Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Best Sport You've Never Heard Of: Rugby League

Rugby league is the best sport that North Americans have never heard of.

It is not quite the rugby that we are vaguely familiar with over here. That sort of rugby is actually called rugby union. It is also a great sport. Rugby league is a different thing, though.

The game is simple (much more so than rugby union). In league, two teams of thirteen players each try to score more points than the other by either moving the ball down the 100 meter, rectangular pitch, and across the try line (that is, into the end zone) and laying it down on the ground (called scoring a "try", worth four points), or kicking the ball through the uprights (either as a conversion kick after a "try" for two points, a drop goal [where the ball bounces off the ground prior to foot contact], or a penalty kick).

Each team, upon getting possession of the ball, has six tackles (equivalent to downs) to advance the ball as far as they can. As in football on the fourth down, often teams choose to punt the ball downfield after the fifth tackle.

Here's how the tackles work. Upon tackling the ball handler, defenders will then back away while the runner stands up, puts the ball down on the ground, and rolls it backwards to a teammate with his foot. The player behind him will then grab the ball and either run with it, or pass it, and so on for each player that handles the ball. The only trick is that there are no forward passes allowed. Passes must be either perfectly lateral, or backwards. However, players may kick the ball forward at any time, and any teammates who were parallel to or behind the kicker may run up and try to recover the ball before the defenders do.

There are no huddles, no real scrums, no rucking, the rules are relatively few - the action is non-stop and the players, wearing no, or hardly any, padding, move very quickly. It requires as much grace as it does toughness, as much finesse as it does brute strength, as much endurance as it does quickness, and as much quick-thinking as it does overall game sense. My guess is that rugby league players (along with the MMA guys) overall are probably the most fit athletes in professional sports.

I first got into rugby league visiting Australia a few years ago. I went to a packed pub with the Sony guys to watch the State of Origin match (Queensland against New South Wales - the State of Origin is sort of the equivalent of the Super Bowl). I ended up thinking, "this is the greatest thing I've ever seen". It had it all: blood, smashing, leaping, diving, spectacular passing and kicking, drama, everything.

It's why I got my satellite dish - so I could watch all the rugby league games on the Setanta Sports. Which I just spent the last nine months doing (the Rugby League World Cup, held once every four years, just ended, with New Zealand upsetting Australia to win the final for the first time ever).

Anyway, I don't really have any story to tell; I just wanted to plug rugby league, the best sport you've never heard of.

See ya,


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Quantum of Clarity

Let me see if I understand this right.

EON Productions takes a moribund James Bond franchise - one almost a parody of itself - which appealed mostly to 60 year old women who just liked cooing over Pierce Brosnan, picks a new, young Bond in Daniel Craig, adapts the first Bond novel for the screenplay, assembles a fantastic supporting cast with a fantastic director, and makes the best Bond movie in years - and arguably, ever - with "Casino Royale". The movie has action, interesting characters like Le Chiffre and Vesper, clear, compelling plotlines, and is beautifully shot. The movie is a smashing success, far beyond what its creators could have hoped. People who never see movies twice (like me) go to see it twice (like me). Ian Fleming's James Bond is introduced to a whole new generation of moviegoers. Everything is in place for a spectacular sequel, and a spectacular resurrection of the franchise.

So, for the sequel, they put together the same team, figuring "why tamper with smashing success?". OH - wait. Sorry. That wasn't them - that was ME, if I'm running EON.

Instead, the geniuses at EON evidently decided to ditch director Martin Campbell, who did a spectacular job with "Casino Royale", and instead hire a guy who has never done ANYTHING to suggest he could successfully direct a Bond movie: young German dude Marc Forster (pictured above). (No doubt the EON folks spent days congratulating themselves on their "bold decision". I wonder if next they'll hire Burt Reynolds to play Prissy in their remake of "Gone with the Wind").

