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RationalAtheist Blog

Save the Unions

I'd like the Gamespot Unions to be retained. Gamespot did make a commitment to transfer them over to the new format, but have not done so as yet.

I would like anyone who also wants the unions to be transferred over - ALL Active Unions and not just the AU - to make their voices heard in the following thread:

http://www.gamespot.com/forums/bug-reporting-feedback-1000006/save-our-unions-29438636

Thanks

The AU Needs You

I've noticed usage of GameSpot forums is back up to high levels these days. I also notice that much religious propaganda is spreading once again in this site. People previously banned for their direct insults of others are now being unbanned and the TOU has changed to be less restrictive. "Giantbomb.com" and its current state also might have something to do with the increased numbers returning to GameSpot.

The Atheism Union has previously been a useful antidote to religious commentary on Gamespot. It still contains much good information about secularism and religious intolerance. Active use of the union has declined with the rest of the site forums in the past, but now they seem to be on-the-up again, I propose the AU still has it's uses:

www.gamespot.com/unions/17275/forums.html

The Atheism Union, going forward, should be a place where all-comers can express and discuss their views about religion. It is also a useful repository of information on religious ideas, the secular responses to them and about the philosophies of humanism. I have tried to contact the esteemed union leader Domatron23, but unfortunately have had no response as yet. This a great shame, because Dom's knowledge of Greek thinking and logic was deep, relevant and profoundly interesting. He also made a fair and courteous leader in the union and promoted it well while he was active here.

Kitchener

Women are welcome there too!

I would like the union to grow once again, so that it can be a place where people of all beliefs (and none) can discuss their views in a more considered environment than places like OT. Off-Topic can be a difficult place to express views now, due to the fast movement of the religious threads and seeming disregard of etiquette in discussion. It still does not seem to stop the increasing numbers of religiously inspired threads there though. This shows that deeply-felt emotions are still valid regarding religion, especially as we test our own tolerance of others' intolerance.

I hope you share my view of the desire for an active Atheism Union. You don't have to be a member to post there, or even to include the above link in your sigs (to advertise the existence of union in your posts). I wonder if you have any ideas on how the union can grow again, or if the desire for active participation there is not relevant now. Of course, joining the Atheism Union is free, easy and painless, if you'd like to express your beliefs through the unions you affiliate with.

Personally, I have learned that it is far better not to alienate fellow union members and shall be showing a more conciliatory tone in my arguments against religion and some atheist ideas there myself. I do worry that my recent string of post creation in the AU is starting to make it look like the defunct "Christian Witness Union" and "Bible believers' Union" that ended their usefulness as one-man rants with no responses. Can you help?

The morality of deleted posts

I was commenting on another user's GS blog, and got into a discussion on morality after being challenged about it. This was totally tangiential to the topic of the blog, but I'm always keen to scrutinise my own views, so was glad to continue. The debate ran to 24 posts and responses until the blogger started deleting my posts. I thought I'd re-post them here, since I'd cached them all in my browser. I'm doing this because I think my views were credible and hate to think I'd wasted all the typing and tech that preserved it:

First hand evidence of morailty

I was asked to create a scenario where rape could be viewed as a moral act. I used "rape one or millions die" as a hypothetical case where the morality of rape would be preferable to the death of millions. The unexpected response mentioned atomic bombing as being "impermissible evil", so I used that in my riposte.

If you would not commit rape (and also be raped by implication of this scenario) to save a million Catholics, you would be directly responsible for a far worse outcome (a million dead Catholics) than that of rape of two people. Personally, I would find it more morally reprehensible than being forced to rape under duress. Of course morality is relative - we all take morally relative decisions and make morally relative judgements every day.

You asked me for an example that was "not immoral" in describing moral judgements for acts such as rape. You also speak of nuclear weapons. In effect, dropping 2 nuclear bombs on Japan did save hundreds of thousands and even millions of lives. Nuking Japan did far less carnage than fire-bombing it (which was also done), but meant the Allies didn't have to make the Japanese fight to their (and our) deaths (as demonstrated on the Pacific Islands). Perhaps my answer isn't what you asked for, but relative morality does make sense - so much so that it is the basis of most Western law, defence policies, healthcare expenditure, research, etc.

