Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Two Dudes: More Questions

The Ginx Challenge

There are a fair number of wagers made by atheists regarding the existence of gods, but I would like present my own challenge.

First off, I am a man of modest means. I cannot offer a million dollars or fabulous prizes to entice you. In fact, I have nothing to give… or do I?

Rather than offer material excess (which wouldn’t be an appropriate prize, anyway, given the nature of the challenge) I can offer myself. If you can convince me of the existence of god(s), I will join your religion.

But wait, there’s more. I’m well aware of the fact that you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. So, I also am offering my own personal actions for a day to each participant. If you so desire, you can request that I do whatever you want (within reason…) for an entire day.

If you want me to sit in meditation for 14 hours straight, I’ll do it. If you want me to attend some kind of church service (excessive travel expenses paid for by you, of course, as I am still a man of modest means), I’ll do it. Anything short of violating the law, I’ll do it (and maybe I’ll even break a few laws here or there, if I feel I can get away with it… I’m talking to you Rhastafarians).

Also, if you feel there needs to be more prep time, I’m willing to make some concessions. I’m willing to read books that more than a day to finish (I am a very slow reader).

My hope is this: because I am not offering something that I stand to lose, I have no vested interest in trying to “debunk” your religion. I am not presenting this as a challenge to you, it is a challenge for me – the challenge being that as an atheist, I have never “experienced god/spirituality.” This is a personal challenge to see if I am even capable of being religious, and it is an opportunity for believers to share their faith.

This challenge is open to anyone, and I encourage anyone interested to contact me: AnythingButTheist@gmail.com

Hate Crimes

The legal definition:

Hate Crime - threats, harassment, or physical harm motivated by prejudice against one’s race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or physical or mental disability

I’m not a biblical scholar, but I have read the Bible several times, and I’m on my second complete reading of the Quran. While I’m not an expert, I know what I’ve read, and I know this: if these books had been written today, they would be considered hate crimes.

Of course, if they had been written today, they would not be as popular as they are now, because these are by-and-large shoddily written, self-contradictory diatribes of blatant ignorance. On second thought, they would find a decent audience among Tea Partiers and Glenn Beck viewers.

Ignoring all traditions and practices that have sprung up around these “holy” books , the books themselves are guilty of promoting some of the most vile and petty ideas to ever stain the human mind. Mass genocide, the treatment of women as property, the explicit calls to kill people for being homosexual or worshipping different gods… these are the hallmarks of the Abrahamic religious texts.

This is no accident; it is by design. Most religions function not by channeling emotions like love, but by standardizing emotions like hate, and religions usually define themselves not by the good deeds they perform, but by the things they oppose.

“But Ginx, doesn’t that mean you’re a religious Atheist, since you hate religion.”

I would certainly be a religious Atheist if I hated religion, but I don’t; I hate religious people. Not all of them, mind you, nor most of them. Rather, I hate those special individuals who treat their religion not as a club they have joined, but as a club to beat others over the head. Moreover, I don’t harass or threaten religious people (let alone physically harm them or destroy their property).

There’s just something fundamentally ignorant about hating people you don’t even know. That’s why I believe in order to really hate someone, you have to get to know them first. How can you hate (or treat differently) someone based on something so inconsequential as skin color, gender, sexual orientation, or religion?

Now, I’ve heard (and even made) the argument that something like religion is a choice, and it is. But frankly, it’s not like joining most religions means that someone condones all manner of bigotry advocated by their holy book or perpetrated by unsavory elements in the flock. Moreover, there is a compelling case for homosexuality being a choice.

I don’t want to get into whether homosexuality is choice, but I would point out that I consider it a “choice” in the same way that eating sushi is a choice; anyone can do it, only some people will like it (either naturally or through acquiring a taste for it), and it disgusts some people who haven’t even tried it. However, I can honestly say that it is supreme ignorance to hate someone for being gay, as ridiculous as hating someone for liking sushi.

But I digress. I originally titled this post, “Religion is a Hate Crime,” and indeed some are. However, such a statement is itself prejudiced. Not all religions are particularly hateful, and even if they were, I can imagine one that wasn’t. In fact, I need look no further than a Christian phrase to define the concept behind it: love the sinner, hate the sin.

Oh wait, that isn’t actually Christian… Mahatma Gandhi said it. Nothing like that is written anywhere in the Bible, but that hasn’t stopped Christians from appropriating it to soften their brutish creed. I suppose Christians need to give the archaic Bible an update… but I’m sure God doesn’t mind. God loves people who take the initiative, after all: God helps those who helps themselves.

Hold on… it was actually, “The gods help those who help themselves,” until Benjamin Franklin appropriated it from Aesop and made it singular. Again, there is nothing like this in the Christian holy book. The Bible version?

