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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Veiled Threats and Other Nonsense

An atheist friend of mine had the unfortune to run into a militant asshole. In their exchange the asshole told my friend he should go to one of the Islamic countries that murders atheists.

My friend took his tone, along with his suggestion that he ought to go die, as a threat.

Almost instantly more assholes crawled out of the woodwork to defend the rudeness of the first asshole, saying that his "suggestion" was not a threat per se, although they conceded to the fact that it was rather insensitive.

I took the opportunity to defend my friend and got called names, told I needed to educate myself, got read to from a dictionary, and was told that my contention to their insensitivity, which I felt added insult to injury, wasn't a conversation worthy of the fifth grader.

I am going to illucidate exactly why it was a threat.

Here is why...

Because my friend took it as a threat! That's why.

We don't know his situation or circumstances. We don't know any additional facts about the exchange. Just that in my friend's mind there was more than the mere suggestion to go into harm's way, something which made him feel threatened. 

And really, that's all we need to know. Except more and more dictionary thumpers kept informing him is wasn't a threat, but a suggestion, I guess in the same way a Nazi sympathizer telling a Jew to go walk into a furnace couldn't ever be considered anything more than merely a harmless suggestion.

Allow me to inform as to why suggestions can be classified as threat.

Because the law says so. That's why.

In law a threat is anything that constitutes the menace of harm. It doesn't need to be direct. It can be indirect, veiled, or even merely suggested.

A man, for example, might call a girl he doesn't like a whore and suggest she do what he tells her lest she get what's coming to her, and this is a threat, plain and simple.

If this same man threatened to rape the girl, this would also be a threat. If he said he'd have his friends rape her too, still a threat.

Now this next part is where many people who abide by a strict dictionary definition of the word "threat" get hung up.

If, with the woman's prior knowledge that the man wants to rape her she at some point receives a  disconcerting message that suggests she come over to his place so she can be properly dealt with, let me ask you, would this not constitute a threat?

In legal terms, yes. In this case there is the menace of harm, existing from prior conditions, and the prior knowledge that this man will likely rape the woman.

But if you are holding to a strict dictionary definition of the word threat, basically the admission that you desire to physically harm someone, then you could apologize on behalf of this would be rapist and say he was merely making a suggestion. She needn't follow his advice, after all, it's just a suggestion.

Wrong.

As we all know, most social interactions amongst human beings aren't so black and white. Nor is the way we communicate, express ourselves, or use language. Words and phrases can carry multiple meanings and subtexts and you can never be entirely certain how somebody else will take something that is said, especially when it might only be vaguely suggested. But herein lies the problem, if one posesses a prior knowledge that the suggestion entails abuse, suffering, and harm -- then that suggest comes with it the explicit intent to have harm done, which constitutes the menace of harm, which by law is a type of threat.

What you cannot do is say the woman in the example was over reacting when it was suggested she enter into harms way where there is a near certain chance she will be raped, because it was merely a suggestion. No, it wasn't. It was more than a mere suggestion, and a more empathetic person would be aware of this. The same goes for my atheist friend of whom it was suggested he enter into harm's  way where there is a near certain chance of his being murdered.

But, but, but it was only a suggestion! 

No, it wasn't.

Look, it was an indirect, mealy-mouthed way to say you want someone to endure abuse and be harmed but you are too much of a coward to directly say it to their face, so you intimidate, and insinuate, and use a condescending and abusive language to menace someone who may truly fear for their safety and well-being by suggesting they place themselves in harm's way and certain violence and most likely death as a result of following this less than considerate suggestion.

But what if the ignoramous making the suggestion was so unaware of what they were actually saying that they didn't know they were being menacing, shouldn't we just write them off as an idiot and another tally on the list of lost causes and ignore their hurtful remarks?

Hell, no!

You see, if they didn't intend for anyone to come into harm's way then they wouldn't have suggested it in the first place. And even though they are not threatening a person directly they are using the menace of harm to make them feel threatened... And that is what a fucking threat is! 

The threat, in this case, is being veiled by the pretense of it being nothing more than an empty suggestion. Take it or leave it. But such a pretense ignores why the suggestion was made in the first place and what the intent behind it was. And it is clear the intent was to see an atheist, like my friend, be harmed or at the least see how he'd react to the idea of being harmed, and this denotes either a sick desire to see someone actually be harmed or see them endure the mental anguish of thinking they'll be harmed, which is an entirely different kind of harm.

