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Comments by paulmcuk

Go to: A lawsuit too far?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 26 by paulmcuk

It's tricky. My intial reaction is to say that, yes, it is a lawsuit too far. It plays into the hands of religionists because it can look, even to atheists, as petty and trivial. Also, I love a few carols at Christmas and enjoy a lot of religious music, such as "Jerusalem".

However, in this case a (presumably atheist) parent is concerned about their child and has asked for help so should not be abandoned. I would like to see the full music curriculum to place the religious songs into context. Do they also sing Puff the Magic Dragon? Yellow Submarine? If the religious songs are greatly outweighed by secular ones then I don't see much harm. But if every music lesson is peppered with songs praising god then its another matter.

What struck me most about the article was this phrase:

"Gaylor dismissed the argument, saying the songs don't have to be part of a prayer to violate the First Amendment's establishment clause, WHICH HAS BEEN INTERPRETED AS requiring a separation of church and state."

Sounds like the religious right are gearing up for a RE-interpretation, unless it's already well under way and I'm behind the times.

Sat, 18 Aug 2012 09:03:37 UTC | #950992

Go to: Guidance in turning my children to reason

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by paulmcuk

How sure are you of your wife's reaction? Is her faith rock solid as you think? Perhaps before 2006 she might have assumed that you too would be horrified at the idea of keeping your children from church. Given her relatively easy acceptance of your atheism, might there be a chink in her faith that you could exploit? Perhaps have her read The God Delusion (if she hasn't already) on the pretext that it will help her understand you better. If you can chip away at her faith, it will be that much easier to save your kids.

Mon, 06 Aug 2012 19:45:47 UTC | #950456

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

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 19 by paulmcuk

I may be being dumb (quite possibly in fact) but the numbers don't add up. Taking the most extreme example, Japan, in 2008 16.4% of the population were theists and 8.7% non-believers. What about the other 74.9% of the population? Are they "Don't knows" or just "Told the questioner to piss offs"? A cursory glance suggests none of them add up to 100% and I think it would help to include the remainders for clarity.

That aside, East Germany is an anomaly...and not just because it hadn't existed as a separate entity for 8 years in 1998. The numbers of non-believers there vastly outstrip both West Germany and Russia, thereby suggesting that it is neither their German-ness nor their former communism that is the cause.

Overall I find it quite disappointing. I'd have expected higher numbers of non-believers among some of the European states. But a bit of local pride for the UK registering once of the biggest rises between the two dates.

Thu, 31 May 2012 18:21:54 UTC | #944801

Go to: [Update] How Christian fundamentalists plan to teach genocide to schoolchildren

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by paulmcuk

Maybe I'm being optimistic but I think this could backfire on them. There will be plenty of students (and parents) who rebel at such teachings. Formally coming out as genocidal fundementalists is not something it is easy to take back and it opens them up to the challenge and scrutiny that more subtle messages are seemingly exempt from.

Wed, 30 May 2012 19:24:57 UTC | #944586

Go to: Sharia Law: neither equal nor free

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by paulmcuk

          [Comment 2](/articles/646073-sharia-law-neither-equal-nor-free/comments?page=1#comment_944549) by  [Red Dog](/profiles/126865)          :


                 An ignorant American trying to understand this, so in the UK you have arbitration boards that can take the place of traditional courts for certain communities (e.g. Muslims) and certain crimes?  Is that correct?If I've got it right then why in the world do you do this? Is this some sop to multiculturalism? It seems like a terrible idea to me, IMO there should be one set of secular laws for everyone in any nation. I don't really see any advantage to these kinds of arbitration boards. I don't even see the logical rational for them.

I stand to be corrected on this but I think there are secular arbitration services too. The basic idea - which I think is a good one - is to have a way for people to avoid the expense and drama of going to court to settle minor disputes. However, it does by default legitimise the sharia and rabbinical courts (rabbinical courts being very common in the US I understand).

