Friday, October 12, 2018

An atheist manifesto

I put up here a great deal in support of Christians and Christian causes but since I am myself an extreme atheist in the manner of analytical philosophers like Rudolf Carnap, it seems only reasonable that I present an atheist POV occasionally.  None of the difficulties for theism presented below will disdturb committed Christians but they deserve to be presented.

It always amuses me that both Christians and atheists consider one another to be totally unreasonable. They both have a point.  Atheists consider it unreasonanble to believe in an undetectable object and Christians believe it unreasonable to believe the vast complexity around us happened by chance.  Partly for that reason I never argue for or against belief in God, Thor, Zeus or whoever he is

I do however believe in the Devil.  I think Islam is ample proof of his influence

The fact reported below that Australian young people are much more religious than their elders is certainly an interesting finding.  I suspect it reflects the uncertainties of the modern world -- where the Left have done a pretty good job of throwing all values into question.  The existence of God is much better argued for than most traditional beliefs are so young people cling on to the only firm anchor they can find.  And they find in Christianity a rich system of thinking and values that guides them well through life and its challenges.

I myself am profoundly grateful for my fundamentalist youth.  It was much more helpful to me than believing in the absurd Leftist gospel that "There is no such thing as Right and Wrong".  How can they expect anyone to draw philosophical nourishment from such an etiolated body of thought?

I am still mostly guided in my life by Christian principles.  They work for me.  I even "take a little wine for my stomach's sake" from time to time (1 Timothy 5:23)

The promise of an afterlife – to meet departed family and friends – appeals to many, but especially younger Australians. Are private religious schools playing a part? And why do they dismiss the evidence of physics, asks Brian Morris.

Against all odds, it seems the concept of going to heaven holds far greater significance for the young than for those who are closer – numerically – to death! We need to confront ‘the D word’ itself, but let’s first get a handle on why the idea of paradise has gripped contemporary youth – more so than pensioners.

A national Essential poll shows 40% of all Australians believe in heaven. But the crucial figure is that a staggering 51% of those aged 18-34 hold such a belief! This compares to just 29% of the public who are over 55 years old. The young are almost twice as fixated with an afterlife than those closer to pension age! Why is that?

Is it insecurity or religiosity? One suggestion points to the fact that 40% of secondary students now attend private religious schools – a rate far higher than all other Western nations. There has been an exponential growth in government funding for private Catholic and Anglican schools since the 1960s – from a base of almost zero.

Others suggest that a similar rise in Special Religious Instruction (SRI) and chaplains in public schools has led to the Christianisation of education across the nation. These government-funded programs are run by evangelical Christian organisations in each state – with Catholic and Anglican private schools proselytising their own religions. And do millennials then stay at home too long, with a childhood faith, instead of getting out into the real world?

Since colonisation, Christianity instilled belief in an afterlife. It’s reflected on a daily basis in mainstream media, in film and on television – and in our obsession with sport. No game passes without players pointing skyward when scoring a goal, or honouring a deceased team or family member with hands reaching towards heaven.

But the biggest problem is that we don’t talk about death!

Society needs to get over this end-of-life taboo – to discuss and challenge the sugar-coated religious myth that claims we will all meet up with our loved ones (and pets) when we die and go to heaven. Before confronting the concrete scientific evidence (below) – and how we can better handle the emotional aspects of death – just dwell on this thought for one moment.

Isn’t paradise already just a little crowded? Think about who those you would meet – not only the entire cohort of your departed relatives, your friends and ancestors – but all the people you have detested; and those who gave you so much grief during your lifetime.

Then there’s the rest – every human who died! Research shows that, by 2050, an estimated 113 billion people will have lived and died on planet Earth; so heaven is already a seething mass of ‘souls’. For eternity!

The average punter has great difficulty conceptualising ‘eternity’. Most can’t even grasp the fact of our universe being 13.8 billion years old – or Earth a mere 4.5 billion. The concept is starkly illustrated in a fascinating book, A History of the World in 10 1/2 chapters. While fictional, it focuses the mind on a serious problem with infinity.

