back to article Atheists smite online God poll

An online poll enquiring as to the possible existence of God has somewhat backfired on Christian outfit The Alpha Course, with 98 per cent of the popular vote currently saying he doesn't: Screengrab of The Alpha Course poll results at time of publication According to the Sun, The Alpha Course kicked off a multi-million …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    that 98% No is an achievement -

    given they already biased the test with two possible positive answers (yes, probably) and only one No ... yes/no/maybe would have been fairer, and yes/no/prob-not biased the other way. Mind you, with a Prob-not they might have at least split the No vote up :-)

  2. Richard 120
    Boffin

    Really, there is no god, we made it all up.

    If you believe in one true god then you don't believe in all the thousands of gods that have gone before, roman gods, greek gods, norse gods, mayan gods, egyptian gods etc. I agree with you. I don't believe in any of those gods either. I'll just go one small logical step further and not believe in your god either.

  3. Mathew White
    Happy

    Ahh...

    ...the silent majority.

  4. Michael O'Malley

    stupid poll

    I logged on to vote No, but I suspect the counter is bust.

    It is unlikely that the average person going on to a Christian site will be atheist, non-theist or agnostic. So, a poll of them is not exactly a random sample. It's like a poll on the BNP site asking if you support immigration.

    What stupidity, and typical of the kind of person who runs these sites.

    Existence or non-existence of something is not proven by majority vote. If the majority say God exists, does that automatically create him, if he did not exist before the vote? It sounds like one of Terry Pratchett's Discworld gods, who pop out of existence if people stop believing in them.

  5. PerfDave
    Gates Horns

    Alpha Cult

    People should be very careful around the Alpha Course. Their course leaders are trained to target the lonely, depressed and vulnerable. Their "questioning" sessions involve partnering one newbie with three or four Alpha stooges, for peer-to-peer indoctrination.

    In short, they use many of the same techniques as the Moonies and Scientologists to trap people in their clutches.

  6. Martin 47
    Thumb Up

    ooops

    alpha site seems to have fallen over, maybe the big woman upstaris is not happy?

  7. Freddie
    Thumb Up

    Serves them right.

    If they'd added "probably not" to the list of possible responses I'd have a lot more sympathy for them. As it stands my first thought is "hahahahahahaha".

  8. Matt 43
    FAIL

    Missing option

    I saw this on a poster and thought they might do better to include the rather obviously missing option of "probably not".

  9. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    Epic!

    Get snubbed by atheists....create webiste with poll trying to prove said aheists wrong....have people vote any which way they please.....aaaaaahh, results at at variance with intended goal of poll......you're all a bunch of liars, this poll is rubbish anyway, who would believe any old poll, clearly, if God has the awesome power of creating the universe, this poll would pale into insignificance....anyway, you atheists cheated because you made your opininions known en masse....you are not very nice people...in a gentler kinder time God would smite you

  10. ilikejam
    Thumb Up

    Heh heh heh.

    http://www.limmy.com/blog/2009/09/27/atheist-graffiti/

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha!

    Looks like the increased traffic has downed their website! That tickles me.

  12. Beelzeebub
    Flame

    Oh dear

    If He doesn't exist, I suppose I'll have to disappear in a puff of smoke.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only goes to show ...

    ... what happens when a web-aware group of people with an agenda start emailing/twittering/whatever now. Similar thing happened when the Guardian ran a poll for the greatest TV show in the "noughties" ... initially it was deluged by people voting for top gear (much to the consternation of the people posting in the accompanying comments section). Then came the backlash with "The Wire" getting the vast majority of the rest of the votes cast to try to force the un-PC TopGear out of top spot ... ultimately (with I think a bit of multiple vote discarding) it just scraped past TopGear and the Guardianistas could sleep safely again.

    So, I expect here some anti-Christian group has emailed round all their contacts to tell them to vote. I'm now expecting my email to get deluged by Church contacts telling me to go to the site and right this wrong. If this gets into the appropriate US email lists then they could be deluged.

    End result is it won't tell us very much ... but in any case I doubt this is the intention - its ADVERTISING and it appears to have worked!

  14. Ian Chard
    Joke

    Surely the title should have been

    Bear Grylls is an Alpha Fail

  15. NB
    FAIL

    looks like alpha fails pretty hard

    Their site is currently suffering from database problems. Even more hilarious is that it is displaying the MySQL db IP address and the username.

    Screenshot here: http://omploader.org/vMmxvag/alpha_fail.png

    Enjoy!

  16. Dave Ross
    Thumb Down

    I made my opinion known...

    Anyone wan to guess what I voted for?

  17. Piro
    FAIL

    Really? They think it was a sting?

    Or maybe they just need to realise that religion plays more and more of a token role in educated people's lives

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Not hard to believe

    Most people using the internet are a little tech savvy, hence most will veer more towards science as more credible answer to the great questions, ergo they lean towards an agnostic, if not totally atheist outlook.

    ( A pint, that's the answer to most of life's great questions! )

  19. Anonymous John

    God's way

    of punishing them for the DDOS attack on those Aussie atheists' sites.

  20. Paul Donnelly

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAA

    This is going to tickle me all day!! Something even slightly objective - this is why church attendance in the UK is dropping, people don't want to be told that they're going to burn for eternity by nutcases with dubious belief structures. Offer some PROOF for your claims (thats aimed at all religions everywhere) or STFU, no one cares!

