You've found Father McKenzie. But are you really looking for Eleanor Rigby?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Strictly evidence-based

'... I am trying to call attention to the elephant in the room that everybody is too polite - or too devout - to notice: religion, and specifically the devaluing effect that religion has on human life. I don't mean devaluing the life of others (though it can do that too), but devaluing one's own life. Religion teaches the dangerous nonsense that death is not the end. If death is final, a rational agent can be expected to value his life highly and be reluctant to risk it. This makes the world a safer place, just as a plane is safer if its hijacker wants to survive. At the other extreme, if a significant number of people convince themselves, or are convinced by their priests, that a martyr's death is equivalent to pressing the hyperspace button and zooming through a wormhole to another universe, it can make the world a very dangerous place. Especially if they also believe that that other universe is a paradisical escape from the tribulations of the real world. Top it off with sincerely believed, if ludicrous and degrading to women, sexual promises, and is it any wonder that naive and frustrated young men are clamouring to be selected for suicide missions? There is no doubt that the afterlife-obsessed suicidal brain really is a weapon of immense power and danger.... To fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns. Do not be surprised if they are used...'

- Richard Dawkins (Professor of the Public Understanding of Science, University of Oxford), "Religion's misguided missiles: Promise a young man that death is not the end and he will willingly cause disaster," The Guardian (Saturday 15 September 2001)

'The gunman who went on a deadly shooting spree at a Finnish high school overnight posted a video clip on the video-sharing site YouTube that signalled his intentions. The video, entitled "Jokela High School Massacre - 11/7/2007," was posted within the past two weeks under the pseudonym "Sturmgeist89", who identified himself as Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18... In his profile posted alongside his YouTube videos, the teen describes himself as an "cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist." "I am prepared to fight and die for my cause. I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see [as] unfit, disgraces of the human race and failures of natural selection," he wrote... In another video, he sports a tee-shirt with the text "Humanity is Overrated."... "I don't want to be part of this ... society," he wrote, criticising "corrupted governments" and the "rule of idiocracy [sic {sic}]." "I am ready to die for a cause I know is right, just and true ... I will rather fight and die than live a long and unhappy life"...'

- AFP, "YouTube gunman kills eight at school," ABC News (8 November 2007)


"... Of course, it is not unusual for homicidal maniacs to cite great writers when seeking to justify their crimes. The Chicago spree-killers Leopold and Loeb (the models for Hitchcock’s 1948 film, Rope) claimed Friedrich Nietzsche as their muse, as did the Moors murderer Ian Brady. Other deranged misfits have nominated Albert Camus, Jean Genet and AndrĂ© Gide. But it may take a keener intellect than was possessed by Harris, Klebold or Auvinen to negotiate such a reading list. The basics of evolution are much more accessible and are taught in every high school, so it should not be surprising that Darwin seems to be emerging as the inspiration for the more dim-witted schoolboy sociopath..."

- Dennis Sewell, "Charles Darwin and the children of the evolution: The naturalist outraged the church, prompting a bitter debate that still sets creationists against evolutionists. Now a sinister link has emerged between his work and the recent spate of high-school killings by crazed, nihilistic teenagers," The Sunday Times (8 November 2009)


Now that's cosmically bad timing for a boast of this sort:
"Something you will never see: an atheist boarding a plane with a bomb strapped to him, waving a copy of On The Origin Of Species, before he blows himself up in a violent attempt to further his cause. So says David Nicholls, the head of the Atheist Foundation of Australia..."

- Jacqueline Maley, "Atheism's true believers gather," Sydney Morning Herald (13 February 2010).