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########################################################### ########################################################### ______ / / / / / /__ __ / / ) (__ / / (__(__ __ |\ ( ) ) / / | \ | / / . _/_ . __ / . __ __ | \ | / / / / ) / ) / / ) __ ) / ) ) \| (__(__(___(__(__(___(__(__(__(__(__(__/ (__ =========================================================== *The*E-Zine*of*Atheistic*Secular*Humanism*and*Freethought** =========================================================== ############################################################ ###### Volume I, Number 8 ***A Collector's Item!***###### ################### ISSN 1201-0111 ####################### ####################### DEC 1994 ########################### ############################################################ nullifidian, n. & a. (Person) having no religious faith or belief. [f. med. L _nullifidius_ f. L _nullus_ none + _fides_ faith; see -IAN] Concise Oxford Dictionary [formerly Lucifer's Echo] The purpose of this magazine is to provide a source of articles dealing with many aspects of humanism. We are ATHEISTIC as we do not believe in the actual existence of any supernatural beings or any transcendental reality. We are SECULAR because the evidence of history and the daily horrors in the news show the pernicious and destructive consequences of allowing religions to be involved with politics and nationalism. We are HUMANISTS and we focus on what is good for humanity, in the real world. We will not be put off with offers of pie in the sky, bye and bye. ############################################################ ############################################################ =><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== || Begging portion of the Zine || ==><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><== This is a "sharezine." There is no charge for receiving this, and there is no charge for distributing copies to any electronic medium. Nor is there a restriction on printing a copy for use in discussion. You may not charge to do so, and you may not do so without attributing it to the proper author and source. If you would like to support our efforts, and help us acquire better equipment to bring you more and better articles, you may send money to Greg Erwin at: 100, Terrasse Eardley / Aylmer, Qc / J9H 6B5 / CANADA. Or buy our atheist quote address labels, and other fine products, see "Shameless advertising and crass commercialism" below. =><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><= || End of Begging portion of the Zine || =><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><====><= Articles will be welcomed IF: ( they are emailed to: ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA; or, sent on diskette to me at the above Aylmer address in any format that an IBM copy of WordPerfect can read; ) and they don't require huge amounts of editing; and I like them. If you wish to receive a subscription, email a simple request to ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA, with a clear request for a subscription. It will be assumed that the "From:" address is where it is to be sent. We will automate this process as soon as we know how. 1994-05-08 Yes, please DO make copies! (*) Please DO send copies of The Nullifidian to anyone who might be interested. The only limitations are: You must copy the whole document, without making any changes to it. You do NOT have permission to copy this document for commercial purposes. The contents of this document are copyright (c) 1994, Greg Erwin and are on deposit at the National Library of Canada You may find back issues in any place that archives alt.atheism, specifically mathew's site at Currently, all back issues are posted at the Humanist Association of Ottawa's area on the National Capital Freenet. telnet to, and enter at the "Your choice==>" prompt. ARCHIVES Arrangements have been made with etext at umich. ftp to directory Nullifidian or lucifers-echo. /=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\ Shameless advertising and crass commercialism: \_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/ Atheistic self-stick Avery(tm) address labels. Consisting of 180 different quotes, 30 per page, each label 2 5/8" x 1". This leaves three 49 character lines available for your own address, phone number, email, fax or whatever. Each sheet is US$2, the entire set of 6 for US$11; 2 sets for US$20. Indicate quantity desired. Print address clearly, exactly as desired. Order from address in examples below. Laser printed, 8 pt Arial, with occasional flourishes. _________________________________________________ |"Reality is that which, when you stop believing | |in it, doesn't go away." [Philip K. Dick] | |Greg Erwin 100 Terrasse Eardley | |Aylmer, Qc J9H 6B5 Canada | | email: ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA | |________________________________________________| _________________________________________________ |"...and when you tell me that your deity made | |you in his own image, I reply that he must be | |very ugly." [Victor Hugo, writing to clergy] | |Greg Erwin 100 Terrasse Eardley | |Aylmer, Qc J9H 6B5 Canada Ph: (613) 954-6128 | | email: ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA | |________________________________________________| Other stuff for sale: Certificate of Baptism Removal and Renunciation of Religion. Have your baptism removed, renounce religion, and have a neat 8" x 11" fancy certificate, on luxury paper, suitable for framing, to commemorate the event! Instant eligibility for excommunication! For the already baptism-free: Certificate of Freedom from Religion. An official atheistic secular humanist stamp of approval for only $10! Poster 8x11: WARNING! This is a religion free zone! All religious vows, codes, and commitments are null & void herein. Please refrain from contaminating the ideosphere with harmful memes through prayer, reverence, holy books, proselytizing, prophesying, faith, speaking in tongues or spirituality. Fight the menace of second-hand faith! Humanity sincerely thanks you! Tastefully arranged in large point Stencil on luxury paper. 4. Ingersoll poster: "When I became convinced that the universe is natural" speech excerpt. 11"x17" See the June 1994 issue of the _Echo_ for full text. Order from the same address as above. Order now to celebrate the rebirth of the Invincible Sun! /=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\ ============================================================ Neat books available from H.H Waldo, Bookseller! Books by Ingersoll! Henderson's 19th Century Freethought Cartoons! Holy Hatred, by James A. Haught......................