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Comments by Layla

Go to: The Ancestor’s Trail – 25/26 August 2012 - with Keynote Address by Richard Dawkins

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by Layla

This is a lovely idea. The Ancestor's Tale happens to be my favourite Dawkins book.

I see the human pilgrims have already met up with the canines in the top picture.

Fri, 08 Jun 2012 06:16:23 UTC | #946274

Go to: Debate: Can Atheists and Believers work together for the common good?

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 73 by Layla

I thought PZ Myers came across poorly in this discussion. I didn't really have any issue with the substance of what he said but his attitude was rude towards the other man in the discussion.

Thu, 24 May 2012 22:57:16 UTC | #943375

Go to: Update - Podcast June 5 Interview with Peter Boghossian - "Faith: Pretending to know things you don't know"

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 46 by Layla

Comment 39 by adzcliff

Perhaps Dr Boghossian (sounds like a Harry Potter character) might also translate my challenge as "I don't know, ...but I need to pretend I do", but that still doesn't satisfy me, unless the speaker has amnesia in between the first and second premise and never repeats the statement. This faith statement makes no claims, just stipulates preferred belief. In this context, I'd argue that faith and hope are synonymous. We might want to argue the etymology of that, but language is what people use it as.

So, in your view, those people are really saying "Well, I don't know if it's so or not, it could be or it could not be, but I'd like for it to be so". They're not saying "I really think it IS so"?

Wed, 23 May 2012 15:42:57 UTC | #943114

Go to: Update - Podcast June 5 Interview with Peter Boghossian - "Faith: Pretending to know things you don't know"

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by Layla

Comment 24 by adzcliff

I think Dr Boghossian illustrates some useful and though-provoking points, but I think he's wrong to assume that faith is always synonymous with "pretending to know things I don't know". Perhaps it would be more accurate and universal to define faith as "needing to believe things I don't know". After all, how do we square his definition with the person who says "I don't know,'s a faith position"?

That statement would translate to: "I don't know,'s a position where we have to pretend to know it even though we don't".

I actually think that really IS what they're saying when they say, "I don't know,'s a faith position". Don't you?

Tue, 22 May 2012 18:46:59 UTC | #942898

Go to: Update - Podcast June 5 Interview with Peter Boghossian - "Faith: Pretending to know things you don't know"

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by Layla

I love this talk.

Mon, 21 May 2012 22:39:50 UTC | #942700

Go to: Do Atheists Understand and Appreciate Black Bodies?

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 79 by Layla

The rather clumsy challenge of Dawkins by that reporter and his response to the report provide an opportunity to reflect on an issue with enduring impact: Do I believe an apology and financial compensation are required? Yes. An apology speaks to moral centering, recognition of humanity violated, and the making visible of what has been hidden.

Are you saying that you think Dawkins himself should apologise or am I misinterpreting you?

I'm not sure how it makes any sense to ask a person to apologise for the misconduct of their ancestors.

Mon, 21 May 2012 22:28:44 UTC | #942694

Go to: Women in Secularism Conference- Washington DC

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Layla

Comment 6 by mirandaceleste :

As a member of the Clergy Project and as a former RC chaplain and MDiv student, I had already left behind a patriarchal institution that undermined my value as a person and limited my function as a representative of that "tribe". So, it is easy to understand why I wasn't jumping at the opportunity to align myself with secular organizations who though most likely unaware, were perpetuating a subversive status quo.

Could you please provide some specific and concrete examples of "secular organizations" that "perpetuate" a "patriarchal" mindset, "undermine" the value of women, and "limit [womens'] function as [...] representative[s]" of their organizations, and explain how, precisely, these unnamed "secular organizations" are allegedly engaging in and/or have engaged in this behavior? Thank you.

Mirandaceleste, to be fair to her she didn't actually say that secular organisations had done any of those things. Those are the words she used to describe the religious institutions that she left behind her.

Sun, 20 May 2012 21:53:46 UTC | #942507

Go to: Women in Secularism Conference- Washington DC

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 7 by Layla

These issues always get so heated.

I just want to say what my personal ideal would be in terms of men and women in the so-called "secular movement" or "atheist movement".

