Thursday, 25 February 2010

Faith School A-Go-Go!

I just read an excellent article slightly de-railing the faith school arguement. The arguement here is individualist vs pluralist models of governance, and criticises the UK for it's lack of clarity on its approach in this sphere. I do agree and it is a very good point indeed.

From my point of view I am all for faith schools. (Bear with me...) Seriously, think about it for a second. Presently, the religious groups are lobbying to get changes in the general curriculum so that things like sex education etc. aren't taught as any sensible person would, but preach abstinance, not condoms (really, would they have ever been invented if that actually worked??). So the parents who wish to bring their children up to have minds of their own, to critically assess with all information available and then choose for themselves, go out of their way to undermine such ideas and explain the view which is widely accepted and well evidenced. If they are not successful then the religious parents will equally go out of their way to undermine common sense!

Therefore, why not save either set of parents the bother, and cart off the mad lot to teach their own poor offspring in their own "faith" and allow decent parents the chance to give their child the honest upbringing, sans brainwashing, that they truly deserve? Honestly, it is not right and poper to educate a child in one narrow minded point of view, you are cheating the child out of an important area of personal development. But as there are all too many out there quite willing to do just that, then we can at least ensure that the rest of us don't have to suffer because of it.


Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Ray Gosling and Euthanasia

I just read an article on the BHA's comment on the news today of Ray Gosling's admission to euthanasia;

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded to reports that police are to investigate TV presenter Ray Gosling, following his claim that he smothered his terminally ill lover as a result of a pact with him.

Andrew Copson, BHA Chief Executive, commented, ‘Every time a story like this comes to public attention it reinforces the need for an urgent change in the UK law on assisted dying. Nobody should be put in a position where they feel they have no other option than to ask a loved one to help them die should their suffering become unbearable. We believe that legalising assisted dying in UK, with strict safeguards in place, is the most rational and most ethically preferable option, empowering people to make choices over their end-of-life care, including the choice to have an assisted death if they want.’

‘Our elected representatives in Parliament need to take urgent action to make serious reforms to the law, both to protect vulnerable people and to enable people who are terminally ill or otherwise incurably suffering to make autonomous choices at end of life.’

All I can say really is "here, here!". Having a child and a loving family, I couldn't bear the thought of leaving them with the image of me in dreadful pain, a shadow of my former self, and barely recognizable.

Not many countries have a stance on Euthanasia except for the most forward thinking and secular nations. It is noteworthy that three US states have legalised "assisted suicide*. One question to ask is; why hasn't it been legalised yet in the UK? Is it because of the nightmare set of guidelines that would need to exist to make it viable and safe, or, as I fear is the case, because of the minority of religious groups in the country who think that rejecting their loving god's gift of a long, slow, and painful death is sacrilege?


* See link on Euthanasia Legality

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Dust in the Wind

"I close my eyes, Only for a moment, then the moment's gone
All my dreams, Pass before my eyes, a curiosity

Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind

Same old song, Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind

Now, don't hang on, Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, And all your money won't another minute buy

Dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
All we are is dust in the wind
Dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind
Everything is dust in the wind"

For those that don't know (in which case your musical education was sadly neglected!!) the above lyrics are a song by the prog-rock band Kansas. They are famous for "Carry On My Wayward Son", most excellent!

Anyway, the reason I am posting the lyrics here is that I re-discovered the song the other evening whilst pruning my hard drives. When I heard it again it struck me as a great Atheist theme-song! Hold your objections, if we delve into the meaning for a moment it's not wholeheartedly depressing!! Don't judge a song by its chorus!

If we examine the first line;

"I close my eyes, Only for a moment, then the moment's gone
All my dreams, Pass before my eyes, a curiosity"

this, to me, describes the ever-changing nature of life, especially ourselves. Look at how you were and what you believed ten years ago, how different is your life now? We live and learn, and our ambitions mature.

Now we come to the main theme of the song;

"Dust in the wind
All they are is dust in the wind"

which in this context is stating how life moves on, everything that you once were is now long gone. However, the remnant of it, the dust in this analogy, is still present in having evolved into your present self.