So we have every right to call these assholes out, and my atheist friend has every right to feel intimidated and threatened by someone like this. And if you still think it was only a suggestion done in bad taste but not a genuine threat, well you are entitled to your opinion, but you'll still be wrong. Not because I say so, or because the law says so, but because my friend... who is the one who feels threatened (not you), took it as though it was a threat. I hope that instead of telling him he is over reacting to some rather threatening advice, we might be more mindful of his situation and take the time to try to consider what reasons he might have for taking it in a different way than we might have.





Sunday, January 18, 2015

On Pro-Choice: Why It's the Only Moral Choice



Apologies in advance, but a recent Facebook conversation has caused me to get up on my soapbox here, and share a little bit of a conversation going on elsewhere regarding abortion. 

If you read the whole thing,  if you so feel compelled please feel free to leave a comment in the comment's section down below.





***


The problem with the pro-life position being painfully obvious: It's not a moral position.

You simply cannot tell a fully an autonomous woman that she has not the right to an abortion before you first strip her the right to choose for herself whether or not such a thing is in her best interest. 



In other words, you must strip her of her rights before you can then decide what is best for her, without ever seeking her consent in the first place.




This just strikes me as all kinds of wrong.

And simply put, if you are not in the woman's position and you are not the woman's doctor, then chances are there is simply nothing you will be able to say which will convince me you have a right to choose for her, on her behalf, what is in her best interest medically, morally, or otherwise.

The unborn fetus, or the way we define "life", doesn't even enter into the equation at this point.

To turn around and use the fetus as an 'excuse' to strip the woman of her rights, thereby attaining the legal leverage you need to wrangle power away from the woman and then hold her accountable to your arbitrary definition and rules of life is just... wickedly sinister.

I would even go as far as to say completely immoral.



It's peculiar, to say the least, how so many claim abortion is a moral issue / debate but their first act is to disregard any moral precept whatsoever so as to wrangle the freedoms and rights away from others in order to enact unfair, hostile, or damaging laws and thereby ensure the spread misery all in the name of their so-called "moral" superiority.



To even think for one moment that you had the right to do that, let alone have the nerve to seek such a corrupt means to gain authority over another simply to save what you feel is in your best interest (not theirs) is beyond the pale.


As my friend Ashley so perfectly summed up:

"You mean *I* can't tell others what's in *their* best medical interest based on my personal opinions, even though I know nothing of them and their personal history and circumstances? Well... shit."

It may sound harsh, but I have zero respect for anyone who says abortion equates to murder, and I can't help but think most pro-lifers are either ignorant, astoundingly confused, or else morally bankrupt whenever they make such a claim.



That claim is based off a desire for life (mostly human life) to be sacred. But ask these same people if they feel an 18 or 19 year old teenager has the right to freely choose to enlist in the military and truck off to war, and they will probably say something like, "Damn straight!" 



You have to wonder when the sanctity of life stopped being so goddamn important. All of a sudden, that unborn fetus became a living, breathing person and they are glad to let them ship off to war where they have a higher than average possibility of being killed.

But maybe this is why they rally so hard against abortion, because if they couldn't send innocent kids off to die in the wars they started, then they might be in danger of being enlisted themselves! God forbid, right?





In the first place, if you truly felt all life was sacred, no matter what, then there would be no greater threat to this sanctity than allowing for one to go off to a war to possibly die. You can't have it both ways. You can't say that unborn fetuses are a sacred life then allow your children to fight your wars for you. That's reneging your belief that human life is sacred and should be protected at all costs.

Second of all, if a teenager has the right to freely choose to enlist in the Armed Forces, and freely choose to make themselves a foot soldier for some greater cause, why wouldn't a woman have the right to dictate her own fate as well? 



If the sanctity of life isn't enough to prevent people from shipping off to war, then it certainly isn't enough to prevent abortions of entities not yet even recognizable as part of their biological species (it takes 11 weeks for a zygote to grow into a fetus with functioning organs and distinct biological features allowing us to classify it as say, human, and not a duckbill platypus).




At least what the pro-choice side of the debate offers doesn't infringe the rights of the woman, fits with what professionals in medicine and science observe to be the case regarding biological life, and doesn't seek to implement laws dictating how others ought to live according to one's own limited awareness or worldview.

Pro-choicers want to protect women, the rights of others, and if possible the life of unborn (potential) children. But pro-choice stops here and says to demand anything more than the basic right of the woman to choose what is in her own best interest is to step over a line we have no right stepping across.

Pro-lifers want to safeguard the life of the unborn child, but only if they can legally own the woman and her unborn child first. They'd gladly shred the line of moral decency if it meant they could get their way in gaining power over women by stripping women their rights to enact laws which make sure everyone else plays by their arbitrary rules according to what arbitrary definitions of 'life' and 'murder' they so choose.

