I don't believe in the existence of
God or gods, devils or Satan,
angels, demons, or heaven or hell.
These things are only inventions of our imaginations,
and do not exist in reality.
I don't believe in
human souls or spirits, or life after death.
I don't believe in the existence of
any kind of spiritual world
or supernatural world.
These are all inventions of the human imagination
and have no basis in reality.
Well, fair enough.
But so what, you might ask.
Such atheistic beliefs are
quite commonplace among educated, scientifically-literate
people in the West.
So why have a web page about it?
I grew up in an environment in which you had to explain why you did not believe
in the supernatural.
Hence this page as an explanation.
In particular, it is an explanation for those who knew me before age 17.
Because I was religious before age 17.
Like many young people, I was interested in the origin and nature
of the universe,
an interest which led naturally, at least initially, to religion.
When I was 17
I finally read the counter-arguments, and became an unbeliever.
But both before and after age 17, I had nothing in common
with those (probably the majority of society)
who believe it doesn't matter.
So the second reason for this page is because,
to a large extent, I remain interested in things I don't believe in
New Age beliefs, Socialism, and others
I deal with on my Scepticism page)
- because I am interested in the process of constructing an argument
from limited and conflicting evidence.
Every hypothesis deserves its day in court, and should be picked over
and debated endlessly. Silence or censorship have no place in rational discourse.
And finally, perhaps for a political reason.
Religion has caused as much grief
(and maybe more) to humanity
than any benefits it has brought.
If people were a little less confident in their beliefs,
and troubled by counter-arguments and doubts about their faith,
then we may get the love from them without the hate,
and the world will be a safer place.
Atheist or agnostic?
I am an atheist - I do not believe that God exists.
I am not an agnostic, because that is a
It says that there is something special about the God idea
that one has to be agnostic on it,
whereas one does not have to be agnostic, say, about Father Christmas.
Whether this is true or not, it is certainly a stronger claim than atheism,
which simply says that the God idea lacks
Agnostics are not more "open-minded".
Agnosticism requires more faith than atheism, not less.
Pat Condell a bit crude and simplistic for my tastes.
As he says in his FAQ:
"Q: How do you respond to atheists who say you're too crude and simplistic?
A: They're probably right, as usual."
He slips into the usual, simplistic, Dawkins-likemoral equivalence of saying that
Christians and Jews
cause as much trouble in the modern world as
But he does make one lovely point:
"Q: Prove God doesn't exist.
A: That's a tough one. Show me how it's done by proving Zeus and Apollo don't exist,
and I'll use your method."
And it must be said he's one brave guy, probably the bravest person in Britain:
One of the violent, illiterate religious maniacs says:
"U ARE JUST MAD BECAUSE ISLAM IS TAKING OVER AND WE ARE GOING TO WHIPE U ATHEISTS CHRISTIANS AND JEWS OFF THE FACE OF THE EARTH".
Yeah. Just because he wants to wipe us out we are mad.
How unreasonable we are!
What's disturbing is how many of these violent, third-world
religious maniacs say they live in Britain.
All of these people
should be deported.
And most Britons would agree with me.
So these people had better hope the wishes of the majority of British voters
are never carried out.
I agree with much of what objectivists say.
I think my main disagreement with them
I do not believe morality really "exists".
Morality, like civilization, is invented by us.
And, like civilization, it is worth fighting
(and killing) for
even though it is just "invented".
It is interesting to list the vast number of concepts that
other people believe are real
but that I believe are imaginary:
I don't believe in
a creator or act of creation.
There is no evidence that the universe was
made or created by anybody.
I don't believe in any of the miracles or supernatural events
described in the Old or New Testament.
These are just stories.
I don't believe that any successful prophecies have ever occurred
in human history.
I don't believe that
any miraculous cures have ever taken place in all of history.
I don't believe in
possession, witches, wizards, spells,
or any supernatural or spiritual events, world,
None of these things exist.
I don't believe that any prayer has ever been answered
in all of history.
I don't believe that any god has ever spoken to humanity
through any medium
in all of history.
I don't believe that such a thing as a first human
nor do I believe in original sin.
I don't believe in the Garden of Eden, the Fall of Man,
the Flood, the Tower of Babel, or the Exodus.
These are just stories.
I don't believe in
the virgin birth,
the immaculate conception, the Ascension, the Assumption,
or any of Christ's alleged miracles.
