Gods Deconstructed

Beliefs and their objects, dismantled.

Archive for the tag “religion”

Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind

Dr. Richard Carrier describes how he examined the methodology af Jesus myth proponents, found it wanting and created an academic methodology that would stand up to peer review.


Nature: Social Evolution: The Ritual Animal

Nature: Social Evolution: The Ritual Animal

Dan Jones, in an article published by the online science journal Nature, explores the evolution of ritual and asks if ritual could explain the evolution of human civilizations. While the article does not cover the evolution of belief itself it does show how closely the imaging and patterning associated with the human mind could be responsible for the rise of religions and the need of most human to feel they are part of a group of like-minded individuals. But, warns Jones, rituals can be used not only to establish social cohesion but to induce terror as well.

BBC’s bias against gay men.

The BBC today reported on its website ‘Highest-ever HIV diagnoses in gay men’.


The BBC reported that:

“The number of gay and bisexual men being diagnosed with HIV in the UK reached an “all-time high” in 2011, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA).

It said there had been a “worrying” trend since 2007, with more and more new cases each year.

Nearly half of the 6,280 people diagnosed last year were men who had sex with other men (MSM).”

Sky News reported the same story.


Sky reported:

“A record number of people in the UK are living with HIV, with almost a quarter of those with the virus not aware they are infected.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) says there are about 96,000 people who have the HIV – an all-time high.

Nearly half of all infections in 2011 were through heterosexual sex. Of these, more than half were probably acquired in the UK, compared to only 27% in 2002, according to a HPA report.”

Note the difference in emphasis? Is the BBC biased against gay men? It would certainly seem so. Why should this be? Well, the BBC is a very religiously-biased organisation. Considerable coverage is given to religious events, services are broadcast, Radio 4’s Thought for the Day is strictly religious and the BBC boasted that it had ‘seen off the atheists’ when secular organisations demanded that the secular worldview should be represented and the BBC refused.

Where does the BBC get its bias from? Could it be the Bible, and in particular Leviticus? Homosexual sex is forbidden in Leviticus. But, then, so is the eating of blood. So why when there is a meat-poisoning scare does the BBC not immediately blame black pudding eaters for being behind the poisoning?

Malala’s friend shows her bravery.

Incredible defiance of girl, 13, who was shot when Taliban opened fire on her friend Malala | Mail Online.

Here’s a question I’d love to know the answer to: Is Islam the problem or is it just that the religion attracts insane, homicidal maniacs? From reading the Koran, I’d say it is the religion but I can well understand it attracting nuts.

It would be the same, I guess, if Christians disregarded the Bible’s New Testament and only abided by The Old. Come to think of it, quite a few Christians seem to disregard the New Testament when it comes to gays. Those Christians hop and jump in rage while quoting Leviticus.

But if Christians can act as if they’re insane and about to riot over gay equality and a child can be shot by extremist Muslims because she asked for an education and, thinking back, Sikhs can riot because of a play, maybe the problem isn’t a particular religion. Maybe the problem is religion itself.

Anyway, good luck to Malala’s friends as they attempt to return to school. May their experiences lead them to question their beliefs and find the additional bravery and intelligence to reject religion altogether.

Secularist of the Year

National Secular Society – Secularist of the Year 2013 – tickets on sale now.

Sometimes brilliant, always controversial, I have nominated Taslima Nasrin for the award. Taslima works tirelessly to publicise the plight of women in the male-dominated world of religion, and Islam in particular. She often uses her own experiences to emphasise the way in which women are subliminally, and sometimes overtly, forced into second-class citizenship.

Less Religious Are Less Likely to Vote, Finds New Poll

Less Religious Are Less Likely to Vote, Finds New Poll.

This is an example of why it is important to identify the business or organisation that paid for and conducted the research quoted if we are to know the truth. My immediate reaction was to dismiss the research as biased. But is it?

The research was conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute. Immediately, my attention was grabbed by the name and in particular the word Religion. Does it indicate that the Institute studies religion or promotes religion. Anyone who reads the works of Dan Dennett will immediately know that very few institutions study religion

Reading down the page I found that the study was funded by the Ford Foundation and the Nathan Cummings Foundation. What are these organisations?

Wikipedia’s page makes the Ford Foundation sound an ideal partner for social awareness and social reformers. A 2005 study shows the Foundation’s attempts, some more successful than others, to integrate white and African-Americans. SourceWatch suggests that the Ford Foundation is viewed by conservatives as left wing. For me as a socially-aware atheist, this further added to the Foundation’s credentials.

