Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|Is your neighbour a nutter?|
Recently Rene sent us an image and a link to a silly little incident that happened in Canada:
The fact that a domestic dispute turned a little ugly is, unfortunately, nothing new. Even the topic of the dispute is hardly worth thinking about, I mean, how many people in this modern age could still seriously believe that the Earth is flat? Certainly there will be some, as this story from Canada shows, but surely one must be more likely to win a multi-million dollar lottery, receive a surprise visit from the pope, be nominated for a Nobel Prize and get abducted by aliens, all in the same day, than actually meet a Flat Earther that is prepared to reveal their silly belief? Even though I recently read that 'it was only in 2001 that Charles K. Johnson, vociferous president of the International Flat Earth Society, died in Lancaster, California', belief in a flat Earth must surely be extremely rare. But is it? Has anyone done a survey, and would people answer honestly?
After the obligatory smirks and shaking of the head in disbelief, it got me thinking. If you seriously hold some belief, and you're astute enough to realise that pretty much the rest of the world, and certainly your friends and local community, would likely view that belief as a silly belief and would see you as barking mad if you revealed your acceptance of it, then wouldn't you keep it to yourself? I've been repeatedly surprised over the years when people that I thought as relatively intelligent and knowledgeable unexpectedly revealed that they held some silly belief. But since on such occasions I would typically ask in a stunned voice, 'You believe what? ... Seriously?', then perhaps that's why most people keep their silly beliefs hidden from skeptics like me.
I've worked with people for years whom it was later revealed were seriously religious, some holding Bible discussions in their lunch hour, even some fundamentalists believing in that 6 day creation crap. I naturally never made a secret of my atheism and love of scientific explanations, and yet never did they even hint that they preferred religious answers. I've discovered that I had relations that believed in the superiority of the likes of homeopathy and colour therapy over modern medicine. I have other relations and acquaintances that believe the moon landing was a hoax, that aliens built the pyramids, and that dark powers are trying to kill us with deadly vaccines and chemtrails. Others visit psychics for advice or think that their horoscopes reveal the future. But the thing is that almost all these people hid their wacky beliefs from me. Mostly I only ever learnt of them when some other person told me about them, 'You know they're religious — right?' Only rarely, and often out of frustration, did they unintentionally reveal their belief during a discussion, and sometimes they mentioned their belief because they thought that I believed as they did. And even when we both came to realise that we disagreed about gods or the moon landing or whatever, beyond revealing their opposition, they almost always refused to discuss the topic further. Even though I'm no expert, I suspect that they realised that I still knew more about their belief than they did and further discussion would only embarrass them by revealing their ignorance. I'm always been amazed that some people can believe something so completely and yet not be interested in the slightest in actually being able to support their belief, or overly concerned that they can't. Many would rather hurl insults, destroy relationships and make enemies than consider having a serious conversation or reading a book on the subject. As long as they believe, that seems to be all that matters, discussion is superfluous, and any arguments to the contrary are irrelevant and can be ignored. It reminds me again of a woman I encountered awhile back, who asked me about my 'Born Again Atheist' button. After I very briefly explained why I was an atheist, she confidently said,
'There's nothing in the world, nothing that anyone could say or do, nothing whatsoever, that could ever convince me — Ever! — that God isn't real.'I tried to reply, but she said she must be off, and quickly left. Because many people are so reluctant to reveal their beliefs, and even less willing to discuss them unless they believe they're among like-minded folk, it's totally unclear how common some silly beliefs are in society. I look around my community and see no obvious evidence of UFO nutters, no Flat Earthers, no homeopathy or Reiki clinics, no chapter of the Ku Klux Klan or some other white supremacy group, no local group pushing to get fluoride removed from the drinking water or to have abortion banned, no group raising money to search for Noah's Ark, Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.
And yet I know that people pushing nearly all those silly beliefs do exist in my community. We just don't see them. The only species I haven't encountered is a Flat Earther. Five years ago I attended a local meeting where believers in visiting aliens spoke absolute nonsense for an hour or so. Around the same time a group of Catholics with placards performed a weekly protest outside the local hospital against abortion. There was a group of local ghost hunters advertising their services. There also used to be a shop for witches called 'Wytch Haven', but thankfully, even that's closed down. These people with their silly beliefs aren't obvious anymore, but they're not all dead, they're still out there somewhere, just unseen. They could be my neighbours, my colleagues, my relations. Most of these people are not completely stupid, they can gauge how society in general feels about their particular belief, and if they feel that many would laugh at them or argue with them or insult them, then they remain in the shadows, only revealing themselves to fellow believers. Coming from the opposite direction, I know three atheists that keep their disbelief hidden from family and friends and only talk about atheism with me.
The only obvious silly belief that can be seen is religion, but even signs of that are waning as churches close and more and more people are seen visiting their local café rather than their local church on Sunday. Of course that doesn't mean that religiosity is fading as fast as church attendance, since many believers simply keep their faith to themselves while leading, for all intents and purposes, secular lives. It used to be said that many believers were Christians on Sunday and atheists for the rest of the week, but now they pretty much live as atheists everyday of the week. Only the feeling of guilt as they combine recreational sex and contraception, or the occasion private prayer as they buy their Lotto ticket or watch their favourite sports team play exposes their faith, but of course we don't get to witness that.
As science learns more and more about life and the universe, I used to believe that like me others would also be taking advantage of this huge influx of knowledge and readily ditching silly beliefs that Bronze Age goat herders dreamt up, along with thousand year old silly beliefs that were common in the Dark Ages, and even using reason and logic to dismiss clear nonsense that has arisen in more recent times. But clearly I was wrong. On a regular and depressing basis I'm still meeting or hearing of people that embrace beliefs that go against everything we know about how the universe works and/or what history reveals. And of course because I'm open about my skepticism of all these silly beliefs, I'll only get to experience a minute fraction of all the nutters that are out there. They know to keep quiet around me, and not to ask if I want to say grace before a meal, inquire if I can recommend a good homeopath or ask me if I might know how to guard against alien probes.
All I can say is that, based on all the other fruitcakes in my community, I suspect that there will be some Flat Earthers among them. Why wouldn't there be? Every time I hear a silly belief and think that surely no one, in this day and age, believes that anymore, I'm soon proven wrong. It's almost as if half the population has been transported through time from the superstitious, ignorant Middle Ages and plonked in the 21st century, given a brief course in modern language, culture and on how to use Facebook, and then told to go forth and mingle. A smartphone in their pocket and a Bible in their bag.
And that reminds me. I was chatting with an acquaintance a couple of weeks ago who coincidentally said he couldn't understand how some people in the last century or two continued to believe in a flat Earth. But being a lapsed Christian, he should have known, since the Bible clearly implies in several places that the Earth is flat. Of course most churches don't push this argument any more, they let it fade into oblivion, and thus most Christians happily (but wrongly) assume that the Bible agrees with scientific knowledge about the shape of the Earth. It's no mystery why many people in the past believed the world was flat, since it looks flat, and the Bible, God's word, told them it was flat. So when confronted with clear evidence that it's not flat, what's a good Christian to do? If they accept, and it's difficult not to, that the Bible was wrong, and God was wrong, then it's not a big step before they're wondering what else in the Bible might be wrong? Did that snake really talk to Eve? Hell, was Eve even real? The only other option is to dig your heals in and become a literalist or fundamentalist, and assert that everything that is stated in the Bible, no matter how absurd or ridiculous it appears, is literally true. The Earth is flat and rests on pillars, the snake did talk, and the donkey, God made the world and all life in six days, then flooded it in the time of Noah, God raped a virgin called Mary, then later had their son tortured and executed to show how much he loved us all. It's all ludicrous and vile, and contradicts everything we've learnt from other sources, but if you're a truly devout Christian, apparently it's all true.
So I wonder how many fundamentalist Christians would still argue that the Earth is flat? And unfortunately there's still plenty of those in my community. One lot even have their own school so they can avoid reality and its annoying facts. They tend to focus on arguing that the world is only a few thousand years old, that evolution is a lie and humanity came from Adam and Eve, that man lived with the dinosaurs, and that God sees homosexuals as an abomination. Of course it's near impossible to get a fundamentalist to discuss these things with an atheist. The closest I've heard personally is when an acquaintance revealed his fundamentalist status by denying the reality of plate tectonics. He said God has made the continents go up and down, but never sideways. Typical of such conversations, others in the group then quickly changed the subject away from religion versus science. But it leads me to suspect that quite a few fundamentalist Christians (and Jews and Muslims) might well secretly believe in a flat Earth. It's no more ridiculous than the other things they believe.
So, might one of my neighbours be a nutter? As I've said, I've worked and socialised with several people that, unbeknown to me, were closet nutters, so clearly many people choose to hide their dodgy beliefs to avoid potential ridicule. If my skeptical radar often can't detect hidden silly beliefs in the people I spend time with, it's quite clear that neighbours that I have nothing to do with might be harbouring a veritable Aladdin's Cave of nonsense. Some will believe in invisible sky fairies, some may believe in ghosts, some in healing crystals and others that they're in telepathic communication with aliens in another galaxy. One could even be a Flat Earther. I might be living next door to an ignorant medieval peasant and not even know it.
|Atheist — what's in a name?|
As anyone familiar with this website knows, we're atheists, we proudly identify ourselves as such and can't remember a time when we sheltered under a different label. But not everyone in the past had the luxury of being so forthright regarding what they believed, or didn't believe, and recently we heard that the NZARH is considering re-branding to something a little more meaningful for the 21st century. But perhaps you're saying, wait, back the bus up, who or what is the NZARH? If so, it perhaps indicates that a new name is indeed needed. Their full title is the 'New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists', which reminded me of the following conversation in the sci-fi movie 'Iron Man':
Colson: 'I'm Agent Phil Colson with the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division.'Eventually Agent Colson's organisation solved the problem and became known simply as SHIELD. But while the acronym was a vast improvement, both catchy and memorable, unfortunately neither the acronym nor the full title really explains to anyone not already a member of SHIELD what the organisation actually does.
While SHIELD is fictional, NZARH is not. And like SHIELD, giving the full name usually doesn't help either. In my experience, the typical reply is, 'So what do they do?' After an explanation about their disbelief in gods and their belief that the natural world is all there is, that they push to keep religion out of schools and government, and that they reject any talk of the supernatural, the response normally is: 'So ... they're atheists then?'
We believe we'd be correct in answering, Yes. If you do a Google search with the keywords 'NZ' and 'atheist', the first link that pops up is 'New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists', so clearly Google's search algorithms believe that it is highly likely that the NZARH is just a front for NZ atheists. When I mentioned the organisation to a friend in the US recently, I described it as the NZ equivalent of 'American Atheists', but without the catchy, and forthright, name. On their website it states that the NZARH 'is a not-for-profit organisation that exists to serve the interests of the non-religious; those who do not have a belief in gods or the supernatural'. Hmm ... atheists then.
So what's with the name then, why do a group of atheists form a group called rationalists and humanists?
If you know a little about the long history of atheism then you'll know that the religious majority have pretty much always and everywhere vilified and reviled anyone that admitted to being an atheist. At times such an admission could mean imprisonment or death. Philosopher A. C. Grayling writes that, 'By the period of the church's greatest temporal power and influence, the late Middle Ages ... it was no longer necessary to try persuading people about Christianity: it had become a capital crime not to believe it'. While thankfully it's no longer unlawful not to believe in sky fairies, at least in Western countries, in the last couple of centuries most atheists have remained fearful of the Church and society have still been reluctant to call themselves atheists, and so have deliberately flown under the radar by using various euphemisms, such as rationalist, freethinker, humanist, secularist, irreligionist, bright, skeptic, agnostic, materialist, naturalist, antitheist, realist, pagan, heathen, infidel, nonbeliever etc. All these are codewords recognised by other closet atheists to essentially mean someone whose worldview has no need of gods. Of course some rationalists will argue that there are important differences between them and, say, humanists, hence the reason we have an 'Association of Rationalists and Humanists', and freethinkers, naturalists etc will likewise raise perceived differences in how they each view the world. But if there had been no religious persecution of atheists throughout much of history, we would argue that none of these euphemisms would have been invented, atheists would have simply stuck with the name that has been around since antiquity — atheist.
However, in the 21st century there has been a true flowering of support for atheism. Worldwide, atheism is on the increase, with more and more people embracing atheism, walking away from religion, ticking 'None' in the census, even in the religious USA, and especially among young people. The future is atheism. Yay! One reason is the flood of widely popular books promoting atheism and exposing religion, such 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins, 'God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything' by Christopher Hitchens, 'The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason' by Sam Harris, 'God: The Failed Hypotheisis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist' by Victor J. Stenger, and 'Breaking The Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomena' by Daniel C. Dennett.
And they're just the bestsellers, there are many, many more excellent books available (See here). Another reason is the enmity towards religion brought about by the Sep 11, 2001 terror attacks carried out by radical Muslims, plus the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests, which encouraged many to read those books on atheism. Then of course there is the easy access to information on the Internet that debunks religion, plus a greater exposure to atheists as positive role models in mainstream movies, TV shows and books.
So it's now cool to be an atheist. Or whatever the current word for 'cool' is.
But if your group is advertised as a bunch of rationalists and humanists then you're not taking full advantage of the atheism wave. And for the near future the largest demographic of atheists is going to be the youth, a group who are totally familiar with the term atheist but for whom the terms rationalist and humanist are as meaningless as fob-watch and omnibus.
So, if the organisation is going to be spiffed up for the 21st century, what are the name choices that members may or may not get to vote on? Well, there is Keep the existing name, Suggest a new name, or consider one of the following:
It's not just that 'Atheism New Zealand' is the only name in that list that actually imparts information and frankly reveals the core stance of the group, it's far superior because the other names are, when you think about them, not very clear at all, and if anything, might even be seen as mocking of religious believers. What do we mean by that? Well, let's look at how my dictionary defines the main term in each suggested name:
Reason New ZealandBy adopting the name 'Reason NZ', does that mean that only atheists, or should that be rationalists and humanists, are capable of reason? What religious person would argue that this doesn't describe them too? Does it not also describe a capacity that scientists, lawyers and doctors through to carpenters, detectives and skeptics also exhibit? Why would someone see the name 'Reason New Zealand' and immediately think, 'Ahh ... atheists'. Why shouldn't they think skeptics, city planners or computer programmers? With that name, the opening question would always be, 'What are you reasoning about?'
Rational New ZealandThis is just a replay of the 'Reason' label. No matter how much we might personally disagree, few people, even religious people, would accept that they're not rational in what they think and do. A group is not going to win people over by beginning with the explicit claim that they're being rational and so naturally, everyone else is being irrational. If the defensive reply is that that isn't what they meant to suggest, then the 'Rational' label needs to be replaced with a name that does say what they mean, and at the same time doesn't offend those they need to engage with. Shouldn't we learn the lesson of the 'Bright' label? While we agree that informed atheism is a rational stance, the name 'Rational' no more suggests atheism than does the name 'Carefree'.
Secular New ZealandWhile not as vague or as all-encompassing as 'Reason' or 'Rational', 'Secular' still doesn't separate the objectives of religious believers from non-believers. My dictionary goes on to define 'secularism' as 'Religious skepticism or indifference. The view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education'. In the minds of many people, 'secularism' is merely about keeping church and state separate, or keeping Bible instruction out of schools, and there are many religious believers that stand alongside atheists in supporting 'secularism'. And as regards 'Religious skepticism or indifference', who doesn't know someone that ticks 'None' in the census on religious beliefs, never goes to church, doesn't believe in the Bible, and yet when quizzed, still says that they believe that there must be 'something' out there that created the universe? They may not believe in the mainstream gods, and no doubt view themselves as 'Worldly rather than spiritual', but their worldview is still as mired in the supernatural as some fundamentalist Christian. So would 'Secular New Zealand' attract these 'secular' folk who don't know what their creator god is called, along with those confused 'Christian atheists', and right through to committed Christians, Jews and Muslims who wanted to keep religion out of schools? Might not atheists become a minority in their own organisation, with the rejection of the supernatural just one view among many?
Enlighten New ZealandWhile atheists may connect the term 'Enlighten' with the 'rationalist, liberal, humanitarian, and scientific trend' of 18th century Enlightenment, a period also known as the 'Age of Reason', clearly it can also mean spiritual enlightenment. So again, the name 'Enlighten New Zealand' is not a point of difference. Both priests and scientists attempt to enlighten the public. If a member of a group named 'Enlighten New Zealand' approached me, I'd first inquire what it was they wished to enlighten me about, climate change perhaps, or how to find inner peace? To illustrate my point, I saw a book the other day entitled: 'How to Achieve Total Enlightenment', with topics such as, 'What to Do If God Appears to You', 'How to Become a Preacher' and 'Building Shrines'. So clearly not everyone thinks enlighten means atheism.
When you think about those aforementioned names, a group of skeptics could call themselves 'Reason New Zealand', an anti-fluoride group could label themselves 'Rational New Zealand', a Christian/Muslim coalition against religion in schools could tag themselves 'Secular New Zealand', and even the Catholic Church could brand themselves 'Enlighten New Zealand'. All because the names are vague and don't express a concise objective or stance. If these names could legitimately be used by such disparate groups, then clearly the names fail as effective names.
Atheism New ZealandFinally, a name that clearly calls a spade a spade. An association that rejects belief in gods and the supernatural. No confusion whatsoever. Unlike the earlier names where a confounded public would be wondering what the group might be reasoning about or being rational about, now there is no doubt over what we don't believe in.
So, do we think that the atheism name will carry the day with the NZARH? I'm not holding my breath. On their website, the 'New Zealand Association of Rationalists and Humanists' accepts that 'For many the two terms that identify our Association may need explanation', and they agree that 'the term atheist conveys meaning with more people'. However they argue that atheism 'is only stating a lack of a belief [whereas] Our members do believe in something'. The clear implication being that atheists don't believe in something, something beyond their lack of belief in gods. I'm sorry, but that's like saying adults with a lack of belief in Santa Claus don't believe in anything either. It's a silly argument that many religious people have thrown at me as an atheist, so it's a little disappointing to see it on a website that exists to support atheists. Door-knocking evangelists often ask me, 'So if you're an atheist, if you lack a belief in God, if you think that nothing out there created us, then that must mean you believe in nothing?' Nothing, could be further from the truth. Yes, atheism at its simplest means a lack of belief in gods, but most atheists don't leave it there, and certainly not atheists that would bother joining such an organisation. Informed atheists will say that we have a belief that there are no gods, because we see no evidence for gods and see no need for gods. So there's something right there that we believe in. We're not saying we can prove there are no gods, anymore than we can prove there are no leprechauns, but until we see evidence to the contrary, we believe neither gods nor leprechauns exist. Furthermore, atheists, having dismissed gods and their enforced morality codes, must look elsewhere for information about the universe and how we should live, and usually turn to scientists, historians and philosophers, and so end up believing in quite a lot actually, rather than nothing.
The reality is the giving up a belief usually involves gaining more knowledge, not emptying out your thoughts until nothing is left. If by the use of evidence and cogent arguments you come to develop a lack of belief in gods and tooth fairies, it's likely that you now understand far more, and believe in a lot more about the universe and life than you did when you believed in gods and tooth fairies. As you add a lack of belief in psychics, ghosts, ESP, healing crystals, homeopathy, astrology, witchcraft etc, your mind doesn't slowly empty out, since each dismissed belief, usually a flimsy thing in itself, is replaced by a library of knowledge and robust facts, and you come to believe in the evidence that dismissed those things. It's not 'nothing' that holds every lack of belief in check, but a wealth of reason, logic and evidence.
Just the other day, while waiting for takeaways, I was chatting to a guy who commented on my
He was clearly amazed, and frustrated, that an atheist could go beyond simply stating a lack of a belief, that an atheist actually believed in something, and worse still, actually knew a lot about that something, well, maybe not a lot, but certainly far more than he did. But he was a Christian, and since most dismiss science knowing almost nothing about it, he clearly believed that atheists do the same with religion. Beyond my stated lack of belief, the religious expect me to be ignorant about my disbelief and unable to defend it, and that doesn't surprise me anymore. But I find it frustrating that the NZARH are also a little dismissive of atheists, suggesting that their members who are rationalists and humanists have actually thought not just about their disbelief, but what it means to the world and their life, whereas those lowly atheists likely came to their disbelief with little or no thought, probably just on a whim, and then never thought anything more about it. Well, maybe I'm an anomaly, but I'm an atheist, as are many of my friends, and we all 'do believe in something', something beyond a simple lack of belief.