Wed, 30 May 2012 19:12:07 UTC | #944580

Go to: In God We Teach

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by paulmcuk

"Are teachers allowed to express their personal opinions in the classroom?"

Yes. They can express their opinion of a piece of literature in English class. They can express thier opinion in something like an ethics class. It would be vaid to express an opinion on a matter of historical dispute such as (eg Is Robin Hood based on a real person?). But if it is a teacher's personal opinion that the square of the hypotenuse is NOT equal to the sum of the squares of the other two sides, or that Spain is south of Nigeria, then no.

Wed, 30 May 2012 19:02:36 UTC | #944577

Go to: One in seven thinks end of world is coming

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 80 by paulmcuk

Depends on how you define "end of the world". This planet will outlive me. The human race will outlive me. Our current civilisation - for want of a better word - may not. I wouldn't say it's likely but there's a reasonable chance of a natural or man-made disaster (disease, super-volcano, asteroid strike, nuclear war) wiping out a significant percentage of humanity and knocking us back a few centuries.

Sat, 05 May 2012 07:57:39 UTC | #939855

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 68 by paulmcuk

Comment 46 by Ignorant Amos :

Comment 43 by paulmcuk

Petty, pathetic and handing not just ammunition but an entire arsenal to those who want to paint atheists as small-minded, unfeeling, immoral etc.

Please read Comment 2 by LaurieB & Comment 3 by Quine.

You are talking about the same American public that rate Atheists lower than a snakes belly and on a level with rapists, right? So we are already "small-minded, unfeeling, immoral etc.".

But this action makes even me, an atheist, think atheists are small-minded and petty. And judging by the comments here I'm not alone. Winning this battle with not aid FFRF in winning the war - if anything it will set it back if people on the cusp of coming out (in line with the current campaign) and joining the athist club decide it's not a club they want to be members of after all. This thing has been sitting in the car park of a provincial fire station for 91 years - who gives a crap? It's like they're fighting dead people.

Sun, 29 Apr 2012 06:50:59 UTC | #938107

Go to: Rhode Island cross controversy - legitimate or petty?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 43 by paulmcuk

Petty, pathetic and handing not just ammunition but an entire arsenal to those who want to paint atheists as small-minded, unfeeling, immoral etc.

Sat, 28 Apr 2012 18:40:48 UTC | #938025

Go to: Survey: Millennials' Religious Unaffiliation Similar at Faith-Based and Public Colleges

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by paulmcuk

Comment 2 by esuther :

What is a "Millennial"? I thought it was someone who believed the end of the world was coming soon. But then the article makes no sense at all.

I guessed that it meant children born in 2000, but they're probably not at college yet. Had to google it and apparently (says Wiki) it's a sort of update to Generation X that can encompass people born from 1970-ish but mostly refers to children of the 80s and 90s.

Sat, 21 Apr 2012 11:48:52 UTC | #936246

Go to: Indian skeptic charged with "blasphemy" for revealing secret behind "miracle" of weeping cross

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 37 by paulmcuk

I can't help but think of that episode of Only Fools and Horses, although Del wasn't arrested for blasphemy as I recall. This is less funny.

Sun, 15 Apr 2012 06:35:59 UTC | #934757

Go to: A lot of science is just plain wrong

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 11 by paulmcuk

Comment 3 by Peter Grant :

Blame Big Pharma. Been reading Ben Goldacre's book BAD SCIENCE and it's really scary.

Agreed. Since reading it I am very critical of scientific studies, especially medical ones and especially as reported in the media. Hate to join in with the "coprorations are evil" mantra but wherever there are big bucks to be made there is pressure to, lets say, present results in the best possible light.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 17:04:19 UTC | #933382

Go to: How God Made the English

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 3 by paulmcuk

Comment 2 by AtheistEgbert :

I don't know where this fantasy came from, that we are traditionally tolerant.

