good without god

I will, as with Socrates in Euthyphro, ask what is good.

The author of can you be good without god wants us to believe that without following his holy book we are incapable of being good. And good, he tells us is what the Koran says is good. He tells us reason or ends are not required, blind obedience is what counts.

He writes,

What is needed in a system of morality is not the end goal, but actually clear directives on which actions are right and which are wrong, covering all conceivable contexts. This is what the Qur’an in particular, claims to achieve.

Had this been the case with the Koran or any holy religious book, interpretation or exegesis would be unnecessary. If the bible directs you to kill your neighbour for working on Sabbath, there is no debate. If the Koran says kill the infidel, it is absolute.

I, for the life of me, do not know how one can arrive at a conclusion that

Humanism is therefore no more than a formalised system of convincing yourself that what you are doing is for the betterment and wellbeing of others.

Maybe this fellow understands humanism to mean something different from what I know it to mean or represent. Put simply we are capable of solving our problems and no god above will do anything to improve our lot.

But he lies when he writes

People try to claim that it is religion which is utilised as a pious front for the doing of evil, and that more people do evil in the name of God than for any other reason. This may be the case but there is a difference here – people do evil in the name of God, in spite of the clear teachings of various religions on which actions are right and which are wrong. Humanism on the other hand has no teachings which could act as a buffer against the evil done in its name.

For example, the directive in the bible to not suffer a witch to live was used as a justification for the witch burnings and similar commands appear in the Koran as justification for jihad, which is English for killing for god or is it Allah! And humanism has many teachings that one could look to if one were interested. And these go thousands of years before some pedo dreamed the Koran into existence.

When our author writes

It is also worth asking the question that “what makes a good, moral person?”

it is evident, at least in my view, that they are asking the wrong question. The question that ought first to be settled is what is good, what is moral. The question Socrates wants dispensed with in the Euthyphro. And I don’t think this author has addressed this small matter of definition.

What is instinct? Is there a difference between when a person acts instinctively and when they just act? I am even confused here.

It may be true, I don’t know, that

Humanism gives no directives and no instruction on what action is right in which context and which action is wrong in which context, it totally falls short of defining morality.

but I will say without fear of contradiction that neither does the Koran nor any religion for that matter deal with all available scenarios or even any scenario. All we have from the hot heads who make religious proclamations is don’t do this or that and why because god, speaking through me commands it. If any precept is empty in directing human conduct, religion must be the most empty.

When our author writes

Humanists can also look to the human conscience, but in doing so, they are admitting that morality is a universal and absolute concept.

I am convinced he failed his philosophy classes. The conclusion that morality is universal and absolute is not arrived at by admitting human conscience as a guide. And while still on it, if human conscience is the guide, the it makes moot any need for gods and proves the case of the humanist.

I am yet to read a religious book that has as a context a starving mother forced to steal to fend for her starving children. If there is, I am open to correction.

There is a lot of material on the internet dealing with this question. Anyone with an internet connection has access to so many, it is depressing that most people with such access write such silly things about atheism.

Quotable quotes

I can say with this author

When I take a long look at my life, as though from outside, it does not appear particularly happy. Yet I am even less justified in calling it unhappy, despite all its mistakes. After all, it is foolish to keep probing for happiness or unhappiness, for it seems to me it would be hard to exchange the unhappiest days of my life for all the happy ones. If what matters in a person’s existence is to accept the inevitable consciously, to taste the good and bad to the full and to make for oneself a more individual, unaccidental and inward destiny alongside one’s external fate, then my life has been neither empty nor worthless. Even if, as it is decreed by the gods, fate has inexorably trod over my external existence as it does with everyone, my inner life has been of my own making . I deserve its sweetness and bitterness and accept full responsibility for it.

Hermann Hesse

to Baidoa and back

Most of the photos are not clear because they were taken in a moving van using a phone camera.

