Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Generation "Me"

Apparently, narcissism is on the rise. I don't doubt it in the least. From children's soccer games where nobody's the looser to American Idol, our society has kids shouting "Look at me! I am special!" The results can be seen in the popularity of websites like myspace and blogger.

Parents are letting their kids be kids, instead of treating their children like they'll be adults one day. Even schools are avoiding leaving anybody behind. But we live in a world of 6 billion people, where 100 is the average IQ score, where the reality is not everybody is good enough, smart enough, or well liked. This isn't Lake Woebegon.

This self-esteem delusion can backfire. Parents seeking special lables for their children who are having difficulty in school. Telling kids they're smart too often can actually discourage them from skills that require hard work. College kids spend more money than they have with expectations of getting paid more than they will when they graduate. Relationships can come with expectations of "fairy tail romance," and are difficult to maintain when each person is so self-centered. Adults acquire mortgages for houses higher than they can comfortably afford with expectations that their house value will rise.

But there are also benefits to this type of thinking. People don't just see themselves as another cog in the wheel. While being self-centered might prevent one from doing volunteer work, it might also incline one towards believing they can make a difference in this world, and acting on it. And I would also say that the same sense of self importance is also pushing young adults away from that old-time religion.

Atheism is on the rise. Now, this surely has to do with an age when information of all kinds is directly at our fingertips. It is clear that many people who deny evolution just don't know how evolution really works. But I'd say that a sense of independence is just as important to this new wave of people denying the existence of the holy spirit who are not too scared to say so.

Religion is a form of control of the masses; strict rules with strict retribution (in the next life). Religion teaches you that you are one of many, and that you can't save yourself, only god can do that for you. Atheism frees a person to make their own decisions and choices in life, and face those consequences on their own. I think this way of looking

I'd like to think that, as kids grow up and reject the religion of the masses, they will also realize the weight of personal responsibility in this world. As they learn to think for themselves, I'd hope they keep in mind that we are all connected, and that helping others can be a way of helping ourselves.

Friday, February 23, 2007

People get aggressive when god says to.

I came across this really interesting article about a study on the affects of religious texts on people's aggression levels. Both the religious and secular get more violent when they are subjected to god's words telling them to take up arms.

This is highly intriguing, and it would be an interesting follow up to see if the opposite was true. If they read a passage on people helping each other, and one version said "The Lord commanded Israel to take their brothers in their arms and comfort them before the LORD," would the people who were commanded by god to be good be any less violent?

And since the bible contains conflicting messages (god loves everyone, but smites people who upset him) how might people's aggression levels correspond to similar passages?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Back to hell...

I saw this today... couldn't resist sharing.

The idea of an actual physical hell never really stuck with me as a kid. Early on I assumed that people though hell was below the earth, full of burning & fire, basically from observation of volcanoes.

I did get the idea of hell being more or less the absence of love, this makes much more sense than hell being some kind of physical reality. I always did like the idea that our souls are like droplets of rain, to be collected in a puddle, and recycled back into the atmosphere only to fall as rain again, no droplet ever containing all the same molecules ever again. I could envision hell as a puddle where all the bad parts of souls wound up. I'm sure we all ponder reincarnation, either as a wishful thinking, or perhaps based on those stories we hear of little children recalling events from past lives (the video does give me the willies a bit).

I do wish that there is more to our existence than what we are able to perceive during life, but I still don't think that means there has to be a god up there running the show.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Female Pakistani minister shot dead for 'breaking Islamic dress code'

I really have to sit down and read the Koran at some point. I know there are plenty of people who would say, since I'm an atheist, why does it matter? But there seems to be two sides to the Islamic world, and I'm confused how people get such extremes from the same book. And I understand it's not just their holy book, but their history as well.

I am under the impression that the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic idea of a single god all stem from the same Abraham, yet all 3 religions are extremely distrustful of eachother. How the heck does this happen? It's like the Christians and Muslims said "hey, Jews, thanks for the god, but he's working for us now."

So there are peaceful Muslims who just want to live their daily lives like the rest of us, and then there are these Muslims killing eachother because they don't dress the way they think god wants them to dress? Granted, Christians can be pretty awful to eachother too, with the gay-bashing, and the blowing up women's clinics, and all (and if all sin is the same in gods eyes, why do they pick out certain sins as if they're worse?).

Anyways, I feel a need to read the Koran in order to better understand what is going on in our world, even if I know it really won't help me understand Muslim extremists any better than I understand Christian extremists having read the bible.

