Friday, August 17, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (4)

This is a continuation of a discussion between myself and you, gentle readers, arising out of comments left on my previous posting.

The comment below was from a reader who wanted to know my opinions on a book, “The Language of God”, written by Francis S Collins, scientist and head of the Human Genome Project, and a believing Christian to boot.

From Bubba: You've evaded talking about the Francis S Collins book, "The Language of God" for long enough.

Now will you do the decent thing and tell us all what you thought of it, and why a scientist par excellence, like Francis Collins, is a believing Christian.

We can wait no longer for the pronunciamento from you, the Oracle.

From Christopher: I do detect, Bubba, a biting sarcasm in your comment that I can’t overlook. While this way of communicating may be fine among you and your two-fisted beer-swilling buddies, it isn’t fine when you are communicating with me.

You should consider yourself privileged that I deign to respond to your comments, for you should understand that my time is taken up in corresponding with refined educated men like university professors, scientists, and theologians, not red-necked riff-raff like you.

And don’t put on airs, like using foreign-sounding phrases like “par excellence” and foreign-sounding words like “pronunciamento”, so to try to sound refined and educated. It impresses me not a whit, for you cannot make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.

You’re skating on thin ice, Bubba. So don’t overdo it.

Now, to Francis S Collins. He is the head of the Human Genome Project, and indeed a scientist par excellence, and so would not likely be a practising Christian, but he is.

What brought him to Faith was his observation of the ubiquitous yearning for God in all societies around the world, and that all societies live under a moral law, whereby the people are enjoined to live good lives, to sacrifice their own life in the defence of family and society, not to murder or steal, to be kind to children and old ladies, and all of that - everything which comes under sacrifice or altruism.

While Collins acknowledges the altruism in the non-human animal kingdom, which would be explained in terms of Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, he sees that human moral injunctions, altruism and willingness to sacrifice for the good of others go far beyond the norm in the animal kingdom. What would explain that so many people are good, like Oscar Schindler, who risked his life and fortune to save the lives of Jews in Nazi Germany? What would explain this omnipresent human moral order? It must come from God, who, because science has adequately explained how we all came to be through evolution, would be a God existing outside nature, and so outside space and time.

While so much evil is done by humans, what is important for Collins is that it transgresses the moral law, the moral law which is the expression of God’s ubiquitous presence.

Human altruism and goodness are, in fact, easily explained, without putting God into it. It is simply the altruism of the animal kingdom, but at a higher level, a result of our much more developed brains. Animals will sacrifice themselves for their broods or families, but the human concept of “family” has now extended to our nation or country. Therefore we will sacrifice our lives for our countries when at war, and risk our lives to save one of our fellow countrymen being run over by a train, or whatever. In the case of Oscar Schindler, the Jews he tried to save at risk to his own life, were simply his fellow Germans, and therefore his “family”.

But it is important to remember that killing other humans is quite OK if those other humans belong to countries with which our own is at war. So we kill millions of those enemy humans, including children and little babies, by dropping bombs on their cities from our aeroplanes, and we regard our pilots as big brave heroes for doing so.

Collins, the scientist, accepts Darwin’s Theory of Evolution as true, and the primitive altruism in the animal kingdom as explainable under this Theory, without the need for God. But when he considers the more advanced human altruism, which manifests in our moral code, he thinks this must be because of God.

But Collins doesn’t think to ask that if humans are part and parcel of the animal kingdom, and evolved from the same primeval slime as did animals, why should our human altruism be divinely inspired, but not the altruism of the other animals?

Collins can’t have it both ways. Either the altruism of the animal kingdom, including that of us humans, is divinely inspired, or it isn’t. Since Darwinism explains animal altruism, it follows that it explains ours, which we call our “moral code”.

Collins is also impressed by the fact that all societies yearn for God, as manifested in their religions. Surely, he reasons, this would be because there is actually a God, and people intrinsically know this.

Possibly. But how about that we humans are the only species which are self-conscious, and who therefore can contemplate our own deaths, and we find this frightening? So we invented gods who assure us there’s life after death, and if we worship them, they, these gods, will look after us in the world to come.

