Archive | January, 2009

The selfishness of religion

31 Jan

It’s been a while since I last posted since classes just started up a little bit ago. One of the classes I’m taking is a comparative religion’s class. The class covers christianity, islam, and judaism. What transpired yesterday in the class really infuriated me.

We were talking about how people always try to rationalize bad events, like tsunami’s, floods, terrorist attacks, etc… One guy raised his hand and stated how god doesn’t do these things for no reason, and something good always comes of it. The problem with this point of view is that it ignores the people who suffered and perished. It’s easy to say something good will come of it if you’re alive or it didn’t directly affect you. But what about everyone else who died? Obviously nothing good was going to come to them, they’re dead.

The guy then pointed out that god does this to teach us a lesson. A lesson?!?! That still doesn’t address the problem of what about all those who died to teach you a lesson? I just feel it’s extremely selfish. I asked him if this included the holocaust, to which he said “yes.”

So you mean to tell me that god allowed SIX MILLION people to be SLAUGHTERED just to teach you a lesson!?!?! Omfg. He said “yes” you this too. Then, upon seeing my anger and shock, he chastised me for “valuing human life too much.” I value human life too much?!?!? Here I’m about to throw up. This is just really fucking sick. I don’t know about him, but here in America we care about human life. Whatever happened to leave no man/woman behind?

I just think it really says something about the nature of religion when you don’t value human life and have no qualms about millions of people being systematically butchered all so you personally can learn a lesson. (Oh, and then he went on to deny that genocide still goes on today….what a fucktard.)

Why is it so hard for theists to see free will doesn’t exist?

26 Jan

This is just beyond me, I don’t see how people can argue that an all knowing god also allows free will. This argument is so old it’s ridiculous, and still people keep bringing up this paradoxical idea that free will can somehow coexist with an all knowing god.

Look, if god knows the future, which according to the bible and general views of his being omniscient he does, then he already knows exactly what is going to happen, to everybody. He knows exactly what decisions you are going to make, and exactly what the outcome will be. Because of this, you can’t decide anything other than what he knows you are going to do. It might look like you can decide, that you have free will, but that is just an illusion. Here is a graphical representation of this if it helps:

choice1You stand in the present. You have two immediate choices open to you. God, being all knowing, knows which one you will pick. He then knows what you will pick at time 1,2, and finally 3. It might look like you have 26 possible choices, but god knows you will pick left, center, right.

You, knowing this might think “Ok, I’m going to act as if I’m going to pick left, center, right, but at the last moment I’m going to suddenly change my mind and pick another combination. But god is all knowing. He would know that you plan on suddenly changing your mind and plan on not picking left, center, right. In that case the diagram above would not exist in the first place, instead it would show your new choice:

choice2And still god knows what the final outcome will be. No matter how much it seems like you have many options from which you can freely choose, it’s already known what you will do, and you can’t not do it, ergo, free will does not exist.

One could say that what he knows is going to happen isn’t exactly what he wants to have happen, but he is the creator of everything, so he has the power to change the future if he wanted to. Some might argue that since he doesn’t change the future (or does he? There is no possible way you could tell) that this is him leaving us to our free will, but again, this explanation doesn’t escape the above argument.

It is just sooooo much simpler to accept that god does not exist and thus you do have free will. You are responsible for your actions, and you control your reactions to the various situations that might arise. It’s much more empowering than being trapped in an inescapable system where somebody already knows everything you’re going to do.

What are atheists to do?

23 Jan

Recently there have been some high profile consciousness raising efforts by Atheists, namely the Atheist sign in the Washington state capitol next to a nativity scene, Atheist billboard campaigns on busses and subway trains, and an attempt to keep “so help me god” from being said during the inauguration of president Obama. Someone in a forum I visit said “Don’t they see, this just makes people hate them even more…”

Well what are we supposed to do? Sit down and shut up? I’m sure they’d like that very much, if we’d just stop causing trouble and go away. But we can’t. Not when we’re treated as second class citizens in a nation that was clearly established with the separation of church and state. We can’t shut up and go away when the beliefs of 1st century tent dwellers are being used to try and legislate people’s medical choices. Not when people are flying planes into buildings or blowing up abortion clinics.

