Saturday, March 31, 2012


Wouldn't these be some funny signs... if I hadn't just made them up.

Make your own here.

On Bullying

I’ve never much liked bullies. When I was a kid, I was particularly tall and over-confident, so I didn’t get bullied, but I had friends who got bullied and I made it a habit of sticking up for them. I was no white knight, mind you. I only stuck up for my own pals, and I can remember on more than one occasion mocking people I didn’t like for basically no reason at all (well, besides the fact that they had the audacity of being slightly different).

The terms “bully” and “bullying” mean something very specific to me, and I see people use it in a very different way, which belittles those who really are bullied. To me, a bully is someone who physically harms you. Until a person lays their hand on you, they are just mocking you or making fun of you. To me, bullying is child-on-child assault.

Imagine my chagrin when I see people accused of being bullies online, or to hear about liberals getting up in arms about some conservative saying this, that, or the other thing about some poor, defenseless woman/homosexual/minority. I don’t think most liberals would know a bully if one came up behind them and gave them a wedgie.

I don’t want to get into the first amendment here, because I can already tell most people who rail against “verbal bullying” are sick of hearing it. So, allow me to present my counter-argument to those who would silence the mean-spirited in another fashion.

For one thing, words only hurt those who let themselves be hurt. I know it’s a hard truth to swallow, to accept that you must give someone permission to offend you. The only reason words can hurt you is if they are true, because false words bounce off like rubber, and if a word bothers you because it is true, then you had best come to accept the truth and learn to live with it.

Sometimes that truth isn’t what you would initially think. If someone calls you a slut or a nigger or a faggot, the truth does not pertain to you, but to them. It’s doesn’t mean they’re a misogynist, or racist, or homophobic, it means they are angry at you for something, and they are expressing that anger in a juvenile fashion… or they might just be making a joke. That doesn’t mean the joke is funny, but even a bad joke isn’t worth getting upset over.

But these are just how to deal with someone criticizing you. I think such advice is moot, because anyone who is mocked knows how to deal with it. They’ve probably been dealing with it their whole lives, so it’s often not that big of a deal to a well-adjusted individual. Rather, I see other people getting offended on a semi-regular basis for things that don’t even affect them.

On some level, I can relate. I’m white, straight and a man, but I don’t like seeing anyone treated unfairly for being different from me. However, when someone says something to offend an individual or group, I don’t get all up in arms about it and act more offended than the target of the insult. I may make a cursory comment of opposition or just plain mock the jackass, but I know that people can stand up for themselves. They don’t need me riding in on a white horse to save them, starting campaigns and donning ribbons all the colors of the rainbow. That kind of faux-noble stance seems condescending to me.

This isn’t apathy on my part, it’s just good judgment. It’s not worth anyone’s time to get upset about what gets said when there are still so many horrible things being done. Liberals have sidetracked themselves with countless crusades against words. This in a world where women are still paid less, gay people still cannot marry, and where black kids are gunned down in the street by paranoid vigilantes.

There are bullies in the world, but we have laws enough to stop them. We need to focus on enforcing the laws we have, not policing the thoughts of innocent people whose only crime is opening their mouth or typing on their keyboard. I’ve honestly see “verbal abuse” described by more than one person as being similar or equivalent to rape… I am assuming by people who have never been raped. This is utterly ridiculous tripe, even from the fringe elements of the censorship movement.

You know what I think of people who would use force to stop someone from saying something? I would call them a bully, maybe even a thought rapist. Actually, no… just a bully.

Saturday Reflection #75

Beta dogs have a saying. It goes, "Bark bark, growl, bark bark bark, bark bark."Alpha dogs also have a saying, and it goes, “...”

Friday, March 30, 2012

Snippet: The Wise and the Otherwise

There are two kinds of people: the wise and the otherwise. Here is how you tell them apart: the wise are those who come up with great ideas, while the otherwise take those ideas out of context, ruin them, and hurt people in the process.

Life, the Universe, and Nothing

I’ve never really believed in nothing. I mean, the concept of nothing is not something I ever believed in. That sort of came out sounding like a statement made by a double-negative using, nihilistic Forrest Gump.

I have wondered for a long time where theists come up with the idea that the Big Bang posits that everything came from nothing. Is this error genuinely the result of naivety, or is it a deliberate distortion? I don’t know, but I would like to believe it’s the former, because I don’t think (or don’t want to think) religious people make up nonsense for the sole purpose of upsetting others with false accusations.

I don’t believe in nothing, because I have seen no evidence that there has ever been nothing. The Big Bang does not begin at the point of nothing, it begins with a singularity. From the moment the universe was concentrated energy in a point smaller than an atom until it expanded and cooled to its current state, we have a fairly good understanding of what happened.

There are always thresholds for human knowledge, and I have confidence that it will continue to expand, much like the universe has done. It’s already expanded quite a bit, from the point where we became self-aware to where we are now, able to see ourselves in the perspective of one of millions of species orbiting one of billions of stars in one of trillions of galaxies.

Personally, I think it’s likely that the universe is unending, and by extension, has no beginning. The Stoics of ancient Greece had a view of the universe that was startlingly similar and modern. They saw the universe as being born in fire, and that one day the world will return to this fiery primordial state, only to form again.

The process was called ekpyrosis, and they believed that each time the universe reformed, everything started over, precisely the same. According to the Stoics, you have already sat in the chair you are now sitting in, you have read this sentence countless times before, and you will read it countless more times again in the future.

Stoics believed in fate by virtue of the fact that all things follow basic laws of cause and effect, so all the events that led up to this moment - from the formation of the universe to the moment you were born to the moment you purchased the device on which you are reading this, to the moment you read it - were all the result of Universal Reason, or as we might think of it, the laws of nature.

I think the model is relatively elegant, but I have one problem with it: I don’t think the universe is on an infinitely repeating loop. Sure, I think the universe’s own dissolution will lead to its eventual rebirth, but I don’t think the new universe will be precisely the same. Every day begins with the sun rising in the East, but it’s not as though every day is the same as the last.

I also believe in agency, or as most people would be familiar with it, “free will.” I don’t like the term “free will,” because it implies that we have more control over our lives than we actually do. Most people are not free, and their will is inherently limited by their circumstances and opportunities, so what people have is not “free will,” but the ability to act in the world. That’s what “agency” means, being able to respond to the world.

The Stoics believe you have no control whatsoever over your life, what happens to you, or what you achieve. The only thing a Stoic believes you can control is your attitude. For the Stoic, the ideal attitude was to be calm and free of passion. If one was able to attain this virtue, then one could be happy, regardless of what happened in life, making you immune to misfortune.

I don’t know that it’s truly a good thing to go through life avoiding passion, even if all passion leads to suffering (a staple belief of Stoics, as well as Cynics, Epicureans, Buddhists and many others, including some monotheists). Since I think you can change things, even if it’s only in a small way, I think a little suffering can be a good thing. Suffering can drive one to act, just as happiness and contentment can cause one to fall into a passive stupor.

What is the point of feeling nothing, or even more eerie to me, what is the point of always feeling happy? I’m not one of these people who thinks you need a little suffering to make the good times that much better, but if there’s no chance to fail at all, it makes me feel unfulfilled. It’s sort of like how people have ruined kid’s sports by not keeping score and giving everyone a trophy: playing the game and having a trophy means nothing anymore.

Maybe I’m alone on this one, but I always learned more from losing than I did from winning. I came away from failures stronger than I came away from successes. One of the joys in life is knowing that you have to work hard to get ahead. However, in this world, even if you fail, you stand a good chance of still being rewarded, especially if you’re already very well off.

Just look at people who head major companies. When a corporation fails, the CEOs still get bonuses. When a firm starts to crash and burn, and bankruptcy is declared, those at the top float safely away on golden parachutes. For some reason, we just let these people run this country’s economy into the ground while helping them carry their bags of money to their getaway car.

We may not be able to control everything, but we certainly can bring individuals to justice. We can even make the world a better place by how we treat others, even if the world itself keeps sending us earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes and droughts. It’s better to go about doing and feeling something than to try to avoid feeling anything. I’ve never really believed in nothing.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Second-to-Last Frontier

There have been two exploratory events undertaken by wealthy private citizens in the past week, and they both highlight the forgotten mysteries of our planet, namely those in our oceans.

James Cameron rode down seven miles to the deepest point in the Earth’s crust, the Mariana Trench (which is located in the west Pacific). His submersible was loaded with cameras and he plans to do a TV special for National Geographic, followed perhaps by a 3D theater release. Sure, this may have been a cheap stunt to promote the re-release of Titanic, but still, it was a bold move.

Then, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos used state-of-the-art SONAR to find the Apollo 11 rocket engines that were jettisoned into the Atlantic ocean during its successful trip to the moon. Using his own personal fortune, he located and plans to raise the engines, which will be donated to museums.

These all reminds us just how much of our own planet we don’t even know much about yet. In a time when seemingly nothing new is discovered (in the natural world, anyway… besides the world’s smallest *insert animal here*), the watery depths still offer us many opportunities to boldly go where no one has gone before.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Thanks, Thought Police…

Ah, liberals… always telling us what we can or cannot say, because it might “offend” someone. First, you couldn’t make a joke at someone’s expense, because that’s “harassment” or “bullying.” Now, New York City won’t be using the word “dinosaurs,” and fifty other harmless terms, in its standardized exams.

