Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Resounding No.

Recently there was a poll on asking the question 'Is there a god?' not surprisingly, the results of the poll showed 58.3% of the people responded with a no 40.1% saying yes and only 1.6% saying they weren't sure. There were a total of 162556 at the time of me writing this post. The poll is still open if you wish to add your vote into the mix. This is by no means a scientific poll and should not be used to say that 58.3% of kiwis do not believe in god. It is merely indicative of a greater trend towards godlessness. If you take a look at New Zealand census data you can see a steady trend away from religion and a trend towards 'No Religion'.
In 1991 around 75% of the population wrote Christian on their census forms, while a mere 20% chose no religion. In 1996 these numbers went to 68% and 28% respectively, 2001 went to 60% and 32%. The latest census was in 2006 and showed around 55% Christian and 38% non-religious. This trend towards irreligion extends further than New Zealand and into virtually every single country on the earth. Our next census should come in 2011 and I'll be excited to tick the No Religion box, and then more excited still to see the census data when it is published.


Since it's this time of year I thought I would take the time to write something relevant to the season. Lets talk about the pagan origin of Christmas.
December 25 was the day the Romans celebrated the rebirth of Sol Invictus, the Sun God, and also the day which the winter solstice was celebrated.
Christmas trees are an exceptional example of pagan tradition, so exceptional that they even get a mention in the old testament.
Jeremiah 10:2-5
2 This is what the LORD says:
       "Do not learn the ways of the nations
       or be terrified by signs in the sky,
       though the nations are terrified by them.

 3 For the customs of the peoples are worthless;
       they cut a tree out of the forest,
       and a craftsman shapes it with his chisel.

 4 They adorn it with silver and gold;
       they fasten it with hammer and nails
       so it will not totter.

 5 Like a scarecrow in a melon patch,
       their idols cannot speak;
       they must be carried
       because they cannot walk.
       Do not fear them;
       they can do no harm
       nor can they do any good."

The concept of Santa comes from Scandinavian paganism, Odin the god of thunder travels the skies during the winter solstice deciding who would die and who would live. The other part comes from some traditional stories of St. Nicholas where the person who would go down the chimneys was not St. Nick himself, but rather a demon he had enslaved. It is no coincidence that Santa is an anagram of Satan. This merging of Pagan imagery and tradition and christian folklore is where we get our modern day perception of what the devil looks like. Odin would often wear a helmet with horns and wield a trident.

The Yule log, was burned during the winter solstice, which was sometimes referred to by the germanic people as Yule. The yule log was a phallic shaped log burned (along with people sometimes) in worship of the scandinavian god of fertility, Yule. I don't know anyone who actually burns a yule log at christmas but the tradition is kept alive with our "Yuletide" songs and so on. This ritual was part of a 12 day process where people, yule logs and other junk were burned, and finished on december 25th. Does this ring any bells? The 12 days of christmas perhaps?

Decking the halls with holly was a pagan tradition to ward off evil spirits. The wiccans tied holly in wreaths and wore them on their heads, and was said to amplify the power of the holly.

Mistletoe was used by druids and wiccans in their spells to open a woman up to be exploited sexually.

So, if you're not a Christian and feel overwhelmed by the Christmas spirit because of it's overtly Christian overtones, fear no more, we can celebrate virtually every element of Christmas without thinking about Christianity, because the Christians stole them off the pagans in the first place.

Friday, December 4, 2009

I Guess They Never Got The Memo...

Something that has puzzled me for some time is the trend among young-earth creationists to deny the Big Bang Theory. I was in fact one of these big bang deniers at one stage, because I was enthralled by people like Kent Hovind and Ken Ham. Luckily that phase didn't last too long because I now realise how incredibly ridiculous their position is. When the red-shift of the universe was first discovered after it was predicted by Einstein, it caused many scientists to revise their current ideas about the universe. Many scientists up until that point had conceived that the universe may have been eternal. The discovery that the universe was expanding rapidly, lead to the conclusion that the universe was once smaller than it is now. Thus came the idea that the universe had a 'beginning' of sorts. Out of intellectual honesty and integrity, many scientists revised their position based on new evidence. This is how science works, you do not dogmatically 'stick to your guns' if new evidence contradicts current knowledge, you research further and come to new conclusions. Along come these moronic young earth creationists, and go around telling people how the big bang is wrong and so on and so forth. I guess they never got the memo that the big bang theory agrees with them on one very important point, that the universe had a beginning. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make them drink...


Now before I start getting into the topic of the post I would like to acknowledge that this doesn't apply to all Christians, and to those who embrace humanist values, I am letting you know we are on the same side.

