Sunday, 18 September 2011

Out to Lunch - Generation Atheist

Sadly, Laura, the blog's main editor, seems to be unavailable right now and has been for awhile. All submissions go to her so new submissions won't appear till she is available again and unfortunately I have no idea when that will be.

In the mean time if you have something you wish to voice, an article, an opinion piece, a poem or whatever, if you email it to me instead, I can guarantee they will show up on the blog in due time.

Mike K.
Regular Contributor

Friday, 2 September 2011

Religion Incorporated -- By Rohit J

God should feel snubbed. He should feel insulted. Every single year, Forbes forgets to include him in the list of billionaires. His entire corporation, be it his son or its different employees and departments, has garnered an inordinate amount of money. God is the most successful corporate Chairman of all time. Religion is one of the most successful corporations of all time.
God has sold so many products during his lifetime. The amount of bling he has sold is ridiculous. So many shiny crosses and stars and ohms and crescent moons have been sold on chains. He clearly hurts the balance sheets for Zales and Kay Jewelers and Jarred’s with the amount of jewelry he has sold. The Christian department is the clear front runner, but the Jew department is right there in second. Through the pope and other religious figures, God has great salesmen to sell his shiny bling.

Monday, 29 August 2011

I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag -- By Rohit J

Every American-raised child can relate to this morning ritual. We all stand up, mumble a few words, and then continue our daily lives. 
This act is harmless enough, or is it?
The pledge of allegiance needs to be removed from the public school setting. No child should be indoctrinated into pledging one’s self to a nation. No child should be forced to admit the existence of a god. But most importantly, no child should have to face scorn form their peers for having a different, but valid, ideology.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Dating, Courtship, and Purity: How a Stone Age Religious Text Shaped My Approach to Sex -- by Libby Anne

Read more by Libby Anne at

I was taught to save my kisses for the man I would someday marry. My first kiss would be at the alter. I was not allowed to date in high school, because dating was practice for divorce. I, in contrast, was to wait until I was ready to marry, and then get to know a like minded young man through a courtship guided by my father. I was taught that as a woman, marriage, homemaking, and motherhood was my highest calling, and that sex within marriage was a sacred bond not to be profaned by unholy premarital sexual contact, or even premarital kissing. I was raised a fundamentalist Christian in a purity driven culture which based its teachings about sex, dating, and courtship on the teachings of the Bible. 

As a woman, I was taught to guard my purity jealously. My purity would be the greatest gift I could ever give my husband, and that moment when I would assure him on the wedding night that I was a virgin and had saved myself, my all, for him would be one of the best moments of my life. I was told that if I had sex before marriage, I would be forever haunted by regrets and my husband would never trust me. There would always be something wrong between us. If I came to the marriage a virgin, in contrast, unsullied by any other male, I would be set up for a perfect, godly marriage. In fact, I was taught that I would even regret dating or courting anyone else before my husband. During each relationship, I would give away a piece of my heart that I could never get back, and could never give to my husband. 

I was told that sex (within marriage, of course) was the most amazing thing ever. After saving ourselves for each other, I was told, the sex my husband and I would have would be out of this world. It would be like nothing I could imagine. Sex was sacred, holy, and amazing. I imagined some sort of holy lightening bolt that would fill during the act of sex, overwhelming us with pleasure. This would be worth waiting for. 

An update on my super-serious undercover mission

I just found this on the website of the 'Christian Youth Celebration' I'm attending in September:

"The Mix has moved to a new time of 5pm, followed by 6.30pm after hours in the crypt."

Um, the crypt? This thing just got ten times creepier.  

Monday, 22 August 2011

Being Good Without God -- by William Bell

What does a believer think of when they describe their own beliefs about god?  The most obvious answers are God represents love, at least in the Judeo-Christian belief system.  Many believers think that without the loving benevolent father and the eternal hell fire alternative they would be eating babies, raping, and pillaging.

This is based on the assumption that God created humans basically in a state of immorality and without divine discouragement (threat of hell) humans would not sustain any form of culture and human society would fall apart.           
But this is in fact not true, and in my view if we are in a truly moral society then someone is being altruistic they are doing it out of the goodness of their heart not because they are afraid of punishment.  It could not even be considered altruism because it is meant to contribute to reaching a selfish cause (going to heaven not hell).

However this makes sense based on evolutionary predictions.  We are selfish animals and we have a deep instinct to survive, therefore once affected by a meme such as a religious belief, like the good-bad afterlife complex we will do whatever we can to make it so we survive that afterlife in good condition.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Undercover at the Christian Youth Festival (the plotting and scheming stage)

Call me crazy: next month I’m going to a Christian “youth celebration”.

