Osama Bin Laden smiled warmly and extended his hand.
“It’s great to see you here! So good you could come. It’s wonderful to finally be able to put my side of the story.”.
Kendricks took the wise old man’s hand and shook it enthusiastically.
“It’s a pleasure, well, an honour really. I’m glad to be here.”
He had been tired on the train to Kabul, dehydrated as he was driven through the desert in the army surplus jeep, and had thrown up twice in the helicopter during the flight over the low ominous mountains. The heavy hood he had been politely asked to wear had been disorientating and in his already weakened state, motion sickness was inevitable. What a man would do for a scoop!
Kendricks looked nervously around him, comparing his dishevelled appearance to that of the smartly dressed Bin Laden.
“Come” said the kindly Arab. “You will want to rest and change after your long trip. I hope you will accept my apologies for the absurd precautions we have had to take during your journey. There are still some who don’t appreciate what I, what we, are trying to do.”
They walked towards a camouflaged door in the cliff face, the helicopter on the pad behind them descending into it’s underground hangar with a whine of hydraulics.
“It can be hard to get a really good fake passport these days. I’m so grateful that you made the effort.” continued Osama, with the easy delivery of a practised diplomat.
“I go where the story is” drawled Kendricks, attempting to sound urbane. “I’m sorry, I think I’m going to be ill.”
They were just inside the door way at the start of a rough concrete tunnel. Two acolytes waited, blinking in the unaccustomed sunlight. Osama took Kendricks by the arm and led him to a side door.
“The comfort room. Take your time. You will adapt to our climate soon enough”.
The door slid up as Kendricks approached and he rushed in. The room was a well appointed lavatory that that would have looked at home in the Kabul Hilton. Sinks with gleaming gold taps sat recessed into a marble surface, and it was to the nearest of these that Kendricks hurried, in time to dry retch and cough, the dust of the journey and what was left of the Evian he had been given in the copter dripping from his lips and into his beard. He splashed his face with water and leant heavily in front of the huge mirror that ran the length of the wall above the sinks.
He looked back at the door which had silently slid down behind him. The mastermind of the most feared terror organisation in the world was waiting behind it in the tunnel with his colleagues. Kendricks grimaced. Perhaps they were sharing a joke about his frailty.
He put his rucksack on the surface in front of him and rummaged inside it, unzipping the semi-secret compartment at the bottom. He found the small, flat, black case and pulled it out. It opened with a plastic snap and from it he removed a small mirror, a straw, a razor blade and one of several small baggies of cocaine. Should wait till I’ve eaten, he thought. Fuck it. The embossed ‘O’ on each of the taps glinted as he bent over the marble.
He strode out into the corridor, wondering if he should have checked his beard for nuggets then reassuring himself he had.
There was no further mention of his sickness and the Jihadi, Kendricks and the two acolytes walked down the tunnel which extended to infinity in front of them, punctuated by energy saving light bulbs, doorways and every two or three hundred yards, good quality prints of abstract expressionist art.
“But I see you tire of my rambling conversational style.”
My god, thought Kendricks, he’s been talking all this time and I’ve just been listening to my feet echo as I walk.
“Not at all – but it has been a long day”.
“Of course – you are tired. This is the guest accommodation area. Ahmed will direct you to your quarters. A light meal will be brought to you there, then dinner will be at eight. I will leave you to rest for an hour or two and you will be summoned at seven forty five.”
Kendricks nodded thanks to Osama and watched as he and one of the acolytes strode swiftly away down the corridor. This is a man who is used to people doing what he says, thought Kendricks. But I knew that already. Once Osama and the acolyte were out of earshot Osama started talking and gesturing, his hands mimicking the downward trajectory of an airplane and Kendricks suddenly realised he was picturing, and had been picturing ever since his toot in the washroom a continuous non repeating series of images. Buildings and people on fire, buildings and people collapsing.
The other acolyte, Ahmed, obviously, gestured towards an arched door on the left.
“This way, Mr Kendricks”.
The door opened onto what could have been the lobby of an international hotel. Floral friezes and clever lighting gave the impression that the outside was just around every corner and a subtle scent from large potted plants wafted in gentle breezes across the room.
There was no one else about. Soft music played, light classical. Kendricks couldn’t place it. Ahmed went behind the reception desk and tapped a few keys on a small computer. A card was produced from a slot in the wall behind him, which he removed and showed to Kendricks. It was printed with the number 218. Could there really be that many rooms, would there ever be that many visitors?
Ahmed gestured for Kendricks to follow him and walked smoothly down the corridor opposite the door by which they had entered, Kendricks in tow.
Room 218 was anonymous, but clean and modern, with ensuite, television, tea making facilities and a trouser press. Ahmed demonstrated the shower and the remote for the telly, then, after an absurd little bow, backed out of the door leaving the key card in a slot on the wall.
Kendricks’ luggage was on the bed, a large sports bag and a smaller case containing his laptop and camera. If either of them had been searched or tampered with, it had been done by an expert.
Where the bedroom walls were tastefully decorated with plaster and wallpaper the walls of the bathroom were naked rock, rough hewn, chisel marks drawing attention to the sheer incongruous fact of the room’s existence, deep in the heart of the mountain. A reminder that the entire complex was the result of human effort? That this wasn’t a cave. That Osama had known where he wanted to be and had moved at least part of the mountain to get there.
Perhaps. In the shower, Kendricks washed the day’s travel out of his hair and eyes, felt the dust turn to mud and run down his body in red streams.
