Archive for category Atheism

God, Japan and the Meaning of Life

The following article previously appeared as a segment on episode #042 of our podcast ‘Skeptics with a K’. Subscribe via iTunes

On Friday 11 March 2011, a dreadful earthquake struck Japan.

The scale of the disaster was shocking and disturbing.  Perhaps equally disturbing, however, were the messages which appeared on Facebook and twitter in the aftermath of the earthquake, suggesting it was ‘payback’ or some kind of karmic reaction to the Japanese alliance with Nazi germany during World War II. Specifically, they claimed, it was due to the unprovoked Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.

My initial response to this, and this is meant sincerely, is “fuck you, you obnoxious pig fucker”.

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Atheism: Those Who Know Do Not Say, Those Who Say Do Not Know

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With the coming of a very low-key, very gentle pro-atheism awareness campaign on facebook in ‘A’ week (http://www.aweekonfacebook.com/, Facebook event, #aweek Twittertag ), I’ve been reminded of the hesitation that many atheists feel towards the promotion of atheism in any way. Talking about any type of promotion or advocacy in favour of atheism as annoying because “this is the sort of thing that X-, Y- or Z-ians/-ists/ers do” may not be exactly how the majority of atheists feel, but I’d say, and only from my own feeling (not very skeptical, but still), that a large majority of atheists either couldn’t care less in trying to spread ideas and grow our mostly merry, but sometimes quite grumpy band of disbelievers, or are very uncomfortable with the thought of trying to actively or passively win people over to the idea that, maybe, they should give up the idea of an invisible Daddy In The Sky who grants wishes a little less frequently than you see the evil evidence of His Divine, or more humanly – if not humanely – divined, Will

But when you see the damage that religion does, and the toxic effect that a supreme, unquestionable authority and unquestioned afterlife can bring – from the banality and stupidity of the penny candle, crap wine and drain-filtering devices (pieces of The Christ’s Holy, suspiciously bread-like, Flesh must be saved from the insult of the sewers) of Catholicism (though after 2000 years on a bread and wine diet, I’m certain Jesus could make excellent use of modern facilities) to the horrendous tradition of wife-burning in Hindu ‘Sati’, thankfully both illegal and much reduced in modern India, or the unholy union of extreme Christianity in demonising a contraceptive layer of latex that could do so much to help the AIDS crisis – doesn’t this, shouldn’t this drive anyone with a rational bent and compassion for humanity towards doing what we can to reduce the influence of The Beast, even to simply kick the giant’s toe? Read the rest of this entry »

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What’s That Cross on The Wall For?

Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights decreed that the crucifix should no longer be hung in state schools in Italy. They found in favour of Soile Lautsi, a Finnish-born atheist living in Padua, who objected to her children being taught in classrooms that prominently displayed a Christian symbol. The judges ruled that its presence could “disturb” children of other faiths or none, and that it violated pupils’ rights. The ruling wasn’t just for Soile Lautsi’s children’s school, but applied to state schools across the whole of Italy.

I’m very much a supporter of seperation between church and state, and believe secular states (of which Italy, perhaps surprisingly, is one) are a progressive way forward into a less ideologically narrow world future. Coming from that viewpoint, this seems to be a reasonable judgement. One which will cause consternation to a large number of people (which I’ll come to later), but a rational and wise judgement none-the-less. At the same time, whenever I hear about rulings of this kind, I feel slightly uneasy. I suspect it’s the language used by the judges when they give their verdicts. For example:

“Its presence [the crucifix] could disturb children.”

‘Disturb’ implies an air of threat or unease, something which constantly distracts and worries. Now, a naked dead man in a torture pose probably isn’t the greatest image to expose your nation’s children to, but is it really going to disturb them? Children aren’t that easily disturbed when it comes to graphic violence (remember watching Robocop as a kid and loving it?), and in the home country of the Vatican, Catholicism’s particular brand of torture porn is everywhere anyway. You can’t walk down a street in Italy without seeing a crucifix. In fact it’s more likely to engender indifference or annoyance than anything else. I’m not sure ‘disturb’ is an accurate word in this regard. Read the rest of this entry »

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Don’t Label Me: The Atheist Billboard Campaign (or Atheism 101: What is Atheism?)

The final phase of the astonishingly-popular Atheist Bus Campaign launched recently.

First, a little background.  The Atheist Bus Campaign was launched by the lovely Ariane Sherine, the comedy writer and blogger who recently spoke for us at Liverpool Skeptics in the Pub.  After spotting an advert on the side of a London bus proclaiming something along the lines of  “Join the Jesus Fan Club or Burn Forever™” (I may be paraphrasing slightly) Ariane devised a campaign to fund similar ads promoting the slogan “There’s Probably No God”.

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A Word From Our Man In Ottawa…

Humanist Dave with beard and taped photo

Humanist Dave with beard and taped photo

Last month, MSS member Chris jetted off to a bright future and a new life in Canada. I think. I mean the brighter future bit, not the Canada bit – I know he’s in Canada. Or at least he said he is, I’ve no real hard evidence. Hmm. Anyway, in his first overseas missive, Chris introduces us to the Canada Humanist scene and their own Atheist Bus Campaign…

Greetings from Canada! Coincidentally, just as Ariane Sherine prepared to make her way to my old stomping-ground in Liverpool I attended my first meeting of the Humanist Association of Ottawa (HAO) at which the topic was the Atheist Bus Campaign. I thought it worth mentioning not only because of the fact that it was relevant to a Merseyside meeting, but also because it raises some issues that haven’t been so important in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

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There’s Probably No Santa, So Stop Worrying and Forget About The Beard

Next week we have the lovely Ariane Sherine coming up to Liverpool Skeptics In The Pub, when she will be talking about how she created the Atheist Bus Campaign, and about her new book The Atheist’s Guide To Christmas. The book is a great read, featuring essays by 42 famous atheists from different walks of life. Contributors include Richard Dawkins, Charlie Brooker, Simon Singh, Josie Long and many, many more. I thoroughly recommend it.

Anyway, in tribute to the book and Ariane’s upcoming talk (which will be fab, so please come along!), I thought I’d stick my oar in and have a bit of a blog about atheism myself. As far back as I can remember, I’ve never believed in a God. Lately, I’ve heard and read a lot of stories by people of their conversions to athiesm, or from atheism to theism, or of their struggle to ‘come out’ as an atheist, particularly in religious households; but I have no such story to tell. No-one in my family is religious or cares much either way about whether a God exists or not, and the friends I grew up with seem to have been in the same boat, so far as I know. It’s simply never been an issue for me, to the extent that I’ve never even really thought of myself as an atheist. It would be like giving myself a label based around the fact I have arms, or have never owned a chicken. Read the rest of this entry »

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