The Gnostics & The Qur’an

December 28, 2013

qurannag

As an Atheist with an interest in all things religious, I often get asked “Why focus on religion so much if you don’t believe it?” It always seemed a rather odd question to me. It is unlikely that one can understand the World we live in, and the social history that produced us, without a fundamental understanding of the overwhelming power that organised faith has had upon the World across the brief history of mankind. Religion has sparked wondrous works of creative genius, and terrible moments of oppressive atrocity. It is woven into the fabric of human history. It is this that fascinates me.

Subsequently, as a non-believer, I am drawn to the mysteries surrounding Holy texts and from where they sprung. As Atheists, we dismiss the idea that Holy texts are divine in any sense, and so we must seek to provide more plausible explanations for their existence. For me it is impossible to deny that the Qur’an is a fascinating historical document.

I am quite certain that the Qur’an was written down for the sake of empire. It is an imperial book, and it has control at its core. As noted in a previous article, the earliest Quranic manuscript we have dates back to the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, a ruler who embarked on a massive imperial PR campaign – continued by his son – with the purpose of solidifying his fledgling empire, by linking it back to the founder of the faith. Muhammad’s name starts to appear on coins in 686 – a year after al-Malik’s accession, he oversaw the building of the Dome of the Rock, and it was during his reign, that the state and the new faith become one and the same. The Arabic empire, becomes an Islamic empire.

But let’s for a moment entertain the idea that the Qur’an came entirely from the mouth of Muhammad over the space of twenty years. It is important to note that we non-believers are quite certain that the Qur’an offers nothing new in terms of explanation or advancement in the sciences, nor anything that couldn’t have been produced without the need for a God. Even in the 7th Century. It then follows that the stories in the Qur’an must have came from elsewhere. Once we have evidence for this, the divinity of the Qur’an becomes entirely unnecessary.

A couple of stories in particular feature in the Qur’an, that also feature elsewhere, and prior to the Qur’an. The subject of Jesus’ youth was an important issue for early Christianity, and spawned plenty of different tales, mainly due to its omittance from Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. One later Gnostic story in particular features in Qur’an 3:49:

“And (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying): I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I determine for you out of clay the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with Allah’s permission, and I heal the blind and the leprous, and bring the dead to life with Allah’s permission; and I inform you of what you should eat and what you should store in your houses. Surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.”

– Similarly, Qur’an 5:10 says:

“When Allah will say: O Jesus, son of Mary, remember My favour to thee and to thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit; thou spokest to people in the cradle and in old age, and when I taught thee the Book and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel, and when thou didst determine out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then thou didst breathe into it and it became a bird by My permission …. but those of them who disbelieved said: This is nothing but clear enchantment.”

– The Infancy Gospel of Thomas – a Gnostic text written between between 140ad and 170ad – first referenced by Irenaeus and later by Origen, tells a very similar story:

“Then he (Jesus) took from the bank of the stream some soft clay and formed out of it twelve sparrows; and there were other boys playing with him.
But a certain Jew seeing the things which he was doing, namely, his forming clay into the figures of sparrows on the Sabbath day, went presently away and told his father Joseph,
Behold, your boy is playing by the river side, and has taken clay and formed it into twelve sparrows, and profanes the Sabbath.
Then Joseph came to the place where he was, and when he saw him, called to him, and said, Why do you that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day?
Then Jesus clapping together the palms of his hands, called to the sparrows, and said to them: Go, fly away; and while you live remember me.
So the sparrows fled away, making a noise.
The Jews seeing this, were astonished and went away and told their chief persons what a strange miracle they had seen wrought by Jesus.”

– The link is clear. Jesus creates birds out of clay, and miraculously brings them to life, as a sign to non-believers. Of course, it is prudent to note that similarity does not necessarily mean a plagiarised copy. He might have known nothing of these stories, and God revealed them. It was just coincidence that the same stories happened to be invented centuries earlier by Christians in Greece/Syria. We would need evidence that Muhammad had access to these stories, to entirely eliminate the divine explanation. So then, do we have evidence that Muhammad had access to these stories? Well, yes. By way of traditional biographies of the Prophet:

“[Those who talked to Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, were Abu Haritha Ibn `Alqama, Al-`Aqib `Abdul-Masih and Al-Ayham al-Sa`id.] They were Christians according to the faith of the king with differences between them; they say: He is Allah, and say: He is Son of Allah, and say: He is the third of three [i.e., part of Trinity] and these are the claims of Christianity. [They use as evidence for their claim that He is Allah the argument that] he used to raise the dead, cure the sick, create from clay bird-like structure then breathe into it to make it a [living] bird.

– This is from Ibn Ishaq, who notes that the ‘Family of Imran’ – the third Chapter of the Qur’an – was revealed just after the delegation of Najrān Christians spoke to Muhammad. This delegation included Abu Haritha Ibn `Alqama, who had been lavished with gifts and money from the Christian Kings. You will note, that the first quote from the Qur’an I used in this article, is from Chapter 3 of the Qur’an. So it would appear that according to Muslim tradition, Muhammad just happened to have a revelation confirming new stories on the early life of Jesus he’d just heard from Christians telling him about the early life of Jesus. If this doesn’t strike you as a little suspicious, not much will.

Further, the same Sura 3 – revealed after Muhammad meets Christians who have their own Gnostic traditions – mentions a legend of Mary, also prominent in Gnostic texts.
Quran 3:37:

“Her Lord graciously accepted her and made her grow in goodness, and entrusted her to the charge of Zachariah. Whenever Zachariah went to see her in her sanctuary, he found her supplied with provisions. He said, “Mary how is it you have found these provisions?” and she said, “They are from God: God provides limitlessly for whoever He wills.” ”

– The Protevangelium of James says:

“(1) And her parents went down, marveling at and praising and glorifying the Lord God because the child had not turned back to look at them. (2)While Mary was in the temple of the Lord, she was fed like a dove and received food from the hand of an angel. (3) When she turned twelve, a group of priests took counsel together, saying, “Look, Mary has been in the temple of the Lord twelve years. (4)What should we do about her now, so that she does not defile the sanctuary of the Lord our God?” (5) And they said to the high priest, “You have stood at the altar of the Lord. Go in and pray about her. And if the Lord God reveals anything to you, we will do it.” (6) And the priest went in taking the vestment with twelve bells into the holy of holies and prayed about her. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord stood before him, saying, “Zachariah, Zachariah, depart from here and gather the widowers of the people and let each one carry a staff. (8) And the one whom the Lord God points out with a sign, she will be his wife.”

– With variation in editorial detail, the story is the same. Mary lives in a sanctuary, Zachariah is prominent in her life in the sanctuary, and she is given “provisions” from a divine source.

Another story, this time from The Arabic Infancy Gospel says:

“He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in His cradle said to Mary His mother: I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.”

– This story of Jesus speaking, as a baby, from the cradle is echoed in the Qur’an:

“But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they dispute.”

– Two things to note here. Firstly, the link between Jesus as a baby in the cradle speaking philosophically about his role, with his mother close. The Arabic Infancy Gospel requires Jesus to echo Christian thought, whilst the Quranic version echoes Islamic thought. Secondly, The Quranic verse seems to note that this is a story not accepted by mainstream Christianity: “…which they dispute“. This suggests that the story most certainly pre-dates the Qur’an, was well known as a dispute within the Church, and given that we Atheists insist that the Qur’an was not divine; it is more evidence that Muhammad had heard or read the Infancy Gospels in some form, and was thoroughly inspired by them.

So, we know that at least three stories from the Qur’an are reflected in early Gnostic Christian texts, written far removed from the life of Jesus, and that have no credible base in historical reality. We know that Muhammad had dealings with Christians (Khadijah’s cousin ‘Waraqa’ was a devout Christian). We know that Muhammad conversed with gnostic-leaning Christians who believed that Jesus created birds from clay and brought them to life and that Muhammad had a revelation concerning Jesus and clay birds around that exact time, the same is true for the story of Mary. From this, it seems to me far more plausible that Muhammad – if we are to indulge the idea that the Qur’an indeed came from his mouth – framed the Qur’an from a plethora of Gnostic texts and sects that already existed, rather than from revelation. Whilst again, it is true that similarities do not necessarily mean plagiarism, they do offer plagiarism as an alternative explanation, and a plausible one. Natural explanations will always be more plausible than supernatural explanations. There is certainly enough within the context of the Gnostic texts and the Qur’an for any reasonable mind to seriously doubt the story of revelation.

It is this intriguing history; these few short years in the Arabian desert regions and the subsequent power and influence over generations of human beings from Mecca to Edinburgh, Medina to Beijing, that as an Atheist, keeps me enduringly fascinated by the subject of religion.


One man’s freedom fighter…

December 6, 2013

one man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist, one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter, freedom, mandela freedom, mandela lincoln, hamas freedom

It is a thoughtless cliche that paradoxically seems to endure. It is used to defend the most horrendous atrocities that seek to control every aspect of the lives of others. It is an extreme show of cultural relativism that appears to link those who fight for equality, justice and freedom, with those who fight to prohibit equality, justice and freedom.

It may be said that whilst ‘freedom’ is an end, terrorism is not an end, but a way to get to an end. However, I find this particularly flawed, because it discounts my contention in this article, that terrorism can and often is used to implement a system of perpetual terror – Taliban controlled Afghanistan, for example – upon those who are outside of its narrow supremacist vision. Fighting for the power to put others in your cage, cannot be considered freedom.

It would appear to me that the word freedom is self explanatory. Any system that seeks to control others, by elevating a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief above others, is not freedom. It is supremacist. Indeed, any system that institutionalises privileges for a particular race, or gender, or sexuality, or religious belief, is not freedom. It is supremacist. If you fight to uphold or to implement a supremacist system, controlling the lives, loves, thoughts, and the words of those who do not fit your narrow spectrum of what is considered decent and correct, you are a terrorist. You advocate perpetual terror. You are not fighting for freedom. You are fighting for oppression.

Freedom does not, and should include the freedom to oppress others according to your ideology. A freedom granted to one, must be a freedom granted to all. This includes the fundamental human right to think and speak freely without fear of oppression. The breaking down of patriarchal barriers that seek to oppress women as if an object to be owned and controlled by men. The freedom to love, regardless of sexuality. The freedom to assembly. The freedom from any form of discrimination based on the colour of one’s skin. The freedom to choose leaders. The freedom to believe whatever you choose to believe. The freedom to seek the life you wish. Freedom is the leveling of a playing field. If you fight for these principles, you are a freedom fighter.

I have heard often the excusing of the oppressive nature of Hamas, with the phrase “one man’s terrorist”. It’s a cliche that appears to attempt to link the cause of Hamas to great freedom fighters of the past; to those fighting the oppression of an opposing structure. As if freeing women or gay people or non-believers, can be considered as morally equivalent to caging women or gay people or non-believers. As if oppression is relative, and therefore acceptable. Hamas have nothing that could defined as ‘freedom’ etched into their being. They use violence in an attempt to implement a system of perpetual terror based on the supremacy of one religion. There is nothing that can be described as ‘freedom’ about this.

There are many strands to Hamas’ anti-freedom agenda. Crucially, religious supremacy. This seems to feed their heterosexual supremacy, and their patriarchal supremacy. Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution reads:

“The Islamic Resistance Movement is a distinct Palestinian Movement which owes its loyalty to Allah, derives from Islam its way of life and strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine. Only under the shadow of Islam could the members of all regions coexist in safety and security for their lives, properties and rights(11). In the absence of Islam, conflict arises, oppression reigns, corruption is rampant and struggles and wars prevail.”

– For some inexplicable reason, Hamas have decided that they have a natural right to impose their ideological structure upon all people living in Palestine. They then contradict their inherently oppressive message, by complaining that anything other than their own oppressive system, is oppression. Yet the implementation of their strict “moral” structure sees the horrendous treatment of gay people, the oppression of women, and the torture of anyone who critiques their beliefs. This isn’t freedom, nor are those fighting for it to be considered “freedom fighters“. Nor are those who forgive it, or support it – George Galloway for example – to be considered anything other than religious supremacists.

As noted above, freedom does not include a supposed inherent right to oppress whomever you wish. It is the equivalent of the Confederate State of America in the 1860s insisting that any leveling of the racial playing field, is inherently oppressive to white people, and that by fighting to uphold white supremacy, they’re actually ‘freedom fighters’. How ludicrous. Threatening and breaking supremacist ideals, is the promotion of freedom. Hamas, the Taliban, and others like them, do not get to call themselves freedom fighters. It is preposterous to do so. In the same way that it would be preposterous to define Jefferson Davis as a freedom fighter. Those who defend their actions, insisting that Jefferson Davis was in fact a freedom fighter, must lay out what freedoms he was actually fighting for. Their argument must be stronger than those who think differently, otherwise the argument fails.

The distinction between freedom fighter and those fighting to establish a system that enshrines oppression can be seen most clearly if we contrast Article 6 of Hamas’ constitution above, with the Bill of Rights of post-Apartheid South Africa:

“Everyone is equal before the law and has the right to equal protection and benefit of the law. Equality includes the full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms. To promote the achievement of equality, legislative and other measures designed to protect or advance persons, or categories of persons, disadvantaged by unfair discrimination may be taken.

The state may not unfairly discriminate directly or indirectly against anyone on one or more grounds, including race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth.”

“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes ­
freedom of the press and other media;
freedom to receive or impart information or ideas;
freedom of artistic creativity; and
academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.”

“Everyone has the right to use the language and to participate in the cultural life of their choice, but no one exercising these rights may do so in a manner inconsistent with any provision of the Bill of Rights.”

– These provisions establish the right of everyone to speak freely, to associate, to love, to believe, to live without fear of oppression. It establishes a line of equality that no gender, sexuality, race or religion can rise above. This was an incredible achievement. It is not often that those who fight for revolution in an oppressed nation relinquish power once they have it. Robespierre, Castro, Lenin; all forged oppressive power for themselves out of the structures they fought to break down. Those who fought Apartheid to frame a system in South Africa upon which freedom is enshrined, rightfully earn the title ‘freedom fighters’.

The distinction between ‘freedom fighter’ and ‘terrorist’ is clear. Motive is important. If you are fighting to implement or uphold a system that openly restricts rights, threatens punishment for exercising basic rights like expression or love, and oppresses those who do not fit into its structure, you are advocating the power for yourself to cage and chain others. This is terror. If however you fight to break those chains, to free people from an oppressive cage of illegitimate power structures, and establish a line of equality upon which supremacy is prohibited, and all are considered equal, you are a freedom fighter.

Freedom and terror are incompatible.


The Great Syrian Freethinkers: Al-Ma’arri

May 19, 2013

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Such was the nature of the power of Christianity, its dogma, its insecurity, during the Middle Ages, that a great writer, humanist, and long time friend of the King could be put to death for nothing more than refusing to swear that King Henry VIII was the Supreme Head of the Church in England. Thomas More was lucky in one sense. He had his head swiftly detached from the rest of his body with one sweep of the executioners axe. Lucky, because others were not accorded the same swift death. Robert Lawrence, a Carthusian Monk, refused also to submit to the Oath of Supremacy. Though, unlike More, Lawrence was hung, just enough to ensure he lost consciousness. He was then revived, in time to see his stomach slashed open, and his insides pulled out, and set on fire. He was then cut into pieces, his head stuck on a spike on London Bridge. This agonisingly horrid punishment was handed down for questioning the King’s power over Rome, not for questioning Christianity or religion in general. Simply for questioning the power of the Monarch over the power of the Pope.
This was England, and this was Christianity, in the Middle Ages.

Whilst we see no one questioning Christianity in general, or religion itself in general, throughout Christian Europe really from the death of Greek Philosophy, through the rise of Christianity, the Dark Ages, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, until the Enlightenment…. (we can perhaps ascribe that situation, to the existence, wealth and power of the Papacy over the centuries; a single authority that Islam has always lacked) we see some wonderful free thinkers, and rationalists coming out of the areas considered Islamic during those centuries. It would seem that Islamic settlements dealt far less harshly with free thought and criticism during those centuries, than Christianity. The violent suppression of free thought that plagues Islamic Nations today, appears to be a relatively new phenomenon for the faith.

Over the next few articles, I will endeavour to introduce you to a few rather wonderful culturally Islamic freethinkers from days past.

In the city of Aleppo, in Syria, stands a statue to the poet, Abul ʿAla Al-Maʿarri. His statue has recently been beheaded, by Syrian rebels. The beheading of the statue of Al-Ma’arri by Islamic extremists, for me, is a rather fitting tribute to a brilliant freethinker, who attracted great attention among poets and writers of the late 10th Century with his sharp critique of Islam and religion in general. Al-Ma’arri’s life was never in danger for questioning, and often insulting the idea of religious belief. That’s not to say that categories of punishable Heresy didn’t exist in Islamic tradition, they certainly did, though not as harsh at that time, as was happening across Europe. This is evident in tracing Al-Ma’arri’s route across the Middle East, and his notable presence in Baghdad.

His freethinking and his ideas thereof, are often repeated in one way or another by freethinkers today. On a side note, he was a strict vegetarian, believing it immoral to harm animals in any way. One may quite rightly say, he was a genius, well ahead of his time. And far advanced, even in the 10th Century, when compared with the religious fundamentalists that beheaded his statue earlier this year.

His philosophical poetry, at times reads like the works of modern day, so called ‘new Atheists’ much of the time.
In one poem, Al-Ma’arri writes:

“So, too, the creeds of man: the one prevails
Until the other comes; and this one fails
When that one triumphs; ay, the lonesome world
Will always want the latest fairytales.”

– ‘The lonesome World’ – Here Al-Ma’arri is convinced that the World is on its own, yet humanity cries out for something more, and in that sense, will always welcome fairytales to make the spiritual loneliness of humanity seem less so. A rather revolutionary idea in such a dark age. Reason is rejected, for the latest fashionable fairytale. The supremacy and importance of reason, becomes a key feature of Al-Ma’arri’s works.

