I recently attended a talk given by Dr. Brian Moench and Cherise Udell regarding the health affects of open pit mining on nearby humans. It’s not a pretty picture at all, in fact it’s quite scary. Dr. Moench presented mounds of empirical evidence to support his claims that anyone living anywhere near such a mine will experience negative health affects up to and including premature death. Their talk is available on you tube and I would urge everyone to take the time to watch it. Click on the Title below to view.
(Peter Northcott, March 26, 2012)
A recent, and much responded to, posting on the KCRT Facebook page requested suggestions for a new tattoo the poster was contemplating. She wondered what kind of image would best suit her rational, free-thinking, atheistic identity. No yin and yang nor cross nor crescent for her. No Virgin of Guadalupe or horned Mephistopheles would hitch a lifelong ride on her body. Rather, she mused about the iconography of a Celtic tree of life or a Dawkinsian “A” and whether or not these images would suffice.
Hmmm – I thought to myself. What is it with tattoos anyway? Born just after the 2nd. World War and sandwiched between the old-fashioned, often patriotic tattoos of our fathers and the contemporary, expressionistic tattoos of our sons and daughters, and like many in my particular sub-culture, I am devoid of any permanently inked dermal decoration and likely to stay that way.
Are tattoos, as one respondent observed, a graphic illustration of basically irrational thinking? Or, as others suggested, are they meaningful – worthy manifestations of our human intelligence and identity? Some may suggest other lines of enquiry.
Are they cool or kitsch? Are they sexy or not? Are they revealing or concealing? Are they shocking or boring? Are they fun or sad? Are they genuine tribal signals or phony symbols of insecure identity? Are they revolutionary or conformist? Are they for the elite or the exploited. Are they unique or stereotyped? These are all good questions. More to the point, are they worth writing a blog article about?
Not surprisingly, religion offers little guidance when it comes to tattoos. Some faiths strictly forbid the practice; others condone and even encourage it. What we do know is that tattoos have been around for a long time. Ötzi, the ice-man of the Alps was tattooed and he died over 5,000 years ago. But just because tattoos have a long history doesn’t automatically justify their use and continuing existence as rational or desirable. After all, circumcision, foot-binding, skull flattening, scarification, branding, piercing, neck stretching, blood-letting, castration and other kinds of body modification and mutilation also go way back. Some of these practices, performed on children, too young or powerless to give their consent, are, as a result, very difficult to defend as reasonable behaviour. The same kind of opprobrium extends to historical instances of forcible tattoos being applied to slaves, prisoners and concentration camp inmates. Notwithstanding the duress involved, our condemnation is also reasonably based on the permanently harmful or potentially harmful effects of the practices. If tattoos were intrinsically benign or of a temporary nature, there would be no concern about them. However, there are well known health risks associated with tattoos and there are also less well known concerns about toxic communications between people over the visual impacts of misunderstood tattoos.
When an adult human freely chooses to have permanently inscribed images or symbols tattooed into his or her skin it does raise questions. “What the hell was she thinking?” being one of them. The mental image of a sixty-year old with an ever expanding love butterfly on her lower back is only equalled by that of her male counterpart sporting sagging lightning bolts on his calves. “What the hell was HE thinking?”
Recent surveys have shown that about a third of Canadians aged between 18 and 30 have tattoos on their bodies and the trend is increasing. Like it or not, tattoos are now mainstream. But that doesn’t make them rational. I am convinced that rationality is secondary to much older behavioural imperatives when it comes to tattoos and the images and symbols which comprise them. Like many other human activities – cigarette smoking, fashion, popular music, social networking, speeding, slang, Stanley Cup rioting, where reason is not the primary driving force, tattoos are here to stay . . . for now at least. So, if I were the tattooing kind, I’d suspend any worry about rationality and my suggestion to the original poster would be . . . a heart.
After all, love is all that really matters.
