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

 

Was Christianity Too Improbable to be False? by Richard Carrier

A “massive rebuttal of Robert Turkel’s article ‘The Impossible Faith,’” in which he argued that Christianity was too improbable to be false. The article showed an appalling ignorance of improbable religious claims that have gained wide acceptance, and Richard Carrier’s rebuttal of Turkel’s 17 “points” has effectively relegated Turkel’s article to that enormous trashheap of failed apologetic attempts to prove the truth of Christianity.


This article would eventually be made into the book “Not The Impossible faith” by Richard carrier.

Michigan mayor says giving atheists equal treatment is like favoring the Nazis or the KKK

A Michigan mayor compared atheists to Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan to defend his decision to exclude secular groups from setting up a “reason station” alongside a “prayer station” on public property, reported the Detroit Free Press.

3 Inherent Human Traits that Religion Exploits

Whether religion is overrated or underrated is difficult to answer. But it’s intensely important to the personal lives of billions of people. I thought for a while about why this might be, and came up with three inherent weaknesses in human beings that religion exploits.

1. Fear

Probably the most basic emotion of all life on Earth. We’re no exceptions. If there is one thing that unites us all, it’s the fear of death – or more precisely, the state of ‘not living’. Religion gives us deliverance from that fear. Nothing to worry about, it says, your time here on Earth is nothing more than a prelude to eternal life in a different plane.

What evidence do we have of this? Absolutely none. But we believe, because for most of us, it’s unimaginable that our consciousness will one day cease to exist. Even though we only have to think of the vast stretch of time before our births to realize that it’s not only possible but is the norm.

2. Pattern and meaning seeking

Human beings are meaning-seeking animals. All external evidence suggests that the universe is essentially meaningless, and yet our minds tell us that there must be something to it after all. We think our lives follow a narrative, that everything happens for a reason, that there are such things as fate and destiny, that the future can be altered and controlled.

So we pray to our gods to keep us safe. We bribe them to make us richer or more successful. We thank them for the good things in our lives. We cajole, chide and blame. We worship.

3. Territorialism

To put it kindly, we’re natural classifiers. In this we’re no different to other primates, but thanks to our larger brains, we’ve taken it to a whole new level. Country. Skin colour. Gender. Appearance. Self versus the other. My kind of people versus your kind of people.

There are evolutionary reasons for this. In a hunting-gathering world where tribes often competed fiercely for resources, people had to be segregationist in nature. Brotherhood towards members of your tribe. Enmity towards members of the other tribe. We did it to survive. It’s built into our genes.

Religion stokes this trait by preaching universal love and unspeakable violence in the same sentence. The former is for within the group. The latter is reserved for the other groups.

A couple of quotes

I will leave you with two quotes. One by Epicurus:

‘Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?’

And another by Voltaire:

‘Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.’

Source

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.

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.

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.”

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

A Universe Not Made For Us: Carl Sagan on Religion and Geocentrism/Anthropocentrism

Faith in Miracles

All of Jesus’ powers have been attributed to the South Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba by vast numbers of eyewitnesses who believe that he is a living god. The man even claims to have been born of a virgin.[6] [Christian] faith is predicated on the claim that miracle stories of the sort that today surround a person like Sathya Sai Baba—and do not even merit an hour on the Discovery Channel—somehow become especially credible when set in the pre-scientific religious context of the 1st century Roman Empire, decades after their supposed occurrence, as evidenced by discrepant and fragmentary copies of copies of copies of ancient Greek manuscripts.[7] It is on this basis that [we are to] believe the following propositions:

1. Jesus Christ, a carpenter by trade, was born of a virgin, ritually murdered as a scapegoat for the collective sins of his species, and then resurrected from death after an interval of three days.

2. He promptly ascended, bodily, to “heaven”—where, for two millennia, he has eavesdropped upon (and, on occasion, even answered) the simultaneous prayers of billions of beleaguered human beings.

3. Not content to maintain this numinous arrangement indefinitely, this invisible carpenter will one day return to earth to judge humanity for its sexual indiscretions and skeptical doubts, at which time he will grant immortality to anyone who has had the good fortune to be convinced, on mother’s knee, that this baffling litany of miracles is the most important series of truth-claims ever revealed about the cosmos.

4. Every other member of our species, past and present, from Cleopatra to Einstein, no matter what his or her terrestrial accomplishments, will be consigned to a far less desirable fate, best left unspecified.

5. In the meantime, God/Jesus may or may not intervene in our world, as He pleases, curing the occasional end-stage cancer (or not), answering an especially earnest prayer for guidance (or not), consoling the bereaved (or not), through His perfectly wise and loving agency.

-Sam Harris

The Obama administration still has not removed the most important impediments to embryonic stem cell research—allowing funding only for work on stem cells derived from surplus embryos at fertility clinics. Such delicacy is a clear concession to the religious convictions of the American electorate. While Collins seems willing to go further and support research on embryos created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), he is very far from being a voice of ethical clarity in this debate. For instance, he considers embryos created through SCNT to be distinct from those formed through the union of sperm and egg because the former are “not part of God’s plan to create a human individual” while “the latter is very much part of God’s plan, carried out through the millennia by our own species and many others” (Collins, 2006, p. 256) There is little to be gained in a serious discussion of bioethics by talking about “God’s plan.” (If such embryos were brought to term and became sentient and suffering human beings, would it be ethical to kill them and harvest their organs because they had been conceived apart from “God’s plan”?) While his stewardship of the NIH seems unlikely to impede our mincing progress on embryonic stem cell research, his appointment seems like another one of President Obama’s efforts to split difference between real science and real ethics on the one hand and religious superstition and taboo on the other.

True Detective - People So Goddamn Frail

Rust Cohle was a sage.

"What’s it say about life, hmm, you got to get together, tell yourself stories that violate every law of the universe just to get through the goddamn day?"