Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The United States Revokes Scientology’s Tax-Exempt Status

In a unanimous decision by the Supreme Court a few days ago, the eight justices ruled in favor of revoking the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status in the United States. Under the ruling, Scientology will still be able to operate as a business but no longer as a non-profit religious organization.

The case was brought forward by the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division after concluding a two-year-long investigation into the inner workings of Scientology. The investigation, along with an extensive audit, found the group to be a “criminal operation with a sole purpose of making money”. The eight justices agreed with the IRS and its findings that Scientology was neither a religion or fell under the guidelines of a non-profit charitable organization.
CI Special Agent, Tom Downey, worked closely with IRS Chief Counsel Criminal Tax Attorneys during the course of the investigation.
“If private schools had similar prices to the courses in Scientology, students would receive the absolute highest level of education by the top educators in the country,” Downey said. “But in reality, based on the ridiculously high cost of Scientology, there is no school out there that even exists. The best schools in this country charge a fraction of the exorbitant amounts of money that Scientology charges its members.”
Paul Horner, a spokesperson for Scientology, told ABC News the ruling is “discrimination based on religious beliefs”.
“In a free country, such as ours, it amazes me that over ten million Scientologists can have their beliefs trampled on like this,” Horner said. “The Church of Scientology is working hard to make this world a better place, constructing more buildingsand ships and other really neat stuff, and now, most of that will have to be put on hold because of a few religious bigots.”
For years, Scientology’s claim of ten million followers has been widely disputed. In 2011, former editor, and longtime Scientology foe, Tony Ortega, wrote the following in The Village Voice:
“According to the latest survey, the total number of people who identify as Scientologists is just 25,000 in this country of more than 300 million human beings.”
Scientology teaches that 75 million years ago an evil galactic overlord named Xenu, ruler of a Galactic Confederacy, decided to tackle overpopulation by rounding up 13.5 trillion people in DC-8-like spacecraft, flying them to Earth (then known as Teegeeack), dropping them in the volcanoes of Hawaii and vaporizing them with hydrogen bombs.
Their spirits, known as thetans, attached themselves to humans at the dawn of man, and according to Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard is the root cause of all our fears, confusion and problems. For humans to reach a clear state, thetans must be removed from the body through therapy sessions, known within Scientology as auditing.
Scientology adherents must work through eight stages of auditing over a period of many years to reach this clear state, each of which costs thousands of dollars to partake in. It was these costs that the court took issue with, ruling that they far outstrip average course fees for educational establishments.
Sarah Bradley, a spokeswoman for Sock It Forward, a group that provides the homeless and those less fortunate with brand new socks, told ABC News she lost her family because of Scientology’s disconnection policy.
“I was born into Scientology,” Bradley said. “When I turned seventeen I began to question some of their beliefs. My family, who are all members, told me to stay quiet, but it was too late and I was excommunicated from the church. Scientology’s upper management told me I was no longer able to see or talk to my family ever again,” Bradley said. “It broke my heart, I couldn’t even say goodbye to them. They were told by Scientology if they had any communication with me that they would be excommunicated too. My family chose Scientology over me.” Holding back tears Bradley says, “I just hope my family is proud of me, all that I’m doing with my life and everything I’m doing to help the homeless. I wish more than anything to see them one day; I love and miss them so much.”
Downey told reporters that Scientology spends tens of millions of dollars every year doing what no other religious non-profit organization does.
“The money is used to harass former memberscoerce abortions, to secure their International base so people can’t escapechild abuse, forcing members to disconnect from family and friends who aren’t Scientologist friendly, and to litigate to death anyone who opposes them,” Downey said. “Years ago, the Cult Awareness Network was an organization that provided information on groups that it considered to be cults. After years of litigation with Scientology and being forced into bankruptcy, it is now a Scientology run enterprise. Over the years Scientology has also put many government officials and politicians in their pocket.”
For years, the Church of Scientology often pointed to their tax-exempt status as proof that it is a recognized religious entity in the United States. And there’s no disputing that tax-exempt status has been a huge boon to the Scientology industry. With such few members, but billions in real estate holdings, the Church of Scientology has been called “the most famous small business in the world,” with its tax exempt status saving the Church an estimated $20 million a year on property taxes alone.
Roberto Sigmond of Amnesty International told ABC News that revoking the Church of Scientology’s tax-exempt status in the United States is a huge win.
“From all the deaths Scientology has caused over the years to its phony drug rehabilitation program, this is a great day for anyone that believes in human rights.”
After originally being recognized as a tax-exempt religious organization in 1957, Scientology’s tax-exempt status was lost in a 1967 IRS audit. As part of the effort to regain tax exemption during the late 1970s, Scientologists repeatedly infiltrated the IRS, copying large numbers of documents and at one point placing an electronic bugging device in an IRS conference room. These actions took place within a program code-namedOperation Snow White. Eleven high-ranking Scientologists, including Hubbard’s wife Mary Sue Hubbard, were sentenced to time in prison for acts surrounding this operation. L. Ron Hubbard himself was named as an unindicted co-conspirator as investigators could not link him to the crimes.
The United States is not the first country to revoke Scientology’s tax exemption. In October of last year, a Dutch court revoked Scientology’s status as a “public welfare institution” and the tax exemption that goes along with it.
Janine Pieters, reporting in the NL Times, said the court ruled that sales of Scientology’s courses and therapy sessions are aimed at profit-making and that it does not therefore belong on the tax authorities charity list.
Beginning April 6th, 2016, The Church of Scientology will no longer receive tax exemption in the United States. Attorneys for Scientology have 30 days to appeal the case, although it is not yet clear whether they will or not.

