So, you found out your gay child just got married…

How should you react?

First a quick disclaimer, this post is not going to be typical of me, as it is written for a few different specific people all at the same time. This means I may switch tactics mid-stream and the overall post may seem a bit disjointed. The reason for this, is I am writing today post primarily as an open letter to a wonderful friend’s parents, as well as partially to that friend, and I suppose it’s also just a way to combine all of the many arguments on this topic in to one place.

So let’s start off with the reasons why somebody may be against gay marriage.

  • Because god and/or a “holy” book said so
  • Gay sex is gross
  • Homosexuality is “unnatural”
  • Homosexuality is a choice
  • Gay sex leads to unintended consequences, such as diseases like AIDS
  • Allowing gay marriage leads to a slippery slope (pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc)
  • Gay marriage is destroying the institution of marriage and/or America
  • Marriage is about family, and homosexual couples can not have children

Obviously not everybody against gay marriage uses (or believes) all of these reasons, but these do cover the primary arguments used by it’s opponents. Perhaps you have some other argument I did not include here, and I’d be happy to go over those arguments in the comments if you’d like…

Now before we go too far here, I’d like to “speak” directly to the two very specific people who are the inspiration for this post. Some of what I am going to say is going to come across as snarky, or downright rude. I say these things not because I want to offend you, but because I care about your daughter, and I hate to see her mistreated by you. But before I get to the snarky parts, I would like to say a few things directly to you in advance.

I know the two of you to be fantastic people. You are unbelievably kind and generous. By taking in an adopted child all those years ago, you did something which I find so amazing, and commendable (and not just because I also am adopted). You raised your daughter to be a great woman, and you have shown her such love that you are in any possible sense her true mom and dad. I have known you to be among the kindest people I’ve ever met. And I do understand that your faith / religion is important to you and that it influences your views on many topics (including homosexuality and gay marriage).

But most importantly I know without any doubt, that you want what you believe is best for your daughter, and you say and do what you honestly believe is in her best interests.

You have a contemptible way of showing it, but you do mean well…

While I disagree with religious reasons for anything, for now I will at least just discuss what your religion says, and not the invalidity or contradictions within those teachings. From what I know about you, your primary objection to gay marriage is a religious one, specifically coming from Leviticus 18:22 (quick aside, all biblical quotes are from 21st Century King James Version): “Thou shalt not lie with mankind as with womankind: it is abomination“. Well let’s take a look at  Leviticus. In Leviticus 18, god talks to moses: “I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt wherein ye dwelt, shall ye not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan whither I bring you, shall ye not do; neither shall ye walk in their ordinances. Ye shall do My judgments and keep Mine ordinances to walk therein; I am the LORD your God. Ye shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man do, he shall live in them: I am the LORD.” and then proceeds to give moses a number of laws the Israelites must follow, most of which are dealing with various sexual taboos, including the prohibition on homosexuality.

Leviticus 19 continues the laws, including: “4Turn ye not unto idols, nor make to yourselves molten gods: I am the LORD your God“. Take a look at your church, is there a status of Mary, or a cross anywhere? These are both idols by Old Testament laws.
And if ye offer a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, ye shall offer it at your own will. It shall be eaten the same day ye offer it, and on the morrow; and if aught remain until the third day, it shall be burned in the fire“. When was the last time you killed an animal as a sacrifice to god? It’s probably been a while.
Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD“. Telling your daughter that you believe she should not be allowed to have something in her life, which you have enjoyed for these last 60 years seems to violate this law.
neither shall a garment mingled with linen and wool come upon thee“. Keep in mind this comes from the chapter directly following the prohibition on homosexuality. You can’t wear mixed fabrics, yet I’d bet that other than Quakers, not one group of christians in the United States could go through their closet and not find a dozen violations of this verse.
A bit earlier in Leviticus gos lays out the laws for what can and can not be eaten, including: “and the swine, though he divide the hoof and is cloven-footed, yet he cheweth not the cud, he is unclean to you“. So I guess that ham dinner is out for easter and christmas, no BLT’s are allowed during the summer, and you certainly can’t have a side of bacon on a lazy Sunday morning.
Not to mention the prohibition on shellfish, “And all that have not fins and scales in the seas and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters and of any living thing which is in the waters, they shall be an abomination unto you“, so shrimp, crab, lobster, clams, and mussels are out. Notice that both homosexuality and shellfish are described as being an “abomination“. Based on the treatment you have shown to your own daughter over her sexuality, I take it that you are equally abrasive and rude when you see somebody order lobster at a restaurant. And do you also believe that Maine lobsters are destroying America in the same way that you have claimed that gay marriage is ruining this country? Do you tell your friends who enjoy going to Baltimore for crabs that they are tearing down the moral fiber of the United States? Or is it only your daughter that gets this type of treatment from you?

All in all, there are 613 laws in the Old Testament; and I’ve only selected a few random ones from Leviticus, since this is where the condemnation of homosexuality comes from. Perhaps the examples I listed don’t apply to you, but have you read and do you strictly follow all 613 laws of moses? Why pick this one as the line to draw in the sand, and not the multitudes of others?

But that is Old Testament… And with you both being devout christians, let’s see what jesus says on the subject of homosexuality.
*looking*
Nope, not in Matthew.
*looking*
Not in Mark either.
*looking*
Not a thing in Luke.
*looking*
Odd, John is silent on the subject as well.
*looking*
Hmm, well, this is just strange. It appears that jesus never speaks about homosexuality even once. While paul speaks of the Old Testament laws (including the one against homosexuality) in some of the letters, he never claims that jesus, himself, said anything, and the gospels are mysteriously silent on the subject. If homosexuality is such a vast evil, doesn’t it seem odd that when jesus had a chance to tell humanity in person?

But why should you listen to what I have to say about the bible? After all, I am an atheist, so what would I know about the bible and christianty? Well the Pew Forum on Religious Religion and Public Life released a survey on religious knowledge showing that Atheists and Agnostics scored higher on it than anyone else, closely followed by Jews and Mormons, all Christians, Protestants and Catholics, were far behind. And I personally spent many years studying religion, and have spent the last 3 years doing more studying, and much writing on the topic.

But still, I am an atheist, so there is a very realistic possibility that nothing I say could sway you. With that in mind, it seems only reasonable to see what other christians say on the subject. Well the christian post reports that a recent poll revealed that support for same-sex marriage is growing among Americans. Even conservative christians are coming out in support for gay marriage, stating: “the question of whether to allow civil same-sex marriage is a civil liberties question, and maintaining a respect for people’s civil liberties in this country is always to the church’s advantage. In fact, it is absolutely essential for the survival of our religious freedom in a pluralistic society“. Others make the case that: “Rather than judging negatively against gay marriage, an alternative and still very Christian stand is support of the institution of marriage as it impacts positively on the exclusiveness and the duration of relationships, whether homosexual or heterosexual“. There are many more christians making the case not just to be tolerant, but to actually be in favor of gay marriage than you might expect.

Or we can look at this issue from another angle. Perhaps you will not take the words of other christians over those of your church. Will you take the word of jesus from the gospels? You have complained about prayer being taken out of schools and out of public life. Well as a christian, shouldn’t you follow the words of jesus, in Matthew 6:6 which tells you’: “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly“.Do you honestly believe that trying to push YOUR religious beliefs on to others is what jesus was saying here? Or we can look at Mark 12:31 which states “And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these“. Do you believe that cutting your daughter out of your life is showing her love in the sense the jesus was promoting? And when Matthew 7 states: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye“. Have you now taken it upon yourself to be god, since only god should judge others? Your own bible says that makes you a hypocrite. Keep in mind, this is not me calling you out, this is jesus telling you that only god can judge, and those who attempt to judge others are hypocrites.

But, you may still want to say that the idea of gay marriage is unbiblical. So what does the bible say about marriage specifically? Well this video may come across as a bit offensive, but please keep in mind that everything it says is actually 100% biblically accurate.

So incest, polygamy, rape, slavery, pedophilia, adultery, and prostitution are all okay, in various circumstances, according to your “holy” book. But your daughter finding happiness with an amazing person she truly loves is going to destroy the world?

