Is God an Accident? (courtesy The Atlantic Online)

Kudos to St Fallen for bringing this to my attention.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200512/god-accident

I have a lot to say about this and will definitely follow up when I’ve got the time to write! I don’t necessarily agree with some of the arguments being made. However I do agree with Stephen Jay Gould’s viewpoint that Science and Religion are non overlapping magesteria. Check out Gould’s book on the same issue for a complete discussion.

There that’s one of the issues I’d like to expand on, perhaps in an upcoming post!

Once again thanks a lot St.Fallen (a fitting name i might add!) this sheds a lot of light on the concept of cognitive dissonance and its link to religion! our ability to hold seemingly contradictory viewpoints simultaneously truly is remarkable and definitely warrants further study.

Scientists are also seriously pursuing the possibility that religion might not only be an accident but might also be similar in nature to a “virus”, at a conceptual level anyway, in the sense that it is a “viral idea” similar to a meme.
This concept was explored by Neal Stephenson way back in 1992 in his brilliant Sci-Fi novel “Snow Crash”. Check it out if you haven’t!

And now for something completely unrelated,

Check out the news:

Mystery surrounds deaths of two women

I need more outrage from the media!

Comment generously!

Peace

Prav.

Must Watch: Religulous

200px-Religulous_posterThe movie that inspired the name of this very website. Some might say its an outright rip off even. Never mind. Bill Maher, the American talk show host and comedian, wrote and starred in this comedy/documentary which probes organised religion and associated beliefs, in a satirical manner of course. Memorable parts of the film include an interview with Pastor John Wescott whose aim is to ‘help people overcome’ homosexuality, interview with Jose Miranda who has his cult following as he claims to be the second coming of the Jesus, and also when Bill visits the ‘Holy Land Experience’, a Christian theme park in Orlando, Florida.

Maher, an outspoken atheist himself, doesn’t give religion any slack in this film. Perfect.

If you have trouble finding it, here’s a hint, ‘surf the channel’.

 

Let There Not Be Light by Jeremy Clarkson

This was an article by Clarkson in the Sun

A Jewish couple are suing their neighbours because, they say, the security light which comes on automatically when they step into the communal hallway in their block of flights is a breach of their human rights.

Apparently, Orthodox Jews believe that a ban on the lighting of fires on the Sabbath means that they also can’t ignite the filament in a bulb.

Yes. But is it not the human right of all the other people in the block of flats not to trip over a kid’s bicycle because they couldn’t see the bloody thing in the darkness?

Meanwhile, we heard this week about the tragic story of a Roman Catholic woman who suffocated her new-born baby out of shame, and then died herself.

And it can’t be long before another Muslim blows himself up at a Tube station.

Religion. Honestly. What is the point?

Joint NGO Statement on Danger of U.N. “Defamation of Religions” Campaign

(Some grim news from the UN. Visit the site on the link to read the whole document with signatories)

Deeply concerned by the pervasive and mounting campaign by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) to produce U.N. resolutions, declarations, and world conferences that propagate the concept of “defamation of religions,” a concept having no basis in domestic or international law, and which would alter the very meaning of human rights, which protect individuals from harm, but not beliefs from critical inquiry;

Deeply concerned by the attempt to misuse the U.N. to legitimise blasphemy laws, thereby restricting freedom of religion, freedom of expression, and freedom of the press;

Deeply concerned that “defamation of religions” resolutions may be used in certain countries to silence and intimidate human rights activists, religious dissenters, and other independent voices;

Alarmed by the resolution on “defamation of religions” recently tabled at the current 10th session of the UN Human Rights Council;

Alarmed by the draft resolution on freedom of expression circulated by Egypt, whose amendments seek to restrict, not promote, protections for free speech;

Alarmed by the recently-announced initiative of the U.N. “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to amend the International Convention for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) by adding a protocol on “defamation of religions”;

Alarmed by provisions in the latest draft outcome document of the Durban Review Conference that, through coded language and veiled references, endorse and encourage these anti-democratic initiatives;

1. Call upon all governments to oppose the “defamation of religions” resolution currently tabled at the UN Human Rights Council, and the objectionable provisions of the freedom of expression resolution;

2. Call upon all governments to resist the efforts of the “Ad Hoc Committee on Complementary Standards” to alter the ICERD;

3. Call upon all governments not to accept or legitimise a Durban Review Conference outcome that directly or indirectly supports the “defamation of religions” campaign at the expense of basic freedoms and individual human rights.

Posted from UNWATCH

Is Religion an important part of your life? 99% Sri Lankans say yes

Apparently, according to a Gallup poll done in 2008. Sri Lanka is 3rd on the list of the most religious countries in the world, after Egypt and Bangladesh, and leaps just ahead, by a whisker, of  Congo, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Indonesia, Djibouti and others. At the other end of the spectrum we got the countries who are the least religious, Estonia at 14%, Sweden 17%, Denmark, Norway, Hong Kong, Japan etc. Lists shown below. I’m sure I don’t have to point out some obvious trends, do I?

Lets break down these lists to perform some analysis shall we (data from Wikipedia and CIA Factbook);

Egypt – Approximately 90% adheres to Islam, the rest pretty much Christianity.

Bangladesh – Like Egypt, approximately 90% adheres to Islam, and most of the rest to Hinduism

Sri Lanka – 70% follow Buddhism, 15% Hinduism, 8% Christianity, and the rest Islam.