Surprise - the movie is a let-down. Forster is a dud. The photography overall is often irritatingly "jolty" and spastic. The plotlines (what there are of them) are difficult or impossible to make out under all the cinematic "noise" - crashes and chases and fires and shooting and all the crap that Forster puts in to try to (over)compensate for the fact that he has no idea what he's doing here (hint to Forster: those things are supposed to be the icing, not the cake). Worse, dozens of things happen which don't seem to follow from anything we have yet witnessed on the screen, so which are actually fairly confusing (why was Mathes shot? What happened? I went to the movie with six other people, and none of us had any clear idea about what a whole bunch of things meant in the movie). And oh yeah - why is there a luxury hotel in the middle of the Bolivian desert?

And the characters. I do not get this. The characters in "Quantum of Solace" aren't even one dimensional. I mean...Olga Kurylenko as Camille Montes...a great beauty, a very good actress...what do we get to know about her character except that she wants revenge? She never develops like Vesper did in "Casino Royale". Sad to say, but all Kurylenko is in this movie is a pretty face. I don't get it. A huge opportunity wasted.

And I'm sorry, but Gemma Arterton is quite ridiculous here: wooden, out of place, self-conscious (not that I blame her so much as I blame the Teutonic automaton Forster).

There is a deep sterility to this movie, a lack of human-ness. In the first one, we saw deep emotions - serious love, serious hatred, serious regret, seriously HUMAN elements (remember the scene where Bond starts laughing as he's being tortured, strapped to the chair, in the first one?). In this waste of time, there is no raw emotion, nothing. This movie has no soul.

My advice to people everywhere: don't disassemble your team when it's winning the World Series. And don't hire Marc Forster to direct your action movie.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Did Hitler Have a "Fully Christian Ethos"?

In the previous post, I typed the words:

"Yet I have shown how easily it is to come to just that conclusion without ever invoking the concept of God. It is only a matter of logic, given once we begin with certain (atheist and utopian) premises.

"And of course, this wasn't really a hypothetical. It was this same reasoning which licensed the persecution of religious believers in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, etc."

(My language was sloppy here; I would never say Hitler was a pure atheist, nor did I; his beliefs were too muddled for that. What I meant was that the rationale for persecuting religious believers was not itself religious or sectarian).

In response, Anonymous wrote:

"Hitler, who claimed again and again in speeches that 'I am a Christian,' who sent his soldiers into battle with their belt buckles emblazoned Gott Mit Uns, 'God With Us,' who in fact derived his borrowed justifications for extermination of the Jews from the New Testament itself, could not rightly be called an atheist, nor could his cause be said to have been championed under the banner of atheism.

"No, his was a fully Christian ethos that he adapted and integrated to become part of his cult of the Third Reich".

So, did Hitler have a "fully Christian ethos", as Anonymous claims? Let's see what the record, and historians, have to say.

First, it is absolutely the case that Hitler often paid public lip service to Christianity; but it is a credulous observer of politics who believes that public expressions always reveal private convictions. The truth is that while Hitler seemed to believe in "providence" and "destiny", he was in no sense a believing Christian. In fact, not only did he not abide by a "fully Christian ethos", he despised Christianity. I think it can be fairly said that the only correspondence between Hitler's program and New Testament Christianity was that Christ and his followers sometimes used vituperative language against Jews. That, and maybe the idea of some destiny to the cosmos (an idea not specifically Christian at all)...but as far as I can see, that is it.

The evidently popular idea that Hitler was actually a believing Christian, or that he had a "fully Christian ethos", or that Hitler's National Socialism was some sort of sincere but misguided attempt to implement a specifically Christian "heaven on earth", is not warranted by any substantial evidence, and in fact is contradicted by almost everything we know about the beliefs of the lead architects of National Socialism. Nor am I alone in the view that, for reasons of political pragmatism, Hitler's occasional public expressions did not represent his private views on this (I have to wonder why anyone would doubt that Hitler would lie in public for political purposes!).

