Forbidden Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

And yes, we uncouth unbelievers truly mean Merry Christmas when we say that. I find it a little bit strange that devout believers think that Atheists are merely polite but probably insincere when they wish someone a Merry Christmas, yet have no such reservation when someone of a different religion – say, a Jew or Hindu – does the same. It should be clear to anyone that

  • well-wishes come from the heart, not mind. They don’t require reason and are thus compatible with all religions.
  • it’s the the believers of a competing faith who are far much more likely to be polite rather than sincere; after all, they know you are stupid enough to believe in the wrong gods. Atheists merely suspect this.

And yet, it’s Atheists who get accused of grinchian behavior: devout believers in the USA passed a completely unnecessary bill that made it legal to say ‘Merry Christmas’. In these instances, they probably were preventive strikes (a religious version of the Bush Doctrine so to say) against the perceived threat that atheist might think about making the phrase ‘Merry Christmas’ illegal in schools – as part of their alleged War on Christmas.

Of course, there are some cringeworthy actions from Atheists around Christmas time – the small-minded annual controversy some misguided Atheists start when they want to ban nativity scenes. To me these scenes are more proof of a Disneyan understanding of Christianity than anything else – most of these scenes look like something straight out of a fairytale ride in an amusement park. Let these guys have their fun, guys! We have bigger fish to fry.

But looking at the world we find that intolerant, petty religious people are on the forefront of the ‘Forbidden Christmas’ business. This year alone, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Brunei and Tajikistan have actually banned celebrating Christmas – with punishments up to five years in jail should you be caught. Their rationale: Christmas is ‘unislamic’. Wow. That’s a surprise! And it only took them a few centuries to figure that out.

But let’s be honest. It just bugs these medieval dimwitted clerics that another religion has a couple of fun days. To fundamental believers, fun is always bad. Plus, they love to be able to tell people what they must not do – that’s pretty much the raison d’être for most organized religions.

So these countries ban Christmas because it allegedly threatens their great, peaceful religion. Which is at least somewhat ironic – given the hundreds of thousands Muslims that are currently fleeing their home to infidel Europe and US, where they can live in the peace and happiness that their devout islamist brethren deny them at home.

So, as a true Atheist please believe me that I sincerely wish you a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Splendid Solstice – wherever you are, and whatever you believe.

Take care, and peace!

Just Pray?

So it’s that time of the year again. And, like most billion-dollar businesses, the church of England would rather be damned than miss this opportunity to sell their brand, and bolster their recent Just Pray campaign. This year, they went about it in the most professional way imaginable: they created an ad to be run in cinemas. I watched the ad, and think it’ll get the job done: it’s 54 seconds long and features the Lord’s Prayer (you know, the one that starts with ‘Our Father in Heaven…’) spoken by different people in different walks of life. The ad is simple, surprisingly dignified, well produced, and quiet – nicely done. It even ends with a jingle of sorts: the hashtag #justpray flashes across the screen.

The ad itself is timed perfectly: for optimal sell-though, it was pushed to the cinemas to be played before the new Star Wars movie that opens in the final days before Christmas – I don’t think there’s a better slot in the year.

Imagine the Church’s surprise (and dismay) when cinema chains Cineworld, Odeon and Vue (together these chains control some 80% of all UK screens) refused to play the ad. Why? Because, according to the Guardian, the chains believe it “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences”.

This is pre-emptive political correctness run amok. First, this ad is so inoffensive that not even the most fundamental, attention-seeking (anti-)theist with a hair-line trigger could be bothered to do more than raise an eyebrow in a vaguely annoyed manner. More to the point, though – what if? To quote Hitchens:

If someone tells me that I’ve hurt their feelings I’m still waiting to hear what their point is.

I’m offended by people wearing white socks. The world doesn’t give a damn. Rightly so.