    I haven't voted, but I'd be in that 98% of No's for certain.

  21. MinionZero
    Happy

    lol

    :)

    How long before they take it offline?

  22. Tom_

    Nicely biased there

    Does God exist?

    Yes

    No

    Probably

    Although I voted 'No', I'd still consider it fairer if they included a Probably Not option.

  23. ElFatbob

    backfired?

    'The Humanist Society insists the poll has "backfired",'

    Not sure how they work that one out. Sounds like the alpha group has identified a potential market of 98%!

    Really tho, what a pointless poll.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Er?

    Of course God exists. I was touched by his noodly appendage years ago.

    (yeah, I know, no way I'm the first to post along those lines, but the pasta made me do it)

  25. Fractured Cell
    Megaphone

    Wait just a cotton pickin' minute...

    How much do you bet that this was perpertrated by 4chan?

    Or a flash mob?

    I can also see a really sadistic botnet owner doing this for a laugh.

    (I say to him: "Well done, Sir!")

    Also, he has won 1 Internets.

  26. James 5
    Alien

    Just added my No vote.

    Now, if they'd asked about ET !

  27. Graham Bartlett

    God? No God? Who cares?

    The point which the Humanist Society should have tried to get across with their ads is not that there's probably no God, but that it doesn't matter whether there's a God or not. But they had to go for the headline-grabber.

    Point is, you should be trying to be a good person, which basically comes down to a lifelong Hippocratic Oath of "first do no harm". Every ethical position comes about naturally from that. And according to JC in the New Testament, it doesn't matter who we pray to - the good guys get to Heaven anyway, and the bad guys don't. The humanists and atheists are at an advantage here, because they can consider "first do no harm" without the laborious framework of how to do no harm which has built up historically around every religion - the utterly unholy Catholic doctrine of "every sperm is sacred", for example, which has no basis in the teachings of JC.

    So it's the reverse of Pascal's Wager. Blaise Pascal reckoned that you should go to church regardless of whether you believed or not, because if the Christians were right then it'd get you to Heaven, and if the Christians were wrong then you'd not lost anything. But according to JC it's the other way around - you'll get to Heaven whether you follow a religion or not, so long as you behave well. And if there isn't a Heaven, you've still led a good life which has generally improved the world as a whole (even if only in a small way).

    Besides which, there's a deeper point. Unless your god bases its decisions about an afterlife on the way you actually act, and the reasons you act that way, that god isn't worthy of worship. And if it does (cf. Christianity, Judaism and Islam), then it's handling admission to Hell, not Heaven.

  28. Paul 4
    Thumb Down

    Its a stupid poll

    It lets you vote more than once...

  29. Yorkshirepudding
    Grenade

    touched by his noodly appendages

    what sort of variable is possibly? bah!

  30. Hollerith 1

    Able to live with fantasy

    Mr Grylls is only exhibiting in his personal and professional life the ability to separate reality from fantasy. He delivers the fantasy but there's no need to suffer in reality.

    The Alpha Course is a pernicious bit of evangelising nastiness. They push certain cultural values under the guise of religious values, e.g. gay-hating, and have got the Church of England under their thumb. Not that this matters over-much, given that the poll really does indicate the position of the CofE in everyone's daily lives, i.e. about that equal to God.

  31. David Hicks
    Happy

    2% say yes... that's familiar

    Is that not the same proportion that attend church regularly? Seems this poll could be indicative after all.

    I've seen a lot of their "Does God Exist? Yes, No, Maybe" posters about the place, most have them in London seem to have been vandalised to have the "NO" box ticked as well. Personally I hope that the UK is transforming itself into a largely post-religious society, all that organised religion seems to stand for these days is prejudice and anti-rationality.

    Believe if you like, but I reserve the right to think you're delusional.

  32. Winkypop Silver badge
    FAIL

    The Intertubes do not lie

    Ergo: That god fella, he no exist.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Troll

    /b/ prank ?

    Poll's closed, due to atheists.

  34. Graham Marsden
    FAIL

    "I don't think this is indicative of people's faith in this country."

    ITYM "I don't want to be believe this because it doesn't fit in with what *I* think..."

  35. Matt.Smart
    Thumb Up

    Love it!

    Go atheists! :D

  36. Skavenger

    Vote as many times as you like

    Just click refresh after you've voted!

  37. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Wait

    "The poster and ad drive was a response to a Humanist Society campaign last year suggesting there was "probably no God" - a view shared by the vast majority of the 154,500 online votes at time of publication."

    Wan't the HS campaign jsut a response to a different Christian campaign?

  38. Michael O'Malley

    Subtle?

    Could a Christian site be subtle enough to create a poll which fails in an embarrassing way, so as to get viral spread, lots of hits on its site, and sales o Christian training courses?

    Hmm... seems unlikely that a christian site could have that level of intelligence. But I wonder.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ha Ha (In a Nelson Muntz stylee)

    Being a Humanist myself I find this enormously amusing, but in a serious way I'm very glad this has backfired. There was a simple intention behind this campaign as as response to the (in)famous "probably" campaign. That point was that they were hoping to get a massive yes vote which they could use to "prove" that there is a god. The Alpha bods seem to have fallen for the popular media delusion that public opinion is the same as fact.

    Guys religion isn't the same as the X-Factor

  40. No, I will not fix your computer
    Happy

    Given the options......

