Over the last thousand years Christianity has adopted many things from other religions, but it also took from science too.
A Spherical Harmony
The earliest ancient civilizations all shared the same fundamental view of the universe; that our earth lay at the centre. The characteristically inventive Sumerians of what we now call Iraq; the Amorite dynasty that founded the Babylonians; and also the North East African civilisation of the ancient Egyptians; all these ancient civilizations had the Sun, Moon, stars, and planets revolving around us. The specific explanations varied from society to society, but the viewpoint that came to dominate the minds of Europeans was established by successive generations of the ancient Greek philosophers. Though I say “ancient greeks” they were in reality learned philosophers who lived across many centuries with their theories of the cosmos being somewhat refined over a time period scanning more than six hundred years.
Te first known idea of the stars being fixed to a sphere, or hemisphere, rotating around the earth is attributed to Anaximenes of Miletus, who lived in the 6th century BC. Like his predecessors, Anaximenes was preoccupied with cosmology, searching for the world’s origin in which he is most known for his assertion that air is the most basic and originary material and the source of all things. While empirical evidence was essential in Anaximenes’ work, the less evidentiary notions of the divine remained apparent as well. Perhaps in line with early Greek literature that rendered air as the soul, as in the ‘breath of life,’ Anaximenes relates air with god and the divine, according to the accounts of Aetius. The qualities of air, that has similar attributes as the qualities of Anaximander’s aperion, are those of the divine and the eternal. It is posited, by Aetius and later by Cicero, that there is a strong correlation between the notion of air as an originary principle element and the notion of air and breath as the divine and eternal substance of the soul and of god.
In the 6th century, Anaximenes of Miletus, saw the Earth as a kind of flat disc, or a flat-topped cylinder that floated like a cork in the air. Pythagoras of Samos – the same Pythagoras whose theory we use today to calculate the area of a triangle – changed the disc to a globe then placing it at the centre of concentric spheres, one for the Sun, the Moon and each of the planets, with the other stars ‘fixed’ at the furthest distance. For Pythagoras, the physical distances separating the spheres was of great importance, even seeing the seven planetary spheres (Moon and Sun included) and the shpere of the stars being separated in the same seven ratios as those of the musical scale. It was this particular notion that gave us the concept of the “harmony of the spheres” that was to resonate for two milennia.
The model that later became fixed stemmed from a proposition laid down by the philospher and methematician Plato circa. 400 BC. For Plato, the circle was the perfect form and he was totally convinced that the Sun and the Moon revolved around a spherical Earth in circular orbits. Plato’s students were left with the challenge of creating a model that explained his philosophy. Eudoxus of Cnidus offered an ingenious solution of multiple concentric spheres. The orbit of our Moon illustrates this idea; to explain its apparent movement through the heavens the Moon needed three spheres; one rotating every day in order to explain the rising and setting; a second rotating every month in order to explain the movement through the zodiac (movement against the stars); and a third rotating monthly on a slightly different axis in order to explain its variation in latitude. To see Eudoxus solution click here.
The problem that was obvious to the ancient astronomers was that planets behaved in a strange fashion, sometimes they were closer, sometimes farther away from Earth, sometimes speeding up and sometimes slowing down or even appearing to travel backwards. The word “planet” comes from the Ancient Greek word for “wonder”. Our friend Eudoxus required 27 concentric spheres to explain the movements in the heavens, but that was later refined by his contemporary, the great philosopher Aristotle, in to a model of greater perfection. In an attempt to make sense of what was observed, he placed 55 concentric spheres around the Earth, each responsible for a specific movement of the heavenly bodies, always though in the perfect eternal motion of a circle, as they passed through the substance out there that he called the “aether”. At the furthest extremities he placed the “Unmoved Mover”, or the force that centuries later came to represent the all-powerful Christian God.
All this could have, and should have, been rendered irrelevant had the ideas of Aristarchus, also of Samos, caught on some 200 years later! Essentially he had it all worked out. He placed the Sun at the centre of the cosmos, with the Earth and other planets circling it, in the same order as we know them today.
But his theories did not stand up to the withering logic of the time. He was unpicking the established teachings of the great Aristotle and Plato. Yet it didn’t gain kudos because it seemed so self-evidently wrong. If indeed the Earth were moving through space, why would an object thrown upwards come straight back down? Surely it would land at a distance away as the ground the individual were standing on moved through space. So, the common sense of the time indicated that Aristotle had it right.
JWActivists.org is the official website of The Association of Anti-Watchtower Activists, a legally incorporated organization representing an international group of campaigners against the Watch Tower Society. Most of its associates are either current or former Jehovah’s Witnesses.