$21.95 The Trouble With Christmas, (signed by the author) by Tom "Anti-Claus" Flynn............................$13.95 Evolution & the Myth of Creatinism, by Tim M. Berra......................................$ 8.95 and many, many more. Ever changing inventory. Friendly letters and news from Robb Marks, Proprietor. add $2 postage/handling for first book & 0.50 for each additional book. Send 2 first class stamps for H.H. Waldo's current catalog. TO: H.H Waldo, Bookseller P.O. Box 350 Rockton, IL 61072 or phone 1-800-66WALDO !!! tell 'im: "that nullifidian guy sent me!" ============================================================ /=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\_/=\/=\ TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. THE AGNOSTIC CHRISTMAS, by R.G. Ingersoll 2. THE CREATOR FLUNKED MATERIALS SCIENCE by Timotheus 3. Report Card for Elohim, Yahweh. 4. Practising Safe Religion, by Greg Erwin 5. The Reason for the Season, part of an FFRF pamphlet 6. Lions 10, Christians Nil, by Richard Dawkins 7. Book Review, _How We Die_, by Sherwin Nuland 8. Predictions for 1995, Greg Erwin, Carol Roberts, Michael Haggerty 9. Book Review, _Web of Hate_, by Warren Kinsella =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== THE AGNOSTIC CHRISTMAS. by R.G. Ingersoll 1892 AGAIN we celebrate the victory of Light over Darkness, of the God of day over the hosts of night. Again Samson is victorious over Delilah, and Hercules triumphs once more over Omphale. In the embrace of Isis, Osiris rises from the dead, and the scowling Typhon is defeated once more. Again Apollo, with unerring aim, with his arrow from the quiver of light, destroys the serpent of shadow. This is the festival of Thor, of Baldur and of Prometheus. Again Buddha by a miracle escapes from the tyrant of Madura, Zoroaster foils the King, Bacchus laughs at the rage of Cadmus, and Chrishna eludes the tyrant. This is the festival of the sun-god, and as such let its observance be universal. This is the great day of the first religion, the mother of all religions -- the worship of the sun. Sun worship is not only the first, but the most natural and most reasonable of all. And not only the most natural and the most reasonable, but by far the most poetic, the most beautiful. The sun is the god of benefits, of growth, of life, of warmth, of happiness, of joy. The sun is the all-seeing, the all-pitying, the all-loving. This bright God knew no hatred, no malice, never sought for revenge. All evil qualities were in the breast of the God of darkness, of shadow, of night. And so I say again, this is the festival of Light. This is the anniversary of the triumph of the Sun over the hosts of Darkness. Let us all hope for the triumph of Light -- of Right and Reason -- for the victory of Fact over Falsehood, of Science over Superstition. And so hoping, let us celebrate the venerable festival of the Sun. -- The Journal, New York, December 25, 1892. **** **** **** **** **** **** **** Reproducible Electronic Publishing can defeat censorship. The Bank of Wisdom Inc. is a collection of the most thoughtful, scholarly and factual books. These computer books are reprints of suppressed books and will cover American and world history; the Biographies and writings of famous persons, and especially of our nation's Founding Fathers. They will include philosophy and religion. All these subjects, and more, will be made available to the public in electronic form, easily copied and distributed, so that America can again become what its Founders intended -- The Free Market-Place of Ideas. The Bank of Wisdom is always looking for more of these old, hidden, suppressed and forgotten books that contain needed facts and information for today. If you have such books please contact us, we need to give them back to America. **** **** Bank of Wisdom Box 926, Louisville, KY 40201 =========================================================== Now, imagine real hard: try to imagine a major big city newspaper asking a famous atheist to write a Christmas piece for them. Also, note that, in 1892, December 25th wasn't such a big holiday that they didn't publish a newspaper. =========================================================== You can write bank of wisdom for the full set of books on disk, or look for them in gopher and web sites around the net. ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= "They were allowed to stay there on one condition, and that is that they didn't eat of the tree of knowledge. That has been the condition of the Christian church from then until now. They haven't eaten as yet, as a rule they do not." -- Clarence Darrow =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== THE CREATOR FLUNKED MATERIALS SCIENCE by Timotheus [from the July/August 1994 #13 issue of *The Freethought Exchange] Bioengineering is a discipline still in its infancy. We are only at the tinkering stage where we are learning to effect small targeted changes in the molecular structure and function of living organisms. But just as, long ago, people discovered superior alternatives to the sticks and stones that lay readily to hand, would-be bioengineers are noticing that the natural constituents of living organisms can be improved upon. In particular, it happens that nucleic acids - DNA and RNA - are not very sturdy molecules. Nor do they bind as avidly to their targets as one might sometimes wish. Chemists at the University of Copenhagen have now strung nucleic acid base pairs on a peptide, or protein-like backbone instead of on a phospho-ribose chain. The results are peptide nucleic acids, or PNA's. It turns out that these molecules are much more stable and bind to DNA and RNA 50 to 100 times more tightly than the natural nucleic acids attach to each other. In many circumstances, this could mean that PNA's would be a better means of encoding genetic information. Indeed, it's believed that in the long-ago past, DNA and RNA not only served duty as replicating molecules of early life, but filled the role of enzyme catalysts as well. Later, this enzymatic function was taken over by the more durable protein molecules which the nucleic acids could cause to be produced. The interesting thing about all this for freethinkers to note is that it is additional evidence, on the molecular level, that the biochemistry of life was not rationally planned. Rather, the reason we see DNA and RNA being used by living organisms for the purpose of encoding genetic information is simply because PNA's and other such materials weren't available to nature. Had human beings and other forms of life really been purposefully created, one might expect to find all sorts of "exotic" biomolecules specifically designed to carry out their functions. Instead, all we find are the same sorts of substances with small variations here and there, enormous and complex Rube Goldberg contrivances cobbled together with whatever was at hand. The point was not lost on Michael Egholm, one of the Danish chemists involved in the synthesis of PNA's, who remarked: "If we had told people [what we were doing] at the time, they would have laughed at us. It was believed that God created the best backbone in the world and nothing else would work." In the far flung future, it may be that human beings will acquire the ability to actively improve upon nature with biomolecules like PNA's that are specifically designed to accomplish a carefully-designated purpose but that would never have arisen "naturally." In that day, perhaps living things will show evidence of intelligent design: evidence of humanity's intelligent direction. ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- "Anyone who opposes methods to control the birth rate, is automatically voting in favour having the death rate go up." Dr. Paul Erlich, 'Population--The Vatican versus the People' on CBC's Quirks and Quarks =-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-= -=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=- Yahweh's Report Card. ___________________________________________________________ | Report Card | |---------------------------------------------------------| |NAME | Subject | Final Grade | Comment | |--------------|-----------|--------------|---------------| |Elohim, | Biodesign | F | Work shows no | |Yahweh | | | evidence what-| | | | | soever of any | |Aliases: | | | intelligent | |God, Allah, | | | planning. | |LORD, The |-----------|--------------|---------------| |LORD, Adonai, | Ethics & | F | Fails to grasp| |YHWH, El, Ya, | Morals | | even the basic| |The Logos. | | | essentials of | | | | | the subject. | | |-----------|--------------|---------------| | | History | F | Final thesis | | | | | (so-called -| | | | | "Holy Bible") | | | | | reveals abysm-| | | | | al ignorance, | | | | | contradictions| | | | | and incoher- | | | | | ence. | | |-----------|--------------|---------------| | | Cosmology | F | Final thesis | | | | | (as above) | | | | | again shows no| | | | | comprehension | | | | | of the subject| | |-----------|--------------|---------------| |General Comments: | |In order to be credible at all little Yahweh would have | |to perform at a superior level to "human beings," who are| |finite, ephemeral creatures. Unfortunately, his current | |performance is significantly worse than even average rep-| |resentatives of the human species, and nowhere approaches| |their best. Because of this poor performance, Yahweh | |is not considered invisible, but rather, non-existent. | |It is a serious matter for someone else fraudulently to | |submit work for another student. This will be investi- | |gated. Those who have been falsely submitting work for | |this student will be punished when caught. | |_________________________________________________________| =========================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== ************************** *Cogito, ergo atheos sum.* ************************** =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Practising Safe Religion Greg Erwin First of all, we would like to make it clear that we are not encouraging anyone to start using religion. Religion is not necessary to make moral or ethical choices, nor to explain the world. It should be obvious to everyone reading this that the unwise use of religion leads to serious problems, as ex-users of Assemblies of God, PTL or Scientology have so tragically demonstrated. Although complete abstention would be the most desirable; in this modern world, it is obvious that a simplistic "Just Say No" approach to the use of religion is not going to work. Friends will invite you to church weddings, itinerants on street corners pass out tracts...what, then, can a rational person do? Religion entices people by its facile explanations of complex phenomena and by its deceptive and misleading promises to resolve all of their insecurities and fears. Now, no one will deny that an occasional belief in a myth such as Santa or the Easter Bunny can provide a pleasant and relaxing way to pass some time. It gives people a way to structure their activities. They participate in time-worn rituals, put up traditional decorations and sing old songs. This provides a sense of belonging. It is also undeniable that many people cannot face life's terrors (and even some daily petty frustrations) without appealing to certain imaginary "gods," who, (they are convinced), must be called on every time a finger is smashed, or a plate is dropped. Occasionally a religious delusion, such as heaven or reincarnation, may help some unstable persons get over a loss by pretending that they will meet the dead in "another life" or "on the other side." Even here, though, we start to see the dangers of unsafe religion. People from all walks of life have paid fortunes to con artists who pretended to speak to the dead. Under the control of certain "priests," the victims of religious delusion have been extorted out of millions of dollars, which are supposedly necessary bribes to stop "God" from torturing the "soul" of the dead person. Indeed the addiction can become so strong that the victims of such frauds will actually excuse deliberate deception and abuse on the part of the "priest" or "reverend" with the rationale that any accusation would be bad for "the church", (which is the name "religious" people give to the building where they gather to indulge their habit). In truth, these people have become so dependent on their delusion, that they cannot imagine life without it. The danger may not be apparent when you in indulge occasionally in the pomp and ritual of a "mass" (and this may be hard to avoid at certain occasions, like weddings). More dangerous is the feeling that you need "divine" reassurance when facing an ordeal, and that you absolutely must appeal to a supernatural power to get you through. These can be the first steps on a path that could lead you to the horrors of a religion besotted life. Yes, the number of such examples is endless. It may start with a "prayer," "Please, God, make such-and-such happen." If you are unlucky, this may actually occur. How many innocent children started down the path to the degradation of fundamentalism by praying for snow on a school day in winter? They were only "praying" for a delay in some school test, but, impressed by the efficacy of the prayer, they may end up as religious fanatics, burning books, bombing medical clinics, shooting doctors, reduced to begging door to door, hoping to entice others into the same deadly delusion. Education is the key to handling religion. Most people can handle an occasional carol, hunting for Easter eggs, a friend's wedding in a "church" or "synagogue," without taking any of the surrounding mythology seriously. However, if religion begins to cause trouble in your life, it may mean that it is not safe for you! Ask yourself the following twelve questions: The Twelve Questions (answer as honestly as you can) 1) Have you ever wasted money which was intended for other purposes, on religion? It is not an excuse that the "minister" promised that it would come back to you multiplied manyfold. 