Image: (ABCnews)

This news is a joke. Unfortunately.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Woman Causes 10 Car Pileup After Seeing Jesus In Her Kit Kat Candy Bar

Disastrous Accident On Busy Roadway

Santa Fe, NM police say a 25-year-old driver caused a ten car pileup crash after she closed her eyes to pray to Jesus in the middle of rush hour traffic on the outskirts of Santa Fe, leaving behind a traffic jam on a main thoroughfare and several injured people, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in damaged vehichles.

She Had An Unnatural Sweet Craving

Felicity Castro, of Santa Fe, was arrested on the scene of for driving without a license, no insurance, speeding, improper lane change, and negligent vehicular behavior. She was driving south in heavy traffic when she had a craving for something sweet and noticed a candy bar on the front seat of her car that was not there before. Police estimate she was traveling at over 95 miles per hour at the time of the accident.

Jesus Sent Her A KitKat Bar

Castro is claiming that an accident she caused on the highway was related to an image she saw of Jesus in her Kit Kat candy bar. She says she suddenly began craving sweets. “It was like a feeling out of nowhere, I felt like I needed some sugar,” said Castro. “That's when I saw the KitKat bar that wasn't in my car before I had the cravings. Right there on my seat like someone had placed it there! I unwrapped the package, took a bite, and couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Jesus! I mean, right there, Jesus in my candy bar! It was like he was telling me I am chosen. So I closed my eyes and started praying, thanking Jesus for His revelation.”

She Let Jesus Take The Wheel But He Had A Lead Foot

It was during her prayer when she closed her eyes and let Jesus take the wheel. "It all happened so quickly. I mean there was Jesus in my candy bar, and then BAM! I hit the car in front of me and he hit the car in front of him, and it was like Jesus was giving us a sign," she said. However, one car in the pile up was hit at over 90 MPH and flew into the air as it slid over the top of the vehicle in front of it and actually landed on the electrical wires and hung there until crews arrived at the scene. "I never saw anything like it before. That's Jesus's work right there. That car was hanging upside down."

Carlos Was Not Injured After Ramming Into A Car At 90MPH

Traffic was brought to a standstill for over seven hours as emergency crews arrived at the scene and tried to figure out what happened and who needed medical attention. “Miraculously,” Carlos only suffered minor cuts and bruises and walked away from the accident practically unscathed. “Jesus saved me,” said Carlos. “It was because I was praying that I was not hurt. Too bad for the guy in front of me. If he had been praying too, things probably wouldn’t have been so bad for him. But obviously, he was not praying. If he had Jesus in his life he wouldn't have been hurt. He should use his time more wisely.”

The Injured Man Hadn't Found Jesus

The man in front of her Carlo was referring to, was transported to Desert Valley Hospital in serious condition with whiplash, broken bones, and a severe concussion. The other occupants of the cars involved in the incident in front of him were treated on the scene and released with minor injuries. The woman who was hanging upside down was finally set free after 3 hours of careful maneuvering and was given medication for a panic attack and sent by ambulance to a nearby emergency room. “Obviously, the other people that were involved in the accident were praying to Jesus as well, because they didn’t get hurt,” said Carlos. “But that poor fellow in front of me needs Jesus, I’m on my way to the hospital to bring him some Jesus right now!”

However, she was not on her way to visit the faithless man, she was placed in lockup after being arrested and has a bail set at $500,000 due to the damages she had caused and her mental state, according to the judge at the arrest hearing.

Images: (Istock, Ilyke)


(This news is not real. Please see the information below: News satire)


Since Darwin published his theory of evolution in his book On the Origin of the Species in 1859, his theory, and its implications, have been the source of much contention in the United States. Today, more than 150 years later, parents are still fighting against the inclusion of his theory of evolution as part of public school curriculum on the basis of religious belief. As more evidence to support Darwin’s theory of evolution is found, this long-standing battle between science and religion is becoming more damaging to the education of all American children and more threatening to future of our country.

Scientific American published a summary of the new findings supporting the theory of evolution originally published in Science on April 22, 2016. The new support for evolution is the result of a study of finches in the Galapagos Islands — the same finches studied by Darwin himself — during a drought that began in 2003. The researchers studied the finches in 2004 and 2005, examining the genetics of the surviving finch population.
Prior to the drought, a larger species of finch had made its way to the islands. As food became more difficult to obtain, most of the medium-sized finches were unable to compete with the larger newcomers. However, after the drought, researchers discovered some medium-sized finches had survived, and they had smaller beaks. If the question is “Why did the drought cause a genetic shift in the population of a species?” The answer is “evolution.” However, an even more important question is “How many children will learn about the outcome of this research?”

