Thursday, May 29, 2014

Christian Spammer Girl: Or What Masturbatory Verbal Jesus Diarrhea Looks Like

The other day I posted an article about the five things that Jesus should have said but didn't that would have made him a moral teacher. 

As it turns out, Jesus wasn't a moral philosopher. He never preached anything original in terms of morality or ethics. He merely repeated Jewish axioms. In my view, someone who is deeply concerned with morality and ethics, this amounts to a big failure for the so-called perfect and sinless man who is held by Christians to be the upright moral paragon we must all aspire to. But there I go, trying to be all logical and what not, thinking a true paragon of morality would have something to say on the subject. Because, in my mind, a politician who doesn’t mention politics isn’t very much of a politician, is he? I’d say the same is true of moral philosophers, of which Jesus clearly wasn’t one.

In response to the article a Christian girl who goes by the grammatically incorrect handle "Jesus Daughter" decided not to read my article but spam me—presumably because I am an honest atheist who shares my views here on the public domain of the world wide web. Of course, letting bygone be wouldn’t be enough for an empathy lacking religious person.

So her first response was rather terse, as you can see by the screen-cap I took.

As you can see, my response was a bit sarcastic. The reason for this is simply that I truly despise spammers. If you don't care enough to have a cordial conversation with someone it really doesn’t make sense to spam them with Bible verses, because that amount to little more than you being a dick. Perhaps she should re-think her name. “Jesus’ Dick” would be much more suiting of someone with her mentality.

The second reason I felt sarcasm was due was because of the content of Leviticus 26:1, which read in full states:

"Do not make idols or set up an image or a sacred stone for yourselves, and do not place a carved stone in your land to bow down before it. I am the Lord your God."

What does that have to do with anything? I have no idea. My article talks about morality. There was nothing about religious ritualistic worship or theological doctrines of any kind. I was merely observing that Jesus never taught anything that could be considered an original moral or ethical teaching that didn't already exist in Jewish culture and tradition, or in other religious philosophies outside of it, for that matter (i.e., Buddhism & Hinduism).

Why do Christians think spamming non-Christians with specifically Christian writing will work? Do they honestly think we haven’t read any of their literature? Maybe they do. But such a view is rather na├»ve, if you ask me. Perhaps there is a reason there are so many non-believers. Maybe we have read the Christian writings and found them wholly unconvincing. It seems a rather bad strategy, if you ask me. It seems like the strategy of a person who hasn’t read any other works of literature and who mistakenly think the Bible is the final arbiter on wisdom.

So I called her on her quoting an unrelated bit of scripture, and her immediate response wasn’t to ask me why I thought what I did, or how I came to such a conclusion, but her response was to double down and proselytize to me. Proselytize to me! Me! The guy who calls himself The Advocatus Atheist! Literally, an advocate for atheism. And she wants to proselytize to me?


My friend Ashley calls this need to proselytize "masturbatory verbal Jesus diarrhea" talk because it's messy, gets all over everything, and nobody really wants it but the Christian doing it just needs to get it all out because it feels… so… damn… good. The fact that Christians can't seem to realize this often bothers non-Christians to the nth degree seems to suggest a real lack of empathy on their part. 

Seriously, who goes around telling people what they ought to believe all of the time apart from the extremely religious? 

Nevertheless, Jesus Daughter dismissed my position completely, which really torqued my chain and gave me the reason I needed to respond to respond in kind.  At this point I figured I am either dealing with a troll or a complete ignoramus. As my brother-in-blog Mike Doolittle of the A-Unicornist asked, "Dude, why feed the trolls?" 

I simply replied, "Everyone needs a hobby."

So out of sheer morbid curiosity of how thick her skull really was I continued to engage Christian Spammer Girl.

Then it dawned on me. Maybe I was going about it the wrong way. Maybe she was genuinely confused as to what my position was, having not taken the time to figure it out on her own time, so I restated it by explaining in my own terms that her beliefs didn't hold meaning to me because I didn’t hold them.

She said heaven was real and so was God, so just to be real clear, I informed:
 Heaven isn't real.
 God doesn't exist.

