Friday 24 July 2009
Thursday 23 July 2009
A noble piece of prose (I think) from Sam Harris. The last paragraph from "The End of Faith":-
"Man is manifestly not the measure of all things. This universe is shot through with mystery. The very fact of its being, and of our own, is a mystery absolute, and the only miracle worthy of the name. The consciousness that animates us is central to this mystery and the ground for any experience we might wish to call "spiritual". No myths need be embraced for us to commune with the profundity of our circumstance. No personal God need be worshipped for us to live in awe at the beauty and immensity of creation. No tribal fictions need to be rehearsed for us to realize, one fine day, that we do, in fact, love our neighbours, that our happiness is inextricable from their own, and that our interdependence demands that people everywhere be given the opportunity to flourish. The days of our religious identities are clearly numbered. Whether the days of civilization itself are numbered would seem to depend, rather too much, on how soon we realize this."
I have just passed the time of day with the local vicar, a very pleasant chap, who was in the process of hanging a banner outside the vicarage announcing; "The Alpha Course. Explore the Meaning of Life". I thought Monty Python had already covered this subject quite satisfactorily but, assuming the intention is to take it a tad more seriously, haven't they jumped the gun a bit? I would have thought at least 2 introductory courses are required. Firstly to establish what is the meaning of "Meaning" in this context. Secondly to determine if life has to have any meaning over and above the vague waffle usually aimed at providing comfort to the intellectually challenged.
I am very tempted to enroll.
Tuesday 21 July 2009
Up until last summer, Jennifer Gray of Columbus, Ohio, considered herself "a weak Christian" whose baptism at age 11 in a Kentucky church came to mean less and less to her as she gradually lost faith in God.
Then the 32-year-old medical transcriptionist took a decisive step, one that previously hadn't been available. She got "de-baptized."
In a type of mock ceremony that's now been performed in at least four states, a robed "priest" used a hairdryer marked "reason" in an apparent bid to blow away the waters of baptism once and for all.
Several dozen participants then fed on a "de-sacrament" (crackers with peanut butter) and received certificates assuring they had "freely renounced a previous mistake, and accepted Reason over Superstition."
For Gray, the lighthearted spirit of last summer's Atheist Coming Out Party and De-Baptism Bash in suburban Westerville, Ohio, served a higher purpose than merely spoofing a Christian rite.
"It was very therapeutic," Gray said in an interview. "It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs."
quedula says: I vacillated between a kind of weak christianity and outright atheism from about the age 7. My moment of catharsis came with "Life of Brian". I left the cinema full of joy, elation and atheistic conviction . . .
Saturday 18 July 2009
Friday 17 July 2009
"The Bible is the Word of God. Mock me if you want, but don’t mock the LORD Jesus—He may remind you of this conversation on Judgement Day."
For the full background see the comments to "Michael Jackson is dead, but Jesus is alive" a blog by born-again christian Andrew Kelsall.
Wednesday 15 July 2009
I never miss a chance to have a go at Tony Blair:-
"Tony Blair seems to have fallen for some Lewis Carroll-type logical fallacy that runs something like this: I believe in God; people who believe in God are good; people who are good do not do wrong; therefore, what I do is good."
Alexander Chancellor (Thanks to the anti-theist)
Monday 13 July 2009
Sunday 12 July 2009
Saturday July 11, 2009
This week the British paper, The News of the World, was condemned by The Guardian for hiring private investigators. The investigators were alleged to have accessed messages left on the answering machines of thousands of the UK's social and political elite. The information was used (possibly unknowingly) by the paper to develop its stories.
The News of the World didn't go far enough.
Earlier this year, WikiLeaks released 86 telephone recordings of corrupt Peruvian politicians and businessmen. The revelations became the front page of every major paper in Peru and the journalists involved, such as Pablo O'Brian, became national heroes.
Europe has had its fair share of similar exposes. Italy's Prodi government was toppled by such revelations and in December 2007, Silvio Berlusconi, who was then opposition leader, was himself exposed on a phone call leake from an anti-corruption investigation. Further revelations from Berlusconi's circle were expected later this year, but by May the Italian Prime Minister had introduced "British style" legislation to prevent the Italian press from publishing them. Berlusconi justified the new law by
saying that the privacy of Italian citizens was threatened by the press.
