Tag Archives: atheism

If gods existed and magic worked

I do sometimes wonder what the world would be like if gods existed and magic worked.

If magic worked as mechanically as, well, mechanics then I doubt it would make that much difference. We’d just rush about the place in our seven league boots or on our magic carpets.  As Arthur C Clark said: any sufficiently advanced technology is indistigishable from magic, but it’s less obvious that the reverse is true too.  If you could summon up spirits from the vasty deeps, you’d probably just get their voicemail.    I think a magical world would be shiny but mundane like a cross between Ikea and Comet.   You’d expect there to be less of a problem with pollution and global warming of course, but maybe there’d be a shortage of newts’ eyes in much the way that there is a shortage of tigers and rhinoceroses already and for exactly the same reason. (Rhinoceroi? Rhinocerodes?  Why is there never a greek scholar around when you need one?)

Ok, so magic would be dull, but what about the power of prayer?  

It seems to me that if prayer worked then it would be just another form of insurance.

Travel insurance? – Check.
Passport and tickets? – Check.
Prayer? – Oh, no, hang on a minute while I get down on my knees.

I’ve certainly sat down to meals where grace was as meaningless and mechanical as putting a napkin on your lap.

If prayers and special pleading worked,  it would suck great big hairy cheese-monsters.  It’s always shit when the middle-sized bully gets the big bastard on their side.  For example, you’d have to avoid competing against one of the deity’s top pray-ers if you wanted that promotion:

Let’s see now, Aphra has more experience, better qualifications and a personality that will really fit in, but we’ve just had a note from the Big Guy that we’ve got to hire the other one.

Functional prayer just sounds like belonging to the mob:  The power of prayer – putting the god into godfather.  

On top of which, I’m not at all sure about a world where there’s a god who’s nicer to those who are nice to it, and who really did throw thunderbolts at the bad guys.   That suggests a world where the supreme being has the emotional intelligence of a five year old, a point well made 40 years ago by Gene Roddenberry in The Squire of Gothos not to mention everyone who’s ever written about the classical or nordic gods since Homer had an eye test.  

And if we go for the nature-thang, we end up with a world where healing spirits heal you without any of that annoying waiting-lists-and-cold-hands-on-your-privates stuff, and where sister wind and brother rain come to your garden but are far too nice to fart about or piss around like drunks at a barbeque, which – lets face it – is how they behave right now.  It sounds nice, but would you really want to live in a world which was trapped inside a shop in Hebden Bridge and full of wind-chimes, incense, velvety lace and oestrogen?   

Mind you, the only way I can make sense of a world where Sarah Palin could be president of the US freaking A is to conclude that this whole universe is indeed the bad-acid trip of some great big hairy cheese-monster.  

I take it all back.  I’ll have the Hebden Bridge one, thank you.

An atheist’s guide to wrestling pigs

Pig WrestlingRichard Bandler, one of the co-founders of NLP, points out rather smugly that the word “generalisation” is just five syllables wrapped around the word “lies”. We all know that generalisations are false, but still we make them. What bugs me immensely about atheists who are anti-religion, rather than those who are just indifferent, is their tendency to see all christians as prejudiced zealots. Takes one to know one, of course. No projection there.

The thing is, there are as many kinds of Christians as there are kinds of people. Yes, some are bigoted, narrow-minded and spiteful, but not all. Not all, at all. There is a specific kind of Christian that I find compelling and attractive; the ones who are intelligent and questioning, funny, socially sensitive, tolerant of others and who quietly get on with making surprisingly substantial changes in the world. I’ve known rather a lot of them and I’d quite like to be one myself. In my dreams. They put me into a cognitive spin because I find the whole premise of Christianity so illogical that I simply don’t understand how anyone with two brain cells and a synapse can find it makes sense. How can anyone so bright be so dumb, I ask myself. They probably feel the same way about me.

When rabid anti-religionists start attacking Christians, I don’t recognise the form of Christianity they attack. I’ve known a few creationists, fundamentalists and people who have a personal relationship with their saviour and lord, and the internet constantly reminds me that they aren’t actually that unusual. I guess in the UK we are blessed with agnosticism and are spared the lunatic excesses of religious tv, evangelism and fundamentalism. I once visited the Bible Society head office in Swindon, though; it was like walking through a toothpaste advertisement made in Stepford.

They say you should never wrestle with a pig: you get muddy and the pig likes it. Put like that, it sounds kinda fun. And that’s the problem. The best responses to bigoted fundamentalists are ridicule and education, and the best responses to powerful bigoted fundamentalists (like the lunatics who’ve been running the asylum in the USA for the last years) are still ridicule and education. But in the US the Scepticism and Sceptical Humanism movements are getting sucked in to point-scoring and pig-wrestling, when it should in fact be poking fun at the pig. And then ambling off and doing something more interesting instead.