Friday, December 18, 2009

God and Amateurs Interpreting Science

What always amuses me is that a great many theists (even those that seem rational) are taken with the notion that current models of physics and cosmology justify their beliefs. Mostly these are founded upon misinterpretations of these models, actually.

This is the "layman's" interpretation of the current state of cosmology: - There was an event (the big bang) that caused the universe.

The theists in question here then make the (completely unfounded) statement that god is the first cause (by no means demonstrated, and certainly doesn't favor a personal god over a nonpersonal god).

The actual situation is a terribly difficult one, and this layman's interpretation is a vast oversimplification.

1. Let's take the word "caused" to begin with. "Cause" implies that there is a sequential nature to events. That is, they are time-ordered. However, if there is no time, then there can be no causality (this is self-evident if you think about it). Asking what came "before" the big bang, or what "caused" the big bang, is like asking "what is north of the north pole"? (Thanks to Hawking for this wonderful analogy). As soon as you start going "more north" than the north pole, you start moving south again because you're constrained to the surface of the sphere. So the question is a nonsensical one from the get-go.

2. A proper theory of gravity (incorporating quantum mechanics) will necessarily be acausal below some time scale, unless general relativity is wrong altogether (which I don't see evidence of). Despite the protestations of certain people, this is the current consensus (and this is also a self-evident conclusion if one takes the merger of general relativity and quantum mechanics seriously).

3. The current models of "the big bang" actually only say that the observable universe, at some point around 13.7 billion years ago, was a very hot, dense entity which rapidly expanded and then cooled. It actually says absolutely nothing about what happened "before" this event (if such a concept is valid to begin with). There is absolutely nothing in the observable universe that currently states that the universe had a beginning. The current state of the art is that this question is, at present, unknown. An eternal universe that had a portion rapidly expand is completely adequate to explain everything we see in nature. There are a plethora of models that do not rely upon a "beginning" to the universe at all, ranging from cyclic universes in string theory involving brane collisions in higher dimensions, to a multiverse hypothesis. At present none are particularly preferred, but there are actually experiments that can be created to test these hypotheses (for instance, the LISA experiment will look for standing gravity waves to probe the structure of the early universe).

Because of 1 + 2 above, philosophizing about the nature of the origins of our universe is pretty difficult. Philosophy already assumes a causal relation of events. As I've argued, when dealing with the early universe, this may not be (and probably IS not) a good assumption.

Because of 3 above, in any case, even assuming a causal nature of events in *some* sense, the beginnings of the universe are still very much an open question with no resolution (CERTAINLY none that support the Christian ideas of a creator deity that takes a personal interest in day-to-day life and morality).

Subsequently, it always amuses me when theists oversimplify the situation and select the portions of it that support their presupposed "conclusion" (this should start ringing bells in any scientific mind).

I hope this sets the record straight and I've convinced the amateurs that they're really barking up the wrong tree. I have a feeling it won't, because human beings are necessarily terrible at intuitively grasping things outside of macroscopic physics, since they have no direct experience with the consequences of any other type of reality. Suffice to say that reality is a great deal more complicated than that, and one must abandon intuition to make any headway at all. But at least I gave it a shot.

by Rappoccio of AvC

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Vivisectus, a personal transition

Hi guys. Long time no see!

These days, when people ask me about my religious beliefs, I describe myself as a stark raving Atheist, and that I believe that religion is bad for you. Originally I didn’t want to have this point of view, but I started a discussion on this site months ago (a year ago? Has it really been that long?) and after a while I ran out of objections to the idea that religion is bad. When I look at it good and hard, I simply cannot escape the conclusion that religion is, at its best, slowing our progress as enlightened, rational human beings. At its worst, it is actually killing us. In return we get a little bit of solace, some social clubs and a bit of charity, although the charities tend to have some missionary strings attached.

One of the objections Theists have to this point of view is that they feel we cannot be moral without a God. However, we do not actually base our morality on holy books – we simply pick and choose from them the bits that seem moral to us. There are few Christians who feel it would be moral to offer their daughters to be raped in stead of a guest, for instance. In stead they focus on the bits that sound nicer, and claim that the ones they don’t like are allegorical. But if it is people doing the choosing, then that means that the morality is in the people, not in the book. If you took bible-morality at face value, you would (1) have to develop multiple personality disorder, because it regularly contradicts itself and (2) be considered a dangerous maniac, and certainly unfit to raise children. The only other option is for a human being to choose how to interpret it, and which bits to take seriously and literally, and which bits to treat as allegorical fairytales. This means the moral choice is made by people, in spite of what the bible says.

Another objection is that everyone has a right to believe what they want. This is true, but within limits. Unfortunately, almost every religion teaches intolerance that is not compatible with modern morals. The religious take on homosexuality is a great example of this. Few people these days believe that you should be treated differently for being gay, yet almost all religions teach that it is in fact a sin, and most even go on to say that homosexuals should be put to death, or that they will suffer terrible punishments for their sexuality in the afterlife. The attitude towards women in the Torah, Quran and Bible is another such example – even the most current is still from the dark ages, and has a  dark ages attitude that it still supports today.

Does someone have the right to express the belief that, lets say, gay people expressing their love in a physical way is inherently evil? If so, how far are they allowed to go? Even if they have the right to freedom of expression, should we tolerate intolerance on the grounds that intolerance is wrong? If so, why is religious intolerance more tolerable than ordinary household racism, or bigotry, or anti-Semitism? And what about the fact that because so many people keep the world safe for religion and/or support religion actively, they are keeping a set of divisive, intolerant and regularly homicidal systems in place? Could open criticism or even active resistance to religion not be seen as an act of self-defense by someone like me, who does not want to see his children blown to bits by people who believe in an invisible man in the sky? Anyone who says that this is an exaggeration should remember I live in Ireland – over here, being blown up over what brand of Christianity is dominant in your neighborhood is
not unthinkable at all – it is recent history and living memory. It is real, and deadly.