Thus says the LORD,
“Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind
And makes flesh his strength,
And whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
- Jeremiah 17:5
It’s no wonder Christians are so ignorant of what’s in the Bible… you can’t read this stuff and remain impressed. There is a reason is why most of the modern religions have dropped the vast majority of their bigotry: most aren’t even aware it’s there. It’s as though the Bible is a License Agreement on a piece of software, and Christians just scroll to the bottom and click “Accept” without reading it. The next thing they know, Google Chrome is installed in their brain…

But I digress, yet again. There is a certain presence of anti-hate crime sentiment. “Every crime is a hate crime,” some say, and why should we treat crimes differently if they are committed against a loved one or against a targeted stranger? This is a valid concern, and I don’t necessarily believe in special punishments. Rather, it is a distinction, a way of defining the nature of a crime. It would be tantamount to saying, “Well, should we call anything ‘rape,’ because isn’t every crime doing something against someone’s will?”

What’s more, hate crimes can actually be worse than a normal crime. Say you hurt someone because they slept with your wife. This “crime of passion” isn’t something you could spontaneously repeat, though it is a crime. Now, suppose you hurt someone because they are... a red head. You are a greater danger to society than the person who hurt someone who did something directly to them. In fact, you are potentially a danger to every person with red hair. Society has an interest in this distinction.

Photo courtesy of failblog.org, at the suggestion of the first commenter.

Furthermore, the most heinous crimes against humanity tend to be large-scale hate crimes. Genocide and other forms of systematic persecution are very real problems. They occur in the form of institutional prejudice, and there is always some component of bigotry against entire groups. And therein lies the problem: when anyone can look upon a group of people as a singular whole, they will fail to see the individuals, and it will be easier to mentally dehumanize them in order to justify abuse.

And that is the mechanism behind hate crimes which is so insidious: it makes it possible to hurt large amounts of people.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Two Dudes: Tofurkey

Music Monday: The Toadies

Music Monday: The Toadies

After two 11 hours drives, I listened to a lot of music in my car last week. And one band stuck out as being particularly obscure, yet they have several songs that will have people saying, “Oh, I love this song.”

The Toadies are a band out of Texas who have only a few studio releases, despite having formed in 1989. They broke up in 2001, though I learned just recently (while doing research for this short blurb) that they reformed and released an album in 2008, though I haven’t heard it.

Interesting note: the final video I posted, “Hell Below/Stars Above,” features the late Elliott Smith on piano.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Ending The War

Today is Thanksgiving, November 25th, and tomorrow is the biggest shopping day of the year, the official start of the bloated Christmas season: an entire month of commercialized material excess and gratuitous religious iconography, both Christian and pagan.

Manger scenes, Yule logs burning for Thor, and Santa (whoever he is, be he Saint Nick or Odin) will be common sights where ever you go for the next month, not to mention salespeople resisting the urge to pierce their eardrums with candy canes when "Frosty the Snowman" plays for the 500th time that day in the store.

There's also a spark in the air that can mean only one thing: it's the beginning of the war on Christmas. You know, that time of year when evil secular atheists foam at the mouth with anger over the celebration of the birth of Mithras Jesus.

Despite America being saturated with Christmas cheer for a solid month, Christians breathlessly throw their arms in the air with mock outrage at any complaint regarding the separation of church and state, let alone any atheist's attempt to voice their opinion or feelings on the matter.

In reality, there is no war on Christmas, only a war on secularism, and it ramps up around the holidays. It's odd, really, because Christians are always saying that this is the time of year when we should put differences aside, but apparently they really mean, "This is the time of year atheists should just shut up."

It's an odd situation, because most atheists I know celebrate Christmas. If I were a petty asshole who was part of some religion, perhaps I would recommend that people stop celebrating Christmas, or that atheists should fight legal battles over public displays of religious iconography. I just don't care, because secularism and atheism are not a religion, and I know nothing bad is going to happen just because Christians are having a good time.

There is a fundamental difference I have noticed between atheists and Christians. While not a tried and true rule, Christians get really upset when other people are having a good time doing something they don't do. They're threatened by homosexuals getting married, premarital sex, blasphemy, other religions, people without religion... all sorts of victimless "crimes."

On the other hand, I don't care. I don't care if people celebrate Christmas. In fact, I have never even heard of an atheist who believes anything even resembling the idea that Christmas should be abolished or attacked, so where does this "War on Christmas" nonsense come from?

Quite simply: Christianity just works that way. Personally, I would like to call a cease fire, but as is often the case, this was a war started by Christians, and they have no desire of ending it. But why?

Well, to understand the artificially manufactured war on the artificially manufactured holiday of Christmas, you have to get to the very heart of the psychology behind Christianity. To put it bluntly, Christians love to be victims. They need to be victims. They imagine themselves as pious, noble beacons of light shining in a dark world that is out to extinguish them. They imagine themselves hanging up on a cross alongside Jesus, suffering at the hands of brutal oppressors.