The Association of Anti-Watchtower Activists (AAWA) is an organization dedicated to raising awareness of the damaging influence of the Watch Tower Society through respectful and well-informed activism. AAWA is also committed to offering help and support to those who are mentally and emotionally afflicted by the Society’s teachings and practices in whatever ways it can.
AAWA arose in early 2013 through a series of discussions between its founders, who all felt it was the right time to try to organize the efforts of the many individual Anti-Watchtower activists into one cohesive unit. It was agreed that an organization needed to be formed that could confront the Watchtower head-on, and serve as a focal point whenever future media stories arise so that the position of those affected by Watchtower policies can be articulated.
With so many activists around the world, all of whom offer unique skills and experience, it was felt that much meaningful work could be accomplished if all of these individuals could be connected as a team that could work together. It was decided very early on that AAWA would need to be religiously-neutral, in that it would not promote or endorse any religious or philosophical belief system in particular. Its sole purpose would be to shine a bright light on the Watchtower’s murkier practices, and help thinking Witnesses break free from its clutches.
To that end, following considerable thought and discussion, AAWA was legally incorporated on March 7th 2013, and work began in earnest towards getting the basic infrastructure of the organization up and running. A “launch date” was penciled in for April 3rd, by which time the organization would be ready to start taking on volunteers. At the time of writing, it remains to be seen exactly what the response will be – but so far the early signs are promising. All who have been approached about AAWA have embraced it enthusiastically, and pledged their time and efforts to help make it work.
Taken from the ‘About’ section of the website JWActivists.
Learn more by watching this short introductory video made by the JWActivists team;
I have experience of a cult. I was a Jehovah’s Witness for most of my life. But I got free.
I recently watched this short film from JWFacts.com and can very much relate. I wanted to share it with followers of my blog so that they might understand why the Witnesses keep on knocking.
Essentially they are not bad people, they are just deluded and controlled. They need help.
A person raised as a Jehovah’s Witnesses has a truly unique way of thinking. Once they break free life is often very difficult for them. They have indeed been very much brainwashed.
I encourage you to watch the film in an attempt to understand these unfortunate folks whose minds are controlled by a very strong cult, located right on your doorstep.
Men, scientists, professors and the British are less likely to believe in God than women, children and Americans.
Many children attribute magical properties to physical objects. In one unkind experiment, infants were persuaded that a scientist had invented an apparatus that made an exact duplicate of any article placed inside it. Their favourite stuffed animal was put within, the lights flashed, and with some sleight of hand the child was given the toy back and told that it was a replica. Almost without exception, they rejected it. Somehow, the supposed copy had lost a mysterious quality present within the original. For the tearful subjects, reality involved more than the real.
In another study, nine-year-olds were asked to play a game. They had to choose which of two boxes held a reward. They were told that they were in the presence of an invisible agent, “Princess Alice”, who would make a sign if they touched the wrong one. When they did, the experimenter furtively made a light flicker. Almost all the children changed their choice: they happily accepted the reality of a higher power.
The latest research hints at a strong overlap between belief and adult temperament. Personality can be tested by giving people close-ups of eyes and telling them to identify whether the person is terrified, amused, regretful or flirtatious. They are also asked to respond to statements such as “I find it hard to keep a conversation going” or to spot prime numbers, or patterns in a set of letters.
Men, on average, score worse on the ability to sense emotion (but better on prime numbers, a talent that demands no insight into anyone else’s feelings) than do women; and university professors do worse again, while scientists come at the bottom of the list.
People with autism score even lower. Those severely affected live almost detached from the world around them. They lack empathy, concentrate on themselves and may be obsessed with a particular talent (such as being able to tell what day of the week any date will be), combined with loss of other mental abilities. Children with a milder version of the condition, Asperger’s syndrome, are often clumsy, shy and tongue-tied.
Others do much better, for they have “high-functioning autism”. Such individuals are successful, but have little insight into the emotions of others and often show a deep interest in things mechanical and numerical. The personality type is much more frequent among males than females and, at least in its most severe forms, has a strong genetic component.
On the emotion-sensing tests, those with autism proper do worst, then Asperger’s patients, followed by the high-functioning group, and then — in order — by scientists, professors and men. Women come top.
People with autism are mainly interested in the banal reality of what surrounds them and find it hard to consider the abstract world. They are, as a result, highly resistant to the idea of an invisible deity for whom no tangible evidence exists and whose thoughts cannot be penetrated. Teenagers with the condition are far less likely to express a belief in God than their unaffected classmates. The high-functioning group are also much more willing to class themselves as atheists than are their fellows — and, in decreasing order of scepticism, people with autism, Asperger’s patients, scientists, professors, men and women (in some studies, men are only half as likely to be believers as are their partners).
