Thursday, January 27, 2005

Hitchens nails it


In an interview with Atlantic Monthly, Christopher Hitchens ("not an atheist, an anti-theist") came out with the following:
Listen, if a child tells me he's seen a ghost, I'll say, "Well, I'm sure you did, but I don't think I'll be able to see it myself, and I don't think it's really there, though I do think you must have a very vivid imagination." However, if a grown-up says "I've just a heard a voice telling me what to do," what they really mean is "I can now tell you what to do."

That, in essence, is the problem with religion in politics.


Wednesday, January 05, 2005

More on Mr Brown, Messiah

It's on Channel 4 this Friday 7th Jan, 10.35pm.

An interview on his
website.



Sunday, January 02, 2005

I wish I was deep, instead of just pious


In reply to a particularly acerbic diatribe by Richard Dawkins in The Guardian letters page last week, a Christian called Dr GJ Welch wrote the following:

As a Christian, I know exactly why I should love and care for others. If I were an atheist, I can't imagine why I should bother to help anyone whose genes might compete with mine.

This is a surprisingly common argument. Surprising because of the poor light it sheds upon its user, who is in effect admitting that the only reason they behave in a decent manner is because they imagine a post-death judicial system of punishment and reward, administered by an all-powerful deity. To which the response must be: Please, whatever you do, don't stop being a Christian.

A similar argument is the one which cites all the murderers and wife-batterers who reformed when they accepted Jesus as their saviour. One has to admit that Christianity can be a useful tool for tricking criminals into behaving themselves.

While I doubt Dr Welch really is as shallow as he claims to be, I still find it extraordinary that he should brag about it in the national press.

You can view the series of letters at the following links:

1st batch, in reponse to an article by Martin Kettle

2nd batch, including Dawkins's original letter

3rd batch, including Welch's quoted above letter

4th batch, with an excellent response from Dawkins, and another outraged atheist


Thursday, December 30, 2004

He's not the Messiah. He's a very clever boy


Whenever I see a "faith healer" perform at a pentecostal or evangelical church, making people fall down by the power of the spirit, or magically fixing bad backs or sore knees, I always think to myself, I could do that. And it's true. I could. So could you.

The power of suggestion, coupled with socio-cognitive forces such as peer expectation, is the engine that drives these pentecostal shows. It is exactly the same with stage hypnosis. All that is necessary is that the hypnotist/faith healer be convincing. For me to do the "heal by the power of the holy spirit" thing in a church, all I'd need is a couple of days to learn and rehearse the patter, find a pastor that doesn't know I'm an atheist, then watch the congregation faint like floozies at the power of my touch. Then, when it's all over and I'm being thanked and congratulated, I tell them I was just kidding. There's no such thing as the holy spirit. You've been had.

Unfortunately, I've never had the time. Or the guts.

But Derren Brown, the great magician and skeptic, has both. This master of deception is doing a Channel 4 show in which he tries to convince a bunch of leading Christians (and some new agers) that he is the Messiah! Bet he succeeds too.

Boy, that's going to be good telly.


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