Thursday, September 26, 2013

Water on Mars ... Next stop: life!

NASA announced major news today as its rover, Curiosity, reported from Mars that 2 percent of the red planet's surface soil contains water and other minerals that proves Mars was once habitable for life.

It also means human exploration of Mars will be easier and more effective because we can convert these minerals into drinkable water and other useful elements. So, why am I writing about space exploration on an atheist blog? Simple. 

For centuries, religious people have believed Earth is the only planet in the universe with life because their deity created this blue planet (and universe) just for them. In an earlier blog entry, I broke down how many planets in the observable universe have habitable conditions for life and it's in the neighborhood of 50 sextillion (that's a 5 followed by 22 zeroes), so the idea that life hasn't arisen somewhere else over the past 13.7 billion years is absurd. 

But now, if we can find any kind of life in our cosmic backyard, that means creating life wasn't as rare or difficult as once thought, and if life is on the next planet over, it would be a virtual certainty that life bubbles vibrantly throughout our universe. And, if that's the case, then no deity made this universe just for us, and certainly didn't create Earth just for us. We instantly go from being special to incredibly average in one fell swoop.

Another gap filled by science. 

Of course, you can already hear the apologists claiming this as a victory. "God is so great that he created a habitable planet right next door for us!" Sorry, believers, if your god was truly omnipotent he would have made Earth so perfectly that we wouldn't need to escape to Mars someday when the sun turns into a red giant and swallows us whole. 

Science ... winning!

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Explaining the 'god of the gaps' strategy

Very often, when debating/discussing the profound wonders of life and our universe, a believer will use their god to explain the currently unexplainable. This is known as "god of the gaps" strategy. 

A religious person who is ignorant to how something works will exclaim, "God did it!" One of my major problems with religion is it often teaches us it's virtuous to be satisfied with not understanding things and to not question them. 

We can see this lazy attitude throughout history. There was a time when humans didn't understand why the sun appeared and disappeared each day. They knew the sun gave them life, so they gave it all kinds of deity names, attributes and mythology. And whenever there was a solar eclipse, they would scream at the sky to scare the moon away. 

When it thundered and lightning streaked across the sky, we thought the gods, such as Zeus, were angry with us. Turns out, it's just the weather.

When people had schizophrenia or some other unfortunate mental ailment, doctors used to drill holes in the cranium to let out evil spirits. And when someone died inexplicably, god must have been angry at that person, or it was his time and god wanted him.

We've come a long way since those days, but in some respects (religion) society still suffers from such delusions. Whether it's Islamic extremists who irrationally believe Allah wants them to kill anyone not like them so they can be martyred and have 72 virgins in heaven, Christians who truly believe the earth is 6,000 years old and dinosaurs walked with humans like in the Flintstones, or evangelicals who believe natural disasters are god's way of eliminating lesbians and other heathens, some people refuse to accept scientific fact. This is where the "god of the gaps" strategy often comes in. 

As science discovers more and more answers, there are fewer places for a god to hide or to do his "miracles." When Darwin (and Wallace) recognized all species ultimately came from one common ancestor through mutation and natural selection, it shook the very foundations of religion. For centuries humans believed god created everything, Adam and Eve and all living things simultaneously. But now we know otherwise. The earth is 4.5 billion years old, the universe is 13.7 billion years old, and humans are cousins of all things and didn't just magically appear. They evolved over millions of years.

So, to cling to their theology, believers look for "gaps" rather than facts in modern science and discovery. When fossilized records show the gradual evolution of humans, creationists say there are no transitional fossils, when in fact there are thousands. And when you show them a transitional form or fossil, they ask for the next one, as if to say they will never be satisfied with the results, creating two more gaps every time a new example is found. They can't wrap their heads around geological time, so they think scientists are hypothesizing that two apes gave birth to a human. This type of ignorance and denial is grotesque and close-minded.

