Friday, July 30, 2010

Another shrill new atheist

See if you can identify the differences between the current so called "new atheists" and this upstart...

David Hulme lived 260 years ago and was one of humanities great thinkers, perhaps Scotland's greatest philosopher; he made many great quotes, here is one of my favourite.

'A wise man... proportions his belief to the evidence.’

Yay 500 posts!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Religion... still harmless?

Not if you're an Eastern European baby!

Here is an alarming story of incompetence at the hands of the local Christian shaman. Apparently he dunked a young baby three times into water in order to baptise it and forgot to cover the babies mouth. The six week old inhaled water and although clearly in distress the priest thought it more important to continue with the ceremony. The baby later died and the autopsy revealed that it had drowned.

What had this baby done to deserve death, where was the supposed all knowing and all loving God that Christians bang on about, was he out to lunch when this happened? All the corrupt, evil and self-serving institutions of religions and all their pathetic and pointless rituals (no matter how well meaning) are not worth the life of a single human baby, but obviously that's just my lack of a moral compass speaking..

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Kentucky fried Jesus

Jesus is back folks, this time the omnipotent creator of the universe chooses to reveal himself to humanity via the arse of a chicken.

One of the regular contributors to the comments on this Blog keeps chickens, so Lisa, you'd better get out there and check your "girls", you never know someone might be trying to send you a message :)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Fresh air, big sky

Just returned from a short activity break with my Family in the French Alps. I'd never taken a "packaged" deal activity holiday before, preferring in the past to "role my own", but having the family in tow I wanted something a bit more predictable, it turned out to be a lot of fun.

We drove down to Les Gets (pronounced "lai-jai") which is in the Portes du Soleil area just south of Geneva, it's a beautiful part of the world with stunning views over the Mont Blanc massive from it's more modest 1800-2200 metre hills. It turned out to be quite a long drive but worth it, we took more gear (kids never have enough) and also had more freedom once down there; I suppose it took around 10 hours in total but we stopped over in Reims (lovely cathedral) which broke it up nicely.

The activities we did were varied and well organised they ranged from running around ropes and wires in pine trees to more classic rock climbing and white water rafting. I also organised some paragliding on the side, as my son kept nagging me (I don't think he quite believed my tall tales of the sport from when I used to do it regularly before he was born) Les Gets is also famous for (extreme) downhill MTB or mountain biking for the uninitiated (like me!) I hadn't a clue that such an elite and specialised sub-culture existed in the bicycling fraternity, believe me this lot are complete nutters! The clique seems to consist mainly of young men who don full face helmets and body armour and then hurtle down the rutted river beds, scree slopes and forest trails of these wonderful peaks. My wife remarked how they looked like muddy "Ninja Turtles" wondering around the town at lunchtime. Obviously I had to give it a go, shear terror doesn't really do it justice, thank goodness that the bikes you use come with active suspension and disc-brakes!

Here is my son Jack taking his first flight suspended under a paraglider, we took off from 1800 metres and after some ridge gliding and some gentle G-force inducing spins we ambled down to the landing site, an Alpine meadow which was about 400 yds from our hotel. I was surprised how little the hight and exposure worried him; I seriously think he might take the sport up when he's older he hasn't stopped talking about it since we've been back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's wrong with women?

The Catholic church PR disaster mill is grinding away, this time they announce that making a woman a priest is a crime which has the same level of severity as child sexual abuse; absolutely stunning. I did read somewhere that the reason often given why they don't want women as priests is that Jesus didn't have any women as disciples, using the same logic you would assume that since there were 12 of them at least one or two must have been gay, so....

The fear of women and sex seems engrained in the big three desert dogmas, I really don't understand why. Perhaps it's about power and control over the *real* meaning of life (i.e. reproduction) or maybe just institutionalised misogyny, whatever it is it's wholly unnatural and the source of a great many ruined lives.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

World champions.

It's official our cyber-overlords at Google have proclaimed Pakistan world leader in pornographic searches; that is most searches using pornographic terms per person in the world.

