Sunday, July 14, 2013

Thou Shalt Not Kill

Thou Shalt Not Kill

The sixth commandment, "Thou Shalt Not Kill", does make sense to me. I am yet to know of a single advantage to deliberately setting out to kill someone, the want or perceived need to murder. To be clear, I am not addressing manslaughter in this post.

I understand that a desire to murder may be present in some. It may be considered necessary as an act of revenge, an attempt to gain power or to remove a threat. In all cases, I feel that the killing is selfish, hypocritical, undemocratic and unjustified. Essentially you do become morally bankrupt when you resort to murder. You become as morally bankrupt as those who murder.

Consider murder as revenge for terrorism. When the September 11 attacks occurred in America, there was a significant loss of life. The perpetrators were murderers. Innocent victims were murdered by ideological violence. No matter the violence, or the number of deaths, how can murder of the perpetrators be justified? I know that it probably feels good to some to know that the perpetrator is now dead, removed from the physical world and no longer a threat, but why is it the right thing to murder in retaliation of murder? This is especially troubling when America often holds itself up as the bastion of Christianity in the West. The same Christianity that espouses, "Thou Shalt Not Kill". The same Christians that cheered upon hearing of the death of Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. Again, why was/is it right to murder in retaliation for murder?

One would assume that atheists would be prime candidates for this type of moral bankruptcy. Atheists don't believe in God and I suppose, by extension, probably don't follow the Bible. An atheist without morals grounded in the Bible would surely be a killing and raping machine. However, history shows that disgusting acts of violence, rape and murder are not isolated to atheists. Surprisingly, the moral arbiters of our world, Christians, are soaked in violence, rape and murder. Some sources report that a large majority of prison inmates are aligned with Christianity. Sure, with a large population of Christians in America, you might expect a correlated percentage, but seemingly, the good book and the associated moral fibre don't go hand in hand.

When it comes to crime in general, I feel that the "Forgiveness Escape Clause" plays a major role. Commit the crime, pray for forgiveness, absolve your responsibility and escape negative judgement in the next life. Secular law seems to be the only mechanism that does not forgive and for good reason.

For more heinous actions such as murder, capital punishment and an eye for an eye, I sense a little blood lust and a power trip. I sense that those groups and individuals backed by religious dogma, feel that they are doing the work of God. Christians, doing the work of God, in contradiction to central tenants of the Bible. Amazingly, George Bush received a message from God regarding Iraq - God told George Bush to end the tyranny in Iraq. This, of course, had nothing to do with "Invading Iraq" being in the family DNA.

Next, let us observe the actions of Texas Governor, Rick Perry, an Evangelical Christian. Governor Rick Perry holds the record on the number of death row executions in America. Why? "Thou Shalt Not Kill" need not apply here. Never mind that innocents may be put to death. Never mind those pesky rules in the Bible. Just assume the role of your God on earth and fulfil your desire for justice by means of murder.

Disturbingly, during a recent conversation I had, one fellow was able to justify his adherence to the rule of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" by explaining that they, themselves, had not killed. This is bizarre and shows a moral disconnect between the support of killing and the actual killing. Therefore supporting the death penalty for prisoners, is not killing. Maybe this is how Governor Rick Perry adheres to "Thou Shalt Not Kill". Governor Rick Perry only signs the documents authorising the killing. Some other individual controls the injection, the gun or the noose. In other news, eating animals that you have not killed yourself, is also not considered killing.

The hypocrisy doesn't end here. Recently it seems fashionable to denigrate atheists in the military. Apparently there are no atheists in foxholes. A pitiful attempt at making atheists seem like cowards who are not mentally or physically tough enough to fight the good fight in battle. To be good enough for war, to fight for your country, to invade another country for it's oil, you need God on your side. You need to be a Christian. You need to be a Christian warrior for God. Who does all of the killing in war? "Thou Shalt Not Kill" seems to only apply when it suits. Personal gain, lust for power, also known as, "What A Christian Wants", will always trump biblical adherence.

I feel that adherence to the Bible is a facade. Adherence to the teachings of the Bible is essentially optional. The facade is at it's most powerful when a Christian wants something, desires something. Invoking the invisible and undetectable God for their purpose, gives them the green light. Murder and crime are sure to happen, with God on the Christians side.

