Archive | October, 2010

Animal souls, stem cells, & embryos

31 Oct

Do animals have souls?

The majority of theologians say no. The bible is clear that animals are beneath humans and not made in god’s image; thus they do not contain souls and will not be waiting for you in heaven or hell.

But what about those who believe their pets DO have souls?

Are animals able to sin? Does sin require consciously making the choice to disobey god? If so then small children and animals can’t sin because they are physically incapable of the brain functions needed to understand that what they are doing is a sin.

However, the doctrine of original sin dictates that everyone is born damned because of what Adam and Eve did generations ago. (For centuries the infallible catholic church felt it was imperative to baptize children as soon as possible to wash away original sin so they could enter heaven if they died, which was a real possibility. They only recently changed their mind on this because they realized “unbaptized babies in hell” was bad PR) John Wesley (one of the fathers of Methodism) felt that even animals were cursed when sin entered the garden of Eden. Furthermore, he believed that when Jesus died on the cross, he was also dying for all the animals. Francis of Assisi (founder of the Franciscan order) gave a famous sermon titled “Sermon to the birds,” where he literally preached to a flock of birds in a tree, warning them against committing the sin of ingratitude. (So lets see where this line of thought leads, shall we?)

Despite not having the brain capacity to understand the concept of sin, there are those who believe animals are capable of sinning; and thus going to hell (“for the wages of sin are death” Romans 6:23). This begs the question then: do animals have free will? If they don’t have the brain capacity to understand sin or the ability to decide whether to commit it or not, then they can’t have free will. Yet despite not having free will they are still capable of sin. Furthermore, you must believe in Jesus to be cleansed of this sin and enter heaven (John 3:16). If animals are unable to even comprehend sin, they definitely can’t comprehend Jesus. Therefore, since animals are born guilty with sin and capable of unknowingly sinning further and are physically incapable of understanding their actions or accepting Jesus;  god is condemning billions of animals to hell without any chance of appeal.

Lets step away from this conclusion and go back to the original question of “do animals have souls.”  Well what exactly is a soul? The eminent wikipedia  has this to say about the soul: The soul has often been deemed integral or essential to consciousness and personality, and soul sometimes functions as a synonym for spirit, mind or self, although the soul is said to function in a distinct enough way from both the spirit and the psyche that the terms should not be treated interchangeably.

“Essential to consciousness and personality,” so that is pretty much exclusively mammals. Fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates, and most birds would not have souls.

Here is where stem cells and abortion come in. If we operate under the definition of a soul that requires consciousness, then embryos, stem cells, and fetuses do not have souls. They are an unconscious mass of cells.

But what if we went back to the notion that all living things have souls? (Isn’t this borderline Animism?) This way stem cells, embryos, and fetuses would have souls, but so would fish, spiders, frogs, and crocodiles. So would plants! Under this logic vegetarians would be far more guilty of genocide for the number of plants that died to make their salad than compared to the 1 bull that died to make a bunch of steaks. If you look even closer at this line of thinking it becomes even more absurd. When talking about things the size of stem cells or embryos, it would be better to compare them to something similar in scale and complexity. Animals and plants are far too large and complex. Bacteria and viruses would be more appropriate. They are living things too; do they not have souls as well? What about this example? A human embryo 4 days after fertilization is a blastocyst with 100 cells. Some christians would say this tiny blastocyst has a soul and that it would be murder to destroy it, even in the pursuit of medical advances that could save the lives of millions. By comparison the brain of the common house fly, just the brain, has 100,000 cells.

A conceivable (no pun intended) counter to this argument might be: “Oh, but only human cells have souls because only we were made in god’s image.”  Here’s a mind-blowing little fact for you: There are 1 billion cells for every gram of body weight. If you weigh 70 kilos (154lbs) then there are 70 trillion cells in your body. All of these cells die off and are replaced over the course of 7 years. 7 years, 10 trillion cells a year, 27 billion cells a day, 18.75 million cells a minute.  Every 19 seconds more cells die in your body than people died in the holocaust. If you scratch your arm you kill millions. Here’s a possible retort: “Oh GP don’t be ridiculous! The difference between the cells on your arm and the cells in a blastocyst is that the cells in the blastocyst have the potential for creating new life.” Ah! But that argument fails as well because the very stem cell research that some christians seek to block holds the key to enabling us to transform those cells into anything we can imagine. If the mere “potential” for life is what you care about, then standing in the way of stem cell research that would unlock the secrets to creating that life is in effect denying an unfathomable number of cells the potential of life.

