Sunday, August 22, 2010

Oh no, we can't talk about religion!

I was recently visiting my home country and was at dinner at my brother's house with his wife, our mother and grandmother.  My grandmother told me to pray for something or other (I forget what).  I told her that I don't pray.  She told me that I should, because it gets results, then told my brother's wife that she and other people were praying for a successful birth of their baby (they're expecting).
On the way home in the car, I told my grandmother that I am an atheist and asked her to not tell me to pray anymore.  She said that she already knew I was atheist.  I didn't know for sure if she knew or not.  The conversation escalated a little until I started challenging some of her beliefs.  It was then that both my grandmother and mother told me to stop, and that religion was something that shouldn't be discussed, for fear of making people angry.

What the fuck?!

So it's OK for them to send me to Catholic schools to be indoctrinated into their superstition, it's OK to give me a rosary and Bible, to baptise me, send me to first communion, first reconciliation and confirmation?  It's also OK to tell me to pray and to discuss their religion with others right in front of me, on the very same night of this incident?  But when that little boy is grown up and can think for himself, and wants to challenge it, it's off-limits?  When he gets tired of listening to you talk about it, when he gets tired of being told to follow it, we shouldn't talk about religion in front of others?

I at first thought what they really meant is that religion shouldn't be discussed unless everybody was more-or-less agreed, but then I remembered that they both already knew that I am an atheist.  So what they were really hoping for is that the atheist would keep his mouth shut.  My mother even told me so, asking why I just couldn't have left it alone and not said anything.

I think they're just intellectual cowards, with no argument that could be put forward.  They can only hide in their faith, hoping nobody ever challenges them on it, and also hoping they never have to answer or take responsibility for a failed attempt to indoctrinate a family member.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Comments on gay marriage ruling in California

I've been reading a lot of Christian responses to the gay marriage ruling in California, and have a few points I'd like to make.  For anybody who doesn't know, a judge recently ruled to overturn the ban on same-sex marriage that the voters of California narrowly approved in the 2008 election.  The Christians are screaming about it.  Here are my comments:

1. The US has never been at the leading edge of civil rights.  They were not leaders in getting rid of slavery, not leaders in allowing women to vote, not leaders in eliminating segregation, etc.  They are, once again, not leaders on the gay marriage issue.

2.  American Christians want you to believe that gay marriage will be the downfall of society.  There are several countries where gay marriage has been legal for a while, and nothing bad has happened yet.  They ignore this fact as easily as they ignore scientific facts.

3.  There are those who are arguing that because the people voted 52% in favour of the ban, that it should stand, regardless of what a judge thinks.  I'd say they should be careful of what they say now because the trend is changing rapidly.  What do you think the results of a similar referendum would have been 30 years ago?   Does anybody think that 48% of voters would have voted to allow gay marriage at that time?  I think not.  Young people are more tolerant, and older generations are dying off.  It's only a matter of a little time, maybe as little as 5 years, before the results would swing the other way.  If it's then put to another referendum and gay marriage is legalised, would the Christians then scream that the voice of the people matters the most?  Again, I think not.  Their agenda is not about any kind of democratic ideal, it's about their ancient book.  Also, it's strange that all of the negative TV coverage I've seen makes a really strong point about the 7 million voters who voted for the ban, but not a single one made even a single mention of the 6.4 million people who voted against it.  They want to subtly make ignorant people think that the vote was overwhelming, or that very few people voted against the ban.

