Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Morning Stupid Quotes: Glenn Beck

''This president I think has exposed himself over and over again as a guy who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture....I'm not saying he doesn't like white people, I'm saying he has a problem. This guy is, I believe, a racist.''
—Glenn Beck, on President Obama, July 28, 2009

''The most used phrase in my administration if I were to be President would be 'What the hell you mean we're out of missiles?'''
—Glenn Beck, Jan. 2009

''I think there is (sic) a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.''
—Glenn Beck, 'The Glenn Beck Program,' Oct. 22, 2007

The problem in(with?) America is we don’t even know who we are anymore. The problem in America is we don’t even know the truth of who we are. We’re being indoctrinated from dawn until dusk every single day, seven days a week. We’re being indoctrinated by Washington. We’re being indoctrinated by our unions. We’re being indoctrinated in our schools. We’re being indoctrinated in the media. We’re being indoctrinated. What are you even talking about? You’re darn right we should abolish public schools. – June 22, 2010 

So here you have Barack Obama going in and spending the money on embryonic stem cell research. … Eugenics. In case you don’t know what Eugenics led us to: the Final Solution. A master race! A perfect person. … The stuff that we are facing is absolutely frightening. – radio show March 9, 2009

I have been nervous about this interview with you because what I feel like saying is, ‘Sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. … And I know you’re not. I’m not accusing you of being an enemy, but that’s the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way.” –interviewing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim U.S. congressman, Glen Beck’s show on CNN’s Headline News, Nov. 14, 2006

“I could give a flying crap about the political process.... We're an entertainment company.”  Forbes Magazine interview

The Atheist Child

Raising a secular child is easier than you might think.

At age five, my son is three and a half feet of questions. Mixed in with inquiries about Santa and the Easter Bunny, there are the inevitable questions about the universe, angels and God. Lately, (to my relief) there have been far more questions about astronomy than Heaven. Sometimes the answer is simple. Sometimes the answer is "I don't know".
This is the point where the theist thinks that their children will somehow be incomplete without a cosmic answer to the big questions. A quick internet search will yield multiple opinions about the dangers of a secular upbringing. A child's world is full of mysteries. It is actually comforting to them to know that some things are mysterious even to those who appear to know everything. Let's be clear. I have no intention of raising an "Atheist Child". That would be an insult to the intelligence and individuality of my son. I am raising a critical thinker. The best way to do this is to respect his natural curiosity and intelligence. If your answers to questions always end with "God made it" that tells the asker that there are no more questions. God is supposed to be enough. There is no more curiosity.
I do not take any pains to keep religion out of my home. I do not have an objection to taking my son to a church for a baptism or confirmation of a family member. I am not afraid of exposing him to religion or religious ideas. I do not openly criticize religious institutions (or faith) at the dinner table. My wife talks about God in a benign, Deist sort of way. When directly asked, she says that God is love. I am hard pressed to find a problem with that. If that statement becomes the root of his spiritual tree. I will call it a success. I want my child to respect faith. Or at least respect people who have faith. After all, we are surrounded.
In spite of all this tolerance, I seriously doubt that he will grow up to be a believer. I say this because of the addendum I add to all of those difficult questions that he asks. I don't know...and nobody else knows either. Where do people go when they die? There are different beliefs, but nobody knows. Nobody. He already understands that there are some things that are impossible to know with certainty. There are rules to the natural world. Every child has a basic understanding of the way things are, even though they are more likely to attribute an unexplained event in their environment to an agent. This type of magical thinking is healthy, and possibly essential. Regardless of any effort to shield my child, our culture will tell him lies that he will have to uncover. He will be taught a completely fabricated Thanksgiving story. He will be taught that the first president never told a lie. He will be told that once a year, a rabbit lays plastic eggs. Tempted as I am to invoke Santa (in October) to illicit good behavior. I must be conscious of what I am actually teaching. There is a magic man who is watching you right now. He can see you, even when you are alone. He will give you gifts if you are good.

