Freitag, 28. Januar 2011

Stephen Asma's critique on the new atheists and the battle thereafter

Stephen Asma wrote a piece about the "New Atheists narrow worldview". Give it a try.
Ac­cord­ing to these sol­diers of rea­son, the time for re­li­gion is over. It clings like a bad gene rep­li­cat­ing in the pop­u­la­tion, but its use­ful­ness is played out. Sam Har­ris's most re­cent book, The Moral Land­scape (Free Press, 2010), is the lat­est in the continuing bat­tle. As an ag­nos­tic, I find much of the horse­men's cri­tiques to be healthy.
But most friends and even en­e­mies of the new athe­ism have not yet no­ticed the pro­vin­cial­ism of the cur­rent de­bate. If the horse­men left their world of books, con­fer­ences, classrooms, and com­put­ers to trav­el more in the de­vel­op­ing world for a year, they would find some un­fa­mil­iar religious arenas.
Hav­ing lived in Cam­bo­di­a and Chi­na, and trav­eled in Thai­land, Laos, Viet­nam, and Af­ri­ca, I have come to ap­pre­ci­ate how re­li­gion func­tions quite dif­fer­ent­ly in the de­vel­op­ing world—where the ma­jor­ity of be­liev­ers ac­tu­al­ly live. The Four Horse­men, their fans, and their en­e­mies all fail to fac­tor in their own pros­per­i­ty when they think a­bout the uses and a­buses of re­li­gion.

Basically he argues that the new atheists limit the discussion too much on the "true or false" question along with questions about the potential bad effects of religion.  A for me very interesting part that deserves to be thought about is the following:
But I'd advance a much more rad­i­cal ar­gu­ment as well. Not only should the more rational and therapeutic elements be distilled from the opi­ate of re­li­gion. But the wacky, su­per­sti­tious, cloud-cuck­oo-land forms of re­li­gion, too, should be cherished and preserved, for those forms of religion some­times do great good for our emo­tion­al lives, even when they com­pro­mise our more-rational lives....
Religion, even the wacky, su­per­sti­tious stuff, is an an­al­ge­sic sur­viv­al mech­a­nism and sanc­tuary in the de­vel­op­ing world. Religion pro­vides some or­der, co­her­ence, re­spite, peace, and trac­tion against the fates. Per­haps most im­por­tant­, it quells the emo­tion­al dis­tress of hu­man vulnerabil­i­ty. I'm an ag­nos­tic and a cit­i­zen of a wealthy na­tion, but when my own son was in the emer­gen­cy room with an ill­ness, I prayed spon­ta­ne­ous­ly. I'm not naïve—I don't think it did a damn thing to heal him. But when peo­ple have their backs against the wall, when they are tru­ly help­less and hope­less, then grov­el­ing and ne­go­ti­at­ing with any­thing more pow­er­ful than themselves is a very hu­man re­sponse. It is a re­sponse that will not go away, and that should not go away if it pro­vides some gen­u­ine re­lief for anx­i­ety and ag­o­ny. As Rog­er Scruton says, "The consolation of imag­i­nary things is not imag­i­nary con­so­la­tion."

Read this through several times to understand where he comes from. He simply argues that ALTHOUGH religion is false it might still make sense to preserve it because......

Quite some folks criticized Stephen's text including PZ Myers here.

Which prompted Stephen and then PZ to write again.

Currently i must say I think that PZ doesn't see the point really or he doesn't seem to see the relevance of it.
For me striking are the following two parts in PZs' last post.
and I've told people that we need more appeal to those lower centers of the brain…but this idea that atheists are all a bunch of Spock-like uber-rationalists, or that we aspire to a coldly logical society, is simply an annoying stereotype that isn't true.
I recall a presentation by PZ Look at 5:35 where he himself stated that atheists do have that image and that they should have to work against that image. So i presumed (and still do) that he is well aware of the problem that atheists often DO appear to be exactly the stereotype that he states to be untrue. Atheists often do tend to argue based on reason and rationality (which is of course the only way to correctly argue) Especially if seen from the perspective of people that (as PZ and the other author seem to agree) use the rationality-module less often than atheists. So frankly it is NOT a question of true and false alone but also one of appearance. And it is a sad thing that sometimes with all the talks about truth and false that you get from reasonable people like PZ and Dawkins and whoever you want to list, that sometimes they simply fail to see the "emotional" side. It actually doesn't matter if something is true or not. Believers will recognize what seems "appropriate" for them. PZ fails to see that I would say ...
"And the whole point of what I wrote is that "it makes me feel good" is inadequate support for a complex set of beliefs about the world—"it's true" is also essential."
The judgment about whether something is inadequate or not ... who is allowed to make that?
I think Stephen has a good point for example with the story of the son that died. IF an illusion is all that can keep the mother sane, THEN that illusion is as adequate as anything could be in that situation REGARDLESS of whether it is true or not. Sometimes the truth is simply not acceptable for a person at a certain point in life.
It also doesn't matter if Atheists are correct or not if their correctness would destroy the worldview of a person. He most probably won't accept it.

