Jun 082013

This blog has been very un-blog-like since its inception. Rather than a regular outpouring of opinions about random things that are happening (to me, or to the world in general) it has been more of an article-based output; articles which try to look at the bigger picture, isolated from the day-to-day events which change our lives and are picked up by the 24-hour news cycle.

Well, now I’ll be trying to use this blog as an actual blog. I’ve moved all of the articles to their own site (www.redcelt.net), where they’ll be accompanied by further entries (as and when I can be arsed). They will remain “big picture”, while here, I’ll resort to silly things that will act as a slightly-verbose Twitter feed. 140 characters just aren’t enough for me.

Then again, I don’t really use Twitter that much, so don’t expect a huge outpouring on here, either.

May 062011

Atheism is a bit of an unclean word in modernity. It has unfortunate connotations, especially in the English-speaking world. For the better-part of the 20th century, America saw atheism as part-and-parcel of the Communist mindset. Communism was evil and anti-American, therefore atheism must also be evil and anti-American. The Cold War made sure that this meme was a well-entrenched and long-lasting one.

When I was growing up, my exposure to older dictionaries gave a rather intriguing definition of the word. Atheism, apparently, was the denial of the existence of God. Such wording gave a misplaced emphasis on the accepted existence of God as an understood certainty. It was also a clear assignation of the belief system accepted by the author of the entry. Amoral wasn’t described as the denial of morality, but the absence of morality. Apolitical, likewise, was the absence of politics and not the denial of politics.

In order to come up with a clear and distinct definition of what atheism is, it is better to ask those who hold that view. This, then, is a clear definition of atheism:-

Atheism: the absence of theism. The absence of a personal deity.

And that’s all there is to it.

Some might argue that atheism is the belief that there are no gods. And that simple (but flawed) definition is widely held, even amongst those that define themselves as atheists. It is, nonetheless, a flawed definition; partly (but not solely) because it doesn’t include all who consider themselves as atheists.

There are two distinct types of atheism: strong and weak. Strong atheists believe that there are no such thing as personal gods. Weak atheists simply lack a belief in personal gods. Some (ardent theists in particular) might struggle to see that such a difference exists – but it certainly does.

Each and every one of us was born as a weak atheist. At our earliest beginnings, we had no concept of what a god was, let alone whether or not we believed it to exist. Such thoughts are delivered unto us as we’re growing up – whether by our parents, or the wider society in which we are raised.

Some people continue the weak atheistic belief pattern (or, more accurately, the lack of a belief pattern) into adulthood. The existence of personal gods doesn’t impede upon their thought processes and they most certainly haven’t come to the conclusion that such things don’t exist. At times, such people can loosely be described as agnostics (when looking for an easy definition that doesn’t confuse others) but their lack of theism is simply that – atheism.

Strong atheists are the more-familiar beasts, much maligned by ardent theists. They have considered the evidence and concluded that there are, after all, no personal gods.

That doesn’t make them a close-minded group. Some might be – some might not. Atheism is a very free definition and any personality trait above and beyond that simple belief cannot (and must not) be assumed. Atheists can be found across every part of the political spectrum, from left-wing, from centralists, to the right-wing. It might annoy the Cold War diehards, but not all atheists are Communists.

This atheist in particular isn’t close-minded when it comes to his strong atheism. If evidence presents itself which suggests that I might be wrong, I will explore such evidence until such a time as I am convinced in either direction. I hold the same view when it comes to Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. Of course it is possible that such entities might, after all, exist. But in the absence of any evidence, I shall remain a strong atheist, a strong asantaist and a strong atoothfairyist.

In all of the above, I have made a very careful point about referring to the existence of personal gods, rather than gods in general. And there is a very good reason for that… a reason that many atheists overlook. I don’t believe that no gods exist.

