Boston is a historic city in great part due to its reputation for standing up to injustice. The Marathon is an event that creates a sense of community and Boston’s is one of the oldest and most revered. To complete a Marathon either for charity or for one’s own sense of achievement is a wonderful thing and a rite of passage in many modern lives - including mine. Competing in and supporting others to compete in a Marathon is entirely positive.
To attack such an event is a disgusting act against humanity. To do it in a city like Boston is as pointless as it is cowardly. The people who did this will be brought to justice. Boston’s police has activated itself to find the perpetrators in, one assumes, the largest investigation since 9/11. Good luck to them.
Some people’s first reaction to the blast was to help the injured. That included athletes who had not yet reached the line. This is inspiring and gives us hope.
Some people decided to use the London Marathon to raise money for Boston. This is an admirable reflection of the human spirit.
Some people’s first reaction was to flee - rational, who can blame them?
Some people’s first response was to call for the London Marathon to be postponed. This is bowing down to terrorism in an irrational and cowardly way.
Some people chose to pray. Pointless, but it makes them feel better.
Some people called for other people to pray. This is is pointless, arrogant, time-wasting, pitiful behaviour. Don’t be preaching when you could be doing something.
My first response was to check that my Boston friends were OK and let them know I was thinking of them. I won’t be doing anything more direct than that as I am nearing the end of a fundraising campaign for a local hospice and I want to remain focused on that cause.
If you are one of the ones who thinks prayer is the best option remember that the God you are praying to let this happen (in the alternate reality where this God exists). Think about what you could do that would actually make a difference. Be good without God, you’ll feel the benefit and so will others.
Imagine there’s no heaven. You don’t have to.
There’s no heaven except for the shared memory where our loved ones live on, just the way we like to remember them. That is one of the things I didn’t say at my best friend’s funeral as people need to grieve in their own ways. Instead I said things I hoped would give him a fitting send-off that worked for everyone. It was the least I could do – it was the most I could do. There’s no heaven though, that’s the reality.
To enhance the memory I chose, as many people do, to do something in my friend’s honour. You may know that I’m cycling 300 miles from London to Paris. This is a pretty pure piece of goodwill but of course it makes me feel better too. It feels like I’m doing something that will make his family smile. Something that will say “He was a friend worth going the extra mile for.” It’s something that is hard enough to make me feel like I’m achieving something and getting something out of my system. Please don’t take the blogs that mention Trev the wrong way, I’m not wallowing in grief (his phrase) or trying to put myself at the centre of his story – let’s leave that to his wife and kids. I trekked up mountains and drove across deserts with the guy. I want this one last adventure.
I often undermine Christian goodwill in my tweets and blogs. If their goodwill only stretches to praying then I am on solid ground. Prayer is a pointless act of simpering fuckwittery that is of use to neither man nor beast. I also decry their efforts to convert whomever they help. I think this is pretty ghastly behaviour so I’ll stand by that one. I also tend to bemoan their general lack of efficiency what with all the extraneous activities. Now I have a problem:
Do I need to go on a bike ride? No. I could have saved the money I spent on the bike and the ride and given it straight to the charity. I wouldn’t have raised any money from anyone else but I’d have done a good thing. I am wasting time and resources cladding myself in lycra and freezing my nuts off in the saddle. Am I worse than the God squad that I moan about?
Well I don’t think so. My ride (and other challenges my friends are up to) is symbolic. It says to Trev’s family and friends that he meant a lot. It says to the hospice “You looked after my buddy; we’ll look after you and raise awareness about the good that you do”. What’s more it gives other people who weren’t quite so close the chance to pay their respects in a different way. Most of all I’m not doing it to get to heaven because there isn’t one. There isn’t some big pay-off after I die.
So I think I’m doing a good thing; a good thing that may be purer than what a theist could manage. I’m not diluting my deed by saying it’s in honour of the God who who let Trev get the tumour in the first place. What’s more, I have found that complete strangers have joined in to help me and I know it makes them feel good too. Want to enjoy that feeling? Sponsor me – even if it’s only $5, I don’t care. Either that or get out there and do your own good deed. It’s the fast track to happiness – even without the lycra!
The last time I went to church was for a wedding. It was fun outside as our friend the groom was being as flamboyantly gay* as usual and the only person who hadn’t noticed was the bride. Unlike at other people’s weddings, he was sober, had all his clothes on and was milking the chance to be the hilarious centre of attention without having to embarrass himself. We walked up through the yard past gravestones and contorted, gnarled old yew trees to the door of the church**. Here we were greeted by a bruiser; a young vicar who had “mended his ways” with the help of the church somewhere along the line. Then we walked in to the cold space and suffered the indignity of religion for half an hour.
