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Before I go on please let me introduce this is a theoretical concept to which some of it is based on the truth, while other facts are just media excitement about Haggard to which they might not have any truth about them, I don’t want to be sued. He was the spiritual and religious leader to many being the head of a form of evangelical Christianity in America and by creating energy he turned faith into a business where millions of dollars came in. In a lot of European countries churches, especially more traditional versions of religion, are finding it difficult to get funding to stop the walls falling down however, the new life church had an ‘campus’, so ignoring the personal investment for the moment there was a lot of money going into these places. Haggard himself attacked evolution and in Dawkins’ documentary told him to get out, after saying that Dawkins was arrogant, a word which would very closely reflect my opinion of Haggard. So let us turn to what this man of God has to say about people who are gay, don’t worry this is not the normal attack of me calling him a hypocrite that would be easy to do, he said that the bible is the word of God we don’t need to discuss what we believe since it is already written and therefore, it is not necessary to discuss ‘gay people’ because we all know what our position is. The bible says that it is a sin and those that are gay should be put to death, of course this is not word for word still it is the overall feeling of both Haggard and the bible. A couple of years ago the New Life Church had this to say about Haggard “Our investigation and Pastor Haggard’s public statements have proven without a doubt that he has committed sexually immoral conduct.” (1) In other words he took drugs and had sex with a man which, let me check, yes is a sin in the eyes of religion (all not just the version Haggart promoted). The focus is very much on the gay act rather than the drug taking. This is very sad and I mean that!

These are some of the words Haggard uses in a letter to the New Life Church which is reported in the Gazette of Colorado Springs on 5th November 2006 about his demise as the religious leader of about 30 million people: betrayal, horrible example, embarrassment, guilty of sexual immorality, problem, I am a deceiver and a liar, dirt, repulsive and many other terms which are all basically the same as going I did something really bad all of which are directed at the gay sex thing not the drugs (2). So let me be the judge, I find Haggard Not Guilty on the following accounts; taking drugs, having sex with a man and telling lies. Of course drugs and lying are very bad things still I don’t hold him accountable to his mistakes if he intends to work on them and change. He had every right to do those things if that is what he chooses to do, as long as it does not end up hurting anyone else in the process. There is no guilt with being gay and it is not immoral on any account, so I will reject the notion that Haggard as a free man should not do that sort of thing if he wants. Haggard is not guilty of being human! He is Guilty of promoting fear and hate being the former head of the New Life Church, it is an assumption if he did not believe and promote those things then he would be openly gay and perhaps remove the drug taking and lies which could be considered evidence of internal difficulties after the denial of himself. He is a prick don’t get me wrong and hypocrite along with arrogant; still he would be more of a man if he admitted the Church was wrong and his feelings are justified. Of course he will be forgiven has long as he keeps on denying himself after all there is only one ‘sin’ that could not be forgiven being that of denying the holy ghost. I think that it is very sad that he just cannot be who he is and the only reason I can tell stopping him from doing this is a dishonest, unjust, unclear book filled with lies and made up stories.

The route of Ted Haggard demise is inbuilt into the evangelical church, if not all religion, since it offers denial at all levels. Children are infected within this church to believe that gay people are at the subject of disgust and fear. The church also teach that abortion is wrong, Good things come from Jesus, bad things come from evil, that Global warming is not happening, that nonbelievers are subhuman, ghost or magical stories are disrespectful (apart from the magic that happens in the bible), that science is wrong and anyone not like they are should be punished. If children do things naughty they are accused of walking away from Jesus and will be punished at the highest level. They call this the Jesus Army and if you preach such things then of course children will grow up to deny themselves and hating others. There version of Jesus is not love, compassion and forgiveness! Whatever comfort or community that is created by the church is at a price that is too high. Where will it end? Artax13 points to the most disturbing result but conceivably the clearest perspective I have heard from in a while, responding to Haggard’s views about gay people, commenting that anti-Gay is just the same notion the Nazi’s had about Jewish people (3). That is where this will end; the parallel between anti-Jewish feelings promoted in Europe for a long time that caused the final solution among other acts and the views on every single person outside the evangelical church being directed towards children within the church is very much alike. That scares me and it shows we have not learnt what we should have. It also makes me sad that children are filled with foolish nonsense they did not ask for and do not need.

Sources:
1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ted_Haggard
2. http://www2.gazette.com/display.php?id=1326184
3. http://youtube.com/watch?v=3XsCcKiCL2c

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MMR image from retiredrambler.typepad.com The MMR vaccine, an all-round method for protecting children against measles, mumps and rubella, was first used right at the end of the 1960’s it was clear to see it was an ever effective method of disease control. This vaccine was the result of scientific methods and the empowerment of people to see something that required effort & attention in so dealing with it; this has saved around an estimated 1.8 million people. As well as stopping these diseases from causing death it also had the effect of removing some of the other common results of the illness such as mental defects. So when the level of measles starts to rise and the first child died from it in 2006 in the UK after 14 years of no measles related deaths, we have to really start to understand why. Most of the answer was due to Dr Andrew Wakefield who was guilty of bad science in his report suggesting that there was a link between MMR and autism. Is it right for me to blame just one person for the increasing measles cases or do we all need to bare some of the responsibility? Wakefield’s report argued that there was an inherent risk from the MMR vaccine and suggested that single vaccines would reduce the risk to the child. The conclusions were based on the observation of 12 children all of who were determined to have shown symptoms of autism type behaviour 8 of which were reported within two weeks of the MMR vaccination. This is bad science in two main ways; the first is no control group which is the base of children that have received the vaccine without showing any symptoms of autism without this group it is impossible to determine whether the MMR vaccine did cause autism. The second problem is that if you are only dealing with 12 children all of which are showing symptoms, of course this will alter anyone’s perception of what is going on, since we tend to see patterns naturally even if they are not there.

