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Atheist journalism
#1
Atheist journalism
From Phillip Adams of The Australian newspaper, noted Australian atheist.


Have faith in disbelief

The 20th century was defined and all but destroyed by its idealogies. Ideas in uniforms, Beliefs in boots. Scores of millions of human beings were butchered by other human beings because of dogmas that turned fractures into fissures into mass graves.
So, in our shiny, bright new century, the bedlam of beliefs grows louder and angrier as isms and ologies abound, proliferate and foment their hatreds. Until even the most sanguine observers must join Chicken Licken in observing that, yes, the sky is falling.
So, today I'm going to argue the case for disbelief. Why keep the faith when blind, uncritical, unthinking conviction leads to catastrophe? The time has come to heap all those isms and ologies on to the scrap heap of history, to break with beliefs that turn humans into humus.
Though awed by its majesty and mystery, I apprehend what is, in the final analysis, a meaningless cosmos. Welcome to a world without an author, a purpose, a destiny. The only meaning it has is the subjective meaning you choose to ascribe to it. If this sounds like a bleak prospect, let me assure you that it is, in fact, remarkably liberating. You are not burdened by original sin and neither anticipate heaven nor dread an eternity in hell. You're at liberty to formulate your own philosophies, your own morality, values and ethics. You will feel no need to brand one person a blasphemer or another a heretic, let alone to have them crucified or, in the name of Christ , burned at the stake. You will not genuflect at any altar, surrender to some alleged infallible or feel the obligation to obey some antique text. And although your values may concur with those of this faith or that, thet will come from independent thought rather than blind obedience.
Three cheers for disbelief. First of the many things I disbelieve in - the Supreme Being, Alpha and Omega, the Almighty, the All Holy, the Judge of All Men, the Maker of All Things, the Creator, the Preserver, Allah, Yahweh, Jehovah, the God of Abraham, the God of Moses and the Lord of Hosts.
I do not believe in the divinity of Jesus, let alone in his resurrection. Nor, in the interests of balance, do I believe in the gods and goddesses of the Greco-Roman pantheon, in the Homeric deities, in Erebus, Gala, Zeus, Jupiter, Jove, Pluto, Neptune, Apollo, Mercury, Vulcan, Artemis, Mithra, Indra, Brahma, Siva, Vishnu, Osiris, Isis, Anubis, Moloch, Odin , Wotan, Thor or Magog, or in any of the other gods that have gone to God, having well and truly outlived their use-by date.
I don't believe in archangels, angels of death or guardian angels, let alone in Lucifer, the Prince of Darkness, or Mephistopheies, Old Nick, Old Harry, Old Sratch, or Auld Horny. Goblins? No thanks, whether they're hob or not. Nor will I sign up for the tooth fairy or Father Christmas.
However, I am perfectly willing to change my mind on any or all of the above if you can present a scintilla of evidence. Should you place your teeth in a suitable receptable in a CSIRO lab where we can observe it being transubstantiated by a 50c piece, I'll be willing to accept the tooth fairy. But I will be harder to persuade on any of the supernatural beings listed above.
The lessons of history and current observations make me a bit iffy about such isms as nationalism, patriotism, capitalism and globalism. Among the less dangerous isms are Buddism, humanism, agnosticism and rheumatism - and even my favourite ism, atheism, can get a bit dangerous when it falls into the wrong hands.
Ism, schism. As soon as humans start believing in something, they turn it into a belief with a capital B. Then they get grumpy about it, condemning anyone who doesn't accept their beliefs with the appropriate degree of intensity. And the belief has to be exact. Which is why people on opposite sides of streets in Belfast, while professing to be Christians, all commit atrocities because of differences of dogma amounting to a couple of decimal points. It's much the same in Afghanistan, where Islam divides the followers of Mohammed that it's meant to unite.
So there you have it. The tip of the iceberg of my disbeliefs, many of which you may or may not share. But should you rid your mind of these restrictive, blinkered views, if you refuse to acquiesce to ordained authority, to orthodoxies and articles of faith, you'll suddenly have room, betwixt the ears, for all sorts of interesting possibilities.
You may discover a tendency to be less judgmental and more compassionate. You may find difference and pluralism delightful rather than threatening. You'll certainly stand a good chance of improving your sense of humour.
When you allow the breezes to blow through previously musty neurons and cobwebbed synapses, you'll feel less need to hate, which will, oddly enough, in no way diminish your capacity to love.
And that's one of the worst things about isms and ologies. They dramatically reduce your circle of friends while, of course, considerably increasing the number of your potential enemies.