Having explained what the terms rationalist and humanist mean in their name, the website then notes that, 'Our members may identify themselves as being an atheist, agnostic, freethinker, heathen, infidel, bright, or choose not to associate themselves with any of these labels'.
But again, if the terms rationalist and humanist needed explaining, why don't all those terms need explaining too? If atheist is different, and inferior, to rationalist, how do all those other terms differ in meaning? This is again just highlighting the numerous euphemisms that timid atheists hide behind. And some even 'choose not to associate themselves with any of these labels', apparently for fear that the latent atheism behind the label might be publicly revealed.
The confusion created by all these labels that effectively mean the same thing is bad enough, and it only gets worse when you reject all names and want to be anonymous. When people talking or writing about atheism choose to use their preferred term for atheist rather than simply say 'atheist', the potential for confusion is high, since one never knows how the audience will interpret the word that they've decided will mean atheist. When people elect to use lesser known words to stand in for well-known words, then meaning can be lost. For example, Michael Ruse is no ignorant hillbilly, he's a philosopher of science who currently teaches at Florida State University, and yet in his book, 'Atheism: What Everyone Needs to Know', he wrote:
'Let's distinguish three senses in which we might use words. First up is "equivocal," where the meanings are quite different. Compare "John is a naturalist," meaning John doesn't believe in miracles, with "Mary is a naturalist," meaning Mary is a nudist. Not the same thing at all!'But this is wrong. It's an example of someone being confused over what certain words mean due to other people refusing to use well-known words. If Mary is a nudist then she is a naturist (a European term for nudist), not a naturalist! Ruse's confusion arises, understandably, because many nudists now hide behind the unfamiliar term naturist, just as many atheists hide behind unfamiliar terms such as rationalist, freethinker, humanist, naturalist etc. Many nudists and atheists apparently believe they can offend less people by referring to themselves using unfamiliar names, and this does work to an extent, but only because the general public likely won't know that those terms actually mean nudist or atheist. Call yourself a freethinker or an agnostic, and people may think, 'Well, at least he's not a bloody atheist'. But all this confusing word play just results in the likes of Michael Ruse making false assumptions, believing that Mary the naturalist is a nudist, when in fact she is most likely, according to the dictionary definition, 'an expert in natural history, especially a zoologist or botanist'. For example, when people say that Charles Darwin was an English naturalist, they're not talking about atheism, nor nudism. Even as an atheist, if someone told me that they're a naturalist, I'd likely think that they're someone that's into plants and frogs, someone that's interested in the natural world. My first thought wouldn't be atheism. For example, here's a book I saw advertised online: 'The Practical Naturalist: Explore the wonders of the natural world'.
Even the first example that Ruse uses is a little misleading: '"John is a naturalist," meaning John doesn't believe in miracles'. He uses naturalist to mean atheist, and while some atheists call themselves naturalists because they only believe in a natural world and not a supernatural one, my dictionary makes no clear connection between naturalists and atheists. However, it does also say that a naturalist is, 'One who believes in and follows the tenets of naturalism'. So, on looking up naturalism, it's revealed that naturalism also features in both philosophy and theology:
Naturalism:So even some people that are religious can call themselves naturalists, which further confuses the term if used as a label. It's also clear that all atheists would subscribe to the philosophical version of naturalism. I had read about naturalism regarding science and philosophy, so when I looked that up on the Internet, here is the sort of definition I found:
'Naturalism is the belief that nature is all that exists, and that all things supernatural (including gods, spirits, souls and non-natural values) therefore do not exist. It is often called Metaphysical Naturalism or Philosophical Naturalism or Ontological Naturalism to distinguish it from Methodological Naturalism.'That page also had a heading: 'Types of Naturalism', where it listed the following: 'Metaphysical Naturalism (or Philosophical Naturalism or Ontological Naturalism), Methodological Naturalism, Humanistic Naturalism, Ethical Naturalism (or Moral Naturalism), Sociological Naturalism ... In addition, Naturalism is also an artistic, literary, cinematic and theatrical style'.
My reason for quoting all that is to show that shying away from the term atheist and adopting some lesser known term, such as naturalist, can all get very confusing and very complicated very fast, and it drags us away from the purpose our name should serve. And that is to clearly identify us and our stance to the widest audience possible. A scientist, philosopher or informed atheist may know of the added meaning behind terms like naturalist or materialist, but the general public won't. And this is what often happens when some group decides to relabel themselves in an attempt to change public perception, but uses a term that only they are familiar with — meaning the public is either totally ignorant of what it means or is misled by what they think it means.
Look at the various labels that closet atheists give themselves, such as rationalists, humanists, agnostics, freethinkers etc. Most do so because they feel that the word atheist has a really negative rep, that our religiously informed society views atheists as everything from arrogant and angry to immoral and downright evil. and so to avoid potential conflict they don a disguise, adopting a new name which lets them mingle unnoticed in polite society, while still expressing a name that is somehow a little different. And if that cunning ploy works for them, it's only because they have misled people. It's no different from Granny who has an abiding hatred of homosexuals but still loves her openly gay grandson, solely because she doesn't understand what the word gay means when used by homosexuals.
There is no reason that anyone who feels some animosity towards atheists shouldn't feel the same animosity towards rationalists, humanists, freethinkers, agnostics etc., all nonbelievers who reject the same gods and divine moral codes as do atheists. Whatever thoughts people have regarding atheists should apply to the rest as well. And if that's not happening, and clearly it's not, if atheists are treated differently, ie worse, then the only explanation is that by the use of those other labels the public fails to grasp that they're still dealing with people who don't believe in gods, ie atheists. These people remain on better terms with their religious family, friends and colleagues only by deceiving them. They're accepted because no one understands that they're really atheists. They're living a lie, where being accepted is more important than being honest.
We'd be the first to agree that the religious have a completely screwed up view of atheism, and we need to start explaining what it really entails. So why don't we all simply explain atheism, rather that splintering off under different labels, with everyone explaining their own label? The result will be the same, although it will waste a lot of time, because every alternative label explanation will, or at least should, end up having to explain atheism. When asked what makes Rationalists, Humanists and Freethinkers different to Christians, Jews or Muslims, the answer in every case will be that none of the former have a belief in gods, ie it's atheism that informs their worldview. So all these groups, if they're honest, will eventually end up where atheists start from, explaining atheism. And if you're in one of these alternative groups and you're not being asked about atheism, if you're not being compared to atheists, then you're lying to your audience. Just as the public are very familiar with the term nudist, but not naturist, they are also familiar with the term atheist, but not so much naturalist, rationalist, freethinker etc, or that these terms can all be used by the reluctant atheist to stand in for the scary A word. So let's be honest, let's make it simple, let's get rid of all the confusing labels and unite under our core belief, or should that be disbelief, and use our name to inform the public, not to hide from them.
Popular culture, movies and books these days clearly identify non-believers in gods and the supernatural as atheists, not as any of these other labels. Love it or hate it, the general public knows what atheist means, unlike the many other labels atheists have, understandably, hidden behind over the years. In his book, 'Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World', David Silverman, the president of American Atheists, argued that, 'while more than eighty percent of Americans essentially know what an atheist is, less than half of Americans know what agnostic means, less than 30 percent understand what it means to be secular, and very few Americans know what Humanists and freethinkers are'. We doubt that Kiwis would be much different.
Outside those people that don't have a problem with nudity and do have a problem with gods, would your neighbour, colleague or teenager know what the terms 'naturist' or 'freethinker' meant? I suspect most wouldn't, but ask what nudism or atheism involved and few people couldn't answer correctly — public nudity and no gods. That's why we prefer the term atheist over all the other euphemisms that many atheists choose to hide behind. When you say you're an atheist everyone immediately knows what you mean. Some may not like what they hear, but what's the alternative, you lie to them?
If you're an atheist, but are afraid or reluctant to identify yourself as such, and you choose to fudge the issue by calling yourself a rationalist, humanist, freethinker, agnostic or whatever, then you're lying about what you truly think, hiding your true views so that certain people — Christians most likely — will think you're something you're not. Why is it important to you that Christians don't realise that you have no belief in their God, or any god? Christians want us to be ashamed of our atheism so that we'll shut up and stop exposing their stories as fairy tales. Why do the religious get to go around openly flaunting their belief while atheists are expected to deny our disbelief, hiding behind confusing labels that reveal our atheism only to other atheists? What's next, secret handshakes?
This is about far more than what the NZARH decide concerning their name, since the majority of atheists will never join any atheist organisation, no matter what its name. As they say, getting atheists together is like herding cats. It's about people that have no belief in gods or the supernatural — atheists — finally gaining the courage to announce their conviction to the world and proudly adopting the one name that clearly reveals their disbelief — atheist. Never in history has there been a better time to promote atheism, never has there been so much evidence arguing for atheism, nor so much high profile support, so rather than remain sidelined behind vague labels, careful not to offend the religious, we should be pushing our advantage and proudly stating, I am an atheist. Yes, I use reason and rational thought, I support secularism, I seek enlightenment using philosophical naturalism, but, first and foremost, I am an atheist. It's my atheism that allows me to use reason and promote secularism and enlightenment without fear of divine retribution. It's my atheism that convinces me of the need for a humanistic philosophy to inform my ethics. It's my atheism that brings me to argue for contraception, sexual equality, abortion and euthanasia. It's my atheism that drives my support of science in understanding the world, rather than blindly accepting the answers in holy books. No matter what secondary labels I might attach to my worldview, it's my atheism that informs them all. It's that one core belief — that there are no gods to obey or seek answers from — that makes me the person I am today. So, no matter what fuzzy label you might prefer to express your disbelief to others, atheism is still the one thing that unites us all, and the only name that most people will understand. Maybe it's time we all accepted that, and stepped proudly out of the closet.
So, be it in their books, documentaries on religion, on the Internet, in their sermons or knocking at your door, the silly god believers truly get their prayer beads and turbans in a knot talking about atheists, and only atheists. Never are they heard railing about the likes of rationalists, humanists or freethinkers. Clearly it's the growth of atheism that threatens them, that scares them, that keeps them awake at night. It's widespread public atheism that's bringing the closure of church after church around NZ, and never before in history has their hold on the minds of the masses been so tenuous, and dropping. The religious don't fear the wrath of God as much as they fear the relentless rise of atheism, it's their weakness, and for that reason alone, everyone that lacks a belief in gods needs to unite under the atheism banner. Since we know it's the one name that they'd like to hear less of, it's thus the one name we should all choose to express our disbelief.
|Ken Ring: proof morphs to silly opinion|
I see that our esteemed astrologer Ken Ring has written another chapter in his opus of medieval fiction, his latest article is called: 'Proof that the moon causes earthquakes'.
Of course the title is a little misleading because he doesn't actually provide said proof, nor does he say that he's going to, and he assures us that politics and greed will forever prevent scientists from revealing the truth that he implies exists, hidden as it is beneath a web of conspiracy. After being by shocked by what is likely nothing but a coincidence, Ring in true medieval style jumps to a primitive conclusion, and writes in his article, 'Some would consider this to be proof of the moon's involvement in earthquakes'. Further on he writes, 'Did we predict these events? Some would say yes'. Who are these people, these mysterious 'some', that he keeps referring to, and why should we respect their opinions of Ring's silly claims? Why doesn't Ring have the confidence to boldly claim: 'My data and arguments — which I will freely provide — are proof of the moon's involvement in earthquakes', and, 'I predicted these events'? Proof is proof, it's not a matter, as Ring believes, of mere opinion. Especially not the opinion of some mysterious faerie folk whom he refuses to name.
So what is the proof that Ring promises in his title, proof that quickly slides into ill informed opinion in his article? He writes that,
'Two earthquakes, each measuring 5.2mag, have occurred exactly a month apart in Masterton, NZ. The depth was the same, as was the location, the day and the time. Above all, the geographical position of the moon for both events was identical. So are the events connected?'In his opening sentence Ring, typically for him, fudges the truth. According to the data he provides, the April and May quakes are indeed very close in location and time, but the only factor that is 'exactly' the same is the magnitude. The quakes did not occur at exactly the same location or depth, although yes, they are very close in relation to the planet, but not if you were walking to the bus stop. But even if the quakes were exact in every detail, and exactly one month apart, what would this imply? According to Ring's argument, when the Moon is above Masterton on the 12th of the month then a 5.2M earthquake is inevitable somewhere between 15 and 20 km west of Masterton. Of course Ring failed to reveal that the Moon was not at exactly the same distance from the Earth in April and May, so obviously there is some leeway here. So if Ring's logic is valid, then every time the Moon is above Masterton on the 12th of any month, there should be an earthquake. For example, the conditions on the 12th of March were essentially, to use Ring's terminology, 'exactly the same' as they were in April and May, so why no earthquake on March 12th? The time of the quakes does not correspond to the Moon's perigee or apogee, or a New or Full Moon, conditions that Ring normally claims cause quakes, so what was special about the 12th of April and May, and why didn't a similar set up cause quakes in the preceding months, years and decades for unlucky Masterton? The two quakes could well be connected to the same tectonic fault, but I can't see how knowing where the Moon was would allow anyone, even an astrologer, to predict that a quake would hit near Masterton, and not, say, Wellington or Hamilton, striking on the 12th and not the 7th when the Moon was closer, and that it would be 5.2M and not 2M or 8M. The Moon is above the whole of NZ, the whole of the Earth in fact, not just Masterton, so to support his argument Ring would need to explain why the Moon is picking on Masterton and no other place. Of course we've asked this of Ring many times, and to use his phrase, he 'is quiet on these matters'. The most likely answer to the timing and location of these two quakes is mere coincidence, mere chance. It's a myth to say that lightning never strikes twice in the same place, and I'm sure the same applies to quakes. Now if there was a quake in Masterton on the 12th of every month, then Ring might be on to something, but apparently there's not, unless Ring spends some of his time in a parallel universe.
Ring goes on to wrongly say that, 'A month is of course, one moonth, or a 29-day moon cycle'. The word 'month' is connected to the Moon, but it is not a misspelling of 'moonth', as Ring childishly keeps implying. According to my dictionary, it comes from Old English 'monath'.
He then claims that, 'Both earthquakes happened just after the highest tides for the month ... which is the normal case for larger earthquakes'. Actually the highest tides occurred around a week before the quakes, so Ring is again misleading his readers. But note that here Ring claims that 'the highest tides ... is the normal case for larger earthquakes'. But in his June newsletter under 'Earthquake Risk Times', he claims that 'Larger earthquakes tend to occur at or near low tide times'. Note how he has cunningly written opposing claims, so that no matter if a large quake happens near a low tide or a high tide, he can point to the appropriate claim (ignoring the other one) and say that he predicted that. Of course some people may argue in his defence that he's not being devious here in making contradictory claims, which could be true, but that would mean he's not deliberately lying, the mistake came about because of true incompetence.
Dismissing scientific talk of aftershocks and foreshocks, Ring writes, 'In fact they are all just earthquakes. There are no afterwaves, aftershowers or afterwinds. Nothing is left over in weather, ready to join any next wave'. In true conspiracy mode, he even claims that the authorities simply invented the term 'aftershock' so that people making insurance claims would happily accept delays in the payout of damage claims. According to Ring, people expect immediate action if their house was badly damaged in an 'earthquake', but are willing to accept delays if it was made unlivable in an 'aftershock'. I often wonder how much thought Ring puts into his arguments, it's clearly not a lot. As for his belief that 'Nothing is left over in weather, ready to join any next wave', does he not even understand that which he claims to be an expert in? When it rains, if nothing is left over, then what's all this water doing on my lawn? And some of that water will evaporate into the atmosphere, changing the humidity and temperature, and many more changes will see it eventually falling as yet more rain somewhere else, as part of the water cycle. Likewise, wind will kick up dust, and dust will eventually allow the formation of raindrops, and more rain. The weather is hugely complex, with the Sun, wind, snow, rain, tornados, life, cosmic rays etc all impacting on the atmosphere, each change or 'wave' will bring about more changes. Weather doesn't just appear then disappear as Ring seems to believe, it's interactive and continuous. The Moon doesn't magically switch on wind and rain, or earthquakes. Ring is clearly locked into his primitive medieval view of how the world works, and no amount of explanation or exposure to science will shake his belief in the 'ancient astrological energy grid of the constellations'.
Concerning the two Masterton quakes, in defence of astrology Ring challenges scientists to prove him wrong: 'Science otherwise must explain how otherwise the two events occurred with such uncanny repeat precision'. Not that Ring is expecting an answer, since he insists that 'Science is quiet on these matters'. Ring is of the New Age belief that anything mysterious that happens, happens for a reason. If a drought begins just as Pluto enters Sagittarius, well that can't be a coincidence. It can't be chance that it rains just as the Moon disappears below the horizon. It can't be a fluke that Auckland house prices began rising after a conjunction involving Mars. He has expressed this opinion many times, and in his article he again writes,
'Remember, there are no flukes in science. Coincidence, luck, chance etc are the language of gamblers, found in the casino, not the corridors of science'.Of course, even though he's just described science as his devious opposition — 'Science otherwise must explain ... [but] ... Science is quiet on these matters' — he's now identifying himself with science, that what he's doing is scientific and 'there are no flukes in science', so those two quakes in Masterton can't be a coincidence. Coincidences don't happen outside casinos. But again he reveals his ignorance of science and how it sometimes progresses. Take two major branches of science, evolution and quantum mechanics. Evolution by natural selection only works because of the chance mutations of genes. It's completely random, there is no theory that predicts how or when genes might mutate, and it's just luck if a mutation arises at a time and place when it can confer an advantage to a species. Whether a mutation succeeds or not is not chance, but the creation of that mutation is. And chance also plays a huge part in quantum mechanics, where radioactive decay is completely random, as is the creation of virtual particles. And working in science and making discoveries often involves chance. For example, I've just read that the scientist that discovered REM sleep did so by complete luck. He had placed sensors on his child who, by chance fell asleep when he shouldn't have, and the sensors, designed for another purpose, revealed rapid eye movement as he fell asleep. But the scientist was doubly lucky, in that he was experimenting on a young child, since adults don't exhibit REM sleep as they fall asleep, only much later. If his experiment, which had nothing to do with sleep, had involved an adult he would have missed his discovery, so he was lucky on two counts. Ring's claim that 'there are no flukes in science', simply means that he knows nothing of science. Unlike Ring who immediately thinks to himself, 'Two earthquakes in the same place exactly one month apart, well that can't be a coincidence', scientists go to great lengths to prove that their observations aren't mere coincidences. It's a shame Ring won't put in even a fraction of that effort.
To answer Ring's question, 'Did we predict these events? Some would say yes', the informed answer is clearly no. No doubt expecting this response, Ring then asks, 'So how does science explain this amazing similarity, tied so closely to the moon cycle of a month?' But he's got it all backwards. It's not for science to explain a one-off coincidence, it's for astrology to explain why science should take such a coincidence seriously. The onus is on astrology to explain why this 'amazing similarity' only happened once if earthquakes are 'tied so closely to the moon cycle of a month'.
But wait, there's more. Ring pleads with us, 'why on earth not look to the moon for answers, when it comes to earthquakes? After all, 10,000 years of Hindu texts have made this link - so why not modern earth science?' Here Ring has fallen back on that silly old argument that if an ancient, primitive, superstitious, ignorant civilisation thought something, eg that the world was flat or that comets were bad omens, that means that belief has thousands of years of support behind it, and thus must be more reliable than what modern science might have discovered. And as Ring has argued in the past regarding Hindu belief, 'Could they have been possibly wrong for so long?' Of course by this logic, it means that Ring must believe the Hindus were right about all their many gods as well. And Ring's quote about '10,000 years of Hindu texts' also demonstrates that he cares nothing for accuracy, since several times in the past he has claimed that 'Present day astrologers still use the work of Hindu that is 5000 years old'. Note how he has now doubled the age of their civilisation, just to make his claim sound more impressive. And since the oldest written records in the world, meaning full writing and not some un-deciphered scratches on a bone, date to a bit over 5,000 years ago, it's hard to see how Ring could be referring to Hindu texts that are 10,000 years old. But imagining that 10,000 year old texts exist is nothing for Ring, since he has previously told us that 'ancient maps, said to be 120 million years old have been recently discovered'. And he has no problem with that, even though it would mean that modern humans lived alongside dinosaurs for at least 55 million years! Why didn't they mention that in their texts? And that folks, is how scammers work. They make up things which they assume, and hope, no one will check up on.