I cannot imagine a good reason to tell him that there is a place where he would be burned and tortured forever, if he broke a 2000 year old rule. This place will be filled with several friends and family members who happen to have different beliefs or lifestyles from us. This reprehensible indoctrination occurs almost without criticism all over the world. Dawkins calls it child abuse.
As expected the religious right makes the same claim about raising a non-christian. Atheists don't have any universal ethics to teach their children. How does one provide a moral upbringing to a child without God. Easy, just don't attach eternal punishment or reward as a consequence for behavior. In our house we call it "being nice". It works well.
Tell me which is more moral: Making a decision because it is the right thing to do. Or making a decision with the expectation that a cosmic check will go into the "good" column.
When asked the question by the well meaning theist about how I know the difference between right and wrong. [When I don't feel the need to point out the moral atrocities of the good book] I often say that I am a good person because I choose to be. I lead by example. Not because Santa is watching. Respect and intelligence.
When asked, "What is heaven?" I tell him that different people have different beliefs and encourage him to ask others and evaluate the different answers. I will trust in his intelligence to seek out the answers to his questions. And to continue questioning when the answers received are unsatisfactory. This will evolve into the understanding that anyone who claims to know the unknowable will need facts to support their truths. When he eventually asks me if I believe in God, I will tell the truth. Because I respect him. And because its "not nice" to lie.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Turning 'back' to god is a terrible idea ... and I have proof

"What do you say we give the whole ‘let's turn back to God’ thing a try and see what happens?”`Glenn Beck on Fox News Sunday

One would assume that if becoming a more 'godly' country contributed to a country's success ... that the most religious countries would be the most well off, right? I mean that is the logical extension of his premise, is it not?

However, the FACTS say that's entirely incorrect. This Gallup Poll clearly shows which countries are the most religious.

... and this Quality of Life Index from International Living shows that not a single one of the top 11 most religious countries are anywhere near the U.S. (or for that matter some of the most 'godless' countries on the planet).

At the very least, there's no correlation whatsoever between how religious a country's population is and their quality of life. At most, sorting that Quality of life index by "Freedom" one might find it significant that the top 11 most religious countries are all pretty far down on the list.

So, there's some pretty solid data that suggests religion isn't going to save America. I have some anecdotal evidence too, because I think in terms of what Mr. Beck is talking about it's pretty relevant.

If the supposition is that we need to "return to god" then one must ask: what happened when we "turned to god"? Of course Western Civilization "turned to god" long before the inception of the United States so we need to backtrack a little. Christianity got it's foothold on the western world in 312 when the it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. About 150 years later the Roman Empire was finished and humanity found itself in the dark ages, which lasted for about 500 years. It took us another 400-500 years and the Black Plague to claw our way out of that quagmire until the renaissance when we started studying the natural sciences again. Which was a huge boon, and in only about 200-300 years we reached the enlightenment and we as a species proudly proclaimed: Reason [not god] is the only source of legitimacy and authority!

That brings us up to about the 17oo's, and then ... late in the 18th century, a group of unruly misfits in the British Colonies said: "Hang on a minute. that asshole is saying that he's our king, and thereby claims the right to tax the everliving snot out of us ... because god says he's in charge ..." And the Colonists, being rational people raised with enlightenment philosophies said "because god says so just isn't good enough".

And then ... Rail roads, electricity, the germ theory of medicine, the industrial revolution, extending the human lifespan by almost double, decreasing the infant mortality rate since 1800 in America from over 16 out of every 100 births to just 7 out of every thousand, nuclear power, space travel, the technological revolution, calculating the age of the universe ... all in about 230 years. We, as a species have done and learned more than our ancestors ever thought possible; and we did it all in the past few hundred years as compared to the several thousand years since the inception of organized religion.

All we ever had to do was lose faith. So ask yourself ... even if you believe in god, would you really want to 'turn back'?

Sunday Morning Hate: Cardinal Juan Sandoval Iniguez

Hateful Rhetoric from Religious Leaders

"Would you want to be adopted by a pair of faggots or lesbians?"

from the LA Times article  Mexico City's gay marriage law still igniting debate

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Hitchens: A Test of Tolerance

The "Ground Zero mosque" debate is about tolerance—and a whole lot more.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Friday Link Dump - 8/27/10

Physics in the MultiverseThis is cool, but it will really bake your noodle. 

Two new scientific studies reveal hallucinogens are good for your mental health – Come for the therapy, stay for the visuals.

       *side note: You know how I know Johnny Depp is a method actor?  Because he nailed it! 

You Can Build A Catholic Church Next To A Playground -- But Should You? (VIDEO)That John Stewart is funny.  He might just make a name for himself.  Also, no.  

