In a world dominated by magical thinking, superstition and misinformation, give yourself the benefit of doubt. This is one skeptic's view of the Universe; natural wonders and supernatural blunders.

"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

 

If ISIS Is Not Islamic, then the Inquisition Was Not Catholic: There is no such thing as 'true' religion

…ISIS has an extreme and fundamentalist interpretation of Muslim doctrine. But in exactly the same way, dogma about the immorality of abortion, homosexuality, premarital sex, and divorce have become part of Catholicism. They are theological interpretations of scripture that appeal to some people’s sense of morality. Others disagree. Whose faith is “truer”?

In the end, there is no “true” religion in the factual sense, for there is no good evidence supporting their claims to truth. Nor are there “true” religions in the moral sense. Every faith justifies itself and its practices by appeal to authority, revelation, and dogma. There are just some religions we like better than others because of their practical consequences. If that’s what we mean by “true,” we should just admit it. There’s no shame in that, for it’s certainly the case that societies based on some religions are more dysfunctional than others. Morality itself is neither objectively true nor false, but at bottom rests on subjective preferences: the “oughts” that come from what we see as the consequences of behaving one way versus another.

By all means let us say that ISIS is a strain of Islam that is barbaric and dysfunctional, but let us not hear any nonsense that it’s a “false religion.” ISIS, like all religious movements, is based on faith; and faith, which is belief in the absence of convincing evidence, isn’t true or false, but simply irrational.

People will tell us that without the consolations of religion they would be intolerably unhappy. So far as this is true, it is a coward’s argument. Nobody but a coward would consciously choose to live in a fool’s paradise. When a man suspects his wife of infidelity, he is not thought the better of for shutting his eyes to the evidence. And I cannot see why ignoring evidence should be contemptible in one case and admirable in the other.

Bertrand Russell. 1952.

(Title: Is There a God)

They have set out for the benefit of the world, for the ease of the world, out of pity for the world. They have resolved: “We will become a shelter for the world, the world’s place of rest, the final relief of the world, islands of the world, lights of the world, the guides of the world’s means of salvation.

The Prajna-paramita Sutras (Sermons on the Perfection of Wisdom), which were compiled at the end of the first century BCE, explaining the Bodhisattvas (Buddhist teachers who forego their own nirvana in order to help others reach enlightenment)

Now, replace “they/we” with “He/I” and who does that sound like? This is but one small example of how Jesus was unoriginal. The notion of spiritual teachers sacrificing themselves for humanity has a rich and varied tradition that neither began or ended with the character “Jesus” in The Bible.

Born again, again: how YA literature affirmed my faith and the Bible killed it

….I am no longer the girl with A Time to Cherish and my Bible on my night stand, searching for all the answers that my mother couldn’t give me. In fact, when I sat down the other day to re-read “A Time to Cherish,” I was so perplexed and troubled by it, I wrote the author herself to ask her some questions. One was her advice to me, a reader who had not only lost her faith, but in the parlance of Born Agains, her testimony – her love for God and desire to share the good Word. “Turn to God,” she replied. “Every life is redeemable. … Shame off you, grace on you.

Her answer made me ineffably sad.

How could I explain? I don’t feel that I need redemption. I don’t feel ashamed. I don’t feel lost, or scared or worried about my eternal soul. I don’t even think I have an eternal soul.

I no longer even value faith; I value doubt.

I do know why, as a young girl, I wanted answers: I was angry, like a lot of teens, and I was learning that growing up doesn’t give anyone solutions, only more complicated questions. I loved Gunn’s book so much because, even as Christy struggles with faith, with being a young woman, having crushes and maintaining friendships, her faith allows her to know that everything happens for a reason, and that everything will be OK.

Somewhere along the way I lost interest in everything being OK.

There’s a moment in Rainer Maria Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet in which the German writer urges a young and struggling author, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love questions themselves, like locked rooms and like book that are written in a very foreign languages.” More than my politics changing (which they did) or my mother passing (which she did), what separates me from the girl who looked to A Time to Cherish for direction is that I became vastly more interested in questions rather than answers.

Which is not to say that I don’t still try to find meaning in my life, or that I begrudge anyone else their own search. A Time to Cherish is still on my shelf, next to my pink Bible, my Quran, Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, Leon Lederman’s tomes on particle physics and collections of Keats. Reading them all gave me more questions than anyone could ever answer.

I used to live in a world of miracles. Now I live in a world of wonder.

The Sacred Texts of Various Religions

There’s quite a few, to say the least.

And you know your particular book is the true one because you must have evaluated the truth claims of all of the others and weighed them against the evidence. Right?

Either that, OR you were just raised to believe in one and to be ignorant of all the others…

If we go back to the beginning of things, we shall always find that ignorance and fear created the gods; that imagination, rapture, and deception embellished or distorted them; that weakness worships them; that credulity nourishes them; that custom spares them; and that tyrrany favors them in order to profit from the blindness of men.

Baron d’Holbach, prominent figure in the French Enlightenment, 1770

wow…

(via whats-out-there)

Which is more dangerous, fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion, whereas fanaticism does…Fanaticism causes crimes to be committed.

Voltaire (d. 1788)

6 Tricks I Learned as a Faith Healer (for Scamming You)

For some of us, religion is a reason to get up in the morning — a balm in hard times, an inspiration during bouts of temptation. For others, the only time we encounter it is during sex, football games, and/or award shows. Still others view religion as nothing more than a paycheck or a cynical tool of control. We call these people bastards, monsters, and blasphemers. Some folks simply call them “faith healers.” We sat down with a man who learned the conniving ways of a faith healer when he was a teenager. Here’s what he told us…

Eternal suffering awaits anyone who questions God’s infinite love.

Bill Hicks

It doesn’t make sense, does it

(via whats-out-there)