These cinema chains are run by cowards. They are afraid some religious dolt might take offense (unlikely as it seems), and protest. Against what? It’s not as if anyone has ever accused the advertising industry of being too truthful, so people don’t really expect to take an advert for Gospel (see what I did there?). Plus, this ad would run before Star Wars, for crying out loud! The audience is already primed for some childish fiction.

Also, most cinemas subsidize tickets with ads. Any moviegoer knows that they’d have to sit through a parade of ads before the main event. I’ve seen many ads I don’t like – perhaps even some that somewhat offended me (I dimly recall an ad selling cigarettes as a way to make you sexy). So? I’d rather watch some bad ads than pay more for a ticket. That’s universally understood. Furthermore, all cinema ads are lame – this is guaranteed since there is an oversight committee that must green-light any advert before it is shown.

The Church of England has every right to sell their brand of crazy, and this ad is well within the limits of decency. Once the Cinema Advertising Authority have cleared an ad it would behoove these cinemas to remember the only thing they should tell their advertisers:

“Just Pay”

Not Responsible

A few days ago, a bunch of murderers opened fire on unarmed, peaceful people. Everything pointed to ISIS as the culprit. And indeed, only a few hours later ISIS claimed responsibility for the murders.

Except they didn’t. Taking responsibility means that you are prepared to face the consequences of your actions. It means that you are willing to be held accountable for what you claim to be responsible for. It means that you agree, acknowledge and submit to the judgement of those towards you act.

ISIS does nothing of that.

What they do is murder someone, and then scream ‘look at me!’

I know it’s a small thing, but journalists should be more careful when they parrot loud-mouthed claims from terrorists. They should perhaps put a little bit more thought into what they write. Let’s face it: ISIS wants credit for the bloodshed. In their religiously retarded minds, inflicting death, mayhem and pain on defenseless people is something to boast about.

So, in the future journalist should maybe write something like ‘ISIS claims the bragging rights for these murders’.

Responsible my left foot.

Don’t pray for Paris…

In Paris, a number of heavily armed murderers have again killed an incredible amount of unarmed, unsuspecting and peaceful individuals. As I write this, information is still scarce, but the picture is becoming clear. One of the locations of mass murder is only a stone’s throw from this year’s other horrendous attack on humanity, the bloodbath at Charlie Hebdo’s. Target of the attacks were visitors of a rock concert, and patrons of in-cafés. It’s obvious that this was not a coincidence: the murderers wanted to kill young people.

I feel that I’m not going out on a limb here when I say that with great likelihood, the attackers will turn out to be some youths professing to be faithful adherents to a medieval or bronze age belief. They will say that they committed bloodshed in the name of the religion of peace or perhaps the religion of love.

These people with their moronic belief in repulsive fantasies of paradise sucker themselves into believing that they are shunned by society not because they are antisocial losers, but that they take society’s disgust upon themselves because they fight for a higher cause: a god who obviously is so impotent that he can’t bring order to this world himself. And so they arm themselves with automatic weapons, strap on bombs to make sure they won’t survive the day, and kill indiscriminately in order to be able to screw their promised virgins.

This has to stop. A new hashtag #prayforparis is making the rounds. Hogwash. Stop praying, people. If you pray, you commit the same feeble-minded idiocy that ended with automatic weapons in a crowded concert and on the streets of Paris. Do something. Give to médecins sans frontieres. Go help at the local shelter. In Europe, support the fugitives that are currently trying to leave the war-ravaged Levant. Make this world a better place where hate preachers have no opportunity to turn dumb losers into dumb losers who kill for paradise pussy.

Don’t pray for Paris, help them!

Rose and Night Mare

My neighbors have a small daughter. A few days ago, adorable Liana – who is currently in her ‘pink’ phase and drives her mother insane with it – took me aside to ask me an important question.

