In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and religion, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe.

"Tell people there’s an invisible man in the sky who created the universe, and the vast majority believe you. Tell them the paint is wet, and they have to touch it to be sure."

-George Carlin

“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.

-Albert Einstein

“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”

-Carl Sagan

The person who is certain, and who claims divine warrant for his certainty, belongs now to the infancy of our species. It may be a long farewell, but it has begun and, like all farewells, should not be protracted.

-Christopher Hitchens

 

Religious Children Struggle To Separate Fact From Fiction

The ability of young children to distinguish fact from fiction varies considerably with exposure to religion, two new studies have found. Children who did not attend parochial (religious) schools or church were significantly better at identifying characters in religious or fantasy stories as pretend than those who did. The studies have been published in Cognitive Science.

A Satirical Take on Earth’s Dystopian Future

Made by Duncan Elms, this video imagines a future where Earth has been ravaged by wars, cyclones, food shortages, destructive weather and horrible humans and turned into areas of uninhabitable zones. And yet, cities would still make bids to host the Olympic Games, even if they’re during a nuclear winter.

(Source: Gizmodo)

Michio Kaku on the "Hard Problem" of consciousness

What is a physicist doing weighing in on the mysteries of the mind? Tim Dean went to find out.

…David Chalmers, Director of the Centre for Consciousness at the Australian National University in Canberra, puts it a different way. He draws a distinction between what he called the “easy problem” of consciousness, which is explaining how electrical impulses racing through a network of neurons can produce behaviour, and the “hard problem”, which is explaining how on Earth that network can ever produce something like the redness of red. Chalmers imagines a being that does all the information processing we do, and which can make the kinds of decisions we make, but doesn’t have any conscious experience, no “qualia”. If such a being is at all possible, then it suggests a complete theory of the mind needs to talk about more than just information processing and brains. It needs to talk about conscious experience too.

I ask Kaku about the conspicuous absence of consciousness in his theory and he hastens to dismiss the problem, borrowing another analogy from science. “It used to be that the question of ‘what is life?’ dominated and paralysed biology for decades. Now the question is irrelevant. We now know there are gradations – we have different kinds of viruses, different forms of life. So biologists no longer ask the question ‘what is life?’, because it turned out to be many layers of a continuum.

“It’s the same thing about ‘what is redness?’, ‘what is a sunset?’, ‘what is a sensation of ecstasy and thrill?’ or ‘what are qualia?’. Today that absorbs a lot of philosophers’ attention, but I think that just like ‘what is life?’, that will disappear.”

His counterpoint to Chalmers’ thought experiment of a thinking being without qualia is a thought experiment of his own. One day, he muses, “we will have a robot that understands red in ways a hundred times richer than any human. We will have a robot that can tell us the electromagnetic spectrum of red, that can give you all the sensations of red for different kinds of animals, a richness of red far beyond any human’s. And then the robot will say, ‘do humans understand red?’, and it will say, ‘obviously not’.”…

Why we should celebrate the rise of atheism and secularity

Yes, the growth of atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, humanism, and other various manifestations of secularity in both the USA and around the world over the past 25 years is a decidedly good thing, for the following reasons:

1. We need more humans guided by reason rather than faith. We’re facing serious problems in the world today: global warming, increasing inequality, growing forms of fundamentalism, extensive human enslavement, international sex trafficking, impending genocide in places like the Central African Republic, corporation-led corrosion of democracy, violence against women, depletion of the rain forest, human rights violations, etc., etc. — and all of these problems can only be solved through rational understandings of their causes, solutions based on unbiased data and empirically-sound mechanisms, human creativity and compassion, international cooperation and willpower, and smartness, ingenuity, and know-how.

Ten million people praying ten million hours won’t do shit. Pleading to magic deities and invisible gods, or beseeching the spirits of dead ancestors, or fondling rosaries and misbaha, or anointing with oil and lighting candles, or performing exorcisms and slitting the throats of goats, or driving away the devil and ostracizing witches won’t help at all. Not one bit. So the more people we have who live their lives without such notions or entanglements, the better.