What’s so offensive about the word “dinosaur?” Well, it might make someone think about evolution…

Yep, just as many of us “crazy, first-amendment people” predicted (and yes, I have been called that before… more than once), conservatives are using “political correctness” to censor our country and dumb down our children.

I decided to seek out the full list:
- Abuse (physical, sexual, emotional, or psychological)
- Alcohol (beer and liquor), tobacco, or drugs
- Birthday celebrations (and birthdays)
- Bodily functions
- Cancer (and other diseases)
- Catastrophes/disasters (tsunamis and hurricanes)
- Celebrities
- Children dealing with serious issues
- Cigarettes (and other smoking paraphernalia)
- Computers in the home (acceptable in a school or library setting)
- Crime
- Death and disease
- Divorce
- Evolution
- Expensive gifts, vacations, and prizes
- Gambling involving money
- Halloween
- Homelessness
- Homes with swimming pools
- Hunting
- Junk food
- In-depth discussions of sports that require prior knowledge
- Loss of employment
- Nuclear weapons
- Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling)
- Parapsychology
- Politics
- Pornography
- Poverty
- Rap Music
- Religion
- Religious holidays and festivals (including but not limited to Christmas, Yom Kippur, and Ramadan)
- Rock-and-Roll music
- Running away
- Sex
- Slavery
- Terrorism
- Television and video games (excessive use)
- Traumatic material (including material that may be particularly upsetting such as animal shelters)
- Vermin (rats and roaches)
- Violence
- War and bloodshed
- Weapons (guns, knives, etc.)
- Witchcraft, sorcery, etc

Jesus Fucking Christ, people… “Rock-and-Roll music” is on the list. Some of the other things are downright insulting to my sensibilities that some dumbass thinks it’s inappropriate to talk about them. Poverty, vermin, hunting, witchcraft, divorce, homelessness, death, disease… we can’t even discuss these things anymore, like they’re bad words.

No one has the right to not feel offended. If you see, hear or read something that offends you, you have the right to fuck off.

Wednesday Word: Anti-Socialism

Anti-Socialism: another way of saying “libertarianism”

Snippet: Rejection

As someone who has been unemployed for almost two years, I can honestly say it’s been easy to avoid feeling defeated. It’s not hard to forget all the failures when they don’t even bother with a letter, e-mail, or phone call to tell me I’ve been rejected.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Some Comments on Trayvon Martin

While I was slightly fascinated by the initial story, I’ve once again been more interested in the reactions of Americans to the death of Trayvon Martin than in the case itself. The actual killing has taken a backseat to what is the near hysteria that is the public response.

Be forewarned: I have an opinion on this and I probably won’t change it until there is more evidence.

First, I want to propose what I think happened, so you know what I’m working with. I’m under the impression Trayvon was walking home and Zimmerman was out playing wanna-be-cop when he rolls up on Trayvon and calls 911. They tell him to wait for the police, but he ignores them.

So this high school student who has probably been racially harassed in the past has some guy following him in a car (which is quite an overt action). Trayvon doesn’t know this man, nor does he know what his intentions are (though if he did know, he’d probably have run). The guy gets out of the car and I presume asks Trayvon what he’s doing… a question Trayvon does not legally have to answer, even if Zimmerman were a police officer.

I’m assuming words were exchanged and tempers escalated. When I lived in Philly for seven years, I saw three fights start on the street within sight of me. You always hear them first… it’s usually “*murmur murmur murmur* out my FACE!” Then more yelling, until the fists fly. In one instance, the guy quickly took his shirt off before engaging the men he was fighting with.

All I’m saying is, I doubt Zimmerman got out of the car and Trayvon just began assaulting him. Obviously this is conjecture, but from my experience dealing with mall security and other private authority, one thing they often do is grab your arm or shoulder or basically try to touch you for some odd reason. Honestly, if a guy drives up to me and lays his hand on me, I would consider hitting him, especially if he were smaller than me.

So what we do know is, they get into a fight. Zimmerman claims Trayvon started it… gee, I wonder why? George Zimmerman shows signs of getting his nosy ass beat, notably cuts on the back of his head from a fall and grass stains on the back of his shirt. At some point, Curious George realizes he fucked with the wrong brotha, he pulls out his gun, like a bitch, and shoots the kid who was laying the smackdown on his meddling ass.

For future reference, if you harass someone and then start a fight with them, just take your licking and learn your lesson. George Zimmerman will [hopefully] never live a normal life again now, whether he goes to trial and is found guilty or not, and he would be fine if he had just minded his own fucking business or, if he just had to get involved, he could have just taken the beating he went looking for. Not only that, Trayvon would still be alive. And not only that… I wouldn’t have to see how unbelievably ignorant America is.

So tragedy aside, people have basically lost their fucking minds when talking about this. For one thing, you had liberals shouting about how a white guy had killed a black kid and wasn’t even arrested. Not that it matters what race anyone in the situation is, because it’s sad and pathetic in any case, but we’ve pretty well established now that Zimmerman is mixed race and culturally Latino.

I’m also of the opinion that Zimmerman isn’t that racist. By this I mean, I don’t think Zimmerman went looking to kill a black kid, nor did Zimmerman kill Trayvon because he was black, but I am of the opinion that a black teenager in a hoodie at night was suspicious to Zimmerman… which is kind of racist and was the impetus for all of this.

And real quick, before I forget… fuck you Geraldo Rivera. I hope you get robbed at gunpoint for wearing that smug suit. Seriously, blaming what happens to people on their style? Maybe Al Capone’s vault was empty because of your stupid mustache, because fuck reason.

While I find it sad that liberals have become the boy who cried “racist,” the way those who defend Zimmerman have handled it kind of makes me ready for another Civil War. I don’t want any of the people who I have seen defend Zimmerman to be alive anymore. There are ways to defend him, I can reason in my head that he may have felt justified and that perhaps it was self-defense, but that isn’t how it has been handled.

No, most people who support Zimmerman express a nearly maniacal glee in the whole ordeal. It’s really brought out the racist in a lot of people, and I mean real racism, like, “Just a few million more monkeys to go” racism. It’s really made me rethink some Facebook friendships.

A particularly strange, less racist, though equally ignorant “defense” is that people seem to think that if they can point to an instance where a black person hurt a white person, that it’s like off-setting penalties in football and the whole thing just gets dropped. I want to first point out that every example I have been given is about a black person who was arrested for hurting a white person. Sort of a key difference; black people don’t tend to walk free. Secondly… we aren’t keeping score.

The reason this is news is because a guy killed a kid and just walked free, without so much as even being taken in by the police for any questioning. The ignorance of this very basic fact (which is rarely if ever address by defenders of Zimmerman) indicates to me that those who support Zimmerman are probably just happy with the outcome, which is sickening.

But I’ll help the morons out and come up with a viable counter-example: OJ Simpson. OJ Simpson murdered his wife and her lover, there’s really no question about it. You can be happy for the guy because he got away with it, I can honestly understand that, but by now everyone should have come to terms with the fact that he did kill those two people. He’s not innocent, he was just found not guilty.

The outrage from the decision was palpable. I know black people who can’t believe OJ walked free, though out of cynicism. Some people even take a sort of, “Well, rich white people get away with murder all the time, so it’s only fair,” view, but we all know he did it and most of those who accept the not guilty verdict would probably not trust their kids with him. So, even when a black man gets away with murder, he’s a social pariah (even white women are not immune, ask Casey Anthony). Such may be the case with Zimmerman, trial and conviction or not.

Personally, I’m outraged that he wasn’t arrested. I don’t know if he’s guilty or not, but the guy shot an unarmed kid after getting into a fight with him. In fact, it’s not as though Trayvon approached him; Zimmerman approached Trayvon. That’s some scary shit, knowing that I could just be walking in Florida while some gun-toting vigilante might decide to drive up to me, hassle me, get into a scuffle with me, and then shoot me, claiming self-defense.

Just out of curiosity… since you can just murder people on suspicion, can I kill someone who asks me what I’m doing, out of fear they’ll Zimmerman me?

Top Ten: Words to Describe the Anti-Bullying Movement

10. Sappy
9. Jejune
8. Melodramatic
7. Trite
6. Impetuous
5. Mawkish
4. Lachrymose
3. Histrionic
2. Schmaltzy
1. Maudlin

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Rule: End of the World

After we survive 2012, no one is allowed to talk about the world ending ever again.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

So, Dick Cheney got a new heart...

Using Religious “Logic”

Here are a set of “arguments” using “logic” so mysterious (i.e. nonsensical), they are irrefutable:

If Jesus was real, why does Buddhism exist?

Religious marriages are unnatural and should be illegal. Animals don’t get married in churches.

Churches should have to take down their crosses. How am I supposed to explain to my children that you think they’re going to hell just because they don’t believe what you believe?

I know that your religion is false because every book on atheism says so.

I don’t understand how you can believe in heaven. Doesn’t that make life meaningless and depressingly cruel?

If Jesus healed the sick, why are there still sick people?

Christianity isn’t a religion.