Richard Dawkins, in his bestseller, The God Delusion, writes: "It is utterly illogical to demand complete documentation of every step of any narrative, whether in evolution or any other science. You might as well demand, before convicting somebody of murder, a complete cinematic record of the murderer's every step leading up to the crime, with no missing frames. Only a tiny fraction of corpses fossilize, and we are lucky to have as many intermediate fossils as we do. We could easily have had no fossils at all, and still the evidence for evolution from other sources, such as molecular genetics and geographical distribution, would be overwhelmingly strong."

In fact, the minute any of these creationists can find a fossil that doesn't belong in its proper place in the geological stratum (or geologic column), scientists will gladly say the whole theory is hokum. But creationists can't produce one, and they never will, because they are lazy, they aren't even looking and evolution is fact.

A scientist who is ignorant to how something works will exclaim, "I don't know!" This is the beauty of science. It's OK to not know the answer; it's not OK to say, "We don't know, therefore god did it."

Temporary uncertainty is vital to the process; we don't have to insert a god for instant gratification. Matt Ridley wrote, "Most scientists are bored by what they have already discovered. It is ignorance that drives them on."

We need answers, otherwise we'd have a life expectancy of 25 years, no electricity, no medicine and we'd all be barking at the moon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Do you really think we are alone?

When it comes to extra terrestrial life, most may throw up their arms and say life only exists here on earth. Since our society has yet to prove life exists elsewhere, that is a safe stance to take.

But if you had to put odds on it, what would you give the proposition that any life lives on another planet? 1-in-100? 1-in-a-million? How about 1-in-a-billion? Is that a fair number? If there were a billion planets, that means you think life would exist on at least one, yes?

Astronomers at the University of Auckland believe claim there are actually around 100 billion habitable, Earth-like planets in the Milky Way. If we use the odds in the aforementioned example, that would mean 100 of those planets have life on them. And that's just in our teeny tiny Milky Way. 

Thinking of revising those odds because it seems too easy now and maybe you're scared? OK, let's go with 1-in-a-trillion. There are roughly 500 billion galaxies in the universe, meaning there is somewhere in the region of 50,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 habitable planets. And that's just habitable planets, not regular old ice giants or gas giants, plus these numbers are in the OBSERVABLE universe. 

Here's the math for you: 50 sextillion planets have the right conditions for nurturing alien life, and if you divide that by a trillion, that gives us 50 billion planets that have life on them if we use our adjusted odds.

Are we really so arrogant as to think we are the only ones in this infinitely sized universe? Just because we haven't found them, and they haven't found us, doesn't make us special.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I don't hide behind ad hominem attacks

The mark of an insecure person is their use of ad hominem tactics. Instead of standing up for what they believe in based solely on its merits (and only promoting that), they spinelessly and ignorantly attempt to knock down opposing viewpoints (and those who hold those views) with childish insults, lies, censorship, retreat and non-researched propaganda. 

And all of this is an attempt to make them feel better about their empty lives, the mistakes they've made along the way and/or, most likely, a lack of confidence in what they're defending. Otherwise, why use ad hominem attacks? Their insecurities are as transparent as their minds are obtuse.

These are my words. I don't need mindless platitudes generated (by someone I don't even know) on some meme site to convey my feelings, and I don't have the hand of some ruthless, bullying, lying institution shoved up my backside.

I'm no puppet; I think for myself. And I certainly don't need to resort to insults to defend my actions or to promote the stances I've taken in my life.

How do you know what is good?

How do you know your god is good? This is a question I really want to ask the righteous. There are any number of answers they could give, none of which would hold any water really. Most likely they would say something naive and childish like, "I know it in my heart" or "because the bible says so." But, really, the only answer that remotely comes close to being acceptable is, "Because I know the difference between good and evil."

To which I would ask if that was a learned cognitive ability or was it innate? Most people never actually read the bible (if they did they might become agnostic) but they certainly didn't get their morals from the "good book." If that were their answer, however, I would point out just how wrong they are. They might say, "God gave me morals," to which I would ask, "How do you know it was god?" You can see the inevitable circulate futile argument that would ensue.

