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A resurrection from 2006 today.

The latest news about this month’s Worthy Cause, the Sanal Edamaruku defence fund, isn’t good. It looks like he could be imprisoned without bail at any time.



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Discussion (58)¬

  1. Colin M says:

    Ah, the sunk cost fallacy.

    Also, note the ‘Christian Action’ headline, ‘marginalize of be marginalized’. They don’t like sharing, do they?

  2. Nick says:

    Absolutely nailed it. My one stupidish wish would be for 5 seconds of life after death to give everyone of the dead dickheads JUST enough time to go !
    WooHoo!

  3. Cosmicstargoat says:

    Colin, you hit the nail on the head. Some people just cannot overcome the inertia of their belief, and keep investing in this belief even though it is false.

  4. Sondra says:

    Thank you.

  5. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    One track minded people are such a pest
    To the intelligent clever sophisticated rest
    Who always look at other opinions
    Even those of subservient minions
    Ever meet an open minded atheist?

  6. Simon Gough says:

    So true…

  7. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Nassar “Ever meet an open minded atheist?”
    Yup. The name’s Acolyte of Sagan. Pleased to meet you. I’m sure others here will add to my greetings; maybe even point out why that question is fallacious.

    Or maybe you already know?

  8. hotrats says:

    @Nassar Ben Houdja:
    A new low, off topic, contradictory, and forcing ‘pest’ and ‘rest’ to rhyme with ‘atheist’, in apparent scorn for the J&M readership, is mystifying – it seems to show either an insufficient grasp of English to follow the plot, or, as some have suspected, deeply camouflaged trolling that finally lost patience and resorted to insult.

  9. Shatterface says:

    Ever meet an open minded atheist?

    I’ve met many with plenty of zest – which has the virtue of actually rhyming.

    Religious people always claim faith is essential to great art but you guys can’t even produce a limerick these days.

  10. Noel says:

    Nassar, I had an atheist friend who did a lot of woodworking. He liked to test new techniques. Not only open-minded, but the lathe-iest atheist I’ve met…

  11. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Noel (Please God, NOT Edmonds!), I think I knew him. Didn’t he also have a zany temperament, was tight-fisted and had a slight speech defect? He was the lathe-iest, craythy-est, don’t-paythiest atheist ever.

    Well, you started it.

  12. hotrats says:

    This week’s strip is eerily reminiscent of the unspoken real reason why cannabis is still illegal…

  13. Daoloth says:

    My my. Nasser appears to have touched a nerve! I have a notion. Why don’t we prove him wrong by (briefly) talking him through a time in our lives when we radically overhauled deeply our held beliefs through application to evidence? Rules are: Keep it brief. Stick to evidence. Show how you changed. Try to be nice.
    I’ll start shall I?
    Me: Stage one:
    Standard liberal arts education. Evolution true but has nothing to say about humans–cos Steve Gould is a proper biologist and he says so. So there!
    Stage two
    Taught in religious school where teaching of evolution against rules. Many bearded folk ask me, “well what is your evidence for this silly monkeys into humans belief?” I go off and read…oh so many things–but key ones were Dawkins, Dennett, and Browns Human Universals and Symmons Evolution of Human Sexuality.
    Stage three
    Realise that not only are religious right-wing full of it, but so are the liberal left-wing (e.g. my lot) with their “evolution stops at the neck” social constructionist “talk of innate sex differences is patriarchal oppression” gobshite.
    Stage four
    Lose liberal friends (boo!). But (happy ending, yay!) find others who are actually scientifically literate and capable of actual mind changing.
    Anyone else want to play?

  14. Jerry w says:

    Noel, was that atheist acquaintance of yours any relation to the blind carpenter who one day picked up his hammer and saw? Just asking…..

  15. FreeFox says:

    @Daoloth: Hey, I got a different game. Who here actually knows instances in which Islam is scientifically wrong. Not morally reprehensible or socially inacceptable, but just plain wrong, like Noah’s Ark, or an earth only a few thousand years old? With reference.

  16. MS says:

    Daoloth: Here is mine: When I was 6 years old, I believed in god. When I was about 8, I was even happy to make my first communion. But I was wondering. I asked my grandmother “If god made everything, were did god come from?” She said she asked the priest that same question once — and he said “You could be excommunicated for asking that!”.

    That answer made it obvious that somebody has something to hide. Over the years, I looked for evidence supporting Catholicism, and then more generally for any religion. I never found any that is actually credible. It all comes down to “that guy said so”.

