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Ireland Criminalizes Blasphemy 1376

An anonymous reader writes "Another European country clamps down on free speech. From the article: 'It does seem bizarre that, in 2009, a modern European nation would seek to shield religious belief from criticism — yet that is what is happening in Ireland right now. In repealing the 1961 Defamation Act, the Irish government sought to expunge the worst excesses of Ireland's draconian laws restricting free speech, but in the process it has ended up making offending religious belief a criminal offence. Aside from a 25,000 fine (reduced from the 100,000 originally sought by the government), the new Defamation Act gives the authorities the power to stage raids on publishers: the courts may now issue a warrant authorising the police to enter, using "reasonable force," premises where they have grounds for believing there are copies of "blasphemous statements."'"


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Ireland Criminalizes Blasphemy

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  • by allaunjsilverfox2 ( 882195 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#28757525) Homepage Journal
    It's like watching V for Vendetta in real life. 0.o
  • god dammit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by malignant_minded ( 884324 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:33PM (#28757527)
    No see its ok. It's with a lowercase g so it's my god and not the real God.
  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:34PM (#28757535) Homepage

    Jesus titty-fucking Christ on a pogo stick, that is a draconian law.

    Its 2010 and some people still long for the middle ages.

  • by Adolf Hitroll ( 562418 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:35PM (#28757559) Homepage Journal

    Fuck God!
    (and Allah, Yahve...)

  • by Absolut187 ( 816431 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:36PM (#28757589) Homepage

    For example, if someone blasphemes my diety, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, will they be treated the same as somebody who blasphemes against Jesus of Nazareth, (who is clearly an undead minion of Satan?)

  • by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:36PM (#28757595)
    This is the biggest reason why I can't stand religion. If you are so frightened by others' opinions as to attack them if they disagree with you then you have no right to make any decisions. It's the same with censorship. If you don't like it, ignore it.

    Can we outlaw thinking for ourselves while we're at it? (/s)
  • Chilling (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jawn98685 ( 687784 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:38PM (#28757613)
    ...and I mean that literally. When I read that a modern western country has enacted a law that allows for the prosecution of the "crime" of "blasphemy", I got a cold chill down my spine. What's next? Imprisonment and torture for various forms of heresy?
  • by 0xdeadbeef ( 28836 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:38PM (#28757623) Homepage Journal

    Isn't it funny how the religionists keep whining about antagonistic and mean atheists are, and how that is their primary rebuttal to the arguments of public intellectuals like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens, and yet, given the free hand to manipulate the government, they go and pass laws like this. They'd do it in America too, have done it in the past, if not for that pesky First Amendment and the strident efforts of "militant" atheists and civil rights organizations.

  • by erroneus ( 253617 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:40PM (#28757645) Homepage

    Seriously, the Southpark guys are frikken heroes when it comes to freedom of speech and expression and trampling on stupidity. They depicted Muhammad without causing riots somehow. They exposed scientology to the world for all its ridiculousness and countless other things. Southpark needs to create an answer to all of this and the spokesperson for Ireland really needs to be the Lucky Charms guy ... and/or the Irish Spring guy going around and cutting into everyone's soap.

    Religion is a choice that people make. It is rooted into culture and geography and nearly all other aspects of human existence, but it is not beyond question or criticism.

    All hail the flying spaghetti monster.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:41PM (#28757655)

    In the US, people often wonder why the ACLU gets its panties in a knot over seemingly trivial government involvement in religious matters. This kind of shit is why.

    If you give the Bible-thumping idiots an inch, they will take the field.

  • by jdgeorge ( 18767 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:44PM (#28757711)

    This isn't really nerd news here, the online part of this story is ancillary to the main issue.

    This isn't news for nerds or stuff that matters.

    Hmmm... this might seem like "stuff that matters" to people who live in Ireland.

  • by cyphercell ( 843398 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:47PM (#28757743) Homepage Journal

    Yep, beginning to feel a little embarrassed by my agnosticism. Best just to hide my true feelings and side with reason.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:47PM (#28757757)
    You place the blame at religious people, but on the other side, things like "hate speech" still follows this absurdity of lack of freedom of speech yet there is (comparatively) less uproar about it. We need freedom of speech for absolutely -everything- one thing banned from freedom of speech is one thing too many.
  • Re:Ok, really? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by WiiVault ( 1039946 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:48PM (#28757773)
    Do you ever get tired of blaming the US for every one of the world's ills? Americans can be dumb, but no more or less than Europeans in many ways. Look at British privacy laws, or the anti-muslim shit France is always trying to pull. Face it you guys are no angels either.
  • Ugh (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sircastor ( 1051070 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:50PM (#28757793)
    I'm a very religious person and this kind of stuff makes me sick. One of the foundations of my country is that it has no state-sponsored religion, or that it's not a (specific) religion-sponsored state. Governments have responsibility to protect their citizens from harm, but not at the expense of freedom. I may not agree with what you teach, what you share, what you distribute, but it is your God-given right (or as some may prefer, your natural right, or Spaghetti-given right) to believe, practice, share, and disagree. This kind of thing is a tragedy as it will hamper the rights of individuals and their ability to express themselves.
  • Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MozeeToby ( 1163751 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:51PM (#28757817)

    I have no problem with God...

    It's his fan club that I hate.

  • Step 2 (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JJJK ( 1029630 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:52PM (#28757847) Homepage
    I guess now it's up to the religious leaders to redefine what "blasphemy" means. We'll see what they come up with...

    So when a religious person and an atheist meet and say something like "I find your views completely ridiculous" at the same time to each other then the religious person can sue the atheist but not vice versa?
    Reminds me of this [smbc-comics.com]
  • by JeanPaulBob ( 585149 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:52PM (#28757851)

    This is the biggest reason why I can't stand religion. If you are so frightened by others' opinions as to attack them if they disagree with you then you have no right to make any decisions. It's the same with censorship. If you don't like it, ignore it.

    Can we outlaw thinking for ourselves while we're at it? (/s)

    Hmm... Does broad-brushing "religion" with criticism that should be aimed at "forced religion" count as "thinking for yourself"?

    I suppose it does. Sloppy, unreasonable thinking is still thinking, after all. It just doesn't deserve any more respect than what you're (rightly) criticizing.

  • by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:53PM (#28757857)
    The church might not be asking for it directly, but it is still being done because of religion. Same outcome either way except I would expect it coming directly from the church.
  • Its true. They keep saying how religion is under attack... but whats so under attack?

    It doesn't matter whether the issue is abortion, same sex marriage, prayer in school, its always the same broken record about how they need to "defend", and they are "under attack". Yet, are never able to actually articulate how other people having choices in life constitutes an attack on them and theirs.

    Apparently its an attack on their youth because of their children were to grow up with choices, they might choose not to be boneheaded, zombie worshiping, fucktards, and THEN what would happen to the world?!?

    I recently saw a facebook discussion between an old friend who went hardcore muslim and some of her friends about opening a dialog with other "people of the book" but how "we have to be sure they know we see them as wrong and they need to come to the light of allah" and all that bullshit.

    All the same bullshit, all the same "we are the victim", "our way of life is under attack". All just sounding like somebody needs to grow the fuck up and realize that its a big world and not everyone is going to be duped into believing in some random set of myths about some god that you can't see, hear, touch, or taste, but assuredly, must exist.... and all the other mythological beings that you also can't see hear, touch, or taste must obviously not exist.

    Yet their all powerful god can't protect them from a small number of people who aren't even organized, and couldn't care less what silly crap they waste their time with. Yes, they have a very powerful god indeed.


  • by number6x ( 626555 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:54PM (#28757889)

    If I had 2p for every time my grandmother took the lord's name in vain, I'd have enough to pay off several offender's fines.

    This is a woman who used to carry food to republican fighters hiding in fields and graveyards at night during the revolution.

    Though she was a deeply devout woman, she would have had no qualms about any divine beings know just how screwed up they were. If she felt she should take the belt to God or Jesus, no blasphemy laws would have stopped her.

    If they classify the abuse of minors by clergy and religious orders as a form of blasphemy, there might night be enough room in gaol.

    Good Luck!

  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:55PM (#28757903)

    I realize that most people are going to be complaining about this without reading the article.

    So my question is, how is this different than shielding from "hate speech" about... say, homosexuality? Go look at Canada's laws. It's pretty much against the law to say anything bad about homosexuality up there, from what I understand from some Canadian friends that I have.

