Thursday, February 28, 2013
Science is different to all other systems of thought..
because you don’t need faith in it, you can check that it works
- Brian Cox
At the National Press Club in Washington today, businessman and private space traveler Dennis Tito officially announced his plans to fund a private, nonprofit effort to launch the first human mission to the Red Planet, called Inspiration Mars. To take advantage of an alignment of Earth and Mars that happens once every 15 years and would allow the shortest possible travel time possible between the planets, the mission seeks to launch on January 5, 2018. The crew would return to Earth on May 21, 2019.
Tito’s spacecraft will be as stripped-down as possible. There will be no landing, and no need for a landing craft. Instead, the spacecraft will fly to within 100 miles of Mars to give humans the first close-up view of the planet without actually touching down. The crew would also be kept to a bare minimum for safety: just two astronauts.
As for total cost, Tito, indicated that it would cost “a factor of 100″ less than the Apollo missions. That would put it at about $1 billion. “This is really chump change,” Tito said.
Read more: Popular Mechanics
The Cra y Plan to Fly Two Humans to Mars in 2018
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
“All the atoms of our bodies will be blown into space in the disintegration of the solar system, to live on forever as mass or energy. That’s what we should be teaching our children, not fairy tales about angels and seeing grandma in Heaven.”
- Carolyn Porco
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Monday, February 25, 2013
“An astronomically overwhelming majority of the people who could be born never will be. You are one of the tiny minority whose number came up. Be thankful that you have a life, and forsake your vain and presumptuous desire for a second one.”
- Richard Dawkins
The motto “In God We Trust” was first challenged in Aronow v. United States in 1970, but the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled: “It is quite obvious that the national motto and the slogan on coinage and currency ‘In God We Trust’ has nothing whatsoever to do with the establishment of religion. Its use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise.”
As the motto is mere cerimonial and not tied to a particular religion or non-religious grouping, the US mint has approved a motion to mint coins and bills imprinted with “In Allah We Trust”, “In Jahweh We Trust”, “In The Force We Trust”, “In Buddha We Trust”, “In Vishnu We Trust”, and “In No God We Trust” as well as the standard “In God We Trust”.
The selections were made through an online questionnaire presented by the mint in September though to December 2012. The mint confirms that the new currency will begin to appear in 2014, and new denominations of gods will be added (though not removed) as a public service to any requests that qualify for inclusion (based on number of requests represented as a percentile).
The minting of the different mottos will be in equal parts as to give no preferential treatment to any or no gods
In God We trust
Sunday, February 24, 2013
“The fact is that far more crime and child abuse has been committed by zealots in the name of God, Jesus and Mohammed than has ever been committed in the name of Satan. Many people don’t like that statement, but few can argue with it.”
― Carl Sagan
Why I Am Not A Christian
by Bertrand Russell
Introductory note: Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. Published in pamphlet form in that same year, the essay subsequently achieved new fame with Paul Edwards’ edition of Russell’s book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays … (1957).
As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians — all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on — are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.
What Is a Christian?
Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature — namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find in Whitaker’s Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.
But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.
The Existence of God
To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.
The First-cause Argument
Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill’s Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: “My father taught me that the question ‘Who made me?’ cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?’” That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu’s view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, “How about the tortoise?” the Indian said, “Suppose we change the subject.” The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause.
The Natural-law Argument
Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question “Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?” If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others — the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it — if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness.
The Argument from Design
The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire’s remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.
When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending — something dead, cold, and lifeless.
I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out — at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation — it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.
The Moral Arguments for Deity
Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother’s knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasize — the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.
Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God’s fiat or is it not? If it is due to God’s fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God’s fiat, because God’s fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could take up the line that some of the gnostics took up — a line which I often thought was a very plausible one — that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.
The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice
Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, “After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also.” Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, “The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance.” You would say, “Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment”; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, “Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one.” Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.
Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people’s desire for a belief in God.
The Character of Christ
I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, “Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.
Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, “Judge not lest ye be judged.” That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, “Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.” That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.
Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, “If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor.” That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.
Defects in Christ’s Teaching
Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, “Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come.” Then he says, “There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom”; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, “Take no thought for the morrow,” and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise.
The Moral Problem
Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ’s moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching — an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.
