"What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but an absence of self-criticism." - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, October 26, 2007


Pickled Politics has another post on the anti-theistic tone of the British 'National Secular Society', who I've also complained about in the past.

I'm an atheist, and it doesn't look like that's going to change any time soon. But it's pretty obvious that religious belief, in its many forms, isn't going to just disappear off the face of the Earth in the near future. What groups like the NSS need to do is look at and promote ways in which everyone, regardless of their metaphysical beliefs can live with minimal conflict. The fact that key figures in the organisation seem to prefer pissing off non-atheists at any opportunity seriously damages their credibility in doing that.

Secularism, like humanism, isn't an exclusively atheist position: many religious believers also want to see freedom of thought defended against authoritarian and intolerant organisations. The NSS only weakens its position by pushing them away.


Just spotted this on the 'Atheist Ethicist' blog and thought it was appropriate:

Bigotry consists, in essence, in creating a ‘group’ category and condemning or praising individuals in the virtue of their membership in that group, regardless of individual contributions.

Read the rest.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

International Philosophy Championship


Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Ontological Argument

(This is hopefully the first in a series of posts going "back to basics")

One of the many “proofs” of God's existence put forward through the years has been the 'Ontological Argument' – an attempt to demonstrate the existence of the divine through logic alone.

Although there have been many versions of the argument, I believe the gist of it can be summarised as:

God is the most perfect being in the universe

The most perfect being in the universe must exist

Therefore, God exists

(This is, admittedly, a rather simplified take on the many versions of the argument put forward by the likes of Anslem and Descartes.)

A number of objections have been put forward against the ontological argument – the strongest being that it's an essentially analytic argument and can therefore provide no empirical facts about the world.

The above argument can be summarised as: The most perfect thing in the universe exists. While this is clearly true (being a tautology) it says nothing about the nature of that thing, which remains an open definition: In a universe consisting of only three beings (Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Han Solo, for example) the argument will still hold, as one of those three will be the most perfect being in existence.


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Thursday, October 04, 2007

A Thought Experiment

Meet the Bernards:

Bernard A wanted to murder his Aunt Agatha in order to inherit her fortune. Sadly – for him – the opportunity never arose in which he was able to do so safely, and therefore he had to wait until she died of natural causes.

Bernard B exists in a parallel reality which is identical to Bernard A's in almost every respect, except that an opportunity arose in which he was able to murder Aunt Agatha and inherit her fortune.

The Day of Judgement comes... should Bernard A be judged more harshly than Bernard B?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cynicism vs. Joy

For me it is amazing to experience daily the radical difference between cynicism and joy. Cynics seek darkness wherever they go. They point always to approaching dangers, impure motives, and hidden schemes. They call trust naive, care romantic, and forgiveness sentimental. They sneer and enthusiasm, ridicule spiritual fervor, and despise charismatic behavior. They consider themselves realists who see reality for what it truly is and who are not deceived by "escapist emotions." But in belittling God's joy, their darkness only calls forth more darkness.

People who have come to know the joy of God do not deny the darkness, but they choose not to live in it. They claim the light that shines in the darkness can be trusted more than the darkness itself and that a little bit of light can dispel a lot of darkness They point each other to flashes of light here and there, and remind each other that they reveal the hidden but real presence of God. They discover that there are people who heal each other's wounds, forgive each other's offenses, share their possessions, foster the spirit of community, celebrate the gifts they have received, and live in constant anticipation of the full manifestation of God's glory.

Henri J.M. Nouwen The return of the prodigal son

I see much of myself in the cynic. Especially in religious scenarios. It is interesting to note that the joy Nouwen speaks of is not something that just "happens". It's chosen. I can see how, much like love, this joy is transformative to those who experience it. (an those who manifest it as well) It is my greatest hope that my life may in some small way be a "light" that might disperse much darkness. It is my greatest hope for you as well.

Speaking of which, what are we to make of the implied consideration that one must be a religious person in order to experience this joy? To this I would simply like to say that (at least in my view) the implication is misplaced. For those who don't assent to the intellectual proposition "there is a God" yet who's life displays a faith in love beyond self, I maintain they know more than they realize.

Tom once said to me he gets the feeling I believe in love more than I do in God. I'm not so sure there's much of a difference. I don't see how we could have one without the other.

"God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him."
1 John 4:16

Choose joy. Choose love.

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