Monday, November 17, 2014

Death and Dying

The Christian faithful believe in heaven. They, and all of us, miss people and are sad when they die. I certainly still miss my mom and expect I will until I too leave this mortal coil.

But then if you go to heaven do you also miss the living? You can’t talk with them. No, really, you can’t. You can’t comfort them when they’re sad or hurt. We can watch them they say. The dead ‘look down from above’. Does that mean the dead get to watch the bus coming around the corner that the live loved one does not see and then not be able warn them? Hmm….maybe that’s hell and I need to start over!

I guess I don’t see the bonus of being out of touch with a loved one and being alive or being out of touch and being the dead one.

Of course when both are dead everything is hunky dory. . . for eternity. . .

Do days pass?
Do we together watch (watch real light rays?) friends and family die.
Eternity? Really? Everyone would get annoying eventually! But even if you got a break from them. . . it’s ETERNITY!  Eternity - (we were on a break!) = Eternity!

I don’t think any form of heaven could work if it included the sense of time. Only an eternal bliss state, frozen in time, would do it. Is that so great? Can you even be in any ‘state’ if time doesn’t pass for you to reflect upon the very state you are in and reflection requires time to pass while you reflect?

Wow this is g r e a t!
It’s still great!
how long is this ride?
it is great though. . . really great.
can I get off now?

And then there’s the problem of eternity itself. Does time itself go on forever. It started (probably) with the big bang. Does it have an end too? The big crunch? OK, heaven ride is over (finally) everyone off. Watch your step.

If time passes in heaven the greatest thing in the world would become boring and passé. Except, well, you know, or maybe playing the drums. And if it’s the drums will my dad be telling me to give it a FUCKING REST!

Sunday, October 26, 2014


One of the things that makes magical thinking, such as any religion,work is that the realm itself from which the magic comes is unreachable. It is by its very nature ‘supernatural’. The faithful walk a fine line here. The magical world is real for them and yet we cannot fully fathom it. On the other hand the magical world does intercede on occasion and we can request that the magical world enter our world to help us or give us comfort which as we all know may or may not actually work. This is all very convenient. When something good happens FOR YOU you might happily ascribe that goodness to a higher being who cares for you even though it might also be explained as what happened in the natural course of events. And, when something bad happens you get to say that exactly how the magical world works is unknown and unknowable so it only seems really bad without seeing or being able to see the entire picture or that you are being punished by a harsh (yet all loving) being. I guess similar to the really big picture into which the holocaust fits in nicely. This is all very similar to the gods who lived on Mount Olympus who only occasionally decided to interact with mortals for good or evil or the occasional impregnation of a virgin.

Surprisingly there is a seemingly similar motif in physics.

As we venture downward to the microscopic to the atomic level and beyond we reach a state where the actual ‘view’ is by its nature unattainable. It’s not that our machines are not clever enough it is that seeing itself does not work with the ultra small. The simplistic version is that to see something you have to bounce light (photons) off of it but that very process disturbs or ruins that which you were attempting to see. That’s the uncertainty principle (I think). In even simpler terms think about trying to detect something with waves. Water waves come to mind. At a beach you could detect the changes in depth using the behavior of the water waves. You could detect the location of boats and wharfs by the reflection of water waves. Maybe even a swimmer. But could you detect the existence of a 1” diameter pole (like the ones that hold up Martin houses) sticking out of the water by the behavior of the waves? Probably not. The pole is too small compared to the size of the waves (wavelength). With smaller waves you might though and so it is with light and seeing. The smaller the thing you’re trying to see the shorter wavelength light you need to see it. But, darn it, when I try to use smaller and smaller wavelength light I am automatically using photons of higher energy which disturb the object I’m trying to see even more.

So, by its very nature, the sub-atomic world is un-seeable. You might be tempted to think this is just like a magical world then where there is a built in stop-gap to prevent you from knowing all.