Hey, I’m glad to share other points of view, but that didn’t seem to work either. It almost was as if in her mind there could be no such thing as an atheist. In fact, I know it, because her insistence was that I was a God denier made it clear. She didn’t say that, but when you ignore what the atheist believes and keep supplanting their beliefs with your own, implying they are worshiping false things, and that they are in need of saving, and continually ignore them correcting you when they say that they honestly don’t believe—well, in not so many words you are, in true condescending fashion, calling them a denier. Now, this bothers me, because denial is simply the inability to accept what is obviously true. I don’t have to tell you that when it comes to God, and the claims of believers, there is hardly anything that is ever so clear cut and obvious. But I digress.

At this juncture Jesus Daughter decided to tell me that God was evidenced by all of creation (but not really) and that Jesus was imprinted on my heart (which made me wonder if it was anything like Jesus being imprinted on the face of a piece of toast).

This time I wanted to send her the clear message that I didn't appreciate her continued rudeness. I gave her several chances to have a real conversation, to ask me about my beliefs, but she continued to pretend that she was right and I was wrong without ever having asked what I believed in the first place. It takes a special kind of person to believe everyone else is automatically wrong when they don’t even know what it is the other person believes.

I think my friend Ashley may have been right. This girl just wanted to spew masturbatory verbal Jesus diarrhea everywhere because it feels so good to get it all out.

Of course, immediately after scolding her I realized that she might simply not understand the atheist position (like, at all). She might not know what it is or what it entails. She might not even know that, much like her Christianity, there is a full assortment of atheists who hold a diverse set of beliefs. That atheists, as individuals, all have different experiences and reasons for why they cannot bring themselves to believe.

Luckily, I have recently published a book collecting the stories of why people do not believe in God, and I figured she could benefit from reading it.

(After all, all is fare in spam and war.)

So I sent her the link to my new book Beyond an Absence of Faith, which I co-edited with Jonathan M.S. Pearce.

She responded this morning.

She suddenly starts talking about her "old life" as if I knew what that meant. She mentions how "meaningless" it was, mind you, all out of context because she hasn't so much as offered a link I could follow to learn about her as a person. So far, she is just a random over zealous Christian spammer hiding behind a pseudonym.
Whereas, if she had clicked on the link to the original article, she'd learn a lot about me and my past as a devout Christian (which is why I brought it up--knowing she hadn't actually read the article or followed the link to my blog). Heck, if she would have clicked the Amazon link to my book she would have been able to read my author bio and learn something about me. But no, just random vague comments about Mooby the golden calf—and, well, pretty much nothing.

So I responded by telling her that what she was doing was rude, and I informed that my suggesting the book was to help her learn other perspectives and points of view. Gain a bit of empathy, if you will. The moral advice comes free. I hate to have to correct people, but rude is rude. So why not reserve the prosylatizing for… never… and start to engage people in genuine conversation?

I felt that this was worth saying because Jesus Daughter’s slapping down a Bible verse like a full flush, as if it were meaningful, really made my eyes roll. In the greater scheme of things, that’s not meaningful at all. Showing compassion, empathy, and trying to understand others is meaningful. Being loving, that’s meaningful. Being a good listener, also meaningful. Finding your own purpose in life, extremely meaninful endeavor. Telling people what they ought to believe on the other hand, that’s not trying to understand anyone or anything—there’s no meaning in it. What it means is you lack empathy. It’s simply a way to have your cake and eat it too, even though you’re at someone else’s birthday party you’re at and it’s not your goddamn cake. Don’t be that person. If you take anything from this little spiel, I hope it’s this: make your words and actions count for something. Go forth and be that person.

In the meantime, if you have any stories about bizarre encounters with peculiar people, feel free to share them in the comments section below. Until next time, I’ll leave you with my favorite closing:

Live well and be wise.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Was Jesus Christ a Moral Philosopher? NO! 5 Things Jesus Should Have Said But Didn't

Jesus may have given us his sermon on the mount, but in all of his teachings the scholarly eye will find that they are basically just reformulations of age old Jewish moral teachings and reinterpretations of the Torah. 

A lot of Jesus' own teachings involved mainly the Mosaic laws expounded, and it's no secret that the Gospel narrative of Jesus' life story was *specifically designed to have his life mirror that of the Jewish legend Moses. Even the fictional event of fleeing the homeland to Egypt because of an angry King Herod so-called killing of innocents echoes the Pharaoh's attempt to hunt down the baby Moses. There are many more similarities too, worth checking out.

That Jesus, as contained in the Gospel accounts (to differentiate from the *historical Jesus) is modeled on Moses is common knowledge within the community of biblical historians and has been for decades upon decades is by no means a controversial statement. However, I do not think Jesus was an original moral scholar. In fact, I know it.