The question is not if that is so, but rather how do we deal with this. And sadly that's where I think the biggest failure of many atheists resides. Stephen in my view correctly hints that a relationship between the amount of people living a religion and the social and economic situation in a region seems to exist. It is NOT the truth that will persuade or convince people to come over to the "light" side. In order to get them to use the neocortex more and be less dependent on emotional relief you have to reduce the situations that trigger your "limbic or mammalian brain".

Less religiousness requires more wealth and a more stable environment. This helps far more than lectures about evolution alone could, when it comes to people and the strength of their convictions.
I would argue that the wealthier and socially advanced a society, the more receptive people are for "scientific ideas".

Ugandan Gay Rights Activist Beaten to Death

You might remember the story about the Ugandan newspaper printing the pictures of the supposed top 100 homosexuals with a rather "obvious" statement demanding their death.

Sad news with video here

Kampala, Uganda (CNN) -- A Ugandan gay rights activist whose name was published on a list of the nation's "top homosexuals" was bludgeoned to death in his home near the capital, his lawyer said Thursday.
A neighbor found David Kato dead and notified authorities, according to the lawyer, John Onyango.
Kato's money and some clothes were missing after the attack, Onyango said.
It was unclear whether Kato's killing was linked to his gay rights activism or a front-page story in a Ugandan tabloid that reignited anti-gay sentiments late last year.
The story included a list of "top 100 homosexuals" with their photos, addresses and a banner with the words "Hang Them." Kato's name and picture were on the list.

Mittwoch, 26. Januar 2011

Is It Always Right to Uphold Your Religious Convictions?

found via AtheistMedia

I must say it is not easy for me to form a decision here. Contrary to some people in the discussion i think that people running a PRIVATE business should be entitled to their prejudice including racism.
The only requirement I would have is that this prejudice is CLEARLY visible to anybody BEFORE trying to do business with the folks.

On the other hand i would say that people that are against human rights should forfeit their own to a certain extend. This might mean that someone who offers a service only to white man might not have the right to that choice as it violates the idea of equality.

It is difficult to find a balance between these two aspects, at least it is difficult for me.
Perhaps some reader might comment on this problem.

Something i found striking however was the following.
No matter what you think about gays or blacks or whatever else ... why would you care what they do in private as long as they don't destroy Your furniture? As far as I understood the keepers wouldn't let the gay couple stay in a room with a double bed. So it supposedly was the "sex" issue as opposed to the "gay" issue.... As if a room with two single beds would be any different concerning "that"?

Freitag, 21. Januar 2011

South-Sudan will separate from the North

Just stumbled upon the news in "Die Zeit" (links to a German article):
Obviously the referendum in Sudan yields the first (still unofficial) results. According to the article 3.2 million votes have been counted and so far 99% (i am always skeptical when i see such numbers) of the voters are in favor of a separation. The commission for the referendum stated so (according to the article). This would mean that the south of Sudan will become a separate state. The south is mainly Christian, the north mainly Muslim. The peace agreement (if the north keeps it's word) would give the world a new country on July 9th 2011.
A first preliminary result is expected by January 30th, the official result somewhere in February.

As good as this may sound i fear that there still is a long way to go. Sudan would loose one third of its territory and (according to the article) around 80% of the border line is still in dispute. And there will be a separate referendum about the oil rich region Abyei.

Donnerstag, 20. Januar 2011

Why Islam's rules for fasting in Ramadan don't make sense

Like many other religions, Islam proclaims that ritual fasting is a good thing in the eyes of God (in that case Allah). And of course there are some rules and regulations for it.
As with the prohibition of alcohol however the rules for fasting don't actually meet the standards one could expect of a God.
"O you who believe! Observing As-Sawm (the fasting) is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may become Al-Muttaqoon (the pious)? [al-Baqarah 2:183]

I don't want to go into all the details about the time for fasting. Lets just say that in between sunrise (actually shortly before sunrise) and sunset you are not allowed to eat or drink (i spare you of the other restrictions) once a month. That month is called "Ramadan" in Islam and as Islam has a moon based calendar Ramadan advances each year a bit. Of course one could argue that a moon based calendar is not really a good basis for a religion but let's leave that aside.
Now the important thing is the time period in which people should fast each day.
We find in the quran for the morning the following verse:
Permitted to you, on the night of the fasts, is the approach to your wives. They are your garments and ye are their garments. Allah knoweth what ye used to do secretly among yourselves; but He turned to you and forgave you; so now associate with them, and seek what Allah Hath ordained for you, and eat and drink, until the white thread of dawn appear to you distinct from its black thread; then complete your fast Till the night appears; but do not associate with your wives while ye are in retreat in the mosques. Those are Limits (set by) Allah: Approach not nigh thereto. Thus doth Allah make clear His Signs to men: that they may learn self-restraint. (2:187)

Nowadays people often "translate" that into angles.  The two popular angles are 15° and 18° below the horizon, yet others use 12°. Again however that is actually irrelevant for the discussion at hand.