    I'm not saying this law is a good thing. I'm a pretty conservative Christian, in fact, and I don't particularly think this is a good law, and I think if anything it will drive more people away. Plus it kind of implies a religion-set-up-by-government, which - Ireland being "Catholic" and thus claiming to believe in Jesus Christ from the Bible - is NOT what Jesus talked about. I don't think it's necessarily wrong to have the law - and I don't see how anyone else can say "this law is wrong!" without some basis for what is right or wrong. However, I don't see that it's necessarily right either. Just explaining my conservative Christian viewpoint. I think most slashdotters are going to be thinking that conservative Christians are going to think this is a great thing.

    Anyways. I'm still interested in knowing why this is any more frightening, annoying, upsetting, infuriating, unfair, or censoring than saying I can't tell people that being gay is ... hmmm, let's say, condemned by God, or ... bad for humanity ... or morally bad ... or bad for society... or any number of other "bad" things that would be "hate" speech in some countries.

    I'm not asking if it IS condemned, bad, or hateful. I'm asking how this is different, just because it's a different belief. Yes, belief. Homosexuality being good or bad for society is a belief, too...

  • by DragonPup ( 302885 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:57PM (#28757951)

    Fuck the corrupt politicians and religious leaders of Ireland who passed this travesty of freedom. In fact, I hope they just fuck themselves rather than underage boys. Again. Oh, and a special fuck you to the religious leaders whose faith is so weak they can not stand any criticism of their beliefs.

  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @12:57PM (#28757955) Homepage

    "how is this different than shielding from "hate speech" about"

    There isn't any difference. Which is why so many people are against hate speech laws.

  • Step (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DaMattster ( 977781 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:00PM (#28757999)
    That's one small step for man, one giant step for mankind ...... backward
  • by MarkvW ( 1037596 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:00PM (#28758003)

    Reading your post, I can only assume that you must be very young.

    Free speech for absolutely everything would mean free speech for planning and advocating genocide and murder.
    Free speech for absolutely everything means free speech for fraud and deception.
    Free speech for absolutely everything means "fighting words" that provoke another to attack.

    I'm glad that I live in a country that carefully regulates certain forms of speech.

  • Re:Ok, really? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RazorSharp ( 1418697 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:02PM (#28758019)

    Who marked this interesting? Are you serious?

    That's the most absurd thing I've ever heard. Ireland is a Catholic nation whose politicians are all pretty much on the same page concerning religion. There is so much religious diversity in America that defining "blasphemy" from a political standpoint would be impossible without endorsing a single religion. It's not like Christianity is one religion. I'm Lutheran and my church has no problem with abortion or contraceptives. The Catholics find both blasphemous while the Baptists just find abortion to be.

    I hope you're not an American because everyone in this country should be aware of our freedoms of speech and religion. Even if congress were to ever pass an anti-blasphemy law all the smaller sects would take it to court and win. The Mormons and Scientologists have more power than you think, also. I couldn't see any Congressman, Republican or Democrat, supporting such a blatantly anti-American law. How do you disguise an anti-blasphemy law as anti-terrorist anyway? "Praise Allah" and "Praise God" mean the same thing and they reference the SAME GOD.

  • by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:03PM (#28758035)

    "The modern world basically decided to get rid of all these stupid laws and regulations..."

    We still have Blasphemy laws, they just changed the subject of the blasphemy from Religion to a hodgepodge of special interest groups.


  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:05PM (#28758069)

    If it helps, don't think of agnosticism as a middle ground between the states we call "religion" and "atheism." Think of it as a middle ground between the processes of "reasoning" and "faith." As you go through the business of living, you have to stand on one side of the line or the other.

    It's simply not meaningful to hide behind "agnosticism" as a position. It doesn't make you sound diplomatic, it only makes you sound cowardly and irresolute. As an example, are you agnostic about Zeus, too? No? You're pretty sure that the possibility of Zeus's existence shouldn't inform your decisions and actions in everyday life? Then you must feel the same way about whatever God(s) the religious people are trying to sell you at the moment.

    All it takes for thumpers to get away with this crap is for good "agnostics" to do nothing. It's not useful to natter endlessly about the difference between gnostic and agnostic atheism. The debate is between plain old theism and plain old atheism. And it isn't being held in Internet forums, at lexicographers' conventions, or in comparative religion studies. It's being held in the legislatures, in the voting booths, and in our kids' science classes.

    Seriously. It's time to pick a side and stand up for it.

  • by Drakkenmensch ( 1255800 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:08PM (#28758107)

    So my question is, how is this different than shielding from "hate speech" about... say, homosexuality? Go look at Canada's laws. It's pretty much against the law to say anything bad about homosexuality up there, from what I understand from some Canadian friends that I have.

    The difference is that casual swearing rarely ever leads to someone of that particular religious inclination to being beaten or killed by an angry mob.

  • Re:Ok, really? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:08PM (#28758113)
    You must have mistaken me for European. I'm American and I'm honestly sick and tired of the government destroying every single shred of freedom in the name of "safety". Sure, parts of Europe are even more messed up than the US, but the US doesn't have to emulate Europe and neither does Europe have to emulate the US. The US should give its citizens its freedom back, rather than keep destroying it.
  • Re:Chilling (Score:3, Insightful)

    by dasunt ( 249686 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:08PM (#28758117)

    It is easy to point at this and say "OMG RELIGION MUST BE BAD!" But perhaps a better lesson to take away from this is that society tends to punish those who break commonly held cultural norms, at the expense of the health of society and personal liberty.

    Many modern western democracies have laws against "hate" speech. The US is one of the major exceptions because of the first amendment. I doubt racism is any worse in the US than most of Europe (other than there are more racial heterogeneity in the US to hate). But even with the example of the US thriving with rather liberal free speech rights, much of Europe believes such laws are necessary to promote the greater good.

    One could make a strong argument that restrictions on hate speech just drives the groups underground instead of keeping them in the public where they can be refuted and mocked.

    But, as I said, cultural norms tend to be enforced through punishing the rule breakers. This is true in the US and in Europe -- much of Europe has hate speech criminalized, while in the US, there is a strong social condemnation for groups that fight for the freedom of all speech, including unpopular speech (such as the ACLU's support of neo-NAZIs).

    Perhaps we should do a lot less patting ourselves on the back and saying that we are better than the Irish law makers, and take some time to look at our own laws and what has been legislated from a visceral reaction. For USians, a good start would be examining any law that was supposed to "protect the children".

  • by Fallen Seraph ( 808728 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:08PM (#28758121)
    Ummm, in the US, hate speech IS protected speech. The only time it loses this status is when it is used to directly incite violence, such as getting people to riot, hurt others, etc. That's why the KKK, the New Black Panthers, the Westboro Baptist Church, and other pieces of shit organizations continue to operate legally within the US. I may not agree with them, and hell, I may even think that some of them seriously deserve several hours of pain and suffering, but I will fight to the death to defend their right to free speech.
  • by jbacon ( 1327727 ) <(jcavanagh617) (at) (gmail.com)> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:11PM (#28758161)

    You'd have a point, except for the fact that said over the top fiction is becoming more real every day.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:16PM (#28758255)

    Free speech for absolutely everything would mean free speech for planning and advocating genocide and murder.

    Theres nothing wrong with that though. Now, if you actually -do- any of those things, yes it is wrong. But talking about it? No one gets hurt so therefore it should not be prohibited.

    Free speech for absolutely everything means free speech for fraud and deception.

    No, fraud can still be regulated. You are free to claim anything, but you must back them up. Contracts similarly should be free for anything, but you must not lie in them.

    Free speech for absolutely everything means "fighting words" that provoke another to attack.

    You attacked, you are the one to blame. I see nothing wrong with not regulating it. Words to not have the power to kill or otherwise (really) hurt someone. Therfore they should be unregulated unless dealing with a contract or an offer to trade.

  • by Me! Me! 42 ( 1153289 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:16PM (#28758257)
    Perhaps cyphercell prefers to stand apart from proscriptive, "I know best," dualistic, do-gooders, such as certain believers and atheists? You knowâ"people like you.
  • by Anita Coney ( 648748 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:18PM (#28758299) Homepage

    Choice irrelevant. The fact of the matter is that in both instances people can be charged criminally based merely on their expressed thoughts. That may sound OK to you, maybe locking up people who make you feel bad would give you some joy, but it scares the frick out of me.

  • by wurp ( 51446 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:18PM (#28758303) Homepage

    I'm agnostic, and I *am* picking a side and standing up for it.

