Saturday, December 6, 2008

All Quiet On The Agnostic Front

I've been wondering a lot lately if blogging is a form of therapy or if the amount that I blog just reflects how calm I am inside?

It's not that I don't have much to say, I just don't feel the urge to say it as much anymore. I certainly don't ever see myself posting as much as someone like PZ Myers, but then, my life doesn't revolve around the day to day issues of science and religion. I'm a computer programmer.

A lot has happened since I started this. I found a better job and left the company I had been at since I graduated from college 14 years ago. I weened myself off of Effexor which I had been on for the last 4 years (well, I just did that over the last few weeks and I'm still feeling some effects of it leaving my system).

Unless I'm in traffic I tend to be very calm now. That wasn't the case 4 years ago. I would have gotten off of Effexor last year but there was always something going on that made me think "now is a bad time." But after moving to my new job in October I figured "no better time than the present."

I do have challenges that I will have to face in the next year. My son, having lived in two different houses every other week since for the last 7 or 8 years is having some trouble adapting to the changes around him. I remarried over 2 years ago and his mom moved in with someone back in March. His life has changed more over the last year than I had imagined. When he was younger he would bounce back from environmental changes much sooner. I would notice a few weeks of crankiness or bad behavior then things would calm down. But not that he's going on 10 years old I see that the response time is slower. He is really starting to think deeply about his parents, his life, etc. It seems like he can't figure out where he stands, where his place is in our lives. So, the next year will be interesting. I'm sure this is an important time for him developmentally...the pre-pre-teens?

If I don't post again in time for Christmas then I wish you all a good one. Even if you don't believe in God, Christmas is still fun...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Does Evil Prove Satan Exists?

I saw this article today and it made my stomach lurch thinking about what these people did to their sister: Brothers jailed over murder of toddler

It made me think that while I'm certain a benevolent God wouldn't allow an innocent to suffer like that, and therefore there must be no benevolent God, what does this say about a being that simply commits evil? Someone like Satan? Is it possible that the men charged with murder were possessed by demons? I know my parents would say so. My mom would be certain that those men were being controlled by Satan. It seems everyone around them was under some sort of shroud of evil, she would say, which is how the mother allowed it to happen to her own child.

How does one classify this form of abuse? I was about to say something about this not being your typical form of domestic violence but then what is typical? An abusive husband or father going too far and hitting their loved ones? Is that not evil? Is that normal? The sort of person who commits that type of abuse seems treatable to me. Not with an exorcism but with therapy and perhaps drugs (or maybe drugs was the problem?). At what point does an act of violence move from the realm of "normal" to that of evil, to be attributed to a supreme evil being?

Also, how does the abusive behavior go from being the act of a single, sick individual to having group participation? What force drives others to go along with something so obviously wrong? The easy answer, in my opinion, is to say that the devil made them do it. That Satan moved into their hearts. But to leave it at that opens us up to further acts of violence. If nobody studies the psychology of these types of events then we will continue to simply attribute them to evil.

What if, after lots of study, we are able to come up with a better list of warning signs to help prevent this type of abuse? In this case, there was obviously something going on as evidenced by this paragraph:
Social welfare groups admitted that while there had been concerns about baby Nia, she had somehow 'slipped through the net'.

Wouldn't it be nice if we could make a better net so children like Baby Nia wouldn't fall through? I think the only way to do that is to stop thinking small and attributing these events to evil. Humans are capable of great good and great evil and we must learn how to reduce the evil in the world.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

God Punishes California Again!

I have certain relatives who think that a while back God punished California with wildfires and mudslides because they started allowing gay marriage.

Well, it seems that despite the attempts of those Godly Californians to make the mighty man happy he seems to be pissed at them still!!!

Prop 8 voter's house gets burned

Perhaps he is only burning the houses of people who votes AGAINST prop 8? Wouldn't heart attacks and brain aneurysms be easier on the environment?

Or maybe, and I doubt my kooky relatives will see this, maybe there is no God out there starting disasters when he's pissed at what people do.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Double standards (ah those SERBIAN thugs)

While the Fort Dix attackers are never explicitly called "Albanian" in the media, Miladin Kovacevic is constantly being labeled as a "SERB thug". I certainly agree that he is a thug, but I don't see why the fact that he happens to be a Serb is constantly being pushed on us by the media. Any agenda there? If he happened to be -- let's say -- Jewish, can you imagine them calling him a "Jew thug"? Certainly not. That's only reserved for those evil Serbs. The media are just making sure we remember that Serbs are dangerous.. and evil.

That's why when we think of a Serbian immigrant, we think of this:

But NOT this:

Or this:

Or this:

Well done, media, in creating an atmosphere in which even our names can be used as against us. Well done!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Good Feeling...

What a great night for this country...

Saturday, November 1, 2008

7 Years Later and There are Still Loopholes

7 years ago people were ranting and raving about how the 9/11 hijackers were able to stay here with expired student visas.

The Patriot Act was passed along, with FISA, and later the removal of habeas corpus, so we should be safe, right?

Well, read this: Obama's Aunt Living Here Illegally

How does someone who is living in state owned housing get to continue to stay there after a deportation order?

I use this as an example not because I have something against Obama or his family. I use it to show that despite all the freedom we have GIVEN UP over the last 7 years Bush is still FAILING at doing his job: Execution of the law!!!

Imagine if instead of a sweet little old lady she was instead an EVIL TERRORIST?? OMG!

I guess if you read DRUDGE and FAUX NEWS and listen to that moron HANNITY then your brain will be so full of mush that you will come to the conclusion that Obama's Auntie is a terrorist. After all, if all his friends are terrorists then all his family must be too.

The thing in that article that I think people will overlook is:
In Boston, Lydia Agro, communications director for the Housing Authority, said Onyango had been screened and approved for public housing as an "eligible non-citizen" when she moved in in 2003. She said the authority is not notified of deportation orders and did not know Onyango was related to Obama until two days ago.
Did ANYONE in the Bush administration do any brainstorming to think up all the ways they could make sure deportation orders were followed?

Is there ANY communication between the states and the federal government?

Perhaps the real problem isn't illegals overstaying their visas. Perhaps the real dangers have been taken care of. But this just seems too easy a loophole to close.

What do you think?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I Voted, did you???



You can't win the lottery if you don't buy a ticket!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Sickness of Religious Hypocrisy

How many sick people could be helped with $130,000?

Or how many starving people could be fed?

Or maybe we should just throw a birthday party for one person...

But, if I'm going to bitch about wasting money, do we really need to spend thousands of dollars on atheist bus advertisements?

Couldn't that money be put to something else?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Religulous versus Expelled

Well, after 13 days Religulous is about ready to overtake Expelled in total US box office gross, according to

Religulous: $7,049,342 in 13 days
Expelled: $7,598,071 in 39 days.

It took 21 days to get to where Religulous is now.

What does this say about all the Doubting Thomases out there versus the Young Earth and I.D. supporters?

Update: it has now surpassed Expelled in gross at $7,622,104 in 16 days.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Movie Review: Religulous

We saw Religulous tonight...I thought it was damn good!

Of course, Maher was preaching to the choir. We had to drive over an hour to Gainesville to see it so we decided to make a day of it and check out the Florida Museum of Natural History. Nothing like checking out fossils and proof of evolution before you see a movie that pokes fun at the world's religions!

It was pretty funny for the first 2/3's of the movie, then it got very serious toward the end when discussing the threats of fundamentalist Islam and Christianity.

I doubt any fundamentalist will even want to see the movie. Or if they do I'm sure they will be offended. But I imagine religious moderates might be shaken just a bit.

