I read a lovely blog post. It is about people with disabilities. Please read it.
My comment on this:
I grew up with a learning disability. I was teased, bullied. But I’ve succeeded beyond what any of those people who made fun of me, or even most of the teachers and guidance counselors could. My son has autism spectrum disorder. Family, friends, strangers in the supermarket, all would try to tell me how to handle him, how to raise him, how to “fix” him. He is not “broken”. He never was. He is his own person. He is my son.
Where did the universe come from? This is a question that has taunted humans probably since we first became sentient.
Most of the attempts to answer this question over the millennium have come from religion, but in the past 20 years or so, real progress has been made in physics to answer this question. Science seems to say that the universe could have been created from nothing.
The renowned physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawkin has postulated that the universe could have arisen from fluctuations in the quantum foam. Others, such as physicist and cosmologist Lawrence Krauss, in his new book, “A Universe From Nothing”, suggest something along the same lines.
I’m not going to go into the science since it is far beyond my capabilities. I’m also not going to get much into the religious and theological arguments. What I do want to look at is a basic, simple premiss: we, as humans, don’t understand time.
We experience time in a linear fashion. This means that we have memories of a past, experience the present, and have expectations of the future. Therefore time, to us, seems have a past, present, and future. Physicists call this phenomenon The Arrow of Time, and due to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as well as other factors that involve mind-numbing math, it always flows in one direction.
The most important thing about time, and the hardest one to wrap our heads around, is that time is not separate from space. Time and space are inextricably linked and are collectively referred to as space-time. Time can not exist without space. One of the consequences of this is that time has only existed as long as space has.
Space-time, and the universe it’s self, began, as closely as we can currently work out, 13.7 billion years ago in the Big Bang, from a singularity (a point of infinite mass), similar to the singularity in the center of a black hole (in fact, some scientists postulate that our universe exists inside of a black hole, but that’s a post for another time).
Scientists have a pretty good idea of what happened as the universe expanded back to about 10^−11 (one hundred billionth) seconds after the beginning of the Big Bang. What happened before that time is unclear. Here, at the very beginning, as in the heart of a black hole, the laws of physics as we know them break down. Nothing inside the singularity can be glimpsed from the outside, but we should be able to, theoretically, go back to the very instance of the beginning. We are close, and the more we study sub-atomic particles with tools like the Large Hadron Collider, the more we are able to learn about these very earliest moments.
The important thing to understand here, for the purposes of this discussion, is that time did not exist before the Big Bang. Since time did not exist until the moment the universe began, the question, “What existed before the universe?”, is non-sensical. This doesn’t mean that there wasn’t a “before”, it is just that our minds are incapable of conceiving that particular state of things. It most likely was not a time, or a place, or an anything that we can define in terms that human language can express. Only mathematics can express this situation and translating those mathematics into human language is likely impossible, simply due to our innate inability to grasp a concept that literally doesn’t exist in our universe. We just don’t really, and can’t really, understand time. We are trapped in the flow of time, just as a leaf is trapped in the flow of a river. Traveling helplessly onward.
Therefor from my thinking, asking ”What existed before the universe?”, is meaningless. Wether it was created, or if it sprang into existence due to some fundamental laws of physics that we don’t completely understand really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that once it was in existence, everything in it has been subject to laws of physics that are, as far as we can see, so deeply woven into the fabric of space-time that they can not be broken.
The upshot of this means that our universe is self-contained and is subject to those laws. This precludes the existence of a personal God: one who can answer prayers and perform miracles. If there is a god, then it is entirely outside of the universe, and as such, unable to influence, or even know of, anything within it. Hence, worship or prayer to it is useless, except as a way to give ourselves solace if we so choose.
Call it god; call it a quantum fluctuation; call it George, it really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we are here, if only for the very briefest of moments. Let’s make the most of it.
Yesterday I talked about the horror behind the story of Noah. I had considered expanding on the concept horror embodied in the idea of sacrifice found in the Bible by also talking about the who Jesus story, but decided to just keep it simple and stick to Noah. I saw a comment on the Noah post that made me wish I had talked about Jesus.
It’s sad to hear that this is what the message of Christianity is becoming about. Dead religion will tell you one of two things about God…(1) He’s schizophrenic (He loves you but He hates you) or (2) He’s mysterious (nobody can figure Him out). But here is Jesus, who arrives later on as the Messiah. It is in Christ where God’s nature is revealed, and He is a God of Love.
Things may still be unclear about the Bible and there seems to be a lot of contradictions on God’s nature. But, the Cross made a significance, a proof, to how much God loves us (John 3:16). Hope that helps!
His argument is one made by many Christians to negate the nastiness of the Old Testament: that God suddenly became a merciful and loving god once he sent Jesus (or became Jesus, the Bible is a bit confusing on that point) to save us all.
Even if you grant that this argument is valid, the whole idea of sacrificing someone, someone who is supposedly innocent, is just as horrible and depraved as anything in the Old Testament. Sure, it’s just one guy, not every person on earth, but the number of those sacrificed isn’t the issue. The issue is the need for a blood sacrifice at all.
I was raised Catholic. I could never understand why God required a sacrifice to free us from sin. If he is all powerful, why not just forgive our sins and be done with it? The priests explained to me about Original Sin. That didn’t make any sense to me either. Why would God punish every human who ever lived just because the first two people sinned? Why not just forgive Adam and Eve their sins? Or if He couldn’t find it in his all loving heart to do that, why not just strike them both dead and be done with it? He’s God. He could just make more.