To state that in order to believe something, you need a reason to believe it to be true is decried as Scientism, as just another fundamentalist stance. But this is simply not the case – it is a mere common-sense approach. If you show an atheist proof that God exists, that atheist will immediately say he or she was wrong, because atheism it is not an absolute position. It merely states that there is no reason to believe otherwise, and that since we have far more elegant and useful models to explain things than “God did it” we see no reason to think a god exists. If proof would be forthcoming, we would change our minds immediately. The fact that god remains undetectable by any means at our disposal is the real reason that we seem so staunchly entrenched in our point if view. Show me proof of god, and I will believe. But I have never seen any, and frankly I think if there was any we would have found it by now. Plenty of people have searched for it. In the end, who knows? But I doubt it severely. In the meantime I cannot help but notice that religion without proof tends to lead to very little good and a whole lot of bad.

Another thing I notice is that Theists love to point at a small gap in any theory, and then cram God into it without any justification as to why THEIR god should go there, or any god at all, and not, say, the invisible unicorn or the flying spaghetti monster. This is a double standard – first they require that the naturalist view explains everything to incredibly exacting standards, and then they inject a supernatural entity with no more justification that “this is what we have always thought” or “because the bible says so”.

All these objections – scientism, counter-fundamentalism, God is in the Gaps – are not really objections at all. Religion gives no other answer than “It Is Done By Magic”, which is the same as no answer at all. Religion does not have the answers it claims it has. It does not teach us how to live. It does not explain how our world works. It merely says “It’s Magic” or "Because God Said So" and leaves it at that. In return, we are expected to revere it, fund it, allow it to corrupt scientific education, exempt it from taxation and generally refrain from openly criticizing it.

The need for an impenetrable mystery that is somehow accessible though irrational actions, where you can gain status and importance through competitive self-denial and exaggerated obsession with guilt and ritual cleanliness seems to run deep in my culture. Being human simply doesn’t seem to be enough. People feel a need to be a part of something bigger than humanity, or even reality. Perhaps the need to control the uncontrollable, to see subjective shapes in an objective universe is simply too strong to be kept at bay by rationality. Religion gives you power over people, it makes you feel like you are part of the select few that are really in the know, it divides the world into the righteous and the depraved, and handily puts you in the bracket you want to be in. That is a tough act to compete with, if all you have to offer in return is sober rationalism. So to a degree it is understandable that religion is still clouding the judgment of so many people.

And yet it is strange if you consider how magical the world is, how full of wonderful mysteries for us to ponder, how brave and inventive we are – and all this without the need of the supernatural. We all have a lifetime of wonder and curiosity to look forward to. Religion has nothing to offer that comes even close to it. Why is it so hard for us to stop pretending that it does?

by Vivisectus of AvC



Sunday, November 8, 2009

St. Onan's Prayer : Minute Of Prayer In Response To The Christian DDOS Attack On Australian Atheist Web Sites

Saint Onan's Prayer for Brock

Your Holy Ineffableness,

I know it's been an age since we chatted, and I wouldn't want you to be under the impression I was seeking to renew our relationship on any kind of permanent basis.

The fact is, things have been just peachy since I ditched you, and there's no way you're getting those Sundays back. They're mine now.

But God, the reason I'm calling is that some of your camp followers down here on Earth have been spreading the rumour that you're back in the imprecatory prayer market. If so, this is just too good an opportunity to pass up.

Lord, please SMITE the caterpillar known as Brock Organ for me. Smite him with intelligence, so that he will know what a retard he has been.

Smite him with a sense of honesty, so that his heart will recoil in horror from its own darkness. Smite him with an open mind, so that he shall weep for the prior confinement of his soul.

And when Thou has completed this most holy and horrific smiting, Lord, please finish the job by smiting the Borgan with a rectal probe the size of a telegraph pole.

Do all that and I'll consider going to church again. Once a year at Christmas.


Saturday, November 7, 2009

My Prayer : Minute Of Prayer In Response To The Christian DDOS Attack On Australian Atheist Web Sites

Trance Gemini's Prayer

Dear God, otherwise known as Roger,
Dear Holy Trinity:
Your Greatnesses,
The Omniscient Google,
Her Horniness and Great Pinkness, the Omnipresent Invisible Pink Unicorn (May Her Holy Hooves Never Be Shod) (PBUH),
The Great and Omnipotent, All-Loving Flying Spaghetti Monster

(Just covering my bases here folks)

I wish to thank, with all my heart, those Christian dDOSers who participated in the DDOS attack on Australian Atheist web sites and who through the Divine intervention of the Greatnesses above, gave The Rise Of Atheism Convention all that free publicity.

I forgive those who had Black Hearts and Evil Intentions and wanted to make atheists suffer by disrupting their web sites.

I also forgive all those Catholic Trolls and all those other Trolls and their friends who hate me so much, wish to condemn me to the Burning Fires of Hell as a "witch" and/or "demon" (apparently this the top of a rather hot and heavy debate).

Bless Them and Forgive Them Their Evil And Their Pathological Lies, Warm Their Little Black Hearts, Oh Greatnesses.

Forgive XNun aka too many sock puppets to count for her online smear campaign against me because she appears to hate atheists so much, particularly ones that are female Moderators (and female Moderators of Groups who ban her).

Forgive Liam aka too many sock puppets to count for getting my friend, the atheist Woodbridge fired from his job, threatening to get other atheists fired from their jobs because they kicked his ass in debating theology and for his online smear campaign against me for banning him because of this.

Forgive Joe aka too many sock puppets to count for starting thread after thread amounting to hundreds of posts, lasting for weeks, abusing me because I object to Catholic Priests raping little children and refused to retract my statements.

Forgive the Religious Trolls, Fagsy, J, and the Dookster for ... well ... existing (no need to forgive the Dooksters obsession with fantasizing about me in a brown leather teddy and self-flagellation though. He'll really, really like it if you punish him for that.)

