Archive for the Rant’n’Rave Category

This Life…Or The Afterlife?

Posted in Environment, Rant'n'Rave, Religion, Social Causes with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 15, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

Like This!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

So which is more important? Personally, I don’t believe in an afterlife. There is no evidence worthy of any real pursuit of religious ideas of an afterlife. This is especially true with the monotheistic religions’ idea of Heaven and Hell, eternal life/suffering, and Paradise by way of martyrdom (and the killing of “infidels”).

Why? Because they are a pipe-dream. Can you truly imagine life that is ever-lasting? The human mind is not capable of grasping a concept like infinite life. We are alive for an average of 50-80 years. Some of us only make it to our teens or early 20’s, and some are stillborn and never even live outside of the womb.

We WILL die, and that will be the end of it. But knowing and understanding this makes life MORE beautiful. Those who cannot stand to live without their fictional god and afterlife see this eventuality as meaning that life would be worthless or useless without a god. I believe this is false. Life is precious. We are on the smallest speck of a planet in a solar system, within a random whirlpool galaxy amongst the vastness of the universe. This sounds pretty depressing, right? Except that we have evolved AND ARE HERE! We are more precious than any religion seems to note. Despite the overwhelming odds against life forming in the universe, we are alive and have the ability to ponder these ideas. But, you cannot actually believe that a deity created the ENTIRE universe just for some mammals on a small planet.

Personally, the thought of a life that never ends is quite frightening. By this I mean that because our lives are NOT everlasting, we are able to better cherish the time that we have with those that we love. We have ONE shot to be the best person we can be, to enjoy life, to make a positive impact on others, and to leave the world better than we found it.

If there is some sort of sequel-life that never ends, it would not be what we consider to be “life”. What do you do with an unlimited amount of time on your hands? How many times can you go to Disney-Heaven before you get sick of the rides and want to punch Mickey in the face? I know, I’m being facetious. But seriously, it’s the knowledge that life is NOT forever and that someday our loved ones (and ourselves) will be gone that makes us appreciate our lives.

Everlasting life has been a human dream since our origins in Africa. Civilizations everywhere throughout human history have different ideas of how we live beyond our deaths. Also, look at the massive interest in vampire culture, zombies, living dead, and the whole Jesus “resurrection” thing. These are physically impossible scenarios, but tickle the human aspiration to live eternally and to not have to face death. They are fiction, used to entertain our desire to live forever despite knowing that it is not true.

To believe that after we die there is some greater “paradise” awaiting us if we exalt the right deity, eat the right food, marry the right person, have a certain amount of children, or other superficial criteria, is just laughable. If the Catholics are right, then the priests who molested thousands of innocent children will go to paradise while non-religious upstanding people are to spend eternity in torture? Really? Come on…

To think of this incredible chance at life that we have as some sort of “training camp” or “final exam” takes away all of the beauty of this life. But, you might inject, we can still enjoy the beauty of this world while aiming towards an afterlife. True, many people do still work towards a better world while aiming for eternal after-life. But, is this additional step really necessary? Can we not do better than this if we all understand that we are here, and it is up to us to be responsible while we are alive? Religion does nothing in this area but make empty promises (that cannot be fulfilled) that keep humans from appreciating the real-world life that they have.

The Christian idea of the Rapture is a dangerous belief that keeps many from caring about the viability of our planet. It seems every generation of Christian (at least the fundamentalists and crazies) believes that Jesus will come back in their lifetime to oversee the Earth as some sort of “loving” dictator. Oh, and supposedly he’s going to fix any problems with our planet with the snap of his fingers (pollution, disease, hunger, etc.). Yeah, and as you wait with bated breath for some mythological savior, the rest of us are trying to work towards a realistic long-term goal of allowing future generations to flourish on a planet that is able to sustain them.

