Alex’s Heresies – embracing a physical reality

news, commentaries and articles dedicated to a non-dualistic view of the world

Archive for the 'People' Category

News: Probably No God Bus Message – You Can Customise

This is the latest amusing twist to the Probably No God message on UK buses. Now you can insert your own message. Check site out here.

I didn’t say it was thought-provoking!

Alex McCullie

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News: Importance of Religion to US – Gallop

While religion is becoming less important to Australians, it still is big part of the US daily life. Here’s a state by state breakdown (10 top and 10 least plus overall) from the Gallop poll article.

Alex McCullie

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News: UK Man Shocked with No God Messages

The UK bus “probably no God” continues with a London business driver being horrified at seeing the bus messages questioning the existence of God (see article at Christian Today website). Why are religious people so fragile even with the most moderate questioning? Is this the problem of faith with no evidence?

I should complain every time I see a “you will be saved by God message”.

Alex McCullie

previous related blog entry


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News: Pope – Homosexuality Threat to Humanity

Again the Pope has shown the “official” Roman Catholic church’s position on homosexuality – it’s a sin and poses similar risks to humankind as climate change. In an end-of-year address to Vatican officials, Pope Benedict XVI equated homosexuality and climate change. This is probably much to the concern of liberal-minded Catholic believers. There are many news reports on the original speech and responses by groups and individuals - some links below.

News articles about the Pope’s speech and responses
National Post
Christian Today
Conservative Anglican defends Pope
Guardian Online
Religious conservatives defend Popes attacks

Alex McCullie

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News: Expelled and Expelled Exposed

Christian bookshops are keen to sell the Expelled DVD that is supposed to highlight the unfair favouring of evolution over the overtly religious creationism, now neatly re badged as Intelligent Design avoiding US Constitutional problems. The smart ideas of design are being expelled from the classroom by scientists and educators. Here’s an introduction by Christian Cinema.

Intelligent Design (ID), the ultimate oxymoron, keeps raising its ugly head. Instead of pontification about unsupported religious origin-beliefs, let’s see some real evidential support from the design supporters who want to be treated seriously. Evolution is one of most supported scientific theories of all time with numerous academic papers yearly in the most world’s most-respected scientific journals. Let the supporters of the ID achieve something similar and earn the right to be treated as scientific instead of being simply shouting about thinly disguised religious beliefs.

Mainstream scientists would welcome an alternate theory to evolution if it has stronger evidential support. There is nothing religious in science’s backing of evolution – it’s simply the best supported by a considerable margin. However we are yet to see the supporters of the various design beliefs present any sort of broad-based evidential support

Here’s an Expelled debunking site – Expelled Exposed.

Alex McCullie

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News: Giordano Bruno – heretic priest burnt 1600

In 1600 Giordano Bruno, a philosopher and former priest, was burnt at the stake in Rome for heresy. He proposed a heliocentric system like Copernicus within an infinite cosmos that consisted of identical particles – “seeds” – not dissimilar to Democritus’s “atoms”. His final blasphemy was to see God as part of this universe and not separate being as prescribed by the church. (interesting article in the New Yorker 25 Aug 2008)

Alex McCullie

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Profile: Robert G Ingersoll – soldier, politician, orator and agnostic

Robert Green Ingersoll was a very popular orator of the late 19th Century in the US. He spoke regularly promoting free thought and agnosticism as well as criticising religious belief. Ingersoll used his speeches – often long and fully memorised – to advocate radical social views on religion, slavery and woman’s suffrage.

After serving in the American Civil War, Ingersoll became the State Attorney General in Illinois. Ultimately he was unable to pursue a federal political career while still holding his agnostic beliefs and speaking on the need for major social reforms.

Robert Ingersoll was born in 1833 to an abolitionist Presbyterian preacher. He established a law practice with his brother after being admitted to the bar. Ingersoll formed the Illinois Cavalry Regiment and served as a Colonel in the Civil war. After following a state political career and being a famous and popular orator, he died in 1899 of heart failure.