I just want there to be roughly equal men and women taking part. I don't want (not that I'm putting anyone down - this is my own preference) special conferences or events. I definitely don't want a special area of the site devoted to women's issues. I just want women to be like anyone else, just people, taking part like anyone else. I want our comments and talks and articles to be taken on their own merit, just the same as the men's. I want our issues, like sexism, reproductive rights, or whatever else to be treated as part of the mainstream whole of all the other issues that we concern ourselves with in the "movement". I want people to just see these things as things that matter to and effect all of us, as people.

If you start putting women into a seperate group then you're going to make the mainstream, non-specified group, feel like it's the men's group instead of feeling like it's just the 'everybody' group.

I think it's counter-productive if the aim is to be seem more inclusive and attractive towards women looking in. Because if they're anything like me (and okay, they may not be, but some will be!) they'll feel like this just seems like the atheist movement really is all about men because the women are so much a minority that they have to gather together at a special conference.

What I would think would be the ideal way to attract more women to take part would be to make all the same efforts that you're all making now to discuss issues effecting women, arrange child care for conferences, have more women speakers, but do them entirely within the mainstream of the movement. Then it really will start to feel more like it's a diverse and inclusive movement.

Sun, 20 May 2012 21:43:06 UTC | #942503

Go to: UPDATED: Why I want all our children to read the King James Bible

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 81 by Layla

I like the way he said we are a 'post-Christian society'. That is the only real sense that we could be said to be 'a Christian country', which we hear all the time.

Sun, 20 May 2012 13:00:14 UTC | #942428

Go to: Am I over-reacting?

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Layla

I don't think you're over-reacting at all. I think everyone would see immediately that it is inappropriate to proselytise to children in this way, without the parents being forewarned, if the religion being preached was a different religion like Islam or Hinduism. But because it's familiar old Christianity it somehow manages to wiggle its way in and people are much less inclined to question its right to be doing that.

Evangelical Christianity is more worrying to me than the usual C of E stuff. I think you'd be right to complain about the way this was done to the school. I don't approve of schools sending their children off to organisations which are going to try to indoctrinate them in the first place but if they're going to do that they should have at the very least been up front about the organisation.

Fri, 11 May 2012 10:22:48 UTC | #941003

Go to: Ultra-Orthodox Shun Their Own for Reporting Child Sexual Abuse

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Layla


Fri, 11 May 2012 10:09:07 UTC | #940999

Go to: Teresa MacBain on CNN - Faces of Faith

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Layla

Comment 14 by Dalmuti :

I think the only part of this interview that bothered me was the implication and lack of clarification when asked the initial question: "...loose your faith and turn to atheism?"

What bothered me was the subtle re-inforcement by the interviewer of the misunderstanding of what atheism is, calling it another system of belief rather than a lack of belief. It's a seemingly small thing but as pedantic as it may sound they are two different ideas. It is true that atheist's often have a great deal of other beliefs in common the implication that there is an atheist creed or dogma is counterproductive.

Yeah, I noticed that too. They also refer to it as a decision, as though you can actually choose to believe or not believe.

Of course Christians have got to believe that people choose to believe or not believe because otherwise it would make God's punishment of those who don't believe in him seem unfair.

Tue, 08 May 2012 17:52:14 UTC | #940579

Go to: National Day of Reason

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 20 by Layla

"What happens when a child, a girl, is in a fundamentalist school and she is taught today in 2012 that she shall be subordinate and even perhaps more ominous; what about good-hearted boys who are taught that they shall treat girls as being subordinate because of what the bible says? I'd say that's the real moral issue."

Thankyou, Sean!

Sat, 05 May 2012 14:04:37 UTC | #939900

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

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 22 by Layla

In the final experiment, it appears to say that the non-believers really were more generous than the religious people but in the second experiment it's not clear whether the non-believers were actually more generous or whether their generosity was just more dependant on whether or not they were in a compassionate mood. In other words, was it that the religious participants were forcing themselves to behave generously even when they weren't in the mood to do so or is it that they were actually less generous across the board?

