Humble Belief?

You should be more humble.

It’s really convincing when Christians play that card – usually after they humbly assert that their faith is the only true one, that their god created the entire universe, that I’ll be going to hell because I don’t love that god, and that I’m arrogant for not believing their preposterous scripture.

But tell me – who is the humble one here: He who admits that ‘I don’t know if there is a god’ – or the person who states that ‘I know for fact that this is god, and he wants you to exactly do that‘?

Tell me, dear Christian: when was the last time you heard your priest say ‘maybe there is a god’ or ‘perhaps Jesus wants you to love thine neighbor’? I certainly never did when I went to church. All I ever heard were assertions: god did this, said that, performed this miracle, and made people go there. None of that was ever accompanied by a cautionary ‘maybe’ or humble ‘perhaps’. It was always stated as fact. Do you really think being that arrogant qualifies as being humble? Then why are you accusing atheists, who are doing none of the above, as being arrogant?

Ricky Gervais once observed that it is revealing that atheists are never accosted by ‘hateful satanists’ for not believing in their demon. It’s always the ‘loving Christians’ who insult me for not believing in their god.

Because, seemingly, being insulting is the new humble.

Why bother?

Often, I’m asked why I even bother; why don’t I just shut up and ignore all those religious idiots? After all, it’s none of my business; I really should care less about what people believe. As one exasperated fundamental Christian asked: ‘If you don’t believe in God, why do you keep talking about Him’? And isn’t belief in a benevolent God a good thing?

Of course, most of that is correct: I shouldn’t care about other people’s religion; mostly I don’t. Belief in supernatural beings can be benign. The problem is, however, when someone’s superstition adversely affects the freedom and well-being of others.

In 2004, a devastating Tsunami hit the Aceh province in Indonesia. A horrendous tragedy. Every rational person agrees that this happened naturally. In deeply religious (and therefore scientifically retarded) Aceh, however, those in power saw it as a sign from God that they weren’t pious enough. As a result, Aceh now has one of the most draconic, barbaric and misogynistic Sharia in place that punishes even trivial things like not going to prayer on Friday. It’s irrelevant if you are a muslim or not, by the way. You either go to prayer – or the stockades, awaiting your punishment. Sharia has outlawed cinemas, heavily restricts what – if any – music you may listen to. Women must no longer straddle a motorcycle, nor are they allowed to wear pants.

If you now think that perhaps I’m citing an extreme example to make a point – please recall that less than 50 years ago, children’s playgrounds where closed on Sunday, and dancing was forbidden on holy days – in the UK, Germany, Switzerland and most other European countries.

So the next time you ask why bother, ask yourself: how would you like ten lashes from the whip for skipping a service for the Flying Spaghetti Monster (blessed be his noodly appendages)?

That is why I bother.

And so should you.

A Dog’s Religion

Yesterday I came across a cute picture of dog walking itself, carrying its own leash.

Dog  leash proc Image Credit: Source Unknown/Twitter

The image was  captioned:

a strong independent dog, who don’t need no man

But that’s not what I saw. I just couldn’t help myself – I thought: “look, a religious person.”

The dog can do whatever it wants. Presently, it is walking itself. That’s not a problem.

The problem is the leash. 

To me, the leash represents religion better than most analogies – it’s obviously unnecessary for the dog, it restricts its will, and can be used by anyone to subdue the it, to force it to do someone else’s bidding. The dog would be much better of it it didn’t have a leash. Yet it proudly carries it in it’s jaw.

How is that different from devout believers proudly professing their faith?

Pledge Perfect

Oh, dang. The AHA is at it again, going for the small fry. It really annoys me when an association that I’m a rabid fan of comes off as a bunch of pedantic, narrow-minded gits.

USA Today reports that the AHA has filed suit against the Matawan-Aberdeen Regional School District (N.J.) to have the phrase ‘under god’ stricken from the pledge.

For non-US citizens a few words of background information:

  • In the USA, many states mandate that every child in every school recite the ‘Pledge of Alliance’ on a school day. Yeah, exactly what I think.
  • The original text of this pledge read ‘… one nation indivisible…’ and did not contain the phase ‘under god’. During McCarthy time, to show those little commie bastards who where known to be no-good god-hating atheists, the text was altered to ‘… one nation under God, indivisible…’
  • This change was first deemed unconstitutional in 2002, and later in 2010 it was deemed constitutional.

So why am I blowing a gasket? Are they doing the right thing? Yes. But why don’t they get their priorities in order? The pledge and the dollar bill (‘In God we trust’) are not prime battlegrounds for humanists. They are small fry that resolve themselves over time. Let’s get the big ticket items first, can’t we?

