Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Posts Tagged ‘Religion

Is Atheism a Religion Revisited?

with 6 comments

religious-right

Many people of faith make the claim that atheism is a religion. Ask any atheist if this is true and the answer will be a resounding no. For the longest time I thought the comparison was absurd, as evidenced by my repeated quote: “Atheism is a religion the same way not collecting stamps is a hobby.” Alas, I am cursed with a tendency to think about things, especially a tendency to think about things from different perspectives, and as a result, I have concluded that the “atheism is a religion” argument is not entirely without merit. Here then, in no particular order, are some reasons why. (Note that I am not claiming that atheism and religion are identical, just that the theistic argument has some merit.)

The fact that atheists generally get annoyed to angry at the comparison is the first indication. Even worse, most of them don’t even want to discuss the issue, and dismiss it out of hand with truisms like my quote in the preceding paragraph. Um, getting angry at an accusation and responding to it irrationally and emotionally is a hallmark of religion, not a neutral secular belief. Just in general I’ve noticed that people get angriest when an accusation contains an element of truth, atheists are just as capable of denial as anyone else. And I think that this is an area where many atheist exhibit strong indications of denial.

Moving right along, atheists have formed organizations to both defend and promote their beliefs. Granted lots of different organizations do such, but the beliefs of atheists tend to revolve around religion to a large degree. They have meetings, they form groups, they often tend to associate with other atheists. And a lot of them have issues with people who aren’t atheists. Frankly I’ve had atheist trolls berate me for not being atheist enough. Again, I certainly see common ground here between atheism and religion.

Then there’s the definition. If there were no religious people, there would be no atheists. Granted some will say that everyone would be an atheist then. Still, the word atheist wouldn’t exist, and there would be no people that called themselves atheists. It’s certainly safe to say that atheism as we know it wouldn’t exist without religion. That to me indicates, again,  that atheism has some things in common with religion.

It should also be pointed out that atheists are not above using false, malicious, or misleading arguments in their attacks on religion.  Granted this is human nature, hell, I sometimes I think there must be a straw man argument gene, right next to the slippery slope argument gene, they seems so hard wired into some people. It’s hard for me not to notice when both sides of a debate are stooping to irrational lows. And boy, want to make an atheist mad, point this out when they post such on Facebook.

Speaking of anger and emotional responses, there is one final point in this argument that isn’t debatable. If one asks atheists, American atheists at least, which is the “worst” religion, the vast overwhelming majority of them will answer that it is Islam. Let’s think about that. Atheists in a Christian country, a religion that demonizes Islam and has been waging war on it more or less continuously since the seventh century … mostly agree that Islam is the worst religion. Since Islam and Christianity are essentially the same religion, and both have a history drenched in blood, it’s impossible for me to not notice the similarity between Islam hating Christians and Islam hating atheists.

I am saying is that American atheists have internalized some core Christian values and thought forms, and not the pretty ones. It makes it hard for me to understand how they can claim they are in no way religious. If one share’s a religion’s prejudices, there is common ground. Granted, I’m not an atheist, so I can’t speak for them. The only point I am trying to make in all this is that the religious contention that “atheism is a religion” is at least debatable. From some perspectives, there are a lot of similarities between atheism and religion. Whether atheists like it or not.

PS. After I published this I discovered I had written a previous post on “Is atheism a religion?” I knew this would happen sooner or later. :)

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, etc. It’s all over Facebook so I have no clue who the author is. Granted it’s not exactly germane to the topic, but close enough. It’s also funny, since it’s true. The American Christians agitating for prayer in school aren’t doing so out of some concern for freedom of religion, they are doing so because they want to promote Christianity among America’s youth. They are also off the mark since the Supreme Court not only didn’t prohibit prayer in school, they specifically said they weren’t prohibiting prayer in school. They prohibited organized religious services in school, big difference.)

Written by unitedcats

December 13, 2012 at 7:48 am

You’ve Got to be Joking

with 11 comments

What I have really been struggling with the past few weeks is the concept that there are tens of millions of Americans who actually believe that the Earth is only a few thousand years old, and the events described in the Old Testament really happened. Granted, maybe I’m a bit old to be grasping this, but until recently I have more or less fooled myself into believing that only a few of these people actually believed, and that most of them were more or less conforming for the sake of fitting in. I grew up in a religious household, don’t get me wrong, but it was a liberal modern denomination, Episcopalian to be exact. We said grace before dinner, we went to church sometimes, Sunday School on occasion … but no one ever expressed the idea that the events in the Old Testament were literally true. Heck, I remember drawing dinosaurs as part of a Sunday School lesson, liberal Christians have no problem with science and its understanding of the Earth and the Universe.

