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Aug 122018
 

Within the atheist community, the attitude towards the catholic church can sometimes verge on the old-fashioned protestant style anti-catholic bigotry. That isn’t to say that the RCC doesn’t deserve its fair share of criticism – in particular women’s rights and reproductive rights.

But some of the anti-catholicism can be a little extreme.

The Crusades

But that was centuries ago! Were the crusades evil? Of course they were.

But take a look at what other organisations were up to at the same time – secular rulers were doing pretty much the same thing (usually at a smaller scale).

If you look at secular rulers of the early mediæval era, a good proportion of them qualify under modern standards of behaviour as psychopaths. Most “noble” families started off as successful raiders and war bands whose winning strategy at accumulating wealth was to find those with some wealth and extract it from them with force.

And the church leaders? Many of them were from those families and so it is not surprising that the mediæval church had its own psychopaths.

Take the Cathar Crusade in southern France as an example. It was the source of the phrase “Kill them all; God will know his own”. The catholic church spent nearly 100 years trying to convert them peacefully, and it was only after a papal legate was killed that the crusade began.

And this is all ancient history – when was the last catholic crusade?

“Pædophile” Priests

So every priest is a pædophile? Not even close – the proportion of child abusers within the church is probably much the same as the proportion of child abusers within any other organisation with power over children. See https://www.newsweek.com/priests-commit-no-more-abuse-other-males-70625; one interesting datum from that article is that the insurance industry rates for sex abuse insurance are the same for catholic churches as for any other denomination. 

And insurance companies hold no truck with religious morals; they deal with hard statistics and probabilities. 

Institutional Secrecy

The RCC can be quite reasonably criticised for past crimes in concealing child abusers, and suspicion over how they will treat future crimes is not unreasonable.

But I don’t see them reacting differently to every kind of organisation which reacts to protect the name of the organisation. Protecting child sex abuse is an extreme example of this, but has still occurred in many different kinds of organisations.

The RCC is also a bit of a special case in that it predates nation states in existence today (the oldest state is Iceland which was formed in the 9th century) and has a long tradition of managing itself independent of secular authorities. 

In a sense, the RCC thinks of itself as the authority in charge of the hierarchy and wouldn’t think of informing secular authorities of issues. This may be changing, and needs to change.

The Catholics and The Nazis

There are those out there who seem to be under the impression that the RCC was in cahoots with Hitler and the Nazis; such people are woefully and abysmally ignorant of the history of the times.

There were some catholics who supported the Nazis, but overall the RCC was very strongly against the Nazis. For a quick overview of the history see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_Nazi_Germany

Final Word

This might come across as a bit of a white-wash of the RCC, but it is not intended as such. It is merely intended to point out that the RCC is no more culpable to child sex abuse cases than many other organisations which have had similar incidents.

One thing that may be commonly overlooked is just how large the RCC is. There are approximately 2.4 billion christians around the world; of whom nearly 1.3 billion are catholic. You can take every single baptist out there (up to 100 million) and they will amount to no more than the error bars on the estimate of the number of catholics. No wonder that nearly every other week there is a new catholic scandal.

Apr 062018
 

The phrase “Islam is a religion of peace” gets bandied about a great deal these days – either by those saying that it is a religion of peace and islamic terrorists are an aberration, or by those who question whether islam is a religion of peace at all.

To be honest though, the phrase is irrelevant. You can have the most peaceable religion in existence and yet fundamentalist followers of that religion will resort to violence, and yes you can have a religion that calls for the torture to death of all non-followers, yet if the followers of that religion are peaceable nobody is at risk.

Questioning the religion as a whole is all very well (and as someone who would prefer that all religions disappear in a puff of logic, usually to be encouraged), but it does tend to encourage the kind of idiot who normally goes in for racism into attacking all muslims (and often sikhs as well) because of the sins of a few.

Muslims are just people; people with the disadvantage that they have been indoctrinated into a faith – not much different to christians, sikhs, hindus, jews, or zorastrians (and if I’ve left out your religion, yes I mean you too). Some are good people; some are bad.

But in the words of Steven Weinberg: “but for good people to do evil—that takes religion”.

But truisms like that are overly simplistic; religious terrorists are people who are convinced that they are good – probably better than their coreligionists – and who want to enforce their beliefs and standards of behaviour on others. And are prepared to do so in ways that most of us would call psychotic.

These people – the religious terrorists – are in all likelihood only a tiny minority of all muslims (or christians, …), and in a surprising number of cases are not especially well educated in their religion. In fact many of them are petty crooks, with a burning desire to be more significant than they deserve.

In the end, debating whether islam really is a religion of peace or not is pretty much a waste of time because it is irrelevant – even the religions with the most peaceful reputations have terrorists (major religions only).

Old Metal 3

Mar 142018
 

Today came the news that Stephen Hawking has died, which is a loss to England, Britain, the United Kingdom, and the whole world. Well worthy of having a spot in Westminster Abbey. Yet as soon as his death was announced, we had bad christians (and at least one muslim) crowing about how he was going to spend all eternity in hell.

Yes, atheists know that christians think we’re going to hell. There’s no need to shout about it on twitter.

Apart from anything else, it makes christians and muslims look bad – is it any wonder that religion is losing ground to secularism when we have such noxious examples of the religious?

Now I’m not one of those atheists who thinks that all religious people are evil; a bit deluded perhaps, but not necessarily evil. But we do not see enough religious condemnation of bad christians from the good christians, or bad muslims from the good muslims.

It’s always worth remembering that evil words and deeds speak louder than good words and deeds, so good christians and good muslims need to flood their bad co-coreligionists with enough condemnation to drown out their evil words and deeds.

Rusty Anchor In The Sky

 

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.

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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 :-

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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?

No.

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.

 

 

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