Muslims may start to eat when the sun has completely set beneath the horizon.

Now that is a pretty straight forward thing isn't it ?

Not really, as there are several things that seem rather "imperfect" for a perfect ruling.
First of all since the moon year advances 10-12 days each year you will eventually end up with Ramadan once being in summer and once being in winter. But that could be argued away with some "global" justice for mankind so that all of us eventually have to fast in the same way.

But then again there is something that seems off for a global religion sent down to mankind for all times.
What do you do when you are living near the poles? As you might know the length of day and night depends not only on the season but also on your location on earth. Near the poles you might end up having days or nights that last for months (actually longer than Ramadan itself is).
If one applied the rules as they actually are written down then basically on one pole of the globe people could eat all they want, on the other side all would starve. Some years later the people on the other pole would also die provided they didn't move in between to some safer grounds.
One would expect God to know that wouldn't we? But a desert merchant living in the arab peninsula... well we wouldn't expect that from him would we? 
Actually even today there exist still many people which are totally unaware of the problem. But since Islam is perfect and true there must be an explanation. We simply have to ask a scholar don't we.
And lo and behold there are explanations (actually i have heard three so far). None of those actually can be derived from a direct text in Quran or Hadeeth. All of them being the kind of "retro-reasoning" that i so often find with people that are confronted with reality and look for a way to fit that into their religious framework.

Here are the ideas. Remember that the solution supposedly fits mankind (also pre-PC-Internet Era):

  1. Take your city of birth (or Mekka) as reference. There is no justification for that ruling and aside of that it is pretty stupid. How do you expect any person to know the times at Mekka for Ramadan. What if your city of birth happens to be in the region you live?
  2. Take the next city with a clear night and day as reference. Again the same problem. How would I know the times of the next city? Especially in the year 1000AD for example? But then again the worst problem is simply that it doesn't actually help even if i knew. For the "nearest" city to have a day and night would still have more than 20 hours of fasting! Of what use is it for me to know that i can take the nearest city that offers the conditions Ramadan requires when the conditions that must be still only allow me a time frame of an hour or two?
  3. You do not need to fast if the conditions for sunrise and sunset can't be met where you live. And i find that were in the Quran? Where would i even get the impression in the Quran that the author knew such a problem existed?

Here is a fatwa mixing some of above ideas.

Again a simple question:
If the purpose of fasting was to cleanse oneself, if it was to purify, to be religious, to share belief, to be spiritual ... if that was the purpose
If Islam was for all of mankind, regardless of location and regardless of the time you lived in (well of course after 620AD) ..... if that was the religions target group
why the heck didn't we get a ruling that stated "fast for x hours", why didn't we get a ruling that took into account the simple and obvious fact that seasons and the sequence of day and light differ on earth?
Why didn't we get any ruling that in modern times most 6th graders could have formulated in a better and more concise way than what we would expect from a desert merchant in the middle east some 1400 years ago?

Belief in witches in Africa

via AtheistMedia

Look at 3:47

Half-way through the ceremony, she singled out a boy.
She checked his parents weren't there.
And then announced he was unknowingly possessed by a witch and used to hurt people.
at night time he turns into a horse and is used by other people to eat their enemies.

Christianities necromantic side. Pope Paul's blood as a relic, his heart buried in Poland

Uh my the cult of zombie worshipers and necromancers has struck again.
Todays episode talks about a vial of blood, taken from the (then living) body of the former Pope.
Piotr Sionko, the spokesman for the John Paul II Centre, said the vial would be encased in crystal and built into the altar of a church in the southern city of Krakow that is opening in May.
Woooza! The blood cult has a new shrine for the prayers of it's zombie-loving flock.

The blood was drawn for medical tests at the Gemelli Polyclinic in Rome shortly before John Paul's death on April 2, 2005, and is now in Cardinal Dziwisz's possession, he said.
Of course. I mean what else would you do with a vial of blood? You keep it for 5 years in your possession. I would say that there are places in this universe where such behavior might be considered sick.
''It was the cardinal's proposal,'' Mr Sionko said. ''He is of the opinion that this is the most precious relic of John Paul II and should be the focal point of the church.''
Sure. Why should You care for Your God, when you have the blood of one of his leaders directly in front of You. Ain't it better to worship the blood? It surely is a more explicit type of worship to do that instead of imagining yourself drinking Your God's blood when having a glass of wine in the church. This vial is for real.
Perhaps You should ask your local dentist whether he could sharpen Your teeth?

At least there are some people that, while not really reasonable have some minor form of decency:
However, the idea of displaying the pope's relics has met with some reservations.'The tradition of relics comes from medieval practices of teaching the Bible through images and symbols,'' said the Reverend Krzysztof Madel, a Jesuit priest in Nowy Sacz who has publicly questioned the usefulness of displaying John Paul's blood. ''But in today's rationalized world the message should rather come through teaching about someone's life.''
Good that some people have reservations, even if they don't reach very far.

