Wednesday, April 6, 2011

I reject your reality, and substitute my own.

The title of this post is a quote I learned about, I'm unsure if it originates somewhere else or if Mr. Savage came up with it on his own, from mythbusters. Incidentially I watched that show long before I realized I was a part of the skeptic community and have enjoyed watching his talks on various subjects ever since.

In my personal life I've hit an interesting crossroads with two of my friends who've been with me for ages. Our friendship has gone up and down as all of them do. The patterns of communication in the relationship have been good at times, and highly strained at others. They both stopped speaking to me after a party I threw at my house and never said why until about a week ago when I was chatting with one of them online. He mentioned that they were, in fact, "extremely pissed off at me" which I has suspected but didn't feel like pursuing actively because I assumed it was some petty shit. Suffice to say that I am confident, speaking with others who were at the party, that it is. In any case he offered to extend me an email detailing all of my alleged transgressions and I said I'd appreciate the communication. Reading over it a line caught my eye that has a lot in common with religion, theistic thinking and a faith based worldview.
The biggest problem with this, is that when we try to point out things that you did that mad us angry/etc, you deny it, blame me/us, then ignore me/us for a lenght of time.
Cutting me off at the pass, as it were. I was frustrated by this line because it precludes any rejecting of his view, any counter argument with at least some responsibility placed on their parties, as well as non communication. This type of position reminds me a lot of faith. The unwillingness to consider an alternate position because it does not conform to a current world-view. Anything other than my total acquiescent to his perceptions of reality can be easily dismissed by confirming his view that I am biased and always do these types of disingenuous arguments, regardless of the validity of the evidence supporting them or the logic behind them. Faith operates in much the same way, having preconceptions and being able to dismiss controverting evidence.
There's no such thing as a real atheist, deep down they're all just mad at god.
Even if the interlocutor works diligently to explain that they lack belief in any deity and explain that their internal view is not one of anger because emotion directed at an entity you do not believe to exist is absurd at best, the position based in faith can easily dismiss this with various statements like "You'll see the light one day" and "Look into your heart and you'll see you had god there all along". Indeed, you can't reason someone out of a position they did not reason themselves into. This lack of skepticism is pervasive in society, particularly when the position in question is a deeply held belief indoctrinated over decades of social reinforcement. However, I find it fascinating that it also manifests itself in petty arguments and the basic evaluation of claims around us. This leads me to think that religion is not the disease so much as the symptom. The disease is gullibility, credulity and an acute deficiency of critical thinking. I will freely admit that it took me longer than I am comfortable with to realize that I was uncritical about many of my own beliefs but that speaks nothing to their veracity. Some of these assumptions were correct, but not knowing the logic behind holding these beliefs is tantamount to holding them as a position of faith and is therefore still invalid.

I posit to you that being willing to follow the evidence wherever it leads regardless of any uncomfortable conclusions is far more humble than the same virtue that so many religious people are purported to be such paragons of.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


The Bugatti Veyron is here until the 17th, which means I'm out 'till then.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Debates and Flamewars

In this exchange, pictured is only the most recent salvo from both sides, a friend of a friend posted a note talking about god being a construct of humanity. To sum him up he said its an origin story, has no evidence, has obvious anthropomorphic characteristics, etc, all of which show that man created god. The first Christian stepped up to defend the faith and promptly got shot down by my friend, the original poster and myself. I thought this conversation had died down on the 28th when lo and behold my facebook shows that the thread has been updated.


Lovely, I'm up for some late night sparring. Unfortunately the opponent proves to be less than a challenge and I don't get the juicy theological debate I was looking for. At least well developed theology has enough complexity wrapped around the main ideas to act as a shield for my first wave of missiles. In this case my first round hit directly but my opponent failed to notice that their ship was sunk.

I recall a video where thunderf00t calls the internet the place where religion comes to die. I loved this video for the social commentary and astute observations on the tone and type of discourse about theology on the internet in contrast with conversations held face to face. 

