Against war

by Desiderius Erasmus

Is a treatise that extols men to stop fighting and the writer is critical especially to religion of his age where Christian is killing Christian as it still happens in our time, where we have the same repeated for example in Rwanda, in Kenya after the botched election and so many other instances of religious wars.

This book was written between 1514-15 and can be classified as a treatise in favour of the humanist ideal, the ideal that many secular humanists represent today.

He pleads for peace among human beings. His cry is that it is better to have unjustified peace than a just war.

The author says he had to deal with three issues; war, pestilence and the theologians.

He believed war was at once a sin, a folly and a scandal. He writes

nothing is either more wicked or more wretched, nothing doth become a man than war

He raises a very curious point; if both sides in a war have invoked god and one side wins, they victors will begin to believe that god has endorsed their actions.

To this mind, war was impious, inhuman, ugly and it was in every sense barbarous.

He writes, and yours truly agrees, that

the majesty of man resides above in his capacity to behold the very pure strength and nature of things.

in essence, that man is no fallen creature but a piece of workmanship.

He believes and it is hard to disagree with him that strife and warfare are naturally repugnant to man. That our frames are tender and weak but that we are born to love and amity. He argues that our chief end is cooperant labour in pursuit of knowledge. He continues to say that war comes out of ignorance and to ignorance it leads and of it comes contempt of virtue and godly living.

He begins his wonderful treatise with a proverb, dulce bellum inexpertis, that is to say, war is sweet to them that know it not.

He writes

Then first of all if one would consider well but the behaviour and shape of man’s body shall he not forthwith perceive that Nature, or rather God, hath shaped this creature, not to war, but to friendship, not to destruction, but to health, not to wrong, but to kindness and benevolence? For whereas Nature hath armed all other beasts with their own armour, as the violence of the bulls she hath armed with horns, the ramping lion with claws; to the boar she hath given the gnashing tusks; she hath armed the elephant with a long trump snout, besides his great huge body and hardness of the skin; she hath fenced the crocodile with a skin as hard as a plate; to the dolphin fish she hath given fins instead of a dart; the porcupine she defendeth with thorns; the ray and thornback with sharp prickles; to the cock she hath given strong spurs; some she fenceth with a shell, some with a hard hide, as it were thick leather, or bark of a tree; some she provideth to save by swiftness of flight, as doves; and to some she hath given venom instead of a weapon; to some she hath given a much horrible and ugly look, she hath given terrible eyes and grunting voice; and she hath also set among some of them continual dissension and debate–man alone she hath brought forth all naked, weak, tender, and without any armour, with most soft flesh and smooth skin. There is nothing at all in all his members that may seem to be ordained to war, or to any violence.

He continues to write

And for this cause Nature would, that a man should not so much thank her, for the gift of life, which she hath given unto him, as he should thank kindness and benevolence, whereby he might evidently understand himself, that he was altogether dedicate and bounden to the gods of graces, that is to say, to kindness, benevolence, and amity. And besides this Nature hath given unto man a countenance not terrible and loathly, as unto other brute beasts; but meek and demure, representing the very tokens of love and benevolence. She hath given him amiable eyes, and in them assured marks of the inward mind. She hath ordained him arms to clip and embrace. She hath given him the wit and understanding to kiss: whereby the very minds and hearts of men should be coupled together, even as though they touched each other. Unto man alone she hath given laughing, a token of good cheer and gladness. To man alone she hath given weeping tears, as it were a pledge or token of meekness and mercy.

He makes a strong argument for peace. He writes

Peace is the mother and nurse of all good things.

In his arguments against war he writes

There is no part of the world, that is not subject to peril and danger of man’s life, which life of itself also is most fugitive. So manifold mischances and evils assail man on every side that not without cause Homer did say: Man was the most wretched of all creatures living.

and wonders why to these sufferings that nature has in store for us, why add war to it?

Go read it.

The eyewitness question

We had posted this but with inspiration we received from this post there can be no better time to have a rerun.

The following conversation takes place between us and the apostles.

We ask

How long have you known Jesus?

I have known him for one year.

And I for two.

And I for three.

Has any of you known him for more than three years?

No.

Was he with his apostles for one year or for three?

For one.

No, for three.

You are not certain, then, how long Jesus was with his apostles.

No.

How old was Jesus when crucified?

About thirty-one.

No, about thirty-three.

No, he was much older, about fifty.

You cannot tell with any certainty, then, his age at the time of his death.

No.

You say he was tried and crucified in Jerusalem before your own eyes, can you remember the date of this great event?

We cannot.

Were you present when Jesus was taken down from the cross?

We were not.

You cannot tell, then, whether he was dead when taken down.

We have no personal knowledge.

Were you present when he was buried?

We were not, because we were in hiding for our lives.

