Spirituality does not require religion.

August 26, 2014

Buddhist Temple in Leshan, China.

Buddhist Temple in Leshan, China.

Back in 2010, the culture editor of Jesuit magazine ‘America’, the Jesuit priest Reverend James Martin wrote a book titled ‘The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Everything‘, in it, he criticises those who consider themselves spiritual, but not religious. I thought I’d offer my criticisms of several points Martin raises.

I felt it worth pointing out first – as a reference – exactly what spirituality means to me. For me, spirituality is serious inner engagement with what it means to be human. Whether we as individuals choose to involve religion or not in our personal journey, we are all spiritual, because we are all flawed and we do not like flaws. As a complex and diverse species blessed with curiosity and a burning desire for definitive answers – this, I believe is the reason for the development of religion – we cannot deal too well with flaws. We want definitive answers now. Prior to the scientific method of inquiry, we invented wonderful tales and myths to explain the seemingly inexplicable – and often terrifying – in a simple way, because we need answers, even when answers seem so complex and far away. It is how we explained volcanoes and earthquakes, rainbows and vast oceans. Not only that, but we evolved as a group species, across habitats, with a yearning for individual freedom, creating diverse social bonds. We are intrigued by beauty, we cry at the pain of others, we try to grasp fleeting happiness and make it last, we have different triggers that anger us, and we have no idea what the hell is going on most of the time, and that’s a frightening idea. We are simply very confused apes. Spirituality is a way we deal with that confusion. Evolved human intelligence has produced brilliant, yet tangled minds that brought great development aiding the survival of the species, but at the cost of inner emotional turmoil that affects us all. Spirituality is simply an individual shaped by the majesty and flaws of human evolution, and by their own experiences and memories, attempting to reconcile those confusions and those contradictions, a sort of unraveling of tangled wires in our minds, by our own minds. If religion helps an individual with that, great. If it doesn’t, that’s okay too.

Martin says:

“Religion can provide a check against my tendency to think that I am the center of the universe, that I have all the answers, that I know better than anyone about God, and that God speaks most clearly through me.”

– For Catholics to speak of their faith as humble, despite having their own city state and a massive palace, takes quite the imagination. And so I would argue the opposite to that which James Martin asserts. Religion does not check a tendency to believe oneself to be the centre of the universe. Quite the opposite, religion teaches that the chosen few are the centre of the universe. We inhabit an infinitesimally small section of time, in a universe so massive in both time and space that it requires great arrogance to believe a small section of a global population on a tiny planet are the ones blessed by a universal creator. We do not know how a universe springs into being. It is religion that teaches us that a personal God did it. A God that created everything specifically for humans, and cares who you have sex with. Indeed, not only are the chosen few the centre of the universe, not only was all of time waiting for over 13 billion years for them to spring up for a few seconds, but the rules of the chosen few must be placed upon those who do not adhere to its beliefs. The shackles of religious privilege in a secular country like the US can be quite clearly observed when we note how long it is taking to afford equal rights to same-sex couples, and the absurdity by which Christian bosses at Hobby Lobby believe the private lives of their employees, are to be linked to God against their will. We see ISIS insisting that their brand of Islam must engulf an entire region, whether the people of that region accept it or not. Martin’s implication that spirituality requires religion, is not humility, nor is it checking a tendency to believe oneself the centre of the universe. It is the exact opposite.

“More problematic than Sheilaism are spiritualities entirely focused on the self, with no place for humility, self-critique or any sense of responsibility for the community. Certain “New Age” movements find their goal not in God, or even the greater good, but in self-improvement — a valuable goal — but one that can degenerate into selfishness.”

– This strikes me as a particularly bizarre passage. The implication is that without a religious base for spiritual development, there can be no sense of humility (again, ironic given the history of the Catholic church), self-critique, or sense of responsibility, yet the goal is self improvement; which requires self-crique, and a sense of humility and responsibility. Critique, humility, and a sense of responsibility are not wholly owned subsidiaries of the religious community, which is why Eastern traditions – like Taoism – do not invoke an all powerful personal God for spiritual guidance. Gautama Buddha rejected the notion of a creator and personal God, and by Martin’s standards, Buddhists are therefore lacking a key ingredient to spiritual development. Critique, humility and a sense of communal responsibility are evolved traits from a communal and individual species, that informs our decision making, our daily interactions, and our progress as individuals and as a species. Without the development of human intelligence from Homo Habilis, through to Homo Sapiens, there would be no religion usurping the legacy of our wonderful ancestry. Religion owes its existence to evolved developments in human intelligence, not the other way around.

“Human beings naturally desire to be with one another, and that desire extends to worship. It’s natural to want to worship together, to gather with other people who share your desire for God, and to work with others to fulfill the dreams of your community.”

– This is true. But it’s not limited to gathering for religious purposes. Spiritual people do not require a belief in God to gather and to share spiritual experiences and stories. Church or Mosque or Synagogue are places that may facilitate that communal sense in-built to human beings, but we’ve been gathering, telling stories, painting art works, playing music, listening to each other and progressing long before the first Church sprang up. Secular atheists do not require the invoking of God in order to gather, to share stories, and to ‘work with others to fulfill the dreams of the community’. We don’t believe in a God, so it wouldn’t aid our spiritual journey to do so.

As an atheist, my spiritual journey is an attempt to understand myself on a deeper level, to progress, to love, to be a better person, to experience beauty, to always question my motives and thoughts, to establish my place within the wider community, and to reconcile conflicts in my life and in my mind. It does not require a belief in God.