I, your intrepid reporter, will be journeying to the depths of the evangelical teenage kingdom in order to tell you just how creepy and brainwashy (or not) Christian youth festivals really are. Farewell, good friends. It was nice knowing you.

The event is called “The Mix” and is taking part in my home town on the evening of September 4th. I first went there when I was still a Christian and I remember even then being a little freaked out by it. There was air groping. And crying. Lots of crying. I was confused.

A Christian friend of mine mentioned it on Facebook today and I thought “Hmmm…I like purposely causing myself pain and suffering, why don’t I go!” We had the following conversation.

Me: Hi (Christian friend), (other friend) and I are planning on coming too. Is there still a mini bus?

Christian friend: Yeah, but that's with the Baptist Church and I go with my Youth Group. Laura, if your just coming to laugh with a closed, set mind I recommend you don't go. The only point in going would be if you went open minded.

Me: In the spirit of one of my favourite quotes “Keep an open mind – but not so open your brain falls out”. As always, I’m willing to change my mind as soon as I’m presented with convincing evidence. However, on this occasion I’m not there to challenge, but in a research capacity. And you explicitly said "You don't need to be a Christian, anyone is welcome".

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Sexuality and Religion Series: My Sexy Demons -- by Mike K

Darrel Ray is a psychologist who wrote the book The God Virus which looks at the mechanism of belief and how it passes itself on and reinforces itself in its host. It's a fantastic read for anyone who is interested in memes and psychological mechanisms behind powerful ideas and cults. There is more to how religions spread and survive than just a crotchety old man in robes being sent out to wander around shouting “Wololo” at people. Oh no, in reality religion is much more like a highly refined biological weapon that exploits universal human weak-points.

One of the most powerful tools religion has is what is called the Guilt Cycle. The religion will convince you from a young age that certain things are sinful and deserving of hell, then they'll tell you they have the cure; they'll link in your mind shame and guilt with lots of perfectly human and natural behaviours and thoughts and then set up the church as the only place to nullify that guilt for a short while. It becomes indistinguishable from addiction to pain killers, eventually you're going to feel lust and the guilt that comes with it and the only place you'll find solace for that unnecessary guilt is in the church.
[Ray more recently conducted a survey on sexuality in the secular,
 Sex and Secularism, looking that what long term lasting effects this cycle might have and perhaps surprisingly and happily it turns out that generally people can shake off the addiction relatively quickly after deconverting.]

Anyway, I wanted to establish the Guilt Cycle concept as a context to tell you about my experiences around sexuality and religion. First off, I consider myself bisexual, but given that everyone seems to have their own definitions of these labels, it's really difficult to say that and have it be meaningful – much to my annoyance. But for all intents and purposes let's keep it simple: it's fact that I find romantic and sexual attraction to both sexes. But it wasn't always like that and as much as people say, “People are born that way.” It's certainly not always the case. When I originally started noticing my peers in that way, I was 11, maybe 12, and I was only attracted to girls and it seemed like every day I had a new crush.

I was also very Christian at this point having been raised to believe in creationism even and we were already getting the ol' “sex is of the flesh and sinful” type tracts in youthgroup by then. For a few years after that, things went on as normal (you know, wanking then praying for forgiveness, the normal life of a young Christian). But things were about to change. I dunno why, maybe it was because I liked tomboys and he kind of confused the parts of my brain that react to girls and his tall, slender and slightly athletic figure with his long hair and bright blue eyes just suddenly did it for me. I ended up with a crush on a boy! I can tell you that was a very scary realisation to me.

Part of the problem was the dichotomy we're implicitly taught in society; that there are straight people (who have no interest in other people of the same sex ever) and they are “normal”. Then there are gays who are nasty and like buttsecks and being covered in bodily fluids and who talk funny and who will automatically hit on you and spread AIDS, etc.. Not even SexEd in schools really set us straight, so to speak, and that things are just more complicated than the simple and false dichotomy of gay and straight and the stereotypes that go with them. Without a realistic understanding of human sexuality, a young guy can only jump to nonsensical conclusions.

Now my church back then weren't really in the business of saying “fags are going to hell” or anything like that, oh no, that would be too controversial in my country. The position of the people my old church on sexuality would be very difficult to pin down, I certainly don't remember them talking about it much (but I never really listened). However what they certainly never did was dispel the myths. I had impressions from my father, reading the bible and from culture that lead me to terrible conclusions about myself. In desperation we all will grasp at straws if we don't know any better. The fact that I was only attracted to girls and now was fantasising about boys too meant I was changing for some reason. I rationalised that change on a Christian basis.