Two Dudes: Bar

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Snippet: Suits

I sometimes wonder if people who wear suits realize what it signifies to the rest of us. “Look at me, I think I’m more important than you and I can get seated in 5 star restaurants.” I mean, just the horrible people associated with suits should alone be enough to stop wearing them: George W. Bush, Barack Obama, church goers, ACLU lawyers, bankers, Congress, magicians… basically, for all people on all sides, almost all our problems are caused by men who wear suits.

When I see some douchebag walking down the street in a suit, I can’t help but think he’s making himself a target. He’s practically screaming, “I make more money than you, why don’t you mug me?” When will middle- and upper-class men stop dressing in such a fashion?

Come Join My Religious Journey

So, since I’m not an atheist anymore, I figured… why not try some new religions?

Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Bret, you don’t need some rebound faith this soon after leaving atheism. You should take some time to get comfortable with yourself. If you can’t make yourself happy, you won’t be happy with any religion.”

Okay, noted, but I don’t need any help with my happiness. I’m not getting any younger here, people, and I should figure this stuff out. I’m 28 years old already, and all my friends have religions, so it’s time I get my shit together.

Now, I want to promise daily updates, but honestly, I can’t imagine that happening. I can’t think about the same thing for too many days in a row, so I’m sure there will be breaks. However, for a while now I plan to try out new religions and share my thoughts on them with you guys.

Oh, and if you know any that are looking for new members, feel free to point me in the right direction.

That said, I already did some hunting for religions on my own, and I came across one called Discordianism.

Discordianism is the worship of a goddess named Eris in Greek, and Discordia in Latin. She is the goddess of chaos. I have to admit, I’m already not impressed. Still, I promised myself I would have an open mind…

Malaclypse the Younger’s work, “Principia Discordia,” forms the basis for the religion. It references quite frequently a lost work called “The Honest Book of Truth,” a collection of knowledge revealed to Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst and taken by a garbage collector who would not return it.

While most religions encourage order, Discordianism promotes disorder. The religion is collectively called “The Discordian Society,” which operates with a definition of, “The Discordian Society has no definition.”

There are all kinds of clever little puns and jokes abound in the religion, and I enjoyed reading them (I won’t reprint them, but if you’re interested, you should just Google it and laugh for yourself). I ultimately can’t follow this, because I don’t even believe chaos exists. Even when there appears to be randomness, there is still reason and basic laws of cause and effect at work. If Chaos were even a real thing, I would think the whole universe would have ripped apart by now.

While I thought I could be a Discordian, I can’t. I just can’t bring myself to believe in Discordia, and I don’t even think I want to be the opposite, which I guess is an acordian.

[If you correct my Greek Latin, you are everything that is wrong with humor.]

So, until I find the next religion to try out, I’ll be on the lookout…

Snippet: Misanthropy

I hate humanity sometimes, but I don’t wish everyone was dead. What I would wish was that everyone lost their conscious memory and that all written records disappeared, except for science and math textbooks. Given those conditions, I’m fairly confident the human race couldn’t do any worse than what we have now. I may hate humanity sometimes, but I want it to reboot, not die off.

Saturday Reflection #74

The biggest difference between science and religion is that science is painfully aware of its limits, while religion is limited by being painfully unaware.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I’m No Longer a Liberal Atheist

I don’t believe in making decisions when angry, so when I became fed up with liberals and atheists a while ago, I promised myself I would sit down and give it some thought after I was no longer pissed off at liberals and atheists.

So, in a state of not being particularly hostile towards liberals and atheists, I gave it some thought… and I couldn’t help but start to feel hostile again. That can mean only one thing, in my mind: I’m no longer interested in being a liberal or an atheist.

It’s not as though you’ll notice some change in my opinions. I didn’t become a conservative or a believer. Rather, it’s come to my attention that my political views are entirely left of liberal, while my views on religion are largely post-atheist.

Not that you care, but I’m be happy to explain.

Politically, I have little or nothing in common with Democrats. They aren’t liberal, and they are not the ones from which I seek to distance myself. I’ve never been a Democrat, and I’ll probably never identify with Democrats, because Democrats are ideological whores. I cannot stand people whose opinions can be bought.

It’s not that Democrats are more pragmatic or open to negotiations, they’re just flat out political prostitutes, and I mean no disrespect to any men or women who sell their sexual services for money. I have immense respect for sex workers, and I don’t want them to think I’m comparing the hard work they do to that of the ineffective, ideologically empty Democrats.

But Dems aside, I also don’t share too many things in common with liberals, at least in a real sense. Our ideas may be the same, but liberals tend to find me unpalatable. This is because liberals are spineless, and even though I may share goals in common with liberals, they lack the will necessary to achieve anything. I have no respect for people who wish for the best but are too afraid to go out and do it. I see liberals as part of the problem, right alongside conservative hate-mongers.

I know I have said this all before, so it’s not as though this should sound surprising to anyone who reads my blog, and I can’t imagine anyone really cares. I’m more saying it so that no one is shocked when I point out I’m not a liberal anymore. This is more an FYI than a call for people to join me. If anything, I would rather none of you follow in kind because that would defeat the whole point.

I’ve also outgrown atheism. I just don’t have anything in common with atheists, or at least I don’t have any anything meaningful in common. Yeah, I don’t believe in gods, but so what? I never could relate to Atheists (with a big “A”). Besides feeling no community bond with Atheists (despite my best efforts), I have come to a point where I not only disbelieve in gods, I disbelieve in atheism. I think defining myself in any way based on what I don’t believe is pointless and does a great service to theists by acknowledging that theirs is the default.

I’ll still post all sorts of disrespectful, anti-religious content here, so there’s no reason atheists who enjoy what I write now will no longer relate to what I have to say. Rather, I just don’t want anything to do with atheism or atheists as a community. It’s not me, it’s you… I find most of you too angry and querulous. It’s rubbing off on me, and I don’t like it. I find religion funny, but too many atheists seem to hate religion, and this has in turn caused me to find I have little in common with atheists and atheism.

The anger I felt that spurred this whole introspection all came from liberals and atheists, and I don’t think I want anything to do with people who make me angry. And yet, I have come to the conclusion that it’s not that atheists and liberals disagreeing with me made me angry… it was the fact that I was supposed to be one of them. I was supposedly part of their community, but they showed no attempt to understand, empathize, or even consider some of the things I had to say, so it’s better if I just say “Fuck it” and disassociate myself.

I’m of the opinion that by not identifying as liberal or atheist, I can better tolerate liberals and atheists. When a liberal or atheist disagrees with me now, I can just treat it like I treat all other stupid people who disagree with me: by shaking my head and thinking, “Well, that’s liberalism/atheism for you.” I don’t take it personally when a religious person or conservative says something, and this is largely because I wrote these people off as know-nothings a long time ago. It’s time I do the same with liberals and atheists.

Sometimes, a little distance from a group of people makes them so much more palatable. I found this to be the case with religious people, that’s for sure. I hated religious people while I was still religious, seeing them as ignorant hypocrites unworthy of the label. As I became an atheist, that hostility subsided slowly over time, to the point where I have conversations with religious people now without so much as feeling the slightest tinge of anger.

I only get angry when I think someone should know better, and it’s come to my attention that atheists and liberals don’t know better, so I feel comfortable now just giving up on them as hopeless and looking for something new.

I just can’t stand to imagine myself as being ideologically compatible with any of you, but that’s okay. I always got along with my ex-girlfriends better after we broke up than in the final weeks of a relationship, when fights were frequent. I guess what I’m saying is, I just want to be friends with atheism and liberalism, and that I think it would be better if I saw other ideologies for a while.

Five Gods, Three Monotheisms

I’ve gotten to the point where I understand Judaism, Christianity and Islam fairly well, arguably better than most any other religions. I suppose I’m no world-renowned expert, but I have no dog in the race, and I am a pretty impartial observer, so I think you can all trust me when I say that Jews, Christians and Muslims are not worshipping the same god.

I know certain elements in those religions have repeated over and over and over and over that this is the case, but they’re incorrect. I don’t know whether these people are lying or mistaken, but they are certainly all either one or the other.

You cannot read the Torah and then the New Testament and convince me that they are depicting the same god. You can try, but you will fail miserably.

This is probably the connection that most people will have the hardest time abandoning, After all, Jesus was a Jew and he was supposedly talking about YHWH. Except… Christians don’t worship YHWH. Most Christians don’t know who YHWH is, nor El, nor Adonai. In the now famous song by Joan Osborne, “One of Us,” she ignorantly asks, “If God had a name, what would it be…”

What’s more, Christians don’t worship one god, they worship three: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Hercules was not also Jupiter. Thor was not also Odin. If a god has a child, the child isn’t also that god, that child is a child and the parent is the parent. Those are just the rules, people. I know people have been told over and over, “Oh, they’re one in the same,” but they most certainly aren’t.

But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. – Matthew 24:36

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. – Mark 13:32

And these are not the only examples of separateness between the Jesus and God in the New Testament. The Revelation of John is full of very clear imagery of Jesus as a distinct being apart from the Father. How do you sit at the right hand of yourself, can anyone explain that to me?

The idea of Jesus and God as one comes only as a result of two theological phenomena. The first is that Jesus was deified and made a god, but Jews are monotheists… so you can’t worship two gods, according to many passages of the Old Testament. So, when it was decided that Jesus was a god, Jesus had to be the God, not just a god.