A couple of people have said things to the effect that if good behaviour is motivated by religion that means it must be self-serving, out of a desire to please or placate God but that's not necessarily the case. It's possible that for some people the part their religion plays in their decision to do good might actually serve more like a reminder to always try to make a concious effort to do good even when your natural motivations like compassion are running low and not out of any desire to score browny points. Basically, we can't automatically assume the behaviour is self serving just because it's motivated by religion.

Tue, 01 May 2012 16:58:34 UTC | #938732

Go to: When and where to argue faith?

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Layla

Comment 12 by The Truth, the light :

I personally think you are well entitled to express your opinions on a public forum about a person injured in a motor sporting accident.

We've got to change the mindset that when someone says they are praying for someone or that faith will help someone get over an illness or injury is a good thing or at the very least a harmless comment.

It's a little like the people who say that the religious moderates are harmless, but as stated in TGD, religious extremists stand on the shoulders of the moderates.

When a person publicly states they are praying for someone, they are doing a lot more than expressing concern or compassion. They are making a proclamation of superiority.

They must be challenged at every opportunity.

How do you get to thinking that they are making a proclamation of superiority simply by saying they're praying for someone? All they're saying is that they're thinking of them and wishing them well, surely? I don't understand that.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 10:43:41 UTC | #936971

Go to: When and where to argue faith?

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 16 by Layla

It sounds to me like by telling him to keep his faith and that they were praying for his recovery they were really just intending that as a message of comfort and support towards him.

If on the other hand they were using this as an opportunity to expound their views on just why exactly everybody needs to believe in Jesus/God, etc then that's different and they're asking to be put right.

If they were just sending a message of comfort/support which they never expected to be turned into a debate then I think it probably is more out of place to use it as an opportunity to debate religion since that's not the topic of the thread.

It's not that I think the subject of religion or faith needs to be given special treatment. It's just that I think we need to use our judgement to decide when it's appropriate to have a debate with people in any instance in life no matter what the topic.

It's never black and white and it just depends on the particulars. You have to use your own judgement to decide whether challenging the statements they made about faith in that context was appropriate or a derailment.

Tue, 24 Apr 2012 10:39:10 UTC | #936969

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 41 by Layla


Actually you may have a point. The way they phrased it does make it sound as if the default position is to believe in God.

Fri, 06 Apr 2012 16:08:37 UTC | #932767

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by Layla

They just mean reject in the sense of "not accept". We hear of the potential existence of a god and by saying, "No, I don't believe it" we have then rejected it (the belief). I think you're reading too much meaning into a simple turn of phrase.

If they'd have said "Atheists reject God" then I would agree with you! Very much so. But rejecting a thing itself and rejecting a belief in something have very different connotations. To reject a belief in something is simply not to believe it.

Atheism isn't really a meaningless or silly term because in a world where a great many people still very strongly believe in gods it is useful to have a term to refer to those that don't.

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 19:06:26 UTC | #932603

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Layla

All the bubble says is "Atheists essentially reject belief in any kind of deity". That sounds completely accurate to me. We do reject belief in deities because we don't believe in deities. The bubble does not read "Atheists are people that are absolutely certain that there can be no gods."

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 16:49:43 UTC | #932578

Go to: Bioethicist Richard Dawkins: Morality, Society Can Be "Intelligently Designed"

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by Layla

Comment 14 by alphonsus :

Unaided reason can't always arrive at the full truth, but in principle the truth revealed by God (through the bible and the church) is the same as that arrived at by reason.

What must reason be aided by to arrive at the full truth? What does it mean to say that in principle the truth revealed by God through the bible and the church is the same as that arrived at by reason when in practice it isn't?

Faith and reason, as the church has been saying for a long time, are not contradictory but complementary pathways leading to the truth.

Except when they contradict each other which they frequently do.

Faith means continuing to believe something even when reason tells you to abandon it. They are therefore diametrically opposed to each other. The only time they can be at all complementary is if by sheer luck reason happened to take you to the same place you'd put your faith to begin with.

