Those Spiteful Atheists

Some stupidity like this is doing the rounds:

1) Being an atheist is okay. Being an atheist and shaming religions and spirituality as silly and not real is not okay

2) Being a Christian is okay. Being homophobic, misogynistic, racist or otherwise hateful person in the name of Christianity is not okay

3) Being a reindeer is okay. Bullying and excluding another reindeer because it has a shiny red nose is not okay

But Hold On

Atheists don’t generally shame spirituality and say it’s not real. Spirituality is a human emotional feeling that some humans have more than others; and some atheists are spiritual, though they don’t need a deity for that.

Atheists do say religion’s gods are not real, and that’s just as okay as believers saying their gods ARE real.

And, of course, when YOU the believer say YOUR god is real, and the only true god, then YOU are saying the gods of other religions are not real. And that’s okay?

These very different gods cannot be all real. So believers inherently deny the reality of all gods but theirs. So, this admonition aimed at atheists is hypocritical BS.

But let’s look a little closer at those words above and what they imply.

Is it okay to criticise those Christians that are homophobic, misogynistic,
racist? Of course it is. YOU just did it above. And do YOU think racism is shameful, or not?

Let’s look at another angle.

Point 2 seems reasonable, because it is criticising the persecution of people for what they are and cannot help being: homosexual, female, of a different ethnic origin. Point 3 is similarly aimed at people for what they are – the animal equivalent of fat-shaming, or bullying kids that need to wear glasses, or bulling people for being a bit further from the norm than most others.

But when you look at point 1, what is this ‘shaming’ really targeting? It’s targeting the ideas and beliefs that people hold. It’s targeting the religious based justification for homophobic, misogynistic, racist agendas.

Is that not okay?

If you think not, then you need to think twice when you post jokes that make fun of or shame Conservatives, or even Fascists. If ideas are not up for scrutiny then you’ve just shut down the whole debate of political ideas, including your own. YOU have taken on one of the most reprehensible
aspects of extremists ideologies – shutting up criticism.

What do you think those three points are meant to do, if not shame people into thinking cuddly nice religion deserves a free pass on criticism and ridicule for stupid ideas.

The bollocks above is based entirely on the religious demand for special privilege. If you think YOUR belief is that special it cannot be made fun of, then you are demanding a privilege that in all likelihood YOUR religious
belief does not live up to. Have you read the religious scriptures of most religions and how it doesn’t merely shame non-believers, but in many places predicts their eternal suffering in hell, or even demands their punishment, even their death, here on earth. And based on what? Some ancient texts written in totally ignorant times?

If you think some politicians are not making sense because they are not paying attention to reality, then most religions DESERVE shaming and ridicule, because they are based directly on myth and not on reality.

At least David Cameron isn’t going to Europe and arguing for changes in fishing quotas because Poseidon demands it.

And yet, those nice warn friendly Anglicans don’t deserve ridicule for their beliefs? Think again: Floods are judgment on society, say bishops.

Get over yourselves. Religion is stupid, and often shamefully homophobic, misogynistic, racist. The method of using faith to sustain your religious belief is exactly the same faith mechanism that religiously inspired terrorists use to sustain their belief in the most abhorrent scriptures of their religion.

Another Empty Claim That ISIS ‘Warp’ The Religion

Paris attack: As a Muslim I’m disgusted how Isis can carry out this violence and claim to represent my faith – Miqdaad Versi

“I am equally if not more so angry that these people should do so through some misguided and warped grasp of my faith.”

Come on, Miqdaad, this is not convincing. You really can’t make a case that it is a warped grasp of ‘your’ faith without being very explicit about what your faith is; and simply saying it’s ‘Islam’ is the nature of the problem. Because ‘your’ Islam is not ‘their’ Islam. What you take from Islam isn’t what they take form Islam. But let’s be honest here, what they take from Islam is right their in the ‘inerrant’ world of god, and in the examples of the life of your prophet: the stoning, the beheading, the demand for lashing for sex outside marriage. You have to ‘warp’ those words, with selectivity, the magic of ‘context’, or whatever else you do to take only love and peace from those texts.

“But there is also a real concern that in the days ahead, there will be those who will try to use the Parisian atrocity to divide the British society and as an excuse to launch attacks against Muslims, as happened after the Charlie Hebdo attacks earlier this year.”

I appreciate that concern. But let’s be honest, it will pale into insignificance compared to the threat that atheist bloggers in Bangladesh live under. Some perspective, please.

“With a number of horrific tweets talking about killing all Muslims …”

You know this is mostly bullshit, right? Let’s take a moment here to note that when ISIS say they want to kill infidels, they really mean it. They were real deaths in Paris, not empty threats. The killers of Lee Rigby really did kill him and didn’t merely post empty threats on twitter.

“… and with people such as Richard Dawkins equating Islam with Nazism, …”

Again, let’s be honest here. Dawkins is referring to the way Islam is presented to us by ISIS. This has many similarities to the surge of Nazism, including the persecution and genocidal treatment of whole groups of people based on their religious or political identity. And, again, the script for that can quite legitimately be taken from the Islamic texts – at least as legitimately as you take your watered down Islam of love and peace.

“Verbal assaults against Muslims have already begun to take place.”

Wow! Verbal assaults. Now that’s not nice, and we should object to it strongly. But hardly on a scale of the Paris attack is it.

“At a bus stop in the UK today, a man shouted, “They need to all die, these Muslims need to die. Look what they’re doing in Paris,” to a young Muslim woman.”

Take a moment, Miqdaad, and think about what has been said by Muslims around the world regarding non-Muslims. Look at the rhetoric used any time a cartoon of Muhammed is produced.

“British Muslims have also been rocked by suicide attacks devastating Beirut which killed over 40 people, and in Baghdad, which took over 20 lives.”

British Muslims have been rocked? Why mention British Muslims in the context of these killings? Suddenly the unity of Muslims is important, when Muslims are victims, but not so much when Muslims are the perpetrators?

I stand with you against the physical attacks on Muslims in the UK that you describe. However, when you list the attacks in Beruit and Baghdad, they have been attacked by Muslims, so making your point particularly decietful.

“These incidents come on the back of thousands being killed by Daesh in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, amongst others.”

Yes, we know that most victims of Muslim Islamists are Muslims. And we know that pious Muslims can become victim to the incitement to violence for merely having been supposed to have damaged a copy of the Quran.

“There are many who feel wary of trying to restate the fact that #MuslimsAreNotTerrorists…”

Dishonest again, Miqdaad. Try ‘#MostMuslimsAreNotTerrorists’, because some clearly are.

“Once again there will be a debate as to whether Muslims should be compelled to condemn those terrorists who kill in our name.”

Do you feel it needs to be debated whether Muslims should condemn those terrorists?

“Sadly, I feel we have no option but to make sure our voice is heard.”

And I feel the same too, though I suspect many of your fellow Muslims would call me an Islamophobe for doing so. And you know full well if you state it too loudly and clearly some of your fellow Muslims will call you a traitor, because, again, unity in the face of criticism of your religion is far more important than siding with infidels against the extremes of your religion.

“Muslim have come out in united condemnation to stand apart from this evil.”

Yes, and that is very welcome.

“There is also a desire to move beyond words and show solidarity through action.”

Even better.

“As we all mourn the devastation caused by these terrorists, who try and claim legitimacy from the faith of Islam, …”

They do no more than you do, Miqdaad. You too claim legitimacy. And you and the terrorists deny it of each other. You play the Takfir game.

“… and as we all support effective methods to keep our nation safe and secure, we cannot let the terrorists win by dividing us. Together, we must stand united.”

This is the most heartening part of your piece. But it really doesn’t help when you hide from the facts. ISIS can claim Islamic legitimacy just as much as you can. You may not like that, and nor do I. I wish you and ISIS were of different religions. It would make life a lot simpler of all of us.

But you share the same ‘inerrant Quran and the texts of the Hadith; and the ISIS interpretation needs far fewer excuses and contexts to justify it.

If you really think that we should all stand together, then let’s do it for the liberal that allow us to criticise each others beliefs without fear of violence in the name of it, or without stifling dissent within your religion by persecution and even a sentence of death for leaving it.

Do you support what Maajid Nawaz is doing? Or is that asking too much? How about Asra Nomani? Or are you so stuck with the inerrancy of your tests that you must play the Takfir game with ISIS?

Scott Eric Kaufman – Friend or Foe?

Scott Eric Kaufman’s Salon article headlines with

Sam Harris slams liberals who “followed Noam Chomsky off the edge of the world”

and sub-headlines with

He’s right to criticize Chomsky’s solipsistic view of foreign policy, but this might not be the best way to do it

Damned with faint praise. Scott leaves a few things just hanging there, tempting regressives to read their warped view into it.

but that didn’t stop him [Harris] from slagging Chomsky and those who believe in the pernicious effect of American policy on the world at large.

That, in the context of the Harris-Chomsky exchange and the response of those that thought Chomsky ‘won’, implies Harris is slagging Chomsky and those who believe in the pernicious effect of American policy on the world at large, for not thinking there’s a pernicious effect of American policy on the world at large. He does think there is such an effect, and he says so.

The very specific point Harris is making in this context is that while that effect is true, it’s the regressives that claim that to be the major factor in the rise of Islamism and terrorism from Islamic extremists, to the extent that they almost ignore the effect of Islam, and many even deny Islam is a serious causal factor – and they take that position because to them to do otherwise would be lending support to fascist racist ‘Islamophobes’.