I look forward to a DVD with some extra long interviews and maybe some outtakes.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sarah Palin and the Hunting Hypocrisy

First, my disclaimers:
*I'm not a hunter but I don't have much of a problem with other people hunting.
*I'm going to vote for Obama, so yes, I'm "in the tank" for him.

I see a certain hypocrisy in Palin's support of Alaska's predator-control program. You can read about it here as it relates to a political ad which decries the use of aerial hunting techniques.

Palin is a republican who thinks free market economies work best. Government, in her opinion, should not meddle in the affairs of business in order to create a magical community where money falls down from the pockets of rich people into the mouths of the poor. OK, my cynicism was laid on a bit thick there, sorry.

But when it comes to wildlife, she supports a government program that is designed solely for the benefit of the hunter in order to bring the number of fun-to-shoot animal populations up.

Lets call this Hunter Socialism.

But there is something sick about killing animals to allow other people to kill even more animals. I understand that Alaska is like a whole different country. I understand that living there might require survival instincts that a city boy like me doesn't have. So by all means, if a wolf is threatening you or your family (which I'm not sure they actually do) then do what you have to.

So, she is totally against the government trying to use its power and influence to pull people up by their bootstraps, but she's all for the government helping hunters have a better selection of animals to killing wolves.

I don't know if anyone else sees the hypocrisy in this, or even cares, but I thought I would at least bring it up for discussion.

<-- Gratuitous image of dead wolf.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Am I Just Getting Old?

This post has nothing to do with religion...

My son was putting some Lego together and had Nick2 on. He wasn't really paying attention, I think it was an episode of Zoey 101 he had already seen.

A commercial for Degrassi came on and I just happened to look up to see a purple vibrator and two girls in a bathroom stall. I used the DVR to rewind it without attracting my son's attention and sure enough it was a vibrator.

Look at about 18 seconds into this video:


This is Nick! This isn't HBO and Sex In The City. If there is a market for sex shows for teens can they please use a different channel or at least advertise during late hours?

I'm a pretty open minded parent but if I can't trust a kid's channel to show kid level commercials or shows then what do I do?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Monday, September 8, 2008

Fake Psychics Give Real Psychics A Bad Name!!!

Those pesky FAKE psychics are scamming Brits out of billions and billions of dollars... (you have to say that in a Carl Sagan voice).

Did the article's author use the term "fake psychic" to mean that there are REAL psychics who are losing business to fake ones?

Or did they just use fake psychic like other redundant terms like "hot water heater" (why would you need to heat it if it is already hot?) and "ATM machine" (automated teller machine machine?)

If you call my 900 number right now I'll tell you the truth about fake psychics. Only $5 to connect and $5 per minute after that. Call now: 1-900-EAT-SHIT.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Why Are So Many Americans Religious?

My earliest memories of school included learning about how the United States was founded. Different groups of people wanted to be able to worship how they pleased without the government getting into their business.

There was a lot of emphasis put on freedom of religion.

Nobody said to us "you should practice a religion" but it was implied. Why would thousands of people risk their lives and their futures for religion if religion wasn't worth it? I understand now that there were many other factors and freedom of religion wasn't in the original Constitution, but added later. Still, religion is embedded in our story.

What you don't hear about in school is how varied the beliefs of the founding fathers were. And fortunately, for all of us, they crafted the constitution in such a way that would keep any one of the religions of the time from being a part of the government.

It frustrates me to hear my own family members either say we are a "Christian Nation" or, even worse, actually wish we were a theocracy! My neighbor's car is covered with anti-religion bumper stickers including one I'd like to send to my relatives: If You Want a Country Rules By Religion Move To Iran!

Given that religious parents pass their religion down to their children, and we learn religion must be important because it was one of the reasons for founding this country, it makes sense that so many Americans are religious. As a co-worker pointed out to me Europe is mostly secular because they've gone through their enlightenment after almost 2000 years of rule by religion. And since many of the Europe and founded this country I understand why we are the way we are.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Answered Prayers and Cluster Bombs

I'm in a shitty mood.

Part of me wants to sit back and giggle at the thought of God's sick sense of humor. The kooks prayed for rain on Obama a few weeks ago. They wanted rain of biblical proportions. But in order to do that God had to create a hurricane. Alas, Gustav is too late for flooding Obama (and a bit too far away from Colorado, anyway). But at least the RNC convention will be disrupted. So, I should thank those who prayed for rain.

But I can't be THAT happy. I mean, there IS a hurricane tearing up the gulf states at the moment. People will probably get hurt (most likely one of those STUPID news reporters telling me how bad the wind is at the moment). But it looks like people did a good job of getting everyone evacuated from New Orleans. Lessons learned. I flipped over to Fox News just for shits and giggles and they were raving on and on about Bobby The Creationist Jindal. Reminding us that he was a republican and doing a great job. Good for him!

But then I see news like this: Georgia admits to dropping cluster bombs

Should I expect any better of a "friend" of the United States? We used them on Serbia so it makes sense for one of our allies to use them. But the US props this story up like we are back in the cold war and Bad Old Mother Russia is up to its old tricks again. So the only news reports we've seen for the last few weeks have been about bad old Russia attacking a sovereign nation. This is Kosovo in reverse. They are doing to Georgia what we did to Serbia, but they are bad and we were justified? I call bullshit.

And then I see news like this: US Agrees To Afghan Airstrike Probe

Doing a great job of reducing terrorism, eh? More like being pawns in someone's tribal wars. And our actions will do a great job of creating MORE terrorists.

But on the TV the news guy continues to get pummeled by Gustav. CNN has a guy on the ROOF of a hotel reporting on the wind. I wonder if he will show us how strong the gusts are by immitating what a human looks like when blown off a roof? pager just went off. Shitty mood likely to continue.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

What's The Harm?

If you haven't seen the site yet, check out What's The Harm. It lists thousands of stories about people who were harmed by stupid beliefs and quackery.

The developer of the site is also working on "Skeptical Software Tools." You can hear an interview with him on this week's episode of Skepticality.

One cool new feature of the site utilizes geolocation and Google maps to show where many of these events take place. Lots of witchcraft in Africa and lots of chiropracty in North America.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dick Dawkins Just Don't Get It

I recently watched the Channel 4 documentary "The Genius Of Charles Darwin" and I think it could have been retitled "Darwin Was A Genius But Dawkins Can't Get That Chip Off His Shoulder."

While I totally love Dawkins when he's talking science, unfortunately he can't say two sentences about evolution without telling us how stupid religion is. I wanted to see a documentary about how much of a genius Darwin was, and I would say about 70% of it presented just that. But a good portion was spent whining about the religious people who don't accept evolution.

The part where he really shows how he's out of touch with normal people (as opposed to the brilliant scientists he runs with) was in the third episode when he just couldn't understand why the high school science teachers were opposed to shaking up their student's religious beliefs. He just couldn't understand why these children would listen to lectures on evolution and not just understand it and reject their religion.

Would it hurt him to study that phenomenon...gasp...scientifically? Instead of gesticulating and convulsing over it?

He is presented with a group of children who for the last 15 years of their life have been presented with an acceptable (to a child) explanation of how the world came about. The closest and most trusted people in their lives assure them that it is the truth as handed down to them through generation after generation. At least once per week they go to church and hear it from another trusted authority that creation as presented in the bible is how the world was made. And somehow Dawkins doesn't understand why when presented with a strongly conflicting explanation by people who are NOT in their trusted circle of people, the children don't simply accept it as fact.

Why not instead of flailing helplessly doesn't Dawkins study this?

Anyway, I thought the second episode was the best. It touched a little on evolutionary psychology (hey, could that explain why the kids want to believe their parents?) which is a subject I'm interested in. The third episode presented an interesting look into what Darwin struggled with when he realized the implications of evolution.