    Yes : Anyone who knows that God exists for a fact is probably delusional

    No : Anyone who knows that God does not exist for a fact is probably delusional

    Probably : Rational Theists (if there is such a thing)

    Where's "Probably Not"?

    This is the most rational category, and where most Atheists (and anyone who had genuinely thought about it rationally) would put themselves, given the absence of this category "No" is the closest, I suspect that the survey gave the most accurate result possible given the critera.

  41. Wibble
    Happy

    Just added my no vote

    When I was told Father Christmas wasn't real, I couldn't believe anyone who reckoned that God existed. Can't see much difference between the two.

  42. Captain Save-a-ho
    Coat

    Puff of logic

    Yet more proof that god doesn't exist, as though we need anything beyond the Babelfish, proving that because god does exist, therefore he doesn't.

    Mine's the one with the book labeled "Don't Panic" in large, friendly letters on the cover...

  43. Chronos Silver badge
    Stop

    Atheism

    One wonders why one would reject one load of prehistoric control freakery and immediately latch onto it's opposite. If you don't believe in ${DEITY}, that's it. No need to replace it with anything, the question should be moot and a non-issue for you. Active discussion promotes the idea that you're not entirely certain and trying to convince anyone else of your rectitude just perpetuates the asshattery.

    Since you can't prove a negative, just drop the entire subject and get on with your life. And, for fuck's sake, please stop poking the theists with a pointy stick; they're as entitled to an opinion as anyone else, especially given that it has been shown that some brains require this feudal belief system to accept the fact of life's unfairness without turning completely bat-shit crazy.

    We'll find out who is right in a few years anyway. Oh yes, it's on all our to-do lists, usually the final entry.

    As an aside, I'm surprised Apple haven't patented religion yet.

  44. sandman

    No sting involved

    Perhaps it's just that us non-believers are over-represented on the web. Let's face it, in this country many Christians are even older than myself and may not be totally in tune with these new-fangled Babbage machines.

  45. jubtastic1
    FAIL

    How to fix the poll

    Instead of wasting an option on 'Probably' which was always a half-assed attempt to load the poll, they should have used options of "Yes", "No" and "LOL".

    LOL is to intertnets what shave and a haircut is to roger rabbit.

  46. Dom S
    FAIL

    hahahahahahahaha

    'Spokesman Mark Elsdon-Dew added: "I don't think this is indicative of people's faith in this country." - what an idiot.'

    when are the christian population going to realise that they are slowly reducing in numbers?!

    this poll although quite obviously messed with by some idiotic atheist's could be more accurate than they believe, especially when you actually speak to people and realise that religion is no longer seen as something to believe in and more something that causes tension, strife, war and political unrest.

    The day religion becomes defunct is the day the human race will finally continue to evolve and unite in the peace we all seem so intent on forcing each other into

  47. Ian Wilson

    Probably?

    "Don't know, Don't care, what a bunch of wasters" would have been a better option than "Probably".

    Why didn't they just fix the online poll? Religion has been hearing only what it wants to hear since some idiot first came up with the idea.

  48. Anonymous Coward
    Headmaster

    Does God Exist?

    Yes - If you're a five year old hoping to receive an education in a state school your parents have already paid for through their taxes.

    Probably - If you're a cleric up to the level of bishop.

    No - If you're an archbishop or higher.

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    As they say...

    Vote early and vote often.

  50. Melvin Meatballs
    FAIL

    Standard advice to all...

    Don't ask a question unless you are prepared to get an answer you don't want to hear!

  51. Chris Haynes
    FAIL

    WHICH god?

    The question is badly written. Do they mean the Christian god, or one of the Hindus' gods? What about Thor? etc. (You've heard all this before.)

    If you put a poll up asking that question, and you get an answer that YOU don't particularly like, saying it's not indicative of the public is basically you choosing to ignore the results. But then, don't faith-heads do that anyway in the face of overwhelming evidence that contradicts their 'beliefs'?

    I wouldn't want to follow something that felt infanticide was a great idea, genocide an awesome hobby, and slavery an absolute necessity of life.

  52. Alan Brookland

    Figures are improving

    They shouldn't be too downhearted. It was 99% No, to 1% Yes last time I checked a couple of days ago. That's a doubling in belief in only a few days - if that rate is sustained...

  53. This post has been deleted by its author

  54. Kevin Johnston

    Polls/Popularity contests

    You would think by now that the people that put these on would have realised that the general population have discovered how much fun it is to produce the wrong result, witness that nice Mr Sarjeant in Celebrity X Dancers on Ice or whatever it was. Open polls such as this are a magnet for those looking for some cheap laughs.

  55. Number6

    Thanks for that

    Just bumped up the NO vote by one...

  56. Onionman
    FAIL

    Inaccurate polling

    "...The Alpha Course reckons it's the victim of an online sting. Spokesman Mark Elsdon-Dew added: "I don't think this is indicative of people's faith in this country.""

    I wonder if he would have doubted the results if they had been "right", i.e. the one he was hoping for.

    O

  57. Christopher Rogers
    Thumb Up

    Is god

    not the bloke who points at lottery winners in the ads?

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's a pretty crappy faith that even poses the question in the first place

    let alone fails to implement some sort of cookie check to prevent multiple voting, without even having to go to the trouble of deleting one's cookies...

  59. Thommy M.
    Paris Hilton

    Does He exist?

    No, and neither does She.

    Paris, as she really exists and she's Gods gift to man... ;)

  60. Richard Bragg
    Alert

    Something smells off here

    Since there are more than 2% of the population who claim to be Christian and others following different faiths this does look like some sort of sting/concerted voting.