Ring finishes by explaining why there is a conspiracy to dismiss astrology: 'The reason is western politics. And of course, money. Some would say there is as much conviction and determination to find a reliable way to predict earthquakes to safeguard populations, as there might be to find a simple and affordable cure for cancer'.
So there you have it. Scientists are an unethical lot that only care about amassing wealth, and are paid obscene fortunes to tell lies about astrology by our evil governments. That's apparently why all the scientists we ever hear of own super yachts, private jets and mansions. Bastards! And true conspiracy theorist that he is, note how Ring also implies that medical scientists are likewise being paid not to find a cure for cancer, or if they do accidentally find one, to suppress it.
Ring's love-hate relationship with science is a psychiatrist's dream. He pretends he's a scientist, and desperately wishes he was one, but he also has this great enmity towards scientists because they achieve all the things that he never will. And this leads him to really get his frilly knickers in a twist and throw hissy fits of jealousy, as this outburst in his latest newsletter shows:
'Scientists get high salaries for sitting around waiting for stuff to happen, then, when it does, they put on white coats, rush to the spot in vans with high aerials, and declare they were expecting it. They tell the media "Well, it happened because of the You-know-what, and the Thinga-ma-jig and the Whats-a-name, and it's going to get worse in coming months".'You can really see Ring's poor grasp of science shining through there as he relates those scientific terms to his readers. I wish Ring would get his You-know-what ... umm ... evidence, that's it, and send it through the Thinga-ma-jig ... you know ... umm ... the Internet, to those Whats-a-names ... umm ... don't tell me ... umm ... scientists, yes, scientists. But if he ever does this — well I can dream can't I? — and people then rush up to his house in a van wearing white coats, I suspect they'll also be carrying a You-know-what ... a straitjacket.
|Should we tell granny she's wrong?|
I guess most skeptics hope that the exposé or criticism they've heard of some professional psychic medium, such Deb Webber, or astrologer, such as Ken Ring, will filter down to all their family, friends and colleagues that might be tempted to use their spooky services. But is this happening, and if it is, is it happening fast enough? Informed skeptics are well aware how these charlatans perform their tricks, but the only experience your typical layperson has with astrologers and mediums is through reading their horoscope and watching TV shows like 'Sensing Murder', not by reading the 'Skeptical Inquirer'. The idea of astrology and talking to the dead has been thoroughly discredited, it's pure Dark Ages stuff, and yet many people still believe that there are mysterious, unseen forces at play. Even after exposure to modern education and TV documentaries, the truth simply isn't registering with most people. Society as a whole is still extremely superstitious and ignorant. The majority of people still believe in gods, gods that can be swayed by prayer, and that the souls of the dead are real. This of course leads some to believe that you can talk to these souls. Others believe that unseen, mysterious, and perhaps divine, powers flow though nature and can be channelled by natural healers to cure disease and suffering. Still others believe in all manner of conspiracies, that the Moon landings were fake, that chemtrails and vaccines are engineered to kill us, that the US government orchestrated 9/11 and are hiding aliens in Area 51. Again, the real truth of these matters simply isn't filtering down to these people. They know there is disagreement, but talk with them and they are completely oblivious to the actual arguments and evidence against their particular silly belief.
As skeptics, why do we try and discredit the likes of professional psychic mediums, weather astrologers, soothsayers, priests, energy healers and conspiracy theorists? One reason is to stop gullible people being harmed by these fraudsters, either physically, emotionally or financially, which of course is a very worthwhile pursuit. Another reason would be to spread the truth, to enlighten people, to let them understand how the universe really works, not how they wish it worked or how some delusional quack or greedy charlatan says it works. However, we make the battle more difficult than it should be, and everlasting, when we put the bulk of our efforts into eliminating the charlatans while often ignoring those that they take advantage of — their gullible clients. We focus on the perpetrators rather than the victims. Expose the perpetrators, problem solved, or so we think.
Over the years I've heard many leading skeptics say that while they and their organisations actively work to expose professional psychic mediums, soothsayers and healers etc, they have no great problem with the innocent, lightweight stuff, like granny reading tea leaves for her friends, or people reading their horoscopes, telling ghost stories, wearing magnetic necklaces, carrying lucky charms or wasting a few dollars on some similar nonsense, as long as no one is seriously harmed. Likewise, they'll challenge religious creationism and terrorism, but won't offend the religious by challenging religion itself. And many laypeople that are angered by the activities of the greedy mediums, abusive priests and fraudulent healers agree with this stance; go after those at the top, that make a business of it, those making the money and ripping off their clients. But leave granny and her tea leaves, the silly ghost hunters creeping around old houses and those naïve farmers buying Ken Ring's almanac alone. Most of those people, deluded as they are, harm no one nor suffer any real harm. I disagree with that attitude.
Many skeptics do suggest that we ignore the harmless beliefs of those around us, after all, they're not asking for money or putting on shows, let's concentrate on the big fish. But it's these 'harmless' beliefs that are driving those around us into the welcoming arms of the charlatans. If we nipped those harmless — and false — beliefs in the bud, the charlatans would be trying to sell something that almost no one wanted, and would quickly vanish. Of course it's true that there will always be people that believe something silly, contrary to the evidence. We will forever be surrounded by family, friends, colleagues, neighbours etc, some of whom will surprise us, and dismay us, by revealing that they believe in some nonsense. However, perhaps to avoid offending them or appearing impolite, disrespectful, judgemental or arrogant, we tend to let it slide, maybe agreeing to disagree, and we make it easy for them to hold that silly belief. I believe that we shouldn't, by our inaction, make them feel comfortable in their belief, or let them believe that it's just one of several plausible and respectable stances to hold, and yet we do. We see this all around us, with people openly flaunting primitive, superstitious behaviour, and nobody, well almost nobody, says anything. People have no problem being seen reading their horoscope, visiting a medium, buying healing crystals, thanking God for their lottery win, refusing vaccines, attending a psychic fair, or even publicly imploring an invisible friend called Jesus to help their team win a sporting event. Apparently God is quite the sports fanatic.
And because almost no one, in this polite and respectful world of ours, questions this irrational behaviour in those around us, those near and dear, charlatans like mediums, astrologers, priests and natural healers continue to widely, publicly and shamelessly advertise their supernatural and paranormal services. They know that many will welcome them with open arms. Not everyone of course, or even most, but certainly enough to encourage them to go public and enough to offer a feeling of protection, and approval. They know that any skeptics in their audience will be swamped by vocal true believers. Generally no normal person reveals their personal beliefs if they expect that society will laugh at them, challenge them or condemn them. But give people a sizeable support base, and suddenly they no longer feel stupid or embarrassed or hesitant in expressing their weird belief. Put an individual in a crowd or community surrounded by supporters, and they'll loudly and proudly reveal that they believe in all manner of nonsense.
Astrologers like Ken Ring are helped by the fact that most newspapers, many magazines and some radio stations, all provide horoscopes, which can't help but give astrology some credibility. After all, they don't print magic spells for solving our relationship problems, nor recommend what healing crystal is best for what malady, so common sense would suggest that there must be some validity to astrology. Surely they wouldn't, year after year, keep printing bullshit? Likewise with the mediums talking to dead people. Towns and cities are overrun by apparently respectable institutions that are attended weekly, or at least supported, by a sizeable proportion of society, and even given tax exemptions by the government. Called churches, they promote the widespread view that the immortal souls of the deceased are watching over us (even in the shower). So, for gullible people at least, it's not unreasonable to accept the claim made by mediums that our deceased loved ones are not content to just watch us, but are anxious to communicate with us as well. If we accept that souls are real, why wouldn't they want to stay in touch? The print and broadcast media frequently promote silly stories about sightings of UFOs, ghosts, Big Foot and the Virgin Mary, fanciful stories of people claiming miracles, psychic mediums solving murders, and misleading stories about natural healing cures. We see the police allowing priests and tribal shaman in to bless and remove evil curses from crime scenes. The reality is that many in society have been primed all their life to believe in the likes of astrologers, mediums, miracles and other superstitious nonsense. Thus there is a ready market and money to be made by anyone willing to take advantage of these delusions, delusions that pervade society as if this were still the 10th century, not the 21st.
I don't think we can simply criticise and challenge the likes of mediums, natural healers and astrologers, and think we're achieving something, when at the same time we don't criticise and challenge their clients, whose numbers are drawn from our friends, family and associates. Without their gullible clients, these charlatans with their primitive beliefs would fade into history, just as witches have. As long as people with silly beliefs exist, others will always surface to rip them off. Think of what happens when the police arrest a drug dealer or a brothel madam, another quickly moves in to fill the void, since the police made no real impact on reducing the demand that they were servicing. There are always people waiting in the wings. As long as we ignore the behaviour of those around us that use mediums, natural healers and astrologers — it's harmless — it makes them feel better — they're only wasting their own money — and only rail at the greedy mediums and astrologers raking in the money, then the scams will continue. To destroy those running these fraudulent businesses we need to destroy the silly beliefs they're taking advantage of, starting with those around us, our family and friends who often insist that they don't really believe, they're just going along for a laugh, to hear what they say. Yeah, right! If true, that would be like paying your doctor to give you a fake diagnosis.
We skeptics need a two pronged attack. We must continue to expose and discredit the actual mediums, astrologers, priests, healers and other purveyors of nonsense, and limit their ability to prey on the gullible in society, but we must also put much more effort into destroying their food source. Without their many clients to feed on, these charlatans would all starve. So clearly, part of the answer is to educate the masses, make them poisonous to those that want to prey on them. We need to have discussions — friendly but frank discussions — with those around us, family, friends, associates, and expose the underlying beliefs of these charlatans as beliefs so childish that no one would publicly admit to them, and thus reduce the pool of potential clients to such an extent that it's no longer profitable to run these scams. Let's make visiting a medium as embarrassing as visiting a brothel.
This devious, greedy horde feeding on ignorance only thrive because we live in communities awash with irrational beliefs, beliefs that many informed skeptics turn a blind eye to, the consequence being that they — surprise, surprise — continue to flourish. Yes, we skeptics read the debunking articles, attend the conferences, challenge the charlatans themselves and marvel among ourselves that people can be so gullible, so in that sense we're not ignoring the nonsense. But in another crucial sense many of us are dropping the ball, since while we're happy to challenge this nonsense with skeptical friends, effectively preaching to the converted, when it comes to dear ol' granny reading her tealeaves, a friend going to a naturopath, or on attending a funeral and hearing a priest's assurance that God had a greater need for a toddler than did her loving and now grieving parents, we tend to say little, if anything. OK, I'm not suggesting one challenges the priest during a service, tempting as it is, but afterwards when a friend or family member repeats the priest's sentiments, I believe we need to take a stand for integrity. Ditto when dealing with friends and family over their belief in homeopathy, energy healers, miracles, weather astrologers, Moon landing hoaxes or flying saucers, but alas, too often we avoid any confrontation. We ignore generation after generation as they embrace nonsense, under the notion that it's harmless, innocent stuff, and, well, we don't want to ruffle any feathers. Challenging the claims of some medium or astrologer that we don't know on an Internet forum, no problem, but upsetting granny or Uncle Boris, is it really worth the strife? But it's the grannies and uncles of this world, and your friends and mine, that keep mediums, healers and priests in business. Mediums don't make their money by giving expensive readings to other mediums, and the obscene wealth of the church wasn't gained by priests and ministers putting their own money into the donation plate. These charlatans need ordinary people in your community and mine to make their money, without us they are lost, and gone. So instead of ignoring the silly beliefs of granny and Uncle Boris, if we were honest and caring we'd tell them the truth, and in doing so, hopefully remove them as potential clients for some scammer. They'd save time and money and understand the world a little better, and the scammer would lose money and go out of business, it's win, win. But no, we let the likes of granny and Uncle Boris keep their 'harmless' delusions, and then we scream, Why do fools keep going to these mediums and healers just to be ripped off?, not realising that those fools are someone else's relations, all with silly beliefs that others decided to write off as harmless. The indifference shown by many skeptics towards family and friends is helping maintain the client base for those that will take gladly advantage of them.
Our skeptical arguments are never going to get the money-hungry mediums, healers and astrologers to suddenly accept that they've been pushing a lie and close up shop, at best we can slow them down, put them on the defensive, limit their reach and make it harder for them to make a living. But their potential clients are a different matter, they can — sometimes — be reasoned with. Unlike the quacks, we have ready access to family, friends and associates, so we can casually make insightful observations here and there, and slowly chip away at false beliefs. It may take some time to slowly increase the doubt, but our relationship with them gives us that time. We shouldn't shy away from that challenge. After all, if we don't care that our family and friends are harbouring false beliefs and wasting their money, why should we care that complete strangers are being ripped off?
Again, as long as there is a demand for something, someone will soon front up and take your money. No matter how many mediums, healers or priests are exposed as frauds, or conveniently take themselves out of play by dying, as long as there are still people seeking their services, more will keep turning up. The final solution to the problem is not to serially eliminate each person running these scams, but to severely limit the numbers seeking them out. And those numbers are made up entirely of our family, friends and associates. Don't ignore your granny and her tea leaves, and don't quietly giggle at your niece going to a psychic and yet say nothing. When your friend says man never walked on the Moon or that vaccines aren't safe, don't just dismiss it as harmless eccentricity. When a colleague states that his outhouse is haunted or that Jesus cures cancer, ask them for evidence, don't just roll your eyes and walk away. By failing to engage with those around us we allow their silly beliefs to go unchallenged, and thus we allow a huge number of ignorant, gullible believers in nonsense to flourish in our midst. Our apathy and inaction maintains the pool of fools from which the likes of mediums, priests and healers feed.
As they say, prevention is better than cure, so it makes far better sense to rid your family and friends of their silly beliefs than trying to destroy the careers of all the mediums, astrologers and natural healers in the world so that your family and friends simply have no where to go when seeking a spooky answer. There will always be somewhere to go, there will always be a delusional fool selling dreams. The answer is to confront family and friends, open their minds to the real world and in doing so deprive the quacks of their ill-gotten livelihood.
Certainly, let's destroy the vampires where we find them, but let's also stop providing them with victims.
|Ken Ring — still defending astrology|
Yesterday we received the following correspondence from Daryl concerning Ken Ring, NZ's very own weather and earthquake astrologer:
Hi John. Ken's chucked out some new nonsense — 'Does the Moon have any Effect on Humans?' — that is just stuff that he reads and regurgitates as straight up fact. When I read garbage like this I'm always reminded of the MMA fighter Conor Mcgregor's quote; "People say I talk and I talk and I talk, but guess what? I back it up!" But Ken just talks and never backs anything up, and how can you take anything anyone says seriously if they can't or won't back it up?After reading his article, I'm again astounded that Ring has in the past vehemently denied being an astrologer or to writing horoscopes, remembering that a horoscope is simply 'An astrological forecast... based on a diagram of the aspect of the planets and stars at a given moment', and yet he continually writes articles like this in an attempt to defend and promote astrology. He really does project a tortured psyche, enamoured with a primitive superstition that he's too embarrassed to admit to others. But as they say, actions speak louder than words, and while Ring won't stand up and honestly say, 'Hi, my name is Ken ... and I'm an astrologer', we can all tell he has a serious problem with astrology.
Ring believes that the Moon affects humans in the same childish, superstitious, ignorant way that other stupid people believe werewolves come out on the full Moon, that vampires can be warded off with garlic, that aliens are abducting us from our beds and that a Jewish carpenter walked on water. He has over the years sporadically raised all the silly points he makes in his latest article, and we and others have patiently explained why it's all primitive nonsense. But it's even worse than explaining American politics to your dog, since while your dog might grasp the basics, none of it ever gets through to Ken.
In defence of his nonsense he pleads: 'let us hope that in the name of responsible science that there is room for another opinion', again fudging the fact that he isn't doing science, and that science bases it conclusions on evidence and reason, not mere opinion. In the past it was the opinion of many that the world was flat and the centre of the universe, that women played no part in the makeup of a child, they were merely a receptacle, and that natural disasters were punishments from God. Likewise, many in our dark past were of the foolish opinion that astrology and magic worked, and look how wrong they were. Without supporting evidence, opinion is no better than a guess. Of course guesses can be right, but in Ring's case, science has convincingly demonstrated that his astrology claims — his opinions — are pure bunkum, and there are good reasons why they were ditched centuries ago by all intelligent, sophisticated people.
Ring goes on to argue that 'It would not be wise for mainstream science to deny the experience of those who have found personal evidence for the contrary, even though laboratory results have not been universally applied and duplicated'. Of course it's wise to deny personal, subjective experiences, especially when, as Ring himself acknowledges, there is no evidence that they ever happened. The religious often fall back on personal experiences of their god — Allah, Shiva, Jesus, Zeus etc — in an attempt to prove that what they felt actually happened and that their god is real, but since Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews etc all claim personal experiences of their god, and at most only one could be true, then clearly most, I would argue all, are deluded. Should we automatically accept the opinions of those that say they saw chemtrails or an alien spacecraft? Of course not, even Ring would demand real evidence, so why should we sidestep evidence and go with personal opinion when it comes to belief in astrology?
Trying to bolster his argument for giving astrology a free ride, Ring says that 'We all know and accept that love exists, but thus far no instrument has been devised to prove it to be a biological phenomenon. It is a bit the same for all matters of astrology'. Not all evidence, or even most, involves an instrument. We know that love is a mental state, and thus a biological and chemical phenomenon. We know that brain injury or disease can alter feelings of love, that inanimate objects don't feel love, and that love can manipulate human behaviour. While there is no instrument to measure love, independent people can look at various families or relationships and all will determine if love is present, so love does have a noticeable effect. Ring says that 'It is a bit the same for all matters of astrology', and he's quite right, in the sense that if astrology works then it too should have a noticeable effect. But it doesn't, no matter how often horoscopes — astrological predictions — are compared with the real world, they never reveal a predictive effect. And Ring steadfastly refuses to release his data to prove us wrong.
Ring goes on to say that, 'Science does itself no favours setting out to demolish ideas that scientists collectively scorn, whilst offering no courses for university degrees in alternative viewpoints'. Of course by 'university degrees in alternative viewpoints', Ring is clearly thinking of astrology, but just think about what Ring is asking here. He wants certifiable nutcases to be able to attend university and learn about how someone born under one star sign is intelligent and honest whereas someone born under a different star sign is not, which is akin to racism, only discriminating on star signs rather than race. He wants them to learn such things as the following, and no, I haven't made them up, they are all genuine quotes made by Ken Ring himself:
'when it comes to deep skin cleansing, the best time to do this was said to be when the moon is on the wane... You are supposed to care for the hair when the moon is in Leo... On a simpler basis, sell a house before a full moon - people are said to be more impulsive then and typically don't quite know what they are doing... Conversely buying a house after a full moon is better as you are likely to be more rational and level headed. So if a decision is to be made, watch the moon, act or wait.'And here are some of his quotes specifically related to weather that he'd naturally want taught at university:
'at the moment Venus is in Scorpio and is said to bring south winds and gentle moisture. Mars is in Leo which is dry with not much rain. Mercury is in Scorpio and brings cold fronts and blustery weather.'Ring wants recognised institutions of higher education to teach primitive, and convincingly debunked, superstitious nonsense and to then send ignorant fools out into society with a worthless degree and the title of astrologer.
However Ring isn't just pleading for astrology, but for all alternative viewpoints to be taught and accredited. So if his argument had validity, universities would also have to offer degrees in witchcraft, water divining, tea leaf reading, psychic healing, clairvoyancy, ghost and fairy hunting, crystal healing, alchemy, creationism, along with teaching that the world is flat or hollow, and that babies are delivered by storks. Would Ring be happy for our universities to teach all that nonsense, alongside his astrology? I suspect not, but all those 'alternative viewpoints' were tossed out of the education system for the same reason that astrology was. There was simply no evidence that they were true, and ever increasing evidence that they were false. And Ring clearly doesn't understand how science works by insisting that 'Science does itself no favours setting out to demolish ideas that scientists collectively scorn'. What utter nonsense, science advances because it continually sets out to demolish ideas about how things work, especially those that they scorn and suspect are holding them back. Only by investigating and effectively demolishing the bullshit claims can they then concentrate on new ideas that put them back on the right path. If scientists refused to demolish claims of astrology, witchcraft, meddlesome gods etc, then their investigations into life, the universe and everything would be a quagmire, they'd be forever uncertain as to what was causing a certain effect. Was it some natural cause, a magical spell, a miracle or had the planets reached some weird alignment? Society and progress would have stalled around the Middle Ages, where I'm sure Ring would feel right at home, knowledge wise.