    So, I because an atheist _because_ I have an open mind.

  17. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Daoloth, how – or why – on earth did you go from a liberal arts education to a religious one?

    FreeFox, I’m assuming that’ll be the Islam that’s centered on the very scientific notion of an all powerful supreme being and its equally scientifically plausible angels?

  18. hotrats says:

    My own contrarianism had its roots in an inquisitive nature and an innate discomfort with inadequate or evasive answers to simple questions. By age 5 I had demanded to know the Facts of Life so insistently I was given them, which I experienced with a huge sense of relief – not that I understood the implications, but that the explanation was finally credible and that the details were not beyond my understanding.
    Bringing the same insistence on straight answers to my religious education, I quickly concluded that being required to accept physical impossibilities – like talking snakes, fruit containing wisdom, making a whole woman from part of a man – not only as fact but beyond any reasoned criticism, was the mark of a tyrannical conspiracy against reason and meaning. In fact the whole business of being required to sincerely believe anything was an obvious lets-pretend game, like being required to love someone you have never met.
    But what cemented my atheism was the realization of the moral and intellectual cowardice of a priesthood, intelligent enough to understand empirical science and see the barbaric absurdities and contradictions of Scripture, and still willing to pretend to knowledge about a supernatural myth and encourage others to embrace it, and the puerile and pathetic evasions and excuses they made when this point was pressed.
    I have yet to find a believer who can explain why hearing God speak in an age of ignorance and superstition was a mark of authenticity and holiness, but hearing his voice in an age of reason is an infallible sign of mental illness; or how any one of the thousands of sects can have a better claim to truth than any of the others.
    My mind remains open to any possibility accessible by my senses, but it can only remain open by remembering that the desire for the supernatural represents a panicky contempt for nature and our part in it, and that comforting illusions and studied ignorance are more socially acceptable than the stark facts, produced by the most cursory analysis of the reality under our collective nose.
    Any belief can close an open mind, because every belief is an implicit denial of its opposite, which, as beliefs deal only in the imponderable, could always be the case. As Robert Anton Wilson succinctly put it, every conviction creates a convict, locked out of a potential truth.

  19. fenchurch says:

    Re: the Open-Minded Atheist into…
    Raised without indoctrination since birth to parents who were once Catholics before they decided to “not be hypocrites” anymore (their words). Went to a public school (i.e. not separate/religious) where the lord’s prayer was read each day, and bible stories to the lower grades– being tall for a girl, I was cast as the “Virgin” Mary in the kindergarten nativity play at xmas, in a costume my mum sewed.

    Lived in a poorer– therefore multicultural– neighbourhood in the 70’s where my mum taught me and my bro to be pacifists, non-sexist, accepting of all races, and tolerant. For birthday parties, she provided both pork and beef hotdogs to wee guests, who were observing different menus due to their faiths. My bestest primary school friend was Indian, and I took the shrine in her basement where poppadoms were drying on bedsheets on the floor in stride, along with all the other myths and beliefs swirling about in life, family, and fiction.

    Always a big reader, exposed to many ideas. Read other myths and fairy tales, seeing religion as a backdrop to the desire to tell stories and have heroes, plus a distinction between good and evil.

    In high school, my bestie was the daughter of a pentecostal minster. I sat quietly during grace whilst they blessed the pizza that was just delivered. Went to many of their services, but always impervious to the dogma, which blurred in a series of competing faiths that most of the world holds, yet individually, with a unique interpretation.

    In university I took several religion classes, plus feminism, languages, and history. I also like to dabble in amateur psychology, trying to understand people and personalities; it became clear from these studies how religion is clearly man-made, politically useful, and used as a kind of shortcut for underlying social and psychological needs.

    Lived also for a while in a town with a large Mennonite population, including the Old Order types– saw how accommodating the town was to build a stable for horses and buggies in the mall parking lot, and chuckled at the sombre-garbed youngsters using the demon-powered computers at a bookstore. Was annoyed by their overt religiosity and Luddite piety, but was reminded by a Moderate that they are still human like everyone else, and every community has its scandals (a theme that would later be the subject of a great book by Miriam Toews, “A Complicated Kindness”)

    Although no argument about religion ever convinced me, I thought I was being open-minded by giving things like homeopathy, alternative medicine, and vitamin diet formulas a try. I have RSI, so I swallowed $7.00 sugar pills of “Rhus toxicodendron” and wore a copper bracelet with magnets, until I learnt more about evaluating claims and how there are REAL answers out there with evidence you can examine, and not give in to “science can be wrong”; “there’s more out there than we know”; and “but it worked for me!”.

