Thursday, October 30, 2008

Stop scientific progress! Preserve god's natural habitat of gaps!

Religious believer living in 1600: "Science can't explain how the Moon moves around Earth, therefore it points to supernatural control, and is evidence of god."

Religious believer living in 1700: "Science can't explain what lightning is, therefore it points to a supernatural origin (most likely to punish us for bad deeds), and is evidence of god."

Religious believer living in 1800: "Science can't explain how disease is caused, therefore it points to a supernatural origin, (most likely to punish us for bad deeds), and is evidence of god."

Religious believer living in 1900: "Science can't explain how stars get their energy to shine for so long, therefore it points to supernatural power, and is evidence of god."

Religious believer living in 2000: "Science can't explain how life originated from non-life, therefore it points to a supernatural origin, and is evidence of god."

Religious believer living in 2100: (I don't know what they'll say. Which gap will they run to next?)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Questions Atheists Can't Answer

So, Ray Comfort has a new blog posting that I think is interesting. In it, he makes a list of 10 questions which he claims that atheists can't answer. Check it out:

1. What was in the beginning?
2. How will life on earth end?
3. What happens after death?
4. What is the purpose of existence?
5. Why is there order in all of creation?
6. Why there is morality in every civilization?
7. Why does every civilization believe in a Creator?
8. Why does every sane person have a conscience, even when it is not dictated by society?
9. How did nothing create everything?
10. Which came first--the chicken or the egg?

Now if you're like me, you do have answers to some of these questions, and science is hot on the trail of answers to others, but that's not important for the purposes of this post.

What is important about it then? It's the fact that Ray has clearly implied (although he probably thinks once again that he's been too slick and tactful for us to notice his implication) that because we can't answer questions as atheists, and that he can answer them as a Young-Earth creationist retard, that he and his view somehow have an advantage over atheists and their views.

This is, in my opinion, the root of how religions got started in the first place, and why they have existed in almost(?) all cultures and civilisations. It's because there are many people out there, like Ray Comfort, who think it's a bad thing to say, "I don't know". If we don't know, and he has any answer at all to the question, then he is superior and we should follow him. Right?

But here's the thing. Some of us actually care whether or not our answers are TRUE! We don't like to make stuff up just so that we can give an answer, and we would feel embarrassed if we gave a ridiculously inaccurate response to a question. The fact that he has no proof, nor even a little evidence, at all to support his theory, makes his response LESS VALID than the person who admits he doesn't know.

In Ray's eyes, it would be better for me to make up my own religion, in which I claim that the answer to any question of origins is to say, "The colour red did it. Without red, there would be nothing. Praise red!" That would make me better than a dirty atheist, because as we have learned, belief in ANY god is better than a belief in none.

But Ray obviously gets comfort (oh, I'm such a clever pun-making guy) from holding on to his ridiculous mythological beliefs, so much so that even when science does answer a question, he refuses to abandon his old belief. That's why he's a Young-Earth creationist retard.

You can read Ray's original post here, but I'm not sure why you'd want to. ;-)

Religion not the only path to altruism

An article was posted to MSNBC today about an analysis of studies of links between religion and pro-social behaviour.

The article states that, "Religion and its promotion of empathy get undue credit for our unselfish acts. Instead, it’s our less-than-virtuous psychological perception that a moral authority is watching us that promotes altruism..."

On the scientific origins of pro-social behaviour, "Humans are evolved to be acutely sensitive to our reputations as do-gooders in our social groups because this promotes strong cooperative bonds that help the species. This psychological mechanism was originally unrelated to religion..."

And as many atheists know, it is not religion that keeps order, "... the courts, police, cameras, credit records and other justice-related authorities can serve the same purpose nowadays, encouraging proscial behavior among large groups of strangers."

Finally, as anybody with even a mild awareness of the outside world knows, "The fact that many non-religious people act as cooperatively as religious ones, and that many predominantly secular states are as (and often more) stable and functional as predominantly religious ones, attests to this"

You can read the full article here.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Is the problem merely lack of awareness of the world?

Wow, it's been over 2 weeks since my last post. I've been totally occupied with my first love, traveling. And as it turns out, the theme of travel will be relevant to this post.

I don't live in my home country. I've been an expat for about 8 years now. I work with other expats from different countries. My friends are mostly expats, too. And as I look around at my friends and coworkers (including those from my current job and my last job) here, something strikes me as odd. That is that a lot of them are atheists. In fact, nearly all of them are atheists. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure that even a single one of them is religious in any way. It also strikes me that an unusually large number of travelers that I meet are also atheists.

Why is this strange? Because if you know anything about the countries that these people come from, then statistically, one would assume that many of them should be religious. If I know a bunch of Americans, then statistically, with all other things being equal, well more than half of them should be Christian, and even more should be religious. But they're not. Why? I have a theory.

If you've ever read my de-conversion story, you'll know that what ended up destroying my faith was finding out more about other religions in the world, and recognising that they had just as much validity (ie. zero) as mine did. In the face of this new awareness, it became impossible for me to justify my faith, and I was instantly converted to atheism.