Of course there is one position I haven’t covered yet, and to which there is nothing I can say. It is the position of “Despite what you’ve pointed out, I am going to arbitrarily choose to believe that only my pets, and other animals I like, along with an form of human embryo, has a soul and will be in heaven with me. Now excuse me while I stick my fingers in my ears and go lalalalalalala.”

The size of the universe makes the desert god just a grain of sand.

29 Oct

A while back I did a post on this but I since stumbled across this amazing clip from “Through the Wormhole” narrated by god himself, Morgan Freeman. Check out the scale of the universe, from a hula hoop to 15 billion light years away, and then back down to the atom level….amazing.

Now when I watch that I have what some people might call “a religious experience.” The size and grandeur of the universe is almost beyond comprehension.

What baffles me is how people can see this magnificent universe and believe that, not only are we the only intelligent life forms to inhabit it, but that it was created especially for us. It blows my mind almost as much as comprehending the size of existence. I think Christopher Hitchens says something really relevant to this in the first minute of this short three minute clip; keep in mind the scale of the universe that you just saw in the other video:

Software License Culture

28 Oct

The other day I saw a really funny quote that made me think:

To most Christians, the bible is like a software license. Nobody actually reads it, they just scroll through it and hit ‘I agree’.”

While I agree that the majority of religious people in this country don’t actually give their faith much critical thought, I think this type of behavior extends beyond just religion. “Software license behavior” seems to affect every walk of life. Liberal, conservative, Christian, Muslim, and even atheists. You see this type of behavior even in areas outside of religion and politics. How often do people just flip through cell phone contracts, or medical papers, any type of form with content that requires critical analysis, and simply sign without reading?

I feel like it’s endemic to our life style. “I’m in a hurry, I just want to get in and out, I don’t have time to sit down and read all this crap. If it’s bad I’m sure I would have heard about it; I don’t want to make the effort to think.” It’s laziness pure and simple. We’re too focused on the here and now to worry much about the future. We tell ourselves we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, and that gives us the comforting delusion that we needn’t worry. Meanwhile, the average credit card in America is $15,788.

It has consequences! Yeah the cell phone salesman, the car dealer, or the medical secretary might get impatient if you take the time to read through the paperwork before you sign, but look what’s at stake! Is not making them frustrated worth all the harsh consequences you’ll have to deal with down the road? Of course not, so tell them to suck it up. But I’ve digressed from my original reason for posting this.

So given this software license laziness in our culture, I’m really surprised that when it comes to things that matter, big picture things like politics and religion; people will go out of their way to defend a position they were too lazy to even study in the first place! (Now again, this is a human thing so it affects everybody, but it has been my experience that this type of behavior tends to disproportional affect conservative religious types)

The bible and the constitution are perfect examples. Both are seen as sacred documents, and both are idolized by the conservative movement in this country. The funny thing is, it appears the conservative movement, despite worshiping these two texts, has never bothered to actually read them.

There is a little saying within the atheist community: “The bible is the greatest tool for making atheists.” Religious groups love to gloss over the bible and cherry pick the parts that best fit their agenda. There are hundreds of disgusting and disturbing passages in the bible that you’ll never hear in church, or hear a politician spouting. (Google them) If someone actually took the time to read the bible cover to cover, they’d see that the “good book” is anything but good.

Lately there have been a rash of conservative candidates around the country attacking the separation of church and state. They cite the constitution and claim that the concept is absent. Obviously many of them haven’t even read the document. Christine O’Donnell, the lovely theocrat from Delaware, apparently had no idea what the first amendment contained. “Where in the constitution is the phrase ‘separation of church and state’?” How about this? Where in the bible is the phrase “personal relationship with Jesus?” Apparently the Texas school board, while rewriting history books to fit their conservative christian agenda, was furious that the first amendment lessons completely ignored gun rights! The damn liberal conspiracy erased gun rights from the first amendment. Psst! Hey stupid, read the second amendment! These people get all fired up over facts they have completely wrong because they didn’t bother to read the facts in the first place. Furthermore, this ignorance is seen as a virtue! The less you know, the less you’re corrupted by that reality and its liberal bias.

