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What will you do with your last day?

Mushroom cloudAccording to the Mayans (or rather, certain interpretations of their division of time into ages) apocalypse is coming on Friday, triggering the end of the world, the end times, or something along those lines. Details are sketchy, but it’s not going to be good news. It’s all rubbish, obviously (a statement I can safely make because in the unlikely event that I’m wrong no one will be around to point it out), but some people claim to believe it.

Despite that belief, which 10% of the global population claim to hold, we’re not seeing the sort of activity you’d expect. If you really thought you had days left to live, you’d be making the most of every minute. If you thought civilisation was about to collapse, you’d be stockpiling weapons, ammunition and long-lasting canned food. If even a small fraction of that 10% were acting on their beliefs, the markets would go into meltdown and the news would be full of little else. Read More…

The All-New Jesus Show

Older son’s at an age where he’s realised that some things aren’t real, but he doesn’t know which ones, or how to tell the difference. He’ll be watching TV and ask me if Mister Maker is actually real, and then I’ll have to explain that there’s a real man who really makes things, but he’s not really called Mister Maker, he doesn’t really live in a cardboard box, and no, he doesn’t live in the TV either, which then usually leads to a long discussion about how TVs work.

Iggle Piggle

“This is a toy, it’s a different Iggle Piggle on TV, and he’s not real either, he’s a man in a suit, but the man’s real…”

He can get confused by the strangest things – I once had to explain how I knew the Octonauts aren’t real:

Well, animals don’t talk, and they don’t wear clothes, do they? And they don’t live in huge motorised underwater mobile homes, and polar bears aren’t really the same size as cats and penguins, and there’s definitely no such thing as vegimals, and above all, it’s a cartoon.

Read More…

How can we change delusional beliefs?

That’s a fairly imposing title, isn’t it? I obviously don’t believe in making it easy for myself.

This all stems from my previous thoughts about how tenaciously we cling onto our existing beliefs, and a recent discussion about what that means for how we should go about convincing people to let go of beliefs that are clearly wrong and potentially damaging. This is meant to be about the process, not the beliefs, so to avoid discussion of the rights and wrongs of particular beliefs, let’s say you have a friend who belongs to a group called the Bargles, who believe that black is white, and (because sometimes we decide to let these things go for the sake of friendship) that for some reason it would be dangerous to just leave him to his beliefs. Read More…

The Church of Lance Armstrong

So Lance Armstrong has decided not to contest the charges of doping against him. That’s a result that disappoints me, but not because I think he’s innocent. It’s just that this appears to be a calculated PR move to try to blur the lines, and it would be much more satisfactory if all his dirty laundry was aired in a proper hearing. It will probably still come out eventually, but in such a way that people who want to ignore it will probably be able to.

I don’t particularly want to discuss Armstrong (you’ll probably be relieved to hear), but how people handle it when their beliefs are challenged, especially when they have a significant amount of emotional investment in those beliefs. Read More…

Religion – The Fifth Emergency Service

When I joined the AA (that’s the Automobile Association, for the avoidance of confusion – 12 steps don’t get you far when you’ve broken down 20 miles from home), I thought I was paying for breakdown cover. They also offered me a few small discounts on products I didn’t want, but that was no problem if I chose not to take them up on the offer. What I hadn’t been prepared for was the way they’d lobby the government, in my name, for all sorts of things I didn’t support. Read More…

Anti-Epiphanies

So I’ve walked away from the church after they said some nasty things about gay people. Which is odd, because it’s not exactly as if it’s the first time something like this has happened. I think the statement on same-sex marriage was different in some way, but that doesn’t exactly explain the severity of my reaction.

I remember the exact day of the statement. My mind was on it the whole day, thinking about what it meant, and what I should do. The intensity of feeling has faded with time, but not the certainty that things had changed, or that I had to do something. In many ways, it felt just like a spiritual epiphany. Read More…

Satan’s Fork

It’s pretty much a given that whenever someone leaves the church, Christians look for reasons why, often finding ways to blame or discredit that person, much like the tendency to say that atheists believe in God really, they’re just rebelling against Him. That’s bad in itself – in fact, it’s shocking – but I’ve been thinking about this and anticipating the sort of things people will say to/about me, and I suddenly realised something.

If you leave the church in difficult circumstances, like a bereavement or hardship, it’s common for people to say that you’re blaming God for your troubles. Maybe that’s fair enough, although given that it’s intended as a criticism it would be better if the people saying it had a decent answer to the problem of evil, but what about the alternatives? Read More…

Belief by the manual

Once again, something that’s been on my mind for a while has been dragged to the top of my shamefully long list of things I’d like to write about by a few conversations, here and elsewhere, which have made it seem particularly relevant to address it right now. This time, following on from my last post about what I termed “atheist fundamentalism” (a term I’m still not very happy with), it’s how much we can reasonably generalise about belief (both religious and non-religious) that’s got my attention. Read More…

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