I was wondering when you were going to roll your "empirically demonstrable" critique of relativism out for me to see, or expand more on on how "rationalizing is often irrational" . I think I can still delete my own messages in your blog, so if there's anything you'd like removed, please feel free to askRationalAtheist

Da bomb - but how moral?

In point of fact, more people (150,000) were killed and injured in just one fire-bomb raid on Tokyo, than in Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined (about 100,000). The USAF dropped 40,000 tonnes of bombs on Japan.

There had been a threat that my posts would get deleted (hence that last bit of my post). I gather the blogger had found out how to delete other peoples' posts shortly afterwards.

There was a lengthy and rambling reply to my above post before it got deleted, but first, I noted something had been snuck into a previous post of theirs, I assume once they'd read my post. The blogger took trouble to write 5 further lengthy posts explaining their position, while deleting my responses. It makes the deletions and additions seem all the more absurd.

[quote="Post Deleter"]

...because let's face it: if you can't posit a situation in which rape could be construed as moral/not immoral/morally permissible/not evil, then really, we both regard rape as being always evil, all the time. In which case, the exact degree of evil is irrelevant; we've arrived at a moral absolute (rape is always evil) even so.

And all I need is one.RationalAtheist



Since you added this bit subsequent to my last reply, It'd be a mere courtesy to address it too! I don't subscribe to your "evil=absolute" analysis. By talking about "degrees of evil", you've already admitted a relative scale (in degrees!). I'd view morals in terms of their acceptability: So rape, in almost all applicable cases, is entirely unacceptable. But in the case I outlined; it is more moral than letting one million Catholics die, so would be morally permissible in those terms.

You may see your failure to act as a forced rapist as a triumph for absolutism, but your moral actions in failing to act to save a million Catholics could certainly be perceived as morally questionable by others (the families of the million dead not least), providing further evidence about the relative nature of morality.

The blogger kindly selectively quoted sections of that above response before they deleted it and included it in a litany of replies to my non-existent posts in their blog.

Finally, after some additional banter - allowing me an additional 9 undeleted posts since the first warnings, the blogger started the delete again...

Sorry, could you repeat your question please? You seem to have side-tracked into asking me a variety of questions, despite being displeased with my answers to the point of deletion. You have not demonstrated the irrationality of applying relativism to morality. Rather you concealed it since you deleted those posts of mine you didn't like explaining just that.

So who is this "we" you speak of? How many of "you" are there? And why would scripture be the principle body of evidence in your analysis of those doctrines? I think Pelagians might disagree for a start!rationatheist

I dislike "tactics" in a discussion; such as personal attacks, derision, post alterations, unnecessary quote-chaining or censorship. If people are prepared to proclaim their views then they should be able to discuss them properly. People resorting to this sort of method are clearly not concentrating on the argument at hand, but on their own motivations or insecurities. Ideas of success can be learned from the way discussions are run, since clear, rational ideas do not need the additional arm-bands of name-calling, cheating, or putting fingers in ears.

For me, these tactics imply an immoral way of framing an equal debate, since the views of one side are suppressed and focus is lost. Surely a focus on the topic of discussion and adherence to "normative discourse" is more moral and productive. Any illusions of rationality evaporate without an equal debate into a farce. Despite being a constant shame, this way of communicating from people of faith is entirely expected and fully anticipated, since it's so common.

Da bomb - but how moral?Hot date or cold date?

On another deleted note, I did notice another recent blog entry (from another religious user), describing great excitement about a "hot date" and asking for guidance over it, has now been removed. All the well-wishing comments have gone too. I hope things did go really well for this blogger on their date, although the lack of any follow-up (aside from the post deletion) is of some concern.

Church Going - by Philip Larkin

step inside...