Tens of millions of Americans apparently do have a problem with the scientific view of the Earth and the Universe, and instead believe that a supernatural being created it all a few thousand years ago. This is the logical equivalent of believing that the Earth is flat. These people aren’t mentally ill, they for the most part had at least some scientific education in the school system, and for all practical purposes are functioning members of society. Granted I haven’t met too many of them,  but the ones I have met seemed like nice normal folks to me.

And even more interesting, most of the people who don’t believe aren’t all too upset by it. Imagine if tomorrow morning 50 million Americans woke up and insisted that a nine foot tall invisible rabbit was following them around. Most people would be pretty shocked, and would think there was something wrong with these people. Especially if they insisted that this rabbit had impregnated a virgin, who grew up, was killed, and was then brought back from the dead by the very same rabbit. These people would be rounded up and locked away for their own good.

Instead, they are increasingly running the show. Now maybe the people at the top are simply using the Christ myth to manipulate people, but that is still disturbing on so many levels. I guess people encouraging people to believe in nonsense is part and parcel of human culture, but it’s still an ugly sight. Especially when all of those who are so deceived don’t have much trouble recognizing that other people’s religious beliefs are absurdities. It’s depressing and I’m depressed about it. How much future can the human race have when its individual members are easily persuaded to believe in dogshit nonsense? And the idea that Jesus resurrected from the dead, the Earth is only a few thousand yeas old, or there was a global flood (for starters,) … are dogshit nonsense. Turtles, turtles all the way down makes as much sense.

It kinda throws a monkey wrench in the idea of intelligent design too. What kind of God would design people who can easily be persuaded to believe in crap? Which leads me to think that if there is a God, a great designer who set this all in motion with the Big Bang, he must be a little disappointed with these folks. By not appreciating the amazing universe that God created, a universe where the act of creation never ended, and new stars, galaxies, and forms of life are created continuously … aren’t the Evangelists the ones who are denying God? By their own logic, by worshipping a Bronze Age myth put to parchment, aren’t they the ones worshipping a golden calf? The Bible is no more the word of God than a Spiderman comic. Claiming that it was divinely inspired is no different than claiming Stan Lee was divinely inspired. Heck, I could claim God inspired me to write this blog.

On the other hand, this is giving me at least some insight into how people believe other silly things. That however is a topic for another blog post. Have a great week everyone, it’s good to be back.

(The above image came from a site offering free religious imagery. It’s Jesus rising into heaven. Well, white Jesus. Another mythical being. If there was a real Jesus, he wasn’t what most people would call white. And he no doubt suffered from an early case of Jerusalem Syndrome.)

Written by unitedcats

June 12, 2012 at 11:07 am

Through Thick and Thin: This is not a Difficult Concept

with 2 comments

Image brought to Doug’s Darkworld inspired by the Oklahoma Senate, which just passed a bill claiming that a fertilized egg is a human being. We live in an interesting age, but when one tries to enforce a bronze age morality on a  21st century nation, the going really gets weird. Bottom line: It’s OK for people to have sex for reasons other than procreation. Really, try it some time, you’ll be surprised. As soon as we get that settled, the sooner we can go about sensible ways of making sure that every child is a wanted child, but sadly the evangelicals are never going to give up on sex. It’s how cults control people. It would be like a government giving up taxation, aint gonna happen.

Whitney Houston died. Whitney who? This  story got vastly more press than it deserved, but that’s the corporate fawning media at work, real news get short shrift, dead celebrities get top billing. Yes, the mainstream media is now little different that  the celebrity magazines by the checkout counter at Safeway. The state of New Jersey is even going to fly its flags at half mast for Whitney, so yes, it can always get weirder. Some aren’t exactly thrilled by this, who can blame them?

The UN has condemned the Syrian government and asked them to step down. Yes, an organization touted as being a way for states to avoid conflict with each other is now simply the enforcer of western hegemony, the US and its allies get to decide what a legitimate government is. The usual burblings about it being about human rights, like the bloody sores that are Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya were. Only tyranny and discord can be imposed on a country from outside, freedom can only be had when a people chose to be free … which of course is what the west is so freaking terrified about in the Middle East. They aren’t afraid of terrorism, that’s to distract the rubes. The real fear is powerful sovereign governments running their countries in their own best interests. Can’t have that, it makes it almost impossible to exploit them for their resources.

