atheism

07
Mar

Atheism Super Bowl Commercial

True confessions time . . . I didn't watch the Super Bowl.

I don't actually like football and I've never been able to figure out what people find interesting about it. Every year though, there's this holy day called Super Bowl Sunday where, as near as I can figure it out, is where the really cool commercials get aired and, if you're lucky, there is one incredibly hot and super sexy half time show. The following is purportedly a Super Bowl ad, though I can't imagine who would have paid for it. I don't even know if it actually aired or if it was one of the many "non-Super Bowl" Super Bowl commercials dotting the landscape of YouTube. Nevertheless, I share it with you now. 

EDIT : It was pointed out to me that this is a remix of a religious commercial, in this case done by the Church of Scientology. Too bad it wasn't the real thing. 

If you saw it and it was real, let me know. Otherwise, I must go on dreaming that some day, somebody will be willing to spend money for this kind of advertising. 

13
Aug

Spiritual Experience for the Non-Religious

As an atheist, I am occasionally presented with the question of spirituality. Many will point out that spirituality is the hallmark of the religious experience. It follows then, that if I can claim to have experienced what might be called a spiritual experience, then I must allow for religion. Conversely, if someone is a non-believer, the spiritual experience must be alien to them; something they can't possibly understand. 

Not so. The spiritual experience is part of being human and one can feel it without the slightest nod to a god or that god's peculiar collection of rules and rituals. Awe and wonder are not shut out to me because I choose to eat whatever the heck I damn well please on Friday. Transcendent joy isn't locked away where I can never feel it because I choose to play with my children on Sunday mornings rather than taking them to a shaman who will do his best to close off their minds and chain them with the fear of a non-existent deity. 

I have had, and continue to have, real and powerful spiritual experiences. These include, in no particular order, and at various times in my life :

  • holding my wife in my arms
  • seeing my children being born
  • hearing my oldest son (who has autism) say something new, without prompting
  • figuring out a complex problem I have been working on
  • reading a really great book
  • looking out into a clear, starlit night
  • sex (one of the most powerful spiritual experiences a human being can have)
  • having someone do something kind for me, without my asking
  • standing on the edge of the Grand Canyon
  • seeing protozoa through my microscope
  • seeing the Rocky Mountains looming high above me as we drive ever closer
  • my first solo flight in an airplane
  • a loving kiss
  • seeing the impact marks from comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 in my backyard telescope
  • coming to grasp with some new learning (science books do this for me)
  • standing in front of the large tank at Marineland and watching the Orca swim by, inches away
  • catching the wispy ring of the Crab Nebula in my telescope
  • holding a copy of my first book, fresh from the box
  • getting hugs from my kids with an "I love you" thrown in for good measure

Without reservation or exaggeration, I can honestly say that some of these moments are spiritual, even transcendent.

All those things . . . love, friendship, the appreciation of nature, the feeling of being carried away by music, the exploration of the self . . . none of these things require religion. Nor do they require a holy book of any kind. The Bible, the Qur'an, or the Talmud are no better moral guides, nor divinely inspired, than "Horton Hears A Who" or "Harold and the Purple Crayon". And in terms of enriching the human experience, I'd go with Horton and Harold.

Religion and its associated holy books are the trappings. If anything, they take away from the spiritual experience by providing you with a ready-made set of guidelines and rules that you must follow. They chain your mind and restrict your spiritual growth by teaching that the only path to true spirituality is through its complex maze of justification and fear. 

I'll close this post by suggesting that the path to spritituality and personal growth actually opens up when you reject God.

Incidentally, in a recent post I responded to a related argument where a couple of friends argued that since I believed in love, I must (obviously) believe in God. You can read my reply to that by clicking here.

08
Jun

Attacking Your Religion : An Open Letter

I write about a great many things, from Linux and open source software, to technology in general, to science fiction, to current events, to religion, and anything else that takes my fancy. Some of what I post is educational and some of it is fluff. For the most part, people seem to like what I write and given that it's hard to get really riled about a tutorial on a Linux appliation, I get very few angry or negative comments. Unless I talk about religion. Suddenly the landscape changes and I get accused of all sorts of strange things. The most common question is something along the lines of "Why are you doing this? Why are you attacking people's faith?" Recently, I received this message from a friend on Facebook.

