Brian Edwards Media

Keep Satan (and God) off the Buses

 

uk_bus_112

 

NZ Bus has bowed to blackmail and changed its mind about allowing the slogan there’s probably no god – now stop worrying and enjoy your life to appear on the sides of its buses.

As a commercial operator, the company is entitled to make that decision. It no doubt reasoned that disgruntled theists would stop travelling on its buses and might well start a campaign to encourage others to do the same.

The god-botherers must believe that their creed is pretty weak if they see something as innocuous and understated as this particular slogan as representing a threat. Most atheists would say there is almost certainly no God, conceding only that it isn’t possible to prove the case one way or the other. The non-existence of God comes as near as possible to being a fact, since there is absolutely no empirical evidence to support a claim to the contrary. 

There probably isn’t an issue of free speech here either and for the same reason: that NZ Bus is a commercial operator and has an absolute discretion as to what advertising will or will not be carried on its buses. But the theists should at least realise that censorship of opposing ideas isn’t a good look for anyone who thinks they hold a strong and supportable position. It didn’t work for the Inquisition. And they had thumbscrews, the rack and the iron maiden.

There is, however, an issue of fairness here. As an atheist I find myself living in a society awash with religious propaganda. It would be virtually impossible to walk down any major road in New Zealand without encountering a billboard or sign advertising God or Jesus.

Religion and politics are supposed to be separate in this country, but our parliament is opened each sitting day with a prayer:

‘Almighty God, humbly acknowledging our need for Thy guidance in all things, and laying aside all private and personal interests, we beseech Thee to grant that we may conduct the affairs of this House and of our country to the glory of Thy holy name, the maintenance of true religion and justice, the honour of the Queen, and the public welfare, peace, and tranquility of New Zealand, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.’

Given the way our MPs ‘conduct the affairs of this House’, either God isn’t giving them enough guidance or they aren’t listening or there is no God. There may well be a constitutional argument for getting rid of the parliamentary prayer, but it is nowhere near as strong as the argument advanced by the total disregard shown by our politicians for  the conduct and values to which they nonetheless continue to say  ‘Amen’.

Our national anthem makes further nonsense of the concept of New Zealand as a secular state.

God of Nations at Thy feet,
In the bonds of love we meet,
Hear our voices, we entreat,
God defend our free land.
Guard Pacific’s triple star
From the shafts of strife and war,
Make her praises heard afar,
God defend New Zealand.

According to the most recent New Zealand Census  one in three New Zealanders have no religion and therefore cannot in conscience join in the singing of their  own national anthem.   And what person with an ounce of dignity or self respect would want to sing that obsequious dirge anyway?  Give me La Marseillaise any time.

Religious propaganda is everywhere.  Check out any news bulletin on almost any night of the week. When anything good happens, we’re thanking God; when anything bad happens we’re praying that it won’t happen again. I sometimes wonder why it does not occur to people that if God failed  to prevent the last thousand human tragedies and natural disasters, he is unlikely to turn up to prevent the two thousand and first. You’d do better to take your chances with Superman.

Whoever’s right or wrong – and if we’re right,  we atheists will never know it – the propaganda balance between believers and non-believers is somewhat unequal.  So it seemed rather mean-spirited, not to mention chicken-livered  of the God-botherers to use their ticket-buying power (or more likely their Supergold cards) to prevent  their fellow citizens being exposed to the anodyne little opinion that ‘there’s probably no god’.

I take heart from the sure and certain fact that nothing can draw more attention to a commercial than banning it.

And in the meantime, I assume that New Zealand Bus will not be displaying any signs that say ‘God is love’ or ‘Jesus saves’.

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77 Comments:

  1. I don’t know who complained, but I think the advertising should have been accepted, and I say this as a Catholic who definitely believes there is a God and you should be concerned with the state of your immortal soul.

    A basic human right (one I believe comes from God)is freedom of religion/non-religion. The advertisement will do nothing to sway the committed and there is, as you say, advertising that is religious in nature.

    • I don’t know who complained, but I think the advertising should have been accepted, and I say this as a Catholic who definitely believes there is a God and you should be concerned with the state of your immortal soul.

      Very reasonable, Tess. Except that the ‘basic human right’ is simply that, it does not have to be granted by anyone, including God, if there were a god.

  2. or ‘Jesus enslaves’

  3. I saw a wonderful bumper sticker the other day – “Lord, save me from your followers”

  4. In all of human existence there has never been any proof of a God. Believers make the greatest act of faith possible; but it is nothing more than faith. Would any of them have faith in a financial adviser to the same extent?

    • In all of human existence there has never been any proof of a God.

      Correct, but also no disproof. One cannot prove that something does not exist.

  5. Tess – weren’t the Catholics one of the complainants? I suspect rank and file religionists are not bothered by such ads – its only narrow-minded religious spokespeople and leaders. A very small number.

    • Tess – weren’t the Catholics one of the complainants? I suspect rank and file religionists are not bothered by such ads – its only narrow-minded religious spokespeople and leaders. A very small number.

      I don’t know about the Catholics, Ken. But ‘a very small number’ or not they achieved what they set out to achieve – to stop the ‘ad’ appearing on the buses.

  6. Whoever’s right or wrong – and if we’re right, we atheists will never know it – the propaganda balance between believers and non-believers is somewhat unequal.

    I have to disagree with you there Brian. I know there is no God. I think the evidence for God is absent and the whole concept is simply so preposterous that I’m happy to live with the certainty that there is no such thing.

    I think the reason why religious pressure groups are so hostile to this rather innocuous ad is that they fear it may inspire people to ask them to front up with evidence for their claims.

