Ricky Gervais on religion

I’m not really a fan of Ricky Gervais’s comedy (must admit I’ve not paid much attention – it could be excellent) and whilst I am not sure I share his definite views I have to say I have a lot of sympathy with his approach in this Wall Street Journal blog entry “A Holiday Message From Ricky Gervais: Why I’m an Atheist”.

As an atheist, I see nothing “wrong” in believing in a god. I don’t think there is a god, but belief in him does no harm. If it helps you in any way, then that’s fine with me. It’s when belief starts infringing on other people’s rights when it worries me. I would never deny your right to believe in a god. I would just rather you didn’t kill people who believe in a different god, say. Or stone someone to death because your rulebook says their sexuality is immoral. It’s strange that anyone who believes that an all-powerful all-knowing, omniscient power responsible for everything that happens, would also want to judge and punish people for what they are. From what I can gather, pretty much the worst type of person you can be is an atheist. The first four commandments hammer this point home. There is a god, I’m him, no one else is, you’re not as good and don’t forget it.

[snip]

So what does the question “Why don’t you believe in God?” really mean. I think when someone asks that they are really questioning their own belief. In a way they are asking “what makes you so special? “How come you weren’t brainwashed with the rest of us?” “How dare you say I’m a fool and I’m not going to heaven, f— you!” Let’s be honest, if one person believed in God he would be considered pretty strange. But because it’s a very popular view it’s accepted. And why is it such a popular view? That’s obvious. It’s an attractive proposition. Believe in me and live forever. Again if it was just a case of spirituality this would be fine.

“Do unto others…” is a good rule of thumb. I live by that. Forgiveness is probably the greatest virtue there is. But that’s exactly what it is -­? a virtue. Not just a Christian virtue. No one owns being good. I’m good. I just don’t believe I’ll be rewarded for it in heaven. My reward is here and now. It’s knowing that I try to do the right thing. That I lived a good life. And that’s where spirituality really lost its way. When it became a stick to beat people with. “Do this or you’ll burn in hell.”

You won’t burn in hell. But be nice anyway.

Geminid meteor shower set for clear skies

Something to watch out for Monday and Tuesday….


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Geminid meteor shower set for clear skies” was written by Steven Morris, for The Guardian on Sunday 12th December 2010 14.35 UTC

Lovers of the night sky could be in for a treat tomorrow night as clear conditions are predicted for one of the best astronomical shows of the year.

Some experts believe the annual Geminid meteor shower is becoming more spectacular – though if it is, nobody is sure why – and with cloudless skies possible in many parts of the country, this year’s event could be a particularly memorable one.

At its peak and in a clear, dark sky, up to 100 meteors – or shooting stars – may be seen every hour. The best time to see it is expected to be late on Monday night and in the early hours of Tuesday after the moon has set.

In comparison with other showers, Geminid meteors travel fairly slowly, at about 22 miles per second. They are bright and have a yellowish hue, making them distinct and easy to spot.

Meteors are the result of small particles entering Earth’s atmosphere at high speed, burning up and super-heating the air around them, which shines as a characteristic short-lived streak of light. In the case of the Geminids, the debris is associated with the asteroidal object 3200 Phaethon, which many astronomers believe to be an extinct comet.

National Trust list of the best places to watch the shower

• Black Down in Sussex, the highest point in the South Downs.

• Teign Valley in Devon, within Dartmoor national park.

• Penbryn Beach, on the Ceredigion coast in west Wales.

• Stonehenge area in Wiltshire – chalk downland and crystal clear skies.

• Wicken Fen nature reserve in Cambridgeshire – dark skies and nocturnal wildlife.

• Mam Tor in Derbyshire, an escape from the bright lights of cities such as Sheffield.

• Friar’s Crag in Cumbria, jutting out into Derwentwater.

This article was amended on 13 December 2010. The original time-lapse image appeared to show the tracks of stars not meteors. It has been replaced.

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