    'Agnostic' doesn't mean "I don't know whether to believe in the Christian god" (as your comment re: Zeus appears to imply). Agnosticism can mean either "I don't know whether there's a god or not" or "I believe it's unknowable whether there's a god or not".

    A god could take many, many forms. I believe there's strong evidence against a god who created humanity in its image and for the purpose of exalting it.

    Not having heard any reasonable theory of the origin of the stuff in the universe, the space-time in which it sits, and the physical laws governing that stuff, I don't know where it comes from. I find it equally hard to believe that some entity outside of the bounds of physical laws created it or that it has no origin. (Giving a physical explanation of its origin just begs the question of the origin of the physics of the explanation).

    I don't think you know either. So I call on you, stop pretending you're omniscient: admit you're not atheist, but rather agnostic.

  • by 99BottlesOfBeerInMyF ( 813746 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:19PM (#28758315)

    You place the blame at religious people, but on the other side, things like "hate speech" still follows this absurdity of lack of freedom of speech yet there is (comparatively) less uproar about it.

    There is a lot less uproar about hate speech laws than there is about censorship laws because hate speech laws are a much broader and more loosely defined category. For example, most laws that fall within that category provide harsher penalties for people convicted of conspiring to commit other violent crimes against a group they speaking out against. Some hate speech laws provide harsher penalties for people issuing threats and directly advocating/ordering violence against particular groups. They are the same tradeoff of rights we've always used when limiting free speech, that is free speech is limited when it infringes upon other people's individual rights, like the right to live.

    Mind you, not all hate speech laws fit into the above category. Some of them to simply try to censor negative speech about groups, regardless of whether o not that speech directly infringes upon the rights of others. Many people do speak out about these and there have been several ACLU cases where the ACLU has fought hard against those hate speech laws.

    We need freedom of speech for absolutely -everything- one thing banned from freedom of speech is one thing too many.

    This is a sophomoric view. Free speech always has been limited when it comes into conflict with other rights. You don;t have the right to yell "fire" in a crowded theater because your free speech does not trump everyone else's safety. Your free speech is not protected if your speech is telling your underling to go shoot the shopkeeper who wouldn't pay up. Your free speech does not trump another person's right to not be threatened or even give you the right to slander or libel or falsely advertise or commit fraud.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:21PM (#28758353)

    What I want to know is why can't we call oppression by its real name? Why do we insist on using terms like "clamping down" and "cracking down" to describe oppression? This only waters down the true reality of it, as if government should have been "clamping down" all along, but never had the time.

    Let's call a spade a spade. When government attacks freedom of speech, or any natural human right, the term is oppression, not "clamping down".

  • by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:21PM (#28758355)

    Islam is blasphemous to Christianity, Christianity and Islam are blasphemous to Jews, Catholicism is blasphemous to protestants, and protestantism is blasphemous to Catholics. Does that mean the Irish can (finally!) kick the entire lot off the island?

    And why should Christians be allowed to insult atheists [christianpost.com] with impunity?

    Or does this law only apply to protect big, arrogant sky-god religions? Oh, why do I even ask, it's Ireland we're talking about.

  • by ivan_w ( 1115485 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:21PM (#28758365) Homepage

    Blasphemy is not "hate speech"

    Blasphemy targets the deity in which religious people believe, NOT the people themselves.

    Now, I am quite convinced that if any supernatural being existed, it would be quite capable of handling "blasphemy" gracefully, which may be untrue for cultural/religous/lifestyle groups - which the "hate speech" laws in certain countries attempt to protect.

    Nonetheless, I am also opposed to those anti "hate speech" laws since it both creates a breach in freedom of speech - but - even more dangerous - segregates those groups unto special status - and - de-facto - creates a rift between group of individuals.

    To push my point further, when a country promotes a law prohibiting "hate speech" towards - say - homosexuals, they are specifically stating that homosexual have *different* rights than heterosexuals ! and *I* believe this is wrong.


  • Re:Obligatory (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:24PM (#28758401)
    You are engaging in the kind of mindless bigotry that you probably condemn when its directed elsewhere. God has many fans and many fan clubs. Some are responsible for ending the practice of slavery (at least in the west) , increasing racial and ethnic tolerance and even protection of the environment. Others justify their own evil, violence, intolerance and bigotry by invoking God's name. I have it on good authority that God doesn't approve of the latter group. I hear he is pretty sure that they aren't even real fans. He feels used.
  • by TrebleJunkie ( 208060 ) <ezahurak&atlanticbb,net> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:24PM (#28758413) Homepage Journal

    Leonard Peikoff had it right on Agnostics:

    "The agnostic miscalculates. He thinks he is avoiding any position that will antagonize anybody. In fact, he is taking a position which is much more irrational than that of a man who takes a definite but mistaken stand on a given issue, because the agnostic treats arbitrary claims as meriting cognitive consideration and epistemological respect. He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported. So he is the ultimate epistemological egalitarian: he equates the groundless and the proved. As such, he is an epistemological destroyer. The agnostic thinks that he is not taking any stand at all and therefore that he is safe, secure, invulnerable to attack. The fact is that his view is one of the falsest--and most cowardly--stands there can be."

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:26PM (#28758447)

    Wasn't it Ghandi who said, and I paraphrase:

    "I like your Christ. It is your Christians that I do not like because they are so unlike Christ."

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sonnejw0 ( 1114901 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:27PM (#28758481)
    Aren't we all deterministic automotons governed by the laws of physics? How can free will exist? I think many religious followers are the first to try to claim that free will caused humanity's fall and the subsequent assholishness of people. As a neuroscientist, I don't believe in free will, but that doesn't negate the concepts of responsibility. David Hume, an early Anglo philosopher put it simply that the idea of cause-and-effect necessitates determinism, so free will (reacting to something according to your past experience) is actually determinism.

    If you believe in a God and an afterlife, then what does it matter if God helps people now? The idea the God should do good things is just an excuse for Christians to be bad people.

    Religion is simply a social construct that provides a community with a reason to be altruistic, altruism being the bond that makes society possible. The trouble arises when individuals turn that tool upside down and start to pervert it into an "us v them" mindset. That was the genius of Jesus and particularly Paul of Tarsus who founded a religion inclusive of all of humanity ... or Buddha ... or Krishna ... or any number of other loving religious iconoclasts or revolutionaries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:28PM (#28758487)
    Is that you, Cheney? Laws against free speech are what is needed to hide what you want to do.
  • Problem is... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:32PM (#28758543)

    Now the Irish government gets to decide what constitutes blasphemy for all faiths that practice there. This can be quite tricky. No longer will religions have control over their own faiths. Likewise, should it be determined in the law by the faiths themselves, the bar can be set so low that the mere practice of another faith or having no faith at all, will constitute blasphemy and lead to conviction, as in Saudi Arabia, where it is blasphemous to practice or discuss faiths other than Saudi Islam. This is a no-win situation and is a classic example of the wisdom of the American First Amendment. I'm going to assume that the European human rights commission will get to hear about this.

  • by smellsofbikes ( 890263 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:33PM (#28758569) Journal
    Thing is -- religion *is* under attack, because it used to control everything, and now it doesn't. That's why it's under attack: it is slowly losing its power over people, governments, and countries. And unless/until it controls everything again, they'll keep on about how it's under attack. From their viewpoint, they're right. It's just that from the viewpoint of many religious people, not believing in God in the same way that they do, should be a crime.

    Religion is under attack, and I say more power to the attackers.

  • by Orleron ( 835910 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:34PM (#28758589) Homepage
    They may not make laws against blasphemy...but politically correct speech and other things that "hurt my feelings", they take the cake on that.
    Therefore, I'd say it's not religious zealots OR liberal idiots that are responsible alone, but rather people in general who fall to the extremes.
  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flaming error ( 1041742 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:34PM (#28758601) Journal

    > I have it on good authority that God doesn't approve of the latter group.

    What authority would that be? That "latter group" may "have it on good authority" that God doesn't approve of your group.

    Just sayin'.

  • by jipn4 ( 1367823 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:35PM (#28758611)

    Free speech for absolutely everything would mean free speech for planning and advocating genocide and murder.
    Free speech for absolutely everything means free speech for fraud and deception.

    Indeed it does. And that's the legal situation in the US. It only becomes illegal once it rises to the level of a conspiracy.

    I'm glad that I live in a country that carefully regulates certain forms of speech.

    I'm glad I don't. And chances are your country has been continuously democratic nowhere near as long as the US.

