Is Religion dying? Yes, but those last days are not going to be pretty.

James Randerson asks Is Religion Dying? over at the guardian blogs, considering AC Grayling’s comments on the subject.

It’s fairly clear that church attendance is in freefall – every count shows that less and less people are attending church (and the number of churches being converted into pubs/clubs/flats is another clear indicator).

There is, of course, one exception – Evangelicals. some of those churches are growing in number (although, not anywhere near as fast as the rose tinted specs of my Secret Fundie Informant would suggest).

My own view is that this is like a pot of salty water boiling away – as the heat cranks up, the water reduces, but the concentration of the remainder gets higher.

We can expect the christian churches to become ever more venomous as they struggle for survival.

So, Just what is a Transhumanist anyway?

I recently had to visit hospital. It was a minor injury, the result of an over-enthusiastic attempt to install a garage door on my own. As the medic ran through my contact details, she inevitably reached the question I resent the most.

“Religion?”

It has been nearly eight years since I was happy to answer that question with a cheery “Christian”. Conversion to Christianity was a life changing event for me. It changed my opinions, my behaviour, everything. I did not drink, take drugs, have sex, or if the truth be told, enjoy a single waking moment of my life. Leaving the Church was a much more gradual process, involving very little in the way of bright lights, booming voices, or indeed anything even remotely supernatural. It has been a long slow process.

I decided that the time had finally come to be open about my beliefs. This time, I would not hide behind humour. On reflection, I doubt “No Thanks” was funny, even the first time.

“I’m a Transhumanist”

The medic’s expression froze in a mask horror. Considering the woman’s occupation requires a stoic reaction to people with missing body parts, I found this a little on the strange side.

“That’s not on the list”. She pointed at the screen, and sure enough, Transhumanism was not listed. To the credit of the Hospital, the list was otherwise very complete, including everything from Shinto, through the staples of Islam and Christianity (no fewer that twelve varieties!) to Wicca.

By now, I was less concerned with taking a stand for the forces of truth and good, and more concerned with having something done about the various garage door inflicted wounds on my left hand.

I suggested “Humanism” as an alternative. Transhumanism is after all, a subset of that larger body of thought. It has, of course, been said that you can drop the “ism” from Humanism, and not lose very much in the way of definition. It is at least in the same ball park.

Humanism, was surprisingly, also absent from the near encyclopedic list. It was time for the lowest common denominator.

“How About Atheism?”

Finally, the medic’s teeth unclenched, and her skin began to return to it’s normal colour. Now on firmer ground and presumably back on the script, she finished the paperwork and dispatched me to the treatment room.

As I was waiting to be stitched up, I realised that this woman’s behaviour was not only to be expected, it was probably a good thing. People are scared of the unusual, something which can be a good mental defence mechanism. It’s this aversion to new things which helps to prevent people from finding themselves in a burning stockade along with the new messiah and a few hundred guns.

How then, to explain Transhumanism in simple terms?

Well, Transhumanism is, as I mentioned, a subset of Humanism. All Transhumanists are Humanists too. The reverse is not true. Asking ten humanists their opinion on a subject is a sure-fire way of getting ten completely unique views with scant crossover between them. Most “proper” humanists regard us as being all together too optimistic to be taken seriously.

Humanists believe that there is no god, that this life is all there is, and all the more precious for that. They believe that we are all personally responsible for our actions, good or bad. The twin cop-outs of “The Devil made me do it” and “God was working in my life” do not figure highly in the day to day speech of a Humanist.

As a result of this, they believe that morals are separate from any religious imperative, and that laws derive from the common view of what is “good”, not from divine inspiration. Humanists believe that we can change ourselves for the better, and by working together change our world for the good of all mankind.

As Transhumanists, we share these common beliefs.

What makes us different is a belief in the power of technology to change mankind’s future. We can point to a thousand technologies which have improved the lot of man, and believe that “you ain’t seen nothing yet”

The thing that makes us trans humanists is the belief that we are approaching a point in time where mankind’s evolution will be in our own hands. Knowledge is increasing at an incredible rate, and each new invention changes the world in a tangible way.

Just as the Industrial Revolution changed the world of manual labour forever, and the dawn of the Information Revolution has changed the world of communication, the coming Genetics Revolution will change the future evolution of mankind.

Advanced Genetics will provide us with ways to enhance our bodies and minds, we can become bigger, stronger, faster, smarter. In the words of the Six Million Dollar Man, “We have the technology, we can rebuild him”

The developing field of nanotechnology has the potential to usher in a new golden age of plenty, where complex machinery is fabricated in near miraculous fashion from simple ingredients. We could, in thirty years, have a billion, billion nanobots swirling around our bloodstream, repairing damage. We will be near-immortal, something more than human. We will be transhuman.

