Tag Archives: humanism

Demons Do Not Help Explain Terrorism or Mental Illness 

Theo Hobson latest piece is “Secularism’s view on violence is less humane than Christianity’s.” How the separation of church and state, the liberty for us all to live by our conscience in matters of faith without being subject to any violence by anyone, has anything to do with this misses his purpose. That you need faith to be more humane, being a humanist cannot match it, is the claim.

The use of the word secularism here is to attack the secular minded society as less caring. Hobson does this without obvious irony by using what is one of the most cruelest ideas that exists in the New Testament. The idea that people are possessed by demons. “I think that the old-fashioned language is still largely fit for purpose.” We will come to how it is not in a bit, but he goes on to conclude about those killing for terrorism or because of mental illness:

We should see them as possessed by demonic forces. In fact, this New Testament view of the matter underlies the vague orthodoxy I have just described. And this model can also be applied to terrorists – they are possessed by a demonic idea. The French priest whose throat was slit knew this – he died saying ‘Get away from me, Satan’ – he understood the terrorists not as intrinsically evil but as agents of evil. The old religious view of these things is actually more humane than any newer one: it sees the human agents of these horrors as redeemable, but the acts as utterly evil. A secular view either denies the full scale of the evil or, in tabloid headline fashion, over-identifies it with the perpetrator, who is human like us.

If you remember the New Testament, the people possessed by demons were not inherently evil. They had the hallmarks of epilepsy, learning disabilities and mental illness. Jesus did not bring a secular understanding to these things. He cured a few people, sometimes casting the supposed demons into the nearest pigs, but the science or care these people needed (the modern “secular” approach if  we must) was not part of his plan when saving others. So for hundreds of years, exorcisms and treating them as possessed was very much a Christian perspective. 

I would have to call this evil – exorcism really was not the way forward in caring for one another. We might excuse a primitive people; the Son of God playing to that ignorance (or to be more accurate, the gospel writers) a little less so. 

There is no excusing Theo Hobson on this. In trying to defame humanists and secularists (who are not necessarily the same thing) he reminds us that ideas can be evil in the Good Book. Possession is one of them, an idea in the bible we need to move away from rather than a language to make use of to convey ideas today. If we are going to understand why people take the lives of priests and others while shouting “God Is Great” we are going to have to use an investigative approach.

That might suggest looking at the link between violence and religion as a starting point. We should not need violence to make us give the care and attention the most vunerable  in society need. The risk is more often from society, as the President of The Royal College of Psychiatry said in the wake of the Russell Square knife attack today in London:


No Amen is necessary to take that advice.  

The top photo comes from this blog post with more quotes on casting out demons.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Humanists Denied Legal Wedding Ceremonies In England


I believe in love, that feeling that life is worth living the more for being loved by someone you adore, who is not the equal to anyone else. One day proving we were beyond measure to each other, as before friends and family we declared our love publicly and legally in a marriage ceremony.

Thousands of couples planning non-religious humanist weddings could have their hopes dashed after a row between the Tories and Liberal Democrats saw Number 10 veto proposals to give such marriages legal status. [Independent On Sunday]

The UK government does not believe in England I should be able to do this as a humanist. Scientologists – who believe we are controlled by thetans which were indoctrinated by images like Christ thus making us partial to false religions – may legally conduct a marriage ceremony. Their founder said that atheists:

“are less capable, less ethical and less valuable to themselves and society….A man without an abiding faith is, by observation alone, more of a thing than a man.” [Scientology]

Observation alone is regrettably not enough to show how dangerous a cult scientology can be in denying the health benefits from modern medicine and care.

Even the Aetherius Society may conduct legally recognised ceremonies. They too were founded in the 1950s, when an extra terrestrial intelligence got in touch. They are now “cooperating with the Gods in space.” Why do we not see UFOs landing with conclusive evidence?

“Because it is not the right time. Our collective karma is such that we do not deserve such a landing.” [Aetherius Society]

The government has belief in belief, no matter how far fetched or imaginary it may be. I have no such supernatural inclinations, I keep my feet on the ground. On this terra firma which will in time consume this body currently thinking and typing. It will be the end of me, no final judgment with a heaven or hell to await. For thinking this is the only life I have, that no Gods, angels, demons or aliens await my spirit in a next life – I may not marry legally in a ceremony that denies these things.

I am a “fringe political concern.” My loves, my hopes and dreams do not deserve legal recognition. The law states a UFO enthusiasts club that worships the earth as a Goddess may conduct a marriage. The British Humanist Society may not.

That burns, and I feel for those that had planned to be married in a humanist ceremony that gave them meaning. A change we were promised and waiting on for months has been denied for political reasons. The Conservative Party has shown it does not regard citizens without faith as having the same entitlements as those that do.

This should outrage us all. Till then, it will have to be an elopement to Scotland. Admittedly I do have to work on being adored by someone first, which might be the only miracle I will believe in happening one day.

More on the story can be read from The British Humanist Association.

Photo from an an outdoor humanist marriage service by Loch Lomond, Scotland from here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Happy World Humanist Day

Enjoy the Summer Solstice and Happy World Humanist Day to those celebrating!

Chosen Sting’s “Send Your Love” for a reason to mark today.

There’s no religion but sex and music
There’s no religion but sound and dancing
There’s no religion but line and color
There’s no religion but sacred trance

There’s no religion but the endless ocean
There’s no religion but the moon and stars
There’s no religion but time and motion
There’s no religion, just tribal scars

Throw a pebble in and watch the ocean
See the ripples vanish in the distance
It’s just the same with all the emotions
It’s just the same in every instance

There’s no religion but the joys of rhythm
There’s no religion but the rites of Spring
There’s no religion in the path of hate
No prayer but the one I sing

An article I wrote last year on what it means to me being a humanist can be read here.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Video: Me Discussing Birmingham Trojan Horse Schools


I was kindly invited to take part in the late night “Analysis” programme on the Islam Channel – looking at extremism and the running of Birmingham schools at the heart of the so called Trojan Horse letter.