  61. raving angry loony

    ego issues

    If the Bible isn't a complete work of fiction, and if the passage about the 10 commandments is even vaguely accurate, would some being calling itself an omnipotent, omnipresent, singular deity demand that people have no other gods before it if there were no other gods to put before it?

    I'm thinking alien with a serious ego problem. That or it's the runt of the god litter, and needed affirmation that this one little group of castoffs would at least pay it tribute. Who knew it would cause so much damage for so long to so many people?

  62. John F***ing Stepp

    We must choose carefully here

    In my (our field) there are Gods.

    (And me not even being an angel.)

    Theologists are different than you and I; a lot of them are fruitloop crazy.

    I would have insisted on the 'who cares' option.

    (can we have added a small animated icon of someone dancing round the dangers of hellfire?)

  63. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Stupid questionnaire bias

    Having three questions, two of which are basically "yes" responses, is just asking for trouble.

    If there's going to be a "probably", there should also be a "probably not".

    If you want to stick to three questions, what's wrong with "maybe"?

    And that's without getting stuck into the monotheistic bias implicit in the phrasing "_a_ god".

    People should have to get a license to publish surveys. Then again, they should also have to get a license to use an internet-connected computer. I shall continue to dream.

  64. The BigYin
    Thumb Down

    It's simple

    God is all knowing, all seeing, and all powerful. God can see your past, present and future. Everything you have done, are doing and will do. Ergo your future is pre-ordained as God has already seen it and you have no free will.

    or

    You have free will. Your actions are unpredictable and God cannot see what you are doing in the future. Thus there are limits to God's powers and God cannot be all knowing, all seeing and all powerful.

    Paradox! You can't have a God *and* free will, the major cornerstone of the Abrahamic religions.

    This, of course, does not stop you continuing to be a decent, honest and moral person (despite what Americans may think).

  65. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Sorry

    But I don't believe in their website.

    Mines the invisible pink one with unicorns on it...

  66. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: How to fix the poll

    LOL

  67. Osvaldo
    Thumb Up

    Just contributed my 'NO'... to God, and to Grylls

    God is just myth and Bear Grylls no much different - his program is fun and he's certainly a skilled survivalist, but all the cheating has been well known for some time. For serious stuff go see Les Stroud's Survivorman. He doesn't try to show himself as a living hero - real survivors don't do risky stunts every five minutes, so I guess for some people the program may look boring - and (unlike Bear) Les doesn't make at least one scene almost naked for the female public... but the survival thing is real.

  68. Michael O'Malley

    Biased poll

    I am an agnostic as I cannot choose between the Invisible Pink Unicorn or the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Each has comforted me during the long dark lunchtime of the soul.

    Neither was offered as an option in this poll.

    I have never met this God, but judging his friends he must be unbelievable. So I had to vote no.

  69. Tony Flaherty
    Happy

    Did God Vote?

    If God exists then he could rig the voting, unless of course he's too busy ensuring that there is no starvation, hatred, or soap opera's on the world.

  70. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    Ha Ha Ha

    I'm a christian ... but i had to find that funny :)

  71. Kevin 43
    WTF?

    Endorsements...

    Does the Guardian, Express, Times, Telegraph and Time magazine know they endorsing "Alpha" on their homepage?

  72. Mal Adapted
    Pint

    Re: something smells off here

    "this does look like some sort of sting/concerted voting."

    Pharyngulated! Heh, heh 8^).

  73. Richard 45
    Thumb Down

    @PerfDave

    "People should be very careful around the Alpha Course. Their course leaders are trained to target the lonely, depressed and vulnerable."

    Not just the Alpha Course. This is standard practice for pretty much all evengelical christian groups you can mention.

  74. Anonymous Coward
    Boffin

    Glove puppets vote early and often

    So how can automated web vote counters tell multiple humans from scripts ? Any such vote can be rigged using Wget in a loop or some other scripted HTTP client. If you need a unique email address and domain cookie to vote then these can be created and processed as needed quite easily too. Telling apart half a million votes from my IP addresses at different_email_prefixes@domains.I.own from half a million Hotmail votes from a few Hotmail IPs would require some human knowledge, analysis and intelligence. Besides which If I owned a large enough botnet, telling the difference between genuine and automated voting could involve great expense,

  75. Mortal
    FAIL

    only

    in the human mind. I know, I asked my dog.

  76. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Boffin

    @Michael O'Malley

    "If the majority say God exists, does that automatically create him"

    Actually from a sociological point of view that's pretty much how it works, yes. Some would even argue that god's existence outside of the collective mind that "created" him makes little difference, if at all, and is pointless to discuss.

  77. Peter Methven
    Thumb Up

    Don't knock it till you've tried it.

    Having made the effort to attend an Alpha Course, i would say don't knock it until you've tried it.

    Yes it is Christian, and yes its ultimate aim is to educate you in Christian views, but actually it does raise some interesting questions and on the course I went on, there is not a major pressure to "convert". It does however put forward a well reasoned, case for there being a God which isn't solely based around "you must believe because I do" and also goes on to explain some of the bible teachings which most people never understand.

    I've been on team building days for work which attempt more "brainwashing" than the Alpha Course, and are more sinister.

    The worst complaint I have about the Alpha course is I always felt I couldn't turn an extra piece of cake down!

