In case you haven't heard about it, Pownce is a new service by Kevin Rose (of TechTV and Digg fame) that seems to be, if nothing else, innovative.
You gotta wonder though... Digg? Pownce? What's next? Wallk? Eeat? Sleepp?
Anyway, if anyone can share an invite to Pownce, I'll give most of my invites back via some sort of fun contest
Friday, June 29, 2007
In case you haven't heard about it, Pownce is a new service by Kevin Rose (of TechTV and Digg fame) that seems to be, if nothing else, innovative.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
UPDATE: I added a poll to the sidebar
de-Conversion has a new post about preaching Atheism, so rather than make a super-huge comment, I briefly commented there and decided to make a post of my own.
I read an article in Wired a few months ago about Richard Dawkins and evangelical Atheism. I was repulsed to begin with-- I hate it when Christians try to do it to me, why would I want to do it? I rejected Dawkins for a long time because of this.
But since then I've had more time to think about it, and I've changed my mind.
Over at Atheist in a Minivan, Possum Momma has a post from January about an essay her daughter wrote, in which she proclaims herself as an Atheist. Her teacher had this to say:
Her teacher wrote this at the end of her essay:
"Possum#1*, thank you for your thoughtful remarks. I don't think you're an atheist but I respect your empathy for your friends. Please see me after class today. A+"
After class, possum#1 said that her teacher told her she couldn't be an atheist because her "ability to care for others feelings isn't an atheist trait." and that her "attitude was very Christian." WTF?!
Also at Atheist in a Minivan, there's this post, which is a Baptist preacher's reaction to the essay. Also, some choice comments from said preacher follow the post, including many about how Atheists merely feign morality.
ALSO on Atheist in a Minivan (she's getting a lot of love from me today), this post points out how this country music singer (and I suppose all his fans) feel about atheists-- we're incapable of any emotion, bad parents, and druggies.
I also have my own experiences, people in high school assuming that I worship the devil, people I considered friends telling me they couldn't spend time with me anymore... it never ends.
Complete misunderstanding of Atheism is rampant, and we have to do something to stop it. That's why I'm convinced that we have to be evangelical in one way or another. I think evangelical Atheism is almost a survival mechanism at this point. We should never “stoop” to the methods used by Christian evangelism (among others), but it’s essential that we get the word out about atheism/agnosticism/non-theism.
I’m not saying we shove it down people’s throats, but we need to open people’s eyes to the alternative to religion. Whether they wish to choose this path is up to them. I would never suggest trying to force Atheism on the faithful.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I hope there will be a day when we can all live together in peace regardless of religion (or lack thereof) but it requires an understanding of the other side. An understanding which the majority of people don't have about us.
So I pose the question to you: should we evangelize Atheism?
- We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
- Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
- People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
- At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.
- Don't forget to leave them each a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.
2. Fact: I know I shouldn't be, but I'm a sucker for lolcats. Usually internet fads annoy me to the point of anger, like 1337 5p34k, but lolcats just make my day. I have the I Can Has Cheezburger feed in my feed reader. I mean, come on, how can you not smile when you look at this:
3. Habit: I'm a digg junkie. There isn't a single item that hits the front page that I don't at least read the little blurb for. It's great! You really find out a lot of news that you wouldn't from more traditional media, as well as a lot of time-wasters.
4. Fact/Habit/Embarrassing Confession: For a few years now, I have had what you could almost consider an imaginary friend. I thought one day "I wonder what someone from 18th century America would think about our world today" and ever since then I can't stop imagining some person from Colonial times following me around and being amazed and confused about everything. It's not like I talk to him, but I do imagine conversations I would have with him. Really, it's amazing how far we've come, and it's an interesting thought experiment, but I can't seem to turn it off whenever my mind is idle.
5. Fact: I have ADD. This could explain #4 a bit, I suppose. I've learned to deal with it on my own, because medication really messed me up, and my stomach has never completely recovered. This didn't help #6 out at all.
6. Fact: I have a chronically bad gastrointestinal system. I got it from my mom. I have recurring diverticulitis, but I have it under control with a high fiber diet. Diverticulitis usually doesn't show up until late thirties, early forties, and I'm now 25. I have acid reflux. I used to throw up all the time but it's been a blissfully long time since I've done that. Hopefully it's getting better with age.