Once I am sure there's nothing going on
I step inside, letting the door thud shut.
Another church: matting, seats, and stone,
And little books; sprawlings of flowers, cut
For Sunday, brownish now; some brass and stuff
Up at the holy end; the small neat organ;
And a tense, musty, unignorable silence,
Brewed God knows how long. Hatless, I take off
My cycle-clips in awkward reverence,
Move forward, run my hand around the font.
From where I stand, the roof looks almost new-
Cleaned or restored? Someone would know: I don't.
Mounting the lectern, I peruse a few
Hectoring large-scale verses, and pronounce
"Here endeth" much more loudly than I'd meant.
The echoes sn1gger briefly. Back at the door
I sign the book, donate an Irish sixpence,
Reflect the place was not worth stopping for.

Yet stop I did: in fact I often do,
And always end much at a loss like this,
Wondering what to look for; wondering, too,
When churches fall completely out of use
What we shall turn them into, if we shall keep
A few cathedrals chronically on show,
Their parchment, plate, and pyx in locked cases,
And let the rest rent-free to rain and sheep.
Shall we avoid them as unlucky places?

Or, after dark, will dubious women come
To make their children touch a particular stone;
Pick simples for a cancer; or on some
Advised night see walking a dead one?
Power of some sort or other will go on
In games, in riddles, seemingly at random;
But superstition, like belief, must die,
And what remains when disbelief has gone?
Grass, weedy pavement, brambles, buttress, sky,

A shape less recognizable each week,
A purpose more obscure. I wonder who
Will be the last, the very last, to seek
This place for what it was; one of the crew
That tap and jot and know what rood-lofts were?
Some ruin-bibber, randy for antique,
Or Christmas-addict, counting on a whiff
Of gown-and-bands and organ-pipes and myrrh?
Or will he be my representative,

Bored, uninformed, knowing the ghostly silt
Dispersed, yet tending to this cross of ground
Through suburb scrub because it held unspilt
So long and equably what since is found
Only in separation -- marriage, and birth,
And death, and thoughts of these -- for whom was built
This special shell? For, though I've no idea
What this accoutred frowsty barn is worth,
It pleases me to stand in silence here;

A serious house on serious earth it is,
In whose blent air all our compulsions meet,
Are recognised, and robed as destinies.
And that much never can be obsolete,
Since someone will forever be surprising
A hunger in himself to be more serious,
And gravitating with it to this ground,
Which, he once heard, was proper to grow wise in,
If only that so many dead lie round.

church going

Why naturalism is not enough for some.

A proportion of bible-believing Christians reject "naturalism" - our collective knowledge, gained from human endeavour and experience, in favour of biblical correctness and absolute truth. It seems to me that three big bones of contention always crop up regarding the rejection of naturalism:

(i) the biblical age of the world,

(ii) the biblical creation story, and

(iii) the flood story.

(i) The biblical age of the Earth is a fascinating diversion in historical analysis. It was so fascinating that it became a catalyst to the biblical textual criticism movement of the 18 Century and beyond, where origins, authorships, translations, meanings and interpretations from the "good book" were assessed using structured documentary analysis techniques.

In 1654, James Ussher, the Archbishop of Armargh in Ireland, deduced that the creation of Earth happened at nightfall preceding Sunday October 23 in 4004 BC, from the chronology of the bible and the known history of ancient civilisation.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ussher_chronology

Ussher

Others had also come to roughly similar date ranges, including Isaac Newton, Bede and Scaliger, based on similar methods of relating the different authorships, epochs and events to biblical events. Ussher's chronology was widely adopted, since it was used for annotations and cross-references in "mass produced" and widely distributed King James versions of the bible from the early 1700's, then kept in them up to the mid-twentieth century and more recently retained in the Scofield Reference bible. These bibles have a 4004 BC date annotation next to Genesis 1.1.

