A fly alights on my forehead, and I can do nothing to shoo it away. To even so much as twitch now would give away the ambush and potentially turn the tide of the battle, and I can’t have that on my head. I can see them gathering, but the instruction was to not fire until we see the whites of their horrible eyes, so I wait the silent order to continue the rampage.
These moments are so infrequent, when we aren’t busy killing and we have a moment to catch our breath. This is war, and war is hell, so this is hell, but we do what we need to do. Despite all the blood, all the lies, all the deaths, I am moved by a genuine feeling that this is it. This battle will be the last. Why they are all gathering is anybody’s guess, but they must believe that they are safe after our loss at Control Point Alpha. I’ve heard the stories, just a massacre. People I know just gone. But no more. We will win this war.
Oh, don’t you worry, I’m going somewhere with this.
Have you ever seen the movie In The Mouth Of Madness? It was a not-too-bad 90s horror flick about (and forgive me, it’s been a while and I may be off on my description) an author whose books are so prolific and so compelling that he is altering the fabric of reality. People become convinced that his work is true, and slowly the majority opinion of what is real begins to change, thus changing what is actually real to suit the author’s needs. It’s an interesting perspective for a horror story.
It’s not an interesting perspective for theology, but it is such a common thing to hear people say that millions of people believe in the Bible or the Quran or the Tao Te Ching or the Book Of Common Prayer or what have you, so it therefore must be real (or all those people would have to be DUH DUH STUPID). But, unlike in the world of John Carpenter’s film, reality is not determined by consensus. Having millions of people genuinely believe that eating turds give you magic flight powers will not result in people growing wings if they eat shit.
Avicenna has a blog post at A Million Gods answering questions that were posed on Lady Atheist’s web site, and when I saw the first question, I figured I’d follow suit and provide my responses without having read either Avi’s or the Lady’s. Then, I can look back and see where they jive and where they don’t. It could be interesting! Note, these are not Lady Atheist’s questions, they are (I presume) questions she has been asked and is responding to.
1. Where do you go when you die?
Me? Well, I’m going to devote my body to a cadaver lab. My thinking on this is that an organ donation can save a life, or even a few lives, but being the means to train a surgeon may well save hundreds or thousands of lives, and I can think of no better gift in death than that. But of course, you’re not asking that. You’re making the assumption that death means you have to go somewhere. I don’t believe that. When we die, our bodies die. The “special us” that exists is a part of that body, and it dies too. Ashes to ashes and all that.
There is a post flying around Facebook presenting the work of Joseph Atwill, who says that he has proof Jesus did not exist and was a fabrication of the Romans. It is certainly not the first time that the historical accuracy of Jesus Christ has been brought into question, and no doubt it will not be the last. But each time I hear this, all I can think is, “So?”
I don’t know if Jesus was a real person or a story told. I don’t care. The fact that we don’t have a body means absolutely nothing to me. We don’t have a lot of bodies, and that doesn’t stop us from believing in the lives of people who came before us. Hell, we accept evolution because the bodies we do have show a pattern of gradual changes that fit the theory, but we certainly do not have all the bodies. Does that mean that evolution isn’t accurate? Of course not. We accept the theory of evolution because it best answers the question of how all of the different types of living things exist and appear to be in some way related.
I get angry about theology indoctrination in public schools. I find it to be a coercive and sleazy move that makes many of the students deeply uncomfortable, and makes them feel pressured to at least pretend to share the faith. I find the arguments for allowing faith in schools to be weak and uninspired. The facts are that we want faith in schools because we are selfish and my particular faith is right, so why shouldn’t I be allowed? Besides, they’re all basically the same thing, right?
Imagine if a school began calling the faithful to worship, handing out prayer mats, and devoting school time for bowing to Mecca. Christian parents would be beside themselves. Now imagine if the children were told that it’s pretty much the same thing, so just follow along and pray to your god, but in our words. You aren’t bowing to Mecca, you’re bowing to Jerusalem. No big.