I thought my new attractions were a manifestation of my own sinful corruption. That I was so bad (I couldn't work out where I was being so bad but never mind) that my own heart was like mutating into perversion. Any confidence I had by this time was utterly destroyed by this belief. I went into a deep depression, prayed more earnestly than ever before and did my best to try and change. Needless to say, I never did change. Disproof of my belief? Not at all! Only proves I was worse than I thought, at least that's how I rationalised it at the time.

I swallowed my turmoil for some time and after awhile just sort of accepted the idea I was corrupted and put it to one side. I agreed to myself that I'll fantasise about guys if I need to but I was only to act on opposite-sex impulses for the rest of my life. That may have been a workable solution from my perspective but it never made me feel any better about myself. The other thing was that all my best friends back then were Christian and as much as I trusted each one of them, I couldn't cope with the idea being 'out there' that part of me wanted to "be with" other guys (and that continued to be the case for years and even a little while after I became an atheist) so it all still weighed very heavily on my mind all the time.

When I deconverted 3 years ago, I had the opportunity to restructure my whole world view. I took the time to learn about human sexuality, the things I should have learnt about in school, and so don't feel like some kind of perverted freak. I grew the confidence and even pride enough to come out to everyone even though I got an almost immediate negative reaction from some of my friends. Their reaction though was rash and not thought through and after a while they all didn't care again.

While I'm happy about myself and have been able to have some great experiences because of that since (*wink*), honestly, I still have a chip on my shoulder. I can still remember very well the shame and the guilt and the gut wrenching self-loathing from my teen years.

I've been accused a few times of simply “hating God”... Rightly fucking so I say! At least I do for the religion and the quiet complicity in those who allowed the physical and internal, emotional torments, and the exploitation of those things to spread this God virus to me and other innocent young people.

If you are a young non-theist who wants their voice to be heard, consider submitting an article of your own to Generation Atheist. Visit our submissions page for details.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

The Guava Tree of Good and Evil

Alex Day (of Twilight reading fame) reads the creation story in Genesis. He ponders life, the universe, and the extent to which creation is like Sims. 

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Sexuality and Religion Series - God, Atheism and Me -- by Sam P

I sit in silence, and think back to before. Before I became a free man. Free from the shackles of religion – having to cope with the stress and self bullying caused by anachronous religious dogma.

I found so much beauty and peace with my escape and its thanks to three things: Science, Reason and Prof. Richard Dawkins.

The reason I was trapped is still a bit unclear, a lot of it is based in fear. Fear of denying God Exists, Fear of the what if, fear of fire and brimstone, fear of disappointing my Christian parents. I would spend some nights in an appalling wretched mental wrestling match between following God and letting go.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Sexuality and Religion Series - Untitled-- by Brittany E

If you want to read more from Brittany, visit her blog.

I've grown up in an area with a church on every corner. This is not much of an exaggeration. There are two churches within ten minutes walking distance from where I'm sitting, and four within 20. I live in a place where church/state violations are brushed of as silly and people roll their eyes when asked to include religions other than christianity, and find it unthinkable to not believe in a god. a vast, vast majority of people around here are christian. My high school had between 400 and 500 people in it, and the number of (out) atheists was at 7, at the highest, while I was there. Most people attended a church every week, at least.

Luckily for me, somehow, my parents don't happen to be very religious. My mom is something of an agnostic, but went with the label "christian" for a long time, because she'd gone to church as a kid, and she didn't utilize her own mind very much until a few years ago, preferring to let my dad decide these things. My dad grew up in an abusive home, and tried to get religion to save him from it around age 15, and since, even though he's not gone to church or read the bible, has been a weird sort of religious that seems to mean he thinks that there's a god who wants you to worship him and believes a few randomized passages in the bible. I'm not really sure why someone with such an insanely cherry-picked religion that seems totally unique to him would feel he could criticize others, but he somehow finds a lack of religion laughable.

Enter- My homosexuality, and screw with all of my family relationships. I didn't come out until about a year after my parents decided they found out. It's all a little difficult to explain, but my dad heard rumors that I was gay, and kissed my girlfriend at school, then, I gave xem (My girlfriend is genderqueer and these are the decided pronouns. Check out my blog if you're interested in knowing more about this.) a goodbye kiss on xyr forehead one day, and he decided that he knew enough to guess that, yes, I am a lesbian, and I should never be allowed to talk to my girlfriend.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Religious Comedy Bite

I was watching "My Favourite Joke" on BBC1 last night, and came across this:

Saturday, 13 August 2011

A Religious Mother's Wishes -- By Kevin A

I've been an atheist for over four years and my mom has known about my atheism for around three. Up to this point it hasn't really caused a problem, mostly because we really don't talk about it, probably because it keeps the peace, which in general I'm fine with. Most of the time it just never gets brought up unless she tells me as a mere statement of fact that she went to church earlier in the day or something and it's relevant to the story as a whole.