I weep for humanity…

 

Why I’m not voting in November

25 Oct

Hear me out before you respond with how I’m neglecting my civic duty.

I am not going to vote this November. It will be the first time I have ever not voted. Contrary to how this  might sound, civic engagement is very important to me and I am not apathetic about this. In the last presidential election I drove my friend home, four hours away, just so he could vote. In essence, I care. This is exactly why I am not voting this November. How the hell does that make sense? I’ll explain:

I am furious with the democrats in this country. I am furious with Obama. No matter how loud you scream, they just don’t understand; it’s like they’re in a sound proof bubble. This is where the three major political parties in America fall on the spectrum:

As you can see, the democrats are a center right party. The Obama administration is currently fighting against all types of liberal causes. They’re fighting the legalization of marijuana in California, they’ve fought against gay marriage (likening it to pedophilia), they continue to torture and extradite prisoners, the list goes on. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the democrats as a whole never miss an opportunity to cave to the republicans. I cannot stress this enough! Despite controlling the congress and the white house, the democrats collapse at the mere thought that they might hurt the republicans’ feelings. Obama (who idealizes Reagan btw) is notorious for compromising to the republicans. He’s a fucking imbecile for doing so because the republicans, knowing he’ll compromise at any cost in a desperate and misguided attempt to appear “bi-partisan”, then ask for the most insane shit!

A perfect analogy is haggling with a merchant. He starts with asking for 20, you say 10, he offers 15, you accept. The merchant was never expecting to get 20, he really wanted 15, but he knows how to play the game and so he asks for higher than he wants, knowing he’ll lower it to 15 and you’ll feel like you’re getting a deal. The republicans are doing the same thing! They know how to play Obama and the democrats to get what they want! That’s why everything the democrats pass is extremely watered down, if not slanted in favor of the republicans.

The rest of the progressive base sees this and we’re furious. But pay attention because this is the worst of it: Instead of comprehending what we’re upset about, the democrats see everyone’s anger and think it is because they are not conservative enough! It just makes my head want to explode! “Golly gee wilikers! The people are mad! Maybe we’re not being like the republicans enough!” And so they move farther to the right.

There is no way to get them to move towards the left. They have conceded in their hearts that the republicans are right, that they are un-American frauds, that to be liberal is to be a dangerous radical. You can hammer on their bubble till every bone in your body breaks, but they will not hear you. Even worse, Obama is disappointed in the base for being disappointed in him. That’s right, the elected democrats are chastising the progressive base because the base is mad with them.

But here is the central reason why I am refusing to vote, and this is very important. I will not let myself be blackmailed. That is exactly what the democrats are doing; they are blackmailing their base. You would think that if you threatened not to vote for a party, that party would be concerned about the reasons why you are not going to vote, but no. Instead the democrats respond with threats of their own. That’s right: they are threatening their own base! “You don’t have a choice! If you don’t vote for us, the republicans will win!”

Newsflash: you are the republicans. Liberals are offered two types of shit. One is to vote for the republicrats and the other is to vote for the flaming radioactive shit that is the tea party. But the democrats are wrong. I DO have a choice. Casting my vote for a democrat, even if cast in fear of the tea party, is still an endorsement of the democrats. I refuse to endorse them.

So no, I will not be voting this November. In effect my refusal to vote is in a way voting. There will be those who will completely not understand my reasons, no matter how simply I try to explain them, they will continue to accuse me of being apathetic and unpatriotic. In reality I am refusing to vote for exactly the opposite reasons.

A very valid question to ask of me is how I expect to change things by doing nothing. I would argue that I am not “doing nothing;” I am doing quite the opposite. My silence is my action, and hopefully if enough liberals remain silent in the face of this blackmail, that silence will be deafening.

I want the tea party to win by a landslide. I want Obama to crash and burn. I want the entire house of cards to come crashing down. As horrible as it is, the only way to save the liberal cause is to let this virus run it’s course. Only when this country is turned into a conservative theocratic hell-hole will people rise up in a liberal backlash. It’s the only way to shatter the democrats’ bubble and get us out of the conservative doldrums.