He is also not afraid to openly criticise the leaders of faiths. A surefire way to get your head swiftly removed from the rest of your body, in Christendom at the time:

“O fools, awake! The rites ye sacred hold
Are but a cheat contrived by men of old
Who lusted after wealth and gained their lust
And died in baseness-and their law is dust.”

Al-Ma’ari gives us his own distinction between those who subscribe to religious schools of thought, and those he refers to as ‘Enlightened’. To be enlightened, to Al-Ma’arri, is to give up on religious superstition:

“Hanifs (Muslims) are stumbling, Christians all astray
Jews wildered, Magians far on error’s way.
We mortals are composed of two great schools
Enlightened knaves or else religious fools.”

– For Al-Ma’arri, reason was enough to guide humanity. For Al-Ma’arri, all religion is just a tool of power over whom he considered to be fools.

He is scathing in his attack on the rise of religions, how he considers them to have perpetuated through the years, whilst at the same time he advances the cause and superiority of reason.

“Had they been left alone with Reason, they would not have accepted
a spoken lie; but the whips were raised (to strike them).
Traditions were brought to them, and they were bidden say,
“We have been told the truth”; and if they refused, the sword was
drenched (in their blood).
They were terrified by scabbards full of calamities, and tempted by
great bowls brimming over with food for largesse.”

He has no trouble using such fierce and provocative language, with his mention of the angels of Islam, Munkar and Nakir. According to Islamic tradition, after your burial upon death, and after the last mourner has left the site of your grave, Munkar and Nakir prop you up, and ask you:

“Who is your Lord? Who is your Prophet? What is your religion?”

– If you answer correctly (Al-Lah, Muhammad, and Islam) then you will be treated kindly. If you answer incorrectly, you will be punished horrifically whilst you await the day of judgement. Al-Ma’arri doesn’t appreciate this idea. He states:

“And like the dead of Ind I do not fear
To go to thee in flames; the most austere
Angel of fire a softer tooth and tongue
Hath he than dreadful Munkar and Nakir.”

– Here, he is openly noting that the Indian tradition of cremation is far preferable upon death, than a visit from the ‘dreadful’ Munkar and Nakir. The use of the word ‘dreadful’, had it been applied to Christian figures, or angels, would most certainly have been considered far to heretical for the author not to face immediate and harsh death. Had he used similarly toxic language within certain Middle Eastern countries today, I suspect he might have received quite an outpouring of outrage and calls for death. But, Al-Ma’arri moved freely across the Islamic World in the late 10th Century, stopping for at least a year and a half in the culture centre of Baghdad, in which he was warmly welcomed and celebrated by literary circles.

“They recite their sacred books, although the fact informs me
that these are a fiction from first to last.
O Reason, thou (alone) speakest the truth.
Then perish the fools who forged the religious traditions or interpreted them!”

Al-Marri seems to us, to be better suited to walking and talking in the streets of 19th Century Philadelphia with Thomas Paine, or sitting around a fire place, with a whiskey, deep in discussions in the mid-20th Century with Bertrand Russell, or joining Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris on stage for merciless debates with religious apologists in the early 21st Century; than he does to the Middle Ages. His appeal to reason, his dismissal of superstition, and his openly antagonistic and scathing approach to dealing with religious dogma and power, seems alien to a Middle Age in which we today consider to have been the dark days of human intellectual advancement. Islam appears to be entering a stage of its history today, in which Christianity emerged from two centuries ago. An insecure age, in which questioning is suspicious, freethought is a dangerous concept, and satire or ridicule inexcusable to the faith.

I advise reading the works of Al-Ma’arri. They do not only suggest a vast gulf when it comes to the perception of ‘heresy’ between the Islamic World of the Dark and Middle Ages, with the Christian World. They also speak to our sense of humanity, the supremacy of reason, and of the importance of free expression. They remind us that our Enlightenment traditions are not new. They are embedded within the psyche of mankind as can be seen from Epicurus, to Al-Ma’arri, to Paine, to Hitchens. Enlightenment thinking has a wonderful tradition unto itself. The poems are as relevant today as they were in the 10th Century. And that is what makes Al-Ma’arri – one of the few I name as personal heroes – worthy of greatness.


The Myth of Monotheism

May 9, 2013

“Sinners receive pardon by the intercession of Mary alone.”
– St. John Chrysostom

At the summit of Montmartre in Paris stands the basilica of Sacre Coeur; a late 19th, early 20th Century political and religious prodigious Catholic Church dedicated to Jesus, and the decades following the French Revolution. Crowds flock to look out across the beautiful city from the highest point at the foot of the basilica. At night, the brightly lit Church illuminates the skyline of Paris quite wonderfully.

Last week, I sat in on mass being spoken at Sacre Coeur. It’s my second Catholic Mass in Paris. Previously I’ve sat in on mass at Notre Dame. As an outspoken Atheist, one would assume I would be quite averse to all things ritual with regard religion; and yet, I find it strangely alluring. To me, it reveals something about the human condition and its desire for guidance from ‘outside’. A sort of, lack of belief in ourselves. In much the same way as the air fills with the sound of the Islamic call to prayer from the stunning Blue Mosque of Istanbul multiple times every day, Catholic rituals intrigue me. If we start from the position, as I do, that there is no God, that Jesus was not divine and may not have actually existed at all; then the rituals I see at Catholic mass seem fatuous, almost child-like, and very alien. And yet, here we are, surrounded by throngs of people, beautifully crafted stone monuments, brightly coloured windows, inspired art of the geniuses, nuns, cardinals, priests, people kneeling before the altar, so passionately enthralled in prayer that somehow the pointlessness of the ritual becomes irrelevant and the human aspect of a desire for hope, a feeling of belonging, and outside interference becomes prevalent.

It is true that those who follow the line of the three main Abrahamic traditions insist that their one God is the key to salvation, and that believing so, makes their Monotheistic faith altogether different from the Polytheistic faiths that have inspired generations before them. But it would appear to me, that the idea of ‘one God’, is not enough for those who deeply require ‘outside’ guidance and the hope for a grand plan. Polytheism seemed to have all bases covered. The single God of Monotheism, regardless of the ‘omni’ attributes applied to it, still struggles to fulfil the very basic desires that religion is supposed to inspire. And so the religious work on ways to get round that problem, walking a careful line between Monotheism and Polytheism.

Catholicism is quite spectacular at subtly blurring the lines between Monotheism and Polytheism, whilst insisting on the faith being entirely Monotheistic. This blurring of the lines between the two ‘theism’s is not new for Christianity. Let us not forget that Satan holds great power over mankind, the only key difference between Satan and God appears to be the attributed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ concepts. Other than that, they are essentially two Gods, in much the same way that Hades of Greek Mythology, and king of the Gods of the underworld, was as much of a God as Zeus. Satan occupies an important and rather central place in the Pantheon of Christian icons. It is through a single conversation between Satan and Eve, that the entire ‘plan’ of God was forced to take a dramatic, and time consuming turn. The Christian defined plan of God, is one great attempt to undo the apparent ‘harm’ created by Satan in Eden. Satan is a rather powerful being, able to circumnavigate the apparent omnipresence of God. Christianity, in its entirety, exists through the actions of Satan, and the long, drawn out reactions of God. Perhaps we could call Satan a minor deity, but a deity nonetheless.

We must also note the veneration of Saints in Catholic tradition. They may not be ‘Gods’ in a very strict sense, but they play a key role once reserved for Polytheistic Gods of old. The Saints give us a human face to a faceless religion. They surround the square of St Peters in Rome. They appear in Catholic Churches and Cathedrals across Christendom. Saints days are celebrated, and intercession of Saints is a key doctrine in many Churches. They provide an example of how one ‘should’ live according to the faith. The Saints replace the minor Gods in the old Roman Pantheons, in charge of, and able to intercede within the realm of certain human causes, that a single God seems to lack sufficient time to commit to each. Saint Peter is the Saint of long life. Christina the Astonishing (able to perform miracles) is the Saint of Mental Illness. Florian is the Saint against Fire. Gerard Majella is the Saint of expectant Mothers. The Saints play an important, supernatural role in the running of the World; a human, Earthly role that we find easier to relate to, than a faceless, mysterious ‘one God’ entity.

Crucially, according to Catholic doctrine, the Saints also hear our prayers. They hear the silent prayers, of millions of believers, in many different languages, all at the same time, from all over the World.
The importance placed on the ability of the Saints in heaven, to be able to intercede on behalf of Christians on Earth, naturally elevates the Saints to a status beyond that of human, but just below that of ‘God’.

“All those who seek Mary’s protection will be saved for all eternity.”
– Pope Benedict XV

Popes throughout the ages have placed great emphasis on salvation through Mary. She exists on a platform as close to a ‘God’ as one could possibly get. The blurred lines are evident. Popes demand her worship, without actually using the term worship:

“What will it cost you, oh Mary, to hear our prayer? What will it cost you to save us? Has not Jesus placed in your hands all the treasures of His grace and mercy? You sit crowned Queen at the right hand of your son: your dominion reaches as far as the heavens and to you are subject the earth and all creatures dwelling thereon. Your dominion reaches even down into the abyss of hell, and you alone, oh Mary, save us from the hands of Satan.”
– Pope Pius XI

If Catholicism, with its God of the ‘omnis’ were truly Monotheistic, it would not require the intercession of Saints on behalf of humans. It would not require Patron Saints suddenly able to hear millions of prayers, in different languages, in different places, all at the same time. It would not require Mary having any dominion. They would need no control, nor need to intercede within a certain realm. The Ave Maria, the rosary, would be meaningless, and yet it holds a meaningful and rather curious centrality within the Catholic faith. This represents the careful line, mentioned above, between Polytheism and Monotheism, and an interesting way to reconcile the problems presented by Monotheism, with some of the comforts offered by the Polytheistic past.

Similarly, we see Muslims often living by and focusing on the sayings and life of the Prophet Muhammad as opposed to just the Qur’an, despite the great emphasis placed on the worship of just one God, in the Qur’an. Islam does not accept the ‘worship’ of any other God, but Allah (an old Pagan God). They seem however, to play rather fast and loose with the term ‘worship’ when it comes to the Prophet Muhammad. The entire concept of death for apostasy, comes from the Hadith, and not the Qur’an. Muhammad’s life and sayings occupy a key space in the faith of Islam. There is no need to live by the words and life of the Prophet, if the faith is Monotheistic. He is simply a man. He makes mistakes. He is fallible. The Hadiths are pointless, if the Qur’an is the true word of the one God. If the only requirement of Islam, is to live by the words of the Qur’an, then the faith can be considered far more Monotheistic, than it is the moment we introduce Hadiths into the equation. Muslims undoubtedly hold the life of sayings (even outside of revelation) of the Prophet, in high regard. To question the actions of the Prophet, is to insult Islam. To negatively depict the Prophet, is to insult Islam. They may not call it ‘worship’, but it is as close as devotion gets to worship. Mehdi Hasan of New Statesman fame once told a crowd during a debate that he loved the Prophet, more than his own children. That is devotion, closer to worship than any other form. It places infallibility on a person, but simultaneously claiming not to. Again, it blurs the lines of Polytheism and Monotheism. The Islamic faith, like Catholicism, goes ‘beyond’ the simplistic ‘one God’ notion. Not quite enough to make it outright Polytheistic but certainly enough to render the concept of Monotheism in Islam suspect.

I don’t think it is possible to apply the succinct terms ‘Polytheism’ or ‘Monotheism’ so flippantly to the Abrahamic faiths. There are recognisable problems with Monotheism for the devoutly religious. It lacks a human aspect that can only be fulfilled by human actors; human actors who slowly become ‘worshipped’, relied upon for the continuation of the faith and as close to Gods as one can be without acquiring the name. Their lives and words are just as central to the faith, as the ‘revelation’ of their God. They are deemed untouchable. Polytheism did not die with the growth of the ‘Monotheistic’ religions. It simply shifted focus, blurred the lines, and the product of that blurring, can be seen when we sit in the dimly lit Basilica of Sacre Coeur and witness the unwavering and passionate devotion of the believers.


Solidarity with the Bangladesh Bloggers

April 6, 2013

bangladesh-atheist-bloggers

It is rather simple for me to sit in the comfort of my middle-class home in a secular country, and feel I can express myself on my personal blog, about whatever issue is on my mind on that day, without fear of violent reprisal. Open to the possibility that I might be proven wrong. Learning as I go. However, for people to do the same, in a country consumed by extremists who will not think twice about taking your life for writing something they don’t like; it takes an extraordinary amount of courage to stand up and speak out against religious extremism and injustices.

Today, hundreds of thousands are marching in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to demand blasphemy laws, and the execution of secular and Atheist bloggers for even daring to criticise Islam and the Prophet Muhammad. Hundreds of thousands, claiming to be “saving Islam” by calling for the violent deaths of anyone who says anything they do not like. Hundreds of thousands demanding death sentences for speaking out against their faith. The secular and liberal World should stand in unity with those condemned simply for speaking their minds, on a website. The blogging community especially.
There is currently a plan, hopefully underway, with British Humanists, to stage a demonstration outside of the Bangladesh High Commission in London.

The action follows the horrendous murder of Ahmed Rajib, an Atheist blogger and organiser, hacked to death, and his throat slit by Islamists, simply for promoting secularism. The same movement, rooted in 7th Century barbarism, that slits the throats of innocent people simply for writing something they don’t like, now demand to have a say in crafting ‘Blasphemy laws’.

One of the arrested bloggers is Asif Mohiuddin. Asif was stabbed in January by Islamic extremists. He is now waiting to see if the government succumbs to the demands of the thugs who stabbed in, and have the State finish the job for them. In the World of Islamic extremism, saying words they do not like is evil. Stabbing someone for it, is perfectly acceptable. Subrata Adhikary Shuvo, and Russell Parvez are also currently awaiting their fate. Shuvo is younger than me. This makes me rather unnerved and sickened. The distress these men must currently be feeling is horrendous.

In a previous article, I said this:

“It is my belief, that the freedom to satirise, mock, laugh at, criticise, as well as question all authoritative ideas, including all religions that themselves are openly critical of how those outside the faith live their lives, is the cornerstone of a progressive, and reasonable society. These ideas include the freedom to satirise and criticise and question deeply held political ideals, including my own. We must not allow religions to be free from satire, nor criticism, simply because it is cloaked in ‘faith’. To close them to criticism/satirism by using State controls and violence, means that the protected ‘idea’ becomes an ‘idea’ we are forced to respect; not an ‘idea’ that earns our respect, we are forced to bow to its apparent wonder, not of our own volition, and so humanity cannot progress the idea, dismantle the idea, or strengthen the idea, and move forward. It thus gives the ‘idea’ an authority above what it is reasonably justified in having, over the lives of not just its followers, but those who don’t wish to adhere to its principles. This is dangerous.”

– This seems more apt today than ever. I am an Atheist blogger. It sickens me to think that because of words, that I type on a screen, that no one is forced to read…. a group of fanatical Fascists thinks it has justification for killing me.

I wonder if these ‘blasphemy laws’ also cover not using the word ‘kuffar’ to describe non-believers? Or not saying anything negative about Judaism? Or demand punishment for homosexuality? Or not saying anything abusive about America, Britain and “The West”? I wonder if they’ll allow me to have a say over banning Holy Books for condemning me to hell, for insulting me on practically every page, for not believing. Or, as I suspect, is it simply a way to stop any sort of questioning, criticism, or mocking of one particular religion.

Do you see the pictures of the march? Of this “Save Islam” march? What seems to be missing?

a
b
c
– Where are the women? At home waiting for permission to leave? In another march, banned from the all men march? And these people have the nerve to claim to be fighting for “freedom”. It isn’t surprising that there are no women with the men, given what Hefazat-e-Islami is calling for.. It includes this:

4. End to all alien cultural practices like immodesty, lewdness, misconduct, culture of free mixing of the sexes.

– Freedom? Really? Freedom to do as they say, live your life as they tell you to, only say what they have allowed you to say, and be executed otherwise. Freedom.

The ‘long march to Dhaka’ protesters have shown the World what they really are. Poison. Totalitarian. Fascist. They are not a fringe. They have power, they imprison people for words, they set fires, they torture, they beat people, they wish to execute people, they are not a little extreme group that we can ignore. The decent and civilised World cannot afford to ignore such horrific people. They are not peaceful people. They never will be. Please let’s stop pretending that Islam is inherently peaceful.

Be suspicious also of those claiming to be moderate, or appearing to promote secular ideals to add credibility to their regressive cause. Their nastiness lurks just below the surface:
islam
dd
– “Freedom of speech for all! DISCLAIMER: As long as you say something nice about our religion. Otherwise, we hang you. You better say that our Prophet is great. Otherwise we hang you.
Freedom of Expression rightfully dictates, that you have the right to express yourself. You have the responsibility to decide whether what you say might offend, or might offend. Others have the right to respond to you, they have the right to tell you you’re offensive, wrong, idiotic, lying, misrepresenting, or just being a bit of a prick. They do not have the right to forcibly silence you, threaten you, or attack you if they do not like what you have to say. That is not free expression.

Manipulations and redefinitions of what the term “free expression” means, should not be used by the religious to silence dissent, whilst they themselves continue to be free to use their Holy Book to insult homosexuality, feminism, the West, non-believers, and anyone else who doesn’t fit into their narrow band of what is considered “decent and correct”. Free expression is so violently opposed by the religious, because it is dangerous to dogma. No other reason.

‘Blasphemy laws’ should not exist. No religion has any right to demand others speak, or act as they demand. They are not superior to anyone else. The bloggers in Bangladesh, currently suffering the crushing chains of Islamic extremism and oppression, are the victims of religious fascism. I keep hearing “Freedom of speech does not mean you can insult religion“. Since when? Who invented that little restriction? I am certain; if a religion wishes political power, wishes to tell others that they are destined for eternal torture, wishes to teach this to children, and to dictate how other people live, then it is right that its authority is questioned, mocked, and criticised at every possible opportunity.

When it comes to religion, and when it comes to the concept of Islam; You are entitled to offend, you are entitled to disagree, you are entitled to argue, you are entitled to debate, you are entitled to satirise, you are entitled to criticise, you are entitled to question, you are entitled to write a blog stating what you dislike about the religion. None of this should in any way be punishable, by law, or by a group of thugs attempting to impose their faith upon others. The very act of punishing ‘blasphemy’ (essentially, outlawing Atheism) makes it even more essential to criticise and satirise and mock that particular idea.

