Hell? Sounds like Heaven to me!

My friend Paula Kirby recently wrote an excellent article examining the concept of heaven and the difficulties of an eternity with God for humans with short attention spans and the nonsense that the clergy put forward to hide the contradictions. You can read her thoughts here:


Paula is spot on as usual, however I have been considering the issue of the afterlife due to a discussion with a religious person who shall remain nameless for the moment and this has taken me down a more philosophical path.

There are endless versions of Heaven. In fact there are more versions than there are religions as the followers of those religions can't even agree between themselves. But what about Hell? How many versions of that are there? Many have the usual pits of fire but for example some Norse sects claim that everyone attends Valhalla where those that died in battle enjoy feasting and fornication and that those that died of egregious natural causes merely get to watch and be jealous. Some scripts claim the "damned" have to serve the warriors for eternity, but never get to join in. There are not many followers of Norse mythology as religion these days so I'm not going to take this 'Hell is being a waiter' idea any further for the moment.

The evanglical wing of Christianity that claims to be well respected in the USA confirms the existence of Hell as a geniune place of fire and brimstone and torture and eternal damnation. There are even websites to promote this happy news and in fact Hell Houses have been built so children can be scared into supporting God. At the other end of the Christian scale of foolishness is the good old Church of England. The General Synod has changed it's position on Hell often, from adopting the fire and brimstone approach early in it's history to the relatively recent abolition of Hell as a place.

On 14th July 1996 the General Synod considered a report by the Doctrine Commission of the Church of England called "The Mystery of Salvation." This greatly updated the CofE's position as set in the early 1900s when Hell was considered a mere separation from God.

The 1996 report suggested that those who didn't pass the entry requirements would suffer separation from God... and then "Annihilation." No pain, no torture, no brimstone, no pits of timeshare salesmen, no nothing.

I have a copy of the book of the report and at this point I will admit that I have not read it all yet. Partly because I'm not sure I have the strength, and partly because I find Harry Potter a much more realistic read. But I do note that there is no given time limit for this Annihiliation.

The CofE has never accepted the Roman Catholic concept of Limbo and so I don't believe that they think God will let the damned wait about a bit for their Annihilation. But what is the point in that? If at the point of death a dirty heathen's soul is annihilated then he will never know of the existence of the Heaven that he has been denied.

In fact, as a dirty heathen this is what I'm expecting anyway!

So perhaps there is a waiting room so the atheist can sit and wait as the saved walk past him through the Pearly Gates, I can picture the scene....

Announcer: Would J Smith, T Smith and L Smith all like to come through to St Peter. Foul Atheist, please wait you will be Annihilated in a moment.
Athiest: Annihilated! What is that?
Announcer: You will be destroyed in a blink of an eye! You will never enter Heaven. You will never meet God.
Atheist: In a blink of an eye?
Announcer: YES
Atheist: every cell in my body, every taradiddle in my soul destroyed in a blink of an eye?
Announcer: YES INDEED
Atheist: My brain and my thoughts too?
Announcer: YES YES YES!
Atheist: So it's not actually going to hurt at all then?
Announcer: err well no, but...
Atheist: There will be nothing left?
Announcer: NO
Atheist: not an atom?
Announcer: NO NO NO
Atheist: So I won't feel regret or even be slightly perturbed then?
Announcer: Oh do fuck off.

It is clear that just as Christianity has not been able to define a Heaven that is remotely appealing, mainstream Christianity has not been able to come up with a proper version of Hell either. Writers much better than me have noted that Hell does not have to be fire and brimstone etc to be somewhere you don't want to spend eternity. An airport check-in queue would be just fine.

The wonderful radio play "Old Harry's Game" by Andy Hamilton has, in short 25 minute episodes, come up with more genuinely scary versions of Hell than any person who claims expertise in theology. I recall Beethoven being forced to listen to his piano compositions being played by a Demon with no fingers. Oliver Reed being forced to wait at a bar for eternity in a pub where he just can't catch the bartender's eye. Jeremy Clarkson being dropped in a pit of Health and Safety inspectors, and of course the Evangelical Christians having to spend their days locked up with gay black atheist porn stars (which they seem to enjoy).

To the rational mind there is only 1 hell and that is boredom. As a result of that Annihilation does not scare me in the slightest. If there is only separation from God and I'm lumped in with a load of people that like to have an argument, then that doesn't scare me either: that just sounds like real life. Even fire and brimstone doesn't scare me, because it is not something capable of being boring!

As for Heaven? There are many good people that I simply don't find agreeable company. No doubt they feel the same about me. It could not BE my heaven if they were there. I'd rather have the annihilation... and more to the point, after 80 or so years on this planet we should welcome it, if for no other reason than to make room for our children.

This is the real problem with the concept of an afterlife of any kind, good or bad. It encourages childlike behaviour. It prevents the individual adults forming an adult society.

We don't own this planet, we merely borrow it from our children. We owe it to them to go, and go completely because it is the only way they will properly become adults and throw away infantile things.

Funnily enough there is a simple way to reach this happy state. The application of a simple thought...

