Tuesday 28 June 2011

Quote of the Day

“Religion is comparable to a childhood neurosis. The whole thing is so patently infantile, so foreign to reality, that to anyone with a friendly attitude to humanity it is painful to think that the great majority of mortals will never be able to rise above this view of life.” ~ Sigmund Freud

Sunday 26 June 2011

Madman - or Something Worse

Anti-Christian Film by Peter Breibart, President of the University of Sussex Secular Society. 
"Jesus is the greatest enemy of humanism."

Saturday 25 June 2011

The Ledge

Clip from a pro-atheist  new film to be released next month.

Quote of the Day

"Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions. Ideas must be distinct before reason can act upon them; and no man ever had a distinct idea of the trinity. It is the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus." ~ Thomas Jefferson

Geert Wilders cleared

Dutch far-right politician Geert Wilders, who described Islam as "fascist", has been acquitted of inciting hatred against Muslims. 

Amsterdam judge Marcel van Oosten accepted the Freedom Party leader's statements were directed at Islam and not at Muslim believers.  They were, the judge ruled, "acceptable within the context of public debate". 

It is believed the plaintiffs may attempt to make their case before a European court or the UN.

Read whole BBC report. 

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Wanted - religious comedians

One Patrick McKearney, who numbers improvised comedy among his enthusiasms, writes in the Guardian to complain about stand-up comedians who use religion as the butt of their wit. Mr. McKearney is studying for an MPhil in theology and religious studies at Cambridge University. He is a scholar of the Cambridge Interfaith Programme and Queens' College, and is researching the implications of the contemporary ridicule of religion.

Mr McKearney's impressive CV leads one to suspect that he may have been one of those unfortunates indoctrinated from childhood with religious mumbo-jumbo. This would help to explain both his chosen disciplines and his narrow perspective on life. He complains that stand-ups "fail to turn their critical attention to secularism, atheism or liberalism", but does not ask himself why they don't. This gives us an excellent opportunity to tell him. It is quite simple, jokes about religious beliefs make people laugh. If he doesn't like this perhaps he could try not to hold such funny beliefs.

There is another reason that comedians don't make jokes about atheists, secularists, liberalists, humanists, sceptics etc; as far as I know there aren't any. McKearney should try and think some up before he leaps to accuse comedians of ignorance and failing to "critically engage" with a particular world view. They would soon get jeered off the stage if they tried to do that.

Pat Condell 'names the poison'

Monday 20 June 2011

Past & Present

Abraham -  commanded by God to offer his son up as a sacrifice but just as Abraham was about to sacrifice his son, he was prevented by an angel, and given on that spot a ram which he sacrificed in place of his son. 
Andrea Yates - a former Houston, Texas resident who killed her five young children on June 20, 2001 by drowning them in the bathtub in her house.[1] She had been suffering for years with very severe postpartum depression and psychosis. 

Sunday 19 June 2011

Philip Pullman CBE

Philip Pullman the author of the trilogy of childrens' books "His Dark Materials", was chosen by The Independent in 2006 for its ‘Good List of 50 campaigners, thinkers and givers’: the panel of experts at The Independent cited the worlds this ‘campaigning atheist’ creates ‘in which children see good as a matter of choices that are within their control. Pullman wants children to realise they are the inheritors of philosophical, artistic and scientific and literary riches’.

Speaking on ‘faith’ schools, Philip Pullman has said:‘What I fear and deplore in the 'faith’ school camp is their desire to close argument down and put some things beyond question or debate. It's vital to get clear in young minds what is a faith position and what is not – so that, for instance, they won't be taken in by religious people claiming that science is a faith position no different in kind from Christianity. Science is not a matter of faith, and too many people are being allowed to get away with claiming that it is, and that my 'belief' in evolution is a thing of the same kind as their 'belief' in miracles. What we need in schools, really, is basic philosophy.

In an interesting interview on the Christian website Third Way, he said:
‘This is the mistake Christians make when they say that if you are an atheist you have to be a nihilist and there’s no meaning any more. Well, that’s nonsense, as Mary Malone discovers. Now that I’m conscious, now that I’m responsible, there is a meaning, and it is to make things better and to work for greater good and greater wisdom. That’s my meaning – and it comes from my understanding of my position. It’s not nihilism at all. It’s very far from it.’

Philip Pullman, a longstanding supporter of the BHA. is today to be given an award for services to Humanism at the British Humanist Association’s annual conference in Manchester. 

From BHA article here.

