Monday, August 3, 2009

Paul F. Tompkins on Death and the Afterlife

This guy is one of my favorite comedians, so it was refreshing to hear this.

"Till I woke up one day and realized it was all just shit..."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Age of Unreason

"Where is fancy bred? In the heart, or in the head?"

This quote originally comes from The Merchant of Venice, but I was actually quoting Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I never realized how philosophical that movie is. Where is fancy bred? Is it conspired in one's mind to achieve one's own ends, or does the heart create fantasies for some ultimate purpose?

Maybe it's a bit of both, depending on who's in question.

Look, I get it. We're scared. We're scared of the unknown. We're absolutely terrified of what may lie beyond the curtain of our existence. We exist, and we cannot fathom what it's like not to exist, and the heart doesn't want to believe that when we die, the show is really over. So we cling to a fantasy that makes the reality of death easier to cope with, and gives us hope that there is more after the party is over. And we accept whatever we have to accept to facilitate this fantasy, even if it means outright irrationality. We will literally accept anything that even resembles evidence, however unfounded or weak it may be, and use it to support our faith in this folly.

But that doesn't change what it is. Folly. All the faith in the world isn't going to magically make true what we know can't be. If we still lived in the Bronze Age, that sort of self-delusion might have been excusable. Fantasy was all they had, in a world where no one really knew anything about anything, and the only way to make sense of it at all was to introduce an external, all-powerful, unseen force. Except, it doesn't make sense. Not with what we now know.

And now people are exploiting millenia-old fancies to do terrible, deceitful, horrible things. The world, as we know it, may even come to an end because of a fantasy. And while I understand your reluctance to give up the cherished beliefs that have brought you so much comfort and peace, at some point you have to acknowledge that this solace comes at just too great a price. Now is the time to give up these unfounded fantasies and superstitions, lest they kill us all.

Or maybe we never left the age of unreason. It wouldn't surprise me in the least.

Saturday, May 30, 2009


The Modern Munk has been added to The Atheist Blogroll. You can see the blogroll in my sidebar. The Atheist blogroll is a community building service provided free of charge to Atheist bloggers from around the world. If you would like to join, visit Mojoey at Deep Thoughts for more information.

From the Mouth of an Episcopal Bishop

This is John Shelby Spong, a retired Episcopal New Jersey bishop. It's people like this that give me hope in the potential of religion to be a positive, non-corrupt force.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Burden of Proof

A common misconception among apologists is that those who speak against religion are every bit as "fundamentalist" as most religious extremists. I can understand that. There is a crucial difference, though. The hallmark of every religion, especially fundamentalist ones, is the arrogant certainty of their version of "the truth" even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Atheists, however, shape their view of the universe with evidence. For example, it's highly doubtful that an atheist would say, "I will never believe in God. Nothing you can show me will change my mind." Because most of us know that, if given enough evidence, we would change our minds.

That's the issue. Evidence. Rationality. Proof.

My transition into atheism has gone well, I think. Except I have yet to come out to my parents, and I still have no idea how and when I'm going to do it. And when I do, that's going to be the stumbling block. Proof. My father would argue that God doesn't need to be proven. Or that God can't be proven. God is an infinite god and his ways are much higher than ours, and there's no way we can ever hope to understand him. The mother of all cop-outs, as Dawkins calls it. It's merely an excuse to substitute the God Hypothesis into anything we can't yet explain.

And the Bible? Let's just say, if the universe were the product of some creator, the likelihood that said creator would give a damn about the affairs of man is a major stretch in itself. But that his "word" would be passed onto primitive human beings thousands of years before they even understood germ theory or simple cosmology? Talk about a leap of faith. The more I think about it (and the more bible I read), the harder it is to swallow.

And then, at some point, my parents will pull out Pascal's Wager.

If you're right, and there's no god, nothing will happen when you die. But if you're wrong, and there is a god, you'll have a grim fate awaiting you when you die. Is it worth the risk? What if, when you die, you find yourself face to face with God and he asks you "What happened, son? Why didn't you believe in me?" What are you going to say to him?

As Bertrand Russell put it, I'd have to turn and ask him, "Well, God... why did you take such pains to hide yourself?"

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Swine Flu

Quote by Bill Maher on Real Time with Bill Maher (5/1/09)

New Rule: Since viruses, like swine flu, get to be potentially deadly because they "evolved," if you don't believe in evolution and you get it, you have to pray it away. 

You can't crap all over Darwin and stem cell research and global warming and then come crawling back to science when you want Tamiflu. That's for us sinners. 

A recent Zogby phone poll found that 78% of Americans favor teaching evidence for and against Darwin's theory; 43% also believe the pollster asking the question was in fact a tiny man living inside the phone. 

Now, last week I spoke about Governor Rick Perry of Texas, who mentioned secession as an option for dealing with Obama's big government. But, now with swine flu from Mexico coming at him, suddenly the idea of being all alone on the border isn't quite so romantic, is it? 

Yes, Governor Perry hates two things: government and science. He appointed a creationist to head the Texas Board of Education. Which is shocking. Texas has a board of education?! And now he wants 37,000 courses of antiviral flu medicine. Sorry, Rick, we're all out. But, we do have 37,000 tea bags. Will that help? 

You know, is it too much to ask for a little consistency? When I get sick, you don't see me begging Jimmy Swaggart to put in a word to Jesus about my gout. I go to the doctor like a normal person, and then I sell the left over pills to Rush Limbaugh. 

Folks, there is a lot that isn't known yet about this swine flu, but there is one thing that we do know: the process that brought us the new flu is called evolution. It's not rocket science, but it is science. A virus is Darwinian behavior we can see in real time. We can see that it jumps on a host, procreates until the host is exhausted and then jumps on something new. Like Mel Gibson. 

Or think of it this way: viruses are like the free market. You adapt to survive or you die. I mean, except for Citibank and AIG and Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, General Motors, Bear Stearns... Okay, bad example. They're nothing like the free market. 

And, by the way, intelligence-challenged members of the mainstream media, creationism and Darwinism are not "opposing but equally legitimate theories" to be treated as such. This flu virus didn't make the leap from pigs to humans because God felt like f*cking with Mexicans. It happened because, like I said, viruses adapt to survive. Just like all other organisms on Planet Earth. With the possible exception of the Republican National Committee.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Operation "Save" America?

Anyone who believes Christianity to be a "flawless symbol of morality" and a "perfect moral compass" should check out Operation Save America (formerly Operation Rescue), and particularly its founder and ex-leader Randall Terry. Note: the link I've provided is not an un-biased news source or a leftist review, but the group's own website. Before you get defensive and try to isolate your own personal Christianity as "not like theirs," I'll kindly point out to you that what they "preach" is completely biblical, if ignorant of conflicting passages (Exodus 21:22, Ecclesiastes 6:3). You might wonder if maybe they do some good work, too. Well, click on "Hurricane Relief Effort." Are you greeted with pictures of OSA members helping in the reconstruction effort? Nope. The most important thing they've seen fit to inform us is, "There are NO abortion clinics open in New Orleans!!"

If the group's own website doesn't scare you, a mere Google search should surface a laundry list of violent acts performed by group members, including the murder of prominent abortion doctors, and the bombing of abortion clinics. Randall Terry has said, of doctors who perform abortions, "when I, or people like me, are running the country, you’d better flee, because we will find you, we will try you and we will execute you."

Hmmm... religious fundamentalists performing Scripturally-sound acts of terrorism? Sounds so familiar...