Later, he dried himself and got some clean underwear on, laid himself down on the bed and closed his eyes, visualising his family and friends, and tried to ignore it when the images turned to flames and pain.
When he woke, a small tray with a selection of sandwiches and a bottle of J2O was waiting for him on the sideboard. It was seven thirty. He got dressed and noticed for the first time the ventilation grill set high in the wall near the unopened curtains. It was big enough for a man to crawl into. How ridiculous.
He stood in front of the mirror above the sideboard and adjusted his dickie. He hated dinner jackets, but the invite had said black tie. He chopped out a little line on the small mirror from his rucksack and was halfway along it when a muted bell rang, followed by a polite a knock at the door. Kendricks coughed and the coke went everywhere.
“Just coming” he said, hoarsely, looking for a napkin to wipe up the mess. Room’s probably bugged anyway. A good host would never mention a guest’s private indiscretions at dinner but it was better not to let the staff in on it.
With the dust cleared away and a thorough survey of his jacket made he blew his nose and headed for the door.
“You certainly look refreshed Mr Kendricks.”
Osama stood at the end of a long glass table laid with thirteen places.
Buzzing slightly, and realising it, Kendricks stood alone at the other end and looked around the room. The floor was marble, patterned with octagons of red, white and black around the table. Behind Osama, steps to the larger part of the room were cut into the bare rock. The cave itself seemed largely hollowed out by millennia of erosion, the cause of which was visible through the wide glass window the table overlooked.
A vast underground lake rippled, in the distance, a huge bubbling natural fountain of steaming water.
“Source of all my power, Mr Kendricks” intoned Osama.
“It takes a lot to keep a place like this running – but nature has sought to provide for our needs. Please, sit. No! Not there, here” he gestured to the seat on his right. “There were to have been more guests joining us tonight, but they have been otherwise detained.”
Kendricks sat, undoing his jacket, unsure of the protocol.
Osama clapped his hands crisply and sat down as uniformed servants poured into the room silently with plates of food and trays of drinks.
The meal passed pleasantly, course after course of international cuisine, with almost each bite receiving its own commentary, each flavour accompanied by an anecdote from Osama – this atrocity, that outrage, sometimes committed by him, sometimes by others, sometimes against him, sometimes against the great Satan.
Each of the servants was dressed alike, in a simple black tunic and loose trousers, with tight fitting caps over hair cut short. Each wore a plain black band like a piece of coaxial cable with a simple silver clasp around their throat. They glided selflessly between the table and the apparently vast kitchens, bringing each new morsel without ceremony and clearing away discarded plates and cutlery so discreetly that Kendricks at first found it hard to tell them apart and soon stopped noticing them at all.
‘…and what I always respect is the dedication! The zeal! People constantly criticise the young, but I have to say I’ve found the teenagers who have come to me to be resourceful, intelligent and willing to make almost any sacrifice, with the right encouragement.’
Kendricks was nodding and smiling in between mouthfuls, as he had been for most of the evening it seemed. He’d lost track of what course he was on, what marvellous foods he’d eaten, which of Osama’s deadly plots he was tacitly approving.
It’s all in the delivery, he thought to himself. What I write will appear to be the truth. As much truth as the public can handle. I don’t have to transcribe this man’s utterances word for word.
‘Well, I certainly have rambled on a bit’ said Osama.
‘It’s nearly time to draw the evening to a close. There will be coffee in your room shortly, but first…’
He clapped again and twenty or thirty servants bustled round the table, clearing it completely and placing the plates, glasses, cutlery and left over food on a conveyor belt that ran along the base of the huge picture window overlooking the lake. As the dinner things slid slowly along the belt towards a hatch in the cave wall next to the kitchen doors the servants wiped the table and straightened the chairs. Once all appeared to be to their satisfaction, they lined up in front of the window and stood like children playing soldiers on parade, chests comically pushed out, shoulders almost absurdly held back. Their faces were proud, waiting for their master to give them his approval.
Kendricks looked at them, as if for the first time. The androgynous uniforms smoothed out their gender, and he found he couldn’t really tell them apart. It suddenly occurred to him how young they all were – not one out of his or her teens, he reckoned. What were they doing here?
The bearded monster stood, beaming at them, immaculate.
‘Marvellous’ he said ‘What a lovely performance. You have made me proud.’
He walked up and down the line patting them on the shoulder, praising them each by name, once, he pointed at an imaginary mark on someone’s chest then flicked their nose when they looked down. The kids smiled, shy but proud, as if at a graduation or prize giving.
Presently Osama stood back and those kids who had relaxed a little smartened up again in anticipation.
He studied the servants and finally, smiling, pointed at one and beckoned. The servant came forward, blushing. It was, Kendricks was able to determine, a young girl around seventeen. The other servants, visibly disappointed, turned and marched softly back to the kitchens. The girl stood triumphantly next to Osama, whose arm went around her shoulders, as reassuring as a hug as they turned to face Kendricks, slumped in his chair.
Oh Christ, thought Kendricks, he’s not going to give her to me is he? Like in the movies?
‘And now, the conclusion to our night. Go.’
Osama released the girl and she ran past the table, past Kendricks, up the stone steps into the larger part of the room.
She turned at the top, a little breathless, smiling, like a performer taking a curtain call.
She’s going to dance, thought Kendricks. She’ll dance then Osama will give her to me for the night. Oh god.
He stood up, the better to watch, and get in the right spirit.
‘And now Mr Kendricks, to demonstrate! Dedication.’
He nodded at the girl who immediately reached up to the band around her neck, grasped it firmly, and pulled.
