Interesting meme: read from top to bottom then bottom to top


April 10, 2014 Posted by | atheism, religion | | Leave a comment

Be Still and Know…..



March 22, 2014 Posted by | atheism, religion | | Leave a comment

The good and bad of cherry picking


This meme made me chuckle; when it comes to the social debates of our day, the liberal religious types cherry pick the “feel good, love thy neighbor, judge not” verses from the Bible, whereas the religious conservatives cherry pick the verses that stress rebuke and stress adherence to rules. Missing in this debate: the fact that “my holy text says X is moral” means absolutely nothing, except to those who “believe in that holy text”. It is not some universal authority.

So in one sense, it makes sense to “cherry pick”: go with good advice no matter where you find it, and discard bad advice no matter where you find it. It is bad to cherry pick if you are trying to get at some larger truth (e. g., pick the data you like, ignore the data that you don’t want to see).

Now we have atheism. Here it is argued that things like a wider access to healthcare will lead to more atheism. The main idea: more health security means less reliance on superstition. You see some of that argued here:

The critics of the new atheists like Terry Eagleton and Karen Armstrong keep arguing that the true function of religion is not to state facts about the world, but to structure our lives through rituals and to open our eyes to the transcendent dimension. I beg to differ: while a small minority look for spiritual experience and ritual without buying into the factual assertions of religion, in the end most religious people just have certain beliefs about the world that are comforting, and that’s why they stick to their faiths.

So why, at the onset of the 21st century, is it so difficult to say in this ongoing discussion that religion is psychologically comforting and that this is the reason it has such a strong hold on the human mind? I think it is primarily because of the cultural imperative of political correctness not to offend the religious, and the mistaken belief that such pseudo-respect will prevent unrest and strife – even though appeasement has often been counterproductive, as in the case of the fatwa against Rushdie, the relentless fight of the Bible-belt against liberals and evolution in the US, and the ruthlessness of messianic right-wingers in Israel in colonising the West Bank.

While some critics of the “new atheists” have made valid arguments, primarily that their optimistic humanism is far from realistic, they are missing out on a simple point: adhering to a scientific worldview requires discipline; it requires giving up on the certainties of childhood and the belief in ultimate protection. I don’t know whether doing so turns us into better human beings, but it certainly makes us intellectually more responsible.

But….there is another aspect. If one looks at the correlation belief in a deity by education, college educated people are actually slightly more likely to believe a deity than those without college educations. Sometimes there is a “God is good because He blessed me” effect.

It is true that those with graduate degrees are less likely to believe in a deity and that scientists are far less likely to believe; in fact, atheism is the norm among scientists; about one third of US scientists believe in a god, and about 7 percent of National Academy of Science caliber scientists are believers. But these people are outliers and unlikely to be affected by things like the Affordable Care Act.

Hence while I find this conjecture “more available health insurance will lead to more atheism” to be interesting, I find it unconvincing.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion, social/political | Leave a comment

No, the Bible did NOT turn me into an atheist ….nor could it have.

Sometimes it is claimed that “reading the Bible will make you an atheist.”

Yes, I am an atheist and yes, I read the Bible (all of it, including the so-called Catholic books). Yes, I was disgusted by the gross immorality that was divinely ordained (e. g. the wholesale slaughters) and disgusted by the backwardness (animal sacrifice, talking animals) and superstition.

But that didn’t make me an atheist; it turned me against Biblical literalism. For a long time I bought into the idea that the Bible was the result of human hands (I still believe that) and only part of humanity’s journey to discovering something called “God”.

However, rejecting the Jewish/Christian deity doesn’t make one an atheist; there are literally thousands of other human inspired gods out there, and how many gods are worshiped by other sentient beings on other planets in other solar systems in other parts of our galaxy or in other galaxies?

So, you might call me a “closet agnostic” in that I remain open to evidence of deities/concepts of deities that I haven’t considered as yet. And I am agnostic in the classical sense: I claim “I don’t know” and I remain an atheist in the classical sense in that “I do not believe in a deity” though I do not see the existence of a deity/spirit of the universe/creative force as impossible.

December 20, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion | Leave a comment

Richard Dawkins on the Daily Show

You can find it here (Dawkins starts at 13:20 into it). I enjoyed the interview.