Morals aren't a physical attribute you're born with; it's innate, but situations must arise through learned experience for morals to present themselves. When two preschool children want the same toy on the table and one grabs it first, the other child doesn't rationalize it's fair because god gave him morals. He tries to take the toy from the other child and some shoving and tears are sure to follow. Only when someone older steps in and explains why it's wrong to shove someone to the ground, etc. will the child start to understand right and wrong. It will really set in when that child is on the other end of the shoving or pain and understands how it feels to be treated poorly. 

The believer might inject here that if the adult learned morals, as I profess, then he must have learned them from the church/god and passed those morals on to their children. But that answer rings hollow. Are they actually implying secular people, who never had any religious influence or history, can't teach a child right from wrong? What about when churches and religion weren't around? Did we not have morals before the bible? Confucius made use of the Golden Rule long before Christ. Who was his moral compass?

Let's use a non-human example: You're a dog owner and you have three dogs. You come home to find the bag of dog treats has been ripped open and devoured. You call the three dogs into the room and say, "Who got into these treats?" Two dogs wag their tails and have that happy look about them, while the other one has its tail between its legs and sort of cowers. How does that dog know it did something wrong? It's not human; it knows nothing of a god or a bible, yet it knows instantly it did something wrong. How? Did a god give that dog morals? Of course not. Morals are learned because brains have the capacity to differentiate right from wrong. ... not because of fear of the unknown or because a book says so.

If we somehow got past this portion of the conversation, I would follow with: What is it that made you know your god's commands are right? Or how did you determine Satan was evil? They likely would cite the bible again. In the bible, Satan killed 10 people (with god's encouragement to prove a point), while god killed close to 2.5 million (and this is a number arrived at from specific body counts, not accounting for the Great Flood or S&G). If I said to you, "Which is worse, 10 people dying or 2.5 million?" what would you say? Yet the god of the bible is the good one? What frame of reference would you use to determine which is right and which is wrong? Just because a book, written by uneducated, misogynistic men in a remote part of the world thousands of years ago, says so, doesn't make it true. There are plenty of religions that have books that state its teachings are true. Are they?

How do you know god isn't really Satan telling you what to do? How can you be sure? Faith? Really? That is really a sad answer.

As an atheist, it's all hogwash to me, so don't for a second think I believe in Satan. I believe in only real things, things that can be proved in the natural world. This entire exercise is merely an attempt to show how ridiculous it is to take things at face value without critical thinking.

But I'd like to take the Satan angle just a little further, not to prove this character is good or bad, but to show just how remarkable it is that everyone assumes this mythological being was evil and god wasn't.

In this blog, I have stated numerous reasons why god, if he exists, performed heinous crimes against humanity and can be considered evil. So there's no sense in cataloging them here all over again. But let's take a look at Satan as described in the bible.

• When Satan convinced Eve to eat the fruit from the forbidden tree, he gave humanity knowledge of good and evil. Why is that a bad thing? Because god wanted everyone to follow him mindlessly.

• Satan doesn't murder or torture humans, nor does he order anyone else to kill other people, unlike god, who performs all of these acts proudly. If you're thinking Satan killed Job's children you would be correct (and that's the aforementioned 10 people), but only because god told him to do it to prove Job's loyalty, so again, god did it.

So what did Lucifer do that was so wrong that we are told he is the evil one? He defied god. And what was that defiance? God won't tell us. So, we know Satan is evil because god says so. How can we be certain god isn't the evil one? How do we know up isn't down, right isn't wrong? 

If you were in a courtroom and the judge asked the witness, "Who killed Joe Smith?" and the witness said, "Mike Smith." The judge doesn't say, "OK, Mike Smith is guilty!" No, we have a process and we weigh evidence. So, we have a book, and in that book the "author" says what is right and wrong, who is evil and who is good. And the only thing you have to go on to know if this book is true, is the book tells you it's true. Can't you see what is wrong with this picture?

