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‘Free Speech’ corrupted by religious politics

Brian Morris takes on the political correctness of the Left and Right in an attempt to reopen debate on Free Speech, religion vs science, and how ‘Freedom of Religion’ has been corrupted. (For readers of The AIMN a free eBook offer from Brian follows his article).

How do we react to the growing use of ‘trigger warnings’? This may seem an early digression but it becomes relevant. What is it with the ABC and their escalation of trigger warnings — advising radio and TV audiences that “this story” will include offensive language, or that images may cause distress? And it’s prevalent across all national networks.

Have media consumers become so fragile that they’re unable to ride out the highs and lows of local and international news without suffering a nervous breakdown? Are children being overprotected? Why has the ABC adopted this insipid practice, imported from US universities where students are wrapped in cotton wool to protect their regressive eccentricities? And it’s this campus intolerance that silences speakers who hold views that upset them. The Right then reacts; the intolerance is ramped up; and Free Speech gets trashed.

That said, here’s a trigger warning! “Don’t shoot the messenger — this may well cause equal angst among the Regressive Left and the Repressive Right“. Political and religious debate has been deteriorating for decades but it has now become irredeemably rooted in the Trumpesque mantra of “if you’re not with me, you are against me.” And that’s very much the view of the Christian churches and their PR lobbyists.

Free Speech is the central issue — and while it remains a vexed question in politics, the taboo to openly criticise religious doctrine in Australia has become more deeply embedded. It’s much the same as US campus intolerance to views contrary to their own, where public debate on the foundational beliefs of all religions has been sabotaged by religious politics. Two good examples are the inability to freely discuss Islam, and another is the recent imbroglio involving the Bible Society, Coopers brewery and marriage equality — where conservatives raged against public disgust of the shamelessly contrived video, staged by the Society.

The Bible Society has escaped unscathed from its thinly veiled attempt to politicise same-sex marriage with a fake video, leaving Coopers floundering with declining sales.  It was a religious PR stunt that backfired badly. But it was never a gay marriage “debate”!  Really; two blue-suited right-wing Liberals mumbling awkwardly at parliament house, drinking Coopers beer — and never mind that Tim Wilson is gay. He and Andrew Hastie are MPs in a conservative government which still rejects an open conscience vote on same sex marriage!

It wasn’t good enough that the directors of Coopers had agreed to print biblical verses on 10,000 cans of beer — the Bible Society couldn’t help themselves; so they decided to stir up a political hornets nets. The reaction was swift.  In a market economy, the public was wholly entitled to boycott Coopers — if not for the sham video, then for trying to ram bible messages down their throats — literally! Where was the right of reply to this shoddy exercise by a wealthy religious organisation that has been biblically obsessed for 200 years? Unfortunately Coopers copped all the flak — the Bible Society, like all churches, remained immune!

But the question of Islam is far more dramatic and deep seated — the way that extremist views have corrupted Free Speech. It has left only a narrow strip of ground at the centre of the debate — occupied by those who are religion-neutral — and who stand between the warring factions of the Loony Left and Rabid Right. One conjures up the image of a raging battle field, where a neutral identity in No-Man’s Land is being raked by withering fire from both sides. It’s a concerted attempt to shoot the messenger.

The Regressive Left view all scrutiny of Islam as “Islamophobia”. In truth, their position can only be described as being “Islamophile” — an inability to consider any shortcoming within Islam! In fact, any written or spoken word against the supernatural beliefs of Islam is somehow seen as racist!  In reality, moderate Muslims are working tirelessly to reform Islam from within!  As for the Rabid Right, their position is quite unmistakable — Pauline Hanson et al regard all Muslims as being their religious and political enemy.

Attempts to speak freely — from a rationalist and atheist perspective — focus exclusively on the undeniable fact that Islam is simply the third Abrahamic religion. Together with Judaism and Christianity, Islam is based on supernatural God-beliefs. It is impossible to deny that the Quran is founded on an alleged vision of the angel Gabriel, by a desert warlord. As with Christianity and Judaism there’s a litany of man-made doctrines that follow from hallucinations of their invisible deities — and they culminate in paranormal beliefs of a human soul and the fictitious promise of a utopian afterlife.

Competing supernatural beliefs continue to divide the world in hate, bloodshed, misery and destruction.

Science has taught us so much since the Age of Reason. All “gaps” in human knowledge — which for centuries were attributed to “God” — have now been discovered and verified as “natural” by tens of thousands of scientists across the world, and in every field of science. Geologists, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, cosmologists and scores of other disciplines have opened up the sheer inescapability of a wholly “natural” universe. Everything is made entirely of atoms from the Periodic Table — leading to the molecules and compounds that make up ever material substance and all living organisms; including ourselves.

From years of exhaustive experiments — most recently by particle physicists at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider — we now know ever particle and force within the sub-atomic structure of the atom. Not simply the elementary protons, neutrons and electrons — but the quarks, neutrinos, fermions, gluons, and Higgs field. There is no other particle or force that has any bearing or influence on the human brain — which is made entirely of atoms — that could even conceivably represent a living “soul”.

So — no ghosts, no poltergeists, no spiritualists talking with the dead, no magic crystals or psychic healers, no astrology, and no supernatural forces that influence any sphere of human existence. There is no eternal soul that miraculously leaves the brain at death to reside forever in heavenly bliss, or some imaginary satanic damnation. We have only one life so embrace it and enjoy it now, to your fullest potential!

But NONE of this gains any public discussion. The media is mute. And challenging the flawed provenance of any religion remains taboo. Scientists, like all academics, are not media junkies — they recoil at the very thought, except for a precious few. And even fewer are brave enough to broach the emotive issue of paranormal religious beliefs — they prefer to avoid the swift and vicious backlash from belligerent archbishops, muftis, and the slick religious PR machines such as the Australian Christian Lobby.

And here’s the killer. The churches only every talk about “Freedom of Religion” — as if it’s their passport to freely spruik their myths and supernatural dogmas without question. This is where the term has become corrupted.  Religious freedom is simply the right to hold “beliefs”, it is not a right to shield those beliefs from sceptical analysis and inquiry!

In truth, the full term is “Freedom of Religion and Belief” — and that includes non-belief and atheism!  Article 18 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) — to which Australia is signatory — makes it patently clear that Free Speech includes an open inquiry of the foundations of religion. There is NO TABOO in doing so, but the media hasn’t yet got that message. And we’re still teaching Christianity in schools — without the science that can now contradict it. It is the antithesis of ‘critical thinking’ — a skill that all children need desperately to learn.

The rationalist and atheist position is certainly to acknowledge that all people have the right to believe what they wish — provided it does no harm.  That includes treating people of religion with respect — but it does not mean their religious views are free from scrutiny!  It is not incumbent on atheists to “prove” there is no God, but it is clearly beholden on Christians, Muslims and Jews to provide “evidence” that their supernatural beliefs are true! For an evidence-based society — and after 2,000 years of myth and pious fraud — this is an open public debate that we urgently need to have!

Brian Morris – World travel shaped Brian’s interest in social justice — wealth, poverty and religion in many countries. His book Sacred to Secular is critically acclaimed, including from the Richard Dawkins Foundation. It’s an analysis of Christianity, its origins and the harm it does. It’s a call for Australia to become fully secular. More information about Brian can be found on his website, Plain Reason.

 

For AIMN readers

Free eBook: Complimentary copies of Sacred to Secular

Sacred to Secular is a comprehensive analysis of Christianity in Australia today, and how its charitable “image” conceals negative and corrupting influences. Juxtaposed against a critique of religion in politics, education and social policy, the book focuses on how Scandinavian nations have successfully developed “religion-neutral” social models — ideas that Australia would do well to emulate.

Go to https://www.plainreason.info/sacred-to-secular/free/ to order your complimentary copy.

This is a newly published eBook — it’s a heavily revised edition of the 2015 hard copy. Brian has made it freely available to readers as either a PDF or a Kindle version.

Brian traces Christianity’s ambiguous origins, how the dogma became embedded in every strata of society, and why religion continues to cause more harm than good. He examines the role of ‘corporate Christianity’, the rise of predatory evangelism, and the privileged status of church institutions that contravene Australia’s secular constitution.

New discoveries in neuroscience provide fresh evidence for the direct link between brain chemistry and supernatural beliefs. Mounting material and circumstantial data further undermines the concept of all gods — and the latest international research by physicists buries any remaining notions of a “soul” and an afterlife.

And, on the Jesus Myth, contemporary historians and biblical scholars further erode the very foundations of Christianity — not simply the “divine Christ”, but also the mortal and “historical” Jesus of Nazareth.

With a positive end-piece the eBook profiles the Scandinavian experience; why Australia has more in common with the Nordic nations; and why we should work towards that objective.

Several courses of action are outlined in Chapter 9 — they are strategies we need to consider, particularly at times like these. Religion tends to become more deeply entrenched during periods when the political, economic and social climate moves further to the right. Australia’s secular voice needs to be heard.

 

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99 comments

  1. JD Anthony

    Interesting and thoughtful article Brian, but marred a little by your adamant claims that science knows all. In my opinion! For example, where you say “we now know every particle and force within the sub-atomic structure of the atom. Not simply the elementary protons, neutrons and electrons — but the quarks, neutrinos, fermions, gluons, and Higgs field.”
    Science has identified all that, but there may be more – until it is discovered it doesn’t yet exist. Isn’t that the core of science – nothing is ever known completely, for sure?

