Ascent out of Darkness ~ Armchair Philosophy from the 'Silly Beliefs' Team
|The surprising origins of cheese|
Warning, if like me you're a fan of cheese, you may be shocked by what we're about to reveal about the shady origins of this ancient delicacy. Are you sitting down? OK, the other week I noticed the following written in a large font on the bottom of my 1kg block of Edam cheese:
WARNING: CONTAINS MILKI was honestly shocked, not because of what the warning revealed, but because it was felt that a warning was necessary. I mean, seriously, what do most people these days think cheese is made of? Organic rubber that's been dyed yellow, roasted marshmallows that have been allowed to cool, or perhaps very, very small, yellow Lego blocks? I'm forever frustrated with people that don't know that astrology is bullshit, that ghosts aren't real, that Julius Caesar was real but King Arthur wasn't, and that yes, we did land on the Moon, but what has the world come to when we need to inform people — in bold capital letters — that cheese contains dairy products? And it's more than mere information, it's a warning, which implies that there is a real threat of harm or danger, it's advice to BEWARE!
The company that makes the cheese, Eclipse, feels we need this bold warning even though just above the warning it says in a much smaller font: "Ingredients: Cows Milk, Salt, Starter Cultures, Coagulating Enzyme." Apparently it's felt that simply listing 'Cows Milk' as the first and supposedly main ingredient is not enough of a hint that cheese might actually contain milk. It needs to be explicitly spelt out: WARNING: CONTAINS MILK, because we all know how dangerous milk is, and the harm that ingesting just a minute amount can cause. But note that the company feels no compulsion to warn about or even explain what the ingredients listed as 'Starter Cultures' and a 'Coagulating Enzyme' might be. Apparently customers know exactly what they are and what risk they might pose to their health. It's the unexpected addition of milk to this cheese that customers need to be made aware of. Of course who doesn't know what enzymes are and what a coagulating one does in our cheese — I won't insult your intelligence with an explanation — but the revelation that our cheese also has milk in it, I can't say I was expecting that.
But seriously, it's not as though cheese is a new foodstuff, it's been widely made and eaten since ancient times. Are we soon going to see stickers on our apples and oranges: "WARNING: CONTAINS FRUIT"? We have compulsory education and easy access to more information about the world than any time in history, we should have knowledge coming out our ears, and yet morons are warning other morons that ... 'You won't believe this dude ... but there's milk in that there cheese. I know, who would have thought ... milk ... in cheese! That's why I only buy organic!'
What does it say about public knowledge, or this company's perception of public knowledge, if it's believed that we need to be educated not about the origin of life or the universe or even the humble fork, but the origin of cheese? Has society in general really become that ignorant? Is the brilliance of a few masking the stupidity of the masses; are smartphones, Google and laser hair removal allowing Paleolithic Neandertals to masquerade as 21st century Homo sapiens? So should we accept the implication that the general public is ignorant of what cheese is made of? Maybe, since surely this cheese company made the decision to stamp a warning on their cheese only after performing some robust market research? After all, it's costing them money to do it, so surely they must feel the expense is justified? And it's true that there may be people out there with some sort of rare and fatal dairy allergy, and they need to avoid dairy products, but surely they're not that ill-informed, especially with an allergy like that, that they don't already know that cheese is a dairy product? In what country or culture is cheese not a dairy product? It seems unbelievable that someone would be educated enough to be able to read and fully understand a warning that says: WARNING: CONTAINS MILK & DAIRY PRODUCTS, and yet not know already that cheese was made from milk. And yet, the label suggests that apparently I'm wrong, that there are a great number roaming the supermarket aisles utterly oblivious to where cheese comes from.
When I was young and na´ve and optimistic I used to think that a world as portrayed in 'Star Trek' was our destiny, a spacefaring world where things like ignorance, inequality, racism, sexism, famine, disease and religious fundamentalism would be things of the past. But now I fear we are more likely to return to more primitive and ignorant times, since while we do still have scientists and visionaries that could take us to the stars, the great majority of people don't understand the universe, nor do they think we should waste money on anything that won't immediately improve their mundane lives, which consists of constantly checking Facebook, photographing and tweeting about their food, and planning home renovations. They're interested in sports and celebrity gossip and where to get a good coffee and a muffin, but not in the knowledge revealed by science, history and philosophy, and certainly not pure knowledge for its own sake. In their view science is wasting their tax dollars if it's not designing a virtual reality version of reality TV, or explaining what the best diet is to get their body ready for that summer bikini, or discovering where God is hiding. In their opinion we don't need to waste money landing a probe on a comet, we need to figure out how to make pizzas and chocolate a healthy food choice, and how to bring back 'American Idol' to our TV screens.
Recently a guy asked me if the ancient Egyptian 'curse of the mummy' was real, and before that a woman asked me if the child's doll from the movie 'Annabelle' had really killed people, since the movie claims to be based on a true story. They both wanted to know how I might explain the mysterious deaths if they're not really caused by dead mummies and inanimate plastic dolls. How can people with a 21st century education and a smartphone be so fucking stupid, if you'll excuse my French? It's not that I expect everyone to be interested in science and history, but it's not just that these people don't understand science, it's seems more that they don't trust science. They don't just ignore science because they're not interested, they've heard the basics from school and TV and have decided that science is probably wrong, and that maybe there really are evil curses, killer dolls and invisible gods watching them have sex. In a democratic society they have the choice of who to believe best explains the world, and a great many are more swayed by nonsense than they are by science.
The other night a TV news item was reporting on the latest mass shooting from the USA, 26 people gunned down in a church, and one of the survivors was asked what they were going to do in response to the carnage. He said, 'We'll continue to do what we always do, pray'. Oh, how I wish a reporter would, just for once, ask the obvious, 'OK ... and how is that working out for you? You say God brought his own son back to life, and Jesus resurrected a couple of people when asked nicely, so have your prayers been answered and your murdered loved ones restored to life? Or has God at least done something to ensure this sort of tragedy never happens again?' How many centuries of unanswered prayers does it take before reality hits home? Imagine what our world and culture would be like if we allowed morons like that to make critical decisions that affected society, or morons that don't know the origin of cheese, or conversely, do know where it comes from and believe they need to warn the rest of us? The worrying thing is that the ignoramuses of this world greatly outnumber the few who know how to make space probes and antibiotics and plastic toothbrushes, and if it ever came to a vote, we'd quickly find ourselves living on a flat Earth, battling our redneck neighbours with pointy sticks and praying to invisible gods to help us vanquish our foes. If we lived in an absolute democracy, where the votes of a few million ignorant, superstitious idiots easily overruled those of an highly educated group comprising just a few thousand, where mob rule beat out the rule of law, where opinion trumped fact, where childish impulses guided planning rather than reasoned thought, then humanity would very quickly be dragged back to the dark ages, if not the stone age.
If civilisation ever collapsed because it was simply overwhelmed by the morons — think of something like the zombie apocalypse, but with morons rather than zombies — then not only would the luxuries of life vanish, dependent as they are on mysterious technology, but even maintaining the bare basics would be far beyond your typical moron. How could they make cheese if they didn't even know it came from milk, and even if they did hear that rumour, how many people today know how to actually turn milk into cheese? Or butter or cream or ice cream? Yes, surprisingly, they too come from dairy products! No, seriously, they do! Some things would vanish quickly without expert maintenance, eg electricity and telecommunications, while others might take decades or centuries, eg some bridges would persist even though people had forgotten how they were made. It may take some time, but even things that appear very simple would become impossible to replace without specialised knowledge and equipment, like paper and plastic and steel. Once any salvaged stock had eventually rotted or rusted away, we'd probably all become nudists, or at least wear nothing more than a few leaves, since how many people can even make clothes these days? Making artificial fabrics is beyond most everyone, and almost no one knows how to spin wool or make leather anymore. Producing woollen and leather garments may seem like a simple, ancient skill and so natural, but the reality is, like so many skills that even our great grandparents likely had, most people have no more idea how to actually make leather than they do soap or even butter. And who could make the tools needed to stitch leather together, such as metal needles or scissors, or even the cotton thread, once they rust away or are broken? And this sphere of ignorance encompasses most everything we use in our daily lives, even something as simple as toilet paper. It's scary today how reliant we all are on others to keep us alive. No single person has the knowledge or expertise or resources to maintain a modern lifestyle in isolation. Without farmers and butchers, most of us would soon starve, and without electricity and petroleum farmers would fail to produce much of anything. Without fuel for tractors how could crops be planted and harvested and distributed? Doctors may know the symptoms of many diseases, but without lab technicians, syringe manufacturers and drugs from pharmaceutical companies, they'd have no way of diagnosing and delivering a cure. Most of the basic things of life that we take for granted today are way beyond the typical person's ability to make, and often to even understand. Today, an individual's modern lifestyle literally relies on the work and knowledge of millions of others around the world, and this input is mostly invisible, from the workers picking bananas in a foreign country to the workers mining metal in another country to workers in yet another country eventually making that metal into a container ship to bring us those bananas. But because we have become so isolated from the effort and knowledge that creates our modern world, many people now know almost nothing of what it takes to make our sophisticated society tick. And they don't care either. They take it all for granted, blindly assuming that whatever they want, from food to medicine to a new cell phone battery, is just down the road at the shops, and always will be. Unlike in centuries gone by where everyone witnessed and understood to a large degree how food and wagons and clothes were made — because they were far more basic — nowadays most people are oblivious and ignorant as to the source of the things they use. And for many it's apparently easier to believe that mysterious things like vaccines are far more dangerous than beneficial, and that their smartphone works more because of a sort of magic than the complex explanations of physics.
What astounds me is not that most people don't understand exactly how their smartphone works or how all its components are made, from the computer chips to the plastic case, since I doubt if any one person does, but that they often won't accept that the scientists and engineers as a group clearly do understand. We're all surrounded by technological marvels, we're healthier, safer, longer living and happier than we've ever been, and clearly science now knows more about the universe than it ever has. If it didn't then our technological marvels wouldn't work, and yet when it comes to the crunch, when a scientist says that climate change is a threat, that vaccines are safe and work, or that homeopathy doesn't work, so many people throw up their hands and jeer, 'What do scientists know?' Are the complexities of science just too far removed from the person on the street for them to connect with, forcing them to fall back on simpler times when magic and superstition explained the world? I don't understand why they just can't think about the modern world for a minute, about the obvious science and technology and genius that brought it about, and their place in this amazing world, and say, 'Well, I don't understand the science behind antibiotics, MRI scanners, plate tectonics, GPS satellites, genetic engineering, or how they got that little rover on Mars, but clearly the scientists do, and the proof is in the technological society all around us, and thus it makes sense to place some trust in their explanations, even if I don't fully understand them'. You'd think that most people would grasp that as mysterious as the world may appear to them, the complex explanations offered by scientists have much more going for them, ie much more evidence supporting them, than do those fanciful tales offered by priests, witches and faith healers.
I accept that people don't need to know all the complexities of the many scientific disciples, and couldn't even if they wanted to, but that doesn't mean that it's acceptable to be completely scientifically illiterate in today's modern society, a society which depends so greatly on science and technology. And yet many people today proudly acknowledge that they're hopeless when it comes to science and maths, when that admission should carry a sense of shame, like admitting that you can't read or write. People should have a basic understanding of science, and know the difference between astronomy and astrology, physics and psychics, genes and jeans, climate and weather, and Homo erectus and homosexual. I heard three different news readers on TV recently read the same story from their autocue about colliding neutron stars and gravity waves, and each of them mistakenly said neuron rather than neutron. A neuron is a nerve cell in the body, they're not what some stars are made of, and while it's likely that whoever wrote the original autocue text made the error, not one of the news readers knew enough about basic science to spot the mistake. And so now, if they remember the story at all, many people will think that stars are made of neurons, of nerve cells. But even if many people don't have a basic grasp of science, barring that minimal knowledge they should at least accept that as utterly mysterious as science and technology is to them personally, clearly scientists and engineers do understand how things work, and thus there is no reason for them to fall back onto superstition and primitive guess work. And I doubt if even the person that doesn't know the difference between neuron and neutron would need to be not just informed, but warned, that their cheese contains milk and dairy products.
Of course there is an alternative explanation for that ridiculous cheese warning. It's not that the general pubic is ignorant of where cheese comes from, but the fault lies at the source. The Eclipse manufacturing company is staffed by morons, bureaucratic morons. Incompetent management backed up by an equally deluded or fearful legal department that feel that they need to protect themselves and their customers by stating the bleeding obvious. It's as if the revelation that there is milk in their cheese was simply an annoying legal requirement of full disclosure. And when you think about it, the company doesn't seem all that serious about it's warning, as if they didn't really want it to influence our purchase. This is because they put their warning on the bottom of their product where it likely won't be seen. I didn't see it until I'd finished the cheese and was throwing out the wrapper. By then it's perhaps a little too late for a warning? Surely any serious warning should be plastered across the front of a product, where customers can't fail to notice it? The stupid cheese company has decided for some inane reason that their product must contain a warning to their customers, but doesn't make that warning obvious. Why? Perhaps in case some vegan complains that they weren't expecting their cheese to be contaminated with traces of dairy products. Well, sorry vegans, but there was a clear warning on the bottom!
If scientists in the distant future ever come across one of these cheese wrappers in an archaeological dig, they'll be forgiven for reaching the conclusion that clearly the society of 21st century humans featured clear divisions, not just of wealth and race, but also divisions of knowledge, of those that sought to understand a little about their world and how it worked, and the clueless morons that needed to be warned about cheese and its origins.
|Christian exposes misguided atheists|
The other day we came across the following newspaper article written by Gavan O'Farrell, a self-confessed Christian:
The article starts out by boldly asserting that, 'Christians are shut out from the euthanasia debate', so let's first debunk that nonsense. If Christians weren't part of the euthanasia debate then there likely wouldn't even be much of a euthanasia debate. Does O'Farrell think it's just atheists and — who? — politicians? doctors? that are debating euthanasia, while Christians silently sit festering on the sidelines? Or does the euthanasia debate pit atheist against Buddhist perhaps? It's certainly not a clear debate between atheists and doctors since many doctors say, confidentially, that they are already performing voluntary euthanasia, and would welcome legalisation of their actions.
Everyone I know that opposes voluntary euthanasia does so because of their Christian beliefs, because they believe in the divine sanctity of life, that only God can take a life, and that the Bible clearly says, 'Thou shalt not kill'. For O'Farrell to argue that Christians aren't part, and a huge part, of the euthanasia debate is quite deceptive. Where is the bulk of the opposition coming from if not from Christianity? And look at where we learn of this conspiracy to exclude Christians from the debate. It's not from some whispered comment in the pews or even an angry sermon from the church pulpit. He's been given the opportunity to have a voice by being published in a national newspaper, which is also published on the Internet, meaning anyone on the planet with a connection can read it, and in this article where he explains his views, he claims, apparently with no sense of irony, that his views are being silenced.
It's nigh on impossible to have a debate over euthanasia where God doesn't come up. He may not get mentioned by name, but when people mention the sanctity of life or that we don't have the right to take our own life, these sentiments all rely on the unspoken assumption that if we don't, then someone else does have control over our lives, or more specifically, our deaths. And of course we don't mean a doctor or a domineering relation, we mean God. For O'Farrell to publicly claim that the Christian viewpoint isn't being heard in the euthanasia debate is nothing short of delusional.
O'Farrell's argument is that Christians are excluded 'because it's assumed we are 'biased' ... that we are in the habit of expressing pre-programmed views rather than thinking independently'. As we've already said, he's quite wrong about being excluded, but he's quite right that Christians, or devout Christians anyway, that's Christians serious about their belief, are well known for 'expressing pre-programmed views', usually prefaced with something along the lines of, 'And the Bible says ... or, God says thou ... '. You're not thinking independently when you're always quoting the Bible and saying how someone else (God) wants you to think and act. When you accept that you are but an obedient servant to the wishes of your master, then when it comes to the big picture you are not 'thinking independently', your actions will always be controlled — pre-programmed — by what God has decreed. And if you're not following God's wishes to the letter, then you're not really a Christian. You're just someone who's making your own choices in life but still likes to wear that old Christian hat.
O'Farrell goes on to say that, 'We are assured that secular people are more independently thoughtful: there is no God looking over their shoulder and, in any case, they are naturally sceptical and also more intelligent and better educated. I disagree'. It's confusing when Christians flick between different terms, but it appears that by 'secular people' O'Farrell means atheists. We're not sure who's been assuring him that 'secular people are more independently thoughtful', since we know many secular folk who aren't really any 'more independently thoughtful' than religious folk, believing in equally silly stuff such as ghosts, psychics, homeopathy and chemtrails. But we have seen studies that show that the better educated you are the less religious you'll likely be. It's also generally true that individuals have far greater independence of thought and action, and are exposed to more skeptical viewpoints, in secular countries.
O'Farrell is quite correct when he states that, 'Christianity ... believes killing can be justified in certain circumstances, so a Christian's opposition to euthanasia cannot be guaranteed'. A quick flick through the Bible reveals an obscene amount of killing that believers in God thought could be justified, as does the last 2,000 years of history. Also many Christians that we know, having seen the unspeakable suffering that loved ones have had to endure while waiting for God to act, now do support the idea of voluntary euthanasia, so it's certainly clear that not all Christians are automatically opposed. In any poll on voluntary euthanasia, we suspect a great many Christians will support it, even if that means rejecting the Bible's stance, just as they already do with the likes of abortion, contraception, masturbation, casual sex, divorce, homosexuality and the equality of women.
I can't say we agree when O'Farrell states that, 'Many Christians do a lot of hard thinking to arrive at a position on topics where the answer isn't obvious'. Our experience is that Christians and hard thinking almost never go together. Many Christians have apparently only ever read one book, the Bible, and then only parts of it. The Christians that knock on my door, arguably the most committed type, are woefully ignorant of anything outside the Bible and, surprisingly, even much that is in it. Christians may certainly feel a lot of anxiety and fear over the many commandments they're breaking, and spend sleepless nights worrying a great deal over what they should do in various situations to ensure they've still got a reservation in Heaven, but that shouldn't be confused with hard thinking. The Christians we know that now support euthanasia do so because of emotion, not hard thinking. When they were distressed by the suffering of a lingering death, not once did they consult their Bible or a minister to help them decide if euthanasia was a justified killing. Instead, their humanity told them something was very wrong when euthanasia is available to our pets but not to our parents. A hard thinking Christian is an oxymoron, like a pregnant virgin. But I'm guessing that example will go straight over the heads of most Christians — Why can't a virgin be pregnant, after all, Mary was?
Pretending that he's doing some hard thinking, O'Farrell challenges 'the view that secular people necessarily think independently', arguing that by 'removing God' from our deliberations, 'secular people have simply closed down one of many sources of ideas'. This would only be a valid criticism if the source that we were ignoring was a genuine source of valuable knowledge. It's true that the Bible and belief in God does offer a moral code and alleged scientific and historical information, along with other ideas and advice, but it's certainly not true that what is on offer is of any value. A moral code that tells us to stone to death disobedient children and vocal atheists is not one anyone should happily embrace. Likewise, ridiculous claims about the world and life, such as the sea being held back by bars and bats being birds rather than mammals, are not ideas we should blindly accept. The Bible stories are certainly a rich source of wild ideas, ideas that have been made use of for centuries, but knowing what we now know about the world, it's as ridiculous to still believe in them as it would be to believe in stories of Santa Claus. There is no evidence for any of the fantastical claims made in the Bible and much evidence against them, so it makes perfect sense to ignore them as a source of ideas. We haven't removed God from our deliberations because we don't like him or hate being told what to do, we've removed him because he's not real, and therefore considering his fictional views would be as silly as considering those of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. If secularists were to start seeking advice from the Bible, then to be fair we should also be consulting all the many other sources of ideas that O'Farrell alludes to, presumably such wise sources as the Koran, the Vedas, the 'Harry Potter' books, and the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead.
The willingness on the part of atheists to ignore the Bible is, according to O'Farrell, because we hold 'a view that is clearly misconceived', and that we're not 'thinking independently'. He informs us that, 'There are many misconceived views of Christianity', and that they're 'trotted out with mind-numbing regularity' by atheists. He's almost right, and would have been if he'd only changed one little word and had actually said, 'There are many misconceived views in Christianity', rather than 'of Christianity'.
O'Farrell then lists six views that are supposedly held by atheists, but he claims they are 'misconceived views of Christianity'. We'll now explain why they aren't misconceived at all. The alleged atheist view is in bold, and O'Farrell's rebuttal follows.