No, we won’t get any closer to our goals of a healthy, secular society by sitting down and doing nothing, yet I don’t know what we’re supposed to do if everything else just makes people hate us more….

Two years as an atheist, a reflection.

22 Jan

I don’t have the date written down, but sometime in the middle of January two years ago I officially decided I was an Atheist. It’s been a very interesting and difficult two years.

Before I realized I was an Atheist, religion didn’t take up much of my daily thought process, now it’s something I think about almost constantly. It’s been a stressor for the most part. The constant feelings of being a second class citizen, distrusted by the majority, hated by a good block of people, it’s difficult when you think about it and see it all the time.

I think this is were a religious person might suggest that I lie to myself, to feel better. How typical. Trying to fake something I’m not isn’t going to make me feel any better, in fact, knowing that I’m lying to myself would make me feel worse.

No, on the whole, I’m actually much happier as an Atheist. As a teenager, the same time I was extremely depressed was the same time I was extremely religious. Coincidentally, now that I’ve let go of the idea of god, I’ve been all and all happier. I know I’m responsible for my own actions and I can influence what path my life takes. It’s true freedom and control.

In the past two years I’ve also had a redistribution of my energies. Right before I became an Atheist I was extremely political. Unable to vote, yet I followed politics avidly. I went to the local democrats meetings, volunteered in campaigns, waged yard sign wars, the works. It was good fun and I met some interesting people.

My first year of college I almost became a political science major instead of a history major because I was toying with the idea of pursuing a career in politics. Perhaps not running, but working on campaigns. That whole house of cards came crashing down when after the 2006 elections nothing big changed. The democrats were still spineless and unwilling to stand up to Bush. I was really devastated and disillusioned about politics.

Luckily, at the same time I was learning about Atheism, and my energy shifted. I guess I have a thing for picking seemingly hopeless causes. I guess I like the underdog. Any who is the most distrusted minority for no good reason in the world? Atheists.

In those two years I’ve lost friends and made friends because of Atheism. I’ve gotten into multiple fights with family members and proselytizers over Atheism. I’ve joined online secular communities, printed various bumper stickers, and accumulated a nice little Atheist bookshelf. I was also lucky enough to meet a beautiful woman who happened to be an Atheist, though of a lighter, happier flavor than I.

The hardest part about the two years has got to be the feeling of alienation. Yes, the online communities help, but they can only do so much. Religion is still everywhere I go. I literally can’t get through the day without hearing about it or seeing it, and being reminded that I’m an infidel, an outsider, different. I’m trying to get over the rage I’ve developed but it’s hard. Just constantly having that in my face makes me so angry. Just all the ridiculousness, credulity, ignorance, stupidity, it makes me gag.

Despite all this, I guess it’s been a good two years. I have a much better appreciation for life and my fellow human beings than I did when I was a believer. I can also take pride in knowing that I have scientific, repeatable, provable evidence to support my beliefs, something no believer can claim.

An atheist’s take on Obama’s inauguration

21 Jan

Today I watched Obama’s inauguration, and while I was happy that eight years of Bush were over, I couldn’t help but count the number of times “god” was invoked. But, as my girlfriend aptly pointed out, that’s Obama’s pejorative. Since it was his personal speech, not an official legal endorsement of one religion over another that’s fine. I must give him props for the nod to Atheists when he added “We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.”

Yet, to understand how I felt every time “god” was invoked, imagine instead of “god” Obama said “the magic grapefruit”. It would sound ridiculous no? Calling on a magical invisible man in the sky is just as ridiculous as calling on a magical invisible grapefruit.

I guess what I really want is to one day have an openly Atheist president. I can’t think of anything better.

The “miracle” on the Hudson is no miracle at all

17 Jan

Regarding the recent successful emergency landing in the Hudson river by flight 1549, everyone is quick to say “oh this is a miracle!!!!” No it’s not. There is nothing miraculous about it. God did not swoop down and gentlely guide the plane into the water. Instead of thanking some imaginary man in the sky, people should be thanking the pilots of that plan who saved 155 lives. It was the pilots, not the hand of god, that guided the plane safely to the river. It’s funny, people are quick to attribute this to god, but it makes you wonder, why wouldn’t god have just kept the birds from flying into the engines in the first place? Why the dramatics?