Does the fact that Christians are the overwhelming majority in America change anything? No. Does the fact that Christmas is not actually under attack make any difference? Not really. Does the idea of Christians standing up for their Lord and Savior give them a huge faith boner? You betcha.

So it's like this... Christians want a war on Christmas, and atheists don't seem to be willing to fight it. Christians need to feel oppressed (because their faith tells them they will be), while no one is stepping up to oppress them because, frankly, it's scary to stand up to such a large and violent group of crazy people. The solution? I have no idea, but I hope it involves chocolate.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Music Monday: Franz Ferdinand

I used to do top ten lists for music, but my mp3 collection was decimated after I had to reformat my computer. I figured that doesn’t mean music has to disappear from my blog. So, every Monday I’ll spotlight an artist or band I like a lot, and post a few examples of their better work.

Fair warning, I am a sucker for popular singles, so hipsters can save the criticism: I have no indie cred and I don’t want any. It looks sticky, anyway.

My favorite band that still produces new music, Franz Ferdinand is not one musician, it is the name of a Scottish alt-rock band named for the Archduke of Austria whose assassination resulted in World War I. Many people have heard and seen the music videos for “Take Me Out” and “Do You Want To,” and “No You Girls” was prominently featured on an iPod commercial.

I would describe their sound as David Bowie meets Queen in a grunge-themed disco. It’s been called “dance-punk.” While I suppose it wouldn’t sound bad being piped onto a dark club’s dance floor, I think it’s great music to drive to or have in the background while doing just about anything. A fair number of my blog posts are written while listening to them.

So, without further build-up, here’s a few Franz Ferdinand songs:

Contagious Ideas

Buddhism is arguably the most attractive religion on the planet to anyone willing to give it a chance. Sure, there are hurdles in its reality that I can’t bring myself to jump over, but there is something fundamentally different about Buddhism.

For one thing, Buddhism is the first salvation faith (though I imagine this is not what a Buddhist would call it). It was the first major world religion to really coin the idea of death as something that could be overcome by the average person. Other major religions shared this basic concept to some extent, primarily the Egyptians, but their religion was highly focused on the nobility and monarch. The average person was not mummified and prepared for their transport into a blissful afterlife.

Instead of relying heavily upon rituals of appeasement, Buddhism is a path defined by one’s personal search for knowledge. What’s more, Buddhism likely had a heavy influence on the salvation faiths that followed.

It is a fairly well known fact at this point that Eastern religion found its way into Mesopotamia centuries before the time of Jesus. It’s also accepted by most scholars that Christianity could have been influenced by Buddhism. Even devout Christians are obliged to admit that Buddhism is particularly influential in the Gnostic sects and Manichaeism.

While much of Buddhism’s influence is found in the apocrypha, some found its way into biblical canon. Both Buddha and Jesus were conceived to virgins by divine means. The birth of both was preceded by a bright light in the sky. Both abandon their lives and families to practice ascetic lives of wandering with disciples, preaching in towns and staying in the homes of strangers. While Buddha calls himself the great father with sons of light, Jesus calls himself the son of the great father and “the light of the world.” Both call their ideologies “the way” or “the path.”

The evidence continues to mount when looking at the historical iconography. Early Christianity used Buddhist imagery. The wheel with eight spokes (a symbol of the Buddhist eight-fold path) is seen in this satellite view of St. Peter’s Plaza in Vatican City:

This seems quite comparable to the Buddhist eight-spoked wheel:

But The Vatican might just be a coincidence, right? A little harder to simply write-off is this piece of graffiti from the ancient city of Ephesus:

Written next to the Greek word “ichthys,” meaning “fish,” this links early Christianity (of an undetermined sect) with Buddhist iconography.

In fact, it is likely that Jesus knew of this connection. Those three wise men who were so eager to meet him at his birth go largely unexplained in the Gospels. Why would Persian magi have any interest in a Jewish Messiah?

In all likelihood, the magi were Zoroastrians who had been in contact with Buddhists. Jesus was born roughly 500 years after some estimated years of Buddha’s death, and many believed this was when the Buddha would return. They were likely looking for Maitreya, the reincarnation of Sakyamuni (the Buddha). Would it be such a stretch to suggest these Zoroastrians, who are attested even in the canonical gospels, may have played some role in the formation of Jesus’ ideology?

There is also the small matter of many early Christians believing in reincarnation. Origen and Augustus of Hippo believed in reincarnation for a time (or their work was redacted by later theologians to appear as though they changed their opinions). Many Gnostic sects not only believed in reincarnation (Sethians and Valentinians, for example), they sought a personal need to attain the knowledge that makes one capable of transcending the material world… which is awfully reminiscent of Buddhist enlightenment.