Reason Above All

Update on the Dawkins Forumgate

Firstly - here is a link to Richard Dawkins's own message to forum members: http://forum.richarddawkins.net/viewtopic.php?f=60&t=110356
(the text is pasted below as well). Secondly here is an updated post following on from Peter's earlier blog entry: http://realityismyreligion.wordpress.com/2010/02/25/update-on-dawkins-forum-closure/

"A Message from Richard Dawkins about the website updates

Imagine that you, as a greatly liked and respected person, found yourself overnight subjected to personal vilification on an unprecedented scale, from anonymous commenters on a website. Suppose you found yourself described as an “utter twat” a “suppurating rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum. A suppurating rat’s rectum inside a dead skunk that’s been shoved up a week-old dead rhino’s twat.” Or suppose that somebody on the same website expressed a “sudden urge to ram a fistful of nails” down your throat. Also to “trip you up and kick you in the guts.” And imagine seeing your face described, again by an anonymous poster, as “a slack jawed turd in the mouth mug if ever I saw one.”

What do you have to do to earn vitriol like that? Eat a baby? Gas a trainload of harmless and defenceless people? Rape an altar boy? Tip an old lady out of her wheel chair and kick her in the teeth before running off with her handbag?

None of the above. What you have to do is write a letter like this:

Dear forum members,

We wanted you all to know at the earliest opportunity about our new website currently in development. RichardDawkins.net will have a new look and feel, improved security, and much more. Visits to the site have really grown over the past 3 1/2 years, and this update gives us an opportunity to address several issues. Over the years we've become one of the world's leading resources for breaking rational and scientific news from all over the net and creating original content. We are focusing on quality content distribution, and will be bringing more original articles, video and other content as we grow.

The new RichardDawkins.net will have a fully-integrated discussion section. This will be a new feature for the site, similar to the current forum, but not identical. We feel the new system will be much cleaner and easier to use, and hopefully this will encourage participation from a wider variety of users.

We will leave the current forum up for 30 days, giving regular users an opportunity to locally archive any content they value. When the new website goes live, you are welcome to submit these posts as new discussions. The forum will then be taken down from the web. You will not loose your username on the new system.

The new discussion area will not be a new forum. It will be different. We will be using a system of tags to categorize items, instead of sub-forums. Discussions can have multiple tags, such as "Education", "Children", and "Critical Thinking". Starting a new discussion will require approval, so we ask that you only submit new discussions that are truly relevant to reason and science. Subsequent responses on the thread will not need approval—however anything off topic or violating the new terms of service will be removed. The approval process will be there to ensure the quality of posts on the site. This is purely an editorial exercise to help new visitors find quality content quickly. We hope this discussion area will reflect the foundation's goals and values.

We know that this is a big decision. We know some of you will be against this change. We ask that you respect our decision and help make this transition as smooth as possible.

We're confident that these changes will improve the site experience and we look forward to seeing what you do with the new system.

Many thanks again."

You will notice that the forum has in fact been closed to comments (not taken down) sooner than the 30 days alluded to in the letter. This is purely and simply because of the over-the-top hostility of the comments that were immediately sent in. Note that there is no suggestion of abolishing the principle of a forum in which commenters can start their own threads. Just an editorial re-organization, which will include a change such that the choice of new threads will be subject to editorial control. Editorial control, mark you, by the person who, more than any other individual, has earned the right to the editor’s chair by founding the site in the first place, then maintaining its high standard by hard work and sheer talent. The aim of the letter is to describe an exciting new revamping of our site, one in which quality will take precedence over quantity, where original articles on reason and science, on atheism and scepticism, will be commissioned, where frivolous gossip will be reduced. The new plan may succeed or it may fail, but I think it is worth trying. And even if it fails, it most certainly will not deserve the splenetic hysteria that the mere suggestion of it has received.

Surely there has to be something wrong with people who can resort to such over-the-top language, over-reacting so spectacularly to something so trivial. Even some of those with more temperate language are responding to the proposed changes in a way that is little short of hysterical. Was there ever such conservatism, such reactionary aversion to change, such vicious language in defence of a comfortable status quo? What is the underlying agenda of these people? How can anybody feel that strongly about something so small? Have we stumbled on some dark, territorial atavism? Have private fiefdoms been unwittingly trampled?

Be that as it may, what this remarkable bile suggests to me is that there is something rotten in the Internet culture that can vent it. If I ever had any doubts that RD.net needs to change, and rid itself of this particular aspect of Internet culture, they are dispelled by this episode.

If you are one of those who have dealt out such ludicrously hyperbolic animosity, you know who should receive your private apology. And if you are one of those who are as disgusted by it as I am, you know where to send your warm letter of support.


What is my take on this? I can't put it any better than in my comment on Peter's site:

While I continue to think that the loss of the forum is a bad idea, and that JT’s attempts to revise history are at best unwise and at worst egregious I am appalled at the personal insults that RD’s message describes.

While I take Peter’s point that the origin of those insults is far from clear I make the following point:

RDnet members hold ourselves (me included) out as somehow more rational, more intellectually rigorous, more thoughtful and often more moral than those who joined simply to pick a fight with the dirty heathens.

