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  • By Gina Rushton
    For the first time ever, “no religion” has overtaken any single religious denomination, toppling Catholicism as the number one religious affiliation for Australians, the latest national census […]

    • This trend is probably due to different social changes that have occurred in the last two decades, along with religious terrorism, child abuse and the like.
      This could be an “auto-sustaining” phenomenon, in which people that were afraid of confessing their agnosticism/atheism years ago now are no longer afraid, as a growing number of people come out as de facto atheists. I think that the “wall” is beginning to crumble: skeptical people realize that there is no real drawback in declaring their agnosticism or atheism and so they literally spell it out.
      This, of course, raises the number of future families that will not bring up their children in religious ways. It would be interesting to count the number of families that do raise their children following religion and those that do not. This would give some forecast power for future trend.
      In Italy, I see a divide between north and south, with the south being far more glued to religious faith than the north. However, I can say that among the lot of people that I know from the south, a very big part is composed of would-be believer: people that state that they believe, probably because they have never considered the option of non-believing at all. They consider religion to be something normal, so to speak, without giving to it much importance, if not in traditional religious celebrations. I suspect, though, that in a poll they would all say that they believe. How honest that statement is, I do not know.
      That said, I wonder how many honest people represent the 22,6% catholic australian that we see in the poll’s results…

    • I’d simply like to affirm the comments of the two previous posters and end by saying, “It’s good news week!”.

    • The agnostics are a group that I take very seriously. I was one myself for some time between my teens when I was disgusted with religious upbringing in the Methodist church and the minute I closed the cover on The God Delusion and realized that all of my annoyance and uncomfortable disdain of religion had been refined into coherent arguments thanks to RD’s blunt and efficient writing. Exit murky agnosticism and enter clean efficient atheism. Thanks for the paradigm shift, Richard!

      So now I want to hold out a hand to the agnostics all around us. I do agree that it’s a position of intellectual dishonesty but let’s not lead with that. We can deal with agnostics in a kinder, gentler way. I start with the statement that they are good people and the credit for that goes to themselves and their families and not to an imaginary dictator in the sky. The Bible and other holy books have nothing to say about good behavior that we can’t get from modern sources (vastly superior to the old books) and the old books have way too much encouragement for very bad behavior.

      God gets credit for good things that happen but never seems to be blamed for the evil that goes on all around us. We can remind people around us to practice this, especially in medical situations. When someone starts thanking God for the “miraculous” medical cure of a loved one, a gentle reminder to redirect the thankfulness to the medical professionals who spent their whole adult life in dedication to learning science is an easy way to diminish the importance of God in their minds. Hold agnostics to account on giving credit where credit is due.

      I’ve also seen opportunities to eliminate the presence of clergy in our traditional ceremonies and substitute humanist celebrants or family and friends who are suited to organizing and speaking at these events. I’ve written before about the importance of modeling this behavior and encouraging the young people to take part in reading eulogies and thinking outside the box to create newer, better traditions to replace the old meaningless ones. Sometimes they need permission to ditch these old traditions because they think they’re the only ones who don’t like them and they think that they’re being disrespectful, so, speak up and encourage the young people to take better action.

      Weddings are loaded with negative symbolism that even forty years ago the feminists were railing against. White dress for virginity – purity signaling, Father walks bride down the aisle and hands her over to her new owner – Patriarchy! Blessing and permission of the clergy and God and every saint in heaven for the fact that the new couple will be fucking their brains out in a few hours – Why is religion allowed to involve itself in this behavior??!! Get rid of this stupid circus and make a better tradition. The whole thing is sickening. I think it’s young women who have been brought up with the whole princess bride fantasy and their mothers who are also sold on this extremely expensive archaic ritual. Am I wrong? Are young guys all excited about this too or are they just going along with it because they think they have no choice? Here is where atheists need to speak up and offer a better idea. This ain’t rocket science.

      I want agnostics to see atheism as the path of least cognitive dissonance. Life is better when murky uneasiness is refined into clear efficient viewpoints that come together in a cohesive worldview. It is a relief when this gels in the mind. After that, build an ethical framework that is unhindered by pernicious ideological memes that were established when too young to defend against them.

    • cardinal pell will be mad as hell
      about godless topping the polls
      maybe he’s to blame for this ozzie shame
      and the loss of so many souls

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      I disagree with some of the comments here on agnosticism. All that means is that you question the existence of God. Nothing wrong with that, and it leaves one open to question the non-existence of God. And that makes (one’s intellectual) life a little more interesting. Let’s not get carried away. You can never prove either; so concentrate on challenging the people who claim certainty and on challenging religious people (on the right, mostly) who use religion to suppress and exclude and subvert and who do harm to society. Leave the people who merely question alone. Don’t harass them.