Here’s what we DO know. We are here. We see, smell, breathe, love, laugh, and feel all sorts of emotions. We enjoy time with friends, family, and our animals, while developing memories of these experiences. We are all part of a network of cultures, civilizations, and social beings on a small planet rich in life-preserving elements. Few of these necessary elements are renewable resources, so we must work to sustain the Earth and ultimately our own existence as a species.

We are a recent addition to the ecology of the Earth, and in evolutionary timeframe humans have been here but for only a few minutes (measured in hundreds of thousands of years, if anyone reading this is a young-earth creationist). But, in those few “minutes” humans have managed to over-populate, pollute, and otherwise bleed the Earth dry like a virus.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect. Then, reject religious ideas of the world being a temporary vessel to heaven, and then we can start working on repairing the damage to the Earth. Maybe if these dogmatic wishes for an afterlife get discarded, we can move forward and take care of our home.

– Jay

Advertisements

Faith Is A Disease

Posted in Faith, Idiots, Rant'n'Rave, Religion with tags , , , on July 2, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

Like This!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Why, you may ask, is faith a disease? Religious apologists would often say ‘Faith is what gives people the peace of mind to get through life’s troubles.’ I agree with this statement. Faith can help people overcome obstacles and problems – SOME of the time. But it does more harm than good. There are multiple problems with faith, and I will explain why faith is a major detriment to the progress of society and the health and welfare of the world’s population. By the way, you’ll probably notice some sarcasm in the headers. These are some of the responses that religious people would actually make, so I wanted to partially address them.

Islam

Christians will most likely agree with me that the beliefs of Muslim suicide-bombers are a key factor in the decision to blow themselves up and take the lives of innocent bystanders around them. Now, what most don’t understand is that to the bomber, the bystanders are anything but innocent. They are either infidels, members of opposing Muslim sects, or others who need to be killed in accordance with a jihad or fatwa. What reasoning do these men use to justify such a heinous act? It is so that the person in question can reach eternal bliss for himself and his family by becoming a “war hero” of sorts.

This seems incredibly foreign to Christians, whose idea of reaching heaven is through… well… every Christian sect has a different idea of how to get to heaven. Regardless, Christians rarely cite any “suicide” clause which rewards one’s death with eternal bliss.  However, in the Islamic religion, this is quite the fact. The issue here is that these people actually believe the unfounded claims made by their holy books that when they perform these actions they are benefiting themselves and their families at the expense of people who would otherwise poison them with heretical beliefs.

FAITH is what creates these insidious beliefs. There is no evidence of any “life after death”. Anyone who says otherwise is using circular arguments that will be based on faith and scripture. That or they’re bat-shit crazy new-agers or ghost-hunters. No one can know if there is something after death unless they’re dead. Obviously this creates a communication issue. But these religious terrorists “know” what they will receive based on faith in Allah and the Quran and the teachings of Muhammad. Just as Christians, Mormons, Hindus and many other religions claim to know from their holy books.

That is an extreme; what about “good” faith?

This is a question that really denotes the lack of understanding that many religious people have as to what faith really is. They like to think of faith as a virtue and a loyalty to a positive message. Obviously from the definition below loyalty is certainly an aspect of faith. However, this is only AFTER someone effectively accepts the idea or belief in something that is based without evidence. I can be loyal to the tooth fairy or the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but we all know that they don’t exist and there’s no evidence for them so they can be dismissed*.

Here is the definition from Merriam-Webster:

Faith:

1 a : allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1) : fidelity to one’s promises (2) : sincerity of intentions
2 a (1) : belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2) : belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1) : firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2) : complete trust
3 : something that is believed especially with strong conviction; especially : a system of religious beliefs

So the question I have is when is it a “good” thing to believe in something without evidence? If someone can point one out I’d like to know. Maybe I’m a bit pessimistic, but I can’t really see how believing in something without proof can be productive. If I get a letter or email that offers something “too good to be true”, I immediately delete it. I would imagine most people do the same. Unless gullibility is involved, does anyone view an offer like this with anything less than skepticism? Is the offer legit, or is it most likely a scam? Such is religious faith. A scam.