* Christians' views are pre-programmed. As discussed, Christians are likely to interrogate their beliefs.Of course it's true that Christian views are 'pre-programmed'. For most the programming starts as a child and continues every Sunday until death. They even have their own instruction manual where the programming algorithms are written out and can be referred to if their memory core becomes corrupted and needs a reboot. It's called the Bible, Version 1.0, and it's apparently bug free, it's code so perfect that it has never needed a single update. If anyone calls themselves a Christian and they aren't following the lines of code set out in their Bible, then they're aren't Christians, they're hypocrites. By definition, to be a Christian means to obediently and blindly follow the word of Jesus, aka God, and anyone that is independently debugging the Bible code, deleting what they see as errors, eg thou shalt stone to death disobedient children and atheists, and inserting their own moral code in its place, is not a God-fearing Christian. Or even a believing Christian for that matter, since anyone that believed what the Bible said wouldn't even contemplate breaking their programming and questioning some of God's commandments.
It's true that some Christians do 'interrogate their beliefs', spending untold hours in Bible discussions questioning why God is such an elusive and heartless bastard, but barring a few that see the light and go on to become atheists, the rest only 'interrogate their beliefs' in order to find a way to justify to themselves and to others what their God has commanded they do. They're merely looking for an excuse for their shaky stance, something that will explain their questionable behaviour and that sounds better than merely saying, 'God says so!'
* Christianity is opposed to science. Christians have always been involved in science and the Church has always sponsored it. Creationism is atypical. While we do not limit ourselves to empirical observation, we accept empirical proof at face value. We trust the God who gave us our senses and the ingenuity to use them to learn.The claim that 'Christianity is opposed to science' is bogus since it implies that Christianity must be either for or against science and that science is a single entity, when of course there are many different branches of science. So Christianity could be opposed to a specific theory within one branch of science, eg evolution in biology, while being quite supportive of a specific theory within another branch of science, eg optics in physics. The reality is that Christianity is not opposed to science per se, problems only arise when specific scientific views make claims that on reflection show the ancient claims made by Christianity to be wrong or foolish or immoral. For example, Christianity has no problem with biology when it explains how the blood circulates around our bodies, since in their mind it is merely revealing how God designed our bodies to work. But Christianity has a huge problem when biology explains how we humans evolved from not just primates, but go back far enough and even bacteria are part of our family tree, since this view totally contradicts the Biblical assertion that humans are unique creations made by God, and arose instantly from dust, not bacteria. Atheists certainly shouldn't say that 'Christianity is opposed to science', simply because it's too vague and misleading, but we can say that Christianity is certainly opposed to any science that shows it up as a fraud. Of course many Christians don't make much of a fuss over their opposition to certain scientific claims these days, but only because they know it makes them look foolish.
And yes, many Christians throughout history have been involved in science (not to mention also prostitution, homosexuality, pedophilia and the slave trade etc), and many still are, but there is a huge difference between Christians as individuals being involved in science and Christianity as a religious belief system being involved in science. Today and throughout history, most Christians that were also scientists have managed to compartmentalise their religious and scientific views. In the lab during the week it was science and reason that guided them, while in church on Sunday it was God. An extreme case I read a few years ago involved a university astronomy professor who during the day would tell his students that the universe was 13.7 billions year old, but on the bus ride home he would preach to other passengers and tell them that it was only 6,000 years old. He somehow had no problem keeping his science and Christianity views separate. So yes, there are scientists who are Christians, but it's quite misleading to twist this around and say that Christians are involved in science. Scientists, be they Christian, Muslim, Hindu or most likely atheist, are all working to advance science, not to advance their personal belief system. Stating that there are scientists who are Christians is usually as irrelevant as noting that there are scientists who, in their personal life, are vegetarians or mountain climbers or keen photographers.
To claim that 'the Church has always sponsored it', ie science, can be exposed as a falsehood with just two names: Galileo Galilei and Giordano Bruno. Both Galileo and Bruno held scientific views that contradicted the views of the Christian Church. Galileo was threatened with torture and death until he recanted his views, and then placed under house arrest until his death. Bruno was less fortunate, he was tortured and burnt at the stake for his views. The reality is that Christianity has only sponsored science when it thought either that science would bolster the claims made in the Bible or conversely have no connection to what the Bible says. A perfect example was when the Church allowed scientists to radiocarbon test the Turin Shroud, so confident was the Church that the test would confirm its authenticity, or at the very worst, come back inconclusive. When the tests showed it was a medieval fake, the Church quickly locked it away and refused scientists further access for tests that might help reveal how it was actually made. They were only interested in science that supported Christianity, not in science that solved mysteries.
There are some Christians that involve themselves in science solely in the duty of their church. They do so in a futile attempt to find holes in scientific evidence and so expose theories like evolution to be nothing but dishonest attempts by devious atheists to discredit the word of God. That he made the world, and there's nothing natural about it. These scientists are also fundamentalist Christians and usually label themselves creationists. Some try to hide their religious motivation by saying they are investigating 'intelligent design' rather than creationism.
Which brings us to O'Farrell's claim that 'Creationism is atypical', with the implication that Christians like him that are accepting of science are dismissive of creationism. It's true that most Christians don't see themselves as creationists, with many accepting evolution and a universe that is billions of years old. But the reality for all true Christians is that they are all creationists, they're just too embarrassed or ignorant to admit it. Let's state a basic belief that all Christians would — should — agree with, the belief that God created the world and life, that it all didn't just arise naturally with no input from God. That's what creationism means, the very name gives away the meaning, that the world was deliberately created rather than just popping into existence on its own accord. And of course it's quite obvious that creationism, the belief that God created the world and life, is at the very core of Christianity. This is the big story on which the Bible begins, and if Christians don't believe it's true, if they accept that the Bible starts with a fantasy that is chock full of lies, from the world being made in six days to Eve being made from Adam's rib, then why should they believe anything that follows? Why for example should they believe that Jesus died and then rose again to forgive our sins? If Adam and Eve weren't real then that original sin, disobeying God and eating that forbidden fruit, never happened. If there was no original sin then it can't have been passed down for us to inherit, and therefore there is no sin within each of us for Jesus to forgive, so his torturous death was meaningless. So if the stories that started the Bible are all bogus, aren't the ones that end it likely to be just as bogus? Any Christian that claims to support both the Biblical view of the world and the scientific view of the world clearly doesn't understand one or the other, and probably neither.
Even if some Christians don't believe the creation story in Genesis, but still believe that God created the world and life in some different manner, for example by causing the Big Bang and then using evolution, the fact remains that they still believe a god created the world and life, ergo they are by definition creationists. And since all believing Christians do believe in a creator god, then creationism is not atypical at all in Christianity, it is found in every Christian. Claiming that 'Creationism is atypical' is just O'Farrell's way of distancing himself from the fundamentalist Christians that are committed enough to take the Bible more seriously than him. He explains away his reluctance to believe many of the Bible stories by stating that some Christians 'accept empirical proof at face value', which we take to mean that if scientific evidence shows that many of the Bible's big claims about the world and life are utter bullshit, then scientific claims win out over Biblical claims. Which of course is a very sensible and rational stance to take, but it seems that no matter how much of the Bible is proven to be fantasy — 40%, 70% or 95% — Christians will continue to believe that their God had a good reason to tell all those lies. There seems to be no nagging suspicion that if the Bible is little more than a fairy tale, then maybe the God it talks about isn't real either?
But the reality is that for Christianity to make any sense, ie the sacrifice of Jesus, then all Christians must not just be fuzzy creationists, they must be fundamentalist creationists, they must believe the Genesis story with its original sin is literally true, and yet so many don't. This crucial paradox that most Christian are apparently ignorant of is yet another reason why we dispute O'Farrell's claim that, 'Many Christians do a lot of hard thinking ... '. About movies and pizza orders perhaps, but not about what it says in the Bible or in science textbooks.
* Religions are the cause of war. You don't have read much history to see that this simply isn't true. Many wars involve religion but, as our critics know, there is a difference between correlation and causation. Besides, have they not heard of the nation state, territoriality, security, limited resources, racism, political rivalry, socio-economic castes, soccer hooligans and road rage? Not to mention the atheist communist slaughterhouses of the 20th century.To assert that atheists boldly claim that, 'Religions are the cause of war', is a gross oversimplification and therefore misleading. It's something that no informed person, atheist or otherwise, would say. What O'Farrell may have heard an atheist say is that religions are a cause of war, since he's quite right, there are indeed many potential causes of war. However, as one of the many possible causes of war, there is also no doubt that religious intolerance has contributed hugely to the suffering and death toll in untold wars and has been the direct cause of many. O'Farrell wants to imply that if religion isn't the cause of all wars, then it is the cause of none. He begrudgingly concedes that, 'Many wars involve religion but ... there is a difference between correlation and causation', which is his devious way of saying, Yes, Christians unfortunately got dragged into some wars, but they didn't cause them, it wasn't their fault. Clearly O'Farrell doesn't remember much of what he read about history (what was that bit about soccer hooligans and road rage causing wars?), but he must have at least read bits of the Bible, and there are untold examples in it where religion was a primary or major cause of war. The Hebrews only got their promised land by going to war with the people who were already living there. O'Farrell might argue that the war was over land, not religion, but it's inhabitants were only seen as a fair target for genocide because they were of a different religion, and not just different, but false. Without religious intolerance driving them, the Jews would have never gone to war against the Canaanites.
Without religion some wars would still occur, quite clearly this is true, but religion often makes wars worse than they would otherwise be, and gives yet another motivation to go to war in the first place. Consider WWII, without the religious element — Hitler's hatred of the Jews — then the death toll would have been millions less. Look back through history at wars and so often the combatants are clearly labelled as Christian against Muslim, Catholic against Protestant, Shia against Sunni or Hindu against Muslim, meaning that religious differences was likely the primary reason for the war. Look at the numerous crusades in the Middle Ages, would they have happened if not for the religious conflict between Christian and Muslim? Clearly religion was the cause of those wars. Look even at the reasonably recent events in Northern Ireland, and while not a true war, would the conflicts and deaths have occurred if not for the hatred and division between Catholics and Protestants? And what about the present 'war on terror'? Would that have happened and unfolded as it has if not for the animosity felt by some Muslims towards Christians? Again, without religion there would still be conflicts in the world, but religion gives one more reason to go to war, a reason we could well do without.
As for O'Farrell's mention of the 'atheist communist slaughterhouses of the 20th century', it's a red herring, since it really has nothing to do with religion and war. And again, if he'd done some of that hard thinking that he talked of, he'd know that the deaths caused by Stalin and the communists had nothing to do with atheism. Stalin wasn't persecuting people in the name of atheism, unlike, say, the Christian inquisitions where your religious beliefs determined whether you were tortured and possibly killed. Stalin was against anyone, believer or non-believer, that he saw as a threat to his power. It's reputed that Hitler loved dogs, but who would be stupid enough to talk of the 'dog loving Nazi slaughterhouses', with the implication that it was Hitler's love of dogs that led him to attack the Jews? Stalin did force atheism onto the USSR, although many Soviets remained closet Christians, but the horrors of Stalin's time in power weren't caused by his atheism. Let's recall that the Soviets tried to promote communism around the world, not atheism.
* The Christian doctrine of redemption is immoral, like the ancient use of scapegoats. There was once a practice of loading up a goat with gear representing the community's sins and driving it into the desert, so that the sins (and the goat) were never seen again. However, Christians believe that, unlike the goat, Jesus volunteered to, so to speak, carry our sins into the desert. And he did this some 2000 years ago without any urging from us. Having returned from the desert, He offers us the benefit of this ordeal. The two scenarios are obviously different.Well, of course the 'Christian doctrine of redemption is immoral', only a fool couldn't see that, or someone raised a Christian. The very foundation of Christianity is child sacrifice, a ritual slaughter of a person that is offered to a god. God sacrifices his own son, punishes his own son, makes him a scapegoat, in lieu of punishing you and I. How is that not immoral? Again, in case you missed it, he had his own son tortured and killed. The difficulty that Christians have in detecting something immoral in that act has always troubled me.
But let's look at this Biblical notion of using scapegoats, but with humans. It's where someone innocent is made to bear the blame of another, someone that isn't innocent. Does that sound right, or just, or moral? If you're a Christian you're probably a little confused now, so let me give an example. Imagine if the CEO of a huge company rapes his secretary, but rather than send him to prison and lose all that knowledge, expertise and influence which might cause the company to make less of a profit, we could place the blame on one of his underlings and send him to prison instead. We would make a scapegoat of the underling. And let's also say that the underling volunteered to take the fall for his boss, with the agreement that the company makes a huge financial payment to his family. And this isn't some secret backroom deal, all the public knows that the underling is going to jail for something the CEO did.
Would you be happy to live in a society where justice was dished out like this? Where people with money or power could avoid punishment and incarceration by simply getting some patsy to serve their term in prison? If you were the secretary that was raped, would you be unperturbed that your rapist was still your boss, and wasn't being punished in any way? Would you be at all concerned that the nice guy that used to work in accounting is now rotting in jail for the crime of raping you?
This is the world that the Bible argues for. If Jesus was prepared to be a scapegoat for people he didn't even know, then why aren't Christians emulating his example and arguing to have scapegoating as part of our moral code and justice system? As an atheist, I'd argue that one element of a moral and just society is that the guilty are held accountable for their crimes and the innocent are protected from false accusations and punishment. That Christians don't see a case of the innocent being made to accept the blame for the guilty as totally immoral, is very worrying to say the least. And Jesus wasn't the only example of God punishing the innocent rather than the guilty. There are numerous references to God telling us that he will punish generation after generation of innocent children, in some cases right through to the tenth generation, for the sins of the fathers, eg 'he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation'. (EX 34:7)
Also O'Farrell says that after Jesus was sacrificed to the gods — "voluntarily went into the desert as a scapegoat" — that he then 'returned from the desert'. Surely it doesn't need an atheist to tell a Christian that 2,000 years after Jesus went into "the desert", Christians worldwide are actually still awaiting his return? To quote a favourite saying:
OK, let's move onto O'Farrell's next assertion, that Christians are accepting of everyone, contrary to what atheists say which is that,
* Christians are homophobic, Islamaphobic and, more recently, transphobic. This statement is a highly illogical extrapolation from disagreement to hatred, and from the views of a few to the views of all. It also represents a rather bumpy linguistic journey to hatred from fear (the actual meaning of 'phobia', before the dictionaries had to adapt), a journey our critics seem to have endured without discomfort.It's sheer nonsense that O'Farrell argues that the God of the Bible doesn't promote hatred for the likes of homosexuals and people of other religions, and that instead he simply had a minor 'disagreement' over their choice of lifestyle. Has O'Farrell not read his Bible? If he's like most Christians, probably not. It's a book they possess, not a book they read. God clearly says he detests homosexuality, ie hates homosexuality, that it's an abomination, and that homosexuals are not to be tolerated, they are to be killed. Likewise anyone suggesting that your religion might be false, eg Muslims or atheists, must also be killed. Even Jesus is on record telling his disciples that when he returns they are to kill anyone who won't accept him as their king. At the very least the Bible encourages its followers to shun outsiders, to exclude them from their life, and at it worst it promotes murder and genocide against those that are different. A phobia is 'A strong fear, dislike, or aversion', and the Bible is riddled with phobias. Let's recall that God had his chosen people, he made them eat or avoid specific foods so that they couldn't easily dine with others, he told them to mutilate their penises so he could separate them from the heathens (he didn't care about the women, and simply identified them as the property of the Jewish males), and they were commanded to be utterly phobic to anyone that acted or thought differently. Even Jesus told his disciples to have nothing to do with non-Jews.
O'Farrell argues that it's 'a highly illogical extrapolation' to go 'from the views of a few to the views of all', which is his way of saying that just because some Christians are clearly homophobic, Islamaphobic etc, it doesn't mean they all are. And we agree, which is why this statement of O'Farrell's is as bogus as his earlier one: 'Religions are the cause of war'. No informed atheist would say that 'Christians are homophobic', ie all Christians, since we all know that many are not, and some are actually homosexual. In fact there are certainly far, far more Christian homosexuals in the world than there are atheist homosexuals, so it's no wonder that many Christians are becoming more accepting. So clearly some people that self-identify as Christian aren't homophobic, Islamaphobic, transphobic or even masturbation phobic, but again, we'd argue that a true obedient Christian should be, since their God ordered them to be. Why aren't they homophobic etc, have they — God forbid — started to think for themselves, you know, like an atheist does? We're glad that the Christians we know aren't homophobic or hateful towards atheists, or if they are, they don't go all they way and go on a killing spree, but we don't see them as truly devout Christians following the word of God. They're like people that call themselves vegetarians but that still have the occasional bacon sandwich. The truly committed Christians, eg fundamentalists and many Catholics, are still as phobic as hell. Is the pope advocating to openly welcome homosexuals into the Church hierarchy, or even women for that matter, another phobia from the Bible? And since O'Farrell is well aware that the views of many Christians are changing, moving away from what the Bible dictates, from what their God dictates, then rather than worrying that atheists aren't acknowledging this (because we are), he should be worrying where this unsanctioned watering down of Christian beliefs will lead. If in the future Christians can't be blindly relied on to oppose most everything that atheists believe in, then are they not just closet atheists?
* Christians are intolerant. This involves a very serious and crafty misuse of language. Tolerance involves allowing something despite one's dislike or disapproval of it. However, in modern secular parlance, it means liking and approving, which is entirely different. We can't all like everything, but we can truly 'tolerate' all sorts things.We've essentially already shown that Christians are intolerant, or at least should be intolerant, with our above discussion on homophobia etc. Those that aren't proudly intolerant should be embarrassed to show their face in church. Let's recall that God commands his followers that they are not to merely tolerate the presence of the likes of homosexuals, atheists or disobedient children, that is, allow them to exist despite disapproval. They are expected to drag them kicking and screaming to the town square and stone them to death. If Christians behaved the way God wants them to behave, has ordered them to behave, then they would be the poster child of intolerance. But again, the fact that today we don't label most Christians as intolerant is because most have decided to disobey their God and tolerate things that he detests. No doubt they will later pay for this insolence in Hell.
But of course it should be obvious even to O'Farrell that not all Christians have developed a rebellious streak, especially not those that carry protest placards that read, 'God hates fags', or those really devout Catholics. Many individual Christians and many Christian sects are blatantly intolerant of the lifestyles and choices expressed by others, eg homosexuals, Muslims, atheists and abortionists. Even the door-knocking evangelists struggle with tolerance because they can't freely allow a view or lifestyle that they disapprove of. They disturb atheists at home and try to convince us that their God is about to bring the world to a horrible end. Horrible for us atheists that is, the Christians gleefully look forward to our slaughter at the hands of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, one of them being Jesus with a big nasty sword. Other intolerant Christians protest outside abortion clinics, they try to have certain artworks or movies banned, they campaign to have nude beaches closed, they oppose stem cell research and they try to restrict trading hours around Easter and Xmas. Even though no one is forcing them to have an abortion or watch a certain movie or go to a nude beach, they can't bring themselves to tolerate them, to allow them despite their disapproval. They feel they must at least try to have them all outlawed.
And we'd agree with O'Farrell that in these modern times Christians 'can truly 'tolerate' all sorts [of] things'. I know a lot of Christians that have "reluctantly" learnt to tolerate casual sex, contraception and masturbation, not only in the lives of the non-believers around them, but even in their own lives. But unfortunately Christian tolerance has not always been a good thing. For example, tolerance of their priests and minsters having sex with children. Untold Christians turn a blind eye, and while they personally may have an aversion to the priest's choice of young sex partner, they keep going back to their churches as if nothing had happened. No doubt they're patting themselves on the back for showing tolerance and forgiveness, whereas I think they've completing misunderstood what the idea of tolerance means. Tolerance is not the notion that we should allow anything and everything despite our personal disapproval, but that we should only allow those things that do no harm to anyone. We have no moral obligation to tolerate the likes of child sex abuse or genital mutilation for religious purposes or even annoying evangelists getting us out of bed on a Sunday morning.
O'Farrell then goes on to argue that the above statements atheists allegedly make about Christians,
... are all clearly unreasonable. I suggest the uniform expression of clearly unreasonable views strongly indicates the absence of independent thought. In fact, the views of many people who criticise Christians appear themselves to be scripted.We'd agree that you'll most definitely encounter views critical of religion on atheist websites and Facebook pages, and in the mind of Christians, one idea in particular is repeated ad nauseam: there are no gods, and that includes, to the chagrin of Christians, their God. But just because a claim is repeated doesn't mean, as O'Farrell seems to imply, that it is a bogus claim, that it's unreasonable. I learnt the likes of the multiplication tables, the colours of the spectrum, the names of the planets, the value of pi to nine decimal places etc, all by repetition, by programming if you like. But these are all facts that have served me well over the years, it is programming that has been of great benefit. Many atheists do indeed quote the likes of Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris, but we need to remember that many of their quotes are based on scientific and historical evidence, they are often facts and not mere unsubstantiated opinion. Both Dawkins and Harris are actually scientists first and atheists second. And when atheists like ourselves make claims to support atheism and a naturalistic worldview, we're usually relying on facts based on evidence, not silly guesses made by superstitious, ignorant goat herders that were written in some holy book thousands of years ago.