Three Ring Circus
The vicar explained that marriage only had meaning if you make it a threesome with god. Then he told a love story and spoiled it with god. Then we were asked to sing hymns about god. Then they were married, we were asked to pray and sing hymns before we finally escaped. Our friend Sophie came up and whispered to Sarah and me “I hate church. Since when have those 2 been religious? Did you pray or say Amen?” I hadn’t prayed, sung, bowed my head, shut my eyes or said amen, Sophie seemed pleased. Why were we there? My guess is tradition, the enemy of reason, or it could have been that religion had sunk its claws in at a time of grief. The groom had lost his mother very early.
Holy Water Boarding Batman!
My previous visit to church was a Christening. These are worse than weddings because you get exposed to a whole sermon, a whole congregation and there’s a fair chance you won’t get a decent party afterwards. To my horror the village church had become evangelist in my 12 year absence so lay preachers took to the pulpit to speak gibberish while the ageing flock waved to the heavens and I engaged in a jamboree of eye rolling with selected friends. The nonsense was of a higher order and I was desperate to get out but didn’t want to fall out with the parents. After an encore of prayer for victims of various global crises, the mood was finally lifted when we were excused and two of my sacrilicious friends took over bell ringing duty; they almost brought the little steeple down.
Once again, why were we there? Unlike a marriage, a Christening is truly pointless unless you’re religious. To anybody else, a child’s life has plenty of meaning without the involvement of an imaginary deity. Why do happy little atheist kids have to have a god label slapped on them in such traumatic fashion:
“Ahh he’s crying..” “Of course he’s fucking crying!”
This Kind of Kind
Tradition had played its mind-numbing part again but also, when the twins were born premature, a pastor had taken it upon himself to offer advice and give god some of the credit for the doctors’ work. As with the former hooligan who presided over the wedding the church had demanded a pound of flesh for its unspontaneous act of specious charity. I’m helping you, but only to shame you into believing. As with the laughable prayers at end of sermon, Christians waste their positive energy on superfluous actions. A positive atheist can do good deeds without the preaching and converting.
Aisle be Back: Not!
The last time that friends of mine, close friends, had a Christening, I wasn’t invited. I can live with that. I can also live with the fact that the father at the Christening has avowed himself atheist now; that’s the father of the twins – let’s not push our luck!
Religion devalues important life events, it demeans kindness and it divides friendships. Don’t let it do it to you!
Be good without God and check out my charity page I’m on the left!
*Many of his closest friends think that he is a suppressed homosexual. None of them would have a problem with him being an unsuppressed one though of course now we’d be sorry for his wife!
**Actual churches shown for authenticity.
As humans, we’re still pretty basic in our thinking. Our in-built grasp of numbers suits our evolutionary needs and stops at 3 or 4. After that we tend to think logarithmically i.e. we go from 1, 2, 3, to thousand, million, billion without many of us spotting the step change and realising just how vast a billion is. Likewise, our planet may feel smaller these days but Jupiter is slightly beyond most people’s comprehension and then the Sun is way beyond that. Go logarithmically up through galaxies and galaxy clusters towards the size of the visible Universe and we’re lost but God can cope because he is of that order and he created it - allegedly.
Yes God created a Universe that is too big for us to ever understand but, through the Universal cacophony, he still hears everything we say and think. As he manipulates countless yottagrams of matter as it interchanges with energy he sees everything we do and controls every quark that exists. We are to him as atoms are to us. The whole of humanity is as relevant as a single full stop hidden amongst every word ever written, like a grain of sand in a desert. Yet he has a plan for each of us and everything that happens is his will.
Given this information what kind of delusional, pompous, feckless, narcissistic, facile, demented fuckwit to you have to be to think praying is going to change anything? God is creating a galaxy 13 billion light years away with 200 billion stars in it, each beyond your feeble comprehension, but you want to win your football match against another gibbering buffoon who is praying against you - intellectually speaking you are purulent excrescences on the arsehole of life. God has triggered a hyper-nova which for a few moments shines brighter than an entire galaxy and you’re praying for the soul of somebody who has already died - there are amoebae more useful than you.
In 2013 stop praying and start doing!
