Encouraging religion to "beget" off!
In the NZ Herald column “Sideswipe” today they claim that “20th century was the bloodiest in human history and its violence was largely instigated by atheists”.
My response to columnist Ana Samways is as follows:
The comment in Sideswipe today that “the 20th century was the bloodiest in human history and its violence was largely instigated by atheists” is totally false. A quick google search would have disabused you of this outrageous slander against atheists that is spread by religious ideologues despite repeated rebuttals.
Hitler was never an atheist. He was born into a Catholic family, and he never renounced his Catholicism.
Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot were all Marxist-Leninists. All three dictators attempted to control religion to suppress any alternative viewpoint that might threaten their own political personality cults. Their brand of communism was essentially a secular religion that required subservience to “the state” instead of a god.
Shame on you for repeating this piece of bigotry against the non-religious.
Religion has hit the headlines on Auckland’s North Shore. First there was this article on the front page of the North Shore Times on April 20, 2012 – Bible classes get a bash – which highlighted how parents of public school children say they are effectively being punished for opting out of religious classes.
Then there was a follow-up story on May 3, also front page – Religion or nothing – which describes how parents are questioning the legality of religious classes in public primary schools.
Of course this has prompted howls of outrage from the religious lobby about how it is intolerant of the non-religious to criticise religion. They use the time-worn kludge of conflating criticism of an idea with intolerance of any person holding that idea. They even throw up the “Christian nation” argument.
Letters to the editor (free registration required for these links) had comments like:
“As our nation was founded historically on the Bible in our negotiations with Maori and we have come forth from a Christian European background, it is a suitable reference for the children whose parents agree to the programme and a gift to those parents who want to show tolerance to other beliefs.” – Kaye Gilbert – Letters, April 26 2012
“Funny how religion is so often accused of intolerance and yet so often the victim of it.” – Martyn Pearson – Letters, May 1 2012
“…to ditch our Judeo-Christian heritage because we are living in a multi-cultural society is not the way forward. We do not expect the many immigrants who enter this country to renounce their beliefs. Instead we protect their right to religious freedom.” – Ann Bailey – Letters, May 1 2012
To counter these sort of silly arguments I have created a resource to parents – What is wrong with Bible Class in school?
It is in a pamphlet format in case anyone wants to distribute it to others in a convenient way. As I always mention – when printing, print double-sided and if your printer can do it for you set it to flip on the short edge. Then fold in the traditional way.
It is a companion to my earlier resource, 10 Easy Things You Can Do To Keep Religion Out Of NZ Schools.
Recently Peter Harrison created a new Facebook group called Keep Religion out of School (NZ). This push is long overdue.
Far better than allowing christian religious indoctrination as is the case now, it would be preferable to have an primary ethics course, as is run in New South Wales. Take a look at their curriculum – it’s very well designed to engage students. Topics include Fairness; Lying and Telling the Truth; Children’s Rights; and Thinking about Animals. In Australia, this course has proven to be very popular.
The time has come for some push-back, to get change happening to New Zealand school RI. To support the effort I created a list of 10 Easy Things You Can Do To Keep Religion Out Of NZ Schools. As usual, when printing, print double-sided and if your printer can do it for you set it to flip on the short edge. Then fold in the traditional way.
It is relatively easy to get up to speed on this topic. For more information see the following:
My first atheist pamphlet that I created a few years ago now was called “What is Atheism?”
It was well received and got translated into French and German (and now Spanish) by people who found it useful.
I re-publish them here simply because this is a better website than my earlier one, and I want to move my stuff over.
Please note, it is not intended to be handed out on street corners, but is an information resource meant to support a face-to-face conversation when you perhaps don’t have the time to do the subject justice, or the other person is becoming entrenched, illogical, aggressive, etc. Then you can move the discussion to the brochure, to let it do some of the arguing for you. Or you might want to put a few in the local library (or school library!)
Basically it is an atheist resource to copy and use however you wish, but is not really intended to be handed out ‘cold’.
When printing, print double-sided, and if your printer can do it for you, set it to flip on the short edge. Then fold in the traditional way.
Intelligent design creationists often equate complexity with design.
For people who do not understand, the following file paints a pretty clear picture of the important difference. Complexity and design are definitely NOT the same thing!
Religious apologists who actually understand the strength of the scientific method are compelled to try and undermine the scientific method itself to maintain the concept of “god”. But the scientific method is still the only way to understand the world we live in, even if their “rationalisations” were true.
For example, certain facts that give strong evidence of a time prior to 6,000 years ago, when god was supposed to have created the universe, are impossible to explain rationally from a Young Earth Creationist (YEC) standpoint. These “inconvenient truths” include:
What these apologists do is turn logic on its head, by claiming that observed reality is an illusion and their illusion is the true reality. Of course their claims are usually phrased in ways intended to make them unfalsifiable (unsuccessfully in most cases).
