Saturday, December 29, 2007

Harris and Wolpe

I saw a link to this over at the Friendly Atheist. If you have the time, I recommend watching it all the way through. Sam Harris and Rabbi David Wolpe talking about all things fascinating. It's a great discussion. Harris's "End of Faith" was the first book I bought on my road towards accepting what I've felt to be true for a long, long time but couldn't cop to it. Call it my moral failure. So, I have great respect for Harris. I've always enjoyed Wolpe as well when he's on TV. Check it out when you have the chance.

An ordinary cactus

So, being an atheist is, in reality, a small part of who I am. I am of course a completely unique and wonderful thing full of intricacies and brimming with my own delicate nature. Well, maybe not, but I am the only "ME" I know. For instance, I speak conversational Albanian. How many of you, unless you are "nga Shqiperi" can say that? I'm one of those people who love Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" in a completely unironic way. I think Ty Cobb, regardless of being a loathsome roustabout, was the best baseball player of all time. Speaking of baseball, I am a die hard Angels fan. Can you smell the irony? I also love books, comic books, Irish drinking songs, sport stadium construction and 70's era exploitation films (Anything by Deodato, Last House on the Left, The Cheerleaders).

And there are things I hate. Seriously hate. For instance, the word "irregardless", the poems of Elizabeth Barrett Browning, those Fandango commercials that they play before movies and any one who prefixes an adjective with "uber". I do however, hold a special dark place in my heart for three things. Three kinds of people actually. I am of course excluding your obvious tools (terrorists, murderers, Bill Donohue). I think, most rational folks agree on those. Alas, I think these things are what prove to me that there is no God.

3. Bluetooth Headset Guy-
Seriously, what the fuck? You look like a jackass. Take the damn thing out of your ear. Unless your the president or prime minister of a country, a cable company tech support person or the guy at the Indiana Health Department who goes around to all the strip clubs and makes sure everyone is wearing pasties (Hoosier's think nipples are icky), you're not that important.

2. Che Guevara T-shirt Asshole-
Okay, we get it your a rebel. Why don't you rebel against your own idiocy and pick up a goddamn history book? Now, if you're a Cuban-communist who is studying medicine in the US and are celebrating your country's history, I can forgive that. But you are not. You are a Hacky-Sack kicking hippie d-bag. You're shirt is not ironic. How about this. Make a Robespierre t-shirt.

1. Dane Cook-
If anything on this orbiting rock disproves the existence of God, it's Dane Cook. How is this guy popular? I'm more entertained watching ostrich vomit warm in the sun. At first, I thought people were laughing at this guy's jokes the way you laugh at your 2-year-old's knock-knock jokes. "Oh, hon, isn't our little one precious?" But, alas, no. People think he's funny. He's been the star of two movies, so far. He's made out with Jessica Alba. He's made out with Jessica Simpson. He's basically cornered the hot Jessica market. How is this fair? Doesn't it bother these women that this guy is about as funny as a used condom slapping Angela Lansbury in the eye? Hold up, that's actually kind of funny. This guy is about as funny as a completely ordinary cactus.

So, those are the three kinds of people I think are ruining the world. What about you?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

This doesn't Baudelaire well for you...

Exterminator saw my music posting in response to his and said I should list my favorite poems. Now, I was an English major. Asking an English major to talk about his favorite poems is like asking Pat Robertson to tell you about salvation. I could go on and on. But, I am a strong person. I'll restrain myself. My all time favorite poems:

Alfred Tennyson - The Lotus-Eaters
My all time favorite poem. The lyricism of the Choric Song is so breathtaking. I love this poem.

Langston Hughes - My Old Man
This is a great little gem from Hughes. It holds a special place in my heart because of I used it in an amazing English class I taught in Albania with the Peace Corps. We had a poetry reading after that where I had the students write up poems of their own in English and some of those poems were extremely moving. I will treasure that memory for the rest of my life and this poem is a part of that.

T.S. Eliot - The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
I love the moderns and Eliot is my favorite of that group. This is a great poem, top to bottom and filled with wonderful imagery. "I am no prophet—and here's no great matter;/I have seen the moment of my greatness flicker,/And I have seen the eternal Footman hold my coat, and snicker,/And in short, I was afraid."