      I think atheism and agnosticism is more or less the same thing. I am both, and will use either term depending on my mood. And I am not a theist. It’s obsessive and senseless to take this too far.

      I am perfectly comfortable calling myself an agnostic. I don’t go around saying that I question the existence of Superman; granted; but “God” is a little different. A different genealogy.

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      P.S. I mean we need to keep our priorities straight. We’re up against it. This is a bad time. It’s a political, social, and economic crisis that we’re facing.

      Those bastards (Bannon, Miller, all of them) want to destroy the wall between church and state.

      The Right Wing in America today is the problem. The Supreme Court is putting us on the path to become a Christian Nation. Not sure which is worse, that or extinction. (They might blow up the world.)

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      I think that is what you are saying, but I could be wrong! –Alan

      I think that’s what I am saying.

      I haven’t thought about it too much; I was born and raised in the US and always thought of agnostic (a very commonly used word here) as meaning someone who questions the idea of a god as opposed to gods. I’ve always automatically associated it with the “default” monotheistic god of the “Judeo-Christian” world or maybe the God of Islam too (the Abrahamic God). But I suppose it can be any one god that someone may believe in anywhere. So am I using the term incorrectly?

      I never thought of an agnostic as someone who questions the idea of multiple gods. That never occurred to me, frankly.

      I don’t think there is anything wrong or dishonest about agnosticism as I understand it; in fact, it is a very honest and respectable approach. It doesn’t necessarily mean they are waiting for more evidence; it just means that they see no evidence. I see no evidence and do not expect to see any ever. I am not a theist but I also question the existence of nonsense, i.e., “God”. Could agnostic have a different connotation in the UK?

      Ignostic? What’s that again? Agnosticism “requires” nothing of anyone..

    • Dan #10
      Jul 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      I never thought of an agnostic as someone who questions the idea of multiple gods. That never occurred to me, frankly.

      I think that is the point the OP is making about assumed positions on gods.

      Is an ex Hindu “agnostic”, the same as an ex-Muslim “agnostic”, or an ex- Aphrodite “agnostic”, or an ex-Shinto agnostic, or an ex- Jewish agnostic?

      I would say their doubts about gods a very different!

      That is the point about ignosticism! (have a look at the link)

      Most religions do not only lack evidence!
      They also lack a falsifiable definition of their god, so have not even made a case to answer!

      The monotheist agnostic does not take an unbiased view!

      They usually casually dismiss all gods except their own, and them claim that a position of doubt about their one god is an intellectually honest position!

      I would dispute that doubt about a chosen “default god” is an undecided position!

    • To Dan #7:

      I thought I might share some thoughts with you for your consideration.

      I do not accept the idea of an existence of Santa Claus, Tooth Fairies, or little green men coming here in flying saucers because there is no evidence of their existence. I am not “agnostic” about those fantasies. There is no way that I would say well I can’t prove their nonexistence so I must accept the possibility that perhaps they may exist. I will not do that because there simply is no evidence.

      It is the same way for this delusionary entity called God. There is no evidence for the existence of any God. Therefore, I am an atheist, perhaps as Ronald Reagan states that he is an unabashed atheist. Being an agnostic is saying well there may possibly be a God! That’s equivalent to saying that there may possibly be a Santa Claus flying through the air from the North Pole being pulled along by his reindeer. So I say no to agnosticism, I am an atheist.

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      cbrown, Alan

      I see your point, but why can’t one question even the existence of martians and not believe in them at the same time? So long as a theory or an idea, no matter how groundless or fantastic, is established, that is, has been articulated enough and debated enough to warrant being called an idea or a theory (as opposed to the flying spaghetti monster which is not a bona fide idea), one can then say that one doubts it and in the process one has questioned it. The dictionary defines agnosticism as having neither belief nor disbelief; but how can one doubt the existence of something and believe in it? Not believing and not disbelieving is logically incompatible. You can’t disbelieve and not not believe in something. That just means you have no opinion one way or the other. If that is what agnostic means I am not an agnostic. But that is not the definition I grew up with.

      Agnostics do not believe in any god; they question the existence of all gods, and therefore there is no room for belief. Where does it say anything to the contrary?

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      Well I must say you appear to be right, Alan. But I am so used to calling myself an agnostic. I rather like “non-theist”. How’s that?

    • Dan replied 3 years ago

      See Dan’s (my) comment # 8

      This is what I’m talking about!

      https://www.vox.com/world/2017/7/6/15927590/trump-alt-right-poland-defend-west-civilization-g20

      This morning in Warsaw, Poland, President Donald Trump issued a battle cry — for “family, for freedom, for country, and for God” — in a speech that often resorted to rhetorical conceits typically used by the European and American alt-right. It sounded, at times, not just like the populists of the present but the populists of the past.