    I also dated a science student studying for a Ph.D– which I totally recommend to everyone if you are not already one. The very clear and logical, systematic way that data is collected and examined, and how many years of study and research is applied reminded me that there are no easy answers in life in our search for truths, but they can come at any time.

  20. kennypo65 says:

    I was a good Catholic boy for most of my childhood. I was an altar boy and a boy scout. I always tried to do what I was told, but I always had doubts. I found church to be boring and pointless. After my confirmation, I stopped attending, but I still believed that there was SOMETHING there. It took a long time for me to realize that I was just fooling myself. There are still times when I wish there was a god; someone who loved me and cared about me. No matter how much I wanted that to be true, wishing for something doesn’t make it so. I am an atheist, but I don’t hate those who still believe. I actually love them; I just think they are wrong.

  21. Jobrag says:

    “Ever meet an open minded atheist?”
    The cry of the purveyor of woo through the ages, you must keep an open mind.
    Sorry to prise my mind open you need to start with some objective evidence.

  22. theGreatFuzzy says:

    “Ever meet an open minded atheist?”
    I think it was Richard Dawkins who said “You need to keep an open mind, but not so open that your brain falls out”, or something like that.

  23. UncoBob says:

    And of course Nassar clearly has dealings with at least one ‘open minded atheist’, assuming the moderator who doesn’t censor his comments is an atheist, of course.

    My experience is that it’s a subset of religious believers whose minds are closed.

  24. theGreatFuzzy says:

    No one should have a closed mind to the fact that any one can have a closed mind, be they theist, atheist or whatever.

  25. UncoBob says:

    Following the theme of giving testimony (sorry, couldn’t resist)

    I started as a good Christian – accepted Jesus under the influence of an evangelist who came to our local church when I was 10. The denomination I belonged to was fairly strict, but at least accepted or didn’t challenge scientific explanations of the origin of the world etc.

    Anthropology at University started me thinking of the parallels between Christian and preliterate creation myths. Having to produce evidence for views taken in essays also started me thinking about what evidence there was for many of the ideas the Church taught. Once on that path, I spent many Sunday mornings saying ‘What a load of rubbish’ to the main points of sermons, hymns etc and eventually my wife’s increasing interest in what a particular clergyman was promoting had me thinking that dropping out of the church was the best way of preserving my sanity and using my time positively.

    My non-attendance at church makes for some interesting times when we visit my fundamentalist Baptist aunt who is worried about my soul, but challenging her is not a humane act. I might succeed and age 80 is not a good time to try to change your lifelong world view. At least my nearly 90 year old mother who still plays the organ at church is able to incorporate in her faith a recognition that it’s difficult to incorporate a loving God into the tribal massacres of the Old Testament.

    Maybe Nassar could give us a poem on his own journey of faith.

  26. IanB says:

    @freefox just off the top of my head, there’s the flying horse which takes the prophet to jerusalem, and the splitting of the moon. Sure there’ll be others equally as preposterous.

  27. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    So now do you see, Nassar, that just about the only thing that most atheists have in common is an open mind?
    For myself, a life-long atheist (well, maybe initially agnostic but I did seek and I did not find..), I have no qualms in saying that my deeply held belief in the absence of a god or gods would be overturned in a flash; all it would take is evidence.

    Hotrats, your comment reminds me of the old question; Why is it that if I talk to God, I’m praying, but if God talks back I’m schizophrenic?

  28. theGreatFuzzy says:

    UncoBob:”…but challenging her is not a humane act. I might succeed and age 80 is not a good time to try to change your lifelong world view”

    It depends. I remember doing some work at my Gran’s house when she was near 80. It took a few days. Most days, when I was leaving, she’d call me into the front room where she’d be in tears and saying her rosary. She’d implore me to pray for her. Year’s later I was told she’d left her husband and two children (my mum 8yrs and aunt 6yrs) for a previous lover, and I guess that was reason for her tears. Well, and the fact she’d been brought up RC. It’s bad enough having to die without the fear of burning in hell for all eternity waiting for you on the other side.