2) Are there times when you absolutely must have a "prayer"? Have you ever faced the humiliation of asking others to join you, only to find out that they do not "pray"? 3) Has religion led you into unnatural practices such as fasting, or "meditating," (sitting immobile for hours on end)? 4) Are all of your friends and acquaintances "religious"? Do they all have the same "creed"? 5) Do you find that when you are with non religious people you have nothing in common to talk about? 6) Are you never with non religious people? 7) Have you ever come to in an unfamiliar "church", "temple" or "revival tent" broke and unaware how you got there? 8) Have you ever had to lie because you were ashamed of the tenets of your religion? 9) Have you ever excused unethical, cruel or illegal activity on the part of yourself or your co- religionists "to protect the religion from scandal"? 9) Have you ever thrown away or destroyed, or caused others to throw away or destroy books or magazines because they were "against your religion"? 10) Have you stopped talking to family members or former friends because they do not share your "faith"? 12) Have you ever neglected your health or the health of your family, thinking that "god" will take care of things? If you answered "yes" to more than four of these questions, you may be in slight danger, but will probably be safe if you follow our guidelines. If you answered more than six, it is amazing that you were even able to read this article! However, you are not doomed. Many have faced similar problems and have triumphantly freed their minds from this terrible addiction. You, too, can free your mind from these chains and learn to think for yourself! The very fact that you have read this article in this paper serves as a indication that you can succeed! =*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=* = Four simple things that you can do = =*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=*=* Make friends with atheists and freethinkers. Far from scorning you because of your past, you will find that they welcome you. Many of them share the same secret shame of a religious background. You are not responsible for your past, but you must take responsibility for your future. Read. I, myself, was once a slave to a religion. I began my slow march to freedom, inadvertently, by studying the history of Mormonism. This raised so many questions in my mind that I was shaken. When I asked the "bishop" what to do, he said to stop reading. A quick rule of thumb is: if religious people are against it, it is probably good for you. Study the history of your denomination. Study the history of early Christianity. Read books on science, philosophy and current affairs. Subscribe to this zine and other atheist and humanist publications. Talk about them with people from different backgrounds. Change and grow. Remember, the only people who don't change are dead! Laugh. Learn to tell tasteful (and otherwise) jokes on religious topics. You will soon learn the difference between laughing at and laughing with. Notice that you have not been struck by lightning. Laugh again. Let others know. One of the circumstances that allows religion abuse to continue, is the feeling that "everybody does it". Let your friends know that you don't do it, and that your life has improved because of it. Religion may not disappear, but respect for it may. (*) =============================== ||ENDNOTE: SEE END OF ISSUE|| =============================== The Reason for the Season, part of an FFRF pamphlet [contact FFRF at PO Box 750, Madison, WI 53701, they publish _Freethought Today_ and sell a range of books, pamphlets, TShirts, Solstice Cards and other good stuff] The Winter Solstice is the Reason for the Season The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of sunlight in the northern hemisphere, when all is cold and bleak. This year it is December 21, but the date is slowly moving backward due to the precession of the equinox. It was December 25 at one time. Many ancients believed that the sum might continue its disappearance and that the world would end. A few days after the solstice, when the days began to lengthen, the New Year was celebrated with festivals of lights (sun and stars), festive meals and gift-giving. The holly wreath is a fertility symbol. The Roman Saturnalia was celebrated in December, a practice that had its roots millennia before Judaism or Christianity. No respectable scholar or theologian thinks Jesus was born in the winter. According to Luke, it happened while shepherds were "keeping watch over their flock by night"-- most likely in the spring. However, the birthdays of many other sun gods were celebrated in the winter. During the first century BC and AD, the Romans celebrated the birth of Mithra on December 25. Christians stole Christmas from the pagans. In order to make their new religion more palatable, Christians simply superimposed their beliefs over existing mythologies. The baby in the manger symbolizes the New-Year, the rebirth of the Sun. There is no Christmas tree in the bible. In fact, the bible warns *against* such practices. Jeremiah 10:20-4: "Thus saith the Lord, Learn not the way of the heathen...For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. The deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not." The Christmas tree, a pagan symbol, was stolen by Christians. Why "Jesus Christ is a Myth" Although most scholars believe that there may have existed a historical "Jesus of Nazareth," few scholars claim that the "Jesus Christ" character of the New Testament is historical. Outside of Paul and the Gospels, there is no first-century confirmation for the story. (Josephus' tiny paragraph about Jesus in the _Antiquities_, after 90 AD, was a later Christian interpolation, appearing only in the 4th century.) First-century historians who did record the era (such as Philo and Justus of Tiberius), wrote nothing about Jesus. The New Testament stories are internally contradictory. One glaring example is the discrepancy