Monday, February 19, 2007

To hell with that

I was reading someone else's argument against Hell. It makes me think a little more about the subject. I posted my own reply:

If god is all good, all knowing, all powerful, and everywhere at once, and we were supposedly created in his image, exactly what part of god are we like then? Humans obviously aren't all good, don't know everything, and are confined by the laws of physics, time and space. Like [he] said, I don't think anyone but a psychopath would be comfortable condemning another human being to an eternity of suffering after an 80 year test, so if we're supposed to be like god in some way, why would god be comfortable with that?

If god created hell, he's not all good. If god created earth as a "test" for us, he's not all knowing (or else he'd know the fate of our souls before he created us, and this "test" would be pointless). If god didn't create hell, he's not all powerful. If hell is just the absence of god, then god isn't everywhere at once.

If all you have to do to go to heaven is believe, why be good? If all you have to do is be good, why believe? If you're only motivation to be good and believe is fear of hell, does that count? If you need to be both good and a believer, who's really that perfect?

Also, what if someone I love is cast into hell, but I've gone to heaven, but heaven isn't perfect for me without this person?

I'm not totally sure there isn't such a thing as a soul, perhaps there are other dimensions where our energy can continue to exist... but only science could ever tell us for sure. Religion is really just a way of controlling the masses.

I thought some more about what I said, and I realize this is only a reply to those who believe in a literal fire-and-brimstone hell and a pearly-gates heaven. (I have a feeling that these people will be sorely disappointed.) If one might acknowledge that love is "god" (a=b therefore b=a), living one's life without love could be some kind of hell. But it is not just a self-inflicted hell, people can inflict hate onto eachother as well. Perhaps the only sense of heaven we get is, as we die, we die with a cumulative sense of the love we've experienced in life? This could be incredibly unfair to a child brought up in an unloving home, but nobody ever said life was fair.

Friday, February 16, 2007

100th post

Wow... I've actually gotten in 100 posts! I managed to keep at a pretty good pace of a few posts a week for the past few months. I can't believe I've actually been keeping it up so long & mostly regularly, and I'm proud of me, because I'm good enough, I'm strong enough, and dog-gone-it, people like me.

I've learned a lot about atheism, as well as the religion around me, in the past few months. I've become much more conscious of the religion around me, how it affects my life, and what I want to do about it.

Anyways, I'd like to say that so far, it's been really interesting, and I appreciate everyone who's taken the time to read what I've written, and I also highly appreciate everyone who's taken the time to comment! It's such a good feeling getting feedback, I think that's what keeps us all blogging.

Well, lets see how long it takes me to make another 100 posts.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Where do I get my ethics from?

Well, I watched the CNN Paula Zahn that re-visited the atheists in America issue. (Soon as I see it on youtube, I'll have to post it here.)

I was glad to see their panel was more expansive, but Reverend Peterson brought up a question that I was already thinking about today:

Where do I get my ethics from?

Or, to put it a different way: Why do deists insist that there are no morals without god?

The U.S. started it's war on the "godless" with the cold-war because the Communist countries didn't allow religion, and our government put "under god" in the pledge and "in god we trust" as our motto in order to re-enforce the idea of freedoms in this country, especially the freedom of religion. And at this time, many people were being accused of being communists and this lead to much unpleasantness for the accused, so many people tried to conform as best they could to the capitalistic and christian in order distance themselves as far from the communistic and godless as possible. It wasn't really all that long ago that the wall fell, so this association of atheism and evil-communism is still somewhat prevelent in our society. (There is quite a thought provoking article on the Regan Doctrine by Isaac Asimov.)

So, while some deists claim that they have a view of atheists as "militant" from their insistence that all mention of god be removed from government doctrine, it really wasn't all that long ago that militant Christians pushed for god to be included. In a country where god and state are supposed to be separate by law, deists prevail only because they are in the majority, not because they are in the right. Those of us in the minority only shout so loud because it is so hard for us to get our voices heard in the crowed.

But I digress.

Where do we get our ethics from?

The easiest answer to this question is; from our parents and from our society. Ethics can be culturally specific, the purist definition of the word has no reference to any religious works that provide for all ethics. We learn what is good and bad from our parents and our introduction to these concepts is not our parents sitting down with a copy of the bible or any other book, as explaining good and bad in such complex terms would never really work for a two year old. All we really need to know about life, we really did learn in kindergarten (see Robert Fulghum), and so we really acquire our sense of what is ethical, what is right and wrong, through trial and error as children. Ethics help us get along in society, they don't come from above, but from the human collective, perhaps from human instinct, and what is ethical depends on what collective you were born into.