Show your support for Asif Mohiuddin, Subrata Adhikary Shuvo, and Russell Parvez. The Bangladesh Bloggers.

#HumanistSolidarity


Defending Westboro

January 12, 2013

“He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”
– Thomas Paine

I have been struggling with my conscience and with my ideas of liberty, to come to terms with the hate spewed by the Westboro Baptist Church, especially in recent weeks as they expressed their wish to protest at the funerals of the victims at Newtown, and the fundamental principle of free speech; the most important right. It is a real test of personal belief in the beautiful sentiments expressed by people like Mill, or at the beginning of the Age of Reason by my personal hero Thomas Paine; that my right to offend is under attack the moment I restrict anyone else’s right to offend by being offended or upset by words. How do I rationalise the right of someone to offend the innocent and broken relatives of murdered school children, in the most malicious and sickening display of hate speech possible? The Westboro Baptist Church, for me are the ultimate test in my belief in freed expression.

The only way to rationalise my thoughts, is to take away my individual emotion, and focus purely on the abstract. And it is with that, that I have come to the conclusion, that the Westboro Baptist Church should be allowed complete freedom to picket, voice their hate, protest all they want. In addition, others should be allowed to protest against Westboro, to picket them, and to voice their opposition.

I have spoken to many ‘Unite Against Fascism’ members whom appear far more totalitarian than they wish to accept. I spoke to one guy a year ago in London, who had protested outside BBC studios as Nick Griffin was set to appear on the flagship show Question Time. Griffin is the leader of the British National Party; a far right party with ties to neo-nazi groups across the World. Griffin is the most repugnant man in British politics. And I too fell into the trap of totalitarianism in voicing my opposition to his appearance, accepting everything the UAF protester was saying. The Welsh Secretary at the Time Peter Hain voiced his totalitarian principles with:

“The BBC should be ashamed of single-handedly doing a racist, fascist party the biggest favour in its grubby history.”

Having had time to think it over, it seems to me to be equally as repugnant to have supported attempts to silence Griffin simply because Hain and others didn’t like what he had to say. Peter Hain is effectively telling me, as a viewer, that I shouldn’t be allowed to hear Griffin speak. I must automatically dislike what he has to say. I must trust conventional wisdom. He is telling me that he alone is more able to comprehend and analyse Griffin’s statements, whilst i’m not. Like a father, without any sort of justifiable authoritative qualification (being a politician certainly doesn’t qualify him in this way) over me, deciding he knows what is best.

Hain is also politicising the BBC, by subtly hinting that it must only reflect the voice of more centrist viewers. The BBC must reflect secular principles, not partisan principles. By denying Griffin the right to voice his contradictory opinion to mine, I am denying myself the right to form a rounded opinion; to investigate, and to inquire. Griffin once, like David Duke, denied the Holocaust. Now, when States ban the denying of the Holocaust, they are denying the Right to listen to dissenting opinions that might challenge me to both inquire, and solidify, or modify my own. It is almost criminalising the necessity to question. Why do I believe the holocaust happened the way it is consistently documented? I’ve only heard about it from two or three sources. Shouldn’t I be given a plethora of ideas since I have no way of fully accepting just one, given that I wasn’t there to experience it first hand. By accepting the banning of unpopular, and offensive views, I am also harming the Right of others to hear a plethora of views and to educate themselves further. I am institutionalising a way of thinking that exists on the left of centre, whilst criminalising those on the fringes for saying words I do not like. This way, I become a slave to convention. I have learnt that this is unacceptable.

We grow as people when we are challenged.

Benjamin Franklin Bache, in the late 1700s, wrote a newspaper called Aurora. The paper reflected his views, and soon he became staunchly antagonistic toward the Presidential Administration of John Adams, accusing him of ambitions of monarchy and incompetent governance. Bache was arrested and never spoke another word out of place. The Adams administration could therefore go on, unquestioned. John Adams was able to abuse the power of the Constitution, by enacting the Sedition Act. Though it was designed in an atmosphere of fear that the new Republic was under threat from secessionist voices in the Southern States, the Act was actually used to silence critics of the Adams administration whether calling for secession or not. The Act made it an offence to publish:

Malicious writing…

… against government officials. It hurt political discourse, it made a quasi-Monarch out of Adams, and led to countless imprisonments and fines.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.”
– Voltaire

I am however convinced that Westboro as a Church, are child abusers. Substituting teaching their children to be critical, rational, and to think for themselves; for teaching hate, and bigotry and forcing them to hold placards and repeat hate filled mantras that they cannot possible understand at that age, is child abuse. The children are being prevented from freely expressing themselves via systematic thought control and indoctrination.

It is true that whilst people like myself are irritated, disgusted, and offended by the speech spewed by the Westboro Baptist Church, and neo-Nazi’s like Griffin, we are also ignorant to offence caused to others, when for example, we insult, degrade, and belittle religious figures and symbols of faith. I have long been an advocate for the right to blaspheme, and judging by my posts on this blog…. I blaspheme at a rate of about three times a paragraph. It is a sign of intellectual maturity, that we can take offence without resorting to banning words, books, or calling for Salmon Rushdie to be killed for The Satanic Verses. We take offence, and we move on. Or we take offence, and we debate. Many religious people will be just as offended by my characterisation of their deeply held beliefs, as someone else is by the actions of Westboro. If the Pakistani delegate to the UN, who now has the right to publicly seek out and condemn “abuses of free speech, including defamation of religions and prophets” is able to restrict speech based on weak religious conjecture…. shouldn’t someone else have the right to publicly seek out and condemn Koranic abuses against non-believers and women? I am fully aware that I may offend the religious – be them Muslim or Christian – when I suggest Islam and Christianity, whilst having their peaceful merits, have very fundamental totalitarian and fascist principles at their core. For people who consider Islam to be a major part of their lives; insulting or degrading their faith is a sickening act. I respect their Right to be offended and disgusted. Those who call for punishment for anyone who insults their faith, are reflecting the tactics of Peter Hain and the UAF in attempting to silence anyone who fundamentally disagrees with them. If I were to claim that fundamentalist Muslim groups should be banned from, or even extradited for protesting against ‘Western Aggression’, or demanding Shariah for Britain, then I forfeit my Right to claim secularist values, and place myself on the side of totalitarianism.
I can protest, argue, shun, and degrade their view, but I cannot rightly suggest they should be banned from protesting, or throw out of the country. Eliminating what one person considers “hate speech” from public discourse solves nothing. The ideas are still there, they are simply violently repressed. In the case of the Westboro Baptist Church, by protesting the funerals of children killed in such horrific circumstances, they open themselves up to criticism, and actually, for a brief moment, unite both right winged and left winged, both religious and atheist, in condemnation. This is a positive effect of freedom of expression.

Extreme political movements tend to begin, where the freedom to express their views are oppressed. When they are allowed, they open themselves up to criticism, ridicule, and can be swiftly dealt with. The best way to counter hate speech, is to openly debate it, and shame it for the nonsense that it is. It is dangerous to silence dissent.

Words can inspire, they can hurt, they can upset. Without directly calling for violent action, they should not be shackled by convention. Westboro holding a sign with “Thank God for dead soldiers” is disgusting and shameful, Islamic fundamentalist groups calling for Shariah for Britain, Nick Griffin insisting that Muslims cannot be considered British are all offensive ideas to me. But they are not restricting my Rights by their words. The moment that is criminalised as “hate speech” is the moment we advocate the use of force, against none force, against words. Opinion is personal. The use of force cannot change the opinion, in some cases it hardens the opinion, and makes a martyr out of the individual. The use of force against words simply makes sure convention is not tested.

A rather wonderful Islamic writer, head of the Islamic Society for The Promotion of Religious Tolerance, Dr Hesham el Essawy espouses secular principles in a spectacular way:

The manner in which we conduct such dialogue is also important. And how should this be? In goodness, gentleness and tolerance, the Koran says. Each must present his evidence, and each must respect the right of the others not to accept it. “Your job is to pass the message along. Whether they believe or not is none of your concern” God said to His Messenger in the Koran…. What is important, and least emphasised, is the social function of belief, the all important earthly purpose of religion. It is what you do with your belief that should concern one, not the belief itself…. The test of your beliefs, whatever they may be, is in how you treat me….

In this case, it would be wrong to suggest that religion is solely responsible for attacks on free expression. There are certainly many in the religious community that are hardened supporters of free expression, many having tasted the cruelties that come about from restricting basic human rights.

Religion may emphasise a level of loyalty or faith, that makes offence far more likely, and so heightens a desire to silence, but it isn’t responsible for it. It is a state of mind, that seems to afflict those with such strong loyalties but also insecure loyalties, be them religious, cultural, patriotic etc. It is a totalitarian mind set, whether consciously so or not, set in fear of ‘different’. The administration of John Adams as pointed out above, or Stalin’s silencing of any dissenters, or the UAF’s attempts to silence Griffin, or Polpot’s extermination of those he considered ‘intellectuals’, or the lynching of any abolitionists in the Southern States of the US, or any pro-slavery writers in the Union silenced by Lincoln during the Civil War. It is totalitarianism borne out of the fear of ‘different’, a challenge to insecure loyalties. Usually, the anger stems from what might happen, if people hear the dissenters. Will power structures be challenged? Certainly Stalin and Pol Pot worried about this. When it comes to Westboro, I think it is just an emotional defence mechanism. Perhaps we need to be seen to show an outward display of disgust, to insist upon others, or mainly upon ourselves, that we are morally outraged for the second or two that we allow the subject to cross our minds, before we forget all about it and move on to something more inconsequential and easier to intellectually deal with. Either way, if we wish to uphold the values of the enlightenment and secularism – as I do – then we must take the bad and the disgust, with the good and the decent. The balance of the two is what separates us from the uncivilised, and the cowardly.


The Jesus Myth

July 9, 2012

I have previously pointed out – here – that one of the major inaccuracies in the entire Bible is the suggestion that the Ten Commandments – the very foundation of Christianity – are unique to Christianity, or originated with Christianity. They didn’t. They originated with a pre-Pharoah tribe of Egypt called the Kemet, whose concept of truth, law and justice was consolidated into a theory called ‘Ma’at’. The ten commandments of the Bible are derived from the 42 principles of Ma’at.

But what if the glaring lie that the ten commandments were uniquely handed to Moses at the top of Mount Sinai, was not the biggest inaccuracy in the Bible? What if the biggest lie in the Bible was that Jesus existed at all?

Biblical historians generally agree that a man named Jesus probably did exist. Though, they never tend to give any strong evidence for his existence. Nothing written from the time he was alive. Nothing for decades after his death. It is all hear-say. If we are to give such power over people’s lives to the Church, we should at least provide evidence that the entire base of the Church itself is credible. At the moment, it really isn’t. Why must we resign ourselves to believe he existed, when we have pretty much no evidence? It seems far more likely that Jesus didn’t exist, and i’ll explain why.

I have been convinced for a number of years that there was never a man called Jesus as described by the Gospels or by Paul. He just didn’t exist. I will try and give as good an explanation as possible for coming to this conclusion, starting with Raglan’s Scale, moving onto Biblical inaccuracies, addressing an argument made famous by C.S Lewis, a quick glimpse at Paul, and ending with the Crucifixion, and quite possibly the most important element of my claim that Jesus never existed; Philo of Alexandria.

Raglan’s scale
In 1936 Lord Raglan wrote a book that attempted to rationalise ancient religious hero worshipping by their shared characteristics, and rank them. The more characteristics that fit the so-called hero, the less likely they were to be real, and simply following a tried and tested method of hero creation. If they had less than five of the characteristics that Raglan sets out in his book, then they are more likely to be historical figures. The characteristics were as follows:

1. The hero’s mother is a royal virgin
2. His father is a king and
3. often a near relative of the mother, but
4. the circumstances of his conception are unusual, and
5. he is also reputed to be the son of a god
6. at birth an attempt is made, usually by his father or maternal grandfather, to kill him, but
7. He is spirited away, and
8. Reared by foster-parents in a far country
9. We are told nothing of his childhood, but
10. On reaching manhood he returns or goes to his future kingdom.
11. After a victory over the king and or giant, dragon, or wild beast
12. He marries a princess, often the daughter of his predecessor and
13. becomes king
14. For a time he reigns uneventfully and
15. Prescribes laws but
16. later loses favor with the gods and or his people and
17. Is driven from from the throne and the city after which
18. He meets with a mysterious death
19. often at the top of a hill.
20. his children, if any, do not succeed him.
21. his body is not buried, but nevertheless
22. he has one or more holy sepulchres.

– Each mythical hero is given a score out of 22 depending on how closely their lives follow these characteristics. For Raglan, Oedipus scores the highest with 21 out of 22. Here is a ranked list of ancient heroes:

How Some Heros Scored
Oedipus scores 21
Theseus scores 20
Moses scores 20
Dionysus scores 19
Jesus scores 19
Romulus scores 18
Perseus scores 18
Hercules scores 17
Llew Llaw Gyffes scores 17
Bellerophon scores 16
Jason scores 15
Mwindo scores 14
Robin Hood scores 13
Pelops scores 13
Apollo scores 11
Sigurd scores 11.

– Jesus makes the top 5. By Raglan’s scale, it is more likely that Apollo existed, than Jesus. The Jesus myth seems to follow almost perfectly – the mould for religious hero creation. This of course doesn’t necessarily mean that Jesus never existed, it would however be quite the coincidence if he just so happened to follow the exact pattern of hero creation. But if we are to still believe Jesus was an actual historical figure, we must ask…. why not Apollo too? Why not Mwindo? Mwindo is more likely to exist than Jesus, and Mwindo is a figure who is said to have travelled to “the underworld”.

Historical inaccuracies:
The Bible is excellent at rewritting history. It is wonderful at contradicting the life’s work of so many great history scholars. We know for example, that there is no historical mention of Herod’s slaughter of the innocents as mentioned in Matthew 2:16-18. This is quite plainly invented history, much like the Exodus in the OT. There are other important aspects of the Jesus story, that are also clearly invented:

2 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

– It is in Luke that we get the story of Jesus’ birth. Luke suggests that the reason the family of Jesus travelled to Bethlehem was because Augustus issued a census of ‘the entire Roman world’ so that Joseph, being a descendent of David, had to go back to the town of his forefather.
This short description, given by Luke, is entirely nonsense. Put aside the fact that a Roman census absolutely never forced people to go back to the town of a certain generation of ancestor, and put aside the fact that we now can only really trace our lineage back a few generations whilst Joseph seems to have been able to trace his back thousands of years (unlikely), there is no evidence whatsoever that Augustus ordered an Empire wide census to take place throughout his entire 40 year reign. It isn’t like we don’t know much about Augustus; he is one of the few Emperors that historians have a wide knowledge about, and not once, in all the literature written about Augustus, or at the time of Augustus, alludes in any way to a census. The only time it’s mentioned, is in the gospel of Luke.
Perhaps then, Luke was just a little bit incompetent his historical accuracy (which in itself, means the entire Bible should be called into question) and was in fact referring to the Census of Quirinius in 7ad. Quirinius was governor of Syria and proposed a census for tax purposes. Again, this didn’t mean everyone had to travel back to the land of a certain generation. The problem with this is that if Luke was referring to this, he then places Jesus birth around 7ad. It gets problematic, because the Gospel of Matthew states:

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem,
2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

– Herod died in 4bc. 11 years before the Census of Quirinius.
Either Luke is wrong, Matthew is wrong, or as I suspect…. given that they were both written decades after the death of Jesus, by people who had never met Jesus, nor lived close to Jesus…. both are wrong. There have been attempts to correct this mistake, all have been disastrous attempts to hold onto something that is just massively inaccurate. In the 1550s, the cardinal and “historian” Baronius tried to argue that Quirinius must have been governor more than once. In the same era, John Calvin tried to suggest that the census was ordered by Augustus before Herod’s death, but not implemented until after his death (an entire decade? really?). None of which has any historical evidence to back it up. It is unsurprising that Luke got it all wrong, given that he was writing after 70ad (he mentions the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, which occurred in 70ad. Jesus supposedly died in 34ad. Quite the gap).
The one thing that is obvious from the gospels, is that Jesus had ‘divine’ parentage. This isn’t new. Julius Caesar claimed to be descended from the Goddess Venus. This again, follows the myth creation mould perfectly.
So, we know that the gospels really do not have any idea what they’re trying to represent. There are glaring contradictions between the accounts. And they were written by people who were writing second, third, maybe fourth hand information, three generations away from the actual events they describe.

The ‘trilemma’
Linking somewhat to historical inaccuracies, the author C.S Lewis attempts to draw us into a ‘proof’ for the divinity of Jesus by offering a false ‘trilemma’ argument:

” am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell.”

“We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form.”

– There is a falsity here. Lewis is claiming that there are only two possible alternatives to the divine Jesus. Either he’s divine, or he’s a lunatic, or he’s ‘the Devil of hell’. Which suggests ‘the Devil of hell’ actually exists, which automatically presumes God exists. This is an argument, already presuming a God. He doesn’t question the existence of God, the Devil, nor Jesus in the first place, nor does he consider the possibility that a man named Jesus perhaps existed, and a legend of hear say grew up after the death of the human Jesus. It goes something like this:
1. Jesus was either a mad man, a liar, or divine.
2. Jesus was neither a mad man, nor a liar.
3. Therefore, Jesus was divine.
– On the surface, perfectly logical. But dig deeper, and it becomes very problematic on several levels. Firstly, “…or divine” is a bit of a leap, given that Jesus makes no such claim as we understand it today, to be the son of God. We know that the only real claims on divinity – and often cited – come from the Gospel of John. We cannot take this seriously, as it’s the last gospel to be written, and so almost certainly inspired firstly by the other gospels (Mark in particular), and by the consensus and traditions of the early Christian church. So, “..or divine” is not an acceptable addition to the premise. Secondly, why are those the only three choices? Why not “Jesus was either a mad man, a liar, divine, didn’t actually exist, or a later legend?” In fact, i’m sure we could all think of many more choices to add. And so, by not including “or didn’t exist” as an option in point 1, it already presupposes that he did. And so we should add point “0.5. Jesus Existed” before Point 1. Point 2. is irrelevant as point 1 is incomplete. Though on point 2, how can we be certain Jesus was neither a mad man nor a liar? C.S Lewis fails on this one, and yet it is often used by Christian apologists as a proof of Jesus’ divinity. They use the Bible to ‘prove’ Jesus was neither mad nor a liar. Fallacy after fallacy.