  29. hotrats says:

    Thinking about belief reminded me of a quote on the sleeve of an 80s Bill Nelson album, from the artist and visionary Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956):

    “The way of Heaven is a purpose – anterior to and not induced by thought.
    Desire, other than by the act, shall in no wise obtain: Therefore believe
    SYMBOLICALLY or with caution.”

    Excellent advice, drawn from the most full-on rant against religion I have ever read; here is another:

    “In this ribald intoxication of hypocrisy, this monument of swindlers’ littlenesses, where is the mystic symposium, the hierarchy of necromancers that was?
    Honest was Sodom! YOUR theology is a slime-pit of gibberish become ethics.
    In YOUR world, where ignorance and deceit constitute felicity, everything
    ends miserably – besmirched with fratricidal blood.”

    Now that’s the sort of writing we don’t see enough of, in these days of mealy-mouthed, culturally relative political correctness.

    Full text at http://brainwashed.com/nww/words/anathema.html

  30. Mahatma Coat says:

    Thanks for the opportunity. Sitting in (Catholic) church at age 14 or so and watching the priest performing Easter services, swinging that thing with incence, thinking “Hmm. African tribespeople dance around fires to invoke something or another. What difference?” Then considering that there were many religions, sects, etc. which had mutually contradictory beliefs. What test could one apply to distinguish the correct from the rest? (Rhetorical question.) And I was off, although it took some time to cut loose from god and I gave up swearing for a couple of weeks before exams – kind of juvenile Pascal’s wager. My sister said that I simply didn’t want to get up early on Sunday mornings. Then came Bertrand Russell, who was on the Catholic banned list and might still be for all I know. In later life, my poor Mother had to go to Mass every day to pray for her children and I think that she prayed more fervently for the Jehovah’s Witness brother than for the other three back sliders.
    My struggle at the moment is, “Why should I respect intelligent people who believe stuff, deeply and fervently, for which they have not a skerrick of evidence?” Think Tony Abbott, but the intelligent criterion might disqualify him. Seriously, there are those who contend that we should respect the person, if not the belief. I’m going to have to bring Hitler into again.

  31. Mahatma Coat says:

    I need to say that I very much enjoyed reading others voyages of discovery. This is such a great site!

  32. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Sorry to impose this on you, but I’m spending too much time on it!

    a believer whose brain is entwined
    with dogma of a religious kind
    try as he might
    will not see the light
    for the lack of an open mind

  33. dissonant_bystander says:

    recovering catholic, myself. what ended it for me, i was 8 or 9 and we had ‘the talk’ about (no) santa clause. how the st.nick story is an inspiration and metaphor, but only. and i being the inquisitive type, queried upon easter bunny and tooth fairy. yup, them too.
    never mind my previous questioning of how ‘transubstantiation’ does not make us cannibals, they tried to tell me with a straight face, but not god, too! so much for the baby out with the bathwater.

  34. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    GreatFuzzy, not bad but it doesn’t quite ‘bounce’ along. May I suggest;
    A believer who’s mind is entwined
    With dogma, will quite often find
    That try as he might
    He will not see the light
    Until he can open his mind.

  35. JohnM says:

    hotrats @ June 6, 11h35
    “This week’s strip is eerily reminiscent of the unspoken real reason why cannabis is still illegal…”

    Diageo and BAT shares leading a global, stock-market crash. Right?

  36. theGreatFuzzy says:

    AoS, yes that’s an improvement. Even so, I don’t think it’ll win the Willie Rushton Best Limerick Award, even if there were such a thing. I think I’ll stick to prose. Well, until the next time, that is!

  37. hotrats says:

    @JohnM
    I was thinking more of their Parliamentary enablers, who helpfully and profitably exlude their products from the notoriously tightly drawn and rigorously enforced provisions of the (increasingly mis-named) Dangerous Drugs Act.

    As the good Professor Nutt demonstrated conclusively in a report the Government itself commissioned, their products would be a lot more at home there, on firm empirical evidence of harm, than cannabis and ecstacy are.

    His team’s scientific evidence was not only ignored but denounced, and cannabis returned to Class B, which re-empowered imprisonment for possession, rather than being further decriminalised. This prompted the resignation of Prof. Nutt and most of his highly qualified associates from the Advisory Commitee, which currently cannot attract any new volunteers.