Which is why, if you are pro-life, you are hostile to women and women's rights. The only way to fully back pro-life is to stop caring about women and the rights of women. Some might call me a feminist because I advocate women's rights, and I'd gladly accept such a charge, especially when it is women's rights that are being threatened by myopic or outright hostile policies sponsored by those still catering to knuckle dragging chauvinistic philosophies that believe women aren't bright enough, well suited enough, apt enough, or wise enough to choose for themselves what is in their best interests. 



I'm sorry to inform, but when it comes to the hot topic of abortion, well, being pro-choice is rational, being pro-life is not.




Finally, there simply is no case that can be made by pro-life advocates that doesn't automatically devolve into a greater moral peril than that of pro-choice, and for this reason, they simply cannot claim to have the moral high ground here. 


Sunday, November 9, 2014

Belief Doth Compel Thee: Why It’s Important to Be Reflective



Religious beliefs can impact people in different ways. In fact, our beliefs can influence our behavior and thinking to a startling degree. One of the things that helped me leave my religious beliefs behind was that I took a step back and looked at them as an outsider would, as someone who didn’t particularly share the same sets of beliefs as me, and who might even be critical of them.

What I learned by doing this was that many of my beliefs defied common sense, others were uncertain, and many others still were just flat out false. This retrospective of looking from the outside in allowed me to see things I haven’t before and eventually it came down to the hard decision to abandon the beliefs that didn’t compute and start from scratch. 

I’m very glad I did. 

The deconversion process wasn't always easy. Sometimes it was downright painful. But in the process I learned to be more selective, more mindful, of the sorts of beliefs I chose to hold on to. 

I became doubly reflective about precisely how my beliefs were influencing me and I started considering how my beliefs guided my thinking and so too behavior. And it is here where I learned the clinical precision matters when evaluating your own beliefs, and subsequently, the beliefs of others.

Not all beliefs are created equal. Some beliefs are absurd. Some beliefs are backed by evidence and appear solid as rock. Sometimes beliefs that appear sturdy are actually built on sand. 

There are all kinds of beliefs and to each belief a different quality, a different level of certainty, and a different level of knowledge about the nature of the belief and the consequences of holding it to be either true or false.

I have learned the hard way, however, that it’s not so much what you believe that matters but how you get there that counts. 

Anyone can believe anything they want, but believing in something because you vetted it and it passed the test, well, then that’s what we might call a sound belief. 

That’s a belief worth holding onto. 

Beliefs that are unproved or uncertain, they are more problematic, and the best we can do is simply keep an open mind, always considering the fact that we could (very likely) be wrong.

But the fact remains, our beliefs help mold how we perceive the world around us, how we engaged with it, and what we will choose to do in the future. This is why I place a strong emphasis on the importance of taking the time to take a step back and look at our beliefs reflectively, critically, and even skeptically if necessary.

Now, there are certain systems of belief in place with rigid architecture that comes prepackaged with standards of what constitute good and bad beliefs. We call such systems of belief ideologies. Now, there is no more a powerful ideological fountain than that which religion provides, so it serves us good to examine how religious belief impacts us and to what ends, both the good and the bad.

Sometimes religious beliefs motivate us to the good, as Arnold Abbot, a 90 year old homeless advocate in Florida, is proof of. Abbot stood up against a Florida law that refuses to allow him to feed the homeless. After being arrested and then given a citation for feeding the homeless, Abbot stated that, “It’s our right to feed people, it’s our First Amendment right and I believe in the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man, and we should be allowed to feed our fellow man.”

This is a clear case of a man allowing his personal convictions and religious beliefs to compel him to do good. Although I admire his humanitarian efforts, I think it needs to be said that Abbot also represents a religious person who isn’t all that reflective. After all, he hasn’t really given any consideration to the fact that his actions, although well meaning, risks setting a bad example for others when he teaches others to defy the law in the name of their religious beliefs. Sadly, this makes Mr. Abbot just as reckless as those crazy religionists who take their sick kids to faith healers – often in defiance of the law - instead of getting them the necessary medical attention they need from real doctors at real hospitals that can really cure whatever ailment their child needs.

If Abbot wanted to be a better example, he could start a fundraiser to build his own shelter. His recent media attention would only bolster his fundraising campaign and he could continue doing his good work without breaking the law or setting a bad example. Just a suggestion.

Christopher Hitchens lamented that religion poisons everything. I can’t argue with him, because his observation is simply that religion compels people to do bad more often then it does good, and this bad has a way of hurting us all, like a bad poison. More often than not, people’s religious beliefs compel them to hold beliefs that, if acted upon, lead to the unfair treatment, and sometimes even harm, of others.

