Some of the great scientific discoveries have been syntheses that emerged more or less organically from the systematic crunching of a compendium of data accumulated over time. Plate tectonics furnishes an illustrative example: the Grand Unified Theory of Geology was made possible by a great many observations made over the course of a couple of centuries, some of them serendipitous (e.g. the discovery of deep-ocean trenches and mid-ocean ranges during the submarine era). Put enough data like that in a room with enough smart people and a really big idea is sooner or later going to take shape, in a manner that kind of resembles abiogenesis.
Others have been leaps of pure intuition so striking as to seem truly original. One of them is Darwin’s theory of evolution. I wish I could have seen the look on his face when the idea of speciation driven by natural selection occurred to him. That’s got to have been one of the greatest OMG moments in history. It must damn dear have stopped his heart: imagine having a single insight that explains everything you’re interested in! He must immediately have recognized how revolutionary an idea that was, and how much resistance and rancor it would incur. No wonder he sat on the idea for two decades before going to press with it – and even then, only out of concern of having his thunder stolen. Continue reading “Dreaming of Darwin: Fundamentalist Night Terrors”
‘But my veil is very little!’ The lady exclaimed, passionately arguing her case for the religious freedoms of women in Iran.
The interpretation from the opposing standpoint differs from her view that religious clothing isn’t a burden. The ladies remark would have no doubt translated to ‘but my chains are very light!’ in the mind of Christopher Hitchens, the very man at the other end, when confronting the delusion of suggested religious ‘freedoms’ during the Q&A session in Australia.
(Editors note: seriously, watch this one; it is worth every second.)
Billions of children are currently being brought up in a deeply religious faith, one with a set belief and dress code. Most of these families will justify this by claiming it is a choice, but if everyone coincidentally sports the same clothing, is it really a choice?
Taking into account how restricting certain clothes can be, is a niqab really the desired choice for a Middle Eastern summer? Is a robe really the best choice a priest can make to play a game of football? If these are choices, they are choices heavily influenced by religion.
Religion gives a guide to live by, not a choice. Lets compare with the sudden urge to buy a product after walking past a billboard. It is a choice but a choice influenced by external factors. I am not going to tell readers to refrain from wearing what they want, but I urge anyone reading this to know that it’s not what you want, it is what religion wants of you. It would be a mistake to say it was a decision made entirely on personal preference. Continue reading “Believers, You Are What You Wear”
Here is what I wish I could say to the whole Christian world:
Christians, the hour of your deliverance is at hand. My paraphrase of St. Paul is quite intentional: it is he and his awful system that I wish to engage on your behalf. Your freedom depends on a single, simple act. Winning it will be almost effortless, and probably painless as well. All you need do is give close and honest consideration to a single proposition.
Rather than tell you outright what that proposition is, I’m going to illustrate it with a passage from a book which you consider to be the perfect, divinely-inspired Word of God. In Numbers 15 we find the story of a man who was caught picking up sticks on the Sabbath. He was brought before Moses, who then consulted God in the matter. God’s judgment was unequivocal: he is guilty – stone him to death (just how God’s voice was perceived by Moses, we are not told). The stick-picker-upper received the very same penalty incurred for being homosexual (Leviticus 20:13) or for being a bride found non-virginal on her wedding night (Deuteronomy 22) or for being accused of witchcraft (Exodus 22:18) or for being disobedient to one’s parents (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). Note: he received this penalty from the creator of a hundred billion galaxies, each of which contains a hundred billion stars (I’m rounding for convenience), orbited by uncountable billions of planets. Such a creator levied the death penalty against a man who was “guilty” of picking up sticks on the Sabbath. Does anything seem slightly askew in this picture?
Deep and insidious, beneath your consciousness, and just beyond your peripheral vision the horror of sin lies. The most base human fears, materialized with an agenda, and aimed at the young and vulnerable. Instincts derived from over a hundred thousand years of life in hominid form and millions of years before to the origin of species, have been carved by nature to protect the self and the genes from destruction. When weaponized, as proven time and time again, fear truly is: “the mindkiller”.
I get a lot of messages, most of which are asking about my deconversion from christianity. People want to know why I left, what it meant to me when I was a christian, and why I don’t see any reason to return. For anyone who has asked, and anyone else who is curious, here is my testimony.
I started life as an atheist. My parents, who were both raised as catholics, never felt the need to force religion or god upon me. I have never seen my mother or father as being faithful. As an adult I have come to know my dad is an atheist and my mother is (basically) a pantheist. My mum and dad were both followers of a man called Prem Rawat (Maharaji), an Indian guru with millions of followers world-wide who preaches peace and love. Many consider him to be a new messiah (he does not claim this himself). My parents often encouraged me to embrace the messages / teachings of Maharaji throughout my childhood and teenage years, but I never connected.