Software Predicts Criminal Behavior – Philip K. Dick was right! Now we just need “sick sticks.” 

Proof of aliens could come within 25 years - …aaand this is why I am buying more ammo.  

Sam Harris: This is Your Brain on Morality - No witty comment.  Just watch.  

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Honor by Association

Beck’s 8/28 rally is being called “Restoring Honor”

The charity is honorable, surely. Its intentions are in fact quite noble. Beck, Palin, and the rest of their lot who are using this opportunity to plug their erroneous worldview aren’t honorable. They’re downright ignominious.

Honor by association is a fallacious attempt to portray the qualities of a thing, person, or group onto another thing, person or group solely because they have some kind of irrelevant association. By having his rally on the same day, at the same location, that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his "I have a dream" speech in 1963 Beck is trying to get people to conflate his actions with those of the civil rights movement.

In that speech Martin Luther King Jr. said: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” Well ...

"I don't give a damn flying crap about the border illegals. I want the ocelot dead."~ Glenn Beck

He's definitely a character ... but I wouldn't hold your breath waiting on the content part. So when Glenn Beck says on Saturday that "we" (meaning the religious-right) need to "take back America" ... remember the words of every conservative christian's favorite first lady, and Just Say No.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Morning Stupid Quotes: Michele Bachmann

Every Monday morning we'll post quotes from American politicians and pundits that show their ignorance of science, the constitution and reality. Go ahead and laugh.  Then cry.

Michelle Bachmann is the United States Representative of Minnesota's 6th congressional district and member of the Republican Party.

"Carbon dioxide is portrayed as harmful. But there isn't even one study that can be produced that shows that carbon dioxide is a harmful gas." -Rep. Michelle Bachmann, April, 2009
"There are hundreds and hundreds of scientists, many of them holding Nobel Prizes, who believe in intelligent design." -Rep. Michele Bachmann, Oct. 2006

On public education: “That’s my number one issue.” — Senator Michele Bachmann quoted in Stillwater Gazette, July 24, 2006. K. Janisch, “Rove stumps for Bachmann in Stillwater ”

“We’re in a state of crisis where our nation is literally ripping apart at the seams right now, and lawlessness is occurring from one ocean to the other. And we’re seeing the fulfillment of the Book of Judges here in our own time, where every man doing that which is right in his own eyes—in other words, anarchy." Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program “Prophetic Views Behind The News”, hosted by Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 6, 2004.

On her 2004 state capitol rally for a same-sex marriage ban amendment: “Listeners should rejoice right now, because there are believers all across your listening area that are praying now. And I would say that if you can’t attend the rally, you can pray. And God calls us to fall on our faces and our knees and cry out to Him and confess our sins. And I would just ask your listeners to do that now. Cry out to a Holy God. He wants to hear us, He will hear us if we will confess our sins and cry out to Him. Our children are worth it and obedience to God demands it.” Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program “Prophetic Views Behind The News”, hosted by Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 6, 2004.

“And what a bizarre time we’re in, Jan, when a judge will say to little children that you can’t say the pledge of allegiance, but you must learn that homosexuality is normal and you should try it.” — Senator Michele Bachmann, appearing as guest on radio program “Prophetic Views Behind The News”, hosted by Jan Markell, KKMS 980-AM, March 6, 2004.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

No True Scotsman

Barack Obama is Christian. He’s not Muslim like the right-wing bigots claim. He’s not atheist, either (a lot of atheists speculate that he is ‘secretly’ one of us and only pretends to be Christian because it’s the only way to get elected; you may as well call him an uncle tom.)

You are what you say you are. Regardless of whether it’s Christians saying that “he’s not a real Christian because …” or atheists saying “he’s not really Christian because …” it all boils down to the same logical fallacy. It’s called No True Scotsman, and it’s rampant.

Here’s how it works:

Person A says: “X's always Y.”
Person B says: “Well this X doesn’t Y, how do you explain that?”
Person A says: “Well then that X isn't really an X.”
Get it? It’s like saying a particular 2 isn’t 2 enough to be a 2 and should be counted as 3.

Total bullshit.

The thing that pisses me off isn’t that Christians don’t want him to be one of them because he’s compassionate and black (definitive irony). What pisses me off is that generally rational atheists are so eager to claim him as one of our own.