All-in-all it is a good series. I leave you with Dick Dawkins, The Rap:

Friday, August 22, 2008

Changing Gears

I just couldn't get into Climbing Mount Improbable. I'll pick it up again later, though. Instead I started reading Jacob's Legacy a few days ago. Very interesting stuff! The author discusses his studies of Jewish genetics and things like tracing claims of Jewish priests back to a single common ancestor some 3000 years ago. Regardless of how much you believe their religion it is still interesting how things like this can be traced through the genes.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What Did/Do You Pray For?

If you no longer believe, what did you used to pray for?

If you believe, what do you currently pray for?

When I was a believer I usually kept my prayer simple, and prayed the Serenity Prayer:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.
If I strayed outside of that it was to help my previous marriage (scratch that one from the win column!) or for a healthy baby (1 spontaneous abortion and 1 very healthy and wonderful child, so 50% effective).

I never prayed for world peace or to feed the hungry. I can't say my prayers were extremely selfish but I have to admit that I DID only pray for MYSELF or my immediate family. Oh, those Selfish Genes!!!

I could have easily replaced the Serenity prayer with the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.
Both serve to calm the mind, one for alcoholics (or their children as is my case), the other for Bene Gesserit witches in Dune (AMAZING BOOK!). Each seems a bit Buddhist to me. Actually, it was Buddhism that I turned to after my divorce to help me deal with the fear and the stress.

So, does prayer work for you? I assume that if you don't believe in God anymore that prayer was one of the things that didn't work for you. My son prays every night for nice dreams, peaceful sleep, and for all his family and loved ones to be watched over. Even he noticed that even though he prays for sweet dreams he still has nightmares. And he hasn't made the connection yet but all the while he has prayed for his family to be watched over tragedy has hit multiple times.

While perusing the blog My Long Apostasy I came across a link to this study on prayer. I've heard reference to that study before as evidence that prayer is a load of hog wash. Basically, the people who were prayed for actually did WORSE than the people who weren't. They think that the people who knew they were being prayed for felt more stress than those who didn't...performance anxiety perhaps?

This brings me back to the Serenity prayer. It basically assumes that shit happens. Sometimes we can act in a way to make the shit stink less and sometimes we can't. Knowing when to act and when to just say "fuck it" helps to reduce your stress. It's no use worrying over what to do about something you have no control over. When the pilot dies in mid-flight and the plane is crashing just stick your head between your legs and kiss your ass goodbye. But if you know how to fly the plane then get up there and fly it.

So, does prayer work for you? Or is prayer simply a form of meditation to help clear your head and deal with life's uncertainties?

Update 8/19 - some current events that seem appropriate to add:
Do God and Prayer Trump Scientific Medicine?
Fay hits Florida; prayers answered
Group Thanks Lord for Lower Gas Prices

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jesus Even Died for our Environment!

GOP nutter Michele Bachmann says we don't need environmentalists saving the planet because Jesus already did that...

via TPM Election Central:
"[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she's just trying to save the planet," Bachmann told the right-wing news site OneNewsNow. "We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet -- we didn't need Nancy Pelosi to do that."


Besides...he is said to have died for our SINS not for the air we breathe...

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Wetback Says "Gracias a Dios"

I just got through watching Wetback: The Undocumented Documentary and I found myself shouting at the TV because throughout the documentary the people kept talking about how they were "thankful to God" or if this was "God's will" then they were OK with it.

A guy with NO FUCKING LEGS because the train he was trying to jump on ran him over said something like "If this is God's will then I will just have to live with it." Um...hello! You have NO FUCKING LEGS!

Was it GOD'S WILL to put him in poverty so bad that he decided to risk his life to leave his country and travel thousands of miles to try to live the "AMERICAN DREAM"????

What's that? Oh, He works in mysterious ways! Yeah, that's it.

God's To-do List

Click to see full comic

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Abortion Jihad

Remember when terrorism in America meant an abortion clinic bombing, or an abortion clinic doctor being shot?

Back when these things were popular, in the 90's, I remember thinking we were headed toward an abortion jihad. A war between pro and anti abortion rights fighters. I envisioned abortion clinics being patrolled by Pro-Choice Paramilitary, waiting for an attack by the Pro-Life Liberation Army.

I wonder now how much the increased surveillance of American citizens produced by 9/11 resulted in a decrease in abortion clinic violence.

I've never been in the middle of something I felt so strongly about that I thought I needed to attack someone. But some of the people behind the violent anti-abortion movement feel just that way. Similarly, certain factions in the animal rights movement feel moved to violence or terrorism in an attempt to force their opposing view on others.

The Animal Liberation Front feels strongly about keeping animals from being tested on. So strongly that they have been implicated in violent acts. On the surface I don't see a difference between their tactics and the tactics of the anti-abortion crowd. The differences lie in the argument over whether the rights of animals are different than the rights of a human embryo or fetus.

-We either have the right to do with animals as we please or we don't.
-Animals experience pain and suffering in a way that is equivalent to or greater than the way we feel pain.
-There is a metaphysical existence that animals experience which makes experimenting on them morally reprehensible or there is not.

-We either have the right to end a developing embryo's life or we don't.
-Embryos experience pain and suffering in a way that is equivalent to or greater than the way we feel pain.
-There is a metaphysical existence that embryos experience which makes ending their life morally reprehensible or there is not.

I'm not ready to offer my thoughts on all of these items. I'm throwing them out there to see what responses they might generate. Without pushing my own opinions on you I'm curious to first hear what others thing about the points I list above. Which side of those issues they are on.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A priest walks into a bar with a balloon in his hand...

Our amazing priest with his flying balloons met his end...

I wonder if PZ Myers has learned of the priest's fate yet...

Monday, July 28, 2008

Hear Webster Cook, the Cracker Thief, in his own words

Freethought Radio interviewed Webster Cook on their 7/19 broadcast. He explains what happened leading up to and since the Crazy Cracker incident. You have to skip past one of Dan Barker's songs before you get to the interview. Sorry, Dan, I like you but I don't have a taste for your music.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Ben Stein Needs to STFU!!!

I've avoided talking about politics on here because politics had nothing to do with my doubts about God. But if there is a God would he please tell Ben Stein to STFU!!!!???!!!

Really, Ben? Obama at an arena reminds you of the Fuehrer? First, you belittle the holocaust by blaming it on Darwin, now this?

And Glen Beck could use a sock in his mouth as well. "OOoh!! Sounds like Mussolini!!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Concern Trolling and Moral Relativism

I have been called a concern troll at least once in the last few months. Like, when people overuse the term "TARD" it really bugs me and I have to say something. I find that even some of smartest bloggers out there can bring down their arguments with casual use of terms like "theotard" and "creotard." But they have that right. They are expressing their views. I just can't stand it when people make fun of the mentally or physically retarded. And this makes me a concern troll.

But change the media to radio and the rules change. I haven't even listened to Michael Savage's stupid rant about autism but it sure did get people in an uproar. Are they concern trolls for protesting his show?

But what does this have to do with moral relativism? A while back I would have considered myself a moral relativist. But, as I learn more about the world and about humanism, I find it harder and harder to take a relativistic stance on certain issues. Certainly, in regards to basic human rights, I think it is necessary for us to protest the religious factions that would see to it that women were subservient and gays were killed. The rights of the individual come first. Where before I would look at societies that held there women in check and thought "well, that's just how things are in that country." Now, I hate to think of how many people cannot speak up or defend themselves because "that's just how things are in that country."

So, when it comes to casual use of the term tard I could take the morally relativistic view and say "well, that's just how things are on teh Internets." But I won't! I CAN'T STAND HOW MANY TIMES I SEE thisTard and thatTard. It's funny if you're 13 years old! I understand humor, I'm guilty of telling tasteless jokes. But it stopped being funny a long time ago, at least in Internet time.