But is repetition of information that is viewed as important really such a bad thing, since it's clearly not something that just atheists, scientists and historians do? Ask any Christian how they know the names of Biblical characters and the stories involving them, how they know what will happen when they die, how they know some of the ten Commandments, how they know how long God took to make the world, how they know how to pray and how to act in various church rituals. Repetition is how. When you hear a young child saying grace before a meal, or praying before going to bed, or going up to eat a wafer at church on Sunday, surely it's only repetition that allows them to do that?
Go to the Christian websites and Facebook pages and you'll see the same behaviour that O'Farrell criticises atheists for — the repetition of key claims and arguments — they're repeated over and over, albeit ones that support Christianity, not criticise it. But it's not just repetition on the Internet, which is just a new thing, there also exists Christian churches and Christian organisations that have been repeating the same claims and reading from the same book for many hundreds of years. If repetition is mindless programming as O'Farrell suggests, and harmful at that, then the Christian Church has been programming its followers for nearly 2,000 years. It's always surprising when people criticise an opponent for some action and yet fail to realise, or reveal, that they have committed the same action themselves on a monumental scale.
O'Farrell asserts that the above criticisms atheists have aimed at Christians 'are all clearly unreasonable'. Of course we've just argued otherwise, but he goes on to say that 'the uniform expression of clearly unreasonable views strongly indicates the absence of independent thought'. We do agree wholeheartedly with the second part of his evaluation, since we would remind everyone that Christians have been uniformly repeating the same clearly unreasonable views for centuries — remember the talking snake, and Jonah living in the fish, and the talking and burning bush that wasn't consumed, and Moses turning a stick into a snake and later parting the Red Sea with a different stick and ... well, there's a whole book of them. The same clearly unreasonable views expressed over and over, often word for word. And again we agree with O'Farrell, this sort of behaviour 'strongly indicates the absence of independent thought'. Surely he's not asking us to believe that billions of Christians over many centuries all independently came up with the identical explanation as to how the universe and life arose, and how we should live our lives? Surely it's obvious that some ancient goat herders dreamt up a few silly stories and Christians have just been mindlessly repeating the same stories for the last few thousand years? The fact that they're reading from the same book of old stories that was used 2,000 years ago should reveal that not a single independent thought has found its way into the Christian mantras in two millennia. I suspect that most Christians wouldn't recognise an independent thought if it propositioned them in a dark alley wearing a mini skirt and high heels.
O'Farrell argues that atheist views appear 'to be scripted', because they are in his view 'unreasonable', but more importantly, because they are repeated across various websites. But again, whatever repetition there is of atheist views, it is a minute amount compared to the truly widespread repetition of the Christian view over millennia and over every continent on the planet. At present I can receive three fundamentalist, evangelical Christian TV channels, all repeating the Christian message 24/7, and yet not a single atheist channel. And since some Christians conflate atheism and science, there are no science channels either. If you live in a Western country, the odds are you wouldn't have to go far to find a Christian church, I can see one from my kitchen window, and many people wouldn't even have to leave the house to find a Bible, the Christian programming manual. Wherever you live, in whatever country, even in predominantly Muslim, Hindu or Buddhists countries, you're far, far more likely to encounter a Christian hugging the same book and making uniform expressions than you are to find an atheist at your door wanting to talk to you about atheism. So if repetition of a view suggests a scripted response which in turn implies skulduggery, then Christianity is guilty of it in spades.
Even though he's referring to the atheists, O'Farrell then makes a statement that clearly has some truth to it when you apply it to Christians (and Muslims, Hindus etc) rather than atheists: 'Apparently, people will believe anything if you tell them often enough'. Clearly the statement is not actually true for all people and in all cases, since it doesn't matter how often you tell someone that they're a toaster, or tell a Christian there are no gods, they still won't come around to believing you.
But let's assume for the sake of argument that O'Farrell's claim is true, that 'people will believe anything if you tell them often enough'. And of course by 'anything' O'Farrell means a belief that is quite false, and that this belief is accepted due merely to annoying repetition, not from being swayed by reason and evidence. Atheists have been openly repeating the claim that there are no gods for less than 20 years, prior to that atheism was as much in the closet as was homosexuality, and it wasn't that long ago that in some countries atheism was illegal and even carried a death sentence. So for most of history there was almost zero chance of being repeatedly told the views of atheism. But what of religion, especially Christianity? Well, around 2,000 years ago some Jews started repeating a wacky belief to anyone that would listen, that a carpenter had risen from the dead, and before that he had walked on water, driven demons out of men and into pigs, turned water into wine, cured the sick and raised the dead, and oh yeah, he was born of a virgin. But wait, there's more. This belief about the carpenter was just the final chapter of a book of silly beliefs, a book that had stories of dragons and worldwide floods, of talking snakes and donkeys, even describing how a god had made the entire world in just six days. Understandably they had trouble getting most people to believe these claims for the first 500 years and growth was slow, but then it really took off and for the last 1500 years more people have believed these Biblical claims than those of any other religion. So why did most of the world suddenly believe, was 500 years the threshold that O'Farrell refers to with, 'people will believe anything if you tell them often enough'? Does 'often enough' mean 500 years of repeated claims?
If O'Farrell is correct, that you can get people to believe any old nonsense merely by badgering them, then can't he realise that perhaps that is the only reason that so many people believe in Christianity? They have been told the story over and over again, from a very young age, often every Sunday, until it became so familiar and so widespread that it was felt that it must be true, or else why would everyone know about it? And we think O'Farrell is correct. Taking his argument, it's clear that Christianity exists, not because there is any evidence supporting it, but simply because Christians have succumb to their own 2,000 year-old propaganda. And so now well aware of how repeating nonsense for centuries can cause people to believe it, we would take the advice he offers to atheists and turn it back on Christians: 'it wouldn't hurt them to be more self-aware before criticising others'.
Acting like a beneficent and charitable Christian, Gavan O'Farrell ends by forgiving us foolish heathens for our silly beliefs, saying, 'I can't blame atheists for succumbing to propaganda'. The reality is that it's actually Christians like him that have succumb to propaganda; primitive, superstitious propaganda that has been circulating relatively unchanged for thousands of years. Of course seeing through this childish propaganda would have been more difficult when it first did the rounds of the campfires, but modern Christians have the benefit of proven modern knowledge, they don't have to rely on what the Bronze Age goat herders thought, and yet they still do. They just blindly repeat the same magical nonsense that their parents told them, and of course their parents heard it from their parents. And it repeats right back to that first ignorant Hebrew sitting in the desert at night and wondering which god had made his goats, and whether it was OK to continue having sex with them (No, according to the Bible, which strangely has no such prohibition on sex with children.)
Most modern Christians continue to self-identify as Christian, but judging by the many Bible stories that they no believe and the innumerable Biblical commandments that they break on a regular basis, usually combined with an utter ignorance of having broken them, there is often little to differentiate them from atheists. Maybe just their hypocrisy.
|Christians targeting kids at school|
Bible in schools. Yes — shock, horror — it's still happening. Some primary schools are still welcoming unqualified Christian fundamentalists, with their well-worn Bibles tucked firmly under their arms, into their classrooms to instruct innocent young minds on the fanciful stories that can be found in said Bible. It's claimed that the messages gleaned from these stories can inform a whole way of living and looking at the world.
I know what you're thinking, that this is the 21st century, and that schools would surely be using up-to-date science and history text books, probably accessed on fancy new computer tablets. That to get information about the world, how it came about, and how we should live, teachers wouldn't have to rely on some slightly-unhinged, street-corner evangelist to bring in their old Bible, and read from it to the children?
But alas, this is the current state of affairs in many schools. In places of learning that parents and kids should rightly expect the highest standards and the most up-to-date knowledge and teaching methods, many schools are still providing lessons that wouldn't have been out of place in the Dark Ages.
This embarrassing fact was brought to our attention recently with these newspaper articles:
'The Secular Education Network (SEN) filed a legal challenge against religious instruction in schools with the Human Rights Review Tribunal, claiming children were being bullied over their parents' decision to opt out of bible lessons.News of the challenge then featured on the TV news, with a brief item showing one of the people involved in the legal challenge, Tanya Jacob, distributing pamphlets to parents outside a school in Christchurch, and it was also briefly discussed on TV3's lightweight current affairs show, 'The Project'.
Of course this is nothing new. Over the years we've written posts criticising Bible in Schools and we also wrote a lengthy essay outlining the history of 'Bible in Schools', or 'Religious Instruction' (its official label), and explaining why it fails on all counts concerning secular education, and is nothing but harmful Christian evangelising.
What's new is this recent challenge. Back in 2015, Jeff McClintock took a case to the High Court concerning religious instruction at an Auckland school, but it was eventually thrown out over a silly technicality, meaning the appropriateness of religious lessons in secular schools was never even considered. The case is going back to the High Court and may be heard ... well ... sometime.
This more recent legal challenge by David Hines and Tanya Jacob with the Human Rights Review Tribunal looks also to be a drawn out, and expensive, attempt at justice for those of us that don't see fairies in the sky. We understand that a huge work load at an under-resourced Tribunal means that it's anyone's guess as to when the case will be heard, and we mean years rather than months. It's common to condemn, and if you're a tourist, fear, certain countries, and give them such names as 'banana republics', countries that incarcerate potentially innocent people for years while awaiting trial. But in some areas, are we that much better? Sure, we in NZ can act all superior because we've set up a Human Rights Review Tribunal, a sort of court we can complain to if we feel our human rights are being abused. But if our complaint is effectively just tossed in a filing cabinet, where someone may look at it some time in the far future, how is that really any different to those banana republics and their mere fašade of justice? If we claim that an abuse is happening, now, why is it acceptable for the tribunal to merely take a note of it and then go back to whatever they were doing?
If as a society we feel that human rights abuses are unjust, and need to be actioned, then we need to do more than merely set up a Tribunal, we need to equip it with the resources that allow for quick and effective determinations to be made on any and all complaints that they receive. By the time this latest challenge to religion in schools is heard, the children involved could well be long gone, studying at university or even going in for a hip replacement.
In the TV3 news item showing the SEN protestors outside a Christchurch school, the reporter said that, 'protestors claim that children are taught to donate their pocket money to church and to convert their peers'. On camera, Tanya Jacob said that, 'The pressure that kids are put under to believe the stuff the instructors are telling them is not like anything else in school'. We don't hear what questions the reporter puts to parents at the school, but one replies, 'It's good to learn about religion and stuff like that, I have no issue with it'. This response in our view is a perfect example of how many parents have failed to grasp what is actually taught in religious instruction classes, or to give them the name their likely provider gives them, 'Christian Religious Education'. We say this because this particular parent, like most parents it seems, was apparently talking about kids needing to learn about the world's different religions in a broad and neutral manner, such as their origins, beliefs and rituals. She did not mean that she had no issue with her children being asked to believe that Jesus rose from the dead after being crucified, and other such Christian beliefs. Which is most definitely what is taught in the classes. We can know this because the woman, by all appearances, was a Muslim. And Muslims most definitely are not keen on their children believing that Jesus, rather than Mohammed, was the last true prophet. Clearly that woman had no idea what was being taught in those 'Bible in Schools' lessons, although the mention of the Bible rather than the Koran should have been a hint. Another parent said, 'I'm fine with it, my daughter seems to like it'. However, just because her daughter likes it doesn't mean that it's doing no harm. Her daughter might also say that she'd like pizza and ice cream for every meal, but would her mother be fine with that, just because her daughter likes it? The mother should only approve of the classes after she has put some effort into investigating exactly what they teach, rather than leaving it up to the daughter to decide. Is she going to pull her out of science or history classes because her daughter doesn't like them as much?
In the show following the news, 'The Project', they pretty much repeated the same item. However they did add one piece of value, a brief interview with Prof. Peter Lineham, a Massey University religious historian. He argued that voluntary Christian lessons should be replaced with a compulsory religious studies subject, that as we've said, would teach about the world's many different religions in a broad and neutral manner, and would use qualified teachers, not Christian volunteers from the local church. Cricketer turned broadcaster Mark Richardson asked Lineham if it bothered him seeing non-religious people celebrating things like Xmas and Easter. Lineham replied, 'What's a non-religious person?' ... There's many people who wouldn't claim to be Christian, who would still dabble in a little bit of stuff that is kind of religious, kind of Christian'.
What a terrible answer. As an atheist I can honestly say I do not 'dabble in a little bit of stuff that is kind of religious, kind of Christian'. The proper answer would have been to point out that Xmas was originally a celebration that involved the solstice and the change of seasons, not Jesus, and Easter was originally a celebration of the coming of spring, not Jesus. Both celebrations were deviously appropriated by Christians, so Lineham, the religious historian, should have been asked whether he was bothered seeing Christians celebrating these pagan events. And since Xmas and Easter these days are overwhelmingly associated with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, again it is the Christians that appear out of place.
Kanoa Lloyd mentioned that while not religious, she enjoyed her religious instruction classes, saying she looked at it as 'story telling and imagery', to which Jesse Mulligan added, 'In a way it's the story of the world, so far, right?'
Wrong! What utter deluded bullshit. How could Mulligan seriously suggest that the stories and imagery from the Bible are 'the story of the world'? Did he sleep through his science and history classes? Only a fundamentalist Christian would ever say something so stupid. The Bible stories basically perform two functions. One is to offer a fairy tale version of history where they explain how God created the world and life — the magical six day creation, let there be light, Eve made from Adam's rib and all that nonsense — and then they relate how God interacted with his playthings over the following millennia. His playthings almost always came off the worse for wear. Thankfully very little of what is in the Bible is true. The second purpose of the Bible stories was to spell out God's moral code for his playthings. In the Bible God went out of his way to dictate how life was to be lived, such as who you could be friends with, who you could have sex with and when, how you should mutilate your penis if you're a male, how you should treat your slaves, what clothes you could wear, how long your hair should be, what food you could eat, when you should pray and where, what sacrifices you should make, who had to cover or uncover their heads in church, when women are unclean and to be shunned, whether women could speak in church or teach men (no), when to kill children, which days you were allowed to work, how to kill homosexuals, witches and rape victims, whether some of your money should go to God or the government etc. And of course there was the associated list of punishments if these commandments weren't followed. And to think that many parents are happy that their children will learn how to live their lives and how to treat others from reading these Bible stories.
The Bible is certainly a story of the world, just as the stories found in thousands of other religions are stories of the world, from Maori myths to Aztec myths, but the Bible is most definitely not the true story of the world, not the factual story of what actually happened, and not supported by a sliver of evidence.
Following Mulligan's verbal diarrhoea, Richardson then added, 'It's a good yarn, whether you have faith or not, it's a good yarn, and I wouldn't want my kids to miss out on that'. Clearly this is spoken as someone who has never actually read the Bible, never read the 'good yarn' for himself, even though he recommends it to others. Hell, even most Christians have never read the entire Bible. But why not if it's such a good yarn? The reality is that much of what is in the Bible is as boring as hell, and even more is vile and repugnant. As we said in our essay on religious instruction, 'the Bible is a terrible source for determining ethical behaviour, and much of it, especially the Old Testament, is barbaric, disgusting, immoral, obscene and pornographic. If young school children were required to read it, and understand it, Christian parents themselves would censor much of it'.
Editing and censoring the Bible stories to turn them into a 'good yarn' for children is like editing and censoring stories of the Nazi Holocaust to make that a 'good yarn' for children too. Any storyteller that can make God or Hitler appear as cute, loving characters in their stories has really gone too far.
If parents want a 'good yarn' for kids, try the 'Harry Potter' books or Terry Pratchett's books, including his Discworld series. Libraries are full of great books that tell good yarns for children, and we guarantee that they are flying off the shelves while the Bible is gathering dust in the corner.
Only by lying can devious or deluded adults claim that the Bible is suitable for children, and if they've deleted all the objectionable stuff from their lessons, then they're not teaching about the God of the Bible, but merely a make-believe god that they wish was in the Bible.
Parents that invite Christians to lie to their children should seriously question whether they are responsible parents.
|What if psychics (or God) were real?|
I was searching the Net recently for movies and TV shows that showed skeptics and/or atheists in a positive light (and yes, this might seem like a futile 'needle in a haystack' search), but I came across a post on a skeptical website entitled: 'Skeptics "proven wrong" in films and television'. It's not what I was looking for, but I was frustrated by a comment that this skeptic makes near the end of his post:
'Speaking for myself, I really really want there to be such a thing as ESP, or psychics, or remote viewing. There just hasn't been any good evidence for it.'Over the years we've lost count of the number of skeptics and atheists (usually ex-Christians) that have expressed a similar sentiment, that they desperately wished that the thing that they don't believe is real — such as ESP, psychics, angels or God — was actually real. They lament the fact that these spooky abilities or supernatural beings are, unfortunately, imaginary.
And these were all intelligent, educated, informed skeptics and atheists, people that have apparently read, thought and discussed a great deal about these topics. We can understand that silly believers in this nonsense, and/or people that hadn't given it a lot of thought, might wish that the likes of psychics and gods were real, just as kids wish that Santa Claus was real, with no thought towards the poor elves slaving away under sweatshop conditions. But why do many skeptics and atheists think this way? Shouldn't they know better? After all, silly believers usually rest on ignorance and believe because they simply want these things to be true, not because they have evidence that they are true. But informed skeptics and atheists should have reached their stance of disbelief through critical thinking, and this knowledge should have revealed the bad along with the good, and thus they should realise that it's not simply an academic matter of whether these paranormal and supernatural claims are true or not, but that the world would be a very different place, and not in a good way, if these things were true. As the saying goes, Be careful what you wish for.
So what would the world be like if all these wished-for things were true?
Let's look at ESP first — extrasensory perception — which includes such abilities as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis (or psychokinesis), and precognition, or in simple terms, reading or communicating with the minds of others, seeing remote events with your mind, moving objects with the mind, and seeing the future. Generally a psychic is a term for someone that claims to have one or more of these ESP abilities, and remote viewing is really just another name for clairvoyance. We also have people called mediums or psychic mediums. Mediums are people that claim to be able to communicate with the dead, and relay messages between the dead and their living loved ones. Some mediums claim psychic abilities beyond simple conversation with dead folk, in that they are often clairvoyant — I see a body being buried near water — or they see the future, or they receive telepathic messages from living folk too. So if people were to have these abilities, what might that mean to people like you and me, the muggles of this world?
First, telepathy. If there are people out there that can read your mind then your mental privacy quickly vanishes. You'll never know if one person or many, perhaps in the same room or on the other side of the planet, are reading your thoughts and rummaging through your memories, even your most intimate or embarrassing memories. It amazes us that most people are not willing to reveal intimate or embarrassing thoughts and memories to close friends, let alone complete strangers, and yet they apparently have no problem whatsoever if an unknown number of strangers with psychic abilities are secretly spying on their innermost thoughts. If someone asks you, Do I look fat in this outfit?, then little white lies that protect feelings and maintain relationships will be impossible, since if telepathy is real then there's a chance that the person will be reading your mind and knows exactly how you really view them. The reality would be that many individuals and institutions would employ those with proven telepathy abilities to seek out answers for them. The positive side of this would be in the likes of justice and crime, where psychics could know whether a murder accused was guilty, and we wouldn't have to just take the prosecutor's word for it. We could know for sure whether the mad leader of North Korea was planning an attack or whether Saddam Hussein really had weapons of mass destruction simply by reading their minds from a distance. We could know exactly how many Catholic priests abused children and whether the pope knew, without having to even ask them. But for every positive use of telepathy, there would be many negative ones as well, such as the simple loss of a private mental life. Creativity and new ideas could be immediately stolen by devious psychics and passed off as their own. Passwords and pin numbers that give access to personal bank accounts, computers, buildings and Internet accounts etc would be useless if strangers could just pluck them from our mind while sitting in their kitchen in another country. Pub quizzes would be a waste of time because you'd never know if a team had a telepath in their number that was seeking the answers from the mind of the person who devised the quiz or some professor from Oxford University. All sports and games that involve strategy would be impossible because your psychic opponents would likely know your plans and weaknesses, eg chess, rugby, and card games such as poker and bridge. No one could keep a secret, and we're not talking the evil secrets that Catholic priests and murderers keep, we're talking about nice secrets, such as surprise parties or gifts, and planned marriage proposals, and important secrets, such as those that keep the economy going. You couldn't hide from your children the fact that Santa Claus was a lie, and could the Coca Cola company survive if everyone knew their secret formula? But we suspect it would be personal relationships that would suffer most if we could read the minds of others, and might cause a complete breakdown of society. We're sure you can think of numerous other examples of where telepathy would really screw things up.