Open your New Testament and read the Gospel stories. Browsing the teachings of Jesus you will soon see that he did not say or teach anything that you would not already find in Jewish holy scriptures and teachings. Nor did he state anything entirely worthy of standing out from other moral religious codes, even those coming from more ancient religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. 

At least, I think one would be hard pressed to make the case that Jesus said anything original with respect to morality, human behavior, and ethics.

But if we were to assume that Jesus was truly a reformer of morality and represented the perfect, sinless (as Christians are want to say), person, well, there are five things Jesus could have said that would have made him an original moral philosopher. They are as follows:

1. Slavery is wrong. Period. There is no situation, or excuse, which could ever justify slavery--so don't even try. People are not property, items, or objects to be owned, plain and simple.

2. Treat each other as you would want to be treated, and especially don't abuse women or children (or each other). Ever. He who lords his strength over others shows a weakness of character. We should prefer strong characters and compassionate hearts to weak characters with intolerant minds.

3. Women and men are equal in every way in the eyes of the Lord. Even if your skills or abilities are not equal, you should never devalue another person for not living up to your standards. Equality is about *not restricting the rights of others because they are different. It is about celebrating the differences. 

Intolerance is restricting the rights of others because they do not fit into the narrow, insular, cookie-cutter confines of your social expectations and therefore you and/or society shows favoritism to one group over another. Giving rights to one group while withholding those same rights to another group creates a imbalance in society and everything will be in danger of toppling over. Allow for the differences, love one another and help each other, and equality will follow.

4. Eating meat is morally wrong - and is a type of murder. Be vegetarian instead. You will live longer and there will be less suffering in the world.

5. Homosexuality is natural, as natural as heterosexuality, and you should not fear or mistreat those different than yourself, regardless of their gender or sexual preference. In fact, there are those born both male *and female. Do not force them to be one or the other. Forcing people to be what you want them to be is unloving. Instead, accept them for who they are--and love them unconditionally.

For those who think Jesus was the Christ, the Savior of all mankind, the Son of God, and a divine figure who cleansed the world of sin and brought humanity closer to God--he certainly didn't have any grasp of deeper moral concepts. Not like we moderns do, which is to be expected. 

But if you are an Evangelical, Fundamentalist, or biblical literalist type of Christian this proves to be somewhat of a problem, because the so-called all-knowing Jesus who is to be our champion from sin never spoke out against the worsts "sins" of humanity. That is a huge failure, and one a true moral philosopher wouldn't have made--especially if he was also the Son of God almighty.

So there you have it. Five things Jesus SHOULD have said but didn't.

What list of five things can you come up with that would have improved the character of Jesus Christ and all of Christianity should he have simply mentioned it? Let me know in the comments section down below! 

Some Christians will be bothered by the claims I am making. They will say I am under the misguided belief that I think I can be more moral than Jesus, than God incarnate, and, well, they'd be right. With one caveat. I don't merely believe I am a superior moral person to Jesus and the God of the Christian Bible, I know I am. And you are too.

If that bothers you, then perhaps you should take a little extra time to reflect on the issue and examine why, exactly, you have a hard time believing that superior moral acts and behavior, which we have ample evidence of today, apparently were oblivious to the one person who should have known better.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Happy Draw Muhammad Day! (May 20th): And a A Rant on Why Islam BothersMe

Happy Draw Muhammad Day!

“The moment you declare a set of ideas to be immune from criticism, satire, derision, or contempt, freedom of thought becomes impossible.”

