Quite a few people in my life have struggled with the simple fact that I am an atheist. For me, it is a simple fact; I do not believe in any gods. But, family members, friends, and online strangers strain at this with varying degrees of difficulty, depending on how much they care about me. Some passively post articles about atheists who found their way to faith. Some argue with me at length, using everything from simple, easily shredded arguments such as the “Look at the Trees” argument to the much more subtle “From whence cometh self awareness.”
Each of these are attempts to find the key that unlocks the door to my spirituality, as if I will suddenly snap bolt upright and raise a finger to the sky and proclaim, “Oh, yes, now I get it! I believe in God now!”
For a long time, I did precisely the same thing with atheism, hoping that I could come up with the exact right thing or sequence of things to get those I cared about to shed their religious beliefs. However, the only “Ah-ha!” moment that arrived was my own.
It took nearly three decades for me to arrive at atheism after concerted study of religion, studying the Bible. the Qur’an, and a slew of other religious texts. I spent time as a pagan priest. It was not an easy journey.
What it took me a while to realize is it never is easy. No one reaches their equilibrium point quickly, or easily, or by stepping through a single door. There is no single key to unlock, no single barrier to get past. The friend that asked me the question that brought me to atheism didn’t bring me from hard core belief to absolute non-belief. I was nearly there already, a deist seriously examining all my beliefs. I am never going to come up with a single phrase that will convince my religious father to become an atheist any more than he will come up with a phrase that will convince me to become a Christian again.
All I can say is that one of the primary reasons that I am an atheist is that it is important to me that I believe as many true things as possible. If something is an unknown, I don’t want to believe in it until it is known to be true. No religion fits that description.
Quite a claim, I know. And I am sure to get some angry responses.
But the fact is that Trump stands against everything Jesus stood for. He is a con artist who has convinced the religious right that he is the exact opposite of what he actually is.
Let’s compare Trump’s statements with those from the Bible.
“When someone crosses you, my advice is ‘Get even!’ That is not typical advice, but it is real-life advice. If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck! When people wrong you, go after those people, because it is a good feeling and because other people will see you doing it. I love getting even. I get screwed all the time. I go after people, and you know what? People do not play around with me as much as they do with others. They know that if they do, they are in for a big fight. Always get even. Go after people that go after you. Don’t let people push you around. Always fight back and always get even. It’s a jungle out there, filled with bullies of all kinds who will try to push you around. If you’re afraid to fight back people will think of you as a loser, a ‘schmuck!’ They will know they can get away with insulting you, disrespecting you, and taking advantage of you. Don’t let it happen! Always fight back and get even.” (Trump: Think Big, 2007)
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Simply put, Trump is pro-revenge. Jesus is anti-revenge.
“I will build a great wall — and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me –and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.” – Donald Trump, June 2015
39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
Simply put, Trump is anti-neighbor, and Jesus says to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.
“I’m putting people on notice that are coming here from Syria as part of this mass migration, that if I win, they’re going back!” – Donald Trump, October 2015
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
Trump is against refugees. This contradicts the words of Jesus.
It’s been a year and a day since my ex-wife Cynthia Lee passed away from colon cancer.
It has been an eventful year. Our child is now fifteen. The situation with them is complex and I won’t go deeply into details here.
I spent just over three months in rehab after we found out I had cracked my tibia and lost a lot of the cartilage in my left knee. Went from being stuck in my recliner to being able to transfer to my wheelchair and get out of our apartment.
An apartment, by the way, that is not the one I left from when I went to rehab. While I was there, my lovely wife moved us, lock, stock, and barrel to a nice new place. I can get into the kitchen more easily, and even leave the building when I need to!
It’s been a bit more than a week after the election. Being on Medicare, being disabled, and having a non-binary teen made the results not just disappointing, but frightening to our family. The eldest wants to leave the country, and I don’t blame them as I have watched the train wreck that is the Trump administration take shape.
I shouldn’t get to deep on an update post, so I won’t.