  2. Brian Morris

    Thanks JD, but you may be surprised if you read Sean Carroll’s new book ‘The Big Picture’. Carroll is physicist involved with the Large Hadron Collider experiments. He makes it crystal clear that any future forces or particles found, at the sub-atomic level, “will be so weak as to have no influence on the material world, or we would already have found them.”

  3. Mark Needham

    At least Science is aware of and will admit its shortcomings.
    Religion, well Religion is, “Just Right” right.
    Praying,
    Mark Needham

  4. JD Anthony

    “At least Science is aware of and will admit its shortcomings.
    Religion, well Religion is, “Just Right” right.”
    Yes!
    And thanks Brian, will follow Sean Carroll up

  5. Pingback: Opinion: AIM: Free Speech corrupted by Religious Politics | Plain Reason

  6. jim

    If Malcolm’s LNP don’t listen (climate change) our only hope is to march them out ,I’m talking about four corners ABC http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/
    The election can’t come soon enough.

    The LNP is pushing to sell 100 + mega tons of coal why does the LNP want to sell our resources so fast ? the push is on as the Mega Corporations have spent over $100 million just to knock renewables, so they’ve known for centuries that renewables would win hands down, in all measures. see EV car beat all other type of fueled cars for one.

    The Genie is out of the bottle (sun wind etc) now watch as renewables shuts down the dirty mining of coal .

  7. Miriam English

    Thanks Brian.

    Considering the unwillingness of our mainstream media and politicians to challenge religion it is amazing and very encouraging that religion continues to decline. Despite their control of so many powerful forces they are still losing. Imagine how short their reign would be if they lost control of the politicians and mass media. That day is slowly coming. Every time we speak out it speeds the crumble of empires built on lies. Eventually people will be just people, not mutually hating faiths, each committed to the extermination of the other in order to feed the parasitic religion meme infecting their minds.

    We just need to speed it up further. Religion is self-destructing too slowly. We need to spread the knowledge of a scientific world, of compassion for all people because they are people instead of limiting it to only people of one’s own religious delusion.

    We need to show people why we could not possibly be designed by a divine hand:
    ✦ unlike octopus, the light receptors in our eyes point in the wrong direction and are under an obscuring layer of blood vessels and nerves
    ✦ unlike most animals, we mammals evolved from nocturnal ancestors that were color-blind. We primates have regained some color vision and see 3 primary colors, but not the 4 primary colors that almost all other creatures with eyes do.
    ✦ the distortion of our heads that is responsible for our giant brains also caused our wisdom teeth to grow into a mouth too small for them which can end up killing us
    ✦ our brain is so big that giving birth to the enormous head of a baby is one of the greatest threats to a woman’s life
    ✦ the broken gene to manufacture vitamin C was inherited from our closest ape relatives, unlike all other animals that are able to make it perfectly well (the guinea pig is the only other that I know of that can’t make vitamin C and its mutated gene is different from that of apes)
    ✦ our back never finished evolving for upright stance because our big brain made us so powerful that we had a much greater survival rate. Consequently we’re stuck with a back that is not well suited for its task.
    ✦ our feet never finished evolving to their job either, leaving many people with “flat feet” that make walking for any great distance painful
    ✦ menstrual cramps perform no sensible function, nor do the migraines that accompany them for many unfortunate women.

    We need to explain to people why a soul is impossible:
    ✦ when people speak of the soul they are talking about your consciousness
    ✦ consciousness is clearly the action performed by your brain, as the changes from drugs and brain damage show. Also sleep, anaesthesia, and being hit hard enough to stun the nerves in your head show that stopping the normal action of the nerves causes consciousness to cease.
    ✦ when a rock ceases to roll down a hill, the rolling action doesn’t “go” anywhere. That action simply ceases. So it is with the action performed by the nerves in your brain. Your consciousness doesn’t “go” anywhere; it just is no more.
    ✦ some religious people will change their mind at this point and say the soul isn’t consciousness at all; it is something more ephemeral. Besides the fact that they have no evidence for this, if it isn’t consciousness then it becomes irrelevant, like saying your little finger could be kept alive after you die. Why would anybody care?

    Most of the thousand or so splinters of Abrahamic religions claim a loving god that will welcome those who give themselves over to gullibility and that he’ll deliver a paradise to them, and that this loving god will also torture forever those who are careful and thoughtful and honest in the use of their brains to scrutinise the spurious claims of religion.

    All the thousands of religions claim they are the only one that is right while expecting people to believe on the basis of no evidence. In place of actual proof they point to some religious texts written by superstitious savages in humanity’s infancy — texts that are riddled with inconsistencies and terrible morality, condoning slavery and murder in revenge for imaginary infractions. They each think that faith is all that’s needed, while at the same time invalidating their only refuge by saying it’s not enough for people who believe other religions.

    In the end, all religions make claims they have no evidence or authority for. From wild statements about gods and spirits, to heaven and claims of superiority. Not only do they have no genuine authority, their oppressive and blood-soaked histories completely undercut all their claims.

    Religion is gradually dissolving away, though it will kick and scream as it sees its power dying. It still has plenty of power to cause untold destruction. It is our job — every one of us — to patiently explain to religious people why all religion is a terrible mistake. We must do so as gently and humanely as we can, but we must do it. We don’t have time for it to slowly bleed to death. We need to help euthanise it before it does too much damage.

  8. Miriam English

    I forgot one of the most damning bits of evidence.

    All around the world, the most atheist societies are those that have the least social ills, whereas the most religious societies are festering sores of immorality and sickness. It is exactly the reverse of what would be if there was actually any god.

    People live longer, have less disease, and are less violent in secular societies.

    The rates of murder, divorce, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, infant death, are all worse in religious societies.

  9. Freetasman

    Miriam, IMHO I think that many people are following a religion to try to clear their conscience knowing that the life that they are living goes against what the sacred teaching that their religion preaches.
    Within the Catholic religion is more evident when people go to church to confessing at the en of the week and then they start all over again on the following Monday.

  10. Matt

    Miriam,

    It would be good to see the evidence for what you claim – after all science is based on evidence, and review of such. A complex issue like that would also require some additional analysis, as there are a number of confounding factors and uncertainties. Eg: the extent to which muslim countries have been disrupted and damaged by colonialism and American interference. Also do you consider the USA an athiest nation? If so, on what basis? Keep in mind in regard to ‘ills’ that it is western nations (seemingly athiest under your claims) that are currently contributing most to the destruction of the earth. So the term ‘ills’ is something that needs to be careful considered. In any case, I am not sure that Western nations do have the least social ills (all other things held constant). Why is there so much mental illness, violence, etc?

    As for the general case in regard to Science Versus Religion I suggest those interested watch the C.S Lewis lecture below:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FPeyJvXU68k

  11. Harquebus

    Miriam English
    Thank you for that interesting comment. A few things there that I was not aware of.
    Cheers.

  12. Miriam English

    Matt, the research that shows religious societies are prey to more social ills than atheist ones only included statistics from developed nations (Australia, Canada, Denmark, Great Britain, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Japan, Switzerland, Norway, Portugal, Austria, Spain, Italy, United States, Sweden, New Zealand). Muslim societies tend to be so broken that their statistics are not reliable. The USA is the most religious developed nation and also has the most social ills. The social ills collated in the research were carefully selected for their lack of ambiguity. For instance it is easy to count murders, but difficult to count cases of violence.

    The criteria selected were: murder, teen pregnancy, abortion, sexually transmitted disease, infant mortality, adult mortality, and suicide. On all these, except for suicide, religious societies scored significantly worse than atheistic societies. For suicide there was no discernible difference between religious and non-religious societies.

    Gregory Paul, the researcher who did this work, was surprised. He actually expected there to be no relationship between religion and social ills. He was spurred to do the research because he kept encountering religious people who insisted that morality comes from religion, yet we all know plenty of very moral atheists and immoral religious people and vice versa.

    You can read the original paper in the Journal of Religion and Society. If you don’t feel like tackling a dry paper with graphs and statistics you can listen to Phillip Adams interview him on the ABC some years ago.
    http://mpegmedia.abc.net.au/rn/podcast/2005/10/lnl_20051004.mp3

  13. Miriam English

    No worries Harquebus. 🙂

  14. jimhaz

    [Thanks JD, but you may be surprised if you read Sean Carroll’s new book ‘The Big Picture’. Carroll is physicist involved with the Large Hadron Collider experiments. He makes it crystal clear that any future forces or particles found, at the sub-atomic level, “will be so weak as to have no influence on the material world, or we would already have found them.”]

    That is a book I wouldn’t bother reading.

    The whole idea of something smaller being too weak to have an effect on the material world is not even remotely true. It abandons the logistics of reality – everything is caused and everything is interconnected – smaller things must have an effect on larger things (though this does not mean such is observable). It is what we see in everything else.

    I personally think most of the conclusions from the Large Hadron Collider science is mere fantasy. Higgs fields and Higgs bosuns may be real, and empirically observable, but they are definitely not fundamental.

