Link blog: islam, terrorism, murder, charlie-hebdo

The case for mocking religion.
Hitchens! thou shouldst be living at this hour: France has need of thee.
(tags: cartoons christopher-hitchens satire religion islam terrorism murder)
22 Heartbreaking Cartoons From Artists Responding To The Charlie Hebdo Shooting – BuzzFeed News
“Cartoonists from all over the world mourn in the wake of a Paris shooting that killed as many as 12 people, many of whom are members of Charlie Hebdo.”
(tags: charliehebdo jesuischarlie cartoon murder terrorism)
Ex-Muslims Forum on Twitter: “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror http://t.co/EngpM6LbjQ”
The ex-Muslims Forum publish “an e-mail from an Exmuslim about #CharlieHebdo “I want to weep” – fear, sickness and horror”
(tags: ex-muslim charlie-hebdo terrorism murder islam)
The Blasphemy We Need – NYTimes.com
“Must all deliberate offense-giving, in any context, be celebrated, honored, praised? I think not. But in the presence of the gun — or, as in the darker chapters of my own faith’s history, the rack or the stake — both liberalism and liberty require that it be welcomed and defended.”
(tags: blasphemy charlie-hebdo islam speech freedom)
The Blame for the Charlie Hebdo Murders – The New Yorker
“Because the ideology is the product of a major world religion, a lot of painstaking pretzel logic goes into trying to explain what the violence does, or doesn’t, have to do with Islam. Some well-meaning people tiptoe around the Islamic connection, claiming that the carnage has nothing to do with faith, or that Islam is a religion of peace, or that, at most, the violence represents a “distortion” of a great religion. (After suicide bombings in Baghdad, I grew used to hearing Iraqis say, “No Muslim would do this.”) Others want to lay the blame entirely on the theological content of Islam, as if other religions are more inherently peaceful—a notion belied by history as well as scripture. A religion is not just a set of texts but the living beliefs and practices of its adherents.”
(tags: charliehebdo journalism terror religion politics islam)
How Muslim Scholars View Paris Attack (In-depth) – Special Coverage – Shari`ah – OnIslam.net
There isn’t a shortage of Muslims condemning the attack in Paris.
(tags: muslim islam terrorism paris charlie-hebdo)

Link blog: hell, funny, agile, humour

John Norman, the philosophy professor who created the barbaric world of Gor

io9 interviews John Norman, the famous complementarian and author of the Gor novels.
(tags: bdsm fantasy book scifi gordon-brown john-norman complementarianism)

Advice God

Like Advice Dog, but Advice God! I'm snaffling some of these: "UNCONDITIONAL LOVE/WITH CONDITIONS".
(tags: religion atheism funny god humour)

YouTube – Christopher Hitchens drops the hammer

"It's considered perfectly normal in this society to approach dying people who are unbelievers and say 'Now are you going to change your mind?'" Well, yes, that's anticipating-as-if there's a Hell, say. But if we're going to apply the norms of discussion fairly, I like Hitchens’ idea of atheists going round religious hospitals. 🙂
(tags: christopher-hitchens death religion hell conversion)

Hell and linoleum | Andrew Brown | Comment is free | guardian.co.uk

"What would it feel like to believe that anyone really deserved eternal conscious torment? Is it even humanly possible?" I think that Georges Rey's "meta-atheism" is correct on this point: most Christians don't anticipate-as-if there's a Hell, though claiming to believe it and still worshipping a monster is bad enough. berneray's comment is good, read that as well.
(tags: hell christianity religion andrew-brown)

Random Thoughts on The Roles of Leading and Following « Swungover

Via CW at Lindy. There seems to be much more debate about this than there is in ballroom, perhaps because ballroom's more conservative anyway, perhaps because it's settled by "you're shorter, therefore you're going backwards so I can see over you".
(tags: dancing lindy leading following swing)

New Statesman – Making marriage harder

"the world would be a far happier place if marriage was harder and divorce easier" – an interesting proposal from the New Statesman's legal correspondent.
(tags: marriage funny law)