In some cultures, existing (and very real) entities are worshipped as gods. If I were to claim that the sun did not exist or a volcano did not exist… I would be making a very strong (and wrong) assertion. If a remote islander worships the volcano that looms above them (as evidenced in so many Hollywood productions) as a god, then that god must clearly exist. The difference would be whether or not that “god” had a consciousness that could recognise that it had worshippers who saw it as their personal god. On that, I would say that it most certainly does not.

An atheist, then, is someone who has no personal god (weak and strong atheism) or believes that personal gods do not exist (strong atheism).

Which is the clearest (and most accurate) definition you will ever see, inside or outside of any dictionary.

Apr 292011

Recently, I was on a (first) date with a woman who was telling me about previous encounters that she had had. One of which was an ardent anti-feminist who believed that women should be stay-at-home slaves to their male masters. I mocked his bizarre views along with her, before adding that I, too, was an ardent anti-feminist; but for very different reasons. When those reasons were explained, the potential death of the date was avoided, but it came up again in a follow-up conversation.

After sharing this blog with her (pointing out my previous post: Feminism vs Humanism – part 1) I was given a number of reasons why the feminist drum should still be loudly beaten. Every single reason is, however, encompassed within humanism. I had a similar response from another female liberal – and (bizarrely) a humanist, at that. The arguments regarding the rights and abilities of women is one that I whole-heartedly agree with… but, to repeat my earlier position, it is an argument that is better done within the wider scope of humanism.

Here’s a wee analogy which might help explain my point.

The Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals (RSPCA) looks after the welfare of animals. Now, imagine if there was an RSPCFA which just looked after female animals. If you were to make a contribution to an animal-based charity, would you prefer one that looked after all animals, or one that checked between the animal’s legs before deciding whether or not they would help it?

Arguing that women have fewer rights than men and that, for that reason, feminism is needed until equality is reached (and humanism can replace it) is a nonsense argument. Some animals are treated much worse than others, but an organisation fighting for all animals is a much stronger and well-equipped beast than one that picks and chooses which animals it will help.

Despite acknowledging all of the above, a consistent reason for staying onboard SS Feminism is that a prolonged adherence to one meme cannot lightly be given-up without the person feeling a little foolish about being onboard the wrong ship. Ego is a strong motivational force and, when accepting that the fight for male rights shouldn’t be ignored, searching for a more far-reaching self-label is easier-done if SS Feminism isn’t totally abandoned for SS Humanism. And that’s a shame, because SS Feminism has long-been sinking.

Humanism has had multiple meanings over the years, but in modernity it includes the fight for the equal consideration of all humans, regardless of their race, gender, sexuality or ethnicity. Any quality that is bestowed at conception/birth is not a quality that should be used to weaken the position of some humans regarding other humans. This includes gender, and the fight for everything that every feminist holds close, is done in the name of humanism. Apart from the whole disregard of men. That’s the preserve of some feminists, and it is a preserve that tars-and-feathers everyone who claims the feminist mantra, when non gender-biased belief-systems are in place… which fight the same fight. Without the gender bias.

When my previously-mentioned date told me that she had male friends who were feminists, I revisited a previous search that I had done regarding men who embraced the feminism meme. Sadly, this included a comedian I’m very fond of: Bill Bailey. In the following image, the first T-shirt (“This is what a feminist looks like”) is what he was actually wearing. The other 2 images were done by me to make the following point.

If you meet a man who tells you that he’s a feminist, ask him if he’s also a masculinist. If he isn’t, ask him why he favours the rights of one gender over the rights of another gender – particularly when that gender isn’t his own. If he claims to also be a masculinist, tell him about humanism. A quick Google will provide the relevant information, but if you want to aid his education, here’s a link to the British Humanist Association.

If he maintains his claims to feminism, he’s one of two things: a man who wants to better his chances of getting inside your pants, or an idiot.

Apr 132011

Looking at the wide scope of flavours of Christianity that are available in the modern world, I can’t help coming to the conclusion that the original character (Jesus) was a very poor communicator. That isn’t an idea that is welcomed by the legions of faith, but allow me (if you will) to explore the possibilities that were available to the Son of God when spreading his message. Imagine what could have been achieved if I (or you) were in the same position.