I don't really have plans of getting married in the near future, but I have been dating my girlfriend, who is also an atheist, for over three years so it's not like the subject has never come up. With respect to marriage, you could probably infer from my previous posts that I would want a marriage ceremony completely devoid of any religious references, and given how it's seemed to be a non-issue with my mom over the past few years, I wasn't concerned that she would care either way if I had a religious wedding... that was until last week.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

A Teachable Moment -- By Shannon B

Something slightly different today: this is a post from Shannon, who has recently started homeschooling her children, and has been thinking about secular morality and considering values for a life lived without God. 

Since coming out as an atheist, I’ve only had a few people ask (and not always directly) how I determine what is moral without a higher power guiding me.

Easily… and without the guilt.

I grew up in a somewhat religious family. Though, out of the three siblings, only one of us (Eldest Male, duh) was baptized as a baby…you know, for good luck with carrying on the family name. If my parents truly did  believe, then that’s like a big middle finger to the other two of us – still carrying around our original sin. Pffffft!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Sexuality and Religion Series - a call for submissions

When I had that wondrous day last week during which I turned on my computer to find that the publicity from Friendly Atheist meant I had a full email inbox of submissions, I noticed something: many of the submissions I received were about how religion has affected the author's experience of their sexuality.

As this has proven to be such a popular topic, and one it's clear a lot of you want to address, I've decided to dedicate the week starting next Monday to articles about Religion and Sexuality. I'll post all the articles on that topic I have received, including my own, along with any others I receive before the end of that week. 

So this is a call for submissions. If you have something you want to say about religion and sexuality, this is your chance. Just send your article, poem, creative writing piece or artwork to 

If you're feeling unsure about whether you want to send me something, here is a puppy with a sad face to guilt you into it. 

See, now you have to do it. 

Thinking Rationally – The Euthyphro Dilemma -- By Rohit A

During any discussion that I have with people about God and religion, the one point that every believer makes is about morality. The claim is that religion and fear of God make people do good things. This of course implies that without the idea of someone omniscient looking over us, we would collapse into anarchy and as long as religion stops up from being morally bankrupt, religion is good.
The fact that you do good things out of fear of eternal damnation (or reincarnation, depending on what version of the story you prefer) rather than because they are based on sound logic tells us a lot about religion. The same believers say that because the masses, especially in a country like India, cannot think critically and make decisions for themselves and so they need religion to give them direction to do the right things. This points to the very heart of the problem. The religious would rather have us believing something without any rational thought process than encourage independent inquiry.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Burden Of Proof: On Acceptable Evidence For God -- By Fenix C

This post is a response to a post on Generation Atheist called Are Proofs Or Evidence For Deities Even Hypothetically Possible and while I highly recommend reading that article, it will not be necessary to understand what I am talking about here.

The entire article is based on two ideas, Occams Razor and Clarke's Third Law
OR: All other things being equal, the simplest explanation tends to be the correct one, or more accurately, that when discussing hypotheses that are equal in other regards, it is right to select the one that requires you to make the least number of unwarranted assumptions.
CL: Any technology sufficiently advanced would be indistinguishable from magic.

We use OR in our life every day - we assume when we find a suicide note and a guy hanging from the ceiling, we assume that he killed himself. We would not assume that someone forced him to write the note in his own handwriting and then hung the guy for some reason. Unless there is evidence (for example, he was really rich, and then after he died suddenly it was revealed that his will was changed last week to put all of his money into a nameless bank account) of course, we will assume that the simplest answer is correct. This is the reason for the word "unwarranted" because if there were such evidence, the assumption would be completely warranted.

Clarke's Law is less prevalent in our society in an obvious way, but think about A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court. A moden man is sent back in time to the middle ages, and with his knowledge of history and electricity, manages to make firearms and an electric fence to defend himself from those who would wish to destroy him. And what is the first word they use for him? Wizard. He was using a concept of electricity to run his camp, charged invisible particles moving energy around - this was so far above the understanding of the people of that time that they couldn't understand it at all, and so it was magic. But we are smarter now, we have this law to reference. So if an alien race ever showed up and shot energy weapons and were capable of moving things large distances in a single instant, we would assume (based on CL and OR) that they were simply very technologically advanced, not magical.

