"...I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me..." [Deuteronomy 5:8-10]

Friday, November 24, 2006

Faith's Last Gasp

On the basis of apparently incontrovertible evidence, commentators of various persuasions... are convinced that we are witnessing an upsurge in religious observance and influence...

But I see the same evidence as yielding the opposite conclusion. What we are witnessing is not the resurgence of religion, but its death throes...

When a climate of heightened tension such as this prompts activists in one religious group to become more assertive... other religious groups, not wishing to be left behind, follow suit... The effect is that suddenly it seems as if there are religious devotees everywhere, and the spurious magnification of their importance further promotes their confidence. As a result they make some gains, as the faith schools example shows...

Yet the fact is that only 10 per cent of the British population attend church, mosque, synagogue or temple every week, and this figure is declining in all but immigrant communities... Yes, over half the population claim vaguely to believe in Something... but they are functionally secularist and would be horrified if asked to live according to the letter of (say) Christian morality: giving all one’s possessions to the poor, taking no thought for the morrow and so impracticably forth. Not even Christian clerics follow these injunctions. This picture is repeated everywhere in the west except the US, and there too the religious base is eroding...

As private observance, religion will of course survive among minorities; as a factor in public and international affairs it is having what might be its last - characteristically bloody - fling.

AC Grayling, Faith's Last Gasp, Prospect Magazine, November 2006

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


I've yet to hear from the Christian Post since I wrote to them yesterday.

Browsing their site, I came across this in an editorial about Ted Haggard:

While Haggard has only partially admitted guilt, the situation in its entirety is a stark reminder of man’s sinfulness and a dark exposure of how deeply the sin of homosexuality has taken root in the American society. If the accusations are indeed true, now would be the time for the Evangelical community look within its own walls and battle against the culture of sin that looms before the Church of Christ.
It'll be interesting to see how this call for a witch-hunt against homosexuals in the church pans out. There are sure to be many potential targets...

And finally, here's a factoid. Did you know that founding member of the Dead Kennedys Carlos Cadona ("6025") left the band after suffering from schizophrenia and later became a born-again Christian?


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Letter to the Christian Post

Dear Sir/Madam

I doubt you publish letters from atheists, but I wanted to reply to
your article "Science Gives Christians Upper Hand Over Atheists" (18

This quotes Lee Strobel as saying, "Christians can stand confidently
within biblical truth knowing that it's in line with astrophysics and

He ignores the incontrovertible, inarguable and easily verifiable
fact that most scholars in their relevant fields do not consider
that the Bible is "in line" with these scientific understandings – or
indeed that the Bible contains an inerrant history. This is true
whether they are Christian, Jewish or otherwise.

How many of your readers know that over 10,000 American clergy have
signed "An Open Letter Concerning Religion and Science"? This says,
"We believe that the theory of evolution is a foundational scientific
truth, one that has stood up to rigorous scrutiny and upon which much
of human knowledge and achievement rests. To reject this truth… is to
deliberately embrace scientific ignorance and transmit such ignorance
to our children... "

It may be that you discount these opinions based on your publication's
Statement of Faith. This reads "the Bible, consisting of Old and New
Testaments only… is the infallible and authoritative Word of God…".

But that would be dogma, not science.

You are free to disagree with the opinions of others. However, it is
surely bearing False Witness to pretend that these opinions simply do
not exist.

Your readers can check the sources for my statements here.

Kind regards


Monday, November 20, 2006

Jesus Camp

Go and see the movie Jesus Camp

Two things stood out for me. One was Pastor Becky Fischer watching a video of children being whipped up into an emotional frenzy over the issue of abortion. "Extreme liberals", she conceded, might be disturbed by that.

The other was 12 year old Levi, describing how dealing with non-Christians makes him feel "yucky". He says "A lot of people in this world are sick". He's told repeatedly that he'll be something important in the future... On one scene, he idolises Ted Haggard, who as we all know now is a "liar and a deceiver". It's hard not to see Levi as some sort of future Travis Bickle in-the-making. Poor kid.

"We can't have phoneys in the army of God", bellows Pastor Fischer at one point in the film.

And all this brought home a vital element of faith missing from the discussions in my previous two posts here on Doublethink and religious belief... That of blind, wilfull ignorance in the face of overwhelming reality to the contrary.

Simply put, these people actually believe that the crap they spout is true - and that they can safely ignore any evidence or opinions to the contrary.

Here's a quote from a religious-type, from a current Talk Origins POTM nominee post....

