Bill Hicks Was Ahead of His Time

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He was a hero of freethought long before many of us were. His Wikipedia page.

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The Vacancy of The Morality of Fear

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Everyday we try to be nice, we don’t steal or lie or hurt or make people feel bad, these moralities are common sense. We do this primarily because of our experiences (upbringing, education…etc.) and our conscience. Morality in a religious context is an issue complicated by fear and reward. Religions that use fear and reward to enforce morality lack integrity and the good feeling of moral behaviour based on compassion, love and intellect. Doing good is it’s own reward and science shows this:

    1. Lalin Anik, Lara B. Aknin. Michael I. Norton. Elizabeth W. Dun (45 sources)

      Conclusion: The evidence we reviewed is quite supportive: Happier people give more and giving makes people happier, such that happiness and giving may operate in a positive feedback loop (with happier people giving more, getting happier, and giving even more).

    2. Stephen G. Post (28 Sources)

      Conclusion: The principle has been scientifically established. The welfare of oneself (self-fulfillment) and of others (self-sacrifice) are
      inseparable and interrelated components of the healthy human personality in a healthy environment.

The evidence supports that doing good feels good what about motivation? Why is fear of God, hell..etc. an unhealthy motivation? Common sense tells us that fear creates undue anxiety and all its problems. Also using fear as a motivation is the way of bullies and dictators, it also creates resentment in the people being manipulated. Ultimately using fear as a tool enforce moral behavior is unhealthy and can lead to resentment, defiance and loss of control.

Research also shows that we shouldn’t need fear to enforce moral behaviour anyway. Moral Psychology has been separating ethical behaviour from emotion for decades. Empathy has also been shown to be a natural result of our evolution. While it is difficult and sometimes even impossible to separate emotion from decision making fear is most certainly the worst way to make a moral decision.

A question religious apologists often ask of unbelievers is “What is stopping you from murdering and raping and pillaging as much as you want?’ to which we ask ‘Are you saying that without God you would be doing those things?’  Humanists, atheists and other unbelievers believe that the primary motivator for moral behavior should be love itself when balanced with reason doing good deeds is its own reward (see above) and that can be achieved right here and now. It also takes courage to take responsibility for own actions (integrity).

When I’m raising my children, my job is to get my children to act in ways that are moral when there is no fear and no reward, but to do it for the sake of doing it. When you add everlasting life as the reward, and everlasting torment as the punishment, there can be no morality. We need to treat each other well because we love each other, and not for reward or punishment. – Penn Jillette

When one considers religions so often also use guilt as well as fear and that moral behaviour existed long before and despite religion then we see that religion’s grip on morality has been lost. Instead we suggest that we let our love and our rational faculties be the motivator. We can reap the rewards of being good right now knowing that we did it for the right reasons.

 

Anti-jihadi advert preaching ‘love not terror’ goes viral in Middle East

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This is what is needed to stop terror in the name of Islam. There is some controversy because it uses victims of attacks and is a commercial for a telecom company however a cultural change, which videos like this help with,  is one of the key solutions to Islamic extremism.

What do you think?

 

And the FULL VIDEO

 

Muslim community worker ‘warned officers about Manchester bomber five years ago’

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According to Metro news a member of the Muslim community reported the Manchester bomber years ago and nothing was done, that’s because nothing could be done. While communication is certainly one of the key factors in solving the problem with radical Muslims reporting someone for odd behaviour isn’t. In a free country like the U.S. or the UK police usually can’t do anything until an actual crime is committed. The issue then becomes one of getting a person who is talking about hurting themselves or other people the professional care they need but unless a person has been declared incompetent they have to want help.

So while it is noble and responsible to report a potential problem to the professionals there isn’t much anyone can do directly. Until we are perfect beings there will always be violence and neglect that allows violence to happen.  Only due diligence from security and law enforcement professionals can help mitigate it, but we are not completely powerless.  The Global Economic Symposium generated a wonderful, intelligent list of solutions to terrorism in 2008:

  • In dealing with terrorism, place emphasis on the state´s capacity to protect the public, permit the exercise of its freedoms, and maintain public services.
  • If the government succeeds in protecting the public and maintaining public services, then publicize the impact of terrorist violence on innocent civilians, in order to weaken the legitimacy of terrorist groups. At the same time, avoid overreaction.
  • Avoid policies and pronouncements that feed grievance. In pluralistic societies, pursue policies that integrate immigrants, rather than just providing passive welfare support.
  • Initiate a regional security regime for all the states of the Gulf and the Levant, aimed at mutual diplomatic recognition, gradual withdrawal of foreign forces, and nuclear nonproliferation.
  • Govern through inclusive, legitimized political institutions, avoiding instrumental justification of violence.
  • Initiate a comprehensive international initiative to prevent weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands.
  • Strengthen our ability to manage the financial risks of terrorism through a combination of public and private instruments: terrorism catastrophe bonds, mutual insurance pools, and government insurance support.

All of these are great ideas and should be implemented worldwide but they are lofty, and unrealistic at this point in human history. As individuals we can vote for leaders that support these kinds of initiatives and change will happen, even if slowly. On an interpersonal level encouraging those we are concerned with to seek professional help is our only real option. If bad things do happen then supporting the victims and maintaining our freedoms and our democracy guarantees we do not and will not let the bad guys win.

 

Isis-linked militants take priest and churchgoers hostage in Philippines, beheading civilians.