Which leads me to a second point. This was a very fortunate outcome, but often the outcomes are not so favorable, yet people still call things miracles. Had the plane crashed violently, killing all but one person, people would say it was a miracle that person survived; that god must have a special purpose for that person. But what about every other human being on that plane who died a painful death? What about their families? People always try to find ways to twist things to give god the credit and never the blame.

The downside to being accurate

14 Jan

When does being as historically accurate as possible become a negative in living history? I think it’s a grey area between not having fun, and hampering your interactions with the public.

I love the middle ages, and I love being in a late medieval living history group, but the big downside to doing the middle ages is the social structure. When the group members are hanging out, not doing an event, we’re all equal, tax paying adults, yet the situation changes when we’re at an event.

As it is in most living history groups (I’d guess) the people with the most money and stuff are at the top of the group, and everyone else falls down below to make up the pyramid.  (Reenacting wise, not talking about group politics) This pyramid then comprises the rigid medieval social structure.

I’m a jobless college student, who can barely afford the gas it costs to get to an event, so needless to say I’m towards the bottom of this social structure. I have an ok archer kit, but it’s not the $10,000 + suits of armor 3 other guys in the group have. As such, they’re the “gentlemen” and I’m a mere yeoman. I have to serve them at the table. They get to wear nice clothes, eat fancy food, and tell me what to do around camp.

While it’s ok, it’s not nearly as much fun as it would to be one of those gentlemen, dressed head to toe in steel, the stars of the show. The sad thing is, I know how much fun it is, I did 100 years war living history with another group for 6 years before my current one where I had my own suit of armor. I got to dress up and be the badass one, running around doing demonstrations, pretending to be a statue just to scare little kids, etc… It was amazing! But now I’m just an archer. My lower standing in the camp is historically accurate. I can afford less stuff, and so the people who have more stuff order me around.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still really fun to dress up and stand around in camp. My favorite part is acting as camp sentry, that way I get to put on some armor, wield a big pole ax, and look intimidating.

As for hampering your ability to talk to the public, I think there is some point when being perfectly accurate is ridiculous. If I wanted to really show how a yeoman plucked from the 15th century would act if suddenly dropped in a 21st century event I’d be running around freaking out and killing people because he wouldn’t know what was going on.

But that’s an extreme example. How about this one, I can’t see shit. I wear glasses normally, I can read things up close fine, but get more than 6 feet away and you become blurry. (Not much of an archer am I? ~_^) I just recently got contact lenses. For the first time in 9 years I will actually be able to see at an event! But then, contact lenses aren’t historically accurate. Should I not wear them despite the fact that nobody can tell and I’d be having trouble getting around camp?

What about deodorant? This is one I’ve often thought about. Should I not wear deodorant? Even if it’s unscented? Am I trying to replicate an authentic smell of a lower class medieval yeomen archer, who’s in the field on campaign? How do I even explain that to the public? “Hi,….. don’t walk away! I smell like shit for a reason!” Erm…yeah….

Should I stay in character, try to fake an accent? Speak in middle English or Latin? How will the public understand me then? They won’t learn anything. I also can’t scream at the women in camp, or hit them, even though a male in the middle ages probably would have gotten away with that no sweat. (Not that I’d want to)

While I do think trying to being as historically accurate as possible is a good thing, there are limits. Lets face it. Life back then sucked. People got sick, died, were underfed and over worked. You were trapped in an extremely rigid social class while the people at the top milked you for all your worth. History is often romanticised by the movies and in books, when in reality it was hell.

Reenactors are in the wonderful position of being able to dress up, go play, and come home to a hot shower, tv, Nyquil, and the Bill of Rights. I guess that’s what makes the past fun. The fact that you can go and experience it, but in the back of your mind you know that if anything goes wrong, you have the safety net of modern society to catch you.

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