We Don’t Want Your (Atheist) Money!

Story taken from “The Thinking Atheist” podacst:

An Oklahoma children’s home happily accepted a $100 donation (given by Matt Wilbourne, a Muskogee (Oklamhoma) resident), until it realized that the money was given in the name of the Muskogee Atheist Community.  The Murrow Indian Children’s Home is managed and funded by the American Baptist Churches Association, and they apparently don’t wish to associate with an atheist financial gift.  So they attempted to return the gift.   In a strange turn of events, this story has made national news, brought many atheists and Christians together, and propelled a GoFundMe page into the $10,000+ range. In this short bonus podcast, Seth Andrews speaks with Matt Wilbourne about the gift, the children, the money, and what happens next.

DONATIONS VIA GOFUNDME AT:  https://www.gofundme.com/2zc57tpg

Whatever happens this funds collected (at almost $29,000 at time of posting WILL be going to charity. If you do NOTHING else please listen to the podcast and the conversation!

Join the Forum discussion on this post

What do Jihadists Really Want?

In his latest episode of the “Waking Up” Podcast, Sam Harris reads and examines articles from ISIS’ own magazine “Dabiq”.

Hear, in their own words, the reasons why they hate us, and why some apologists for Islam are wrong!

https://www.samharris.org/podcast/item/what-do-jihadists-really-want

Join the Forum discussion on this post

Atheism UK speaks on ‘Voice of Islam’ radio

‘Voice of Islam’ radio

voice-of-islam
Chris Street speaks on ‘Voice of Islam’ radio about ‘The Meaning of Life’.

Sometimes Atheism UK Council Members get requests to speak on radio and in University debates (I’ve spoken twice at Cambridge Union and will probably speak at Bath University this November). We also speak to schools about atheism  – we will be speaking to an independent school in central London in September. This time we’ve been invited to talk to Voice of Islam radio about the ‘Meaning of Life’.

The four questions I will be asked today (Thursday 18th August 2016) between 4-6pm on their Drive Time programme will be:

1. What is purpose of life according to atheist’s perspective and how can one achieve it?
2. Suppose there is no God or immortality and our existence does not have a purpose, how is mankind different to other creatures, for example animals?
3. If there is no divine purpose to our existence and we will not be judged in the afterlife, shouldn’t all things be permitted?
4. What is your reply as an atheist to what Rick Warren has said about atheists? Should atheists become self-centred and stop being ethical?

If you had to answer these questions how would you respond? Leave a comment by 4pm today and I might just quote you!

Update by Chris Street 22nd August 2016

Listen to my 13 minute talk on Voice of Islam radio about the meaning of life – from 9:45 minutes to 22:30 minutes.

Atheism UK AGM 2016

AtheismUK-200x200-challenging

AGM

As a quick reminder, Atheism UK have our 2016 AGM this Saturday 20th August at 3.15pm in London NW1. Email me if you’d like to attend.

Could you be a Council Member?

Atheism UK are seeking new Council Members. We occasionally meet in London but we also meet via Skype, so you don’t have to live in London. If you could contribute and might like to be a Council Member, email me.

Chris Street

President, Atheism UK

Join the Forum discussion on this post

Attend Atheism UK 2016 AGM in London (N1) on 20th August

Atheism UK 2016 AGM

The 2016 AGM will be held in London (N1 postcode) on Saturday 20th August. At the meeting the Atheism UK Council will review our activities during 2015/16 and our plans for 2016/17 year.

If you’d like an invite to the AGM email me. The meeting will start at 3.15pm but I suggest you come along at 2.45pm to informally meet the Council.

Full membership of Atheism UK

Only full members can vote at the AGM so if you can attend (or just want to support us) Atheism UK full membership is just £2 per month / £24 per year or £1 per month / £12 per year (for concessions). We’ve increased our paid-up membership by more than 50% in the last year, but Atheism UK still needs more members to help us to make a bigger impact.

Atheism UK’s Principles are unchanged since Mark, Richard H, Rupert and Richard G devised them in 2009: Humans have fabricated religion; God or gods do not exist; Morality develops independently of religion; Religion inhibits rational thought.

The AGM should last 30 minutes and this will be followed by up to an hour of discussion at which members can quiz the Atheism UK Council on our aims and objectives for 2016. We’re always open to suggestions about how we can better challenge religious faith.

Atheism UK Council look forward to meeting you.

Chris Street

President, Atheism UK

Atheists must explain why God doesn’t make sense.

Can Atheists win with kindness? by Matthew Connolly 

Chris Street (President, Atheism UK) received this July 28th 2016 email from Matthew Connolly about how atheists should patiently explain why idea of God doesn’t make much sense:

“Hello, I have never really been passionate about anything, I care about the world but if I am honest I have always been too apathetic to do or say much about it. As I get older I feel like this is changing. However, the one thing that has always been with me is my despair at religion and how is stunts humanity. I felt compelled to write something down, I didn’t really know what to do with it, so I have googled “Atheism” and here we are. So for what it is worth I have 1300 words on my world view and the take away is, Atheists need to work harder to be liked and explain the positives of humanity and Atheism – rather than be smug and brow beat people with cold logic.”