4.  A lot of Americans are really bad at civics.  The US is not a democracy, it is a constitutional democratic republic.  They have no idea how their laws or government work.  What are they teaching in American schools?  These people are uneducated.  I'm not American, but even I understand this much better than they do.  You cannot override the US constitution with a simple majority vote of the population.  I've seen a lot of angry people accusing the judge of thinking he's more important than the 7 MILLION people (see point #3) who voted for the ban.  No, the judge doesn't think that.  But he is smarter than them, and does understand more about law than they do.  They were voting on a measure which, in the judge's ruling, was determined to be against the constitution.  It doesn't matter how many people voted against it.  There is a very different process for amending the constitution, and California Proposition 8 was not it.  There will come a time, I predict, when the majority in the US are not Christian, maybe not even religious at all.  If that majority were to vote to ban religion and/or Christianity, you'd better believe the Christians would be crying about their constitutional rights!  Here is a video of a 'conservative' lawyer making a Fox News anchor look dumb.  Notice that the anchor doesn't mention the 6.4 million who voted against the ban, but mentions the 7 million multiple times.  The lawyer does an incredibly good job here, very intelligent, very articulate.  But that doesn't excuse him for fighting for Bush in the 2000 election court cases. ;-)    (more commentary below the video)



5.  I saw a response from a black preacher, who made the points in #2, #3 and #4 before I stopped reading.  But the irony was not lost on me.  Hey you, black preacher!  Should we vote to move your black ass back to the back of the bus?  Should we ban you from our country clubs, schools and even water fountains?  What if we can get a majority vote on that?  Was it OK to keep blacks segregated when the majority thought it was OK?  Or was it always a violation of their civil rights?  Should we make it illegal for a white girl to marry you, like the laws of many states dictated in the 1960's?  Wait, don't answer that!  You'll talk when I tell you you can talk, boy!  Shut up and listen or go back to work on my cotton farm!  You're an ungrateful bastard who, once granted his civil rights, bails on everybody else who still doesn't have theirs.

6. One Christian said that the judge is forcing gay marriage on them.  I'm sorry, but I didn't see anybody forcing you to have a gay marriage.  It won't make even one bit of difference in the way you live your life.  Maybe if your dumb ass wasn't so concerned with what other people are doing in their personal lives, it wouldn't matter to you as much?

7.  Marriage died a long time ago, and has become virtually meaningless.  It is no longer a permanent thing, just something people try for a few years.  A lot of my friends and family members are at the age where they're getting married, and I've got to admit that when they tell me about it, I almost immediately think, "I wonder how long they'll last."  That's how dead marriage is.

8.  Christians are arguing that this ruling will eventually lead to polygamy.  Do they mean polygamy like in the Bible?  From the America's Best Christian, Betty Bowers, website:

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My boss at work may or may not exist

I received this comment from a guy named Blake on this thread. First I'm going to let you read the comment.  You might be tempted to think he's joking in the first part, but it seems that he's serious.

"Think about it Admin, If God were actually real, and he wanted people to follow righteous ways and believe in his existence how else would he do it? The only way to keep religious faith alive is to provide no worldly evidence for it. The only way for people to believe in something is to place creative stories of supernatural miracles in peoples minds over time and have it put into literature(Bible, Qur'an, etc). Not to always be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

If everyone knew one true God and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to believe what we want? If one true god created the universe, wouldn't it be smart of him to create a world where over time there developed a debate between many different religions that all pretty much followed the same theme? All religions help people believe that they have a sense of being. That mass sense of being, purpose and moral grounding is what keeps the world moving forward. Do you think we would've made it this far in science or technology if everyone always believed there was no God? It is essential to human evolution that a majority of people on earth believe in a sense of purpose and afterlife. If there were anything that either proved God or disproved God, What kind of world would that be? There would be chaos. And as for the argument, "if God is so good why does he allow so much suffering?" I say this...we wouldn't have evolved into humans if there weren't finite physical laws that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Car accidents happen, lethal illnesses exist. They are all forms of population control that are necessary to human existence. We would not be able to operate as a society if we had finite laws of the afterlife or why we are here."

At first I laughed at you Blake, but now I see how right you are.  After all, my boss at work is a little like this.  He doesn't provide any evidence at all for his existence, for the good of the company.  Let me show you how similar our situations are, with your comment in blue and mine in black.

Think about it Admin, If God were actually real, and he wanted people to follow righteous ways and believe in his existence how else would he do it? The only way to keep religious faith alive is to provide no worldly evidence for it.

