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Nov 262017

Just seen something daft on the idiot-box (also known as “television”) where a character claims to not be an atheist because she believes in good and evil.

Which is weird if you think about it. We atheists pride ourselves on paying attention to the evidence, and there is plenty of evidence for the existence of good and evil deeds. What there is not evidence for is the existence of some cartoonish personification of good and evil; those characters sometimes called “god” and “the devil”.

It isn’t necessary for good and evil deeds to require some mysterious actor who lives in the clouds; people are quite capable of both good and evil deeds without help.

Evil deeds are carried out by broken people, and personifying evil as a mysterious actor is a way of absolving us from finding the broken people and fixing them.

Light’s Shadow

Jun 042017

Before we get onto the hysteria part of this semi-coherent rant, let me emphasise that last night’s attacks were terrible and that having religious nut-jobs (if that is confirmed; whilst it seems probable it could still be a false flag incident) running around attacking ordinary people on a night out is despicable.

But some of the reactions on #LondonBridge were pretty disgusting; whilst some were posting offers to house people stranded because of the attack, others were leaping to conclusions and demanding some actions :-

  • Many including the orange idiot were demanding the travel ban. Which would stop none of the terrorist incidents perpetrated by domestic muslims; and most of these incidents are by domestic muslims. The main outcome of a travel ban would be to alienate those targeted by the ban, and alienation is the first step on the road to radicalisation.
  • Blaming the whole of islam for the terrorism. With the muslim nurses, doctors treating the injured, the muslim taxi-drivers taking people home for free, the muslim shop-keepers opening up and offering food, drink, and a place to stay, there were more acts of kindness by muslims last night than there were acts of terror. Or are you going to blame all christians for christian terrorism?
  • Bizarrely bringing the Paris Accords into this incident.
  • Demanding action without specifying what action. Action is of course taking place each and every day, but terrorism is extremely difficult to stop.

The only mistake muslim made on the twitter last night was to claim that the terrorists were not muslims; that’s the No True Scotsman fallacy. It would be far more effective to claim that these terrorists are muslim heretics (or whatever equivalent term you would prefer).

Whilst the events last night were terrible, it is also important to take them in context – if you were to add up all the deaths and injuries from terrorist incidents they would amount to a small fraction of the deaths caused in London each year by air pollution (estimated at around 9,000 a year). Or to go the other way, one terrorist incident caused perhaps two day’s worth of traffic accidents.

That does not mean we should not take action against potential terrorists, but neither should we over-react and respond with actions that punish the innocent as well as the guilty.

May 232017

I woke up this morning to the news of the Manchester bombing this morning; learning about what was going on from a forum that had attracted some of the more rancid members of the far right. Who were busy blaming this atrocity on all muslims, but also on Syrian refugees; all this of course before anyone knew any facts because facts are irrelevant to the bigoted far right.

And a particularly nasty piece of work has labelled the victims “sluts” and “whores” (I’ve linked to a site that discusses his comments in order not to give him any extra ad revenue).

Now I am not in the habit of being sympathetic to any religious group – they all believe in imaginary friends. But they’re people and in many cases my fellow countrymen, so when a gang of pathetic little chickenshit cowards labels all muslims as terrorists, it is time to call them out on their bigoted bullshit.

Yes the evil scum who set off the bomb was a muslim; one born in Britain and not a Syrian refugee.

But :-

  1. It is almost certain that some of the 60 ambulances that attended were crewed by a muslim or two.
  2. It is almost certain that some of the police who were there helping people out were muslims.
  3. It is almost certain that some of those who opened their homes to accommodate stranded
  4. Some of the taxi drivers who turned off their meters and offered free lifts to those stranded were muslims.

Of course Mancunians of all faiths and none rallied around and helped out, but as muslims were being painted with the terrorism brush, it seems reasonable to highlight that many of those helping out were muslims.

Feb 132017

As an atheist, I find it difficult to be polite and not fall about laughing at things like “Intelligent Design”, but for the duration of this blog posting, I’ll try.

On one side are the scientists who spend their working lives investigating biological processes who have their theory of evolution. Now that word “theory” needs a bit of explanation; it does not mean that evolution hasn’t been accepted as fact by scientists. Evolution is one of those rare scientific theories that has never been disproved; merely refined. Essentially the word “theory” here is a challenge to disprove evolution and come up with a better theory – if you think you’re hard enough!

On the other side are a collection of religious leaders (admittedly Charles Thaxton trained as a chemist) who have spent their working lives telling people about god; and coming up with the theory of “Intelligent Design” in their spare time. The suspicion is that these people are letting their religious beliefs influence their “scientific” thinking.