The Man – the threat was simply based on a theory, he suggested that the combined vaccine overloaded the immune system of the child which in turn caused a bowel disorder and later a form of autism. Wakefield views were dismissed time and time again by experts in the field, as he never proved clear evidence to link the vaccine to autism, even though there was an increase in the reported levels of autism. In most studies cited by Wakefield there were children who had autism which also received MMR although a smaller number had also received the single vaccines. Although it could be suggested that the measles vaccine could trigger the onset of autism this would also indicate the single vaccine could also possibly be a trigger. Wakefield used bad science since he only ever looked at small numbers which violates the conditions of the scientific method of reliability and validation. Wakefield faced professional misconduct charges for performing unnecessary procedures on children and he was also questioned about his position in research in this area and his role as an expert in MMR litigation. The parents of the 12 children used by Wakefield in his initial investigation were seeking to sue the producers of the vaccine. The GMC described him as dishonest and brought a number of charges of wrongful conduct.

The Media – the media ran with the story and like any good business they used it to sell the media they were producing. They helped to present a confusing picture for parents by introducing doctors that backed the withdrawal of the MMR vaccine without ever considering the level to which they should be placed in context. In a sense those doctors who back each side were given equal weight and offered a personal dilemma that parents had to face, despite the fact the official position as always been there is no link between the vaccine and autism. The focus was on autism and not the potential harmful disease that the vaccine would protect against. The Parents – often people react more to the thing which is less likely to happen but offers more worrying and unknown consequences. The threat of something that is unknown is much more powerful as a fear than that to which we think that we know more about. As the result of the fear of MMR fewer children were protected from the known diseases, the disease increased and children suffered as a result. Of course, the single jabs were always available still these left gaps between when the first vaccine was given and the last one, this was sometimes the only opportunity required for illness. Countries like the UK also refused to pay for the single vaccinations since there was no evidence MMR was linked to autism and the extra cost could not be justified within a limited budget. This left many children without any protection!

The truth – A couple of months after Wakefield suggested a bowel disorder could cause autism a 14 year long study found that around 0.001% of the children given the MMR vaccine suffered any bowel problems, all of which never showed any signs of autism. Even if we take that number, 0.001% as having the possibility of developing autism and let’s assume that they do, this is still less likely than the other two major results of measles. There is a 0.033% chance the measles will result in mental retardation and there is a 0.01% chance that someone will die from measles (this is an estimate; this is reduced to a degree with modern medications although those children unprotected from measles often end up in hospital). There is a higher chance of dying from measles than from the assumption that every bowel disorder will cause autism. Reported cases of autism numbers are on the increase this might be due to many factors, only a small percentage of the cases have strong genetic links. In a Japanese city were the vaccine was withdrawn the numbers of reported autism cases still showed an increase. If the MMR vaccine was to blame then the trend should have started to go down rather than up, as it did. There is a real issue of genetic predispositions and environmental factors which is still unclear, to say that is more acceptable than spreading fear and concern for something that might not be the real cause, MMR has shown to not be the real cause. The truth is the more parents that don’t have their children vaccinated then it puts everyone else at risk, only one person needs to bring the disease into a community to infect all the unvaccinated children. While medical resources are used to treat the outbreak it is not being spent on other things, so if there is a known cure being that of the MMR vaccine can anyone be justified at putting other people at risk by diverting money away from treating other conditions? There is perhaps a more worrying end to all of this, while antibiotics are losing the battle with disease why should we risk using them to treat diseases like measles when that could result in them being less effective for other illnesses that we currently have no proactive defence for. It is clear that the benefits of the MMR vaccine outweigh the risk!

This is a prime example of risk taking behaviour by large parts of our own societies, the risk from measles, mumps and rubella has always been greater than that of autism. So why did we act in such a strange way? This is not just about awareness of the issues that are at play it is about how we perceive information, it was the fault of Wakefield, even though he acted against what doctors are meant to uphold, he was perhaps stupid and dishonest. It was not the fault of the media after all they represent things in such a way that allows them to get people’s attention. It has to do with us and how we use critical thinking in order to understand things. It might be argued that we cannot all understand such medical terms and its language; we can use our brains and go find the information though. We could go and look at logical fallacies for ourselves. At the heart of it, it is about how we come to understand risk we see ourselves in and for the most part inaction appears like the most sensible course of action, still this is not! If you can understand why a loving and caring parent would make such an error in judgment then perhaps you can also see the reflection when it comes to Reiki or homeopathic medicine, or even maybe the relationship we might have with horoscopes. Things might appear to hold less risk than they actually do while others are more dangerous than they are given credit for.

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Oh dear - www.goma.demon.co.ukI will take five of the ten ideas that were presented by Dave Jones in one of his YouTube videos, link is at the bottom, and I would like to do something different with them. The video is about how not to attack atheists so you can enter into a discussion rather than leaving it at that, it works much better into why no one should ever respect the religious arguments that are so often pushed towards us. Sticking with Christians and Muslims is useful as they are the two main groups to which we often find objection with, plus they are guilty of pretty much the same sorts of errors. Let’s assume that extremists often those that would also be called fundamentalists are unable to think for themselves through political coercion, brainwashing or simple craziness. It is the moderates that have the ability to think for themselves. Although this is comfortable it is not really true, I would rather just focus on moderate religious people and although this whole topic is part of a much larger discussion Dave Jones made me react and consider a slightly different approach. After getting some feedback on the things I have written, it does start to frustrate me after a while since I have to keep returning to the same points over and over again, as being religious appears to just mean that you have no ability to understand anyone else that does not think the same way as you do. I was also going to describe my feelings as hate although I want to make it clear that I don’t hate people, I do hate their beliefs which is completely different. Someone might be a kind, intelligent person who cares for their family and friends; I can accept this although it does not really come from religion at all. You might think it does but it does not. Ok, why don’t I like moderate religious people?