There was a flash and a percussive whomp that Kendricks felt to his back teeth. The girl’s head disappeared in a red fog and the top half of her body was left bloody and distorted, ragged like smashed fruit. Whisps of smoke rose to the stone ceiling high above, the sound echoing as it faded, Kendricks’ ears pumping blood, the sound of the explosion repeating in his head as he tried to take in what he had seen, the body falling gracefully forward, the head vapourised.
Blood jizzed from the remains and ran down the steps.
Kendricks sat down, looking around for a glass of anything.
‘Dedication, Mr Kendricks. Ahmed will take you back to your room. Goodnight.’
As he stumbled behind Ahmed, body drunk but brain reeling, Kendricks noticed again a faint aroma that he had previously dismissed as the detritus of his journey. He had noticed it again, after his shower and change of clothes on the way to dine earlier, but it hadn’t properly registered.
Every now and then, on the efficient AC breeze, he caught the faintest hint of baby vomit.
Returning to his room he bid Ahmed goodnight and, with too many cocktails swirling in his stomach and head, switched the lights out and collapsed fully clothed across his bed. Within seconds he felt himself falling asleep and he was grateful for the chance to stop thinking about the girl’s smile fracturing within a scarlet mist.
He woke up, disorientated. He was sitting in his room looking at himself in the mirror opposite the bed. What had woken him? He was dreaming about something bad, anyway. It was hard to breathe. In the mirror he saw he was wearing some kind of necklace, like a hard plastic band like a cable or something tight around his neck. It was nearly throttling him.
He reached up to pull it off…
His eyes snapped open, it was dark, he was still dressed, lying in the position he had fallen asleep in. He felt around the covers, and satisfied there had been no ‘accidents’ he turned over and lay on his back. After a moment he felt at his throat. Clammy bare flesh.
He got up and felt his way to the rock hewn bathroom, eager to discharge the evening’s drink. On his return to the room he noticed a glow coming from behind the curtain. Earlier he had assumed it was just there for effect, like the fake daylight around every corner in the lobby, so he hadn’t thought to look behind it. He tiptoed over to the curtain and fumbled around for a pull chord or a way through.
Finally he found the parting and pulled the curtains, then immediately shut them again. He waited a moment, suddenly feeling a bit hung over, then had another look.
The cavern with the underground lake had seemed impressive. It had a big brother. Behind the curtain the whole wall of the room was window, sloping out at a 45 degree angle. The room was cut in to the roof of a cave large enough to fly several helicopters through in formation. Football field sized areas housed rows of tanks, supply vehicles, aeroplanes, several helicopters, oil drums, water bowsers, incubators, desert camouflaged portacabins. Where some areas were full of neatly organised identical pieces of military or medical hardware, others seemed to be like scrap heaps, or airplane graveyards, stuffed with assorted junk in all nation’s colours. A couple of Polaris missiles, a waltzer, a pile of splash cats, the nose cone from a Concorde, different sized landing lights from various airports, stacks of books in wire netting cages, video screens, some of which spastically flashed distorted images, jumbled together as if installed in the turbine hall of the Tate Modern. Huge open topped tanks the size of traffic islands contained thick black liquids or bubbling yellow goo, into which hazard suited workers dipped test tubes on the ends of poles.
In between ran roads and footpaths traversed by hundreds of black suited servants, androgynous and identical, on foot, or by bicycle, segway, mini moke, tail lift truck, and hovercraft.
Kendricks’ mouth went dry. Behind the thick glass it all seemed so unreal. Silent. To his left, a mile away at a guess, three huge metal doors stood, closed tight except for the sliver of light at the bottom of one.
He went to his bag and grabbed out some binoculars. In the distance was a tumbledown pile of road signs in all languages and flattened ice cream vans. People walked purposefully to and from it, and dump trucks carried junk from A to B and back again.
Against the far wall, was that the remnants of a dismantled stone circle? Flamethrower wielding astronauts scorched them. The largest of the stones cracked open and a sickly yellow mist with bright sparks of light poured out.
There was a change. Cause and effect were impossible to determine. All the tiny people and vehicles stopped in their tracks.
Kendricks swept the area with the binoculars, it was the same across the cavern. All the people were reacting to something. They put fingers to their ears, perhaps receiving instructions. It must be some kind of alarm, he thought. Something unusual is happening.
After a few more seconds all the distant, tiny people started moving again, at a different pace. They abandoned what they had been doing and went into some kind of drill, taking up certain positions, climbing into bunkers, some putting on gas masks.
Others, on foot and various means of transport began to make their way purposefully towards the pile of road signs and ice cream vans.
In fact a lot of people seemed to be heading generally towards that same spot, but those who had been working in the area were drawing back. What could be going on?
Kendricks noticed a slight hissing noise. It was barely perceivable, and easily dismissed.
Something huge, metal, many legged and black burst out of the pile of ice cream vans scattering people and junk alike. Crap flew everywhere. A 1972 Mr Softee rolled edgeways and creaking into a goo pool, which split, spreading goo like a popped yoke.
Despite this Kendricks suddenly noticed the far wall of the cavern, possibly half a mile away. It was dotted with glinting windows, in each of which, silhouetted, was a figure, intently observing the ongoing spectacle.
The black metal thing scampered across the cavern floor, sweeping aside trucks and segways and drawing fire from two helicopters that had taken off from the far end of the cave.
A farm wagon skidded to avoid it and tipped over, dairy cows spilling onto hazard suited workers and ranks of ornamental fountains, bursting red, white and brown or stampeding into the path of the rampaging beast which skewered a guernsey with an articulated limb and flung it vainly at the circling choppers.
