Fried

17/3/14 16:11
benicek: (sunset)


Cute new BHA video series with Stephen Fry narrating. 
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benicek: (sunset)


I went to one of these events in Brighton the other night, presented by the towering, bearded Sanderson Jones who appears in this video. The 'service' comprised of cringe-inducing sing-alongs to 1980s pop hits followed by a reading from Pollyanna and then a highly entertaining talk on mail art focussing on the career of Victorian pioneer Reginald Bray. The biggest laugh went to a postcard he sent addressed simply to: "Any resident, London." He also posted a dog, himself-plus-bicycle and pestered Hitler continuously. This prodded an ancient memory in me. There was one day when I was four or five years old that I became fixated with the idea of posting an object, any object. I can't explain now why this possessed me, but I begged my mother to help me and eventually we found a tube from some kitchen roll and sent it to some friends. I think Mum filled it with sweets and an explanatory note to lend it more purpose but I would have just sent it as-was if I'd had my way. Poor Mum was so accommodating.
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Hmmm

8/10/13 10:28
benicek: (sunset)
Camera Roll-264

My 6-year-old daughter's choice from the school library. "it's interesting" she explained, and seemed a bit disappointed that we weren't similarly interested. Actually it is interesting for reasons she doesn't understand. It's a time capsule from the 1980's when Di was still alive and the public still idealised the Royals as one big happily married family. Her school seems to have made her into a monarchist and converted her to Christianity. Maybe she'll marry the two and graduate as a full-blown Papist. 

Puritans

16/2/13 09:53
benicek: (sunset)
puritan

It's been a wonderful week for poking fun at Emperor Palpitine and the Rome branch of Hogwarts, but we mustn't neglect our historical homegrown Taliban. I found this circulating on Facebook and have been trying to think up some of my own Puritan billets-doux...

Roses are red, violets are blue. I'd love to go smashing church windows with you.

I need you......to help me kill every single Papist in the world.

My love for you is as pure as the whitewash with which we erase the idolatrous frescos.
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Some doctors at work recommended that I Google this clip :)
benicek: (Default)
I've been having a heated email religious debate with a Swedish Lutheran priest. At one point I referred to God as 'imaginary' which, understandably, she found alienating. I later sent her these thoughts, describing some of my arguments with the indomitable [livejournal.com profile] thudpucker  :

Thinking about my 'imaginary' remark earlier. Doesn't religious debate always run into this problem, that there comes a point at which one is forced to abandon being polite in order to be honest? I mean, at some point I have to describe gods as 'imaginary' because that is my honest belief, but in doing so I have to use a term which could also imply mental illness or an infantile grasp of reality. Of course I use it knowing full well that it is loaded and hope that the sting will be absorbed harmlessly. Likewise, I know that if I have an honest conversation with a fundamentalist they're at some point going to have to tell me that I'm damned to hell, along with my whole family. It stings a bit, but what option do they have if I want their honest viewpoint? None really.

There is a libertarian American that I debate with quite a lot on my and his livejournal sites. I find most of his political views verge on some sort of anarchist, militarist fascism. I actually HATE his political views. But we agreed a while back not to take any of this personally, and that essentially we both believe in general human well-being, just by totally different means. He is better at controlling his emotions than me. Once he told me to stop arguing about state health care because I was getting too angry. We're still friends though. I like him. I even posted a bottle of beer to him once. Tolerance requires effort but it is possible and fruitful, don't you think? :)

benicek: (Default)
I had this conversation with a colleague at 5am the other morning, as we were wrapping up a dead body together.........

Her: Do you believe in creation?
Me: No, I do not.
Her: What do you believe in then?
Me: In something far bigger than gods, in Nature.
Her: But who created nature?
Me: Nobody did.
Her: What about her [the dead patient]? Will she be come back as a tree or something?
Me: Her atoms will almost certainly end up in a plant at some point, yes.
Her: But what about her soul?
Me: Souls do not exist.
Her: They do!
Me: No. They are a religious fantasy.
Her: But what about ghosts?
Me: So are they.
Her: No, no, they are real!
Me: How can all these ghosts, elves, goblins, voodoo spirits and Buddhas be real?
Her: Ach! That Buddha is the worst of them. That terrible fat man......
Me: No more absurd than your religion.
Her: Haha.
Me: Anyway, thanks. It's been nice working with you.
Her: And with you too.