In the future of mankind, I might not have to go to the hospital. I could repair the damage to my hand by simply drinking some sugar water. It would certainly sting less.

It’s possible of course, that we are deluding ourselves. Utopian visions are fickle like that. But look at it this way.

We won’t be burning people at the stake if they disagree with us.

The problem with Education…

Interesting article and associated talking point on the Beeb website today – one very close to my heart.

I posted this:

The education system is utterly flawed – we concentrate resources on remedial education for the lowest performers, and provide little or no opportunity for the best and brightest – in the name of being ‘fair’.

our utterly lacklustre nation is the result – we champion mediocrity, celebrate idiocy and regard intelligence as something to be mocked.

Is it any wonder that so many of our graduates emigrate at the first chance?”

If the usual Beeb policy is anything to go by, it won’t be posted on the BBC, but that’s the beauty of your own blog – editorial control!

David Cameron has signalled his intent to have more academy schools, but to end selection. I’m torn. The Academy Schools have been disastrous, essentially handing over complete control of schools to religious fundamentalists like the Vardy crowd, at the same time, they spend dramatically more money per child than regular schools – no bad thing.

It’s an interesting point – and highlights wonderfully the odd nature of Secular/Atheist politics. When the Academy programme kicked off in anger, there was a variety of responses to it – including this one. The Vardy god botherers have had a much more free run of things, largely because the opposition to them is so fragmented.

I’m part of the problem on this one – I couldn’t really bring myself to support this campaign fully, nor in fact any of the others which appeared around the same time. Ultimately, I have nothing against Academy schools – I agree with selection, I agree with removing schools from local council control (although I would rather go the other way and have national control of schools) and I certainly agree with spending a bit more on education per head.

My own experience of education was disastrous – I experienced the very worst of labour controlled education: Strikes, the PC restriction on competition, poor materials, poor classrooms and demotivated staff.

It’s the sort of thing that leaves an impression.

Bliar, Bliar, Pants on Fire!

So, it looks like St Tony Blair will finally admit to what seems to be the worst kept secret in Politics – that he is a Roman Catholic.

To a certain extent, this is not news – it has been spoken about since 2004 (although denied vigorously at the time, of course) however, people are entitled to believe in whatever crazy old garbage they want.

Where that becomes a problem, of course, is where they have executive power over a government and seek to worm their religious nonsense into public policy. You can point to an increase in the emphasis put on faith schools, despite the evidence that they harm social cohesion, or the greater influence that fringe groups – and we really do mean fringe groups here – have enjoyed to the highest level of power, but that’s not the worst.

The most unsettling discovery for me has been the revelation by Lord Harrison that the government has been adding deliberately anti secular language into it’s documents, such as “Building Civil Renewal: A review of Government support for community capacity building and proposals for change” – pulled from the home office website after Lord Harrison mentioned it – which contained this little gem:

“by preparing to mount publicity and media-handling strategies to answer adverse criticism from the secular quarter”

Now, hang on a minute here! Nearly sixty percent of the UK population is secularist – higher if you take on board the various surveys that the Humanist Society has published in recent years.

It’s bad enough that Bliar has been pushing his religious nonsense for the past ten years – and making our country a less free, more divisive place in the process – but to find out that his government has been deliberately briefing departments to ignore the views of atheists and secularists like me?

Time for some action, I think.

Ding Dong, the witch is dead…

Three posts in one day, the height of blog addiction! Worth it though, is I just spotted that Jerry Falwell is Dead – and not a second too soon. One of the unfortunate side effects of being an atheist is that there isn’t a hell to imagine slime like Falwell burning in.

It’s something that is always lost on my Secret Fundie Informant – who insists that being a Christian is a challenge, “the narrow path” as opposed to being an Atheist, that’s apparently all fun and games, what with the orgies and hedonistic debauching. or something.

It couldn’t be further from the truth – when you know that your father, or your friend has died, and there’s no mystical happy playpark to make it all better, when you realise that you really do have nothing but the memories of the time that you had together – that the only place that the person lives on is in the minds of the people who knew them – that’s hard.

It does mean that I have a much harsher view of right and wrong, personal responsibility and so on – take this piece of human garbage for instance – this priest (naturally) befriended a paedophile in jail, then paid him money to groom an 11 year old girl for him.

According to the screwed up Christian “morality”, all this scumbag has to do is ask forgiveness and that’s all in the past off he goes to heaven and all’s okay – apart from the wreckage of a young girl’s life, of course. The bible really isn’t that big on victim’s rights.

Atheist morality – human morality – says that no amount of prayer or bowing and scraping to an imaginary god ever makes up for something like that. This life is it – there’s no judgement in the sky, no afterlife to make everything fair. When you do good things, that was you – not “god working through you” and when you do bad things? there’s no “Devil” to pass the buck to.

The real cheek is that these people think that they have a moral authority to tell the rest of us how to live!!