Persecution of the religious Sunday, Jul 18 2010 

We’ve recently seen in France that the Islamic full-face covering (the Burqa) has been outlawed. Whilst my opinions on this specific issue are conflicted (I really don’t like the idea of them, and they are obviously impractical, I don’t feel that simply making them illegal is a good solution: although the hefty penalty imposed on men who force their wives or daughters to wear them is something I can approve of 100%), it naturally leads to a debate as to how far a secular country can tolerate religion, and whether enforced secularism is persecution of religion.

I imagine you can guess what side of the debate I will come down on: secularism is absolutely about religious neutrality, and is as important for those who are religious as those of us who are not. Though some would frame secularism as some kind of communist-style state-enforced atheism, the reality is that secularism when correctly applied is merely about removing any particular religion from a place of undue prominence or favour, and making sure no religion can break secular laws.

There are many religious commentators in countries which are or have been majority Christian – mainly the USA, but we have our fair share in Europe and elsewhere – who claim that secularism is eroding their rights. Something they unfailingly fail to grasp is that removing one group’s position as favourites is not taking away their basic rights – it is simply putting them on a level-playing field with everyone else. When the USA made it illegal for a white man to own a black man, it wasn’t taking away the rights of the white man: it was giving rights to the black man. When a government makes it illegal to proselytize in a public school, it isn’t taking away the rights of religious people to indoctrinate children, it is granting the children the right to have an education free of undue religious influence. For the pedantically minded (which includes myself), obviously rights are being taken away – but these are rights which should never have been granted in the first place.

Religion should never be an excuse to break the law of the land, assuming the law of the land is just.

Religion and its worthlessness; with special reference to Christianity Monday, Jun 21 2010 

I would like to take some time to share with you some thoughts on this topic, and I’d like to preface this carefully.

The inherent value of religion lies in its veracity. Quite simply without any hint of veracity, the stories and exhortations of religion are reduced to the same position as any other literary construction or myth with the same sort of value for wisdom and knowledge. Thus, when we speak of the exodus and the other stories of the Bible one must either recognize that they have [a] a direct truth value and therefore an empirical, didactic value in and of themselves that sets them apart from other literary constructs without such veracity, or [b] a value of wisdom unrelated to its value of truth, which reduces such wisdom to the forms that we may derive from the Iliad, the Aeneid, Beowulf, and other integral, formative works of literature that so beautifully and perceptively express the human condition.

Thus, we may discuss the veracity of religion, from its higher claims to its basic historical accuracy, and ultimately this is what defines us and our position, for it is the position of any honest human being to embrace what he views to be the truth, irrespective of its value as regards hope and any arbitrary ideal of ‘goodness’.

However what I would like to present to you at this point is what I view to be the relative worthlessness of religion outside of its claims of veracity. That is, if I may, to discuss religion (and specifically Christianity) on its own terms, and to interrogate its inherent value outside claims of truth and constructed realities. I find that, outside of the mere question of veracity that surrounds the Bible, it carries, if it is true in its entirety, many highly disagreeable implications, and here are some of them as I see them.

If you can I’d ask you to forgive the concentration on Christianity as well as the length of this opening post, the former seems more relevant to this forum of discussion and the latter is unavoidable. In all of this I work, as well, with the assumptions that, in such an issue, God is omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient.

The Bible, in the Christian ethos, is predicated on the sinful nature of humanity. Humanity are created with a predisposition to sin, immorality and evil, and are thus deserving of eternal punishment, however by the grace of God, Christ was sacrificed in order to pay for our sins, and so anyone who accepts Christ as their Saviour may transcend the punishment that their sinful nature rightfully demands and proceed into heaven.

However I find it incredibly difficult to empathize with an omnipotent creator, entirely and supremely aware of every consequence of his mightiest action into the infinite corners of the universe, who then creates men with a predisposition to sin and blames them for it. I find that the idea of free will does not compromise, in the slightest, the atrocity of this sequence of events; quite plainly put, if I burn my bread when I am making toast, I do not blame the bread.

To suggest, also, that God’s choices lie between free-will (with knowledge of good and evil) and slavery (without knowledge of good and evil) is severely limiting and presumptuous. It is entirely plausible that human beings ought to retain their free-will whilst being granted knowledge of good and evil without being entirely sinful and despicable creatures, yet the Bible does not recognize this possibility.

Any limit of our emotional, moral and intellectual capabilities that does not allow us to comprehend good and evil and retain our free-will whilst not being creatures of sin and evil that we are is a limit that God has imposed upon us and has blamed us for. That is to say that we are created so that we cannot possibly do all of the following:

[a] have free will
[b]comprehend good and evil
[c]be righteous creatures

Yet these are impositions upon us, and God was entirely aware of the ramifications of his actions when he created us thusly. He created us with the limit such that only two of any of the three things I listed above can be achieved, and most religious people would agree. Yet he still saw fit to test his creations that he had created with such limitations, and to stake the eternal fate of generations to come on such a test.