In terms of Occam’s Razor, this is the obvious reason for the idea of “God”. No supernatural explanation is necessary.

But If Francis S Collins still wants to believe there’s a “God” out there somewhere, no matter how bizarre the idea, there’s no harm in this, I suppose, if it gives him comfort, which he says it does. An amorphous “God”, without the trappings of sectarian religion, would belong to everyone, no matter where in the world they live, no matter their nationality, language, or skin-colour. So this amorphous “God” shouldn’t be the cause of people killing and oppressing and mutilating each other, as they now do in the name of the “God” of their particular sectarian religion.

But Collins doesn’t stop at just believing there’s a “God”. He goes the whole hog by subscribing to a religion, in his case, Christianity. Not only this, but literalist Christianity, where Jesus Christ actually was the son of God, was born to a mother through parthenogenesis, made dead people come alive, rose from the dead himself on the third day, ascended to heaven amidst swirling dust, and all of that.

Collins was much influenced by the writings of the famous Oxford don and Christian apologist, C.S. Lewis, who said in so many words that the New Testament had to be taken as literally true, so that Jesus was actually the son of God, and that he actually did and said all the stuff as depicted in the bible. If he didn’t, he was obviously a nut-case. So it was no use apologetic Christians trying to justify their Christianity to their non-believing friends by rationalizing that Christ was just an extremely wise man, and that what he said and did shouldn’t be taken literally, but metaphorically.

C.S. Lewis was having none of this. Christ was either a nut-case or he wasn’t. And if he wasn’t a nut-case, you had to swallow straight all of what was in the bible, with no questions asked.

Collins was so impressed by what Lewis said that he became an out and out Believer, no questions asked. But his not asking questions didn’t stop him rationalizing his new-found literalist beliefs, by saying that God, being beyond nature, and therefore beyond space and time, would not only know what each of us is thinking, and would therefore answer our prayers, but would also be able to interfere generally in human affairs, and did so by sending Christ into the world as his personal representative to save us from our sins.

Collins also read books by Christian authors which told him that the Gospels represented authentic eyewitness accounts of the earthly life of Christ. He also seizes on the account of a non-Christian historian of that time, Josephus, which tells of a Jewish prophet who was crucified by Pontius Pilate around 33 A.D.

But Collins ignores that the scholarship in the Christian-authored books he read is seriously disputed by biblical scholars; that none of the 27 Pagan writers who wrote about the middle-east of the time of the alleged Jesus, says anything about him; and that no serious scholar now believes that Josephus wrote what he is supposed to have written about Christ and Pontius Pilate.

We shouldn’t condemn Collins for being so gullible, for we, all of us, whether erudite scientists or humble ditch-diggers, airbrush out anything which interferes with what we wish to believe.

But Collins, in addition to being a highly educated scientist, is, by what he has done in his life, obviously a very good and moral man. But, while deciding to believe in “God”, he didn’t make a distinction between “God” and “religion”, and should have recognised that religions are inherently divisive, and that his chosen religion, Christianity, is notoriously exclusivist and divisive.

I consider that “God”, as Francis Collins sees “Him”, is a wrong way of looking at the idea of “God”, because it implies that “God” is “out there” somewhere; whereas “God”, as far as “God” can be postulated, makes more sense as existing inside each of us as the ground of our being.

So if you want to see God, all you need do is look in your bathroom mirror.

Nonetheless, “The Language of God” is very thought provoking, and I recommend it to those of you who actually read books.

But if you suffer from Attention Deficit Disorder, and therefore find the reading of books to be beyond you, you can read a partial transcription of a debate, adjudicated by Time Magazine, between Francis S Collins and the biologist and prolific author, Richard Dawkins, by clicking here.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Sunday, August 12, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (3)

This is a continuation of a discussion which began out of readers’ comments, which I’ve copied and pasted to form my posting for today. As you will surmise from the title, what is being discussed are the eternal questions which people throughout history have puzzled over.

The first couple of comments shown below are slightly off topic, but I’ve included them nonetheless for they segue into the main subject.