*** Edit***

I’m starting to think that last paragraph is a bit extreme. I don’t actually want the tea party to win by a landslide, that would be my worst nightmare come true, I just don’t know what else would jolt people into electing real progressives who do something other than cave to the republicans.

Empires and Faith

21 Oct

People have been warning that “society is going to collapse” since the dawn of societies millennia ago. Despite a track record of failure spanning longer than recorded time, some modern day religious people like to pull out this gem to argue that refusing to adhere to their world-view will cause the downfall of life as we know it. In actuality, it is the world view of the religious person that will collapse if everybody ignores him; but what can you expect from someone who has the infinitely arrogant view that the entire universe was created solely for them, that they are the chosen creature of an invisible god, and that they alone hold the keys to truth, knowledge, happiness, and everlasting life?

The “logic” of the religious person making this claim is thus: God it watching us and demands worship. If we worship and honor him he will favor us. If he favors us our society will flourish. If we don’t honor god then things will go wrong and our society will crumble. Assumably god “favors” a society be subtly intervening to make the crops grow, the buildings stand, and the trains run on time…you know, stuff that would normally happen in a well managed civilization. The whole thing has an African witch doctor feel to it. No matter how you try and disguise it, what the religious person is suggesting is just an advanced and dressed up version of a rain dance.

Now anyone who actually takes the time to study civilizations will know that there are many reasons why they collapse. These reasons usually contain a mixture of economic, environmental, and political factors, but “failed to appease the sky god” is never a valid factor. At this point we can expect our rain dance shaman to chime in “but god causes those things!” This claim is unfalsifiable, untestable, and completely lacking in evidence to support it so it can safely be dismissed.

Before we continue I must point out a seldom thought of fact about civilizations: The idea of “civilizations” is an arbitrary delineation made by historians in order to neatly classify specific periods of activity in a given area. When a civilization collapse, as many have, it is not like a tsunami suddenly comes and wipes them off the map. There are no trumpets on high that announce to the people of a civilization when their civilization has fallen. The buildings, people, and customs remain. Sometimes people move out of an area, but they still exist. In rare cases a city is hit by a natural disaster (like Pompeii). However, more often than not the political system changes and those who used to belong to political system X now belong to political system Y. When the Roman empire collapsed all the Roman citizens around the world did not vanish; they simply assimilated into the local political system. Bottom line: civilizations don’t end like the apocalypse.

What I would like to do today is take a very brief look at some civilizations to show that the collapse independent of religion. However, when religion does play a role in the collapse it is often the over zealous practice of that religion that ends up harming the society. (contrary to the claims of our rain dance shaman)

One of the most obvious examples of an extremely religious empire collapsing is the Spanish Empire. At it’s height in the 16th century Spain was a superpower. Their army and navy was unmatched, and they had a monopoly on the riches of the new world. The effects of the Spanish empire can still be seen today. Spanish is the second most spoken language in the world! Spain’s rapid growth and mismanagement in the 16th century ended up crippling her in the 17th. She collapsed primarily from economic and political problems, but these were exacerbated by religion.

Spain was a shining example of a society that put god first in every aspect of life. Forged in the bloody crusades of the Reconquista, birthplace to the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, and mother to the fanatical order of missionaries, monks, and assassins, the Jesuits.  Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and king of Spain, was on the front lines of the split between Catholics and Protestants. He was the champion of the Catholic church and swore to return the protestants to the fold, at the edge of a sword if necessary. When he failed to force the protestants back into the church he retired to live out the rest of his days at a monastery. His crusade was passed on to his son, Philip II who pursued it all the more fervently.  Most famously Philip bankrupted his country and cut down entire forests to build his great armada. This massive fleet of ships was to take thousands of soldiers, the inquisition, and god’s fury to England. When the armada was destroyed Philip started building a second one, but died before it was finished. Philip’s confessor once told him that it was better to lose his whole empire than to lose his salvation. It would take Spain centuries to pull out of the economic downturn set off by the mismanagement of their empire and the ultimately pointless wars over religion.

