• Category Archives Religion
  • Are you Charlie?

    o-OVERWHELMED-570

    I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever read Charlie Hebdo. I always bought a few bandes dessinee magazines, but I had a preference for lushly rendered ligne claire tales full of hard SF and occasional naked people.

    Since the magazine’s offices were attacked, there has been an amount of self important commentary suggesting the cartoonists brought the violence upon themselves. It’s not just been from the sort of right wingers who would like to have the power to threaten and censor for themselves, either. People who would normally, and rightly, rail against victim blaming, have been saying, “Well, if they would go out in those covers, they were asking to be shot.”

    They’re wrong, of course, and many people have explained why, so I’ll not go into that. But what’s bothered me is their inability to read a cartoon, or do some basic maths. Everyone’s been concentrating on the covers depicting Mohammed and the blame brigade are pointing at them and implying that the magazine was a non-stop anti Islam hate fest. There’s a pool of a dozen or so cover images from the period since 2006 (date of the image above), that are being concentrated on. But Charlie Hebdo was weekly. There were 52 issues a year (maybe 50 if they took a break for Christmas and New Year), which kind of makes the charge of concentrated Islamaphobia a little weaker. Of course, I can’t speak for the content of CH, and just how nasty it was to whom and in what ratio, but none of the magazine’s sudden critics can either, judging by their concentration on the most repeated cover images.

    The left-leaning victim blamers are all determined to see racism aimed at France’s muslim population, and have decided that cartoons about the prophet are an example of that. A favourite argument has been that, with drawings of Mohammed, Charlie was “punching down when it should have been punching up”. But they’ve only come to that conclusion because they can’t do something as simple as decode a cartoon. They see that the image is supposed to depict the prophet and decide that it’s nothing more than a simplistic attack on Islam and, by extension, an attempt to demean muslims. There’s a snobbery in their refusal to actually look at the cartoons and work out what they’re really saying. Cartoons are a juvenile art form, they’ve decided, crude scribbles meant for the young and the simple-minded, so they can’t possibly be loaded with nuance.

    Let’s look at that cartoon up above again. I’ve seen a few, slightly different, translations of the caption and speech bubble, but the gist of it is- ‘Mohammed despairs of the extremists, “It’s hard to be loved by arseholes!”‘ Ignore the edict against depictions of the prophet and this is a very sympathetic depiction of him. Here’s an entity with the empathy to be apalled by the actions some are claiming to do in his name. The only people who should be offended by this cartoon are the very arseholes whose behaviour has driven the one they claim to revere to tears. Similarly, another image, of a returned Mohammed about to be beheaded by a masked ISIS type, is showing, in a suitably brutal way, how the terrorists have diverged so far from the religion they claim to represent that they wouldn’t recognise it’s creator.

    In those two cartoons, CH attacked the people who would go on to attack them. They also stood with the thousands of muslims who have been killed in Syria and Iraq by arseholes who think praying in a slightly different way merits the death sentence. But some people are too busy trying to read shallow intentions into the images to look deep enough to see that.

    I’m not in possession of large reserves of physical or moral courage, I leave that sort of thing to my protagonists. Only once has anyone demanded that I shelve something I was planning to write. But he was an obnoxious, bullying little shit, so I carried on with it, only putting it aside when it became obvious that my drawing skills weren’t good enough to produce the sort of art it deserved. I have written, and will write in the future, stuff that offends people, but I couldn’t say that I’d carry on with it when faced with constant death threats. It’s galling to think that, if I were attacked, there’d be some self-righteous pricks who’d turn around and say, “Yes, but just look at the tacky genres he was writing in, and such short books, lacking any pretentious prose. It’s not like he was creating worthy, literary novels, is it.”

    Fuck those idiots.

    Je suis Charlie.


  • Let There Be Life!

    The beginning of life may have been inevitable, it seems, a natural and logical result of thermodynamics.