(Isaac Newton is often touted as an example of a keen religious adherent, but he did become quite a heretic – refusing to take holy orders, or the holy sacrament on his death-bed. He wrote an unpublished criticism of the trinity and predicted the end of the world to come no earlier than 2060!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_Historical_Account_of_Two_Notable_Corruptions_of_Scripture )

Back then, while new discoveries and understandings about he nature of "weight" were being made, strict Christian beliefs were prevalent with those in society. Owning a belief like that now will conflict directly with evidence from the world around us gained since those times. From reading the King James influenced versions of the bible, it is easy to see how creationism has been engrained into some bible believing Christians, despite the common acknowledgement that human rational scientific progress has given us greater and more reliable evidence for reflection than the bible has ever done – especially in terms of anthropology, geology, cosmology and archaeology.

bible

(ii) There are two separate creation stories in Genesis. Most Christians say that either or both stories are allegorical, or that they don't explain our origins but provide a mysterious place-holder for them instead. Princeton Professor William Henry Green wrote in 1890 "the Scriptures furnish no data for a chronological computation prior to the life of Abraham; and that the Mosaic records do not fix and were not intended to fix the precise date either of the Flood or of the creation of the world." Both could easily be generalised to impart the power of a creator, but some other bible-believing Christians prefer to choose the literal interpretation of Genesis 1.1 in favour of the Genesis 2.4b version, despite their odd ordering of events and seeming contradictions.

FullsizeArk

(iii) The global flood story is supported by some weak creationist evidence that falls apart under any realistic scrutiny. It seems odd to me that any rational evidence would be presented here at all by creationist adherents, since miracles would be possible for them- including all the extra water – and the cover-up afterwards. The evidence against a biblical global flood ranges from other centres of civilisation indicating otherwise, to overwhelming contrary geological evidence and rational deduction on the logistics and biological diversity.

These three arguments are enough to convince some that the wealth of knowledge and discovery through human endeavour and enquiry does not compare with the benefits of believing in a life of punishment, self-hate, evangelism and self-imposed "recovery from sin" on Earth instead. Perhaps, if those people lived the lives of their pre-Ussheren ancestors, or early Church leaders and martyrs, they would realise that their own certainty of knowledge is framed in one particular 21st century understanding of their faith.

Finally, absolute, inerrant, biblical truth is a concept that is easily challenged with our rational, forward-thinking mindset - and with the benefit of hindsight into our collective human imaginings. For example, the very nature of the Christian church, beliefs, ceremonies and of the religion practised within it has changed greatly since its own inception. The deductive evidence presented by Ussher in understanding the bible in the 17century led to scholars and historians starting to question other aspects of the bible, like the origins of the Old Testament Torah, or the authorship and duplications in the New Testament.

Despite this, suggestions are made that proclaim "knowledge being relative" is an absolute statement in itself, and therefore a contradiction. But simply put, saying someone does know THAT they don't know about something is NOT saying that they actually do know WHAT they don't know! (Sorry for the shouting – that's me keeping it simple!) It is impossible to know what you do not know – which is a direct contradiction and probably the cause of the confusion for those suggesting such nonsense. The Objectivist's or Relativist's "not knowing" is about viewing human understanding as a result of enquiry into the extent of available discovery, rather than making an absolute statement one way or the other.

The Relevance of Preaching

Why are many Christian preachers so intent on conversion? Rather than living lives that would transmit Christian charity, compassion and love through action, they favour enumerating rules of entry to heaven, then constantly reminding everyone else that they're breaking them and not getting in. Some conversionsts justify their judgemental existence by forming meaning from passages in the bible that say deeds to please Christ are not enough, but that always speaking God's word is praise-worthy.Christian unions here actively encourage conversion attempts from their members, so they can spread the "good word" to the general gaming public.

For serious religious conversionists everywhere, the desire for others to see things the same way as they do runs far hotter than for most other believers. Not allowing or broadcasting the views of an evangelist can often be seen as an insult to what they "know" is true and an affront to the proposed divinely guided world they inhabit. Debate is entirely besides the point for other converters, since constantly getting their message out there, regardless of any contrary debate, may eventually have a scatter-gun effect of drawing the odd few people towards it. The avoidance and separation from questioning may additionally serve to shield their views and re-enforce those blinkered beliefs being scattered.