And none of this even touches on the fact (and yes, it is a FACT) that we live in a country that has a Separation of Church and State, by design. This is a concept that Thomas Jefferson, among many of the other “founders” of this country, felt very strongly about, and made sure to incorporate into the Bill Of Rights. The evidence for this concept is really something for it’s own post, but for now I’ll just say that you should look into the Treaty Of Tripoli which states ” As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion“.

And when you look in to the history of the First Amendment one of the interesting things you find is that it was religious people who fought so hard to have the strong wording. And the two people most responsible for the founding documents, Jefferson and Madison, in a letter Jefferson wrote in 1802 to the Baptists of Danbury, Connecticut, that there should be “a wall of separation between church and state.” And Madison himself often wrote of “perfect separation between the ecclesiastical and civil matters” (1822 letter to Livingston), “line of separation between the rights of religion and the civil authority… entire abstinence of the government” (1832 letter Rev. Adams), and “practical distinction between Religion and Civil Government as essential to the purity of both, and as guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States” (1811 letter to Baptist Churches).

The next objection that many people have to gay marriage is that gay sex is gross or unnatural. Well the grossness of gay sex is subjective. I find mayo gross. A good friend of mine hates cheese. You might not be a fan of beets. Should these things be outlawed for everybody, just because of the subjective views of some group of people?

A 1999 review by researcher Bruce Bagemihl shows that homosexual behavior has been observed in close to 1,500 species, ranging from primates to gut worms, and is well documented for 500 of them. A 2009 review of existing research showed that same-sex behavior is a nearly universal phenomenon in the animal kingdom, common across species. How can something be “unnatural” if it is “nearly universal”? By definition if something is that common, it is clearly “natural”. As a believer, you, even more than I, should see this as natural, since you have the belief that god created all of the animals and created mankind in “his” own image.

But none of these facts hold much weight if somebody is truly homophobic. They will pull out the tired old cliche that “homosexuality is a choice”.
For just a moment, let’s assume that this is true. Well, your religion is a choice. So is every other religion on the planet that is not yours. Should those choices be outlawed?
And at what age do you believe your daughter “chose” to be gay? Was it when she was 15 and came out? Was it when she was a child and fought her brother over the “boy’s” toys and ignored the dolls?

Well what if we don’t assume that homosexuality is a choice. How would we know if it is or not? The American Psychological Association states: “Research suggests that the homosexual orientation is in place very early in the life cycle, possibly even before birth. It is found in about ten percent of the population, a figure which is surprisingly constant across cultures, irrespective of the different moral values and standards of a particular culture“. No simple, single cause for sexual orientation has been conclusively demonstrated, but research suggests that it is by a combination of genetic, hormonal, and environmental influences, with biological factors involving a complex interplay of genetic factors and the early uterine environment. As well, a number of twin studies have attempted to isolate biological factors in sexual orientation. As Bearman and Bruckner (2002) describe it, early studies concentrated on small, select samples, which showed very high genetic influences. Well that certainly does not sound like a choice, so much as it leans towards the conclusion that at least in large part it is an innate part of us since birth. There have since been many other studies confirming many of the same conclusions. If you’d like I can provide you with details of the further specific studies.

The next potential issue brought up by opponents of gay marriage, typically when they are trying to avoid a religious argument, is that gay sex leads to more unintended consequences, such as diseases like AIDS, than does heterosexual sex.
Well, for a moment, let’s assume this is true. Drinking leads to cirrhosis of the liver. Smoking leads to lung cancer. Driving leads to fatal accidents. Hell, heterosexual sex leads to diseases Swimming leads to drowning. Eating unhealthy foods can lead to obesity. Hell, heterosexual often sex leads to diseases as well. Should these things also be banned? You are both politically conservative; and this group typically expresses the idea of limited government. Do you really want the government becoming a nanny state and telling you what you can and can not do in the privacy of your own home?

But let’s take a look at this idea that gay sex is the causation of more disease. While it is true that unprotected anal sex does carry a higher likelihood of infection than unprotected vaginal sex due to the lining of the anus vs that of the vagina, this really has no bearing on your daughter, as the risk of spreading disease from woman to woman is actually lower than from man to woman. And once you take in to account the use of condom use, homosexual sex carries no more risk than heterosexual sex.

Another thing to keep in mind, and unfortunately as far as I am aware no studies have been done on this, is that when most heterosexual children are brought up in our society, they know there is a “normal” set of plans for their life; they will date, marry, and have children. When homosexual children are brought up, they are told they are bad, that they do not deserve the same rights as the rest of us, are (very unfairly) compared to pedophiles, rapists, and other “sexual deviants”, and that the “normal” set of plans for an adult life do not apply to them. Is it any wonder that statistically they are more promiscuous than heterosexuals? Does it seems reasonable that perhaps if they were not constantly ridiculed and shamed and they had the opportunities that you had in your life, they would be more likely to have the same type of life that you’ve had?

So let’s take a look at the “slippery slope” arguments against gay marriage. You know the ones I mean, that if we allow gays to marry, then the next thing you know we’ll have to allow pedophilia, bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.

As recently as 1967 a number of states in the US had laws on the books that prohibited interracial marriage, that was until the Supreme Court rules in Loving v. Virginia, ending all race-based legal restrictions on marriage in the United States (I’d highly recommend reading the link about this court case, it’s absolutely appalling what this couple went through, including the police invading their home and being sentenced to jail because they married each other). The trial judge in the case ruled that: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

Most rational people today look at this with a mixture of horror, disgust, and anger. But this was acceptable and as is plainly obvious from the quote, was based at least in part on religious views at the time. This is not to put all of the blame on religion, in fact: “In 1966, the Presbyterian Church took a strong stand stating that they do not condemn or prohibit interracial marriages. The church found “no theological grounds for condemning or prohibiting marriage between consenting adults merely because of racial origin”. In that same year, the Unitarian Universalist Association declared that “laws which prohibit, inhibit or hamper marriage or cohabitation between persons because of different races, religions, or national origins should be nullified or repealed.” Months before the Supreme Court ruling on Loving v. Virginia the Roman Catholic Church joined the movement, supporting interracial couples in their struggle for recognition of their right to marriage.

In it’s decision on this case, the court ruled: “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.

Now, just in case it slipped by you, this ruling included the line: “Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival“. A basic civil right. That is what you want to deny your daughter. You are old enough to remember women and minorities being mistreated for decades. You’ve seen the growth in our nation over the  decades. You’ve witnesses civil rights violations and the fight of minorities to be accepted as equal. And yet with your own daughter, you actively promote the same type of hatred and bigotry that people have fought against since the founding of this country that you claim to care for. It is not your daughter that is hurting this country, it is the narrow-minded hate that you espouse.

When people fought against interracial marriage they used the same slippery slope argument. If you allow blacks and whites to marry, then the next thing you know other forms of biblically condoned marriages are going to be deemed acceptable. It was asinine then, and it’s equally asinine now. Any time you want to limit the rights of some group (whether it is by pushing to outlaw gay marriage or whatever), imagine if the tables were turned, and instead of what you’re fighting for, instead it was outlawing something for a group you are a member of. Would you still support the same position if just one word was changed? Instead of gay, if “white” marriages were outlawed, could you see the unfairness then?

This actually leads in to the idea of “Tyranny of the Majority“. While I can argue over the merits of allowing gay couples to marry all day long, this really does go beyond that. This goes to the very foundations of who controls civil rights. To who controls the basic freedoms that we enjoy in the country. Do we want to live in a society when groups can be openly discriminated against in regards to basic rights, just because they happen to be part of a minority group? Didn’t we already go through this over the rights of minority religions? Over the rights of women? Over the rights of minority races?

We are not talking about granting a group special rights because of their minority status, we are talking about giving them equal rights under the law. One of the very foundations of this country is that ALL people are created equal. Not all white people. Not all straight people. But ALL people.

Whichever side of this particular issue you are on, think about the day when you, or your children or their children are in a minority group. Should you be discriminated against just because you’re in a minority group? Of course not. When it comes ot matters of civil rights, the Tyranny of the Majority is the wrong way to go, even if it is technically “democratic”. This is why all people, including those currently in the majority, should ALWAYS fight for the rights of all people.