Think about it Blake, if my boss at work were actually real, and he wanted employees to follow his orders and believe in his existence, how else would he do it?  The only way to keep the employees' belief in his existence real is to provide no evidence for it.

The only way for people to believe in something is to place creative stories of supernatural miracles in peoples minds over time and have it put into literature(Bible, Qur'an, etc). Not to always be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

The only way for employees to believe in something is to place creative stories of discipline, promotions and firings into people's minds over time and have it put into literature (the company newsletter, press releases, etc). Not always to be taken literally, but as an inspiration.

If everyone knew one true God and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to believe what we want?

If everyone knew there was one true boss and whatever the finite definition is you are looking for, we wouldn't have the power of choice to obey or disobey his instructions.

If one true god created the universe, wouldn't it be smart of him to create a world where over time there developed a debate between many different religions that all pretty much followed the same theme?

If one true boss created the company, wouldn't it be smart of him to create an office where over time there developed a debate between many different departments that all pretty much followed the same theme?

All religions help people believe that they have a sense of being. That mass sense of being, purpose and moral grounding is what keeps the world moving forward. Do you think we would've made it this far in science or technology if everyone always believed there was no God?

All departments help employees believe they have a sense of responsibility. That sense of responsibility, purpose and company policies is what keeps the company moving forward. Do you think we'd have made it this far in business if everyone always believed there was no boss?

It is essential to human evolution that a majority of people on earth believe in a sense of purpose and afterlife. If there were anything that either proved God or disproved God, What kind of world would that be? There would be chaos.

It is essential for company growth that a majority of employees in the office believe that there are responsibilities and promotions. If there were anything that either proved or disproved the existence of the boss, what kind of office would that be? There would be chaos.

And as for the argument, "if God is so good why does he allow so much suffering?" I say this...we wouldn't have evolved into humans if there weren't finite physical laws that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Car accidents happen, lethal illnesses exist. They are all forms of population control that are necessary to human existence. We would not be able to operate as a society if we had finite laws of the afterlife or why we are here.

As for the argument, "If the boss is so good why does he fire people?", I say this... we wouldn't have grown into such a big company if there weren't finite company policies that can't be broken or if there were no consequences for actions. Customer service faux-pas happen, people get busted screwing in the copy room. They are all forms of employee management that are necessary to employee existence. We would not be able to operate as a company if we had finite rules of promotions or reasons why we have jobs.


Blake, I've heard a lot of dumb arguments on this site, and this is one of the absolute dumbest.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Just because they can't speak, doesn't mean they can't use language

A short video about a reporter's visit to a bonobo that has been trained to use language, including abstract conceptual language and grammar structures. The reason it's on this site is that it further narrows the perceived gap between humans and animals, and I know many religious people would claim that we were the only species designed to use language. Well guess what.... just because they can't speak, doesn't mean they can't use language.  (Interestingly, bonobos are one of the most homosexual/bisexual species on Earth, and one of our closest relatives)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Everybody else believes, why not you?

I recently came across an argument on the net that went something like this:

"If atheism is correct, don't you think more people would agree with it?"

As you can easily guess, I have a few problems with this argument, not even including the horrible way in which it is worded.

1.  It's a logical fallacy, equating the likely truth of an argument with the number of people who believe it.  It's called Argumentum ad populum, and does nothing to show the correctness of an argument.  In the same way, the number of people who do not believe a certain position is true is no measure of the incorrectness of that position.  History and science are full of countless examples of things that were popularly believed to be true but were not, so I really don't think I need to go into that any further.