Speaking of fake scary again, Iran made its heralded nuclear announcement. Which got zero news coverage because they announced that they had installed their first domestically produced fuel rod in a reactor, and that they had made a breakthrough in medical radioisotopes. All under constant western supervision of course, since Iran’s peaceful nuclear program is carefully monitored as per its obligations under the NPT. Iran being a peaceful responsible player isn’t part of the crazy mullahs meme, so I doubt anyone even saw this in the news. No, just the stories about purported amateur Iranian plots to kill Israeli diplomats, stories so fishy one has to hold their nose while reading them.

Greece. What a mess. My current understanding is that the crux of the whole Euro thing, is that everyone borrowed beyond their means on the assumption that the world and national economies would continue to grow forever and outpace the debt. Yes, basically every nation in the west acted like a crack head with a  credit card, and now the bills are coming due. All in collusion with the bankers of course. If people really understood that,  capitols would burn. So instead a fall guy has been found, Greece. If the bankers can just get the population of one county to agree to be serfs to pay off the bankers debt, maybe others will follow. I don’t think it’s gonna work, people may be sheep, but they are going to notice if serfdom is brought back.

One would hope so at least. Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s all over the Internet, I have no idea who to attribute it to. Redefining reality to promote social control, that’s religion in a nutshell.)

Doug’s Angryworld

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, The Fall of the Rebel Angels

Part of the reason my blogging has slowed down recently is that so much of what is going on today makes me mad. So I decided to vent about it, maybe it will be cathartic, maybe it will just make me madder. In no particular order, and in no way comprehensive, here are ten things I spend my time seething about. Be warned, I may use some harsh language as the situation warrants.

1. The rich are ass raping us all, and tens of millions of Americans are clamouring for more. The rich have been getting richer in the USA since the 1970s, while the middle class has slowly and steadily lost ground. This is not debatable. They’ve moved our factories to foreign lands, slashed their taxes, taken over our government and mainstream media, and stolen trillions from the public till. And most Americans are so brain-washed and propagandized that they blame immigrants, liberals, conservatives, atheists, shriners, whatever. Anyone but the people who have actually gotten us into this mess.

2. The debt, an extension of number one. The Federal government  has been running in the red a record breaking 33 months now. State and local governments are no better. How in the name of God did the richest country the world has ever seen run up debts so insane that there is no conceivable way to ever pay them off? The infinite greed of the rich and the apparently infinite stupidity of the great unwashed masses is my guess.

3. The Pentagon. There was a reason the founding fathers were adamantly opposed to a standing army. Armies get involved in politics, and then get the country involved in wars. All of which costs the country blood and money. And it just keeps getting worse, while tens of millions of Americans regurgitate the crap that our legions overseas are fighting to “defend our freedoms.” No, they are fighting and dying to make the rich richer and create endless new enemies for the USA. Frankly the US army needs to be disbanded it’s so out of control.

4. The historic last flight of the space shuttle. Good riddance. The space shuttle was one of the biggest boondoggles in history, it should never have been built in the first place, and it most certainly should have been canned after the first one blew up. Yet Americans are celebrating the lives lost and the billions wasted on this flying cash cow.

5. Iran is going to have nukes soon! Yes, another right wing think tank claims that Iran is going to be building nukes soon! Yes, the exact same claim that has been made by Israeli and American war mongers since the 1980s! Yes, for nearly thirty years Iran has been “just about to” build nuclear weapons! Meanwhile Israel and the USA have massively increased their war spending, including the creation of an Israeli nuclear arsenal. The USA spends more money on air conditioning for its troops in Iraq and Afghanistan than the entire Iranian military budget, yet we are supposed to quail in our boots because Iran might someday acquire a few fifties era nukes?

6. Casey Anderson. A woman was acquitted of a terrible crime in a fair trial … and millions of Americans are braying for her blood. Literally. How does this make them any different than stone throwing Muslims? It doesn’t.

7. Health Care. France spends 11% of its GNP on health care, and provides everyone in France with cradle to grave health care of the highest quality. The USA spends 16% of its GNP on health care and provides its citizens with the worst health care in the industrialized world. Anyone who isn’t mad about this is a fool.

8. Fucking the globe. From climate change to deforestation to over-fishing humans are making widespread and unprecedented changes to the surface of our fine planet. Humans are now the greatest force for change operating on the surface of the Earth in numerous realms, in most cases either ignorant of what the end result will be, or worse, deliberately proceeding even though our best minds say the end result will be catastrophic. Collectively we are no smarter than ants.