    • I have to disagree with you there Brian. I know there is no God. I think the evidence for God is absent and the whole concept is simply so preposterous that I’m happy to live with the certainty that there is no such thing.

      No, Sean, you don’t know there is no God. All the evidence or lack of evidence may suggest that there is no God, but none of us can say we know that. I don’t think even Richard Dawkins would claim that he knew there was no God.

  7. BE – in the short term these bigots may appear to have achieved their aim. But nit is a common story overseas. Often these ads have been stopped because of complaints. This has created a lot of publicity for the ads and their organisations. In the end the bus companies have usually conceded the right to the ads, maybe after a human rights complainant, and they have gone ahead.

    this will probably happen here, one way or another.

    These bigots would have been more sensible to hold the tongues. Grin and bear it. This way they just draw attention to the ads.

  8. The reason there is a God is that we are totally “free” and God as we call him/her would be the first to insist on our total freedom, after all the whole point of life is that we are set free on Paradise and the rest is up to us, no lightening bolts, no thunderous voices, just total and complete freedom, Hitler or Mother Theresa, its all our choice because as that old whory saying goes, if you love somebody, then you set them free. So advertise away atheists, yiou are free and any advertising is good advertising they say. ( Except when its on RNZ of course )

    • The reason there is a God is that we are totally “free” and God as we call him/her would be the first to insist on our total freedom, after all the whole point of life is that we are set free on Paradise and the rest is up to us…

      I don’t doubt your sincerity, PeeMack, but I can’t make sense of this. Why does ‘God’ have to come into the equation at all? And though it would be nice to think that ‘we are set free on Paradise and the rest is up to us’, a majority of the human race are born into something closer to hell. For a different view of ‘free will’ you might like to have a look at an earlier post of mine on determinism. http://brianedwardsmedia.co.nz/2009/12/lazy-blogger-has-no-choice-but-to-re-hash-old-column-on-hard-determinism/

  9. No, Sean, you don’t know there is no God. All the evidence or lack of evidence may suggest that there is no God, but none of us can say we know that.

    I get what you are saying Brian, and I hope I haven’t offended. And I certainly feel for Dawkins’ having to maintain a consistency in this area. I guess I’m trying to express my fundamental resentment against having to phrase my Atheism to include an uncertainty.

    Why should the burden of proof be on me? My position is I can not believe in an all-powerful, ever-present, invisible and undetectable being who may or may not keep notes in a celestial scorebook about everyone’s thoughts and activities for all eternity just because some people claim it exists.

    To expand from just the individual, I think the question can be asked ‘Why should Atheists weaken their position by allowing space for the existence of the astoundingly improbable?’

    If I wanted to include doubt in my position, there is another option – I could be an agnostic. I’m more certain than that.

    • I get what you are saying Brian, and I hope I haven’t offended. And I certainly feel for Dawkins’ having to maintain a consistency in this area. I guess I’m trying to express my fundamental resentment against having to phrase my Atheism to include an uncertainty.

      As they say, Sean, I know where you’re coming from. The problem is that if you say you know there is no god, you undermine your case. You also allow the believers to say that they know there is a god. A difficulty for the atheist is that it’s possible to know something exists but not possible to know it doesn’t.

      I’ve never bothered too much with the distinction between atheist and agnostic. Most dictionaries define an atheist as a person who does not believe in or denies the existence of a god or gods. That’s you and me. An agnostic to me is just a wishy-washy atheist.

  10. As one of the God botherers as you put it, I am saddened over the decision of NZ Bus, just as I was saddened by the actions of those defaced the Church poster in Ak and am saddened by any of those who are unable to tolerate a contrary view.

    Christians need to be challenged constantly and should not be offended. The opinions of BE and others who are atheist make me think about my faith. As you suggest the faith of those who are offended by such posters cannot be very strong.

    As for the poster, “Lord, save me from your followers” for every bigot who distorts the word of God, there are thousands of Christians who quietly try and live their faith without ostentation and without interfering with the beliefs and rights of others. Unfortunately it is the bigot who make the news.

    As I have promised before, Brian, I shall put in a good word for you when you arrive at the Pearly Gates and are told to shove off, although there is no guarantee that I shall not be in the same position as you but for different reasons.

  11. God or no God, my major problem is the definition of god as a deity. I’ve always thought of “god” as a unified force existing within everything. Good and evil are our conscious mind attempting to rationalise our world.This is only my opinion.
    The bus banner should have been allowed to fly as it definitely provokes thought. After reading these posts maybe I’m just a ‘wishy washy atheist’ after all.

    • God or no God ,my major problem is the definition of god as a deitie.Ive always thought of “god” as a unified force existing within everything.Good and evil are our conscious mind attempting to rationalise our world.This is only my opinion.

      Fair enough. But frankly I always thought the old man with a beard wreaking vengeance on the unbelievers was a far more effective God than the redefinitions of God as love, or God in nature or God as Gaya. I’m inclined to think that the Catholics have got it right. Stick to your doctrinal guns. No fraternising with those wishy washy C of E ideas that we’re not meant to take the Jesus story literally. People want certainty from religion, not a whole lot of options as to what to believe.

  12. PS let’s have less of the ageist crap – Supergold card holders indeed. Judy, please deal with your husband! My son goes to an evangelical church that attracts a thousand each sunday. Whilst the ‘mainstream’ churches may be losing young people, the evangelical movements are capturing them in big way.

    • Whilst the ‘mainstream’ churches may be losing young people, the evangelical movements are capturing them in big way.

      Quite right. See my answer to PJR.

