Of Placebo and Near Death – Anne Jones

Someone sent me the post and I realised it was actually from the Thunderdome on Pharyngula. I was already halfway through writing a response

Hello, I’m a Christian ID and Creationism advocate, and I’d like to take issue with the scientific method and the derision of Christian beliefs and creationism/ID as established fact. *

Christian belief is no more a fact than Hindu belief. The fact remains that Christian belief is considered fact because It is a triplet of religions 2 of which are extremely aggressive in destroying any other religions. Therefore you don’t see “Other Beliefs” because the guy with the sword made sure there were no other beliefs. And I cannot believe I have to use this quote…

If you tell a lie big enough and you tell it often enough people will eventually believe that it is the truth. Others have fielded the basics so I am going to go into detail into my forte. [Read more…]

A Special Thanks

Well I just tallied up the donations people have made.

And I can get a faster ticket home. You guys have thrown in a whopping £95 quid which is a bit more than needed. I don’t have to travel by train (If I did travel by train I wish I had my old camera because the views are simply astonishing) to get back saving me a grand total of 40 hours of travel overall.

In addition you lot have been so generous that I actually have an excess, so that money is going towards my new laptop fund. New Laptop fund first then money towards a spanking new camera to replace the one that was wrecked during the protests here. (Let’s just say people who opened it didn’t know how to assemble a DSLR let alone keep it dry during a near torrential downpour and it doesn’t really work any more). It’s 12 years old and lived a long and happy life before it even came into my hands 3 years ago. The new laptop fund is (thanks to your donations and income from the blog) at £200 (1/3rd of the way there).

So well done you guys. Thanks and keep reading and supporting me.

I also recently heard about how Justin keeps his income and wish to do the same thing when I head back to the UK and get a “proper job”. All proceeds from the blog will then be sent to a secular charity.

In short? We will donate to Medicin Sans Frontier and Orbis for single handedly bringing healthcare to some of the most deserving people on earth. If I forget? Remind me.

Comments Policy

So writing about the shooting of a teenager and farmers in Palestine lead me to my first slightly out of control comment barrage…
So… I need some advice on a comments policy.
I had this in mind.

Green/Yellow/Red (Traffic Lights – Whee!)

So a topic on green would literally be “these are places for people to be safe”. Deletions will occur for anything outside the boundaries.

Yellow would be Normal basic rules apply, courtesy, ad hominem attacks, nothing outright bullying, no racism/sexism/homophobia. Deletions are rarer but can occur.

Red is unmoderated but I would have the no bullying/racism/sexism/homophobia malarkey here too. Basically say anything with the caveat that anyone else can call you out for it and if you say something particularly stupid and I read it you can expect me to laugh at you. No deletions, your stupidity is forever enshrined. I may even learn CSS to make your stupidity in Comic Sans…

Any suggestions or expansions?

Yosemite Sam

For many people across the world one of the stereotypes of Americans is “Gun Totting Cowboy”. And now there is even more reason to buy into the Yosemite Sam stereotype

Oh Rick! We are are laughing at you, not with you. Prayer doesn’t stop bullets, if it did we would be building our tanks with Bibles.

A Proper Response to slc1 – Israel and Palestine


I was going to leave this as a comment, but I figured that it would do better as a post. This is in response to slc1 who wrote a comment on a report on the shooting of 17 year old whose only crime was to throw stones at a symbol of oppression.

Mr. avicenna seems to have a selective memory. He has apparently forgotten why the security fence was put up in the first place. The purpose is to prevent Palestinian terrorist homicide bombers from coming into Israeli cities and blowing up pizza parlors. And it has been quite effective in that regard as such incidents have been greatly reduced.

You have to realise one thing.

The Palestinians don’t see Israel as an entity, they seem them as invaders. These are effectively a bunch of Europeans who have displaced them from their homes.The people who lost their homes to the Israelis are still alive. West Bank isn’t “home”. Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and pretty much the entire Israel is “home”. They are a bunch of “White” people who showed up to take all their shit and then have the temerity to make the moronic claim that their ancestors used to live there. That’s like rounding up the population of New York to go live in a refugee camp because the Native Americans suffered “buyers remorse” and want their land back.

If a powerful alien race were to appear and demand that their chosen people (the native Americans) be restored to the USA and then take all the non-native americans and throw them into a refugee camp, would people in the USA fight back? What? White guys can get mad about losing their homes to space aliens but Palestinians cannot to real Israelis?

The Palestinian suicide bomber is a symptom of a problem. And that problem is that Europeans and Americans circa 1940 to 50 were “proper racist”. They gave no fucks about the Palestinians and repeatedly demonstrated how few fucks they gave about them by repeatedly backing some very dubious Israel stunts. When Israel pulled off a “first strike” it was called a pre-emptive strike and tactical genius. When Saddam did it, it was mindless aggression of a monster.

