For What It’s Worth…

…here’s my 2c on the current PZ vs. Rationalia mud-flinging debacle that has even dragged in Michael Nugent, who really only just wants us all to get along while we further the true causes of the atheist/skeptic movement.

Rape is not a joke. I personally don’t find jokes with rape as the subject matter funny, nor do a lot of other people. Intellectually I understand the irony of the Nirvana song “Rape Me” but the subject matter leaves a terrible taste in my mouth. This is ok. Some people find those kind of jokes funny, and that’s ok too.

For anyone who’s out of touch with these slightly-on-the-fringe events, a guy called Pappa on Rationalia.com forums created a thread asking “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” Then PZ Myers picked up on the thread, and posted a crude condemnation of not just Pappa but the forum as a whole on the back of this thread.
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In Focus: The Bible

A lot of the time Christians will point to the Bible and say, “look, Jesus said if we believe in Him, and accept the rest of the stuff regarding how we live our lives etc… we’ll be rewarded with eternal life at His side.”

If I took you aside and said, “Look, I have this magic door, okay? Now, imagine the most utopian situation you can. Naked, buxom women everywhere, money, fame, whatever you like. Right, now if you just believe in me, when you walk through that door, it will all be waiting for you there.”  You get that look on your face like it’s all far too good to be true, but your reticence is tempered by your imagination and desire. You hum and haw and you spend a few minutes trying to peek behind, around and even through the magic door but all to no avail and so then you cunningly ask me what the catch is. To which I smilingly respond, “Well, if you don’t believe in me and you walk through that door, you’ll find eternal pain, torment, damnation and suffering with no hope of any form of reprieve. Ever.”

This is Christianity’s offer. Would you seriously consider it? Seriously…? Or would you realise that it is not quite the “offer you can’t refuse” it appears to be and simply tell me to go fuck myself?

Peace,
dj357

Objectivity means caring about Truth

This, however, has clearly flown right over the head of Fr. Vincent Twomey, a retired Professor of Moral Theology. He prepared a series of course work for Hibernia College, a teacher training college in Dublin, and his course notes in the religious education module dealing with non-religion made claims such as “What bothers very few of its latter-day exponents is the fact that atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…” and “Atheism has had, historically speaking, a negative effect on society.”

Listening to this clip of Mr. Twomey speaking with Michael Nugent of Atheist Ireland, one may notice that Mr. Twomey makes a large effort to try and claim that both his course work and Catholicism in general are, indeed, objective. As the title of this blog post says, however, being objective means caring about truth and claiming that “atheist humanism produced the worst horrors history has ever witnessed, namely Nazism, Fascism and Marxism…” means throwing truth out the window, thereby discounting any form of objectivity.

As mentioned by Michael in the audio clip Nazism, Fascism and Marxism are all unique ideologies entirely distinct from both atheism (itself not an ideology) and humanism. Furthermore, humanism is an ideology that is exquisitely focused upon preventing large-scale suffering, which is completely at odds with the results of Nazism and Fascism. I won’t delve into the issue of atheism in Nazi and Fascist parties and states as Michael covered enough relevant examples in the audio clip and in many of his recent debates, but I will reiterate that neither Stalin nor Hitler committed their crimes against humanity on the back of a lack of belief in God/god(s)(aka atheism).

To be objective one must favour truth and fact above all else, and Mr. Twomey’s thinking is cleared clouded by his Catholic education. It would be hard, I’d imagine, to be a Catholic Priest and a Professor of Moral Theology and be wholly objective and critical when discussing religion.

Peace,
dj357

World Atheist Convention: Day 2 (Super, Super Late Edition)

As I haven’t been blogging for months, I completely missed the fact that I never actually posted this piece. While it’s remarkably out of date (back in June for cripes’ sake!) it’s still got enough content in it that I can’t leave it sitting in my drafts. Enjoy!