I very much enjoy the forum of ideas where social pretext is irrelevant and I need not temper my thoughts and beliefs in order to maintain relationships that I value. Here, on the internet, I am free to utilize the vitriolic words that I desire or a more moderate tone should I choose it. The feeling is liberating and I get a sense of satisfaction from conveying my thoughts in language that accurately represents the precepts and ideas behind them. Also, I get to read my own text in a Christopher Hitchens voice in my head and pretend I'm as eloquent and brutal a writer as he.

Red: Me
Black: Interlocutor
"Noob Down"

One of the things that keeps me perservering in logical rational debate and skepticism rather than quickly resorting to more demeaning attacks on the purveyor of these perverse ideas is a message I received a few months ago. I was watching a debate on the Something Awful forums in the Debate & Discussion section about religion where one lord of aspergers and making shit up was fighting off the horde of internet atheists. I messaged one of the more prolific detractors of the central idiot and asked him what it was he hoped to achieve. His response was that debates are more often than not for the onlookers more than they are an attempt to persuade one's opposition. He confessed that his own beliefs had been questioned and changed from reading a debate between two individuals on some other forum long ago rather than being directly confronted with the ideas in the form of an interlocutor. 

This observation is what keeps me even slightly optimistic about debating theists online. I highly doubt that I will convince the person who's belief is strong enough to challenge my critique in the first place; onlookers who view the debate and read it and consider it in the privacy of their own minds may find themselves more swayed by the arguments than those who are feeling as though they are being personally attacked. However, I will grant that there is no small satisfaction in occasionally being an outright asshole to those who hold irrational beliefs and defend them on the internet. I hope, however, that there are readers who whilst abstaining from the dialogue, are participating by becoming more skeptical about their own beliefs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


Gastroenteritis. The flu. The stomach flu. The butt bug. (I made that last one up but I like it.)

Last Wednesday evening I'm minding my own business working out when dinner is ready and so I trundle down to the living room to eat some noodles and watch Alex Trebek be a smug SOB, an enjoyable way to spend a family dinner to be sure. As I'm eating I notice my stomach is cramping which is very unusual but I guess I just worked out so I'll ignore it, right?

Fucking wrong. I will not ignore it because its about to become a festival of fluids both colonic and gastro! It began with me feeling a bit weird after dinner, then natious. Saliva started running like I was one of Pavlov's puppies and I knew my stomach was currently engaged in revving up gears for the green light. The lights flashed yellow as I ran down the hallway and managed to do an 'on bended knee' proposal to the porcelain god. The always gracious porcelain deity accepted my sacrifice with gratitude and a flush as I jumped up, rinsed my mouth out and felt incredibly better.

Euphoria before the storm.

I exclaimed that I felt a lot better, let my Bugatti Veyron know and proceeded to talk to her for a little while when that indescribable yet unmistakable feeling arrived up in my rectum. I imagine little engineers scurrying about my GI tract with panic laden Scottish accents screaming "PURGE IT ALL! PURGE IT ALL LADS ITS THE ONLY WAY!" with grime on their faces and a desperation about them whilst overlords from the Central Nervous System with their black coats and tinted gas masks glance at each other and quietly activate kegel countermeasures.

Well the CNS overlords could only stave off what was to be a full system purge for so long and so it began. For a little over an hour I rendered unto the porcelain god what was owed to the porcelain god and proceeded to not save any fluid for myself. Feeling increasingly terrible I finally had my parents drive me to the ER, all I wanted was some damn fluid and something to make me stop dry heaving. As a side note I think my dad would make a great ambulance driver having recieved Skip Barber Racing School instruction and practice combined with his abilities with a V6 Dodge Caravan. Arriving at the local ED I got triage'd in pretty quick and was apparently the third person admitted that evening for the same thing. I got to wear a nifty mask that kept my face warm and prevented me from spreading my death-germs to anyone else in the area. Note, however, that I did not have my own bathroom and while it did get cleaned once there I fear for any other patient who had to use it after I did.