You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, “Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell.” That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: “Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come.” That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.
Then Christ says, “The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth”; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.” He continues, “And these shall go away into everlasting fire.” Then He says again, “If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched.” He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.
There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. “He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: ‘No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever’ . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: ‘Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.’” This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.
The Emotional Factor
As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler’s book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the “Sun Child,” and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, “I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon.” He was told, “You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked”; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.
That is the idea — that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.
How the Churches Have Retarded Progress
You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, “This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children.” Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.
That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. “What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy.”
Fear, the Foundation of Religion
Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing — fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it.
What We Must Do
We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world — its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.
Electronic colophon: This electronic edition of “Why I Am Not a Christian” was first made available by Bruce MacLeod on his “Watchful Eye Russell Page.” It was newly corrected (from Edwards, NY 1957) in July 1996 by John R. Lenz for the Bertrand Russell Society.
Return to the Bertrand Russell Society Home Page.
Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell
If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed
- Albert Einstein
Saturday, February 23, 2013
Don’t spread the shit, Just because the bull from which it came is on your side
Don"t spread the bullshit
It’s only when you group them in sentences, they start getting iffy
Every Single Word in the Bible is true
Evangelist Benny Hinn"s son arrested in Brazil for "beating up deaf and dumb man during one of his father"s events"
Evangelist Benny Hinn’s son arrested in Brazil for ‘beating up deaf and dumb man during one of his father’s events’
- Benny Hinn was on stage ‘healing sick’ when Hestephenson Araujo got up
- Thinking Araujo, 21, was about to throw water, Hinn’s son Joshua pounced
- Allegedly taken to trailer and beaten, but could not speak to defend actions
- Later claimed he simply took water to stage because he wanted blessing
- Joshua Hinn and two bodyguards arrested on suspicion of torture
Evangelist Benny Hinn"s son arrested in Brazil for "beating up deaf and dumb man during one of his father"s events"
Cardinal Keith O’Brien, Britain’s most senior Catholic figure, points to ecclesiastical celibacy as having no ‘divine origin’
Britain’s most senior Catholic has suggested Catholic priests should be able to marry and have children, saying the demand for celibacy was not of “divine origin”.
In one of the most significant breaks with Catholic orthodoxy, Cardinal Keith O’Brien said many priests found it “very difficult to cope” with the celibate life and suggested lifting that ban could soon happen in the wider church.
The cardinal suggested that the next pope could review the marriage ban for priests. Marriage is allowed in some cases within the church already. The English Catholic church has accepted married former Anglican priests, under a policy introduced in 2011 by the present pope, Benedict XVI.
British cardinal: Next pope should review marriage ban since ‘Jesus didn"t say that’
Thursday, February 21, 2013
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
To most Christians, the Bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it. They just scroll to the bottom and click I agree
Bible - a License Agreement ?
10 Frightening Things That Happen at Conservative Christian Schools That May Be Funded With Your Tax Dollars
School vouchers have long been a pet cause of Christian school advocates who want to shore up profits and increase their ranks. In 2002, the United States Supreme Court ruled that public funds designated for private school tuition were not an infringement on church/state separation. That gave private Christian school advocates a green light to promote vouchers for themselves.
Though vouchers have become legal in some states, like Ohio, others, like North Carolina, are still holding out. Either way, Christian school advocates show no signs of slowing down their efforts. One reason vouchers remain so contested is that they sometimes fund activities in private Christian schools that many American taxpayers would not want to support. Here are 10 strange things that happen at Christian schools that may give you pause next time vouchers are debated in your state:
10 Frightening Things That Happen at Conservative Christian Schools That May Be Funded With Your Tax Dollars
The story of the Girl of Qatif, as the alleged rape victim has been called by the media here, has triggered a rare debate about Saudi Arabia’s legal system, in which judges have wide discretion in punishing a criminal, rules of evidence are shaky and sometimes no defense lawyers are present.
The result, critics say, are sentences left to the whim of judges. These include one in which a group of men got heavier sentences for harassing women than the men in the Girl of Qatif rape case or three men who were convicted of raping a boy. In another, a woman was ordered to divorce her husband against her will based on a demand by her relatives.
In the case of the Girl of Qatif, she was sentenced to 90 lashes for being alone in a car with a man to whom she was not married — a crime in this strictly segregated country — at the time that she was allegedly attacked and raped by a group of other men.