MacCulloch presented this issue by stressing that tolerance was relative. E.g. there was a time when NOT burning someone at the stake for heresy was the height of tolerance. He didn't shy away from detailing all the intolerance that went before the various baby steps towards tolerance but he did focus a great deal on religious tolerance - first of non-anglican protestants, then other christians - and skimmed over the wider social changes that most of us would consider the mark of true tolerance.

I found the series interesting and well argued for the most part, right up to the point the OP highlights where MacCulloch presents the CofE as some kind of panacea for social ills. Even then, to be fair, the CofE he describes in this role is an almost non-religious (or perhaps pan-religious) one. He seems to suggest that it should be a broad church in the very broadest sense. He failed to examine the logical step of people moving beyond religion but he at least seemed to favour the church adapting to a changing society rather than digging its heels in and reverting to fundementalism.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 16:56:25 UTC | #933379

Go to: Republican war on science

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 5 by paulmcuk

Makes you laugh...right up until it makes you cry.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 16:35:53 UTC | #933374

Go to: Easter: A day of renewal, from many points of view

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by paulmcuk

Believers in the miracle may be joined by skeptics, nonbelievers, followers of other faiths and once-a-year churchgoers in taking what they will, or what they can, from this season’s feeling of hope and renewal.

Isn't hope and renewal essentially the old pre-christian meaning of easter? Pesky pagans got there first again.

Mon, 09 Apr 2012 08:08:23 UTC | #933227

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

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by paulmcuk

I usually find the best way to argue the god/morality issues with a theist is to make it personal: "So, what you're saying is that if you didn't believe in god you would be a thief and a murderer?" The fact that an atheist can stand up and say that they abstain from stealing, killing etc because they worked out for themselves that it is wrong gives them, literally, the moral high ground.

Thu, 05 Apr 2012 07:37:18 UTC | #932514

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

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 38 by paulmcuk

He's taken a battering of late and is cynically trying to curry favour with christians to shore up his support. I don't believe a word of what he says (neither does he given the amount of double-speak in there) and almost feel sorry for religionists if they fall for it.

Found it interesting that 59% of those questioned in the RC church's survey were religious yet only 51% thought that, on balance, religion is a force for good.

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 13:03:45 UTC | #932337

Go to: We asked "Do you really believe ___" and they said yes. Now what?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by paulmcuk

Comment 14 by irate_atheist :

Now what? Run a fucking mile.

Yeah, this. I think the question is a useful filter to sort out the real crazies from those who still show a glimmer of reasoned thinking. No point trying to debate with the former, other than for giggles.

Wed, 04 Apr 2012 08:41:47 UTC | #932264

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

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by paulmcuk

Amazing. All those different religions and all absolutely right. I sense that the Post produced this to somehow prove that religion must be right because the religious outnumber atheists, but frankly it just illustrates what a ridiculous mess the whole thing is.

Sun, 01 Apr 2012 08:18:55 UTC | #931632

Go to: Why Reason Rally?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 36 by paulmcuk

Comment 20 by I'm_not :

This isn't an atheist rally, there are people addressing it, at least by video feed, of a religious persuasion but that isn't the problem. By definition reason works through logical arguement, not through numbers. I don't care how many attend, no one should care how many attend, reason doesn't work that way.

An atheist rally - fine, I'll be there. A socialist rally - fine, I'll be there. A reason rally? it's almost an oxymoron

You seem to be suggesting that the purpose of the rally is to spontaneously generate reason. It isn't. In a country where large numbers support ways of thought that are not based on reason, the rally aims to promote the idea that reason is better. No-one should care how many attend but the bottom line is that they do care. The media (which helps for the world view of many people) cares and the politicians (who want to get elected) care. You have to deal with the situation as it is, not as it should be.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 17:30:19 UTC | #930195

Go to: Higgs’ View: The Real Reason People Doubt Richard Dawkins is an Ape

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by paulmcuk

I never had the slightest qualm about being related to apes and find it odd that some people do. I'm put in mind of the classic clip from "Life on Earth" where David Attenborough is sitting among the gorillas and wish we were ever so slightly more closely related so we might be able to communicate with them.

