Opinion: God help us

“In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal … inspiration best comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ … the example of his life, the purpose of his death and the hope that comes from his resurrection brings that special dimension to leadership and to life itself.” Isn’t it reassuring to know that the commander in chief of the British Army is more than just a few of rounds short of a full ammunition belt?

For those were the reported comments of General Sir Richard Dannatt, who managed to take time off from fighting two wars, in order to address a recent conference for evangelical Christians in Swanwick, Derbyshire. To my ears, it would have been scarcely less bizarre had he been extolling the virtues of the goddess Aphrodite, discussing his private conversations with Elvis, or perhaps suggesting that every soldier be equipped with a voodoo doll of Osama bin Laden as a key weapon in the war against terror. And yet, with one notable exception, the General’s remarks produced barely a murmur in the press; while our politicians, fearful as ever of losing the God vote, maintained a strict radio silence – such is the absurd degree of respect we routinely afford those who would order their lives (and indeed everyone else’s given half a chance) around the delusions of one or other of the ancient mythologies.

But what makes this latest public display of deranged thinking at once astonishing and deeply disturbing, is Sir Richard’s explicit invocation of a metaphysics of life after death. Failing to explain to our brave soldiers that this life is but a trivial prelude to the eternal life to come, would in his words amount to a “betrayal.” Has he forgotten so soon the apocalyptic events (if you pardon the expression) which brought on our disastrous misadventures in the Middle East? When the 9/11 hijackers ploughed into the World Trade Center in 2001, they did so with a huge grin on their faces. For they believed with chilling certainty that they were merely seconds away from entering a paradise flowing with milk and honey, scented wine and delicious fruits, and never forgetting of course the seventy-two dark-eyed rechargeable virgins (or whatever it is that devout Muslims actually believe). So it was that 16 acres of Lower Manhattan were duly demolished in the name of the “religion of peace.”

Yet now we learn that Sir Richard himself holds beliefs which, though arising from Christian culture, are qualitatively no different to those held by the 19 gentlemen who managed six years ago to upend our world in such spectacular fashion. So, whilst it seems most unlikely that the General will soon be perpetrating a terrorist atrocity of his own, do we really think that he is a fit person to be commanding the British Army?

I submit that no-one with a talent for such monumental self-deception should be allowed anywhere near our levers of power, whether they be political, military, educational, medical, or judicial. For the “afterlife,” it must now be stated plainly, is nothing but a vain and ignorant superstition born out of a natural fear of death – a fear that religions have been exploiting for millennia in the furtherance of their respective kingdoms, which appear to be very much of this world, not of the next.

Of course when it comes to public manifestations of religious stupidity, we’ve got a little way to go before catching up with our friends from the United States of America. Yes, welcome to the “land of the free” – so free in fact that only 28% believe in evolution, while 68% believe in Satan, and around 44% think that Jesus will in all likelihood return sometime within the next fifty years. Hilarious, isn’t it? So naturally you might expect the US military to contain a few fruitcakes of its own. You wouldn’t be disappointed. Here’s a great quote from top Pentagon official Lieutenant General William Boykin in 2003: “Why is this man [Bush] in the White House? The majority of Americans did not vote for him.” (so far, so good) “He’s in the White House because God put him there for a time such as this.” Shortly after making these remarks, Boykin got the promotion he was angling for when he was put in charge of “stress and duress” techniques at Abu Ghraib – just the job for a nice Christian gentleman.

You’d think that with God on our side, the military interventions of the last few years might have proved to be a great success. In fact, virtually none of our foreign policy objectives have been achieved. In Afghanistan, bin Laden was allowed to skip over the hills, leaving us to fight a protracted battle against the Taliban which Lord Ashdown now considers to be a doomed enterprise. Meanwhile, Iraq is fast mutating into the most ghastly theocracy imaginable, and the world is without question a far more dangerous place than before, (when it should have been perfectly obvious that an Iraq invasion would end in tears: “If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.” – Jeremiah 32:5). The correct lesson to be drawn from all of this, is that if the problem is radical Islam, then the solution is emphatically not a Christian President Bush and his crazy sidekicks, taking orders from God to wage a “Crusade” against the Muslim world. It just doesn’t sound good.

The trouble with religion is that it promotes a fundamental double standard in our thinking and behaviour – between the domains of faith and reason, between the natural and the supernatural, between evidence-based knowledge and divine revelation – and we are now paying a terrible price for this duplicity, as we find ourselves inhabiting a world fractured along sectarian lines and balkanised into separate moral communities. The religious violence we witness around the globe today, invariably attributed to “extremists,” is nothing less than the guaranteed consequence of a struggle between competing and unfalsifiable ideologies – one in which differences may be settled by one means and one means only: with a fight to the death. May I suggest that we dismiss General Dannatt, pull our troops out tomorrow, drop the “special relationship,” and then spend the rest of the century attempting to cure our own collective insanity before we ever presume to be capable of fixing anyone else’s?

* Laurence Boyce is a Liberal Democrat member.

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189 Comments

  • I thought that as Liberal Democrats we we were in favour of freedom of religion? And of at least trying to represent fairly other’s beliefs even where we do not share them.

  • A modern Test and Corporation Act?Anyone with a religious belief should be banned?
    People should have freedom of religious belief.
    The true question is the separation of church and state.
    The Church of England should be disestablished.

  • LiberalHammer 1st Nov '07 - 9:16am

    Laurence,

    Well done for standing up to the moral relativists who have posted here.

    Leaving to one side the issue of soldiers fighting in the middle east who apparently take their guidance from Jesus, to say that it is liberal not to challenge a spurious belief is just wrong. By the same token we’d never challenge honour killings, or accept racism, or any number of issues that a progressive ought to challenge.

  • Richard Church 1st Nov '07 - 10:08am

    Religion is and has been used time and again to take people to war, to kill, discriminate and persecute. Surely most Christians can recognise that sad fact.

    Not believing in life after death makes me value my life and other people’s all the more. This life is the only one that they, and I have.

    What angers me about General Dannatt is that he thinks he can use his position to sell his religion. He says:

    “In my business, asking people to risk their lives is part of the job, but doing so without giving them the chance to understand that there is a life after death is something of a betrayal … inspiration best comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ”

    What if he had said ‘inspiration best comes from a personal relationship with the prophet Mohammed’? Imagine the links that people would then have made to 09/11.

    Or what is he had said ‘inspiration best comes from believing that this life is the only one we’ve got’. Imagine the outrage of some Christian posters here.

    Our party has a strong and humanist and secularist tradition. There is an active Lib Dem Humanist & Secularist group http://hsld.wordpress.com.
    Members of HSLD in our parliamentary party include Evan Harris, Martin Horwood and Paul Holmes. Party members are welcome to attend our one day conference in London on Saturday 8th December. Guest speaker is Lord Dick Taverne on ‘Dignity in Dying’.