Take a look at how you approach other things in your daily life. Are you skeptical until you have enough evidence to believe something? You probably are. So why would someone have a dualistic approach when it comes to what is often seen as the most important thing in their life?

Religions use faith to control the uneducated (and in modern world even educated people fall for it). It goes like this: Don’t question anything we say, just follow blindly and have faith despite the fact that it doesn’t make sense. It’s when a person starts to focus and question what is logical and reasonable that he or she understands that religion does not have answers, only smoke and mirrors. Truth comes from open inquiry and scrutinizing details (using things like the scientific method and basic critical thinking) which results in understanding or a scientific theory. Please be aware of the differences between a scientific theory and a “theory” (‘my theory is…’) that someone makes up without evidence.

My biggest complaint with faith is that it prevents otherwise rational and skeptical people from working towards creating a better world. Far too often, people “have faith” that their deity will fix problems or make things all better like a parent to a small child that skins its knee. Here is an example on the recent oil spill in the Gulf. But, you say, it does no harm to be positive and pray for help! It may do no harm by itself, but it does nothing productive. It is offensive when the religious throw up their hands in defeat and wait for their magic-man to fix the problem. Faith that a deity will solve problems, whether you believe he/she exists or not, stalls progress and wastes time/resources that could be better used by physical beings capable of problem-solving.

The fact that our legislators were wasting time to devote a day of appeal to a mythological being is pathetic. Yes, the oil spill is disastrous and unfortunately we have had difficulty containing it effectively. But does holding hands and talking to our devoted invisible friend do anything to fix the problem? Absolutely not. We are not telekinetic creatures. We do not move things with our mind. We develop ideas with our minds and then carry out those ideas using our hands.

Religion and faith are the antithesis of open inquiry and truth. Because the holy books of the most common religions are supposedly written as concrete “Word of God” documents, modifying or updating these beliefs only occurs when society’s progression will no longer tolerate certain dogma (slavery, racism, polygamy, etc.). So in essence, religion keeps us from moving forward and leaves us in the past, while honest inquiry helps us progress. Think about the extensive progress that can be made in the field of medical science if the general public could understand that the cells used are not a human child. Faith in the idea of a “soul” has caused religious pressure on the governments of the world to withhold funding for stem cell research, despite its incredible potential. The faithful seem to think that these cells are more important than the rights of the person whose body they are in, and more important than finding cures and relief for the suffering of actual human beings who could benefit from stem cell research.

But… But… Faith in the Bible is good!

The major improvements in life throughout the last few hundred years have been made DESPITE religion, NOT because of it. Does the Bible tell us that slavery is wrong? Fuck no! Even Jesus condoned slavery (Luke 12:47-48 NIV) and the Bible is rampant with horrendous advice on keeping, trading, beating, and killing slaves. There was no “Bible 2.0” that came out around the time of the Civil War indicating that god changed his mind about slavery. No, it was because of HUMANS, secular AND religious, who understood that other people do not deserve to be treated as less than human. Faith in scripture allowed these despicable practices (among MANY others) to continue for waaaaaaay too long.

When a person’s belief-system of how the world works, both socially and physically, derives from writings of desert nomads from thousands of years ago, we are left with bronze-age beliefs in the modern world. This is unacceptable when we have minority groups struggling for rights. These groups will stay oppressed due to divisive scripture in the world’s religious holy books. Does anyone truly have a legitimate reason to deny gays equal rights that it NOT based on religious discrimination? How about a woman’s right to control her own body? Are these things really anyone else’s business? No, unless of course you believe through faith that there is a magic-man up in the sky watching everyone and reading their thoughts.

