Friday, October 11, 2013

Atheist Answers

Magx01 has put up a list of questions for Atheists to answer, calling it 'the Atheist Project'. I think I have a thing or two to say about this subject and thus decided to answer the questions as faithfully (pun intended) as possible. Most of the time when there is a reference  to 'God' specifically, it refers to the Abrahamic god, but it can be applied to any religion. Please keep in mind that this is not meant to be any kind of aggressive attack on believers, just an explanation of what Atheism entails and why I am an Atheist. I do understand what makes a person believe, as I was once a Christian myself. I'll do my best in answering the questions as well as I can, but I, of course, can't speak for all Atheists. Now, on with the questions:

1) What is an atheist?/What do atheists believe?/Don't atheists worship Satan?/Can you prove that god does not exist?

These are actually four questions, so let's go through them one by one.

What is an Atheist?

An Atheist is someone who doesn't believe in any god. That's it.

The simplest way to get into this mindset is to look at gods other than your own. The way you feel about Zeus, that's exactly the same an Atheist thinks about the Christian god. There is a quote that has almost become something of a popular saying amongst Atheists, it goes something like this:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one less god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” —Stephen F Roberts

What do Atheists believe?

An Atheist doesn't say that there is no god, just that there is no evidence for one and thus that it is illogical to assume there is one. Usually, someone becomes an Atheist when they realize that mere faith is not enough to believe something. Tangible evidence is going to be needed. So I guess you can say that we “believe” in what we know. And I don't mean that as in “I know it in my heart”. Sorry, but that's not knowledge, that's a hunch. We don't do that.

Don't Atheists worship Satan?

Well, no. Obviously not. We don't believe in him, remember? So worshiping him would be a colossal waste of time.

Can you prove that God does not exist?

Nope. We can't, and we'll never be able to. Just as you can't prove any negative. And that doesn't matter because the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. If that would not be the case, why not believe in literally everything you can make up? After all, can you prove those things don't actually exist? No, you can't.

Make up a creature in your mind, right now. Now try to prove it doesn't exist. You can't. But do you believe in that creature now? Of course not, you just made it up. It is technically possible for the creature to exist somewhere 'out there' and that you just happen to describe something real by accident, so even though you should technically be agnostic about the creature you just made up, it's not unreasonable to assume that, no, this creature probably does not exist.

On top of that, if you based your creature on animals you already know, I'd say that this creature has a much higher change of existing than any god, since there is nothing godlike that we have ever observed (while the animals you based your creature on do already exist). It's kind of the same with Russel's Teapot and the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the sense that since teapots and spaghetti already exist, these examples have a better chance of existing than God, in my opinion.

2) Aren't there some things that science can't explain? Also, how can you trust science since it's always changing?

Again, these are actually separate questions. One by one:

Aren't there some things that science can't explain?

Sure there are, lots of things even! “God did it” is not a viable alternative however. That's what we call the 'God of the Gaps', when everything unexplained is attributed to God. This god shrinks with every discovery. Having no explanation for something (yet) is better than claiming you have an explanation, but then proceed to give no actual facts whatsoever to support your claim. There is no shame in simply admitting we don't know. Really, it's fine. Instead of shrugging, saying “God did it” and walking away, why not attack the problem? Let's find out how to define 'nothing', what dark matter is, if we are alone in the universe, all of those things! That's what drives science, after all: curiosity! Let's find out!

How can you trust science since it's always changing?.

The ever changing nature of science is exactly what makes it so trustworthy in the first place! It keeps getting updated as new facts are being uncovered. Science is all about going where these facts take you, regardless of agendas. Nothing is written in stone, that's the beauty of science. It isn't stubborn, it doesn't rely on old rituals, it's simply our knowledge of the world we live in and the means by which we obtained that knowledge.

3) What evidence would convince you that God exists?

