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.