With today’s STEM education mania, the fight over evolution’s inclusion in science education in incomprehensible, as is the refusal of some parents to allow their children to learn about the Big Bang Theory and other scientific theories. This concern for the education of today’s children is shared by most of the country’s leading academics, including University of Virginia emeritus professor of life sciences Dr. Paul R. Gross. He explained his view of the subject in an article he wrote for The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, an organization dedicated to advancing excellence in education.

“The common anti-evolution claims are no more than talking points, less cogent even than the talking points of politics. The primary scientific literature has disposed of them all, as any serious reader can discover. Their real purpose is simply to cast doubt on evolution as a shaper of life forms. But there is no reasonable doubt that Earth is four billion years old and that life’s diversity emerged over eons in steps, usually small, driven by such (evolutionary) mechanisms as genetic change and natural selection.”

Dr. Gross does not only place the blame on the shoulders of religion, but also on the shoulders of politicians.

“By themselves, however, religious anti-evolutionists would wield scant power over state decisions. Real power comes by politicizing the arguments and switching them from scripture to more stylish notions: ‘scientific alternatives,’ ‘critical thinking,’ or — most commonly — ‘strengths and weaknesses of [Darwin’s] theory.’ When these are pressed by politicians dissing ‘Darwinism,’ a downgrading of science is underway.”

Regardless of who is to blame, it is the children who suffer. Science education in the United States, or the lack of science education, is putting American children significantly behind their peers in more than 20 other countries, according to international science assessment data published by Pew Research Center in 2015. If this lag in science education is allowed to continue, the resulting lack of understanding of basic science among American students will have repercussions for all aspects of society.
In a world in which new scientific discoveries are made daily, how is it possible for religious beliefs that originated more than 2,000 years ago to still dictate curriculum? How can people believe the earth is less than 10,000 years old? How can the population continue to refuse to believe scientific findings like evolution? Well, denial is something Christian leaders have been perfecting for hundreds of years.

In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder wrote about the shape of the earth in his encyclopedia Natural History.

“That the form of the world is round, in the figure of a perfect globe, its name in the first place, and the consent of all men agreeing to call it in Latin orbis, as also many natural reasons, evidently show.”

Pliny clearly stated that all men agreed, at that time, that the world was indeed round. However, some believe that leaders of the Christian church continued to support the flat earth theory for centuries, and Saint Augustine of Hippo, who died in the 5th century, is at the head of this argument. According to some, he shared the belief that the earth was round, but, according to his most famous researcher, Leo Ferrari, Saint Augustine “was firmly convinced that the earth was flat.”

Whenever any society lets religion get in the way of scientific progress and science education, the society suffers. In Europe, the end of Classical Antiquity, spurred by the spread of Christianity, led to the Dark Ages, a time of superstition marked by a lack of scientific progress, little cultural advancement and limited education. Today, the expansion of religious fundamentalism, the spread of creationism and the disbelief in evolution are leading to a modern dark age in the United States, and it is affecting the education of all American children.

The theory of evolution, the Big Bang Theory and the science that supports those and other theories need to be a part of every American child’s education. A child without a solid education in science is missing out on more than just knowledge and an understanding of the natural world — that child is missing out on learning to form his or her own opinions, learning to interpret information and think creatively, and learning to see the world as the amazing, adaptive place it truly is.

If Americans continue to refuse to examine the possibilities of science, to consider the evidence that supports evolution and to support the need for science education, they will only give further credence to theory of evolution. The rest of the world will continue to evolve scientifically, and we will be by ourselves in a religion-governed dark age — a society headed toward extinction.

[Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images]


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Why I Am Not A Christian by Bertrand Russell

Introductory note: Russell delivered this lecture on March 6, 1927 to the National Secular Society, South London Branch, at Battersea Town Hall. Published in pamphlet form in that same year, the essay subsequently achieved new fame with Paul Edwards' edition of Russell's book, Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays... (1957).

As your Chairman has told you, the subject about which I am going to speak to you tonight is "Why I Am Not a Christian." Perhaps it would be as well, first of all, to try to make out what one means by the word Christian. It is used these days in a very loose sense by a great many people. Some people mean no more by it than a person who attempts to live a good life. In that sense I suppose there would be Christians in all sects and creeds; but I do not think that that is the proper sense of the word, if only because it would imply that all the people who are not Christians -- all the Buddhists, Confucians, Mohammedans, and so on -- are not trying to live a good life. I do not mean by a Christian any person who tries to live decently according to his lights. I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.

What Is a Christian?