What about clairvoyance, seeing remote events with your mind? Again, this would have positive elements, such as people being able to see terrorists building bombs, locating missing people, and spying criminals committing crimes. But again, everyone would lose their privacy, not just the bad guys. Bored with watching criminals they could watch you in the shower, having sex, or just getting dressed. You'd never know when someone was watching you masturbate or arguing with your parents or sneaking out of work early. You might as well take down your curtains and stop wearing clothes on hot days since if clairvoyants are real then they've all seen you naked, so why bother covering up? You can't put presents from Santa under the Xmas tree, because your kids might see you do it from their bedrooms. Like telepathy, clairvoyance would kill many surprises, since your girlfriend will see you buying that engagement ring even though she's miles away. Likewise, women can't refuse a date with the claim that they're 'washing their hair' or that they're otherwise busy, since remote viewing would reveal that they're actually just lounging on the couch alone watching TV. Having untold people able to secretly spy on anyone in the world would radically alter how people behaved and society would change considerably, and likely not for the best. Think of how East Germans behaved when they feared they were forever being spied on by the secret police, and didn't know who they could trust. If you're doing nothing wrong, having your privacy secretly invaded doesn't make for a better society.
Then we have telekinesis, being able to move objects, both nearby and remote, with the mind. Again, there could be both good and bad uses. Obviously it would be advantageous to use your mind to quickly move a baby out of the way of a falling piano. In war soldiers could cause the rifles of their enemy to jam, but that would work both ways of course. The enemy could mentally pull the pin from your grenade while it was still on your belt. Casinos and lotteries would cease to exist, since everyone would be trying to ensure their winning numbers came up by manipulating the device that generated the 'random' numbers. Door locks and security chains would be useless since telekinesis could be employed to trip the tumblers or release the chain. Many sports would become a joke, since the mind could be used to ensure the golf ball went straight into the hole and the basketball straight through the hoop, misses would be a thing of the past. Of course if opposing teams had equal telekinetic powers, then the basketball or soccer ball would just stay hovering on the centre line as each team's mental powers cancelled each other out. Sports like boxing would become a farce, since the mind could stop a punch from ever reaching its target. Murders could be committed remotely, and anonymously, where a knife suddenly flies from the kitchen counter into the victim's back. No fingerprints or evidence would exist to expose the murderer. Shoplifting could be committed from the safety of your bedroom, where the stolen items simply float from the store and down the street and in through your window. Injuries would greatly increase as juvenile practical jokers with telekinetic powers cause stools to suddenly jump in front of walkers and rugs to suddenly be ripped out from under them. Women would have to stop wearing dresses, or swap skimpy panties for bike shorts, as telekinetic perverts lift them up from across the street. Competing businesses could sabotage each other by remotely moving stuff around, like swapping salt with sugar, jamming machinery, stealing blueprints, unlocking secure gates etc. Again, the negative effects of telekinesis on society seem to far outweigh the positive ones.
Finally we have precognition, the ability to see the future. This is a confusing one. Most people think that if they, or someone they know, had the ability to see the future, then it would be a good thing. If they saw themselves being hit and killed by a bus tomorrow, then with that advance warning they could obviously take steps to avoid that outcome. But could they? If what they saw was indeed the future, then they MUST get hit by the bus. It's their destiny, their fate. If however, they stay at home and avoid getting hit by the bus, then what they saw clearly wasn't the future, since the glimpse they had of the 'real' future, the future they're now experiencing, should have shown them sitting at home. If they can avoid the bus then clearly they never saw the future, so perhaps their vision of being hit by a bus was nothing more than a dream. Of course they may decide to see whether the bus vision was correct, and carry on as normal, and two things might happen. One, they do get hit by a bus. But this doesn't prove that they were destined to be hit, since because they were expecting to be hit, perhaps they unconsiously put themselves in a position to be hit, and didn't do all they could have done to avoid the accident, since they thought it was inevitable. If they were resolved to being hit, perhaps they increased the risk of being hit, and so actually caused the accident. The other option is that they aren't hit, but again this doesn't prove that they didn't glimpse the future, and that they were just dreaming. Perhaps the bus driver also has the gift of precognition and also had a vision of the future, one where he hits a pedestrian. So perhaps the bus driver took steps to avoid the accident, by slowing down slightly for example, so that the pedestrian crosses the road a few seconds before the bus arrives and nothing happens. But if there are untold people around the world with the gift of precognition and even more using this knowledge to change the future to suit themselves, then there will be immeasurable changes being made to the time line every second. So with the future changing everyday, how can anyone ever claim to glimpse what the future holds in a week or a year from now? When people think of changing the future they naively imagine themselves as the only ones that can do this. They'll simply stay at home to avoid being killed by a bus. Problem solved. But in precognition an untold number of people have this ability, so perhaps a murderous bus driver then glimpses the future and sees that their intended victim is planning to hide at home, so he changes the future again by deliberately driving into their house. Man hit and killed by bus. The future is again back on track, at least the version the bus driver desires. But what if a police detective also glimpses the future and sees what the bus driver is planning to do, and attempts to make yet more changes? So why didn't the victim see the changes made by the bus driver, and why didn't either of them see the changes the detective would make to their future? If everyone can keep changing their behaviour and altering the future then it's all starting to look just like what happens normally.
In the world of precognition it would seem that we can either see the future, and NOT change it, or we can see a possible version of the future, which we can change for an unknown version, meaning that we don't actually know the future at all, we only know what might happen, but won't happen if we, or someone else, wants to change it. Taking this second option first, if people claim to see the future and also claim that with that knowledge we can change the elements we don't like, then clearly they haven't seen the future at all, since they apparently have no idea whether someone else might decide to change some element, and what the future will look like after we've finished meddling. The other option is that they can see the future, but they can't change it, because the future is fixed. So would you want to know the future if you could do absolutely nothing to change what will happen? I guess it depends on what will happen. If you're struggling to survive, living in poverty, suffering chronic pain, and fearing an invasion by some evil dictator, then learning that in a year's time your fortunes will dramatically reverse, that you'll find wealth and happiness, that a cure will be found for your pain, and that the threat from invasion is negated, then knowledge of a better future to come will buoy you through the next year of hardship. But if you learn that your miserable lot in life is not going to get better, or is going to get even worse, then you take away the very thing that often keeps people going in tough times, hope. Likewise if you currently live a wonderful life, but learn that your future is soon to be one of disappointment, misery and suffering. Hope keeps us all going, hope that things will get better or that the good times will continue. Without hope, perhaps even forlorn hope, then it would be unimaginably difficult to keep getting out of bed each morning, knowing that the future was dire and that you couldn't do a thing to change it. You couldn't even make the effort to commit suicide, since you ending it all isn't part of your future. Your future suffering hasn't reduced by your glimpse of it, in fact it's increased, since you're now painfully aware of your grim future and have to live with this realisation every waking hour.
Those that believe in precognition clearly think that with their advance knowledge they can change the future to better suit their desires. But as we've explained, if they can make changes then clearly their vision wasn't of the future. Imagine if the dangerous and moronic leaders of two countries, Kim Jong-un of North Korea and Donald Trump of the USA, both consulted their precognition experts and saw visions of being attacked and defeated by the other. With advance knowledge of how the attack succeeded, they could both make changes to ensure that they came out the victor. But how is that possible, how could they live in a future where they both win? It's a little like those stupid religious nutters who are on opposing sports teams or opposing sides in a war and who both insist that God is on their side, and has promised to help them win. When God is only helping one side or only one person has visions of the future, then a specific outcome can be predicted, but when untold people with spooky powers and conflicting goals are all competing against each other, then the only result can be mayhem, or a paradox.
Imagine you are competing for a job promotion with a colleague who has precognition abilities. In the real world you would easily get the promotion because you are far better qualified, harder working, more personable, more creative etc. You deserve the promotion whereas your colleague doesn't, but using their knowledge of the future, of how you got the promotion, they make devious changes to ensure that you missed the promotion and they got it instead. Most people would say that this manipulated outcome was unjust, but that would be the world of precognition, where things happened based not on merit or even chance, but on the whims of people with ESP abilities unfairly manipulating the future to meet their selfish desires. Many people that got the job or the girl or won the war or wrote the best selling novel or discovered the miracle cure would be those that simply glimpsed the future and took it for themselves. Of course not all people that could see the future would be devious bastards, but even those that made changes for altruistic reasons would unwittingly disadvantage others. Imagine a person learns from a psychic that their son will be killed by a stolen car, so they take steps to keep their son away from that street, but now the speeding car, rather than being stopped at the scene of the accident, continues on its way and kills a woman two blocks further on. Saving the son meant killing the woman, the grief and anger simply moved to a different family. Is this person that saved her son in some way responsible for the death of the woman, since without their meddling, the woman would still be alive? Are they justified in sacrificing the woman in order to save their son? They might argue that they didn't know that their manipulations would cause another death, but the reality is that every time someone with psychic powers changes the present to influence the future, their change, even if relatively minor, will ripple outwards to cause an untold number of unforseen events that were never destined to happen in the original version of the future. For example, people say wouldn't it be great if we could go back in time and kill Hitler as a baby, and therefore save millions and millions of innocents lives. Lives would be saved, but untold people that are alive today, like you and me, would likely never exist if WWII never happened. Our parents could have married completely different people, people that were originally killed in the war that now never happened, meaning that you and I were never born. While a deliberate change to what is going to happen in the future, or has happened in the past, may save a life, or many lives, it will without doubt snuff out many other innocent lives in the process. If precognition were real, then those that had knowledge of the future, or a version of it, would continually be playing Russian roulette with our lives. At any moment the rosy future that my family could justifiably be expecting could be snuffed out because some lazy bastard changed the future just to get a swimming pool in his backyard. Any positive meddling with the future that psychics might do would be vastly outweighed by negative consequences they would be utterly unaware of. A world with precognition would be a world where a gifted few would get to play God and treat you and me as inconsequential pawns.
If ESP were real, if abilities such as telepathy, clairvoyance, telekinesis, and precognition were part of daily life, how would the person that didn't have these powers behave? Whether we were flying to Australia or performing a scientific experiment, we couldn't reliably predict what should happen in any given situation, based on a good understanding of the laws of physics. Without ESP we can reliably predict that inanimate objects in our path, eg rocks or stools, will remain where they are, that knives won't suddenly lunge at us, that the enemy or opposing team won't know what our secret strategy is, that our creepy neighbour isn't watching us have sex. But with ESP some people, we wouldn't know who, would know things that they shouldn't. Machines might do things that seem impossible, or at least are utterly unexpected. Events would unfold in a way that doesn't make rational sense. Impossible things would happen seemingly at random, and if we can't reliably predict what will happen if we do certain things, then why do them? Why bother even getting up in the morning? Why study and struggle to get a promotion and a pay rise to support your family, when some psychic might trip you up at the final hurdle and take your reward? Why buy lottery tickets or play poker when some psychic is fixing the outcome so that they win and you lose? Why maintain a nuclear arsenal to deter enemies when some psychic will tell them that you don't have the nerve to use it? If ESP were real, society would collapse.
And it's not just ESP. As we said, we've had skeptics and atheists admit that they likewise see no evidence for gods or souls or a heavenly paradise, but they nevertheless wish that Heaven was real, that they could communicate with their dead parents, and that they actually had a soul that would live forever.
But again this is very na´ve thinking, and again hinges on the gullible fool believing that they get to decide how it all works and fits together. Just as ESP would only be useful if only you and no one else had the ability, gods and their supernatural world would only be desirable if you get to pick and choose what bits of the mythology you want to be true.
Let's look at the afterlife, souls and Heaven. This seems to be the thing that unthinking believers and atheists alike most wish were true. People love the idea of living forever, in perfect health, surrounded by their loved ones in a paradise where dreams come true. And where do they get this idea from? For most it's the Bible, or the Koran, but let's just focus on the Bible, for the argument is the same for both. So for this Heaven to be real, then clearly what the Bible says must be true, and conversely, if what the Bible says is true, then Heaven must be real. By this we mean that people base their belief in Heaven solely on what the Bible says. If the Bible didn't exist then people would have no knowledge of a place called Heaven and no reason to believe in it. But, the argument goes, the Bible does exist, and it says Heaven is real, ergo Heaven is real. Now that may seem like a good reason to believe in Heaven (although of course it's not), but if simply being affirmed in the Bible is all the reason one needs to believe in something, then logically believers must believe in a lot more than just Heaven, since the Bible says that a lot of unseen things are real, not just Heaven. The Bible also claims that someone called God is real, that he had a bastard son called Jesus, that the world was made by said god in six days, that historically there was a bit of dampness underfoot called Noah's Flood, that God has storerooms of snow and ice, and that murder is forbidden. If pushed, most believers or wannabe believers in Heaven are willing to believe in those things too. If all those things were true, the world would still appear the way it is and Heaven would be there waiting for us. So why wouldn't atheists link hands with Christians and say that we too wish it were actually true? Because as with everything, we must always take the good with the bad.
If Heaven is real because the Bible says it is, then Hell is also real, because the Bible says it is. If it's actually true that some annoyingly good, boring and obsequious people are going to Heaven, then it's also true that the great majority of people, and we mean probably more than 99%, are going to Hell. If you wish Heaven were real, then by default you automatically get Hell as well. And Hell isn't just a One Star resort compared to Heaven's Five Star rating. Hell is a prison that makes the worst prison on Earth look like Club Med, where you and your loved ones will be tortured for all eternity. Let's remember that if you sincerely wish your dead loved ones could communicate with you from Heaven via a psychic medium, then that could only happen if Heaven is actually real. And if Heaven is real, then that means God made it, along with Hell. And if you and your loved ones manage, against all the odds, to make it to Heaven, you must live each day with the knowledge that while things are great for you, most of humanity is being tortured in Hell. How uncaring and selfish, evil even, must a person be to wish for the existence of a paradise even with the clear knowledge that for that place be real, then billions of others must go to Hell for eternal torture? I would wish that Heaven doesn't exist solely so that Hell doesn't exist either. I would happily forgo paradise in a bid to make Hell nothing more than a nightmare.
And many of the problems associated with ESP also appear if God is real and our loved ones are actually watching us from their poolside loungers in Heaven. Once again our privacy vanishes. We can pull our curtains and stop a handful of neighbours from seeing us naked or having sex, but millions if not billions of dead perverts could be watching us from Heaven. Even if our life is too boring to attract the big crowds of voyeurs, the mediums tell us that our grandparents at least are always interested in us. Would you have had sex in front of your grandparents when they were alive? I suspect not, so why don't you care now that they're dead, but still watching you? Dead folk can spy on anyone and everyone, and some, according to mediums, seem to have an insight into the future, so spooky information passed to the living can allow them to makes changes to the future time line, and so people with a connection to dead folk can screw up your hard earned future, as they seek to improve theirs by devious means.
And the problems don't just impact the living. If we entertain the fanciful idea that your soul does make it to Heaven, to live forever surrounded by your loved ones, then your problems have really just begun. Information about life in Heaven is gleaned from two sources, the Bible, and mediums chatting with those already there. Unfortunately many of our most famous mediums contradict each other and what the Bible says. We've discussed some aspects of what the afterlife would be like according to mediums in our article on medium Jeanette Wilson, so won't repeat ourselves here. But briefly, mediums claim that you spend your eternity in the afterlife frozen in the condition in which you die. So can you imagine spending an eternity as a three-year-old or as a crippled 85-year-old with Alzheimer's disease? And it may take a while, perhaps hundreds or even thousands of years, but considering even trillions of years will still be but an instant compared to the eternity that awaits, eventually you'll go mad because you can only eat the same meals, watch the same movies and have the same discussions so many times before the boring repetition becomes just too much to bear. And since you're dead you wouldn't actually eat meals, so scratch that activity, but that will give you more time for praising the megalomaniac that is God. That would be fun, right? Every day for trillions of years. How could that ever get old? To think that people sincerely wish that this soul destroying afterlife exists is astounding, and just demonstrates that only childish desire informs their silly dreams.
Again, if Heaven and eternal souls are real, as claimed in the Bible, then everything else claimed in the Bible must also be real. It's all or nothing, only ignorant fools think they can cherry pick the good bits and reject the bad bits as superstitious nonsense. And yet that's exactly how most everyone views their religion, whichever one they cling to. These foolish atheists that reject God's existence while lamenting that he's not real, need to start thinking about what a terrible place the world would become if the God of the Bible was suddenly revealed to be real. Again, the worse consequence would be that Hell would be real and the destination for most of us. That fact alone would severely depress and terrify everyone, making life miserable for all. Society would likely collapse or at least stagnate. Of course the Bible has 613 commandments and other bits of helpful advice on how to live a life that might see you considered for entry into Heaven. Some people might decide to strictly obey God's wishes and try for a place in Heaven, which would make life dangerous and unpleasant for the rest of us. The Bible clearly says that atheists, disobedient children, some rape victims, witches, blasphemers, homosexuals, those that work on Saturday, people that wear socks made of cotton and wool, those that eat shellfish, masturbate or have a tattoo, or commit any of a raft of other silly sins must be singled out and killed. It would be like those zombie apocalypse movies, only it would be Christians chasing us, not zombies. And if you don't actively seek out and kill sinners, then that makes you one of them. On top of the 'marked for death' sins, there are also untold commandments that one must follow, and while breaking them won't see you hunted and killed, they will ban you from entering Heaven. For example, Jesus commands his followers to hate their parents, siblings, children and partners. If you don't hate them, then you're off to Hell with the rest of us. If it were even possible for a Christian to obey every wish of God, the life they would live would be Hell on Earth anyway.
Of course most rational people, on reading up on what transgressions will see them destined for Hell, will quickly realise that they've already committed many of the above sins, so they're already screwed, or will realise that it's impossible to live without breaking at least one. And it only takes one, so if they're going to Hell anyway, they might as well live a life of debauched excess. Better to be hung for a sheep than a lamb. Steal what they want, kill whoever gets in their way or annoys them, rape whomever they desire, blaspheme to their heart's content, and disobey their mother by getting a 'I LOVE MUM' tattoo on a Saturday from an atheist, homosexual tattooist, breaking six commandments at once. If God, Heaven and souls were real, then the frightening reality is that Hell is facing us all, because I don't even know of an annoying fundamentalist Christian that isn't breaking numerous Biblical commandments. While many of us might try to continue life as normal, it's difficult to believe that many wouldn't just give up and anarchy would erupt worldwide. And ... we're back to the zombie apocalypse.
Sure, the world's not perfect by any measure, there's crime, suffering and misery, but we're sure you can think of many more examples of how the likes of ESP and God's plan for a world of sinners would, if real, just make things a whole lot worse. That is, if you're prepared to really think, to honestly consider the whole picture and weigh up the good against the bad, and not just fixate on the rosy elements that you like while ignoring the all nasty bits. Becasue this is how most people structure their fantasies, they imagine ESP being used for good and refuse to accept that it could be used for evil, they wish for a loving afterlife and refuse to entertain the thought that their loving God would direct most people to Hell. Imagine a kid saying that they wished Harry Potter, Hermione, Ron and their magic were real, but not Voldemort. But that's just stupid since it makes no sense to think that if Harry Potter existed then Voldemort wouldn't. Voldemort is a vital part of the Harry Potter world, and one can't exist without the other.
We challenge anyone to explain how the world and society would even continue as it is, let alone be a better place, if ESP and/or God were actually real. Show us how humankind would benefit if we all knew for certain that we have Hell and an eternity of suffering to look forward to, or explain how society would progress ethically if people can secretly watch my cute neighbour in the shower and steal my passwords.
Thankfully none of this silly nonsense exists, which is great, and skeptics and atheists lose credibility when they claim to have thought deeply about it, and then go on to lament that none of it is real. Clearly they haven't grasped what is really at stake at all. We accept that gullible believers happily delude themselves, embracing the good bits and ignoring the horrible and inconvenient bits, but we don't understand how so-called 'informed' skeptics and atheists can lend a level of support to the deluded believers, honestly saying that they don't see any evidence for their claims, but oh, how they wish they were true.
Well, not me. I don't want people reading my innermost thoughts, and I don't want nightmares revealing what Satan has in store for me. I wish for none of it. All I can say is, thank God that all this ESP and God crap is just that, crap.
|Naked chick offends Maori spirits|
Oh, woe, the shame of it all. How embarrassed we are. After making fun of people in other countries for being stupid, now it's a news story from NZ that intelligent people are tittering at.
Back in 2015 we wrote of Malaysian villagers, and even government officials, making complete dicks of themselves and their country by claiming that naked foreign tourists had caused a fatal earthquake. The silly villagers spoke of a sacred mountain where they believe the spirits of their ancestors reside. We exposed the primitive, superstitious, irrational and clearly childish beliefs held by the locals that lived by this mountain, and the government officials that supported their supernatural nonsense. Mired in the ignorant dark ages, these villagers claimed that some innocent nudity on the top of their sacred mountain, nudity that none of the locals saw, so incensed the invisible (and need it be said, non-existent) spirits of their ancestors that these spirits snapped and went on a murderous rampage a few days later, killing 18 innocent tourists, their weapon of choice being an earthquake.