Read More www.nbcnews.com
Rape case calls Saudi legal system into question
Monday, February 18, 2013
“Philosophy begins where religion ends, just as by analogy chemistry begins where alchemy runs out, and astronomy takes the place of astrology.”
― Christopher Hitchens
Sunday, February 17, 2013
Buddha statues have joined Barbie dolls and characters from The Simpsons as banned items in Iran.
Officials are confiscating the statues from shops in the capital, Tehran, to stop the promotion of Buddhism, according to a report in the independent Arman daily.
The Islamic republic has long fought against items such as Barbie toys to block western influence, but this appears to be the first time authorities have shown an opposition to symbols from the east.
Iran confiscates Buddha statues in crackdown on "cultural invasion"
Saturday, February 16, 2013
Friday, February 15, 2013
The vastness of space and the puzzling nature of the cosmic objects that occupy it provides no shortage of material for astronomers to ponder.
To round up some of the most enduring mysteries in the field of astronomy, the journal Scienceenlisted help from science writers and members of the Board of Reviewing Editors to choose eight puzzling questions being asked by leading astronomers today.
As Robert Coontz, deputy news editor at Science, writes in his introduction to the series, the participants decided that, “true mysteries must have staying power,” rather than being questions that might be resolved by research in the near future. In fact, while some of the topics discussed may one day be solved through astronomical observations, others may never be solved, he added.
What is dark energy?
In the 1920s, astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe is not static, but rather is expanding. In 1998, the Hubble Space Telescope, named for the astronomer, studied distant supernovas and found that the universe was expanding more slowly a long time ago compared with the pace of its expansion today.
This groundbreaking discovery puzzled scientists, who long thought that the gravity of matter would gradually slow the universe’s expansion, or even cause it to contract. Explanations of the universe’s accelerated expansion led to the bizarre and hotly debated concept of dark energy, which is thought to be the enigmatic force that is pulling the cosmos apart at ever-increasing speeds.
While dark energy is thought to make up approximately 73 percent of the universe, the force remains elusive and has yet to be directly detected.
“Dark energy might never reveal its nature,” Science staff writer Adrian Cho wrote. “Still, scientists remain optimistic that nature will cooperate and that they can determine the origins of dark energy.”
CREDIT: NASA, ESA, CFHT, CXO, M.J. Jee (University of California, Davis), and A. Mahdavi (San Francisco State University)
How hot is dark matter?
In the 1960s and 1970s, astronomers hypothesized that there might be more mass in the universe than what is visible. Vera Rubin, an astronomer at the Carnegie Institution of Washington, studied the speeds of stars at various locations in galaxies. [Top 10 Strangest Things in Space]
Rubin observed that there was virtually no difference in the velocities of stars at the center of a galaxy compared to those farther out. These results seemed to go against basic Newtonian physics, which implies that stars on the outskirts of a galaxy would orbit more slowly.
Astronomers explained this curious phenomenon with an invisible mass that became known as dark matter. Even though it cannot be seen, dark matter has mass, so researchers infer its presence based on the gravitational pull it exerts on regular matter.
Dark matter is thought to make up about 23 percent of the universe, while only 4 percent of the universe is composed of regular matter, which includes stars, planets and humans.
“Scientists still don’t know what dark matter is, but that could soon change,” Cho wrote. “Within years, physicists might be able to detect particles of the stuff.”
But while astronomers may soon be able to detect particles of dark matter, certain properties of the material remain unknown.
“In particular, studies of runty ‘dwarf galaxies’ might test whether dark matter is icy cold as standard theory assumes, or somewhat warmer — essentially a question of how massive particles of dark matter are,” Cho explained.
CREDIT: Spectrum: NASA/CXC/Univ. of California Irvine/T. Fang Illustration: CXC/M. Weiss
Where are the missing baryons?
If dark energy and dark matter combine to make up roughly 95 percent of the universe, regular matter makes up about 5 percent of the cosmos. Yet, more than half of this regular matter is missing.
This so-called baryonic matter is composed of particles such as protons and electrons that make up most of the mass of the visible matter in the universe.