I find this to be abhorrent. After Adam and Eve were ejected from the Garden of Eden, their immortality was no longer given but forced to be earned, and if it is to be earned then, tacitly, there will be some that will not earn it. These people should suffer, die and live in a lower state of being (for ideas of hell are still fuzzy at this stage) and denied further life due to a test to which they were not a party that God created us predestined to fail.

Also, again, the Bible then deals with suffering that humans suffer due to their own immorality and evil nature, but what of that they suffer due to nothing more than the way that God saw it fit to create the world. The world and its function has been characterized by natural disasters, earthquakes, volcanoes and other forces of destruction from its very inception, and if the Bible is to be believed, this was God’s will.

Such destruction is a by-product of natural mechanics that the Earth, as created by God, requires, and these by-products, of which God was aware in creating the Earth, are destructive and cause suffering. The world does not require such disasters any further than God endowed it with such necessity, and this necessity leads to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of human beings yearly.

Similarly, new-born children are often endowed with bone diseases or defects from the second that their existence begins. We can extrapolate two positions from this, in the Bible, and neither of them are agreeable, but I’d like to clarify first. There is nothing about, for example, children born with diseases and defects, that is natural or automatic any further than God made it so.

God is omnipotent. He is not working within a construct that is set for him; he had no obligation to create a world in which bone cancer, birth defects and other such miseries were ‘automatic byproducts of natural mechanics’. There is nothing automatic about it; the world and the natural order was, as held by the Bible, very carefully and specifically crafted by God; the miseries that result from it cannot then be ‘automatic’ or ‘necessary’, they are not ‘automatic’ byproducts but byproducts of the specific way that God crafted the world and its natural mechanics.

So in such, it is dishonest to claim otherwise; that God did not intend for such defects to exist and should be viewed accordingly.

When debate becomes meaningless Friday, Jun 4 2010 

I recently realised something.

Debating with religious people is really difficult.

Now, obviously I already knew this up to a point, but I’ve recently had something of a realisation regarding the extent of this. In a recent debate about the nature of demonic forces allowing and spreading evil within the world (already with the benefit of hindsight I can tell I was taking far too much for the sake of argument), and a reply came back which basically consisted of several assertions and Bible verses. I realised at this point that we were having a completely pointless conversation.

I don’t care if you say god is love, I don’t care if you tell me angels have the free will to rebel and become demons, I don’t care if you tell me Jesus is the way to battle demonic influence, and I don’t care if you quote me every passage from the Bible complete with it’s little name and number. I realised after reading this that he was just talking utter nonsense because it was all unproven assertions as far as I was concerned. For me to take the existence of angels and demons as true for the sake of argument is conceding far too much – it loses me in a world of fantasy that I cannot argue against because I don’t actually believe any of it.

When it comes down to it, the only real debate is this: can the existence of god(s) be proven? All the arguments from morality, all the demonstrations of religious excess and cruelty, these count for nothing because they don’t tell us anything about whether god(s) exist or not. The real debate needs to be about if god(s) exist or not – is the teleological argument convincing, for example, and if not why not?

I suppose my point is really to point out something I’m guilty of fairly often: don’t concede so much for the sake of argument that you end up talking about angels and demons and how the affect our morality, because then we may as well be talking about how pixies affect the productivity of cobblers.

Is the criticism of religion bigotry? Tuesday, Jun 1 2010 

If you are an active atheist – someone who debates with religious people to any extent – it’s more than likely you have been called a bigot for your trouble. To some, criticism of religion is bigotry, and I have heard this opinion even from atheists.

The problem is that religion tends to be a large part of peoples lives (especially those who conciously seek out conversation with those of opposing views), and thus to criticise their religion is to critice something that is percieved to be a core and unchangable part of their life.

There is a further problem, for me as a Brit at least: criticism of some religions is equated with criticism of those who tend to follow it, or to put it bluntly: racism. Here in the UK, we have a fairly large Muslim community, who tend to come from Pakistan, India (along with Hindus and Sikhs) , and Bangladesh. Quite frankly, as a wishy-washy liberal, I love it. I love the fact that curry is now a British staple dish, I love the fact that we have different and more numerous cultural influences, I love the fact that most of us can live together without a whole lot of problems. Some people don’t love that fact: the BNP are the far-right party in the UK, and their dream is of an ethnically pure Britian. Seriously. However, the vast majority of people aren’t quite that racist, so for the past few years, the BNP has been using criticism of Islam as a way of criticising immigrants.

Amongst those of a liberal persuation, this leads to a distrust of criticism of Islam: I even find myself doubting something criticing Islam from time to time because I have a knee-jerk reaction to equate criticism of Islam with a blanket criticism of those who follow it.

And herein lies the difference. Religion is something to be followed, it is not what you are. Maybe you are a religious fanatic who feels that they are nothing without their faith: but you must choose to follow through on it. If someone is Pakistani, Eritrean, Fijian, Flemish, Irish, if someone is male or female, if someone is gay or straight: they didn’t choose it and there is no creed or set of instructions to be followed. With religion, there is a creed, there are sets of instructions, and to criticise those who interpret them a certain way is not bigotry, it is simply comment on the free action of another human.