The Holy Book – the use of such books are taken to mean so much, in the critics of evolution they are often used as points of reference to which something is meant to suddenly click and the whole thing makes sense. It does not stop at what Jones argues being that nonbelievers don’t accept the holy books as God’s word, it goes further if we all make the assumption that it is then the implications are very clear. Either we have to stop learning more about the place in which we live or we have to do things that are immoral. I do go on about dinosaurs a lot; I am not really a fan still if the word reptile is meant to also include dinosaurs and this is the only mention of it in the bible, what we can take from that devalues what we already know, in the process ignoring it. Put this another way if you think that the post hoc explanation of reptiles on Noah’s Ark explains anything then you are just denying the right to access knowledge that does not agree with this, you will learn less just from one word than a body of research & theory. This is where the frustration is; partly as so much is ignored and secondly as so much is easily dismissed without consideration. The immoral refers to possible justifiable acts that holy books allow for and that is no account for the lack of intellectual honesty when using references, there are parts of all the holy books that mention depraved actions towards other humans if you never address them that makes you dishonest on all things.

Faith – it seems to be the less something has the evidence to back it up then the more faith that is required and therefore, the greater the weight belief becomes. It is like saying the less I know something for sure the more important the role of personal feelings have to become. This is just a ridiculous stand point to argue from, there is no reason to why your personal feelings should be given any weight at all, no one can check them and it is as equally possible first you had some basic understanding of religion and later personal feelings to back it up. Likewise the perspective that you must have faith in order to understand just creates a circular argument that never gets anywhere; no one should just believe stuff. The situation is often the other way around there is a lot of evidence that just does not agree with religion so why does anyone believe it; it is clear that religion does not work and is not true. The example of Stenger is useful; God is seen as transcendent, meaning he is outside of space and time still God is also omnipresent meaning that he exists everywhere – there is no way in which these two things can be true. The conclusion is that just because someone claims faith all that means is they have a personal feeling and feelings should never be something which are acted upon without anything else being there to back up those feelings, especially when the consequences are so serious. Having faith means you have accepted something because you have been told to; this is a major fault of character.

Evil concepts – all religions see certain groups as sub-human and not like the rest of us, for example Islam thinks that women should be treated like animals with their only goal to do things for men. A lot of Muslim people have commented that they respect ‘their women’, it is clear that your respect and disrespect are very much alike. Let us mention other people; it is clear in Islam that one difference is the only determining factor on how we treat them never mind what is the right thing to do or not. This I suggest is an evil concept, so is Hell I mean after all the guilt that catholic’s use over the death of Jesus they still have to blackmail with the threat of going to hell. If there was anyone that I would describe as evil it is mother Teresa, ignoring her inaction on treating the ill with medical care, she went around the world telling women that they had no choice. Surely if any woman wanted to have an abortion or use birth control it should always be up to them and it should never settle on others opinions. People promote the idea that religion is good when it is clearly never good at all; this is the most frustrating thing I have come across since it serves to simply create a distraction of the real issues that religious people support by their inaction to challenge.

The attack of atheists – the situation in America is very disturbing. It does not stop there though after all there are decisions that are being made based on religious grounds. If religion is never proven to be correct how can such directed decisions offer the right choice. This often leads to agenda based seeing; there everything is put into context of religious perspective removing the necessary debate about important issues. Often atheists are forced to defend their position once they put real issues forward, this creates noise and distraction. There is also the implication that somehow an atheist is someone that should not be trusted, at least we explain our position and will listen to a constructed argument against the things we believe in. This leads to the next issue…

Threats and insults – religious people often demand respect for their belief, even if they don’t show it back, they just don’t understand the objections are real. Too often I have seen threats mostly from Muslims, not exclusively; this just creates a reinforcement of things that are already known. The Danish cartoonists were simply demonstrating their opinions and how do people react, they beat them down and create violence, is there any wonder about the western view of Islam as just a group of violent people? Then others have to suffer in silence with their opinion as it might cause offense, Islam causes me offense in the first place! Christians that present intelligent design wonder why others see them as stupid; it is because they reject their own intelligence. They are insulting all of us when they expect us to believe something which they made up and then demand respect for. If you want to threaten or insult then go and do that somewhere on your own, if you want to create meaningful discourse then please go ahead. There appears to be an enemy of the week sometimes, there is an outcry for people just expressing what they think which is dealt with by violence, threats and insults. Are Muslims so scared of others that don’t think like them they need to resort to this? Those that do these things are more often than not scared and trying to convince themselves of what they say is right.