The first commenter was referring to my stated wish that this site might become the venue of a sort of new Bloomsbury Set:

From Bubba: As I read the content of your recent postings, it occurs to me that you are an intellectual snob. You make references to things which ordinary two-fisted beer-swilling guys like me wouldn't know about, and which you'd surely know we wouldn't know about, like the Bloomsbury Set.

What, pray, is, or was, the Bloomsbury Set?

From Christopher: Hi Bubba – To call me an intellectual snob is an ad hominem attack, and I’ll not stand for it. I could just as easily call you a “redneck”, but I won’t, because it would drag me down to your level. But don’t count on it.

So you just watch it.

Regarding the Bloomsbury Set (or, if you like, Bloomsbury Group), it was a group of writers, poets, artists, and philosophers, who, between 1905 and 1941, met regularly at different houses situated in the Bloomsbury area of London, to discuss philosophy, art, literature, and religion.

The group was centred around Virginia Woolf, and included luminaries like Lytton Strachey, EM Forster, Clive Bell, Duncan Grant, Leonard Woolf, John Maynard Keynes, Vita Sackville West, and Stephen Spender. To be known to belong to this group conveyed prestige, as well as enormous influence in English intellectual and artistic life of that time.

Just think, Bubba, you’ve now the chance you may never have dreamed of, to be a member of a twenty-first century version of the Bloomsbury Set.

Tell this to your two-fisted, beer swilling buddies, and they’ll give you a respect you never had before.

From Professor Mangosutho Wong: As a professor of English, I'm naturally sensitive to infelicities of English usage and style in whatever I read. In this connection I noticed your phrase: "Another egregious example of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty is shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists......"

The way you've used "egregious" would indicate to the reader that the example of Karl Popper's Principle of Falsifiablity shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists is egregious, rather than that the reasoning itself was egregious.

But, taking it in the context of all else you wrote, I have a hunch you meant that what was egregious was the reasoning of the 9/11 conspiracy theorists.

Am I right? If so, you should re-write this passage

Also your phrase "....the best and the brightest minds THAT would be the envy of Charlie Rose....." might better have been written ".....the best and the brightest minds WHICH would be the envy of Charlie Rose.....".

From Christopher: Thank you, Professor Wong, for your observations about my infelicious use of the English language.

Unlike you, I never got to go to the University, and so never became educated enough to write English properly. I do try, though, and will be especially attentive to the way I write in the future, knowing that you, a professor of English, will be reading what I write with your expert critical eye.

I am indeed honoured that you would read what I write, and I hope my future writings will meet your exacting grammatical and syntactical standards.

From Bubba: You said in a recent posting, that you were in the middle of reading "The Language of God" by the scientist and believing Christian, Francis S Collins, and that you would comment on it when finished.

Have you now finished, so that we all might learn what you thought of it?

From Christopher: Yes, Bubba, I have now finished reading the Francis S Collins book. But, before I talk about it, I’’ll comment on what was said by a Dr Phil Fernandes, a believing Christian, in a debate with a Dr Michael Martin, an atheist.

You can read what Fernandes said, by clicking here.

I’m making the comments shown below, before reading Martin’s rejoinder to Fernandes, since I wish, only afterwards, to see whether Martin, a learned professor, made any of the points I wish to make.

Fernandes’ main argument for God’s existence is that the universe must have started at some point, so there must have been a First Cause, and that God is that First Cause.

“First Cause” is a nice dry impersonal academic phrase. So no-one can say there was anything before the First Cause, or that there was something that created the First Cause, because the phrase “First Cause” means nothing came before it. I have no problem with this.

But then Fernandes begins to call the First Cause “God”, and to refer to “God” as “Him”, and to give him personal attributes like being loving, and intelligent, and listening to us when we pray, and all of that. God even sits on a throne up on high, judging by Fernandes saying “……..If there is no God who sits enthroned, then Hitler will not be punished for his evil deeds……”.

So it would appear that the First Cause is actually a human-like being, or even a person.

This raises the question: Who created this person, this “God”?

Fernandes can’t have it both ways. He can have either a “First Cause” - an impersonal academic concept which therefore wouldn’t have any human qualities, like being loving, or intelligent, and therefore wouldn’t have a creator. Or he can have a “God”, who by his description, would be a magic-man somewhere out there, and therefore would have to have a creator.