The Holy Spirit is another matter entirely. I conjecture that the Holy Spirit was a construct of later Christians who were trying to justify their adulteration of the original messages of Jesus. As humans, they couldn’t just go editing and redacting the message of Jesus, so they had to claim some divine presence was guiding them. And yet… there was no such mechanism in Judaism, so they borrowed from the Greeks and Romans, who believed in a concept we would call “inspiration.”

Through the muses, one could be “inspired” or literally allow the spirit of another being to inhabit their body. Jews don’t have muses, so they imagined the “spirit” of God coming down and guiding their hand as they made up the fairy tales that would become the New Testament.

In actuality, these people worked from what scholars call the “Q document,” an hypothesized collection of sayings and quotes of Jesus. This sort of thing was common at the time for many philosophers, as students would keep a record of things a teacher said. The New Testament writers (especially the Gospel authors) sat down with a list of sayings attributed to Jesus and a copy of the Old Testament, then went about writing a story tailor made to fulfill the prophecies of the Hebrews for their messiah. They also relied on the oral tradition pertaining to the life of Jesus, and they peppered in his words of wisdom along the way.

This is why the stories of the gospels do not match up. This is how it happened that arguably the greatest and most significant miracle of Jesus (rising from the dead) is retold four different times in four different ways with four different sets of circumstances and details, and also why a great many other stories in the gospels are simply impossible to match up chronologically or geographically.

The people writing about the three Christian gods (the one who walked the Earth, the one who speaks to people, and the one who is up in heaven demanding praise) are writing about a different trio of gods than the one, single God discussed in the Old Testament. Not even the Father bears any resemblance to the Hebrew storm god YHWH. The Father seems interested in what happens in the next life, while YHWH doles out justice and reward in this life. The Father is forgiving, while YHWH is vengeful. The Father is patient, kind, and loves all people, while YHWH is impatient, cruel, and seems to harbor a genocidal hatred for all non-Jews.

These aren’t two different interpretations, these are two totally different, irreconcilable deities. Both gods claim to be perfect, but a perfect being does not change over time. That implies improvement, and improvement is impossible for a perfect being.

While it’s hard to expect some people to acknowledge these gods are completely different figments of the human imagination (whoops… I mean “gods”), it’s slightly easier to convince people that Allah is not the same god.

It’s almost a shame, really, because there seems to be a bit of cultural hostility inherent in most people’s reasoning here. Post-WWII Western Culture is largely okay with the concept of a Judeo-Christian worldview, but if you try to throw Islam in there, a lot of really angry, ignorant people object.

I find Islam laughable, but not more than Judaism or Christianity. I certainly don’t take out my disrespect for the ideology on those who believe it, either. How I feel about Islam itself has nothing to do with my opinion on whether Allah is the same being as God.

If anything, Islam is more like Judaism than Christianity. Islam is almost a carbon copy of Judaism, in that it’s a poor-quality facsimile. Judaism and Islam are both more legalistic. Both have a thing against pork. Both of them like to cover their women up. Both are into fasting. Both worship only one god (as opposed to three). And, both put a higher priority than Christians (even crusaders of the Middle Ages) on controlling the Holy Land.

However, Islam is a more cosmopolitan religion than either Judaism or Christianity. Mohammed was a merchant, and he travelled a lot. He had a better firsthand understanding of the world than the writers of the Bible. Mohammed had more experience with other religions, and he came hundreds of years after Jesus and the writing of the Talmud, so his religion enjoys an ideological foundation with many centuries of theological development over that of the Jews and Christians.

Obviously, Mohammed was heavily influenced by Judaism and Christianity itself. The Quran is filled with retellings of biblical stories, and he was working with the benefit of both religions having established themselves (with the Jews in diaspora and the Catholic Church being a dominant force in post-Roman Europe) by the time he came around in the 6th and 7th centuries. Mohammed even gave these two faiths a special place in Muslim culture. For example, as “People of the Book” (i.e. the Bible), Jews and Christians were considered worthy of butchering meat in halal style without having to convert to Islam.

Mohammed was also influenced by native Arab religions and ideology, as well as religions in nearby Persia, like Zoroastrianism. And, to top it all off, Mohammed and many Muslims after him also drew influence from the Greek world, most notably from Neoplatonism. Muslims scientists for centuries to come would also continue the work of Greek philosophers like Aristotle as nobles in Europe violently bickered over small parcels of land, as the whole continent fell into abject ignorance (save for a few monastic centers of learning which dotted the continent and lagged hopelessly behind their Middle-Eastern and Far Eastern counterparts at the time).

One might be able to make the case that Muslims worship the same god as Jews, but still… after having read the Quran and many pages of hadith, I don’t think they’re talking about the same being. The Muslim conception of Allah is far more advanced and developed than that of the archaic Jewish YHWH.

Again, there are marked differences in what is asked of each group, and I simply find it difficult to believe that YHWH (who only picks Jews as prophets) would tap an Arab to be the last and most important prophet of all time. What’s more, Islam essentially drops many Jewish concepts and adopts Christian ones in place of them, like the fact that Muslims generally believe Jesus will return to usher in the end of the world.

It doesn’t take someone who has studied these religions extensively to see why adherents of each try to push the idea that these very distinct religions all worship the same god. It makes it easier to ignore these other religions, which constitute the overwhelming majority of Western religions being practiced today. It is a greater challenge to a religion if there are other competing faiths out there, but this challenge becomes more manageable if you can convince yourself and your fellow believers that really, they’re all worshipping the same god.

It can provide an artificial sense of unity, and can ease tensions between the groups. Maybe this is a good thing, but the problem is that the concept is incorrect and serves only to prevent people from questioning their faith or considering the faiths of others. I encourage people, both believers and non-believers alike, to learn about the various religions of the world, because knowing how different they all are helps you see that in actuality, they cannot all be correct, nor can they even be seen as all hinting at the same concepts.

Each religion has its share of wisdom to act as bait on the hook, but at their core, all religions try to reel you in and use you for their own aims. Every religion sees each believer (and especially non-believers) as expendable and essentially worthless, especially when compared to the will of the divine. This is truly the only thing all religions have in common, the claim that you are weak, dumb, and in need of being commanded, and this is precisely why all religions are wrong, no matter how many gods they worship.

Snippet: Spending Cuts

I find it interesting that whenever we need to cut government spending, Republicans think only of cutting education, healthcare for women, and aid for poor people and minorities. However, it’s primarily old, rich, white men in Congress, and it’s primarily old, rich, white men who got us into the situation where we spent too much money (usually on wars and hand-outs to other old, rich, white men in business). It’s never old, rich, white men who are made to sacrifice for the errors they caused, and yet these decrepit, economically bloated, pasty-faced fuckheads are constantly telling the rest of us to accept some “responsibility.”

Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Thoughts on Atheist Week and the Reason Rally

Right up front: I don’t have a very strong opinion on the matter. I only feel compelled to mention anything about it because so many atheists are, and I figured I might as well throw in my two cents.

I think the idea of a national time for awareness of atheism might not be a bad thing. I think it’s good if it gets people talking or gives some the courage to “come out.” I don’t think it’s harmful in anyway, that’s for sure. I think the part I least like is the use of that stupid “A.”

Why is atheism represented by a red “A?”

I even had one on my blog for a while, but then it struck me one day… “Why is it a capital ‘A’?” I wasn’t consulted, nor were other atheists, as far as I can tell. I’m more of an atheist than an Atheist. That’s just me. Other atheists are free to self-identify however they want, and other atheists can decide to wear their big red “A” with pride (though it’s a dumb thing to be proud of), and I don’t particularly begrudge them for it. I don’t think atheism needs symbols. It’s not a big deal, I just don’t personally relate to such things.

But I don’t think Atheist Week is about the “A,” so it’s more of a trifling quibble than even a disagreement on my part. What is there to even disagree about? People who like it emblazon it in social media and it’s their right to do so. What’s more, it just increases the visible presence of atheism, and that’s an idea I like.

Which leads me to the Reason Rally…

In theory, it’s also a good idea. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, by any means. I don’t oppose the idea of atheists assembling, especially for the principles the Reason Rally seems to espouse (again, the acceptance of atheists in the public forum). I’m sure it will be a big net-gain for the atheist community.

I just find the idea of rallies creepy in general. I’ve never much liked them (I’m more of a rioter than a rallier). I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of rallies. They seem outdated to me. When I hear that a group is holding a rally, it conjures images of a bygone era, like if someone were riding a horse, handing out political pamphlets. I’m sure it was effective at one time, but welcome to 2012…

In many ways, the “better” thing to do is already happening. When you look at the driving forces actually changing the world today, most of them are being organized online. Obama was elected through heavy online support. Arab Spring was spurred through social networking sites like Twitter. Even when there is a minor physical presence, as happened with the Tea Party or Occupy protests, there is an immeasurably larger online component.

The Reason Rally is the kind of event that is the inevitable result of the strong online presence of atheists. The rally is a consequence of real social activism, not the catalyst for more. I suppose it was only a matter of time before atheists wanted to all get together in one place and sell each other useless pieces of plastic with acerbic slogans.