When my nurse came in to give me an IV after the MD decided I needed some after checking my radial pulse, which in my delirious state I could not find myself but apparently she could, I gave my nurse the greatest gift one can bestow upon them during an IV stick. I laid out my arm with my eyes closed and said "Here's a big easy vein. You're welcome". Maybe she laughed I don't remember, but I do remember getting stuck once and only once. Fuck yeah peripherally located easily visualized large straight veins in the antecubital! To all my future caretakers YOU ARE WELCOME.

I've done some recreational drugs in my partying days. To be quite frank, I've done and loved most of them. I will tell you here and now that not a goddamn thing beats Zofran when you're dryheaving up a storm trying to get a breath in edgewise. I was actively heaving with my eyes closed when I felt the Zofran hit my brain and son of a bitch it was like a brain-gasm coupled with a runner's high and the relief of watching your relatives leave after a long stay at your place all at once. It was glorious, it was heavenly, it was the best.

Next I recieved a cocktail of GI drugs to drink and swallow that coated my GI tract, told my smooth muscle to chill the fuck out and relax, some nifty things to reduce motility, spasms and generally deliquify my insides. These all made me feel a fair amount better, but were nothing compared to the feeling I got looking up at my IV bag. My internal monologue went something like the following:

"Those drips are going really fast.... hey that tubing isn't hooked up to a pump, weird . .. hey that little roll clamp is at the top that means... oh fuck yes this owns". I got myself two liters of super tasty normal saline wide open. It burned my vein something fierce but damn did it feel good to have fluid in me again.

I entered being nearly unable to walk, stand or see straight at 2200 and left walking, slowly but on my own, at 0300 in the the morning. With all the advice from my amazing nurse who had had the same experience years ago that lasted a week, I felt nearly back to normal in a mere four days. I wrote her and that ED crew that night a thank you e-mail praising them for their high level of compassion and care. I recieved an e-mail back saying that it would be passed on to QC, the ED and especially the nurse who took care of me. I hope she smiles when she reads it.

As for me, I took a solid shit today and it was awesome. Its the little things in life.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Click to activate atheist rage mode.


Monday, January 31, 2011

The facile arguments of the converted atheist.

In my travels across these vast internets, I often tread in the murky apologetic waters of christian bloggers. They serve as a continual reminder that:
     1) Christians don't have any new arguments for their claims
     2) They are still going for the emotional appeal as a major way to convince others of their claims
     3) Even sites such as 'Conversion Diary' which claims to be from a former atheist turned christian, the major objections to the veracity of the christian claims are not addressed. Instead, straw men are erected in order to be burned down in a showy yet ultimately useless attempt to discredit the lack of belief.

One such post on the Conversion Diary blog had the following exerpt:

And then, of course, there’s our own sin. I know that in my own life and the lives of people I’ve talked to about this, some common sins that can turn honest doubts into a dangerous road away from God are:
  • Pride – e.g. associating lack of faith with the intelligentsia, therefore thinking you’re more sophisticated and erudite if you don’t believe; feeling like your life is 100% under your control and therefore God is irrelevant to you; refusing to see evidence for God if it doesn’t look like you would expect it to; etc.
  • Laziness - e.g. feeling lured by the idea of having free time on Sunday mornings; not wanting to sacrifice yourself for others; etc.
  • Desire for revenge – e.g. enjoying the idea that it would hurt family / community / church members who have harmed you if you announced that you were no longer a Christian.
  • Greed / Vanity: e.g. becoming wrapped up in the glamor of the pursuit of money, status, career advancement, etc. and feeling like the Christian faith is bogging you down.
…And so on.
Explore Your Doubts But Do So In Peace )

If you go to the comments section of that page you'll notice a comment I made which will be a summary of what I'm posting here.