In fact the analysis runs deeper than this, you can actually query the specific terms used and the rankings by country and as is clear from the numbers Pakistanis aren't looking for tips on how to pleasure their wives or husbands better. Interestingly, the top country for "clitoral stimulation" was South Africa and "fellatio" Italy (obvious??) It would appear that the kinds of topics that most interested our Muslim brothers and sisters were things like "donkey sex" and "rape video", not the kinds of things that we are constantly told (by them) that good moral Muslims *should* be interested in. I guess we shouldn't be too surprised, if you suppress natural human behaviour as much as Islam attempts to do then when something like the internet comes along and provides an outlet for over-active imaginations then this is bound to happen; either that or there is something about theocracy that causes a higher instance of sexual deviancy, perhaps the Catholics could provide some additional insight on that.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Bare faced French..

The French National Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to ban the wearing of the niqab or the burqa in public, the result was 335 votes to 1 in favour. Although the majority of Muslim women don't wear these garments, there is a very small minority who do. It isn't clear how many of these Women actually choose to wear these things as opposed to being forced or pressured into doing so by their families or peer groups, I imagine it would be near impossible to establish that percentage or indeed ensure that those covering up were doing so freely.

Similar measures are pending in a number of European countries, Belgium and Spain for example, however France has one of the largest populations of Muslims and perhaps the message this action sends will resonate more loudly there than elsewhere. 

I think the message is that if you want to benefit from living in French (secular) society then you should adhere to its most deeply held values, equality of the sexes is one of those values. Many relativists and Muslim apologists both sides of the channel will no doubt see this as a restriction on personal freedom and dismiss it as an "attack on a foreign culture", of course it's a restriction, however much like any restrictive practice there are also victims which this ban will potentially liberate. If it does this, even in one single case, then in my view it will have been successful, if on the other hand you are someone who cares more about tradition and authority than people, then this new law will certainly offend.

I salute the French, they are prepared to put their money where their mouths are and in doing so they are standing up for their secular principals, my only sadness is that I sense there is little chance of the same robust defence happening here.

Violent traditions

Looking at the pictures of the riots in Belfast over the last few days I can't help but think that there is a certain section of the community there that's lived with violence for so long that, like an addiction, they can't actually shake it off. Northern Ireland is a complex problem, different communities with different religions and cultures smashed together in the 17th & 18th centuries in order to benefit a minority of wealthy people. Poverty, ignorance, inequality and bigotry all contributed to a vicious downward spiral of sectarian violence and years of bitter conflict.

However it's easy to hide behind the past, the traditions, the dogma, we shouldn't forget that there are other post colonial countries where all these factors were also present but those societies didn't go down the same path as Ulster. Do the people of NI want to become the Lebanon of Northern Europe, a dirty run down corner of the continent that looks back at it through razor wire, I seriously doubt that. The leaders of that country need to urgently show some backbone now, ditch the inflammatory BS of the past and look to the future, because that's where the rest of us are headed.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Secular education... please...

I feel sorry for school children in Staffordshire because it looks like their council thinks it's a good idea to halt swimming lessons in August and September i.e. during the UK's warmest and most "swimming friendly" period of the year. The council isn't concerned about kids suffering from the heat however, they are more worried that Muslims might swallow water during their Ramadan fasting period and they wouldn't want these children to feel "disadvantaged because of their religious observances".

There is so much that's wrong with this its hard to know where to start, but I'll have a go...

- There's no such thing as a "Muslim child" only children of Muslim parents who are in the process of indoctrinating them; the desire for these parents to starve their children is a matter for the parents of those children and possibly the legal system; nothing to do with education, physical or otherwise.

- Why aren't the council concerned about non-religious children who will be disadvantaged because of the bronze age beliefs of the parents of some of the other kids. Religion is an optional pastime, it is proven a posteriori by the billions of non-Muslims that Human beings do not need to starve themselves periodically and grovel to some invisible super-man in the sky in order to be healthy, successful, happy, fulfilled or educated so if Muslims wish to disadvantage their children in order to follow such things then that is a matter for them and them alone.