Earlier I mentioned the Roman empire. Rome was founded in 753 BCE and the barbarian invasions began in the late 300’s CE. This was a civilization that lasted over a thousand years. Between 27 BCE and 180 CE existed the “Pax Romana” or “Roman Peace”, a time of relative stability and economic flourishing. To help put that in persepective, he United States has existed only slightly longer than Rome’s golden age.  In 313 the emperor Constantine converted to Christianity and issued the “Edict of Milan,” ending persecution of Christians and making the empire religiously neutral.  Sixty-seven years later (380 CE) Theodosius I issued the “Edict of Thessalonica” making the state religion of Rome Christianity. The imperial city that had lasted for a millennium was sacked by barbarian hordes three decades later. Did Christianity cause the fall of the Roman empire? No. There were a lot of complicated factors that led to the eventual collapse; but it should be pointed out for our rain dance shaman that the collapse of that civilization coincided with the the conversion to and enforcement of Christianity.

 

How about the British Empire? Here was a Christian nation that also once ruled a quarter of the world’s population. The empire was not only a means of transmitting western culture, but the Christian religion. Wherever British armies went, missionaries soon followed. Despite bringing the gospel to millions, England lost her empire after WWII.

What about the French empire under Napoleon? The Ottoman empire? The Japanese Empire? The Mongolian Empire? The Greek Empire under Alexander the Great? All of these empires fell because of natural economic and political reasons, not because they didn’t worship hard enough. But lets look at some smaller examples.

The Puritans: Unhappy with the more moderate and relatively tolerant society in England, they left for the new world to set up a theocracy in 1620. Seventy years later and the colony was hunting and executing their own citizens for witchcraft.

Easter Island: Home to the famous Moai statues. Here was a civilization so obsessed with pleasing the gods that they destroyed their own ecosystem in the process!

 

Easter Island is important because it so wonderfully outlines a major problem with focusing to heavily on religion in your society: you tend to neglect the things that matter, like food, water, shelter, and political/economical/environmental stability. You can see this fact echoed in the Human Development Index. The most religious societies in the world are also the worst places to live.

So where do we stand today? The United States is arguably an empire. Despite it’s secular constitution and first amendment protections, we are an extremely religious country. God has been placed on our money, wedged into our pledge, and adopted as a second national motto. 86.7% of our congress is Christian. 98.7% of them believe in a higher power of some kind. For the majority of the past century our nation was ruled by deeply religious men. Churches have tax exempt status despite meddling in politics. Half the country doesn’t except the scientific fact of evolution. (The rest of the developed world accepted it an moved on over a century ago) There are millions of houses of worship in this country. Religious programing floods the airwaves. Religious lobbies are very powerful in Washington.

All this and our rain dance shaman wants more. The utter saturation of religion in American society is not enough. Things are starting to go badly for America despite our devotion. Some assure us it’s because we’re not trying hard enough. If we only prayed a little more, worshiped god a bit louder, things would turn around. But in reality this will never work. It will never work because it is ignoring the actual causes of our problems. A poor economy, an over extended military (which some like Palin feel are fighting wars that are god’s will!), and a failing school system are only a handful of the actual problems dragging this country down. But the rain dance shaman ignores this. They won’t be happy until the country is turned into a Christian Saudi Arabia. By the time they manage to create hell on earth it’ll be too late for them to be held accountable.

 

Watch out! New Fundamentalist Atheists are on the march!

20 Oct

New fundamentalist atheists. This is one of the most common mis-characterizations of atheists out there. It’s used in an attempt to rally the believers and to discredit the godless. So what exactly is a “New atheist?” Well Reza Aslan (you might have seen him on the Daily Show) summed up a great many of the characteristics in his train wreck of an article published in the Washington Post titled: Harris, Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett; Evangelical atheists?

To outline his points, new atheists are:

  • Make the claim that they know there is no god and have faith in this
  • led by Dawkins and his ilk
  • believe they are in sole possession of Truth
  • fundamentalists in the same strain as other religious fundamentalists
  • intolerant of other views
  • insist on literal readings of every religious text
  • have an unwarranted sense of siege and persecution
  • illiterate when it comes to religion
  • believe all religion is evil
  • are responsible for the horrible crimes committed by communists and Nazis

Do you know what fundamentalist message Aslan saw that set him off on this tirade?