Murder overseen and sponsored by the Christian God is perfectly reasonable in the moral mindset of a Christian. Forgiveness will be granted. It is Gods will. It is a Christians will. Thinking that any of the commandments, or the Bible, make a shred of difference to Christian actions and/or morality, is absurd.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Evidence Is Not Needed For Fairy Tales

Evidence Is Not Needed For Fairy Tales

Theists are always so sure about the existence of god. God exists because I feel it it my heart. God exists because the Bible says it is so. God exists because the world looks designed especially for us. I believe it, therefore it is true, and all my religious club members are correct. God exists.

From my perspective, I can't see, feel, hear or sense any such god. So naturally I ask for some evidence to prove that god exists. Hundreds of years into the advancement of the scientific method and no empirical evidence has yet to be found that confirms any such existence. Most of the bogus stories of the Bible, which at some point were taken as literally true, have been disproven by science or explained by natural processes. Talking snakes and living inside whales may be the only exceptions.

I've had discussions with theists that basically amount to them concluding that we don't need evidence for god and that's why it is called faith. Oh, and by the way, you can't prove that god doesn't exist. Pathetic really.

Consider these compressed conversations as a summary :

Conversation 1

Theist  : I believe in God.
Atheist : There is no evidence or proof for god therefore I don't believe in god.
Theist  : You can't prove there isn't a God therefore God exists.

Conversation 2

Atheist : Your pastor/priest is a pedophile.
Theist  : No he isn't. You don't have any proof that my pastor is a pedophile.
Atheist : You can't prove that he isn't therefore your pastor is a pedophile.

Typically, funnily enough, theists require evidence for positions that portray a negative consequence for their preconceived ideas. In the above examples, god existing is a positive assertion and requires no evidence. Your pastor/priest being a pedophile has negative consequences and requires evidence.

We see exactly the same behaviour when a theist denies evolution. Typically a theist will reject evolution as being incomplete in it's evidence or in a display of total intellectual disconnect, they will put forward the "evolution is only a theory" position. A sudden need to reject an idea that has negative consequences for their own beliefs.

The acceptance of evolution basically means the entire Adam and Eve story is bogus (as there was no Adam and Eve) and therefore no need to be saved and therefore no need for Jesus and therefore no reason to push Christian fables on society.

For entertainment purposes, as much as denying evolution is intellectually shallow, I think I prefer theists to try and mix reality with religion. For example, much like George Pell on Australian Q&A performing the equivalent of Nadia Comaneci gymnastics in regards to the story of Adam and Eve. Note to George Pell, know something about evolution when debating an evolutionary biologist.

It really is just too easy to ask why theists can't just accept evolution without evidence, like they accept god without evidence. I suppose a theist has probably been told their whole life that such and such is true. I can only imagine the mental anguish when they discover it is probably all false. A defensive mechanism kicks in to protect their fragile need to be right.

One of the most beautiful things about science and the scientific method, is that they have provided mechanisms that enable you to prove and also to falsify or refute the assertions of evolution. If you deny evolution and have scientific facts to back it up, your notoriety will be eternal in the undoing of hundreds of years of scientifically proven work. However, onward we march. The evidence for evolution continues to stack up. No know refutation of the empirical, factual evidence has been found.

I forgot to add that the same methods that have been used to provide all of the technical breakthroughs we take for granted every day, are the same checks and balances, the same peer review processes and the same experimental processes that have been utilised to prove evolution. We aren't walking around denying our computers exist.

I now ask, where is the evidence for god? What system can I use to refute the assertion that there is a god? Easy to answer. There is no evidence and there is no system of refutation. Mr Hitchens said it best, "What can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence!".

Claiming there is a god without providing evidence and then using misdirection and completely bogus arguments against evolution, which actually has evidence, is completely absurd.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Join The Club

Join The Club

Fringe ideas have always been out there. The original thoughts that may go against the grain of the established ideology. The ideas that may challenge us and our society to the very core.

In my current frame of reference I see religion and factory farming as two key ideologies that are out there and currently being scrutinised by a litany of original thoughts and fringe ideas. Ideologies that are being challenged to the core. Ideologies that should be challenged to the core.