It appears to me that the Reverend James Martin has attempted to claim spirituality and the natural human ability for self critique and development, for religion. As religious folk attempt to do with morality, it seems the religious are now taking credit for the evolution of human intelligence. Quite contrary to Martin’s attempts, Christianity simply attempted to anchor the moral musings, as well as spiritual developments of a single time and place – 1st Century Palestine – for the rest of forever. Religion therefore jumped on a moral and spiritual train already speeding along the tracks, whilst implying that they have been driving the train all along.

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Creationists: Give equal airtime to P’an Ku.

May 15, 2014

P'an Ku - Creator of the universe, according to ancient Chinese mythology.

P’an Ku – Creator of the universe, according to ancient Chinese mythology.


Carl Sagan’s ‘Cosmos’ has been given a wonderful new life with Neil deGrasse Tyson resurrecting the popular series this year. But not everyone agrees. As we’re all aware by now, creationists across the US are incensed that ‘Cosmos’ only relies on an abundance of scientific data, rather than Bronze aged myths.

Whilst the complaint appears to be that ‘Cosmos’ doesn’t allow for the possibility of ‘creation science’, they specifically seem to mean Christian notions of young earth creation. As if scientific data, and the Book of Genesis, offer equally as viable explanations. But it seems to me that Christian creationists are guilty of the same charge they throw at ‘Cosmos’. Creationists should also be asking: Why aren’t Christian creationists willing to offer equal air time, and a place on the school science curriculum for the ancient Chinese creator of everything; P’an Ku.

China is rich with beautifully crafted mythology, framing the cultural heritage of one of the oldest civilisations on the planet. In the third century, the Chinese author Xú Zhěng wrote of the creation of the heavens, the earth, and everything on it from a Taoist perspective (A Buddhist perspective of the myth differs slightly). The creator is P’an Ku. As with most creation myths, a great void preceded P’an Ku, until the chaos of that void pulled together to form an egg. The egg lasted for 18,000 years. Inside the egg existed the elements of the universe, working to balance the concepts of Yin and Yang, until they perfectly aligned. Once aligned, the egg began to open and P’an Ku emerged. P’an Ku worked tirelessly with the perfect principles of Yin and Yang to create opposites; wet and dry, day and night, male and female.

The top part of the shell that cracked open as P’an Ku escaped, became the sky. The bottom part of the shell became the earth. Another 18,000 years passed as P’an Ku pushed up the sky, and pushed down the earth, as they grew larger and larger each day. Each day, P’an Ku grew six feet taller than the day before. P’an Ku parted the heavens and the earth (a claim that Muslims – like Zakir Naik – like to believe comes directly from the Qur’an and is evidence of their holy book mentioning the big bang; in reality, it’s a concept that preceded the Qur’an, existing in a plethora of creation myths).

Once the sky and the earth had been created, P’an Ku died. His body fell apart, and collapsed down to the earth. His final breaths became the wind that would forever circle the planet. His roaring voice became thunder. His teeth and bone marrow became metals. His blood became the waters in the rivers; the rivers controlled the earth before humanity. One of his eyes became the sun, and the other the moon. His head became the mountains. This idea of the dead body of the creator becoming a part of his creation, is reflected in the Norse creation myth of Ymir, whose flesh becomes the earth, and his blood becomes the rivers and seas. One must also note the similarity with the body of Jesus becoming the bread, and his blood becoming the wine served at the Eucharist. Unlike the God of Christianity, P’an Ku didn’t create humans, that was left to the Goddess Nüwa; the creator of humanity.

Nüwa was lonely on the earth by herself, so she started to create sheep, and horses among other creatures, to keep her company. After a while, she hand crafted humans out of clay. This process became tiresome, and so Nüwa dunked a vine in clay, and swung it around, with each droplet becoming a human. At times, she continued to hand craft humans out of clay, and those chosen few became the nobility.

And that is story of P’an Ku, and the creation of everything.

Humanity is a wonderfully creative and curious species. The Chinese merged those two together, to form the story of P’an Ku. Creation myths are beautifully creative, and expertly crafted works of art. They exist as an example of humanity’s ceaseless quest for understanding and explanation, in the primitive age of our species. But they are not testable explanations or predictions that can be applied reliably, and so they are not science. This is as true for the myth of P’an Ku as it is for the Biblical creation myth. If creationists wish to see equal airtime given to Christian creation myths as to science, or to be taught as science in schools, there is no reason the curriculum – or ‘Cosmos’ – shouldn’t also include every other possible creation myth – including P’an Ku – throughout history. All the more so, in a secular country.


The magnificent science of 2013.

January 7, 2014

Two extremely bright stars illuminate a greenish mist in this and other images from the new GLIMPSE360 survey.

2013 was a wonderful year for science. Thousands of breakthroughs in medical science, in space science, in technology, and genetics changed human understanding of ourselves and the universe that we inhabit, forever. We are now far closer to treating disease, to understanding our evolutionary journey, and to exploring the cosmos on a scale far greater than we were just twelve months ago. Each breakthrough deserves articles for themselves, but I thought I’d present a few here in snippets, with links to articles that describe the astonishing scientific breakthroughs of 2013 in greater detail. Here is a brief year in science:

January:
After a severe gout infection in his hand, Mark Cahill became the first man in the UK to undergo a successful hand transplant. Here.

In early January a study from Caltech in Pasadena estimated that each star in the Milky Way galaxy alone, contains at least one planet. This further estimates that our galaxy is home to at least 100 billion planets. In just one galaxy. In 1999 the Hubble Space Telescope estimated that there exists 125 billion galaxies. Here.

