Thursday, February 22, 2007

Politicians Should be Atheists

One of the most dangerous things in the world is a politician with strong beliefs. They believe they know best, ignore evidence to the contrary, and ignore the opinions of others. Then they do stupid things that affect all of us.

Religion is based on beliefs, and strongly religious politicians tend also to have strong belief in their own right to impose their beliefs on other people.

In many ways Tony Blair has one of the best records of a prime minister in recent British history. He has done a lot of good for the country, however he is now very unpopular because he let his beliefs guide him when he should have been listening and using his intelligence. He is an overtly religious man, more so than most recent British politicians, and he also stubbornly sticks to unpopular policies that he believes are right. While it did make sense to be politically close to the USA, he took it too far for too long, and took Britain to war on false pretences, because he believed too strongly in the fake evidence of WMDs.

The US administration, especially Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice are so fixated on their beliefs, that they will do anything to deny and supress evidence that doesn't agree with them. They even deny that they said things that were clearly said on the record, as The Daily Show gleefully points out with back to back video clips. There is a complete inability to admit that they could ever be wrong on anything.

I want all politicians to be atheists, with weak belief systems, and an ability to solve problems, analyze evidence, change their minds if necessary, admit their mistakes quickly and make policy with an open mind and an inclusionary and pluralist attitude. Then the people of America and the world will be truly free.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

An Activist Alien Atheist

Living in the USA I became aware that religion was being used for political ends. It was being wielded as a way to control the agenda of what people were allowed to say, think, teach or do, as defined by a fairly narrow group of right wing evangelical christian organizations.

America was setup as a place to be free, and it contains a huge number of cultures and religions, especially in the Bay Area. Taking away those freedoms in the name of one religion is more than objectionable, it directly affects my life and the lives of people around me. I have close friends and co-workers of just about every possible combination of ethnicity, origin, culture, religion, and sexual orientation.

There is a growing backlash from scientists, atheists and the more tolerant religions against the evangelical right. I began to see more people state openly that they are atheist, and start to mock the agenda of the evangelical right. In particular, creationism and intelligent design was singled out very effectively and lampooned by the Flying Spaghetti Monster religion. My first open act of atheism was to put an FSM logo on the back of my car.

Then Dawkins stirred things up with his book, "The God Delusion" and his public appearances in the US media. He distilled atheism down to a few powerful concepts, such as - The worlds religions describe thousands of gods. Most people believe in one, and don't believe in the rest. So it should be pretty easy to take the gods you don't believe in and add just one more to the list, leaving none.

Dawkins' example, as an outspoken and unapologetic atheist inspired me. I have become an activist atheist. I want to add one more atheist voice to say that I don't want religion in my life and I don't want other peoples religion to control the way I live my life. America should be free and open to a broad range of cultures and beliefs, including those of us who don't have an "imaginary friend". That's why I started writing this blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007

An Atheist

I have a degree in Physics, but I'm not a practicing Scientist. However, I specialise in figuring out how very complicated things work, making sense of them and explaining it to other people who are confused. Seriously, that's what I do in my day job. I've always been able to do this, it seems easy to me, and it pays well....

So when I was in high school, and I had to write an essay for a Religious Education lesson, I explored the idea that the source of religious belief was the result of encounters with extra-terrestrial aliens. I wrote a serious (if naive) essay. It seemed like a very reasonable and sensible explanation for the religion that I saw around me. In particular, lets suppose that a real alien did spend some time visiting a primitive culture, what long term effect would you predict? I thought it would look a lot like the religion we see in the world today. My RE teacher was not particularly happy with my essay, but he didn't seem to have any counter arguments, other than to imply that I was making a joke, which I wasn't.

I'm older and wiser now, and I don't see the need for alien visitation. I think the human mind is perfectly capable of creating all the trappings of religion on its own, without aliens or any kind of supernatural assistance.

For many years I was happy to live a life that had a profound absence of any need for religion whatsoever, but I kept my beliefs to myself. I disapproved of religions that had a missionary component and tried to recruit others, but I just kept quiet in case I upset someone. In the UK this is easy. Religion is in the background, easy to ignore and avoid, of historical interest, but just not very important in most peoples lives. The overtly religious are a harmless minority.

A Legal Alien

Lawful permanent resident is what it says on the Alien Registration Card.

I like living in the melting pot of Northern California, they let me in because I know things that are useful. I stay because the things I do make a bigger difference here.

British Citizen is what it says on the Passport. I like being British, but I don't miss being there.