Without my degree in psychology to understand, I have encountered what I would call "ideological protection mechanisms" when confronting the ideas of religion and factory farming. A bit like the robbery shields in a bank. An internal button is pressed and *whack*, up comes an intellectual shield that is impervious to damage (YouTube - Megadeth - Psychotron). Those people who close the gates to any notion of their religion or their dietary choices being challenged or questioned.

More interestingly, if your choices or opinions don't match theirs, they feel a deep sense of vilification. A pain so bad they are close to violence trying to suppress their rage. "You won't discuss religion in my house again", they say. What is this reaction of rage? The loving, patient Christian and their god motivated rage. Other reactions may include repetitive and childish bullying. Is this just insecurity?

Last I checked, the decisions and ideas of others, unless they are imposed on me, are still only their decisions and ideas. If you choose to believe in god and choose to eat meat, good on you. If I choose to not believe in god and to be a vegetarian, when exactly does this become your problem? Maybe I will eat all of the salad and not participate in grace when I am a guest in your house? Not sure.

I get the feeling that these people have walked down the same path so many times, that they just can't change or are scared to hear an opinion of opposition. In reality though, I have found this isn't always true. It seems that football, politics and outcast relatives are all fodder for discussion. In my mind, anything in the public arena should be fair game. Why should religion get a free pass? Why should I ignore the horrors of factory farming and "just eat meat"?

I have heard the saying that you don't discussion religion and politics with people. This really is a terrible shame as it is so true. It seems we can now add animal ethics to this ban. Suppose a society that didn't challenge all ideas. Back to the caves people. The end of innovation and progress as we know it.

What is one to do? Should I just join all of the biggest clubs? Go with the majority. Go with the mob. Choose positions and ideas that allow me to just exist and become an invisible part of the pack. Buy the same, eat the same, believe in the same god, reject individualism and conform. Club Christian or Club Dead Animal anyone? No thanks.

A world where everyone conforms and is part of the same club sounds boring. However, I accept that some people are so insecure in their own opinions that they don't want to talk about them.

One thing is for sure, given questions that attack my core morals and opinions, it would be intellectually stunting to simply deflect the questions. I see that blindly accepting a position, when someone can quite obviously point out a failing in your reasoning, is dishonest. I can understand how a child or young mind may innocently fall victim to this way of thinking, but an adult has no excuse.

It is so obvious that the rejection or blacklisting of fringe ideas and questioning, as a method to protect your indefensible intellectual positions, is absurd.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

No Holidays For You

No Holidays For You

Easter is another good time to witness first hand the bombardment of Christian culture on Australian society. It is inescapable and pervasive.

As a non-believer, I have been challenged by theists to justify why I take part in Easter celebrations. Typically this involves the particularly banal and pathetic statement that I should be working on the public holidays dedicated to Easter celebrations.

Straight up I will admit that I don't want to take part in Easter celebrations. Especially in the religious sense. I feel that the whole Jesus story is bogus, disgusting and not worthy of any celebration.

The idea that an innocent person was punished for the crimes of humanity is disgusting. I say it again, an innocent person, tortured and murdered, for the crimes of others. I've said it publicly, it makes no sense. Imagine a modern justice system that decrees the allocation of punishment to the innocent on behalf of the guilty.

Never mind the related story of a the same guy rising from the dead, leaving his tomb empty and visiting people in a zombie like fashion. At this point, the kitchen sink of impossibilities can be thrown into the equation and as with most religious stories, evidence and common sense are the last things that cross your mind. A supernatural being is obviously the only explanation for what occurred. Obviously.

God could have invoked flood version 2 and savagely and heartlessly drowned the vast majority of plants and animals, including us, to death. Maybe life rafts and food reserves would appear for the believers and the sin free. Another option is to smite the ungodly masses using a Godly lightning bolt to the head. Instead, God chose a bizarre and brutal crucifixion ceremony with a twist at the end.

So why do I take part in Easter celebrations? In my mind, I don't. In body, it is the social, family and cultural pressure. People react poorly when their baseless beliefs are questioned (I will post more on this later). Basically, I could be doing something more productive than spoiling their day of mythical worship, which means I will miss out on that glorious opportunity to be lambasted by those loving, compassionate, tolerant Christian types. All of the pressure aside, people know how I feel, I just don't bring it up.