  • by Old97 ( 1341297 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:39PM (#28758677)

    Atheism requires at least as much faith as a belief in God. There is evidence of creation all around us and there is much evidence that can be plausibly linked to an intelligent creator. To ignore all that and say God does not exist is an act of faith. Your post reveals that you have a lot in common with the worst of the fundamentalists with your intolerance, bigotry and absolute certainty.

    Most agnostics I know actually believe that it is likely that God or the Creator exists. What they are not sure of is the nature of God and God's relationship (if any) with Man. Is God good, bad, or indifferent? That seems like a reasonable position to me. It's not arrogant or intolerant either.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper ( 991155 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:41PM (#28758699)

    What a bunch of pompous whooey! (FYI, a strong agnostic position antagonizes just about everybody on the thiest and athiest side).
    Agnosticism is a stand against arrogance and self-delusion and for rationality. Not only do we not know, but the question is simply not answerable in any rational way.
    If you assume omniscient, omnipotent superbeings, all bets are off. They/It can make us believe anything. You can't know that any of your beliefs are certain and/or yours.
    If there are no omniscient, omnipotent superbeings, you can't absolutely prove the negative, you can only accumulate increasing amounts of evidence.
    I'm aware of non-rational experiences of "the divine" and how powerful they are (had some myself, actually), but the interpretation of being enlightened/born-again/etc. is all done though the mind. If it can be induced by chemicals or a powerful magnetic field pointed at the right spot on the skull, I'd have to question it's association with omniscient superbeings.

  • by sanosuke001 ( 640243 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:42PM (#28758709)
    I'd like to add that, no, I don't believe these people are thinking for themselves (sloppily or not). I believe they are being "blinded by religion" as my topic title states. They don't want to be confronted by something they don't agree with which might make them think for themselves, so they outlaw it.

    However, now that you bring it up and I think about it a bit more, I wonder if this has anything to do with the Catholic/Protestant split has anything to do with this. (I read the first page of the article. Didn't see it mentioned.)
  • by PieSquared ( 867490 ) <isosceles2006NO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:45PM (#28758767)
    Honestly, the proper answer is that "atheism" doesn't mean "absolute certainty that god doesn't exist" as many religious people would have you believe.

    Personally, I think "I don't have any particular reason to believe that the universe requires a divine creator" plus "I don't see any actual evidence that a divine creator exists" is enough to qualify as atheism. I held the view that I was agnostic for a few months, and my actual views didn't change between then and when I started describing myself as an atheist. Since then I've become more certain, of course, as it became easier to look at the evidence provided by "new atheists" once I lumped myself into the "atheist" category. Almost any "atheist" would admit there's a *chance* that there's a creator deity, but they don't believe in one given no evidence that one *actually* exists.
  • Re:Obligatory (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:46PM (#28758783)
    I have it on good authority that God doesn't approve of the latter group.

    What is your authority?

    Are you using Judeo-Christian sources which were collated / written by committee approximately 1700 years ago?

    Or something a bit more divine?

  • by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:47PM (#28758819)

    So, do you think it's a good thing to "regulate" discussions about various subjects, including genocide and such? Why? Who is being harmed if some people have a discussion about how to carry out a genocide? People ARE harmed if those people start going around killing others, but merely discussing something should NOT be illegal.

    Hell, I have had some discussion with my friends that are about subject-matters that are illegal. Like, "how would you murder someone?". Discussing something like that should NOT be illegal, since no-one is harmed by such discussions. And no, just because we had such a discussion does not mean that we are about to kill someone.

    So you are glad to live in a country that tramples on free speech. Well, good luck with that. I on he other hand would much rather live in a country where speech is actually free. Words or thoughts do not harm anyone.

  • by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:54PM (#28758953) Journal

    Theres nothing wrong with that though. Now, if you actually -do- any of those things, yes it is wrong. But talking about it? No one gets hurt so therefore it should not be prohibited.

    South Africa, last year. Incitement to hatred against immigrants: result, countless attacks and weeks of unrest as the locals attacked immigrants and forced them to flee for their lives.

    Rwanda, several years ago. Incitement to hatred against one "race": result, 1 million dead, many hacked to bits as they sought shelter. In a few weeks they killed then half a year of all the concentration camps of WW2.

    Germany, Crystal Night. incitement to hatred against jews. Result: several dead, buildings burned and the prelude to the holocaust.

    There are lots of other examples, and you DARE to say that incitement to hatred should not be a crime.

    That is EXACTLY the same as saying that offering a contract on someones life should not be a crime because it is only words.

    Read a book. Any book. Just once and grow up mate.

  • by Lonewolf666 ( 259450 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:54PM (#28758967)

    Leonard Peikoff erred when he wrote

    He treats the arbitrary as on a par with the rational and evidentially supported.

    Because there is no evidence that actually disproves the existence of God. Neither is there proof God exists.
    In the absence of certain knowledge, leaving the question "does God exist?" unanswered is actually the most rational position. Insisting on a yes or no is for small minds who cannot live with uncertainty ;-)

  • by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <kenshin@lunarwo r k s.ca> on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:55PM (#28758979) Homepage

    Theres nothing wrong with that though. Now, if you actually -do- any of those things, yes it is wrong. But talking about it? No one gets hurt so therefore it should not be prohibited.

    AFAIK, in most places plotting murder or uttering death threats is a criminal offense.

    Words to not have the power to kill or otherwise (really) hurt someone.

    Absolute bullshit. There's a very old expression: The pen is mightier than the sword.

    Most wars/revolutions/coups/whatever are started by talkers, people who never even step into battle.

    All those idiots who strap on suicide belts are convinced to do it by someone very good with words.

    Charles Manson didn't actually kill anyone, but he convinced his followers into slaughter.

  • Words do not have the power to kill or otherwise (really) hurt someone. Therfore they should be unregulated unless dealing with a contract or an offer to trade.

    I so wish you were right. The problem is that we don't want to acknowledge the elephant in the room... propaganda works, on enough people to make a difference. Ask a Rwandan or Bosnian, or study Himmler (who famously claimed that it was the loudspeaker that conquered Germany). Sometimes, during genocide, it's hard for people to separate the words from the machete; one is an extension of the other.

    I don't mean that in any mystical sense, I'm thinking of the stanford prison experiment etc. The line between speech and a decision to act disappears. Your conviction (and my wishes) about the independence of speech from action is an abstraction, since it requires humans who are uniformly well-schooled to be proud individualists, skeptics, and responsible citizens.

    Perhaps we can find a functional way to make political speech a social contract that is bound to regulation like other transactions... after all, genocide relies on fraudulent and deceptive claims. The problem always resides with who gets to determine the truth.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:57PM (#28759011)

    My side is to maintain the separation of church and state, regardless of which "side" you want to stand on.

    I don't think agnosticism is "cowardly" or "irresolute" at all, and I resent the statement that it is. It strikes me as a far more scientific and reasoned stance than atheism, as a matter of fact. We can't DISPROVE the existence of a god or gods outside our realm of current knowledge (or measurement, for that matter), therefore saying it doesn't exist is as stupid as saying it does.

    Now the God of the Bible, or the Allah of the Qu'ran? Those two are pretty much bullshit strictly because the moment you statistically test for the "power of prayer" or any number of other places it's claimed they put their meddlesome fingers in the real world, you find it just doesn't happen. I disprove what I can about religion, but as for claims of beings outside the realm of our understanding or measurement? I can't honestly rule them out, and claiming that I can is dishonest to myself AND those around me.

    Calling agnostics "cowardly" because they insist on more proof before making a decision one way or the other is like accusing scientists of being "cowardly" because they insist on gathering evidence and results before deciding if a hypothesis is true or false. I agree with you that something has to be done about religious extremism before it takes everything over, but your opinion that those who sit logically in the middle can't fight for their right to sit in the middle without choosing a side is a False dilemma [wikipedia.org] at best. At worst, it makes you just as bad as the religious fundies you're lashing out at.

    Can that bullshit. I may feel like I sit in the middle on the matter of the supernatural, but I sure as hell sit on the extreme side of demanding my personal freedoms to believe as much. At gunpoint, if necessary. "Pick a side and stand up for it", my ass. You've clearly missed the real issue if attacking agnostics is your way of solving it.

    Who the fuck modded your bullshit insightful?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:57PM (#28759013)

    The point is that atheism is as much an act of faith as any theism.
    Agnosticism is refusing that act of faith.

    In that sense it is closer to pure rationalism than atheism.

    I've always had trouble with zealots of any camp. I actually put a distance from a friend who was a bit too committed to convert me to atheism, using the exact "Zeus" argument described above.