I recently received the following email. It touched me and wanted to share it with everyone so I am doing so with the permission of the writer:
My letter to you got me to thinking, how often do we hear us atheists talking about living with a terminal illness and what that means or does to our way of thinking? I must admit that the moniker of terminal illness may be a little dramatic for my case. HIV is now treatable and what was once a pronouncement of a death sentence, may be mostly a thing of the past. (thank you science) I have only known about my HIV for a year now and am still grappling with the long, slow road back to health. Just a month ago, we may have found a drug regimen that works for me! My viral load gets smaller and smaller, and with the latest (last week) blood draw and my doctor thinks I may be undetectable this time around! This is wonderful news as it has taken me longer than most to see results like that.
However, where most people will cleave to religion for comfort in their hour of need, such as a situation like mine, I find my atheism brings me great comfort. This may sound like a paradox as it does not offer me immortality at this point and time. However, I would have to say that knowing it is a virus, and an inspiringly clever one at that, grants me a peace of mind that comes with respect for it’s existence. In some ways the awe I feel for it’s evolutionary engineering and cleverness grants me an appreciation for the thing that is responsible for so much of my physical suffering. This understanding only comes through science and not dusty sacred texts.
Another thing is grappling with the slight, however possible, chance that I may suffer a slow and agonizing death whilst being a hardcore atheist. My atheism grants me a comfort that is rock solid and founded upon reason and fact which is something that religion could never offer. Yes, I am going to die. But with the enlightenment that science brings, I can truly appreciate just how lucky and wonderful it is to exist at all! Comfort in how neat the universe is when looked at through science goggles rather than primitive bronze age beliefs.
I hear so much of what ‘comfort’ and ‘peace’ brings to those whom are suffering. Bullshit, how I feel for those people as they to me seem gypped out on the magic of reality and how precious their life really is compared to the clutchings of unprovable sky gods and folk tales. This comfort and peace that they speak of seems so eerily similar to the “peace” and “comfort” I get to rooting my feet firmly in truth and reality of the scientific method. In that light, I can’t help but admire how much they are selling themselves short of a true life experience before they inevitably have to die.
How I wake up every morning to a blue sky or a green tree know the fractal math that is involved in it’s patterns or in the physics of it’s color. How much more appreciation I have for these things when my knowledge goes more than skin deep.
I hope you get a glimpse of the awe and wonder and joy my atheism brings to me in my time of hardship and pain!
Did you know that fundamentalist religions, including Christianity, are in direct violation of our inalienable human rights?
Some people, like the Founding Fathers of the USA, refer to those rights as “given by God”, so I agree, at first glance it sounds weird…
But what are those “human rights”?
Well, the United Nations tried to make a compromise in 1968 through a political definition that is not as self-consistent as we need it to be, in order to be able to use it as basis for political philosophy and structuring of our society. Most of the articles are good, however, but there are a few that do not belong in the fine company of the others. I shall return to this later in this post. (You can find an overview of them all at www.soverenity.com/humanrights.html)
First, let’s define a “human right”. Since a human is a human, regardless of race, gender, social upbringing, religion, etc., a human right must be a right ALL HUMANS have – no exception. This means that we cannot claim a benefit for ourselves to be a “human right”, if we are not willing to share it with all other people on the Planet!
An obvious conflict now appears at the horizon: Our “right” to own property, in the form of land. It cannot be a human right, because we are not willing to share it with other people! Let us be clear that such a “right” is not a right, but a privilege. Property ownership cannot be a human right – it is a privilege we must pay for in order to enjoy the exclusive use of it. And we must pay a fair market value to the owner – whoever that is. Let’s leave this open, for now…
So, what are some examples of human rights we have no problem sharing with everybody else?
The right to our own body and to making all decisions about it. This means that doctors have no say – they are only advisers. It also means that death penalty is unacceptable, regardless the crime. So is all and any kind of forced medical treatment, including vaccination.
The right to our mind and our spiritual beliefs. No one can force us to believe in anything that does not make sense to us, and no one can make us suffer any negative consequences of having a deviating belief system from their own, as long as we respect other people’s rights to the same!