I want to keep coming back to this point; religious belief has serious consequences so if religion has anything other than the divine to do about it, then we must closely look at religion. If religious people are just left with metaphysical feelings then, it is religious people that need to be worried about faith and they should never interfere with the rest of us. Rather than stating there is no ‘truth’ behind religion, it tries to promote itself as truth and that is dangerous as well as a lie. Just because a religious person believes something is true, even if it is a strong feeling they do demand others should just accept this, why should anyone accept religion as true? I cannot remember who said this; religion is a prime example of a thing above evolution in action, it has won and keeps on winning even if it no longer works. Moderate religious people are the ones that are keeping it alive even though it is something that we should let die. What use, what point does religion serve anyone anymore? I am not taking away people’s hope here, if you are an adult then you are big enough to know the truth and I don’t understand what you are hoping to gain. Does it really matter if gay people become priests, are they not just people? Should ‘gay’ be before a person, I don’t think so. We have gone too far just to allow religion to simply rip us up again and anyone who is scared of a religion free society, then they should never fear, they are safer and better places. Religion has had its time and it failed! Now let us move to something that really does work…

Dave Jones YouTube Video – http://youtube.com/watch?v=oRGziCZSV_Q

Related post – https://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/07/do-we-need-to-read-understand-the-bible-the-koran-or-the-torah-in-order-to-understand-religion-or-have-an-opinion-on-it/

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There is an old Irish saying, religion is the superstition of fools and I cannot help but think that should be religion is the religion of fools! I will give religion one point though, not that I’m actually keeping a record of points awarded or anything, at least for the most part it is perhaps a clearer distinction to where certain thoughts or behaviour come from, this is certainly not as clear when you consider luck for example. That is to say if you hate gay people then it comes completely justifiable once the understanding of a religious belief becomes apparent, even though such a position is easy rejected under the broad label of a modern society. If you believe some things are lucky and others are not, then it’s a little more difficult to see the thought process that has gone on in order for that to be justifiable to anyone especially to those that believe it. I think that I will start off with Superstitions since under my own broad definition this includes Luck, horoscopes, homeopathic medicine, anyone that argues they can speak to the dead, faith healers, Reiki, card reading and anything that can come up along those lines. I want to argue that these things have never been proven to work, at all, from what I hear people argue it works as there is a kind of feeling that it does. Rather than simply putting my focus in to that, I want to answer the question of what harm these things can do and the investment which is placed within these superstitions. In general I am not celebrating despair, rather extreme levels of hope which can be achieved by removing these things from people’s minds. If anyone points the finger at me saying that I am trying to remove their hope I wish to comment that this is not the case, there are real benefits to abandonment and also real empowerment to be taken back from both superstitions & religion.
www.blacksunjournal.com

I like this analogy; if you go and get health care treatment in America and increasingly in Western European countries as well, once your condition is found out the burden of deciding on treatment is pushed back to the person who is ill, this is not the issue of consent which should always happen unless it is agree that you no longer can give it, it is a list of treatments that you can pick. This comes from the fear that doctors or hospitals might be sued if they get things wrong and you suffer in this event. This might sound really good, still consider who is more likely to make mistakes a doctor with at least 7 years of training who is at heart a professional or a sick person who knows next to nothing about medicine? It might seem an empowering notion to go through after all what is bad about choice, nothing and it does give the ill person a sense that they are in control of the situation. Even so you can see why this is illogical and perhaps wrong; a doctor who might make a mistake is always in a better position to make decisions than a sick person who is more than likely completely unaware of what is involved in the medical treatments offered. It is these supernatural things that create their own inbuilt despair as the same thing is happening, things like Reiki, faith healers and homeopathy give people who are ill or suffering the feeling of control over their own lives, still do we ever consider the possibility that an ill person is no good at deciding what one of these treatments will be best for them? Who is to say that Reiki will work and faith healing will not. This might seem like an overlaboured point to make but it is not as empowerment and control is so important to us. This leads me to the next objection; the level of hope that is given to people by these superstitious treatments often falls short of expectation, so they create despair often. Richard Dawkins puts this best by saying that people in India are choosing scientific medical treatment over useless superstitious treatments in overwhelming numbers, mean while in the west we are stuck in the reverse!

There is no evidence to suggest luck, horoscopes, homeopathy, Reiki or the other things ever work or are real reflections of the world. If these things are not based on truth, then it is perfectly possible to reduce them down to personal feelings and ‘I thinks’, this is a move towards the metaphysical. There is no evidence to suggest that someone’s metaphysical feelings are real, you might have really strong personal feelings that black people should not share the same space as you, that is just racist and if we end up deciding what is true based on our personal feelings then to me that is just a judgement call and ultimately dangerous to us all. The human brain is an amazing inability to decide what is true or not. Let’s take the case of 9/11 where almost 3000 Americans died, this is sad and deserves our action in every way. Only three days later, exactly to the minute after these attacks 3,300 Americans had died as a direct result of cigarettes, a further 1,100 would die every single day for the rest of the year (Chris Jordan). Since these terrorist attacks the American budget for health care has been reduced in real terms and homeland security has been increased by a significant amount, even though if a small percent of the homeland security budget was direct at healthcare prevention it could save more people. Of course we must stop terrorists, I am not suggesting we don’t, still is an example of how sometimes we can worry more about the things that are not really all that much of a threat to us. We think that smoking cigarettes is a choice, it might be in the start but often turns out to be an addiction, still we assume that it is controllable thus making it a safe known rather than perhaps an unsafe unknown. We have an error in our understanding when it comes to threats to safety of ourselves and the people we care about. In order to remove judgement from within our personal feelings we must check science and in order to remove errors in our understanding, even at national level, we must come to understand what logic is showing us – these create true things unlike personal feelings!