7. Fact: I'm a geek, to the extreme, and I love every minute of it. I own about 10 computers, and a few of them even work. I love sci-fi movies (good sci-fi... not the Sci-Fi Channel original movies like FrankenFish). I have seen every episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and I knew about Firefly before it was canceled. I have only come across a very few computer problems I couldn't fix, I know enough HTML/CSS/PHP/MySQL to do some quality web design. I have three monitors on my desk right now, two of them hooked up to this PC, two of them soon to be hooked up to another PC (one of them shared via KVM). I used to run Linux exclusively. And I can use all of this at my job!
8. Fact: I'm a movie/music snob, but not in a bad way. I hate the crap they play on the radio these days. There's an occasional good song, but I have actively sought out most of the music I listen to. Lately at least half of the movies I've seen have been Asian, and not the generic Kung-Fu movies that get imported to America. Takeshi Miike and Takeshi Kitano from Japan, Chan-Wook Park and Joon-ho Bong from Korea, Johnny To and Wilson Yip from China, could all teach even the best directors in Hollywood a thing or two about how to make a movie. That said, I still enjoy the pointless Hollywood crapfest like Ultraviolet, which is definitely a terrible movie but it's just so damn fun to watch! So while I'm snobbish in my preferences, it's definitely not to the exclusion of others.
So now, who am I going to tag that hasn't been already... hmmmmm...
The first two are the only blogs I read (out of like 30 or so if you include rarely read ones) that are relatively active and haven't been tagged yet.
Now, some random people on Planet Atheism
Kill the Afterlife
Stupid Evil Bastard
The Spiritual Atheist
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Aw man! I'm PG-13 rated. F*ck (gotta be safe for the 13 year olds right?). Think of all the somewhat good movies you've seen, and said "wow that would be much better with an R rating!" Yeah, one day maybe I'll have an R rating. Apparently the word sex trips it. I think I've heard talk of sex in G rated stuff before even. Oh well, nobody ever said it was accurate.
Mingle2 - Online Dating
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Do we, as Atheists, discriminate on the basis of religion? I guess a better question is, are we ok with that?
I touched on this a bit in my last post, but I wanted to give this it's own post. My wife and I were discussing this over dinner a while back, and we agree that "yes we do." She said then that she wishes she didn't, but I don't really feel bad about it. But is that wrong? People could say that it's just like discriminating based on sex, race, or sexual preference, and there are some valid comparisons, but I see it as an entirely different discrimination.
You are born as a certain sex, as a certain race. You become homosexual either because of genetics, chemical reactions, or your environment. These are things entirely out of our control, and to discriminate based on these traits would be immoral. However, political affiliation, views on social issues, and religion (among other things) are in a different league.
I would never base my opinion on someone because they are a Bush supporter, or because they believe in traditional family values, or because they are anti-abortion. However, if someone said the following:
Democrats are all godless anti-American heathens who are trying to take women out of their rightful place at home, taking care of their masters, and letting them kill babies willy-nilly. They should all be killed and die a slow and painful death.I would discriminate against them, gladly, and without reserve.
Likewise, I would never base my opinion on someone who believed something they heard without getting any evidence. People do it all the time. But when presented with evidence, we tend to be rational and accept the fact that we're wrong. Therefore, when someone tells me they believe in Christianity (or any other religion for that matter), my first thought is usually "really? I thought you were more intelligent than that."
I have read a lot about many different religions. Throughout my life I've probably read at least half of the Bible. To me, none of the religions that I have read about provide any reasonable evidence of their validity, nor do they provide any real answers. Furthermore, while evidence exists that certain events in religious texts did happen, there is no evidence of anything "otherworldly" happening at any point in history. Just look at some of the things religion gives us:
Catholicism is controlled by a government of sorts, that can decide which beliefs people should hold. One day you may be told that you don't believe in something you've believed in all your life.
Mormons believe that a man got the word of God by looking into a hat.
Scientologists (do I even need to go there) believe that there are souls of creatures called Thetans attached to everyone that must be removed before one can become enlightened.
Christians believe in a god that, while willing to send you into the depths of hell to burn for all eternity if you break any of his commandments without asking him for forgiveness, loves you very much and is interested in everything you do throughout the day.
Isn't this worth discrimination? At least as much as someone saying they have an invisible friend who follows them around during the day? As much as people who truly believe knocking on wood will prevent bad things from happening?
