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Nature of prayer. October 14, 2010

Posted by thegodless in Atheism.
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For the sake of the argument, let’s stretch reality and pretend that atheists are completely wrong about their stance on the nonexistence of gods. Let’s also go a step further and say that one particular god is not only real, but this god also cares for us and chooses to dabble in our affairs. Now let’s pretend that we actually believe religionists that come forward with first hand proof of answered prayers. By taking these first hand accounts, we can ascertain what types of prayers god usually answers. We should also be able to determine what kinds of prayers god tends to ignore. Before I go any further, let me clarify what I mean by the answering of prayers. If I have to pretend that believers are telling the truth about their prayers being answered, I should get to at least require that an answered prayer must not come with any overt human involvement. A recent example of overt human involvement is the hole dug for the purpose of rescuing the Chilean miners. I’ve heard believer after believer claim that the miners were alive from the grace of god. They just throw all the credit to god on this and forget the massive human rescue effort, while it is clearly evident that without human intervention, the miners would have been dead long ago. Human assisted answers will not be counted in my non-scientific examination of prayers.

Examples of answered prayers that believers frequently attribute to god(s): disappearing afflictions and ailments, sudden freedom from stress and addiction, newfound financial stability and wealth, protection from a form of particular harm, safety of self and others, better physical and mental performance, pregnancy and child birth, finding a soul mate, getting a desired job, and accomplishing difficult goals.

Examples of the results of prayers that god has never been reported to have answered (surely someone at some point prayed for these): world peace, an end to all human suffering, resurrection of dead loved ones (Biblical accounts don’t count), immortality, prevention of the death of a crop, animal, or human, prevention of environmental disasters, restoration of a catastrophe or environmental disaster, restoration of ruined vehicles or homes, governmental progress and change (I know religionists praying that Obama will die or get kicked out of office), forcing belief in god or the “right” god (I can’t count how many times unprovoked prayers were said for me to change my heathen ways), and healing of disfigurement or dismemberment.

A person thinking clearly would look at these groups of examples and likely see a common theme, which I believe to be that god(s) only answer prayers that are impossible to account for. It is also evident with the examples of answered prayer that each of the first hand accounts all have natural alternative answers as to how they could have occurred, for instance, when it comes to the healing of internal ailments, it would be much more reasonable and likely that the ailment was imaginary, incorrectly diagnosed, or healed by natural means. Because the natural answers are more likely to be true, the believer has a high probability of putting their credit in the wrong place.

As a majority of the commonly reported answers to prayers are suspect and unverifiable, it is left to the believer to demonstrate a prayer that has been answered overtly and inexplicably by any other means. While it is quickly becoming an atheist cliche, I must maintain that it says volumes that visible answers to prayer do not happen. Believers with physical deformities and amputated appendages appear to be shit out of luck when praying for godly intervention, as do believers that have suffered house fires, child death, or voted Republican. It’s a good thing humanity has taken things into it’s own hands. If it was wasn’t for plastic surgery, prosthetics, house insurance, and grievance counselors, we would be in much worse shape. Now if only we would give proper credit where it was due. You never know how inspirational a simple word of appreciation can be.

For the sake of my sanity and my last point, I will quit with the pretending now. Because the probability of an all powerful god is so low and because nearly everyone has bouts of hypochondria, it is statistically likely that believers that believe their prayers have been answered are in actuality only going through a mental ritual all by themselves. Essentially, the believer starts by thinking in their head that they are in need of something, from there they begin looking for anything that can be perceived as an answer to their need. Once they have perceived that their need has been met, they automatically attribute the meeting of their need to a god, completely bypassing critical thinking and ignoring the possibility of natural answers.


Souls January 21, 2012

Posted by thegodless in Uncategorized.
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How can all human actions and functions be so clearly the result of biology and there still be people who believe that we are some sort of invisible being within our own bodies?

In 1907, Dr. Duncan MacDougall attempted to take weight measurements of people as they died. Dr. MacDougall’s proposal was that if souls existed and they exited the body at death, there would be some measureable amount of weight loss. It’s worth noting that in valid scientific tests, scientists are well aware to keep in mind their own biases and convictions. For Dr. MacDougall, his so called “tests” were specifically performed to prove his own strongly held beliefs. Before ever performing any of the “tests”, Dr. MacDougall firmly believed in the existence of souls. It is curious to note, that while Dr. MacDougall was trying to find support for his own religious beliefs, he was also unwittingly attempting to confirm the pagan beliefs of ancient Greeks and other primitive religions (The idea that souls exist predate the Bible). While his belief in souls doesn’t automatically invalidate his “tests”, Dr. MacDougall did not provide any checks in his testing for this bias. It doesn’t take much critical thinking to imagine how Dr. MacDougall’s beliefs may have guided him to the answers he was hoping to find. Thankfully, real science has several built in mechanisms that work to weed out test results derived from biased and invalid testing. Although many believers continue to cite Dr. MacDougall’s “tests” as proof for the existence of souls, Dr. MacDougall’s results have never been reproduced and are regarded as having very little scientific merit.