Refugees

You all should forgive my many posts today. I know it’s hard to keep up and some of you may not even see some of them. I will understand.

If you read the international press, you certainly have read of the refugee crisis facing Europe with refugees coming from war torn Syria where Europe is bombing to make Europe safe, and Russia and Turkey, you know anyone with an airforce and an idle army within km of Syria is doing that. I think the US could be offering support in form of tactical missile technology and I don’t know what else.

Now that we have the background story, the question is, is it a crisis because for once, in a long time, Europe is faced with so many refugees it doesn’t know what to do? Or is it something deeper that I am unable to fathom?

Let’s have a little perspective. Kenya has refugees from Somali, South Sudan, DRC,  I don’t know where else. Even Somali has refugee camps for the internally displaced and those fleeing conflicts from South Sudan.

In my estimation, Europe and America sell between them, around 90% of all the weapons used in these conflicts. That is, to put it plainly, they are the major players in the conflict providing the necessary fuel or should I call it consumables for conflict. Why in the name of all that is holy, and I mean a well aged Scotch whisky, would they want to run away from the problem they have contributed heavily, in terms of profits, to create?

I will very quickly, with justice, I think, excuse the average Jane or John from this profiteering.  But is it not time the profiteers said enough with these wars. We will from now own distribute books and flowers, and maybe condoms instead of bombs, guns and more guns?

I could be wrong in my analysis but I think there is a case to be made?

To mechanise or not

This is the question.

I don’t know if this only a problem for the third and developing world or is it a problem for the majority of us, well maybe excepting celebrities and the Kardashians( did I spell that correctly)?

Many firms around the globe are working on maintaining the bottom line above the ceiling, through all available means and this in a way has led to great innovations; creating machines that do the work of hundreds fast and efficiently. This helps match up the required productivity but on the downside, hundreds get fired laid off. If anyone has watched K-19, The widow maker, I would readily agree with them, it would have been 100x better to have a machine work in the reactor chamber once it was breached. I would say the same about those cleaning Fukushima? Chernobyl and other nuclear sites. I am not sure the same is true for replacing 100s of tea pickers with one machine. What becomes of their families and all those who depend on them?

Is this an ethical and moral question of our age or is this the musings of a naive third world mind?

Trip to Baidoa, Somalia

I confess readily I am not a story teller. I struggled with essays and those who receive my emails can attest to their brevity. So with this confession behind us, I can tell you about my visit to Somalia. I will share photos in a different post since I am doing this from the phone.

I had been told to be at the airport by 5:00am, with time enough for check in. Most times I have travelled out of the country,  the airlines are usually quite organised. You are screened, you check in, pass through immigration,  screened a second time and you know when your flight is expected to leave. This is when you are dealing with normal airlines. African Express is not a normal airline.

I was at the airport at 5. In about 5 minutes I had finished with the first security check point. Under normal circumstances you would be checking in or there would be information as to what time check in counters open. No such thing. Between chatting with those who were awake that early and reading War and Peace, I saw time fly away. It was 7 am. The queue kept growing but no movement towards the counters. 8am comes and goes then at 9 there is activity. And what happens next felt like the third scramble for Africa,  that is, who starts what conflict where and who benefits from selling what. At some point I check in, then we are told to wait, the plane is full and we will be told when to go through immigration. Another hour goes by as we wait.

When we eventually board, seat numbers are irrelevant. Everyone seats anywhere. I get to seat at the emergency exit. And then drama begins. First there is this man and his family. I think they were 7 of them. There are five seats in a row. He wanted to seat the whole family in a row and it took the flight attendant some time to convince him we wouldn’t leave as long as they sat as he wanted. He finally gives in.

Next drama. A man who doesn’t want to be separated with his briefcase sits on one of the seats along the emergency exit and puts his briefcase under the seat. It takes some convincing to get him to move it. Then two women dressed in a tent burqa and hijab seat where the dude left. They two are asked to move and after a brief exchange, they move too. Shortly a dude and his wife dressed in a tent sit there and it is the same drama. Eventually all is settled and we taxi and depart for Somalia.