Anonymous claims that scholars view "Hitler's Table Talk" (a collection of anecdotes recorded by private observes of Hitler speaking casually) as largely spurious. This is the opposite of the truth. But for argument's sake, let's ignore that book until the end.

Let's instead go first to Duke history professor Claudia Koonz, who notes that "during (1933-34) Hitler virtually never mentioned the three controversial themes that shaped his covert political agenda: crude antisemitism, contempt for Christianity, and preparation for a war of conquest". (From "The Nazi Conscience", p. 79).

Cambridge historian Richard J. Evans writes:

..."Hitler and most of his leading advocates were aware of the breadth and depth of Christian allegiance in the majority of the population, and did not want to antagonize it in the course of suppressing parties such as the (Catholic Centre Party). They were thus careful in the early months of 1933 to insist repeatedly on the adherence of the new government to the Christian faith."

(From "The Coming of the Third Reich", by Richard L. Evans, pp. 362-363).

University of Sheffield historian Ian Kershaw writes:

"Relations between the Catholic Church and the Nazi Party remained chequered throughout the period of the rise to power. The evident anti-Christian strain in Nazi doctrine, epitomized above all in Rosenberg's writings, evoked stringent condemnation from the Catholic hierarchy...Hitler's own concerted efforts to deny the slur that he headed an anti-religious movement were far from convincing to Catholic opinion-leaders...Despite the high expectations placed in the Concordat with the Papacy, ratified in summer 1933, it soon became obvious that the fears about the anti-Church thrust of Nazi ideology and policy were well-founded".

(From "Hitler", by Ian Kershaw, pp. 103-14).

Richard Overy, professor of history at the University of London, Fellow of the British Academy and winner of the Samuel Eliot Morison Prize for military history, adds:

"Hitler saw the relationship (with the Deutsche Christen church) in political terms. He was not a practicing Christian, but had somehow succeeded in masking his own religious skepticism from millions of German voters...His few private remarks on Christianity betray a profound contempt and indififference. Forty years afterwards he could still recall facing up to a clergyman-teacher at his school when told how unhappy he would be in the afterlife: 'I've heard of a scientist who doubts whether there is a next world'. Hitler believed that all religions were 'now decadent'...

"Hitler, like Stalin, took a very modern view of the incompatibility of religious and scientific explanation. 'The dogma of Christianity', he told Himmler in October 1941, 'gets worn away before the advances of science'...'Scientific truth', Hitler announced in an after-dinner conversation some months later, 'is the indispensable formulation'. There was nothing to offer anyone who looked for 'needs of a metaphysical nature' in the party. Truth lay in natural science, and for Hitler that meant the truth of racial biology - natural selection, racial struggle, 'identity of kind'.

"Hitler was politically prudent enough not to trumpet his scientific views publicly, not least because he had to maintain the distinction between his own movement and the godlessness of Soviet communism. Nor was he a thorough atheist. His public utterancees are peppered with references to 'God' and 'spirit'. For Hitler the eschatological truths that he found in his perception of the race represented the real 'eternal will that rules the univers'' in the infinite value of the race and the struggle to sustain it men find what they might call God, and inner sense of the unity and purposiveness of nature and history'...What Hitler could not accept was that Christianity could offer anything other than 'false ideas' to sustain its claim to moral certitude".

Once again, I am quite unable to understand why anyone would take at face value Hitler's public expressions of piety. It's not like William Shirer's now canonical "Rise and Fall of the Third Reich" only came out yesterday. Under the chapter heading "The Persecution of the Christian Churches", for example, Shirer writes:

"The Nazi war on the Christian churches began more moderately. Though Hitler, nominally a Catholic, had inveighed against political Catholicism in Mein Kampf and attacked both of the Christian churches for their failure to recognize the racial problem, he had, as we have seen, warned in his book that 'a political party must never...lose sight of the fact that in all previous historical experience a purely political party has never succeeded in producing a religious reformation'...

