handout they left me was entitled: 'Would You Like to Know the Truth?', which listed six "important questions" they believe we should all be concerned about. If you've ever wondered about these questions yourself, or have received this handout, I'll quickly answer their questions.
Does God really care about us?
No. Fictional characters like gods, fairies, Obi Wan Kenobi and Hairy Maclary from Donaldson's Dairy have no knowledge of us, and thus can't care about us. If you want someone to care about you, look to how you treat family and friends.
Will war and suffering ever end?
No. As people reject religion and stop attacking other believers it will reduce greatly, but not completely. Suffering caused by earthquakes, floods, diseases and other natural causes (often referred to as 'Acts of God'), will also reduce as science and technology improves, but as long as there are 'Acts of God' there will be suffering.
What happens to us when we die?
As a person you cease to exist. Your body breaks down and its molecules return to the environment. You live on in the memories of others, but nothing else. Make the most of this life for there is no other.
Is there any hope for the dead?
No. See previous answer.
How can I pray and be heard by God?
You can't, so stop wasting your time. Instead of begging, try being independent and making a difference yourself.
How can I find happiness in life?
Stop worrying about whether fictional characters you've never met — and will never meet — care about you, about what will happen when you die and whether you can coerce these fictional beings into giving you a helping hand in life. Stop living in a fantasy world waiting for help that will never come and dreaming of a better life in a mythical next world.
No doubt you won't be surprised that the answers the Jehovah's Witnesses gave to these questions are not as factual, realistic, honest or as helpful as mine. I won't bore you by pulling them apart quote by quote, but a claim made in the pamphlet's final paragraph clearly sums up where they went wrong: "Bible truth liberates us from superstition".
Their answers are evidently true not because they have evidence or good reason to accept them, but merely because they are hinted at in an old book of fiction called the Bible. The phrase "Bible truth" should immediately make any rational person suspicious. Truth is truth, there is no such thing as "Bible truth", something that is true simply because the Bible mentions it. Truth is independent of the Bible or any book. Is there also a "Koran truth" and a "'Lord of the Rings' truth"? For the same reason that Jehovah's Witnesses would immediately dismiss anyone claiming "Koran truth" as either ignorant or misleading, intelligent, rational people completely dismiss "Bible truth".
Rather than liberate us from superstition, the Bible swamps us with superstition, dulling the intellect and demanding submission to their sky fairy. It is not a book written by modern scientists and historians to tell a cohesive story supported by evidence, but a collection of often conflicting and flawed tales told by an unknown number of desert nomads in our distant and ignorant past and hobbled together by editors centuries later. It is an illuminating example of how far mankind has progressed, and demonstrates what can be achieved if — as they say — we are liberated from superstition. The Jehovah's Witnesses claim "Bible truth liberates us from superstition" but in fact the real message is revealed when we reorder that sentence: "The truth about the Bible liberates us from superstition". It wasn't until we finally realised that the Bible and superstition are one and the same that we began searching for the real answers to how the world works and real solutions to life's woes.
It's depressing that Jehovah's Witnesses, using all the advances of modern science, technology, ethics and justice to further their cause, argue to effectively reject it all and return to a Biblical way of life. I guess they believe that this return to a primitive, dangerous, superstitious, ignorant and submissive lifestyle won't have to be endured for long since in their view the world's going to end any day now.
Someone once told a little girl, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus", and someone has told Jehovah's Witnesses, "Yes, there is a god". Both were lied to. Virginia has grown up and rejected the myths from her childhood, it's time the Jehovah's Witnesses did the same.
Posted by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 24 Oct, 2008 ~
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Comment by Bob, 26 Oct, 2008
Hello John, I think you are missing out on a bit of fun with the Jehovahs. You are taking them too seriously. I haven't spoken to any for quite a while now mainly because I have not been home when they have called or my wife answered the door. Unlike me she is polite and will simply decline their invitations with a thank you. The last time I answered the door to them I had something on the stove and couldn't spend time with them.
However on one occasion I opened the door to a lady. The conversation went like this -
Me: Oh hello! I'm glad you called.( I put on my welcoming face).
JW: (A look of suspicion after all nobody is ever glad to see them)
Me: They told me somebody would call back and talk to me.
JW: (Still wary) Who was that?
Me: Two very nice young Americans.
JW: (Grave look on the face and a moments stunned silence) We are NOT Mormons!
Me: Well who are you?
JW: Jehovahs Witnesses.
Me: I don't think I can talk to you. They told me you were the false prophets of the latter days. Goodbye!
By this time my wife had come out to see who was at the door and heard me. She knew very well what I was doing and rebuked me for poking fun at the woman. She is too polite. I told her they are stupid people with stupid ideas and deserve to have the mickey taken.
My suggestion is next time they call pretend to believe everything they say and reply in similar vein. Tell them evolution is the devil's work etc. You can have quite a bit if fun. Arguing with them gets you nowhere because they have a briefcase full of answers to anything you say and will consider themselves superior. The downside is it will encourage them to come back.
Comment by the 'Silly Beliefs' Team, 28 Oct, 2008
What a brilliant response Bob. I'm not sure I could keep a straight face though, and "unfortunately" evangelists have to pass my car and its "Born Again Atheist" stickers to reach my door so it's pretty obvious what my views are. I know full well that I'm not going to change their minds but I have noticed occasional flickers of doubt on their faces that makes five minutes of discussion worthwhile. As you say, they are stupid and do think themselves superior so it's nice to shake up their confidence, even just a little bit. I suspect the odd evangelist, especially the one that stands at the back and does little of the talking, has required some major debriefing once they get back to the Bat Cave. I especially remember a couple of Mormons when the youngest one said to the one doing all the talking, "You know, he makes some good points". I know that to most people talking to door knocking evangelists is frustrating, but to me it can also be fun.
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