Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Big Issues: Anyone up for a Game of End-Times Bingo?

I'm an avowed atheist, but apart from occasional lapses, I try to limit my anti-supernatualist "preaching" to light-hearted piss-taking of thick-skinned religious friends.

Wherever we sit within the many spectra of faith systems though, a conscious concern for Sustainable Human Flourishing forces reflection on the positives and negatives of religion… For me this is especially true at times like this when such madness is again on display in places like Cairo and Benghazi - insanity that has reached my adopted home of Belgium and even as far away as my erstwhile secular homeland of Australia. At times like this, I must pause to reflect on the potential for religious extremism to affect those that I love.

I have to say though, that while I consider religiously motivated terrorism to be a real danger, it seems a massively over-hyped threat when compared with two elephants that quietly share a room with today's most popular religions, specifically:

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Big Issues: Is Organic Food a Sham?

A good friend asked for my thoughts today about this Gawker report (about a USA Today article about a meta-study and a University of Oxford study) which claims that organic food is no better (and in some cases worse) than non-organic food.

I get variations on this theme all the time, so this time I have actually written my answer down for posterity and for future reference - I will also tell you definitively whether I believe that Gawker is correct in its conclusion of "Science Suggests That Organic Food Is Largely a Sham". 

First though, I will frame my response to this specific article with three four observations:
  1. (Edit) I believe that most studies, meta-studies, and popular discussion on the topic of "organic vs. conventional" miss the point entirely (including, disappointingly this recent TreeHugger article)
  2. As someone who aspires to live sustainably, I don't give a shit about "organic food". I only care about "sustainable food".
  3. As someone who aspires to live rationally, I trust scientists to report results correctly and factually, within the parameters of their study.
  4. For the same reason as 3) I do not trust USA Today to report scientists' results impartially.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Religion, Fascism, and Norway

Last week, we heard the Norwegian courts sentence their country's worst ever mass murderer. We all know who he is and what he did, and everyone also knows the verdict and sentence. Everyone also has an opinion on it.

It is my opinion, however, that very few of those opinions reflect positively on the potential for Sustainable Human Flourishing. Most, in fact, have left me shaking my head sadly for our poor, oh-so-human race.

Even normally rational secular humanist groups have been seething with old testament "eye for an eye" insanity since the verdict was announced - Comment threads like this one left me feeling very disillusioned and more than a little pissed at my fellow "humanists".

In my funk, I unfairly lashed out at an old high school friend who posted his opinions on his Farcebook wall. This old school mate who I'll call Max (because he approved that I use his real name) also happens to be a pastor at a "Bible Christian" church in my old home town of Perth in Western Australia… As always, Max was gracious and patient with me, and our extended exchange took some interesting twists and turns over the course of almost a week. Despite my many uncharitable anti-theistic barbs, we remain friends, and he has graciously assented to our conversation being re-published here for (potentially) wider scrutiny than it received on our little corner of Farcebook…

Below is the thread as it appeared on Max's wall - apologies in advance from both of us that our logic lacks crispness in parts, but we were both time-stressed and just chatting amongst friends. Apologies also that it is so long - feel free to read it a bit at a time, over the period of a week to recreate the original experience if you wish ;-) I'm publishing it here in this form because I really want to continue exploring some of the issues for myself, and I find that writing stuff down helps. I left Max last right of reply on his wall and promised to stop bombarding his poor parishioners with my religion bashing, but I respond below and re-open the conversation to Max and anyone else who would like to pick up on the many threads we've left dangling…