So how do people actually come to Christian faith (aside from being bought up on it)? What is the best way to target the largest numbers with innate religious tendencies? How can religions best "tout" for a punter to change their world-view and join a particular faith club? Like most things in Christianity, there is quite a division in methodology behind the best way of evangelising faith. Some threads here caught my interest since they represented views from "modernist" ("traditional", "evangelical", or "fundamentalist") and "post-modernist ("relevancy" or "emergent") Christianity.

Relevance:

http://uk.gamespot.com/pages/unions/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=27068512&union_id=15346

(BTW, I don't think the T-shirt is of a "boom-box", but some "double-decks"! Would that make a difference?)

Absolute Truth:

http://uk.gamespot.com/pages/unions/forums/show_msgs.php?topic_id=27082596&union_id=15346

The threads are interesting to me since they present the views of the conservative and the liberal Christian conversion worker, and the issues between the two faith groups. They also indicate the feelings underpinning these conversations between the two knowledgeable theists involved.

Emergelicamentalist

One difference between the views is the presentation of Christianity as a dogma to the "convert-ables" they seek: To me, the traditional movement aim to spread the unabridged versions of the "traditional" bible (pretextual criticism movement), devalue scientific discovery, reject human endeavour and naturalism in favour of divine truth, state an absolute position of biblical correctness and are keen to outline the many biblical human sins, as often as possible.

Emergent movements take more account of human involvement in the story of religion, and reference the relativist, objectivist scientific framework, as if acknowledging the self-supporting rational evidence that created our tremendous wealth of human advancement. Emergents still believe the bible is the ultimate source of knowledge, but that we may not know how to understand it, since our view is limited.

The emergent movement has several splits that variously find the bible more allegorical, less factual or more nebulous and use various different emphases of scripture. Emergent movements try to embrace the culture and make the religion relevant to it, rather than reject it as traditionalists do. Greater personal tolerance to social sins, dressing and living as the people you were trying to save and making Christianity seem relevant to naturalism are all aspects of the Relevance Movement.

It does seem obvious to me that the traditionalist movement is out of step with society (any – except theirs) by their own desire, so will have trouble attracting people from a culture that they reject. I also don't understand how these "modernists" can ignore the textual criticism applied to the bible and not use the purest manuscripts in ensuring they do have the unequivocal word of God - directly word-translated from Greek and Aramaic, rather than the versions they do use with their various emphases and inferences.

I also don't really understand why evangelists/fundamentalists don't live in the actual conception of traditional protestant Christianity, rather than the rather comfortable, wealthy, conservative politically motivated modern culture that has shifted the emphasis of their faith, as fundamentalism itself evolves. The desire to rubbish scientific advancement seems futile and hypocritical in the face of such demonstrable achievement from the rationalist scientific method.

emergent

The Emergent movement is not much better in my estimation - it does often seem to dilute the faith. The various divisions of tolerance within the emergent movement cause more factionalism within Christianity, as a single message turns into unclear conflicting messages on various aspects of tolerance and the people preaching it.

Often, people seek the desire to know from a faith. If the knowledge delivered by that faith is itself uncertain, it may repel truth seekers from staying with it. Our culture increasingly but unwittingly does contradict the written word and context of the bible, which makes it all the more difficult to relate to it, unless the bible is made more relevant to modern people - by changing it (again). Since the bible is the basis for Christian belief, that would further compromise biblical inerrency.

I don't think either of these tactics work too well, since there is no one overriding culture. Instead, there's a cultural melting pot, in a century where more and more people are easily able to communicate their different ideas, like never before, from anywhere in the world. The emergent Christian movement may well delay the decline of Christianity in society, as it tries to relate modernity to allegory. But it is fighting with our new realisations of the many other faiths, creeds and cultures in our globe too. Modernity has discovered that witness testimony is far less reliable than objective evidence, in making rational decisions about what sort of things we should be devoting our lives to.

Man love is better than getting it shoved down your throat

Recent events here have led to a Christian union leader being banned and another suspension for some expressed views in a thread. I did manage to see the OP, but not the deleted posts causing the ban. The whole thread has now gone.I fully support free speech and the right to believe (and I certainly did not have anything to do with the moderation), so I can understand why some of them are extremely angry! (Really annoyed!)