September 26, 2013 Posted by | atheism, evolution, religion, science | , | Leave a comment

That what makes us cheer and what makes us go “yuck”

Workout notes
Weights only. My left shoulder bothered me at times (mild, not the right one).

rotator cuff, hip hikes, back stuff, leg lifts, usual ab sets (3 sets of 10: twists, v. crunch, crunch, sit backs), Achilles, planks, etc.

pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (easier when I got warmed up)
bench: 10 x 135, 4 x 185, 4 x 185 (not strong)
incline: 7 x 155 (improvement), 8 x 150 (improvement)
pull downs: 3 sets of 10 x 160
curls: 3 sets of 10 x 80 (machine)
rows (Hammer) 3 sets of 10 x 210
military (Hammer) 3 sets of 10 x 140

I found myself cheering just a bit here:

Part of the reason: you really can’t defend beliefs about heaven/hell or other stuff. That is baseless speculation, by definition. However, “I don’t believe things without evidence because I am not an idiot”; well, it is one of those things that I both cheered (“At last, someone stands up to the idea of “faith” being a good thing”) and disagreed (e. g. Francis Collins has faith and is much smarter and more successful than I am).

I’d say that it would be more accurate to say “I don’t have faith because in this aspect of my life, I am no longer brainwashed”. I see faith as a type of brainwashing that even smart, successful people are susceptible to.


Ok, I’ve read a bit about the “fast food workers” strike. I understand the negativity; though some fast food workers are teenagers trying to earn a bit extra and others are decent people who are just down on their luck in this absolutely horrible economy, well, others are not among the best educated and more intelligent members of society.

So it is easy to say: “hey, what did you expect when you took that job.”

But I think that it is important to remember that when the lowest on the economics ladder earn more, they spend, this drives up demand and makes things better going UP the economic chain. ALL of us benefit.

To put it bluntly, sometimes the economic policies that work the best for all of us benefits those that we might not care to socialize with.

August 30, 2013 Posted by | atheism, injury, politics, politics/social, religion, social/political, weight training | , , | 1 Comment

The Dawkins “theist to atheist” scale


Ok, I know that “agnostic/gnostic” is about “knowledge” (what you can “know”) and “atheism/theism” is about belief. But let’s go by the statements.

On this scale, I’d say that I was about a 6.5 with respect to the deities that humans have come up with (sun gods, Abrahamic deities, Hindu deities, etc.) and maybe a 5 with respect to deities that humans have not presented (perhaps believed by sentient beings on another planet or perhaps not even thought of by any sentient being anywhere in the universe).

No, I can’t be certain…not 100 percent certain, but I seriously doubt that humans 2000-3000-4000 years ago were right about much of anything, much less being right about the workings of the universe. Or put another way, I put LESS “faith” in their knowledge about deities than I do in their level of knowledge of science at the time; after all, they could make metal objects and plant crops. Yet, consider how primitive their knowledge of science was!

For scaling purposes, I would say my “acceptance” of, say, gravity, mechanics, evolution, etc. would be, oh, about 1.5 and my belief in fairies, elves and pixies would be also about a 6.5.

August 17, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

One “meme” I don’t agree with


True, much of the Bible is horrific; for example, the book of Joshua is an extended account of genocide. Of course, it is a genocide that serious scholars can’t find evidence of, but never mind that.

Then in Judges, early on, this deity is less than impressive: (Judges 1:19)

“The LORD was with the men of Judah. They took possession of the hill country, but they were unable to drive the people from the plains, because they had chariots fitted with iron.”

Good thing that they didn’t have B-52′s.

Then there are the alleged miracles, etc. It is hard to take seriously.

So I can state that The Bible does not make a credible case for either the Christian or for the Jewish deity.

But what about other non-Abrahamic deities? These have nothing to do with the Bible.

Atheists of this type (“Abrahamic deity or atheism”) make the same mistake that many believers in this deity make. There is no reason for a deity to be that one or even one conceived by humans.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion | | Leave a comment

“I don’t (f***ing) love atheism”

I saw this comment on a Facebook page; it was a light hearted comment joking about the “I just () love science” Facebook page (which is a cool page, by the way).

But this is one of the many ways that atheism differs from a religion. You’ll see people saying that they “love their religion”, or “love their deity” (more often), etc.

Atheism isn’t like that for me.

For me, it is a conclusion that makes intellectual and emotional sense to me.

We are a planet orbiting one of upwards of 100 billion stars in our galaxy, that is one of among (at least) 100 billion galaxies. Do you really think that anything made this for “little old us”; a mere species of ape? Do you really think that some deity out there cares if you get a job, get a parking spot, or cares at ALL about us?