Imagine that God Himself, let's say the Abrahamic one, would appear to anyone on Earth simultaneously, explains where he has been and why, for example, evolution looks like it makes so much sense and then proceeds to do a clear prophecy for the next day, which, of course, comes true, and all the stars in the sky would realign themselves to spell out something in Hebrew while the same, beautiful, music sounds around the world... something like that would be pretty damn impressive. But heck, even a simple test like the one executed by the prophet Elijah would be enough to at least make me reconsider. In it he held a contest of sorts between gods. There were two altars, one by the priests of the non-Abrahamic god, and one by the prophet. They both had to pray for fire, for the altars to light up. The priests tried and tried, but did not succeed. Then it was Elijah's turn and he actually poured water over the altar first. Then he prayed and a pillar of fire shot down from heaven and set the thing ablaze. That's one cool story. If that were to actually happen now, I can guarantee that a whole lot of Atheist would convert on that day. But instead, the almighty God who created the entire universe supposedly grills the face of Mary in pieces of toast. Not exactly as inciting.

4) Why is there something rather than nothing?

Interesting question and I, quite frankly, cannot give a bite size answer to this. Lawrence Krauss, however, wrote an entire book called 'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing'. So I guess that's required reading now. If you want your answer, that is.

What I, as a complete amateur, can say is this:
-Certain sub-atomic particles pop in and out of existence constantly, so the tiny point of singularity that expanded into the universe could have simply started to exist without breaking any of the laws of physics.
-The notion we have regarding the meaning of 'nothing' is a philosophical one, not a physical one. We have no example of 'nothing'. Take for example a vacuum, devoid of any physical objects. It still wouldn't be 'nothing' since all of the laws of nature would still apply in there. Maybe 'nothingness', like 'perfection', doesn't exist outside of philosophy.
-Time, at least as we know it, comes from the Big Bang. So to talk about 'before the Big Bang' is a bit paradoxical. Sure, there might have been another form of 'time' outside the Big Bang, but there doesn't have to be. Meaning that the notion that the universe was 'always there' is kind of right (kind of).

5) Where do atheists think the universe came from?

Since there is no qualification for being an Atheist other than not believing in any god, I can't say there is one shared believe on this per sé. However, I think it's fair to assume that most Atheist go by the Big Bang theory. But how did the Big Bang come to be? After all, something cannot come from nothing, right? Well, actually, the Big Bang theory doesn't state that there once was nothing and then an explosion. Rather, the idea is that there was something of a singularity, which then expanded into being the universe. And even that's paraphrasing.

The thing is, if you maintain that a supreme being must have ignited the Big Bang because every reaction logically must have had an action, then why not go one step further and ask where God came from?

6) If you met God, what would you say to Him?

-Why did You go through such great lengths to make it appear as if You didn't exist, only to punish those who fell for Your elaborate scam?
-Why did You allow the writers of Your holy book to make such grave errors?
-What is the answer to Epicurus' question regarding the nature of God ('whence cometh evil')?
-Have you eternally existed, or did you come to be also? And if the latter is true, how?

7) Everyone believes in God, why don't Atheists believe too?

The idea of God has come to be in different ways. One theory, for example, is that the idea of an invisible watchful eye came to be in order to further the power of morals among the early men. Another way the idea of a god or gods come to be is in an effort to explain the world around us with very limited knowledge (the first attempt at science, essentially). A volcano erupts, so an underground being must be mad. A city disappears underneath the waves, Neptune must be pissed. You can see what I'm getting at here. This is why deities get pushed away further and further as we progress in scientific areas. Gods used to live on the mountains, but then we conquered those. Then the gods lived in the sky above us, until we invented aeroplanes. Gods got moved into space, where Hubble then proceeded to take zero pictures of them. Now, Heaven and Hell are generally believed to reside in some sort of alternative dimensions. Maybe it's time to skip ahead already and admit that there probably is no god. We're at least not going to assume there is a god, anyway. Show us the proof first.

8) Where do morals come from, if not from God?

How does anyone know what is 'right' or 'wrong'? I can see how that question seems to invoke a need for a supreme being planting these truths into our being. Yet, this is not the case, the existence of morality is perfectly explainable. I think there are two kinds of morality; one we learn by growing up in a certain environment and one that we inherently own. The latter, of course, is the one that poses the supposed problem. But when you think of it, there certainly is such a thing as objective morality.
One school of thought is simply that the humanoid creatures that weren't so big on morality died out, whereas the Homo Sapiens lived because they essentially understood the golden rule (don't do unto others as you would not wish others to do unto you). They got much further because they could collaborate much better because of this.