While on some level I contend that this kind of thing may cheapen atheism, it doesn’t really. It’s just how people are: petty social beings. Perhaps there’s no use in denying or fighting it and we might as well just embrace our nature and harness our natural drive to be surrounded by cheering people who agree with us and have the time and financial means of attending such a fête.

It’s just not for me, and I doubt that’s very controversial. I can’t imagine I would be missed.

Snippet: Identity Theft

Some people worry about identity theft, but not me. Trust me, you don’t want to be me, and you couldn’t do any worse. If you opened up some credit cards and charged a few hundred dollars to them, I’m fairly certain my credit score would go up. Oh, and watch out for those creditors (I am not liable for harassing phone calls, some of whom may be mob sharks, not just banks and credit card companies). While you’re stealing my identity, I have a ten year high school reunion this year I have no intention of going to, so feel free to attend in my stead.

Imperfect Gods

For some reason, monotheists are really into the idea of their God being “perfect.” Despite a solid track record of errors, miscalculations, and a vestigial appendix whose only function in human beings is getting inflamed and killing you… Jews, Christians and Muslims are convinced of an all-knowing, all-loving, all-good, and all-powerful God.

In fact, I notice that if you point out there are other gods to some monotheists, their argument takes on a most childish tone: “my God can beat up that god.” They don’t use those words. They say things like, “Those gods are flawed,” or “Those gods did things I disagree with in some way, like having sex,” but the idea is the same (okay, that second one is a paraphrase).

It’s strange talking to a believer about other gods. It’s like… you know what it’s like? It’s like a guy who thinks misogyny is dead and who keeps going on and on about how unfair feminists are to men. It makes you think, “Well… clearly he’s able to see how someone can be treated unfairly because of their gender… now if only they could apply some of that criticism of others to their own views.”

I’ve actually come to believe the reasons people give for their opinions have little or nothing to do with why they actually believe what they do. People don’t tend to form or change their views based on deep philosophical examination, reason, logic or evidence (even if what they believe is true). People tend to go with who gets to them first and will only change their opinion in the face of a good sales pitch.

It’s particularly strange hearing monotheists attack other gods for being imperfect, especially when no other gods claim to be perfect. Take Zeus, arguably one of the more well known of the “If you worship God, why not worship ________?” examples.

Zeus doesn’t claim to have created the universe. Zeus doesn’t claim to be perfect. Zeus doesn’t claim to be all powerful, just the leader of the gods and capable of doing quite a bit. Saying, “But Zeus isn’t perfect” or pointing out that Zeus likes to get it on with human women doesn’t exactly make him better than Yahweh. In fact, from what I hear, Yahweh Himself has a thing for young virgins.

A Christian may say they don’t think Zeus is worthy of worship, but it’s a cop out. They don’t believe in Zeus. It’s not that they believe in Zeus and just don’t think Zeus should be praised, modern monotheists deny the very existence of Zeus.

This is ultimately why monotheists are not all that different from atheists. I know most monotheists and atheists would shudder at such a statement, but it is only atheists and monotheists who reject these large pantheons of divine beings from across cultures. Most polytheists include a bit of syncretism, which is a sort of understood equivalence between the various world religions with many different, though similar, gods.

Atheists and monotheists both have no problem with just rejecting these millennia old theological traditions. Both atheists and monotheists are comfortable rejecting thousands of gods with no specific evidence or even any actual knowledge of the full extent of all the gods which people have claimed to exist over the millennia and across the globe.

The only difference is, monotheists missed one.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Snippet: Southerner Jokes

I live in the South, but I still laugh at jokes that make fun of dumb Southerners. Maybe I’m just smart enough to get them. After all, the South is only statistically less educated. If you don’t believe in statistics, I bet making fun of the South seems pretty unfair.

Wednesday Word: Anonymocracy

Anonymocracy: rule by faceless, nameless leadership

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Top Ten: Things My Generation Does Instead of “Courting”

10. Bang
9. Party
8. Mess around
7. Hang out
6. Club
5. Flirt
4. Date
3. Be a “couple”
2. Hook up
1. Go out

Monday, March 19, 2012

Snippet: The Annoying Thing About Democrats

Democrats are childish. Their ideology doesn’t seem to have advanced beyond grade school. Their current platform appears to be “sharing is good” and “bullying is wrong.” What will Democrats campaign on next? More recess? Forced lunch table integration?

Meanwhile, as Democrats are bickering over how the game should be played, Republicans worry about (and are) winning. Democrats are like those annoying people you played sports with who kept calling fouls over every little thing, who wanted to change the rules halfway into the game, and who occasionally demanded a “do-over.”

Monday Rule: Pooracracy

Since government only seems to be of the rich, by the rich and for the rich (and it hasn’t really been working out), no one with an income or net worth over the median should be allowed to vote or run for office. If you have money, you have power enough as it is.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Saturday Reflection #73

If there were no religions, there would still be superstition. If there were no armies, there would still be war. If there were no governments, there would still be tyranny. Even if there were no people, there would still be injustice. The world cannot be fixed by taking things out of it; it can only be fixed by putting in the effort to improve.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Let’s Start Diagnosing Happiness

I’m sick of people being diagnosed with depression, like it’s some sort of disease or chemical imbalance. For some strange reason, our society feels it is necessary to drug people who express discontent, as if there must be something wrong with you if look you around and aren’t pleased as punch.

Quite the contrary, I think we should diagnose happiness as a disorder.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you have it pretty good. You probably don’t have to worry about whether you will have a roof over your head tonight. You probably don’t have to worry about when your next meal with be. In the grand scheme of things, your problems are probably not that important. In fact, if I may be so bold, I would imagine no one reading this has a problem worth worrying about, with one exception.

If you are terminally ill, in chronic pain, or love someone who is dead or dying… you are exempt. That’s legitimately sad.

This isn’t to say people who experience depression outside of such situations (or similar extenuating circumstances) are not experiencing real problems. Quite the opposite, I wouldn’t be surprised if the very feeling that one has nothing to really feel bad about is itself a contributing factor to feelings of depression. I think depression is not chemical in origin at all, but is instead based on very tangible needs not being met by an individual.

It may even be a problem as strange as having a life that is too easy. People crave to be challenged. There is no fulfillment from accepting the inevitable. There is no feeling of achievement when everything is handed to you. Apathy and boredom are enough to make anyone depressed, and the answer isn’t to pop some pills or talk it out with some hired ear.

The answer is to get off your ass and do what you love. Depression is your body screaming at you to change. Depression is your subconscious brain’s way of saying to your conscious brain, “Hey, this routine is not working for me, and I’m unhappy.”

I’m also of the opinion that some portion of depression can be cured by diet alone. I’m not a food nut. I don’t drink raw milk. I hate vegans. However, I have witnessed people changing to a better diet and having increased mood. Depression can be linked to diet, but there’s no money in telling you to eat more balanced meals, so you have to actually read a little or have an open and honest chat with your doctor to find out (any good doctor will admit diet can cause distortions in mood).

But I have a feeling most depression is not diet based. That would be way too easy. Eating healthy is good for advice for anyone, though, so it can’t hurt to suggest that.

I have a feeling most depression is a function of an unfulfilling lifestyle. This is not easy to fix or even to talk about, because telling people to eat better is one thing, but telling people to live better is not only more difficult from the standpoint of knowing what should be changed, but it can be a very insulting for someone to hear that I think they made poor life choices.

Here’s the thing: I don’t know how anyone should live but me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most people are the sole authority on knowing how they themselves should live. I wish I could confidently say how people should change their lives to feel fulfilled, but I have no clue, beyond knowing that you should follow your dreams while keeping your feet on the ground. I think as long as you balance your goals with what you can realistically accomplish (which is tough), you’ll be as happy as you can be.

And there is a limit to how happy people should be. I’ve known a lot of rich people who have everything they could want. Many of them are very happy, but even with all of the material pleasures and opportunities open to them, they aren’t the most happy people I ever met. No, there are people who are so happy, I think they should be institutionalized.

I’ve never been able to trust someone who is always smiling, always chipper, always “great” or “super” or “okey dokey.” You know who I mean… the Ned Flanderses of the world… the cheerleaders of the world… the pathologically happy.

I used to wonder if it was jealousy, but I had a strange experience that changed my mind. Someone I knew who was that annoyingly gleeful had a parent die unexpectedly. She never stopped smiling, even through that whole ordeal. It was creepy. It was disturbing. If I didn’t know her so well, I would have thought she was medicated. Sure, she smoked pot, but she was not on anti-depressants or anti-anxieties.

I just felt bad for her, not only for her loss, but for her inability to express sadness. I don’t believe she was as happy inside as she was on the outside. I lost touch with her not too long after that, but I sometimes wonder if her inability to grieve in a healthy way might one day manifest itself in some sort of mental disorder. Who knows… it’s hard to make an amateur diagnosis over Facebook.

At any rate, I’m of the opinion that the chronically content are more disturbing than the depressed. I can relate to depressed people, even though I’m relatively sure I wouldn’t be diagnosed with it. I get hopelessness, I get misery, I just also know there’s more to life than those things.

The biggest problem with depressed people that you can pick up on from talking to them is how pessimistic they are. Nothing matters, we’re all going to die someday, yadda yadda yadda. We’re all familiar with it, we’ve all said those things at some point and heard it after we moved past that temporary nihilism.