There is one important exception here, just as the mathematical fact that we cannot divide by zero. As you know, we can divide by anything else, just not zero…
Along the same line, there is one belief we cannot accept or tolerate: The belief that you have a right to attempt to reduce or violate or eliminate the human rights of other people! If we tolerate that belief or any of its consequences in action, we are destroying the whole system of human rights for everybody. So, you are free to form whatever opinion you want, except for this: It is a crime against humanity to support anything with the purpose of destroying our human rights!
The right to our life and our time. What we use our time for is exclusively a matter for ourselves to decide, as long as we do not interfere with other people’s rights to do the same. This means that our time has value, and no one can force us to use it in any certain way they might want to dictate… It also means that we cannot make suicide illegal…
The right to own and possess what we create ourselves, through the use of our own bodies and skills, our own minds and creativity, and also through the use of ingredients or tools we obtained the rights to use, through trade/barter with other humans. This, of course, does not include what you create by using tools or ideas you have stolen from others… (You note that you did not create the land you think you own…)
The right to own what we possess, as long as no claims are in place to show that the ownership rests with someone else, and we are merely keeping these possessions in our custody.
The right to freely communicate, trade, barter, and negotiate deals with others. We can offer to others what we own, and they might want to offer to us something in return that they own. This can include anything we own, particularly our time and skills which we can offer to use for the benefit of someone else, in return for an agreed payment, in the form of something we desire more than what we give up to get it.
The right to elect, appoint, hire, and fire representatives to work for our best interests, in accordance with the deals we make about that. This can be a professional, like a doctor, an architect, a lawyer, or it can be political, like an elected representative.
The right to pursue one’s own happiness and make one’s own decisions about life, as long as other people’s rights to do the same are not violated.
It takes no rocket scientist to figure out that we do not live in a society that respects our humans rights – not even in a country like Canada where we even have a Human Rights Act! It is seriously violated by all kinds of specific legislation and regulations which our politicians and government have no mandate and no authority to make – but made nevertheless.
And then some “rights” that aren’t rights at all, but privileges, because they all represent demands on other people:
Your “rights” to food, water, shelter, property, education and anything else that you cannot obtain yourself, but can only get through the efforts of other people are not rights! They are privileges you might negotiate access to – but you have no business claiming your “rights” to for instance food! This is where the UN Human Rights Declaration goes too far – it tries to secure such “rights”, and that is only possible by imposing obligations on other people. In order to secure your “rights” for a basic education, for instance, some teachers have to provide that education – and giving them an obligation to teach you is a violation of their human rights to make their own choices!
But you certainly have the right to barter with any teacher about giving you the education you seek…
You also have the right to barter for water, if you choose to live in the desert. But you have no rights to demand water delivered to you from Canada, if you choose to live in Arizona or Sahara!
Also, you have no right to be employed or to have a pension paid! If you choose a profession for which there is too little demand to make hiring you attractive to someone else, then you’d better find something else to do for a living…
Now we got clear on what our rights are and what they are not, let us turn to some of the most common conflicts between human rights and (particularly) fundamentalist religion.
First, many refer to the Bible saying that a marriage must be between a man and a woman. Now, this is fine and dandy, as long as it is an internal rule for members of the church, but it is not at all fine and dandy when it is made into a demand to the way government arranges three-party contracts between itself and two individuals, called “marriage”, when no reference is made to any religious organization! In other words, for Christians to try to prohibit same-sex marriages and polygamous marriages is a violation of other people’s human rights!
Next, abortion. Sure, the people against it are sneaky and call themselves “pro-life” supporters. But they aren’t supporting anything but fascism. They are violating a pregnant woman’s rights to make her own choices about what to do and what not to do with her body! “But a fetus is a human being!” Well, if you insist on that, then good luck with your solving the conflict between a woman’s wishes and a fetus’ wishes, which we have no way of knowing anything about… The only way of getting around that dilemma is by assigning some elected or appointed authority to speak for the fetus – against the interest of the woman.