2.  The person who posed this question is considering only 2 sides of the argument, those sides being that gods exist or that they don't exist.  He claims all theists as members of his side, making one big team.  But I don't think this is a good way to look at it.  He should not be allowed to claim a person for his side if they have radically different views of basic characteristics of these gods, or even how many there are.  Pretty much the only thing Hindus and Muslims agree on is that there is such a thing as a supernatural being.  Everything else is in conflict.  Doesn't this person think that if supernatural beings were actually real and communicated with us, that people should be able to agree on its characteristics?  The largest religion on Earth is Roman Catholicism, which the vast majority of humans disagree with.  Even if you expand it to all of Christianity, still a large majority of humans disagree with it.  Would the person who asked the question accept this as evidence that their religion is incorrect?  Don't you think if Christianity were correct, that nearly all people would believe it?  Looked at in this way, atheism would be a major religious worldview, if it were a religion in the first place.  There are hundreds of millions of atheists on the planet, making us a pretty large group.  But this proves nothing, as explained in point #1.


3.  This is going to be the most sensitive point.  The argument, as posed by the person who asked the question, assumes that all people are intelligent enough to figure these things out, especially through a wall of culture and parental upbringing.  How many people on Earth do not understand even high-school level math?  Does the fact that so many people don't understand it negate it?   How many got above C in science in school?  How many tens of millions of people in the USA alone cannot even handle their basic household finances well enough to stay out of crushing debt caused by their own stupidity?   How many people stick cigarettes in their mouths, despite all we know about their addictive and destructive properties?  How many tens (hundreds?) of millions of people have mental illnesses?  How many people in India run and hide from a solar eclipse?  How many people terminate their own lives every year, because their brains cannot even handle being alive?  I could ask a lot of questions like this.  Not all people are smart.  And of the ones you might call smart, some are smarter than others.  The fact that the people who understand science best are least likely to believe in gods is interesting.  People with advanced university degrees are some of the smartest people on the planet.  The fact that more of them are atheists than in the general population, is also interesting.

     We also should note that people will generally follow whichever religion they are born into.  If their parents are a certain religion and the culture around them also follows that religion, they'll rarely change*.  Most people cannot bring themselves to consider other possibilities, or to question what they are told, which demonstrates a lack of critical thinking ability.  Perhaps they are just ignorant of what other possibilities are out there, but then we get into arguments from ignorance, which is another logical fallacy.  Even in the absence of an alternate explanation, a truly intelligent being would not accept an explanation with no evidence and dogmatically assert that it is true.  (*I realise that studies show that people often change denominations within a faith, but the vast, vast majority of people on Earth will never switch from Islam to Christianity, Buddhism to Native American beliefs, etc.)

     Evolution has given us an intelligence level above other animals, but we are not as intelligent as many people believe we are.  The human brain is not some grand masterpiece, perfect in its ability to reason and answer questions (at least not the brains inside the general population).  The culture doesn't help much when it encourages things like faith, which is defined as believing in something despite not having any reason to, and discouraging lack of faith through the use of fear, intimidation and even death for those who don't have it.  I hope our intelligence level is a work in progress, but the evidence suggests that it may not be.  The fact that most people can't figure something out, or believe in a certain way, is not anything we should be using as a guide to truth.

4.  Considering how many billions of people currently believe in gods, and how many billions of people have believed throughout human history, it's amazing that they have still been unable to prove their case.

(My) god said it, I believe it, that settles it!

I really like Pat Condell's newest tirade about the stupidity of 'faith'.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

How much interest does one charge their god?

So some church-goers in Montreal, Canada are all upset because they loaned their pastor well over $100,000 because he said their god needed it to build a new church, but the pastor has repaid nothing.  At least two particularly stupid followers even re-mortgaged their homes to loan him tens of thousands of dollars each.  Others went into credit card debt to finance their loan.  You can read the full article here.

To the ladies who re-mortgaged their homes, there are some problems with the thinking process that you went through, which make me think you largely deserve what you got (ie. nothing):

1.  You re-mortgaged your house.

2.  You gave the money to somebody else.

3.  You gave it to him because he said he had an imaginary friend that needed it.

4.  You failed to properly examine how the money would be recovered and repaid.

5.  You believe in an all-powerful god, but you still think it needs money from you.


Honestly, it's the same scam over and over and over again, for thousands of years, and some people are just too stupid to recognise it or even to see the obvious logical flaw with it, as in point #5.