Why Atheism Matters

Tunisia 26th June 2015.

Ten years after the July 7th 2005 atrocity in the transport system of London, innocent people are again massacred and once more the same old lame “explanations” are being propagated.

The Prime Minister has been at pains to point out that the IS “extremists” are not true Moslems. The No True Scotsman fallacy is being dusted down and used again. Probably with the best of intentions, that is, to divide the IS supporting “non-Moslems” from the “good” Moslems. The motive seemed to be both to isolate the IS motivated people from their non-extremist co-religionists and to protect the majority of decent Moslems from despicable far-right retaliation. But rarely is deviation from the truth a successful strategy in the long term.

On the BBC 1 TV morning broadcast today a guest speaker trotted out the familiar line “this was done by a young Tunisian who, having no prospects, struck out at what to him were wealthy foreign tourists. Never mind that the assassin was a student of engineering with far better prospects than the vast majority of his contemporaries. The conscious or sub-conscious purpose of this trite response being to absolve religion from being in any way responsible for the atrocity.

But the cause of this massacre was religion.

Spencer Lucas today (28th June) posted on Facebook a link to a brief lecture “Why Atheism Matters” – Doug Cowan at The Non-Conference 2014: Toronto it seems to be very timely. I apologise to Dr. Cowan for stealing his title.

The Tunisian atrocity, like the many previous atrocities, can only be understood in relation to how the human mind operates when under the influence of religion.

Now atrocities are committed as a result of many other motivations or causes. Hatred, jealousy, a psychosis, racism, nationalism. H.sapiens is a species with a complex mind and many motivations.

But the atrocities of 7/7/2005 and 26/6/2015 were clearly and indisputably motivated by religion and they will certainly be followed by many more such tragedies.

The perpetrators had a simple and evident world-view. Human life on this planet was relatively unimportant except as a prelude to the afterlife. The prophet had revealed this and there are two types of human being. Believers and unbelievers. Unbelievers have lives which are worthless. They have no possibility of an afterlife other than one of eternal torment. Believers and only believers can enter paradise. The way to paradise is through doing God’s will. An Imam will explain what this is.

That is a religion. An atheist believes that it is dreadfully wrong and can (and did in these cases) lead to tragic results both for the believers and their victims. An atheist believes hat a human life is unique, exceedingly rare in this universe and imeasurably precious. That is why atheism is important. That is why a rational understanding of the world and human life is so important. We dare not believe that the battle with irrational religion is now won, despite the occasional outrage or political setback like the recent introduction of hundreds of state funded religious schools in England. Religion is well entrenched, well financed and has the means and the political influence to fight back. It will try to survive. The struggle for a rational world is only beginning and may require centuries to achieve.

Alan Rogers.

Council Prayers

download

The General Election result has produced two interesting outcomes.

The Conservative Party is now the government of the United Kingdom and its efforts to make the UK a “Christian Country” will, no doubt, be advanced with gusto. We can expect more educational religious apartheid in state funded schools in England. Fortunately on this matter Wales is independent and the Labour Government in Wales will, we trust, continue to invest in community schools. A second matter does affect Wales. The former Minister for Local Government Mr. Eric Pickles MP in the last days of the previous government pushed through the Westminster Parliament measures to frustrate the Supreme Court decision that taking up Local Government time with prayers in council meetings was illegal. It is now necessary for councillors (who believe this practice to be an unnecessary waste of time or even deliberately intended to make membership of Councils unappealing to non-Christians) to challenge it council by council. This has already been done successfully in an English town. Mr. Pickles MP was not given a Cabinet job in the new Tory government but I fear we may not have heard the last of this devout Christian.

What are the arguments against “Council Prayers”?

Firstly, objection to this practice is only valid if such prayers are conducted during Council business, that is after the Chair opens the meeting, at which time all members should be present.

If councillors, who are not confident about dealing with council business before having personal communication with the creator of the universe, wish to pray they should be free to do this in a private room before the meeting is opened by the Chair.

Why do secularists object to prayers during meetings. I think there are three issues.

Councillors are paid (an attendance allowance) to conduct business on behalf of all the citizens of their Council area. If they spend time praying during Council meetings they are being paid to pray by council tax payers.

Those who do not wish to pray are having their time wasted by this ceremony.

Secularist believe that this tradition of praying is inappropriate in a society where a minority of people attend a Christian Church and suspect that it is defended by Christian Councillors as a kind of “territory marking” ceremony.

I hope that all councillors who object to “prayers” have the courage to make their opposition clear.

More than 200 years ago Thomas Paine (who was a Deist) had this to say about prayer.

From Thomas Paine’s response to Samuel Adams (Revolutionary American politician)

We cannot serve the Deity in the manner we serve those who cannot do without that service. He needs no service from us. We can add nothing to eternity. But it is in our power to render a service acceptable to him, and that not by praying, but by endeavouring to make his creatures happier. A man does not serve God when he prays, for it is himself he is trying to serve; and as to hiring or paying men to pray, as if the Deity needed instruction, it is, in my opinion, an abomination. One good schoolmaster is of more use and of more value than a load of such persons….