After believing in silly things for hundreds and hundreds of centuries, now is the time to dump them in favour of disbelief. Choose insatiable curiosity over conviction. For questions are better than answers and doubts are preferable to dogmas, those detention centres for the human intellect.
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#2
RE: Atheist journalism
Are you an author?
Reply
#3
RE: Atheist journalism
I'm an atheist blog author and I'm currently writing my first book on the subject. Big Grin
Reply
#4
RE: Atheist journalism
(August 27, 2008 at 4:34 am)Tiberius Wrote: I'm an atheist blog author and I'm currently writing my first book on the subject. Big Grin

The God delusion - Part 2?
Reply
#5
RE: Atheist journalism
Nah, and I don't want to reveal the working title...it's too awesome.
Reply
#6
RE: Atheist journalism
(August 27, 2008 at 5:08 am)Tiberius Wrote: Nah, and I don't want to reveal the working title...it's too awesome.

You can tell me I wont say word....ish
Reply
#7
RE: Atheist journalism
Matthew Paris is a great journo, and has no love for the church -

Quote:You are living, dear reader, at a watershed in human history. This is the century during which, after 2,000 years of what has been a pretty bloody marriage, faith and reason must agree to part, citing irreconcilable differences. So block your ears to the cooing voices on Thought for the Day, and choose your side.
“But how can you be sure?” Oh boy, am I sure. Oh great quivering mountains of pious mumbo-jumbo, am I sure. Oh fathomless oceans of sanctified babble, am I sure. Words cannot express my confidence in the answer to the question whether God cured a nun because she wrote a Pope’s name down. He didn’t. Mere language does no justice to my certainty about whether God might be waiting for the return to their Biblical lands of the Israelites, before arranging the Second Coming. He isn’t.
Shout it from the rooftops. Write it on walls. Carve it into rock. He didn’t. He isn’t. He won’t.
from Times Online
'How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? Jer 8:8
A child of five would understand this. Send someone to fetch a child of five. Groucho Marx
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#8
RE: Atheist journalism
(August 27, 2008 at 4:17 am)Brick-top Wrote: Are you an author?

No. The reason I started this thread is because I have collected many terrific atheist articles from newspapers over the years and I will continue to share them with you all.

Most are written by journalists in daily newspapers in OZ.
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#9
RE: Atheist journalism
Phillip Adams again, recently.
August 23, 2008

Then Man made God

Imagine, for a moment, humanity's 6,000,000,000 brains becoming one collective consciousness.

Imagine that googol (please look up the original meaning of that marvellous word, misspelt by the internet company) of intelligence applying itself to a simultaneous consideration of the universe we occupy. Imagine, on the one hand, this magisterial consciousness contemplating the infinite regressions to the very small and, on the other, the infinite successions to the very large, from the sub-atomic galaxies within a speck of dust to the atom-like circling of the suns and planets. Imagine our melded mega-brain embracing the totality – from the counter-intuitive paradoxes of quantum mechanics to the monstrous immensity of space.

Even then the universe would be beyond our shared comprehension. Our mega-brain, our hyper-awareness, would still fall short of understanding. True, we’re a lot closer to comprehension than we were when the great religious texts were written in the Middle Eastern deserts in past millennia. Now we know that there are more stars out there than grains of sand in the Sahara. And our collective consciousness would reject the notion of shrugging off the awesome mystery and calling it God. That’s always been the easy way out – the answer that’s no answer but just another question.

The 6,000,000,000 brains-in-one-brain might defiantly insist that TOE, that comical acronym for the grand unifying Theory of Everything, is within humanity’s grasp – that at any moment someone will write a new formula on a blackboard at Princeton or Cambridge that will be as simple and even more profound than e=mc². At that moment TOE will banish and vanish GOD. He, She or It would become surplus to requirements.