When I want to know about plumbing, I ask a plumber. When I want to know about welding, I ask a boiler-maker. And when I want to know about biology, I ask a biologist.

Apr 242016

The interwebs are vibrating with apoplexy at the issue of transgender people in public toilets – those who insist they should tie a knot in it and not use a toilet (or use some other toilet), and those who oppose them. North Carolina has recently passed a law requiring transgender people to use the toilet suited to the gender of their birth, and other states are set to follow. To USians who are puzzled by my use of the word “toilet” – in the UK it refers to both the room itself and the appliance.

In some ways I would more naturally fit into the first camp – I don’t understand transgender issues, and I don’t understand why anyone would want to go down the route of gender re-assignment. To me the gender of the meatspace body my mind wears is immutable.

But here’s the thing: if someone decides to go down the route of gender re-assignment, it’s none of my business. And this law is just plain stupid not to mention malicious.

And so to toilets. In IT there is a principle called the Principle of Least Astonishment which in a sense is quite relevant here. If I go to a public toilet, I normally expect to find myself alongside (figuratively and literally in the case of the urinal) people who look like men; if there’s someone in there who looks like a woman (and it has happened – women sometimes use the men’s facilities) then for a moment I wonder if I’ve wandered through the wrong door.

So it stands to reason that people who look like men should use the men’s toilets and people who look like women should use the women’s toilets. Nothing to do with right and wrong, it’s just simple logic and that principle I mentioned in the last paragraph. Of course it is also the right thing to do.

Now we all know there are perverts out there – there are male perverts, and female perverts, and it stands to reason that there are a few transgender perverts too, and yes some of them are interested in children too (but not all; most perverts are probably as horrified by paedophilia as normal people are). So? What does this have to do with toilets?

Unless what goes on in public women’s toilets is a good deal more exciting than what goes on in the men’s facilities, there’s really nothing for someone to get excited about (and men do share a urinal!).

And frankly even if perverts are weird enough to get excited in public toilets, there’s better strategies than picking on a minority group. Such as concentrating on making those doors and walls for toilet stalls floor to ceiling.

Now I’m going to go for a pee in peace.

(Obviously stolen from Sarah)

Mar 152016

This post was inspired by a video of someone’s testament of why they are leaving islam, but yet it has nothing to do with islam.

There is a perfectly understandable misunderstanding within that video – the extremism commonly found in islam today has nothing to do with islam itself. The same extremism can be found in other religions too – christianity, hinduism, budhism, judaisn, etc. Yes the perception is that islam today is far more extreme than those other religions, but there are still extremism in other religions :-

It seems that irrespective of what religion someone believes in, they will take the message from their religious texts that they want to. A good person is going to take the good stuff from the good book; a bad person is going to take the bad stuff from the very same book. I would not go as far as Steven Weinburg :-

Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

But it is certainly along the right sort of lines. Extremists use religion as an excuse to do evil things – killing homosexuals, abortionists, atheists, “immoral” women, etc. If we could somehow cause all the extremists of the world to drink the magical cool-aid that would turn off their extremism and turn them into the kind of religious believers who “love thy neighbour”, then there wouldn’t be a problem with religion.

But the sad fact is that extremists do so much harm with their religion that it outweighs any possible benefit we get from religion. We would be better off getting rid of religion just to stop the extremists from pretending to be good.

Dec 102015

So Donald Trump wants to ban muslims from entering the US does he?

Perhaps he really is not only a vicious racist but also as gormless as he looks in the photo (apologies for those of a sensitive disposition). There are others who have covered why banning muslims from entering the US is morally wrong, and if you do not understand why that is so, then explaining here is not going to make things any clearer.

But in addition to being morally wrong, it is also dumb in the extreme. There are two important question to ask when looking at a policy …

Is It A Practicable Policy?


Islam is a religion and is not apparent from someone’s appearance. There is no label on their forehead!

So a policy of restricting muslims would be limited to either asking them. Which would lead to a situation where you were excluding muslims who do not lie about their religion, or in other words you are letting in the kind of muslims that you should perhaps be excluding, and excluding the muslims there is no reason for excluding.

Or you could do some sort of racial profiling, which amounts to not excluding muslims, but excluding light-brown skinned people. Again this will exclude the kind of muslims you do not want to exclude, whilst allowing through ones up to no good.

Will It Accomplish The Mission?

It really depends on what is intended by excluding muslims. If it is intended to portray the US as an intolerant country blundering around with incompetent measures that do more to annoy than to protect, them yes it can be said to accomplish the mission.