Alan Rogers 23rd May 2015

National Secular Society – Council Prayers

We think local government meetings should be conducted in a manner equally welcoming to all attendees, regardless of their individual religious beliefs or lack of belief. We therefore argue that religious worship should play no part in the formal business of council meetings. . .read more.

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

An open letter to the Archbishop of Canterbury

The Anglican Church has published a letter to its followers arguing for political involvement.

It claims that the Church wishes to work for a more inclusive, fairer society and would like Christians to think about social and economic matters and vote in the imminent General Election.

This is entirely acceptable. The Anglican Church has every right to put out such statements in a free democratic society. It was however interesting to hear from the Bishop of Leicester that the political pronouncements of the Church should not be taken as the word of God.

It may be that the Anglican Church wishes to convince the political parties that it has political power… so both opposition and government should listen to what the bishops say and to be careful about entertaining policies which the Anglican Church dislikes.

If the Anglican Church really cares about the funding of the NHS. If it really wants a unified society then there are two simple things which the Anglican Church can do to advance those causes.

It can stop demanding that the NHS pays for religious care in hospitals. It could set up charitable trusts to fund the work of hospital chaplains and thereby relieve the NHS of that financial burden. This amounts to £1.3 million per year in Wales and nearly twenty times that figure in England.

It can stop using public money to create religious apartheid in schools. The creation of hundreds of sectarian, state funded schools will entrench sectarian division in the UK for decades to come. Organised religion follows this policy for a very simple reason. It is easier to indoctrinate children in its implausible religious world-views than it is to convert adults.

If the Anglican Church fails to deal with these issues then its pontificating about creating a better society will be seen by many as hypocritical.

Alan Rogers

18th February 2015

(See Charitable Chaplaincy Campaign)

Anglican vicar denounces Charlie Hebdo as “vile”

Anglican vicar denounces Charlie Hebdo as “vile”, says religion should be protected from ridicule

An Anglican vicar has described the French satirical, anti-racist magazine Charlie Hebdo as a “nihilistic little rag” and compared their cartoons to the anti-Semitic publications of Nazi Germany.

Writing in the parish magazine of Presteigne in Powys, Wales, the Reverend Stephen Hollinghurst said   read more

A bad day for revealed religion

Alan Rogers writes:

The 3rd February 2015 has been a bad day for Catholicism, Anglicanism, Islam, and Judaism.

First we had the Commons vote to amend the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008 and legalise mitochondrial DNA transfer. The Catholic Church and the Anglican Church opposed this amendment for reason of religious dogma although a fig leaf of concern for the “safety” of the procedure was offered. The vote was 382 to 128 in favour of the amendment. The religious may have a chance to block or render ineffective this amendment by exerting their undemocratic power in the Upper House. There are, of course, 26 Anglican bishops in the Lords who will, no doubt, vote as a bloc. A few Catholic Lords and a larger number of apathetic or geriatric non-attendees might overturn the will of the democratic House of Commons but we, as citizens, have no part in that matter.

The other two revealed religions Islam and Judaism confront a new battle over religious ritual slaughter of animals. Both these religions have an exemption from Common Law concerning the slaughter of animals which requires that they be stunned before slaughter.

Both Halal and Kosher ritual slaughter methods require that this humane method is not used. So after decades of struggle for the decent treatment of animals in abattoirs in this country our laws in this regard are trumped by religion.

A Halal slaughterhouse in Thirsk was filmed by Animal Aid campaigners. The law was seen to be violated (even within the relaxed code permitted for religious reasons). It was claimed by Animal Aid that no Ministry vet was present during the three days they watched and filmed the operations of the abattoir. Animals were severely mistreated and in contravention of the humane requirements, animals were slaughtered in full view of the sheep next to be “processed”. Worst of all the requirement that the animal’s throat be cut by a surgically sharp knife in a single stroke… the basis of Moslem special pleading to be exempted from stunning, was ignored as sheep were hacked to death by several cuts with a knife.

It must be stressed that this was a Halal abattoir and no evidence exists for abuse of the exemption from Common Law in the case of Jewish animal slaughter.

One has to admire the courage and resourcefulness of Animal Aid campaigners. At the very least the exemption for reasons of religion from a law which we otherwise all must obey should be reconsidered. While this is done, independent veterinary supervision of all ritual slaughter abattoirs (both Moslem and Jewish) must be increased. While Halal and Kosher ritual slaughter is permitted in the UK we really should demand labelling of meat with the method of slaughter (Secular, Halal, Kosher) so that the consumer may exercise “choice”, a principle so beloved by many of our political leaders.

Swansea University bans religious group.

National Secular Society news

Evangelical church banned from Swansea University, after “cult” recruitment fears

Evangelical church banned from Swansea University, after “cult” recruitment fears

The Freedom Church, an affiliate of Evangelical Alliance, has been banned from the campus of Swansea University after allegations that it was using “aggressive” recruitment strategies which targeted first year students.

According to Swansea student newspaper Waterfront, one parent feared that their child, a student at Swansea University, had been “inducted into a cult.” read more from NSS . . .