Atheist Climber Prominent People Project

September 24, 2010 § 7 Comments

Atheist Climber Blog is turning One year old on October 10! Yay! And I remember like yesterday thinking “Do I have anything to write about? Will anyone care? Will anyone read it?” I just wish I had taken more baby photos!

Well you have all spoken to me by visiting and commenting on my blog. My measure of success has been reflected in the blog stats with over 60,000 page hits, over 100 subscribers, and more than 1500 comments for the 100+ articles and videos I have posted. This far surpasses my expectations and for that I thank you all.

To celebrate, I am in the process of interviewing a selection of prominent figures in humanism, atheism, science and critical thinking. Most of these will be in the form of written interviews, but who knows? I might, down the track, do some video or audio interviews too. This will be dependent on how these interviews are received by my readers.

I don’t want to say too much at this stage, but suffice to say, I already have confirmation from a few very prominent and important people who I’m sure you’d recognise. More information to come. So stay tuned!

The first interview will be published on Atheist Climber Blog’s first birthday, October 10, 2010. So come celebrate with me, and feed your brain with the words of some great thinkers.

Thanks again,
Atheist Climber

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RSA Animate – 21st century enlightenment

September 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is another in the series of lectures from the Royal Society of the Arts, in the same vein as the one I posted yesterday, thius one covering off the idea of The Re-Enlightenment. From the page:

“Matthew Taylor explores the meaning of 21st century enlightenment, how the idea might help us meet the challenges we face today, and the role that can be played by organisations such as the RSA.”

Language as a window into human nature – Steven Pinker

August 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

This is an amazing insight into the uses of language, the way we say things, and swearing. It reveals more about our nature as humans than we give it credit for. It’s quite lengthy, but to be fair to the topic, I think it deserves this amount of time. So grab a coffee/tea/beer and sit back and enjoy.

WARNING: There is some very crass language in this talk.

From the YouTube page:

“For Steven Pinker, the brilliance of the mind lies in the way it uses just two processes to turn the finite building blocks of our language into infinite meanings. The first is metaphor: we take a concrete idea and use it as a stand-in for abstract thoughts. The second is combination: we combine ideas according to rules, like the syntactic rules of language, to create new thoughts out of old ones”

“Dont just vote for them… Pray for them” – Politics and Religion

August 4, 2010 § 3 Comments

Outreach Media have done it again. They have chosen a current topic (for which I applaud them) and then used it for their own message (for which I don’t applaud them). As you may know, I have written on the Outreach Media billboards several times, as I drive past them every day on my way to work, and am aware when they change them each month. This month’s theme is the upcoming Australian Federal Election.

Dont just vote for them... Pray for them

Dont just vote for them... Pray for them

Every month, accompanying their billboard, the have a bible verse, and this month’s is this:

1 Timothy 2:1-2 “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”

This tract from Timothy speaks, in the context above, of praying for our leaders, because if we do, through the will of God, they will be kind and gentle to us. It also says to basically respect all others and that they might to the same to you. It ls like the Golden Rule, do unto others, except that it includes the act of prayer. That’s all very nice isn’t it?

However if one it to dig deeper into the verses of Timothy, after he declares that Jesus appointed him “a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not)”, and after he says that people should pray everywhere they go, the verse goes on to say in 1 Timothy 2

9 In like manner, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefastness and sobriety; not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly raiment; 10 but (which becometh a woman professing godliness) through good works. 11 Let a woman learn in quietness with all subjection. 12 But I permit not a woman to teach, or have dominion over a man, but to be in quietness.”

Now that is odd, don’t you think? Because in the context of the story that Outreach have put the verse on their website, they are claiming that it doesn’t matter who you vote for, more importantly that you pray for them, and God will deliver the best candidate to us to look after us. It is very hypocritical, and somewhat misleading of them to use this verse from Timothy given what he says afterward, especially since Julia Gillard is a woman (oh and an atheist, but that’s ok, God will sort her out later). I wonder if Outreach Media took the time to read the rest of Timothy before suggesting that verse to us in the article.