...my understanding is that about 90% of Americans believe in God and creation of some kind. I hear that about 50% of Americans believe in creation as the Bible describes it. I find it hard to believe that these 50-90% of Americans are the uneducated, while the unbelieving 10% are the educated and enlightened.
The vast majority of creationists and their ilk just do not get that their beliefs are based on ignorance, and that it means something that the more educated people are, the less likely they are to believe in God or "creationism".


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Haggard & Santorum RIP

I was just surfing Brent Rasmussen's blog, and he has a quote from the very wonderful Dan Savage (of Savage Love) about Ted Haggard's fall from grace. You remember Ted Haggard. He's the guy who led a homophobic evangelical church and went on and on and on about how terrible gayness was. Surprise, surprise, it turns out he was a "liar and a deceiver". But as Dan points out, there is a special level of hypocrisy in Ted Haggard's behaviour, as he was one of the leading advocates of the idea that sexual "aberrance" could be cured by following the proper path of Jesus. Dan writes:

"If you believe that Jesus Christ can change the sexual orientation of a believer, why on earth did he refuse to cure Haggard? Haggard founded a church that has 14,000 members! Thousands were brought to Christ by Haggard's preaching. Mixed in with Ted's meth-fueled gay-sex romps and hypocritical gay-bashings were, without a doubt, thousands of good works.

Did Jesus help Haggard out? No. Haggard struggled with temptation all his life. He tried to battle off his "dark" desires, but nothing proved effective. There was no cure for Haggard, no miracle. No matter how long he struggled, no matter how much faith he had, Haggard's sexual orientation remained unchanged. Nothing helped. Not prayer, not Jesus H. Christ on his cross.


If giving his heart to Jesus couldn't cure Haggard, what hope is there for the likes of me? If Jesus can't be bothered to work a miracle for the most powerful evangelical minister in the country, what "hope" is there for the average dyke?


The ex-gay thing is over. It's dead. It was bullshit from the start, and it's bullshit now."

Very nice. Dan's column also talks about his part in the defeat of Senator Rick Santorum in the recent elections for the US senate. He links to this video clip where the ex-Senator attacks "liberals" for being, supposedly, inherently evil and irresponsible.

Quite staggeringly amusingly, Santorum says repeatedly that liberals believe that they should be allowed to do whatever they want to do - have abortions, have sex, whatever they like - and at each turn you can see him choking down the words "...as long as no-one gets hurt". Because, of course, those words destroy his whole argument.

What a wanker.



For the longest time, I've been trying to come up with a word to describe the "Religionist" behaviour of saying and believing things which are blatantly untrue.

Take for example the recent changes to the law regarding rape in Pakistan. Until now, four male witnesses were needed for a charge to succeed. Otherwise, a woman complaining of rape would face the very serious charge of adultery. This brough an utterly ludicrous reaction from some Fundamentalists:

Islamist lawmakers walked out of parliament, boycotting the vote, after leader Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman told the assembly the change to the law would encourage free sex.

"This is an attempt to create a free sex zone in Pakistan," he said.
The mind boggles.

Now, Mr Fazal-ur-Rehman isn't lying here, because he fervantly believes what he is saying to be true. But what does one call this extreme level of cognitive dissonance?

I recently came across a description of what is known as "Tolstoy Sydrome" which seems to fit the bill. It's named after description by that great Russian author:
"The most difficult subjects can be explained to the most slow-witted man if he has not formed any idea of them already; but the simplest thing cannot be made clear to the most intelligent man if he is firmly persuaded that he knows already, without a shadow of doubt, what is laid before him."
The concept of accepting two mutually contradictory opinions (that tightening rape laws will lead to free sex) was beautifully described by George Orwell in his seminal novel 1984, in his description of Doublethink:
"The power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one's mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. ... To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies—all this is indispensably necessary."
So, I guess, I don't need a new word. Doublethink and Tolstoy Syndrome (and good old cognative dissonence and blind ignorance) sum up the "religionist" mindset very well.

There's a great example in a recent opinion piece in the wonderfully named Texarkana Gazette, from a chap called Derrell Murphy:
"The liberal Secularists’ actions [in banning school prayer, the public display of the ten commandments, et al.] have overthrown centuries of established legal precedent, based on the Bible."
Whether you believe that prayer in school is bad or good, or the ten commandments should be displayed in public or not, the idea that the legal precedents involved have been "based on the Bible" is just nonsensical. It's wrong, false and untrue. But people keep believing it, because they are told it repeatedly, and because to accept that this is wrong (which as I may have mentioned it is) would demolish their entire argument.