between Matthew's and Luke's genealogies of Jesus. In some places the New Testament stories contradict history. Matthew reports that Jesus was born under King Herod (who died in 4 BC), but Luke says it happened when Quirinius became governor of Syria (6 AD). There is a discrepancy of at least 10 years here. The New Testament contains reports of miracles and other outrageous claims. It is cut from the same fabric as all other ancient mythologies. All of the details of the Jesus story have parallels with earlier pagan religions. The recent panel of "Jesus Seminar" bible scholars concludes that 85% of the words of Jesus in the current New Testament are not authentic. There were many self-proclaimed Messiahs in the first century (Theudas, Judas the Christ, Egyptian Jew Messiah, etc.). There may have been a "Jesus" (Yeshua) after whom the New Testament story was patterned. But the literary "Jesus Christ" character of the Gospels--the Jesus worshipped by most Christians today--is a myth. ========================================================= || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================= From the _New Humanist_, the Journal of the Rationalist Press Association, Vol 107 No 2 they may be contacted at: The Rationalist Press Association 14 Lamb's Conduit Passage London WCIR 4RH, England Annual Membership is 12 pounds and gets you four issues of the _New Humanist_, other material (unspecified) and the right to buy members editions of books. A subscription alone is 10 pounds. Their form has the statement on it that you are in agreement with the aims and objects of the RPA, and over 18; should be signed and dated, and provide name and address. No mention of surcharge for foreign subs, though there probably is. )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )( BEGINNING OF ARTICLE )( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( )|( LIONS 10, CHRISTIANS NIL Richard Dawkins puts the case against God Richard Dawkins, well-known for his books on evolution, took part in a debate with the Archbishop of York, Dr John Habgood, on the existence of God at the Edinburgh science festival last Easter. [Easter '92 ed.] The science correspondent of _The Observer_ reported that the "withering" Richard Dawkins clearly believed the "God should be spoken of in the same way as Father Christmas or the Tooth Fairy". He overheard a gloomy cleric comment on the debate: "That was easy to sum up. Lions 10, Christians nil". Religious people split into three main groups when faced with science. I shall label them the "know-nothings", the "know-alls", and the "no-contests". I suspect that Dr John Habgood, the Archbishop of York, probably belongs to the third of these groups, so I shall begin with them. The "no-contests" are rightly reconciled to the fact that religion cannot compete with science on its own ground. They think there is no contest between science and religion, because they are simply about different things. the biblical account of the origin of the universe (the origin of life, the diversity of species, the origin of man) -- all those things are now known to be untrue. The "no-contests" have no trouble with this: they regard it as naive in the extreme, almost bad taste to ask of a biblical story, is it true? True, they say, true? Of course it isn't true in any crude literal sense. Science and religion are not competing for the same territory. They are about different things. They are equally true, but in their different ways. A favourite and thoroughly meaningless phrase is "religious dimension". You meet this in statements such as "science is all very well as far as it goes, but it leaves out the religious dimension". The "know-nothings", or fundamentalists, are in one way more honest. They are true to history. They recognize that until recently one of religion's main functions was scientific: the explanation of existence, of the universe, of life. Historically, most religions have had or even been a cosmology and a biology. I suspect that today if you asked people to justify their belief in God, the dominant reason would be scientific. Most people, I believe, think that you need a God to explain the existence of the world, and especially the existence of life. They are wrong, but our education system is such that many people don't know it. They are also true to history because you can't escape the scientific implications of religion. A universe with a God would like quite different from a universe without one. A physics, a biology where there is a God is bound to look different. So the most basic claims of religion _are_ scientific. Religion _is_ a scientific theory. I am sometimes accused of arrogant intolerance in my treatment of creationists. Of course arrogance is an unpleasant characteristic, and I should hate to be thought arrogant in a general way. But there are limits! To get some idea of what it is like being a professional student of evolution, asked to have a serious debate with creationists, the following comparison is a fair one. Imagine yourself a classical scholar who has spent a lifetime studying Roman history in all its rich detail. Now somebody comes along, with a degree in marine engineering or mediaeval musicology, and tries to argue that the Romans never existed. Wouldn't you find it hard to suppress your impatience? And mightn't it look a bit like arrogance? My third group, the "know-alls" (I unkindly name them that because I find their position patronising), think religion is good for people, perhaps good for society. Perhaps good because it consoles them in death or bereavement, perhaps because it provides a moral code. Whether or not the actual beliefs of the religion are true doesn't matter. Maybe there isn't a God; we educated people know there is precious little evidence for one, let alone for ideas such as the Virgin birth or the Resurrection. but the uneducated masses need a God to keep them out of mischief or to comfort them in bereavement. The little matter of God's probably non-existence can be brushed to one side in the interest of greater social good. I need say not more about the "know-alls" because they wouldn't claim to have anything to contribute to scientific truth. Is God a Superstring? I shall now return to the "no-contests". The argument they mount is certainly worth serious examination, but I think that we shall find it has little more merit than those of the other groups. God is not an old man with a white beard in the sky. Right then, what is God? And now come the weasel words. these are very variable. "God is not out there, he is in all of us." God is the ground of all being." "God is the essence of life." "God is the universe." "Don't you believe in