Monday, March 26, 2007

Proof that there is no god.

I think I've been defining my own Atheism as coming from my rejection of the super natural. With the recent death of my grandmother, I have been reflecting a bit on my own ideas that perhaps there's a dimension of sorts where our souls still live.

In case any one thinks I've been expressing a belief in the supernatural, I want to make it clear that this isn't a belief I hold; it is just an idea. And my idea is that this might happen completely within the realm of what might be possible in the universe/multiverse; as I do not expect anything super-natural to happen to our "souls". There is a scientific theory that information can not be destroyed, and while this may apply to physical information, I do often wonder how far this idea could be taken. But I am no physicist to test this, and I wouldn't disagree if someone could knowingly/truthfully explain to me that this is just absolutely not possible.

But my ideas about what might happen to the information that makes up us as individuals still is without a god. Why not have ideas about a god that could fall within the natural laws of the universe? Well, as we define god as an all knowing and all seeing, what I know about the universe says this is impossible.

I present as exhibit number one an explanation of the Double Slit Experiment:

Observation changes the outcome. If a god existed then the probability wave would not be observed because he would be watching, and he would know which slit the particle would go through, and therefore eliminate the probability. As it is, only our direct observation eliminates the probability, so I would conclude that nobody else is watching.

Friday, March 23, 2007

On funerals and rituals.

I was glad not to be there when my grandmother passed, bodies creep the beejebus out of me. (I'm not sure if this is due to instinct or childhood trauma. I've almost always had someone else dispose of dead pets because I don't want to touch the bodies.)

My mother said, before she left the room after my grandmother had passed, a nurse came in to open the window. She said they do this to let the soul out. I liked the idea of that ritual, although I don't think souls (if they existed) could be confined that way. I found comfort in this ritual, despite knowing it's pointless. Despite my efforts of purging supernatural superstitions from my life, it's hard when there is still that flicker of hope somewhere within my mind that our existence is more meaningful.

I went with my mother to prepare for the funeral, and meeting with a funeral director is quite an experience. I've watched 6 Feet Under, and Family Plots, so I thought I new what to expect.

If it was up to just my mother and myself, Grandmom would have been cremated, end of story. But some of the family felt need for closure, which meant a church service and possibly a viewing. This means picking out prayer cards, caskets, and clothing for the deceased. We still wished to have her body cremated, and the funeral director said we could "borrow" a casket, but then before burning, her body would be removed from it, and he didn't think that was respectful. In my own mind, I was thinking; really, how respectful is the process of embalming a body to begin with? And why would it matter? As for my own body, aside from someone molesting it, or stealing parts of it, I really wouldn't care, and definitely wouldn't care if someone burned my body without a casket.

The services included a church ceremony the night before the "viewing", with bible readings and remembrances said. I've always believed a funeral is for the living, not the dead, so if some find comfort in a church service, I cannot justify begrudging them that at this time. The service at the funeral home the next morning turned out to be closed casket. When my mother and uncle went to check out the mortician's handy-work, they decided against it. My mother said "it just wasn't Mom." We had brunch after the services at the funeral home, as she was being cremated and buried at some other time.

Times like this spark conversation about our own deaths. My husband and I discussed our wishes for what would be done with our bodies at the time of our death. That conversation basically ended with, "you'll be dead, and I get to do what I want with it." To me, it would depend on the time in life and circumstances of death what I would do to my husband's body. I would only find a viewing of him necessary for his family, or if we had children, but not for myself.

On the other hand, he had very set ideas of how a funeral should go down. All funerals he'd ever been to were the same, and he thought that was the way they all should be. A wake the night before, viewing the next morning where nobody says anything, a church service, and then brunch as nobody visits the grave site at that time. With all this in mind, he thought that my grandmother's funeral was quite strange, but I found that having the ability to order things however we wanted made it much more meaningful for everyone.

Hopefully I won't be the one making these types of decisions for many years to come.

This post: On death and dying.

It's been a bit of a whirlwind in my personal life recently. As I mentioned, there's been a death in my family, that combined with a motherboard failure on my home PC put me out of blogging for a while.

A little less than two weeks ago my grandmother, who has already been dying of cancer, fell and broke her hip. She survived surgery, but stopped eating after that, and soon went into kidney failure. She was still in the hospital and placed under "comfort care," as she didn't want any feeding tubes or to be put on a ventilator. Her children flew in to be with her, staying with her 24-7 until she passed. I would visit each day, but was not there when she passed.

My one uncle is very religious, and had been praying for her, and the priest has been to visit her. I have never known my grandmother to be much of a religious person, but she did attend church in her younger days. My own mother is very science minded, and from my conversations with her, does not believe in an afterlife (at least, not the heaven/hell type place in the bible). While it is really rough on everyone, I found these different approaches to her dying somewhat fascinating. My uncle called upon the priest and god to ease her suffering, while my mother called upon the nurse and morphine. From my point of view, neither seemed all that effective, in the end, all we could do was hold her hand in her suffering.

