Monday, January 29, 2007

Back to the Dark Ages

A friend notified me over the weekend of a very interesting article in The Press, which was about christians attempting to declare New Zealand a 'christian country'. Many disparate groups such as the Anglican, Catholic, and even the Destiny churches are banding together to claim that since over 50 percent (53% to be exact) of respondants in the last Census identified themselves as christian in some way, that the rest of us should just bend over and assume the position. Stupidity is more widespread than even I in my righteous pessemism had previously suspected.

I happen to have a copy of the Religious Affiliation section of the 2006 Census (available here online as an Excel spreadsheet - don't ask me why...) and indeed the total number of people who identify themselves as christians is sizable. But the range of groups is unbelievable: everyone from Coptic Orthodox to Quakers, Elim to Mormons, Pentecostal to Nazarene. If you sat these people down in a room together, they'd hardly have anything in common by way of beliefs and religious practices. Of any of the groups surveyed in the Religious Affiliation category, 'No Religion' is the single largest group - nearly 1.3 million Kiwis (almost one third of the population). An additional 242,610 people objected to answering, 249,711 didn't answer at all, 1,743 didn't know, 10,653 responses were unidentifiable, and 30,945 responses were outside the scope of the survey. Interestingly, there is a disclaimer at the bottom of the document, which states
"This data has been randomly rounded to protect confidentiality. Individual figures may not add up to totals, and values for the same data may vary in different tables."
and a footnote which states
"Includes all the people who stated each religious affiliation in the 2006 Census, whether as their only religious affiliation or as one of several religious affiliations. Where a person reported more than one religious affiliation, they have been counted in each applicable group."
This raises two matters:
  • Firstly, a single person is able to state that they have more than one religious affiliation, thereby increasing the perceived numbers of responses for religious groups while not, in fact, actually representing a greater number people.
  • Secondly, if a respondant ticked more than one box, why have they done so? Is it because they don't really believe in the beliefs they are claming to have, or that they aren't sure? Wouldn't this make them Agnostics?

In the Press article, a member of the Destiny church claims that although they believe in a functional separation of church and state, that christianity is tacitly recognised as the national religion, and that this "doesn't affect anyone's freedom of choice". True, but only because they are not allowed to affect our freedom of choice by law. This doesn't stop them trying. Take for example the Exclusive Bretheren's bribing of the National party at the last election... It's bad enough that our national anthem is the not-entirely rousing dirge "God Defend New Zealand (because our army, navy and air force are a joke)". The claim made by the Human Rights Commision that everyone—regardless of their religion or lack thereof—is treated equally before the law is nonsense: Given the tax breaks and labour law exemptions which church groups enjoy, how can it be said that this equates to equality?

The time has come to stand up and be counted. Join The Resistance, and fight for your continued right to rationality and truth!


Anonymous bets said...

10:33 AM  
Blogger J.L. said...

Hi Bets,

Thanks for leaving this link (albeit to a load of cobblers), but I'd rather hear your opinion and justification than have someone else's thoughts regurgitated.

A [short and incomplete] critique of Mr. Comfort's article:

"While atheism is the ultimate intellectual suicide..."

Exactly how is atheism "the ultimate intellectual suicide"? Isn't religion a better candidate? Well no, since religion doesn't involve intellect - rather, its' lack.

(In relation to the 2004 tsunami) "...God is love, but He's also just..."

Where is the justice in punishing someone - anyone - who is innocent? This is contrary to the very principle of justice.

"Imagine you have knowledge that a bridge has been washed out by a terrible storm, on a dark and moonless night. You stop all approaching cars and say, 'The bridge that spans a thousand-foot chasm has been washed away! Please turn your vehicle around.' The violence of the storm itself is enough to convince any thinking driver that you are speaking the truth, and those who have the sense to believe you do turn around."

But it should not be enough! Some will be persuaded, but without actually going to the bridge to see if it has collapsed, then you have no right to claim anything for definite; in fact you are a mug for not doing so. It depends on the authority as well - I might be more inclined to believe a police officer, maybe, but not just some random person. And nobody should have the right to stop you having a look for yourself to verify the claim. Empirical evidence can and should be checked independently. Not a valid argument.

"It gave me the opportunity to humbly cite my atheist credentials..."

Er, if you have no background in atheism then you have no 'atheist credentials', in the same way that a person with no background in medicine has no 'medical credentials'. Not a valid statement.

"It's really easy to prove God's existence."

Really? Then why has nobody to date come forward with this apparently rock-solid, water-tight evidence then? We're still waiting...

From the "Why the Atheist doesn't exist" section:

His own 'arguments' can be used against him. What is the combined weight of all the grains of sand on the beaches of Hawaii then? Don't know? I'll bet that there's a whole lot more that you don't know - therefore you don't have any more claim to knowledge than I do. Science can actually answer these questions. it's a question of measurement. number of grains of sand X average weight of grains = weight of sand on hawaiian beaches (at a first approximation at least). finer levels of accuracy are achievable with more precise measurements.

"Bear in mind that one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, Thomas Edison, said, "We do not know a millionth of one percent about anything." Let me repeat: Let's say that you have an incredible one percent of all the knowledge in the universe. Would it be possible, in the ninety-nine percent of the knowledge that you haven't yet come across, that there might be ample evidence to prove the existence of God? If you are reasonable, you will be forced to admit that it is possible. Somewhere, in the knowledge you haven't yet discovered, there could be enough evidence to prove that God does exist."

Nothing we have so far discovered by methodical, logical, thorough, impartial investigation through science has implied that the existence of some god-entity is required. Given the totally irrational, inconsistent, subjective nature of religion's 'arguments', I am inclined to disbelieve in the existence of 'god' until it is proven by science that the existence of one is necessary. The possibilities for the existence of 'god' have diminished year after year, and will continue to do so in my opinion.

Need I continue?

5:45 PM  

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