Let’s get everyone’s right for same-sex marriages, women’s right to abort pregnancies, and rid ourselves of Guantanamo Bay Prison, Creationism and Abstinence-only sex ed first, OK?

Friggin Humanists. Always doing the right thing the wrong way.

Sometimes, I hate being a Humanist.

Becoming the Lord of the Flies…

An abominable fundamental Christian book on raising children – written by a pastor and his wife – advocates corporeal punishment using plastic hoses (because they leave fewer marks, but hurt as much as canes do), cold showers, exposure, and ‘a little starvation’ to train children to be as obedient as, well, trained dogs. The book is distributed by churches in the US.

Small wonder that a number of children have died as a result from parents that adhered too closely to this horrific book.

The book states that it’s our job to toughen up our children so they can face a cruel and heartless world.

That’s not our job.

It’s our job to make this world less cruel and heartless – for them and everyone else. Because one thing is certain: if there was a God, he didn’t bother to do so himself.

Open your mind!

Sometime, when discussing religion with a believer, a peculiar accusation comes up: ‘you are so closed-minded’.

Personally, I find that statement to be a near-insult. Deep down I feel that what this person really thinks is ‘You should think like me’, not that I should be open-minded. The fact remains that my mind is open to the possibility of gods – that’s why I ask for proof instead of rejecting the notion out of hand.

In a rational world we are convinced about the existence of things. We don’t really ‘believe’, we merely assume something to be true. These assumptions can easily be invalidated without crushing our self-esteem. Unfortunately, we colloquially often use ‘I believe’ when we mean to say ‘I’m convinced’. Believers latch onto this linguistic imprecision and assert that since we believe these things to be true, science is also a religion. But even if science was a near-religion, the differences between religion and science are staggering:

Let’s assume I’m convinced of a certain assumption: earth is flat. Along comes someone with incontrovertible proof of a different view. A short while later (hopefully) I’ll have accepted the new view on reality and integrated it into my own.

Wishful thinking? No, this happens regularly. Here are two of the most spectacular changes from the past 100 years: Einstein’s theory of relativity over Newtonian Physics and the current model of continents drifting on lava over the Monolithic Earth model. Each time new evidence is found, it is examined, and when a new model fits better, the old one is discarded.

Contrast that with religious thinking: The Bible is the unchanging truth, any evidence that does not fit the ‘truth’ is rejected or laughed away as ‘theory’. Somehow believers sucker themselves into believing that their minds are open when they, on the same grounds that they accept theirs, reject the notion of another god. That is pure dogma – as closed-minded as you can get.

The ‘open your mind’ line is almost as stupid as the other old chestnut ‘you should be more humble’.

Human vs. Religious Rights

Should human rights always outweigh religious rights?

This is the title of a recent debate produced by the BBC that aired as part of ‘The Big Question’ last sunday, January 12, 2014.

I was stunned that the question had to be asked at all, and it’s a sign for rational thinkers that there is lot to be done. For one, religious rights do not, or should not, exist. Modern rights have nothing to with religion, and everything to do with justice. But let’s assume they do. Obviously, the underlying question is really

‘if human rights and religious rights are at odds, which one should take precedence’?

If the two agree, there is nothing to discuss.

Voice for Justice UK“, is a christian belief organization that focuses on maintaining “the original Articles of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights”. Yes, you’re right – that’s a deceptively benign name for an organization whose main purpose is to fight certain human rights like freedom of sexuality or children’s rights (these were ratified after 1948). But anyway, VFJUK sent Lynda Rose to act as Voice in the debate. In a comment posted before the broadcast, she wrote:

But now, apparently, the newly claimed sexual rights of a minority are being prioritised over all other traditional rights, to the extent that ‘religious’ rights are now being assigned a separate, and seemingly subsidiary, category

First of all, it doesn’t matter if rights are new or old – they are only ‘new’ in a sense that they have been written down recently. They should have been universal from day one. Like the laws of Physics, they existed before their discovery. Unlike natural laws, they can be broken. But the human right to live didn’t just exist since 1948 – it existed before; it merely wasn’t enforced. What’s more, all rights apply to everyone, not just some minority. It’s impossible for Lynda to not know that. Claiming that a minority has ‘special rights’ is skirting dangerously close to fear mongering.

I should also point out that ‘Traditional Rights’ in the context of her comment include rights that have been discarded, like the right to own slaves, or the right to discipline your wife if she disobeys. Just because traditionally some people had them does not mean that they were well-conceived. ‘Traditional’ does not trump ‘just’, Lynda, and it troubles me greatly that I must point this out.