Actually, most of what we do on Easter these days isn't even of Christian origin but has been co-opted by Christians to boost the popularity. Rabbits and chocolate eggs? What have they got to do with Jesus?

Now, right back to the start to address the public holiday question. Do Liberal voters get to take the Labour Day holiday (See: Australian Labour Movement). Do non-citizens deserve to take the Australia Day holiday? Can republican thinkers take the Queens Birthday public holiday?

All of these holidays can discriminate by means of their meaning or origin, but the state, who determines public holidays, does not discriminate. Good luck to the religious if they attempt to oppress and exclude participation in Easter based on religious affiliation. It would be relevance suicide on a grand scale.

To be true to the holiday, I do make an effort to at least think about the meaning and origin of Easter. Unfortunately, I didn't get the opportunity to read the Bible, which I usually do on religious days. I also didn't get the opportunity to read anti-religion publications such as God Is Not Great. Instead, I was lucky enough to watch Richard Dawkins and George Pell on Q & A. The entire hour simply acted to re-enforce the worming and weaving that religion and in particular the institutions of religion have to do to justify themselves.

One dimensional arguments from cultural non-practicing Christians are pathetic. The biggest objection you have against my Atheism around Easter is that I shouldn't be able to take the day off?

Take a good look at yourselves and your beliefs. Grown adults, believing a story that is thousands of years old, disgusting at it's core. Unproven, improbable, poorly represented by those who hold the highest chairs and most importantly, absurd.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Jumping To The Positive

Jumping To The Positive

Mention something bad about religion or something terrible in the bible and very often the religiously inclined will unleash what I would call "religious fanboyism". A defensive reflex designed to immediately wave away any negativity on the subject and quickly exclaim, "but it does so much good!".

This seems to be fairly common in life as well, but staying on the topic of religion, people generally defend their religion with positive assertions, ignore those bad parts of the bible, or deliberately choose to be ignorant.

With this idea of positive assertion and positive defense in mind, think about the resurgence of bogus arguments against abortion coming from religious groups. The most famous being the Beethoven argument. Apparently, abortion should be banned just in case the baby you aborted turns out to be Beethoven. The religious objection to abortion is only bathed in positive outcomes.

Ludwig van Beethoven
In a single statement it is assumed that Beethoven miraculously becomes Beethoven, just because he was born. Let us ignore every single interaction and decision throughout the life of Beethoven. Interactions with specific teachers, specific people, his musical background, the musical background of his entire family. Any variation from this path may have resulted in Beethoven not becoming Beethoven.

Strangely, if Beethoven didn't exist, we would not have known it to be the case. The second greatest musical composer would now become the greatest music composer and so on. Beethoven may have been born but what if he had died in his infancy instead of his other siblings. Imagine all of the worlds greatest that have died due to religious conflict around the world. The next Beethoven could also be the child that just died in Africa from starvation or an unfertilized egg. We just won't know.

This is where the argument of positive association and assertion raises it's head again. Using absolute hindsight, knowing that Beethoven is an accomplished and famous composer, this huge plus for our society could have been lost if we allowed abortion.
Adolf Hitler

With this hindsight firmly in view, flip the coin and apply the same argument to Hitler. Would abortion be okay if it was Hitler who was going to be aborted? Simply banning abortion does not guarantee a positive outcome. Humour me here and allow my baseless positive association and imagine how many brilliant Jewish scientists with intelligence, double that of Einstein, would have existed if Hitler had been aborted.  

It is presented like an all or nothing proposition but the assertions are false. As are the three statements below :

  • If Beethoven was aborted, we would never have known good music.
  • If Einstein was aborted, we would never have discovered relativity. 
  • If Hitler was aborted, we would have avoided terrible religious and ethnic cleansing.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and leaping towards positive assertions and associations in an attempt to bolster your religiously motivated opinions on abortion is baseless. The rights of women to own their bodies and their own decisions is a far more amicable pursuit and any opposition to this, especially from a religious perspective, is absurd!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Why Grieve?

Why Grieve?

I am coming into a time in my life where my relatives, friends and colleagues are losing their much loved and cherished parents and grandparents. It is sad, I feel for them and I too will be facing these difficult times myself in the future.