    From the standpoint of physics, there is one essential difference between living things and inanimate clumps of carbon atoms: The former tend to be much better at capturing energy from their environment and dissipating that energy as heat. Jeremy England, a 31-year-old assistant professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has derived a mathematical formula that he believes explains this capacity. The formula, based on established physics, indicates that when a group of atoms is driven by an external source of energy (like the sun or chemical fuel) and surrounded by a heat bath (like the ocean or atmosphere), it will often gradually restructure itself in order to dissipate increasingly more energy. This could mean that under certain conditions, matter inexorably acquires the key physical attribute associated with life.

    The article comes at the news as another nail in Creationism’s coffin, but personal experience suggests Creationism is an undead thing, immune even to shooting in the head. Creationists have evolved their denial techniques so that, no matter how strong the evidence or logical the argument, they always have a nonsensical reply waiting.

    So, let’s not worry about shooting down the Creationists- though they must be shown this theory whenever possible- let’s just concentrate on the incredible coolness and massive potential of life, on Earth and as many other planets as possible.


  • Ancient Buddhist statue made of meteorite, new study reveals

    It sounds like an artifact from an Indiana Jones film: a 1,000-year-old ancient Buddhist statue which was first recovered by a Nazi expedition in 1938 has been analyzed by scientists and has been found to be carved from a meteorite. The findings, published in Meteoritics and Planetary Science, reveal the priceless statue to be a rare ataxite class of meteorite.

    via Ancient Buddhist statue made of meteorite, new study reveals.


  • Morons will be morons

    Apparently Evangelo-freak* Richard Carvath is a satirical creation. That is what he means when he says his website contains satirical content, isn’t it?

    Today, Ricky is playing the role of clueless homophobe who thinks he’s clever because he’s using cheap cultural references rather than coming out and saying what he means. It’s a tired cliche, and several years out of date, so not one of his better characters.

    Sephton for Manchester Central: Matt’ll Fix It for you
    Now then, now then… Matthew Sephton, my erstwhile rival for Salford and Eccles (GE2010) is the Conservative Party candidate for the Manchester Central by-election to be held on 15th November.

    If you’re a Manchester Central voter, Matt probably thinks he can fix it for you… you name it, from crime to unemployment to redefining marriage, Matthew Sephton is out to win your vote.

    What’s the single most important thing every voter needs to know about Matthew Sephton?

    IMO I’d say it’s the fact that he’s the leader of LGBTory – the Conservative Party’s affiliated group for homosexual-perverts.

    Matthew’s a gayboy, and it seems to me that his main political passion is for pursuing ‘gay rights’ causes.

    Do you wanna be in Matt’s Gang, Matt’s Gang, Matt’s Gang, do you wanna be in Matt’s Gang?

    Oh, yeah?

    Well, if you do wanna be in Matt’s Gang, be very clear that Matt’s gang is LGBTory. A vote for Matthew Sephton is a vote for the pervert-politics agenda exemplified by Stonewall.

    Parents in Manchester Central should ask Matthew – a teacher – about his views on ‘sex education’ for little boys and girls. What kind of ‘educational’ pictures and videos does he approve of?

    Voters should also ask Matthew why until recently he was banned from donating blood. What behaviour was it that Matthew engaged in with a man/men that caused him to be banned?

    And voters should also ask Matthew about his views on redefining marriage.

    Labour will win this by-election by a very comfortable margin, but for the record the candidates (source: Wikipedia) are: Lucy Powell (Labour); Matthew Sephton (Conservative); Marc Ramsbottom (Liberal Democrat); Chris Cassidy (UKIP); Peter Clifford (Communist League); Alex Davidson (Trade Unionist & Socialist); Lee Holmes (Peoples Democratic Party); Loz Kaye (Pirate); Eddy O’Sullivan (BNP); Clive Searle (Respect). Tom Dylan (Green Party) is also reported to be a candidate (source: MEN).

    I haven’t bothered giving you a link to the original post, because Carvath has a habit of taking them down so his stupidity is only visible for brief periods at a time. It’s here as a record, in case anyone in the future is foolish enough to think he’s credible but sensible enough to do a search on his background.

    Update I was right to not bother with a link- he took the post down whilst I was writing about it.