the universe?" "Of course I believe in the universe." "Then you believe in God." "God is love, don't you believe in love?" "Right, then you believe in God?" Modern physicists sometimes wax a bit mystical when they contemplate questions such as why the big bang happened when it did, why the laws of physics are these laws and not those laws, why the universe exists at all, and so on. Sometimes physicists may resort to saying that there is an inner core of mystery that we don't understand, and perhaps never can; and they may then say that perhaps this inner core of mystery is another name for God. Or in Stephen Hawkings's words, if we understand these things, we shall perhaps "know the mind of God." The trouble is that God in this sophisticated, physicist's sense bears no resemblance to the God of the Bible or any other religion. If a physicist says God is another name for Planck's constant, or God is a superstring, we should take it as a picturesque metaphorical way of saying that the nature of superstrings or the value of Planck's constant is a profound mystery. It has obviously not the smallest connection with a being capable of forgiving sins, a being who might listen to prayers, who cares about whether or not the Sabbath begins at 5pm or 6pm, whether you wear a veil or have a bit of arm showing; and no connection whatever with a being capable of imposing a death penalty on His son to expiate the sins of the world before and after he was born. The Fabulous Bible The same is true of attempts to identify the big bang of modern cosmology with the myth of Genesis. There is only an utterly trivial resemblance between the sophisticated conceptions of modern physics, and the creation myths of the Babylonians and the Jews that we have inherited. What do the "no-contests" say about those parts of scripture and religious teaching that once-upon-a-time would have been unquestioned religious and scientific truths; the creation of the world the creation of life, the various miracles of the Old and New Testaments,, survival after death, the Virgin Birth? These stories have become, in the hands of the "no-contests", little more than moral fables, the equivalent of Aesop of Hans Anderson. There is nothing wrong with that, but it is irritating that they almost never admit this is what they are doing. For instance, I recently heard the previous Chief Rabbi, Sir Immanuel Jacobovits, talking about the evils of racism. Racism is evil, and it deserves a better argument against it that the one he gave. Adam and Eve, he argued, were the ancestors of all human kind. Therefore, all human kind belongs to one race, the human race. What are we going to make of an argument like that? The Chief Rabbi is an educated man, he obviously doesn't believe in Adam and Eve, so what exactly did he think he was saying? He must have been using Adam and Eve as a fable, just as one might use the story of Jack the Giantkiller or Cinderella to illustrate some laudable moral homily. I have the impression that clergymen are so used to treating the biblical stories as fables that they have forgotten the difference between fact and fiction. It's like the people who, when somebody dies on _The Archers_, write letters of condolence to the others. Inheriting Religion As a Darwinian, something strikes me when I look at religion. Religion shows a pattern of heredity which I think is similar to genetic heredity. The vast majority of people have an allegiance to one particular religion. there are hundreds of different religious sects, and every religious person is loyal to just one of those. Out of all of the sects in the world, we notice an uncanny coincidence: the overwhelming majority just happen to choose the one that their parents belong to. Not the sect that has the best evidence in its favour, the best miracles, the best moral code, the best cathedral, the best stained glass, the best music: when it comes to choosing from the smorgasbord of available religions, their potential virtues seem to count for nothing, compared to the matter of heredity. This is an unmistakable fact; nobody could seriously deny it. Yet people with full knowledge of the arbitrary nature of this heredity, somehow manage to go on believing in _their_ religion, often with such fanaticism that they are prepared to murder people who follow a different one. Truths about the cosmos are true all around the universe. They don't differ in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Poland, or Norway. Yet, we are apparently prepared to accept that the religion we adopt is a matter of an accident of geography. If you ask people why they are convinced of the truth of their religion, they don't appeal to heredity. Put like that it sounds too obviously stupid. Nor do they appeal to evidence. There isn't any, and nowadays the better educated admit it. No, they appeal to faith. Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence. The worst thing is that the rest of us are supposed to respect it: to treat it with kid gloves. If a slaughterman doesn't comply with the law in respect of cruelty to animals, he is rightly prosecuted and punished. but if he complains that his cruel practices are necessitated by religious faith, we back off apologetically and allow him to get on with it. Any other position that someone takes up can expect to be defended with reasoned argument. Faith is allowed not to justify itself by argument. Faith must be respected; and if you don't respect it, you are accused of violating human rights. Even those with no faith have been brainwashed into respecting the faith of others. When so-called Muslim community leaders go on the radio and advocate the killing of Salman Rushdie, they are clearly committing incitement to murder--a crime for which they would ordinarily be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned. But are they arrested? They are not, because our secular society "respects" their faith, and sympathises with the deep "hurt" and "insult" to it. Well I don't. I will respect your views if you can justify them. but if you justify your views only by saying you have faith in them, I shall not respect them. Improbabilities I want to end by returning to science. It is often said, mainly by the "no-contests", that although there is no positive evidence for the existence of God, nor is there evidence against his existence. So it is best to keep an open mind and be agnostic. At first sight that seems an unassailable position, at least in the weak sense of Pascal's wager. But on second thoughts it seems a cop-out, because the same could be said of Father Christmas and tooth fairies. There may be fairies at the bottom of the garden. There is no evidence for it, but