Forgive all the Trolls and their Friends who like to stalk me everywhere, pretend to be normal human beings and spread malicious lies about me simply because I stand up to them and their trolling, kick their asses in debate, catch them at all their tricks ;-)

Oh Greatnesses, Bless All Their Black Little Hearts.

Luckily for us, All Good comes out of All Evil and not only did those atheist web sites recover quickly, but many, many more people are aware of The Rise Of Atheism Convention being held in Australia next March.

I am grateful for the Divine Intervention of the Greatnesses above which turned Evil into Good and shone the light of Love on the Rise Of Atheism Convention and on atheists around the world.

Thanks Be To You,

God, otherwise known as Roger,
Holy Trinity:
Your Greatnesses,
The Omniscient Google,
Her Horniness and Great Pinkness, the Omnipresent Invisible Pink Unicorn (May Her Holy Hooves Never Be Shod) (PBUH),
The Great and Omnipotent, All-Loving Flying Spaghetti Monster

Peace My Christian Brothers and Sisters ;-)

"To no form of religion is woman indebted for one impulse of freedom..." --Susan B. Anthony

Sista Trance.
High Priestess of the Holy Order of the Virtual Temple of the
Invisible Pink Unicorn
Protector of the Holy Sock of Bob
Keeper of the Words of the Grand High Llama
BAAWA Knight Applicant
EAC Knightette
EAC Disciplinary Committee
Leather Teddy/CatONineTails Disciplinary Squad Leader
Agent 000777136669854321.  Mange Inciter. Special Services.
EAC Department of Linquistic Subversion.
Evil Anagrams Division.
Minute Of Prayer In Response To The Christian DDOS Attack On Australian Atheist Web Sites

Just a little background.

Atheists on Facebook have decided that our "retaliation" to the Christian
DDOS attack on Australian Atheist web sites is to have a Minute of Prayer at
any point over the next two days.

Atheists around the world have taken this message to heart

Dan Kerr sent a message to the members of Minute of prayer in response to
the Rise Of Atheism Convention DDOS attack.

Subject: The time has come

To all my fellow satirists, we have finally arrived at our momentous event.
A full minutes prayer, using various clever methods (see the comments for
some ideas) to the Christian God, sometimes known as Roger.

With any luck our combined efforts will shut this particularly malevolent
and cruel of non-existent gods down for at least as long as the conventions
site was down, which was two days or so. When you have finished the prayer
we would like you to consider, or should i say, Imagine, a world without a
need for gods, spirits, demons, angels, ghosts and hobgoblins.

Many of our brother and sister Christians are quite certain we will be
receiving our special message back, and as good critical thinkers we will be
open to such an event and will certainly keep it in mind should we receive a
substantial and verifiable happening.

Be sure to return and tell us what happened, did you get a reply, did the
earth shake, did you see a flying bowl of spaghetti. However if we hear
nothing for the following two days we can consider our prayer a smashing
success. Feel free to do as us atheists do, pillage, burn, have lots of
kinky sex with condoms, not wipe your mouth after your meals, basically
anything goes as morality is controlled by God who will be out of order.

Good luck and cod speed.

Facebook: Minute Of Prayer In Response To The Christian DDOS Attack On Australian Atheist Web Sites

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Rapp's Deconversion on AvC

Yes, it's me. I have many people to thank for this, but Dev was indeed a strong influence. So was Simpleton, LL, philosophy, DreadGeekGirl, Belly Bionic, and a bunch of others here. Reading was also an eye-opening experience, as was reading Dawkins, Harris, and dozens of others. I also have to thank ThunderF00t for his "Why do people laugh at creationists" series, it was great ;).

But I'll speak for myself now, I've got an hour to kill before I head to bed (trip to Geneva tomorrow ;) ):

I stopped being a Catholic because Catholicism is logically inconsistent. There is nothing whatsoever consistent about their theology. They accept that evolution occurred, however their Dogma of Original Sin is incompatible with such a view, as it would constitute a saltation event. This is contradictory to their acceptance of Evolution. I was hoping that they would take this finding as an understanding that their previous dogma was incorrect, but that's against their dogma too. I basically reasoned things out, and found that Catholicism is a bunk system of belief, even on a technicality let alone the whole fact that Original Sin is pretty stupid to begin with, but that's another story and not historically how I arrived at the conclusion).

For awhile I was a deist that attended Catholic services, but some interesting things are fun to examine wrt this. An omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient being would have no reason to be anything *other* than a deist-type deity. The laws of nature could be arranged such that no further intervention would be required. Hence, intercessionary prayer is demonstrably useless. Properly set up scientific experiments confirm this... there is no observable benefit to prayer. At that point one could simply say "I'm sorry for screwing up", or "Thanks for X,Y,Z", but even that's a little stupid. The deity in question knows you're sorry or not, whether or not you mutter under your breath for Ten Hail Mary's and Five Our Fathers, or Five Hail Mary's and Ten Our Fathers, or reciting Odin's Song, or while watching "The Daily Show". So I realized that prayer was a completely useless exercise and stopped doing it.

Then a weird thing happened: Nothing at all. In fact, if anything, my life got *better* after I stopped praying. Cute little anecdote... my wife and I tried for a long time to conceive a child "naturally". I prayed constantly to make it happen. Eventually (but unrelated to this, we decided to put the whole family thing on hold for a bit) I stopped praying, as I mentioned. Without prayer to turn to when we decided to give the family thing another go, we turned to science instead, and we went to an IVF clinic where we were given gonadotropins and we eventually successfully conceived a son (and then a daughter the "old fashioned" way, but that's another story). Our kids are beautiful, loving little atheists who are tickled pink by "They Might Be Giants... Here Comes Science!" My 18-month-old daughter can sing "Science is REAAAAALLL!!!" and my three-year-old son and I walk around the grocery store saying "Fossils! Dinosaur bones! Evolution! Mass extinction! Stratigraphy!" and we laugh hysterically every time.

