Why referendums are absolutely meaningless. by underground

In a well written and intelligent editorial, the Herald on Sunday outlined why referendums are not worth the ballot paper the poorly written questions are written on. Entitled “Ask an obvious question and you get a meaningless answer“, today’s editorial outlines how the questions used in referendums are loaded as to ensure tht only one result can possibly be found. In next years citizen initiated referendum on the repealing of section 59 of the Crimes Act, the question will be “should a smack as a part of good parental correction be a criminal offence?” When many experts in child psychology and childcare have said that smacking is not actually a part of good parental correction, the question ceases to make any sense. So do you vote if you disagree with the premise of the question? Vote yes and oppose “good parental correction” (which does not include smacking), or abstain in protest? Continue reading


Prison unit takes a bashing – is it out for the count? by underground

The news that a prisoner has been beaten within an inch of their life at the faith-based He Korowai Whakapono unit at Rimutaku Prison will further jeopardise the future of the facility and the Prison Fellowship not-for-profit organisation that runs it. The inmate is believed to have suffered brain damage in an attack with a pool cue and was taken to Wellington Hospital. This is probably the last thing the Prison Fellowship wanted to happen, as it is only months away from closure, due to a desperate lack of funds. Continue reading

“Well Hitler was an atheist, and look what he did!” by underground

Unfortunately this is a common argument, devoid of historical support and logical reasoning. It is argued, usually in response to those who point out the many killed in holy wars, that atheistic leaders have killed more than religious ones. Evil dictators are bought forward as examples of what happens when society rejects religion and secularism takes hold. Although many theists employ this tactic, it does appear a ploy by the more conservative, as an underhand way of undermining secularism, freedom from religion and separation of the church and state, and in place installing theocracies (or at least religion based regimes) in western countries. Although many tyrants are put forward as examples, possibly the most common one is Adolf Hitler. And just like Christians try to claim Albert Einstein (and even sometimes Darwin!?), Hitler is cast off as an atheist. But was he? Continue reading

Demonising the devil by underground

Pascal’s Wager is surely one the worst reasons to be religious. If he is right and I am wrong, Pascal spends eternity in heaven, and I suffer in hell. If I am right and he is wrong, we both just die, and he loses nothing (apart from 1/7 of his life in church). Of course there are many religions, so how does Pascal know he has the right one? So it is flawed reasoning. And it is not evidence that persuades him, but fear. Let us not take Blaise Pascal as an idiot. Let us forgive his perverted religiosity, his weak convictions and his desperate faith, faith based not upon the bible or on the supposed teachings of Jesus, but on his fear of eternal damnation. Let us conjure up the notion that he was on to something, let us delude ourselves with the possibility he could be correct. As a ‘Christian’ (albeit a fairly shit one), upon death he will be granted entry though the pearly gates of heaven towards the outstretched arms of Jesus and Mother Theresa, preparing for an eternity of love and all that. Meanwhile, heathens, atheists, and all abhorrent non-believers will be destined for eternity in hell. But what would this hell be like? Still assuming that Pascal and his ilk are correct about God, Jesus and heaven, must their view of hell also be entirely true as well? Are we destined for eternal damnation, fire and brimstone and all that? Perhaps it is more likely the hell would be completely different, and that its portrayal is merely propaganda. For what better instrument does Christianity have at its disposal the threat of eternal torture for non-believers? I challenge anyone to provide an example of a better recruitment tool than hell. Continue reading

______defend New Zealand by underground

Considering Christianity is no longer the dominant religion in New Zealand, should we still have “God defend New Zealand” as our national anthem? The only time we ever here it when the All Blacks play and a couple of times at the Olympics. Should the anthem not reflect the whole country and be meaningful for all people? Admittedly the national anthem means nothing to me, as I’m sure it does not resonate with others too. Every time it plays before matches, I confess I have reservations of saying, “God defend New Zealand”, as I do not believe in any god. It seems hollow and insincere. I’m not overly patriotic, but I would like to proudly sing about what is fine about our country, something I can believe in. I sing the Maori version with more heart than I do the English, as although it means roughly the same thing, it reflects this country better than the original as no other country has a Maori version of their anthem. And I don’t know exactly what I’m saying! It is not about wiping away tradition or dismissing history, but having an anthem that applies to the country. Arguably the current one never did, even without the religious references. It is a nothing anthem! You could change New Zealand with any other western countries name and it would work just as well (or poorly!) Just as the flag arguably does not reflect the nation, neither does the anthem. After all, it is hardly the most rousing tune, unlike perhaps the French. I cannot imagine what it would be replaced with, but there is surely something that reflects the country better than the outdated and irrelevant current anthem. I don’t see it being changed any time soon; with Labour so low in the polls it might be seen to be as a little unnecessary by the electorate. Maybe with the rising number of agnostics and atheists, it could perhaps be a worthwhile last throw of the dice for the ailing incumbents!

“If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture” by underground

Although I think the man is brilliant, I have found that Christopher Hitchens is recently losing his thirst for justice and appreciation of human rights. So it was only fitting that having said that waterboarding was not torture as many claim, he put he put his money where is mouth is and fronted up. In the August 2008 issue of Vanity Fair, Hitchens writes of his experience of being waterboarded.

Tellingly, in order to go through with the trial, after various health checks, Hitchens had to sign a contract of indemnification, with the clause:

“Water boarding” is a potentially dangerous activity in which the participant can receive serious and permanent (physical, emotional and psychological) injuries and even death, including injuries and death due to the respiratory and neurological systems of the body.

Well versed in the thoughts of Orwell, Hitchens is capable of cutting through the government’s psychobabble and sees waterboarding for what it is, not as an “enhanced interrogation technique”, but as torture. Borrowing from Abraham Lincoln who said, “If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong”, Hitchens come to a similar conclusion: “If waterboarding does not constitute torture, then there is no such thing as torture.” Continue reading

Statistics that smack of spin by underground

Statistics are great! If you’ve got an opinion, how better than to back up your point of view with some supportive numbers. Statistics give you credibility. I often use some numbers to back up one of my many online rants on this here blog you are reading. It often goes like, “here’s what I think and here’s the numbers that prove my point. Now you cannot disagree with me. I win and you lose! Back to the drawing board, you …(add insult here.)

However, sometimes statistics can be less than conclusive. And sometimes both sides of an argument can claim a stat supports either side’s point. This is what happened when the Christian lobby group Family First commissioned a survey into Sue Bradford’s repealing of section 59 of the Crimes Act (or what is lazily, but more simply, referred to as the “Anti-Smacking” Law) Continue reading