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Showing posts from April, 2009

Irish blasphemy law proposal

There is a proposed amendment to Irish defemation legislation including an updated blasphemy Libel law. Go here . As TheObserver and Gary C point out. The article says: "Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern proposes to insert a new section into the Defamation Bill, stating: “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.” “Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.” Where a person is convicted of an offence under this section, the court may issue a warrant authorising the Garda Síochána to enter, if necessary using reasonable force, a premises.

The Big Questions

I will briefly be on TV this Sunday morning - BBC 1's "The Big Question". I am a "front row" audience member, which means I will be asked a couple of questions. The "big question" for that bit of the show is something along the lines of "Would Britain be a better place if it was a Christian society?" On the panel will be: Lord Carey (former Arch-bishop of Canterbury), Anne Atkins, a druid lady (called Emma, I think), and Prof. Peter Atkins. So, would it...?

Athiest cartoon

Sticking with atheist theme, thought you might enjoy this. From this excellent blog . Incidentally, I am on Dave Mabus's spam email list too. But I can't get cross as the guy is clearly genuinely mentally ill.

Free hugs from your friendly neighbourhood atheists

Thanks to Josh Kutchinsky for link. More Atheists Shout It From the Rooftops By LAURIE GOODSTEIN Published: April 26, 2009, New York Times. CHARLESTON, S.C. — Two months after the local atheist organization here put up a billboard saying "Don't Believe in God? You Are Not Alone," the group's 13 board members met in Laura and Alex Kasman's living room to grapple with the fallout. The problem was not that the group, the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry , had attracted an outpouring of hostility. It was the opposite. An overflow audience of more than 100 had showed up for their most recent public symposium, and the board members discussed whether it was time to find a larger place. And now parents were coming out of the woodwork asking for family-oriented programs where they could meet like-minded nonbelievers. "Is everyone in favor of sponsoring a picnic for humanists with families?" aske

Standing Stone, Arran

Shot up to Isle of Arran (Scotland) for 4 nights with family after US trip. It's a fantastic place. Just don't go in the midge season. My photos at flickr .

CFI UK - Science and Reason

The Science and Reason event attracted over 100 and was very successful. Mary Warnock could not come, and so I replaced her with Dr Raj Persaud, who was excellent (many commented afterwards on how good he was). Simon Singh's and Jack Cohen's talks were fascinating. If you have not joined yet I would encourage you to join the " For Simon Singh and Freedom of Speech " facebook page. And of course the Centre for Inquiry UK facebook page for email notice of our events. Monsters from the Deep is on 7th November. There will be another event in meantime as well.

What's the point of a family if it all ends in death?

I found this very interesting. This chap thinks there is no point in having a family if we all die. An after life is required. Actually, going off on a slight tangent, I do sometimes wonder whether it is morally acceptable to have children. Life can be great, but there is also a great deal about it which is absolutely horrific and terrifying, including the prospect of disease, and inevitable decay and death. What right have we to introduce beings who are then faced with that horror (which is crippling for many)? When I was doing the B.Phil, a fellow student - very able - wrote her thesis defending the claim that it is morally wrong to bring children into the world without their permission (which they obviously can't give). I did not get to read her thesis or look at her arguments, but once you start to think about it, certain arguments do suggest themselves.

Photos of New York City and Washington from CFI trip

Are now on .

Condoms, Catholics and HIV - more

On a previous post on the RC position on using condoms, some have objected that it would be unreasonable for the RC Church to agree to say "You ought not have gay sex, but if you are going to, use a condom." The suggestion is there is something inconsistent about saying such a thing. After all, we would not say "You should not rob houses, but if you do, don't cause more damage than you need to" or "You should not rape, but if you do, use a condom". It's true that these are not things we would say. But why not? There is a subtle distinction we need to make here. Sometimes it is perfectly reasonable to say: You ought not to X, but if you are going to X, do Y. Other times less reasonable. Doctor: You ought not to drink, but if you are going to, avoid spirits. Nothing unreasonable about that. Jolly good advice for certain medical conditions! In fact, if the doctor thought you were likely to drink, it would be irresponsible of him not to add t