I found the following line quite telling:

Why do you characterize orangutans as “hairy” and me as “fuzzy wuzzy”? I suspect judgements have evolutionary roots. Perhaps there’s something about the similarities you share with other apes that triggers a negative attitude toward them.

I think there's some truth in this.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 08:24:56 UTC | #930109

Go to: Why Reason Rally?

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by paulmcuk

What is the difference between this circle-jerk and a religious circle-jerk?

Does there have to be a difference? My view of this event is that one of its primary goal is for US secularists to stand up and be counted. One of the reasons that religion dominates in the US is because atheists are dismissed as irrelevant in political terms. If 50,000 of them gather and make noise then

I'm not in the US but from the outside it seems to me that US secularists HAVE to organise and campaign in exactly the same way that religions (or minority groups) do. There's no sign that religion is going to decline naturally as it has in other parts of the world.

It may be against the nature of secularists to come together under the tenuous banner of not believing in god but frankly a few lone voices arguing, however eloquently, are never going to drive political change. Politicians will only factor the secular view into their calculations if they see that secular America is a) more numerous than they thought, b) organised and c) vocal. This event will hopefully be a step on that road and, crucially, encourage the "hidden" atheists many of us suspect are out there to step out of the shadows.

Sat, 24 Mar 2012 08:11:38 UTC | #930107

Go to: Secularists & Sundays

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by paulmcuk

It's funny, I live near the new Westfield shopping centre in Stratford (London) and I recall walking by it one Sunday morning shortly after it opened. You enter by a series of steps (or via escalator if you're lazy) which ascend like the entrance to an ancient temple and it amused me to watch the hundreds of eager shoppers climb up on this particular sabbath to worship the gods of Top Shop and, if they can afford it, Hugo Boss.

You could certainly argue that the idea of the sabbath did us a favour by introducing the notion of a day off for all and I guess we can thank it for that. But the christian argument that Sunday's should be kept "special" by law holds no water. They are free to keep the day special if they want to (as observant Jews do on Saturdays) but that's no reason to impose it on the rest of us. Equally, we are all free to keep the sabbath special by putting our feet up and watching all the programmes on our Sky+ (as I do) but that's no reason to deny other people the right to go out and buy stuff at 9am if they so please.

My only concern would be for those who have to work in order that the shops etc are open for us to use. I'm not au fait with the employment laws but my understanding is that those working on Sunday's either get overtime or other days off in lieu. As long as that's all above board, I have no quibble.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 21:29:12 UTC | #929959

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

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 2 by paulmcuk

While I would feel uncomfortable (and like a hypocrite) standing there with the vicar did his (or her) thing, your friend has a point. He wants to get married and this both achieves that aim and pleases his prospective in-laws. It's as legal as any other way and if he's prepared to put up with the discomfort, fair enough.

Besides, my dim recollection of the last time I attended one didn't seem overly burdoned with god beyond a couple of lines (We are gathered here today in the sight of god..." and "Those whom god has joined together let no man etc..."). I could certainly see myself tuning those bits out and just focussing on the legal bits in order to please my intended.

There are lots of traditions in life that have no real meaning but we adhere to them out of nostaligia or because the weight of tradition gives them meaning. A church marriage, and the words used, are a tradition in that vein. Whether you believe them or not is more or less irrelevant.

Here's a question: Would you expect you friend to refuse to go to a religious funeral? Ok, not quite the same because it wouldn't be his funeral, but I think most of us are happy to go through the motions of a religious funeral if invited to one. We just tune out the god bits.

Fri, 23 Mar 2012 21:04:29 UTC | #929954

Go to: Tennessee Passes ‘Monkey Bill’ To Teach The ‘Controversy’ On Evolution And Climate Science

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 18 by paulmcuk

In instances like this, would students/parents not have a case to sue the State for denying them a proper education?