Now, in my Catholic days I would say that IVF clinics are murder-houses where tiny little souls are stored in petri dishes and then "murdered" when not needed anymore. But then I started to think about identical twins. And genetic chimeras. And other blastuoles. And selecting a single stem cell from a group of, what, a few hundred, to make a "Catholic friendly" stem cell. And I realized this whole "soul" concept was all a bunch of hogwash. A cell is a cell is a cell. Magic properties imbued to cells do not define what a human being is. A cell is not a person. A person is a group of cells that is capable of thinking. That's what biology says we are. That's what evidence says we are. All evidence points to the fact that if our brain is damaged, we're no longer the person that we were before (in a very real sense). Hence, my concept of what a "person" is took a turn for the scientific (i.e. the better). So I stopped worrying about things like "souls" and started worrying about things like "what exactly defines
a person interms of neural function".

Long story short: SCIENCE gave me my children. Prayer did nothing. Demonstrably. In fact, science gave me pretty much everything I have in this life. Clean water, antibiotics, abundant food, vaccines, stable temperature control, disease control, sterilization, eyeglasses, antiseptics, fluoride toothpaste, refrigeration... all science. All from looking at the world around us, and making informed decisions about what IS, not about invisible things from another dimension. Then I realized that we, as a species, can only count on ourselves as a guarantee. We only have what we can personally eke out on this rock, "orbiting at 90 miles a second (so it's reckoned), a sun that is the source of all our power." Whether or not a God exists, we sure as all hell can't count on this thing to solve our problems for us. That, we must do for ourselves. So why bother with worrying about it?

Then I was introduced to the term of "apatheist" which is a characterization of what I am. I do indeed think that it is completely irrelevant whether or not a God exists or not. We only have ourselves to count on in this world, so don't bother worrying about offending some mythical deity who can't bother giving clear instructions to us. You're just as likely to screw up and try to appease the wrong God, angering the true God enough to punish you anyway. So I just do what I think is rationally moral and ethical, and if that's not enough for God, then I don't really want anything to do with such a thing anyway.

However, I am also an atheist in the strict sense of the word. People call it "agnostic" but this is a battle not bothering to be fought. I'm a weak atheist toward deism and other unfalsifiable notions of "God", a strong atheist toward the Judeo/Christian/Muslim God, a strong atheist toward Norse mythology, a strong atheist toward Roman mythology, etc.

So here I am! The deconvert. Very happy, in fact never happier in my life. I don't murder, rape, pillage, plunder, destroy, steal, deface, piss on churches and old ladies, or beat my wife or kids. I pay my taxes and my bills (usually on time ;) ), I help old ladies cross the street and offer advice to people that want it. I regularly attend Unitarian Universalist services with my wife and kids, and we love the atmosphere there. More questions than answers, what I like to see. In fact most of the UU's I've met are also atheists who just like the whole "community" aspect (don't knock it till you've tried it) but don't want to leave their brains at home when they go to hang out, listen to nice poetry, talk about moral and ethical issues that confront us today, volunteer, have sing-alongs, etc, etc, etc.

I highly recommend forming such an evidence-based philosophy as I have. It's all we really have to go with. Our own faculties of reason have drawn us up from scratching a living on subsistence farms (or hunter/gatherer communities), and now we're free to exchange deep thoughts across cyberspace from half a world away from each other. Tomorrow I leave for work at CERN, one of the world's best research labs, where we continue the evidence-based quest for new information, truth, and understanding of the smallest length scales of nature. I LOVE being a scientist. It's very gratifying, helpful, fun, rewarding (not monetarily, though ;) ), and all-in-all, a MEANINGFUL existence. I'm very fortunate to have been born in such a time that such things are possible. For this, we have only ourselves to thank. In particular, we have SCIENCE to thank. It's given us more than we can possibly imagine. The last 500 years (especially the last 100) have paved the way for a truly better society, where we can finally rise above
tribalism and actually ACCOMPLISH things that are beneficial to all of us as humans.

It's time to stop relying on notions of whose Invisible Benefactor is the "Right Invisible Benefactor", people. Stop worrying about whose "Invisible Friend" is the best "Invisible Friend". It really doesn't make a damned bit of difference. Listen to what your own reason and faculties can provide for you. Work it out for yourself. It's progressed our species more than can even be summarized.

What a lovely thought!

But I forgot to thank Joe. I was amiss in my deconversion story, actually! Joe, Liam, and many other Catholics were the ones that first opened my eyes to the dangers such a dogmatic world-view entails. I was appalled by the lack of honesty that such a world-view engendered, so it planted the seeds of discontent in my mind when I read Joe's posts, and those of Liam and many other Catholics. So I really should thank them for helping me deconvert, I apologize for missing it earlier.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

50 Voices Of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists

The following is a brief commentary by atheist author, Russell Blackford about his newly released book:

The official publication date in the US for 50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists is now 26 October. In practice, the paperback has been available via Amazon for a week or so now, and it also seems to be in (at least some) Barnes & Noble stores.

Still, 26 October is a key official date in the book's life. For those who don't know, we have many high-calibre contributors, including Margaret Downey, Michael Shermer, Susan Blackmore, Peter Singer, Greg Egan, Prabir Ghosh, AC Grayling, James Randi, Ophelia Benson, and on and on.

Best wishes to all, and thanks for your interest,

Russell Blackford

This book sounds great! Please publicize it on your blogs, podcasts, etc.

To meet and talk to other published atheist authors, including Russell Blackford, atheists are welcome to join Atheist Nexus / Atheist Writers group.

(Please note that Atheist Nexus is a non theist only group and theists will be banned)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Good, Evil And God

This post is related to the (somewhat) on-going debates about the Problem of Evil as well as the more recent post by christian about God, Good and Evil.

The problem comes about what good and evil are, in relation to God.

If we define good and evil based upon God, then the discussion ends. If it is take a priori that everything God does is good, then that certainly would eliminate the Problem of Evil, but not the way Christians intend.

The intention (as far as I can infer) is that God = Good leads to the solution that, yes there is evil, but it is being handled, by God in the best possible way. That this is the most good of all possible worlds.

But in reality, God = Good undermines the Problem of Evil by invalidating the very premise that evil exists.