And while we’re on the subject of a “slippery slope”, you know one thing that gay sex does not lead to? Abortion. In all of human history not one gay couple have had an “unwanted” pregnancy. Not one. If, as most christians do, you view abortion as a bad thing, at least you know that with gay couples, the idea of aborting an unwanted pregnancy is off the table.

You have claimed that your daughter, and specifically gay marriage is destroying the institution of marriage and/or America. Well the divorce rate has been around 50% for a number of decades, long before the idea of gay marriage was on the scene. It seems hardly fair to blame “the gays” for any problems with the institution of marriage or divorce rates among straight couples.

As for it “destroying” America, please show me how. Show me one example of a problem with the United States (be it the economy, divorce rate, abortion rate, etc), how me HOW that is a problem, and show me how that is caused by loving couples being allowed to marry. In what way does two men having a committed relationship negatively affect your life? How does two women making a vow to each other hurt the economy? This idea that gays marriage is destroying the country is thrown around all the time, but nobody bothers to explain in what way this happens. Perhaps because it is nothing more than ignorance shrouded in fear-mongering?

And you have specifically accused your daughter of not caring about the country. She has given virtually her entire adult life to serving this country. Having spent years working in law enforcement, she went back to school so that spend essentially the last decade working for homeland security. She has done more to serve than 99% of people, and to claim otherwise is irrational, offensive, and just blatantly false.

The final argument typically used against gay marriage is that marriage as an institution is about creating families, and homosexual couples can not have children. For a moment let’s say this is true.
Should all couples be forced to have children, even if they do not want to? That certainly won’t lead to any abuse of children, now would it?
You know my story, what if my wife and I had been forced to have a child? How would I ever hope to be able to explain to them what their mother did?
Would you argue that infertile couples should not be allowed to marry? You yourselves adopted children for a reason. If you were to use this argument against your daughter, it only stands to reason that your own marriage is just at detrimental to the institution of marriage and to our society as hers is.

Or you could make the argument that marriage is (or at least should primarily be) about love. Yes many couples marry because they want to have children. Many others marry for the legal benefits. Many marry because they think it’s what society wants them to do. But the best marriages, the ones that last through the years (like your own), are primarily about love. And that is what your daughter has found. It’s a shame that you as her parents would try to stand in the way of that. One of the greatest moments of my life was when I got married. And I was lucky enough to have your daughter there to celebrate that day with me. And I was especially honored to have been given the chance to share in that same experience for her. I went to celebrate the love and commitment of two amazing people. And if they are extremely lucky, they will have as wonderful a life together as the two of you have had.

Finally, I would like to end this with Special Comment on Gay Marriage by Keith Olbermann following California banning gay marriage via Proposition 8 November 4,2008

Olbermann makes a number of the same points that I have made before, but being a video, he can better express the emotion that is lacking in the text I have written…

Posted in Critical thinking, Debate, Politics, Religion | 1 Comment

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

I’d like to say that I was one of the many many people who could not wait for this video when it was first released.
I’d like to say I was a huge fan of Joss Whedon and the cast members before ever viewing this video.
I’d like to say that Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog changed my life, and was one of the most moving pieces of work I’ve ever seen.

But honestly, I can’t say those things.
What I can say is that it took 2 (or 3) of my friends repeatedly telling me to watch before I finally checked it out.
What I can say is that other than Neil Patrick Harris, I did not really know anything about some of the cast (such as Felicia Day); and the cast members I did know I wasn’t really all that for or against (Nathan Fillion) before watching  (although I’m certainly a fan of both of them now).
What I can say, is that Dr Horrible’s Sing Along Blog is silly, goofy, hilarious, and a ton of fun.
What I can say, is that not only is watching this video worth your time, but there is a reasonable chance that if you’re reading this blog, that just like me you’ll feel it’s worth buying a copy for yourself, and possibly sharing with your friends.

And I highly recommend giving it a chance, at least until the first song in the laundromat…

But for now, sit back, relax, hit play, and enjoy…



And for those who are fans there is also a Commentary “album” available for download that contains more songs from the cast…

Posted in Humor, Movies, Music | Leave a comment

It Gets Better, Google Edition

I have posted about the It Gets Better project previously, but something new seems to have come out, in the last day or so, that I think is worth commenting on.

In each of the previous videos it was an individual (or couple) posting their own thoughts and encouragement. And while a number of the people in those videos are celebrities, really there was not much downside for any of the people in those videos to do them.

By contrast, in this video, a large multi-national corporation has essentially given it’s “approval” of homosexuality. And while I may agree that this is a good thing, many bigots out there in the world control a lot of money, and Google’s promotion of the It Gets Better campaign could (and knowing the christian-right it probably will) cause them some amount of financial blow-back.

Beginning with one inspiring video, Dan Savage used the web to create the It Gets Better project–a movement that has generated thousands of uplifting videos that give hope to teens.

Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

Is Atheism a (Religion/Faith/Belief System/etc)?

I have come across many blogs that have attempted to make the point that atheism, as they see it from their usually theistic view point, is many different things. Not always, but occasionally I will attempt to dispel their misconceptions.

Usually this leads to that blog owner ignoring the actual comments made and restating their position time and time again. Once in a while this leads to a good discussion on many topics (some related, some not).

But the reason for this post is not those times that it turns into a good debate, the reason for this post is those times when the discussion is cut off; usually by the blog owner blocking further comments, or just ignoring comments (for a few examples of this on various topics check here, here, here; some of them respond a few times but really never address the actual points made, and eventually just stop responding all-together). Perhaps I’m different, but if I make a claim, I am willing to defend that claim until I come across evidence that changes my opinion, and then I am willing to admit I made a mistake in my earlier assessment.

Now I see this discussion as having a few pieces. There are those who refer to atheism as a religion, as a faith, and as a belief system. I’ll try to tackle those one at a time, and then I’ll focus on a few of the related comments that people make on this subject, as well as my response to them. (As most of the time these debates are with christians, I will primarily address christians in my comments, however, the same logic applies for virtually any other religion as well.)

—–

Atheism as a Religion:

First of all, I’d argue that a much more common definition of religion would be:
http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/religion
a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, esp. when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

Atheism rejects all claims of “creation of a superhuman agency or agencies” and has no “devotional and ritual observances” or “moral code governing the conduct of human affairs”.

The definition I have posted here is from that link above, and is the FIRST definition given, and I think the most commonly accepted definition.

If you remove the supernatural aspect of the religion, than ANY club or ground would be a religion. The religion of democrats or republican. The religion of NAMBLA (well, some of there members may overlap with the catholic church). The religion of people who follow the Atlanta Braves, or the Washington Nationals. Etc, etc, etc, you get the point…

The next question I would have for you is how many religions do you consider yourself to have?
Are you an Amuslim?
Are you an AJew?
Or an AScientologist?
If you consider yourself to be all of those RELIGIONS, then I’m all of those that you are, plus one more Achristian (or whatever religion you call yourself)…

—–

Atheism as a Faith:

I’m guessing you’re a christian, but I could be wrong. But for the sake of argument, let’s picture a typical United States fundamentalist christian. One of the 80 million (give or take) that does not believe in evolution, and does believe that the earth is, roughly, 6500 years old.

They are absolutely convinced that buddist, hindus, muslims, scientologist, catholics, etc re all wrong. No “maybes”. Just wrong.
They are also convinced that THEY are 100% correct.

They believe that man walked with dinosaurs, that noah floated around the globe for 40 days with millions of animals sharing the boat, and some woman roughly 2000 years ago never had sex, but gave birth to a deity.

They “know” as strongly as you or I “know” that tomorrow morning the sun WILL rise in the east and tomorrow evening it will set in the west. There is no doubt in their minds that they are wrong, just as there is no doubt in my mind (and I assume yours) that the sun will in fact be in the sky tomorrow throughout the day (and yes, I know it could be cloudy where ever you are at, but just because a cloud stops you from seeing the sun, does not mean that it is not there).

In reality though there is a ridiculously small chance that the sun will not in fact rise tomorrow.
There is the chance that tonight while I sleep a meteor could crash into the earth stopping it’s rotation on it’s axis. If this happened, the “other” side of the earth would be in constant day time, and “this” side would be in constant night.
There is a chance that scientists have miscalculated the amount of nuclear fuel in the sun, and it could finish expending the last of it’s energy some time tonight. Once this happens, the nuclear reaction in it’s core will stop, it will cease to make any more light, and 8 minutes later the earth will get the last bit of sunlight ever.
I’m sure if I wanted to spend more time, I could come up with a few other “examples” to show that the sun might not rise tomorrow, but you get the idea (I hope).