Sunday, Apr 25 2010 

I have long been irritated by the lack of an objective moral rule and in my conceit I have attempted to construct such a system without the aid of divinity or relativity. Mutualism is the result of that effort, though far from complete or perfect (yet) it is the first in an effort to establish a objective morality compatible with secular ideals.

Mutualism

Often we are presented with a false choice. That choice is to be selfless or selfish. In conventional morality these two choices are considered good and evil respectively. How can one be entirely selfless though? If one person is selfless does it not imply that someone is being selfish? In social interaction the concept of mutualism isn’t that one party benefits exclusively, or that another party benefits exclusively, but that the most moral pathway is that which both parties benefit fairly and that this moral pathway is the only way for humans to not only progress and succeed but rather to thrive.

Too long has immorality been tolerated and justified. Humanity has progressed to the point where slight immorality becomes intolerable. In a day and age where the entire fate of the species could be determined by a single immoral individual the danger of selfishness becomes apparent. What society needs is a true objective morality. Mutualism attempts to become this morality.

The concept of mutualism takes its inspiration from natural biological relationships. One should note however that mutualism only applies to person to person relationships. True flower power is not contained within the flower’s ability to populate the world, but in the flower’s ability to so benefit those around it so much so that they benefit the flower. This is the essence of the mutual relationship. Together the flower and the bee overcome the limitations of either one independently. No bee can make honey from nothing and no flower can walk.

Often in the world parasitic relationships are observed much to the detriment of the hosts. The parasite feeds off of the host and uses the host only to further its own selfish goals. In this relationship the benefit is clearly to the parasite that lives off of its host’s effort with little effort of its own. This is a cunning natural commentary on selfishness. Blind satisfaction of your selfish needs is not conducive to society in general because selfish needs are inherently fragmented and individual. Is the host guilty for this parasite? No, the parasite is guilty of evil entirely its own. One should be careful in concluding that giving is inherently good then. The mutualist would challenge such an assertion. The individual is good, and that cannot be denied, but as soon as we take into account the parasite the morality of the interaction falls apart. The giving of the host (unconscious or not) is perverted by the inherently evil taking of the parasite.

Benign interaction does not imply morality either. Benign entities feed off of the waste, refuse, and excesses that others would rather leave behind. The Mutualist has a moral obligation to help those around them so long as they are capable; inaction is perversion and does not serve the greater good. Why be satisfied with benign interaction when the interaction serves both so much more when it is mutually beneficial? Simple lack of knowledge of the benign entity is not an excuse. The mutualist has a moral obligation to know their world. If they cannot understand their world they cannot make moral decisions. Only through understanding your choices will the limited few moral pathways present themselves.

It is clear that both selfishness and neutrality result at best maintaining the status quo and at worst evil. A mutualistic relationship is one that both creatures put in effort and both creatures receive benefits; yet, these benefits are multiplied by the individual contributions of both creatures dramatically surpassing the individual limits of either creature on its own. The wild success of angiosperm is very telling of the power of a mutual relationship. The weaknesses of the individual(s) are compensated for by the other(s) and vice versa. Bees move a flower’s pollen to other flowers, and bees are rewarded with nectar. The beautiful simplicity of this relationship is obvious.

Who in a mutualist relationship is evil? We cannot say either party is evil because both parties fairly require something and both parties fairly have their requirements satisfied. If benevolence is good, mutual benevolence is better. Just like flowers, we as finite beings must enlist the aid of others to break free of our natural limitations and seek true objective morality.

The greater good is a concept that, in the end, all things add up to either good or evil. In the concept of mutualism true greater good can always be achieved. The concept of the greater good is applied relatively but not selectively. If two individuals are interacting, for the greater good to be satisfied the two must interact in a mutually beneficial way; however, if their interactions begin to involve other people the sum of the actions must benefit all of the people involved. I.e. the greater good is not served unless all peoples at all levels of organization are benefitted by the interaction.

It is important to note that the greater good does not represent a supernatural being but rather the aggregate morality of those working together. The more who work together, the stronger the greater good is and thus the better benefits all peoples within its influence experience. This greater good represents the speed at which cooperation can happen within a society. The greater the good, the greater the progress of the society. Societies which out-advance their moralities are in imminent danger of destroying themselves.

This brings up the conundrum of whether individual actions benefit the population at large. The greater good asserts that, though this contribution may become diluted by the contributions of others continuously serving their moralities, a good person always means a good influence upon the world. No single person’s value can be understated, yet the value of that which is achieved by the masses is only as great as the value that those put in. One for all, and all for one.

No raindrop fills a glass; the raindrop has natural limitations which it cannot overcome. Two raindrops do not fill a glass either; the raindrops have smaller limitations but they are still limited. A thousand raindrops fill the glass; here we can say the raindrops have overcome their individual limitations. People, as raindrops, are naturally limited. It is only by enlisting the aid of others we overcome this limitation because it takes many drops to fill an ocean.