Of course, as long as both parties agree, we have no trouble. But if the woman wants something different than what the “authority” suggests, then how are we going to solve that conflict? By forcing the woman to abstain from using her human rights? It should be easy to see that we are on a sliding board right into totalitarian government then… Where are the limits? Does the woman need to know if she actually is pregnant? What if she doesn’t, but has a miscarriage? Is that then murder? What if she refuses to have a urine or blood test done to establish that she is pregnant, because she does not believe in lab tests or for some other reason? And what if the lab tests are indeed falsified?
Problems like these are not tolerable for a lawful society. We need a clear line for what human rights are – not some blurred grey area that can be manipulated by those who have better and more special knowledge. And we cannot rely on sophisticated technology, like lab testing, in order to determine whether or not we are dealing with a human. This is a judgment that has to be easy for everybody to verify – and the process of birth is, whereas lab testing is not.
Next, teaching religion in public schools or allowing religious services in public places is simply not acceptable, as it forces some members of society to conform with someone else’s religious choices. This actually also goes for closing down public services and permits for businesses to operate, in honor of religious holidays… (Yes, the public celebration Christmas is a violation of some people’s rights to choose their religious beliefs differently!)
Then, bending for religious demands, like allowing certain groups to deviate from standard requirements for public servants, is likewise not acceptable. A police officer is a public servant, and he/she must follow the code establish for other people to recognize the officer as a public servant, through his/her uniform. Allowing deviations from this, based on individual desires for expression their religion, also while on duty as public servants, is simply unacceptable. Those religious minorities have no rights whatsoever to demand this – because it is not a natural consequence of their rights to maintain their beliefs. If they have a personal conflict with performing a specific job, then no one forces them to accept that job. But, sure, they have a right to negotiate whatever terms they would like…
Many religious people are actually quite tolerant to other people and their choices. But when it comes down to allowing other people to nurture their religion with similar means and public respect as they are accustomed to for their own religion, then they do not like it! And they shouldn’t – because what is wrong here is that they already have gone too far by having their personal beliefs turned into a standard for law and order in society. Again, if we cannot extend such “rights” to everybody, then they are privileges, and not rights.
Oh, and then we have prostitution…. Yes, you got it right: it is no one else’s business to determine what a woman (or man) can or should use their bodies for! That’s exclusively for themselves to decide! So, making prostitution illegal is a violation of human rights….
And drugs – oh yeah! Same thing. Prohibiting people from eating, drinking, or smoking certain things is no one else’s business! No one has any rights to prohibit me from drinking alcohol, from smoking tobacco, from growing pot – or even from injecting heroin into my body, if that is what I choose! Trying to stop me from “hurting myself” is a violation of my human rights!
Now, not all religious people are fanatic about all these issues, but I bet that you will have a hard time finding any religious people who are not supporting some violation of some of these fundamental rights! And it really boils down to being nothing but disrespect for other people, trying to force them to make certain choices that might not be what they would do if they had the freedom of choice about their own bodies as they are supposed to have when we all respect our fundamental human rights.
The real problem here is that religious people do not see their religion as being in violation of other people’s human rights. They are programmed by their churches to believe that they “save” other people by making them conform to their religion. And that makes them justify for themselves that they can deprive other people of some of those fundamental choices that represent their human rights!
Religion is a private matter between an individual and the subject of his/her belief – and it must remain exactly that and absolutely nothing more.
When you consider the many different religions in this world, you have to wonder, how it came about that they are so different? And how so many people subscribing to each of them really, in all sanity, can believe that their religion is “the only true one”?
Accepting their fundamental thesis that there is “one and only one God”, the next question has to be what makes believers of a certain religion think that “God” deliberately have misled so many people about who he is – in fact, no single religion is representing a fraction of the world’s population that comes even close to being a majority… So, “God” has fooled far more people than he has told the truth about himself, regardless which religion you subscribe to!
This, of course, makes no sense. But, for religious people, it does not matter if it makes sense – because they still believe it!