Some have gone on to translate the next two verses with some religious significance (Kerry Livgren, who wrote the lyrics, was very spiritual and ended up a Christian, although most fans at this point, put him as a "wondering spiritualist" searching for his ethos of choice.). It is true that the verses easily lend themselves to such an interpretation, as the impermanence of this world is described, and that "earth and sky" part is seen as a distinguishing marker between the kingdoms of men and god. It could even be factually accurate that Kerry Livgren was trying to express his general feeling of this spiritual impetus at that time, without yet having fully formed his own philosophy. However, my translation of this section is thus...

"Same old song, Just a drop of water in an endless sea
All we do, Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see"

This represents the interconnectedness of all matter (Theory of Conservation of Mass, I'm being scientific here, not esoteric!). We can build what we like with what we've got while we're here, but it's only borrowed (I know that sounds all Na'vi crazy, but it happens to be taken from aforementioned theory!!).

"Now, don't hang on, Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky
It slips away, And all your money won't another minute buy"

I translate "earth and sky" here as just that and nothing more. The natural world itself. The message here is something akin to the old "you can't take it with you" regarding money and material possessions. Don't attach too much importance to the material, enjoy the experiences of life. I think that sentiment is cemented in the final line referring to the limited time we have.

The song is as secular a call to people as I've ever heard to take a more spiritual approach to life. There is nothing more sad than to watch an atheist run their lives totally around the acquisition of things, having missed all the fun and experience of happy relationships that a thoughtful life can bring. So live for the moment folks, and apologies if this took up too many of yours!


Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Frack Me!

Here's where the "Geek" comes into the Geekgirl (yes, I've tried, and there's no good way of putting that!!).

For any self-respecting nerd who wondered what an explosion sounded like in space (i'll give you a minute on that one...), Battlestar Gallactica was excellent. Despite the obvious science faux pas, it really was great. Anyway, pleeease discover it's prequel series, on now somewhere near you, called Caprica.

I'm very impressed so far. The theme is the inner machinations of a rising monotheistic cult, dancing around terrorism and suicide bombings, and is really very compelling. It is entertaining and action packed, as well as being relevant and intelligent. So far the series has avoided evoking the Deus Ex Machina that it's counterpart did annoyingly often, and I'm praying they keep it that way (pun fully intended).


Monday, 8 February 2010

For those who may have missed me...

Sorry folks, been a time of illness (constant minor ones, albeit!) since X-Mas.

Anyway, I'm back and I'm bad (yes, worse than before, ahem.)

So, to pilgrimage. I was reading an excellent list over at Mental Floss (click here) of must see pilgrimage sites, including Mecca, Bodh Gaya, the Western Wall, etc. and it got my brain all lubricated again. Where would be a good atheist site of pilgrimage?

I would like to start by including all of those on the aforementioned list, as any atheist of large brain (Owl style) would be sure to be fore-armed with the details and reverence of the more ancient sites. They are all important steps in the journey of reason, after all, especially the Buddhist sites (*if they aren't the same as Christianity's).

Following on from there, a pilgrimage to Greece, perhaps, to the birthplace of reason and philosophy. His most famous quote concerning religious ideas is;

"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
He was born on Samos, and studied at the Academy in Athens, so there are a couple of options on that one.

Hmm, I think I've committed myself to a series here, haven't I? Tune in next week folks, for Galileo Galilei (house arrest for annoying the Church) and Bruno (burnt at the stake for being Galileo's biggest fan)...


*There is a theory, a favourite of mine actually, given my liking for Buddhism, that Jesus was actually the Dalai Lama. We all know the story of Jesus' birth; the three wise men from the east, following a star to find the baby, which just happens to be how the latest reincarnation of the great teacher is found, not that us rationalists believe that, of course. Then there are the "Lost years" of Jesus, aged 14 -29. 14 was the age the child was taken from their parents to be taught in the Buddhist religion/philosophy. The Jesus ministry had eerie similarities to the Buddha story, with very similar miracles (both walked on water) and teachings (both stated that possessions bring suffering and righteousness is the true treasure of the soul). Finally, records of a teacher called Issa coming from Jerusalem, living out the rest of his life in Kashmir teaching in what seemed a continuance of the Jesus ministry, and dying there aged 80. Read here for a full and balanced account of the evidence.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Fringe on Fox

I watched one of the best episodes of Fringe I've seen last night. It was an "Unaired" episode I found. It was called Unearthed, and should have been shown as part of Season 1 last year.