Also in the UK, a team of experts cured blindness in mice. The treatment – which includes injecting light sensitive cells into the eye and rebuilding light sensitivity – could in future be the launching pad for treating retinitis pigmentosa in humans. Here.

In Bolivia, a team of researchers discovered that injecting certain engineered stem cells in the minutes immediately following a stroke, could significantly aid recovery. The discovery was made after rats suffering a stroke were found to regain completely normal brain function within two weeks, after stem cell treatment. Here.

February:
In early February, researchers made a significant breakthrough in the development of potential treatments for both Parkinson’s and Alzheimers, by finding a way to overcome the problem caused by the blood-brain barrier – a barrier between the blood and the brain that blocks drugs from entering blood tissue. This is a remarkable step forward for the treatment of neurological disorders in humans. Here.

Scientists from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh have managed to engineer 3D printing techniques to create stem cells. The researchers believe it could be the first step in creating brand new organs, without the need for organ donation. Here.

Nasa’s Curiosity Mars rover became the first human machine to drill a hole into the Martian surface, and recover samples for analysis in order to discover whether the planet ever held conditions for supporting life. In March, results showed that the rocks contain oxygen, carbon dioxide and water. A clear indication that life may have once existed on the Martian surface. Here.

Researchers at Barcelona’s Universitat Autonoma successfully cured type 1 diabetes in dogs using a method of gene therapy. To achieve this, a new gene is coded and used to replace a damaged gene. Here.

March:
My particular favourite – red wine makes you live longer. So if any of my readers appreciate me continuing to exist, you should send me red wine. Here.

In March, stem cells taken from mice and humans were successfully used to create new teeth to replace damaged teeth in mice, leading to the possibility of stem cells being used to create new teeth for humans in the future. Here.

In Leipzig, for the first time the full genome of Neanderthal was published, using a toe bone found in Siberia. By understanding Neanderthal’s genome, we get a clearer picture of the genetic divergence between modern humans, and our cousins. Neanderthal’s genome is a window into the history of humanity. Here.

The genetics of oesophageal cancer were more thoroughly understood, in March. Mutations in a number of genes were located that directly match those required for the development of the cancer. This is key to developing treatments to target the horrific disease that kills 400,000 World wide, every year. Here.

April:
Researchers discovered in April, the genetic mutation that can lead to the build up of certain proteins responsible for Alzheimer’s Disease. This discovery significantly aids researchers in developing treatments that target those areas of the brain with a view to understanding, treating and preventing Alzheimer’s on a far more targeted manner. Here.

Kidneys are the organ most in demand across the planet, for transplants. Scientists in April successfully created a lab grown kidney and transplanted it into animals, using stem cell technology. Whilst still in its early stages, this is a major breakthrough in stem cell research. Here.

A safer and easier technique of transforming bone marrow stem cells into healthy, functioning brain cells was produced by the Scripps Research Institute in April. This leads to far better treatment for stroke, and spinal injuries. Here.

May:
Energy efficiency in low grade silicon was improved greatly in 2013. UNSW in Australia developed a technique to better control hydrogen atoms, improving electrical efficiency from 19% to 23%. By October of 2013, the team was aiming at silicon solar cells with 29% targeted efficiency. This also helps to lower costs. Here.

Scientists at UC San Francisco successfully cured epilepsy in mice, opening the way for treatment for the prevention of the causes of epilepsy in humans. Here.

Fossils found in south west Tanzania seem to confirm earlier DNA analysis showing that monkeys and apes diverged 25 to 30 million years ago. By 25 million years ago, the fossils suggest old World monkeys and apes had separated. Here.

Neuroscientists at Lund University successfully prevented early symptoms of Huntington’s Disease in mice, by switching off a mutated protein in the brain. Treatments for Huntington’s is currently lacking, but this research provides the basis for future experiments and eventually treatments for Huntington’s in humans, by showing that symptoms can be controlled by dealing with the mutated protein. Here.

June:
In June the US Supreme Court ruled that a company could not patent genes. It sounds obvious. But that’s exactly what Myriad Genetics in Utah attempted to do. The company attempted to patent isolated DNA connected to ovarian and breast cancer, which in turn meant other groups had vital research frustrated and threatened. The Supreme Court rightfully ruled against Myriad, and research and treatment costs are now expected to fall. Here.

Researchers in London pioneered hologram technology to be used to lecture theatres across the World designed to make is easier for students to understand – through visuals – the huge amount of information they study. The effect is one in which a study subject – such as the kidney – appears to be floating in mid-air and can be manipulated for teaching purposes. Here.

The Israeli company NeuroDerm – a company supported by the Michael J.Fox Foundation – has developed a skin-administered treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, and initial reports are very promising. Here.

In June this year, Bristol-Myers Squibb working on therapies for metastatic melanoma and with a new drug, found that a third of patients were still alive three years later. This is a major breakthrough, because almost 100% of those suffering from the advanced disease in the past, do not survive. The therapy was said to lead to rapid regression of the tumour. Treatments are currently undergoing greater research into why it only seems to help around a third of patients. But the advancement in cancer immunotherapy was named the breakthrough of the year, in December this year. Here.

July:
The London Array. The World’s largest offshore wind farm – with 175 turbines – opens in the Thames estuary in London. It is set to reduce annual Co2 emissions by 900,000 tons; equivalent of 300,000 passenger cars. Here.

New research can now be opened for Down’s Syndrome, after US scientists managed to isolate and silence the chromosome that causes Down’s Syndrome, raising the possibility of future treatment for common symptoms. Here.