The idea that Jesus, the only son of God, the innocent lamb, had to die just because the rest of us were sinning bastards is insane. That isn’t love, it is sadistic and cruel. Worse, it is pointless. If God is all powerful, then either forgive each of us our sins or smote us, don’t go killing your only son, especially when he doesn’t deserve it.
The idea that the god of the New Testament is now a loving, merciful god as opposed to the angry, vengful god of the Old Testament; that he is somehow a new and improved god, is absurd. The sacrifice of Jesus is no different than asking Abraham to kill his son, or the killing of all the first born of Egypt. It is just as cruel, just as horrible and depraved.
The fact is, God, both the old and new versions, is a dick, pure and simple.
I saw this drawing on DeviantArt today.
While it is outwardly whimsical, at second glance it is full of horror.
The Story of Noah’s ark is often told as a story of salvation. God has saved Noah, his family, and two of every creature from a world wide flood. He sets them down in a new world with the sun shining and a rainbow in the sky. It is given to us as a story hope and a lesson in God’s unending love for us.
In this story, God decided to destroy his creation. It is claimed that he did the because humans had almost all become sinners, loving nothing but sin and debauchery. So he decided to destroy them all, all except Noah and his family, who loved him and we good and decent people.
What is overlooked in this story is the complete horror and incomprehensible death and destruction that was perpetrated by a vengeful, capricious god who thought nothing about wiping out almost every living thing on earth. Even if you accept that everyone but Noah and his family were sinners, were they all so completely evil that they all deserved death? Even if you accept this, what about the animals? Were they all sinners as well?
What this artwork shows is a glimpse of the horror of the wonton death and destruction that this “loving” God visited upon his creatures. What about all of the people? Can you imagine seeing millions of bodies floating in the ocean, stretching from horizon to horizon? What this reveals is utter destruction and death on a scale unimaginable perpetrated by a vengful and evil god, one who’s anger is far greater than his love, and who requires destruction and death in return for salvation.
This is the unacknowledged and overlooked horror of religion. That message is that God will save us. What is unspoken is that he is saving us from himself.
This vile piece of hate came to my attention the other day:
Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.
Now, based on his other tweets, TeaPartyTony is nothing but a hate spewing, racist, misogynistic jerk. I try to avoid these types, but what made this stand out for me was the part about Atheists having no souls.
Given some of Tony’s other tweets, he expects to see atheists burn in hell, but here he says we have no souls, so I guess we can’t go to hell. I doubt Tony sees the conflict between his two statements, but then again, I’m guessing that he probably doesn’t care. In either case, he is putting atheists in a class of people who he considers to be subhuman.
This tactic of declaring those who you dislike as less than human goes back into antiquity. We like to think of ourselves as good people, or at least as adhering to some kind of moral code. To hurt or kill another human goes against most peoples’ moral code, so when they find themselves in conflict with others outside their group they have to find a way to rationalize the hate they feel. They need to make their opponents less than human, less like them. This allows them to resolve the cognitive dissidence that they have to grapple with by treating another person badly.
Religion has a very effective way to dehumanize people. It can claim that the hated group either have no souls, or more commonly, have souls that will be tormented in hell forever. In this way, they become not so much less human, but less worthy of being treated like humans. Using religion to dehumanize someone is even more effective than the usual method of just calling someone inhuman. By claiming that their god has decreed that the hated person(s) are damned, all responsibility for hating, persecuting, hurting, and killing another human begin falls on the god, not his/her/its followers.
It is a very insidious, and very effective, way to justify treating others as less that deserving of the same rights that you have.
Atheists are not technically human beings (they have no soul) therefore they are not protected by our nations laws and bill of rights.
I went to church today because my son was in the choir. I haven’t been to church for a long time, and not a Catholic one for even longer.
Having been raised Catholic, the service itself was familiar enough, even after all these years, that I could ignore it. The sermon, on the other hand, I listened to intently. When I used to go to church, even as a kid, I remember always listening to the sermon. I listened and I thought about what the priest had to say. Today was no different.
He talked about desire. There was some very well thought out and interesting points that he made. He explained how desire run amok can lead to greed and he used the international banking crisis as an example. I couldn’t agree more. Here was a perfect example of greed and how it can affect millions. Here was a very humanistic call for equality and a curb on selfishness and the policies that promote it. He contrasted that to a desire to do what is right for everyone.
This would have been a perfect sermon, but then, of course, he pushed that aside and said that the real positive role of desire is to know and see God. Damn!
This is where myself, and humanists like me, see the great difference between our goals of those of religions. We seek to promote the positive aspects of humanity, like channeling our desires to do good for, not just ourselves, but others as well. While most religions do see this as an important task, it is secondary to a desire to please God. As far as I can see, this is just as selfish as the desire for personal gain. It is replacing the desire for money and possessions with the desire to gain wealth in an afterlife that may not exist, and which certainly does no one here on earth any good
Now, if desiring to gain points in a possible afterlife leads you to do good here on earth, great, but there is still a selfishness to this that I thin can, and does, lead easily to arrogance. Many believers use this thought of reward in heaven to make themselves, in their eyes, better than those who either don’t believe as they do or don’t believe at all. This can easily lead to the extreme of believing, and worse, telling those people that they will burn for eternity in hell. This dehumanizes those who disagree and breeds hate.
Most humanists, on the other hand, believe in doing good for others simply because it is the right thing to do. They expect no reward, no glory, just the satisfaction of doing what’s right and helping others. All without judgment, arrogance, or hate.