Paul.
Paul, the man that Christian scholars point to as evidence for the existence of Jesus does not mention his divinity, his virgin birth, or his miracles. Paul didn’t know Jesus; never met him. Simply had a “vision”. I’m afraid I can’t base historical or divine accuracy of Christ, on a supernatural “vision”. Nor is there any evidence, actually, to suggest Paul was real. Paul was supposedly hunted down by 200 soldiers, 70 horsemen, and 200 spears men according to Acts. There is absolutely no evidence for any of that actually happening. Not one reference other than the Bible. For a man who supposedly caused quite a lot of ripples in the ancient World, in a well documented and understood region, to not be mentioned once is ludicrous.

Paul is the link between the death of Jesus, the thirty years in between, and the writing of the gospels. So, how did the gospel writers come across all this information about the divine birth, the years in the wilderness, the miracles, the Jewish council (who supposedly met up on Passover eve to condemn Jesus…… that just wouldn’t have happened), the wise men, the disciples, and every other aspect of the life of Jesus that Paul had no knowledge of and never spoke about?

Philo of Alexandria.
Perhaps the biggest thorn in the side of Christianity in their quest to prove the existence of Jesus, is Philo of Alexandria. Philo lived a long life throughout the entire supposed life of Christ, lived in and around the areas affected by Christ, and wrote about the Jews of the time extensively. He was in or around Jerusalem when Herod supposedly sent out the order to massacre the children, he was in Jerusalem for Christ’s supposed entry into the city with a plethora of adoring fans. He was there when Christ would have been crucified, when the darkness came over the city, when the earth shook with the wrath of God. Philo lived through it all. And yet, in all his writings, he mentions none of it. He doesn’t acknowledge any earth shaking, he doesn’t mention a man who apparently had the ear of thousands, he doesn’t mention the trial on the eve of passover, he mentions nothing of the sort. The name Jesus, is not even suggested by Philo.
It is not like he would not have known, that it might all have been kept from him. Philo’s nephew was married to the daughter of Herod Agrippa – the ruler of ‘the Jews’ in the region after the exile of the evil Herod of Bible fame. Philo’s brother was one of the richest men in the area. It is impossible that Philo would have not known of such an important and beloved-by-the-masses son of God. The reason that Philo does not mention Jesus in over 850,000 words that he wrote of the time period, is because Jesus didn’t exist.
Philo isn’t the only person at the time who didn’t mention Jesus. No one else did either. Not even Jesus himself. There is nothing written by Jesus in the history books (for such an important man, you’d have thought something might have survived), there is nothing written by any contemporary’s of Jesus, written about Jesus. The first mentions come decades later.

Crucifixion and Resurrection.
Ressurrection may seem miraculous to we with 21st century rationale. But in 1st Century Judea, it was nothing special. Everyone was doing it. It was the cool thing to do. Jesus did it within the Christian tradition. Izanagi did it in Japanese mythology. Dionysus in Greek mythology, along with many other parallels between this god and Jesus, did it. The Phoenix in Arabian tradition rises from the ashes. Ba’al of the Caananites around the Levant did it. Inanna, who, quite scarily was the Sumerian goddess of sex… and war, did it. So you see, Jesus rising from the dead was pretty common, and had been done before. He was nothing special.

In fact, even regular dead people were rising back to life:

….the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
Matt 27: 52-53 (NKJV)

– We picture Jesus rising from the dead. Nowhere in any lesson, do Christian teachers tell us that dead people started breaking out of their graves and walking the Earth, like a mad zombie attack. What this shows is, raising from the dead isn’t exactly an attribute that only Jesus possessed. Everyone was doing it.

The death of Jesus is the central point of the Christian religion. The cross is the most revered symbol on the planet. Churches are built in its design. So, you would think, given its importance, the Gospels would be consistent on this central event. But no, they contradict each other…. again.
Firstly, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, all agree that Simon carried the cross to the place of execution. John however – along with Mel Gibson – have decided that Jesus carried the cross. This is the story as we picture it. As suggested by one gospel. The gospel of Thomas, which was excluded by early Church leaders for being too heretical (not conforming) does not mention the crucifixion or resurrection at all. The gospel of Peter, says that Herod, not Pilate ordered the death of Jesus. Peter also says that Jesus was resurrected, and ascended on the same day, not days later.

According to John, Jesus last words were “It is finished“. According to Luke, they were “Father, into your hands I commit your spirit“. In Matthew and Mark they were “My god, why have you forsaken me?” … he also said “Woman, behold your son” to his mother, he also said “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do“…… Jesus said way too much for his final words. In a Court of Law, the gospel writers, as witnesses, would be deemed unreliable.
Who did Jesus first magically reappear to? Well, if you believe Mark, to all the disciples. If you believe Matthew, to Mary Magdalene. If you believe Luke, to Cleopas. Truth is, the gospel writers are clearly guessing. They have no idea. Because, as shown previously, the one link – tenuous as it is – that they have, is Paul, and Paul didn’t witness any of it. There is no reason to accept such weak hearsay as fact, or even historically probable, in any way.

The theory of where the myth of Jesus actually came from varies to large degrees. It has been hypothesised for over a century that Jesus may not have existed. In the early 20th Century a Mathematics professor from New Orleans named William Benjamin Smith put forth the idea that a small Jewish cult existed centuries before the supposed birth of Jesus that believed in a God named Jesus. A sect that essentially grew into what it is today by incorporating myths from other sects and evolving over time, becoming more inclusive. Smith points to a couple of suggestions by the third Century Theologian Hippolytus, that there existed a pre-Jesus sect of Nazaraean’s.

Ellegard argues that Paul was simply a mad man convinced that the World was set to end, and when it didn’t, the gospels arose to give credit to his claims amongst his followers and believers who now had very little to believe in. Ellegard’s articles are well worth a read, and can be found here.

This has been a pretty short introduction into why I’m almost certain that the historical, and divine Jesus as depicted in the Bible never existed. Nonetheless, it can all be summerised quite simply by stating that there is nowhere, other than the Bible (and the gospels that were not accepted into the final edition of the Bible) that mention Jesus, or any part of his life from any contemporary source. Nothing written by Jesus. Nothing written by any of his followers. Nothing written by any historian of the time. Just, nothing. This suggests to me, that there was not a divine, nor historical figure of Jesus present at the times suggested. The implications for Christianity are obvious; if Christ was either not divine, or didn’t exist, the power of the Church is illegitimate.
Christianity began with the gospel writers. Not with Jesus. Not with Paul. It began with gospel writers, and history was then rewritten to fit their story, for reasons of power. Nothing more.
Even if we were to suppose by some huge leap that Jesus did exist as depicted by the Bible; there is no reason to believe what he says was true. Being born of a virgin does not automatically make you dependable or trustworthy. Power should be able to legitimate itself. The power of the Christian religion over the poorest and vulnerable throughout history, the bloodshed, the forced conversions, the excesses of faith by revered figures such as Mother Theresa. The treatment of homosexuality, the subjugation of women, the regressive attitudes toward social progression and scientific advancement. All of it is illegitimate, borne out of the premise of either a very ambiguous historical narrative, or a completely invented narrative. Further, if Jesus was a completely invented figure; it would seem to suggest that Islam plagarised much of its religious claims, from Christian traditions. The implications for the non-existence of Jesus, are huge, and should be the topic of intense historical research and critical analysis.

UPDATE:
For Part II of this, I have written here, and deals entirely with Christian claims that the writings of Josephus ‘prove’ the existence of Jesus.

For Part III of this, I have written here, to focus exclusively on the Annals of Tacitus; another often referred to source.


Usama Hasan – A hero to the Islamic World.

November 12, 2011

On Wednesday, I met Jesus.
He is a shop lifter from Poland.
He lives in London now.
And his mother is from Stoke.
And yet, amusingly, this isn’t the most ridiculous religious nonsense I have been subjected to this week.

My Atheist entries are usually aimed at either Theism as a whole, or Christianity. I am not usually one to take a shot at Islam, because for some odd reason, I associate anti-Islam sentiment, as being pro-EDL racist nonsense. This worry has faded recently, as I’m happy to admit I dislike Nationalism, and religion in equal amounts. Modern Islam is in crises, which poses a crises for the entire World; this needs to be discussed and debated. We must never be afraid to cause offence through reasoned questioning. Islam is a religion that tends to demand our respect, despite in the large part, not deserving our respect.

On the 28th February, the enemy of critical thought and free inquiry (thus, the enemy of humanity) Islamicawakening.com praised the Masjid al-Tawhid in London, for dismissing the Imam of the Mosque; a man named Usama Hasan.

Mr Hasan was dismissed, for the following reasons:

– He was dismissed, for free thought and critical inquiry. He was dismissed for embracing 21st Century intellectual reasoning, and fact. This, is why religion is dangerous in the modern World. The Mosque would rather indoctrinate its congregation, in 7th Century myths. A Warring-tribesman like mentality. A mentality that holds the concept of Jihad, at its very core. Jihad, is often noted to be a war in defence of Islam. It is a little bit misleading, in that the overriding goal of that rather regressive form of Islam, is defence, by conquest. Close all avenues of critical reasoning within the education system, to perpetuate a single way of thinking; the Islamic way. If people dissent, threaten them. This is “defence”. Let’s take a look at certain Hadith:

Paradise is in the shadow of the swords

– Conquest, central to the passing into Paradise.

Anas b. Malik reported that a person said: Allah’s Messenger, how the non-believers would be made to assemble on the Day of Resurrection (by crawling) on their faces? Thereupon he said: Is He Who is powerfnl to make them walk on their feet is not powerful enough to make them (crawl) upon their faces on the Day of Resurrection? Qatada said: Of conrse, it is so. (He adjured): By the might of our Lord.

– Utter contempt, promoted through fear, for anyone who doesn’t believe. Religion is just a man, with a knife threatening you until you give in.

Someone asked, “O Allah’s Apostle This (ordinary) fire would have been sufficient (to torture the unbelievers),” Allah’s Apostle said, “The (Hell) Fire has 69 parts more than the ordinary (worldly) fire, each part is as hot as this (worldly) fire.”

– Here’s that fear thing again. Fire isn’t hot enough for us non-believers (and we’re still supposed to respect this?)

Islam, if it is to demand respect, needs to modernise. It is at a crossroads right now. There are certainly forward thinking Muslims (Usama Hasan for example) who recognise that dialogue with the Secular World, as well as other religions, and embracing scientific truth, is the way that we progress. Islam can be a source of great scholarly pursuit, as it has in the past, but only if it wins over the minds of those who shout the loudest; the fundamentalists (of which, the number is pretty high). There are two roads; regressive literal Islam, or progressive allegorical Islam fit for the 21st Century. Christianity took a long time to note that its cosmology was vastly mistaken. The Earth is not the centre of the galaxy. It took a long time for Christianity to admit it is wrong. I wonder how long it’ll take Islam to admit that its weak dismissal of Evolution, is based entirely on misplaced belief rather than any sort of evidence. We all have a duty to question, to inquire, to be suspicious of authority and challenge it. That is how humanity moves forward. Islam is working in the opposite direction.

Hasan has had death threats because of his position on evolution. Fatwa’s issued against him. And all the while, it is he who people are condemning. Much like the Danish cartoonists who drew the Muhammad. People tend to blame the cartoonists for being “disrespectful” or Hasan for stirring up trouble or Salman Rushdie for writing a book. Those of us who believe in the methods of the Enlightenment need to stand up and point the finger of blame at the moronic sect of Islamic fundamentalists who seem to be so insecure in their irrational delusions, that they respond to any form of criticism, from a cartoon to actual fact based inquiry like that of Hasan, as a disgraceful attack worthy of death. A writer of a book is not worthy of death. A cartoonist should not be threatened for drawing a picture. We should not be afraid to cause ‘offence’. Offence, in this instance, is a by-word for progression. Hasan has the opportunity to bring Islamic thought into the 21st Century. But apparently, this is unacceptable.

A Kufr was issued against Hasan, which can be seen here. It comes across as a childish prank. It takes a while for a reasonable human being to realise that this is written by grown men. By adults. All because one man actually takes the fact of evolution seriously. One of favourite lines from the Kufr is:

The belief that the origin of man was the apes then this is disbelief in Allah
because it involves rejecting the Quran and what the Muslims have agreed upon, nay, what the humanity has agreed upon, because it is now clear that this view is utterly false devoid of any truth.

– It is clear that belief in a God, nay, belief in a personal God, who stays silent for 200,000 years of human history, and then intervenes by giving a book to illiterate Middle Eastern Tribesman, full of inaccuracies and mistakes, 198,000 years later, and then sits back for 2000 years as competing fairy tales over the nature his existence and his expectations, like a dictator in the sky, like a Kim Jong-Il nutcase, is utterly false and devoid of any truth. To claim that of evolution, and pass that dismissal off as “clear”, is a disgrace. It is beyond stupidity. Why on Earth should I be expected to respect this?

They quote Ibn Uthaymin, to give some sort of credit, or precedence to the issue:

“If he cannot be stopped except by this method, and he further
becomes an active caller to this atheism and disbelief then it is obligatory to execute him because he is an apostate.
And apostate must be executed.”

– This putrid form of Islam must be fought, argued against, and destroyed. It is a cancer. Thankfully, Ibn Uthaymin is now dead. The World is better off without him. The World would be even more better off, without the bile that he represented.

One of the more disturbing features of the Kufr, from Uthaymin:

It is incumbent upon the headmaster to refer his case to his superiors so that he could be kept away from education. It is also obligatory to monitor him outside the school to make sure that he does not mislead others.

– You might be mistaken for thinking this is the edict against Gallileo in the 17th Century, for proving that the Earth is not the centre of the Universe, flying in the face of religious dogma. But no, it is modern day Islam. Do not think for yourself. Do not question. Do not teach children any different to what Islam teaches them. It stinks of insecurity; that, maybe, if left to their own thoughts, humans will shake off the crippling shackles and thorned crowns of organised religion for good. This is unacceptable to organised religion.

One more criticism from the Kufr, is:


Usama Hasan spoke at the launch of two separate secular initiatives, 1) the infamous Quilliam Foundation (headed
by Ed Husain and Majid Nawaz) and 2) British Muslim for Secular Democracy. While at the first launch he
championed what he called ‘Islamic-Secularism’, at the second launch he clearly stated, “Muslims have no problem with political secularism. But we reject a metaphysical secularism that says or pretends that God does not exist” In other words, his Islam has no problems with doing away with the Islamic laws pertaining to marriage, divorce, inheritance, etc, so long as one believes in a God. Hence, his denial of the obligation of Hijab, the punishment for apostasy, and promotion of a new ‘modernised’ marriage contract which neither requires a Wali nor witnesses as stipulated by Islam – the very marriage contract which was referred to, by Sh Haytham al-Haddad, as the ‘Zina contract’.

– What this seems to be suggesting, is that personal belief is a great evil. It must be dogmatic, and forced. Islam, according to certain “scholars”, should rule your life. You shouldn’t attempt to question or hold your own personal belief. It is rigid, an ideology that requires full docile indoctrination and robotic like acquiescence. How vile.

Long gone are the days when Islam was the beacon of scholarly endeavor and innovative ideas. The days when Islam introduced Greek texts to a Latin audience facilitating the Renaissance. Or translating and introducing the thoughts of Aristotle into Islamic philosophy. Or translating the cosmological argument into Arabic. Or introducing us to Algebra whilst Christianity decided it was all heresy (much like Islam is doing now). These days no longer exist. What exists now, is dogma.

When I’m sat in a Church, and I hear the Catholic congregation repeat phrases, or sit in prayer, I get the unnerving sense that this is all just one big horrendous cult, like a dream. I get the same uneasy feeling, when Muslims use the phrase “Mohammad…(peace be upon him)”. It seems robotic, and something I’d expect from the old Roman cults. It is no different, in its essence, to when Aztecs would sacrifice an animal (or sometimes, a human) every morning to make sure the sun rises. This is where it all starts; silly little word games.

Islam today, is like a kicking and screaming child in a supermarket, who wont take no for an answer. It doesn’t like to be challenged. Or told it is wrong, when it is quite obviously wrong.

There are voices of reason though, that must be promoted. Sheikh Ibrahim Mogra, a leading Muslim scholar in Britain, showed his support for Hasan, by saying that it is unnerving that people can quite happily denounce someone as a “non muslim” for simply challenging orthodoxy. He is correct. The death threats have to stop.

British Muslims for Secular Democracy set up a facebook group pronouncing their support for Hasan. They have 900 members on Facebook for their own page, which is great. These are the progressive voices of Modern Islam, that need to be heard, and yet are increasingly silenced by the loud, uneducated, vicious voices.

A very helpful post on the Islamicawakening forum explains the Islamic issue with evolutionary theory:


No matter what the case is, the origin of Bani Adam is not a monkey, it does not go back to the monkey. This is a contradiction to what Allah has informed us about Adam in the Quran, Adam’s creation was very detailed and all of his details in his creation was given to us, it is complete. Nothing about monkeys was mentioned. His creation was clear, he was a human being and all his descendents for 10 generations were human beings. Nothing was mentioned about developing or evolving from monkeys.

So my question is, do we abandon these definitive information, which is no doubt about (from the ulema), about how Adam was created? Do we abandon that because someone (Darwin) said this theory? If someone tells you there is no city called London or Makkah, you wouldn’t entertain him because you know that it exists. So Allah Azza wa jal tells us Adam was from dirt with His own two Hands. The ulema have no doubt about that, the intelligent (the uqela) have no doubt about this whatsoever.