This is because that the terms "good" and "evil" that are in use by people on an everyday level cannot be "good" and "evil" as based upon the notion that God = Good. If we are going to make an argument based upon these terms, then we have to be consistent.

If we judge God as good based upon God = Good then we also have to judge evil based upon that premise as well. We cannot judge God as good based upon God = Good and then judge evil based upon it's everyday use. It is this type of equivocation that is being used when Christians respond to the Problem of Evil with the God = Good solution.

The problem with God = Good is that it completely eliminates our ability to judge "good" and "evil" in an everyday context. When God = Good then the only actions that are good are those that God himself would do. But we don't know that without God explicitly confirming it. As Christians are always quick to remind us: God is privvy to an innumerable amount of details that we are not. Lacking these details means we can never know if any given act is good or evil unless God personally gives you the thumbs up.

Since good and evil are related, this also applies to evil. Without God directly telling us what is good and evil, we can't judge that evil even exists.

But humans can and do judge the goodness and evilocity of everyday acts. So, in pratice, we use a conception of good and evil that is not based upon God = Good. Not only does this bring the Problem of Evil back into place, but it also gives us the freedom to judge God as Not Good.

by Drafterman of AvC

Friday, October 9, 2009

Brother Richard, Atheist Nexus

Brother Richard of Atheist Nexus speaks at the Atheist Alliance International Conference 2009.

View Parts 2 to 4 by selecting the videos at the bottom of the display when the Part you are viewing is complete.

Video by Paul Filago of the Secular Examiner.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

True Forgiveness

Forgiveness is an important concept in Christianity. Primarily God's forgiveness toward humanity.

Forgiveness is good, grand and all-around a-okay. The problem comes in the notion that we can reject forgiveness, be it the forgiveness of another person or of a fictional sky pixie.

Forgiveness is "a process (or the result of a process) that involves a change in emotion and attitude regarding an offender. Most scholars view this an intentional and voluntary process, driven by a deliberate decision to forgive. This process results in decreased motivation to retaliate or maintain estrangement from an offender despite their actions, and requires letting go of negative emotions toward the offender. Theorists differ in the extent to which they believe forgiveness also implies replacing the negative emotions with positive attitudes including compassion and benevolence."

Now, no where in that definition is the act or result of forgiveness contingent upon the offender's acceptance of said forgiveness. The only required activity is that performed by the victim.

Upon realization of this, it makes the concept of condemnation to hell (based on "rejection" of forgiveness) all the more insane.

Hell, be it a physical place or a state of mind, is certainly "estrangement" from God. Yet forgiveness requires a decreased motivation to maintain this estrangement. If God's forgiveness is infinite (or otherwise maximal) then this should result in an infinite (or maximal) decrease in motivation to maintain any estrangement; no one should go to hell, if we truly have God's forgiveness.

The two concepts are logically contradictory.

Now, people do not always practice, or grant, forgiveness in the purest sense. Admittedly it's hard to do, especially when the offender is unrepentent. It is easy to hold a grudge, to maintain estrangement, and to make your "forgiveness" contingent on damages, reparations, revenge, or an apology. Unfortunately, in doing so, you really are not being forgiving.

Then why does it seem that God, whose forgiveness should be infinite and most pure, is acting in this manner? His forgiveness should mean an end to any possible estrangement, yet the removal of that estrangement seems contingent upon additional actions or beliefs on our behalf. We need to repent, we need to believe in God, we need to adhere to some code or dogma. True forgiveness does not require these things.

God is not forgiving.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Helping People Help Themselves - Atheists Give

"Give a man a fish; feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish; feed him for a lifetime" --Lao Tzu.

Lao Tzu, was a Taoist, and while I'm not religious, occasionally the ancient religious philosophers came up with something that made sense. As this saying of Lao Tzu does. has turned this concept into a reality. Their novel approach to charitable donations has proven successful not only in helping many poverty-stricken families and individuals around the world but it allows them to maintain their dignity and pull themselves out of their poverty for the long term.

Instead of donors handing out dollars never to be seen again and not knowing what has happened to those dollars, donors are able to loan dollars to people requiring assistance in various projects or personally. Projects include starting small businesses, expanding existing businesses, or purchasing/renovating their homes, etc. (you select the person or project that you will donate to) in $25.00 chunks.

The person receiving the funds pays the money back, after which the donor can either donate those dollars to Kiva, donate them to another person requiring a loan, or keep their funds.

Kiva also has a feature which allows donors to contribute as a member of a Team irrespective of who they donate to. That is, the donor chooses their project or person and simply adds that project to the Team.

One of the largest Teams currently running on Kiva and with the highest number of donations is:

Kiva Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Freethinkers, Secular Humanists and the Non-Religious

Their goal is to donate $1 million dollars by the end of the year.

Second in the running is Kiva Christians :-)

This is a great project started by "Atheist-Monkey" and I hope many more atheists, et al will join this Team and contribute their hearts out to help meet the goal.

Kiva also happens to have been my older brothers favorite charity.

He passed away last year and I will be making my contributions in his name and of course with the Kiva Atheists Team :-)

Hope you will too!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Atheist Nexus

An online friend of mine introduced me to this interesting social networking site which is restricted to nontheists only.

I've just recently joined and haven't had the opportunity to explore the entire site yet but it seems to have a lot of nice features like blogs, groups, friend links, etc. and allows members to post pictures and videos.

I love the Groups section. There appears to a group for everyone and I've joined several :-).

AFAIK this is the only social networking site online that is restricted to nontheists.

I'll do a full review later when I've had some time to explore it more thoroughly

In the meantime ... check it out, join, support it and help it to thrive.

I know there are many theists who stop by and read this blog.

To those theists, please be aware that theists are not allowed to join Atheist Nexus and you will be banned if you try to sneak in and are discovered.

