Archive for June 2012
Like most Irish people of my generation I grew up going to mass every Sunday, went to a Catholic school and took part in the usual cult like initiation rituals like communion and then confirmation. It was in primary school when I was very young that my first suspicions that maybe this god stuff was not all it was made out to be started to germinate.
Every now and then one of the local parish priests would arrive, unannounced of course, and spend several hours telling us that Jesus loved us and if we didn’t love him back just as much we’d burn in hell. Along with the obligatory prayer sessions, we also went to confession once a month (8 year olds being renowned for their wickedness) where we would usually wait patiently for our turn to go into the confession box and make up some sins.
Usually the sins in question were discussed and agreed upon with fellow class mates beforehand.
But well I remember one particular priest who just loved to make children cry, for horrific crimes such as not blessing ones self right or for having said a bad word(fuck having been just discovered). While we sat waiting our turn, child after child would come out crying hands clasped tightly together ready to say 20 Hail Marys in order to be forgiven for their crimes.
Even then I felt that something about this chap, who was supposed to represent the essence of love, was flawed. But it was one particular occasion when I had my epiphany. A different priest, a scarecrow like character with a bald pate, pinched face and permanent hunch arrived in for the usual indoctrination session. After several suicide inducing hours he began talking about good old Adam and Eve and the talking snake. One clearly precocious student (alas not me) eagerly threw his hand into the air to ask a question. Essentially asking, well if this is true then what about all that evolution stuff we’ve been covering as well?
The scarecrow sputtered and waffled, that the only truth was the truth in the Bible etc his head bobbing sagely, eyes bulging at the effrontery of such a question, while our teacher busied herself with finding something under her desk, lest her opinion be asked.
And I knew, I just knew he was lying. My young mind couldn’t really quite grasp why or intellectualise the feeling but there it was, the genesis of my journey to atheism. By the time I was in high school I’d discarded the entire edifice of Christian belief and told my parents that mass and I would be parting company.
But it was as an adult that I began to look forensically at religion and it’s proponents. The hateful, misogynistic, genocidal and narcissistic nature of the god all these people believed in was so obvious to me that it was clear it was a man-made delusion. Its entire purpose to act as a security blanket against the guaranteed end awaiting us all and as a powerful weapon of control over the illiterate , gullible and uneducated.
Add the insane claims these religion make for themselves, their seemingly never-ending thirst for killing people who disagree with them, it really is a miracle anyone believes at all. And without obligatory religious indoctrination of children in many schools throughout the world the number of religious people would be far fewer than it is now.
Thankfully in Europe religion has for the most part been domesticated and reduced to the realm of personal belief where it should be. But we still have a very long way to go.
While I do not believe in a god I do accept the idea of the numinous and love that frisson of excitement that I get when I hear or see something that touches me profoundly whether it be art, music, science or a line of prose. For these are far more rewarding than any biblical fairy tale and I dare anyone to look at the Hubble Deep Field image and not to be awed and to see how paltry and petty religion is in comparison.
We are lucky to live in a time when we’ve had the eloquence of the late Christopher Hitchens fighting for reason alongside, Dawkins, Harris and A.C Grayling.
So what happens after we die? no idea and it doesn’t matter because what’s important is what we do while we live.
I’ll leave the final world to the great Christopher Hitchens.
They cost the Irish tax payer 55 million Euro and were never used; because one of the many morons in Fianna Fail , one Martin Cullen, went against all advice, reports and even ignored the fact that the people selling them also mentioned that they didn’t quite work.
So today the debacle of the E-voting machines has ended because they were sold for….€70,267 to a scrap company. So in honour of all the people who voted for Fianna Fail over the last 20 years and for Martin Cullen I’ve added this little video.
Fianna Fail Voters
16,000 computer processors helping to create and connect the largest digital neural network ever built and this system has been given the freedom to learn what it wants from the Internet. And what happens.
Nope it doesn’t become aware and decide humanity is a threat,nor does it tell us the answer to everything is indeed 42 . It decides, it likes watching cat videos.
Since man first discovered fire we have been pushing the boundaries of science and the reality of the human condition along with it. Today we live in a world where millions of people have access to the worlds information on a device that fits in their pocket.
Computer scientists have been building smaller,smarter and faster computers science Alan Turing invented computer science. The holy grail being Artificial Intelligence.
While It may not yet be HAL from Kubrick’s Space Odyssey, this machine still decided on its own it liked to watch cats. A step up from the old Commodore 64 I think.
Maybe the singularity is nearer than we think and I for one am very much looking forward to it.
