Archive for the ‘Scepticism’ Category

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God… #2   Leave a comment

100_0070Ring, Ring.  Ring, Ring. Ring…

“Is that Father O’Hare?”

“It is about that wedding, I left a message.”

“Yes that’s right, Paul Miller.”

“No I am not a member of your Church, I am not a member of any church.”

“No, not a Catholic, I don’t believe in any of that shit.”

“Why in church?  Well it is traditional.  I wouldn’t have my future spouse’s lot there either if it was my decision but the whole family and church service seem to be the norm.”

“Well there are other churches but we really wanted to get married in yours…”

“Because it is perfect for the photos and very close the country house hotel we are using for the reception.”

“I don’t know about beliefs or faith, we only want to hire the building.  We don’t want any of the mumbo-jumbo!”

“Well you can come as long as you bring the fancy garb, there is usually a bloke in a dress to host it.”

“Look we only want it for an hour, a bit less if we lose those dirgeful songs.  We can bring our own Robbie Williams CDs.”

“Come-on we don’t even want a speech from you!  Just the ‘repeat after me’ and ‘You may now kiss…’”

“Look it is about the only way you will ever get a full house, someone has to pay your wages, those six people and a dog on Sundays don’t!”

“Just take the money and you can go back to “accepting penitence” from young choirboys…”

“Jesus Christ, how much?”

“That is almost as much as for the centre-pieces at the hotel!”

“In that case I’ll take-it!  August 6th it is then.”

“Thank you, Father.  Just one more thing, does that magic book of yours do ‘I now pronounce you husband and husband?’ ”

Greeting   Leave a comment

santa sebFrom me (the wisher) to you (hereinafter called the wishee). Please accept without obligation, implied or implicit, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, politically correct, low stress, non-addictive, gender neutral, celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the  bogus religious persuasion of your choice, or preferably secular practices of your choice, with respect for the religious/secular persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice religious or secular traditions at all.

Further my wish for a financially successful, personally fulfilling and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2013, but with due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures or sects whose contributions to society have helped make Britain great, (not to imply that the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is necessarily greater than any other country or nation), and having regard to the race, creed, colour, age, physical ability, religious faith, choice of computer platform or dietary preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting you are bound by these terms that-

This greeting is subject to further clarification or withdrawal

This greeting is freely transferable provided that no alteration shall be made to the original greeting and that the proprietary rights of the wisher are acknowledged.

This greeting implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes.

This greeting may not be enforceable in certain jurisdictions and/or the restrictions herein may not be binding upon certain wishees in certain jurisdictions and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher.

This greeting is warranted to perform as reasonably may be expected within the usual application of good tidings, for a period of one year or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first.

The wisher warrants this greeting only for the limited replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher

Any references in this greeting to “the Lord”, “Father Christmas”, “Our Saviour”, or any other festive figures, are on the understanding that they are fictitious and so shall not imply any endorsement of them in respect of this greeting, and all proprietary rights in any referenced third party names and images are hereby acknowledged.

The gays stopped my cream cakes…   4 comments

I don’t think gay couples should be married in church; then I think it is a bad idea for any Chesterfield-20120521-00035couple to get married in such a ridiculous institution!

It doesn’t matter one bit whether a couple is of the same gender when deciding if they can marry.  The Civil Partnership offers most of the equivalent benefits but anything short of full marriage is discrimination.   What makes people happy without hurting others is what counts.

I am pleased that a Conservative administration that just a few years ago passed the draconian legislation under the Local Government Act is now championing equality for gay relationships.  The infamous clause 28 of that 1988 Act stated that no local authority should “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”  Now Cameron seems to be fighting the bigots in his own party to force equality through.

It looked for a while that churches and religious institutions would not be considered in the forthcoming legislation.  However by not legislating specifically it might mean that superstitious groupings who do not want to allow all loving couples to avail themselves of the facilities might find themselves under pressure from Human Rights interventions.

Now if the those with big buildings who believe in sky fairies don’t want to include certain people in their silly games then I suggest that any sensible prospective brides and brides or grooms and grooms keep well clear.  As far as I know all that Yeshua/Jesus  thought on the subject was that a wedding needed wine and he wasn’t going to pay for it!