Saturday 18 June 2011

Sarah Palin on fruit flies

The slightest possibility that there might be 50% or more of the US population stupid enough to agree with her makes one shudder . . . .


The splendour of human life, I feel sure, is greater to those who are not dazzled by the divine radiance. ~ 
Bertrand Russell

Monday 13 June 2011

BBC Radio 4 'Thought for the Day' comes under new scrutiny

The place and role of BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day has been questioned again following comments from a prominent BBC presenter and an editorial in a national newspaper
John Humphrys, a presenter of the Today programme, which is interrupted by transmission of the three minute Thought for Day slot, stated it was ‘frankly bizarre’ to interrupt the BBC’s news programme with ‘what is in essence a sermon’.
Mr Humphrys, in an article in the Times, has previously expressed his view that non-religious contributors should be allowed to participate in the programme, which explicitly excludes individuals without a religious belief. 
A recent editorial in the Guardian newspaper questioned the timing of the slot, believing Thought for the Day’s positioning within one of the BBC’s premier news and current affairs programmes as inappropriate and out of context. 

"Militant atheism"

"It is worth pointing out a notable difference between today's militant atheists and today's militant theists. The former are known to write books and angry letters to the editor. The latter are known to shoot abortion doctors, fly aircraft into buildings, lie about the efficacy of condoms in preventing AIDS, inscribe Bible verses on weapons and, oh yes, blame people for the natural disasters that afflict them." ~ Richard Dawkins

Was Jesus a madman?

Trailer for a forthcoming film by Peter Breitbart, President of the Sussex University Secular Society, and contributor to the Brighton-based Freethinker magazine.

Sunday 12 June 2011

After the rapture

Video from "The Thinking Atheist". Now over 1 million views.

The historicity (not) of Jesus

Christians often throw out names of non-Christian writers who they claim wrote about Jesus like: Josephus, Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, and Lucian of Samosata, among others. First, most of those writers didn’t write very much at all about Jesus. Many talk about someone called “Christ.” Christians assume this refers to Jesus, but there have been many people during that time and in other times who claimed to be “the Christ.” But what I find more interesting is that none of those writers were contemporaries to Jesus who was alleged to have been crucified in the year 33 CE:
  • Josephus (37 CE – c. 100 CE)

  • Tacitus (56 CE – 117 CE)

  • Pliny the Younger (61 CE – c. 112 CE)
Lucian of Samosata (125 CE – after 180 CE)
Here are some historians who would have been contemporaries of Jesus and interestingly enough never mentioned him at all:
  • Philo Judaeus (20 BCE - 50 CE)

  • Seneca (4? BCE - 65 CE)

  • Pliny the Elder (23? CE - 79 CE)
Then there are the Scrolls of Gabriel's Revelation which tell a story remarkably similar to that of Jesus except that the principle character was named Simon. The scrolls pre-date the alleged birth of Jesus. In other words, the Scrolls of Gabriel serve as a rough draft for the Gospel story. 

Don't pray for me

Saturday 11 June 2011

Crazy caller

This is either a "wind-up" call or a classic illustration of the effect of religious indoctrination on the feeble mind.

Monday 6 June 2011

Hymn-singing marks territory.

From the Argus.

"Brighton scientist compares churchgoers' hymns to youths' mobile tunes."

by Anna Roberts

"A Brighton scientist has revealed churchgoers singing hymns and youths playing tinny music through their mobile phones are expressing themselves in similar ways.
Dr Harry Witchel, a reader in physiology at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School, said both parties are marking their territories through music."

Thursday 2 June 2011

Religion shrinks the brain

A study by Amy Owen and colleagues at Duke University showed greater atrophy in the hippocampus in individuals who identify with specific religious groups as well as those with no religious affiliation. It is a surprising result, given that many prior studies have shown religion to have potentially beneficial effects on brain function, anxiety, and depression.

"The results showed significantly greater hippocampal atrophy in individuals reporting a life-changing religious experience. In addition, they found significantly greater hippocampal atrophy among born-again Protestants, Catholics, and those with no religious affiliation, compared with Protestants not identifying as born-again.

The authors offer the hypothesis that the greater hippocampal atrophy in selected religious groups might be related to stress. They argue that some individuals in the religious minority, or those who struggle with their beliefs, experience higher levels of stress. This causes a release of stress hormones that are known to depress the volume of the hippocampus over time. This might also explain the fact that both non-religious as well as some religious individuals have smaller hippocampal volumes."

Geert Wilders trial - masterly final address