"Religion is a hypothesis about the world: the hypothesis that things are the way they are, at least in part, because of supernatural entities or forces acting on the natural world. And there's no good reason to treat it any differently from any other hypothesis. Which includes pointing out its flaws and inconsistencies, asking its adherents to back it up with solid evidence, making jokes about it when it's just being silly, offering arguments and evidence for our own competing hypotheses...and trying to persuade people out of it if we think it's mistaken. It's persuasion. It's the marketplace of ideas. Why should religion get a free ride"

Greta Christina

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

U.K "riots": Moral decline or civic failure?

In the wake of the riots in London and other cities in the U.K the coalition government has been pointing the finger at moral decline in British society.
"For me it is clear that the root cause of this mindless selfishness is the same thing that I’ve spoken about for years. It is a complete lack of responsibility in our society. It is as much a moral problem as a political problem"
Says David Cameron.

I understand the rhetoric, but rhetoric it is and somewhat overblown in my opinion. Whilst the behaviour of those looting and “rioting” was reprehensible, the absolute numbers were a tiny fraction of the youth of this country and most of what was seen on our T.V screens looked more like opportunism than anything else.
Incidentally I put “rioting” in scare quotes because, despite the government designating them as such, these weren’t really riots in the sense of organised violent demonstrations of civic malcontent, just bunches of feckless, poorly educated kids with an inflated sense of entitlement looking for an outlet and a new pair of trainers.
Interviews with some of the looters revealed the lack of purpose or rational behind the violence
"We’re showing the rich we can do what we want"
was one of the more depressingly incoherent thoughts from a pair of girls in Croydon.
This not to say there’s no underlying problem here, I just don’t believe it is symptomatic of a recent moral decline, more a lack of education and a poor understanding of civic responsibility.
For example it has been said frequently that the politician’s expenses scandal and the greed of bankers has sent messages to deprived neighbourhoods that taking what you want is acceptable at any cost. But of course bankers have been rich and politicians have screwed their expenses for time immemorial. The fact that we now see this as wrong is more indicative of a moral rise than a decline, a wider understanding that egalitarianism is a thing to strive for and privilege a thing to be avoided. That politicians have been jailed should suggest that the culpable will face the consequences whatever their status.
The fact that the message has not got through to some teenagers in Croydon says more about the lack of political and social awareness in this subset of British youth than it does about moral decline.
I suspect that given the opportunity to hide in a crowd and get free stuff some kids and young adults of all generations past would have taken it, the difference now is that such opportunities are easier to manufacture.
If I were to offer a solution, my short answer would be education. Focus on those areas in cities known to be deprived and problematic, invest in social projects that schools can be a part of, teach civics, discourage tribalism (abolish faith schools) and encourage integration (invest in secular schools and institutions). Some of this takes money, which we know is in short supply, but the potential rewards are great and available in the relatively short term. Morality is largely about mutual self-interest, and a kid that torches local businesses that are potential employers simply does not understand where her own interest lies. This is a failure of civic instruction and these are concepts that parents in these circumstances may not understand sufficiently themselves to pass on. This is therefore a responsibility of society as a whole and good inclusive secular schools are the key.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Even I would go to this church

Here is a heartwarming story about an atheist clergyman in Holland who is teaching Christianity as a humanist religion.
"When it happens, it happens down to earth, between you and me, between people, that's where it can happen. God is not a being at all... it's a word for experience, or human experience."

Mr Hendrikse describes the Bible's account of Jesus's life as a mythological story about a man who may never have existed, even if it is a valuable source of wisdom about how to lead a good life.
This ticks a lot of boxes for me. For one thing I am pretty sure that the number of clergy worldwide who are in reality atheist or agnostic is a lot higher than might be apparent. Secondly a church that can expound and expand the good in people without recourse to a god is acknowledging what traditional Christians don't which is that people are intrinsically altruistic and don't need to be "saved".
One disappointing thing about the article though is this statement by Robert Pigott the journalist
But the message from Mr Hendrikse's sermon seems bleak - "Make the most of life on earth, because it will probably be the only one you get".

That's not a bleak message at all, it's a liberating one that encourages us to be the best we can be in the one life we have without burdening ourselves with guilt and fear about some mythical afterlife.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

La La La La It's not our fault

Fuck me the Pope's a wanker. Even if he actually believed this crap he should have the sense not to say it.
But yeah! Guess what? The Cloyne report is a pack of lies, the child abuse was the governments fault and by the way if a pedophile priest confesses we still won't tell you. I give up read it for yourself...
Tosser Pope absolves himself