    When pushed for an explanation, the responsible minister could only resort to ‘taking into account existing public perceptions’ – in other words, we have persuaded most people to believe the discredited propaganda, and we’re damned if we are going to start telling the truth now, and risk being labeled ‘soft on drugs’ by the opposition in the next election (the link to this week’s cartoon, for those who’ve come this far).

    Just as absurd, having convinced the rest of the world to sign up to the Single Convention on Narcotics, which makes all transport and sale of marijuana between countries illegal, the US government claimed it could never be legalized in the US ‘because it’s illegal everywhere else the world’.

    Despite being proved not only dangerous but often lethal, alcohol and tobacco are not ‘drugs’, simply because_we don’t call them that_: they are necessary and customary de-stressors and social lubricants, not mass medication that just coincidentally rakes in billions in tax and keep the pensions bill down with premature deaths. As long as we all agree not to call them drugs, the DDA will never apply.

    Our attitude to all drugs, from coffee to crack, is skewed by nearly a century of misinformation, demonization, corporate greed and political opportunism. The only logical approach is to move all drugs into the privileged category that alcohol and tobacco currently inhabit. If the answer for any dangerous drug is licensing, regulation of purity and a hefty bite of tax commensurate with the cost of cleaning up after it, then that is the answer for all of them, with the degree of potential harm prominently displayed. Then we can just all be grown up about how we choose to relax, socialise, share states of consciousness or simply feel different for a while – the perfectly normal reasons people have for taking all drugs.

    Outside of political posturing, and the reality of prison cells for people innocent of any demonstrable bad intent, the war on drugs is over. The drugs won.

  38. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Would you Adam it, there’s a talk on youtube by Chris Tucke tittled “Why Open-Minded People Should Endorse Dogmatism”. It’s a bit deep for me[1], but I don’t find his other lectures (on Young Philosophers.org) very persuasive. Maybe I’ve been sploilt by too much Dennett.

    [1] I suspect it’s all smoke and mirrors, but will keep my mind open – though, 1min into his video, I could’t say the same for my eyes, Zzzzz.

  39. JohnM says:

    hotrats on June 10, 10h41
    Good mini-essay. I am completely in accord with you. For the last ten years I have railed against the human and financial cost of the WoD. Instead, money could spent on picking up human casualties from unproscribed substances. Then we’d see a reduction in taxes *and* a falling death toll – 30- to 40,000 unnecessary corpses and umpteen million dollars in Mexico alone in the last ten years.

  40. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    To return to the cartoon for a mo (did you see what I did there?), I was sure I’d heard a quote somewhere that sums up Mo’s punchline, and I’ve finally remembered. It was by George Meany ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Meany if anybody’s interested/cares). It was originally only about economics, but with a slight adjustment…..
    Economics and a religious calling are the only professions where you can gain great eminence without ever being right.

    JohnM, don’t be daft, why would they want to do that? Don’t you know we’re heading for a global over-population crisis? The governmental authories would rather have 40,000 dead now than the 200,000 – 1,000,000 (off the top of my head, and I may still be under-estimating; Catholicism is, I believe, a popular religion of – ahem – choice in Mexico) of their now never-to-be descendants that won’t be adding to the problem in 50 years time. Extend that to the rest of the world – catholic or not – and suddenly that future crisis moves a few years more distant.
    A conspiracy theorist might link the above with Hotrats’ comment about legalisation. If the ‘hard’ drugs were legalised it would lead to a combination of cleaner, safer drugs (because BigPharma would be in like a shot) and better, more professional care and treatment for addicts, ergo less deaths from the effects of the shit that street drugs are cut with today, from disease through shared needles and so on. I suppose they may even take the fact that most of those dying are ‘only’ from the poorer under-classes as a bit of a bonus. Anything to keep the mud-blood numbers down, what?
    As for good old grass, if it were de-criminalised, then nobody, no matter how much of a Mail reader they are, will call the police when they catch a whiff of perfectly legal Mary-J over the garden fence. As I’m sure that the only reason the government would legalise it would be for the potential tax revenue then it follows that the main reason it isn’t even allowed to be sold under license like tobacco and alcohol, at least here in the U.K., is that anyone with space for a plant pot can grow their own marijuana plant. Home-brewed beer is generally foul, home grown tobacco would require far too much space (and a better climate than here) for the individual user, but for a small financial outlay and a little practise, a disused airing cupboard or even wardrobe, given the right lighting etc, is all the space one would need (or so I’m reliably informed) to totally negate the need to over-pay at a retail outlet. So, no cash for the government, or for the big manufacturers and retail chains that would inevitably try to monopolise the stuff, no fun for the plebs who may need a little natural light stress- or pain relief.
    Having said that, I’m still somewhat dumbfounded over how anybody had the bare-faced nerve to ban the growing of what is after all just a plant. They can’t say it was because of the undesirable side-effects of using it, otherwise they’d also have to ban Brussels sprouts and all pulses!