This is why following a book of fiction that was supposedly the word of one being is the very definition of prejudice thinking and can't be taken objectively and rationally. You have to think for yourself; you have to experience both sides of the equation and recognize which feels right and which feels wrong. Only then will you know what morality is and have the knowledge to choose to follow it.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fact vs. faith

I struggle with my atheism every day. But not in the way that sentence may sound. No, I don't have my beliefs pulled back and forth in some metaphorical tug of war. What I mean is, should I bite my tongue or should I speak my mind? If you know me at all, you know I don't beat around the bush when people chat with me about any topic, but when it comes to religion/deities and atheism, I find myself struggling internally with my thoughts and actions.

Admittedly, one of the reasons I started my search for the truth, (and by truth I mean the best evidence available for any gods' existence and not some PR slogan on a billboard for a religious radio station) was because family members were so adamant about their religion and so in-my-face with it and I hated it. So, now that I have arrived at the conclusion that satisfied me, should I not share my discoveries? But wouldn't that make me just as bad as them? Wouldn't I be a hypocrite? Wouldn't I be guilty of perpetrating the same annoying acts, telling people stuff they don't believe in?

I do not want to be that person. But is there a difference? Is there a difference between spouting religious belief, which is based on faith and not fact, and spouting facts about religion? Let's look at it another way.

You're in a car headed to a place with a loved one, who is driving, and neither of you has been there. You're in the passenger seat with GPS and your loved one says ...

"I have a feeling we need to exit here, even though I have no idea where we are going, I just have faith that this is where we need to get off." 

You look down at the GPS and you know not only is the exit you need to take about 20 miles farther down the road, but that the exit your loved one wants to take likely won't even get you to your final destination and sends you in the exact opposite direction. Do you speak up? You have facts that refute your loved one's delusion, but you love them and don't want to hurt their feelings by trampling on their faith in something. 

Now, you might be thinking, "Don't be silly, you have to speak up because you know the truth and you don't want to waste any time."

Both very valid points. Now, imagine if you were wasting an entire lifetime taking the wrong exits. Puts it in perspective, doesn't it?

I'm not saying I know there is no god or heaven or afterlife, just like you weren't absolutely positive the exit your loved one wanted to take couldn't in some improbable way get you to your final destination. But when you have contrary facts about things that others believe in, should you tell them? I believe this isn't the same thing as someone spouting off about things they can't prove are true. 

If I walked into your home and told you there are pink elephants living on Saturn's moon Titan and they are all-knowing beings that you must believe in because they're the only true gods, not only would you think I'm a nutjob, but you wouldn't ever want to hear me say that again. Why? Because you know it's not true? How do you know? You can't, just like I can't know there is no god. But without proof, what's the point? 

There are a limitless amount of unbelievable irrational thoughts and beliefs I could come up with to talk about, but you wouldn't want to hear about them every time we got together, right? So why would I want to hear about religion and god?

Now, to get back to the point, if a friend or family member told you they don't have to file taxes until July, what would you say? You'd say, no, it's April 15. But what if they said they have faith the correct date is actually July 15 and all of the info you have to the contrary is propaganda designed to scare us into paying early so the government can benefit from having that extra cash? You would do everything you could to stop them from paying late because you care about them, right? You have facts and they have faith. It's a tangible scenario you can relate to and prove simply by going on the IRS website to show your friend the penalties for filing late, etc. 

When they still insist on paying on July 15, you will either continue to try to persuade them or you will throw your hands up in the air and say you did your best to inform them. When this person pays late and receives the penalty they will finally be convinced.

This is how I feel. I don't have proof there is no god (that's not my job as I am not the one in the affirmative on that stance) but I do have proof for other things. I do have facts I can share. When people say the bible is 100 percent true, I know it isn't and can prove it (even though again I don't need to because I'm not the one saying it's true). 