Call me silly. Call me a concern troll. I don't care. But stop being such BLOGTARDS!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Here Be Dragons!

Here Be Dragons
Brian Dunning, who puts out a great podcast called Skeptoid, is now offering a short introduction to skeptical thinking called Here Be Dragons.

It is available on Google Video and various download formats (including DVD ISO). The distribution license is fairly open and allows for use in the classroom. While watching it my wife and I thought it would make for a good basis either as a dedicated critical thought class or at least as part of a science class.

He steers clear of religion in the video, though a few of his podcast episodes have touched on subjects like young earth creationism. This video deals mainly with how to spot pseudo-science or false advertising when you see it in advertisements. (The podcast episode talking about Kinoke Foot Pads is a good example.)

I suggest you check it out for yourself...let me know what you think!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rollin rollin rollin, get that blog a rollin, RAWHIDE!

This blog has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Naked Evolution

One of my favorite podcasts, The Naked Scientists, featured a show on evolution a few weeks ago, in celebration of the 150th anniversary of Darwin's "dangerous idea". I just got around to listening to it and thought others might want to check it out.

They talked with Dr. Lenski about his evolving e. coli and Dr. Remi Ware about an update to the controversial Peppered Moth experiment. , and Dr. Alastair Wilson about some horny sheep. Alastair is SUCH a British name...hehe...

There was also a reading of some of Darwin's letters he wrote at about the same time his abstract was to be presented to the Linnean society.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Book Review: Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali

It has taken me a while to get around to reviewing this book. I finished it a few weeks ago and it is still effecting me. This is only the second book I've read that chronicles a modern African experience. The first being A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier by Ishmael Beah. Both left me with a painful ache in my heart for the suffering that must be going on right now on that continent.

Infidel is something of an autobiography that tells the author's journey from Somalia to Holland, from Muslim to atheist. By the end you will understand why she is now an atheist. If you had any interest in becoming a Muslim before reading this I don't see how you could hold onto that desire after.

It also tells a story of sexual oppression and abuse that is also happening this very day. Hers is a first-hand account of how horribly unequal women are in the eyes of men. Even passive, god fearing Christians like to point out how the bible holds women as second-class citizens. So it isn't just Muslims, but those women sure seem to have it worse than any others.

While reading it I wondered how much strength it took for Ali to run away from her forced marriage. What made her different? If given the chance how many other women do the same? A man I work with is from Pakistan and arranged for his daughters to marry men from Pakistan, even though the girls grew up here in America. I know that one of them refused. Fortunately, he's something of a passive man so he didn't kill her like we read about. But I wonder what went on in their house. If she hadn't been in living away at college would she have had the choice she made? I remember when he was asking me about the visa process (my wife is from outside the US and my wife and I did the visa application ourselves) and he told me about the arrangement I cringed inside. I couldn't believe it was 2006, in the United States, and this guy was arranging a marriage for his daughter. When he told me earlier this year that it didn't work out, that his daughter wouldn't follow through with it, I was so happy that she took a stand. But so many women don't get that choice.

Last night my wife and I watched "Submission: Part 1", the short film that got Theo Van Gogh killed and put Ayaan Hirsi Ali into hiding. I wish women all over the Muslim world could see this film or read her story. I wish they could have the chances and the courage to take those chances like Ayaan Ali did.

I was deeply moved by this story. If you haven't read it I strongly suggest you do.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Sweet Land of Liberty!

My only favorite atheist/neocon went and had himself waterboarded...

I imagine he still wants to wipe out the mid-east, but at least he understands that perhaps we've crossed the line...

Sure makes me proud of this country!

Monday, June 30, 2008

Another Good Ol' Boy Club!

Southern Baptist Scholar Links Spouse Abuse to Wives' Refusal to Submit to Their Husbands

Typical caveman bullshit. If it isn't horny cavemen living in the desert it's horny cavemen living here in the south.

They're all a few genes short of a full species...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I Don't Believe in Santa Claus

So what was the final event that pushed me from being at least a passive believer to someone who doubts it all?

Last November my son figured out there was no Santa silly as that sounds the event made me think. If my son can see through the inconsistencies and come to the conclusion that Santa is a fake then why was I still holding on to my beliefs in God?

From my son's perspective there was FAR MORE EVIDENCE that Santa was REAL than I ever had for God. Santa made appearances at the mall. Santa delivered presents. His reindeer ate the food he left for them. All that evidence and still, he doubts! Why? I asked him and he said it was inconsistencies in the way Santa looked when he went to see him each Christmas. Sometimes he wore glasses, sometimes not. Long beard vs. short beard, etc.

I wonder if we had laws banning Santa appearances if that would strengthen children's belief? Islam probably does well by banning any representation of the prophet Mohamed.

I asked him if he worried that he would no longer get presents if he told us he didn't believe and he didn't seem to care. We all exchange presents with each other, anyway, so missing one from Santa wasn't a big deal. His belief wasn't tied to any threat of harm.

When I compare this to how I felt when I really asked myself if I believed in God I think he had it easy. To not believe in Santa might mean you miss out on a present, but to not believe in God means you burn in hell for ever and ever and ever. Unless you're Jewish. They don't have a hell. The creators of Christianity must have figured out that a simple carrot on a stick wasn't enough. You mush dangle that stick over a large precipice and give the person only a narrow board to walk on. This board gets MUCH thinner by the time Islam rolls around.

It's believe or suffer. You want proof? You can't have any. You must have faith that God is there. We, as adults, are presented with no evidence and are asked to believe in God while children are given ample evidence of Santa and can figure out that he is a ruse.

Every bit of my body asks for evidence at all times of the day. It is how we form our view of reality. When the different senses don't come to the same conclusion we get confused. Like when you are sitting in a car in traffic and your car is stopped but a car just in the periphery of your vision moves forward slowly, you sometimes think you are moving backwards! It takes you a second to resolve the other senses and decide that it is not you that is moving but the other car.

But when our spiritual selves are sitting in traffic what other senses do we have to fall back on when something doesn't make sense? I read creationist/believer forums and apologetic responses and I chuckle when they get so bent out of shape that we unbelievers have such a hard time with the lack of evidence. They don't understand how we just can't have FAITH. Perhaps we are defective? Perhaps normalcy for humanity is the innate ability to believe without evidence and we inherited defective Believer Genes?

With Santa, the carrot is a present that we open once per year. With God the carrot is an indescribably wonderful afterlife that we are promised we will get once we die. And we must believe in him or we suffer an indescribably horrid afterlife. But like I said before, I don't think my indescribably wonderful afterlife would be so wonderful knowing someone I love got the horrid reward.

But I'm getting way ahead of myself. My son realizing Santa is not real started me thinking. That was 7 months ago. In that time I have sought out others like me and found that I'm not alone. I've read the "new atheists" works from Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris. I plan to read much from the "old atheists" and freethinkers like Thomas Paine.

I've overcome most of my fear. I think that is something I want to talk about more later...

With that I leave you with the Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear:
I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

On Racism

A friend of mine has written about how he shook the racist upbringing he received while growing up under apartheid. Reading this reminded me of some of the stories my mom told me about growing up on the gulf coast of Florida.

My grandfather ran fishing tours out to the gulf and got lots of flack for being hired by a black man. But to him money was money, that's what he told the men who were giving him a hard time. But in reality he had no problem with people of any color. Neither did my grandmother. In the days of buses having separate sections for blacks and whites she make my aunt give up her seat when an old black woman got on and there were no other seats free. This was something many people in the south just didn't do.

I remember hearing my grandfather come inside after working in his garden and saying "Boy, I'm sweatin' like a nigger goin' to election." I was only about 5 at the time so hearing nigger being used like this was just funny to me. I didn't understand what he really meant though. When he was younger blacks had to worry about going out to vote. But his use of the term nigger shows, to me at least, that he was still a product of his time. I judge him by his actions and not his witty quips!