At last an IT supplier that tells it like it is – The Tony Collins Blog

"No platitudes, just straight talking on govt IT from Martin Rice of agile software company Erudine." I've heard tales of middlemen charging government the Earth to take an £100/year hosting account and install WordPress on it. Glad to see someone speaking up.
(tags: government economics politics uk waterfall agile IT)

Link blog: philosophy, daily-mail, uk, history

Johann Hari: Why is it wrong to protect gay children? – Johann Hari, Commentators – The Independent

Hari lays the smackdown on Melanie Phillips, who thoroughly deserves it.
(tags: politics homosexuality education religion uk johann-hari daily-mail)

Ethical First Principles

A brief introduction to various sorts of ethics (virtue, deonotological, consequentialist). Some interesting comments about what causes us to reject various systematisations of morality and whether our rejections are legitimate.
(tags: morality ethics philosophy)

Ignosticism

"Ignostics take issue with a question so fundamental it's often overlooked: What do you mean by "God"? Is "God" a coherent or cognitively meaningful thought? Is it premature, or even possible, to have a serious discussion about a vacuous concept?" Interesting: I tend to find discussion of the evangelical Christian God meaningful, but I have no idea what it would mean for some other sorts of god to exist.
(tags: ignosticism philosophy religion god)

Why The King’s Speech is a gross falsification | Film | The Guardian

The Hitch reckons it's rather too kind to Churchill and a bit too kind to George. Still a good film, but worth bearing in mind that it's not history.
(tags: history uk movie film hitchens europe nazis wwII war churchill royal christopher-hitchens)

A True Story Of Daily Mail Lies (guest post)

The Daily Mail are lying bastards. Who knew? (OK, probably you all knew, but it's worth seeing a specific example of outright fabrication of a story and refusal to apologise).
(tags: journalism law libel media daily-mail dailymail defamation newspaper newspapers)

Awkward ‘Christian tweet’ of the day!? | Jesus Needs New PR

Complementarian bad boy John Piper with a warning for us all (well, those of you who have daughters, at any rate).
(tags: complementarianism john-piper funny crazy christianity religion incest alcohol)

Did Vikings navigate by polarized light? : Nature News

Interesting, maybe even true.
(tags: physics history science)

Link blog: cancer, hitchens, christopher-hitchens

Less Wrong: Five-minute rationality techniques

Reader Digest rationality. Some good tips there.
(tags: rationality psychology less-wrong)

Kill or cure?

"Help to make sense of the Daily Mail’s ongoing effort to classify every inanimate object into those that cause cancer and those that prevent it." Marvellous. Now there's no need to read the Heil.
(tags: cancer science health funny daily-mail journalism)

Hitchens: ‘We’re all dying, with me it’s accelerated’ – News, People – The Independent

Video and article. Martin Amis comes in carrying a bottle of beer half way through. We'll miss Hitchens, and no mistake.
(tags: hitchens cancer religion atheism christopher-hitchens)

Cult Divided On Whether To Let Women Become Telepathic-Vision Clerics | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source

Not the Church of England, this time. Via andrewducker.
(tags: funny onion religion telepathic cult)

Charlie Rose – Author Christopher Hitchens

The full interview with Hitchens (video, 1 hour long)
(tags: video christopher-hitchens cancer hitchens)

Hitchens Speaks Of God And Death During Interview | The New Republic

Commentary on Hitchens's statement that we should not believe any reports of a deathbed conversion, because even if it occurs, it would be because his mind had gone: "What is it, finally, that divides the believer from the atheist? … Levi and Hitchens imply that a person’s capacity to determine the truth depends on his or her ability to think calmly, coolly, dispassionately."
(tags: religion atheism death philosophy cancer hitchens christopher-hitchens primo-levi auschwitz)