He’s not. Deal with that. Why would you like him more if he’s been lying to us from the start anyway? Thing is, he hasn’t lied. Obama hasn’t misrepresented himself once. That’s why nothing he says fits into a 15 second clip that the media can exploit. Don’t get me wrong; Obama is a thoughtful, intelligent guy. He’s not a creationist, he’s not a bible literalist … but he’s still a Christian.
I’m not one to automatically count that as a bad thing. I was a journalism major and fond of Hunter Thompson so insanity has it’s place, but …Check this out:

"… a
2007 Pew survey found that 45 percent of Americans said they would be less likely to vote for a Muslim. 61 percent said they would be less likely to vote for an atheist. Only 25 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a Mormon candidate. Sixteem [sic] percent said they would be less likely to vote for an Evangelical and 11 percent would be less likely to vote for a Jewish candidate. Far fewer, 6 percent, said they would be less likely to vote for someone who is black." [Source: ABC News]

So … that’s what we overcame, 6 percent. Now look around at the way Americans react to Muslims trying to build mosques and consider: We (non-theists) are more hated than Muslims, hell we’re more hated than the GLBT community. Gay people get elected. We got one atheist in the house; there are a good handful of gay governors and senators. I’m not trying to downplay the severity of their problems, we’re in the same boat with them a lot of the time; and I don’t care who you fuck, but the math is screwy isn’t it?

There are more non-theists than there are gay people (self-reporting both, I admit). They feel under-represented, so why don't we?

Remember how proud everyone was that we overcame the race barrier by electing Obama? According to 2008 statistics America was 14% African-American. By way of comparison an ABC news poll found that:

“Eighty-three percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians. Most of the rest [emphasis mine], 13 percent, have no religion. That leaves just 4 percent as adherents of all non-Christian religions combined — Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and a smattering of individual mentions.” [source: ABC News]

So think about that. The second largest religion in the US is … none. There are almost as many non-theistic Americans as there are African-Americans. And only one elected federa official is an atheist. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that the plight of either Jews in the US, or African-Americans hasn’t been hard fought. Their victories over intolerance are well deserved. They both had it way worse than we have for a lot longer. My point is that we haven’t stepped up.

Now I know, we’re all natural iconoclasts. In this country we wouldn’t be atheist if we weren’t. I’m one of you. Shit, I’m downright misanthropic. I know weird it is to organize around a non-belief. But can we at least say though, that no matter how little chance they have of getting elected … we’re (non-theists) voting for the least religious person on the ballot, PERIOD? Maybe even *gasp* get a few atheists in office?

Atheists are under-represented because we’re a bunch of pussies. We act like agnostics whenever the issue comes up (“well, neither of us can PROVE it, so … fiscal policy it is”). Call a spade a spade. There’s no evidence for any god. Stop pandering. Stop picking the lesser of two evils. Know your shit and walk the talk. Because, to quote … well at this point I don’t know who said it first (I first heard it from Penn Jillette on an episode of P&T’s Showtime series) “the lesser of two evils is still evil; and the enemy of my enemy is not my friend”.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Quackery in the media: How one "physicians" advice could cause thousands to commit involuntary suicide.

Dr. Joseph Mercola, self described physician and author, recently wrote this article for the Huffington Post outlining why the entire community of doctors and medical scientists are part of a conspiracy to get you to purchase dangerous medicines that will only make you sicker. Warning: if you are both gullible and at a high risk for a heart attack, clicking the link may be harmful to your heath. Otherwise, especially if you enjoy scoffing at outlandish conspiracy theories, check out his website which includes gems like "Your Mattress Could be Acting as a Cancer-Causing Radiation Antenna" (omg evil mattress kill it with fire)

In his H-P post entitled "The Cholesterol Myth That Could Be Harming Your Health," Dr. Mercola recommends that people at risk for heart attacks should consume as much cholesterol as possible and quit taking their statin drugs. Yeah, you read that right. Whether or not he's heavily invested in funeral homes and burial plots remains to be determined. Now before we all ditch the cardiologist's advice and start on Dr. Mercola's new age deep fried bacon heart healthy diet, lets examine in detail how he came to this conclusion and learn how we can all avoid such embarrassing logical fallacies.