    One of the things about the concept of being fundamental is that there can only be a single type of that core fundamental entity. The other aspect is that it must be self-creating – uncaused other than by itself. Another aspect is that it must be cumulative (say as inflation or expansion), as that very self-causing aspect must also cause all other things such as the forces themselves (something needs to provide the universe’s power and expansion creates that automatically).

    I am most certainly not pointing to a God. I’m talking about something that is so simple that it only has one attribute – self expansion. All other attributes, such as spatial dimensions, forces, are created by past expansion versus the current moment of expansion. Why – because this means that some portions of the universe will be able to become temporarily static as opposing expansion creates pressures and resistances that equalise and form barriers that act like egg shells (needed for atoms and bubble universes) creating insides and outsides. It also means that explosions or fractures such as the big bang or nuclear explosions in stars must occur (as the inside keeps on expanding regardless). Once there are explosions, then flattened forms will eventuate (a form of 2 dimensionality as opposed to the 3 dimensionality of something growing from a centre), and all the requirements for the evolution of things are in place.

    This ‘path of least resistance’ conflict causes all the illusory laws of nature (such laws are effects/outcomes, not determinators of how things behave).

    My point here is that although you can be certain there is no creator god, don’t be too certain about the certainties expressed by scientists. Most/all scientists fail to move from detail to the totality, which can only be examined philosophically.

  15. Matters Not

    jimhaz – that’s a good article. Well worth a read. Pulls a lot of threads together and develops a coherent argument.

  16. guest

    With regard to free speech and religion, does that mean we cannot criticise religion on pain of being charged with heresy or blasphemy?

    My question is: Did the great Creator of this vast and expanding – but ultimately doomed – universe come to Earth 2000 years ago as a baby, almost 14bn years after the creation of the universe and after having already destroyed it once for its sinfulness with a flood – fire next time?

    And while we mention free speech, why is it that the Right squeals at the suggestion that unions strike in the case of bad laws, but it is ok for the Right to change laws they do not like, such as 18C, or defy the Refugee Convention, or continue to use Manus despite the NG government declaring its use illegal and unconstitutional, and refugees are treated as cattle to be traded between countries despite all the talk about JudeoChristian values being at the core of Oz’s values?

  17. Kronomex

    Creationist…oops, Intelligent Designers, always hammer down any attack with “belief” and “faith” so sometimes it’s not really worth the time and effort to try and argue with them. The christian religion has killed and caused to be killed more people and cultures throughout it 2k plus history than Islam. Religion is the great destroyer.

  18. Matt

    Thanks Miriam,

    Possibly religious countries are worse – I just doubted how on earth someone could come to a definite conclusion about this given what a complete mess the world is in now, and given how much interference there has been by powerful nations on less powerful nations.

    In any case, it has bever been suggested that religion in itself would lead to better nations. Priesthoods are notorious for corruption etc. Jesus himself castigated the Jewish Pharisees for their evilness and hypocracy, and for how they had so distorted the laws of Moses.
    See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ylFgewaFcM
    (ps: do you know what he wrote in the sand?)

    That does not mean there is no God however, it just shows how corrupt humans will co-opt and misuse any power structure whether it be priesthood, democracy or corporations.

  19. Miriam English

    jimhaz, some scientists, in particular cosmologists such as Sean Carroll, are actually philosophers as well as scientists. It’s part of the job. He’s spent a lot of time and effort and accrued a lot of knowledge with a firm grounding in maths to reach the position he’s in. While I don’t think he’s necessarily right about everything (even he wouldn’t be so arrogant as to assume that) he is almost certainly right about the lack of further important forces and particles. There will surely be more forces and particles to be found, but it’s unlikely that any will have great effect upon the world. If more fundamental particles/forces are found they will likely merely go to make up the existing zoo of particles/forces, rather than add to them. So Carroll’s assertion still stands as almost certainly correct.

  20. Miriam English

    Matt, it shows that there is either no god or he is utterly powerless… which is the same thing.

    Remember, as a group, atheists fare better than any religious people.

  21. Michael Taylor

    JD, the big – no, huge – difference between science and religion is that science is forever learning. Religion is not. Science is evolving. Religion is not.

    BTW, everybody, I highly recommend Brian’s book. Brian is only making it available free tor AIMN readers. Grab your copy.

  22. Zathras

    When people talk about the future they are usually referring to what advances we may see in science and technology and how they may benefit the quality of our life and our understanding of the universe.

    Nobody ever says “Think about how great religion will be in three hundred years!”.

    Yet we are today still governed by people who believe the earth is only thousands of years old and base their personal morality on an interpretation of iron age documents arranged to support a narrative that was in turn borrowed from ancient Egypt and look forward to an event they call Armageddon.

    The last time we were governed by a uncontrolled theocracy was called “The Dark Ages” for good reason.

  23. Miriam English

    Matt, that video is a dramatisation of my favorite story in the Bible.

    Did you know it’s actually a forgery? It was inserted by some nameless monk in the Dark Ages whose job it was to make copies of the Bible (they didn’t have printing presses so copies had to be made by hand). We know it was a forgery because we have copies from earlier and from other monasteries and they don’t have that story. Later copies from there all have that story inserted. Notice also when you read it, that it has a completely different style to the surrounding text. It has a quite modern feel, whereas the surrounding text is the more usual awkward prose.

    Nobody knows what he supposedly wrote a) it isn’t mentioned in the Bible and b) it is sadly fiction. I’d love it if that story was real.

    This is one of the big problems with all religious books. They have been altered and edited and translated so much that it’s difficult to regard them with much respect. Look at the different apostles’ accounts of Jesus’ crucifiction. It differs in many fundamental ways. Look at passages like “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live”, which is an appalling mistranslation. The original said something closer to don’t let a poisoner live near you and there’s actually some argument as to whether poisoner or herbalist is the intended meaning. That nasty little mistranslation cost countless women their lives.

  24. Miriam English

    Zathras, I laughed aloud when I read your comment. That particular difference had never occurred to me — that people are always looking forward to great advances in science, but nobody ever says “Think about how great religion will be in three hundred years!”

    So true. Thank you for that bright spot in my day. 😀

    Yes, a thousand years of Dark Ages. We must never let that happen again.

  25. Tim

    Your bizarre description of the Coopers imbroglio as one of “conservatives raging against public disgust” rather than of “progressives” raging against any dissent from their dogma, betrays a bias. Logically, if the threat to free speech doesn’t come from the intolerant reaction of the progressives to the clip, neither can it come from an equivalent conservative response.

  26. Mark Needham

    guest ” Right squeals at the suggestion that unions strike in the case of bad laws, ”

    Most people squeal at the Violence, that is exhibited. Confrontation is “created” and the crap ensues.

    ‘ligion can be so attractive, at times of distress. Religion should be made to “prove it self”, we must call it out to do so. It is not up to us to disprove it.
    Under Lightning bolt,
    Mark Needham

  27. Zathras

    Miriam,
    Actually most of those medieval monks who copied an illuminated Bibles were illiterate. It was the priests who held all the power through their secret knowledge and interpretation of the written word. Also, the children of roman slaves were once taught to read and write (to make them more useful) but it was the emergent Christianity that closed down the schools as they consolidated their own power.

    The biggest changes and updates to the Bible came after each Council of Nicea.
    The oldest complete copy of the Bible is the Biblica Sinaticus – Constantine had only 150 made and only a couple still exist.
    The next one (when The Council determined Jesus was divine) was 10,000 words longer and the one after that (when the Council decided he was in fact, God incarnate) longer still. It’s the one when most of the miracles mysteriously appeared.
    Biblical historians have noted changes in style and content in several places and at different times,

    Another thought about the difference between science and religion –

    If all knowledge and records of science and religion were obliterated tomorrow, eventually new religions would rise up but they would have to be much different from the ones we have today. However, science would eventually return to exactly the same place as things are re-discovered because some truths are absolute.
    Two scientists working independently and in complete isolation from each other can discover the same truth at the same time. However, no religious revelation has ever been common to two different people.

    Just sayin…

  28. silkworm

    Miriam’s short list of design flaws can be easily expanded. You just have to google “design flaws in the human body” to find them. The one that seems to gather the most interest is the problem of having the “playground next to the sewer outlet.”

  29. Matt

    Michael Taylor,

    If anyone does know or discover real religious truths one would not expect them to change. Truth is truth, and is eternally so. One would not expect God, or God’s nature, to change or evolve, He is what is He from eternity. Just as one would not expect the basic fundamental rules/truths of our material universe to change or evolve. The rules followed by atoms will remain the rules followed by atoms and 1 + 1 will always equal 2.

  30. Miriam English

    silkworm, absolutely. There are lots more. The appendix is another. I was too tired to bother looking for a more complete list. I just gave a few off the top of my head. Robyn (Science Show) Williams wrote a book titled Unintelligent Design – Why God isn’t as Smart as She Thinks She is, which is entirely about all the errors in our bodies that make the idea of a divine creator ludicrous. I must get a copy of that book. Unfortunately I don’t think it’s available as an ebook. I don’t like dead tree format.
    https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/general-books/popular-science/Unintelligent-Design-Robyn-Williams-9781741149234

  31. Michael Taylor

    Matt, so if science keeps evolving will it one day be perfect?

