Curiosity was framed.

Curiosity was framed. Avoid it at your peril. The cat’s not even sick.

That was the opening line of marketing guru Seth Godin’s latest blog, and in my opinion, one of his best. He attributes the quote, or at least the first part of it, to C. J Cherryh. The full C. J. Cherryh quote is “Ignorance killed the cat. Curiosity was framed.”

The attitude of “curiosity killed the cat” is so blinkered, and downright scary. Yes curiosity can be dangerous – but only if you’re ignorant. Curiosity removes that ignorance. It is one thing to tell a three year old child that curiosity is dangerous – if left unchecked they could seriously harm themselves, but to continue to do so for anyone else is just promoting ignorance, why is even more dangerous. It is not the child’s curiosity that leads them to stick their finger in a plug socket, it’s ignorance of the results.

So much of what are world is today is built on the groundwork of great men’s curiosity. The Age of Enlightenment and the rise of science owes so much to people being curious about where the huge bones lying around were from, about what lightning is, about how do this better and that faster. Curiosity is directly responsible for the internet that you’re reading this post on today! Hell, Curiosity is even on Mars because of curiosity!

The dark ages and the lack of progress for hundreds of years before the enlightenment seem to be characterised by a deliberate embracing of ignorance. Far more people died in that period from diseases that are treatable now, thanks to people’s curiosity, than have been killed by people’s curiosity. Curiosity has created a world where people rarely die from anything other than the side-effects of growing old.

Anyone who tries to say that curiosity is a bad thing must be ignored! Though you should also be curious about why they thing curiosity is bad…

Guest Post: Why I’m an Atheist – Ian Winick

The previous “Why I’m an Atheist” posts can be found here, if you haven’t read them, check them out.

My name is Ian Winick and I’m a native of Dublin currently residing in Cologne, Germany. As Atheist Ireland invited its members to explain why they are atheists, I thought I’d take Harry up on his generous offer to host my contribution on his blog.


 

There’s a wonderful line in Wuthering Heights describing the servant Joseph: … the wearisomest, self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself, and fling the curses on his neighbours. This, in a nutshell, is organised religion as I see it: exclusionist, self-serving and prone to interpreting ancient scriptures with a very specific agenda in mind.

I was born in 1975 to a Catholic mother and a lapsed Jewish father. Hard to believe it now, but my mother actually required a letter from the Pope to permit her to marry a Jew, and had to promise to bring her children up Catholic. I’ve never laid eyes on that letter but I’d give anything to see how it was worded (and to see whether Pope Paul VI used smileys to dot his i’s).

My mother is a religious woman – I have vague memories of rosaries being said together in the evening and of being dragged off, blinded by sleep, to early morning Mass every day during Lent – but there was always a healthy element of common sense. I’ve never discussed it with her but can’t imagine that she doesn’t share the view that condoms are a welcome means of preventing unwanted pregnancies and curbing the spread of AIDS, that a rape victim should not be forced to have her rapist’s baby, that masturbation does not lead to blindness or hairy palms, and that US TV evangelists are the scum of the earth.

As well as this, there was never any suggestion that godless heathens such as my father – and the other two-thirds of mankind who failed to embrace Christianity – would end up banging on the pearly gates of Heaven begging to be let inside as the flames licked higher. Ironically, if you take belief out of the equation, my father is one of the most Christian people I know: Christian in the sense of having a strong sense of right and wrong, of treating other people with respect and kindness, of enjoying life with a cheerful demeanour. In short, as far away from Joseph and his bible as you can imagine.

After attending a mixed-sex primary school, I went to a Christian Brothers secondary school for boys. Thankfully, the black-clad sadists who held sway during my uncles’ schooldays were long gone except for a rat-faced principal and a handful of doddery old Brothers – and, save a prayer at the beginning of every lesson, religion didn’t get in the way of education too often.

Growing up as a Catholic in Ireland, religion was such a constant presence that you didn’t question it any more than you would stop to examine the air you breathe. Looking back now, I imagine that, had I – or anyone, for that matter – been brought up without any exposure to religion, Catholicism would have had no chance of gaining a foothold after that. Or about as much as the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster does, and without the humour to redeem it.

For the last 15 years, I have been living in Germany, which is far more secular than Ireland, both in social structure and in mindset. At a guess, I would say that it is a generation and a half ahead of Ireland in this regard. Religion simply doesn’t feature in the lives of most people I know here and the days of Church power are long gone. Having said that, the religious demands of the Muslim community – some reasonable, some ludicrous – are being accommodated more and more. This is not only because of the carte blanche widely granted by civilised societies to religious beliefs, particularly ones with explosive tendencies. For historical reasons, German society is anxious to distance itself from any accusations of racism or intolerance. After all, it’s all too easy for anyone with a grievance to play the “Nazi” card.

Three years ago, my interest in the existence or non-existence of a divine being was rekindled, possibly after reading an article about The God Delusion in the Guardian. I bought the book with the intention of reading it during a week’s holiday at my parents’ in Dublin. It was then I realised that I was very nervous of bringing the book with me on an airplane. Not that I was afraid of what other, God-fearing people would think – no, my fear was that the Almighty would strike, casting me into the cruel Irish Sea along with a couple of hundred of my innocent fellow passengers and a handful of Aer Lingus’ finest. It was this striking realisation that made me realise that I had to read this book and – as Bob Geldof puts it in his autobiography – “rid myself of the voodoo”.

