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What is this nonsense?

I’m confused. What the bleep is going on at Amazon? I was just browsing through their history section and was shocked at some of the dreck that showed up in the first couple of pages. By way of example –

  • Forbidden History: Extraterrestrial Intervention, Prehistoric Technologies, and the Suppressed Origins of Civilization by J. Douglas Kenyon
  • The End of Days: Armageddon and Prophecies of the Return (The Earth Chronicles) by Zecharia Sitchin
  • The Element Encyclopaedia of 5000 Spells: The Ultimate Reference Book for the Magical Arts by Judika Illes

All complete pseudo-science and nonsense and they aren’t the only examples. I realise that Amazon is a business and will sell whatever people want to buy but this is just beyond a joke. Have we really reached the point where this bunkum passes for history?

OK, rant over. I just had to vent.

Richard Dawkins interviews Derren Brown

This is part 1 (of 6) of an extended version of the interview from the Channel 4 series “The Enemies of Reason“. 

The rest can be found here.

via RichardDawkins.net

TED: For the sceptics.

Great presentation from Michael Shermer of Sketpic Magazine – well worth a look, and the TED site has some great videos on it.

I’m An Atheist (And I’m Okay!)

Hello all,

As part of my works on behalf of the newly formed Atheist Ireland, I recorded my own twist on FXR’s twist on Monty Python’s “Lumberjack Song”, provided in this thread over at Atheist.ie


It’s either a Big Tent or Multiple Hats.

I listen to the Chariots of Iron podcast (thanks for the link Jason) and they have coined a word  – atheiskeptihumanist to cover the idea of including atheists, sceptics and humanists in the one group.

“It’s a big tent” or a “broad church” are also phrases I’ve been hearing a lot lately since atheists are about to set up an organisation of their own.   What the term seems to imply is that there is a big tent of Freethinking which can accommodate all kinds of different groups, but each of the groups has its own distinct outlook or role.  The phrases have been used as a form of reassurance to people who have been expressing worry about the division of membership between organisations or the danger of misunderstanding among the public (and politicians) of the nature of atheists and humanists.  Needless to say I take a different view and needless to say it’s got the cat herding characteristics associated with freethinking.  I believe that we can wear multiple hats.  Take me for example:

I am an assertive (not MILITANT) atheist because of the repression and mental pain religion inflicted on me  and on so many other people.  I want people to know that religion is a controlling mechanism and a sham and that they can be free of it.

I am a sceptic and as far as possible apply reason and logic to the decisions I make and situations I am presented with.  I believe that science and reason offers humans their best chance of understanding the world and improving their lives individually and collectively and as a result that nonsense should be challenged where possible and reasonable.

I am a humanist because it is the life stance that best reflects who I am.

I am a secularist.  I believe that humans are a social and gregarious animal and must live in an organised society and that society must be regulated.  This regulation should be the minimum necessary to allow people to pursue happiness for themselves without inflicting harm on others or society as a whole.  For that reason the ethic underpinning society should in no way be connected with religion but derived from human need as tested by experience.

I can wear these hats and more and this is why I believe that the Big Tent analogy should be replaced by the Many Hats one because it more nearly reflects the real nature of the atheiskeptihumanist.

What, here in Ireland? – Say it ain’t so.

A little light-reading.

Skepchick applies some analsys and critical-thinking skills  to Sean Sugrue, a psychic medium based in Dublin (sigh!)

“How did this auction of hyperbole and credulity get started?”

Not many claims made by the Irish clergy are widely or uncritically accepted. Even in Ireland. But the Saintliness of an Albanian nun named Agnes Bojaxhiu, is a proposition that’s accepted by many that are not even believers.

-Christopher Hitchens

Over the weekend I was at my aunt’s house, helping her out with some basic computer-networking stuff, when I noticed that she had a framed picture of Mother Theresa at the end of her hall.

When I saw it, Christopher Hitchens’ documentary ‘Hell’s Angel’ instantly sprang to mind, and for a fleeting instance I wanted to regurgitate the points made in this documentary, challenging the rationale behind her decision to adorn her wall with a picture of a wrinkly hag whose reputation was ill-founded.

