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.

Kill Bill

In California, a lawyer has filed the Sodomite Suppression Act, a new bill that will legalize murdering gays

by bullets to the head or by any other convenient method.

Since this is California, the bill will go to the signature-gathering stage because under California law, any bill that you introduce will do so – provided that you cough up the USD 200 fee. So Matt McLaughlin thought this was a wise investment, and paid in full.

Somewhat predictably, this caused people to become flustered; some even went so far as to call for McLaughlin being disbarred.

Now I don’t think that submitting a bill, even if it was created from pure, unadulterated hate and mixed with equal amounts of terminal homophobia such as this one, should result in legal action against whomever submitted it. For a number of reasons:

  • progressing the bill is a phenomenal waste of resources, yes. But don’t kill the messenger. The correct response is to change the process, not to punish the person who uses it correctly. If you can submit such an insane bill, something may be wrong with your legal system.
  • that being said, I think it’s also a sign of a healthy trust in your population that you allow whackjobs to submit whacky proposals. Even if we don’t like what’s proposed, at least all proposals are heard. This is actually a good thing.
  • also, I think freedom of speech is more important than silencing an idiot because we don’t like to hear what they want to say. Let them speak freely. That way we also know whom to avoid in the future.
  • this is a another great example to cite when some believers tell you that religion is good for people

And of course, reading the comment section is as entertaining as visiting the local zoo: asks a (presumably devout Christian) believer:

Is this nutter for real?  Sadly, he gives Christians a bad name.  I think he may need to acquaint himself more closely with the teachings in the Bible which are based around love, not discrimination and hatred

Obviously, that commenter, unlike hate-filled Matt McLaughlin, didn’t read the bible.

Idiot worship

Why are we here? What is our purpose? Atheists usually answer this with ‘happenstance’ and ‘none at all’, respectively. Believers, however, say that this is too sad a proposition for them to accept. They state – with no little emphasis – that we are here because god created us, and that our purpose is to worship Him.

Let us think about this for a while. So God created us (let’s not go into ‘in his own image’, that’s a bit too much). God created this universe with 200 billion galaxies, each containing 300-400 billion solar systems, and then, as his crowning achievement, he created us. So we can worship him.

Really? Why? To me, almost everything is wrong with this picture:

First, the scale is off. Let’s assume I was a God, and created more solar systems than there are grains of sand on earth. Why would I then want to create a single, tiny planet that orbits one of the more obscure, run-off-the-mill suns in an ordinary galaxy, and populate it with a race of ignoramuses? To worship me? They represent not even a  trillionth of a percent of my creation; yet I went to all this length just to have that infinitesimally small fraction worship me? Why isn’t my crown achievement in a setting befitting it’s purpose – The centerpiece of my creation?

If I had the power to create a universe and the desire to be worshipped, there are much, much better ways to go about this: create an immense, beautiful plane (with physics that allow this), populated by trillions of smart, brilliant and fun beings that worship me.

Then, allegedly, if we worship Him in our lives, we’ll get to worship Him even more after our death. Am I the only one who thinks that this not only incredibly boring, but also an incredibly stupid set up? If before and after death is the same, the concept of death is completely irrelevant. Except for those who don’t worship God – those will be tortured in eternity by this allegedly benevolent god. And here, again, the scale is off: the proportions don’t match: an infinite punishment (eternal torture) for a finite transgression (non-worship in lifetime). Wouldn’t that be an infinitely immoral punishment?

Yet that is not the biggest issue I have with a god that requires worship – it is this: doesn’t it strike you as incredibly petty of a supreme being to have the need to be adulated? This god is all-knowing and all-powerful. Compared to gods, humans are less than ants, idiotic motes of dust who can’t even perform a single miracle, or break a single physical law. Pathetic. If I had the urge to be adored, I’d want to be adored by beings of importance, not the bunch of losers that ruin their own planet the same way pigs trash their sty.
I seriously doubt that a God would want to be worshipped, at least not by us. Consider: Programmers have a rare privilege; they can create virtual worlds in the programs they write. They are, in a very small way, gods and creators of the programs they write. Few, if any programmers ever feel the urge to write code that extols the virtue of their coder. It’s no challenge, serves no purpose, and makes them look really pathetic. So why would a God want something that even the lowliest, personality disorder-ridden geek wouldn’t want?

There is no way a god would ever want to be worshipped. At least not by you, me, or any other human.

So why do believers insist that we must worship their god?

Yep, that’s what I think, too.

Red vs Blue

The first time I watched The Matrix, I was stunned. For more than one reason. The story was original (although Carpenter’s Dark Star covered the basic premise when protagonist Doolittle debates Bomb #20) and I especially liked how they realized the two worlds – the way how Neo could bend some rules in the illusionary world: very much like I sometimes do in a lucid dream.

One scene in particular struck a chord and has stayed with me since then; when Morpheus offers Neo two pills: a red and a blue. Take the blue pill, and stay in your world of comfort. Take the red, and see how far down the rabbit hole goes.

I always liken my becoming an Atheist to taking the red pill. Far less heroic than Neo’s, my journey through a world that is dictated by edicts from imaginary beings is as strange, frightening and surreal as anything that Lewis Carroll or MC Escher could imagine.