  13. Of certainties and uncertainties. What I do know as a fact is that I contributed money towards these displays. I shall be extremely disappointed if an individual or group prevail here. Have they such little faith in their god’s ability to cope with the issue? Fundamentalism is spreading its influence everywhere – schools in particular. I wish that the Catholics and Anglicans would claim their god back, because the Four Square Gospellers have hijacked their religion.

  14. Don Donovan wrote – “In all of human existence there has never been any proof of a God”.

    BE replied – “Correct, but also no disproof. One cannot prove that something does not exist”.

    BE, you are 100% mistaken. You can definitely prove that something does not exist if its defined properties are self-contradictory. For example, something cannot be simultaneously blue and not-blue.

    God has this self-refuting aspect in spades. Firstly god is supposed to be infinitely just, but also infinitely merciful. So, does he let people off, or punish them? It is self-contradictory.

    What about the classic one of god being simultanously omnipotent and omni-benevolent? Epicurus saw through that contradiction about 300 year before Christ:

    If God is willing to prevent evil, but is not able to
    Then He is not omnipotent.

    If He is able, but not willing
    Then He is malevolent.

    If He is both able and willing
    Then whence cometh evil?

    If He is neither able nor willing
    Then why call Him God?

    • BE, you are 100% mistaken. You can definitely prove that something does not exist if its defined properties are self-contradictory. For example, something cannot be simultaneously blue and not-blue.

      I used to argue like this when I was at university. But this is really just Philosophy 101 semantics. The flaw in the argument is that the very idea of God presupposes qualities that our beyond our comprehension. ‘Clever’ atheists used to ask the question: If God is omnipotent, can He make a stone so heavy that he can’t lift it? A yes or no answer would both mean that God was not omnipotent – there was something He couldn’t do. But if you accept the possibility of omnipotence the problem disappears. The answer is yes, God can do it. As to how He deals with this seeming impossibility, we may never know.

  15. The problem is that if you say you know there is no god, you undermine your case. You also allow the believers to say that they know there is a god.

    You’ve convinced me Brian, I will have to change my position to accommodate this. Not sure how…

  16. “The answer is yes, God can do it. As to how He deals with this seeming impossibility, we may never know.”

    “God” is therefore unknowable by humans.

    This raises the problem of how we can interpret “God’s” will. Wasn’t it Rasputin who advanced the thesis that “God” loves to forgive so sinning pleases “God” ?

    I seem to remember one of my philosophy mentors saying that, in matters of faith, rationality is employed then dismissed as needed – like a bus.

    • “God” is therefore unknowable by humans.

      I suppose, but only if he chooses to be. That’s something I’ve never understood – why is God so painfully shy? Wouldn’t it be simpler to make an appearance on the world stage and settle the matter once and for all. Why be so coy? Walter C Smith wrote the great hymn Immortal, invisible, God only wise , which begins:

      Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
      In light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
      Most blessèd, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
      Almighty, victorious, Thy great Name we praise.

      And ends:

      All laud we would render; O help us to see
      ’Tis only the splendour of light hideth Thee,
      And so let Thy glory, Almighty, impart,
      Through Christ in His story, Thy Christ to the heart.

      In Christian theology God has, of course, already appeared. But the Jesus story, though wonderful, just doesn’t stand rational examination.

  17. One cannot prove that something does not exist.

    I disagree. Andrew Wales, for example, proved that there are no whole number solutions to Fermat’s Equation =)

    [I thoroughly recommend the book, and for that matter, the documentary]

    • I disagree. Andrew Wales, for example, proved that there are no whole number solutions to Fermat’s Equation =)

      I think we’re rather stretching things here, Graeme. ‘Something’ to me means ‘some thing’, whereas a number or for that matter a solution seems to me to be an abstraction. I think my reply to Bill Forster is rather more practical.

  18. I’m no philosopher, but I’m not to sure about BE’s assertion that “you cannot prove that something doesn’t exist”. Suppose that some enthusiastic but misguided individuals declared that they worshipped a god that physically manifested itself as a 500m sphere hovering 2km above Easter Island in the Pacific. In that case, disproving the existence of this hypothetical god is readily achievable with modern technology (a simple flyover).

    The only difficulty with disproving the existence of god comes from the particular properties normally attributed to god. For example, if I reuse the words of previous poster Sean, “an all-powerful, ever-present, invisible and undetectable being who may or may not keep notes in a celestial scorebook about everyone’s thoughts and activities for all eternity”.

    The word “undetectable” poses a problem, but perhaps we can be allowed to delete that word on the basis that undetectability implies irrelevancy.

    We are accustomed to science proceeding incrementally, revealing an ever more complex and nuanced reality. But just suppose for a moment that the science of physics eventually delivers a perfect “theory of everything”. Imagine this theory neatly explains all of reality. Ideally I can imagine such a theory could include a brilliant insight that explains why there is a reality as opposed to a simple void. Imagine this theory is so perfect it becomes completely uncontroversial, in the 2+2=4 sense of the word. Conventional wisdom probably dismisses the possibility of such a thing, but allow your imagination to wander for a moment, imagine the knowledge and capability of a human race 100,000 years advanced on our own (perhaps by comparing our current knowledge to our predecessors 100,000 years ago).

    I would posit that for such a future civilization, disproving (or for that matter proving) the existence of a god defined by Sean’s words would be no more difficult than disproving the existence of the hypothetical Easter Island god today.

    • I’m no philosopher, but I’m not to sure about BE’s assertion that “you cannot prove that something doesn’t exist”.

      Oh dear, Bill. To prove that something did not exist, you would require all knowledge of the universe, both natural and (quite possibly) supernatural. Now I know you’re a clever fellow, but I think this might just be beyond you.