Since the documentary was on my mind, I figured “why not share it with the good readers of the MWH blog?”. Rather than attempting to distil it down, butchering the message in the process, I’d rather point you towards the seemingly infinite fountain of contrarian enlightenment that is Christopher Hitchens, so that you may drink deep from the teet of critical-analsyis! [Okay, I’m pushing this a bit, I’ll tone it down now]

Since I’ve yet to fully-figure out WordPress’ embedding of video playlists, click here to watch all three parts, (each eight-minutes long) in a new window.

Pretty thought-provoking stuff, no? But does it matter? Is it any harm to stick up a picture of a woman who is widely revered as a selfless beacon of hope for so many suffering? Should I not promulgate propaganda designed to subvert the widely-held concept of Mother Theresa, lest I deprive a young woman of a potential role model?

This documentary was broadcast in 1994, and has evidently done nothing to her reputation among religious folk since, so I doubt dissemination amongst the doubters will do much damage.

I never did mention anything about Mother Theresa whilst politely supping tea with my aunt – judging by the way MT’s saintly visage was mostly covered by the coat-stand, I doubted she would take much interest in the conversation either way.

Lapsed Catholicism FTW.

Critical Analysis of Catholic Claims

It seems that this week is a good one for sceptical podcasts overlapping with our interests, as I’d like to point you towards another exceptional podcast worthy of your attention:

The Skeptoid Logo

Skeptoid is a podcast that runs for around ten minutes on average, critically examining claims from purveyors of pseudoscience in a clear-cut, informative, and thoroughly enjoyable fashion. This week’s episode is called “The Incorruptibles”, and deals with the assertions of the Catholic Church (an organisation we’re all familiar with) that the remains of their saints don’t atrophy after death.

While the results of his findings are unlikely to surprise you, it’s quite enlightening to listen to someone discuss their findings on a matter most people would disregard without requiring further investigation.

The eleven and a half minutes of essential listening is here!

On a personal note, I got interested in the sceptical movement by listenting to Richard Dawkins’ appearance on Skepticality around the time that Expelled was released, and given the massive overlap of interests between these groups, (and the fact that ‘debunking’ religious claims can be such a tirelessly monotonous and futile exercise) I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see more people sympathetic to our cause developing an interest in the broader rationalist community.

New Irish Atheist Association

Hi all,

Just to let you all know, as some of us don’t tend to frequent forums, based on the feedback from the members of the Atheist.ie forum, a new Secular/Atheist organisation is being formed and a group of people from the Atheist.ie forum (myself included and hopefully Jason if he can spare the time) are coming together for a meeting to help found this new “Irish Atheist Association” (a tentative name at present) at the end of this month. The details:

Sunday 30th November – 4pm to 7pm.
Central Hotel
Exchequer St Dublin

As I’ve volunteered to be an “executive” member (i.e. some form of coordinator, treasurer or secretary etc…) for the organisation, I’m taking it upon myself to try and gather a group of interested people, who may like to add their voice and/or opinion to our formation, mission and goals, to head up to Dublin on the train or the bus or whichever form of transport we decide upon, to attend the meeting, as individuals or to represent MWH.

Also, if anyone is interested in joining the group or applying for an “executive” role in the organisation, sign up to the Atheist.ie forum and then check out the links below.

I’ll be collecting names and confirming travel details with everyone at the meeting on the 23rd, so if anyone is interested, please let me know at the meeting, here on the blog or via email.

You can find all the relevant discussions on this new group at these links:

The initial thread proposing the formation of a new group:

The thread discussing possible aims of the group:

The thread for committee volunteers and suggestions for possible roles:


On The Importance of Allies

As much as I hate to be the guy talking almost exclusively about US political-type-stuff on a blog about Humanism in the mid-west, (I can defend my rationale for doing so if you’re interested in challenging it) what I’m about to share is too relevant to developments in the Irish atheist community not to highlight.

The latest episode of the sceptical podcast, Skepticality features a talk from Lori Lipman Brown, lobbyist for the Secular Coalition of America, who fellow yankophiles might recognise from this appearance on The Colbert Report.

The talk, “Pastafarian, Zoroastrian, NonTheist – Can’t We All Just Get Along?” is worth a listen, as it outlines some essential points that those aspiring to set up a serious atheist organisation should consider, including avoiding wasting time on semantic bullshittery, and making earnest attempts to forge alliances with any groups that share any similar goals.