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Morality without a God

by David Roffey

"… consolatory nonsense seems to me a fair definition of myth, anyway … Myth deals in false universals, to dull the pain of particular circumstances." Angela Carter

The Preface to Richard Dawkins' new book, The God Delusion, says: "If this book works as I intend, religious readers who open it will be atheists when they put it down." On the face of it, a deeply unlikely ambition, and not one that is borne out by the quality of the writing. Along the way, however, it does raise some important questions about the nature of morality, and the relationship of morality to religion.

Let's start with Dawkins' tome …

The God Delusion

Since time immemorial, people have been ascribing what they don't understand to gods and magical beings. This is still the essential argument of many deists, most notably the Intelligent Design / Creationists: "it's too complicated to be explained, therefore a God must have done it". Richard Dawkins, it seems, has had enough of writing popular science texts that attack this idea by explaining the complicated, and has moved on to attack the basic premise.

Dawkins is careful to define the God he is attacking: "a superhuman, supernatural intelligence who deliberately designed and created the universe and everything in it, including us." (p.31) and: "in addition to his main work of creating the universe in the first place, is still around to oversee and influence the subsequent fate of his initial creation." (p.18). Examples: Yahweh, Christ, Allah, but not Buddha or Confucious.

So, we are not here discussing an Einsteinian or Spinozan amorphous belief in (eg) a god or force who designed the universe but has taken no actions in it for several billion years once it was set up or sneezed out of the Great Green Arkleseizure * (busy with some other project?). "To adapt Alice's comment on her sister's book before she fell into Wonderland, what is the use of a God who does no miracles and answers no prayers. Remember Ambrose Bierce's witty definition of the verb 'to pray': 'to ask that the laws of the universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner, confessedly unworthy'." (p.60)

Failure to understand this distinction as it is intended renders, for example, the New Scientist review of the book meaningless, as well as many other criticisms of it from those who say they do not recognise the God they believe in as the one under attack – simultaneously not recognising that the God they believe in is not the same one that their church, temple or mosque believes in, either.

Second definition: Delusion: "a persistent false belief held in the face of strong contradictory evidence" (MS Word dictionary). Dawkins notes with interest that the illustrative quotation for "delusion" in the Penguin English Dictionary is "Darwinism is the story of humanity's liberation from the delusion that its destiny is controlled by a power higher than itself" (Phillip E Johnson).

Now, clearly any follower of any religion believes that theirs is the only true and valid view. However, there is a wide range of views about what to do about the infidels who don't believe (or, worse, believe in something else). I have a vivid memory of a service led by the saintly Rev Dr Ann Wansbrough which began with a welcome that included the words: "My God loves you whether you believe in him or not." Like everyone else, I also have many vivid memories of news of incidents perpetrated by those who think in more violent terms on how you treat unbelievers. Dawkins' motivation for attacking religion, rather than just ignoring it, is essentially because of the growing prevalence of the fundamentalist and intolerant view amongst followers of many religions (but most particularly in the three Abrahamic faiths). Anyone who has seen Andrew Denton's low-key masterpiece God on my side has seen some good examples. (NB, keep watching to the end of the credits for the best question of the whole film.)

Dawkins has the traditional fun with the myriad contradictions and inconsistencies of the Bible story, and the unlikelihood that anyone could live their life following God's word as set out in it without being banged up for life:

"The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a mysogynist, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully." (p.31)

Knockabout stuff, but not really up to the task of persuading the deluded that Dawkins has set himself. A confirmed deist who took on the penance of reading the whole thing will have no difficulty brushing off the rational (after all, faith in the irrational is how they got where they are to start with). They might give up on page 253, just after St Paul is described by Dawkins (with every justification, admittedly) as "barking mad, as well as viciously unpleasant".

Which would be a shame, because they'd miss some of the more important questions on the next few pages, as Dawkins raises questions of just what exactly is the morality we can get from religious teachings, and where they can lead us. A few recent debates elsewhere on Webdiary might be illuminated by the discussion of Israeli schoolchildren's reactions to and learnings from the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (pp.255-7) [NB – worth reading the whole paper by John Hartung from which Dawkins' discussion is drawn.]

Choosing which of God's Rules to follow

The key point raised is this: clearly, good Christians don't get all of their moral teaching from the Bible, or, more accurately, don't get their moral teaching from all of the Bible – they pick and choose amongst God's word for the principles they feel comfortable with, and discard the ones they don't. Faced with the injunction to " utterly destroy all that was in the city, both man and woman, young and old, and ox, and sheep, and ass, with the edge of the sword" (and keep the gold for the Treasury), most of us have second thoughts, and those that don't tend to end up on trial, as do those Muslims who follow up on the equally lurid odd passages of the Koran.

We all interpret and choose amongst the moralities set out around us, and the evidence is that the choices that atheists and religious people make when faced with moral dilemmas are very similar (pp.222-6). So, Dostoevsky's Ivan Karamazov was almost certainly wrong, and without god, not everything is permitted, and not only because "conscience is that inner voice that warns us that someone may be looking" (HL Mencken).

As one of Dawkins' chapter titles asks: why are we good? He provides a good summary of the evolutionary reasons why individuals might be altruistic, generous or 'moral' towards each other: kinship, reciprocation, reputation-building, and advertising ourselves as good breeding mates. Once we started banging the rocks together with a purpose, thoughtful humans have selected towards these characteristics (though not completely – see Capitalism's Moral Bastards). People who care are just more likely to successfully pass on their genes. We don't need that 'someone who may be looking' to be some omniscient and personified surveillance system with a penchant for smiting or torturing for eternity those who transgress.

On the other side, as we've already aired here, those who do want to do almightily awful things to their fellow human beings (and the rest of the denizens of the planet), can find plenty of justification in the weirder outreaches of their holy books.

As Dawkins sees it (and I agree), the big problem with religion is not so much in the detail of the Jericho's and the '72 virgins', but in the absolutism of the handing down of knowledge, and the aversion to discovery (not to mention the whole Armageddon movement and its view of all the fire, flood and disaster as being preliminaries to final days – and thus not only unavoidable / unpreventable, but to be welcomed).

The question is, now that we're applying intelligence as well as instinct and evolution to our morality, just how do we choose the rules we follow from among those set out by our peers, our parents, or our favourite prophet?


Morality without a God

As it happens, while I was reading The God Delusion, I was also reading another book covering this ground from a very different direction: Values, Ethics and Society: Exton Land [an alter ego of writer LE Modesitt Jr (LE = Leland Exton)] **

"What is ‘ethical’ or moral? A general definition is that actions that conform to a ‘right set of principles’ are ethical. Such a definition begs the question: Whose principles? On what are those principles based? Do those principles arise from reasoned development by rational scholars? Or from ‘divine’ inspiration? Does it matter, so long as they inspire moral and ethical behaviour? ... In practice, with or without a deity, every action is permitted unless human social structures preclude it. Yet, on what principles are those social structures based? Ethics and morality?

Theocracies and other societies using religious motives, or pretexts, have undertaken genocide, torture, and war. Ideologues without the backing of formal religious doctrine or established theocratic organizations have done the same. The obvious conclusion is that ‘moral’ values must be ethical in and of themselves, and not through religious or secular authority or rationalized logic. This leads to the critical questions: How can one define what is ethical without resorting to authority, religious doctrine, or societal expediency? And whom will any society trust to make such a judgment, particularly one not based on authority, doctrine, or expediency?"

Setting out some principles

On the face of it, the definition of ethical looks pretty straightforward. It is relatively easy to set out a "new ten commandments" that fit most people's ideas of ethics and morality – Dawkins references some of these – and they will have a substantial overlap with the principles in the Sermon on the Mount – which is one of only three incidents in the story of Jesus that are agreed upon by all the Gospel writers (the others being the baptism and the passion week story). The problem is that atheists are no more likely to actually act on those principles in their day-to-day life than Christians are. If you think I'm being harsh, try looking for the frequency of application of a few examples, say (not at all at random): "Agree with thine adversary quickly" or "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you" or "Judge not, that ye be not judged".

The Golden Rule ("do as you would be done by") would tend to come first, followed by "(strive to) do no harm". Of the original Ten (though actually there is not agreement amongst the sects on what the original Ten are), we can fairly easily accept the injunctions against murder, theft and perjury, while wondering how it came that coveting your neighbours' stuff got to be more worth mentioning than, say, rape or child abuse, and not getting too distracted by the thought that at least some sects have used "honour thy father and mother" as justification for forms of the latter.

"To insist that people not annex their neighbor's cattle or wife 'or anything that is his' might be reasonable, even if it does place the wife in the same category as the cattle, and presumably to that extent diminishes the offense of adultery. But to demand 'don't even think about it' is absurd and totalitarian, and furthermore inhibiting to the Protestant spirit of entrepreneurship and competition.": (Christopher Hitchens, in Slate)

Dawkins, with a modern sensibility, argues for "do not discriminate or oppress on the basis of race, sex or (as far as possible) species", "do not indoctrinate your children" and "view the future on timescale longer than your own". (pp.263-5)

However, this only takes us so far along the route. The principles may be clear, but how do we actually operationalise them in our individual lives and police them in society's rules – and how much do we respect other society's/people's different rules.

"Traditionally, one of the fundamental questions behind every considered attempt to define ethical behaviour has been whether there is an absolute standard of morality or whether ethics can be defined only in terms of an individual and the culture in which that individual lives.

Both universal absolutism and cultural relativism are in themselves unethical. Not only is the application of universal absolutism impractical, but it can be unethical, because the universe is so complex that there are bound to be conflicts between standards in actual application, unless, of course, the standards are so vague that they convey only general sentiments.