  • Geoffrey Payne 1st Nov '07 - 10:36am

    Some Christians are warmongers. Some Christians are pacifists. Some Christians are conservatives. Some Christians are Liberals.
    The Liberal party itself was invented by Christians. A lot of Liberal beliefs are rooted in Christian morality. The fable of the Good Samaritan supports our belief in anti-racism. “It is as difficult for a rich man to go to heaven as a camel to go through an eye of a needle” supports our committment to redistributing wealth. “Let he who hath not sinned cast the first stone” supports Liberal opposition to the death penalty. “Turn the other cheek” in contrast to “An eye for an eye” which Jesus refutes despite coming from the Old Testament provides the pacifist tradition in the Liberal Democrats.
    Liberals should be comfortable that they are a coalition of many faiths and of none. Those who have faith have a liberal interpretation of that faith.
    Religious fanaticism can cause war, but the same applies to secular fanatics such as Stalin.

  • Lawrence provides no evidence that General Sir Richard Dannatt is “more than just a few of rounds short of a full ammunition belt”. We can and should judge Dannatt by his ability as a military leader.

    Dannatt has the absolute right as a human being to tell of his belief in an afterlife, and as a Christian he (and I) have a responsibility to do so. And equally, his troops, and those who come across his writings have an absolute right to ignore him, just as many ignored Christ himself.

    Lawrence is also wrong to say that Dannatt’s views are qualitatively no different to those of suicide bombers and those who commanded them. Dannatt believes in an afterlife, but does not – to the best of my knowledge – believe that killing people or dying increases your chance of going to heaven. The example of Christ’s life and death, cited by Dannatt, was not violence and destruction, but peace and healing. How much more different can Dannatt’s teaching be to that of those who brainwash young men to blow up aeroplanes?

  • Hywel Morgan 1st Nov '07 - 10:56am

    There have of course been hugely dangerous Christian fundamentalists who have overthrown accepted values through subversive activities

    If only we had done something to stop Elizabeth Fry and William Wilberforce in their tracks.

    Of course religious fundamentalism carries dangers – and suggested British soldiers are wondering around the middle east as fulfilment of their personal relationship with Jesus is among the more stupid suggestions ever made.

    But so does any fundamentalism, be it political (Stalin, Mao), or scientific (the guy who put lead into petrol)

    Liberalism and religion are perfectly compatible – no-one has ever seriously questioned Roger Roberts liberal commitment for example.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “Oh dear, I thought I had made that quite clear. Let me try again. Sir Richard holds beliefs which are QUALITATIVELY no different to those held by . . .”

    The beliefs held by Laurence Boyce are qualitatively no different to those held by Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Chairman Mao, Pol Pot and Comrade Enver Hoxha (and Ian Brady). All were militant atheists and all believed in the materialist theory of mind.

    Life after death is a fact based on evidence. And if Laurence wants me to show him some of that evidence (I’m sure he doesn’t) then I will happily do so.

    The materialist theory of mind, by contrast, is conceptually incoherent and evidentially false.

    If it were true, there would be no free will, no consciousness, no mental events of any kind. There would be no point in anyone trying to persuade anyone of anything on Lib Dem Voice.

    I note that Laurence and his fellow materialist cult fetishists share an intense dislike of homeopathy. Clearly, they are quite happy for people to die rather than acknowledge the reality of the paranormal. Such is their pathological vanity.

    At least Laurence is honest enough to admit he has personal issues with religion. Others in his camp (eg, Dawkins) are less candid. They sanctimoniously and spuriously pose as “rationalists”.

    I have no idea if God exists, so I am not in the business of defending any particular religious creed. What I do defend is peoples’ right to believe whatever they like and not be subjected to persecution and exclusion by rabid sectarians like Laurence.

    In 1821, my great geat great grandfather had to obtain a licence from the state before he could hold a Quaker meeting in the farmhouse he owned. Do we want a return to those days?

  • Peter Bancroft 1st Nov '07 - 12:17pm

    There’s a vitriol in the article which I think fits uneasily with liberalism.

    I don’t think that it’s acceptable to ridicule people’s beliefs, but equally some of the public statements being cited here are probably inappropriate given the roles concerned.

    As a passionate liberal (agnostic) I think that we should make efforts to attract people of all religious persuation, rather than to box ourselves in a corner with somewhat unnecessary attacks.

    Live and let live, rejoice in our differences, respect other people’s opinions, etc. We do ourselves a great disservice as a party by spending too much time snarling at things that we don’t like but which we should be tolerant of and letting into our tent. If only we were so snarling and condescending towards illiberalism maybe we’d be getting somewhere.

  • Laurence asks: “Then why do you need “faith”?”

    I don’t need faith and I don’t have it.

    Laurence goes on to say: “Well there is no free will.”

    Right. So shut up, go home and get drunk.

    And: “Yes, I dislike any con or rip off.”

    Right. So shut up, go home and get drunk.

    By the way, a psychic healer cured the problem I had in my arm and my neck, and he didn’t charge me (or anyone else) a penny.

  • Geoffrey Payne 1st Nov '07 - 1:18pm

    I do not think there are more conservative Christains than liberal ones.
    The archbishop of Cantabury is clearly a liberal. Many Christians are a mixture of conservative and liberal. Just like the electorate as a whole.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “The difference is that Dannatt has had the benefit of a decent education, and this makes him in a sense more culpable than many an unfortunate jihadist.”

    Mohammad Atta had a masters degree in town planning.

    It is not true to say that religious fanatics are necessarily stupid and poorly educated. Many are extremely bright and highly educated. Indeed, religious groups are notoriously keen to recruit the intellectually gifted. Which is why they target university campuses.

    By the way, what does Laurence think of his fellow militant atheists in the SWP (socialism is inevitable, so no free will) buddying up with Islamists, and the practicing Roman Catholic, George Galloway?

    Odd that Laurence should behave as if he does have free will, even if he thinks he doesn’t.

    Oh, I forgot. Lawrence says he doesn’t mind hypocrisy.

    And he can’t think either. That’s a mentalistic concept.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “And Lib Dems do really well among pagans!”

    Great! That’s what I like to hear!

    I prefer most Pagans to most Christians and virtually all atheists.

  • Peter Dunphy 1st Nov '07 - 2:39pm

    Hitler/Stalin/Mao etc are often used in an ‘atheists can create war and suffering as well’ argument. For me the fundamental problem is unquestioning adherence to any ideology (that includes Liberalism). In that respect Stalinism/Maoism/Nazism are at one with religion in that they seek to indoctrinate the young with a single ‘true’ usually messianic and ‘final’ ideology, suppress free thought and encourage unquestioning ‘faith’ in the leadership and apparatus of control. They also employ complete sanction against apostasy – i.e. if you leave you are as good as dead.

    In these respects as well as the cult of leadership, strong use of symbolism, a credo and rigid rules of behaviour I see Nazism, Stalinism and Maoism as 20th century religions as discredited as their bronze age equivalents.

    Having said Lawrence’s views do not IMO reflect those of the large majority of atheists, humanists and agnostics in the party in one important respect – we respect the views of, and welcome the membership in the party of all Liberals whether Christian, Muslim, Pagan or Angus !

  • Nick Barlow 1st Nov '07 - 2:56pm

    “Life after death is a fact based on evidence. And if Laurence wants me to show him some of that evidence (I’m sure he doesn’t) then I will happily do so.”