Considering how common it is to hear references to souls in modern society, one would think that there has been at least a shred of evidence that backs this belief. Much like the common belief in gods, every event and action that has been attributed to a soul has been repeatedly explained through natural means. For quite some time now, science has been able to manipulate brains in such a way that they have “religious” experiences, feel an overwhelming connection to the Universe, and feel the flittering and warm sensations of love.

If the existence of souls has been debunked, why do so many people continue to believe in them? Could it be, not just with souls, but also gods, demons, ghosts, and other “invisible” beings, that imperceptibility and invisibility are being held as proof? How can something that is supposed to be undetectable ever be disproven? Shouldn’t people that believe in souls believe in everything that is proposed to be invisible?

For a much more in depth and better written examination of this topic, check out: Why people believe in invisible agents.

2011 in review January 1, 2012

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The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2011 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 5,000 times in 2011. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

The Religous Right: Better Living Through Immorality November 25, 2011

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For a segment of society that prides itself on superior morality and claims that morality doesn’t exist without their chosen brand of deity (regardless of the fact that moral laws and teachings pre-date the Bible and the moral teachings in the Bible are not even held to by the deity that they allegedly derive from), the religious right has been one of the largest catalysts of immorality over the last few hundred years.

While the roots of the religious right go back several centuries, it’s only been the last 60 years that the religious right has gained enough traction to make serious theocratic inroads into America’s secular democracy. From the rampant paranoia of the Red Scare to the rampant paranoia of 9/11, the religious right has been on an opportunistic march to remake America’s uniquely secular democracy into a dominionist led Christian theocracy. Ignoring all of the harm the religious right has done to America’s democracy, I’d like to focus on how the religious right’s theocratic infiltration is eroding America’s morality by making us into a nation of liars.

In 1954, during the height of the Red Scare, in order to combat what was believed at the time to be an infiltration of communists into America, the United States government decided to add the words “One Nation under God” into the US Pledge of Allegiance. Two years after “One Nation under God” was added to the US Pledge, “In God We Trust” was adopted as the National motto. In a matter of just two years, theocrats had deformed America’s democracy to the point where it was violating the religous freedoms of all it’s citizens by requiring every American to trust and be under “God”. While it’s never been explained which “God” it is that the American government claims to trust and be under, it doesn’t take much effort to see that the “God” on US currency and in the Pledge is the god of the Bible. The problem with requiring all citizens to say that they trust and are under the same god is that not all citizens actually worship the same god(s) and some (6% to 15%) in fact worship no god(s) and because of these indisputable facts, it can be easily determined that the US government, at the behest of religious right theocrats, is forcing a not insignificant portion of it’s population to lie on a daily basis. In fact, I’m not sure that there’s any other group in America that forces as many people to lie. I challenge anyone to find me a group that forcibly causes more American citizens to lie on a daily basis. I haven’t done the math, but just for my family alone, we are talking about several lies a day and thousands of lies a year. Every time I purchase or sell something, I am made a liar by the transfer of money. Every time the US government prints money, they are lying about millions of citizens. Every time the coin makers at the US mint stamp a coin or print a dollar, they lie. I won’t even get into the fact that every government official, including President Obama, is guilty of falsely representing Americans. There is simply no other way to put it. The religious right, with it’s continued support of (clearly un-Constitutional to anyone not religiously biased) inclusions of “God” into the American government, has institutionalized lying. Luckily, I suppose, for the religious right that the Bible doesn’t expressly condemn the act of forcing others to lie.

What keeps an atheist from going public? May 29, 2011

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A Letter to Frank Lucas: Vouchers, the educational apocalypse. May 27, 2011

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Dear Frank Lucas,

I would like for you to consider the negative ramifications of school vouchers. It is clear by all historian’s accounts that America was founded by many people of faith, most of which we can surely say were Christian, but it is also clear that our founders included specific language in our foundational documents to ensure that we would forever be a nation ruled without any religious preferences. I understand that it can be difficult for some politicians to set aside their religious convictions and that it becomes even more difficult when a people are so used to being in the majority and are told by their own books to spread their message, but I must request that this be done in the interest of America’s future as a united republic.

