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Irish Census 2011

In the last few days (or in the next few) someone will have knocked on your door and handed you your copy of the 2011 Census. You need to fill this out on the 10th of April and many of you will have seen the campaigns being run by Atheist Ireland and the Humanist Association asking you to think before you answer the question on religion and to answer honestly.

For Atheists and Free Thinkers this is easy to do, simple mark the “No Religion” box, but for many people this will be difficult. There are many people who have a belief in a god or the supernatural and who were raised Roman Catholic or Church of Ireland but aren’t sure how to describe themselves now.

Below is the current text of the Nicene Creed as used by the Catholic church (it’s due to be changed later this year) and I’d like to suggest that people who find themselves unsure if they are Catholic, Christian or just Theist should read it. If they really believe in everything it says then Catholic or Christian is probably the correct option for them. If not then I’d suggest that they consider marking the other religion box and writing Theist or even Deist.

We believe in one God,
the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all that is seen and unseen.

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,

God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made.
For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven:
by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary,
and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried.
On the third day he rose again
in fulfillment of the Scriptures;
he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory
to judge the living and the dead,
and his kingdom will have no end.

We believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son
he is worshiped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.

We believe in one holy catholic
and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism
for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the
resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come. Amen.

By way of contrast you might like to read this as well.

An Atheist’s Creed

I believe in a purely material universe that conforms to naturalistic laws and principles.

I believe that the life we have is the only one we will have, that the mind and consciousness are inseparable from the brain, that we cease to exist in any conscious form when we die, and that it is therefore incumbent on us to enable each person to live their one life to the fullest.

I believe in the power of science and reason and rationality to further deepen our understanding of everything around us and to eventually overcome superstition and erase the petty divisions sown by religion, race, ethnicity, and nationality.

I am in awe of the beauty, vastness, and complexity of nature and the universe, and the fact that all arose purely by the working of natural laws.

I believe in the power of ideals such as peace and justice and shared humanity to inspire us to create a free and just world.

I believe in kindness, love, and the human spirit and their ability to overcome challenges and adversity and to create a better world.

I believe in the necessity for credible and objective evidence to sustain any belief and thus deny, because of the absence of such evidence, the existence of each and every aspect of the supernatural.

I refuse to bow, prostrate myself, or otherwise cower before the deities of any religion.

I am neither tempted by the fiction of heaven or any other form of eternal life nor fearful of the fiction of hell.

I choose to live the dignified and exhilarating life of a free-thinker, able to go wherever knowledge and curiosity takes me, without fear of contradicting any dogma.

“What Should Replace Religion?” – Daniel Dennett

I’m very late adding this but the UCC Atheists are hosting a free lecture by Daniel Dennett on Friday 28th of January at 18.00 in Boole 4 on the UCC Campus.

Professor Daniel C. Dennett is arguably one of the greatest philosophers alive today, and one of the most prominent voices in the debate on scientific explanations of human consciousness and free will. He is co-director of the Center for Cognitive Studies in Tufts University, as well as a noted atheist and advocate of Darwinian evolution. He has written such widely popular books as ‘Consciousness Explained’, ‘Freedom Evolves’, ‘Darwin’s Dangerous Idea’, and ‘Breaking the Spell’.

On Friday the 28th of January he will be speaking in UCC on the decline of religion in Western society in recent years, and what future, if any, we see for it.

This event is open to all and FREE. (His talk at Seminars in Dublin the night before costs €40 per ticket!)

Please come along and invite any friends you think might be interested! Arrive early to avoid disappointment!

You can get more details and indicate you’re going on Facebook here, or just turn up on the night.

Two Debates

Two recent debates which people may find interesting. The first is Christopher Hitchens vs William Dembski on the topic “Does a Good God Exist” and can be found here. Hitchens looks surprisingly well and is in flying form. More thoughtful and soft-spoken than he often is.

The second is between Matt Dillahunty and  Hans Jacobse on the topic “The Source of Human Morality”. The first part is below and the rest can be found either here or here. The debate starts out friendly but the religious speaker ends up Godwining. An experience I’ve had when debating Christians myself.