9) What's the point of living if you don't believe in God?

I've never really understood this question. Without an afterlife, this is all you've got. Make the best of it, make sure you spent your time here well. But if you do believe in God, however, why not kill yourself and go to heaven right now?

10) If we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys alive today?

No one claims that we came from one of the contemporary apes or monkeys. The evolutionary tree shows us that gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees and bonobos are our nephews, as it were. It shows that we have a common ancestor, that tree branches out about 13 million years ago. That's where the Orangutan ultimately comes from. Our closest relatives are the Chimpanzee and the Bonobo (two different species, both from the Chimpanzee genus (Pan)). Evidence for all this is found not only in the fossil record, but also in our very DNA. For a creator god to be true, He must have deliberately made it look like evolution happened.

11) Don't you Atheists wish there was a Heaven?

Personally, I really don't. An eternity of anything would be the absolute worst. Heaven would turn into Hell pretty quickly. But that's besides the point right now. Even if I did wish there was a Heaven, that doesn't make it true. I could wish for Carrie Anne Moss to be my girlfriend, but that doesn't make it so.

12) Why blog, debate on forums, make videos, etc?

I was a young-Earth Creationist, Evangelical Pentecostal Christian once.
Luckily, I had a lot of discussions with friends about these subjects. They challenged me to think objectively, outside of the parameters of my particular religion. Someone lent me a copy of Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion', which I absolutely loved. I started watching Richard Dawkins documentaries on YouTube, and from there on I watched a ton of videos on Evolution, Creationism, Religion, Atheism, you name it. I became familiar with some basic principles of science and some really awesome people like Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Michael Shermer, Christopher Hitchens, Lawrence Krauss, James Randi and many more. It became pretty clear to me that everything I thought to be evidence for my beliefs actually wasn't. Not by a long shot. And when I finally became an Atheist, it was as if a weight was lifted from my shoulders. I felt a clear sensation of blinds being removed. Suddenly, everything became very clear. When I look at the stars now, I am much more in awe than I ever was before. So, why share on forums, blogs and YouTube? Why debate? Because I want to help those that seek the path of reason, just like I did just a very few years ago.

13) Pascal's Wager basically states that even though the existence of God cannot be determined through reason, a person should wager as though God exists, because living life accordingly has everything to gain, and nothing to lose, whereas living as an atheist can possibly cost you everything but you gain nothing. Essentially, why don't you just believe, what do you have to lose? 

There are a lot of things wrong with Pascal's Wager (after Blaise Pascal, who first proposed this). It's biggest fallacy is that it assumes only two options: either one specific god is true, or there is no god at all. However, there are roughly 4200 religions around the world. If we go by pure 'roll of the dice' kind of chance, then it's most likely that we are both wrong. If the right religion then happens to have a Hell, we would both go there, but whereas the Atheist would only have not believed in this god, the Theist would actually have worshipped another god. In other words, going by Blaise Pascal's logic, but with about 4200 added variables, Atheism is the safest bet. 

But of course, all that is still ignoring that what drives Pascal here is the fear of Hell, not reason. If you were to 'believe' just in case, would an omnipotent god not not be able to see trough that?  

These were the questions as posted by Magx01. Let's throw in some more for good measure.

Why do you hate God?