      Drafted by Steve Miller, the architect of the travel ban, Trump’s speech used the type of dire, last-chance wording often utilized by the far right on both sides of the Atlantic: “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”

      “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?” Trump asked. “Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

    • Laurie

      Yes. Very true.

      (Maddow’s opening segment was terrific.)

      We might as well face it, Laurie; we seem to be heading towards something truly nightmarish. Fake news, he said (in Poland). That’s horrible!

      I turned on Fox News for a moment. I couldn’t believe it. They are sick! I guess I am still capable of being shocked by that sick, awful channel. And now there’s Sinclair. And don’t forget voter suppression. As you know…

      “Kris Kobach, the secretary of state of Kansas and the vice chairman of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, wrote a letter to all 50 states, requesting that they send the commission the personal information of all registered voters.”

      “A new report by a group of environmental advocacy organizations presents a sobering finding: G20 governments are bankrolling fossil fuel projects big time. In fact, they’re pouring four times more public finance into fossil fuels than they are into clean energy projects.” – Truthout

      And Trump supports it.

      It’s all connected.

      It’s all very depressing and frightening.

      And that is why…. you, Laurie, must run in 2020. (See end of comment 206, Montana thread – if you want to.)

    • quarecuss #6
      Jul 6, 2017 at 11:40 am

      cardinal pell will be mad as hell
      about godless topping the polls
      maybe he’s to blame for this ozzie shame
      and the loss of so many souls

      Cardinal Pell, may quake as well,
      and then turn rather pale,
      as now found out, when in account,
      He’s heading off to jail?

    • If we can get back to the original topic for a bit, surely there are enough threads with politics in them to put the Trump stuff, awful though it may be. Firstly I’m surprised that 60% of Aussies still identify with some religion but I suspect many don’t care enough about the topic to do anything other than tick the box of the religion they were born in even if they have no real belief in it. I’m sure that ALL polls of atheism are under-reported for this reason.

      I did jury service a couple of years back. We had to swear an oath to god. 14 of the 15 jurors had no problem or at least didn’t want to make a fuss so only I refused to do it and took an “affirmation” instead. I still had to hold my right hand up like if I didn’t do that stupid thing I wasn’t going to be an honest juror? Pah. Humbug and stupidity. I have no doubt though that most if not all of the other jurors had not the slightest interest in any gods. In the same way I’m sure most of the people who tick boxes in polls and censuses are not too bothered which boxes they tick.

    • Arkrid

      You’re right about the off topic comment. Duly noted. Mods should delete my #17.

    • Dan, Alan –

      I always preferred the word agnostic in the past. Why? Because atheist, much like theist, sounded too dogmatic to me. Too much certainty. Also I hate labels. I also liked that agnostic had more than one primary meaning; one can be agnostic to many things. Belief in gods has so little purchase for me that I don’t feel the need to ascribe a specific word to my non belief. However I always liked E.O. Wilson’s creation and embrace of the term ‘provisional deism’. It’s a term that sounds more elegant than atheism but does have a mildly troubling suggestion of the philosophical position of a non intervening god, which is why I don’t embrace it entirely, though I do throw it out at parties to get people talking when this kind of thing comes up. All of that said, according to RD’s scale I would score myself a flat 6 (much like RD himself did in TGD). Though RD terms that to be a de facto atheist, I don’t need to embrace this label he’s thrust upon me (it’s simply not that important to me). Lest we forget his scale is simply a proposal. Certainly it’s nothing more than that, though I do appreciate it for what it is. For those interested here is how Wilson described provisional deism:

      ‘On the question of God, Wilson has described his position as provisional deism. “I tend to believe that religious dogma is a consequence of evolution. Religious belief and the firm adherence to it—and the intense dislike of apostates, people who abandon it—has a very important biologic origin, probably through natural selection, namely the cohesion of the group and the persuasion of people to be more altruistic. So in my view, most dogmas concerning the creation are myths of creation and are not believable. They’re just different from one religion to another,” biologist E.O. Wilson, co-author of the new book The Superorganism, says in a Q&A with the St. Petersburg Times. “When the question comes up, ‘If it’s not true, why does practically everybody believe in God?’ the answer is that it’s true in a Darwinian sense. That is, it provides cohesion, it provides personal peace and rites of passage, and it promotes altruism, which are all invaluable and necessary for the survival of human societies.” When it comes to whether he personally believes in God, Wilson says he’s “willing to consider the possibility of an ultimate cause. But we haven’t really come close to grasping what that might be.”’