You see, she has this pink (of course) toy unicorn she calls Rose. A few days ago she watched an episode of some children’s show, which – surprise! – stars a pink unicorn. In that particular episode she befriended a black abandoned filly called Night Mare (pun probably intended, but completely lost on Liana). At the end of the show Night Mare left to find her parents. Liana was excited, because she thinks she has solved a mystery: Rose and Night Mare are actually sisters, and their parents are the same! Once Night Mare finds out she’ll return to Rose and they’ll be best friends forever!

She now wanted my opinion on this. Actually, she didn’t want my opinion. She wanted my confirmation. Looking into those huge, earnest blue eyes I pondered: Rose was a unicorn, Night Mare a horse. So they probably had at least one different parent, if not both. Would that upset her? Probably. What should I tell her? Should I lie?

Suddenly, I understood. I smiled and asked: “How did you find out?”

Liana happily clapped her hands and launched into a rambling story of unicorns, horses, and dark woods.

Why did I dodge the question? Let’s be honest. We are talking about the lineage of mythical beasts here. If the daughter doesn’t exist, who cares who her parents were? Theorizing about the genealogy of make-belief beings is a supremely childish exercise.

Yup, that’s the same way I think about Jesus.

Too old for this shit?

In Lethal Weapon, actor Danny Glover has a recurring line that has since become pop culture:

I’m too old for this shit.

The line is funny by itself, and works on so many levels. I was reminded of this when a while ago I discussed the concept of age of majority: the age at which a person ceases to be a minor and legally becomes an adult. Where I live, that age is 18 (as in the majority of countries), in the US and some other countries it’s 21. Historically, in Judaism that age was as low as 13 (for males) and 12 (for females). So the age of becoming an adult seems somewhat arbitrary.

While we discussed this, my friend argued that indeed setting a chronological age for maturity is arbitrary, but there is reason behind it. She contends that the reason behind setting a fixed age is one of applied probability (of course she would say that – she’s a mathematician): at age 18 you can expect the vast majority of people to be smart enough to act responsibly; that they are too old for some shit.  

A few days ago I realized that although my fried was probably right in her assessment, the underlying assumption is completely wrong. When we assume that with age people get too old for some shit, we imply that they become smarter as they age. In other words: we assume that there is a minimum age for being smart. Turned around, this could imply that we believe children to be stupid and, more importantly, that there is a maximum age for stupidity. Once a person crosses that age, so we assume, they become smart.

Both are obviously wrong. Stupid children do exist, but they grow up to be stupid adults. Most children aren’t stupid, they are merely young. When they do something stupid, what they do is stupid only from our adult point of view. Smart children do stupid things for smart reasons. Children are relentlessly trying to optimize their surroundings for themselves: they want to get the most pleasure out of the least effort. Their strategies are often stunningly brilliant. The reason most of these fail is because they lack experience and knowledge how the world really works.

But if they are so smart, how come smart children are so gullible? Whenever I tell my godson a tall story, I see his eyes go wide as his chin drops and he believes every word I say. Now, after looking into that little brat’s alive, but coldly calculating eyes, I know for fact that he’s not stupid.

My godson believes what I tell him for a number reasons:

  • He lacks experience. We usually can tell truth from fiction based on what we have encountered ourselves. He hasn’t yet experienced much.
  • Worse: his experience is tainted: in the few short years he’s lived so far, he has encountered many unlikely stories. Fairytales are a big part of childhood. And not to put too fine a point on this: the exceedingly unlikely and silly stories that priests and believers have told him have wreaked havoc with his sense for reality.
  • Evolution has programmed children to believe adults. That way children can pick up important knowledge without having to experience potentially lethal situations themselves.

So when my godson believes an outlandish story it’s not because he’s stupid. It’s because he trusts me. While it’s sometimes fun to tell tall stories to little ones, you always have to remember this: you are lying to them, and when they believe you, it’s not because you are such a good storyteller. Neither because they are stupid. They are smart: they believe you. You are the idiot. You tell them stupid shit. But, admittedly, it is also fun.

So, coming back to the original question we find that there is no minimum age for being smart. Which is good: most of us are smart from the get-go.