At the end of the day, if believing in a god, karma or Santa Claus helps you to live a good life and be a better person without encroaching on other people’s rights or indoctrinating children, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing in my book. But, as I certainly don’t need to point out here, the link between morality and religion has always been a tenuous one. There is nothing moral about doing good in anticipation of a reward or in fear of a punishment, eternal or otherwise. In fact, this is no more moral than helping an old lady across the road just because you’re being forced to at gunpoint.

 

Ian Winick is a professional translator, semi-professional musician and first-time blogger. He can be contacted at ianwinick[at]netcologne.de.

 


Hey, while I’ve got your attention, do me a favour and check out Bawdy Zebra’s latest product, There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys. It’s on iPad, iPhone and as PDF so it’s on Android too!

 

Why I’m an Atheist Round Up Post

A few months ago Atheist Ireland, an organisation I’m involved with asked people to write up why they are an atheist. I wrote up mine and also used my old blog to host a few other people’s. I’ve been in two minds as to whether I should repost them all here or leave them on the old blog. In the end, I’ve decided to do this post, linking to the previous “Why I’m an Atheist” blog posts and then post all the new ones on here.

 

Why I’m an Atheist – Harry Guinness

From an early age my dad made it perfectly clear that he considered god to be in the same group as Thomas the Tank Engine and Winnie the Pooh. If we asked what he thought happened after you died his answer was that you rot in the ground – he also referred to graveyards as “bone orchards”. In hindsight, I’d say this absolutely infuriated my mother who was as determinately religious as my father wasn’t. I don’t think the idea that me and my siblings would be brought up Catholic was ever contested; as seems typical in atheist-religious couples, the religious parent is far more adamant that the children are religious than the atheist parent is that they aren’t. While I may be misinterpreting memories, I have a sense that my dad was content to let us all make up our own minds when it came down to it. Because of this I was baptised, communioned, and confirmed – ironically taking my dad’s name, Ian, as my confirmation name.

 

Why I’m an Atheist – Conor Murphy

During 6th year, religion class was a study period with occasional guest speakers from various religious groups. We had an ex Jehovah Witness (he gave us the inside scoop that a practising one would never give us), group of Hare Krishnas and maybe a few others I forget. A funny side story is that 15 mins before our teacher brought in the Hare Krishnas he said to the assembled class “Now you’re about to meet a strange crowd, with bird droppings on their foreheads and curtains around their waists” I think a few students at the back were still chuckling when they came in with their hand drums and mantra chanting.

 

Why I’m an Atheist – Matt Bolton

I do not want to change the opinions of people, nor do I want to change the world but I would like Religion to be treated as a minority interest, such as speaking Klingon or excessive gaming. I have found more comfort in literature than I ever have out of Holy Books.

 

Why I’m an Atheist – John Manning

Hot on the heels of the sacrament of confession, came my third, and most consumable sacrament – that of holy communion. Still digesting the ‘child sin hotline’ as revealed to me through confession, further startling revelations about what was on offer were about to become clear. Apparently, it was now possible to say a spell over some bread and wine, which would literally transform (emphasising ‘literally’, not ‘symbolically’, no wishy-washy Protestantism here) these foodstuffs into the flesh and blood of my now edible hero, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ indeed! I was now invited, in the strongest possible sense of the word, to partake in a ritualistic cannibalism of the son of the god I was explicitly told not to offend in the first place. Nervous times.

 

If you haven’t read mine, and these other gentlemen’s tales then I suggest you do. They are all deeply honest insights in to four disparate people who’ve reached the same point from very different places. If anyone else has a “Why I’m an Atheist” post they’d like a venue for then contact me.

 


Hey, while I’ve got your attention, do me a favour and check out Bawdy Zebra’s latest product, There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys. It’s on iPad, iPhone and as PDF so it’s on Android too!

 

Announcing… There Are Other Rivers, iPhone and PDF

While I announced the iPad version late last month, today I am excited to announce two new formats of There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys, an iPhone version and PDF. The iPhone version contains the full text of Alastair’s fantastic book. The PDF version contains the same 80+ photos as the iPad edition as well as the full text.

The iPhone version is available from the iBookstore.

I am particularly happy to announce the PDF version; this will bring There Are Other Rivers to a whole host of other devices, especially, Android devices. To get the PDF version, click here. As with all editions of There Are Other Rivers, the first three chapters are available for free.

Working with Alastair has been a pleasure and I hope that we will be bringing you his future books, as soon as he does something insane and writes about it!

Check out his website and blog to follow his adventures.

The Blurb

Alastair Humphreys walked across India, from the Coromandel Coast to the Malabar Coast, following the course of a holy river.
Walking alone and spending the nights sleeping under the stars, in the homes of welcoming strangers or in small towns and villages, he experienced the dusty enchantment of ordinary, real India on the smallest of budgets.
There Are Other Rivers tells the story of the walk through an account of a single day as well as reflecting on the allure of difficult journeys and the eternal appeal of the open road.

Nominated for National Geographic’s ‘Adventurer of the Year’

Reviews for previous books:
- “Believe me, he can write, and rather well” – Geographical
- “…displays a tendency for Big Hairy Audacious Goals that is almost unnerving.”

on Amazon:
- “This book has it all: it’s a great travel read, a look into the human soul and how most people, given enough determination, could attempt something like this.”
- “No expensive equipment or ‘fastest, strongest, quickest’; just a brilliant, understated story.”
- “Simply outstanding.”
- “If you prefer the comfort of your armchair these books will still stir your imagination and curiosity for the world.”
- “An absolute must-read or any passionate traveller.”

on GoodReads:
- “Wow… another great book by Alastair Humphreys.”
- “One of the best adventure travel books I’ve read.”