Perhaps a logical, systematic and self-centred personality is disposed to doubt, while a more responsive mind is more willing to summon up the divine. Believers are in emotional contact with their deity. They feel that He responds to their prayers, knows their thoughts and guides His subjects in their proper paths. They empathise with their angel and accept what they imagine to be his instructions. Those with autism, scientists and men are happier with their own thoughts.
About two thirds of Britons do not regard themselves as religious at all. In the US, the same proportion is sure that God exists — and in a recent poll a majority said that they would be more willing to vote for a Mormon, a Jew or a homosexual as president than an atheist.
When I was a lad, that figure was probably much the same for Wales, but now they are the biggest heathens on the British Isles. To find out why, you need not a scientist but a sociologist.
UK census reveals there are 4 million fewer Christians and 1 in 4 is now an atheist – reason prevails
Data from the 2011 UK census, which was released today, reveals the understandable decline of religion within the UK; with the number of Christians dropping by more than 4million. In fact only 59.3% of the population in England and Wales now describe themselves as Christian, and the proportion of Muslims has risen from 3.0 per cent to 4.8 per cent since 2001, raising the prospect that Christians could soon be in the minority! What with all these Atheists.
Interestingly, those who selected the box for ‘no religious affiliation’ rose from 14.8% in 2001 to 25.1% in 2011 with the Christian category falling from 71.7% over the same period to 59.3% of us Brits. Christianity still remains the largest religion at 33.2million, or nearly six out of 10 people, in spite of registering a fall of just over 4million in the last decade.
I am pleased to confirm that the figures show there are now 14.1million people of ‘no religion’ in England and Wales, almost a 50% increase in comparison to 7.7million in 2001.
Daily Mail gets pissed off
An article of pure sensationalist crap in today’s Daily Mail claims that the rise in atheism comes on the crest of a wave of “high-profile anti-religious screeds” [their words] by respected writers Richard Dawkins, Phil Pullman and Chris Hitchens. I suggest that actually greater scientific understanding and education has allowed people free of the shackles of organised religion. That and the hypocritical and deplorable behaviour of mainstream religion.
The Daily Mail also points to The British Humanist Association who launched a campaign ahead of the census encouraging people to tick the box ‘no religion’ if they were brought up as Christian but had since walked away the religion. No mention of the last census and the increase of the ‘Jedi’ religion though.
The clearly ‘Christian biased’ wording of the article was written by an anonymous Daily Mail reporter. In other words someone with no minerals and shit scared to put their name to a pile of crap. Particularly as they seem to be bashing the Muslim faith at every opportunity too.
I for one have no respect for this tabloid and haven’t for years, I’d rather read The Sun and often do. But I recommend you do visit the article if only to check out the interactive map at the end of it. I have also commented on the article, but I do not expect to see it printed.
Original article appeared on Wired.co.uk 14 April 2011
Last Christmas I wrote a little essay entitled: “A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an atheist.”
The Wall Street Journal ran it, and it caused quite a stir. I was even asked to answer some of the comments.
So for Easter I thought I’d do another one. Here it is.
A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m a good Christian
The title of this one is a little misleading, or at least cryptic. I am of course not a good Christian in the sense that I believe that Jesus was half man, half God, but I do believe I am a good Christian compared to a lot of Christians.
It’s not that I don’t believe that the teachings of Jesus wouldn’t make this a better world if they were followed. It’s just that they are rarely followed.
Gandhi summed it up really. He said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
I have always felt this way, even when I believed in God, and in a weird way I feel I am still a pretty good “Christian” who doesn’t believe in God.
So many Christians think that because they believe in the right God, they are automatically good and have a one-way ticket to everlasting life. Dare I say it but I suspect this is their main reason for believing. I’ve heard so many “believers” say, “Well, since there is no way of being sure whether there is a God or not, it’s better to believe in God than not, because that way, if you’re wrong it doesn’t matter and if you’re right you get everlasting life.” Win:win.
This is of course Pascal’s Wager, which assumes that God if he exists would reward blind faith above logic and living a good life as an atheist.
To the Christians’ God by the way, it’s just as bad to believe in the wrong God as no God at all. The idea of other Gods is of course ridiculous to Christians. Supernatural poppycock. As if there was ever a Zeus; stupid, ancient, unenlightened superstition. And even if there are other Gods (which of course there aren’t) then the Christians’ God is the best. Hardest, smartest…just better. He would laugh at Zeus and call him a Greek bender. (I doubt that God is racist and homophobic but the Bible isn’t clear. Some bits go on about love and equality and others say you shouldn’t trust certain types and that laying down with a man as you would with a woman is punishable by death and is a bit sick and evil.)