But while we are at it, why only take the blood?
After John Paul's death, some Polish officials said they hoped his heart would be removed from his body and returned to his homeland for burial.
Sick isn't it? Go, get the body, rip it open, take the heart and fly it on a first class business seat over to Poland to put it in a hole. Who knows ... perhaps they want to put it on display in a special glass container as well, filled perhaps with olive oil. To raise the appetite of the cultists....

Thinking about the vial and the altar again ... doesn't that remind You of the first "Blade" film?

The story of Suzi

(found on ThinkingAtheist's channel)Look at our world through the eyes of Suzie, a devoutly religious girl who sees divine love and intervention everywhere. This cocoon of comfort keeps her ignorant of science and safely away from critical thought, but it sure makes her happy. If you've interacted with the deeply religious, you've probably met someone in your own life that is just like her.

I must admit, this sadly reminds me of quite a lot of believers i spoke with.

Mittwoch, 19. Januar 2011

Vatican letter told Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report child abuse - Associated Press, Dublin - The Guardian

found on (Richard Dawkin's  DOT NET page)

A copy of the 1997 letter from the Vatican, obtained by Irish broadcasters RTE and provided to AP, warning Ireland's Catholic bishops not to report all suspected child-abuse cases to police. Photograph: AP
A letter to Ireland's Roman Catholic bishops has been revealed by the broadcaster RTE that contradicts the Vatican's frequent claim it has never instructed clergy to withhold evidence or suspicion of child abuse from police.
The 1997 letter documents rejection of a 1996 Irish church initiative to help police identify paedophile priests. Signed by the late Archbishop Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's envoy to Ireland, it instructs bishops that their new policy of making the reporting of suspected crimes mandatory "gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and canonical nature". (read on)

Why Islam's prohibition of alcohol doesn't make sense.

Muslims usually don't drink alcohol. I say usually because I know quite a lot of Muslims that do drink some alcohol and do other stuff they shouldn't do. But never question their religion!!! Might get you into trouble.

Now the prohibition can be explained quite easily using the following verse in the Quran:
“O ye who believe! Intoxicants and Gambling, (Dedication of) stones, And (divination by) arrows, Are an Abomination – Of Satan’s handiwork; Eschew such (abomination), That ye may prosper.” [Al-Qur’an 5:90]
 Intoxicants is a bit vague, but we have a nice little hadeeth that tells us specifically:

 “Alcohol is the mother of all evils and it is the most shameful of evils.” from Ibn-I-Majah Volume 3, Book of Intoxicants, Chapter 30 Hadith No. 3371.
OK, we have set the stage for a wonderful session of apologetics. As some people might know (or don't) you will find alcohol in quite a lot of nutritious products. Bread, apple juice, kefir, grape juice all contain "some" alcohol (around 0.1% to 0.5%). Even your own body produces alcohol.

One would think that you can't possibly be a Muslim and eat and drink at the same time. Would make all Muslims dead corpses, wouldn't it? But lo and behold there has been numerous Muslims spending a tremendous amount of time to come up with a rather intriguing explanation of why there is no problem with this and Islam is of course correct and without false.
One of those nice explanations is here.

The thing i like most is the "retro-reasoning" and the complete disregard of contradictory rules, laws and hadeeths when it comes to making a point.
What is retro-reasoning? We want to say something, so we pick the information that now is present and reason backward towards our already existing conclusion instead of doing the very opposite.
Look at the following statement:
It is known that most of the natural aromas that are used in the production of food and drinks contain natural alcohol originating from the fruit and vegetables. That is the reason why the final product, fizzy drink, contains alcohol at a rate of 5 in ten thousand. If the analyses that were carried out for fizzy drinks had been carried out for bread, ayran (diluted yoghurt), yoghurt, fruit, vegetables, boza (thick, slightly fermented millet drink), kefir and many other foods, the same results would have appeared. Therefore, it is not right to say that every drink that contains alcohol is haram.  
Now the funny thing is that it most probably was NOT known 1400 years ago that apple juice contained alcohol or bread. Even now quite a lot of people don't know that bread contains alcohol. by the way this is not 5 per ten thousand but rather between 1 and 5 per thousand. That guy tries to go the easy way by stating that since naturally alcohol is present in food you can't say that the prohibition is for all alcohol. Instead you have to reason in some other way that while alcohol in general is prohibited, under some circumstances it is just fine because it is "natural".
Yet if you take a close look at the production of bread and that of beer then you will see that there is nothing really "unnatural" about the second. Basically alcohol in food and drink normally is the product of the same or very similar processes, namely fermentation. I explicitly exclude distillation here. Except for alcohol that is added to existing food we would have to accept that any production which normally produces alcohol falls in one category alone. This includes bear.
Huge problem isn't it?

