Archive | May 2012

TED – William Noel: Revealing the lost codex of Archimedes

It takes a powerful method, the use of a particle accelerator in this case, to restore a millennia-old manuscript by Archimedes, his codex “C,” which has been erased, cut up, written over and painted on by medieval scribes. This book contains original works by ancient authors, previously hidden by its co-opting as a Byzantine prayer-book, and ancient books curator William Noel tells its fascinating story.

I Take Issue With…

English: Religious symbols from the top nine o...

English: Religious symbols from the top nine organised faiths of the world according to Major world religions From left to right: 1st Row: Christian Cross, Jewish Star of David, Hindu Aumkar 2nd Row: Islamic Star and crescent, Buddhist Wheel of Dharma, Shinto Torii 3rd Row: Sikh Khanda, Bahá’í star, Jain Ahimsa Symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As most of you already know, I’m a religious nonbeliever — in ALL religions, not just yours, if you belong to one — I’m an equal opportunity infidel and atheist, perhaps the worse so since I’m also an apostate of the religion I was born into and for a time, raised in.

From time to time, I’ll post something critical of the arguments for and truth-claims of religion, but my problem with religion is not with believers, nor is it with the sort of authentic religious practice that leads to benign social outcomes and sometimes actually helps people.

What I take issue with are the weakness and intellectual dishonesty, often the vacuity, of so many commonly repeated arguments marshaled by apologists for religion, as many of you have probably noticed with my recent posts on Pascal’s wager and other arguments based on visceral appeals to fear of hell or mercenary self-interest.

I take issue with the doctrinaire truth-claims of religions venturing into the territory of science, doctrines alleged to be absolutely certain in their veracity, and the misleading arguments mustered to propagate uncritical acceptance of these doctrines.

I take issue with how the promotion of these claims distorts the public perception of science as just another unsupported assertion as dependent on faith as religion is.

I take issue with the actions and policies enacted by religions ultimately based on such truth-claims, and with the undue social privilege of religion and its repeated attempts by proponents to evade, punish, or suppress criticism and dissent from its claims, acts, and policies…

…as I write this, Indian skeptic Sanal Edamaruku is facing charges of blasphemy for showing that a supposedly miraculous dripping statue in Mumbai was leaking water for decidedly mundane reasons, which displeased Church officials there.

I take issue, not with believers or belief, but with the unconscionable words, behavior, and actions of zealots, and the deception they use to line their pockets with the money of the Faithful, using them while grooming them to willingly and piously submit to more of the same.

I take issue with religious leaders who scramble to hold onto their wealth, power, and privilege in a world that increasingly no longer needs them, and the unethical and unjust actions of these leaders who despite claiming final authority on both morality and the truth show a shocking lack of concern for both.

I take issue with the distortions, lies, and sometimes death and suffering committed in the name of religion, often by otherwise good people with minds on fire from idiotic, dogmatic ideologies that skew their thinking and poison their metaphorical hearts.

These things make me angry, but though I’m not shy about noting willful deceit where it exists, I generally separate the claims from those who accept them — vilification of believers and contemptuous superiority toward them would put me in the same position of apologists and their uncritical enablers toward nonbelievers like myself…

…and that I don’t need, for then I become as they.