Now in Britain, we see similar sanctimonious hand-wringing over the "privacy rights" of the British elite. These individuals, through active scheming and quiet acceptance, have turned the UK into what Privacy International now bills as an "Endemic Surveillance Society". Barely a month goes by without the government attempting to introduce another Orwellian state surveillance scheme. But now, like Berlusconi, these elites purport a sudden interest in protecting the privacy rights of the
people, not by rolling back such schemes, but by gagging the press.
Despite this, the Guardian, in seeing an opportunity to attack a journalistic and class rival, has been doing its level best to castrate British Journalism by tut-tuting in article after article about the News' alleged sourcing improprieties; A tabloid newspaper doing investigative journalism! Journalists skirting the law to expose the truth! The long suffering of British billionaires-and Royalty! And did we mention that the News' is owned by Rupert Murdoch?-so, um.. you know, the enemy of my enemy and all that! The Guardian's coverage is disproportionate. It is moralopportunism. It is an excuse to mention tabloid stories in a broadsheet. And it is dangerous. The result be will a publishing climate and probably legislation aimed at keeping the British public in the dark.
The right to freedom of speech is not short hand for the right to pontificate. We defend speech freedoms for their connection to a deeper underlying concept-the right to know. Without understanding the world around us we can not function. Without an informed public, democracy has no meaning and civilization is adrift. Through understanding the truth about ourselves and the world around us, we are able to advance and survive.
The News of the World should have released the tapes made by its private investigators. The elite exposed are the usual paymasters of such private intelligence firms. The democratic process should not be denied the same high quality information that businessmen, celebrities and oligarchs acquire on a daily basis.
The real scandal is not that some British papers used private investigators to find out what the public wants to know. It is that more did not. It is that the News' was extorted out of a million pounds because the relevant British legislation does not have an accessible public interest defense for the disclosure of telephone recordings. Until it does, despite the risks, journalists who take their forth estate role seriously are obligated not to take the legislation seriously.
The actions of major newspapers are "voted on" every day by their readers. Whatever their faults, popular newspapers remain the most visible and the most democratically accountable institutions in the country. Their mandate to inform the public vastly exceeds that granted to the unelected and the rarely elected at Westminister, who are nonetheless quick to grant themselves a blanket exemption from all censorship.
Thomas Jefferson had it right when he stated, "If forced to choose between government without the press and the press without government, I would surely choose the latter."
Wednesday 8 July 2009
"The Age of Reason has profoundly shaped me. The loveliest men and women have thought and died for my right to live and breath the free air of reason. And yet my colleague (Salman Rushdie) hid in fear of his life because, as of old, bigoted priests stirred up the religious mud used long ago to build simple spiritual comforts for simple minds. It was not merely a writer who was threatened but the entire secular world."From: "The Fundamental Right to Blaspheme"
Friday 3 July 2009
I have received a reply to my appeal to the BBC Trust on the subject of lack of editorial balance in the TftD slot. (See earlier posts for some background, here and here).
The Trust Unit which advises the Trust proposes to recommend that this matter be handled as a general rather than editorial matter, because it considers that the substance of my appeal engages the BBC's Public Purpose to represent the UK, its nations, regions, and communities, rather than the Editorial Guidelines on impartiality.
I have yet to thoroughly absorb the whole of the reply but it appears that the question of whether the BBC preserves Thought for the Day as a slot for theistic thinkers within the Today programme is a matter of editorial judgement for the BBC Executive with which the Trust has no jurisdiction to interfere.
However the Unit does consider the appeal worthy to be heard by the General Appeals Panel to consider whether the transmission of "TftD" breaches the BBC's Public Purposes.
I now have the opportunity (by 20th July) to submit further comments which I shall endeavour to do. In this new context, if anyone can offer any advice or comments, it would be most welcome.
Wednesday 1 July 2009
David Robertson's book is subtitled "challenging atheist myths", and for his talk to introduce it to the Brighton public I expected him to come with a shopping list of mythical aspects of "The God Delusion". I was sadly disappointed. David Robertson is a fairly likeable kind of guy, easy to listen to, but the only substance of his argument seems to be that he believes in the (mythical) "God of the Bible" and Richard Dawkins doesn't. (My parenthesis).