The irony is that, as Harris points out, that leaves a gap in public discourse of the tabloid readers the only serious critics of the connection between Islam and and extremism are the xenophobes and racists. Harris laments the fact that the regressive apologetics for Islam, in the guise of supporting Muslims from persecution, leave this window open for the fascist racists.

And the double irony is that the regressive then claim, very explicitly, that Harris is endorsing xenophobia and racism for pointing that out. Talk about shooting the messenger. For the many that haven’t actually read Harris, and even some that have yet have been persuaded by the regressive narrative about him, the direct impression you get when following people like Greenwald, Aslan, Uygur, (and, FFS, Werleman) is that Harris is a neocon racist bigot – and that impression comes from explicit statements to that effect.

The subtle misrepresentation doesn’t stop there:

While he is correct … exonerating America of all responsibility for the current crises in the Middle East is just as fallacious a position. (Which, polemics aside, Harris no doubt knows.)

No fucking doubt!? He’s said so, many times over. There really is no doubt, because he’s been explicit. Why not say so? It is doubly fallacious of you, Scot, to leave this hanging in the air as if that were otherwise, as if he’d given regressive like Greenwald every opportunity to conclude he thinks America is a totally benevolent actor.

In that specific context of good intentions this is the state of play:

The USA is in principle a democracy that declares equality for all, and it is backed up by the Constitution, and even includes an explicit declaration of the freedom of religious belief. The US has about the clearest most benign declaration of its intent, better than pretty much any other state. Islam, and states that are dominated by Islam, in their laws and constitutional declarations, are very specifically oppressive in the treatment of people – they are far from supportive of equality.

That is the difference of ‘intent’ that Harris refers to.

And it is correct that critics of the USA should speak up when it fails to uphold those principles – which it does often, because of a combination of people of bad intent and greed, vested interests, xenophobic protectionism, and great big doses of incompetence and ignorance. And who is denying that the total fuck-up in Iraq – going in when they should not, coming out too soon, leaving it vulnerable – and the mishandling of Syria, has left the region wide open for the emergence of ISIS.

And nobody complains about the focus on those problems – Harris always acknowledged them.

However, the regressive are in denial when it comes to Islam. They are happy to criticise states like Saudi, and even more, the USA, and UK, for befriending Saudi at the expense of those that Saudi oppresses and kills. But they deny any connection with Islam and its doctrines. And yet if you press many ‘moderate’ Muslims on very specific problems with Islam, they evade and evade, until eventually they will insist that, yes, death for apostasy and blasphemy is what they believe in – and many more immoral positions too (ah, but only when a true Caliphate comes along, so such immoral acts are just fine in that ‘context’).

Even if liberal Muslims and non-Muslims agreed that there was a ‘one true Islam’ that is a ‘religion of peace’, and that the texts of Islam required great scholarship to really figure out how you get from the violent texts to a religion of peace, there remains this problem:

The way the texts of Islam are presented, the Quran as the inerrant word of God faithfully reproduced by Muhammed, and the Hadith as a true representation of his words, acts and ideas, then that still leaves Islamic texts open to literalist interpretation, to be used to indoctrinate the gullible into bviolent jihad. Islam is <strong>the main problem</strong> with Islamic extremism.

Take some British kid, or Pakistani heritage, sometimes suffering racist slurs and discrimination. If it wasn’t for Islam, what on earth would persuade him that the place to be is fighting christians, Yazidis, and other Muslims, in the sands of Syria and Iraq? The whole context of the narrative that gets him there is Islamic.

Bonus – Misrepresentation of Maajid Nawaz

His co-author Nawaz was equally adamant that the problem is Islam.

[My emphasis]

What’s the context of this statement? You do know it really misrepresents Nawaz? Nawaz denies the regressive denial it has anything to do with Islam. He says it has something to do with Islam, not that Islam is the problem. His point is that the religion of Islam too easily allows for the ancient violent texts of Islam (which both Harris and Nawaz acknowledge is present in religious texts of other religions) is all too easily used to justify Islamism and Islamic terrorism – and not oly that, is explicitly or tacitly subscribed to by many ‘moderate’ Muslims (in ‘context’). The works of Islam are historic sources, and should remain intact as such, but the reform Nawaz calls for is the very reform engaged in by many Muslims who do reject the violence and the persecution expressed in the texts; and they do reject punishment for apostasy, blasphemy and sexual behaviour.

And more to the context that Maajid Nawaz is talking about that makes him and Harris oppose regressives, is that the persecution of Muslims is mostly and most violently carried out by Muslims.

In Britain there have been some racist and anti-Islam attacks that have been deplorable. But can you point out how many have resulted in serious injury or death? Then look closer at some of the insular Islamic communities in Britain, and really look at the minorities within minorities that Maajid Nawaz speaks out for.

Is Myers Morally and Intellectually Bankrupt?

So, in response to the Oregon shootings, this was Myers: Is atheism bankrupt?

He references Ashley Millers post, which I cover here: Ashley Miller Invites Our Atheist Self Flagellation.

We had another mass murder in America this week, and there’s no way around it: it was by a “none”, someone who hated organized religion, and who described himself as Not Religious, Not Religious, but Spiritual. If he were participating in a survey, we’d embrace him as one of us, part of our growing majority.

Well, that’s right, we might, with regard to his rejection of organised religion. He would be a contribution to the statistics of the increase in irreligion (as all we atheists are). But I’m guessing that doesn’t make him ‘one of us’ in the way Myers intends. Because that would be the dreaded ‘dictionary atheism’.

I agree completely with Ashley Miller’s point that the myth of atheist superiority is dangerous, and leads to terrible consequences.

I disagree, particularly with respect to this killing, and the Hicks case.

But let’s not fool ourselves that this is really about atheism. I could give Myers some wiggle room, considering the recent trauma of the self-inflicted implosion in that corner of FtB over the Benson affair, I suppose he’s a little disillusioned by it all, and said as much in a recent post. But never mind, he’s not about to miss an opportunity to take up Miller’s thinly disguised attack on New Atheists. Myers is far more explicit. None of the ‘best selling atheist authors’ bollocks. right out with it. It’s the fault of Sam Harris.

But of course, some of our self-appointed ‘leaders’ want nothing to do with that. It never fails that if you want to see the insufferable smugness of delusional atheists, all you have to do is turn to Sam Harris.

I’ll repeat here the quote of Harris that Myers uses, because it’s worth reading in its own right:

No rational atheist (or “New Atheist”) holds religion accountable for every idiotic or unethical thing religious people do. We blame a religion only for what its adherents do as a direct result of its doctrines, such as opposing gay marriage or killing apostates.
Atheism has no doctrines. It does not demand that a person do anything, or refrain from doing anything, on the basis of his unbelief. Consequently, to know that someone is an atheist is to know almost nothing about him—apart from the fact that he does not accept the unwarranted claims of any religion.
Atheism is simply the condition of not believing in Poseidon, Thor, or any of the thousands of dead gods that lie in the graveyard we call mythology. To that extent, everyone knows exactly what it is to be an atheist—he has simply added the god of Abraham to the list of the dead.
If a belief in astrology were causing people to go berserk—to deny medical care to their children or to murder unbelievers—many of us would speak and write about the dangerous stupidity of astrology. This would not be bigotry or intolerance on our part. It would be a plea for basic human sanity. And that is all that an atheist’s criticism of religious tribalism and superstition ever is.
If you understand this, you will recognize any attempt to blame atheism for specific crimes, great or small, for what it is: A fresh act of religious demagoguery.

And what does Myers have to say to this?


Myers gives a quick statement on his position on religion, which doesn’t exactly contradict any of the above from Harris. He even says:

I am all in favour of tearing it down and replacing it with…what?

New Atheism? Yes, .. err, … no, Myers accepted then rejected that. Atheism+? Well, sorta, but now denies his interest in that. Social Justice? Well, who wouldn’t be for social justice? Hey, Harris is a humanist, and goes for social justice too? I know, we can replace religion with Humanism! Has Myers not considered that?

According to Myers:

… and replacing it with…what? According to Harris, nothing.

Well, that’s a damned lie, right there, isn’t it. We know it is. But Myers and his comment crew will keep pushing this theme. So, Harris writes a book on morality, espousing humanist principles, chats to Maher on his show about humanist liberal principles, states it clearly all over his books, articles and appearances. So, why does Myers think Harris offers nothing?

Atheism has nothing constructive or productive to replace the bad system most people are limping along under — rip it all out and apparently, brute reason can then be trusted to evolve something better.

Yes, Myers is actually right here in his rhetorical mockery of the quote from Harris. Myers denounces ‘dictionary atheism’ because Myers has his head stuck up his ass trying to find his own identity in the ‘atheist community’. That’s the problem Myers has been suffering from. He’s searching for something more, within atheism, and he’s looking in the wrong place.

There’s reason organising atheists is like ‘herding cats’. There is very little to it. Myers and others have tried to build a Social Justice Atheism, and you can’t. Some have tried to build a Social Justice Skepticism, and failed.

I follow a few football sites on Facebook (proper football, played with your feet) and on one of them some thoughtful type posted, “Let’s show the world that XXX supporters welcome refugees!” he was told in no uncertain terms to fuck off. Some said, “This is a football page, not a political one.” Others were clearly racist bigots that hated all foreigners, and their words were, well, you can imagine. There are ideas, like atheism, and football, that attract a variety of people. So, big news: not all atheists are nice people, and nor does atheism require that they should be. Dictionary atheism is spot-on. If you want to blame some heinous act on some atheist, you really do have to find some cause other than their atheism. It generally isn’t their atheism.