I like what you say, so far deeper than my usual “I hate religion” rant. I like the whole why are women so bashed theme, as well, even though my own thoughts on this are perhaps a bit different. Women are power. Men (ignorant ones) fear woman power. Men suppress, repress, oppress women whenever possible.
I’m not a Bible expert. I explain here why being an atheist shouldn’t revolve around scripture. For me, trying to pitch the Old Testament as a moral guidebook is as intellectually rewarding as running over dog-shit with the lawnmower. I enjoy seeing an erudite theologian rip into scripture though because it entertains me.
Last week I learned something about the Noah myth that would undermine classroom indoctrinations. I’ll use the story as a spring-board to dive into one of my less restrained blogs about things that are wrong with religion. Thanks to QI I also finish by proposing a positive, humanist alternative.
Anders Breivik murdered 77 people last year in a supposedly racial attack that didn’t focus on race. Imagine if he, or your serial killer of choice, had killed their victims’ pets too and then wiped out everything in the garden. The Christian God is frequently seen to be racially selective when succumbing to his more violent tendencies. However in this case, like Breivik, he was more catholic in his extirpations. Noah’s story is generally told by emphasising God’s mercy to his family. The unavoidable truth is that God destroys virtually all non-aquatic life on the planet – if that’s your idea of mercy I’d hate to see your ruthless side. What morals can our children infer from this charming tale?
Lies, Damn Lies and Creationists
Obviously the Biblical flood never happened. The story’s just too easy to pull apart. If you Google “geological evidence for global flood” you will pull up a long list of creationist sites. There’s no science to be seen as it doesn’t warrant discussion at that level. [I put some obvious Ark myth flaws at the bottom of the page, you’ve heard them all before].
The volume of bullshit in the story is on a par with the floodwater itself but Creationists have upped the stakes by trying to crowbar the dinosaurs onto the Ark. Clearly this is in an act of pernicious mendacity and to indoctrinate kids with lies of this magnitude is tantamount to child abuse. Creationists exert a lot of effort pushing square pegs through round holes and in some cases it’s sad to see that they actually waste a lot of genuine creativity doing it. At the less demented end of the spectrum is a lazier, equally insidious form of dishonesty; cherry picking or being economical with the truth.
The following are less reported “facts” from Noah’s story (Genesis 6-8). They serve to undermine the story but we don’t hear them so often; certainly not in a complacent country like the UK:
Yes this was new to me. Noah the great animal saviour climbed off his boat and killed one of every clean animal and bird and burnt them in a sacrifice to God. You wouldn’t catch David Attenborough doing that! He saved them, then he killed them. Well done Noah! I wonder what the primary school kids would think of that scorch mark on their pristine happy ending?
Of course cherry picking is rife when Christians consume the Bible. To be fair it’s even worse when I occasionally look at it because I have an ulterior motive too. The other lie wrapped up in all this is that the damn thing is a copy anyway. The eleventh tablet of the cuneiform Sumerian epic Gilgamesh, which dates from 2,500BC contains some remarkably similar passages. Including the building of a boat (to different dimensions), the sending out of dove and raven and even the animal sacrifice and the “sweet savour” smelt by the Gods. Like so many religious stories this is stolen. This would not be a problem if people were not claiming the Bible to be God’s word.
The Gilgamesh story is immediately more enjoyable than Noah’s as we’re not expected to believe it but people really do swallow the Noah myth to the extent that some claim to have found the remains of the boat. Plagiarism of scripture didn’t stop with the Christians and Moslems make the same claim though for a slightly different location. Cross reference some of the claims made in that video and you will soon discover plain lies.
Gods don’t kill animals but humans, amongst other animals and causes, do. Instead of Noah’s story wouldn’t it be better to teach our kids about real ecologists; people who have rescued species from the lethal hands of man? 99.99% of all species that ever lived are extinct now and we are effectively imposing our own mass extinction event with our exploding population and our tendency to kill things directly or otherwise. Why not celebrate our efforts to save great whales, American bison or Siberian tigers? The Bible treats all animals as food. Let’s get beyond that and celebrate the wonder of the biosphere without the demented filter of religion.
Obvious Ark problems:
Denominations of Discrimination
This morning I watched for the third day running as the BBC (UK broadcaster) decided the Anglican Church was the only story big enough to match its own internal wranglings and the unfolding atrocities in Gaza. Once again we see women￼
openly stating that being an Anglican bishop is a role for which women are unfit. One of them actually went so far as to say it was “against the word of God”. In a world where women lead companies and countries, have visited space, served across the armed forces, made breakthroughs in all branches of science and thrilled us in previously male only sports it is seemingly only where religions are pulling the strings that they are openly discriminated against. Feminists would say this understates the nature of their struggle so let’s clarify; it is seemingly only where religion guides women that they openly discriminate against themselves.