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Alert

    Oh Noes....its now 97%...

    quick, everyone get on and vote now

    and someone go slap a large proportion of those 4,000 sheep that votes yes! since this article was posted on here.

    yellow triangle emblazoned with idiot bat! to be broken out in emergencies... like this one!

  79. The Indomitable Gall

    Re: hahahahahahahaha

    @ Dom S

    "when are the christian population going to realise that they are slowly reducing in numbers?!"

    Erm... did you even check what the "Alpha Course" is...? It's an evangelical program that was established because...

    <drum roll>

    ...the Christian population realised that they were slowly reducing in numbers!!!!

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    @Glove puppets vote early and often

    so that's what botnets are for - voting no in does god exist online polls. Right, let's spread some malware

  81. Richard 126

    Existance of god

    Gods do not exist independent of belief. First there is belief then there is god. All gods exist because they are believed in and will continue to exist while they are believed in. Once people stop believing in them they pass into myths and legends before finally ceasing to exist altogether.

    Christianity and in fact most religions have this backwards.

  82. Jon H

    TV vs Church

    I heard an interesting fact that made me think recently, only around a million (or less) people in the UK go to church on a Sunday where a man tells you what to do/belive.

    Whereas several million people watch comedy/quiz/news/etc etc shows every week.

    So a single comedian/newsreader/etc etc on TV has a far bigger reach than the combined force of all the vicars, priests and bishops in this country!

  83. LaeMi Qian Silver badge
    Badgers

    Where is the checkbox for...

    "God could exist but the chances of it having even a passing resemblance to anything humanity has dreamed up in their own image/beliefs/powerlust is so remote as to be not worth considering."

  84. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Brilliant.

    Ever since I saw one of their posters, I have carried a marker pen around with me to tick the 'no' box of subsequent ones I have seen.

  85. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    What it DOES prove

    If God exists he planned the outcome of this poll to say he doesn't. Clearly he doesn't want us to believe.

  86. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And the Bleak shall inherit the Dearth.

    Don't worry folks: The site is down but in three days it shall rise again.

    BTW did you know, Jesus was not a "dogger", Jesus was not a "cottager", Jesus is , however, a "Fisher of Men". Make of it what you will..... everyone else does.

  87. Tony Paulazzo
    Happy

    ...full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

    >But according to JC it's the other way around - you'll get to Heaven whether you follow a religion or not, so long as you behave well. And if there isn't a Heaven, you've still led a good life which has generally improved the world as a whole (even if only in a small way).<

    Well spoken sir!

  88. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Mightily pissed.

    Would you Adam and Eve it ? I've just tried to log on and cast my vote but there's no "I do" button. It's a fucking outrage, let me tell you. And by the way, this isn't the first time this has happened. But you mark my words, I'll be back a second time

    PS. Don't tell my dad I was here: he'll fucking kill me.

  89. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    @ Richard 126 about the existence of gods

    I was with you until the "Christianity and in fact most religions have this backwards.". That is not true. No religion can exist if the adepts do not believe that the deity predates the faith. It's probably because the human brein is not terribly good at dealing with abstract concepts (that can be explained by evolution -just to piss off the American christians a bit more). Abstract concepts can only be grasped at the price of a very extensive mental exercise -that's school for you-, which can take a whole life -often more-, when dealing with *very* abstract matters such as the nature of the Universe. Think Chords theory. That's why kids learn to count with small items, and believe they can hide by masking their eyes. That's why you always have to resort to the tired "fabric that bends around objects" analogy to explain gravitation. That's also why, no matter what you can say, most people won't believe that Shroedinger's cat is both alive and dead at the same time, although it quite obviously *is*, and although this paradox was actually a *simplification* to make quantum physics more understandable. And that's why religion doesn't work very well without the faith in a pre-existing deity (As far as I can tell the GSM hasn't buit anything remotely equivalent to the pyramids or Stonehenge). Actually these limitations of the human brain in terms of abstract concepts is also why many "scientists" (in the faith sense, not the education sense; "sciencetists" might be more appropriate) fail to understand that gods *are* almighty and omniscient, provided they have enough worshippers, and provided said worshippers are a majority of the general population (there are quite a few ways for worshippers to *create* this majority thing even in the absence of an "objective" statistical majority, but that's another story. Ask me about it if you dare!). That's because they crystalize the power and knowledge of their worshippers. I might sound like a nutter right now, but think about it, you'll realize it's true. It has nothing to do with handey-wavey brain power, it has to do with extreme dedication, teamwork, and distribu-centralized(1) information. Gods erected the Egyptian pyramids for dog's sake (2)! At that time our ancestors (mine, at least) were struggling with that new-fangled "wheel theory" concept! Even now we can't figure out how they did that. Same goes for Stonehenge and co.

    To summarize, IMHO religions are not bad because they are irrationnal -I believe in a lot of irrationnal stuff (i²=1? seriously?)- but because if I can choose I'd rather not feel like an ant with no choice over my life whatsoever. Of course some people can feel free just because they're allowed to wear a Looney Tunes tie on Fridays. Or because they're allowed to carry a firearm in the glovebox. Lucky, lucky people. How much is it for a partial lobotomy?

    (1) that would be "centrally coordinated network of priests" in Oxford-approved English

    (2) the ancient Egyptians had this handy trick that made their leader a god. Any similarity with Staline, GW Bush junior, or the latest recipient of the Nobel prize for peace, would of course be purely coincidental.