Personally, I was fortunate to have parents who had no outward hatred of blacks. I'm pretty sure they would have shit a brick had I ever come home with a black girl but they held no other ridiculous views of people of different colors. I also benefited from living in multiple states and out of the country for a while so this helped to solidify my world view that we are all just about the same.

Yet, as I left college in 1994 I met up with racism again. Working for a large southern company I learned about the "good 'ol boy" club. I met people who thought blacks didn't swim because their bones were too dense and they would sink. I met people who told me to my face that "it's not black people I have a problem with, it's the mixing of the races." At one point my boss asked me "You a Jew?" I wish I had my smart-ass attitude then that I have now. I've replayed that scene many times and come up with a dozen good answers. They tried to see if I was gay during my first interview by asking "So...ya married?" Totally illegal here to ask that but they did. I replied "Not yet..." I figured I would keep them guessing. Fortunately, the good ol' boy club has been broken up over the years but I'm sure it exists elsewhere still.

Now having met someone born and raised in South Africa and seeing how he overcame the racism I'm filled with hope. He is, like my grandfather was, a pentecostal Christian. They were both raised in a climate of racism but they both saw through the lies and came to their senses. We disagree on religion but when it comes to race I think we are on the same page.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How could I be happy in Heaven?

A recent post by another blogger got me thinking again about something...

If heaven and hell are real and I go to heaven and I know that someone I loved was in hell, then how could I be happy for eternity knowing my loved one is suffering for eternity?

How can anyone in heaven be happy knowing that there are people that are suffering...right now...for ever and ever...never again to not only know suffering and pain and misery?

I would want to do something about it.

Of course, my believing friends are shouting at the screen saying YES! Do Something! Bring everyone to Jesus! Or bring everyone to Allah! Or bring everyone to YHWY!!

But, you see, it's too late. People are already there. Suffering. Right now. And there's not a damned thing you or I can do about it.

So...will you still be happy in heaven?

If it exists, and somehow I go there, I won't be.



It's a good thing that heaven and hell don't exist...

*SIGH* I suck at explaining my thoughts

It seems I have a hard time taking what's in my head and typing it.

What I meant to say a before was that I went through no significant event that made me go from willing believer to doubting Thomas. It was a process that took time. It took 19 years for me to reach the pinnacle of my belief and another 17-18 years to get to where I'm at now.

After reading books like Infidel and listening to the many de-conversion accounts on the Infidel Guy show I don't see anything spectacular about my story. I simply found fewer and fewer reasons to go back to belief in God.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Watch Nova Science Now June 25th

Check out the summer schedule for Nova Science Now here.

The June 25 broadcast will talk about dark matter and cute mice with Alzheimer's.

You can watch these segments online as well.

This show is hosted by one of my favorite scientists, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Hope you all enjoy it!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

A Slow Decline of Faith

So I left off my story telling about how I couldn't stand being told what to think. But that didn't end my faith or belief in God. I may have bought into the evangelical movement like it was an impulse purchase at the supermarket but I still believed in God. I just didn't want to have anything to do with organized religion.

The years following were busy with college so I didn't have much time to think deeply about God. It wasn't until I was out of college and working for a living that God came back into my life. I've spent many hours thinking that perhaps I was abandoned by God because I had abandoned him. But anyone with a child will understand that to abandon your child is not something that you can do easily. I'm not sure what my son would have to do for me to turn my back on him. So if God, the Father, really did abandon me because I turned away from him because I had so much going on my life then he must be easily offended.

God did come up a bit during college. I was living with my fiance who would describe herself as spiritual but not religious. I remember being uncomfortable with Taoist usage of the term God (I understand now that Taoism seems to be pantheistic) , it made me feel like I was worshiping some other God. I don't remember praying but I imagine I did. I was never one to pray for good grades or a better job but later on I did pray for a healthy child.

The first big hit my faith took was when my now ex-wife miscarried. I didn't understand at the time that many pregnancies end in miscarriage. I guess I had a very ignorant view of pregnancy even though I had taken multiple biology classes. This event had a huge impact on my psyche. For two months I had fantasized about what it would be like to have a child. I had already gone out and bought a cute outfit that could be worn by either a boy or a girl. My wife had even nicknamed her/him. But then she started bleeding. After calling her ob/gyn we went to the hospital. I remember when they admitted us they asked what our religion was. I'm not sure if this is normal for all hospitals but considering this hospital was named after a saint I figured it was normal for them. We had a hard time answering the question. It seems they didn't like "just Christian." I honestly can't remember if I prayed during all of this. Praying for me was never a public event. It was always something I did internally. But the end result was there was no baby.

But I prayed more during the second pregnancy so I thought that I was on the right track. It didn't occur to me to look at how many atheists had miscarriages. I was raised to have faith and that is what I did. The end result this time was a very healthy boy!

The next chink in my faith armor was when my wife told me she wanted a divorce. For me at the time this came from out of nowhere. I had lived with this woman since I was 19. Now I was 30 and I was on my own. Fortunately, it turned out to be an "amicable" divorce. I got equal custody of my son and that's all I needed.

For the first time in my life I was living on my own. And for the first time in my life I realized that when I prayed there was nobody listening. I looked for wisdom but not in Christianity. I don't recall actively rejecting God, there was no moment where I looked in the mirror and said "I don't believe in God." like Ayaan Hirsi Ali had. I remember browsing Borders for books and coming across a books of quotes by the Dalai Lama. I picked it up and liked what I read. I bought another book. I found logic in some of the Buddhist philosophy. But I didn't read past explanations of reincarnation. Something inside me had clicked. Something inside me rejected anything supernatural.

Being on my own and having only a 3-year old to talk to was cathartic. It also gave me a lot of time to think about life and what it was all about. When you become a parent something inside you changes. I don't know if there is evidence of some parent gene activating but you become focused on making sure your child survives. I thought hard about how I was raised and what I thought was done right and what was done wrong and tried to make sure I raised him accordingly.

But at no time during all of this did I look up to God and ask for help. I realized that I must be in control of my life where I was able to control it and to live with the fact that sometime things happen and there is always an explanation for them.

It wasn't until last Christmas that I decided to take another look at my faith and come to the final conclusion that no, there is no God. But that I will save for later...

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Audiobook Review: The Dream of Reason

The Dream of Reason: A History of Philosophy from the Greeks to the Renaissance by Anthony Gottlieb

I've always had a love for philosophy. I enjoy discussing topics like ethics and I enjoy discussing science just as much. But I didn't know much of philosophers outside Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates, who's name I always pronounce in my head like Bill and Ted did, thanks dudes!!!

The Dream of Reason served as a primer for western philosophy up to the Renaissance. Much time is spent on early philosophers and their main ideas as these served as the foundation for most of their successors.

As audiobooks go, this one was hard to digest. This was definitely a book for reading, not listening. There were just too many names to consume while sitting in traffic. I found myself having to listen to sections twice, more because an idea would be discussed and my mind would start to ponder it and a few minutes later I would realize I had no idea what had been discussed after that.

Anyone looking to get a broad understanding of western philosophy should pick up this book, though I suggest you get the paper version so you can ponder all those wonderful ideas! If you must get the audiobook be prepared to pause and repeat sections.

The Dream of Reason gave me some great starting points for further study. I enjoyed learning about the Pythagoreans (the math geek in me) as well as Stoicism, Skepticism, and Epicureanism. I wish it had delved more into the later philosophers, though. All the same, I enjoyed the book...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Atheist Thirteen

Looks like I got tagged to answer for my crimes of doubt! Oh nooes!

Q1. How would you define “atheism”?