But no. The difference is between un-seeable and un-knowable. I venture to say that at this time we know just about everything there is to know about the atom and the nucleus and we’re never going to ‘see’ it. Knowing means to be able to predict the behavior of a system given initial conditions. We have no holes in our knowledge about the atom and nucleus at this time. We have models of behavior and at times it helps to actually draw those models such as the classic atom with a nucleus and electrons orbiting. We’ve never actually seen that and we’re not going to! But the atom behaves like that and when I use that image (mathematically) to make predictions I get verifiable results that agree with my model.

And so it goes adding bells and whistles to the model as more and more hypotheses and experiments come in and our KNOWLEDGE of this un-seeable world increases.

There is nothing you can do to increase your knowledge of a magical world by its very nature - a nature that has been made up in the minds of humans. It must be unfathomable or it wouldn’t be magical.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Does God Exist?

It doesn’t really matter. For one thing, you can never prove the existence of a magical entity nor can you disprove the existence. (You can’t disprove the non-existence either!) What’s more important than questions of existence or non-existence is the fact that God does exist in the minds of about 98% of the world’s population in one of her many manifestations. To argue the case is pointless. The believers will never be convinced that their god does not really exist nor can the believers ever supply the needed evidence that the few rational people among us require to accept a rather provocative world view.

What is needed, I think, is just an acceptance. I don’t care that someone chooses to believe in magical people. I’m surprised that they make up a giant majority but such are the times in which I live. They in turn shouldn’t care that I don’t share their belief. Certainly their world view does not hinge on little old me. Or, at least it shouldn’t or how strong is that belief?

In America we have freedom of religion. We really do! You can damn well worship just about any way you want and I’m with that. The much bigger question then to the faithful is, why isn’t that enough? Why?

Why must you push for religion in school?
Why must you push for the 10 commandments to be posted on the court house?
Why must you jam a ‘creation museum’ down our throats?
Why must you invade peoples bedrooms because due to some vague references in a 5000 year old document?
Why must you single out YOUR magical belief as the ONLY proper magical belief.
Why must you equate belief in magic with high moral standing?

Why isn’t what you already have enough?

When an Atheist says, I’m not comfortable with your bringing religion into the (courthouse, classroom, board room. . .) they are not attacking your faith. Frankly they don’t care about your faith at all. They’re just asking you to keep things in there proper place. No one is asking you to NOT believe and I’m FOR that!

As an Atheist I do fear for the lose of reason that the over doing of religion represents. The only thing that stands between us and chaos is reason. Prayer and faith may give an individual solace in hard times but it’s no way to run a country. You can’t pray new roads. You can’t pray your way to the moon or Mars. You can’t learn chemistry or physics by hoping for it. You can’t pray the climate change away. It takes measured reason and real discourse to solve real problems.

So keep your faith (baby). Pray away because you have the freedom to do so. But please don’t take that extra step in thinking that your way is the high way and reason be damned.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Being Insulted

A group of Sufi Muslims took to Chicago’s streets Sunday to say an emblem used by Italian perfume-maker Roberto Cavalli smacks of insensitivity and is an affront to their faith.

Oh really. So you have some sort of higher ground because of your 'faith'. Your belief in magical people the the power of prayer gives you a right to be affronted.

How about this. . .

I'm affronted by your dragging 5000 year old behaviors and thinking into the 21st century. I'm saddened by the constant grumbling of one religion or another thinking that people using science and reason are attacking their magical position. Look, if your world view can be shattered by logic, observation, and reason maybe don't be so insulted...just drop the religion! It's taking us nowhere. 

Look, whether or not the perfume maker uses some symbol or not, your day to day life does. not. change. If you believe in magical people or not . . . nothing in our reality actually changes.

Could we please just enjoy freedom of religion and work on some real problems - together?