    Angus, if you’ve got evidence for it, then I think you should be sharing it with the world’s scientists, who’d no doubt be interested. That’s assuming it’s evidence in the form of observable phenomena, rather than just ‘this book I’ve got says it’s true.’

    And I wonder what the reaction would have been if Dannatt had been an Iranian or Pakistani general saying similar things about Islam?

  • passing tory 1st Nov '07 - 3:21pm

    Laurence,

    From your distinctly real-echelon position I am sure religion and soldiering may not seem to go together. I used to hang out in military circles quite a lot and was frequently reminded that the regimental chaplain might seem like a bit of an indulgence in peacetime, but when the bullets start flying his stature suddenly rises considerably.

    If you are going to send soldiers out to die then some of them are going to ask why, and what for, and religion can provide an invaluable framework for addressing these questions.

  • Nick Barlow wrote: “Angus, if you’ve got evidence for it, then I think you should be sharing it with the world’s scientists, who’d no doubt be interested.”

    Many of the world’s scientists have produced it, including several Nobel laureates.

    The fact that Nick Barlow is unaware of any of it is testimony to the effectiveness of Dawkins and his gang in suppressing it.

    Take a look at the following links:

    http://www.survivalafterdeath.org/

    http://www.healthsystem.virginia.edu/internet/personalitystudies/

    http://www.near-death.com/

  • passing tory 1st Nov '07 - 3:22pm

    oops. rear-echelon. but very real.

  • Richard Church 1st Nov '07 - 3:43pm

    Passing Tory: “If you are going to send soldiers out to die then some of them are going to ask why, and what for”

    I think most soldiers are asking Blair, Brown or Bush that question, not an army chaplain.

  • Ahh, how do I love the pure comedic entertainment to be had from listening to repeats of all the set positions on this old subject again?

    At the limit of their knowledge and experience, when the situation is no longer in your comfort zone, everyone has to start believing something.

    Admittedly, not everyone gets there (even Laurence gets side-tracked by this juvenile preoccupation of his), as circumstances usually never get so extreme – at least, not until you get confronted with the reality of your own existence, like in a war, for example (or through the media, but that’s an argument for a different time).

    I have a belief in imperfection, which forces me to recognise that there are things I don’t see and must accept regardless (like other people). The consequence of not, or of not being able to agree to disagree, is worse than bears thinking about.

    Religions are problematic for some, but they offer reassurance for many to help them do what they need to do. Yet that’s true of any belief system, all of which, at the bottom of it, are based on some contestable foundation. Even political ones.

    The attack on religions is similar to recent attacks on our party (cf what are they for?).

    For those that perennially predict and encourage the demise of the Liberal cause it must be disheartening to see that we continue, that even after a lifetime out of government, even after leadership-ousting scandals, and even after the retreat of Ming, that there is life everlasting in this party.

    There is a point that parallel cases always help because they set an example and a reference guide by which evaluation becomes possible.

    See: “For the common populace it [religion] is true, for the wise it is wrong, and for rulers it is useful.”

    Like experience, like history. Like footsteps in the snow.

  • passing tory 1st Nov '07 - 4:24pm

    Richard,

    They might indeed want to ask Blair and Brown (and indeed I would love to see Blair embedded in the front line for a week or two) but operationally chaplains are rather more accessible.

    Although joking aside (and closer to the point that the general was trying to make) is that politicians are not in general the best people to be discussing matters of life and death with. Chaplains are usually rather good, however.

  • Laurence, I have and I agree they are.

    I also think the reverse is to some extent true. Have you considered this?

  • Bridget Fox 1st Nov '07 - 5:43pm

    The latter are praying for the former…

  • passing (well, virtually live-in) tory 1st Nov '07 - 5:58pm

    If you are going to send soldiers out to die then some of them are going to ask why, and what for, and religion can provide an invaluable framework for addressing these questions.

    No it can’t because the claims of religion are false. But of course troops need moral support, so it’s just another example of where religion is acting as an obstacle to a more enlightened approach.

    Laurence, that simply isn’t true. Whatever you think about the existence of God(s), over the ages many extremely wise people have used religious frameworks to ponder the meaning of life and death. The fact that they expressed their thoughts in the philosophical orthodoxy of the day does not make them without value. It is arrogant in the extreme to think otherwise.

    In short, I think you are missing the distinction between believing in religion, and looking at (and maybe accepting) what religious thought can teach us.

    I also have a sneaking suspicion that if you were in a position where every day you had a significant chance of returning from work in a bodybag that some doubt in your position might suddenly creep in.

  • not that this adds anything else to the argument, but I’d rather be led by a general who is a competant atheist/humanist than an incompetant Christian and vice versa.

  • Blimey, I didn’t know Basil Fawlty was a real character!!

  • Peter Bancroft 1st Nov '07 - 6:43pm

    Dare I say it, blaming 9/11 on “organised religion” exposes more than a casual disconnection from the real world and a worrying gap in judgement.

  • passing (well, virtually live-in) tory 1st Nov '07 - 6:48pm

    Alix,

    I am amused you find my last paragraph revealing, although if you had pondered it a little longer you might even have reached the correct conclusion.

    But first things first. Yes, of course you can take the moral framework from religion and apply it in a secular society, and of course that is what the vast majority of people do. Why you instinctively choose Judeo-Christian values rather than any other religion is interesting, of course.

    The thing is, that while I am very comfortable as an atheist, I am also very aware that squaddies under fire are a far more devout bunch than you might expect if you were to meet them in the bar in the UK, and there are very good reasons for this. To lampoon the General for what he said demonstrates a singlar lack of awareness of what soldiers go through.

    And here, I am afraid I cannot resist a political dig. Laurence is extremely keen to impose his moral framework on everyone else. A typical Cambridge Lib Dem, and one of the prime reasons I remain a Tory.

  • Laurence wrote: “You don’t fly a plane into a building unless you believe in the afterlife.”

    Don’t you?

    So all the people who jump off Beachy Head believe in the afterlife?

    Sorry, Laurence. The afterlife is a fact based on abundant evidence. You may not like it, but the facts won’t go away just because you and your allies in the scientific and academic elites suppress them.

    What the evidence shows is that someone who dies in such circumstances (violent, self-inflicted death) is likely to become earthbound and exist in limbo for decades and sometimes centuries. Not an attractive prospect.

    Hiding the facts isn’t going to help your cause, Laurence. What it does is drive people into the arms of organised religion.

    The way to destroy the organised one-god religions is to show people that we all survive the deaths of our bodies whether or not we grovel to priests. Once you do that, religion as we know it is finished.

    You, Laurence, are the best recruiting sergeant for the priests and mullahs you effect to despise.

  • Laurence, take a look at the links I posted further up the thread.

    I bet you won’t. And that’s because you’re afraid of what you might see there.

    Like Nelson at the Battle of Copenhagen, you prefer to look through your telescope with your blind eye and see no ships.

    What is Facebook anyway?

  • Peter Dunphy 1st Nov '07 - 11:59pm

    29.