We also mentioned that even in NZ we've been dismayed by our own natives insisting that their own mountain spirits have been offended by the innocent actions of visitors, for example when the makers of a movie starring Tom Cruise wanted to include Mount Taranaki in one of their background shots. Mount Taranaki is apparently another sacred mountain, a place where the ancestors of the local natives hang out. Some Maori thought they could allow it if they were paid enough money, so clearly any offence to the spirits can be overlooked or forgiven if sufficient goods change hands. In Malaysia it would apparently take 10 head of buffalo to appease the spirits, but in NZ it usually seems to come down to cold, hard cash, although what use the spirits would have for cash, or buffalos, is beyond us to fathom.
We had hoped that the Malaysian nonsense and the worldwide merriment on reading their story might have given our superstitious locals cause to pause, to think before they spoke, but no, clearly no lessons were learnt. Once again the natives are restless. We've read of yet another attempt by some superstitious NZers to give the world something to laugh at over their coffee. Well, the enlightened world at least, we're sure those villagers in Malaysia will have sent the offended Maori smoke signals of support. Thankfully the offended spirits in NZ haven't killed anyone, although of course there have since been deaths in NZ, and they may have made them look like an accident. After all, the Malaysian spirits cunningly killed their victims with a "natural" disaster, and would have gotten away with it if the villagers hadn't squealed. And Christians tell us that their god kills most of his many victims with what we atheists apparently mistakenly identify as natural causes, such as floods and cancer.
So what is it that NZ's natives and some local officials have done to get us in the news in far flung countries, and not in a good way? Well, they've taken a completely harmless social media post, one that involved innocent nudity on a mountain, an event that has similar gravity to the headline: 'Man spies neighbour collecting his mail in his bathrobe', and they've childishly asserted that this particular mountain is a sacred mountain and, just like the superstitious Malaysians, that both the imaginary spirits of their ancestors and their living descendants have been grossly offended.
The following photo is what caused knickers to be twisted. Jaylene Cook, 25, a New Zealander now living in Australia, recently climbed Mt Taranaki, for the adventure of it, with her boyfriend. At the summit she stripped off momentarily and the following photo was snapped by her boyfriend, and Jaylene later put it on her Instagram account. Jaylene is a glamour model and has featured as a playmate in Playboy Mexico, and told Newstalk ZB that, 'We see nudity as art and pure and natural'. And we agree, viewing it as a stunning photograph, a statuesque nude overlooking a majestic vista. What could be more real, more natural, than a body in its natural state enjoying and admiring nature? A photograph so different from all the other boring shots of people standing on mountains cocooned in colourful jackets and pants, like visiting aliens. And surely no one could say the pose wasn't tasteful? But of course they could.
We read that, 'Maori academic Dennis Ngawhare said it disrespected the mountain', and that 'Stratford Mayor Neil Volzke weighed in on the issue, saying the stunt was unexpected and culturally insensitive'. Neil Holdom, New Plymouth's mayor, said, 'tangata whenua viewed Mt Taranaki as an ancestor', and therefore people 'should ask themselves how they would feel if someone took a photo of themselves naked, on the grave of a great grandparent'. We also read that Rajan Zed, the President of the Universal Society of Hinduism, 'has said that the Government should offer effective protection to indigenous Maori sacred sites. ... He urged the New Zealand government and Cook to offer a formal apology. ... [and] said the world should respect the centuries-old Maori traditions ... The Maori community should have the final decision on what is allowed on the mountain'.
The typical claims by some Maori and their supporters are that this innocent nudity 'disrespected the mountain', because 'Mt Taranaki was their ancestor and he is seen as a living being', and that it's 'culturally insensitive', but we believe the statement from the Hindu Rajan Zed, best sums up what Maori likely wants to see happen, 'the world should respect the centuries-old Maori traditions'. Do you remember when the Muslim radicals started their protests demanding that the world respect their centuries-old traditions, and how that worked out for us all?
Respect centuries-old Maori traditions? Well, sorry, it's not going to happen. As we've argued before, eg here, when people with spiritual and religious beliefs plead with others to respect their age-old traditions, they are not really requesting our respect, they are demanding our acquiescence, our silence. They want to intimidate us, make us feel that we're being rude and discourteous, and prevent us from questioning or criticising their ghost stories. As one person summed up beautifully, 'They don't want my respect, they want my submission'.
On social media someone calling herself "maorimermaid" directed an angry comment at Jaylene Cook, 'Hope your five mins of fame was worth the curses that will haunt you for life'. Seriously ... curses? Is she studying at Hogwarts, and did she use an owl to send that message? We have two problems with that sort of rabid comment. One, these folk apparently don't realise that they're spouting silly primitive nonsense, which never wins a debate or scares an opponent, and two, they genuinely wish people harm. Rather than try and convince someone that they may have unintentionally caused offence, they go for the jugular and threaten them with evil. Silly, imaginary evil, but evil never the less. No matter how childish it is, the real desire that harm occurs is there. Directed at anyone that doesn't see the world as they do is the wishful hope that their opponents will suffer. We had hoped that humans were becoming more tolerant of people that view things differently, but unfortunately there are those that simply can't rise above their animal urges. When surprised their reflex is to attack.
We understand what people generally mean by respect and not causing offence, we do, and usually we comply, but not if it means having our own views and integrity compromised. We don't publicly challenge the nonsense the priests and ministers come out with during a church service, but if they ask how dare we offend God by not kneeling and praying, then the gloves are off. New Plymouth's mayor asked how we'd 'feel if someone took a photo of themselves naked, on the grave of a great grandparent'. If the photo was similar to the one of Jaylene, frankly we wouldn't lose any sleep over it, but we understand some superstitious people might, and we have no problem being "respectful" at a gravesite, and modifying our behaviour so as not to deliberately offend. But unfortunately Maori try our patience and goodwill when they label an entire bloody mountain as a gravesite. And not just this mountain, all the mountains in NZ. Dr Ruakere Hond, a Taranaki academic, talks of, 'our mountains and sacred places', and 'is calling on Maori to outline values and protocols for sacred Maori sites ... of what is acceptable and unacceptable'.
Clearly Maori trying to fence off their sacred spaces, what the rest of us also call, 'our mountains', is a step too far. If the mountains are sacred, and we were to meekly accept that, then soon the land these mountains walked across would be sacred also, so too the rivers they bathed in, the beaches they lounged on, and the forests they foraged in. Even the air they breathed. Where would it end? Where in NZ have the ancestors of Maori not trodden, and where have their gods not ventured? According to the DOC website, 'Mt Taranaki has great spiritual significance to local Maori: the crater and summit is the sacred head of Taranaki, the rocks and ridge are his bones, rivers his blood and plants and trees are his cloak and offer protection from the weather'. That's great if we're talking mythology, but clearly it's bullshit as far as the real world is concerned, and anyone that doesn't agree, shouldn't be allowed to dictate to the rest of us as to 'what is acceptable and unacceptable' behaviour on that mountain or any other.
When asked to comment, MP Paula Bennett made the only sensible response from someone in authority that we've come across: 'I'm the Minister of Police, not the Minister of Fun Police ... Other people are fully entitled to their own opinions, but I'm not offended'. Quite right. This is the 21st century, we've landed rovers on Mars and invented stuffed crust pizza, if we take this sort of nonsense seriously, next thing we'll be dunking suspected witches in the local duck pond.
There are two quite different issues here. One, that mature, intelligent, well-adjusted humans might find innocent nudity offensive, and two, that our ancestors, dead humans, can be offended by innocent nudity, or more accurately, offended by anything at all.
Considering the first issue — how 21st century citizens might be expected to react to nudity — we've seen above where an academic claims that it, 'disrespected the mountain', which to us seems to be an adult confusing a huge chunk of rock with a person. Surely Maori know that the myths about mountains chatting and falling in love with each other and walking around are, well, probably not true? Closer to something that could make sense, one media article reports the view that, 'Seeing a Playmate model naked at the top of Mt Taranaki would have been "horrifying", the Department of Conservation says'. We're informed that,
'DOC Partnerships Manager Darryn Ratana has come down on the side of iwi [Maori] after the picture went around the world. He said DOC would not condone behaviour that was offensive to iwi — and "it's also pretty offensive to the general public." He said if someone had walked around a corner and seen that, they would have been "pretty horrified".'Seriously? We're asked to believe that the general public on seeing a beautiful, naked woman would be 'pretty horrified'? What planet or what century is that idiot from? These days the places you can unexpectedly come across nudity are many and varied; on the Internet, in magazines, on TV, in movies, in advertising, on our beaches, in changing rooms at the gym and pool, in clubs and in a friend's backyard hot tub. Over the years we've all observed family, friends and completer strangers being subjected to unexpected nudity while watching a movie or thumbing through a magazine or strolling down a beach, and not one person ever fled the scene screaming, 'My eyes, my eyes ... they burn!' In our experience not one ever reported being horrified and offended. Surprised perhaps, on occasion, but never in the sense that they wondered who they could complain to. Even holier-than-thou Christians shouldn't complain about public nudity (but they do), since in many of their churches and artwork they flaunt graphic paintings and statues of Jesus, naked and bloody on the cross, his modesty saved only by a small cloth strategically placed by the artist, a cloth that the real Jesus never had as the women of Jerusalem looked on. What does it say when so many in society readily accept the graphic portrayal of the bloody, tortured, near-naked body of a dead man nailed to two pieces of wood, even taking their children to see it, and yet some of these same people complain bitterly when they spy a naked body that's alive and not nailed to anything? Why aren't they 'pretty horrified' every time they see Jesus being killed, why don't they ever say that's 'also pretty offensive to the general public'?
We mention Jesus because most people that are getting all hissy about their ancestors being offended will likely also be Christians. We've never met anyone who doesn't believe in this god nonsense, ie an atheist, but who at the same time believes in sacred mountains, ancestor spirits and the traditional religious beliefs of Maori. But the spiritual and religious are nothing if not experts in ignoring contradictory claims and inconvenient facts to do with their silly beliefs. They can believe in both the Christian God and the Maori gods, the Christian Heaven and the Maori heaven, the Christian sacred spaces and the Maori sacred spaces. Hypocrisy is a fact of life for them, a smart phone in one hand and a Bible in the other, crying at the feet of a tortured zombie called Jesus one moment, and the next moment complaining on Facebook and Twitter about a naked woman in the wildness. Innocent nudity is horrifying to them, but God having his own son tortured and murdered is something they feel they need to show their kids, and even get them little crosses as souvenirs of the occasion. These deluded, immoral bastards really need to use their brains for things other than praying and ordering pizzas. There's an amazing natural world out there, and they should start learning about it and enjoying it, and that includes appreciating the naked bodies when they come along, rather than spending their lives arguing that the ridiculous imaginary worlds that their ignorant ancestors thought existed, do actually exist.
We'd argue that mature, intelligent, well-adjusted humans don't find innocent nudity offensive in the slightest, and are certainly not 'horrified' if they see it. But that said, many people don't fit that description, they are immature, ignorant, fearful and irrational, and while their outward appearance looks modern, their inner lives and beliefs are little different from a medieval peasant under the oppressive yoke of primitive superstition. So the depressing conclusion is that even in the 21st century, when confronted with innocent nudity, some members of the public will act like sanctimonious prudes from the dark ages, while others will be adult about it and say it's no big deal, and may even honestly admit that the sight of a beautiful, naked body can be quite, well, nice. Which century do you identify with?
But we must realise that this is about much more than whether 21st century Maori are offended and horrified at seeing a naked body, the real argument is that their ancestors, their long dead ancestors, are offended and horrified by nudity. Local Maori consider Mt Taranaki as a sacred site that somehow has a connection to the spirits of their ancestors and to them. One article states that Dennis Ngawhare wrote his philosophy doctorate about it, stating that, 'the mountain was considered an ancestor for local Maori and the area around the summit was tapu'. On hearing about all this, I tuned into Maori TV's current affairs series 'Native Affairs' to learn more, but they didn't mention it, having no doubt already expounded on it. However, on their website we found an article noting that,
'According to local history, all Taranaki tribes trace their genealogy back to "Koro Taranaki" ... Matehuirua Limmer (Te Atiawa / Poutama) told Maori Television that Mt Taranaki was their ancestor and he is seen as a living being. "We females would never stand naked in front of him, we have personified our koroua, would you walk on your grandfather? We relate it in the same respect," says Limmer.Wow, that last sentence from Martin almost had us reconsidering our stance — 'If we takahi the mana of the mounga we takahi the mana of the people' — but then we saw the flaw in that argument. But seriously, isn't it bloody annoyingly when people communicating in English and trying to convey an opinion or argument, suddenly throw unfamiliar words from another language into the text, and make no attempt to offer a translation? Some years ago I read a book, with each chapter written by a different scholar, where in one chapter the writer gave what he thought were informative quotes written in their original languages — 8 different foreign languages!! — and he didn't translate a single one into English, the language he was communicating in. What arrogant bastard would assume that his reader would speak 9 different languages fluently? Or in the case of the above article, even two?
And we're not fussed on Martin's conviction, 'that non-Maori must be educated and respect the beliefs of Maori', since what are they talking about here, compulsory reeducation internment camps like those that Joseph Stalin and Mao Tse-tung set up in the past, where we're indoctrinated in Maori mythology? Instead of us learning about dead ancestors masquerading as mountains, our forlorn hope would be to have people that believe these things educated in science, history and philosophy in the compulsory camps we call schools.
We're unclear whether a human ancestor or Maori god turned into the mountain itself, or if Maori consider mountains are all imbued with some mystical life force that is considered kin, or whether the spirits of dead ancestors have simply chosen the mountain as a place to hang out, like a Maori heaven. But since they're all clearly bat-shit crazy notions, it doesn't really matter which Maori believe. All we need to know is that innocent nudity is apparently offending a dead Maori ancestor, spirit or god of some sort.
Ignoring the dead bit for the moment, does that even make sense from what we know about Maori and their historical traditions? Were they a people that worried about nudity, did they go to great lengths to cover their bodies in the centuries before the prudish Christian missionaries arrived? The answer is no, but strangely none of the news website articles that we read questioned whether historically Maori had a problem with nudity, only one person that we could find, in a physical magazine article, grasped the flaw in the Maori outrage:
'The dichotomy of this argument is that nudity in itself is not offensive, even in Maori culture, where for hundreds of years, social nudity was commonplace and not looked down upon.'Anyone that knows anything about European first contact with Pacific Island cultures knows that the natives didn't have much of a clothes fashion industry going on, they wore very little, even in NZ which was cooler than the likes of Hawaii and Tahiti. Women were often topless, bathing costumes were unheard of with nudity being the norm at the beach or river, and while they weren't usually completely naked like some native tribes, there is no suggestion from oral accounts that historical Maori had any problem with public nudity. Furthermore, accounts from Christian missionaries reveal that they had their work cut out trying to instil a sense of body shame in the carefree natives, and to convince them to wear more clothes. There is no reason to believe that Maori from past centuries, the so-called Maori ancestors, would have been offended or horrified if they caught sight of someone in the forest, or at the river, or running into battle, with nothing on.
The four photos below, all showing topless Maori women, are from Michael King's book, 'Maori: A Photographic and Social History'. Top left: Rotorua, circa 1900. Top right: Swimming at hot springs, Lake Taupo, circa 1860s. Bottom right: Opepe, circa 1870s. Bottom left: Hawkes Bay, circa 1870s.
The next photo is of six young Maori women bathing naked at the Waikato River in 1938.
Even after considerable European influence, clearly many Maori women still weren't that worried about nudity, it was the Europeans around them that had a conflicted view of the naked body; wanting to see it, but wanting it covered at the same time. And even today when Maori want to showcase their traditional culture to others, they don't dress up, they dress down. Look at this photo of a Maori greeting the Duchess of Cambridge and Prince William by playing the part of a warrior. If any of us walked down the street like that, let alone tried to meet a member of the British Royal Family, we'd be arrested, even if we weren't carrying a spear or club. If Maori think any normal person would be offended and horrified on suddenly seeing a beautiful, naked woman, why don't Maori think that visiting dignitaries might also be offended and horrified on suddenly seeing an angry, almost naked man advancing on them, waving a club or spear, and screaming in a foreign language? True hypocrisy. We must put clothes on in public, but they can take them off, because for them naked flesh was traditional and nothing to be ashamed of.
So where are modern Maori getting these otherworldly messages of shock and horror from? If we humour them for a moment and don't call them delusional or outright liars, then the ancestors they're channelling are clearly their prudish European ancestors, probably their 19th century Victorian ones, and certainly not their Maori ancestors. We say this because heredity wise, 21st century Maori all have European (and/or Asian, Pacific Island etc) ancestors as well as Maori ancestors. So history suggests that if some long dead person is truly moaning on to them about their prudish attitude to the naked body, then they're more likely to have been a European who once lived in London or Glasgow than a Maori living anywhere near the slopes of Mt Taranaki. This means that if the spooky voices bugging modern Maori are actually their dead European ancestors, then they shouldn't just be griping about nakedness at the sacred sites favoured by their Maori ancestors, such as Mt Taranaki, they should be condemning nudity wherever it's found, from movies and TV to the Internet and the beaches. But they're not. Which is a good thing, of course, but it does paint them as being a little confused about what the voices are actually telling them. Their Maori ancestors wouldn't be all that worried about nudity, and while some of their European ancestors may well be, they'd be worried about nudity in public, not fleeting, unseen nudity on some distant mountain summit.
But as we've said, there are two quite different issues here. One, the shock value of nudity, and two, the unseen entity that is or isn't being shocked. The nudity is actually quite incidental, really trivial, a real red herring in fact, and concentrating on it diverts us from the truly important issue: do the spirits of our ancestors actually exist? Only if it's clearly shown that they do, should we then move on to the next question, are these dead people offended by nudity? In our view, arguing about whether real world nudity is offensive to long dead ancestors is like arguing whether Superman and Lois Lane, or Captain James T. Kirk and Mr Spock, would be offended and horrified by me watching one of their movies on TV while wearing a chicken suit and eating ice cream straight from the container. It's utterly ridiculous to think that imaginary characters, characters that have never existed. could be offended by any action of mine. And while our ancestors did of course once exist, there is no evidence whatsoever that they still exist, except in our memories. Our ancestors are no more watching us than is Superman, and any belief that some invisible person that doesn't exist in our reality is watching us is delusional, and any demand that we alter our behaviour to placate these imaginary fairy folk calls for a straightjacket.
When people hear Maori complaining that the spirits of their ancestors are being offended and horrified by the sight of a naked body, we shouldn't get sidetracked into a debate over whether public nudity is offensive (of course it's not, debate concluded), we should simply ask the important question: What evidence is there that these spirits that you talk of are any more real than those little blue Smurfs? And of course there is none. You can't offend something that doesn't exist, and you can't expect people to alter their behaviour or avoid certain areas all together just to mesh with some primitive myth. It would be like saying we can't explore the North Pole because we don't want to risk disturbing Santa Claus, and we can't explore the seas lest we anger Neptune, the Roman god of the sea.
This is not about picking on Maori, or the Malaysians, it's about challenging any and all groups that come out with unsubstantiated claims that appear to be quite silly, and who then expect us to meekly kowtow to their nonsense without verifying their claims, demanding that we respect their beliefs and compensate any perceived offence with money or buffalos.
Whether it's Christians asking us to believe that zombie Jesus will be coming for us any day now, Muslims insisting that their God wants them to take over the world and kill anyone who dissents, psychic mediums claiming that they've been chatting with your dead aunt, or Maori bleating on about what's upsetting their prudish ancestors, anyone making fanciful claims can't demand or expect intelligent, rational adults to change our behaviour or corrupt our well-supported worldview just because they are mired in more primitive, superstitious times.
If I wasn't such a wimp regarding the cold (and there's the climbing bit too), I'd be tempted to climb to the summit of Mt Taranaki and perform a scientific experiment by stripping off and seeing if any ghostly Maori turned up to complain. Perhaps someone knows of some other sacred spot on a nice warm beach? Actually, it was claimed above that, 'all mountains throughout the country are seen as personifications of tupuna', and apparently that word means (since again they don't lower themselves to translate), that all mountains in NZ are seen as one of their ancestors. Since a few of us once participated in the Homer Nude Tunnel Run with a hundred other naked men and women, and the tunnel goes through a mountain near Milford Sound, then it seems we have done the experiment. We can report that while the nude run was great fun, the results were negative for spirits of dead ancestors. No ghostly specters, Ó la the 'Ghostbusters' movie, chased us through the mountain or met us on the other side to give us a stern reprimand. So, ask a question: Do spirits offended by nudity live in mountains? Do an experiment: Run through the bowels of the mountain/ancestor naked. Get a result: Everyone survives, fun had by all, no spirits detected. Isn't science wonderful?