Nor was the influence one-way. Indian religion (for example, Mahayana Buddhism) was influenced by Christian missionaries (like St. Thomas) who set up Christian communities in the East. There are even radical and unfounded (though entertaining) claims that Jesus himself travelled to India during the decades of Jesus’ life that are undocumented by the gospels.

At this point, it is important to note that some of the underlying claims are speculation, as the life (or very existence) of Jesus are subjects of extreme historical controversy, bias and tampering. Centuries of suppression make any analysis of early Christianity sketchy at best, and direct influence is difficult to prove or disprove.

It is possible that two groups of human beings experiencing the same world independently came to the same philosophical conclusions. Mathematicians in both Mayan and Indian cultures came up with the concept and representation of “zero,” and the Aztecs and Egyptians both built pyramids worlds apart. However, we know with certainty that ideas (along with goods) passed between the less disjointed ancient worlds of the East and West, compared to the largely isolated New World.

Mani is one particular figure who perfectly exemplifies an attested East-meets-West thinker. A 3rd century Iranian philosopher who wrote in Syrian Aramaic and Persian, Mani’s theology was the basis for Manichaeism.

Even later, medieval Norse mythology was heavily influenced by Eastern theology. The Norse Aesir and Buddhist/Hindu Asura are linguistically linked, as are many of the names and functions of various gods. They also share a belief in reincarnation which can be escaped (Buddhists seek Enlightenment, Norse seek to die in battle… a slight divergence).

I suppose my point is that ideas are catchy, or as the Buddha would put it: a single flame can light an infinite number of candles.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Too Offensive? #1

I think this is the perfect series for me, because I think it’s okay to say anything.

So, my first “Too Offensive?”

Would it be too offensive for atheists to print up placards of people being burned at the stake, stoned, or just generally being oppressed by religion? Might as well have some slogan signs too, like, “Death Cult,” or “END CHRI$TIANITY,” or “Your God Took His Mom’s Virginity.”

Too offensive?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Two Dudes: Tea Party

When Are Kids Ready?

As a young adult who is atheist, one of the great concerns facing me and my wife is that one day, we will have children, and we will inevitably have to have “the talk.” No, not the one about sex (I’m gonna let Cinemax handle that one).

When should we talk to our kids about Star Wars?

It’s a sensitive subject. How young is too young to bring up “the force?” What if they have questions that I can’t answer, like “Why can’t I have a light saber?” or “Why are there no Ewoks at the zoo?” or “Is Daddy going to turn into Darth Vader because he has breathing problems?”

Well… I guess those are easy: you’re too young (plus they don’t exist), Ewoks have sentient intelligence and don’t belong in a zoo (plus they don’t exist), and daddy is just asthmatic (though sometimes he does want to kill you… so eat your vegetables).

The truth is, it’s never too early to introduce your children to Star Wars. You just have to do it right.

You might ease into it, perhaps playing songs from the original score at appropriate times. At birthdays, play the upbeat song in the Cantina (you know… do DO do DO do doodly doo do do, doodly do, do do do do-ooo doo). Luke’s theme makes for a good waking up music, or for dramatically staring out over a desert at a binary sunset. And Darth Vader’s theme is a great soundtrack to the in-laws visiting.

Also, be sure to pipe the original score in its entirety through headphones on you or your wife’s pregnant belly, so the baby can become familiar with it in utero. You really can’t start too early.

You might also throw some memorable quotes into your conversations years before exposing them to the actual films themselves. I can’t think of a more appropriate thing to say when staring up at the night sky with your child than, “That’s no moon…” If you find yourselves sitting down to eat a meal with vegans: “I have a bad feeling about this…” or perhaps, “It’s a trap!” And encourage your kids to call people they don’t like “scruffy looking nerf-herders,” unless the person is fat, then they should call that person “Jabba.”

Also, it will really help their grammar and syntax if you talk like Yoda as much as possible.

The bottom line is this: atheist children should not feel left out. Remember, it’s your job as a parent to screw them up and fill their head with unreal fantasies and over-simplified notions of right and wrong. Luckily, the Star Wars movies are there to help, so take full advantage of them and your children’s trusting nature.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Are You Gonna Eat That?

I imagined a fictional conversation the other day between all the religions of the world. After Christianity, Islam and Judaism managed to get all the others to leave in a huff, a strange set of bedfellows emerged. Islam and Judaism ganged up on Christianity. While it was initially over the worship of multiple deities, it came around to diet.

Then it struck me…

How do Christians know not to eat dirt, or poison, or feces?

This seems like a stupid question, but in Christian logic, it makes perfect sense.