Unfortunately, the opposite is also untrue: too old for this shit is something that should, but doesn’t exist. If people became too old to do stupid things when they reached the age of majority, religion wouldn’t have a chance past the age of Kindergarden.

Pro life vs. proliferate

Conservative is, I think, a misleading moniker. It evokes – at least in me – the image of someone who wants to preserve the world, who – at least in principle – places a high value on life. And indeed, many self-described conservatives won’t tire of telling everyone that they want to preserve life, that they are pro life. Of course, when they say pro life, they really mean pro human life – they seldom are vegetarians.

Well, no, actually they mean pro unborn human life. Unborn only – because most conservatives don’t give a damn what happens to the baby once it is born (at least until, as George Carlin pointed out, the baby has grown old enough to become a soldier).

So it seems that few conservatives really have an interest in preserving life. Indeed, to my eyes the opposite is true: a conservative mindset destroys life.

Christian/Jewish conservatives like to point to Genesis 1:28

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it.”

That is their main reason for being pro life. As a result, fundamental believers breed like rabbits. With similarly devastating effect. We already have filled the earth and subdued it. It’s a fact that the single, most effective way to preserve life on Earth is for humans to breed less. Neither reducing carbon emissions nor cleaner energy will save the planet. Only spawning fewer children will. But that is what conservatives are vehemently opposed to. They say they want to preserve life? They don’t. They destroy our habitat by mindlessly keeping their old traditions and way of life.

Conservatives aren’ big on preserving life. They are big on preserving their lifestyle.

Lament

A few days ago, my father died. I am deeply saddened, and miss him dearly. I was with him on his last two days; he knew he was dying. Although most of our conversations were heartbreaking, I will treasure them forever: our talks were loving, honest and sometimes even funny. I’m thankful and happy that we had this last opportunity to be together. There are no words left unspoken between us, no unresolved quarrels, nor secrets that remain untold. For that, too, I’m immensely thankful and happy.

My father was very religious. His funeral service was beautiful and deeply personal. The priest knew my father, and during his eulogy recalled many of the details that made me proud to be his son. As atheist, attending church service is a strange affair: on one hand you get to sit with a group of nice people who talk about being kind and generous. This usually elates and uplifts me. But, every single time, they manage to point out that they act kindly for spectacularly wrong reasons. That part drives me nuts. Kind people, really bad reasoning. I usually get through a religious service by setting my mind adrift, letting it meander through thoughtscapes filled with silly religious arguments that engage in shouting matches with ethical reasoning. It always puts a smile on my face.

Attending my father’s funeral, however, was different. Grief-stricken as I was, I was unable to let my mind wander, unable to dwell on the many things that I loved about him: the involuntary twitch of his left arm when he was about to say something embarrassing; his astonishingly blue eyes that could twinkle like few others, or the way he ducked his head ever so slightly before he made an ironic comment. Instead, my attention was riveted to the priest and his eulogy. At first, when he talked about my father’s life, I was grateful, nodding, and wiped away my tears.

But then, he told us how my father was now in paradise, describing how cherubs were singing around him, and how my father was singing with then, praising God. Make no mistake: the priest was trying to be profoundly kind, to assuage our fears, and to honor my father – and for that I’m thankful.

Yet, unbidden, from the bottom of my grieving heart rose a single thought:

Seriously?

How can people even want to believe something as silly and, well, pedestrian as cherubs singing and praising god? I’ve commented before on how downright boring all descriptions of heaven and paradise are. Even I, atheistic unbeliever that I am, wished that my father was in a better place than that uninspired, drab setting. Theologically, I couldn’t help but noting that the priest was presupposing that my father had gone to heaven. Of course I, too, wish that this was true. But how would the priest know? The priest neither knows what happens in heaven, nor if my father had gone there – yet confidently stated both in the lamest imaginable terms. Hadn’t the immense sadness of my loss weighed me down, I would have laughed out loud.