That’s right. Aslan saw this bus ad and had a meltdown. Clearly a message telling you to enjoy life is on the same level as fundamentalist messages plastered all over telling you that you’re going to burn in hell! I can totally see the similarities. But where to start with these mis-characterizations of atheists? I guess I could just go down the list.

  • Make the claim that they know there is no god and have faith in this: This is absurd. Atheists do not make the positive claim that there is, for a fact, no god. (Any atheist that claims to “know” is an irrational idiot) There is a reason the bus ad says “probably.” Do we believe a higher power exists? As far as we can tell, no. This is operating off of something called the “null hypothesis” and is not the same thing as making a positive claim.
  • led by Dawkins and his ilk: There is no “pope” or “high counsel” of atheism. I know this might be very hard fro some people to understand, but atheists don’t take orders from other people. We’re very individualistic and disorganized.
  • believe they are in sole possession of Truth: What? What “Truth?” There are many atheists who would deny that only one “Truth” exists. If by “Truth” you mean “scientific fact”, then when it comes to matters of reality and how reality functions, yes, yes we are in possession of the sole scientific fact. Here’s the kicker. Unlike religious groups that claim to to have the sole truth, we actually have evidence. Now I know this might be very hard for some people to understand, but listen closely: Scientific fact and religious truth are not the same thing. Religious truth makes claims about things that don’t exist and are untestable. Science makes statements about reality and the nature of existence only after it has been able to demonstrate such facts over and over, consistently. There is no such thing as “Christian physics” or “Muslim biology.” Our reality operates like it does, and there are no alternatives, thus science discusses the sole way in which our reality operates.
  • fundamentalists in the same strain as other religious fundamentalists: Really Aslan? You seriously believe this? Are atheists telling people they’re going to go to hell? No. Do atheists blow themselves up in crowded cafes or fly themseleves into buildings, or shoot doctors? No. Do atheists march into Churches and demand “equal time”? No.

  • intolerant of other views: The Amazing Atheist pointed out that there is a difference between “tolerance” and “acceptance.” Aslan seems to be meaning “acceptance” here instead of “tolerance.” Atheists tolerate fundamentalists a lot more than fundamentalists tolerate us. For instance, we don’t tell fundamentalists that they need to leave the country, that they’re not citizens, or that they’ve essentially evil people that are going to suffer and eternity in hell. Religious fundamentalists on the other hand love to dish this type of rhetoric out to atheists.
  • insist on literal readings of every religious text: Again, The Amazing Atheist had a great point on this. The reason atheists keep bringing up weird and disgusting passages in holy books  is because everybody but the Westboro Baptist Church glosses over these and ignore them. The bible is FULL of horrible and bloody acts of genocide, rape, murder, mutilation, you name it! But they don’t teach these verses in Sunday school! The vast majority of Christians never read the Bible, but insist on calling it “the good book” when it is anything but. We know there are plenty of religious people who don’t take the bible literally. They choose to arbitrarily decide when god wanted to be taken literally and when he was speaking in metaphors. We draw attention to the bible and it’s glossed over atrocities so people can see just how absurd and disgusting a lot of this stuff is!
  • have an unwarranted sense of siege and persecution: Gee, I’m forbidden by law to run for public office in several states, not that it would matter because being the least trusted group in America makes me completely unelectable anyways! One of the most common e-mails public atheist figures get comes from people who are asking for advice about coming out to their families. Parents will disown their children over this! You can be fired for your job over this! Atheists are a minority in a deeply religious world. We have religious crap shoved down our throats day in and day out. We’re continuously demonized in movies and on TV. How many stories portray skepticism as a negative thing? How many stories have a plot wherein an unbeliever becomes a believer by the end? Atheists aren’t going around trying to make it a crime to criticize science, meanwhile religious fundamentalists are working hard to institute anti-blasphemy laws.

  • believe all religion is evil: again, there is no head of atheism. Some atheists feel this way, some don’t.
  • are responsible for the horrible crimes committed by communists and Nazis: If I got a dollar for every time some idiot trotted out this tired and long debunked BS.