It is not that we do not necessarily have the capability to keep surviving. We plausibly could maintain the status quo indefinitely. It is that the danger of knowledge that offers us an impetus to temper it with morality combined with the desire not to simply survive but also to thrive. We have advanced to the day and the age where there are a considerable amount of people who could really destroy civilization as we know it. This capacity requires moral scruples as strong and universal as knowledge has become. Assuming we desire to advance in knowledge and civilization when it is likely that every person in the future will know how to destroy every other we must adopt either censors or morals. The freedom of knowledge can only be established through morality.

Mutualism neatly solves many moral conundrums which seem to test an individual’s respect of law, or relative moral obligations. By taking the path in which the individuals both benefit the greater good, objective morality can be achieved and moral rule independent of divine law or relative philosophy can be established. Many moralities pale when presented with the question, at what point does benefit become harm? Many solve this by urging abstinence from that which benefits you. Others solve this by urging acceptance of that benefit and claiming it without regard. To the mutualist however; this line is apparent. The line in which a benefit becomes a perversion is that line that represents when an action stops benefitting the greater good.

Altruism interestingly mutates under the paradigm of this philosophy. If we accept that altruism is in essence goodness then mutual benefit surpasses the concept of selflessness that altruism popularly represents and becomes a concept entirely more complicated yet entirely more satisfying. No longer is someone uncomfortably forced to represent the taker, no longer are those who give away all of their possessions to the parasites around them considered paragons of the greater good. Altruism is no longer a concept possessed by the individual but a concept only attainable through the interaction towards the benefit of both parties.

In regards to the greater good, helping someone may not pay off for a long time. Thus we can consider charity a good that just hasn’t paid off yet. Charity therefore represents any action in which the repayment is at a later time. It’s important to realize that fairness does not necessarily dictate a mutually beneficial exchange but merely the promise of a mutually beneficial exchange. This promise must be kept to serve the greater good or the individual is betraying the trust of the mutualist and thus perverting the goodness of the act.

Perversion is seen as the degree of difference between the ideal moral decision(s) and the chosen immoral decision. As humans we must accept the concept that perversion can destroy the greater good itself. Every evil action that a man engages in has far reaching implications drawing more and more people into its sphere of influence. Perversion has a similar power to that of the greater good but it works in entirely the opposite direction.

Unlike the greater good perversion merely results in corruption, fragmentation and eventual societal failure by over emphasizing a specific group or individual. In Austria a young boy witnessed anti-Semitism; decades later he had found himself in a position to apply such an insignificant evil to millions resulting in one of the most morally reprehensible times in human history. The act of evil which was so insignificant to those at the time grew exponentially as each opportunity to quell it was lost to time.

How does one end perversion? Perversion must be ended through mutualism. Perversion is by nature defensive because it is not a trait many value. In the attempt to defend itself perversion will grow stronger, deeper and wider. Attacking perversion simply results in more perversion. The Greeks represented this concept in the story of Hercules with their idea of the Hydra. A beast that no matter how many times you attempt to slay merely grows stronger.

In the story, Hercules slays the monster by cauterizing the wounds with fire. Modern day interpretation of this story is that there’s simply another way to kill the beast. While, in essence, this is true we must consider what the Greek’s conception of fire was. In ancient Greek society, fire was seen as a ‘gift’ from the gods. A gift the great hero Prometheus had to steal from the selfish gods to give to man. Fire was seen as the essence of goodness, life, and order and represented the ultimate power of man to overcome any obstacle.

From this perspective we can see Hercules was not cauterizing the wounds with burning painful flame but rather it was the essence of goodness that allowed Hercules to finally defeat the beast. As Hercules did, we must not attack perversion less it overcomes us and defeats us, we must encourage the perversion to wither on its own. When perversion is brought into the light of goodness the wound it leaves ceases to fester. When the wound is gone the perversion can be corrected through the utilization of the greater good. One does not feel the need to defend one’s self from something so plainly beneficial.

Mutualism further refutes the concept that morality is equal to justification. Justification is merely reasoning, necessity and does not imply morality. Morality instead thrives as an ideal all can hold themselves to yet, even if an individual fails to reach that ideal they have context for improvement. We cannot be content with immoral actions because they are justified, we must continuously ask ourselves how this interaction could better serve the greater good. As moral individuals we must learn from these perversions of morality called justification to better serve the greater good in the future.

To many this may sound as though the ends must justify the means. This is not true with respect to the greater good however. Any immoral means perverts your eventual end. True moral ideals cannot be established this way. The end justifying the means implies only justification. A logical decision when presented with few choices perhaps but the decision may change depending on the logical argument applied to it. The greater good however is an all encompassing morality which denies that any individual is ever put into circumstances in which a moral outcome do not or did not exist. It is the duty of the mutualist to aim for those moral outcomes in all situations.