The funeral services I have attended have had religious content. I hope I have shown no disrespect to the lives of the individuals by not reciting the prayers with the group. I see no reason to participate as I do not believe that the individual is headed towards a kingdom in the sky. In my opinion, the kingdom in the sky does not exist and the guardian of the kingdom is simply a fairy tale.

The general content of these prayers is about the safe passage of the soul of the individual into the kingdom in the sky, and that the guardian helps them on their way. Assuming the soul has a safe passage and isn't held up by road works, the soul is now in the company of previously passed relatives peering down on the physical earth. In a religious context, this is the happiest place to be, eternally.

Given this idea of eternal happiness, why do believers grieve when a loved one dies?

As a non-believer, I grieve as I know I will never interact with that person again. Their voice, their touch, their presence. This person no longer lives, but as one celebrant said, "Out of sight, should not be out of mind". I still have memories and hear stories about this person. I remember them and I remember their legacy. In a sense, a non-believer experiences a true loss as there is no reunion, ever.

I would imagine that if I truly believed in spiritual reunions with loved ones passed, and they were enjoying eternal happiness, then I would be feeling an overwhelming sense of happiness for this individual. Maybe in a fit of jealousy, I would be upset that I wasn't there to enjoy it as well.

In the context of eternity, the time that passes during our earthly lives is irrelevant. Compare infinity to 1 if you like. Now consider the time between successive generations passing on. Such a short time and it's not that long until, as a believer, you rejoin your loved ones passed, in happiness, and do so for eternity.

So why do believers grieve when it is such a temporary situation? I suspect they know deep down that the idea of a kingdom in the sky is absurd and they essentially experience exactly the same true loss that a non-believer experiences.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Hearing Voices

Hearing Voices

I was witness to a conversation recently. A number of people were sitting around a table talking about a deeply religious person who apparently heard the voice of god, as god was speaking to her. Maybe this is not that unusual in religious circles, but the "crazy" label was mentioned quite a number of times.

As an atheist, if I announced that god had spoken to me, I would be similarly labelled. Skeptics would immediately have doubt and rightly expect proof. Theists would easily dismiss my claims, after all, I am not part of their specific cult. Potentially I could ask them to have faith? Everyone else would think I was crazy. "Line him up for the loony bin", they say. Maybe I am not credible enough, and easily dismissed?

Imagine the impact if god spoke to devout atheists like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens (sadly passed). A true hurdle of skepticism would have to be overcome before they accepted this. At every moment they would be analyzing and asking why this is happening, much like the doctor experiencing a stroke. Maybe they would even ask the right questions of god in return. On second thoughts, most people think that people who speak to god, are crazy. There would be no benefit, only the loss of credibility for the atheist, who would refrain from mentioning it. It wouldn't make sense for god to talk to an atheist.

It also wouldn't make sense for god to talk to a theist. The marketing has already been done. The theist is already on board, drinking religious coca-cola, merrily participating, hearing the tales of the word of god through the congregation or by reading the biblical mystery box. The mission to spread the word of god to this individual wouldn't require direct spoken contact. Oh, and I repeat, most people think that people who speak to god, are crazy.

This idea of craziness is diluted somewhat if you are higher up in a religious hierarchy or order of importance. It is almost as if the collective delusion makes the issue go away and the support becomes stronger. The pope could explain the he had heard from god and this would be generally accepted by the collective. The president of the US could explain that he heard from god and then use god as the validation to invade IRAQ with support from the people.

Back to reality, we know that god talks more to people in power, loves talking to crazy people and almost exclusively talks to theists.

A recent presidential candidate in the US explained that god told them to run for president. The exact same desire they have paced over, prayed over and discussed with friends and family, is affirmed by god. Also recall my previous comment regarding the use of god to validate the invasion of IRAQ. This is now heading to the upper levels of self delusion.

Unfortunately, in the aftermath, god had a plan and the presidential candidate was smashed in recent voting counts and subsequently pulled out of the presidential race. god got it very wrong, works in mysterious ways and probably hasn't offered an explanation for why such a crappy recommendation was made. The IRAQ war fared even worse.

I agree with the sentiments of the people around the table. People who say that god speaks to them, are crazy. Irrespective of religious affiliation or non-affiliation. god only speaks to people in works of fiction. The idea that god speaks to people in reality, is just absurd.