In addition to swimming apparently exams and sex education also need to be avoided during Ramadan  because some pupils (clue: the ones with Islamic parents) will potentially have concentration issues, presumably because of low energy levels and and waking up before dawn to eat stuff (doh!). Thoughts about sex are (as ever) particularly verboten during this time for teenagers, however if any Muslim claims that not receiving sex education is a sure-fire way of preventing teenagers from having "thoughts" about sex then I'd call them a liar; Muslims may believe in a slightly different flavour of deity (although not entirely original) than others do, but last time I checked they were all still human beings.

"Football" is unwell...

There's a ton of stuff out there at the moment about the world cup final, the Spanish won (deservingly so IMO) but the Dutch seem very upset at the whole affair, the main culprit in their eyes seems to be the British referee. The Dutch coach has gone on record criticizing the ref. saying that he "failed to control the match well"; I saw the match and I must say, I seemed to be watching a different game than the Dutch coach.

I'm not a typical football fan, I don't follow any team and generally find the game dull and overrated, however I like the idea of a "world cup". I like it in the same way that I like the idea of the Olympics and will happily watch it for hours on end. The result of this lethargic support is that I only watch football seriously every four years or so, which means that I see the macro-changes in the game and not the micro-changes.

Regular (proper) football fans I speak to seem unperturbed by the level of thuggery on show last night by the Dutch, apparently it's "part of the game". Is this a micro trend that i've missed or am I simply naive, has this kind of "negative professionalism" always been there? It seemed much more prevalent in this tournament, the lasting image of the 2010 world cup for me is of players rolling around the floor clasping their faces pretending to be mortally wounded.

For me, football seems to have a big problem, the stage has become too big for the actors, the expectations have become unrealistic. This has lead to team tactics and strategies that mainly rely on cheating for success; cheating that is tolerated by the fans of the game as "part of the game", an unsustainable oxymoron if ever I heard one. If the British referee last night had strictly adhered to the rules of the game and if he'd had video playback technology backing up the decisions then the Dutch would have only been left with 7 or 8 players in this match and the Spanish would have probably humiliated them. As it turned out the Dutch played a cynical and violent game designed to disadvantage their opponents through cheating, and then to top it all they blame the referee, total football?, total disgrace more like.

Well, the World Cup is over now and the right team won but I hope the next time I watch football we either have some technology in place that can eliminate this reliance on cheating, or football fans around the world have capitulated making violence, unfair decisions and stage-diving actually part of their game.

Start the week with parody

One of my favourite cartoonists and as usual hitting the nail squarely on the head..

For more like this see here...

Friday, July 09, 2010

Flogging in a dead state..

I read with cautious optimism today that Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani an Iranian woman convicted of the crime of "adultery" has been spared a punishment of being stoned to death by the Iranian government because of widespread universal condemnation by Governments and celebrities around the world. Being stoned to death is bad enough but it's also important to realise that this poor woman was convicted of adultery AFTER her husband had died, has already spent 4 years in prison and has received 99 lashes for her troubles.

This kind of thing is a travesty of civilisation, a deep and lasting insult to every living, breathing Iranian.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Ancient Britons

New evidence from Norfolk suggests that the UK supported a population of humans a few hundred thousand years earlier than had previously been thought. Various tools and settlement detritus has come to light at a site in the North of the county that dates from around one million years ago.

Populations of humans have come and gone in Briton, at least 8 different migrations are known of and they tended to ebb and flow with ice ages which happen roughly every 100,000 years. Its fascinating to think that we are just the latest in a long series of different human species (Homo-antecessor in this case ) and groups to have inhabited these islands over a time period too large for most people to properly grasp. Because of our insignificant life-spans measured in tens of years and the perspective that tends to engender, we think of events that happened 5,000 years ago as ancient history, its hard to extrapolate and imagine 1,000,000 years ago and even harder to then realise that even this is but an instant in the spectrum of deep time. We live on a planet that is over 4 billion years old in a universe that is at least 13 billion years old, and we are part of a continuous chain of life stretching back at least 3 of those 4 billion years.

The Pope needs a miracle..