    *Just trying out Dickie’s favourite tactic of sticking two words together to make some dumb attempt at a statement that’s really meaningless.


  • Making Jesus famous?

    I’m an atheist*, but there’s something about the motto of King’s Church that offends me. It’s even the URL of their website- ‘Making Jesus famous‘.

    It’s the sheer arrogance of it that rubs me up the wrong way. Who could possibly believe that they could make the second most famous fictional character in the world any more well known?

    I reckon far too many religious leaders are all about aggrandising themselves and feeding their egos. Their god, whichever one they claim, is only ever a prop.

    *I was going to say ‘affirmed atheist’, but there’s something about the phrase that suggests we have to go through our own version of baptism or confirmation- where a man in a white lab coat anoints your forehead (preferably with whisky) with a Doctor Manhattan style hydrogen atom and calls upon you to renounce all fairytales.


  • John Redwood is still wrong

    I followed John Redwood’s blog before the last election and found his arguments repetetive and dumb. I haven’t visited much since then, but thought I’d go back and have a look again. He’s still making dumb arguments.

    In a post titled Rebalancing the Economy Redwood laments the lack of growth of UK industry. Amongst the reasons he cites for this happening is

    Industry needs cheap energy in abundance. The UK is taxing and testing high energy using industries by its dear energy policies, partly required by its consent to EU carbon dioxide policies.

    Because Europe’s industrial powerhouse, Germany, didn’t get where it is today by consenting to EU carbon dioxide policies. It did it by exceeding the targets, and building a world leading renewable energy industry to do it.

    The Vulcan grinds out his climate change denial nonsense in Open Letter to the new DG of the BBC, pretending to be all high minded and scientific with the non-argument that science is always finding out new stuff so we shouldn’t act on what we already know in case we know other stuff in the future. He also whines that deniers don’t get as much time on air as people who know what they’re talking about. In reality, the “skeptics” probably get more time- relative to their credibility- than they deserve.

    If Redwood really cares as much as he claims about energy poverty and rebuilding the country’s industrial base he should put aside the denial dogma and take a leaf out of Germany’s book, or give some support to his deputy leader’s old idea of rejuvenating old shipyards to build wind turbines.

    But he won’t do that, will he.

    Update And just when I thought Redwood couldn’t make himself look any dumber I found his reply to a comment

    There are also problems with Darwin’s theory that need further work. If life came from the primeval slime, why can’t we make it from slime ourselves?

    It would appear the Vulcan is a Creationist too, or so stupid he’s swallowed their nonsense. I admit I didn’t have much respect for him before, but if this guy was once held up as the great intellectual of the Tory party you can see how we got this deep in the shit.


  • Your foreskin belongs to God!

    The Cologne district court has ruled that non-medical circumcision is a “serious and irreversible interference in the integrity of the human body”. Thus religious circumcision is illegal and German Jews and Muslims are up in arms about it.

    Well done to Germany, and the Cologne court in particular, for making a decision based upon child welfare despite the inevitable chorus of claims that it’s anti-semitic. Commenters were straight in with the other obvious non-argument- bringing abortion into the mix despite the two issues being unrelated. British blogger Cranmer waffled around the subject but basically said that laws made up in the desert thousands of years ago should be more important than the ones passed in a modern courtroom, and suggested some sort of circumcision tourism.

    Let’s leave decisions about the integrity of the prepuce to its owner and let them choose at the age of eighteen plus whether it stays or goes.


  • Bikes and Banners for Bank Holiday Monday

    Manchester Whit Walk 2012

    The very first pictures I uploaded to Flickr, way back in 2005, were of the Manchester Whit Walk. Nearly 8,000 images and over a million views later I finally managed to catch the Walk again. I’ve not uploaded many of the photos I took today to the Whit Walk 2012 set because I wanted to post stuff quickly. More may be added when I have time.

    On the way into town I stopped to get a few shots of the Daily Mirror organised cyclosportive. I like this one-

    Manchester Cycle

    (I did a little bit of Photoshopping to remove the street light which was sticking out of the rider’s helmet at an odd angle and to get a darker and more detailed sky.)

