Apr 202021

Well they were bad of course – you can’t invade someone’s land and call it good. At best it might be justified – such as when the Allies invaded occupied Europe and Germany to kick out the Nazis, but that is the best case scenario and the crusades were a long way from that.

But they did not happen in a vacuum – the islamic world had previous contact with the christian world, and that contact wasn’t always harmonious and it wasn’t always the intolerance of christians to blame.

First of all, which crusades are we talking about? Because despite the popular notion that the crusades were all christians trying to kick muslims out of the “holy land”, it wasn’t actually the case. There is some disagreement about whether the other crusades actually count or not – such as the Reconquista or the crusades against the pagans of eastern europe.

But as we’re not looking at those, we can ignore that little argument except to make one point about the Reconquista – this was (overly simplistic) the christian reconquest of the Iberian peninsular after the islamic conquest of starting in 711. And whilst it’s childish to say “but they did it first” (and doesn’t justify the Crusades), it is actually true.

The other aspect contributing towards the first crusade was the actions of the so-called “Mad Caliph” – Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah who reversed a previously agreed policy of toleration to christians (including pilgrims to Jerusalem) and jews. Plus the destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

Now this may have been exaggerated, but whatever truth lies behind the “Mad Caliph”, the effect on christian europe has more to do with the information (or propaganda) going around europe at the time. Although the first crusade was nearly 100 years later, the destruction of churches was mentioned by Pope Urban in his speech at the Council of Clermont.

We can still condemn the crusades without implying that it was an entirely unprovoked attack on the islamic world.

It’s Round
Mar 272021

Recently I came across a Twitter thread that perpetuated the notion that atheism is a belief. Which is always frustrating to read because atheism is not and has never been a belief; it’s an absence of belief.

There are many historical definitions of atheism which show the prejudices of the religious towards the “godless”, but the best modern definition of the word comes from philosophy: “rejection of belief in God or gods”. But it would perhaps be better put as not believing in the existence of gods because there is no satisfactory evidence for their existence.

Note the word “satisfactory” in there – no, just because you had blue cheese last night and dreamed of Jesus, this isn’t evidence for the existence of any god. And no the bible isn’t evidence either – you may believe that it was written by your god, but there is no evidence that it is the case.

Does this matter? Not that much to be honest, it is just that as a whole atheists tend to be a little bit pedantic about their “beliefs” or lack of them.

Jan 232020

For those who are tuning in a bit late, Blaise Pascal came up with the believer’s so-called ‘rational’ argument for believing (or trying to believe) in a god. The argument goes something like :-

  • God is, or God is not. Reason cannot decide between the two alternatives
  • A Game is being played… where heads or tails will turn up
  • You must wager (it is not optional)
  • Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing
  • Wager, then, without hesitation that He is. (…) There is here an infinity of an infinitely happy life to gain, a chance of gain against a finite number of chances of loss, and what you stake is finite. And so our proposition is of infinite force when there is the finite to stake in a game where there are equal risks of gain and of loss, and the infinite to gain.
  • But some cannot believe. They should then ‘at least learn your inability to believe…’ and ‘Endeavour then to convince’ themselves.

Sounds reasonable doesn’t it? Of course it does – Pascal has used logic here even though he is coming to an irrational conclusion; the key is logic.

However there is only one small area where Pascal’s wager makes any kind of sense – if believers burn atheists at the stake (which did happen during Pascal’s lifetime) then it makes perfect sense to pretend to believe to protect oneself.

However it does make two rather large assumptions :-

  1. That this god isn’t able to determine the difference between believing and pretending to believe. Which kind of invalidates the notion of an omniscient god.
  2. Which god? Given the childish jealousy that most gods exhibit, pick the wrong one and you’re in just a bad a position as someone who doesn’t pick at all.

And the very first statement – that reason cannot determine whether god exists or not, is completely wrong. Reason requires evidence for the existence of something, and the best evidence for the existence of god is the belief of the believers which isn’t evidence at all.

Light’s Shadow
Jan 052020

So the US has blown up Soleimani with a drone strike; what’s the problem?

Well it isn’t that Soleimani didn’t deserve it, although I would lean in favour of being imprisoned for life after a conviction for crimes against humanity (yes this would be a lot more difficult to arrange). And no it isn’t because the one effectively pressing the button was an orange-painted idiotic sociopath.

No, it’s the way he was killed.

What seems to be commonly overlooked is that a total of ten people were killed by the drone strike – did all of those there deserve to die? Each and every one? No, probably not.

And who made the decision to go ahead and make the drone strike? The president of the USA with an arbitrary decision rather than any proper due process. In other words, this ‘execution’ (or assassination) wasn’t sanctioned by a court of law .

And lastly, this was an act of war by the USA against Iraqi territory and an Iranian general. Either could use this act as justification (as much as any war is justified) for war with the USA. And as the USA has used similar acts by others as justification for war, it can hardly claim that they are not. At least not honestly.

In terms of reactions to this assassination, it doesn’t matter what USA citizens think; it matters what Iraqis and Iranians think. And judging by the public reactions so far, they don’t appear to like it much. That will further radicalise ordinary Iranians and Iraqis and make them more likely to side with the Islamic terrorists.


Oct 302019

I was recently involved in a bit of a twitter spat when I ‘came out’ as an atheist in a religious thread. I was agreeing with a sentiment that a religious moderate put out (except for the “god bit”).

In response, I had two religious fruitcakes going on about how I would find god if I suffered enough.

No, I won’t.

And how condescending is it to assume my unbelief is only skin-deep, and at the first sign of trouble I’ll start asking for help from an infectious imaginary friend?

Put the boot on the other foot: Do christians give up their god at the first sign of trouble? Do muslims? Imagine ‘coming out’ to an atheist that you’re a christian, and the response: “Never mind; maybe sometime you’ll regain your sanity and become god-free”

Impertinent isn’t it?

Giving The Sky The Finger
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