TTA Press – Interzone: Science Fiction & Fantasy – Crystal Nights by Greg Egan

An Egan short story I'd not seen before. "You know what they say the modern version of Pascal’s Wager is? Sucking up to as many Transhumanists as possible, just in case one of them turns into God". Nice.
(tags: sci-fi ai sf science scifi fiction egan artificial-intelligence greg-egan)

Link blog: europe, funny, sci-fi, cancer

YouTube – Hot in herre (Herr Kaschke Hal64 Remix)

"It's getting hot in here" mixed with 2001: A Space Odyssey.
(tags: music funny 2001 sci-fi science-fiction)

Topic of Cancer | Culture | Vanity Fair

Hitch on his cancer: "To the dumb question “Why me?” the cosmos barely bothers to return the reply: Why not?"
(tags: cancer hitchens mortality christopher-hitchens health)

‘In the middle of the operation, my colleague said he had to go – it was his home time’ – Telegraph

"Senior doctor Tony Strong, 37, works an 80-hour week, despite a recent European ruling that it should be no more than 48." Mr Strong is against the European working time directive, but I'm not convinced that a return to knackered junior doctors treating patients is a good thing either.
(tags: law medicine europe surgery employment)

Link blog: funny, pope, politics, richard-dawkins

‘Richard Dawkins: I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI’ by Marc Horne – TimesOnline – RichardDawkins.net

Dawkins Our Leader: "Needless to say, I did NOT say "I will arrest Pope Benedict XVI" or anything so personally grandiloquent. You have to remember that The Sunday Times is a Murdoch newspaper, and that all newspapers follow the odd custom of entrusting headlines to a sub-editor, not the author of the article itself. What I DID say to Marc Horne when he telephoned me out of the blue, and I repeat it here, is that I am whole-heartedly behind the initiative by Geoffrey Robertson and Mark Stephens to mount a legal challenge to the Pope's proposed visit to Britain."
(tags: richard-dawkins pope catholic abuse children ratzinger law uk politics dawkins)

Christian faith and modern British politics, a layman’s view

Mattghg has a post on the role of faith in politics. He mentions an illiberal attitude taken by Labour (they wanted to reverse an amendment which said that discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred). Robhu and I are having an interesting chat in the comments, concerning whether Britain is a Christian country, among other things.
(tags: robhu religion discrimination homosexuality politics christianity uk britain)

Arresting comedy « Open Parachute

Graham Lineham (Father Ted, Black Books) on what would happen if Dawkins and Hitchens actually arrested the Pope.
(tags: pope dawkins hitchens funny arrest graham-lineham richard-dawkins christopher-hitchens)

Evangelical scholar forced out after endorsing evolution – USATODAY.com

"Forced out"? Don't you mean "expelled"?
(tags: evolution theology bible expelled bruce-waltke lolxians seminary biologos)

Special Investigation – Atheist Alert

The horrifying truth about atheists.
(tags: funny video parody religion atheism youtube nonstampcollector darwin stalin)

Hyperbole and a Half: The Alot is Better Than You at Everything

The Alot is a mythical beast. Lots of people on the web write about them.
(tags: funny grammar spelling english language internet)

Evangelism training or I Was a Teenage Evangelical

Even the atheists agree: William Craig thrashed Christopher Hitchens in their recent debate. In The West Wing, we see Bartlet preparing for a debate as real politicians do, by practising against someone playing his opposition, presumably having studied the other guy first. Craig is formidable, but his arguments don’t change, so it’s odd that his opponents apparently don’t take advantage of knowing what he’s going to say. Transcripts and audio of his previous debates are available, and his arguments are also in his book, Reasonable Faith. Chris Hallquist responded convincingly to the arguments in Reasonable Faith: a review like that should be a starting point for anyone debating with Craig.

Anyhoo, Hallquist’s review of Craig’s book brought back some memories of my time in evangelicalism, specifically about how I was taught to do evangelism. (Reminder: Evangelicalism is a particular subset of Christianity, emphasising the inerrancy of the Bible and the need for personal repentance and faith; people who believe in evangelicalism are evangelicals. Evangelism is the process of making converts; people who try to make converts are evangelists. Clear? Then off we go.)