Hemant Mehta posted at The Friendly Atheist today about S.E. Cupp, an atheist from CNN whom I too have wondered about. She’s the atheist who wishes she could have faith, and laments her atheism. I find that just weird. An atheist who wishes they could believe, at least in my opinion, is either not an atheist, a new atheist who worries that they are wrong, or an atheist who is trying (and, I would hope, failing) to polish the apples of theists, probably because of a desire to appear one-of-us enough for advancement. I couldn’t say if S.E. Cupp is any of those or not; I don’t know her and could only go by a few things she has said. But one of those comments she has made was that she wouldn’t vote for an atheist. Hemant questions that, and I thought the question worthy of my own two cents. But do watch the video linked above.
Personally, I wouldn’t vote for anyone because they are an atheist any more than l would vote against them for being a person of faith. That should not be the issue in a political debate. If I am voting for a mayor, for example, I would be looking at their personal politics, experience, and my attempt to figure out if they would ultimately be good for the job.
I have, on many occasions, asked how anyone with a brain in their head could actually believe x, where x is some aspect of religious dogma that simply doesn’t make sense. For example, how can anyone with a rational brain believe that the earth and everything on it was the product of a good long work week? The easy answer is to say that they aren’t rational (or that they don’t have a brain, har har), but that’s actually not true, and I know it. I know it because I have been there and done that. Any after reading this post, I suddenly remembered. My life was very different than Rachael’s, but there are some striking similarities.
I have always been a rational and thoughtful person, and yet I was raised among the faithful. As a kid, I knew that the Bible was absolutely true, even though my parents didn’t believe that. I remember vividly asking my father one day how come the entire world flooded, but there was no written or oral record of that in any other culture that could trace its history further than the Bible did. I wasn’t born with the short earth thing, but I knew that the story of Noah’s Ark came from well after other cultures had already begun tracking their history. Wasn’t a massive flood that eradicated all life on earth something that would have shown up in these records?
I wanted to share this link to the Secular Therapist Project with you, my secular friends and well-wishers. I hadn’t previously heard about this until reading a post by Greta Christina today called 7 forms of atheist support you may never have heard of. There are lots of great links on there, and there are several things that make me happy about this list, but the Secular Therapist Project is definitely the tops for me, and I’ll tell you why.
I’m not normal.
Okay, none of us is. There is no psychological definition of normal, just a vague understanding we all have of the term. Many years ago, my ex-wife suggested to me that I might have a bit of Arrested Development. I was the victim of a traumatic experience many years ago, and she was worried that it might have had lasting footprints. I didn’t really think that to be the case, but seeing a therapist has always been something I’ve thought I ought to do, if only to get the stamp of approval that I really am this awesome (or broken).
I’m actually fairly surprised I haven’t addressed this before, because it’s a question I regularly get asked, both by friends in the same situation as myself and… well, not asked per se, but slapped with by religious people. Do I, as a non-scientist, have to have faith in the discoveries of others? This is the base upon which the “science is just another religion” argument is built, and like most of these arguments, the base is actually surprisingly weak.
Credit where credit is due, I should note that this was triggered by reading PZ Myers’ post This is not science. This post also acts as an example that is illustrative of the overall point I am making, and which PZ very clearly spells out later in his post. And please, don’t assume that this is any unique and visionary revelation on my end, it’s just one of those things that is a part of the skeptical process. I’m just reiterating it here because sharing the various aspects of that process is just good.
One of the things I was most worried about when I lost my faith was how I would handle those times when life decides to let a little rain fall on you (while holding you face first in a vat of human excrement and stabbing your kidneys with a filthy needle containing nuclear waste). As a Christian, I had always been really good at giving these things over to God, but as I lost my faith, I realized what I was really doing with them.
I was procrastinating.
See, if you want long enough to make a decision on anything, the decision usually winds up getting made for you. That’s not because God shows you the right path, it’s because you pass the point of no return. And frankly, that’s just not a good way to do things.