  • by Fumus ( 1258966 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @01:59PM (#28759065)
    According to the new law, each religious person can be fined as each and every religion is blasphemous to every other, so atheists will simply shut up and watch as all religions sue themselves out of existence :p
  • by FourthAge ( 1377519 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:01PM (#28759079) Journal

    Leonard Peikoff is retarded. He misrepresents agnosticism in two important ways.

    Error number 1. Both theism and atheism are faith based positions. There is no proof of the non-existence of God, ergo anyone who claims "There is no God" has made a leap of faith. You may argue that the non-existence of God is more likely than his existence, but that's not good enough.

    Error number 2. Agnosticism is a recognition that both atheism and theism require faith. It is not chosen for diplomatic reasons, it is chosen because it is the only position that does not require faith. I don't know, for 100% certain, that God does not exist. Hence, I am agnostic. Leonard Retard doesn't have 100% proof either, but he has faith, faith that he knows enough about the world to know, for sure, that God does/does not exist.

    Incidentally, it must be said the behaviour of religious people does not tell us anything about God. God might exist, but have nothing to do with any religion. You cannot use flaws in Islam or Christianity or Scientology to disprove God. Equally, the behaviour of those religious people is NOT a reason to be an atheist.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:07PM (#28759173)

    There are lots of other examples, and you DARE to say that incitement to hatred should not be a crime.

    In most cases, they require a martyr to actually go beyond the belief stage. Just look at the internet, you can find statements to back up any belief, yet its only information. Look at the development of religions, especially Christianity, the more it was persecuted, the larger it grew and the more rapidly while today it isn't in a rapid phase of growth due to increased religious tolerance. Have you not heard of the Streisand effect? Basically the more you try to censor "hate" speech the further and more radical it gets. You only encourage "hate" speech by attempting to stop it. For example, on the internet you can find all sorts of crazy theries such as that contrails in the sky are actually mind altering chemicals ( http://educate-yourself.org/ct/ [educate-yourself.org] ) that Paul McCartney really died in the '60s ( http://digilander.libero.it/jamespaul/fc1.html [libero.it] ) and other more absurd conspiracy theories. However, they get lost in the sea of information that is the internet. The same thing happens with "hate" speech when it is not criminalized.

    That is EXACTLY the same as saying that offering a contract on someones life should not be a crime because it is only words.

    If it was a legal contract, the person was actually hired and really was going to commit murder, it is not a free speech violation to apprehend them. Signing the contract and agreeing to go through with it similarly is not a free speech violation if you get caught.

  • by greenbird ( 859670 ) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:09PM (#28759215)

    I just want a country with laws that treats my beliefs with respect and dignity and not have to worry about people who label would me as a "Bible-Thumping idiot" attempting to take that right away from me.

    I want a country that doesn't treat your beliefs in any way, period, much less with respect and dignity. What makes you think your beliefs deserve respect and dignity? You think all religions should be treated with respect and dignity? Does that includes ones that advocate killing others that don't believe? Religious belief should be irrelevant with regards to the law not treated in some special manner.

  • by JerkBoB ( 7130 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:12PM (#28759259)

    I don't think you know either. So I call on you, stop pretending you're omniscient: admit you're not atheist, but rather agnostic.

    Strictly speaking, I think you will be hard-pressed to find very many so-called atheists who truly believe (i.e. have faith) that there is no God (in the judeo-christian sense or otherwise) or gods. Throwing this out as an argument against calling oneself Atheist is an exercise in pedantry.

    I am an Atheist. Do I pretend to have iron-clad proof of the non-existence of God or gods? No. I do live my life as though it is true, however. Practically speaking, it might as well be true. It does not trouble me to assume that there is no God any more than it does to assume that there is no invisible pink unicorn standing behind me, judging my soul as I type this. It is illogical to assume otherwise! Once one opens the door to the possibility of one supernatural being, the only logical progression is that ALL beliefs based on the supernatural must potentially be true. And that's an express train to crazytown.

    I used to share your discomfort with the concept of atheism vs. agnosticism... As I grew older, though, I began to see that agnosticism was a much less useful state of being. If one is truly agnostic, then one ought to feel compelled to give equal weight to all systems of knowing. I believe that accepting a personal state of functional atheism requires more up-front intellectual honesty, but in the long run produces much less cognitive dissonance.

    WTF is up with the commenting system lately? All my paragraphs are smushed together, even though each is correctly bracketed within <p>tags</p>...

  • by Mister Whirly ( 964219 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:12PM (#28759275) Homepage
    A belief in god does not make you "religious". Religion is the only thing that makes you religious.
  • by CannonballHead ( 842625 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:15PM (#28759313)

    Here we go again, though:

    as they are inherent violations of human rights

    Who gets to define what human rights I have?

    I agree, female mutilation isn't OK. Incidentally, it's the "Well it's their culture, we shouldn't tell them it's wrong" opinions tend to be less on the "Let's base things on the Bible/God/whatever" side and more on the "We need to base things on the way they have been in history" side.

    Religious censorship or non-religious-censorship isn't OK because their culture allows it. I agree. That's a bad basis of "OK" and "not OK." On the other hand, saying it's NOT ok simply because YOU think it's a violation of these "inherent" (inherent to what?) human rights doesn't seem like a logical argument either. Rights are things that are given. No, all rights are not given "by God." But rights ARE given by "the government." Or taken away. Etc. Whether or not they government SHOULD give/take those rights is what we're discussing, thus the "OK" has to be based on something higher than human government... so here we are again: who decides?

    And ... why is Ireland's basis for their decision better or worse than yours?

    Again, I'm not advocating for or against the law, but arguing that the position taken by most "This is awful!" people seems like it tends to be based on a vague "this violates my inalienable rights" idea with no explanation of where these "inalienable" rights came from.

  • by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:15PM (#28759315)

    Both I and Richard Dawkins would describe ourselves as "tooth fairy agnostics" -- as in, the evidence for God is so conspicuously absent and evidence against such a being is so strong that God's existence is as likely as the tooth fairy. Therefore, it's not worthwhile considering the possibility of the almighty in our daily actions. The distinction between "God doesn't exist" and "God is so unlikely to exist that the possibility isn't worth considering" is academic and pointless, and fighting about it ignores our common cause against the involvement of magical thinking in public life.

  • by anagama ( 611277 ) <obamaisaneocon@nothingchanged.org> on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:17PM (#28759353) Homepage

    I don't know what you mean by "no evidence either way". I think the many thousands of years that have passed without actual miracles (I don't equate the improbable with the miraculous) indicates something. Plus, there are thousands of years to demonstrate that hard labor, research, trial and error, or other human efforts are capable of producing some pretty amazing feats -- pyramids to particle accelerators.

    At this point in time, it is completely reasonable to expect the religious people to demonstrate at least some proof that their god can do cool shit, and I don't mean some half-assed convoluted interpretation of natural processes or something like that. I mean something like water to wine in a controlled environment -- something that would win the James Randi prize. Raise the dead. Lift a mountain.

    What I do see is that humans using their brains have done amazing stuff. Humans' gods however, never do squat, and while I realize proving a negative isn't possible, at some point you don't expect it can be proven. I'm not holding my breath to get a visit from Santa, and I'm not holding my breath any gods will ever do anything. I feel confident neither exist because of the complete lack of their influence on the world (I don't count the effects put in motion by people, which are mostly bad anyway). Obviously, if confronted with actual evidence to the contrary, I'd change my mind in a heartbeat.

    What is silly though, is discounting the towering evidence against the existence of gods so that somehow, the evidence that they do exist is considered equally weighty. To put this in a car analogy, religionists are like a car manufacturer who claims their car is the fastest in the world, except that every expert who has test driven the car hasn't been able to get it to go faster than a Geo Metro in any kind of driving conditions no matter how skillfully it is driven. Most people are going to think the car manufacturer's claims are bunk at that point. With religion though, we get excuses. Maybe in a particular set of circumstances with the right number of believers exerting psychic powers on the car, it would be fast. Nobody is going to buy that as valid tech spec. They do with religion though. It's crazy.

  • by corbettw ( 214229 ) <corbettw@ y a h o o . com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:19PM (#28759379) Journal

    1: Pass a law preventing making fun of religion
    2: Start a new, silly religion (like I believe in an all-powerful, all-knowing being who needs your MONEY!)
    3: Profit!

    That's different from all other religions how?

