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Showing posts from November, 2008

The Brick Testament

The Bible, done in Lego. I particularly like the Book of Job . And advice on stoning . This is officially the work of a Reverend, but is clearly a clever spoof. It certainly gets you to look at the Bible in a new way. Some bits are very funny . This reminds me of Outrageous Tales From the Old Testament , as it's just the original, unvarnished text illustrated (with, I grant you, some rather tongue in cheek speech bubbles). The illustrations, being in an incongruous style, bring home just outrageous the tales really are. Some nice stuff in the shop . Ships to U.K. The amazon.com page for the book of the Ten Commandments contains this review: This book, and the corresponding website, is written by an atheist, and the website contains disturbing Lego "creations" by the author that young children should not be exposed to. How irresponsible for this author to use children to advance his agenda regarding his lack of belief in God. Ironic. Possibly this is itself a spo

Toby Keith, and hating America

Toby Keith - country and western superstar. I have just been trawling through this guy's back catalogue after discovering him on the Stephen Colbert Christmas Album . At first I thought he was a spoof, but no... Check out this stirring video : "We'll put a boot in your ass, it's the American way." On the Colbert Christmas album (see UK itunes) Keith sings a song about Americans taking Christmas back and decapitating those who call for the separation of church and state. For some reason we Brits - especially the left-leaning Liberal ones - are constantly being told we are anti-American. We hate America. I really don't think I do. I'm a big fan, I'd say. The problem is the U.S. has for some time now been run by the elected representatives of those who buy Toby Keith albums. Criticisms of "America", in this context, were criticisms of American policy, especially foreign policy, and the dickheads running it. Those days are over, we hope. Lik

Centre for Inquiry CARL SAGAN T-shirts now available

You can go to an on-line store here . We are not making any profit on these - but if you want to donate a couple of quid, go to www.cfiuk.org and hit the "Support CFI UK" button. The Sagan picture shirts are on white or light colour only. Otherwise choose any colour you want. Hit the shirt to get the colour options. I might pull the picture shirts shortly, depending on copyright issues, so if you want one get in right now! These T-shirts are all Carl Sagan themed. Later, if I feel inspired, I may do e.g. a twee "Russell's Teapot" and an all-action "Bullshit Force!" (perhaps based on the A-Team, only with Russell, Sagan, Dawkins, and Randi as Mr T) version.

Free Speech and Fatwa event

I am on the panel for the following event. Institute of Ideas and Bishopsgate Institute present: FROM FATWA AND BOOK-BURNING TO JIHAD AND HATE LAWS: TWENTY YEARS OF 'FREE SPEECH WARS' 12 February: 19.00 - 21.00 Bishopsgate Institute, 230 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 4QH In February 1989, five months after the publication of The Satanic Verses, Ayatollah Khomeini issued a fatwa against its author Salman Rushdie. It is often seen as a pivital moment in shaping the landscape of contemporary Western society. So, twenty years on, what is the legacy of the most famous free speech controversy of modern times? Kenan Malik, whose book From Fatwa to Jihad: the Salman Rushdie affair and its legacy will be published in February 2009, will explore the impact of the Rushdie affair on our perceptions of free speech, multiculturalism and Islam. Claire Fox will chair a panel debating the issues and the audience will also have their say in what promises to be a lively discussion. Tic

USA TODAY article on atheism

(thanks to Josh Kutchinsky for this) Things are definitely changing over the pond....(source here ) ATHEISM: A POSITIVE PILLAR It’s not easy not believing in God in the USA. That’s why a group of non-believers is trying to shed the strident image of past atheists by promoting a better side of those sitting on religion’s sidelines. By Tom Krattenmaker Being an atheist is not easy in this age of great public religiosity in America. Not when the overwhelming majority of Americans profess some form of belief in God. Not when many believers equate non-belief with immorality. Not when more people would automatically disqualify an atheist for the presidency (53%, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll) than a gay candidate (43%), for example, or a Mormon (24%). (Alejandro Gonzalez / USA TODAY) Anti-atheism might have found its ugliest public expression during an episode in the Illinois Legislature this spring. As atheist activist Rob Sherman attempted to testify against a $1 million st