One might ask what rights do humans have? With respect to the greater good the desired outcome for society is a society with as little individual hardship as possible yet with the maximum shared happiness it can obtain. In this we find that all humans must be guaranteed the right to seek happiness. At the same time we must remember this happiness is not found in the disenfranchisement of others but rather as a result of the cooperation of many to receive mutual benefit. Some have unconventional methods or desires to obtain happiness. These can be met so long as the desire is not perverse by a mutualistic standard.

Betrayal, revenge and punishment have also confused many philosophers. To the mutualist all of these concepts are considered immoral with but may be justifiable with respect for how their particular definitions are satisfied. Betrayal is considered justifiable but never moral. To betray someone is to violate their trust in you and by violating their trust you take from them what isn’t fairly yours. Similarly by seeking revenge you may be justified but you are never moral; even though they took from you attempting to find retribution at their loss is inherently wrong. The same system can be applied to any concept.

Mutualism deals slightly differently with respect to life and death. Life is of infinite possibility. Throughout our existence we are only limited by the time our death comes. If our death comes early we lose that infinite possibility. Thus, the death of any person must be considered an infinite loss. This infinite loss is infinite because of the nature of human perspective. We can never quantify what someone might have done, or become after the moment of their death because their timelines cease to exist after that moment. Thus to kill someone is to inflict an infinite evil upon them. In essence you are taking from them what they could’ve been, the possibility of vindication, as well as the possibility of rehabilitation.

This infinite evil has much further reaching implications than a perversion such as racism. It was the evil perception that life was disposable that made such weak racism powerful. It was the evil contained within the ideal. Not that an idea was worth dying for, but rather that an idea was worth killing for. No man can ever call a war moral and no man can ever call a murder moral. Limited as we are, our perception limits us to justification. No morality is to be had in this justification, thus with respect to the greater good one can never morally kill another. One can merely justify it. Justification must be seen as inherently flawed in its perversion. Morality is the ideal of not just one situation but every situation.

Only through steadfast confidence in the power of good to triumph over evil will we progress towards true morality and true utopia. One must remember that the good guys always win. While it might seem easier to run a lap than a marathon the accomplishment is so much greater. Nice guys do finish last but not because they’re racing against bad guys, but because the bad guys could never hope to perform the long term race that the success of humanity requires. The very things that erode relationships destroy both our future, and our utopia.

In the end no man can be considered morally perfect, but is not perfection our goal? So long as we measure ourselves against this morality and refuse to be content with the justification of weaker moralities we can progress towards goodness. So long as the greater good is served society will progress. So long as the greater good is served, individuals will thrive. The question is not, why should we be good, but rather, why wouldn’t we be?

Why a benevolent divine law-giver almost certainly does not exist. Monday, Apr 19 2010 

Those of a Christian bent generally have something along these lines to say to excuse the evils in the world: “god has to allow evil because he has to allow our free will”. Whilst this may satisfy some curious minds, it doesn’t really explain anything.

I recently came across an almost perfect analogy which completely destroys the reasoning of allowing evil to let free will reign. If a policeman stops a thief stealing something, we do not claim the fact that the thief’s free will has been curtailed is some kind of huge moral evil. The point is that we have laws and they are enforced – the problem with scriptural laws is that they are not enforced. The laws that various gods have allegedly passed down to their prophets have only ever been enforced when humans have taken it upon themselves to enforce them.

Now, the problem with this is that within the Christian paradigm is the doctrine of Original Sin. So here we have a situation where the divine law-giver has given us the laws, and instead of enforcing them himself, he palms off the responsibility on us: those who are suppossedly “fallen”. It’d be like the government creating laws and relying on ex-cons to uphold them rather than the police.

The whole idea is fundamentally flawed. To Christians who laud the free will defence of allowing god to let evils occur: I do not understand how you can rationalise living in a society which operates under the rule of law which neccessarily curtails the free will of those who would commit actions deemed illegal. If any gods exist, it is their responsibility to uphold any laws they create – to do any less would be irresonsible.

The Big Bang, Fact or Fiction? Saturday, Apr 3 2010 

The Big Bang, Fact or Fiction?

It’s rather irritating to those in the science fields to hear the phrase, “The Big Bang is no different than god creating the universe.” This assertion is so biased and misinformed I have to wonder about the troglodyte that said it in the first place. The Big Bang is a mathematically reducible concept. Here’s why:

A great scientist Edwin Hubble (who we name the Hubble telescope after) found out that v = H*d. He, for the first time established that the universe was and is indeed expanding. It was this relationship that destroyed scientists’ previous theories of an infinite stable state universe. Basically the relationship between how fast a galaxy is receding from earth is a property of how far away it is. The further the galaxy is the faster they are receding from us.

This was the first proof that space itself was expanding, pushing away objects held together by gravity faster and faster as the amount of space between two objects grew. To notice this effect you need to be two galaxies separated by mind boggling distances but the effect grows rapidly.