Some married theists think that allowing gays to marry somehow undermines their own relationships.  I am not sure how such a positive step should change what they get out of their own loving partnerships; they should just not stop others having the same opportunity.

I have even heard some suggest that allowing same-sex marriages in their churches has some effect on them as worshippers.  I have a suggestion- if you don’t like the idea of two men or two women marrying then don’t go to the wedding!  I am sure the happy couple will be even happier not to have you there.

The church my family is associated with have Weight Watchers there on a Monday night.  This has no real consequence for my family or any of the religious attendees.  It does not mean that by osmosis that they cannot eat cream cakes or gorge on bacon.

I hope that gay couples will soon be able to marry.  I don’t care whether this means they can wed in church as for most it is a nice setting rather than a commitment to any superstition.  I also hope they can still eat cream cakes!

Why I am a Spanish speaking Muslim who supports Brazil   Leave a comment

You might know I am a football fan.  The national team I support is England.  My football following siblings also support England as do almost all my friends.  I do have a colleague who looks firstly for the Scotland result and a bare handful of friends with allegiance to other nations.  For example I play football with two who support Italy.

I think it is an amazing coincidence that all of my family and practically all of my friends follow the same team as me.  It must be a statistically anomaly.

Now I wouldn’t claim England are the best team in the world.  They are consistently in the top ten nations and usually make the knock-out stages of the global competitions.  However if I were to make a logical choice I perhaps currently ought to support Spain whose results are better and who certainly play a much more attractive style of play.  If I was looking throughout my lifetime then Brazil with three World Cup wins would be my best choice to follow.

Why then do I support England?  Basically it is an accident of birth, the same reason as everyone I know.  I was born and brought up bang in the middle of England; this means I support England in every sport.  Had I been born in Spain I would support the current World Cup holders.  If my place of birth had been Rio de Janeiro then I would be following the most successful international team.   My friends who follow different teams were either born in those countries or have a family heritage linked to them.

Of course had I been born in Spain my first language would be Spanish and in Brazil, Portuguese.  This would have been another factor determined by my birthplace and culture.  It would have no basis in logic.  I am probably best sticking to English as the international language of commerce and of the internet.  However a case might be made for Spanish or Mandarin as useful additions

All of my family and most of my friends were brought up Christian.  All of those I know that came from that tradition that worship do so in the Christian Church.  I don’t think I know any practising Jews but all those I know who are Muslim or follow the South Asian religions are first or second generation immigrants to the United Kingdom.  They are rather like my “Italian” friends in that respect..

With a true statistical spread a quarter of my family would follow Islam; none of my family is a Muslim.  However had my birth been in Pakistan or parts of the Middle-East there is every chance that every one of my family would be Muslim.  There is no logic to it at all,  While a small number of the religious start to follow a faith other than the one they were born into it is rare.  Almost every religious person follows the faith of the culture they wre born into.  No god selects them as special people, their faith is as much an accident of birth as their language or national football team!

So logically we should all support Spain.  We should speak and write in English with a smattering of Spanish and Mandarin.  And of course if we are being totally rational we should worship no gods at all.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here in the sight of God…   1 comment

Ring, Ring.  Ring, Ring. Ring…

“Is that Father O’Hare?”

“It is about that wedding, I left a message.”

“Yes that’s right.”

“No I am not a member of your Church, I am not a member of any church.”

“No, not a Catholic, I don’t believe in any of that shit.”

“Why in church?  Well it is traditional.  I wouldn’t have her mother there either if it was my decision but Mother of the Bride, church service seem to be the norm.”

“Well there are other churches but we really wanted to get married in yours…”

“Because it is perfect for the photos and very close the country house hotel we are using for the reception.”

“I don’t know about beliefs or faith, we only want to hire the building.  We don’t want any of the mumbo-jumbo!”

“Well you can come as long as you bring the fancy garb, there is usually a bloke in a dress to host it.”

“Look we only want it for an hour, a bit less if we lose those dirgeful songs.  We can bring our own Robbie Williams CDs.”

“Come-on we don’t even want a speech from you!  Just the ‘repeat after me’ and ‘you may now kiss the Bride.’”

“Look it is about the only way you will ever get a full house, someone has to pay your wages, those six people and a dog on Sundays don’t!”

