Monday, 14 July 2014

Carnival of the Godless

I love holidays. But I hate the word "holiday". The reason must be obvious; I hate the origin of the word itself, "holy day". An origin dripping with the very meaning that this carnival stands against; god, religion, superstition, etc.. So, I love celebrations, I enjoy the seasonal distinction associated with celebrations, and I have strong emotional ties to them derived from fond childhood memories. But, I still hate perpetuating their religious origins. It's a nasty paradox for atheist. In preparing for this addition of COTG I was faced head on by this paradox, and I pondered what I should do. Do I follow with tradition, and perpetuate a holiday that originated from pagan religious ceremonies, and was later subverted by Christianity, or do I ignore societal expectations and dismiss with the Halloween trappings and focus simply on the content that has been submitted?

Phil for Humanity suggests that we should not only condemn out-dated religious beliefs, but we should also refrain from bestowing upon those that hold those beliefs a respected place in society. And, that instead, we should Support New Atheism a more stringent form of atheism. I'll interpret this as one vote against Halloween tradition. Daylight Atheism holds a similar view, and extends the thought to advocate repealing tax exempt status for churches in Tax the Churches.

My support of a Halloween decor would be a purely secular one, would that make it OK? If I don't attach any spiritual meaning to it, does that make it acceptable? Salto Sobrius doesn't know what spiritual means, and suggests that nobody else really does either. Are You Spiritual? So, while Martin apparently can't recommend the use of the word spiritual, he does recommend the most recent Roy Zimmerman album. Over at 10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish, olly suggests that "secular spirituality" can be expressed through creativity and music, and begins A ‘Rush’ of Emotion from Sean Prophet with a reference to Black Sun Journal's Rush 'Saved' Me (And My Kids). Olly thought it was worth a link, and I thought so too.

Along a similar vein, Reason and Rhyme serves up an article by Dan Barker discussing the agnosticism of Irving Berlin: Patriotism Was His Religion. "Christmas, for Irving Berlin, was not a religious holiday: it was an American holiday. [...] The words to 'White Christmas' are not about the birth of a savior-god: they are about winter, the real reason for the season." All in all, I'll take that as two votes for a secular interpretation Halloween as a seasonal celebration.

However, I wouldn't want to force anyone into a Halloween celebration that makes them uncomfortable, or makes them feel unwelcome. Barry of Staring at Empty Pages discusses a similar dilemma in The Dinner Game.

Perhaps a better way to approach the holiday is to consider real horrors as opposed to imaginary ones. Rather than discussing ghosts, or demons, or other make believe maladies, we should instead consider the very real nightmares that our society has created.

Whether you agree with the Iraq war or not, it would be hard to argue that what's happening there is not horrible. Westminster Wisdom discusses one aspect of the very real problems applying religious belief to government can create in Faith in Politics, and references Tony Blair's purported faith based decisions regarding the conflict. Part of Blair's justifications for the conflict, were assertions that he had knowledge that was both secret and or "private". Richard of Philosophy, et cetera isn't buying it. In Experience and Testimony he expresses his dissatisfaction with the whole notion of "private evidence".
For those that have been slow to enter the political fray, or may still be trying to get off the fence this election season, Stephan of Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds offers up several good reasons why he won't be elected to public office anytime soon in a Personal Attack Ad….Against Myself!

Intentional misinformation is a horror often perpetrated by religion. Hell's Handmaiden offers one example in Evolution Isn't Theology, while The Greenbelt offers another in Enter the Ark. Mojoey of Deep Thoughts exhibits another type of horror, that of morality of personal convenience, in Abandoned Meat.

So where does this leave us? We can't escape our history, as a society we are a fabric woven from the actions of those that came before us. We can only hope to change our future. The fabric of my past enjoys the Halloween holiday. So, (obviously) in deference to the past, I have decided to use the traditional Halloween color theme for this post. But, out of a desire to see a future decoyed of religion and religious influence, I am leaving out the ghosts, goblins, and witches. They don't exist, so why should we honor them. I do think pumpkins are OK, because they evoke the flavor of the season.
If then we can only change the future what do we have to look forward to? I'm left with two different takes on our possible future: The Skwib takes a more pessimistic (though very literary) outlook in The Empty Arches, while Wad's Place offers a more opportunistic outlook in I Bring News.

Ultimately, it may not matter if, as suggested over at Avant News, it Turns Out God Doesn't Particularly Care About Humans.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Skeptic Rant

Short Answer: In and out of a prescription drug stupor, that makes me feel worse than the condition it is intended to treat, while simultaneously trying to get through one of my busiest work cycles of the year.