I acknowledge that the words "good" and "bad" can be subjective, but somehow, most of us know what we are talking about when we say "good" or "bad," and people without a sense of these concepts can often be labeled with a mental or psychotic disorder. It can often be a fine line, for while many of us think it is unethical to murder, what if your own life is in danger? What if you are at war? Many what-if's can blur that line of right and wrong for most people.

So why is it so hard to believe that mankind can be good without god looming overhead to punish them in the afterlife? I often find the answer to be that people who hold this point of view are actually expressing a belief that they are superior to the rest of humanity. I have no doubt if you asked most people if they would be good without the bible telling them to be good, most people would say "yes." But those people who are saying the bible is the source of all ethics are essentially saying they don't believe any of you would be good enough to be ethical without it having been spelt out for you.

As I research it, the only Christian sect to have it's doctrine that man is saved through works and faith is Catholicism, all of Protestantism rejects this idea. So, if Protestants believe that faith in Christ alone is enough for eternal salvation, why should they have any need for ethics? Perhaps they think through their faith, god makes them good? But if only god can give one the grace to believe or not, why would one who doesn't believe need fear punishment from god for something god never gave them?

In the end, I don't believe that ethics and morals are ever crystal clear, and while the 10 commandments may be a good guideline, it's not the only guideline in this world. I will try my best to live by the Golden Rule, it is not where I get my ethics, but instead it best sums them up. It has been repeatedly discovered throughout history as a simplistic way to emphasise how essential it is for us to love one another to our own best ability.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Just for a bit of clarification....

Sometimes I feel I use creationism/ID and "christian" interchangeably. Not everyone who claims to be a christian takes the bible quite so literally, and they are standing up for themselves, and for Darwin.

It's a good reminder to me to try harder not to paint everyone with the same brush.

Atheist banned from youtube for Qur'an vid?

Atheist banned from youtube, but I've seen rumors he was banned for the music he used illigally, instead of for the content... but there are a lot of ppl out there on youtube using music they have no right to, so I dunno if I buy that. Anways, here's the video that got him banned (others have re-posted it):

And a word from the author:

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Schlussel reacts

Ug, Schlussel responded to her barrage of atheist e-mails with a post... I took the time to comment again, but really, I probably should have just yelled at a rock for a while... would have had the same effect.

Update: Dawkins will be on Paula Zahn tonight. Ought to be interesting.

Evangelical Africans don't want to see Turkana Boy

Despite CNN being on my "bad media" list (oh wait... most of TV news is on that list... how about that...) I bring you their story of Evangelical Africans protesting a display of the skeleton of a hominid boy who died 1.6 million years ago.

Turkana boy, as the skeleton has been named, is obviously in direct conflict with the story of creation in the bible, and that mankind must have been created not much longer than 6000 years ago.

I'm really still confused why, aside from the whole bible thing, Evangelicals keep protesting evolution by stating that they "aren't descended from monkeys." Apparently, telling someone that several million years back in their heritage line one would find other species of animals is the worst offense ever. I just don't understand why this is so offensive... perhaps it's just in the implication that humans aren't special. I mean, there's 6 billion of us on the planet, even if humans as a species were special, it takes a heck of a lot of effort for any one of us to really be special.

Generally speaking; you're not special. Get used to it. I mean, I'm only special because I have my own blog...

Rev. Haggard isn't gay any more! Yayayaya

They sent him to a de-gay briefing apparently, ya know, to get all the gay out. So Rev. Haggard isn't gay any more; he's prayed the gay away! Shouldn't we all be happy for him? I mean, obviously his wife is happy for him.

Eh, if he's not fucking a gay prostitute up the ass, he'll keep fucking up his parishioners the uncomfortable way.

Update: Comments in response from the man Haggard used crystal meth with and who's cock he sucked.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

CNN's view on Atheists

In case you haven't seen, I'll link to the CNN clips below from Paula Zahn, Jan 31st:

Here's where I found them at:
TPO's Myspace Blog

In the first video, they present the view that Atheists aren't liked because they present lawsuits against things like: prayer in school, god bless america, one nation under god, in god we trust, etc.

I'm pretty damn sure the christians out there would be upset if any one of those things were changed from god to Buddah, or Vishnu, or Flying Spagetti Monster, but Atheists just want them removed, not replaced, in order to maintain seperation of church and state. The gov doesn't need to remind people what religion they are, and it's not like we're advocating the gov promote atheism; just don't promote any super-natural being!

The second clip... where would I begin? I guess I'll begin with; piss poor panel! How about a balanced view? (But I guess they use this same panel for a variety of issues.)