Our bunny is happy and healthy, our vehicle is functional, my wife will celebrate her eleventh year at her work soon. Things are okay for the most part. Will post something more detailed soon.
Author Umberto Eco passed away two days ago at the age of 84. Although not an author I read on a regular basis, he was an amazing writer, whose work was rich, like Godiva chocolate or hundred year old balsamic vinegar, the kind one can sip like wine. I can read most books in a week or two, but Foucault’s Pendulum took me well over a month, and I would be able to glean more upon a second or third reading.
Death is a sad affair, with the world losing a person whose influence could mean a lot to it. In Mr. Eco’s case, his work had wide reaching appeal, and powerful impact, and it will endure for a long time, though his name may not be as recognized by as wide an audience as some. He has well earned the peace he is now at.
Anyone who has debated with me online knows that it takes a lot to push me to use personal insults. In fact, very few people have seen me resort to such tactics at all in quite some time. I see a lot of people from every side who use such tactics in debate, and it saddens me that people who really do have a valid argument are still drawn in by the temptation of using insults.
Even though I do not resort to such methods, I have been targeted by some rather horrendous insults. I will not repeat them here, let’s just say that they would fall under “fight words” if used in person.
I find that patience and an even disposition serves me much better in debate. There are some who can’t handle it, and blow up at me before blocking me. However, more are taken aback at my lack of insults, and are more open to listening. This is my goal. Sure, it might be fun to go flaming across Twitter abusing all of the groups I disagree with, but the end result would be pointless. So, I try hard not to personally insult people.
This does NOT mean I will not insult ideas, or “non-people” (Those who are dead, fictional, or of unknown existence). In addition, I may refer to well known people by their behavior (Such as calling Zakir Naik a charlatan, or Trump an amoral opportunist)
On a slightly different note, I am in week three of my second attempt at vegetarianism. With the help of my wonderful wife, I have been able to switch my diet from a few meats (chicken, and turkey) to nearly none at all. I say nearly, because I lapsed twice so far. I am still trying hard to maintain it, even though I crave omnivorousness.
My reason for doing so is to reduce inflammation causing foods, as well as lose a bit of weight. Morally, however, I am also trying to avoid unnecessary suffering of animals. I think I can exist without requiring another being with a nervous system experiencing pain. My goal is to eventually be free from my meat cravings. We shall see!
It is a personal choice, and I am not going to go on a crusade to change anyone else, not even within my own home. The eldest wishes to be a pescatarian, and my wife is still a happy omnivore.
I have recently had the experience of discussing and debating with people on Twitter who believe the Earth is a flat disk. To my normal readers, yes, these people do exist, and in numbers greater than even I had assumed.
Like any I debate with, I tried very hard not to be personally insulting. For some I exchanged with, they did not stick to the same mantra, insisting on insulting me, my family, and I even had one call me both an anti-Semite and a Zionist. That particular individual, I think was doing everything they could to maintain their cognitive dissonance, so I do not fault them as much as I pity them.
However, I did interact with a few supporters of the Flat Earth Model who were pleasant and polite (At least as much as I am with theists, for many of the same reasons).
They do have some interesting arguments, and their ideas of optics and physics are, at the very least, unique. However, I am not going to discuss the physical, evident arguments against the Flat Earth Model. I feel others have gone over that ground for the past, say, 2,300 years to my satisfaction. Instead, I am going to discuss the question from a more modern perspective, one that appears, on the surface, to be philosophical, but has some serious implications.
The issue I have with the Flat Earth Model
The issue I wish to discuss here is the simple question as to why there is a huge conspiracy to hide what Flat Earth Model supporters consider to be the truth.
Before I begin, I want to make it clear that Flat Earth Model supporters range in the reasons they support the model. Most I interacted with, but not all, were hardline Christians. They take Isaiah 40:22 literally (See the image linked to the right). Not all were even Christian, though, so I will try to keep specific religions out of it as much as possible.
Let’s examine what it would take to maintain such a conspiracy.