All of these things are just stories, inventions of the human imagination.
None of these things actually happened in reality.
I never had a humanist wedding, because I married a Christian,
and she wanted a church wedding
(not one, of course, in which I would have to pretend to be Christian for the day).
We had to do a bit of work on it, making God romantic and figurative rather than literal,
softening and understating his edges,
dwelling on love instead of faith, and finally drenching the whole thing in
Give an atheist an ancient church, empty and silent and echoing of history,
or if there must be words, make them poetic, in Latin, instead of literal and intrusive in English.
Atheist books for children:
The Magic of Reality
by Richard Dawkins
is a great book to introduce older children (or anyone) to the western scientific and Enlightenment mode of thinking.
Should be taught in every secondary school on earth.
See the great chapter on "Miracles".
are almost alone in comedy
for attacking religion from a philosophical point of view, rather than an adolescent one.
Python's three great films address issues
that the rest of popular culture is terrified of.
When in 50 years of popular music have you ever heard a song address where humanity or religion came from, for example.
The idea is unthinkable.
Pop and rock know their niche - harmless tunes about love and emotions, sex and drugs,
saying nothing and threatening nothing.
Python's material is so subversive that it hasn't been reproduced in 30 years.
(like Christianity, Islam, Scientology or Mormonism)
Not by well-debated evidence and reason.
But rather by group emotion,
tall stories, wishful thinking,
misunderstanding and rumour.
Lots of simple, naive, unsceptical people
in search of something new to believe in.
This is the
juniper bushes scene
in Monty Python's
Life of Brian.
The late 19th century cartoonist
produced a comically illustrated Bible by a nonbeliever.
The humour is old-fashioned and often does not work, but it is just amazing that such a thing existed
in the 19th century.
"The graveyard of the gods",
19th century cartoon by Watson Heston
"Slumber on, dead gods, in your eternal sleep!
You were created from the minds of men, and bear the imprint of the finite."
From Greg Erwin
Tempted by Satan to come down from the cross
and enjoy human life and a family,
Jesus later meets Paul,
who is starting a new religion, preaching about Jesus'
death and resurrection.
Jesus complains that this is not true.
Paul tells him to go home, that this thing is bigger than him:
"You're a liar! I'm Jesus of Nazareth.
I was never crucified. I never came
back from the dead. I'm a man like
everyone else. Why are you spreading
Paul: "Look around you! Look at these people.
Do you see the suffering and unhappiness in this world?
Their only hope is the Resurrected Jesus.
I don't care whether you're Jesus or not.
The Resurrected Jesus will save the world - that's what matters."
Jesus: "The world can't be saved by lies."
Paul: "I created the truth. I make it out of longing and faith.
I don't struggle to find truth - I build it.
If it's necessary to crucify you to save the world, then I'll crucify you.
And I'll resurrect you too, whether you like it or not."
Jesus: "I won't let you. I'll tell everyone the truth."
Paul: "Shout all you want. Who'll believe you?
You started all this, now it can't be stopped.
The faithful will grab you and call you a blasphemer and throw you in a fire."
Jesus: "No, that wouldn't happen."
Paul: "How do you know? You don't know how much people need God.
You don't know what a joy it is to hold the cross, to put hope in the hearts of men,
to suffer, to be killed - all for the sake of Christ. Jesus Christ.
Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God. Messiah."
Paul: "Not you. Not for your sake. ...
I'm glad I met you. Now I can forget you. My Jesus is much more powerful."
This really sums up how Christianity spread
in those early centuries.
It was a good meme, a good story, far bigger than its simple origin
(a tolerant, well-intentioned preacher is executed).
How religions start. "You're a liar! I'm Jesus of Nazareth. .. I never came back from the dead.
I'm a man like everyone else. Why are you spreading these lies?"
Jesus confronts Paul in
The Last Temptation of Christ.
One important aspect of viewing religions as memes
is the realisation
religions are historical accidents.
If you went back to 500 BC,
and ran human history through again,
Christianity would never have existed,
and we would be arguing about something else.
The Quran includes instructions for its own spread.
Islam commands its followers to create a government that supports it.
Permission to spread the religion by war.
Lands must be conquered.
It is a punishable offense to criticize Islam.
You can't leave Islam once you're in.
You must read the Quran in Arabic.
Non-Muslims must pay a large tax.
A Muslim is forbidden to make friends with an infidel.