  90. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge
    Happy

    The famous IT angle

    Can anyone explain why, after voting left, right and center a dozen times on the Alpha website -from the very same machine, just reloading the page-, I was at some point served a "sorry, you can vote only once in this poll" message? And why after a reload was I allowed to vote once more?

    I mean, WTF? Said machine is granted with fixed IP powers. It is reachable by DNS lookup from anywhere in the world, and I was not even logged in as another user. Is that a miracle?

  91. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    @ The BigYin

    "Paradox! You can't have a God *and* free will, the major cornerstone of the Abrahamic religions."

    You're new to this controverse, ain't you? That point has been extensively discussed by theologists for the last 10 decades (at least). That includes a few conciles where old farts with nothing better to do with their life tackled that issue quite extensively. I am still not convinced, even though I have been discussing this quite a lot with some renowned theologists (two of whose happenned to be my grandparents), but , as S. Bee's fave T-shirt puts it, "I think you'll find it's more complicated than that". Never underestimate the rhetorical power of sex-deprived brilliant minds (come to think of it I wonder how often the average quantum physicist gets laid. But that's another story)

  92. IR

    Beware of Alpha

    "People should be very careful around the Alpha Course. Their course leaders are trained to target the lonely, depressed and vulnerable."

    Completely agree. I went along, believing what they said - that it was for learning about Christianity - but found something much more sinister. Firstly, all the reasoning was circular, God exists because it says so in the Bible, the Bible is true because God exists. My wife and I were split up into separate groups and hounded about our beliefs. Most of the people there were on their 3rd course or more (why do it so many times?!) and at least half were former addicts of some kind that had replaced alcohol/drugs with jesus.

  93. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    For the 98%

    who do not belive that He exists. I'd tender for your consideration the mighty fashion in which He smote their website.

    Of course, believing that a site being slash-dotted is evidence of His existance can only lead to the obvious conclusion that Slashdot is God.... which probably isn't too far from the truth ;p

  94. Mathew White
    Grenade

    Deleting entries

    The number of votes was close to 200,000, now its 166,464 - and it keeps dropping so I'm guessing they they are gradually doctoring the results/removing duplicates at the same ip.

    Re Endorsing, this is part of what the guardian had to say on the alpha course:

    "Woman leads church boycott in row over evangelical pig-snorting

    A woman has walked out of her church and is holding services in her living room because she says she cannot bring herself to 'snort like a pig and bark like a dog' on a Church of England course. Angie Golding, 50, claims she was denied confirmation unless she signed up for the Alpha course, which she says is a 'brainwashing' exercise where participants speak in tongues, make animal noises and then fall over. Mark Elsdon-Dew of HTB, Holy Trinity Brompton, said the Alpha course included lectures on the Holy Spirit. 'It affects different people in different ways,' he said."

  95. Steven Griffiths

    Can't vote more than once...

    Just gone on to spam it with another few dozen votes, after about the sixth it told me I can't vote more than once.

    So they're not only retards for thinking the world's about 6000 years old, they can't count either.

  96. C 2
    Alert

    Its down to 96% !

    GASP! These religious crackpots are starting to catch on!

  97. M Neligan
    Grenade

    Old news?

    Dixit insipiens in corde suo: Non est Deus.

    Corrupti sunt, et abominabiles facti sunt in iniquitatibus;

    non est qui faciat bonum.

  98. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    @The Big Yin, others

    You can have a God and Free Will- He could see all of the possible outcomes of every possible decision and event but have no real idea which one you'll take. That's true omnipotence- seeing time as a simple 1D past/present/future line is an easy mistake to make, but consider a multidimensional time (demonstrated quite nicely in Back to the Future) and you can get both God and free will.

    Also, there's no proof that God(s) doesn't/don't exist. Nothing's proved that God does exist either. So you can neither say it "does" or "doesn't" exist with 100% certainty; there's no actual empirical evidence either way.

    The thing is that it makes absolutely no difference whether it exists or not- any problems we come up against we can solve without a God or they remain unsolved.

    Sorry to not toe the "lollorz christienz r idi0tz rofl" party line, but I get irritated by people claiming to be Scientists who say that there definitely is no God- that's just as much of a belief-based claim as saying there is a God. Without something like the Babel Fish you can't even make a logical argument either way.

    You can be both Theistic and a scientist.Though many organised religions don't like you taking too much of a scientific eye to their claims.

    So my answer in the poll would have been "there's no proof either way. But as there isn't any proof that there is, I'll proceed on the assumption that there isn't".

  99. elderlybloke
    Paris Hilton

    A couple of things

    I can't figure out.

    Why did God make this insignificant little planet have a life form is his image?

    Are there any other planets anywhere in the Universe that have a similar life form?

    There are many forms of believers in God , who say wants them to be peaceful ,not kill others etc, and more wars have been fought over which is the right one than anything else...

    The Christian belief followed the Jewish and the Muslim followed the Christian, but God knows how many believers have been killed over religions that are really much the same.

    On a more cheerful note - a nice girl

  100. Handle this!
    Joke

    the church needs to get microsoft on the case

    .. and get some good old FUD going..

  101. Adrian Midgley 1

    @Chronos

    No. We won't.

    And it isn't.

  102. KirstarK

    so much for 90% of the world beleives in god.