So I wondered, as no doubt so are you now, why wasn't it shown? There was never talk of it being canned like so many other wonderful sci-fi series last year. Having watched it for about ten minutes or so, I started to hazard a guess as to why it hadn't been shown. ten minutes before the end I knew for certain!

The story is about a girl that is pronounced brain dead. The mother decides to switch off the life support, and the girl promptly dies. During the surgery to remove her organs, the girl wakes up, spouting an alpha-numeric code. Standard Fringe plot so far. As we'd expect, the team get assigned to investigate the phenomenon at hand.

Without listing any spoilers, as it's well worth a watch, I will reveal why I believe this episode wasn't aired. Being an atheist ("No, I'm shocked!" you cry) I noticed straight away the last rights being performed on the girl before the life support was switched off. The mother was Catholic. As the plot progressed as I have already described, the mother protested to the team's help with her traumatised daughter and their investigation. In true suspicious style, often seen in people of faith protecting their children (or at least that's what they think they're doing) the woman asks "Are you a religious woman, Agent Denham?", she replies "No.". "Then I imagine that you sit in judgement of those of us who rely on faith to guide our decisions about what's best for our loved ones". I was in complete shock! No more than people with faith sit in judgement of us, believe me!!

In moving on the plot prompts discussions of faith and leans slightly towards advocating scepticism (given we are dealing with a series primarily based upon the ties between one world and a parallel one, not really shocking!), a questioning of scientific methods, and an outright accusation of being false, when the scientist suggests a paranormal theory THAT IS BASED ON THE EVIDENCE AT HAND (in Fringe world anyway!).

Obviously the challenging of religious folk in not something that Fox are willing to stomach in their series. It is common, these days that we witness such cowardice in religious discussion. I fear that one of the main reasons for this is companies such as Fox being unwilling to start the discussion off in the first place, just in case some fundamentalist gets offended and switches off their TV. I am all for tolerance of beliefs, but not for tiptoe-ing around them, especially when a majority belief system such as Atheism, or Humanism depending on your preference of term, is frequently side-lined and undermined by those organisations whose power is simply a nostalgic nod to what once was so important.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

Saturday Funny

and on the 6th day...My day off ;-)

Watched this last night and Dylan Moran does a great job of summing up religion and completely writing it off at the same time! Hilarious!


Thursday, 7 January 2010

An Unreasonable and Intolerant Church

I was appalled reading an article in The Times telling of Lord Carey's call for a "reasonable limit" on migration to the UK.

He goes on to explain that allowing too many migrants plays into the hands of the British Nationalist Party. But surely stopping entry does that in itself??
He says;

"If we don't do something about this, we play immediately into the hands of the BNP. That is very clear indeed. They are working and exploiting frustration, a sense of alienation on the part of white working class people who are saying 'our jobs are being taken by people from abroad'."

Hmmm, and the church would never exploit someone's frustration or alienation in order to gain a follower? I smell hypocrisy.

He also states;

"They have got to understand our commitment to the English language and espouse it, and they must understand our history..."

Oh really? Would Jesus have turned away somebody who did not speak his language when in need of shelter? Is this the religion you are so proud of?

Carey is part of a parliamentary group calling for these limits. The group states its concerns around the detrimental effect to quality of life in Britain that an increased population would have. Obviously it is something to be monitored, however, lets turn the tables for a moment, shall we? Say there is a major catastrophe from which a major percentage of the British public must flee. Would we not all hope that other countries would be willing to accept us? Should we not be free to migrate as circumstances require, without countries being self-protecting?

If the Church is willing to turn their backs on people who, a large percentage of which at least, have a genuine need to come into the UK, then how can it maintain its elevated ethical position? I think this is an extremely poor show and goes only to prove that goodness and morality are NOT borne purely of faith.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Evict the Bishops

I really wish I had more leave left this year so I could attend this!