I use the word investment when we are talking about superstitions; this describes the situation the best since I don’t think that you walk into these superstitions not giving up things, this could be time, energy, money or your mental ability to cope in a rational way. Please keep in mind the idea of truth when I talk about these things here. When I talk about luck, I assume that most people do things that they hope will result in good things happening to them still when they don’t do these things it can often result in changes in thoughts, behaviour and a great deal of anxiety. The loss we make is great, we change our thoughts with the end result being irrational thinking, we change our behaviour as a result making us do things that are not justifiable and if we put our hope into something that is not true how can it be anything other than despair. Let’s go to Reiki for example, the process where someone puts their hands over your body and it heals you magically, people put time and often money, our hopes and often ill people go there in order to receive treatment. I think it is dishonest to say that you can treat someone when there is no evidence that you can, it scares me that someone can do Reiki who could possibly not be going through proven treatment or spending the time & money into going for a nice massage that would make their life better without the false hope. Of course both luck and Reiki can provide us with something but at what cost to ourselves. All these things chip away at the thing we call science and that will harm everyone in the end, you move the mind set away from the logic and towards the irrational. If you think that computers, vaccines, antibiotics, Cognitive behavioural treatments, MIR scans, X-ray scanners either at airports that keep you safe or at hospitals, possible fusion energy in the future, gene therapy, disease, chemical & infection control and much more are not only useful but saving people’s lives every single day, then how can you reject what all these things that are based on rational and reasoned thinking. To accept superstitious rubbish is the full face rejection of science, there is one proven thing that has improved & saved the lives of millions of people – science. There is nothing that as caused more suffering and death than superstition, and this brings me to the biggest one of all time, Religion!

www.issr.org.ukReligion is not based on the hope that there is a supernatural being rather extreme fear that there is not, with the wish that belief is not wasted. Religious people see the same evidence that God is not real as the rest of us; still it suits their needs to promote the irrational idea, it is indeed a real problem and why should anyone settle for this? Either you make the decision to give your life, mind or often death over to someone else or you do not. The debate should never be about morality or the evidence that a certain religion is either right or wrong, the evidence is clear for all to see. Focus should be on the implications of belief, we should not be scared into religion since it is our only hope in explaining things, I even reject this idea, it ends up explaining very little. If the result of belief is anything negative then it must answer for this, many people claim to be good Christians unless you are homophobic, racist and don’t agree with the idea of women’s rights then you are not a good Christian at all, this is God’s word and you cannot pick what you want from the bible. Religion can make people do the upmost stupid things, there justifications comes from faith even though morality tells us that these things are wrong and I am not talking about extremists that blow themselves up, I am talking about the everyday believers here. Bringing up your child in just one religion is child abuse, you have no evidence that you are picking the right religion so how can you justify placing rules & guide lines for a child without knowing whether it is right or not! Mutilation of children’s genitals is wrong no matter how many metaphysical feelings you, as a parent, might have. I object to religion on so many grounds, you can read some of it on my blog or go look on the internet for yourself. Now let us turn to science.

A lot of crap science is out there and this is not the result of science at all, rather people claiming that something is science when it is not. So I will give you a little rule to remember; if you come across something that is claiming to be science in order for you to check whether it is or not, ask yourself under what conditions could this be completely wrong! If you can’t work out how it could be wrong then it is not science, for example a new drug that helps people with depression this can be proven false if it is found not to work correctly. The creationist’s argument that dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark umm… dinosaurs lived before humans and around 64 million years ago? Ok you know that or you think the earth is only 4000 years old. I think you get the picture there is no condition in the creationists approach that allows me to say that would be false thus it is not science. If you go up to anyone that claims to be a true scientist and ask them the most important factors are the fact it can be wrong is the most significant, followed by peer review, reason and reliability of both method & result. You might not understand it at all but if you wanted to then you could go out and repeat the experiments of science. The method is always published within the peer review in order so others are able to find the same findings. Other than that it is a rational & reasoned response, not always but the things that go to create general laws or known facts are checked and the feedback loop checks them well so you can take from it that they are true things. To me the wonders of science far surpass that of anything else, the beauty of the surface of Mars or viewing atoms through powerful electron microscopes, how can anything else challenge these things? The hope that science brings is also amazing, around the time of the Enlightenment was a period were humans took control of the world they found themselves in, no one should ever want to lose that power, it is so important to us. I have gone on about how useful it is, I will end with this; it is thanks to science that I am still alive and that most of us are, we don’t owe science anything but we do owe the method of thinking that allow humans to think, imagine and create the things that saved so many people and that will save many more in the future. You should feel optimistic about the future; with science and its reasoned thinking we can do almost anything we can dream.

I have written about science and religion so far, I hope to write more about the things I consider as Superstitions soon. I decided to write this post now since I felt ready and confident about these issues. I have really enjoyed the journey that has being going on with me in the last six months, I hope it will continue. It is a little sad though that my posts offering insults about religion seem to get more views than anything else, so if you are reading this and have not done so already, please go read a science post. Thank you for reading my blog!

A little more on this matter….


Michael Shermer – Why we should think before we believe things. I like this man, he also thinks that intelligent design is the end of the conversation and science is an attitude rather than anything else. He discusses UFO and other things along that nature. Humans tend to see patterns and use their cognitive abilities to make sense of unclear data, this does not, as he suggests, be the end of investigation or be used as evidence. Our brains change the things we perceive into a workable pattern and this is what is happening, the more difficult it is to hear or see something clearly the more likely it is we will start to see with our brains and not our eyes.