People have been thinking those things since the beginning of written history (and probably much longer). We didn’t pop pills that hacked the chemicals in our brain to tell us we weren’t depressed anymore. Before we invented “cures,” people just came to accept these thoughts.

You might say that 4 out of 10 American suffer from depression, and the other 6 of us just got over it. Some of us decide these depressive thoughts aren’t true, some of us decide they don’t matter, but ultimately all of us need to come to terms with such ideas. Every person who is or will be born and lives to adulthood will have to confront this philosophical crisis, and the answer is not a daily regimen of numbness.

Depression is not even a “phase,” it’s just an inevitable realization. If you’re paying attention in this world, you’ll find plenty of things to be depressed about. That’s life as a human: we’re able to perceive injustice, tragedy, and loss. Not only can we see these ordeals occurring immediately around us, but also in far-flung corners of the globe. Everyone has to learn that as humans, we also have the ability – and some would say, duty – to fix the problems we face.

What I would prescribe to someone who is depressed, then, is to spend a little time deciding how you want to make the world a better place, and do it. It could even be tiny, like picking up a piece of trash from the street every day. I wish I could come up with a list of things you could try, but I think what you do with your life should be personal. It should reflect you and what you want the world to be, so only you can decide what you should be doing to make a difference.

Finally, I would prescribe something for people who are terminally happy. If you think everything is amazing and nothing ever seems to bother you, I would prescribe to you one hour of real news. Not sports, not celebrity gossip, but real journalism that documents important events in your community, throughout your country, and from around the world.

That ought to fix you.

Snippet: Communism vs. Laissez-Faire Capitalism

Someone who supports Communism doesn’t know the first thing about economics. Someone who supports laissez-faire Capitalism doesn’t know anything, except the first thing about economics.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Great Scientific Mystery of Which No One Speaks

The other day, I sought to answer something that I had no idea was actually a deep scientific conundrum…

There is a temperature at which, according to our understanding of physics, nothing can get colder. As many know, we call this temperature “Absolute zero.” It’s about -460 degrees Fahrenheit, -273 degrees Celsius, or precisely 0 degrees Kelvin (by definition, the Kelvin scale is based off of absolute zero, with degree intervals equal to that of the Celsius scale).

So, my question was: is there an opposite limit for temperature?

As it turns out, quite a few people have wondered this before, and some of the brightest minds in physics have pondered it… and no conclusive answer is out there yet. There are guesses which are based on physics as we know it, but the maximum temperature, or “Absolute hot,” is an issue whose answer lies at the heart of the formation of the universe.

I don’t know the scientific background of my readers, so if I get too dumb here, I apologize.

I think the most important thing to keep in mind in this kind of physics is that matter is composed of energy and heat is a type of energy. In particular, heat is a measure of the kinetic energy (or movement) of particles in a given medium. When you “heat” something, you are increasing its internal kinetic energy so that the atoms and molecules in that substance begin moving faster and faster.

This is why heating water makes it a gas: the water undergoes a phase change at 100 degrees Celsius, which is the cutoff (boiling point) at which water is moving fast enough to evaporate into gaseous form, while the cooling of water to below 0 degree Celsius causes ice to form, which we observe as a solid substance that does not allow for the easy movement of particles. There is another phase of matter, plasma, which is achieved by heating a gas even hotter (flames are in the plasma phase, as are stars).

Oh, there is another phase that occurs near absolute zero, at which point certain matter (which exists as a gas at room temperature and a liquid at very low temperature) becomes a superfluid. I don’t know much about it, but it’s pretty damn cool to observe. Superfluids exhibit no friction or viscosity, so they act in ways you would not expect, like climbing up the walls of a glass or forming perpetual fountains which can persist indefinitely:

I know there are other phases as things get hotter, but I don’t know much about them and can’t pretend to inform you if I’m just now looking it up to see what they are. Suffice to say, I know a lot of them involve the early building blocks of the universe, as it was the cooling of the universe from extreme temperatures which caused the various forms of matter and energy to coalesce.

Based on our current assumptions about physics, there is an upper limit to how hot something can get: particles cannot move faster than light. Something cannot get hotter than the point at which its particles are moving near light speed. According to some law Einstein came up with which I don’t understand at all, the mass of an object increases at as it nears light speed. In an atom, this can occur to a point where the laws of physics as we know them no longer work in a particle.

You see, to heat something up, you keep adding energy to it so that the kinetic energy of the subatomic particles of the matter increases. As the particles near light speed, their mass increases exponentially until it would take an infinite amount of energy to accelerate the particle to the point of moving at the speed of light. At some point, the force of gravity from the increasing mass of even the most basic baryonic (or mass-possessing) matter begins to overpower that of over other competing forces. At this point, regular physics breaks down, and the atom will cease to be matter as we understand it.

That temperature, as it turns out, has a name: the Planck temperature. So, how hot is it?

Well, it’s about 1.416785×10^32 Kelvin, which is 2.550214×10^32 degrees Fahrenheit. Here, I’ll write that out for you:

255,021,400,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000° Fahrenheit


141,678,500,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000° Kelvin and Celsius (it’s basically the same, since 273 degrees difference is negligible at this temperature)

For a little bit of perspective…

Surface of our sun = 6,000° K
Center of our sun = 15,700,000° K
Neutron star about to super nova = ~100,000,000,000° K
Temperature achieved by LHC = 1,600,000,000,000° K

An interesting note: the hottest temperature ever recorded was observed during Large Hadron Collider experiments (it occurred for an infinitesimal moment in time). Take that, universe! We’re number one!

But we know the universe was once the Planck temperature, very early. In fact, it happened one Planck time after the universe began expanding. This Planck guy really liked naming stuff, huh?

As it turns out, one Planck time is so short, it’s the shortest length of time which can theoretically be measured. It’s the time it takes light to travel… wait for it… one Planck length. A Planck length is really small as well.

One Planck time is 10^-43 seconds, or…

~.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds.

One Planck length is 1.61619997×10^-35 meters, or…

Really fucking small. You have got to be kidding me if you want me to write out another ridiculous number that neither you nor I can ever fathom. Suffice to say, it’s so small, we have no way of currently even observing anything on that scale.

So, the universe is a tiny speck after a tiny fraction of a second into its existence as we know it… and it’s unbelievably hot. This makes sense, since there is so much energy in such a small area. I mean, you have to figure that everything in the entire universe was there in the form of pure energy, so of course it’s going to be pretty damn hot.

While this is one proposed maximum temperature, it could be lower (or higher for that matter, but I won’t bother there, because I don’t get it). String theory proposes a few possibilities, ranging from 1% of the Planck temperature (still an enormous number… just move the decimal over two places) down to just around 7% higher than temperatures achieved by the LHC. This is particularly exciting, because this means we may conceivably be able to achieve such conditions and observe the inner workings of the Big Bang.

It will be discoveries like this that help us better understand where we actually came from. If people claim that we should give thanks to the Creator, then the object of our praise should go to heat, and to the entropy that caused it to cool to the point that stars, planets, and life itself was able to take form.

Snippet: Men, Women, and Their Porn

Both men and women love porn. The difference between men and women is that every guy will admit they watch porn, but they won’t admit which kind. Few women admit to enjoying porn, but those who do will tell you precisely what they like. For women, I guess there’s nothing embarrassing about getting off on something you read, whereas for men, perhaps the most awkward moment of our day is closing all the browsers after we’re done and having to confront what we’ve just been watching.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Most Generic Place in America

And don’t forget the richer suburb, New East Mount Santa Greenchesterfordingtonsideportvilleburglandianapolisfieldshire-viewborowood Spring Hills

Survey Results: Can Atheism Be a Religion?

Out of 83 votes cast on my site, 14 say “Yes,” that religion can be a religion, while 69 say “No.” He he he… 69…

Anyway, I think this is one of those times where people didn’t think too hard before responding. Maybe I’m wrong, but I bet most of the people who said “No” were atheists who are both sick of religious people calling atheism a religion and read the question as more like, “Is atheism a religion [to you]?”

I didn’t vote, but if I had, I would have voted “Yes.” Of course atheism can be a religion. Come on people, all someone would have to do is form a religion, call it atheism, apply for tax-exempt status, and boom: atheism is a religion. So yes, in a superficial and near meaningless way, atheism can be a religion, like how a Lamborghini can be turned on its side and used as a section of fencing or a telescope can be used as a murder weapon.

But in a less facetious, literal sense… will atheism become a religion? That’s a question worth exploring.

There are people trying. I hear they aren’t doing a great job, and I’m unfamiliar with their work, but apparently there is an entire branch of “atheology” wherein atheists are trying to adapt aspects of theistic religions for use by atheists. From what I have observed, there is a general distaste for these types of atheists in the overall community, and I sense that most who are not hostile to such actions are like me: disinterested.

Still, some types of atheists I have encountered make me fairly confident there will be a movement of atheist-based religion (and I don’t mean pre-existing religions which are atheistic, though those may gain influence and acceptance as atheism itself becomes more popular).