…”What is greatness ?”

A great man adds to the sum of knowledge, extends the horizon of thought, releases souls from the Bastile of fear, crosses unknown and mysterious seas, gives new islands and new continents to the domain of thought, new constellations to the firmament of mind. A great man does not seek applause or place; he seeks for truth ; he seeks the road to happiness, and what he ascertains he gives to others. A great man throws pearls before swine, and the swine are sometimes changed to men. If the great had always kept their pearls, vast multitudes would be barbarians now.

A great man is a torch in the darkness, a beacon in superstition’s night, an inspiration and a prophecy. Greatness is not the gift of majorities ; it cannot be thrust upon any man ; men cannot give it to another; they can give place and power, but not greatness.

The place does not make the man, nor the sceptre the king. Greatness is from within.

Voltaire! a name that excites the admiration of men, the malignity of priests. Pronounce that name in the presence of a clergyman, and you will find that you have made a declaration of war. Pronounce that name, and from the face of the priest the mask of meekness will fall, and from the mouth of forgiveness will pour a Niagara of vituperation and calumny. And yet Voltaire was the greatest man of his Century, and did more to free the human race than any other of the sons of men.

(Voltaire – A Lecture by Robert G Ingersoll 1895)

Nearly, every people have created a god and the god has always resembled his creators. He hated and loved what they hated and loved, and he was invariably found on the side of those in power. Each god was intensely patriotic, and detested all nations but his own. All these gods demanded praise and flatter, and worship. Most of them were pleased with sacrifice, and the smell of innocent blood has ever been considered a divine perfume. All these gods have insisted upon having a vast number of priests, and the priests have always insisted upon being supported by the people, and the principal business of these priests has been to boast about their god and to insist that he could easily vanquish all the other gods put together.

(The God, Their Lectures by Robert G Ingersoll 1876 – Oration on the Gods)

© 2008 Alex McCullie

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Links: Sam Harris (YouTube videos)

Debate with Reza Aslan: part1 part2 part3 part4 part5

Religious faith: part1 part2 part3 part4 part5 part6

Holy Scriptures vs Modernism

Secular fundamentalism

Conversational intolerance

Misconceptions of atheism (full video)

Alex McCullie

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Links: Pat Churchland and Brain-Mind Issues (YouTube videos)

Patricia Churchland is Professor of Philosophy University of California – webpage. Her research concentrates on the interface between philosophy and neuroscience covering areas as consciousness, free will and the self.

Philosophy in the Age of Neuroscience Presentation: part1 part2 part3 part4 part5 part6

Open questions in Neuroscience: part1 part2 part3

Beyond Belief conference: part1 part2 part3 part4

Decisions, Responsibility and the Brain: part1 part2 part3 part4 part5 part6

Interview: part1 part2 part3

Alex McCullie

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Person: Baron d’Holbach – 18th Century French Atheist

Relatively unknown today baron d’Holbach, Paul-Henri Thiry, was a popular Parisian author and philosopher renowned for hosting dinner parties with intellectuals and politicians from around Europe and beyond. Educated in classics and law and having financial support from his uncle, Holbach pursued many intellectual endeavours including translating German and English scientific and philosophical works into French as well as writing polemics critical of the Roman Catholic Church.

Holbach was born in Edesheim, Germany in 1723 but spent most of his life in France where he died in 1789. Over his lifetime he authored or co-authored 50 books and over 400 articles.

Being fluent in German and English, Holbach translated German chemistry and mineralogy works into French. He also translated philosophical works from English including Hobbe’s Human Nature. Holbach contributed some 400 articles to Denis Diderot’s Encyclopédie. Diderot was a close friend and a regular guest at Holbach’s dinner parties. David Hume, Benjamin Franklin and Jean-Jacques Rousseau were also on his guest list.