The myth of a "scientific controversy" about ID

Here in Washington at the CFI World Congress. The next one, in two years time, might well be in London. Many interesting talks, particularly from a panel of Muslims. Here's one set of statistics I took from scientist Lawrence Krauss. He searched the 10 million peer reviewed science papers published over last 12 years. 115 were on "intelligent design"; however most were on engineering. Only 11 actually on ID. Of those, 8 were critical of the science behind ID and the other 3 were conference proceedings. In other words, there was not one peer reviewed article supporting ID. There is, in short, no "scientific controversy" about ID. The idea that we should be "fair" and "open-minded" by "teaching the scientific controversy" in classrooms is just bullshit. Of course, Krauss knows the ID brigade say that the journals are biased against them. So he looked at books. There were 150 books on amazon on ID. But there were 165 on alien abduct

Review of de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

I found de Botton’s new book The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work in the bookshop at the Oxford Literary Festival on Saturday, so I bought it, and have now read it. It’s a series of essays on the theme of work, each chapter focussing on a different profession. The book is filled with black and white photos taken by a photographer who accompanied Alain on his travels around the world. I loved the photos. The essays are largely descriptive, peppered with lots of references demonstrating the vast range of de Botton’s literary, historical and philosophical knowledge. Chapter one describes the arrival of a ship down the Thames, which then unloads at Tilbury container docks. We get details of the ship’s course, some reflections on how little most of us know about how the goods we use daily actually get to our local shop from far away lands, and impressions of the vast scale of the facilities and their grandeur. De Botton ponders on the question: why people don’t come down and look at these a

The End of Christian America

The End of Christian America is the title of this Newsweek article. The percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen 10 points in the past two decades. How that statistic explains who we are now—and what, as a nation, we are about to become. Thanks to "Ace".

The headmistress's story

Interesting article in the Independent about how a headmistress lost her job - the local council failing to stand up to misguided religious extremism appears to be the culprit. Here . Faith and unreason: The headteacher hounded from her job Erica Connor took a failing school and turned it into a beacon of academic achievement and racial harmony. So why was she driven from her job by religious extremists and misguided officials? Tim Walker hears her story Thanks to anticant for this...

Should the Cardinal get a peerage?

Theos article concludes: It almost goes without saying that having a legislative chamber that is made up by appointment is problematic, though not without some advantages. In this strange but not ineffective system, Cormac Murphy O’Connor could make a valuable contribution. The aggressive reaction of secularists towards such a development not only exposes the illiberal nature of their position but, worse than that, bears the hallmarks of an old but unattractive British habit: anti-Catholicism. Topical given my debate with Prof Trigg yesterday ...

Notes for my debate with Trigg today...

Here are my notes from my 10 minute talk on secualrism today in the Great Hall at Chrsitchurch. I was debating with Prof Roger Trigg. Thanks to all who came - was very well attended! What is a secular society? NEUTRALITY. By a secular society I mean a society in which the state takes a neutral view on religion. A secular society aligns itself with no particular religious, or anti-religious, point of view. FREEDOMS. A secular society also protects freedoms: the freedom to believe, or not believe, to worship, or not worship. Note that an atheist state, such as Stalin’s Russia or Mao’s China, is not a secular state. A secular state does not privilege atheist beliefs. It is neutral on the issue of which, if any, religion is true. AGREED NEUTRAL PRINCIPLES. Most importantly, a secular society is founded on principles framed independently of any particular religious, or atheist, commitment: principles to which we can sign up whether we are religious or not. Very many religious people a

Are the "new atheists" attacking a "straw god"?

There's a post at Debunking Christianity that is worth a look . It's "The Straw God: Understanding The New Atheism" by Douglas Groothuis. On Monday I am debating the God Delusion with Marianne Talbot at a Fringe event at the Ox Lit Festival. Rewley House, 1 wellington Square. 7pm. Late bar. Entrance free.

The pleasures of not having to do a day's work in your life

Alain De Botton's new book is out. The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work is a another philosophical self-help treatise, or so it's been described in the Metro this morning (I am reading the free Metro on the bus). I have not read the book. It's kind of a bad time, I guess, for someone who does not need to work, at a time when many are being put out of work, to write about the pleasures of a 9-5 grind in the office. I am sure I read a columnist in the Times or Mail on Tuesday who also had a go at DB because DB has never had to work - the claim made was that DB inherited 200 million from his father. The Metro , on the other hand, says that while his father was eye-wateringly rich, DB's "money is his own". Hmmm, confusing messages. Especially for me, as I really want to revel in being pissed off and envious, and the latter report rather stands in my way. Anyway at least I can gloat over some reviews: Naomi Wolf wanted to hurl it across the room. The mercile