“As astronomers count baryons from the early universe to the present day, however, the number drops mysteriously, as if baryons were steadily vanishing through cosmic history,” wrote Yudhijit Bhattacharjee, a staff writer at Science.
According to Bhattacharjee, astrophysicist suspect the missing baryonic matter may exist between galaxies, as material that is known as warm-hot intergalactic medium, or WHIM.
Locating the missing baryons in the universe continues to be a priority in the field of astronomy, because these observations should help researchers understand how cosmic structure and galaxies have evolved over time.
CREDIT: A. Ravasio (LULI), A. Pelka (LULI), J. Meinecke (Oxford) and C. Murphy (Oxford)/ F. Miniati (ETH).
How do stars explode?
When a massive star runs out of fuel and dies, it triggers a spectacular explosion called a supernova that can briefly shine more brightly than an entire galaxy.
Over the years, scientists have studied supernovas and recreated them using sophisticated computer models, but how these gigantic explosions occur is an enduring astronomical puzzle. [Gallery: Supernova Explosions]
“In recent years, advances in supercomputing have enabled astronomers to simulate the internal conditions of stars with increasing sophistication, helping them to better understand the mechanics of stellar explosions,” Bhattacharjee wrote. “Yet, many details of what goes on inside a star leading up to an explosion, as well as how that explosion unfolds, remain a mystery.”
CREDIT: ESO/M. Kornmesser
What re-ionized the universe?
The broadly accepted theory for the origin and evolution of the universe is the Big Bang model, which states that the cosmos began as an incredibly hot, dense point roughly 13.7 billion years ago.
A dynamic phase in the history of the early universe, approximately 13 billion years ago, is known as the age of re-ionization. During this period, the fog of hydrogen gas in the early universe was clearing and becoming transparent to ultraviolet light for the first time.
“Some 400,000 years after the big bang, protons and electrons had cooled off enough for their mutual attraction to pull them together into atoms of neutral hydrogen,” science writer Edwin Cartlidge stated. “Suddenly photons, which previously scattered off the electrons, could travel freely through the universe.” [Big Bang to Now in 10 Easy Steps]
A few hundred million years later, the electrons were stripped off the atoms again.
“This time, however, the expansion of the universe had dispersed the protons and electrons enough so that the new energy sources kept them from recombining. The ‘particle soup’ was also dilute enough so that most photons could pass through it unimpeded. As a result, most of the universe’s matter turned into the light-transmitting ionized plasma that it remains today.”
CREDIT: NSF/J. Yang
What’s the source of the most energetic cosmic rays?
The source of cosmic rays has long perplexed astronomers, who have spent a century investigating the origins of these energetic particles.
Cosmic rays are charged subatomic particles — predominantly protons, electrons and charged nuclei of basic elements — that flow into our solar system from deep in outer space. As cosmic rays flow into the solar system from elsewhere in the galaxy, their paths are bent by the magnetic fields of the sun and Earth.
The strongest cosmic rays are extraordinarily powerful, with energies up to 100 million times greater than particles from manmade colliders. Still, the origin of these strange particles has been an enduring mystery.
“After a century of cosmic ray research, the most energetic visitors from space remain stubbornly enigmatic and look set on keeping their secrets for years to come,” wrote Daniel Clery, deputy news editor at Science.
Why is the solar system so bizarre?
As astronomers and space observatories discover alien planets around other stars, researchers have been keen to understand the unique characteristics of our solar system.
For instance, while extremely varied, the four innermost planets have rocky outer shells and metallic cores. The four outermost planets are vastly different and each possess their own identifiable features. Scientists have studied the process of planetary formation in hopes of grasping how our solar system came to be, but the answers have not been simple.
“Looming over all the attempts to explain planetary diversity, however, is the chilling specter of random chance,” wrote Richard Kerr, a staff writer at Science. “Computer simulations show that the chaos of caroming planetesimals in our still-forming planetary system could just as easily have led to three or five terrestrial planets instead of four.”
But the search for alien worlds could help scientists hoping to gain insights into the planets closer to home.
“Help might come from planets orbiting other stars,” Kerr wrote. “As exoplanet hunters get beyond stamp-collecting planets solely by orbit and mass, they will have a far larger number of planetary outcomes to consider, beyond what our local neighborhood can offer. Perhaps patterns will emerge from inchoate diversity.”