– Allow me to attempt to address this line by line (or there abouts).

“No matter what the case is, the origin of Bani Adam is not a monkey, it does not go back to the monkey.”
– All this, from a religion that claims to preach ‘modesty’. What horrid bullshit. We are not the descendants of any type of modern ‘monkey’. We share a common ancestor. We can go back further, and say we share a common ancestor with absolutely every vertebrate on the planet through the unlikely survival of Pikaia Gracilens (the first vertebrate). This is all important; it progresses our understanding. Evolution is fact. It needs to be taught as fact. I doubt any Muslim would argue that gravity is not true. To argue that evolution is not a fact, is the same as arguing that things wont fall to the ground when dropped. It is absurd. It is ignored for harmful superstition and delusions.The story of human evolution, is also the story of modern biology and genetics. I’d advise any Muslim who strongly believes that Darwin’s beautiful idea is wrong, to pray when you get sick rather than seek medical advice. The great Ukranian geneticist, whom dedicated his life to the study of genetics and evolutionary biology (and so certainly knows more about the way humans work, than the piss poor attempt by the guy above) once correctly observed that:

“nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

– So I reiterate; if you truly disbelieve evolutionary theory, then stay out of the hospitals and the GPs office when you get sick. Sit at home, and pray. Otherwise, shut up and accept you’re wrong. Very very wrong.

“If someone tells you there is no city called London or Makkah, you wouldn’t entertain him because you know that it exists.”
– Exactly right. How ironic. His religion is telling me, metaphorically that London doesn’t exist. And then using that argument, to make a very weak suggestion. We know that evolution is a fact just as we know that London exists. To say London doesn’t exist, even though it quite clearly does, is exactly what Islam, Christianity, Judaism, are doing, and forcefully.

“Allah has informed us about Adam in the Quran, Adam’s creation was very detailed and all of his details in his creation was given to us, it is complete. Nothing about monkeys was mentioned. His creation was clear, he was a human being and all his descendents for 10 generations were human beings. Nothing was mentioned about developing or evolving from monkeys.”
– Then “Allah” is wrong. More specifically, whoever wrote the Koran is wrong. Allah doesn’t exist. So it would be absurd for me to suggest he is wrong. The desert tribesman of the Middle East, whom wrote the book, were wrong. And unsurprisingly, given that they were writing at a time when the Earth was the centre of the universe, flat, and no one really understood what the hell was going on.

“So my question is, do we abandon these definitive information, which is no doubt about (from the ulema), about how Adam was created?”
– It isn’t definitive information. But he’s right; there is no doubt about how Adam was created. He (along with all other homosapiens) evolved. Absolutely no doubt whatsoever in that one.

We can of course point to this adolescent and miserable time in Islamic history, as a product of Western Imperialism’s support for dangerous dictators who used Islam as a way to control a population and controlled dissent with a steal fist. Or we can blame Israel. Blame can be thrown in any direction. The problem is, that by its very nature, by the words of its book, it is dangerous. If we take Israeli aggression out of the question, if we look at the hypocrisy and downright disingenuous bullshit of British muslims who refer to Iraqi muslims as “brothers and sisters”, the nature of the Koran is war and spreading its message through war. The only way this kind of regressive ideological nightmare can be stopped, is if, as Sam Harris puts it;

Muslims learn to ignore most of their Canon, as most Christians have learned to do.

– Islam really does have a choice to make. It either sticks to the fundamental regressive nonsense of the Koran as literal truth, or it does what much of the Christian West has done, and try to justify hatefilled verses, by claiming that really, they’re just analogies and full of love. Either way, they’re losing.

The form of Islam perpetuated by what is now termed “Islamists”, is simply holding back free inquiry, which progresses human understanding, because it wishes to cling onto an outdated and violent tribal imperialism codified in its Holy book. This requires a backlash from the secular and Atheistic World. It is the reason I am a member of the British Humanist Association. “Islamist” nonsense should be argued against and ridiculed at every possible opportunity.

The sort of religion perpetuated by the Masjid al-Tawhid in London is not personal and it is not about spirituality. It is the dogmatic type, that forces its dangerous fairy tales on its followers and deals harshly with dissenting voices regardless of how sane and correct those dissenting voices are. It is the type of religion that tells people in Uganda that condoms cause AIDs. It throws rockets across arbitrary lines over who should rightfully control Jerusalem. It flies planes into buildings. It cuts pieces of skin off of a little baby’s genitals. It perpetuates the myth that Homosexuality is unnatural (by the way, homosexual behaviour has been noted in around 150 species – including the grayling, the domestic chicken, the African elephant, and the common racoon…… homophobia and the need for ‘Gods’ has only been noted in one species – you tell me which the most ‘unnatural’). It indoctinates at a young age. It held back the enlightenment. It is a fucking curse on humanity.

When one walks through a mental institution and hears men talking to imaginary friends, one thinks “this guy is insane”. But when it involves more than one man, and can issue fatwa’s and make a defiant attempt to block any form of free thought and human progress on pain of death unless it glorifies their dictator of a God, then we’re apparently supposed to give it some credit, respect it, and point the finger of blame at anyone who ‘insults’ it.

Insult it, ridicule it, question it, fight it.

Muslims like Usama Hasan should be held up as heroes of Islam and organised religion, in a modern World. Whilst we may disagree with his belief in a God, we must appreciate that he is supporting a version of Islam based on personal belief, rather than its current guise; conquest.


We are the stars…

November 5, 2011

There is a sort of innate beauty in reflection. The mind can be a rather chaotic place, and reflection is a curious calming influence.

Quite some time ago I came to the conclusion that there is no God. I came to the conclusion that there is no after life. I came to the conclusion that this life, is what is important. It means, as difficult as it may be, living in the moment is the only important part of life. As i’ve discovered, living for the future is extremely destructive. One has to be impulsive, and take a chance. This is how memories are made. It doesn’t mean I have to make a great impact on the World, or that I need to somebody important; it simply means that understanding the absurdity of trying to find order or meaning or purpose in a chaotic, indifferent universe, is the route of all worry, and the route of all fear, and once you come to terms with your life as being a part of that absurdity, it is truly enlightening. You realise that this life, is decidedly important. I am the product of 250,000 years of human evolution. I am the product of fourteen billion years of universe expansion. I am, quite literally, the product of star dust. It is simply awe inspiring to know that the material that makes up my left arm, could have come from a distant star explosion, and a completely different part of the universe, to the material that makes up my right arm. We are made from the same ‘stuff’ that makes everything.
We are the stars. Everything is connected. We all come from the same pin point. A split second before the big bang, from something that makes a single grain of sand look like the Empire State Building. We are the Universe trying to understand itself. This, is beautiful.

When I notice someone or something that I consider to be beautiful; I get a sort of rush of adrenaline. We are all the same. Beauty is innate. I want to understand what it is that makes that person, or that thing, who or what they are. I want to know their favourite colour. Or what they dream at night. To know that everything is so tightly connected, is to open the doors to curiosity. It simply makes you want to learn about everything and everyone, because by doing so, it enriches yourself. I want to tell them that I am over awed by the fact that nature has, in all its infinite possibilities, of everything it could have produced, of the millions of possibilities offered by DNA, achieved as close to perfection as is possible. Words are my way of articulating to someone that I am taken in by their beauty. Photography is my way of capturing what I consider to be beauty and sharing it. By photographing something, I am saying to people “this is what I love”.

Reflection on all you see, and all you know, and the nostalgia that it naturally produces, is a product of the mind. The mind is a product of everything that came before me. Reflection has therefore, an in-built beauty. I thought I would share a few photos, that I have taken on my travels, to attempt to highlight the experiences that I feel have moulded me into the person I am. They aren’t supposed to be the most artistic photos. Simply photos that I felt a great need to capture, and that almost always figure, somehow, into my reflective periods. These are the constants. The concepts that anchor me to a certain path.

This is Rome. The Esquiline hill. The Maecenas gardens once rose beautifully on this hill. It is sort of overwhelming, to understand the spectacular history of an infamous culture, and to stand in its centre. Millions and millions of people will never get that opportunity. I did. That amazes me.

Quite possibly, one of my favourite spots in Rome. I am sure you can see why.

My first real taste of how vastly human understanding of the World is different, depending on what part of the Earth you stand on. Istanbul taught me that no one is truly individual. We all succumb to abstractions. Istanbul’s larger than life abstraction, is Islam.

The Blue Mosque made me realise just what humanity can produce, if it tries. What an incredible building. To think that we have minds, that if cultivated properly, can produce buildings like the Blue Mosque and its incredible prayer area and dome, or produce scientists like Newton. Or writers like Hemmingway. To know, we all have minds made from the same substance, has to be the most inspiring incentive known to man.

Spring is my favourite season. Bradgate park is a place I have been going to since I was a baby. I remember being in the car, and driving down the road toward the entrance, knowing the brightly decorated little ice cream shop was only over the next hill. My curiosity at the fact that deers ACTUALLY exist and are not just a product of Disney. I learned to love the smell of freshly cut grass, at Bradgate. I’d toddle over to feed the ducks. They’d eat it. I’d laugh. This picture to me, epitomises spring and Bradgate. As a kid, I loved it. And this guy, as an old man, is drawn to playing, like a child again.

There is nothing more in life, that makes you feel as if you’re in a romantic French film, than sitting on an underground Metro to Montmartre, and having a French violinist play right next to you. You intertwine the sound of the violin, with the sound of the train, and the scene changes and suddenly you’re walking through the Parisian streets with the stars, like tiny holes poked in a black canvas flickering subtly above. This is what Paris does to you.

This is the south coast of Devon, on a Spring morning. I try to do this at least once a year. My grandparents spent much of their 60 years together, on the south coast of Devon. There is something surreal, in sitting on your own, in the morning, overlooking a calm day, where the sea seems to blend into the sky, and the tiny ripples emphasise the calmness, knowing your grandparents did the same thing 50 years before. I feel connected to this place. I struggle to convey to people why it holds such importance to me.

And this is my serene place. Also on the south coast of Devon. It is the most tranquil spot on Earth for me. I sit on the cliff that goes out to see, preferably at sun rise, as one or two people walk their dogs on the beach, and all you hear is the sound of the waves. It is the place where all my thinking gets done. It is the only place, where I can quite easily forget about everything. This is where I look out, and feel blessed to have ever had the chance to be born, knowing that the gift of life, is so improbable, and exists in such a fleeting moment in time, less than a blink of an eye in the grand scheme of the universe; this is the magic of existence. One does not need a God, to feel a sense of objective beauty. One needs simply to be.


The Mormon Delusion.

September 15, 2011

Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith.

Mormon Prophet Joseph Smith.

Last week, two American Mormons knocked on my door wanting to talk about “what makes you happy”. As I began to answer that my family make me happy, that the sound of running water makes me happy, that I like to read and that my friends make me happy, they interrupted me to let me know that “all the happiness you’ll ever need, is right here” whilst pointing to the Book of Mormon.

One of the two informed me that God visits him every night to reassure him that the Book of Mormon is the truth, and that Joseph Smith was a great Prophet. I asked him why a God who had made half the planet inhospitable to human life, decides to allow human life to grow in those places, amidst suffering and poverty, yet feels the need to come to him on a nightly basis? He nodded along, as a man does, when he hasn’t read or listened to any arguments against his dogmatic position before. After forty five minutes, one of them said, regarding their own religion “Yeah, I don’t really know much about this“. They agreed to come back next week to have a deeper discussion once i’d read their book; a book they assured me would provide me with philosophical truths, the likes of which I’d never come across ever again. Well, next week is today, they haven’t came back, and after reading half of their book, I have come to the conclusion that the only reason I’m unlikely to come across the ‘philosophy’ (and I use that term in its weakest possible form) again, is because it is incomparably senseless. I had a list of issues prepared to hit them with, when they came back. I’ll run you through a few now.

Leaving aside the fact that up until the 1950s, being black meant that you were Satan’s representatives on Earth according to the Mormon Church. Leaving aside the 2nd President of the Mormon Church, Brigham Young saying of mixed race marriages:


“Shall I tell you the law of God in regard to the African race? If the white man who belongs to the chosen seed mixes his blood with the seed of Cain” (Black people were considered the descendants of Cain), “the penalty, under the law of God, is death on the spot. This will always be so”

Leaving aside the fact that Young had asked the US Government to formally create a State of Deseret across California, Nevada, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. Deseret is the word in the Book of Mormon for “honeybee”. Now, given that there were no bees in the Americas until the 1600s, when European Colonialists brought over A. m. mellifera (the dark bee), it suggests the book of Mormon wasn’t written when originally claimed; 1100 years before the Colonialists reached America. The bee however DID exist when Joseph Smith was claiming to have found the golden plates with scripture written on it. An entire State named after a massively stupid lie? (I believe Israel is similar).

Leaving aside all of that, what did Joseph Smith actually find and transcribe two centuries ago?

The story from the Mormons, is that Joseph Smith began having visions from an angel called Moroni, who informed him that golden plates, with lost scripture, were located in a hill side in…… upstate New York. I suppose it makes a change from illiterate people from warring tribes in the Middle East claiming a monopoly on truth. He then transcribed the writing from reformed Egyptian, to English and published the book of Mormon in 1830. The golden plates were left in the hillside, by a lost tribe of Israel, who traveled to America, and are the ancestors of Native Americans.

On the surface of it, the story is pure lunacy. Underneath the surface, pure lunacy becomes a massive understatement. It is shear insanity. The trustworthiness of Joseph Smith is definitely worth investigating further. So here you go.

Joseph Smith did not allow anyone else to see the golden tablets, because apparently they’d instantly drop dead if they laid eyes upon them. Only he was allowed to see them. He allowed several “witnesses” to feel the heavy box they sat in, but never to see the plates themselves. Because Smith was illiterate, he had scribes to write down as he translated. He put a sheet between himself and the scribe, so the scribe could never see the plates. One of his scribes, Martin Harris, had mortgaged his home and moved in with Smith to help him transcribe the text. Martin Harris’ wife took exception to this, and stole the transcribed texts and told Joseph, that if he truly had the plates, he’d be able to reproduce them word for word. Cunningly, and conveniently, Smith told her that he had another revelation, in which he was told he would not have to reproduce the original plates because they might now be tainted by the devil. He was then apparently given new plates, with similar transcription; just not word for word.

The way Smith transcribed the text on the plates, seems to render them useless. According to David Whitmer (one of the three original ‘witnesses’, though his witness testimony differs every time he was asked about it) this is how Smith transcribed the texts:

I will now give you a description of the manner in which the Book of Mormon was translated. Joseph Smith would put the seer stone into a hat, and put his face in the hat, drawing it closely around his face to exclude the light; and in the darkness the spiritual light would shine. A piece of something resembling parchment would appear, and on that appeared the writing. One character at a time would appear, and under it was the interpretation in English. Brother Joseph would read off the English to Oliver Cowdery, who was his principal scribe, and when it was written down and repeated to Brother Joseph to see if it was correct, then it would disappear, and another character with the interpretation would appear.

– You read it right. Joseph Smith would put a hat on his face, and look at a stone, in darkness. Is no one questioning this nonsense? Why on Earth would Smith need the plates? He isn’t reading from the plates. He’s reading from an illuminated stone in a hat. The plates are pointless. It isn’t like he needs them to prove their authenticity to other people, given that no one else is allowed to see them. And wouldn’t the hat need to be substantially deep, for Smith to be able to focus on it fully? If I put an egg sized stone in a hat from around that time period, and put my face in it so as to completely black out the light, I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to focus on the stone for the hours needed to translate hundreds of thousands of words. I’m guessing the hat must have been huge.

Whitmer goes on to say:

The characters I speak of are the engravings on the golden plates from which the book was translated. They were engraved thereon by the hand of a holy prophet of God whose name was Mormon, who lived upon this land four hundred years after Christ. Mormon’s son, Moroni, after witnessing the destruction of his brethren, the Nephites, who were a white race — they being destroyed by the Lamanites (ancestors of Indians) — deposited the golden plates in the ground, according to a command of God. An angel of the Lord directed Brother Joseph to them. The language of the Nephites is called the reformed Egyptian language.

– So, according to Mormonism, Nephites were ancestors of Native American Indians. According to the book, Nephites themselves were descended from a man named Nephi, who happened to leave Jerusalem around 600AD and landed in America. The Nephites were God’s favourite race in America (having white skin) whilst the dark skinned Lamanites – cursed with dark skin, by God – were the hated foes, also descended from the Middle East. Lovely little racist story, with no ounce of truth whatsoever. We know for a fact through modern DNA analysis, that the Native American population had absolutely no genetic relationship to the Middle East at all. The genetic work of Cavalli-Sforza tells us beyond doubt, that Native American Indians have distinct DNA, that is most similar (if we are comparing) to people living in the Altai Mountain range in the middle of Asia (Mongolia, Russia). It confirms what science already knew; people migrated from the area around the Altai Mountains in Asia to America, around 16,000 years ago. It is clear; there is no Hebrew blood in pre-Colombian America.

One of the big mistakes in the Book of Mormon, is that it supposedly originates from the 6th century, yet its English (given from God in Joseph Smith’s hat) is eerily familiar to that of the King James Bible, which became available in 1611; 1000 years after the writing of the book. The problem here is that the King James Bible, that the Book of Mormon quotes, has a few errors, that then found their way into the Book of Mormon. God appears to have made the exact same mistake twice. Isiah 9:1 uses the word “honour”. The translation here from original hebrew is wrong, as has been proven since. The phrase should be “grievously afflict”. The mistake can also be found in the Book of Mormon. It would seem to even the least skeptic of minds, that Joseph Smith merely copied passages from a Bible that was freely available at the time, full of errors that were not to be corrected for decades.

The word ‘manifestation’ is only used in the King James version of I Corinthians 12:7. It also appears in the book of Moroni 10:8. The only time the word “intents” is used in the St James Bible is in Hebrews 4:12, in a quote: “thoughts and intents of the heart”, coincidentally, the exact same phrase in the Book of Mormon used several times.