William Carlos Williams - This is Just to Say
This is a classic of modernism. It's a perfect example of a school of writing that said the emotion was in the thing and not your description of the thing.

Walt Whitman - Out of the Cradle, Endlessly Rocking
This is a very sad poem about a boy watching two birds. One day one of the birds does not show up. When Whitman speaks from the remaining birds point of view, it is as sad as anything I have ever read.

So, that's my two cents. Thoughts?

"Music that gentlier on the spirit lies...

...Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes." Greatest. Poem. Ever.

Anyway, I saw this over at No More Hornets. Since I love music, it gave me a little bit of inspiration for the day, and I've decided to add my own to cents. I've changed the list from the one I put in the comment section over there. I've had a little more time to think and had to make some changes and omissions. So, here is my list of the 20 greatest albums of all time:

1. The Who - Tommy
You can not go wrong with the greatness that is The Who. This is my default go to album for anything. Thematically and musically, I don't think it can be topped. Favorite song: Go to the Mirror Boy. Bet you thought I'd say Pinball Wizard, huh?

2. Simon and Garfunkel - Bridge over troubled water
The first band I ever fell in love. I own every studio album they put out and this is the best of them all. It is the perfect picture of a band about to self destruct. Favorite song: Song for the Asking.

3. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street
I'm one of those guys who prefers the Stones to the Beatles. This album is near perfect. A great, rollicking, honky-tonk ride through America (and from Brits, no less). Favorite Song: Tumbling Dice.

4. Bruce Springsteen - Born to Run
Oh, Bruce. Every song on this album is amazing. Full of sadness and triumph. It is a brutal album for anyone growing up in America. Favorite Song: Thunder Road.

5. The Who - Who's Next
The remains of a failed rock opera provide the fodder for a great album. Pure hard rock all the way through. Favorite Song: Baba O'Reilly.

6. Randy Newman - Sail Away
Randy Newman is as cutting a song writing as we've ever had. This album tears all the major institutions of society to shreds: church, government, family. Favorite Song: Burn On.

7. Billie Holiday - Love Songs
She has, simply, the greatest voice I've ever heard. I've never heard a voice that sounds like it's being sung just for me. I can't put it better than that. Favorite Song: Until the Real Thing Comes Along.

8. The Rolling Stones - Beggar's Banquet
The rawest of the Stones great albums. Favorite Song: Factory Girl.

9. The Beatles - Abbey Road
My Favorite Beatles album. The last few songs, that tie in to one another and build to a gorgeous crescendo, are dynamite. Favorite Song: Her Majesty.

10. Joni Mitchell - Blue
I just want to hug Joni when I hear her sing on this album. She sounds so profoundly sad. The perfect album to listen to when you're feeling down. Favorite Song: The River.

11. Simon and Garfunkel - Bookends
A bridge album between the erudite folk writers of their earlier albums and the tragic characters of the last. Favorite Song: America.

12. Frank Sinatra - The Golden Years
Go to album when you have a special someone over. I don't know if we've ever had a better interpreter of lyrics than Frank. He's so meticulous with his phrasing. Favorite Song: The Summer Wind.

13. The Hold Steady - Boys and Girls in America
America's best band right now. This album is a portrait of the lives of the college set. Full of drugs and alcohol, sex and introspection. Favorite Song: Citrus.

14. Bob Dylan - Highway 61 Revisited
America's great poet. Favorite Song: Highway 61

15. Miles Davis - The Birth of Cool
I'm not a huge jazz fan, but something about this Miles Davis album gets to me. Can you describe instrumental music as confrontational? Favorite Song: Godchild.

16. Randy Newman - The Randy Newman Songbook
Newman stripped down the music and rerecorded some of his greats. This is a beautiful album. Favorite Song: The Great Nations of Europe.

17. The Beatles - The White Album
An album that is all over the place. Not all of it works, but when it does, it's amazing. Favorite Song: Blackbird.

18. Jeff Buckley - Grace
This guy died why too young. You can't help but think of what we missed out on when you listen to this. Favorite Song: Hallelujah.

