Saturday, February 28, 2009

And Therefore: We're in deep shit

Given: Most people in the world are religious,

And Given: Most people retain the religion of their parents and community,

And Given: Most religious people breed at higher rates than non-believers.

Therefore: This shit ain't going anywhere, soon.

Is it true that in a world of 6.7 billion people, nearly 6 billion believe in some sort of magical causation for the natural world and that if you are among the minority in any particular population group you are at greater risk of marginalization, incarceration or execution?

Yes? I thought so. This is Insane Asylum Earth. And we ain't running this show.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Root of Human Suffering: The Five Primary Mechanisms of Differentiation

It’s been discussed on this blog previously, but I’d like to go into some depth on the old problem of “Us Vs. Them”. Apparently we are hard-wired for setting up needless barriers, but that doesn’t mean we can’t recognize what we do and fight against it. I’ve identified five ways in which we cause ourselves endless pain. Perhaps you can think of, and add, others.

Gender, Sexuality, Race, Nationality and Religion.

To truly be able to express love towards all of our fellow Homo sapiens, we have to work constantly at setting aside all prejudices that arise from our dividing into these groups and in thinking that there is some innate superiority of one over another (or all others) in these five categories.

Males and females have to accept that their gender is not “the best”. Heterosexuals, most particularly, must be able to embrace the fact that everyone is different – whether it is genetic or a learned behavior. All races will have to finally conclude that the genetic differences of physical appearance are tiny and that every human is more alike than a zebra and horse, a cheetah and a leopard, a rat and a mouse or a turtle and a tortoise.

The final two mechanisms of differentiation are the hardest to overcome in many ways yet, unlike the first three, are entirely creations of Homo sapiens.

The borders that define our nationalities are ever-changing and brought about by weapons and blood. How is it that we put so much import on a person living 20 feet away across a border between Mexico and the United States, France and Spain, China and India? It’s completely appropriate to have some modest pride in where we are from, and the achievements of those in close proximity. But not at the expense of the dignity of those living elsewhere. If we can see our national boundries as no more important than the difference of two neighboring cities, then we will have achieved much.

As an atheist, I would love for everyone to share my extreme skepticism of the supernatural. Knowing this isn’t possible, is it really too much to hope that people who insist on believing in gods to simply acknowledge that if there is such a thing, that the gods must be much greater than any religion teaches them as being? That they can’t possibly know exactly what their god is or wants and shouldn’t presume to know, not only for themselves but for every other human being? That if the gods are Love, then the gods would most certainly not want humans to cause suffering to other humans?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Hell (or paradise) freezing over

And here comes Homo evolutis.

This is an example of what makes the TED Talks so great.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Nailing themselves to a cross

Phillychief points out that some Christians are up to their old ways - theft. This time they stole a Darwin sign that had been paid for by the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Wasn't one of the guys who was supposedly hung up next to Jesus, there for stealing?

No need to get upset over this though. Haven't we all noticed that everytime they go (further) bonkers they simply create more press coverage and demonstrate the weakness of their position than if they would just shut up?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Mockery of Christians

(And others who embrace fundamental or literal superstitions)

It’s heart-breaking that, more than 200 years since the The Enlightenment, a significant majority of the world's population still clings desperately, unrelentingly, to superstition. Secularists have spent most of that time either ignoring the faithful or attempting to use rational discourse in an effort to wean our childish brothers and sisters off of the comforting tit of religion. Some gains have been made. But, largely, our attempt has been futile.

It seems certain that it will never completely disappear, but the real problem is not with those who scorn an atheistic worldview simply because they think there are many mysterious aspects to the universe. We have to be willing to live with less literalist beliefs about the universe, such as those imagined by Spinoza or Einstein. The problem lies with those who claim to know with certainty what those mysteries are, how they affect us and how we should live our lives in order to achieve harmony with these mysterious forces.

Reason has little or no value in dealing with such people, any more than giving a chimpanzee an injection of small-pox vaccine is likely to protect the ape from disease. Our human, chimp-like, fundamentalists have a natural immunity to the otherwise powerful medicine of rational thought – at least where it concerns issues of the supernatural.

It’s time to lay aside all pretext of the “friendly atheist” bringing enlightenment to the less fortunate. The way to make some societal headway in this problem is with the use of a blunter instrument. Many have already taken to the use of derisive tactics when engaging religionists, and have been roundly criticized for doing so (often from other rational thinkers). Most of the criticism however, has come from those who have been the very target of what they hysterically call “militant atheism”. The fact that they become so inflamed by this so-called “militancy” might be a clue that they themselves recognize its power and, in so fearing it, have tried to stifle further outbursts from secular thinkers by labeling it with a name that sounds much worse than it is in reality.

Why should mockery succeed where reason has barely made a dent? Because no one enjoys being the village idiot, the class dummy, the one whose pants are hemmed 3 inches too high, revealing the white socks tucked into 2 mismatched dress shoes. As George W. Bush’s presidency slowly imploded over 8 years, nothing was more powerful in bringing about the public disdain than the impression that he was mentally inadequate for the position he held. While difficult to predict, societal memes can be a powerful tool - unfortunately, more powerful than the use of reason alone.

There is no point in making enemies of those who simply think there are mysteries beyond what humankind can ever solve. It is important to make clear in our scorn and jeers that we speak of those who claim to know the “answers” through whatever superstition they cling to. These people are our little regressive half-chimp relatives. Have some fun with them.