We understand how it feels to be offended and horrified, because right now we're offended and horrified that some 21st century citizens are still embracing such foolishness. Why is it all about them and their feelings, and the feelings of their long dead ancestors? Why are the hypocrites giving no thought to our ancestors, the sensible ones that viewed the naked body as natural and inoffensive, the forward thinking ones that wanted to know how the universe really worked, the skeptical ones that didn't accept that ghosts and gods were the cause of it all? We're offended and angry that superstitious fools are impeding the progress of science and society by arguing for explanations from the dark ages, and doing their best to drag us back there, and we're horrified and shocked to hear grown adults proposing, with the warped judgement of a celibate priest, that we should all feel ashamed, embarrassed and degraded on seeing a naked body in nature. You lot with your thinking mountains and sacred spaces seriously need to rethink your stance, because if your dead ancestors really are watching, you're likely just embarrassing them.
|Is God on vacation?|
When was the last time you saw God, or even got a text from him? What ... never? Really?
OK, we're not at all surprised that more people have claimed to see Bigfoot than God. But if you're like us and not religious, then not seeing or hearing from God is no different to not bumping into the Tooth Fairy at the supermarket. We just don't expect to run into things that don't exist beyond our imagination. But what about true believers, do they lose sleep over the worrying fact that they never see or hear from their Heavenly Father? They don't see him on TV chat shows talking to celebrities, and not even the persistent and intrusive paparazzi can get a blurry photo of him frequenting some tacky nightclub or drunkenly assaulting an atheist.
These days pretty much everyone agrees that God is a god that we never see or hear from, and most believers don't seem to be unduly bothered by God's absence, apparently because they simply don't think about what it might mean. But not all true believers are struck by apathy. Some modern Christians that have thought about God's absence actually argue that the reason we don't see him is not because he's invisible or is too busy running the universe, it's because God is deliberately hiding from us. They even have a name for this silly belief: the divine hiddenness argument. But even though he's playing hide-and-seek with us, these Christians go on to claim — and this is the really silly bit — that we should still believe in him. Think about that for a moment. The Christian God is supposedly an all-powerful god that is deliberately hiding from us, meaning that we mere humans clearly haven't got a hope in hell of seeing him if he doesn't want to be seen. But if we can't even catch a fleeting glimpse of God, can't find any evidence that he's real — because he's hiding it from us— why should we believe he even exists? After all, by the same logic children could argue that we don't see evidence for Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, but that's not because they don't exist, but because they too are hiding from us. Once someone argues that a lack of evidence for the existence of some unseen being merely means that they are very good at hiding from us, then they open the door for a multitude of unseen beings, from Santa and Zeus to Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. Surely this exposes the Christian argument for the nonsense it is? Not for the silly Christians it doesn't.
So why doesn't God want to be seen? The modern Christian argument, forced on them because of his embarrassing absence, is that if he revealed himself to the world then logically we would have no choice but to believe he is real, and God apparently wants us to come to believe in him on our own terms, or so the story goes. He doesn't want to force belief on us, making us little different from blindly obedient robots, and so he gave us intelligence and free will so that we could examine the evidence for his existence and make our own choices. It's a little like love. You can't force someone to love you, a feeling of love is something people have to arrive at on their own. To be genuine, people must see for themselves that their love for someone is justified, and feel that it is a personal choice, not one forced on them. But God goes even further, not only doesn't he want to force people to love him, he doesn't even want to force people to believe in him. Just as we can learn more about someone and grow to love them or know that they love us based on their actions, God feels that we can choose to learn more about the world and in doing so come to believe that he exists. He doesn't want to force us to believe in him, by turning up and performing miracles for example, he wants us to examine the world and freely and rationally conclude that he does exist. He wants us to freely choose to seek him out, to genuinely want to make the effort to discover he's real and believe in him.
Of course that's the modern view of God, it certainly wasn't the case in Biblical times, and this inconvenient fact throws a huge spanner in the works. In the Bible stories God is forever poking his nose into people's affairs and making his presence known. Miracles are a dime a dozen, and God's clear handiwork is there for everyone to see. From talking snakes and donkeys to women being turned into pillars of salt, from the parting of the Red Sea and the Sun and Moon stopping in the sky, to virgins getting pregnant and both Lazarus and Jesus rising from the dead. God was more than happy and willing to convince people that he was real by performing amazing feats of magic and interfering in their lives on a regular basis. He even dictated a popular book detailing his exploits, a biography that came to be known as the Bible. And if his book is to be believed, God was not only desperate to have his existence revealed to the world, he wanted everyone to accept him as creator of the universe, obey without question his commandments and worship him as dictator of all dictators. Or else! In his younger days, God was most definitely not a shrinking violet hiding in the shadows. He had no hang-ups with showing people he was real, and consequently causing them to believe he was real. His blatant actions in those early days created the stories — created the "evidence" — that effectively forced Jews, then Christians and eventually Muslims to accept that God was real. God gave ancient man no choice as to whether to believe he was real or not.
So what happened between then and now? What's forced Christians to change from saying that God often popped around for a coffee to now saying that he's hiding and waiting for us to find him? Why did the followers of God in Biblical times see God everywhere — on the way to market, in the fields, in their beds, in their temples, on the mountaintops, on the battlefield — and yet in more recent centuries the followers of God have witnessed nothing but God's worrying absence?
The reality is that ancient man didn't see God at all, all they saw was the natural — and mysterious — world that they inhabited and they wrongly assumed that everything they didn't understand must be the work of a powerful god. Day and night, thunder and lightning, earthquakes and floods, disease and fertility, success or failure on the battlefield, life and death itself, they believed everything happened at the whim of a god, so naturally they saw evidence of God's handiwork everyday and all around them, because they were experiencing the unfathomable natural world everyday. But as ancient man's knowledge of the natural world improved and as his skepticism regarding gods increased, God was witnessed less and less, or to put it another way, as science evolved God was required less and less as an explanation for why and how things happen in the natural world. No longer was Zeus required to throw lightning bolts from Mt Olympus, or Thor's hammer needed to explain thunder; no longer was an Egyptian god required to accompany the Sun on its journey through the underworld each night and return it reborn each morning, and gone was the belief that plagues and illness were caused by demons.
Of course some might reply that the world's holy books also contain stories that clearly weren't ancient man simply misunderstanding an event in the natural world. For example, if we consider just the Bible, we have the talking snake, donkey and bush (the one that was burning but wasn't consumed), and obviously talking animals and foliage aren't a natural occurrence with a natural explanation. Ditto women suddenly turning into pillars of salt, the parting of the Red Sea, the Sun and Moon stopping in the sky, stars falling to Earth, virgins getting pregnant and people rising from the dead to walk the Earth again as the undead. So while lightning may be explained by a force of nature and not the work of gods, how do we explain a talking snake and a zombie Jesus?
The reality is we can't explain how those events happened, and nor do we have to. That's like asking us to explain how Superman flies, how Harry Potter performs his magic, how Doctor Who's Tardis works, how Santa Claus delivers all those toys in one night, how the Smurfs manage to stay hidden, how King Kong could grow so large and how Fred Flintstone domesticated those dinosaurs. We cannot explain fantasies, nor do we need to; they involve fantastical people, things and events that have never existed nor happened, and that only exist, and could only exist, in our imagination. And of course the Bible stories of talking snakes and the walking dead are just fantasies too, and just as there is no need to explain Fred Flintstone, there is no need to explain Jesus coming back from the dead either. Zombies aren't real now, and they weren't real 2,000 years ago either. That old book we call the Bible was the equivalent of today's Superman comic, fanciful stories that only the na´ve believe are actually true.
While these days there are still a few ignorant fools that claim to see their God's handiwork in a baby's smile, a beautiful sunset or the Ebola virus, most Christians begrudgingly acknowledge that evidence of God at work in the world is sorely lacking, and that absence — we atheists say — requires an explanation. And so they come up with the free will ploy, that he's hiding from us so as not to force our hand. Of course that doesn't explain why he's changed his mind, since his outlook is now completely different to how he used to act, nor does it explain how it's even possible for a god that's perfect and all-knowing to change his mind. Plus, as we've already alluded to, it's ridiculous to claim that if you can't see something, then that's good evidence that it exists. Reason would dictate that if you have no evidence that something exists, then it most likely doesn't. Again, just replace God's name with Santa and the flaw in the Christian argument becomes obvious.
And it's not just the complete lack of evidence for God that is worrying. We now have a huge amount of scientific evidence that argues against God's existence, that speaks against the silly Bible stories. For those stories to be true, geological and fossil evidence that shows that the Earth and life is millions and billions of years old, and not just a few thousand, must somehow be discounted. Evidence that shows that humans are related not just to chimps but even to bacteria must be dismissed as flawed. Cosmological evidence that posits a 13.7 billion year old universe must be shown to be wrong. And the list goes on and on. Not only is evidence for God's involvement in the world seriously lacking, the hard evidence for a natural explanation is overwhelming. If God were really the creator of the universe and life, the only rational explanation for all this scientific evidence is that God faked it all to fool us into thinking that he doesn't exist. He planted fake fossils and false clues in our DNA to make us think that it all has a natural explanation rather than a divine one. And being an all-powerful and all-knowing god, he'd be really, really good at falsifying evidence, meaning that there's no way in hell that we're going to see through his cunning plan to fool us.
So how would all this work? If he really is God, and all-powerful and all-knowing and all that guff, then no matter how much we look at the world and examine the evidence, we will never detect his presence. If God wants to hide then he'll stay hidden. So there is no way that we could ever freely and rationally conclude that he exists, no way that we could outwit God and see through his wily plan to hide from us. So God's wish that we examine the evidence and conclude that he exists is impossible. Like planning the perfect murder, God would have gotten away with planning the perfect fake universe. The only way that we could discover that God is real is if we found clues that expose the scientific evidence for a natural universe as a red herring, clues that reveal even stronger evidence that point to God being real after all. But these clues would either have to be deliberately planted by God, or overlooked by a less-than-perfect God, and on finding them we would be forced to conclude that God is real after all, meaning that, like it or not, God has forced us to believe in him. And that's something we're told he doesn't want to do. If God deliberately planted clues then he has forced us to believe in him, even if it might have taken some time and effort for us to find them. There's really no difference between making us believe in him by planting difficult to find but really convincing evidence and simply just turning up on our doorstep. Either way the evidence before our eyes would compel us to believe in him. And if he really was trying to hide but overlooked clues to his existence, then he's not perfect and not all-knowing, and therefore not God.
The reality is that no one sees God, and never has. Hence the childish Christian explanation that God is hiding from us so as not to force our hand, since he wants us to freely choose whether to believe in him or not. This argument fails since by definition we could never find an all-powerful God that is deliberately hiding from us, and it makes no sense to believe in something that we have no evidence for. If the Christian God is as powerful as Christians' claim he is, then we could never hope to examine the makeup of the universe and find evidence of God's handiwork, because God's plan to hide that evidence would by definition be perfect. Thus it is futile to even look for evidence of God's existence. If anyone claims to have found evidence of God's existence we know that logically they must be wrong, since said evidence would force us to believe in God, and the Christian argument is that God categorically refuses to do anything, or let us find anything, that would force us to believe in him. Therefore, using our "God-given" intelligence and free will, we can conclude that, even if it does exist somewhere, we will never find evidence of God's existence, since that is God's will. And again, using our intelligence and free will, it makes no sense to claim something exists when we have absolutely no evidence that it does, and a mountain of evidence that suggests it doesn't.
So why do most Christians continue to believe God exists and how does that impact on this argument that God is hiding from us so as not to force us to believe in him? Most Christians believe that God exists for no other reason than someone they trusted, usually their parents, said he did. And let's remember that these same parents also told them that Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy were real too. Clearly much of the nonsense your parents told you as a child are not the beliefs you should blindly hold onto as an adult. So why do adults come to reject belief in Santa but many hold onto a belief in God? There are many possibilities. One is that other adults and society in general reinforce their belief in God while happily dismissing belief in the likes of Santa. On top of this, most believers in God, having embraced their belief as a child, never give it any real thought as an adult. Like buying a life insurance policy, it's now filed away in some bottom drawer. You know you have it, and that knowledge is reassuring, but it doesn't impact on your day-to-day life. Most people that identify as Christian do little more than that, they affirm that God is real in the same way that I affirm that gravity is real, and just as I don't spend my days thinking about gravity — can it really create black holes? — most Christians don't think about their belief in God either.
It truly is a paradox, since if God exists and refuses to provide evidence that will force us to believe in him, then he must actively hide from us while making the universe appear completely natural. And yet God knows, since he's all-knowing, that his secretive actions coupled with our intelligence and free will must logically lead us to rationally conclude that he doesn't exist. He desperately wants us to believe in him but has fabricated the universe in such a way that it's impossible to believe in him.
|Fake news and those ancient Greeks|
Donald Trump, that duplicitous cretin currently stuffing up the USA and threatening world peace, didn't invent fake news, but he has certainly helped make it a lot more popular and prevalent. But we shouldn't confuse fake news with satire of the news, where fake news is deviously and deliberately meant to deceive and manipulate people, and satirical news is designed to amuse and often inform people. The satirical website 'the Onion' has been writing humorous spoof articles for many years now, we even have a couple of their books, and in NZ we used to get 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart', which was an excellent, funny, and surprisingly, very informative, satirical news TV series from the USA. Unfortunately some moronic, faceless, TV executive removed it from our screens long before it finished its run in the US. The best present-day US replacement for 'The Daily Show' is 'Full Frontal with Samantha Bee', which was broadcast in NZ for a few months until yet another moronic, faceless, TV executive decided to ban it from our screens. On the bright side, we have since been exposed to 'Keeping up with the Kardashians' and 'The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills', and if that wasn't enough, 'The Real Housewives of Orange County', 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey' and even 'The Real Housewives of Auckland'. So I guess informed people now have no excuse not to know what's really happening in the all-important housewife world, and how their shenanigans impact on other important world events, like the North Korean crisis, the civil war in Syria, or famines in Africa.
For decades now some people have accused the media, usually TV shows, of dumbing down society, and we suspect that their fears were justified. Today of course the ubiquitous Internet has been added to the mix, and this, combined with TV documentaries and historical movies that opt for entertainment over accuracy, has seen the creation of a generation that believes almost anything that they see on a screen, be it big or small. We live at a time when humanity knows more about 'life, the universe and everything' than we ever have, by a huge margin, and yet we're surrounded by credulous, ignorant plebs that believe all manner of nonsense. Nonsense they naively accept because they saw it in a movie or saw it mentioned on Barbie's Facebook page.
What provoked this rant was the following query that we received:
'Hi John,This is quite worrying. On the positive side, Robin is suspicious of this claim, and is making attempts to verify it, but on the negative side, this sort of sort of gullibility is far too common these days. Even though we are indeed becoming swamped with bullshit, the medium that propagates it the most, the Internet, is the same medium that allows us to debunk it, if we can be bothered.
We did a Google search on 'The Hegelian Dialectic after Hegel', and this turned up nothing. We then tried 'Professor Gene Haddlebury', and the first page of hits nearly all had this sentence, '"Honestly, we never meant for things to go this far," said Professor Gene Haddlebury, who has offered to resign his position as chair of Hellenic', which suggests that everything about Professor Gene Haddlebury relates to a single article. Strangely there are no hits that mention Professor Gene Haddlebury as a real academic at a real university. And what is this single article? The first link reveals that it originated on 'the Onion' website, and is entitled, 'Historians Admit To Inventing Ancient Greeks'. Let's again remind readers that 'the Onion' is a satirical website that writes humorous spoof articles. None of the articles on their website are true, none, they are all written to provide us with a laugh. Some are more 'believable' than others, and if you simply read the title or the opening paragraph, they often seem quite plausible. But if you read the entire article with a critical mind, and this is where most people slip up because they usually don't read the whole article, let alone with a critical mind, then you should quickly come across many claims that simply can't be true. And you should come away realising that it was clearly all a joke, one that might have fooled you had you only read the title.
So it's a hoax. Clearly it's a hoax. For example, how could the following claim in the article not raise red flags?:
"We picked Greece because we figured nobody would ever go there to check it out," Nguyen-Whiteman said. "Have you ever seen the place? It's a dump. It's like an abandoned gravel pit infested with cats."Seriously, nobody interested in history has ever been to Greece, or would want to go there? Hell, even I've been to Greece. She then says that sometime between 1971 and 1974 she was forced to build the 'goddamn Parthenon' to keep up the charade, a massive stone temple that people have been visiting and talking about for over 2,000 years. How could the Parthenon have been famous for so long if she just built it? The same with geometry, the article claims that it was just invented in the early 1970s:
"Geometry? That was all Kevin," said Haddlebury, referring to former graduate student Kevin Davenport. "Man, that kid was on fire in those days. They teach Davenportian geometry in high schools now, though of course they call it Euclidean."But again, people have been using geometry as attributed to the Greek Euclid for thousands of years, and reference to it can be found in ancient texts in numerous languages all over Europe and the Middle East, so we're asked to believe that not only did these modern academics invent geometry, but they invented time travel too, and went back and planted false clues about it to make us believe that it was ancient. There are people still alive today that have old photos that they took of the Parthenon back in the early 1900s and school text books that taught geometry at that time too, but how could that be if the Parthenon and geometry was only created in the 1970s? It's not rocket science, seeing through the bullshit in these spoof articles should be child's play, but instead of coming away laughing, many people come away believing. Of course most people that repeat these silly beliefs never read the original article on the original website, so don't get the first hint that it's not supposed to be taken seriously; they hear of them second hand, and read selected quotes on someone's Facebook page, and simply choose to believe.
Certainly many fake news websites look professional and authoritative, they go out of their way to be utterly believable, and nowhere do they reveal or even hint that they're lying, but the likes of 'the Onion' and 'The Daily Show' will openly reveal that it's all just satire and not to be taken seriously. On the other hand, fake news websites are a scam, and just like those scammers trying to get your bank details or steal your identity, they'll do their utmost to fool you, so it's not quite as embarrassing to be conned by fake news as it is by the likes of an Onion article. But just as a little research and/or critical thinking can quickly debunk a spoof article, just a little more effort should expose fake news as, well ... fake.
Like HIV and reality TV, the world is now infected with fake news websites, so like it or not, we all have to be a little more careful before we accept some claim as true. On the bright side, the electronic medium that spews out the fake crap can also be used to combat it, if we can be bothered to be skeptical and fact check what we see and hear. But we guess it's like condoms, they only work if you use them. Like unprotected sex, too many people today are practising unprotected Internet, believing the first thing they read without a thought to whether it might actually be true.
I read it on the Internet, or saw it in a movie, so yeah, of course it must be true.
|Ayaan Hirsi Ali — interview and visit|
Graeme Hill of 'Radio Live' fame has sent us a link to an interview he recently conducted with Ayaan Hirsi Ali, which is an excellent lead-up and primer to her appearing at an event in Auckland on April 9th.
Very briefly, Ayaan was born in Somalia and raised as a Muslim. As a child she was forced to undergo female genital mutilation by her grandmother. Later she flees an arranged marriage where she was to wed a stranger in Canada, a distant cousin, and she arrives in the Netherlands and seeks and gains asylum there. Through her intelligence and an amazing will and drive, and against the odds, she gains a university education and gets elected as a member of the Dutch parliament. Her education combined with her experience of Muslim, Christian and secular communities leads Ayaan to reject belief in gods and become an atheist. Anyone who abandons their religion is known as an apostate, and for a Muslim who rejects Islam, the punishment is death. Luckily for Ayaan, by the time she openly identified as an atheist, as an apostate, she was by then living in the Netherlands and not Somalia, or in any of the other Muslim countries where she had spent time growing up. She wasn't absolutely safe from Muslims that were outraged by her rejection of Islam, but she felt safe enough to become an out-spoken critic of Islam, especially its disgusting and inhumane treatment of women.
In the Netherlands in 2004, writer and movie director Theo van Gogh was murdered in the street by a fanatical Muslim, and since Ayaan had worked with him on a short movie critical of Islam, the killer left a note on the body that said she was next. Since then Ayaan has been forced to live under tight security and must generally keep her location secret. She now works and lives in the USA, and unfortunately because of the ongoing death threats still fears for her safety. Even when she visits Auckland she will still be escorted around by a security detail, since the reach of murderous religious fundamentalists doesn't stop at the border. Just rejecting Islam and becoming an atheist was enough to get her killed, but telling the world why all Muslims should reject the primitive and dogmatic elements of their religion, just made her detractors and those that hate her more determined.