And really - magic is simply the manipulation of the world using techniques unknown to the observer. If I can make a bosy float, and people do not understand it, it is called magic. But I did it using techniques possible and following from the given rules of the universe. If someone were to do something that we perceived as impossible, we would be wrong - it is not impossible, because we just saw it. Then there are two conclusions we can reach: either our understanding of the rules of the universe were incomplete in this regard, or our understanding of what we just saw was incomplete. This is why I say there is no such thing as magic. Because magic is to do the impossible (or at least the illusion of the impossible) which by its definition is not possible. If it is done, it is possible, and therefore there are rules governing its possibility, which puts us back at the two possible conclusions of incorrect knowledge or faulty perception.

So the question this author poses to us is this: hypothetically if someone showed up claiming to be God and showed up amazing things that we were incapable of doing (water into winewalking on water, etc.) we, the rationalists, would assume that it was simply advanced technology and not magic - so how would a deity prove itself? This is a very good question. I had to think about it for a while, and had to back to the base of the creation myth to answer it.

I am going to assume for the sake of argument that God exists, created the world with natural laws (gravity, radioactive decay, stuff like that) and that we as members of its existence are forced to obey, and that these laws cannot be broken. They can be manipulated - Jesus can walk on water, the sea can part, stuff like that. These are improbable, but do not go against the laws of nature. It is conceivable that the act is a trick based in technology and science. For example, we have invented a vehicle that can travel on land and water without touching either of them directly - we call it a hovercraft. It is simple, a parachute holds the air in place and the force exerted upwards by the air held under the craft is equal to the force of gravity on the craft. But imagine trying to explain that to someone who didn't understand forces or gravity or even air. There was a time when birds were not understood.

So how would a Deity prove itself to exist to us? For me, it would have to violate a rule of this universe that is not violable. For me there, is only one rule that comes to mind - the conservation of matter. Unfortunately, this would be again, very difficult to do even for a Deity, because us skeptics are very skeptical.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Why I'm an Atheist (well, kinda)

Being subjected to this song on a regular basis as a child  is, I think, 99% of the reason I'm now an atheist. 

(The other 1% is something to do with reason, logic, critical thinking and science. But it's mostly the song.) 

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Belief, Science and the Human Brain -- By Emily H

It has been a common saying from atheists that “God is all in your head.” A more fitting position might be this one suggested by anthropologist Pascal Boyer (referenced in the 2nd Edition Anthropology of Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft), “People do not invent gods and spirits; they receive information that leads them to build such concepts.” Boyer, as well as other researchers, suggest that this “received information” could be of the brain’s own making. He suggests that religion is an accidental by-product of the way the human brain works. Humans come to the conclusion that there is a higher power, or spiritual entities because of the way our brains make connections between unrelated occurrences. Here is an example. Brian wore green socks when his baseball team won, he concludes that he must wear those same socks for the rest of the season or else the team will fail. Religion exists in much the same way. Brian prays for the baseball team to win and if they succeed it was because the prayer was answered. It is simply human nature to seek patterns where none exist. We see shapes in the clouds and constellations in the night skies. Now the question remains; why do our brains work this way?

Spiritual experiences are universal and multi-cultural. Forever, people from all kinds of religions and belief systems have claimed to have a connection with a spiritual entity. Many even report visions of these entities and their revelations are regarded as fact. How do so many people from different times and places share this theme? Science may hold the answer. Scientists have proposed that a part of the temporal lobe affects how a person reacts to religious stimuli. They refer to it as the God module. This theory is supported by CAT scans of Buddhist monks meditating and Catholic nuns in prayer. Interestingly enough, this research shows that spiritual experiences are universal because of shared human biology. All human brains have the God module.

One example of spiritual experiences and “visions” can be seen in Reverend Lovasik’s Illustrated Book of Saints. He describes St. Teresa of Avila, a Catholic nun in 1500’s Spain. She was often “blessed” with holy visions. She is also the patroness against headaches. She suffered headaches because of her divine premonitions. The book states, “In 1582, Jesus appeared to Teresa with many saints. She begged Him to take her to Himself. After prayer, her soul was taken to heaven.” Today we realize that visions can really be dangerous hallucinations. St. Teresa also had a condition that can now be recognized as epilepsy. The God module, as discussed earlier, is in a region of the brain that is over-stimulated in people with epilepsy. It is very possible that St. Teresa and the many people of various religions, who claim a special connection with a spirit or God, just have an over-stimulated part of the temporal lobe.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

How to be Smart (a YouTube interlude) -- by Stephen J

This is a slight interlude from the scheduled posting, as Microsoft Word appears to be throwing a temper tantrum today.