Atheism, as anything like a movement, can include anti-theist racist bigots. That isn’t a problem for atheism as a movement, it’s a problem for humans. All we can do is denounce them when they appear. They are still fully paid up atheists if they don’t believe in gods, even if they want to kill all theists.

So, reflect again:

… and replacing it with…what? According to Harris, nothing.

With humanism, liberalism. As Harris does.

Never mind that the same atheists who adore the irresponsibility of the idea that their beliefs impose no demands on them are also the same atheists who so detest equality that they spit on feminism;

Remember, Myers is conflating some online anti-feminists with Harris here. Remember here that for Myers, Harris is the target of all this, along with anyone that agrees with him.

… they are so authoritarian that they rush to the defense of their Leaders with a capital “L” no matter how egregiously offensive their bigotry might be, and any who dare to criticize them are “harming the cause”.

No. We tend to leap to their defence because you are so fucking wrong. And what the fuck has ‘authoritarian’ got to do with any of this?

We need purpose and value and meaning as well, and if a prominent Leader of atheism is saying that atheism doesn’t do that, that’s a declaration that atheism is bankrupt, and has failed totally. It has become a Great Nothing.

The people Myers is declaring to be atheist Leaders, ‘L’, don’t take on that leadership willingly. They are merely popular for their writing and appearances, with regard to religion. Myers has been too – though he’s sullied his reputation more than most, without needing to be misrepresented.

When New Atheists talk about theism and atheism, that really is what it’s about. When they debate with theists on the morality that theists claim for their god, the atheists offer humanism, born out of our human biological and cultural history – just as Myers does. So, “It has become a Great Nothing” is just illustrating the fucked up perspective Myers has; his desire to define atheism for others, and to pick up on the straw man that is of his own creating.

That’s not my atheism, though.

We know that. We’ve seen all his twists and turns as he’s tried to fit the square peg in the round hole and wondered why it doesn’t fill it all round. There’s a gap. Because atheism isn’t a social moral systems. Humanism is.

As at least one commenter pointed out, they use the term ‘secular humanist’. Personally, to be a little clearer, I often use ‘atheist secular humanist’. I might even let New Atheist stand for that, because that’s what fits, and that’s how I see the popular New Atheists like Harris and Dawkins – which has to be explained over and over because idiots like Myers, and Greenwald, Aslan, Uygur and others insist on fucking it up with their bullshit.

So, what does Myers think?

I argue that the absence of gods gives greater prominence to the interdependence of the human community, and adds greater weight and urgency to the importance of empathy and equality and all those human values — but if atheism is now a label that allows us to nonchalantly disavow responsibility for the actions of those within our own group, perhaps it’s time to disband the whole idea of an atheist community.

This is so dumb. None of the people Myers is targeting here disavow any responsibility for their own actions. Humanists that are also atheists live by their humanist values, and just happen to be atheists. Racist bigots that happen to be atheists don’t hld themselves to the humanist principles.

Think of it as a Venn diagram, with a tiny fraction of the human characteristics as expressed by binary membership (in or out) of groups. There’s atheism. There’s humanism. There’s theism. There’s hate filled bigotry. They intersect. We all work in that universe.


1 – The humanistic values of religion that Myers would like to replace (with what? he asks).

2 – Of course religion has its bigots.

3 – What Myers is really looking for is atheist humanism. He sees it as his social justice atheism, as a thing; but really it’s the intersection of things: atheism and humanism.

4 – Myers seems to think that dictionary atheists, in saying that these killers are not doing it because of their atheism, are claiming that atheism is all this region: 4 is what’s left, when you remove 3.

5 – And some even imply that if you remove the social justice stuff then atheists are nothing but 5.

But what Myers is failing to see is that dictionary atheists, New Atheists, Harris, are pointing out that atheism really is a separate class, distinct but intersecting with humanism and bigotry. That atheists can be humanists, but need not be.

Myers wants atheism to be just 3. But he can’t make it just 3 by simply whining that it should be.

So, what do you get when you move from theism to atheism? If you’re a humanist you go from 1 to 3. If you’re a bigot you go from 2 to 5.

So, what was Hicks? I recon he was 3, but had issues.

How about C J Werleman? I recon he sure has been a 5, but now tries to pass himself of as 3, but fails. Aslan? A 2. Harris? A 3. Myers? A 3, but dips his toes into 2 far too often.

All this is pointed out to Myers. And his response, in the comments (35):

OK. So atheism is totally useless, and means nothing at all. We might as well go back to believing in Odin.

Now you know he’s lost the plot.

Myers wants his own little Atheism-M empire that he can lead and expand. And he’s been pushing it so ideologically that many people have turned away, or have been kicked out, blocked, for non-conformism.

Of course, Myers got it wrong anyway, in the Mercer case. See more on my post on Ashley Miller, but basically, this:

Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights

So, is this about atheism? Is it abut Sam Harris? Well, had Myers waited he could have still blamed it on Harris because Harris owns a gun, and all gun owners are mass killers.

But this is very inconvenient for those that want to blame it on a sane white atheist. He was mixed race, not entirely rational, suffering the torment of a life with Asperger’s syndrome in the family, and not so much an atheist that it matters – not a raving militant as Myers would have you think of Harris.

So, the two incidents where Myers and others have tried to place the blame on atheists (at least New Atheists) when shooters, Hicks and Mercer killed people, it looks like atheism had little to do with it, if anything at all.

Ashley Miller Invites Our Atheist Self Flagellation

Ashley Miller wrote a post: Atheist tribalism poisons everything

We [atheists] need to talk about how we think that religion is the reason that bad things happen in the world.

I think we’d need to talk about that if that was what we thought.

If we don’t like Christian politicians peddling untrue stereotypes of Muslims, why are we ok with it when it comes from bestselling atheist authors? Atheists heal thyself.

Best selling atheist authors? Who could she possibly be talking about?

There is anger and fear from atheists today upon the revelation that the most recent of the mass shooters in America was a non-believer who targeted Christians. They will blame us, they will think this is all atheists, they will think we are all the same as him.

Well, they might if you keep telling them that it’s atheists doing the deed.

This is not the first atheist shooter, there have been many throughout history. Earlier this year, Craig Hicks took the lives of three brilliant humanitarian Muslims over a parking dispute. Atheists tried to distance themselves and label him as “anti-theist” and others thought he was secretly really a Christian.

Did any of the ‘best selling atheists’ do that? Or did you pick the low hanging fruit? And of course there is good reason to distance the act of Hicks from atheism. His profile on Facebook was one of a humanist atheist, but in other respects he was an angry dude struggling with his personal demons – including parking lots. I posted on Rebecca Watson’s poor take on this some time ago: pseudo-liberals

He was one of us. So was the shooter yesterday.

Was he? Was he really? Was he a Humanist? Was he Atheism+? Was he whatever SJWs pass for these days? Was Mercer even an atheist?

Stop with your buts and your wells and whatever you want to add, just sit with it and live with it for a minute. Let it make you uncomfortable.

This is the most self-indulgent pious bollocks that I’ve seen, and I can only imagine Ashley and Myers now:


Well, maybe not Myers. It’s all other atheists that are guilty, not him.

Atheism can motivate terrible crimes, just like religion can.

No it can’t. Atheism is only about disbelief in gods. It’s very specific in that respect. It isn’t the about the ideological dogma that many at FtB want it to be [We’ll get to ‘dictionary atheism’]. Nothing I know of has every been done in the name of atheist ‘scripture’, where as the link between religiously inspired moralising and the persecution of people is a direct one.

Atheists are so used to being exceptional, to being smarter and less criminal than other Americans, that the fact that someone was an atheist and did a bad thing seems to be exceedingly difficult for us to understand.

No. It’s very easy to understand. If an atheist kills it’s rarely as a direct consequence of being an atheist. It could be that some other political and social programming has given them reason to kill. If an atheist does kill theists for their theism, because the atheist thinks their theism is like some demonic possession, then it’s fair to say that that atheist has a screw loose. And it has fuck all to do with the general nature of atheists. The atheists being referred to here, the New Atheists (thinly disguised as ‘best selling atheists’) are liberal humanists.

Blaming atheists like this Ashley might as well blame all wearers of spectacles – you do now the killer was one of you hateful spectacles wearers, don’t you? Oh shit, so am I, but only for reading, so I’m not as guilty as some, right?

Atheist exceptionalism cannot survive the exponential growth of atheism — all atheists are not better than all religious people.

What? No! Don’t say that!


Furthermore, the atheist community is culpable of spreading bad ideas. We share memes and the belief that religious people are bad and that all religions and expressions of those religions are bad.

Well, you might. In fact you share memes that other atheists are bad just because you disagree with them. I’ll remind you that some on FtB, and especially their commenters, are full of hate for ‘best selling atheist authors’ (sorry, New Atheists; sorry, Dawkins, Harris, Maher).

Harris has to spend a lot of time repeating the same mantra: ideas not people. But these fucking idiots hear that and say, “Ha! You’re attacking people, not ideas!”

For the record, this is why Harris is not a racist bigot that hates people: Sam Harris – Free Will. He clearly sees even the most heinous ISIS Jihadist as the product of his cultural, political and religious programming, as well as his personal nature.