To the Nontheists, you can find it here: Atheist Nexus

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Update on UN Blasphemy Resolution

(from Blair Scott submitted to


American Atheists has received a lot of emails about the UN Blasphemy Resolution. Yesterday, American Atheists sent out a press release announcing that the resolution had been defeated. At the same time, the AP was running a story that the resolution had passed.

The confusion lies in the type of resolution that each is talking about.

The AP is reporting on the Human Rights Council passing a non-binding resolution, which is nothing more than a statement. Countries on the current 2009 membership of the UNHRC are: Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Cameroon, Canada, China, Cuba, Djibouti, Germany, Jordan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Mexico, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Switzerland, and Uruguay.

The Main Assembly of the UN rejected the blasphemy “legislation” and upheld freedom of speech.

While the Council’s resolution is non-binding and nothing more than a way to appease Islamic countries because of the dismal failure of the idea in the UN General Assembly, that is not stopping groups like the UN Watch, World Jewish Congress, and others to slam the resolution.

We hope that clears up any confusion!

And yes, we too are still trying to figure out how countries like Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, China, Nigeria, and Cuba get on the Human Rights Council.

Saturday, March 21, 2009






Join us Saturday, March 28, 2009 at United Nations for Free Speech demo...

ATHEISTS, SECULARISTS and anyone else concerned with freedom of speech is invited to a peaceful protest/picket next Saturday, March 28, 2009 at Dag Hammarsjold Plaza adjacent to the United Nations building in New York City.

The demo -- sponsored jointly by American Atheists and New York City Atheists -- protests a recent non-binding resolution passed by the UN General Assembly to combat "blasphemy" and any other verbal or printed comments unflattering to religious superstition and movements. The resolution was enacted at the behest of Pakistan, and enjoys widespread support from Islamist regimes in the Middle East. Many Christian, Jewish and other religious establishments, though, support the intent of the resolution, and want governments to insulate them from
"insulting" or "hateful" remarks.

Dr. Ed Buckner, President of American Atheists, told reporters recently that religion must not be given "special rights" from criticism. "We're for free speech," said Buckner. "Religious groups and beliefs must not be 'protected' at the expense of our First Amendment rights."

Secularists throughout the world are speaking out against this dangerous resolution!

protest outside the United Nations Building on Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 11:00 - 3:00 PM at Dag Hammarsjold Plaza, 46/47th St. and First Avenue.


From Penn Station on 34th St. take M34 bus east to 1st. Avenue, then take M15 north to 43rd. St.

From Port Authority Bus Station on 42nd. St., take M42 bus east to First Avenue, then walk north three blocks.

From Grand Central Terminal on 42nd. St., M42 bus east to First Avenue, then walk north three blocks.


Check weather forecast, dress appropriately.


Picket signs will be provided, or bring your own. If choosing the latter, please make them appropriate to the free-speech theme of this peaceful demonstration. NYC rules ban having signs or banners on poles.


There will be an informal social get together (on your own) after the demo.


Watch for updates. We are still in the approval process for this demonstration, so there may be changes! Visit or for current Action Alerts; or contact Ken Bronstein at NYCA through 212-535-7425.


* ED BUCKNER, President of American Atheists
* KEN BRONSTEIN, President of New York City Atheists
* DAVE SILVERMAN, Communications Director, AA

WHO & WHAT: All Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and anyone else concerned about free speech and the current UN resolution on "blasphemy."

WHERE: Outside the United Nations Building, at Dag Hammarsjold Plaza, 46/47th St. and First Avenue.

WHEN: Saturday, March 28, 2009 from 11:00 - 3:00 PM

MORE INFO: Visit o for current Action Alerts; or contact Ken Bronstein at NYCA through 212-535-7425.


(AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a nationwide movement that defends civil rights for nonbelievers; works for the total separation of church and state; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy.)

Larry Mundinger (aa#451) American Atheists Internet Representative


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Rejecting Pareidolia

My mind is inclin'd to give meaning,
and think a rock a cake, for survival's sake

Much of reality confuses, and threatens to blow fuses,
in my brain, and give pain, so it strives simply to remain unslain.

The noble lie of shutting my eye,
is good for those, who don't bother to suppose,

But for me, curiosity is glee,
and deceiving myself: not an option

Elf and faerie may actually be,
flying the Earth around, in a teapot unfound

So I must be picky and choose (win or lose),
what I accept, in regards to concept

Is evidence such a big fence,
against that which is proposed?

Does asking for proof, make me aloof?

You may say that faith is the way, and my mind holds me at bay,
but even if you can say it, can you show it?

by Drafterman of AvC

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sam Harris : The Reason Project

Friends and Readers -

We are happy to say that the advisory board of The Reason Project now includes some of the most talented and committed secularists to be found anywhere--and more are on their way.

While it will probably be two months before we launch The Reason Project website, we are now faced with the task of building a large archive of online resources. To facilitate this process, we are hoping to create a network of volunteer editors. If any of you would like to become part of this network--by submitting links to good articles, websites, or videos--your help would be greatly appreciated at this stage.

For those who want to make a submission, please review the content and style guidelines at the following link:

For the moment, we are only looking for volunteers to collect archive materials, but there will undoubtedly be many other opportunities to contribute to the Reason Project in the future. Our website will provide more information about such opportunities as they arise as well as ways for you to network with like-minded people in your own community.


Sam and Annaka Harris

The Reason Project Advisory Board

Clifford S. Asness is the Managing and Founding Principal of AQR Capital Management which manages assets for some of the largest institutional investors from the United States, Europe and Asia. Prior to starting his own firm, Mr. Asness was Managing Director and Director of the Quantitative Research Group at Goldman Sachs. He has received numerous awards for his economic research and serves on the editorial boards of several economic journals. Mr. Asness is also an Overseer for the International Rescue Committee and on the Robin Hood Foundation’s Leadership Council.

Peter Atkins is Professor of Chemistry at the University of Oxford, Fellow of Lincoln College. He is the author of nearly sixty books, including Galileo’s Finger: The Ten Great Ideas of Science; Four Laws that Drive the Universe; and the world-renowned textbook Physical Chemistry. He has been a visiting professor in France, Israel, New Zealand, China, and Japan, and continues to lecture widely throughout the world.