How many others of you have interacted with people who describe themselves as “atheist but spiritual?” It’s reminiscent of “spiritual, but not religious.” There is a great range of beliefs covered here, from those who believe in reincarnation or some form of afterlife (and by extension, belief in some eternal part of us, akin to the idea of a soul) to those who simply see a need for organized community and morality.

In a world where the majority is atheist (a reality I see happening someday, even if not in my lifetime), there may be a push from the masses towards forming some kind of Atheism (with a big A) that people can rally around. In fact, it will probably happen before a true majority is achieved. It is hard to imagine a movement becoming very popular without some form of organization behind it, even if it’s decentralized, egalitarian, and non-religious. Many would point out it’s already happening.

The real question, I think, is how does one define religion?

I have noticed that people who haven’t studied religion formally have a drastically different way of defining religion than those who take the time to learn about many religions. The average person sees religion in the context of the religions they see and interact with, ignoring a vast spectrum of faiths which are undeniably religions, but would be unrecognizable as such according to the definition of an average person.

And yet, the definition given by many academics is not much better. I have tried to no avail for years to try to adopt it, and I have verbalized an acceptance of it, but I don’t feel it. Academics are focused on the notion of ritual as religion. I find this view vague, because while all religion has ritual (which is why this aspect was chosen by those who study many religions), there is a problem in determining if a ritual is religious or not, because not all ritual is religion.

Basic hygiene is full of rituals, and many religions prescribe elements of proper hygiene, but hygiene itself wouldn’t be viewed by most people as “religion.” There is something else almost intangible which makes a set of rituals a religion.

Many people (I imagine atheists in particular) might jump to say that the presence of gods is the missing piece, but this is erroneous. Gods have little or nothing to do with what makes a religion a religion. You can believe in gods without practicing any religion at all (and indeed, irreligiosity has existed far longer than atheism). You can also practice a religion without believing in gods.

So… ultimately, you cannot use gods to define religion, even though most religions we are familiar with rely upon them. Saying “religion relies on the belief in gods” is basically as false and narrow minded as saying, “religion relies on the belief in God.”

This is ultimately why I know atheism can be a religion. If religion was defined as “the belief in gods,” then obviously atheism could never be a religion, but that is not a working definition for religion, it is the definition for “theism.”

Ultimately, it almost seems as though “religion” is a meaningless term. Every definition appears to be too narrow or too ambiguous (religion is in good company, though, alongside “life” and “love,” as being simultaneously undefined and accepted as real). I have never seen a proper definition that includes all religions while also excluding all non-religions. How meaningful is the word, then?

Perhaps, and I’m just spitballing here, but perhaps religion is just one’s worldview in practice. If this is the definition, then all people have religion, or rather, all people who are able to think and make decisions have religion. This doesn’t mean that an atheist’s religion is atheism, though. I know for me personally, going by this definition of religion as worldview, my religion wouldn’t be atheism, it would be liberalism.

Liberalism is my worldview. That is the outlook that informs my opinions and decisions. There is very little I do because of atheism, and almost none of it goes on outside of this blog. Few of my opinions of the world, other people, or ideas have anything to do with atheism. Yet I don’t know if liberalism should be considered a religion (except by those who would like to deride it).

Strangely enough, if you look back through history, what we call “religion” would have been seen by those living under it as merely “the law.” Politics and religion were one in the same for all of recorded history before the Englightenment, and it took many efforts to separate the two in Europe and then the US before it became common practice to run government in a secular manner, independent from religion.

So then, what is a religion? Well, as near as I can tell, it’s a political philosophy that doesn’t have to pay taxes. That’s the best definition I can come up with, and it’s bullshit (though bullshit that is at least true).

Will atheism ever be a religion? I don’t know, but perhaps if people started truly seeing it as one, atheists could argue their points with the full, undeniable weight of religious freedom and fair treatment on their side (even though I think that is what we are due, anyway). In many ways, it may help atheism if it were seen and accepted as a religion, even though most atheists cringe at the thought.

What would Atheism, the religion, look like? I can tell you what I would like it to look like. I would like it to be everything religion is not. Oh the irony…

I would want Atheism to be concerned with universally applied equal rights. I would want Atheism to be uninterested in judging a person by their gender, race, age, sexuality, nationality, language, disability, class, political affiliation, or even religious views. I would want the outcome of a person’s actions to represent them, not superficial perceptions or even their well-intentioned motivations. I would want Atheists to be charitable, and to aim their efforts at helping those who have the most difficulty in this world. Finally, I would want Atheists to have a sense of humor…

… because our religion would be a joke.

Wednesday Word: Randomocracy

Randomocracy: rule by lottery

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Protestant Reformation’s Contribution to Atheism

I love studying religion, because if you study religion through history, you get a very interesting look at history itself. If you combine this with a study in scientific history, literary history, and military history, you have yourself a pretty damn comprehensive look at the full extent of human development since the advent of writing (looking back further is also interesting, but it’s more speculative and factually patchy).

One thing I tend to keep in mind when studying religion is atheism, even though most atheists wouldn’t consider it a religion. I’m pretty sure you can imagine why I do lump it in with religious studies, even if atheism isn’t a religion itself (or is it… but that’s a topic for another post).

So, even though atheism does not ideologically emerge until the 19th century, I look for precursors and influences towards atheist and skeptical thought as I peruse the history, philosophy, theology, and even mythology of the world.

While I must give a nod to the ancient Greeks and Muslims of the Golden Age of Islam for preparing the soil, I think you really see the seeds of atheism planted in Europe during the Protestant Reformation and subsequent Enlightenment.

When Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses to the door of the Church of Wittenberg in 1517, what he accomplished was almost as significant as the work of Copernicus. He stood up to the authority of the church, and he did so as an insider. He helped pave the way for acceptance of the Copernican model and scientific discoveries by Galileo, beginning a process of (sometimes labored) Church endorsement of science which culminates with Isaac Newton.

This isn’t to say that I sing the praises of religion during this era, nor do I think religion is a pre-condition for science, but rather, the reality was that Europe had been thrown into a several century-long rut since the fall of the Roman Empire, and part of this was attributable to the monolithic and suppressing power of the Church.

When Luther stood up to the Christian authority and called into question the practices of the Church, he started a revolution of the mind that swept Europe. It even affected those loyal to the Pope, for even if the papacy was the ultimate authority in your mind, you could not deny he was no longer the only authority. Just the mere existence of choice is enough to force the mind to think, consider, and ultimately reject something.

There have been religions (like Buddhism and Jainism) and philosophers (like Epicurus or the Stoics) who have adopted the view that the gods do not need or deserve worship, but only in 19th century Europe did people reject the very idea of gods.

This may surprise some people (though hopefully not regular readers of my blog). I’m of the opinion there must have been individuals who were atheists in the modern sense, but there is no record of them. The term “atheist” and it’s etymological roots go back to Greek, where an atheist was merely synonymous with “impious.” Mocking, taunting or questioning the power of the gods would be the act of an atheist. The problem is, that does not entail a lack of belief in gods. With the rise of Christianity, believers in the Roman pantheon called the Christians “atheists,” and the Christians called the Hellenes “atheists.” Both believed in god(s), it’s just that they disagreed on which one(s).

Oddly enough, monotheism’s rejection of the very existence of other gods played a small part in the formulation of atheism, as it is a shift away from the syncretism (or blending of foreign faiths with the familiar) among the Greeks and Romans towards one of flat out denying the very truth of heathen religions.

In order for serious philosophers to reach the point of formulating and adopting atheism as we know it, it was important to have a greater understanding of the universe. It’s not that atheism required science. Science provided answers, and people find answers comforting, so it provided a soft landing for those jumping off the religious bandwagon. Any atheist prior to the Enlightenment would have been wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of the mind, which may be why we never hear of them.

Luther’s decision to base his religion off the Bible, rather than the Church hierarchy, was a major step towards looking outside the traditional structure for answers. Luther’s courage in following what he thought was right in the face of what could well have been his tortuous demise was a priceless philosophical action that ranks in importance alongside the death of Socrates and the American Revolution.

More than any non-scientist of his era, I believe Luther’s actions set the stage for atheist ideology to not only emerge, but gain acceptance and even influence. Now, I know what most victim-minded atheists might think, but trust me, there is widespread acceptance where Luther’s work is influential. People in Europe, America, and Australia aren’t being put to death for atheism. I know that’s a low bar, but it is an important milestone; you cannot flourish if you are being hunted down.

The Protestant Reformation wasn’t just about skeptics leaving the Catholic Church, either. It was also about the Catholic Church itself changing. This began a long tradition of slow progress in modernizing religion, both within the Church and among Protestant sects. Continued “reinterpretations” which are so often fueled by internal and external social pressures to liberalize have allowed most Western religions to lose a great deal of their bite.

Besides becoming more and more harmless, modern liberal religions are only a philosophical hop, skip and a jump away from atheism. While fundamentalism gets all the attention from the media and atheists, this is largely because they are such lightning rods for controversy and they make for a good news story or boogeyman. They are easy targets of criticism and disgust, and it is right to oppose them, but the majority of people are not a part of the more nefarious or just plain irritating strains of religion.

This should be heartening to any atheist. People have gotten less and less religious as a whole over the years. Even in the US, the supposed bastion of Western religion, the young continue to embrace atheism more and more with each passing generation. I’m not a particularly positive person, but I am hopelessly optimistic in regards to the notion that atheism is on an inevitable path towards being the dominant religious affiliation of the future.