Pretty high on my list of things to do would be to learn to read and write. It might seem like a small aspect of the requirements of a prophet, but if you’re the Son of God, it isn’t an unreasonable expectation that your earthly powers include the ability to write your ideas down. You can turn water into wine, raise people from the dead and feed the five thousand… I can do none of those things. But I can read and write.

So. In that position, quill and vellum in hand, I’d have written the following:-

The 1 Commandment
1. Thou shalt do unto others as thou shalt have them do unto you.
Now, of course, the Old Testament had 10 Commandments, but nearly all of them could be encapsulated into this one neat summary of moral behaviour. The one failure of this commandment is the lack of justice. People who don’t follow this one commandment should, really, be dealt with in a suitable manner. But, I’m the Son of God and I can attest that everyone who fails to comply with this simple condition of belonging in a social structure will be dealt with accordingly once they reach the Pearly Gates.
The New Testament
(The Book Of Christ)
1. God, the creator of the universe: of galaxies and stars, of countless things (all of which are bigger and more important than you) does not care what you do with your body. It is a lump of flesh. He cares only for your soul. If you want to put one part of your body into another part of someone else’s body, the only requirement is that they are happy, willing and able for that to happen. He created the universe. Do you seriously think that he cares about you having sex, or whether or not you masturbate? Oh, and an important note (because missing this out will seriously undermine my whole message about how humans should treat other humans) I like gay people. Anyone who dislikes them to the point of hatred and discrimination… they’re an abomination. And that’s the only time that I shall call anything an abomination, so pay attention.
2. Of course, I’m calling God “He”, but that’s just to adapt to your patriarchical belief-patterns. God has no gender. God has no genitals. If he was male, he’d have a penis. Other than having nowhere to put that penis (as God is the only god and has no “female” counterpart) what, exactly, would be the point? God has no gender. Please remember that when you’re engaging with your fellow man (and, more importantly, woman). See above about how to treat your fellow humans. Celibacy is a bad thing, by the way. If you deny your human desires, you will very likely end up applying them to people who don’t need (or want) them being applied to them.
3. An important point follows: I’m not a different aspect of God. I, like you, am the Son of God. I am here to spread God’s message. So don’t invent some silly “Trinity” idea to get around the idea of monotheism. Also, while I love my mother, don’t treat her like a deity. I can do that, as she’s my mother. You, on the other hand, will be completely missing my message if you look towards her for something you call salvation or redemption.
4. She won’t appear in a ghostly form before impressionably imaginative girls, so don’t go building stupid shrines seeking a healing property. Like, I don’t know, somewhere like Lourdes. Pay attention to what your doctor tells you and you will have a much better chance of getting better – if such a thing is possible. Take the money that the trip would have cost you… and give it to someone who needs it more than you do.
5. Don’t pray to God. I mean, seriously… really? You think that God’s infinite plan for the universe should be paused, edited and altered because you, on your hands and knees, ask really really hard for it to happen? Stop being so self-centred and self-important. Accept what life delivers to you and learn how to deal with it.
6. Accept and embrace what you, as an individual, manage to achieve in your life. If you’re an athlete and you win your event, don’t praise God for your success. That would suggest that the other people didn’t pray quite hard enough (see above about prayer) rather than (oh, I don’t know) train as hard as you did. Praising God for everything good that happens and refraining from disdain at God when something bad happens… that really isn’t healthy. Good things happen and bad things happen. Blame chance, cirumstance, geology… or other human beings (who didn’t pay attention to the 1 Commandment). Don’t praise God. God already knows how ultimately impressive he is. He doesn’t share your insecurities and he most certainly does not need to be told how good he is. He’s omniscient, after all.
