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Comments by Jonathan Dore

Go to: Effect of the concept of hell on children

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jonathan Dore

Once we're alive we find it hard to imagine not being alive, so religions invent ideas based around the notion that you will somehow continue to be fully conscious even after death. This is laughable. All that happens once you're dead is that you'll return to the state of not being alive, just as you were before your birth. Mark Twain put it well: "I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it."

Obsessing us with thoughts of an "afterlife" is also a mechanism that religious authorities have always used to stop us focusing on what's actually happening in this life, the only one we'll ever have. And simply to be alive provides as great a source of wonder as anyone could wish for. As Richard Dawkins wrote at the beginning of "Unweaving the Rainbow":

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.

Mon, 23 Jul 2012 17:48:11 UTC | #949907

Go to: Prayer at a working lunch?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 44 by Jonathan Dore

Although I'm sure it is tempting to make this a discussion about the merits of open atheism, I'm really much more interested in handling this within the confines of my current desire to remain silent on the matter for the foreseeable future.

I think you've pretty much answered your question yourself by the self-denying ordinance you've imposed. Within those limits, no, it's pretty clear there isn't anything more you could do. Did you really need to ask?

Mon, 09 Jul 2012 21:29:18 UTC | #948810

Go to: Former Louisiana pastor tells humanists about his conversion to nonbelief

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 8 by Roedy

The poll is amusing. It presumes atheism would be always be perceived negatively.

Exactly. I ticked "other" and wrote "It would make me much more likely to vote for them" -- just to make sure there was no misunderstanding.

Fri, 15 Jun 2012 14:47:29 UTC | #947578

Go to: The Dawkins Challenge

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 48 by Jonathan Dore

Carto: do you blog? You should.

Thu, 14 Jun 2012 12:47:45 UTC | #947395

Go to: Church accused of 'scaremongering'

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 45 by Jonathan Dore

From the OP:

...fears raised by the Church of England that introducing same sex marriage would undermine its centuries-old role as the established Church...

...the Church of England said that introducing gay marriage would threaten the establishment of the Church of England...

And they think this would bother most people how, exactly? The lack of awareness this shows about most English people's indifference to the church and its status is perhaps the most interesting thing about these pronouncements.

Wed, 13 Jun 2012 11:51:16 UTC | #947185

Go to: Unsung Heroes, Obscure Scientists

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by Jonathan Dore

Not unknown but always worth remembering:

Humphry Davy: best known today for his safety lamp (a great lifesaver for miners), but a giant of early chemistry: discovered 6 new elements.

John Dalton: laid the modern foundations for atomic theory.

Not a scientist but an electrical engineer of genius, often unfairly overlooked: William Sturgeon, inventor of both the electromagnet and of the commutator, the latter of which in turn is the essential innovation in both a practical electric motor and (when powered in reverse) AC electricity generation. Virtually all industrial electricity generation today (whatever the ultimate energy source) is based on it.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 13:09:40 UTC | #946135

Go to: Unsung Heroes, Obscure Scientists

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 25 by Jonathan Dore

Roedy is thinking of Jan Baptist van Helmont.

In a similar area of work, John Ray is a major figure in the early history of botany: he really laid the foundations for the principles of plant taxonomy, about a century before Linnaeus.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:54:04 UTC | #946131

Go to: Spanish artist faces prison over 'how to cook Christ' film

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jonathan Dore

Excellent -- let's hope this goes all the way to trial, so that the law in question can be shown to be unworkable, embarrassing, and unfit for the modern world, and can then be struck down.

Thu, 07 Jun 2012 12:33:14 UTC | #946119

Go to: Stop female genital mutilation in the UK! - Avaaz.org petition

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 1 by VrijVlinder

I saw that interview with the dentist on TV . Why is a dentist doing that?

I would imagine because no one would suspect a dentist of doing it, so no one would be monitoring him for it. He's under the radar (at least, until he gave a TV interview...).

That kind of thing is against the law here in the USA.