  32. Brian Morris

    Silkworm and Miriam — the Free eBook of “Sacred to Secular” attached to this articles lists all the design flaws, with some interesting videos, at Section 9.1 of Chapter 6.

  33. Miriam English

    Matt (March 21, 2017 at 8:04 pm), that’s actually a pretty good reply.

    The difference is, of course, that science and maths can prove their knowledge.

    Religion genuinely has nothing. It requires people to accept outlandish claims, just because…. It insists that faith is all that’s required… unless, of course, you have faith in one of the other religions and then it’s inexplicably no longer any good at all.

    Matt, you’re actually an atheist too, regarding all the other thousands of religions and their gods.
    I just dismiss one more god.

  34. wam

    Sorry but the religious women cannot afford to be caught questioning the men’s interpretation of god.

    I love epicurean questions but I am waiting for 18c to be repealed before asking questions.
    In case anyone would be offended by being asked?
    Why any normal human being would:
    respect an organisation that supplies children to men and women in the full knowledge that they will be physically, sexually and mentaly abused?
    worship a god who not only forgives the child abusers but accepts men who murder wives and children into heaven and, in the minds of some Australian women, rewards men who kill?

    ps arguably science is based on finding evidence starting with thought?

  35. Matt

    Miriam, Look I am not against science at all. And I agree, wam, that knowing who to trust in terms of what is religious truth is a major problem in relation to religion. But none of this disproves the possibility of a God. Michael T, no doubt science does (or at least in theory could) move towards perfection in relation to the material universe, how close it gets to that I do not know. But to suggest that all matters can be solved by science is a mistake I believe, and I think the video I posted above, with various experts discussing this issue, provides a better explanation of this problem than I ever could.

    But C.S Lewis also explains this in his own words here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AJu0oYvi-cY

    Also:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXlBCZ_5OYw&t=4s

  36. Freethinker

    Wam I guess that it is for the same reason that people respect scientific organizations where there are corrupted scientific that are there to satisfying their ego or financial gains.
    We humans are not perfect and regardless in what we are involves there will be a percentage that are doing the wrong thing.
    IMHO what many people here are wrong is just mixing regulated religions with spirituality and God.
    It is possible to not agree and following regulated religions and believe in god and spirituality.
    Regulated religions are using God and fear to control the masses.

  37. silkworm

    Maybe God exists, and He is a complete and utter moron, sort of like a giant man-baby.

  38. wam

    possible, freethinker but that requires rejection of parts of religion which can only come from questioning their faith teaching. Have you met a christian, muslim or jew that questioned their religion and stayed within the church? QED they will not question their beliefs. My best efforts got to god created the universe and the process of life but he still believes in heaven and everlasting ‘existence’..

  39. Miriam English

    Matt, you’re correct. None of this disproves the existence of a god. No matter how unlikely the possibility of a god there is always the remote possibility that one or more exist. But it’s not necessary to disprove gods. All that’s needed is to show how unfounded is the belief in them.

    There is a wide gulf between suggesting that a teapot orbits around Saturn and actually believing that one does. I’m happy to admit that I can’t prove there’s no teapot in orbit around Saturn, no matter how unlikely. But to believe that one does in the face of all good sense is ridiculous.

    Sure. One or more gods might exist. It is insanely unlikely, but they just might. But to believe that they do in the face of overwhelming evidence of the non-existence of gods… that doesn’t make any sense at all.

    What evidence is there that gods are exceedingly unlikely to exist? Look around at the thousands of religions. They are, by far, the best evidence that no gods exist. But there are many other reasons for not believing gods exist. See my arguments earlier (and I have plenty more).

    P.S. I’m happy to imagine the existence of gods. I’ve written a story, Grace, which honestly, sympathetically, and logically assumes the existence of a god. The story comes to the conclusion that a sane god would not want the religious subservience of people or even their belief.

  40. Matters Not

    All that’s needed is to show how unfounded is the belief in them.

    Really? Why is the onus on the hypothetical ‘me’ to disprove anything?

    Religious truth? What next? Logical irrationality?

  41. Michael Taylor

    We have a Matt and a Matters Not. All we need now are a Matters or a Not. Or perhaps an Ers.

    But perhaps it matters not.

  42. Michael Taylor

    Yes, I know. That comment was totally irrelevant and stupid.

  43. Matters Not

    Don’t worry MT, it matters not. Take it from someone who knows about what matters, and what doesn’t.

    But perhaps not?

  44. Möbius Ecko

    The rules followed by atoms will remain the rules followed by atoms…

    Well not exactly. For any rule, like the Octet Rule, there are many exceptions where atoms don’t follow the rules.

  45. Matt

    Miriam,

    I respect that you have considered these issues. Your story is nice, but it is just a story. Look, trying to ‘prove’ the existence of God to someone is – as you say – impossible. God cannot be proven like the outcome of some equation, and by His very nature proof cannot be found in nature, although some may say that there are things in nature that are evidence of God. The only way that I know to find God is to examine the religious teachings – that as you say profilerate everywhere, and determine for yourself, including much thought and introspection, what is true. God is spirit and so it is our spirit/self we need most to examine. There are wise people whose testimony I think you discount too readily – some of the most influential people in history, and many who contributed and developed the science that you so ready turn to as an alternative to God. Newton for example, was highly religious (although unconventional in his beliefs). To say that all the saints and sages of Western history were wrong (not to mention those from other cultures) and that we have nothing to learn from them seems to imply a degree hubris in relation to modernity and a disproportionate respect for current people who are considered wise.

    Anyway, as I cannot prove the existance of God to you, we could argue forever on this matter. I will leave this now. But thank you for your civil and thoughtful exchanges.

  46. Miriam English

    Matt, I watched one of the CS Lewis videos this morning. I have to say I was somewhat aghast at the misleads and false reasoning in it. I had thought CS Lewis was smarter than that. I’m very disappointed. The argument against science being able to account for the supernatural is very deeply flawed.

    Lewis thinks science studies something small and doesn’t have anything to do with supernature, but he’s got it all wrong. Science studies reality. That’s all. If something that superstitious people want to call supernature interferes with reality then you don’t ask a theologian to investigate, you ask a scientist. Because a scientist doesn’t study some boring, small part of reality, he studies reality.

    And then he creates a diversion of an atheist seeing humans as insignificant on the grand scale, but that theists supposedly knew this yet accepted miracles — the logic of that connection completely escapes me.

    I won’t watch the other video this morning. I have an appointment to get to, and I’m too disheartened by the lack of intelligence in CS Lewis, someone I thought was much smarter than that.

  47. Matt

    PS: here is a quote from Newton (wikipedia):

    Of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica he stated:[15]

    “When I wrote my treatise about our Systeme I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the beliefe of a Deity and nothing can rejoyce me more then to find it useful for that purpose.”

  48. Miriam English

    Matt, no worries.

    There have, as you say, been many great thinkers, such as Newton who believed in all kinds of nutty things. Newton believed in alchemy. I can take on his ideas about mechanics without accepting his frankly ludicrous ideas about alchemy and spirits. Kary Mullis is a perfect example of this. He is the very smart man who invented polymerase chain reaction (PCR) which forms the basis for our recent unravelling of DNA and understanding genetics, however he also believes some thoroughly insane things, such as AIDS being an imaginary disease, and UFO abductions.

    There have been great atheist thinkers all through history. Socrates, credited as one of the founders of Western philosophy, was sentenced to death because he corrupted the youth of the day and taught that there were no gods.

    There have even been and still are some great religious teachers. One of my favorite people is Benedictine nun, Joan Chittister — a very smart and thoughtful woman. Though I respect her highly, I dismiss her belief in a god, which is clearly wrong. Pellagius was a brilliant thinker. If his teachings had been accepted into the Bible instead of Paul of Tarsus’ awful garbage we would have a much more humane and gentle Christianity. That, incidentally, is another reason Christianity must be wrong — the majority of the New Testament is written by someone who is basically an anti-Christ — a cowardly, homophobic misogynist who sucks up to power — it’s no surprise that intolerant Right-wing Christians justify their hate with Paul’s words instead of Jesus. A god with any strength at all would not allow such a monstrous misdirection of his teaching… mind you, the Bible does also concede that slavery is fine, so perhaps that god would allow Paul’s teaching because he agreed with them… which would make such a god as not worthy of worship.

    In my story, did you miss the point I made about a god not being so conceited or insecure as to need praise? (I guess you didn’t read it. No problem. I’ve yet to meet a religious person who will actually read its 6 pages.)

    I’ve always been amazed that religious people never seem to understand a god that requires worship is basically insane — a celestial Donald Trump. (Worshipers are rewarded with paradise, others get eternal torture.) It never made sense.

  49. Matt

    Miriam,

    I did read your story. I think your conception of God is different to mine. I suspect that God would not want us to pray to Him for his purposes, but for our own (to develop our humility perhaps?). But I do agree God does not need our praise, although we can take joy in Him as we can in anything of beauty.

    Socrates taught that there were no Gods? Perhaps no Pagan gods. All we know of Socrates is what was written by Plato, and if Plato’s words were written after Christ’s birth I think most people would declare he was a Christian, so similar is Plato’s philosophy to Christian teaching.