Don't get me wrong, if I were in a position to hire, I would never value an Atheist over a Christian. If I were renting a house, I would never value an Atheist over a Muslim. I don't discriminate against anyone in that sense, and I have no problem being friends with religious people, as long as they are ok with me. But intellectually speaking, I value Atheism above all religion, and I will always think differently about believers because of their willingness to forgo all rationality and support a superstition thousands of years old.
I've typed the word "discriminate" so much that it's starting to just look like random letters shoved together, so I think now is a good time to stop.
Wednesday, June 20, 2007
As I'm sure many of you are aware, Bush is vetoing another stem cell research bill. Again, the potential of the Scientific community to better the lives of millions has been hindered.
My question is "why?" Why on earth would the President consider himself in a position to stop such a bill? His faith! That's all it is.
Look, there are so many discarded embryos that just get destroyed. Why not put them to good use? Women are going to have abortions (unless the administration can stop that too). Fertility clinics almost always freeze way more embryos than needed, which get discarded after conception. Why not use that invaluable resource for the good of humanity?
There are already some lines that we can use, but they won't go very far. Why not clone them?
The only answer I can come up with for these questions is that it is against God's wishes. This notion of the "Sanctity of Life" must stop. Is it more important to protect cells that are going to be destroyed, or to potentially end (or at least relieve) Alzheimers and Parkinson's?
Beyond the stem cell debate, you have gay marriage and abortion. Two things that, at their core, should not be a problem. But when the administration enforces Christianity-- fundamentalist Christianity-- we end up with policies that stifle the scientific process.
This is not a red vs. blue, liberal vs. conservative, or democrat vs. republican debate. It is a debate between fundamentalist Christian governing and rational governing.
People may call me unfair by suggesting that fundamentalist Christians are irrational, but ... well, they are. I'm sure they are perfectly capable of rational thought, as is every one of us, but when they choose to forgo rational thought in favor of faith in what a few people thousands of years ago claimed to hear from a higher being, they deserve to be called irrational.
And what's more, we have a Republican candidate for president right now who believes in scriptures that a man claimed to have gotten from inside a hat. Isn't there something wrong when we, as a nation, allow this completely irrational notion of faith to infect our lives?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not about to say that only atheists should be president. What I'm saying is that we should not allow the country to be run on faith! Granted, the majority of the country is Christian, but a very significant portion is not. When Bush goes against what the people want, in favor of his own faith, we have a problem.
So when will it stop? Will it ever? Are we really headed toward a Christian nation, or am I being paranoid?
Here are some fun links for you:
The Politics of Stem Cells
Stem Cells: Policies and Players
Laura Ingraham likens stem cell research to public executions
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer likens stem cell research to concentration camps (Godwin's law has spilled over to TV)
Monday, June 18, 2007
I have to say, I think my brother-in-law is more fun than most. When I was growing up, whenever I would think to the future, I always feared that if I ever got married my brother-in-law would be the typical every man. I dreaded the day that I would be forced to watch football games or NASCAR races in an attempt to bond with my then-hypothetical wife's brother.
But last night, my wife, my aforementioned brother-in-law, and I went out stargazing.
When I was younger, I did spend some nights just lying in the grass, staring up at the stars in amazement. But last night was the first time I'd ever seen anything magnified that wasn't an image on NASA's website or similar.
As you can tell, David has some experience here, so he was our tour guide to the stars. I saw the moon magnified to the point of actually seeing detail, instead of just yellowish and brownish splotches. I saw the rings of Saturn, four moons of Jupiter, a binary star (I believe it was Albireo, David will have to correct me if I'm wrong), and the Dumbbell Nebula, however faint it might have been.
Before last night, I saw the night sky as a bunch of tiny lights. I always knew that they were stars, planets, galaxies, clusters, and nebulas. But it really set in last night. In the grand scheme of things, we live on what amounts to a speck of dust, which makes us even smaller. It really puts you in your place!
As enormous as the universe is, I can't understand how anyone could possibly conceive of an entity creating it all, much less for the use of the beings on one planet. If this was true, what a waste of space the universe is!
I take comfort in knowing how insignificant we really are. That may sound depressing, but I think it's exhilarating! We can be significant to thousands, maybe even millions of people if we're important to the planet, but we can't affect the cosmos. We could blow up the Earth and the vast universe would continue on without skipping a beat.