When they say Mother Teresa was a good person and believed in the Catholic god, I have proof that says otherwise. Shouldn't I tell them what I know of her when they posted some platitude about her on Facebook? They are quoting her and putting it out there for me, shouldn't I do the same?

If you believed your spouse was faithful to you, and I saw him/her making out with someone on a park bench, would you want to know? Then why wouldn't you want to know your priest is molesting little boys or your bible is full of lies? Facts, not faith.

I think one of the main reasons I struggle with this so much is because of the years I wasted and the lies I have to try to erase. And if I wasted all of that time taking the wrong exits, wouldn't I want to stop loved ones from doing that, too? You might say the believers in my family are doing the same thing when they talk about god and miracles. But again they aren't. They're proselytizing for something that is unproved and unknowable, which is far more harmful and wrong than stating provable facts. Just because it's religion doesn't make it any different than the aforementioned conversation about tax deadlines. Why does religion change that? 

The other main reason this is a struggle for me is I'm proud of the work I put into this, into what I uncovered. But most (if not all, other than my wife) of my family isn't proud of this. They have always been proud of me and my accomplishments, so it's odd not having their approval for something, in fact it's downright disappointment on their part. And we're at the point where we can't even discuss it, so that disappointment can't ever be rectified.

I don't know which way I will go. Will I continue to bite my tongue, or will I speak up regularly when I know the facts are being trampled on by irrational faith? Time will tell.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

To the victors go the spoils

Have you ever given any thought to the saying, "To the victor goes the spoils," as it pertains to history? In high school, I read the history books and realized fairly quickly that it was anything but impartial, that basically whoever wins the war gets to record history. 

This doesn't mean the truth gets preserved, just the winners' version of it. What we learn through history books and newspapers is strictly extracted from what our government tells us, suppressing anything that would paint us in a negative light.

The same could be said for the bible, only those idiots didn't have the morals yet to realize rape, genocide and murder could be interpreted as negative, mostly because they wrote the bible to reconcile the atrocities that they wanted to commit (and already had committed). 

But, there's more to this angle. Christianity wasn't a huge lovefest where everyone agreed on the precepts and loved Jesus and his apostles. There were dissenting opinions, which is not surprising given how many denominations there are today. 

So, the prevailing Christianity movement eventually took power, and quashed any stories or beliefs that didn't fit their goals. Look up Emperor Constantine and you'll find out how the bible came into existence. Constantine and his brain trust chose what would make it into the new testament, and rabbinical scholars did the same thing with the old testament. 

Sound familiar? There's little difference between the U.S. president and his cabinet and Constantine and his cohorts, doing what they think is best for their sheeple. Some examples of books/stories that never made it into the bible are the Gospels of Judas, Thomas and Mary Magdalen, apocalypse entries and the story of Lilith. 

Lilith? No, not the robotic, cold, monotoned character on Cheers (though this could be why the writers of that great sitcom named her as such), but the so-called first woman on earth. 

This story arose from Jewish folklore and banned documents, but she was said to the first wife of Adam, made from the same dirt as Adam, long before Eve. But Lilith left Adam after she refused to become subservient to him and then would not return to the Garden of Eden after she mated with an archangel. 

Basically she was independent and felt she was an equal, so it's no surprise this story didn't officially make it into Genesis. I say "officially" because if you read Genesis with a discerning eye you may catch a reference to her. Early on we read that god made man and woman at the same time, but then in Chapter 2 we learn Adam was alone and wanting a mate so god made Eve from Adam's rib. 

This very likely was a reference to Lilith, but since that story was never told in the bible, they made the first woman Eve and the discrepancy was never caught or changed.

And how did man then treat Lilith, a woman with a mind if her own? They demonized her, saying she was responsible for things such as nocturnal emissions and miscarriages. The resulting Lilith legend is still commonly used as source material in modern Western culture, literature, occultism, fantasy and horror.