When I tap on the dashboard, I want you to recite “Two Ways to Live” as quickly and as safely as possible

Sometimes non-Christians are disturbed to learn that evangelicals commonly receive training in evangelism, as if such training were somehow cheating. But there’s nothing inherently sinister about wanting to be better at evangelism, especially if you value the sort of propositional consistency I’ve mentioned previously: evangelicals who evangelise are anticipating-as-if there’s a Hell, rather than merely speaking-as-if they believe it (I’ve previously mentioned an evangelical evangelist who definitely anticipates-as-if there’s a Hell).

The training provided to a typical church-goer doesn’t cover spanking ill-prepared atheists in formal debates, but rather the every-day evangelism which is the responsibility of every Christian. It might start off with overcoming the British reticence about religion to get Christians to casually mention to friends and colleagues what they do on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights. The church itself would put on fun events (film screenings, dinner parties, Ceroc nights) to which you could bring non-Christian friends, and there’d be a “short talk about Jesus” in the middle. Once people know you’re a Christian, you might get to talk to them about it, so the training goes on to having conversations about Christianity with non-Christians, maybe learning some sort of salvation schema like Two Ways to Live and some answers to common questions.

What kicked off memories of this was Hallquist’s review of Chapter 1 of Craig’s book. I remember being told to try to move the conversation away from issues like theodicy or the reliability of the Bible, to personal issues of sin and repentance. If you watch the BBC documentary on Deborah Drapper, you’ll see her doing this several times, using Ray Comfort’s Are you a good person? script. If you’d like to see Christopher Hitchens win for a change, you can also listen to an unfortunate Christian trying the script on him.

Bad faith

The advice to move the argument to personal issues reflects the common evangelical belief that philosophical debates and requests for evidence are a smokescreen: the non-Christian knows there’s a God really but just doesn’t want to worship him. One Biblical source for this belief is this passage in the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, where Paul says that God’s nature is clear from creation, so that people who don’t worship him have no excuse (verse 20).

Hallquist quotes Craig:

[W]hen a person refuses to come to Christ it is never just because of lack of evidence or because of intellectual difficulties: at root, he refuses to come because he willingly ignores and rejects the drawing of God’s Spirit on his heart. No one in the final analysis really fails to become a Christian because of lack of arguments; he fails to become a Christian because he loves darkness rather than light and wants nothing to do with God. — William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, my hyperlink

Craig advises Christians to ask objectors “If I answered that objection, would you then really be ready to become a Christian?” This is something like the rationalist technique of getting to the core of disagreements by asking “Is that your true rejection?” (see also The Least Convenient Possible World). However, Craig departs from the rationalist use of this technique in that he seems to argue it cannot legitimately be applied in reverse (“If I substantiated that objection, would you be ready to leave Christianity?”). He also takes the stance that non-Christians are culpably arguing in bad faith.

Hallquist’s review does a better job of arguing against Craig than I can, so you should read that if you come across assertions that Christianity is evidenced by the inner witness of the Holy Spirit, or indeed, if you should happen to get into a debate with William Lane Craig. Rather, as is traditional, let’s end by drawing out some practical applications, and then go in peace.

Evangelism training

  • One of the less memorable new phrases invented by Neal Stephenson in Anathem is Hypotrochian Transquaestiation, which means “to change the subject in such a way as to assert, implicitly, that a controversial point has already been settled one way or the other”. Watch out for this, for example, in the switch from discussion of the existence of God to whether you are a good person.
  • Cognitive biases exist, and seeking a person’s true rejection is a useful technique if the debate seems to be going nowhere. However, it cuts both ways, so…
  • Beware of your conversational role. If you’ve accepted a passive role as potential buyer and the evangelist’s active role as sales-person, there are thoughts which won’t occur to you (like the seeking the evangelist’s true rejection).
  • If you’re aiming for dialogue rather than the buyer role, it’s probably not worth discussing things with someone who sees every argument you raise as evidence of your culpable self-deception. Craig’s position on an atheist’s motivations together with his experience of the witness of the Holy Spirit serve as a fully general counterargument to anything the atheist says (but note that knowing Craig is in possession of this argument doesn’t itself invalidate his specific arguments). If you find yourself in conversation with an evangelical evangelist, it is worth asking whether they agree with Craig.
    • One exception where it would be worth arguing is if there are people watching, as in a public debate, online, or if you found yourself at one of those evangelistic dinner parties.