BUT:

The events concern a thread created around the topic of the sinfulness of love between men. I fully support peoples' right to express their love however they want and understand that for some 10% or so of the male population its not some "choice" or partiality, but a perfectly normal way of living in society. I also think that some religious people may feel threatened by the thought of this, perhaps because they themselves have innate unresolved sexual feelings. Its more likely that the pink liberal culture clashes with perceived religious views of sexual abstinence though.

There are some people who concede their sexual desires, but choose to abstain from them with faith. These people still identify themselves with the same sexuality as those that "do it", since they still have the innate urges that they acknowledge they must control because of their chosen religion. But even thinking about not doing something because its a sin is still a sin of desire for some.

Conversely, many Christians themselves accept same-sex relationships in their faiths and clergymen who (as paid to do so by the Church) openly express their Christian views and are even allowed to marry each other. Regardless of what enlightened views I or the "C of E" have, the law in the country this site comes from (and UK where I live) makes it an offence to to use inflammatory or insulting comments about people on the grounds of sexual discrimination.

Tom Hanks poster

For a group of Christian people who use this site mainly to try and convert other people to their brand of faith, I'd have thought this insulting technique to be counter-productive. For starters, they're alienating 10% of their intended male converts, plus the majority of friends and supporters like me. Secondly, starting out on an attack is hardly a way to influence people over to a belief. Putting a sexual preference in the same context as "rape" and "murder" seems both inflammatory and distorted. Finally, legal values and site rules should take precedence on perceived religious values. We get our moral outlook from our cultural interactions informing our legal framework, so we should really know when our faith-bound morality conflicts with legal obligations - i.e. when to shut up in public.

What consenting adults get up to in the privacy of their own surroundings should be up to them - not me or anyone else. It's not exactly as if people go waving it about. But religion does tend to get stuffed down our collective throats whether we like it or not, because some Christians feel the need to outline the rules of their faith - in admonishing a select few others for their sexuality.

I joined this site as a rational responder to religious threads here, since I thought some balance was required in religiously influencing impressionable young people on a gaming site. I think there is less religious venom spat here than there used to be (unless there is an interim lull or cease-fire this autumn), so maybe things have been tightened up with the new posting regs. It is still a shame that people get banned, since the decreased amount of Christians willing to debate does obviously impact on the intensity of atheist response here. Ultimately though, it probably is all in the best interests of this site.

I don't know the full extent of the banned user's crimes, since I can't recall debating with them. In some sense I'd have liked the offending thread stay and no permanent moderations made. But I'd also have liked the opportunity to respond to it. However, the way that union works is with invited members only (for purity of thought) and they moderate any views that conflict with their own so would hypothetically deny me my own right of free speech in response. (Check out the Athsiem union for democracy and equality at work!) But as far as freedom of speech is concerned, human legal rights and site rules will certainly take priority over the sustainability of argument, "levels of sin" committed, and sheer offensiveness of some religious doctrine.

Can I Join A Christian Union?

I was reading back over some old threads and searching around in here a bit. I noticed this thread, from a Christian Union, where a Christian was responding to a recent thread in this site's own atheist union. The atheist union thread debated the "delusional" or "irrational" nature of faith. I can understand how this can be conceived as an insult or cause some offence to those practicing a faith.

For the last time, stop following me! I'm a creationist.

I think that's a shame though, since it is a basic tenet of my atheist belief. "Delusion" can be a poisonous word, not least in its associations with the psychopathic. Also, the "Dawkins reaction" would turn most Christians away from even defending their view (presumably?); that their faith isn't somewhat fanciful (another "nicer" definition of delusion).

The religious responder wrote this about Jesus in his bible-oriented union:

"His existence, His death in payment for our sins, and His resurrection, one of the most well-evidenced and documents truths of all antiquity."

