Chronicling the follies of religion and superstition, the virtues of skepticism, and the wonders of the real (natural) universe as revealed by science. Plus other interesting and educational stuff.
"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."
“If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed”.
“Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.”
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.
Northern Ethiopia is rugged and poor. It is a place where people mostly get by as subsistence farmers. The government and international organizations like the World Bank have tried and failed for years to improve the well-being of locals. But then, one village went and did it all on its own.
The community is called Awra Amba. About 500 people live here in simple wattle and daub houses, and they keep busy in a variety of money-making activities.
The village has a mill, where grain is crushed into flour. There is a textile factory, where villagers make clothes for themselves and to sell. You will also find a café, a tourist hostel, and two stores that cater to people from outside the village.
With all of these businesses, Awra Amba has managed to pull itself out of poverty. Compared with the rest of the region, the average income here is more than twice as high. Literacy rates are higher than in neighboring villages. Mortality rates are lower.
“Everyone here dreams of becoming more prosperous — that’s a big reason why our economy has grown faster than others,” says Zumra Nuru, who founded the village 40 years ago as a kind of utopian community. He says at the time, he was dissatisfied by the injustice he perceived in traditional Ethiopian culture and wanted to organize a society along more egalitarian lines. He also saw the community as a way to increase wealth.
“We use all our time for work and to improve our village,” he says.
One reason the people of Awra Amba are able to work so hard is that they do not follow organized religion.
In neighboring Christian and Muslim villages, residents respect the Sabbath and holidays. “They have quite frequent religious days, so on those days, they don’t go to [do] farming work,” says sociologist Ashenafi Alemu of Ethiopia’s University of Gondar. “But for Awra Amba, this is not the case. They work every day.”
The lack of religion is not the only competitive advantage for Awra Amba. The village invests a lot of energy in educating its children and diversifying its economy. It also embraces gender equality. You will see women here doing what is traditionally considered “men’s work,” like plowing, which effectively doubles the workforce.
But by ignoring the region’s customs, Awra Amba has found itself under attack. Neighboring communities view the residents as heretics.
“They threw a grenade right into the center of the village once, but luckily, no one was hurt,” says village founder Zumra Nuru. “They’ve tried shooting members of our village. They’ve sabotaged our harvest on occasion.”…
Must the world forever remain the victim of ignorant passion? Can the world be civilized to that degree that consequences will be taken into consideration by all?
Why should men and women have children that they cannot take care of, children that are burdens and curses? Why? Because they have more passion than intelligence, more passion than conscience, more passion than reason.
You cannot reform these people with tracts and talk. You cannot reform these people with preach and Creed. Passion is, and always has been, death. These weapons of reform are substantially useless. Criminals, tramps, beggars and failures are increasing every day. The prisons, jails, poorhouses and asylums are crowded. Religion is helpless. Law can punish, but it can neither reform criminals nor prevent crime. The tide of vice is rising. The war that is now being waged against the forces of evil is as hopeless as the battle of the fireflies against the darkness of night.
There is but one hope. Ignorance, poverty and vice must stop populating the world. This cannot be done by moral suasion. This cannot be done by talk or example. This cannot be done by religion or by law, by priest or by hangman. This cannot be done by force, physical or moral.
To accomplish this there is but one way. Science must make woman the owner, the mistress of herself. Science, the only possible savior of mankind. Must put it in the power of woman to decide for herself whether she will or will not become a mother.
This is the solution of the whole question. This frees women. The babes that are then born will be welcome. They will be clasped with glad hands to happy breasts. They will fill homes with light and joy.
Men and women who believe that slaves are purer, truer, then the free, who believe that fear is a safer guide than knowledge, that only those are really good who obey the commands of others, and that ignorance is this soil in which the perfect, perfumed flower for virtue grows, will with protesting hands hide their shocked faces.
Men and women who think that light is the enemy of virtue, that purity dwells in darkness, that it is dangerous for human beings to know themselves and the facts in nature that affect their well-being, will be horrified at the thought of making intelligence the master of passion..
Robert Green Ingersoll - What is Religion, article 10
The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money.
Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.
But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.
This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.
Terry Pratchett, “Men At Arms”
This is one of the best breakdowns I’ve ever seen of how expensive it is to be poor. (via slephoto)
this is true on so many levels
I always think about the money my parents have spent fixing up our house or various used cars over the years
Omg the sheer amounts of money I’ve had to pour into the cheap piece of shit car I have. So absolutely true.
There’s a reason my cat is named Terry Pratchett