  19. Brian this is where I differ completely, the Earth is Paradise, what humanity tends to do to to their lives on Paradise is turn them into a living hell, that is their choice. To explain, “We are all born Angels, then we are all given to humans”. It is our limited physical nature that traps us in the “now” and stops us seeing all the way back and all the way forward and our place in that simple scheme. But a blink in the eye over and over again we are gifted life after life free as birds. Our problem is simply a serious inablity to see past our eyes. Those that can see see, while those that can’t don’t. We are all free to see or not to see, its our choice simple az.

    • Brian this is where I differ completely, the Earth is Paradise, what humanity tends to do to to their lives on Paradise is turn them into a living hell, that is their choice.

      If you say so, PeeMack

  20. To try and clarify. Meditation is the simple art of seeing with the eyes closed and hearing with the ears plugged and only by stopping our whirring mind do we begin to realise there is a third companion in our lives, what most masters call a soul, and that is a wonderous and most powerful thing. Problem is most humans spend all their life constantly talking, thinking or playing with themselves. You gotta larf! I do an awful lot. Set completely free on Paradise with a mind the size of a planet and we still can’t even deal with our doo do’s properly. No, there’s no dog!

  21. BE – “I used to argue like this when I was at university. But this is really just Philosophy 101 semantics.”

    No, it is logic. Not semantics.

    BE – “The flaw in the argument is that the very idea of God presupposes qualities that our beyond our comprehension.”

    Imagining an object does not make it real. Imagining an object which posesses self-contradictory properties makes it infinitely less real. Stating that this imaginary object is so powerful that it can overcome these prior obstacles still does not make it real. Stating that that the previous sentences are all just a “semantic argument” still does not make said object real.

    BE – “But if you accept the possibility of omnipotence the problem disappears.”

    No, I don’t accept that omnipotence of any sort exists. Furthermore, you would have to define exactly what sort of omnipotence – energy levels? knowledge storage and information processing ability? – and then demonstrate that such a thing was possible.

    Using the word “omnipotence” is the real semantic argument here – one designed to smuggle another imaginary property into the discussion, and then letting god takes its place.

    However I don’t normally argue the contradictory properties argument – it was a direct refutation to your mistaken assertion that it is impossible to prove non-existence.

    I normally argue that we use the process of science to model the external world as accurately as possible inside our heads. This relies on objectivity in order to separate a provisional model from delusion (sanity from madness). Objectivity requires that the mental model be validated by testing it against the external world – hence the requirement for evidence, plus a suite of other sanity checks. And this process works profoundly well!

    But – zero evidence for any gods, plus the various properties of said gods fly in the face of what we do know is true about the universe. Hence no gods.

    Evidence for god is required to state otherwise.

    • You’ve lost me, cyberguy. But just a couple of quick points.

      It is logic, not semantics. Logic tells you little or nothing about truth. Logic deals with sequence of argument. Here’s a logical syllogism, the ‘modus ponens’. If A then B; A therefore B. If a dog barks, it wants a cuddle; this dog is barking. Therefore it wants a cuddle. Entirely logical, whatever you put in for A and B. But utterly untrue.

      BE – “But if you accept the possibility of omnipotence the problem disappears.” No, I don’t accept that omnipotence of any sort exists. You weren’t being asked to accept that omnipotence of any sort exists. This was purely a hypothesis: if such a thing as an omnipotent being existed, then, by definition, there would be nothing that being could not do, regardless of how impossible or illogical this might seem to us lesser beings.

      Finally, since neither of us appear to believe in the existence of God, why are we having this protracted debate? Can we leave it at this: I say you can’t prove the non-existence of God; You believe you can.

  22. Mankind is only limited by his own beliefs

  23. I believe in God “completely”, I know him very well, he is a very very nice and funny being, it’s just that the God I know is not punitive in any way. he sets us all totally free to believe and do whatever we want to. All he wants us to do is ultimatley create in the same way he does.That power is within every one of us. The problem I see is the incredible power of our logical ego based bio calculators (brains) to completely mislead us. Logic is logic and it simply can’t explain creation. Bless yo Brian.

  24. “Oh dear, Bill. To prove that something did not exist, you would require all knowledge of the universe, both natural and (quite possibly) supernatural. Now I know you’re a clever fellow, but I think this might just be beyond you.”

    I provided a very specific argument which you have not engaged with at all, which is unlike you and disappointing. I was clearly not making the case for myself as an individual. I was challenging you to let your imagination take flight a little, and to consider the possibility that in the fullness of time humanity will really figure out all the mysteries of the universe and (possibly) beyond. This possibility is routinely rejected as unrealistic, but is there any absolute reason why such a scenario could not come to pass ? I am a humanist and an optimist, to me it is a nice fantasy and I defy you or any one else to prove that it is absolutely beyond the realms of the possible. Of course I am speculating wildly, but I can at least imagine a world 100,000 years from now when super intelligent humans have an incomprehensibly (to us) advanced understanding of reality. My guess is that our current notions of god are nothing more than tenuously surviving remnants of ancient man’s fumbling attempts to build models of reality. To the super beings in my thought experiment, these god notions would be irrelevant and probably long forgotten.

  25. 25

    You only need to believe in God, if you’re scared of the finality of Life. People need religion like a baby needs a comforter. Get over yourselves, bible-bashers — you’re not so important that you need to exist beyond a finite time span. Life eternal is for the deluded, consumed by an overwhelming sense of self-worth. A speck of matter in the cosmos, as insignificant as a grain of sand in a desert.

    • You only need to believe in God, if you’re scared of the finality of Life. People need religion like a baby needs a comforter. Get over yourselves, bible-bashers — you’re not so important that you need to exist beyond a finite time span.