God: Knowing without evidence

In discussion about the existence of God, atheists often demand to see the evidence for God, and, in response, some theists (with some familiarity with the "reformed epistemology" of theists like Alston, Plantinga, etc.) will ask why evidence is needed in order for the belief to be rational/reasonable. Exactly this has been going on in the comments on my final installment of the God Delusion book club. If you are scratching your head over this (and some of you clearly are) here is a very brief explanation. One popular sort of theory of knowledge (knowledge = justified true belief) says that: a knows that P if and only if: (i) a believes P (ii) P is true (iii) a is justified in believing P What does "justified" mean? Well, good evidence would provide justification - you infer the belief from this evidence. But a regress threatens. To know A, I infer it from B, but to know B I must infer it from C, ad infinitum. But then no belief will be justified. Global scept

Simon Singh sued by the British Chiropractic Association

Alternative medicine calls in the lawyers Science author Simon Singh (who is speaking at the CFI London Science and Religion event in April ) is being sued by the British Chiropractic Association (BCA). The action is being taken over a passage in an article Singh wrote for the Guardian about the BCA. The case was reported here by the Telegraph. The excellent Jack of Kent sets out the alleged libel here . This case is important because if the BCA wins there is a host of other alternative medical practitioners (homeopaths, etc.) who will probably also sue if it's suggested there's no evidence their treatment works. If the case goes ahead, we'll see the evidence for and against the efficacy of chiropractice as a treatment for various ailments set out in court - which will be interesting!

BOOK CLUB: The God Delusion, chpt 10

The one thing I'll pull from this last chapter is Dawkins suggestion that few religious people seem really to believe. Or, if they do, it's hard to understand why their reaction to death is as it is. "I can't help wondering how many moderate religious people who claim such belief really hold it, in their hearts. If they were truly sincere, shouldn't they behave like the Abbot of Ampleforth? When Cardinal Basil Hume told him he was dying, the abbot was delighted for him: "Congratulations! That's brilliant news. I wish I was coming with you." The abbot, it seems, really was a sincere believer. But it is precisely because it is so rare and unexpected that this story catches our attention, almost provokes our amusement...Why don't all Christians and Muslims say something like the abbot when they hear that a friend is dying?" pp. 398-399 There are two main criteria for what someone believes - what they do, and what they say. Sometimes, these

'Child-witches' of Nigeria seek refuge

This is a very disturbing story... "Any Christian would look at the situation that is going on here and just be absolutely outraged that they were using the teachings of Jesus Christ to exploit and abuse innocent children," says Mr Foxcroft whose expose of what he describes as "an absolute scandal" will be screened in a Channel 4 documentary on Wednesday. Post Script 10/11/08 - as this article says, a Government-funded report in 2006 found 38 cases of this kind of abuse in the UK. If there were 38 known cases, imagine how many were unknown to authorities. Many. Two charities are donating £450,000 to help African children in the UK who are accused of witchcraft and abused . Anticant (see comment below) is right - the Victoria Climbie case was one of them (a little girl tortured to death in the UK by her relatives - 128 separate injuries on her body on the day she died). For some reason, the religious aspect of the Climbie case was not widely reported in the

GOD IN THE LAB event

Centre For Inquiry London and South Place Ethical Society present GOD IN THE LAB Organized by CFI London Provost: Stephen Law Saturday, 21st March, 10.30am-4pm. A day with leading scientific researchers into faith - looking at hearing voices, possession, the effect of faith on pain perception, etc. What goes on the brain of someone hearing voices? Come and see the fMRI scans. Is a disposition to religious belief hard-wired into us? Yes, says one of our speakers, and provides empirical evidence. Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square London WC1R 4RL £10 (£5 for students) BOOK NOW: send a cheque payable to "Centre for Inquiry London” to: Executive Director Suresh Lalvani, Centre for Inquiry London, at the above address (include names of all those coming). Alternatively pay by PAYPAL. Use the “Support CFI UK” link at www.cfilondon.org and follow the instructions. 11-12am. EMMA COHEN (UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD) Do ghosts get itchy? Mind, body, and afterlife in cross-cultural

BOOK CLUB: The God Delusion, chpt 9

This chapter is to a large extent anecdote-driven. There are some real horror stories about what has been done to children in the name of religion. And of course these are not isolated incidents. Nevertheless, this is to a large extent a series of anecdotes, and there is always a risk attached to that. Anecdotes are highly effective as rhetorical tool, irrespective of whether there's much truth to the claims they are being used to illustrate. People tend to respond best to narrative - to a story. The Daily Mail , for example, is chock full of anecdotes about foreigners, edicts from Brussels, crime, and so on, and that can, and does, often give a highly misleading impression of what the situation is really like. In response, Dawkins's opponents will simply trot out endless anecdotes about the benefits of raising children in a religious belief system (take a look at e.g. the work of Melanie Phillips - Mail columnist and author of such anecdote-driven rhetoric as the dreadful A