7. God doesn’t need your money. He doesn’t need your land. Stop building churches and temples and most definitely don’t send money to preachers who tell you that they need it. If it takes you some effort to grasp the 1 Commandment, take a moment from your day to sit and contemplate that idea. Don’t go to a building where someone (who thinks they’re closer to God than you are) tells you how to live your life. I mean, the buildings are pretty, but… they’re a little pointless. Unless they have a spire. And then they do have a point. See? Your prophet has a sense of humour. Humour is good. Seek it, embrace it and share it. Don’t be all miserable about life. Your life is short and, ultimately, you should lead your life so that you are as happy as possible. So long as your happiness doesn’t stop other people from doing the same.
8. Swearing is good. No. Honestly. It really is. If you meet someone who travels through life without ever surrendering to the occasional “fuck!” then you’ve met someone who has their gasket screwed on a little too tightly. Self-expression is a good thing… and swearing can release those pent-up frustrations. It is much better to expel that frustration in words than it is to expel that frustration physically. Or breaking the 1 Commandment. I mean, don’t add the word “fuck” to every sentence, as repetition is tiring and unimaginative. Just, y’know, don’t judge others for the occasional use. I mean, if you stub your toe on a hard surface, then explore your vocabulary. Don’t kick the cat. I like cats.
9. And don’t keep going on about faith as if it were some anti-science panacea. I’ve read the old books about God more than once. His existence was never an issue. He interacted with the other characters on a regular basis. At no point whatsoever were those characters seen as being closer to God, because they actually believed in him. His existence was a given.
10. Faith increases as knowledge increases. Accept that knowledge – and don’t seek to fill it with nonsense. If science explains the world better than it did before, don’t look for the remaining gaps of knowledge in order to emphasise something that you call faith. Here’s a little bit of information that will prove my status as the Son of God. It will mean nothing to you, my fellow Bronze Age contemporaries, but repeat my words unchanged so that in about 2000 years, no doubt will remain. The language of biology is written with an alphabet of only 4 letters. There you go. A long time from now, people will actually acknowledge that I do, indeed, share the omniscience of God.
11. As for leaving my words unchanged, this is an important addition. If someone has a moment of awakening (on, for instance, the road to Damascus) do not (and this is important) believe that his “awakening” is delivered from God. The devil works in mysterious ways and can deliver “awakenings” to all sorts of people who will then claim to have an understanding of me, God and the wider universe as a whole. Ignore any bit of writing by such people. This here is my message, delivered (in writing) by me. Embrace these words, rather than the words of people who never met me, and certainly never knew my mind better than I did.
12. And yes, theologians, I said “I did” and not “I do”. I have no intention of coming back to explain myself all over again. My message is a simple one (see the 1 Commandment) and, if it didn’t sink in the first time, I see no reason for returning to spell it out again. Don’t look for a return. Don’t seek the “end times” (and completely ignore anything written that has the title of “Revelations” as that guy chewed on some seriously mouldy bread) and find a way to accelerate such a thing. You have one life. It is short. Use it wisely.
13. That, my friends, is the end of the New Testament. I know that it is very short, but the message really is a short one. You can keep it in your pocket at all times and never lose sight of the simplest of messages that it contains. Oh, and whatever you do, make sure that you don’t add it to the end of the Old Testament in one big volume. That was the old message, this is the new. It applied to the settling nation of my forefathers and shouldn’t be applied to you, in your life. Oh, and it contains a lot of stories as metaphors, not to be taken literally. As I write this, the universe is roughly 13.75 billion years old. Oh, and life evolved.

That’s what I’d have written. Or as good as.

If I, a non-prophet, am a better communicator than Jesus then ask yourself, seriously, was he actually who his followers claimed him to be? Or was he one of many desert-dwellers who some people took a little more seriously than was necessary? His knowledge (if he ever existed, and there are genuine doubts) was no more detailed than that of every other Bronze Age inhabitant.