      As atheists, do we have to deal with the beliefs of others in such a dismissive and arrogant way as this. Life eternal is for the deluded, consumed by an overwhelming sense of self-worth. Maybe it’s you who needs to get over yourself, Clifford. Frankly, the tenor of some of these comments inclines me to the view that atheists should be saved from some of their friends.

  26. Post #3
    You wrote10 hours ago
    “There is PROBABLY no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”

    This slogan is faulty on three counts.

    The word “God” has no place on an atheist slogan.

    1) By applying religious nomenclature to an atheist perspective we are both reinforcing and propagating the memetics of the very position we are trying to discredit.

    2) “There is probably no god”
    By applying inductive logic we are weakening the original premise and concluding that the absence of supernatural belief is only probable.
    We are atheists, absence of supernatural is a given empirical fact.

    3) “Now stop worrying, and enjoy your life”
    What self respecting deity worshiper is going to “stop worrying and enjoy life”, after the pithy grey slop of a comment like “There is probably no god”

    This comment neither serves atheists nor allows the religious to contemplate their delusional bronze age mythology, it is simply divisive, inflammatory, and gives rise to a weak argument for atheism and secular liberalism.

    Never the less the practice of displaying atheist and secular ideas in the public domain is a good one, as it incites and facilitates public discourse on civil liberties, equality, and human rights. In this way we can highlight unlawful discrimination of secular ideals, and use this as a platform to discredit those who attempt to influence legislature based on scripture and dogma.

    A good idea in theory, but can we come up with a better slogan that reflects our naturalistic world view without watering down our standpoint.

    • Post #3 You wrote10 hours ago “There is PROBABLY no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”
      This slogan is faulty on three counts.

      Good heavens! (Whoops! I’m probably “reinforcing and propagating the memetics of the very position we are trying to discredit.”)

      “Absence of supernatural is a given empirical fact.” “Their delusional bronze age mythology'”

      Mostly I think this is high-sounding academic twaddle. One can admire your certitude but not your intellecutal arrogance.

      I’m an atheist, but I’m very aware of the comfort that religious belief brings to millions of people. My mother’s faith sustained her throught hardship and illness to the end of her life. Against that, the philosphy of non-belief that we both share is a sterile and unproductive thing.

      I’m not sure what age you are, but whatever age it is, I suggest you grow up.

  27. May I add a further comment?

    It is because I believe in God that I do enjoy life so much. My beliefs shape the way I try to live and way I try to behave towards others and before anyone jumps on me, I totally accept that there are thousands of atheists who live their lives as well as any Christian.

    Clifford, I do have to agree with Brian. I respect your point of view but like Brian I do wonder why you feel the need to be so abusive about those who disagree with you. It is a fault on the part of both militant atheists and militant Christians; a total intolerance for any view but their own. Incidentally I do not, I think have an overwhelming sense of self worth. I just happen to believe that death is not final.

  28. What gets me about atheists (and I am in my own quiet way, an atheist myself) is the bloody shrillness of so many of them. So many have the same light-in-the-eyes, fixed-grin certainty as the most annoyingly evangelical Christians and the smugness of their self-righteousness is as repulsive as the smarmy superiority of the door-knocking cretins who interrupt my weekends to talk to me about my hellbound lifestyle.
    I’m happy enough for my mother to offer up masses and rosaries for the reconversion of my withered soul, even though I don’t believe any of it.
    Most Christians I know are privately so and do not insist on starting debates about God over a few pints. Sadly, all too many atheists I know just can’t shut up about God and religion. I’m starting to think they protest too much.

    • What gets me about atheists (and I am in my own quiet way, an atheist myself) is the bloody shrillness of so many of them. So many have the same light-in-the-eyes, fixed-grin certainty as the most annoyingly evangelical Christians and the smugness of their self-righteousness is as repulsive as the smarmy superiority of the door-knocking cretins who interrupt my weekends to talk to me about my hellbound lifestyle.
      I’m happy enough for my mother to offer up masses and rosaries for the reconversion of my withered soul, even though I don’t believe any of it.
      Most Christians I know are privately so and do not insist on starting debates about God over a few pints. Sadly, all too many atheists I know just can’t shut up about God and religion. I’m starting to think they protest too much.

      Right on, Don. Curious, isn’t it. I’ve been an atheist since I was 16. I’ve talked and written about my beliefs. But express the slightest reservation about the people or the creed and these ‘free-thinkers’ are ready to burn you at the stake.

  29. “Absence of supernatural is a given empirical fact.” “Their delusional bronze age mythology’”

    “Mostly I think this is high-sounding academic twaddle. One can admire your certitude but not your intellecutal arrogance”

    You classify my comments as high-falutin twaddle.
    Your dislike of my delivery has no relevance and my claim still stands unless you wish to refute it. You say you are an atheist, then I dare to say we are on the same page unless you want to rethink your position.
    I stand by my premise that irrational, supernatural beings/causes/arguments are not a valid substitute for reality.

    “I’m an atheist, but I’m very aware of the comfort that religious belief brings to millions of people. My mother’s faith sustained her throught hardship and illness to the end of her life. Against that, the philosphy of non-belief that we both share is a sterile and unproductive thing”.

    Nowhere in my post did I suggest that supernatural belief, imaginary friends, or the tooth fairy do not bring comfort and consolation to millions of people. On this I agree with you wholeheartedly, but once again you simply purport to dislike my tone and in so doing you imply the comfort of religion relatively innocuous, just a bunch of nice fairytales, a source of comfort. However it is this type of magical thinking that allows the disconnect between actions and real-world consequences, once you buy into a system of belief that assigns responsibility to supernatural beings there can be no accountability and every manner of atrocity become possible as the history of Christianity demonstrates with horrendous proficiency. How innocuous is it now??