Being just as sure there is no God as a fundamentalist is sure that there is. I am somewhere in between.

Q2. Was your upbringing religious? If so, what tradition?

Not very. Episcopal.

Q3. How would you describe “Intelligent Design”, using only one word?


Q4. What scientific endeavor really excites you?

I'm a guy, and guys like smashing things, so I'm looking forward to the LHC starting up and sucking us all into a black hole!

Q5. If you could change one thing about the “atheist community”, what would it be and why?

I didn't think they were a community. But some of them obviously missed out on burning their bras in the 70's and are looking for a way to vent! Ha! Take that PZ! ;-P

Q6. If your child came up to you and said “I’m joining the clergy”, what would be your first response?

Be sure to ask lots of questions. They love it when you ask lots of questions. You'll be a star pupil in seminary school!

Q7. What’s your favorite theistic argument, and how do you usually refute it?

We should base our laws on the bible! To that I ask if they REALLY want to kill their children for being smart asses or if they REALLY want rape victims to marry their rapist or if they REALLY want to kill their relatives for not believing or if they REALLY think slavery should be legal.

Q8. What’s your most “controversial” (as far as general attitudes amongst other atheists goes) viewpoint?

For all we know it's the atheists who are the crazy ones with defective genes or something!

Q9. Of the “Four Horsemen” (Dawkins, Dennett, Hitchens and Harris) who is your favourite, and why?

Probably Hitchens, though at first I couldn't stand the guy. I still don't like his political views but I think he's the best writer of the bunch and he'd probably be a hoot to have some beers with.

Q10. If you could convince just one theistic person to abandon their beliefs, who would it be?

The Dalai Lama. Yeah, yeah, Buddhism is a philosophy but the Tibetans based their country and culture on the idea that this guy is the reincarnation of reincarnated Buddhist Masters. I just want him to admit that reincarnation is baloney and he 's just a normal person raised to believe all that crap.

Now name three other atheist blogs that you’d like to see take up the Atheist Thirteen gauntlet:

I think they all have done it already...I will let this one die here...

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Apologize for What?

I recently learned that there were people called "apologists." These are defenders of the Christian faith. My first reaction after hearing the term was "what are they apologizing for?" Yes, I know that the root term is meant to call them defenders but I just found the term to be a sad excuse for the shortcomings of a perfect text.

Why does the word of God need defending? Why are the inspired words of God not enough by themselves?

In my opinion, the word of God should transcend time. By this I mean that no matter how old the words they should hold strong against changes in culture and, most importantly, discoveries of science.

If we were indeed made in God's image then that should remain constant in us throughout the ages. The words written directly by him or inspired directly by him should hold the same meaning today as they did they day they were written. That connection we have to him should allow that message to pass easily into our conscience and we should understand it unambiguously as soon as we read it. When we read the bible we want to make a connection with God. We either want insight into his plan or assurance of his existence. But it seems EVERY bible of EVERY religion is written with the limitations of the writer's imagination. How many times have you read a great novel and been so sucked in by it that you felt you were there and you were experiencing the love, the hate, the passion, the envy that the author was trying to convey? Do you get that when you read your bible? Or are you just confused?

If you had never read the Christian bible before in your life and you had never heard of Christianity and you picked it up and read it would you immediately believe in God? Would God speak to you through those words or would you just be reading a translation of a translation of stories that were passed by word of mouth and modified here and there throughout the ages?

Is that what they apologize for? Because they were born and raised with all those words drilled into their head and told to be the word of God but there exist people who just don't get it? There exist people who don't understand what all the fuss is about over a God who is loving and angry and jealous. A God who gave us these wonderful brains but asks his followers to strike down those who doubt him? A God who was perfectly fine with slavery, even when he was in his kind and gentle form of Jesus?

Did people 2500+ years ago not have any sense of logic? Was Aristotle REALLY the only one who figured out logic? If there existed a tree of knowledge of good and evil one would assume that Adam an Eve had no knowledge of good and evil. And here it is and God says don't you eat from it but he puts a serpent in there with them who tells them to go ahead and do it how were they supposed to know that it was bad for them to disobey God if they had no knowledge of good and evil at first? If this was meant to be taken literally then I have to call a foul on God for being the one who tricked us. But if it is meant to be a metaphor then I have to say that was some bad writing because when you break it down it doesn't make sense.

Is that what they apologize for? If I had never read the bible before and I picked it up and started reading from page 1 I would stop after that part because if the first story is a logical fallacy then the rest of the story cannot follow. One cannot take an entire book that is the word of God and pull out the parts that are logical fallacies. Government checks used to say "DO NOT BEND, FOLD, OR MUTILATE" well I would say that you MUST take the bible as a whole, no bending, folding, or mutilating. And if the words of God are logical fallacies then I have to assume that the God who inspired that book must not exist. This one story is part of the foundation of three religions. When you pull out that foundation then all three must fall.

Since God does not walk among us and make himself known to us then all we have is his word. His word should need no apology. His word should need no defense. But here we are, apologizing and defending. Ignoring the evolution debates and the big bang theory for now, we are a logical creature. At an early age we somehow know what things make sense and when they don't. If A==B and B==C then A==C. Aristotle figured that out over 2000 years why didn't God?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Book Review: Galileo's Daughter

As embarrassed as I am to admit it, my knowledge of Galileo's life before reading Galileo's Daughter could be written in a few sentences. I knew he was a great scientist. I knew he did something with telescopes and was an astronomer. But that was about it. I knew he lived part of his life under house arrest but I couldn't tell you why.

But after reading Dava Sobel's biography of Galileo Galilei called "Galileo's Daughter" I feel I have followed his life the way we follow that of some insightful blogger. To put it that way seems to cheapen the experience, because in today's world we don't have eloquent hand written letters like the one's presented in this book. Sometimes when you follow the writings of bloggers you wonder why you must endure painful discourses on their most mundane happenings. In the case of Galileo's Daughter you welcome those trivial details as it casts a vision of the great philosopher that you don't get in a dry science textbook.

I picked up Ms. Sobel's book a few weeks ago while perusing the science section of Borders. I wanted something scientific but also something lighthearted. Upon seeing another book by the author of Longitude I snatched it up and quickly drove home to read it. If you haven't read Longitude or seen A&E's movie, I suggest you stop here and pick up either. You won't be disappointed. I saw the movie first then read the book later and Dava Sobel does an excellent job of turning a biographical story into a page-turning journey without sacrificing historical accuracy.

Galileo's Daughter continues the precedent set by Longitude and places the biography of Galileo against the backdrop of letters written to him by his daughter, Virginia, who adopted the name Maria Celeste when she became a nun. Only the letters from her survive as the letters from him were destroyed after her death. But Sobel gleans much from letters sent by the scientist to his peers.

Applying the morals of a 2008 humanist to the life of Maria Celeste I found myself angered to see her locked inside a convent. Of his three children she seemed the most adept at understanding his thoughts and his theories but she was limited by the norms of society in the 1600's. If you weren't married by age 16 then you became a nun and being an illegitimate daughter she couldn't be married. But this did not stop her from becoming literate in Italian and Latin.

I became so entranced by Sobel's account of their live's that by the end of the book I found myself distraught at how their lives ended. The best dramas could not ask for a better ending to it's character's lives as that of Galileo and his daughter Virginia. Any father who has a daughter should read this together with her. I can only imagine the discourse that will follow between them after reading Ms. Sobel's eloquent account of two loving and intelligent people.

Lies, Stupid Lies, and Misinformation

I don't accuse my parents or anyone in my family of outright lying to me. I understand that misinformation can be easily passed down from parent to child simply because the parent doesn't know any better and was taught the same untruths by their parents.