So remember. If you are gay you are “Bumming for Satan” basically. (That would make quite a good T-shirt.)
Jesus was a man. (And if you forget all that rubbish about being half God, and believe the non-supernatural acts accredited to him, he was a man whose wise words many other men would still follow.) His message was usually one of forgiveness and kindness.
These are wonderful virtues, but I have seen them discarded by many so-called God-fearers when it suits them. They cherry pick from their “rulebook” basically. I have seen such cruelty and prejudice performed in the name of Christianity (and many other religions for that matter) that it makes me wonder if there has been a bit too much selective reading and reinterpretation of the doctrines.
God or not, if I could change one thing for a better world, it would be for all mankind to adhere to this little gem: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” I assure you, no more stones would ever be thrown.
So maybe we should go back to basics to find out where it all got confused…
The Ten Commandments
The Ten Commandments are found in the Bible’s Old Testament; Exodus, Chapter 20. They were given directly by God to the people of Israel at Mount Sinai after He had delivered them from slavery in Egypt:
“And God spoke all these words, saying: ‘I am the LORD your God.'”
So let’s take the test. How many of these have you broken?
“You shall have no other gods before Me.”
I definitely do not. Excellent. I get one point.
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”
This basically means don’t make or worship a religious statue or bow to it thinking that it’s holy. Tick. Another point to me.
“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.”
I never do. But let me explain something. Most people think that The Third Commandment means that they shouldn’t use his name as a swear word, e.g. shouting, “Oh God!” when they stub their toe instead of, “Oh Fuck!”
This is not the case (although I love the idea that God would rather them shout “Fuck” than “God”. That makes him cool in my book. But no.)
The commandment could equally be, “You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in ‘vanity’,” e.g. when your enemy is hurt or defeated saying, “that’s God’s wrath,” or when you win an award saying, “thank God.” This is using his name in vanity. It’s suggesting that you KNOW that God helped you win that award because you deserved it more, or because he was on your side. It’s always tickled me that God would have a favourite actor at The Golden Globes.
Anyway I get another point. I think most non-atheists will lose a point here.
“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.”
Before we score this we need to discover what it really means when God commands us to keep the Sabbath day holy. In understanding our answer, and the true intent of God’s word, it doesn’t matter what day of the week we celebrate the Sabbath. There were no calendars when God created the heavens and the earth so we don’t know what day he started and ended. Don’t let the “day” become more important than the “intent”.
If we look at the portion of The Ten Commandments which refers to this, Exodus 20:8-11, it seems to be very specific;
8 “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. 9 “Six days you shall labour and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. 10 “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and made it holy. 11 “The Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
According to the Bible, God commanded us to keep it holy. But what does that really mean? Work is basically referring to that which we do to earn a living, or in working around the house, or any labour we participate in daily. So, if we never worked at all would that mean every day was holy? No. This absolutely is not being holy. In various places in the Bible we are told of our need to work, for in our work we honour God. So…basically you have to work for the equivalent of six days a week with a day off.
I do this. I get another point.
“Honour your father and your mother.”
I think I get a point if anyone does with this one.
“You shall not murder.”
“You shall not commit adultery.”
“You shall not steal.”
“You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.”
“You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, nor his male servant, nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor anything that is your neighbour’s.”
Nope. Tick. Another point for me.
Not bad for an atheist.
I make that 10 out of 10.
How did you do?
Even if this doesn’t prove I am a good Christian it does prove that the Bible is a bit inconsistent, open to interpretation, and a little intolerant.
This is not peculiar to Christianity to be fair. And I like to be fair. Because unlike ALL religions, as an atheist, I treat ALL religions equally.
want equality for women, homosexuals and all races of mankind.
operate on rational thinking
shown in polls to be more religion-literate than religious people
are moral because ‘It is the right thing to do’
shown in polls to be more closely associated with higher education than religious people
are critical of dubious claims
happy to change their mind on any topic if the evidence supports it
believe the bible is the infallible word of god
believe that homosexuality is a sin, and that homosexuals will burn in hell
believe women should not have the right to decide what happens to their own bodies
believe that atheists will burn in hell for their non-belief
believe that women must be subservient to men; cannot teach; their only salvation is through childbirth
believe that contraception is a sin
believe that a woman was the cause of the original sin
believe that they have the ‘right’ god
believe that respect for their religious views is more important than the respect for any other religious or non-religious views
do not ‘believe’ in highly substantiated scientific theories such as Evolution and an old Earth
hypocritically use products of science on a daily basis while not ‘trusting’ science
believe in a single point of view (that they were indoctrinated from birth) and refuse to change it no matter what evidence or observations come to light
are ‘moral’ because a book tells them to be