– Salman Rushdie

Although some Muslims in the Islamic world often seem to forget that the religion of Islam has had a long and illustrious (see what I did there?) tradition of depicting Muhammad in art, I absolutely love the idea of “Draw Muhammad Day” as a means to push back against totalitarian theocrats and Islamic bullies who would seek to silence the thoughts and opinions others.
An artist by the name of Heini Reinert, recently submitted a piece for “Draw Muhammad Day.” It was my favorite piece this year, as it depicted Muhammad being drawn by an off-page artist. Muhammad was without hands, as the off panel artist hadn’t gotten around to drawing them yet. Additionally, in an homage to one of the original Jyllands-Posten drawings, a headdress with a bomb. The tiny Muhammad in the cartoon is captioned as saying, “Hurry up with my hands so I can kill you for drawing me!”
I especially liked this drawing for a couple of reasons. In the Islamic world those who are without hands are guilty of crimes, and the punishment is to cut off their hands. There isn’t a greater insult, as hands are our tools that help us survive and thrive, or to worship God. Cutting off one’s hands is to cut off their vitality.
Although Islamic blowhards shout threats of violence against those who dare to depict Muhammad in art, I think we should all start showing the Prophet (whenever and wherever depicted) without hands. Why? Because there is no greater offense than silencing the free speech of others and trying to chain their thoughts and words to the insular and peevish dogmas of an overly self-righteous religion. Then, in retaliation to their refusal to submit to such archaic, unegalitarian barbarism, to inflict real violence against them. This is a crime perpetrated primarily by those in the Muslim world, and until Muslims (all Muslims) can learn to  act peacefully, it is my strong opinion that the Prophet should be without hands till that time when Muslims can either accept it as a form of punishment for their crimes against other people’s rights and freedoms.
I shouldn’t have to remind anyone, but it’s a well known truth that

People have rights. Not religions.

As I briefly touched on already, I also appreciated the cartoon because it references the bomb-turban cartoon which sparked the original Jyllands-Posten Cartoon Controversy, which lead to riots, a turn of violence, and ultimately 200 deaths worldwide. Instead of apologizing for the turmoil they helped incite, the first reaction of Muslim Imams was to cry Islamophobia and bring charges of blasphemy against all those who would dare to disregard their fancies and blatantly dismiss any need to kowtow with the same bent over reverence they do to a mere historical figure, although perhaps not an unimportant one.
As always, after the first “Draw Muhammad Day” there were more threats of violence, a call to silence Islam’s detractors using the intimidation of death—that warped sense of justice that exists only in the mind of a true xenophobe. Islam’s message was clear. If you didn’t bow down, bite your tongue, and submit to the demands there were going to be even more threats of violence—and, regretably, there always seems to be a group of overzealous radicals containing at least one devottee willing to take it upon himself to be the judge, jury, and exocutioner of another person’s life.
Why? Because that person drew a simple, yet perhaps slightly irreverant, cartoon. And this only goes to highlight the problem. Religious extremism convinces otherwise regular people that their beliefs are under attack should someone else not agree with them, and that the best way to deal with this is to go insane and begin killing other people for a trivial offense (if even an offense at all).
Religious extremism makes its adherents intollerant by pitting their religious faith against the outside world, creating a false ditchotomy of “us vs. them,” and then saying that when the rest of the world doesn’t bend down to their will, it is defiance, disrespect, or a plot to damage their religious faith or beliefs. But the fact remains:

People have rights. Not religions.

It’s ironic how certain hypersensitive factions want to call us all Islamaphobes when we write criticisms of Islam, some valid and some wide of the mark, all the while not seeming to realize that Islamaphobe literally means “to be fearful of Islam.” And why wouldn’t we be fearful of Islam when its threatens us and holds fear over us, when it threatens to abuse us if we choose any other lifestyle than the Muslim one, and threatens us with oppression and tyranny should we rebel? Why wouldn’t we be, at the very least, timid?
I should hope that before anyone recklessly toss out the term “Islamaphobe” to describe those who they think are gross and racist, maybe theyu should first consider that the term might be less of a slander to that person than an actual description of the inherent problems within Islamism and Islamic extremism.
In other words, maybe we have every reason to be scared of Islam, just as much as we have a right to point out why, and if that means we are “Islamaphobes” for criticizing Islam – I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it’s going to be. And that’s simply not going to change. Why? Because:

People have rights. Not religions.