Not surprisingly, the ‘newly claimed’ rights that Lynda rails against are the rights of homosexuals to not being discriminated against. It really puzzles me when someone calls the human right not to be discriminated against ‘new’. It’s not new, it has been the right of every human from the dawn of time. It’s only been recognized in 1948, and somewhat later been amended to extend to sexual discrimination. Homosexuals don’t have more rights than anyone else; they have exactly the same rights, and the amendment was necessary because the civilized world recognized that some were being withheld from them.

More disappointingly, though, Lynda seemingly argues that there are universally acceptable ‘religious rights’. This is emphasized by her introduction:

what really astonished me was the easy assumption that human and ‘religious’ rights are different.

They are not.

Yes they are! There is no such thing as a ‘religious right’ – there are merely privileges that many believers feel they are entitled to – and they react violently when they are denied. There simply are no religious rights – which shows the extend of irrationality that this debate is based upon. Rights based on religion or divinity are thankfully a part of our dark past. Today’s laws are mostly built upon humanism. The right of religious freedom is not a religious right. It allows you to do to yourself, and only to yourself, whatever religious thing you want. It includes the freedom to not being religious, and therefore cannot be called a religious right. It’s called a ‘human’ right for a reason.

Most disappointingly of all, though, Lynda closes her comment with this:

On the programme I was reviled for saying we are approaching a time in this country when we may well see active persecution against Christians. I am forced to admit I was wrong – it has already begun.

It’s incredibly selfish and revealing at the same time that Rose tries to make victims out of perpetrators. New legislation was formed to stem the tide of injustice committed by believers. These people seem to think that since it is their ‘tradition’ to mistreat some people it should be kept as a ‘traditional right’. They assert that the new legislation ‘persecutes’ them. Christians in the UK don’t know what persecution is. All they are experiencing here is that some of their self-asserted privileges are being curtailed in the interest of a more ethical community. That’s not persecution. That’s merely called ‘justice’.

There are human rights, which are universal and unalienable. There are no religious rights, only religious privileges.

So, should fundamental human rights always outweigh religious privileges?

Hell yes.

Christmas is when we celebrate trust

Some time ago when I was still believing, I had the rare pleasure of attending an inspiring sermon that actually made sense.

It was Christmas Eve, and I attended the afternoon Christmas Service. In his sermon, the priest told us that Christmas is not just a day of cheer, but also a day to celebrate trust. He demonstrated this by pointing to the Christmas story; the story of pregnant Mary and Joseph, and the fact that Joseph never once doubted her.

I was thunderstruck – I knew the story by heart, but this had never occurred to me. I was deeply impressed.

The priest, unfortunately, was fired.


Human Rights are universal. Unless, of course, they don’t fit your agenda. At the U.N. Third Millennium Summit, King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz defended Saudi Arabia’s position on human rights. To quote the King: “It is absurd to impose on an individual or a society rights that are alien to its beliefs or principles.”

He is talking about the right to live, freedom of speech, religion, and the right not be tortured or enslaved. It makes my skin crawl when a human being tells me that these rights are alien to him.

This is the Saudi version of ‘stop making so much noise about your innocence’ from Kafka’s The Trial

Absurd has reached a new level in Saudi Arabia.

The age of reason?

In most civilized countries (and in the US) we have lots of rules. For example movies and games have an age rating. Anything that may be remotely dangerous to people requires a license and minimum age: to drive a car, drink alcohol, wield heavy machinery, own a dog, teach at a school, run a shop, go scuba diving; in some countries you need a license just to fly a kite.

Everything is regulated – except for the two most dangerous occupations: to breed, and to teach religion. A woman doesn’t need a license to become pregnant – but, strangely, may not abort without one; and any schmuck with a prayer book can teach his particular brand of crazy.

George Carlin once said: “I believed in God until I reached the age of reason”. His wry humor documents an untowardly fact: he was taught religion as a kid.

Why does a child have to be at least 13 years old to be allowed to watch a Harry Potter movie, but no-one intervenes when a preschooler attends a sermon where the priest can preach misogyny, hate, and homophobia on a regular basis?

In my book, religions are rated R; anyone under the age of 16 must not be exposed to the words of preachers and their holy scrolls.

Imagine you first encountered the Bible at age 16. You’d be more inclined to believe in Yoda than give credence to those stories.

Now ask yourself why that would be bad.

Then ask yourself who’d be most opposed to this, and why.