Freethinking for Dummies

Skepticism, secular humanism, social issues

Be Good For Goodness’ Sake

Telling someone that they shouldn’t steal or murder or rape because if they get caught they will go to prison is not teaching morality.  Similarly, telling someone that they shouldn’t engage in these same types of behaviors because the will got to hell is not teaching morality either.  What it is doing is teaching that these behaviors are bad, not because the are intrinsically immoral, but because there is the risk of negative consequences.

This type of thinking ignores the real effect of immoral actions: that they harm others.  That crime, deceit, and violence robs a person of a part of their humanity.  It attacks one of the greatest truths ever put forth by the human mind:  that we all are created equal, that we “are endowed with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” (1)

True morals should be based on this principle.  They should also be based on empathy and love for our fellow Homo sapiens who we share out planet with.  By holding up threats of punishment, either in this life or a mythical one beyond it, we dehumanize each other and desensitize ourselves to the humanity within others.  

This mindset can lead to disdain of those who are seen as violating some peoples’ personal or religious morals, many of which are inhumane, insensitive, and inhumane.  

The same holds for being moral and doing good deeds for others because we empathize with their plight.  We should do kind things not expecting anything in return, but because it is intrinsically the right thing to do.  To only do good, be it giving to charity, doing a favor for a friend, or giving a blanket to a cold homeless person just because we expect a reward in heaven or to boost our status within our social circles reeks of  callousness.  These types of people do good not because it is the right thing to do, but because they are greedy for reward.  When they give to charity, help at soup kitchens, they are often thinking not of those who benefit from their deeds, but of the benefit to their social status and/or their eternal reward.

Santa Clause, that fictional character of Christmas cheer, summed up the true basis of morality:  be good for goodness’ sake.

 

(1) The Declaration of Independence

are created equal, that they are endowed

January 31, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, secular humanism, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Fine Tuning Falacy

There is an argument that because there are many properties of our universe that if changed by even a small amount would have made the universe impossible to support life.  Some people like to use this as proof that the universe had to have been created because everything is “just right” for life to exist.

If, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e., if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger), while the other constants were left unchanged, diprotons would be stable and hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium.[9] This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably preclude the existence of life similar to what we observe on Earth. The existence of the di-proton would short-circuit the slow fusion of hydrogen into deuterium. Hydrogen would fuse so easily that it is likely that all of the Universe’s hydrogen would be consumed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.  (1)

On the face of it, this seems to make sense in regards to an intelligent designer of the universe.  If everything is just perfect to support life, then it must have been designed that way.  

But look at it from a different way.  We are here.  We exist.  Of course the universe seems fine tuned for us, simply because we are here to observe it.  It is a fluke of nature.  Just as a depression in the ground wasn’t specially created to hold a puddle after the rain, our universe wasn’t specially created just for us to live in.

We have to get over the idea that we are somehow special.  99% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct.  Many of those existed for millions of years before disappearing.  We, as a species, have only been here, maybe 500,000 years.  The earth doesn’t care about us.  Nature doesn’t care about us.  Neither does the universe.  

We are just a happy happenstance.  Star stuff that coalesced into a star with planets.  Once of those was the earth.  It was in the right place, at the right time, with the right stuff.  

On second thought, perhaps that does make us special.  But not because we are the pinnacle of some grand plan, but because we are lucky enough to have been in the right place at the right time.  Serendipity.  Splendid serendipity.

(1) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fine-tuned_Universe#Premise

If, for example, the strong nuclear force were 2% stronger than it is (i.e., if the coupling constant representing its strength were 2% larger), while the other constants were left unchanged, diprotons would be stable and hydrogen would fuse into them instead of deuterium and helium.[9] This would drastically alter the physics of stars, and presumably preclude the existence of life similar to what we observe on Earth. The existence of the di-proton would short-circuit the slow fusion of hydrogen into deuterium. Hydrogen would fuse so easily that it is likely that all of the Universe’s hydrogen would be consumed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang.

January 29, 2013 Posted by | Science | , , | Leave a comment

The Tea Party – American Taliban

The Tea Party is the most dangerous threat to the American way of life and to American liberty its self than anything we’ve seen since the era of McCarthyism over 50 years ago.  I’d say that they are an even greater threat.  At least during McCarthyism we still held education, science, and technology in high esteem.  In fact, it was science and technology that was going to save us from the communist threat.  McCarthyism was a political motivated by a real fear of communist expansion (but that still didn’t justify the restriction of rights that occurred).

Fortunately, the majority of Americans do seem to believe in working together for a common goal and the common good.  Unfortunately, most of them believe that we can accommodate the Tea Party and their ilk.  The reason for this, I believe, is that most of these “other” American are Christian and this makes them reluctant to criticize other Christians.  They buy into the anti-islamic, anti-atheist, anti-secular rhetoric of the Tea Party because they either don’t see the real threat or they are afraid to speak out.  This is the same thing we saw in the Islamic world after the 9/11 attacks: the vast majority of Muslims abhorred there radicals who perpetrate acts to terror in the name of Islam, but they were afraid to speak out for fear of being branded an infidel or of breaking islamic unity.