“Just take the money and you can go back to “accepting penitence” from young choirboys…”

“Jesus Christ, how much?”

“That is almost as much as for the centre-pieces at the hotel!”

“Take-it!  August 6th then.”

“Thank you, Father.”

Posted November 11, 2012 by dalekpete in atheism, Scepticism

Tagged with , , , , ,

Atheist+ gets a D minus from me   Leave a comment

I am an atheist just because I don’t believe in any supernatural beings.  I also believe that organised religion is often inherently evil.  On top of that I abhor bigotry and discrimination in any form.   I think any move towards a campaign termed Atheist+ is stupid.

My political views are more libertarian than liberal and in British political terms I am probably right-wing but see myself as having significant social-democrat leanings in that I think the state safety-net is fundamental.  In US terms I might be considered virtually a communist by the GOP or the Tea Party.

I might term myself atheist, humanist, an advocate for the disabled, a feminist, an anti-racist and a campaigner for LGBT rights.  I also am involved in community participation and empowering those who are missed by conventional means.  I am not part of some “magic” grouping that incorporates all of these issues.

It seems that to be an atheist I just have to realise there are no gods.  To earn the label of Atheist+ I have to take a fifty question survey and write an essay explaining why a white, straight, middle-aged, comfortably-off, male with no disabilities dare to be considered worthy.

Those that are public and campaign about atheism, secularism and humanism tend to the liberal wing.  I expect there are few racist atheists, few sexist humanists and there is no secular agenda for oppressing LGBT people.  There might however be issues with inclusion, not always because there are problems with discrimination but because existing members don’t understand how intimidating any grouping can be.  I am not sure that this feeling of exclusion is necessarily linked to gender, sexuality, race or disability.

In terms of political parties it is those to the left that seem the natural home of the ungodly.  However I am not sure the division is as strong in the UK as over the pond. There are openly atheist GOP activists but they are rare, probably because the natural electorate rules out such views.  In the UK it is rare for a candidate to make their religious views a factor in an election.  Even Prime Minister Tony Blair waited until he stood down until he “came out” as a Catholic wing-nut.

I think in Britain you can comfortably be a Conservative atheist.  This might mean that you are not a social progressive in terms of social policy but you still don’t recognise any mythical being.  In fact it could be claimed that the libertarians can claim to support self-determination away from any bigotry and external influences while rejecting social support from the state.   This is true on both sides of the Atlantic.

I was involved in the organisation of a youth football tournament recently.  The guest of honour pointed out the lack of minority ethnic players among the hundreds competing.  I pointed out the ethnic make-up of our demographic catchment to explain this.  In fact there were a couple of black children  but I realised that number was less than might be expected.  I will not tear my hair out declare I am part of a racist organisation; I will check with partners and practitioners to see whether there is a problem or any factors that adversely influence ethnic participation.

I feel the move towards Atheist+ is  closely linked to the supposed misogyny at atheist events.  I am not sure that this is a real factor but again concede the need for inclusion.  It seems that rather than investigating whether this is an issue within the “atheist community” some have concluded it is and over-reacted.

Whether there is a real community that can be migrated from labelling itself as atheist to “super-dooper, socially progressive, all-inclusive, politically aware with a very big plus-sign ATHEIST” is doubtful.  I am aware that Margaret Thatcher was about as right-wing as British politics gets but I agree with her assertion, “If your only opportunity is to be equal then it is not opportunity.”

But in terms of Atheist+ can I cite Groucho Marx?

“Please accept my resignation. I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept me as a member.”

What the Thunderf00t are sceptics playing at?   Leave a comment

One of the first sceptics I followed on YouTube was Thunderf00t.  His work introduced me to many other free-thinkers, atheists and questioners.  Of course the friendly references to each other’s works and the personal testimonials suggested a clique of atheist/sceptics meeting and debating somewhere in the otherwise fundamental US of A.

That clique didn’t indicate any sort of exclusivity as we are the rational people and it is the reasoning not the reasoner that matters.  Our remit is the exploration of knowledge, facts and beliefs.  If not one happy family, we are fair and inclusive.  As most prejudices are irrational we also tend to be more “liberal”  and less bigoted.