People who leave their country to go to another will naturally have a certain level of awareness of the outside (of their country) world, which is likely higher than that of the general population. Therefore, all of my expat friends, coworkers, and fellow travelers, might be considered to have above-average 'worldliness'.

The connection seems apparent. People who understand more about the world and have been out to experience it, will have a higher awareness of the outside, and not be so inclined to just believe whatever religion was forced on them as a child. They can examine and compare beliefs from one culture to another, and many will probably come to the same conclusion that I did when I was faced with alternatives to the only ideas that I'd been taught up until then.

This thinking was somewhat confirmed to me when one of my friends two weeks ago told me how he figured it all out. He told me that he could not just blindly follow the religious beliefs he was born into, when being born elsewhere would have led him to believe something else.

I then thought about it from the other side. If travelers and expats are more worldly and more highly prone to atheism, then is the opposite also true? It seems so. In the U.S. for example, it is widely known that a relatively small fraction of the people have a passport when compared to other developed countries, so it can be assumed that they haven't seen much of the world (except for trips to Canada or Mexico, but even these are impossible without a passport under new border-security rules). And not coincidentally, the U.S. also has one of the highest rates of religious belief (especially fundamentalism) of any Western developed country. Zooming in even further, we see that religious belief is stronger in the parts of the population which are, how shall we say...... less cosmopolitan (ie. southern and mid-west states, rural areas, etc.).

On the other hand, Britain has a rate of religious belief much lower than the U.S. (about half, I believe), and they are legendary travelers. I meet far more Brits while traveling than any other nationality, and their young people are fiercely into traveling during gap-years. Certainly one of the more worldly societies in the world.

Turning to the developing world, we can see that the percentage of religious believers, and the intensity of their beliefs, seems to be extremely high. The poor of India, Haiti, the Middle East, and South America, for example, are strong believers. It shouldn't surprise us that these people don't travel the world a lot, and many probably have never left their village. Even reading about the outside world might not be possible if they are illiterate.

So is there truly a connection between awareness of the world and atheism? Would many more people de-convert if they crawled out from under their rocks and experienced the world? I think so. What do you think?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Stereoscopic vision is a tool of the devil!

Thanks to Pat Condell's latest video for pointing this one out to me.

It seems a Saudi Arabian Muslim cleric has decided that women there are not covering up quite enough. He thinks that the 2-eyed look through the tiny slit is leading women to wear eye make-up, and is too seductive. The solution? For women to wear a veil which covers one eye, leaving only one visible. That would make sure that men are not tempted to try to talk to them or do anything else which is un-Islamic.

Is it necessary for me to add my own commentary? I don't think so. You can read the (short) article here.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I'd rather "come from a monkey"

Young-Earth creationist: "I dint came frum no monkey."

Atheist: "Yes, you came from incest."


*This is not (entirely) a redneck joke, it's about the biblical belief in all people coming from Adam and Eve, along with their sons and daughters. This is 100% scientific proof that all Young-Earth creationists are inbred.


OR

Young-Earth creationist: "Wuz da monkey on yo ma's side o yo pa's side?"

Atheist: "At least I believe my family has two sides."

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Belief in any god is better than atheism

I was recently on a religion-related discussion forum, and found a thread in which a Christian was arguing that as long as somebody believes in a god, any god at all, that's better than atheism.

This seemed like a strange stance to take. After all, if this person is a Christian, and believes that the only way to salvation is through his religion, why would it bother him that somebody is an atheist, but not bother him if somebody is a Ra-worshiper? Isn't the Ra-worshiper bound for the same hellish fate as the atheist? Why isn't that detail important to this person? Don't they care about the fate of our eternal souls?

I'm sure many other religious people also feel the same way. We see evidence of this when religious people argue that the vast majority of the world believes in gods of some kind, not caring that most of those people don't believe in the same gods as they do. They're just happy to have people on the side of supernatural belief.

I don't know the definite answer to this problem, but I do have my suspicions. I'm going to suggest that the answer is related to their own hidden doubts about their faith. Deep down, these people suspect that they might be wrong about their religious beliefs, and that there really aren't any gods at all. They suspect that the atheists who laugh at them might be right, that they are totally delusional, and that they have wasted their only lives on worship of a non-existent phantom.

Wouldn't that be embarrassing if it were true? Wouldn't it be embarrassing if the atheists, who looked down on the believers for their utter stupidity, their limited powers of comprehension, their fancy and useless robes, their constant chanting to the ceiling, their sacrifices of time and money, their rejection of scientific knowledge, their following of child-molesting frauds, their belief that ancient books can order them around, etc., were completely correct? The only chance that these people have to avoid devastating embarrassment is if all people hold supernatural beliefs in one form or another. So they're happy if we believe in any gods at all. Then when the embarrassment is realised, they can shrug and say, "Everybody else believed it, too.", instead of hearing, "I told you so! You owe me a Coke!"