    OK Angus – I have had a good look at these sites – they are reports of subjective reports/opinions in relation to claimed supernatural experiences and statements along the lines of ‘if an eminent person says X you cannot ignore it’ even if there is no other reason to believe it. There is no objective evidence presented here and nothing worthy of serious scientific thesis.

  • Matthew Harris 2nd Nov '07 - 12:22am

    Laurence, speaking as a (Jewish) agnostic, I must say that I strongly disagree with you. What is wrong wioth a general choosing to address a confernce of evangelical Christians? To compare a major religion, with thousnds of years of intellectual histroy, with Greek mythology is positively sixth-form. One might as well compare JS Mill’s essay On Liberty with an editorial in The Sun.

    How can you say that Sir Richard has views no different “qualitatively” from the 9/11 bombers. It is the content of a person’s belief that matters, not whether or not those beliefs are religious. A secular fascist has more in commomn with the 9/11 killers than Sir Richard does. By your logic, liberalism and Nazism are “qualitatively” no different from each other, as they are both political philosopies, just as the 9/11 killers’ ideology and Sir Richard’s views are both based on religious philosophies.

    The rest of us see these as deeply complex spiritual and intellectual issues that have been debated by great minds for thousands of years, but you see it all as being so simple. Like the worst kind of religious fundamentalist, you appear to believe that you have a privileged insight which means that you don’t have to wrestle with the subtleties perceived by the rest of us. Your article demonstrates a peurile hostility religious believers.

  • Andrew Duffield 2nd Nov '07 - 12:38am

    Lively rant chaps!

    I’ve always wondered why those claiming near death experiences never seem to glimpse a warm welcome from Old Nick at the end of the tunnel. The law of averages says there should be a few.

    Get some rest!

  • Peter Dunphy said: “OK Angus – I have had a good look at these sites – they are reports of subjective reports/opinions in relation to claimed supernatural experiences and statements along the lines of ‘if an eminent person says X you cannot ignore it’ even if there is no other reason to believe it. There is no objective evidence presented here and nothing worthy of serious scientific thesis.”

    I’m looking at my watch. The entire Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research stretch along three walls – then you come to the Journals. You’ve been through the lot? Even the websites would take you several days to study properly.

    Laurence Boyce wrote: “I believe that it is now possible to generate an NDE by stimulating the relevant part of the brain.”

    You believe wrongly. No-one has ever done this, and no-one ever will.

    Laurence Boyce also wrote: “The psychologist Sue Blackmore had an NDE when she was at university doing drugs. She then spent several years investigating the paranormal, but could find no scientific basis whatsoever for the claims being made.”

    Susan Blackmore suppressed (ie, lied about) positive results from her own experiments. She also made totally baseless allegations against her colleague, Dr Carl Sargent, having tricked her way into his office and having searched his desk while he was out at the coffee-machine. She wrote a “confidential” “report” for the Council of the Society for Psychcial Research but leaked portions of it selectively to colleagues. Blackmore denied this, but the numerous affidavits collected by the Parapsychological Association committee set up to investigate the matter proved Blackmore was lying. Can this unethical individual be trusted in any matter whatsoever?

    Laurence further wrote: “The final site was about digging out memories of the “past lives” of children under hypnosis, which sounds totally unethical to me.”

    You haven’t even bothered to read it, Laurence. Dr Stevenson NEVER used hypnosis. All the memories he studied were conscious memories.

    “The bottom line Angus is that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Quite right, Laurence. Let’s have some evidence for the materialist theory of mind, and for the absence of free will. And Hanratty’s guilt.

    “But if one day, the “paranormal” is finally elucidated, we’ll all know about it because people will be getting Nobel prizes.”

    Quite a few of them have won Nobel prizes. The most recent being Professor Brian Josephson, who lives up the road from you, Laurence. You might bump into him on your way to the off-licence. Ready with some snide comments about Brian, Laurence?

    Some people cannot be convinced because they don’t want to know, others cannot be convinced because they already know but don’t want to acknowledge.

  • Andrew Duffiield wrote: “I’ve always wondered why those claiming near death experiences never seem to glimpse a warm welcome from Old Nick at the end of the tunnel. The law of averages says there should be a few.”

    Negative NDEs have been reported in the literature, but they are a minority.

    Interestingly, Evangelical Christians, who say all paranormal phenomena are the work of the Devil, seize on negative NDEs as proof that hell exists.

  • Angus, explain to me why James Randi hasn’t had to pay out his £1 million yet?

    Why can none of these claims be reproduced in laboratory conditions? Ditto homeopathy.

    By the way, the ‘no atheists in foxholes’ analogy is very over-used and frankly false.

    Similarly, Hitler was not an atheist – but a Roman Catholic. The Vatican should also be deeply ashamed by the controversial part they played in the Holocaust. Pope Pius XII was pretty silent on Nazi atrocities, refused to excommunicate members of the SS and stood by while the jews in Rome were despatched to concentration camps.

    You should look at examples of ‘strawmen’ – the argument that you should believe something because ‘clever, wise, people do’ is a misleading fallacy. In any case the numbers of clever, wise, people are pretty equal on both sides:

    “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” (Seneca the Younger, 5 BC – 65 AD)

    Ultimately, people with beliefs that cannot be backed up by hard-evidence deserve to have them questioned and ridiculed if they seek to make laws or decisions affecting the lives of the public(or teach such complete and utter dangerous nonsense as creationsim/intelligent design in our schools).
    What they want to believe in private is up to them.

    Very interesting discussion…

    Laurence – you really should come and join us all over on http://www.iidb.com.

  • Seneca also beat Wilberforce to it by several thousand years:

    “Kindly remember that he whom you call your slave sprang from the same stock, is smiled upon by the same skies, and on equal terms with yourself breathes, lives, and dies.”

    The stoics were well known for their stance on treatment of slaves.

  • who are these internet infidels? I think I may have heard of them.

    It’s the discussion board for The Secular Web and is a forum for discussion of religion from a secularists viewpoint.

    Members range from strong atheist to weak agnostic with a sprinkling of christians, pagans and the odd muslim who enjoy the debates.

    There are some very distinguished members – Professor Per Ahlberg who delivered the Presentation Speech for the 2005 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, most of the Natural History Museum’s Paleontology dept etc.

    It’s a great place, for discussion, debates (formal and informal), study of theology and campaign organisation.

  • Mohammad Atta had a masters degree in town planning.

    I’m too tired to read the whole thread, but I had a meeting on community land trusts with some fundamentalist planners today. Should I be worried about MI5 calling round?

  • By the way, have the clocks not been changed on the server here or is BST in my profile settings somewhere?

  • Hmm. I think I’m going to stick with these Lib Dems for now. Lib Dems are very nice, apart from me. Are you a Lib Dem?

    Very much so. One of the comments further up was made by someone who I knew from the Sec Web and I think had a hand in pointing him in the LD’s direction.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “We have two choices. The world is either deterministic or random or perhaps a mixture. But in either case we have no free will.”

    If we have choices, then we have free will. For Laurence to behave as though he does have free will is having his cake and eating it.