"In his speech of March 23, 1933, to the Reichstag when the legislative body of Germany abandoned its functions to the dictator, Hitler paid tribute to the Christian faiths as 'essential elements for safequarding the soul of the German people', promised to respect their rights, declared that his government's 'ambition is a peaceful accord between Church and State' and added - with an eye to the votes of the Catholic Centre Party, which he received - that 'we hope to improve our friendly relations with the Holy See'.

"Scarcely four months later, on July 20, the Nazi government concluded a concordat with the Vatican in which it guaranteed the freedom of the Catholic religion and the right of the Church to 'regulate her own affairs'. The agreement..was hardly put to paper before it was broken by the Nazi government...

"On July 25, five days after ratification of the concordat, the German government promulgated a sterilization law, which particularly offended the Catholic Church. Five days later the first steps were taken to dissolve the Catholic Youth League. During the next years thousands of Catholic priests, nuns, and lay leaders were arrested, many of them on trumped-up charges of 'immorality' or of 'smuggling foreign currency'. Erich Klausener, leader of Catholic Action, was, as we have seen, murdered in the June 30, 1934, purge. Scores of Catholic publications were suppressed, and even the sanctity of the confessional was violated by Gestapo agents...On March 14, 1937, Pope Pius XI issued an encyclical, 'Mit Brennender Sorge' (With Burning Sorrow), charging the Nazi government with 'evasion' and 'violation' of the concordat and accusing it of sowing 'the tares of suspicion, discord, hatred, calumny, of secret and open fundamental hostility to Christ and his Church'". (pp. 324-325).

Well, yes. The Nazi government did possess a "fundamental hostility to Christ". How could it be more obvious?

(Nor was it only Catholics Hitler had contempt for. Shirer reports that about Protestants, Hitler once said to an aide: "You can do anything you want with them. They will submit....they are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them". [p. 329].)

Speaking of Article 24, Overy notes:

"Article 24 of the party programme accepted 'positive Christianity', but also called on the churches to do nothing to offend 'the sense of morality of the German race'. This injunction placed the moral outlook of the party above that of all religions. That moral outlook was rooted in 'the acknowledgement and ruthless exploitation of the iron laws of nature'. The primary law, and the 'source of all genuineness and truth', was the unconditional defence of the race and its blood".

Overy continues:

"From the mid-1930s the regime and the party were dominated much more by the prominent anti-Christians in their ranks - Himmler, Goebbels, Bormann, Heydrich...Religious youth movements were closed down or merged with the Hitler Youth, from which all religious instruction was excluded. In August 1937 Himmler banned all Confessing Church seminaries and instruction. Dissident Protestants were barred from universities. State-sponsored denomination schools were closed by 1939, together with private ecclesiastical school. Religious education by clergymen was eliminated. Religions were prevented from publicly collecting for charity. The new generation of Germans was taught to despise the characteristics of the Christian man as tainted with a degenerate, Jewish effeminacy and to seek within themselves the strength to assert and defend the race.


"Both Stalin and Hitler wanted a neutered religion, subservient to the state, while the slow programme of scientific revelation destroyed the foundation of religious myth".

(From "The Dictators: Hitler's Germany, Stalin's Russia", by R. Overy, pp. 280-286).

I submit that we need a lot more than a belt buckle slogan and a few calculated utterances in public speeches to establish that Hitler had a "fully Christian ethos", especially when there are so many evidences that he loathed Christianity.

So, about that ethos:

In his brilliant little book "From Darwin to Hitler", historian Richard Weikart echoes the historians quoted above:

"Hitler's morality was not based on traditional Judeo-Christian ethics nor Kant's categorical imperative, but was rather a complete repudiation of them. Instead, Hitler embraced an evolutionary ethic that made Darwinian fitness and health the only criteria for moral standards. The Darwinian struggle for existence, especially the struggle between different races, became the sole arbiter of morality...He scorned humaneness and Christian morality, which would promote weakness, thereby producing decline, degradation, and ultimately the demise of the human species...