Stressed the importance of comparative religious studies rather than religious instruction – in all schools. That this should not be seen as extremists taking over or Muslims being victimised. Rather this is about good governance, and teachers preparing children with an academic education in an ideologically free and safe learning environment.

[From the 14th minute till advert]

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Video: How Do We know What Is True?


Short two minute animated video narrated by Stephen Fry contrasting a humanistic view of the world compared to a supernatural view of existence.


Hat tip Jerry Coyne

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Not Beholden But Free To Think

If you are not already reading “Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal” by Miles Kimble I encourage you to do so. He shows that it is not unusual for us economists to be interested in matters like religion. As such a Homo economicus I am not alone in a Godless universe.

Noah Smith has guest posted on there, arguing that belief in God, whether or not there is a God, is beneficial for you so do it. But try and be a good human being by not being dogmatic about it:

But there is a way to avoid these dangers: Don’t subscribe to a religious dogma. Pick and choose your religious beliefs. Yes, we are all born with the ability to do this – we don’t need any chip in our brain. Don’t believe that God tells you that you’re superior to other people. Don’t believe that God commands you to wage holy war against the infidel. Don’t believe that God trivializes the life you’re living now.


But for many people, believing in God can make their lives better. If you’re one of these people, then go for it. Believe in God. And believe in a God that tells you to do stuff that’s good for your life – to treat other people well, be happy, work hard, etc. Believe these things not because you have evidence for them, and not because you desire them to be true, but because it behooves you to believe them.


“OK,” you may say, “but I’m not a pragmatist. I’m a positivist. I believe only in things I have evidence for. I value objective truth.” Fine, Mr. Positivist. I will not denigrate your epistemology. Have fun wondering whether or not you live in the Matrix!


The call for religious humanism which is personal to yourself sounds great. No problem cherry picking verses and root yourself in the moment to be a better human being than you would be. All without fundamentalist belief because if counter thinking benefits you do it. Do not just eat from the tree of knowledge,  go a la carte from the world’s religions,  mix and match – using something other than dogma, theology or divine sanction to decide if ethical

Whether we call such ideas religious, philosophy, ethics or morality we are always attempting to rationalize our personal beliefs. For me the thing to stress is not that Noah says it benefits you to believe in God (I recognize atheist bait when I see it and I ain’t biting), but it benefits you to work out what behooves you as a human being beholden to no other entity and yet thinking ethically. When you have to think for yourself what  behooves you not only does the chance for greater happiness await you – some actual thinking and hard graft is called for.

Noah is not offering you freedom or liberty to make it up as you go along – he is inviting you to think critically about whether something is beneficial. To be skeptical about something which is dogmatic. This is empowering, but with it comes responsibility when applying freethinking. To know things as they are. Whether we be in a matrix or not.


Bertrand Russell, an empiricist that would know to ignore a matrix loop fallacy, said:

Those who forget good and evil and seek only to know the facts are more likely to achieve good than those who view the world through the distorting medium of their own desires.

Believing in something that profits you might, if you dare to think about it, behoove you to decide whether it is a red pill or a blue pill you have taken. Part of the adventure in life, is you may never be certain which is in the hand outstretched to you. For me humanism, without the religion, is allowing me to go deeper down the rabbit hole.

I invite you to come underground and see how far it goes without making a promise that it might profit you, but that it might just be more real, and that makes the adventure more worthwhile as you dig deep to push the boundaries of our understanding. 

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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Beyond The God Debate


For me the words of Marcus Aurelius sum up the conversation worth having. Leading a good life and the virtues to cultivate in doing so. Debating the existence or none of God clouds the issue – and detracts from the conversation. Because we can not experience an entity or concept beyond cause and effect, time and space, we end up having a meaningless conversation about something beyond our imagination.

It ends as a draw because you cannot win by saying I really cannot comprehend what happened before the Big Bang. I cannot anymore than someone can claim to know the mind of God and impose their dictates on others.

Meaningless becomes pointless when something we observe like the entity Homo sapiens is so profound they must have a cause by an even more profound entity that does not have a cause. Pointing this out as nonsensical ends up with further assertion from incredulity.


To believe a “God of the Gaps” resolves the issue of why there is something rather than nothing is more extraordinary, miraculous if you like, than the problem it needs to resolve. It is a reason most atheists will not say “There is no God” but rather there is no way to demonstrate there is such a being, let alone that he has appointed someone on earth to tell me not to jerk off, or revealed I should really be minus a foreskin to seal a pact.

As Aurelius states if there is such a being that comprehends like us virtue and the good life then they will understand my conclusions. I will not live my life fearing an unjust celestial being that needs appeasing by frivolous tokens of submission to outrages gestures. My intention is to try and live a good life without such an entity.

I do not say I have the answers, or anyone did thousands of years ago, nor take kindly to twisting ancient texts to somehow fit what we do know now. That actually mocks how those people tried to understand the world they lived in – we can try and be true to their thoughts and beliefs for it is a part of our human history. Revisionism and being an apologist for is to deny them to speak as they did in antiquity.


The conversation worth having is how we get to live on this ball of rock hurtling through space in an expanding universe. It is a human discourse which should concern everyone.

That discussion requires free speech, freedom of expression, free assembly, religious freedom and freedom from religion. Beware anyone that wants to stifle the conversation by denying these universal human rights we need for such a dialogue.

They are against humanity and most certainly not serving the interests of a just God.

Article written by John Sargeant on Homo economicus’ Weblog

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