As an atheist, I am confronted with the same comments, criticisms, hate mail, and bumper stickers as other atheists. I think my fellow non-believers will agree with me that Christians seem to think that atheists are (or that atheism will make one) immoral, or have no basis for ethics, or perhaps some variant of the notion that we’re just irreligious/angry at God because there’s something we want to do and can’t give up to become Christian.

I’m straight and faithfully married. I don’t steal. I don’t hurt anyone. I don’t kill. I don’t even read Harry Potter books. There is literally nothing keeping me from becoming a Christian, besides the fact that I feel absolutely nothing for the divine.

And while I hate to state it again, it is true that atheists are less likely to be convicted of crimes. Clearly being atheist isn’t making people do bad things.

So how is an atheist guided?

Well, how does a Christian know what to eat? The New Testament may hint that fish, bread and wine are acceptable, but what’s stopping Christians from sprinkling hemlock on it?

Just as many independent factors have an impact on a Christian’s diet, many independent factors have an impact on an atheist’s ethical system (if you even believe in such a thing).

So what’s keeping Jews and Muslims from publicly condemning and ridiculing the obese West for its foolhardy eating habits? Perhaps they are saying such things amongst themselves, but they seem reasonable enough not to make such a hyperbolic statement publicly. Or maybe they just realize a Christian’s diet is based off of parental habits, advertising, school options, general geographic location, personal preferences… many things, just not their holy book.

This kind of confounds me, because just as most holy books do not define every minute detail of one’s diet, a religion’s holy book does not provide the whole of one’s moral code. There are always ancillary traditions to be upheld, as well as gray areas open to interpretation, and one cannot underestimate one’s upbringing.

The bottom line: religion does not have a monopoly on morality, and for that I think we can all thank the gods.

Wednesday Word: Judiasm

Judiasm: sexual climax achieved by/with a Hebrew

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Jerk Theory

As the world’s premiere scholar on misanthropology (the study of mankind’s hatred for each other), I feel it is my duty to come up with theories that explain the hateful behavior we experience every day.

And so, my loyal readers, I present to you: Jerk Theory.

Jerk Theory operates on one principle: the old adage, “Nice guys finish last.”

The “logic” behind Jerk Theory is simple. We as a culture acknowledge that assholes get their way, ergo being an asshole is one way of “not finishing last.” Since being nice and accommodating leads to one being taken advantage of, it stands to reason that being an intolerable jackass who will not budge on anything will result in increased success.

Now, I’m not suggesting that being a jerk will actually increase one’s success. Rather, I am suggesting that many people are jerks as a self-defense mechanism.

“But Bret, what about ‘You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?’”

First of all, that is not actually true. You will literally catch more flies with vinegar than with honey. Try it.

Second, you’re forgetting the basic message of that quote, which is that people can be manipulated. You aren’t catching flies so they can be your pals, you’re doing it to destroy them. In point of fact, jerks use such manipulative practices like flattery all the time. What makes someone a jerk is not the fact that they are constantly being rude and mean, but rather it’s their intentions.

Think of it this way: if a guy joins a feminist group in order to pick up chicks, is he really supporting women’s liberation? Even if he stands up and talks about how smart and great and amazing women are, if his intention is solely that of getting women in bed to be used as sexual objects, he’s being a jerk.

But this doesn’t have to be how the world works. Nice guys don’t finish last because that is the natural order of things, they finish last because we let them. Women predominantly date jerks, not kind, patient listeners. And while I’m focusing on the male/female dynamic, the same is true in nearly every other field: business, science, academics, politics… we tend to give more credit to the one who fights tooth and nail than we do to the one who patiently waits their turn and considers the needs of others.

We can actually choose to change this paradigm. How? Well, many women have already started doing so, by realizing they don’t have to settle for a jerk. When it comes to the bedroom, nice guys often do finish last, and maybe this is why women will sleep with a nice guy more than just the one time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Myth of the Rational Man

Economics always blew my mind. Not because it’s difficult or complex or particularly deep, but because I didn’t know they taught religion in schools these days.

The central myth behind most of the modern schools of economics is the concept of “rational actors.” Preached about by Priests of Logic like Gary Becker, this theory makes one of the most grossly ridiculous claims I can imagine: namely, that human beings act logically.

Look, folks, I could bore you with pages of serious examples, but all I need to do is point out that millions of people watch a channel called “MTV,” which stands for “Music Television,” yet it never plays music. Illogical people watching an illogical channel… millions of times every day.

Okay, I don’t think I convinced you. How about this: pogs. Yes, pogs. Remember those circular pieces of cardboard with a picture on them that kids paid good money for in the 90’s? What about “The Macarena?” How did a gay, Latin dance craze catch on in nation of xenophobic fag bashers? There is also no accounting for the likes of Lady Gaga.