You think Israel has a right to exist. I think that the formation of Israel was one of the stupidest plans on the planet because any one with an ounce of any understanding of human beings would have grasped the end result. I think Palestine has an equal right to exist and a better claim to the land that is now Israel. For fuck’s sake, I have a better claim to that land than the Israeli claim of “It was our ancestor’s land”.

Green are Palestinian, White are Israeli, Dots are Settlements

The second problem is evident if you look at the map.

Palestine is “not” free, it has a fair few fences cutting it up and around 30% of it is suspiciously Israeli. In addition Israel has straight up built settlements inside the Green Line which is “illegal”. Extremely illegal. In modern parlance we call this an “invasion”.

So to recap… Palestinians already see Israel as some sort of invader taking all their stuff (because that totally happened) but also see them adhering to double standards (When Israel massacres Palestinians they don’t get sent to the Hague. Also the illegal settlements and fences are involved in taking what little stuff they have.

They aren’t free to travel in their own country, they cannot vote for who they want and they get shot trying to make a living. This is what breeds anger. To the Palestinian, a suicide bomber is not a terrorist but a freedom fighter, because that’s what they want.

Incidentally, the Palestinians should be thankful they are on the West Bank, as inconvenient as their situation is. Their compatriots in Syria are in much worse case, where over 800 have been killed since the uprising began. That’s several times more then were killed in both Gaza Strip actions by the IDF combined. The Syrian armed forces don’t bother with precision munitions, like the IDF does. They just apply Hama Rules.

In addition I should tell Greta and Jen to stop fighting for women’s rights in the USA because it could be worse, they could be living in Rajasthan (Shoes!? Fuck shoes! Boys get to wear shoes! You are lucky we didn’t drown you in a well!). Ian Cromwell should stop complaining about racism because he could be living in Ukraine (Neo Nazis were filmed at a major football match giving out the olde nazi salute just prior to last year’s Euro Cup Football Tournament). Or he could be living in the DRC where AIDS and Diarrhoea are a lot more pressing issues than what western culture thinks about the colour of people’s skin.

That’s the fucking attitude that got us into this mess in the first fucking place. Palestinians shouldn’t complain! In the 1900s we would have just machine gunned the lot of them while wearing some really jaunty shorts. Aren’t you lucky we magnanimous brits didn’t do that?

There are two solutions to the problem.

Either we recognise Palestine as a nation and provide it with an equal level of development and pay war reparations for the losses incurred since the formation of Israel. Also to pay for the loss of their old homes we give Jerusalem to them under a UN mandate that Jerusalem’s Jewish monuments are to be protected and Jews and Muslims both have free travel through the city.

Or we have to dissolve Israel as a Jewish state and make it a secular nation giving Palestinians equal rights as Israeli citizens along with reparations and other financial assistance. I don’t know… Call it Phoenicia or what have you.

To keep supporting Israel blindly is to keep supporting the cause for the instability.

For Those Who Think Palestine is Free

A free country is not cut up by walls policed by another country.

Calling it a separation barrier doesn’t change what it is. It’s a walled enclosure around Palestinian lands.

Neither does shooting Palestinians who come near it. Samir Ahmed Awad was the 4th in 5 days.

The barriers must come down. When people like Pat Condell say that “Palestinians are all evil and wish for the destruction of Israel” he ignores these people. A 17 year old kid who died because he tried to run from troops who he threw stones at. And two farmers who were shot on their own land. And a man whose only wish was to earn a living which he cannot because his country is cut up by walls. If you cannot see why Palestinians are angry then think of life in a country where you have no rights because you basically live in really big cages.

I mean Separation Barriers. Because if you call it walls then you imply that Palestinians live in ghettoes, and history suggests that treating a group of people like that doesn’t end well.

Now if you excuse me I should go back to imbibing inscribed information from a bleached cellulose parchment and perusing the internet for a portable computational device.

Oh Noes! Won’t Somebody Think of the Priests!

The priests of the UK have written a letter in opposition of Gay Marriage,

So far it has 1000 signatures and says that allowing gays to get married will lead to persecution against Catholics.

Repeat after me. No one is going to force priests to get married to each other. No one is going to force you to officiate at the wedding of two gay people. Why would gays want to get married by a religious official who hates them. It’s like me demanding that my hypothetical future wedding be officiated by a neo-nazi.

The Outrage! Quick Geoffrey! Fetch the fainting couch!

Hello Whine Whine Whine? I need a Whaaambulance.


Atheism and Bereavement

So what do you say in the aftermath of a tragedy? What do you do? What can you say?