Ring also tries to confuse us with his oft-repeated claim 'that universities were started in Muslim countries to promote Islam, and to teach and spread astrology'. Note the contradiction, that Muslims promoted both Islam and astrology. Since Muslims believe the world is under the control of Allah, then events on Earth can't be caused by astrological effects that are out of god's hands. Either Allah is running the world, or astrology is, it can't be both. But even if Muslims did promote belief in astrology many centuries ago, as Christians certainly did, along with magic and alchemy, why should that influence what we now believe? Ring believes Muslims were badly mistaken in their claims about their god, so isn't it likely that they were just as mistaken about astrology? And note that Muslims are no longer teaching and spreading astrology. Clearly they saw the light. It's time to catch up Ken.
Continuing with his false arguments, Ring claims that 'Very often science cites public safety as the reason for attacking alternative beliefs, as if counter belief systems are somehow evil or anti-human'. The reality is that science investigates alternative beliefs, it doesn't attack them, and if found to have some merit, science adopts them and they're no longer alternative. Science doesn't have an agenda, with a prepared list of beliefs it will accept, and all others labelled evil. It's simply looking for the best explanations for reality, and will, and has, often changed its view of the world. What Ring sees as alternative beliefs are normally those that have refused, often for centuries, to admit to their clear failings and leave quietly. He's certainly correct that his ilk do indeed trade 'on the gullibility of the ignorant masses', and in terms of public safety some people do need to be protected from themselves and the charlatans that prey on them. When gullible people are told that Jesus will heal their cancer, or that millions of dollars are waiting for them in a Nigerian bank account, or that an astrologer can select a sunny day for their wedding, then wiser heads need to step in.
Many centuries ago it was probably true, as Rings states, that 'proper science ... says that all things may be true and simply await further study and confirmation'. Of course since then further study and confirmation has been done, and many, many things that were once thought true we now know are not true. Ring wants to pretend that astrology is still awaiting further study, when of course it was long ago investigated and dismissed as baseless superstition, and all ongoing research into the universe only serves to confirm that view. He then seeks to confuse the issue by saying that 'The market place will sort out what is useful and what is not'. However, there can be a major difference between what is true and what is useful. The religious believe that having faith in their god is useful, even though both Ring and I would agree that their god is not true. Likewise children find a sincere belief in Santa useful, even though Santa isn't real. Just because certain businesses find support in the market place — such as prostitution, illegal drugs, churches and weather astrology — this says nothing about whether that business is ethical or based on a true belief.
Then Ring falls back on that old favourite of those pushing pseudoscience: 'for thousands of year the moon was been held to be very influential in human affairs'. So what? Magic, blood letting, Feng Shui and belief in thousands of imaginary gods have been very influential on human affairs in the past. It's just childish to argue that because primitive, ignorant peasants believed something for eons, say, that evil curses were real, that doesn't mean that it must be true. The reality is that much of what the ancients believed about the world was wrong. It is quite foolish on Ring's part to ignore modern scientific knowledge and instead, naively look to the distant past for answers.
As for Ring's claim that 'The moon was always used for calendars because of its reliability in measuring time. It only loses 10 seconds per year before being back in the same position after a year with respect to the background stars', I would argue with that. First, the Moon was initially used as a calendar because it clearly repeated a cycle every 29.5 days, and roughly 12 of those cycles saw a repeat of the seasons, or what we call a year. But 12 lunar cycles of 29.5 days equals 354 days, whereas our year is actually 365.25 days, so after a year the Moon is over 11 days out, not 10 seconds. This was the problem with using the Moon as a calendar, its cycles did not fit exactly into a year, and if you simply kept counting lunar cycles then in a few years your calendar was soon out of sync with the seasons. Thus by 2,000 years ago people were already looking at moving their calendars from the Moon to the Sun. With his primitive mindset, Ring says that 'If one had a watch that only lost 10 seconds per year, one would not complain', but a lot of our scientific instruments and computerised technology wouldn't work if it was that inaccurate, and we now have atomic clocks that are 'accurate within a billionth of a second a year, or 0.0000000000000000315569 of a year'. Of course Ring probably won't believe that. Next I'll be saying that men can fly. As for his claim that 'every village and town in old cultures put up stone circles, like Stonehenge, to keep a track on the weather, seasons, eclipses and earthquakes, and all stone circle structures align to the moon, in order to monitor its various inner and outer cycles', Ring is again making some claims for which there is no evidence. For a start, anyone that's travelled or knows anything of the world knows that almost no 'village and town in old cultures put up stone circles, like Stonehenge'. That's why Stonehenge is famous, because it's unique, not because every village had their own Stonehenge. Yes, there are other smaller stone circles about, but compared to the number of villages and towns in old cultures, they are extremely rare. Furthermore, experts believe that Stonehenge wasn't mainly about the Moon, but built to 'align with the sun at both solstices and at the equinoxes, and with the moon as it runs through its orbit around the earth', which would allow them to 'anticipate astronomic cycles and events'. There is no suggestion that Stonehenge was used to predict the weather or earthquakes as Ring claims, this is merely wishful thinking on his part. And let's remember that this is what Ring is selling, he's not selling a calendar, so whatever the ancients did with Stonehenge, it doesn't support Ring's spooky weather and earthquake astrology. And let's also recall that Stonehenge fell into disrepair thousands of years ago, so whatever its purpose, clearly it wasn't important enough to keep it going, or duplicate around the known world. In later centuries when people tried to predict the weather and earthquakes, no one built another Stonehenge.
Like history, Ring clearly hasn't understood anything of modern science either, saying that 'Astronomy and other earth sciences have let us down over the years'. Ringworld must be like North Korea, where access to recent scientific knowledge is banned, because the advances in astronomy in the last hundred years have been, well, astronomical. I suspect that what Ring really means is that science has badly let astrology down over the years, with each knowledge increment pushing astrology further into the grave. He says that 'Astronomers tell everyone that any body in space affects any other body ... But why we don't hear much about that, and about the cycles of nature'. Note the confusion here. Ring mentions the affect bodies in space have on other bodies and tells us that we only know this because astronomers told us, but then immediately criticises them for not telling us about such things, including 'the cycles of nature', when it's quite clear that we only understand gravity and the cycles of nature to the extent we do because of astronomers. In fact the religious condemn scientists for concentrating solely on the cycles of nature and ignoring the supernatural. Ring is a hypocrite, forever quoting well-known science and then claiming that scientists are hiding this same science from us.
Ring reckons that it's all about money, that 'Scientists don't want people to work it out for themselves like people always used to - they want everything to come through them to ensure job protection'. What utter stupidity on Ring's part! Scientists would love it if people on the street could understand their work, since that would generally mean we would support them more and make life much easier for them. How many important scientific projects have been squashed by public ignorance? But the reality is that most people, when it comes to complex science, couldn't 'work it out for themselves like people always used to'. How many people could built a telescope to observe the cosmos, and a clock accurate to fractions of a second, and then make observations over hundreds of years at the very least, to construct their own calendar? Sure, simply observing the Moon is sufficient for a peasant lifestyle, but most people couldn't even manage a peasant lifestyle today. If we didn't have supermarkets most people would starve before they learnt how to feed themselves. Today we are a society that is utterly dependent on the expertise of others, and if some catastrophic event isolated us and forced us to again work things out for ourselves, most of us would fail miserably, and within a few generations we'd quickly revert to a primitive state where astrologers like Ring would again hold sway over us, along with witches and priests.
Next Ring moves on to how the Moon specifically affects human behaviour, the real heart of astrology. He falsely claims that 'We already know that the moon affects the currents of the ocean, and the tides are a part of that, we are 75-80% water, and we also have internal tides', arguing that 'If we grow mad, or feel aroused, or if we feel some tingle of odd urges, we should pay attention to the lunar cycle'. First, it's misleading to say that 'the moon affects the currents of the ocean, and the tides are a part of that'. The Moon's gravity causes the ocean tides, not the ocean currents, although tides could then affect currents. Second, we've already explained to Ring many times that the Moon does not cause noticeable tidal forces in the human body. Unfortunately he doesn't understand the crucial difference between the gravitational force between two bodies and the tidal forces between those two bodies. While gravitational forces cause tidal forces, it is the strength of the tidal forces that determine tides, not the gravitational force per se. For example, a swimming pool right next to an ocean won't experience any tides even though the ocean will, and yet they both essentially experience the same gravitational force. And humans are much smaller than swimming pools, and our veins, arteries and bladders smaller still, and for the same reason that swimming pools and most lakes don't experience tides, the human body doesn't either. Ring's naïve, ignorant argument is that 'with such a big thing so near our planet, wouldn't it be more weird if that didn't affect us?' This is truly primitive thinking, showing that Ring has learnt nothing from the last few hundred years of science. Of course we accept that the Moon's gravity reaches our bodies, but the question is not whether there is an affect, but how much of an affect? As we've mentioned before, a 1kg melon held one metre above your head produces 200 times as much tidal affect in your body as does the Moon, and 'a mosquito would exert more gravitational pull on your arm than the moon would'. Other people, buildings etc. would completely swamp any gravitational affect the Moon has, so whatever is causing Ring's 'increased sexual tension' and 'odd urges', it's not the full Moon.
I know it will fall on deaf ears, but I'd recommend that Ken reads Ernest Naylor's book, 'Moonstruck: How Lunar Cycles Affect Life' (2015). Like many other books have already done, he also looks at lunar cycles and menstruation, libido, insanity, childbirth etc and writes:
'In conclusion, beliefs in the influence of the Moon on human life, that have their origins in the increasing perception of the natural world by ancient peoples, have so far largely failed to find validation in scientific studies.'Concerning Ring's internal tides, Naylor explains,
'Just as there are unsubstantiated claims that tree stem diameters fluctuate with 'tide', there are even suggestions that the Moon induces 'tides' in the human body because of its high fluid content. This is a concept that can be traced back to Greek philosophers, and over time has been used to try to explain the fluctuating incidence of various human diseases and behavioural traits. In fact, the gravitational pulls of the Moon and the Sun are so small that they affect the human body only by the weight equivalent of a bead of sweat or a human hair. Repeated application of even such small forces is able to induce significant tidal resonance in the open ocean, but lunar gravitational pull is insufficient to affect significantly the enclosed fluids of the human body. Nevertheless the sway of mythology often still prevails.'Hmm ... mythology. He's talking about you, Ken. Naylor also discusses, and dismisses, 'a claim being accepted by surfers of the Internet some sixty years after the claim was first made', referring to Ring's story about oysters transported inland to Illinois. The experiment was real, and happened in 1954, not 1956 as Ring said, but other scientists have since 'questioned whether the oysters showed any such Moon-related rhythms at all'. Of course Ring will be oblivious to scientific research that isn't dated and doesn't confirm his beliefs, and argues that, 'the oysters responded to the geomagnetic tide'. Ring's conclusion is rather strange, since it's not what the scientist who conducted the experiment concluded. He argued that the oysters 'were responding directly to daily changes in the Moon's gravity', not the Moon's geomagnetism. This is pure pseudoscience on Ring's part, throwing scientific terms into his explanations that are wrong and/or contradict his previous explanations, and hoping that his readers won't notice. Of course gravity and magnetism are quite different forces, but Ring has over the years used them interchangeably to signify the same force. Remember when he wrote back in 2005 that 'It is conceivable that dolphins and whales use sonar systems to navigate, beamed toward the Moon which provides them with a geomagnetic map', and also that the Moon's influence on Earth 'lie in the geomagnetic forces of the moon'? We explained what should have been obvious, but not to an astrologer, that sonar is sound waves and sound can't travel in space, nor would it be powerful enough to reach the Moon anyway. We've also told him that the Moon has a very weak external magnetic field in comparison to that of the Earth, and not a dipolar magnetic field like the Earth, so the answer can't 'lie in the geomagnetic forces of the moon', but his monumental ignorance of science doesn't stop him regularly flip-flopping from gravity to geomagnetism.
Of course Ring couldn't ignore earthquakes, and in his article writes that
'We know that nearly all species of life that have mobility (except humans), have biological warning systems to detect earthquakes. These systems are undoubtedly geomagnetic. If oysters and rats are affected by the moon in this electrical way, also fish, birds, insects, plants and even bacterial viruses, how would humans escape being thus affected?'First note that he again attributes the cause of these warning systems to be 'undoubtedly geomagnetic', rather than gravitational. And he again displays his scientific ignorance by referring to 'bacterial viruses', clearly unaware that bacteria and viruses are different things. That's like talking about an avian plant. But as for his question, why don't humans have an earthquake warning system, this would only be a relevant question if it were true that 'nearly all species of life' have such a warning system. But they don't. The reality is that there is no evidence whatsoever that any animal, let alone nearly all, can predict earthquakes. Some years ago we referred Ring to this Scientific American article: 'Can animals sense earthquakes?', but as usual he blindly ignores evidence that conflicts with his fantasy. As we said back then, after thousands of years of observing these early warning signs from animals, why do we still take no notice of them? Not even astrologers, who prefer to consult their star charts. People were quick to utilise canaries in mines to warn of gas, so why do we stubbornly refuse to let them warn us of quakes? Why worry about consulting vague and complex prediction charts in Ring's almanac and newsletters when we could all just get a pet cockroach? Kiwis have lots of dogs and cats, so why don't we ever notice them packing their bags and fleeing in terror the day or even the hour before major quakes? Some animals may well detect quakes before humans do, but they don't do it 'well beforehand' as Ring claims. And even if our dog were to rush up to us with his lead in his mouth, how do we know if he means earthquake or walkies? And getting back to Ring's 'bacterial viruses', what need would bacteria or viruses have of a 'biological warning systems to detect earthquakes'? On detecting an imminent earthquake, how could bacteria or viruses flee to safety, say, the bacteria in my gut, or under a rock, and what threat would an earthquake be to a virus anyway? A similar problem exist for plants, what use is a warning system if they can't run away? Please explain Ken. Perhaps in Ringworld they do run away?
The fact of the matter is that Ken Ring is in denial, he has blind, unshakeable faith in something which cannot be seen or measured. Like a religious fundamentalist that asserts that no evidence, either existing or theoretical, could ever convince them that their unseen god isn't real, Ring likewise asserts that the embarrassing and woeful lack of evidence supporting astrology, and the mountain of evidence against it, will never shake his belief that the Moon, Sun and planets control our lives and our destinies. He states, 'Just because an instrument made by man cannot detect persistence of lunar influence does not prove anything other than that our technology may currently be lacking'. Of course using the same logic children could maintain their belief in Santa by arguing that our Santa detection technology may currently be lacking. According to Ring the lunar influence is powerful enough to move oceans and distort the Earth, which is true, and cause massive earthquakes and insanity, which isn't true, but, paradoxically, is so fantastically weak and illusive that our most sensitive instruments, even those designed to detect phenomenally weak gravity waves from the distant parts of the universe, can't detect it. Just as we've never detected fairies or angels on clouds, the evidence Ring seeks for astrology will be forever absent, but that won't stop him insisting that it's there nonetheless, just unseen and beyond our reach. Me thinks I sense a conspiracy afoot. With such a childish mindset it's easy to believe in fantasies and retreat to a simpler time, when the bodies in the heavens influenced our behaviour. Oh dear! An evil comet. Let us flee!
In Ring's view 'The real test is whether or not real people report some effect, not whether or not a needle on some meter does not'. If this is how we decide what's real, what real people have reported throughout history, then witches on broomsticks are real, demonic possession is real, alien abduction is real, crystal and psychic healing is real, fairies and leprechauns are real, the Loch Ness monster and Big Foot are real, Jesus walking on water and rising from the dead is real, talking snakes and donkeys are real, mediums talking to dead people is real, the Tooth Fairy taking teeth is real, the Greek god Zeus is real, evil powers poisoning us with chemtrails is real, the Muslim prophet Mohammed flying to heaven on his horse is real ... and on and on with accounts of what real people have sincerely reported as real. Clearly history, and a depressing number of silly beliefs still held today, shows that the real test is not to simply believe what real people report. The real test is to investigate their reports, and if no supporting evidence is found, withhold belief, and if contrary evidence is found, reject their belief.
Ken Ring will of course continue to promote astrology as the only ancient soothsaying method that stands the test of time and really works, even though it's doing its utmost, like God, to hide its reality from us. He'll continue to deny he's an astrologer while at the same consulting astrology charts, publishing horoscopes, and condemning universities for not offering a degree in astrology. All because he needs to make his clients, both existing and potential, comfortable with the silly belief that is astrology, and this of course will result in him taking their money so he can pay his bills. And a disclaimer in the small print means that when his predictions fail, and they consistently fail, he doesn't have to give it back.
|Christians and untold Bible stories|
Do you know that in the Bible God demanded child sacrifice? If you're an informed atheist you probably do. For example, there was God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac, and Abraham immediately agreeing without the slightest argument. But if you're a Christian, a so-called Bible reader, then you might not be up on God's love of human and animal sacrifice, since it's not a popular topic in church sermons. And if you do vaguely remember something in that Old Testament part about God enjoying a good sacrifice, you're probably going to say that, like slavery, chariots and MS DOS, that's long since been superseded.
Ren raised this topic by sending us a link to a post by atheist author and ex-preacher John W. Loftus:
Like Ren I'm also familiar with many of those Biblical examples where God demands and is well pleased by human sacrifice in his name. Of course most squirming Christians will argue that all those child sacrifices happened in the Old Testament, and Christians don't follow that barbaric book and its bloodthirsty god, they follow Jesus, the main character of the OT sequel, the New Testament. Usually sequels are never as good as the original, but in this case, Christians insist it's actually much better. But as Loftus said in his post, sacrifice doesn't stop with the OT:
'In the New Testament God the Father sacrifices his only son (Jesus) as the central redemptive act of Christianity, and God still seeks to fulfill his lust for human sacrifice by burning humans forever in the lake of fire.'If God is willing to kill his only son, and for what was after all a very silly reason, then what stronger message does this send to his devout followers than that human/child sacrifice is the ultimate way of demonstrating your love for God. If, to merely make a point, murdering his own child is good enough for God, then how can his modern day followers argue that it's something that they would never do? Wouldn't this imply that God was wrong in killing his child, and wrong in demanding that his followers sacrifice their first born sons to him? But can God be wrong, can he make horrendous ethical mistakes and still be God? Can humans be more moral than God, can we know that child sacrifice is wrong and abhorrent when God himself apparently doesn't? If most humans can be more loving and make better ethical decisions than God, then doesn't this make him a pretty useless god, one that does far more harm than good, and from whom it would be very silly to seek advice on right and wrong? Because let's remember, child sacrifice wasn't the only thing that God got horribly wrong when he was dictating how we humans must live our lives, and even our deaths, since even then we wouldn't be free of his annoying meddling. The entire Bible if full of God's commandments — 613 to be exact — along with confusing and contradictory messages on how to behave so that God will be well pleased.
So what was God thinking, especially in the OT, when so much of what God did, and approved of, and demanded, is now viewed as disgusting and barbaric and oh-so-clearly wrong? How can Christians (and Jews and Muslims) defend such immoral actions from someone that clearly, being an all-knowing god, should have known better? God slaughtered innocent individuals and entire cultures and encouraged and even forced his followers to do likewise. And yet even with clear knowledge of his atrocities, and even today when God kills their own family and friends with wars, natural disasters and disease, his followers still tearfully cry, 'Praise the Lord', and, 'Thankyou God'.
What sort of person falls in love with a monster, and what sort of person continues to love him even after his action, or inaction, has harmed their loved ones? Why do they see it as more important to please a serial killer than safeguarding their own children? Why aren't Christians even a little concerned that the monster they worship is planning to torture most humans once they die, probably even family and friends, for all eternity, for the simple reason that they failed to believe that such a monster existed? How could a god that loves us dearly, more than is humanly possible, deliberately hide from us and create false evidence that suggests he doesn't exist, then torture us because his devious scheme worked, since we never saw him, and thus never believed?
We all agree that there have been people throughout history that have committed great atrocities — Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Caligula, Genghis Khan, Attila the Hun, Torquemada etc. — where millions of innocent people were tortured and slaughtered because ignorant, fearful followers blindly and obediently carried out their leader's commands. But while today most sane and rational people can agree on who the monsters of history were, some people can't. Christians are like despicable neo-Nazis, in that they continue to worship a killer and flatly deny that what he did was wrong. Christians have the Bible which they insist is the true word of God, but even with this 'factual' account of their god's clear wrongdoing — he flooded the entire planet for Christ's sake in an uncaring bid to kill off all life, and when that didn't work out, he raped a young virgin so that years later he could torture and murder his own son! — even with complete knowledge of all those he mistreated and killed, Christians still won't accept that God is anything but a truly wonderful guy that loves us all.