It's a tough process watching someone's body fail them, and seeing how much pain it is causing, with almost nothing you can do for them. At her age of 88, with all of her ailments, if not for modern medicine, she would have died long ago. On another occasion, several years ago she was in the hospital and in pain, when I asked her what I could do for her, her response was "kill me." On one hand, it's really rough knowing someone is in so much pain they wish to die, and yet incapable of facilitating that on their own. It's not something I dare assist her with, out of fear of the consequences, though I somewhat wish I could have.

Watching her own suffering makes me wonder if I would be more likely, when I got to her age, especially if I knew I had a terminal illness, to take myself out while I could. Depending on their beliefs, and the situation, would death that way be any worse on the family? I often view suicide as a selfish act, but when someone is already suffering their last days, is it more selfish to deny them quick release?

Next post: Funerals and rituals.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

I'll be back shortly....

I've been gone for a while, for anyone who might have noticed.

There was a death in my family, which I'll elaborate on more later. It's got me thinking quite a bit.

In the meantime, I'd like to share this with you:

As my mind is still on the loss of a loved one, this video is a good summery of what I like to contemplate, a hope without basis, for a higher dimension. Sometimes I think it's silly, but still I think how wonderful our natural universe is already and perhaps it's not beyond capability for the sum of information that makes us who we are could be preserved somewhere in spacetime.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Don't blame the lesson, blame the teacher?

Recently I posted that I really need to read the Koran, after some stories in the news and seeing a video on hate-speech found in the Koran.

Here's a good rebuttal video to that.

Christianity teaches love & kindness too... but we can find slavery, rape, and god taking sides in the bible as well. It's all in what you pick & choose... and in my book a fundie-christian preaching hate is just as despicable as a fundie-muslim preaching hate.

In the end, it's not about what Christianity or Islam teaches in it's purist forms.... it's about what those who preach religion are teaching.

"No one is less tolerant than those demanding tolerance."

I wish to be an equal-opportunity skeptic. I don't like any of their religions or any of their gods. And I can take threats of going to hell in stride cuz, hell, I don't believe in hell.

Reading Doug Marlette's article on being a tool of satan, where he observes "No one is less tolerant than those demanding tolerance." I thought to myself that is a profound statement, it really struck home with me.

There is only one thing I feel I am completely intolerant of; ignorance. Now, I'm not saying that I know everything (heck, if was omnipotent, I wouldn't be an atheist, because I believe in myself...), but I do my damnedest to do a bit of research on any given topic before I wish to talk about it. And I feel infinitely embarrassed when I realize I'm mistaken on something I thought to be true that wasn't.

But stories like Doug Marlette's make me all the more protective of my points of view in my every day life. Here, I am generally anonymous, and I'd be afraid to voice some of my opinions to family, friends, neighbors, for just these reasons. The tolerance police might otherwise come after me.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Know thy enemy...

And what better way to get to know them than to read what they have to say about you? I like to get myself all worked up with things like that, and so I found Just reading what they have to say about creation vs. evolution gets me kinda hot & bothered in a not-so-good way. Stating that "theory of evolution is a philosophical perspective that stems from an atheistic worldview," as they distinguish between biological evolution (which they're ok with?) and the theory of evolution (I guess no longer calling it micro or macro evolution?).

From their writing and use of the word atheist, it seems that they choose the word with the intention of implying that certain scientific theories were developed under the belief that no god exists. "General Theory of Evolution...was derived from atheistic presupposition." I'd imagine leaving god out of a theory would make it "atheistic" in the sense that, well, the theory isn't theistic (Atheism is derived from the Greek word "atheos" - "a" meaning no or without and "theos" meaning God). The general theory of relativity would also be an atheistic theory in that sense.

Clearly the reality is not that scientists said "we made this theory on the belief that there is no god," but instead "we made this theory based on observations without considering if there's a god or not." The creationist sites word things, with clear understanding of the connotation behind the word "atheistic," in order to use the negativity around the word to their advantage.

I think the overall feeling I have gathered from reading this site is that they believe if you don't say "god did it" then you are saying "god didn't do it." This is why they want creationism taught in schools, they feel that without saying god was involved, they think their children will really be learning god wasn't involved.

I can't say I disagree; the more people learn about evolution and science, the less they believe that god is involved. I don't think that atheism reigns supreme in the scientific community for any other reason that people who once were deists aren't seeing any evidence for god, and yet are seeing evidence that clearly contradicts what they did learn about god as children. The site even acknowledges "the ability of the teaching of evolutionary biology to turn people away from a belief in god."

Funny how the truth and knowledge does that, isn't it?