I think, however, we’ll be stubbing our TOE on the mighty mysteries for a few more millennia. Yes, God will continue to recede as knowledge advances, becoming an ever smaller and more beleaguered notion. Yet human hubris, for all our chutzpah, may never quite get there. Perhaps the best thing about our universe (or universes, if there are, in fact, an infinite variety of them as some attest) is that it will remain tantalisingly beyond our comprehension. Even if our comprehension were aided, abetted and accelerated by the cognitive powers of our computers – the Artificial Intelligence we’re trying to invent.

(Consider for one of those computer nanoseconds the great risks of the AI race. When combined with robotics, we’ll have created a monster worthy of multifarious Frankensteins – a master race that might feel compelled to thank us with genocide. Perhaps keeping a few of us as pets, or in a zoo.)

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the catch-22 of the cosmos. It means that at some point in the future, after eons of pondering the mystery of it all, the mystery will cease. In total darkness, stillness and universal death. From the tiniest to the mightiest, everything will have run down, cooled down, dimmed down … the End.

Optimists, particularly to be found among the theologians of AI, propose that the spread of intelligence throughout the cosmos may triumph over the Second Law – that our collective wisdom, multiplied by our technologies, will stop the Law’s merciless clock and rewind it. Their argument goes like this: that while God didn’t exist and doesn’t exist, we’re bringing him into existence. They predict a vast effulgence of thought spreading from our planet throughout the galaxies, the ultimate techno-fix. While Douglas Adams laughed about things like this, I’ve encountered many who take it (and themselves) very seriously.

Let there be light! Verily the geeks say unto us – the light of our intellects will flood the darkness of space! The suns and planets and galaxies, and anyone or anything that dwells therein, will be part of it. A collective consciousness far larger than the one proposed in my first paragraph is being formed. It is being googled into existence.

We have, of course, been inventing gods for thousands of years. We needed them to solve the puzzle, to soothe the fears. Tribespeople moulded their gods from mud, carved them from wood or painted them in caves. Soon civilisation would cast them in bronze or make them glow with gold. The museums are full of them – the gods that died. Egyptian, Assyrian, Roman, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Norse, all long past their use-by dates and toppled from their pedestals. Found in dunes and jungles, retrieved from tombs or hauled encrusted with shellfish from the Mediterranean. Once worshipped by vast populations, they are now reduced to tourist attractions. Dim memories in marble.

This new-model god is just the latest.

Genesis has God making Adam from the dust. In truth, it was the other way round. Early man made God from the mud. In his own likeness. While the material of choice is now silicon, the vanity remains the same.
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#10
RE: Atheist journalism
Phillip Adams again, recently.

August 23, 2008

Then Man made God
Imagine, for a moment, humanity's 6,000,000,000 brains becoming one collective consciousness.

Imagine that googol (please look up the original meaning of that marvellous word, misspelt by the internet company) of intelligence applying itself to a simultaneous consideration of the universe we occupy. Imagine, on the one hand, this magisterial consciousness contemplating the infinite regressions to the very small and, on the other, the infinite successions to the very large, from the sub-atomic galaxies within a speck of dust to the atom-like circling of the suns and planets. Imagine our melded mega-brain embracing the totality – from the counter-intuitive paradoxes of quantum mechanics to the monstrous immensity of space.

Even then the universe would be beyond our shared comprehension. Our mega-brain, our hyper-awareness, would still fall short of understanding. True, we’re a lot closer to comprehension than we were when the great religious texts were written in the Middle Eastern deserts in past millennia. Now we know that there are more stars out there than grains of sand in the Sahara. And our collective consciousness would reject the notion of shrugging off the awesome mystery and calling it God. That’s always been the easy way out – the answer that’s no answer but just another question.

The 6,000,000,000 brains-in-one-brain might defiantly insist that TOE, that comical acronym for the grand unifying Theory of Everything, is within humanity’s grasp – that at any moment someone will write a new formula on a blackboard at Princeton or Cambridge that will be as simple and even more profound than e=mc². At that moment TOE will banish and vanish GOD. He, She or It would become surplus to requirements.