I wonder how many cartoonists will have to die before people start to realize that any ideology, whether it is Islam or any other, that seeks to bind our tongues and chain our lips and cut off our hands cannot be an ideology designed to bring about an everlasting peace, but rather is clearly an ideology designed to actuallize the worst state of affairs imaginable, a world ruled by tyranny and oppression. How many have to die for the most bent over backwards liberal to admit that it is so, and the most conservative left wing nut to admit their own beliefs share a great deal more in common with those they consider to be the enemy than they’d probably care to admit?
Perhaps more telling is the fact that this crying “Islamaphobe” at the first sign of any perceived criticism seems to be a dodge not to deal with the initial criticism in the first place. God forbid you admit not being perfect, Islam! God forbid you be held up to a higher standard, and that these criticisms are meant to motivate you to do so! God forbid you change for the better! That would just be ... un-Islam-like.
So this cartoon controversy has proved that Muslims know how to get mad easily. I mean, really hot-under-the-collar, red in the face, on a summer day in the middle of the desert, two humps on a camel – mad. That’s pretty darn mad. But I would bet a full dollar that most of them didn’t even understand why they were so mad in the first place. Not really, anyway.
Was it really because some anonymous cartoonist in some far away country drew a silly, slightly mocking, picture of a famous historical figure, who was a known warlord and conqueror?
Nah. I give Muslim people more credit than that. Even the illiterate ones (note: literacy rates are extremely varied among Islamic countries, ranging from high to low, but many of the countries with the largest Muslim populations also seem to have the highest rates of illiteracy)[1] have to realize that getting irate over a cartoon they haven’t seen let alone understood the gist of makes little to no sense.
It’s the ones who did understand that were the problem.
These are the ones who got whipped up into a frenzy. But not because the lambasting was offensive. But because they recognized what the cartoons represented ... the loss of authority and the encroachment of antithetical ideologies, like the freedom of speech and the right (yes, right!) to blaspheme. You see:

People have rights. Not religions.

Here, for the first time in living memory, Islam was wide open to criticism. Real, biting, harsh as hail criticism.
Islam was still reeling from the shock of getting doled out one polemic after another, a rapid fire concession of critiques—some valid, others slightly less so—but if anything was made clear by the criticisms dealt and the Muslim reaction to them, it was that Islam just wasn’t ready to receive criticism, positive or negative. Not just yet.
The enlightenment had come too soon to a people not yet primed for the responsibility of handling with care their opinions and the opinions of others. As such, every criticism felt like an pin prick, and Islam reeled back in terror and shock of the very sharp sting they had experienced by coming into contact with the modern world.
The Imams, who knew that this meant Islam would either have to learn to adapt or go down fighting, chose to go down fighting. Not paying attention to the fact that they were on the wrong side of history.
As such, Islam declared war on what the rest of the world considered to be a civil discourse, the exchange of ideas, and the right to cordially disagree—including the occasional satirical cartoon—all things, mind you, which are legally protected in most of the countries in which Islam seemed to be having a problem with.
All I can say is, welcome to the 21st century Islam. You don’t like what others may think about you? Tough. Sometimes you have to roll with the punches. How come? Because:

People have rights. Not religions.

Perhaps, it’s worth pointing out that as individuals people are allowed hold intolerant, obstinate, even silly or nonsensical beliefs. As people that is our right. People have rights, not religions. Of course, we may not always agree with others when they share, in a public manner, their intolerant, obstinate, silly and dumb beliefs, but as individuals, they have the right to think however they wish.
Religions, on the other hand, do not have the right to unchecked intolerance. Religious leaders, using their authority, who incite mobs on the behalf of religious principles in order to use intimidation to dictate what others may think and do, all while demanding subservience to comply with its oft irrational demands, is straight up totalitarianism. This we cannot abied. Why? Because:

People have rights. Not religions.

Groups of people, coming together to demand fair treatment, that’s fine by me. If you get your feelings hurt, then let’s talk about it. But groups of people coming together to seek vigilante justice for mere perceived offenses, that’s NOT okay.
It’s doubly not okay when it seems that no real sense of justice can be had because no real crime was ever committed. I know that some people don’t undersand satire. I know that some people have no sense of irony. That’s simply not our problem. It’s theirs. And they need to learn to deal with it without devolving into clothes wrenching, hair pulling lunatics and violent madmen.
Here’s my beef with Islam. It’s a religion that is a little bit out of control. There is no unifying group, so it’s a lot of little groups all acting independently of the others, all seeking what’s in their best interest, while ignoring the interests of others. It’s out to silence us for liking humorous cartoons, or speaking our mind, or sharing things which it might find offensive that we find entertaining. It’s out to get the cartoonists who may raise valid criticisms through satire. It’s out to get those who would seek to defend the cartoonists’ integrity as artists. It’s out to shackle its detractors tongues and chain our mouths and keep them shut upon pain of death.
Meanwhile, it calls us intolerant!
See what I mean about not grasping irony?
But it’s true. For the non-Muslim, we simply do not regard silly superstitious rules with the same amount of kowtowing obedience.
But here’s a newsflash. We don’t have to.
Why? Two reasons. First, we may not be Muslim. Secondly, as a non-Muslim we don’t adhere to the beliefs or tenets of Islam, therefore we don’t believe in Islam’s god, and so Islamic rules and regulations simply do not apply to us.
Even as I am critical of Islam, it should be noted that I’ve never once tried to restrict what a Muslim person can think and believe. But the moment a group of peoples, or a religion, seeks to infringe the rights of what I can think or believe, or ther rights of others, just because it can, that’s when I say it is even more deserving of ridicule.