    Religeon is an excuse for people not to take responsibility for their own actions

  103. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Dont follow the link

    I thought i'd check the poll out but i get av warnings just opening the page,

    26/10/2009 10:11:31 Detected: HEUR:Trojan-Downloader.Script.Generic Internet Explorer http://uk.alpha.org/sites/all/jquery.fancybox/jquery.easing-1.3.js//jquery.easing-1.3 I'm using ie8 as thats all we are allowed at work :(

    Seems that its a double backfire, atheists vote and feel smug that the poll backfired, alpha course commences evil laughter as unwitting atheists are infected. Prehaps their god is the trickster bill hicks warned us about......

  104. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    @By The BigYin et al.

    Actually wrong. Using quantum mechanics all possible outcomes to a qusetion can be known at once (all knowing) but Schroedingers cat states a choice will change the outcome (dead alive cat). So you can have free will as you choose your path but a omnipotent being can know all possible outcomes from those pattrens of choices using quantum mechanics - oops is that a proof? You choose when you are dead you can see if you were right or wrong - simples.

  105. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like there's a time limit on voting more than once...

    ...simply wait a few minutes and do it again :)

  106. Jez Burns
    Happy

    @Graham Bartlett

    Amen to that!

  107. markfiend
    Grenade

    @Chronos:

    We'll stop poking the theists when they stop trying to make us all live by their rules.

    Blasphemy laws (Blasphemy: the one truly victimless crime)

    Anti-gay "defence of marriage" laws

    Trying to fsck up science teaching for our kids

    Need I go on?

  108. Glass55

    Let's see now...

    * Spaghetti Monster reference: check.

    * Babel Fish/"Puff of Logic": check.

    * Father Christmas/Tooth Fairy/Easter Bunny: check.

    * Invisible Pink Unicorn: check

    * Science-religion mutually exclusive: check

    * Religious belief equates to lower intelligence: check

    Yep, it's another religion thread on the Reg.

    @AC, 11:41 23/10/09:

    "Most people using the internet are a little tech savvy, hence most will veer more towards science as more credible answer to the great questions"

    There's that fashionable false dichotomy again; the one where science and religion are presented as being in opposition and intrinsically incompatible. But as has been explained thousands of times by moderate commentators on both sides, this assumption depends on the definition of 'religion' in very specific, narrow terms. Personally, as someone who's moderately 'tech savvy', I see no reason why science and religion cannot both contribute to the way humans approach those 'great questions'. There are questions that science answers far better than some religions do, and some that I suspect science won't ever really answer at all. For example, "why does anything exist at all", or "why am I conscious, and why I am I conscious of me, specifically?"

    All of these questions can be answered - or at least dismissed - in 'rational' terms, if you're willing to be sufficiently vague and inconclusive. The implications of our current - scientific! - understanding of the Universe require us to accept a 'Big Bang' that was apparently caused by nothing and happened in an 'environment' (for want of a better word) where neither time nor space existed.

    Even if it's argued that the Big Bang must have had a cause, and we just haven't been able to identify it yet, then we're faced with the prospect of an infinite regress: an endless parade of causes stretching back into an inexplicable eternity of past. What caused the cause of the cause of the cause of the...? If at any point the regress stops, then we're still faced with the problem of something from nothing. It strikes me that this alone torpedoes all our precious notions of what's rational and what's not: at some point we just have to accept that the world around us is extraordinarily strange. Fine, insist on being evidence-based if you wish, no problem there at all: but I'd still be very careful indeed about venturing beyond "there's no evidence for..." to "you're a wicked moron if you believe...".

    For the record, I'm not Christian. I hold no belief in Original Sin, or the eternal torture of sinners in Hell by a loving, merciful God, or any of the other dubious tenets so beloved of atheists still - for some reason - desperately keen to harangue me (as one of the generalised 'religious') for my primitive superstitious idiocy.

    And I agree: the Alpha Course's question was loaded. There were indeed two affirmative answers for only one negative. But, like the angriest and most vocal of the atheists, the Course website was clearly operating based on a very specialised and specific definition of 'God'. Ask me if THAT God exists and I'll give it a pretty confident 'no'. Ask me if some sort of divinity exists and I'll give you an equally confident 'yes'. (Not absolute, of course: there's always the possibility that nothing really exists at all.)

    Obviously it's the fashion to mock those who adopt a religious attitude towards the world we live in. It's comforting for those doing the mocking because it allows them to feel superior, when the truth is we're all just groping along in the dark, with even our best and brightest scientific minds barely scratching the surface of an unspeakably vast, incomprehensively ancient and utterly baffling Universe.

  109. Sir Sham Cad

    @Glass55

    "Even if it's argued that the Big Bang must have had a cause, and we just haven't been able to identify it yet, then we're faced with the prospect of an infinite regress: an endless parade of causes stretching back into an inexplicable eternity of past."

    Only we *have* been able to identify it. We can observe the predicted remnants of it. It's a very well understood theory. there are kids books about it FFS. It wasn't a "Bang" or an explosion, it was an expansion of a singularity, a condensation of energy into matter (and, due to the speed of light being such a large number you can get a lot of matter out of that energy).

    If you're interested, there's some great info out there on teh intertubes including this excellent vid from YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANtpsunRYIs (don't fall into the Creationist/Atheist bunfights there, though. It's funny for a while but gets icky)

  110. phoenix
    FAIL

    @Sir Sham Shad

    And of course the energy just happened to be around at the time and decided to do that. I personally don't care how the universe started ther are far bigger issues to address in the present than concerning ourselves with the ancient past - unleess of course you hell bent on trying to get God out of the equation.