One in ten suffer from cat allergies. In July, researchers discovered a protein from cat dandruff that causes cat allergies in humans, and hope to develop a cure within five years. Here.

August:
Perhaps one of the biggest breakthroughs in 2013, came with the clearance of a simple skin patch that works to slowly feed a drug into the bloodstream and regulate blood pressure stability on a level never seen before. The patch has the potential to save millions of lives a year. Here.

Researchers have finally discovered certain processes that lead to mutational factors prevalent in most types of cancer, previously unknown. By understanding the genetic development of particular cancers, researchers in 2013 have opened the doors into future research for treatments. Here.

Using 3D printing technology for stem cells, researchers in Australia have developed lab-grown cartilage, leading to hopes that by 2025, brand new functioning, patient-specific organs will be produced in much the same way. Here.

September:
Scientists announced that a universal vaccine for flu could be available within five years. The flu virus mutates constantly and so is particularly difficult to immunise, but scientists have discovered what they term a ‘blue print’ that could eradicate all forms of the virus. Here.

The World’s first mind controlled prosthetic leg was developed in September. Here.

In New York, cotton-top Tamarins were observed and recorded making whisper-like behaviour The evidence suggests the Tamarins were investigating the threat level from the zoo supervisor, and communicating that information with other Tamarins via whisper. Here.

October:
Researchers at the Stem Cell Institute at the University of Cambridge, and the University of Copenhagen discovered gut stem cells that repair the damage caused by inflammatory bowel disease when transplanted into mice. Here.

A 17 year old girl in China with serious facial disfiguration due to terrible burns had a new face using pioneering technology that used tissue from her chest to craft a new face. She told reporters that the best part of this whole process, was that she could smile again. Here.

A huge leap in harnessing fusion for the benefit of unlimited energy was taken by US scientists in October. The amount of energy created by the reaction exceeded the amount used to cause the reaction. This is a World first. Here.

November:
A brand new way of scanning the heart for early signs of the causes of heart attacks was developed passed early tests. It highlights dangerous areas of the heart most at risk, in far greater detail than ever before. Here.

Researchers at Sheffield University discovered a method to reduce nuclear waste by up to 90%, and safely. Here.

December:
In Montreal, a team of researchers discovered a certain protein responsible for anxiety and emotional memory disorders in humans. They then tested drugs on mice and noted a significant improvement in those suffering with certain anxiety issues. Here.

New research using gut microbes taken from the human gut was found to help reverse behavioural issues associated with autism-like symptoms and reduce gastrointestinal issues that usually accompany autism, when tested on mice. The implication being a greater understanding of autism, and potential future treatment in humans. Here.

Researchers have found the most convincing evidence so far, that Neanderthal buried their dead in Europe, 50,000 years before modern humans came to the continent. Here.

New research found that a drug not yet approved for availability on the NHS is far more effective at preventing breast cancer than any others. The drug is said to halve the likelihood of those considered most at risk, from ever developing breast cancer. Here.

——- In truth, this is all really a very small sample of a few incredible scientific advancements and additions to the library of human knowledge provided by some of the World’s most wonderful minds over the past year. The magnificent science of 2013.


Oprah… Awe is as natural to Atheists as breathing oxygen.

November 1, 2013

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I am quite used to hearing religious folk assert that Atheists do not have an objective moral base for our conception of right or wrong, and it’s so easy to refute, it’s getting tiresome to hear. But a couple of weeks back threw open a new attempt to dehumanise Atheists. This time, from Oprah Winfrey. Oprah suggested that non-believers cannot possibly experience a sense of awe or wonder, and that if you do experience a sense of awe and wonder, you are in fact a Theist. I would like to take the opportunity to point out how desperately wrong she is.

It seems self evident to me that science – the pursuit of knowledge – is itself driven by awe. We are a species blessed with curiosity. Awe is what drives science. Religion is simply a failed science that was used to try to explain the natural World when we had no other explanation. A sense of wonder drove both religion, and science. It is natural to humanity, and does not require faith.

What do you think drove the wonderful Stephen Hawking to dedicate his life to trying to understand the cosmos? Do you not think that he was driven by the awe one feels whenever we stare into the heavens and contemplate the vast blackness of space, our place within it, and the tiny pinholes of light in the heavenly canvas that we now know to be balls of burning gas millions of light years away. I took the above photo, outside of my house. I felt I just had to document how beautiful the night sky appeared to me that evening. In fact, the documentation of beauty is why I take my camera everywhere with me. It is why I can spend hours in an art gallery. It is why music can inspire. It is why the landscape of our breathtakingly diverse planet can drive people to tears. It is why the words of Hemingway can make my heart race and dream of Paris. How humbled we feel. Do you not think that when we consider those balls of gas burning millions of light years away, that we aren’t overcome with a sense of awe and wonder when we remember that the light has travelled so far for so long that many of those stars no longer exist, and that our eyes are therefore our personal time machines? That perhaps one of those balls of burning gas has a planet like ours circling it, with its own inhabitants staring back at us in their own wonder? Why does this need religion?

Is there no excited imagination in dreaming of what it must be like to stand for just a brief moment on the lip of a black hole? The event horizon, upon which light can neither escape the grip of the gravity of black hole, nor is gravity strong enough to pull it in. The moment that time itself comes to a stop. If you were to leave the slowness of time around a black hole, and return to Earth, you would find time has moved faster on Earth, and so whilst a few weeks may have passed to you; days, years, decades, perhaps centuries to those on Earth. Do you not think the knowledge that this actually exists, has us in awe? Do you think that belief in a talking burning bush is what is missing from our lives?

