Friday, February 12, 2010

Michael Tellinger - Botswana Guardian

Tonight, if you're reading this on Thursday, we'll have the privilege of a visit from "scientist, explorer and international author" Michael Tellinger who is due to speak at the Civic Centre in Gaborone. According to the announcement I saw he will be speaking on the "Origins Of Humankind and Ancient Civilisations Of South Africa". Sounds fascinating, don't you think?

Well, it does until you do a little research into Tellinger's theories. Instead of talking about the origins of humankind with the benefits of science, anthropology and those irritating things called FACTS, Tellinger has some rather different ideas, bizarre ones to say the least. In fact his crackpot theories remind me of those from the so-called "Church" of Scientology. Scientology novices are finally taught (after they've coughed up truly vast quantities of cash) that 75 million years ago Xemu, the head of the Galactic Federation, decided to cure his over-population problems by murdering excess aliens by bringing them to Earth and killing them with hydrogen bombs. The souls of these people now haunt us all and cause us all our mental health problems.

You can see why the Scientologists aren't too keen to publicise this hogwash until after they've got your cash, can't you?

I suspect that Mr Tellinger is in a similar position. I think he'd rather get your P100 entrance fee and perhaps even your $18 for his downloadable book BEFORE you discover what exactly he believes. In his book "Slave Species of God" Tellinger tells us that aliens from the planet Nibiru came to Earth nearly half a million years ago to steal our gold. Once they got bored doing all that hard work digging they mixed their DNA with that of primitive earthlings and produced human slaves. These humans, being rather dim-witted, then worshipped the aliens as gods. Telinger claims to have learned all this from translated ancient stone tablets. Curiously nobody else seems to have translated the tablets the same way and the real academic world has missed the spaceships, gold smuggling and all that juicy inter-species cross-breeding.

[Thanks to the 01 and the Universe blog for the book review]

By all means go and hear Tellinger and his delusions but my recommendation would be to go round the corner and spend your money at a certain spicy chicken restaurant instead. At least you'll go home with a tingle on your lips and a full stomach instead of just an empty head.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Morality is a human virtue - Mmegi

Original here.

Like Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande I don't want to get into a letter-writing argument about atheism and religion.

That wouldn't entertain any Mmegi readers and I seriously doubt that it would help change anyone's minds. He is probably as committed to his beliefs as I am to mine. However his last letter seemed to revolve around one particular point that I disagree with profoundly.

He said that atheism "automatically means that life has no meaning. It simply means everything is permissible because there are no laws and therefore no one is accountable to anyone. However, if that is so,what then is the reason why we now have laws to govern behaviour today unless there was a law giver?"

He seems to believe that because I don't believe in Father Christmas (or any other make-believe people), my life is meaningless and I must have no morals.

Maybe he should get to know me before assuming I'm a sociopath? I am at least as moral as anyone who believes they have invisible friends and my life is just as meaningful as theirs. The difference is that I have found my own meaning, not one that was taken from a book of ancient superstitions. Ironically I suspect that his morality and mine will be remarkably similar. I'm sure that we both oppose murder, theft, rape and deceit. We both believe in honesty, respect and charity.

The difference is that I believe these values to be of human origin, not divine. It's interesting that regardless of which religion is dominant, all countries in the world have adopted roughly the same moral values whether the countries are theocracies like Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UK or secular democracies like the USA and Botswana. The thing all countries have in common is humanity, not superstition.

I think it's also interesting to ask a question of religious folk. Is the only reason you don't go around murdering, raping and stealing because God tells you not to? That's not exactly flattering is it? I don't do these things because I don't want to and because they're all morally wrong. I don't need superstition to tell me that.

I believe that the time has come for secular humanists like me to be more open about our atheist beliefs and morality. They are just as valid as religious beliefs and frankly a bit more practical.

Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande's response - Mmegi

Original here.

Although I do not usually like to respond to a response to my articles, I felt obliged to respond to Harriman's letter of January 22 because he shares some really interesting thoughts.

It's important for the reader to understand that I am not trying to start a Holy War with atheists, but I simply desire to connect with my colleagues and try reach an understanding, if possible, by presentation of facts and ideas. First of all, I do understand when atheists say that there is no God. However, such a belief automatically means that life has no meaning. It simply means everything is permissible because there are no laws and therefore no one is accountable to anyone. However, if that is so,what then is the reason why we now have laws to govern behaviour today unless there was a law giver?

In simple, if life has no meaning then each and every one of us has to live as they please. So Harriman,wouldn't you agree with the fact that we have rules to govern behaviour and conduct in the universe simply because this universe has a meaning? C.S. Lewis, who was once an atheist but is now convinced that there is God, had this to say: "A man does not call a line crooked unless he has an idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this world to when I called it unjust? If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."

What C.S Lewis was trying to say was that when atheists say this universe is unjust and has no meaning, to what are they comparing it to? How can one say life is unjust and has no meaning unless he or she has an idea of a meaningful and just life? Let me use an everyday example. Is it possible for me to say to a person she is beautiful unless I have an idea of what an ugly person looks like?

This, I believe, is the same trap that many atheists find themselves in. This is the last aspect of reality that atheists should now consider before they can conclude that life has no meaning. A closer analysis of the above question will reveal that this universe has meaning after all because to every bad thing, there is always the good side.

One thing is for sure, Harriman. If a person is truly convinced about his/her religion, then that person should not be afraid to come out in the open about his/her faith. For example, you rightly pointed out that many atheists are afraid of coming out in the open because they fear being rejected by the community. This is the same quandary homosexuals find themselves in.

But surely, if one is sure and confident about his or her faith, why are there a lot of atheists, in this country for that matter, being afraid of coming out and professing their faith? I believe it is because of the lack of absolute truth that makes people do this. It is also because atheists are aware that life is meaningful and therefore cannot afford just to come out in the open. The society has a moral obligation to accept or not to accept Christianity, Atheism, amongst many other religions. But if life has no meaning, as you say, why are some of your people (atheists), just like homosexuals, afraid of coming out in the open? Why do Atheists care about criticism if life is meaningless?

With all due respect, I also think atheists should simply stop trying to behave as if they understand the Bible. I am saying this because of the way Harriman dismally failed to interpret the Bible. In your letter to the Mmegi on January 22, you rightly pointed out that "I don't believe in the Bible", which is evidenced by your saying that the Bible is littered with endorsements of murder, rape, genocide and human sacrifices. Harriman seems to have moved from being a 'non-believer of the Bible' to a 'perfect interpreter of the Bible.'

If you do not believe in the Bible, that is good enough. Do not contradict and embarrass yourself by trying to interpret the Bible that you seem to be so appalled with. If I were to say "I do not believe there is a language called Setswana", is it then 'rational and logical' for me to try and interpret it? Maybe you would like to ponder about that. I am still radically sure and utterly convinced that there is God around us.

However life is a matter of choice. There are good and bad ideas, right and wrong as well as some ideas in between. No one, however, is supposed to be forced into the belief of deity. Each decision we make ultimately has a bearing in our lives and we are all accountable for our actions and choices in life. We are here for a purpose and we are all custodians of our individual lives.

Don-Martin Takudzwa Whande