Nowadays it is not quite that. We have to be a little more vague in our meaning of Christianity. I think, however, that there are two different items which are quite essential to anybody calling himself a Christian. The first is one of a dogmatic nature -- namely, that you must believe in God and immortality. If you do not believe in those two things, I do not think that you can properly call yourself a Christian. Then, further than that, as the name implies, you must have some kind of belief about Christ. The Mohammedans, for instance, also believe in God and in immortality, and yet they would not call themselves Christians. I think you must have at the very lowest the belief that Christ was, if not divine, at least the best and wisest of men. If you are not going to believe that much about Christ, I do not think you have any right to call yourself a Christian. Of course, there is another sense, which you find inWhitaker's Almanack and in geography books, where the population of the world is said to be divided into Christians, Mohammedans, Buddhists, fetish worshipers, and so on; and in that sense we are all Christians. The geography books count us all in, but that is a purely geographical sense, which I suppose we can ignore.Therefore I take it that when I tell you why I am not a Christian I have to tell you two different things: first, why I do not believe in God and in immortality; and, secondly, why I do not think that Christ was the best and wisest of men, although I grant him a very high degree of moral goodness.
 But for the successful efforts of unbelievers in the past, I could not take so elastic a definition of Christianity as that. As I said before, in olden days it had a much more full-blooded sense. For instance, it included he belief in hell. Belief in eternal hell-fire was an essential item of Christian belief until pretty recent times. In this country, as you know, it ceased to be an essential item because of a decision of the Privy Council, and from that decision the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York dissented; but in this country our religion is settled by Act of Parliament, and therefore the Privy Council was able to override their Graces and hell was no longer necessary to a Christian. Consequently I shall not insist that a Christian must believe in hell.

The Existence of God

To come to this question of the existence of God: it is a large and serious question, and if I were to attempt to deal with it in any adequate manner I should have to keep you here until Kingdom Come, so that you will have to excuse me if I deal with it in a somewhat summary fashion. You know, of course, that the Catholic Church has laid it down as a dogma that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason. That is a somewhat curious dogma, but it is one of their dogmas. They had to introduce it because at one time the freethinkers adopted the habit of saying that there were such and such arguments which mere reason might urge against the existence of God, but of course they knew as a matter of faith that God did exist. The arguments and the reasons were set out at great length, and the Catholic Church felt that they must stop it. Therefore they laid it down that the existence of God can be proved by the unaided reason and they had to set up what they considered were arguments to prove it. There are, of course, a number of them, but I shall take only a few.

The First-cause Argument

Perhaps the simplest and easiest to understand is the argument of the First Cause. (It is maintained that everything we see in this world has a cause, and as you go back in the chain of causes further and further you must come to a First Cause, and to that First Cause you give the name of God.) That argument, I suppose, does not carry very much weight nowadays, because, in the first place, cause is not quite what it used to be. The philosophers and the men of science have got going on cause, and it has not anything like the vitality it used to have; but, apart from that, you can see that the argument that there must be a First Cause is one that cannot have any validity. I may say that when I was a young man and was debating these questions very seriously in my mind, I for a long time accepted the argument of the First Cause, until one day, at the age of eighteen, I read John Stuart Mill's Autobiography, and I there found this sentence: "My father taught me that the question 'Who made me?' cannot be answered, since it immediately suggests the further question `Who made god?'" That very simple sentence showed me, as I still think, the fallacy in the argument of the First Cause. If everything must have a cause, then God must have a cause. If there can be anything without a cause, it may just as well be the world as God, so that there cannot be any validity in that argument. It is exactly of the same nature as the Hindu's view, that the world rested upon an elephant and the elephant rested upon a tortoise; and when they said, "How about the tortoise?" the Indian said, "Suppose we change the subject." The argument is really no better than that. There is no reason why the world could not have come into being without a cause; nor, on the other hand, is there any reason why it should not have always existed. There is no reason to suppose that the world had a beginning at all. The idea that things must have a beginning is really due to the poverty of our imagination. Therefore, perhaps, I need not waste any more time upon the argument about the First Cause. 

The Natural-law Argument

Then there is a very common argument from natural law. That was a favorite argument all through the eighteenth century, especially under the influence of Sir Isaac Newton and his cosmogony. People observed the planets going around the sun according to the law of gravitation, and they thought that God had given a behest to these planets to move in that particular fashion, and that was why they did so. That was, of course, a convenient and simple explanation that saved them the trouble of looking any further for explanations of the law of gravitation. Nowadays we explain the law of gravitation in a somewhat complicated fashion that Einstein has introduced. I do not propose to give you a lecture on the law of gravitation, as interpreted by Einstein, because that again would take some time; at any rate, you no longer have the sort of natural law that you had in the Newtonian system, where, for some reason that nobody could understand, nature behaved in a uniform fashion. We now find that a great many things we thought were natural laws are really human conventions. You know that even in the remotest depths of stellar space there are still three feet to a yard. That is, no doubt, a very remarkable fact, but you would hardly call it a law of nature. And a great many things that have been regarded as laws of nature are of that kind. On the other hand, where you can get down to any knowledge of what atoms actually do, you will find they are much less subject to law than people thought, and that the laws at which you arrive are statistical averages of just the sort that would emerge from chance. There is, as we all know, a law that if you throw dice you will get double sixes only about once in thirty-six times, and we do not regard that as evidence that the fall of the dice is regulated by design; on the contrary, if the double sixes came every time we should think that there was design. The laws of nature are of that sort as regards a great many of them. They are statistical averages such as would emerge from the laws of chance; and that makes this whole business of natural law much less impressive than it formerly was. Quite apart from that, which represents the momentary state of science that may change tomorrow, the whole idea that natural laws imply a lawgiver is due to a confusion between natural and human laws. Human laws are behests commanding you to behave a certain way, in which you may choose to behave, or you may choose not to behave; but natural laws are a description of how things do in fact behave, and being a mere description of what they in fact do, you cannot argue that there must be somebody who told them to do that, because even supposing that there were, you are then faced with the question "Why did God issue just those natural laws and no others?" If you say that he did it simply from his own good pleasure, and without any reason, you then find that there is something which is not subject to law, and so your train of natural law is interrupted. If you say, as more orthodox theologians do, that in all the laws which God issues he had a reason for giving those laws rather than others -- the reason, of course, being to create the best universe, although you would never think it to look at it -- if there were a reason for the laws which God gave, then God himself was subject to law, and therefore you do not get any advantage by introducing God as an intermediary. You really have a law outside and anterior to the divine edicts, and God does not serve your purpose, because he is not the ultimate lawgiver. In short, this whole argument about natural law no longer has anything like the strength that it used to have. I am traveling on in time in my review of the arguments. The arguments that are used for the existence of God change their character as time goes on. They were at first hard intellectual arguments embodying certain quite definite fallacies. As we come to modern times they become less respectable intellectually and more and more affected by a kind of moralizing vagueness. 