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 14:11:42 UTC | #932549

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 33 by Layla

Comment 32 by Chad_Is_Rad

In your other post you said "To say "there is no god" is as blind and irrational to say there is" thereby calling the atheist and theist position equally blind and irrational.

Now you say

If you were to ask our ancestors of 5,000 years ago what the probability was that the human body was 90% made up of countless micro bacterium, they would have called you crazy. Would it have been irrational for someone to postulate this truth at that time? Unlikely ... of course, but irrational? No

Thereby saying that believers in things for which there are no evidence are not irrational.

So are they irrational and blind or are they perfectly rational?

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 13:18:44 UTC | #932543

Go to: Prime Minister’s dissembling, hypocritical and disingenuous speech to religious leaders

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by Layla

I've never seen a Prime Minister so openly suck up to one religion before. He doesn't care if he completely alienates the rest of us in the process. Perhaps that's because he knows the more intelligent proportion of the population were never going to be voting for him in the first place.

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 14:10:00 UTC | #932349

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 31 by Layla

Comment 30 by Chad_Is_Rad

To say "there is no god" is as blind and irrational to say there is.

No, it isn't. There is no evidence for the existence of any god, there is no reason to believe there is a god. In this circumstance it is clearly much more rational to conclude that there isn't a god than to conclude that there is.

If what you said were true we'd then also have to say that to say "The queen is not secretly a reptillian from outer space wearing a mask to disguise herself as a human" is every bit as blind and irrational as to say that she is.

The fact is we have to add the proviso that "Strictly speaking we cannot altogether rule out the possibility that one day some evidence for the existence of a god may turn up" but only in the same way that we also have to add a proviso that "Strictly speaking, although we have absolutely no reason right now for doubting that the queen is a human being, not a lizard person, we cannot altogether rule out the possibility that one day she might suddenly reveal herself to be a lizard despite the fact that everything we now know tells us this is impossible".

The fact we have to add this proviso does not make the believers of the reptillian conspiracy theory equally as rational as the disbelievers.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 18:15:48 UTC | #931957

Go to: Despite oppression, Black atheists fight to be heard

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Layla

Despite the isolation many black nonbelievers have felt from their religious families, atheists are increasingly coming out a younger age, which historically attracted only white men.

This sentence is incoherent and I'm sorry but how can you say atheism "historically only attracted white men"? This is a case of people being well-meaning but getting confused.

Mon, 02 Apr 2012 13:50:37 UTC | #931902

Go to: Graphic: A demographic breakdown of the world of religion

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 24 by Layla

Interesting to discover there are almost the same number of Jehovah's Witnesses as Jews and that Christianity is so overwhelmingly Catholic.

I suspect the author of this graph is a Christian as they made sure to say “The oldest sect of Hinduism considers Shiva as the supreme being", "Vaishnavites consider Lord Vishnu as the supreme deity", "Muslims...believe that Muhammed is the final prophet" but " Jesus is the son of God, sent to Earth by God to save humanity..."

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 18:41:04 UTC | #931698

Go to: Robert Wright promotes accommodationism, disses Dawkins

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 55 by Layla

Comment 54 by Sample :

If you've never been a devout Catholic, it might be difficult to understand how central the Eucharist is to worship. The wafer/wine is God. Literally God. Literal in the sense that a devout Catholic may shield a chalice of wine from gunfire with their own body.

And yet they would eat it.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 15:55:13 UTC | #931374

Go to: Robert Wright promotes accommodationism, disses Dawkins

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 52 by Layla

We keep hearing people say that mockery and ridicule are self evidently the least effective method we could adopt. That if we really want to effect change the much more effective tactic would be politeness and respectfulness. But I actually think despite the fact that mockery is not very...well, nice, that it might actually be quite effective, perhaps even more powerful than politeness and respectfulness. I don't think it's proven either way and I definitely think it's worth at least challenging this assumption that some people like to make.

I also think that we need to differentiate between criticising mockery as a tactic on the basis that it is counter-productive and criticising mockery as a tactic on the basis that it is rude. There are a lot of situations where it might be wrong to mock not because it's counter productive or ineffective but simply because not all situations allow impoliteness.