  50. jimhaz

    [ I suspect that God would not want us to pray Him for his purposes, but for our own (to develop our humility perhaps?)]

    What humility do Christians have? It is all about trying to make sure one gets to heaven, which is egotistical.

    It is also a cop out – an undervaluing of what humans can do on their own. If your god wanted us to truly have free will (which can only be magic) then it should not really have any presence here on earth whatsoever….which incidently it does not (we have only ever seen the imaginative works of man).

    Also when religious pray or talk to their god, they are actually only talking to themselves, usually asking for things or seeking forgiveness for sins. That also is overtly egotistical in my view.

    I’m personally satisfied that I have proved to myself the non-existence of a creator god. I do not accept the argument that one cannot prove the absence of something. I do not accept that a being, and god can only be a being, otherwise it is everything and thus redundant, can exist outside of time and space, outside of physicality. The only so called possible gods are ones that evolved, and thus they would merely be advanced aliens.

    There is actually not one thing you can describe about your god, not one religious person has any idea whatsoever of that gods form of existence, which means there is nothing to disprove in any case.

  51. Alan Baird

    There’s bugger all that the religious can claim about “their” deity. Even when god is given ONE task, to look after his “chosen” people, s/he has been asleep at the wheel for ages. For example, during the thousand year reich (that didn’t quite reach that aspirational goal) Jews had a very bad run. Strangely enough, there was NO passover or intervention of any kind. If christianity is your tipple, just recall when he gave one segment of the christians, the catlicks, a free kick at the cathoys, prods (& any other franchise), agonising deaths ensued for ages. Snore on god. Then the prods got a few back in the eye against the green. Henry, for example, started a prod franchise in the UK & did smite the catlicks something awful. Face it, whatever your religious inclination, when given the run of the joint, they play favourites. So join up by all means but don’t expect this little black duck to respect your branch of religion in the morning. You can do good or evil and be devout or not quite so devout. It means zip.
    Then there’s the self-interested aspect of religion, ie. the necessity to believe in order to have a second shot at life (despite a thoroughly bad life) the so-called afterlife, which is sneered at as “primitive” if it’s ancient Egyptian and a Completely Different Thing In Christianity . I keep hearing a VERY similar concept bandied about by christians even today. When the self-interested aspect of this belief is pointed out to the holy people, the notion of “grace” is invoked, and at this point we can see that god is revealed as a barrister, with an escape clause (ie. belief gets you off, a “get out of hell free” card). All these wonderful gymnastic leaps of religious dogma are revealed (again) as all too human. If history is any guide, human dabs are all over god’s law/s. They are pathetically human.
    At the funeral, the portal to a better time after a good life/ bad life + escape clause, the words, ” sure and certain hope” are intoned in connection with “going upstairs”, a wonderful “mixed prediction”, the initial “sure and certain” sounding pretty good BUT with a serious comedown with the word “HOPE”. Weak. God may have been a barrister but he sure buggered up the final “sell” of the afterlife to this member of the jury. Should have abandoned “hope”.

  52. Kindler

    Matt, you might enjoy this quote by Zen master Alan Watts [trigger warning for atheists – contains word ‘God’]:
    “Jesus Christ knew he was God. So wake up and find out eventually who you really are. In our culture, of course, they’ll say you’re crazy and you’re blasphemous, and they’ll either put you in jail or in a nut house (which is pretty much the same thing). However if you wake up in India and tell your friends and relations, ‘My goodness, I’ve just discovered that I’m God,’ they’ll laugh and say, ‘Oh, congratulations, at last you found out.”

  53. Mark Needham

    Matt
    What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence. Q. Christopher Hitchens.

  54. Tracy

    Matt and Alan – ‘grace’ as an ‘escape clause’, why not?
    Grace, if it is a higher order reality, must be on offer 24/7. It’s unlikely to be subject to Trading Hours, weekend penalty disputes or the whims of a higher power.
    The question becomes, is one in a matching vibrational alignment to receive it?
    What if life is a kind of game where suffering is transmuted into peace by the simple act of surrendering to a higher power via means of vibrational alignment?
    If one doesn’t get it this life, so what?

  55. Matt

    Mark,

    You may dismiss something based on evidence, but first you must assess the evidence. The quote I linked to was not mine it was Swedenborg’s – so why not investigate him and why he wrote this, and what the evidence is for its truth, before you dismiss it.

    Matt

  56. Miriam English

    Matt, you said, simple belief is not enough — I think you would like what Pellagius preached. He was branded a heretic by the Christian church because he preached that good deeds are what’s important, not belief in god itself (though he believed in the Christian god and preached that belief). He was brilliant. I so very, very much wish that his, not Paul’s writings were immortalised in the New Testament. Unfortunately Paul, because of his prolific writings and all his work inspiring fear in people to get them to build churches won the day. Politics. Ugh! And the world is very much poorer for it.

    Pellagius would have made the world a much kinder place.

    Paul is responsible for much of the hate and anger. Hear it in the words of harm spit by the Christian Extremists in Australia, USA, and elsewhere. Also hear it reflected in the anger of those who stand against them.

    There used to be a strong movement a couple of hundred years ago to get rid of the Old Testament from the Bible, along with Paul’s horrible writings. We would have been left with a much more accessible book that would be responsible for far less harm. It’s a pity that movement didn’t hold sway.

    I was surprised by Swedenborg’s story. I started reading, thinking this would likely be another one of those crazy blood sacrifice paradoxes, but was delighted to find the main character in the story pointing out the insanity of the redemption idea, and how sins are not transferable or eraseable. I thought, wow! A genuine ray of light. It is such a great thing to read a Christian piece that sees how crazy that old view is… but then right at the end it dropped the ball and my heart fell with it. The murder of Jesus “was the uniting of the Lord’s humanity with the Father’s divinity”??? Seriously?? It replaced one load of crazy paradoxical doublespeak for another. What a pity. It was really good up til there. But thank you anyway. I enjoyed it before that.

  57. Miriam English

    Matt, in answer to your earlier (March 22, 2017 at 12:00 pm) comment to me… how do you see the lure of paradise and threat of eternal torture as enticement to humility?

    Do you feel that a thinker who carefully learns about their brain, with its networks of trillions of nerves and countless shifting connections having evolved over 600 million years on a small blue planet around the one of the most common of suns, a yellow dwarf main-sequence star, one of a hundred billion stars in our galaxy, which is one of roughly a hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe… do you think such a person lacks humility? Do you think they don’t take joy in the beauty of the universe?

    Do you think that a person who believes that the creator of everything is their personal friend and that he takes an interest in their life… that this person is humble? Do you think such a person is more likely, or less likely to bully others, feeling some invulnerability because god is on their side? Historically, do such people tend to be humble and tolerant of others, especially those with other invisible best friends?

    Socrates taught that there were no Gods? Perhaps no Pagan gods.
    Oops, your atheism is showing. 🙂
    And your intolerance of other people’s invisible best friends.

    I’m pretty sure if Plato had written in AD he would have been branded a heretic as Pellagius was for simply saying people should be good to one another. Pellagius escaped with his life. Giordano Bruno wasn’t so lucky. He was burned alive for speaking the truth. Christianity in the Dark Ages was a terrifyingly intolerant thing. Not much joy or beauty in that. And the Christian extremists want to bring it back.

  58. corvus boreus

    Matt,
    Just wondering why this monotheist deity of yours (the particular literary variant you choose to cling to in the absence of absolute disproof), is habitually referred to as ‘Him’..
    Does your solo god possess traits of sexual dimorphism (eg external genitalia) that justify the masculine identifier?

    Ps, As a male Homo sapien, I do not think that believing myself, by stint of my species and gender, to be the only true reflection of the image of the ultimate, omnipotent universal creator, to be a concept that immediately fosters humility, but rather a narrow dogma that engenders hubris and prejudice.

  59. Matt

    Miriam,

    The reason I said no Pagan Gods is because Plato clearly did beleive in one god. Running out of time to go into this deeply, but just quickly look at some of his quotes:

    http://www.searchquotes.com/Plato/God/quotes/

    eg:

    We ought to fly away from earth to heaven as quickly as we can; and to fly away is to become like God, as far as this is possible; and to become like him is to become holy, just, and wise.

    All men are by nature equal, made all of the same earth by one Workman; and however we deceive ourselves, as dear unto God is the poor peasant as the mighty prince.

    And yes, I believe redemption is due in large part to work on behalf of the person, it does not come for free, but it does come with help.

    Matt

  60. Sue

    Interested in the transition of revenge to redemption?
    Check out Milarepa (Songs of Milarepa).

  61. Matt

    corvus boreus

    The image is a spiritual image, as I understand it, not a physical one. eg: having free-will and all. I see no reason why women cannot meet this expectation. As for humility, in the Christian tradition, God himself has perfect humility, so anyone who wants to think of themselves as being in His image should also have this. This counters the hubris you suggest – yes, in Christianity a natural man may not be so close to God’s spiritual perfection, but anyone can work on this. The closer they get, if they are making any true progress, the more humble they should become – offsetting any hubris about ‘being like God’ – the more a Christian thinks he or she is special because they are Christian, the more they show much further they actually need to go to get close to God’s nature.