My message to Islam, is this:

Get used to the idea that people have rights, not religions. Once you grow comfortable with this concept, the rest will get easier for you.
The simple truth of the matter is, if you don’t want to be made the subject of ridicule then, by all means, stop acting so goddamn ridiculous all of the time.
If you want respect, you’re going to have to earn it. Needless to say, you can’t earn people’s respect when you are continually attempting to infringe upon their rights, bring harm to them, or otherwise try to force them to concede to your worldview.
That’s the complete opposite of being tolerant. In fact, there’s actually a word for it. It’s called INTOLERANCE.
And you actually have to wonder why people draw cartoons criticizing and deriding you? I know it was hard to find out this way. It always is hard learning that, contrary to what you believed, you really are the asshole.
Poor Islam.
Poor, poor Islam.
So anti-social yet so in want of a good friend.

Author’s note: I wrote this article in May 20, 2014, long before the tragic Charlie Hebdo incident in France where the satirical magazine was fired on by two Islamic extremists who shouted out “God is great” and “the Prophet is avenged!” as they killed 12 people for nothing more than excercising their basic freedoms of expression and speech.

[1] See here:

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Religious Rules of Ritual that Try to Be Logical But Fail Make Me Laugh (Funny)

I found this via the science channel Vsauce on YouTube and it made me laugh out loud. I just imagined everyone on every tenth floor synchronizing their watches to the exact moment the sun sets at that elevation. So funny.


You cannot trick God by taking the high speed elevator to the top!

Like Santa, he'll know. He'll knows if you've been naughty or nice.
Which raises a few completely valid questions...
It this building simply too high for God to see what people are up to?
Is that why they need the reminder?
Is the elevator too fast for God? 
Perhaps that's why they need the reminder?
Maybe it's just a way to remind people that God, like Santa, is *always* watching them.
Even during elevator sex? Don't pretend like it doesn't happen.
If you ride the elevator up after Iftar, and get to a second sunset, does that mean you have to do a second Iftar?
Why not set a standard time for Iftar instead of just following the sun?
If we build a space elevator, what does the rule become when there are no longer any sunsets but the sun just hangs in the sky all night and all day?
Why didn't Allah, or God, or any of his prophets for that matter, inform us as to the exact practices when new technlogies are involved? 
Didn't he know?
Didn't he wants us to know?
If not, why not?
Could it be...
These are just silly man-made superstitions?

I'll let you be the judge of that.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Beyond an Absence of Faith: The Reviews come flooding in!

It's only been out for a couple of days (about a week for the eBook) and we are already getting some very flattering praise for the book.

Kaveh Mousavi of Freethought Blogs has written an amazing review on his blog On the Margin of Error. Keveh expresses:

So another thing to praise about the book is its polyphony. Each of these 16 individuals are a distinctive voice, and none of them can be overlooked. Reading all of them you really do have a much deeper understanding of atheism, of people struggling with atheism, of people.

Also, I want to commend the editors for including ex-Muslim voices. These voices are authentic and cover all aspects. I’m very pleased with representation of ex-Muslims in this book.

I don’t want to get to the specifics, because I’d like you to read the book for yourself. But I’ll say that my two most favorites were “Saleha M.” and “Alicia Norman”. Or these two moved me the most. If I could I’d adapt them into a film.

About the book, Kaveh adds, "It also happens to be my number one favorite atheist book that I have ever read."

Wow! I am humbled by such a statement. Truly. Thank you, Kaveh.

On, Dr. Caleb Lack gives us an impressive five star review. Summing up the book, he states:

Pearce and Vick have brought together a diverse group of voices with one thing in common - they have moved beyond being "former believers" into being active participants in humanity. Each of the stories shared is unique, but former believers will find something they can identify with in every one. From the pain of separation from friends and family, to the joy of being liberated from a sexist mindset, to the harsh reality of having to find a new career in the middle of your life because you have embraced reason, these personal stories help to reinforce for the non-believer that you are not alone in your journey.

I thank the good doctor for all his praise and support.