9. Religious nuts. Even the Romans understood: “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.” – Seneca the Younger (4 B.C. – 65 A.D.) And here we are two thousand years later blowing each other up, destroying the planet, and breeding like rabbits because people think it’s a great idea to do stuff because of what someone’s imaginary friend said. Jesus wept.

10. We’re all little better than monkeys. Yes, science has now shown that our brains are hard wired to be stupid. When most people are confronted with logical and scientific evidence that refutes some stupid idea they have, it reinforces their beliefs! This wouldn’t be such problem if our leaders weren’t all too eager to promote dumb fuck ideas because it makes them richer and more powerful.

In conclusion, speaking globally, this isn’t going to end well. Speaking locally, despite a missing lime and a recalcitrant pull tab, it’s going quite well and will end up nicely. And when I wake up, maybe the last 31 years will have all been a nightmare. A man can dream.

(The above image is of a painting made in 1562, so it’s currently Public Domain under US copyright law. I expect that to change soon as corporations twist the law to their own purposes. It’s titled “The Fall of the Rebel Angels” by Pieter Brueghal the Elder. I believe it’s self evident why I thought this was an appropriate image for this post.)

Do you believe in an afterlife?

with 2 comments

“OK, I’m an atheist, and I’m offended by this. It’s a masterful compendium  of logical fallacies, and little more than an ad hominem attack on people who believe in an afterlife. This is why I am distancing myself from mainstream atheism, there are plenty of reasonable avenues to attack fundies of all stripes, but insulting everyone who believes in an afterlife strikes me as being a really counterproductive approach.”

I posted the image and comment above on Facebook last night, and boy, the fellow who originally posted it gave me endless grief. Apparently I am a “weak atheist” because I don’t countenance insulting everyone who believes in an afterlife. And between his various insults and straw man arguments, he never  addressed my main point, which is that the logic in the illustration is badly flawed. It starts off with “The only reason people believe in an afterlife … ” Um, saying that there is only one reason that people believe in an afterlife is a pretty sweeping declaration of fact, unless it’s supported by data, saying it doesn’t make it true. And while I suppose a case can be made that there is a narcissistic component to believing in an afterlife, that doesn’t mean that people who believe such are necessarily narcissists. It’s like saying someone who likes to watch football or hockey is a sadist.

I don’t believe in an afterlife, but I don’t care what other people believe as long as they don’t scare the horses. People believe all sorts of silly things, best to judge them (if one is going to judge them at all) by how they live their lives, not by their beliefs. In fact, it’s fundamentalists who judge people by what they believe, company I do not care to join. And now I know, there are fundamentalist atheists as well, quel surprise. Company I also do not care to join. I like having friends all or the spectrum, that’s both how I know they are my friends, and it means I get feedback from all perspectives.

The reason I don’t believe in an afterlife is very simple. There’s no evidence for an afterlife and no logical or scientific reason to believe there should be one. And there not only are no good scientific cases of people in the afterlife contacting the living, even the anecdotal cases are singularly unconvincing. If there is an afterlife, it apparently is one where people simply have no way to contact the living. In other words, the evidence for an afterlife is the same as the evidence for God, there isn’t any. Although to be fair, the two are unrelated, even if they are commonly conflated by some people.

I am open minded enough that if anyone knows of any good stories about contact with someone in the afterlife, I’d love to hear them. Heck, if I come across anything interesting, I’ll blog about it.

(The above image is posted all over Facebook, so it’s either public domain or no one cares. And since I don’t have anything to say about it I haven’t already said, a joke: Three buddies die in a car and go to heaven for an orientation. They are all asked, “When you are in your casket and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first guy says, “I would like to hear them say that I was a great doctor of my time, and a great family man.” The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher which made a huge difference in our children of tomorrow.” The last guy replies, “I would like to hear them say, ‘Look, he’s moving!!!!!’”)

Written by unitedcats

July 6, 2011 at 2:20 pm

God sent an angel to me, he said that unless everyone in America sends me 1$ in the next month, the End Times will be permanently postponed

with 4 comments

The Rapture

Heck, if even one person in a thousand comes though, I’ll still clear over $300K. Beats working for a living, that’s for sure. Yes, unless the gentle reader has been in a  coma, the rapture is scheduled for this Saturday. I’ve had people actually tell me that I would make a great cult leader. I … guess … that’s a compliment. Sadly I couldn’t take advantage of ignorant weak-willed people for my own personal aggrandizement. If that’s a personal failing, I can live with it.