Take the Shi’ite Muslim religious custom of Muharram, where they mutilate their wailing and crying children with sharp knifes in the name of their religion, for example. There is nothing in this Muslim tradition that is healthy, sane, or beneficial to the children of the people enacting the barbarism. It simply is an expression of faith based on bad ideas and even worse behavior as a consequence of holding these bad ideas.

Or consider infant circumcision, which is an undeniable form of genital mutilation. Or, for that matter, female genital. All of these acts of horrible violence against children have been, and continue to be, enacted in the name of religion by the religious.

I too, having been raised Christian, am circumcised. But I never asked to be. You may not think it is a big deal. But I tell you, part of my penis is missing, and you can’t tell me that that’s a good thing. Undeniably, this is a decision my parents made, thinking that it was normal, because the practice was a religious custom that everyone simply followed without question. But I refused to allow my own son to be circumcised. Mainly because, I never wanted to harm my beautiful baby boy, but also because circumcision has no proven medical benefits – and that’s a fact we have to deal with when we choose to either uphold the belief that circumcision is something we should do to our children or whether it is an outmoded religious customs that needs to go by the wayside. I vote for the latter.

Another recent case of religion compelling people to think and act in ways that poorly reflect on their ability to critical evaluate their beliefs and the consequences of acting on them comes in the form of Gordon Klingenschmitt, a Republican official elected to Colorado's House of Representatives, who is so convinced that President Barack Obama is demon possessed that he wrote a “non-fiction” book about it. (I literally laughed out loud when I read that it was categorized as non-fiction. Non-fiction my ass!) Further, according to Right Wing Watch, Klingenschmitt, who is a former Navy chaplain, claimed in an interview that he once conducted an exorcism on a young woman that “cured” her of being a lesbian. (Darn those lesbian demons!)

This is clearly religious ideas, concepts, and beliefs impacting uncritically minded people’s behavior and thinking for the worse.

And there is a point at which someone who is so unquestioning, and so gullible, that their religious beliefs compel them to think and act in ways that are unfathomable, such as this lady, who explains in great speculative detail how the anti-Christ and Satan are brainwashing you through the fancy advertising of a popular energy sports drink. (Apparently Satan's diabolical message is that milfs love big fucking cans - I kid you not, this is the woman's conclusion about this secret, anti-Christian, evil conspiracy of subliminal messages. The most evil thing Satan could think of to day, apparently.)




Ultimately, religious beliefs influence our everyday lives, whether we are religious or not. This is why it is important to reflect on what holding a specific ideology does, and we must always take a healthy step back from our own beliefs to examine them from the outside looking in. Maybe we’ll see something we hadn’t before. Maybe we will see why other people are overwhelmed or shocked by our way of thinking or behavior due to the kinds of beliefs we hold, good and bad.

But to deny the fact that religious belief doesn’t compel or influence our thinking or behavior is simply to choose to be uncritical, unreflective, and closed minded. Such people have no standard for gauging what is good or bad, because, well, if their religious beliefs dictate that mutilating their children is a good thing, they go right ahead and do it—regardless of the consequences.

This is the danger I want to avoid. Being uncritical of one’s own beliefs, of one’s own behavior, often leads one to folly. If we don’t want to be foolhardy then it pays to be mindful of our beliefs, of the ideologies we accumulate, the teachings we adhere to, the political as well as the religious beliefs to which we subscribe. The more mindful we are, the more we can use our common sense to see that harming children for any reason, even religious ones, is never good. If people were more mindful, they would be aware of the fact that the illuminati is not sending secret messages through the labeling of a popular soda beverage company or that the President of the United States is demon possessed.

You see, we have to be aware of how our thinking and behavior impacts others, not just ourselves. And if necessary, we may have to alter our thinking or behavior so as to not make the mistakes of those who, in their obstinacy, refuse to be mindful and continue onward in their persistence of blind, pig-headed, faith and conviction - doing what they thinks is right but is harmful or incomprehensible simply because they neglected to give the proper amount of retrospective, introspective, consideration of their beliefs.

All we have to do is pause, take a deep breath, and then take a step back. If you can do this much, then you will gain a whole new perspective on life. You will be able to see the landscape more fully. You will be able to plot out your choices and your actions instead of just acting upon them as if by instinct.


Being mindful and reflective is important least of all because it’s how we learn to gauge the quality of our beliefs. It’s how we learn to stop taking our beliefs for granted. It may not always be easy, but I think it is necessary – especially if you want to say that, in the greater scheme of things, your beliefs matter.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Questions About GOD: What Are They Good For?

After some considerable thought, I have come to the conclusion that questions like "Does God exist?" and "What is God?" are completely meaningless.