I will update you all with more reviews as they roll in. All I can say is, for everyone willing to purchase and review the book, you have my eternal gratitude.


The Skeptic Times just left a wild review on Amazon! You have to read it to believe it.

As you may know, we made this book with the thought in mind of helping people get through trying times, that awful nowhere place between faith and the void of nothingness that opens up before you when the walks of faith crumble all around. It can be a scary time, but this book can not act as stepping stone to help aid in taking one's first strides beyond an absence of faith.

A Challenge to Religious Believers: Let's strive to be more Scientifical and less Superstitious

A challenge to religious believers (and everyone in-between):

The problem with ancient books of religion isn't that the iron aged people who wrote them over 2,000 years ago made historical, technical, and scientific mistakes before the advent of scientific reasoning and all the various fields of modern science that fall out of it, rather, the real problem lies in the fact that people 2,000 years later are so scientifically illiterate that it is that is is simply a matter of buying into archaic myths because, in a state of crippling ignorance, these religious devotees don't know any better.

Worse, perhaps, is the fact that quite frequently--because of the religious beliefs they may hold--they often don't want to know any better. They are perfectly content to remain taken by the myths of old, and this shows the power of myth's hold over the human imagination.

Religious myths give easy to digest answers about the world--the wrong answers--but easy to grasp answers nonetheless. Science and genuine understand are rather difficult in terms of acquiring the correct answers--answers that truly explain the world and the way it all works. Science involves real world measurement, observation, testing, and finally more testing. Only, even then one's work is not done, because you have to check your answers against the answers of others who have done the same, and compare findings, thereby weeding out the erroneous data and keeping what can be demonstrated and revising or jettisoning that which cannot. 

Indeed, it seems the only way to combat this stifling effect of religious myth, and the superstitions which are tied to is, is simply to become better educated and better informed--especially in areas of science (but also philosophy, history, and culture).

Needless to say, well educated and well informed persons know how to recognize the features of a myth and distinguish it from the features of reality. This, I feel, is the first step to fending off the silly superstitious of an uncritical bygone age--one which hangs on by tooth and nail in the 21st century, threatening to drag us all back into the dark ages if we do nothing to combat this appalling scientific ignorance prevalent in highly religious cultures and societies.  

My challenges to believers, those who read the Bible or the Koran, or any other holy book for that matter, is simply this: for every Bible study, for every book of the Koran you read, for every piece of religious scripture you pour over, why not also read a good science book?

If you are one of the few religious believers who do read scientific literature on a regular basis, I commend you. Now go out and share a science book at church--or wherever your fellow believers convene!

Maybe, during your next Bible study share the interesting things you learned from a science book. While you're fasting on Ramadan, with no need to prepare large meals for the whole family, use that extra time to read a good science book! Why not have a Ramadan book club where you read and talk about interesting science books?

In fact, it doesn't need be specifically a science book, per se. Although, the challenge to match reading religious material with scientific material still stands, however, there are lots of great books out there that can open your eyes to new perspectives, new ways of thinking.

In the end, it was my personal challenge to read a full science book for every bit of religious writing that I read, whether it be scripture or second rate apologetics, and this science reading, whether it be a university text book or a popular work, was the challenge I gave to myself that eventually eroded my credulousness and gullibility in religious superstitions and replaced it with genuine understanding and knowledge about the world. In fact, after a time I came to realize I was less inclined simply to believe for believing's sake because I had come to desire understanding and genuine knowledge over that of simple belief for belief's sake.

In my mind, being satisfied with your beliefs without understanding them, or why you hold them, is simply not to question them. You cannot grow in who you are as a person because you never question, you never challenge your beliefs, and you never risk being wrong perchance to correct those beliefs should they be mistaken.

My hope here, in issuing this challenge, is to help cultivate a desire to gain real knowledge and understanding over simply being contented with any old belief. It's to cultivate an attitude of learning, reflection, and quality thinking verses taking things on faith.

You may say, but not all religious people are scientifically ignorant! I never said they all were. But I was raised in a highly religious community by religious parents and I bought into it all. In high school I learned how rain, like a liquid prism, fractures the wavelengths of light and splits them into the visible colors of the light spectrum thereby giving us a rainbow. But for years afterward I still thought God had invented the rainbow.

Why was this?

Simple. I took rainbows for granted. I already had a myth which explained the why of rainbows, and so the how just seemed trivial.