    • Steven007 #23
      Jul 7, 2017 at 11:10 am

      All of that said, according to RD’s scale I would score myself a flat 6
      (much like RD himself did in TGD).
      Though RD terms that to be a de facto atheist,
      I don’t need to embrace this label he’s thrust upon me
      (it’s simply not that important to me).
      Lest we forget his scale is simply a proposal.
      Certainly it’s nothing more than that, though I do appreciate it for what it is.

      I would rate myself as 6.9999 . . . for an alien universe creation, – {The exploding Klingon Warp-Drive Big-Bang hypothesis 🙂 } – or a remote non-interfering deist god, but the problem arises once we bring in actual beliefs, and religions of the material world!

      Most theists would rate themselves as a straight 7 in regard to most gods other than than their own. – Especially those who rate at ONE for their own god.
      I would see the term “agnostic” as simply muddying the waters, unless it is used in conjunction with the subject the person is agnostic about.

      Does the bald statement, “I am an agnostic”, mean you are uncertain about leprechauns?

      I would rate myself as a straight 7 for the gods of Genesis, Catholic dogmas, gods of Ancient Greece. Ancient Rome, Aztecs, Incas, etc. which have actual defined properties and are claimed to perform actions on Earth.

      This brings us back to the fallacy of “Atheists can’t DISprove MY – vague XXXX default god”, which is not falsifiable, so must afford it some credibility on the basis of uncertainty.

      That is why I would recommend that we promote the IGTHEISM position, of: “Without a definition and supporting evidence, there is no case to answer”, and theists of whatever flavour, have no credible case to present – be it for Zeus, Leprechauns, Yahweh, Thor, Aphrodite, Bacchus, tooth-fairies, or whatever.

    • It seems to me that many people believe in the existence of a God solely on the basis that someone said so, with no evidence or observations in the natural universe. That’s all it seems to be. That means that a God is a delusion, and based on that delusion a complex superstructure of fabrication was developed as a delusionary extension. As a result people want to believe in all kinds of wildly absurd statements just because someone said so. So for me, this belief in God lead to belief in a virgin birth, the existence of a heaven and a hell, talking snakes, fruit of knowledge, creation of the universe in six days…. and are all patently absurd.

      It is morbidly fascinating to watch a mass of the Roman Catholic Church. The leaders wear pointed hats, carry crosses, wave pots with smoke coming out, kneel and genuflect with such sincerity as well as causing the congregation gathered to repeat absurdities considered to be so ultra “pious” and oh so godly. All of this kind of ceremony seems to me to be a mass psychosis! This ceremony seems very similar to a person in a mental institution that is suffering a mental illness of severe paranoia, and believing that everyone is out to get them and do harm, no evidence needed of course.

      I simply cannot “believe” in something simply because someone says so, no matter how sincere and charismatic they may sound. I need some evidence, repeatable observations in the natural world to accept that some theory is correct. Even then I leave open the idea that possibly future observations will change that theory or hypothesis no matter how many observations originally supported the hypothesis. Acceptance for now seems reasonable and sane, but only for now and only to temporarily accept that an idea as correct.

      So to me Santa Claus, spaghetti monster, cosmic muffin, and God all fall in the same category as beliefs without evidence. Thus, I cannot even entertain the idea that they may even possibly exist in spite of the fact that so many people (believers) are adamant that any of them actually exists in the natural world. It is sad to see these believers become so offended when their beliefs are even questioned, unless of course you take back your blasphemous questions and furthermore repent your disbelief’s with apologies and make a sincere and believable appearance that you have been “saved.”

    • cbrown #25
      Jul 7, 2017 at 12:11 pm

      I simply cannot “believe” in something simply because someone says so, no matter how sincere and charismatic they may sound. I need some evidence, repeatable observations in the natural world to accept that some theory is correct.

      If we take the debate out of the theist’s agenda of “DISprove my god”, and move on to “analyse the fantasy god delusion”, the Abrahamic god delusion has a history and an evolution – starting with the ancient Canaanite gods of El, Yahweh, Asherah, Jehova, Baal “God” Jesus etc. so the delusion meme, has evolved and morphed into its current (thousands of) versions.
      This debunks the “scribe directed by god to write HIS WORD”, assertion of Genesis as a beginning!

      The shared delusion also has a cultural function as a “gap-filler over ignorance”, providing pseudo-knowledge and status, for posing priests to present themselves as figures of “authority” and influence, on whole lists of social and political matters.

      The “Go and look for god in the sky/in the distant universe/outside the distant universe”, is just a diversionary misdirection, away from the god-delusion memes which have evolved the art of remaining hidden in their host believers’ brains to aid their preservation and transmission!

      I think modern brain scanning techniques and neuroscience, will find them before very much longer!