When I look around at humanity, I see a lot of things… just not logic. Sure, we can use logic, just as we can be good to each other. We know 1+1=2, but it’s another thing entirely to say that human beings act rationally.

What’s particularly odd about all of this is that I doubt any of these logic cultists can explain to me what a logical decision actually is. It would be ridiculous to say that people act in their own best interests, or that people make decisions which benefit their family or society. Of course some “do,” though you’ll find a lot less thought goes into most decisions made by the average person than any of these ivory tower eggheads put into the analysis.

Man is a rationalizing animal, not a rational one. We do as we please, and most of the thought occurs when we are called to account for our deeds. Sure, sometimes we stress about a particular choice for a great deal of time, weighing the pros and cons, consulting friends and advisors, maybe even turning to religion’s ethics or rituals in pursuit of the answer. But are you going to all this trouble when you pick which pasta you buy at the supermarket?

These are miniscule choices to us, minor forks in the road which compose the very backbone of entire schools of thought. Strangely, these rationalist advocates also hold firm to a seemingly paradoxical view: liberty.

I believe in liberty. I lived in Philadelphia too long not to. It had nothing to do with dusty old buildings where crusty old men framed our nation; rather, I believe in liberty because of the people living in Philly today. The wandering drunk who seemed to age a decade over the course of just a few years of living on the street. Crackheads sparking up in broad daylight as school kids walked past. The men chased by police into the backyard of a friend of my wife’s on two separate occasions.

People will do as they please. Even with laws telling them not to, people will largely do what they want. For those making the wrong choices, even tougher choices await them, and if it were up to these confused rationalist-libertarians, no one would get any help. You should sink or swim based on your own rational choices, I guess.

Try asking these rationalists about people who are out of options. What is someone with no rational choices to do? “Well, they shouldn’t have…” is how they’ll usually start. These pro-liberty individuals who believe logic dictates human behavior suddenly don’t care too much for liberty, they care about you doing the “rational” (i.e. “right”) thing… which is undoubtedly what they’re doing. What's worse, their post facto chiding is worthless to those without a time machine.

I’ve noticed another trend among these believers in the faith of liberty and logic… they’re almost all Caucasion men from middle or upper class families.

Well, that was your mistake there, ma’am: you should have been born a white guy. Then, when you make the exact same decisions you made as a minority or woman, you can absolve yourself of any responsibility or punishment. While black men are arrested at record rates for drug charges, white men are doing drugs more often with fewer arrests. While women are being told to keep their child, the men who impregnated them live freely.

This is the privileged liberty of those who tout rationalism. The lucky few leading charmed lives, who convince themselves (i.e. rationalize) that they deserve what they have because of all the intelligent and rational choices they made. I don’t know about you… but it doesn’t seem logical to me. What more damning evidence for the folly of this philosophical faith is there?

Besides, if the world is full of rational actors, where was I during rehearsal?

Friday, November 12, 2010

Successful Anarchy

We don’t need no stinking government. If you want proof, just look at Antarctica. Here’s a country that has never had a government, and look at how impressive the results are:

- never been in a war
- zero debt
- zero poverty
- low crime rate
- low mortality (despite harsh conditions)
- most scientists per capita
- produces the least pollution of any continent

These results are quite daunting. Sure, running water is nice, and so are roads and gas pipelines… but at least there are no churches.

[Fact check: Several nations control most of the continent, and 49 nations have signed a treaty which keeps it free of any military. Also, there are over a half dozen houses of worship set up for use by scientists.]

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nontroversy #1

Someone woke up today (probably a Tea Bagger) and decided they had nothing to be pissed off about. They probably logged onto their computer and right there at the Google page, they saw this:

Now, to you or me, this isn’t offensive. But this person has a PhD in self-righteousness and horrible vision from squinting suspiciously at minorities their whole life. So what did the champions of mock-outrage see?

Clearly Google was trying to have an Islamic crescent moon hiding menacingly behind the flag. No, that’s not just some innocuous vestige of the letter “e” from the original banner graphic, it’s an affront to Western Civilization.

According to one carefully thought out source of numbskullery:

The Google doodle is definitely stirring up fears of fanning the flames of anti-Islamic sentiments in America. Was that what Google intended?
Did I mention this person is a contributor on Associated Content, which is owned by Yahoo?

I dunno… it looks more like a Commie sickle to me, or that maybe Old Glory had a throbbing canine boner.

So, for all the semi-blind sufferers of xeno-hysteria who are trying so desperately to make Google’s salute to veterans seem un-American, this is my first officially documented nontroversy.

If you want to see controversy, see what Google fills in when you type “Islam is” in the search bar:

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Inhumanity of Logic

As I sit here, I am watching a show about the Apollo 11 journey to the moon in 1969. I would argue that this is the single most important accomplishment of humanity. While some may see it as a triumph of science, it is also a triumph of foolishness.