  62. Matters Not

    God himself has perfect humility

    Really? Then why must we continually praise ‘him’? ( Never sure which ‘him’ is being praised – God the Father, God the Son or the Holy Spirit). Possibly all might have a very, very poor self-concept.

  63. Alan Baird

    Isn’t god evolving folks! If the god of the middle ages was introduced to the god of today he wouldn’t recognise himself. Why has god changed so much? It couldn’t be due to changes in humanity’s understanding of its environment could it. It certainly couldn’t be deism looking for a new mojo in this tough, cynical world of today. In other words, it couldn’t be god looking for nooks and crannies where s/he could find a bit of residual relevance among the spiritually deprived… the so-called “god of the gaps”, the gaps where religiously irritating ideas like evolution hadn’t removed spaces in knowledge where ignorance was sown and nurtured by the church. Gee, quite a bit of the above seems to have a great deal of HUMAN agency and very little seems to be initiated by acts of god apart from earthquakes etc which regularly knock down HIS architecture in parts of the earth which are active (for god) such as the middle east, Japan, Italy, New Zealand. It is quite obvious that Australians are vastly superior in religious piety to all the above. Presumably Ireland, having become much more secular after they found out about their priests are in in for a shaking up… but nah.. it’s much more likely to come from bombs… with NO connection to religion. Of course, I’d clean forgotten about those good old days of “the troubles”.

  64. Miriam English

    Matt, thank you. It’s been a very long time (holy cow! half a century!) since I read any of Plato’s writings of Socrates. Probably due to be re-read. I didn’t realise he thought a single god existed. I must admit to being a little disappointed. But I should really hold my opinion until I check the context. He may have been talking metaphorically like Einstein did when, as an atheist, he said things like “God does not play dice with the universe” when voicing his distaste for quantum mechanics.

    As for characterising god as having perfect humility, I have to say it puzzles me how (and why) religious people come up with these descriptions of their god(s). As corvus boreus noted, claiming humility for the god of the Bible doesn’t really make much sense.

    Religious people often seek to make their god a perfect or ultimate this or that, but aside from finding the descriptions a little too convenient (and how could they know anyway?), it all sounds a little like the tactic of child in an argument who retorts “No times a million!” in a yes-no argument. 🙂

    To see why such claims of perfection must necessarily fail, watch the excellent short videos by “Theramin Trees” on YouTube. He grew up as a Christian and was a devout believer, but his careful and thoughtful mind led him to see the flaws in religion. He is very thoughtful, patient, and polite in his interactions with believers. His video trilogy “there are no gods” was made as a reply to a religious friend’s questions. I heartily recommend all three, but the second one will specifically address the problems in making a god perfect (about halfway through the video).
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pt9x3CnxApo

    If you can spare the time please do watch the first and second in the trilogy too:
    First episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YkExxkrMyU4
    Third episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwjAX_r2kIU

  65. Matt

    Thanks Miriam,

    I will look into the videos when I get a chance. It is not hard to find to contradictions in any religious doctrine, but in the case of Christianity I often find that bit of deeper digging can resolve these. I certainly disagree that there is any problem with God being humble.

  66. Miriam English

    errr… first and third in the trilogy that should have been.

  67. Mark Needham

    Matt. That is the point. You have no evidence. I dismiss it, because of that.
    Now, evidence, facts, sure, I always try and investigate it.
    “Show me the Money!”
    Mark Needham

  68. Miriam English

    The videos are softly spoken, but they’re quite dense in information content so reward multiple viewings. They’re fairly short, considering the amount of information conveyed. The first is only 7 minutes. The second and third are around 15 minutes each.

  69. JD Anthony

    Readers of this comment thread might be interested in Brian Davey’s book “Credo” – it compares economics to a religion in that it relies on FAITH. Davey argues, with lots of evidence and reasoned argument, that all economics are belief systems and that mainstream neoclassical economists are “fundamentalists.” Hard to get the paperback but e-book free on-line. How can we persuade any devotees of faith with rational argument when their outlook is self justifying. Nor they, us?

  70. silkworm

    Thanks Miriam. What a great series. I watched them all.

    These are the types of videos that should be shown in high schools as part of a General Religious Education curriculum, but I’m not holding my breath. Still, I’d like to see more atheist activism in high schools, and maybe some enterprising young atheist could download them and show them during a lunch break or after school.

  71. silkworm

    Warning! Matt’s link has malware attached to it!

  72. Miriam English

    silkworm, it is a wonderful series, isn’t it. He has many other brilliant videos on his YouTube channel. He also tackles racism and aspects of psychology too.

    Which link has malware?

  73. Matt

    silkworm,

    “Warning! Matt’s link has malware attached to it!” – what makes you say that?

  74. corvus boreus

    Miriam,
    Clicking on any link to ‘candobetter.net’ has always popped up a ‘malware alert’ on my computer.

  75. Miriam English

    There are a bunch of scripts that are set to run on the candobetter.net site. I haven’t bothered perusing them. I have scripting turned off in my main web browser. Flash videos on the site are accompanied by a “param” tag which has “allowscriptaccess” enabled but I’m not sure what it does. It’s odd because as far as I know YouTube videos don’t need scripts in order to play.

    I find it annoying these days so many sites are heavily overloaded with scripts and all manner of overcomplicated CSS, with trackers, and adverts, and all kinds of crap. Often sites now won’t display properly unless you have the latest web browsers. And if you have Microsoft’s awful InternetExplorer some web pages can convince it to download and install nasty programs without your consent.

    My site, http://miriam-english.org has no ads, no trackers, no scripts, not even any CSS — just plain old ordinary HTML. The oldest, slowest, most primitive computer can easily read my pages and they load almost instantly even on slow connections.

    But my nieces and nephew have been sucked into this whole “appearance wins over content” insanity and prefer pages with oodles of crap with virtually no information. They think my pages look old and boring, so hardly worth viewing.

    What the hell is happening to the web?

  76. Zathras

    It’s amazing what the fear of death will make people believe and how far they will go to rationalise their beliefs.

    Once upon a time. mysteries like the origin of rain and thunder were all attributed to some God or other but gradually these are being explained away.

    In the end, that’s what it’s all about – freedom from the fear of the unknown – and just like cave men would paint representations of animals to invoke some sort of power over them during the hunt, man invents Gods and writes down associated stories in order to control the Gods and make sense of reality.

    The notion that “God impregnated a virgin to give birth to Himself so He could sacrifice Himself to Himself to take away something bad He put inside us because a rib-woman was tricked into eating some fruit from a magical tree by a talking snake” – is a bit of a stretch. It’s also a very complicated way of doing things for an omnipotent entity who should have seen it all before it happened.

    People scoff at Scientologist nonsense about the intergalactic warlord Xenu and blowing up volcanoes with atom bombs but don’t look at the credulity of their own myths.

    It would be funny if it wasn’t so dangerous.

  77. Matt

    Zathras,

    Absolutely – knowing there is a God, who will look after you if you put yourself in His hands, does remove all fear of death (and fear of many other things). Do you know how liberating that is? I have always suffered from anxiety, but now I know I have nothing to fear. No more sleepless nights, at least not ones racked with anxiety.

    Look at the alternative – a bunch of fearful people, who do not know where to turn – so in their fear they lock up refugees, they fear and hate people who are different (i.e muslims), they put in, and everyone accepts, surveillence on the streets, on the web. everyone excepts losses of rights – like habeas corpus – out of fear of terrorists – that is what is dangerous – people’s fear – that is what leads to Trumps, etc. That is a Godless world where people don’t know who trust and turn to anyone who promises security.

  78. corvus boreus

    Yet strangely, so many of these people who despise and fear adherents of other faiths, or put their trust in frauds like Trump, profess fervent religious beliefs, and even claim to know, with absolute certainty of faith, the will, and even the form (down to gender), of the ultimate universal force.
    Fear of the other and blind gullibility are not attributes confined to or defined by ‘godlessness’, but are also very often part and parcel of religion and other forms of superstition.

    Ps, I know that I have context upon a planetary biosphere within a boundless universe, all of which surrounds and sustains me (i am part of IT).
    Do you know how comforting and liberating that is?

  79. Miriam English

    Zathras, for many religious people I think it’s less a fear of death than a fear of meaninglessness. Sadly, by attempting to add meaning via a fictional god they miss the true meaning of life. The real tragedy of trying to extract meaning from a god is made clear when you ask a religious person what their god’s plan is and they answer that they can’t know the mind of god. This is especially so when you point to small children dying horribly and unnecessarily. They try to inbue their life with meaning using a bait and switch — there is a meaning, but I can never know it.

    The most frustrating thing about this is that the purpose of life is easily found without any need for a god. In fact, gods merely obscure it.

    You can divide matter in the universe up into two broad kinds: non-living and living. Living things have a clear purpose: to propagate more life. That’s what life is. Its function is also its purpose, its meaning. Life begets life. Life propagates more life.

    Some life, in order to fulfil its main purpose, has a brain. The purpose of a brain is to help the creature to adapt by learning about their environment. So those living things have a secondary purpose: to learn.

    Some creatures form groups because surviving together is often more effective than singly. These creatures have a third purpose: to help their fellows.