I find it interesting that you feel you need to put so much energy into insulting Christians and the bible. I wonder why you think it is ok to do so? I guess it would be okay to publicly insult various races, homosexuals, anyone who doesn't think like you. It makes me sad.

The email was private and, as such, I am not disclosing who wrote it, but since the question comes up often enough, this post is an attempt to answer that question without going over the same ground time and again with every person who asks me the same question. Read on and feel free to comment.

I wouldn't ordinarily open a private conversation on this topic since I make my views public and, as such, stand behind them. I'm not looking to offend you specifically, even if I am critical of things you personally believe in. I take no offense if people challenge the things I believe in and I readily welcome and accept that I am wrong when new facts present themselves. That’s not saying that I might not be sad or temporarily upset to discover I was wrong, but I’d rather have the facts than continue working under false assumptions.

Under no circumstances would I attack a person on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. If you follow what I write, you’ll discover that I am a vocal advocate of gay and lesbian rights as well as a staunch defender of gender equality. I routinely champion these causes and I challenge and confront those who would take these rights away or marginalize them. In suggesting that I might “think it is okay to do so”, you’re either reacting emotionally or you don’t know me at all, nor do you take the time to read what I write. In short you are being unfair. As for people who don't think like me, I welcome them and their ideas; I love a good discussion and having everyone agree with everything I think and say would be tiresome to say the least. 

Religion, on the other hand, is fair game. It is no different than politics and has no right to special treatment, especially since more harm is ever done in the name of religion than good.

When I write about religion, I don’t do it to be mean-spirited. You’re a believer. I get that. I also understand that you hold those beliefs dear. You probably believe that your religion and its teachings make the world a better place; that it makes your own life richer. I get that too.

Unlike you however, I believe religion (and superstition in all its guises) is dangerous to our world and everyone in it. If the god you believe in serves you, then so be it. But that won't change the fact that I see religion not as a force for good, but a tool for evil and history, both long past and recent, proves me right time and again. There is precious little evidence for a god and even if there is (a huge if), it's obvious he/she/it doesn't care about us. We are children of the universe. Why do we need to worship something? Why not simply do our best to be excellent to each other.

Religion poisons everything,” Christopher Hitchens wrote. “As well as a menace to civilization, it has become a threat to human survival.

That’s why I speak out about religion and the evils done in its name, in its god’s name. Because people should speak out when they see injustice being committed; when they see their fellow human beings being harmed, or lied to, or enslaved, or tortured, or any of the countless evil thing done in the name of god. Good people have to stand up to and fight against evil. And that’s what I am doing. If you actually read what I write, or the stories I post, it’s almost always in reaction to someone having done something evil in the name of god. Like that minister who suggest we put gays and lesbians inside electrical fences until ‘their kind’ dies out. Or the pastor who sermon asked that the government hunt down and kill homosexuals because the bible says we should do that in Leviticus. What is wrong with exposing these people? Should we ignore them and let them have their way only because they’re Christians? Is it okay to hate if you hate in the name of god? Should we let these people do and say as they please, growing their flocks and poisoning their minds? Or do you look the other way and remain silent because you fear it will make you or your religion look bad? Are you willing to overlook all of the evil things in the bible because it's scripture?

Is that really what you believe?

If you see evil being committed in the name of religion, don't you, as a believer, have a responsibility (as I feel I do) to speak out against those injustices?

Reality, reason, and science, all trump faith. While I won't deny that faith can help the occasional individual (in ways I don't feel), faith does nothing for the world at large. People are important. Life is important. This world is important. Arguing over what Jesus or Mohammed or Buddha really meant is an exercise in futility. If this holy book or that holy book isn't 100% right, then all of it is up for grabs. It either is the inspired word of god, or it isn't. If you aren't comfortable with that logic, I'm sorry.

