Dr. Dumb

In Liberia, an outbreak of deadly Ebola has already killed more than 1’300 people. Missionary Dr. Kent Brantly contracted the disease himself. Unlike most of the Ebola patients, he survived. Also, unlike most of the Ebola patients, he received an experimental drug designed to cure Ebola. Now, it is too soon to conclude that the serum cured the doctor; ten percent of those who fall ill to Ebola recover by themselves. But it’s enough to be optimistic that the serum helped.

Dr. Brantly, after his recovery, and in full knowledge of the fact that he received experimental treatment, and, despicably, in full knowledge that one of the greatest contributors to the spreading of Ebola in Liberia is rampant superstition, took every opportunity to spread more superstition:

I am more grateful every day to the Lord for sparing my life and continuing to heal my body.


Above all, I am forever thankful to God for sparing my life

Well, you ungrateful idiot, the nurses and doctors who risked their life while treating you are who healed you. Or are you so deluded that you think your god loves you more than those thousands who died? The experimental serum that very likely saved your life was designed by scientists to fight a disease – a disease that has been created by your god. Your god then gave this disease to thousands of people – including you. By surviving, I would argue, you are going against His plan, so don’t thank him too quickly. Next time, don’t take experimental drugs against god-given diseases – just pray and see what happens.

During a press conference, Dr. Dumb then went on to sermonize thusly:

Please continue to pray for the people in Liberia.

No! If you want to help, do something. Send money, food, or organize awareness drives. Praying only helps yourself feeling better, while those in Liberia keep dying. Liberia desperately needs your help – in more than one way: they need better medical infrastructure to fight the outbreak. They need better education to rid the country of dangerous superstitions. Mostly, though, they need greater help in overcoming poverty.

Also, Liberia apparently needs better medical experts to replace those who attribute healing powers to ghosts or gods.

The Internet destroys God!

A few days ago, headlines around the world screamed ‘Internet is killing God’! Well, Nietzsche’s knickers in a twist, Batman! Now, it is a slow news week, and click bait is easier to come by than real news. The study the news articles reference speaks a more measured language, and confirms what everyone knows: Increase someone’s knowledge and that will decrease their likelihood to believe stupid things. Phrasing that more carefully, the researchers say that

Internet use is associated with decreased probability of religious affiliation.

This is not at all surprising. Before the internet connected the homes of sparsely-populated regions (for example the US ‘Heartland’ a.k.a. ‘Hick Central’) to civilization, people had no choice but to believe their priests – they had no viable means of independent confirmation. In Palinland, the Bible was the definite authority on law, moral code and science. This has changed.

The internet works as a catalyst for the mind; it’s not the cause for a pandemic of unbelief. We now have vast resources of scientific knowledge, indexed, fully searchable versions of Bible, Quran and other religious texts, and, admittedly, even vaster resources of cat pictures available at our fingertips. Inquisitive minds use this to confirm or, increasingly, disprove millennia-old hate-filled myths. But it still requires an inquisitive mind.

So the headlines have it wrong. It’s not the Internet that destroys God. It’s knowledge that destroys silly superstitions. If, on the other hand, you want to keep your people religious, you must do as the Taliban and Boko Haram do: forbid education and do your worst to subvert knowledge.

That’s where faith-based schools come in.

Looking back in anger?

When I was a pre-schooler, my grandmother used to tell me stories – lots of stories. Being born in the land of the Brothers Grimm does have its advantages. Some of the stories I found frightening, but most of them enthralled me and engaged my (hyperactive) imagination. As a kid, the distinction between real world and fantasy was arbitrary and flowing; one world bled into the other, both were equally real to me.

Over time, I learned to differentiate between the two. I learned that Hänsel and Gretel didn’t really exist, and that, sadly, neither do dragons.

Today, believers often ask me, “why do you hate God?” I find this question to be disingenuous at best. It seems that they mistake my argument for rationality as animosity towards their god, that I perhaps feel betrayed by the fact that he doesn’t exist. Nothing could be farther from the truth. When I found out that Gretel was a fictitious character, I didn’t start hating her. I accepted it as fact. Why would I feel betrayed? Moreover, how do you hate something that does not exist?

Between the Frog King, Rapunzel and Cinderella, I of course heard the stories of Noah, Adam and Eve, and Jesus. Which kid in my town hasn’t? Today I know that these tales are fiction. Fairies, Dragons and Gods don’t exist. I’m saddened by the fact that they don’t, because the world would be much more colorful if they did. But hate? Again – how could I hate something that does not exist?

No sane person would hate gods.

… or believe in them.

Sharia’s bad rap

There is no doubt that the word ‘sharia’ carries huge challenges in relation to public relations,

declares UK’s Minister of Silly Thought (a.k.a. Minister of Faith), Baroness Warsi. Indeed. So do ‘Spanish Inquisition’ and ‘Apartheid’. All for good reason. She then goes on to make a couple of important points:

I am a British minister in the British cabinet […]. I am not elected[…]. I therefore don’t represent a constituency and I certainly don’t represent the British Muslim community.

Correct on all accounts – which rather does raise the question what the hell (pardon the pun) her role is. Except being a Baroness, which in the UK can be a job unto itself – see Queen (not the music group). If there is one thing she does it’s opposing ‘secular fundamentalists’ like Richard Dawkins.

The most aggressive post I get is from people who are secular fundamentalists,

she complains. She defines secular fundamentalists as people who say that there should be no public space for faith. It’s not entirely clear what her complaint is, but looking at other fundamentalists, she may complain about the complete absence of violence, calls for murder, or similar paraphernalia of standard fundamentalism that can be righteously denounced or talked away as being done by people who are ‘not true believers’.

It does not occur to her that the obvious opposite, someone who advocates faith in the public space, or, not to put too fine a point on this, holds public office for faith, must be a religious fundamentalist. Then again, reason never was the faithful’s strong suit, and she’s currently UK’s Queen of Faith.

It’s obvious that not only Sharia’s bad rap is well deserved.

With friends like these…

Martin Luther, reverend über-father of all Protestants had a sharp wit, and an even sharper pen. He knew that for the church to rule supreme, there was but one enemy.

He wrote 1546 in his last sermon in Wittenberg:

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but–more frequently than not–struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God.

Up to here, every atheist in the world nod in agreement. Except for his conclusion:

Reason […] is the devil’s greatest whore.

It’s obvious that Luther wanted – needed – people to remain stupid in order to fill churches.

With supporters like these, faith doesn’t need enemies.