The Sleep of Reason


Miracle cure recipient flees home!

There’s an article on page 3 of the Age Newspaper today about Kathleen Evans who was ‘miraculously’ cured of lung cancer 17 years ago. After being given about 2 months to live 17 years ago, she had no treatment because there was thought to be no point. However later x-rays showed all the cancer gone with only scars remaining, and she’s still fine, though she fled her home town and has been hiding out at Lightening Ridge for the last two years to avoid the attention she was getting since the news spread. This is one of the ‘miracles’ being credited to Mary MacKillop in order to get her sainted.

This is great news for Kathleen Evans, though such spontaneous cures are known to happen in cancer they are very rare, no doubt about that. The real question though, and it’s the question Kathleen Evans asked as well, why her? Why not a child dying of leukemia? Why not everyone?

If god – or Mary MacKillop – can cure cancer, then why does anyone have cancer? Millions of people all over the world will die of cancer this year, why doesn’t god save them all? Why even let them get it in the first place? In fact, why is there any disease at all? Surely it shouldn’t be necessary to pray for a cure. No-one wants cancer. Even if you want to die, cancer is not the method of choice. It’s an extremely painful and unpleasant way to go. Before Ms Evans recovered she was bedridden, wracked with shaking and unable to use the toilet or bathe unassisted. God does not need anyone’s prayers to know that they don’t want this disease!

Congratulations to Ms Evans but until all disease is miraculously eradicated from the world I really don’t see how one person’s good fortune makes god or saints a reality. It just makes the whole idea look even more arbitrary and weird.


Optimism and Marilyn McCord Adams

I have just listened to a brief podcast from Philosophy Bites with Marilyn McCord Adams in which she explains that life is so ghastly and miserable that the only way to have the strength to get out of bed in the morning  is to believe that god is going to exact vengeance on evil doers after their death, while bestowing a reward on the good – presumably us.

It was the bleakest view of life  that I have ever heard. She believes that humanity has not progressed at all since the ancient Israelites swept into Canaan massacring everyone who stood in their way, and that life is so awful that atheists can have nothing to live for.

Fortunately for me I don’t agree with her. I think people have progressed a long way since ancient times. We now don’t believe that it’s okay to sell our children into slavery or sacrifice them to gain favours from god. We don’t think women are chattels and we don’t believe the only virtue that matters is faith in god! I know dreadful things are happening all over the world, but much of it is less to do with human evil than a malevolent natural world. In one day the Boxing Day tsunami killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people.

The fact is that even if people were perfectly good, natural disasters would still kill millions, but these sorts of disasters didn’t seem to be the issue. She was talking about the evil people perpetrate on each other and she was clearly very traumatised by it. She didn’t however say anything about the vast majority of people who just live out their lives in quiet duty, doing their bit and dying peacefully of old age. Let’s face it, this is most people. There are evil people who do evil things but they are very much in the minority.

Her explanation for why god allows so much suffering wasn’t really an explanation at all, she just said that he was suffering with us. I know misery loves company but I don’t find this idea much consolation really. I’d rather not suffer at all thanks!

It seems ironic to me that atheists generally think that life is for enjoying and helping others as far as possible, while the godly think that the only thing that matters is doing your best to get yourself into heaven. Certainly Mother Theresa’s goal in going to India to ‘help’ the poor was to get herself into heaven. It seems to me that atheists are more selfless than the the religious, they help others for the sake of helping, not to get themselves into paradise! Maybe that’s why deists are so sure that without god there is only evil, because that’s how they’d be. Of course you should not judge other people by your own failings …

And none of this goes to the truth or otherwise of the deists’ claims, whether you think life is appalling or not doesn’t change the fact that there is no evidence to indicate that a god exists at all, to say nothing of any particular god.


Parliament of World Religions

Professor Karen Marshall opened the Parliament of World Religions by misrepresenting a quote from the bible, “the poor you have always with you, but me you will not have always”. She left off the second half because it doesn’t really help her interpretation. She wished to interpret this saying to highlight our responsibility to the poor, which is of course exactly the opposite of what Jesus was saying.

In this story Jesus’ feet are being rubbed with expensive oils and one of the disciples protests that the money would be better spent feeding the poor, Jesus disagrees on the basis that the poor are always present but he will soon be gone. Basically he was saying  you may as well spend buckets of money on expensive oils for my feet because I am more important than the poor, not what his message is usually imagined to be!

