Thursday, September 30, 2010

Two pictures speak a thousand words

Here is a cartoon published by the atheist Martin Rowson in The Guardian. Interesting to compare it with the reality. But then one can rarely accuse atheists of letting the truth get in the way of their propaganda. Rowson is unsurprisingly a supporter of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Society. Enough Said!

Here is the reality. Two hundred thousand people greet the Pope with enthusiasm as he makes his way towards Hyde Park. Add to that the eighty thousand people awaiting his arrival in Hyde Park. The few thousand atheist protestors were swept away by a sea of joy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What the Fool says (4)

A message from Claire Rayner on The National Secular Society website extols visitors to join the society and 'be on the side of all humanity, the side of intelligence, rationality and decency.' According to Rayner, who is also Vice-President of the British Humanist Association and an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association:

'I do hope you’ll join the Society, because its work helps keep alight the torch of clear rational thought and plain common sense in a world that is beset by confusion, superstition and very muddled thinking'.

Here is a recent example of the sort of 'clear rational thought and plain common sense' that Rayner espouses:

'I have no language with which to adequately describe Joseph Alois Ratzinger, AKA the Pope. In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature. His views are so disgusting, so repellent and so hugely damaging to the rest of us, that the only thing to do is to get rid of him.'

So much for humanity and intelligence, rationality and decency! Little wonder that The National Secular Society is struggling.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Roger Scruton on God

You can listen to Roger Scruton's 2010 Gifford Lectures on the theme of 'The Face of God' by clicking this link.

Scruton tells in his own thoughtful, philosophical manner how he regained his religion in the final chapter of his autobiography, Gentle Regrets.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An organisation in terminal decline?

The National Secular Society that organisation which claims to represent the majority population of Great Britain is struggling.

From Gavin Drake's blog:

'In the year to 2009, the Society’s income from membership subscriptions and donations totalled just £158,890. If you divide this by the basic membership fee of £29 then at most there can be just 5,479 members.

But the Society has different membership categories with differing fees; and the figure quoted also includes donations. I would estimate that the Society only has between 3,000 and 3,500 members. And yet they accuse the churches of being irrelevant on the basis of numbers.'

These pathetic numbers explain why the atheist NSS refuses to publicise details of its membership. It would be interesting to see what the makeup of their membership is: geographic distribution, class, ethnic make-up, etc. As Damian Thompson pointed out in his excellent blog concerning the no popery demonstration in London last Saturday:

'And look at what a thin demographic sliver of the population they represented: mostly white, middle-class, metropolitan. (Needless to say, none of them could be bothered to make the trek up to Birmingham: the Pope may be the atheists’ Antichrist, but you mustn’t let your principles get in the way of a lazy Sunday morning cappuccino.)'

The fact is that very few people, even atheists, want to be aligned with this weak-minded and hysterical bunch of extremists.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We do God

Baroness Warsi gave a speech in Oxford yesterday in which she affirmed that the new government, unlike the previous administration, would do God. This is a reference to Alastair Campbell's famous remark some years ago that the Labour Government didn't 'do God'. Following her comments, Baroness Warsi appeared today on the Daily Politics show on the BBC where she put in a confident performance and made mincemeat of the show's attempt to trivialise the role of religion in politics. The programme's hostile treatment of the issues succeeded only in illustrating Baroness Warsi's point that the religious viewpoint is now being treated, routinely, with suspicion and prejudice. Anti-religious bigotry in the media seems to be compulsory. Although, no doubt, always present to some degree, what has changed is that it is now being voiced more openly and unashamedly. Anita Anand (usually an intelligent presenter) behaved like a mouthpiece for Richard Dawkins by quizzing Warsi on her support for faith schools as if it were a crime. This is bizarre given that faith schools are among the most popular in society and parents want them. Don't we live in a democracy anymore?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A category mistake

According to reports in today's newspapers, in a new book co-authored with Leonard Mlodinow, The Grand Design, Stephen Hawking writes, 'Because there is a law such as gravity, the universe can and will create itself from nothing. Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist. It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.'

If there is nothing then there is no law of gravity. If there is no law of gravity, then the universe cannot create itself from nothing as a result of the law of gravity. Hawking appears to think that nothing is a kind of something. But something (even a set of laws) is precisely what nothing is the opposite of.

Those of a scientistic world view will try and argue that gravity does not depend on matter, that 'laws' and 'forces' can exist even when there is nothing. This is because they confuse the category 'nothing' with the category 'no material thing'. But nothing refers to the complete lack of anything, whether material, immaterial, whether a physical object or an idea, or a law, or a force.

If gravity exists without matter, then there is not nothing even if there is no matter, in which case the universe does not create itself from nothing. What Hawking appears to be describing is the mechanism by which the material universe is generated. He is in fact unwittingly putting forward a proof of the existence of a Creator, since he suggests that the universe requires 'something' to exist in order for it to be generated, 'something' that exists even when there is nothing. This 'something' must be 'something' the existence of which explains any mechanism of creation. That's what is meant by God as Creator.

That nothing is a kind of something is a category mistake, to which physicists seem to be particularly prone.