Dr. Mercola's theory that "cholesterol is your friend, not your enemy" stems from two main points. First, he asserts that "there is no life on Earth that can live without cholesterol." Ignoring the fact that prokaryotes do not use the chemical and eukaryotes outside of the animal kingdom rarely contain this sterol, he does have a point. Cholesterol is required to form steroid hormones (like estrogen), fat soluble vitamins (like vitamin D), and lipid rafts essential for cell membranes. But what he fails to mention is that enough cholesterol is produced in your liver to the point where you don't need to consume it. Your body tries to compensate for ingested cholesterol by regulating the amount produced, but what you eat ends up being absorbed in your intestines, recycled by your liver, and injected back into your intestines in an endless loop. Eating it is both unnecessary and potentially dangerous. Early man only consumed cholesterol via the occasional meal containing meat or eggs--today it seems every appetizer, entree, and dessert consists primarily of purified, hydrogenated, 100% animal lard.

Dr. Mercola goes on to say "cholesterol is a vital component of every cell membrane on Earth. That will automatically tell you that it cannot be evil. In fact, it is one of our best friends." know what else is a vital component of every cell in your body? Copper, nickel, and zinc ions, which are essential cofactors for a variety of enzymes. But for some strange reason the conspiracy of evil doctors doesn't recommend that you eat your spare change daily. The reason is the quantity of copper in a penny is far more than your body could handle, just like the amount of cholesterol in your average flame broiled Burger King patty disqualifies it from being considered health food. However, this isn't the most fair metaphor since your body does in fact require a dietary intake of metals to function properly. Saying that you should eat cholesterol, which is produced by your liver, to maintain your health is akin to suggesting that since your brain contains endomorphins and other such endogenous opioids, black tar heroin is part of a well balanced diet.

Now that Dr. Mercola has convinced you that cholesterol is good for you because your cells use it, how will he explain away all the data that clearly shows high cholesterol is linked to heart attacks and strokes? Enter point two of his theory: cholesterol is merely a sign of inflammation in your body. "Conventional medicine misses the boat entirely when they dangerously recommend that lowering cholesterol with drugs is the way to reduce your risk of heart attacks, because what is actually needed is to address whatever is causing your body damage -- and leading to increased inflammation and then increased cholesterol." He argues that since cholesterol is used in every cell in your body, more cholesterol in your bloodstream is just an indicator that your body is repairing damaged tissue. Ignoring the obvious fact that it could also be an indicator that you recently consumed a sack of processed animal parts from McDonald's, is there any truth to this hypothesis he presents as fact? Somewhat, but he misses the boat entirely.

When tissues in your body are suffering from inflammation, more cholesterol is circulated through the bloodstream to help rebuild cells. But when an excess of cholesterol is present, cells will stop producing LDL receptor proteins. Without LDL receptor proteins, the concentration of LDL in the bloodstream skyrockets, resulting in a slow and painful death. LDL is a lipoprotein that carries insoluble fats and cholesterol through the blood. Atherosclerosis is the hardening and thickening of the arteries that is caused when an excess of LDL collects in the blood vessels and oxidizes, triggering white blood cells to respond (inflammation) and uptake the oxidized fats. The white blood cells accumulate in the arteries and the cholesterol and fat remains, unless another lipoprotein HDL comes to the rescue and removes the disgusting deposits.

So cardiovascular disease is really caused by LDL, but cholesterol plays a causative role in increasing LDL concentrations to dangerous levels. That's where the statin drugs come in to play. As Dr. Mercola learned while getting his D.O., all medicine is evil and the only way to stay healthy is with massages and homeopathy. He claims that lowering your cholesterol with statin drugs is crazy and counterproductive, and then proceeds to list the frightening but true potential side effects (which for some reason does not include clogged arteries and heart attack.) His assertion is that statins treat the symptom, not the cause of the disease.

He could not be further from the truth.

Statins (like mevastatin and lovastatin) were originally isolated from 'shrooms, and "that will automatically tell you that they are one of our best friends." :P These structurally similar drugs all work by inhibiting HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme that is the rate limiting step in cholesterol synthesis. Inhibition of this enzyme also results in an increase in LDL receptor proteins in the liver. So statin drugs deliver the one-two punch of reducing the amount of cholesterol produced by your liver (resulting in less LDL in your blood) while preventing LDL from leaving your liver in the first place.