The weight of events tugged at Kendrick’s limbs. His keen journalistic sense told him that this was the story he had come for but the hissing grew louder. He fell gently forward and slid, slack lips smooching the glass. As his eyes closed the huge black metal thing writhed and dodged balletically below him. The helicopters’ hot missile rain poured over the machine as it struggled. It’s legs buckled one by one till at length it came to rest in a dry dock containing three hundred and forty five thousand children’s paddling pools.
(C) Dave Lewis
I don’t care how much good religion does, religion is a bad thing and should be done away with as soon as practically possible.
There may be a god or gods. It is entirely possible that entities fitting that description exist and that we are created in their image to such a degree that they suffer all the psychological flaws we do.
But: There are no good reasons to believe that any human being has ever had meaningful direct contact with it or them let alone that these humans have been able to correctly deliver to the rest of humanity the slightest hint of what it or they want.
Religion depends on us believing not only in something for which there is no reasonable evidence but also on us believing that one person or group of people has got the direct scoop on the situation and can with goodwill pass it onto us.
Practising religion leads us to deny the evidence of our senses, to reject established scientific facts, to reject healthy skepticism, to submit to unworthy earthly authority, to warp and suppress our natural curiosity and compassion and to blind ourselves to real problems in favour of focussing on imaginary problems that can be solved by making a wish.
As Bertrand Russell said, “It’s never good to believe in things that aren’t true”. Or something pithy like that. I’d regard this as axiomatic if not tautological. Many would disagree and say that a comforting belief is worthwhile.
A comforting belief that a benevolent god is watching over you may help you sleep at night. Realistically, it may help you sleep when you should be awake hearing burglars or smelling smoke.
It may mean that when judging the character of our fellow humans we do so based on a template created when germ theory was unknown, when disease was thought to be caused by a wicked person’s curse, epilepsy by demonic possession and when deformity was a visible and well deserved sign of god’s enmity.
Not to mention that the template we are using has itself been deformed by successive translations over different centuries each one supporting or emerging from the geist of a different zeit.
Religious thinking is magical thinking. Magical thinking is pretty and dumb. Superstition is harmless, just a bit of fun, right up to the point that we find employers using graphologists and astrologers to vet employees or jurors weighing evidence based on lucky numbers or a poor understanding of probability.
How amusing it is that primitives bow down to wood and stone. How ironic it is that we can’t see the communion wafer or the cross in the same stark light.
Religious thinking is not thinking at all. Belief, as Robert Anton Wilson put it, is the death of thought. Once we accept an idea as sacred we build a cage around it as much as we put it on a pedestal. This cage however, also encloses us. Either way the idea becomes immune to further refinement or examination except on it’s own limited terms.
Convictions produce convicts and the bars of the cage continue to dog the lion years after they have rusted away.
When you insist that I respect your superstitions you are asking me to respect equally the absurd twitchings of the pigeon in the Skinner box. These poor animals, fed morsels at random through a slot in the wall, develop odd habits as if they believe they are influencing the arrival of the tidbit. Even pigeons like to feel they are in control and succumb to confirmation bias.
Religion takes credit for the delivery of tidbits to us in much the same way.
Next to this terrible abuse of the human mind, a few good works pale. You set up a system that injures whole societies, stick an elastoplast on the wound and claim the elastoplast as a benefit of that oppression?
Try, at least once, to get out of that Skinner box you have put yourself in and take responsibility, no matter how much effort it takes, to stop twitching in front of that switch as if your weird undulations are really causing the food to appear.
At least the pigeon has an acceptable excuse: It’s just a pigeon.
Starting to wonder if my urge to write is more akin to the occasional impulse I get at the Bullring to jump spectacularly off the balcony than a desire for a legitimate encounter with the muse. Not a wish to jump in pursuit of extinction so much as in the spirit of bold experiment. What would it be like, I seem to want to know? Shopping centres are meant to be chased through and no chase is complete without a bold leap. Ask Jackie Chan. But I am never going to jump and I feel as if I am never going to write more than one hundred and forty characters at a time. I can’t even bungee jump. Cursed as I am with myopia and rogue sinuses that route to excitement and action has been denied to me.
Whenever I start something off by opening a document and applying thumb to touchscreen my awful lack of writing equipment becomes apparent. I lack anything to say or the means to say it in a way that anyone would actually want to read or that would say anything new. And I love run on sentences too much.
If I ever had the capacity to construct interesting sentences that nobody had read before about subjects people didn’t know they were interested in till they read what I wrote I don’t seem to have it now. That gift has either atrophied from lack of use or has been amputated by physical or chemical intervention. Too many bangs on the head, too many pints down the neck.
But I still want to write and do everything a writer does. I think I know what being a writer is like and what I would be like as a writer. I have a rich alternate fantasy world in which I have already written all the books and films and comics I have thought of and they have all been massively popular and critically acclaimed.
I occasionally have to remind myself that this hasn’t happened even though I have the black leather jacket and the laptop and the coffee habit.
Pity me. I wish to fly though I have no wings. I wish to sing though I have no voice.
I want to write like a man with a severed hand wants to crack the knuckles he doesn’t have.
Why do you trust a science book, but not the bible?
It may surprise you to learn that I have often become embroiled, on twitter and face to face, in debates about science versus religion, evolution versus creationism and the existence or non existence of “god” or “gods” in general.
If the conversation doesn’t descend into name calling or theistic salivation at the prospect of me facing eternal torture for the crime of remaining unconvinced, it may at last come to rest on the nature of the evidence we are supposed to use to determine the facts of the matter.