you can't _prove_ that there aren't any, so shouldn't we be agnostic with respect to fairies? The trouble with the agnostic argument is that it can be applied to anything. There is an infinite number of hypothetical beliefs we could hold which we can't positively disprove. On the whole, people don't believe in most of them, such as fairies, unicorns, dragons, Father Christmas, and so on. But on the whole they do believe in a creator God, together with whatever particular baggage goes with the religion of their parents. I suspect the reason is that most people, though not belonging to the "know-nothing" party, nevertheless have a residue of feeling that Darwinian evolution isn't quite big enough to explain everything about life. All I can say as a biologist is that the feeling disappears progressively the more you read about and study what is known about life and evolution. I want to add one thing more. The more you understand the significance of evolution, the more you are pushed away from the agnostic position and towards atheism. Complex, statistically improbable things are by their nature more difficult to explain than simple, statistically probable things. The great beauty of Darwin's theory of evolution is that it explains how complex, difficult to understand things could have arisen step by plausible step, from simple, easy to understand beginnings. We start our explanation from almost infinitely simple beginnings: pure hydrogen and a huge amount of energy. Our scientific, Darwinian explanations carry us through a series of well-understood gradual steps to all the spectacular beauty and complexity of life. The alternative hypothesis, that it was all started by a supernatural creator, is not only superfluous, it is also highly improbable. It falls foul of the very argument that was originally put forward in its favour. This is because any God worthy of the name must have been a being of colossal intelligence, a supermind, an entity of extremely low probability--a very improbable being indeed. Even if the postulation of such an entity explained anything (and we don't need it to), it still wouldn't help because it raises a bigger mystery than it solves. Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain. It postulates the difficult to explain, and leaves it at that. We cannot prove that there is no God, but we can safely conclude the He is very, very improbable indeed. *--*--* ========================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================== "The citizen's job is to be rude--to pierce the comfort of professional intercourse by boorish expressions of doubt." --John Ralston Saul, _The Doubter's Companion_ =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Book Review Title: How We Die, Reflections on Life's Final Chapter Author: Sherwin B. Nuland Pub: Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1994 ISBN: 0-679-41464-4 pp: 278, index, acknowledgments and introduction. Price: 31.50 (In Canada) Reviewer: Greg Erwin The ultimate morbid fascination? Perhaps. Certainly the one event in which we are all 100% certain to participate sooner or later. For whatever reasons you may have to want to know about death, this book is an excellent source of information on the subject of what happens immediately prior to it, and how it comes about. Heart failure, trauma, AIDS and cancer receive detailed treatment. What you learn is that for all the different paths to the goal, there are only a few final methods of bodily failure. The heart stops, or the lungs fail, or circulation is blocked to the brain, or poisons accumulate. If the heart stops first, then oxygen can't get to the brain and other vital tissues and they (and you) die. If circulation is blocked to the brain, you (your personality) die, and then through lack of control, vital organs shut down and the vital organs die. If there is a trauma and your blood leaks out, nothing gets enough oxygen and it all dies, the heart exhausts itself trying to pump what isn't there to pump and you go unconscious for lack of oxygen to the brain. Toxins may cause bleeding or prevent oxygen from reaching this that and the other. So, the myriad diseases, accidents and poisons which exist, all end up doing one or many of very few things to us. He gives a reasonable and compassionate treatment of the assisted suicide question, indeed the whole medicalized process of dying, whether assisted or not. Arguing convincingly that the main thing we need is personalized care. Your best insurance for humane treatment is personal acquaintance with the doctor. We learn that it would pay to be very careful to make your wishes concerning your final days known, very explicit and as legally binding as possible, in fact, it would be best to have someone there to be your advocate, if you really want to have done what you want instead of what the doctor or the hospital staff wants. The current set-up leaves you at the mercy of the staff, whose wishes may or may not be yours. One thing for sure, though, contemporary doctors do not handle dying patients very well, with few exceptions. The whole course of their training is rescue and prevention, i.e., cure; and not much attention is given to recognizing when this is not advisable. Next, is that if you have been (as I had been) comforted into believing that dying was going to be a drifting off into serene dissolution, you may well be wrong. He states that, whereas the final minutes are often, but not always, serene, the days and months leading up to them are often absolutely hellish. Well, you can't make intelligent decisions without adequate and accurate information. This book provides an abundance of information about a subject which is seldom discussed, and then, not often accurately. At least WE don't have to worry about anything afterwards, or about the bogeyman torturing us forever for seeking relief. ========================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================== When someone says, 'We can't afford to be sentimental,' you know they're about to do something cruel. When they also say, 'We must be realistic,' you know they're going to make money on it. =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Some notes on _Web of Hate_, Inside Canada's Far Right Network by Warren Kinsella Harper Collins, Toronto 1994, 386 pages, notes and index. ISBN: 0-00-255074-1, $26.95 Just a brief note about this wonderful book on the wacko, far right, Nazi, Klan, Aryan Nations, Christian Identity bunch. They all seem to intermingle and help each other out. In case any humanist readers think that they may not be part of the target of these people, because they only go after Jews and nonwhites, take