But hey. Such is the world we live in (and, to be fair, and long lived in).


It's a while...

It's a while since I wrote regularly as PTET. Maybe it's time to start back up.

When I started this Blog, I thought I would be able to reason with Fundamentalist Christians and Creationists. I didn't expect to "deconvert" anyone, but I did hope to have them question their beliefs - and I hoped too that they would help me question mine. I've learned a lot in my writings and explorations... But there is of course a whole lot I don't know - and there always will be.

At first, I tried to reason with these "Religionists". Invariably, they came back with the same arguments and sets of factoids which they said supported their beliefs. It was like arguing with people who were reading from a script. I then tried to show them that their script was wrong. I took great care to check their sources, and to show in detail where and why their sources were incorrect.

I would demonstrate, for example, that evolutionary theory did not "exclude" ideas of God, by showing that most religious scientists had no problem reconciling their faith with the "fact" of evolution. I laid out how archaeology and history and studies of comparative mythology should as sure as anyone could hope for that the Bible was not literally true, or historically accurate, or anything which could even be said to approach being "inerrant".

But still, the same arguments came back, time and time again, as if those arguing with me inhabited an alternative reality.

This became frustrating, and I tried a different tack. I pressed the point that the sources used by these Fundamentalist Christians and Creationists were demonstrably wrong and mis-represented the opinions of scientists and theologans... And that the repeat them was to bear False Witness. In effect, I thought, they were *lying*. However, these accusations only led to anger, and those arguing with me becoming ever more entrentched in their positions.

And, after a while, it all became just too tiresome, and I came to the conclusion that these people were just crazy.

But of course, they are not "crazy". And they are not exactly liars either - because no matter how much their opinions differ vastly with reality, and no matter how much they are demonstrably wrong, the simple sad fact is that Fundamentalist Christians and Creationists believe fervently, sincerely, and wholeheartedly that they are true.

The beliefs of Fundamentalist Christians and Creationists aren't based on reason. Therefore they are not open to reason in arguments against them. Their beleifs come from faith, and this faith that they are right infects every part of their thinking.

Quite terrifying, this "faith based reasoning" has escaped from the confines of religion, and has become a standard part of the political, moral and philosophical discourse of the twenty-first century.

In the past few years we've seen an ill-judged war in Iraq inspired, fought, and mis-managed beyond belief not on the basis of reason and fact - but on the understanding (not always inspired by religion) that the mere *belief* in the existence of weapons of mass destruction, or that a war could be won with minimal resources, or that the Iraqi people would treat the Americans as liberators, would make these things come true.

It's important to stress that this faith has not all been religious... However, without a doubt the increase in the influence of faith-based reasoning has been led, inspired and promoted by religion - and by those who's sincerest wish is to take humanity back, back before the time of the Enlightenment, back to a mythical golden age when religion and faith ruled humanity, and science and unpleasant reality could and should be ignored.

And with that, I think it's time I got back to some occassional blogging :-)


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Radio Otherfunk

Hello world!

It's been a long time since I posted as Ptet.

I started this Blog in an attempt to understand the minds of Christians, to learn what they had to say, and (I hoped) to persuade others if not them of the irrational and bizarre nature of Fundamentalist beliefs...

I guess what I really learned is "these people are crazy".

I'm sure I'll return to regular posting one day, but for now, if you've enjoyed (or hated) anything you've read here, please check out Radio Otherfunk, which features the odd bit of religion and philosophy amongst the music...

And a final thanks for the nice emails I've had from various people over the past few months. You know who you are. Very much appreciated.

Your friend


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

George Bush's Faith

"The President can't imagine that someone who is President of the United States could not have faith, because he derives so much from it", Bush's chief of staff, Andrew Card, said. "I can see him struggle with other world leaders who don't appear to be grounded in some faith," he said. He added, "The President doesn't care what faith it is, as long as it's faith."

Jeffrey Goldberg, The New Yorker, 6 Feb 2006

FAITH: "Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

God's little gotcha...