Now I’m not going to pick on the Outreach article completely. It reads:

“God cares that people are looked after by their rulers. 1 Timothy 2:1-2 teaches us that we should pray for our government. They have such a tremendous and difficult duty. We should pray that our rulers will be wise in making decisions. We should pray that they consider the human rights of every Australian citizen.”

If you read this part, and take out the words “God” and “pray” it actually has a nice sentiment to it, for we do hope for the best from our leaders to treat people with the respect and fairness that all humans deserve. I’m sure you’ll agree. But it goes on to say:

“And, most importantly, we should pray that they serve the living God.”

So according to this article, it is more important that our leader be a god-fearing Christian than that they treat the people of their country with respect and a duty of care.

In fewer words, What Outreach Media is saying is this:

“Do not vote for Julia Gillard, because she is a woman and an atheist. Amen.”

Apart from the blatant sexual discrimination within the verses from Timothy, this is a great example of cherry-picking at the Bible to extract the meaning you want from it, rather than the meaning it actually has or implies. Again, I say, either believe and promote ALL of the Bible and its good and bad points, or promote none of it. If it really is the word of God, then don;t leave out the particularly juicy bits, especially Leviticus.

And as a bit of icing on the cake, the Outreach article adds this prayer at the bottom:

Prayer: Dear God, thank you that Australia is a democracy where we can live in safety and freedom. Please help the elected Government to run our nation with wisdom and discernment, and to honour you in all things. Amen.”

So vote early,  vote often, and vote for a Christian male, in the name of democracy, safety, freedom and God.

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It’s OK, it’s part of my religion

May 29, 2010 § 46 Comments

As you know, my universe has no room for the possibility of a god. And in general I don’t care what other people think and believe as long as their suppositions and practices don’t affect me in any way. You can believe in fairies and unicorns and believe you have to bay at the moon 2 times a night to stop from imploding, and I wouldn’t care less. I’d probably call you a nutbag, but it wouldn’t affect me in any way.

But unfortunately, religions don’t work like that. In particular the religions of Islam and Christianity are guilty of believing that their religion is the ONLY way, and are more than willing to kill and die for it. People of faith not only believe that their religion is the only true way, but they also believe that they have a moral right and obligation to try to make others believe them too. Somehow, the fact that they are “saved” from a fiery fate in the afterlife gives them a duty to tell others about it, and in some cases, kill them if they don’t believe. This affects me, but not directly, as I don’t live in a heavily religious country, I am reasonably well off, and am not threatened by others for not believing their stories.

What got me thinking about this in particular was a report from the ABC that stated that Australian doctors were considering allowing a “ritual nick” to placate those who wished to have their female children “circumcised”. This later turned out to be a false story, but it got me thinking about the way religious people foist their ideals upon not only society, but their own family members. Some of these practices are particularly barbaric, and really deserve to be called out for the brutality it is. And more often than not these atrocities are enacted against women.

Both Christianity and Islam reveal themselves to be anti-women if either of the religions are studied and deeper than the surface edicts of “killing is wrong, stealing is wrong”. Women are not only treated as second-class citizens in both religions, but are treated with unequaled disdain in Islam. The burqa is an example where men choose to force the women of their society to cover themselves up so as to be out of the gaze of other men. They say that it will protect the women from the lecherous eyes of the men around them, citing the fact that men can’t be trusted, but in reality it is the women who are untrusted. They claim this is to give the women some sort of security, but really this is an example of men jealously guarding their “possessions”. Women in this situation have often been quoted as saying that this type of behaviour is not only their wish, but the wish of their God. I can understand that if this is all that a woman had known her whole life, and had never been told otherwise that they may really believe this lie.

In the Christian faith, it is the “original sin” which keeps women down. The fact that the bible, which was written by a man, states that ALL the evils in the world stem from the act of “eating an apple from the garden of Eden” is testament to this fact (this piece of prose is also the root of societal ideas about sex being wrong, bodily functions such as menstruation as a punishment for mankind etc.) Women were also “created” not from mud or dust, but from the rib of a man. A very convenient concept, meaning that women are lesser than men in the first count. Idiocy like this trickles down through all Christian cultures, and is one of the main reasons that women have been kept down. This kind of stone age storytelling came from someone’s imagination, not from God.