a listen to good ol' Malcom Ross, the teacher who no one wanted to fire from his high school position, because he didn't actually spew his vitriol during class time. "[white Christians] have been conditioned by Humanists to accept their ecomonic theories, their moral perversions and their historical fairy tales by the careful conditioning processes and their famous reinforcing buzzwords such as 'bigot,' 'fascist,' 'racist,' amd 'anti-Semite.'" "[past generations have] succumbed to the Humanists' lies and allowed two World Wars to destroy the flower of our Race. Now, through abortion, they are willing to sacrifice the BUDS of our Race." Anyway, all you could possibly want to know about the Holocaust deniers, Church of Jesus Christ Christian, Identity Christianity, who runs REAL women, what is the Christian Defence League, and other most interesting stuff, is in the book. Many questions are raised, like why Matt McKay's Nazi affiliations are simply regarded as pranks, and why the RCMP did not prosecute or even charge Nazis with their clear assaults, thefts and destruction of property at a gathering in 1991. I can't imagine the government giving that much leeway to a union or any other left-wing group. ========================================================== || END OF ARTICLE || ========================================================== "The man who gets on his knees has not learned the right use of his legs." [Lemuel K. Washburn, _Is The Bible Worth Reading? And Other Essays_] =========================================================== || BEGINNING OF ARTICLE || =========================================================== Predictions for 1995 Predictions for 1995!! Definitely by unpsychic, dull, ordinary type people with no help from any ghosts or other supernatural entities. Will we do better, or worse, than than the pundits, jeezers and crazies? Check back in December 1995! From the illustrious editor & publisher: I predict that the Bosnian war will still be sputtering along much as it is now. However, it may be that they will claim that it has ended. It will not spread to Macedonia in 1995. There will be a severe famine in Africa. No cure for or vaccine against AIDS will be found. More than one pair of pommy royals will finally break up. Queen E will still be around. [the best reason for Canada, New Zealand or Australia to become a republic: imagine Chuckie's face and EARS on your money!]# #Long term: Canada and Australia will be republics before the year 2001. The economy of North America and Europe will be about the same as now. No big inflation, no real recovery. Employment will increase slightly, mainly in the low-paid service sector. The reason for this is that all the causes of inflation have now been well-hidden among the sectors of the economy which are not measured in the various indices. The new states of the former Soviet Union will stumble along, none will join with the Iranians in taking up Shi'a fanaticism. Nasty little fights on the order of Armenia vs Azerbaijan will continue without resolution. There will be a rise in "nationalist" antiSemitic, Nazi-style fascist, irrational political movements. Some of these Nazis will be elected in local governments. In Europe, the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Hungary and Poland will do OK, the rest of Eastern Europe will struggle. The European Union will increase in membership. Turkey will not be allowed to join in 1995. Castro will die. South Africa will do well. The fanatical whites will continue to be a minor irritation without significant impact. The rest of sub-Saharan Africa will continue to do poorly with at least one and probably two, countries suffering severe famine. An incident in the war in Sudan will shock and horrify the world. A famous child star will confess/admit to having been molested by Michael Jackson. /*****************************************************/ [From Carol Roberts, indexer and copy editor, e-mail:] Here are my predictions for 1995: Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley will split up. The Pope will die. The Second Coming (or first, depending on how you count) will not occur. Elvis will be sighted in a mall in Scottsdale, Arizona. A woman seeking an abortion will be shot by anti- abortionists. The number of reports of child molesting by Catholic priests will rise by 50%. /=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\/=\ from Michael Haggerty [who is about as psychic as a fencepost] {that is HIS statement} gae I made the following predictions a few months back in a post on CompuServe and I'm still standing behind them. =-=-=-= There will be more sex scandals in the halls of the US congress. Another war will break out in Africa before the end of this century. Many thousands of innocents will die senselessly. A new, as yet unknown disease will be discovered and many people will suffer its effects before a cure is found. The radical factions of the white minority in South Africa will create problems for the new government there. There will be a campaign of terror and violence that will not end before their leader is killed or jailed. A new cuisine will be introduced to the popular culture in America and it will become a common part of the diets of many Americans. The number of smokers in this country will decline over the next 20 years. Ronald Reagan will be one of the next two former presidents to die. (It won't be my fault, by the way.) Clinton will suffer even more scandals before the '96 elections. A new, unsuspected environmental health hazard will be discovered and many Americans will be affected. [these go a little beyond the 1995 limit] [they are from Michael Haggerty] I predict that a famous world leader will have to step down from power before their time in the next 20 years. There will be a great earthquake in Southern California that will be one of the worst disasters on record. Relief will arrive from all over the world. This will happen before the end of the 21st century. Some absolutely safe predictions: A natural disaster will kill thousands. Many governments will change hands. ========================================================== || END OF ISSUE || ========================================================== Once again: ISSN: 1201-0111 The Nullifidian Volume I, Number 8: DEC 1994. (*) ENDNOTE: For the terminally humorless, that was what is called satire. -- nullifidian, n. & a. (Person) having no religious faith or belief. [f. med. L nullifidius f. L nullus "none" + fides "faith";] / If this is a humanist topic then I am President of the Humanist Association of Ottawa. Greg Erwin. ai815@FreeNet.Carleton.CA


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