So this Saturday I am having a Rapture BBQ. I hope many of my friends and neighbours show up. My balcony has a nice view of Oakland, where many of the current Rapture Cult reside. So I figure we will have a great view of the chosen ascending into heaven. And if some of the BBQ participants get chosen, well, might as well go to heaven on a full stomach.

So am I disrespecting people of faith with this post and this BBQ? No, I’m disrespecting doomsday cults. And they deserve disrespect. Doomsday cults promote ignorance, spread fear, and ruin lives. They are simply cons in the guise of a religion sucking money from rubes. Sure, they don’t all end up like Jim Jone’s cult did, but some do. And even if Jim Jone’s cult hadn’t committed mass suicide, it still ruined numerous lives.

And just to make myself perfectly clear, nothing is going to happen this Saturday. Jesus is dead, he’s not coming back, the rapture is superstitious nonsense. I’ve talked to people who should know better who claimed that “maybe” something will happen, or that they were keeping an “open mind” about it. Frankly I blame the media and our educational system for this sort of wishy-washy intellectual claptrap attitude. When someone is spewing lies that shouldn’t fool a twelve year old to make themselves rich, there’s no need to be open minded about it. People promoting doomsday crap are liars and charlatans, people who fall for them are fools.

The only thing positive about this non-event is that it has given atheists a higher profile … and is an excuse for a lot of parties. This life is all we get folks, make the best of it.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit, t’s central to illustrating the post, and I’m linking too and plugging their fine web site: Post Rapture Pet Care. Yes, pets apparently aren’t going to be raptured.)

Written by unitedcats

May 21, 2011 at 5:53 am

Is Atheism a Religion?

with 19 comments

There were two monks walking along a deserted country track. They belonged to an order where they had taken vows to have no contact with women whatsoever. They came a place where they had to ford a river, it was spring and the river was high and wide and fast. There was an elderly woman there, who obviously wanted to cross the river, and obviously could not do so. One of the monks took her on his back, carried her across the river, and set her down. The two monks then continued on their trek. Some miles later the second monk, obviously upset,  said to the first: “I’ve known you for decades, you’ve never broken your vows. I don’t understand it, how could you deliberately break your vows like that by carrying a woman on your back?” The first monk said: “I left her on the far side of the river.  Are you still carrying her?”

So I was on an atheist discussion board today, and an atheist had a question. They said that an old and dear friend, a friend who knew they were an atheist, had asked them to pray for their dying father who had but months to live. The atheist wanted to know what other atheists would do in this situation. Gentle reader, if you were an atheist, how would you handle a request such as this?

To my surprize, a number of atheists said that under no circumstances would they do so. I thought this was fascinating. If a person is truly an atheist, then a prayer is simply a string of words, and has no inherent significance. Yet some claimed that this was a superstitious ritual, and they simply could not comply. In other words, complying with their atheistic beliefs was more important than comforting an old friend. I don’t understand how this is any different that what atheists accuse theists of doing, following ritual and dogma instead of using compassion to guide their actions. In fact if an atheist is adamant about refusing to do anything theistic, be it prayer or using the Lord’s name or whatever, I would submit that they are just as superstitious as anyone.

Until I came across this discussion thread I maintained that atheism wasn’t a religion. And in the conventional sense, it isn’t. At least in the sense that their is no church of atheism or book of atheism or some head atheist in a  funny hat interpreting atheism for the rest of the atheists. However, if there is even one atheist who insists that acting like an atheist trumps all other considerations,  a person for whom acting like an atheist is what it means to be an atheist, then I have to admit that for some people, atheism is indeed a religion. Or at the very least a superstitious belief, but what is religion except groups of people with shared superstitious beliefs.

Speaking for myself, of course I would pray for a friend’s father in a  situation like that. In fact there’s all sorts of religious rituals I might participate in if loved ones asked me too. As long as a loved one’s beliefs cause no harm, it would be disrespectful of me not to. Politeness is also a meaningless ritual, yet most people do understand that it’s an important part of what makes society function. While I don’t believe in Jesus and his imaginary friend, nor any of the alternate imaginary friends, there is no harm and much good to be had by respecting the beliefs of my loved one who do. Compassion and caring come from the heart, not from following arbitrary rules.

Have a great weekend everyone.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the image. I got it from this fine web site, credit and copyright Ajay Jain. I first heard the zen story of the two monks in my Altered States of Consciousness class taught by the redoubtable Professor Charles Tart. I knew it would come in handy some day.)