If however it is intended to make the US safer from terrorists, then no. Terrorists are more interested in accomplishing their own mission than telling the truth, and will go out of their way to avoid being identified is muslims if they think that this will help in their mission.

There is one small category of terrorists that this may protect against – those who are initially ordinary muslims but who later become radicalised whilst in the US. However having said that, the likelihood that this measure will protect against those vulnerable to becoming radicalised is pretty low.



Nov 222015

There are approximately 1.6 billion muslims in the world today, so there are 1.6 billion different versions of islam; in most cases the differences are trivial (at least to "unbelievers").  In other cases the differences are rather more obvious.

Each muslim supposedly reads the Qur'an differently and consciously or unconsciously gives different conflicting verses a different emphasis: The obvious being :-

…slay the pagans wherever ye find them

And :-

whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.

Any normal person is going to emphasise the second verse whereas murderous psychopaths will emphasise the first.

For those who think that only the qur'an is like this, take a closer look at the bible – in particular deuteronomy 17.

As a wooly minded liberal, I have a problem with certain aspects of certain flavours of islam :-

  • Apostasy. A number of those versions of islam have no place for god in them; if you become an atheist in certain islamic countries it is safest to go through the motions. Because being stoned to death for apostasy would ruin your entire day. And atheists are the lucky ones – it is possible for us to go through the motions and pretend.
  • Women's rights. I'm not happy with anything that believes in second class citizens.
  • Criticism. I'm human and I've got a right to criticise anything which I see has issues. Calling it "blasphemy" and threatening me with stoning isn't a sensible way of facing criticism.

But the main problem is of course that a tiny number (in comparison to the total) of versions of islam support terrorism. Interestingly there are suggestions that many terrorists have an extremely limited understanding of islam.

Mainstream muslims protest that the terrorists aren't real muslims and that islam is a religion of peace. Fair enough.

But perhaps they should go a step further and declare that supporters of terrorism and terrorists are apostates, and need to talk with a qualified iman about rejoining the faith.

For those who think that this is a uniquely islamic problem, you should read up on christian terrorism

Nov 142015

One of the worst examples of muddle-headed thinking you can come across on the interwebs in the wake of the latest terrorist attrocities is the notion that somehow Islam is a religion of terrorism. Now don't get me wrong; I'm no friend of any religion, and Islam has some particularly loathsome aspects (it's treatment of women amongst them). 

But to claim that Islam is all about terrorism is to ignore the mathematics of the situation; there are 1.5 billion muslims in the world yet only a miniscule minority are terrorists. If Islam really is a religion of terrorism, then there are an immense number of poor muslims out there.

The critcis of Islam will point out that the Qu'ran has phrases like :-

…slay the pagans wherever ye find them

And that is true, but it also has phrases like :-

whosoever killeth a human being for other than manslaughter or corruption in the earth, it shall be as if he had killed all mankind, and whoso saveth the life of one, it shall be as if he had saved the life of all mankind.

Most "holy" books are like this – you can pull out pretty much pull out a justification for anything you want. Any that applies to christians, hindus, sikhs, and just about anybody else. There are good and bad relgious people; bad religious people will support terrorism and good religious people will condemn it.

Yes there are some muslim terrorists and it would be helpful if moderate muslims would declare that the terrorists who commit acts in the name of Islam to be apostates. No other words are likely to have as large an effect as their co-religionists to formally kick them out of the mosque.

There are those who also claim that all terrorists are muslims which is just laughable; there have been many groups that have resorted to terrorism over the centuries. In fact if you analyse terrorist attacks in Europe up until the year 2010, the overwhelming majority were for causes other that Islam :-

Nov 122015

Starbucks (apparently a well-known brand of coffee shop for those of us who prefer to make their own coffee rather than pay over the odds for a infusion of caffeine) have introduced a plain red cup for the holiday season, christmas, Xmas, Mythmas, or the Winter Solstice (depending on what you want to call it). In previous years, Starbucks had decorated cups for the holiday season – decorated with snowflakes, etc. In other words generic seasonal symbols.

This year they have gone for a plain cup to encourage their customers to doodle.

For some reason the religious nutjobs (given their behaviour you can't really call them anything else) have taken umbrage at this – claiming that Starbucks are trying to take the Christ out of Christmas. Which demonstrates the emotional maturity of a toddler crying because she can't catch her shadow, as the Starbucks' seasonal cups have never included overtly religious symbols.

There is even one of the less rational Republican candidates for president (which equates to a gibbering megalomaniac) who thinks that we ought to boycott Starbucks over the issue.

When you come down to it, Starbucks has given these religious fruitcakes the opportunity to put Christ into the holiday season by giving them an empty space on their Starbucks cups to doodle their designs.

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