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Dawkins
I arrived at this debate whilst it was still going on, the new atheist movement had already started going through the motions before I picked up my copy of the God delusion and the debate about lack of evidence of God has been going for hundreds of years. My life prior to the God Delusion, the book that is not my belief in God, had never really involved anything to do with religion to much extent or so I thought. However, after reading just half of the book I started to notice the things what were going on with a new kind of light such as suicide bombers, the conflict in the middle east, the conflict in Northern Ireland, the horrible & nasty things Muslims were doing to other Muslims in Iraq, these things really started to worry me even though they felt distant. This anxiety and worry did not stop there as I carried on reading; in fact I read almost everything I could get my hands on including news paper articles and watching recorded lectures on the subject. To my horror the threat of religion to me started to become so much clearer not just to me either, to all of us the role and place of religion is so intertwined with social norms, our laws and methods of daily living that if religion has anything other than the divine to do with it then we should all be very apprehensive.

So that left me the question; is there anything other than the divine about religion? So I came up with this, Christianity and Islam are very different, they have different laws and boundaries, so if I assume that one of these is right and one is wrong, how do I tell which is the correct religion. Both of these religions pretty much state that nonbelievers should be killed, this is taken from God’s word of either the Bible or the Koran, although conversion is also an option. If one is that of the divine and other a pack of lies, how would God direct me to make the right and noble choice? I feel a general level of distaste towards both of them really and this brings me to the most fundamental point I have ever considered – why do people never seem to really benefit from praying to the correct God and suffer from worshiping the one that happens to be wrong? I am of course, not a God, though I think that I would just at some point say that is enough I am going to give my true followers some weapon, ‘cause I don’t really want to get my hands dirty, which will help them kill off all the nonbelievers, that will be an end to all the fighting and everyone will know where they stand. The response to that by catholics at least is that God needs us to suffer and return that information in order to add towards the knowledge of God, still unless God has some serious special needs that information has already been served and what else can we take from that other than God wants us all to suffer in the most horrible manner possible.

I personally cannot tell the difference between a religion of the divine and the others that are just a pack of lies and no one has ever offered to take me on the journey of demonstrating the divine. There is no evidence of divine, other than some emotional reaction to the world and if all the things I mentioned at the start such as conflicts and attacks did not come from the divine then we need to attack the systems that allow these things to happen. This is the first justification to attack religion. The next justification is taken from Steven Pinker’s study on violent crime, I have used Pinker’s work before, this time it is about the things that we feel compassion towards and how we started to care for others. He used it in terms of why violent crime has been reduced, part of this is due to the circle of expanding empathy, first we only care about our family and others are seen as non-human. It expands over time to include clans, nations, races, both sexes, animals and so on. Each time the circle expands it includes greater numbers of people to whom we then consider the realm of their potential pain and suffering (Peter Singer). In essence we consider the possibility that we could be outside the circle and as a result probably suffer in this event and this changes how we approach & deal with others that are not like us. I carry this on to include people that happen to be born into religious families or societies; I can understand and empathise with them about the possible suffering they might have to endure. If religion causes harm then it is right to attack religion for this.

It is both very easy for me to state religion causes harm and also very difficult, the difficulty comes because often people will disagree with the statement choosing rather the idea that they only benefit. Part of the problem is that once people have purchased into a religion they don’t want to feel that their personal effort, time and suffering is simply the result of their own wrongness and large parts of their life has been wasted. Much like when Marxists argue that the capitalist revolution won’t happen as most people have already brought into the capitalists game, such as owning a house or having money, so they are unwilling to lose that even though they would ultimately benefit in the long run. I will not insult your intelligence here at least half, for a safe bet that is, of all religious activity can be seen as causing harm. The fact that stem cell research might be disallowed in America as the result of a religious debate would harm millions of people in the future who suffer from presently incurable diseases, it is perfectly acceptable to have the stem cell debate based on science and morality not that of religious morality since the law in America forbids this. If governments make decisions based upon their religious convictions this is wrong, it should be decided on by rational thinking and acceptable standards that society as a whole confirm with in an honest presentation of the information. The suffering that religious people could cause to others is great. In Pakistan a blind girl was sentenced to be stoned to death for being a victim of rape, in the end after much suffering and public humiliation she was acquitted, this suffering was the result of women being considered second class and thus outside the circle of compassion in Islam. Religion causes suffering, the humanists try to stop it and this is why attacks upon religion are justified. I care about others suffering and I want to see an end to it.

There are of course religious people that are kind and also humanists this leads me to the next justification, which is the power that is handed over to officers of religion, be it priests or whatever. I have already written about how a Muslim cleric, in my post about Karen Armstrong’s case for compassion gone wrong, that claimed that the polio vaccine was a plot against Islam and this resulted in 2005 in another outbreak and the deaths of children. Why did this happen and for that matter why did the rape of children occur within the Catholic Church by priests? Why are the only people in the UK that are allowed to make public hate speeches about Jewish people and gay people Muslim clerics? Why is the choice of contraception taken away from women who would have under the concept of equal rights be would allowed to choose for themselves? It is at some point that people have handed over their freedom and allowed the officers of religion to have it. You could counter my argument that these officers reflect God’s word; it is however, a false statement to make since God’s word is never all that clear in the first place. It is God’s word to stone children if they talk back to their parents, this as far as I know does not happen in Christian societies which leads me to believe that either the officers made the choice this is unacceptable in which case morality of nonbelievers is greater than that of God or they have made the decision that other matters are more important and that if they try to convince parents of this they are likely to lose them for their other causes. If this is the case why do we allow these officers to tell us what to do in any situation? If you see it like I see it, these officers are not from God but from their own greed for power or money or both. This is why it is justifiable to attack religion.