It's against the law in the UK too -- indeed a special law specifically outlawing it was passed in 2003, to make sure there were no loopholes. The scandal is that the law is not being enforced. If you have communities of Somali or Eritrean immigrants in the US, chances are it's going on there too, under the radar ...

Comment 4 by Robert Firth

Get over yourself. If you can't compromise your delicate conscience enough to sign a simple petition in an urgently needed cause just because it doesn't also address a related cause, you need to clamber down from your high horse a bit more often. These little girls need people to stand up for them, not fastidiously dictate the terms of their support.

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 14:46:40 UTC | #945477

Go to: Nobel laureate joins anti-vaccination crowd at Autism One

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Jonathan Dore

Can the Swedish Academy ask for their prize back?

Mon, 04 Jun 2012 14:18:03 UTC | #945469

Go to: Does this candidate have a prayer?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 27 by CEVA34

"It took a civil war to root out slavery" is misleading, because that was not what the war was for. Lincoln made it quite clear that as far as he was concerned the important thing was to maintain the Union. He said something like "If, in order to maintain the Union, I must free all the slaves, I will do it. If to maintain the Union I must free NO slave, then I shall do that."

Well sure, you could say the issue of the war was the right of states to secede, but that would rather be like saying the cause of WWII was a disagreement over the status of the Sudetenland. What was the reason for which the southern states were seceding in the first place? The right to maintain slavery. Lincoln didn't have any doubts about that: as he said in the second inaugural, looking back to the situation in 1861, "All knew that this interest [slavery] was, somehow, the cause of the war." In 1861 the abolition of slavery certainly wasn't Lincoln's, or the Union's, primary aim in mobilizing. But that doesn't mean it wasn't the issue over which the war was fought. Maintaining it was certainly the South's primary aim in seceding, and since secession necessarily involved war, it would be disingenuous in the extreme to say that slavery was not the primary cause of the conflict.

As for the hypothetical "simple act of Congress", would it not have involved a vote, and would the Southern states not have voted against it?

But the essential background you're not taking into account is the mindset that the constitution created over the preceding seven decades: seventy years in which not only the 13 original states, but the 21 others incorporated since 1787 (and which were therefore younger than the federal government, yet inherited all the rights and privileges of the original 13 states as if they too had given it life), had grown accustomed to the self-aggrandizing fiction that they were independent little countries who only participated in the union by a voluntary -- and conditional -- agreement. It was this exaggerated sense of self-importance that led states to think that it was more important for them to stand on their dignity by refusing to compromise their independence than it was to allow even such a self-evident injustice as slavery to be remedied. When push came to shove, they valued that independence more than they valued the unity of their country, which speaks volumes for the deeply provisional nature of national feeling in pre-civil-war America. Sure representatives of those states might still have voted against abolition in Congress, if it had ever come to a vote. But since they were a clear minority, both in terms of population and of number of states, they would have lost, and -- this is the crucial point -- if they had been accustomed to value national unity more than state independence, they would have accepted that result and allowed it to be enacted without trying to secede.

In 1833 Britain swept away 250 years of slaving and slave-owning, not only in Britain but throughout its empire. How? With a simple Act of Parliament. That worked -- without a civil war -- because people were accustomed to regarding the central legislature as being competent to enact law for the whole nation.

Not for nothing has "States Rights!" always been the rallying call of the reactionary in US politics.