The Atheist Experience – “Superiority of Secular Morality”

Vodpod videos no longer available.

A lecture by Matt Dillahunty of the Atheist Commumity of Austin

Richard Dawkins – Reply to the Pope’s attack on Atheists

Below is the full text of the speech as written, it was shortened due to the speeches starting late.

More video from the protest can be found here.

Should Joseph Ratzinger have been welcomed with all the pomp and ceremony due to a Head of State? No. As Geoffrey Robertson has shown in The Case of the Pope, the Holy See’s claim to statehood is founded on a Faustian deal in which Mussolini handed over 1.2 square miles of central Rome in exchange for Church support of his fascist regime. Our government chose the occasion of the pope’s visit to announce their intention to “do God”. As a friend has remarked to me, presumably we should expect the imminent hand-over of Hyde Park to the Vatican, to clinch the deal?

Should Ratzinger, then, be welcomed as the head of a church? By all means, if individual Catholics wish to overlook his many transgressions and lay out the red carpet for his designer red shoes, let them do so. But don’t ask the rest of us to pay. Don’t ask the British taxpayer to subsidize the propaganda mission of an institution whose wealth is measured in the tens of billions: wealth for which the phrase ‘ill-gotten’ might have been specifically coined. And spare us the nauseating spectacle of the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh and assorted Lord Lieutenants and other dignitaries cringing and fawning sycophantically all over him as though he were somebody we should respect.

Benedict’s predecessor, John Paul II, was respected by some as a saintly man. But nobody could call Benedict XVI saintly and keep a straight face. Whatever this leering old fixer may be, he is not saintly. Is he intellectual? Scholarly? That is often claimed, although it is far from clear what there is in theology to be scholarly about. Surely nothing to respect.

The unfortunate little fact that Joseph Ratzinger joined the Hitler Youth has been the subject of a widely observed moratorium. I’ve respected it myself, hitherto. But after the Pope’s outrageous speech in Edinburgh, blaming atheism for Hitler, one can’t help feeling that the gloves are off. Did you hear what he said?

Even in our own lifetime, we can recall how Britain and her leaders stood against a Nazi tyranny that wished to eradicate God from society and denied our common humanity to many, especially the Jews . . . As we reflect on the sobering lessons of the atheist extremism of the twentieth century . . .

You have to wonder about the PR skills of the advisors who let that paragraph through. Oh but of course, I was forgetting, his senior advisor is that Cardinal who takes one look at the immigration officials at Heathrow and concludes that he must have landed in the Third World. The poor man was no doubt prescribed a bushel of Hail Marys, on top of his swift attack of diplomatic gout – and one can’t help wondering whether the afflicted foot was the one he puts in his mouth.

At first I was annoyed by the Pope’s disgraceful attack on atheists and secularists, but then I saw it as reassuring. It suggests that we have rattled them so much that they have to resort to insulting us, in a desperate attempt to divert attention from the child rape scandal.

It probably is too harsh to expect the 15-year-old Ratzinger to have seen through the Nazis. As a devout Catholic, he would have had dinned into him, along with the Catechism, the obnoxious idea that all Jews are to be held responsible for killing Jesus – the ‘Christ-killer’ libel – not repudiated until the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). The German Roman Catholic psyche of the time was still shot through with the anti-Semitism of centuries.

Adolf Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Or at least he was as much a Roman Catholic as the 5 million so-called Roman Catholics in this country today. For Hitler never renounced his baptismal Catholicism, which was doubtless the criterion for counting the 5 million alleged British Catholics today. You cannot have it both ways. Either you have 5 million British Catholics, in which case you have to have Hitler too. Or Hitler was not a Catholic, in which case you have to give us an honest figure for the number of genuine Catholics in Britain today – the number who really believe Jesus turns himself into a wafer, as the former Professor Ratzinger presumably does.

In any case, Hitler certainly was not an atheist. In 1933 he claimed to have “stamped atheism out”, having banned most of Germany’s atheist organizations, including the German Freethinkers League whose building was then turned into an information bureau for church affairs.