The majority of Christian in this country are accomidationis.  They believe that radical Christians can be reasoned with; can be accommodated; that compromises can be reached.  Nothing can be further from the truth.  Radical Christians, along with all religious radicals, can not be reasoned with or accommodated because for them this is a holy war, a fight against good and evil.  As long as they believe that they are doing God’s work, nothing can make them compromise in the slightest thing.

Today, however, science and technology are viewed with great suspicion, even outright hostility by the religious right.  This time, in contract to McCarthyism, the perceived enemy of the Tea Party crowd isn’t a foreign threat, it is other Americans.   And unlike most of those within the secular movements, they have no room for compromise.  You are either with them or against them.  You can’t debate or argue them into changing their positions.  Like most everyone who’s world view relies on blind faith and religious righteousness, they will never yield and never give up.

This is why I constantly speak out against religion being forced on us.  This is why I continue to highlight the dangers and evils of religious thought and religious dogma that are passed off as patriotism.  This is why I always try to highlight the delusion that is theism and supernaturalism, or magical thinking. 

People use religion to foster hate and division.  Those who are ardent believers can rationalize away any evil up to and including murder.  If they are allowed to have their way, which they are getting more and more often, they would have this country become a Christian theocracy.   Anything that goes against their religious laws will be punished, those of other religions will be discriminated against.  Don’t believe it?  Just google “christian theocracy in america”.  

It is sad that the Tea Partiers had to take the Tea Party as their name.  It is an insult to all those who took part in the actual, historical tea party.  Those patriots fought for freedom from tyranny, not for the tyranny of a theocracy.  They should have rightly called themselves the American Taliban, because they are no different in their aims of creating a Christian nation than the Taliban in Afghanistan are in creating an Islamic nation there.

September 4, 2012 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion, Skepticism, Social Justice | , , , , , | 5 Comments

Pro Life – A Satanic Plot

Edwin Kagin beautifully defends a woman’s right to choose in this tongue-in-cheek piece.  It is funny, but powerful.  Read it.

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Humanism, Religion, Social Justice | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The (Believers) Problem of Evil

Isaiah 45:7

King James Version (KJV)

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

For those who believe in a god, especially a loving, merciful god, evil is a real problem.  Some say that satan causes evil in the world, others that evil is god’s way of testing our faith.

As far as I can see it, these, and other arguments like them, all fall flat.  I could write a whole book against these arguments (and many have), but instead, I think my position can be summed up with the following quote attributed to Epicuris:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?

The first quote, from Isaiah, pretty much shows that the god who Christians like to claim as being a god of love, is also a god of evil.  Their Bible is pretty unequivical about it: the LORD creates evil.  It really can’t be any other way, if, as they say, their god created everything, for by default, he must have created evil as well as good.

To surrender the cause of evil to an unseen and amorphous entity is to refuse to take any responsibility for the evil that humans visit upon each other.  When you accept that evil is a product of human activity, you can then look it straight in the eyes and tackle it head on, instead of pawning it off to an imaginary god or gods.

There are many reasons that I am an atheist; there is my love of science, my thirst for knowledge, and my instance on truth, no matter how ugly it may be.  Still, the two quotes above make a very powerful, yet simple, argument against believing in any god or gods.  They are a beginning point for shuffling off the imaginary coil of belief and moving onto a life of real responsibility those with who we share this planet.

December 3, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

More Atheist Thoughts

Yesterday I posted my suggestion for an atheists crest.  Today I have a good quote that I think every atheist should memorize to use whenever someone asks them why they don’t believe in god.

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”  …Stephen F Roberts

Of course, feel free to paraphrase so that it flows naturally for you.

November 9, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

Invisible Pink Unicorns

“Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can’t see them.” — Steve Eley

Who can possibly doubt the impeccable logic of the above statement?  You can’t read that statement and then claim not to believe in Invisible Pink Unicorns.  Their ability to be invisible AND pink is the untimate clincher as far as I’m concerned.

Of course, there are many who will refuse to believe in the undeniable existence of Invisible Pink Unicorns, but they are all blasphemers, especially those heathen Pastafarians from that den of  iniquity, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster!

September 23, 2011 Posted by | Religion, Skepticism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Embracing Randomness – Why Mathematics and Statistics Negates God

I had an interesting FB conversation with a couple of fundie friends of mine.  I had posted a quote to the about the ineffectiveness of prayer.  One replied with how she has prayed to God and that because of that she now is with a wonderful man who treats her and her kids great.  I responded that I am with a wonderful woman who treats me and my kids great, and I never prayed for anything.  The other friend then replied that he had prayed for me, implying that it was his prayers that brought me this wonderful woman.

Believers will ascribe all the wonderful things in their lives to God.  The fact that others who don’t believe in God, or in their particular god, also have wonderful things in their lives doesn’t seem to have an explanation within their world view.   A rational view of this data would indicate that good things happening are random throughout any given population (as are bad things).  Another factor is how specific people view the things that happen to them.  What seems a good thing to one person could be considered not to good to another.  It is a matter of one’s outlook on life.  Is the glass half empty or half full?