  • by jmorris42 ( 1458 ) * <`gro.uaeb' `ta' `sirromj'> on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:20PM (#28759425)

    > God damn you catholics/jews/hindus/protestants/daoists/etc are full of crap.

    I note the omission of the one religion that would actually kill you for criticizing it. Come on nancy boy, man up and back the lofty words up. I'll even go first.


    The day saying that is a crime is the day I grab my sporting goods and 'recall' every faithless Congresscritter who voted on the bill.

    There, now I'm on pretty much everybody's list. Now come on ya pansies and join me. Too many of 'yall talk a good 1st Amendment defense but can't be bothered to actually defend it if it might have any actual risk involved.

  • by Alpha830RulZ ( 939527 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:22PM (#28759449)

    Both theism and atheism are faith based positions.

    Atheism is a faith based position as much as not collecting stamps is a hobby. Simply not believing in a god doesn't require faith. It is just refusing to believe in something for which there is no evidence.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by DarthVain ( 724186 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:24PM (#28759483)

    Heh, I feel the same way about the Toronto Maple Leafs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:30PM (#28759609)

    Being raised Catholic in the modern era (I'm only 26) one of the things I liked about the Church is we were taught to question it, that it had been wrong, and to ALWAYS explore other religions and denominations ESPECIALLY when they criticized us. If you listen to criticism then either you recognize your own short comings (hopefully when the criticism is valid) or you strengthen your position by better understanding why you would it (hopefully when the criticism isn't valid). Ultimately, we are humans and we make mistakes though so it doesn't always work out like its suppose to. So based on my religious beliefs, I support the freedoms that are supposed to exist in America. I was actually rather shocked when I met a Russian Orthodox* in high school who said if he could he would turn the USA into a theocracy and force convert people; it just contradicted my feelings that the USA system is best as there is room for disagreement and criticism and yet if Christian can actually witness like they're supposed to the religion can grow properly.

    *I'm sure not all Russian Orthodox are that way and I would even wager some Roman Catholics are that way; its just one example.

  • Again, I'm not advocating for or against the law, but arguing that the position taken by most "This is awful!" people seems like it tends to be based on a vague "this violates my inalienable rights" idea with no explanation of where these "inalienable" rights came from.

    That pretty well sums up the differences of our opinions. I agree with Jefferson: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are inherent rights that all people are born with, period. Contrary to your position, I believe that government can only restrict rights and can't grant new ones. Given a default state of freedom, after all, where can a government do other than agree to restrict you the least amount necessary for society to function correctly? With this in mind, I truly can't think of any right more fundamentally important than freedom to speak your opinion. If it's illegal for me to say that I disagree with something, then nothing else matters, does it?

    Honestly, I'm a little horrified to find people in the Western world who think restrictions on religious freedom are tolerable and maybe even good. As I said, if I want to speak against Islam or Scientology or the FSM, then I have to permit others to speak against my God. There are no circumstances in which it's acceptable for the government to declare one religion as good and protected above others.

  • by Dr. Manhattan ( 29720 ) <sorceror171 @ g m ail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:43PM (#28759797) Homepage

    There is only proof that god didn't do X.

    Allow me to point out that the list of "things that don't require a god to explain" has been growing monotonically since we've been keeping records. The total has never gone down - nothing has ever moved from the "explained without gods" to the "explained with gods" column.

    (Oh, and something else to consider [homeunix.net].)

  • by gnick ( 1211984 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:49PM (#28759899) Homepage

    This puts the Atheist in the same boat as the theist: with a belief that lacks any evidence.

    You're right, but I see the situation a little differently:

    Pretend you're sitting in a room with a small box. A friend walks in and asks, "So, is there a basilisk in that box?"

    An atheist says, "I believe that there is no basilisk in that box. If there was, he probably would have made some kind of noise or tried to get out. But the box has been completely silent the whole time I've been sitting here. Come to think of it, I've never seen a basilisk. Based on the fact that I have no evidence that gives me any reason to assume there's a basilisk in there, I believe that there is not one. A few people have remarked that some never-before-seen critter may be in there, but I don't think they based that on anything observable and a lot of them acted kind of nuts. So, even though I may be wrong, I believe that there is no basilisk."

    An agnostic says, "I'm afraid that I haven't opened the box and don't have a key. There's no way for me to know whether there's a basilisk inside it or not. Since I can't say for certain what, if anything, is in the box I can't commit as the the potential of it containing a basilisk. Somebody did speculate that there may be a basilisk in there. Somebody else said there may be a griffin. Somebody else said that there may be a cat, a vial of poison, an unstable element, and a Geiger counter. But, since the box is locked, silent, and hasn't budged since it was first found, your guess is as good as mine."

    Just an off-the-cuff analogy to try to get across my thought train. Feel free to offer a better one.

  • by retchdog ( 1319261 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @02:57PM (#28760015) Journal

    Bullshit. The Oxford English Dictionary (which is the last word in these matters) gives "atheist" as: 1. One who denies or disbelieves the existence of a God; 2. One who practically denies the existence of a God by disregard of moral obligation to Him...

    (added emphasis mine)

    That is, although I acknowledge the lack of evidence, I am nonetheless an atheist because I live my life as though there is no god.

    What you call "atheism", is somewhat more accurately described as "antitheism". Further, most of those who call themselves "agnostic" today are actually atheists. I would go further and say that most nominally-religious people are actually agnostic; you don't need to scratch very deep to find their doubts...

  • Look. Nothing can be proven with 100% certainty. Socrates discussed that 2000 years ago, and got over it =)
    Going down that route shows a lack of good arguments on your side. There is no proof that Santa Claus does not exist -- does this make him believable? Clearly not. Is that question even worth the attention? Nope.

    As I was saying in another post: Atheists DO NOT believe in god. This does not require faith.

    You incorrectly stated that "If you believe that god doesn't exist then you are an atheist". This is a straw man. I don't believe -- I never "started" believing. I had no reason to. I don't have a "faith" in the non-existence of god, exaclty in the same way that I don't have a "faith" in the non-existence of the great glaglaglagla of bbbbbdddz.

    Agnostics that make points like yours are just nitty-picking on really feeble arguments. After all, knowing anything requires accepting a risk of being wrong. That said, calling one thing that has 99.9999999999999% probability of being false, "false" is perfectly normal and rational. Calling it "unknown" is ridiculous.

  • by Ekdar ( 1237418 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:06PM (#28760139)

    One of my favorite philosophy professors once mentioned something like this: I propose that there are invisible dogs everywhere around us all the time. As we move around, the dogs move out of our way. The dogs are silent and possess numerous other qualities that prevent us from ever detecting them.

    Now I may ask someone, "do you believe that these invisible dogs exist?"

    If someone were to respond "no" would you conclude that this person holds a belief that lacks any evidence? Would you insist that they, instead, "withhold judgement" with regard to the invisible dog issue? There is a potential entire realm of "there exists an undetectable entity E" claims that could be made, invisible dogs and supernatural creatures being examples.

    But do we really lack evidence that these entities do not exist? Isn't lacking evidence that something exists evidence in itself that the thing doesn't exist? Maybe not empirical evidence, but that's another question.

    Alternatively, perhaps in the invisible dog case the conclusion will be that it is not possible for there to be any evidence demonstrating either existence or lack of existence. It's still not completely clear to me that the rational course of action in that case is to "suspend judgement" rather than choosing to believe in the non-existence.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by El Torico ( 732160 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:07PM (#28760169)

    I have it on good authority that God doesn't approve of ...

    This is the kind of BS that we all really don't need. Start producing real evidence or STFU.

  • by shiftless ( 410350 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:24PM (#28760419) Homepage

    EXACTLY. I get tired of hearing these idiots proclaim that I'm "really an agnostic" and that being an atheist is exactly like being a theist. No it isn't. Atheists aren't the ones making extraordinary claims here, theists are. There is nothing irrational about finding the whole God thing absurd, especially since there isn't a shred of scientific evidence in support of any supernatural deity. I admit that there could in fact be a supernatural being that we are not aware of or able to perceive, but that doesn't make me an agnostic. I'm an atheist, and there is nothing wrong or stupid about that viewpoint.

  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:38PM (#28760575)

    I think agnosticism is the only real answer.

    Atheism is a spectrum not a single point, and I think the only real answer is "soft" atheism. Do you believe that there is a china teapot in orbit around Alpha Centauri? This is the same question as "do you believe that version X or religion Y's God is real"? I can't rule it out absolutely without being as crazy as the religious people, but based on everything we know about the universe, human nature, and the historical evolution of religion Y, we can rule it as being lunacy to believe such nonsensical things. Are you "agnostic" about celestial teapots or would you consider such beliefs ridiculous?