At very least, Hitler believed in a personified ‘Providence’, presumably akin to the Divine Providence invoked by the Cardinal Archbishop of Munich in 1939, when Hitler escaped assassination and the Cardinal ordered a special Te Deum in Munich Cathedral,

To thank Divine Providence in the name of the Archdiocese for the Führer’s fortunate escape.

We may never know whether Hitler identified his ‘Providence’ with the Cardinal’s God. But he certainly knew his overwhelmingly Christian constituency, the millions of good Christian Germans with Gott mit unson their belt buckles, who actually did his dirty work for him. He knew his support base. Hitler most certainly did “do God”. Here’s part of a speech he made in Munich, the heart of Catholic Bavaria, in 1922: –

My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Saviour as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who – God’s truth! – was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross.

That is just one of numerous speeches, and passages in Mein Kampf, where Hitler invoked his Christianity. No wonder he received such warm support from within the Catholic hierarchy of Germany. And Benedict’s predecessor, Pius XII, is not guiltless, as the Catholic writer John Cornwell devastatingly showed, in his book Hitler’s Pope.

It would be unkind to prolong this point, but Ratzinger’s speech in Edinburgh on Thursday was so disgraceful, so hypocritical, so redolent of the sound of stones hurled from within a glass house, I felt that I had to reply.

Even if Hitler had been an atheist – as Stalin more surely was – how dare Ratzinger suggest that atheism has any connection whatsoever with their horrific deeds? Any more than Hitler and Stalin’s non-belief in leprechauns or unicorns. Any more than their sporting of a moustache – along with Franco and Saddam Hussein. There is no logical pathway from atheism to wickedness. Unless, that is, you are steeped in the vile obscenity at the heart of Catholic theology. I refer (and I am indebted to Paula Kirby for the point) to the doctrine of Original Sin. These people believe – and they teach this to tiny children, at the same time as they teach them the terrifying falsehood of hell – that every baby is “born in sin”. That would be Adam’s sin, by the way: Adam who, as they themselves now admit, never existed. Original sin means that, from the moment we are born, we are wicked, corrupt, damned. Unless we believe in their God. Or unless we fall for the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell. That, ladies and gentleman, is the disgusting theory that leads them to presume that it was godlessness that made Hitler and Stalin the monsters that they were. We are all monsters unless redeemed by Jesus. What a vile, depraved, inhuman theory to base your life on.

Joseph Ratzinger is an enemy of humanity.

He is an enemy of children, whose bodies he has allowed to be raped and whose minds he has encouraged to be infected with guilt. It is embarrassingly clear that the church is less concerned with saving child bodies from rapists than with saving priestly souls from hell: and most concerned with saving the long-term reputation of the church itself.

He is an enemy of gay people, bestowing on them the sort of bigotry that his church used to reserve for Jews.

He is an enemy of women – barring them from the priesthood as though a penis were an essential tool for pastoral duties. What other employer is allowed to discriminate on grounds of sex, when filling a job that manifestly doesn’t require physical strength or some other quality that only males might be thought to have?

He is an enemy of truth, promoting barefaced lies about condoms not protecting against AIDS, especially in Africa.

He is an enemy of the poorest people on the planet, condemning them to inflated families that they cannot feed, and so keeping them in the bondage of perpetual poverty. A poverty that sits ill with the obscene riches of the Vatican.

He is an enemy of science, obstructing vital stem-cell research, on grounds not of morality but of pre-scientific superstition.

Less seriously from my point of view, Ratzinger is even an enemy of the Queen’s own church, arrogantly endorsing a predecessor’s dissing of Anglican Orders as “absolutely null and utterly void”, while shamelessly trying to poach Anglican vicars to shore up his own pitifully declining priesthood.

Finally, perhaps of most personal concern to me, he is an enemy of education. Quite apart from the lifelong psychological damage caused by the guilt and fear that have made catholic education infamous throughout the world, he and his church foster the educationally pernicious doctrine that evidence is a less reliable basis for belief than faith, tradition, revelation and authority – his authority.

Christopher Hitchens: Some Confessions and Contradictions

Christopher Hitchens speaks quite movingly about his new memoir. Particularly about his mother’s suicide.

Vodpod videos no longer available.