Written by unitedcats

May 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm

The Power of Prayer

with 11 comments

“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

Various random thoughts on God, atheism, and related topics. What can I say, I gave up my agnostic ways a few weeks back, and have been mentally exploring some of the issues surrounding God, prayer, atheism, religion, etc. since then. It’s kind of a mixed bag, but there are a number of points I wanted to mention and none of them is really enough for a complete blog post. OK, it’s a very mixed bag. Or can of worms. Or plate-o-shrimp. I’ll stop now.

Point one, prayer. I don’t have a problem with people praying for me or anyone, “I’ll pray for you.” is the equivalent of “I care about you and hope things work out for you.” If someone is offended by that, they need to lighten up. However, I noticed recently that when someone says “I’ll pray for you” to an atheist merely because the atheist doesn’t believe in any Gods, it sounds kinda patronizing and condescending. And it kinda is, because the implication is that there’s something “wrong” with the atheist. No, there’s nothing wrong with using the brain God (supposedly) gave us to live our lives according to reason and compassion.

Granted prayer is an irrational belief, or more accurately, believing that there is some supernatural being somewhere who is listening to prayers and granting some of them is an irrational belief. No, there have been no studies showing that prayer works. There have been biased “studies” by people trying to prove prayer works, those are no more science than creationism is science. Not to mention that as I type right now innocent children are dying the world over for want of a few dollars of food or medicine … despite the fervent prayers of their parents and loved ones. Still, I suppose there’s nothing wrong with believing in the power of prayer, as long as one makes rational decisions otherwise and doesn’t rely on prayer to cure their sick child.

Speaking of prayer, something that has always annoyed me is how some people claim  that the Supreme Court banished prayer from schools in the USA.  They did nothing of the kind. For starters, if a person is conscious they can silently pray anytime anywhere, so it’s beyond the Supreme Court’s power to ban prayer in school or anywhere else. However, the Supreme Court didn’t ban prayer, what the Supreme Court did was ban organized prayer from school. That’s becasue organized prayer is a religious service, and religious services have no place in public schools. Don’t like it? Send your kid to a private religious school, they’ll be glad to have him or her. The taxpayer pays for public school, not for religious services.

And worse than annoying is how the anti-science religious crowd is still trying to get religious instruction in public schools: The Scopes Strategy: Creationists Try New Tactics to Promote Anti-Evolutionary Teaching in Public Schools. Sigh, at the risk of repeating myself: You want your kids to learn your religion’s myths and fables, send em to Sunday School. Evolution is about as scientifically controversial as the idea that the Earth revolves around the Sun, just the fact that Creationists try to dress their fables up in scientific garb shows that they have already lost the high ground. If God exists, he used evolution and the Big Bang to create us, deal with it.

Lastly, to be fair, one thing a lot of atheists do that annoys me is give religion too much credit. I’ve again and again seen atheists claim that 9/11 was “caused by religion.” No, it wasn’t, 9/11 was blowback from American foreign policy in the Middle East. Osama Bin Laden took up arms against the USA because of US violation of Saudi soil, US support for dictators in the Middle East, and America’s collaboration and support for Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Yes, Osama is a religious man (in as much as any mass murderer can be considered a religious man,) and his supporters are motivated by religion, but their cause is secular. Which is why the Bush administration went bananas blaming Islam and the whole “they hate us for our freedoms” thing. I mean, wouldn’t want the American public to know that American foreign policy was about enriching the rich and who cares how many people it screws over and inspires to take up arms against us, right?

That however is a topic for another blog, as wikileaks has just revealed  to the world how much the US is screwing them over. And if they did hate us for our freedoms, why are they taking to the streets by the million us to get more freedom? In fact if they hated us for our freedoms, why, didn’t we install and arm the dictators who were responsible for taking away their freedoms? Anywise, my point is that when an atheist blithely says “9/11 was caused by religion” they are simply repeating US propaganda, because unless they also state a few other massacres by followers of other religions, they are just repeating the “Muslims are violent” propaganda. The very sort of religious propaganda that religious people have used to inspire their followers to violence throughout history. Old habits die hard.