    • Steve, Alan, cbrown, et al.

      I’ve thought about it. I think I was right originally. I am not convinced that “agnostic” is a bad word to use, although it, like almost all words, is imperfect. Atheism is just as imperfect: I do NOT believe in that which isn’t real.

      See? Just as absurd.

      I question the existence of that which many others do not question. That’s how I choose to use it.
      I think we’ll survive if I use the word from time to time.

      (I also deny that existence. Questioning the existence of something need not imply affirming the existence of that which one is questioning.)

      As I said earlier, cbrown, Santa Claus and “cosmic muffins” (nice) are not quite the same: if a young child were to say she doubted the existence of Santa Claus we would praise her for her intelligence! But a cosmic muffin has not been presented to us except as words; it is not part of our culture: no tradition, no lineage, no history, associated with it; it does not warrant being called an idea that people believe in (or disbelieve in). This is, I admit, a fine point; but I think something has to be believed by a sufficient number of people for a sufficient period of time in order to be worthy of being denied or questioned or doubted. Hope that makes sense. Extraterrestrials is a perfect example. That is worthy, as it were, of being doubted. “Cosmic muffin” is just an image made up out of thin air for the purpose of making a point, that is, as a rhetorical device. Now I agree that arguing that gods exist is as ridiculous as arguing that those muffins exist. But arguing that gods do not exist is not as ridiculous as arguing that cosmic muffins do not exist. Do you see my point? It’s subtle but I think I made a valid statement.

    • Dan #26
      Jul 7, 2017 at 1:06 pm

      Now I agree that arguing that gods exist is as ridiculous as arguing that those muffins exist. But arguing that gods do not exist is not as ridiculous as arguing that cosmic muffins do not exist.

      I think that moving to the material basis of arguing that gods exist only as god delusions, has much more traction than surrendering to “the default god to be DIS proved” agenda, or arguing any negative agenda for that matter!

      If I want to prove I was not in New York last Saturday you can check all over New York, and while there may be no evidence, that cannot confirm I was not in some hidden corner!
      For definitive PROOF, I would need to prove (which is quite realistic), that I was in England, at times when there was insufficient transport or time to travel to New York!

      The proof positive, is that gods exist as illusions and delusions in brains, and that the forms and descriptions of gods, bear extremely close correlations with communicating individual brains, individual cultures, historical dates, and geographical locations!

      There were no pre-Colombian, Jews, Christians or Muslims in the Americas, and no Inca or Aztec gods in Mediterranean!

    • Dan #26

      That comment is now 27. This is comment 29.

      Alan4discussion

      I think that moving to the material basis of arguing that gods exist only as god delusions, has much more traction than surrendering to “the default god to be DIS proved” agenda.

      Hello, Alan. What you just said (#28) is entirely true, and your examples are very apt and clear; but if you read my comment again and closely you will that I was arguing a different point. I would never attempt to “prove” that “God” does not exist; that is impossible. I said I would “argue” that it, “God”, doesn’t exist; in other words, I might say: “God does not exist; there is no evidence to support such a claim; nor do I feel obligated to establish faith, independently of any reasoned argument, in something that I do not regard as real – either in a moral or or in a physical sense.” But to argue, or to assert [which is all I meant by “argue”] that another’s God does not exist, is not, as I said, “ridiculous”. The fact is that God exists as a delusion or as a principle for many people. They have been making that claim and this belief has ramifications; therefore, it is perfectly reasonable, ethically imperative even, to challenge that – not by proof, but by reminding others of their own lack of proof.

      And then one has to get pretty basic with these folks and explain a very basic principle of logic, which can be presented this way: to attempt to prove that NOTHING exists, that, for example, there is no man on the moon, would, in most cases, be futile.— All I can say is that there is no evidence to support the claim.The burden of proof must always be on the one claiming that something does exist. I will use your example of an exception: proving that you were NOT in NY last Saturday, that your being-in-NY was non-existent, could be achieved if, as you said, I could prove that you were in England.

      And this approach is the same approach I would adopt if someone were to say that God exists and I wanted to assert my own opinion on the matter. Let them prove or demonstrate that He was in England last Saturday! 🙂

    • To me, the best approach to understanding our world and the universe is by means of the scientific method. I hope I am correct using that approach as a correct way of thinking. A person using the scientific method always begins with the “observation” that is becoming aware of some natural phenomenon. That means that such awareness does not begin with dreams, fantasies, delusions, illusions, or hallucinations. Perhaps I am incorrect, however it seems that all discussions on whether or not a God exists, omits the first step in the scientific method, that is: the observation.