Indonesia – 86% follows Islam, 8.7 Christianity and the rest a mixture of Buddhism and Hinduism

Congo – 50% Christians, and 48% Animists

Malawi – 80% Christian, 13% follow Islam

Senegal – 95% follow Islam

Djibouti – 94% follow Islam

Morocco – 98.7% follow Islam

UAE – 96% follow Islam

A you can see, from this list, Sri Lanka is the only country with a Buddhist majority. Sri Lanka doesn’t have the highest concentration of Buddhists even (Bhutan 66-75%, Burma 90%, Cambodia 95%, Japan 96%, Taiwan 93%, Vietnam 85%). Of course, wealth plays a major factor. Most of the least religious countries are developed or well developed. If you are rich, you have the option of ignoring God, most of the time atleast. If you are poor, you tend to pray to, and ask, God most of the time.

Few of the least religious countries;

Estonia – 76% no religious affiliation

Sweden – 75% Church of Sweden, BUT, that’s because till 1996, people born Sweden automatically became a member of the Church, if one of the parents was a member. Now only if you are christened you become a member, and single digit percentages attend church regularly.

Denmark – 81% members of the Church. According to a 2005 study by Zuckerman, Denmark has the third highest proportion of atheists and agnostics in the world, estimated to be between 43% and 80%.

Norway – 83% members of the Church of Norway.

Czech Republic – 60% no affiliation to any religion, 27% Protestant

Mongolia – 50% Buddhism (!) and 40% listed as having no religion.

Azerbaijan – 96.7% follow Islam. Religious affiliation is still nominal in Azerbaijan; percentages for actual practicing adherents are much lower, according to Wiki

As the report itself point’s out, “Obviously, these data only compare the importance of religion in people’s lives — they say nothing about what being highly religious means in different parts of the world and among different faiths”.

So why do Sri Lankans say they are highly religious?

Is it because the principles and conditions of the religions are being followed meticulously by Sri Lankans? Is it measured by how much the people idolize their god(s) and believe in spiritualism and supernatural powers? Or is it because of the number of times we visit places of worship, and the amount time we spend there? The value of alms and donations we give to the clergy? The involvement of religion in politics? Or is it because we are still a developing nation, education and wealth wise, with a civil war in our hands?

Personally, the results from the Poll are a bit hard to believe, although its a valid poll done by a highly respected agency. But 99%?

Why We Don’t Believe – Philosophy: Killing the Creator

“Either God wants to abolish evil, and cannot; or he can, but does not want to. If he wants to, but cannot, he is impotent. If he can, but does not want to, he is wicked. If God can abolish evil, and God really wants to do it, why is there evil in the world?” — Epicurus

Early philosophers like Epicurus pondered over such problems and to this day his thoughts apply such that no theologian has been able to refute. Further reasons for disbelief comes from an argument which states that if God created the universe, then who created God. Religious people try to counter this with, “God doesn’t need a creator”. If that is so, why does the universe need a creator?

There are a few notions put forth by religious philosophers that have been taken seriously in the past, but will sound ridiculous to the modern human. One such case is the Ontological argument. It states that if you can conceive a all powerful creator, then that being can exist. This crumbles under many scenarios. Can the “Omnipotent” God create a rock that he cannot lift? Why do Christians say, “God cannot lie,” and so on.

Another argument for God that had even scientific minds believing in is Paley’s Watch. William Paley wrote that if you find a watch on a beach, you will instantly assume that somebody left it there and that it was not formed naturally. The modern equivalent to this would be “Irreducible Complexity” by Michael Behe which states that some body parts like the eye is so complex that it could not happen by “chance”. Darwin destroyed Paley’s assertion by introducing his own theory. Behe’s arguments fall short as Evolution by Natural Selection can explain how an eye forms.

One of my favourite religious defences is Pascal’s Wager. Pascal alleges that if there is no God and you follow the religious teachings you lose nothing but if there is a God and you follow the teachings you gain everything. There are two holes in this claim, one being that you do lose something, your time, money and freedom. The other is that even if there is a God which religion has got it right, or even if any of them have got it right.

Religion and the Economic downturn – Priorities get twisted?

Came across an article published by the University of New Hampshire last year;

Lent may help Catholics during Economic Downturn

http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/537283/

Well if they give up travelling in gas guzzling SUV’s or having 3 maids in the house, sure. Not by giving up McDonald’s, Crispy Creme’s or Cadbury’s. Those three examples were true examples, by the way. Its very rare, or almost impossible to find anyone that has given up anything more serious than Spring rolls. Its almost as hard to find Jesus, as a bunny, laying chocolate eggs during Easter. Maybe this tradition has some value, maybe it tries to instill some discipline into our over indulgent lives, but absolutely through no rational or humanistic approach. Its because big ol’ daddy is watching from the skies.

You know what I gave up for lent? Believing in superstitious powers.

Please don’t think I’m defending the concept of Lent and lamenting on how people don’t take it seriously anymore. I’m glad that Catholic people don’t take it seriously, preparing yourself through prayer, penitence, alms giving and self denial to commemorate a holy week? University students do those things before every exam!

Back to the economic downturn, its no uncommon situation when people resort to extremes when times are hard, especially financially. Alcohol, depression, suicide, violence, guns………..and religion. I’m sure the number of giving of alms, and pooja’s (gifts to gods) must have rocketed through the asbestos roofs the temples and kovil’s of Sri Lanka, filling those lovely bronze coffers. Whilst respecting the right to believe and gift to whoever you wish, I ask you to inject yourself a bit of perspective from a fat syringe, new needle of course. Think about the people who also affected far more than you due to these hard times. Instead of making our already well off clergymen more comfortable, and without keeping money with a platter of delicious fruit under a picture of your favourite god, think about people who are finding it even harder to keep some food on their table, to buy some books for their kids. We know how to help each other, and we can, we just need to prioritise who to help.