    “All I know about Hanratty is that he was convicted on DNA evidence.”

    Hanratty was convicted in 1962, before DNA was discovered, I believe. And no, he didn’t ejaculate over his underpants, he ejaculated over his trousers.

    “If you suffer a serious physical brain injury, then typically you lose a part of your “mind” too.”

    But people have NDEs when their brains are not working at all.

    Helen JB wrote: “Angus, explain to me why James Randi hasn’t had to pay out his £1 million yet?”

    Randall James Hamilton Zwinge (who was once taped telling a teenage boy that he has a “9-inch willy”) doesn’t have a million dollars. His “test” is scientifically worthless (only one attempt allowed) and Zwinge gets to set all the conditions. Oh, and Zwinge told his friend, the astronomer, Denis Rawlins, that he always has an “out”. I am much more impressed by the millions Uri Geller has been paid by oil and mining companies.

    “Similarly, Hitler was not an atheist – but a Roman Catholic”

    There isn’t space in this thread to copy out quotations from “Hitler’s Table Talk” which prove that he had views on religion and the universe very similar to Laurence Boyce.

    Oh, and before I go. Laurence quotes a half-remembered “study” from Berlin purporting to show that NDEs can be stimulated artificially in the brain. No doubt one of his CSICOP playmates told him to say this. Where is the replication?

    Quotes from Seneca the Younger? The collapse of the Soviet Union has left the pseudo-intellectual fraternity with time on its hands.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “Hmm, yes that is pretty impressive. Did you know that Geller has proved by hypnosis that Michael Jackson is completely innocent? He’s worth his weight in gold. Literally.”

    Worth his weight in oil and minerals, actually. Plus a fair bit more.

  • Martin J Ball 2nd Nov '07 - 2:39pm

    Of course Lawrence is right in most of what he says – I live in the US and religion is pretty damn scary over here!
    What no-one seems to have mentioned though (I admit to not having read EVERY single posting, so maybe someone did) is the hypocrisy of the General – a man of war – expounding on Christianity which (on paper at least) claims to be in favour of peace!!! (Though we know what the piece of paper is worth…)

  • Laurence is SO right. And I rarely feel that.

    All religion is just mindless superstition. As a Liberal I have absolutely no problem with people holding these ludicrous views about their imaginary friends, but I reserve the right to despise & ridicule those beliefs.

    What real Liberals must object to is when the irrational rubbish spouted by Christians, Muslims & the rest – no more valid, incidentally, than the loons who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens – has official status – eg. faith schools, the established church, preferential tax arrangements etc etc.

  • Oh, please!

    I liked the suggestion that a detailed explanation of why things grow should be given to kids in preparation for any harvest festival ceremony.

    I’m just wondering how many of you would enjoy watching eight-year-olds singing hymns which attempt to rhyme the more accurate scientific terms.

    The scars of growing into adulthood go very deep, obviously.

  • Colin W says: “no more valid, incidentally, than the loons who believe they’ve been abducted by aliens”

    Colin W’s abusive, anti-social attitude towards people who have undergone a terrifying and sometimes psychologically harmful experience is not only profoundly illiberal, it ranks with the worst excesses of the saloon-bar pontificators who deride gays, women and people of colour.

    I myself know and count as my friends several people who have undergone the alien abduction experience, and none is reasonably describable as a “loon”. As people, all rate considerably higher in my estimation than Colin W, who strikes me as a truly vile human being.

    Does Colin W mock people who have lost limbs in road traffic accidents? Or have been made bankrupt through no fault of their own?

    But there is one issue where Colin W and I concur (shiver down spine). The state should keep out of religion. Children should not be segregated according to the religious preferences of their parents and should not be indoctrinated with relgiious beliefs at public expense.

    Similarly, children should be spared incalcation with pernicious, unscientific ideological poppycock like the materialist theory of mind, evolutionary biology, crude, dogmatic Darwinism, and mechanist determinism.

    And, yes. Paul Sample’s call to bring God back into politics was at best an embarrassment.

  • There seems to be some disagreement in this thread as to the political preferences of religious people in the UK.

    In the mid 1980s there was a survey that showed that a clear majority of clergymen (as opposed to their congregations) supported the SDP Liberal Alliance. This was true of Anglican, Roman Catholic and Non-Conformist clerics (yes, even among Roman Catholic priests, Alliance support was ahead of Labour).

    I wonder if anyone has the details?

    If we look at our own history, we see that religion has not been altogether negative.

    Prior to the creation of the welfare state, the Church provided the only safety net (have you ever noticed all those old almshouses?).

    Even in the Middle Ages, the one third of the land that the Church owned tended to be better managed than that controlled by secular landowners (witness the role of the abbeys in the success of the wool industry).

    And in the 19th century, it was the Non-Conformist churches that got the working-class off booze and into public libraries.

    Believe it or not, William Booth provided a street-by-street map of social deprivation in London – a precursor of the modern social sciences.

    And as for international affairs, the Quakers were campaigning against war a good two centuries before CND was thought of.

    Thinking Christians should follow the lead of the late Bishop Hugh Montefiore, dump much of the indefensible doctrine and incorporate the facts of psychical research. If Christianity is to survive, that is the route it must take.

  • 105. The answer is simple, Laurence.

    Instructing children in religious twaddle & instilling fear & guilt in their little minds is simply a form of child abuse.

    If either Nick or Chris comes up with a proposal to put this on the statute book & deal with these child abusers, they’ve got my vote.

  • (Cough) Some of the personal comments have got rather abusive in this thread. I’ve removed the last few comments where things really went too far. A little civility does no harm. Thanks 🙂

  • Laurence and Angus. Two Huhne supporters discuss the existence or otherwise of God.

    And all the time the great man himself looks down from above and his displeasure is plain to see …

    “how is all this gonna help me win the leadership contest?” 😉

  • “Well, I guess what I meant was that if the government were doing its job, then these sorts of books would come with a health warning, not an endorsement of sorts, whoever may be technically responsible for it.”

    But I don’t think this book is used in schools – certainly not non faith schools such as the one my daughter goes to. I would be quite happy for books to have a “health warning” on them but where would you stop? Would you put a health warning on, for example, Michael Moore’s “Farenheit 9-11” much of which is polemical but entertaining claptrap? Would you put a health warning on Jeffrey Archer’s auto-biographical works? The list of candidates for health warnings is endless.

    “OK Paul, time for some friendly advice. If you don’t really believe in any of it, then GIVE UP!”

    All right I will. You’ve convinced me. 😉

  • In the words of that great philosopher, the late Ron Purse, “When you’re dead, you’re dead”.

  • Hywel Morgan 3rd Nov '07 - 6:47pm

    “Hey, can I have this job when we’re in power?”

    Nobody is having this job when we’re in power!

  • Laurence Boyce asked: “Did Jesus walk on water?”

    Well, for my own part, the answer has to be: “I haven’t a clue. I wasn’t there. There is no surviving contemporaneous record. So how can I possibly know?”

    Believe it or not, I was told at Sunday school that the water in the Dead Sea is peculiarly bouyant, making it easy for people to float.