"Hitler's view that morality is purely a human construction undermines any system of ethics claiming transcendence, such as Judeo-Christian ethics or Kantian ethics. Hitler clearly did not believe in the existence of immutable, universal moral standards.

"Hitler derided any morality inimical to the increased vitality of the 'Aryan' race, especially traditional Christian values of humility, pity, and sympathy...In Hitler's mind Darwinism provided the moral justification for infanticide, euthanasia, genocide, and other policies that had been (and thankfully still are) considered immoral by more conventional moral standards". (pp. 210-215).

In his autobiography "Inside the Third Reich: Memoirs", Hitler's architect Albert Speer writes:

"Hitler usually concluded this historical speculation by remarking: 'You see, it's been our misfortune to have the wrong religion. Why didn't we have the religion of the Japanese, who regard sacrifice for the Fatherland as the highest good? The Mohammedan religion too would have been much more compatible to us than Christianity. Why did it have to be Christianity with its meekness and flabbiness?" (p. 115).

NOW...about the book Hitler's Table Talk. This book is a compendium of private, after-dinner monologues by Hitler, recorded by various scribes under the direction of Martin Bormann, Hitler's private secretary. Hitler's confidante and architect Albert Speer is but one of the many witnesses who have confirmed the authenticity of these notes. Indeed, it is beyond my ability to fathom how anyone, save one blinded by a particular, peculiar prejudice, could ever regard them as spurious. And what, pray tell, might that peculiar prejudice be? Why, exactly the one which has possessed Anonymous: the stupid, completely unhistorical belief that Adolf Hitler was a believing Christian, and National Socialism his way of implementing a "Christian ethos". (There are evidently quite a number of atheists so committed to the dogma that evil is the sole province of religion, that anything showing just how stupid this idea is they immediately regard, on that basis alone, as "spurious". I might also ask, since we're on the subject of prejudice-induced blindness, how different this type of "thinking" is from that displayed by a fundamentalist Christian, who "knows" that carbon dating is wrong because he already "knows" that God created the earth only 5000 years ago?).

I ask readers to judge for themselves, after reading all of the quotes above, whether it is more likely that someone completely invented the following quotes and falsely attributed them to Hitler, or maybe translated them all wrong (as one crank atheist activist has alleged).....or that these are just Hitler's comments:

"The Christian religion is an enemy to beauty" (p. 246)

"Since my fourteenth year I have felt liberated from the superstition that the priests used to teach. Apart from the Holy Joes, I can say that none of my comrades went on believing in the miracle of the Eucharist" (p. 246).

"It was Christianity that brought about the fall of Rome - not the Germans or the Huns" (p. 193).

"While we're on the subject, let's add that, even amongst those who claim to be good Catholics, very few really believe in this humbug. Only old women, who have given up everything because life has already withdrawn from them, go regularly to church" (p. 258).

"I shall never come personally to terms with the Christian lie" (p. 259).

"The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity. Bolshevism is Christianity's illegitimate child. Both are inventions of the Jew. The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity" (p. 8).

"The reason why the ancient world was so pure, light and serene was that it knew nothing of the two great scourges: the pox and Christianity. Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilization of the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society" (p. 60).

"It's striking to observe that Christian ideas, despite all St. Pauls's efforts, had no success in Athens. The philosophy of the Greeks was so much superior to this poverty-stricken rubbish that the Athenians burst out laughing when they listened to him" (p. 63).

"What is ruining Christianity today is what once ruined the ancient soon as the idea was introduced that all men were equal before God, that world was bound to collapse" (p. 254).