The question is… will atheism pick up the flag of religion and run with it, or is this the dawning of a new era in post-theist philosophy?

Conservatives Over Four Times More Racially Intolerant Than Liberals

The headline of this five-month-old Gallup Poll is a bit misleading, in my view. “Record-High 86% Approve of Black-White Marriages” doesn’t really focus on what I found most disturbing, which is that 14% of Americans are ignorant racists. That’s about 1 in 7 Americans.

Among the results, there are some telling details.

The most striking to me is the difference between liberals, moderates and conservatives. Liberals are 95% in favor, moderates are 90% in favor, but a whopping 22% of people who identify as conservative are not okay with a white person and a black person getting married. That’s over 1 in 5 people who identify as “conservative,” compared to 1 in 20 liberals and 1 in 10 moderates.

The age breakdown is also quite telling. People aged 18 to 29 are 97% in favor, people 30-49 are 91% in favor, people 50-64 are 88% in favor, but then you get into people over 65, where only 66% approve of black-white interracial couples. Age seems to be an even more likely indicator than political view, as 1 in 3 people over 65 oppose interracial marriage between black people and white people.

Another area that is also worth noting is the disparity between those of differing education levels. Those with a postgraduate degree are 94% in favor, college graduates are 92% in favor, those with some college experience are 91% in favor, but those who dropped out of or only completed high school are only 78% in favor.

Region also seems to play a minor role. Those from the West are 91% in favor, those form the East are 90% in favor, and then you see a marked drop off as you look to the Midwest (86% approval) and the South (79% approval). While this may seem significant, they are noticeably less drastic than age, and slightly less pronounced than education.

Age, education and region are also indicative of political leaning, with those who are young, more educated, and living on the coasts more likely to be liberal, while the old, less educated, and those living in the South and Midwest are more likely to be conservative… and apparently, racist.

Top Ten: Realities We Would Be Facing If McCain Had Been President

10. Zero international respect
9. No repeal of Don’t Ask/Don’tTell
8. The death of the American auto industry
7. Troops still in Iraq
6. Higher taxes for 95% of working families
5. Insurance companies dropping sick people
4. Being deeply embroiled in a war with Iran
3. No economic turn around
2. Two more conservative Supreme Court appointments
1. No questions regarding Obama’s birth

Monday, March 12, 2012

On Video Games and Censorship

If you indulge me with this one final post on the matter, I shall retire my near endless series on posts about word choice. I think you’ll see I’m taking this in a novel direction, and hopefully I can get some feedback from people who can either confirm or deny some of these ideas (where the gamers at?).

I used to play video games all the time. I still do, but I used to, as well.
[RIP Mitch Hedberg]

What I don’t do anymore is play online multiplayer games, for a few reasons. Without going too in-depth, since this isn’t really important, I don’t think it’s right for me to play expensive, time-consuming games while I’m unemployed. I’m more into simple, classic games now (i.e. free games or games I already own).

But there’s a strange phenomena within the online gaming community that always confused and irritated me: censorship.

Most online games allow for chat between players, and as you might guess, in a world where people experience frustration and are completely anonymous, a lot of incredibly horrible things get typed out for others to read. That always struck me… because it’s one thing to shout “Fuck!” at the moment of defeat, but it’s another entirely to hit Enter, type “Fuck,” then hit Enter again. It seems stupid to me, but it happens constantly.

And “Fuck” is about the kindest thing you can expect to find. That’s what Mormons who lose might type (that comment is based on a true story). You can generally expect some random stream of the following words all mushed together in a seemingly incoherent epithet: nigger, cunt, bitch, fag, faggot, pussy, twat, retard… you get the idea.

And those are just expletives. People casually throw around words like “rape” and “gangbang,” perhaps in a way most people would find offensive, but which has no such negative connotation in the game. People willingly even use the terms in reference to themselves: “Holy fucking shit, that nigger just jumped out of nowhere and raped me,” or “those cunts just gangbanged our whole guild.” Here’s an instance where I would rather have been the nigger or the cunt.

As you might imagine, this offends people, and when people get offended, they often get very bitchy. So, they bitch to the company who runs the game, and the company either tells them to fuck off or they put in a word filter that censors out naughty language.

And it never works. [A third option, which does “work,” but is grossly unfair because of the selective application of such rules, is to suspend or ban players who break certain ambiguous, undefined guidelines.]

A few things happen. First, people start typing the words using alternate letters or symbols. Sure, you can’t call someone a “cunt,” but you can call them a (unt, [unt, kunt… or any of a number of other permutations using 1337 5P34|< (leet speak, a generally well understood alternate alphabet using numbers and symbols). People find different typed characters that allow them to get around the filter to say what they wanted to say in the first place.

“Retard” can be written out as just “r-tard,” since any retard can fill in the blank. This is actually particularly damning, because a whole new set of insults arise from people using this system. There are people now who actually say out loud,  in real life, “r-tard,” pronouncing the letter “r” and then saying “tard.” Talk about retarded. You also have “!” able to fill in any “i,” so you see n!gger and b!tch. It’s common to see f@g and @ss. It’s just not difficult to get around filters.

Then you have folks like me. I always prided myself on coming up with creative insults, usually aimed more at making people laugh at my expression of frustration than at actually insulting them (though plenty of them were insulting if taken seriously, they were so over the top, they were mostly just amusing). Unfortunately, none come to mind… oh wait, I remember one in particular that I used for quite a while as a sort of go-to insult: cum-gargling assclown (azzclown if “ass” was filtered).

So, enough mindless insults… what’s the point of me bringing this up?

Even if you flat out ban the use of certain words, people still find ways to be offensive. If anything, word filters in video games have hyper-charged the evolutionary process of insults. I think George Carlin would have had a joygasm is he had been a video game player, because the level of creative filth flying around the chat logs of online gamers is – for lack of a better word – epic.

In fact, one thing I learned is that I think you can be more offensive not using dirty words than by relying on dirty words alone. Calling a black person a “nigger” is offensive, and I think everyone reading my blog can agree you not only shouldn’t do it, but you look like a racist piece of shit if you do. Is that as offensive as questioning someone’s species? Is that as bad as being blamed for AIDS? Is it as awful as taking what are truly tragic statistics about the real difficulties faced by black people and using them to belittle an entire race of people?

Which would you rather be called? A nigger, or AIDS-ridden monkey jailfodder? Yes, the correct answer is, “neither,” but if you had to choose…

Calling someone a word that is offensive is a shortcut to offending them, but it’s also a slightly sterilized euphemism. We can all acknowledge such terms are boring and lazy, but should we be encouraging people to get creative when it comes to insulting others? I kind of like the quaint feel of a single word, because it can never mean something more offensive than the mind of the one who hears or reads it. There’s an almost limiting-factor to traditional insults, one ignored by people who think such words are the worst of the worst (I assume such people are boring and unimaginative).

In my experience, I have insulted a lot of people. I mean… I’ve insulted more people than I’ve met. That is not easy to do. From that, I’ve found one thing in particular to be true: anyone can handle being called a name, but many people can’t handle a finely tuned insult based on a truth which applies to them, even if it lacks any word that would be bleeped on daytime television.

In fact, you can offend people to no end without ever using profanity. If your goal is to piss people off, you don’t need to use one dirty word. I’m not saying you shouldn’t… in fact, I think you should use foul language, because using a word like “fuck” early is like putting up a big flag saying, “If you offend easily, this is not for you.” I do use such language when I know what I say might offend someone because I want people to know they should have their guard up before I swing (I’m not one to sucker punch).

Personally, my goal isn’t to insult people, but I love saying things that are true and which I can’t find said elsewhere. There are just certain things I know other people have noticed too, but perhaps they were just too big of a pussy to say something before. And that’s cool, I want to share that moment with you, and I’m happy to take the heat if anyone with sand in their vagina happens to come across it and think they need to give me a piece of their mind. I can handle whatever piece they give me, and if they hand over the whole thing, I’m happy to have been the reason they lost their mind that day.

It’s not that I enjoy pissing people off, it’s that I know when people get pissed off at something I say, it’s because I struck a nerve. People react to lies and mistakes in a completely different fashion than to how they react to some fact they don’t want to confront. When people throw a hissy fit over something, it’s because there’s a nugget of truth there. This isn’t to say everything that people get upset about is completely true, but I also know that if it was completely untrue, it would have been largely ignored.

Nothing confirms a theory quite like having someone it applies to calling you names while ignoring the message. Again, it’s not that I like pissing people off, it just so happens that I like finding out the truth, and the truth pisses people off.

Snippet: “Game Change”

Sarah Palin came out against the HBO movie “Game Change” before it was even available for viewing. This is typical of folks like her, because people like that form an opinion before they even know what they’re dealing with.

Well, I saw the movie, and I read the opinions of a few aides actually depicted in the film. They seem to be of the opinion that it’s “very accurate,” according to Steve Schmidt, and Nicolle Wallace opined that its “true enough to make me squirm.” My impression, then, is that Sarah Palin doesn’t have psychic powers enabling her to know something is false without having seen it. In fact, not only do I doubt that Sarah Palin can read minds, I question if she can even read.
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