Chapter 10 sees our hero arrive in heaven, choosing to spend all his time eating luxurious food, having endless sex, and playing golf. After several thousand years he’s sick of food and sex, and on each heavenly golf course he hits holes-in-one on every par 3. He pleads to be released from this endless “perfect existence” and asks if others finally yearn to be free; to actually “die”. With a short pause for effect, the answer was plain. “Everyone!”

Books on near-death experiences, and visits to heaven, are legion. A recent best seller was Proof of Heaven by Dr Eben Alexander – a neurosurgeon, no less. Alexander sold more than 2 million copies before his claims were debunked. Among those who contested his story was Professor Sean Carroll, a particle physicist and high-profile science communicator. Carroll said there could only be two possibilities for Alexander’s spiritual encounter:

(1) Either some ill-defined metaphysical substance, not subject to the known laws of physics, interacted with the atoms of his brain in ways that have eluded every controlled experiment ever performed in the history of science; or

(2) People hallucinate when they are nearly dead.

Professor Carroll’s detailed explanation of Physics and Immortality spells out precisely why an immaterial ‘soul’ does not exist.

Carroll worked with the team that discovered the Higgs Boson at Geneva’s Large Hadron Collider. He could not be more explicit;

“If there are other waves, particles or forces sufficient to externally influence the brain, then we would know about them … Within Quantum Field Theory, there can’t be a new collection of ‘spirit particles’ and ‘spirit forces’ that interact with our regular atoms, because we would have detected them in existing experiments… You would have to demonstrate evidence of a completely new realm of reality, obeying very different rules than everything we know about physics.”

The 3 links above are needed to fully understand why there is no ‘soul’. But science does not devalue the need for compassion and empathy in the face of raw emotions that come with our personal experiences of death. It is necessary to face up to reality – but there are alternatives to religion in coping with end of life crises.

Discussing death openly and honestly – and publicly through the media – is a first step in helping to ease the extreme distress that many suffer with their own fear of death.

The ‘Golden Age of Athens’ pre-dates Christianity by four centuries – it led to a crucial period of new philosophical thought about life and death, about government and democracy, and how ordinary people could live a more fulfilled and contented life.

The philosophical principles of stoicism remain popular today. It’s based on three central themes. ‘Perception’, how we choose to view events; ‘Action’, how we deal with events we can control (and those we can’t); and then there’s ‘Will’ – training ourselves to deal honestly and ethically with events in our own lives. Following the full regime of stoicism may seem daunting; but after filtering the basic principles it becomes somewhat easier to apply.

The stoic approach to dealing with death – of family, friends, or oneself – is particularly relevant. Initially, it may appear morbid to periodically remind ourselves of one’s mortality. But if we consider this approach to death deeply enough, we soon come to realise the benefits of a greatly improved mental state.

The stark alternative for most people is to ignore the inevitable, and to be completely consumed by grief when family or friends die unexpectedly. Religion holds its privileged status based on fear – fear of not believing in God, fear of the unknown, and especially the fear of death. It’s a cruel deception that society needs to overcome.

By sugar-coating mortality with the myth of everlasting heaven, religion simply deprives us all of the ways and means to better cope with the end of life. While stoicism may not be the complete solution for all, it is clear that the basic principles of ‘philosophical ethics’ – honesty, reason, compassion, and love – would be a far better alternative than teaching schoolchildren obedience to God and religious ritual.

Future generations would avoid the trap of today’s millennials who continue to shun science and instead cling to religious concepts of an afterlife.

A ‘soul’ that miraculously ascends to heaven, only to re-unite with 113 billion other souls – for the whole of eternity! Just like our golfing hero, that sounds more like purgatory!


The Other Sexual Abuse Culture No One Dares to Mention

With the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, the sexual assault debate has ignited once again, as it will with each new accusation—whether true or false—of high profile celebrities or public figures. Every time, we hear the same message: There is an abuse of power that allows people to force themselves upon others. We are urged to reject our violent “#metoo” sexual abuse culture.

Indeed, we must reject all sexual abuse. However, we must also admit that we as a society have created this sexual abuse culture. The Sexual Revolution “liberated” people from the mores and behaviors society once expected of individuals. It took away modesty, chastity and customs that served to protect people from abuse. The Sexual Revolution promoted promiscuity that easily degenerates into abuse, harassment and assault.