    By the way Hotrats, I left a reply to your last comment on farts on the previous strips’ comments. If you haven’t already seen it, you might enjoy it.

    Sorry for droning on, everybody, but pain-induced insomnia gets very boring, and concentrating on composing a rant can be quite therapeutic. At least until the morphine starts to kik innn and mayks constrashun difi difffi oh fuk wat was I seyin?
    :-)

  41. theGreatFuzzy says:

    I’m afraid my mind has become infected with doggerel, and the only known cure is to spit it out…

    a vicar with dogma laced mind
    attempted to seek and to find
    but the years invested
    in a faith untested
    prevented him opening his mind

    …it’s actually close to my original in that lines 3 and 4 relate more closely to the cartoon.

    AoS, there was a rumour years back that Richard Branson had copyrighted names such as Red Leb and Lebanese Gold, just in case it was legalised I guess.

  42. Evil Little Thing says:

    To N.B.H. – ALL aithiests are open minded – Just give us ONE shred of evidence that God exists. And we would ALL convert!

  43. theGreatFuzzy says:

    Evil Little Thing, what would count as evidence?
    Some atheists don’t accept that some atheists may have closed minds.

  44. hotrats says:

    tGF:
    There well may be closed-minded atheists – but at least they’ve made a start.

    AoS:
    “Hell hath no fury like a vested interest masquerading as a moral principle.”
    — Barber Conable, former President of the World Bank

  45. daoloth says:

    For those who shared–thanks for sharing. That was interesting. However–I would always like more detail on the “tipping point”. What was the thing that made you go either “nah” or “ah-ha”. I always ask the faithful to talk me through their conversion experience. Hey. Maybe one day I will share it!
    AoS: Since you asked:
    I taught Maths, Physics & Psychology at A level. Psychology teaching was a sideline due to a misprint on an application form. Not joking.
    The syllabus changed and evolutionary theory was added. I read a book called “Alas Poor Darwin: Arguments against Evolutionary Psychology”. I had never heard of evo psych before and I knew no biology beyond my own A levels.
    However, I had heard of ad hominem arguments, non-sequiturs, circularity and ignoratio elenchia. This book was full of them–plus some of the angriest people I had ever read. I immediately thought that whatever was pissing this many people off must be worth looking into. I am still fascinated by how angry people get when it is suggested that the same rules that apply to the rest of life also apply to us. I am very happy with the “youre doing it wrong” criticism. The obvious rejoinder–show us how to do it better. The “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” response is by far the most common though.

  46. IanB says:

    To be fair I don’t think there was a tipping point as such for me personally. I sort of just accepted the stories I was told as a child at school where the bible was treated as if it were a historical reference book. I think gradually as I reached my late teens I realised basically religion didn’t stack up but I had no strong feeling either way, basically it didn’t concern me and as a young adult I’d take communion more to keep my then MiL happy than for any real reason on the rare occasions I had to attend a church.

    Once I’d reached my thirties I was firmly of the opinion it was a crock of shit, the pretty much unending and beyond satire absurdities of the major religions I was exposed to were/are just too obvious. I try not to argue with older folks, especially family members who have a strong belief because that would just be mean spirited of me but anyone else is fair game.

    A close brush with the reaper two+ years ago whilst I was out of the country gave me a bit of a start but didn’t have me praying for help but I can certainly see how certain and coming mortality can rope in the desperate.

  47. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Daoloth, thanks for that. It turns out that I’d misunderstood your initial post. When you wrote “Taught in religious school where teaching of evolution against rules.” I read it as you were taught in a religious school after your liberal arts education.
    To add to your words ” I am still fascinated by how angry people get when it is suggested that the same rules that apply to the rest of life also apply to us”, I’d have to say that I’m not so much fascinated by how angry people get but more often surprised by who. I can understand the need for religions that accept a form of evolution to claim special status for humans if it helps the followers feel ‘special’, but when it’s an avowed atheist or ardent Darwinian then I simply have to shake my head. It’s made me realise that arrogance, as much as superstition, is a trait of our species not easily shaken.