It wasn't until later that I learned that asking why a rainbow exists is in many cases the same asking how a rainbow exists. The why and how, at least, are part of the same equation. Not always, but a lot of the time. At the time, I felt I knew the why, because when I was a child I was told that God had made the rainbow, and the myth was convincing. You would be surprised at how many religious people, even adults, believe the rainbow is still a creation of God the Creator.

It was only through my complacency in terms of how rainbows worked, my taking for granted the real science behind the rainbow, and my satisfaction in the answer of why rainbows--because God--that I never took the time to truly understand or appreciate the how of rainbows.

Not until I read Richard Dawkins' masterpiece Unweaving the Rainbow, that is. Then I felt something shift deep down inside me, because that's when I realized the how often supplants the why by showing that there is, often times, no why to begin with. Why assumes a agent, a mover, a designer, a will for there to be this rather than that. How often shows that things just are, often because of random consequences of fixed laws of nature, and these consequences do away with the "why" questions altogether.

My understanding of the world has evolved in such a way. In learning better science, in gaining a better scientific understanding, the why questions evaporate, as most of the why questions prove to be poorly constructed (or rather, malformed versions of how questions, to be precise). Once you know how, well, all I can say is things are much improved--and it is the why that becomes trivial.

Never being satisfied with the little knowledge we have, continually asking both why and how, to strive to seek out the answers wherever they may lead us is how we grow--mind, body, and soul.

I challenge everyone to do that--to grow. But especially challenge religious people who have become too accustomed to, too comfortable with, the beliefs they already hold.

Speaking from experience, as someone who was entrenched deep within his spiritual faith to having moved beyond an absence of faith, I have found that the scientific method, or the spirit of the scientific inquiry and discovery, is one of the best ways ever devised for holding one's beliefs up to scrutiny and seeing whether or not these beliefs align with what is known about reality--or whether they simply align with fancies of the imagination--the hopes and wishes that the beliefs be true--not because they appear to be true--but simply because you desire them to be true.

Feel free to remain open to the rest, of course, but let's not think for a moment that our beliefs are justified simply because we like believing them or because we'd like them to be true in the face of not knowing any better. Let's get comfortable with the unknown, and let's cultivate our desire to fill this void with genuine understanding so that we can calm our fears by growing more knowledgeable and wise.

So, friends, let us strive to be more scientifical and less superstitious.

A short reading list of my favorite science related books:

  • Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins is so beautiful, so moving, so inspirational. 
  • The Serpent and the Rainbow by Wade Davis is exceptional, especially if you want to learn about real zombies! 
  • I loved Brian Greene's The Hidden Reality, because it explains extremely difficult physics in very easy to understand analogies but never feels dumbed down. 
  • I love Lawrence Krauss' book Hiding in the Mirror which critiques and criticizes all of the theories talked about in Brian Greene's book (except that it was written first)!
  • I love Kayt Sukel's Dirty Minds (aka This is Your Brain on Sex), very insightful in how sex and love are interconnected at the level of the brain. 
  • Mary Roache's book on the afterlife Spook, where she shows a lot of the science behind notions of the afterlife such as OBEs and NDEs.
  • Michael Shermers The Believing Brain, which looks at how the brain can be so easily tricked into believing things, such as the aforementioned OBEs, NDEs, etc.
  • Antonio Damasio's Self Comes to Mind, which explains the perception of the self and how it's creates the mind/body dualism which is, essentially, an illusion of the brain.
  • Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, shows how our thinking is broken into two systems, one intuitive and one analytical.
  • Pascal Boyer's Religion Explained, where he demonstrates that religious beliefs all have common origins and so share similar theological templates--and are therefore, in all likelihood, entirely manmade.
  • Paleofantasy by Marlene Zuk where she completely annihilates the notion that the Paleo-diet is at all healthy or beneficial in any way--cuz it's soooo not.
And many, many others.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

On Sale Now! Beyond an Absence of Faith

The anthology I co-edited with Jonathan M.S. Pearce is now available in ebook from Amazon (Kindle) and B&N (Nook), and will be available on Kobo and iTunes in the next couple of weeks.

Check it out if you want to learn about why people from all walks of life sometimes leave God and faith behind.

Here are the links:

For you paperback lovers out there, the paperback will be available within the next two weeks if everything goes smoothly. It will definitely get published this month. Stay tuned for further updates!

Advocatus Atheist

Advocatus Atheist