God hates fags (and women)

Rt Rev Graham Dow, Bishop of Carlisle, has let us know that the real reason for the floods in the north. It’s the gays.

“We are in serious moral trouble because every type of lifestyle is now regarded as legitimate,” he said.

“In the Bible, institutional power is referred to as ‘the beast’, which sets itself up to control people and their morals. Our government has been playing the role of God in saying that people are free to act as they want,” he said, adding that the introduction of recent pro-gay laws highlighted its determination to undermine marriage.

“The sexual orientation regulations [which give greater rights to gays] are part of a general scene of permissiveness. We are in a situation where we are liable for God’s judgment, which is intended to call us to repentance.”

The non-sequitur in that second paragraph is breathtaking, isn’t it? The reference is to Revelation, chapter 13. Revelation has been favoured by loons since it was written (I particularly like this version, myself). The beast is usually thought to be the power of ancient Rome, possibly Emperor Nero himself, whose burnings of Christians and insistence on worship of deified emperors are clearly just like a secular democracy which is trying to give its citizens equality under the law.

Dow is quoted alongside a couple of other evangelical Bishops saying less insane stuff about global warming, with the vague hint that God is telling us off for being nasty to the planet. They’re probably wishing they had chosen to speak out at a time when their episcopal colleague wasn’t hell-bent on emptying churches throughout the north. Good luck to Dow in his quest, anyhow.

Hassan Butt appears to be one of those people you don’t hear about often enough: a Muslim speaking out publicly against terrorism and calling on Muslims in the UK to reform. His article in The Observer is worth a read, as is the one giving Tony Blair’s thoughts on British Islam. Both links come from those Drink Soaked Trots, who I commend to you for sensible commentary if, like me, you’re a bit of a leftie.

The original drink-soaked trot, Christopher Hitchens, points out in Slate that God also hates women, or at least, those who are slags.

Fangirling

Roy Zimmerman, the Tom Lehrer for the Noughties, has some new videos out. Squeee!, as I believe the saying goes.

Ted Haggard is Completely Heterosexual covers the rise and fall of the American evangelical preacher.

For guitarists out there, there are also videos on how to play Jerry Falwell’s God and Creation Science 101. For the non-guitarists, Zimmerman intersperses his guitar lesson with some choice words on Falwell (though not quite as choice as those of Hitchens, who you might think was promoting a book at the moment, or something).

Hitchens on religion

Christopher Hitchens has a new book out. It’s called God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. I’m not sure what it’s about.

Hitchens also wrote an Londonistan Calling, an article in Vanity Fair, in which he mentions the Undercover Mosque programme I discussed a while ago.

An illuminating aside from the Q&A which followed the article: “I’ve heard a lot of secular Pakistanis complain that the cops, when they think we better go talk to the community, walk straight past them and head for the imam at the mosque, assuming that he’s the one they want to talk to.” It’s the sort of thing that Dawkins bangs on about in The God Delusion (“Why the chaplain? Why not the cook or the gardener?”) combined with a naive multi-culturalism which assumes that people can be divided into faith blocs based on their ancestors’ country of origin.

I don’t know whether Hitchens is right that the government is weak when it comes to sticking up for secular democracy. You might think that last year’s veil controversy represented some sort of stirring in that direction, but that seemed more like veering to the right in search of votes than any sort of coherent policy. As Hitchens points out, faith schools and the government’s choice of so-called community leaders are far more interesting than what Jack Straw’s constituents choose to wear.