    As to the ‘tipping point’, there really wasn’t one. I don’t recall ever really believing, but I did initially think that because everybody else seemed to then I must have been missing something obvious. I even tried to believe for a while; I started looking for that illusive ‘something’ that everyone but me seemed to know, but the more I looked the more ridiculous it got, so instead I started questioning it. Not just the big stuff, but the more mundane, trivial things that I think a lot of people either overlook or don’t think important to question. As an example, on a school Harvest Festival service at the towns’ 13thC Parish Church I asked the vicar why they needed a copper lightning conductor. Surely God would protect His own house? That one got me another thrashing! Because of a dearth of sensible, believable answers to any of the qustions, big or small, by the time I left school I was atheist.

  48. FreeFox says:

    I have been thinking about that one for a while. Tipping points (yes, plural), even “just” about the divine… I grew up in a neighborohood that was rife with worldviews, Shiite, Sunnite, salafists, catholic, orthodox, lutheran, hindu, sikh, ex-communist (Berlin), strictly secular, everything was there. And my own family had inherited lutheran (my mum and siblings), lapsed catholic (father), and converted anglican (aunt and cousins) connections. I never ran with any “big” mono-ethnic gang, but was part of a kind of mottley group, but my first idea about religion was that it was more about loyalty and identity (though I couldn’t have called it that then) than actual conviction. That you take up the conviction with your group, like wearing gang colours, you know? But to be frank in my experience (and there are of course always exceptions, all of you might belong to those) most secular people are only secular because they belong to a secular group. They may think they are convinced by the logic and science of it, but most Muslims I know are convinced of the obvious rightness of their faith, too. Actually, only the Lutherans and Anglicans I knew seemed to have this faintly embarrassed self-consciousness about it, sort of admitting “yeah, we know it doesn’t really hold water, but we wanna believe it anyway, so, we won’t talk about it to you, and you please shut up about it to me.” Since I sort of always was at odds with everyone (teachs, rents, siblings, class mates, other kids in the neighborhood, street workers, etc.) I never felt any loyalty to any of those belief systems. But they fascinated me. I think it was mostly the membership aspect… or… I dunno… you know… that agreeing with something could make you an accepted member. It seemed simply too horrifyingly degrading to do that, and I intensely envied those who simply could do it.
    My first tipping point out of that envious feeling of standing outside, looking in (though both into any religious community as well as the arrogantly self-confidant secular worldview of most of my school teachs and the kids from the “better” families) came when the youngest of my older siblings, my sister Nette went to religious instruction class in preparation to her confirmation. She and I shared a room and at night I would crawl under her covers and we would read the bible together and talk about it. And I was completely blown away how different God was in that book from what I had been told before. Not the dried up old prune of bloodless love, nor the strong warrior, nor the distant watchmaker, but a passionate, unfair, struggling, lonely, cruel and yearning lover, artist, fighter, husband, father and leader. Nette also taught me how to pray, not talking TO God and asking things. If you talk and beg, she told me, you can’t hear Him. Instead you have to shut up, be very, very quiet, and patient, like waiting for wild pigs in the Grunewald at night. Most days, there is nothing. But if you do it regularely, and keep your patience, eventually you hear them in the dark. The same goes for God’s voice. And, well, for me it worked. So, that was how I found God, biblical, but unaffiliated to any Church or group.
    Then He killed my sister and my father, and I turned first to the begging kind of prayer, and eventually stopped entirely. Never quite quit believing in Him, but we definitely had a parting of the ways, and to this day, 7 years later, I haven’t really forgiven Him. Not that He’d give one fig about my anger or forgiveness… but for four years we pretty much ignored each other.
    However, I never quite lost my fascination for religions and kept reading all the Myths and stories and holy books I could get my hands on, from the bible to the Greek Myths, from the Norse sagas to the Book of Mormon (very funny!), from African folk tales to the Bhagavad Gita. I only draw the line at the Koran. That must be the single worst written book in the history of literacy. But I also read Dawkins and Dennet, Kant and Koester, Plato and Pirsig, Gustav Jung and Joseph Campbell.
    My third big tipping was in December 2008. And was intensely personal and kinda lengthy to describe. But it involved that I realised could hate and love life at the same time, and that God was there for me exactly when I needed Him. Not the Catholic or Baptist or fundamentalist Muslim God, but just… well… Fate. Life. The PTB. An affirmative principle. The Cosmic Yes. That winter I also met a Sami shaman-in-training who took me on a spirit journey during which I met my spirit guides (yep, involved drugs, also drums, snow, fire, and the wild night sky). And I found that from my point of view at least all the gods, spirits, ghosts, demons, and God quite plainly and obviously exist.
    And since then I’ve prayed (in my original meditative, not in a petitionary way) regularely, and appropriated gods from wherever and worship Ares, Athena, Ellegua, Ganesh, Luficer, and Maitre Carrefour, and speak to my spirit guides. I know it sounds nuts to most of you, but to me it makes sense, it helps me focus and channel those aspects of life and my soul that I need at the time.

