Saturday, September 29, 2007

God of the Gaps

God's gap is getting increasingly smaller. Thanks to the advances of science and technology the domain of superstition, mysticism, and religious dogma has become much, much smaller. It is because of this that a person of average intelligence and curiosity for the world around them can so easily realize the truth. Let's try and look at it in a very simple way:
  • I am typing on a computer, connected to a world wide network of computers.
  • Computers are possible because of advances in science, technology, and overall enlightenment and education of the general public
  • Science, through its proven and repeatable methods, have given us a range of theories
  • Among these theories are the theory of relativity, string theory, the Big Bang theory, and evolution
  • All of these theories are directly contradictory to many of the key theories put in place by religion and superstitions, which also attempt to explain the world, life, death, and the beginning of human existence.
  • Christians and Muslims, who do not allow for the fact that their scriptures may not be totally true, are forced to condemn the findings of science.
  • Those who do accept some of the science, but refuse to give up religion, are forced to dwell in the gaps.
With that, I present The Anointed-One's argument against atheism. Thanks to a poster on the Atheist Revolution website for pointing this out. This is a very well thought out attempt at marrying science and superstition. I give this credit for now, I have not had the time to really dig into the details. I will be interested to hear other's thoughts.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Raising Free Thinking Children: Part 1

My son and I had about an hour conversation the other day. It started by watching Ken Burns' new documentary, The War. He professed, that at 11 and in the public school system, he did not know which war was which, so we started talking. Speaking of the second world war, topics turned to kamikaze pilots, the terrorist suicide bombers, then, naturally, religious zealots.

For ease, here are the bullets of our conversation:

  • Some religious fundamentalists feel the need to kill for their religion.
  • Some of these people kill other believers, for not believing the "correct way".
  • The differences between Catholics and Christians.
  • Who wrote the bible, where they lived, how they lived, and what their situation entailed.
  • How the bible has been passed down, translated, re-worked for political reasons (The King James Bible, for example).
    • As an analogy, I told my son to imagine that I wrote a story about how great my grandfather was. That he lived to be 80, and was a great blacksmith who could make anything with metal. Now imagine that this story was translated into multiple languages, passed down over the ages, and the grapevine effect kicked in. Finally, in the future, my grandfather is revered for living to be 800 years old, and could magically create metal objects with his bare hands.
  • Multiple religions and multiple gods, different people and different cultures, and so on.
Many children go through playing the grapevine game. They learn how a simple message, over a short amount of time can mutate and take on a whole new meaning. Sometimes, you can identify the one person, who with a slight misunderstanding, identifies a pattern and a meaning that has some significance to them, and changes the entire message.

Some parents these days believe in telling their kids everything, and not hiding anything. I made the decision, years ago, that I would not systematically brainwash my son into believing anything. I question how he feels about religion, or if his classmates question his beliefs (we do live in a very conservative small town), or if he feels uncomfortable about faith. He usually says there is no problem, and shrugs it off. I have played out telling him exactly how I feel and why in my mind's eye, many times.

My parents took me to church occasionally at a very young age. My father was raised Irish-Catholic, my mother Presbyterian. I assumed their general, modern, and somewhat liberal views in God. I believed, and took it for granted that I would earn my way to heaven at some point. However, they never pushed me into a belief, and never silenced me on my questions and disbelief on certain stories of the bible. I attribute my ability to question authority and think freely to my parents, despite a loosely Christian upbringing.

My son, laying on the floor, looks up at me and says, "what is it called when you don't believe in any of that stuff?"
"What stuff, you mean religion and gods?"
"Yeah. Like if you don't think any of that stuff is real."
I trembled, composed myself, then spoke.
"That's called atheism."
He questioned the word, and I explained how theists believe in some religion, atheists believe in none.
"I don't believe in any of that stuff" he said.
"I will not ever try and influence your beliefs, and I am okay with whatever choice you make", I say, trying to not do the exact opposite of what I was saying.
I continue, "I spent most of my life believing in basic Christian concepts, but challenged them and researched them. I finally made up my own mind. I hope you make up yours in a similar way."
"How do you know so much about this stuff Dad?"

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Best Reasons to Give Up Religion

I plan on making this a permanent fixture on my site, and I hope that it will evolve into a solid list that people will refer to, quote, ridicule, or at least think about.

So far, it's a list of 8 items... a nice 10 will be settled upon in the long run.

8. Enjoying Personal Pleasures

Ultimately, this one is something that religious and the non-religious do alike. However, non-religious may not be as devastated by guilt and fear of eternal hell-fire for enjoying private pleasures. I will touch on this subject in the other bullets, without getting into too many details (I don't want to give away all my secrets, but let's just say I am VERY happily married, and won't go to hell for anything I've done....). Remember what is truly ethical, right for society, and legal (as legal as possible), and you will feel complete without feeling empty.