Admittedly, the chances of these scenarios happening are infinitesimally small, but they do exist. There is no possible reason to expect them, to plan for them (at least not for another 5 billions years for the “running out of fuel” one), or to even take them seriously, even though they COULD happen.

From the perspective of an atheist (or at least in my perspective and that of many other atheists I know, I won’t presume to speak for all atheists), the possibility that god exists, is so remote as to be completely irrelevant in daily life, and can therefor be treated as if it is a 0% chance.

As an atheist, I agree that we can not scientifically 100% DISPROVE the existence of god, just like we can not disprove 100% the existence of the tooth fairy, or santa, or the flying spaghetti monster, or tiny invisible elves living in our refrigerators.
But when looking at the world around us, and the universe at large, we see that EVERYTHING can be explained solely by science, and there is no NEED for god.

Since by definition anything that could create the universe must be more complex than the universe the existence of this divine, supernatural, ultimately complex deity would be an extraordinary claim.
Atheists by and large are skeptical of all claims, and even more so with extraordinary claims. The saying “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” comes to mind here.

Since there is no need for a divinity to explain what we can see in the universe, and the claim of a deity is an extraordinary one, and there is no scientifically verifiable evidence of a deity, the skeptical, rational approach is to assume that there is no “god” until evidence comes to light to change that view.

While this does not “prove” atheism is correct, or that deism is “false”, it is how I and many other atheist look at the subject. It is also, in my view, the simplest explanation (and as I have mentioned before Occam’s Razor is an idea that I try to follow, since it generally leads down the right path).

—–

Atheism as a Belief System:

Often times people seem to confuse atheism with “Darwinism” or Secular Humanism. While it is true that many (if not most) Atheists accept the Theory of Evolution and are Secular Humanist, these things are NOT a requirement of Atheism. For examples there are MANY theists who accept evolution, and in fact the catholic church

A post from Wikipedia does a very good job of explaining this:

Atheism, as an explicit position, can be either the affirmation of the nonexistence of gods, or the rejection of theism. It is also defined more broadly as synonymous with any form of nontheism, including the simple absence of belief in deities.

Many self-described atheists are skeptical of all supernatural beings and cite a lack of empirical evidence for the existence of deities. Others argue for atheism on philosophical, social or historical grounds. Although many self-described atheists tend toward secular philosophies such as humanism and naturalism, there is no one ideology or set of behaviors to which all atheists adhere; and some religions, such as Jainism and Theravada Buddhism, do not require belief in a personal god.

The term atheism originated as a pejorative epithet applied to any person or belief in conflict with established religion.With the spread of freethought, scientific skepticism, and criticism of religion, the term began to gather a more specific meaning and has been increasingly used as a self-description by atheists.

A simple way to put it may be: Atheism is no more, and no less than a lack of belief in god.

—–

The final step I would like to take on this journey is to respond to some of the other comments on this subject that I have come across previously. In some cases I may paraphrase the questions/points that people try to make, as to make them a bit more generic, and all-encompassing.

God’s existence (or lack thereof) effects our choices and thus requires our thought.

Why exactly must the existence of a “god” affect our choices?
Even something as seemingly religious as why people go to church (or synagogue, temple, buddhist shrine, pray towards mecca a number of times a day, etc) really has absolutely nothing to do with whether god exists or not. They go because they believe “god” exists. They do not go because “god” actually does exist. If “god’s” existence dictated whether people will go to church or not, then EITHER everybody in the world would go (i.e. god exists) or NOBODY would go (i.e. atheists are correct).

If something that is SEEMINGLY 100% religious in nature has nothing to do with the actual existence of (or lack thereof) god, then why would ANY other choice we make be based on this.

Your choices may be based on YOUR PERSONAL belief in “god” or “allah” or “l ron hubbard” or whatever it may be, but the TRUTH of that belief is completely irrelevant.

But the religion you are describing is not MY religion (or my VERSION of that religion).

The specifics of your particular beliefs are much harder to debate without a much deeper understanding of them. Since this is the case, I usually prefer to debate on one specific topic (such as literal view of genesis, homosexuality, morality, etc) at a time, since it’s easier to gauge the differences between the two positions on some specific topic, rather than somebody you don’t know’s entire belief system.

That said, my description of a typical American fundamentalist christian happens to be one of the more important stereotypes in the US, due to the power the hold in government at this time.

I’m not sure if you are a young earther, old earther, or some other “type” of christian, but my points are not about the specifics of the beliefs, but of the blindness many religious people have towards beliefs of others who don’t see things the same way THEY do.

Generally the atheists I come across, remind me so much of the Christians (or religious folk) they so despise. They do not allow for the possibility of even the idea of God, and they would go to the death before they did.

I’d hope that you have either not come across many atheists, or you’ve just had the poor luck of coming across some of the “newly converted”, who have not yet come to a full understanding of what the arguments should be, and how they should be approached.

I would consider myself to be “fundamentalist” in many of my beliefs, but I also see the appeal of religion, and respect the rights of people to hold certain beliefs.

As for not allowed even the possibility, perhaps you’ve never read Richard Dawkins. Perhaps you’ve never actually talked to an atheist before. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt on that. But Dawkins, who is probably the most outspoken atheist alive acknowledges that there is a change that god does exist (he puts it at 5% at least in some quotes, I’d personally put it lower than that myself). If the most vocal atheist on the planet admits a chance, I’m unsure how you can stand by your claim, but don’t bother to let pesky little things like facts get in your way, you wouldn’t want to do something different and think for yourself.

As for being willing to lay one’s life on the line for beliefs, I can’t think of anything more people have willingly killed for (and died for) than belief in god.

But Atheists organize themselves so that their views may have influence, much like Christianity.

Are you saying that atheists should not be organizing? If a group is systematically shunned by the majority (as atheists are in the US) the only way to stop this prejudice is to organize. If organization is a sign of a religion then any group of 3 or more can be considered a religion, and the word loses all meaning.

They think they are 100% right, and that everyone else is wrong

I’d say any group of a large enough size will have people with this opinion. However, I would say that those people who really dedicate themselves to a scientific worldview are at least less likely to have this opinion.

I once heard a quote (or perhaps it was just a mixture of multiple quotes I somehow combined into one in my head): One sign of true intelligence and wisdom, is realizing how much you don’t know.

Science can not answer all the questions yet, therefor it is a flawed system and should not be accepted. Science once taught that the world was flat, and rested on the back of giant turtles.

We may not have all the answers yet due to the limitations of our “human imagination”, but we are looking for them. Instead of giving up and saying “god did it”, or things are a certain way because a book written by primitive bronze age men says something, we look for the evidence to support our hypotheses, and refine them when necessary.

But you can’t KNOW for sure, so how can you claim there is no god.

Based on the evidence I have seen (read, studied, etc) the probability is QUITE low. Dawkins puts it at 5%, I think he is being generous.

I spent many years trying to believe in religion and god. I was “raised” catholic, went to a protestant school, a jewish school, read the koran, the bible (twice), and a few books on eastern religions. In all of my attempts to find religion (because I thought I was “supposed” to believe, and did not understand why I did not) I never saw any evidence that any of them were onto anything more basic than some very good ideas, interspersed with some horrific ideas.

Religion has much to offer for some people, and can do great for them. It also is the source of some of the largest divisions in humanity.

But whether you find solace in it or not, there is no evidence to support any of them as being “true”.

If you apply Occam’s Razor, theism is more reasonable than atheism.

Actually a supernatural explanation would be a much more extraordinary claim than a natural one, by virtue of being supernatural. If something can not be explained by physical laws of the universe (laws we know or laws we don’t yet know), then BY IT:S VERY NATURE, it’s automatically more complex, and thus fails the Occam’s Razor test.

If you’re a male, do you have scientifically verifiable evidence of the female orgasm?
or
Can you PROVE that your wife loves you (or you love your wife)?