So they will claim (without evidence) that the universe was created “just so” to give the illusion of a distant past. This particularly applies to light from stars, as well as fossils. Or that speeds and rates were different in the past, which applies to light speed and rates of radioactive decay. The fact that if these claims were true there would be other measurable effects, such as the altered rates of nuclear fusion affecting star formation and development, is ignored by the claimants and their dupes.
There are a set of related ideas that all deny reality and paint reality as the illusion, such as:
These claims all fall into a group of ideas that simply deny the evidence of our senses, then put up a delusory alternative – what could be called a “simulated reality”.
Even if any were true, that is still no reason to give up on the scientific method, because there is still the “simulated reality” to explore. And there remains the possibility that the simulation is not 100% accurate, and cracks, dislocations, aliasing errors, and the like, can be found that will reveal the little man behind the curtain.
The hard materialist approach is worth emphasising, because for too long atheists have said that they will change their minds if evidence of god comes to light. While this is true, it makes the atheist position appear to be a weak one, instead of merely being intellectually honest.
I think the time has come to lay down the truth that methodological naturalism is the ONLY way to understand reality, no matter what that reality may be.
Every five years Statistics New Zealand takes an official count of the population and dwellings in New Zealand, which includes a question on “Religious Affiliation”. Since 1971 Christianity has been in steady decline, whereas those with “No Religion” have increased in an almost linear fashion.
Statistics New Zealand will conduct the next Census of Population and Dwellings on Tuesday, 8 March 2011. It looks certain that people who profess an affiliation with Christianity will be below the 50% mark for the first time since the original NZ census in 1867.
Note that the measure of “Religious Affiliation” simply means a cultural or social identification with a particular religion, and does not mean that a person is an active church-goer. So the number of active Christians will be far fewer than what the census figures indicate.
By the time the 2016 census comes around, people who declare they have “No Religion” could well be in the majority, and certainly will be by 2021. It seems there is nothing that Christians can do to shake this 40-year trend. Good riddance!
EDIT (19/01/2011): Can someone do a similar graph for Australia or the U.K, and send me a link? It would be interesting to compare the trends.
One of the big questions that religions claim to seek – if not answer – is “What does it mean to be human?”
If the question means anything, then the answer must include striving to be something more than we are, by finding ways to overcome our intrinsic limitations.
This “overcoming” is plainly written in our bodies. The earliest humans used tools and clothing to effectively augment their bodies – thereby creating surrogates for sharp teeth, claws and fur. The very shape of our hands has co-evolved with tool use, and we walk on two legs to facilitate that – despite our problem backs. We have opposable thumbs, and can form a pencil grip and make fine movements with what we hold. Looking at our hands and bodies, we observe that to survive we must be more than what we are born with. That is our nature.
Our species is marked by continuous innovation – tools, fire, language, agriculture, and virtually unlimited territorial expansion including to the moon. Our ancestors domesticated plants and animals, created great cities and designed new technologies, as we continue to do today.
We endlessly compete with ourselves to be stronger and faster; better at art, music, science, sport, transport, and endless other endeavours. We climb this planet’s highest mountain simply “because it is there”. We adorn ourselves with cosmetics and perfumes, jewellery and tattoos, new hairstyles and the latest fashions, in ways that no species can match.
No other type of animal even attempts to do anything like this.
A dog is always a dog – a horse, always a horse. It is not in any other animal’s nature to try to be something more than what it is – unlike our species, where that “overcoming” is an intrinsic feature of what it means to be human.
In other words – It is in our nature to be more than our nature.
Human intelligence permits us to do these things – intelligence that has other side-effects. This drive to be something greater than human includes the need to explain the causes of natural events and of human origins, to predict what is going to happen, to overcome death, and to create a safe society where selfish or violent individuals are deterred from doing harm. Throughout most of human history religion has filled this role, allowing humans the opportunity to experience at least the illusion of transcendence.
The trouble is, because religions have no inbuilt reality checks, religious concepts are based on ideas that are handed down, or earnestly wished for, not on what is necessarily true.
Truly transcending human limitations includes transcending our mind’s limitations as well. This involves seeing the universe as it actually is, not how we might wish it to be. It requires being able to rise above ourselves, and to be able to determine what is real, despite the extreme constraints of our senses and our inherited hunter-gatherer brains.
Science, and through science, atheism, is a continuation of that human journey of becoming something more than human. It is about overcoming the constraints of mind, body and culture, in order to see deeply into our universe and comprehend it for what it truly is. And to do that, despite everything!
Atheism is that bold unflinching look at the Universe as it really is.