If only education on rational thinking is compulsory…

Black magic ‘holy man’ jailed for rape

A Sydney “holy man” who repeatedly raped two women during religious prayer sessions has been sentenced to 15 years in jail. Tony Golossian told the women they had been cursed and that he could purge them of their sins. In prayer sessions between 2001 and 2008, demonic voices told the women that if they did not participate, their families would fall ill and die. The women were raped a number of times at hotels in Sydney’s inner-west. Golossian always assured the victims that what they were experiencing was just a dream. The 63-year-old was seen by some in the Greek Orthodox community as a holy man who could cure black magic curses through prayer. His co-accused, Arthur Psichogios, was also convicted of raping the women and jailed for 12 years. His wife Frances Psichogios was jailed for nine years for her part in the crimes. Judge Penelope Hock said the men had carried out a deliberate and calculated plan to take advantage of the women’s vulnerability and their faith.

-ABC

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the Vatican confirmed a miracle ?!

How does one confirm a miracle (or two!) in 2011 ? Was the Nobel committee involved ? Was it a double blinded study (probably far more likely to be a many-blinded one) ? Was it supervised by independent experts such as neurologists ? Clearly, the recipient of the “miracle” either never had Parkinson’s disease or the cure is more a mirage than miracle.

“Pope John Paul beatified before crowds of faithful: The late pope John Paul II has been officially beatified at a joyous ceremony attended by close to one million people in a jam-packed St Peter’s Square in Rome. Pope Benedict XVI read a Latin formula proclaiming his Polish predecessor, who died in 2005, a “blessed” of the Roman Catholic Church, the last step before sainthood.

Experts say the beatification could help the Vatican burnish an image badly tarnished by paedophile priest scandals, but others have been critical of the fast-tracking of a process that usually takes decades. John Paul’s pontificate lasting nearly 27 years helped inspire youth groups and lay religious movements, but his critics accused him of turning a blind eye to the child abuse scandals which first erupted in the United States in 2000.

The beatification became possible after the Vatican confirmed a miracle attributed to John Paul’s intercession – the unexplained healing of a French nun, Marie Simon-Pierre, from Parkinson’s disease. Ms Simon-Pierre spoke at Saturday’s vigil, paying tribute to John Paul as “a shepherd… who was closest to the weak, the sick and the young”. After the proclamation, she held up a silver reliquary with a vial of blood taken from the pope in the last few days of his life in case it was needed for a transfusion. The Vatican needs to certify a second miracle before John Paul can be made a saint, but officials have hinted that this could happen soon.”

– ABC/AFP

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Even William and Kate looked absolutely bored with this god stuff in their wedding…

My offer as an alternative to the wedding broadcast :my reef tank

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A succinct summary on the basis of religion

We live in a world where all things, good and bad, are finally destroyed by change. The world sustains us, it would seem, only to devour us at its leisure. Parents lose their children and children their parents. Husbands and wives are separated in an instant, never to meet again. Friends part company in haste, without knowing that it will be for the last time. This life, when surveyed with a broad glance, presents little more than a vast spectacle of loss.

But it seems that there is a cure for all this. If we live rightly—not necessarily ethically, but within the framework of certain ancient beliefs and stereotyped behaviors—we will get everything we want after we die. When our bodies finally fail us, we just shed our corporeal ballast and travel to a land where we are reunited with everyone we loved while alive. Of course, overly rational people and other rabble will be kept out of this happy place, and those who suspended their disbelief while alive will be free to enjoy themselves for all eternity.

Sam Harris, The End of Faith

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Black and white

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Botany Bay

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To live at all is miracle enough.

“To live at all is miracle enough.”

Mervyn Peake, The Glassblower (1950), as quoted by Richard Dawkins in “Unweaving the Rainbow”.

TO LIVE IS MIRACLE ENOUGH

To live at all is miracle enough.
The doom of nations is another thing.
Here in my hammering blood-pulse is my proof.

Let every painter paint and poet sing
And all the sons of music ply their trade;
Machines are weaker than a beetle’s wing.

Swung out of sunlight into cosmic shade,
Come what come may the imagination’s heart
Is constellation high and can’t be weighed.

Nor greed nor fear can tear our faith apart
When every heart-beat hammers out the proof
That life itself is miracle enough.

Mervyn Peake, Centenary Year 2011

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We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones.

“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”

Richard Dawkins, Unweaving the Rainbow (also quoted in Hitch-22)

This passage has to be one of the most often quoted and poignant amongst Dawkins’ writings.  I just came across it again in the first pages of Hitch-22.

 

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One life…

The Atheist Foundation of Australia recognises scientific method as the only rational means toward understanding reality. To question and critically examine all ideas, testing them in the light of experiment, leads to the discovery of facts.

As there is no scientific evidence for supernatural phenomena, atheists reject belief in ‘God’, gods and other supernatural beings. The universe, the world in which we live, and the evolution of life, are entirely natural occurrences.

No personality or mind can exist without the process of living matter to sustain it. We have only one life – here and now. All that remains after a person dies is the memory of their life and deeds in the minds of those who live.

Atheists reject superstition and prejudice along with the irrational fears they cause. We recognise the complexity and interdependence of life on this planet. As rational and ethical beings we accept the challenge of making a creative and responsible contribution to life.

 

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For the climate change skeptics…

Through a microscope, the cutting edge of a beautifully sharpened ax looks like the Rocky Mountains, all jagged and irregular, but it is the dull heft of the steel behind the edge that gives the ax its power. Similarly, the cutting edge of science seen up close looks ragged and chaotic, a bunch of big egos engaging in shouting matches, their judgment distorted by jealousy, ambition, and greed, but behind them, agreed upon by all the disputants, is the massive routine weight of accumulated results, the facts that give science its power. Not surprisingly, those who want to puncture the reputation of science and drain off its immense prestige and influence tend to ignore the wide-angle perspective and concentrate on the clashes of schools and their not-so-hidden agendas. But, ironically, when they set out to make their case for the prosecution (using all the finely polished tools of logic and statistics), all their good evidence of the failings and biases of science comes from science’s own highly vigorous exercises in self-policing and self-correction. The critics have no choice: there is no better source of truth on any topic than well-conducted science, and they know it.

Daniel Dennett, Appendix C, “Breaking the Spell”

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