In the country that gave us Boudica, Mary Wollstonecraft, Emmeline Pankhurst, Helen Bright Clark and Anita Roddick it seems sad that women can hold such repressive views about their own roles.
Bashing the Bishop
I have made it abundantly clear in previous blogs that being a bishop is not a position for which I have any inkling of respect. Having expert knowledge of fictional works doesn’t qualify for that but at least if you were chair of the Sherlock Holmes Society or the Star Trek Fan Club you wouldn’t be trying to influence my thoughts or those of my government. You wouldn’t be lying to your parishioners by treating fiction as fact. For any institution, however irrelevant, to have discrimination as a core moral tenet is pretty reprehensible.
Anglicanism is the mild end of the wedge when it comes to discrimination. Only last week we saw the death of Savita Halappanava after she was denied a life-saving abortion in Ireland because “this is a Catholic country”. Meanwhile, the horrific Moslem practice of female genital mutilation persists in many countries especially in Africa and the Middle East. At all levels, across all religions we can view all these repressions as providing tacit support for the others. To pompously quote myself:
“Religious moderates provide the foundations on which fundamentalists build their palaces of hate”.
I’m sure the church will change to accommodate modern thought and avoid losing valuable female support. In doing so it will be trailing a few decades behind prevailing moral values - despite maintaining its “turn to” position for the BBC when discussing any moral issue.
Despite the support of bishops and clergy, who knew where their bread was buttered, the laity of the Church of England this week voted that women bishops won’t be ordained for at least another 5 years. I personally hope this accelerates the church’s inexorable decline as a generation of women sees that they are considered second rate or, as one female commentator put it, that this must be God’s will.
This isn’t one of my usual atheist blog posts. I’m going to ask you to post a link to another page and donate there if you can. This is about atheist/rationalist Twitter friends being good people, you know, the whole good without God thing? It’s a help request and an experiment. Of course you can share with anyone you like!
￼So what’s the deal? Well this guy in the picture was my hilarious best mate Trev who died last year leaving 4 kids and a wife behind. I go and play with his boy Archie to give him some “man time” - he has 3 sisters! Trev was a kind of hero in a consistently funny, slightly underachieving way. The first thing I did when we lost him to brain cancer was to write a book about him for his kids as they won’t remember him and he faded too fast to leave them anything. Now I want to raise some money in his memory for the hospice who gave him and his family dignity as he faded away.
I’m cycling 300 miles from London to Paris and I want to raise so much that his family is moved by what his memory has achieved. So far Facebook people have given me 12 “likes” and £20. Twitter people who I’ve never even met are smashing that and I want them to smash it even more!
I’ll tweet about this occasionally but I don’t want to bombard people. Please use the link below to donate if you can and if you have the time maybe post this link using your own words to see if people from different countries might achieve something special by chipping in just £5 or £10 each. Thank you for reading. Anything you can do is appreciated but if you can’t it’s absolutely fine - Martin (@woobasher).
It’s challenging to make purely atheist comments original because “there are almost definitely no gods” is all that really can be said. However, we don’t normally stop at the purely atheist because we have been brought up in cultures which are heavily manipulated by religions; religions whose authority we reject. These organisations not only assert, without evidence, that gods exist but also try and impose the moral commandments of their alleged deities onto society. For that reason we like to rail against them a bit.
Once again it’s tricky to make original atheist comments from this stance because the atheist will tend to target either the flimsy scripture of the belief system most relevant to them or the clearly immoral views and activities of its adherents. Like Dara O’Briain famously said “I’m an atheist but I’m a Catholic atheist”. More religiously educated atheists can target multiple faiths with their words of reason but most of us find ourselves following a script which is, ironically, story-boarded by the people we wish we could ignore. At the most extreme we can lampoon the daft beliefs of the religious literalists who accept the creation myths as fact.
After that less than concise introduction I hereby present a wildly unoriginal atheist blog post in the second category. There are probably 1000s of blogs ridiculing The Christian 10 Commandments but it’s my turn to join the fray. This is inspired by a work colleague who suggested “Whether you believe in God or not surely the 10 Commandments are a good way to teach children morals”.
Are they? You decide. Below is a very concise version of the 10 Commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.
