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My collection of (mostly) quotations and links (mostly) about skepticism, science, philosophical naturalism, freethought and humanism. Mostly. With occasional music. (Formerly “Un bon mot ne prove rein”.)
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I have a friend — or had a friend, now dead — Abdus Salam, a very devout Muslim, who was trying to bring science into the universities in the Gulf states and he told me that he had a terrible time because, although they were very receptive to technology, they felt that science would be a corrosive to religious belief, and they were worried about it… and damn it, I think they were right. It is corrosive of religious belief. And it’s a good thing too.

Steven Weinberg, episode 2 of Jonathan Miller’s The Atheism Tapes (2004)

Steven Weinberg

Forthcoming: Jerry Coyne, Faith vs. Fact : Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible (2015)

h/t WEIT

Theologians worry away at the “problem of evil” and a related “problem of suffering.” On the day I originally wrote this paragraph, the British newspapers all carried a terrible story about a bus full of children from a Roman Catholic school that crashed for no obvious reason, with wholesale loss of life. Not for the first time, clerics were in paroxysms over the theological question that a writer on a London newspaper (The Sunday Telegraph) framed this way: “How can you believe in a loving, all-powerful God who allows such a tragedy?” The article went on to quote one priest’s reply: “The simple answer is that we do not know why there should be a God who lets these awful things happen. But the horror of the crash, to a Christian, confirms the fact that we live in a world of real values: positive and negative. If the universe was just electrons, there would he no problem of evil or suffering.”

On the contrary, if the universe were just electrons and selfish genes, meaningless tragedies like the crashing of this bus are exactly what we should expect, along with equally meaningless good fortune. Such a universe would be neither evil nor good in intention. It would manifest no intentions of any kind. In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice. The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference. As that unhappy poet A. E. Housman put it:

For Nature, heartless, witless Nature
Will neither care nor know.

Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (1995)

Richard Dawkins

“Science contradicts religion” — Jerry Coyne; Racjonalista.tv

h/t WEIT

A man who says, ‘If God is dead, nothing matters,’ is a spoilt child who has never looked at his fellow man with compassion.

Victor Stenger (29 January 1935 – 27 August 2014), God: The Failed Hypothesis (2007)

Victor Stenger

Pascal’s Wager fail, Could Be Worse

h/t WEIT

You show me one step forward in the name of religion and I’ll show you a hundred retrogressions.

Frank Sinatra, interview, Playboy, February 1963

Playboy, February 1963

h/t WEIT

The dehumanizing idea that illness is connected to sin is a common feature of religious thinking about disease and sickness in general. Periods of crisis, like this one, may empower religious leaders to speak openly about the way that their traditions understand disease, but these explanations are not the product only of such exceptional moments of crisis. They are, rather, deep, long-lived, and fundamental aspects of how religious communities think about the sick among them. Both the leaders who present Ebola and other crises as divine punishment and the commentators who attribute this perspective to human nature under stress — and thereby excuse it — are participating in the perpetuation of a dangerous and destructive mode of thinking.

Joel Baden (professor of Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School) and Candida Moss (professor of New Testament and Early Christianity at the University of Notre Dame), “Ebola Is Not God’s Wrath”, Slate

h/t WEIT

If a designer was designing us, either they’re a terrible designer or they’ve got a great sense of humour, because we’re carrying around all sorts of genes that don’t work.

Sean B. Carroll, Freethought Radio, 24 May 2008

Sean B. Carroll

Because the [religious] moderates are so nice we all are brought up with the idea that there’s something good about religious faith. That there’s something good about bringing children up to have a faith.

Which means to believe something without evidence and without the need for justifying it.

They’re entitled simply to say, “Oh, that’s my faith, I believe it, you’re not allowed to question it and you’re not allowed to ask me why I hold it.”

Once you teach people that that’s a legitimate reason for believing something then you as it were give a licence to the extremists who say, “My belief is that I’m supposed to be a suicide bomber or I’m supposed to blow up buildings – it’s my faith and you can’t question that.”