We dehumanize people who disagree with us instead of arguing about ideas. … Humans are tribal, humans are sometimes sociopaths, humans are power-hungry, humans get angry.

And while not as bad as comments on Pharyngula, there’s a fair amount of tribalist commentary that attends posts like this, that does indeed demonise ‘best selling atheist authors’. A lot of the symptoms described by Ashley there can be seen in the commentary of some of the FtB posts and in their twitter presence.

The atheist demographic being dominated by young white men means that it’s not surprising that there are mass shooters who are atheists, shooters are predominately young white men (the Oregon shooter was mixed race).

So, it’s white young men – except when it isn’t. They’re atheist – except when they aren’t. To be honest, since the gun culture is very much a white rebel hang over from the wild west and the civil war, wouldn’t you expect much of it to come from white young men?

Atheism is a rejection of a belief, but it is not a philosophy or creed.

So, atheism is dictionary atheism after all. Who’d have guessed it.

The atheist community online builds up creeds and philosophies in light of that absence. It is reactionary.

Well, that’s predominantly an American thing. Many of us have multiple identities that we apply as we see fit. Many of us are humanists, and even Humanists (Dawkins is a member of the British Humanist Association). Our atheism is often a consequence of critical thinking and scepticism – and Skepticism seems to be another off-shoot that was deemed to be necessary by the US contingent of the ‘atheist community’. People like Myers were happy to be considered New Atheist, then they weren’t; then they thought Atheism+ sounded reasonable, but then they didn’t. Humanism was there all the time. All you had to do was say, I’m a Humanist Atheist, and that would say pretty much all that needs to be said. Try the international humanist manifesto, if you need a creed.

It seems that American atheists have as much an identity problem as some British Muslims. They are keen to invent their own identity and find it in ideology.

We have to let it go. We have to stop thinking we are better than other people just because we know something they don’t — that’s exactly why religious people act the way they do. We aren’t better than anybody and we never were.

I like the sentiment. But I really don’t think that ‘we’ ever thought we were better than anyone else in some mystical self-righteous sense. I’ll leave that to Myers, Greenwald, Aslan and others. The statements from ‘best selling atheist authors’ are usually directed at ideas, or at some specific thing that some theist has said. I take it that when theists claim that homosexuality is the source of the natural disasters inflicted on the world by God  then you’re not so picky about calling such people idiots?

Now, Ashley, while you ask a friend to bathe the wounds on your back, take some time out to read this:

Oregon Killer’s Mother Wrote of Troubled Son and Gun Rights

If you want to do some soul searching, reflect on the fact that you posted before you knew any significant facts about the case.

Reflect on the fact that including “My article, “The Non-Religious Patriarchy,” ”  might just be a clue to your bias here in targeting ‘best selling atheist authors’, and trying to blame this killing on their rhetoric, while dishonestly playing the self-flagellation routine. It doesn’t wash. This was a poorly disguised hit-job.

Reflect on this too: even if the shooter had been a RASH SJW (Rational Atheist Sceptic Humanist Social Justice Warrior) that had concluded that theists need to die, it would still not reflect badly on any other atheists, New Atheists, ‘best selling atheist authors’, FtB, SJWs. The shooter would have been acting in direct contradiction to what all those subsets of atheists hold to: humanism.

Reflect on this, to understand the difference: when New Atheists target religion they target the texts that influence the religious. So, if an ISIS member beheads someone, they point to the ISIS member and the texts that inspire him. They don’t target ALL Muslims for beheading people, for being extremists, for being the killers; they target THOSE Muslims that kill and THOSE Muslims that excuse the text of having any input to the problem; they target ALL believers that use faith, for using faith because it’s a bad methodology. And you SJWs conflate all this as New Atheist racist bigoted Islamophobia.

So when some would-be humanist atheist shooter goes crazy and kills people, his action is a departure from humanism. When a white supremacist racist atheist goes crazy, it’s a direct cause of his white supremacist racism, and his atheism might at most cause him to identify religious targets. That isn’t a reflection on atheism. But when some of the religious quote very specific parts of their religious texts and declare they are killing in the name of their religion, then there is a causal link. And those of the religious that use faith to explain their belief in their holy books, yet deny that those killing in the name of the very same god have nothing to do with their religion, they are directly responsible for excusing the killing by their co-religionists.

But such distinctions seem totally lost on SJWs.

Trav’s Travesty of BS in, On Dawkins is the daily online news site of the American Humanist Association.

On 28 September 2015 it ran with this post: Atheists Have an Anti-Muslim Bigotry Problem by Trav Mamone

Now I’m sure there are atheists that are bigoted towards Muslims. But the target of the post was Dawkins and Maher, who are not anti-Muslim bigots, though they are anti-Islam.

That distinction seems to be beyond the pseudo-liberals.

On a particular point:

When it comes to being an ally for any marginalized group, the best thing to do is listen to other people’s stories.

He then quotes this, from the About page of the ex-Muslims of North America:

There are those who propagate racist, bigoted and xenophobic ideas against Muslims, against anyone who comes from a Muslim background, and even against people who are not Muslim at all (e.g. Sikhs). These types of people (the bigots) tend to treat all Muslims (or all those perceived to be Muslim) as a monolith, a horde without internal differences or dissent. On the other hand, there are those who react to the bigoted, xenophobic types by trying to justify the violent parts of Islam and the harsh actions of some Muslims. This second type (the apologists) often shields Islam and Muslims from any and all critique and scrutiny, even the kinds of critique and scrutiny they themselves apply to other ideologies like Christianity, Capitalism, Communism, and others.

This is BS. Of course one should listen, and Dawkins does, and gets lots of feedback from ex-Muslims that appreciate his support. Being vocal in the west in support of ex-Muslims in the west and in predominantly Islamic nations is just as important as listening. It’s called offering support.

The implication here that ex-Muslims find Dawkins to be a bigoted anti-Muslim is grossly misleading.

Incidentally, take a look at this post, with the only reference to Dawkins I found using their search feature: Campaign against #TwitterTheocracy on June 10th 2014 Look at the list at the bottom:

Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science –

How about some other ex-Muslims. Search Council of ex-Muslims of Britain

Currently the latest result is this link. Which points to this article: Richard Dawkins attacks Muslim bigots, not just Christian ones. If only his enemies were as brave

Dawkins is the sluggish pundit’s dream. It does not matter which paper you work for. Editors of all political persuasions and none will take an attack on Darwin’s representative on earth.

Sharp operators could sell the same piece a dozen times without changing a word. Read the papers, and you will suspect that is exactly what sharp operators have done.

Well done, Trav Mamone. With your article you’ve fit that bill.

Trav did add an update:

[Correction: Bill Maher did say Ahmed Mohamed deserves an apology]

Both Dawkins and Maher defended Ahmed against his treatment. That was clear up-front, in the Maher show and in the Dawkins twitter stream.

I did comment on that article. My comment is still in moderation. I’ve put it below. Maybe it was too long. Maybe Trav is too busy looking for the next hit job. I’ll post a shorter one with a link here, and see how that goes.

So, my comment on Trav’s travesty:

1. Bill Maher supported Ahmed, he didn’t attack him. He said repeatedly the arrest was wrong. What is being conflated with attacking Ahmed is that Maher said … hold on, no he didn’t even SAY it, he asked, was it wrong for the teacher to question the device. And he put it in the context (which many on the left are in denial about) that followers of Islam (some followers; NOT ALL MUSLIMS, got that) have become well known for blowing stuff up.…

2. Richard Dawkins supported Ahmed, he didn’t attack him. Many of his tweets were retest or links to other stuff questioning the clock, and in those he was asking for opinion or evidence and wasn’t endorsing them. Dawkins did become preoccupied with the clock design, but explain why, apologised, and agreed the more important point was the arrest.…

3. On Dawkins this is about as bad as it gets, where even Lauren’s usual supporters were pointing out her errors:…
(I say as bad as it gets, but then there’s always PZ Myers)

4. There’s plenty of stuff around on how Harris has been misrepresented. Try a catch-up here:…

5. Cenk Uyghur loses the plot on New Atheists…

6. For the generally screwed thinking going on here try this:…

And, though not an atheist, look at all the crap Maajid Nawaz is getting from Muslims and pseudo liberals, simply for engaging with Harris. That’s right, engagement, discussion, the exchange of ideas – do that with someone the pseudo liberals have targeted and you’re doomed. Hardly an advert for open minded thinking.

But, “When it comes to being an ally for any marginalized group, the best thing to do is listen to other people’s stories.” doesn’t apply when you already know you disagree.

“However, in order to provide a safe space for ex-Muslims, humanists must listen to and understand the complexities of their stories.”

You mean the way in which Ayaan Hirsi Ali is listened to by the pseudo liberals?

“This is to ensure that your message, i.e. your critique of particular aspects of Islam, is not used by bigots to promote hatred against all Muslims.”

Well, that would be good. Another point Harris makes is that the failure to be critical enough of Islam by pseudo liberals is that sadly the bigoted racist right is not only doing their bigoted racist thing, but they are also making legitimate criticisms of Islam that the left should be doing. The bad result is that the failure of the left is leaving a vacuum which is being filled by the right, attracting otherwise reasonable people to the right. But crazily, for making that point, lamenting that situation, Harris is treated as if he endorses the right not only in their fair criticism of Islam but also of their bigotry and racism.

The left is so busy buying into the persuasive narrative of victimhood (some of it genuine) is causing them to miss what Nawaz calls the minorities within minorities. If you can get it try this:…
A familiar story of the dangers of apostasy, in the UK never mind in majority Islamic nations.

