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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?

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?

Certainty: Set Us Free April 15, 2011

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For a group of people that are so convinced that they are correct, Religionists sure do seem to have a complex when it comes to allowing others to seriously consider what they believe. They seem to have an even greater complex in allowing others to freely determine whether they are convinced or not. If you are a person that has failed to be convinced, you can expect that there will be many attempts to you force into line. You can expect that there will be laws that say that you cannot hold office, money that says that you trust the Religionist’s god, a motto that says that you are living “Under God”, and many other attempts of making sure you don’t fall through the Religionist’s crack. Many Religionists like to say that we have free will, but they sure don’t seem to support that for nonbelievers. On closer examination, it appears more like we are being told that there is no escape from the appendages of religion. One must ask why Religionists need it to be this way. Could it be that someone is so unconvinced by their own beliefs that they feel a need for special exceptions to shore up their own doubts? Just a thought, but if Religionists ever expect to win over nonbelievers, they will only do so by first offering up an argument for the existence of god that is free of any and all coercion. Knowing the current arguments inside out, I highly doubt that they are even capable of it. Religionists would only have to compare their current Church and State violations with how oppressive regimes maintain power and they would see that their belief has become tyrannical and defeating of their own stated purposes.

Religion Must Go: Why Accomodationism Fails. March 22, 2011

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“The Christian resolution to find the world ugly and bad has made the world ugly and bad.” – Friederich Nietzsche

I won’t pretend that the following examples are fully representative of the current status between atheists and their religious opponents, though it could be argued that at one time or another these relationships have turned out pretty fucking bad for atheists. Religion, by it’s very nature, is an enemy to reason and thus an enemy to atheism. There are striking resemblances in the relationships of atheists and religionists to those of the Nazis and Jews, African Americans and the KKK, Islamic extremists and freedom, and Eminem and Vanilla Ice. I can say with reasonable certainty that none of the above named groups will ever be capable of buddying up for any extended period of time.

“I am myself a dissenter from all known religions, and I hope that every kind of religious belief will die out.” – Bertrand Russell

It is a matter of fact that certain groups of people are inherently in opposition to one another. Because the beliefs and values of these oppositional groups are so far divided, these groups will never be able to find a middle ground to work with. When I say that these groups will never be able to find middle ground, I’m speaking of the groups as a whole and not subsets or individuals in these groups. I know that it very common for individuals to set aside their differences, but I can’t imagine, under any circumstances, that the KKK is going to begin allowing African Americans in as members. I also can’t imagine that Christianity, or Islam for that matter, is capable of changing it’s stance on homosexuals, women’s rights, and atheists. Neither religion currently has the capability to edit out the hate filled verses aimed at these groups. I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable with accommodating a groups that feels that I should either be killed, shunned, or burning in Hell.

“Religion is fundamentally opposed to everything I hold in veneration–courage, clear thinking, honesty, fairness, and, above all, love of the truth.”- H. L. Mencken

At this point, I’m not here to argue about who is right and who is wrong, I am simply trying to show that religion, as a whole, is incompatible with atheism. I say this, as I know that many people on both sides are wishing for a future where all sides are walking hand in hand. I fully admit that I often desire this outcome too, it’s just that it may never be possible. Even if I feel that it is highly unlikely, I can still hope right? Even though I admit that I don’t believe that there is chance for hand in hand cooperation, I am by no means calling for an end to the efforts and I am in no way saying our battle should ever resort to violence. What I do feel, much like Reagan’s stance on not negotiating with terrorists, is that atheists everywhere should be focusing more of their time on efforts that reduce religion’s power and sway. I’m not claiming to know what strategies work, but I can reason out that finding common ground is only going to take us so far. Even if atheism was able to mesh with religion, history has shown us that it will only be a matter of time before religion takes a new fanatical turn and we are again victimized by it’s violent dogmatic irrationality.

An unrelated, but awesome quote: “Imagine a puddle waking up one morning and thinking, ‘This is an interesting world I find my self in – an interesting hole I find my self in – fits me rather neatly, doesn’t it? In fact it fits me staggeringly well, must have been made to have me in it!’ This is such a powerful idea that as the sun rises in the sky and the air heats up and as, gradually, the puddle gets smaller and smaller, it’s still frantically hanging on to the notion that everything’s going to be alright, because this world was meant to have him in it, was built to have him in it; so the moment he disappears catches him rather by surprise. I think this may be something we need to be on the watch out for.”
– Douglass Adams

The twisting mind. March 16, 2011

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“Philosophy is questions that may never be answered. Religion is answers that may never be questioned” – Anonymous

Many claim that faith is a virtue. Many also claim that having faith is difficult to attain. If these statements were in fact true, why is it something that one month old can learn and why is it so difficult for man to live with such uncertainty? From a very early age, children learn to have faith in many things. Most children quickly learn to have faith in their parents, their enviornment, and their own body. It is through faith that children are able to comfort themselves in times of stress and need. Faith is so engrained into us that it becomes our default position. Faith is not in any way a skill. It is not considered a skill when we are good about trusting the sun to come up. It is however considered a skill when someone is able to figure out how and why the sun comes up.

Those of us that cannot seem to live without 100% faith, resort to religion when questions become too complex. If faith is easy, then religion is too. Religion is nothing more than the easy way out of complex questions. Religion is what happens when man desires answers, figures out that the some questions may be unanswerable, and decides to just give up on the quest for truth.