Thu, 22 Mar 2012 18:42:00 UTC | #929682

Go to: Destroy all churches in the Arabian Peninsula – Saudi Grand Mufti

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 12 by paulmcuk

Comment 3 by Michael Gray :

What does Baroness Warsi have to say on the matter, I wonder?

Beat me to it. I for one would welcome some reassuring words from her on the value of faith.

Also, gotta admire the bare-faced hypocrisy of Replublicans complaining that islam violates the separation of church and state.

Sun, 18 Mar 2012 08:34:00 UTC | #928241

Go to: Separation of church and state, back by popular demand

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 4 by paulmcuk

I sometimes wonder it would be better in the long run if a religious fruitcake DID gain power in the US. Right now the fundies remain shielded by the almost universally held view that a religious person is, by definition, a basically good person. So an extremely religious person must be extremely good. Well, as long as they're some kind of christian of course. This view will probably only change when the masses see what harm they can do, which won't happen until they're in power. In Europe we got theocracy out of our systems hundreds of years ago. Perhaps the US needs to experience it before the electorate realises that they really don't want it. Short-term pain for long-term gain.

All that's purely theorectical of course. I'm certainly not advocating that the rational people of the US stop fighting tooth and nail to prevent the religious right from taking over. This could be a crunch year. A solid Obama win would send a signal to the Republicans that they need moderate candidates if they want to gain the presidency.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 08:17:20 UTC | #928041

Go to: Richard Dawkins to be new Archbishop of Canterbury

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 21 by paulmcuk

It's going to be interesting to see what kind of stance Williams takes on various issues now that he no longer feels he has to consider all sides and try and maintain some kind of consensus. Too much to hope that he'll announce that, on reflection, he's decided god doesn't exist but he might just lob in a grenade or two on issues like gay bishops.

Sat, 17 Mar 2012 07:55:42 UTC | #928039

Go to: Yes, life without God can be bleak. Atheism is about facing up to that

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 47 by paulmcuk

Atheists have to live with the knowledge that there is no salvation, no redemption, no second chances.

And religionists have to live with the nagging doubt of the same. In the casual assumption that religion provides solace, commentators always seem to shy away from stating the obvious fact that the faithful are generally every bit as worried by death as the rest of us. They mourn it as much in others and fear it as much for themselves, in blatent contradiction of their supposed belief that the afterlife is a land of milk and honey (and possibly virgins). In contrast, those who embrace death in the name of their faith (e.g. suicide bombers) are rightly deemed crazy.

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 07:43:13 UTC | #926069

Go to: Christians have no right to wear cross at work, says Government

paulmcuk's Avatar Jump to comment 15 by paulmcuk

I was admittedly unaware of the details of Article 9 before.

Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief...

All right and proper. But...

...and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief, in worship, teaching, practice and observance.

...is more problematic. On the face of it, it gives religionistas carte blance to preach their nonsense anywhere at any time, regardless of whether people want to listen.

As far as the case in hand goes, this does not seem to require that maifesting a religion be only in ways that are required by that religion, as the government is stating. But I'm no lawyer. Like most people I don't give a hoot about whether someone wears a crucifix (subject to genuine health and safety reasons against it) but I feel I have to support the government's stance on a line-in-the-sand basis. If "non-required" manifestations are allowed, then there are many others that could elbow their way in that are much more harmful than crucifixes.

That said, I have to wonder how the hijab came to be classed as "required". My, admittedly poor, understanding is that the only requirement on woman in islam is that they dress "modestly". This is open to a huge range of interpretation and many muslim women wear no headgear at all. Something which is open to to such variance of interpretation cannot be a requirement. It also begs the question of whether muslims in France have tried to use Article 9 to overturn the French burka ban.

Sun, 11 Mar 2012 07:20:16 UTC | #926064