The Argument from Design

The next step in the process brings us to the argument from design. You all know the argument from design: everything in the world is made just so that we can manage to live in the world, and if the world was ever so little different, we could not manage to live in it. That is the argument from design. It sometimes takes a rather curious form; for instance, it is argued that rabbits have white tails in order to be easy to shoot. I do not know how rabbits would view that application. It is an easy argument to parody. You all know Voltaire's remark, that obviously the nose was designed to be such as to fit spectacles. That sort of parody has turned out to be not nearly so wide of the mark as it might have seemed in the eighteenth century, because since the time of Darwin we understand much better why living creatures are adapted to their environment. It is not that their environment was made to be suitable to them but that they grew to be suitable to it, and that is the basis of adaptation. There is no evidence of design about it.
 When you come to look into this argument from design, it is a most astonishing thing that people can believe that this world, with all the things that are in it, with all its defects, should be the best that omnipotence and omniscience have been able to produce in millions of years. I really cannot believe it. Do you think that, if you were granted omnipotence and omniscience and millions of years in which to perfect your world, you could produce nothing better than the Ku Klux Klan or the Fascists? Moreover, if you accept the ordinary laws of science, you have to suppose that human life and life in general on this planet will die out in due course: it is a stage in the decay of the solar system; at a certain stage of decay you get the sort of conditions of temperature and so forth which are suitable to protoplasm, and there is life for a short time in the life of the whole solar system. You see in the moon the sort of thing to which the earth is tending -- something dead, cold, and lifeless.
 I am told that that sort of view is depressing, and people will sometimes tell you that if they believed that, they would not be able to go on living. Do not believe it; it is all nonsense. Nobody really worries about much about what is going to happen millions of years hence. Even if they think they are worrying much about that, they are really deceiving themselves. They are worried about something much more mundane, or it may merely be a bad digestion; but nobody is really seriously rendered unhappy by the thought of something that is going to happen to this world millions and millions of years hence. Therefore, although it is of course a gloomy view to suppose that life will die out -- at least I suppose we may say so, although sometimes when I contemplate the things that people do with their lives I think it is almost a consolation -- it is not such as to render life miserable. It merely makes you turn your attention to other things.

The Moral Arguments for Deity

Now we reach one stage further in what I shall call the intellectual descent that the Theists have made in their argumentations, and we come to what are called the moral arguments for the existence of God. You all know, of course, that there used to be in the old days three intellectual arguments for the existence of God, all of which were disposed of by Immanuel Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason; but no sooner had he disposed of those arguments than he invented a new one, a moral argument, and that quite convinced him. He was like many people: in intellectual matters he was skeptical, but in moral matters he believed implicitly in the maxims that he had imbibed at his mother's knee. That illustrates what the psychoanalysts so much emphasize -- the immensely stronger hold upon us that our very early associations have than those of later times.
 Kant, as I say, invented a new moral argument for the existence of God, and that in varying forms was extremely popular during the nineteenth century. It has all sorts of forms. One form is to say there would be no right or wrong unless God existed. I am not for the moment concerned with whether there is a difference between right and wrong, or whether there is not: that is another question. The point I am concerned with is that, if you are quite sure there is a difference between right and wrong, then you are in this situation: Is that difference due to God's fiat or is it not? If it is due to God's fiat, then for God himself there is no difference between right and wrong, and it is no longer a significant statement to say that God is good. If you are going to say, as theologians do, that God is good, you must then say that right and wrong have some meaning which is independent of God's fiat, because God's fiats are good and not bad independently of the mere fact that he made them. If you are going to say that, you will then have to say that it is not only through God that right and wrong came into being, but that they are in their essence logically anterior to God. You could, of course, if you liked, say that there was a superior deity who gave orders to the God that made this world, or could take up the line that some of the gnostics took up -- a line which I often thought was a very plausible one -- that as a matter of fact this world that we know was made by the devil at a moment when God was not looking. There is a good deal to be said for that, and I am not concerned to refute it.