For me, knowing that events are basically random makes it easier to deal with bad events because I don’t have to worry if I am pissing off some invisible sky man.   Conversely, I also don’t have to waste my time and effort trying to please said sky man or thank him for a random event.   I can then focus on how I must deal with things.

That’s not to say that I don’t feel that I’m about due for some good things to happen in my life after all the shit I’ve been through.  Some would take this as a sign of karma.  Personally, I see it as a sign of the law of averages.  Since the past 20 years have pretty much sucked. With all things being equal, the fact that good things are now happening (and I believe, will continue to happen) is pretty much a matter of things averaging out.  Regression to the mean.  Mathematics and statistics are much better and more consistent at explaining the why good or bad things happen to us than is the idea of some benevolent (or malevolent, depending on how you look at it) god making things happen.

August 3, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Science, Skepticism | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My Best Friend is a Magic Jewish Zombie!

I was browsing my favorite art site, deviantart.com, a few days ago and came across this painting.  A nicely done picture of Jesus titled, My Best Friend.  My tollerence of bullshit was very low at that particular time (lower than it ususlly is!).  In a fit of pique I left a simple, harsh, comment, “I’m sorry”.  I am not usually so blunt, espeically with someone I’ve never met.  I probably should have just ignored it and moved on. I didn’t and now I have an interesting situation to deal with.

Today, the artist who made that picture sent me a note.  Here is the exchange:

hey dear jay
from ~dianedianediane
to =primowalker
i read your comment on my work.,my best friend,….and this has many interpretations…
may i ask your reason for being sorry…so that i may comment accordingly my friend…
Re: hey dear jay
from =primowalker
to ~dianedianediane
I’m sorry that your best friend is someone who doesn’t exist, or at least who you can’t see, touch, or hear. I believe that this life is precious and that it is all that we are sure that we have. For me, to put emotions into something that you can’t be sure is there is a waste. It does you and the people around you a disservice. By expending time, emotion, and even love on something that may or may not be real takes that time, emotion, and love away from the people around you who need it here, now. 

I am not trying to say that you shouldn’t believe in Jesus, but you live in this world with people who love you and need you. Make the most of it and give yourself and those you love every minute you have, every bit of love that you can. If after doing this, you feel you still have time and energy left for Jesus, great. But to say that he is your best friend is an insult to your real friends, who are here now and who need you.

I doubt anything I say will make a difference.  She seems honest and sincere and I tried to answer her question honestly and sincerely.  Of course, I could be totally off base, after all, she calls me her “best friend”.  Maybe that is just how she addresses everyone she knows, including the magic Jewish zombie man.

** If you are interested, you can see my photography and writing at my deviantart page.

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Religion, Skepticism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Heaven & Hell

 

John Shook has a great piece on the Center For Inquiry blog about how religion isn’t about hope, but personal wish-fullfillment, control, and our secret desire for revenge.  Here are two paragraphs that nicely sum up what I want to talk about today:

Heaven and hell are more about enforcing moral retribution upon everyone, and not about loving consolation for everyone. I said earlier that religion personally is largely about private wish-fulfillment. But at the social level, religion is mostly about imposing a public moral system. And not just any moral system – religions with heavens and hells have moral systems about obedience, vengeance, and retribution. With heaven and hell, private wish-fulfillment nicely pairs up with public moral-expectation. God delivers love to us because we feel deserving of that love. God delivers vengeful retribution upon others because we wish we could do it to them ourselves.

When believers say, “My God is all about Love!” what they are actually saying is that God really loves them and doesn’t love others. These are the kind of people who can’t feel truly loved unless someone else doesn’t get that love. Such a childishly selfish attitude, barely tolerable from the three year-old pushing the older sibling away from the parental lap, is entirely despicable from adults. Yet religious societies take this to the public level, effectively frightening members into obedience, and warning outsiders not in that good company that they will suffer for it. Join our religion, the message rings out, or else you’ll get hell for it!

I’ve read several blog posts today about this subject of heaven and hell and how you can’t have a heaven without a hell.  Except for Unitarian Universalists, all most no religion, especially forms of Christianity, has a concept of Heaven without a corresponding hell.  The problem with this, besides the horrific fact that so many people seem to take pleasure at the potential eternal suffering of others, is that hell just doesn’t fit in with the concept of a god of love.  God is seen as a parental figure, someone who makes the rules and rewards or punishes and who we always want to try to please.  What parent would willingly send their child somewhere where they would be tortured and tormented?  Only an sick, sadistic parent would.  So if there is hell, then god is a sick sadist.

Religious belief like this is, as John says, childishly selfish.  It has pain and punishment for those we are jealous of built right in.  The only real love there is the love for those we choose to love and for ourselves.

This is why I take a humanist approach to life.  Humanism has at it’s core the wellbeing of all people, everywhere.  When you put all people on a level playing field and treat them all equally, then you can’t help but act in the best interests of everyone.  Of course we have to take care of ourselves and our loved ones, but humanist ideals say that we shouldn’t do that at the expense of others.

As John sums up in another of his posts on the same subject:

Give me a morality, a humanist one, that finally centers on the one life that we all know we have.

March 20, 2011 Posted by | Atheism, Humanism, Religion | , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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