It feels to me at the moment we are reaching a point in history, where globalisation and the ability of the Internet to proliferate news and ideas have reached a saturation point of doom mongering. There is what seems like an hourly “religiously” motivated atrocity. However, I have two questions; is it really true that the end is nigh as it feels? And should Atheist’s be taking a more open and (whisper it) aggressive tone toward the world to try and explain to or convince the world there is another, more beautiful, more rational and more happy way to think…?

A feeling of Impending Doom

impending doom atheist atheismFirstly, I want to discuss this feeling of impending doom, the festering horror that seems to be around every corner, no matter what form of media you consume you will see a lot of death and horror and a few reactionary ‘keep calm and carry on’ type glib sound bites but not a great deal about what is going right in the world.

The fact of life is we are all of us, sadly going to die. This is always a painful event whether it be disease, accident or old age. Death is something we are hard wired to fear and avoid (rightly so, its why our gene’s are so successful) however we don’t need it rammed down our throat constantly, we evolved in a world that didn’t have twitter or Facebook or even the Daily Mail so we didn’t read or hear about destruction so continuously. So we do not have an in built coping mechanism for all this death, the best we have come up with via conscious thought is the concept of God or an afterlife (I’m getting to it) but this in my opinion is a poor substitute for truly getting to grips with the fact that we will die.

Humanity is doing great!

So to return to the point I am trying to make, although we hear a lot about what is and can go wrong, what we are missing is how well humanity is doing. Overall most metrics for human life are up across the board, life expectancy, child mortality, sexual liberation, equality – the list goes on and on. We face some huge hurdles, the biggest are probably global terrorism and destruction of the planet – but even these are being tackled by some extremely gifted and hard working people and we must maintain hope that we can overcome these threats.

Atheism can be positive

So to question two: how does Atheism fit into my attempt to be positive? Many people consider the concept of Atheism to be depressing or the destruction of a beautiful ideal. I personally believe the opposite to be true. Most of the large organised religions have some concept of a higher power, a potentially destructive but hopefully positive overlord who has particularly hard to define aims and wishes.  The seductive idea is that there is a place, after this one, where everyone you want to be there will be, with no more pain, no death (very importantly) and where the good guys come out on top! So Atheism says “sorry mate, but hard cheese, this is your lot, enjoy it or not as long as it lasts”. Except I don’t think we should think of it like that. What if we are saying, “this is it, we are it! What we are trying to do here now for each other is all that there is, look around, YOU are in some tiny way your own God, we can attempt to make this better for the people around us or after us. We are part of something amazing. Don’t give up on now, revel in it, work on it. You will live on as long as you are needed in others memories and the people you love will live in you as long as you need them in yours, after that what does it matter?”

We won’t live for eternity!

There is no need for something to last for an eternity. It’s an odd concept; none of us have ever experienced anything other than transient existence yet we yearn for an eternity of ‘heaven’. Can we stop to question this?

I personally find it liberating that there is no man in the sky who is my overlord, whether he be perfect embodiment of goodness or not. I think the problem is this idea is fed to people in times of weakness and that normally is when you are very young, it’s such an alluring concept, given to you when your brain is developing and it kind of fills that thirst for knowledge, the thing that keeps us alive and it also helps stop the confusion. What is this I don’t understand, oh God did it, that is easy. But it stunts us, it blocks us pushing for the next question the next answer. Imagine if all the effort and thinking that has gone into either religious thought or war had been put to use on science, understanding grief or simply how we as a species can enjoy life more? Imagine a world where Thomas Aquinas had dedicated his life to helping people get over personal loss rather than esoteric questions of the nature of God.

Replace Religious Education with an expanded Citizenship Curriculum

In school in the UK wee are given years of lessons on various religions, which is fine. However with a limited amount of time to teach what about this – lessons on what to do when life goes wrong. It is a fact that people you love will die, unfair things will happen to good people and you will have something horrible happen out of the blue. Depression and unhappiness are huge parts of life and yet we are left to work it out on our own largely – yet a huge amount of time and effort goes into talking about God’s – and some idea that you shouldn’t even worry or deal with it now because there is a better life after this one. Wow! People do find a way to get over horrible things, some use God but a lot don’t and this is where Atheism needs to step up and help people find an alternative to get through the pain more palatable than “one day after you are dead things will be okay”. When bad things happen there is still good things in this world, we just need to work together to bring them out for each other.

Some religion begets extreme religion

People should also remember that some religion begets extreme religion. Without moderates there would be fewer extremists. If you really DID believe in a God and someone said you MUST kill those who don’t agree with you and you are a broken human is some way – perhaps your village was destroyed by a bomb or you have a mental disease – isn’t it in some way rational to commit these horrendous things you hear about? If you really thought there was a man in the sky who had absolute power wouldn’t it make sense to do whatever twisted act you believed to be right? You remove God from the equation and suddenly the drive to listen to these horrible ideas is diminished. Terrorists are not all evil; some are sadly, very very misguided. They are, in their own way, rational. Terrorists are simply the logical extension of moderate or quiet religious belief.