7. Thinking Outside of the Box.

Yeah, I said that annoying business axiom. However, how much more outside the box can you get? The phrase asks us to question what's accepted, challenge the status quo, and get away from the beaten path. If religion were obscure, rare, and limited in scope, then this would not apply. Religion is none of this, it is everywhere. It dominates rational thought across the world, and it keeps critical and free thought in check, as it has for many thousands of years for many millions of people.

6. No Masters.
This is similar to number 5, however more literal. I will officially state order of importance as to who your masters really are:
  • Family
  • Society
  • Humanity
  • Nature
I add nature only to specify that we owe our environment special care. That said, humanity, family, and society are dependent on our ability to take care of the environment. Why serve a thankless God, who at best knows what bad things you've done and keeps an eye on billions of lifeforms (let alone the billions of already deceased souls)? Why be a number to God, when you can be the center of the universe to your loved ones? Many will argue you can do both, but I won't put anyone above family, which is more than a lot of followers can say.

5.No Thought Police.
I think bad things... sometimes a lot of bad things. We all do. We are animals, barely civilized in a few thousand years time. In fact, listen to the news and decide for yourself how civil we actually are today. I have vividly thought of violence against people. I have had reprehensible sexual fantasies. I delight in doing harm in the privacy of my own mind, however, I am in control of myself. I love my life, family, wife and children, and I believe in the general well being of others. It saddens me that some people need a supernatural mega-being to keep them in line. My obligation to family, society, and humanity are my regulators. It is healthy and natural to have immoral thoughts, it is not either to pray for forgiveness from a jealous and vengeful God.

4. No Invisible Overseers.
One of the best things I ever did was to decide that no one was actually watching me every minute of the day. Whether a god, an angel, a dead relative, or even a dead pet following me around, I just never liked the idea of being watched by an unseen being. Especially when I was 14, and thought the door would fly open at any minute because my dead grandmother had tipped off my mom about my appointment with a Playboy magazine.

3. No hell.
No brainer. See "No heaven" for much of the argument. The human sensory system can only accept so much input, before it overloads. To keep it simple, it sure is nice not having to worry that you picked the wrong god, didn't do enough Hail Marys, or masturbated too much when you were 14 (or last week).

2. No Heaven.
This one may seem unusual, as you may be thinking that is the best thing about faith (although the bible itself is pretty sketchy on the afterlife. As with many of the stereotypes we maintain of religion, it has mostly been made up along the way). Here are some issues with heaven, for starters:
  • Sanity. How can the human mind go on forever? Too much of anything would become a hell. If I think of my 30 best days, I know I couldn't tolerate them for eternity.
  • Relative pleasure: what is everyone's heaven? Will my Aunt Marsha be in my heaven, as it would likely conflict with her perception of heaven? I would love to see all my dead relatives and friends again, but it does not stand to reason that we would all share a personal paradise.
  • Morality: What if, as a perfect Christian, you lived a life burying your homosexual impulses? That is who you are, and it partly defines you. How then, can you be happy in a heaven forbidding such desire? Are you waging that you will be rewarded with fulfilling those needs? What about other fetishes? Does heaven remove them entirely? I don't know that I would ever want to stop fantasizing and subsequently having sex (as long as I'm conscious).

1. You won't have to defend ancient dogma and superstitions to atheists!

Trust me on this one. Atheists tend to really do their research and can be quite articulate. Their arguments are usually logic based, and it can be really frustrating trying to convince them that faith is an answer to anything. I am fortunate that I have never had to do this, but I seen a few people squirm, question, and paint themselves into corners. I didn't envy them.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

God, the Pretentious Ass.

So, apparently the courts don't have jurisdiction over otherworldly beings. This is according to the mysterious legal document from God, that appeared in response to the law suit being filed by Ernie Chambers. And, we have now learned more about God's personality, he's an asshole. He makes a pretty clear threat to have the Senator removed from office, due to his refusal to believe in invisible magical beings.

More realistically, this is a look into the less attractive traits of humans. Vindictive, angry, jealous, spiteful, mean, and so on. Zeus and the ancient Greek gods are perfect examples of this. Their emotions ran wild, the soap opera of their lives was the stuff of legends, and made for good drama. It makes for this good drama because it reflects human feelings on an epic scale. My personal enjoyment of superheroes is barely different, except I don't ever for a second consider that Superman or the Incredible Hulk is real. For all of known history, there have been tales of great human-like beings who were somehow beyond and better. The Christian sky god is the answer to that, as decided over 2000 years ago in the deserts of Mesopotamia.