    Then you have the problem of translation. Remember, none of this was written in English. Some languages give the verb “to walk” extended meanings. Take Basque, for example. When I say , I could mean “I walked in the mountains”, “I travelled across the mountains” or “I lived in the mountains”.

    For one-God religionists, the whole point of miracles of the kind attributed to Jesus is that they prove a person’s divinity because they are things only God can do.

    Now, I disagree fundamentally with that. Psychic abilities are natural and normal abilities inherent in some form in all or most biological organisms. The fact that you can do something which science cannot or refuses to explain, that doesn’t make you God.

    Is Uri Geller God? Not even Uri would go that far!! Great guy though he is.

    If Laurence or one of his chums ever found someone who actually could walk on water, they would do everything in their power to cover it up.

    “Even if it were true, I would not be interested” – T H Huxley.

  • Sorry. I am 120.

  • Sorry. The system has removed the (Basque) words “bortuetan nebilen” because I placed the wrong symbols either side of them.

    Something useful LB could do is teach us how to format text.

  • Laurence Boyce wrote: “I wouldn’t be able to cover it up even if I wanted to, and I don’t.”

    Well, the mediaeval church managed to cover up heliocentricity for several centuries. And corporate science has covered up the facts of psychical research for over 100 years with some success. Now, if a source of extremely cheap energy really did exist, I am sure some very powerful people indeed would want to keep it hidden, not least the oil industry!!

    (Quite how someone being able to walk on water leads to extremely cheap energy eludes me. Yet another of Laurence’s transparently specious arguments.)

    Opinion research shows us that a majority of rank-and-file scientists acknowledge the reality of the paranormal or at least are open-minded about it. It is the people at the top who are the problem. The people who have used the old boy network to get where they are and ruthlessly enforce the prevailing ideology.

    For them, the materialist theory of mind is the glue that holds them together as a community, that gives them their feeling of specialness and superiority over the ignorant masses.

    There are many scientists who would love to come out, and research the paranormal, but they cannot do so for fear of blighting their careers.

    Laurence knows this perfectly well. Don’t be fooled by his grandstanding.

  • Interesting post Laurence, and I agree with almost everything you say. I don’t suppose you need my endorsement, but keep it up anyway.

  • Martin J Ball 3rd Nov '07 - 11:33pm

    Who are these rank-and-file scientists who believe this nonsense Angus Huck talks about?
    Not the kind of scientists worthy of the name, methinks

  • It is precisely because bigoted obscurantist thugs like Martin J Ball control the academic and scientific professions in this country that rank-and-file scientists are afraid to speak out.

    Look at his second sentence and note it with care. Scientists who acknowledge the reality of the paranormal are not “worthy of the name”. This is exactly the attitude the mediaeval church took to priests and monks who committed heresy. Martin J Ball is exhibiting the very same mentality.

    True scientists follow the evidence.

    Sadly, if you want to have a career as a scientist you have to allow yourself to be whipped into line by ideological commissars like Martin J Ball.

  • 126. I’m a biochemist & I’ve never met any other scientist who believed in the ‘paranormal’.

    Science is based on EVIDENCE, not belief.

    It’s not a matter of faith or ideology & is always open to evidence-based challenge.

  • Mr Colin W is in desperate need of a bit of education.

    Here is a scientist who acknowledges the reality of the paranormal:

    http://www.spr.ac.uk/expcms/index.php?action=view&id=16&module=newsmodule&src=%40random46a20362c7bfb

    I could name thousands of others (many of whom I have met), but time and space do not allow.

    Science is based on evidence. Absolutely. I cannot agree more. And that includes the vast body of evidence for the reality of the parnormal.

    Are you unaware of this, Mr Colin W?

    I thought, at first, that LB knew perfectly well that the paranormal is real, but the level of his ignorance in this thread (he thinks Ian Stevenson hypnotised children) suggests he simply doesn’t know.

    Are you in the same category, Colin W?

    For if you are, it shows just how successful Dawkins, Wolpert, Humphrey, et al, have been in keeping the truth under wraps.

  • Angus J Huck 4th Nov '07 - 12:28am

    Here is a scientist who acknowledges the reality of the paranormal:

    http://www.spr.ac.uk/expcms/index.php?action=view&id=16&module=newsmodule&src=%40random46a20362c7bfb

    Along with many others, including scores I myself have met.

    “Science is based on evidence.” Quite right, Mr Colin W. And that includes the vast body of evidence for the paranormal.

  • Angus J Huck 4th Nov '07 - 12:34am
  • Angus J Huck 4th Nov '07 - 12:47am

    Laurence Boyce wrote: “Utter rubbish.”

    Brilliant answer. Quite irrefutable. As a super silk he would make millions. Demolish any argument with two words: “utter rubbish”.

    Except “utter rubbish” was more or less what Lewis Wolpert said when he participated in a debate with Rupert Sheldrake at the Royal Society of Arts. Sheldrake reduced Wolpert to a pitiful pulp, so maybe “utter rubbish” is not as good an answer as it looks.

    http://www.sheldrake.org/D&C/controversies/telepathy_debate.html

    As Laurence is ill-informed enough to think Ian Stevenson hypnotised children, I wonder how competent he is to guage the success of corporate sicence in suppressing the truth about the paranormal.

  • Angus J Huck 4th Nov '07 - 1:14am

    Laurence Boyce wrote: “Bear in mind that I had already waded through two bollocks websites by then . . .”

    Just a moment. I thought you were a Chris Huhne supporter? Isn’t Chris the one with the barrabilak?

  • I think it is inappropriate for a serving general to express his religious views publicly. He should concentrate on those opinions that he can expect to share with almost everybody under his command.
    However, neither do I think it is appropriate for articulate liberals to display their opposition to the views of many of those that they would like to attract as members and voters.
    Is opposition to the supernatural liberal democrat policy? I don’t think so. Mr Boyce should keep his eye on the political ball. There are many liberal issues upon which he can find common cause with theists and those believers in other supernatural ideas.

  • Hywel Morgan 6th Nov '07 - 7:26am

    Your point Lawrence?

    People refuse medical treatment every day for all sorts of reasons and it is pretty much page one of a medical ethics text book that treatment is only with consent (the caselaw being mainly concerned with capacity)

    What you’re outlining is a very steep slope with SS guards standing at the school gates ready to cut the hair of Orthox Jewish boys at the bottom.

  • From what little I know of the case, the young woman in question was conscious and refused to accept a blood transfusion. If the doctors had administered a transfusion regardless, they would have committed an offence contrary to section 18, Offences Against the Person Act 1862 and could have got themselves criminal records.

    Had the woman been unconscious, then the doctors would have been under a duty to administer a transfusion even if they knew she was a JW (it cannot be assumed that a JW will refuse a transfusion).

    If the woman had been a minor, then she would not be deemed to have the capacity to consent, so the doctors would have been under a duty to administer the transfusion against her wishes and those of her parents or legal guardian.

    If a JW wants to bleed him/herself to death, then that is his/her affair. One nuisance doorstep natterer less, the cynic might say.