I don't. I don't believe in him, so hating God would be hating a fictional character. I don't get all up on Hades all day, so why would the Abramic god anger me any more? I get this all the time, people just assume that I hate God. I don't. I do hate ignorance though. I hate it when children are being lied to in between school walls. I hate it when Christians think it's fine to discriminate based on their holy texts. I hate it when some oblivious jock has a tattoo on his muscled arm that quotes the homophobic line from Leviticus, even though the same fucking book forbids tattoos on the next page. Seriously, you're cherry-picking, yet you still pick out these hateful, inhumane things? I hate that the United States, the supposed Land of the Free, is basically a theocracy. I hate it when old friends abandon their former friend when they find out he is an Atheist. I hate that simply stating that there probably is no God will warrant a death threat sooner or later. I hate that so many people actually believe that Atheists secretly do believe in God, but want to live in sin, so we deny him. I hate that the Vatican is effectively killing thousands by claiming that condoms are no good, and yet is still being seen as a force for good in the world. I hate that when stories of paedophilia in the Catholic Church pop up, their first thought is with the image of the church, not the children's well being  I hate that churches will gladly clad themselves in gold while others starve. I hate that Christians don't know what's in their own bible. I hate it when a woman gets stoned for not obeying her abusive husband. I hate that a woman can become a shame to her family once she gets raped. I hate it when people think it's a good idea to blow themselves up in the middle of a busy market. I hate it when people make children recite holy texts. I hate it when children are being told that people they know and love will burn forever. I hate it when any reason threatens to seep trough in your mind, that that gets labelled as Satan trying to take you away from God. I hate it that even 'being with God' is supposed to be a positive thing, even though the biblical God is clearly a homicidal dictator. My point is that there are a lot of religion based things to hate here, but some guy that didn't exist in the first place isn't one of them.

And hey, that's just me. A lot of Atheists I know don't give a shit about religion altogether. How we feel about those things is not a mutual thing. Remember, there is no dogma in Atheism. But the idea that we secretly believe in your specific god but that we hate him so much that we decided to claim his non existence is downright silly.

Why can't you just let people believe what they want to believe?

It's not that people can't have their own beliefs, the point many Atheists make in regard to, for example, creationism, is that your personal beliefs shouldn't be taught in schools. Nor should it be displayed at museums and presented as fact. You can do that once you've got actual evidence. But then, of course, it wouldn't be faith anymore, it would be science. That's why Atheists can sometimes seem aggressive about this; we don't care what you do in your own house, but keep it out of education and out of the government. By doing so we aren't looking for any kind of Atheist governing, by the way, just Secular.

But don't you want to outlaw all religion?

No, forbidding someone to practice a certain religion is just as ridiculous and abominable as forcing someone to practice it. Not in the last place because nobody can actually choose what they believe. Believe is, or should be, a result of waged evidence. You believe what you believe. Evidence to the contrary may change this, law cannot possibly do so. 

Evolution VS Creationism, why not teach the controversy?

Because there is no controversy to begin with. By that I mean that no biologist is going to be against Evolution. That would be, as Bill Nye has elegantly put it, like a geologist who doesn't believe in tectonic plates. It doesn't work. The idea of 'teaching the controversy' also seems to contain the thought that every single idea is equally valid regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof. So why not teach that the world actually rests on a giant turtle shell, like the Iroquois creation myth describes and let the children decide. Teach the controversy, right?

But isn't evolution just a theory?

This is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding of semantics. In everyday life the word 'theory' often means something along the lines of 'a hunch' or 'this idea I've got'. The scientific definition of a theory, however, is much more solid. In fact, you can't even call something a theory unless you've got evidence to support it. In other words, unless it's true. So why call it a 'theory' and not a 'fact'? Because a fact is one single truth, one single piece of evidence. A theory is a whole bundle of facts. Some of these facts might be challenged, but the theory remains. Gravity, for example, is also a theory.

Aren't you afraid of Hell?

No. I'm as afraid of Hell as you are of Hades, Tartarus, Helheim, Irkalla, The House of Lies, Avici, Narak, Kasyrgan or Mictlan.

This goes back to one of the first points made in this post: show me why you aren't afraid of any of the other Hell-like places, and you'll see why I'm not afraid of yours.

Why are you hiding from God? / Why are you shielding yourself? / Why won't you open your heart?