At some point the video's of Pat Condell shifted from abstract humour to comedic commentary, that's fine he does commentary pretty well. Take a look at his latest one on the Pope and Catholicism, the interesting thing is that he's not fabricating things for comic effect, he's simply recounting some of the dogma and ritual of that religion "as is". I would imagine that this kind of thing causes most moderate Christians to wince because the things he describes are so absolutely comical when spoken plainly without the veil of theatre, jargon and authority to support them, so transparently self-serving even a child can see through them.

Go Pat.. :)

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

"Christian" education?

Here's a scary video, its a clip of a biology class in a supposedly secular Southern USA school. You never know how stage managed these things are but if it's true it shows a quite breath-taking level of ignorance of basic on the topics of evolution and natural selection. Clearly not knowing something is not a crime and so its hard to blame the students, the scary part is that the teacher seems unable or unwilling to tackle simple questions or to actually do his job i.e. teach Biology and inform his students when they are demonstrably wrong.

The young girl in the picture seems incredulous that something as complex as a human being could evolve from something as simple as a single cell; what she clearly fails to appreciate is that she did it herself, and it only took 9 months, we all start as single cells. The boy who thinks (his) God put all the animals here expressly for our survival (as it says in the Bible) needs to have retro-viruses pointed out to him and the chap at the end who thinks black people evolved from white people probably also thinks the Flintstones was a documentary.

Religion, harmless?

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

UFO Spotted over Reading

Here's some mobile phone footage of a supposed UFO spotted over my home town of Reading; I can't say that I noticed anything unusual and this footage seems to have the appearance of jet con-trails in several of the shots, hardly conclusive.

Why is it that whenever there is a UFO sighting no one has a decent camera handy...

Monday, July 05, 2010

Mixed bag

Ayman Najafi from London has arrived back home after spending a month in jail in Dubai, his crime, he kissed a Woman in public. Now being a grumpy old man I'm not adverse to a bit of tutting if a couple takes the tonsil wrestling too far in an enclosed public space but it takes religion to throw someone in jail for it. People seem to think that because Dubai has shiny modern buildings that it's also a culturally modern state I guess Mr Najafi has shown us that this would be a misguided assumption.

Bad news, the cost of the Pope's visit to the UK was vastly underestimated, in this age of ruthless cuts in public spending I feel the need for some pretty strong arguments why I should sacrifice a hospital wing for a visit from someone who is under suspicion for covering up systemic child sex abuse. Unfortunately Chris Patten who has been put in charge of the visit could not provide such arguments, when asked about Dawkins recent comments about arresting the Pope Patten said that Dawkins was ill-informed, apparently the Pope is covered by "sovereign immunity" and so couldn't be arrested. I thought this was a typically Catholic thing to say, rather than say something like "the Pope is clearly innocent because he deeply regrets the abuse and is doing everything in his power to put it right", they hide behind ancient dogma and protocol.

Our own Church of England doesn't seem to be worried about the Pope's visit either, they seem to be keen to participate fully at the Summer spangley-frock-fest, the Archbishop of Canterbury will be there front and centre at the trough of bejewelled bigotry along with that other beneficiary of invisible powers Elizabeth Rex. Talking about the exploitation of privilege, the Catholic Church recently seems to be behaving more and more like the mob, with apparent death threats being made to Belgian witnesses against their abusive clergy. Clergy and sex is however concerning the Anglicans, the whole batty saga about gay Bishops is being reported again, apparently such appointments will split the Church. Personally I've never met two religious people who have the same definition of even the most fundamental things they're supposed to believe, but I guess I'm picky like that.

If like me you are exasperated by the constant drivel promulgated by our religious brothers and sisters take heart and have a look at this picture...

The picture is the first full-sky image from Europe's Planck telescope which was sent into space last year to survey the "oldest light" in the cosmos. The bright line in the middle is our milky way, the insignificant 100,000 light year wide galaxy where we live, one among billions of galaxies in the universe. This is a spectacular feat of human achievement, millions of hours of effort and ground breaking super cool technology, the detectors being only 0.1 of a degree above absolute zero; the results will help us understand our reality even further.