First, it would take complicit agreement from every single scientist who deals in any related subject, from every television meteorologist to every astronomer, from every cartographer to every climatologist. We’re talking tens of millions of people involved n the conspiracy, and that is just at the science level. In addition, the mathematicians who convert from the circular to spherical measurements, coordinates, and the like. Before the advent of computers, this would have requires someone on staff with any company or government dealing in the southern “hemisphere”. Today, it would require specialized software designed to make those changes. Bear in mind that all of this would have to be kept under wraps; any software to do this could under no circumstances be leaked or the ruse would be over.
Next, every inhabitant of South America, Africa, Australia and any islands south of the equator would have to either be in on it or not known enough to realize their land was much wider than it should be. In the Flat Earth Model, the outer circumference of the Earth, what we #globetards (one of the colorful insults lobbed by a Flat Earth Model supporter I dealt with) call the South Pole, would be 49,802 miles long. I won’t go into specifics, but, basically, the further “south” one would go, the further apart longitude lines would be. On a spherical Earth, the lines converge at the poles. On a flat Earth, they would converge at the North Pole and spread further and further apart to the “South Pole”, at which point each degree would be nearly 140 miles apart, instead of convergent. Land in the southern “hemisphere” would be similarly distorted, meaning land plots would be much larger than on a spherical Earth.
Santiago, the largest city in Chile, for example, is at a position of 33°27′S 70°40′W. At the equator, one degree of of longitude is about sixty miles. At 33 degrees on a spherical Earth, it would decrease to just a hair under fifty and a half miles. However, on a flat Earth, the distance increases to ninety miles, nearly twice the distance. That would mean every plot of land, including the city itself, would 80% larger. The land area would go from 248 square miles to 446. That’s a lot of extra land.
Let’s pretend, just for a moment, that Chileans are horrible at math, or are complicit in the cover up. Sydney, Australia is at nearly the same latitude. And it is a much, much bigger city. On a flat Earth, Sydney’s land area increases to 8595.36 square miles, from 4775.2 square miles. That’s a difference of 3,8020.16 square miles. The difference would allow ten of my home towns, Indianapolis, Indiana, to fit snugly without changing the population density of Sydney at all.
Granted, only about 10% of the world population lives below the equator, but that would still mean that over seven hundred million people are either math dunces or are in on the conspiracy.
That’s a lot of people
So, at the moment, I am guesstimating that at least 400,000,000 people would need to be in on the conspiracy. And, the conspiracy would have to be so perfect that no evidence of the conspiracy itself would ever be leaked. And, this is a conspiracy stretching 2,300 years, ever since Eratosthenes computed the circumference of the earth.
And we come back to the main question I have. Why? Why devote such enormous resources and recruit so many people to cover up something so large?
The common argument of most Flat Earth Model supporters is to not really have one. Websites such as the Flat Earth Wiki allude to a loose set of correlating conspiracies and mathematical errors that have somehow worked together to dupe the planet.
Other people claim it to be a conspiracy again their chosen god. To date, most of these supporters I have dealt with have been Christian, although I did run into a Hindu, whose explanation was even more supernatural than that of the Christians.
That still fails to answer the question. Why is this hoax being perpetuated? How has this hoax been maintained for over two thousand years? Religions rely on claims that cannot be falsified, yet science does exactly the opposite, encouraging falsification and even rewarding it. We live in an era that is on the verge of private space travel, with Elon Musk and SpaceX launching craft into orbit and then landing them back on Earth. The moon landing, which is a hoax in the Flat Earth Model, has been confirmed visually by the Chinese, who have no reason to support the accomplishments of the United States. We have people parachuting from the edge of space. With each push towards a space-faring culture, the Flat Earth model has to account for new information, when they are still struggling to account for every-day phenomena (What keeps the sun and moon in a stable place above the flat Earth, for example).
However, I am straying from the focus of my post.
It really boils down to one of two possible claims. Either there is an active conspiracy of hundreds of millions of people and potentially trillions of dollars, or all of science has just somehow missed the evidence, which is a claim nearly as outlandish s the first. What are your thoughts?