    Humans are unusual because we have long lifespans, an unparallelled ability to learn, and we can form societies of billions of individuals. More than that though, in understanding the processes of life and the interrelations of living things we’re able to see all life as our fellows and take on a wider purpose than any other living thing: to enhance life, to learn everything, and to look after all life wherever we find it.

    This kind of natural morality, growing out of logic and the real world, far surpasses the empty promise of some secret, unknowable purpose.

    And yes, it is amazing and discomforting to witness the contortions of modern people excusing the actions of a psychopathic god as imagined by early Iron Age superstitious savages, and weird to hear undeniably intelligent people try to explain the murderous lunacy of a blood sacrifice as somehow absolving others of an imagined “original sin”, or serving some purely symbolic function.

    Religion too often uses paradox and nonsensical constructs to paralyse thinking. “The three are one”, “He created the world from nothing”, “He loves you so much he’ll torture you forever if you don’t praise him”, “He died for your sins”, “He died, then came alive again”, “He is everywhere, but invisible and intangible”, “He can do the impossible”, “Don’t ask for proof, you can only know by believing”, “Doubting your belief is to be lured by evil”, and much, much more. These things are designed to prevent thought.

    If there really was a god it would want people to use their (god-given) intelligence to critically see the flaws in myths and pretty lies. Such a god would want people to understand the world around them rather than being confounded by nonsense and hoodwinked by charlatans in churches. A real god would want people to understand every aspect of creation around them, including evolution, why people are so eager for obviously false myths, why people so desire to follow the often dangerous and irresponsible leaders in churches and politics and business.

  80. Miriam English

    Matt, have you not noticed that it is almost entirely the religious people who are “the fearful people, who do not know where to turn — so in their fear they lock up refugees, they fear and hate people who are different (i.e muslims), they put in, and everyone accepts, surveillance on the streets, on the web. Everyone accepts losses of rights — like habeas corpus — out of fear of terrorists”?

    It is mostly the religious people who follow people like Trump. Look at the Republicans in USA — they support Trump and are fanatical Bible folk. They are heavily invested in war, taking away healthcare from millions, keeping women as second-class citizens, denying the facts of evolution and of climate change, are strongly racist and are the most fearful bunch you could imagine.

    The LNP in Australia are heading in the same direction. They are run by a core of Christians who want all those things the Republicans want — destruction of health care, women as second-class, racism, war, anti-evolution, denying climate-change, and so on.

    The godless people tend to be the ones operating organisations like GetUp, Greens, EFF, SumOfUs, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam, and so on. Did you know that most charities are secular, not religious? And religious charities have a terrible track record of diverting large amounts of funding into their own organisations instead of helping the people intended. Also religious charities often act spitefully to people of different sexuality or race or religion. (An example is the way the Salvation Army spent millions of dollars in New Zealand trying to stop marriage equality.)

    Religion gives the illusion of a cushion against fear. In reality it creates fear.

  81. Mark Needham

    Matt. As I said……
    Mark Needham

  82. Matt

    Miriam,

    All I can say is – perhaps what religion people profess is not so useful, but rather we should see how they behave, and see if that is Christian or not. Anyone can say they are Christian, but does that make them so?

  83. Miriam English

    Matt, yes. That is the single most important point of all. It’s how people behave that is crucial.

    All around the world, the further people move from religion the better they behave to each other. The most religious places are the worst afflicted by humanity’s ills. The least religious places are the least afflicted. It doesn’t matter what religion they believe, or what kind of religion they profess.

    One Christian is always another Christian’s imposter. One religion is always false to another religion. It doesn’t matter. The thing they all have is an irrational belief that makes them and society ill. It always masquerades as glory, but far too often degenerates in one way or another to fear and polarisation.

    Not all religious people are bad; not all atheists are good. But the overall trend is undeniable. The greatest mark of immorality of all — murder — is most common where you find the greatest amount of religion, and is least where religion is most absent. That’s the same for pretty-much all the easily measured social ills.

    What people do is what matters.

  84. jimhaz

    I would never say religion is all bad, just that it has enough negative downsides for it to be rejected – the social good no longer outweighs the insanity created. As someone interested in philosophy, I utterly reject it’s false spiritualism.

    I am certain that we have evolved to be post the need for religion – although that can always change (world depression, GW turmoils and hardships, intrusion of an external religion such as Islam, dictatorial or otherwise very nasty national leadership).

    One thing to consider is that if there was no ‘people serving’ government then I’d expect the bulk of us would have been religious – for the protection we would obtain from it by group effort and motivations.

    Often I suspect this is what drives religious politicians to hate the left and welfare, the old small government meme. It is just a plan to drive people back to religion, and why they seem too often be steered and trained to go into politics or scientific naysaying by religious groups like the traitorous Heartland Institute.

  85. jimhaz

    [We have a Matt and a Matters Not. All we need now are a Matters or a Not. Or perhaps an Ers.]

    How about Natters and Natters Not or
    Nutters and Nutters Not

  86. Zathras

    I still maintain that it’s the fear of death that leads to religion.
    The notion of meaninglessness is just a by-product of sentience and something you need to find for yourself.

    If God said “this is all there is – just be good and follow these rules” – who would bother?
    If He said “there’s a 50-50 chance of an afterlife but I’m not telling what the rules of entry are” – would you take the chance?

    No, here’s a guaranteed way of living forever if you just follow the rules but is the preferred alternative really to spend eternity thinking about the eternal suffering and torment of former loves ones who didn’t quite make the grade?

    Ultimately it’s non-transferrable and entirely about The Self. You can’t give up your seat for somebody else on the eternity bus.

    If there is a “God” (which I don’t discount) or meaning for existence, who’s to say that we are even mentally capable of grasping the true concept of he universe?

    We’re still basically evolving hairless killer apes that can’t truly imagine the concept of eternity of think beyond three dimensions so we create a handy little personified myth that personifies all of creation into an easily digestible bundle. A friendly big Sky Santa who knows whose been bad and whose been good with the promise of a present when the day comes.

    We’re so arrogant that we now only knows what He looks like (us, conveniently) but also exactly what He wants from us and the purpose of the entire universe, which He apparently created for our convenience.

    However, can a seagull sitting on top of Sydney Opera House possibly comprehend the entirety of what is happening under it’s feet? Same thing.

    Was God so lonely that he made Himself some pets for His amusement (because apparently he already knows how it will all end) and is He so insecure He needs to be worshipped in case He disappears into a puff of pixie-dust like Tinkerbell if nobody believes? I think that’s our problem – not His.

    Religion and the concept of God (or Gods) are two different things. One was created by us and the other is totally beyond our comprehension. Of the thousands of Gods that have come and gone over the millennia, how lucky we are to be living in the time where we know all about the Real One.

    There’s been a major schism in Christianity almost every generation and about 10,000 variants already and who knows what modifications are yet to come.

    The only use of religion is that at best it can create a sense of community and provide consolation over the death of loved ones.
    If it provides a sense of meaning to individuals, that’s fine for them.

    Other than that it’s a handbrake on social progress and people will continue to kill each other over who has the best imaginary best friend.

  87. jimhaz

    [Paul is responsible for much of the hate and anger. Hear it in the words of harm spit by the Christian Extremists in Australia, USA, and elsewhere. Also hear it reflected in the anger of those who stand against them.]

    Too right. I did some basic amateur analysis a decade or so back and began to feel quite resentful about Paul’s evangelic crap. He did not understand Jesus the philosopher and made up so much rubbish that still affects us poorly. Whatever nutcase John it was that wrote
    Revelations also ought to be reviled.

  88. David Ransom

    “It is not incumbent on atheists to “prove” there is no God, but it is clearly beholden on Christians, Muslims and Jews to provide “evidence” that their supernatural beliefs are true! ” There’s a certain lack of logic in this.

  89. Miriam English

    David Ransom, no, the logic there is sensible.

    Anybody can make any extraordinary and unbelieveable claims, but it is not up to the people around them to refute them; it’s up to the person making the claims to put forward genuine evidence for their claims.

    Otherwise we have a situation where any person can be accused of any heinous crime and it is on the accused to prove their innocence; any potentially poisonous substance can be touted as a cure for cancer and everybody else has to prove it isn’t; thousands of gods, spirits, fairies, and other superstitions can be promoted as true and everybody else has to disprove them.

    See how it works?

    It is logical for the person making extraordinary claims to have to supply evidence. It isn’t up to anybody else. It couldn’t be, otherwise you’d be reversing logic.

  90. jimhaz

    RE: Paul and a bit of synchronicity (coincidence)

    Elsewhere I was pointed to this video about Trumps fascism.

    Chris Hedges: The Rise of Trump (March 3rd, 2017)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Na_jAtxpmiI (scary anti-Trump speech)

    I checked the wiki page on Hedges, which lead me to

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christian_anarchism#Anarchist_biblical_views_and_practices

    “State authority

    The most common challenge for anarchist theologians is interpreting Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 13:1–7, in which Paul demanded obedience to governing authorities and described them as God’s servants exacting punishment on wrongdoers. Romans 13:1–7 holds the most explicit reference to the state in the New Testament but other parallel texts include Titus 3:1, Hebrews 13:17 and 1 Peter 2:13-17.