    Does Religion provide comfort?, do religious people do good things? Without a doubt, but even a broken clock is right twice a day.

    I am not interested in debating the existence of God with people of faith, everybody has the human right to believe what they want. But if you are going to support, or subscribe to religion do so in it’s entirety instead of cherry-picking the bits you like.

    “I’m not sure what age you are, but whatever age it is, I suggest you grow up”.

    You condescension is beneath you, Whew! I feel like I feel like I have just been told off by my father.

    • Does Religion provide comfort?, do religious people do good things? Without a doubt, but even a broken clock is right twice a day

      Can’t you hear yourself? you accuse me of condescension. Does the condescension and arrogance of the things you yourself say not strike you? If you write in this dismisssive way about the beliefs of other people, you must expect a response in kind.

      As for atrocities. Yes, there have been terrible atrocities in the name of God and terrible atrocities in the name of atheistic Communism. At the heart of those atrocities lay the tunnel-vision certitude of having a monopoly on truth, the very flaw that I am accusing you of.

  30. 30

    “Frankly, the tenor of some of these comments inclines me to the view that atheists should be saved from some of their friends”.

    So much for heeding the rallying cry, Ingrate! A stunning betrayal. You sure, you don’t have a gold letter-embossed “Bible” by your bedside table, and framed embroidered scripture quotes hanging on your hallway walls?

    Must be a case of having a bob each way. Hedging your bets, so to speak.

  31. Yes, Brian. It reminds me (and no pun intended) of the scene from The Life of Brian where Brian tells the multitude: “You’re all individuals.” And they reply in one voice: “Yes, we ARE all individuals.”

    (Incidentally, I’m fairly sure that the internet has a lot to do with the way people have become more strident in their opinions. I guess sitting behind a keyboard being shoutily brave all day gets to be a habit after a while.)

  32. Clifford, it is not a matter of BE hedging his bets; it is a matter of good manners a virtue that you, Melissa and some others sadly appear to lack.

    I have read what Brian has to say on this topic on many occcasions and regardless of my beliefs have always enjoyed his arguments. I have also admired the fact that he has never lapsed into patronising, condescending abuse. You should learn the art some time; it would make your arguments far more convincing.

  33. Burning at the stake is a punishment for sedition.

  34. Atheism is never on human lips as we die. So you have to ask why should we read about it on a bus? Just an inconveniant thought. Sorry Brian.

    • Atheism is never on human lips as we die. So you have to ask why should we read about it on a bus? Just an inconveniant thought. Sorry Brian.

      Well, I’m not quite sure what evidence you have to say that “atheism is never on human lips when we die.” How many deathbed scenes have you witnessed. However, I know the point you’re making. But if one’s reason for a deathbed conversion is fear, then the conversion doesn’t strike me as being worth very much. I suspect that most people on their deathbeds aren’t thinking very much, other than relief from the suffering that may have accompanied their last weeks or months.

  35. “I’m not sure what age you are, but whatever age it is, I suggest you grow up”

    We all struggle with this notion, however we move on!

  36. I guess instead of taking the Atheist bus I’ll just have to keep driving the Flying Spaghetti Monster Fiat;

    http://rcd.typepad.com/personal/2009/09/a-fiat-bravo-touched-by-his-noodly-appendages.html

  37. Strange what is on human lips when they die – Christian and atheist alike:

    King George V: “Bugger Bognor”.
    John Maynard Keynes: “I wish I’d drunk more champagne.”
    Paul Claudel: “Doctor, do you think it could have been the sausage?”
    Humphrey Bogart: “I should never have switched from Scotch to Martinis.”
    Terry Kath:”Don’t worry, it’s not loaded.”
    (fans of the rock group Chicago will understand that one)
    Sir Laurence Olivier: “This isn’t Hamlet, you know, it’s not meant to go into the bloody ear.” (To his nurse, who spilt water over him while trying to moisten his lips.)
    Karl Marx: “Go on, get out. Last words are for fools who haven’t said enough.”
    Dylan Thomas:”I have just had eighteen whiskeys in a row. I do believe that is a record.”

    ……and the winner:
    Oscar Wilde: “Either this wallpaper goes, or I do!”
    or
    “Alas, I am dying beyond my means.”
    (Both probably apocryphal but who cares!)

    Let us not forget the most famous of all:

    “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”….
    … I have heard many a sermon explaining that this was in fact an affirmation of faith.

    • Strange what is on human lips when they die – Christian and atheist alike:

      What fun! Thanks for that, Brewer. Be interesting to hear some more from other commentators. I think it was Goethe whose last words were reported to have been, “More Light”, but whether he meant, “More enlightenment!” or “Will somebody pull back the bloody blinds!” I’m not entirely sure.

  38. “Yes, there have been terrible atrocities in the name of God and terrible atrocities in the name of atheistic Communism”

    What is atheistic communism? I have heard of communism, a philosophy divised in the eighteenth century by Karl Marx. So I had to double check, and the Wikipedia doesn’t seem to know about it either, however I did find something called Christian communism what ever that is.

    Never the less I think I understand your point, that is there have been a couple of really bad non-religious ideas for organizational social structure. Granted.