The language is something that needs to be looked at. The writing on the ‘plates’ that no one else has ever seen, was apparently “reformed Egyptian”. The Nephites wrote it in ‘reformed Egyptian because according to the leader of the Nephites Mormon (who eventually lead the Nephites into complete destruction in an ill conceived battle with the Lemanites):

“And if our plates had been sufficiently large we should have written in Hebrew; but the Hebrew hath been altered by us also…”

– Why had they insisted on passing down the language of their slave holders for generations? Why not just make bigger plates? Not only that, but why is there no example anywhere, of this “reformed Egyptian” language? Given that the Nephites were so widespread:

“The whole face of the land had become covered with buildings, and the people were as numerous almost, as it were the sand of the sea” Mormon 1:7

– why is there no other example of their language anywhere? They apparently had quite an advanced civilisation; laws, elections of judges, Kings, currency; and yet absolutely no archaeological evidence exists at all. Remember, until the 1500s, no European had been to America to wipe out any historical evidence for the Nephites. And why would they? An entire civilisation does not just disappear without leaving evidence for its existence. We know that Jerusalem existed. We even know that Alexandria existed. Bountiful (a Nephite city) did not exist. Simple.

The pre-Columbian archaeological expert Michael Coe, sums up the evidence for a Nephite civilisation in Mesoamerica pretty well:

“Mormon archaeologists over the years have almost unanimously accepted the Book of Mormon as an accurate, historical account of the New World peoples…. Let me now state uncategorically that as far as I know there is not one professionally trained archaeologist, who is not a Mormon, who sees any scientific justification for believing the foregoing to be true, and I would like to state that there are quite a few Mormon archaeologists who join this group….
“The bare facts of the matter are that nothing, absolutely nothing, has even shown up in any New World excavation which would suggest to a dispassionate observer that the Book of Mormon, as claimed by Joseph Smith, is a historical document relating to the history of early migrants to our hemisphere.”

Joseph Smith was a fraud. A con artist. A brilliant story teller, but ultimately, a liar and an awful historian. His cult should not be taken seriously, should have no power over the world, and should not be knocking on my door unless they’re willing to answer the most fundamental questions about their cult without finishing with “yeah, I don’t know much about this”. The Book of Mormon though, is no more or less ridiculous or and more or less a work of fantasy, than the Bible, the Koran, the Torah and every other “Holy” dogmatic fairy tale the World has had to endure, books that for centuries demanded the suspension of reason on pain of death. The Book of Mormon simply amplifies and emphasises the stupidity and dangerous dogma of all organised religion.


The science of the Koran

September 1, 2011

Science-in-hindsight, is what the Koran should be called. Very vague ‘science’ at that. It is a book that you can find obscure verses and claim scientific understanding….. after the science has already discovered something. Like when people suggested Nostradamus predicted 9/11…. but were only able to make the connection after 9/11. The Koran is similar… wait until something is known, and then claim Islam knew it all along. This isn’t science, this is absurd opportunism.

I was first introduced to Islam’s claims on scientific advancement, and forethought, when listening to the Muslim speaker, Hamza Tzortzis try to point to the Koran’s description of mountains as proof that the Holy book is divine. He claimed that there is no way Mohammad could have known that mountains act as ‘pegs’ – as claimed in the Koran – at that time. This refers to the fact that mountains extend downwards into the upper mantle of the Earth. The moment he said it, the Muslim observers in the room were taken in, as if he’d just proven the existence of God. They were awed by his vision. Sadly, they were also woefully misinformed and manipulated (which is of course, the job of the religious preacher). The Koran in this instance, states:

“Have We not made the earth as a wide expanse, And the mountains as pegs?”

– Typically vague, but also wrong. Clearly Allah is asking a rhetorical question. If an answer were permitted, it would be an unequivocal ‘no’. Though Islam Guide.com thinks the answer is a definitive yes backed by modern science.

Modern earth sciences have proven that mountains have deep roots under the surface of the ground and that these roots can reach several times their elevations above the surface of the ground. So the most suitable word to describe mountains on the basis of this information is the word ‘peg,’ since most of a properly set peg is hidden under the surface of the ground. The history of science tells us that the theory of mountains having deep roots was introduced only in the latter half of the nineteenth century.

– All of the above, simply isn’t true. A mountain is not stabilising anything, it holds nothing together. It is like a human in water, part is above the surface, part is below, but you wouldn’t refer to the part of the body below the surface as a peg. It simply floats. Likewise, a mountain simply floats on the mantle.
Islam-guide.com continues its plague of ignorance, with the conclusion:

Likewise, the modern theory of plate tectonics holds that mountains work as stabilizers for the earth.

I recall my science lessons at school, my geography lessons of which I retained information from, to the abandonment of all mathematical teaching, which I quickly learned to discard through pure hatred of the subject. I recall that Volcanoes do not extend as ‘pegs’. Contractional tectonics also form mountains – the Appalachians for example, are definitely not ‘pegs’. The Sierra Navada mountain range has mountains created by what is known as fault block mountains, which are formed when rocks slide through the slopes of the Earth’s crusts. None of which act at all as stabilizers. To claim so, would get a huge roar of laughter from the scientific community.

The reason that the Koran refers to mountains as “pegs” is for it’s next claim:

And He has set firm mountains in the earth so that it would not shake with you… (Quran, 16:15)

Now, islam-guide.com again tries to, rather embarrassingly, explain this quote, and link it to modern science:

Mountains also play an important role in stabilizing the crust of the earth.4 They hinder the shaking of the earth.

– Firstly, they don’t hinder the shaking of the Earth. In fact, mountains are formed by the shaking of the Earth. Secondly, that isn’t what the Koran says. It states quite unequivocally that mountains will ensure the World that the Earth will NOT shake with you, in any way. Well, tell that to the people of Japan. An Earthquake so strong, the island of Honshu was moved eight feet eastward. If Allah had intended for mountains to prevent the Earth from shaking, he failed, miserably.

Often, I have been told by the religious faithful that their Holy Book contains advance science that humanity, at the time of writing the Holy Book, could not possibly have known.

Followers of Islam, more so than Christianity or Judaism in this instance, claim their book is filled with advanced scientific knowledge. To the believer, it’s somewhat of an assurance that their scripture is anything but a book of delusions and vicious hatreds. To the unbeliever, its poor attempt to break the increasing truths offered by science.

Every claim of scientific advancement in the Koran, is either too ambiguous to take seriously, already knowledge widely accepted at the time, or just plain wrong. It is extraordinary for Islamic scholars to claim that their Holy Book holds any sort of scientific truth. A very quick critical analysis of the Koran, and of scientific knowledge already known, long before Mohammad’s time, proves that the Koran offers nothing new. It is beyond irrational to claim it does.

For example:

“Seest thou not that Allah merges Night into Day And He merges Day into Night?” [31:29]

– This, according to Way to Allah.com is, quite bizarrely, proof that the Koran held the knowledge of the Earth’s spherical shape:

Merging here means that the night slowly and gradually changes to day and vice versa. This phenomenon can only take place if the earth is spherical. If the earth was flat, there would have been a sudden change from night to day and from day to night.

– Well, why didn’t the Koran say that the Earth is spherical, if that’s what it meant? As opposed to a deeply ambiguous suggestion? Not only that, but it is wrong. The Earth spinning on its axis is what creates the illusion of day and night, not “Allah”. I cannot imagine a reputable astronomer or physicist would phrase the day turning into night, as a God merging the two together.
If we are going to take deeply ambiguous statements and claim they are proof of scientific advancement, with respect to the Earth’s shape, then we must be consistent:

[15:19] And the earth We have spread out like a carpet; set thereon mountains firm and immovable; and produced therein all kinds of things in due balance.

– This seems to suggest that the Earth is flat, like a carpet, and that Mountains cannot in any way move.
Not only is the idea of a flat Earth scientifically wrong, it was even known to be wrong by the time the Koran was written. It offers no new insight, it simply offers an idea that was defunct around the 3rd Century BC. About 800 years before the Koran. Aristarchus of Samos suggested the Sun was the centre of the Universe, in the 3rd Century BC; this piece of wisdom was truly way ahead of its time. Aristarchus offers us a glimpse into scientific reality on a scale that, 800 years later, the Koran hadn’t even came close to, and Aristarchus certainly didn’t claim divine revelation for his predictions. Unsurprisingly, flat Earth predictions were borne out of Ancient Mesopotamia, and so it would seem that cosmological claims in the Koran can be viewed as earlier traditions coming out of Mesopotamia thousands of years prior to the Koran. Heavens, Firmament, great deep, pillars, the concept of the Earth being flat like a carpet, all this nonsense can also found in the Bible. Educated people knew the Earth was round, as envisaged by Ptolemy and before him, Aristotle, long before the Koran; which still seems to suggest that Earth is flat.

I’m not the only one who suggests that the Koran says the Earth is flat. Tafsir al-Jalalayn, a prominent exegeses of the Koran that still holds much importance, 600 years after it was written, states quite openly:

” … and his saying sutihat makes it obvious that the earth is flat, and this is certified by Ulama’ ash-shar’a (the shari’a theologians), not a globe as it is said by ahlul-hay’a (the laymen).”

Let’s for one second accept that the Koran states that the Earth is egg shaped (this translation, is rather new), is this new to the Koran? Well, no. Let’s note that before becoming a Prophet, Muhammad was a merchant. A trader. He had contact with different cultures, and would most definitely have come into contact with ideas especially those coming out of Greece. The Greeks knew the Earth was round in the 6th Century BC. Plato taught students that the Earth was a sphere. Aristotle’s incredible evidence based in astronomy was way ahead of its time, predating Islam by a millennium. Aristotle noted that the shadow of the Earth on the Moon during a lunar eclipse, is round. Eratosthenes even attempted to work out the Earth’s circumference, 700 years before Muhammad’s time. These great Greek scientific leaders, have seemingly had their brilliance hijacked by Islam, which claims their achievements as their own.

A simple observation of Greek history, finds that by the time that the Koran sprung up, Greek cosmology and culture had spread as far as Afghanistan and even India, having penetrated Arabia centuries previous.

Much like the Nostradamus obsessives, believers in the Koran cannot predict a new scientific discovery, until after the discovery is made. They then re-translate their Holy Book, and surprise! “We were right all along!” Fans of Nostradamus will only assign a prediction of his, after an event has taken place. It is weak reasoning, and it certainly proves absolutely nothing. If the Angel Gabriel genuinely did present Mohammad with scientific knowledge written in the Koran, then the Angel Gabriel was less knowledgable in the 7th Century, than Aristotle was, 1000 years earlier. I’m not sure that’s too good an advert for Heaven.

On the subject of taking the translation too far, and just inventing their own translation from the original, to suit objections, there is one doing the rounds that amuses me greatly. The claim is that the Koran actually accurately describes the Big Bang, here:

It is We Who have built the universe with (Our creative) power, and, verily, it is We Who are steadily expanding it. (Surat adh-Dhariyat: 47)

– The problem here is, the experts claim that this isn’t actually what the original translation says. The translation, according to the the Centre for Muslim-Jewish engagement at the University of California, the verse actually reads:

Yusuf Ali: With power and skill did We construct the Firmament: for it is We Who create the vastness of space.
Pickthal: We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent (thereof).
Shakir: And the heaven, We raised it high with power, and most surely We are the makers of things ample.

– This is clearly vastly different from the more modern translation. The constant use of the phrases “heavens and Earth” echoes the same offering from the Bible and other ancient sources, which considered the universe to consist pretty much entirely of the Earth and heaven, so it is unsurprising that the Koran mentions them together, all the time. The Koran, again, proves to be a product of its time. If it is divine, it is horribly lazy of its creator. The Koran is pretty conclusive with its cosmology; the Earth is flat, there are seven heavens, and it is geocentric.

Another favourite of the Muslim community, is to quote the Koran’s claims on embryology:

And indeed We created man out of an extract of clay. (12) Thereafter We made him as a Nutfah in a safe lodging. (13) Then We made the Nutfah into a clot (a piece of thick coagulated blood), then We made bones, then We clothed the bones with flesh, and then We brought it forth as another creation. So Blessed is Allâh, the Best of creators.[] (14)

– This is one of those instances where the Koran is not vague. It claims that man is made from a clot of congealed blood. Whilst being entirely wrong, the moulding together of a drop of blood, with embryology already existed, is not new to the Koran, and was quite obviously stolen by Muhammad, from the Babylonian Enuma Elish tablet. When you copy something from another source, and the other source is entirely wrong, thus making your claim entirely wrong, then it is clear your book is not divine.

The quote from the Koran also claims that the bones come first. Nutfah by the way, means sperm, in the best possible translation into English. To be precise, nutfatun amshaajin means a mixed drop of sperm. It doesn’t refer to the female ovum, in any such translation (and believe me, those who believe that the Koran contains scientific truth, like to say, when questioned about the vague, ambiguous, and wrong statements in the Koran, that it can be translated differently; they only tend to play this card when their first translation is quite obviously wrong).
The word used for blood clot, is alaqa. This word has been translated into ‘blood clot’ by Maulana Muhammad Ali, in 1951, Muhammad Zafrulla Khan in 1971, the Supreme Sunni and Shii Councils of the Republic of Lebanon in 1980, Hamidullah in 1981, and Indonesian Department of Religious Affairs in 1984. It’s pretty obvious that Alaqa is best translated to mean blood clot. The problem with this is, there is no stage in human development where the fetus is a clot of blood. It is just false science.

When it comes to the joining together of male sperm, and the female egg. Perhaps the Koran is unique and shows great forethought and revelation? Well, no. The Hanbali scholar Ibn Qayyim, in his book Kitab al-tibyan fi aqsam al-qur’an, gives us a statement from the lips of Mohammad himself:

He is created of both, the semen of the man and the semen of the woman. The man’s semen is thick and forms the bones and the tendons. The woman’s semen is fine and forms the flesh and blood.

– Quite obviously, this is wrong. The “great” Prophet, is entirely wrong.

Dr Basim Musallam Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge says:

“Hippocrates, Aristotle, and Galen were as much a part of Middle Eastern Arabic culture as anything else in it…… “The stages of development which the Qur’an and Hadith established for believers agreed perfectly with Galen’s scientific account….There is no doubt that medieval thought appreciated this agreement between the Qur’an and Galen, for Arabic science employed the same Qur’anic terms to describe the Galenic stages”

– Turns out, the Koran merely states something that was known centuries earlier, alongside completely wrong ‘science’. All the Koran does here, is spend a long time catching up to scientific thought at the time.

Does the reference to sperm mean that the Koran has stumbled upon a great revelation; that sperm is partly responsible for life? Well, again……. no. Not even slightly. Aristotle had pointed to Anaxagorus, a Greek pre-Socratic philosopher, around 450bc, who stated that sperm came only from the male, and that the female simply provided a place of nurture. So, the “safe lodging” which Muslims say refers to the womb, was known as that, 1000 years before the Koran.

Secondly, it is important to note that bones are not created first, and slowly fleshed out. Bones and muscle tissue are created simultaneously. For a far more eloquent explanation, whilst at the same time dismissing the Islamic claim on embryology of Hamza Tzortzis, I would strongly advise watching this video, as Hamza attempts to explain embryology and the Koran’s claims on embryological truth, to……. a leading embryologist. The result is predictable; Tortzis and whomever he is with are proven wrong, and so they resort to changing the interpretation of the text, to suit the objection. Weak, weak, weak.
Needless to say, the Koran is wrong. There is never a stage in the development of a fetus, in which bones exist alone, much like there being no stage in fetus development when the fetus is a clot of blood. It would appear that we can find more information from Wikipedia on the development of a fetus, than we can from the all knowing master of the Universe. Wikipedia > Allah?

And do we really believe that we needed a 7th century divine commentary to tell humanity that sperm creates human life? The Koran, simply stole this idea from the ancient Greeks, without giving them any credit for it.
J. Needham, an author who specialised in Embryology, in his book “A History of Embryology” states the importance of Ancient Greek, Indian and Egyptian Embryology, says that the Koran’s Embryological claims were simply:

“a seventh-century echo of Aristotle and the Ayer-veda”

– It appears more and more so, that the Koran is simply a collection of religious dogma attempting to claim the forethought of secular science as espoused by great minds like Aristotle, as its own. It is similar to when a girl in my Politics seminar tried to claim that Christianity invented Democracy. Religion trying to latch onto human advancement, and claim it as its own, should be treated with the contempt it deserves.

To summerise, the Earth is not flat, mountains do not hold the Earth down preventing it from shaking, and humans do not start out as bone, slowly fleshed out over time. A God who presents so many vague statements is bad enough, but an omniscient being presenting his creation with what seems to be drunkenly erratic commentaries on certain aspects of the World and humanity which turn out to be entirely false on the most basic of examination, is a God that not only should not be taken seriously, but should never have any sort of political power over the workings of society, and should be challenged by every free thinking human being, at every possible opportunity. That is how humanity advances beyond primitive dogma.

There is absolutely no scientific credibility laying in the pages of the Koran.


An absurd introvert

June 16, 2011

Learning about myself is like reading a book I need to reread over and over to understand. Sartre’s Being and Nothingness had that affect on me. Read a page, sit and wonder what was just implied, reread the page out loud, put the book down, decide I’ll give it another go tomorrow night. I can’t imagine being in Sartre’s mind, though there must be a serenity in being able to so openly spill your insecurities and create an entire new branch of philosophical thought from them.

If I sit listening to my mind, I confuse myself excessively and have to take a minute to meditate on those confusions before ignoring them, and deciding I’m just being over analytical. Nonetheless, it is quite vicious much of the time, to feel a sort of annoying hot poker jabbing at your brain, whispering “who the fuck are you?” whilst you’re trying to focus on menial life chores.

