Thursday 31 December 2015

To a better life in 2016 and beyond

Marking the end of one year and the beginning of another, I offer this uplifting sentiment: may life be better. Better than what? Better than it was, whether it was bad, indifferent or even already pretty good.

As an original supporter of the Kickstarter campaign for Chris Johnson's book A Better Life, I received an email yesterday offering a free download of the film he has gone on to produce, based on the book, and also titled A Better Life. I watched it last night and found it enjoyable, insightful and uplifting. Like the book, it's beautifully produced and photographed, featuring many of the people who were in the book.
There is no God. Now what? If this is the only life we have, how does that affect how we live our lives, how we treat each other, and cope with death. As a follow-up to one of Kickstarter’s most successful publishing projects, photographer and filmmaker Chris Johnson introduces us to some of the many voices from his book. In this fascinating documentary — learn the stories behind the book in interviews with some of our greatest thinkers. Join Chris as he explores issues of joy & meaning and travels around the globe meeting people from all walks of life and backgrounds who challenge the false stereotypes of atheists as immoral and evil. From Daniel Dennett and A.C. Grayling, to Julia Sweeney and Robert Llewellyn — learn the various ways many atheists have left religion to a better life filled with love, compassion, hope, and wonder!

I got the movie for free, but you can buy it in the form of streaming video, HD download, or DVD.

And you can still buy the original book:

Wednesday 30 December 2015

Britain is no more a Christian nation than a White nation

Coel Hellier reflects on what the reaction would be if David Cameron had described Britain as a "White country":

Britain is no more a Christian nation than a White nation | coelsblog
If Britain is a Christian nation then it is also a White nation. The majority of the population is white and our history and cultural heritage are predominantly White. Nearly all of our institutions and our cultural traditions derive from people who were white.
Once again we have a demonstration of why secularism is the obvious way to go.

Wanna buy some 'E'? Sure you do!

No, not that 'E' — this is The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson, a feature length documentary film by Julien Temple, previously shown in BBC1's Imagine series, and which until Christmas Eve 2015 was available to view on iPlayer.

Now you can buy it on DVD:

Anyone who enjoyed the two-part BBC Radio 4 Mastertapes on Wilko Johnson will absolutely want to see this extraordinary documentary shown on BBC1 in November. Superlatives escape me — this is probably the best biographical documentary film about a living artist I have ever seen. Truly brilliant, uplifting, and surprising on so many levels.

Final Burnee links for 2015

Unbelievable? Is God the best explanation for apparent design in nature? – Jonathan McLatchie & Cory Markum - Saturday 24th October 2015 02:30 pm
Anyone who listened to the Unbelievable? show about Intelligent Design might like to check out the discussion of it over on the Unbelievable? Facebook profile (not the Group), including some highly percipient contributions from previous Skepticule guest James Croft.

John Maddox Prize: Scientist who once claimed Prince Charles tried to silence him wins for 'standing up for science' | Science | News | The Independent
Deserved recognition, after persecution by the Prince of Woo.

Evolution and creationism; a valuable new resource | Primate's Progress
Critique of creationism from those closest to it.

East Herts Council's decision to stick with prayers leaves it wide open to accusations of prejudice | Herts & Essex Observer
Yet another example of why we need secularism in the UK.

On the tragic events in Paris: an attack on freedom and human dignity - British Humanist Association
Human dignity and value.

Conversion via Twitter - The New Yorker
Is this a damaged life? I believe so, but in my judgement (yes, I judge) such lives can rectify themselves. Listen to Skepticule Extra 012 for our 2011 conversation with Megan's parents:…/08/skepextra-012-20110812.html

National Secular Society - So called Lord’s Prayer ‘Ban’: It’s Winterval all over again
Stephen Evans congratulates the CofE on its cinema prayer "ban".

These Pranksters Read Bible Passages to People, Telling Them It Was the Qur’an; They Were Shocked
It's OK Christians, I'm sure these mischievous Dutch cherry-picked the extremely rare nasty bits....

Mr Green and Mr Grey will not be visiting us today — with Stevyn Colgan at Winchester Skeptics | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
Mr Green and Mr Grey did not visit us at Winchester Skeptics last Thursday. But Stevyn Colgan did (and some of us got the inside scoop over a curry afterwards).

Good Dinosaur review -
Haha, this is disarmingly cute of those wacky creationists, getting all twisted up about a cartoon. Makes me wonder what goes on inside their heads (something, obviously).

Unbelievable? Is the UK's Christian heritage history? Peter Hitchens vs Terry Sanderson - Saturday 19th December 2015 02:30 pm
Peter Hitchens and Terry Sanderson on this week's Unbelievable? were ostensibly talking about the recent Woolf Commission Report on Religion and Belief in British Public Life, but the programme mostly consisted of Terry Sanderson repeatedly denying that he wants to eliminate all religion and Peter Hitchens repeatedly claiming that morality is impossible without Christianity, that everything good about Britain is due to its Christian heritage, and that secularists, humanists and atheists want to throw it all away.

Peter Hitchens doesn't really understand what secularism is, stubbornly conflating it with humanism and atheism — or possibly he does but deliberately misrepresents it in order to bolster a false premise. As Terry Sanderson pointed out, Peter Hitchens' view of human nature is inherently pessimistic, which makes him appear a bit misanthropic and sad.

In all, a frustrating and unedifying episode, demonstrating that while the British public would probably be more or less OK with secularism, secularists still have some way to go in persuading certain vocal sections of the media.

John Gray’s awful review of Dawkins’s “An Appetite for Wonder” | Center for Inquiry
Hey, that Dawkins fella wrote another book. Must be crap because ... well ... Dawkins!
It continues to amaze me that people criticise Richard Dawkins for writing stuff he hasn't written.

The Fallen of World War 2: A Data Visualization of War and Peace | Omeleto
Extraordinary and thought-provoking animation.


Housekeeping and change of blogging strategy for 2016

For several years I've compiled an occasional series of "Burnee links" on this blog, intended as an archive of various posts, articles and general bits and pieces that have caught my attention and might otherwise get submerged in the social-media noise. Most of these have comprised a link and a brief comment to remind me what the article or post was about, and recently these have come almost exclusively from Facebook.

This is going to change, but not much. Rather than copying links to posts that originate on Facebook, I shall be posting my comments and links here at Evil Burnee first. Blog-fu will ensure those links get automatically copied to Facebook and Twitter (though I may revise this to avoid undue duplication).

By such means I hope to make Evil Burnee the central platform for my skeptical commentary, with everything automatically in one place without my having to force it so.

We'll see how it goes.