If it wasn’t such a serious issue, I would find it hilarious that people believe some creator of the universe (the size of which is unfathomable; the human brain cannot comprehend the distances involved) gives a shit about peoples’ private love lives. Again, unfounded faith, without evidence, in religious dogma is a deterrent to social progress. Just a few more examples of the impediment to peace and progress found in the “good book”: witch burning, anti-Semitism, tribalism, misogyny, homophobia, and racism.

Put Your Views Under Scrutiny

One of the most important things I’ve learned over the last few years is to constantly question myself and things around me. What is reasonable? What is logical? Does ‘this or that’ make the world better, or does it only serve a select few and cause suffering to others? As I mentioned previously, religion ultimately describes this type of inquiry as a sin. Do what you’re told and you’ll get to heaven. Wow… I am utterly amazed at how often this works. I imagine that childhood indoctrination plays an important part in this lack of critical thinking.

My challenge to anyone would be to truly put their beliefs under scrutiny. Think critically and skeptically about your own beliefs in the way you would in our hypothetical “too good to be true” situation. Ask yourself if you really believe the following:

  • The universe was ‘created’ 6,000 years ago – Humans and dinosaurs walked the Earth together – Evolution is “just a theory”
  • A man was born of a virgin, walked on water, turned water into wine, and then rose from the dead to fly into space without propulsion
  • A flood wiped out every living creature on Earth except one family – and two of every species (millions upon millions) that somehow managed to refrain from acting on their hunter/prey instincts on the boat
  • You will live in paradise after you die for all eternity because you happened to choose the “right path to salvation”, while others who did not will be sent by your all-loving deity to suffer in torment for eternity
  • God is a man who lives on Kolob and you are the offspring of his sexual encounters with his many wives
  • Joseph Smith was directed to the “real” truth in golden-plate form and translated these plates using magic rocks in a hat
  • Slavery is okay – Native Americans can have their skin lightened if they convert to Mormonism

You may think I’m just being facetious, but these are the tenets of Christianity and Mormonism. These are the ridiculous “truths” that religious faith keeps alive. I say it’s time our species grows up and sheds the “flat-earth” tradition of religion.

– Jay

For more information on the topic of faith, please read “The End of Faith” by author and neuroscientist Sam Harris. It’s an excellent book.

*Side note: “…what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence.” – Christopher Hitchens

Texas Republicans want a theocracy

Posted in Bigotry, Human Rights, Rant'n'Rave with tags , , on June 23, 2010 by Jay Vollmond

Like This!

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

When I first saw the Texas Republicans’ 2010 platform, I honestly thought that maybe they had dug up a platform from some long-ago time in America’s infancy. I think the only thing missing is a call for the repeal of the Emancipation Proclamation. But seeing as the document is in .pdf format and the title actually contains the year 2010, we have the unfortunate privilege of witnessing religious discrimination and ignorance in all it’s political glory.

The platform document reads like a battle plan on how to ensure that the fallacy of the US Constitution being founded on Judeo-Christian values continues to exist. It states this view clearly in the Texas Republican Platform. What struck me as particularly short-sighted is the fact that they state the US was founded on Christianity, but maintain that it’s still okay to have religious freedom.

“Judeo-Christian Nation – As America is a nation under God founded on Judeo-Christian principles, we affirm the constitutional right of all individuals to worship in the religion of their choice.”

This may be me coming from a completely different idea of religious freedom, but does that not sound like “Hey, you can worship your own false gods, just remember that you live in a Christian nation and will follow OUR guidelines to what is moral and what is not…”? This Palin-esque misrepresentation of the founding documents and leaders does not lead to MORE personal freedom, but instead results in an attempted theocracy. Did the early settlers and patriots (since Republicans regard patriotism so highly) really want to set up a government that imposed religious laws on its people? Of course not! That’s why they left England; to get away from the Anglican Church and the theocracy/monarchy.

