Monthly Archives: June 2007

♦ Would we recognise the second coming?

I have just begun reading Christopher Hitchens’ God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. Its a great read, although I can understand fundamentalist believers being offended. Hitchens certainly has a way with words and can write strongly and with humour. I don’t feel it has the scientific rigour of The God Delusion and find myself wondering of some if his assertions may be exaggerations, or even unreliable.

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OK. This has got something to do with memes! Perhaps somebody could explain it all to me. It seems like a way of helping blogs to become known in a community.

I’ve been tagged by Lee at Olio. Continue reading

♦ “I’m an atheist, but ……”

Religious criticism of the recent atheist books is expected. However there are atheists critics of these books and they are an interesting group. Often they will say: “I’m an atheist, but . . .” and then make criticisms which are often more scathing than those of the religious critics. A review of The God Delusion in the New Zealand Listener last February (No Doubt) is a local example.

In his preface of the most recent, paperback, edition of The God Delusion Richard Dawkins responds to this group of critics. His response is insightful, sometimes funny and sometimes sad. He read this preface to a group from the Center for Inquiry on a recent cruise to the Galapagos. Videos of the presentation and the subsequent question and answer session are below. However, be prepared to be shocked by the unusual sight of the normally dapper Dr Dawkins in T-shirt, shorts and jandels! Continue reading

♦ Returning to the “dark ages”?

The campaign to make Christianity New Zealand’s official religion continues. The latest action encourages people to turn off their electric lights and instead use a candle next Friday (see Light a candle for Christ). Normally I am opposed to making fun of others beliefs. But I make an exception in this case because the proponents of a “Christian nation” are arrogantly disrespecting the beliefs of others and attempting to impose a reactionary legal framework on us. So I am tempted to suggest their protest action has some symbolism – an attack on the light of knowledge and freedom. Continue reading

♦ Putting Dawkins in his place

I used to be very critical of Richard Dawkins. This was because of his book The Selfish Gene. I had never read it, of course, but there were all those magazine articles using the book to justify selfishness in people and to provide an ethical basis for a selfish society, for capitalism. These ideas, to me, were reactionary, anti-human. My mind was made up. Despite my interest in science I was not going to waste time reading a “reactionary” book which I knew I wouldn’t agree with.

That changed six months ago when I read The God Delusion. Mind you, because of my anti-Dawkins prejudice I almost didn’t, thinking it would be a waste of time. I am grateful I made the effort because I then found out my prejudice was baseless. The Selfish Gene was about genes, not about individual humans, other animals or society. Writers and others had taken the title of the book to justify their own political and economic agendas.

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♦ Overcoming religious problems

In this video Daniel Dennett makes some interesting points about the role of education in overcoming religious problems. He points out that some religious groups are “toxic”, while others are benign. I guess that this is one way of saying that some groups promote terrorism, hatred and guilt whereas others promote positive values. Dennett observes that it is the “toxic” religions which are opposed to their members learning about other beliefs and suggests that education about world religions would go a long way to overcoming these religious problems. I suggest that this education should also include non-religious beliefs as the non-religious are often targeted by “toxic” religions.

(see Teaching religion for further comments.

♦ A national anthem recognising diversity?

Recent discussion of religious diversity in New Zealand has ignored the question of a our national anthem “God Defend New Zealand”. If the parliamentary (Christian) prayer is an issue surely the anthem is! The following article from the New York Times illustrates that Israel also has problems with its national anthem. It refers to the positive example of South Africa setting “an excellent example in inclusive nation-building” with its national anthem. The discussion is very relevant to our situation. Continue reading

♦ International Atheist Convention

Register now for the AAI 2007 convention in Washington DC! Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, Hitchens and more!


♦ Dalai Lama visit

Dalai Lama

Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama is currently visiting New Zealand. Despite little promotion his public talks attract large attendances. Last Sunday he spoke to a meeting of 10,000 people in Auckland (see Compassion before Destruction for Dalai Lama, NZ Herald). People are attracted by his personality, the situation of his country and his teachings. This is interesting because Buddhism is a clear illustration of how morals, values and the capacity for good do not require belief in a god. (It is a non-theist religion). The public admiration of the Dalai Lama illustrates to me that, in practice, people don’t really require a divine source for their morals and values. They don’t accept the charge that atheism cannot provide a basis for morality. Continue reading

♦ Limits of science or religious “fog”?

cartoon 01

In the religion/atheism debate Christians often assert that they accept a scientific view of the world and the scientific method but that science has limits. “There are questions which science cannot answer. For these questions we must turn to religion”. But should science accept limits imposed by religion? And are there really separate areas of knowledge requiring the different methods of science and religion?

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