When I was younger I was as guilty as any of this bigotry, not because anyone taught me to be, but because I read it in the Bible. I was probably still in primary school the first time I read the book of Romans in the new testament, and before I had even finished the first chapter this verse shows up. Romans 1:27 - "In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion." This is not taken out of context or from a strange translation of the Bible, it is exactly as you read it from the New International Version. Some other translations put it even more harshly than that. This is not an isolated incident in the Bible of this kind of bigotry, in fact it stems all the way back to the pentateuch, where homosexuality is called an abomination, and by mosaic law homosexuals must be stoned to death.

Were it not for this intolerant hatred contained in the Bible that I read as a child, I probably would have spent my teenage years with a rather different set of moral values. Perhaps I would have adopted a set of values closer to my current ones. Or perhaps I would have been more influenced by the teachings attributed to Jesus in the Gospels, with things like 'Let him who goes without sin cast the first stone' and other things like that. I imagine that most of the people of the anti-gay movement would have a similar experience would it not have been for the bigotry taught to them by the Bible. I cannot for the life of me think of any other reason on earth why some people would be so intolerant towards another human being. There certainly aren't any logical, rational reasons for people to hate gays. We live in an overpopulated world, and the fact that two men, or two women cannot reproduce (without modern methods of fertilization) really doesn't matter.

That leads me to my next point, infertility. One of the many appalling arguments against gay marriage commonly used by conservatives is that they cannot reproduce. One must then ask the question about infertile straight people, If gay people aren't allowed to get married purely because they cannot reproduce then the same reasoning must be applied to infertile couples. As you can see this argument falls so short of its intended goal that I feel pity rather than disdain for its supporters.

Every human being has rights, whether Jew, muslim, black, white, gay, straight or anything else. One thing you do not have the right to do though, is to deny others their rights.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Well I thought it was funny..

Strange-er Phenomenon

Not really an appropriate title for this topic, but since the last post was called strange phenomenon and this is on a similar vein I thought it would be mildly amusing.

I'm not sure what exactly to think of this group of people, do I call them gullible? or stupid? or just simple naive? The people I'm talking about this time are the believers in the paranormal, in psychics, tarot card readers, ghosts etcetera. A Gallup poll on June 8 2001 showed an increase in paranormal belief since the last poll on the subject which was in 1990. A few interesting observations from the poll were that women were more likely to believe in communication with the dead and ghosts, while men were more likely to believe that aliens have visited the earth. Younger people (18-29) were more likely to believe in haunted houses and witchcraft, while older people (29+) were more likely to believe in demon possession. An almost obvious observation from the poll was that people with higher education (university) are far less likely to believe in any paranormal claims.

The poll respondents were asked questions of whether they believed in several specific paranormal claims. I am going to put the percentage of people who responded saying they believed in each claim in brackets. ESP (50%), Haunted Houses (42%), Possession by the Devil (41%), Ghosts and spirits (38%), Telepathy (36%), Extraterrestrial contact, (33%), Clairvoyance (32%), Talking to the dead (28%), Astrology (28%), Witches (26%), Reincarnation (25%) and Channeling (15%).
An important fact to note is that this poll was conducted in the USA, where over 70% of the population claim to be of the Christian faith. Regardless of their faith, these numbers are disturbingly high for any population, let alone a first world country.

The thing I find most curious about belief in the paranormal is that not only do they have absolutely no evidence to back up their claims, but many of them have been debunked and refuted so many times that I almost feel embarrassed for anyone who professes to believe in them. At TAM 2009 (The Amazing Meeting, a skeptics convention) they offered a million dollars to anyone who could prove they had any psychic power and pass a double blind test. A woman by the name of Connie Sonne, a self professed psychic accepted the challenge and attended TAM 2009 to take the psychic test. Needless to say she failed miserably, and she had a success rate of 0%............... That's right, she failed epically. You can watch the entire test on Youtube Here.
Not surprisingly, the James Randi Educational Foundation (the people who run TAM) get a fairly small number of people accepting the Million Dollar Challenge, I suspect most psychics are just con artists and are knowingly deceiving people, and the people like Connie Sonne who take the challenge and fail as miserably as she did are deceived themselves.

With mounting evidence against paranormal claims and ZERO evidence supporting them, why does paranormal belief still have such a major grasp on so many people? In a book I read lately by Michael Shermer called 'Why People Believe Weird Things' he described a confrontation he had with a psychic who ran a psychic 'school' teaching people to learn ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). The teacher at the school had absolutely no knowledge of basic probability and when a student would guess more answers to the ESP test than you would statistically expect the teacher took that as evidence that the student was gifted with psychic ability. Never mind the fact that if another test was taken that same student may get less answers than you would statistically expect by random guessing. This teacher was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that ESP was real. This is where thinking goes wrong with these people, they accept non-evidence as evidence and push evidence against their beliefs to the side. Reminds me of this picture of three chimpanzees, and a common saying "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil", which is exactly what these people do in regards to evidence against their beliefs. They have their minds made up, and no evidence to the contrary will change them. This type of stubborn belief is intellectually bankrupt and dishonest.

Here is the picture I was talking about.