Monday, September 29, 2008

Quote of the Week

I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest - and as scientists honesty is our precise duty - we cannot help but admit that any religion is a pack of false statements, deprived of any real foundation. The very idea of God is a product of human imagination... I do not recognize any religious myth, at least because they contradict one another...

Paul Dirac

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why Are There No Atheist Churches?

That’s our strength. We don’t need support groups. When I meet someone in Georgia, or Manila, or Calcutta who thinks like me, it takes a few minutes of conversation before we understand each other. We know there are millions of us all over the world. It’s an easy handshake of recognition. We don’t think “OK, now we have to get together every seven days, or twice a day, to shout and holler just to reassure ourselves that we still believe it.” We don’t need that. It can be believed without effort, without fanaticism. It’s an understanding, and it’s based on reason, and literature, and to some extent irony, and a little humor, and culture.

The fact that religion keeps having to pump people up at mass rallies is a sign of its weakness. It needs constant reinforcement, and would crumble without it.

Christopher Hitchens

Taken from this interview.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My God is a Little God

In some respects, science has far surpassed religion in delivering awe. How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, 'This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant. God must be even greater than we dreamed?' Instead they say, 'No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way'.

Carl Sagan

Monday, September 22, 2008

Quote of the Week

Doubting Thomas – the patron saint of scientists.

Richard Dawkins

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Bertrand Russell's Wisdom II: The Argument from Design

Since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.

When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists?

Bertrand Russell

From his article Why I Am Not A Christian.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Edward Current's Wisdom

Time for a little humour. Edward Current is one of the more prolific religious satirists on YouTube, and this is just one of many videos he's made that could so easily be mistaken for the real deal (see Poe's Law):

Monday, September 15, 2008

Quote of the Week

I do not fear death, in view of the fact that I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.

Mark Twain

Friday, September 12, 2008

Hitler and Atheism?

Even if Hitler was an atheist, so what? Hitler was also a vegetarian. Does that suggest that vegetarians have a special tendency to be murderous, bigoted racists?

The point is that there is a logical pathway leading from religion to the committing of atrocities. It’s perfectly logical: if you believe that your religion is the right one, you believe that your god is the only god and you believe that your god has ordered you through a priest, or through a holy book, to kill somebody, to blow somebody up, to fly a plane into a skyscraper, then you are doing a righteous act. You’re a good person. You’re following your religious morality.

There is no such logical pathway leading from atheism, or secularism, to any such atrocious act. It just doesn’t follow.

Richard Dawkins

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bertrand Russell's Wisdom I: The First Cause Argument

I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question 'Who made me?' cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument.

Bertrant Russell

From his article Why I Am Not A Christian.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Quote of the Week

The best thing about religion is that it’s so transparently absurd it can’t possibly last forever. I’m convinced it will only take a small shift in human consciousness for it to be laughed off the planet, and I hope I’m still around when that happens.

Pat Condell

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Atheist Spirituality

Spirituality is a way of being in the world, a sense of one’s place in the cosmos, a relationship to that which extends beyond ourselves. There are many sources of spirituality; religion may be the most common, but it is by no means the only. Anything that generates a sense of awe may be a source of spirituality — art, for example. Consider the 1889 impressionist painting The Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh. It is a magnificent swirl of dark and light, punctuated by stars, with the sky and land delineated by horizon, and the infinite vastness of space hovering over humanity’s tiny abode.

The Starry Night is awe-inspiring art, but it is the product of centuries of scientific discovery, coming after Nicolaus Copernicus displaced us from the center of the cosmos; after Johannes Kepler discovered the laws of planetary motion; after Galileo Galilei discovered the moons of Jupiter, mountains on the moon, and sunspots; after Isaac Newton united celestial and terrestrial physics; and after Charles Darwin put us in our proper place in nature’s ancestry. No one, especially an emotionally volatile impressionist painter like Van Gogh, could look up at the night sky and not be daunted by the vastness of the minuscule portion of the galaxy we can observe from Earth (about 2,500 out of the approximately 100 billion stars in the Milky Way).

Van Gogh painted the conflict between body and soul, between objective and subjective, and between outer and inner experiences. As he told his brother Theo: “I retain from nature a certain sequence and a certain correctness in placing my tones. I study nature so as not to do foolish things — however, I don’t mind so much whether my color corresponds exactly, as long as it looks beautiful on the canvas.” In fact, Van Gogh described The Starry Night to his brother “as an attempt to reach a religious viewpoint without God.” Read spiritual for religious.

As magical as The Starry Night is, Van Gogh painted it decades before astronomer Edwin Hubble expanded our universe by orders of magnitude through his observations from the 100-inch telescope atop Mount Wilson in Southern California. On October 6, 1923, Hubble first realized that the fuzzy patches he was observing were not “nebulae” within the Milky Way galaxy, but were, in fact, separate galaxies, and that the universe is bigger than anyone imagined. He subsequently discovered through this same telescope that those galaxies are all red-shifted — their light is receding from us, and thus stretched toward the red end of the electromagnetic spectrum — meaning that all galaxies are expanding away from one another, the result of a spectacular explosion that marked the birth of the universe. It was the first empirical data indicating that the universe has a beginning, and thus is not eternal. What could be more awe-inspiring — more numinous, magical, spiritual — than this cosmic visage? Darwin and the geologists gave us deep time. Hubble and the astronomers gave us deep space.

Michael Shermer

An excerpt from Shermer's article Why I Am An Atheist.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Quote of the Week

Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge... it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.

Charles Darwin