You do not know, therefore, whether he was actually buried, or where he was buried.

We do not.

Were any of you present when Jesus came forth from the grave?

Not one of us was present,

Then, you were not with him when he was taken down from the cross; you were not with him when he was interred, and you were not present when he rose from the grave.

We were not.

When, therefore, you say, he was dead, buried and rose again, you are relying upon the testimony of others?

We are.

Will you mention the names of some of the witnesses who saw Jesus come forth from the tomb?

Mary Magdalene, and she is here and may be questioned.

Were you present, Mary, when the angels rolled away the stone, and when Jesus came forth from the dead?

No, when I reached the burying place early in the morning, the grave had already been vacated, and there was no one sleeping in it.

You saw him, then, as the apostles did, _after_ he had risen?

Yes.

But you did not see anybody rise out of the grave.

I did not.

Are there any witnesses who saw the resurrection?

There are many who saw him after the resurrection.

But if neither they nor you saw him dead, and buried, and did not see him rise, either, how can you tell that a most astounding and supposedly impossible miracle had taken place between the time you saw him last and when you saw him again two or three days after? Is it not more natural to suppose that, being in a hurry on account of the approaching Sabbath, Jesus, if ever crucified, was taken down from the cross before he had really died, and that he was not buried, as rumor states, but remained in hiding; and his showing himself to you under cover of darkness and in secluded spots and in the dead of night only, would seem to confirm this explanation. You admit also that the risen Jesus did not present himself at the synagogues of the people, in the public streets, or at the palace of the High Priest to convince them of his Messiahship.

Do you not think that if he had done this, it would then have been impossible to deny his resurrection? Why, then, did Jesus hide himself after he came out of the grave? Why did he not show himself also to his enemies? Was he still afraid of them, or did he not care whether they believed or not? If so, why are _you_ trying to convert them? The question waits for a reasonable answer; Why did not Jesus challenge the whole world with the evidence of his resurrection? You say you saw him occasionally, a few moments at a time, now here, and now there, and finally on the top of a mountain whence he was caught up in a cloud and disappeared altogether. But that “cloud” has melted away, the sky is clear, and there is no Jesus visible there. The cloud, then, had nothing to hide. It was unnecessary to call in a cloud to close the career of your Christ.The grave is empty, the cloud has vanished. Where is Christ? In heaven! Ah, you have at last removed him to a world unknown, to the undiscovered country. Leave him there! Criticism, doubt, investigation, the light of day, cannot cross its shores. Leave him there!

An address to friends

Mainly the religious ones.

This is an invitation to dialogue.

Somewhere in this blog, you will find posts on how I became an atheist and what has changed since, what I have learnt in the interim and what I believe. I hope you are interested enough to search for these posts. They may not be detailed as many of you might expect but they explain a few things about me.

In this post, I hope we can engage on why I no longer believe and why I don’t think I will.

I was brought up in a religious environment. I attended catechism classes, was baptized and confirmed in the catholic faith. I believed because I was told. Maybe I was naive for not questioning some of the unbelievable stories that are told in the pages of the bible. I do not have an answer as to why I believed for so long. There was hardly a non believer where I grew up. There was no reason not to believe in god. Everyone I knew believed that there was a god who loved them, who many years ago walked among men but has since stopped appearing in person for fear of being killed. In all this time and especially in my campus days I really searched for god. The religious group to which I belonged emphasized finding god in all things. I honestly tried to find god in the people I met in nature and so on but either god was busy to reveal himself to me or there wasn’t any.

It is ridiculous to read in posts by apologists that the are no ex-christians. I don’t know what they mean. Maybe it is their way of not acknowledging the possibility of apostasy.

I will honestly say here that I haven’t finished reading the bible or the Koran. I am in the first chapter of the Mahabharata, I have read the Gita, the gospel of Buddha. Am not interested in reading the book of Mormon. I hope to find time to read the Vedas. Anyone with enough time to search this blog will be able to find where I am with that exercise[ reading the bible]. I have been accused of reading the bible with a desire to find it in error. This is not the case. What however has happened is that whenever I read the bible,I find it full of absurdities that I can’t ignore. Whereas I agree that one has to be acquainted with a particular book to offer a critique of it, the much that I have read in it and about it is sufficient for me to make a judgement. The next question would be why I would believe what others have written about the bible instead of believing the bible authors. My response to this challenge is that one can only believe to the extent to which he is convicted and no other. In the many books, I have found what comports with common sense whereas some of the bible stories are contrary to common sense. The next challenge is that of exegesis, that the bible has to be read in a particular way, that in it is hidden layers and layers of lessons. This might be, I don’t deny it, my question has always been to what passages should I apply this way of reading.

Let me demonstrate.