I think, however, we’ll be stubbing our TOE on the mighty mysteries for a few more millennia. Yes, God will continue to recede as knowledge advances, becoming an ever smaller and more beleaguered notion. Yet human hubris, for all our chutzpah, may never quite get there. Perhaps the best thing about our universe (or universes, if there are, in fact, an infinite variety of them as some attest) is that it will remain tantalisingly beyond our comprehension. Even if our comprehension were aided, abetted and accelerated by the cognitive powers of our computers – the Artificial Intelligence we’re trying to invent.

(Consider for one of those computer nanoseconds the great risks of the AI race. When combined with robotics, we’ll have created a monster worthy of multifarious Frankensteins – a master race that might feel compelled to thank us with genocide. Perhaps keeping a few of us as pets, or in a zoo.)

The Second Law of Thermodynamics is the catch-22 of the cosmos. It means that at some point in the future, after eons of pondering the mystery of it all, the mystery will cease. In total darkness, stillness and universal death. From the tiniest to the mightiest, everything will have run down, cooled down, dimmed down … the End.

Optimists, particularly to be found among the theologians of AI, propose that the spread of intelligence throughout the cosmos may triumph over the Second Law – that our collective wisdom, multiplied by our technologies, will stop the Law’s merciless clock and rewind it. Their argument goes like this: that while God didn’t exist and doesn’t exist, we’re bringing him into existence. They predict a vast effulgence of thought spreading from our planet throughout the galaxies, the ultimate techno-fix. While Douglas Adams laughed about things like this, I’ve encountered many who take it (and themselves) very seriously.

Let there be light! Verily the geeks say unto us – the light of our intellects will flood the darkness of space! The suns and planets and galaxies, and anyone or anything that dwells therein, will be part of it. A collective consciousness far larger than the one proposed in my first paragraph is being formed. It is being googled into existence.

We have, of course, been inventing gods for thousands of years. We needed them to solve the puzzle, to soothe the fears. Tribespeople moulded their gods from mud, carved them from wood or painted them in caves. Soon civilisation would cast them in bronze or make them glow with gold. The museums are full of them – the gods that died. Egyptian, Assyrian, Roman, Greek, Aztec, Mayan, Norse, all long past their use-by dates and toppled from their pedestals. Found in dunes and jungles, retrieved from tombs or hauled encrusted with shellfish from the Mediterranean. Once worshipped by vast populations, they are now reduced to tourist attractions. Dim memories in marble.

This new-model god is just the latest.

Genesis has God making Adam from the dust. In truth, it was the other way round. Early man made God from the mud. In his own likeness. While the material of choice is now silicon, the vanity remains the same.
Christian Europe RIP
Timothy Garton Ash The Guardian, Thursday April 21 2005

Atheists should welcome the election of Pope Benedict XVI. For this aged, scholarly, conservative, uncharismatic Bavarian theologian will surely hasten precisely the de-Christianisation of Europe that he aims to reverse. At the end of his papacy, Europe may again be as un-Christian as it was when St Benedict, one of the patron saints of Europe, founded his pioneering monastic order, the Benedictines, 15 centuries ago. Christian Europe: from Benedict to Benedict. RIP.
Europe is now the most secular continent on earth. The phenomenon of the last pope masked the underlying trend. We saw the great crowds of enthusiastic young people on St Peter's Square, or at open-air masses on his many journeys, and half-forgot the plummeting figures for church attendance and the recruitment of priests. An American Baptist missionary website puts things in perspective. "Western Europe," it states, "is ... one of the world's most difficult mission fields. Most missiologists compare it to the Muslim-held Middle East when it comes to responsiveness to the gospel." Voltaire would be proud of us.

This used to be less true in eastern Europe, where the pressure of communism helped to keep the churches strong. But an irony of John Paul II's pontificate was that, by hastening the end of communism, he helped unleash those forces of capitalist modernisation that contributed to secularisation in western Europe. Meanwhile, both immigration and the prospective enlargement of the EU are making Islam the most dynamic, growing faith in Europe. In Berlin, for example, Muslims are already the second-largest active denomination, after Protestants but before Catholics.

As everyone keeps saying, elderly popes can surprise us all, as John XXIII did by convoking the reforming Second Vatican Council. But I see nothing in the personality, biography, principles or strategy of Benedict XVI to suggest that he can reverse these trends.