19. Styxx - Greatest Hits
Don't knock the Styxx. This is a guilty pleasure band, but, dammit, I don't care. Favorite Song: Come Sail Away.

20. Lou Reed - Transformer
I listen to Lou Reed when I want to punch someone in the face. This album is probably best known for this cross-dresser tribute Walk on the Wild Side. A great song. But, my Favorite Song: Vicious. Seriously, how much cooler can you get than this lyric:

Vicious, you hit me with a flower.

Okay, so that's my list and my lunch break is about over. Now, where the hell is my Ipod?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Things that make you go "hmmmm"

So, I got a comment on my last post and I would like to address them here in a new post. This is from the commenter "hmmmm."

"Are you afraid of dying?"

Certainly the thought of non-existence is scary. But as a society we have developed irrational belief systems to help deal with them rather than accepting that at some point we will all stop being. Death is frightening, but using delusions to quell that fright is irrational. I would rather not die if it were possible, but it's not.

"Do atheist believe in a type of after-life?"

Well, there are always ranges of belief in any system. I think you'll find that most don't. The end is the end. But, an essential part of you, the things that make you who you are, can live on. Your DNA can live on through countless generations. Your thoughts can live on in what you write. Your good deeds can live on in those whom they have touched.

"You need proof to believe in God or gods. What kind of proof do you need to believe?"

How about an amputee regrowing a limb? If God is real, prayer works, and the miraculous is possible, this shouldn't be a problem. People claim to be healed by God all the time. But, the healing never presents itself in a way that is inexplicable. If a devout amputee prayed and had a limb grow back, that would change my mind. Or, how about seeing a pillar of smoke and a pillar of fire? How about food for all the world's poor starving children showing up out of nowhere. Baskets and baskets of inexplicable food and no one ever starves to death. How about all diseases disappear? There are all sorts of ways.

"For example, if you lived in the 1700's could you not believe in space travel?"

This is an interesting question, because the notion of space travel would probably have been violently suppressed. The idea that one could breach the heavens where the lord lives! Blasphemous. But, therein you hit upon an interesting point. Without religion, maybe I could have believe in it by the 1700's. How many scientists and thinkers were put down by religious authorities for thinking outside the box? Epicurus, Galileo, Socrates.

I think I would answer your question this way. If I were a man who lived in a low valley all his life surrounded by mountains, I would have a certain outlook upon the world. I've never been outside of my valley and have never seen anything of the world other than that place. It might seem tall and imposing and claustrophobic. Let's say one day I decide to climb that mountain. I start slowly at the bottom. It takes time to gain altitude and often I find myself backpedalling to avoid a fissure or clinging to an unsafe precipice. But, eventually, I make my way to the top of that mountain and see the vastness of the world with my own to eyes. How wonderful that moment would be!

Now, I'm not the mountain climber, I'm just a very grateful lackey who's had the fortune of much greater men than I clearing the way for me. I refuse to make apologies for the time and era I'm born in.

I hope this answers some of your questions.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A thought and a quorum call

Here is a quick thought about why I do no believe in any gods or goddesses or any supernatural being:

1. Anything that fails to provide observable proof of its existence can not be proven to exist.
2. Reality is that which can be observed and that which can be proven.
3. Any metaphysical construct that elevates faith over observation elevates unreality over reality.
4. Religious metaphysics upholds faith over observation.
5. Religious metaphysics upholds the unreal over the real.
6. Religious metaphysics require the existence of a god.
7. The existence of a god is unreal.

This is just a thought. It's not a fully reasoned proof and I'm curious to get thoughts on it.

Also, if anyone is reading this, are you from the Muncie area? I'm looking to find or start a group of atheists/freethinkers in this area. People to jaw around with about ideas both high and mundane. Let me know.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What happened to me?!?!

So, I thought that I would share my de-conversion story in brief. I know, I know, every atheist puts this same damn post on their blogs. Oh well, it's not like anyone but myself is reading this. Besides, it's cathartic. Maybe this is our glossolalia.

Anyway, I was born in Orange County, CA. When I was 9 we moved to Muncie, Indiana. My parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, etc., are Roman Catholic. I'm Catholic on both sides of my family.