Saturday, May 17, 2014

LIfe is Cheaper Than Ever in the Sudan

The Sudanese 'government' has sentenced a 8 month pregnant woman to death for being a christian but really being a muslim. Or maybe it's the other way around. In any case, what she did is against Sharia  "law"  (Hey, I got a sister named Sharia) and she must be put to death. (The actual crime is called apostasy)

NOTHING but religion can get people to be this crazy to think that this is somehow 'right'. NOTHING. I have a good friend who is a multiple black belt and he'll tell you that he'd much rather be attacked by a murderer, drug dealer, assassin then a religious zealot. There is no good way to protect yourself from c r a z y.

But this story has an even more depressing twist. Here's a quote from the woman's husband:

"I'm so frustrated. I don't know what to do," said her husband, Daniel Wani. "I'm just praying."

Praying? Praying? YOU DUMB FUCK THAT'S THE REASON YOU'RE IN THIS SHIT!   Praying for help is like being in hock up to you eryeballs with a loan shark and asking to borrow another hundred bucks! Although, in his defense they'd probably be in way MORE trouble if they happened to be atheists*. Maybe praying is a good way to keep his own ass out of the fire. Just be sure to pray to the right pretend/dead person.

We're doomed.

*Actually, in fact, we're all atheists and when we die we don't get to know that.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

The End of People

I don’t think we’re going to make it. Of course that only means that we’ll join the ranks of the other extinct creatures which make up about 99.9% of all the creatures that ever existed.

And good riddance.

We won’t make it for the same reason that our brethren didn’t make it. Creatures go extinct because they cannot adapt to changes and out they go. Now you’d think with our extremely large craniums we’d be able to see change coming and get a leg (or flipper) up on adaptation. Like, OH . . . , noticing climate change.

But no . .

No, we have to listen to people who deny global warming, deny evolution, deny that science actually works. Deny the idea that wiping out other species (whales, Bambi) might come back to bite us in our collective asses. Deny, deny, deny. We’re doomed by our own stubbornness to stick to our guns and especially those who actually own those sticky guns. We’re doomed by our continued marching to tunes that were written 5000 years ago. Doomed by a cave-man-like belief in magic and miracles.

We have every capacity and enough cleverness to go on and on as a species but we ain’t going to make it. That will be sad but ….

No one will be around to actually be sad*.

The planet will recover from our brief invasion and be much happier down the road.

*How weird would it be to be the last human and KNOW it?!

Friday, April 04, 2014

Today’s Three Questions for Theists - April 4, 2014

Well, I see that Easter is rapidly approaching (the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox). Easter is really THE important date in Christianity. It is the resurrection and the promise of a little taste of that for us that is the cornerstone of the whole  deal.

For example:
Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:54...text me!)

Ok then.

Now being a piece of scripture it has to be ‘interpreted’. (mysterious ways and all that you know).

Well, we can’t really eat Jesus’ flesh...he’s either a pretend person or long dead. But, wait, actually we CAN because the priest has the magical powers to turn something actually worse than my mom’s home made bread into the flesh of a dead jew from 2014+ years ago. Same with the blood. Priest turns some Thunderbird* into blood which can only be an improvement. So I go to communion and eat the flesh of the savior and drink his blood (this would make an awesome movie!) and NOW I too will be raised up . . .oh wait a minute…’on the last day’.

Hmmmm...MY last day? That would be awesome. Like getting the short TSA line at the airport. OR, does it mean the last day of all days? Will I know I’m waiting because that’s going to be awhile. OR is the ‘last day’ the day of the promised second coming? Well, in any case being raised up is better than being let down I always say (unless you’re calling a guy with a pair of bullets in the hole).

Now then, what of the converse?  If I do not eat of thy flesh nor drink thy blood what then? (Cheeze, now you got ME talking that way!) Banished to the neither world for eternity? I just can’t see a creator of the entire freaking universe really caring what I have for brunch on a Sunday.

Are there three questions in there? You decide. I’ll sit back and wait to not be answered.

* Old Thunderbird wine ad:

What’s the word?
What’s the price?
30 twice
What’s the action?

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Today’s Three Questions for Theists

1. Is God made of atoms?

2. If God is not made of atoms of what is he made?

3. If you think that there is some other layer of reality where there are real things (spirits, dead people, saints, angels, etc) that are not made of atoms what examples or evidence can you give?