Christians seem to think it is obvious that God exist, and that Atheists are just actively ignoring him (in order to sin, I guess. Not that that makes a whole lot of sense, but that's the trail of thought). The thing is that, no, there is actually nothing obvious about God's supposed existence and most Atheist actually got there by being open. That's usually what we do. Tell us your claim and we will look at it as subjectively as we can. If you can actually proof God, we are certainly open to hear about that. It's just that nobody thus far has actually proven the existence of any god. Which is why we don't just assume that there is a God which is why we're Atheist. If your religion makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside, good for you, but that doesn't make it true.

I have had a personal experience with God. How do you explain that?

In my last years as a Christian I have repeatedly said that Atheists are the voice of reason and certainly seem to be right. They couldn't have been, however, because of my personal experiences. There were multiple things, but the most compelling was the fact that Jesus Christ himself appeared by my bedside when I was a child. After that, how could I not believe? I had seen with my own two eyes! But then you learn about things like Sleep Paralysis. The human mind is surprisingly subjectable to suggestion. I believed in demons because I have heard them, not realizing that this is a well known and documented mental condition. I have hallucinated a lot throughout my life and I still do. I'm glad that I can now see them as just that, hallucinations. If someone had told me the voices aren't real when I was a child, that would have been nice.

If you maintain that these types of experiences are proof of God, ask yourself:
-Why is seeing Jesus proof of Jesus, but seeing, for example, Vishnu, not proof of Vishnu?
-What is more likely, your god of preference paying you a visit or your brain playing tricks on you? The latter is very human, by the way, while there is still no objective proof of the first.

How do you explain miracles being performed in the name of God?

Well, how do explain the miracles being performed in the name of other gods? And beyond that, have you ever noticed that the things that are being cured are the things that could have gotten better without any divine intervention? Headaches are being cured left and right, but how many times have you seen an entire limb growing out of a limbless torso? Yeah, me neither. It seems that only things that the placebo effect can take care of are of any interest to God. I'll let you work out for yourselves why that would be. Also, if God has a divine plan that encompasses everything, why pray at all? Would that not be asking God to change his infallible plan? Maybe you have seen Peter Popoff in action and that's why you believe in faith healers. After all, how did he know all those things about people in his audience if not for God telling him? Well, how about his wife telling him through an earpiece? Popoff sells miracle water trough infomercials now, by the way. This miracle water can supposedly be used for anything from curing cancer to making debts disappear. This is no different then the medieval quack selling snake oil and the likes. If a proven fraud like Popoff can be a healer, why would any other healer doing the same be prove of any God? I'm not saying that all faith healers are frauds, that's clearly not the case. I think that most of them genuinely believe that they do the Lord's work. I'd like to remind you of the placebo effect, however. Show me the healer that can make limbs appear out of thin air, then we can talk.

Have you read the Bible?

Yes. Have you?

Numbers 31:15-18
15) “Have you allowed all the women to live?” he asked them. 16) “They were the ones who followed Balaam’s advice and enticed the Israelites to be unfaithful to the Lord in the Peor incident, so that a plague struck the Lord’s people. 17) Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, 18) but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man.

Proverbs 20:30
Blows and wounds scrub away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.

Leviticus 25:44-46
44) “‘Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45) You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46) You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Numbers 15:32-36
32) While the Israelites were in the wilderness, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. 33) Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, 34) and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. 35) Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” 36) So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.

Proverbs 13:24
Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.

Exodus 21:17
Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.

Exodus 21:7-8
7) If a man sells his daughter as a servant, she is not to go free as the male servants do. 8) If she does not please the master who has selected her for himself, he must let her be redeemed. He has no right to sell her to foreigners, because he has broken faith with her.

(In fact, pretty much the whole of Exodus 21 is just abominable)

Deuteronomy 22:23-24
23) If a man happens to meet in a town a virgin pledged to be married and he sleeps with her, 24) you shall take both of them to the gate of that town and stone them to death—the young woman because she was in a town and did not scream for help, and the man because he violated another man’s wife. You must purge the evil from among you.

2 Kings 2:23-24
23) And he went up from thence unto Bethel. And as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, “Go up, thou bald head! Go up, thou bald head!”
24) And he turned back and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. And there came forth two shebears out of the wood and tore forty and two children of them.