I decided long ago that I adhere to the philosophy of absurdism made famous by Albert Camus. I discovered this absurdist leaning after becoming most annoyed by a certain work etiquette and a work colleague who seemed to embody it, like Camus’ Sisyphus quietly pushing the rock up the hill only to watch it fall down again and again. I had taken a tray of food over to a table in an uninspiring conference room. An old portrait of the owners’ grandma as a toddler plagues the far wall. An old fireplace confirms my suspicion that the whole place had failed to progress beyond the 1950s. The dullness of the room was reflected in the dullness of the people sat around the conference table waiting for their overpriced dinner to arrive. I had been asked to help take the food out, a joy that I rarely partake in, not least because it is about as intellectually stimulating and as jubilant an occasion as realising you have no toilet roll left in the house during a moment of terrible bowel discomfort. Anyway, I took a tray to the table, placed it down, took the food from the tray and put it neatly in front of the gentleman. We talked for 30 seconds or so about the local football team, and we laughed about something. He was actually very pleasant. He seemed desperate to talk to someone other than the lifeless souls who had gathered around the table to eat, like robots refilling on oil. He gave me a tip too. At my workplace, they don’t normally tip. I walked out of the room and my colleague said, in a brash tone, with a stare that could cut through solid lead, said “I cannot believe you just did that“. After giving her a look of confusion, she told me that I should NEVER put the tray down on their table because it makes us look terribly unprofessional. At that moment, it struck me, just how pointless and meaningless my job was. Just how useless an existence it is to say that your full time job, is to serve rich people. She told me it was awful to put a tray down on a table; she became red with anger. To an outsider, it was as if I had gone into that room, quietly walked over to the table and waved my willy in their faces. It was an absurd situation, of which I had to laugh. I laughed at her. Not intending to be rude, I just laughed, which is rude, but I honestly don’t care. The situation deserved a laugh, and it just spontaneously came out of my face, it couldn’t be stopped. The whole episode was so insignificant it holds more meaning to me, than much of my life so far. That very episode changed my philosophical self reasoning far more than any other.

Discovering your life and your essence are absurd; putting an end to what is seemingly considered an innate search for truth and purpose, by accepting thoroughly that truth and purpose are simply man made concepts that are vastly incompatible with the chaotic and aimless nature of the universe and the random process of natural selection, we must then discover who we are individually. This is the tricky part. There are so many contradictions in my personality and so many faults and flaws that I cannot pin down exactly who I am and this frustrates me. I want to be fully rounded, I want to understand myself entirely and I want to know that I am in control of who I am and what I do.

I think it is fair to say I am decidedly introverted. I would be happy living my life with no interference from anyone else. Whereas many people can count “good listener” as a positive personal trait, I can’t. I may act it, I may pretend to care, but ultimately I am easily bored by the stories of others, I get anxious about how to respond, especially if those stories are excessively trivial. I hate clubbing, I hate too much socialising, I prefer solitude and thought. I like my own company and time to myself. I like losing myself in a book. I may come across as ignorant and at times I wont talk much, answering everything with a simple “yeah“. This is either because my mind is wandering, or I have very little interest in what is being said to me, and feel any response would be forced and inadequate. The only person I like listening to, and being around is Ash, which is probably a good thing. We went viewing homes around Bendigo in Australia last weekend. Beautiful, and yet affordable homes. We both want a personal study room, to lock ourselves away in when we need to be alone. Often you will hear people insist that a happy relationship and a happy family is achieved by spending quality time together, and that’s true. But equally as important is having your own space. Independence is a feature I must never compromise, nor would I ever wish to throw myself so deep into someone else’s life that they feel less independent. If I feel my control over my own life is under threat, I pull away and start to question the route down which my life has rolled. I do not particularly need anyone else. I simply need to know that my World remains my World. Over my domain, I am a control freak.

Carl Jung brilliantly hypothesised that introversion and extroversion are chemical reactions in the brain; the introvert experiences large energy surges when alone or in a small group, whilst the extrovert thrives on less cortical arousal, needing instead outside stimulation. I am far more comfortable writing about how I feel, than actually telling people, because whilst I know I’m being completely irrational, I subconsciously presume that no one wants to hear my ranting, in the same way that I don’t particularly want to hear the rantings of others. I cannot abide people bitching endlessly about each other, or quite clearly having issues with each other and not communicating them. I notice the unneeded tension that I am not a part of, and wonder why the fuck I am in that situation, feeling slightly uncomfortable. I suppose introvert is simply a synonym for prodigiously self involved. That is certainly what “blog” is a synonym for. Or maybe it is the climax to a series of insecurities that chip away but never get faced. I don’t know which line of reasoning I prefer. Spending too much time around others drives me close to insanity and drains me of all energy, I get all anxious and need to get away. Life is not a waste of time, if it is spent on introspection, and reflection, as long as it doesn’t eat away at you. It is a constant search for an identity that seems to so fleetingly blow in the wind. There is an impeccable beauty in the solitude I feel when I am sitting on the beach wall at Dawlish Warren on the English south coast, in the early morning, with no one else around, the sounds of the sea at that particular place is the most serene and perfect of all places in my World. That is where I go when I close my eyes at night.

That is me.


Lords of Merit

June 15, 2011

Over at Libertarian.co.uk, Sean Gabb provides a rather weak attempt to defend the hereditary right of the Lords. There is a strange, almost unnerving hypocrisy in a site that proudly waves the flag of Libertarianism, yet supports the deeply tyrannical premise of a deliberative chamber based solely on inheritance. One argument for instance, is that the oldest hereditary peerage dates back to 1264, and that an attack on hereditary peerages is an attack on our heritage and tradition. Gabb says:

The oldest Peerage now represented there is the Barony of De Ros, dating from 1264. The most senior is the Dukedom of Norfolk, created in 1483. There are titles in the Lords that carry the mind back to times long before the modern age—to the time before America was discovered, before printing and gunpowder, when English was a collection of barbarous dialects, and when Europe was still in the shadow of the seemingly greater civilisations of the East.
To lay hands so violently on the ancient Constitution is to attack the national identity of the English. It is to snap one more of the precious threads of continuity that bind us to our past.

I would disagree with this premise. The ghost of 13th Century England is certainly one to be feared. Rash decisions based on the need to end a costly and vicious civil war was the main reason behind the creation of certain Peerages. Firstly, the first Baron of De Ros, Robert De Ros, whom we might credit for fighting against King Henry III, only took up arms to extend his own power, pushing his languorous son toward the thrown of Scotland through his rather flimsy claim to that particular thrown due to his great grandad marrying the bastard daughter of Scotland’s William I. De Ros was only interested in more power. He may have fought against the King when the rebels had the stronger hand, but he had also fought for the King of Scotland against a similar rebellion years earlier, because it benefited him to do so. Right here in Leicester at that time, Simon De Montfort raised a force against the King – which included De Ros – forced Henry III to sign the Provision of Oxford, creating a council of Barons and appointments by the King, and De Montfort called the first ever fully elected Parliament a few years later. The war of the Barons in the 13th Century was an attack on hereditary rights, and De Monfort is considered a father of Parliamentary democracy. In fact, after De Montfort was killed in battle, a year after pretty much taking power, the Dictum of Kenilworth reinstated the power of the King, the apparent “divine right” that would persist for centuries, giving us a cruel Monarchical tradition resulting 200 years later in a century long battle for supremacy between the nobles and the crown during the Wars of the Roses. Not to mention the apparent “divine right” which gave Henry VIII the freedom to spend 30 years executing everyone who he didn’t care to see living. Or the five year reign of hell forced by Mary during which time anyone who owned a Bible written in English could be burnt to death. The creation of a peerage in 1264, to signal the regained power of a disturbingly bloody history of Monarchical power, is not something we should be proud of. The point of Simon V De Montfort’s attack on the power structure of the day, was progression. Society and political institutions progress. Tradition is not a valid argument. Surely if Libertarian.co.uk were to invoke the 13th Century as a key moment in English political tradition, he would be calling for greater democracy, not defending the right of hereditary peers to sit in the Lords, when the exact opposite was the sentiment and legacy of the 13th Century he so fleetingly calls upon to defend his magnificently weak argument.

Incidentally, the current Lord of De Ros (one of the few remaining hereditary peers), is Peter Maxwell, who continues to insist that his children’s names (including the horrifically named “Finbar Maxwell“) be prefixed with “The Honourable“. Wouldn’t that be a bit of a slap in the face of English Parliamentary tradition, and Libertarian thought in particular, to have to refer to a child as “The Honourable“, based solely on inheritance?

My argument here, is that the Lords should be neither hereditary, nor fully elected.

Before the Medici family had climbed to the heights that they managed to during the 16th and 17th century’s, they lived rich, yet subtle lives. They didn’t much care for public life and kept pretty inconspicuous in a city whose wealthy thrived on extravagance. Giovanni de Medici, the father of Cosimo, was a part of the Arte Della Lana wool merchants guild, who had much power, but he himself didn’t wish to come across as almost ruling the city. The government of Florence was interesting. It was known as a Republic, but it was far from democratic, or Republican in our sense of the word (but we must not look at the Republican of Florence through 21st Century specs, given that we have had the wisdom of John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Thomas Paine to inspire modern Republican thought).

The Florentine Government was known as the Signoria. The Signoria was made up of a group of men collectively known as the Priori. To be elected as member of the Priori, you must be a member of a guild (There were 7 major guilds and 14 minor guilds), you must be over 30, you mustn’t be in debt, and you mustn’t be related to someone who has just been elected to the Priori. If you fit this criteria, your name was placed in one of eight leather bags called a “borse“. The borse was kept in a sacristy, in the Church of Santa Croce, in the Piazza di Santa Croce, just east of the Duomo. If your name was pulled from the hat, you joined the Priori for two months, after which the whole process began again. The placements were set to house two members of the Priori from the minor guilds, and six from the major. The ninth and final member was known as the Gonfaloniere; the standard bearer of the Republic. The Signoria also consisted of two councils who were to be consulted on matters relating to foreign policy; the Dodici Buonomini and the Sedici Confalonieri. Other councils were called for advice at specific times, like war. The Priori, once elected, were required to take up residence at the Palazzo della Signoria, in the centre of Florence. There they remained for two months.

It is fair to say, the government of Florence was run by a very narrow wealthy elite.

The 21st Century House of Commons is much the same. The Tory/Lib Dem cabinet is worth £60mn between them, whilst they insist that their governing ideal is one based on fairness. Out of 29 Cabinet ministers, 23 have assets worth over £1mn, and not all of it was “fairly” achieved. The Chancellor George Osborne is set to make £2mn from his father’s wallpaper company, of which Osborne has no input over, and has never worked for. He is a modern day Lord; forcing a heavy George Osborne Tax on the workers of the wallpaper company. The people who make the money, don’t see the money, because it goes into the pocket of a man who already owns a £2mn house. The Cameron family set to inherit a combined wealth of £30mn. That is the House of Commons. England’s Medici. Yet they seem to think they are the beacon of democracy. An especially odd sort of democracy, that must be spread to the evil, anti-democratic House of Lords as a matter of urgency. The truth is, the House of Lords is necessary. An elected upper chamber is unnecessary, and simply plays to the idealised version of democratic principles we so naively believe in. A set of principles so corrupt and useless, calling it democratic is an insult to democratic principles.

I do not want an elected House of Lords. Whenever a political party claim to be reforming a system for the interests of the people, one must be skeptical. Take the mention of “patient choice” with NHS reforms. On the one hand the Tories are indirectly criticising GPs by insisting that most disability allowance claimants do not deserve the benefit, and on the other hand, insisting the GPs are best people to do a job which apparently requires far more involvement of the private sector, with plans put forward by a Health secretary whose private office is largely funded by private health insurers. When it is claimed to be “for the people” then it isn’t for the people.

In November 2010, John Nash, the head of private health provider – Care UK – donated £21,000 to the Health Secretary, Andrew Lansley’s personal office. Of all the ministers, or even MPs that Nash could have possibly donated a massive sum of money to, he chose the guy in control of the health policy in the UK. There is obviously a reason for this. It is unlikely that Nash just donated such a vast sum out of the goodness of his heart. Do we really want another chamber funded by people like Nash? Is an elected 2nd chamber really empowered to work in the interests of the people, rather than a very narrow wealthy few?

The late Lord Onslow was one of the few remaining Hereditary peers sitting in the Lords after the 1999 House of Lords Act. Hereditary peerages are an awful, archaic idea and owe less to merit than does a fully elected chamber, which is saying something. During the Queen’s speech in 1998, in which she outlined Labour’s plan to reform the Lords and bin Hereditary peerages, the Tory Lords screamed out “Shame!” at the Labour front bench, as if they had an absolute, Hobbesian right to their peerage. Labour were right to abolish Hereditary peerages, yet the late Tory Lord Onslow insisted that he’d disrupt the legislative agenda of the Blair government entirely, if he continued with his abolishment of Hereditary peers. Lord Onslow clearly believed in the ancient principle of the divine right of Kings. A dangerous, discredited, and utterly absurd basis for power.

Since Labour’s reforms, the House of Lords is no longer based purely on hereditary acquisition, but far more on merit. Merit is not a bad thing to be appointed to the Lords for. I personally want my politicians to be experts in at least one field, rather than relying on a Minister working at Health, and then being moved to Transport, and finally onto education, in a time period of two Parliaments, without knowing anything about the plethora of Whitehall departments they’ve spent less than a week at each. If we take for example, David Blunkett, not only was he an MP or Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough, dealing with constituency issues constantly, he was appointed Secretary of State for Education and Employment. Two completely unrelated fields thrown awkwardly into one small department, overseen by a single Minister. Five years later he was crowned Home Secretary; a job distinctively different from his previous post at Education and Employment. Less than four years later, he ends up as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Does he have any qualification for Education? Employment? Policing? Pensions?……… he has a BA in Political Theory and Institutions, just before becoming a Clerks Typist. By contrast, Lord Winston has a degree in Medicine and Surgery, is an expert in fertility, developed a technique known as sterilisation reversal for those wanting to reverse a vasectomy/hysterectomy, was the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science set up one of the Countries top IVF facilities, and primarily spends his time in the Lords arguing on legislation surrounding fertility and medicine. Do I want Lord Winston replaced in the Lords with another David Blunkett? No. I want to see a House of Lords filled with experts, chosen on merit, not on how much money their campaign can raise.

Democracy is massively overrated.


This could be 1983

May 13, 2011

The Conservatives haven’t changed. It is true that they are the epitome of what it means to be wealthy, privileged, and have an in-built mechanism of contempt for anybody who isn’t wealthy and privileged. I find their politics to be vicious and nasty, and their economics to be self serving and hypocritical. They are typical of the type who wish to use a system to climb to the heights they have, and then burn the ladder up which they or their family before them, climbed.

They will always use the “deficit” (which isn’t that bad) to justify the unjustifiable, simply because no one except a tiny band of elite scumbags will ever accept their economic principles. Libertarianism is dangerous and unhealthy to a civilised society. It is built on the premise of judging a nation by how rich its most wealthy have become, how concentrated that wealth has become, rather than how society protects its most vulnerable.

Their language is arrogant, vicious, dirty, and out dated, to match their political stance. Here is a few examples of Tories being Tories.

  • Wandsworth Council today announced plans for the Autumn, to charge children £2.50 to use the local park. It is in response to the £55mn it needs to find in spending cuts. Instead of fighting the obvious manipulation of figures from the Treasury which suggest we’re on the verge of becoming Greece (which we aren’t), and instead of pointing out that the Treasury is in worse shape now than it was when Labour left office, and expected to get worse, with regard to inflation and unemployment……… the Council has just accepted the bullshit, and decided that along with the disabled and the unemployed, children should be the next to be hit. We now have more property millionaires than anywhere in Europe – creating an horrendous property apartheid especially in the South, we have a banking system that has managed to get away with causing chaos, and we have a mass of Corporate tax avoiders costing the system £25bn a year….. and yet Wandsworth Council think the way to go is to make children aware that from now on, any ounce of fun, is going to cost them money. The excuse? The same typical excuse Libertarians use all the time, the same tired, nasty excuse Tories have been using for decades:

    “Why should Wandsworth taxpayers subsidise children from other boroughs?”

    – Who thinks like that? It makes me squirm.
    If that’s the case, why should the majority of left leaning voters (over 57% at the 2010 election) subsidise the jobs of a right wing government? I don’t want our family tax money to pay for our Tory MP to live so comfortably. I don’t want our tax money to go to paying a National debt whilst the very wealthy manage to pump their money into offshore accounts, and be allowed to claim expenses on running those offshore companies, against the UK tax they don’t pay. We are subsidising their ability to pay nothing. They couldn’t run a successful business in the UK, and offshore its profits, without functioning roads, a decent healthcare system, a property protection system like the police force, an education system to prepare their future workforce. And yet, their right to offshore, is supported by our Government who instead choose to attack children’s parks. Great.

    The Tories main campaign poster in 2010 was this:
    – So imagine our surprise when Mark Britnell, who made it into the Top Ten of the most influential people when it comes to healthcare in the country by the HSJ, former Director-General for Commissioning and System Management for the NHS and now “health policy expert” on David Cameron’s personal NHS advisory group said this to a group of Private Healthcare lobbies, organised by private equity firm Apax:

    “In future, the NHS will be a state insurance provider not a state deliverer. The NHS will be shown no mercy and the best time to take advantage of this will be in the next couple of years.”

    Minister for Health Andrew Lansley, who is worth an estimated £700,000, and spent the Labour years flipping his second home, claiming expenses for renovating a cottage designated his second home, before selling it for a tidy profit, before claiming for furniture for his flat in London now designated his second home, insists that he isn’t considering NHS privatisation. One wonders what his most charitable donor, John Nash, of Private Health company Care UK thinks about that. Nash donated £21,000 to Lansley’s private office, whilst they continue to make 96% of their profit from the NHS. Care UK stand to make a great deal more from increased involvement of the private sector in the NHS.

