“ A really clever trick – and I'm not sure how the great religions have managed to pull this one off - is to make the rest of us feel that we ought to respect people for believing impossible things on faith, and that we should not laugh at them for fear of offending them. In a society that strives for honesty and openness, that values scientific and historical truth, and that encourages the search for knowledge, this is outrageous - and it's scary that we still fall for it. ”
I have long been an atheist. I support Richard Dawkins's view that atheists should be encouraged to "stand up and be counted" so that our numbers can fairly influence government and the media. Atheism is mainstream but even many atheists don't realise this. This set of pages is my contribution.
Consciousness-raiser: "Atheists should be proud, not apologetic, because atheism is evidence of a healthy, independent mind."
Articles on this web site
How to convert an atheist
Religions and gods?
In many debates about atheism, religious people argue from the naive (and probably unconscious) stance that their religion is the only one worth discussing, and their god is what an atheist denies. Here are links to articles elsewhere that illustrate the wider scope of religions and gods, (and hence of atheism). All religions are minority religions. Whatever a person's religion, most religious people in the world deny that person's fundamental beliefs!
World Christian Database:
"... every day some two or three new religions are formed, and ... in the contemporary world some ten thousand religions are currently practiced".
A few gods: Athena, Aphrodite, Hermes, Nike, Hades, Cronus, Rhea, Ascelpius, Psyche, Hera, Poseidon, Zeus, Hestia, Apollo, Hephestaus, Eros, Prisoners of Tartarus, Demeter, Dionsyus, Oranos, Gaea, Apollo, Bacchus, Dionysus, Ceres, Demeter, Cupid, Eros, Diana, Artemis, Fortuna, Janus, Juno, Hera, Jupiter, Zeus, Maia, Mars, Ares, Mercury, Hermes, Minerva, Athena, Neptune, Poseidon, Pluto, Hades, Proserpina, Persephone, Saturn, Cronus, Uranus, Ouranos, Venus, Aphrodite, Vesta, Hestia, Vulcan, Baldr, Borr Bragi, Iðunn, Búri, Dagr, Delling, Eir, Forseti, Freyja, Frey, Frigg, Fulla, Gefjun, Hel, Heimdall, Hermóðr, Hlín, Höðr, Hœnir, Iðunn, Jörð, Kvasir, Lofn, Loki, Máni, Mímir, Nanna, Nerþus, Njörðr, Norns, Skuld, Verdandi, Nótt, Óðinn, Sága, Sif, Sjöfn, Skaði, Skirnir, Sól, Thor, Týr, Ullr, Urd, Váli, Vár, Vé, Verdandi, Víðarr, Vili and Vör.
Atheism and separate topics
Typical discussions often conflate some of these separate (but related) topics:
- Gods or not?
(This is about the nature of the universe, and is often about theism/atheism).
- Is religion good or bad?
(This about antireligion, or antitheism, and not about whether gods exist).
- Is science telling us the truth?
(This is nearly always about "evolution by natural selection", but it shouldn't be!)
- What about morals / ethics?
(Is religion the best way to achieve the good life, civic virtues and social harmony?)
Although these are obviously related, the relationships are not obvious nor consistent. For example:
- Some atheists are not antireligious. Some antireligious people are not atheists.
- Some atheists have little scientific literacy. Some religious people have scientific literacy.
- Some religious people are good, and some are bad. Some atheists are good, and some are bad.
- Some people claim that science has nothing useful to say about morals and ethics. Some people point out that scientifically illuminating human nature will reveal the limits of robust systems of morals and ethics, and help identify the most effective moral and ethical systems. They also point out that science can explain altruism.
It is useful for people to appreciate that these topics are separate. For example:
- Any harm done by religion doesn't prove that gods don't exist. After all, Yahweh (God of the Old Testament) appears to be the most evil character in the whole of human literature, so the existence of harmful religions may well be consistent with the existence of Yahweh!
- There is no evidence that people killed one-another in greater quantities before Moses (supposedly) revealed the "Do not kill" commandment than afterwards. And the Biblical commandments don't include "Do not rape", "Do not own slaves", "Do not discriminate on grounds of ...", or "Do not abuse children". (How could they, when the Old Testament encouraged all those?) What does this say about Yahweh versus modern moral and ethical codes?
The UK's laws constraining free speech about religion
The United Nations, led by Islamic countries, wants all countries to pass laws to make "defamation of religions" illegal.
The UN has already issued a non-binding declaration: PDF version of declaration. Now it wants this to become a binding declaration!
(This section was opposed by Blair's government, who were trying to secure the Muslim vote. Blair was advised that, because of opposition, the government were inevitably going to lose, so Blair didn't bother to vote. The government lost by 1 vote! Had Blair bothered to vote, he would have defeated this section).
29J - Protection of freedom of expression:
"Nothing in this Part shall be read or given effect in a way which prohibits or restricts discussion, criticism or expressions of antipathy, dislike, ridicule, insult or abuse of particular religions or the beliefs or practices of their adherents, or of any other belief system or the beliefs or practices of its adherents, or proselytising or urging adherents of a different religion or belief system to cease practising their religion or belief system".
In other words, I can't be prosecuted for what I say here. I don't incite religious hatred or violence, I just criticise and ridicule religion as I see fit. (If people don't want their beliefs to be ridiculed, they shouldn't have such inherently ridiculous beliefs!)
I have contempt for racism and racial prejudice, but religion is a totally different topic. I also have contempt for those who try to conflate race and religion in order to censor criticism of (any) religion.
Abolition of common law offences of blasphemy and blasphemous libel
The blasphemy laws of England and Wales are dead!