And that's just a very small sample. If you want to read more of this, just pick up a Bible.

Yeah, but that's in the old testament, that stuff doesn't apply anymore.”

Oh really? That's funny, because according to Jesus...

Matthew 5:17-19
17) “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. 18) For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19) Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Also, there's plenty of foul stuff in the new testament too:

Ephesians 6:5-6
5) Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. 6) Obey them not only to win their favour when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. 

1 Timothy 2:12
I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

Of course, the biggest problem here is that those who claim that the old testament has no relevance anymore are usually (and paradoxically) also the ones who claim that the Bible is infallible. Can't have your cake and eat it too, people. If you want to have a honest discussion regarding scripture, you must first acknowledge its fallibility. If you are not prepared to do so, you are by proxy saying that:
-Slavery is a-okay.
-Women are second class citizens who should not be able to teach or speak their minds and are the possession of their fathers until they are the possession of their husbands.
-Taking innocent citizens as prisoners of war for you to repeatedly rape is a-okay.
-Prison should have physical punishment.
-Stoning someone for doing anything on the Sabbath is justified.
-Children should be beaten
-Rebellious teenagers should be killed, preferably by stoning.
-Beating your slave to death is okay, as long as he doesn't die immediately.
-Painfully and gruesomely killing children for making fun of your bald head is justified.
-Rape victims should either be stoned if you didn't hear them yell, or marry their rapists in any case (depending on which verse you're reading).
If any of that sounds just to you, I don't think I would want to associate myself with you in any way.

[Insert vicious dictator here] was an Atheist!

So? It's not like they committed their crimes against humanity in the name of Atheism. And it also isn't the case that there are more Atheists that are dictators then there are perfectly normal Atheist. So what exactly is your point here?
Oh, and in the case of Adolf Hitler: no, he wasn't. 

What are you going to tell your children?

If I ever have children, I will probably tell them biblical tales as bedtime stories along with stories of Hercules and King Midas. I will educate them on morals as any other parent would, you don't need religion for the golden rule to take effect. I will tell them not to do 'bad' things, not because they should fear burning forever (I will, under no circumstances, tell a child such a thing!), but because their actions have consequences. I will be honest about religion, meaning that I will tell them that some people believe in these tales and that they have the right to do so. Just as I would not impose a believe on a child, I will not impose a disbelieve either. If they want to claim any religion, they may. I predict that they might have had about a dozen religions by the time they reach their teenage years, and that's fine.

I will never withhold any access to science for my child(ren), I will probably make them watch Carl Sagan's Cosmos and Bill Nye the Science Guy. And most importantly: I will never cease to love them or treat them any differently if they turn out to be anything other than me. If they happen to be gay, that's fine. If they choose to be religious, that's fine. If they have a different philosophy than mine, that's fine. That's a little something called unconditional love, and it should be more widespread.

Isn't Atheism a religion too?

Nope, Atheism is the 'none of the above' option under a list of religions. If Atheism, the lack of a belief, is a religion, then I must also be quite a sportsman. After all, I'm also a non-soccer player, a non-baseball player, a non-sprinter, a non-swimmer, et cetera. My hair would not only be brown, but also non-blonde and non-black. You get the idea: the lack of a belief is not a belief.

But Atheism has fundamentalists too!

Wikipedia quotes George M. Marsden in saying:

“Fundamentalism is the demand for a strict adherence to orthodox theological doctrines usually understood as a reaction against Modernist theology, primarily to promote continuity and accuracy.”

Atheism does not have such doctrines, and therefore a fundamentalist Atheist can, by definition, not exist.
I think what people mean by 'fundamentalist Atheist' is usually simply someone who is very passionate. You wouldn't see Richard Dawkins blow up a building, though. That's kind of an important detail.

So, what happens when we die then?

Every single part of your consciousness and personality is stored in our brain. When we die, our brains die, so there is no reason to believe any of that carries on after death. Death to me is as simple, real and unfrightening as the time before I was born. I once wasn't and someday cease to be once more. It's that little window in between those times that matters.

I have an interest in Atheism and like to learn more, where do I start?