First off, I will not be attacking grammar or spelling. I believe this person to be a non-native English writer, so I congratulate him on attempting a difficult subject in a language that is not his native tongue.
Claimant asserts that God must exist based on the following argument:
To prove whether god exists or not, mankind must have total knowledge of all of reality.
However, the universe is expanding. Therefore, that which can be known is constantly expanding, and we can never know everything. We can never conclusively prove that god does not exist.
Probability that a god does not exist is therefore finite knowledge / infinite possible knowledge and therefore 0.
God is now defined as equal to the unknown knowledge, so this god is also constantly expanding and is therefore infinite.
Claimant asserts this means that the probability that a god exists is therefore infinite knowledge / infinite possible knowledge and therefore 1.
I’m sure some of my readers have spotted some errors. Let’s see if I catch them all.
Unsupported claim: Mankind must have total knowledge of all of reality in order to prove or disprove god’s existence.
I’ve seen this one asserted by some religious people from time to time, although most limit it to God’s nonexistence. As an agnostic atheist, I find absolute proof of his nonexistence irrelevant. However, depending on the definition of specific gods, they can be ruled out, one by one, due to their impossibility or their internal inconsistency.
Definition of god is irrelevant to the logic of the claim (Not to mention in contradiction to the other definition, but that comes later). I know the claimant would disagree, but the definition given of this god presumes it’s existence. It is a begging the question logical fallacy. Basically, it is stating “I define God as being X, and X exists, therefore atheists cannot disprove God.” Yes, this claimant is saying we would have to examine all of reality to make sure it isn’t really God, but in doing so he is shifting the burden of proof and lodging an argument from ignorance.
The claimant’s understanding of the nature of infinity is rudimentary at best. He goes on to talk about things such as “2*Infinity”. Infinity is not just a variable. One cannot add, multiply, or divide infinities unless one is dealing with hyperreal fields and nonstandard analysis, well beyond the simple arithmetic this claimant is using.
(EDIT: Another poster pointed out that using infinities in arithmetic gives undefined results, so his math is literally meaningless. Thanks atheist religionfree!)
Probability is the study of the likelihood of events. These likelihoods are given numbers from 0 to 1. there are a variety of ways to calculate and manipulate the numbers to find out, for example, to probability of flipping a standard coin and getting heads ten times in a row (1 in 1024, or a probability of 0.0009765625). To break down his math, however, he is not dealing with numbers in the same field. In fact, he is not dealing with numbers at all. Finite is not a number, nor is infinite. You can’t divide one by the other, especially not to get a probability. Not mathematically, anyway.
Finally, even if his math was correct, what he is proving is not the existence of god, but our ability to prove or disprove it. Because the base is our knowledge versus all knowledge, the existence or nonexistence of god never actually is in question.
Definition of God
After discussing this with the claimant on Twitter, he said that the definition of God for this claim was
And in this case God existence will be equal To the unknown Knowledge.
which is interesting, as he also has a page defining what God is. (Yes, I know he has a screen cap from Avatar and the logo from Game of Thrones. He’s trying to illustrate his point)
His definitions are rudimentary again. He compares people to computer avatars. (Avatar, get it?) However, there are a few problems with this analogy.
First, God allegedly made the entire universe and is omnipotent/omniscient/etc. In other words, he should be capable of creating humans that could understand him (Just as I could program an avatar that could understand what a computer is, and a programmer, and that they are inside a simulation. Or appear to. Where is the line, anyway?) And this is the sticking point; most theists claim humans cannot understand God, then go on to explain God. If we can’t understand God, how do they?
Divine will/gift? Then how do they hope to convince the rest of us that do not have such a wonderful gift of understanding?
His second definition is that God must have obviously created all creatures and living things. Not sure why this is a “must”. Oops, he cautions that it can’t be understood, just have to accept it as truth (This is called dogma. It is not a good thing). But, wait, it can be tested scientifically! This author seems to be a bit confused. He says we have to wait until the end of the article.