I do find myself liking fundamentalists more and more. They're the only people who dare to raise this sort of subject at work. It makes life so much more interesting.

benicek: (Default)
The atheist bus campaign (to which I donated) seems to have seems to have snowballed (or degenerated) into an ever more amusing series of  tit-for-tat complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA). In the latest chapter the Christian Party (God only knows who they are) have run a bus advertisement with the entirely polite slogan "God definitely exists" to counter the atheist bus campaign's equally polite "God probably doesn't exist". While the atheist slogan attracted a certain number of complaints to the ASA, mainly from insulted fundamentalists, this new theist assertion has attracted over 1000 complaints, making it the fourth most complained-about campaign in British advertising history.

I feel a bit sorry for the ASA, who are a notoriously toothless organisation anyway. Quite reasonably they've said they're not going to get involved. Haha.

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I got visited by the Jehovah's Witnesses again. Now I'm not going to go off on an anti-religious rant here but, really, can't they refine their targeting strategy a little? This time they sent a young man who stared fixedly at a point just to the right of my head. Possibly the Devil was sitting there, I don't know. I came out with my usual confession "I do not believe in supernatural gods of any sort...." and he immediately set off on a creationist tack. This is what the last lot did too. I can't think of a worse way to try and 'convert' secular atheists than deriding nature. It's a non-starter.

Why are there so many cultists in this town? It's like living in East Grinstead.
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29% of UK teachers think creationism should be taught as science

Presumably flat-earth theory, dianetics and druidic magic should be included in the science syllabus too.

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This started off as a gentle publicity stunt this morning by Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, and then it sort of snowballed. The aim was to raise £5500 to pay for the above advertisements on some London buses. The idea was to poke fun at the hellfire religious advertising that some evangelical Christian groups have been funding on the London transport network and advertise the BHA at the same time.

Well, the campaign started at midnight and they'd raised the target sum by 10am. At the present time the total stands at over £38,000 and donations show no sign of tailing off. I've just been watching the donation website and timing it. It's receiving around £70 per minute.

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Accord

16/10/08 16:33
benicek: (Default)


Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

As the father of little pre-school Briton I'm slowly turning my attention to educational issues. I urge anybody with kids in Britain to support this new campaign for an end to religious selection and bias in state-funded schools. I'm not getting on my atheist soap box here. Accord has a broad support base, including Christian, Hindu and Humanist organisations; C of E, Methodist and Jewish clergy; evangelicals, socialists, scientists, gay rights campaigners and teaching unions. 'Nuff said.

JWs

24/8/08 09:31
benicek: (Default)
I got another visit from the Jehovah's Witnesses yesterday. A young-looking 75-year-old married couple. As usual I found their views idiotic but admired them for their good manners and well-meaning nature. The debate on my doorstep went something like this (my responses in parentheses).

  • Wouldn't it be good if people were nice to each other and looked after each other? [Yes, and that is what I do at the hospital every working day]
  • Isn't the world today getting worse and worse? [No. Nobody is murdering anybody on this estate. Stop reading the Daily Mail]
  • We need a society with a strong moral authority at its centre [Like in Iran? No, we do not. Never ever.]
  • Humanism is hollow, because it promises nothing after death. [Christianity is a death-cult that views life-before-death as a second class existence. This is hollow in the extreme.]
  • Evolution cannot be replicated in the laboratory [the products of artificial selective breeding can be seen in any garden, farmyard or pet shop]
  • But science cannot demonstrate that one 'kind' can turn into another [a Yorkshire terrier is the same 'kind' as a wolf? Donkeys and horses, sheep and goats can breed to create mules and 'geeps']

.....and so on and so forth. They really would engage more people if they dropped this creationist line, which is an extreme minority belief even amongst Christians in this country, let alone atheists like me. They're committed pacifists though, and for that alone I wish them well.
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S&M & JC

20/3/08 17:01
benicek: (Default)
This article about Filipino crucifixion re-enactments made me laugh. It wasn't the the self-harm that tickled me, but the maternal tone of the Filipino health department; "if you really MUST nail each other to crosses then please use hygienic nails and whips." Okay, Mum.
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Happening

5/3/08 11:28
benicek: (Default)
The Jehovah's Witnesses just came round again to invite me to an "international event". They gave me a leaflet about it. It's called 'Easter'.

They're so funny those JWs :)
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I received this email today..........

You signed a petition asking the Prime Minister to "Abolish all faith
schools and prohibit the teaching of creationism and other religious
mythology in all UK schools."

The Prime Minister's Office has responded to that petition and you can view
it here.

Prime Minister's Office.