  49. MS says:

    To Evil Little Thing: You said “Just give us ONE shred of evidence that God exists. And we would ALL convert!” That is not strictly accurate. Give me real convincing evidence (not tiny shreds) and I will _believe_ that god exists. That is not the same as saying that I will play his game. I still might not kill people for homosexuality or for eating shellfish, even if god is real.

    To FreeFox: You say “most secular people are only secular because they belong to a secular group”. This is not my experience. My experience is that most secular people have a conflict with the religious people around them, and they seek out secular companions. Being in the secular group comes second, because truly secular social contexts are so rare. I live in the US, where everybody pretty much assumes I am christian unless I tell them otherwise.

  50. hotrats says:

    Reading these personal histories has made it clear that the common perception of atheists as uniformly cynical, unfeeling and amoral is well wide of the mark.

    They demonstrate not only that you can have real personal and moral growth without compromising common sense or intellectual honesty, but that until rejected, the illusory ‘certainties’ of religion only serve to complicate and frustrate the process.

    @tGF:
    #AoS, there was a rumour years back that Richard Branson had copyrighted names such as Red Leb and Lebanese Gold, just in case it was legalised I guess.#

    If he had, it wouldn’t be much help – for political reasons there has been no dope coming out of Lebanon for decades now.

    This is one of the earliest recorded urban myths – it has been doing the rounds for 40 years (already old when it appeared in Oz magazine, back then it was Reynolds or Philip Morris rather than Branston) but there is no copyright per se on titles, names or brands.

    Trade Mark naming rules are designed to protect brand integrity and regulate disputes over packaging and promotion of products actually for sale, so it isn’t possible to register a brand name and keep it ‘off the market’ in this way without a product available for purchase.

    Any farsighted entrepreneur can still get in on the ground floor by registering the domains http://www.afghanblack.com and http://www.lebanesegold.com, but hurry, http://www.redleb.com already redirects to a blogger in Beirut.

  51. beechnut says:

    Ever meet an open minded atheist?

    The answer is “Yes”. Nasser, you can’t do Limericks: your efforts never scan correctly and they never flow naturally. They are always forced and artificial. Be a good chap and learn how to do it properly. And if you wouldn’t mind practising somewhere else it would be appreciated.

  52. beechnut says:

    Unimaginabilty sucks.
    On the other hand, feeding the ducks,
    Or a well prepared stew
    (In an atheist’s view)
    Far exceeds two-and-seventy fucks.

  53. beechnut says:

    And I apologise to Nassar for spelling his name wrong. Force of habit.

  54. hotrats says:

    re beechnut:
    (Standing back in awe…) Now _that’s_ how to write a limerick for J&M!

  55. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Whoa there, Beechnut & Hotrats! Now, I might be getting the meaning of ‘atheist’ wrong, but in my experience neither stew nor ducks come anywhere close to even a single fuck (if memory serves :-) ), and I speak as one who also makes a mighty fine stew…..sometimes using ducks!

  56. beechnut says:

    What, Acolyte, never-never-land fucks? I’d rather have the real thing, which is here and now, and includes options like eating ducks, feeding them to the stew, without which (or equivalent) real fucks are hardly probable… And they have their own charm. I think I feel a sonnet coming on…

  57. beechnut says:

    Oh, and thanks, hotrats.

  58. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Beechnut, obviously not never-land (if it were ‘never-never-land’, who’d hold the mortgage?), but then you didn’t mention the location in your ditty.
    D’you know, I find something funny in the image of a suicide bomber, 2 seconds after detonation, looking at a dish of 72 raisins of perfect clarity. “What the FUCK are THEY”?
    Warped sense of humour, that Allah!

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