Dr. Kevorki--I mean Mercola goes on to say "among the more than 20,000 patients who have come to my clinic, only four or five of them truly needed these drugs." Well that sucks for those other 19,995 patients. He then criticizes a clinical trial of atorvastatin, saying "for every 100 people who took the drug over 3.3 years, three people on placebos, and two people on Lipitor, had heart attacks. That means that taking Lipitor resulted in just one fewer heart attack per 100 people." So sorry that only 3% of participants were due to have a heart attack in those 40 months...instead of selecting patients healthy enough to take experimental medication they should have used people on Dr. Mercola's high cholesterol diet. Maybe then the 36% drop in heart attack risk would have jumped to something that he deems "effective."

When the media reports on scientific findings you can expect the jounalist, no matter how experienced, to make errors and misunderstand the subject. That is because they are not a scientist. But when the author pretends to be an expert on the subject, be extra careful. Listening to a quack like Dr. Mercola could convince you to stop taking the wonder drugs that are saving your life.

Narcissism and the Human Soul

Full disclosure. I like the soul. I like the poetry of an incorporeal, invisible, immortal essence that lies within each of us. I like the thought of being special. In the story of my conversion, from Christian to Atheist, the soul was the last chapter. Or as I like to call it: “The Last Delusion”. It is such an attractive thought that I cannot completely rule it out. Even now. Not because of any evidence other than experiential. When I hear of any discovery about the presence of a soul (or the weight of a soul) I find myself hoping. Inevitably, reason wins out and I must remind myself that evidence is the ultimate authority.

In many cultures, the soul is synonymous with the self. It is the essence of the individual. To avoid the urge to plagiarize. I'll let the good people at Britannica give us the multicultural synopsis:

"Immaterial aspect or essence of a person, conjoined with the body during life and separable at death. The concept of a soul is found in nearly all cultures and religions, though the interpretations of its nature vary considerably. The ancient Egyptians conceived of a dual soul, one surviving death but remaining near the body, while the other proceeded to the realm of the dead. The early Hebrews did not consider the soul as distinct from the body, but later Jewish writers perceived the two as separate. Christian theology adopted the Greek concept of an immortal soul, adding the notion that God created the soul and infused it into the body at conception. In Islam the soul is believed to come into existence at the same time as the body but is everlasting and subject to eternal bliss or torment after the death of the body. In Hinduism each soul, or Atman, was created at the beginning of time and imprisoned in an earthly body; at death the soul is said to pass to a new body according to the laws of karma. Buddhism negates the idea of a soul, asserting that any sense of an individual self is illusory."

To keep this post under 100 pages, I’ll refer only to the Judeo-Christian concept of the soul.
Theists will typically tell you that your personality is a reflection of your soul. The real you is spirit. This does not account for the drastic personality change that can accompany a brain injury. If a quiet and pleasant man suddenly becomes loud, angry and irritable (after a shot to the hippo campus), which soul does he get in the afterlife? Who is he really?

We rarely consider the soul without describing The Mind. Most of us imagine a god that thinks like us and has the same motivations. Many look to consciousness as another proof of God. I say consciousness is what the brain thinks about what it is thinking. It is not difficult to see this from an evolutionary perspective. In order to maintain multiple abstract concepts in mind at once. An organism would need to be able to distinguish and organize those concepts. Self-awareness is just the knowledge that those little shoves behind your eyes are thoughts.

The body is not a suitable vessel for the afterlife. Who wants to inhabit their own imperfect shell for eternity when they can have an intangible essence? One could argue that it wouldn't be Heaven if I still have a bad back, or arthritic fingers. Early conceptions of Heaven made it a much more physical place. This would necessitate at physical body in order to interact with the environment. Heaven was a literal paradise with mountains and streams. Its no surprise that as the science of matter and physics became undeniable, our conceptions of heaven evolved in step. Heaven became a feeling, rather than a place. Dante alluded to it as being in the presence of God's love (or Hell as the absence of God).

In survey after survey people just don't believe that they are going to Hell. There are varying degrees of the belief that the individual can accurately judge others who will be burned and rent asunder for all days. But very few believe that they are going to Hell. Ironically, there appears to be some comfort in the idea of others going to Hell. (I wont bother to post a link on this -- just google "hell" and you'll see thousands of "other people" who are destined for the Inferno. Conceptions on the physicality of the soul differ here as well. Eternal torment of a non-physical type does not carry the sting to being boiled in hot blood or hung on meat racks. The soul needs to be able to feel actual pain in order for the concept of hell to work as a social control construct.