So, who created “God”, this magic-man?

Fernandes tries to show that there’s no such thing as infinity, by using the analogy of infinite points between two fixed points. If there were an infinite number of points between one’s house and the bus stop, no-one would ever arrive at the bus stop. But since people do arrive at bus stops from their homes, there can’t be an infinite number of intervening points. Therefore infinity is impossible. Therefore there cannot be infinite time, and there cannot be infinite space.

But I think the example of points between two fixed points, is a false one if you want to show infinity of time and space to be impossible, since time and space don’t have two fixed points at either end. It doesn’t take too much intelligence to see that for time to stretch back to infinity, and for space to stretch out to infinity is eminently feasible. No matter how far back in time you go, we’ll never reach the beginning, and no matter far you travel in the universe we’ll never reach its boundary. Even most six-year olds would understand this.

Using Occam’s Razor, the obvious answer to how the universe began, is that it never did begin, for it always was, stretching back to infinity. If we accept the notion of the Big Bang, the heavenly bodies of the Universe, because of gravity, will eventually stop moving away from one another, and will reverse course by moving closer to each other, to the point when they will all collide, and there will be a Big Crunch, whereupon they will again move away from each other as they do now. This pattern always was, and always will be. God is completely unnecessary for all this, and will always be.

It’s all quite simple when you stop to think about it.

I think that why most people talk such nonsense about “God” is the word “God” itself. The image attached to it, for most of us, is of an old gentleman in the sky. We cannot escape from this because this was how God was presented to us when we were children.

Also, “God” has always been a “God of the gaps”. If there’s something we don’t understand – a gap in our knowledge – it must have been caused by “God”. Then when a scientific explanation fills the gap, the God-believers find another gap somewhere else, and call it “God”, until that gap, too, is explained, or filled by a scientific discovery.

And so on.

The origin of the universe is the ultimate gap, so it’s understandable that the God-believers have filled this gap with “God”.

There would have been much less confusion if, as in algebra, we could simply have called the gaps in our knowledge, “x” or “y”. Since we don’t associate “x” or “y” with being loving and intelligent, or listening to us when we say our prayers, we would be a lot less confused about things than we are. And, perhaps, we would have had no religion. So all the mass cruelty and oppression and wars and genocides carried out in the name of “God” or religion would never have happened, and we’d accordingly be much better off.

Fernandes, by saying that life with no God would be meaningless, implies that no God means no life after death. This isn’t obvious to me at all. Why can’t there be life after death, but no God?

And when Fernandes uses words like “good” and “evil” and says life must have meaning, he shows he is an anthropomorphist par excellence . Who says that life must have meaning? Why should there be such things as “good” and “evil”? These are just human expressions, and human values.

Since we all create our own experiences, we have the power to create our own meaning in our lives, and in whatever we do. It is purely subjective, having nothing to do with whether what we do is meaningful or not. What we perceive is our reality, however preposterous that reality is.

I’ve gone on long enough, but not long enough not to comment on the idea of a personal “God”, which Fernandes believes in, and which most practicing Christians also believe in. This personal God is all-knowing and all-seeing. He knows everything you are thinking, and he’s watching you all the time. No matter where you go or what you’re doing, you’re never out of his sight.

Despite God spying on you all the time, you must not only love him, but must also constantly sing his praises. Life with such a God must be like living in North Korea, with the difference that a North Korean can always escape North Korea by dying, but the Christian can never escape God, with whom he is joined at the hip for all of eternity.

And we wonder why so many Christians have mental and emotional disorders?

And Now For Something Completely Different:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum (2)

This is a continuation of a discussion arising out of comments posted on this blogging site by readers.

The intellectual level of this ongoing discussion surpasses anything else I’ve seen on other blogging sites, and this is due solely to you, dear readers.

Finally this site is attracting the attention of the best and the brightest minds that would be the envy of Charlie Rose, and I’m flattered this is so.

This site can be the venue of a new Bloomsbury Set, a safe haven for artists and intellectuals to say anything they want without fear it may seem too highbrow, for, to me, nothing can be too highbrow.