The Argument for the Remedying of Injustice

Then there is another very curious form of moral argument, which is this: they say that the existence of God is required in order to bring justice into the world. In the part of this universe that we know there is great injustice, and often the good suffer, and often the wicked prosper, and one hardly knows which of those is the more annoying; but if you are going to have justice in the universe as a whole you have to suppose a future life to redress the balance of life here on earth. So they say that there must be a God, and there must be Heaven and Hell in order that in the long run there may be justice. That is a very curious argument. If you looked at the matter from a scientific point of view, you would say, "After all, I only know this world. I do not know about the rest of the universe, but so far as one can argue at all on probabilities one would say that probably this world is a fair sample, and if there is injustice here the odds are that there is injustice elsewhere also." Supposing you got a crate of oranges that you opened, and you found all the top layer of oranges bad, you would not argue, "The underneath ones must be good, so as to redress the balance." You would say, "Probably the whole lot is a bad consignment"; and that is really what a scientific person would argue about the universe. He would say, "Here we find in this world a great deal of injustice, and so far as that goes that is a reason for supposing that justice does not rule in the world; and therefore so far as it goes it affords a moral argument against deity and not in favor of one." Of course I know that the sort of intellectual arguments that I have been talking to you about are not what really moves people. What really moves people to believe in God is not any intellectual argument at all. Most people believe in God because they have been taught from early infancy to do it, and that is the main reason.
 Then I think that the next most powerful reason is the wish for safety, a sort of feeling that there is a big brother who will look after you. That plays a very profound part in influencing people's desire for a belief in God.

The Character of Christ

I now want to say a few words upon a topic which I often think is not quite sufficiently dealt with by Rationalists, and that is the question whether Christ was the best and the wisest of men. It is generally taken for granted that we should all agree that that was so. I do not myself. I think that there are a good many points upon which I agree with Christ a great deal more than the professing Christians do. I do not know that I could go with Him all the way, but I could go with Him much further than most professing Christians can. You will remember that He said, "Resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also." That is not a new precept or a new principle. It was used by Lao-tse and Buddha some 500 or 600 years before Christ, but it is not a principle which as a matter of fact Christians accept. I have no doubt that the present prime minister [Stanley Baldwin], for instance, is a most sincere Christian, but I should not advise any of you to go and smite him on one cheek. I think you might find that he thought this text was intended in a figurative sense.
 Then there is another point which I consider excellent. You will remember that Christ said, "Judge not lest ye be judged." That principle I do not think you would find was popular in the law courts of Christian countries. I have known in my time quite a number of judges who were very earnest Christians, and none of them felt that they were acting contrary to Christian principles in what they did. Then Christ says, "Give to him that asketh of thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away." That is a very good principle. Your Chairman has reminded you that we are not here to talk politics, but I cannot help observing that the last general election was fought on the question of how desirable it was to turn away from him that would borrow of thee, so that one must assume that the Liberals and Conservatives of this country are composed of people who do not agree with the teaching of Christ, because they certainly did very emphatically turn away on that occasion.
 Then there is one other maxim of Christ which I think has a great deal in it, but I do not find that it is very popular among some of our Christian friends. He says, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that which thou hast, and give to the poor." That is a very excellent maxim, but, as I say, it is not much practised. All these, I think, are good maxims, although they are a little difficult to live up to. I do not profess to live up to them myself; but then, after all, it is not quite the same thing as for a Christian.

Defects in Christ's Teaching

Having granted the excellence of these maxims, I come to certain points in which I do not believe that one can grant either the superlative wisdom or the superlative goodness of Christ as depicted in the Gospels; and here I may say that one is not concerned with the historical question. Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if He did we do not know anything about him, so that I am not concerned with the historical question, which is a very difficult one. I am concerned with Christ as He appears in the Gospels, taking the Gospel narrative as it stands, and there one does find some things that do not seem to be very wise. For one thing, he certainly thought that His second coming would occur in clouds of glory before the death of all the people who were living at that time. There are a great many texts that prove that. He says, for instance, "Ye shall not have gone over the cities of Israel till the Son of Man be come." Then he says, "There are some standing here which shall not taste death till the Son of Man comes into His kingdom"; and there are a lot of places where it is quite clear that He believed that His second coming would happen during the lifetime of many then living. That was the belief of His earlier followers, and it was the basis of a good deal of His moral teaching. When He said, "Take no thought for the morrow," and things of that sort, it was very largely because He thought that the second coming was going to be very soon, and that all ordinary mundane affairs did not count. I have, as a matter of fact, known some Christians who did believe that the second coming was imminent. I knew a parson who frightened his congregation terribly by telling them that the second coming was very imminent indeed, but they were much consoled when they found that he was planting trees in his garden. The early Christians did really believe it, and they did abstain from such things as planting trees in their gardens, because they did accept from Christ the belief that the second coming was imminent. In that respect, clearly He was not so wise as some other people have been, and He was certainly not superlatively wise. 