    If a JW allows his/her beliefs to lead him/her to let his/her children die, then that is murder in English law (being a JW is not a recognised defense). Generally, the doctors will administer the transfusion and find a “pyjama judge” to make the child a ward of court.

    Because JWs are mainly white Europeans, there are few who will defend their practices (Christians I have met have a very low opinion of them). It would be different if they were mainly people of colour (or owned a lot of oil), because everyone from George Galloway to Dr Jesse Dickson Mabon would tell us we have no basis for holding that our way is better than theirs. Which is racist, when one comes to think of it, because people of colour are condemned to a perpetuity of subjection.

    When Moses (was it?) prohibited the drinking of blood, what he meant was blood from living cattle, who might carry infection. JWs are so idiotic they don’t see this.

    See what David Icke has to say about them. Not nice reading.

    http://www.davidicke.com

  • Martin Land 6th Nov '07 - 4:28pm

    For once I agree with Ally Campbell, when he said ‘We don’t do God.’

  • Meirion Gwril 6th Nov '07 - 5:19pm

    146. Couldn’t find anything on JWs on the David Icke site…?
    Is Angus now a believer in Ickeism – or against it???

  • Hywel Morgan 6th Nov '07 - 5:33pm

    “Not so. Once Emma Gough slipped out of consciousness, her relatives had the right to overrule her wishes”

    This is rubbish. A competent patient has the right to refuse treatment irrespective of the consequences. If those wishes are clearly expressed then that consent of relatives is irrelevant.

    It’s not totally clear cut – but it’s about as near as you get with any medical law/ethical issue.

    The caselaw on treatment without without consent all revolves around the capacity of patient.

  • Angus J Huck 6th Nov '07 - 8:40pm

    Meirion Gwril says: “Is Angus now a believer in Ickeism – or against it???”

    Meirion Gwril seems to believe that anyone who points to information on David Icke’s website must be a supporter of David Icke.

    In much the same way that patrons of saloon bars used to assume that anyone who spoke up for gays was gay himself.

    Give David Icke a sensible message and he is one of the best advocates there is.

    Now, just who has been feeding David all this misinformation about climate change? There’s a question!

  • Angus J Huck 6th Nov '07 - 8:54pm

    Laurence Boyce wrote: “Well then maybe it’s time we acknowledged that Britain’s 120,000 Jehovah’s Witnesses (plus a few others) are so deranged by their beliefs that they are not “capable” of making any rational decision.”

    No. The day we do that we cross a very dangerous line.

    On the other side is tyrrany. The world of Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Ahmadinedjad, Torquemada. The world in which my great great great grandfather, Thomas Huck, had to obtain a licence from the state to hold a Quaker meeting in his own farmhouse.

    As a libertarian, I uphold the right of people with capacity to believe what they like, say (more or less) what they like, and do what they like to their own bodies (be it injecting themselves with narcotics or refusing life-saving treatment).

    Imagine how Thomas Huck, a freehold hill farmer, felt about having to grovel to some aristocratic clown of a magistrate just so he could practice his religion of choice? Let us be imbued with his spirit.

  • Hywel Morgan 6th Nov '07 - 10:07pm

    “What is idiotic is to be reading the Bible at all for moral guidance.”

    I’m about as secular as they come but to suggest that it is idiotic to take moral guidance from say the parable of the good Samaritan (Thatcher excepted 🙂 or”Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted” or “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” or “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”

    Though, if people start suggesting taking moral guidance from 2 Kings 2.23-24 I think they are really missing the point.

  • Angus J Huck 7th Nov '07 - 12:39am

    Laurence, what do you propose to do to stop JWs bleeding themselves to death? Or stop them encouraging others to share their beleifs (which seems to be what you are hinting at)?

    Lock them up in a looney bin and dope them with Largactyl?

    And only release them when they can prove they are devout atheists and materialists?

    And where would you stop? Lock people up because they believe in transubstantiation? Or because they won’t push prams on Saturdays unless they are surrounded by fishing-line?

    Sounds a bit like the Soviet Union.

    So, to turn your rhetoric round, Laurence, what choice do you really have when the state sticks you in the nearest funny farm when you hold opinions it doesn’t like?

    Hospitals do actually have the power to remove nuisance people from wards. And it is a crime to incite people to commit suicide. So therein lies the solution to that particular difficulty.

    (Remember Yolande McShane, the former Merseyside Organiser of the BUF and National Front Member, who encouraged her mother to commit suicide because she needed her money? She went to jail, which is where JWs go – or should go – if they try to stop someone in hospital accepting a blood transfusion.)

    So I’ll stick to being a libertarian, thank you very much.

  • Meirion Gwril 7th Nov '07 - 2:09am

    151
    Believe or not Angus Huck, I really wanted to know as it wasn’t clear from your message, whether you were an Ickean or not! Don’t rush to judgment!! Also I couldn’t find anything on his site on JWs – even used the search engine.

  • Meirion Gwril 7th Nov '07 - 2:09am

    151
    Believe or not Angus Huck, I really wanted to know as it wasn’t clear from your message, whether you were an Ickean or not! Don’t rush to judgment!! Also I couldn’t find anything on his site on JWs – even used the search engine.

  • This seems as appropriate a place as any to mention Genesis Chapter 1 verse 28. Jehovah’s Witnesses are so far off the original Dannatt subject that you really ought to start a new article and comments section on it.

  • Who would you have leading our Armed Forces;someone who believes ,as i do, that our consciousness continues even though the physical side of us has died,or some Atheist who thinks that the Universe evolved from nothing…..now that really is a bizarre idea!!

  • George Angus Parker 20th May '08 - 3:04am

    Thank you Laurence Boyce for writing this thought provoking piece. Perhaps you would like to write another on yesterdays Dispatches programme concerning the British fundamentalist Christian movement and their increasing influence in our Parliament; their intolerant views regarding Islam and all other religions; their illogical blind faith in a belief system that has it’s roots firmly planted in the mythology of the late iron age; their refusal to accept modern scientific findings such as the fact that the earth is more than 4000 years old and dinosaurs did indeed exist; their failure to recognise the need for unrestricted human stem-cell research governed only by medical ethics. Please write another article but remember, first cause no harm.

    As for General Sir Richard Dannatt, I sincerely hope he is not a closet fundamentalist fighting a personal holy war against the Islamic nonbelievers. If he is a fundamentalist and his ability to make rational decisions is as clouded as the rest of them, then he shouldn’t be permitted to play with sharp knives let alone guns and depleted uranium ammunition. Perhaps he shouldnt be permitted to vote on grounds of insanity!

    George Angus Parker – LibDem and Veteran of the 1991 Gulf War to Liberate Kuwait

  • Ok I am a libdem any one whoknows me will say that without hesitation unless your a Torie.

    To suggest that religion should play a part in politics is absolutely silly.

    Religion is not the answer to the worlds problems. Maybe thats why Tony Blair eventually got outed by the Labour Party.

    Infact politics should be made to give another belife an even stronger belife than the one religious folks have in god. The belife in ones owns achivements and acomplishments and the belife to succeed.Religion dose not do that. Religion says lets belive in a god. Why because a book tells you to.