Defending and praising God as Christians do is like defending and praising all the tyrants, killers, rapists and right bastards from all of human history multiplied by a septillion. It's almost mind-boggling that Christians (and Jews and Muslims) can sincerely worship such a bastard as God, so how do they do it? How do they explain away the horrors? How do they sleep at night and earnestly convince their innocent young children to follow them in worshiping a sadistic killer? It comes down to one word: ignorance. They idolise their lord and master by remaining largely ignorant about him, about his history, his commandments, and their Bible. I'm forever amazed how little most Christians know about their Bible, about history and science, and about evidence and critical thinking. But especially their Bible, since that is the focus of their life. I don't know all that much about the Bible, I can't quote verses, I don't know the name of Noah's wife, and Jesus has never invisibly reached out and touched my heart, nor genitals to my knowledge (although that might explain those mysterious nocturnal emissions). However I often find on talking to people that call themselves Christians, that superficial as my knowledge is, I almost deserve an honorary degree when compared to what they know. I've never read the Bible cover to cover, but I have read many books on the Bible, religion and atheism, plus science, history and philosophy, but not only haven't they read such books, they haven't even read the one book that they say rules them all, the Bible.
Why is this, why don't Christians read their Bibles? Why aren't they interested in the slightest in learning the real story from the original book, especially since they insist that their present and future wellbeing depends on them knowing the precise information it provides, and living by it? Can you imagine a rabid fan of 'Harry Potter' or 'The Lord of the Rings' saying that they never got past the second chapter of the first book? And yet most Christians are outspoken, lifelong fans of a book they've never actually read from start to finish, not even close. I believe Christians give their Bibles a miss for several possible reasons:
Only by stripping away all the truly immoral past actions and commandments of God and Jesus, along with denying their sickening intentions for us in the future, and by ignoring their blatant apathy towards us, demonstrated by their 2,000 year absence, can Christians produce a humanised, but still absent, god, one that they can justify worshipping. If the barbaric, tribal God of the Bible isn't clearly an artefact of man's own primitive imagination, the God of 21st century Christians certainly is. That Christians can be so ignorant and deluded, rejecting their Bible while still clinging to it, it's evidence of ... what? That the ideas of the enlightenment passed many people by, that maybe medieval thinking is truly the limit for some people, that maybe devolution, or de-evolution, is possible?
It all comes back to ignorance. Your typical Christian is either ignorant of what a nasty piece of work their god is, as described in the Bible, or, vaguely aware of these Bible stories, naively believes that the church hierarchy have feel-good explanations for them, and is ignorant of the fact that they don't. Either way, it's ignorance that allows them to sleep at night, never worrying about whether they've angered God by not sacrificing their first born son to him, and never questioning whether a god that would ever demand such a thing is worthy of their love in the first place.
|Freemasons and their many gods|
Recently I visited an outdoor market, and driving up a stranger obviously spotted one of my car's anti-religion stickers, eg 'Religion is Myth-Information'. He walked over as I got out and the following quick conversation ensued:
Stranger: 'Are you an atheist?'He gave me a contemptuous look, as if to say, 'Yeah, right', then spun around and strode off, no doubt assured that he'd given a now flustered atheist something really serious to think about.
So what are we to make of his statement? Had his Freemason overlords erroneously informed him that atheists dislike anyone and everyone who believes in gods? Or is it actually the masons that don't like atheists, and he therefore assumed (without justification) that the feeling must be mutual? Perhaps he thought that I was using my anti-religion stickers as a kind of vermin repellent, and he simply wanted to show that they had no effect on him? Whatever the reason, clearly my unconcealed disbelief riled him, provoking his little outburst.
As a kid I grew up hearing snippets of weird stories about what the clandestine masons did behind closed doors, and now I'd describe those stories as a cross between the secret and sinister Opus Dei organisation portrayed in the 'The Da Vinci Code', and those teen comedies that show the embarrassing and humiliating initiation rituals that US college students must perform to be accepted into their desired fraternity. For decades now I've heard that mason membership, like that of the churches, has been falling rapidly, but my brief encounter with one individual of those 'rare and vanishing creatures of the world known as the living dead', shows that they're not yet extinct. Yet I expect the question is not if they'll join the dodo, but when.
Once I got over my initial surprise that someone would reveal their membership in a secretive organisation by accosting a stranger, I got to wondering what it all meant. I mean, if he had asked me if I knew where he could rent a goat and some sex toys for one of their weird initiation rituals, then fair enough, but criticising my lack of religion, that I didn't expect. So why does a Freemason give two hoots about god and atheists? Their secretive little group isn't a religion or an offshoot of the Vatican ... is it? So I did some quick research, and no, it's not a religion, but weirdly enough, its members do have to be religious and believe in god. In that respect it's a lot like the Boy Scouts, only far more secretive, and with adults rather than kids.
It seems that one of the core requirements to join the Freemasons, beyond being a man — and a free man at that, slaves are not allowed to join — is that members must have a belief in a supreme being, or in laypersons terms, a silly old imaginary god. According to this article, no 'stupid Atheist' need apply:
'One of the pre-requisites that must be satisfied by a prospective candidate in order to become initiated into the "mysteries and privileges" of freemasonry is to declare belief in a Supreme Being. The book of Constitutions makes this requirement quite clear:So which god, out of all the many potential gods, do these Freemasons believe in? Well, this is where it gets rather silly. If, as an organisation, they followed Jehovah, or maybe Allah, or perhaps Shiva, or even Zeus, then we could characterise them as some sort of offshoot of Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, or the religion of the ancient Greeks respectively. However, the Freemason organisation doesn't stipulate which god its members should believe in, its only requirement is that they MUST believe in a Supreme Being. Which god they choose to believe in is up to each member. Here's how one Freemason article explains it:"A Mason is oblig'd by his Tenure, to obey the moral Law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a stupid Atheist nor an irreligious Libertine..."'
'How does Freemasonry define God?It goes on to say that to make things easy and to avoid confusion with members calling out the names of different gods, they all refer to this god in prayers etc as, 'The Great Architect of the Universe', which is sometimes seen abbreviated as G.A.O.T.U.
'You have learned that Freemasonry calls God, "The Great Architect of the Universe" (G.A.O.T.U.). This is the Freemason's special name for God, because he is universal. He belongs to all men regardless of their religious persuasion. All wise men acknowledge His authority. In his private devotions a Mason will pray to Jehovah, Mohammed, Allah, Jesus or the Deity of his choice. In a Masonic Lodge, however, the Mason will find the name of his Deity within the G.A.O.T.U.'Their insistence that their members never mention the name of their god or supreme being reminds me of the 'Harry Potter' books, where witches and wizards refused to speak Lord Voldemort's name, referring instead to 'He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named'. In a similar manner, rather than utter their god's name, the masons fall back on 'The Great Architect of the Universe'. The scary thing is that masons, unlike readers of 'Harry Potter', take this nonsense seriously.
Of course the phrases 'Supreme Being' and 'The Great Architect of the Universe' do put some constraints on which supernatural beings Freemasons can choose to worship. If thinking of joining, you couldn't choose to believe in Aphrodite, for example, one of the major goddesses of the ancient Greeks, since she wasn't the supreme god of the Greek pantheon, nor did she create the universe. (And she was female too, which I'm guessing they'd have a huge problem with.) You could choose Zeus though, he would fit the bill. You could also choose the Jewish god, the Christian god, the Muslim god, a Hindu god or any god of some obscure or long forgotten religion as long as that god was the supreme god of that religion and the creator of the universe. Of course you could also choose to believe in a god from a work of fiction. Yes, yes, I know, all gods, including all that I've mentioned are fictitious, but what I mean here are the gods from universally accepted works of fiction, such as fantasy and science fiction genres. For example, there is the following passage from Douglas Adams' 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: A Trilogy in Five Parts':
'In the beginning the Universe was created.I know what you're thinking, wouldn't the Freemasons reject a membership request on the grounds that 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy' is not a recognised holy book? No, because, and again this is the ridiculous part, you don't have to explain or even name your supreme being, you merely have to sincerely affirm that you do believe in a supreme being that created the universe. You don't have to reveal that your god is even sillier than theirs, and of course you'd never know that was true, since they don't reveal what god they believe in either. It's like the regulation changes the US military made (for a short time) to allow homosexuals to enlist, a policy known as, 'Don't ask, don't tell'.
An honest true believer, be they Christian, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist etc, will assure those with different beliefs, including atheists, that they are wrong, but when that true believer becomes a mason, their integrity, both to themselves and to their god, almost disappears, and the only person they are now prepared to challenge, if only fleetingly, is the atheist. Perhaps because they know that the atheist is the only one unlikely to threaten them or their family with physical violence, either in this life or an imaginary next one.
So apart from being rude and intolerant to atheists, what do the Freemasons do as a group? Well, depending on who you believe, from conspiracy theorists to ex-members, they do everything from covertly controlling all Western governments and battling alien and zombie threats, to simply providing a place where men can hide from women, dress up in funny outfits, perform silly rituals and have quality man-on-man time. There is even a post on a silly NZ Chemtrails website that argues that the hand of the Freemasons can be seen in the first Christchurch earthquake. Freemasons themselves claim they now do charity work in the community, and maybe they do, but I've never seen it. Perhaps their fixation with secrecy works against them here? Of course I don't believe the conspiracy theory crap, and I'm not interested in what grown men do in private with each other as long as no one is harmed. And they're not the only backward group that excludes females, there's the Vatican priesthood of course, the Boy Scouts, and there's still some gentlemen's clubs and golf clubs that abhor the thought of women sullying their premises, unless it's to come in beforehand and cook and clean. Speaking as a male, I don't understand the psyche that views the ultimate escape as a place that excludes women, but then I don't get this silly belief in gods either. And it's the god belief that interests me, not their desire to hang out with other men.
Regarding gods and religion, this article — '9 things you didn't know about Freemasonry' — made the statement:
"There are certain subjects which are prevented or we simply proscribe from discussing within the lodge," Piers Vaughan, master of St. John's Lodge #1 in New York, told Mo Rocca. "And religion is one. Politics is another."Isn't it amazing that religious belief is considered so important that it's a prime and non-negotiable requirement for membership, but beyond that, it's not allowed to be discussed? I'm struggling to think of another group or organisation that requires its members to have a core belief that, while on the surface appears to unite the members, if they actually said what it meant to them in a little more detail, it would likely tear the group apart. Only by prohibiting discussion of religion can masons prevent disharmony within a group that pretends to be in perfect harmony. They are living a lie, and every member, if they've spent a nanosecond thinking about it, surely knows this.
Imagine a group of strangers declaring a belief that there is indeed a supreme race, or country, or movie, or sexual position, one that's better than all others, but not having to say which one they're thinking of. On the subject of movies, how deluded would these strangers have to be to agree amongst themselves that a certain movie, a movie that is never named, is superior to all others, and to go away believing that they would have all been thinking of the same movie? And yet this is essentially what masons do. Even though there are thousands of gods all vying for the title of supreme being, masons individually declare a belief in a supreme being, in a god they don't name, and childishly expect us to believe that they're all thinking of the same god. Are they stupid, or just think that we're stupid enough to believe that crap?
Let's reiterate that the masons' one required religious belief is quite vague, since a belief in a 'god' that is the 'supreme being' and the creator of the universe is something that most religions can and do claim title to. If I said I believed in god, I haven't told you much more than if I said I watched my favourite movie again last night. You would need to ask, for both the god and the movie, 'And which one would that be?' But masons never ask this question, aren't even allowed to, so all that masons can know is that their fellow masons agree with their broad view of god: he, whoever he is, exists. This ignorance about who believes what, means that many masons could unknowingly be friends with other masons that hold religious views that, if they were to be revealed in their entirety, they would find offensive and blasphemous.
So because no mason knows what god his fellow mason is actually referring to, and he's not allowed to ask, then they have no idea whether that god is the one they believe in, or one of the many false gods that of course aren't real at all. Their fellow masons could be people that think as they do, and can be accepted as friends, or they could be heathens that they should be arguing loudly with, if not shunning altogether. But they'll never know friend from foe, true believer from heathen, since they're forbidden from discussing with other members what religion they actually believe in. Their perceived unity is, or at least is likely to be, utterly false and illusory, and survives only because of self-censorship.
On the surface this looks like a great idea, since banning religion as a topic of discussion and simply agreeing on a common point — there is a god — allows those of competing religions to put religious animosity aside and to work together for some common goal. Masons almost sound like a very tolerant, albeit secret, organisation. But these masons aren't actually tolerating the differing religious beliefs of their fellow members at all, since they don't even know what they are. You can only be tolerant of something if you know about it and consciously decide to tolerate it. They maintain a false tolerance by hiding their differing belief from each other. I suspect that most masons secretly convince themselves that their fellow masons likely believe in the same god as they do, and because no talk is permitted that might refute this, their comforting delusion is maintained. Since they won't accept atheists, masons clearly aren't a tolerant group when it comes to differing beliefs about gods, and they apparently realise that they couldn't even tolerate the different religious beliefs of their own fellow members were they known, hence they must proscribe any and all discussion of gods, lest religious wars break out between members and they destroy the Freemasons from within.
And if further proof was needed that masons aren't even remotely tolerant of the beliefs of others, let's remember that the mason I met wasn't prepared to simply ignore me. He was apparently so offended that I didn't think about gods as he did, that he went out of his way to ensure I knew about it. There was no polite greeting, just the apparent revelation that he believed in some god and I was a hateful atheist. Approaching a stranger to rudely insult their beliefs is not tolerance in any shape or form.
Of course the best way for masons to avoid religious strife within their organisation would have been not to make a belief in some god as one of their core entry requirements in the first place, or conversely, openly specify one religious affiliation only and exclude the rest. So why do they insist that members must have a god, but that it can be a secret god of their choice?
Historically, the origin of the Freemasons isn't clear. One legend says they started as stonemasons working on King Solomon's Temple, then some accounts suggest they arose from masonry guilds in Medieval Europe. In this article it states that 'The first appearance of the modern Masons occurred in London, where the first Grand Lodge was created in 1717'. My guess is that when the Freemasons started to grow in the 1700s, most masons may not have known whether their fellow members were Catholic or Protestant, but they would have been fairly confident, and happy, that they were at least Christians. But that was then, this is now, and the western world is no longer as religiously segregated as it once was. Today you can't easily tell by one's name, ethnicity, family, occupation or by where they live as to whether they're religious, or what religion that might be. No longer can we, in NZ for example, assume that our colleagues and neighbours and the carpenters we hire are all good Christians. And even if they are Christian, the last figure I saw was that today there are an estimated 41,000 different Christian denominations. So if you're a Christian, it's not just atheists, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists etc that will tell you that you've got your god belief wrong, there will be around 41,000 other Christian denominations also convinced that you're following false leads. So even if a mason, who's a Christian, believes a new recruit is likely a Christian rather than a Jew or Muslim, he'll still have no idea if he's a true Christian, ie the same as him, or someone that follows one of those false Christian denominations. Although one thing I suspect we can predict about modern masons is that almost none of them will actually be real masons, that is, someone who builds or works with stone or brick.
But anyway, the Freemasons no doubt decided that a belief in god was needed, since in your typical religious view, our morals come from god, hence believers are moral, decent folk, and atheists, without the benefit of god's morals, must therefore be immoral, or at the very least, amoral. Christians, Jews and Muslims all accept that morality can only come from god, and while they generally argue with each other, they acknowledge that all three faiths are still far superior to atheism, since they are at least all searching for the truth about god, whereas atheists aren't even trying. So as much as a Christian may detest the Jews and the Muslims, and vice versa, they all really hate atheists so much more. If a person has a belief in a supreme being, no matter which one, that proves they have the religious mindset and even if they haven't yet found the correct god, they might soon find him, or so the reasoning goes, whereas atheists aren't even looking. An atheist, in the view of the holy books, is the last person that a god believer should be seen associating with. For example, here are some passages from the Bible and one from the Koran that detail how one should deal with the atheist problem:
'The fool says in his heart, "There is no God". They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.' (PS 14:1)So there you go, atheists are foolish, unclean, wicked, corrupt and vile, and not one of us, in the long stretch of history, has ever done anything good. Of course those disgusting religious beliefs couldn't be further from the truth, and it needs to be remembered that atheists have never gone to war against the Christians, Muslims or Jews. Of course it could be said that the Freemasons haven't referred directly to any of those religious commandments, which is true, but I think it's almost certain that some of those verses are what originally informed their 'No Atheists' stance. Let's recall that if the origin of the masons is with the stonemasons working on King Solomon's Temple, then they were all Jewish. If it was instead with the masonry guilds in Medieval Europe or England in the 1700s, then they were all Christian. Either way, Freemasons clearly got their belief in one god, in a supreme being that is creator of the universe, from the Bible, and it is inconceivable that the Bible's stance on atheists wouldn't also have informed and influenced their charter. The mason's rules may simply say that no 'stupid Atheist' may be a member, but clearly this view came from the Bible and their private religious beliefs.
But again, we atheists have never been a deadly threat to those believing in some god. It appears that the only real gripes the religious have against atheists is that we (usually politely and with supporting evidence) point out flaws in their religious claims, which is no different to what they've continually done to each other for centuries (although usually not politely), or, that we simply ignore them, living our lives, happily and successfully, as if they and their god didn't exist. I suspect that this last thing annoys them most of all, that atheists (and statistics support this) often lead more meaningful, loving, happy, healthy, prosperous, well-informed, stress-free lives than do those that profess belief in gods. Do they hate us out of spite, that we get to live a carefree life while they waste theirs in churches, synagogues, mosques and temples as god-fearing servants? But yes, we certainly have tried to point out how silly belief in gods is, and have definitely blasphemed and turned many people away from their god, but does that make us an evil that must be purged from society? As graphically and accurately portrayed in the Monty Python documentary movie 'Life of Brian' (based on a true story I believe), must we be grabbed off the street and stoned to death? Just for saying Jehovah?
What a shame that masons can't extend their inclusiveness and false tolerance to all, meaning atheists and women and not just ignorant, god-fearing men. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that they don't kill us like the Jewish, Christian and Muslim holy books say they should, that's definitely a positive, but clearly they still follow the spirit of the above Biblical command, 'Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common?' Thus these ignorant masons have clearly still got a ways to go to become truly tolerant, informed, decent citizens of the 21st century.
I still find it amazing that masons, be they Christian, Jew, Muslim or whatever, are prepared to set aside the untold atrocities they've committed against each other over the centuries, and accept into their fold believers of false gods, of fantasy gods, but they could never accept a believer in no god. Apparently even belief in a false god makes a man a good man, whereas belief in no god at all makes a man that needs to be killed. Thankfully today, other than some Muslims, most god believers just shun atheists and don't try and kill us. But think about it. If it's agreed that man gets his morals from god, then if a man worships a false god, then clearly there is no god guiding him. Whatever morals he thinks his false god has handed out must be imaginary, since his god is imaginary. Thus believers in false gods are no more receiving divine guidance than are atheists. Just like atheists, believers in false gods are making up their own morality, although unlike atheists, they delude themselves into thinking that some sky fairy is actually making up the rules. So if you're, say, a Christian, then surely you must grasp that all those believers in false gods, eg Muslims, Jews, Hindus etc, are not following the morals that the one true Christian god is handing out to all Christians. Their gods don't exist, so they can't be handing out god-given morals at all, and the Christian god certainly isn't handing out his moral code, and the true account of how the universe was created, to all those false religions under the names of false gods, since if he were then all religions would be identical, apart from what the god's name was. So, from this Christian perspective, neither the Muslim, Jew, Hindu, nor the atheist, is privy to divine morals since none believe in the Christian god that is, according to the Christian, the only source of true morality. So logically, it's not just atheists then, Muslims, Jews and Hindus must also be making up their respective moral codes as they go. So to labour the point, regarding the source of our morality, the only difference between atheists and those following false gods is that we atheists know we're making it up, whereas followers of false gods have deluded themselves into believing that some sky fairy is planting thoughts in their heads. So we have two groups, rational atheists and deluded believers in false gods, both in possession of their own moral codes, and the Freemasons, believing that the moral codes of both groups are bogus, have nevertheless decided, rather than reject both groups for the same reason, that it somehow makes good sense to embrace the deluded believers in false gods. As morality goes, the Christians would say that atheists only have one serious flaw, we're ignoring the Christian god's moral code and making up our own, whereas believers in false gods have two serious flaws, in that they're likewise ignoring the Christian god's moral code and making up their own, but they're also dangerously deluded, in that they don't realise that they're making it up. Surely you'd think a rational atheist is preferable over a deluded believer in false gods? In the real world, yes, but when considering membership to a secretive organisation where a belief in gods is paramount, then apparently masons believe it's far easier to work with a deluded believer that already believes gods are real — he's maybe just following the wrong one — than risk debating with a rational, thinking atheist. Joining the Freemasons is one instance where being ignorant, superstitious and desperate to serve some god actually works in your favour.