I try with my own son to stop the chain of misinformation. When I am asked questions that I know the answer to and can provide documentation supporting my answer then I answer him without qualification. But when he asks me questions, as he did a few years ago, like "If God made us then who made God?" then I must qualify my answers. The answer to that question was that I didn't know and he would probably get a different answer from any person he asked. I told him that his grandparents (being raging fundamentalists) would tell him that nobody made God, that God was always there. I don't come out and tell him "well, son, there is no God, God was created by humans" because I have no documentation to back up that claim, and he's a really smart kid and I know he will figure it out. He wasn't happy with any of the suggestions I made for possible answers and he dropped it. I have a feeling he pushed that away for now.

Here is a partial list of things I was told as a child that have turned out to be bogus. I say partial list because the more I think on this the more things I remember. So I imagine I'll add to this later on:
  • The seashells you can find on a mountain top are there because of Noah's flood.
    • I understand now that plate tectonics can push areas of earth that were once underwater up into mountains.
    • And even if you take the flood into consideration I don't think the mountain tops were under water long enough to accumulate sea shells, not to mention the fact that they are folded into the strata and the flood would only have put them into a single layer.
  • Moses wrote the old testament.
    • Had I actually paid much attention when reading the old testament I would have asked how he wrote of his own death.
    • There is no archaeological evidence that he existed. There should be, but there isn't.
    • If he wrote it why did he duplicate his own stories? Was he stupid? Did he forget that God has already told him to write about the origin of the Earth? If he had the ten commandments in hand why did he mix them up and change them in two different sections of the bible?
  • Nobody ever found it necessary to tell me that the New Testament was NOT written directly by the apostles, but were written at least 35 years after Christ's supposed death. This was actually the first thing I ever learned that started me down the path of doubt.
    • I learned when I was 12 that the original text was written in Greek. But I didn't ask the important question "If Jesus was a Jew, and lived in the mid-east, then why were his stories written in Greek?" I'm sure many people learned a few years ago that he spoke the language Aramaic when they saw The Passion, so I wonder if anyone asked that question then?
    • And if you are willing to believe that nobody around him thought it important to document God's adventures on Earth and only passed the information down by word of mouth (even though people had been writing for thousands of years before this), anyone who has played the game of telephone knows how stories get warped as they pass from person to person. So, nobody reading these texts today knows how much was real and how much was the result of distortions passed down over time. The same logic applies to the Old Testament which wasn't written down until at about 1000BC (or not, who knows?) but covers a span of time thousands of years prior to its writings.
  • We stay on the Earth because it is spinning really fast and if it stopped spinning we would all fall off.
    • Now, this one is just stupid. I assume that the person who taught me this was very confused about centrifugal force like you see in 2001: A Space Odyssey and gravity. Even at the age of 7, when I was told this, I thought it sounded wrong.
  • We evolved FROM apes.
  • Rainbows are God's reminder that he promised to never again destroy the Earth and its inhabitants by a flood.
    • This one comes straight from the bible. But anyone taking a physics class will learn exactly how rainbows form, what causes double rainbows, etc.
    • And if it were really true that God felt bad and promised not to do that again then why does he continue to either CAUSE or ALLOW disasters like the tsunami we had a few years ago and the recent earthquakes in China. The tsunami was a flood that killed over 100,000 and the quakes in China are causing lakes to flood and threaten to kill more people than the 60,000+ that the earthquake killed. If he caused these floods then he broke his promise and if he willingly allowed them to happen then he's no better than a pacifist allowing innocent people to die at the hands of murderers.

As a final note I want you to think about what things you find easy to believe and what things just don't make sense to you. I find it interesting that for something that is supposed to be the ULTIMATE truth inspired by God that people don't just GET IT when they read it. No, it takes being FORCED to go to church as a child in order for it to stick for any length of time. If these religions taught the ultimate truth I think our brains would get it without needing explanation and we wouldn't have needed governments to force us to believe or our parents to pass the misinformation down to us. We would just get it and there would be no ambiguity about it. To me, that is how truth works.

EDIT: As if by divine providence I was directed to this video that describes the creation of the heavens and the Earth. A bit tongue-in-cheek but I have to agree:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Get that boy to church!

I decided to go to my friend's church because it was, according to her, a very simple and authentic church. And she was right. It was basically a shack with some lawn chairs in it. I loved it! I thought all of the decor of the episcopal churches I had been to was a waste of money and all that mattered was the word of God.

And this is where things started to go wrong. Somewhere between my quest for God when I was 12 and when I started attending this church I had developed a decent sense of right and wrong. I was a tree hugger. I was for animal rights, human rights, women's rights, you name it. So when people started telling me what to think and what to say I was taken aback. I don't recall the exact sermons but every time I was called a sinner I could feel something inside being turned off.

But I stuck with it. I went to some Christian rock concerts. This was something of a culture shock for me. I was into techno, industrial, some metal, and some punk when the mood was right. I knew the difference between listening to music that was debasing and music that had a forceful message. Dead Kennedys songs would make a fundamentalist's ears bleed but their songs spoke of oppression, politics, and cynicism in popular culture. So when I attended a youth group meeting that listened to pop music and decided if it was OK for young Christians like myself to listen to I was downright angry. I mean, really, is Wilson Phillips going to corrupt young Christian hearts? (yes, they really had a problem with Wilson Phillips)

The message I was getting was that people are stupid and can't think for themselves. If we don't guide their every move then they might stray from the path and do something that would send them to hell. Well, that's what the Catholic church did a long time ago. Granted, their methods of enforcement were a bit harsh (sarcasm) but the overarching idea was the same.

Well, people aren't stupid. I think they appear to be stupid because they have been raised in that very same environment that treats them that way. Rather than teach people to think for themselves we are raised thinking that we aren't quite good enough to accomplish that. But if that's the case then how did the people telling me what to listen to get so smart? It all goes back to Genesis, we all are able to decide right from wrong, our ancestors "ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil." It's in our genes. Whether you believe it was something we inherited from Adam and Eve or whether you think we evolved the framework for morals out of the need to survive, we all have the ability.

As you can see, I was quickly growing tired of the establishment bringing my Jesus high down. And the last straw came when I went to church one day and they were taking up a special collection to buy wooden pews. The lawn chairs weren't good enough for our asses to worship in and we weren't Amish so the thought of everyone pitching in and making them didn't occur to anyone (it only occurs to me now as I write this). It seems like a silly reason to stop going to church. Perhaps I was looking for an excuse. But I had my standards and I figured it wouldn't end with just pews. (talk about building a church from the ground up!)

My high was over. The buzz was gone. Reality was back. That was the last time I went to church of my own accord, roughly 18 years ago. But I didn't stop believing at that point. I decided that my faith simply didn't need a church, that my "relationship" with God would be strictly personal.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Getting high with Jesus!

I'm sure that title will offend some, but that is not my intent. I was serious before when I said that being saved, being born again, felt like being high. I doubt many true-believers out there have smoked pot so take my word for it.

But I don't mention this to either cheapen the experience of worship or exalt pot-heads. I simply want to put things into proper context. What I experienced was not the result of a lifetime of religious schooling. You can go through all the religious schooling you want and you might never feel the experience of being "born again."

I have felt the effects of both legal and illegal substances on my brain and body and being born again goes right up there with the best of them. But it was not without side-effects, as I found later on. And like some drugs, I craved the feeling more when it started to go away.

I was friends with a girl from my college at the time who by all outward appearances seemed like her Prozac prescription needed to be reduced, but it was, as far as I could tell, just Jesus.

So what are the side-effects? The comedian in me would say salvation and rapture. But seriously, there was a bit of paranoia in me during that time. At first I worried that the feeling would go away, which it did. Then I worried that I had done something wrong to make it go away. I worried that I wasn't doing all the right things, that I would slip up and spend eternity in hell. But I didn't get the munchies, so at least it had that over smoking pot!