There are racist bigots that target Muslims for where they come from and who they are, rather than for the ideas they hold. And some of those may well be atheists. But it totally dishonest to keep dumping this crap on Maher, Harris and Dawkins.

Dawkins Tweets Ahmed Support

Yes, Richard Dawkins really did tweet in support of Ahmed Mohamed (Storify link below). Dawkins tweeted that the arrest was wrong. He also tweeted many questions, questioning some of the points various other people were making.

But, heaven forbid, he was a little too fastidious in pointing out that stuffing a clock guts into a box isn’t an ‘invention’. For that he’s an anti-Muslim racist bigot, apparently. Even though he apologised for being overly sensitive to the correct use of terms (we know what he thinks about ‘Evolution is just a theory’).

Yes, Dawkins tweeted. That was enough for many of his haters.

Except for that awful racist bigoted refusal to accept the clock as a genuine invention of a budding Muslim genius, I was pretty sure, as I read the exchanges in near real-time, that everything Dawkins was saying was indeed in support of Ahmed, a young boy caught up in the not-to-be-squandered SJW opportunity to expose Islamophobia and pronounce oneself free of it.

SJWs went to town on Dawkins. And then went to town on those supporting Dawkins supporting Ahmed. And then they went to town on the political expediency of using Ahmed as a political weapon, using Ahmed as a political weapon in the process.

Yes, Dawkins was quick to support Ahmed against his arrest, and maintained that position throughout. But time went on and things got a little more complex: it was less than an ‘invention’, his father is a well known publicist for himself and his own agenda in Sudan. And Dawkins retweeted and questioned some of the opinions that were being formed.

If Dawkins came to any conclusion at all it was that we are all apt to jump into Twitterland – and Dawkins accepts this charge of himself – when the details of a case are not fully known. At various points from the story breaking we had little actual news about what actually happened, from teachers or police.

And later we found that Ahmed’s father and the notorious publicity machine CAIR were involved. And, coincidentally, this geek who hadn’t realised his simple project might cause concern, suddenly found an excellent SJW voice. It seems Ahmed is being manipulated one way or another, and it’s not clear to what extent.

Dawkins mostly raised questions about all this, asking if it was true, saying, fine, if it’s true. He responded to many tweets, and didn’t endorse any other than the important point that Ahmed shouldn’t have been arrested.

But not everyone sees it that way. Some are determined to see Dawkins as a racist bigot. A few news reports – of course there’s always click fodder if Dawkins can be demonised. And then there’s the usual suspects: Greenwald, Aslan, Myers, …

Twitter is a bit of a pain for teasing out who said what when, but I just had to do it. I was sure Dawkins wasn’t the monster that he was asserted to be:

Dawkins Tweets Ahmed – Storify

Perhaps I could be charged with being a Dawkins fan-boy, too eager to read sugary sweetness into any Dawkins tweet. Well, even if I’ve misread some of his tweets, I’m still pretty sure that his critics have misinterpreted them by miles.

Here’s one example:

Now, it seems to me that Dawkins is questioning Talbot here, challenging him to provide a motive for Ahmed’s supposed mischievousness, but still saying he should not have been arrested anyway. This seems like support for Ahmed. And yet the news reports take a look at the title of the video and say Dawkins is calling Ahmed a fraud. Later, Dawkins does get into the ‘invention’ issue, but is still supportive of Ahmed against his arrest. Is it really so obvious that Dawkins is being Islamophobic or racist here? Or do you have to be a Dawkins hater to have this magically translated in your brain into a hate crime?

Justin Welby Likes To Torture Sick People?

And here we go with another religious justification for torturing people, from Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

Of course he doesn’t like to torture sick people, or to use his religious belief to justify such torture. I thought, well, if he’s prepared to use ridiculous rhetoric to make his case, I might too. But then thought again, decided that’s basically dishonest, and added this retraction. I’ll leave the dishonest BS to Justin.

With other faith leaders, I have joined in writing to members of parliament, urging them to oppose Rob Marris’s assisted dying bill. We have written, not in an attempt to push “the religious” viewpoint on others …

I’m sorry, Justin, but that’s precisely what you are doing, with other faith leaders. You are indeed trying to push your religious views on us.

but because we are concerned that a change in the current law on assisted suicide would have detrimental effects both on individuals and on our society.

And your view that the effects will be detrimental is biased by your religious views. Now that’s not to say you can’t provide a reasonable argument independent of your religious views, I’m just saying I don’t think you have. But let’s get down to addressing your concerns.

First, a change in the law to permit assisted suicide would cross a fundamental legal and ethical Rubicon.

Yes it will, for the better. For too long the principles of the sacredness of life have been, yes, sacred – i.e. religious. Life is a process. We, that is our mental selves, are along for the ride. Only your religious convictions associate this life with additional notions of souls and minds that are distinct from our physical reality. I don’t share your views. I value this life and the lives of others while they are being lived. I’m all for improving health and medicine to extend enjoyable life as much as possible. I’m even keen on using more advanced artificial means of extending life where it is wanted, perhaps in ways that you might not – if being a cyborg could bring a greater more enjoyable life I’d be for it. Only a presumption of the specialness of human life in some weird mythical sense sees current humans as the pinnacle of earthly creation. See us properly on an extending evolutionary scale and we are just somewhere in there and are not the chosen ones the religious presume we are.

This respect for the lives of others goes to the heart of both our criminal and human rights laws and ought not to be abandoned.

But, look, it is precisely out of respect for the wishes of those of a free and sound mind to maintain self-determination at the end of their lives that I think they should be able to do as they wish. Do we need religious busy-bodies dictating to the slowly dying that their lives are worth more to the living religious than they are to the ones carrying the burden. You’re not helping in the way you think you are – because you are thinking like a religious know-it-all that knows what your god wants when it comes to suffering people. If someone of sound mind, facing long term suffering and incapacity really wants to end it, I respect that wish, and if they can’t do it themselves it seems only humane to assist and not hang around with useless false comfort and a bit of cheering on while watching them suffer.

While it is not a crime in the UK for someone to take his or her own life we recognise that it is a tragedy and we, rightly, do all that we can to prevent suicide. The assisted dying bill requires us to turn this stance on its head, not merely legitimising suicide, but actively supporting it.

This is truly moronic, or dishonest – maybe both. Of course, this bill isn’t about ‘legitimising suicide’ or actively supporting it, because this isn’t really suicide in the usual sense that we’re talking about. This is quite different to, for example, the many cases where people with psychological troubles are looking for an out because they are suffering mental torment.

This is about people who know they are going to suffer the remainder of their lives in some soul destroying diminished capacity, if not abject pain, and they’ve had enough. This is suicide only in a technical sense, and it is only in this technical sense in which your concern here applies – which makes me think it all the more dishonest, that someone supposedly as spiritual as you is missing the spirit of the bill, which is to relieve suffering, to show some respect for self-determination, to have some compassion for a person that understands their own mind. It’s not about ‘actively supporting suicide’ at all – far from it. The bill very specifically guards against suicide, in the spirit of the term.

We are asked to sanction doctors participating in individuals taking steps to end their lives. This is a change of monumental proportions both in the law and in the role of doctors; it is little wonder that it is opposed by the medical profession.

You misrepresent the bill, Justin, because its intent is to make it as fair and as safe as possible. Doctors have never been opposed to this en masse, and those that appreciate the relief from suffering and recognise the brutality of enforced continued suffering, have always had to play stupid games to get around the law. It’s a terrible moral mess that puts doctors through this, as well as the suffering patients.

Currently, those who act wholly out of compassion in assisting someone they know to end their lives will not face prosecution. I feel profoundly the grief and struggle of anyone finding themselves in such a situation, desiring to respond with love in the face of suffering.

So, here you are tacitly legitimising and supporting assisted suicide? And I can only think it’s your religious convictions, that you want to impress on us, that makes you put that aside for the sake of some ridiculous principle. Dishonest. Actually legitimise assisted dying, if you really want to be compassionate. Put your sky-god in his compartment, as you have to do so often as a religious believer dealing with real life.

I know what it is to sit at the bedside of someone you love enormously and yet be torn by fears and worries about their future.

It is your religious belief that presumes there is a future that should be had, in this world or the imaginary next one. Now, if the patient believes the same, and does not want to end their life, then by all means do your religious thing and give them the support they ask for. Nobody is forcing you or dying fellow believers to give up religious principles for yourselves and actively seek or assist in death.

But, Justin, we don’t all think like you or believe in fantasies the way you do. We are capable of self-determination and prefer it to Welby’s-god-determiniation. I don’t want you having a say in my death, or preventing it when I’m ready to go. So, thanks, but butt out.

I agree that the law should take a considered and compassionate approach to caring relatives who are asked by those closest to them to help bring their lives to an end. To change the law, however, to give individuals access to medically prescribed lethal drugs risks replacing the type of personal compassion that is forged in a lifetime relationship for a “process” marked by clinical and judicial detachment.

In other words, despite your religious convictions, you are here justifying lying, pure dishonesty, hypocrisy. What your position amounts to is, “It is wrong to assist you. But hold on, I’ll just look the other way. … Oh, did you die while I wasn’t looking? How sad but noble of you to fight to the end.”

You’re a fraud – even if you don’t realise it yourself. But I don’t find it strange that the religious are able to fool themselves so easily, as it’s a requirement for religious belief in the first place.