Atheism is nothing new. There have been atheists even before people invented gods! We’ve always been here. Do you know what’s “new” with the “new atheists?” It’s simple: We’re no longer going to shut up and take it! For thousands of years we’ve been marginalized, maligned, and hunted. Religion has always had a special privilege in society, and it’s abused that privilege without fail. So what’s changed? Why now? Well for starters, society has finally advanced to a point where we won’t be rounded up and executed in the public square like we would have in the past; but most importantly is what science has done for us. Before the scientific revolution, atheists were only able to point out the logical flaws in religious reasoning, but were unable to offer up answers to the basic questions religion asked about the world. Now we’ve finally developed the tools to discover those answers. God is losing places to hide. Yet still, this is perhaps not the most important answer to “why now?” With science and knowledge comes great benefits, great power, and great responsibility. For there first time in our history, we have the ability to wipe ourselves out at the push of a button. Never before had we the potential to cause so much suffering, destruction, and death so quickly, and on such terrible a scale. Simply put: atheists can’t afford to stay silent and let the superstition steer the world off a cliff.

For refusing to be silent we are called militant. For standing up for our rights we are called fundamentalists. For existing we are called extremists. Aslan is right; we are on the march, and there’s no way we’re going to take it anymore.

Some problems with running an atheist blog

19 Oct

In the almost two years I’ve been at this, I’ve noticed a couple of very irritating things that go with writing an atheist blog:

  • There is an insane amount of different religions. Some estimate that there are as many as 38,000 different sects within Christianity alone! The sheer number of different faiths makes it a necessity to generalize while talking about religions. The problem is that while your depiction and arguments against faith X might be valid, a person from faith A,B, or C will inevitably come along and say you’ve got it all wrong and that’s “not what they’re about.” It’s even worse when faith X and faith A both claim to be the same faith! The whole thing erodes down to “Well, they’re not true Christians, so your generalization is wrong and doesn’t apply to me!” With religion meaning whatever the believer wants, to that particular believer, it’s impossible to avoid this. I cannot and will not avoid generalizations. If I spent the time needed to figure out “Ok, this group of Christians here fit this description, and so does this small group here, and here, but not those Christians there”, I’d never get anything done! (And I’m sure they’red be some that’d love that)
  • Drive-by commenters.  I hate these people with a passion. You spend all the time writing up a post, forming ideas, putting them to words, only to have some idiot jump all over it, spewing nonsense and platitudes, and then vanish never to be seen again. It’s infuriating. You don’t want to delete their comment because they might actually want to engage in some meaningful exchange of ideas; yet deep down inside you know they just wanted to shit all over everything and leave. So what do you do? In order to not seem like a tyrant you approve the comment, write a lengthy response on the off chance they do wish to have a discussion, only to have your suspicions confirmed when they never bother to return.
  • Size hurts. I’ve written hundreds of posts in the past two years. The problem is that people only read the most recent couple of posts. I might have a post a couple pages back that is very relevant to some current event, but nobody is going looking and comment on it. Furthermore, I don’t want to do a repost on something I’ve already covered, so I’m stuck with wanting to discuss something recent but unable to do so because of a related post I wrote a while ago that nobody reads.
  • Past posts will haunt you. This is tied into the bullet above. In an attempt to be honest to myself I don’t delete old posts that I no longer agree with. I might have held position X at one point in time and written a post on it. Later that position might have changed to position Y, upon whence I write a new post about it. Nonetheless, people find the post from when I held position X and attack me for it, completely unaware that I’ve changed my views. (Often they’re drive-by commenters and don’t bother to look any farther than that one post)
  • Trying not to take things personally: This is a tough one to learn, and I don’t completely have a grasp on it. My blog is the digital embodiment of me and my thoughts. When somebody, especially drive-bys, come and shit all over something I’ve written, it really hurts and puts me in a sour mood for the rest of the day.

That’s pretty much all I can think of for the moment. These thoughts have been stewing for a while (mainly just the first three) and I wanted to get them out there. Does anyone have any similar/different problems they’ve come across?

Feminized Christianity?

18 Oct

So unless you’ve been living under a rock you’ve heard about the Obion County fire department in Tennessee that responded to a 9/11 call just to park their trucks on the street and watch as a family’s house burn to the ground, taking everything they owned and killing three of their pets, all because the family didn’t pay a $75 fee. Well the loving, moral, and “pro-family” people at the American Family Association came out to express how not only did the fire fighters do the right thing by doing nothing, but that doing nothing was the Christian thing to do!