The shock of the Frankenstein monster we created has led to a hypersensitivity toward anything resembling harassment and abuse. Many real cases of abuse have been denounced. However, there are also cases in which false accusations of impropriety ruin a career. This hyper-sensitivity has created a frenetic climate of guilty until proven guiltier. Indeed, it is mob rule, with the only too willing media playing judge, jury, and hangman.

The Other Abuse Culture

This hypersensitivity to abuse is mirrored by a hyper-insensitivity of another sexual harassment culture. Talk of this other culture is notably absent in the debate. However, this culture can portray the most blatant sexual abuses without fearing any retribution or consequences. The most rabid denouncers are strangely silent and fall limp at its mention. Indeed, they might even sympathize with its portrayals.

The abuse culture in question is the entertainment industry. It is found on movie screens and entertainment venues everywhere. This culture broadcasts hyper-insensitivity to violence, nudity, profanity and gratuitous sex. It teaches young people that all these things are normal and can be done without consequences. People are desensitized by a wide array of abusive and immoral behaviors that sets the stage for #metoo abuse.

While some actors have been denounced for behavior off the screen, nothing is banned on the screen. We are not talking about a few isolated films. Picking recent R-rated films at random will reveal examples of a culture of promiscuity that leads to sexual abuse and aberrations of the worst kind. And yet no one says anything.

A Random Review

A recent example might be the late summer blockbuster, “Crazy Rich Asians,” that swept the nation with rave reviews. One scene shows what Kyle Smith described in a National Review article as a “bachelor party [that] takes place on a huge freighter, in international waters in the company of bikini models from around the world.” Here is a case of implied actions by powerful, rich men with sexually suggestive women that would be outside the reach of the law in international waters. Audiences fantasize with playing out the sinful roles. Society is expected to be complicit, accepting these mortal sins against the Sixth and Ninth Commandments as normal. No one complains.

A few examples of reviews found on the Catholic News Service (CNS)—a division of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops—should be enough to demonstrate the hyper-insensitivity toward the abuse of others, especially women. There is no righteous indignation toward these abusive portrayals; some are shown in a positive or even comic light.

The Film “Assassination Nation,” for example, portrays “considerable violence,” involving “gunplay, torture and suicide, drug use, strong sexual content, including two implied nonmarital encounters, aberrant behavior and an adultery theme, a pornographic image, explicit dialogue and frequent rough language.” CNS rated it “L – limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling.”

“Life Itself” contains “brief scenes of suicide and accidental death with gore, mature themes including abortion, drug use, a premarital situation, an ambivalent treatment of marriage, a few uses of profanity, a couple of milder oaths as well as pervasive rough and much crude language.” CNS rated it “A-III – adults.”

Another film called “Eighth Grade” involves minors—eighth graders!—suffering from unwanted sexual demands, “sexual humor” and crude language—all of which would be labeled harassment off-screen. CNS rated it “A-III – adults.”

By contrast, CNS used its “O – morally offensive” rating for films like “The First Purge.” It contains “excessive gory and gruesome violence, including a sexual assault, graphic aberrant sexual activity, drug use, brief partial nudity, several profanities, a few milder oaths and pervasive rough and crude language.”

As described by reviewers, many films deemed acceptable in society contain ample material for denunciations in today’s hyper-sensitive abuse culture. The viewer is unaware of any character in these films that suffered negative legal consequences as a result of their sinful acts, either immediately or thirty years after. The fact that these sins are portrayed favorably on screen does not nullify their bad effects off-screen. And yet no one complains.

Rejecting This Second Culture

This is the second sexual abuse culture that no one dares to mention. It should likewise be vehemently opposed. Unlike the first culture that is limited to individual actions against another, this culture victimizes anyone who watches it. Because the acts it portrays have no legal consequences, they are much more irresponsible and pervasive. We can be exposed to more sexual abuse and harassment in one evening in the second culture than a full year in the first. And yet, no one complains.

This second culture is defined by the plots and themes that degrade humanity. They are watched by everyone, male and female, conservative and liberal, old and young. We are flooded with images of these irresponsible and sinful characters that live in a surreal world, acting out their impulses and whims. They make sexual abuse look so easy and gratifying.