Long Answer: Oh, who really cares. The point is, I've been dealing with a bunch of medical crap and now I'm back. I've talked about this with so many people (doctors, co-workers, friends, family) that I'm sick of it. I'm not dying anytime soon, but I wasn't so sure for a while there. I have allot of personal experience now with considering my death, and plan to synthesize that into a couple of posts.

I've missed allot during my absence so I thought I would take a quick moment to catch up on some house keeping.

The 46th Skeptics' Circle is up at Left Brain / Right Brain.

Surprisingly, during my absence I got a few comments. I got a bizarre unintelligible loony rant from somebody calling themselves Ivor Manuel Prophet. Who apparently is still stuck on the whole 911 "act of god" thing. I also got a couple comments worth responding to, and I will try to do that over the next couple of days.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Criticism of government Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan

Santelli drew attention for his remarks made on February 19, 2009, about the Homeowners Affordability and Stability Plan. While broadcasting from the floor of the CME Group during pre-market hours, Santelli accused the government of "promoting bad behavior", and raised the possibility of a "Chicago Tea Party". He also suggested that individuals who knowingly purchased high-risk mortgages (and faced impending foreclosure as a consequence) were "losers".

Scattered cheers, whistles, and applause could be heard from some of the personnel around the floor. Some subsequent protests in American cities, dubbed Tea Parties, may have drawn inspiration from Santelli's outburst, but were not directly associated with him. During a White House press briefing, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs was asked about Santelli's comments and expressed skepticism over whether Santelli had actually read the government's plan.

Santelli later clarified his comments and addressed concerns that the event was staged. reported that some compared Santelli to fictional reporter Howard Beale, the protagonist of the 1976 satirical film Network. Santelli has said, "I think that this tea party phenomenon is steeped in American culture and steeped in the American notion to get involved with what’s going on with our government. I haven’t organized. I’m going to have to work to pay my taxes, so I’m not going to be able to get away today. But, I have to tell you — I’m pretty proud of this."

On April 20, 2009, Santelli participated as a panel member in an Economic Leadership Forum hosted by the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation at Texas A&M University.

Thursday, 30 November 2006

I'll Never Be Angry About Relativism

Last week I read a post entitled "Angry Atheists" by Avi Shafran, it got me thinking about the atheist morality question again. I'm not interested in trying to deconstruct all of what he wrote. Most of it is just meaningless self affirmation. However, he does make a claim that I felt is worth a reply, "...there was no credible counter-argument whatsoever, no claim that right and wrong can somehow have inherent meaning without recourse to Something Higher than ourselves. That, too, was telling - of the truth that atheism, in the end, cannot assign any more meaning to right and wrong than to right and left."

My guess is that most of the more prolific atheists simple ignored Avi's first post on this subject, and that he neglected to do any research on the topic of atheist morality. Otherwise, he would have found that there is a plethora of opinions out there on how one can derive a moral viewpoint without God. In general, these morality systems seem to fall into one of three very broad groups of thought; morality derived from God (or some other place outside of human existence), morality derived from individual rights (absolute individualism), or morality derived from arbitrary social constructs (moral relativism).

The more difficult concept for many people to swallow is that of moral relativism. Even amongst those that claim to support moral relativism, there are certain things that most people consider absolutely wrong, such as murder or rape. As with Avi, when confronted with the notion of complete moral relativism, most people exclaim "but, without some moral absolute, then there's no real morality and anyone can do anything!"

Yes. So what?

Morality is relative. Get over it.

There are no absolutes, there is no "purpose" to life. If that means your life is meaningless, that's your fault not mine. The meaning in my life is my family, my career, and a quest for knowledge. My life is affirmed every time I hold my daughter, kiss my wife, achieve at work, or observe the awesome spectacle of existence. I don't need anything else. Why do you?

According to Avi, atheists are intellectually cornered into "...a place where the very concepts of morality and ethics are rendered meaningless, a worldview in which a thieving, philandering, serial murdering cannibal is no less commendable a member of the species than a selfless, hard-working philanthropist. (In fact, from an evolutionist perspective, the former is probably better positioned to impart advantages to the gene pool.) It is a thought so discomfiting to an honest atheist that all it can yield him is fury."

From a tit-for-tat approach to this debate, I could point out that the Old Testament is filled with examples of thieving philandering serial murderers who earn not just forgiveness, but rewards from God, and that therefore this line of argument is perhaps a bad choice for the theist. But, that would just feed into his point about angry atheists. So, instead I'll point out that I'm definitely not furious over this issue. In fact I find it quite exciting. We, all of us, are in control of the world we live in. Not some arbitrary set of rules handed down by a faceless imaginary sky monster. We decide, as a group, what is "right or wrong". Personally, I find this to be far from infuriating, and in fact rather liberating.