      Based on that idea, just where does the entire discussion on a God begin? There is no original observation in the natural universe. A God entity must have first been conceived as a fantasy, not as an observation. So my question is, how can we continue to contemplate the existence of a God when there’s no opportunity to make repeated observations of such an entity? All adamant claims that such a God exists seem to be a belief that what someone said is correct in the absolute sense simply because the person who made the statement is so charismatic and convincing. All other illogic simply follows by conformity, such as considering that such belief is maintained by so many people over such a long period of history. Simply because many people believe something is true, is not a valid argument. To me it seems that that it is conformity carried to an absurd extreme.

      Consider how long it took to change the view that the earth was the center of the universe to understanding that the sun was the center. For thousands of years people knew that the earth was flat. For centuries people including philosophers and scientists understood that all life forms were created in a “perfect” form. Any notion that a “type” or species of organism could actually evolve into other species was simply out of the question. Many people today still think that way even though the evidence basically supports the ideas of Charles Darwin.

      The Bible was written by men who lived from 2002 to 4000 years ago. Those men had no knowledge of cells, DNA, population genetics, or any other observations in the natural world with respect to lifeforms that could leave them to understand the processes of evolutionary biology as we understand today. So without observations, they dreamed up explanations of life that people could understand at that time.

      In Greece about 400 BC, Plato developed the concept of the “eidos” or perfect forms, an unchanging and unseen world of forms, and that all variations observed by men were unreal as shadows in the cave. This was followed by the idea of “essentialism” and any idea of species evolving into new species was unthinkable. That basic philosophy of life held for centuries and by most biologists as well. Just because many people believed that concept did not make it a valid idea and should be considered it to be absolutely correct or even possibly correct.

    • @alan4
      cardinal pell will be mad as hell
      about godless topping the polls
      maybe he’s to blame for this ozzie shame
      and the loss of so many souls

      Cardinal Pell, may quake as well,
      and then turn rather pale,
      as now found out, when in account,
      He’s heading off to jail?

      says cardinal pell from his prison cell
      i wanted my day in the dock
      but i didn’t expect this deep disrespect
      form my lapsed papist atheist flock …

    • I think the central problem humanity has with its god delusions stems from what is currently accepted scientific (and thus known to be temporary) knowledge about how our brain works, more precisely its limitations, so how it does not work. And about our intuition. Our intuition is fine-tuned for person-to-person interactions, recognizing facial expressions, and at least sub-consciously body language. What we really stink at is statistics (even ants are better). And I mean statistics that are not misused.

      A short aside about the misuse. No, I can’t tell you the newspaper article, or was it TV program, where I got this, never mind the study being reported. The news article (headline?) was that cell phone use of more than some time period (I’ll call them much-users) leads to a 40% increase in brain tumors. Sounds frightening, doesn’t it? Specific numerical basis? The study found that the occurrence of brain tumors for the non-users (this is where I doubt my memory the most, where could they find non-users? Must have been some almost-nons, at best) and the much users was 5 respectively 7 in 100,000. Yep, no question, 7 is 40% more than 5. What was not in the article, but was found out by others checking the study, was that the seldom-users had an occurrence of 4 in 100,000. So seldom-using your cell-phone is 20% better for you than non-use – I think you get my drift.

      To take Darwin’s theory of evolution and natural selection, it certainly started out as his hypothesis (what many morons confuse with a theory), was then cast into a theory by him, with some gaps that he himself conceded. Mendel’s theory of genetics was considered almost a refutation of Darwin in the early 20th century, before R. A. Fisher (and others) put that bogeyman to rest with the modern synthesis of evolution and natural selection, he with his 1930 book “The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection”. Since then, the theory has been confirmed again and again by studies (and, I’m assuming, by attempts at falsification which failed), so that the pro side has piled up arguments massively. Pretty much any intellectually serious challenge (mostly about details) has only led to a refinement of the theory. Pretty much any spurious challenge has been found to be garbage.

      What then of the hypothesis of a god? Bad news for the theists, all of their positive claims have been shot down in flames. And what drive them to distraction is Theodicy, “in its most common form, is an attempt to answer the question of why a good God permits the manifestation of evil.” (Wikipeia) There is almost nothing more pathetic to be found in human writings that the twisted mental contortions of theologians in their failure to provide a satisfactory answer to this problem. Ironically, it was one of their own, William of Ockham (app. 1287 – 1347) who provided the most destructive tool, his famous “razor”, for shredding their almost Gordian knots of contorted thinking. Here, the con side has piled tons of stuff up on the “not likely” side.

      Neither is 100%. Anyone registering a 1 or a 7 on the Dawkins scale is brain-dead as to the functions of his brain regarding statistics. And anyone asking anyone else to “DISprove” their 100% claim – how much dumber can people get (this side of Trump voters, anyway).

