Archive for August, 2009

Farewell old friend

August 31st, 2009 No comments

Take in the Leeds Atheist Society logo above as it may be the last chance we see it. After three good years of service and exposure to thousands of students over that period, it is nearing retirement. This is due to the new committee looking to move the society in a new direction.

I have always hada softspot for this logo. It may be simple design but for a lot of Leeds students, past and present, it has come to represent the very values that the society has stood for over the years. The colours representing the dawn of enlightenment, the application of reason to improtnat questions, the use of open debate to draw to rational conclusions and not least of all embodying the bright futures many of our alumni have gone on to. The tree itself representing the tree of knowledge, the foundation of the society based on strong roots in philosophy, science and art. The branches representing the many groups of atheists or agnostic people that make up the society.

I will be sad to see it go but hopefully the new committee will devleop an idea even stronger and bolder and this will help forge a new era for the society.

Blogging from work.

August 31st, 2009 No comments

So I’m blogging from work, always a good sign of productivity! Working through in 2nd line today, really wish we worked through here permanently. They have big desks and no barriers between desks which makes for a far better working environment. Will try and a pic later via Twitter so keep an eye out for a twitpic tweet on the sidebar.

Blackberry Applications

August 30th, 2009 No comments

I have been itching to really get to grips with unleashing the power of my Blackberry device since I upgraded earlier this year. It seems this itch has taken a back seat as I have been busy with other things. That is until now.

The last week or so I have been experimenting with what applications I add to really make a difference to how I would normally interact with my phone or with the world at large. The Blackberry app market is not as saturated as the iPhone apps market, nor is it as easy to navigate and find the apps that you may be interested in. However, the apps themselves are as powerful as those for the iPhone and come with the massive benefit of not having to own an iPhone to use!

I am sure that as time goes on I will find soem more apps to add, but for the time being I have gone for a relatively small selection that really make a big difference:

  • WordPress for Blackberry – a fantastic app that allows full access to my wordpress blogs without needing to enter via the browser. This means you can write and edit the draft offline then when you are happy with the end result publish it in seconds. The features are pretty powerful and the UI is not bad to look at. Needs a little more work on the higher end functionality like adding media etc, but for text based blogging it is far easier than using the email functionality in wordpress!
    Facebook – no Blackberry is really compelte without a social networking app. i have not yet worked out how to get it to tell me about new event invites, but it does let me synch existing events with my BB calendar.
    Viigo – this RSS and news aggregator is a fantastic bit of kit. Took less than 5 mins to set up all the feeds I subscribe to and it also includes suggestions of related sites and feeds. The best bit about it is the almost complete control you have over how it displays your information. This really helps to prevent info overload!
    Google Maps – BB based version of the popular web based mapping software. Ties in nicely with the BB GPS system.
    Windows Live Messenger – a BB version of the IM software.
    Gmail – Again, the BB app verison of the webmail service from Google. I actually don’t use it so much as I have my gmail accounts set up within the email system, but a useful backup none the less.
  • Blogging from my Blackberry

    August 30th, 2009 No comments

    Installed and set up wordpress for Blackberry application. Now I can blog on my phone! Makes this update section far more useful!

    What I have been up to this week 2009-08-30

    August 30th, 2009 No comments
    • An evening of paula cole and fifa :-)#
    • Gonna sit back and enjoy my rice (made by Chen) and watch me some telly on my new TV! #
    • Thats Viigo all set up on my BB :)#
    • – New TV! #
    • just voted "Atheist! :D " on "Show Us Twitter's Religious Diversity." vote too ? #
    • What a day! Tomorrow doesn't look any better either, despite me getting a TV! #
    • W00t! Just won £20 of shopping vouchers at work :S Not making the day much better though… #
    • Wasn't sure it was possible, but has work got a little more shit? #
    • Work is stressing me out right now #
    • Who the hell marks all radio buttons as checked as a default?! #
    • RT @leedsatheistsoc leedsatheistsoc: Tonight's social – 7pm, Cuthbert Brodrick, drinks and steaks aplenty! #
    • Yeah, just watched a rerun of 2002 royal rumble. Gotta love women wrestlers! #
    • Can't believe how crap some people are at people management. #
    • Just doubled my fantasy football in score in a week! Go TheNoMen! #
    • RT @chrisworfolk: I'm so excited – it's only 8 months until Reason Week! #
    • Argh,@O2 ur router is silly! Def getting a new 1. Preventing all incoming connections and not allowing me to assign IP adds is just mean! #
    • Nice one England! Only 6 more to go to win the #ashes #
    • Why are good routers not cheap enough to actually afford? All i want is VPN, gb switch, firewall and wifi-N for around £100-too much to ask? #
    • What I’ve been up to this week…2009-08-23
      #blog #

    Twitter interface fixed.

    August 23rd, 2009 No comments

    Managed to get my Twitter interface fixed following the issues surrounding the recent DDoS. The feed should now produce the proper posts once a week and the idebar widget should now function correctly. I haven’t tested whether Twitter followers can actually see my new posts, will update as required.