Someone that helped me out a lot was Richard Dawkins. I recommend you read 'The God Delusion', 'The Blind Watchmaker', 'Climbing Mount. Improbable' and 'Unweaving The Rainbow'. Or maybe documentaries are more your thing, in which case I recommend you watch 'The BlindWatchmaker', 'The Root of All Evil?' and 'Enemies of Reason'.

Carl Sagan hosted an outstanding television series called 'Cosmos', which I highly recommend if you're interested in a heavy dose of (understandable) science, combined with the odd philosophical thought. It's on YouTube and you will not regret watching it.

Interested in the Big Bang and how it came to be? Lawrence Krauss is your man.

James Randi is magnificent in debunking all sorts of superstitious practices.

Want to know how human beings came to be hardwired for superstition? Why we believe what we believe? Michael Shermer is your guy.

Not afraid of a sound discussion? Here, have a Christopher Hitchens.

Watched all your Sagan videos, but not done marveling at the universe yet? Like to geek out about Isaac Newton? Neil deGrasse Tyson is the guy for you (also, this. Please watch that).

Sam Harris has a lot of interesting opinions about religion, here he is talking about objective morality, a subject that has come up in question number 8 above.

There also are some very helpful people in the 'YouTube-Atheist community', such as AronRa, Thunderf00t, DarkMatter2525, NonStampCollector, FfreeThinker, TheThinkingAtheistpotholer54, Lee Lemonatheistcoffee, FactVsReligion and JaclynGlenn.

You could also watch Q&A programs such as The Atheist Experience (I especially recommend the videos with Matt Dillahunty and Tracie Harris. Although Matt can be a bit impatient sometimes), Ask an Atheist and Freetought Forum. These are local programs on television, but can be viewed internationally trough sites such as YouTube.

If you wish to leave a comment or question, please do so in the comment section below. If the comment section isn't showing, click on the title of the post.
In this post I have linked three TED videos. TED is not an Atheist organisation, but a science based one. The two tend to overlap more often than not.
That was it for today, thank you for reading.
-The Human Crayon.

-Updates, 15th of October, 2013.
Added questions about miracles, outlawing religion, fear of Hell, dictators being Atheists, what to tell children.
-Update, 16th of October, 2013.
Added Pascal's Wager (Magx01's 13th question)
-Update, 17th of October.
Deleted Bush Sr. quote for questionable authenticity. 
-Updates, 31st of January, 2014.
Paragraph added on question 4, added Atheist YouTube-channels, corrected some embarrassing spelling errors (whoops).
-Updates, 15th of September, 2014.
Added paragraph to the 'Have you read the Bible?' question, changed spelling from a mixture of American English and British English to purely 
British English.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

King Jeremy the Wicked

First of all I'd like to address my absence on this site. I promised a weekly post, yet my last post was 32 days ago. That's not being late, that's a hiatus. So, how did this situation come to be? Well, funnily enough I actually did post an article about this subject the day it was supposed to be posted, but I pulled it after I decided I wasn't at all happy with the tone of it. I deleted most of the text and started over. This time I would miss the Monday-deadline I set for myself over and over, spiraling down a vicious circle (yes, I do realize that's technically impossible, I'm trying to express myself here). But hey, I'm here now, so let's talk about Jeremy.

Jeremy Wade Delle

The backstory.
The song 'Jeremy' by Pearl Jam is about a boy who has to deal with a great deal of anxiety until he decides that it's not worth it and shoots himself in front of his classmates. It's an account of real life teenager Jeremy Wade Delle, who has shot himself in a Richardson High School at about 9:45 AM on the 8th of January, 1991.