    As I walked my bike along the side of the route I was asked a couple of imes why I wasn’t taking part. The honest answer is I’ve been distracted and disorganised and, as with so many things, it sneaked up on me before I really knew about it. Maybe next year……

    I also took this picture, a baby architectural wander-

    RUBBER The MOSELEY?


  • He’s a very naughty boy

    So an American pastor with the same name as the short Welsh one from Monty Python, whose childish attention seeking ways included threats to burn the Koran, was invited to Britain by a bunch of racist idiots. The Government has decided not to let him in, and instantly given him even more of the publicity he craves than he’d have received if he had turned up.

    The preacher and the neanderthals who’ve invited him over have tiny constituencies. In his church of the poisoned mind the man who isn’t a Python preaches to fewer than 50 people. The reactionaries who wooed him “expected about 100 people to attend events […], including about 30 members [of the group]”. Those are tiny numbers. In my time I’ve organised, and helped to organise, events which have had attendances many times those numbers- where’s my national news coverage? They’re just courting controversy to get coverage, and it’s worked. We shouldn’t ignore them ,but we should give them the amount of attention they deserve- something along the lines of a shrug and turning away.

    Of course, by writing about this so I can make my point, I have become another person who’s giving the preacher and his English friends more attention than they deserve. Hopefully by refraining from using their names in teh post I have mitigated that a little.


  • There’s science in Creationism? Really?

    A creationist writes, without any indication that he recognises the irony

    Too many people still believe in the “science” put out for political reasons. People argue with me about Creation vs evolution science. Most concentrate on issues like why am I a Creationist rather than whether the actual science backs one or the other. I think, though, that people are waking up to the fact that we are being fed incredible lies to fool us into becoming even more controlled.

    The only “science” put out for political reasons in the debate between creationism and reality (sorry, evolution) is that made up by the creationists. The word science always has implicit quote marks around it when used by creationists to describe what they think is evidence for their beliefs. Creationists are the ones who want people to remain uninformed and unquestioning- just keep believing the lines they’re fed so their would be leaders can keep taking advantage of them.

    Also, there’s no need to “believe” in evolution. Believing is what the creationists have to fall back on because they don’t have any evidence or a coherent theory. You understand evolution rather than believe in it. It’s been coherently explained by a large number of people. Understanding evolution is harder for some than believing in Creationism, because they can’t accept the freedom of no longer being told what to do. Which is a shame, because they then go on to tie themselves in knots as they try to explain all the logical inconsistencies thrown up by saying “God made it!”

    I’ve participated in online debates with creationists, and read through others, and it’s always the creationists who don’t want to talk about whether the science backs their beliefs. Faced with evidence that just keeps piling up, they’re the ones who will steer the conversation to why people “believe” in evolution, as they desperately try to run away from the realisation that they’re wrong.

    There’s no science behind creationism, just a desire to manipulate people, anyone who tells you otherwise is lying.


  • Proposal: The ….For Smartys series of books

    During a conversation a few weeks ago I suggested there would be merit in going through The Da Vinci Code and editing out all the bits where Dan Brown treats his readers like idiots. Stuff like the horrendous flashback used to explain phi and the redundant repetition of information because he assumes his readers have tiny attention spans. I reckoned I could cull nearly a third of the verbiage and make it a less painful book to read. It still wouldn’t be great, because it’s a dumb premise, but it could be easier to get through. We’d call it Dan Brown for Smartys.

    Over the weekend I got thinking about other possible ….for Smatys books. The idea could lend itself to so many better uses than improving Dan Brown’s prose. The series title, obviously, is a play on the ….for Dummies books, and they would serve a similar purpose. Despite their name, the ….for Dummies books don’t assume you’re some sort of idiot. I’ve got Blender For Dummies and it’s a great resource. It presumes the reader is an intelligent person who simply hasn’t used the software before and can grasp the concepts providing they’re explained well. The …..for Smartys books would expect intelligent readers and cover areas where the main, or at least loudest, people talking about them assume their audience are morons and can be lied to with impunity.