"Kerrl, with the noblest of intentions, wanted to attempt a synthesis between National Socialism and Christianity. I don't believe the thing's possible, and I see the obstacle in Christianity itself...Pure Christianity...leads quite simply to the annihilation of mankind. It is merely wholehearted Bolshevism, under a tinsel of metaphysics" (p. 112).

"When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity...Christianity has reached the peak of absurdity in this respect. And that's why one day its structure will collapse. Science has already impregnated humanity. Consequently, the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline" (p. 48).

"It's Christianity that's the liar" (p. 49).

"Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure" (p. 41).

To summarize my own views, and those of the historians quoted above:

Hitler did not have a "fully Christian ethos". Rather, he had a "fully ANTI-Christian ethos". He viewed Christianity as "weak" and "flabby", and for that reason, as an enemy to a National Socialism, the job of which was to preserve the volk through struggle. He had contempt for both Catholics and Protestants, and showed it repeatedly.

Moreover, he did not rationalize his persecution of religious believers with theist arguments, but with secular arguments, nor were his motivations in persecuting religious believers (or anyone else), themselves religious.

The broadest point is that whether we start out with atheist, theist, or somewhere-in-between premises, we can always wind up, seemingly logically, at the conclusion that we may do evil. Neither atheism nor theism in themselves can provide salvation.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Are the Four Horsemen Any Less Deluded?

Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens all claim that religious believers are deluded. So they may be. But are they themselves any less deluded?

Consider what the so-called "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" believe.

They believe (amongst other things) that:

1.) Religious belief on a large scale can be eradicated;

2.) Religion is what, more than anything, causes evil;

3.) The world would be a much better place if everyone were atheist and embraced a strictly scientific worldview.

But - how is this not obvious? - one has to be extremely credulous, if not actually delusional, to believe any of these three things. The Horsemen want everyone to be more skeptical, but their own beliefs are only possible because they have suspended their own skepticism. In this sense, they are but mirror images of religious believers themselves.

After all, there is no reason to believe that "religion can be eradicated"; for there is no reason to believe that religion arises from anything other than innate features of the human psyche (hence its ubiquity in the human family). So to believe that "religion can be eradicated" is like believing that "sexual attraction can be eradicated" or that "inferring causes from events can be eradicated". It is to believe in magic; the only thing that history and psychology - let alone common sense - tells us is that the only way to "eradicate religion" is to eradicate human beings. (Interesting, given the humanitarian pretensions of all four.)

There is also no reason to believe that "religion" causes evil, or even that that phrase has any real meaning, not least because in the end it is very difficult to pin down how we should even define "religion" (in contradistinction to "ideology", say). Should Catholicism be considered a religion, but Marxism not? What about Buddhism or Confucianism, which have no god figures? What are our definitions? This is not a pedantic point; it is a necessary one when we are talking about causation from a social science perspective, for even under the very best of circumstances it is very difficult to establish causes for human actions. Ambiguous slogans like "religion causes evil" do not cut it.

What may make more sense, I think, especially given the fact that the human brain is seemingly hardwired for creating cosmological narratives (whether theist or non-theist), is to draw a distinction not between "religion" and "non-religion", but between unjustified beliefs (which may be theist or non-theist) or justified beliefs. So maybe it would get us a little farther to say that unjustified beliefs, rather than religion, cause evil.

The problem with this, though, is that whereas the claim "religion causes evil" is essentially meaningless, the claim "unjustified beliefs cause evil" is obviously untrue. There are innumerable unjustified beliefs which may inspire very good behaviour. (It is perfectly possible to be inspired to share our food with the hungry by the belief that elves, or the ghost of Elvis Presley, will reward us if we do).

Worse is that justified beliefs can inspire us, or at least license us, to do evil. Consider that evolutionary theory on its own terms, in the end, makes it essentially impossible to attribute some sort of cosmic value to human life while denying it to, say, slime mould. So, we would kill off bothersome slime mould with a jug of Clorox without a second thought; why then, confining ourselves to a purely biological theory like evolution, should we think think twice about killing off a bothersome human being (other than for fear of incarceration)? Logically speaking, staying within biology, I'm not sure there is a good reason.