Having deconverted from Christianity in 2008, I quickly got swept up in what has been, unfortunately, called "The Great Debate." Immediately after my deconversion I entered into my anti-theist phase. As I have come to understand it, leaving an oppressive and controlling ideology often leads to feelings of anger and resentment. Part of the healing process is venting one's frustrations, and sharing the abuse one has endured with others who have experienced the same and who can sympathize. This is one of the reasons I began this blog. Most often, however, such healing can only happen after a painful disillusionment.

At the time I deconverted the mislabeled "New Atheism" which is and never has been a new form of atheism but rather a resurgence of secular values, many of them hailing from the Golden Age of Freethought, was in full swing in America and picking up speed elsewhere. This resurgence was largely brought on by the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the concerns raised about how much an acquired religious ideology is capable of compelling one to bad conduct such as the ones which compelled Islamic literalists to fly jets into the World Trade center towers in New York.

Not only how much do one's subscribed to beliefs compel one's behavior, but whehter or not there are detectable patterns or trends, rituals, rights, or ways of thinking which would make one more prone to being receptive to false information who wouldn't normally be is their beliefs didn't erect numerous biases that interfere with good critical thinking and evaluation.

In other words, do our beliefs, especially our religious beliefs, influence our choices, our behavior, and our very personalities to any discernible degree? I hold they do. And furthermore I think there are detectable patterns of influence.

I have found these kinds of questions to be the more pertinent questions when it comes to religion. Sadly, these kinds of questions are the ones that all too often get pushed aside in the name of religious tolerance. People don't want to ask how much do my beliefs impact my thinking, my behavior, and the way I reason through everyday problems. Frankly, thinking is just hard work. Understanding why we think or why we believe what we do, that's going the extra mile. People don't really care to be critical or evaltate their own beliefs. They have better things to do. 


It's less of a hassle to just go with the flow. But I have found this leads to the cult mentality which often manipulates people by using their religious beliefs against their better judgement. It pulls the wool over their eyes, and they feel fine doing things in the name of religion that they would decry if it weren't for the already attach notion of sacredness with which they give religion a free pass. If massive corporations weren't paying taxes and had zero transparency, didn't provide healthcare for their women employees, and discriminated against same sex couples the people would have a field day. But when a church does it, it's all in the name of God's goodness, and everyone looks the other way.

It's important to investigate why we have such biases, and how these biases come to exist. It gives us insights into the quality of beliefs we hold, but only if we can first learn to be reflective and critically evaluate our beliefs.

Questions such as "Does God Exist" are rather quite useless. As St. Thomas Aquinas once noted:


But because we are not capable of knowing what God is but only what He is not, we cannot contemplate how God is but only how He is not. (Summa Theologiae I, 3, prologue)

This is the ultimate in human knowledge of God: to know that we do not know God. (Quaestiones Disputatae de Potentia Dei, 7, 5, ad 14)

I guess the problem, as I see it, is that everyone who believes says God is like the elephant in the room. We can comprehend parts very dimly, but never can we comprehend the whole. I suppose the analogy is crude, because if Thomas Aquinas is correct, then we can only feel out the negative space and discern a vague form of what God might be like through recognition of what he's not. In other words, we can see what fills the space that isn't God, and rule it out.

That's a much more difficult way to go about detecting God.

In fact, it has led me to strongly feel there is no such thing as God. What inevitably happens is people who want to believe begin to fill in the negative space with their ideal version of God. 

They try to justify the beliefs they already hold because they are the beliefs they grew up with, the beliefs they were raised on, the beliefs they forged their identities from, and in many cases the beliefs they get their notion of purpose or self worth from. These are not easy beliefs to challenge, to analyse, to dismantle. 

In fact, to challenge such beliefs head on often has the opposite effect. People recoil and begin trying to find ways to salvage their faith, their belief in God, their right to belief what they want to believe, regardless of whether it is right or wrong or makes any sense.

So one begins to rationalize why believing in God is reasonable or why maintaining an antiquated and outmoded religious belief is a religious right. In the end, it is because they feel that they have the right to believe whatever they want that they no longer care to ask whether what it is they profess to belief is even a belief that has any value beyond the sheer desire to believe it. They've convinced themselves believing is important, and so they do. That's a hard state of mind to break away from. It is a lot like the battered woman convincing herself the reason she doesn't leave is because she still loves him, or even because he might still love her. They're just going through a rough patch. It never crosses her mind that he doesn't love her, because she desires to be loved. It never crosses her mind that believing he might love her might not be the best thing for her, but might lead to her ruin.

Holding bad beliefs for  even good reasons doesn't necessarily lead to good results. This is why I think it is vital we take the time to be reflective and not take our beliefs for granted.