My father was a great man – at least he was to me. I will always miss him. And yet, today I feel content. Although he’s gone, I’ll remember his kindness and the hand he had in forming me. My sorrow has turned into pride. My friends helped me with that. It is the people dear to me who help me building his memory. It’s their kindness that fills the void left by my father. It’s their unwavering support that lifts my spirits. I’m healing.

Unexpectedly, though, the thought that my father is singing with cherubs also brings a smile to my face: my father was a terrible singer. Just imagine the faces these poor cherubs would try not to make.

So, yeah, I guess religion can help consoling atheists. Just not the way believers say it does.

Thanks, Dad – I miss you.

In loving memory of my father, Ove Franz

Dumb Dynasty

Showing once again how deranged fundamental Christians can become, Duck Dynasty’s resident pea-brain Phil Robertson shared his unhealthy obsession with rape and decapitation. It’s unsettling for Atheists to see that so many devout believers are preoccupied with rape and torture, and Robertson’s latest deliberation is another scary case in point.

At a Prayer Breakfast in Vero Beach, FL, Robertson fantasized:

Two guys break into an atheist’s home. He has a little atheist wife and two little atheist daughters. Two guys break into his home and tie him up in a chair and gag him. And then they take his two daughters in front of him and rape both of them and then shoot them and they take his wife and then decapitate her head off [sic] in front of him. And then they can look at him and say, ‘Isn’t it great that I don’t have to worry about being judged? Isn’t it great that there’s nothing wrong with this? There’s no right or wrong, now is it dude?

Somewhat revealingly, his narrative then changes to the second person, perhaps expressing his own revenge fantasy:

Then you take a sharp knife and take his manhood and hold it in front of him and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be something if this [sic] was something wrong with this? But you’re the one who says there is no God, there’s no right, there’s no wrong, so we’re just having fun.’

This guy needs therapy. And a brain. Both urgently.

First, it seems that Robertson confuses not having a belief with not being able to distinguish between right and wrong – something that even apes can; apes that are obviously not religious. If someone needs to read the bible to find out that murdering people is wrong, they are a danger to society. Robertson seemingly believes that someone who isn’t cowered by the Bible’s threat of eternal consequences would have no restraints and be free to do anything they like. Which, as IS proves, is rape and decapitation. Except that those guys say they believe in essentially the same god as Robertson does. A couple of things

  • It was some 2400 years ago when Greek Philosopher Plato showed in his Euthyphron that Gods and Good are separate concepts: believing in Gods does not make you a good person, nor is belief in Gods a prerequisite to being good.
  • Judging by his remarks, rape and decapitation are what Robertson would do if he wasn’t living under the threat of celestial retribution. The sickening story he tells is much too elaborate to be a first-time thought.
  • It seems that rape and decapitation are the hallmark of religious people, not atheists: the IS does it on a daily basis, and devout Christians just can’t stop talking about them.
  • For this argument to make any sense, Robertson must be deathly afraid of his god. How can you love something that you are terrified of?
  • For reasons eluding sanity Robertson ignores any retribution that society will exact on him should he live out his repulsive fantasies. What does that say about his view of society?

Just for the record – as always, atheists maintain that even though we do not fear eternal retribution, we already do all the raping and decapitation we want – which is none at all.

But there’s a lot more wrong with Robertson’s creepy outburst than a disturbing misunderstanding of fundamental ethics and a sickening fantasy.

First of all, in Robertson’s grisly story, the atheist, the one who allegedly can’t tell right from wrong, is the victim. As a general rule, perpetrators are to be held accountable for their actions, not their victims. It doesn’t matter if a victim can’t tell right from wrong: a person who is incapable of understanding basic ethics still has the same rights to every ethical rule we have. Not understanding your rights are not grounds to withhold them. Newborn babies have rights – even though they don’t (yet) understand them. Not getting this simple concept right requires an astonishing amount of ignorance and is a sign of a disturbing disconnect from reality.