The Moral Problem

Then you come to moral questions. There is one very serious defect to my mind in Christ's moral character, and that is that He believed in hell. I do not myself feel that any person who is really profoundly humane can believe in everlasting punishment. Christ certainly as depicted in the Gospels did believe in everlasting punishment, and one does find repeatedly a vindictive fury against those people who would not listen to His preaching -- an attitude which is not uncommon with preachers, but which does somewhat detract from superlative excellence. You do not, for instance find that attitude in Socrates. You find him quite bland and urbane toward the people who would not listen to him; and it is, to my mind, far more worthy of a sage to take that line than to take the line of indignation. You probably all remember the sorts of things that Socrates was saying when he was dying, and the sort of things that he generally did say to people who did not agree with him.
 You will find that in the Gospels Christ said, "Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of Hell." That was said to people who did not like His preaching. It is not really to my mind quite the best tone, and there are a great many of these things about Hell. There is, of course, the familiar text about the sin against the Holy Ghost: "Whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost it shall not be forgiven him neither in this World nor in the world to come." That text has caused an unspeakable amount of misery in the world, for all sorts of people have imagined that they have committed the sin against the Holy Ghost, and thought that it would not be forgiven them either in this world or in the world to come. I really do not think that a person with a proper degree of kindliness in his nature would have put fears and terrors of that sort into the world.
 Then Christ says, "The Son of Man shall send forth his His angels, and they shall gather out of His kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity, and shall cast them into a furnace of fire; there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth"; and He goes on about the wailing and gnashing of teeth. It comes in one verse after another, and it is quite manifest to the reader that there is a certain pleasure in contemplating wailing and gnashing of teeth, or else it would not occur so often. Then you all, of course, remember about the sheep and the goats; how at the second coming He is going to divide the sheep from the goats, and He is going to say to the goats, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire." He continues, "And these shall go away into everlasting fire." Then He says again, "If thy hand offend thee, cut it off; it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into Hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched; where the worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched." He repeats that again and again also. I must say that I think all this doctrine, that hell-fire is a punishment for sin, is a doctrine of cruelty. It is a doctrine that put cruelty into the world and gave the world generations of cruel torture; and the Christ of the Gospels, if you could take Him asHis chroniclers represent Him, would certainly have to be considered partly responsible for that.
 There are other things of less importance. There is the instance of the Gadarene swine, where it certainly was not very kind to the pigs to put the devils into them and make them rush down the hill into the sea. You must remember that He was omnipotent, and He could have made the devils simply go away; but He chose to send them into the pigs. Then there is the curious story of the fig tree, which always rather puzzled me. You remember what happened about the fig tree. "He was hungry; and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came if haply He might find anything thereon; and when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it: 'No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever' . . . and Peter . . . saith unto Him: 'Master, behold the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.'" This is a very curious story, because it was not the right time of year for figs, and you really could not blame the tree. I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above Him in those respects.

The Emotional Factor

As I said before, I do not think that the real reason why people accept religion has anything to do with argumentation. They accept religion on emotional grounds. One is often told that it is a very wrong thing to attack religion, because religion makes men virtuous. So I am told; I have not noticed it. You know, of course, the parody of that argument in Samuel Butler's book, Erewhon Revisited. You will remember that in Erewhon there is a certain Higgs who arrives in a remote country, and after spending some time there he escapes from that country in a balloon. Twenty years later he comes back to that country and finds a new religion in which he is worshiped under the name of the "Sun Child," and it is said that he ascended into heaven. He finds that the Feast of the Ascension is about to be celebrated, and he hears Professors Hanky and Panky say to each other that they never set eyes on the man Higgs, and they hope they never will; but they are the high priests of the religion of the Sun Child. He is very indignant, and he comes up to them, and he says, "I am going to expose all this humbug and tell the people of Erewhon that it was only I, the man Higgs, and I went up in a balloon." He was told, "You must not do that, because all the morals of this country are bound round this myth, and if they once know that you did not ascend into Heaven they will all become wicked"; and so he is persuaded of that and he goes quietly away.
 That is the idea -- that we should all be wicked if we did not hold to the Christian religion. It seems to me that the people who have held to it have been for the most part extremely wicked. You find this curious fact, that the more intense has been the religion of any period and the more profound has been the dogmatic belief, the greater has been the cruelty and the worse has been the state of affairs. In the so-called ages of faith, when men really did believe the Christian religion in all its completeness, there was the Inquisition, with all its tortures; there were millions of unfortunate women burned as witches; and there was every kind of cruelty practiced upon all sorts of people in the name of religion.
 You find as you look around the world that every single bit of progress in humane feeling, every improvement in the criminal law, every step toward the diminution of war, every step toward better treatment of the colored races, or every mitigation of slavery, every moral progress that there has been in the world, has been consistently opposed by the organized churches of the world. I say quite deliberately that the Christian religion, as organized in its churches, has been and still is the principal enemy of moral progress in the world.