Each deplorable and sinful act represents not a single episode but is multiplied by the number of times the film is shown. It is as if the same abuse is committed millions of times inside theaters, homes and mobile devices. Inside the minds of countless viewers (and abusers), these films send a message of validation and social acceptability.

A Moral Problem

Those who decry the first culture have little problem accepting the second. This contradiction suggests a moral problem by which individuals do not discern right and wrong correctly.

People think what determines the acceptability of an act is the freedom and pleasure of the individual, not an objective moral law. They do not realize that the cause of the first sexual abuse culture is a distorted notion of personal freedom best understood as an amoral license that often leads to the abuse of others. The cause of the second abuse culture is a willingness to fantasize about a rules-free world where all are free to act according to their whims and pleasures without a moral compass.  Both cultures lead to sin and disaster in society.

Any serious treatment of the sexual abuse must embrace a moral law that re-establishes a correct understanding of right and wrong, the notion of sin, and the Catholic dogma of Hell’s eternal punishment for those who die in the state of mortal sin. It must also include a rejection of the Sexual Revolution that has so destroyed the lives of millions with the lying promise of moral liberation.

Any other solutions will only address the symptoms of our hyper-sexual culture that encourages the behaviors now deplored. It is time to address their causes. It is time to denounce the other culture that none dare mention.


Victims may be sincere, but memory is fallible

by Jeff Jacoby

IN TIME, the rage and rancor of the Brett Kavanaugh fight will subside, as rage and rancor invariably do.

But the wounds of the last few weeks won't really heal. It's only a matter of time until a similarly bitter partisan fight erupts, and when it does we will sink to even deeper levels of spite and malice. The campaign to block Kavanaugh's confirmation went beyond anything we've seen in a court fight before, and the ugly recklessness of recent days will be back.

Of all the demons unleashed during the assault on Kavanaugh, perhaps the scariest was the casual repudiation of due process — the wholesale elevation of belief over facts as the yardstick by which accusations should be judged.

The sexual-assault allegations deployed at the last minute against Kavanaugh remain uncorroborated, yet their truth promptly became a matter of faith among many on the left. Though the charges were wholly inconsistent with the judge's longstanding reputation for rectitude, Democratic political leaders embraced them. "I believe you," Kamala Harris and Richard Blumenthal told Christine Blasey Ford when she appeared before the Judiciary Committee. "You are speaking truth," intoned Cory Booker. On Twitter and other social media, hashtag declarations of faith — #BelieveWomen and #BelieveSurvivors and #IBelieveChristine — mushroomed.

This is a free country, and people are free to believe anything they wish. But life in this country will grow steadily less free if fundamental elements of fairness, like the presumption of innocence, are simply jettisoned when an accusation is made by someone who says with seeming sincerity that she was sexually assaulted. Or when a serious accusation is made against someone who happens to belong to a disfavored group.

As recent events demonstrate, #BelieveWomen and #BelieveSurvivors are powerful political slogans. But science demonstrates even more powerfully that when men (or women) are deemed guilty on belief alone — belief without independent evidence — the results can be horrific.

Reams of psychological research confirm that human memory is notoriously fallible, and that the most traumatic memories — the ones that feel most vivid and indelible — are often the least reliable. When Ford told the Senate she was "100 percent" certain Kavanaugh had assaulted her, few could doubt she was speaking from the heart. But as the National Academy of Sciences emphasized in a lengthy 2014 report on the science of eyewitness testimony, people often "recall things we never experienced." That is true even of our most unforgettable and upsetting memories. "Despite the vividness and the sense of reliving that characterizes retrieval of emotional memories," the report said, "there are many indications that such memories are just as prone to errors."

In a riveting New York Times essay in 2000, Jennifer Thompson described being raped at 22 by an armed intruder, and how determined she was to burn her attacker's image into her memory. "I studied every single detail on the rapist's face," she wrote. "I looked at his hairline; I looked for scars, for tattoos, for anything that would help me identify him." She later fingered the rapist in a series of police photos, and picked the same man out of a lineup. "I knew this was the man," she wrote. "I was completely confident." The man was arrested, convicted, and sent to prison.