    There is a reason why speaches like this ( http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1583846/Tony-Blair-reveals-why-he-refused-to-'do-God‘.html)
    get you outed by a political party’s backbenchers.

    Maybe we should address actual needs for a change Housing Food Education Transport Employment Social Care the list goes on.

    Religion is and has been one of the biggest starters of war. Or more to the point those that get into power with that belife.

  • Oh please, let’s not start this again!

    Not all religious believers are fundamentalists, so let’s please show some discretion.

    I see religion as an abstract conceptualisation, while both it and the anti-religious search for truth are driven by the failure of alternative explanations to match our experience.

    Truth? Well that’s an infinitely debatable proposition.

  • Laurence, you are continually guilty of using the same intemperate language you accuse you opponents of and your actions have the same results as theirs.

    I would find it easier to accept the substance of your words if you adapted your method.

    Going around insulting potential allies is a certain way of turning them against you; your glee is misplaced.

  • HI Mary. I see above you point out as libdems we are in favour of freedom of religion.

    You no as libdems we stand for freedom of speach freedom of thought and freedom to express ourselves.

    The verry substance of our words are what we are out to defend.

    Religion dose not do that. It imposes itself on us and society. We shall have the right to speak because we say we do.

  • George Angus Parker 21st May '08 - 7:13pm

    Not all religious believers are fundamentalists, so let’s please show some discretion. An interesting but sadly misguided hypothesis perhaps we should debate the meaning of the term fundamentalist. They may not all be fundamentalists (current working definition) but they do share a common trait, belief for no good reason – faith. As I understand it, faith is belief in an idea that is unsupported, or contradicted, by evidence. Failure to alter ones views despite evidence to the contrary, is not a trait I find acceptable in those who hold positions of authority.

    It is always best to keep an open mind to accommodate new discoveries and evidence. For me it is the basis of liberalism. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But to those of us who value rational thought, an unsupported hypothesis cannot carry much weight. Faith and therefor religious belief is simply irrational.

    I see religion as an abstract conceptualisation, while both it and the anti-religious search for truth are driven by the failure of alternative explanations to match our experience. Those of us who could be called anti-religious base our opinion on observed behaviour and the views of others who make no secret of their faith. As for the meaning of the word truth, we could be here until our sun turns supernova and still not reach an accepted definition.

    I stand by my previous posting but wish to add that I distrust anyone who behaves or thinks irrationally. There was a time when I was willing to fight to protect the rights of people to hold religious beliefs but recent events have given me good reason to reassess my position.

  • OK I guess I’m guilty of starting this again, but I guess it’s better than the football.

    @171 – that’s a particularly generalised view of religions. On balance throughout the history of all religions I’d say that there has been an equal emphasis on defending and attacking freedom of conscience by both religious and non-religious institutions and individuals. You must be talking for yourself only.

    @172 Laurence – I congratulate you for trying to express what you think, although if those are the words which most accurately do so then you also have my commiserations

    @173 thanks for the laugh, I enjoy reading contradictions asserted forcefully from a personal perspective. Do you have a veto on everything?

    I think none of you grasped the point (made originally by greater minds than mine) that science and religion are both the same thing expressed differently and are both the product of our conceptual failure and our collective inability to systematise and synthesise our experiences – we should each be more humble, particularly when exposing our weaknesses.

  • I was hesitant to post these qoute’s but here it goes.

    Quote1
    Any intelligent fool can make things bigger and more complex… It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.

    — Albert Einstein

    Quote2
    The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is at all comprehensible.

    — Albert Einstein

    Quote3
    Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    — Albert Einstein

  • @175 hesitant, why?

  • Realativity is one thing but a simple belife is another.

  • Heres another couple of quote’s for you.

    All meaningful and lasting change starts first in your imagination and then works its way out. Imagination is more important than knowledge.

    — Albert Einstein

    Let every man be respected as an individual and no man idolized.

    — Albert Einstein

  • Heres another one for the degree level scince guys

    If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

    — Albert Einstein

  • off religion now are we?

  • Jamesrap, I’m really glad you brought Einstein into the discussion as I was cribbing from him myself.

    It is just a shame how Laurence @180 explicitly draws himself in direct comparison to the doddery old man with a wit wickeder than the witch of the west, then @181 he seems to make a direct admission of the insecurity of his strongly avowed position by making a call for reinforcement.

    I think we all have to do better than this – reiterating established oppositions as stock arguments are insufficient to deal with contemporary issues – it is not open-minded enough and neither is it liberal enough or democratic enough.

  • George Angus Parker 22nd May '08 - 12:27am

    Posted again, this time making sure that Oranjepan can follow. (Cut and paste has much to answer for.)

    “Not all religious believers are fundamentalists, so let’s please show some discretion.”

    Reply – An interesting but sadly misguided hypothesis perhaps we should debate the meaning of the term fundamentalist. They may not all be fundamentalists (current working definition) but they do share a common trait, belief for no good reason – faith. As I understand it, faith is belief in an idea that is unsupported, or contradicted, by evidence. Failure to alter ones views despite evidence to the contrary, is not a trait I find acceptable in those who hold positions of authority.

    It is always best to keep an open mind to accommodate new discoveries and evidence. For me it is the basis of liberalism. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. But to those of us who value rational thought, an unsupported hypothesis cannot carry much weight. Faith and therefor religious belief is simply irrational.

    “I see religion as an abstract conceptualisation, while both it and the anti-religious search for truth are driven by the failure of alternative explanations to match our experience.”

    Reply – Those of us who could be called anti-religious base our opinion on observed behaviour and the views of others who make no secret of their faith. As for the meaning of the word truth, we could be here until our sun turns supernova and still not reach an accepted definition.

    I stand by my previous posting but wish to add that I distrust anyone who behaves or thinks irrationally. There was a time when I was willing to fight to protect the rights of people to hold religious beliefs but recent events have given me good reason to reassess my position.

  • George Angus Parker, let me let you into a secret.

    My mother is unshakable in her religious belief, much as I’ve tried to shake it even knowing the full reasons why.

    The most specific of which was the occasion when she was to fly to switzerland on a skiing trip during the 60s with a large group of friends, but turned back while climbing the steps (it was the 60s).

    In the event it turned out that she never would see her 18 closest friends again after the plane crashed and everyone on board died.

    I’ve tried to point out that she was lucky and it was just coincidence, but she quietly reminds me that I and my siblings wouldn’t otherwise be here.

    Please advise me how to rationalise that fact.

  • George Angus Parker 22nd May '08 - 1:39am

    Orangepan – Out of respect to your Mum and her departed friends I do not think it is appropriate for me to answer that question in open forum. I am more than happy to help explore the subject privately but I am unsure how we can exchange contact details securely. Any ideas?

  • No, please, don’t feel like you’d be embarrassing yourself.

    After all if you don’t think there’s an afterlife then they won’t be listening in.

  • if you are representative of lib dems then,i certainly would not wish to be governed by a party who have such deluded bigots amongst the ranks.

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