While I have never experienced one (a female orgasm) myself, I do trust my wife implicitly. If she tells me that they exist, I’m willing to take her word on this subject. This does not mean I’d be willing to kill (or die) over such a trivial bit on information though.

As for love, this is a subjective feeling, like hate, anger, joy, etc. These make no claims upon the physical world, only upon the emotional state of the person experiencing them. I have experienced these emotions and know how they influenced me, and when I see that influence in others I can assume they may be having those same feelings. This assumption may at times be wrong, but it’s the best assumption available based on the given evidence.

It’s not rational to assume the non-existence of God

If it rational to assume the non-existence of invisible fairies in my fridge that turn the light on and off when I close the door?
How about multiple god (i.e. hinduism, roman, greek, egyptian, etc)?
How about lord zenu dropping alien life forms into volcanoes millions of years ago to be reborn out of clams and then somehow this all leads to Tom Cruise?
Or Santa Claus, vampires, dragons, elves, trolls, etc?

Without the evidence to support the idea, the ONLY rational approach is to treat the claim with skepticism.

There is not proof enough to convince me that there is not an intelligent creator

Is there proof enough for you, that bigfoot does not exist? How about vampires, fairies, the flying spaghetti monster, thor, allah, ra, zenu, etc?
How is the proof against those, any different than the proof against jesus?

But MUCH more importantly, can you at least understand that no matter how strongly you are sure that jesus is god, and that your view of religion, god, creation, etc is the correct view, that there are 2 billion muslims, 1 billion hindus, hundreds of millions of buddhists, etc that are JUST as convinced that their faith is correct, and that this has the potential for unimaginable harm in today’s world with nuclear weapons capable of killing most, if not all of humanity?

I am just able to think that something that is far more complex that we have discovered thus far could possibly exist.

I would not disagree with this idea, but I would say that there is a GIGANTIC issue that believers in a personal god have, in “what created the creator”.

Everything we have seen in nature has shown small incremental steps of less complex things creating more complexity (hydrogen forms stars, which blow up and form planets, and small organisms develop over millions of years into large ones, etc). With a concept of an all powerful god creating everything (including time itself) you’re left with the question of how did god come to exist.

I know this one thing won’t change your view on jesus, but it was one of the questions I had in my search for my own beliefs when I still felt I was SUPPOSED to believe in god.

I’m sure that you could agree that there are atheists as well as Christians who really don’t have a strong belief of whichever they have chosen, but rather have given in to it because of what their friends think, or what the majority has led them to believe is right.

Perhaps some people are atheists, not for any scientific reason, but just because they are mad at religion and so they feel the need to trash anyone who does not think like them

Yes this is true in the case of atheists as well, but I’d argue that it’s much more common in believers than non believers, just because of the raw numbers of believers, and the idea of “faith is a virtue” that religion promotes. Anybody who does ANY amount of research into atheism inevitably comes to the concept of skepticism, or “question everything”.

In many cases these types of people (mad at religion) do actually still believe in god, but are attempting to rebel (from parents, the church, orthodoxy, etc). In some cases this will lead to them eventually coming to understand what they profess to believe, and in some cases it will lead to them going back to their faith, with ever more conviction, and seeing this as a time of struggle, or doubt.

Generally, but not always, this type of person (on both sides of the debate) is immature, and quite ignorant of the position they claim to hold.

What’s so bad about Religion? If it helps people why can’t you just let them be?

I have two primary issues with religion, and those are in the way it is mis-used/abused.

The first is when people try to push their own beliefs on others (mormons at the door on a Saturday morning, missionaries, creationism is schools, laws against homosexuality, etc). I find this to be a very demeaning, egocentric idea, that is very prevalent in christianity and islam specifically, and other religions to a lesser degree.

I also find the idea of justifying one’s actions based on it being “god’s will” has lead to unimaginable suffering, and horrific actions committed by “holy” men throughout history. When people attempt to justify some of the most horrific actions imaginable because of their beliefs, there is a massive problem.

But what about Creationism? Why can’t we teach it along side Evolution? That is all we are asking for. Or at the very least Creationism could be taught as a science, but as a popular theory on how the world began.

The problem is, this is not a scientific debate. This is science, vs fiction. One side has 150+ years of scientific evidence and discovery, and one has no actual science or evidence to back it up, only the words written down by ignorant bronze age man, in an ignorant attempt to understand the world around them.

It should be given the same amount of respect, and time as EVERY OTHER religious text, including the islam, scientology, FSM, buddhism, norse gods, egyptian religious ideas, etc…

Should gravity be taught in school? Just like evolution is a scientific theory, which is not yet fully understood. FSM has alternate theories of gravity, should those ideas be taught along side Newton and Einstein?

If you are going to teach children about one religion, they should be taught ALL religions equally, and none of them should be taught along side factual scientific theories.
And please, do not try to claim that creationism is ANYTHING other than religion, every court that has made a decision in the last 50 years has shot this argument down already.

I agree there is a place for this discussion and that it should be respectful, but there NEEDS to be a firm understanding that creationism is in no way scientifically based, and there is ZERO evidence to support it.

The problem is that many people want MUCH more than this. Many people want creationism taught as scientific fact. And these people are a very vocal, if ignorant group of society, and have gained an alarming amount of political power recently.

As for teaching it as a popular theory, should any theory on any subject be taught, as long as it has enough supporters?
Racism has it’s proponents. As does pedophilia…

(However before going too far into the Evolution/Creation debate right now, I’d actually like to save that for another post I’m working on for later this month, hopefully.)

—–

For some more on this, and related topics, check out An open question to all believers and please leave your own feedback, and answer to the question (whether you’re a believer or not).

Posted in Debate, Religion, Science, Skepticism | 6 Comments

Brendan James’ “Hero’s Song”

For today’s Music Monday I’d like to go with a song I have listened to at least 2 dozen times over the last week.

For those who know much of anything about me, the fact that I would like an anti-war song should come as no surprise. But more than just feeding in to my typical “dove” stance, this particular song touched me. Being from the perspective of a soldier, this song seems to have a more “real” feel to the lyrics…

Here I am
In the desert again
A compass and a weapon
A lost American

I started out with a simple plan
And a locket in my hand
But the sun is so unforgiving
And the wind so hard to stand

Fall out, fall out
With the rest of your brothers
With the rest of your sisters
Heroes on the line

Carry out what your leader says
For what his leader says
Is that his leader says
This is right for the people

No one will ever understand why
Thousands of beautiful healthy young statues must fall
Smoke and explosions surround me
A flood of hate, it drowns me
I cannot live this way
No I cannot live with
Doubt and confusion
They find me
They run up right behind me
I cannot die this way
No, I cannot die this way

In the water, in the sand
Is the blood of a culture
Is the blood of an ancient people
In whose holy war I stand
I hear the world like a cannon roar
Say I can’t win this war
I promise them this
Is not what I signed up for

No one will ever understand why
Thousands of beautiful healthy young statues must fall
Smoke and explosions surround me
A flood of hate, it drowns me
I cannot live this way
No I cannot live
With doubt and confusion
They find me
They run up right behind me
I cannot die this way
No, I cannot die this way

No one will ever understand why
Thousands of beautiful healthy young soldiers must fall

Smoke and explosions surround me
A flood of hate, it drowns me
I cannot live this way
I cannot live
With your doubt and confusion
They find me
They run up right behind me
I cannot die this way
No, I will not die this way

And for those who prefer live music (the sound quality is not great, otherwise I’d only post the live version):

Posted in Music, Politics | Leave a comment

The Future, according to Google search results

I love XKCD… It just does such a great job at pointing out absurdities sometimes…

Posted in Humor | 5 Comments

Protected: Coping vs Acceptance

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Posted in Psychology

Labels, labels… All we are are labels…

I was thinking recently about the idea of everybody wanting to confine people into small, neat, convenient labels.

Somebody is either a liberal or a conservative. Elvis fan or Beatles fan. Republican or Democrat. Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Mormon, Atheist, etc…

I have always felt that the old phrase, “everybody is unique, just like everybody else”, is actually quite true. No single label can define a person, since no matter how closely aligned your beliefs are with those of somebody else, your life was different, your experiences were unique to only you.

So as one small attempt to show the absurdity of labels, I want you (dear readers) to reply with EVERY short label that you feel describes you to any degree.