She then went on to urge that we shed the belief that religion is divisive, I wonder where she can have got the idea that we think religion is divisive? Maybe it’s because most them insist that the members of other religions all deserve to spend eternity in the divine torture chamber known as hell and will certainly do so unless they convert to the one true faith, whatever they think that is! You might think that believing in the necessity of the population of most of the planet going to hell because they don’t agree with you would be divisive and you’d be damn right. I certainly feel divided from people who think I deserve to suffer eternal agony for not believing what they tell me to believe, that’s for sure.

I always find the picture of these ecumenical meetings deeply paradoxical. Not so long ago such a meeting could only have ended in a blood bath but today they all sit around politely talking to each other as though they hadn’t been mortal enemies for centuries. Some are more martial than others of course, the Catholic church and the Muslims come to mind as the some of the worst offenders but the rest have usually been happy to oppress non-believers whenever the opportunity arose.

And while one group of Muslims is chatting over a cup of coffee in Melbourne, in Asia apostates from Islam are routinely beheaded, hardly the soul of ecumenicalism I would have thought. The whole system of ecumenical meetings seems to be predicated on the idea that all faiths are equal, that any faith is better than none, and that the true opposition is those with no faith at all. Pretty much a  ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ philosophy.

The problem with that is the basic tenets of many of these religions are mutually incompatible. How can you have a civil conversation and engage in elaborate joint ventures with people you believe deserve to be in hell, for eternity? Or who believe that you’ve been born disabled because you were a serial killer in your last life and therefor deserve your misfortune? I really don’t get it.

The only rational explanation is that none of them actually believe the basic tenets of their own religions at all! They really just believe in belief. They believe that religion is the glue that holds society together and that it doesn’t matter whether it’s true so long as it’s useful. They think that although they get by okay without actually believing in invisible friends, other people need these beliefs to keep them on the straight and narrow path. It’s all very patronising. And bullshit of course.

The most godless communities in the world are also the safest and happiest.

I am soooo looking forward to the Atheist Convention next March, something to rinse the saccharine from my tongue will be very welcome.


Greg Craven hates atheists.

The Vice Chancellor of the Australian Catholic University has written an article in the Age newspaper accusing atheists of being smug and superior and hating god. If you’re going to accuse people of being smug, superior and hating it’s probably better not be so smug, superior and hateful about it!

He thinks we should all just shut up and be suitably ashamed of ourselves. He can’t understand why we won’t. The answer of course is we will if he will. If the god smitten did not try to make the rest us of live our lives according to their delusions we would be perfectly happy to let them get on with it, but they do. They want laws passed to support their iron-age mythology, and to force the rest of us to live as they see fit. If the Catholic church had its way, contraception and divorce would be illegal, to say nothing of abortion. They are not content merely to instruct their followers in their religious duty to reproduce endlessly, except by in-vitro fertilization, they wish to impose their rules on the rest of us too.

I’ll make you a deal Greg, you stop lobbying the government to pass laws limiting my freedoms and I’ll stop pointing out how deluded you are. I think I might have to insist that the buggering of little boys cease too. And telling lies about the effectiveness of condoms. And that you pay your taxes like everyone else.


“Doctor” Charlene Werner explains the physics of homeopathy!

‘The stupid, it burns!’ as my sons like to say. The person who posted this video on You Tube has been threatened with lawyers and told to remove it so of course those of us who care about free speech and exposing fraudulent bullshit are obliged to post it everywhere we can! I have also posted it on my Facebook page.

This woman, as far as I can tell from this video, knows nothing at all about any science whatsoever! Or maths either! She thinks Stephen Hawking came up with string theory and gets his name wrong as well! She calls him Hawkings, I expect she’s conflated Dawkins with Hawking as some kind of uber scientist and thinks she sounds educated, she’s wrong of course. Stephen Hawking’s work was mostly on black holes, he had nothing to do with string theory at all. Her explanations of everything are so wrong it’s scary.

She says that all the mass in the universe could be compressed to the size of  a bowling ball! Without getting into her concept (if any) of density, I note that Wikipedia suggests that the mass of stars in the universe is 3 x 10^52 kg, and further suggests that the star mass is about 5% of the total mass of the universe. Thus total mass of the Universe would be somewhere near 6 x 10^53 kg. Some bowling ball!

Be careful watching this stuff, the stupid could cause your brain to rot.


Professor de Kretser gets it wrong. Twice.

Victoria’s Governor spoke to the annual conference of Police Chaplains and said a lot of nonsense unfortunately. First he said that because church attendance is declining we should think of teaching ethics in schools and other educational institutions. Well I’m all in favour of teaching ethics but what does it have to do with declining church attendance?