If my partner or wife decided to disobey me, would it be just to beat her, stone her to death or set her alight? It’s OK if it’s part of my religion! What about pedophilia? Is it OK to sleep with a 12-year-old? Muhammad had a 12-year-old bride, do you think he waited til she was 16 before he had sex with her? And what does this say for the members of the numerous societies who truly believe that not only are his words the true word of God, but that all his actions are infallible?

Men wrote these “holy books”, not God. Men, who were making decisions based on their own views of the world many, many years ago wrote these texts based on what they would like to see in the world. Women had no say. And who is allowed to make official interpretations of these texts? Men only.

And the main problem here is that the world has changed, and our understanding of the universe has grown exponentially. These ideas came from people who believed that the world was flat, that the sun was carried across the sky in tha back of God’s chariot, that every species of animals on earth fit on a single boat. These ideas are fanciful, antiquated, barbaric, unjust and male-centric. We have grown up a lot as a species. We have increased our knowledge beyond just how to herd goats. We now KNOW so much more, and yet people still depend on these ancient and misogynistic texts to guide their lives.

The idea that we can justify something on any level of barbarity based on the fact that it is either part of a religion, or that someone’s interpretation of a religious text says it is true, is no longer acceptable. The fight for freedom from religion is the fight for freedom for women from oppression at the hands of men. We all need to take a stance in this, and to point out to the wrongdoers that we do not accept that kind of behaviour, nor will we tolerate barbaric “religious” practices and longer, just because we fear to tread on the toes of a few religious extremists.

Your Own Personal Jesus

April 5, 2010 § 31 Comments

It’s Easter, the “most holy day on the Christian calendar” as some would put it. It’s the day that Jesus (the son of God, and the human incarnation of god himself on Earth) died for the sins of man, only to be resurrected on Sunday to rise to Heaven so that we can all be saved from damnation in Hell and have an everlasting “afterlife” at the right-hand of Jesus and God. Makes perfect sense right?

The Resurrection; El GRECO; 1596-1610; oil on canvas, altarpiece, College of Dona Maria; Toledo, Spain

The Resurrection; El GRECO; 1596-1610; oil on canvas, altarpiece, College of Dona Maria; Toledo, Spain.

Again, religion is a soft target for me to criticise, as there are so many holes in the stories that the ridicule of religious beliefs is all too easy. I’m hoping to include my voice to the many other more-educated, better-learned scholars and theological debaters, and add something constructive to the debate.

With that in mind, I’m going to delve into the idea of The Resurrection a little farther, and try to surmise what exactly is the driving force behind this belief, and also what are the assumptions made for this belief to be maintained, and what are the underlying consequences of this belief.

Sins Of Man
Firstly, for this to be true, we must assume that humanity is evil, that our presence on earth is somehow and abomination, an unnatural occurence. “Catholic Guilt” would have us believe that our thoughts and actions in life are crimes, and that we must feel guilty for doing the things that come naturally to us, with special focus on sex.

It goes like this; Sex is evil, and is only for the propagation of the species, in wedlock, under the eyes of God, with his blessing. If you have sex, you must intend to have children from this union. Sex is a necessary evil in the eyes of God, and he only allows it on His terms. Everything else is SIN, including thoughts about sex and carnal lust.

The idea of SIN is a way of controlling people. But Sex is an especially difficult thing to control, for not only is it necessary, but it’s deeply ingrained in out psyches and our DNA, by heredity and human instinct, but it is actually the driving force behind a great deal of human evolution and advancements. By making human procreation something to feel guilty about, religions can control, to some degree, the behaviours of the believers.

Other SINS run are equally as serious, but none of them carry the weight that the “Sins of the Flesh” carry. I won’t mention the irony of this situation given the current state of the Catholic Church and sex/rape scandals.