The awe was in the search, but also in the truth of knowing that every last atom that makes up our body, has always existed, since the moment our home sprung into existence at the big bang. We are made from the left overs of stars that have exploded in the very distant past, and those left overs from all over the universe have come together, to form you. You are star dust. Star dust that over time, has developed the ability to know that it exists, to question its existence, to acquire knowledge, to experience love, and beauty, and happiness, to produce incredible feats of art for expression, and engineering. For the brief time that each of us exists, we are a random collection of atoms that have already experienced an incredible history, and we are the universe trying to understand itself. How does this not fill you with awe? Why must you need a story of human sacrifice to atone for sins, to feel a sense of awe? Why can you not experience that in itself?

Does looking out of your window at the colourful tapestry of life, all at the mercy of the unguided design of natural selection, not make your heart race at the majesty of it all? The almost infinite number of ways your genes could have lined up, have lined up in a way that produces you. The history of your family over the centuries, the struggles and hardships have converged, to produce you. You, as a life form, are incredibly unique across the incomprehensible vastness of everything. There is nothing else like you. Your experiences and the way your mind works will never be repeated across the billions of years the universe has left to exist.

How do you not feel humbled, and thankful that our ancestors fought the harshest of conditions, to adapt, to innovate, to conceive of new ideas, to spread to every corner of the Earth and develop art, music and language. Language! A new way to express ideas that doubtlessly contributed to the development of our natural awe and curiosity. The elegance of words have us inspired daily. A single gracefully crafted sentence can change our lives…. “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all are created equal“…. and it is humanity that built the structural foundation upon which language could be expressed so strikingly. This requires neither Prophets, nor Gods. It only requires a sense of astonishment at the achievements of mankind since our birth as a species, through Socrates, Al-Biruni, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein, and what we are capable of in the future.

Religion insists that we have the answers. Stop looking. It’s all in this book. To have faith is to look into the mysteries of the unknown and instead of considering all possible avenues of explanation of inquiry – most of which are incredibly beautiful propositions – simply places “God” into the gap. I see no charm in this. The wonderment and the excitement and the emotion is in the search and the truth can be just as stunning – if not more so – than the fiction. If you need faith for a sense of awe, I feel very sorry for you.

Life is a wonderful question, do not settle for “God did it”.


The Madness of Louie Gohmert (R-TX)

September 1, 2013

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Since 2008, the Republican Party has exceeded expectations, in presenting fanatical hysteria as reasonable points of opposition. From descriptions of dreaded, but wholly invented ideas of ‘death panels’, to gay marriage unleashing a ‘generation of barbarians’, we’ve seen it all, and all in less than five years. But one name often goes unheard (at least, over here in the UK), exists on the periphery, yet epitomises the Republican Party shift from centre-right, to far-right-hysteria. And that name is Louie Gohmert.

Louie Gohmert is Texas’ 1st Congressional District Representative. He was re-elected in 2010 to serve his fifth term in Congress. He has a plethora of beautifully ridiculous statements in his back catalogue. We see Satan Worshipping cross dressers make an appearance, terrorist babies, as well as an oil pipeline necessary to ensure reindeer have sex. It’s a very diverse range that Gohmert has so tenderly bestowed upon us. I’ll give you a brief run down of some of my favourite Gohmert moments:

When pressed for his position on – well – any issue, he finds the most extreme position, and uses it to make his case. For example, on the subject of gun control legislation, Gohmert said:

“…and I pointed out, well, once you make it ten, then why would you draw the line at ten? What’s wrong with nine? Or eleven? And the problem is once you draw that limit ; it’s kind of like marriage when you say it’s not a man and a woman any more, then why not have three men and one woman, or four women and one man, or why not somebody has a love for an animal?

There is no clear place to draw the line once you eliminate the traditional marriage and it’s the same once you start putting limits on what guns can be used, then it’s just really easy to have laws that make them all illegal.

– He managed, effortlessly, to link a slippery slope gun control argument, to a same-sex marriage slippery slope argument. The fallacious nature of the argument itself would be laughable if it weren’t so horrendously dangerous and bigoted. There is a reason the slippery slope is a fallacy; it is baseless. It is like saying: “Well you eat chicken meat, so why not eat human meat? Where does it end!“.

On gay marriage, Gohmert continues:

“someone who believes in evolution … that throughout the history of the universe, and particularly Earth, that people have come together and born an offspring from different species that has evolved and given us stronger and better species, how does the mating of two males evolve the species upwards?”

– This isn’t an attack on gay marriage, this is an attack on homosexuality itself. It is also a complete misunderstanding of evolution, and sexuality. Evolution isn’t about a species evolving “upwards”. It is simply producing survival and sustaining mechanisms for survival within the current climate and landscape that the species inhabits. There is no direction. Evolution isn’t wilfully trying to produce ‘better species’, just species able to adapt to the surroundings of that particular time.

Secondly, sexuality is a natural spectrum. No biologist, geneticist or evolutionist will tell you that sexuality is a choice. Sexuality is a spectrum not just for humans, but hundreds of species. Female Japanese macaques prefer sexual conduct with other female Japanese macaques, but still mate with males. They are entirely bisexual. It is as natural as the spectrum of eye colour. The very fact that homosexuality exists, means it has an evolutionary advantage. Gohmert misunderstands science entirely.