    What I’ve been up to this week…2009-08-23

    August 23rd, 2009 1 comment
    • Always a pleasure @chrisworfolk ! #
    • So, the night has descended into making crank calls… #
    • After all the talk this week, both owen and Berbatov score for Utd! #
    • Are atheists right wing? Just heard a rumour that we are! #
    • A whole weekend without work (except house work) is something rather novel for me! #
    • Yay for Friday. Not working over the weekend so can spend some time catching up on real life. #
    • Hmm, just watched video demo of linuxMCE. Very tempted to try it out :-)#
    • #Ashes decider tomorrow :-)#
    • Gah, I hate applying for jobs. it is just sooo boring. I wonder if there is a good way to automate it… #
    • Half day today ruined by having home work-what am I, 12again? #
    • Week 1 of premier league over and i am top of work fantasy league! #
    • That's the weekend over :-(#
    • Lol. Hairdressers called 'kurl up and dye' #
    • Nice day out in Leeds today. Sunday lunch, museum then pub #
    • Man fined for Halal slaughter
      #blog #
    • Just bumped into colleague in town-her reaction was 'OH MY GOD!' Lol #
    • Limited selection of panini fillings today :-(#
    • Apparently @lizziemoogle has had sex with every guy she who's house she has been to… #
    • Now earned >>400 in overtime and just signed up to another >>100 worth tomorrow! #
    • Only 90 mins of overtime left today. By the end of this week I'll have paid for my new tv :-)#
    • Just bought Magnum vinyl :-) /m/ #
    • Frustrated and bored with these cases, bemused and annoyed with these processes. Not a good day. #
    • Loving @chrisworfolk attempts to get himself a nice christian girl, Lol #
    • Seems @kieranoshea and I are the only people up. Not a single car about here. #
    • Las Vegas – LA road trip, Egypt sightseeing, driving holiday to Croatia through Europe or something else for next year's holiday plan? #
    • Not achieved much wit my 1/2 day-Done some washing up, answered some emails and did some reading-not the uber productive day I had in mind. #
    • Is religion all bad?
      #blog #
    • Quotes
      #blog #
    • FFS with the slowest drying paint in the world! #
    • Landlord is in process of waterproofing my bedroom window. #

    Michelle is leaving

    August 16th, 2009 No comments

    After spending three years at univeristy in Leeds, two years living with me, one year working as a developer in York and countless drunken escapades, Michelle is finnaly jetting off to pastures new. She starts her PGCE at the University of Lancaster in September and is heading home to Jersey this week, leaving West Yorkshire (forever?).

    Man fined for Halal slaughter

    August 16th, 2009 1 comment

    Just found this snippet on the NSS website.

    A Muslim smallholder in Kent has been fined £3,000 and told to pay £3,799 costs at Bromley Magistrates’ Court after he slaughtered sheep using halal methods but without pre-stunning the animals.

    Zeki Ismail’s small farm in Keston was raided last December after he bought six sheep at a market in Ashford, Kent. Bromley Council’s food safety officers, meat hygiene vets and animal health inspectors all feared Mr Ismail might kill the livestock for halal meat without following safety rules. By the time they arrived at the farm with police, three sheep had already been killed and the meat shared around the family.

    But Mr Ismail claimed that he was completely unaware he was breaking strict farming laws. Mr Ismail slit the throats of his sheep without stunning them first – breaking a UK law which states animals which are not stunned must only be killed at a licensed slaughterhouse.

    Mr Ismail admitted failing to stun the sheep before killing them, religiously slaughtering the animals outside of a slaughterhouse, supplying food containing specified risk material for human consumption, and failing to tell the local authority that six sheep had moved onto his smallholding.

    London’s Halal Food Authority says animals have to be fed as normal and given water prior to slaughter and one animal must not see the other being killed. The authority also says the “knife should be four times the size of the neck and razor sharp, and as far as possible the slaughterer and the animal should face Qibla or Mecca.”
    The organisation does not ban animals from being stunned before their throats are slit, but the UK’s Halal Monitoring Committee insists that slaughter must take place without stunning the animals.

    This is an interesting development following my article on this very subject not so long ago that was published in Secular Future.

    What do atheists look like?

    August 16th, 2009 No comments

    There has long been speculation as to what traits atheists share with each other. I have mentioned it several times in this blog, particularly when writing about branding and marketing. Whilst I have made some claims about the personal and political similarities between atheists, there has never been any real study on the personality of self identifying atheists. That is until now.

    Professor Luke Galen, an associate professor of psychology at Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, has just published a report on this very subject. He sampled over 5000 thousand people across the USA, Canada, UK and Australia who fitted into the general category of being irreligious. The report focussed on the self-labelling of the respondents as well as their socio-economic background and their main personality traits.

    The results made for interesting, if not particularly surprising, reading. Some of the key findings of the study have been included below, but the full report can be found here.

    The first major finding of the report was the differences between multiple and single labels, i.e. respondents were asked to choose all that apply from a list and then select one to best describe them. See fig.1 for the results.