Evict The Bishops

The Labour Humanists have put a panel together to debate the future of the "Lords Spiritual" in the House of Lords. It features David Aaronovitch, Polly Toynbee, the Rt Revd Tim Stevens (Bishop of Leicester and Convenor of the Lords Spiritual), Jonathan Bartley (Co-director of the Christian think-tank Ekklesia) and Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Slos. The Rational Association are flogging this one so sure to be a few famous atheist mugs there too!

It is on the 27th January 7.30pm, is free but need to book (see link above for more details). Please do attend anyone who is willing and able, and give 'em hell from me!!! Literally.


Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Do We Really Need Religion?

Reading Theology for Atheists, article in the The Guardian by Nathan Schneider, it struck me that Atheism is being portrayed as without a philosophy of its own. The article talks about how theology is relevant to those who do not believe, and even suggests it is required for social harmony;

"Theology, perhaps, provides a point of access to these ambivalent powers in human nature and the chance to carefully, thoughtfully mobilize them anew."

The article seems to portray atheism as being mostly without passion, or at least, unable to express its morality with conviction. But do Atheists really need religion?

I haven't been to any atheist meetings (not counting Nine Lessons...), not am I part of an atheist group or organization, however I know that they exist. I also read the thoughts of my fellow atheist bloggers and can vouch for their "ambivalence". The National Secular Society, the British Humanist Association and the Rational Association all have many campaigns for the good of society in general. You will find few societies that are more vocal in freedom of speech and human rights causes than the aforementioned.

However, is it a niche area, a clique, if you will, that is too closed to general society? I had never heard of any of them before I strengthened my convictions and came "out" as an Atheist. But why would that be, with such avid supporters in the science world and comedy scene? The philosopher Colin McGinn in The Atheism Tapes documentary talked of a post-Atheistic society, in which the question of God doesn't even arise, except for in contemplation of the past. Are we moving closer to this, hence the lack of "campaign", so to speak?

The answer is, I feel, censorship. The reason we don't hear of Atheist groups, is that all attempts to advertise get banned. (My outrage at this is stoked further by the fact that in my town there are billboards advertising the local lap-dancing club, but at least the atheists aren't plastered across buses anymore!!) It would provoke outrage for anyone to question another's religion in public, unless it is theist to theist, at least, and even then, all bets are off when it comes to Islam!

So I say NO! We don't need theology, religion or god to be good and be passionate about being so. All we need is the freedom to speak up!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Sunday, 3 January 2010

"Creationist" Britain

"The real problem for public understanding, as anyone knows who has done any science writing, are the millions of people whose position is that they don't know, don't care, and don't want to do either."

Andrew Brown, writing in The Guardian (full article here) about how he suspects Britiain's 25% populace of "Creationists" aren't such due to religious conviction, but more due to a lack of giving a damn! "6,000 years, 6 million, 6 billion, it's all the same to me, is Corrie on yet? We've missed X Factor!!" No, I think you missed a chromosome actually.


R.I.P. The Craic, Long Live The Fundamentalists!

The Irish Blasphemy Law which came into effect on the 1st January 2010 looks like a great help towards many a cause. As long as free speech and critical thinking aren't too high on your agenda, that is.

Sigh, we edge another step closer to fundamentalism...

I wonder what Dara O'Briain thinks to it, as he did a wonderful stint at Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People this year. Part of his act revolved around how Irish comedians get most of their material from taking the pee out of Catholicism, so I'll expect the Irish Comedy scene to go very quiet for an extended period whilst they re-write their material! At least for the home audiences. And the Irish invented the Craic! What next??? Teaching Intelligent Design in their schools?


Friday, 1 January 2010

Happy New Year

Having returned from a very long night of celebrations last night, all I have to say today is;


I am going to sleep now, yes, now. May your hangovers all be as bad and as longlasting as mine apparently is.

New Year's resolution is going well though. Have expanded my readership by flattering my best mate into being my critic.
Muhahahaha! Now if only I had more friends....