The Bible, the Quran, the Talmud, and a host of other holy books are responsible for more pain and horror than any human being should ever be able to defend. People who continue to hold up these tomes as guides for living or for supporting a specific ideology are not helping to further our species. Just as you feel the need to defend your faith, I feel the need to defend human life. The very idea that some father figure in the sky will reward us when we die is anathema to our future. Live this life as though it is precious, as though it's the only life you, your family, or your friends will ever have. Because I'm probably right. As the old saying goes, "life is not a dress rehearsal".

I trust in my feeling that you are a good person. In that respect, you could say I have faith. Nevertheless, if you are the good person I believe you to be, it's not because of your faith. It's because of who you are. And good people will continue to be good people regardless of what their religions or faiths teach them. Faith just gets in the way.

Anyhow, I could go on but I'll leave further comments for future posts. I speak out against religion because I believe it must be done. It was never about you.

16
May

Christians on the Edge of Atheism

A great many Christians are sailing awfully close to the edge of atheism in trying to justify those things in the Bible that are distateful to them. Say what you want about the moral lessons therein and the Word of God, there's a lot of truly hateful things in the Bible as well. Anyone who truly believes that every word of that book is the absolute Truth, direct from God himself, is a potentially dangerous person and I sincerely hope somebody is keeping a close eye on their actions. The Bible, after all, condones slavery, rape, and murder in countless passages. Those who truly believe that when God says "kill", you shoudl kill, are dangerous people.

Most Christians I know, however, are basically hypocrites, something I'm deeply thankful for. They waffle on the whole Bible being a perfect thing, picking and choosing the bits they like as though they were at a Chinese buffet, unsure of what everything is but indulging in the things they're comfortable with, like the deep fried chicken balls and the egg rolls. They ignore the vast majority of the Bible and instead focus on Jesus, the God made man. He's the hero of the story, after all, and the other 85% or so of the Bible can pretty much be ignored if you just focus on Jesus. Right?

If God is indeed God and Jesus an incarnation thereof, then pretty much every shred of evidence of his existence comes from the Bible. If you do not choose to believe in what the Bible says, or you elect to pick and choose the bits that matter to you, then you might, deep down inside, really be an atheist or, minimally an agnostic. No Bible pretty much adds up to no Jesus.

One Christian friend of mine argued that Chist didn't actually die on the cross. He points to a book called, "How Jesus Became Christian". The book challenges the modern Christian church on its not being Christian at all but a church of the apostle Paul. It lays a lot of the problems with Cristianity at Paul's feet, blaming him for taking things literally or misinterpreting the text. "Get back to the teachings of Jesus and the church is better off," my friend argued. He told me that Chist did not die on the cross, but rather endured great pain and pulled through; after attending a seminar called "A Coroner at Calvary", where forensic evidence to that effect was presented.

All right, let's talk about that one, mostly because it's pretty important in the Christian canon. If Christ did not die on the cross, then there is no miracle of the resurrection and he wasn't God. If he was merely (and I mean no disrespect by the word 'merely' here) a great teacher and healer, then he was a man. He could be as great as you want him to be, but he is still a man and, therefore, not somebody you worship. 

And, to push this to the breaking point, if we accept the 'teachings of Jesus' as the basis for a religion, then we also accept the evil he did and the evil he condoned as somehow being good. If I accept that he lived as the Bible states, then Jesus was far from perfect. He may not have been a bad guy, all in all -- he may have been a great guy -- but he was just a guy.

There have been plenty of great men and women on par with, and surpassing, Jesus Christ. Some, I'm sure, have worshippers. They, however, don't get the credit, or the social acceptance, that the borderline believers of Christ do. In short, most people do not worship somebody for being 'just a guy', no matter how wonderful a guy (or gal) they were. So what about you, my nominally Christian friends. Do you? How much of your holy book, of your religion, are you willing to turn a blind eye to before you accept that maybe, just maybe, you might not be as much a Christian as you think?

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