How the Churches Have Retarded Progress

You may think that I am going too far when I say that that is still so. I do not think that I am. Take one fact. You will bear with me if I mention it. It is not a pleasant fact, but the churches compel one to mention facts that are not pleasant. Supposing that in this world that we live in today an inexperienced girl is married to a syphilitic man; in that case the Catholic Church says, "This is an indissoluble sacrament. You must endure celibacy or stay together. And if you stay together, you must not use birth control to prevent the birth of syphilitic children." Nobody whose natural sympathies have not been warped by dogma, or whose moral nature was not absolutely dead to all sense of suffering, could maintain that it is right and proper that that state of things should continue.
 That is only an example. There are a great many ways in which, at the present moment, the church, by its insistence upon what it chooses to call morality, inflicts upon all sorts of people undeserved and unnecessary suffering. And of course, as we know, it is in its major part an opponent still of progress and improvement in all the ways that diminish suffering in the world, because it has chosen to label as morality a certain narrow set of rules of conduct which have nothing to do with human happiness; and when you say that this or that ought to be done because it would make for human happiness, they think that has nothing to do with the matter at all. "What has human happiness to do with morals? The object of morals is not to make people happy."

Fear, the Foundation of Religion

Religion is based, I think, primarily and mainly upon fear. It is partly the terror of the unknown and partly, as I have said, the wish to feel that you have a kind of elder brother who will stand by you in all your troubles and disputes. Fear is the basis of the whole thing -- fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the parent of cruelty, and therefore it is no wonder if cruelty and religion have gone hand in hand. It is because fear is at the basis of those two things. In this world we can now begin a little to understand things, and a little to master them by help of science, which has forced its way step by step against the Christian religion, against the churches, and against the opposition of all the old precepts. Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived for so many generations. Science can teach us, and I think our own hearts can teach us, no longer to look around for imaginary supports, no longer to invent allies in the sky, but rather to look to our own efforts here below to make this world a better place to live in, instead of the sort of place that the churches in all these centuries have made it. 

What We Must Do

We want to stand upon our own feet and look fair and square at the world -- its good facts, its bad facts, its beauties, and its ugliness; see the world as it is and be not afraid of it. Conquer the world by intelligence and not merely by being slavishly subdued by the terror that comes from it. The whole conception of God is a conception derived from the ancient Oriental despotisms. It is a conception quite unworthy of free men. When you hear people in church debasing themselves and saying that they are miserable sinners, and all the rest of it, it seems contemptible and not worthy of self-respecting human beings. We ought to stand up and look the world frankly in the face. We ought to make the best we can of the world, and if it is not so good as we wish, after all it will still be better than what these others have made of it in all these ages. A good world needs knowledge, kindliness, and courage; it does not need a regretful hankering after the past or a fettering of the free intelligence by the words uttered long ago by ignorant men. It needs a fearless outlook and a free intelligence. It needs hope for the future, not looking back all the time toward a past that is dead, which we trust will be far surpassed by the future that our intelligence can create.

Electronic colophon: This electronic edition of "Why I Am Not a Christian" was first made available by Bruce MacLeod on his "Watchful Eye Russell Page." It was newly corrected (from Edwards, NY 1957) in July 1996 by John R. Lenz for the Bertrand Russell Society.

Image: (Sapiensgames)

Student detained in Bangladeshi professor's hacking death

Bangladeshi police detained a student Sunday in the hacking death of a university professor a day earlier in Rajshahi, Deputy Police Commissioner Nahidul Islam said.
Authorities had said earlier that the student had been arrested. Police are not releasing the student's name or any details about him or her.
Rezaul Karim Siddique, 58, taught English at Rajshahi University.
He was waiting for a bus to take him to campus Saturday when he was attacked from behind and stabbed in the neck, according to Sadhir Haider Chowdhury, a city police commissioner.
The professor died immediately.
    It's unclear whether the attack was related to the recent hacking deaths of bloggers in Bangladesh. An investigation is ongoing.

    ISIS claims responsibility

    ISIS claimed responsibility for the killing, according to Amaq, the terror group's media agency.
    "ISIS fighters assassinated a university professor for calling to atheism in the city of Rajshahi in Bangladesh," a statement from the group said.
    CNN cannot immediately confirm ISIS' claim or its statement on the religious beliefs of the victim.
    This month, Bangladesh Law and Justice Minister Anisul Huq said it was "safe to say that there is no existence of ISIS in this country."
    Huq also dismissed reports "about the claim of ISIS that they're trying to make Bangladesh their base headquarter for operations in India, Bangladesh and Myanmar."
    "That's their claim; one can claim anything," he said.

    Village is a 'hotbed of militants'

    Earlier, Islam said Siddique's killer or killers might have been jihadis.
    "We believe Islamic militants were behind the attack, because the nature of the incident is similar to previous attacks carried out on atheist writers and activists," he said.
    "Siddique was very active organizing cultural events in the university," Islam said. "He was also planning to open a music school in his home village, Bagmara."
    The village "is a hotbed of JMB militants," police said, using the abbreviation for Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh, a fundamentalist Islamic organization.
    But the deputy police commissioner sounded a cautionary note, saying police had not found evidence that the professor wrote or spoke against Islam.

    'He had no political links'

    And Anima Choudhury, a former student who studied literature with the professor from 2010 to 2015, said she saw nothing political in him that could have led to such an attack.
    "I don't know what the motive is, but he was a very good person, and he had no political links," Choudhury said.
    "He wasn't involved in any issues that can cause this. It's really mysterious, and it was really shocking, because we didn't expect something like this could happen to him. I guess we have to wait for the reasons."