The same treatment can be ascertained with the Gospel of Mary, which described her as an equal to Jesus' apostles. But this wasn't included in the bible, and instead she was profiled as a prostitute. ... not as horrific as being made a demon, but just as misogynistic.

When I learned of these intentional omissions, it makes it all the more comical when someone says the bible is the word of god. Even when I clearly point out to these people that the word was not only embellished and inconsistent, but that men wrote every word, they just say those men were god's vehicle. And when they were burning stories they didn't want in the bible, that was god, too, right? And who was guiding the hand of the authors whose work was banned? Satan, right?

Like I said, to the victors go the spoils.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Thought of the day: Contradiction

Often, when I think about religion, I think of it as a grand contradiction. What do I mean by that? Let's take Catholicism for example. 

This church is against abortion; it will do everything in its power to keep someone from aborting a pregnancy. It wants to defend that fetus as if it were an actual baby and will go so far as to bomb an abortion clinic, which is contradiction No. 1. Of course the people doing the bombing are nutjobs and I'm not lumping in all of Catholicism with these lunatics, but it's just an extreme example of how seriously they take their opposition to abortion.

So let's say they convince this single mother to have the baby. Once she does, this very same church condemns her because she has had a baby out of wedlock, and they label the baby illegitimate. How can anyone embrace a church that tells you to do something and then shuns you for completing that transaction? 

It reminds me of the cartoon that has Jesus knocking on someone's door. They ask who's there and he says "It's Jesus, let me in." They ask why and he says, "So I can save you from the thing I will do to you if you don't let me in." Religious thuggery and contradiction in a nutshell. 
But let's get back to the abortion and another contradiction. Many of the religious right are pro-capital punishment. Either a life is precious or it's not. How can you defend a zygote in one breath and then vote to kill a living human being? At least I'm consistent in my world views. Abortion and capital punishment are fine by me.

There are plenty of other contradictions in religion, both in stance and history, but the abortion theme struck a chord with me today.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Why we ridcule; why we seem negative

Today's topics: double standards and ridicule.

Let's start with double standards when it comes to discussing/debating religion and faith with believers. One of the biggest problems I have with Christians is how they demand evidence from atheists but won't/can't produce evidence for their beliefs. Why is it I'm required to know the bible to debate them, but they won't pick up a science textbook/paper and learn the truth about things such as evolution? 

When we ask for proof (and remember, the burden of proof is on the person or point of view in the affirmative), they say it's a matter of faith. And we're just supposed to accept that as proof, which no self-respecting atheist ever would. But when we, as a quick example, tell them evolution proves we are cousins of apes and weren't created instantly as human beings (Adam), they say, "Where are the transitional fossils?" When we show them tons of transitional fossils, they ask for more fossils. There's a running joke in science that every time a new fossil is discovered, it creates two more "gaps" for these creationists to point to for their argument.

Only debaters who are paid to defend Christianity ever take the time to learn science, but even these believers cherry-pick from science what they will inevitably take out of context to try to refute the atheist stance. It's not unlike what they do with the bible, only they cherry-pick what makes their god look infallible and benevolent. And when these believers make their points they continually go back to faith and the miraculous, which brings me to my topic: ridicule.

Recently, someone in my family said they didn't like atheists as a whole because they are always so negative. I love this person dearly, so I just bit my tongue, but it's a huge misconception. Atheists, when presented with discussions of faith, must clearly make their point. When a person is strident and factual about something that uses faith and zero facts, they will come across to the wishful thinker as negative. They actually are just squashing irrational dreams with rational thought, and that's why my family member may feel this way. If atheists seem negative or harsh, it also could be because that atheist has seen horrific atrocities performed in the name of religion to which they can't turn a blind eye and should be appalled. 

Thomas Jefferson once said: "Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions." 

History points to Jefferson being a deist, meaning given the evidence in his day, he most certainly wasn't a theist and he couldn't be sure how things were created so he chose to think some deity must have made everything. It also should be said his quote was concerning the doctrine of the trinity. Jefferson was obviously a political figure, so while he didn't necessarily shy from taking a controversial stance regarding religion, he certainly didn't want to commit career suicide either.