Sun, 03 Jun 2012 20:44:45 UTC | #945348

Go to: Does this candidate have a prayer?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by Jonathan Dore

State politics and state constitutions in the US are the great but largely overlooked scandal of the American polity. Commanding a much greater chunk of the political space than equivalent sub-national governments almost anywhere else, their legislation is awash with harmful nonsense and their politicians get away endlessly with absurdities. Writers on American politics spend huge amounts of time and attention focusing on the balance of powers between the different branches of federal government, when what they should be exposing is the grotesque imbalance between the different levels of government, i.e. between the federal and the state. Of course it came about through perfectly understandable historical reasons -- the states were the pre-existing polities that had to voluntarily cede some of their powers to allow the federal government to come into existence, so federal powers were necessarily defined and circumscribed, while the states' powers were undefined and essentially boundless. It's largely thanks to the resulting mess that it took a civil war to root out slavery rather than the simple act of Congress that should have been sufficient. With ineffective oversight and seemingly unmotivated voters, state politics today is a hotbed of demagogues, charlatans, and extremists, and an easy target for entryist zealots. The next frontier in American political reform will be when people start to get serious about clearing up this Augean stable.

Sun, 03 Jun 2012 10:27:47 UTC | #945302

Go to: Atheism and Human Rights Abuses in Africa

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Jonathan Dore

Jay G, comments 2 and 8:

Your comment 2 is the classic Westphalian position that prevailed in Europe from 1648 to the end of WWII, and was precisely the political philosophy that prevented any other European powers doing anything about the Nazis. The whole point of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 300 years after the Peace of Westphalia, was that it made individual human rights more fundamental than the rights of states to do what they liked to the individual humans within their borders. It hasn't always worked, but it has fundamentally changed the way people (in the West at least) think about human rights, and is a major achievement that we shouldn't wish to be undermined.

Fri, 01 Jun 2012 07:59:24 UTC | #944916

Go to: Atheism IS Increasing at the Expense of Theism!

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 11 by Roedy:

Look at the countries going backwards: USA , Russia, Japan. These are countries that were superpowers but are now on the way down.

In terms of position in the table, I'd agree, but they're all distinct in the following ways:

US is going in the right direction, slowly so far but with definite movement in the past few years and probably with increasing momentum in the future. Good news.

Russia is going worryingly in the opposite direction -- the Orthodox Church has been the main beneficiary of the fall of communism, since the Soviet state made the stupid mistake of persecuting it and thus of handing it a free gift of moral legitimacy it had otherwise done nothing to deserve. Sadly a population who had never previously experienced democracy became accustomed to authoritarian institutions and after the fall of the communist party went looking for a replacement. This is bad news for Russia and hence for all of us, and with liberal groupings and inclinations weak in that country I don't see it improving any time soon.

Japan is anomalous: in all other countries there should be some reciprocal balance between the first and third columns, but here the third column (those sure of god's existence) is an even tinier number than the first -- in fact the smallest value for column 3 of all the countries listed. Partly this is due to Japan not being a historically Christian country, as others have noted; but partly also it displays the extreme social reluctance of the Japanese to openly state any opinion about religious belief.

And finally, er ... Go East Germany!

Thu, 31 May 2012 12:41:32 UTC | #944740

Go to: The Descent of Edward Wilson (with Polish translation)

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 52 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 46 by Peter Grant:

The comments on that website were even worse, last I checked any way, It seems that whenever you give of your valuable time to rationally and clearly try to explain anything important, legions of naysayers with no clear understating of biology or evolution begin to attack you en mass, spreading their confusion even more and thus undermining the effort. What can be done about this?

Those comments encapsulate a large part of why I gave up subscribing to Prospect. It's politics coverage is interesting, arts so-so, but its science coverage is just dreadful. They had the redoubtable John Cornwell interview Steve Jones about evolutionary theory, and he mangled/misunderstood Jones's words in a way that seemed to make him agree with creationists (as SJ confirmed to me by email). I asked the editor to issue a correction/acknowledgement/apology, but got no response at all. That's when I cancelled my subscription.

Sat, 26 May 2012 10:48:44 UTC | #943637

Go to: Should Churches Get Tax Breaks?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Jonathan Dore

"Room for Debate"? Barely. Absurd posturing and shameless special pleading is about the only thing there'd be room for if your answer to the question was "yes".

Thu, 10 May 2012 19:30:07 UTC | #940920

Go to: Conversion on Mount Improbable: How Evolution Challenges Christian Dogma

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Jonathan Dore

It's nice to witness the emergence of a new writing talent. I look forward to more of Mr Aus's work in the future.