I point out that I try to only act on ideas for which there is evidence while they act on ideas that were written down for them from 600 to 8000 years ago.
I think the question hinges on the idea that, superficially, I get a lot of information from books. What makes my many books better than their single book?
The earth as an archipelago.
The questioner sees books as the source of facts rather than, as I see them, merely a record of facts as they are known at this point in time.
To the “the bible says it, I believe it, that settles it” crowd this seems back to front, because everything that they believe in comes from the bible and if it’s in that book it must be true.
If they think that way, the logic seems to go, then everyone must think that way. Therefore, atheists and scientists must think of their science books as “Darwin (or whoever) said it, I believe it, that settles it”.
They want to believe that there is a single science book, or collection of books that is to rationalists what the bible is to Christians.
That is to say: A foundational document laying down the dogma and operations for a way of life.
This is an example of a kind of misunderstanding that theists commonly have.
Once you have made the initial decision to disregard factual information and just believe whatever you want to believe it’s very easy to continue piling error upon error by assuming that is what everyone else has done – i.e. picked a side and stopped thinking about it.
Religious books are written once and intended to last forever. They are written to direct people towards a particular world-view, usually something along the lines of
there is a god
all the other gods are dicks or are not even real
this god made everything, including you, the reader, the laws of logic, fish, etc.
this god is in need of constant affirmation and submission from the intelligences (and, apparently, even the rocks) that it has created
it demands this affirmation and submission from us on pain of eternal punishment to be carried out in a place it has especially made for the purpose.
This nauseating and pointless message is usually interleaved with
stern lessons about diet and sex
contradictory or impossible instructions
the defining of normal human desires and behaviours as sinful.
Sin is a word that
enables us to attach our primal reactions to harmful or dangerous behaviour to behaviours that don’t necessarily harm anyone
distorts our understanding of good and bad enough to enable us to carry out actions we would otherwise see as unacceptable such as stoning, mutilating children or discriminating against random groups of people in general
is anything god says it is. (in reality it’s anything the man (it’s usually a man) writing the book says it is)
This man read a book, and look what happened to him.
Coincidentally, this world-view once adopted enables huge groups of people to be controlled by small groups of people, to the benefit of those small groups.
I can see my house from here!
Each religion has one or more of these books, the number and canonicity of which being determined by whichever putative earthly representative has the most firepower.
New books are rarely added and when they are they usually signify a split in the congregation.
Christians naturally accept the New Testament as a continuation of the old. The OT still serves as main holy book for adherents to Judaism and those of the Jewish faith in general have proved reluctant to accept the New Testament for anything more than its curiosity value.
When Mohammed cheekily released his sequel, the final Testament known as the Qu’ran, proclaiming it as literally the summation of god’s message to his people, Christians, unsurprisingly, were as keen on this addition as the Jews had been about any of the christian gospels.
There is, sadly, no objective way to tell which of these books is correct, if any.
Science, on the other hand, is not itself dependent on books. Science books are one of the results of science, not the source.
A scientist, yesterday.
Science does not come to conclusions about reality based on the contents of a book or books, it bases them on the results of carefully conducted experiments and observations.
The best any particular science book can hope to be is a summary of the most recent consensus, subject to change at a moment’s notice in light of new evidence and doomed to greater irrelevance with each and every dawn.
The “information” contained in the bible is final and we are expected to take it to be true as given. There is no external evidence that it’s contents are correct except in the most trivial ways. Some of the cities and historical characters mentioned do or did in fact exist, although not as many as you might think and not necessarily in the way they are said to in the bible. Much of the historical information has been seen to be false or lacking in external verification.
Our experience of the real world suggests in fact that most of the bible is false. The creation account in genesis is one example of a primitive myth made up by a group of ancient people, possibly future shocked by the invention of cooking or wheelbarrows, to give some context to their daily experiences.
The biblical equivalent of the International Space Station.
When we test the claims made in those chapters against our observations of the real world it quickly becomes clear that not one part of it stands up.
Yet the book remains, translated, copied, bowdlerised before that word was invented, in equal parts ambiguous and self contradicting, with huge chunks being either disregarded or obsessed on by believers depending on their interpretation, prejudice or whim.
In contrast there are very few science books that remain current for more than a decade. Not necessarily because they have been found to contain errors, more often because they rapidly become incomplete as new discoveries and refinements are completed.
When Isaac Newton formulated his laws of motion and gravity he and his successors may have felt that the issue of motion was more or less settled. The dual hammer blows given to this conceit by quantum physics on the one hand and special and general relativity on the other put paid to that complacent notion.
What is sometimes less heavily emphasised though is that at a particular level, Newton’s laws work just fine. If we are talking about billiard balls or railway trains or pendulums or weights dropped from clock towers Newton’s laws of motion will give an answer that is accurate for most practical purposes.
It is only when we start to get into billiard balls the size of planets or travelling near the speed of light or when we consider the stuff billiard balls, and us, are made of, tiny bits of not-stuff like electron fogs and such like, that Newton’s laws break down.
Spacey, futuristic looking, billiards.
So, to answer the question “Why do I trust a science book but I don’t trust the bible?” concisely, we don’t, and we don’t have to. We can perform experiments and make observations that either confirm, deny or modify the claims or assertions the book contains.
As for not trusting the bible, why would I trust a book that has been manifestly assembled with the purpose of trapping humanity in a mode of thought that originates with people who kept slaves, despite having been enslaved, who persecuted despite themselves having been persecuted, that reduces women to the status of property, that makes involuntary and ubiquitous emotions like lust punishable by death and damnation?