Instead, I'd like to share with you a YouTube video I was sent at the Generation Atheist email address ( by a young atheist who has recently started voicing his thoughts about science, religion and scepticism on the internet. He's in the process of making a really interesting series that I would encourage you to check out. The below video is just one of many (plus, I love his shirt). 


We should be back on schedule by tomorrow, but if not I may need to present to you the world exclusive of "Random Stuff Laura Finds on the Internet". Let's hope it doesn't come to that. 

If you are a young non-theist who wants their voice to be heard, consider submitting an article of your own to Generation Atheist. Visit our submissions page for details.

Friday, 5 August 2011

On Scepticism in the Broad World -- By Robert S

In its own way, saying you are an atheist is a bit like proclaiming yourself Christian, in the sense that the label actually describes only the bare back bone of your belief. Coming from a Roman Catholic family, and having mostly protestant friends (which in itself is a broad term,) you start seeing differences not only between variations between the followers of Jesus, but between members of the same sect. Likewise, I have seen splits in atheism, and not only between blogers over the elevator incident. I have personally felt it.

I have never been religious. Growing up, while I adored the humanitarian message that Jesus spouted, I ignored the fact that the bible doesn’t fit our modern times with its discriminatory view on women, homosexuals, other belief systems/philosophies, etc, etc, etc. I never understood why the grownups and my friends held these beliefs, but I myself didn’t want to care. God, then, fell into this category. I simply shook off the fact that he ought to exist. As I came more and more into my own, I started to start caring about the issues, and found after looking at the evidence, I was a progressive liberal. I had doubt that a god existed, but not ready to take that next step. Instead, I started to secretly ebb away from mass, In a brilliant plan to distance myself from the church. I was still under my parent’s thumb at the time, so it was the best I thought I could do. First, I started taking three to four bathroom brakes during service, then stepped singing, then stood at the back, finally finding myself not even in the building, opting to listen to my music outside instead. I even quit religious education. But the thing I was not was an atheist.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Searching for the Baby in the Bathwater -- By Libby Anne

Everyone who leaves the Quiverfull movement, Christian Patriarchy, or fundamentalism in general has a long journey in front of them. They have to sort through everything they have always believed and determine what to throw out and what to keep, what still makes sense and what does not. This can be a long and difficult process, and can even take years. Everyone’s journey is different. My personal journey led me out of Christianity altogether. This is the story of that journey. It is not your journey and does not need to be; rather, it is my journey.

I had been taught all my life to take the Bible literally, to believe that God created the world in six days, that Abraham and Moses really existed and did and said what the Bible records, that every word of the Gospels was true as written, and that Paul really did tell women to submit to their husbands and not work outside of the home. The Bible, I was taught, was infallible, without error of any sort, and was my guide for life. But when I found in college that my parents’ views on evolution were wrong, and that the Biblical account of creation could not possibly be literally true, I had a problem. What was I to believe?

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Art and Religion -- By Caroline K

The histories of Art and Religion are closely intertwined- 'culture,' as defined by my Social Studies teachers, required both art and religion to be present (the latter I obviously have doubts about), and religion has given birth to some of the most beautiful intricate pieces of art that we know. Take, for example, the Marienaltar, a limewood altarpiece at a modest little church in Creglingen, Germany. Carved around 1505, its designs and figures are immaculate, the details lovingly brought out from the material they came from. Although the spare paint and gild that were used have faded away, it is still a beautiful piece of art.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

News: Baroness Scotland gives tips on curing paedophile priests

Between 1995 and 1999, 21 of the 5,600 Catholic priests in England and Wales were convicted of offences against children. In 2010, there were 83 sex abuse claims relating to 103 victims and 92 alleged abusers. The advice given by the new Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission to combat this problem?  Invite them to a football game or give them a glass of wine.

Baroness Scotland became Chair of the National Catholic Safeguarding Commission in March of this year. Upon her appointment, she commented that “Safeguarding is at the heart of the Church – knowing that you are in a safe place where you will be respected; listened to and free to become part of a loving community…” Well, that seems nice enough. Except it’s not the abused children and their families that Baroness Scotland wants faithful Catholics to shelter in their “loving community”. It is, in fact, paedophilic priests.

We have a logo!

Generation Atheist now has a logo, which you can see in the header at the top of the page. This will be used on the site, on Atheist Nexus, and on the soon-to-be created Generation Atheist Facebook page.

Thank you so much to Harry Bratt for designing it. He put a lot of work into creating a number of possibilities and talking me through how to get them up on the blog. In fact, Harry's help and support in getting this whole project off the ground has been invaluable. Thank you, Harry!