I cannot say with certainty there isn't a God. I just don't think it's a very important question to ask. If there is, fine. If not, also fine by me.

From my study of science and history, psychology and the great works of literature I am led to believe that God is mainly a fancy of human imagination. One that has, over time, grown into an elaborate and very real experience for many people, but an experience that I have decided merely reflects human desires, psychology, culture, and the social ties that bind these together into one communal religious experience.

I guess, in that sense God is a very real aspect of life for me, because people make him real. I think the need to be recognized, be loved, and feel secure in the face of a vast, nihilistic existence is what drives people to the inclination to desire a God in the first place.

I think people who are prone to want to love, or be loved, or who feel the is purpose to life beyond life itself all will be compelled toward that inclination.

People who want answers will also be happy to go in that direction.

But people who want truth, well, they must remain open minded. In fact, I think you'll find our intellectual honesty depends upon it.

God may exist. I don't find the question pertinent, but interesting. I am fascinated by people's social and cultural ties with the concept of God. I am curious as to what the affects are of superimposing archaic religious beliefs onto modern beliefs. What kind of strange hybrid beliefs are borne out, or whether the two sets of beliefs compete, interfere, or cause stagnation. Maybe all of these, depending on the circumstances. But this is the more interesting question. Not whether or not a God outside of space and time could create space and time. That's a nonsensical question and therefore largely a meaningless one. 

This is why I find the more pressing concern should be with asking how do the beliefs I hold, and the beliefs of others, compel or influence our actions, choices, and capacity to reason? 

Likewise, what biases do we innately have? What does it mean if someone believes differently that us? What if we find there is an ideology which consistently compels bad behavior and instructs its followers to disregard the safety, freedoms, and well-being of others?  

This is the conversation we should be having. Not what it takes to believe something, but how the quality of beliefs we prescribe to influence and guide us. 

Until then, I remain yours truly,

The Advocatus Atheist

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Over 500,000 PAGE VIEWS!!!! WHHHAAAAT?! This is NOT the End!!!




It seems that running a blog, which takes time and energy, is rather difficult to do when these isn't anyway to finance the time one spends writing what one likes to write about. This inevitably causes delays in publishing fresh content.

My brothers-in-blog Mike D. and Bud Uzoras at the A-Unicornist and Dead-Logic respectively, have taken indefinite hiatuses from their regular blog publishing schedules. I was going to try and buck the trend by sticking around like a sore thumb, but then something strangely peculiar yet wonderfully amazing happened.

I got signed to a 12 book deal with Permuted Press and their bran spanking new new imprint Winlock Press.

No, no. You read that right. A 12 book deal! I am beside myself, because being picked up by a competitive press with the output and quality, not to mention industry reputation, that Permuted Press has and to be part of a new publishing push to get more Indy authors into the mainstream publishing world just makes me ecstatic beyond belief.

I have to give a special thanks to the lovely Monique Happy who now heads Winlock Press and who made it all happen for me. She is one great lady!

But I hope you know what this means. It means that, although this is NOT the end of The Advocatus Atheist, it does mean that I probably won't publish regularly. I say that fresh off the heels of hitting a milestone of over half a million page views! So I obviously am not throwing in the towel. 

Just don't expect weekly or even monthly updates. But stick around. Enjoy the archives. And if you want to keep track of my other published works, make sure you add my official author page to your favorites list:




I still have the Swedish Fish book coming out in the near future, and I probably will be doing more self published works alongside my contract work, but the contract work takes president over everything, including this blog, because it pays the checks.

Additionally, I have a new son, and babies eat up a lot of energy, time, and money too. So blogging just becomes less and less feasible. It makes me sad, because I love this blog. I love adding my two cents to the public discourse and providing valuable social commentary (I'm sure). But, it doesn't pay the bills. 

Also, my dream of writing full time won't be achieved if I sit around blogging all day. So getting to work on the 12 novels I've been signed to do is what I will be focusing on from here on out.

I just felt that I should let you all know, since you know, it takes some real loyal readers to get to 500,000 freakin page views. So thank you, all!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

8 Questions I'd Ask God: If He Existed

8 Questions I'd Ask God: If He Existed


1. What's with man-nipples? Are they for just in case we got captured by Amazonian warrior women and needed to blend in so that we could make our great escape? I bet that's it. Really, there's no other reason for them.



2. What's the deal with Salmon's reproduction? You make them so they have to swim up stream, leap up freakin' waterfalls, only to lay all their eggs and die. Some kind of sick and twisted joke perhaps? 



3. What's your obsession with beetles, bugs, parasites, viruses, and bacteria? I mean, sure, they're neat and all, but if it's the human soul you are concerned with, what's this obsession with insects and the like? Just a weird hobby, perhaps?