Think of how significant our insignificance really is: the universe formed over billions of years, gradually morphing from basic elements into stars and galaxies, planets and moons. Approximately 3.8 billion years ago, the earliest life forms appear, gradually evolving until 200 million years ago, when the first mammals appeared. Then, 600,000 years ago, Homo Sapiens evolve, and over time develop culture. Countless languages are formed, enabling us to study the earth and the universe, develop mathematics and science, philosophy and religion. Over 600,000 years we've evolved, and today we have the technology that enables me to write this blog entry that you're reading right now.
That's what I call significant! It is truly significance through insignificance.
Now the question is, why would you want to ruin that glorious process of the evolution of all things by saying that someone did it?! How does your life have more meaning when you think someone created you to do his bidding? How could you find any glory in being a pawn? Perhaps this is an oversimplification, but the point still stands.
I'm rambling a bit, I'll admit. Back to the point:
I've been a walking zombie all day because of lack of sleep (but it was worth it). Still, all day I haven't been able to get the rings of Saturn out of my head. I saw that, with my own eyes. Very obviously a planet, with definite pronounced rings. After what I've seen, and taken time to appreciate, I will most definitely never be the same.
I now understand the human desire to explore the universe. I understand why people, almost since the beginning of recorded history, have mapped out the stars and tried to make sense of it all. It's the great unknown, and it's intriguing! Do religious people feel this way? Do they have that sense of the great unknown? I don't know if I would want to live without it.
The great thing is, I never have to.
Rufus: He still digs humanity, but it bothers Him to see the shit that gets carried out in His name - wars, bigotry, televangelism. But especially the factioning of all the religions. He said humanity took a good idea and, like always, built a belief structure on it.
Bethany: Having beliefs isn't good?
Rufus: I think it's better to have ideas. You can change an idea. Changing a belief is trickier. Life should malleable and progressive; working from idea to idea permits that. Beliefs anchor you to certain points and limit growth; new ideas can't generate. Life becomes stagnant.
And the definition of "belief" from dictionary.com:
- something believed; an opinion or conviction: a belief that the earth is flat.
- confidence in the truth or existence of something not immediately susceptible to rigorous proof: a statement unworthy of belief.
- confidence; faith; trust: a child's belief in his parents.
- a religious tenet or tenets; religious creed or faith: the Christian belief.
I can't say that I believe in anything, really.
Take extraterrestrial life for instance. I think that, since the universe is so staggeringly large, the potential for some life somewhere other than on earth is significant. Besides that, I think it would be depressing to think that in this massive cosmos only one little fraction of a speck has life. But do I believe in it? I can't say that I do. I have never been presented with any real evidence other than the random supposed UFO sighting. One could make the point that this constitutes evidence, and yes, it does. But it is not irrefutable. It's not rigorous by any means. It is very possible that there is life elsewhere, and it is very possible that there is no life elsewhere. I don't have an opinion one way or the other, but I do hope for it. I certainly don't base anything in my life on the existence or non-existence of life outside of earth.
Now, on the other hand, take evolution. I don't believe in evolution, because the very sentiment diminishes the concept! Believe in evolution? Never! It has been rigorously tested, to the point of proof... UNLESS your mind is clouded with this notion of belief, and you can't accept the proof. Is it possible that the theory of evolution is false? Sure! It's also possible that I was just created this very second, and that every memory I have was merely planted in me upon my creation. It's possible that, at the beginning of time, God, Thor, and Zeus had a bet going to see who could get the most followers if they were to create a playing field, and that's how we were created. Many, many things are possible. But Evolution is as much fact as anything else in existence.
Beliefs cause wars. Beliefs cause the blind mistrust of anything that threatens one's world view. I say, get rid of your beliefs, and start having ideas!
DISCLAIMER: You will, undoubtedly, hear me say or see me write "I believe..." from time to time. It's part of our language, and it's hard to shake. But whenever I say that, I guess what I mean is "I'm convinced..."
Sunday, June 17, 2007
Friday, June 15, 2007
Thursday, June 14, 2007
I have never believed in a higher power. At least I don't think so. When you're a kid and your mother tells you something, you accept it as fact. That's not really faith is it? If it is, I lost my faith at age eight (at least I think I was eight, it could have been earlier). I still remember the moment pretty clearly, surprisingly.