Islamic writings teach the use of pretext to start wars.
The message in a standard Quran is difficult to decipher.
All clever stuff, and probably evolved rather than thought out.
That is, a meme with these attributes would spread across the world,
whereas memes without these attributes would not.
All this is independent of truth value, of course, since Islam is not true at all!
Religious beliefs are distributed geographically.
Few people make an objective decision about what religion to follow.
Rather, all over the world, people tend to
follow the religion their parents followed.
This map shows how religions are memes.
See full size.
Richard Dawkins, "If Science Worked Like Religion",
shows how absurd it is that
religious beliefs are distributed geographically.
He imagines if scientific beliefs were inherited from parents and distributed
"We all take [the geographic distribution of religion] for granted. It seems entirely natural
that people's opinions about the cosmos, about morality, about humanity
should depend upon the accident of geography where they happen to have been born.
Suppose scientists worked like that.
The President of the Royal Society has been vouchsafed a strong inner conviction
that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.
It has been privately revealed
to Prof Huxdane that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.
Prof Hallux derives deep personal comfort
from his belief that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs.
The President of the National Academy of Sciences has issued a fatwa
against all who deny that an asteroid killed the dinosaurs."
Only viewing religions as self-replicating memes,
rather than logical conclusions based on the evidence,
can explain the fact that they are distributed
When you grow up taking your wonder and heartbreak from science and the universe, and the long epic story of life and our species,
you get used to the fact that mainstream culture, and in particular literature, ignores you.
So if there's no god, what should humanity do with itself?
One of the great human enterprises of the next few centuries will be the
solution of the mind-body problem.
This is the problem of solving how we work.
This is a scientific problem, and someday, if civilization continues, it will be solved.
The implications will be, I argue, not that humanity will be replaced by
intelligent computers or robots.
Rather, humanity will go immortal.
Religions may not like this, but short of shutting down civilization
they will not be able to stop it.
Here is my chain of reasoning:
The last is the most astonishing thought.
It is just possible that this process may reach back far enough to claim
some of us now living as its first beneficiaries.
Immortality is possible, not the imaginary immortality of religions,
but real immortality, actually staying alive in this world.
For there is no other.
the radio Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence.
How come we cannot hear alien radio and TV?
Apparently it is now thought that human radio and TV
cannot be heard more than 1 light year or so away.
It dissipates within 1 light year or so.
So neighbouring stars cannot detect us.
And there is not
a bubble of our data
spreading out into the galaxy.
Spreading life through the universe
The Living Universe Foundation,
dedicated to bringing life to the stars:
"This is perhaps the first and only chance the universe will ever have to
awaken from its long night and live."
I think we have an almost sacred responsibility to make sure that the life that has evolved on earth,
perhaps the only life there is, never flickers out.
If humans go extinct, life on earth will never leave, and after another few billion years of meandering evolution
it will all die with the sun.
We have to take life to the stars.
Eventually, once we've got life firmly established in the universe,
the long-term goal will be of course to keep the universe going,
to interfere with it to prevent heat-death, the big crunch, or whatever.
Or figuring out if there's any way of escaping from the universe.
If there's no god, we've got to get busy.
Terraforming some planets and moons in the solar system might be
affordable and only take a century or two.
Earth seen from 4 billion miles away
6 light hours,
as far away as Pluto).
by Voyager 1, 1990.
This is called the
"Pale Blue Dot" photo.
Voyager 1 is now 10 billion miles away
(100 AU, 14 light hours, beyond the Kuiper belt).
"I am proud to be a human being. I believe that we have come this far by the skin of our teeth - that we always make it just for the skin of our teeth - but that we will always make it, survive, endure.
I believe that this hairless embryo with the aching oversized braincase and the opposable thumb - this animal barely up from the apes - will endure, will endure longer than his home planet, will spread out to the other planets - to the stars and beyond - carrying with him his honesty, his insatiable curiosity, his unlimited courage, and his noble essential decency. This I believe with all my heart."
- Short essay
"Our Noble, Essential Decency"
Robert A. Heinlein
This I Believe
show in 1952.
Who I block:
I will debate almost anyone.
I love ideas.
I will not debate (and will block) people who do the following:
(a) Make threats.
(b) Accuse me of crimes.
(c) Comment on my appearance.
(d) Drag in stuff about me not related to the topic. (My professional career, my personal life.)
(e) Complain to my employer.
Yes, people do all these things.