Why trust a book that instructs people to be grateful to an allegedly all powerful being that looks inside their mind to check if they are committing a thought crime, and not just to believe in all this against the evidence as a mere abstract concept but to submit to, and worship the sadistic concentration camp commandant-like being who put us in this awful predicament?
William Blake talked about “Mind forg’d manacles”.
Who in their right mind and given the choice would ever put them on?
A library. Try one today!
I’m dealing with the twitter thing, but I have been delivered a stinging blow.
I have just tried to apply black pepper to my freshly microwaved cheese slice and the pepper grinder top has split off into three discrete chunks.
Someone up there has a grudge.
I can not get any purchase on that grinder.
I’ve probably seasoned my slice with bits of plastic.
I think it’s the guy in the flat over mine.
I have been suspended from twitter. The reason given was ‘multiple unsolicited mentions to other users’.
In other words replying to other adult’s comments on a social network.
I did not bombard people with stuff if they weren’t engaging with me.
So some malicious twat has reported me and I am off twitter for a couple of days.
So it goes.
At certain times in your life you are confronted with something so vast, so different to your usual experience that you are changed by it.
When you first go to the seaside or climb a mountain you find out that the world is not what you thought it was. This can be a disturbing time at first but it can also lead to new ways of thinking.
When you gaze into the abyss does it not etc.
Well, I have been gazing into the abyss all right. I’ve plumbed the depths. I have looked toward the horizon and however far I have looked I have not seen past the awesome stupidity demonstrated by people seeking to prove the unprovable.
You can imagine a mountain, you can imagine the sea but you can’t really feel it till you stand on the peak with the wind whistling round your nuts or till you doggie paddle way out of your depth and glance something large and sinister wending its way far below.
You can’t imagine the extent of humanity’s capacity for self deceit, mental gymnastics, intellectual dishonesty and arrogance, wishful thinking, delusions of grandeur and pure honest to goodness dumbfuckery until you have argued about the existence of god with a true believer.
This is truly an abyss that returns your gaze. That bright eyed fluffy bunny “god loves me and everything” attitude? Enjoy it while it lasts. Within a few minutes of serious questions and actual evidence that can flip into brattish pouting insults and the malicious savouring of your supposed hellbound destiny.
Logic isn’t real. Good things are bad. Science is myth and myth is “true science”. Throw out your dictionary, your encyclopaedia and whatever amount of common sense you think you possess because you may as well be talking in Swahili to these people.
They have caught on that onlookers to any debate are liable to be swayed by argument or evidence. Theists are sadly hampered by a lack of any evidence whatsoever so instead they have ramped up the crazy. Nothing they say relates to the previous sentence, or to any normal human standard of truth. Poor grammar, poor spelling, lazy biblical bigotry against minorities or whole genders are presented with pride. By offering nothing concrete they allow no purchase for the other team, and thus no chance for onlookers to learn anything.
Being able to form a coherent argument would expose them as not “simple god fearing folk” but “slippery college educated intellectuals”. And we know that education means sin.
This is a rant, done on my phone to test text entry on it. To cut a long story short I am sick of pious mealy mouthed liars claiming they have the moral high ground when they have the moral sense of a sewer rat and the honesty of a mafia lawyer.
Will this publish ok?
milcbar - teenage haircut
messy unsustainable post-op pop noise.
milcbar were a right desperate bunch of chancers from birmingham.
find more (well, less, actually) here: http://www.youtube.com/user/thenumbdave?feature=mhee
Last night I read an article on vice.com, tweeted by @TellMamaUK about a rising young fascist. I responded to them voicing my disapproval of him, and mentioned that while I have concerns about Sharia Law I was a million miles away from the likes of him, just in case they gave a flying fig.
(I do have concerns about Sharia - the same concerns any Guardian reader would. I have retweeted the occasional Pat Condell video. Fair disclosure).
This started an interesting thread in which I was challenged by one Sam Malone, not the Boston Barkeep of yore, but a self described ‘hater of right wing rhetoric and ideology’, who took it upon himself to talk to me as if I was wildly promulgating an anti-islamic philosophy.
I was at pains to disavow him of this impression. At the same time I thought it was important to assert my right to express concerns about a system of law which to me seems at best archaic and unyielding, and at it’s worst at odds with UK civil law.
I quickly referenced onelawforall.org.uk, a very reasonable organisation who campaign against the introduction of Sharia into the UK, and who specifically distance themselves from the likes of the EDL, the BNP and other far right wankers. These latter groups often try to use the reasonable concerns of leftie liberals like myself about Sharia to subvert our general multicultural leanings and make political capital.
Indeed, Mr Malone hashtagged his second tweet to me #EDL which got my back up immediately.
For a large part of the conversation, which took place over an evening, I thought Malone was a liberal like myself under the mistaken impression that I was some kind of right wing nutjob.
I now believe the truth to be far more sinister, but then again I have been awake for twenty four hours.
I have reconstructed the sequence as best I can, and will provide commentary where appropriate. The unedited tweets remain on my feed at @numbdave and presumably @SamMaloneUK.
Key: Who is tweeting. what they are tweeting, my commentary
Here’s my first tweet responding to the article linked to by @TellMamaUK, an organisation dedicated to exposing and preventing attacks and harassment against Muslims.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave: @TellMamaUK I’ve got my concerns about Sharia law, who hasn’t, but I’m a million miles away from this racist: http://www.vice.com/en_uk/read/jack-buckby-is-proud-to-be-britains-next-nick-griffin …
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK: @numbdave @TellMamaUK Islam is just an easy target at the moment. Another time and this fool would be talking abt Catholics, blacks, Irish..
