London to be transformed by mass prayer (link)

A story from a leading UK Christian news website ( - link in title) tells us that London is to be transformed this year, following the completion of London's 'prayer marathon' - in which

"Thousands of individuals from hundreds of churches representing the breadth of churchmanship across the capital joined together in continuous prayer for London every minute of every day in 2007."

This Friday they will launch the run-up to the Global Day of Prayer London (GDOP), which is to be held in Millwall stadium on Sunday 11th May 2008. Their aim is to '[seek] God's favour for the UK, so that individuals, towns and cities are transformed.'

Well thanks, I feel heartily reassured and know that this year will be wonderful for London and the UK, because of course there is stack-loads of evidence to show that God always answers prayers, and when ther're up to 30,000 people (as the article suggests) expected to pray for the same thing, how can He possibly ignore them?

Personally I think that if these no doubt well-meaning people really want to make London a better place, they'd be more usefully employed getting up of their arses and actually doing something, like volunteer work or community support work, or even just picking up rubbish off the streets, rather than beseeching some obviously non-existent (or at the very least entirely indifferent) entity to do it for them.

“The narrative of the church is the story of prayer,” said Dr Jonathan Oloyede, Assistant Pastor of Glory House church in London and one of the visionaries behind the Global Day of Prayer London event.
“When Christians unite to pray things happen; continents are shaken, movements begin and history is made. I truly believe that this is Britain’s season for change.
“It is our hope that as hundreds of churches come together and thousands of Christians mobilised, we would catch a glimpse of God’s heart for reconciliation, spiritual renewal and community transformation.”

Hmm... call me a doubting Thomas, but I can't see as this continued effort to insert craniums into rectums will achieve anything at all.

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Not all answers can be found in the planets...

News reaches me that the Astrological Magazine, a stalwart of (presumably) predictive journalism since 1936, has had to cease publication with its Dec 07 edition, due to "unforseen circumstances."

I found it funny any way.

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Dirty tricks or a dirty Islamist? The farce of religion knows no bounds in US Presidential race

It really is a tragedy for the whole world that so many citizens of the only superpower believe the bible to be true. Whichever interpretation of it people follow, they all take it as read that Jesus was a real historical figure of divine origin, and many millions of people accept the ludicrous idea that the Universe is less than 10,000 years old...

We all have to hope that pragmatism, especially in foreign policy, and the power of secular institutions will prevent a slide into theocracy. If it doesn't, we'd better start building bomb shelters (or at least hope the government can remember where the old cold-war ones are!)

This year will see a new President. I expect even members of the most isolated tribes in the jungles of Papua new Guinea have been unable to avoid this fact, indeed they may even discuss the merits of Clinton vs Obama over a dinner of neighbouring tribesmen!

Humorous musings aside, all of the candidates have to profess Christianity of some sort - not to do so would be electoral suicide - and of course questions of religion often crop up in debate.

Obama was openly questioned about allegations that he is a secret muslim, a sort of stealth jihadi - practicing Christian by day, dirty Islamist by night (must be why he disappears to the toilet at set times every day and carries that silly little mat with him, lol).

This stems from the fact that his father was a muslim, and some of the comments I've seen on forums and in the blogosphere show how people feel about this. People seem to think that because in Islam, if you're born to muslim parents (or even just one as in this case), you remain a muslim for life no matter what your professed views, and no matter that he was raised a Christian by his mother. The implications of this (so these people say) are that he will come under massive pressure from the muslim world to alter American foreign policy, and that being by birth a muslim he will be unable or find it extremely difficult to resist.

As an atheist, I am unable really to understand the deep prejudices that religious people feel toward one another, and I find the idea that from conception, a child belongs to a faith for life no matter what they go on to think or learn, frankly disgusting.

No doubt the issue of religion will remain centre stage in the ongoing election campaign. I sincerely hope that whoever wins (and by Jupiter it had better not be Huckabee) they will be pragmatic enough in office to resist the concerted attempts by the religious right to turn a nation founded on secular values into a Christian version of Saudi Arabia. If this happens, no god can save us from armageddon.

Follow the link in the title for The Times' coverage of this story.

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The Road to Rationalism pt 3.2

In part 3.1 I attempted to show that all of the world's religions provided us with pre-scientific explanations for the existence of the Universe, and that the acquisition of knowledge through the process of science has revealed all of them to be false.

It was my premise to suggest that explanations for the existence of the Universe (or at least the relevant religion's corner of it) form the core of any religion; we cannot doubt that any dedicated believer of one of the Abrahamic religions, for example, must believe the creation stories told by genesis to be true.

A reader was kind enough to take the time to comment on my post, casting doubt on my conjecture that the primary role of religion is to explain the world around us. He said:

"I think the trouble with this sort of analysis is that it makes certain unexamined assumptions about what religion is "meant to do". In particular, you assume that it's role is to somehow "explain" things in the world, in the same way that science does, but of course, much worse."

He goes on to say that although religions do have "cosmogenies associated with them" these explanations are most likely secondary considerations, and that we should view the ritualism (sacrificing goats, to take my favourite example) of religion as the primary function.

I am happy to concede that this may be the case, and would be happier still if the reader could cite any of the "lots of evidence to the contrary" to which he alludes.

I must disagree with the main point of his argument though, which is to suggest that since explanations are only a secondary consideration and not the primary function, my fundamental argument that religious explanations are inferior to scientific ones is somehow weakened...

"I bring these points up because I don't [doubt?] that the phenomenology and anthropology of religion and religious experience at all support the "explanatory" theory about primitive religion: and thus the implications that follow from this sort of theory are also suspect."

The 'implications' of course being the main premise behind my Road to Rationalism posts - that all religions teach evident falsehoods to be true, and require their followers to believe in unscientific, unsubstantiated nonsense to the exclusion of all evidence to the contrary.

As I said in my reply

"The main thrust of your argument appears to be: 'explanation is not the primary role of religion, as you have suggested, therefore comparing the validity of explanations put forward by religion to that of scientific explanations is suspect.' I strongly dispute this argument, if that is indeed what you are suggesting, for the fairly obvious reason that it doesn't matter whether the founder of a religion invented the story, or whether the stories were set in stone much later by an organised church; what actually matters is the truth value of the explanation put forward.

We live in a world where the vast majority of people accept that their religion's creation stories are true.

Tell them that their explantions are only secondary roles in their religions, and see how far you get."

I look forward to continuing this debate.

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Infidelity discovered - by both partners!

An absolute gem of a comic/tragic story from my paper yesterday that I hope you'll all enjoy. Nothing to do with religion at all but it's too funny to let it pass...

The game is up
Warsaw A Polish man visiting a brothel discovered that his wife was one of the prostitutes. She had told her husband she was working at a store. "I was dumbfounded" he said. The couple, married for 14 years, are divorcing. (Reuters)


Do any of you have humorous stories like this to share? Contact me and I'll link to your site in a post.

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