Mon, 07 May 2012 16:21:00 UTC | #940323

Go to: For clergy, lost faith can lead to lost family, jobs

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Jonathan Dore

An impressively non-judgemental piece, given its source (though I was distracted by the unintentionally amusing ad on the source site for "Personalized urns made and blessed by Trappist monks -- get a catalog and a free blessed cross" ... parody would be superfluous).

I think the Clergy Project is a really important development for the US: it makes people -- clergy and laity alike -- wake up to the idea that something exists (a disbelieving pastor) whose existence had probably never occurred to them before. It has the capacity to introduce a profound shift in people's thinking, because now atheists aren't just people out there somewhere in the big bad world but, just possibly, in here too.

Tue, 01 May 2012 18:45:05 UTC | #938766

Go to: Highly Religious People Are Less Motivated by Compassion Than Are Non-Believers

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 28 by Jonathan Dore

"Overall, this research suggests that although less religious people tend to be less trusted in the U.S., when feeling compassionate, they may actually be more inclined to help their fellow citizens than more religious people."

And who are they less trusted by? Most obviously and strongly, by religious people. So here we have two separate indicators -- attitudes towards atheists and behaviour when asked to trust strangers in an experiment (see the article in the para before the section I quoted) -- that both show religious people to be less inclined to trust others, i.e. to be more suspicious. Lack of social trust is a hallmark of societies with high levels of inequality -- and the US is in a league of its own among Western nations when it comes to economic inequality. So it looks as if the weakness of social welfare systems and the strength of religiosity in the US are in fact intimately related.

Tue, 01 May 2012 18:01:11 UTC | #938751

Go to: U.K.'s Royal Society Finds No 'Silver Bullet' for Population Issues

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 8 by Jonathan Dore

Education of and legal equality for women has been the sine qua non of every society that has managed to get its population growth under control, even before the widespread availability of contraception. It's going to take the same everywhere else.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:54:47 UTC | #938171

Go to: The sound of sin

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by Jonathan Dore

A deeply sad story. One wonders what has become of the author's five children. Without him in the household, have the fences trapping them in this absurd lifestyle been built even higher around them?

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 22:04:09 UTC | #936365

Go to: Why do French intellectuals "know nothing about science"?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Jonathan Dore

Interesting, but it would have been nice to have some more analysis that actually tried to explain how this situation had come about.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 21:43:59 UTC | #936359

Go to: Update - Sanal Edamaruku under attack for exposing Catholic "miracle"

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Jonathan Dore

I've never heard of this man before, but he's a true hero who deserves to be better known. Take a look at the rest of the stories on the "Read more" link.

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 21:55:57 UTC | #934259

Go to: There is Reason in stopping Joseph Kony

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by Jonathan Dore

Xemas, did you actually read the OP with any attention? You seem to have confused IC (Invisible Children) with the ICC (the International Criminal Court). Robert Paulley offers no "support" for Invisible Children whatever. He's merely saying that capturing Kony and committing him to the ICC would be no bad thing, and we shouldn't be afraid of saying so just because some dishonest and disreputable people have also advocated it. Do you actually disagree with that? Or do you think we should want Kony to remain at large just to show Invisible Children how much we disapprove of them?

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 15:10:10 UTC | #934159

Go to: Mount Etna eruption expected any time now - webcam

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by Jonathan Dore

Looking quite explosive about 5 minutes ago!

Thu, 12 Apr 2012 14:40:56 UTC | #934150

Go to: How, realistically, do we get rid of faith schools?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 93 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 90 by Viveca:

The teaching unions are perfectly happy with the existence of faith schools.