Whilst on the subject of same-sex marriage, Louie Gohmert – an actual lawmaker – gave us his belief on where such legislation would inevitably lead. According to Gohmert, those supporting same-sex marriage wish to see:

…hire whatever Satan-worshiper, whatever cross-dresser you think might be immoral, that’s against your religious belief. You are going to be forced to abandon your religious beliefs, and we’ve been seeing that with some of the requirements under Obamacare.”

– Yes! Someone had to say it! Obamacare is simply a mask to make Churches hire cross-dressing Satan-Worshippers! It’s SO obvious. Wake up America!
The fact that this man gets the privilege to vote on gun legislation; a vote on the safety of your children in school, is quite frankly repulsive.

On the subject of sex-education, Gohmert said:

“Mankind has existed for a pretty long time without anyone ever having to give a sex-ed lesson to anybody.”

– Humanity also existed for a very long time without Jesus. So naturally we can assume Gohmert wishes to withdraw talk of Christ from the classroom. Gohmert’s argument here could be used to restrict progress in any subject known to man. Mankind existed for thousands of years without airplanes and cars, so let’s scrap them. Progress is defined by moving from a primitive stage to a more enlightened stage of human existence. Sex-education, according to Gohmert is fine as it is. It’s not necessary to educate our children. I mean, it isn’t like we’ve had millennia of Patriarchy, sexual oppression, whilst an old white man’s womb controlling Republican Party continues to push anti-women sentiment, anti-homosexuality sentiment, anti-contraception sentiment, anti-transgendered sentiment, that absolutely leads to sexual discrimination and bullying in school and beyond and perpetual patriarchy. That’s never happened. Why would we need to educate children away from primitive ideas on sex? Thanks Louie!

But there’s one thing missing from his argument to make it typically as far to the Republican Right as possible:

“I was shocked when they were saying ‘no, the children don’t belong to parents, they belong to the state.’ And if any parent said anything in front of their children negative about the wonderful Soviet Union, then we will take their children away and give them to somebody more deserving. And I just thought how horribly shocking that was, that of course parents were the ones who love the children, not the state. And I thought thank God that we don’t have that in our country.”

– Yes! That’s what was missing! Drawing comparisons to Communism! Here, he suggested that sex-ed takes responsibility away from the parents, and places it in the hands of the State. I’m not sure why this only applies to sex-ed, and not, say, geography? And there is no comparison. The purpose of sex-ed is to ensure children have all the available information on their bodies, on contraception, on relationships, on their developments, on the risks and so on. It is not the purpose of sex-ed to take children from their parents, if their parents criticise the President.

In 2010 on the floor of the House, Gohmert told his fellow Representatives, that the terrorists had a new plot. According to Gohmert, he had been given evidence that:

“It appeared that [the terrorists] would have young women, who became pregnant, would get them into the United States to have a baby. And then they would turn back where they could be raised and coddled as future terrorists. And then one day, twenty, thirty years down the road, they can be sent in to help destroy our way of life,”

– So, whilst crossdressing Satan worshippers are preaching to Soviet children about sex-ed, terrorists will be impregnating American women with terror babies. Naturally, Gohmert hasn’t produced any evidence to back up this madness, other than the word of his apparent FBI informant. Needless to say, the FBI’s former Assistant Director, Thomas Fuentes responded that there is absolutely no evidence, or even concern, or even a report of any kind, at the FBI of a conspiracy of terror babies. Responding to Fuentes refutation, Gohmert told CNN:

“The explosions wont happen for ten or fifteen years. And then you will be one of those blips – I’m not comparable to Winston Churchill – but the detractors like you are comparable to his detractors.”

– It’s nice of Gohmert to point out that he isn’t comparable to Winston Churchill. But despite all of his assurances of a terror baby plot, he has never produced a shred of evidence. So, that’s GOP men v Al Qaeda men, in a fight for the right to control a woman’s womb.

In the past, Gohmert has also blamed the Aurora shootings on lack of belief in God; he’s demanded an investigation into Muslim Brotherhood’s infiltration of the US government; told a woman who aborted a fetus that had no active brain function that she should have carried it to full term; and that he supported the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline because reindeer will have more sex:

“So when they want to go on a date, they invite each other to head over to the pipeline. So my real concern now … if oil stops running through the pipeline… do we need a study to see how adversely the caribou would be affected if that warm oil ever quit flowing?”

Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert is typical of the new Republican right. Amid the occasional hysterically funny sentiments about reindeer oil-pipeline romance, he seems unable to fathom that there is a vast gulf between quantifiable evidence, and what he believes might probably happen, sometime, maybe. The Republican crazy-right are incapable of presenting evidence for their most frenzied arguments. They tend to contradict secure, scientific understanding of the World and of humanity at every possible opportunity, without presenting a thesis or even a shred of evidence as to why the scientific consensus is wrong, and they are right. Whilst I would agree that it is a tactic designed to whip up fear and agitation, I would also argue that politicians like Gohmert genuinely believe what they say to be true, and that is perhaps far more unnerving.

Texas can do better than Louie Gohmert.


The genius of our ancestors

December 26, 2012

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I get this a lot:
“If people evolved from apes…. why are there still apes?”
– The obvious problem here is with the word “still”. It presumes a continuation of the same, unchanged genetic make-up, untouched by the requirement to adapt. This is wrong. The apes you see today, are not the same apes as those 1,000,000 years ago. Apes today are as evolved as we are. As are slugs, spiders, and cats. They all required different methods of survival based on different circumstances; climate, terrain, predators etc. Apes today are evolved as a different branch from a common ape-like ancestor, shared with humanity. We shot off over millions of years, in all different routes. The ape-like ancestors that broke from the forested areas of Africa, over the savannah became so far apart from the ape-like ancestors still within the forested areas (body structure became different – those who left the forests no longer needed upper body strength in the capacity that those still in the forests did…. and so that trait was no longer necessary for survival), that they became a different species altogether. They slowly, and for many reasons, diverted to all different lines that eventually became homosapien…. human.
And the history of humanity, has been fascinating.