I have lived just off Talbot street in Dublin city centre for nearly four years now and I tend to have a mixed bag of feelings towards my neighbourhood. No exclusive brand name shops for us, nor venerable cafes steeped in history, offering savoury delights and exotic coffees in salubrious surroundings. Alas we rarely if ever hear troubadours vying for our attention and money, playing everything from Bach to the Rolling Stones as is common on Grafton Street.
You see, for many in Dublin, Grafton Street is to Talbot street as the Champs Élysées is to downtown Kabul; chic,desirable and unlikely that one will end up running screaming through the streets being chased by a foaming mob of lobotomised people.
For many in Dublin a trip from the south side to the inner city of the north side is something you threaten your children with if they misbehave. ‘If you don’t eat your greens, I’ll make you spend a day on Talbot Street! Then you’ll see what happens to those who wouldn’t eat broccoli”
And I admit it’s not far from the truth. My neighbourhood is infested with the living dead: for ever shambling about in what I call the junky shuffle; always at speed, but feet never quite getting far enough in front of each to avoid collision. Perfect locomotion being secondary to their all encompassing need. And then there is The Call.
The average person attempts conversation using their voice as an instrument. Engaging it in a myriad of tones and individual mannerisms. Conveying meaning with a mere hint of tonal change or a whisper of expelled air. Not so the shuffling denizens of Talbot St. In a form of reverse Darwinism they have reduced syllabi, created a single tone and upped the volume to loud. They can be heard calling each other from one end of Talbot St to the top of O’Connell St. It is of course mostly unintelligible to those of us for whom being medicated involves some aspirin and a doctors note.
None the less the neighbourhood is more than just the sum of its drug addicts. It has a character,a certain flavour that one can taste no where else in Dublin. Along with a few Irish owned convenience stores the street has many excellent Indian and Pakistani food stores and a plethora of cheap home stores run by people from a variety of nations. It has several excellent Italian restaurants and a Thai restaurant that for my money is as good as anything on the south side.
Add the Russian tattoo parlour, Chinese noodle joints and ubiquitous pizza places, at times it feels more ethnic than Irish, more foreign than local. Diversity is the best of what the street has to offer. It seethes with a manic energy, like a meth addled clown performing modern dance with a monkey for a partner, one feels anything can and will happen.
On any given day I gravitate between love and hate; drab utilitarian buildings and the human detritus caused by the horrors of heroin abuse can cast a shadow on the brightest of days. But yet, the life, energy and comedy of it all is as addictive as the drug that has ruined so many young lives in the area. And besides, some of Dublin’s finest pubs and purveyors of excellent stout stand ready to bring a little cheer. Old man smell, free of charge of course.
So drop over some day, take a wander enjoy the madness and maybe stay a while. You might just find you like it.
Watching the results of the presidential election in Egypt yesterday was both inspirational and worrying. What we take for granted here in democratic Europe, elections and peaceful change in power, was an historical event for the people of Egypt. The result was clearly cathartic and reassuring for the millions who voted regardless of the outcome and while Tahrir square may have been filled with supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, the election was a victory for all Egyptians.
None the less the arrival of a democratically elected Islamic party into power in the largest state in the Middle East is a cause for concern. They have a clear mandate to introduce their manifesto and potentially a constitution based on Sharia Law.
However the realities of rule in a country with so many domestic problems and many other minority groups including the secularists, who made up the core of the initial revolution, will mean that the Brotherhood may find it far from easy to implement its agendas. When jobs and clean water are the priority of millions then trying ensure women cover themselves up and Israel bashing may be pushed to the side. Add that to an army that has shorn the presidency of any real power and in reality still control the majority of institutions in the country, the brotherhood may find themselves with a sysphian task just to implement the basics of their agenda.
While there will be much gnashing of teeth and hyperbole from certain political quarters, the Brotherhood, regardless of their Islamic nature have been democratically elected and American and European countries must learn to work with them constructively rather than criticising anything than smacks of non liberal thinking.
But most importantly the reason that this writer has hope, are the millions of women who voted in the election. The power of that vote is not to be underestimated and if the Brotherhood prove to be just another religious group of zealots pretending to play politics and the power to vote remains, millions of women will remove them from power.
I believe that the Arab spring must be as much about women’s emancipation and freedom as it is about the escape from dictatorship and religious medievalism. Egypt is a nation with many secular,educated and political women demanding a better future and they will not be silenced. Women like the human rights and political blogger Dalia Ziada will be watching and campaigning.
The Muslim Brotherhood cannot operate in isolation in this new Egypt nor can they ignore the rights of millions of women who have tasted the power of their vote. It will not be an easy transition and we in the west must be patient and we must above all support them in what is sure to be a long and at times bloody transition to a real democracy based on rights or all.