We need a humanity that relies most readily and most heavily upon scientific understanding, rigorous/critical thinking, and utterly sound reasoning, not faith. Now don’t get me wrong: religious faith has its place; it comforts many who have nothing else to rely upon, and it infuses the world with a mystical, spiritual, or, at least, quaint vibe. But it doesn’t help address social problems. For that, we need clear thinkers who don’t look to imaginary gods for assistance.

2. We need more cosmopolitansim and less tribalism/factionalism. Cosmopolitanism is the unflinching ideology that we are all one — that all racial, ethnic, national, linguistic, and other such groups actually belong to one single whole: humanity. And we are all bound together by a universal human morality. Secular humanism is deeply rooted in, and intractably wedded to, such cosmopolitanism. And this cosmopolitanism lends itself to a universalistic, global orientation that cannot divide between black or white, Brahmin or Dalit, Hutu or Tutsi, Turk or Armenian, Arab or Kurd, Thai or Hmong, male or female, etc., etc.

Religion — as history as well as today’s newspaper reveal — often divides humanity, unnecessarily and often savagely. Religion, more often than not, establishes deep us-vs-them fissures. Religion is truly one of the greatest creators and sustainers of in-group/out-group orientations. Christianity divides the world between the saved and the un-saved, those that believe in Jesus and those that don’t. Muslims are dangerously divided between Sunni and Shiite, and many believing Muslims consider all non-Muslims as something different (usually much lesser) than Muslims. Many devout Jews consider all non-Jews little more than, well, insignificant white noise.

Secular humanists, on the contrary, emphasize that we are all human, and that’s why it is more readily and logically cosmopolitan than religion.

Again, don’t get me wrong: many religions certainly seek to unify humanity (Bahai’ism is especially insistent on the one-ness of all humanity), and many secular movements have been far from humanistic or universalistic (hello Pol Pot) – and yet, the bottom line is that we need more humans who are not tied to the tribalism, particularism, and sanctimonious “we possess the Holy Truth and you don’t” embedded in most religious systems.

3. We need more humans who embrace the “here-and-nowness” implicit in atheist/secular consciousness. For those of us who don’t believe in heaven or hell, spiritual realms or magical kingdoms, past lives or planet Kolob, this world and this time constitute reality, in toto. This planet is our only possible home. This time is all we’ve got. Such an orientation fosters a deep attachment to and appreciation for the things of this world, and a hearty love for other people and other life forms sharing this blue orb along with us. Those who believe in or yearn for other realms (like the celestial kingdom) do not care as much about this earthly realm, which they see as merely transitory at best, or merely illusory, if not downright fallen. Such beliefs are certainly not helpful, and may in fact be quite harmful.

* * *

As a direct product of human culture, human psychology, and human experience, religion contains much that is noble, altruistic, just, and inspiring. It reflects many of humanity’s best aspirations and hopes. And the rituals, music, holidays, social bonding, family traditions, and all around heritage that one finds within religion are often wonderful, enriching, and enjoyable. But the actual tenets of faith of most religions — the supernatural beliefs, the gods, the messiahs, the prophets, the miracles — the sooner these wither and fade, the better. And so the fact that we see this happening today, in varying degrees, is a really good thing.

confrontingbabble-on:

The Coming Evangelical Collapse…

"I believe that we are on the verge- within 10 years- of a major collapse of evangelical Christianity; a collapse that will follow the deterioration of the mainline Protestant world and that will fundamentally alter the religious and cultural environment in the West. I believe this evangelical collapse will happen with astonishing statistical speed; that within two generations of where we are now evangelicalism will be a house deserted of half its current occupants, leaving in its wake nothing that can revitalize evangelicals to their former “glory.”

The party is almost over for evangelicals; a party that’s been going strong since the beginning of the “Protestant” 20th century. We are soon going to be living in a very secular and religiously antagonistic 21st century in a culture that will be between 25-30% non-religious.