What I did connect with, though, was christianity. At age 6 my mum enrolled me into two christian institutions; the nearby lutheran church Sunday school and the local Girls Brigade company (pic below). Her only motivation for doing this was free childcare. She and my dad had divorced when I was 5 and my mum was working full time – the church offered what was ultimately cheap babysitting. For me though, it would start me on a path that would consume my existence for the next 15 years. Continue reading “Personal Journey Series: My Atheist Testimony”
“Let’s stop treating death as though it belongs to religion….”
I dig Greta Christina and her writing has been a staple of my atheistic-readings-diet almost since the time of my deconversion, so naturally I was keen as beans to get my hands on her new mini e-book ‘Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing Do with God.’
I won’t lie, I was in two minds about this new book, Comforting Thoughts About Death That Have Nothing to Do With God. In spite of my familiarity with Greta’s previous work, I still found myself concerned that this would be a book filled with wishy washy philosophies as to why death isn’t scary, but I was also secretly hoping that maybe it would have some sort of information that helps assuage the fear of death human beings experience…
…this book does neither of those things, and thankfully so! Because what it does do is even better. It levels the playing field when it comes to Theist VS Atheist ideas surrounding the topic of death.
I’m currently operating under the belief that during my 13th year on this wonderful planet of ours, I rolled into a nest of teeny, tiny, brown recluse spiders while wrestling with my little brother. Here they were, just hanging out near the refuge of the egg sack they so recently emerged from, when all of the sudden they’re overcome by a giant meatbag rolling around in the wood chips like an idiot. I’m telling you this, not to brag about my mindless teen-aged escapades, but to provide a bit of framework for what ought to be a nasty case of arachnophobia.
I am not, however, afraid of spiders. Those little buggers are fucking fascinating. They’re just victims of really bad press.
The spider I became a little too familiar with all those years ago, the brown recluse, is a perfect example of runaway rumor turned Fox News fact. When I tell my spider bite story, many listeners automatically envision a scene of bloodcurdling gore where my rotting flesh was eaten away while I watched on in excruciating pain. After all, everyone knows that brown recluse bites lead to mortifying necrosis and possible death.
In reality, most brown recluse bites result in nothing more ominous than some localized redness and minor swelling, and of the small percentage of bites that do lead to necrosis an even smaller percentage prove cause for concern. More importantly, the vast majority of reported brown recluse bites… aren’t. Their title isn’t honorary, these spiders are naturally reclusive and much more likely to run and hide than attack. When they do bite, it’s generally because some oaf’s fleshy bits squashed up against them, leaving the poor little arachnid no other choice. Brown recluse bodies are delicate and easily injured, much more so than aggressive species like the Brazilian Wandering Spider. It simply doesn’t make evolutionary sense for them to play offense.
Come on… are these the eyes of a killer?
I opened this article with a statement of belief, rather than fact, for a very good reason. One simply cannot positively identify a spider based solely on the wound left by its bite. Descriptions aren’t typically much of a help either, as “tiny brown spider” describes thousands of species. When bitten, the only way to accurately identify the species of spider that did the biting is to catch it and hand it over to an expert. In my case, I didn’t bring a jar full of tiny spiderlings to the doctor’s office for identification, only the puss lined holes that eventually dotted the left side of my rib cage and a vague description. Nearly three decades later, I still have the scars, but I’ve lost the fear. The more I study arachnids of all stripes, the more fascinated I become. Those dashing little eight-legged wonders are AMAZING… but I’ll save the details for future tidbits.
As I sit here enjoying the benefits bequeathed unto me from a first world birth I cannot help but feel something is wrong. Something big is moving in the shadows, just beyond the yellow haze of the back yard spotlights, a pair of eyes glow, no pupils, and teeth, teeth climbing the jagged upward curl of what could only be called an overconfident snarl… I can feel it, just outside the blue-green glow of the LCD universe here in middle America, just pulling at the cords, the sound of its fingers sliding and creaking as they close; somewhere I hear dripping sounds. It wants so dearly to pull those thin ethernet cables, to bend them over like a garden hose and stop the cascading ones and zeros; if it could only control the flow it could stop the little thing in my mind from feeding, the little thing that knows its there, it could finally kill it. Continue reading “A Nation Smothered by God: Paranoid Musings and Late Night Fears.”
One of the most impactful conversations I’ve ever had in life was with one of my closest mates, Tyler. Tyler and I have been close since we were 11 or 12. We have one of those friendships that endures no matter the time or distance apart. We do not see each other as often as we would like, but when we do get together, we pick up right where we left off. He’s the Obi-Wan to my Anakin Skywalker—always there to provide insight whenever I feel lost.
The conversation we had took place at one of the hardest times of my life. It was near the end of my sophomore year in college and I had just gotten out of a three and a half year relationship. Naturally, I leaned on Tyler for support. This was the first opportunity I had to share my transitioning faith with him and he was curious about what led me to move in this direction.