‘Be kind to one another’ is good general guidance, but it does not qualify as an ethical standard because the range of interpretation of the meaning of ‘kind’ is so broad as to allow individuals incredible discretion. That does not even take into account the problems when society must deal with unethical or violent individuals.": 'Exton Land'

Interpreting the rules

It isn't only the definition of 'kind' that has been a problem. The other big problem in "be kind to one another" has traditionally been the circumscription of 'one another' to a severely reduced subset of humanity. Dawkins points out that the original Ten Commandments' "thou shalt not kill" only applied to other Jews – killing non-Jews didn't count (and in the case of Jericho and numerous other examples was at God's command). For most of history, 'one another' also didn't include any females, or at least not to the same extent – recall that Lot proved his status as the only man worth saving in Sodom by offering his daughters up for gang rape in place of the angels he was sheltering.

The modern response to these dilemmas sometimes seems to be ever more detailed definition of exactly what is or isn't forbidden / punishable / suable for, with piles of precedent and litigation to hone the edges of liability and guilt. Almost makes you want to hark back to the false certainties of doing what the AllFather tells you…

"The Judeo-Christian concept of ‘original sin’ as defined in basic Christian theology was and remains an extremely useful tool for social indoctrination, because (1) it provides a reason for evil while also allowing people to accept that evil is not the fault of the given individual; (2) supplies a rationale for why people need to be taught ethics and manners; and (3) still requires that people adhere to an acceptable moral code.

Only a small minority of human beings have a strong predilection toward either ‘morality’ or ‘immorality’. This has historically posed a problem for any civil society based on purely secular rule because (1) society in the end is based on some form of self-restraint; and (2) the impetus to require self-discipline and to learn greater awareness of what is evil and unacceptable lacks the religious underpinnings present in a theocracy or a society with a strong theocratic presence. Likewise, history has also demonstrated most clearly that the majority of individuals are uncomfortable in accepting a moral code that is not based on the ‘revelation’ of a divine being, because in matters of personal ethics, each believes his or her ethics are superior to any not of ‘divine’ origin.

As transparently fallacious as this widely accepted personal belief may be, equally transparent and fallacious – and even more widely accepted – are the ethical and moral systems accepted as created by divinities – and merely revealed to the prophets of each deity for dissemination to the ‘faithful’. Throughout history, this has been a useful but transparent fiction because the ‘divine’ origin of moral codes obviates the need for deciding between various human codes. Humans being humans, however, the conflict then escalates into a struggle over whose god or whose interpretation of god is superior, rather than focussing on the values of the codes themselves.": 'Exton Land'

Focusing on our values

It really is becoming very important that we try to focus on the values of the codes (and our society) themselves. We have let our society drift for the last fifty years or so along a path where the values of the individual and the market have been allowed progressively to dominate: where the central dogma is that there is no dogma – there is always another way of looking at things - that all voices deserve a hearing, that all points of view have something of value to offer.

"There is indeed an ethical absolute for any situation in which an individual may find himself or herself, but each of these absolutes exists only for that individual and that time and situation. This individual ‘absolutism’ is not the same thing as cultural relativism, because cultures can be, and often have been, totally unethical and immoral, even by their own professed standards. That a practice or standard is culturally accepted does not make it ethical. There have been cultures that thought themselves moral that practiced slavery, undertook genocide, committed infanticide, and enforced unequal rights based on gender or sexual orientation.

The principle practical problems with individual absolutism are that, first, one cannot implement a workable societal moral code on that basis, and, second, that any individual can claim unethical behaviours to be moral in a particular situation, which, given human nature, would soon result in endless self-justification for the most unethical and immoral acts. That said, the practical problems do not invalidate absolute individual morality, only its societal application …

In practice, what is necessary for a society is a secular legal structure that affirms basic ethical principles (eg, one should not kill, or injure others; one should not steal or deceive, etc), and that also provides a structured forum, such as courts, in which an accused has an unbiased opportunity to show that, under the circumstances, his behaviour was as moral as the situation allowed. Such a societal structure works, however, as demonstrated by history, only when the majority of individuals in the society are willing to sacrifice potential self-interest for the value of justice, and such societies have seldom existed for long, because most individuals eventually place immediate personal gain above long-term societal preservation.

The faster and more widely this ‘gospel of greed’ is adopted, the more quickly a society loses any ethical foundation – and the more rapidly it sows the seeds of its own destruction.": 'Exton Land'

The reaction to blatant wrongdoing that contravenes our basic values can be reduced to "well, that's the only way you can do business over there". If the only values we all submit to are the values of the market, then 'a fair go' doesn't get a market value, nor do the rest of the 'Australian Values' the Commonwealth is about to spend a small fortune on in our schools. (Hands up who can name them? - to save you, they are: Fair Go; Care and Compassion; Understanding, Tolerance and Inclusion; Integrity; Doing Your Best; Freedom; Respect; Responsibility - and doesn't our Federal Government stand up for all of these every day as an example to our kids.)

Letting market value determine the rules

"What happens to ethics and morality when economics reigns unchecked – when the negative externalities of not following an ethical course are not included in the marketplace? Laissez-faire economic systems simply assume that everything has a price, and that, if left alone, supply and demand will balance at an optimum price. As a general rule, it works fairly well. Or it does so long as there is an independent moral system underlying it.

Assume everything has a price. Does that mean that ethical behaviour also has a price? And that, if it is scarce, it becomes harder and harder for the average citizen to purchase?

Look at history, How many societies were there where ethical behaviour in trade and government were not the norm, but where bribery was necessary merely to ensure that both merchants and functionaries did their jobs? Then, in the worst cases, whether or not the job was done depended not on ethics, but on market power, on who could pay the highest price. In some societies, that was obvious. In others, that aspect of the market economy is far from obvious. They have an elected government, and everyone can vote. And they have a seemingly open legal system. But that system is based on the assumption that an adversarial system will provide the truth and justice. At times, it does, but only when both advocates are of close to equal ability and when the issues are relatively simple. Most times, the court ends up deciding for the party with the most resources, unless the case happens to be one that is truly egregious. The same thing happens with legislative bodies, because once large nation-states developed and modern communications emerged, the number of citizens represented by each legislator grew so large that only those candidates with the resources to purchase those communications services could reach the citizens. So, in the end, both the laws and their interpretation become commodities purchased by the highest bidders.": 'Exton Land'

How far are we down the road to a society where market power overrules democracy always and everywhere? I'm fascinated by how the Right are divided over this question: while some will protest that all is best in this best of all possible worlds, and our version of democracy is so strong and pure that it must be exported to the rest of the world (at gunpoint, if necessary), there is another faction that may have gotten quieter about the 'greed is good' philosophy since Wall Street, but basically believes it still.

The latter view is often mixed up with some simplistic interpretation of Adam Smith's 'invisible hand', and views such as this:

"The rich ... divide with the poor the produce of all their improvements. They are led by an invisible hand to make nearly the same distribution of the necessaries of life which would have been made, had the earth been divided into equal proportions among all its inhabitants." Adam Smith (1759), The Theory of Moral Sentiments. London: A. Millar, 1790. Part IV. Of the Effect of Utility upon the Sentiment of Approbation in paragraph IV.I.10

This earlier 'invisible hand', which predates the more famous one in the later Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776), exposes the habitual misapplication of the term, because The Theory of Moral Sentiments is imbued throughout by the unstated assumption that the aforementioned rich operate in a society with a shared set of values ('moral sentiments') based on pervasive agreements on ethics and morality that our society has largely left behind (or reserved for a small and compartmentalised segment of life).

A 'crisis of faith'?

There is some (mostly anecdotal) evidence that the general run of our society is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with the direction we are taking. Whether this unease or malaise is going to translate into action is far from clear.

"A societal crisis of faith occurs when the values that produced a particular incarnation of a society no longer correspond to the values held by the individuals and organisations holding economic, political, and social power in that society. Paradoxically, these value changes seem to occur first on a social level. In reality the changes are already far advanced by the time they appear, because in most societies social standing and mobility lag behind economic and political power. Those with economic power seldom wish to flaunt values at variance with social norms, and those in the political arena prefer a protective coloration that in fact straddles the perceived range of values, while ostensibly preferring the most popular of values …

Although all stable societies rest firmly on a consensus of values, invariably the individuals in those societies prefer not to discuss those values, except in glittering generalities, not because they are unimportant, but because they are so important that to discuss them seriously might open them to question and interpretation. Thus, the very protections of a society’s values preclude any wide-scale and public re-evaluation of those values and any recognition of a potential crisis of values.": 'Exton Land'

The need for a new consensus

We are coming to a period where the challenges to society are going to require actions that need a radical change to the fundamental ethics we hold so deeply that we haven't hardly questioned them at all. Only a short while ago, our Prime Minister got away almost unquestioned with the theory that we couldn't possibly consider doing anything about the future of the planet if it was going to potentially cost Australian jobs: even now the rhetoric is still (qua the Stern review) that saving the planet is only on the agenda because it might not cost any jobs after all.

We need a new consensus on morality and ethics. Coming full circle to where we started, I don't think we can look to religion to get us there, because although there are many wonderful and moral people in all major religions, large factions of the religious hold to various versions of either "let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth", or "these are the latter days, fire and flood, and there is nothing we can do to stop it" – this last being a direct quote from conversation with a famous Australian of evangelical bent.

Where are we going to get our consensus? Everywhere, I guess. David Curry's boy gets his worldview at least in part from The Lion King. Probably a better place to start than The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, which in the film version at least was so heavily into the Church Militant and smiting that I ended up cheering for the Witch. I, in my turn, have taken much of my text from the sidebars of a novel.

However we get there, the process must be at least as moral and ethical as the result.

"From the beginning of human history, there has always been a debate over the ethics of ends and the ethics of means. Can a good and ethical solution result from the use of unethical or immoral means? Does the end justify the means? Virtually all ethicists would agree that, of course, it does not, because, first, actions should be ethical in and of themselves, and, second, because corrupt means almost invariably result in corrupting the ends."