If those insults have been cherry picked from the web that is bad enough. If they are from RDnet members then they are shocking and appalling.

Every posting member of RDnet hates Ad Hominem attacks. They destroy the purpose of rational argument and yet that is the tactic that seems to be favoured by many.

If you want to argue against the change, then use the available EVIDENCE (and I’m not saying there isn’t any to test), and leave the petty insults to the playground.

To this I add another point: I do not need Dawkins / Harris / Hitchens / Grayling / Dennett / Myers et al to be my friends. I do not need even to like them as people, and having never met any of them I have no opinion (although RD does owe me a drink!) on that. What I do expect though (in their public lives, not private which is none of my business) is compliance with the tenets of their own causes, because non-compliance is the quickest way to destroy what is a noble idiology...

Reason Above All


Christopher Maloney - Doctor or Quack?

I am not in the habit of pinching things from other blogs.... however PZ Myers of the excellent pharyngula blog has specifically asked all his readers to spread the word about Christopher Maloney.

I do not know this man. But I do now know that he believes Black Elderberries will protect children from the H1N1 virus. Apparently Garlic will as well - even though in France, that most famous of garlic consumers, the H1N1 rates were no different to anywhere else.

So without further ado I give you this link - PZ explains it much better than I can:


Have a read, make up your own mind and pass it on if you decide to do so. When assessing the 'evidence' there is only one way....

Reason Above All

The "Deal" for the position of Prime Minister between Blair and Brown

Today, 12th Feb 2010, the media is full of coverage of an interview with the current British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown.

There is the genuinely moving account of his daughters death. As a parent losing a child is my biggest fear and I sympathise greatly.

Then there is the utterly disgusting admission that a "deal" was done to allow Brown to secure the position of Prime Minister irrespective of public opinion.

I am not actually sure what is worse - that outgoing PM Tony Blair had sufficient power to effectively guarantee his successor in a manner not seen since before Cromwell, or the fact that Brown was so dismissive of public opinion that he would accept this autocratic gift apparently without even noticing that there might be ethical issues, let alone actually considering them.

This is not the same as the US where the Vice President takes over if the President dies - that succession is known at the time of the vote. The UK system allows the party alone to pick the next PM, and if a PM had, for example, died within weeks of an election, the UK could be faced with an unelected replacement for 5 years.

This cannot be acceptable in a democracy, especially when leadership challenges are ruthlessly stamped on.

Those that are in, or have ambition to serve in, the cabinet shy away from open revolt and as a result this "golden carrot" is open to abuse, both in terms of excluding the most capable, and including those that perhaps are relying upon obsolete intellectual equipment and would not have been considered except for the "reward" for supporting the status quo.

Many commentators are calling for a separate election for PM to make the PM directly elected by the public. Perhaps that should also apply to at least the key cabinet positions.

Irrespective of Brown's competence or lack of it, I could not vote for anyone who accepted the position of Prime Minister as a gift from anyone but the electorate.

Aqua Spheres

Do they really think they are fooling us?

All these makers of "beauty" products listing the this ingredient as an "Aqua Sphere"

No need to even call it Water Drop either. Just "Water" will do. Trust me - if people are too thick to realise what an Aqua Sphere is then you've already got a customer for life.

Accurate descriptions must be bought back into the mainstream. No more "Trolley Retrieval Technicians"; no more "Logistics Assistants" (post clerk); No more Nutritionists (just eat your sodding greens!).

Please start to challenge this rubbish whenever you see it.

Christian Hoteliers Update

So the trial is underway as reported in The Times


Let me be perfectly clear about my position.

Both parties are nuts and effectively claim that God liked their own 10,000 year old flea infested desert tribe more than the other. Without any evidence at all.

However - IF the behaviour of the Hotel Owner is accurate as reported, then that behaviour is terrible. There is a proper way to challenge dogma and outdated fairy story nonsense - and shouting across a room at an unprepared target is not the proper way.

I'm not convinced the Courts needed to be involved at all, but with a bit of luck this will raise consciousness about the arrogant approach of many religious people of all faiths.

as it was said "The are good men and bad men, but to make a good man do bad things you need religion."

Pope Releases a CD for Mythmass

He has called it Alma Mater

For anyone who has forgotten their classical education, Alma Mater means "Nourishing Mother" and is often used (in the USA anyway) to refer to the University or similar where you got your education

Just when I thought the Vatican couldn't get any more arrogant!

I find it deeply amusing - especially as women aren't allowed to hold any position of authority there.

Reason Above All wear!

There are so many excellent inspirational sayings from history, so many wonderful quotes, and a few that I've come up with myself!

But I thought I might enjoy wearing them.

So I've come up with a few designs (more to come) if anyone else wants to wear them:


If you have any ideas that you want to see on a shirt, or bumper sticker etc then let me know.

I'm good at slogans, but rubbish at art - so if anyone has any ORIGINAL artwork that would suit a Reason Above All t-shirt or poster then send me a message.

Thanks for looking!