On the other hand, people DO act questionably for the sake of sex, but I think we’ve grown up enough now to accept responsibility for our own actions, don’t you?

Heaven
In Christian theological beliefs it is accepted that if we pray and obey God’s laws, that we will be reunited with our loved-one in Heaven to live a peaceful existence alongside God and Jesus for all eternity in bliss, no pain, no suffering, no disease, no need for any earthly pleasures.

I have a few problems with this notion.

The idea that this life is the prequel for “a real purpose” devalues the lives we lead on earth, and the consequences of this cause a myriad problems for our societies. One can go to war in the name of their God, with a “knowledge” that if they kill and die for said deity, that they will be saved. It means that those on Earth who are “looking forward to heaven” can knowingly dismiss duties in this world, such as the environment or problems caused by famine and drought. It means that people can treat LIFE as a “dry run” before the real show, up in the sky. It means that by blindly following the words of the holy books, regardless of other consequences this may cause, that they at least will have a blissful existence hereafter.

By claiming “afterlife” one mitigates responsibilities for the real world. And in some cases, like extreme fundamentalism in Christianity and Islam, people are pushing for Armageddon, for the final war, so that they can go to this paradise.

BLAKE, William (b. 1757, London, d. 1827, London) The Lovers' Whirlwind, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta

BLAKE, William (b. 1757, London, d. 1827, London) The Lovers' Whirlwind, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta

Hell
The idea that if we’re good as humans, and follow the edicts of religious faith, praise a God who apparently looks after us, and give over our will and lives to an unseen creator is odd enough. But to back it up, and to make the idea all the more appealing, someone came up with an alternate afterlife scenario, one of eternal punishment and torture.

So if you’re good you get all the things you wanted on earth, if you’re bad you go to a “place” of eternal punishment. Again, this is simply a tactic to control the people. But how long will the idea of Hell continue to be used as a deterrent? The Vatican recently admitted that “Limbo” (the middle ground between Heaven and Hell, where un-Christened babies go) doesn’t exist, so how long before, due to public demand, they dismiss the idea of Hell?

The Afterlife
These ideas of “Afterlife” stem from one thing in life, the very natural fear we have of death. Put simply, all animals fear death, though none so intellectually as mankind. “Fear of death” is very closely linked to self preservation, which is linked to the pain reflex. We have pain to stop us from damaging our bodies, and pain can be seen as a small step toward death. Death is the ultimate unknown, for we can’t see beyond death what happens to the human mind and psyche after the batteries run out.

So the idea of afterlife was invented to “give people purpose” to their lives? Well yes and no. Originally the afterlife was an answer to the question of “What happens after we die?” But people over time identified it as a good motivating factor to keep people in line. This is how religion uses it. If you have enough people believing in an afterlife, but only if they follow your rules, you effectively have an army. You know the rest.

The Easter Spirit
So if you’re good and follow the laws of God, you go to heaven. We know this because Jesus, the son of God (and God himself made corporeal on earth) died and rose from the grave on Easter Sunday (an arbitrary date based on cycles of the moon, originally a spring rejuvenation festival), to save us from sin, and give us everlasting life in Heaven Eternal. If we don’t follow the rules, we go to Hell. Seems simple enough right? Does the Easter Bunny believe in Hell?

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Some Thoughts on Change – The Global Atheist Convention

March 20, 2010 § 10 Comments

It is difficult to talk on the subject of religion without sounding, to some, like a fanatic. Some people I have encountered in life think I am as fanatical in my disbelief as a fundamentalist Christian might be in theirs. Some even say that my Atheism is a religion in itself, or at least that my fervour for atheism is on par with religious fanaticism. So let me put this to you.

Because my atheism is a lack of belief rather than a belief, what exactly am I writing for? If there’s nothing to write *about* as such, why do I keep writing? Why do I care so much about something that doesn’t factor in my understanding of the universe?

I hope this blog entry will answer this question.