Freedom of Religion -- By Colin G

In the United States, freedom of religion holds an exalted place both in the founding documents of our government and in the minds of our citizens.  That is not to say this freedom is never threatened; there are plenty of political leaders who are even proud of the persecution they encourage.  But outside an unfortunately vocal fringe group, freedom of religion is still a tenet of American society, conservative and progressive segments of that society alike.

But should it be?

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Personal Story -- By Zoe R

My family isn’t terribly religious. I grew up going to synagogue only once in a while, usually for special holidays. When I did go, I didn’t have much of an idea of what was going on; most of the proceedings were in Hebrew, which I never learned. I was taught the stories of the major holidays, such as the reason we celebrate Pesah or Yom Kippur, but they were just that. Stories. Not the absolute truth, but a story.

However, now that I’ve further explored my own belief system, I find myself growing more uncomfortable with the religion around me. I wasn’t indoctrinated, but it’s always there. My grandmother will say a prayer, or we’ll tell a religious story with all the oppressions of religion, and I’ll shift uncomfortably in my seat, biting my tongue.

I’ve tried my best not to let it become an issue. If someone mentions god, I bite my tongue or mumble in response. The message is clear, but not overly confrontational. If my aunt mentions that “God is unforgiving,” then I’ll just ignore the remark and move on. For the most part, this system works.

Friday, 29 July 2011

Fun with the School God Club -- By Laura (Editor)

Here in the UK we don’t generally have a huge problem with Christian groups exerting influence over school life. I definitely have it really good compared with schools I’ve heard about in other countries, where Christian student groups roam the halls loudly Jesus-lovin’ every lunchtime, or hold a lot of weight in school committees.

But my school does have a God club, which makes for equal parts of frustration and amusement. The amusement came, most memorably, on Valentine’s Day, when the club was handing out sweets along with a little slip of paper with a Bible verse on it. Obviously, God wasn’t watching over their actions too closely that day, because a typo meant that the little slip announced to the student population: “For God gave his only son, John”.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Rights and Withdrawal (Part One) --

The school term’s coming to end at my Church of England school, the sun is shining down on the scarce trees that adorn the playground, most teachers have plonked on a video for the kids (although they’re not supposed to anymore!), and many children have massed joyfully in the hall to celebrate another triumphant year of learning in the joyously joyful joyfest end of year Communion of joy. What!

The teachers may have loosened their ties but “attendance to the Communion will be compulsory.” Some children wept, others began needlessly writing out lines in sheer fear and confusion.

Luckily for me I’m a sixth-former, my mind immediately turned back to the information I picked up off a website a few weeks ago.

Here’s the link, and I thank Keith Porteous Wood very graciously for its availability, he even claimed to be “personally responsible for its enactment” when I emailed him for guidance on the issue. You see, withdrawal wasn’t as easy as I thought.

“Perhaps you would feel more comfortable in another school.” said Mr Bingley (not real name) the deputy head, stroking his chin and looking towards the floor. Although indirect he was saying that I could be thrown out the school of at least refused further entry next year, for not attending Communion. He argued that it was “expected” of the sixth-formers to concede to the Christian ethos of the school.

Ok, so I was a bit scared, I mean, I really didn’t want to go this Communion, especially since I had a right not to go, but then I didn’t want to get chucked out the school! Or did I. (just kidding I didn’t.) I bet he wouldn’t have said the same to someone explicitly of a different faith, e.g. a Muslim which are present in the school.

I began to wonder if my rights really meant anything.

Are Proofs or Evidence for Deities Even Hypothetically Possible? -- By Mike K

Ever since de-converting, I've taken things like Occam's Razor and the burden of proof to heart, and enjoyed what was essentially a cleaning out of closets of all sorts of irrational bunk and superstition. There is an unshakable confidence that comes with reasonable doubt, a high standard of evidence and a willingness to accept evidence if it's merited. It rightly puts the burden of proof back on the shoulders of the claimants.

But I wonder if, at least for theists, it's an impossible burden - even if there were a god.

We all know the saying that “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” but it's not really true, certainly not in all cases. At least with something like a personal god and creator, an intelligent designer with which you would see evidence everywhere. For something like that absence of evidence
 is definitely evidence of absence, just not explicit proof of any sort. With that in mind, I've occasionally asked, “What would be good evidence of the claims of god?” I honestly can never think of anything and generally give up pretty quickly. There is a central problem when it comes to a standard of evidence for an un-evidenced 'superbeing'.

Consider this video:


My friend showed this to me a few days ago and one of the first things to jump to mind was doing this where I could be seen by some tribal natives - the type that still throw spears at near-flying planes - and land where the impressionable lot would worship me as their sky deity! -Or perhaps not.