    • alan4 #33
      hope to be around to see this kind of punishment
      meted out to the auto industry

    • There seems to be a problem of communication of ideas due to the ambiguity of certain words. For example the word “believe” seems to have a double meaning. When a person says “I believe…..” it is not clear whether the person simply accepts a statement or idea purely on faith alone, no evidence needed. On the other hand another person might be meaning that there is solid observable evidence supporting that idea. Even the dictionaries seem to confuse the definition of the term believe.

      One definition found is:

      To have firm religious faith.

      Another definition is:

      To accept something is true, genuine, or real.

      And on it goes, say to have a firm conviction as to the goodness or ability of something. To consider to be true or honest. To accept the word or evidence. And even to hold an opinion such as I believe it will rain soon. The dictionary considers synonyms to be accept, buy, credit, swallow, take, dress, and so on.

      The use of the term “believe” occurs often here. Even in context is difficult sometimes to know what a person means when they use the word “believe.” It seems advantageous to give the term “believe” the meaning that something is thought of as being correct merely on the basis of faith alone with no evidence needed. I would like to see the term ” accept” to mean that some phenomenon is considered to be correct on the basis of evidence and repeatable observations.

      That being said, I would prefer to say I simply do not accept a God because there is no evidence. I would not say I do not “believe” in a God nor would I say I “believe” that no god exists. Clarifying the definitions of the two terms “believe” and ” accept” would eliminate so much unnecessary discussion and miscommunication.

    • cbrown #35
      Jul 11, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      I would like to see the term ”accept” to mean that some phenomenon is considered to be correct
      on the basis of evidence and repeatable observations.

      I think there is a good argument for tidying up the definitions here for “believe”, – as there is with words like “theory”, and “sceptic”, where common vernacular usage, makes them an easy tool for deceivers and doubt-mongering ambiguity!

    • To Alan4 #36:

      Unfortunately, there are many words that are ambiguous. That makes clear and unmistakable communication often very difficult. Even such words as “fact” or “proof” are examples of this ambiguity. Theory is another one. How about the term “evolution?” There are many people that use the word “evolution” and they do not appear to understand what that term means. For instance I’ve seen many times people say “Darwin’s theory of evolution.” First of all Darwin never use the term “evolution.” Not only that, but Darwin proposed a number of hypotheses of which some were shown to be incorrect as based on the available evidence. I think that ambiguity poses a difficult problem in communication of ideas.

    • Darwin’s hypothesis regarding the origin of species that binds all into a single kinship has received sufficient (indeed spectacular) corroboration to be termed a theory. His mechanism of copy with the slightest of “errors” and the selective pressure of differential viable reproductive success is the best and primary working hypothesis. But there are other evolutionary hypotheses that also play a part that are also corroborated enough to be granted the status of theory. Horizontal gene transfer, epigenetics, a short term almost Lamarckian mechanism that may help to stabilise useful adaptions before they are genetically coded, the loose, fuzzy identiies in RNA world dependent on little helper virus like agents and finally the mooted gross horizontal gene transfer involved in the creation of complex cells (thus complex multicelled entities) through invagination, a little like eating the brains of your enemy to gain his power… like you do….

      There are true theories and mooted hypotheses of the various modes of Evolution. “Darwin’s” mode, except perhaps in the prokaryote to eukaryote transition, has done nearly all the heavy lifting. It is really useful to call this Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

      I never believe. Never use the word except in error or copying another. I have confidence that… I have evidenced confidence that…

    • Very true about words and their ambiguity. That is why we must be careful, when or if we choose to confront disingenuous propagandists, to clarify and to put things in their proper contexts and to make subtle yet vitally important distinctions.

      Charlatans and political surrogates love ambiguity and to find loopholes in language; they employ, and very effectively, improper methods of argument, based on the misuse of language, as this is all they can do to support their illogical ideas. “I have as much of a rational right to believe in God as I do to believe in the existence of the external world,” said the infamous William Lane Craig in a debate. Perfect example. Yet in spite of the absurdity of this statement it would require a lot of time, clarity and effort to explain why the premise is unsound. One has to try.

      The false equivalent is a commonly used improper method of argument. Confusing atheism with belief in something because it has an ism at the end is another. In politics these tricks are used constantly. Another one is analogous to throwing sand in one’s adversary’s eyes: you are debating, say, whether a given war is just. The person you are debating goes on and on and on and makes many references and presents a lot of facts and even makes some valid points, and talks about this and that and is all over the map – so that you are left overwhelmed, paralyzed by a barrage of statements, find yourself at a loss as to what to say. You then have to try to get your bearings back, and establish, precisely, what the points you want to make are. Not so easy.