A new Bloomsbury Set………

Yes……I have a dream.

I pasted the comments below from the comments section of my previous blogging entry. May the discussion continue on many future postings.

This first comment below was a response to my impugning the veracity of the bible:

From Pastor Nebachudnezzar Jones - You don’t know what you’re talking about. Every word in the Bible, both Old Testament and New, is true. I know this because God told me so, and what He tells me, I believe unreservedly, with no “ifs” “ands” or “buts”.

If the Bible is good enough for God, it’s good enough for me, and it should be good enough for you, is what I say.

From Christopher - Being the literalist you are, Pastor Jones, you are doubtless a Young Earth Creationist, and therefore one of the 45% of Americans who thinks the earth is less than ten thousand years old; that all species were created by individual acts of divine creation; and that Adam and Eve were historical figures created by God from dust in the Garden of Eden.

You would also be one of the 45% of Americans who believe the geologic strata and the fossils within the various layers were created in a few weeks by the world-wide flood described in Genesis 6 – 9, rather than having been deposited over hundreds of millions of years.

Judging by all those books and videos found in Christian bookstores, you would also believe that no intermediate fossil forms can be found for birds, turtles, elephants, or whales, despite such fossils having been found over recent years.

And you would believe that radioactive dating of rocks and bones and such, is wrong because decay rates have changed over time, which they have not.

You have probably visited museums and theme parks which show humans frolicking with dinosaurs, since Creationists, like you, don’t accept that dinosaurs became extinct long before humans first appeared.

That 45% of Americans like you, Pastor Jones, believe all this in our technological age, is as good an example as any of truth being stranger than fiction.

From Professor Alberto Nakayama - A brilliant riposte to that charlatan pastor, I must say, Christopher.

As a scientist I would like to add to your reply, by pointing out that if the beliefs of Pastor Jones and his ilk - which would include 45% of Americans – were true, it would lead to a complete and irreversible collapse of the sciences of physics, chemistry, cosmology, geology, and biology.

What Pastor Jones and his ilk assert, is like saying two plus two doesn’t equal four.

From Christopher - As a scientist, Professor Nakayama, you’ll be gratified to know the overwhelming flood of scientific evidence in favour of evolution, is beginning to breach the defences of even intellectual dinosaurs like Pastor Jones and his ilk, so much so that they are now arguing that all of this evidence has been designed by God to mislead the Believers, to test their religious faith.

Thus all the radioactive decay clocks, all the fossils, and all of the genome sequences have been intentionally designed to make the universe seem old, much older than the ten thousand years the Creationists know it is.

God is therefore The Great Deceiver.

From Professor Khama Wacky-Brown - As a teacher of philosophy at a prestigious university, I’m interested in the text-book demonstration of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, as displayed in the Young Earth Creationists depiction of God as The Great Deceiver.

For the edification of any non-university-educated readers out there, Karl Popper’s Principle of Non Falsifiability says, in so many words, that a belief is irrationally held if it cannot be shown to be untrue, no matter what.

Let’s take the Young Earth Creationists assertion that the universe is only ten thousand years old. When they (the Creationists) are presented with carbon-dated evidence of the age of an object, showing it is millions of years old, they assert that rates of decay have accelerated; therefore the results of the carbon-dating must be wrong.

Then when they are shown conclusive evidence that rates of decay haven’t accelerated, the Creationists change the goalposts by saying that God faked the carbon-dating evidence presented by the scientists.

Therefore the Creationist position can never be proved wrong, as far as they’re concerned, because no evidence, however conclusive, will show them as wrong.

From Christopher - That the reasoning power of so many people who should know better, falls victim to Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty, is a sad reflection of the atrophying quality of so much of what is taught in our institutions of higher learning. So I do hope that you, Professor Wacky-Brown, as a university professor, are doing your bit to slow down this atrophying trend, although the battle, in the end, is probably lost.

Another egregious example of Karl Popper’s Principle of Non-Falsifiabilty is shown by 9/11 conspiracy theorists, who assert that the planning for 9/11 was a White House inside job. Many millions believe this, and there are thousands of 9/11 conspiracy-minded web-sites.