That masons, be they god-believers of whatever stripe, now view atheists as a bigger threat than those of rival religions is not just revealing, it's baffling, and perhaps reassuring. For centuries, Christians, Muslims and Jews, and to a lesser extent, Hindus and Buddhists, have all attacked, slaughtered and persecuted each other, everyone believing that theirs and only theirs was the one true religion, and that all others were misguided and following false gods. And it wasn't just between religions either, different Christian sects attacked each other for their misguided beliefs, as did different Muslim and Jewish sects. And it continues today, sometimes just with words, but all too often, especially with Muslims, with weapons. Whereas most god-believers all claimed that the only way to god and salvation was to belong to their particular religion, and still do, and that all others lead to damnation, now religious masons are arguing that a sincere search for god, no matter from within which religion, is good enough to get you membership. Masons apparently see a brother in any believer of any god, even the false gods. They see the claim, 'I believe in a god', as something they all have in common, something that can unite them against us evil atheists.
And so masons hold their secret meetings and do who knows what. Strangely it matters not that everyone likely recognises that some of the believers in this united group are likely believing in a fantasy, in a false god, and thus are deluded. Apparently deluded believers are just as valuable as the 'true' believers. It will be accepted that the deluded believers are completely wrong in most everything they believe religion wise, all but the simplistic but common belief that a god created the universe. That is the sole element that unites multiple religions and sects that have been enemies for centuries. They certainly aren't united because they all agree on who that god was, only that they all agree that some god must have been involved. United in their god delusion, and their hostility towards atheists that this delusion demands.
That masons are now prepared to suspend long-held beliefs about god, beliefs that they once killed and died for, to set aside hatred and intolerance and forge alliances with those that they've always insisted mistakenly believed in false gods, is showing amazing tolerance and acceptance. I mean seriously, that committed enemies that have been at each others throats for centuries, slaughtering each others children, each with a belief that their own god has been urging them on, are now prepared to set aside their differences and work together is truly great, but that they still view atheists as their enemy, the only group with an opinion on god that has never violently attacked or persecuted them over the centuries, shows that the one silly belief that unites them and drives them — that god exists — still makes them a truly hateful lot.
|God, child abuse and pitiful excuses|
Rene has sent us a link to an article that again makes us ashamed the we have not just Catholic friends, but religious friends. The article tells us that New York Catholic Bishop Robert Cunningham 'testified in an abuse case that, in the eyes of the Church, the boys who were molested are also at fault', and that 'a survivor of a priest's abuse, asked then-Bishop James Moynihan whether the church held children victims partly responsible for sexual abuse from priests', and he replied, 'The age of reason is 7, so if you're at least 7 you're culpable for your actions'.
Rene's stunned response to this was:
'REALLY??? Someone Calvin's age (my son) is responsible if a priest abuses him because the "age of reason" in the church is 7, so they should know what they're doing when the priest wants to touch them???What amazes me most about the immoral and disgusting excuses that Catholic bishops, priests and popes keep throwing up to explain away their obscenities with innocent children is the reaction of the Catholic on the street. What reaction, you might wonder? Exactly! We all know now without any doubt that the Catholic clergy is riddled with sexual deviants preying on children, and that these animals are being protected by their peers and superiors. We now know that this has been happening for decades, and if we're really honest, centuries, and it's still happening. But how does your typical Catholic respond, not just to the unspeakable suffering of the young victims of rape and sexual abuse, but to the offensive excuses the priests offer for their actions and the Vatican's despicable attempts to protect the abusers? A handful finally recognise the foul stench that's emanating from the priestly robes, and walk away from the Catholic Church and the filth that it represents. However the great majority of Catholics do nothing, they keep going to church, they keep sending their children to the priests, they keep loving a god that turns a blind eye as his priests rape children the world over. It's as if they are totally ignorant of the abuse scandal. They worship a monster that controls the planet's largest pedophile ring, and every Sunday they'll lick the boots of their priest and make donations to give him access to expensive lawyers. Lawyers that will be needed when it's revealed that it wasn't the priest's boots that their children were being made to lick. But on discovering the horrible things that the priests have been doing and the Church covering up, most Catholics do nothing, they carry on as if nothing has happened.
We all know that there are some people that are capable of committing unspeakable acts of violence and abuse towards their fellow humans — serial killers, rapists, torturers etc — psychopaths that show no empathy towards their victims, and in civilised society we go to great lengths to protect ourselves from them. And if they do manage to commit some heinous crime, we immediately arrest them and make them face justice. We want to be safe, we want our children to be safe, we just don't want animals like this roaming the streets and attacking us for their sick gratification. We can't change human nature, there will always be a few psychopaths walking among us, and we can't change them or cure them, all we can do is imprison them when they reveal themselves through their disgusting deeds. Who among us would forgive a serial killer or serial rapist or want to live next door to one, knowing what they do when they sneak out at night?
And yet when it comes to the psychopaths in the Catholic Church who are torturing and raping children, most Catholics do nothing, they turn a blind eye, and those degenerates that do decide to do something, link arms with their fellow Catholics in vocal defence of the abusers and vilify the young victims instead. Let's stop being surprised and shocked at the depths the abusive bishops and priests will sink to in excusing their crimes, or the lengths the Vatican will go to in denying these crimes, let's start by being surprised and shocked at ordinary Catholics who continue to support them. Let's start condemning the millions of ordinary Catholics who in their continued support of the Catholic Church give these psychopaths the buildings to abuse in and the children to abuse. The next time you talk to a Catholic about the sexual abuse by their priest's, don't join with them in questioning what might have caused the priests to offend, question them on why they lack the empathy, reason and courage to walk away from a religion that worships a god that loves watching children being raped. And if they can't see that they are being an accessory after the fact to these crimes, at least walk away from them.
But let's not finish it there, since we're nothing if not fair, and we don't wish other god believers to think they occupy the moral high ground over those truly deviant Catholics. Whether you're one of the around 41,000 different Christian denominations, or one of the many Muslim, Jewish or Hindu denominations, you no doubt view the Catholic faith as, well, wrong, wrong, wrong, and are utterly convinced that your god is actually the one in charge. But if it's really your god that's watching over us, especially the vulnerable children, then it's your god that's not doing anything, it's your god that either enjoys watching children being abused and raped or your god that simply couldn't care less. Either way, just like the Catholics, you're worshiping a god that allows the abuse to continue and the abusers to escape justice. Of course you might argue that your god doesn't care about Catholic children or their abuse, he only cares for the children of his true followers, in which case we would label you and your god as lacking compassion and totally unworthy of respect or fellowship. And let's remember that no matter what faith you follow, sexual abuse occurs in every one of them to varying degrees, not just in the Catholic faith. Even if your priests or wizards or whatever you call them are above reproach, your god is still ignoring mountains of abuse that's occurring elsewhere. Most caring humans would seek to alleviate the suffering of any child, not just their own, if they could easily and safely do so, and yet your god, being fully aware of every abuse and fully able to stop it, does nothing. Either you're believing in a sadistic monster or a complete fantasy. And since you believe your god is real, then that means, whether you're Catholic, Muslim, Jew, Hindu or run-of-the-mill Christian, you're someone that blindly goes along with innocent children suffering unnecessarily. And just like the Catholic priests, you're probably now desperately inventing some deplorable excuse to explain, at least to yourself, why it's not your god's fault and those children brought it all upon themselves.
This ignorant, primitive devotion to some god and the silly belief that he cares, sickens me. They tell anyone that will listen that God loves us all, while down the road a priest rapes a young boy, they scream that God is great (Allahu Akbar), even as a bomb explodes and kills their children, they make offerings to the god that watches over us, while their children die of diarrhoea or drown in a flood. They go on about their god's love, but from what I've seen of his love, what they say is his love, I'll quite happily stick with the love of a human. While it's not all-powerful or all-knowing or even forever, at least it's real.
|How to debate an atheist|
The following started as a comment we received with the subject line: 'Shroud of Turin', which refers to an article we wrote that dismisses the evidence for the old cloth that some Christians, mainly Catholics, claim that Jesus was wrapped in when he rose from the dead. A little peeved that many people with silly beliefs truly struggle to offer anything but insults, we replied. Surprisingly that person wrote back again, and again, although not surprisingly, their replies pretty much ignored most of what we wrote. Since the conversation has expanded from a short comment, and we feel it's a great example of how believers debate, we've moved it to its own post.
(Note: Since writing this post we've received another two replies, where we're threatened with Hell, so we've tacked on further comments to this post here.)
So here's the first comment from our anonymous poster:
'You sound like an idiot who has no faith in anything...especially yourself....keep smoking your weed moron.'OK, so that's the way you want to play it. You're quite right, I don't have any faith in anything, and by faith I mean your silly blind religious faith. I certainly have a sense of trust and confidence in many things, like the love of my family and in science, but I definitely have no faith in the existence of your barbaric, invisible god or your 'walking on water' carpenter or his 'No, no, no, honestly I'm still a virgin, I don't know how I got pregnant' mother. No faith that the world was made in six days or that a nudist couple ate an apple given to them by a bloody talking snake. Likewise no faith in the god Zeus or the god Ra or the god Shiva, or any other of the thousands of equally ridiculous gods that humans have invented. I have no faith that your god and all those dead perverts in heaven are watching me in the shower or when I have sex, and frankly I don't know how you're comfortable with your unwavering faith that they are. Unless... you're a delusional exhibitionist who gets off by sinning?
I mean, Jesus Fucking Christ, listen to yourself! Expecting that an educated adult today would have faith in such silly stories. This is the 21st century, not the primitive and superstitious Dark Ages. Please take an interest in the real world.
And based on the delusional nonsense that I assume you believe in, I would suspect, as would numerous psychiatrists, that it is you and not me that is smoking weed or partaking all too frequently of some illegal psychotropic substance.
And what surprises me is that you no doubt consider yourself a devout, caring Catholic, and yet this is how you respond to someone that has a different viewpoint and who doesn't see angels on the clouds. You don't even attempt to explain why I might be mistaken, you just launch into the insults, which in the distant past when your crowd had a lot more control over society, would have then resulted in my arrest, torture and execution at the hands of the Catholic Inquisition. Thankfully secular humanists concerned with justice and morality now make the laws and you Catholics must resign yourself to making frothing rants on the Internet. Oh what an embarrassing comedown, and your god's clearly not making any attempt to restore your evil theocracy.
I really wonder what your fictitious long dead carpenter would make of your rabid persecution of non-believers if he did actually return, you know, as he promised to do 2,000 years ago? Might he drag you aside and ask angrily, 'Did you not understand what I meant when I said to love your enemies, and to turn the other cheek? Did I waste my teaching on ignorant fools that know nothing but intolerance and hatred?'
It's people like you that give Christians a bad name, and the fact that your loving, caring and all-powerful Jesus does nothing to rein you in and protect his image only reinforces in my mind that his worrying absence is most likely because he doesn't even exist. The Babylonians, Romans, Greeks, Aztec and countless other religious nutters had to eventually accept that their gods weren't real, now it's your turn.
Unless of course you can set aside your worthless, childish faith and insults and offer some real world evidence for your absent god? Forget the Harry Potter nonsense and bully tactics. So, anything, anything at all? ... No, I didn't think so.
That was it, and considering the tone of my reply, which I thought (hoped?) would end our futile debate, I was surprised when I received a reply:
'Lol im not christian, you idiot....my god has never failed me....but since you dont believe in god, id say your parents have failed you...there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeableOK, so you're not a Christian, my mistake, I apologise. I simply assumed that someone that talks about faith and takes the time to find and attack someone who dismisses the evidence for the Catholic Shroud of Turin would be a Christian. Perhaps if you'd provided more information about your beliefs and the real reason for writing in your email rather than just insults, that confusion might not have arisen. So why are you attacking my stance on the Christian god and his bastard son if, like me, you don't believe they're real either?
And yes, my parents are largely to blame for my not believing in silly gods, or fairies, trolls and leprechauns for that matter. They wanted me to live in the real world, not a fantasy one, and for that I'm truly grateful.
And I'm sorry, but you saying that 'my god has never failed me' is as worthless and delusional as me saying that the Tooth Fairy has never failed me either. And to go on and claim that 'My god isnt absent...he lives in my heart and your heart every day...every minute...' is empty piffle. Would you believe me if I said that 23 demons live in your brain every minute of every day? Of course you wouldn't, even though it might explain your delusions. So why should I believe you when you make such patently ridiculous claims? And what might your silly god be doing in my heart anyway, can't it pump blood without his help, was it that poorly designed? And why if your god is lodging rent free in my heart does he hide his existence from me, perhaps even going as far as whispering in my mind that he doesn't exist? Can you explain that? Probably not, so ask the god in your heart for the answer, and then relay it to me. That seems simple enough doesn't it, since unlike me, your god is not hiding from you, you are apparently communicating with each other, so I await his answer.
I asked you to provide some real world evidence for your absent god, and you childishly replied that 'there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeable'. Do you not understand what constitutes evidence? For example, when a young child argues that there is so much proof of Santa Claus and his Xmas toy delivery 'that its unmistakeable', that is not evidence, it would merely be wishful thinking based on naive ignorance. You wouldn't, hopefully, believe such empty claims from children, so why should I believe the same baseless claims from you, where you've simply replaced Santa with some god? You say the proof is unmistakable, so do more than simply hint of its existence, do more than just talk of it like some lost treasure, produce your evidence of god and the afterlife so we non-believers might be swayed. Surely that's not unreasonable, and something your god no doubt desires?
Yet you won't even say what name your god goes by? Are you embarrassed that he's not one of the big or famous gods? Is it the Jewish god, the Muslim god, one of the Hindu gods or perhaps one of the Norse gods? It's not one of those Wiccan gods is it? Maybe one from 'The Lord of the Rings', or is it a new one that you've invented? Are you taking a lesson from your god and hiding too, hiding the fact that you know that nothing that normal, intelligent people would accept as evidence actually exists? You're not saying anything that the likes of the ancient Egyptians or Sumerians didn't also say about their imaginary gods, they too thought they could discern proof that their gods were all around them. And they were all wrong! There is no known reason whatsoever, or none that you've provided, that suggests that you aren't equally wrong.
So again, I implore you to provide evidence since you believe such evidence exists, don't simply reply that the evidence for your unknown god is all around us, as is the evidence for gremlins and shape-shifting reptilian aliens apparently.
So ended my second reply, and showing true tenacity, if not much clarity of thought, we then receive a third reply:
'Lol see you know nothing about religion....not all catholics are christians...ask any roman catholic if they are a christian...you'll be told no....its 2 different things...why dont you show me proof that god and jesus never existed...'The problem with your latest reply is that you're still hiding, still not brave enough to reveal what you really believe. I initially assumed you were a Catholic, but you politely set me straight: 'Lol im not christian, you idiot'. However, beyond revealing that you believe in some god you don't name, you don't give enough information for us to know if this god is Zeus, Ra, Shiva, Thor or one of thousands of others. We assumed it wasn't Allah since no true Muslim would write 'god' rather than 'God', just as devout Christians (or Catholics) normally never write 'god' or 'he' without capitalising the words either.
But now you suddenly assert that 'not all catholics are christians', so should we infer from that silly remark that you are indeed a Catholic, but paradoxically, certainly not a Christian? Are you ashamed of admitting to being a Catholic, perhaps because of the great harm they've done in the name of Jesus throughout history, and the harm the Church's child-raping priests are still doing? I know I'd hide my support of such animals, so I wouldn't blame you.
But strangely you claim that 'not all catholics are christians', which suggests that you believe some Catholics are indeed Christians. How can some Catholics be Christians while others aren't? Is it do with the child-raping thing? But then confusingly you say that should I 'ask any roman catholic if they are a christian...you'll be told no', which implies that NO Catholics are Christians. However I know many Catholics, and they all consider themselves Christians, so why is that? Who's got it wrong, you or them?
I've certainly heard some Protestant Christians argue that Catholics aren't really Christians, but while you won't reveal what you are, you're open in saying what you're not, and that's a Christian. So you can't be coming at it from that angle, arguing against Catholics, since you appear to be arguing for Catholics. But since you won't say, for the sake of argument let's assume you are a Catholic. What does history and the religiously educated Catholic hierarchy say about this issue, rather than the ignorant Catholic on the street?
For the centuries before the Protestant Reformation there was only one common name for those that believed in and followed the teachings of Jesus Christ — Christians. The Romans persecuted Christians, not Catholics. Yes, the Christian religion eventually organised themselves under the Roman Catholic Church, but that was just a name for business purposes, Roman Catholics are really no more Catholic than they are Roman. Roman simply described where their headquarters were located — Rome — and catholic means universal, which implies that they naively believed that their religion concerned all mankind. And let's look to the Bible. Yes I know it's fiction, but it's the only book that both Catholics and Christians refer to. The term Catholic never appears, but the term Christian does appear twice. The first is a question to St Paul:
'Then Agrippa said to Paul, "Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?"' (AC 26:28)Paul does not reply, 'A Christian, what the hell's a Christian? I'm trying to persuade you to be a Catholic you idiot! LOL.' In another Bible verse we're told,
'However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.' (1PE 4:16)So clearly the many authors of the Bible's New Testament saw themselves as Christians first and foremost, not Catholics, as did all the early Church Fathers who didn't edit out the word Christian and insert Catholic. And here is the view of two Catholic websites:
'Are Catholics Christian?'And while I would disagree with most of what's on both of those Catholic websites, eg it's a myth that 'Masturbation is normal', I am convinced of the claims made above. And let's look at how a typical dictionary defines Christian:
'Professing belief in Jesus as Christ or following the religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus.'So let's cut the semantic crap that your child-abusing priests might have feed you. If you believe, even in a wishy-washy way, that Jesus was the bastard Jewish son of the god featured in the Old Testament of the Bible, and that that god had Jesus tortured and crucified, and if you now follow the teachings of this long dead Jewish carpenter, then you are a Christian. It doesn't matter if believers further define themselves as Baptist, Protestant or Catholic, you're still all Christian, albeit Christians that can't agree on what your god wants you to do. Just as Toyotas, Mazdas, Ferraris and Corvettes are all different but are still all cars, you lot with your different denominations are still all Christians. You've been fighting over it for centuries now. Jesus H. Christ, when are you going to realise you're all praying to the same mythical being? No wonder you can't debate atheists, you're too busy disagreeing with each other.
Now let's get to your last comment, a challenge to us: 'why dont you show me proof that god and jesus never existed...'
Oh, don't be so childish! I'm assuming that you're an adult and not some kid home early from kindergarten and playing on your mummy's iPad. Let's remember that you began this conversation, by implying that you had a problem with us having no faith in the silly idea that Jesus rose from the dead, leaving behind a soiled cloth for people to cry over.
We've never said that there is proof that some god, any god, or Jesus, never existed. We are atheists because there is no good evidence, let alone proof, that any god has even existed, and that includes sons of gods. Of course there is good evidence that suggests that the Biblical god never existed, eg that the universe and life evolved naturally over billions of years, it wasn't created in six days as your god claims. But that's not proof that this god didn't exist, he could have lied in the Bible or he might have deviously falsified scientific evidence to hide his six day creation. So god could exist and be a liar or a falsifier of evidence, for some mysterious reason, but the simpler, more rational explanation is that he didn't exist and the universe arose naturally.