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Never thought I’d be capable of hating anything but Militant Islam has accomplished that. They have declared war on everything not Islam and there is no answer in sight.

Isis militants have previously beheaded Christians in gory propaganda videos filmed in Libya and elsewhere, and a Catholic church was previously targeted by supporters in France. (source)

Pat Condell’s wise word from a few years back. still applies:

He crosses the line a couple of times but his frustration is really representative of how a lot of people are feeling about Islamic militants and Islam in general even still. Attacks like the recent Manchester one is partly why this blog exists. There is something toxic in that and other religions and education is they key to changing that.

Christians Decline as Share of U.S. Population and the Unaffiliated Are Growing

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According the Pew Research Center Christianity is on the decline in the United States. Religion, as a rule, has been on the decline in more prosperous and socially progressive countries world wide for some time.  The numbers don’t necessarily imply a decline in belief and even if religion were to disappear, then what? Some experts believe the decline in religion shown in a lot of modern research is more indicative of a decline in religious affiliation. For example this chart shows that there is indeed an increase in people who identify as non-religious (atheist, agnostic, unaffiliated, etc.):

But this chart also shows an increase in diversity among Christians:

On first look these two sets of data do reinforce the theory that people aren’t necessarily less religious but more often going their own way in finding what sort of beliefs they like. (Source). The research also points out: ‘While many U.S. religious groups are aging, the unaffiliated are comparatively young – and getting younger, on average, over time.’ It’s hard to pinpoint while younger generations are less religious but Michael Hout, a professor of sociology at New York University says :

Many Millennials have parents who are Baby Boomers and Boomers expressed to their children that it’s important to think for themselves – that they find their own moral compass. Also, they rejected the idea that a good kid is an obedient kid. That’s at odds with organizations, like churches, that have a long tradition of official teaching and obedience. And more than any other group, Millennials have been and are still being formed in this cultural context. As a result, they are more likely to have a “do-it-yourself” attitude toward religion.(Source)

Hout cites cultural upbringing as the reason for Millennials to be so disconnected from religion. Things like Watergate, televangelists and other scandals have shaken younger generations’ trust in traditional institutions. In 2009 The Center For American Progress found that Millenials are much more progressive then older generations.

Millennials support gay marriage, take race and gender equality as givens, are tolerant of religious and family diversity, have an open and positive attitude toward immigration, and generally display little interest in fighting over the divisive social issues of the past. Almost two-thirds agree that religious faith should focus more on promoting tolerance, social justice, and peace in society, and less on opposing abortion or gay rights. (source)

I did post on why religious unbelief is tied to affluence in 2013 and concluded that religious belief is indeed tied to social and economic progress.  This is very positive. However history has taught us that until human condition changes there will always be hate, greed..etc but perhaps as civilization grows more of a focus on this world and not the next we will save ourselves from a very uncertain future.

Pence Was Right, Sort Of.

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U.S. Vice-President has recently claimed that Christianity is the most persecuted faith. At first glance it seems ridiculous that someone as privileged as Mike Pence would say that his religion is the most persecuted, but is it? The honest approach is to examine the truth of the statement. According the Pew research center Christianity is still the most widespread religion. (source)

How persecuted is each religion?

It’s hard to say, ‘religious restrictions’ are on the increase worldwide but depends on what part of the world you are talking about. The issue is complicated by the fact that Christianity is the most popular religion in the world. It is also hard to find reliable numbers but according to some estimated 90,000 to 100,00 Christians die in violent conflict each year but those numbers are skewed by armed conflicts in which Christians and other faiths are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.  When you crunch the numbers it is likely that around the same percentage of Christians are killed as any other religion but again hard to find solid evidence to support this. Assuming Christians do suffer more violence, what about quality of living?

Quality Of Living

This depends where you go. Obviously the more impoverished the country the more it’s population, religious, or other wise suffer a low quality of life. Like this study that shows the most religious restrictions are in African countries that are suffering from poverty and war. By comparing the countries that have the most Christians with standard of living they have we can get some insight into quality of life for Christians worldwide.

 1  United States 230,000,000 71.0% Quality Of Life Rank  19
2  Brazil 175,700,000 91.4%  Quality of Life Rank  46
3  Russia 117,640,000 83.6%  Quality of Life Rank  75
4  Mexico 113,500,000 93%  Quality of Life Rank  51
5  Nigeria 92,281,000 52.8%  Quality of Life Rank  119
6  Philippines 86,500,000 85.8%  Quality of Life Rank  68
7  Congo, Democratic Republic of 68,558,000 95.6%  Unranked
8  Ethiopia 54,978,000 64.5%  Quality of Life Ranking  126
9  Italy 54,070,000 91.5%  Quality of Life Ranking 24
10  Germany 50,000,000       Ranking: 15

(Courtesy of Wikipedia and Pewforums.org) and the 2016 Social Progress Index

Of the top ten countries with the most Christians only two ranked above 20 and three were 75 or lower and The Congo was unranked. The list seems to show the entire spectrum of living conditions for Christians around the world from very good (United States, Germany and Italy) to very bad (Nigeria and Ethiopia and the Congo).

Conclusion:

To say that Christians are the most persecuted is only correct if you also claim that it is likely because they are the most populous. Far more serious research would be needed to conclusively show that they are the most persecuted proportionately, as Pence and many others seem to claim.