Jeremy, fifteen or sixteen years old, was a shy boy, and was picked on because of it. He was very non-social and was described as 'real quiet' and a 'loner'. He did have one friend at school though: the sixteen year old Lisa Moore. They exchanged notes discussing general topics. Jeremy's later notes expressed curiosity after Lisa's then boyfriend and started talking about trouble he's been having with a teacher, signing all of his notes with 'Write back'. One January Monday however, he signed his note 'Later days'. The following Tuesday Jeremy was late, missing the first class. When he showed up in English class, the teacher told him to go get an admittance slip from the school office. He walked out and got a gun that he planted in advance, presumably in his locker. Upon his return, he walked directly to the front of the classroom and said “Miss, I got what I really went for” and pulled out the .357-caliber Magnum, placed it in his mouth and shot, without any hesitation. Just outside was sixteen year old Brian Jackson, trying to open his locker. He didn't think much of the bang. Could be a book slammed against a table, maybe the class was performing a play or something. But then a girl came running out of the classroom, screaming and crying, rapidly informing the small school that something had just gone horribly wrong. Frightened but curious Brian stepped inside where he saw Jeremy's body lying in his blood on the floor and the teacher standing against the wall, crying and shaking. The teacher resigned after the incident, a hole in the wall from the bullet is still visible today, being kept like that in Jeremy's honour.

Pearl Jam enters the story.
Pearl Jam was at the time still busy making their demo for what would eventually become 'Ten', but not now, as they where on tour (I'm having a hard time figuring out which one exactly. For example, the FiveHorizons Concert Chronology doesn't mention a concert around that time in that area. Nor does TwoFeetThick. The closest I could find is the 10/11/91 concert at the Vatican in Houston Texas (via FiveHorizons), but that's much too late since Pearl Jam already began recording Jeremy in March. Their famous tour opening for Alice in Chains seems to fill the right timesloth, but they didn't go anywhere near Texas). When in the area (during whatever tour), Eddie Vedder came across a copy of 'The Dallas Morning News' in which there was an article about Jeremy. In a 2009 interview with Seattle Sound Magazine, Vedder said that he felt "the need to take that small article and make something of it—to give that action, to give it reaction, to give it more importance."

Jeremy and you.
I think most people know a Jeremy. Do not approach him with clichés about how wonderful life is, he has heard them all and he is not impressed. When Marilyn Manson was asked what he would say to Klebold and Harris of the Columbine murders, he replied: “I wouldn't say a single word to them, I would listen to what they have to say. And that's what no one did.” I think Manson is right on the money here, most Jeremies out there aren't looking for a psychiatrist, just being there listening will do. The worst thing you can do is trying to push whatever idea you've got to solve this, the best thing you can do is being there. Just listening. Stephen Fry has said: “If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather. Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do.” Like the weather, depression isn't something one could just walk off and forget about, it just there, whether you like it or not. There isn't a single solution because there isn't a single cause. And sometimes there's the need to curl up and take shelter for a while, that's okay. Invite your Jeremy to parties and be persuasive about it, but never force him to go anywhere. Sometimes he doesn't want to be around people and that should be respected too.

We unleashed a lion.
Eddie Vedder actually knew a Jeremy too, a kid named Brian committed a school shooting in his Junior High School, which is why he decided to sing the song in the perspective of one of Jeremy's classmates. He knew exactly what feelings come from knowing someone in your school did something like this, since he actually has first hand experience. In December '91 Vedder told KLOL FM: “I actually knew somebody in junior high school, in San Diego, California, that did the same thing, just about, didn't take his life but ended up shooting up an oceanography room. I remember being in the halls and hearing it and I had actually had altercations with this kid in the past. I was kind of a rebellious fifth-grader and I think we got in fights and stuff. So it's a bit about this kid named Jeremy and it's also a bit about a kid named Brian that I knew.”

This is it for now, but I will come back to revise this article since I'm still not happy with it. I will focus on something else for now, maybe clarity comes later, when I've gotten the change to clear my mind.

The actual newspaper article as read on
Marilyn Manson quote: Bowling for Columbine.
Stephen Fry quote: Secret Life of the Manic Depressive.
Eddie Vedder Quote about shooting at his school: KLOL FM
Eddie Vedder Quote 'Action, reaction, importance': Seattle Sound Magazine, March 2009.
And, of course, Wikipedia.

I've decided to drop the weekly schedule altogether and just post whenever I feel like it instead. So be sure to bookmark or subscribe!
Hakuna Matata!

-The Human Crayon