What Jennifer has done is erect four arguments that have little to do with a lack of belief. She begins by listing four common 'sins' that turn honest doubts into roads away from god. Right off the bat she has disclosed that her analysis of this phenomenon of loss of faith will be derived from a Judeo-Christian Yahweh is real standpoint. Sin is an artificial construction by christians that imposes prohibitions on certain behaviors which may or may not have any bearing on rational thought out morality, they are in effect divine command ethics. Divine command ethics is no ethics at all, its just obedience to whatever authority you prefer to subjugate yourself to. The rest of this paragraph presupposes a deity, and is therefore fails to address the issues with the christian faith system that cause so many to leave.

Pride: Assosciating lack of faith with the intelligentsia is a valid thing, take a look at the statistics on members of the Academy of Sciences in the US and in London and you will find an acute dearth of theists. Other studies show strong correlations between IQ (yes yes, a terrible measurement but an approximation nonetheless) and a lack of belief. The second part of this 'sin' has the cart before the horse. It is not thinking that we are more sophisticated and erudite that makes us nonbelievers, it is being nonbelievers that makes us more sophisticated, more erudite, and more thoughtful and methodical about the claims that christianity purveys to those without skepticism.

Laziness: The claim that a lack of belief stems from wanting more time for yourself and being selfish is fucking childish. If we are going to discuss laziness, and in particular intellectual laziness, it is the abrogation of our human faculties for critical thinking, reason and logic in the theists that displays the most gargantuan amount of slothful and lazy thinking.

Desire for Revenge: This comes back to the idea that many believers cannot accept atheism, and will often claim that we are all 'secret christians'. While this third item does not explicitly say so, it does imply that the person doesn't actually lack belief, but that they are simply stating non-belief for the purpose of inciting anger against perceived or real injustices. I'm unsure how this is a dangerous road away from god because the person in question isn't actually atheistic, they're just saying they are.

An excerpt from further on in the post:
That really DOES seem kind of fantastical!” I grumbled. My mind quickly trotted out some of the old, comfortable atheist arguments about how that kind of story was rooted in ancient people’s ignorance about meteorology, when they thought that heaven literally existed in the clouds, and that it was ultimately a retelling of Greek traditions about Zeus, the God of the Sky.
And there was more! Now, I was on a roll. I did the same analysis for the few other doctrines I had questions about, and by the time the Mass was over I had worked myself into a tizzy in which I had pretty much convinced myself that the entire Faith was false.
But here’s the thing: I had thought of all these questions plenty of other times, when I was in a peaceful state. I had taken the time to do my homework and seek — and actuallylisten to – the Christian explanations of these teachings, and I found them to be solid. Not only that, but I was able to see the big picture: the overall evidence had convinced me that this belief system is reasonable and true. There were no fatal flaws that I could find. Sure, there were a few things that struck me as odd, like the specific details of how Jesus returned to heaven, but, in a peaceful state of mind, I could recognize that this was not a linchpin on which the Faith hinged — plus, I could see that maybe I was just missing something.
 Yes! You're on the right track! . . . No! . . . What?

This poster would have you believe that details are irrelevant, and the 'big picture' is what you need to focus on. Apparently in this excited state she would be unable to truly listen to apologetics. Never does she say what about them she found to be solid, or what this 'overall evidence' is that convinced her that the belief system is reasonable and true (Are you fucking serious? What big picture are you even looking at?) No fatal flaws that she could find means only that she was not looking hard enough, evidenced by her focus on 'big picture' instead of 'actual facts'.

So ultimately, the solution to nagging doubts about your faith is not to pursue them relentlessly such as is suggested in the top of the article, but is actually to whisk them away with Occam's Broom. Just say its not the lynchpin of your faith, just say that maybe its you not the lack of evidence, maybe its your own inability to construe four thousand year old desert goat herder's fables into something resembling coherence that is causing you to doubt these things. But don't worry about it, just take about fifty steps back, blur your vision and that nice fuzzy picture you get is obviously true. Because it feels good.



Taking it this Thursday!

Advice welcome