I believe that there are several possibly unforeseen outcomes that could arise from a decision to use tax payer money to pay for religious schooling; First, we must seriously consider that tax payer money may invariably go for children to be indoctrinated into other religions besides just moderate Christianity. These other religions will of course include radical Islam and possibly many other dangerous religions. I am sure moderate Christians and nonbelievers can both agree that this is not something we want taking place. We must also consider that Islam is a growing religion in America and it could stand to benefit from the vouchers in the future more so than any other religion. Would you rather have a newly arrived Muslim educated by America’s public school system or have them sent to an Islamic school that teaches that women should be submissive and shroud their entire body? Second, nonbelievers will have their freedom of religion, liberty, and pursuit of happiness violated by being forced to monetarily support the religious educations of others. I doubt that most Christians would want their hard earned money spent on teaching kids to not be Christians. This is really a matter of perspective. Those in the majority simply need to put the shoe on the other foot. Third, we must consider the unnecessary divisiveness that will grow by splitting our children into religious groups. Under our current system, children of all backgrounds are made to set aside their differences to come together for the common purpose of learning. Take this away and America could soon be faced with an increase of violent acts rooted in divisiveness. In final, our public education may be seriously flawed and in need of much more attention, but it is the public school system’s underlying principles of secular learning and equality that guarantees that we will continue to remain on the paths of enlightenment and unity. Because of all these concerns, I ask that you please do what you can to stop the implementation of school vouchers. Thank you for your time.

The Echo Chamber May 25, 2011

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For every atheist that speaks out, there is often a reciprocal event taking place that may be going unnoticed. It is often the case that most of the people surrounding atheists have never been exposed to the arguments offered up for atheism. We can never really expect that others will see the clarity of rational thought just by hearing our words alone, but we can expect that individual atheists are interrupting the believer’s continuous loop of positive religious feedback. If enough of us atheists choose to break through to the believer’s religious echo chamber, we can create a tapestry of negative feedback. Working as a wall of reason to challenge every public display of religion, atheists may be able to turn the tides against the absurdly favored perception of religion. We know without a doubt that religion is the wrong path for humanity and being free from it’s grasp, we are able to clearly see as no others that it is an inherently dangerous worldview. It appears that it is only a matter us working harder to become the collective force that is capable of finishing off the old irrational beast. Much like the child that is surrounded by people consistently telling them that lying is wrong, the chances that our message will be heard increases every time an atheist speaks up. In my opinion, the power of the individual outspoken atheist cannot be stated enough.

Alone, we will nearly always fail against the great ocean of rational illiteracy and religious lunacy. When we speak alone, it’s likely much easier for the religious world to write us off as kooks, but together we may be able to break down even the most indoctrinated Religionist. The flaw in all of this is that there are many atheists that perceive that they have too much to lose in speaking out. I must ask though, at what point do atheists choose to suffer for the cause? For me, it was knowing that I couldn’t suffer the loss of employment.

What assurances would you need before you would be willing to go public? What would make you comfortable enough to speak out? Would you speak up if your government began embracing theocracy?

Douglas Adams and Me May 11, 2011

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A man didn’t understand how televisions work, and was convinced that there must be lots of little men inside the box, manipulating images at high speed. An engineer explained to him about high frequency modulations of the electromagnetic spectrum, about transmitters and receivers, about amplifiers and cathode ray tubes, about scan lines moving across and down a phosphorescent screen. The man listened to the engineer with careful attention, nodding his head at every step of the argument. At the end he pronounced himself satisfied. He really did now understand how televisions work. “But I expect there are just a few little men in there, aren’t there?”
— Douglas Adams, paraphrase of a parable spoofing modern creationism that Adams often told, as retold by Richard Dawkins in “Lament for Douglas” (14 May 2001)

As a child, I spent a lot of time unknowingly reading books by a man that held a completely different and opposing worldview than nearly all of my friends and family. If it wasn’t for the humorous accessibility of Douglas Adams, I may have never managed to get a glimpse of true reality. I’m certain that if the Hitchhiker’s Guide had been titled the Radical Atheist’s Guide to Freethinking, I would have likely never been interested or allowed to read it. I was too young at the time to even realize it, but Adams planted the seeds for my escape from superstition and religion. In Adams’ ultimate wit and skepticism, I found a previously unknown ability and strength to look at things in a different light; A light that turned out to be perfectly clear and rationally illuminating. With nothing more than comedy and more than any scholarly “new” atheist, Adams cracked my near impenetrable and absurdly illogical religious indoctrination. I may mourn that Adams died far too young, but I find plenty of comfort in knowing that he got to live the only kind of life worth living; The enlightened life of a freethinker.

I know that he is gone, but for anyone listening; Thank you Mr. Adams. You did your part to make the world a much better place.