At this point I assumed he meant the fool in the vice.com article, now I’m not sure.
@NotReallyInvolved (this is not the real name of this person.): @SamMaloneUK @numbdave @TellMamaUK Experienced more terrorism from the IRA than Islam, but support Home Rule.”Sharia law” highly subjective.
I took up this assertion with @NotReallyInvolved in another thread and those tweets are available on twitter but not relevant to this post.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave :@NotReallyInvolved @SamMaloneUK @TellMamaUK My concern isn’t about Islamic terrorism per se - it’s about the erosion of hard won human rights.
This seems clear, right? It is clear where my concern is, isn’t it?
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Truth is the ‘creeping Shariah’ thing is plain fearmongering. Anyone who understand how UK laws are passed knows it. #edl
First mention of ‘Creeping Shariah’ and the EDL hashtag. I was not happy.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK woah, don’t lump me in with those pricks. I’d love you to reassure me it’s not true. http://www.onelawforall.org.uk/
I am horrified that anyone could think I have any sympathies with the EDL, and am now very keen to convince this guy that I don’t.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : I haven’t. But can I ask if you would have same concerns re. Beth Din?
Not ‘oh no, I didn’t mean that’ just ‘I haven’t’ and straight on with the script. Why hashtag it EDL then?
Beth Din is the Jewish legal system btw. What has that got to do with this discussion? But OK, I can go there.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK I’d be concerned if any religious laws took precedence over civil law. I would advocate a separation of ‘church’ and state.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK :@numbdave Again I agree. My argument is the fear of Shariah law being imposed, even on UK Muslims, is exaggerated.
This isn’t an argument, it’s an assertion. And I haven’t actually mentioned what my actual concerns are at this point - apart from general human rights issues.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave :@SamMaloneUK I would call myself a secularist in this matter - freedom of and freedom from religion protects us all, religious or not.
By this time I feel something is up. Admiral Akbar is shouting in my ear. But I don’t listen.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK :@numbdave I agree with you. But if we think of Shariah ‘courts’ purely in terms of law they are little more than a mediation service.
This answer looks odd now - what, you agree with me that I would call myself a secularist or that freedom from and of religion protects us all? Still, I persevere.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK Mediation based on religious grounds?
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Yes. And, under the law it is voluntary.
Do his replies seem stilted to you, like he’s following a flowchart?
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK If someone can’t talk to her doctor because she knows he will go straight to her family, what does the word ‘voluntary’ mean?
Though perhaps badly phrased, this is a reasonable question, seeing as he seems to have taken on the mantle of ‘All knowing Defender of Sharia’.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave You’re changing the discussion. We’re talking about the fear of Shariah law being imposed on UK being unfounded.
Are we? I was talking to @TellMamaUK about some racist they’d tweeted about and you butted your big nose in, and now you are telling me I’m changing the discussion? He uses the same phrase several times.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK Yes. Under English law mediation by Sharia council is voluntary. I’m suggesting that community pressure affects that.
I feel this is a major flaw in any voluntary system - if you are liable to be pressured into volunteering it’s voluntary in name only.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Implementation/flaws therein is another discussion. But you have to agree the imposition of Shariah under UK law is far flung idea
Implementation/flaws is another discussion bzzzt click whirr. No it isn’t, Calcubot, how things actually work is integral to the discussion you have insisted we have. If people submit to a system because of unbearable family or cultural pressure it has been imposed on them and calling it voluntary does not change this. That is fundamental to an understanding of human rights.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Bottom line is purely in terms of law, Shariah courts are voluntary mediation services.
You’re the bottom line.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK It’s not voluntary if your entire community will shun you for not taking part. Do you disagree?
Here’s where the ‘Sam is a robot’ theory moves from amusing to sinister, like the rabbits in Father Dougal’s head moving into the real world. Shut up, I haven’t slept in twenty four hours.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK :@numbdave Implementation/flaws therein is another discussion. Argument here is that the imposition of Shariah under UK law is far flung idea
Bzzzt. Revert. Bzzzt. I mean, ‘Implementation/Flaws therein’? are you kidding?
Bear in mind these tweets are spread out over a whole evening. At the time I just took each one at face value.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK Do I think I will ever be subject to Sharia Law? No. This does not diminish my concern for those who will be.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK your bottom line was that it was voluntary. Your words. My point is that in this case ‘voluntary’ is a meaningless term.
I’ve said this several times in different ways. Acknowledge it!
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave My bottom line is that under UK law it is voluntary. Implementation and abuse is another discussion.
Beep! Voluntary always means voluntary. Implementation and abuse bzzzt! Return Return Return to your seats! (hitch hikers reference).
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK If I had tweeted ‘I am concerned about women’s rights’ would we be having this discussion? Muslim women have the same rights.
'as any women', I would have said given a little more space. Admiral Akbar is screaming at me but I pay no mind.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave My point from the first has been that the idea of ‘Creeping Shariah’ imposed in UK is unfounded. You’re having a different debate
Who the fuck are you? I don’t know what debate you are having, I’m being polite by even responding to your cybernetic trolling ass. You have no idea what my concerns about Sharia Law are, for all you knew at the start I was concerned it wasn’t being introduced fast enough! But you’ve just banged on obsessively about it not being ‘creeping’ and have paid no real attention to anything I’ve said. But if that’s what you want, suck on this, Tin Man.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK If there are people in this country ‘voluntarily’ submitting to Sharia Law, that counts as ‘creeping’ in my book.