But Thompson was wrong. Years later, DNA testing proved conclusively that the man she remembered so vividly was innocent. The rapist, who eventually pleaded guilty, was another man entirely.

Memories are fallible, and passion is distorting. That is why it is vital to our safety that the truth of accusations not be assumed automatically. Whether in a court of law or the court of public opinion, fairness demands that an accused not be punished on the strength of an accusation alone.

And fairness is bolstered not just by psychology but by history. Just as sexual assault is as old as mankind; so is the persecution of innocent victims through false or mistaken accusations of sexual assault. From the Scottsboro Boys to the Tawana Brawley case, from Leo Frank to the Duke Lacrosse team, examples of such injustices abound. The Innocence Project has cleared scores of men wrongly convicted of sexual assault.

#BelieveSurvivors is not enough. It should go without saying that women who report being sexually assaulted deserve fairness, respect, and sensitive support. The men they accuse deserve fairness too, above all the presumption of innocence. When people's lives, freedom, or careers are at stake, facts alone are what we should believe.


Bakery wins landmark ‘gay cake’ case

A BAKERY run by a Christian family in Northern Ireland on Wednesday won a landmark case in Britain’s highest court over its refusal to make a cake decorated with the words “Support Gay Marriage”.

The Supreme Court upheld the owners’ appeal against a May decision that found them guilty of discriminating against gay rights activist Gareth Lee.

The bakery called the ruling a momentous day for religious freedom in Britain while Lee condemned it as a profound blow for civil rights.

“I paid my money, my money was taken and then a few days later it was refused. That made me feel like a second-class citizen,” he told reporters after listening to the verdict.

“I’m concerned not just for the implications for myself and other gay people, but for every single one of us.”

The case pitted Northern Ireland’s strong Protestant and Catholic communities against LGBT groups testing the breadth of the UK province’s anti-discrimination laws.

Wednesday’s ruling explained that the bakery’s “objection was to the message on the cake, not any personal characteristics of the messenger, or anyone with whom he was associated.”

The top of the cake would have also had a picture of the bedroom-sharing Bert and Ernie characters from US children’s show Sesame Street.

Ashers Baking Company — a business with 80 employees across Britain which takes its name from an Old Testament figure — took the order but declined to make the cake in 2014.

The case came as marriage between same-sex couples has become increasingly accepted across Europe and the West as a whole.

Fifteen countries — including Britain — have allowed gay and lesbian partners to marry since the Netherlands became the first in 2001.

But British-ruled Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK not covered by the same-sex marriage law. The chief judge on Britain’s Supreme Court said the ruling should not be read as condoning discrimination.

“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief,” judge Brenda Hale said. “But that is not what happened in this case.”


Lee ordered the cake in Belfast for a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia. The bakery accepted both the order and payment.

It then called back two days later to explain that it could not top the cake with the icing featuring the Muppets and the marriage slogan.

The bakery argued that it opposed the political message requested by Mr Lee rather than his sexual orientation.

Justice Hale said the law supported this logic. “The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage,” she said.

“But that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”

Justice Hale explained that the law should not “compel” the bakers to violate their religious beliefs and endorse gay marriage.

Ashers general manager Daniel McArthur called the ruling a victory for people trying to live in accordance with their religion.

“We always knew we hadn’t done anything wrong in turning down this order,” he said. “This ruling protects freedom of speech and freedom of conscience for everyone.”

The justification in the British Supreme Court’s ruling is different from one used by its US counterpart which cleared a Colorado baker of discrimination in June.

That decision found that the civil rights group suing the baker showed animus by targeting him based on his religious beliefs.

Five Supreme Court justices allowed a challenge by the McArthur family in a unanimous ruling in London on Wednesday in what has become widely known as the “gay cake case”.

The legal action was originally brought against family-run Ashers bakery in Belfast by gay rights activist Gareth Lee, who won his case initially in the county court and then at the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal.

Announcing Wednesday’s decision, Justice Hale, said: “This conclusion is not in any way to diminish the need to protect gay people and people who support gay marriage from discrimination.”

The court also said Lee had no claim against Ashers on the grounds of religious belief or political opinion.

Justice Hale said: “The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and  DISSECTING LEFTISM.   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  Email me (John Ray) here


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