Author Archive

The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks

“If they win, they win. If they lose, they win!”

Rubber Duck 2This statement was spoken with frustration and a degree of sarcasm in Christopher Brookmyre’s recent comic novel “Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks”. In this book Brookmyre wittily explores and exposes the fraudulent activities of people involved in the world of the paranormal. One of the major themes of the novel is that whatever evidence you present people with, some of those who believe in the paranormal will just go on believing because the belief meets a need. They are like unsinkable rubber ducks. Whenever you think you have sunk them, they just bob back up again.

After I had recovered from the tears of laughter that the book did reduced me to on one occasion, and as I started to reflect on the book’s central thesis, I was reminded of a research study to investigate the effectiveness of prayer. I am not implying here that the dishonest charlatans portrayed in Christopher Brookmyre’s novel are the same as millions of sincere Christians engaged in prayer. However, although motives may be different, I was struck by the fact that the unsinkable rubber duck principle still seems to apply…

Continue Reading October 25, 2007 at 12:01 am 21 comments

Myths and the Creation of Meaning

Loch Ness MonsterI listened recently to a fascinating radio broadcast where Adrian Shine was discussing how, to date, he had failed to find the mythical watery monster of Loch Ness (Saturday Live, BBC Radio 4, 18/08/08).

Two things made this conversation interesting for me and took it above the realms of the usual “the-monster-must-exist-coz-I’ve-seen-pictures” story. First, this man was no fool. He was a serious naturalist who had spent over thirty years exploring and collaborating in over 200 university projects on the loch. He writes in learned journals and can do the science.

Secondly, when asked why he hadn’t found the leviathan, he simply stated that it didn’t exist. At least, there wasn’t a shred of scientific evidence that it did. And he should know, because he has spent the best part of a working life doing the sonar, going in the submarines, looking in the mud, sampling the plankton, testing the photographs, and analysing the data…

Continue Reading September 10, 2007 at 6:48 am 13 comments

The Power of Belief

9-11Ok, it took me a long time to get round to it, and I know the entire rest of the Western World did it ages ago, but I have just finished reading Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Whatever your faith is or even if you have none, I can thoroughly recommend this book. I chuckled my way through ‘The God Delusion’ even though one doesn’t normally laugh while reading science, logic or theology texts (not that those categories can adequately describe the book’s contents). It was a stimulating, entertaining, passionate, and challenging read.

Dawkins describes how after 9/11 in the US, and after 7/7 in the UK, many people agonised to find an explanation for the seemingly puzzling behaviour of the suicide bombers. That’s an issue many people in Germany are asking today following the recent revelation that at least two of the suspected terrorists were German citizens. But as Dawkins points out – in one sense the key to the puzzle is relatively simple. The people were simply acting out things that they really believed. They weren’t necessarily weird or strange people. They had just adopted a belief system and were then carrying it out in the best way they saw fit. They were following their religion…

Continue Reading September 5, 2007 at 5:11 pm 20 comments

The Vagueness of “Divine Guidance”

If you had a personal relationship with a divine being, wouldn’t you want to know what she or he wanted? I mean, how can you have a personal relationship if the other being doesn’t communicate – certainly theoretically possible (just about), but practically very difficult. I mean, I might need to know if God wants me to change job or not – hearing the divine view could be very important.

On the face of it, advocates of religion would argue that it is often clear what God wants and that the issue is not the clarity of the message, but our willingness to hear it. So, for example (and the examples I give will be drawn from Christianity, simply because that is the dominant religion in my culture and the one I am most familiar with), Christians would argue that it is pretty clear what the Bible (and therefore God) expects about sexual morality, but most people in the West (at least) no longer want to hear it or obey it.

Despite the prima facie strength of that argument, there are several things wrong with it…

Continue Reading August 19, 2007 at 11:13 pm 19 comments

A Coming Out…..

A Thinking ManI used to be an evangelical Christian. In the summer of 1966, I got ’saved’. I literally came out – I got up out of my seat in front of family and friends at a Billy Graham rally at the age of 13, and decided to follow Jesus. That faith and commitment lasted for a long time, at least until 2000. I was a lay preacher, a pastoral counsellor, a church leader, and a Christian author. I was in hook, line, and sinker. However, over the past 7 years I have slowly abandoned that faith.

Of course, I know that if my Christian friends were reading this they would say that I am trying too hard. That the fact that I am having to write about it just proves how insecure I am in my new atheism. I would argue that since so many of them ask me about what has happened to me I have had to think things through, for their benefit, and to make sense of the massive change for myself. It didn’t happen overnight, and it didn’t happen in any neat, logical order, but it has happened, and what is written below is a poor attempt at an explanation after the event…

Continue Reading August 11, 2007 at 8:11 pm 69 comments

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

de-conversion wager

Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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