In other inspiring news the two richest atheists in the world have just donated some $1.9Billion to charity, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates are quietly sorting out some of the big issues that affect real people in our world, like the suffering of millions caused by Malaria. I find it interesting to compare and contrast this with what seems to be preoccupying the followers of Gods, i.e. what consenting adults do with their gonads behind closed doors, call me crazy but this seems less important somehow?

Friday, July 02, 2010

The human courtship ritual..

Here's a bit of fun for Friday, think about the kinds of things that a Woman or a Man should *not* do on a first "internet" date (or any kind of date really); apparently, according to the experts here is a list of mistakes that Women make..
  • They talk about cats, self-help books and soap operas; to men, this indicates the beginnings of insanity.
  • They talk about past relationships; ex (body building) boyfriends etc., the ultimate turn-off..
  • Dress either too sluttily, or turn up disguised as Margaret Thatcher.
  • Boast about highly paid jobs and famous friends; this sets an unrealistic bar, men need to impress.
  • Get drunk and emotional. (I would add that throwing up is frowned on unless its a competition :)
  • Talk about marriage and babies precipitously; men like to feel that marriage is their idea, even if it's not.
  • They give mixed messages; if you like a man, say so, if you don’t, politely retreat.
Of course being a married person (or in a stable relationship) you can look at this and laugh (nervously) whilst secretly thinking "I'm glad it's not me!". I'd add a couple more things to this list (hypothetically of course),
  • Ordering no food and spending the whole meal nicking chips off my plate.
  • Bringing their mothers along (or psycho friends)
  • Going to the ladies every 15 minutes (what are they doing in there?)
  • Thinly disguised obsession with handbags and/or shoes (just says, high maintenance!)
  • Texting friends every 10 minutes to let them know how it's going
For men of course the issues are perhaps more obvious, the whole process being a complete mystery to most of us. Here's what the experts say Men commonly do wrong,
  • They lie on their profiles, about everything, height, interests, job, age, marital status, children...
  • If you’re overweight and 50 don’t expect a warm response form a 23-year-old
  • They are too pushy, interrupting, not listening, taking over and generally being obnoxious
  • They use (unfunny) sexual innuendo: e.g. to girl who likes fishing: “Will you hold my rod?” etc.
  • They don’t always bother with innuendo, they confuse dating with getting laid.
  • They are shy. A bit shy is cute, too shy is weird
I'd add a couple more, not from personal experience you understand but some things a good friend told me he did once..
  • Pretend to know stuff that you don't (they can smell fear!)
  • They don't ask any questions, just rabbit on about themselves
  • Complain about the cost of the dish she chooses, apparently that's bad form?
  • Drink too much or get into a fight, apparently this is frowned on?
I'm sure everyone has a stack of these...

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Heeeeeeeeee's baaaaaaack...

Jesus makes an appearance on a drainpipe in Coventry; is this a miracle, a sign from God or just that they have too much time on their hands in Coventry? (if you ask me it looks more like coco the clown?)

Get well soon Hitch.

Christopher Hitchens is a writer that I enjoy reading, his polemics on religion, politics and culture in general are often witty and satirical and always cut to the bone, they are never dull. He's a colourful character swimming in a sea of corporate-grey, on-script commentators, a plain speaking public intellectual, fiercely intelligent and probably quite intimidating to those who cross-swords with him. I've never met him in the flesh but I get the impression from his books, videos and films that he's the kind of guy who would provide stellar accompaniment for an (uber) night out on the town that would take a month to recover from; certainly someone who would be a candidate guest for one of those hypothetical middle-class dinner parties along with Einstein and Jesus. Many do not agree with his often polarising views on things but few can compete with the almost encyclopaedic knowledge of  literature and history that underpins his rhetoric. Unfortunately for "the Hitch" it seems that his penchant for Benson and Hedges and the odd snifter have left him with cancer of the oesophagus, in a recent statement he says,

"I have been advised by my physician that I must undergo a course of chemotherapy on my esophagus. This advice seems persuasive to me. I regret having had to cancel so many engagements at such short notice."

This is awful news, I hope he can recover and continue his curmudgeonly ways for many years to come, best of luck and get well soon Hitch.