Finally, just in case there is any confusion in the matter, atheism is not a belief. Neither is science for that matter, and it’s tiresome that some people of faith don’t or won’t understand that. Religion is a belief in some irrational doctrine, atheism is merely the understanding that there is no logical or empirical reason to believe in any supernatural being. I have decided to live my life guided by reason and compassion, not the dictates of Bronze Age mystics.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is found all over the web. I don’t know who to attribute it to, but will gladly do so if so informed. I just thought it was funny and, well, accurate. If this post generates any interesting comments, there will be follow up posts. If not, well, back to Libyan street fighters.)

 

 

 

Written by unitedcats

March 6, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Posted in Philosophy, Religion

Tagged with , , ,

What is outside the Universe revisited: “There is no God” is now a scientific fact

with 41 comments

One of the side effects of trying to write thought provoking blog posts is that often they provoke a lot of thoughts, expressed in the form of comments. And unfortunately I often do not or cannot take the time to address them all properly. Hell, I could write a book on my responses to the comments to the Dyatlov Pass Incident alone, and if someone offers me a pile of money,  maybe I will. Anyhow, I digress.

So, someone left this comment on my “What is Outside the Universe” post:

“Perhaps our existence is only the thinking of another.
Perhaps our dimensions being time, space, sound, gravity, light or energy, mass and speed or rate of expansion are the only ones the Creator chooses to contemplate. On the other hand,
If you go back to the idea that existing is a reality painted on a canvas that could be a variety of shapes including a sphere in or outside a parabola and flat or undulating surface that meets itself but always our existence is someplace. bigger, smaller but where?
I think that we are in the imagination of the Grand thinker and where is He? or She or It. Are we being crapped on a stump, floating in beer or piss or in a soap bubble. Will we ever be able to see or know?”

Well, um, yes. That’s the whole point I am trying to make. 400 years ago the idea that science could explain and explore the fundamental nature of reality was laughable. 50 years ago the idea that science could understand the nature and origin of the Big Bang was science fiction. Today scientists are using scientific instruments to peer outside our universe and see what is actually going on. And amazingly enough, what they are seeing is similar to what some philosophers have been saying all long. Our entire universe is a tiny fleck of foam on a storm tossed sea that extends infinitely in all directions, a sea that has been storming forever and will be storming forever.

And this sea contains energy such that we can’t comprehend it. Our entire universe was but a tiny speck of this underlying reality, that’s how “dense” the energy is in the underlying reality “outside” our universe. And our universe is one of an infinite number of universes, in the past and it the future. (Although “past” and “future” have very little meaning outside our universe.) I’m having trouble grasping the idea of infinite myself, but it means that for every decision point in my life, there is a universe where I made a different decision. Doesn’t it? And when one looks about at all the decision points in people’s lives, that’s a lot of universes. Infinite is more than a lot though, right?

The point I am making is that our universe doesn’t appear to have been created by God, it appears to have been a natural consequence of events in the underlying reality. A reality so vast and energetic it has created and will create an infinite number of universes. And science is on the verge of proving this. And no God or other supernatural being is needed to explain any of this. I mean, if God exists, he created a reality that has infinite energy and will create all possible universes and has always been here and always will be here. Clever trick, but there’s no longer anything to explain. “Reality contains infinite energy, exists forever, and creates all possibilities” pretty much covers all possible contingencies.

It may sound mean, but claiming a God is required to explain reality and/or the Big Bang is now logically akin to saying God is required to explain the sunrise. Scientists are probing the nature of reality itself and the origin of our universe, the very same way they learned about the Earth orbiting the Sun and everything since, by logical application of the scientific method and using increasingly sophisticated scientific instruments. Some evidence for this and the existence of other universes is illustrated above. Some cosmologists have detected patterns in the CMB radiation that they claim may be “bruises” caused when our universe impacted other “nearby” universes before the Big Bang. This particular line of inquiry may may not pan out, but it’s only one of many ways scientists are now exploring the very fabric of reality.

We are at a historical junction akin to when Galileo showed the Pope that Jupiter has moons. Some people started to understand it then, that’s one of the reasons they called the Renaissance the “Age of Reason.” And we are coming to the inevitable end of the journey Galileo started with his little telescope. Humans invented God to explain things we couldn’t understand. Well, scientists have now shown that there isn’t anything left that requires a supernatural being to explain. I can’t prove there’s no God, but when someone like the esteemed commenter above says “We can never ultimately know whether we are foam in an infinite  stormy sea or bubbles in an infinite glass of beer,” no disrespect intended, but they are talking metaphysics, not cosmology or science.

As far as reality goes, the reality we live in, there is no God. That appears to be a scientific fact now, whether people like it or not.