When it comes to deciding which tactic is more effective I think it's not clear. It's possible that mockery and ridicule in one-on-one interactions with people is ineffective because it's hostile but that mockery on the level of activity in media and entertainment, etc is extremely effective.

For better or worse, mockery and ridicule are a powerful force. When you know that if you express a certain viewpoint publicly you are exposing yourself to inevitable ridicule you are much less likely to want to even have that viewpoint. Even though we may all think of ourselves as having come to our current opinions through our intelligence and reasoning and morals, in fact I'm willing to bet a lot of the reason most people don't adopt a lot of stupid ideas has more to do with the unpopularity of those ideas than with those people's ability to reason.

There's another very closely related complaint from moderates: that outspoken atheists saying controversial things harms the cause by giving atheists in general a bad name. Could it not be that in fact the more controversial, outspoken atheists actually make it easier for the moderate message to be accepted by making them seem more socially acceptable in contrast? I'm not sure but I don't think it's a foregone conclusion, that's all.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 15:41:50 UTC | #931369

Go to: Atheists in church: the course of true love may now run smooth

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 56 by Layla

Comment 54 by Sketchy

I have to admit I'm starting to come round to your way of thinking. Although I don't feel as strongly about it as you do.

It would be nice if there was a well established secular tradition that incorporated the good bits of religious services without all the bad parts.

Fri, 30 Mar 2012 12:13:30 UTC | #931335

Go to: Atheists in church: the course of true love may now run smooth

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 53 by Layla

Comment 50 by Slippy

Yes, I admit that by having a baby christened you're taking away its choice in the matter however I don't see this lack of choice as an issue because I believe it's inconsequential. That is what I was trying to get across to you. It only makes sense to worry about choice if the decision actually is of some consequence. That's why my bringing up opposition to the church (a possible reason why it might become consequential) does not have "feck all to do with the removal of choice". Removal of choice only matters if the choice itself matters. I was actually bending over backwards to offer you a reason why perhaps being christened might still matter even if we don't believe in the religious significance behind it.

Comment 52 by Sketchy

There may be a time and a place for children to learn about how some of mankind’s sickest minds perverted morality, but it should never happen like this, with a room full of adults seemingly condoning the idea.

I think if we were talking about a ceremony where adults frightened a child old enough to know what was going on by telling them they were full of sin and needed to be cleansed or something like that then, yes, this would be a cause of concern but what we're actually talking about is a baby, who has no clue what's going on, having a little bit of water poured over their head by a stranger who then utters some completely innocuous words that the baby cannot understand and that's the end of the whole encounter.

I think if something as harmless as that was able to raise my bloodpressure in the way that seems to be expected I'm not sure how I'd cope hearing about the actually bad things that happen to children.

Thu, 29 Mar 2012 18:52:36 UTC | #931201

Go to: Atheists in church: the course of true love may now run smooth

Layla's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Layla

Comment 46 by xmaseveeve :

Comment 34, Steven (to Layla)

''Your analogy is flawed for one enormously important reason''

I don't think it is.

''There's no danger of enhancing the Santa-ist lobby by propping up their belief system with the appearance of agreement, because there aren't any Santa-ists out there.

That is NOT the case when talking about the claims made by priests, ministers, and vicars at religious weddings.''

I take your point but I don't feel as if I'm propping up Christianity by celebrating Christmas. I know it's not real. Nativity myths are ancient, and they sound better in lovely, childhood-nostalgic poetry. Does the story of Christmas belong to Christians? No. And the rituals are pagan.

I think it depends what you imagine the circumstances to be. I feel uneasy with the idea of an atheist pretending to be a Christian, going through a 100% Christian ceremony and all the rest of it. I'm not sure any amount of the things I mentioned like tradition or architectural beauty could make that feel comfortable for an atheist. But what if the Church of England allowed people to have secular ceremonies in the church? What if there was no mention of God or Jesus but you could still have the church venue and the wedding bells and all those other aspects of it that tend to attract people in the first place? Steven painted a picture of a wedding where those in attendance were Christian but what if the family were non-believers?

Wed, 28 Mar 2012 12:15:51 UTC | #930919