Has any research been done on this? If not I'd like to see a survey done to probe teachers' attitudes on the question. Without prejudging the results of such a survey, I don't see any reason why teachers should be any happier with FS than the population at large, and I've argued above that parents' support for FS is very largely pragmatic, and only for as long as they produce a measurable advantage for their children in exam results. Teachers likewise have a pragmatic -- and in their case a professional -- interest in being attached to a high-performing school, so they can be assumed to give support to it as far as that goes.

But teachers will be much more aware than most parents of the smoke and mirrors by which those results are achieved, and given the blatant religious bias in advertising for teachers at FS that Terry Sanderson has recently outlined, I can't imagine that any but the most devout teachers would be happy with the pretence they would have to go through to get such jobs. Indeed I'd imagine the sense of humiliation at having to pretend to beliefs they don't actually hold would probably produce quite a raw sense of resentment against faith schools, whatever accommodation they have to make with them in practice for the moment. That's pretty fertile ground if we can find a way to tap it.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 19:49:23 UTC | #933419

Go to: How God Made the English

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Jonathan Dore

Recorded but not yet watched. The only thing I'd say in advance is that, since his job is "Professor of the History of the Church", one can perhaps anticipate what aspects of our national story he's going to find most important in shaping the English character ...

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 19:28:02 UTC | #933415

Go to: How, realistically, do we get rid of faith schools?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 83 Nick Keighley

Many people argue that FSs have a moral basis or code and produce polite well behaved children that will sit still long enough to be educated. People on this forum may not like it but FSs are good performers.

They are, but my approach would be to point out loudly and persistently how they manage to do it: by pupil selection (which non-sectarian schools are legally prevented from doing). In other words, they target and cream off the children from wealthier, more stable, more educationally supportive backgrounds who are already "polite and well behaved". And then they manage to take credit for not making them any worse. If they were required to take pupils on the same basis as surrounding schools, the FS advantage would be exposed as the chimera it is.

Sun, 08 Apr 2012 10:03:20 UTC | #933041

Go to: How, realistically, do we get rid of faith schools?

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 64 by Jonathan Dore

Comment 55, Xmaseveeve

Do you ever get the feeling that this is a mass manifestation of that syndrome where we all expect someone else to make the first move? After that first move, I'd say we'd snowball!

I think you could very well be right.

Comment 60, Viveca:

Thanks again! This is a question I've given a bit of thought to over a few years, so thanks for starting the discussion that allowed me to get it all out!

I think the implicit strategy of organically altering the zeitgeist in a manner that will result in the implementation of secular policies, is wishful thinking.

I agree: if we want political change in a certain direction, it won't happen on its own, especially when a general population, each person having a relatively small stake in the question, is faced on the other side by powerful vested interests who will devote all their energy and resources to protecting their position.

This is one of the problems with the internet, it can so easily lead to little self-contained ghettos of opinion, with an inflated sense of self-importance, oblivious of the fact that your opponents and the vast army of the apathetic will never be seduced by such means.

Yes, the web is limitless but takes up no space at all, so it's difficult dimension in which to keep a sense of perspective!

I hope someone with clout within RDFRS is aware of your posts and brings them to Richard's attention.

I will email Paula Kirby, who's the foundation's UK point of contact, to see RDFRS might want to take this further.

Comment 61 by mmurray

Do you think it would be possible to raise the money required for the initial work with some form of crowd funding. I'm thinking of the successful appeal in 2009 for the atheist bus campaign. Maybe matching funds from RDF ??

An excellent idea! I'll throw that into the pot to Paula as well.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 19:01:52 UTC | #932795

Go to: Faith No More-Peter Boghossian interview

Jonathan Dore's Avatar Jump to comment 30 by Jonathan Dore

In the interview Bhogossian says:

My talks have been cancelled at PSU numerous times. ... every time I've had a talk cancelled, I've challenged the people who cancelled it to a debate... and no one has accepted yet.

The interviewer didn't pick up on this, but isn't there a clear free-speech issue here? Who is doing the cancelling? What authority do they have to do so? And why aren't they being challenged? (I mean challenged legally, not to a debate.)

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 11:20:40 UTC | #932731