* "The Jatravartid People of Viltvodle Six firmly believe that the entire universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called The Great Green Arkleseizure. They live in perpetual fear of the time they call The Coming Of The Great White Handkerchief." The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: Dawkins' book is dedicated to Douglas Adams.

** 'Exton Land's writings are scattered through the section and chapter headings of Modesitt's books: all of the quotes above come from The Ethos Effect. As David Brin noted in the speech cited in the text, science fiction is one of the places where human creativity can explore the big questions without getting bogged down in the specifics of history and particular hard cases.


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Christmas an occasion for renewal and hope.

Evolutionary scientist Richard Dawkins last year declared Christmas safe for atheists, so divorced has it become from religion. Possibly it's another inflammatory statement from the author of The God Delusion, but I prefer to think of it as a timely and straightforward recognition that Christmas can be an occasion for renewal and hope for the religious and non-religious alike. Peace, joy and goodwill aren't, after all, the exclusive domain of people who can nominate a favourite psalm.

As an atheist I still still enjoy Christmas, I have to admit that my wife has the interior of our house all decked out with Christmas decorations and the exterior is covered in sparkling lights and a glowing Santa. I guess we are celebrating the end of another year. We look forward with hope for a new year to come. I am confused that our Santa can no longer say Ho Ho Ho, I didn't know what a Ho was until my wife explained it to me. Still it seems sad that we have to be that politically correct.  I  wish all at Webdiary a safe and happy Christmas. Christian, Jew, Muslim or Hindu all the best from someone who just enjoys any occasion to celebrate life.

Religion an economic enterprise that exploits people.

All 16 states are prepared to argue that the operations of the Church of Scientology run counter to the German constitution.

The minister for the city-state of Berlin says the organisation is an economic enterprise that exploits people.

Founded in the United States in 1954 by science-fiction writer L Ron Hubbard, Scientology was officially recognised as a religion in Germany in the 1970s.

L.  Ron Hubbard understood the needs of many and created his own religion. 

"I'm going to invent a religion that's going to make me a fortune. I'm tired of writing for a penny a word."

It could be argued that all religions are economic enterprises that exploit people. The German government is on the right track, but why stop with Scientology?

"Make money. Make more money. Make others produce so as to make money . . . However you get them in or why, just do it." and "Make sure that lots of bodies move through the shop,"

L. Ron Hubbard

People Want More In Their Butterfly Lives

John Pratt, Thomas S. Monaghan came from nothing, and worked his way into something. Truly a great American success story. He has now decided to dedicate HIS money to charity, and making the world a better place - and yet you mock?

He has built a place where not one person is forced to go - yet people from miles around wish to be a part of it. He is a person that is truly individual, and only wishes to be left alone the same way that those that are a part of his dream do. This dream has been taken from no person, and is owned and paid for by those involved. In ten years a fence will need to be built to keep the numbers (that cannot be catered for) out! So much for the government!

If he donated ten million or so to your guy's campaign (maybe he will) all you would do is give good press - how easily political people are bought and sold. It is a full-time job keeping them out of anything that works. The destroyers of all that they cross!

Paul Morrella: Monaghan

Paul Morrella: Monaghan's statement "I kind of liken it to a spiritual military academy," Monaghan said. "I think history is nothing but one big war between good and evil, and we have to produce leaders that can make a difference."

Does your face turn purple when you hear of the "atrocities" attributed to Allah, but you don't even flinch when hearing about how God/Jehovah slaughtered all the babies of Egypt in "Exodus" and ordered the elimination of entire ethnic groups in "Joshua" including women, children, and trees!

A lot of of evil has been done in the name of God. We need leaders that rise above the level of ethnic Gods. The last thing we need is a Christian military academy.

the ultimate conspiracy...

the ultimate conspiracy...

 .. an almost (99.9'%) perfect scam[1].


Better don't look, but we've (almost) all been conned. The 'almost' exception is that to be conned at all requires someone to do the conning. (Shudder. Quail. As per plan... looping, already.)

One of Dawkins' suggestions in his "God Delusion," is that the g*d idea is a meme; an idea that propagates like a virus, infecting peoples' minds (as opposed to brains), and that the major (required?) route of infection is one of being passed on from parent/carer to child. I can concur with most/all of this, but I think it's more than just a random emergence; I think it's most likely to be a deliberately cultivated virus/meme, somewhat akin/analogous to a GM entity. (So what? Wait...)


Part 1: the 'g*d construct.'

My apprehension[2, haw!] of some g*d construct:

Something (unspecified; unspecifiable) toadally® outside of and entirely separate from the universe, including all visible and invisible parts. (Argument: the g*d construct created the lot (or so goes the claim); must be an independent, precursor entity.)

One of the most complete, most revered concepts of science, is that of 'conservation.' Simply put, nothing (matter, energy etc) may either be created or destroyed; transformations are possible but essentially: what we've got is all there is, was, and ever-more will be.

Note that any putative 'creation' event directly and totally conflicts with this conservation.

Straight away, we have a collision between science and the g*d construct. This collision is acknowledged; it is said that science can neither prove nor disprove the existence of any such g*d construct. (Clever, eh? More to come...)

An important corollary of the conservation 'laws' is that exactly because nothing can be either created or destroyed and any g*d construct must be separate from and outside of the universe, then it means that no information exchange (matter, energy etc) can take place between our universe and any such 'outside' entity. In plain text, (according to science) there can be no communication between any g*d and the (physical) universe, i.e. people.


Q: How then, can anyone possibly be aware of any such g*d construct?

A: (The fiendish invention!) We, the chosen (or so goes the claim), have a non-material, spiritual component: Ta-ra! - Enter, the immortal soul. It's this soul that can commune with some g*d construct. (I mean, daaarlings, just how neat is that?)

All problems solved; the scam is complete.

The communication of the meme is sooo easy:

(The following process is particularly effective because of an unconditional 'inbuilt' trust that immature humans automatically extend to their parents/carers.)

a) scare vulnerable/immature minds with death, then

b) promise them eternal life-after-death.

Voila! Like a charm, all finished.


Aside 1: if proof were needed, I offer two (unattributed) quotes:

1) one traditional:

5:44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
5:45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

2) one recent:

Firstly, Christ did not come to make things better on earth. He said that the kingdom to which he came to lead us is not of this earth. You have to die to get "my Father's mansion".

More of these later.


Part 2: the universal applicability.

Once the fear of death(g*d) is acquired by (actually, pushed upon) a viable - (Haw! We're talking about death) - pushed upon a viable, self-propagating group, the problems begin. See all of history. The rot has now well and truly set in, and (contrary to my expectations) the rot is getting worse; see 'Hillsong,' say. It makes perfect - if perverse - sense; the more the world gets worse, the more people tend to flock (perfect word!) to the g*d escape.

Ignoring (for the moment) the 'born again' phenomena (the 'again' gives something away); note that for the very best effect, instilling the fear of death(g*d) is best done to vulnerable, usually immature minds. This is why Dawkins charged 'child abuse.'

Sooo, what are the applications? Well. From the 'very top,' if you're scared of death, forget it! You can have ever-lasting life. That's 'the biggie,' but there's more. Are you poor? Forget it! "The meek shall inherit the Earth." Are you being abused, ripped-off, stolen from? Forget it! "Sinners will go to Hell." Are you fatally ill? Forget it! "G*d loves you (these things are sent to try us)." You name the problem, g*d has an answer. (Smarmy, self-serving? Bet'cha!)


Aside 2: Wait a sec! Not everyone is a 'believer!' Correct. There are at least three more divisions 'out there' in the 'real' world. (And more religions; posit: most quite similar enough.)

(Note: I exclude from this discussion the Malthusian multitudes; as (usually) having a) no hope and b) no vote then c) they have no (effective) input.)

1) Cargo-cult consumers are being fed on diversions (and cheap Chinese junk); this group may and does contain believers, but the accent is on entertainment, as a substitute for 'real' life, say. As proof I offer any audience of the 'evil-eye' (flat panel?) TV-screen equipped 'home-entertainment' area. How does this audience look? As if soma-doped, distracted, mentally disengaged? Your eyes wide open, the audience's eyes fixed-gaze glazed? Take a good look, next time you're around some TV-addict.

As mooted; this group is believer or not, and (perhaps independently), happy or not. They are also not necessarily simply mindless consumers. The thing that uniquely identifies this group is that they are toadally unaware of the fact - or know but accept, that they are being deceived. This group is - the sheople®.

Q: What? Deceived? How?

A: By the status quo pushed-paradigm propaganda; that the world largely is as presented by Hollywood 'dreams' and the (venal!) MSM 'news;' that although, say, all politicians might lie, it is - and ever was - thus; i.e. no great harm done, and that the systems in place, whilst not perfect, are the best we're ever likely to get.

Comment: that the status quo pushed-paradigm propaganda is composed partly of filthy lies goes (almost) without saying; a perfect example is Howard's threats to the Iraqi (US-puppet) government, "Pass the oil-law or else!" To pass the oil-law would be to hand control of Iraqi oil to the (mostly US, some UK) oil-majors: i.e. completing the penultimate step in the oil-theft process.

Q: Does the (venal) MSM explain this to us, the sheople?

A: No. (Q: Why not? A: Haw!)

2) The ghostly group profiting from all'a the above; the 'movers and shakers,' the so-called (puppet!) rulers, the rip-off artistes - aka the kleptocracy®.

3) The (vanishingly?) small group not in either of the above. People who do not accept that the pushed-paradigm is anywhere near optimal; people who neither set out to, nor profit from the rip-offs. I'm definitely in this group, as you, dear reader, may well be. (Q: Or why else would you be here? A: If a troll, spy, psyop, and/or any such (criminal!) nasty: kindly P**S-OFF!) We of (3) are the truth and justice seekers; the 'honest united' (g'day and regards.)


