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New books: God as a teenage boy, and making science magical for young people

September booksHave you noticed how people who believe in God are always telling us how he/she/it wants us to behave, while God (the one in the Bible, anyway) behaves rather badly? What if he isn’t an old man on a cloud but is, in fact, a teenage boy? That might explain the behaviour. Mariella Frostrup interviewed author Meg Rossof on BBC Radio 4 today about her new book, ‘There is no Dog’, which imagines what the world would be like if God was a petulant teenage boy called Bob, who spends the majority of his time sleeping or having sexual fantasies about the human women he has created and causing floods, geological disasters and much suffering in his wake. In the first chapter (available to download online), she wrote,

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Only it wasn’t as simple as that. The preferred candidate for God withdrew at the last minute saying he wanted to spend more time with his family, though privately everyone suspected he was having second thoughts. You couldn’t really blame him. Earth was badly positioned – miles off the beaten track in a lonely and somewhat rundown part of the universe. At a time of high employment, not many top-level candidates were willing to take on a tiny unproven planet, not to mention the whole creation rigmarole, which, when done properly, could be a real headache.

Great fun!

Richard Dawkins latest book was published today. He was interviewed about it on Newsnight a couple of night ago – you have a few more days to listen on i-Player. ‘The Magic of Reality‘ is a book for children that aims to replace myth with science, and make it just as exciting and magical.

Note that if you decide to buy either or both of these books, we’ll get commission if you do it through the link to Amazon on our website.

Bus missionaries

Seems you can’t even get on a bus these days without risking some god-botherer trying to convert you. Mormons have been targetting passengers on Stagecoach buses in Lancashire. The Guardian reports,

Robert Preston, England Manchester Mission President for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, also known as the Mormon Church, said he considered the 140 young people in the north west of England actively engaged in trying to convert people as “persistent and courageous”. He added: “They will sit next to someone, and they will introduce themselves and try and have a good conversation to explain a point of view that someone might never have heard before. We do encourage this, but we would not want people to feel intimidated. “If it becomes clear that someone does not want to hear that message they should move away.”

Stagecoach has asked the Mormoms to stop bothering its passengers.

Michael Gove advises Catholic schools to “avoid meddling” by secularists

Further evidence, if any were needed, that Education Secretary Michael Gove is determined to destroy our secular (i.e. comprehensive) education system, a process that began under the last government, and favour faith schools. The Catholic Herald reports that he advises that Catholic schools can avoid “unsympathetic meddling” by secularists if they take up the Government’s offer of academy status.

Read the report by clicking here.

9/11, abortion, cryonics, faith in politics, Hypatia and mobile phones

Here’s some stuff I’ve found on the Internet recently.

Stephen Howe wrote about the “reinvention of Islam” since 9/11 in New Humanist magazine. People have become defined by their religion, rather than their ethnicity, he says. He ends:

The caveat that all collective identities are potentially oppressive and dangerous, not just religious, and not least national, ones, surely requires little reiteration. Even so, personally, I’d quite like to see the past decade’s wave of ethnic cleansing reversed. That is, I have no objection at all to Muslim neighbours, friends, fellow citizens – but given the choice, on the whole I’d prefer to get rid of them, and bring back the Sylhetis and Somalis, Turks and Tunisians I used to live with.

Phones 4U has been banned from using an advertisement by the Advertising Standards Authority because an illustration of Jesus winking and giving a thumbs up was considered “disrespectful” to the Christian faith. The BBC quoted Andrew Copson of the BHA in its report, saying that the ban was “completely ridiculous”.

Click, the BBC’s programme about “the world of technology” (mostly computing, the Internet, and smart phones) had a report on the popularity of religious phone apps in Singapore, where app developers are creating software “to make the most out of religion”. Here next?

The BBC’s Radio 5 Live had an item on a report that almost two thirds of schools in England are ignoring their legal duty to provide a daily act of worship. This isn’t news, as many teachers will tell you. The law on collective worship in schools has been widely flouted for years. One of the speakers was from Accord.

Charity event in aid of the DEC East Africa Appeal at the Brewery Tap

DEC fundraiserWe’ve had an email from Sophie Wainwright, who’s organising a charity event on September 16th at The Brewery Tap, Ipswich, in aid of the East Africa Crisis Appeal. Sophie wrote,

Money being raised will go to the DEC to help those affected by the famine in East Africa. I was interested to read your blog posts on your site about the DEC appeal and more recently about the situation with LGBT Africans, and thought you might be interested in this event.

I’d like to invite yourself and your colleagues/members to the event, which aside from being for a very worthwhile cause promises to be a fantastic evening of fun and enjoyment for everyone. I have attached a copy of the event poster, if you could pass this onto your contacts and members it would be very much appreciated, as it would be great to get as many people there as possible to raise as much as we can for the appeal.

The Brewery Tap, Ipswich

The Brewery Tap is a pub and restaurant right next to the old Tolly Cobbold brewery in the heart of Ipswich docks.

The Christian National Registry of Atheists

“Pastor” Michael Stahl from Florida, who doesn’t actually have a church and probably assumed the title himself, is clearly a very ignorant and prejudiced man. A year ago he wrote in his blog that he was going to start a grassroots organization to keep a database of atheists called “The Christian National Registry of Atheists.” He wrote,

I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys [sic] for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc… This type of ‘National Registry’ would merely be for information purposes.

When Mr Stahl’s great idea came to light a few days ago, it naturally annoyed a lot of people, mainly atheists like us, who’d never considered any similarity with sex offenders or terrorists. Mr Stahl seems to have neglected to make a list of all the Catholic sex offenders, but perhaps he thinks that the Pope’s right, and we should just ignore them.

Anyhow, the Thinking Atheist thought that this was a good opportunity to point out what a great list this might be.

Ipswich Science in the Pub

John Benton says, “Bring an experiment. Also, news on a confirmed speaker for our upcoming season of talks.” What sort of experiment? You’ll have to be there to find out.

Debunking Lord Monckton

In our last newsletter, we reported on a meeting where our guest speaker, Prof. John Midwinter, had spoken about climate change. The report mentioned the arch-sceptic, Christopher Monckton, who travels around the world, rubbishing the science behind climate change. Thanks to American science blogger, P Z Myers, we’ve found a lecture online by Prof. John Abraham that exposes all the fallacies in Monckton’s arguments. Please refer anyone who doubts that climate change is our responsibility to it.

Click here for the lecture as a series of You Tube videos.

The TES on Steiner “free” schools

The Times Education Supplement has an article about the applications for free school status by Steiner schools. It says:

The Steiner approach emphasises the importance of practical crafts such as woodwork, book-binding and knitting, while students spend less time learning ICT skills.

Such free-school proposals appear to undermine the Government’s stance that schools should be teaching a more traditional “knowledge-based” curriculum.

Steiner schools are based on the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner, who founded “anthroposophy”, which promotes the belief that all humans possess an innate spirit or soul, through which a person can connect to a spirit world via “inner development”.

The British Humanist Association said it had “serious concerns” over what would be taught in the Steiner schools, given that free schools have considerable freedoms over their curriculum.

For more on this, see our previous posts. We’ll be discussing a proposed Steiner school in Suffolk at our next meeting.