One person who never shied from controversy, and whose hero was Jefferson, was Christopher Hitchens. He put it succinctly when it came to why such things should be ridiculed.

“It is entirely appropriate to ridicule absurd ideas rather than to treat them as serious and give them respect. Only serious ideas based on reason and evidence are worthy of intellectual respect. The ideas that we critique and ridicule have historically led to or facilitated war, genocide and ethnic cleansing. They have enslaved millions, impeded medical and scientific research and are now draining vast sums of taxpayer dollars to propagate more of these ridiculous ideas. These ideas have resulted in untold amounts of violence, death, torture and suffering as well as the profound intimidation and physical molestation of our young. Ridicule and even sneering condescension are about the mildest critical reactions that we can have for the enormity of the mind-boggling injustices perpetrated in their name. I can readily empathize with those of us who consider the behaviors prompted by these dogma to be illegal and criminal.”

So, are atheists negative? No, they just oppose what most of the people on this planet believe in, so it only feels that way, but it couldn't be more wrong. If believers would just do some critical thinking and research they would see that.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How about a tour of Santa's workshop, too?

In a move that may have worked a few decades ago, Pope Francis is now saying atheists can go to heaven if they merely listen to their conscience. What arrogance!!! And on so many levels!!!

First, atheists don't believe in heaven, so they don't give a damn when the pope says they can still end up there. What a condescending, elitist remark! What he's basically saying is atheists are immature children incapable of knowing what's good for them. He can't even comprehend that atheists don't think about heaven and laugh at the very prospect. It's as if he thinks we are all sitting around struggling with the fact that we don't believe, that we are saddened that we can't go to a place we don't believe exists. If we were concerned about not being able to get into heaven we wouldn't be nonbelievers!

His stance is just as ineffective as the converse: Threatening an atheist with hell is like telling a vegan if he doesn't do what you want you'll force him to eat griffin meat.

Second, atheists most likely don't even want there to be a heaven because if evidence some day proves the god of the bible exists, then they wouldn't want to worship that horrible deity for eternity.

There's another level of arrogance showing its ugly face here as well. To make statements as if this pope actually knows what will happen to anyone after death is to say the least disingenuous and dripping with cockiness of epic proportions. He can't actually know, nor is he having reciprocating confabs with an all-knowing deity. Yet the Catholic Church continues to loosen up its beliefs and change the supposedly unchangeable. 

How can it "go with the times" when the bible is supposed to be its truth? Their god is supposed to be omniscient, so they should never change any stance. This is what is simultaneously wrong and sad about the Catholic Church. That they can be so strict on some things, and then make a statement like atheists can get into heaven if they vote with their conscience.

This is a conglomerate that condemns men for liking other men, but shelters priests for molesting boys. It says contracting AIDS in Africa is better than wearing condoms. It has billions of dollars in the bank that it bilked from followers and when it uses any of that money for good, it takes all of the credit. These billions of dollars should not even exist. What does a church of Christ need with material possessions?

But I'm getting too far off topic. I actually applaud Francis for loosening up and being a little more humble than his predecessors. Had this attitude been around a couple of decades ago, I may have been more willing to drink the holy Kool-aid and might still be delusional. But it's too late for me, and I'm willing to bet his efforts will fall on deaf ears. His actions are far too transparent. Catholicism is the fastest depleting religion on the planet and his latest PR moves have been an effort to boost the numbers. It's not working. Nor should it. 

Does anyone really think these adjustments are over serious concerns for our souls? Of course not. It's about money. When a pope says an atheist can walk through the pearly gates while still being a nonbeliever, you know times are desperate for the Catholic Church, and it couldn't happen to a nicer church.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11: Misdirected anger

It's 9/11 today, a dozen years after Islamic nutjobs took thousands of innocent lives because of their irrational, disgusting, delusional religious beliefs. It was the saddest day in recent memory, and it affected me in a very direct way. That morning my wife and I were scheduled to fly to Philadelphia and then on to Italia, a trip I had waited a lifetime for and a trip I had prepared for with 18 months of studying the language, traditions, geography and cost.