This begs the question from the rest of us: WHY?
I will suggest an answer that was expressed in a nice and short way by Hitler’s propaganda minister Göbbels in 1936 and since then been vastly exploited by the tobacco industry in order to double their market by getting women to smoke: “When you tell a lie often enough, people will believe in it as the truth“.
Now, I am no fan of neither Hitler nor Göbbels, and I seriously detest the tobacco industry and it deceitful marketing. But I am not so stupid that I can’t learn from my enemies…
The simplest example is Santa Claus. Most parents have learned that making their childern believe in Santa Claus is simple and easy: it is just a matter of telling the story often enough, and then supply it with some faked evidence. Small children do not possess the brain capability of being critical to information they receive from their parents – they believe everything they hear unless it is clearly evident to be untrue.
So, what is the difference between telling stories about Santa Claus and telling stories about “God”?
There isn’t any, as far as the children goes. They hear religious stories and are popped full of religious statements from day one they can understand language, if they are raised in a religious family… This means that they will believe in what they are told, unless it is obviously untrue and conflicts with what they can observe directly! But religion cannot be proven “wrong” to them – at least not very easily. Religious people have developed a skill for always having a way of explaining “God’s will” and the fact of evil things happening – and small children do not have the capability of disputing that kind of information. Instead, it supports their belief, because they take comfort in letting the doubt benefit the belief – and that makes them volunteer sustaining the belief!
Yes, this is exactly the same as the tobacco industry did in the forties and fifties in order to get women to believe that they are “smart” and “attractive” and “sexy” and “cool” when they smoke… It worked!
We should wonder why this is so? What causes nature to play tricks like this with our minds?
I believe the answer is quite simple, and Charles Darwin actually gave it: It supports the survival of the species!
To understand this fully, we need to realize that our genes and instincts and the behaviors associated with those are not determined anytime recently, i.e. in historical times. This was all programmed into us during the millions of years primitive man was developing as a species. For short reference, I just refer to all those development stages on the human species as “the caveman” – simply because it is simple – and it puts the perspective right.
The caveman had an advantage out of believing in what he experienced repeatedly. The fact that he experienced something before demonstrates that it did not kill him last time. And if he has experienced it repeatedly, then the likelihood sustains the thesis that it does not even represent a significant risk of killing him. In other words: he can rely on it! For no other reason than having experienced it repeatedly.
Psychologists can explain that our subconscious mind is comfortable with what it can recognize. They can also explain that our subconscious mind cannot comprehend a negation, for instance the word “no” and its effect on a statement. We remember the statement, but not the word “no”. All good instructors and teachers know this and carefully abstain from illustrating what the students are not supposed to do – because, later on, they only remember the statement (or the demonstration) – and they use it as model for copying, without having any memory at all about that word “not” that the incompetent teacher assumed would be obvious, later on also.
Marketers know this, and they use it effectively in their media campaigns. All they need to do in order to increase the market share for their product is to present some information that connects their product with some positive emotions! Showing a picture of something nice, along with mentioning their brand name is enough to achieve a significant effect that dramatically increases when being repeated! No need to using logic or for presenting good reasons for the consumer making a choice. We make chocies with our emotions, anyway (and some of use use reason later to explain our emotional choices as being rational…), so it works, without having to support any claims with hard evidence.
It should not cause a rational mind any trouble now to see how religion does exactly the same trick when being taught to small children that have no defense abgainst this kind of brainwashing – which is what it truly is! (My definition of brainwashing is “a deliberate attempt to make someone else believe in something that will affect their decision-making in a desired way, whether or not the information is true or is serving the best interest of the subject.”)
So, our genetic make-up contains a survival benefit for the caveman here, if he will have this capability of believing what he is comfortable with – for no other reason than having experienced it many times before.
But what is the benefit from the caveman’s parents? Why would they teach their beliefs to their children?