  • by jmpeax ( 936370 ) * on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:40PM (#28760613)

    The point is that atheism is as much an act of faith as any theism.

    No it isn't. Atheism is the default position. It is, simply, a case of not endorsing or subscribing to purported religious facts for which there is no evidence. Faith has nothing to do with it. Your logic doesn't make sense.

    Countries are making the kind of legislation this article talks about and you don't think some rational zealotry is in order?

    Seriously, people like you need to pick a side. Religion has damaged society for too long. We're so close to killing it and the last thing we need is morons like you who, through cowardice or indecision or existential angst, end up validating those insane enough to actually believe the shit they're told by their religions. People make the mistake of thinking that this is harmless philosophical debate. It isn't. Religion in all its forms is holding humanity back.

    Don't you see how your friend was being rational, and was probably shocked by your inability to follow his very simple logic that, applied in any other context, you would have agreed to be sound?

    I'll put it another way, care of Doug Stanhope [youtube.com]: being an intelligent, rational. educated person, but having never come into contact with any religion, would you afford any weight to <insert religious text here>, let alone wholeheartedly believe in it, despite evidence to the contrary? Can you see what I'm saying?

    Incidentally, the Zeus argument is exactly the same thing. Someone has told you something for which you are required to categorise as fact or fiction. You suggest it absurd to think that Zeus would be real (presumably because an all-powerful being seems absurd to you), but you don't find the story of a Christian god (for whom there is no evidence and serious credibility issues surrounding the text that describes it) ridiculous.

    You know the only difference? When your teachers/parents/priest taught you about the latter, they drilled it into you that it was true, and they did so from such an early age that it has created enough doubt to cause you this brain attack in adulthood. Either that or you're scared of dying/being alone, yada yada. Grow up. The world needs you to stick up for what's right, not what makes you feel warm at night at the expense of others.

  • by devnulljapan ( 316200 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:45PM (#28760669)

    The point is that atheism is as much an act of faith as any theism.

    Right...in exactly the same way as not playing tennis is a sport. Atheism is a lack of faith, not an act of faith. There is no evidence for gods or faeries or santa claus; are you agnostic about faeries? If not why not? Why so sure? How about santa? How about gods? Why claim agnosticism in the face of gods but not Russell's teapot? It's an absurd cowardly accommodationist position.

  • by pnotequalsnp ( 1077279 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @03:50PM (#28760757)
    To paraphrase Dawkins: "agnosticism is flawed because it assumes that the probability that God exists is equal to the probability that God does not exist". I think you would rather say that right now you cannot rule out the existence or the non-existence of "God" (provably soon). But to say that they are equally likely (probability) is incredibly naive, since you presumably have to tell me which God you are talking about, which history has shown to be ever-changing (Zeus, Thor, etc.). Therefore you are neither atheist nor agnostic.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:13PM (#28761125)

    Who modded this insightful? This wouldn't be misplaced in a KKK meeting...

    What makes you think your beliefs deserve respect and dignity?

    Because my beliefs define who I am and how I interact with the world, and as such are a fundamental part of my "right to exert my personality", which is protected by the Geneva convention of Human Rights.

    You think all religions should be treated with respect and dignity?

    That's an implied non-sequitur: religion != belief. Belief is a personal experience no matter how you twist it. Religion on the other hand is a social endeavour like any organization, and should be treated as any not-for-profit organization. Last I checked, NFP's were actually treated with respect and dignity as well.

    Does that includes ones that advocate killing others that don't believe?

    Yes, until a simple nutjob actually goes from advocation to action. Then, the entire organization should be declared illegal.

    Religious belief should be irrelevant with regards to the law not treated in some special manner.

    Sounds to me like you think everyone's beliefs are inferior to your own. How else can you justify trampling over everyone with a statement like yours above?

    Beliefs should be irrelevant to the law unless they are used as motive. Organizations should be answerable to the law anyway. You really need to get off your high horse and start treating people with respect: if you alienate your audience with the first thing you say, no one will ever admit to agreeing with you.

  • by plague3106 ( 71849 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:15PM (#28761159)

    Chemical breakdowns in your brain due to lack of oxygen do not make a god.

  • by Hercules Peanut ( 540188 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:17PM (#28761177)

    If you give the Bible-thumping idiots an inch, they will take the field.

    You could have eliminated "Bible-thumping" from that statement and had a much more effective position. Here on Slashdot I have seen scientists want to decertify other scientists who speak against global warming [slashdot.org]. Worse still some who speak against global warming may even receive death threats [slashdot.org]

    Frankly, a 25,000E fine seems fairly mild by comparison.

    Perhaps, if we blamed overreaction and intolerance (common human traits) rather than the beliefs of people we don't agree with, we might make some progress dealing with these kinds of things.

    Sadly, looking at a lot of the posts here on slashdot, it looks like we have a long way to go.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ceoyoyo ( 59147 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:28PM (#28761385)

    "Aren't we all deterministic automotons governed by the laws of physics"

    The laws of physics in their present form don't really allow for any strict determinism. The basis for your argument is a century or so out of date.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mcgrew ( 92797 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @04:32PM (#28761443) Homepage Journal

    Amen to that. Yesterday (Sunday) I was channel surfing, and stopped the remote on a fat man in an expensive suit who wore a ncktie that cost more than my most expensive piece of clothing, in what looked like a very opulant, expensive building, decrying generational welfare (never mind that we did away with generational welfare over ten years ago) and blamed it on the drug problems, alcoholism, broken families and crime "that is tearing apart our Christian nation". He was exhorting his followers to decry compassion and denounced charity. His message was the exact opposite of Jesus'.

    The man is not a Christian. He is what Jesus called "a wolf in sheep's clothing". He is a right wing political figure disguised as a Christian preacher. His kind has converted more Christians to athiesm than all the athiests at slashdtot combined.

    Oddly, the next channel I surfed to had an elderly man in a tattered suit preaching forgiveness and charity.

  • by mea37 ( 1201159 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:09PM (#28762009)

    "No it isn't. Atheism is the default position"

    The default position is "I don't know". You change from that position when either (1) you have evidence (and if you have any on this matter I'd very much like to hear it), or (2) you are convinced as a matter of faith.

    In all areas of science, the default position is "I don't know". Scientists do not default to saying "there is no way to make fusion reactors work" simply because they haven't found one. We do not default to "there is no unification of the natural forces", or "P != NP", or any other negative hypothesis where evidence is lacking. We call them "open problems".

    When mankind does try to default to a negative proposition, he often comes off looking a bit silly. ("There is no way for a heavier-than-air machine to fly.")

    The only reason atheists claim "no is the default" on the issue of a God is that they personally find "Yes" distasteful. It's a matter of faith. (Or, more cynically, rhetoric. I suppose I shouldn't assume candor.)

    "Countries are making the kind of legislation this article talks about and you don't think some rational zealotry is in order?"

    Too bad not everyone agrees with you about what position is "rational". Fundamentalists tend to think their religion is the only rational view, whether their religion is atheistic or not.

    Zealotry in favor of atheism is no better a government policy than zealotry in favor of Christianity.

    "Seriously, people like you need to pick a side."

    No, people like you need to stop pushing false dichotamies and pretending that we're all out here to "take sides."

    "Religion has damaged society for too long. We're so close to killing it "

    LOL. Might want to fact-check that one, chief.

    "through cowardice or indecision or existential angst"

    As soon as you start asserting your opponents' motives, you might as well forget about reaching useful conclusions.

    "would you afford any weight to <insert religious text here>,"

    Acceptance or rejection of religious texts is irrelevant to the discussion. Every religious text is rejected by some theistic religion, so clearly it is not merely the domain of atheists to reject religious texts. It is in fact quite possible to reject every religious text and still be agnostic. Your failure to recognize this possibility stems only from your "us-or-them" mentallity - which by the way is the very mentality that does most of the harm you ascribe to religion.

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Cstryon ( 793006 ) <CstryonNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Monday July 20, 2009 @05:45PM (#28762527)

    I was taught many things as a child. The importance of my faith was impressed upon me, as was the importance of taking a bath, eating breakfast, looking both ways before crossing the street, not stealing, work hard, get an education, read the scriptures and find out for myself what it is true. I was told that I shouldn't have sex before marriage, but if I am going to, be smart about it. My childhood was not full of indoctrination, rather, it was full of teachings.

