Sunday June 17 2012 was a memorable anniversary for me. It was thirty-five years to the day since my met my wife, and I remember it like yesterday – better, in some respects. Two years or so after that we “tied the knot”, and our, official, thirty-third anniversary will happen in August this year. I’m sure that my wife wouldn’t look at it quite the same as I do, but to me the day we met carries more significance, if a date can be significant in that way.
So I regard marriage as a contractual formalisation of something that already existed. Although I haven’t been divorced, that is another such formalisation. The difference between married people and unmarried people is simply one of a relationship to a formal set of obligations, responsibilities and benefits, and it has long been assumed that such formal obligations, responsibilities and benefits will contribute to the smoother running of society as a whole, in much the same way as, say, a formal contract between an employer and an employee will contribute to the more efficient management of a business.
Of course it is more complex than this. We have Common Law provisions that dictate that people can be effectively married even if not formally so. But marriage is also a kind of public declaration of devotion – in an ideal world the married have no need for formal arrangements to cement this devotion. And weddings are themselves a celebration, not of formal arrangements per se, but of a formalised mutual commitment. In this sense they are a “tradition”. As I’ve argued elsewhere, traditions themselves become the traditions and there is no historical reason to suppose that things that we regard as traditional now will always be traditional. Continue reading
If we are serious about promoting freedom of thought, and about equipping ourselves with the tools to put that thought into action. And if we think that truth is important for its own sake and if we see enormous benefits in understanding reality, not fantasy, then it’s important that, although it might be too late for a lot of us, we should do everything we can to help future generations. It’s not a matter of what to think, more a case of how to think.
Instead, what happens is that any group with any influence works its hardest for the survival of its own thoughts, doctrines and prejudices. Richard Dawkins, quite rightly, is annoyed by this, particularly the labelling of children with an identity that they can’t have developed for themselves.
The point is not to abolish Religious Education. There is value in Religious Education, including Comparative Religion (for anthropologists tell us that religion is a ubiquitous human universal) and the King James Bible as literature (there are so many allusions to it in Shakespeare and other English literature). What is wrong — indeed, arguably a form of mental child abuse — is the INDOCTRINATION of children into one particular faith, which they are informed is THEIR faith, automatically inherited from their parents. Continue reading
I had at some point in the near future intended to address the arguments that we in the West can account for our morality because we, historically, derive our morals from a residual “Christian culture”, and therefore, although many of us reject the basis of Christianity, are actually borrowing from its standards. Therefore, the story goes, because we by-and-large act morally we are only doing so because of Christian influence and this demonstrates the truth of Christianity somehow.
Of course, there is no such thing as a Christian theory of morality to begin with, so this is not a claim that can be dealt with rationally. All we have to go on is a series of commandments from a supposedly omnibenevolent entity that never shows up in real life. The word “morality” doesn’t even appear in the Bible, at least not the King James version. So, at best, Christian morality is based on a personality, indistinguishable from the imaginations of believers, rather than any principles based on real life. In any case, anyone looking for good examples of how not to behave should look no further than the pages of Leviticus and Deuteronomy, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg. Continue reading
I left the last post of this series as a committed, yet indifferent, non-believer – indifferent in the sense that I recognised that both factually and morally, Christianity had nothing to offer me. Yet both facts and morals are inescapably features of the world, so something is true even if something else is believed.
As school students we were encouraged, commanded even, to accept as truth things which were obviously missing from our experience or conceptually dubious. The only thing one can say for sure about God is that he never shows up. People say he does, of course, and attribute all sorts of things to his presence, but all these things have other, more plausible, explanations. Of course we’re told that if we only believe in his existence and his function as a pre-requisite, then we will somehow understand it all in that light. It’s hard to think where to begin with this nonsense, save to say that if it was anything else that we were considering, then we would dismiss it with no more than a belly laugh. No test for God outside the subjective exists, and therefore there is no convincing or plausible evidence for the existence of such a thing. Theology – otherwise known as worthless drivel – and apologetics – otherwise known as dishonest dissembling – have for centuries duly engaged the minds of some of the smartest of scholars as well as some of the most gullible or most devious or most dumb. Continue reading
I thought I would share this from rightwingwatch.org, and already P Z Myers and Jerry Coyne have picked up on it.
Any British viewers would unsurprisingly be quite amazed at the fire-and-brimstone speechifying of Pastor Dennis Terry – for me I think it’s hilarious. Even Ian Paisley in his heyday wasn’t this terrifying. Terry bemoans his lack of opportunity to state his beliefs and pray in public by…stating his beliefs and praying in public. And odious beliefs they are. He should feel lucky to live in a nation that allows him to tell the rest of his countrymen that if they don’t feel like signing up for his own particular brand of bigotry they should get out.