Not for a clever scholar who now brings in the great great argument of "quantity".
The amount of ethyl alcohol present in food and drinks must not exceed a certain amount. That decree is present in the fruit juice regulation. The reason why that decree is present is that alcohol forms naturally in the food that contains carbohydrates after a certain time. It is because of the nature of the food. The reason why the limit of 5 grams is present in the food regulation is explained as follows: alcohol less than that amount can be present in products due to forming spontaneously.  

5 grams per what? per kg? I do not know what "spontaneously" means here. Never heard that the alcohol in beer forms less spontaneously than the one in bread.
The explanation is again one of those "retro-reasonings". 
Since it is so we have to think it is OK don't we?
Now that reasoning with the quantity has a simple problem: It contradicts another quite clear hadeeth that is often used when people ask the following questions:
Can i drink alcohol provided I don't get drunk? Can I drink alcohol in small quantities?

As any good scholar will tell you, you can't. Why because there is this nice hadeeth:
“Anything which intoxicates in a large quantity, is prohibited even in a small quantity.” Ibn-I-Majah Volume 3, Book of Intoxicants, Chapter 30 Hadith No. 3392
So the supposed "natural" amount of alcohol can't be allowed either. The argument of quantity doesn't work. Of course that doesn't really matter to Muslims. Surely i must have understood something wrong.
After all .... how could a Muslim drink even only water with that last rule in place?
So the Quran should be more explicit about the prohibition and it's details shouldn't it? Well it isn't. Just what you would expect of a book written by a man 1400 years ago who had no clue that his daily bread contained something he so easily forbid.

Dienstag, 18. Januar 2011

Tunisia, a personal update

Well apart from the information that you might have gotten I wanted to add some personal info. Just a few tragic stories in the middle of distinct points of joy about the chance to get freedom perhaps.
What happened the past few days apart of the reported stuff?

We have a neighbor that had a son once. He drowned when his father took him swimming more than a decade ago. She conceived again another son and gave him the same name.
A few days ago ( i think it was Friday, sorry but my brain doesn't work well these days, lack of sleep you know) when looters ran around in the town where they live the army was called and did what an army in such a country and under such conditions normally does: shot around wildly to drive the folks away.

Thus suddenly many people had many strangers as refugees inside their homes.
Anyway lets return to the boy. He was hit. Instead of running home through the streets he choose to take the backyards. Unfortunately after some 200 meters he ran out of blood and fell to the ground. Had he taken the streets he would have survived. This way he was found 2 or 3 hours later by chance.
Dead. his mother curses herself for giving him the same name as his dead brother had, as if a curse would have been passed on by her.
She didn't let the boy get his burial at that day.

Another example of the daily irony of life.....
Well my fathers house is somewhat out of town so he thought he could get some additional security by inviting the local head of police over for a tea. And tea they drank. As it turned out however during the night, the guy was working for Ben Ali and one of those actually causing trouble in town. When my mother opened the door the next morning after a bad shooting during the night they found nearly a dozen dead people lying around in the street including people from the militia and the police. The chief officer was shot as well.

How about a video showing you some of the chaos in my hometown? Nearly 6 minutes of darkness, shouting and running around. don't worry ... No dead bodies or blood.

Video: Did the Vatican "mandate to conceal" reported child abuses of priests?

The Pope has blamed Irish bishops for their mishandling of "unspeakable crimes" by priests, but reporter Mick Peelo reveals how not only did the Vatican secretly block the bishop's efforts to improve child protection and bring abuser priests to justice, but were every bit as inept in their own handling of abuse. (RTE)

Watch the video of the RTE documentary  here. (You must select the video manually. It's from 17th of January 2011)

There are also several textual online services picking this up like the Irishtimes.

Montag, 17. Januar 2011

1000 Pageviews

Ok, ok, I know that this number (1015 page views at the moment) might not seem very high for a blog that has reached an age of 2,5 months.

But i think one should cherish the moment (any moment).

I guess that i owe much of the tremendous increase in January to the following (atheism-related) sites that i would like to list here:

Thanks folks !!!

PS: Now I might actually start writing in better English :-D

Daniel Dennett Interview with Dan Barker

“The Founding Fathers Would Have Hated Your Guts”

The Pope's unholy alliance with the dictator

Speaking about morality that comes with religion, especially organized catholic religion headed by the pope .... let's take a look at some unmentioned realities of that morality.
You can't have a coin with only one side.

The Vatican that still claims to be a force for good is staying silent because it is seeking a concordat with a state that still has a KGB and statues of Lenin on its streets, just as it sought accommodation with Nazi Germany in the 1930s.
The advantages for the papacy are hard to judge, because the terms of concordats are secret, but we can assume it wants what it has always wanted: public money and control of children's schooling. The advantages for Lukashenko are easier to grasp.
It is an error to suppose that dictators do not need to worry about public opinion. At a minimum, they want to secure the passive acquiescence of the subject population and to demoralise their opponents. In return for agreeing to cut a deal with Rome, a grateful Lukashenko has heard Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state, do both.
The absurd cardinal praised Belarus for allowing "freedom of religion", and denounced sanctions against the regime as "unacceptable". Belarus has a large Catholic minority and the Pope has cold-bloodedly sought to legitimise the dictator in its eyes, not just with his political interventions, but also by inviting Lukashenko to an audience at the Vatican.