Monday, March 31, 2014

Washed Away

Where do the faithful go with stuff like this:

You go to the magical ceremony to wash away your sins and you get a bonus! YOU get washed away as well and apparently suffer a scary and horrible death.

God has one sick sense of humor!

No more words necessary. The irony is pungent!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Evolution Deniers

During the methodical march of science since the time of Galileo we’ve simply followed the evidence. We throw out things that don’t fit the data and revise our new ideas and test them with more observations and experiments. The only agenda in science is the search for truth...testable truth. Ego and politics go on in meetings and behind the scenes to be sure. But the only thing that wins the day is truth...testable truth.

And in that time we’ve established the laws of mechanics, electricity and magnetism, plate tectonics, DNA, the entire periodic table, quantum mechanics, special and general relativity, the big bang, vaccines, fundamental particles that build all atoms, fission and fusion which powers the sun. Oh, and we went to the moon.

This is of course a partial list but within all of that there is not a murmur from the religious right (ok maybe the Big Bang).  But somehow they feel that the basic procedure that is the underpinnings of all science and has led to the list of discoveries above is somehow faulty when it comes to evolution. Evolution - probably the most successful theory, the most unifying theory in all of science. It explains e v e r y t h i n g we see in the living world.

Do they not have any perspective. Can they not take one tiny step back and think, “Maybe I need to re-evaluate MY position”. It would be laughable that they cannot except for the fact that they prey on the ignorance of their fellow citizens and get themselves elected to school boards, congress, county boards, etc.

I’m not asking them to drop their faith. But maybe just an adjustment. Did people of faith not adjust when it was shown that it was the sun and not the earth that was the center of the solar system? Did they not adjust when the mind bending distances involved in the universe were revealed and thereby showing that heaven is probably not up in the clouds. The clouds - the unreachable place where the gods must live.

You learn pretty early on that to dig in your heels and ignore the facts no matter what is never a good course. It doesn’t take you anywhere and it sure as hell doesn’t take US as a civilization anywhere. Being stubborn is not all together bad. Being skeptical is not bad either. It’s a requirement of a reasonable society. But to not listen to reason NO MATTER WHAT, to beat your drum just because you like your drum is to simply demonstrate your own ignorance. The fact that you have have sizable numbers of people with you means nothing but it is depressing.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Go For It

Here's the experiment. We'll build two communities. One will be based on logic and polite interaction (so no FOX 'news') and what's best for the most people with individual freedoms paramont without interferring with any other persons freedom. Golden Rule is THE rule. Gross incidents of not playing nice (murder, robbery, etc) gets you extra education until you're ready to rejoin the group.

The other is faith based. They get to pray to make their cars work and pray for their team to win etc. Of course there will be the reasonable among them and that's fine. I'm looking to make a divide between the faithful and athiests and see who can better do the best in education, productivity, fairness, etc.

Of course this is the same as the end of Atlas Shrugged (last chapter = 400 pages? :)) where all the competent people quit and formed their own colony while the rest of the world descends into anarchy.

I'm guessing that the two communities would fare about at well. There would be competent clever people in the faithful group. But it's a tie! The point being that you don't get anything extra out of this world by imagining another magical world overlaid  on top of it. You only get to have a smuggness that you believe you have a leg up on infinity. But you don't.

It's still just us. It's your noisy neighbor, the guy with the stuck car, the guy ripping off Walmart (go dude!), dog people, art people, music people, teachers, the hot dog salesman, the checkout lady at Aldi's. . .. It's still just us and its still just us riding this rock round and round the sun. Imagine what you will. Kill who you will for your pretend friend. Won't change the FACTS one iota.

And when you've completely fucked up this little rock for your pretend friend you can scream at the top of your lungs into the black night for some fucking JUSTICE from the invisibles. The rock keeps rolling and no one hears you and the people you could have helped are already gone.