My family never went to church, but my mother is very religious. She read me Bible stories and tried to teach me the way of Christianity. One night we got to the story about God asking Abraham to sacrifice his son, and at the moment he was about to do so, called the whole thing off. I asked my mom why God did that and she said that God was testing his faith.
That was all it took.
My mind started making connections. God is omnipotent and omniscient right? He knows all and sees all. He should know whether Abraham is faithful enough shouldn't he? Also, if God loves us, why would he do something so mean?! I decided this story wasn't true. There was some mistake. But I kept thinking and came to the conclusion that, if this story was so obviously flawed, how could I trust any of the stories? Clearly I could not. It occurred to me that the children's Christian books my mom read from weren't that much different from any of the other books. They all had pictures and stories. Maybe people just started believing it, not knowing that it was just a story? I decided to go with that, and didn't really think much of it for a few years, but I never believed any of those stories my mom read me again.
Fast forward a few years (again, I can't remember exactly when this was... some point in early adolescence). My best friend invited me to church, so I started going with him. I still didn't buy it, I just wanted to hang out with my friend. But that's where the trouble started. It seemed like every youth group meeting on Wednesday nights, someone new had accepted Jesus as their savior. I felt like something was wrong with me! I now wanted to accept Jesus, but I thought that I should feel something, and know that it was what I should do. Since I never felt that, I began to feel like there was something wrong with me.
For years after this, I would go through phases.
Phase 1: Actively pursuing faith. I would read the Bible (not just for academic purposes), I would pray. Ultimately, I would realize that I was getting nowhere closer to believing, and that my prayers were never answered.
Phase 2: Totally rejecting faith. I would come back to not believing and not caring. The whole thing was stupid right? Why should I bother?
Phase 3: Doubt. I would begin to doubt myself, doubt my quality as a person, since I was obviously missing something.
Eventually 1 and 3 became less serious, and as I learned more about other religions (and that millions don't believe at all), I accepted what I had known all along: God does not exist. This was about 10th grade.
After my realization, I became very vocal about my lack of faith. It didn't go so well most of the time. I had no clue people could be so uneducated! When I would say that I don't believe in God, the most common response was always "You're a Satan worshipper?!" This leap of logic is exasperating! If I don't believe in God, why should I believe in Satan? Isn't God necessary for Satan's existence?
I became quite angry with the entire institution of religion. I frequented chat rooms with a friend who had also recently lost his faith, and we would just start attacking religion, regardless of the topic at hand. Believe me, I got into more arguments than I can count, but a few times I actually changed some minds. It helps when you know more about the Bible than the people defending it.
From what I can tell, most people have this disillusionment and anger. I never felt remorse for it until a few years later. I cooled off.
Fast forward another few years-- the past six months or less. It occurs to me that, while my methods were crude at best, unacceptable at worst, perhaps I wasn't wrong to actively try to change minds. We seem to be at an important time in the battle between science vs. religion. It shouldn't be a battle, but we play with the cards we're dealt. If gone unchecked, the US could turn to a Christian nation. The ten commandments could become law. Maybe it's a little far fetched, but it IS conceivable.
Thus, this blog was born. I hope to help spread a greater understanding of atheists, non-theists, agnostics, anyone with a naturalistic world view. We aren't immoral, we aren't evil, and we certainly don't worship Satan. In fact, the atheists that I know are some of the most moral people I know!
We're becoming a persecuted minority, and we can't sit back and take it.
I'm chicken. Really, I am. The religious fanaticism in the US right now means that future employees who google my name could deny me a job because of my lack of faith. If I ever want to do any freelancing, people could deny me their business because of it. It happens. Therefore, I remain closeted. My friends, some of my family, and one or two co-workers know that I'm an atheist, but day to day it's much easier to let people assume I share their beliefs.
I live in the so-called "Bible Belt." You know what that means. Liberty University is just a couple hours away. Drive less than an hour and you hit Salem, where Borat found that people would like to hang homosexuals. Yes, this isn't a very enlightened area, but it's beautiful, and as long as you don't talk politics or religion the people are some of the friendliest you'll meet for the most part.
So that's my MO. What should you expect? Who knows? We'll play it by ear.