4. Why did it take six to seven days to create the world? If you're all powerful it should have been a cinch, right? Didn't get it right the first time maybe? Had to make a few corrections perhaps?



5. What's with all the ugly people? There are over 7 billion people on the planet and most of them are ugos. I mean, no offense, if that's your thing. I know beauty is only skin deep, in the eye of the beholder and all that, but it seems to me if you were a wise creator then you would have made everyone physically attractive so that ugly people wouldn't be hurt by so much rejection and beautiful people would have no teason to be so vain.



6. If 90% of scientists and philosophers don't believe in you and go to hell (what's up with that anyway?) then what does that say about the quality of people you like to hang out with when you segregate 90% of the worlds intellectuals, thinkers, inventors, men of words and science. Afraid of the competition, maybe?



7. Couldn't have made a few other planets closer by for us to travel too? Have to make everything so freakin far that we'd have to rely on the aforementioned brilliant minds to get us there? Is that why you send most of the worlds population to hell? You simply don't want us to spread to the stars and become godlike in our own right? 



8. Why create sin, knowing people will sin, then damn them for it? Why not accept the fact that people sin, learn to forgive and forget, and let bygones be? It seems most of us do just fine without you--namely every culture, every race, every group of humans that haven't believed or have believed in the wrong gods throughout all history--and so you're going to trim down your chosen few to even fewer? To people who can't think, are scientifically ignorant, and who only want to pray to the sky all day? I have my reservations on such a fetish, but to each his own, I suppose.



BONUS QUESTIONS:



9. Does it bother you that science can answer all of these questions, from social behavior of humans and animals, to the universe, to the proliferation of insects (including beetles) and, yes, even man nipples but you can't? 



10: I'm not even going to ask you for a sign that you exist, because it's clearly obvious that you don't. 



Sorry, that last one was more of a statement really. But oh, well. The brevity was worth it.


POST SCRIPT

To the believer who rightly informs me that I am merely critiquing the simplistic, iron-aged, conceptualization of a Creator God and not the theologically superior God of all things, that winked the universe into being ex nihilo and that willed evolution via natural selection to be the engine of his wondrous variety of life, I only have this question to ask: What's the use of a God that hides behind the veil of nature, that makes himself undetectable, and in all likelihood irrelevant? It seems that such a God would be a rather useless kind of deity. 

Of course, if your answer is that God wanted a personal relationship with us, please try again. It's obvious that if the majority of the people who ever lived and died didn't believe in your God, well, then he wasn't a very important God and he certainty didn't demonstrate he wanted a relationship with all those (in the billions) who died not believing. 

For that matter, why are there atheists? 

Do you really think all nonbelievers are rebel sinners? Hedonistic, do what they want, rotten to the core people who are simply in defiance of God? If that's what you think, you need to get out more. Make a few friends. And open your eyes to the great and hard working humanists out there who do so much good without believing in God. Ever hear of Doctors Without Borders? 

If you still think my objections are juvenile and ill conceived, just know that I was a devout believer for three long decades. Maybe it's not a rhetorical jab of acerbic criticism I am dolling out, maybe it is the hard to handle conclusion after years of deep and reflective thought on the subject. 

If you still don't think my questions are all that worth bothering about, that's fine. Best not to think about it too much. Speaking from experience, that's one of the best ways to become an atheist. 

;)~ 



Saturday, October 4, 2014

On the Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, and Sam Harris Debate: Some Thoughts

I hunted down a longer clip of the heated debate that occurred on the Bill Maher show between Ben Affleck, Sam Harris, and Maher. If you haven't seen it, watch the longer version here before reading my own thoughts.



After giving it some thought, I think it was a big example of miscommunication on top of talking past one another.

Affleck wasn't wrong about Maher and Harris painting all of Islam with a broad stroke. They are guilty of this virtually every time they open their mouths. But in this case I think Sam Harris made a more than valid point that just went over Ben's head.

Harris' point about the number of Muslim practitioners estimated at around 1.6 billion adherents and the fact that 20% of Islam is practiced by legalistic, fundamentalist Muslims, and a fraction of that percentage being a radical element, means that there are over 200 million Muslims who believe in the literal interpretation of the Koran and Islam's core tenets, which include calling for the death of apostates, gays, and non-believers who will not convert by force.

On a second viewing I finally got what Affleck intended by his "Shifty-Jew" analogy. He was basically claiming that Maher and Harris were guilty of making a genetic fallacy. That because all Muslims are Islamic then they all must be Islamic radicals because all Islamic radical are Muslim.

But I don't actually think that's what Harris had in mind, which is the point they began talking past each other.