To not have faith and to be okay with not knowing is a skill far beyond that of faith. We are not, at any point in our infancy, taught to just be okay with things. For theists to propose that God must exist simply because they believe that nothing could ever come from nothing is the most extreme form of faith, for the theist also believes that there God came from nothing.

I have no idea about how we got here and I am certain that neither do theists. The biggest difference is that they cannot accept uncertainty. They would believe some of the most absurd things just to escape the uneasy feeling of the unknown. They would claim the existence of an always present invisible being before looking to the sky and proclaiming that maybe reality has always just been or at the very least proclaiming that maybe we will just never know. The thing that theists can never seem to get is that, just because atheists don’t have all the answers, they don’t get to fill in all of our gaps in knowledge with unfounded absurdities.

“To really be free, You need to be free in the mind” – Alexander Loutsis

Thanks for your god. November 26, 2010

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As a low level government employee, I am often inundated with mass mailed holiday messages from my superiors. Luckily, most of these messages are generalized, inclusive, and fairly religion free. I really don’t mean to sound like a bitter holiday scrooge, but there are times, mainly when I am forcefully confronted with religion at work, that I am just not capable of keeping my mouth shut. Case in point, I recently got hit with a holiday message from one of my various superiors (actually in thus case my ultimate superior) so steeped in workplace evangelism, that I had to verify I hadn’t unknowingly gotten a job at a church. While the contents of this message was warm and respectful, the divisive religious undertones were unbearable. At one point, the writer just had to tell me about how they wished everyone could just understand that they are all special children of “God”, which god they did not say. While I fully disagree with that sentiment, mostly because delusions are not known for being beneficial, I understood that it was really meant as a wish for others to be better people. I too wish that some times and as long as I’m not being indirectly included into any overt religious stuff, I’m fine with silently disagreeing. The letter of course then went on to get pretty personal, eventually including me into prayers and assuming that I too would be thanking “God”, but still not revealing which particular one. Last I checked, I couldn’t find anything at all that could be remotely credited to god for any kind of thanking to be necessary. As a rationalist, I am always on the look out for my own illogical opinions, so I thought it best to ponder things further. Pondered to the point where I thought I could easily rule out with certainty that I needed to thank God for anything, I came upon something pretty profound that made me think that maybe I should be thanking my superior’s God. Without further ado, I give my thanks to my superior’s god in the Holy name of the Christian Thanksgiving Holiday (sorry to all of my Native American friends), for helping to inspire some people to sometimes do pretty good things. In all sincerity, I am very thankful for all of the Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans (not so much to the Mormons or Scientologists though), Jehovah’s Witnesses, and other religionists that managed to gain courage with their irrational belief in my superior’s God to fight for freedom all across the world. I am truly thankful for these brave individuals and if they felt so inspired by their belief in God to willingly lay down their lives in the name of freedom, I must surely thank each and every one of their different gods. If it wasn’t for these people’s misguided faiths and superstitions, America may have never been able to defeat the opponents of freedom. To pay honor and to give thanks, I promise that I will use my freedom at every point that it is necessary and always cherish the fact that, because of the courage of many illogical people, no one, not even a workplace superior, can stop me from openly dissenting. My freedom to respond without fear of reprisal, specifically to blatant workplace evangelism by a superior has been bought and paid for by the martyrs of other people’s gods. I know of nothing more honorable than fighting for the freedoms of people you disagree with. Dissension is as American as deep fried Snickers and the Treaty of Tripoli. For that, I am more than thankful, I am hopeful that one day it will be integral part of human rights. After writing my response to my superior’s holiday message, I can’t help but wonder if they are still as thankful about including me into their religious practices.

Logical fallacies of prayer. November 11, 2010

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For the sake of argument, let’s stretch reality and pretend that atheists are completely wrong about their stance on the nonexistence of gods. Let’s 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), 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 common themes, which I believe to be that god(s) seem to only answer prayers that are impossible to account for. Another theme evident with the answered prayer examples is that each of the first hand accounts all have natural alternative answers as to how they could have occurred, for instance, when it comes 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.

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. I guess believers with physical deformities and amputated appendages are just shit out of luck.

Without religion… October 31, 2010

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As I have read through Sam Harris’ The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values, I have pondered the remaining value of religion. In doing so, I have been stumped by trying to come up with a single instance where losing religion would deprive humanity of anything valuable. For the last three days, I have wondered if there is anything that religion offers that humanity can’t achieve on it’s own. The realm of human morals has been the last great hope for religion to have any value in the modern world. Religion has invested it’s remaining worth in a concept that it thought it owned. As morals have now been shown to be naturally occurring, what is left of value from religion? I know we will always be able to value religion’s past accomplishments, however diminished by atrocities they may be, but I’m focusing more on what religion has to offer humanity now. What worth is it anymore?

Until very recently, religion was seen as a way to cleanse thyself from the sins of the past, a way to comfort the dying, and a way to give peace to the relatives of the dying. These apparent benefits have turned out to be nothing more than snake oils. The fact stands that man has replaced and improved upon every alleged religious benefit. If religion was held to the same standards of everything else in life, it would have quickly fell into obscurity. Take the evolution of computers for example. If man held computers to the same standard as religion, everyone would still be using Commodore 64’s, regardless of the fact that cheaper, faster, and more reliable computers exist. It’s like people clinging to pagers in the era of cheap cell phones. It’s like old people too scared to surf the net. It’s not only sad, but harmful to the progress of our species.

Saying all of this, I ask, what remains of religion that can be proven to be a benefit that no other societal construct offers? What value can religion prove it offers to man and if no value exists, why the hell does religion persist?