As the European Court has noted, the legal understanding of the “right to life” would have to be fundamentally rewritten and for no good effect.

This is plain stupid. The “right to life” is just that, a right, to life; the capacity for me to maintain my life in the face of others that might want to take it. It is my right, not yours or the European Court’s, or the law’s, or my government’s. While our government has a duty to assist in my right to life, to help protect my life against those wishing to take it, it has no rights with regard to my life.

What a “right to life” is not, is a requirement to live. The government should not have the “right to my life” such that they must protect my life against me when I am able to judge it has run its course and is no longer useful to me.

Again, this is not the same issue as stepping in to help someone who is ill and does not have the psychological competence to maintain their own life. If we find someone unconscious after a road accident it is prudent to think they did not want to be in this predicament, and so we actively aid them in their “right to life”. If someone is seriously depressed then it is right to help them recover so that they might re-appraise the worth of their life, to them, not to your religious convictions.

But …

  • My right to my life is not your right to enforce my continued life upon me.
  • your duty to help me maintain my life, when I want it maintained, or when it is safe to presume I would want it maintained is not your right to presume I want my life maintained, when I have, in a state of full competence, specified conditions when I don’t want it to be maintained.

Get your god damned religion out of my life!

On to Justin’s second concern …

Second, a change in the law would place very many thousands of vulnerable people at risk. … It is impossible to ensure that they and other vulnerable people would not be placed under pressure to end their lives prematurely in ways that proposed safeguards cannot hope to detect.

Nonsense. There’s one simple requirement: assisted dying can only be used when the patient has, during a time of mental competence, made a living statement about their right to die wishes, or when, with reasonable precaution, it is thought they would wish it, or, where they protracted suffering is unavoidable. Yes, this is new ground, but it’s not too difficult to come up with clear states of being under which the right to die is complied with.

Make no mistake, MPs are being asked to take a huge gamble that a changed law would protect the vulnerable. There is no need to take such a risk since the current law continues to protect the vulnerable while harbouring no threat for those who act wholly out of compassion.

This is utter rubbish. Of course the law can and would be adapted as circumstances arise. You worry about MP’s, but not my right to self-determination? Religious authority shows too much concern for authority in general – let the MPs do their job and the right thing and give the freedom of self-determination we are asking for.

But more than that. Those that act out of compassion are precisely not the people whose right to die is the subject of this statement. Without a pre-determined statement of conditions in which one might want to die, leaving the burden on those loving family and friends, and the doctors, while there is still the potential weight of a murder charge hovering over their heads, ignores the well-being of all those directly concerned, and totally ignores the wishes of the person that wants to die.

We know from the US states of Oregon and Washington that between 40% and 60% of those who used legally prescribed lethal drugs to end their lives cited concern that they would be a burden on their families as a factor in their decision to bring their lives to a premature end.

The problem here is not with the principle of burden. I, now, in good health and hopefully some time off any miserable death, anticipate the horrendous suffering I’d impose on my family with a drawn out painful end. I value my life greatly, but I know that there could come a time when I submit my family to a dreadful struggle. And it’s no good telling me how much they would want me to struggle on, how much they would not want to lose me – I take those as given, knowing my family. But we’re talking about MY choice here, not theirs. The decision about how much of a burden I want to be is MINE, not theirs; or yours, Justin Welby!

The situation is this, if my dying is such that I would want an assisted death: 1a) I will die at the end of a long, painful illness, in which my family watches me slowly die, and 1b) then I will be dead and they will miss me; 2a) they will see me die quickly, under my own terms, without further suffering, and 2b) then I will be dead and they will miss me. They suffer (b) in either case. Why would I want to put them or me through (1a) rather than (2a)? Only a warped religiously inspired perspective would see any virtue in (1a) and immorality in (2b).

So, since the principle of burden is not the problem, the case of the figures you quoted exposes an actual problem of establishing the subjects’ thinking on the principle of burden prior to their actually becoming incapable of rational decision making.

There is a genuine problem that has to be addressed.

When my second child was born my wife insisted that no matter what she says during childbirth, I must not let the doctors give her an epidural (one of those treatments that still carries actual risk – as a friend having a knee replacement recently found out to her cost). Needless to say, with a breach birth and a long struggle, the air was blue with my wife’s insistence that the doctors should in fact kill the pain – and I of course could not object, seeing her suffering.

So, when it comes to painful end game of life, how do you deal with a loved one who had previously declared their will to live on but who changes their mind and decides, in their pain, they want death? This bill doesn’t solve that problem, but neither does the current state of affairs. It is possible that in such a case the weight of opinion at the time, of the patient and the doctors, would assist dying and be protected under the bill; but not under current law, where there is no process that justifies their action, and where a case could be made that they were killing the patient against the patient’s prior wishes.

The reverse isn’t a problem. With a stated wish to die when suffering a protracted end of life, if a person declares that they have changed their mind, perhaps had some religious epiphany and decided they must suffer on, then by default that wish should be upheld. If the subject swaps and changes over a period of time, by all means default to holding off the deadly injections.

But when the stated wish is continuously and consistently stated and documented until such time that the patient loses all capacity to reason, then uphold the wish and put an end to the suffering.

Once a law permitting assisted suicide is in place there can be no effective safeguard against this worry …

The worry is an unjustified one, Justin. If I don’t want to be a burden on my family when in a state of suffering, then why would you add to my suffering all the more by making me watch them watching me in an indeterminate painful end? Your logic seems clouded by something. I wonder what. A religious presupposition that all cases of choosing death is morally wrong? You are imposing your religious convictions on this conversation in a way you declared you were not.

never mind the much more insidious pressure that could come from a very small minority of unsupportive relatives who wish not to be burdened.

This doesn’t hold much water either. First, if the family is genuinely unfeeling they can just walk away and leave it to the state to look after the subject. If they have some motive for wanting a quick death for their relative, then with or without a declaration from the subject it should not be their decision. Why do we give so much weight to family to make these decisions? Partly because under the current system the burden cannot legally or fairly be put on the doctors, and also because without the right to die and a pre-declared wish to die the family has become the natural go-to people.

Of course there are situations when family may wish the subject dead sooner rather than later despite the subject’s own wishes, and that’s another reason why a clear right to die declaration should be required, and the assisted dying agreed by independent doctors and a court. And as with current (UK) conditions for power of attorney, there should be legal and medical backup to establish the state of mind of someone making such a declaration ahead of time, and the doctors and the court should protect against potential conflicting family interests.

So, that leaves us with a case where the subject has declared their wish to die under some conditions, and those conditions have been met by the subject’s state of health. The fear that the family might now wish that the subject were dead is irrelevant. Their wish is merely coincidental with the subject’s, albeit with different motives. If someone dies in an accident and a family member declares, “Good riddance”, we might censure them, but we would not be tempted to accuse them of murder.

The exhaustion of caring, sometimes combined with relationships that have been difficult for years before someone fell ill, can lead people to want and feel things that they should not.

Religious morality comes to the fore again. Who gets to decide whether one’s feelings are justified or not? Wishing someone was dead, for whatever reason, is presumed to be awful and immoral, ‘sinful’. Does that always apply? Was it wrong to wish Hitler dead? Come on, Justin, do a little philosophy here. When do the religious thought police become justified in deciding what we should and should not think? Do I get to enact laws that prevent you thinking your spiritual thoughts?

Even so, even if you are firmly convinced that wishing someone dead is immoral, having a legal framework in which a subject can state their own conditions for death removes this burden from worriers like you, Justin. No doubt your religious ire will continue to be inflamed, but I reject your stance on this. If I’ve declared conditions under which I want to be put down, then I want my wish upheld no matter how much a family member may wish it for nefarious reasons. Whose death are we talking about here? The subject’s. Whose wishes are we talking about here? The subject’s.

Just as my estate has to be dealt with through the inconvenient process of probate, if I don’t leave instructions, then by not declaring the terms of my own death I’m leaving family and friends in a burdensome position that I know as a sane person I would not wish upon them.

Many people hope they leave this life with a quick and painless end. They hopefully anticipate death in sleep after a good life. I don’t know anyone that thinks it’s a good idea that they live a slow and painful death, have their bodies survive in some diminished totally dependent state. Why you would wish this on others instead of a determined assisted resolution when self-determination has gone, is one of those perverse mysteries of religion.

All of us who have been involved in pastoral care and bereavement care have heard the confusion people feel about how they behaved to a demanding relative.

Yes, and that’s why family members should be removed from the decision making. If the subject has made a wish then that’s what determines that a chosen end of life is on the table. If the subject has not had the opportunity to state their wish, then the suffering should be assessed by doctors, family, and, as the bill requires, independent views. A demanding relative will not dictate the outcome for a subject that has made their wishes clear, because it will be backed up by independent doctors and by the court.

Note here that when it comes to people that are already in a state whereby they wish to end it soonish, and have mental competence, but not the capacity to do it themselves painlessly, they can be pretty far into the incapacitated state and still be competent enough to declare their wishes.

I would suspect there will be more problems where family members object to the death wish of the subject than there are from those colluding to end a life against the subject’s wishes. Even atheists sometimes have interfering religious do-gooders making moral decisions for them. I’m sure many people are forced to suffer a long game when they might wish a shorter one for themselves. Even when they have clearly stated that, they are forced to live on and suffer.

If, Justin, you want to call the right to die ‘suicide’, then I choose to label your version of your right to enforce unwanted life as ‘torture’.