  • Cameron promised that front line jobs would not be cut from the NHS, before the election. Vowing to protect the NHS is a big vote winner in the UK. Cameron knew that. He then didn’t win the election, didn’t get a mandate, and so decided to rip the NHS to shreds. According to Unison, 500 jobs at St George’s Hospital in South London are to go, along with three wards and 100 beds. Similarly, Kingston Hospital in South West London announced that around 20% of its workforce will need to go, to meet the governments cost saving demands. The government repeatedly claims it is increasing spending on the NHS in real terms. Another lie. NHS spending is set to grow by less than under the Thatcher years, which is when the NHS was gutted almost to complete meltdown. Here’s how that “increase” looks on a graph:
    Between 1997 and 2010, the number of doctors increased by 57% and nurses by 31%. Funding rose from around £1bn a year (less than Philip Green paid his family in dividends in 2009, which he financed by taking out a loan, which in turn reduced his Corporate tax rate as the interest on the loan could be offset against Corporate profits of his firm Arcadia) under the Tories, to £4.3bn under Labour, which increased the activity of the NHS by over 40%. It worked. We are healthier now than we were in the 1980s, we are living longer, and morale in the NHS was higher than the 1980s. Increases in spending this year, when adjusted for inflation, will be 0.024% from April 2011. Great. In fact, Sir David Nicholson, Chief executive of the NHS said this about the new spending plans for the NHS:

    there has never been a time where we have had four years of flat real growth. It is unprecedented.

    – There are many Tories that will argue consistently and poorly, that Osborne and the Tories are championing the NHS and funding it amazingly well beyond all recognition. Listening to them, is perilous.
    Waiting lists are already sky rocketing. In Coventry, it was reported that there would be a 13 week waiting list for Hernia repair at Walsgrove University hospital. That has now increased to 26 weeks and should be considered “just a guideline” as lists are likely to increase again this year.
    According to County Durham & Darlington NHS Foundation Trust:

    Trust is undertaking a £60m cost cutting exercise to be delivered by 2014, including £20m in 2010/11. The trust is also cutting 300 beds. 300 nursing jobs will be lost through natural wastage Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust: equivalent cost savings of around 200 fewer jobs are required to meet financial targets. In cash terms, the trust is making cost efficiencies of £25m over 3 years. City Hospitals Sunderland: The Trust undertook a £22.5m cost cutting exercise for financial year just gone. NHS County Durham and Darlington : The NHS service providers in County Durham and Darlington are undertaking a £200m cost cutting exercise over the next 3 years. The trust is cutting 62 senior nurse posts and replacing them with 78 more junior posts. In addition, County Durham PCT has identified 110 management posts for redundancy.

    The managerial posts are “in addition” to front line nursing.

  • Cameron told a female Labour MP in the House of Commons – the NATIONAL LEGISLATURE – to “calm down dear”. One wonders what Tory MP for Loughborough Nicky Morgan thought of this childish, sexist outburst from our Prime Minister, given that she was seen visibly laughing in the House of Commons at that pathetic remark, yet accused ME of being sexist when I simply asked if she had asked a planted question a few weeks back.
    This comes a few weeks after Cameron took a swipe at ethnic minorities in his attack on multiculturalism, in which he mentioned Islam and Muslims 36 times in twenty minutes, and Sikh, Hindu, Jewish, Taoist, Buddhist not a single time. It was an attack on Islam, to the point where even Nick Griffin called the speech “provocative” and members of the EDL said that Cameron “understands us”.
    That came about a week after Osborne referred to an openly Labour MP in the Commons as the “pantomime dame”. It isn’t surprising, their stance on homosexuality, given that whilst 100% of Lib Dems, and 99% of Labour MPs voted to repeal the nasty little Section 28 law that banned anything positive being said about homosexuality in schools, only 24% of Tories voted to repeal it. And whilst 100% of Lib Dems, and 95% of Labour MPs voted in favour of allowing gay adoption……. only 6% of Tories voted for it. So that’s homophobia, sexism, and racism all within a year. What else is left? Ah yes, class.
    David Shakespeare, leaders of the Tory Councillor for Buckinghamshire Council said that poor northerners who are losing their jobs due to the cuts, should go down to London and pick the fruit of the land owners down south, instead of seeking job seekers allowance. He also said:

    ‘The North may replace the Romanians in the cherry orchards, that may be a good thing’

    – Not even a necessary thing? Not even a regretful thing? A GOOD thing? He doesn’t mind kicking people out of their work and their jobs, he thinks it’s a great thing, because they’ll come to the south and work on his land for next to no money! He’s happy that the North is about to be gutted, again, of all funding whilst the south thrives, again, like the 1980s. Luckily I am from the Midlands, so I’m not sure i’d have to pick this overweight Tory prick’s fields, but i’m not sure if I have to bow as he drives past in his luxurious horse and cart.

  • Osborne announced this week that he was going to make it easier for companies to cut pay, cut pensions, dismiss people, and be allowed to get away with being discriminatory. In essence, he plans to make job security as unsafe as possible. It will be golden news to people like my boss. It is an attack on the workforce again. Presumably he will moan about Unions trying to hold the country to ransom whilst he attacks the rights of as many workers as possible, expecting us all to just bend over and take it. I hope the Unions unite and fight, I hope for a period of industrial action on a scale never seen before, and I hope a general strike is called as soon as possible If it is going to be a case of a very wealthy minority making life as miserable and difficult as possible for the many, then I hope the many fight back. Osborne claims employment rules are holding back job creation. He of course, is wrong. Job creation is held back significantly by a vast majority of big bosses plundering money into dodgy stocks or increasing their salaries beyond recognition. Why not cap private sector managerial wealth to a percentage of the lowest paid? Therefore when the lowest paid gets an increase, so does the highest paid. The extra-profit to be used to employ new people. Why attack the right of the workforce to a decent level of job security and working conditions? Why is that the only solution? Do you know what else creates job losses? It is happening on a smaller scale across the country, cuts are having affects on jobs and livelihoods. Cuts….
  • Derby’s Historic Industrial museum has had to close, 9 job losses.
  • Bishop Aukland College – 179 jobs losses.
  • South Tyneside College – 200 jobs to go.
  • Tyne Metropolitan College – 66 jobs to go.
  • Stockton Riverside College – 23 jobs to go.
  • City of sunderland College – 69 jobs to go.
  • Newcastle College – 171 jobs to go.
  • East durham college – 76 jobs to go.
  • New Cross library, Crofton Park library, Sydenham library, Grove Park library, Blackheath library all to close.
  • Oxford Brookes University – 400 support staff received “at risk” letters.
  • Diss weekly Youth Centre praised by police for helping troubled children, to close, and staff to lose their jobs.
  • Taunton Primary School – no more music teacher, no more music lessons.
  • A Big Society initiative – new volunteers to help out at museums in Hampshire – to replace 25 staff who have lost their jobs. Unpaid staff to replace paid staff. Great.
  • Five libraries in Lewisham to close.
  • Cuts to NHS disabled transport in Dumfries – jobs losses expected.
  • 50% of pupil support assistants assigned to children with special needs, to be cut in Aberdeen.
  • 21,000 job losses at Lloyds……..
  • ….. former Lloyds boss Eric Daniels takes home a bonus of £1.45mn…..
  • ….. new Lloyds boss António Horta-Osório takes a signing on fee of £6mn and a salary of £1.6mn.

    In short, the poor need jobs to live. The rich need the poor to be as close to slaves as possible, reliant entirely on them to be able to eat, to be called lazy and scroungers and attacked as greedy if they unionise or refuse to work for a piss poor boss in piss poor conditions for piss poor pay. It is not a plan to increase job creation, it is a plan to enable the very wealthy, to get even more wealthy – to buy an extra yacht to fill the void in their soul – by asking more and more of their staff for as little as possible, and it’s always been the case. The project is designed to make people believe their tax money is wrongly being used, not just by people who claim to have a physical disability whilst they play tennis and golf 24 hours a day, but also by children playing on swings in the town next to yours, as opposed to the fact that your tax money is actually used to make sure that the wealthiest get massively insane tax cuts with Corporation tax expected to drop from 28% in 2010….. to 15% in 2020. That is what your tax money is funding. Make sure the man in the expensive house in Notting Hill thanks you for his lovely new Mercedes….. but don’t let your kids play on the park next to his house, you scrounging scumbag.

    The progress the country has made since the hell of the 1980s, is about to be burnt to the ground. Do not be fooled into thinking this “has to be done”, it is Conservative party ideology, they have waited over a decade to have this chance.

    They are attempting to replace compassion, with greed, and it’s working.


  • …solidarity to pure wind

    May 11, 2011

    Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidarity to pure wind.
    – George Orwell

    Everybody on the planet is capable of synesthesic thought. Usually we only identify the most extreme and unusual cases of synesthesia and single them out for investigation at the most and a nice little story to tell your mates at the pub at the least. Synesthesia is the ability to transfer the sensation of the stimulation of one sense, to the sensation of the stimulation of another sense. For example, people who see colours and hear a sound corresponding to that colour. Or vice versa. The truth is though, we all do, every moment. The simple way to measure this affect is the bouba keke test. Look at the picture underneath and decide to yourself which is called bouba and which is called keke:

    If you are like everyone else, you will call the rounded shape bouba and the spikey shape keke. The reason is the rounded shape we see, corresponds to the rounded sound of “bouba“. Around 1% of people who take the simple bouba keke test will not instantly see bouba as rounded and keke as sharp and spikey. Similarly, 99% of people will not instantly understand why someone else sees green when they think of the number 2. It similar to seeing a bright green shirt and calling it loud. In short, synethesia is involuntary metaphor.

    You have all no doubt seen this. Try to say the colour, rather than the word:

    This is an example of cognitive dissonance. The tension we feel when the literal translation is somehow impaired by another perception we are simultaneously holding. The above will make you struggle when you get to the word and colour that conflict with each other, because human thinking cannot disregard what we consider to be the literal meaning. We cannot shake that.

    This brings me onto the point of this blog.
    A few days ago, was the Royal Wedding. Predictably discussion turned to Patriotism. There is a sort of expectation in the minds of the collective, that we are supposed to feel a sense of sacrificial pride to the landmass on which you were born, loyal only to the abstraction of the National flag under which you had no choice in. And I am left in two conflicting minds.

    I cannot fight the powerful urge to feel a sense of community when England play (and inevitably hopelessly lose) at a World Cup. I feel a defensive sense of anger, when I hear American Republicans insist that a British style NHS will result in refusal to treat the elderly. When I’m abroad and I hear a British accent, I feel a slight tinge of kinship, even though I have no idea who that person is. The feeling of patriotism is there. The idea of a Nation creates an automatic expectation within each individual to feel a sense of loyalty and pride toward it. Yet, it doesn’t exist. It is the solidarity of pure wind.

    The sense of Patriotism and its expectations are quite unnerving. It is a type of respect and loyalty that is supposed to be given without question. We bow in its presence as if its worship is just as natural as breathing. To even question the validity of such authority is considered unpatriotic. We group ourselves, not on merit or on objective morality, but on the idea of where we were born. When the British armed forces are in Iraq, they are there for “our freedom“. Our, being the key word. We are all apparently connected by an abstract principle. They are the “heroes” and those fighting against “us” are “terrorists“, “extremists“, “insurgents” or any other noun we choice to aimlessly proscribe to entire groups of people who don’t agree with the mainstream cultural sentiments of that specific country. We are asked to look at the “enemy” as an “other“. They are not like us, because they are not from our land and our land means we are all one. They are the “enemy” because they are from another land. We look at what happened on 7/7 and see a great evil, we see the deaths of innocent people amplified because “they” are “us”. We hear news of a bombed town or village in Fallujah, and we ignore it, because “they” are far away. But if “they” shoot “our” troops, we get angry.

    When Wikileaks released the video of the the American Apache pilots killing twelve innocent people, and talking about it as if it were a video game, or when video was released of American soldiers firing into a prison and throwing a grenade at the building whilst laughing and joking, no one called these people animals, or criminals, or terrorists (in fact, what we do instead, is imprison the guy – Bradley Manning – who released the video). We ignore it. We ignore it, because we have built a Patriotic narrative that whatever crime they commit, they are heroes, but the “enemy” are always “terrorists“.

    This comes at a time when Americans are on the streets celebrating the death of Bin Laden. One wonders why? It will almost certainly cause a revenge attack and America may well be the target. Celebrating a death of what is perceived to be the enemy (remember, much of the World considers America to be a great threat and enemy) simply seeks to perpetuate division. President Obama said justice had been served. Justice? Hundreds of thousands of people have had to die in a war, to seek one man? And that’s justice? It isn’t a video game.

    The ultra-Patriotic movement in America also creates its antithesis. There is a section of the Left that is so viciously anti-war it presumes and subtly declares as loudly as it can, that America perhaps deserved 9/11 or at least had it coming. The problem is that America didn’t create militant religious activity, it is simply a case that Nation States that aren’t built around militant religion will always come into conflict it, because the abstraction of a Nation is similar to that of religion; divisive.

    It isn’t a case of Islam vs America. America, by its very nature has always been imperialistic and expansionist. It has had designs on Cuba for centuries and it shares this trait with organised religion. When Nation States mix with Capitalism, it is inevitably going to create a strain on religions, and the old power structure in which religion was built into the system is slowly eroded away to the dismay of those who quite liked the old ways, and having had the opportunity to follow the industralised Nations of their own accord, rather than being forced to for the sake of profit.
    That tension between the old religiously-led system, and the new more secular way of governing was essentially forced upon the Muslim World for the sake of a more integrated global community, imposed by those in the West who thought our way was somehow “better”. Hassan al-Banna, the creator of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1920s said:

    “Politics is part of religion, Caesar and what belongs to Caesar is for God Almighty alone Islam commanded a unity of life; to impose upon Islam the Christian separation of loyalties [into church and state] is to deny it its essential meaning and very existence.”

    – Here is the conflict. Islamic nations under the control of fundamentalist dictatorships consider religion to be a necessary part of the existence of the Nation State. The West doesn’t. I would up and leave the UK if we were even to impose strict religious theocratic guidelines to the politics of the country. Islamic nations in the 1920s (and arguably today) are not ready to accept the separation of religion and state, and they must be allowed to walk down that path to religious freedom themselves, without America claiming to be on a moral mission, whilst plundering the area of its resources. We cannot impose Lockean principles on Nations that are not ready for it, because by definition that is not Lockean in itself. That being the case, it is absolutely no excuse to fly planes into buildings killing innocents. If they believe their religion promotes that kind of act, then that religion deserves no respect. If it can be interpreted to include violence and death against innocent lives (which it can) then it deserves no respect. I am deeply suspicious of anyone who tells me I am offending their religion, when their religion says people like me will burn in the pits of hell for eternity. I do not respect that religion. Any religion. In the same breath, I do not respect the armed forces of a Nation who are in a foreign land, killing, to protect its resources. The two systems do not work well together. There will never be peace whilst Nation States and Religion exist.

    There was a sudden burst of outrage against the “ground zero mosque” on the grounds simply of “us” and “them“. Nothing more. It was right winged outrage and very hypocritical. The right wing of America tend to have an almost Messiah-like obsession with free market capitalism. But only when it works in their favour. The buying up of the space for the what they have termed the “mosque“. It is like saying “We want no government interferen……what? They’re building a mosque for brown people? WHY ISN’T THE GOVERNMENT STOPPING THIS!!!” It is surely property rights that the American Right believe the government should not be interfering with? Property rights for everyone except those that don’t fit the American Right’s narrow vision of the World? As I stated on my blog entry last year, on the the subject, it wasn’t just a Mosque, it was the Cordoba Center. It will include a Theatre, a Performing Arts centre, a Basket Ball court, Bookstore, Child care, Prayer space, Restaurant, culinary school and fitness centre. It is already being used as a place of prayer for Muslims, and has been for quite some time. As I stated in that blog:

    There is nothing that honours the victims of religious intolerance more, than a center dedicated to building relations, and showing that there does not have to be such separation, anger and fear. A symbol of the coming together of Islam and the West, and particularly Islam and America is a stage in contemporary times that we REALLY need to get to, and this Centre is an attempt to provide that link. We should be celebrating it. We should be celebrating that we are trying to move away from the past decade. We no longer want people like Palin and Bush and Cheney making sure fear is the order of the day. Innocent, decent Muslims are no different to innocent, decent Americans.

    I stand by that today. Artificial, yet deafening boundaries like religion (built by faith) and nationality (built by patriotism) are dangerous and lead only to violent tension – always has.

    The Imam of the Omar-E Farooq Mosque in Madrassa, Kabul in Afghanistan teaches his students to hate America. He does this, not for political reasons, but, as he puts it:

    God says… we can never be friends with unbelievers

    Whatever the foreign policy of the United States, Imams like this one, will also preach division and hate, because their religion tells them to. “Religion poisons everything“. One child in the school said that:

    America are doing suicide attacks and blaming Osama Bin Laden……. we can never be friends”

    – Absolute indoctrination of the worst kind.

    The two systems (religion and secular nation states) were always going to come into conflict and I dislike them both. It is easy to say that the Reagan administration created the Taliban and militant Islam to deal with the Soviet threat during the 1980s, but it stands to reason by that very logic that fundamental protestantism created America, and so Christianity, by proxy, created militant Islam. That is the sum total of the logic taken to its limit, by the delusional anti-war Left. The truth is, militant Islam has always existed. It is based on religion and nothing else. The militant branch of Islam had no problem when America was in Latin America supporting right winged terrorists; in fact the militant branch of Islam was working with America at that point. Militant Islam is expansionist by its very nature and has been responsible for both empire, and human rights abuses, much like the nation of America, over the centuries. The two are similar. Patriotism creates two breeds of lunatic; firstly the type who refuse to accept their nation could do anything wrong, and cheer on the streets of Washington when the leader of the supposed “enemy” is killed, like they’ve just beat the top bad guy on Call of Duty but refusing to acknowledge that hundreds of thousands have been killed or displaced using their tax dollars. The second type, is the antithesis mentioned above, who are content with defending militant Islam as a by-product of aggressive American foreign policy choosing to ignore the history of organised religion as one of sheer violence and coercion long before Nation States came onto the scene. Patriotism, like adherence to religion is simply a perpetuation of the inherent problems the two mutually exclusive yet very similar abstractions inevitably create.

    I don’t know if it is a natural reaction, when we are constantly exposed to patriotic sentiment, that we adhere to this us VS them principle. I know I certainly do, and it takes me a minute or two to logically think through the implications of unquestioning Patriotism. That, leaves me feeling slightly uneasy.

    We are blinded by the perception of what we expect to see.