How can galaxies be approaching then? Well galaxies aren’t just static, they’re moving in space as space is expanding between them. Some galaxies such as the Andromeda galaxy are close enough that the expanding space between it and our galaxy is not greater than the velocity at which it’s approaching ours, but it is a general rule that the farther something is away from us the faster it’s moving away from us.

It was this theory that lead science to postulate the idea of a ‘big bang’ something seen previously as impossibility. It became science overnight to believe that time actually had a starting point and that our universe was born. If space was expanding faster and faster objects at one point had, logically, to be closer and if objects were closer gravity should have pulled them together and, like an explosion, once that force was overcome the universe would’ve rapidly expanded. We know now that it wasn’t only gravity but I digress.

As science progressed we filled in more blanks. If there was a big bang there should’ve been energetic residue throughout the universe that proved it did; however no one was having any luck finding this residue.

It’s important now to understand the nature of light. Electromagnetic radiation (of which visible light is a part of) is a property of its wavelength. Radiowaves are large; the visible spectrum of light includes small tight waves, and X-rays are even smaller. In 1964 two Radio astronomers were using a telescope which interprets Microwaves instead of visible light. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson were having a problem. They were attempting to run experiments with satellites and radio astronomy but they could not account for several extra degrees Kelvin.

Both Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson knew that the atmosphere contributed a minor amount to their readings but it had been long established that this was only about two degrees Kelvin. They were reading seven to eight degrees Kelvin. They assumed something else was influencing it. First they checked nearby radio signals and pointed their telescope away from incoming sources. Unfortunately they were still reading around seven degrees Kelvin.

This didn’t make sense until they heard the squawk of pigeons coming from their telescope. Usually pigeons wouldn’t affect such equipment but they decided to clear the birds out anyways and after having the fowl creatures return several times were forced to use drastic means. After scrubbing the pigeon’s left-overs from their telescope they tried again; six degrees Kelvin.

At this point, after clearing every inconsistency away, they couldn’t understand why cold dark space seemed to be anything but cold and dark. Their telescope had been calibrated manually, their interference had been removed and the birds had been killed. The only conclusion was that space wasn’t cold and dark.

What Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson had stumbled upon was the predicted residue from the big bang: a snapshot of the microwave radiation still present in all space from the initial explosion of the big bang. This was dubbed the CMBR or the cosmic microwave background radiation. After the stunning discovery scientists had their smoking gun. The big bang was now fact.

So then what would the big bang have been like? Well using Hubble’s law and the more exact data provided by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson we can calculate the universe’s age to be somewhere between fourteen to fifteen billion years old. The number of course is more exact as we can derive down to a fraction of a second after the big bang (when the laws of our universe break down and quantum mechanics take over) but the point is the universe is about that old.

Fifteen billion years ago the big bang formed. From quantum mechanics we believe this was caused by a spacetime foam, these foams are created when universes (constantly shifting and moving) interact with each other creating a new universe. The new universe starts out as a big bang singularity. Big bang singularities should not be confused with the singularities at the center of a black hole; though the idea behind both is the same (minus gravity) the big bang singularity contains all of the original stuff in our entire universe within it.

This singularity was amazingly energetic and dense. The fundamental forces of our universe held it together acting as a ‘super force’ gravity, electro magnetism, weak interaction (where nuclear fission gets its energy), and strong interaction (where nuclear fusion gets its energy) were one.

One of the neat things about the birth of a universe is that time begins. As time begins change happens and so it did. The forces were violently thrown off of the singularity condensing into the laws that we know today releasing a huge explosion of energy. As the singularity expanded, space itself expanded, its boundaries pushed larger and larger as the singularity exploded. Space quite literally expanded faster than the speed of light.

Some might say, hey wait a minute, nothing is faster than the speed of light. This is true but that’s assuming in a straight line. The laws of relativity allow for a loophole to that speed. Rather than you moving, the space around you moves, and the expansion of space or even the shape of it is not constrained by light.

The farther the primordial energies of the big bang got from one another the more space and time there was to dissipate their heat. Energies interacted in ways that can’t happen at modern day temperatures building up complexity as they coalesced and interacted producing most (if not all) of the matter and energy within the universe today. First it was photons, then electrons and positrons then protons, antiprotons, and neutrons.

With the building blocks of matter in place the first (and still the most common) element appeared: hydrogen. The universe was nothing but gaseous hydrogen at this point but there was a lot of it and space itself buckled under the weight. A star was born, and another and another. Soon galaxies and super clusters were born. The engine within a star produced all of the elements through iron we know and love today. Unfortunately fusion by itself isn’t enough stars simply don’t possess enough energy to fuse heavier elements than Iron.

What was needed was an explosion. The first supernova, second and soon trillions propagated the heavier elements throughout the universe. Eventually, in a small galaxy and on the edge of one arm enough raw materials came together to give birth to a star. That star we call Sol, and around that star dust and debris collected to form planets. The Solar system was born.

So that leads us back to our first question. The big bang, fact or fiction? Frankly to believe in anything else is insanity.