    Yes, …..for Smartys would mostly cover tabloid fodder and stuff which attracts loud and dissembling deniers. The books would look at claims made around a controversial subject and fact check them, much like blogs such as Five Chinese Crackers do. They would also present the data in cool infographics, just because I’m a fan of cool infographics. Weight would be given to data based upon how many times it had been corroborated, rather than by how much it appealed to the readers presumed prejudices.

    Immigration for Smartys would trace the population of the country back through many censuses as well as using Freedom of Information requests to get councils to reveal who gets to live in council houses (just a hunch, but I doubt “newly arrived immigrants” will top the list, no matter what the Daily Mail may say).

    Climate Change for Smartys would look at the scientific evidence for and against man-made climate change. It would examine the more outlandish claims made for global warming as well as the those that it’s not happening at all. It would also run a side by side projection for a do-nothing family and a make-a-change family to see who is better off, even if all the evidence is wrong and there is no climate change. The no-changers would keep their car, not bother insulating their house etc. The make-a-changes would trade in for a smaller, more efficient vehicle, which they used less, upgrade insulation, upgrade their heating, install solar panels etc. There would be a comparison of expenditure, which would be easy enough, and a less scientific look at quality of life.

    I don’t know if an Evolution for Smartys would be necessary. I’d mostly point people at The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution. Dawkins can be strident, but he knows his subject and explains it well.

    Religion for Smartys would be a tricky one, because some people can’t help but get violent over their choice of deity. I imagine it as a timeline from the earliest known religions through to the present day with pullouts for similarity of themes and recurring motifs. There’d also be a “Who do you hate and who do you love?” section which would list the various things and peoples considered evil or divine across several holy books.

    All I need now is a publisher willing to put up the money needed to fund me whilst I do the research and design the graphics.


  • Satan Meat!

    There are a number of good reasons why this country should no longer allow halal and kosher butchery of animals. Johann Hari wrote a detailed piece on them recently.

    However, this is not a valid reason

    Halal meat is meat from animals which have been slaughtered and ritually sacrificed to Satan* in accordance with islamic practice.

    I don’t do Satan meat!

    [* The god of the followers of Mohammed as presented in the Koran and known as ‘Allah’ is not the one true God YHWH but is actually Satan.]

    Yes, it’s Richard Carvath, Salford funny mentalist, being an uninformed bigot again.

    I’d sign a petition calling for the stunning of all animals before they’re slaughtered- effectively banning the objectionable part of halal and kosher butchery, but not their right to pray to their chosen version of God over the dead animal- but it seems that everyone who puts one up forgets about the Jewish practice and is concentrating on being anti-Islam not pro-animal rights.


  • Still saying nothing with numbers

    Not satisfied with simply being homophobic and mysoginist, would be holy warrior Richard Carvath is branching out into racism*. He’s terrified that Mohammed was the 16th most popular name for baby boys in 2009. 16th! All the good white Christian folk are going to be ground under the heels of the Allah chanting brown hordes!

    Except that there were 15 more popular names (here’s the top 100). Oliver was most popular- we’re in danger of being overrun by urchins! Harry was third- prepare for the speccy wizard apocalypse! Alfie was fourth- fear the coming wave of cockney lotharios! Etc.**

    I know what Carvath thinks he’s saying- the muslim community is growing fast enough for one of their most popular boy’s names to slot into the list amongst all the properly Christian christian names. Something should be done! Because we all know that every single muslim is only one halal burger away from exploding and killing himself and everyone around him.

    This fear of a brown neighbour is really weak and quite cowardly. People like Carvath who talk tough about fighting the “evil Mohammedan cult” reveal a lack of faith in the strength of their own beliefs. If they were so sure they were right they’d just go out there and sell their own religion. The only long term solution to religious extremism is secularism and humanism. Politicians need to stop pandering to those who whine loudest about the rights they demand because of their imaginary friend.

    *I know that prejudice against Islam isn’t strictly racist, but it’s a fair bet that when Carvath says “Muslim” he’s thinking of brown men with beards, often wearing non Western styles of clothing.

    **Jack was second. I can’t think of a cliche associated with Jack. Sorry.