Combating Theocracy with Theocracy? May 11, 2011

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If the Religious Right really wants to turn America into a theocracy, I say we temporarily grant them that wish, but only if they are willing to take it to it’s logical ends. For a six month period, theocrats must sign into law every Biblical command, order, proclamation, and preference expressed by God in both the Old and New Testaments (God doesn’t change or make mistakes, so yes, even the Old Testament will count). Giving every American a six month taste of what a theocracy really looks like should beat some sense into people. It’s not like the majority of Americans really support theocracy, it’s more like the majority of Americans support apathy. The only real cure for apathy appears to be tyranny. Surely, even the most hardcore theocrat would come to their senses after spending six months in a nation overflowing with slavery, second class women, child brides, stonings on Sabbath, animal and human sacrifices, dashing babies against rocks, and capital punishment for adulterers.

Furthermore, based upon God’s actions in the Bible, we can ascertain what kind of place America would be with his holiness in charge. Take Las Vegas for instance, there would be a high probability that God would freak out at some point with all the evil sinners in the city and kill every man, woman, child, and fetus to display his disapproval. At some point and time, at least a few humans would be lucky enough to be chosen by God for some testing of faith, during which God would instruct the chosen humans to kill their children or chop off their genitals. I’m pretty sure that even theocrats would not be enjoying an America truly run by and for God, so maybe at this point we could collectively come together to shrug off our ancient propensities to rely upon and bow down to an invisible higher power.

So, come on theocrats. Get to it. How does six months to fully implement your theocratic nation sound? There’s only one caveat; Once you finally learn what it is you’ve done, we don’t want to ever hear about a Christian nation again. No more “One Nation Under God”. Deal?

Zombies need God too. April 28, 2011

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Isaiah 42:26 “I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh, and they shall be drunk with their own blood as with wine.”

Considering all of the flesh eating, dead body raising, and nonsensical grunts and moans contained in the Bible, it’s a wonder that George Romero and Robert Kirkman aren’t having to pay royalties.

For many nonbelievers, it is impossible to escape the fact that zombies are a fairly accurate metaphor for people that willing shut off their thinking caps in the name of faith. It’s also an odd coincidence that many of these people also happen to symbolically feast on flesh and blood. I would argue though, that to truly be a lamb of God, one must first become a brain dead flesh eating zombie (God’s words, not mine). The Bible is rife with verses and commands supporting anti-intellectualism and if it is to be believed, God would appear to want zombies more than sheep.

Since most everyone knows about the traditions involving the Eucharist, I would like to briefly highlight God’s opinions regarding human zombification (aka anti-intellectualism). One must not look for long to find God’s first attempt at keeping man as a stupid pet animal, for instance; In Genesis, humanity’s very first mistake against God was the horrific act of simply seeking knowledge. Furthermore, the Old Testament also claims that people’s reasoning abilities are unreliable and deceptive. It goes as far to warn that: “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.”

Because the Old Testament commands that people should not rely upon their own intellect and understanding, Christianity has inherited a system by which few can escape. By teaching that we are incapable of truly understanding things, Christianity has given us a population of people that no longer see a need to even try. Not only can Christianity turn reasonable people into zombies, it can turn zombies into couch potatoes. At least zombies are motivated enough to seek out brrrrraaaiiiiiiiinnnsss!

What it all really comes down to though, is that the authors and editors of the Bible had very specific motives to their writings. There is one sure fire way to keep people in line and that is to get them to willingly shut down their reasoning powers. Can it be any wonder that governments all around the world have seized upon Christianity?

Religious Bullying: Vulnerability and Violence April 18, 2011

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Much can be learned by observing how a particular religion reacts to opposition. I wouldn’t dare guess what it is in particular that makes Religionists freak out and attack, but I can say with some certainty that it is their own vulnerability mixed with an extreme lack of empathy and a desperate need for attention that assists them in behaving in this manner.

When a Religionist lashes out or shoves their beliefs down your throat, there is really nothing taking place that differentiates it from bullying. Psychologists used to believe that bullying was caused by a person’s lack of self-esteem, but it is now widely agreed upon that most bullying is caused by narcissism and a lack of personal responsibility. What in this world gives a person less personal responsibility than a savior based religion? Surrounded by frustration, anger, and like minded people, it would not take a person much effort to read the Quran and come away with a worldview that not only takes away personal responsibility, but also rewards someone for giving it up; hence virgins for suicide bombers.

Our reality has been so twisted by religious superstitions that we may be incapable of collectively pushing our way forward, but at the very least, if the civilized world gets attacked again, we should really consider sending counselors instead of bombs.