I've read Ayaan's first three books, and have her latest on my tablet ready to go as soon as I finish my current read, which by coincidence is by another Muslim turned atheist, Alom Shaha ('The Young Atheist's Handbook: Lessons for Living a Good Life Without God'). Ayaan's books are not an easy read, not that they're not very well written and argued, but many of the episodes that Ayaan describes from her own life and that of other women are very confronting, and it's deeply shameful that in the 21st century we still have religious fundamentalists treating their fellow humans in such degrading ways. And not just their fellow humans in the next country or neighbourhood, but often their own daughters, sisters and wives.
And while we're at it, we need to thank Graeme Hill for all the fascinating interviews he does on 'Radio Live', with people that explain topics such as cosmology, anthropology, evolution, philosophy and critical thinking, such as Lawrence M. Krauss, Jared Diamond, Joe Nickell, and now Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Graeme is a welcome voice of reason in the media wilderness. There is a serious dearth of programs on the radio and TV that make any attempt to examine serious topics. We may get the odd sound-bite on the news from a scientist, historian or academic, but they're so short and simplified that they make the tweets that Donald Trump sends out seem like novels. Most of the moronic media seem to think that as long as people have heard of a black hole, the big bang, evolution and Muslims, then they'll somehow understand all about them too. Their work is done. What's the world come to when most people get their science and history education from silly Hollywood movies that usually aren't even 'loosely based on a true story', a story that almost always involves a beautiful woman, often in skimpy clothing?
Unlike the rest of us, Graeme is very fortunate, getting to chat with such amazing people, but thankfully it doesn't stop there, since he lets us listen in to their fascinating and enlightening conversations. Some people get to interview celebrities such as Justin Beeber, Tom Cruise and Prince Charles, but we'd rather hear Graeme interview an interesting and intelligent person with something important to say over a merely famous person any day. Of course Ayaan Hirsi Ali is quite renown in certain circles, and deservedly so, but rather than discuss an upcoming movie, her relationship ups and downs, or what she wore to the Oscars, she would rather discuss serious topics that the world needs to understand, but that many would rather not hear, and that many find blasphemous. It's worrying that your average man and woman on the street is quite negative towards Islam and Muslims in their community, and yet few know anything about the religion, or that's there's a huge difference between a liberal Muslim and a truly fanatical Muslim, just as there's a huge difference between how seriously the pope and your old uncle take their individual devotion to Jesus.
So that's our advice folks, go listen to Ayaan Hirsi Ali if you can, listen to Graeme's show in the weekend, you'll definitely learn something interesting, and for the rest of the week, try reading a book about something real and important, one that isn't about sport, fashion, cooking, gardening or the British royal family. And yes, love is real and important, but Mills & Boon books are still off limits.
|The fantasy world of gods & unicorns|
Do you like a ripping good fantasy story, one with adventures intermingled with a love story, with witches and flying serpents, evil gods and demons, heroes and villains, beautiful naked maidens and illicit sex, battles and violence on a grand scale, intrigue and betrayal, and some space aliens thrown in for good measure? Perhaps you're a fan of the Harry Potter books, or the sagas of the Viking gods such as Thor, maybe you're a Doctor Who fan, a zombie fan, a vampire fan, or perhaps you love the battle between good and evil as played out in the Star Wars universe? Like us, do you enjoy the humour of Terry Pratchett's 'Discworld' books, with their utterly ridiculous plots and characters? If you love fantasies, and can suspend your disbelief, can overlook the utter impossibility of the beings that populate these tales, all in the harmless pursuit of retreating into a fantasy universe for a little entertainment, then have you ever considered reading the Bible? It has all of the above, from talking donkeys (just like in the 'Shrek' movie) to bewitching maidens (like 'Shrek' again), or if you're into that sort of thing, maidens behaving like those in the old 'Deep Throat' porno movie with Linda Lovelace. And yes, there really are pornographic passages in the Bible.
Don't believe us that the Bible is a good fantasy read? Well, here's a testimonial we recently received from Ron:
'Hello John. For the first time I dug into some of the ridiculous stories and advice in the Bible, over the weekend, and they were good medicine. They made me laugh more than I've done in a long time. I would like to share a few here. You probably know of a number of them but perhaps some readers may not be so aware.And we agree wholeheartedly with Ron, the Bible is indeed full of ridiculous stories and advice. I think we'd heard of most of them, though maybe not the leprosy cure or the sweet tasting scrolls. Most Christians won't know of half of them, and of those that they do know, they are at pains never to mention them when debating with non-believers. As Ron says, they find them downright embarrassing, and quote only safe passages that suit their argument.
And he's right about Proverbs 3:5, 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding', it's a perfect justification for Christians to ignore and reject what they understand about the world, to reject the robust knowledge and evidence produced by scientific and historical research, and to place their blind faith in a space alien that they've never seen, and for which there is no evidence for. That commandment is identical to the demand made by con artists trying to sell people bogus investments or bogus cures, who tell their marks not to consult with their lawyers or doctors, but to simply trust them, and hand over their money.
As we learn more and more about life and the universe, the holy books of all religions, not just the Bible, become more and more ridiculous and clearly the work of primitive, hugely ignorant folk living long ago. That intelligent, educated people, like Christian fundamentalist Ian Wishart, can still take them seriously staggers belief. Seriously, any book that talks of men walking on water; stars falling to the Earth; the Sun and Moon stopping in the sky; the seas being held back by doors and bars; the Earth being flat and mounted on pillars; demons being driven out of a man into pigs; talking snakes, donkeys and bushes; men raising people from the dead, turning water into wine and staffs into snakes; snow and hail being kept in storerooms in the sky; unicorns, dragons, satyrs and flying serpents and reindeer, surely sophisticated people should quickly realise that it's all bullshit? (Oh sorry, that last one, the flying reindeer, was one of Santa's claimed miracles, after a while all the world's fairy tales tend to roll into one).
We'd like to make a few comments on some of the stories Ron mentioned, since there's always more flaws in them than first meets the eye.
Jesus and his childish hissy fit with the fig tree is one of the many, many stories that the original editors of the Bible should have rejected. It's just shows him up as pathetic, but even worse, it shows him as impotent. If he had the magical powers to make the tree immediately wither, and we know he has the power to raise the dead, turn water in wine and feed thousands by multiplying a few fish and loaves, why couldn't his magical powers bring forth some figs from a fig tree? Seems like child's play to us.
The Biblical acceptance for the incest of Lot's daughters supposedly comes from their belief that there were no men left alive on Earth, besides their father, who could get them pregnant and continue the family line as per God's wishes, ie go forth and multiply. But the Bible clearly states that while he destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding plain, God spared the town of Zoar so that Lot and his family could find a place of safety. They eventually left Zoar and lived in fear (presumably of God) in a cave in the mountains, but his daughters knew perfectly well that there were men in the town of Zoar at least (and we can assume in the lands beyond the plain), so their story makes no sense. The only scenario that does make sense is that Lot raped his daughters, and made up the story of them screwing him in his drunken stupor to explain their pregnancies when they returned to civilisation. If you don't think a decent God-fearing man could do that to his daughters, then read on. Furthermore, it's highly unlikely that Lot was sober enough to get an erection and yet was so drunk that he had no memory of having sex with both his daughters, and probably on numerous occasions, as it's unlikely that both daughters became pregnant on their first attempt. We're asked to believe that these are the only three good and decent people God thought worthy of saving from Sodom and Gomorrah, he even murdered their mother for simply peeking at the destruction. And what was the crime of the people in Sodom and Gomorrah? The Bible doesn't say exactly, just that, 'the men of Sodom were wicked and were sinning greatly against the LORD' GE 13:13. The usual claim is that it was sexual deviancy of some sort, and our guess, based on what happened just prior to the destruction, it was down to God's homophobia. According to the bible, a crowd of men 'called to Lot, "Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us so that we can have sex with them."' GE 19:5. Instead Lot graciously offered his daughters to the baying crowd to be gang raped in return for the safety of his two males guests. That's what a good host did in those days. He said to the crowd: 'Look, I have two daughters who have never slept with a man. Let me bring them out to you, and you can do what you like with them'. GE 19:8 Lot offers his two daughters up for gang rape (but they escape), then later on probably rapes them both in a cave, or at least allows himself to have sex with them while drunk (always an acceptable excuse), and these people, exhibiting such immoral behaviour, are the people that God goes out of his way to save, knowing everything that they did and would do even before they did it. He killed the men for wanting to have homosexual sex with Lot's guests, but rewarded Lot for offering his daughters to be gang raped. That most Christians know the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot, his daughters and his wife turned to a pillar of salt, and aren't ashamed and disgusted by it just shows how little time they've spent thinking about what really happened. (The two Biblical cartoons in this post are from the book by Horus Gilgamesh and Agnes Tickheathen: 'Awkward Moments (Not Found in Your Average) Children's Bible, Volume #1'.)
Following the verse forbidding the dual use of an ox and a donkey for ploughing, outdated advice that people can easily ignore today, it gives another prohibition that must still apply today, that we must not wear clothes made of different materials, eg wool and linen or cotton and nylon. God is like one of those kids who can't stand having the potatoes and the peas on their dinner plate touching. And an earlier verse states that, 'A woman must not wear men's clothing, nor a man wear women's clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.' DT 22:5 God is such a petty god, and he clearly has some serious problems. More truly valuable advice he offers is, 'Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk' EX 23:19. I'll put a note on my fridge to remind me. That one apparently prohibits the simple pleasure of eating a hamburger and drinking a milk shake at the same time, which luckily for the likes of McDonalds and Burger King, most everyone ignores. Not the Jews though.
Following those silly verses, there is a far more disturbing commandment from God:
'If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, "I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity," then the girl's father and mother shall bring proof that she was a virgin to the town elders at the gate ... "here is the proof of my daughter's virginity." Then her parents shall display the cloth before the elders of the town ... If, however ... no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, ... the men of her town shall stone her to death ... You must purge the evil from among you.' DT 22:13-21This is just a primitive example of some low-life buying an expensive DVD movie, watching it a few times, and then returning it to the shop and demanding a full refund, saying that they disliked it and it wasn't as good as they'd been led to believe. If the shop refuses a refund then they're stuck with a movie that they can still watch again or on sell, but if they agree they get their money back and the DVD is probably sold to someone else on the cheap. Either way they got to watch the movie, and no one dies. But how many virgins died because they weren't as sexy naked as their husbands had hoped, or weren't as obedient in the sack as they wanted them to be? How many men got to try out their wives in bed, and not happy, had them killed and moved on to the next one? Modern, educated people know that you can't medically or scientifically prove a girl is a virgin, let alone prove, after the fact, that she was a virgin before she had sex. And while primitive goat herders may not have known that, their all-knowing God from whom they were getting medical and legal advice would certainly have known that. God (if he existed), would have known whether she was a virgin, but he left it up to the girl's parents to argue her case and find evidence. Again, these stories should be explained to children (and adults) so they realise just how repulsive they are. We need to stop pretending that Bible stories are all about loving and caring parents protecting their children, and assisted by an even more loving and caring God. They're vile stories, disgusting examples of how we should act towards others, and we need to stop letting Christians hide them from children and even gullible adults.
Regarding the story of God compelling Ezekiel to lie on one side for 390 days etc, this is a perfect example of God acting as the bully that he is, torturing someone like a sadistic Mafia boss before he will grant them a favour. A correction though, God didn't tell Ezekiel to make bread from human faeces, he instructed him to use human faeces as fuel for his fire, but then relented and allowed him to use dried cow dung instead, which is a fuel that many societies have used throughout history. But initially telling him to use human faeces even as fuel demonstrates how cruel God can be, especially when we remember that Ezekiel was someone who worshiped him, God was dealing with a friend, not an enemy, not a heretic. The story also shows God changing his mind, being convinced by a mere human to change his plan because it was overzealous, which is something that should be impossible to do. If God is perfect and unchanging, then he can't make imperfect plans and can't change anything, since if you're already perfect, then any change can only make you less perfect, it can never make you more perfect than perfect. And in the Bible God is actually persuaded many times that he's made a mistake, and each time must have slipped further away from being the perfect, all-knowing, all-seeing, all-powerful god that Christians claim he is.
As for the story of David bringing King Saul 200 foreskins to buy a marriage to his daughter, people fixate on the foreskins and fail to see the far more heinous elements in the tale. Ron said, 'I hope they don't discuss some of these passages at Sunday school!!', and of course the conniving bastards don't, but we wish they would, since more people would start to understand, and at a young age, what immoral and harmful things these people did, and are still doing, just to please an imaginary sky fairy. The more these embarrassing and revealing stories are publicised the more people will want to have nothing to do with the book that they come from. If adults keep hiding the ridiculous stories, the disgusting stories and the downright evil stories, and only tell sanitised feel-good stories to their children and to each other, then primitive, ignorant, immoral religions will keep staying around to harm society.
So what do Christians miss in that story? Why did King Saul want a bride-price of 100 Philistine foreskins? Why didn't he say his daughter was worth 50 shekels, 20 goats and a toaster? Were the foreskins ingredients for a special sauce? No, it was because Saul wanted David dead, and he believed setting such a dangerous and perverse task would achieve that, as the Bible explains: 'Saul's plan was to have David fall by the hands of the Philistines' 1SA 18:25. This is the level of morality that God and the Bible promotes. And perhaps God got the idea of how to kill Jesus, while publicly keeping his hands clean, from Saul: as Saul tried to get the Philistines to kill David, God could get the Romans to kill Jesus? Everyone needs a good alibi, right? Whether it's the humans that God supports or God himself, you just can't trust the devious bastards to not try and kill you. But there's more immorality involved than just Saul conspiring to have David killed. He could have simply paid an assassin to kill him, or set him a very dangerous task, hoping he'd be killed, a task that didn't involve murdering 100 innocent strangers. But no, Saul told him to go out and slaughter 100 foreign heathens. This from a people that say they live by God's Ten Commandments, one of which says that they must not murder people. But as we've said before, the Jews felt this applied only to other Jews, not to filthy heathens, heathens with foreskins no less. And when it suited them, it didn't even apply to their fellow Jew, since Saul is conspiring to have David, a fellow Jew, killed. And God knew all this was going on, and being on David's side, may have even helped him slaughter 200 Philistines, for God also had no time for filthy heathens. God was a xenophobe, hating everyone that didn't belong to his little Hebrew desert tribe. And let's remember that the foreskins were a bride-price, the agreed price that David had to pay to purchase Saul's daughter, a business deal arranged in the same way that he would have agreed to buy a cow. To Saul, and to all fathers throughout much of history, his daughters were mere chattels, like a good sword or fast horse, his property to sell to whom he pleased for a good price. Yes, fathers valued and protected their daughters, but only to keep them pure and in good condition, which would ensure a high price when the time came to sell them. They viewed a daughter the same way they viewed a prize cow, as a valuable asset. That's why even today at weddings the father walks his daughter into the church and the priest asks, Who gives this woman away? and the father replies, I do. This is the father affirming to the community that he legally transfers his ownership of her to another man. And if the father is deceased, then they have to get another man, an uncle perhaps, to escort her up the aisle and authorise the transfer of ownership. And it used to be that priests would say, I now pronounce you man and wife, not husband and wife as they usually do now, which suggests equality, but 'man and wife', which was seen as saying, man and servant, or a man and his property. In marriage the man remained a man, but the woman changed into a wife, having been purchased by another family. Men purchased and owned their wives the way we purchase and own cars and smartphones today. Men would trade their daughters in the same way I would trade an old DVD player. Remember Lot offering to throw his own daughters to the crowd to save two complete strangers? Today decent people would give away every valuable thing they owned to keep their daughters safe, but the Bible tells us we should do just the opposite, give away our daughters to be abused to keep an invisible God happy. Of course the religious will argue that these were different times, dangerous times, ignorant times, and so morality was different back then, but that's bullshit. They had an all-knowing God advising them, a God that even today people claim is the only source of morality, that God is the only way we can tell right from wrong. Christians can't claim that the Bible characters were ignorant peasants doing the best they could in desperate times, they can't excuse their immoral behaviour and at the same time say they were devoutly following the moral guidance of a supreme being. Since God's moral code, by definition, can't change, and the only written evidence of that code is in the Bible, then clearly giving up your daughters for rape is exemplary moral behaviour. Since modern Jews and Christians now view that behaviour as abhorrent, that can only be because they believe mere humans can devise a far better code of conduct than their God can. And they can only teach their children this human devised morality if they hide the true messages buried in their Bible stories.
As for verse where 'God will search Jerusalem with candles to find those who scoff at him', there are many Bible quotes that show God to be anything but all-knowing, that he's as limited in knowledge and power as his primitive followers. In that story God didn't know who his detractors were or where they lived and didn't know of any lighting technology better candles. It was the same with one of the plagues that God visited on Egypt, the Hebrews had to mark their doors with blood so that God could recognise them and not kill their first born child. He had no idea who his followers were and couldn't tell them apart from the heathens, the Egyptians. And when Adam and Eve hid from God in the Garden of Eden, to find them God had to call out, 'Where are you?' So depending on what Bible verses one reads, some show that God knows intimately who his followers are, and would recognise them even if they were wearing a Spiderman costume, while others show that he's as ignorant as the village beggar.
Ron's right that it's silly for God to wonder whether he should tell Abraham he's about to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. The Bible presents God as if he were a man, a powerful man, but on a roughly similar level to Abraham, fallible, unsure of what path to take, unsure of the consequences of his plans. In later Bible stories God becomes all-knowing, but in the early ones he's often as limited in his knowledge as the men he's pushing around. In the next verse, before destroying Sodom and Gomorrah, God says he needs to go down personally and look to see if it's as bad as he's heard. He's not all-knowing, he needs to go have a look. And yes, why should God care what Abraham thinks about his plans, he has no concern at all for all the innocent people that he's about to slaughter? And while the Bible might claim that all the inhabitants were sexual deviants, we can't believe that all the children, toddlers and babies also deserved to be roasted alive. This story, if it has a germ of truth, is likely the result of ignorant, superstitious people trying to explain the destruction of a village by a natural disaster, and they decided to blame the homosexuals for the demise of Sodom and Gomorrah.
Want to cure acne or ensure the Sun rises tomorrow? First, find a bird and a virgin, preferably cute ones. Killing all those animals in silly ritualistic ways to cure disease was repeated in primitive religions worldwide, where blood sacrifices had to be offered to blood-thirsty gods, and often they were human sacrifices. Think of the hundreds of humans sacrificed by the Aztec to their gods, and the Bible starts out with human sacrifice too, only later does it reduce to just animal sacrifice, but then God reverts back to human sacrifice with a vengeance, deliberately arranging the sacrifice of his own son. Christians even acknowledge that this was a human blood sacrifice by calling Jesus the sacrificial lamb. Catholics actually believe they are eating the real flesh of Jesus and drinking his real blood at Catholic Communion, that it's not merely a ritualistic symbol, which would make them willingly cannibals and vampires. Even if one is to ignore the inhumane sacrifice and burnt offering aspect, every modern Christian should be embarrassed to embrace a book that contains such superstitious and bogus medical advice.
And Ron is right, apart from a handful of deluded Christians who quickly become destitute, none give away their belongings to people that ask for them, meaning not just their coat, but their house and bank accounts as well. This advice only made sense to the disciples because they were convinced that the world was to end any day now, and so possessions would be useless anyway. Of course they were badly mistaken, and 2,000 years later various Christians denominations are still predicting the end of the world, and getting it wrong yet again. And rather than give their wealth to those less fortunate, churches actually do just the opposite, they take money from the poor and use it to fund their decadent lifestyles, just think of the obscene wealth of the Catholic Church, TV evangelists and the mega-churches in the USA, even our own Bishop Brian Tamaki who preys on the poor and ignorant in society, and returns home at night to his mansion.
Ron wonders whether Jesus was lying when he said faith could literally move a real mountain. Of course we don't think it's all that likely that Jesus even existed, but if we treat the Bible stories like we treat the Harry Potter stories, then the Jesus character is either lying or seriously deluded. And of course his disciples should have immediately recognised that, since as Ron said, it has never happened, not then, not now. And if Jesus was telling the truth, it should have happened untold times, and not just mountains moving, but untold humongous obstacles should have mysteriously moved about to suit the desires of the faithful. This what Jesus said,
'I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, "Move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.' MT 17:20So according to Jesus you didn't have to be super-faithful to move mountains, a small amount of faith was sufficient. With just small germ of faith there is nothing a believer couldn't do; move mountains, fly like a bird, become invisible, travel to the Moon, breath underwater, turn a barren patch of desert into an oasis to rival a Las Vegas casino, all with just a simple utterance. They could do impossible things. And yet no one ever did. Of all the people that throughout the centuries we can assume had far greater faith than just a mustard seed's worth, none ever did anything impossible, none ever moved a mountain or even a mole hill. And if Christians argue that Jesus, contrary to what he clearly said, meant that the faithful could merely achieve great things, rather than actually move mountains, then why didn't they? Many of the faithful have wished to see the end of poverty or famine or war, but that hasn't happened either. Is the blatant and embarrassing lack of miracles due to the fact that not a single Christian throughout history has ever had enough faith in the existence of their God for him to grant a single miracle? Regardless of how they act, are they atheists in their heart, and God knows it?