Why is the sun’s corona so hot?
The sun’s ultrahot outer atmosphere is called the corona, and it is typically heated to temperatures ranging from 900,000 degrees Fahrenheit (500,000 degrees Celsius) to 10.8 million degrees F (6 million degrees C).
“[F]or the better part of a century, solar physicists have been mystified by the sun’s ability to reheat its corona, the encircling wispy crown of light that emerges from the glare during a total solar eclipse,” Kerr said.
Astronomers have narrowed down the culprits to energy beneath the visible surface, and processes in the sun’s magnetic field. But the detailed mechanics of coronal heating are currently unknown.
“Just how the magnetic field transports the energy is much debated, and how the energy gets deposited once it reaches the corona is even more mysterious,” Kerr wrote.
To see Science’s full report on the greatest mysteries in astronomy today, see www.sciencemag.org
8 Modern Astronomy Mysteries Scientists Still Can't Explain
Thursday, February 14, 2013
Never be a spectator of unfairness or stupidity. Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence. Suspect your own motives, and all excuses. Do not live for others any more than you would expect others to live for you.
- Christopher Hitchens
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
His breasts are full of milk, and his bones are moistened with marrow” (Job, 21:24).
Contradictions in the Bible - Job, 21:24
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
”When Inventing a god, The most Important thing is to claim it is invisible, inaudible and imperceptible in every way. Otherwise people will become skeptical when it appears to no one, is silent and does nothing.”
- Lindsey Brown
Monday, February 11, 2013
Published on Jan 13, 2013
Four women went topless in St. Peter’s Square to protest the Vatican’s opposition to gay marriage. The pope appeared not to have been disturbed as he delivered his traditional prayer from his studio window overlooking the piazza
[video] Topless attack on Vatican (january 13)
There is no polite way to suggest to someone that they have devoted their life to a folly
- Daniel Dennett
“The significance of our lives and our fragile planet is then determined only by our own wisdom and courage. We are the custodians of life’s meaning. We long for a parent to care for us, to forgive us our errors, to save us from our childish mistakes. But knowledge is preferable to ignorance. Better by far to embrace the hard truth than a reassuring fable… If we crave some cosmic purpose, then let us find ourselves a worthy goal.”
~ Carl Sagan
[video] Carl Sagan speaks about the meaning of life... God: A Reassuring Fable
Pope Benedict IX, in 1045: At age 33 and about 10 years into his tumultuous term, the Rome-born pope resigned so that he could get married – and to collect some cash from his godfather, also Roman, who paid Benedict IX to step down so that he might replace him,according to British historian Reginald L. Poole’s definitive and much-cited history of the 11th century.
Pope Gregory VI, in 1046: The same man who had bribed and replaced his godson ended up leaving the office himself only a year later, according to Poole’s account. The trouble began when Benedict IX failed to secure the bride he’d resigned for, leading him to change his mind and return to the Vatican. Both popes remained in the city, both claiming to rule the Catholic church, for several months. That fall, the increasingly despondent clergy called on the German Emperor Henry III, of the Holy Roman Empire, to invade Rome and remove them both. When Henry III arrived, he treated Gregory VI as the rightful pope but urged him to stand before a council of fellow church leaders. The bishops urged Gregory VI to resign for bribing his way into office. Though the fresh new pope argued that he had done nothing wrong in buying the papacy, he stepped down anyway.
Pope Celestine V, in 1294: After only five months in office, the somber Sicilian pope formally decreed that popes now had the right to resign, which he immediately used. according to a report in the Guardian. He wrote, referring to himself in the third person, that he had resigned out of “the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life.” He became a hermit, but two years later was dragged out of solitude by his successor, who locked him up in an Italian castle. Celestine died 10 months later.
Pope Benedict XVI, in 2013: Citing health reasons from old age, he announced today that he will step down on Feb. 28.
The bizarre stories of the four other popes to have resigned in the last 1,000 years
Papa Benedict IX, în 1045:
La varsta de 33 si aproximativ 10 de ani în mandatul său tumultuos, papa demisionat, ca se poata căsători – și de a colecta niște bani de la nașul său, de asemenea, Roman, care initial l-a sponsorizat pe Benedict al IX, astfel ca el să-l înlocuiască, sursa (istoricul britanic Reginald L. Poole istoria definitivă și mult-citată a secolului al 11-lea.)