The Nathan Cummings Foundation is a primarily Jewish organisation but, according to the Wikipedia page it also appears to be left-leaning and human rights oriented. The Foundation seems to primarily rely the Public Religion Research Institute. A study in April looked at the opinions of Jews in America and found the majority favoured Barak Obama. Using the research, the Huffington Post suggested that, as with Catholics, Jewish leaders are losing touch with the opinions of the population. The Foundation also seems environmentally aware. That sounds good to me.

Neither of these funders appear to want to influence the results of surveys. So what are we to make of this new survey?

As I intimated before, my immediate reaction on reading the results was acute scepticism. Most of the atheists I know are politically aware and more likely to vote than the general population, which seems to contradict the findings of the research. However, the atheists I know are activists who tend to see politics as a secular necessity, an alternative to being told what to do by religious leaders. Most see democracy as essential to society and their inalienable right as individuals to influence how society is run.

If the survey is correct, and it may well be, then many of those who are now rejecting religion tend towards apathy and not positive action to influence social evolution. To me, that has the potential to be really bad. It could allow religions back into the political arena.

Maybe those of us who are activists need to help those who have recently rejected religion to see that politics and social awareness are essential alternatives to religion but that they must be worked at and developed. Life may be a bitch and then you die but we need to ensure we make the most of our lives while we can. Our children and grandchildren depend in us to make the world a decent place for them. We must teach our children and grandchildren that they, in turn, need to be socially and environmentally aware for their children and grandchildren but doing so as intelligent human beings who base their knowledge on empirical evidence and not being mindless followers of daft ideas.

This survey could, perhaps should, be seen as a wake-up call.

Evolution of Belief: An overview of the earliest beliefs

Before I move on and delve further into the evolution of belief I thought it would be useful to consider what I have revealed in the past few postings and discuss what evidence there may be for my conclusions.

  • Throughout the past posts dedicated to the evolution of belief I have stated that the beliefs of early humans did not constitute religion. There was no superhuman controlling the lives of early humans and no rituals dedicated to the worship of a superhuman. Mountains may come to life, seas and rivers may cause floods and earthquakes may rip the earth but these were ruled by their own entities and did not control humans.
  • In Animism I discussed the belief that everything is inhabited by spirits and that spirits are real, part of the physical world. I use are instead of were because animist beliefs are still to be found.
  • In Totemism I covered the social development of small family groups and the refinement of beliefs in spirits, in particular the belief that the spirits of animals could be associated with family identity within groups.
  • In Fetishism I tried to show just how confusing it is to understand the evolution of belief in relation to specific developments in ideas and how early beliefs are in a state of confusion, how animism, totemism and fetishism were and are intertwined.
  • In Shamanism I discussed political rivalry and the special people who could speak to the spirits.
  • In The First Gods I put forward the suggestion that although shaman were supposedly able to speak to the spirits, sometimes things could go terribly wrong, how shaman travelled between family groups and, unlike ordinary humans, had time to think and invent stories. I also discussed how political rivalries continued to develop between family groups’ leaders and shamans.

Future posts will discuss the merging of beliefs as larger social structure developed, the emergence of tribes and the full integration of shaman into those tribes.

Before then I want to discuss examples for my suggestions that early beliefs saw spirits as part of the real world and, in doing so, raise a criticism of other’s suggestions that humans are always searching for new ways of seeing the world and their place in it.

Two examples I want to consider are Australian aborigines and  native North Americans. Both are significant in that they are isolated from European and Asian societies and their beliefs.

In Australia, aborigines, previously semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers but now largely confined to townships, who believe in spirits that are closely associated with the land and sea. Those living near the coast tend to see spirits associated with fish and birds, those further inland with birds, animals and lizards. Aborigines believe in Dreamtime a time before the creation of the Earth. However, Dreamtime and Earthtime are coexistent, extant, one as real as the other, spirits as much a part of the world as physical humans, animals, birds, lizards, fish and so on. They also have gods and goddesses. The god of the mountain, the god of the lake, and so on. These are worshipped, though not in a particularly organised way that could be called religion. Different tribes, also known as clans, have different gods and goddesses. Their beliefs remained the same until the arrival of Europeans in the seventeenth century.