Atheism, atrocities and idiot priests Friday, Apr 2 2010 

Well, being Good Friday and all, the Catholic Church has decided to come out swinging. Here in Australia, they have launched incredibly ignorant and nonsensical attacks on atheism and secularism. One of the newly appointed Bishops here in Sydney came out and said several things:

”Last century we tried godlessness on a grand scale and the effects were devastating,” he said.

”Nazism, Stalinism, Pol-Pottery, mass murder and broken relationships: all promoted by state-imposed atheism or culture-insinuated secularism.”

This is the first thing I’ll deal with here, and it is an absolutely preposterous and absurd thing to say. To first point to Nazism and the holocaust as an example of something that atheism or secularism is responsible for reflects ignorance of the highest degree of what actually happened.

The Catholic Church were responsible for 800 years of anti-Semitic filth that was propagated and spread throughout Europe before the Holocaust. Without this foundation, the Holocaust is completely unthinkable. Robert Runcie, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote:

“Without centuries of Christian antisemitism, Hitler’s passionate hatred would never have been so fervently echoed […] because for centuries Christians have held Jews collectively responsible for the death of Jesus. On Good Friday Jews, have in times past, cowered behind locked doors with fear of a Christian mob seeking ‘revenge’ for deicide. Without the poisoning of Christian minds through the centuries, the Holocaust is unthinkable.”

There are numerous documented incidents of Hitler making pacts and public relations campaigns with high ranking members of the Catholic Church all over Europe before WW2 and on almost all occasions he spouted the same kind of hatred and bigotry that would become the basis for the ideology of the Holocausts. Indeed the Catholic Church even signed a political Reichskonkordat with Hitler after he had stated just months earlier:

“I have been attacked because of my handling of the Jewish question. The Catholic Church considered the Jews pestilent for fifteen hundred years, put them in ghettos, etc., because it recognized the Jews for what they were. In the epoch of liberalism the danger was no longer recognized. I am moving back toward the time in which a fifteen-hundred-year-long tradition was implemented. I do not set race over religion, but I recognize the representatives of this race as pestilent for the state and for the Church, and perhaps I am thereby doing Christianity a great service by pushing them out of schools and public functions.”

This Reichskonkordat gave the Nazi government the political and moral support of the Catholic Church in return for the Nazi government’s introduction of compulsory Catholic teachings in schools in Germany and other such political gifts. Guenter Lewy, in his The Catholic Church and Nazi Germany says:

There is general agreement that the Concordat increased substantially the prestige of Hitler’s regime around the world. As Cardinal Faulhaber put it in a sermon delivered in 1937: “At a time when the heads of the major nations in the world faced the new Germany with cool reserve and considerable suspicion, the Catholic Church, the greatest moral power on earth, through the Concordat expressed its confidence in the new German government. This was a deed of immeasurable significance for the reputation of the new government

Furthermore, whilst 6 million people were being slaughtered for being Jewish, the Catholic Church pretended it wasn’t happening. In fact the Vatican was entirely aware of the slaughter of the Jews when they attempted to negotiate with the German ambassador from 1942-44. They were unconcerned with attempts to render justice to those responsible and even after the Holocaust continued further a dialogue of anti-semitism. As Dr. Michael Phayer, one of the foremost experts on Vatican foreign policy during WW2 says:

Questions about Pius XII’s moral leadership arose shortly after his death in 1958. These concerns [began]… with statements by German bishops at the time of the sensational Adolf Eichmann trial in Jerusalem and on the eve of the Second Vatican Council in 1960. Julius Doepfner, cardinal of Munich, spoke of regrettable decisions that had been made by church leaders during the Nazi era and German bishops collectively apologized for the ‘inhimane extermi- nation of the Jewish people.’

What is troubling about Pius’s preocuipation with diplomacy is that Jews would continue to be murdered as peace negotiations were underway. [Note: the author refers to peace negotiations undertaken by the German ambassador to the Vatican between 1942 and 1944]. Pius knew this, of course. A high-ranking official in the Papal Secretariat of State, Monsignor Domenica Tardini, told the German ambassador that the United States would probably object to Weizsaecker’s (latest) proposal for negotiations because of the ‘Jewish matter.’

The difficulty with Pius’s inadvertence to the Holocaust lies in the fact that Catholics in high and low stations kept reminding him of it. The most persistent of these was Konrad Preysing, Bishop of Berlin, who wrote to Pius thirteen times in fifteen months during the most active period of the Holocaust. When Pius finally responded to his friend from the Weimar era, it was not the fate of the Jews but the fate of Christendom and of the Church that preoccupied him.

While the Vatican showed keen interest in getting the perpetrators of the Holocaust freed, and, as we have seen, had to be restrained by its trusted envoy Bishop Muench, it showed little or no interest in the question of restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

As did most Italians, Pope Pius sought to save native Italian Jews during the Holocaust, but he did not allow the Jewish tragedy to upset his world vision which remained fixed on his church and the Marxist danger.

If the Holocaust was not sufficient cause for Pius to break with Germany during the war, it is not surprising that antisemitism, restitution, and strict justice for war criminals would not be his priorities during the Cold War.