One of the assertions the 9/11 conspiracy theorists (“conspiracists”) make, is that a 757 jetliner didn’t crash into the Pentagon. It was, rather, a missile.

The “conspiracists” say that the hole in the wall of the Pentagon building, which the jetliner was supposed to have made, was much too small for a jetliner to have passed through.

How, then, about a missile? since Donald Rumsfeld, who saw the explosion when it happened, said what he saw, seemed like a missile. So, a missile it became, in the minds of the “conspiracists”, based on the size of the hole, and Rumsfeld’s off-the-cuff remark.

But how about that there were over 130 named witnesses who either saw a jetliner hit the Pentagon, or saw it moments before it did? Well, say the “conspiracists”, eye-witness accounts are notoriously unreliable, based on what’s happened in so many murder trials.

How about that no-one has ever come forward saying they actually saw a missile? This doesn’t mean anything, say the “conspiracists”, because the hole in the wall was big enough only for a missile. Besides, there were no crashed aircraft parts discovered in the Pentagon.

What, then, about those photos showing some damaged aircraft parts amidst the Pentagon debris? Oh, the photos were faked. What, then, about those cell-phone calls received by friends and family from some of the passengers on the hijacked plane? Oh, this doesn’t prove it hit the Pentagon. Well, then, what became of the plane if it didn’t hit the Pentagon? That’s for the government to say, not us. And on and on and on.

Now, it’s possible some of those who say they saw the plane hit the building, did so because they wanted their fifteen minutes of fame. But it’s extremely unlikely that all did. Besides, aircraft, no matter how big, are very collapsible on impact because they are built to be as light as possible, for obvious reasons.

So the airliner in question would have crumpled up as it passed through the wall, making a hole much smaller than if the aircraft wasn’t built for lightness. And engineers have shown how the jetliner would have passed through the hole. But, admittedly, other engineers have disagreed.

As a non-engineer, I can’t say which of the engineers is right, but, based on the eye-witness accounts, the engineers saying the hole was sufficiently big for a 757 jetliner to pass through, were obviously right, and the other engineers were obviously wrong.

I’ve doubtless gone on at inordinate length about all this, but I wish solely to demonstrate the non-falsifiability tendencies of the “conspiracists”, most of whom are keenly interested in politics and public affairs, and would, for the most part, belong to the well-educated professional classes.

But this hasn’t stopped them from being as irrational as died-in-the-wool Creationists.

The human capacity for self-deception is infinite.

And Now For Something Completely Different:

The Flying Purple People-Eater

Do any of us really KNOW for sure that a one-eyed, one-horned flying purple people-eater doesn't actually exist?

Friday, August 03, 2007

God vs Science - A Forum

I haven’t heard from Jeremy in a while, so I’m quite worried. Consequently I’ve nothing further to report. However, I did receive some comments from readers in response to statements I made in my last missive to Jeremy, about God, religion, and the bible.

Rather than let these comments, and my replies, languish in obscurity, I thought: Why not make them the subject of my posting for today?

So here they are:

From Obadiah: When you say there’s nothing true in either the old or new testaments of the bible, can I assume this means there’s no God?

To which I replied:

No, Obadiah, you should assume nothing of the sort. If God exists, He does so independently of what the bible says.

From Nehemiah: When you quote Christopher Hitchens saying “religion poisons everything” you seem to me to be quoting it with approval.

If you, like Hitchens, think religion poisons everything, why so?

I said:

Hi Nehemiah – “Religion poisons everything” is Hitchens’ phrase, not mine, but I do agree with it.

I would go further and say that religion is the root of all evil. If there was no religion there would have been no Crusades, no Inquisition, no Holocaust, no massacres between Hindu and Muslims on the Indian sub-continent, no Indian caste-system, no South African Apartheid, no Northern Ireland conflict, no Israel-Palestine conflict, no 9/11, no 7/7, no suicide bombers, no genital mutilation of children and less child abuse………..The list is endless.

Wherever there’s religion, there’s violence, bloodshed, hatred, ignorance, bigotry and intolerance, regardless of the religion.

