Category Archives: Atheism

“Supernatural Punisher” needed to stop climate change claims atheist scientist

Maybe religion is the answer claims atheist scientist

The world may have to turn to God to save itself from climate change, claims one of Britain’s most eminent scientists.

Telegraph | Sep 7, 2009

By Richard Alleyne

Lord May, the president of the British Science Association, said religion may have helped protect human society from itself in the past and it may be needed again.

Speaking on the eve of the association’s annual conference, the committed atheist said he was worried the world was on a “calamitous trajectory” brought on by its failure to co-ordinate measures against global warming.

He said that no country was prepared to take the lead and a “punisher” was needed to make sure the rules of co-operation were not broken.

The former Government chief scientific advisor said in the past that was God and it might be time again for religion to fill the gap.

“Maybe religion is needed,” said Lord May, who was brought up a Scottish Presbyterian but went through an “inverse epiphany” at the age of 11.

“A supernatural punisher maybe part of the solution.”

He said in the past a belief in a god, or gods, that punish the unrighteous may have been part of the mechanism of evolution that maintains co-operation in a dog-eat-dog world.

Having a god as the ultimate punisher was possibly a logical step for a society to take, he added.

“Given that punishment is a useful mechanism, how much more effective it would be if you invested that power not in an individual you don’t like, but an all-seeing, all powerful deity that controls the world,” he said

“It makes for rigid, doctrinaire societies, but it makes for co-operation.”

Such a system would be “immensely stabilising in individual human cultures” and societies, he pointed out.

Lord May, a zoologist at Oxford University, has been a vociferous critic of the world’s failure to grapple with climate change.

In 2005, he attacked President Bush for acting like a latter-day Nero who fiddles while the world burns because of global warming.

Just days later he lambasted the British Government’s environmental record, labeling some of its policies as “gutless” and saying it needed to do “a hell of a lot more”.

Lord May, who was the chief scientist between 1995 to 2000, also equated climate change to the destructive effects of weapons of mass destruction.

But his latest comments seem to suggest even greater exasperation in the run up to climate change talks in Copenhagen this December.

He said that while religion maybe one possible answer, it remained, at the moment, very much part of the problem as it had teetered ever more towards fundamentalism.

In less troubled times religions had become softer and less dogmatic, and embraced a more humane set of values, he said.

But that pattern was now reversing with the rise of fundamental Islamic and Christian beliefs.

At the same time, the human race was facing tremendous challenges with population soaring, energy and food resources running out, and the spectre of climate change looming in the distance.

“Under stress you reduce complex doctrines to simple mantras,” said Lord May.

“I would say the US is one of the worst examples. The Catholic Church under Its present pope is another appalling example, for instance with its declaration that people with HIV shouldn’t use condoms. I think that’s a reaction to difficult times.”

Authoritarian religion had directly undermined attempts to achieve global co-operation on climate change, he maintained.

“People who believe in the End of Days, who believe the world is going to come to an end, don’t care about climate change,” he said. “I think there is quite a strong connection between the religious right and climate change denial.”

Asked if religious leaders should be doing more to persuade people to combat climate change, he replied: “absolutely”.

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Atheist buses denying God’s existence take to streets

atheist_bus

The campaign’s modest £5,500 target was met within minutes and more than £140,000 has now been donated Photo: PA

Atheist adverts declaring that “there’s probably no God” have been placed on 800 buses around Britain after an unprecedented fundraising campaign.

Telegraph | Jan 6, 2009

By Martin Beckford

Organisers originally hoped to put the message on just a handful of London buses, as an antidote to posters put up by religious groups which they claimed were “threatening eternal damnation” to non-believers.

But after the campaign received high-profile support from the prominent atheist Prof Richard Dawkins and the British Humanist Association, the modest £5,500 target was met within minutes and more than £140,000 has now been donated since the launch in October.

Enough money has now been raised to place the message – “There’s probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life” – on 200 bendy buses in the capital for a month, with the first ones taking to the streets .

A further 600 buses carrying the adverts will be seen by passengers and passers-by in cities across England, Wales and Scotland, from Aberdeen and Dundee to York, Coventry, Swansea and Bristol.

In addition, two large LCD screens bearing the atheist message have been placed in Oxford Street, central London, while 1,000 posters containing quotes from well-known non-believers will be placed on Underground trains for two weeks starting on Monday.

They feature lines doubting the existence of God, and celebrating the natural world, written by Albert Einstein, Katharine Hepburn, Douglas Adams and Emily Dickinson.

It is the first ever atheist advertising campaign to take place in Britain, and similar adverts are now also running on public transport in America and Spain.

Ariane Sherine, a writer who first thought of the atheist bus adverts, said: “You wait ages for an atheist bus, then 800 come along at once. I hope they will brighten people’s days and make them smile on their way to work.”

The campaign has even been welcomed by religious groups for increasing the profile of debate about faith, and although there was tight security outside the launch event by the Royal Albert Hall, the campaigners have not received any threats from fundamentalists.

Paul Woolley, director of Theos, a theology think tank which donated £50 to the cause, said: “The posters will encourage people to consider the most important question we will ever face in our lives.”

Some atheist supporters of the campaign were disappointed that the wording of the adverts did not declare categorically that God does not exist, although there were fears that this could break advertising guidelines.

Prof Dawkins, the renowned evolutionary biologist and author of The God Delusion, said: “I wanted something stronger but with hindsight I think it’s probably a good thing because it makes people think. It’s just food for thought – people will have conversations in pubs when they see these buses.”

Hanne Stinson, chief executive of the British Humanist Association, said the adverts were “overwhelmingly positive” and were intended to reassure agnostics and atheists that there is nothing wrong with not believing in God.