Church attendance in Australia is about 7.5% and falling. A figure I’m very proud of. It makes Australia one of the most secular countries in the world. It is also my opinion that Australia is one of the most moral countries in the world. We are low on corruption, low on crime stats, and generally high in community spirit. We also have a strong commitment to a ‘fair go for all’.

I assume the the professor, ( a fertility expert ) imagines that people get their ethics and values from the church in some unspecified way. This is implausible however. Anyone who has ever read the bible knows that getting your ethics from that bloodthirsty tome would be a recipe for disaster. Murder, genocide, slavery, child sacrifice and many other evils are condoned or explicitly ordered in the bible. The only way to get your ethics out of the bible would be with a sieve!

He also states erroneously that Charles Darwin was a theist. This is NOT TRUE!! Charles Darwin was a convinced atheist to his dying day! He lost his faith as he developed the theory of evolution by natural selection, he realised he didn’t need it anymore. His faithlessness was only confirmed when his favourite daughter died at the age of 12, regardless no doubt of her mother’s fervent prayers. Emma Darwin was a christian but she knew her husband wasn’t.

These errors are typical of the misinformation peddled by the religious. Richard Dawkins has announced his intention to keep a recording of his last days so that no-one can say he had a death bed conversion as is so often asserted by the religious of the irreligious. Other prominent atheists would do well to do the same.

Since the earliest days of the church lying for its sake has been explicitly condoned by those in power. Nothing has changed. Charles Darwin was an atheist and anyone who gets their ethics out of the bible is in jail, if they’ve been caught at least! Teach ethics in school by all means, but not the ones in the bible or we’re all doomed. Doomed to spend the next five hundred years struggling to free ourselves from Iron-age bigotry, as we have the last five hundred.

As Matt Dilahunty says, ‘The bible is a mixture of good advice, bad advice and very bad advice’.  You’d be much better off studying ethics, that’s for sure.

On a slightly different note, we have police chaplains? Why? Do we have representatives from all religions? Mormons? Buddhists? Scientologists forsooth? My tax payers dollars are going to pay for ancient superstitions to be supported in the police force? This is appalling.


The Atheist Convention

I wrote to the organisers of the convention to suggest Matt Dillahunty of  The Atheist Community of Austin Texas as an excellent choice of speaker for the event but apparently they’ve already finalised the line-up.

It’s a pity because Matt is amazing, he was studying to be a Southern Baptist minister when he realised that it was all bullshit and there was not only no evidence for god, but that if the god of the bible was true then he’s a complete ass-hole! He is very entertaining to listen to and very opinionated, which I like. He hosts the Non-Prophets radio show and the Atheist Experience TV show which are support by the ACA.

There  are several other people on the shows who are all worth listening to but I really don’t think there’s any doubt that Matt is the star!

Oh well, it was worth a try …


Who is God Anyway?

One of the biggest problems in taking a critical look at religion in general and christianity in particular is that no two people seem to believe in the same god.

There’s everything from literal belief that every word in the bible is true, the earth is 6,000 years old and flat to the christianity of the likes of bishop Spong who seems to believe in some kind of unknowable spirit but certainly not in the virgin birth or the resurrection of christ!


PZ talks to Australian Young Skeptics

I have just listened to a podcast of PZ Myers talking to the Young Australian Skeptics, very pleasant to hear his voice for the first time after reading his blog for a while.

They talked in part about the upcoming trip to the Ken Ham “museum” . I was appalled to discover that the bloody man is Australian!! Here am I feeling all smug that our country is less polluted with religion than the US and one of the worst offenders is a fellow countryman! Hideous! Smug is a very dangerous feeling, just when you’re feeling most self congratulatory is when you can expect a reality check.

Like the recent Global Financial Crisis, everyone is congratulating themselves on their share portfolio, their superannuation, and their house price going up when WHOP, like a space ship out of the ether, the impossible happens and it all collapses like the house of cards it is.  When you start to feel smug you need to look carefully about you for the source of the correction that will certainly be on its way.


Purpose

What if the universe has a purpose, but it’s an evil one? Everyone who discusses the question of purpose in the universe assumes that if there is one then it must be a good one. Why? I admit that I don’t want for much but that seems to be somewhat the exception in the world in general. Most lifeforms seem to live on the brink of disaster and then fall off the edge pretty quickly. Life for most seems to be ‘nasty, brutish and short’ in the immortal words of Thomas Hobbes.

Hobbes was talking about human beings but the rest of life doesn’t seem to have it any better. If the universe has a purpose -which there is no evidence of – I think there must be at least an even chance that it is an evil one.