So... Karen Hunter says we need some better PR and some Halmark Cards eh? And Prayer equals morality? I wasn't aware of that. Debbie Schlussel keeps insisting "this is a christian nation" and that's just as stupid as saying "this is a straight nation" or even "this is a white nation." At least Stephen Smith had the balls to say that even though he disagrees with atheists, he understands the struggle.

This bigotry shall pass too, but only if we fight for it just as other minorities have. You don't have to accept my point of view, but in America, you have to respect my right to have my point of view and my right to not have god pushed down my throat. But I think most atheists are too nice about it, and I don't think that's a bad thing to be nice about it, but it's the sort of issue where the squeaky wheel gets the grease. It's sad, but someone's gotta stand up and be an asshole about it for the issue to get any attention.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

The Anti-Christ will bring peace?

There's a good article over at Lew Rockwell's site on why we should all fear those who fear the rapture.

If they are correct, why should any of us bother trying to make the world a better place? Dispensationalists get very annoyed at this question. They say, "Final peace on earth will only come through Christ!" They basically insist Christians trying to do good in the world should only focus on "spiritual things." Trying to change social institutions for the better is futile and presumptuous. Apparently the only two options are handing the world over to Satan or believing that humans can do everything in their own strength. Not much room for nuance here.

Ironically, many dispensationalists are involved in the Religious Right movement and want to stem abortions, ban gay marriage and make America more Christian. But at the same time they believe in a theology that says the world can only get worse, that there’s nothing any of us can do about it, and that it’s about to get so bad Christians are going to be taken off of the earth. If the ship is irreversibly sinking, why try and patch up the leaks?

How are we supposed to know the difference between the second coming and the anti-christ? Could he really be in Florida?

And below, the thinking-man's rap: Extian (The Verse from Atheist Nation Pt III).

Friday, February 02, 2007

Jesus loves Osama Bin-Laden, but Hates Gays?

I find this an interesting way of attracting new parishioners... tell them if Jesus loves Bin-Laden, he must love them too?

I totally understand that these aren't the same people that say God hates homosexuals, but I still find it funny how different people are using the same book to give completely conflicting points of view. Go-go magic bible!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Canada saves 3 Jehovah's witnesses....

A Canadian couple who were Jehovah's witnesses, had sextuplets, but 2 died because the parents refused them blood transfusions. The Canadian government took custody of the remaining 3 babies in order to save their lives.

I am not sure how I feel about this... and I really don't understand how a parent could feel that their child being "violated" was worse than the baby just dying. I'm also curious how someone naturally has 6 babies? First off, people usually only have that many children at once on fertility drugs, are Jehovah's witnesses allowed to take fertility drugs? (I guess since there's nothing in the bible about it, they can.) Or did they just pray a bit too much? And then, at birth, I would assume that a c-section would be ruled out because of the blood-loss in surgery? (Though they could use their own blood.)

This Canadian article explores the reason's Jehovah's witnesses don't take transfusions.

Bless me Father, for I have sinned.....

Confession is one of those joys of the Catholic church I no longer experience. I didn't think it'd go over too well if I went in to talk to the priest and said "well, I don't believe in god... does that count as a sin? Since, since I don't believe in god, I don't believe in sin either?"

Someone did take on this experiment though, and picked Italy of all places! They gave various priests various "sins" to see their response. I find that a hilarious, and yet really intriguing experiment. Needless to say though, the Catholic church is a bit pissed. They take the whole sacrament pretty seriously.

Confession was usually a joke. When I was a child, we didn't have to go so often, even in Catholic school. But I've heard tell stories of children who were supposed to go every week before church (you couldn't receive communion without a clean soul) and these kids would make up all kinds of bad behavior, just to have something to talk to the priest about. When my friends and I would get out of confession, we'd always compare how many prayers we had to say. I don't think any of us ever had anything horrible to confess, but I was always curious what the conversion chart of sin-to-prayer was. If, in 4th grade, I had told the priest I had killed someone, or perhaps just something, what would they have done? It's something I often wish I had had the courage to test.

Well I'll be damned... and if I lived in Massechusets, I'd be fined too.

How about that, it's against the law in MA to blaspheme! CHAPTER 272. CRIMES AGAINST CHASTITY, MORALITY, DECENCY AND GOOD ORDER

Gee... I better check my own state for such vice laws... Nope, the only laws that refer to god in my state are to do with oaths ("so help me god") and "acts of god". Woo hoo!

I wonder if an insurance company could deny someone damages if they stipulate that they don't believe in god?
"That there tree fell on ma trail...er...house durin the twister! It's an act of god!"
"Sir, we here at Insura-corp don't believe in god, so technically, you're not covered."