And the mask slips:
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Guess what - every single Muslim in this country is voluntarily submitting to Shariah law. That’s millions. Would you deny them?
Every Single Muslim. Voluntarily. Millions, that’s a lot. That must definitely be true Sam, I assume you’ve met them all and asked them. Never mind what I have told you about my opinion of your use of the word ‘voluntarily’.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK You haven’t absorbed a single thing that I have said about the use of the word ‘voluntary’ in this context have you?
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK You may not agree with what I have said about it, but you cant pretend not to have understood it.
Sambot went a bit quiet for a while, so I thought I’d big up his startling foot in mouth tweet just in case any one following needed it highlighting.
RETWEETED Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Guess what - every single Muslim in this country is voluntarily submitting to Shariah law. That’s millions. Would you deny them?
Turns out silicon Sam hadn’t cottoned on.It’s like one of those canned phrases they give vaccuum cleaner salepeople as ‘solid closers’.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Can I ask why you retweeted that tweet of mine?
It’s a public forum. You sought me out with your pre-scripted agenda. Most people love to be retweeted. Why shouldn’t I retweet it?
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK I was wondering why you were so keen to accept Sharia Law on other people’s behalf. I wanted people to read the thread.
Not true. I was baiting him so I could get some closure.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave I would say that you are being disingenuous in implying that I was. Lastly, I think anyone reading our thread will see through you
I think he means disingenuous in implying that he was accepting Sharia on other’s behalf. What does he mean by ‘see through you’? That I am after all a terrible terrible Muslim hating racist? Ooh Lordie! What do you think dear reader?
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave I don’t think you’ll find any implication of me accepting anything. My position has been clear from my first tweet.
Your position was very clear, right up to the point you said this and completely reversed it :
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK ‘every single Muslim in this country is voluntarily submitting to Shariah law’. That is a bold statement.
He doesn’t even know it. He’s already dead in the water.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK and it is in complete contradiction to your assertion that ‘Creeping Shariah’ is a myth. Do you disagree?
It isn’t good for him at all now. You may wish to look away.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK Millions of people want to bring back hanging. I would deny them that as well.
Just rubbing it in really. I’m a monster. Sue me.
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave In fact, rereading my tweets, I have repeated my position time and again. So for you to suggest anything different is poor.
You read everything apart from the part where you completely contradicted the one point you have been repeatedly making all night?
Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Lastly, your use of the straw man fallacy discredits you. I’m done with you. Goodbye.
Honestly, I thought this was just sad, It’s like the flow chart has a box marked ‘in emergency cry ‘fallacy” with a numbered list and a d20.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : You brought up ‘Creeping Shariah’. RT @SamMaloneUK: Lastly, your use of the straw man fallacy discredits you. I’m done with you. Goodbye.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK Your position has been that ‘Creeping Shariah’ does not exist. You then state that millions of Muslims are submitting to it.
I’m making it clear to him and his superiors (I have no evidence that there are any superiors) that he has failed.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : @SamMaloneUK You are the one who built the straw man. I then beat you with it till you exposed your own hypocrisy. The end.
It’s a bit like in Alien when Ash is just a head and they pull the plug.
Say the next two RTs like Hal singing Daisy Daisy and you’ll get the idea.
RT Sam Malone @SamMaloneUK : @numbdave Truth is the ‘creeping Shariah’ thing is plain fearmongering. Anyone who understand how UK laws are passed knows it. #edl
This is his ‘main point’.
TheCuratesEgg @numbdave : And yet RT @SamMaloneUK: every single Muslim in this country is voluntarily submitting to Shariah law. That’s millions. Would you deny them?
This is him fucking his main point up.
Reading the transcript back like this makes it obvious to me that @SamMaloneUK is some kind of apologist sockpuppet doing its best to muddy the waters of reasonable dissent by conflating critical enquiry with unthinking prejudice and bigotry.
If ‘his’ purpose was to deflect attention from the very real effects Sharia Law is having on Muslim women and LGBT people across the planet, ‘he’ has failed.
I have never been more interested in human rights, freedom, equality,and one law for all.
coda: around 4am today I had convinced my self that I was paranoid, and @SamMaloneUK was just some guy. Then I looked at his account. He is on 8 lists on twitter - variously titled ‘fake account’, ‘spammers’, ‘autotweeters’ and sadly ‘liars’. What is his story?
An artist at work: Behind the scenes of a future page in progress from ‘badly drawn barbarian’I have had very little artistic training. (Taken with instagram)
The white rectangle begins to fill. Characters appear one by one from the top left corner, oddly dressed, old fashioned, individuals all, family resemblances rippling through the ranks with the algorithmic jerkiness of a poorly rendered crowd scene. Marching, hesitant at first they bleed across the arena. Faltering, unsure of their purpose, they advance.
They enter more quickly, groups forming one by one with the drip drip of a Chinese torturer, each appearing in answer to the eternal cry ‘drop the other boot!’, invisible footprints across an intangible chess board, experimental stratagems to outfox an imagined opponent.
Act at random, defy the logic of alphabets, race to the finish line but savour every step.
Find the others.
Dissent. Confusion. We are here because we are here rode up with where. A critical mass bemused by the strange attractor that the shopping centre cannot hold. Can’t go over it. No gerund in it. But if it gets you round the block, then even if nothing has been said, something has been done.
Stillness. The sentence is pronounced. The game is a footnote. The trapdoor opens, and your feet won’t touch the ground.