Part 3: the scam.

Disclaimer: I use the word 'conspiracy,' but I will not stand to be accused of being some sort'a 'nutter.' I apply a WYSIWYG methodology; and what I see is criminal behaviour 'leading' this world. It could be, that this criminal behaviour is 'self-assembling,' that is to say not coordinated as such; more like a bunch of criminals all 'flying' in the same direction - as in a swarm of bees, say - but without any 'organising' intelligence, per se.

So. One of the big, bigger, biggest lies 'they' (the omni-present 'them,') tell us, is "Separation of Church and State." What utter and toadal BS! 'Our' parliament says prayers; it's thought that no un-believer could ever be elected US president – the intrusion of religion is ubiquitous. Here (in our allegedly secular, once beautiful wide-brown), Howard is 'at pains' to specifically remind us "... according to the Judao/Christian ethic which is meant to govern conduct in this country" and so on. The framing is set; we cannot escape.

Whether believer or not, the g*d-paradigm is deployed and the scam is this: it allows the baddies to be bad and the losers to console themselves - see the 'Aside 1' quotes. All the while, the criminal kleptocracy perpetrators laugh and laugh and laugh...


Part 4: where to?

The very act of writing this indicates a) that I do not accept that the status quo is (anywhere near) optimal, and b) that I do not accept the status quo as (anything like) immutable.

Without going circular; we have huge problems (general immorality, specifically lying, cheating and crime up to murder for spoil), and a lot'a those problems either involve religion (the 'believers' B, B & H and their murder for oil) or are (worse) caused by religion (Islam allegedly seeks caliphate, say). To break out'a this requires change.

So, the only way forward is in my blog's title: "¡No more of the same!"

Immorality being a large part of the problem, it's gotta be exchanged for a mutual morality.

Religion being a large part of the problem, it's gotta be a) reformed or b) ditched.

Crime being a large part of the problem, it's simply gotta be stopped.


One very important point must be made here. In reference to the theme 'Morality without a God,' religion is not only not needed, it is shown to be an impediment. I have attempted my own formalisation; see the chezPhil morality.

Since the prime-path to instilling the g*d-meme into vulnerable minds is by frightening poor buggers half to death - specifically by raising the spectre of death - that practice should be recognised (then forbidden forthwith) for exactly what it is, namely the previously mentioned (child) abuse. It's more than 'just' abuse, it is (or ort'a be declared) a crime: to saddle any person with the fear of death by injecting a life-long death-monkey-agenda into vulnerable, innocent minds. Living is hard enough finding out about death in good time, without having to be deliberately, knowingly scared s**tless.


Epilogue: Why this, why now?

Basically, because we're up s**t-creek.

Born after WW2, I grew up in the cold-war. We had the goodies (US) and the baddies (Commies.) We lived in fear of the bomb, then the wall fell down. Phew; all over...

But it wasn't at all; we're now up to 'murder for oil' in Iraq.

It turns out that it was all lies; all those 'goody' stories were the 'front' for the criminals and their developing crimes, "Shock'n whore®" (most often perpetrated by bible-bashing grunts) is nothing other than Blitzkrieg. Back at square 1.

And as if all'a that wasn't quite enough, we've got a possible CO2-caused climate-change on the way; the greedastrophe®.

The points to ponder are:

1) What is now.

2) What could be.

3) What should be.

Then, get on and fix our systems, and save our once jewel-like planet.

¡ NoMothS !

No more of the same!


PS This article prompted in part by Daniel/A CLEAR CASE OF FRAUD! Thanks and g'day.


[1] scam n. US slang trick, fraud. [origin unknown] [POD]

[2] apprehension n. 1 uneasiness, dread. 2 understanding. 3 arrest, capture. [ibid.]

Eat Pizza for Christ's sake

NAPLES, Fla. -- Thomas S. Monaghan, the founder of Domino’s Pizza who sold the chain four years ago for $1 billion, has vowed to turn away from pride and materialism and focus on improving Catholic education in the United States.

Monaghan, 65, is donating $200 million to start Ave Maria University near Naples, Fla. The university will offer a solid grounding in philosophy and theology, according to the St. Petersburg Times.

"I kind of liken it to a spiritual military academy," Monaghan said. "I think history is nothing but one big war between good and evil, and we have to produce leaders that can make a difference."

I'd probably turn away from pride and materialism if I had a billion or so. 

What worries me about all this is the fact that Monaghan sees history as a "big war between good and evil" He says he is setting up a spiritual military academy, isn't that what the mula's are doing? All depends on your definition of evil. Some muslims are calling the US the great satan.

This is all about them and us. Us being good, them being evil.


Don't forger the atheists that fought slavery.

"The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession. I could never give assent to the long, complicated statements of Christian dogma."

- Abraham Lincoln, American president (1809-1865).

Hi Jenny: it took people of all persuasions to fight slavery. I don't think all those that died in the American Civil War were Christians. Do you?

Never said it didn't

John: it took people of all persuasions to fight slavery.

Never said it didn't, mate. But Wilberforce, a born again Christian, was the main force in the UK. Without him it may have taken a whole lot longer. And I am not ignorant of the fact that the church as a whole was somewhat wanting on this issue at the time.

Does not alter the fact that a Christian who really practises the teachings of Christ can move mountains, so to speak.

Pity Wilberforce wasn't so big on free speech

The Society for the Suppression of Vice was founded by William Wilberforce, who is better known for his involvement in the abolition of the slave trade.

The Society began with King George III's Royal Proclamation in 1787 "For the Encouragement of Piety and Virtue, and for the Preventing and Punishing of Vice, Profaneness and Immorality", made at Wilberforce's suggestion. The Proclamation led to the formation of a Proclamation Society, which became the Society for the Suppression of Vice in 1802.

An interesting publication on the history of these issues is Making English Morals: Voluntary Association And Moral Reform In England, 1787-1886 by M. J. D. Roberts, who writes that the Jacobin ideas, from the French Revolution, raised fears of atheism, which led to establishment people to set up organisations like the Society for the Suppression of Vice, to campaign for tough application of law against indiscipline by the radicals. One of those who suffered from the attentions of the Society for the Suppression of Vice was the campaigner for free speech, Richard Carlile. [1]

Jonathan Bayes, writing on Wilberforce, maintains that his personal impact on society was greater in his campaign for the reformation of manners that in the battle against slavery, where he was just one of a team united in the cause. [2]

Jenny: as you know I am not one to argue with a lady, but it is a pity that  Wilberforce who only played a minor role in the battle against slavery, was more concerned with vice and the suppression of free speech. A trait that I find very common in born again Christians.

That's my ten, had some fun this morning, I just love retirement. Have a great day Jenny.

Margo: good idea to move to 10 posts, so much to say on the fall and fall of Howard. Drive safely on your trip, best wishes John



Not argue with a lady?

John: You can argue with this lady anytime you like but you've probably lost your chance now. I doubt our retirement will ever be complete. Not while the Scot wants to farm, anyway.

Would love to stick around and discuss Wilberforce. But that is not going to be possible right now. 

Just wanted to bring the film to peoples' attention.  Will see how it treats him.

Film to see

Amazing Grace based on Wilberforce and his work toward the abolition of slavery two hundred years ago. Worth seeing I am told but may not be in all cinemas.

I wonder how long it would have taken to get abolition if this born again Christian had not taken up the challenge.


Are we there yet?

Morality without a God?

Are we there yet?

Judging by the below I could argue that we can have morality (sans definition) with or without a god, however I suspect we would all agree anyway.

It would also be safe to assume that religion and spiritualism comforts many human beings, the greater majority in fact; offering a special relationship with their environment and fellow human beings. Religion can also act as a catalyst to aggressive and negative behaviour, which has been partly documented on this thread; a reflection of our collective historical (and contemporary) behaviour, much of which is nothing to be proud of.

Somehow I feel that we have all been missing the point, avoiding that which is staring us in the face – reality.

And reality being that life itself is unknowable, a mystery, an enigma. Nothing more than a sequence of moments collected by our senses and interpreted by our minds.

At the end of the day it is all becomes a mind thing, a matter of faith, a matter of science, a matter of intellect and ego.

Why waste time in conflict about the unknowable while can develop relationships based on common courtesy and respect for life, and by sharing our personal interpretations about that which unites us all:

The mystery of life.

No more to say on this one, so farewell my fellow travellers and may your mystery in life – and death – be wonderful.

God's will

For some, like my mother, it is a protracted and pathetic passing in a suburban nursing home marked by a complete loss of dignity, identity and bodily function. Alzheimer's disease does that to you.

The disease leaves you a skeletal husk, incapable of speech, movement or anything much in the way of higher brain function.

I'm fairly sure now that my mother – a physiotherapist who wrote (and had published) short stories as a hobby – doesn't even recognise me when I spoon biscuit mashed up with milk into her mouth. Even swallowing the mixture is not so much a conscious act, as some sort of primal reflex action.

The series of mini strokes she has had wouldn't have helped, either.

My mother effectively died years ago. All that's left is a withered shell with a heart that continues to beat. Mum's gone.

I think I'm allowed to claim I know my mother fairly well, and I can assure you she would not have wanted her final years to pass this way. Had she been given the option, I'm sure she would have preferred to die before the disease became totally debilitating.

Not that legally we have that choice in Australia.

In fact, we don't even have the right to read about what end of life choices are open to  us – in other words, euthanasia.

The religious Right in this country has dictated that if our death is to be slow and unpleasant, then that's God's will. Presumably He wants the terminally ill and their families to suffer as much as possible before the inevitable end.

I retired this week after working for four years in aged care. I witnessed first hand the suffering of these victims of Alzheimer's disease. The constant crying,sometimes yelling and screaming, the total loss of memory, the indignities of showering and toileting. I also witnessed the pain the families suffered during the process. It is religious dogma that prolongs the suffering of these people.