    Science is fastly becoming a sham purportrated by snake oil salesmen and has become in some areas a religion where no conversation can take place unless you are suitabable knowledgeble to their exacting standards before you can argue your case - genetic engineeering and evolution. How is this any different to Church that spoke in Latin to hold back power from the masses to learn for themselves.

  111. Sir Sham Cad

    @phoenix

    You can easily gain access to scientific knowledge sufficient to answer most of these basic questions.

    It's called "School".

    Granted, if you wish to probe deeper into the depths of Cosmology, Biology or any other branch of Science, you need to seek out more specialist knowledge. Like "University" or "The Library".

    The only thing preventing anyone taking part in the conversation, as you put it, is the wilful ignorance of those who refuse to do the basic learning or research into a subject before decrying it based on their own lack of understanding. This isn't an artificial barrier put up by Scientists in order to exclude you from the debate, it's simply the basic mental tools you will need in order to play any meaningful part in that debate. It's not a crime to not know something, of course not, but if you want to take part in a discussion in that field, whether it's footy or astrophysics, you'd better be prepared to learn something about it if you want to be taken seriously.

    To assist you with your first confusion, here's a handy link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_singularity#Curvature

    Bet you don't read it, though.

    Moderatrix: Apologies for dragging this out. It's like Pavlov's Bell to me, I can't help reacting to it.

  112. Glass55

    @ Sir Sham

    Thank you for the advice, but I think you misunderstood my meaning. I'm afraid I also find it hard to avoid reacting in some cases - such as the sort of assumption you seem to have made in your response to me.

    It wasn't actually my intention to question the fact of the Big Bang which, as you say, can be observed. I didn't say that we hadn't been able to identify the Big Bang, but that - at least as far as I'm aware with my admittedly non-professional understanding - we hadn't identified the CAUSE of the Big Bang, or whether it had one.

    When looking at the Big Bang, we either require that an effect always has a cause, in which case there can be no ultimate 'prime mover' - religious or scientific - and we're left having to try to explain an infinite regress, a chain of causation that's always existed; or we suppose that the Big Bang 'just happened' - in which case an effect doesn't need to have a cause. Either way, we're forced to concede certain limits to what our rationalism can tell us.

    Some fierce positivists detest that notion: they prefer to insist that science will one day answer all questions. I don't believe it will. That doesn't believe that I think people should look to 'supernatural' explanations before scientific ones, but it does lead me to take due care before declaring that a thing doesn't or can't exist. Much less that someone who allows for the possibility that such a thing exists must therefore be less intelligent.

    Science, like it or not, is not fundamental to the working of the universe. Science is a system - an effective one, no doubt - which WE have created in our attempt to describe and understand the universe. In its current form, it may well be lacking or incomplete - and in any case, the universe isn't obliged to respect the models we try to impose on it. At the very least, as much as science brings very real benefits (and very real terrors), I think it's always a good idea not to put too much confidence in any predetermined notions of what's 'rational'.

    If that makes me a deluded religious maniac, then so be it. Although I still wouldn't have voted 'yes' on the Alpha Course's poll.

  113. phoenix
    Unhappy

    @Sir Sham

    Thanks for the advice, however scathingly it was given. Arrogance comes from those who percieve not their own short-comings. As it was I read the article and I still don't see where the energy came from to create the singularity but maybe I am a dumb ass who missunderstands such things having only read 10 pages of Hawkin's book.

    As for school and university hmmm they tend to close minds a great deal of the best business people gave that a miss. Also I disagree having spoken to and see in TV sceintists who dismiss people even when they have read up on a subject as they have not the paper to back it up be it a bachelors, masters or phD.

    We agree to disagree afterall it would be a boring, unexplored, misunderstood world if we all thought the same would it not?

  114. Sir Sham Cad

    @phoenix, @Glass55

    The issues with comprehension regarding scientific issues on the edge of our common understanding aren't limited to religious zealots and if I have accused either you of being so (pretty sure I haven't) then that was an error on my part.

    The point is that the concepts involved in subjects that are understood by science but at the extremes of scientific endeavour (extremes as in magnitude or complexity, not the egde of our understanding) are usually very counter-intuitive. Our brains and cognitive patterns have not eveolved to deal with concepts such as quantum mechanics and imaginary time. The fact remains that, at the extremes, of which you get a lot in Physics and Cosmology, an effect does not need a preceding cause. Yes, that makes no sense to us but we can and have recreated such effects in a lab environment. A Singularity is not a "container" of a set amount of "energy" or "stuff" because there's no such thing as space so you can't have mass or volume. This means there's nowhere for the "stuff" to make the singularity to have come from and there doesn't need to be. Yep, this is the bit that hurts our poor human brains. Luckily for us we have mathematics and science to use as tools with which to model and explain the behaviour we see and to use those models to predict stuff that we can then try to observe in order to verify the validity of the model and our most recent models for the "Big Bang" so far hold up nicely.

    Without at least knowing about what the models say you're left with either being baffled at a non-intuitive situation and relying on blind faith in God to explain it or left baffled relying on blind faith in The Science to explain it. Neither way feels a good place to be but at least with Science you can always learn more about it if you want to and then you can resolve the puzzle to your own intellectual satisfaction.

    OK, that's it for my soapbox. Peace, out. (I can hear the sigh of relief from here, Sarah. I'll go haunt some newer thread now).

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