“Safeguarding Our Religious Liberties – We affirm that the public acknowledgement of God is undeniable in our history and is vital to our freedom, prosperity and strength. We pledge our influence toward a return to the original intent of the First Amendment and toward dispelling the myth of separation of church and state. We urge the Legislature to increase the ability of faith-based institutions and other organizations to assist the needy and to reduce regulation of such organizations.
Religious Liberties Abroad – We urge Congress to sanction any foreign government that persecutes its citizens for their religion”

Now, wait a minute… These two articles were consecutive in the platform document. How does one go about stating that the separation of church and state is a “myth?!” I like how they snuck in some BS about deregulation so that faith-based organizations can “assist the needy.” Yeah, like that’s what regulations are in place to prevent. They are in place to prevent greedy fuckers from fleecing people and injecting their bronze-age mythology into our political system. Oh, but wait! They also want Congress to sanction OTHER countries if they persecute their citizens for religious reasons. Now, I know this may be a bit of a stretch for someone who actually BELIEVES that there is a creator of the universe and such deity actually despises gays, but wouldn’t the Christian/Muslim views of homosexuality be persecution?

The blatant bigotry is displayed in the section on homosexuality, “the family”, and other wacko religious incursion into people’s personal lives. According to the Republicans, gays should never receive equal rights for marriage, adoption, health benefits, and “pursuit of happiness”, among others. Plus, we MUST shield the children from the ‘dangerous’ gays that would otherwise infect people with communicable diseases, teach children that everyone should be gay, and sodomize anything in sight.

“Homosexual behavior is contrary to the fundamental, unchanging truths that have been ordained by God, recognized by our country’s founders, and shared by the majority of Texans.”
“We oppose any criminal or civil penalties against those who oppose homosexuality out of faith, conviction, or belief in traditional values.”

They actually want it to be LEGAL to openly discriminate against gays! Do any of these assholes wake up in the morning and stop to think about what it is they are saying and trying to enact in our society?

“Texas Sodomy Statutes – We oppose the legalization of sodomy. We demand that Congress exercise its authority granted by the U.S. Constitution to withhold jurisdiction from the federal courts from cases involving sodomy.”

Where is the “Texas Double-Sided Dildo Statute”? Apparently they haven’t been told that straight couples enjoy anal sex as well. Oh, and for the record, do you walk around wondering exactly how every person you meet has sex? Does it matter if someone only fucks doggy-style, or doesn’t get oral except on birthdays and holidays? Is it really any of your fucking business? NO! What happens consensually between two adults in private is exactly that: private. There are no gays going around to schools teaching children how to engage in risky sexual behavior. Stop watching FOX Not-really-News and listening to fear mongering.

I could go on and on about the unthinkable stances these politicians (elected by the ignorant among us) take on issues that affect the lives and happiness of citizens. It’s the usual:

  • No stem cell research – Despite the incredible advances in medical abilities from only scratching the surface of this most promising field of medicine. Apparently a small group of cells with no sense of feeling or pain receptors is more important than the suffering of children and adults throughout the world. Bullshit I say!
  • No women’s rights to their own bodies – Of course… “Look ladies, we know they’re your bodies and all, but our God says that what you’re doing is wrong. So we would rather have an unwanted child to be born to people who are not prepared (mentally or economically) to have a child than to dare upset our God by you removing a fertilized egg from your body before it has a chance to develop.” After all, chances are high that the fertilized egg will result in miscarriage. If there was a god, He/She/It would be the most accomplished abortion doctor of all time…
  • Evolution is “just a theory” so we need to teach Creationism as an alternative theory – Yeah, evolution is a theory; like the “Theory of Gravity” or “Germ Theory of Disease”. Read a single book on evolution you idiots. It’s not that difficult to understand. Same goes for global warming. YES, we as humans are poisoning the Earth. Now stop fighting us who DON’T believe Jesus is coming back in our lifetime to magically fix everything. If you care so much about your children, teach them the TRUTH about the world.

Oh, and I’m wondering who put the document together. I would have expected a uniform font and weight throughout the document. I’d think that an organization would be able to find at least ONE undergrad to proof-read their official platform.

– Jay