My flight was just late enough that we never made it to the airport, and it was easily the most depressing day of my life. Now, I'm not so egotistical as to say my pain was anywhere near what those who lost family members felt, but I would venture that I suffered as much or more than those who weren't directly affected by the tragedies.

That day is easily the single biggest moment in atheism history, turning thousands of people against religion and confirming any doubts people on the fence may have had. Three major publications that changed the face of atheism arose from that tragic morning: The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, The End of Faith by Sam Harris and God is Not Great by Christopher Hitchens. These books are required reading for anyone looking to dissect the evils of religion or affirm their convictions as atheists.

But it's been a dozen years and people still don't understand this terrorist act was religious-based, that these jacknuts flew these planes into our buildings because they believed they would go to heaven and be rewarded with 72 virgins each. We lost thousands of lives to an irrational insane belief, and consequently thousands more died in a war that still rages today. The title of this post is 9/11: Misdirected anger, and I stand by that. Americans may still be angry by this attack, but they are angry for the wrong reasons. They are angry because they think we were attacked by terrorists who picked a fight because they think we shouldn't be in their countries trolling for oil.

That is not it at all. Al-Qaeda (and the like) hate Americans because they're convinced we are infidels, that we shouldn't be supporting Israel and, because of these beliefs, they're instructed through their Koran to kill us and to die doing it, thus being rewarded with the highest honor a Muslim can achieve, martyrdom.

It's all religion, and it sickens me. And what happened after the attacks? We had a national day of prayer. First, what a slap in the face to the non-religious, but second, that's like saying we are going to pray to our god so he'll beat up your god. Where was "our" god when these fuckers were slitting the throats of our captains and melting our nationals with jet fuel? Want to throw free will out there again? Don't even insult me.

People should be pissed off that religion led to these deaths, these actions and these relations. It's terror, but it deserves a qualifier: religious terror. Politicians are too scared to use this hot button, which explains why so many atheist politicians never come out of the closet. It's statistically improbable that we have thousands of politicians and none are atheists. So they are lying, but is that any surprise coming from a political figure?

Be angry about 9/11, but be angry for the right reason.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

NFL return means nauseating thanks to deities

As the NFL season begins today, one of the most egregious uses of religion comes in the form of player interviews and pre- and post-game prayer sessions.

When the camera is on and the mike is shoved in the face of the star of the game, he often gives thanks to god or the lord, saying he's blessed and god was shining down on him. So, players on the losing team aren't blessed? God always prefers the winning team, don't ya know? 

When Ray Lewis, who should be in prison for his involvement in a murder but got off because of his fame, won his second Super Bowl, his diatribes about how Jesus loved him and was the reason for the victory made me just ill. If there were a god, I would thank him for getting this idiot out of the game finally. Now if ESPN would only wake up and realize they have a scumbag in the studio doing analysis.

I'm also grateful Rev. Tim Tebow is out of football. Everyone knew he was a joke, and I can't believe it took four seasons for the NFL to realize this. His Tebowing was another nauseating appeal to the sheeple that unfortunately is part of the zeitgeist. A lot of good it did him, and his selfish attitude toward his career cost him a spot on an NFL team. Go start your ministry dolt, and leave football to the talented players.

But thanking some god for your abilities is as empty a sentiment as can be. If there were a god, it certainly wouldn't be concerned with something as trivial as grown men running around on a pitch with a pigskin, and he certainly wouldn't take sides. Praying for your team to win is not only laughable, but if you think your team actually won because of your god answering your prayer, then you're just sick and pathetic.

Do you really think god would prefer one team over the other? I know prayer doesn't work, but if you're going to do it, then pray for something worthwhile, not a 48-yard field goal.