My favorite answer here is that it gives them control. When their own logic and power no longer can control the children’s behavior, reference to a “higher authority” very often certainly can! There is power in making other people believe in what you want them to believe in, particularly when you can make them believe in something you know more about than they do!
Santa Claus is a great example. It serves many parents well, for the purpose of controlling the children’s behavior!
So, when parents can benefit from such “control through belief”, then it isn’t difficult to see how this can be exploited by any superior who has some power over other people – and wants to expand or consolidate that power.
And this is exactly what all churces/religions have been all about, since the first signs we have of that from archeological finds. It is a matter of the powers-that-be using religious belief to control the masses.
The powers-that-be are, of course, not interested in having their power base eroded by some annoying facts or doubts in what they preach! So, the more they can suppress any truth that will make their belief system seem “untrue”, the more power they will use to connect such rational doubt of their teachings with fear. All smart preachers will welcome a “Satan” or some other personification of “evil” – and use it to create fear, simply to keep their believers from doing what they don’t want them to do.
Again, back to the caveman: what he fears, he avoids. And his fears do not have to be based on personal experiences! He was/is fully capable of learning from other people’s experiences, by listening and taking advice! This greatly enhances his chances of survival.
And that’s all we need in order to explain why religions have created such a powerful grip on people’s minds, making them defy logic and support their own belief system, no matter how much it relies on ignorance of evidence and logic!
Join us in the Barber Centre at TRU for what will be an exciting and thought provoking debate.
Appearing on behalf of “Dying with Dignity” Canada is Executive Director Ms. Wanda Morris, who will be going head to head with Ms. Margaret Dore of “Choice is an Illusion”. The moderator is Bill Ligertwood, Director of the Kamloops Centre for Rational Thought. This is an open public event with a debate format which will allow for an audience question period. Admission is $5 at the door.
Can someone tell me what’s up with TRU? Since we started this group I have been unable to get any kind of commitment from any of the faculty to even present a lecture to us. This really became painfully apparent during our recent Darwin Week. I had approached the Dean of Science regarding doing some kind of talk and/or event to celebrate Darwin’s birthday and left with the distinct impression that we were going to have an event of some kind to promote. However from that point on I got completely stonewalled ! Wouldn’t return emails or phone calls etc. etc.
I have since learned that there appears to be a real sense of fear and intimidation among the staff of the University because of pressure coming from administration regarding having anything to do with us. Apparently someone high enough up to matter is a “Deacon” in the local Baptist Church and has made it clear that we are persona non grata and that anyone who deals with us is in for some kind of trouble.
This is the reality at a University? A University that has a chaplaincy which does nothing but prosthelytize one and only one religion. A university that hosts an American based and funded fundamentalist christian cult known as 12 stones who call the TRU admin building their chapel.
If this is indeed the case at TRU one wonders why the faculty appears to be cowering in fear. They are protected from reprisals one would hope. All we’re asking them to do is to promote their discipline by doing lectures for our group. But it seems it goes even further than that. We are hosting Dr. Lawrence Krauss in May and we can’t even get the physics department to set up a meeting with students or anything else for that matter. This is a World Renowned physicist and cosmologist and because he’s an “Atheist” they have to skulk around in fear of being seen with him.
Shame on TRU and it’s administration and board for allowing this disgraceful situation to take place. Perhaps they should just call themselves TWU (Trinity Western University)and get it over with. Or perhaps the staff and faculty could stand up and act like educators instead of allowing their academic freedoms to be debased like this.
Hi everyone ! I guess I better be the first one to dive into the Blogosphere as terrifying as the prospect is of having to bare my soul and my thoughts on a regular basis. I’m going to keep this one simple and just extend my thanks to Derek for putting together this incredible website for us! I also want to encourage anyone who wishes to Blog with me to get in touch. The more the merrier as they say. You will notice that the site does not include a link to the Forum. This is due to the simple fact that it doesn’t get much use these days as most people are using the facebook group for discussion etc. We will probably be deleting the forum as such in the next little while.
Any suggestions or comments regarding the new site are also welcome so don’t be shy.