There is no evidence for, nor any need for, an outside source (God) for morality. No, the bible doesn't count as evidence. Should anyone be able to bring forward any actual evidence for God, and/or his terminator style enforcement of morality, then I will be happy to reconsider divine absolute morality. In the mean time, I won't hold my breath.

Similarly, moral absolutism based on individual rights, is on equally shaky ground. Proponents of individual moral absolutism suggest that morality can somehow be scientifically qualified, and that individualism itself somehow imparts each of us with a magic bullet of moral self importance. But, placing the root of morality in the individual, is no less arbitrary and imaginary than placing it with God.

We are all individuals, but we are not solitary individuals. We do not exist, nor can we exist in a vacuum. Whether we like it or not, it is necessary for us to interact with other individuals. In these interactions we will not always have the same self interest. I may want a smoke free environment, you may want to smoke. If we are both in an area designated as "public" property, who's need is greater in that situation? Some might argue that given the potential for harm caused by secondhand smoke, that I have a right to a smoke free environment. Others might argue that the smoker should have a right to light-up when they want, and that any law that restricted their right to do so, would constitute coercion and thus would be "morally wrong". Who's right? In our country there is a growing number of people that feel the non-smoker has more rights than the smoker on this issue. But, in many other countries the trend is just the opposite. Ultimately, there is no "absolute" morality on this issue, though I am certain there will be those that disagree.

Take another example; two individuals are lost in a desert, they are two weeks away from any hope of rescue, and there is only enough water for one of them to survive. Given no other information, and assuming that the two individuals are of equal age gender status etc.., what is the right moral course of action? If they share the water, they guarantee that they both die. If one of them keeps the water for themselves, they condemn the other to certain death. More important than what they do is, how do they decide? They will have to come up with a system, a mini social contract, to decide. Perhaps they'll draw lots. But what happens if they can't agree on a system? Neither of them wants to die, if they can't agree peacefully, they'll be forced to fight for the water or die in indecision. It's in neither of their self interests to concede to the other taking the water. To capitulate would be the same as committing suicide. So, is it wrong for them to fight over the water? If one of them dies as a result of the fight, should the victor be considered a murderer?

Those types of struggles are faced by humanity everyday. Without an imaginary friend in the sky to tell us what to do, we must create rules, systems, or "social contracts" to define how we will interact with each other. When we create these rules, not everyone is going to agree with them. It's not in the self interest of those that have agreed to the rules (society) to allow those that disagree with the rules (criminals) to ruin it for everyone else. So society protects itself through laws, and enforces those laws through punishment. If the disagreement escalates, or if large groups disagree, then we get wars. But no matter what, the rules are all still arbitrary constructs of social interaction.

That's it. There's really nothing more to it than that. Who decides the rules? Everyone does, just like Wikipedia, the stock market, or open source code. Do some people have more influence than others? Of course, there will always be individuals that hunger for power and control, and there will always be people that just want to live their life and stay out of the way. In the end, everyone participates in creating the rules, whether they think they do or not, and they always have the choice of not following the rules or attempting to change them.

For those that lack the mental fortitude to grasp the vagueness of such systems, this must be a very scary concept. For those that embrace them, they open up a world of possibilities. But, as long as most people are convinced that there is some kind of magical "right" or "wrong" we will continue to be stuck in the moral stone age with the Avi Shafrans of the world.

Tuesday, 17 October 2006

Dwayne Wade Can Kiss My Ass

This is essentially a direct rip-off of ~I Am's~ post about Carrie Underwood.

No, Dwayne Wade has not started a country music career, but if he did, I am sure it would be very similar to Underwood in it's abundant references to God. Why do I think that? Well apparently Wade felt it necessary to subject the general populace to an explanation of his "faith" in God in the form of a Converse ad. I wouldn't really care except for the tag line.

If your curious you can see the ad for your self at

Now, it doesn't matter to me if he can't sleep at night without a spiritual comfort item. My three year old has a teddy bear and a favorite blanket, Wade has God. I also don't care if he feels the need to justify away his talent by giving the credit to God, but I am sick and tired of being told that my life is meaningless, worthless, bleak, or otherwise "lost", unless I subscribe to an illogical destructive self effacing delusion. I am not lost. Should I get lost, I'll get a map and GPS, not a bible.
What really sucks, is that if he had said, "if you don't have faith in Santa Clause, you're lost." people would just laugh at him. But, sense his imaginary friend is "God" it's not just OK, it's a "brave message of faith". It just makes me sick.

Oh yeah, I'm not going to buy the stupid shoes either.