    But allow me to point out a few really bad religious ideas.
    * The Inquisition (Beginning 1184): The purpose of the Inquisition was stated in a 1578 handbook for inquisitors as, “… for punishment does not take place primarily and per se for the correction and good of the person punished, but for the public good in order that others may become terrified and weaned away from the evils they would commit.” Such as statement makes it clear that the goal was to inspire fear amongst a people in order to rule and conquer them. During the Inquisitions church leaders often supported the enslavement and/or murder of “heretics”.
    * Reformation (circa 1518): The intent of the Reformation was to restore Christianity to a more “pure” form. In order to do so, millions upon millions of Europeans were murdered as Catholics murdered Protestants and Protestants murdered Catholics. In some instances, those that “opposed” the church authority were murdered and hung in cages as a reminder to all what happens to such persons.
    * Witch Hunts (beginning circa 1480 in Europe): The witch hunts in the United States were short lived and resulted in very few deaths compared to the witch hunts in Europe where countless people were wrongfully murdered after bogus trials.
    * The Holocaust (beginning circa 1933): Christian Fundamentalism was a primary cause of the Holocaust. Jewish persons had been murdered and enslaved throughout Europe’s violent Christian history and the Nazi’s continued this long tradition of murder – claiming it to be for the betterment of God and God’s wish. Although the Jewish people took the largest number of casualties, other groups were murdered including, homosexuals, Soviet citizens, political prisoners and the disabled.
    * The Christian Identity Movement (circa 1915): Crimes Against the Jewish, African Americans and Homosexuals continued in the name of “God” with the advent of groups such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) during the Christian Identity Movement. These groups again made claims of their intentions to purify the Christian religion and use violence, intimidation and other horrifying methods to make their case. Other groups which are considered part of the Christian Identity Movement include: the American Nazi Party; Aryan Nations; Church of Jesus Christ Christian; Jubilee, National Association for the Advancement of White People; The Order; Scriptures for America; White Aryan Resistance (WAR); and White Separatist Banner; at home the salvation army petitioning against homosexual law reform in 1987’; Destiny church rallying against the civil union bill 2004.

    That’s just a primer to get you started – if you need a few hundred more examples just let me know…

    “it is a matter of good manners a virtue that you, Melissa and some others sadly appear to lack”.

    Whew and you say I have bad manners!
    My point is this, I if hurt your feelings or make you think for gawd-sake, that is all I am going to do. I am unlikely to blow up abortion clinics, strap a suicide pack on my back, or stone adulterers in football stadiums.

    “If you write in this dismissive way about the beliefs of other people, you must expect a response in kind”

    We have the absolute privilege of living in a secular country, and ANY organization based irrational dogma that lobbies to influence lawmaking should and needs to be challenged.

  39. Don’t encourage me Brian, I adore aphorisms!!

    Well alright then, one more (rather apposite to this conversation):

    Henry David Thoreau.
    `Have you made your peace with your God?’
    `I never quarreled with my God.’
    `But aren’t you concerned about the next world?’
    `One world at a time.’
    (Discussion with his aunt on his deathbed)

    • Don’t encourage me Brian, I adore aphorisms!!

      OK, here’s a relevant ‘knock knock’ joke. (Which really needs to be spoken.)

      Knock knock

      Who’s there?

      Death

      Death w… (A thud is heard.)

  40. The weight of opinion seems to fall on the curtain cord in Goethe’s case. Another one I love which I’m sure you will also enjoy is the grammarian Dominique Bouhours who showed the tenor of his life in his concluding remarks. He said, “I am about to–or I am going to–die. Either expression is used.”

    I have an editor who, I am sure, is rehearsing that line. Should he mistime the utterance and perhaps survive for a week or two, I am convinced he will remain mute until the end comes!!

    Fun indeed for those of us whose view focuses on the grand comedy rather than the egocentricity that pervades the Judeo-Christian belief system.
    I do not mean to denigrate those who espouse such beliefs. John Lennon said it best _ “whatever gets you through the night…..is alright”.

    For my part, good compost made from both one’s physical and intellectual remains is sufficient raison d’etre.

    • For my part, good compost made from both one’s physical and intellectual remains is sufficient raison d’etre.

      Hmmm. Not sure that I want that to be my epitaph- Here lies Brian Edwards: good compost.

  41. What would battle be like without a Chaplain to give the last rites to dying sons? The need for religious belief is the one thing that separates mankind from the animal kingdom and makes us “the keeper” of the Earth and all it’s animals, that’s why our need for Religion is so interesting. It’s is the dividing line thats sets us apart. So are deathbed conversions fear driven or soul driven? Personally I welcome death as it leads to life anew. Hey but any advertising is good advertising they say. Cheers

  42. “The need for religious belief is the one thing that separates mankind from the animal kingdom and makes us “the keeper” of the Earth and all it’s animals, that’s why our need for Religion is so interesting”

    Interesting it may be, but also akin to mental illness.

  43. Not sure exactly what the link is between religion and conservation; and does the expectation of being given last rites really make battle that much more worthwhile?

  44. 44

    Being religious before the advent of science made sense, as there were really no other sources for explanations of our natural world – but clinging to this self-induced delusion today is almost tantamount to mental illness. Science provides explanations that do not resort to cosmic space daddies, reanimated corpses, or postmortem everlasting disneylands – it provides explanations that are testable, repeatable and open to challenge by better or more complete theories….

    So please Peemack spare us the twisted bronze age mythology that those of us sane enough have outgrown.

  45. Melissa, if you do a little research you will find there are many scientists, past and present, who are Christians and find no incompatibilty between the existence of God and science.

    I still wonder what it is about atheists who are so threatened by the argument that they feel the need to be so offensive. Your postings have become more and more vituperative.

    You referred earlier to hurting my feelings. I can assure you, Melissa, that nothing you can say would hurt my feelings, first because I have no respect for you and secondly I have no respect for your opinions. If anything I feel rather sorry for you.

  46. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”….