The first thing to note is, there is no real difference between “micro” and “macro” evolution. Macro evolution is simply the accumulation of adaptations over a vast scope of time, that eventually produce different species from the ancestor. It is a term Creationists use for no real purpose. They appear to be under the rather odd impression, that we believe there is an instant in time, when a chimp throwing feces, becomes a man in a suit, looking up mortgage rates; this is their “macro evolution” claim. It doesn’t exist. Macro-evolution, is simply micro-evolution played out over hundreds of thousands of years. If you discuss this with Creationists, they move the goal posts. It’s a pointless discussion. ‘Creation Science’ is not valid, it isn’t respectable, and no credible biologist nor geologist takes it seriously.

Others ask “Where is your evidence?” Well, that’s a massive question, because we have such a plethora of different strands of evidence. For example, we know that if you were to lay The analogous chromosomes 2p and 2q taken from great apes end to end, they would create an identical structure, to the human chromosome 2, including the remains of the ends of the two chromosomes fusing in the middle, to show that somewhere along the line, the two chromosomes became one, and thus, became human. It is a perfect match. I cannot even begin to describe how unlikely this is, had it not been for evolution. I wont get into the evidence from the fossil record, needless to say, the painstaking work that went into progressing the fossil record, recording it, and proving as we’d expect to see through evolution… that the oldest layers of the Earth’s surface, contain early, less evolved species, whilst the top layers, predictably, contain more advanced species, is exactly as we’d expect to see. It is the reason you will not find a modern rabbit skeleton, in an older fossil layer. It is a perfect record, with no reason to doubt its validity. There is also a lot of evidence for speciation in the fossil record…. Creationists don’t accept this, for some odd reason (yet, they do unquestioningly accept the story of dust man, rib lady, and talking fire bush). We also know that modern biology, medicine, zoology, and a list of other subjects are predicated on evolution being true.

We also hear the oft-repeated “There are no transitional fossils!” line from Creationists. I don’t know where they get this idea. The fossil record is full of transitional fossils. For example, Tiktaalik roseae is a transitional form from Acanthostega gunnari to Eusthenopteron foordi. One of many, many examples of “missing links”.

And so, given that it is as close to fact as possible, I am often struck by the degrading rhetoric aimed at our ancestors, that those with faith feel the need to vocalise whenever the subject of evolution is brought up. It is of course a defence mechanism from those who are aware that their myths are based on weak conjecture and second hand nonsense, from period of human history in which we understood nothing.
Here is an example of that defence mechanism:

evolution

We owe our ancestors everything.

I am unable to understand how we could degrade their memory by evoking the idea they were simply dumb apes. I shall now take a look at what we have our Primate ancestry to thank for. Our actual story; of survival, of hardship, of innovation and inquiry and progression and evolution is far more spectacular than that offered by religion, which is nothing but the creation of slaves compelled to obey a dictator. Whilst aspects of religion have given us wonderful works of art and of poetry, and have built the most spectacular buildings, and inspired great philosophical inquiry, the most devious aspects have promoted tyranny and oppression of our natural state as rational and progressive beings.
We insult our ancestors, when we imagine them as slaves to a celestial dictator; depriving them of their hard earned place in the wonderful history of man.

If we take our ancestry as humans back around 2 million years ago, we see our earliest known ancestor from the Homo genus; Homo Habilis. In the wonderful book ‘Adam’s Tongue; How Humans made Language, How Language made Humans’, Derek Bickerton suggests that Habilis developed a sort of proto-language, between great ape sounds and modern human communication, to aid them in their scavenging techniques.
Habilis, it is suggested, was far more advanced that Chimpanzee at the time. There is evidence to show that Habilis mastered the use of Oldowan stone tools. Excavations from the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia suggest that the tools were used to cut through bone and plants. What a wonderful innovation, a testament to the power of the evolving mind, and the nature of our ancestors to not just survive, but improve their standard of living. Niche-construction working hand in hand with natural selection.
Here is Homo Habilis:

450px-Homo_habilis

We owe developments in language, and tools to Homo Habilis. Most of all, we owe our survival as a species. At the same time that Habilis existed, similar Homo-like creatures fought for the same ground, and food alongside them. Australopithecus boisei is a member of the extinct Paranthropus genus. Because of Habilis use of tools among other superior elements, Australopithecus boisei eventually died out, whilst Habilis went on to continue the line of human evolution. Without Habilis, it is unlikely that we would exist today.