None of this precludes some grand “creative force” but I am agnostic with respect to such things, and find it highly unlikely that ignorant humans of 2000 years ago (or even 1000 years ago) came close to getting it right, when they got many more “easier” things wrong.

Also I ask myself: if there is a deity, why would it be one that any group of humans came up with? Why wouldn’t such a deity be one that some other sentient beings came up with, or some deity that NO sentient beings anywhere came up with?

I’ve yet to see evidence that would encourage me to take the idea of a deity seriously, at least a deity that causes natural laws to be violated at select times.

Evolution is directionless; there is no guarantee that we’d be here if we started life all over again, though I understand some religious scientists talk about humans filling an evolutionary niche that would have been filled by something “similar” to us. Perhaps that is true; I can accept that. But “evolutionary niches” is not the type of creation taught by the religions that I am familiar with.

So, I see a lack of evidence, and certainly no reason to believe in one deity or another.

Now I can understand why someone might join a religion anyway; many see statements of faith as poetry rather than prose.

But that is a digression.

My point: atheism is nothing I love but rather a conclusion that I arrived at. And yes, I am open to evidence.

August 5, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion | , | 2 Comments

One reason to talk about atheism ….

Workout notes
This was a complete bust. Last night I had a mild headache (not serious), so I took two extra strength Tylenol PM; that was complete overkill. Note: I rarely take anything.

Hence I was groggy this morning and my attempt to run was a farce; I was hung over!!! I made it 2.5 miles in 27:30 (11 mpm) and quit and walked it in…so total was just over 3 miles or so. It was a pity since the day was perfect for July; not that warm and not humid. I might take an extra walk home just to enjoy the day more.

I wasn’t going to even write about this, but while searching for a good music video to listen to as I typed an article about Bayesian hypothesis testing, I found some old Christopher Hitchens videos. In one of them, he was asked “why do you talk about God so much if you are an atheist”.

Hitchens’ answer was fine; he responded that he was fighting against some truly evil ideas (e. g. that “end times were near” and improving the “here and now” was relatively unimportant that many monotheists have). That was a good enough answer though I know of many theists who think that the real purpose is to establish “God’s kingdom on earth” via good stewardship of the planet, working for peace, justice, curing the sick, feeding the hungry, etc.. By the way, those are great things to do.

I know of other theists who see the appeal of “packaged spirituality” and “community”; one Christian flat told me that he didn’t really ascribe to the “supernatural mumbo-jumbo” and were he living in, say, Indonesia, he would have become a Muslim instead.

Here is my take, as an atheist

Mostly I am an atheist for intellectual reasons:
1. I’ve seen no proof of anything supernatural and
2. The idea that in our multi-billion galaxy universe, it makes no sense that on planet orbiting one particular star in one particular galaxy is somehow, well, “special”.
At a lower level, think about humans being around in present form for 50,000 years (at least) and that this deity decided to reveal itself to us…in the last 6000 years?

But there are emotional reasons too.
1. I don’t expect miracles (ok, magic tricks) to be performed on my behalf. I am subject to the same laws of nature that everyone is subject to, and I don’t expect “exceptions” for me or for my loved ones.
2. I sure as heck don’t expect for some awesome deity to have a “plan” just for little old me. Being a theist would inflame my megalomania. :-)

So, you know, for me, atheism is a type of “Good News”: “don’t worry about soliciting for exceptions to the laws of nature because you are bound by the same laws as anyone else. So relax and enjoy as much of your life as you can!” If something bad happens, there is no deity to be upset with.

Now, much of what I said does NOT apply to, say a Spirit of the Universe, Creative Power/Force, or some deity that doesn’t suspend the laws of nature at the bequest of someone (or at all) and should evidence of such a deity were to be discovered, I’d consider it.

So, one might say that I am an agnostic (in the informal sense) with respect to deities that I haven’t heard of yet.
But I definitely do not believe in the deities that I’ve heard of.

As to the possibility of knowing (which formal agnosticism applies to): knowing at some 100 percent confidence level is impossible. But I am reasonably confident (say, 99.999 percent sure) in rejecting the existence of the deities that I’ve heard of (e. g. deities that display human characteristics such as jealousy, anger, rage, rewards for “faith” or blind belief, etc.)

July 11, 2013 Posted by | atheism, religion, running | , , | Leave a comment


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