Moreover, perpetrators by definition ignore the consequences their actions would incur, else they wouldn’t be perpetrators. It stands to reason (if there is any reason left in Robertson’s ‘argument’) that he somehow thinks that the murderers and rapists in his story somehow aren’t responsible for their actions; that the atheists somehow brought this about themselves. You know, like the woman wearing a short skirt is asking to be raped, and a guy with dark skin wants to by lynched. That’s one sickening line of reasoning.

What’s most bewildering in Robertson’s horrible sex-and-crime fantasy, though, is that he delivers the most convincing argument against his vile belief himself. Now, I know that following an argument to its conclusion isn’t a believer’s strong suit, but in this case, Robertson really should have gone the extra inch:

You see, Robertson never says anything about the religious background of the two murderers. Let’s assume that before they die, both rapist/murderers are saved – they affirm their belief in Christ. So, according to Robertson’s belief, what will be the result?

  • The atheists (husband, wife and their two little girls) suffer eternal torture in hell – because although they never committed a crime, they didn’t believe in Jesus
  • The rapists and murderers live in paradise because they accepted Jesus in their hearts
  • Robertson believes that this is good and just  

So who can’t distinguish between right and wrong?

Small wonder that the two guys committed their crime – Christianity offers a get-out-of-hell-free card. You can do the most horrible crime and don’t have to face the consequences as long as you believe in Jesus.

Moreover, the double child rape that Robertson fantasizes about squarely points the finger at a serious moral issue that all believers in an allegedly ethical, omnipotent god have to struggle with. As Tracy Harris observed:

If I could stop a person from raping a child, I would. That’s the difference between me and your God.

The fact that God does not step in to prevent the rape of the two children is not a case for an ethical god. It doesn’t disprove His existence, but casts his supposed benevolence in a very dim light. Plus it establishes that Atheists (Traci Harris is an outspoken atheist, and sometimes co-hosts The Atheist Experience, an Austin, TX, based cable TV show) are opposed to rape, even though they don’t believe in Gods. It also shows that she is more opposed to rape than the all-powerful Christian God – who doesn’t raise a finger to prevent it from happening.

In all, Robertson manages to prove just how horribly unjust and unethical his belief is, yet somehow fails to understand just what he is saying. Luckily for him, our society is better than this loon. If it behaved like he thinks we do, they’d have to ‘decapitate his head off’.

What an ass.
 

IS Rouge

IS stands for ‘Islamic State’. But is it really?

Doubtless the majority of followers in IS are muslims. And the official ideology that IS proffers can be traced back to Islam – the same way a sausage can be traced back to a cow.

But I think that referring to IS as an islamic organization misses the point. Who cares what a murderous band of barbarians believe in? Some may be fundamental muslims, others not. What unites them are their deeds, not their beliefs. We have seen this before.

Most of the Khmer Rouge who murdered themselves through Cambodia didn’t really believe in Communism – not by a long shot. The IS is similar in many regards. In fact, IS are the Khmer Rouge of the 21st century: a brutal, genocidal, unscrupulous organization that pretends to follow higher goals while plunging a region into dread, death, and decay.

I contend that few men today have become members of the IS’s fighting force for religious reasons. The more we learn about what they do, the more we come to realize a disconcerting fact: those who join IS do so because the IS promises them three things:

  • that they will be given a weapon to prop up their ego
  • that they can rape any women and feel good about it
  • that they have the cheap excuse of being pious

To many men, this is a surprisingly simple sell: it’s easy to become someone important: hold a gun and pray to god. Then you can screw any woman you want.

That’s way more attractive than what the West can offer: work your ass off and still be poor.

Small wonder that losers from all western societies flock to the killing sands in Syria and Irak.

So is the IS really a religious state?

No.

They are an unchecked manifestation of men’s primal desires: sex and violence.

Religion merely serves as their fig leaf.