I fear that this is the point where most will start to strongly disagree with me, let me explain the last point but perhaps in a somewhat clearer way. I have often come across the situation where people claim that God will save them. What I think is happening here is either the event they are going through is either at no point controlled by them, which makes it somewhat understandable or the situation appears to be too difficult for people to deal with. Relying on God to save me, how disempowering is this notion? To accept that God is the only force in the world that could change the events in your life leaves people powerless. I have written about this in one of my earlier posts, the empowerment of people is one of the most important things anyone can do whether this means women taking their power back from men or everyone taking back power from God. As soon as people do this the world becomes a better place and a place were more good things happen than bad things. I remember a Fr. Benedict Groeschel telling this story, it is not word for word but the general direction is the same. There was going to be a great flood and this old couple said to each other, ‘don’t worry God will save us’, so they stayed in their home. The police asked them to go with them to get them out of danger; still the couple ignored the police because they thought God was going to save them. The flood waters started to rise; the fire people came along in their boat and tried to get the couple in the boat and away from danger. Still they refused to leave because they thought that God was going to save them. The flood waters got higher and the couple had to climb onto the roof, then a rescue helicopter came along and the crew tried to get the couple off the roof, still they refused because they thought that God would save them. The flood waters got higher and the couple died! When the couple got to heaven they asked God why he let them die and God replied, ‘you fools, I sent the police to take you to a safe place but you refused. Then I sent the fire service to get you out of the flood waters, still you refused. Last of all I sent the rescue helicopter in my last attempt to save your lives but again you refused. What fools you are!” I could not help thinking the moral of the story was wrong; God took credit for the people’s actions. It was not God rather the police officers, the fire service and the crew of the rescue helicopter who all took part because they were compassionate people that wanted to make the world a better place. How dare God take that away from people? I will vote on the side of empowerment and this is the justification for my attack on religion. It’s proven that people can make the world a better place.

 

To start off with I did talk about the idea of truth, as in there is no evidence to suggest that there is a correct religion, this issue could be explored for pages, I won’t though. A lot of religious speakers point to a lack of intellectual honesty on behalf of those that speak against there being a God, this situation is the wrong way around. An example of this is when Rabbi Shmuley Boteach said in a debate with Christopher Hitchens that circumcision is good since many HIV infected countries are considering it in order to prevent the disease spreading. The argument was ha ha you see circumcision of babies is a good thing; this lacks intellectual honesty, since the reason behind religious circumcision is not the prevention of being infected with HIV it is for other reasons. If circumcision is argued for other reasons then it must be for those arguments which are dealt with when talking about this issue, to side line into other arguments is wrong. It is like me trying to make a bomb to destroy an entire country and in the process creating a free source of energy, no one can deny the benefit of my discovery of free energy but to claim that it was always my intention to do so is not from intellectual honesty, it is a lie, I was trying to create a massive bomb that would kill millions in one go. This is the type of dishonesty that goes around and is presented by religious speakers, dinosaurs on the Noah’s ark is an example of post hoc quick thinking that religious people try to teach as fact. Let me say when I was young and I learnt about Noah I certainly never made any paintings with dinosaurs on his ark. For this reason it is justifiable for me to attack religion.

These are my base reasons for why I attack religion and I have found that most in the atheist movement have similar concepts or combinations of these reasons. Dawkins is very much based on the idea of truth whereas Hitchens is very much based on the idea of religion doing harm. The motive for the attacks on religion is not based on the notion that we should simply attack religion, there are reasons and at the heart of those reasons is a deep caring for others.

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I have said this before, it is actually pointless to argue with religious people about how their religion is wrong since this will never really convince them into change and you will put all that energy in only achieving a complete waste of your time. So this post is not addressed to those religious people rather those that are either non-believers or those that are not closely affiliated with what they are meant to believe as believers. In other words this is the guide to how atheists will take over the world; this is most likely how religion will be slowly removed from the societies that we live in. Using these points of reference might take a long time but I assure you that, although it might take as long as trying to convince religious people to give up, it will work (most likely) and you will end up making the world a better place in the process. Plus you won’t have to talk and argue until you get to the point that arguing with a whole new set of people without thinking about how your responding to them becomes normal because they are saying the same thing over and over and over again. At no point is violence used!

Should religion ultimately disappear? Yes! I read on the apostates of Islam, which is a group of ex-Muslim believers, that Muslims are the main victims of Islam. This is an interesting point and it also is true, it is Muslims that are dealt with unjustly within Islamic Law and it is them who suffer from the “false doctrine of hate and terror”. The terror is well known by the women of Islam! Christianity is based on an evil book, if you think that the bible is God’s word then you have to accept the bible as God’s word you can’t pick from it, even the bits where it says killing and raping are justifiable. In God’s word it is fine to kill those that deny god, are homosexual, talk back to their parents and pickup sticks on the Sabbath. They want to kill me for my lack of belief and all I want is them to listen to me for a change. Certainly the concept of hell and the guilt of Jesus has never anything to do with the divine. There are other religions and they each have their own reasons for logical objection, feel free to add them for me. Pascal’s Wager is the idea it’s better to believe in God even if reason can’t prove that God is real as you will in the end not lose anything. That is not true, you do lose out by belief and so do a lot of other people, this is not a new perspective on Pascal’s Wager I admit. Steven Pinker’s study on violent crime showed a massive drop at the time of Enlightenment, the period were religion suffered the most in Europe and it’s from this period of history we can learn how to remove religion across the world making it a safer place in the process.