Ground control of the flight operated off of a computer that occupied an entire floor of the building yet had less computing power than laptops made today. The Apollo 11 ship itself had computer systems only slightly more powerful than a modern wristwatch.

I can also paraphrase an expert who said that if a group came forward with the same plan, the same materials, and the same experience today, they would not be allowed to do it because it would be deemed too dangerous.

We can understand why. We don’t want people launching rockets that could level several city blocks without some level of safety. But the fact remains: the accomplishment was illogical.

Human beings are not logical, and frankly I am sick and tired of people acting like logic is their god. I’m also a little sick of being associated with logic because I’m an atheist. If I tell you to “fuck off,” it’s not a literal suggestion, it’s my polite way of saying “I want to rip off your face and dance naked while wearing it in my bathroom while ‘My Cherie Amour’ by Stevie Wonder blares in the next room.”

Human beings are not logical. We are not computers. We cannot survive on the bare minimum. We cannot endure dehumanizing conditions by reasoning to ourselves that it shouldn’t bother us.

Human beings are unhinged receptacles housing phobias, prejudice, hate, love, ideals, egos, ticks, urges, desires, addictions, denials, preferences, favorites, likes, dislikes… I could go on.

Still think we’re logical, don’t you? Even though we drip with emotions, passions, fetishes, flaws, shame, apathy, nihilism, belief, ignorance, naivety, indoctrination, socialization, cultural bias…

Never trust someone who says they only use logic to formulate their ideas, because we don’t live in a logical world. Logic isn’t some evil thing, it’s just not the end all, be all in ideology. And if that seems illogical, maybe that’s because I’m human. It wasn’t logical to cross a vast sea. It wasn’t logical to attack the most powerful nation on Earth to gain independence. It wasn’t logical to go to the moon.

I’ll stand by illogic until it lets me down.

Ad Perfectionem Per Insaniam

Exposing Christian Nuts

Truth is important, so I feel it’s my duty to point out a major fallacy in people’s perception of the crucifixion of Jesus.

No, not the tired old point about nails in hands never being able to support someone. Everyone knows that “hands” anatomically included wrists during Jesus’ time and that Romans crucified people by driving the nails between the radial and ulna bones of the arm, and that later artists just portrayed Jesus with nails in his palms because they didn’t know any better.

Well, everyone knows except the people who claim to get stigmata on their palms

I’m talking about a little matter that Christians have been… covering up for centuries now. News flash: Romans crucified people naked.

Talk about hung on a cross. It even mentions in the Bible that guards gambled for Jesus’ clothes. So why is Jesus always tastefully depicted with a loincloth? Maybe Christians just don’t have the balls to portray full frontal dude-ity in church.

One more naked Jesus for the road…

Top Ten: Foods I Throw Away

10. Milk – It primarily goes bad when I get back from a long trip. Not much you can do about this one.

9. Bread – Whenever I buy bread, I know I’m going to throw some of it away. Luckily, it’s usually just the crusty ends.

8. Smoked Salmon – My wife loves bagels and lox, but not often enough to ever finish a whole package of salmon before it spoils.

7. Cream Cheese – See above.

6. Melons – It appears to be a good idea in the store, but melons have an inexplicably uncanny refrigerator camouflage. It’s weird how something so large can go forgotten for so long. Forget “the elephant in the room,” it should be “the melon in the fridge.”

5. Bananas – It seems like they’re either too green or they’ve started going brown, except for the single day I eat one of the whole bunch. They should just sell bananas individually.

4. Banana Runts – I love bananas and I love the candy “Runts,” but banana runts are just gross.

3. Guacamole – I have never finished a whole tub of the stuff before it turned gross, and yet I cannot enjoy a burrito without it. Can’t they sell this in small, single-serving packets?

2. New Recipes – It seemed like a good idea, and it wasn’t too bad the day I made it… but it has really lost some of its character sitting in the fridge for a week.

1. Half of My Jelly Bellies – This doesn’t happen so much since we moved to a place that sells flavors individually. Come on… buttered popcorn? Toasted marshmallow? The oft-maligned banana? And what the hell is a “tutti-fruitti?” If it’s supposed to be a gay man’s fart, they really nailed that semen and ass combo.

And the food I’m least likely to throw away, even if it should be…

Bleu Cheese – How can you even tell when it’s gone bad?

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two Dudes: Physics

Gods, Aliens, and Humanity

Over time, languages change drastically, but the messages continue to be the same because the people speaking them think the same things. It’s interesting how semantics play such an important role in religion.

Take the word, “god.” Can anyone describe precisely what a god is? There not countless descriptions from the past to pull from, yet is there is no way of verifying the authenticity of any of them.