"Doesn't [the Bible]... imply that 'The Fall' was planned from the beginning? That means that god WANTED adam and eve to eat the apple. Actually, that's pretty [easy]... to guess anyway. Put the tree in the middle of the garden and tell two people who don't know right from wrong not to eat from it. Either god is a complete moron, or he actually wanted them to eat it." - Conspiracy of Doves, Talk.Origins, 24 Jan 2006
Judeao-Christianity certainly has some weird ideas about God... The idea of the Lord getting angry at Adam & Eve for disobediance makes Him out to be a psychopathic bully. Truly He is the God Of Love... Not! ;>

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Thoughts on "The Twilight of Atheism"

On my recent travels I came across a book called The Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World by Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford University. I should really pick up a copy. Christianity Today has an excerpted and condensed summary. He argues that atheism has "failed", and posits:

Far from being secularized, the West is experiencing a new interest in religion. Patterns of immigration mean that Islam and Hinduism are now major living presences in the cities of Western Europe and North America. Pentecostalism is a rapidly growing force, strengthened by the arrival of many Asian and African Christians in the West. The future looks nothing like the godless and religionless world so confidently predicted 40 years ago. The atheist agenda, once seen as a positive force for progress, is now seen as disrespectful toward cultural diversity.
What's interesting to me is that this argument depends on the failures of very deterministic and "modernist" offshoots of "atheistic" thought, such as Freudian thought Communism... But of course the beliefs of those who do not believe in God as in reality every bit as diverse as the beliefs of those who do believe in Gods. Even amongst Christianity, we find that most Christians subscribe to non-Christian beliefs - for example that salvation is open to non-Christians, and an acceptance of such things as astrology, etc. I'll come back to this issue of divergent beliefs in more detail in later posts...

For now, I'm most interested in this part of McGrath's conclusion:
Paradoxically, the future of atheism will be determined by its religious rivals. Those atheists looking for a surefire way to increase their appeal need only to hope for harsh, vindictive, and unthinking forms of religion to arise in the West.
Here, the rise of the religious right, particularly in the USA, seems like an ominous contradiction of McGrath's optimism. Andrew Sullivan quotes a recent study which reported that:
Fully 44% of Americans believe that God gave the land that is now Israel to the Jewish people while a substantial minority (36%) thinks that "the state of Israel is a fulfillment of the biblical prophecy about the second coming of Jesus"
As you may have read, the leading Evangelist Pat Robertson recently embarrassed the hell out of himself by implying that Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for his withdrawal from Gaza. Sullivan notes:
When a poll of all adults finds over a third holding the view that the state of Israel is fulfilling the prophecy of the imminent Second Coming, you can see that pre-millenarianism is not some fringe idea, touted by Robertson. It's fundamentalist orthodoxy. Robertson is cruel and tactless, and many evangelicals would agree. Their compassion forbids them from making personal attacks as Robertson does. But he didn't make up his theology. And it's mainstream.
Many on the web are arguing that Pat Robertson is not representative of mainstream evangelical thought. While the poll figures seem to suggest otherwise, I think this is the case. Most evangelical Christians, even in the US, aren't as cold and heartless (or as stupid) as Robertson.

So what does that mean for religion & spirituality in the 21st century? is McGrath right? Is atheism dying? More on this to come ;>

Happy 2006

A couple of quickies...

Rolf gives a Happy New Year to all fundies where he discusses the writings of early fathers of the Christian church, and in particular Origen:

Origen explains that to those "not altogether blind the gospels are full of passages of this kind," which are "recorded as actual events, but which did no happen literally." He quotes as an example the story of Jesus being tempted by the evil. Jesus is taken up a high mountain where he is shown all the kingdoms of the world, which the Devil offers him if he will only fall down and worship him. Origen pours scorn on the idea that anyone could actually see all the kingdoms of the world from the top of a mountain and affirms that this is meant to be understood allegorically. He tells us:

"The careful reader will detect thousands of other passages like this in the gospels."
Also check out Andrew's excellent Handling Challenges to Evolution, the TalkOrigins post of the month for November 2005, where he discusses a superb talk on evolution by a high school biology teacher:
"What a scientific theory is is the explanation which fits all observable facts. If you perform an experiment which contradicts your theory, the theory is changed to explain this new data. The theory of evolution has been changed and added to countless times since Darwin first proposed it; it will be changed and added to countless times in the future, the day may come when many of Darwin's ideas will be seen as absurd by the scientific community; but at this moment, the theory of evolution is the only scientific theory that explains all the observable data we have in our hands right now."

"Is evolution a theory? Absolutely. Does this mean that we're not sure that it's true? Absolutely not."
On a side note, it appears that Darrick Dean's woeful IDiotic blog ScienceWatch seems to have vanished. Maybe he's seen the light? ;>