The way forward for Atheism

So, I say, choose life! This life, here, now with each other. Atheists needs to love and empathise more – not always think they are cleverer than everyone else. We need to work together and patiently explain why we don’t think God makes much sense, rather than sit in our ivory towers looking down at the world. We are in it too so let’s get involved. Can we change the tone from a war of ideas to an empathetic discussion with a positive spin?

Matthew Connolly

July 2016

 

Join the Forum discussion on this post

Letter to God

Most Atheism UK members are pretty much convinced that God doesn’t exist, but if (s)he did exist, this is what Steve Hammond would like to ask her/him:

Letter to God
Dear God – not sure if you will get this or not
But here is the reason that I write
I am slightly puzzled by a few discrepancies
Cos I hear you’re omnipotent right?

Firstly let me say thanks very much
For a world which in many ways is great
Especially as it only took you a week
There is so, so much to celebrate.

We’ve got all those beautiful landscapes
Where we can worship you in church & chapel
You gave us a good book to guide us
By the way sorry about that apple

You wrote out some good commandments
To the point of being Zealous
And some of them are common sense
But there’s really no need to be jealous

Because you are all omniscient
I suppose you know about this letter
And you know that I’m thinking that things could improve
And this world could perhaps be a little better.

And you gave us this brain with which to think
Which leads me to explain my frustration
If we choose logic instead of the myths
Are we condemned to eternal damnation?

So at risk of eternity in fire and brimstone
And failing to give you enough praise
I’m wondering if its possible be a good person
Yet still question your mysterious ways

Far be it from me to tell you what to do
But I do have a simple suggestion
Because people wonder why children suffer
And I ask myself the same question

So could we not have a new rule book
If you don’t mind me saying it straight
With a little less emphasis on taking your name in vain
Something more modern and more up to date

Cos none of us have got any oxen
So don’t tease us with threats and bribes
Don’t expect us to agree or understand
The ramblings of some ancient scribes

Just give it to us straight – a few simple rules
Lets keep everything fair
And maybe then we’ll all get along
And enjoy this world that we share

And one more thing – I’ve nearly finished now
To which religion should I belong?
They can’t all be right – it doesn’t make sense
Could it be that all of them are wrong?

Steve Hammond

In Scotland 52% have no religion.

church-of-scotand
Church of Scotland affiliation has declined 1% each year for the last 16 years.

Scottish Social Attitudes 2015 Survey data suggests that 52% of the population identify as having ‘No Religion’, up from 40% in 1999. All respondents were asked: “Do you regard yourself as belonging to any particular religion?” Church of Scotland affiliation has declined from 35% to 20% in the past 16 years. Levels of identification with other religions remain relatively unchanged.

Respondents with a religion, or who were brought up in a religion were asked: “Apart from such special occasions as weddings, funerals and baptisms and so on, how often nowadays do you attend services or meetings connected with your religion?” 19% attended church once a week or more in 1999 – in 2015 just 14% – a 26% decline. In 1999 49% never or practically never attended church, by 2015, 66% – a 35% increase.

Cosmos may be ‘inherently unstable’

A concept known as vacuum instability could result, billions of years from now, in a new universe opening up in the present one and replacing it.

It all depends on some precise numbers related to the Higgs that researchers are currently trying to pin down.

The Higgs particle was first announced by the Large Hadron Collider at CERN team in July 2012.

Associated with an energy field that pervades all space, the boson helps explain the existence of mass in the cosmos. In other words, it underpins the workings of all the matter we see around us.

Since detecting the particle in their accelerator experiments, researchers at the Geneva lab have begun to theorise on the Higgs’ implications for physics.

One idea that it throws up is the possibility of a cyclical universe, in which every so often all of space is renewed.

“It turns out there’s a calculation you can do in our Standard Model of particle physics, once you know the mass of the Higgs boson,” explained Dr Joseph Lykken.

Source Article from http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/2/19/cosmos-may-be-inherently-unstable
Cosmos may be ‘inherently unstable’
http://www.richarddawkins.net/news_articles/2013/2/19/cosmos-may-be-inherently-unstable
http://www.richarddawkins.net/rss_feeds
Richard Dawkins Foundation
All Content

South London Church Fined for Loud 3am Services

A church in South London has just been fined over £7,000 following noise complaints. As someone who lives next door to one of these churches myself I am, of course, pleased with this result!

Excessive noise in a residential area at 3am is of course misery making regardless of who is doing it, but when it is due to errant religious nonsense (demons indeed!) it must be totally galling!

It also goes to show that a noise complaint can be taken seriously and this church does not have the priviledge to just walk over laws regarding anti-social behaviour (although they are attempting to appeal). Credit must go to Southwark Council for taking action.

Full story in the Evening Standard!