For the majority of my life, this defined who I was. I was an altar boy from 2nd grade through 10th (insert jokes here about insertions). I loved my church. Still do. Say what you will about Catholic dogma but our churches are gorgeous. All my life I wanted to be a priest. When I was 12, I actually told my mom my goal in life was to be a martyr. Wild, huh? What country did I grow up in?

In high school, I was trying to pick a college and ultimately came down to two choices. Go to the local public university or get a theology degree at a small Catholic university in preparation for the seminary. It was a major crossroads for me. I believe I have chosen correctly.

When I was in college I found a book that changed my life. This book is the Principia Discordia. It's an amazing, amazing book. You see, I'm a reader. I read everything. Especially religious material. When I first got a big kids library card, I started checking out everything I could from the religion section. My parents are liberal Catholics and indulged my whims. I checked out a Koran, as incoherent as the Bible, the Vedas, I always did love Fantasy novels, hell, I even read Dianetics, tripe. I've also read different versions of the Bible, NIV, KJV, the American Revised. I've read collections of the gnostic Gospels as well, Gospel of Thomas may be the most effective gospel of them all. The Principia Discordia talked about the world in an entirely new and dynamic way. It talked about creation versus destruction being the good versus the bad. This is opposed to the religious notion of order versus disorder. It's a hippie book, yeah, but I loved it.

So, I began to question things. Everything. And, I began to realize something. I was afraid of dying. I was terrified of the idea of non-existence. I worried about asteroids and alien attacks. I had nightmares about Jason and Freddy. I couldn't think of not being. So, what did I do? I grasped on to those world views that gave me an out.

It was really my letting go of that innate fear of death that set me free. It allowed me to question things I once took for granted. That is exactly what I did.

So now, instead of holding on to a fear of death, I hold on to a love of life. I hold on to a love of rational thinking. I take nothing for granted, not morality, metaphysics, ethics or aesthetics. I take joy and comfort in asking myself why I believe the things I do, and I constantly question. I think that religion fears questioning. Christ said that you can not come to me unless you become like a child. I think the world has a remained as a child for far too long.

So, that's my story. Just thought I'd get that out there.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Fuck Mitt Romney

"Freedom requires religion just as religion requires freedom. " Mitt Romney

Fuck you, Mitt.

You know, I don't even think I'm going to call you Mitt. I'm going to call you Love Glove Romney from now on, because it took some balls to lube up that monster and shove it down the collective assholes of America.

You pandering, sanctimonious prick. Fuck you.

Tell that to the Cathars. The "witches of Salem." Tell that to Galileo. Tell that to the Saudi girl who's going to be lashed because she was raped. Tell that to the untold millions of girls who will be imprisoned by the disease called HPV because of religion. Tell that to women afraid to wear pants and women who can not remove their fucking hijab without being shot. Tell that to the Amalekite children murdered on one people's march to their promised land. Tell that to Innocent people in Jerusalem riding a bus to work. Tell that to the three thousand Americans who died on September 11th. Fuck you, Mitt Romney.

I'm sorry for the language. I'm drunk and I'm pissed.

It's just this pandering arrogance I can't stand. This slick haired two faced fucktard has been lying and talking out of both his mouth and his sacred underwear covered ass for the last year or so. Well folks, if your persuaded by this kind of shameless pandering, fuck you as well. Fuck the evangelicals who wanted to hear this message and the voter who may change his vote based on it.

Freedom from religion is the ability to not be murdered for eating shellfish. To not be stoned to death for being a spoiled brat of a kid. To be able to dress like you want, eat what you like and say whatever the fuck you want. It would mean the freedom to move around Kashmir or Kosovo or Northern Ireland or Jerusalem or the Sudan. The freedom to draw a cartoon or name a teddy bear. The freedom to blaspheme. The freedom to fuck! Freedom from religion is the ability to have a functioning fucking brain.

I need to stop now. My blood is boiling.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Apocalypse Doubt?

I was talking to a fellow at work today, a very religious but very mellow fellow, about the age we live in. He believes, as do many people in this raggedy old world, that we are rapidly approaching the end of days. That nigh on a fortnight Christ himself will come blazing through the sky to stamp out unbelievers, like yours truly, and other assorted heathens (gays, evolutionists, liberals, the guy who filmed 2girls1cup).