Pope says: God was behind Big Bang

The pope demonstrates the difference between scientific thinking and faith again.
And he shows a profound lack of knowledge again.

God was behind the big bang?

"The universe is not the result of chance, as some would want to make us believe," Benedict said
Well first of all I do not know any reasonable person that wants to tell me that the universe is the result of chance. I haven't yet seen anybody who knows how the big bang came to be. There are enough ideas about that certainly, but thats about it.
Anyway, since the pope states that it is not the result of chance but something else I would expect him to state what exactly it was that caused all and what evidence he has for that. As we know however faith differs from science by lacking evidence and not even bothering about that.

"Contemplating it (the universe) we are invited to read something profound into it: the wisdom of the creator, the inexhaustible creativity of God," he said in a sermon ....
Ah there is so much "beauty" in this short sentence. A scientist or a normal reasonable person is not reading something into it. A reasonable person reads something out of the universe by observation and contemplating.
But again ... the pope surely has profound knowledge of the universe and can tell us where exactly he found the wisdom of creation, the evidence for Gods existence.
If you can find it in his text, tell me about it.
I haven't seen anything aside the normal "it is so, because it is so despite what others tell you."

Some atheists say science can prove that God does not exist, but Benedict said that some scientific theories were "mind limiting" because "they only arrive at a certain point ... and do not manage to explain the ultimate sense of reality."
Cool. And what explanation does he have for what he calls ultimate sense of reality. What actually is that ultimate sense of reality and what is the point that he speaks about?
No answer?

"In the beauty of the world, in its mystery, in its greatness and in its rationality ... we can only let ourselves be guided toward God, creator of heaven and earth," he said.
Somehow that gets boring. No substance and frankly not even a balanced view on the universe. 99% of all life on this planet alone has become extinct but Benedikt thinks this is a beautiful world. And speaking about rationality when he himself seems to lack it, now if that ain't ironic, I don't know what is.
Again I wait for the evidence for his statement. Basically it can be summed up as:
"I have no clue about the world, so i postulate some being I can't explain either that did all this and compensates me for my miserable existence."

The difference about faith and science?
Faith is about postulations that suit you; science is about evidence and testing your hypothesis and theories. Faith is about reading something into stuff. Science is about getting information and knowledge out of stuff.

Freitag, 14. Januar 2011

The myth of militant atheism

Time and time again religious people come up with the idea that a more and more militant atheism would be on the rise. And who amongst us doesn't know about this silly equating of Atheism with the actions of a Stalin or Hitler (Hitler is always the most ridiculous claim).

In the wake of Taseer's murder in Pakistan Dave Niose took the time to write a concise little post about the cliché of militant atheism.

Taseer joins a list of numerous other high-profile victims of militant religion, such as Dr. George Tiller, the Kansas abortion doctor killed by a devout Christian assassin in 2009, and Theo Van Gogh, the Dutch filmaker whose provocative movie about Islam resulted in his being brutally murdered in
With this background, it is especially puzzling that the American media and public still perpetuate the cliché of so-called “militant atheism.” We hear the disparaging term “militant atheist” used frequently, the assumption being that of course militant atheists are indeed roaming the streets of America.
In fact, however, while millions of atheists are indeed walking American streets, it would be difficult to find even one who could accurately be described as militant. In all of American history, it is doubtful that even one person has ever been killed in the name of atheism. In fact I would challenge religionists to present evidence that any American has ever even been harmed in the name of atheism. It just does not happen, because the notion of “militant atheism” is entirely fantasy.

Pakistan: Taseer's daughter She should refrain from issuing statements and must remember her father's fate (updated)

Emphasize mine:

Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, was shot dead by Mumtaz Qadri, a police officer, on January 4 because of his campaign to pardon a Christian woman sentenced to death for blasphemy.
Many Muslims celebrated the murder and marched in support of Taseer's confessed killer.
Shadab Qadri, the leader of Sunni Tehreek, said the politician's daughter, Shehrbano Taseer, 21, must stop speaking out against blasphemy laws.
''We read the statement of the slain governor's daughter in a newspaper. She should refrain from issuing such statements and must remember her father's fate,'' Shadab Qadri said.

This from a legitimate party in the government. But it get's even "better":
His organisation has also offered legal support to Mumtaz Qadri and financial help to his family ''as he performed a great duty in the name of Islam''.

Of course this freak has not been arrested.

And on it goes.