Jerry Coyne is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago, where he works on diverse areas of evolutionary genetics. The main focus of his laboratory is on the original problem raised by Darwin — the origin of species — and on understanding this process through the genetic patterns it produces. He has authored over one hundred scientific papers and regularly writes essays and opinion pieces for the popular press, including The Guardian, The New Republic, The New York Times Book Review, and The Time Literary Supplement. He is the author (with H. Allen Orr) of Speciation. Mr. Coyne was elected to the American Academy of Sciences in 2007.

Richard Dawkins is the Charles Simonyi Professor of the Public Understanding of Science at Oxford University. He was voted Britain’s leading public intellectual by readers of Prospect magazine and was named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” for 2007. Among his books are The Selfish Gene, The Blind Watchmaker, Climbing Mount Improbable, Unweaving the Rainbow, A Devil’s Chaplain, The Ancestor’s Tale, and the New York Times best seller The God Delusion.

Daniel C. Dennett is the Austin B. Fletcher Professor of Philosophy, and Co-Director of the Center for Cognitive Studies at Tufts University. He is the author of Breaking the Spell, Freedom Evolves, Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, Consciousness Explained, and many other books. He has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, a Fulbright Fellowship, and a Fellowship at the Center for Advanced Studies in Behavioral Science. He was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1987.

Brent Forrester is an Emmy Award-winning television writer. He has written for The Ben Stiller Show, The Simpsons, King of the Hill, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and is currently a writer and producer for The Office.

Rebecca Goldstein is a philosopher and novelist. She is the author of eight books, including, The Mind-Body Problem, Properties of Light, Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel, and Betraying Spinoza. In 1996 Goldstein received a MacArthur Fellowship (popularly known as the “Genius Award”). In 2005 she was elected to The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2006 she received a Guggenheim Fellowship and a Radcliffe Fellowship. Goldstein holds a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” and Reader’s Digest’s European of the Year for 2005. She is the author of The Caged Virgin and the New York Times best selling memoir Infidel. Ms. Hirsi Ali was born in Mogadishu, Somalia where she escaped an arranged marriage by immigrating to the Netherlands in 1992. She later served as a member of the Dutch parliament from 2003 to 2006. In 2004, together with director Theo van Gogh, she made Submission, a film about the oppression of women in conservative Islamic cultures. The airing of the film on Dutch television resulted in the assassination of van Gogh by an Islamic extremist. Ms. Hirsi Ali continues to speak and write about the importance of freedom of speech, the need to reform Islam, and the rights of women.

Christopher Hitchens is an author, journalist, and literary critic. He regularly writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, The Nation, Slate, The New York Times Book Review, Free Inquiry, and a variety of other journals. He is the author of the #1 New York Times best seller God is Not Great (a finalist for the 2007 National Book Award). He has also written Why Orwell Matters, Letter to a Young Contrarian, The Trial of Henry Kissinger, and many other books. In 2005 Mr. Hitchens was named one of the world’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.

Harold Kroto is Chairman of the Board of the Vega Science Trust, a UK educational charity that produces science programs for television. He is a fellow of the Royal Society and in 1996 shared the Nobel Prize in chemistry with Robert Curl and Richard Smalley for the discovery of a new form of carbon, the C60 Buckminsterfullerene. He has received the Royal Society’s prestigious Michael Faraday Award, given annually to a scientist who has done the most to further public communication of science, engineering or technology in the United Kingdom.

Bill Maher is one of the most politically astute comedians in America today, entertaining millions though his television series “Politically Incorrect” (Comedy Central and ABC), “Real Time with Bill Maher (HBO), sold-out comedy tours, and hour-long specials on HBO. Maher is also the author of several bestselling books including, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer. He has received numerous Emmy, Tony, and Grammy nominations for his work. Currently, Mr. Maher is in production on a documentary that will take a deep look at the presence of religion in some of the major news stories in recent years and religion’s effect on society as a whole.

Ian McEwan is a writer of worldwide critical acclaim. He won the Somerset Maugham Award in 1976 for his first collection of short stories First Love, Last Rites; the Whitbread Novel Award (1987) and the Prix Fémina Etranger (1993) for The Child in Time; and Germany’s Shakespeare Prize in 1999. He has been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize for Fiction numerous times, winning the award for Amsterdam in 1998. His novel Atonement received the WH Smith Literary Award (2002), National Book Critics’ Circle Fiction Award (2003), Los Angeles Times Prize for Fiction (2003), and the Santiago Prize for the European Novel (2004). He was awarded a CBE in 2000. In 2006, he won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Saturday.

Steven Pinker is the Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. Until 2003, he taught in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT. He conducts research on language and cognition, writes for publications such as the New York Times, Time, and Slate, and is the author of seven books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, Words and Rules, The Blank Slate, and The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature. Mr. Pinker was named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People” in 2004.

Salman Rushdie won the Booker Prize for Fiction for his second novel, Midnight’s Children. In 1993 the book was judged to have been the ‘Booker of Bookers’, the best novel to have won the Booker Prize for Fiction in the award’s 25-year history. Rushdie’s third novel, Shame (1983) won the Prix du Meilleur Livre Etranger and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize as well. The publication in 1988 of his fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, lead to accusations of blasphemy against Islam and demonstrations by Islamist groups in India and Pakistan. The orthodox Iranian leadership issued a fatwa against Rushdie on 14 February 1989, and he was forced into hiding under the protection of the British government and police. The Satanic Verses won the Whitbread Novel Award in 1988. Mr. Rushdie is the author of many novels and works of criticism. He is Honorary Professor in the Humanities at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He has received numerous awards and eight honorary doctorates. He was elected to the Board of American PEN in 2002.