Our nursing homes are full, often these people are left to suffer in their own homes, often without family. Sometimes the only family is also elderly and also suffering from disease. The aged care industry is under staffed and very over worked. On average we are paying personal care workers about $15 an hour to look after these very vulnerable people. We need to rethink how we treat our elderly and those that care for them.


The Church and truth - an oxymoron?

“The Church has always held steadfast in it's (sic) teachings.

You cannot  change truth.”

Maybe so, Kathy Farrelly, but the Church has a history of denying truth when it does not fit with their dogma. The evidence is overwhelming.

I won’t go into their rather disgusting habit of protecting child molesters; they have been at it for centuries and continue to do so. No need to provide links, go look for yourself if you’re game.

You cannot change the truth but the Church has a long history in doing just that.

If you want truth then the Catholic Church would be the last place to go look for it, Buddism would be a better choice.

We have to deal with rape!

"We don't run a theocracy. We have to deal with the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left with a pregnancy as a result of the enemy, is further ostracised by her community," Gilmore said.

Cardinal Martino, in comments made to an American Catholic newspaper, said that by taking its new stand on abortion, Amnesty had "disqualified itself as a defender of human rights".

"To selectively justify abortion, even in the cases of rape, is to define the innocent child within the womb as an enemy, a 'thing' that must be destroyed," Martino said.

Gilmore rejected this view. "This is not about abortion as a right but about women's right to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage the consequences of rape and human rights violations," she said.

"If the cardinal had been in Darfur and stood between (rape victims) and the stones being thrown at them, let him then talk again about whether or not Amnesty has the integrity to stand firm for human rights," she said.

When rape is used a weapon of war, we need to have compassion for its victims. Amnesty is dealing with the problems on the ground. They need our support. The Catholic Church is ruled by dogma and is wrong to criticize Amnesty who are faced  with an impossible situation.

The Religious War on Liberation Biology

In the wake of the Pell-mell attacks on embryonic stem-cell research, see Johann Hari's article of the above title as published on June 12 in the UK Independent.

I commend it to all readers. Please consider.

Pell-mell hell!

Ian, embryonic stem cell research has produced nought.

Adult stem stell research on the other hand has made great progress.

Even IF embryonic stem stells had showed some promise I would not be in favour of using them.

It seems selfish and pointless to me to squander new life in order to prolong the life of another, who at least has enjoyed some sort of a life to some degree!

Cardinal Pell is a man of great conscience.

He is the shepherd leading his flock upon the right path.

If you want to be a Catholic, you must adhere to the Church's teachings! Take it or leave it. It's as simple as that.

Cardinal Pell was right to point out church doctrine.It would be remiss of him to do otherwise!That it got up so many people's nose's amused me immensely..

No one is forced to be a Catholic!

Get over it...

Hell's bell rings for Pell-mell sell

Kathy: I concluded my last post with the request "please consider." I see that you have.

A quick googling of 'embryonic stem cell research' - not a field I am all that familiar with myself, but which on the face of it holds great promise - yielded me inter alia a link to a University of Wisonsin-Madison site:

From that the following:

"There are several approaches now in human clinical trials that utilize mature stem cells (such as blood-forming cells, neuron-forming cells and cartilage-forming cells). However, because adult cells are already specialized, their potential to regenerate damaged tissue is very limited: skin cells will only become skin and cartilage cells will only become cartilage. Adults do not have stem cells in many vital organs, so when those tissues are damaged, scar tissue develops. Only embryonic stem cells, which have the capacity to become any kind of human tissue, have the potential to repair vital organs.

"Another limitation of adult stem cells is their inability to proliferate in culture. Unlike embryonic stem cells, which have a capacity to reproduce indefinitely in the laboratory, adult stem cells are difficult to grow in the lab and their potential to reproduce diminishes with age. Therefore, obtaining clinically significant amounts of adult stem cells may prove to be difficult.

"Studies of adult stem cells are important and will provide valuable insights into the use of stem cell in transplantation procedures. However, only through exploration of all types of stem cell research will scientists find the most efficient and effective ways to treat diseases."

I think that contradicts you, and supports Johann Hari, whose piece I presume you have read.

Further, I put it to you that, whether we like it or not, every moral decision is a cost-benefit analysis. The cost of creating human embryos in order to harvest their stem cells is, as you say, human lives which might have been but won't be. The benefit could very well be the saving of human lives that are already here. I don't pretend that to be an easy choice.

From what I can gather, stem cell research is our best hope for cures in the presently living population of a wide range of diseases. The above site says  embryonic stem cells: "have the potential to treat or cure a myriad of diseases, including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, spinal cord injuries and burns." That is not an exhaustive list, but includes both degenerative diseases and traumatic injuries.

A Catholic who has, say, been made a paraplegic in an accident might be content to spend the rest of his or her life in a wheelchair, in the security of a belief that when this life is over, an eternal and perfect life in Heaven will begin. Others might make a different choice.

I recently watched a close friend die a slow and tragic death from one of the diseases stem cell therapy offers hope for, and know others whose lives are severely limited by degenerative and otherwise incurable diseases. For me, the choice is in their favour. For you, it may be different.

I am not in favour of forcing any therapy upon anyone who does not want it. At the same time, I oppose attempts by those who do not want it to force their choice on the rest of us. Given Cardinal Pell's latest attempt to shepherd Catholic members of the NSW Parliament down what he considers to be the Right Path, I would say that he is into choice limitation in a big and serious way. He is trying to prevent that therapy being made available to Australians. Because if it is available in just one state, it will be available to all.

Please consider.

stem cells...

Hmmm... Ian. I think Dr Patrick Dixon sums up very well why adult stem cells will be prefered to embryonic stem cells.

As he says, embryonic stem cells are unstable and hard to control. Often the end result is cancerous growths. He gives a very balanced view I think. You can read what he has so say here, Ian.

Even so, Ian, I still can't get my head around the fact that people want to create human beings, so that they can die in order to save other human beings.

What a price to pay!

PS: Tell Jen I am still waiting for the rain mate!

Well should one tell Pell from the knell of Hell's bell.

Kathy:  On the future of stem cells from your Patrick Dixon link:

In summary, expect rapid progress in adult stem cells and slower, less intense work with embryonic stem cells. Embryonic stem cell technology is already looking rather last-century, along with therapeutic cloning. History will show that by 2020 we were already able to produce a wide range of tissues using adult stem cells, with spectacular progress in tissue building and repair. In some cases these stem cells will be actually incorporated into the new repairs as differentiated cells, in other cases, they will be temporary assistants in local repair processes.

We will also see some exciting new pharmaceutical products in the pipeline, which promise to do some of the same tricks without having to remove a single stem cell from the body. These drugs may for example activate bone marrow cells and encourage them to migrate to parts of the body where repairs are needed.

And along the way we will see a number of biotech companies fold, as a result of over-investment into embryonic stem cells, plus angst over ethics and image, without watching the radar screen closely enough, failing to see the onward march of adult stem cell technology.

Using embryos as a source of spare-part cells will always be far more controversial than using adult tissue, or perhaps cells from umbilical cord after birth, and investors will wish to reduce uneccessary risk, both to the projects they fund, and to their own organisations by association.

Despite this, we can expect embryonic stem cell research to continue in some countries, with the hope of scientific breakthroughs of various kinds.

I find that quite interesting, but in and of itself, no reason to ban future embryonic stem cell work. Adult stem cell research has had a lot of funding precisely because of religious objections to embryonic work, not because it has been intrinsically the best way to go. Patrick Dixon is welcome to his view as a (physician turned) futurologist. Like all such, he may be right; and then again, he may be wrong. I am sure I could find plenty of researchers who would beg to differ, if only because surprises litter the history of science, and particularly biology.

Futurology as a science (?) is by definition fraught with uncertainty. (I have a copy of Alvin Toffler's Future Shock, which caused quite a stir when it was published in 1970. Unfortunately, it failed to mention the microchip, which had not been invented at that stage. Ah well...)

As a matter of principle, I don't enter into religious arguments or debates, except over the political implications of religious doctrine. If Cardinal Pell and your good self choose to regard a blastocyst as the moral equivalent of a newborn baby or mature adult, then that is entirely your business, and I for one respect your right to make that choice, and to accept the implications that flow from it for yourselves. But Cardinal Pell's attempt to force the politics implicit in that view on the rest of us is another matter entirely. I do not believe that it can necessarily deliver the best outcome for the greatest number of people now living, or for that matter, yet to be born.

Time will tell, but the reality is that Catholicism has a pretty dismal record in the area of tolerance, liberalism and acceptance of free enquiry, which latter is the heart and soul of science.

We have just had 130 points of rain. Jenny says you have to be next. Good luck with it.

Doing his job

" But Cardinal Pell's attempt to force the politics implicit in that view on the rest of us is another matter entirely." 

Cardinal Pell is not trying to force anything on anybody Ian.It is his job however, as Cardinal to uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, and to remind Catholics of their obligations.

As I said earlier we are all free to do as we choose.

No one is forced to be a Catholic. However if one is a Catholic then one must abide by Catholic Dogma.

Obviously if one disagrees with the Church's stance, one is free to  leave  and seek out other religions  that may suit them better, such as Buddhism.

On stem cell research Ian we must agree to disagree, I think old mate!

Tell Jenny  I have just heard that rain is forecast  for Friday and the following week.

 Here's hoping the farmers get heaps.

 Glad you guys are still getting the rain too.


Sometimes Catholic dogma needs to be challenged.

Kathy, you say "However if one is a Catholic then one must abide by Catholic Dogma."