People say that you, as an atheist, are incapable of knowing what to say to someone who is grieving or who has suffered a major tragedy. It is the kind of issue we see after pretty much every tragedy we face in our lives, from dead dog to horrific massacre. We keep thinking that there is nothing to say as an Atheist and we are repeatedly told that our world view does not provide relief.

Dennis Prager thinks so too. It’s why we are such easy targets during times of grief.

What prompted Susan Jacoby to write her piece was a colleague telling her that atheism “has nothing to offer when people are suffering.” She wrote the piece, “The Blessings of Atheism” (“It is Here and It is Now!” screams the subhead) to prove her colleague wrong by offering a consoling atheist alternative to religion’s consoling belief in an afterlife. Atheists cannot believe that there is any existence other than this life. But, Jacoby insists, atheists can still offer consolation to people who lose loved ones, such as the parents whose children were murdered at Sandy Hook.


I can walk around telling my patients that “everything will be all right! We’ll have a cow and maybe a pig an’
chickens… an’ down the flat we’ll have a… little piece alfalfa for the rabbits…” or I can help them deal with reality of the situation. This is not an argument we can have without people’s feelings getting trodden on so let’s start with the beginning….

Roughly 1200 infants die every hour. Roughly 2000 children under the age of 13 die every hour.

For one hour it was 2020 rather than 2000. Yet we still have to come back to such a tragic incident because people are using this to basically push whatever pet project they want. I don’t think asking for gun control is a pet project. It’s common fucking sense. The entire world thinks America is filled with paper thin models who sing like machines, black rappers with guns or Yosemite Sam. It’s high time the USA realised that it’s guns are a problem as is the attitude of people to them.

But back to tragedies. We can offer consolation, it’s just that Prager doesn’t think it means anything when we say it.

Jacoby offers a quote from Robert Green Ingersoll, who died in 1899. He “was one of the most famous orators of his generation, [and] personified this combination of passion and rationality. Called ‘The Great Agnostic ‘… — I read this quote at least a half dozen times, convinced that I had somehow missed its consoling message. But, alas, there was no consoling message. “The dead do not suffer” is atheism’s consolation to the parents of murdered children? This sentiment can provide some consolation — though still nothing comparable to the affirmation of an afterlife — to those who lose a loved one who had been suffering from a debilitating disease. But it not only offers the parents of Sandy Hook no consolation, it actually (unintentionally) insults them: Were these children suffering before their lives were taken? Would they have suffered if they had lived on? Moreover, it is the parents who are suffering, so the fact that their child isn’t suffering while decomposing in the grave is of no relevance. And, most germane to our subject, this atheist message offers no consolation at all when compared to the religious message that we humans are not just matter but possess eternal souls.

I don’t know.

Is it better than telling people that their children are in a made up place? Is it better than telling people who do not believe in your god that their kids are in hell because they didn’t believe in Jesus? Or is that little truth hushed up around the non-christians if they get shot? There is no evidence for an afterlife, none at all. It’s not as harsh as the truth that the world thinks the USA’s obsession with guns is ridiculously unhealthy or that no one really cares about these kids. If we did we wouldn’t be using their deaths to attack atheists.

What Prager says is no different from “the farm” from John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men”. Lenny died happy because of the farm but you know that there was no farm. If you read deeply into the book you may come to the conclusion that there never ever really was a farm and that it was just a story George told Lenny to keep him happy, that it was a dream and a “paradise”, a reward for Lenny and George that never really materialised.  George wanted to spare Lenny the fear and pain of being hung, so he killed him while he was happy because Lenny is not sane. He is basically a huge man with the mind of a child and so such a story meant a lot to him.

But none of what Prager is offering is true and we aren’t like Lenny. This is the grown up equivalent of telling your kids that the dog “went to live on a farm”. Look across the river, you can see Scruffy gambolling in a field full of Pedigree Chum.

It may satiate your 7 year old but pretty soon they start asking really awkward questions. I know my grandmother died in suffering but she is dead. She didn’t go somewhere “better”, she ceased to be alive and her body returned to the earth and air from which it was formed through biological process.

What got me through was remembering her LIFE rather than her death.

Though I am intellectually convinced that only an Intelligence (i.e., God) could have created intelligence, I understand atheism. Anyone observing the terrible amount of unjust human suffering understands the atheist. But even atheists — indeed, especially atheists, since they claim that, unlike believers, they are guided solely by reason and intellect — have to be intellectually honest. They would have to acknowledge that, in terms of consolation, there is no comparison between “The dead do not suffer” and “Your child lives on, and you will be reunited with her.”

Not really. It’s pretty logical to be an atheist. Prager doesn’t believe in any gods outside Jehovah quite easily yet thinks we have to make massive leaps to not believe in his god.

