[Fear of being wrong is] why the quality of discussion is forever spiraling into the drain. People are afraid to be wrong. Tactical voting exists because people are afraid they won’t have voted for the winner (or a close runner up). It’s why ‘mediums’ and psychics exist and flourish (despite being Bullsh*t), and why people still turn to watercures, or homeopathy and believe in Astrology (again, all bullsh*t) and why Creationism has been a hotly contested topic over the last 15 years in school districts across the US – despite there being zero evidence to support a creationist argument.
– Andrew Norton
I do feel obliged to add a minor disclaimer here. Although I agree with the thrust of Norton’s argument I would dispute his inclusion of tactical voting in the above quote. From a UK perspective, the First Past The Post voting system leads to most votes being wasted – unless you are a floating voter in a Midlands marginal, your vote really doesn’t matter. Under this system, people turn to tactical voting in an effort to keep out the candidate that they find most objectionable because they know that their preferred candidate doesn’t have a hope of being elected.
A more modern electoral system would, of course, remove the need for tactical voting. And this is why it’s so depressing that the UK electorate collectively decided that they were too stupid to count when given the opportunity.
A couple of weeks ago, a German regional court ruled that chopping bits off young children for religious reasons amounts to bodily harm. Predictably enough, religious groups are outraged at the idea that they should respect the human rights of others.
These religious throwbacks seem incapable of understanding that a child’s right to physical integrity far outweighs both parental rights and religious privilege. So here’s a simplified version which comes by way of Dr. Seuss.
The Freethinker has more, including a depressing collection of reported deaths and infections resulting from ritual circumcision.
I probably should have realised that RichardDawkins.net would have a store. According to the blurb on the front page, the aim is to…
offer educational and entertaining video content, in addition to high-quality apparel and promotional items for RichardDawkins.net, The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science, and The Out Campaign.
They even have a handy bag that you can use to store your swag.
[F]or all their bluster and hand-wringing, for all the tabloid outrage, “militant secularism” makes as much logical sense as “aggressive pacifism” or “hardline tolerance”; it is an oxymoron, a cynical attempt to paint equality and fairness as infringing upon the religious, who seem aghast that after decades of entitlement they might actually be expected to play fair.
– David Robert Grimes, as quoted by The Freethinker
The following two charts come from Anders Jacobsen by way of Jerry Coyne and very effectively highlight the fact that people’s religious beliefs are almost entirely determined by where they happened to be born.
This, as Coyne points out, is a central point of John Loftus’s Outsider test for faith, which is quite long but well worth a read. The central point, though, is that if your religious beliefs are almost entirely determined by an accident of birth then you should be extremely skepitcal as to whether any of your religious beliefs are actually correct.
The outsider test is simply a challenge to test one’s own religious faith with the presumption of skepticism, as an outsider. It calls upon believers to “Test or examine your religious beliefs as if you were outsiders with the same presumption of skepticism you use to test or examine other religious beliefs.” Its presumption is that when examining any set of religious beliefs skepticism is warranted, since the odds are good that the particular set of religious beliefs you have adopted is wrong.
To the Christian theist the challenge of the outsider test means there would be no more quoting the Bible to defend the claim that Jesus’ death on the cross saves us from sins. The Christian theist must now try to rationally explain it. No more quoting the Bible to show how it’s possible for Jesus to be 100% God and 100% man with nothing left over. The Christian theist must now try to make sense of this claim, coming as it does from an ancient superstitious people who didn’t have trouble believing Paul and Barnabas were “gods in human form” (Acts 14:11; 28:6). The Christian theist must not assume prior to examining the evidence that there is an answer to the problem of horrendous suffering in our world either. And she’d be initially skeptical of believing in any of the miracles in the Bible, just as she would be skeptical of any claims of the miraculous in today’s world supporting other religious faiths. Why? Because she cannot start out by first believing the Bible, nor can she trust the people close to her who are Christian theists to know the truth, nor can she trust her own anecdotal religious experiences, since such experiences are had by people of all religious faiths who differ about the cognitive content learned as the result of these experiences. She would want evidence and reasons for these beliefs.
It strikes me as a very reasonable approach and one that cuts to the heart of my objection to religious claims: If the religious can’t agree on which of their claims are true, why should the rest of us pay any attention to their claims at all?
The ability of Christians to express their faith in public is not threatened by secularism – quite the opposite. What may be threatened are the trappings of power that Archbishops and other Christian elites enjoy: the palaces, the political offices, the media exposure and the power to shape public services. A cynic might ask whether the war on secularism had more to do with protecting their privileges than the interests of the masses.
– Martin Robbins on Lord Carey, a man who seems so determined to defend his privileges that he doesn’t care that doing so leaves his church looking like a bitter, bigoted, anachronism that we’d all be better off without.
As you may have noticed, this blog has been a little quiet over the past week. This is because we have all been experiencing a well-deserved Easter break. The hotel internet connection is a little flakey, which is why you have
all both been spared the inevitable flood of holiday snaps (for now – I will have a fully working connection very shortly), but I couldn’t pass this Sinfest cartoon, Steampunk Jesus without at least a link.
So here it is: Enjoy.
I saw this headline on the New Humanist Blog: Tory MP Peter Bone: gay marriage reform could lead to two monarchs on the throne. And I thought: No it couldn’t. If a monarch was married to someone of the same sex, the UK would have a monarch and a monarch’s consort – just as Prince Philip’s official title is Queen’s Consort.
It sounded a lot like someone trying to invent a mountain out of a non-existent molehill. But I clicked through anyway and was confronted by this:
Bone has sent a letter to the Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone outlining his concerns. The legislation, to use the Sun’s words, “would mean a lesbian Queen having a Queen consort or a gay King having a King consort”
So my assumption turned out to be right. I have to admit, though, that Tory MP Peter Bone does invite a really obvious post title.