    Blessed are the Peacemakers (1917) by George Bellows

    Established theologians, such as C.E.B. Cranfield, have interpreted Romans 13:1–7 to mean the Church should support the state, as God has sanctified the state to be his main tool to preserve social order.[58][59] In the case of the state being involved in a “just war”, theologians also argue that it’s permissible for Christians to serve the state and wield the sword. Christian anarchists do not share this interpretation of Romans 13 but still recognize it as “a very embarrassing passage.”

    Christian anarchists and pacifists, such as Jacques Ellul and Vernard Eller, do not attempt to overthrow the state given Romans 13 and Jesus’ command to turn the other cheek.[61][63] As wrath and vengeance are contrary to the Christian values of kindness and forgiveness, Ellul neither supports, nor participates in, the state. Eller articulates this position by restating the passage this way:

    Be clear, any of those human [authorities] are where they are only because God is allowing them to be there. They exist only at his sufferance. And if God is willing to put up with…the Roman Empire, you ought to be willing to put up with it, too. There is no indication God has called you to clear it out of the way or get it converted for him. You can’t fight an Empire without becoming like the Roman Empire; so you had better leave such matters in God’s hands where they belong.

    Christians who interpret Romans 13 as advocating support for governing authorities are left with the difficulty of how to act under tyrants or dictators.[59] Ernst Käsemann, in his Commentary on Romans, challenged the mainstream Christian interpretation of the passage in light of German Lutheran Churches using this passage to justify the Holocaust.

    Paul’s letter to Roman Christians declares “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong.” However Christian anarchists point out an inconsistency if this text were to be taken literally and in isolation as Jesus and Paul were both executed by the governing authorities or “rulers” even though they did “right.”

    There are also Christians anarchists, such as Tolstoy and Hennacy, who do not see the need to integrate Paul’s teachings into their subversive way of life. Tolstoy believed Paul was instrumental in the church’s “deviation” from Jesus’ teaching and practices, whilst Hennacy believed “Paul spoiled the message of Christ” (see Jesuism). Hennacy and Ciaron O’Reilly, in contrast to Eller, advocate nonviolent civil disobedience to confront state oppression.”

  91. Miriam English

    Romans, Titus, Hebrews were all written by Paul. Of the 27 books in the New Testament he wrote 14 — the worst half. He teaches almost the opposite to the main message of Jesus (if there actually was a Jesus). This is why I refer to him as being an anti-Christ. Any god that allowed its book to become so polluted is either completely powerless or doesn’t care about evil being propagated by its words.

    Either way, why bow to it?

  92. Matt

    Miriam,

    You say:

    “Otherwise we have a situation where any person can be accused of any heinous crime and it is on the accused to prove their innocence; any potentially poisonous substance can be touted as a cure for cancer and everybody else has to prove it isn’t; thousands of gods, spirits, fairies, and other superstitions can be promoted as true and everybody else has to disprove them.”

    My belief in God is not leading me to accuse anyone of anything nor tout anything as a cure for anything. The truth is science cannot answer all our questions and make all decisions so easy for us. Science says nothing about whether we should lock up refugees, allow abortion or how to organise our systems of government. But on these questions we – or someone – has to make a decision, that decision will be based on their – through necessity – unscientific beliefs. So where do your beliefs come from? What makes your foundations for decision making – where science is silent or uncertain – any better than mine, just because I believe in God? It seems you are ready to discount the opinions of minds as great as Plato and C.S Lewis just because they believed in a God, is this not somewhat irrational? as these are some of the greatest minds the earth has ever produced – thus the interest in Plato up to and including today. To say that people’s opinions and statements should be considered less worthy because the person believes in God (or vice-versa, that those don’t hold opinions that are more worthy) smacks of fair degree of bias on your part. And of course, there is always the possibility you are completely wrong about God – but you are not perpared to even entertain a shadow of doubt about this.

    It might also interest you to know that for much of his life C.S Lewis was a devout athiest. He came to Christianity very late – and as he confesses himself, he was very reluctant to accept even when he realised it was true.

    So what happens here – are C.S Lewis’ writings before he was a Christian very wise and worth reading, and those after not?

    Matt

  93. corvus boreus

    It is a huge leap from admitting that the mysteries not yet illuminated by scientific learning may allow for the possibility of a deity or deities to be lurking somewhere in the metaphysical murk, to claiming absolute certainty of conviction that such divinity must automatically be the exclusive humanoid male god of the bible, the self-contradictory tyrant who despises knowledge, personally implements cataclysms, demands genital mutilation as sacrificial devotion, and promises lands to selected people in exchange for them committing acts of serial genocide and other atrocities.

  94. Miriam English

    Matt, you miss my point. In my answer to David Ransom I pointed out that the logic was correct that people who make extraordinary claims need to prove them; there’s no burden on other people to disprove them. I illustrated with 3 examples. You’ve mixed the examples up. I wasn’t saying that you’ve accused anybody or touted fake cures. I was simply illustrating why the burden of proof can’t be reversed. As it happens, only one of those relates to you (though I wasn’t thinking specifically of you when I listed it) — that of claiming a god to be real. But then, unless my memory fails me, I don’t think you’ve required anybody to disprove your god, so it still only half applies to you anyway.

    Actually, I think science can, and should, be used for pretty-much all decisions. Science is just a word for the process we’ve used to understand reality. All decisions should be based upon reality. Why ever would they not?

    You ask how I come to my beliefs. I have no beliefs. All my understanding of the world is entirely provisional. If the facts show things to be different from what I thought I understood, then I’m happy to accept that and adapt my view. I have no beliefs to cling to. It is very freeing. Beliefs cause people to stick to wrong ways of seeing things even after they have information to show they’re wrong. Beliefs set people’s feet in cement, stuck and unable to change. I never understood why people would want to do that to themselves. They could instead ride the wave of information and let it take them to new places. Why would they trap themselves in wrongness?

    I’m not better than you, or Plato, or CS Lewis. I simply do my best to evaluate information. Most people can be bogged down by belief. When that happens it doesn’t matter how smart they are, they’re making a mistake. Anybody can make mistakes (I make them all the time), but getting stuck in a belief means they stay glued to that error… quite possibly for the rest of their life. In that situation anybody (including me) can point out their mistake. It doesn’t make me better than them, just able to see their errors. In some respects I’m a very smart person (I supposedly have a very high IQ), but mathematically I’m close to being a moron. Anybody can pick up my mathematical mistakes; they just have to be better at maths than me… which is a pretty low bar.

    I don’t dismiss people just because they’re religious. I dismiss their religion (because it is wrong), but not the person. For example:

    – I greatly admire Joan Chittister, a Benedictine nun. She is a brilliant woman who is right about a great many things (though not about the existence of gods).

    – Read my short (only 4 pages) piece “Honesty” a standalone chapter of my book “Prescription”. The two main characters are a priest and a nun. Tell me if you think I disrespect them. I wanted to portray them as having the highest integrity — as being the best possible people.

    – The hero of my book “flying” is a very religious young girl.

    – Some of my very closest friends are religious and some have other harebrained beliefs. I think the world of them and we get along wonderfully. They know I think their beliefs are crazy, but it doesn’t affect my enjoyment of their company or how highly I value their friendship. It would be stupid of me to cut myself off from these wonderful people just because they have nutty beliefs.

    I’ve always said there is the remote possibility of gods actually existing. Remember my story, Grace, which you said you read? It illustrated how gods could really exist — how they could create a universe, be outside that universe, perform miracles, and watch over people. However the weight of evidence points, I think, to that being extremely unlikely.

    As for the gods of all the thousands of religions? Christianity, Islam, Hindu, Jainism, Buddhism, Wicca…? No. They are definitely all wrong. There is absolutely zero chance of them being correct. It is easy to show why.

  95. Miriam English

    Matt, I want to address this bit more as I think it is so important. You said “The truth is, science cannot answer all our questions and make all decisions so easy for us. Science says nothing about whether we should lock up refugees, allow abortion or how to organise our systems of government. But on these questions we — or someone — has to make a decision, that decision will be based on their — through necessity — unscientific beliefs.”

    As I said, science is merely the name we give to the set of techniques developed to uncover reality. All choices we make should reflect reality, otherwise they are bad choices. Thus science should indeed be used to help us choose whether to lock up refugees, allow abortion, and organise government. Ignoring reality in making these decisions is what is screwing up things so badly.

    Relying on half-baked notions of racism to lock up refugees is insane. The science shows there is no such thing as race (the racist notion of it, anyway) and that people who come to us as refugees make brilliant citizens, filled with energy to do better. They do us a great service widening, enriching our culture. All we have to do is look at the facts.

    Relying on religiously inspired nonsense about a soul entering a baby at conception totally derails debates about abortion. The science shows we are who we are because of our brain, and that doesn’t start operating until near the end of pregnancy. In fact there is tentative evidence to show it might not even contain a consciousness for some time after birth.

    There are plenty of good scientific principles that should guide government. Unfortunately our government completely ignores reality. It is probably the main reason it is so ineffective, corrupt, and immoral. We need a government that understands that compassion, morality, and the health of the planet are all scientifically justifiable concepts… that cynical, immoral, corrupt practices and denial of human-caused climate change can be easily shown to damage our society and planet.

    Making any decisions based on unscientific beliefs is a recipe for disaster, as has been shown time and time again. Now, more than ever, we need to be grounded in reality.

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