You see, according to the American Family Association, the problem with any Christian who would recoil in horror at the fire department’s inaction is they, and their version of Christianity, has been “feminized.” AFA writes:

“In this case, critics of the fire department are confused both about right and wrong and about Christianity. And it is because they have fallen prey to a weakened, feminized version of Christianity that is only about softer virtues such as compassion and not in any part about the muscular Christian virtues of individual responsibility and accountability.”

Individual responsibility and accountability? How does that fit with Jesus coming to bail you out for your sins? But that’s not the point I wanted to focus on. Despite the entire post by the AFA being offensive and insulting, I think their view on gender is particularly insulting to both men and women. It’s clear they think femininity is deficient. While they call it the “virtue of compassion” , it’s framed in a way to mean “vice of compassion.” But what can you honestly expect from an organization that actively works to re-enslave women? Secondly, their position is offensive to men in that it dictates that to be a man is to be a compassionless brute. That’s right. Real men don’t give a shit about any other human being except themselves and Jesus. To help others is a sign of feminine weakness! This is all obviously bullshit, but I’m wondering: when did characteristics like empathy, compassion, and concern for others become sexualized? Why is it that those traits are either masculine of feminine? Secondly, who the hell arbitrarily decided to categorize them hierarchically so that the famine was bad and the masculine good?

The miners are safe! It’s a miracle!…or is it?

17 Oct

After 69 days trapped underground, separated from their families, and clinging to life, all 33 Chilean Miners have been rescued! As if you couldn’t see it coming, a Chilean newspaper is running a poll to see who saved the miners, miracles or science. It’s split almost even. That’s right ladies and gentlemen. The rescue workers who struggled around the clock for 69 days didn’t save the miners, God did. This just infuriates me. They whole thing is rigged so God always gets the credit and none of the blame. It was man’s fault that the mine collapsed, it was not “an act of god”, but when when people worked tirelessly for months, employing their own ingenuity and technology to actually cut a rescue shaft, well that was clearly all God working through the miners. With logic like that God can never lose. Now excuse me while I go read about how another mine just exploded in China killing 29 and trapping 11. I can’t wait to see how God works through the rescuers to save these people instead of just magically transporting them out of there, never mind the 29 families who were just devastated.

PS: Looks like he had no problem killing 29 miners in New Zealand.

Macro arguments vs Micro arguments

17 Oct

I feel a lot of times atheists get bogged down arguing the particulars of a religion. While this can be fun sometimes, it can be extremely aggravating as it gives the religious a lot more room to wiggle out of things, redefine terms, move the goal posts, be vague, etc. The way I see it, all of the arguments tailored to their religion can easily be nullified by attacking the source: the existence of god. If you can shut them down here, then it doesn’t matter what some book says, or what they feel in their gut, or what a friend told them. Every single argument they could make about their religion depends on the assumption that god exists.

The simple fact is that there is no evidence for the existence of god; all they have are logical fallacies, appeals to emotion, and “god of the gaps” arguments. With the null hypothesis, burden of proof, and Occam’s razor all in your favor, their claims fall to the floor. Just keep asking for evidence at every turn. For example: “Well who made god?” “Oh, he’s eternal and outside time and space, the law of cause and effect doesn’t apply to him.” “Oh, that’s a convenient ad hoc fallacy. What evidence do you have that god, if he/she/it hypothetically existed, contains those traits of being eternal and outside time and space?” At this point they probably will come at you asking “well who made the universe”, which assumes several things, but you can point out that the way the universe operates, it would be able to create itself without the need of a god. The idea that it’s ok to say “I don’t know” really baffles believers. Uncertainty scares them, hence why they cling to the false certainty and security of faith. Point out that we don’t have all the answers right now, but that you’re willing to work to discover them rather than throw up your hands and declare “god did it!”

If you can master these macro arguments and keep asking for evidence every time they claim god has X,Y,Z attributes, all the micro arguments about the bible’s validity, or Jesus’ divinity, etc, don’t matter at all.

(Note: this isn’t as well worded as I would like, so I’m probably going to edit this, but I just wanted to get this out there before I went to sleep. I’ll fix it when I’m no longer exhausted)

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