The tests in the bill do not make space, and never could, for the infinite complexity of motives and desires that human beings feel.

The current system does not make space for even finite complexity of the motives and desires of the subjects wishing to be done with their own lives. So, complaining that the fact that some position does not account for infinite possibilities is a bit lame, Justin.

Also, the safeguards are actually stronger than I’d wish for myself. So, “A terminal illness (with a prognosis of six months or less to live)” does not allow me to die under some conditions that I would want to apply. If I was entering a near vegetative state with sever dementia (having got past the stages where I come in and out of self-awareness, suffering confusion and fear) it is reasonable to say that I would no longer be suffering, in my mental oblivion. In such a case I now, while still in a competent state, would wish that in such a future my life be ended for no other reason than that I would be a burden on my family, and the state (i.e. the greater population). My choice.

How come if I run into a building to save a life, but die as a result, I’m a hero, but if I want to relieve my family and the state from caring for an empty fleshy carcass, I’m somehow not quite right in the head when making that decision before that dismal state occurs? Religious presupposition to objective moral correctness, that’s how. To hell with your opinions on what’s right for me!

The law at present does make that space, …

It does not. It dances around it dishonestly.

and yet calls us to be the best we can.

Who the hell gives you the right, Justin, to demand I be the best I can when near death; and who gives you the right to decide what being the best I can amounts to? If I feel my life has run its course and I want to remove myself from being a burden on my family, who are you to moralise that I should not? As it happens, I think I would be being the best I can be in the circumstances. But why expect someone to be at their best in painful death? Your whole perspective is fluffed up with pious ideology.

My third concern is that we need to reflect on what sort of society we might become if we were to permit assisted suicide.

I’m ahead of you here Justin. I’m already reflecting on what sort of society we are for putting up with religious presuppositions to moral authority. Get over yourself. Your fancy hat doesn’t buy you moral authority in my book. Your undue privileged position in the House of Lords is getting you far more say in this than is warranted for believers of fairy tales and myths.

At present, we can show love, care and compassion to those who at all ages and stages of life are contemplating suicide. We can try to intervene, to support them to embrace life once more.

Quite right. But I would put it to you that the right to die is incorrectly conflated with suicidal tendencies brought on by mental distress. It is possible that mental distress could bring on depressive suicidal thoughts in the very subjects of this debate, whereas if they were of sound psychological mind it would not choose assisted death. That’s what the safeguards are for.

We can do all in our power to surround those who are terminally ill with the best possible palliative care, including physical, emotional and spiritual support. We can redouble our efforts to alleviate suffering. We can show that we love even when people have given up on caring for themselves. We can support our doctors and nurses as they act consistently in the best interests of their patients, affirming life and caring for the vulnerable.

Palliative care is an honourable thing is some cases: on the battle field or in an accident, with no hope of assistance; in cases where the subject has decided they have some moral duty or see some virtue to carry on. By all means do what you can to relieve suffering.

And all that means not a jot if the subject has already decided their own fate. What happens to self-determination? You have removed it at a time when they need it as much as any other. Typical of the religious, presuming they know best what others want or need – or what is ‘right’. And if the subject declares they want death, the religious answer is that they couldn’t possibly be right, because God wouldn’t want them to think that way.

Religious presuppositions are crawling all over your opinion on this, Justin. I and many others don’t share them. Even many religious people don’t share them in the same way. You are so far removed from our reality you can’t see it, or choose not to let us have it for ourselves, even though we have no objection to you doing your religious thing when dying.

We risk all this for what? Becoming a society where each life is no longer seen as worth protecting, worth honouring, worth fighting for?

This is about as dishonest as you can get. When you ask, “We risk all this?”, the risks you have outlined are not risky at all, or far less risky than the current state of affairs. And it is your religiously biased opinion about what society should be that is clouding your opinion on what will happen to society. The right to die is actually improving society, acknowledging the wishes of the individual without burdening them with the religiously determined weight of the sanctity of life. Odd that a death cult that sees a better life after death as something waiting in the wings should be so clingy even when the subject knows what they want.

The current law and the guidelines for practice work

They do not! Many people suffer when they should have an opportunity to end the suffering. But they can’t, because a history of religious presuppositions about human life have been battered into us by religion – often literally and fatally, ironically. The current law and guidelines are working for you, so that’s what’s important, eh?

In spite of individual celebrity opinions and the “findings” of snap opinion polls (that cannot hope to do justice to the intricacies of the issue)

Oops, your religious authority slip is showing. Of course, why didn’t I realise that. We need the training of men in clown suits that believe in imaginary beings to get to the real rational fundamentals of a problem like this.

And yes, you can consider that an ad hominem, if you wish, but it is no worse a one than that demeaning statement of yours. Who the hell are you to presume that the people polled do not know their own mind? Who are you to decide that many of them have not got well thought out opinions about their own life and death? And it wouldn’t matter if a minority wanted this change.

The bill helps those that know they are in for a rough ride determine their own end-game, and it helps those that are suffering when otherwise they would be forced to endure, by family, doctors or the law. It’s an attempt to provide more dignity and to relieve more suffering that the current state of affairs does.

You are opposing a bill that would give us self-determination at a time when we wouldn’t have the physical capacity to act on it, and when loving, caring assistance would be appreciated.

Stop the torture, Justin. Support the bill.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis Have A Cunning Plan

Cardinal Vincent Nichols and Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis reveal their cunning plan to bring those dreaded Muslims on side and blame everything on the atheists: In the secular age, it is crucial for people of faith to stick together. Good luck with that.

This is such a brazen plea for anti-secularism, and a worry about Islam disguised as the reaching out of the hand of friendship. Many Muslims will see right through it, as atheists see right through the machinations of all religions.

It really is laughably abysmal to see these men trying to make a temporary truce, like competing Mafia families : Cosa Nostra begets Nostra Aetate: Our Thing In Our Time: the unbelievable things we have to do to survive.

we find ourselves challenged by a new but no less troubling set of global issues which make a reaffirmation of the principles of the document [Nostra Aetate] immensely significant

The global issues that are troubling them are the rise of an Islam that reminds them of their own barbaric history, and a failure of their religions to persist and grow without such barbaric means of repressing dissent.

Today, as we travel together to the Vatican for a historic audience with the Pope, at which we will discuss some of these challenges ..

I’d love to be a fly on that wall at that meeting, because you can bet that what’s said won’t be published, especially when it comes to dealing with Islam.

Jewish and Catholic shared history has been so deeply stained with the blood of innocent men, women and children, whose only crime was a sincerely held personal religious conviction ..

No. The crimes have been many, including the spilling of the blood of innocents and the persecution of each others’ faiths, as well as the persecution of those that don’t share the faith. Judaism is a small sect and inherently insular by the nature of its propagation – they like to keep it in the family – so it hasn’t seen the degree of in-fighting that has plagued Christianity, but it does make a lot of noise for its size. Christians have spilled and burned the blood of many fellow Christians on the grounds of ‘sincerely held personal religious conviction’. And Islam does the same – and as is often pointed out, the greatest number of victims of Islam are Muslims.

Religious conviction is full-square responsible for so much divisive hate and death. And where it isn’t directly responsible, it can be so easily co-opted to any cause, and even turned into the primary motivator that pulls other believers along with it. The Quran and Hadith make excellent ISIS recruitment manuals. Do you live in Pakistan and have a business grievance with a neighbour? Claim he destroyed a copy of the Quran, or that he blasphemed against the prophet. Problem solved.

In many places to be a person of faith can be, in and of itself, an act of courage

The greatest courage required is in the face of fellow religionists. And this has been evidently so for millennia. In fact, except for a few specifically and genuinely peaceful sects, there’s a bloody history to religion, and the Abrahamic religions are the greatest culprits and their own victims. Violent secular threats to religion have been predominantly a 20th century mechanised political phenomenon – but, hey, that’s good enough to blame all atheists for those crimes against humanity.

The worse you get from a humanist atheist is a lack of privileged presumed respect, and occasional derision. Now that seems pretty tame, when you consider how the religious, especially Cardinals, Bishops and Imams have been blaming every natural disaster on the evilness of atheists (and when necessary on other believers that don’t agree with them). How does an atheist pointing out your irrationality compare with your claim to the atheist’s irrationality and condemnation to a fiery eternity? The only reason you get away with it is because atheists don’t believe in your crazy hell – water of a ducks back. Death for blasphemy (or apostasy) has been and still is a repressive force used by religion.

To confess your belief in God no longer commands universal respect for a deep commitment to a lofty ideal, self-discipline and moral conviction.

Damned right it doesn’t. The metaphysical claims of your religions are no more than myths, and yet you build a life and a career out of conning other people into the same belief, taking every opportunity to catch them at birth and indoctrinate them, and you think you deserve respect?


In many societies you are more likely to be dismissed as naïve, unsophisticated and narrow-minded.

Damned right you are. What’s most laughable is the way in which you take some fundamentally flawed premises and heap sophisticated complexity onto it, and you think that results in some sophisticated substantiated truth. It’s built on such erroneous foundations that it doesn’t matter how sophisticated the obfuscating edifice you build on top, the foundations are rotten. And you deserve to be called out on it.

As such, when a view is expressed which is informed by one’s faith on issues such as assisted dying, the value of family life or social responsibility, that view is often treated with scepticism, as though it is somehow less rational or ill-founded.

You have as much right to offer up your reasoning about human suffering and come up with ways to deal with it. But as soon as you tell us your faith informs you of what to think, that makes no difference.