Posted in Politics, Religion | 4 Comments

Rebecca & Fiona’s “Bullets”

Today’s Music Monday is one that I just heard for the first time tonight (on Tiesto’s Club Life podcast), and did not want to wait until tomorrow to share it.

I never used to be one for nostalgia, in fact I always found it to be overly and needlessly sentimental. But this song makes me long for the mid-late 90′s again.

Don’t make me bring you back to the start
You can run but you won’t come far
Don’t let me show you how weak you are
Hurts like bullets between these walls.

Don’t make me bring you back to the start
You can run but you won’t come far
Don’t let me show you how weak you are
Hurts like bullets between these walls.

Hurts like bullets between these walls

Seen less with powder drippin’ of the led
Angels in my snow breathing at the end.

Don’t make me bring you back to the start
You can run but you won’t come far
Don’t let me show you how weak you are
Hurts like bullets between these walls.

Don’t make me bring you back to the start
You can run but you won’t come far
Don’t let me show you how weak you are
Hurts like bullets between these walls.

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

What got you into critical thinking?

For me it was one name. Played by many men over the years, but it always comes back to just one name.

Sherlock Holmes

I recall reading the Doyle stories as a kid. I read every one of them back to back. And when I was done I wanted more. And I found non-canon stories based upon Doyle’s work, but I went through that even faster.

What was I to do? Well that was when I found Basil Rathbone, who is still to this day the epitome of Holmes, with all his strengths and weaknesses.

Holmes, who’s quick intellect, eye for detail, and vast knowledge make him one of the ideals of critical thinking and skepticism.

The second of Universal’s “modernized” Sherlock Holmes films pits the Great Detective (Basil Rathbone, of course) against that “Napoleon of Crime,” Professor Moriarty (Lionel Atwill). Surpassing his previous skullduggery, Moriarty has now aligned himself with the Nazis and has dedicated himself to stealing a top-secret bomb sight developed by expatriate European scientist Dr. Franz Tobel (William Post Jr.). Before being kidnapped by Moriarty’s minions, Tobel was enterprising enough to disassemble his invention and distribute its components among several other patriotic scientists. Racing against the clock, Holmes and Dr. Watson (Nigel Bruce) try to stem the murders of Tobel’s colleagues and prevent Moriarty from getting his mitts on the precious secret weapon. The now-famous climax finds Holmes playing for time by allowing Moriarty to drain all the blood from his body, drop by drop (“The needle to the last, eh Holmes?” gloats the villain). Dennis Hoey makes his first appearance as the dull-witted, conclusion-jumping Inspector Lestrade. Constructed more like a serial than a feature film, Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (based loosely on Conan Doyle’s The Dancing Men) is one of the fastest-moving entries in the series; it is also one of the most readily accessible, having lapsed into public domain in 1969.

Posted in Critical thinking, Movies | 10 Comments

Tim Minchin’s “Storm”

For today’s Music Monday, I am posting something that has been going around the blogosphere recently… And while I enjoy the new version of this (with the cartoon depiction), because I prefer the original live version, I am posting that version here.

If you’re in to comedy, skepticism, and good music, then this song will not disappoint, so without further ado… Ladies and Gentlemen… I give you Tim Minchin!

Inner North London, top floor flat
All white walls, white carpet, white cat,
Rice Paper partitions
Modern art and ambition
The host’s a physician,
Lovely bloke, has his own practice
His girlfriend’s an actress
An old mate from home
And they’re always great fun.
So to dinner we’ve come.
The 5th guest is an unknown,
The hosts have just thrown
Us together for a favour
because this girl’s just arrived from Australia
And has moved to North London
And she’s the sister of someone
Or has some connection.

As we make introductions
I’m struck by her beauty
She’s irrefutably fair
With dark eyes and dark hair
But as she sits
I admit I’m a little bit wary
because I notice the tip of the wing of a fairy
Tattooed on that popular area
Just above the derrière
And when she says “I’m Sagittarien”
I confess a pigeonhole starts to form
And is immediately filled with pigeon
When she says her name is Storm.

Chatter is initially bright and light hearted
But it’s not long before Storm gets started:
“You can’t know anything,
Knowledge is merely opinion”
She opines, over her Cabernet Sauvignon
Vis a vis
Some unhippily
Empirical comment by me

“Not a good start” I think
We’re only on pre-dinner drinks
And across the room, my wife
Widens her eyes
Silently begs me, Be Nice
A matrimonial warning
Not worth ignoring
So I resist the urge to ask Storm
Whether knowledge is so loose-weave
Of a morning
When deciding whether to leave
Her apartment by the front door
Or a window on the second floor.

The food is delicious and Storm,
Whilst avoiding all meat
Happily sits and eats
While the good doctor, slightly pissedly
Holds court on some anachronistic aspect of medical history
When Storm suddenly she insists
“But the human body is a mystery!
Science just falls in a hole
When it tries to explain the the nature of the soul.”

My hostess throws me a glance
She, like my wife, knows there’s a chance
That I’ll be off on one of my rants
But my lips are sealed.
I just want to enjoy my meal
And although Storm is starting to get my goat
I have no intention of rocking the boat,
Although it’s becoming a bit of a wrestle
Because – like her meteorological namesake -
Storm has no such concerns for our vessel:

“Pharmaceutical companies are the enemy
They promote drug dependency
At the cost of the natural remedies
That are all our bodies need
They are immoral and driven by greed.
Why take drugs
When herbs can solve it?
Why use chemicals
When homeopathic solvents
Can resolve it?
It’s time we all return-to-live
With natural medical alternatives.”

And try as hard as I like,
A small crack appears
In my diplomacy-dike.
“By definition”, I begin
“Alternative Medicine”, I continue
“Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call “alternative medicine”
That’s been proved to work?
Medicine.”

“So you don’t believe
In ANY Natural remedies?”

“On the contrary actually:
Before we came to tea,
I took a natural remedy
Derived from the bark of a willow tree
A painkiller that’s virtually side-effect free
It’s got a weird name,
Darling, what was it again?
Masprin?
Basprin?
Asprin!
Which I paid about a buck for
Down at my local drugstore.

The debate briefly abates
As our hosts collects plates
but as they return with desserts
Storm pertly asserts,

“Shakespeare said it first:
There are more things in heaven and earth
Than exist in your philosophy…
Science is just how we’re trained to look at reality,
It can’t explain love or spirituality.
How does science explain psychics?
Auras; the afterlife; the power of prayer?”

I’m becoming aware
That I’m staring,
I’m like a rabbit suddenly trapped
In the blinding headlights of vacuous crap.
Maybe it’s the Hamlet she just misquothed
Or the eighth glass of wine I just quaffed
But my diplomacy dike groans
And the arsehole held back by its stones
Can be held back no more:

“Look , Storm, I don’t mean to bore you
But there’s no such thing as an aura!
Reading Auras is like reading minds
Or star-signs or tea-leaves or meridian lines
These people aren’t plying a skill,
They are either lying or mentally ill.
Same goes for those who claim to hear God’s demands
And Spiritual healers who think they have magic hands.

By the way,
Why is it OK
For people to pretend they can talk to the dead?
Is it not totally fucked in the head
Lying to some crying woman whose child has died
And telling her you’re in touch with the other side?
That’s just fundamentally sick
Do we need to clarify that there’s no such thing as a psychic?
What, are we fucking 2?
Do we actually think that Horton Heard a Who?
Do we still think that Santa brings us gifts?
That Michael Jackson hasn’t had facelifts?
Are we still so stunned by circus tricks
That we think that the dead would
Wanna talk to pricks
Like John Edwards?

Storm to her credit despite my derision
Keeps firing off clichés with startling precision
Like a sniper using bollocks for ammunition

“You’re so sure of your position
But you’re just closed-minded
I think you’ll find
Your faith in Science and Tests
Is just as blind
As the faith of any fundamentalist”

“Hm that’s a good point, let me think for a bit
Oh wait, my mistake, it’s absolute bullshit.
Science adjusts it’s beliefs based on what’s observed
Faith is the denial of observation so that Belief can be preserved.
If you show me
That, say, homeopathy works,
Then I will change my mind
I’ll spin on a fucking dime
I’ll be embarrassed as hell,
But I will run through the streets yelling
It’s a miracle! Take physics and bin it!
Water has memory!
And while it’s memory of a long lost drop of onion juice is Infinite
It somehow forgets all the poo it’s had in it!