Do you really believe that you must abide by Catholic Dogma? If all Catholics thought like you, Catholics would still believe that the Earth is flat. The inquisition would still be killing people who did not believe in Catholic dogma. You were given a mind and it works best when it is open. The Catholic church like all human institutions needs thinkers and it needs to be constantly challenged. The ultimate freedom is the freedom to think.

Catholic Dogma

John, I am not going to get bogged down  in justifying my belief in Catholic Dogma.

Suffice to say it runs a lot deeper than that.

My faith means a lot to me. It has been a great source of consolation and hope  throughout most of my life.

Certain events in my life have drawn me closer to God,and given me a greater understanding of what is important in this life.

Faith is something one cannot explain or quantify.Really it would be futile to try and do so. It has taken me many years of prayer and suffering to get to this point.

And it is an ever evolving process.It doesn't get any easier I can tell you!

My conscience tells me that Euthanasia and abortion are intrinsically wrong.

The value of suffering is not understood by many.To explain my views on suffering  and purification would only result in derision here.

The only person here who would understand would be Roger Fedyk, who, though no  longer a practising Catholic, has extensive knowledge of Catholic theology, having studied it over a period of time.

Though I know he does not agree with much of it, he nevertheless would have an understanding of what I mean.

Roger would be the person  to  whom you should direct questions of Catholic Dogma.

Take it or leave it

Kathy Farrelly, you say: "If you want to be a Catholic, you must adhere to the Church's teachings! Take it or leave it. It's as simple as that.”

"The current state of church attendance among Australian Catholics," says Dixon, "poses a significant challenge for the Catholic Church in Australia". On a typical weekend, an average of 765,000 people attend church in Catholic parishes and other centres around the country, representing about 15.3 per cent of the Catholic population of 5,001,624 according to the 2001 Census...............

But if acceptance of the Church's doctrinal and moral teachings is already relatively low even among the 15 per cent of regular Mass attenders, it is likely to be even lower among the remaining 85 per cent of irregular or non-attenders.

Clearly, the Church in Australia faces an immense challenge if it is to re-evangelise its parishes and find more effective ways of communicating the faith in its schools.

It seems a lot of Catholics are taking your advice Kathy and they are leaving in droves.

Take it or leave it

Yep John.

Take it or leave it!

People want a watered down version of Catholicism to salve their consciences. Well, it isn't going to happen.

The Church has always held steadfast in its teachings.

You cannot change truth.

Sure it's not an easy road, but nothing worthwhile having ever is, really.

And we are all free to choose the road we wish to take anyway.

We must all admit we could be wrong.

To lure young Muslims to kill and die, jihadist ideologues have given the status of "martyr" to a recruit. They call the terrorist operation a "martyrdom" attack. Most youth who volunteer for suicide attacks have had a secular education. A shallow understanding of Islam makes them susceptible to indoctrination and radicalisation. They have constructed a set of rewards to trap the foolish and misguide the idealistic Muslim youth.

(1) Immediate entry to paradise

(2) Audience with God

(3) Forgiven for vices and sins

(4) Guarantees entry of 70 members of the family and relatives to heaven

(5) Served by 72 virgins

(6) Eternal life

To make the offer attractive, terrorist ideologues including Australian terrorist ideologues have given graphic accounts of paradise. One such ideologue living in Australia embellished the beauty of the heavenly virgins. Some youth are driven by these accounts that are designed to send youth to their death. Driven by the global jihad ideology of Al Qaeda, these youth are willing to kill and die for their belief.

Here: http://www.abc.net.au/news/opinion/items/200706/s1943497.htm

In a sermon given by an Anglican Priest in Australia at a Rotary Ecumenical Service last March,. he mentioned how many feel that it is the Muslims who promote much of the World Problems we are having. He then clarified that the problem comes from certain factions of Extremist or Fundamentalist within the Muslim Faith. He brought out that the vast majority of Muslims are Persons who want Peace and not war. This Priest then brought out that these Moslem Extremists that cause many of the world’s problems are not the only Extremists / Fundamentalists causing problems. He brought out that there are a wide variety of Jewish Extremists, Christian Extremists, Hindu Extremists, Buddhist Extremist, etc. who also cause problems worldwide. When you look at history you find that most wars stem from these different types of Religious Extremists.

When you think of it we have Extremists of all types in every country who feel their country, their political party, their particular religion, their way of thinking is the only one that is right. I have come to the conclusion that there are some persons who are from my point of view are “dangerously overly patriotic” to their country, “dangerously overly supportive of their political party”, others by being “dangerously overly religious” to their particular faith to a degree that these “dangerously overly whatever” simply can not accept that others might think differently and many fall into the category of being “dangerously extremists”.

Here: http://rotary7730.net/foundation/giving/frank-devlyn/

Extremist ideologies of all forms are a threat to our democratic way of life. Better education is one of the answers. We all must admit that our way of thinking may be wrong.

Religious fundamentalism is a threat to our society

C Parsons, the point I am trying to make is that I believe most people are basically the same. Moms and Dads who want a good environment to raise their families. Totalitarian regimes have come to power starting out with small support bases for example Germany and Iran. We must always be on the look out for the threats to our freedom within our own societies. One of these threats is religious fundamentalism. I don't believe in evil empires.

The hypocrisy and double standards are clear.

“After all, ordinary Catholics have as little say in Pell's appointment or dismissal as ordinary Muslims do in Hilali's. The hypocrisy and double standards are clear. It seems that in some influential circles only Muslims are expected to conform to secularism and the separation of church and state. What's good for the Islamic goose is clearly not good for the Catholic gander.”


Irfan Yusuf is right we live in a multicultural society and our politicians need to reflect that. We cannot favour one religion over another. The separation of church and state is essential to our secular society. Religious leaders should not threaten our political leaders.

Theocracies are not democratic and nearly always male dominated. They represent small minorities, who threaten democracy. We should be very careful when we elect politicians and make sure their allegiance is to Australia not Rome or Mecca.

Hand me that mirror, I need to distort it.

John Pratt, I'm not sure why you cross-posted the "I put my faith - in America" article, which was originally published by the BBC here.

But what that article does is draw attention to the very robust debate about religion and policy in the USA, or the 'separation of church and state', a debate which goes back to the European settlement in America of religious refugees from Britain, Holland, Germany and elsewhere.

And indeed, if today's headlines are any indication, it's a debate that also rages in New South Wales.

The article also completely rebuts attempts to characterise the USA as some kind of Christian fundamentalist state, "equivalent" to say the Islamic Republic of Iran, a propaganda line thoroughly refuted by simple observations like those from the very article you are quoting;

"Some parents believed that the breakfast silence was an attempt by a religious cabal to take over our camp, to insinuate their beliefs into our get-together, to steal the minds of our kids."

No parent in Iran would ever openly oppose prayer in schools, I can assure you. Unless they were game for being executed in public.

And as for the author's observation;

"I was at the Creation Museum in Kentucky, the day after it opened, a moment evangelicals should really have been celebrating with great gusto. And to an extent they were.

The museum is a striking place, with wonderfully life-like models of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden, and an airy, well put-together feel.

But I did not get the impression from those in charge or from those visiting, that they considered themselves to be on the march in modern America."

- that is complete refutation of the "equivalence" line trundled out by apologists for Islamist fundamentalist states.

The purpose of the "equivalence" and "mirror language' rhetoric concerning religiosity in America is to slander Americans under the pretext of "debating" whether they are the "same" as the Islamist fundamentalist currents alive in anti-Western circles, ironically so often politically connected to the very Leftists who hate and fear secular American culture far more than religious bigots of any persuasion. And that's understandable seeing as Left wing doctrinal fanatics have far more in common with their religious extremist allies than with the "moms and dads" of middle America discussed in the article you quoted.

Love is the only future

Jenny, good to see you are getting some rain at last. I am glad you believe the idea of giving a kidney to a stranger, is in line with what Jesus taught. I believe the principle message of Jesus was “love thy neighbor as thy self”. Surely giving a kidney is an act of love. Although I sometimes attack “religion” I do believe in the message that Jesus taught is correct. The Jesus Christians seem to be taking the words of Jesus, and trying to live their lives accordingly. I applaud them for the courage of their convictions. I attack religion when it encourages greed, or when it is used to defend ideas that lead to harming our neighbors. I believe we live in one of the richest countries in the world and most of our neighbors live in poverty. I believe the teachings of Jesus would help the world overcome some of its pressing problems. Climate Change demands that we reduce our demands on the planet. We will need love to help us through the danger. We cannot demand more and more while our neighbors struggle to feed their children.

I believe that the vision that Jesus taught has the potential to help us overcome the challenges we face. I believe Mohammad’s teachings are similar, we need to pick the best of all the philosophical teachings, take out the things that divide us and face the future in love.

Radicals full of hate and oppression are always dangerous

The current US presidential debates are almost certain to see the candidates asked to comment on spiritual issues, but some Americans are worried about the trend towards religiosity in public life…………….America is famously religious, infamously if you like, but try as they might, the real hard-line theocracy crowd repeatedly fail to get their ideas to fly.

There is a reason, I think, why theocracy will never fly in the United States and it has been touched on, inadvertently, by George Bush himself.

Mr Bush often makes the point that the philosophy of the Islamic radicals, full of hate and oppression, would not be attractive to people who truly had the freedom to choose.

Similarly the philosophy of the Old Testament, so much celebrated by some evangelicals here, has a limited power to enthral free people.

At the Creation Museum, goggle-eyed children watch depictions of the Great Flood in which children and their mums and dads are consumed, because God is cross.

In a nation of kindly moderate people I am not sure this is the future.

I put my faith - in America.


Justin Webb believes if we have the freedom to choose, kindly moderate people reject the hateful and oppressive parts of Islam or Christianity. I am not so sure: look at German and Iranian history, I am sure that most Germans in the 1930’s were kindly moderate people. I am sure most people in Iran today are kindly and moderate. History show it takes only a small percentage of hard liners to take over a country.