For that reason it is odd to see our “close family” beset by discord.  Thunderf00t has been invited to enter the inner sanctum of sceptical thinking and contribute to Freethought Blogs only to be shown the door and cast out among the lesser sceptics as a result of his first post.

As a long-time reader of the blogs this left me with three questions:

1)      What the hell was Thunderf00t playing at opening his portfolio on this subject and why is he still obsessed with it?

2)      What is the point of FtB if it doesn’t allow the reasoned argument of issues around the sceptic community?

3)      Is there any weight to the views Thunderf00t is espousing?

On the first point, I don’t know whether Thunderf00t as a long time blogger and video blogger felt he needed to make a statement on his debut to FtB but it was unnecessary.  His work is multi-dimensional with the span of fighting religion, pseudo-science and then highlighting his own  projects.  He doesn’t need to prove himself.  Start with a great idea rather than a difficult argument.  That is not to say that difficult arguments don’t need exploring but find the place to do this.  If called out do you call a truce or start a battle of the type that is the norm with the fundies and scientific illiterates?  It is a place to push arguments but not always to air the dirty laundry.

There seemed to be some that saw Thunderf00t’s invitation to FtBs as a little odd.  He is an abrasive video-blogger who has made this sceptical name highlighting creationist nonsense.  However there is a range of bloggers within that collective not all of them dull and worthy.

Having started on a difficult argument did Thunderf00t deserve the response whether he was right or wrong? I am not sure he did- actually I am certain he didn’t.  His arguments were not accompanied by abuse or personal insults.  Yes he was forthright and did cite others arguments but this is what thesis and antithesis is about.  I expected argument and possibly a very strong negative response to Thunderf00t’s view.  In terms of Freethought, doesn’t it do what it says on the tin?  Yes you can censor bigotry and abuse but if there is a case to be made then it needs addressing.  However did either side advance the argument in a constructive way?  It is sad, that with the decision to exclude Thunderf00t having been made, no one is moving on.  PZ Myers against Thunderf00t feels like squabbling schoolchildren- “He said this!” “No I didn’t!” “it’s not fair…”  Even if Myers portrays the head prefect to Thunderf00t’s excitable first former.

Beyond the tiff is there a case in what Thunderf00t said?  If I understand him the argument is that the continued highlighting of sexism in the sceptic community and at the various conferences undermines the message.  If the issue isn’t a major problem at the events and within “our community” and if we cannot address it in practical terms then why make it central to our message?

Years ago I went to various conferences and usually saw them as a means to “cop off”.  Because I made this my aim the chance of actually finding any action was negligible.  If I went to gain from the event and have a good time then the chances of enjoying myself, in all ways, was increased.   Like I was in my youth, there will always be low-life losers at any event.  It is right that any event addresses the issues make those attending uncomfortable but is highlighting policies to deal with this potential for friction counter-productive?

As a white, middle-class, male I cannot claim to have been the subject of major discrimination.  As I live in the UK, even as an atheist I have no sense of discrimination.  I cannot particularly empathise with Rebecca Watson and the Elevatorgate incident that seemed to have started the whole misogyny debate.  I have to confess I am closer to the Dawkin’s view that there was an over-reaction to the initial event.  That doesn’t mean I agree with any sort of discrimination, harassment or anti-social behaviour.

We sceptics are the reasonable ones, the good guys (and gals).  We don’t discriminate based on the grounds of sex, sexual orientation or race because there is no evidence to support it.  It is possible that “free thought” gives social freedoms that question accepted norms.  However I am not certain that any atheist or sceptical conference of event will pose more issues for women than an equivalent student, political or business gathering.

That the starting point for any sceptic event or the message coming out of those events is sexism is wrong.  There might be issues at these events and it is correct to have an understanding of what is to be expected.  To make the supposed sexist nature of scepticism the message does a disservice to any free thinker.

If we are a community, which is very doubtful, and we have faults then address them.  Address them proportionally and at a reasonable level.  There are fundamentalist Christians wanting to deny basic reproductive rights to women.  There are Catholic officials abusing children and covering up the crimes. There are Muslims denying girls a basic education and forcing them to marry in childhood.  Can we pick our fights better?

There are plenty of better targets out there before we decide it time for a civil war!