 Image from www.martinfrost.ws

Step one – The tolerance for others opinions and belief structures! This might sound like a very stupid thing to say, especially when the idea of tolerance never really comes up in the new atheist movement, still remember that the more you allow for tolerance the more likely the atheist idea is allowed to grow. Without each of us having our own belief & respecting each other then it leads to the road of closing off all communication which is something that would harm science and atheism. During the Enlightenment once people had got fed up with conflict between different religions, people simply allowed others to believe what they wanted and this allowed for non-believers to have the breathing room that was necessary. In Julia Sweeney’s letting go of God, she makes a point by telling us of what her father said when she came out as a non-believer; her father said “why could you just not be gay!” It is funny how being an atheist or non-believer can be worse than being gay, still it shows us about the level of tolerance that is currently out there. This does provide a very big problem though, as atheists and non-believers we have to also show tolerance back, this does not mean acceptance at every level, we can question even though we cannot allow ourselves to become confrontational all the time. Confrontation only allows people to move away from us and what we want is people to come closer and ask us more questions so we can share the things that we have learnt. There is no chicken or egg question here, first tolerance and then atheism. This is a two way approach of course still at a practical level rather than simply attacking religious people demand tolerance and teach them about why we don’t believe. Demand respect for your non-belief and also respect other people’s views.

Step two – the idea of Social Justice! In America this idea is not very well used, it works in Europe and other English speaking countries like Canada for example, it might work well in other countries that I am not aware of. If we start taking care of each other, providing free health care, education and many other things then it is more likely that the need for religion is reduced. Sweden is a great example of this, it has a low crime rate and a healthy population, the level of non-belief is up to 85% depending upon the study used. I am not suggesting that there is a link between religion and crime (or anything else) religion does not create those things, it does tend to disappear when people’s lives are improved. Matthew Chapman describes the current situation as very bad in some societies, the church is the only place where people can go in order to experience community and it is also the only place where people can show care for others without being considered socialists or liberals. Just because it can only happen within the church never means that is a reason to why the church should never be challenged on other grounds. He does not say this is about America as a point of reference, I do rather consider his opinions about the land of the free, the richest nation on the planet, the one of only few that are so rich but consider each other’s needs so inadequately. So what can we learn from this? Taking care of each other is not only a worthy goal it also means a better, more rational society, this will push religion to the fringes as it will mean the need for it is reduced and only belief is left. When religious people only have belief left, let them decide for themselves and if Europe is any example the level of atheism will increase quickly.

Step three – empowering every person on the planet! I could simply state here that if you feel that you cannot achieve the first two steps then you have already given up, never give up and if you think that your efforts cannot make a difference ask yourself, did you try at all? Just because something appears too difficult it does not mean that it is impossible. Still this is not what I wanted to discuss in step three, I will leave it to Christopher Hitchens to make an interesting point. Hitchens said in one of his many attacks on mother Teresa that she was never a friend of the poor she was simply a friend of poverty. He of course means many things by this but one thing I noticed through his attack was that she after being given a lot of money never actually help the poor get out of poverty, rather the journey that was made was just dealing with the end result. She was given millions of dollars most of which was not spent on the poor at all; the point was that rather than empowering the poor she conceded to clear up the mess. Whether she even did that is debatable! We must empower women to make decisions about abortion for themselves, we must empower teachers to teach evolution, we must empower societies to allow them to determine their own laws, the more we empower people the better society will be. I have heard that empowering women is the most important step after all religion perhaps within every context treats women as the second class of humans. I don’t really know how to go about this, but start with your own life and then try to work outwards.

How do I know that this is true? Well it has already happen in some parts of the world and let’s be honest the difference between us are not really that great at all. Tolerance is an interesting thing, it something that has to be worked on and the next generation always seem to understand much more than their parents. Who does not want universal health care free to all? Other than those the benefit from such a system, since there are only few of them that makes the rest of us in a stronger position to change what is going on. There is no excuse for anyone to not demand universal health care free to all and not get it in America. I am not American and I do have universal health care free to all in my country, if it ever was removed I would burn down parliament. It’s a human right not a luxury. If you are against it then you cannot call yourself moral in any respect. I did not want to get political then but everything I say is political, so I can’t help it! Empowerment is difficult to achieve, maybe someone telling another they have a choice whether they can be a catholic or not, is enough to give them a chance to become an atheist. We can empower children by giving them a very useful skill, as well as a very easy one to teach – critical thinking! Religion one day will end and when that day comes I don’t think that it will be scary at all. I think there will be peaceful joy and the knowledge that the things we do while we are alive are so important we better do them right.

A little more on this matter…

 friendlyatheist.com

I have mentioned Pat Condell before and on his website it clearly states that he does not respect your beliefs! See earlier post: https://therationalunderstanding.wordpress.com/2008/05/16/pat-condell%e2%80%99s-christian-and-islamic-comments-and-the-feedback-he-gets/. Since atheism is not a belief system I don’t consider that Condell’s views as coming from a person within my group. I do understand why he is saying what he does but it is difficult to see why it is helpful to those that share his views on religion. In fact a lot of the websites about atheism that I have come across never practice what they hope to achieve, in order for people to understand why religion is at fault it needs to be explained in such a way that it does not form a personal attack from the start. Do people like Pat Condell think that their confrontational style really helps in their goals? It does not! We are just the same as those religious people if all we do is tell others they are wrong, we need to be better and explain why we think differently. I did find a blog called the friendly atheist, this is the best blog I have found so far and in particular the post titled “The Four Cs of Atheism”, it gives us a set of wonderful rules! http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/06/03/the-four-cs-of-atheism/ I will end on this note: we are all perhaps guilty of producing statements that we know will get attention, the point is once we get people’s attention we need to use it a lot better.

 

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