This collapse, will, I believe, herald the arrival of an anti-Christian chapter of the post-Christian west and will change the way tens of millions of people see the entire realm of religion. Intolerance of Christianity will rise to levels many of us have not believed possible in our lifetimes, and public policy will become particularly hostile towards evangelical Christianity, increasingly seeing it as the opponent of the good of individuals and society.

The response of evangelicals to this new environment will be a revisiting of the same rhetoric and reactions we’ve seen since the beginnings of the current culture war in the 1980s. The difference will be that millions of evangelicals will quit: quit their churches, quit their adherence to evangelical distinctives and quit resisting the rising tide of the culture.

Many who will leave evangelicalism will leave for no religious affiliation at all. Others will leave for an atheistic or agnostic secularism, with a strong personal rejection of Christian belief and Christian influence. Many of our children and grandchildren are going to abandon ship, and many will do so saying “good riddance.”

This collapse will cause the end of thousands of ministries. The high profile of Christian media will be reduced, if not eliminated. Hundreds of thousands of students, pastors, religious workers, missionaries and persons employed by ministries and churches will be unemployed or employed elsewhere. [ ]. Visible, active evangelical ministries will be reduced to a small percentage of their current size and effort.

Nothing will reanimate evangelicalism to its previous levels of size and influence. The end of evangelicalism as we know it is close; far closer than most of us will admit.

Why Is This Going To Happen?

1) Evangelicals have identified their movement with the culture war and with political conservatism. This was a mistake that will have brutal consequences. They are not only going to suffer in losing causes, they will be blamed as the primary movers of those causes. Evangelicals will become synonymous with those who oppose the direction of the culture in the next several decades. That opposition will be increasingly viewed as a threat, and there will be increasing pressure to consider evangelicals bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society.

2) In what must be the most ironic of all possible factors, an evangelical culture that has spent billions of youth ministers, Christian music, Christian publishing and Christian media has produced an entire burgeoning culture of young Christians who know next to nothing about their own faith except how they feel about it. Coming generations of Christians are going to be monumentally ignorant and unprepared for culture-wide pressures that they will endure.

3) Evangelical churches have now passed into a three part chapter: 1) mega-churches that are consumer driven, 2) churches that are dying and 3) new churches that whose future is dependent on a large number of factors. I believe most of these new churches will fail…denominations will shrink, even vanish, while fewer and fewer evangelical churches will survive and thrive.

Our numbers, our churches and our influence are going to dramatically decrease in the next 10-15 years. And they will be replaced by an evangelical landscape that will be chaotic and largely irrelevant.

4) Despite some very successful developments in the last 25 years, Christian education has not produced a product that can hold the line in the rising tide of secularism. The ingrown, self-evaluated ghetto of evangelicalism has used its educational system primarily to staff its own needs and talk to itself. I believe Christian schools always have a mission in our culture, but I am skeptical that they can produce any sort of effect that will make any difference. Millions of Christian school graduates are going to walk away from the faith and the church.

5) The deterioration and collapse of the evangelical core will eventually weaken the missional-compassionate work of the evangelical movement.  Look for evangelical ministries to take on a less and less distinctively Christian face in order to survive.

6) Much of this collapse will come in areas of the country where evangelicals imagine themselves strong. In actual fact, the historic loyalties of the Bible belt will soon be replaced by a de-church culture where religion has meaning as history, not as a vital reality.

7) A major aspect of this collapse will happen because money will not be flowing towards evangelicalism in the same way as before.”

from http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/my-prediction-the-coming-evangelical-collapse-1

Nice dream…

Ken Ham wants to end the U.S. space program because the aliens are all going to hell

45 years after the Apollo 11 moon landing, creationism hits a new low

…Why? Well, according to Ham, who also runs the Creation Museum in Kentucky, there’s no point in spending money on finding extraterrestrial life for a couple of reasons: First, the search is a deliberate rebuking of God, and second because aliens are already damned to hell.