As Ron said, 'There is great faith that Jesus spoke only the truth', but why do Christians believe this, and what do they mean by it? Do they mean that Jesus was a moral person and simply refused to lie, or do they mean that Jesus was incapable of lying? It's the second. Christians believe Jesus had divine access to the knowledge of the cosmos, that he knew what the truth was on any and every matter, and more than that, his nature, his perfection, prevented him from uttering anything but the truth. So, Jesus is just like God then? Well, this is where it gets confusing, since it seems Jesus is God. Wait ... what ... Jesus is God? Yes, apparently Jesus was just God in disguise; give him long hair, a false beard and a dirty old robe and no one noticed. Of course this twist in the Biblical story introduces a multitude of problems concerning what God/Jesus said and did, like how can Christians call Jesus the son of God if they're one and the same person, and if Jesus was God, then Jesus the man didn't die on the cross. It was all a charade. For the Christians that worship Jesus and argue that he isn't God, he really is the son of God, then that means that there is now more than one god up there in space, and they're breaking God's first commandment by worshiping a god other than God. We can see why the Jews didn't want a bar of the Jesus story, since it really did screw up all they work they'd done to promote the idea that there was only one god, and not families of gods up in space, all watching us from their thrones as all the other ancient cultures believed.
Also we need to mention that Jesus used the example of the mustard seed because, as he claimed elsewhere in the Bible, it was the smallest seed that existed. and of course Jesus aka God would know this because he knows everything and whatever he says is true. Only it's not true. There are seeds smaller than the mustard seed, for example, orchid seeds, and even in the time of Jesus some of his more learned audience would have known that. And even if they didn't, God certainly would have known, since didn't he create the orchid seed? Or maybe he didn't? So clearly Jesus wouldn't recognise the truth if it wore a short skirt and propositioned him in a dark Jerusalem alley.
Of course this is just a teaser, just a sprinkling of the fanciful tales of barbaric gods, silly and immoral humans, woeful ignorance, and yes, even unicorns, that can be found in the Bible. Look for it in your local library, or favourite bookshop, in the fantasy section. And if you enjoy your read, here's a sampling of books from our Recommended Books page that can reveal more about the hidden gems in the Bible:
|Pope: atheists better than Catholics|
News flash: The pope has finally affirmed that atheists are better people than Catholics!
Well ... duh!
And it's taken them 2,000 years to figure that out? No, it's just taken them that long to admit it. Well OK, perhaps you might accuse us of being a little simplistic here (or are we?), since what Pope Francis actually suggested was that atheists are better than 'hypocritical Catholics'. But our argument would be that all Catholics are hypocrites, including Pope Franny, which means our original statement is correct, it's better to be an atheist. So what did Pope Francis really say?
The other day Patrick sent us a link that he rightly thought might interest us:
It's a brief article so we'll quote it in full below:
'Pope suggests 'better to be atheist than hypocritical Catholic''Personally we suspect he's a plant sent in to undermine the Vatican from within, and who has more influence than the pope? And we'd agree that what the pope says is true, and rational, which are two words you never expect atheists to attach to an official statement from someone in the Vatican.
Now Ron has written, adding his voice to the pope's surprising criticism of his own grubby organisation:
'Hiya John. You may have seen a very recent news item where the Pope is giving some Catholics a rark up [see the above article] ... The Pope is regarded as a great guy these days, so I wonder could he be into the odd hypocrisy or hidden meanings at times. Unintended, maybe. There are 2 comments I make. First, when saying it is better to be an atheist, an inference can be taken that Catholics are better than atheists anyway. Second, he brings up money laundering. Would I be not out of line saying that this statement, coming from the Vatican as such, smacks of a little bit of hypocrisy?First, Ron is right that for the Vatican to condemn money laundering smacks of hypocrisy, considering the unsavoury reputation and rumours concerning the operation of the Vatican Bank. He's also quite correct that the pope is implying that Catholics, good Catholics, not hypocritical Catholics, are better than atheists, infinitely better in fact, but this is an arrogant view that all religious believers hold, be they Jew, Muslim, Pentecostal or Catholic. It comes with the territory of believing that you're God's favourite. The pope is not in any way suggesting that a good atheist is on par with a good Catholic. He's saying that when Catholics fall from God's grace, they plummet down the ladder to a point below even atheists, and atheists are down near the bottom rung, well below even Jews and Muslims. The pope is likening duplicitous Catholics to smelly pond scum and atheists to lowly worms, and suggests that when Catholics see some of their fellow Catholics involved in 'dirty business', they think, 'if that person is a Catholic, it is better to be an atheist'. But these 'better' Catholics realise that even they aren't leading a life of true piety, of true Catholic devotion, and so on being given the option of being smelly pond scum or a lowly worm, they opt to be the worm, since it's at least a step up the evolutionary ladder.
The pope attacks the Catholics that say, by the example of their daily lives, 'I exploit people, I do dirty business, I launder money, (I lead) a double life'. In other words, Catholics that are criminals and that don't care what harm they do. But why isn't the pope condemning your typical Catholic that isn't engaged in criminal behaviour, and yet is still leading a hypocritical, double life? Catholics that seldom go to Mass, that engage in casual sex, that use contraception, that blaspheme, that agree with abortion and voluntary euthanasia, that criticise the Church's view on celibacy for priests and nuns, that masturbate, that don't persecute homosexuals or treat women like second-class citizens, that live their lives as if they were atheists, and yet still identify themselves as Catholic? These typical but very 'flawed' Catholics are much better people than the money-laundering Catholics the pope condemns, but they are still a million miles from being good, pious Catholics. We know many Catholics, of varying piety — friends, extended family and associates — and while most would disagree, frankly all of them are closer to following atheistic and humanistic views than Bible-thumping Catholic views. All of them commit all or most of the sins we listed above, eg contraception, masturbation, blasphemy etc, so the reality that the pope needs to accept and acknowledge is that it's not just the dishonest and criminal Catholics that are hypocrites and leading a double life, every Catholic on the planet is a hypocrite.
The pope tells Catholics that they should 'practice what their religion preaches', but of course no one does, not even the pope himself. The above article notes that, 'Less than two months after his election, he [Pope Francis] said Christians should see atheists as good people if they do good.' But how can the pope, if he believes in the Bible, in God's Word, seriously believe that atheists are capable of doing good when God clearly states:
'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 is the pope being a little devious here, pretending that God will accept atheists who do good, while at the same time knowing that we never will, that doing good is beyond us, and that Heaven is quite safe from our odious presence? Apparently not, because in this article, the pope criticises the disciples of Jesus, saying that they '"were a little intolerant," thinking that "those who do not have the truth, cannot do good"', and says that Jesus was right to correct them. The pope goes on to say that, 'Jesus broadens the horizon. The root of this possibility of doing good — that we all have — is in creation'. So can atheists do good? Who are we to believe, God, Jesus or some old pope? And we need to remember that when Jesus suggested inclusiveness when discussing the claim that 'those who do not have the truth, cannot do good', he was referring to his fellow devout Jews, not atheists. When God, an all-knowing being, and the claimed creator of atheists, says that atheists are 'corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good', that we will go to Hell for eternal torture, and this same God commands his followers to kill atheists, why should we then believe the pope when he says atheists can do good, and if we do, will go to Heaven, not Hell? The pope appears to be saying that God got it horribly wrong, and that the Bible can't be believed, but if the pope is right (and he is, the Bible can't be believed), then the only obvious conclusion to reach is that God, Heaven and Hell aren't real. Like all the many other holy books from ancient times, the Bible is a work of fiction. The pope accuses some Catholics of being hypocrites, that they don't 'practice what their religion preaches', but then he too dismisses much of what his religion has preached for the last 2,000 years.
Of course when Christians gleefully throw that above quote at atheists, they almost never quote it in full, they just mention the first bit, that we're fools to deny God, and don't follow up with the bit about being vile and corrupt. Because of course even they know it's untrue. But other than that verse, are there any other Bible verses that have God and/or Jesus asserting that atheists — non-believers — are anything but good? Yes there are, and worse still, they command that we must be killed when we're discovered. For example:
'If a man or woman living among you ... is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant, and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars of the sky ... take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. ... You must purge the evil from among you.' DT 17:2-7Some may attempt to argue that those verses are not explicitly referring to atheists, but to followers of other religions, but let's remember that true atheists would have been almost unheard of in those ignorant times, most everyone would have had a belief in some god or gods. Basically, in the Bible, the God of the Jews and later the Christians, condemns as evil anyone who doesn't believe in him. For example, modern atheists try to explain to Christians why belief in God is silly, and our behaviour is clearly covered in the above verse: 'Stone him to death, because he tried to turn you away from the LORD your God'. We atheists condemn, ridicule and make fun of priests concerning their behaviour, which means a death sentence because of the above commandment from God: 'The man who shows contempt for ... the priest ... must be put to death'. We atheists violate God's covenant by working on the Sabbath, blaspheming, masturbating and eating shellfish, so again we're screwed according to this verse: 'If a man or woman living among you ... is found doing evil in the eyes of the LORD your God in violation of his covenant ... stone that person to death'. And quite obviously we atheists aren't actively looking for God, or Santa Claus for that matter, and so again we're marked by God for execution by his followers: 'All who would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, were to be put to death'.
So rather than doing good in our communities, clearly God believes that atheists are nothing but evil bastards out to corrupt his followers, and must be exterminated. So in complete contrast to what the pope now claims, there is no suggestion whatsoever that God sees non-believers as generally good people doing good deeds and that most of us will be bound for Heaven to mingle with devout Christians who gave up their Sundays and casual sex to get there.
Of course many of these devout Christians will now argue that the above verses dishing out hate and death were from the Old Testament, and that Christians follow Jesus, a new lovey-dovey character introduced in the sequel, the New Testament. But we need to ask, who does Jesus follow, who does he get his orders from? And without doubt Jesus believed he got his marching orders from God. Christians may refer to the New Testament, but let's remember that there was no New Testament when Jesus was preaching, Jesus was a devout Jew quoting from what we now call the Old Testament. And Jesus quite clearly states:
'Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.' (MT 5:17-20)Thus Jesus is confirming that God's commandments, of which there are some 613 in the Old Testament, not just the 10 that most people have heard of, are still valid. None lose their authority until the earth disappears, which we don't believe has yet happened. So according to Jesus we atheists are still evil, and he didn't come to explain why God got it all wrong. Faced with this embarrassing verse, some Christians will dredge up Bible quotes from St Paul (originally called Saul, a Jew who had never met Jesus and actually spent his early years persecuting Christians). But on arguing that Paul overrides what Jesus said, modern Christians need to be asked, who do you follow, and who do you believe, Jesus Christ or Paul? Why is it called Christianity if you're following what Paul taught rather than what Jesus taught? And of course Christians claim that Jesus is all love and light, unlike his father who was a right vicious bastard, but to do that they have to ignore the verses that show Jesus was still following daddy's plan of world domination. For example, here's Jesus responding to a question from one of his disciples:
'But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them — bring them here and kill them in front of me.' LK 19:27His response was in the form of a parable, which Jesus was fond of, which are simple short stories with a moral or religious lesson, but this is Jesus clearly saying that killing those who refuse to accept him as their king when he returns will not be murder, it will be divine justice. Regardless of whether it is Jesus making the statement or a protagonist in one of his parables, listeners are given a guide as to how they should behave. And clearly we atheists are in no mind to let Christians and their invisible king rule over us, and so we will remain enemies, not good people that will eventually occupy a luxury apartment in Heaven next door to fawning Christians.
Still not convinced that Jesus had rejected his father's war-mongering ways, and was more like a 60s hippy with the slogan: 'Make love, not war'? Then explain this 'loving' rant from Jesus:
'Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man's enemies will be the members of his own household'. 'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me;' MT 10:34-37Ah yes, the sword, the favoured tool of the peacemaker. And his obscene claim that, 'Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me', is exactly what we expect to hear from arrogant, authoritarian, power-hungry cult leaders.
Let's also recall that Jesus said, 'He who is not with me is against me', MT 12:30. You either believed in him and obeyed him completely or you were the enemy. There was no middle ground, no neutral parties, no atheist Switzerland. So clearly both God of the Old Testament and Jesus of the New Testament were both convinced that believers in other gods and believers in none at all were evil and needed to be confronted and destroyed. And yet Pope Francis claims that God built goodness into the DNA of even atheists, and that 'Jesus broadens the horizon ... The root of this possibility of doing good — that we all have — is in creation'. That article began by saying that, 'Pope Francis has good news for atheists. Jesus died and was raised for them as well. His redemptive embrace was for all, not just a chosen few ... The Church wants all men and women to be saved'.
Certainly the Catholic Church wants all men and women under their oppressive control, and they'll accept not just people doing good but people that have committed unspeakable evil, everyone from child molesters and rapists to vicious dictators and serial killers. But what the Catholic Church wants isn't necessarily what God wants, and again Pope Franny is being a Catholic hypocrite, since Jesus never widened the net to include all mankind, and on this the Bible is quite clear. The Jews were God's chosen people, not the Babylonians or the Philistines, and certainly not the unbelievers. What many people today don't realise is that Jesus was a xenophobe and a racist, he had no intention of permitting non-Jews into his group. Jesus told his disciples: 'Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel'. MT 10:5-6. When a non-Jew approached him he initially ignored her, explaining that only the Jews are God's children and everyone else are just dogs in comparison. When the Jews quoted their commandment, 'Thou shalt not kill', they simply meant that Jews shall not kill a fellow Jew (although they often ignored even that commandment), and killing heathens and committing genocide to get foreign land that they wanted was something their God actually encouraged, and he often helped them with the slaughter of men, women and children. The Jews only gained Israel by killing its original inhabitants, the Canaanites. Whether people claimed to do good or not didn't matter, if you weren't doing good for them then you were destined for Hell. And here's a verse from the Jesus sequel that decreed what God and Jesus had planned for atheists. Note that we're number two on their list of people that need to be taught a lesson in submission:
'But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.' REV 21:8And of those on God's list for eternal torture, perhaps only murderers truly deserve some punishment, but not even they deserve eternal punishment. Sexually immoral in God's mind is someone masturbating, liars are people that tell their wife she looks great in that dress, and idolaters are people that worship carved idols rather than God, you know, like how Catholics worship crucifixes with Jesus on them, or pray to statues of the Virgin Mary.
But what does the pope even mean when he says that someone does good? Hitler no doubt thought he was a good person, and that his Gestapo were doing good work. We atheists think we're doing good when we explain to Catholics that they're deluded, that they've been lied to and manipulated, and that they should ditch their childish belief in invisible space beings and start living in the real world. Catholics think it's good to tell the story of their God raping a virginal young girl, then abandoning her and her child, but returning decades later to have his child tortured and murdered. Of course, since God is imaginary, it means that the shameful and cowardly rape of the young girl never happened, but isn't it disturbing that Christians proudly and repeatedly tell their young children that it did? And they don't tell the sorry as a warning, as an example of how not to behave, just the opposite, they insist that their children must revere and worship a god that would rape a young girl and murder his own son. That is doing 'good' in the warped mind of Catholics. And that's just one of many horror stories they tell their kids, they absolutely revel in the immorality of their God, while lying to their children and saying that's how powerful people should behave. Catholics think they're being good when they terrorise small children with tales of demons that will torture them forever if they break pathetic rules, pathetic rules that are impossible not to break. Meaning they are doomed to failure, and each failure simply increases their terror and fear of the future, making their lives utterly miserable. That's the Catholic idea of doing good, reducing lives to Hell on Earth.
My mother once told me the story of finding a young school friend crying. When asked what the problem was, she replied that she was to again attend Catholic confession on Sunday and was expected to confess the sins she had committed during the week. If that wasn't bad enough, revealing private things to a strange old man behind a screen, my mum's friend didn't feel she had any sins to confess, she felt she had been a good girl. When my mum naively said that she should tell the priest that, her friend tearfully replied that the priests believe everyone is sinning all the time, it's in our nature, so they accuse you of lying if you say you haven't sinned, furthermore they suspect you of really serious sins, and you simply receive even more punishment. So make up some minor sin, my mum offered, but her friend, believing in God, said that God would detect her lie, and even though she hadn't sinned through the week, she would then be sinning by lying to the priest, and to God. When that lie was revealed to the priest by God, her punishment would be even worse. There was no way she could escape confession without being punished, even though she had been good. And this little girl went through this trauma most every week. I don't know, but perhaps she changed from being a good girl to a mean little bitch, just so she could have sins to confess to an old priest eager to hear what naughty things little girls get up to. And that was the Catholic priest's idea of doing good, terrifying little girls (and boys), so clearly Catholics and atheists have very different ideas on what it means to do good.
While the media reports what Pope Francis says, we need to remember that he isn't the Catholic Church or the Vatican, most of whom vehemently disagree with his surprising new views on atheism and homosexuality etc. This article stated that, 'The Vatican has quickly clarified that atheists — they believe — are still going to hell, despite Pope Francis appearing to say non-believers could be saved through Christ if they do good'. Soon Franny will be gone like all the popes before him and the Catholic Church will quickly revert back too what Jesus said, 'He who is not with me is against me', with the view that if atheists want to be saved, then they'll need to start believing in invisible beings watching them having sex. Oh, and just stop having sex for Christ's sake. It's not an approved hobby and you're not supposed to enjoy it. So that's the options, we atheists either join them on our knees in the pews, begging for forgiveness, or we sleep in on Sundays and stay on Satan's torture list.
And that's actually the choice that Pope Franny is offering atheists, since in reality there is no conflict between him and the Vatican, they both believe that atheists are going to Hell. That's because the pope's comments are misleading (deliberately we believe), and it's not as clear cut for atheists as the headlines might suggest. In the pope's mind the reality is that atheists will never go to Heaven no matter how much good we do ... UNLESS ... we come to sincerely believe in God and Jesus, unless we renounce atheism and become Catholics! This is the 'meeting point' that the pope mentioned, where atheists reach a crossroad and rather than continue down the atheism path (towards Hell), we recognise the error of our ways and turn down the Catholicism path towards Heaven. Atheists will never enter heaven, only ex-atheists that become Catholics will be admitted. The article explains that, 'it is in doing good that they [atheists] are led to the One who is the Source of all that is good'. There is this arrogant and ignorant Christian belief that atheists will come to sense that if they're doing good, then God must exist, since good can only exist if God created it. Of course you could apply the same flawed logic to evil as well, and make evil your life's work, just to please God. Catholics try and ignore that argument. The article goes on to explain that, 'In essence he [the pope] simply restated the hope of the Church that all come to know God, through His Son Jesus Christ'. The pope explained that, 'all people, not just Catholics, are redeemed through Jesus, even atheists'. And there's the catch, no matter how much good atheists do, we would never be admitted to Heaven (assuming it existed) if we don't first agree to submit totally to the will of Jesus and his daddy, giving up our atheism in the process. And in this the Bible is again quite clear, with Jesus saying:
'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well.' JN 14:6-7So the thought that the Catholic Church is recognising atheists as good people and are willing to accept us into Heaven is utter bullshit, they're still only welcoming obsequious Catholics; and true atheists doing good deeds, and that refuse to have blind faith in something they can't find evidence for, are still frogmarched down to Hell.
Personally we think Pope Francis is a little brighter and has more integrity than your typical Catholic, and is genuinely horrified with the abuse committed by his priests and covered up by his bishops, and truly does see atheists as good people. He apparently can't accept that his loving God would reward his evil child molester priests and punish good atheists, so he's creatively reinterpreting Bible verses and jumping through imaginary hoops in an attempt to show that the Catholic Church isn't the monster it appears to be. Pope Francis suggests that the Church now sees what the rest of the sane world sees, that non-believers are actually the good guys, and that by seeming to welcome us onboard the Catholic bus, the badly tarnished image of the Catholic Church can't help but be seen as a little less evil.
But we atheists aren't fooled by the pope's conciliatory claims and have no intention of helping him make Catholics feel a little more comfortable in still belonging to such a harmful, superstitious organisation. Any hint of collaboration with the Church, even if it were stripped of all it's bigotry and hatred, would still be akin to suggesting that, at its core, it possessed something real and valuable to offer the world. Which of course it doesn't, since its fundamental error would still be a childish, ignorant, primitive, superstitious and utterly groundless blind faith in an invisible sky fairy and his equally imaginary son.
The only announcement we want to hear the pope make is that the Church is closing down and donating all its considerable assets that it's hoarded over the centuries to charity, to a least try and alleviate some of the damage it's done over the last two millennia.
Last Updated Nov 2017