Papa Grigorie VI, în 1046:
Același om care a mituit și a înlocuit finul său a ajuns sa paraseasca biroul însuși doar un an mai târziu. Probleme a început atunci când Papa Benedict al IX (finul lui din 1045)-nu a reușit să-si gaseasca mireasa a hotarit să se răzgândească și să se întoarcă la Vatican. Ambii papi au rămas în oraș, pretinzând la dreptul de Papa a bisericii catolice, pentru mai multe luni. In aceeasi toamne, clerii din ce în ce mai deznădăjduiți au cerut împăratului german Henric al III-a, (împăratul Imperiu Roman), sa invadeze Roma și sa-i elimine pe amândoi. Când Henry III-a ajuns la Roma, el l-a ales pe Grigorie VI drept Papa legitim. Episcopii au cerut lui Grigorie VI să demisioneze din cauza mituirii drumului său în birou. Deși Papa nu si-a recunoscut vina, a demisionat oricum.
Papa Celestin V, în 1294:
După numai cinci luni de mandat, sumbrul Papa sicilian a stabilit prin lege că Papii au acum dreptul de a demisiona, si s-a folosit imediat de acest drept. Potrivit unui raport in The Guardian. El a scris, referindu-se la el însuși la persoana a treia, că a demisionat din “dorința de umilință, pentru o viață mai pură, pentru o conștiință curata, din cauza problemelor de sanatate, din prea multa ignoranța, perversitate a poporului, dorul lui pentru o vieța mai linistita” In scurt timp a devenit un om pustnic si doi ani mai târziu a fost scos din singuratate de succesorul său, care l-a închis într-un castel italian.
Celestine a murit 10 luni mai târziu.
Papa Grigore al XII-, în 1415:
Batrinul venețian a deținut funcția timp de 10 ani, dar el nu a fost singurul papă. Timp de decenii, Europa a avut doi papi, unul la Roma și unul în orașul francez Avignon. Cauzele separarii au fost mai degrabă politice decât teologice: Papa a avut o autoritate extraordinara asupra politicii europene, care a influentat regii sa devena treptat tot mai agresivi în controlul liderilor bisericii. Grigore al XII-a si-a dat demisia, astfel încât un consiliu special din Constance, Germania, sa-l poata alunga si pe Papa din Avignon și sa inceapa cu un nou lider, unic pe biserica catolica.
Papa Benedict al XVI-lea, în 2013:
Invocând motive de sănătate si bătrânețe, a anunțat astăzi (2/11/2013) că va demisiona în 28 februarie .
Istoriile bizare ale celor patru Papi care au demisionat in ultimii 1000 de ani
“It is often argued that religion is valuable because it makes men good, but even if this were true it would not be a proof that religion is true. That would be an extension of pragmatism beyond endurance. Santa Claus makes children good in precisely the same way, and yet no one would argue seriously that the fact proves his existence. The defense of religion is full of such logical imbecilities.”
- HL Mencken
Sunday, February 10, 2013
Did you guys see that awesome commercial for atheism during the Superbowl? Best commercial I’ve ever seen by far!
Atheist SuperBowl Commercial - Best Commercial At The SuperBowl
Saturday, February 9, 2013
Friday, February 8, 2013
“The illusion of knowledge is more dangerous than ignorance. Why? Because ignorance is a void that can be filled, whilst delusion is an obstacle that is impeccably difficult to remove.”
- Ben Clark
The illusion of knowledge
I was one of them. I had all the arguments… but I was also open to being wrong.
Today, it sometimes takes a lot of humility and restraint to not tell them that they are “not there yet” — but like me and the rest of those who turned to atheism, they will finally have to admit to the foolishness of their faith and current understanding, ignorant of the overwhelming evidence and logic out there.
A Daily Atheist
Thursday, February 7, 2013
Tax religion now!
We must end the Unconstitutional endorsement of religion by propping it up with public tax dollars.
If your ignorant, bigoted beliefs cannot survive the free-market of ideas, they deserve to be relegated to the dust-bin of history.
Religious tax exemption costs the USA $1 000 000 every 7.5 minutes, day and night.