3. You shall not take the name of the lord your God in vain.
4. You shall not work on the Sabbath.
At this early stage we have established no moral guidance but have a sense that God is insecure. This is apparently due to the existence of other Gods even though Christians refute this. We see that anyone who has carved Jesus, a mole, a rabbit, a fox, a badger etc. from wood is a sinner. I’m not sure what lives in “water beneath the Earth” so I won’t commit on that one. We also see that working on Sunday is sinful, even though priests are quite prone to doing it. Do any of these commandments make us more moral? Of course not. The Christian God is a petty and trivial irrelevance and if that’s in breach of commandment 3 I think you’ll cope. Continuing:
5. Honour your father and your mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness
10. You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.
Numbers 5 through 9 are reasonable. The problem with these is that Christians are unable to grasp the concept of individual morality. We often hear comments along the lines of “If there is no God or afterlife, why does it matter what you do in this life?” Most atheists honour their parents and have never killed anyone because, simply, why would they? Being good to people is the best way to achieve happiness but Christians only do it to please their imaginary God…
6th Commandment: Though Shalt Not Kill?
..so on that basis are atheists more inherently moral than Christians? Maybe, but with their false god looking over their shoulders surely the most pious countries are the safest places to live? To try and find out we can compare some homicide rates* before considering a couple more murder facts:
10 Most Populous nations > 90% Christianity: 16.9 homicides per 100k deaths.
10 Most atheist nations: 1.73 homicides per 100k deaths.
No hard conclusions can be drawn from the more atheist countries’ murder rate being almost 10 times lower in this comparison because atheist rankings are always a bit fuzzy and there is often a significant overlap with nominal Christianity. We can be fairly confident, however, that having a highly Christian culture doesn’t appear to lower murder rates and having a more atheist culture doesn’t appear to increase them.
It’s a commandment that is widely ignored in the Bible. Looking past God’s own death toll with the flood of Noah, the plagues or the mauling to death of 42 children in 2 Kings 2:23-24 the most bloodthirsty, genocidal incitement may come in Samuel 15:3
“Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.”
It seems that “You shall not murder anyone on our side” may be a more accurate wording. Through pogrom, crusade, inquisition and invasion Christians have continued to do this through history decimating indigenous populations and cultures across the Americas and Australia and causing huge death tolls in Europe, Africa, the near East and India. The trend has slowed now as civilisation imposes itself but in more recent times even the Iraq war was a “crusade” in George W Bush’s eyes.
Bronze Age Values
The 10th Commandment seems innocuous at first glance until you realise women are being treated as property on a par with oxen, slaves# and anything else one’s neighbour may own. Even the most recently made up religions tend to discriminate against anyone who isn’t a heterosexual male. It is another failing of religious people to consider anything in scripture to have implicit moral substance however shocking it may be when subjected to rational scrutiny. The various further commandments of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are a blog in their own right though.
Absence of Morals
Ignoring the 4th Commandment and being rational for a moment, Earth time, based on 1 revolution of the planet on its axis, would be totally irrelevant to a God with Universal omnipotence. The Bible would have been more powerful had he made statements whose relevance only became apparent after centuries. As men of the time wrote it, it is unsurprising that it fails so monumentally as a reference for moral living today. Here are some of the crimes, major and minor, that the 10 commandments don’t prohibit and in some cases that the Bible pretty much endorses:
Rape, paedophilia, arson, assault, servitude, drug dealing, racially aggravated assault, stirring up racial hatred, kidnap, animal cruelty, riot, affray, criminal damage, joy riding, stalking, false imprisonment, causing an explosion, threatening behaviour, sexually aggravated violence, prostitution, human trafficking, concealment of birth, terrorism, abandonment of children, possession of unlicensed weapons, harbouring prisoners, drugging to obtain intercourse, exposure, voyeurism.
Are the 10 Commandments a good way to teach children morals? Maybe if you’re in a racist, sexist, bellicose, Bronze Age tribe that is ready to read between the lines. Across history its tenets have failed to inspire moral behaviour at the individual or national level. It’s best lines tackle sins which we inherently know to be wrong and it’s rationale based on the afterlife suggests we’d only be good for reward. In the 21st century you’d have to be demented to think they have any real merit.
*Homicide Statistics UNODC 2012.
Populous Christian nations: Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Congo, Italy, Mexico, Philippines, Poland, Ukraine, Venezuela.
“Most atheist” nations: Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Japan, Norway, S Korea, Sweden, Vietnam.
#In the original wording.