You show me that it works and how it works
And when I’ve recovered from the shock
I will take a compass and carve Fancy That on the side of my cock.”

Everyones just staring at me now,
But I’m pretty pissed and I’ve dug this far down,
So I figure, in for penny, in for a pound:

“Life is full of mysteries, yeah
But there are answers out there
And they won’t be found
By people sitting around
Looking serious
And saying isn’t life mysterious?
Let’s sit here and hope
Let’s call up the fucking Pope
Let’s go watch Oprah
Interview Deepak Chopra

If you’re going to watch tele, you should watch Scooby Doo.
That show was so cool
because every time there’s a church with a ghoul
Or a ghost in a school
They looked beneath the mask and what was inside?
The fucking janitor or the dude who runs the waterslide.
Throughout history
Every mystery
EVER solved has turned out to be
Not Magic.

Does the idea that there might be truth
Frighten you?
Does the idea that one afternoon
On Wiki-fucking-pedia might enlighten you
Frighten you?
Does the notion that there may not be a supernatural
So blow your hippy noodle
That you would rather just stand in the fog
Of your inability to Google?

Isn’t this enough?
Just this world?
Just this beautiful, complex
Wonderfully unfathomable world?
How does it so fail to hold our attention
That we have to diminish it with the invention
Of cheap, man-made Myths and Monsters?
If you’re so into Shakespeare
Lend me your ear:
“To gild refined gold, to paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet… is just fucking silly”
Or something like that.
Or what about Satchmo?!
I see trees of Green,
Red roses too,
And fine, if you wish to
Glorify Krishna and Vishnu
In a post-colonial, condescending
Bottled-up and labeled kind of way
That’s ok.
But here’s what gives me a hard-on:
I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant lump of carbon.
I have one life, and it is short
And unimportant…
But thanks to recent scientific advances
I get to live twice as long as my great great great great uncles and auntses.
Twice as long to live this life of mine
Twice as long to love this wife of mine
Twice as many years of friends and wine
Of sharing curries and getting shitty
With good-looking hippies
With fairies on their spines
And butterflies on their titties.

And if perchance I have offended
Think but this and all is mended:
We’d as well be 10 minutes back in time,
For all the chance you’ll change your mind.

And for those who really want the new version with the video:

Posted in Music, Skepticism | 4 Comments

A Question for Believers – Are there any limits to your faith?

I was listening to Penn Says (a podcast from Penn Jillette of Penn and Teller fame), and in one of his episodes, he posed a rhetorical question to make a point, that I’m actually taking more serious than I think he intended.

His question was, if god asked you to kill your child, would you do it?
(This can be “god” in whatever form you believe god exists, as jesus, allah, FSM, etc)
(And you can be asked by “god” in any form, that doesn’t matter, it could be a burning bush, jesus himself coming down from the sky, spelled out in a bowl of spaghetti-o’s, whatever)

Assuming that you do not know WHY you’re to kill your child, only that “god” ordered it, would you go through with it? I’d also add to this, if you would, is there something, anything actually, that under some circumstance you would NOT do it, if asked by “god”?

I’d REALLY like to hear your answers, and much more importantly, your reasons for those answers.

For the sake of full disclosure for those who are coming to here for the first time; I am an atheist, if that makes any difference in your view of this question or this blog (as it seemingly does for some).


(As a small aside, a friend of mine who is a believer refused to answer the question on the grounds that a good and just god would never demand such a thing. Apparently he has never read the bible, specifically the story of Abraham and Issac, which while not a perfect replica of this situation, is more than close enough to put this scenario into the realm of possibility.)

For those interested in following more opinions on this subject, I have also posted this question in another forum at the JREF and Rodibidably. For those interested, I’d highly recommend checking out the JREF post for a very good discussion on this subject from a number of perspectives (although it does get a tad sidetracked a few times).

Posted in Religion | 19 Comments

Bill Maher’s New Rule For Pro-Lifers

It’s no secret I’m a Leftist, Very Liberal, Tree-Hugging, Socialist, Hippie, Progressive, Democrat, (insert more left leaning descriptions here). And I certainly would never deny getting enjoyment from mocking others.

And Bill Maher just does it so damn well….

 

Posted in Humor, Politics | 6 Comments

You Are Wrong

You are wrong.

It’s not the end of the world, but it is a fact. You’re wrong.

I did not want to have to be the one to tell you. But when you look at all of the evidence, it’s an undeniable fact that you are wrong.

Don’t blame yourself, it really is not your fault. You did not mean to be wrong, and if I was able to show you the evidence that proves you are wrong, I believe you’re the type who would probably change your opinion on the matter (after all, if you’re reading this blog, the odds are fairly high that you’re a critical thinker).

How do I know you’re wrong? Well that is simple, I am wrong too. So is everybody else who’s ever lived long enough to form opinions.

By now you’re probably anxious for me to tell you what you are wrong about, but that really is not all that important actually. Let’s face it, specifics are always a bit tedious, and looking at the big picture is supposed to be a virtue. So let’s not get tied up on the details, and just move on.

Maybe you’re a religious believer…
Maybe you’re a sports fan…
Maybe you’re into astrology…
Maybe you believe in the multi-verse hypothesis…
Maybe you take homeopathic remedies…
Maybe you eat meat…
Maybe you are nationalistic…
Maybe you own a pet…
Maybe you are a Republican…
Maybe you believe there are 11 dimensions…

Whatever your beliefs are, there is at least one, that in time will be proven wrong.

It’s a simple fact. Nobody is correct 100% of the time.

So my question to you is this:

When shown evidence that contradicts something you believe, how will you respond?
Will you bury your head in the sand and ignore it?
Will you look for any shred of evidence to back your current beliefs?
Will you dismiss the evidence placed before you?
Or, will you take the opportunity to learn and grow?

Posted in Critical thinking | 6 Comments

What is Critical Thinking?

From: Dan Kurland’s www.criticalreading.com

What is Critical Thinking?

No one always acts purely objectively and rationally. We connive for selfish interests.  We gossip, boast, exaggerate, and equivocate. It is “only human” to wish to validate our prior knowledge, to vindicate our prior decisions, or to sustain our earlier beliefs. In the process of satisfying our ego, however, we can often deny ourselves intellectual growth and opportunity. We may not always want to apply critical thinking skills, but we should have those skills available to be employed when needed.

Critical thinking includes a complex combination of skills.  Among the main characteristics are the following:

Rationality

We are thinking critically when we

  • rely on reason rather than emotion,
  • require evidence, ignore no known evidence, and follow evidence where it leads, and
  • are concerned more with finding the best explanation than being right analyzing apparent confusion and asking questions.

Self-awareness

We are thinking critically when we

  • weigh the influences of motives and bias, and
  • recognize our own assumptions, prejudices, biases, or point of view.

Honesty

We are thinking critically when we recognize emotional impulses, selfish motives, nefarious purposes, or other modes of self-deception.

Open-mindedness

We are thinking critically when we

  • evaluate all reasonable inferences
  • consider a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives,
  • remain open to alternative interpretations
  • accept a new explanation, model, or paradigm because it explains the evidence better, is simpler, or has fewer inconsistencies or covers more data
  • accept new priorities in response to a reevaluation of the evidence or reassessment of our real interests, and
  • do not reject unpopular views out of hand.

Discipline

We are thinking critically when we

  • are precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive
  • resist manipulation and irrational appeals, and
  • avoid snap judgments.

Judgment

We are thinking critically when we

  • recognize the relevance and/or merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives
  • recognize the extent and weight of evidence

In sum,

  • Critical thinkers are by nature skeptical. They approach texts with the same skepticism and suspicion as they approach spoken remarks.
  • Critical thinkers are active, not passive.  They ask  questions and analyze. They consciously apply tactics and strategies to uncover meaning or assure their understanding.
  • Critical thinkers do not take an egotistical view of the world. They are open to new ideas and perspectives.  They are willing to challenge their beliefs and investigate competing evidence.

Critical thinking enables us to recognize a wide range of subjective analyses of otherwise objective data, and to evaluate how well each analysis might meet our needs. Facts may be facts, but how we interpret them may vary.