    Professor Galen summarised these findings thus:

    Interesting distinctions appear when examining the difference
    between an inclusive selection (which is to say, when
    respondents were allowed to select more than one label) versus
    when they were asked to set all others aside to choose the
    most descriptive single label. For example, although 9 percent
    of the sample chose “spiritual” among multiple labels,
    when asked to pick a single self-identification, only 2 percent
    chose “spiritual.” This large proportional reduction indicates
    that far fewer chose spiritual as their sole label than were willing
    to include it among other labels. The label “agnostic” was
    similarly “jettisoned” by a relatively high proportion of individuals.
    In fact, many respondents appear to use “agnostic”
    and “atheist” interchangeably; among those who selected
    “agnostic” as one of their multiple labels, they evenly split
    between “atheist” and “agnostic” when choosing a sole identification
    label. It therefore appears that “agnostic” is used
    alongside other labels but frequently discarded when push
    comes to shove. “Humanist” seems to be a popular secondary
    label and contrasts in that regard to “atheist.” For example,
    around two-thirds of self-described humanists also consider
    themselves atheists; half of both atheists and agnostics also
    consider themselves humanists. However, the “supplemental”
    nature of humanism is evident in that, whereas two-thirds of
    the sample included “humanist” among their multiple selfidentifications,
    only a quarter chose that as their sole label.

    I think Galen has hit the nail on the head when it comes to which labels people jettison when it boils down to selecting one label. It has long been my experience that if you push someone who is generally irreligious to give you a single term to describe their philosophy on life they will usually revert back to the atheist label. This conclusion, whilst never demonstrated in detail before this study, was actually the main reason why Leeds Atheist Society chose their name over the many others they could have gone for.

    The socio-economic make up of the sample was also interesting with 41% having a masters degree or higher, nearly a third claiming to earn over $100,000 p.a. (circa £60,000 p.a. as of today’s exchange rate) and 74% being male. All three statistics are all higher than the equivalent statistics for religious followers. More interestingly, those that describe themselves as atheist also felt more actively involved in their philosophy than those that did not self-identify as atheists (bearing in mind that the sample was taken from readers of Free Inquiry and members of related bodies).


    The final major finding of the study was the personality make up of the sample. The table above shows how the sample broke down based on a variety of psychological personality markers.

    Galen concluded that:

    [R]elative to the religious or churched segment of
    the population, the nonreligious are distinguished both demographically
    (more likely to be male, highly educated, never
    married or cohabiting) and by their personality (more open to
    new experience and intellectually oriented, less agreeable).
    Although overall life satisfaction and social contact in our nonreligious
    sample was equivalent to the religious comparison
    group, the latter perceived a higher level of social support,
    possibly provided by their religious organizations. Among our
    large survey of the nonreligious, there was a range of philosophical
    beliefs: respondents included self-labeled atheists,
    agnostics, humanists, and spirituals. The label “atheist”
    appears to be becoming more common among younger individuals,
    suggesting that fewer nonreligious young people are
    choosing more tentative labels relative to older cohorts.
    Finally, in contrast to many general population studies that
    lump together those who are confident in their nonbelief with
    those who may be weakly religious, the present study allows
    the ability to distinguish degrees of nonbelief, yielding interesting
    results. Confident nonbelievers such as atheists were
    more emotionally well-adjusted relative to tentative nonbelievers;
    the latter, though, appear to place a greater emphasis on
    being agreeable to, and trusting of, others. The present study
    indicates that the common assumption of greater religiosity
    relating to greater happiness and satisfaction is overly simplistic.
    Many of the nonreligious, particularly those involved
    with an increasingly visible movement or community characterized
    by stronger varieties of nonbelief, are actually as welladjusted
    and satisfied as the highly religious, with those
    uncertain of their beliefs showing more distress.
    More research remains to be done, for example regarding
    the factors that differentiate individuals who are raised in a
    religious context who remain religious versus those who
    become nonreligious. Those with high openness to experience
    and lower agreeableness may not be satisfied with “tradition”
    and may seek out experiences that further reinforce irreligious
    tendencies. A less agreeable, more individualistic style may
    lead one to assert confidently a disbelief in socially required
    spiritual platitudes, with a resulting trade-off between greater
    emphasis on personal integrity but lower social acceptance.
    Many nonreligious individuals with such personality traits likely
    select life experiences throughout their educational and
    social development that result in further skepticism and
    increased certainty of nonbelief. These various pathways to
    irreligion will become increasingly relevant as the nonreligious
    continue to grow as a proportion of the population.

    This report is an excellent starting point to really understanding the make up of the non-religious community at large. However, as Galen himself wrote, far more research needs to be done to really drill down into the psyche of the non-believer and only then can we gain full insight into what these people want and need from their involvement with organisations such as those I have mentioned before on this website.

    I would be interested in seeing some research done on a younger demographic (the average age of the sample used above was over 50) as it is this groups (along with the over 80s surprisingly) that make up the largest group of politically and publicly active atheists. I would also like to see a better sample from the UK, as Galen only received around 2% of his respondents from here.

    As always, your comments and thoughts are most welcome.