You must have heard of the creationists of various strips. They argue that the earth or rather the universe was created in 6 days. Some of them call these 6 days god days and say they are longer than the standard day me and you mean when we talk of days. A few chapters later, they argue that the seventh day is the day of rest because on that day god rested. In one scenario, the days are god days and in the next referring to the same thing the counting has changed. I let those who have time to make excuses for the bible to do so.

The bible makes a claim that a god exists and that this god did several things. I don’t know what god is. I don’t know what it means to create, neither do I know the difference between that which is created and that which has always existed. I can’t begrudge those who believe the universe was created. I don’t know what evidence they are privy to.

There are those who have asked me to read the NT that maybe I would find something different. That the god portrayed there is different. I have read all the gospels. I have read several letters of Paul. I have read the book of revelation. I have read Hebrew and I am not convinced. If you think there is something am missing, or I could have missed in the good book, mention it. We will discuss it. I am open to persuasion. But we must have a deal; we will have a debate only if you are willing to consider that you could be wrong. Please don’t preach as well. If you have no argument or piece of evidence you wish me to consider, I would prefer we don’t waste time.

I have since considered several arguments for the existence of god and the responses to these arguments. I will state from the outset that I was never led to belief because I had considered the arguments for god, I only read these arguments in the period I was leaving the faith. If as a believer you think there is one I ought to consider, let us talk about it. I will allow you to explain to me why you think they are persuasive and to tell me what god they establish its existence.

I realize for the believer, the bible gives a guideline on how they should live their lives, what they should eat and not eat, what they should wear and so on. I want us to agree that morality has nothing to do with the gods so I propose that in our discussion you will not bring up the question of where I get my morals if I have no belief in god. You will, if you look through this blog, find what I have written on morality and you could at the same time read the argument in Euthyphro and maybe read Nietzsche’s On Genealogy of morals.

Let us also agree here that whether life has meaning or not has nothing to do with gods.

Let us consider this post a special invitation to the believing folk to present the case for believing in god. I am willing to listen to all you got to say. If you think there is a book I should read, I hope you can summarize what you think I will find in it. Life is short, it can’t be spent reading apologetics only :-)

 

Sankara vs. Villa Rosa- Kempinski

First am not doing advertisement. I haven’t been paid to do so. And before you think how is this related to atheism, it isn’t not even by a long shot!

For those wondering still, these two are some high end hotels in Nairobi located not so far from each other.

Yours truly has visited the two for a cup of coffee after hours to see what they have to offer and this is my assessment.

Service: Sankara beats Villa Rosa by a mile

Pricing: Both are exorbitant, a plain rip off!

Ambiance: Sankara is the place to go

Villa Rosa appeared to me to be crowded, the flow of spaces was not well worked out while it occupies a bigger plinth area than Sankara.

Sorry, I didn’t take photos. If you are in Nairobi and must spend your money in an expensive restaurant, take your money to Sankara.

why I am an atheist

by Shaheed Bhagat Singh

I will paste extracts of the post here and ask you to read the whole article for I can’t do justice to his clarity.

[...]

I was convinced that the belief in an almighty, supreme being who created, guided and controlled the universe had no sound foundation.

[..]

After a long debate with myself, I reached the conclusion that I could not even pretend to be a believer, nor could I offer my prayers to god.

[..]

Those who are well versed in the philosophy of jurisprudence relate three of four justifications for the punishment that is to be inflicted upon a wrong-doer. These are reform, revenge and deterrence. The retribution theory is condemned by all the thinkers. Deterrent theory is on the anvil for its flaws. Reformative theory is now widely accepted and considered to be necessary for human progress. [..] But what in essence is god’s punishment even if it is inflicted on a person who has really done some harm?

[..]

For the sake of argument we agree for a moment that a person committed some crime in his previous birth and god punished him by changing his shape into a cow, cat, tree or any other animal. You may enumerate the number of these variations in godly punishment to be at least eighty four lack. Tell me, has this tomfoolery, perpetrated in the name of punishment, any reformative effect on any human man? How many of them have you met who were donkeys in their previous lives for having committed any sin? Absolutely no one of this sort!

[...]

As regard the origin of god, my thought is that man created god in his imagination when he realized his weaknesses, limitations and shortcoming.

[..]

If, as you believe, there is an almighty, omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent God-who created the earth or world, please let me know why did he create it ? This world of woes and miseries, a veritable, eternal combination of numberless tragedies: Not a single soul being perfectly satisfied.

[...]

The idea of god is helpful to a man in distress.

[..]

No dear sir, never shall it happen. I consider it to be an act of degradation and demoralisation. For such petty selfish motives, I shall never pray.

And if any of the readers of this blog have a copy of Soham Swami’s Commonsense and is willing to lend the host, we could discuss the possibility of this.

Why am an atheist