Holbach advocated a strongly materialistic view of nature – consisting of matter and motion only – and was a very harsh critic of the church. He published anonymously to avoid prosecution such as attributing Christianity Unveiled (published 1767) to Nicholas Boulanger, who died in 1759. However Holbach’s major work was The System of Nature (1770), which was later summarised in Common Sense, (1772) – available from Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page

From Common Sense:

“There is a vast empire, governed by a monarch, whose strange conduct is to confound the minds of his subjects. He wishes to be known, loved, respected, obeyed; but never shows himself to his subjects, and everything conspires to render uncertain the ideas formed of his character.

The people, subjected to his power, have, of the character and laws of their invisible sovereign, such ideas only, as his ministers give them. They, however, confess that they have no idea of their master; that his ways are impenetrable; his views and nature totally incomprehensible. These ministers, likewise, disagree upon the commands which they pretend have been issued by the sovereign, whose servants they call themselves. They defame one another, and mutually treat each other as impostors and false teachers. The decrees and ordinances, they take upon themselves to promulgate, are obscure; they are enigmas, little calculated to be understood, or even divined, by the subjects, for whose instruction they were intended. The laws of the concealed monarch require interpreters; but the interpreters are always disputing upon the true manner of understanding them. Besides, they are not consistent with themselves; all they relate of their concealed prince is only a string of contradictions. They utter concerning him not a single word that does not immediately confute itself. They call him supremely good; yet many complain of his decrees. They suppose him infinitely wise; and under his administration everything appears to contradict reason. They extol his justice; and the best of his subjects are generally the least favoured. They assert, he sees everything; yet his presence avails nothing. He is, say they, the friend of order; yet throughout his dominions, all is in confusion and disorder. He makes all for himself; and the events seldom answer his designs. He foresees everything; but cannot prevent anything. He impatiently suffers offence, yet gives everyone the power of offending him. Men admire the wisdom and perfection of his works; yet his works, full of imperfection, are of short duration. He is continually doing and undoing; repairing what he has made; but is never pleased with his work. In all his undertakings, he proposes only his own glory; yet is never glorified. His only end is the happiness of his subjects; and his subjects, for the most part want necessaries. Those, whom he seems to favour are generally least satisfied with their fate; almost all appear in perpetual revolt against a master, whose greatness they never cease to admire, whose wisdom to extol, whose goodness to adore, whose justice to fear, and whose laws to reverence, though never obeyed!

This EMPIRE is the WORLD; this MONARCH GOD; his MINISTERS are the PRIESTS; his SUBJECTS MANKIND.”

 

Highlights:

  • French author, encyclopaedist, philosophy during the French enlightenment
  • Born in Edesheim, Germany but brought to Paris by his rich uncle and educated in the classics and then law at University of Leiden in Netherlands
  • Famed for his dinner parties in his Paris home entertaining such people as Denis Diderot, David Hume, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Benjamin Franklin. These meetings appeared to be more than the meeting of atheists and materialists with members of the clergy frequently attending.
  • Contributed some 400 articles to Diderot’s Encyclopédie; also translated German works on chemistry and mineralogy as well as philosophical works from English.
  • Published anonymously to avoid persecution as well as attributed his works to other authors e.g. Christianity Unveiled (1767) to Nicholas Boulanger who died in 1759.
  • Three early works were The Holy Disease, A Critical History of Jesus Christ and Table of Saints
  • His major work was The System of Nature (1770) where he argues that science, experience and reason explain all things in the universe and that all things must conform to the laws of physics. Hence there is no need for supernatural causes including god.
  • Wrote a more concise version, Common Sense, and is available from Project Gutenberg http://www.gutenberg.org/wiki/Main_Page.
  • Later translated Hobbes’s Human Nature to French
  • Advocated a reversal of special church privileges and separation of church and state. Also saw a moral society without the need for superstition and religion.
  • Considered by some to have laid the foundation for the French Revolution.

 Another atheist to consider is French priest Jean Meslier (1664-1729). He was an extreme critic of the church.

© 2008 Alex McCullie

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