Think of the words of John Lennon’s wonderful song, “Imagine”:

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Note particularly the line in the second verse “…..and no religion too…..”.

In my reply to Nehemiah, when I listed some of the crimes perpetuated in the name of religion, I should have added the subjugation of women, and ethnic cleansing. In the matter of ethnic cleansing, we’ve seen lots in recent years, for instance in the former Yugoslavia, and now in Iraq. But, as Richard Dawkins points out, “ethnic” cleansing should more properly be called “religious” cleansing because the cleansers and the cleansed invariably belong to different antagonistic religious faiths.

From Boaz : You’re always going on about Christians. But it isn’t Christians who are the suicide bombers, and who carried out 9/11 and 7/7. It was Muslims. Why, then, don’t you re-direct your obloquy to Muslims?

I responded thus:

Hi BoazIf I appear to you to be going on about Christians, it’s unintentional. But to the extent I may have, it would be because I was raised a Christian, and so know more about Christianity than about other faiths.

But all religions are dangerous, whether Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, or any other. Spirituality and religion have nothing to do with the other, although spiritual people can be religious, and the other way around. But religious literalism is the very opposite of spirituality.

From what little I know of the Koran, I’ve no reason to think it less fictional than the Hebrew and Christian bibles. As Christopher Hitchens points out, the Koran is fictional even just to the extent that it incorporates material from the Old and New Testaments, which it does.

The extreme militancy of much of Islam today may be because Islam is 700 years younger than its brother religion, Christianity, and much younger still from its parent religion, Judaism. So Islam may be in the extremist stage of its life, where Christianity was, circa 1200 or 1300 AD, when it was harsh and bloodthirsty indeed (think only of the Inquisition).

While today’s suicide bombers are invariably Muslim, it shouldn’t obscure the fact that until less than a handful of years ago, Irish Catholics - Christians all - were planting bombs in Belfast and London.

But militant Christianity is once again flexing its muscles, this time in the US of A. The atmosphere is such that no-one can be elected to any elective office in the US if they don’t say they believe in God and go to church each Sunday.

Fundamentalist Christians who take the bible as literally true, dominate the Republican Party and the Bush Administration. Since rule by the religious is always bellicose, intolerant, oppressive, harsh, corrupt, and doctrinaire, we shouldn’t be surprised that the Bush Administration has turned out this way.

In the middle-east, two of the three monotheistic desert religions, Judaism and Christianity, are facing off against the other one, Islam. Already there are credible rumours of yet another attack in the near future by Christians (Americans) on Muslims (Iranians).

And so it goes…………

A Partial Bibliography:

1. The Pagan Christ – Tom Harpur.

2. The Jesus Mysteries – Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy

The above two books show that all of what constitutes the New Testament of the bible was lifted from the various Pagan religions.

3. The Bible Unearthed – Neil Asher Silberman and Israel Finkelstein. This book shows that nearly all the archaeological findings in Israel and its occupied territories tell a story very different from that in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament).

4. The Inquisition – Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh. A brief history of the infamous Inquisition, which, incidentally, still exists - although much watered-down - under the title of The Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.

5. The End of Faith – Sam Harris, who makes the case that, because of all the potentially world-ending lethal weaponry sloshing around the world, religions are a luxury we can no longer afford, for obvious reasons.

6. God Is Not Great – Christopher Hitchens. Showing how religion is the cause of all today’s conflicts and bloodshed around the world.

7. The God Delusion - Richard Dawkins. The pre-eminent evolutionary biologist shows that God isn’t necessary to explain who we are and how everything started.

Lest anyone think I’m being one-sided in my reading, I’m currently half-way through The Language of God, by Francis S. Collins, the head of the Human Genome Project, who is a believing Christian, and explains why he is. Perhaps I’ll talk about this book in a future posting when I’m finished reading.

Incidentally there are two human genome projects – the US government one, headed by Francis S. Collins; and the privately funded one, headed by the better known and more flamboyant Craig Venter, an avowed atheist.

And now for something completely different:

I Was Kaiser Bill’s Batman

Whatever since became of Whistling Jack Smith? I sometimes wonder.