Chairperson of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who made a strongly-worded speech in London this week, is among those being ‘condemned’. “To those who are praising or justifying these crimes, I say: you along with the killers of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer are the real blasphemers,” Bilawal had said in his speech.
A posting on a jihadi forum responded: “This defender of the blasphemer must be the next target.”Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Minorities Shahbaz Bhatti told AFP in an interview that fatwas have been issued calling for him to be beheaded. “During the Aasia Bibi case, I constantly received death threats. Since the assassination of Salmaan Taseer … these messages are coming to me even publicly,” he said. “The government should register cases against all those using hate speech.”
Even religious men are not safe:
According to a report in Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, the chief of the PPP’s ulema wing who led Taseer’s funeral prayers after other clerics reportedly refused to do so, has gone into hiding.

Tunisian president Ben Ali left the country

Follow the events

in Paltalk pick the channel "tunisie lil kol 3arab" in region "Middle East", Nation "Tunisia"

*UPDATE 2* The military and the president of the parliament have taken over control

*UPDATE* The military has taken over control

The Tunisian presiden Zine el Abidine ben Ali has left the country.
The situation is totally chaotic there.
While i sit here and listen to all kinds of chat rooms i fear that this is the most critical of all times.

Two groups will now fight to decide which path Tunisia will follow.
Will it be Democracy or (religious?) chaos?

I would like to be happy that he left, but then again ... i fear for what will happen at home now!

Pope to speak at the German Bundestag in 2011

Pope Benedikt XVI. has been invited to speak out in the German "Bundestag" (aka Parliament) later this year.
Most notably ALL parties present in the Bundestag supposedly support his visit and feel honored to have him as 32nd guest speaker.
Only two members of the green party started to complain and wanted a debate concerning this but they were silenced by the leadership of the green party.
At least thats what currently is told by the Frankfurter Rundschau.

I am ashamed that this man has been invited to speak in a house where democratic and humanistic , modern values supposedly are upheld. A Parliament whose rulings should be quite the opposite of what this man and his organization stand for.

What do you think this old man will talk about in the parliament?
The prohibition of condoms, or their allowance for prostitutes having HIV?
The supposed immorality of todays society and the enforcement of good and needed sex education for kids in schools?
Discrimination against a church that fires people for assisting pregnant mothers that would die if they carried out their babies?

With the Pope we don't even only have a high ranking priest coming here, we also have the head of a state whose financial transactions over the past century could only be called "Mafiaesque".
He is perhaps the only one left in Europe to hold an absolute Position of Power in his state, holding all three branches of state in his own hand.

As cleric he assumes a position that only a third of Germans have and even if you consider those then perhaps 80% of these Germans are not really in agreement with his positions on homosexuality, abortion or other things.

Why would any sane person of a modern democracy representing modern ethical values invite such a person or consider it an "honor" to have him say "anything"?
Suppose the parliament would invite Mahmud Ahmadinedschad to speak in front of the assembled representatives of Germany?

I say "no" to any religious speeches in a secular parliament.

Mittwoch, 12. Januar 2011

Hitchens get's it right: Right incantations equal permission to murder

I found a remarkable statement in a recent article by Christopher Hitchens about the incident in Pakistan.

Now look at the grinning face of Mumtaz Qadri, the man who last week destroyed a great human being. He did not explain. He boasted. As "a slave of the Prophet," he had the natural right to murder Salman Taseer, the governor of Punjab, not even for committing "blasphemy" but for criticizing a law that forbade it for Muslims and non-Muslims alike. And this sweeping new extension of the divine right to murder not only was not condemned by the country's spiritual authorities; it was largely approved by them. No argument, no arraignment, no appeal—permission to kill anybody can merely be assumed by anybody, provided only that they mouth the correct incantations.

Sometimes I envy him for hitting the mark so well with his language.

The strange thing about the Muslim world these days is indeed that any action can be justified by quotations and incantations and that no Muslim will openly reject a brothers opinion even if he disagrees as long as non-Muslims are present.
In the Islamic world there is no head of religion and hence every supposed follower makes it his right to wield the sword of religion in whatever manner he desires.

Tunisia, not all Tunisians are equal

As (Half-)Tunisian I am currently of course very interested in the things that happen over there. So (as usual) I went to PalTalk, logged in and joined a Tunisian chat room. Filled with some 90 people.

Something that strikes me every time is that whenever there is a problem in an Arabic country basically two things happen:
a) First of all quite a bunch of people start telling others that this is all related to the Arabs being so nonreligious and having fallen from true Islam. This happens so predictably, it always makes me moan and shake my head.
b) The second thing that happens is to blame the west (especially America) for all the evils in the Arab countries and name the current presidents of the Arab states as puppets of Zionist conspiracies or american imperialism.

Some guy made me almost jump to the Mic when after a long talk about religious morality and respect and honor he stated that he has asked Allah to grant Ben Ali a similar "life in death" as Ariel Sharon currently experiences. One wonders who that guy really worships in order to make such requests and speak about morality.
Anyway .. the discussion changed fast and became a monologue of an Islamic song streamed to the room. After around 20 minutes !!!! of listening to the normal standard "i shed tears because the world is so bad, but my faith gives us strength" songs that some idiot was playing i objected and asked if we could not just talk about the actual topic: Tunisia and the current riots in the streets.