      There are many improper methods of argument. The most vulgar are often the most effective: simple evasion is one. Interruption is effective too and very common: it’s kind of hard to win an argument if your adversary doesn’t let you speak. Ad hominem attacks are quite common too as well as accusing people of making ad hominem attacks. Both improper methods of argument in so far as they are deigned to divert and thereby suppress. Miss Wright, the creationist, accused gentlemanly Richard Dawkins of that, if you’ve seen that video. By calling attention to one’s adversary’s motive (desire to hurt), his or her message is lost and the motive becomes the point of focus.

      One must be aware of these techniques and address them. It is a combative sport. I don’t have the stomach for it. But I wish there were more reporters and commentators on TV who were better at what they do, weren’t so passive, were more vigorous. They always let the Kellyanne Conways of the world get away with these shenanigans. Maybe they want them back. Guess why? I’ll tell you: $

      cbrown’s Comment number 30 is excellent. One point about The Ideas, however: The Platonic Idea has been understood differently, and also misunderstood, by its many interpreters, and this concept probably did cause a lot of confusion and error. I don’t think that Socrates, however, would have denied the fact of evolution had he been aware of the evidence in support of it; nor do the Ideas (Kind, Species), as I have come to understand them, negate change of these forms. They are permanent for as long as they are perceived as containing the universal in the particular. You look at a man and see All Men or at a tree and see All Trees, etc. That is a perception.

      The same has been said of love; it is eternal for as long as it lasts.

    • The Greeks had, it is true, no term exactly equivalent to ” evolution”; but when Thales asserts that all things originated from water; when Anaximenes calls air the principle of all things, regarding the subsequent process as a thinning or thickening, they must have considered individual beings and the phenomenal world as, a result of evolution, even if they did not carry the process out in detail. Anaximander is often regarded as a precursor of the modem theory of development. He deduces living beings, in a gradual development, from moisture under the influence of warmth, and suggests the view that men originated from animals of another sort, since if they had come into existence as human beings, needing fostering care for a long time, they would not have been able to maintain their existence.

      Quite a number of Greeks were open to the ideas of evolution, but lacking any kind of understanding of substances and properties really had a long way to travel.

      I love the elegance of the thinking in the last sentence. This is when philosophy had its best walking boots on and made the greatest strides.

    • Good comment, Phil. Yes, you can find phrases like that amongst the ancients. Homogeneity is to be found, and a fair agreement between ancient philosophers and modern discoveries – if one looks for it. That is a beautiful thing. It also demonstrates how intuition and logic if employed by a great mind (Anaximander) yet without the proper tools and methods that were later developed, can still bear fruit. Some of the pre-Platonic philosophers were not only open, they were almost precursors, to the idea of evolution – and other ideas that developed much later.

      You can I am sure also find agreement between modern philosophers of the 18th and 19th Centuries and various contemporary scientific theories that are universally accepted, if you looked for it.

    • Dan #40:

      Ad hominem attacks are quite common too as well as accusing people of
      making ad hominem attacks.

      Used as a common fallacy by the GREAT (?) and POWERFUL Donald Trump.

    • Corrected sentence (Comment 43):

      Homogeneity is to be found, and a fair amount of agreement between ancient philosophers and modern discoverers in the field of science – if one looks for it.

    • A few wise folk think and keep the thoughts of future generations until the rest catch up.

      Listen to Roveli on Democritus (possibly the most important thinker/scientist of all time). Oh, you have….

    • I don’t think atheism is on such a rise (it is on a rise but not that dramatic) I think rather this is just having a census that actually asks us specifically about our beliefs. We’re often rather embarrassed to reveal any faith we do have. Leading my father in law for example (an Anglican minister) feeling somewhat oppressed (which is nonsense given his opposition to gay marriage and euthanasia – or at least hypocritical). But he feels it and I have to believe he feels real social pressure to not express his Christianity too much in public.

      We’re often too slack to even take things like censuses too seriously. This is a one of our worst traits and best traits. It means we don’t take nationalism too seriously, most Australians mumble their way through our drudge of a national anthem, but we are also therefore too likely to vote for some dingbat like Tony Abbott. Mostly not great thinkers, not dumb just couldn’t be bothered that’s us.

    • It says “The proportion of people reporting no religion increased to 30.1% in 2016”. What does no religion mean? Maybe some of these guys are deists and in other groups that aren’t religions. The pole is not good. It needs to specifically have a check box for atheist/agnostic because we know that agnostic think they aren’t atheists because of how flexible the definition of words are.
      52% are christians. 2% is islam. For sure, islam will skyrocket fast. In 100 years, it will reach 40%. The same is true for Canada, USA, England, France and other such immigration countries.