What I could do though was disprove my own divinity, and reveal to them there is no magic to flying, something anyone could achieve with the knowledge.

If I didn't demystify the science of human flight, you'd expect them to worship me, maybe even executing doubters for impiety in the presence of a deity. They'd do it because they couldn't imagine a natural explanation for me gliding across the sky. But if I explained it to them, a dangerous idea may occur: that if one thing presumed divine isn't, what does that mean for all the other things presumed divine? What of the sun, rain, lightning and life?

The first scientific discovery of this sort for any people ought to be the start of a philosophical revolution, at least it would if not for our incredible ability to compartmentalise our world view. But if it did, as it has for us, then to a sensible person something that looks magic would never be automatically presumed magic.

Clarke's third law:
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. 

The thing is that we can conceive how the apparently magic can be natural. Flying is child’s play to our very knowledgeable minds. But we can conceive of a great deal more than just flying. We have a whole genre for these things called science fiction. It would be very impressive to see, but witnessing a being capable of harnessing the total energy output of a star doesn't for a moment seem godly to us. Some even expect humans to attain that kind of knowledge. The appearance of magic is simply no useful standard of evidence.

A bit closer to home, one of the many "proofs" that believers tote as work of the divine is alleged science in the bible. Now I don't think for a second that there is any real science is in the bible; to me it reads just as belligerently ignorant as the rancid sprawling of any bronze-age farmer would be. It takes real effort to interpret that nonsense into anything that resembles science but they manage - or more specifically manage to interpret to reflect recent discoveries, always after the fact. But even if I conceded that there was predictions of science in the bible, what would that prove?

There was a great deal of fascinating science done in antiquity. In the third century BCE, a Greek scientist named Eratosthenes managed not only to figure out that the planet was round but managed to work out the size of the planet. This discovery makes it interesting that the bible still depicts in Genesis a disk world with a dome sky afloat the deep. The bible was altered greatly over the centuries it was codified, particularly before it was canonised, and yet none of the ancient science found its way into the book. So there is a lot of science that could be in the bible, yet isn't, even though there was opportunity. But what if there was, and not just science from antiquity, but anachronistic science?

What about ancient astronauts? I mean, there's no real evidence for them but it'd be more likely than something divine, wouldn't it? Regardless of the probabilities, there is at least a non-supernatural explanation for something like that, which, due to the virtue of it being a natural explanation means Occam's Razor favours it for its fewer assumptions.

So what's left? What kinds of things do we require before we can treat the divine as a reasonable idea? Well if we were talking about a magic man, like Jesus, the very least we would demand to be shown is not simply something we cannot explain, that would be an argument from ignorance & credulity. I think back to watching Derren Brown on tv with my mum. She refused to believe he wasn't psychic, even after him explicitly saying he wasn't. Simply there is a great precedence of hucksters pretending to be magic, there's no shortage of them today even. Psychic mediums, faith healers, past-life regression hypnotists, take your pick.

A magic man could put on a good show, a fantastically inexplicable show, but that's simply not enough. Even in the best case for a miracle worker, none could ever be distinguishable from a talented huckster so the safer bet is always going to be the huckster.

What about personal revelation? Quite frankly, with the amount of knowledge we already have about the fallibility of the mind and experience, it's hard to understand why it's offered as some kind of evidence for the divine. It could simply come down to the sensing of a ghostly presence induced by carbon monoxide poisoning, sleep paralysis and hypnagogic hallucinations of alien abduction or oxygen starvation causing one of those near death experiences. Revelation and personal experiences just can't be any sort of evidence. I mean, just ask yourself this: "How can I distinguish between revelation and delusion?"

Does that therefore not mean that there isn't anything that could logically convince a skeptic of the supernatural without committing the argument from ignorance fallacy?

We can only ever know something if it's natural. Sure if there is something supernatural above nature and that occasionally interacts with nature, it would be detectable. But we could never learn anything about its mechanism existing outside nature. If we can't know how it works, we can't know its not natural. 

You just cannot parse unknown nature from the supernatural.

Clearly, even if there were a deity or deities out there somewhere, somehow, we could never expect reasonable evidence or proof for them. While the burden of proof is on the theists – its not one a theist could even hypothetically manage. It may feel disingenuous, but when we are asked by believers if there could be any proof we'd accept, the answer must be a simple, “No.”

It raises an interesting issue though. Theists often simultaneously claim that god is good or merciful or something and, “god's ways are mysterious.”

How can you assert anything about something that is entirely shrouded in mystery?

If you are a young non-theist who wants their voice to be heard, consider submitting an article of your own to Generation Atheist. Visit our submissions page for details.

Tomorrow: "Authority" By Harry Bratt