By contrast, passive, non-critical thinkers take a simplistic view of the world.

  • They see things in black and white, as either-or, rather than recognizing a variety of possible understanding.
  • They see questions as yes or no with no subtleties.
  • They fail to see linkages and complexities.
  • They fail to recognize related elements.

Non-critical thinkers take an egotistical view of the world

  • They take their facts as the only relevant ones.
  • They take their own perspective as the only sensible one.
  • They take their goal as the only valid one.
Posted in Critical thinking | 6 Comments

Demonizing The Opposition

All Libertarians don’t care about their fellow man.
All christians are ignorant.
All believers in conspiracy theories are delusional.
All people against gay marriage are homophobic bigots.
All Republicans are tea-baggers.
All tea-baggers are racists.
All cryptozoologists are foolish.
All gun advocates are would be militia members intent on overthrowing the government.
All psychics are intentional frauds.
All… Well you get the point.

Far too often we demonize those we disagree with. We act as if no sane, rational, honest person could EVER disagree with our views. We compare those we disagree with to Hitler, Stalin, and other villains. We dismiss anything they have to say out of hand, and ridicule them for daring to suggest anything different from our own ideas.

But let’s stop and think for a minute. Aren’t they saying the same things about us?
Aren’t they claiming all Liberals are anti-American?
Aren’t that shouting that all skeptics are debunkers?
Aren’t they proclaiming that all atheists are immoral?
Aren’t they calling all people who do not like guns, fascists intent of taking their weapons from them?

Well we know these things are not true, because we know we’re not all immoral, anti-American, debunkers out to trample of the Second Amendment…
We know that we can be part of a group and not be one of the extremists in our group.
We know that these stereotypes are nothing more than straw-man arguments, and we rightly point this out.

But we are still far to quick to use the same arguments against those we disagree with. I am as guilty, perhaps more so, as anybody at pointing out the worst of the worst in a group as representative of the whole. And I am wrong when I do this.

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know that not all christians are Pat Robertson types. I know that not all republicans are blissfully and willfully ignorant. I know that not all psychics are lying, cheating, intentional frauds. But I still generalize, because it’s easy…

But this must be stopped.

We must not allow ourselves to demonize the opposition. I may disagree with Republicans, christians, psychics, believers in conspiracy theories, etc, but I have to acknowledge that generally MOST people have the best of intentions in mind. Almost all people generally believe the things they say, and they are of the view that their opinions are the best. Very few people are “out to destroy the country” or truly want to “suppress free speech” or whatever the issue at hand is. Most people generally want to do what they believe is the best thing, not just for themselves, but for others.

Everybody needs to keep this in mind when discussing topics with those who hold opposing views.

Except Yankees fans, they really are just evil bastards intent on destroying the world…

Posted in Critical thinking, Politics, Psychology, Religion, Skepticism | 4 Comments

A Few Thoughts on Arrogance

First of all, I have wanted to get back into blogging for a while now, but I also have wanted to change something about the blog. I’m not exactly sure WHAT I want to change, but there is something about it that no longer feels like it is as good a fit for me as it once was. So while there will be a change (or changes) coming, in the meantime I want to get back in the habit of daily writing, and decided that today is as good a day as any to go ahead and do that… Today’s post is actually one I have not yet fully formed in my head before writing (typically I know exactly what I am going to say before I start writing, but not today), so I will apologize in advance if it comes across a tad disjointed or uneven. Perhaps I’ll flesh it out further another day.

For today I wanted to jot down a few thoughts about the line between arrogance and confidence… Myself, I crossed that line long, long ago. But most people would prefer to be seen as confident and see arrogance as a negative trait. But I’m not so sure.

Merriam Webster defines arrogance as:

an attitude of superiority manifested in an overbearing manner or in presumptuous claims or assumptions

But let’s think about a few examples and see where it leads us.

Tiger Woods in his prime was by all accounts the greatest golfer on the planet. And he was (at least as portrayed by the media) a very gracious competitor, who at least as far as I am aware was generally seen as a humble guy, considering his talents on the golf course.

Micheal Jordan in his prime was by all accounts the greatest basketball player on the planet. And Jordan was (at least as portrayed by the media) an arrogant son of a bitch who enjoyed getting under the skin of his competitors.

Both were the best (possibly ever) at their chosen profession, and many people (sports writers and fans alike) consider Jordan to have been arrogant, even though he did not exaggerate his abilities or have or give others a false impression of himself.

So clearly, at least for some people, arrogance is not about the validity of what you say, but your attitude in saying it. Those who know me, would attest to the fact that I’m not a fan of the arguments for “tone”. when Phil Plait said “Don’t Be A Dick”, my first thought was “why the fuck not”. So at least to me, if arrogance vs confidence is simply a distinction of tone, I don’t really care which one people see me as. I’ve referred to myself as arrogant countless times, and many others have referred to me as such as well, and frankly, I take it as a compliment. If I am good enough at something to be arrogant about it, then I consider myself to be ahead of the pack.

All of which brings to mind a quote by Tim Minchin I have loved since the moment I heard it:

I think the trouble with being a critical thinker or an atheist, or a humanist is that you’re right. And it’s quite hard being right in the face of people who are wrong without sounding like a fuckwit. People go “do you think the vast majority of the world is wrong”, well yes, i don’t know how to say that nicely, but yes.

What made me think about this subject is that recently (over the past 6 weeks or so I’d say) three different people have said to me separately that I seem “less arrogant lately”. As far as I know, none of these three people have ever met each other, so it’s not like some group of my friends were having a discussion and each brought it up to me from that one discussion. This genuinely seems to be three very separate people all coming to the same conclusion about me, and mistakenly thinking I would take this as a compliment.

I have no doubt at all that I have changed over the last 6 months (fuck, has it really been six months? It seems like just yesterday), but I still view my own opinions as I always have (I’m almost certainly right and it’s up to somebody to prove me wrong before I’ll waiver). Perhaps a bit of the melancholy I’ve felt inwardly the past 6 months has changed my behavior, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty, that I am just as certain of my beliefs as I ever was. And if that makes me arrogant in your opinion, thank you…

Posted in Critical thinking, Psychology | 2 Comments

Quote Of The Moment

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

~ Dylan Thomas

Posted in Quotes | Leave a comment

Frank Zappa’s “Lucille has messed my mind up”

I don’t like to post about myself, but for today’s Music Monday this song seemed to be exactly what I’ve been going through for months now… Just change the name, and this song becomes so sickeningly appropriate for me…

Wyo, I miss you…

Lucille has messed my mind up
But I still love her
Oh, I still love her

Lucille has messed my mind up
But I still need her
You know I need her

Whatcha tryna do to me, Lucille?
Whatcha tryna do to me, Lucille?
Whatcha tryna do to me, Lucille?

You got me goin’ outa my mind
Lucille has tore my heart up
But I still love her, I really love her

Lucille has tore my heart up
But I still need her
You know I need her

She treat me like my heart is made of stone
She runs around and leaves me home all alone
She doesn’t answer when I call her on the phone

She messed up my mind
I’m crying all of the time
Lucille has messed my mind up
But I still love her, I really love her

Lucille has tore my heart up
But I still need her
And I really need her

Lucille, my mind up
I love her
I really love her

Lucille, my heart up
But I still love her
I really love her

Lucille, my mind up
I love her
I really love her

Lucille, my heart up
I really need her
I really, really need her

Lucille, my mind up
I really love her
I really, really love her

Lucille, my heart up
I really love her
I really love her

Lu, and my mind up
But I still love her
I really, really love her

Lucille, my mind up
I really need her
I really, really need her

Lucille has tore my heart up
I really love her
I really, really love her

Lucille I really love her
I really love her

Posted in Music | Leave a comment

Quote Of The Moment

While my quotes thus fasr have been primarily skeptical or science based, I ran across this a while back, and felt that it was just “too good” to pass up for the blog.

Why are gas prices so high? Let me get this right–we invade countries with shitloads of oil, and gas prices skyrocket??? I’ll tell you this: if I invade IHOP, pancakes are gonna be cheap as shit in my house.

Chris Rock

Posted in Humor, Politics, Quotes | 23 Comments