Australia is a Democracy not aTheocracy

The Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, said Catholic MPs would need to think seriously about taking Holy Communion, the sacrament central to Catholic life, if they voted for therapeutic cloning.

Mr Iemma and Mr Watkins yesterday confirmed they would back the bill, while the Nationals MP Adrian Piccoli, another practising Catholic, said he would support the bill, adding "I would like to see them try and stop me [taking Holy Communion]."

Mr Piccoli said: "The cardinal's comments are unacceptable. We don't accept that Muslims should influence politics, so I don't see why Catholics should."

See the rest here: http://www.smh.com.au/news/national/catholic-mps-to-defy-pell-over-bill/2007/06/05/1180809521252.html

The Minister for Science is right; we are all entitled to our views. The Catholic Church thinks it has a monopoly on morality, which is rubbish, as can be seen with just a cursory glance of the history of the Catholic Church. We live in a democracy; our politicians are elected to represent all their constituents, we should not allow religious leaders of any kind to threaten our political representatives. We are not a theocracy yet.

Why the fuss? Isn't this what Jesus preached?

Ash is a member of a controversial group called the Jesus Christians. Nineteen of its 30 members have already donated a kidney, leading to them being labelled 'The Kidney Cult'.

They regard kidney donation as the ultimate expression of their goal to follow the words of Jesus and to live selflessly.


It seems to me that this group of people is trying to live the way Jesus preached. Remember the parable of the Good Samaritan. What I fail to understand is what all the fuss is about. Why is it OK to give a kidney to a family member or to a friend but not to a stranger? If you really believe the word of Jesus he called on people to leave their families and follow him. He also had a thing about the money. This group is taking the call of Jesus seriously.

Indeed so John Pratt

John: This group is taking the call of Jesus seriously. Indeed so.

I too watched that episode of Australian Story and felt that that young man should have been allowed to do what he clearly wanted to in line with his beliefs.

Most of us have a good cult detector in us and this one did not to me at least seem to fit the usual bill, though I had some problems with the notion of alienation from the family. If a leader needs to assert his influence over a group member by removing the influence of other people in that person's life, then that does raise questions of brain washing. 

It is not however in itself extraordinary for a Christian to wish to donate a kidney to help a fellow human being.  I wanted to do the same thing a few years back when I saw children dying for want of a kidney. As a nurse I knew you could survive just as well on one as on two. And I was not being influenced by any religious group. It was only the strong opposition of family members that stopped me and for the life of me I still cannot see why it was such a big deal. Like you, opposing such an action seems to me to be a lot of fuss about nothing.

As you say family members are these days donating kidneys quite often to save other family members, so why should it make any difference if the recipient is not a family member. It is a no brainer. I felt really sorry for that recipient in Canada for having her hopes dashed.

Parting with wordly goods and money is also easy for a genuine practicing Christian without need of any direction from the church or a group leader.  And I mean genuine. Some Christians are Christians by their own claim only, while their actions suggest the opposite.

I do not agree with your other comment that believers are controlled in their thoughts. No one controls my thoughts, nor prevents me from critically examining what I believe and why. Sure, many follow blindly, such as in the Brotherhood type movements, but not all.

I think most would agree that you can have a moral society both with and without religious belief. It is probably a matter of degree. I am of the view that a Christian society is likely overall to be a better society than a totally atheistic one, and certainly more likely, if its adherents actually follow Christ's teaching, to be a more giving, caring and compassionate one.

I do not try to turn atheists into believers and I object to atheists who ridicule believers, or who try to argue that those who do have religious belief are somehow mentally deranged or worse are guilty of child abuse in passing their beliefs onto their children.

Even is there is no God, I have seen enough good done in the name of Christianity to recognise that it has much to offer our society, and also seen many people helped through belief to deal with the stresses and challenges of life, some of which would overwhelm them without that pillar in their life.

I do have a problem with cults that deliberately brainwash and require their members to reject their own families. That is not what Christ taught.

But atheistic regimes spawn their own problems in that regard. Look how many family members dobbed in their own to the Stasi, and how Pol Pot turned children against their own families to the extent that they could watch their parents being murdered. What sort of morality is that we might ask? The sort that atheism as an ideology can spawn?

Epistle to John

John Pratt: "This is the problem with all religion it demands submission of intellect and will. In other words you let someone else do your thinking for you."

That's an excellent point, John. How doctrinal bigots and fanatics attempt to constrain thought is by setting themselves up as God-ordained authorities on what is right and wrong with the exclusive entitlement to adjudicate over other people's opinions.

The Catholic Church used even to have an Index of forbidden published works and even today I bet the Pope and Cardinals meet in secret conclave to decide what can and cannot be said.

Thank heavens then for forums like Webdiary where people can pretty well say whatever they want.

The Word

CP, you could just as easily be describing politicians. 

We still have government censorship of what we can view or read. Have you ever wondered why XXX-rated porn can be purchased in Canberra but is proscribed everywhere else?

Power structures, religious or political, seek to impose their power on all of us. We barely resist because we feel safe when we are led. If the 'sheople' (thanks Phil) suddenly developed a conscience and guts who knows what miracles we could accomplish.

Yes we can be proud of WD.

Everyone please note

David R: following a debate amongst the editors on whether to ban you for persistent abuse, any post by you that is potentially objectionable is held for me to rule on. That will indeed have the effects you describe - but on the other hand we didn't ban you.

Thanks for explaining the position. Is it okay to draw attention to people's contradictory and often illogical comments, and to question their expertise on technical matters? I've noticed those tend to be, er, "moderated" quite a lot.

David R: they get moderated when you question their competence, honesty or mental health, not when you question their facts. Questioning expertise needs careful wording!

Depends who's on watch, I suppose

David R: "But I have no expectation that reality will break through into your personal constructs any time soon."

I'm having a hard enough time breaking through Webdiary's new strict censorship policy. I appreciate you debating me on this topic David, but since you posted that remark I've made at least two comments which have just disappeared into cyberspace.

I suspect genuinely this is not your doing, but you may as well know people are beginning to notice what's going on.

It seems to vary according to the time of day and also which day.

David R: following a debate amongst the editors on whether to ban you for persistent abuse, any post by you that is potentially objectionable is held for me to rule on. That will indeed have the effects you describe - but on the other hand we didn't ban you.

Religion attacks freedom of thought.

Cardinal George Pell, is set to extend the oath of fidelity and profession of faith, a requirement of church law for bishops, priests and heads of seminaries, to all senior educational leaders.

The oath demands "religious submission of intellect and will" on questions of faith and morals - even if these are inferred but not defined by the pope and his bishops - and an acceptance that everything solemnly taught by church tradition is divinely inspired.

It suggests they would be bound not only to impart these teachings but to live by them.


This is the problem with all religion it demands submission of intellect and will. In other words you let someone else do your thinking for you.

Conservatives rule the church

The Pope has said recently in Mexico, that if a Catholic politician manifestly, clearly goes against the church's teaching, then they ought to remove themselves from receiving communion, because it would be a cause of great scandal.”

Pro-abortionists and some MPs have said politicians should be left to decide on such sensitive ethical issues as abortion without being placed under pressure or threats from religious leaders.


How can a Catholic politician fairly represent all the non- Catholics in his electorate, when this sort of religious pressure is applied? I think we should think twice before we vote for a politician of any religion. Anglicans are also about to force out any liberal thinkers. [Source]

Members of the General Synod, which meets next month in York, will be asked to endorse the creation of this covenant, which would mark the most significant shift in the Anglican Church since it was created in the Reformation during the 16th century.

The bishops' paper warns that in order to preserve the unity of the Church, those who do not conform to a more prescriptive statement of faith will be "forced out".

The paper also states:

It is possible to envisage the development of a form of covenant that was in effect a highly detailed code of international canon law... and to envisage such a code leading the Anglican Communion to becoming an increasingly rigid entity in which legitimate change and development became very difficult to effect." It has pre-empted criticism from liberals in the Church by saying that Anglicanism has always had limits.

Why do we let religious leaders in Italy or Britain have any influence on our way of life?

Prominent Sydney atheist identity opposes Dawkins's positi

David R: "I'm afraid I have bad news for you, CP - there is more than one casue of bad things in the world, and identifying Leninism as a bad thing in some or many outcomes doesn't stop Catholicism being a bad thing in some or many outcomes at the same time."

And identifying Catholicism as a bad thing, or calling Mother Theresa a bad person, doesn't alter the fact that Marxism and its various doctrinal offshoots have been pretty well a uniformly bad thing wherever and whenever they have been inflicted on humanity. And that's an entirely atheistic dogma they have there.

By the way, here's an unsolicited overview of this whole topic by non-other than Left-wing Sydney local government identity, Brad Pedersen, the atheistic independent Acting Mayor of Manly. You'll note that by and large, he agrees entirely with my viewpoint. And thank you for your generous personal remarks, I always enjoy them.

One rule for Catholics. Another for Marxists. Same

David R: "we've had the sainted Teresa debate before: yes, indeed, when she was bad - ie when her campaigns against contraception caused more poor children to be born than she ever looked after, she was indeed being a Catholic."

You'll have to show me the research. And what about Mao Tse Tung, whose fanciful, crackpot political and economic theories drove millions to their deaths, often at Mao's direct command?

He wasn't being a Catholic. He was being a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist.

If Mother Theresa was an evil woman because of her Catholic beliefs which, according to you but not to others, "caused poor children to be born", then what of Mao who was an atheist? And whose beliefs very nearly turned his country to ruin and which resulted in the deaths of millions?

Does that make those who continue to promote his historical materialist conception of life evil, too?

Let me guess...