There is another phenomenon that is similar to this: aliens. Sure, the concept is perhaps approached differently, but are aliens and gods are not to dissimilar. We cannot see them unless they reveal themselves, so their appearance as of yet is unverifiable. Oddly enough, they also come from the sky (though obviously not all gods are sky gods).

One interesting connection is that the brain can be stimulated to create a religious experience, but this experience is described by atheists and agnostics not as religious, but as akin to an alien abduction (or the presence of a relative, either alive or dead).

This should make sense to anyone who studies religion: theism and ancestor worship are mainstays of many major faiths. Even Scientology taps into this new connection with the addition of aliens (and to some extent, Mormonism does as well).

One of the more depressing trends shared by both is the tendency of humanity to attribute human progress to both gods and aliens. Religions the world over say that mankind was given everything by the gods, from life itself to the land we inhabit to skills like writing and farming, even the plants and animals.

Today, one common belief is that alien spaceships recovered by humans sparked the technological boom of the 20th century. How little respect for humanity must you have in order to believe such a cop-out?

The basic premise of this mentality is simple: we are too dumb to come up with anything on our own. Humanity is flawed, this much is true, but this does not mean humanity is not capable of collectively working together towards progress. Not only does this insult those people who accomplished such amazing things, it makes no logical sense.

If humanity is doomed, what made the aliens so special? If we couldn’t come up with any of this on our own, how did alien civilizations do it? Frankly, if a race of beings thousands or even millions of years ahead of us are helping out, I’m not too impressed with the results.

Moreover, why would an alien race help us? You’re telling me that once a species attains the ability to travel between stars, they go around helping the inhabitants of other planets? It’s a fun idea, but I imagine they’d be looking for more systems to which they can expand for resources… in which case, we’re nothing but savages to be exploited.

If you went out into the jungle and found a chimp, would you teach it to make fire? More than likely, you would ignore it. I imagine this is what aliens that pass by our solar system would do.

Maybe I just don’t feel the romanticism in the notion of being selected by more powerful beings, or maybe I just have some pride in my species’ ability to develop on its own.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Sticky Situation

This is one of those posts I make when I think, “I have too many people following me. How can I offend a couple?” But before you stop reading now, there’s an important lesson at the end of this post, so if you’re easily offended, skip to the bolded statement at the bottom of the post, then stop reading my blog.

Warning over, diving in head first.

A new Facebook group has arisen with the sole goal of offending Muslims: International Day of Masturbation on the Quran. What day is it? Well, if you know anything about masturbation, you’d know it must be every day.

But wait, there’s more. The group is actively seeking pictures of… the results. They are planning to post them, and it seems too new to have posted any yet (which is odd, because I imagine it shouldn’t take more than five minutes… performance anxiety?).

The group is likely only a few days old, and yet many sites are saying how awful this is. There are Muslims upset, Christians upset, even atheists upset. I guess atheists are still under the ridiculous notion that they can gain acceptance if they act like believers (i.e. pretending blasphemy is a crime).

Unless you believe that you will go to hell for doing it, there’s no reason to oppose someone’s decision to do this. Zero. None. Is it gross? Perhaps, though I could find a hundred things on the internet that are more disgusting, and I could come up with lots of even more disgusting ways to desecrate the Muslim holy book (think “two girls, one Koran”).

Maybe this iconoclasm doesn’t bother me because I honestly keep my Quran in the bathroom. No joke. Here’s a completely unprepared picture of my Quran on the shitter.

Maybe the fact that I’ve read this piece of garbage is what makes me think desecrating it is such a great idea. Page after page about how I should die, how I’m going to burn in hell, and how crazy assholes will live in gardens near streams of honey for eternity. About the only thing I would oppose you using your Koran for is beating a Muslim to death. That’s overdoing it. At least be civilized and use missiles and tanks… right?

I oppose the interventionist wars in the Middle East. I’m glad most Muslims live peacefully side by side with Americans. I used to live in a heavily Muslim area of Philadelphia. I can safely say I am not Islamaphobic, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be hostile towards the religion of Islam.

It is not ignorance that drives some people’s dislike for Islam; sometimes it is intimate knowledge. In fact, the more I learn about Islam, the more disgusted by it I am. You might almost say I find Islam as offensive as the people who oppose people masturbating on the Koran.

Ultimately, if you don’t want people doing something, don’t become part of a vast network of people advertising it for free in the vain attempt of condemning it. By complaining about what a few weirdos do, you empower them. To be honest, they do appreciate you doing it. Companies pay millions for publicity, while uptight prudes do it for people they hate, free of charge.

So quit publicizing these extremist groups by condemning them for publicizing other extremist groups by purposely trying to upset them. In the end, the only people who win when this is done are extremists of every stripe, and it’s thanks only to moderates.

Oh how we extremists love sensationalism…
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