    I thought his last words were “Into your hands I commend my spirit”.

    Eugene O’Neill’s is full of ripe despair: “I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room – and God damn it – died in a hotel room.”

    I’ve also admired the man who on his deathbed was asked whether he rejected Satan and all his works. His reply: “Now isn’t the time to be making enemies.”

    And the best epitaph is surely Spike Milligan’s one in Gaelic: Duirt me go raibh me tinn – or “I told you I was sick”.

  47. 47

    @Ben

    I think you miss the point.
    A bunch of religious zealots recently staged a right royal Christian tantie and employed the sort of bigoted subterfuge that typifies Religious protests – their ultimate goal was to thwart my and your civil liberties and they were successful.
    I have a problem with that and they deserve to be challenged, including the fundamental premise on which they base such disrespect for other peoples freedom.

    You have accused me of being abusive and offensive – if you go back and read my posts you will see I have not resorted to name calling or personal attacks at any time.

    I is not the Christians but the Christianity I am challenging – your inability to make this distinction like many other Christians is unfortunate by not surprising – this is not meant to be personal Ben.

    So why don’t you stop whinging about how impolite we all are and actually make a point.

  48. 48

    Oh and while we are at it, if Peemack is going to pontificate mind numbing platitudes like “the need for religious belief is the one thing that separates us form all the amimals”, I am afraid he leaves himself a sitting-duck for a dose of reality.

    I think Peemack that what separates us from animals is the mental and emotional facility for things like compassion, empathy, and higher thinking and this is awarded to us by virtue if a CONSCIENCE – not mans need for religion.

    Man doesn’t actually NEED very much at all outside food and shelter.

  49. “there are many scientists, past and present, who are Christians and find no incompatibilty between the existence of God and science”

    Undoubtedly, but quite how they’re able to ignore the evidence is a mystery. Perhaps they’re being intellectually dishonest, or maybe they just “don’t go there” – i.e. they deliberately keep religion and science separated (in their minds) and make no attempt to reconcile the contradictions.

  50. 50

    @Ben

    “first because I have no respect for you and secondly I have no respect for your opinions. If anything I feel rather sorry for you.”

    Lol, Well this line really takes the cake – the fact that you have no respect for me and feel sorry for me smacks of that famous Christian “righteousness” that is right up there with good old Christian “tolerance” and “forgiveness” – by feeling sorry for me your clearly feel you are in a superior and more elevated position, shame on you.

    I have personally have the the utmost respect for you and your absolute right to hold your position in matters of faith I just happen to disagree with you.

    “I totally accept that there are thousands of atheists who live their lives as well as any Christian”

    Gosh Ben more sanctimonious by the minute.

  51. Fun thread! Personally I liken living in this world to a sane person living in a mental institution. This country, and others I have lived in, purport to be secular but are not. There are many references to deities in state funded schools (where children are taught that it is normal to continue Christmas and Easter traditions), children’s organizations (Scouts and Guides), media and government. The more the madness of belief in gods is normalized (like blessings at the opening of new buildings or the lifting of Tapu’s etc.) the more chance the crazies have of convincing others to believe in what they do. BE it is interesting that you and many other “atheists” I know say that you cannot prove the non-existence of God but you are quite happy to dismiss out of hand the existence of Thor, Bal, Zeus, Vishnu, Unicorns, Trolls, thetans etc. Or, do you also hold out the same level of respect for the believers in those mystical beings as the Judeo-Christian-Muslim big G god? The Catholics out there will quite happily tell you they know that Thor does not exist – they don’t say “he probably does not exist”. What a lot of semantic baloney (and fence sitting); I can invent many new gods and spirity things today, do you say that they all have the same probability of existence as the big G?

    • BE it is interesting that you and many other “atheists” I know say that you cannot prove the non-existence of God but you are quite happy to dismiss out of hand the existence of Thor, Bal, Zeus, Vishnu, Unicorns, Trolls, thetans etc.

      What I can dismiss out of hand is your claim that I have ever said or written anything about any of these entities. I’m starting to think that what I would call “rabid atheism” includes the right to make things up to support your argument. That and the most extraordinary hubris, consisting in the assertion of knowing one is right and knowing that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.

  52. Sorry to lump you in with the other atheists and believers who disregard the existence of Thor… I must have read a preference for one God doubting , more than others, as an acceptance that the thousands of other gods were obvious fakes. I do try not to “make things up”. As I said I am not an atheist (as I don’t classify imaginary beings; fairies, angels and devils are all the same to me) but calling someone rabid for feeling exasperated by the delusional people around them is a little insulting. I prefer to side with those that claim to KNOW someone who says they have a personal relationship with an imaginary being is wrong. From your last statement it can be deduced that you may hold out hope for a god as you accuse the atheists of “extraordinary hubris”. It is a pity that you did not use these words to describe the assertions of the believers but understandable? I can help you though, freedom from religion is possible at any age. Sam saves! (you from Jesus)

  53. 53

    @BE

    Secular humanists/libralists/atheists by virtue of the fact that they have no collective civic identity are by their very intrinsic nature not militant,” rabid” or otherwise – you will only hear little individual voices like mine on blog sites this questioning the validity of supernatural belief and morality that is informed by it – interesting that it appears the “Christian left” not the “wishy-washy” secular liberalists are the group attempting to moderate attitudes held by the “Christian right”
    – I find this a compelling irony.

    So before you coin phrases like” Rabid Atheism” I suggest you entertain the notion that attitudes of magical thinking coupled with the type of moral superiority informed by religious tenet that Ben so eruditely demonstrates, should be subjected to the same intellectual rigor that we apply to science, politics and art.
    And if not why not!