David R: I'm afraid I have bad news for you, CP - there is more than one casue of bad things in the world, and identifying Leninism as a bad thing in some or many outcomes doesn't stop Catholicism being a bad thing in some or many outcomes at the same time. I know this will offend your world-view and possibly cause angst if you come to see that your hope to one day tie all bad things to the left will never be realised. But I have no expectation that reality will break through into your personal constructs any time soon.

Admit that we don't know?

Some commentators have gone so far as to label the current crop of atheist books as "dangerous", which seems to me in itself to be a somewhat dangerous attempt to stifle debate. A book promoting atheism could only be dangerous if atheists were calling for religious believers to be put to death, or even discriminated against; and no atheist is calling for that. ...One wonders what there is about belief in a supernatural being that sets it apart from, for example, political beliefs. Why is a firm conviction held without proof seen as a sign of virtue?

If more of us could simply admit that we don't know - which is not at all the same as saying we should stop asking the questions - this world, the only one we can know for certain exists, might just be a little safer and happier for all.


An interesting article from Pamela Bone.

No Bones About It

John, it is great to see that Pamela has recovered sufficiently from her serious illness to be writing again. She wrote some very good articles during her stint at The Age.

I realise that I am repeating myself, but there is such a basic probelm with our beliefs and discussions of religion. Our endeavours, belief systems and so on all rely on the fact that we want to put God in a box. "God said this; God wants that; God loves.. God is angry".

Each such proposition that underpins our cosy assumptions is unadulterated hubris. We know nothing about God personally. Even worse we can know nothing about God that would be remotely close to "The Man (Charlton Heston) In A Sheet Floating In The Clouds" nonsense that passes for religious reality with most people.

We can know God's effects. It is in the laws of nature and the universe around us. We can surmise what attributes would be essential to a Supreme Godhead. But never will there be an affirmation of any of these things while we remain human. There is a graphic personal analogy as to our status when compared to a supreme divinity.

In our eyelashes lives a mite that is somewhat crab-like in its appearance when viewed under an electron microscope. Its total universe is a human being's eyelashes. It "knows" nothing about ears, arms, genitalia, watching football, drinking red wine or debating God's existence. Only those who's egotism remains unfettered by introspection and knowledge would believe that we would "know" more about God than the eyelash mite "knows" about us.

But we kill each other, secure in the belief that God is in our pocket.

We cannot define the cause, but we are certain what

Roger Fedyk: "I would volunteer that few people could clearly and concisely annunciate what it is to be a Christian."

Yet, Roger, it is apparently possible to say fairly categorically that being a Christian, whatever that is, can cause good people to act in an evil way.

In other words, while we cannot actualy define this cause of evil, we are certain that it is what causes the evil. So, a person like Mao Tse Tung kills tens of millions of people in the name of some spurious historical-economic theory, and the theory is itself exempt from having a causal relationship to the evil outcome. But religion, which we cannot define, "causes" good people to do evil things.

So, what "caused" Mother Theresa to do good, I wonder? When she was good, was she just very, very good, but when she was bad, she was a Catholic? Or was she just "bad", as according to Germaine Greer's view of Mother Theresa, because she was a Catholic?

David R: we've had the sainted Teresa debate before: yes, indeed, when she was bad - ie when her campaigns against contraception caused more poor children to be born than she ever looked after, she was indeed being a Catholic. And there can be no doubt that, say, a right-to-lifer who kills an abortion doctor is being evil by arguing badly from his religious belief.

The Safety Valve

CP, being a spiritual believer of any sort is not a guarantee that we cannot be at our worst at some point. There are those, a small number, who we might assume have not succumbed or have not been pushed to the point of losing control but there is little use in pursuing that line of thought because it is false.

All of us live in an emotional place not too far removed from the beastly impulse. The "cause" of this is inextricably wired in our brains and is controlled by a wonderous chemical "soup". The fallacy for those on the outside looking in to the tent of believers is that somehow a profession of Christianity is a circuit-breaker for our worst impulses. It is not! To follow Christ is not to be super-human or less human. There are no changes to the "wiring". Even believers are fooled into the "I am a brand new man/woman" trap. In the theological sense, to be human is to be a sinner/transgressor for your whole life. That never changes.

The believer has one thing in his/her favour, an opportunity to ameliorate their propensity to be bad by a deeper understanding of their frailty. To be a Christian, for example, is to understand, without being  driven down, how wretched the human state can be. This should not lead to some unhealthy beating up on the self but rather should lead to humility and gratitude that redemption is available without price. The only thing that is required is an acceptance.

The "cause" of Theresa doing good was her acceptance of her lowly state and her unshakeable belief in the goodness of God. She, like any believer, had to be proactive in seeking a way to live a life of good.  Nothing is easy in trying to live a saintly life and it will be a life filled with all the mistakes and problems of non-believers. There is no guaranteed earthly reward for goodness but unfortunately many believe the opposite and rail aganist the supposed injustice. They are naive, ignorant and immature in their understanding.

Imagine if the overriding attribute of every one you met was humility. Would a humble person try to screw you over, steal your possesions, try to kill you? A profession of belief should lead to a life of humility and through this we will be far less inclined to be "bad". When you examine  the psychopath, one thing that is immediately obvious is the lack of humility and selflessness.

What makes people do evil...

David R: and John's quote that you were referring to didn't in any way say that evil people were religious, or that religious people were evil, it said that religion makes some good people do evil things - a well-evidenced statement to which you added nothing relevant or helpful by mentioning some people who were neither religious nor good. But irrelevant distraction is your stock-in-trade.

Thank you for your comment, David, and thank you for this opportunity to respond. I hope this isn't too much of a distraction.

If it is well-evidenced that "religion makes some good people do evil things" could it also be argued that  "religion makes some bad people do good things" - for example, some person who has led a life of evil but whom subsequently has had a religious conversion and changes their life path?

Also, can it be also argued that Marxism, as a system of belief which expressly rejects religion, "makes some good people do evil things" ?

After all, it wasn't so long ago that certain Marxists were arguing that Pol Pot was a good person, and that Joseph Stalin was a good person, and that Mao Tse Tung was a good person.

In fact, Mao Tse Tung himself greeted Pol Pot in China during a state visit by the Cambodian leader there as a comrade and brother in their joint struggle to liberate the masses of Indochina.

A bit like Marxist Hugo Chavez recently greeting the President of Iran as a comrade in their joint endeavour to rid the world of evil American influence.

And Mao Tse Tung was widely revered by people ranging from CP Snow to Brett Whitley, who all insisted he was a good person.

I even had a school teacher who told us once in class that Mao Tse Tung was in fact the greatest hero in history because of all the good he did in China.

So, what went wrong, I wonder, seeing as Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot were not religious, but in fact Marxists?

The Words Are Important

CP, I think that you are wandering around not quite sure what you need to take a shot at.

Certainly, there is much about "goodness" that needs to be addressed etymologically so that we clearly understand what it is that we are each talking about.

What would constitute a qualitative test of whether a person is "good"? Similarly how do we measure just how "good" someone is? There are blithe assumptions and much wooly thinking that is couched within our phraseology. Certainly we are all capable of being exceedingly "bad", assuming, of course, that we accurately know how we measure "badness" as well.

Similarly, "religion", "religious", "spirituality", "theology", "Christian", "Muslim", "God", "Jesus" and many other words used in this forum have such a wide and personal range of meanings that we end up talking past one another because our personal agendas and level of theological, spiritual and even general knowledge.

I would volunteer that few people could clearly and concisely annunciate what it is to be a Christian. The same would be true of being a follower of Mohammed (PBUH). God and Jesus are often used interchangeably and even allowing for the doctrine of the Trinity, the practice leads inevitably to confusion for those who profess to be Christians and those who are reading and listening.

Religion as distinct from the practice of spirituality has not been a force for the betterment of mankind. Murderous psychopaths have also not been any better. Subjugation, irrespective of its title, is about winners and losers. The winners are an elite and the losers are the rest of us. Human beings seem to be attracted to that arrangement in every sphere of social endeavour giving credence to Thoreau's observation that most of us live "lives of quiet desperation".

My comments may appear as nitpicking but let's try to be more than advocates of "shooting from the lip". Oprah and other talking heads have not fixed any of the world's problems yet which suggests that not all opinions are valid or helpful. We need to do better if communities like WD are to be socially useful.

Malaysia moves closer to a theocracy.

In a controversial victory for Islamic law over secularism, Malaysia’s highest court today refused to recognize the conversion of a Muslim-born woman to Christianity, ruling that the matter was beyond the jurisdiction of the country’s civil courts and should be handled by religious authorities…Muslims, who make up about 60 percent of Malaysia’s population, have co-existed with Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs for decades in this country, considered one of the world’s most progressive and modern Muslim democracies.

But the ruling here underlined the increasing separateness of Muslims from people of other religions and reinforced the notion, widely held in many Muslim countries, that Islamic law should have primacy over secular laws in certain aspects of their lives.

The Federal Court was divided 2-1 in its decision, with the only non-Muslim judge, Richard Malanjum, dissenting forcefully and arguing that the Constitution must remain the supreme law of the land.”

Malaysia takes another step towards theocracy.

Freedom of religion is ignored, the religious leaders who support this type of action are taking a dangerous path.

Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao were not religious

David R: "so you're saying that Pol Pot, Stalin and Mao were good people, not evil people, then, CP? - if not, this sentence is about as meaningless as it gets."

Oh, thanks for posting my comment, David.

No, I was saying that not being adherents to a religion didn't stop them from being mass murderers on a world historical scale.

Well, unless of course you count Marxism as a dogma based on superstitious beliefs or otherwise without scientific foundation.

And thanks again for letting me share my view with the annointed.

David R: and John's quote that you were referring to didn't in any way say that evil people were religious, or that religious people were evil, it said that religion makes some good people do evil things - a well-evidenced statement to which you added nothing relevant or helpful by mentioning some people who were neither religious nor good. But irrelevant distraction is your stock-in-trade ...

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