So, I think it is correct to say that religion is a powerful thing. It is mind altering. And in that respect I can understand why some people do good things under its influence and why some people do horrible things under its influence. But like I said before, it was an impulse buy. I had been shopping around for something and it seemed like a good deal. I'm sure I will hear from some that my heart just wasn't in it. That I wasn't REALLY saved. And those people will probably smile when they imagine me burning in hell. I think, perhaps, that I set my goals too high. I think I didn't read the packaging well enough before purchasing.

So I will end this post by saying with religion, like all other things, it's buyer beware.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The search begins!

It's 1989, I'm 18, I'm living in a small north Florida town and there's not much to do and not many people to talk to.

This is before the least before it was available to the masses, so as an introverted geek I didn't have many places to turn. I had a huge love of science, astronomy, physics, and most of all computer programming. I had lots of time to think about the world but mostly all I thought about was how sad I was.

Thinking back it it now I see that I would have been vulnerable to something like Scientology had I met someone who offered a reading. I subscribed to a magazine called New Age Journal. I had lots of ideas on my place in the universe. But mostly, I was lonely.

I happened to take a college course on philosophy and religion. This provided me with tons of options to try out.

  • One week I was praying to the east, but the origins of Islam made me doubt its authenticity.
  • The next I was studying Buddha. I still like much of what Buddhism has to offer, minus all the mystic mumbo-jumbo.
  • I never got past the shear number of Gods that Hinduism offered. There seems to be no shortage of miracles that happen in India...statues of Gods that cry tears of milk and such. (Now, if there was a Hindu comedian who could make milk come out my nose when I wasn't drinking any then I might reconsider!)

None of these offered me the feeling I was searching for. I stuck with reading about how quantum physics would somehow offer us all of the answers and how the vibrations of crystals could help to heal us. But the next semester I took a music class and without even trying I found myself sucked back into Christianity.

We were assigned music reviews. We had to complete 3 concert reviews by the end of the semester. Being a poor college student I attended whatever was free. There happened to be a Christian rock concert playing on the campus so I went just to be review it. But I left there saved. The right words at the right time in my life made me close my eyes, bow my head, and raise my hand and accept Jesus as my savior.

It was an easy thing to do. One doesn't contemplate it, one just does it. I compare it now to an impulse buy at the supermarket. You go in for bread and milk and come out with bread, milk, and a magazine you just had to have! But when you've gone a year searching for answers without finding any, being saved feels good. It felt right.

I remember being led into another room where they took down my information. I was offered answers, I was offered the way to salvation, and I received prayer and a pamphlet on where I could go to church. I went with a group of kids from the campus that night to a restaurant. I felt like I was finally a part of something. I felt elated. It felt like I was high. The feeling one gets from being born again is very similar to the feeling you get when you smoke pot.

But I awoke the next morning with butterflies. Where had that feeling gone? I wanted it back. I guess I needed to go to church...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Another early experience

I was around 5 years old and was living with my grandparents on my mom's side. We were going to move to Scotland within the next year, my dad had already moved there and my mom wanted to spend time with her parents before we moved.

My grandparents lived in a double-wide on the Homosassa river. My grandfather had owned a lot of land and the house my mom grew up in had been about 500 meters away at a high point, away from the threat of floods that can easily take over a house in Florida. I'm not sure of all the circumstances but at some point they sold much of the land and the small orange grove and moved closer to the river. I still remember the long driveway lined with orange trees, the palm trees, the swampy area that housed the gator that ate my grandparent's dog, the dock extending out into the river. I remember climbing into a tall orange tree, at least at that age I thought it was tall, and basking in the smell of orange blossom. I remember all of this every time I peel an orange and the spray fills my nose with all these powerful memories. Oranges will forever remind me of these times.

But I'm here to write about my religious experiences and my path to self awareness. One night the power went out. Something that any adult will deal with in stride but for a 5 or 6 year-old it's a scary experience. The candles were lit. My grandmother's praying Jesus-hand sculpture was lit by the flickering light. I knelt down and prayed something like, "Dear Lord, I'm scared. Please turn on the lights. Amen." And I kid you not, the lights came on that very moment. It was as if I had brought the dead back to life, my mom and grandmother were ecstatic! According to them ours was the only house on the river with lights.

This stuck with me for a long, long time afterward. I thought I was something special. Of course, subsequent prayers went unanswered. To this day I wish that particular prayer had been ignored and the one where I win the lottery had been heard!

But prayer to a child is often a selfish thing. My son still wants to pray at bedtime, and I still pray with him. But I make sure that rather than just praying for sweet dreams that we ask for God to watch over our loved ones. Even that is selfish now that I think of it. It seems logical in a "selfish gene" sort of way. I wonder how many people, out of 6 billion, actually think about all of the people in need. Even with billions of people following the word of God we have millions out there who suffer. According to there are 3.6 billion Christians and Muslims combined and about a billion atheists/non-believers. If over half the world's population either thinks that Jesus was God or at least his prophet, then there should be no strife in the world because 50% of us should love our neighbors. But it is the Christian and Islamic nations that seem to cause today's non-natural strife (as opposed to natural strife, like earthquakes).

Anyway, I'm rambling. I just thought I would mention that when I was a kid I prayed for light and there was light, and it was good.

Friday, May 9, 2008

I finally read the bible

I stayed out of church until I was about 12. At that age I guess I started getting curious about life and death and decided I would read the bible.

I didn't finish.

I skipped a lot. The whole this "guy begot that guy" part was very boring.

I questioned a lot and this is where my parents were useless. In Genesis when it says God create light I wondered how it what when there wasn't light. What it negative light? Black light? My mom said I shouldn't ask questions like that.

The biggest problem I had with Genesis was the whole tree of knowledge story. The way I translated it I figured the rest of the book was up to us to decide what we should follow since Adam and Eve got the ability to think for themselves once they ate from the tree. So, all of their descendants would have that ability. After that I didn't read the book with the idea that it was all true and infallible.

But reading it wasn't enough, so I dragged my parents to church. We found an Episcopal church and I went for a few months. I was torn by the wonderful beauty of the church with the idea that it seemed a big waste of money that could have gone to something better.

Thinking back on it now, I must not have paid much attention while reading the bible because now I know there are parts of it that are pretty appalling.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

My first religious experiences

Mine is not a story of someone raised in an extremely religious family, like so many others I've been reading. I'm not a pastor's son. I was never a missionary. I can count the number of times I attended church as a child on my fingers and toes. But my parents were believers and so they taught me their beliefs.

I was baptized in an Episcopal church before I was 2. I remember attending a really quaint Episcopal church, but I only remember snippets. This was around the time our dog died and this is the first time I can remember questioning the concept of Heaven. My brother and parents told me he had gone to Heaven and that Heaven was up in the sky. I remember looking out the car window and looking up at the clouds and thinking "Why don't they fall down?" Shortly after this one of my grandfathers died. He, too, went to Heaven. But not before they put his body out where people could look at it. This freaked me out and still does to this day.

Fast forward a few years and I got to attend the kind of church my mom went to as a child...Pentecostal! It scared the piss out of me! When they laid hands on my mom and she fell backward I thought they hurt her and started to cry. I think this was at night and I fell asleep at some point only to be awoken by the words "AND THE DEVIL!" screamed by the pastor. It gave the churchgoers a little comic relief to see me jump.

But other than seeing snippets of the 700 Club at my grandparent's, that was about the extent of my church attendance as a young child. I would be 12 before I went back...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Doubting Even Thomas

The story of Thomas the Apostle is an example of a person who needs empirical evidence to believe something...and I doubt even his story. This is an account of how I went from a willing believer to a Doubting Thomas.