Robert Alter was recently on NPR explaining his new translation of the Book of Psalms.
Among many things, the idea of the soul was a later veneer applied to the original works, making it more in tune with the ideas of Christians that have evolved over time. He also translated verses that depict God as presiding over a sort of board of other gods, where he berates them for their treatment of humans. Apparently God eventually demotes these other gods, as punishment for their actions. This gave the early followers a feeling of superiority over the other gods of the time. So, did a Christian of the early AD years feel that he was worshiping the best option among many various gods? As opposed to now, where religious followers tend to believe that the other ones don't exist, only their own.

One of the original reasons towards my revelation of atheism was my struggling with other religions. How egotistical of me to think that the religion I happen to be born into is the only "true" religion (oxymoron). What about the millions of Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, and otherwise? So they all go to hell apparently. This is a big joke among even the religious who have any intelligence and realize there is a world outside of their city, state, country, whatever. What about the factions within religion? The problem is endless, unresolvable, and pointless. Who would win in a fight between Superman and Batman? Its really up to the person who is asked, because it's purely hypothetical. At least with superheroes, you can have fun talking about it. I don't think I could have a jolly laugh with my Muslim friends about whether Allah would get his ass kicked by God.

So that's what I think today. Another ranting by a freed mind, having fun picking on religious belief.

Friday, September 21, 2007

More Rapist Preachers / Priests

Its old news, and we hear it everyday. Whether its a teacher, a cop, or a priest, the abuse of authority and the community's trust in them. Kenton, OH which is a very small town in north-central Ohio, is home to a preacher who raped one teenager girl, and tried to rape a second. These horrific acts of religious authorities have become status quo, and that is sick.

Some pscycho-analysis (of people like Senator Craig) will tell us that sometimes the most outspoken moralists and conservatives may in fact be redirecting hidden and shameful inner feelings. Too often religion is used as the means to bury these impulses, and it continues to fail. Science and psychology have not solved everything, but they have put much more methodology and reason into the potential cures. Religion, its dogma, its ancient traditions, and its superstitions do nothing other than put a lid on a pot that is about to boil over.

More on this tomorrow, and GOD's reply to Senator Ernie Chambers. I will start with this: what kind of pretentious, self-righteous, arrogant prick would actually have the nerve to pretend to be HIS OWN GOD and draw up some unbelievable shit like this? Unfortunately, this response is not at all surprising. I don't know much about the good senator from Nebraska, but good for him for making the statement.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Senator Suing God, Best news ever.

I will not be writing much about this amazing development, not tonight anyway. I had never heard of Ernie Chambers (at least I don't recall), but apparently he has been adamant about not praying during the morning prayer at the senate. I always admire someone who is taking a stand against the majority. I recall a girl who went to my high school who wouldn't stand and recite the pledge of allegiance due to her religion. At the time, she and her family received massive criticism for her stand. Looking back, even though I don't agree with her religion, I admire her resolve. For the record, I don't agree with really any religion, but that will come later.

Back to Ernie. He seems to only be having fun with actually suing God. It seems his main contention is the fact that there are so many frivolous law suits going on, so he's making his point. You can read more about it here

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

A small start... tired and pointless ravings from central Ohio

Today, I was actually happy to hear a bit of news. After a lovely day of pretending to be a big important guy (meeting with a large client), I was giddy to hear that the Fed cut interest rates by half a percent. So new home buyers might actually be looking to enter the market. Yeah, don't try to sell your house now. Not a good idea. End of story.
Enough about that. Warren Jeffs, earlier this week, sat nearly emotionless as the now 21 year old women described how she was forced to marry her first cousin under the order of Jeffs. This was all done, of course, for Jesus. Well, the Mormon Jesus. He's the weird one. Not like the pleasant looking Anglo-Saxon gentlemen that is in all of the paintings. Larry Craig just went back to work today on Capitol Hill after playing tappy-tap in a bathroom stall at the Minneapolis airport.
Of course, he was a strong opponent of gay rights. This can be explained quite easily, he's not gay. That's the beautiful thing! He probably does not actually think he's gay!
This is the world we live in. George W. is still president. A large portion of U.S. citizens believe that there is a devil, heaven, and hell. A somewhat smaller portion believes the earth is on the magnitude of some 6000 years old (I can't wait to get started on the Creation Museum, it's as if God himself blessed me with the best thing ever to make fun of: ).
I am a post Somalia and pre-9-11 veteran. I have a BA in psychology and an MBA. I am passionate about this country, education, and raising my kids. I hope to join a community who feels the way I do, or is at least willing to give reason a chance. Sorry if the name is misleading, I do enjoy all things related to the cosmos and quantum physics. I think there is far more fascinating and inspirational information coming from those two fields than I do from any 2000 year old book.
If we long to believe that the stars rise and set for us, that we are the reason there is a Universe, does science do us a disservice in deflating our conceits? "....For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring. [Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science As a Candle in the Dark]"
OH, and OJ got arrested again!! Uh- oh!