    My parents taught me what they believed was true, taught me what faith means, and asked me to learn for myself.

    Where you "indoctrinated" with anything as a child? Where you "taught" anything as a child? And when is there a line drawn between the two?

  • by forkazoo ( 138186 ) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {snarcesorw}> on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:29PM (#28762993) Homepage

    There are lots of other examples, and you DARE to say that incitement to hatred should not be a crime.

    I'll dare to say that. Nobody ever wanted to ban the speech they agreed with. Nobody ever tried to ban speech that was pleasant. Nobody ever needed to codify a freedom of speech to protect pleasantries. Freedom of speech only exists to protect the speech we find hateful, terrible, and horrible. Freedom of speech only protects the speech that we want desperately to ban because the speech that nobody wants to ban never needed the protection.

    Once you decide that it is okay to ban speech that you don't like, then you are giving approval for somebody else to ban speech that they don't like as soon as they get their turn in power. Even if they don't like speech that you consider vitally important to humanity.

    The second you try to stop the KKK from blaming problems on niggers, you establish the basic legal framework that the next guy can try to use to outlaw talking about evolution.

  • by daveime ( 1253762 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @06:50PM (#28763223)

    And a tiny majority of people are nuclear physicists, while the vast majority of people are thick as pig shit ... your point is what exactly ?

    Just because something is believed in by a majority doesn't make it true ...

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @10:46PM (#28765249)

    Religions are a subset of philosophies. Just try a little substitution in your screed, for example "When choice of philosophy happens independent of parents' philosophical practices and at voting age, then maybe we can say holding a philosophy is a choice. Until then, it's indoctrination and brainwashing of infants with the goal of control." Blocking people from passing on formal religions, while letting them use the same indoctrination and brainwashing for philosophical models that aren't explicitly religious, will still have all the problems.
            Humans can be conditioned to believe they must obey society or the state too, and if they are never even exposed before adulthood to the idea they might have an immortal aspect or be an aspect of the very ground of being, or whatever, then they are easily told there is absolutely nothing more enduring or powerful than the all powerful government, and opposing that government is absolute wrongthink. I'd even argue that we have the darkness in most organized religions because we as a species bring that same darkness into all our other philosophies. It's time to stop all of it, and we can only do that by working on our individual selves, and after taking enough responsibility there, with groups of people we can genuinely trust and respect enough to avoid importing the BS elements into our relationships.

  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Monday July 20, 2009 @11:58PM (#28765751) Journal

    Those who warship the FSM refer to themselves as Pastafarians fer crepes sake.

    FTFY =)

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Artifakt ( 700173 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:19AM (#28765855)

    The way you use the word faith seems to be the core of the problem. Would it surprise you to learn many Christians don't accept blind faith like you are describing either?

    I'm going to do a big paraphrase of the Bible here. People disagreeing with this are certainly welcome to read the original and offer their opinions in place of this one:

          Saint Paul (arguably at least a pretty mainstream Christian), made an argument in one of his letters. He discussed people who were telling the local Christians that there couldn't be eternal life for the soul, and he pointed out rational reasons to believe there could. He mentioned cases they all knew of people in that community who had become diseased or feeble with age, but whose minds had gotten sharper, not been dragged down by their health. He cited people who had some very poor physical health, but were focused on helping other people to the point where their spiritual conduct had improved even as their health worsened, rather than being dragged down by their bodies. So, he said in essence, 'you have evidence that what happens to the mind and the spirit is not governed by the body, and you should keep your faith, because you have this evidence to confirm it.'. That's how the word faith gets used at some points in the Bible, particularly the New Testament.

          Paul couldn't demonstrate that there was a soul that actually survived death, so he urged faith. But he could demonstrate two things. 1. Some subtler parts of the human being, like their rational minds, or their choice to focus only on their immediate physical survival or still treat other people's lives as important, weren't always governed by the health of the body. 2. The people who claimed to have a nice, tidy, rational argument that the mind was always yoked to the body were cherry picking examples to support their opinions, ignoring counterexamples, and therefore were themselves making a leap of faith to get to their conclusion.

  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @12:49AM (#28766015)

    Yes, but soon after "I don't know" will come, for a scientist, investigation, logic, reasoning, occam's razor, and probability theory, which are used, in combination with the mostly self-consistent (and very large) body of current scientific knowledge (or "educated, principled belief, if you prefer) to assess the likelihood of various extraordinary claims even prior to any experimental evidence being obtained.

    Scientists are busy people, and they need to know what has already been pretty well covered and understood, and what is overwhelmingly probably false, or is not a well-formed concept, so they can get on with pushing the legitimate boundaries of scientific knowledge.

    Many religious claims (those to do with specific acts of Gods) don't even stand up to basic logical tests of internal self-consistency nor conformance with the known laws of physics, so can be discounted rather quickly as self-serving twaddle on the part of religious organizers.

    There may be a few actually interesting questions about the nature of consciousness or "purpose" of life or origin of life, destiny of life etc., but science is, in general, advancing on even these challenging fronts, so the "gap" into which divine intervention may fall is ever narrowing.

  • by Man On Pink Corner ( 1089867 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:54AM (#28767157)

    If you are going to hold to a universe with no God and cry out for the rest of humanity to join you - you need to consider what to do next. What will be the basis for laws and justice. Who gets to decide?

    Ask your dog. He's an atheist, yet he doesn't try to gobble your family up when you leave for work in the morning. Are we humans not capable of such restraint?

  • by jez9999 ( 618189 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:07AM (#28768707) Homepage Journal

    In Britain, NONE of the mainstream press decided to reprint the Mohammed cartoons. That includes the precious BBC that so many here on /. seem to idolize. That says something about British culture.

  • by JerkBoB ( 7130 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @09:19AM (#28768817)

    I think that Athiesim is just as shaky as religion's claims. How is that personal honesty? Either side's claims rely on faith.

    I'll keep an open mind until I see proof provided by one side or the other.

    No, not really. This is a tiresome strawman argument against Atheism. Are you keeping an open mind about the possible existence of Unicorns? Leprechauns? The end of the world in 2012 as predicted by the Mayan calendar?

    As an Atheist, I am simply living my life without belief in the Divine. I don't know with certainty because it is impossible to prove the nonexistence of something unobservable. In the absence of any tangible evidence of the Divine, however, I can confidently assume that at best, it is almost certain there is no Divine, and at worst, it is irrelevant to my daily life.

    What does keeping an open mind about the potential existence of God mean to you? Are you hoping to hedge your bets somehow? Are you hoping that when you get to the pearly gates, if they exist, that you can tell St. Pete that you weren't an Atheist, so you should still be OK? Or are you just uncomfortable with the idea that rejection of belief in the supernatural puts you in the minority and on the wrong side of a whole lot of potentially scary people with a shared delusion?

  • by jjd1_dement ( 526685 ) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @03:46PM (#28773789)

    It's not really a fair analogy to invoke animals in my opinion. For one, they don't have the capability to destroy with small likelihood of consequence as we do (my dog isn't quite yet trained with firearms). Second, I don't think my dog can rationalize lying, stealing, killing, etc like humans can. Third - there certainly are animals that will kill with disregard for your family (a bear for instance).

    That said, however, you've now invoked a simple trust in human nature to keep chaos from erupting as everyone decides to be their own God and do what makes them "happiest". Take away religion and I'm not sure that balance is going to work out for you. The 20th century was the bloodiest on record - and most of this was at the hands of atheist leaders (Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, etc). I'm not so worried that everyday people would just start killing each other, but I am worried about powerful world leaders that can justify genocide and ethnic cleansing simply because they only have to answer to themselves and those that are on the right side of the killing equation. There really is no argument against a Hitler in an atheist worldview other than "sucks that he didn't choose to be a restrained person of his own good nature".

    You may not agree with religion, but I think you vastly underestimate the violence and destruction that will come of a society that completely eradicates a notion of religious morality. It's proven quite dangerous time and time again when those who lead us find themselves unaccountable to God. You are hoping that they all decide to act like tame dogs; I'm worried they will be wild bears.

  • by notrandomly ( 1242142 ) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @07:26AM (#28779879)
    Any criticism of religion is offensive to the religious. Thus, if one criticizes religion, one is a dick according to you.

    But I am actually offended when you claim that atheists are antagonistic. So that makes YOU a dick, because anyone who says something which offends someone, anyone, is a dick.

"An organization dries up if you don't challenge it with growth." -- Mark Shepherd, former President and CEO of Texas Instruments