We don't dismiss belief in the likes of fairies, trolls, unicorns, gremlins and leprechauns because we have proof that they never existed, we dismiss them because believers in such beings have never produced any evidence or proof that they are real. It is only reasonable and rational to not waste time believing in things for which there is no evidence. And I'd hope you'd agree, but then maybe not, but I could spend the rest of my life with access to all manner of fancy scientific instruments and I'd never be able to prove that, fairies, say, don't exist. I might, by finding one, surprisingly prove that they did exist, but I could never prove that they didn't. Thus, what is known as 'the burden of proof ' rests on the person that makes some new claim, eg god is real, crystals heal cancer, aliens abducted my cat or Santa has a secret base at the North Pole. So the burden of proof rests with you.
In our previous two replies we implored you to produce evidence that god and the afterlife are real. Is this unreasonable? Of course not, since it was you that confidently asserted that 'there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeable'. We have made no such claim, that we possess proof, so since it is you that claims to possess proof, not us, logically it is you that should produce said proof.
So stop LOL'ing and get serious. You lot have had around 2,000 years to come up with proof, thousands more if you take into account your god's Jewish ancestry. You say your god lives in your heart, so just ask him for Christ sake! Tell him you're being made to look like a fool, tell him that his suggested 'you idiot' insults backfired. God was truly peeved when Job challenged him, and got personally involved, so why won't he even lift a wispy tentacle to help you put an annoying disbeliever in his place? I'm not saying bolts of lightning or fire and brimstone, maybe something that breaks the laws of physics or something that only god would know. Who was the girl I had a crush on when I was 12? He knows that stuff, right? Or have Marilyn Monroe pop in and tell me about the afterlife. Although unfortunately, even if these miraculous things happened, you still wouldn't have proved to me that your god is real. It could mean that I've coincidentally received a bump on the head and it's still all a delusion, revolving around my last sane thoughts. Or it could mean that some other god, say a mischievous Norse god, or a powerful alien, has been observing our discussion and has decided to fool me by stepping in and masquerading as your god. So while I may accept that something truly strange was happening, neither of us could ever prove that your god was causing it.
But that takes us back to blind faith. The religious know they can't prove anything, in fact it all looks terribly depressing, so in order to believe you have to forget about proof and fall back on faith. Belief without evidence, and even against evidence. So when asked for evidence for your claims, throw a few insults and angrily demand: 'My evidence? Forget about my evidence, where's your evidence that Santa doesn't exist? ... I mean, god'.
So, for the third time, we ask our poster. What is this unmistakable evidence for god and the afterlife that you speak of?
UPDATE: Well, since writing this post we've received another reply, but not surprisingly, it contains nothing of any substance. It reads:
'What i said was roman catholics are not christians....you can ask any roman catholic and they will tell you straight out...but youre actually starting to bore me....I also said prove that yhere isnt a god....and if you mucy know, I am roman catholic...was born roman catholic and will die roman catholic...'
Well, it sounds as though your latest reply might be your last, so that has to be a positive, right? Although if we've learnt anything, it would only be that you struggle to say what we want to hear.
Anyway, I know that you said 'roman catholics are not christians....', however, using quotes from Catholic websites, the Bible and Catholic friends I refuted that claim, but you make no response. Do you not understand how a debate works? I say something and then it's your turn to try and expose flaws in my argument, not just blindly repeat your initial claim as if I had said nothing. It makes it look as though you're not paying attention. You're starting to repeat yourself like a parrot, and frankly your short, poorly written replies make me wonder whether I'm communicating with an actual person, or an old computer running a 1980's version of artificial intelligence.
Next you say, 'but youre actually starting to bore me...'
Really, that's what you're going with to end this debate? You consider the question of whether your god exists, and is going to torture us for all eternity, as boring? Rather than bored, I suspect you've finally realised, or at least have been told, that you're really out of your depth, and just like Jesus walking on water or rising from the dead, you've discovered it's a Catholic myth that a few insults and some inane comments will see atheists questioning our view of religion and running to a priest to seek absolution.
Apparently thinking I missed your earlier challenge, you then say, 'I also said prove that yhere isnt a god'.
I'm going to be generous here and assume that you've read my comments, but clearly you didn't understand them, since we tried to explain why this isn't possible, or an efficient way to resolve the debate. Should I have used LOL more?
I spoke of something called the 'burden of proof', and why we can't prove the likes of fairies and trolls don't exist, but to no avail. So let me try again with a new example. Let's say that you argue that there exists a strange looking, fearsome creature called a crocodile, and I reply that there is no such fanciful beast. Would it make good sense for us to solve this disagreement with you insisting that I prove there aren't any crocodiles? For years you and I could travel the world, with me taking you all around New Zealand and then to places like Stonehenge in England, South Africa, Japan, Disneyland, the Sahara, and even Antarctica, and we never see a single crocodile. Will I have proved to you that crocodiles don't exist? Or would you say that what we were doing was stupid, that we were wasting time and money by me taking you to places that by honest bad luck or devious planning, there were no crocodiles, so naturally none would be found? Would you say that the debate could quickly and decisively be solved by you simply taking me to a place, like Australia, Florida or even a zoo, where you know there are crocodiles? Wouldn't you argue that you know of places where 'there is so much proof of crocodiles that its unmistakeable', and thus it makes good sense for you to immediately divulge these crocodile locations, reveal the proof, and quickly win the debate in your favour? Crocodiles do exist, and I apologise. Knowing that you could quickly and easily win the debate by showing me the proof that you have, why instead would you refuse to reveal your proof, and insist that I must prove that neither crocodiles, nor the evidence that you're hiding, exists?
It's the same with god, you claim that 'there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeable'. You have the advantage since you have the evidence, but rather than simply reveal it, you hide it away and want to send me on a futile hunt for evidence that god doesn't exist, evidence that you already know I'll never find. You must know that I can never produce proof that god doesn't exist, since you already have the proof that he does. So why waste my time, and why are you so afraid of producing your evidence, so reluctant to affirm god's existence? You glibly claim that god lives in my heart, but you seem terrified to actually prove that claim, truly hesitant in proving to me that god is real. Why don't you want non-believers to believe in god? Or is your unfathomable reluctance to produce your unmistakable proof actually due to the embarrassing fact that it's all a lie? There is no unmistakable proof, and you know it, and naturally you can't produce something that doesn't exist. So you change the subject, hope that I'll forget that you mentioned you had proof, and challenge me to do the impossible. It's impossible to prove that something doesn't exist, but on the flip side, it can often be child's play to prove something is real, that it does exist. Anyone can easily prove to others that birds, clouds and TVs exist. The evidence is all around us. When clear evidence exists for something, it is easy to prove a claim, so the person that believes they have this evidence — that's you — is the person that is in a commanding position to convince doubters — that's us — that we're wrong.
I simply don't understand why you are so reluctant to produce evidence that you apparently have when it would crush my argument and see me uttering an embarrassed apology, both to you and to god? You claim to have the power to open my eyes, why won't you use it? I'm sorry, but your continual silence on this unmistakable evidence for the afterworld and god makes me believe that it is just as imaginary as your god. Of course you could easily prove me wrong, but I suspect you won't bother. You're clearly upset with my view that god is just a silly belief, so why won't you prove this atheist wrong? I know they say that your god works in mysterious ways, but how can letting me win this debate go anywhere towards changing my mind about invisible beings? Seriously!
Finally, you end with this admission: 'and if you mucy know, I am roman catholic...was born roman catholic and will die roman catholic...'
umm.... no, actually you weren't. You were no more born a Roman Catholic than you were born a nurse, an avid scrabble player or a supporter of a particular political party. You were born an atheist, since as a baby you had no belief in any god. It was your parents that made you a Catholic when you were baptised, without your knowledge or consent I might add. If you seriously believe that you were 'born roman catholic', that means that your god must have made you a Catholic when you were conceived, or more likely, shortly after that when he had you ensouled, ie popped your soul in. If your silly belief is true, that god makes babies Catholic before they're born, have you never wondered why Muslim, Hindu and Jewish parents don't have Catholic babies then? Those babies are instead born Muslim, Hindu and Jewish respectively. This can only mean one of two things. One, the Catholic god is busy making Muslim, Hindu and Jewish babies as well as Catholic babies, but why would your god do that, make babies that don't believe in him? And let's remember that Catholics are a minority in the world, always have been, so why does god make far more babies as non-Catholics than he makes as Catholics? That doesn't make sense, is he deliberately trying to lose support? The second option is, as has been believed for most of history, that there are many, many gods, with each group or country having their own gods. So Zeus made the babies in ancient Greece, Allah, the Muslim god, makes Muslim babies, Jehovah makes Jewish babies, the Christian Baptist god makes Baptist babies, the Christian Methodist god makes Methodist babies, and so on. Thousands of different gods, including the Catholic one, all making babies just for their own religion.
Do you see how silly things become when you start reasoning about religious nonsense? Of course Catholics have long realised that thinking about god, rather than blindly believing, is dangerous for the Church. For example, in the 16th century Martin Luther described reason as 'the devil's bride' and 'God's worst enemy'. He wrote that:
"Faith must trample under foot all reason, sense, and understanding, and whatever it sees it must put out of sight, and wish to know nothing but the word of God".And yes, Luther was a Catholic, just as Jesus was a Jew, and as you'll note, Luther saw himself as a Christian too, but of course Jesus was neither a Catholic nor a Christian, he remained a devout Jew.
The truth is that both you and I were both born atheists and ignorant, but life changes us all of course, and I will simply die an atheist, while you will die ignorant. Of course I could be wrong, but strangely you don't want me to realise I'm mistaken, unwilling as you are to reveal the divine truth that you possess. The best I can do in adopting a worldview is to consider the evidence and reasoning that others, like scientists, are all too willing to share and explain. I could never see myself believing in gods and the supernatural, the evidence for which is kept hidden, and to be told that I must believe on faith rather than evidence, to have unwavering confidence in things not seen.
Am I wasting my time to again ask you to reveal what you meant when you claimed that 'there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeable'? I suspect I am.
Well, surprise, surprise, I was right again. We've received yet another reply following our above comments, and this time our gormless Catholic's true black heart is revealed with a threat. They write:
'To be honest, I dont even read most of your email because what it comes down to is, i dont care if you believe or not....you're the one going to hell, not meWell, thank you for your honesty at least, here was me thinking that your inability to grasp simple arguments was likely due to your stupidity and/or immaturity, but no. You proudly admit that 'I dont even read most of your email'. What arrogance you display by dismissing my argument without even having the decency to read it first. You're so bloody convinced that you're right — about the veracity of a silly fairytale of all things — that you feel you don't even have to consider alternative views and evidence. You can just dismiss them out of hand, sent on their way with some childish insults. Your intolerant attitude reminds me of a Christian woman I encountered a few weeks ago, who on learning that I was an atheist, confidently said,
'There's nothing in the world, nothing that anyone could say or do, nothing whatsoever, that could ever convince me — EVER! — that God isn't real.'This is the very definition of close-mindedness, and clearly it is the way that many of you Christians think. And I use the word 'think' in very broad terms, since you hardly ever think deeply about what it is that you believe. And if you'd read some of what I've previously written, you'd know that you're not encouraged to use reason, so keep up the good work. Ignorance is bliss as they say. But then your comments turn frightening:
'what it comes down to is, i dont care if you believe or not....you're the one going to hell, not me'It seems that your apparent ignorance and inability to respond intelligently is down to the typical Catholic attitude toward your fellow humans, as seen throughout history. You just don't give a fuck about anyone else. You're a narcissistic psychopath that lacks any sort of empathy to people that don't belong to your backward little cult. That your god is going to torture billions of innocent people, from babies to elderly women in wheelchairs, over and over, for all eternity, clearly doesn't concern or worry you at all. In fact you sound almost gleeful as you threaten me with Hell and unspeakable torture at the hands of your immoral, hateful, vicious, disgusting, barbaric god. And the terrible crime that put most of Earth's population in Hell? Nearly all of them were not fortunate enough to be chosen by the Catholic god to be born as Catholic babies as you were! By some estimates your god has created something like 110 billion humans throughout history, and around ninety-nine out of every one hundred of those ordinary human beings will be in Hell being tortured under direct instructions from your god and Jesus. What sort of monster must your god be to deliberately create so many lives with full knowledge that almost all of them are, following an extremely brief live, destined for an eternity of unspeakable torture? That you can defend and worship such a monster frankly disgusts me. People rightly vilify Hitler for the concentration camps he built and the torture and slaughter that occurred there, even though he 'only' killed some 6 million or so, and once dead their torture and suffering ceased. And yet the concentration camp that your god has built — Hell — holds billions and billions of people that your god apparently has a petty problem with, including all the Jews. Oh, how those Jews must wish they were back at Auschwitz. I'm guessing that the first thing you'll be doing on reaching heaven, after giving Jesus a blowjob in heartfelt thanks as your priests taught you, is to book a tourist trip to Hell so you can watch babies being tortured and cheer on their torturers. I'm horrified that you religious nutters tearfully worship a god that has decided to torture most of humanity for all eternity. And let's remember that god, an all-powerful being, didn't have to create Hell. The cruel, sadistic bastard created it deliberately for the sole purpose of torturing the innocent. You Christians are like Neo-Nazis, only much, much, much worse. Like Neo-Nazis, you both know exactly what atrocities were and are carried out by the one you worship, both of you arguing that the dirty scum deserve their treatment and the world is a better place without them. You Catholics are much worse than Neo-Nazis since they can only torture you once, but your Führer intends on torturing us for ever, with instruments and methods that would make a Gestapo interrogation seem like a fun day at Disneyland.
And by your logic, your god made me an atheist rather than a Catholic, so he condemned me to Hell and eternal torture, my fate is not something I had any hand in or could have changed. I'm not going to Hell because I made the wrong choice in life, but because your god didn't make me a Catholic baby. And you think it's completely moral and just of your god to torture me for a choice he made. And as I've said, the way you Christians defiantly agree with god punishing me for his choice is disgusting. It's sickening that some humans can behave this way towards other humans.
Your blind, ignorant, primitive belief, not just in a dead Jewish carpenter that hasn't been seen for some 2,000 years, and probably never even existed, but also in the jealous, homicidal, sadistic god that raped the mother of Jesus, getting her pregnant, is superstitious belief that should have disappeared centuries ago. When mankind discovered that the world wasn't flat or built on pillars, that snow and hail isn't kept by god in storerooms, and that the sea is not held back by doors and bars, all as described in the Bible, intelligent Catholics, if that's not an oxymoron, should have thrown their Bibles en masse into their stinking latrines. Then they should have dismantled the Vatican and the Church's worldwide infrastructure, recovering an obscene fortune and returning it to those, mostly the poor, it had been stolen from. That the Catholic Church, and all the other Christian churches, not to mention their brother religions Islam and Judaism, are all still flourishing and fighting each other to gain followers in the 21st century is probably evidence that a small, very primitive part of the human brain that is sometimes referred to as our 'reptilian brain', is the only brain that religious people use when god comes up in conversation.
And now, your final comment:
'And for the record, i wasnt born atheist....'Again you appear not to have understood our reason for stating that you were most definitely born an atheist. You wouldn't have known you were an atheist of course, or even what an atheist was, but without doubt every baby is born with no belief in any god. That made you an atheist. Do you seriously expect us to believe that you emerged saying Hail Marys, clutching some rosary beads and asking for an audience with the pope? Hell, you couldn't even say or respond to your name, let alone control your bowels, and yet you believe you already understood that you were a Roman Catholic and all that that involves? You are a Catholic for one reason only, your deluded parents, assisted by their local church, brainwashed you when you were finally old enough to understand language. Do you seriously believe that if you were born in the Middle East and your father's name was Mohammed, that your parents would have raised you as a Catholic, alongside your Muslim siblings?
And once again you show that you've failed to grasp how an adult debate works. You can't just say that my argument is wrong, eg 'i wasnt born atheist....', you have to give some reason as to why you think I'm wrong. You're trying to make me doubt my view, you're not a robot reading from a phone book. Are you? You completely ignore my observation that Muslims and Jews aren't born as Roman Catholics. Why didn't your god make them Catholics? You must at least try and explain why you were somehow born Roman Catholic, when most people around the world aren't. I for example was born an atheist. If you weren't born as an atheist, then you need to make some attempt, even a pathetic one, to explain how you knew about god, long, long before other babies do.
And sorry to bug you, but in your haste to reply and gloat over our future in Hell, you appear to have forgotten to attach your reasons for claiming that 'there is so much proof in the afterworld and god that its unmistakeable'. You don't have to explain all your reasons at once, drip feeding them is probably preferable so that we're not overwhelmed with shocking revelations. I've cleared my calendar for the rest of the week so that I can give them my full attention.
So I thought that might be the end of our debate, if it could seriously be called a debate, but we then received yet another email, which does have a sense of finality about it. But then that's what they said about World War I — the war to end all wars.
And I'm beginning to think we might never see that unmistakable proof for god that was mentioned way back at the start.
'Both of my parents were roman catholic...and being that i was sick as an indant i was baptised in the name of jesus christ within 24 hours of my birth...and since my parents were both believers, i was not born an atheist...I dont have to see god/ jesus/ mother mary or any of our saints to believe...this is why it is called FAITH...So you're still suffering under the delusion that you were 'born roman catholic ... i wasnt born atheist'. You say that 'Both of my parents were roman catholic', as if that's something to be proud of. But so what? Both my parents were farmers, did that make me a farmer when I was born? One of my parents was a woman, did that make me a woman? You even admit that you weren't actually 'born roman catholic' by going on to say that 'i was baptised in the name of jesus christ within 24 hours of my birth', meaning that for most of the first day of your life you weren't a Roman Catholic. So what were you? An atheist, that's what. As a baby, even after the priest performed his spooky voodoo over you, you still had no belief in his god, or even knew what a god was. You say that as a day old baby you didn't need to 'see god/ jesus/ mother mary or any of our saints to believe...', because you had something 'called FAITH'. Bullshit! As a baby you had no idea what faith was, that you should blindly believe in things that you had never seen, and would never see. And let's be honest here, your parents could have got in the local zoo keeper and called you a baboon, but would that have made you a baboon? Well, perhaps we shouldn't go there.
You claim that 'since my parents were both believers, i was not born an atheist...', but can't you understand that belief in gods is a personal thing? It doesn't matter what silly nonsense your parents believed in, they can't make you believe it too just by being your parents, or even by getting some guy in a dress to throw magic water over you. Belief is not something you inherit. Both your parents might have believed that it was OK to keep slaves since their god approved of it, but they couldn't imprint this belief on you as a baby. Whether slavery is good or bad is something that you must decide for yourself when you grow up, since babies are too ignorant to think about slavery, or gods. Your parents might have said to neighbours that their newborn baby was a true supporter of slavery, just as you insist that they would have described you as a good Catholic, but this would be a delusion. Baptising a day old baby and then believing that the baby now has faith in god and Jesus is as stupid as baptising a toaster and thinking that it now has faith in god, that it's now a devout Catholic toaster.
Jesus fucking Christ, you need to stop letting your parents and childless priests tell you what you should believe. I can imagine you going to your parents aged ten and saying that you're not so sure you believe that god exists. They would reply that of course he does, and anyway, you don't have any choice in what you want to believe. We baptised you a Catholic when you were less than a day old, with a creepy old priest and everything, surely you remember that? We made you a Catholic because we were Catholics, so it matters not what you think, only what we think, so you must blindly believe. It's what we Catholics do, dear. Just as god is our master who must be obeyed in all things, we are your masters and you must believe as we do. We will have none of this selfish independent thinking under our roof, do you hear? And don't think that you can doubt god's existence when you grow up and leave home, a Catholic baptism is forever. You must always believe, because we have placed our superstitious mark on you.
OK, none of that is true, you don't have a physical superstitious mark on you, only a psychological one, and with some effort it can be erased. You can think for yourself. Or you can leave your thinking to god, it's your choice. Just remember that when society let god do the thinking we got inquisitions, crusades, religious wars, pogroms, witch hunts, slavery, stagnation, inequality, persecution, hatred and intolerance. And lots of carvings of a bloody, naked man nailed to two pieces of wood.