As any rational person can see, to blame the Holocaust on Atheism is absolutely absurd and an affront to anyone with a brain that is not totally ignorant of what took place. Without the discourse of anti-Semitism that the Catholic Church ensured stayed at the heart of European society for hundreds of years prior to the Holocaust, the foundations never would have been there for Hitler to extrapolate upon. Hitler himself was a practicing Roman Catholic and not only did the Catholic Church have no qualms or will to criticize his anti-Semitic propaganda. Mein Kampf was written and published in 1925 yet the Catholic Church signed a political agreement giving him their backing in 1933, after he spent 8 years extrapolating on his plans and ideology present in Mein Kampf.

It was only until he started systematically killing Jews, which apparently surprised the Catholic Church after all of their dealings with him,  that organised criticism seems to emerge, and even at that point the Catholic Church was far more interested in protecting its own image and public perception than any organised resistance on their part, and they even proceeded to enter into diplomatic negotiations with Hitler’s Germany, fully aware of the situation of the ongoing Holocaust.

To palm this off onto atheism or secularism when it was committed upon foundations set by the Catholic Church by a Roman Catholic whose legitimacy was confirmed by the Catholic Church, the moral guide of Europe, even after he had spread such propaganda and genocidal filth for years prior is absolutely disgusting.

Happy Easter, everyone.

The Origins of Morality Wednesday, Mar 24 2010 

Picking up from where Fiyenyaa left off, I’d like to talk about the origins of morality, in terms of religion.

Many people attempt to claim that religion is a good thing because books such as the Bible provide a sense of morality. There are several problems here.

It is difficult to claim that there is any form of universal or objective morality. All we see are moral statements that, more so than others, tend to be culturally universal and broadly-accepted. For example, let’s consider the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”.

To deal with the obvious first, I hope that there isn’t anyone that genuinely believes that the Jews and other people of the Earth thought for 196,000 years of humanity’s existence that it was fine to kill others within their social group and were shocked when Moses came down and suggested that, in fact, God doesn’t like this.

The important thing we have to recognise here is that religion is, in no way, the source of this ‘morality’. These are concepts that came about through  the process of humanity’s interaction with the sociological and biological realities of the world they inhabit. They transcend and outdate religion. Religion, in saying that one should not kill, is only entering into a discourse that reflects society’s engagement with the realities of their existence. It is not saying anything that is original or ground-breaking and, in fact, it really just saying things that secular reasoning had determined tens of thousands of years prior.

Holy Scriptures such as the Bible have very little original to say, and people who point to parts of it and say “but we can all agree this is good” ignore the fact that the reason we can all agree this is good is an entirely secular one to do with human sociological patterns that, in fact, renders the morality of religion entirely useless.

As always, I welcome all comments. Also, forgive the fact that this isn’t as detailed as I originally intended; uni calls.

What can Christian morality justify? Monday, Mar 22 2010 

An often-repeated agument in favour of religion is that one requires religion to be moral. Not only do certain denominations of religious people claim this, but I have encountered rare non-theists who claim that religion is some kind of neccesary lie – that the illusion of a religious moral system is required in order to preserve society from chaos. I happen to think that whilst this may once have been the case, general human morals (in those parts of the world which are no longer governed in accordance with religious law) have moved past this phase and are now superior.

However, this post is about a specific evil of Christian doctrine – the doctrine of Hell. There are those who do not ascribe to this doctrine; for example, annihilationists believe that those who do not go to heaven simply cease to exist. However, the most mainstream view is that those who do not fit the requirements for paradise go to hell and are punished in some way for all eternity. This is not only immoral, it is qualitatively immoral. No finite crime can justify infinite punishment.

In order to justify hell as a moral system that god had set up, I recently saw this post on a forum I frequent:

“Would he demand love? Of course, can you imagine a father indifferent to whether his child loves him or not? What in the world are you talking about?

And as for the basement, he would be locked in and tortured if he was an evil and wicked child, yes.”

In order to give context; someone gave an analogy of hell as being similar to a parent who demands love from his children, and if the children did not love him (or if the child was evil in some way) he would lock the child up in a basement and torture him.

My problem is not solely with the logic of this post (I think virtually anyone looking critically at this can the flaw in torturing a child for it’s crimes), but the fact that the supposed bastion of morality allows this sort of thing.

Religious apologism for the evils of humanity and the world is when you think about it quite a horrible concept. We know and acknowledge these evils occur in the world – and those who wish to reconcile their deity with these evils are forced to justify them. By explaining how they fit within the paradigm of a universe ruled by an all-loving creator, they are essentially making these examples of great suffering and evil into actions that are fine; because they must be in order for them to be allowed.

Perhaps when you hear an apologist’s argument (or indeed when you make one) you should step back from what you have just explained, and look at it clearly for a moment. If you have just explained why the Haitian earthquake was in fact fine and dandy because it fits into god’s plan – perhaps you will want to think about whether you want to make these things fine and dandy.

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 40 other followers