(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It’s not being used for profit and is central to illustrating the post. Credit and Copyright: Feeny et. al.  And then of course there’s the whole situation where as soon as people came up with a hypothetical supernatural being to explain why the sun shines and the grass grows, some people realized this was a great avenue to manipulate other people, but that’s a topic for another day.)

 

 

Written by unitedcats

January 26, 2011 at 7:57 am

War, Religion, Terrorism, and Other Random Nonsense

with one comment

My last post generated a number of thoughtful comments, so I thought I’d write a follow up post. Not to mention that my life has gotten extremely busy, I’m between Internet connections, and my main computer got an ugly virus. So I won’t have the time or the means to write dedicated posts in the near future. Add it all up and it equals more random posts on various things … in this case several thoughts inspired by the comments people left on the last post.

First,  absolutely agree that the more people are certain they know what is going on in the world, the less they know. Most people couldn’t play a decent game of chess to save their lives, and they are going to tell me they have history and current events all figured out? Chess has 5 types of pieces and very simple rules, the world has millions of different pieces and people make up their own rules. This is why extremists of all ilks bore me, of course they are wrong. If there were simple answers, people and nations would all live in harmony and peace.

We don’t all live in harmony and peace, although times have been getting better in some respects. More on that later. Now, a pet peeve about atheists especially, but a lot of other people as well, including the religious. So so many atheists have cheesed me off by claiming that religion inspires a lot of violence, true … then claim that 9/11 was caused by religion, FAIL. Here in the USA we have been subjected to endlessly repeated propaganda about how the big bad Muslims hate us all because of their religion, but the reality is far more complicated.

Yes, jihadists and extremists like Osama Bin Laden aren’t nice people and they have done some very bad things, and no doubt their faith plays a big role in their motivations … as faith motivates people everywhere of all faiths. Their grievances though, the things that have inspired “Islamic” violence in the Middle East  since 1948 … are purely secular. The situation in Palestine, western support for dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, American actions in Iraq, all inspired and inspire entirely predictable and “rational” violent responses in some quarters.

I’m not justifying violence, I’m pointing out that violence in response to violence is entirely normal. And the USA and Israel have killed a large number of people in the Middle East, killing that goes on today. And as General McChrystal said, every civilian we kill makes the US ten new enemies. Or more scientifically, several studies have shown that Islamic suicide bombers are not motivated by religion or a desire to sleep with virgins in heaven, they tend to be educated people making the ultimate sacrifice to defend their homes and families and way of life. And often they are people who have lost loved ones to an enemy. One of the first suicide bombers in Iraqi history was a women whose husband was killed in the US invasion. She walked up to an American checkpoint and set off some grenades. Made a BIG impression on other Iraqis I might add. Would there be American Christians who might do the same thing if our country was invaded and occupied by a “benevolent” invader? I sure hope so.

Moving right along, I just read this article which makes the claim that major state sponsored killing is down dramatically since the nineteen eighties, IE there are far fewer big wars going on today. It also makes the claim that 9/11 was an extremely unusual event wildly outside the norm for terrorist attacks, true … and that governments murder vastly wildly more people than terrorists, also true, and that in the twentieth  century there have been fewer than twenty terrorist attacks that killed more than 100 people. I don’t believe that for  a moment, unless the author is only talking about terrorist attacks in the west I suppose.  The main point is that governments kill vastly more people than terrorists. And that here in the West, the threat of terrorism is trivial, and people shouldn’t buy into the permanent state of war and fear mongering that the US government in particular seems to be selling.

The article also makes the point that wars are down because outright conquest simply isn’t cost effective these days. And that I agree with, but it’s fodder for another day and anther post.

“Peace is not only better than war, but infinitely more arduous.”
George Bernard Shaw

(The above image, being a faithful reproduction of a work that has long been in the public domain, is claimed as Public Domain under US copyright law. It’s by the sixteenth century Dutch painter Pieter Bruegel, it’s titled: Massacre of the Innocents. It shows Spanish soldiers murdering a Dutch village. In the original painting the animals and packages being tossed about and killed were children, but the first owner found the images too disturbing and had them painted over. The Spanish slaughtered all sorts of Dutch people, and yes, they used religion as an excuse, whole villages would be declared “heretics” and executed. The motivation was the same one all conquerers have though, greed. I don’t think I need to spell out why I chose this image, but just in case some wonder, it’s to show that nothing has really changed much since then, the cycle of war and violence is eternal apparently.)

 

Written by unitedcats

January 6, 2011 at 12:31 pm

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