[08/06/2011]
Unfortunately due to a lack of internet access and other things during the weekend I wasn’t able to keep hugely up to date with blog posts on the conference and I also missed the early sessions on Sunday morning, which is a shame as I missed the awesome Maryam Namazie who I hear was on form as ever, but I’m here to add my voice to the many others reporting from the event.
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World Atheist Convention 2011: Day 1

Aloha and greetings from sunny Dublin! Unusually warm and sunny for Ireland despite the time of the year but rather nice to start off the weekend of the WAC 2011!

I’d like to just stick my oar in on a topic that came up and piqued my interest. It’s the issue of why do we have a gathering in the first place? Surely all we could talk about is our shared lack of belief. It conjures up a rather dolorous image of a group of people twiddling their thumbs and constantly asking each other if they believe in God yet. The simple answer is because we are the minority. The wonderful point was made that in a society where most everyone collected stamps and thought it was a moral requirement, there would be groups of aphilatelists popping up discussing how to live their lives well while not collecting stamps. The same is true of atheists. The long answer is that in a world that is primarily religious, a world where the common consensus is that religion of some form is a necessary foundation for a moral life, a world where people are assumed to be religious, a world where social and legal policies greatly reflect the religious beliefs of the people and their elected members of government it is vital the people who don’t collect stamps stand up and say “Hey, hang on a second. How dare you accuse us of being amoral when you impose a pre-existing, socially conceived moral framework onto your religion and then try to pass it off to us as having its origins in your delusion of choice.”

That is why we have conventions.

Beliefs vs. Fact

This has long been a debate of various sorts and forms in the non-believing community but I think I’ve finally figured out how I want to phrase my argument in relation to it.

We have these things called beliefs, that quite often are not based on evidence, yet are still robust, rational and logical. For example “I believe that peanut butter and jam make a good sandwich filling” is a rational belief as I’m basing it upon my own experience and the experience of others. The problem with beliefs though is that they can quite often be wrong and can also disagree with both established consensus and even reality itself. For example “I believe that I can see Angels who guide me through life and watch over me.” On the one hand, a lot of people don’t share this belief, and on the other there’s no actual evidence for it outside of one person’s subjective experience.

We also have things called facts. These puppies are a hell of a lot more useful. For example “so long as the Earth maintains it orbit around the sun, the sun will always rise the next day” this is an established fact. We can link the rising of the sun to the structure of our solar system and based upon that establish logically and rationally that the above example is indeed a fact. The important thing to note here is the details may differ or change with new scientific understandings or discoveries, for example it could potentially happen that the times we now attribute to sunrise and sunset across the globe could migrate slowly forcing us to alter our current timezone system (it’s not likely, but certainly not impossible) but still the rising of the sun would remain a fact. So too can we say that while the individual mechanics underlying the Theory of Evolution* may change, or more rather our understanding of those underlying mechanics, the theory as a whole is an undeniable fact.

That word “undeniable” is a key one though. With beliefs one simply believes or disbelieves. With facts, however one can accept it or deny it. While accepting it requires no active belief (we don’t believe in gravity, we accept it as a fact of nature) denying facts requires some active belief. To deny a fact such as gravity, one needs to actively believe either that people are wrong and it is not a fact or believe that universe does not in fact function the way the so-called fact would imply.

This important distinction between disbelief and denial is rather profound and it’s effect can be seen in modern parlance. People who doubt that Hitler and his Nazi government put millions of Jews to death during WWII are not called Holocaust-disbelievers. The Holocaust is not a belief to be debated upon such as Deism or Theism etc… it is an established fact of history. To doubt the Holocaust happened is to deny a fact of the world. As I mentioned above, some details may change over time, we may yet uncover secret documents that detail that someone other than we thought was actually signing the orders in Auschwitz for the murders (unlikely) but the overall fact will remain a fact.

With all this in mind I think it’s time we stop asking/responding to questions in the form of “Do you believe in [insert established scientific fact here]” and start demanding that the question become “Do you accept [insert established scientific fact here]”

I do not believe in a God or gods. I do not “deny” God or gods as they are not Fact. I do not “believe” in Evolution, I accept Evolution. These are important phrases and important kinds of phraseology that I think would serve not only the non-believing community well, but mankind in general also.

* – It’s NOT just a theory. It’s a Theory.