What is the difference between “Your Child Lives On and You Will be Reunited With Her” and John Edward? Money? Does the priest who does the funeral service do so for free? Is the Church free? So saying that the personality of their child will live on in some nebulous paradise is unacceptable if you take money for it but is encouraged if you are doing it for free unless you are a priest?

John Edwards is a fucking tool because he flogs his bullshit to people who are sad, lonely and want closure. He has made an entire career out of pretending that there is an afterlife and the only reason he gets called out on his bullshit is because it’s so fucking bullshit that anyone with a little understanding and a little skepticism can call him out. To call it a magic trick is to insult the art of magic encompassing mentalism. It is a terrible trick yet people believe it and defend him as “making people happy”.

Religion does the same thing and it’s earnings are Tax Free. John Edwards may prey on the gullible but he isn’t in the same league as religion which is doing precisely the same thing. That your loved ones are in “heaven” and that they are watching over you and you can send them messages. Especially if you have their funeral in this “nice church” with a priest who will pray over your loved one’s remains so that they can live on through eternity with “style”. These aren’t cheap, it’s hundreds of dollars for such a service.

So tell me this, what’s the difference between a relatively cheap ticket to see a man who pretends that he can hear dead people and a institution that takes money from the bereaved because they claim they are the sole method of accessing eternal life? Why is that man the biggest douche in the universe but not your friendly priest?

And this is a non-existent god. We may as well hold an enquiry into the location of the Justice League during the tragedy.

What we have here is an intellectual unwillingness or a psychological inability on the part of Susan Jacoby and just about all atheist activists (including the New York Times, which featured, not just published, her column) to confront the consequences of their atheism. If they did, they would have to say something like this to the parents of the murdered children of Sandy Hook: “As atheists, we truly feel awful for you. And we promise to work for more gun control. But the truth is we don’t have a single consoling thing to say to you because we atheists recognize that the human being is nothing more than matter, no different from all other matter in the universe except for having self-consciousness. Therefore, when we die, that’s it. Moreover, within a tiny speck of time in terms of the universe’s history, nearly every one of us, including your child, will be completely forgotten, as if we never even existed. Life is a random crapshoot. Our birth and existence are flukes. And you will never see your child again.”

No… Because that’s not what an atheist would have said. That’s not what I would have said. That is such a straw man that I feel it should hang out around a heartless tin man and a cowardly lion and go on an epic journey with a witch murdering girl from Kansas and her little dog.

What’s there to say? I am sorry for your loss? You know as well as me that it’s just something people say. Some hollow platitudes about these kids being in the arms of Jesus/Allah/Yama/________? About them not suffering? About them getting an eternal reward? About how I understand your suffering? Would you like me to say something poetic about how we are all made from stars and we will forever live in the molecules of the planet that we were made from?

I cannot understand the suffering of those who lost a loved one on that day. I cannot claim that these kids are in some sort of paradise now. I cannot claim that they are off to live on a farm. There is nothing me or anyone can say to these people that isn’t hollow because it’s not our place to say anything.

So I won’t say anything. Instead I will listen. Because everyone wants to tell you things but no one really wants to listen. I will listen to the stories of those who wish to tell them. How we die isn’t as important as how we live. We remember humans beings and how they lived. Because we are human and that’s all we can do is be there for each other. I don’t remember granny being the decrepit old woman ravaged by Alzheimers. A woman so far gone that I would have to correct her when she used to think that I was her son rather than her grandson. I would remember her for the stories she told and the smile and how she would sit on her chair outside with her dog feeding the ravens, not how she died making mewing noises because her mind was so far gone that that’s the most she could do. I remember her food, her smile, her big stupid glasses and how she used to sneak coca colas with me when I was on holiday. Or how we used to sit on the beach. Or how I learnt to eat a crab with no tools or how to eat with my hands or how to stumble through Tamil… This to me is what is important. Her life, not her lying emaciated on a bed smelling of urine and bleach.

An atheist with the courage of her convictions would have written that. But the New York Times would not have published it. All this column did for me was reconfirm this insight of the Bible: “Wisdom begins with reverence for God.”

No God, no wisdom (witness your local university). And certainly no consolation.

If you were truly wise then you would listen to the stories of those who grieving. Not telling them about your god, especially when they are at their most vulnerable

Omnipotent, Omnipresent yet requires Bodyguards

I never really understood why any god would require a bodyguard from mere humans.

But apparently Allah does.

Asif Mohiuddin was operated on for more than 3 hours and is still in a critical condition after he was set upon by three of Allah’s bodyguards. The reason? He was one of those “militant atheists” we keep hearing about who reduce the rights of women and gays and who fight wars in the name of Dawkins.

Oh wait… all he did was run a blog.

Apparently Allah cannot fight his own battles. Neither can the tooth fairy to be honest.