We lost. Oh well. The new national framework for Religious Education looks nice and balanced though. It specifies that:

■ Christianity should be studied throughout each key stage
■ the other principal religions represented in Great Britain (here regarded as
Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism) should be studied across
the key stages.


but also.....

To ensure that all pupils’ voices are heard and the religious education
curriculum is broad and balanced, it is recommended that there are opportunities
for all pupils to study:
■ other religious traditions such as the Bahá’í faith, Jainism and Zoroastrianism
■ secular philosophies such as humanism.



So there we have it in writing. Humanism is recognised at last! Also other secular philosophies, so that could include things like Epicureanism, I suppose. Hopefully this will bring an end to the practice of teaching tens of thousands of atheist and agnostic children in British state education that they believe in 'nothing'.
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I sympathise with this article in the Guardian today which argues that the Department of Health shouldn't be getting involved in the regulation of  what are essentially faith-based (but won't admit it) alternative therapies.

In my experience this blurring of quackery and real medicine has gone even further on the continent than here in Britain, probably helped by expensive state-backed insurance systems. Back in 1993 I was working as an English teacher in a state school in a small Czech town when contracted a bad cold. Here in England nobody would really give a damn. My female colleagues on the hospital ward would probably joke that I'd contracted 'man flu' (a term which implies that males can't tolerate a common cold and therefore inflate it into influenza). Not so in the Czech Republic. They were horrified that I had even turned up at work and risked infecting the whole institution. I was sent straight to the state hospital, which was conveniently located across the street. They sent one of my pupils with me to translate. There two nurses and a doctor took blood tests (why?) and were very nice to me. I was flattered by all the attention. Then they prescribed me some pills. French-made homeopathic remedies. What an anti climax. Sugar pills! Pretend drugs! I couldn't believe they'd wasted so much of their and my time.

Looking back on the experience I realise now that the state hospital I attended had probably just been privatised and I was being treated under some generous insurance scheme my school had set up for their short-term foreign teachers. Might explain all the attention I got, all those man hours, and those expensive imported imaginary medicines which were supposed to cure a common cold where centuries of scientific research had failed. Good business.
benicek: (Default)
I quite enjoyed this article about a potential American presidential candidate who is a member of the Mormon religion.

I've met a few Mormons. I visited one of their temples in California, out of curiosity. They were very polite. I liked them. I've also had a look at their 'Book of Mormoni' and decided that is clearly the work of a 19th century nut-job. A member of a nut-job religion in charge of all those nuclear missiles? Hmmm. Not sure I really approve. But it's none of my business. I'm not American and, even in this country, as a secular atheist, I'm in a minority anyway. I'm sure if the end comes it will be swift, and luckily I'm damned so I'll avoid eternal afterlife surrounded by grim saints and disturbing angels with mutant birds' wings. 
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The Jehovah's Witnesses came around again today. Nice people. I like them. Maybe this is why they keep visiting me. If they operate in any way like political canvassers, which I feel sure they do, then they must have me listed as a 'potential'.

They're wrong though, and it makes me feel a bit sorry for them, and also annoyed. They should concentrate on converting lapsed Christians to their sect, not people like me. I've told them plainly enough that I'm an atheist. "God doesn't exist" I said, and they smiled at my gentle provocation. Did they think I was joking? Can't they see that I'm clearly not in their target group?

It really is futile. Atheism is a one-way street. You can't 'convert' an atheist humanist into a medieval fundamentalist theist, as if you were converting an electrical plug from a three-pin British to a two-pin continental. It just isn't going to happen. It would be like a grown, mentally healthy adult suddenly deciding to revive their childhood belief in Father Christmas. Why would I do that? Why would I suddenly want to stop believing that the universe is billions of years old and that every living thing on the planet evolved from the same single-celled organism? These things give me great comfort. I find it beautiful to think that I am related to dogs, gerbils, trees, grass and yeast. It makes me feel part of something huge and complex. I like facts and science and endless enquiry. I don't want to believe that my life is run by a Roman-era middle-eastern god and that humans are the highpoint of 'creation' , but all born inherently flawed and guilty. That would be sad.

Why don't these Jehovah's Witnesses just give up trying to convert me and be my friend instead? I wouldn't mind at all. They're polite, pacifistic, family oriented and temperate. They'd make lovely neighbours. I'm quite happy to overlook all the other crap they believe in.
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I didn't realise that you can petition the Prime Minister directly through his new website. Any of my British readers who are still burning with resentment at the years of legally enforced prayers, hymns and other mumbojumbo you were put through at school will surely relish the opportunity to sign this one.
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