Lee M. Silver is Professor at Princeton University in the Department of Molecular Biology and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He received a doctorate in biophysics from Harvard University and trained at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute and the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. He is the author of Challenging Nature: The Clash Between Biotechnology and Spirituality; Remaking Eden; and Mouse Genetics. He has published 180 articles in the fields genetics, evolution, reproduction, embryology, computer modeling, and behavioral science, and other scholarly papers on topics at the interface between biotechnology, law, ethics, and religion.

Ibn Warraq is a senior research fellow at the Center for Inquiry specializing in Koranic criticism. In 1996 he published the groundbreaking work, Why I am not a Muslim. He went on to edit a serious of anthologies: What the Koran Really Says: Language, Text, and Commentary; The Quest for the Historical Muhammed; The Origins of the Koran: Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book; Leaving Islam: Apostates Speak Out; and Which Koran? Variants, Manuscripts, and the Influence of Pre-Islamic Poetry. His latest book is Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism.

Steven Weinberg holds the Josey Regental Chair in Science at the University of Texas at Austin, where he is a member of the Physics and Astronomy Departments. His research on elementary particles and cosmology has been honored with numerous prizes and awards, including in 1979 the Nobel Prize in Physics and in 1991 the National Medal of Science. In 2004 he received the Benjamin Franklin Medal of the American Philosophical Society, with a citation that said he is “considered by many to be the preeminent theoretical physicist alive in the world today.” He has been elected to the US National Academy of Sciences and Britain’s Royal Society, as well as to the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of over 300 articles on elementary particle physics. His books include The First Three Minutes (1977); The Discovery of Subatomic Particles (1983, 2003); Elementary Particles and The Laws of Physics (with R.P. Feynman) (1987); Dreams of a Final Theory—The Search for the Fundamental Laws of Nature (1993); a trilogy, The Quantum Theory of Fields (1995, 1996, 2000); Facing Up --- Science and its Cultural Adversaries (2002); and most recently Glory and Terror—The Growing Nuclear Danger (2004). Articles of his on various subjects appear from time to time in The New York Review of Books. He has served as consultant at the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, the JASON group of defense consultants, and many other boards and committees.

Guidelines for Editors of The Reason Project Archive

1. Please avoid material that is too topical or trivial. There will be a daily newsfeed on the website covering recent intrusions of religion into politics, etc. For the archive, we are looking for material that will stand the test of time: the best examples of critical thinking, rational ethics, etc. (think Darwin, Twain, Russell, Orwell, Sagan, Dawkins, etc.) For videos, we want quality documentary footage, or great (and relevant) comedy. We are hoping to dig very deep here and quickly gather a lifetime's worth of fine reading and viewing.

2. Please submit all articles in the following form: Author (Date). Title. Periodical. Followed by URL. For example:

Pinker, S. (2008, January 13). The Moral Instinct. The New York Times Magazine. ... ker&st=nyt

3. Please submit all videos with an appropriate title and the link to YouTube, Google Video, etc. For example:

Ricky Gervais - The Bible

4. Please submit all websites with the name of the organization and the link. For example:

The Middle East Media Research Institute

5. Please include at least one (perhaps several) key words with each submission. For instance: Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Eastern Religion, Religion and Politics, Science, Ethics, Comedy, Cults and New Religions, Hall of Shame*. And, once again, please keep your standards of quality and relevance high.

*The Hall of Shame category should contain egregious examples of unreason on the part of otherwise reasonable people. Nicholas Kristof seems to offer frequent examples:

Kristof, N.D. (2008, February 3). Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love. The New York Times. ... 0&emc=eta1

Please send all submissions to:

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

PostChristian Wonder

Perhaps one of my fondest memories is spending time with a friend who was living in France.  We were both recent de-converts, and were ignited by our curiosity in a way that neither of us had ever experienced before.  During the day, we explored our physical surroundings to the best of our ability, but during the night, we set our imaginations loose on the internet and chased down every rabbit trail we could find.  The Universe, The World, and Technology were places we went wild, and it was from these sits the inspiration for this one was born. 

Looking back, I now realize that I was experiencing wonder for the first time.  You see, I had always been very curious about my religion.  I was known well for my abilities in theology, and biblical interpretation.  I found God fascinating, and was endlessly wondering about its nature, character, desire, and the like.  But there was always something missing.  I could never quite put my finger on it, but I always felt somewhat cheated when considering God.  Even other big questions like the universe, human nature, origin of our species etc, fascinated me too.  Yet, still, there was always something missing.

You see, Christianity makes fundamental assumptions about almost everything in our world.  Ranging from God to The Universe to even Human Sexuality, it replaces peoples personal abilities to reason and wonder with its own fundamental moral code.  All thats left is for the individual to ponder not the actual subject, but what Christianity has  to say about the actual subject.  For a Christian to ponder God isn’t to actually question its existence, essence, reasons, or abilities, but rather “why did he do what he did then and now?”

Much like faith, this destroys what wonder is.  Wonder isn’t something that should be contained within boundaries, or come with pre-introduced notions.  Rather, wonder is something that by its very nature needs to be as objective and as free as possible. At the loss of my faith, my wonder was reborn.  It was ignited with an intensity that I have never before seen.  Everything was considered, and as my Postchristian confidence blossomed, so too did my audacity. 

What I now know is that wonder isn’t limited to purely abstract or ascetic ideals, but is also something that is heavily sensory. Thus, no only did I wonder about the new possibilities for God, but also about the perceptual world around me.  Instead of off-the-cuff thinking sexuality was intrinsically evil (as most Christians do), I was able to understand it with a much more sophisticated sense of insight and maturity.  Further still, I was able to explore the universe around me as something purely wondrous and magnificent, rather than the benign boring understanding the Christians have.

This sense of wonder, combined with the audacity that grows from postchristian confidence, is one of the most spectacular experiences I’ve ever had.  The whole world is new again and completely free to explore and ponder.  Wonder ignites your soul, impassions your mind, and opens the world to you.  It is not a tool, but a way of life. Experiencing anything less isn’t wonder, its just placid ambivalent apathetic amusement. Humanity deserves the real thing, and Christianity succeeds in only robbing us from it.

- The Busymind of AvC and

More To Come from