“I’m shocked at the countless hundreds of millions of dollars that have been spent over the years in the desperate and fruitless search for extraterrestrial life,” Ham wrote.

“Of course, secularists are desperate to find life in outer space, as they believe that would provide evidence that life can evolve in different locations and given the supposed right conditions!” Ham continued later in the post.

Ham does concede that the Bible does not specifically mention whether or not there is alien life. However, he is skeptical.

“And I do believe there can’t be other intelligent beings in outer space because of the meaning of the gospel,” Ham wrote. “You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation. One day, the whole universe will be judged by fire, and there will be a new heavens and earth. God’s Son stepped into history to be Jesus Christ, the “Godman,” to be our relative, and to be the perfect sacrifice for sin — the Savior of mankind.”

Evangelical Group Sets Sights on Children in Secular Portland

PORTLAND, Ore. — An evangelical Christian group plans to try to convert children as young as 5 at Portland apartment pools, public parks and dozens of other gathering spots this summer — a campaign that’s got some residents upset.

They’ve banded together in recent weeks to warn parents about the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s Good News Club, buying a full-page ad in the local alternative weekly to highlight the group’s tactics….

"We do teach that children are sinners, but we’re not nasty about it," [the group leader] said. "If we were nasty about it, the kids wouldn’t come back."

…Mia Marceau, a mother of two in the Portland suburb of Vancouver, Washington, said she was intrigued when the group approached her apartment complex pool last week. She said she, too, believes in Jesus Christ.

Within a few hours, however, she didn’t like what the group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise money for the organization.

"I raised a free thinker," she said. "He didn’t buy in. All of a sudden, he’s having arguments with his friends over salvation."

Students in Korea Launch Atheist Clubs to Counter Christianity

iranianatheist:

South Korea has one of the proportionately highest Christian populations in East Asia. But why?

Well, prior to 1945 Christianity was pretty much unheard of in Korea. The growth of both was gradual before 1945. In that year, approximately 2% of the population was Christian. Rapid growth ensued by 1991, 18.4% of the population (8.0 million) was Protestant, and 6.7% (2.5 million) was Catholic.

Anglicanism in Korea has also experienced significant growth in the recent decades.

Why did all of this happen? In recent years, the growth of Protestantism has slowed, and all the previous growth was due to the typical Christian missionary work, Christians with this fanatical idea, believing the world must convert to Christianity, because after all, it is the only true path to salvation.

Now, with just under a third of Koreans identifying themselves as Christian, this has caused tension in recent times, especially between the Christian and Buddhist communities as Buddhists have felt that current president Lee Myung-bak’s very public Christianity has left them unfairly victimised at times.

Fundamentalist Protestant antagonism against Buddhism has been a major issue for religious cooperation in South Korea, especially during the 1990s to late 2000s. Acts of vandalism against Buddhist amenities and “regular praying for the destruction of all Buddhist temples” have drawn criticism. Buddhist statues have been considered as idols, attacked and decapitated. Arrests are hard to enforce, as the perpetrators work by stealth at night.” Such acts, which are supported by some Protestant leaders, have led to South Koreans having an increasingly negative outlook on Protestantism and being critical of church groups involved, with many Protestants leaving their churches in recent years.

So once again Christians and their evangelizing nonsense are causing conflicts, fear, paranoia, and dividing people apart.

University students (traditionally at the heart of a lot of social change and protest in Korea) have now started to respond by setting up “Atheist Clubs” at top Korean universities to try and curb some of the ever-growing evangelicalism in the South.

Read more: http://www.koreabang.com/2012/stories/students-launch-atheist-clubs-to-counter-rising-christianity.html

Tom Petty's New Song Blasts Catholic Church For Sex Abuses

goodreasonnews:

Right on, Tom!

He says: “I’m fine with whatever religion you want to have… [But] if I was in a club, and I found out that there had been generations of people abusing children, and then that club was covering that up, I would quit the club. And I wouldn’t give them any more money.”

This would be a no brainer for most people who’s morality isn’t clouded by religion.