Jan 152011

Disliking someone who is different from you is a very native, hard-wired aspect of our animalistic past. We are social creatures, born from small familial groups – from which, we instinctively see that foreign “other” as untrustworthy and (potentially) dangerous. It is a natural phenomena; as natural as every other naturalistic, animalistic personality trait that a civilised society needs to disabuse itself from. Unless, of course, you believe that society should embrace rape, violent patriarchy and, well… watch a David Attenborough piece on chimpanzees (or any other familial-social animal), if you want to find others.

Following on from my previous post about indigenous Brits, another followup position from Nick Griffin (and those who think like him) is that Britain is in danger of becoming an Islamified state. Hauling his chimpanzee arse off the ground, he attempts a territorial warble that a zoologist would describe as “they are not like us” accompanied by “get rid of foreigners”. Of course, for Griffin, this is just the current trend to be employed for the furthering of his far-reaching goal; that every foreigner be removed from Britain. The recent vogue of Islamic terrorism has been a great boost for British racism. Hating Muslims can be seen as a justifiable act of patriotism, allowing people to unleash their inner racist so that they can concentrate on their Muslim foes… and, when all the brown people are gone, they can concentrate on the black ones.

If you hate all Muslisms, then every Islamic fundamentalist who has purged the world of himself (and as many innocents as he could) will have beaten you. He wins. You lose. Why will he have won? Islamic fundamentalists want war… an old war of one faith against another; two opposing factions of the same deity’s believers. They want an Islamic Crusade, with you as a bit-part actor. In order to achieve such a thing, they desire a deep hatred between all Muslims and all non-Muslims; from both directions. Your hatred for all Muslims is a stepping-stone across a small stream… a stream that has very nasty things happening, on the other side of it. If you hate the extremists, without hating everyone who has a moderate affiliation with the religion (i.e. all non-extremist Muslims) then the stepping-stone disappears. The terrorists will have failed.

Join me, in beating the terrorists; hug the next Muslim you meet…

…and remember; each time you hate a Muslim, Osama bin Laden smiles.

Unless, of course, you buy the stories about Britain becoming an Islamic state, where the urban landscape is dotted with minarets over big-domed mosques. Well, I view such a picture with the same level of acridity as our landscape being dotted with church spires over large vaulted canopies of worship. Especially when the worship is being done to the same deity as is worshipped in the mosques. Same deity; different flavour. Whether it is a minaret or a church spire, my degree of irritation is consistently the same. The important fight is against the loss of secularism, not the loss of one religion against another, or which shape popping above the house-roof is a religious ornament. And if an Islamified Britain threatened Britain’s secularism, I’d share a degree of empathy with Islamophobes. Except, that isn’t going to happen.

Britain is an increasingly secular nation. This is a good thing. It isn’t, however, devoid of non-secular influences. Our head of state is also the head of the church. Our upper house of parliament is populated by unelected church leaders – giving the church a political voice. Our weekly diary is dictated to us out of church requirements; Sunday must remain a special day, with limited opening times and awful faith-based TV (the BBC are contractually required to screen it). Our medical practices are influenced by the premise that a fertilised egg has an immortal God-given soul; witness the delays and impediments concerning stem-cell research… or repeated requests to ignore foetal viability as the benchmark for legal abortions.

If those same measures were made in the name of Islam, rather than Christianity, I’d be equally annoyed. Other than an increase in religious political power, I have no reason to fear Britain becoming Islamified. Not that it is likely to happen. I mean, there are those who want to make you believe that it will happen, one day. But that is only one possible future along with many other possible futures – like one where Switzerland announces that its history of neutrality was a smoke-screen, used to quietly build a world-conquering military force, as they take over the world. I mean, it could happen… but there are stop-gaps and pressure-points in the system that mean that it is highly unlikely to happen.