Let's call it the new millenialism. Although, it's not really new. The year 1000 came and went. 1666, as frightening a year as that actually was, came and went. I'll wager a fine sum that December 2012 will come and go as well. But, we as a species have a few consistent hobbies. We love sex (even if we say it's evil), we love war (even if we say it's not needed) and we love to predict our own demise. We especially love predicting our own demise will occur while we are still here to see it.

I've been wondering why this is. Why are we so in love with the idea of seeing our own people, our children, our Toyotas and our Beagles flayed open by the end of all things? It's probably a little bit of arrogance. Despite the fact that we're a tiny little species in an out of the way solar system at the edge of a rather unspectacular galaxy, we are the most important things ever. We are the sum total of all creation and the proof of the perfection of creation. Well, aren't we?

Well, of course not, that's silly. Silly, silly, silly. That idea is like the seltzer flower on the lapel of whatever fairy tale overseer you believe in. It's Thor's fucking Whoopee Cushion.

But, I bring this story up in my very first ever blog post because thinking about the boners some folks must get listening to that REM song, no not Nightswimming, I began to think that maybe there's something more to this. Something I in fact can relate to.

Yes, I am an atheist. No one at my work knows. No one in my family knows, save my brother. But, more than that, much more than that, I'm a skeptical asshole. I demand proof. I demand evidence. I demand some goddamn logical coherence. I am an atheist because I do not believe there is any proof whatsoever for any God, spirit, tarot card reader, palm reader, vampire, werewolfs or ninth-level wereravens with a +10 night vision spell. I don't believe in Santa, the Easter bunny or the Geico Gecko. I believe that anything that is can be demonstrated. Anything that exists can be shown to exist. I believe in the freedom to form these opinions on my own. I believe in science. I believe that science illuminates the world around us. I believe the Bible darkens the world around us. It turns people into black and white caricatures of prehistoric middle eastern ideas of good and evil. I believe in nuance. I believe in thought.

Sigh...No ranting. Anyway, what I want to say here is that, gasp, I believe that I have something in common with people who not only expect the apocalypse to happen soon, but who pray for it. I believe that they, like me want proof. Only they can't admit it to themselves. They can't say to themselves, hey, I'm afraid that this stuff I've been saying and praying and singing for all these years is bullshit. They can't. So they put all their moral eggs (I do believe in stem-cell research) in this basket. I'm going to see Jesus come down from the sky. He will be on a white horse and his tongue will be a flaming sword. It's the proof and the validation that deep down they've always wanted but know they'll never get. It's Catholics (btw, I'm a reformed Catholic, so I get to make fun of my old church when I want to) who look at pancakes and see the Virgin Mary. People want proof that what they believe exists so they see it where they can, and they hope that they will see the final most dramatic proof in their lifetimes. Also, it'll be nice for them if they can see the heathens (Boy Band Members, the guy who invented silly putty, Gays) incinerated or trampled by God's galloping ghost horse.

I believe apocalyptic fervor is a sign of cowardice. I believe what I believe because the proof and evidence I have seen support certain conclusions about the natural world. Hell, I'm willing to say here and now that if Jesus Christ rides down from heaven on a flaming horse, I will have the evidence it would take to prove to me that atheism is an incorrect position. It is because I'm secure in what I believe. Not because I have faith in it, but because my beliefs are supported by facts, by truth, by reason and by science. There is no evolutionist apologetics. There's no need for it. Science by its nature embraces gaps as something to strive to be filled by more research and more evidence. Supposed gaps in any theory or fossil record aren't an embarrassment, they are an opportunity to learn and understand more. Where as the religious have to find a way to either fit the scientific evidence into their beliefs at the cost of parts of that belief or fit their beliefs into the science by ignoring the science, all I have to do is keep an open mind. That's it. It's so easy.

Give me proof and evidence. That's what I want. And, I think, deep down, each of you who prays for the rapture and the tribulation, the Mayan end of days or Ragnarok to come while you are alive secretly want as well. We all want evidence. I'm just willing to admit it.