Third definition is that God must be alive, because, to sum up, life comes only from life.
Third definition (again) is that God must be a conscious mind. Because whomever created a human mind must be a greater mind.
Unfortunately, the author never gets back to the scientific test to show God created all creatures. I suppose he is not finished with the article yet.
Your eyes are going to run dry many times in the coming days, weeks, months for crying. I’m sorry I can’t fix that. All I can do is be there to wipe your eyes, and sometimes cry with you.
You will never stop loving her. You will hear her voice guiding you when things are at their worst, and feel her smile when things are at their best. She will be with you, in your heart and mind, from now on. The pain you are experiencing now will go from numbness to terrible until it fades into the background again, but the memories of her will remain.
I know she is constantly on your mind now, but she will pop up from time to time as you get older, hiding behind the laugh lines beside your eyes (you will laugh again, and you may hear a little of her voice in your laugh), maybe in the way you hold your coffee cup or the way you scold your child if you have one. It may be in your art, or your music. It may only be in fond memories.
Regardless of where your mother is within you, she will never entirely disappear. You may be dreading it now, but in time you will come to welcome these momentary glimpses of her within you.
How do I know this?
Because, my wonderful child, it is one of the many things that I love about you, that I see bits of her in you from time to time. Every so often in the coming years, I may hug you for no reason, and I may hold you a little tighter than normal. Know that it is because I caught a glimpse of her, and I am letting her know she is loved. It will also never let you forget that you are loved.
You can keep her alive by not forgetting to live, by loving, and by experiencing everything you can.
It is just past two in the morning on November 14th, 2015. My child is slumbering about fifteen feet away on the couch. About thirty hours ago, they watched their mother pass away.
It took me a while to collect my thoughts enough to pen this tribute to Cynthia, my first wife. Our history together is so far beyond complex that it is hard to condense it into a book, let alone a single blog post. We went from strangers to passion, from passion to joy, from joy to elation, from elation to suffering, from suffering to loneliness, and from loneliness into a long detente tinged with echos of the past.
We met at a restaurant in 1998, when a mutual friend was introducing me to his social group in anticipation of entering a roommate situation with me. I had just returned to Indianapolis from Seattle, had started dating someone in Michigan but was captivated by her charm and personality.
Within two months. we had both thrown caution to the wind and started seeing each other. Our relationship caused waves around us from the get go. Some people got hurt by it, others were jealous. Some people decided to act out of anger, which ended up driving us even more firmly together. By August, we were engaged.
We had our ups and downs, as any couple does. But, we had passion. We were young and in love, after all. I was twenty, and she was twenty seven. Hard to believe I am eleven years older now than she was then.
Our wedding was wonderful, with friends coming together to celebrate with us. We had a two week honeymoon at Pensic. When we came home, we seemed to be leading a charmed life. Sure, we had difficulties, but it just seemed to be getting better. We found out she was pregnant on her birthday in 2001. By that point, I had been working at a great job for several months. She was working as a store manager. We were doing well, had moved into a decent house, and were doing pretty well on all fronts.
I won’t go deeply into what went wrong and where; such discussions are moot now. We both did and said regrettable things. In the end, Addison was just over a year old when we separated. We divorced in 2004.
It can be said that anger is born out of either compassion or frustration. For us, it was a bit of both. I still loved her, but the pain of the situation made it difficult to deal with. If it hadn’t been for Addison, I would have cut ties with her, to let wounds heal and let my love be passive and distant. As it was, I had to learn to move on while having Cynthia as part of my life due to being a part of Addison’s life. Not easy, but I am very glad I did.
Over time, we were able to come to peace with each other and move on. I had another child, and got remarried. Cynthia found love relationships of her own. I remained her friend, and not a possessive ex-husband, letting the negativity fade.
I was able to tell her goodbye before she went, and do so without anger, malice, or negativity. Whatever is beyond, if anything, I hope she is happy, comfortable, and has found everything she was looking for.
May you rest easy, Cynthia. The world has lost some of its light with your passing.