In Britain, our secularisation was (mostly) born 300 years ago during the Enlightenment, when radical materialist thinking gained a new confidence – with powerful rationalist voices to make sure that the confidence was shared. Britain gave Darwin to the world, explaining how life evolved by means of a mechanism he didn’t fully understand; Cambridge University gave us Watson & Crick’s explanation of Darwin’s mechanism. Whether through its rationalists, or its scientists, Britain has given itself good grounds to call itself a secular nation.

Some clocks simply can’t be turned back. Those 300 years won’t be eradicated because of a newly-arrived minority population. Every Muslim who settles in Britain will have children raised in a secularised country. Those children will be aware of the freedoms that have evolved (and been fought for) over so many years. They will have no reason to submerge into the extremities of Islamic fundamentalism.

Unless you give them good grounds, and treat them with undisguised hatred.

That should about do it.

If you read newspaper articles about a Muslim getting a lenient sentence, or even having committed a crime – stop and ask yourself how many offences are reported in the news about people who were described as Christians, agnostics or atheists. I mean, these people do commit crimes, but I don’t recall their faith being a newsworthy item, shared to all. If an owner of a media corporation became gingerphobic, he could highlight the crimes of all ginger people, their hair-colour announced to all. Any crimes committed by blondes,  brunettes, or the folically-challenged would be reported without any mention of their hair-colour. Over time, you’d be sickened at all of the crimes committed by ginger people.

Stop letting other people do your thinking (and decision-making) for you. Especially when those people own newspapers and/or TV stations.

Stop reading shitty “news” articles that deliberately alienate Muslims from the rest of society. Keep in mind that some Muslims are good – and some Muslims are bad. Pretty much, you know, the same as with every other group of human beings on the planet.

Stop calling yourself a Christian, in some feeble attempt at showing a united, patriotic anti-Muslim front. The last time you were in a church, it was for a wedding (possibly your own) and if you were asked to recite the names of Christ’s disciples, you’d struggle not to slip in the names of some of The Beatles.

Stop letting the Islamic terrorist have the winning hand.

Stop acting on xenophobic, animalistic fear-patterns.

Stop judging the many, based on the few.

Stop being a racist fuck.

Nov 302010
Feminism vs Humanism - part 1

A few years ago, a college friend and I were discussing feminism. For one of our projects, she had chosen feminism as her subject matter and had been approaching people with a related questionnaire. Upon my completion of her questions (on the subject of women’s rights and their place within society) I was triumphantly told […]

Nov 272010
Christianity vs Homosexuality

Back when I first started using the internet, it was a very different looking creature than it is today. Web sites were relatively sparse compared to their modern counterparts, with many companies having no net exposure whatsoever. One of the more dominant areas of the internet was something called usenet (more popularly known as newsgroups). […]

Nov 222010

Someone once said to me that society basically exists around a basis of the notion that “if you don’t try to kill me, I won’t try to kill you”. The idea of killing can be spread to theft and any other concept which involves one person behaving in an ill manner to their societal neighbour. […]

Nov 212010

Back in 2007, the UK celebrity version of Endemol’s Big Brother caused a controversy regarding racist comments. It made big news, causing Gordon Brown to comment on the situation. Subsequently, the following non-celebrity version of Big Brother was more than a little anxious to avoid a repeat of the situation. Big Brother got all serious […]

Nov 202010

The Queen of Bad Thinking continues to live up to her name. An ad hominem is to attack the person instead of their position. Attacking them as well as their position isn’t ad hominem. Example:- 1. You’re an idiot. 2. A is not equal to B because A is equal to C and C is […]

Nov 202010

One of the reasons for revisiting my oft-neglected blog is the issue of censorship. Today, I was removed from a group that I’d been a visitor of for the last few months. My last post and comments were censored; the ideas deleted, the thoughts expunged. Now. It must have been a hideously bad post to […]

Nov 202010

As with every diary I’ve ever been bought, my blog got used for the first few days and weeks… with the rest of it being left as a great desert of emptiness. Whether empty pages or unproduced blog posts, I’ve always lacked the impetus to record my thoughts on a regular basis. Why bother? Thoughts […]