Your mention of Lent surprised me, since according to my 'Big Boy's Book of Superstition and Myths', Lent is the 'Christian period of fasting and penitence preparatory to Easter'. But since Lent is a Christian thing, why are you taking part, wouldn't that be sacrilegious to a Roman Catholic, who you insist are not Christians? Another thing I don't understand is that penitence is expressing regret for one's misdeeds or sins, and Catholic's claim to know exactly what misdeeds or sins they mustn't commit. And yet you lot commit so many sins that you need Lent every year and a priest's confession box every Sunday to gain absolution from them all. Other Christians try to please god by not sinning at all, you hypocritical Catholics sin with gay abandon and then just pop in and ask for forgiveness. Week after week. So what sins are you feeling remorseful over this Lent? Being insulting and intolerant towards an atheist? Probably not, since your god actually encourages that sort of behaviour. Not actively trying to have me stoned to death as commanded by your god? Maybe. Thinking lustful thoughts as you gaze upon the glistening, rippling muscles of the near near-naked body of Jesus on the crucifix hanging from your car's rear view mirror? Quite probably. Of all religions, you Catholics seem to have the most disturbing obsession with sex, and none of it in a good way. But anyway, it must be nice for you Catholics that you can get all your sins forgiven, no matter how heinous, giving you the chance commit new sins. Oh, so you're a serial pedophile, rapist and murderer? But you're also a Catholic, so no worries my son, I forgive you. Welcome to heaven. Actually you're just in time, this afternoon we're having an outing that you'll likely enjoy, an excursion to Hell to watch some non-Catholic babies being tortured. And with your life experiences, the demons might even let you join in.
And I've never understood the Catholic fascination with Easter, named as it is after a pagan goddess, and where we apparently celebrate her birth by having the Easter Bunny deliver chocolate eggs to all and sundry. It's weird that you Catholic's happily join in, considering it's such an ancient pagan celebration, dating from long before Jesus even started his carpentry apprenticeship.
I think your desire to give up associating with idiots, while a worthy one, will be hard to achieve if you're not willing kick that lazy, freeloading god out of your heart and view the world through reason rather than faith. I suspect that at present there are a lot of idiots in your life; every time you go to church or look in the mirror, there's another one!
I truly thought that would be the last we'd hear from our angry and deluded Catholic, but clearly I'll never understand the religious mind since these comments then appeared:
'Why are you writing [this]?...my religious beliefs arent up for debate....im beginning to think that youre just a lonely guy and this is your form of communication'Say what?? I had never heard of you until you wrote to us! Remember? Calling me an idiot and a weed smoking moron? I merely responded. You commented on our Internet forum, which is set up to allow debate about religious belief, and I replied to your comment, which is what people do in these forums and in polite society. Rather than skulk off, or even reply and say that you're a close-minded ignoramus who has no intention of debating your personal fantasy, you instead elected to start a debate by claiming that we were wrong and that you had unmistakable proof of god and the afterlife. And you again called me an idiot to get my attention. I replied since I was naturally interested in viewing your proof, as you no doubt knew I would be, after all that's why you said it. But of course you were lying and had no intention of producing any proof, since you had none. But again, instead of skulking off, and because as you now acknowledge, your 'religious beliefs arent up for debate', you again write back and continue the dialog. You even made a request of us, writing, 'why dont you show me proof that god and jesus never existed'. Clearly you were unhappy with our reply, since you wrote back again, and again reminded us that, 'I also said prove that yhere isnt a god'. So again we responded and explained, for a second time, as to why we couldn't do as you had asked and prove that there isn't a god. Rather than thank us for at least responding, you then write back again and say, 'To be honest, I dont even read most of your email because what it comes down to is, i dont care...' We then wrote that it's rather arrogant of you to dismiss our argument without even having the decency to read it first. Especially since it was you who had asked for it in the first place! And again you could have skulked off, annoyed, frustrated and embarrassed that your angry rant to an atheist had backfired so badly, but no, you insist on keeping the debate going. You write back again, attempting, poorly, to explain your side of the argument and you again call me an idiot, as all good debaters do apparently. You also suggested with two comments that it was to be your last reply. I of course demonstrate to our readers that your latest arguments are as silly as all your previous ones. But at least it's over.
But no, you write back again! This time complaining that we somehow mistook your claims that you are right and we are wrong (and idiots) as a debate. Oh, silly us! Of course we believe you when you say that your 'religious beliefs arent up for debate', and we never thought they would be for one moment. Your mind is firmly rusted closed, and honestly considering new ideas is clearly foreign and offensive to you. You wrote to us solely to vent your anger, since the law now stops you from stoning us to death. But when I surprised you by replying, you naively thought you could debate like an intelligent adult, only to discover you were way out of your depth, that discussing religion with an informed atheist is not the same as discussing it with a fluffy toy, or with the god that you think lives in your heart. Your years of listening to boring sermons, wearing a creepy crucifix and keeping a Bible in the bottom of your knickers drawer hadn't prepared you for a real world debate. Of course you weren't to know that knowledge had moved on since the 10th century, after all, you'd been told to trust your priests and your holy book.
Now you're apparently wondering, how do I stop being made a fool of and stop having my fantasies ridiculed on this Internet forum? Well, it's actually quite simple, and don't worry, there's no science or maths involved. Here it is, and I'm typing slowly so as not to overwhelm you: DON'T comment on atheist forums. Simple as that. But if you simply can't resist leaving an irrational and/or angry rant, then whatever you do, DON'T RESPOND to the savaging that your silly comments will inevitably cause. To quote a line from 'Life of Brian', a famous movie about Christianity: 'Run away, run away!' Do you want me to repeat that? OK, here it is: DON'T RESPOND! Resist writing back even if you've just thought of the best insult ever. It's like the advice we'd give to Catholic children, if you don't want to handle a priest's genitals, then don't go to his place and engage him in conversation.
|The problem with conspiracy theories|
Recently we've received comments debating the reality of climate change, with arguments both for and against becoming ever more technical, and of course simmering just under the surface is the belief from one side that talk of climate change is just a conspiracy that has got out of hand, eg 'Unfortunately global warming has become a huge industry on which many reputations have been staked. They are not letting go easily'. There are already many climate change forums out there debating the technicalities, so we don't think we need create another, and thus I diverted the debate off-line. However I thought it might be interesting to look at the conspiracy theory side of climate change since it explains why I'm not all that keen to research the nitty-gritty of climate science.
Of course I acknowledge that we shouldn't dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand. After all there have been real conspiracies that everyone accepts really did happen. Governments especially haven't got a great track record of always telling the truth. Of course some conspiracy theories are more plausible than others, for example in the Kennedy assassination no laws of physics are broken nor do thousands have to keep quiet if there was a shooter on the grassy knoll, but credibility stretches when they argue that Queen Elizabeth and many other world leaders are all shape-shifting reptilian aliens. My experience with conspiracy theories is that they often sound credible when you read the books or articles written by the conspiracy theorists, and you don't know a lot about science or critical thinking. But if you then read the books or articles written by the experts eg scientists, historians etc. (and followers of conspiracy theories seldom do), the experts generally poke holes in the conspiracy theories large enough to sail a supertanker through. For example, I recently read a book by Tom Rogers entitled, 'Insultingly Stupid Movie Physics', where one of the movies he looked at was Oliver Stone's 'JFK', and the case that Kennedy's head 'moves back and to the left' when shot, suggesting as conspiracy theorists wrongly argue that the shooter must have been in front of Kennedy, not behind. Common sense says that Oliver Stone was correct, but the physics say he was wrong.
But unlike the conspiracies regarding the likes of JFK, chemtrails, 9/11 and the moon landing, the alleged conspiracy surrounding climate change doesn't just involve a handful of laypeople against thousands of experts. The argument for climate change or anthropogenic global warming (AGW) — warming caused or made worse by humans — is something that could be wrong, since the arguments are based on very complex science and increasing but still insufficient data. It's something that's still unfolding, not some event we can examine in hindsight. Scientists have been wrong in the past, embarrassingly so at times, and they'll definitely get things wrong again in the future. So what do we do, just throw up our hands and revert back to believing whatever we feel like? Many people would suggest we do, some even arguing that it's actually our thoughts that create the world. Think of world peace and it will be so.
But me, I'm not so sure that's how the world works. It's true that scientists have been wrong before, and that they change their views when the evidence suggests they should. Of course some people argue that this willingness of science to quickly change paths is why it can't be trusted. At least you know where you are with religion since it sticks steadfastly with the original guesses made by ignorant nomads thousands of years ago. But the reality is that much of what science now claims remains constant and our modern society reflects this. The basics of biology, physics, chemistry etc don't change; gravity stays switched on, planes keep flying, bridges stay up, the Sun continues to shine, arsenic remains poisonous and bullets continue to kill. Our advanced society exists only because science and the resultant technology works, and works consistently. I've always though it rather hypocritical and ignorant of some people to use computers, smartphones, aircraft, antibiotics and to live in air-conditioned homes and wear synthetic clothes while arguing that scientists don't know what they're talking about and we should all return to living at one with nature, consuming and using only that which is natural. And yet you don't see them handing over their smartphones, fancy coffees and clothes and returning naked to the bush. Me thinks they don't want to reject the fruits of science at all, only a few things that they don't like and believe they don't personally need. Even though they may argue that they distrust science and scientists, their actions find them indecently embracing all the things that science has given us. Like the religious that pick and choose what they will believe in their holy books, many think they can pick and choose what science they will believe too.
While it has made mistakes, science without doubt still has a great track record. It has given us amazing marvels, even though most of us might not understand how they really work, and it has laid bare many of the mysteries of the universe and life. We know we live on spherical ball of rock that orbits a distant ball of hot gas, that new life comes from the union of sperm and egg, that lightning is caused by electricity and not angry gods, that antibiotics can combat disease, that humans and apes are closely related, that comets don't predict disasters, and witches aren't the cause of crop failures. The knowledge that science has revealed about the universe is astounding, and the use of that science in creating our modern society is clear proof if any is needed that scientific claims are more than mere pronouncements, like those a religious leader might make. How often has a pope pleaded for the end of some conflict in the world, and nothing changes? Events and devices predicted by scientific claims generally come to fruition, they've created our modern world and can be accepted as true. If we have a question about the working of the universe, history has shown that we should query a scientist, rather than a priest, witch or soothsayer. And while scientists might, using the best evidence available, honestly give us the wrong answer, or reply that they simply don't know, scientists are still far, far more likely to give you the best answer than are those that have no knowledge in the field for which you seek an answer.
But along comes claims of AGW and while some of us have no problem listening to the scientists, confusingly we now have scientists arguing for both sides. But dig a little deeper and we learn that evidently the great majority of experts believe that AGW is likely true, and if so, it's probably prudent to look at taking some remedial action. Most of us believe scientists when they talk about DNA, black holes and UV radiation, all things that most of us have never seen personally, so shouldn't we again accept, or at least tentatively side with, what the general scientific consensus is? Do we have the expertise to argue?
But what if you then read an argument, from a scientist, not a layperson like yourself, that AGW is all nonsense, that there is no evidence for it and it's all a conspiracy to boost the careers and fortunes of a devious few? And what if that argument appears to make sense, should you become a AGW skeptic? Or what if a layperson glances at arguments from both sides of the AGW debate and finds themselves flip-flopping, is there a rational way of choosing a side, hopefully the right one, without reading all the articles and research papers or even understanding all the conflicting claims? I propose that there is.
I don't have the time or inclination to go into the depths of climate change science as some do, and even if I did and I came out deeply skeptical of AGW, the one question that would continue to haunt me would be why the great majority of scientists — the experts — disagree with me, the layperson? Especially since no scientist, politician or business owner actually wants AGW to be real because of the huge sacrifices that may be needed to combat it. There is no apparent incentive to back a theory that you don't want to be true, especially if you can see that the evidence clearly shows it likely isn't true, a theory that you personally are making no money from, and that will actually cost you money. And yet most scientists, politicians and business owners are acting as if AGW is happening, which doesn't make any sense if even a layperson like me can supposedly see that it's all bullshit after reading just a few web pages.
So to reiterate, after reading article after article and listening to untold technical arguments, no matter how convinced I became that AGW was an evil conspiracy, I'd still be mystified as to why other honest people that were far more expert than me couldn't see what I see. Is it likely that a non-qualified person with no experience can grasp a reality that thousands of real experts can't, even when I explain it to them? Of course it is possible. But maybe, just maybe, it's me, the non-expert, that has failed to fully understand all the complex science behind how our world really works?
Someone skeptical of AGW told me that, 'The best reason for remaining sceptical is that there are reputable scientists on both sides of the debate and they are arguing about the interpretation of evidence, not beliefs'. For me, the problem with that stance is that it is exactly the same flawed argument that creationists use. And what informed, intelligent person believes them? They argue that evolution, plus the big bang theory and Earth's geology spaning billions of years, hasn't been proven, that 'there are reputable scientists on both sides of the debate and they are arguing about the interpretation of evidence, not beliefs'. And they're right that there are 'reputable scientists on both sides of the debate', but they mislead us by suggesting that this debate is balanced, that it could easily go either way, and that it's even a real debate. I'm guessing here, but the ratio is probably something like 1,000 reputable scientists supporting evolution to every one reputable scientist supporting creationism. Worse still is that every reputable scientist supporting creationism is biased by the fact that they are also deeply religious. First and foremost, they are creationists because they firmly believe in god, not because they think there is scientific evidence for god. Their purported scientific evidence comes a distant second. If they acknowledged that there was no scientific evidence whatsoever for god, they would still believe in their god. Unlike honest scientists who go where the evidence points, and would change sides if evidence for god surfaced, creationists would never consider giving up their belief in god, no matter how poorly supported it was. I don't accept the weak argument that I should be skeptical about evolution — or AGW — simply because a handful of scientists are.
One of my favourite quotes is the following by Anatole France: 'If 50 million people believe a foolish thing, it is still a foolish thing'. I usually think of this applying to the millions that believe in some god, but of course 99% of scientists could believe in a certain idea and still be wrong as well, it's happened before. So I should explain that I don't accept evolution solely because the scientific world does. I'm not just going along with the cool science crowd, blindly adopting the opinion of the majority. I accept it because I understand (to a limited degree) and accept the evidence put forward by the scientific community, and I see flaws in the alternative evidence put forward by creationists, and also because scientists have the best track record by miles of giving us the most accurate description of reality to date.
And as an atheist I'm definitely in the minority, so clearly not a sensible stance if the goal was to raise my popularity ranking. Nearly everyone on the planet, contrary to what they might argue, is a creationist, not a naturalist. Nearly all, even those religious folk that say they believe in evolution, eventually reveal that they believe the universe required a creator, ergo they are all creationists. Just because someone believes a god created the universe 14 billion years ago as opposed to a mere 6,000 years ago doesn't change that fact. If you're not an atheist, then you're a creationist. Sorry to break it to you like this, but I think it's finally time you faced the truth. So again, I'm not following the majority view by being an atheist or by agreeing with scientists, since both views are minority world views. I believe as I do because the scientific evidence is compelling and the religious evidence is, in equal measure, both laughable and heinous.
I'm not a science expert, so when I wonder where the universe and life came from I look to those that have studied these questions. Both scientists and the religious claim to have the answers or at least some good theories. And yet it is only the scientists that have supported their answers with good evidence, the religious have had most of their answers disproved and the few that remain are expected to be believed on blind faith alone. Yet history gives us no reason to believe that the few remaining religious claims are true since all their previous claims have failed so miserably. They are clearly just guessing, and very badly at that. So yes, while creationists can point to a handful of reputable scientists that argue for creationism, the overwhelming majority of reputable scientists support the scientific consensus, that evolution and the big bang explain life and the universe. Only in the minds of creationists is there still a debate going on, for everyone else it was convincingly settled long ago. And apparently as regards AGW, while perhaps the debate has not been as convincingly settled, it has been settled in the minds of most experts, even if some of the public is still unsure.
Of course I do often find myself debating with many experts, especially so-called experts in religion, spiritualism and weather astrology, and our difference of opinion would worry me if it wasn't for the fact that the view of the experts that matter most in today's world, the scientific experts, support my stance, not the stance of those I debate with. I am an atheist even though most of the planet's population disagrees with me, but reassuringly for me the few people that in my humble opinion actually know about these things, the scientists, do agree with me, so that lets me sleep at night confident in my views.
Whether it is about creationism or climate change, the Moon landing or chemtrails, if I were to find myself as a layperson arguing the facts with the great majority of the world's scientific experts, I would be greatly troubled as to why none of these prodigious minds could see the simple truths that came so clearly to me. Have they all been bribed, or perhaps threatened? If so, who would have the power to do that and keep it all secret? Not one scientist has blabbed, even on his or her death bed. Not one has had the integrity to expose the conspiracy. Even among the handful of scientists that argue against AGW, none are apparently aware of or willing to expose the conspiracy, they generally only argue about how the other side is interpreting the data, there is little suggestion that their colleagues are knowingly falsifying or misrepresenting the data.
So no matter how convincing I might find an argument against AGW, I would still just think that all they've managed to do is sway a layperson that couldn't analyse an ice core if I was given a week and all the fancy tools. I would still be nagged with the thought that I had missed a flaw in the argument that thousands of experts saw straight away. And if it truly is a killer argument, then why isn't the scientific consensus swinging to reflect this? After all, these are very bright, independent scientists searching for the truth, not priests welded to a lie.
Without getting into any of the complex details, no matter what conspiracy theory is being debated, I'm always curious as to why the opinions of a few relatively uniformed laypeople should be believed over the evidence of thousands of independent experts. Why for example could Ralph Rene, a retired carpenter, easily see that the Moon landing was a hoax, and yet the world's scientists, even those with no connection to NASA or the US, couldn't? And what magic, I can't think of any other word, forces thousands upon thousands of people that would have been involved in these conspiracies to keep quiet, even decades after the event? Only President Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky knew what transpired between them, and yet even then one of them blabbed. And yet big, global conspiracies somehow have the loose lips problem solved. Common features of all conspiracy theories are that some ordinary, unqualified Jane or Joe Bloggs can always see through the false evidence presented by scientists, no matter how complex, and will want to expose that conspiracy to the world. On the other side we have armies of ordinary J. Bloggs working as minions for some conspiracy who will remain unbelievably loyal to their evil masters, if not to their family or country, taking the secret to the grave. With chemtrails for example, loyal minions will let their families and communities be poisoned rather than become whistleblowers. The J. Bloggs on the outside can't shut up, the one on the inside won't say a word. Why is it that the honest, outspoken J. Bloggs that can quickly recognise lies when they see them and wants to do the right thing and expose corruption, never ends up being recruited into some conspiracy? Or if they are, they quickly shake off their morals and learn to keep quiet. So why are the conspiracy minions always so loyal?
Forget the arguments about the science, what I want explained is how the conspiracy masters keep their armies of minions in line, all singing the same tune, and why some ordinary J. Bloggs can always detect the flaws in the science when real scientists unconnected with the conspiracy can't? Of course some might argue that all scientists, even apparently independent ones, have been silenced by the conspiracy, but if this were true, then why not just silence annoying J. Bloggs as well? Why create a conspiracy of unimaginable complexity and expense, especially a conspiracy that has already involved numerous murders, and then let an annoying nobody ruin it all? But let's say that with some conspiracies, AGW for example, scientists are recruited and their silence bought, not with death threats, but with promises of fame and/or fortune. Are we to believe that every single scientist that was approached sold out their integrity, since not one has reported turning down an offer to fudge the science? And of the scientists speaking out against AGW, why has not one of them been approached and asked to sell their soul? We know they haven't because none have mentioned it, and why would they keep quiet about such a damming incident? If thousands of scientists worldwide have readily become part of the conspiracy, why wouldn't the few remaining ones be invited on board too? If the conspiracy is true, then they would likely jump at the chance to be involved, just as all their colleagues did. Since no scientist has ever come forward to report an inappropriate request from some shadowy group to fudge the science or to lie outright, be it concerning the Moon landing, AGW, chemtrails, 9/11, JFK, secret bases on Mars or the MMR vaccine, then we are presented with two options. One, the shadowy groups that create conspiracies have a foolproof way of recruiting their minions, meaning they never say no and never go running to the media, suggesting that they're turned into some sort of obedient zombie, or two, these silly global conspiracies aren't real, and there are no shadowy groups corrupting scientists worldwide.
So, is it evil shadowy groups bent on global harm controlling armies of obedient zombies that are inexplicably reluctant to harm or even threaten those that are exposing and jeopardising their evil plans, or is it an honest, imaginative few seeing evil conspiracies where there are none?
In matters of complex science, for me, I feel happier trusting the explanations and evidence of a respected and very credible global scientific community than I do the alternative and usually flaky explanations presented by unqualified, disparate individuals, even those that are sometimes backed by a handful of scientists working on the fringes or outside their field of expertise. There's not enough time in my life or high quality neurons in my brain to understand all of what science knows, therefore reason suggests I should back a gaggle of scientists over the likes of a retired carpenter or astrologer when it comes to matters of science. I believe this strategy will carry the day on most important issues.
Last Updated Jun 2016