Harris was simply concerned with the bad ideologies present in the religion of Islam which statistics show 200 million people take literally. Contrary to what Ben Affleck thought, Harris wasn't making a genetic fallacy. If there is any doubt as to the issue, Jerry Coyne over at his blog Why Evolution is True shares some depressing statistics with regard to current trends and attitudes within Islamic countries.

At the same time, I have to say this debate is just another reason that I have recently come to feel Sam Harris is not a good platform speaker, and in my opinion a little thick-skulled. He simply throws out statistics and broad generalizations and neglects to actually *listen* to his opponent's criticisms.

If Sam would have simply told Ben that he was concerned predominantly with the 200 million fundamentalist Muslims, not a small number mind you, and not the moderate majority of Muslims overall (as it seemed at first) then Ben would have probably backed off sooner. But as it turns out, Harris just sticks to his guns, and keeps forcing the same point home again, only clarifying later when it's already too late, doing nothing to diffuse the earlier confusion regarding his criticism.

Sam's telling Ben that he (Ben) didn't understand his (Sam's) argument on national television was plainly rude. It made me lose a little respect for Harris, whose slip up revealed his passive-aggressive calm demeanor to be little more than an act, pointing to the fact that he is just as worthy of an actor as Ben Affleck is. 

It was clear to me too that Ben didn't quite get the criticism, but pointing it out toward the end of the argument just to get the last word in seemed to me a little crass. You don't understand my argument, so your prior criticism isn't valid, you goddamn idiot Ben!, Sam seemed to be saying.

But Ben Affleck's previous criticism, although missing the side of the barn, is not a bad point and it is one worth making (perhaps at a more appropriate time in a similar debate).

Many Muslims do get painted with too broad a brush, especially by intellectual liberals like Harris and Maher who refuse to back down from their ideological position so adamantly that you'd be forgiven for mistaking them for ideologues instead of genuine critical thinkers.

Ben's comment that we shouldn't bunch Muslim women into the radical, fanatic Jihadist category if they are of the peaceful Muslim majority who just want to go to school and eat sandwiches, was a good point.

At the same time, Harris' point that Islam is the mother-load of bad ideas isn't entirely wrong either. Well, it's a bit poorly stated, but his point that Islam contains a disproportionate number of sinister and pernicious teachings as compared to the good ones is apparent to anyone who has ever read the Koran or listened to the teachings contained in the hadith.

There is indeed a wealth, or mother-load, of bad teachings and ideas for modern Muslims to contend with, but this is mainly due to the fact that the Koran, like the Bible, is a man-made text written in a ignorant and warring age by men who held what we consider today to be archaic and outmoded views.

The fact that many Muslims will undeniably cite the Koran, just as Christians do their Bible, as a guiding moral source goes all the way back to one of Harris' most scathing quotes about the Bible probably being the world's worst sources for morality humanity has ever invented, if we didn't also have the Koran, that is.

As for the debate on the term Islamaphobe, I think this should have been the key focus of this particular discussion.

I agree with Sam that the term Islamaphobe gets bandied about needlessly. Also, to call people genuinely fearful of the threat of violent and extremist elements of Islam "Islamaphobes" is like calling a person with a petrifying fear of spiders an "Aarachnophobe." In other words, the term accurately reflects a very real fear, even if that fear isn't always entirely rational.

The problem is, the term Islamaphobe has become a dirty catch-all word to silence any detractors of Islam who would seek to offer widespread criticism for Islam's more pernicious tenets. So the broad brush strokes are being painted on both sides of the canvas here.

At the same time, this doesn't mean their aren't racist or bigoted attitudes which exist with regard to Muslims and what they believe. There are. And many do fit the negative definition of Islamaphobe, just as many fit the catch-all phrase homophobe, for their intolerant and bigoted views of homosexuals and gay rights.

The key difference, however, I would point out is that there isn't an underlying homosexual ideology that calls for the conversion or death of all non-homosexuals and seeks to impose violence on anyone who disrespect the holy gay pride rainbow. Such a vocal minority, however, does exist within mainstream Islam. So the term Islamaphobe is muddied by the fact that both intolerant bigots and genuinely fearful people exist with regard to the Islamic religion.

All this is just to say there do exist valid reasons to fear certain aspects and interpretations of Islam.

But this discussion didn't happen. Instead, Ben Affleck, Bill Maher, and Sam Harris simply had a ball talking past each other and not taking the adequate amount of time to listen to what the other side was trying to say. It was a perfect display of the religious debate being interrupted by overly domineering personalities that, although well meaning, failed to comprehend the most important part of any debate--understanding the other side's position.





Advocatus Athesit

Advocatus Athesit