If you think
(a) “assisted dying is a good thing because it releases suffering”,
(b) “I want to relive suffering in a person’s inevitable death”,
(c) “God tells me so”,

then I’m listening to (a) and (b), but (c) tells me nothing, adds no useful information about the problem. However, it does make me suspicious of the reliability of your argument, because there is nothing in (c) that prevents you turning your argument to

(a) “assisted dying is a bad thing because the suffering is necessary”,
(b) “I don’t want to relieve the suffering”,
(c) “God tells me so”.

And all of this amid the alarming increase in the brazen persecution of Christian, Muslim and Jewish minorities which has become one of the most pressing and shameful issues of our time.

Ah, now we come to the duplicity of this statement. You don’t want to inflame your Muslim co-religionists, because they are dangerous – as the link in that sentence shows.

That link, incidentally, is misleading. The article is a little better: “A grim irony of the Charlie Hebdo murders and recent violence in Copenhagen is that Arab Christians endure far more vehement insults at the hands of Wahhabists than do Muslims from secular satirists in the West.” As is generally the case. When ‘secular’ regimes in the Middle East give believers a hard time they do it to everyone, not least the atheist activists, and they co-opt Islam to do it when convenient. But, it does no harm muddy the waters and pretend that the satirical and sceptical rhetoric from ‘militant’ atheists is comparable to the actual death threatened and often carried out by fellow religionists.

That is why it is more important than ever for faith communities like ours to cultivate close working relationships.

You bet. Because the real threat is fellow religionists. There’s no need to suck up to atheists because they only rhetorically abuse your intelligence rather than your earthly body – all of a sudden earthly matters are important.

We share so much in common – a great respect for the tradition that stretches back thousands of years behind us, and a determination to ensure that that same tradition will stretch out long into the future.

Yes you do. But your fundamental differences are a casmaclyptic. The inter-faith stuff is a sham, a band aid over a gushing wound. Christian and Muslim faiths are pretty quick on the draw when it comes to accusations of blasphemy – but there is inherent blasphemy at the very core of the beliefs of your fellow religionists. The core beliefs of Christianity and Islam are far greater blasphemies than any atheists can come up with.

An atheist simply matches the Christian belief with a single non-belief.
An atheist simply matches the Islamic belief with simple non-belief.
A Muslim not only rejects the Christian belief, but adds a blasphemy in turn – a double whammy, a two-pointer.

We are committed to our stewardship of the planet, …

And who gave you that authority? Each of your fictional gods?

… teaching peace and pursuing it, …

If only that was all you did.

… bringing Godliness into the world, …

Whether we want it or not – and if you get us young enough not to know whether we want to not: bonus!

… promoting social responsibility

A good start: stop persecuting people that don’t believe what you believe would be a good start. That would be socially responsible.

… and encouraging society to look after its most vulnerable.”

Having made them most vulnerable in the first place, by subduing them to authority. Get a man to submit to god, then get god to give you the reins. That’s how it works.

These shared objectives became ever more possible after Nostra Aetate. They will be the antidote for negative views of faith that have crept into the world, …

I’m afraid not. You think you’re showing your common ground? That only exposes your incompatible differences that make a mockery of your metaphysical claims to authority.

… and they will make clear its limitless potential for achieving greatness.

Yes, we know power and control of peoples lives is your goal. But thanks for spelling it out.

We pray that the normalisation of Catholic-Jewish relations in recent decades will offer valuable lessons for others around the world consumed by religious and cultural hostilities.

Coded message to Muslims again.

Let this jubilee year in the Catholic Church be a catalyst for all faith communities who are “on God’s side” to work positively and collaboratively and harder than ever before for the sake of all humanity.

Well, yes, for the sake of all humanity let’s hope the co-operation between the faiths gets them to tone down their divisive agendas. Of course as that happens it will be the *secular that you hope to suppress.

* And on we go with this misrepresentation of secularism and the conflating of it with atheism. Secularism is actually a benefit to the inter-faith stuff. It prevents some state religion monopolising the faith arena and persecuting minority faiths. Unfortunately the secular vision of free expression is a tad inconvenient to the religious, particularly if it comes with the rational idea of not indoctrinating children in faith schools. Free thinking is the most dangerous long term threat to any religion, while other religions the internecine conflicts among believers of different sects are temporary struggles for supremacy.

My Atheism

In a comment on the matter of atheists needing faith, Edward Silha gives one of the better responses with the following points:

There is no need to use the terms “faith” or “belief” when discussing the existence or nonexistence of a god or gods. As a scientist, I draw conclusions based on evidence and logic. That leads me to the following conclusions.

1. I cannot prove there are no gods; therefore I am not an atheist.
2. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
3. Therefore, I am an agnostic.

The trouble is that the three points are really logical, not evidential points. And this is part of the problem when discussing atheism and agnosticism: while Edward starts talking about both evidence and logic, the three points are entirely logic based, reason, argument, and contain no mention of evidence. So, let me provide a variation on this theme:

1. I cannot prove there is a god; therefore I am not a theist.
2. I cannot find any evidence for gods.
3. Therefore, I am an atheist.

When there is such a lack of positive evidence for something like theism then to be an atheist really is that denial of positive evidence. It’s acting ‘as if’ there is no God, and so coming to believe there is no God.

With regard to the terms ‘faith’ and ‘belief’, there is a distinction that makes ‘belief’ a term we do use and should use. I take it Edward ‘believes’ that power flight using aeroplanes is possible, and further, believes it’s an actuality. It’s worth noting that when using ‘belief’ in the context of religion, believers believe in the actuality of their god, and so it seems reasonable to not believe in that actuality and call oneself an atheist in that context.

But ‘faith’ is quite different, especially in this context of religion and theism. It’s that route to cognitive satisfaction when faced with the lack of evidence and the strong arguments against one’s religion. It’s the ‘faith’ that many intellectual believers resort to even while admitting the empty claims of their own religions.

The original post on which Edward was commenting was headed: It Takes More Faith to Be an Atheist Than to Believe in God? A similar remark is often used by theists to point out our ‘faith’ in science. It’s a false equivalence. One requires ‘faith’ in religion to overcome lack of evidence, but I suggest most supporters of science learn to have ‘trust’ in it from the evidence of its utility, and as such ‘believe’ that science is useful. Though one could have faith in science or anything if one was so minded. Similarly one could have ‘faith’ in one’s atheistic position, but I would suggest that those of us that call ourselves atheists trust the lack of positive evidence in the wake of millennia of religious claims to be good enough have learned to ‘trust’ our disbelief in gods.

Atheism doesn’t require 100% certainty – and indeed, taking up Edward’s point, probabilities aren’t appropriate when one has zero data.

In such cases it’s difficult to distinguish between the degrees of disbelief. Philosophically, epistemically, we have no knowledge and ought to say “don’t know”, but psychologically and sociologically that translates into “no evidence” and “it might as well not exist”. And atheism better describes that than does agnosticism.

The psychological disposition is clearer with regard to fairies and a-fairyism, a-unicornism and so on, and for the specific claims of the major religions.

I don’t believe that astrology works, so I would be an a-astrologist (non-believer as opposed to non-practitioner, though both). But the moon does affect life on earth, and so too to some degree do planets, even if imperceptibly to humans because earthly, lunar and solar dynamics swamp such effects. My a-astrologism is to do with the specific claims of astrology with regard to birth signs and other crazy stuff. Being agnostic about astrology on such grounds would seem to a pointless position to hold.

Being agnostic about theism seems vacuous in a similar way. Translating the “don’t know” about extra-universal matters, origins of the universe, extra-universal ‘physics’, the requirements for intellect and agency on such scales, into agnosticism with regard to religion, seems to be an empty agnosticism.

It seems far more reasonable to be agnostic about the existence of intelligent biological aliens, for example, since we have at least one example of a planet that has produce intelligent life. So the mechanics, the chemistry and physics is at least doable. And what makes us agnostic in this case is both the lack of evidence that such results of evolution are inevitable, and the lack of any sign of alien life so far, let alone intelligent life. The latter isn’t positive evidence against, given the potential for missed coincidental evolutions, and given the vastness of the universe. So agnosticism seems appropriate in this case, for an expression of “don’t know”.

But theistic agnosticism has too many associations with particular religions. And many of the agnostics of history seem to be agnostic about the religion of their birth/culture more than general theism.

It seems to me that claiming to be agnostic has greater religious social connotations than the pedantic meaning of the term Edward ascribes to it with his three points.

I’m an atheist because I can’t see any positive data supporting theism. I don’t believe there is a God as I don’t believe in many things one might dream up. And gods seem to have been dreamt up since some time after humans were able to communicate ideas. Agnosticism gives too much weight to a fanciful idea for my liking.

My atheism is:

1 – An a-theism: not a theist for lack of positive evidence for theism – strictly a “don’t know” position.

2 – Psychological atheism for the futility of thinking of the endless possibilities with regard to gods (monotheistic supernatural god, good and evil gods competing, committee of gods, hypernatural gods creating supernatural gods, …)

3 – Sociological atheism that opposes religion – an anti-theism, anti-religion – for the shear stupidity of taking a fancy and imagining it to be real enough to allow the divisive prescriptions and proscriptions that believers get into.

I’m an atheist. I am not an intellectually piss poor agnostic.

There is yet another distinction to be made, regarding belief, and that’s the matter of believing IN something.

Here are some posts on Atheism.