Obviously, no supporting evidence was given. He continued with some criticisms of the"shamans of the faith of naturalism"(!!!), then finished off thusly:

"Now you be the judge which faith, Christianity or the faith of naturalism and disbelief, rests its foundational doctrine on "nothing", that same "nothing" that supposedly created "everything".No, my friend, Christians do not stand guilty of having faith in a "self-reinforcing delusion", they have faith in the Rock of Truth, Jesus Christ. All glory, honor, and praise be to Him."

These comments grossly pervert (my) atheist views and present a distorted scientific position. See, somewhat ironically and strictly scientifically speaking; there is no such thing as "nothing"; atheism isn't a faith; etc.

Using a rational basis for decision-making, you can make some informed choices about what to think. Scientific discovery uses this deductive basis to form our collective human understanding over time. In the past, what was considered supernatural is now well described by science. The unexplained is a scientific frontier, rather than something science can't possibly explain, or the antithesis of faith - as some adherents would have you believe. All scientific models of understanding are deductions based on strong evidence, that are open to debate and review.

Faith-based views use inductive methods for reaching conclusions. Although science does use induction to further discovery, scientific concepts are deductively rationalised. Inductive methods can lead to multiple, equally valid outcomes (as they have done in all the religions). So if religious faith does not fit with the definition of rationalism, doesn't that make it irrational?

This user would be encouraged to express his views in the atheist thread - many other Christians do in the Atheist union - and some have done in that thread. They are very welcome to too, seeing as the holding of any faith isn't an obstacle there. In fact, I think its a great resource of information and views from community of friendly deep thinkers of all sorts.

I do find it strange though, that based on my research, I think I'd be ineligible to join any Christian Unions here. If a Christian cause is conversion, then wouldn't their doors be wide open - just like the doors of the Churches they attend? Wouldn't they be so confident in their beliefs, that my questions would easily be answered?

I believe that several Christians do use this web site as a means of indoctrinating the unwary, so am particularly glad that the atheism union follows transparent principles on union membership - even going to the extent of allowing strong-Christians to stand as Union officers in democratic election.I wonder to what extent I'd have to start believing to be able to join some Christian Unions, and how they decide on an acceptable level of righteousness for their members.

Tales from a funeral

I was at a funeral the other week - for my wife's grandmother, who lived into her mid 90s. One of her daughters was religious, so a Christian cremation was arranged. The preacher used to be the local vicar, was also a civic councillor, owned a vineyard and had twice been mayor.

Much of the service was fine, with a long life remembered. But then, the vicar started touting for business. Rather than talking about eternal salvation in the afterlife and the comfort of angels, he started telling us that we should start believing in Jesus.

Initially it was about a comforting presence. Then, a biblical parable came out, where, during the last supper, Jesus told a disciple - "I'm off, but you will know how to follow me", or some such stuff. The disciple was bemused and disagreed. Jesus put him straight - "you WILL know how to follow me".

This wasn't making too much sense to me, but the preacher further elaborated: "It's like, if you go on a long journey, say across Europe, and you take one of those new GPS units along. You can program everything in at the start, and it will tell you, turn by turn, the way to go."

He continued "But it's much better if someone comes on the journey with you; someone that's been on the journey before - like Jesus. If you come across a traffic jam, he can help you round it." Then followed a fairly generic ramble about the glory of Jesus.

I disagree!

1. I'm sure that GPS units beat human navigation skills on average, since fallible people miss turnings, get confused or loose concentration on long journeys.

2. How could Jesus help you out of a traffic jam? You'd be better of with a cellular GPS with automatic traffic updates.

I think an officiant's role at a funeral should be to console the grieving, while remembering the deceased. At least the anecdote should have been more profound, or robust. When someone tries to convince a crowd to believe in a myth, especially when they do it for a living, they'd better either do a good job, or lay off it and be respectful to the faiths and faithless of the attending group.

I may add that when my Dad died, my family agreed on a humanist funeral for him. The same officiant (Ray) was the humanist celebrant at my wife's and my wedding, about a year later. Both occasions were perfect. All tastes were catered for - there was room for prayers, if people desired to pray. But there was no emphasis on or reference to religion - just on what really mattered on those days.

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