Homo Ergaster (about a million years after Habilis) seems to be the direct ancestor of modern Homo Sapiens (us) that was first to use symbolic communication (a sort of precursor to art), similar but obviously less complex, than we today. Paleanthropologists Richard Leakey, Kamoya Kimeu and Tim White named Ergaster, after the Greek word for “Work man”. This naming reflects the advanced tools found with the bones of members of the Egaster family. The Saharan Acheulean handaxe is a spectacular hand axe type tool made and perfected by Ergaster. The handaxe seems to have been used to kill their captured animal, and skinning it for food; it is an important technological development, when we consider that it is also true that Ergaster had began to harness the use of fire. Egaster is also said to have had powerful legs, making them extremely fast runners.
We have Ergaster to thank for sophisticated tools, and use of fire, and for their speed, for survival.
Here is Homo Ergaster:
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Homo Heidelbergensis may possibly be the direct descendent of Homo Ergaster (for those who consider Ergaster to be different from Erectus….this is contentious). Somewhere along the line, Homo Heidelbergensis became Homo Sapien, others became Neanderthal. Studies show that Homo Sapien, and Homo neanderthalensis shared a common ancestor around 400,000 years ago. This puts that common ancestor in the range of Heidelgensis, and their African branch becoming modern Human.
Here is an easy way to describe the digression:
modern_human_family_tree
– It is safe to conclude that the transition from Homo Heidelbergensis to modern human, began between 200,000 and 100,000 years ago. So, we should probably look at the developments that we inherited from Heidelbergensis.
It is thought that Heidelbergensis was the first of our ancestors to bury their dead. It is also the case that Heidelbergensis developed a form of language more advanced that Ergaster, which helped it develop a more ‘human’ like social situation and more sophisticated culture, through language. Between the divergence of Homo Heidelbergensis to Neanderthal, and the divergence to Homo Sapiens, that period may have been key to the victory of Homo Sapiens over Neanderthal some 30,000 years ago.
We have Heidelbergensis to thank for developing more sophisticated language, and sense of social structure.
Here is Homo Heidelbergensis:
homo.heidelbergensis.a

Around 71,000 years ago, just after Homo Sapiens left Africa, it has been suggested that due to the eruption of Mount Toba in Sumatra, modern human races might have diverged as a result of being cut off from populations of other modern humans. It is estimated that the eruption, leading to famine and other survival problems may have caused our numbers to drop to less than 15,000. The size of a small town. And yet, here we are. Diverse races, and the dominant species.

It is around this time that we start to develop more impressive tools. Tools that Neanderthal hadn’t developed. Our tools were constructed out of more than one material. We manufactured different categories of tools, which of course requires a stronger form of communication, to teach.

As Homo Sapiens left Asia for Europe, some 45,000 years ago, and about 20 – 60,000 years after leaving Africa, they soon discovered that Neanderthal – with their bigger brain, more powerful figure, and more adapt understanding of the landscape of Europe – had beat them to it by about 100,000 years. It is pretty evident from studies over the years that Neanderthal and Homo Sapien co-existed for thousands of years. This baffles and amazes me. A different species of human, living side by side with us for thousands of years. Amazing.
There are many theories as to why Homo Sapiens out lasted Neanderthal. The suggestion that Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals interbred, is too contentious to discuss at length. The argument goes back and fourth every couple of years. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory issued a statement after their study in 2006, to say that there was no interbreeding. Yet, work by Svante Pääbo at the Max Planck Institute concluded:


“The proportion of Neanderthal-inherited genetic material is about 1 to 4 percent. It is a small but very real proportion of ancestry in non-Africans today”.

– It is possible that interbreeding occurred just as Homo Sapiens left Africa. But other explanations exist as to why we share about 1 to 4% of our DNA with Neanderthal. However, there is too great a dissimilarity between Neanderthal and Homo Sapien mitochondrial DNA to suggest that Neanderthal were simply absorbed into the modern human.
One of the ways Homo Sapiens differed to Neanderthal, was in how we dealt with extreme climate change. Around 50,000 years ago, right up until the suggested date for extinction of Neanderthal – 30,000 years ago, it is suggested that the Earth experienced hectic climate change that Neanderthal were not able to cope with. They were built for woodlands, and colder temperatures. The fluctuations would have caused changes to the landscape and to animal life, that did not work with traditional Neanderthal ways of hunting and gathering. Neanderthal continue to move north, as the woodland recedes north. They simply couldn’t adapt with the change. Homo Sapiens were less carnivorous than Neanderthal, and could easily adapt our eating habits to suit the climate changes.

Let us also not forget that to survive, a Neanderthal would have required double the amount of calories per day, than Homo Sapiens, due to their huge stature.

We also know that the Neanderthals, whilst having larger cranial capacity, were not too great with language. Whilst they developed language, it was short and slow. It was far less advanced than Homo Sapiens. One reason for this is that Neanderthal had a tongue that was positioned too high in the mouth to produce many different sounds. Their language, would have been a relatively small variety of sounds, and so given that technological advancement requires language to progress, Neanderthal were at a massive disadvantage in comparison to Homo Sapiens.

Researchers Jill A. Rhodes and Steven Churchill, evolutionary anthropologists, writing their findings of a long study, in the Journal of Human Evolution argue that Neanderthal could not throw particularly well and so relied on up close forms of hunting. Suddenly, Modern man bursts onto the scene, fighting for the same food supply, and with a developed bow and arrow, and long range spears to throw, along with a more adapted form of communication. Neanderthal were at a disadvantage. They were better suited to ambush conditions of woodland, given there reliance on meat. The dramatic climate change would have slowly taken its toll, which explains why we don’t see a sudden extinction. It happens slowly, over a long period of time.

Homo Sapiens were simply far greater at adapting to climate change, than Neanderthal.

We have a lot to thank our “Ape” ancestors for. They set the first bricks of human ingenuity, and they built upon it every step of the way. The fought through the most atrocious and frightening conditions. They rationalised, and they innovated. They domesticated nature. They utilised fire, and tools. They came to the brink of extinction, and survived. They communicated between one another. They created, and they educated. Their struggle simply to survive is the backbone that allows for the deluded religious luxury of remarking on Twitter about how embarrassing and dreadful their legacy is.


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.