Our pick up had been arranged. So we paid for visa, went through immigration and all is good. Our drive to the hotel is under armed guard. The following morning, that’s on a Monday,  we leave for Baidoa. And then we meet with airport security. You see , the previous week, a plane almost blew up just after leaving Mogadishu. Things must change. Getting into the airport with a laptop has just suddenly become hectic. The number of searches you go through by not so nice people are enough to make you cancel your travel plans.

We deal with all this and this time the flight is on time. We actually leave ahead of schedule. In Baidoa, we were visitors of the state. We get picked up from the airport in a police car. We will be staying at the presidential palace for five days. It’s under Amisom Ethiopia. Our stay in Baidoa was pleasant in all ways. The town is being rebuilt. Though everywhere there are ruins.

One of the people we interact with tells us of how life was the days before the beginning of the civil war. At this point I ask myself what causes men and women to take up arms butchering one another in the name of spreading whatever ideology is in vogue?  Is war the easiest way to make money? I digress.

On Saturday, we were scheduled to leave Baidoa at 11 for Mogadishu. We went to the airport, were screened by Amisom. We waited till 12:30pm. We were driven back to the presidential palace for lunch. There was a report the plane would come at 2 or thereabouts. At two, having fed, we are again taken to the airport. We wait till 3:30 when the plane eventually arrives. At this point, there is a dilemma. Some dude has been brought to the airport in an ambulance and should be taken to Mogadishu. How is he to travel. When this problem was finally resolved, he was put on the aisle in a mattress and we left for Mogadishu. Life can be shitty.

At Mogadishu, you would think because we have arrived in a domestic flight, all would be easy. You would be surely mistaken to hold such a thought. There is an immigration desk and the officer before he can release my passport wants to know who is going to be responsible for me should anything happen. This anything however isn’t defined. I contact the hotel and someone comes with a letter and again it is travel under armed escort.

I asked to see the night life of Mogadishu and so we drive around the town for an hour between 9 and 10. And then it appears to me they are not doing a good job advertising Somalia as a safe destination. Life goes on as everywhere else. There is order. I get to see the residences of who is who in government.

And finally, on Sunday, yesterday, it was time to return to Nairobi. Security checks were a pain. The flight delayed for hours but I finally got back.

That, my friends, in a nutshell, was how my sick off was spent.

On freewill

It was necessary to renounce the consciousness of an unreal immobility in space and to recognise a motion we did not feel; in the present case it is similarly necessary to renounce a freedom that does not exist and to recognise a dependence of which we are not conscious.

War and peace

By Count Leo Tolstoy

I will start by a confession. Many times when I write a review of an old book, that I guess many of you must have read, the question that comes to mind is you must be asking where I was when you read them. I wish I knew but I am reading them now and as my very important audience, I have to share with you the joy I draw from such books.

With that behind us, for those interested in what Kutuzov did or did not do, what happened to Helene the socialite the family affairs of Prince Bezukhov or Princess Mary and what led to the ruin of the Rostovs’, you can read the whole novel.

But those lazy ones, who are interested more in the questions of history or human nature, the epilogue will do. In the epilogue he asks what is power, what causes the movement of nations,  such as what led to the movement from the west to the east that ended with the taking of Moscow and the countermovement from East to west that ended in Paris?

The other important question, at least in my view, that he dispenses with is that of freewill. And I do not, for the life of me, know why it isn’t part of the literature in the freewill debate. His explanations are clear and almost irrefutable if not irrefutable.

At the end of the book, I begin to see why Fyodor Dostoevsky, would call him, Tolstoy, one of the greatest writers living. His was a brilliant mind. He combined story telling with psychology in a way that can only be compared to Dostoevsky’s works.

It’s a long read for the fainthearted but it is worth all the time you would take to finish ploughing through it.