"Tunisia is an Islamic country" i was told.
Of course now Tunisia, like all other Arab countries is mainly Islamic BUT there has always been a group of other religions present there for example the Jewish community in Djerba. So of course i objected again, stating that I am not a Muslim while I am a Tunisian.
I guess if I had said that I was the president i wouldn't have gotten any worse answers.
Back and forth it went with me actually only insisting that Tunisia was an "Arab" country as opposed to an Islamic one. Mentioning the Jews in Djerba finally got me kicked out of the room.

What did I personally learn from all this (well actually I knew that all along, but it is sad to see it demonstrated in such a manner):
Arabs NEVER learn. They want "freedom" but don't actually know what it is. They want equal rights for all Tunisians but don't count people like me as one of their own.
What a silly attitude.
While Ben Ali is not a freely elected president and doesn't care for freedom of expression one has to say that Tunisians do not really deserve any better at the time being. Neither any other Arab country.

Pope says sex education an 'attack on religious freedom'

Sometimes the churches does a better job driving people away from it than any atheist could:

Sexual and civic education in schools in Europe is an "attack" on religious freedom, Pope Benedict XVI said on Monday in a traditional annual address to foreign diplomats to the Vatican.
"I cannot remain silent about another attack on the religious freedom of families in certain European countries which mandate obligatory participation in courses of sexual or civic education," the Pope told the ambassadors.
He said such courses "convey a neutral concept of the person and of life, yet in fact reflect an anthropology opposed to faith and to right reason".
The Pope said this was an example of the "threats" against "the cultural roots which nourish the profound identity and social cohesion of many nations".
In a collection of interviews published in November 2010, Pope Benedict said for the first time that he approved of condom use to reduce the risk of disease, leading some to wonder whether his attitude to sex education was changing.
But the Vatican later insisted that the Pope's comments referred only to sex workers who were HIV positive and could not be applied more widely.

Again we have an 80+ years old guy who supposedly hasn't ever had sex tell you something about sex education and its values. And since modern sex education obviously doesn't think homosexuality or contraception or condoms are the evils of the world they are in opposition to faith.
I take the word "right reason" to be just one more demonstration of utter ignorance.

Anyway, the really interesting if not funny twist in his speech is the idea that such courses of sexual education actually would go against religious freedom.  Basically it boils down to the statement that religion ought to be free to express any prejudice and hate it wants against gays, open relationships, contraception, condoms etc. and any education which doesn't correspond to that would be an attack to it.

When thinking about this i have so many ideas, i can't possibly all formulate them in a post.
So I rather have you tell me your thoughts.

Dienstag, 11. Januar 2011

Pakistan: decline into barbarism?

Over the past months i have posted about Pakistan for several times. Especially the blasphemy laws caused and cause much trouble in this country.
The real question however is not if there is such a law and how to get rid of it but rather if such a law is backed by the people or not.

No matter what you think about such a law, if the people themselves want such a law, if the society that resides in a country is one that causes such laws then it is not the law that poses the main threat but rather the people themselves.

When i first posted about Aasia Bibi or later on when i followed with a post about the general attorney the scope of my critique was mainly the stupidity of the law and "of such people" that support it.

But since then things have gotten out of hand.
Salman Taseer , a governor of one of Pakistans provinces had spoken in support of Aasia and against the use of the blasphemy laws in this case. And then he was killed by one of his bodyguards. Shot with 26 bullets while his other bodyguards stood by and didn't act.

The question in Pakistan is not anymore if the law is inhuman.

The question is rather if the society in Pakistani has problems. And it seems it has way more than a few extremists or groups that hold the country hostage.
Its more than some civilian groups. "Legitimate religious mainstream" parties are involved.

Indeed the whole country seems to struggle with this.
Even celebrating the assassination.

And i would say that in the next 5 years we should see the country either loose the fight and fall back into Barbary similar to "Talibanland" or eventually get rid of the archaic, hierarchical, patriarchal system.

Unfortunately i fear that the road ahead seems to be one leading into ancient times and not so much into modern ones.

In Austria over 80.000 left church in 2010

According to the Standard (Austrian newspaper) almost 88.000 people left the church in Austria during 2010. In 2009 there were around 53.000 people that left church.
So there has been an increase by around 64 percent.

As usual such increases often are related to "bad news" and this time it were of course the abuse scandals that were uncovered in the beginning of the year.

If you look at the numbers more closely you will however see that there is a longterm trend with increasing numbers of people leaving. Although the 88thousand are an extraordinary peak it should be expected that the era of traditional churches slowly comes to an end provided there is no new Christian movement caused by the religious/cultural problems between the west and the Muslim countries.

Interestingly the solution that (some of) the church come up with is to actually become more "humanistic". Down the article (which is in German) you will find them encourage the church (and the pope) to deal with problematic issues like sexuality, condoms etc. So basically the tactic is again:"make the religion more accommodated to the modern views so that people don't leave".