Put another way - is there anything at all, in the most justified biological beliefs we can have, that allows us to say that Jeffrey Dahmer did something "evil"? I don't think so - biology, after all, doesn't even pretend to tell us anything about good or evil.

The point here is, I'm not sure how justified versus unjustified beliefs in any way correspond to good versus evil behaviour. And the bigger point is, if they do not so correspond, then neither does science correspond to goodness. The claim that it does is only wishful thinking on the part of people incapable of religious belief, because the alternative (that maybe there is no solution to the problem of human evil) is too horrible for them to contemplate. But this is only as much to say, again, that believing that religion causes evil, or that we can be saved through science (see below), is itself an unjustified belief, if not a genuine delusion.

Lastly, and especially given the history of the last century, there is no reason to believe that the world would be a better place if everyone were atheist. All of the same atrocities and more which have been justified by theist thinking, can be justified with non-theist thinking - and have been. Here is just one simple, not-so hypothetical, example.

If we begin with the belief, as does Dawkins (see the first couple of pages of "The God Delusion"), that:

Premise 1.) Creating heaven on earth (obviously a good thing) is possible;

and then we posit that

Premise 2.) Religion is making the creation of heaven on earth impossible;

we can conclude that

Conclusion 1.) Religion must be neutralized or eradicated - for the good of everyone.

And indeed, this is just what all four of the writers mentioned say.

So then, what would our next syllogism be?

P3.) Religion must be neutralized or eradicated;

P4.) The actions of certain people - e.g., missionaries, priests, publishers of Bibles, activist believers - are impeding our effort to neutralize or eradicate religion/establish heaven on earth;


C2.) The "bad" actions of these "enemies of heaven on earth" must be stopped.

And what would next syllogism be?

P5.) The "bad" actions of these "enemies of heaven-on-earth" people must be stopped;

P6.) Those "bad" actions can be stopped by either punishing the people doing them, or, if it comes to that, killing them;


C.3) Missionaries, priests, activist religious believers, e.g., should be punished or even killed.

Now, if it not an evil thing to punish or kill people just because of their beliefs, I don't know what is. Yet I have shown how easily it is to come to just that conclusion without ever invoking the concept of God. It is only a matter of logic, given once we begin with certain (atheist and utopian) premises.

And of course, this wasn't really a hypothetical. It was this same reasoning which licensed the persecution of religious believers in Soviet Russia, Nazi Germany, Cambodia, etc.

AND - it is quite close to the reasoning which leads Sam Harris himself, in "The End of Faith", to suggest that there are certain beliefs which are so bad, that people should be killed just for having them. This is the same Sam Harris who wrote an entire book about how rotten religious belief is, not least because it leads to atrocities like killing people for having the wrong beliefs! (This isn't the only contradiction in Harris...).

It is a comforting fantasy that there is an ultimate solution to the problem of human evil. Theists have their preferred solutions (Jesus will come again, everyone should convert to the "one true religion", etc.), and non-theists have theirs (science can rid the world of hunger and oppression, everyone should convert to atheism, etc.).

But neither theist nor non-theist "solutions" have any basis in evidence or experience. The beliefs of the Four Horsemen are no less delusional in this respect than those of religious believers, of which they are but a mirror image. Along these same lines, there does not seem to be any correlation between whether a belief is theist or atheist, and the goodness or evil of the actions it inspires. Although, if there is any large-scale correlation, the 20th century suggests atheists (and religious skeptics) would come out worse. At a small level, the Sam Harris atheist argument for "killing people for their beliefs", which I put in syllogism form, gives a small indication of why. So does the Clorox slime mould example.

So, where does that leave us?

To find out, tune in next time for another episode of "A Lone Ignoramus Tries to Understand Everything in the Entire Universe"!