The human soul represents man at his most vulnerable while also catching him at his most narcissistic. The firmly held belief is that I am so special and individual in this immense spinning cosmos that there is an immortal life force attached to my body (without, or even in spite of a shred of evidence) that will live on in paradise or hell when my neurons stop firing.

This is the claim that more than half of the world subscribe to. Could all of these people be wrong? Well, yes. Yes they are.
Death is frightening. Oblivion is downright terrifying. Anything. Anything at all is better than oblivion. Even Hell is better than oblivion. Hell means the universe is just and that bad things will (eventually) happen to bad people. A spinning rock hurtling through a violent, and indifferent cosmos...well that chills us to the core. Or, whatever.

Our fear of death is the fear of the unknown. Enter the soul. If everything that makes up you is immortal then the flesh is just a shell. Death cannot mean the non-existence of self if the self cannot die. These sentiments appear to intensify in the face of death. Terror Management Theory describes the existential anxiety that accompanies knowing that we will someday die. The individual, when faced with the finite existence will develop/embrace a belief in a transcendent state (Goldenberg et. al.). We immerse ourselves in a culture that reinforces this worldview, and cling white knuckled to this belief system when we feel threatened. The belief in the immortal soul is an extension of this fear.
I know, this is an ancient argument for the evolution of religion as a vehicle to make order out of chaos. There is a particular narcissism to the soul however, that should be acknowledged.
I cannot avoid the reality that my body is fragile. No matter what illusions I convince myself or others, Death is sharpening his scythe for me too. The belief that the individual has such intrinsic value that each of us carries a piece of god within us...sounds ridiculous when looked at through the glasses of reason.

To the vast majority, it confirms what we already suspected. The entire universe was made, just for us.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"I've never knowingly listened to or face [sic] a atheist, I want you to know you make me sick to my stomach,"-Commissioner J.W. Rix, Marion, IL (about which there's no noteworthy link to be found other than this story after 2 years of being in office, hint *cough* publicity stunt* hint.)

"What right do they have to prevent my Ten Commandments of the United States of America which I served in the marine corps to defend the right to put it there?"-Rabbi Moshe Laurie of Congregation Adat Ariel.


But we're the hateful and intolerant ones? Uh-huh.

Ok Moshe ... let me tromp through this shit one more time for you.

There is no "ten commandments of the United States of America". And if there is, it's the Bill of Rights. If you want to put a Bill of Rights on a chunk of public property ... well that's great. I'm all for it.

Let me back track and give you some premise. This guy, Rob Sherman (Atheist and Patriot), of Illinois, went to Marion to explain to them why putting the ten commandments in a town square is a bad idea according to the constitution. He was right.

Here's the thing. The debate has been going on for a long time between whether we're a secular nation (which we are, by the way) or a "christian nation" (which we're not). Let's just hash this out right now.

A secular government is NOT a society in which everyone is an atheist. That's not what any atheist who believes in freedom of thought is saying (and that, I assure you, is a fair representation of most of us).

However, if our government is going to allow for a religious plurality (as in, was Jesus the son of god [christian]. or wasn't he [jewish], or is there no god at all [atheists]) then the only objective stance the government can take is one of skeptical agnosticism at best. I'm not allowed to stop you from praying in public, you're not allowed to stop me from "blaspheming" in public. Fair is fair.

Here's a hypothetical though:
I would suspect that those of the judeo-christian faith would take offense to desecration of a religious symbol. Right? But we live in a country that says all religions are equal, and that all public property is collectively owned by the people of this country. So ... if a city installs a monument to the ten commandments ... does that mean that, as a citizen, I have equal right to go up to it with a can of spray paint and cross out the commandments I don't agree with?

Obviously you would balk, "destruction of public property" ... but that property is just as much mine as theirs, isn't it?

The problem is that public property is different than private property. We all own public property together, it's a common bond. That's what being a country of the people, by the people and for the people means. This gets confused with atheism because our position is that there is no god, whereas the government MUST ACT as if there is no god so long as any Citizen so much as doubts the existence of one. That's where the will of the majority butts heads with the rights of the minority in this great country.

Ironically enough, the first one is fine " you shall have no other gods before me." ... kind of a moot point when you put them all on equal footing as nonsensical. No atheist puts any god before any other god. Further, no government should ... which is the point.

But the religious certainly try to with no evidence other than faith, which is no evidence at all.