Native North Americans arrived in the land we know as America between nineteen and thirteen thousand years ago. It is difficult to establish in what order waves of migration took place, partly because so many hypotheses have been presented. Some of these can be put down to overt or subconscious racism, where the producer of the hypothesis seems to want to prove that ancestors from their own part of the world were the first to discover the land and therefore to lay claim to it or prove that their own people had a reason for the eventual attempts to commit genocide against the inhabitants when Europeans arrived. What ever the truth, by thirteen thousand years ago a wave of migration established peoples with distinctly Asian features. They brought with them their beliefs and hunter-gatherer skills and developed them in their own way as they became isolated by the receding ice and rising seas. The tribes that emerged believed in spirits that were real, as real as you and me. They had some gods who were worshipped and would be consulted in times of need and they too are real. Their shaman became medicine-men, those who would heal the sick and wounded and who could converse with the gods and spirits. Spirits and gods related to the land, the environment anf their social structures. Rituals like dances and discussions developed but became rigid and virtually unchanged until the arrival of Europeans in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

One common factor emerges from both examples. Unless there is a significant change in environment, a significant disaster, a change in social structure or the influence of migration, beliefs do not change. Humans do not look for new beliefs; they favour the beliefs they are taught by their parents, the beliefs in which they are familiar.

A new site that may be of interest:    http://www.navajoindian.net/

Rimsha case Court grants 14-day judicial remand to Imam

Rimsha case Court grants 14-day judicial remand to Imam.

After weeks of being vilified and condemned, Rimsha Masih has been shown to be the victim of an ambitious and unscrupulous Imam who lied about her activities and then spread rumours amongst an illiterate population to whom critical thinking is something that belongs to a universe far, far away.

That is a problem not just for Islam but for all the rest of us, for the Koran demands that Islam (submission to Allah) is forced on the whole world. Islam, like all religions, can only be spread amongst those who cannot think critically. Preferably, adherents should also be illiterate. Yet if that is necessarily so, why is it that some of the Muslims who have committed the worst atrocities have been university-educated? The answer lies in the nature of religion itself.

Religion does not rely on the logical, thinking part of the brain. Religion affects the limbic system of the brain, which is more primitive (in that originated earlier) than the cerebrum. The limbic system is responsible for controlling some of the body’s most important automatic functions. It also controls our emotions. Religion is like a virus; once infected, feelings of extreme joy and contentment become addictive, like the effects of chemical drugs. The religious virus then influences all activities of the cerebrum. No longer does the infected person think independently; logic becomes a means of proving beliefs held. Anything that contradicts the beliefs held by the adherent is disregarded or opposed.

The fact that the instigator of the rumours was a religious leader reinforced the belief that this teenager with a mind younger than her chronological age, who was also a member of a minority belief-system, had committed an act of desecration and blasphemy. The ability to think independently was immediately lost. Kill the blasphemer, the mob cried, destroy the blaspheming tribe to which she belongs. Even members of the government were on the verge of being affected by the virus, the meme. The desire for revenge for – what? – became dominant in their minds. It did not matter what. The seed had been sown, the virus released.

Educated people can become no better than the most illiterate, dumb and stupid villager when commanded by a religious leader. It does not matter which religion. In Rimsha’s case it was Islam but adherents to her own religion, Christianity, can be just as ruthlessly affected. It does not matter what the religion; as soon as the meme is activated, bang goes reality. Those affected lose control of their thoughts and behaviour.

Only when the meme is eradicated can those affected be free to fully appreciate reality and to be free to think critically once again. Of course, the adherent to a religion does not know they are infected. Some humans never become infected; some are released over time as they gradually see the false nature of what was drummed into them at school or by parents. For others it takes a trauma of such magnitude that their beliefs fade into insignificance. Losing a loved one, being sure they read something in or heard something from their religious texts, something comforting, but not being able to find it. They pick up another book or read an article or blog instead and by the time they realise what they are reading their most sacred values are being brought into question. Their freed logical, thinking paths open as the mass of restricting weeds collapse and die and a raging thirst for knowledge overcomes the infecting meme.

Regrettably, trauma can also lead in the other direction. Those affected become radical and draw further into their fictional world. People sometimes need help to emerge from the dark, limiting meme before they fall back into religion. Should atheists make themselves available to those affected by the Rimsha Masih case? Or would that make atheists just as criminal as the Imam who lied to further his own ambition? Anyway, atheists are notoriously difficult when it comes to working together. The possibility may never arise. In the meantime, let us hope that Rimsha’s trauma does not result in revenge attacks by Christians on Muslims. Perhaps the trauma of some of the Christians affected will allow them to open their minds to reality.

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