It’s only after you clue in to the fact that there are no gods that you realize almost everything that people do somehow relates to beings that don’t exist:

  • the year is 2015 – counted from the alleged birth of Jesus, an important figure in the Christian mythology
  • where I live, all shops are closed on Sundays; many other countries have similar restrictions on other week days, e.g. Saturdays or Fridays. It’s because a God allegedly mandates that no one should work on the holy day.
  • the names for most days of the week are named after Gods: Monday (day of the Moon, not a religious but astrological reference), Tuesday (Týr’s day, the Nordic god of glory in combat), Wednesday (Woden’s day, the Germanic version of the roman god Mercury), Thursday (Thor’s day, the God of thunder and recent Avenger super hero), Friday (Frigg’s or Freia’s day, Nordic goddesses), Saturday (Saturn’s day, a roman God), Sunday (day of the Sun, not a religious but astrological reference).
  • much of the food I buy is certified to comply with various silly religious dietary rules: most likely Islam (Halal), Jewish (Kosher) and Hindu. Most US-american schools serve only fish on Fridays (a Christian rule)
  • few people know this, but many magazines and newspapers you read or games you play are also certified to comply with various religious rules, usually Abrahamic.
  • the economically most important period in the year revolves around a bizzare Christian ritual called ‘Christmas’ that cobbles together a multitude of pagan beliefs into a major event where people spend up to 25% of their year’s allowances and some companies generate more than 40% of their annual revenue.
  • our language itself is riddled with innumerable idioms from religious belief: eye for an eye, bite the dust, forbidden fruit, scapegoat, reap the whirlwind, fly in the ointment, …

Silly beliefs have, and have had, incredibly strong influence on our everyday lives. It’s from this perspective that I can sometimes relate to Cypher’s desire to go back to the illusion and forget that the real world exists. It’s so much easier to believe simple stories and be told what to do.

And also boring.

Known Unknowns

One thing surely is funny. When you meet a believer, they always profess to know exactly what their god wants. They not only are absolutely sure that god exists, they also know what and how he or she thinks. By strange coincidence, what god wants is also always exactly what the believer wants. The believer can tell you this on good authority because, having a personal relationship with god, they have gained insight into how god thinks.

But when you ask a reasonable, perhaps even obvious, question, the narrative changes dramatically. Ask, for example, why so many children starve today, and god suddenly becomes mysterious. At that point, the believer doesn’t know what god wants or why he does it, and flatly states that no-one could ever know.

Yet that changes nothing.

You still should do what the believer wants you to do

Pagan Robertson

Scotsman, priest, and designated head of the Free Church of Scotland, Reverend David Robertson, like so many of his profession, ventured out onto the thin ice of reasoning, only to promptly slip and slide.

Worried about the children at school, the good Minister contends that the SSS (Scottish Secular Society, an acronym that can be delightfully enunciated like the hiss of a serpent, no doubt) wants nothing less than

impose an atheistic philosophy on children

Well, perhaps. Others may say that they merely want to remove hate-filled ideology from classrooms, but let’s not quibble over semantics. After breaking through the ice of reason, Robertson is delving deep into the abyss of stupidity:

Could we not have a more tolerant and Christian view of science? And could we not encourage children to think about the issues for themselves, rather than just tell them what to think?

Wow. Don’t let this guy near a school board. There is only one view of science, and religion does not have a say in this. There’s no Hindu Science, nor Buddhistic Science. Facts aren’t subject to religion. Nobody, neither child nor adult, gets to decide what a fact is. Facts aren’t democratic. Didn’t you watch Penn & Teller’s routine [at the 10:25 mark] where they tried to decide the sex of a white rabbit by voting? No matter what they voted, that vote did not change the rodent’s sex. It’s the addled-minded condition that priesthood and too much burned incense induce that makes you believe that you can impose facts. Everyone else knows that facts are not up to vote nor personal decision.

Worse, Robertson – obviously not a man to read much outside the bible – also overlooks the problem of practicability. If we really were to teach creation myth alongside science, the year would not be long enough to teach the 1200 historic creation myths known in Eurasia alone – not to mention those from Australia nor the Americas. So I suspect that Robertson doesn’t really want children to choose from a broad range of myths. He wants their intellect to be drowned in the Abrahamic blood-fest called ‘Old Testament’.

Robertson indignantly continues:

It is desperately disappointing that secularists believe the key danger in 21st-century Scotland is apparently creationism, not the 20% of Scottish children who live in poverty, nor the many thousands who have faced the ravages of sexual abuse and drug addiction.

Perhaps. But why is the Reverend wasting his time on this issue rather than helping the impoverished 20 percent? His ways, it seems, are as mysterious as those of his god. And please note that I refrained from an all too obvious snark involving the church and child abuse… ah, bugger it.

Robertson’s distress and disappointment may also have been heightened by a speech the day before from his Vatican competitor, astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno, who went on record likening creationism to ‘a kind of paganism’.

Ouch.

Education Kills God!

From the Department Of Bloody Obvious comes another confirmation of what even Martin Luther knew in 1520: the more you know, the less silly superstitions you have. This was also indicated by a study a few months ago which concluded that better internet access leads to less religiosity (the headlines then screamed ‘The Internet Kills God!!!!!’), and is now (unsurprisingly) confirmed by a study conducted by the Louisiana State University:

The study finds that more education, in the form of more years of formal schooling, has “consistently large negative effects” on an individual’s likelihood of attending religious services, as well as their likelihood of praying frequently. More schooling also makes people less likely to harbor superstitious beliefs, like belief in the protective power of lucky charms (rabbit’s feet, four leaf clovers), or a tendency to take horoscopes seriously.

Strange phrasing (really? not attending a superstitious gathering is a large negative effect?) and questionable differentiation (luck charms are superstitious, but belief in gods isn’t?) aside, we see once again what motivates Boko Haram, IS and Taliban, and what Luther wrote about in the middle ages:

Reason is […] the greatest enemy that faith has

It’s only a matter of time until we can openly say what is blatantly obvious: smart, educated people don’t believe in gods, fairies or magic. Stupid people serve their priesthood.