The momentous occasion for the speech was a public endorsement of the candidate for the Republican presidential nominee Rick Santorum. Santorum is seen quietly clapping away in the background. It beggars belief that someone who is seriously entertained as a future President would want anything to do with Terry and his ilk, but there you are. The Republicans are rid of the hapless Perry and the witless Bachman, for which they should be grateful, but we are left with the clueless Santorum. I suppose it would be a worry to think that such a person actually has a chance of winning this year, but realistically Santorum has no chance, except in the minds of the brain-addled. Personally I hope he wins the nomination for the comedy value.
So, farewell, Rowan Williams. Actually he still has nine months left as Archbishop of Canterbury, apart from the England manager’s job, the most poisoned chalice of all. But now he’s announced his departure, he’s on borrowed time.
In Britain we marvel at the excesses of American Christianity and pat ourselves on the back that it couldn’t happen here. But the position of Williams was such that his role was to paper over the cracks. We expect intolerant ravings from the Catholics and the Muslims but the good old CofE is supposed to be above all that, and in the minds of many is supposed to reflect both our spiritual (whatever that is) and our national identity. This wasn’t Henry VIII’s initial purpose, to be sure. Continue reading
Some quite shocking news this week. In France a gunman, over the last nine days, has killed seven people – three soldiers of North African or Caribbean origin and yesterday (March 19) a religious teacher and three children. Another teenager, shot in the same incident, is gravely ill. Whether the perpetrator(s) is an extremist right-wing, racist, anti-Semitic or something else is not much more than speculation at the moment. Hopefully he will have left enough clues to ensure his quick capture.
In England the shock was provided during an FA Cup quarter final. The Bolton midfielder, Fabrice Muamba, without warning and unattended by anyone, suddenly collapsed from a massive coronary attack and stopped breathing. It goes without saying that someone of his profession, especially a “box-to-box” midfielder like Muamba, would be regarded as fitter than virtually all of his contemporaries, and this made the news more shocking than ever. If nothing else, the event was a salutary reminder of life’s unpredictability. Muamba was on the pitch, unconscious, for six minutes, before being rushed to hospital. The players, officials and spectators couldn’t be fully aware of events, almost unique as they were, but there was a sense that something was deeply wrong. This was one of those “only a game” moments that we don’t see often enough. Continue reading
I did hope that it wouldn’t be March before I got round to this post, but to no avail. Anyway, after a 4600-word post I’ll try to imbue this one with a little conciseness.
February was a good month for my two favourite subjects – football and religion.
First, football. Sarah Palin lookalike Fabio Capello resigned as England football manager. Pure speculation from my part, but my guess is that Capello was looking for a way out. He genuinely believed that the appointment of captain was for him alone, but could have complained bitterly and left it at that. Instead he made it a point of principle worth resigning over, although at £6 million a year and only four months left on his contract, he didn’t lose that much. When the captain John Terry (who already lost the job once on account of his extra-marital activities) is due in court over allegations of racism, but not until after the next big international tournament, it seems that the Football Association are acting under the notion that he is guilty until proven innocent. It’s a difficult one, to be sure. My guess is that nothing will come of it, apart from the hot air already generated. Continue reading
Or. Why I am not a Christian. I suppose that Bertrand Russell is past caring by now.
I’m not sure who, if anyone, will ever read this. If someone does see this who isn’t familiar with the Fighting Fundamental Forum then the names and some of the arguments in this series of posts will be unfamiliar. My apologies in advance.
As I said in my introduction, I’ve spent the last five years in the enemy’s citadel, the place known as the Fighting Fundamental Forums (the FFF). I began there following an appeal in an atheist forum by a poster looking for a bit of help and stayed there for well over 4000 posts, although latterly – over the last two years – I’ve not posted as much. My last post was nearly five months ago. I suppose that the main reason for giving up were the cynical attempts by the new owner to make the forum monetising-friendly, and his clumsy efforts to do this resulted in my being unable to post using Firefox. Although it’s possible to get round this it’s hardly worth the bother, and the forum breakage merely pushed me into something I should have done anyway.
As anyone who’s debated William Lane Craig will testify, it takes one second to make an unsubstantiated claim and a hundred minutes to rebut it. I’m also the type that doesn’t make an argument in a hundred words where a thousand will do. Hence, my posts were getting to be so long that it was difficult to maintain any sort of interest – they were boring even me. Although there are over a hundred posters with a higher post count, few have as much content. This wouldn’t have been so bad if anyone – I make an exceptions for the unfairly-derided ALAYMAN and Stasis Point, although he couldn’t stay on topic to save his life and had a talent for addressing what I didn’t say.
This post will be a bit long and will barely mention the FFF. However, it is part of a series in which the forum will come more to the fore. I need to put my own actions there into some context. Continue reading