In my previous entry, I spoke about the Global Atheist Convention and my initial thoughts on the convention weekend. The weekend was very intense, a lot of people spoke, we all laughed, we all cried, we all ate and drank. It was a merry time had by all. But the main point of the weekend was sharing information, for every person who spoke had a different story to tell and a different point to make. If I had to give you one single thing that they all had in common, I’d have to say it was “a strong desire for change”.

Well I guess it doesn’t take a genius to know that we live in challenging times. There’s a lot going on in our little planet, and we can see everything going on in the world at any given time, with newsfeeds, Twitter, blogs, online data coming from millions of people all at once. We know that climate change is real (whether it is caused by man depends on which “independent” study you read), and that economies are false (just look at the Zimbabwe dollar). The challenges we face are huge, humanity will go through some pretty tough times in the future. One could easily just be overwhelmed into inaction, which is a challenge to overcome in and of  itself.

“Change from what?” you might ask.

The problems are many and varied, but the BIGGEST problem humanity faces is inequality. The reason for inequality  is very complex, but when you boil it down to its essence, this inequality stems from the very place that so many base their lives, and deaths upon. And of course that base is organised religion.

But organised religion is a very soft target, and too many people write off the religious masses as “stupid” or “ignorant”, which is a sweeping statement, and is simply not true of all religious people. The REAL problem is what are the rudimentary elements of the religions themselves; the nature of religions to place one person above another based on arbitrary differences, in defence of the religion, and to the advantage of the male gender.

“WHOAH!” I hear you say, “That’s a big statement right there!”

I’m not going to write about or cite the individual passages in The Bible or The Koran that implicitly say that some men are better than others, and that women are barely human, because that would be a book, or a series of books in itself. But I can summarise these points for you. So let’s look at that “big statement”;

Placing one person before another – Religions say that a person who follows THAT religion is to be favoured over one who follows another religion. In some cases, the person of the other religion, if they don’t convert, should be put to death. This is the cause of, or at least the excuse for many wars, crusades and other altercations.

Arbitrary differences – This includes the belief in another deity or no belief at all, clothing, geography, skin colour, sexuality, life choices, language, culture and political standing. Organised religions feed on the differences between people, amplify them and then nurture a culture of “US versus THEM”. This amplification leads a religious person to feel threatened by the differences in people. This kind of attitude also feeds xenophobic reactions to others, and violence against those who are “other”.

In defence of religion – Religions can take this xenophobia to an extreme by stating that anyone who does not follow this “one true god” should be shunned, excluded, exiled or killed.

To the advantage of the male gender –  this is the “elephant in the room”, religion’s treatment of women; religious texts state that man is superior over ALL women, that women are to come second, if at all. These texts treat women like possessions, breeding machines to deliver sons and to keep out of the way and servile. Some would say that this is an antiquated notion, that these kinds of prejudices toward women are a thing of the past, that anyone in a western “1st World” society doesn’t believe for a second that this attitude toward women holds any sway for us. Unfortunately our societies have been build on this rotten foundation, and once can’t simply say that “this attitude is wrong” to undo the damage that it has caused. It’s more deeply ingrained than we would like to believe.

This injustice to women can be seen in many facets of western society, in pay rates for women vs men, in the objectification of women as sex-objects, the beauty and fashion industries, and in corporations where CEOs and top-paid executives are for the most part men. It’s deeply rooted, and will be difficult to address.

The biggest injustice is served, however, to “3rd world” populations, where the men not only treat the women as possessions, but will regularly beaten, mutilate and kill women in the name of their god. This is written in their scriptures. It is abhorrent.

Time to grow up.

Religious texts were written “by men for men”, to control people, especially women, and to keep the followers in line. One does not need to be a theological scholar to see this. We need to work to keep religion out of politics and the social sphere. We can’t make decisions based on the words of the scriptures, as this will just lead to more hatred, more inequality, more genocide and more war.

The convention was a fantastic experience, and I hope that all in attendance were able to walk away with something of value. But remember, the convention was not what we are striving for, rather it is the first step on a very long and difficult journey. Let’s not become complacent and feel that we have achieved our goal.

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