Joseph Ratzinger has all the conservatism of Karol Wojtyla with none of the charisma. He can be charming, witty and persuasive in intellectual debate, as he showed recently when taking on the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas, rather as Benedict XIV took on Voltaire in the 18th century. But for a wider audience his soft, precise voice, mildly professorial manner and uncertain wave cannot begin to compare with the communication skills of the great actor who was his predecessor. Nor do they compare with the potential appeal of some of the alternative candidates, younger men from Latin America who could credibly have made the Catholic church one of the strongest voices for the world's poor. Paradoxically, a Latin American pope might have had more appeal to young Europeans than this European one.

How could he inspire the young? The Catholic writer Daniel Johnson suggests in the Times that Benedict XVI has the learning and intellect to get across to young people the last pope's exciting reinterpretations of ancient doctrines. "In particular," he writes, "the Theology of the Body, which sees sexuality as an emanation of divine love, has enormous unrealised potential to enthuse the young." Well, I shall be watching that space.

This Bavarian theologian is not just old but old-fashioned. Like several German professors of his generation, he seems to have been traumatised by the student protests of 1968, which were led by figures like Gerhard Schröder and Joschka Fischer. On the day of Ratzinger's election, Chancellor Schröder made polite claims of patriotic pride in the election of a German pope, but I can guess his pillow talk that night. It was striking to switch from Polish television, still mourning the greatest Pole in history, to German television, greeting their compatriot with faint praise and waspish worrying.

Unfair though it is to blame him for his compulsory enrolment in the Hitler Youth, his biography is hardly the asset that Wojtyla's was. And not just in the extreme version presented by the Sun, which hailed his election with the memorable headline From Hitler Youth to ... Papa Ratzi, and described him as an "ex-World War II enemy soldier".

His principles are very similar to those of his predecessor. It would be unreasonable to expect that he should change them. The Catholic church is not a political party, trimming to pick up votes. The strength of a rock is that it is not sand. None the less, there are a couple of important adjustments that a new pope could make without threatening the central core of Catholic dogma. One is that he could allow the exceptional use of condoms to prevent babies being born with HIV/Aids. This would have a major life-saving effect in the developing world, but also a positive impact on public opinion in Europe. Secondly, he could allow Catholic priests to marry. Perhaps he may yet surprise us on the first issue; it will be a miracle if he changes his position on the second.

Then there is his strategy. John Paul II was a welcoming, ecumenical, big-tent pope. In Benedict XVI's view, if becoming smaller is the price of the Catholic church remaining true to its basic principles, so be it. The church will be smaller but purer. Klein aber fein, as they say in his native German.

His homily in St Peter's basilica before the cardinals went into conclave made it clear that he intends to tackle the secularism, moral laxity and consumerism of contemporary Europe head-on. He has described homosexuality as tending towards an "intrinsic moral evil". He was reportedly shocked by the rejection of the devout Catholic Rocco Buttiglione as a European commissioner. He rails against the "dictatorship of relativism".

Rampant secularism is not the only danger he spies. This pope also has some decidedly old-fashioned views on Islam. In a sermon delivered in Regensburg in 2003, he sharply attacked the then German president for suggesting that the monk's habit has as little place in European public life as the Islamic headscarf. He quoted with approval a German theologian's response "that Europe was, after all, built not through the Qur'an but through the holy scriptures of the old and new covenant". (That is, including Judaism as well as Christianity.) "I would not ban any Muslim woman from wearing the headscarf," he generously declared. "But far less will we allow the cross, which is the public sign of a culture of reconciliation, to be banned!"

Identifying Europe with Christianity, he sees no place for Turkey in the European Union. In an interview with Le Figaro last August, he spoke of Europe as a "cultural" rather than a merely geographical continent, and said Turkey had "always represented another [cultural] continent in the course of history, in permanent contrast to Europe". Turkey could, he suggested, "try to set up a cultural continent with neighbouring Arab countries and become the protagonist of a culture with its own identity".

They are already calling the 265th pope a "transitional" figure. But so far as we know he has none of the serious health problems of John Paul II and, with the best of modern, scientific medical care, he could well survive another 10 years. That means he could live to see the European Union in 2015. This Europe would probably be more Islamic than now in its poorer parts, and more secular than ever in its richer ones. Whether that would also be a better Europe is a subject for another column.
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