Archive for the ‘ Atheism ’ Category

A Thought On: Human Desire & Awareness

Hero4Thought wrote a post titled Human Desire & Awareness  The post starts out with

As I reflect on my continued departure from having a belief in God I’m trying to pinpoint some of the important factors that bring believers and skeptics to diverge where they do.

That got me thinking the way that lots of things do. Cogito ergo sum

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The only thing that we can truly be certain of knowing is that we think, and therefore we somehow exist. We can be certain of no other thing. As children we learn about the world we are presented with and how it works. Empathy ensures that we like to see fairness and good outcomes, even for others. Of course, when you compare your feelings about those in Nepal recently you may feel no honest pity for them because their plight has not activated empathetic simulation of their condition.

The reality is that all we know of the life of another is merely a story being told in the simulation of the world that runs in our brains, and in that simulation the same nerves that interpret pain signals from our body are active when we see others in pain. In a way, all that is input to our brain is as real as anything we experience via our nerves.

The cut on your finger is not real, the sensation that you feel is merely electrical impulses sent to your brain to be input to the simulation. There the pain registers because your brain tells you that that set of signals causes pain and so other parts of your brain react to those signals in your brains simulation. It is theoretically possible to cause someone vast amounts of pain simply by inputting the right signals to the brain.

The reality is that nothing is real. Every last bit of it is reduced to electrical signals and input to our brains for the simulation. The tight connection between our nerves and senses and our brain gives us the illusion that we are part of a world that is outside and bigger than that of our body.

There is a confirmation bias at work. If we can appear to witness good things and justice happening for others, then in this world we seem connected to it must also be possible for us to experience both justice and goodness. Conversely, experiencing it vicariously drives a need to want it as a first hand experience.

When the rules we use to understand this impossibly unreal world are examined and compared to all the knowledge we have acquired in any way or form, our brains do the math to calculate outcomes of cause and effect scenarios. This is done in the simulation, or at least we are only self aware of the stuff that happens in the simulation. We stop being believers when we are forced by some knowledge to admit to ourselves that the math does not add up any more in consideration of gods and the supernatural. Then we use every tool available to square the problem to get the math to again work out right. Induction, deduction, anger, frustration, even fear. Then we eventually work out that if there is no god the math begins to work out again.

Knowledge is what makes us different from the believers. Not simply possession of that knowledge but the willingness and ability to apply it to the simulation of the world that we run in our heads. Believers don’t want to learn about biology, physics etc. To do so would cause pain, actual pain. Rearranging the rules in our simulation activates those bits which register pain from our nerves. In our heads both a paper cut and changing the rules around register as pain. Pain is bad and to be avoided. When you stay on the straight and narrow path you avoid the pain. The road less travelled is the one laden with pain brought on by new knowledge.

For me, this is where believers and non-believers part ways.

On Beauty And Where We Find It

… hitherto we have been permitted to seek beauty only in the morally good – a fact which sufficiently accounts for our having found so little of it and having had to seek about for imaginary beauties without backbone! – As surely as the wicked enjoy a hundred kinds of happiness of which the virtuous have no inkling, so too they possess a hundred kinds of beauty; and many of them have not yet been discovered.

from Nietzsche’s Daybreak, s. 468, R.J. Hollingdale transl

What is your favorite scientific beauty?

Color Outside The Lines

If there is something that Laci missed in her video I’m not sure what it is.

Color is not something, in this case, that should be kept in neatly arranged lines. There are a lot of non-black people that don’t understand what Laci is talking about and I’m not sure I have the credentials to explain it to anyone but there are a few things I can relate from my own experience.

I don’t like to see my friends have to put up with an attitude from a white person who makes them feel second class. I stand up and call out white people who do that so that they’ll know next time.

I don’t like to see men in the grocery store where I shop looking at me with trepidation, we should be able to meet in friendly ways on the street but black people have learned to be extra cautious, to the point that it ruins opportunities for us all. I try to change that one smile and ‘hello’ at a time. It’s been so noticeable at times that I want to wear a shirt that says “I’m not a  cop”.

We all judge people, it’s a human thing. I try to remove any racial qualities to my judgements. This is specific to me because it changes how I think about other people. It has not been an easy task.

Everybody you know or see is fighting their own battles. Try to be a nice person and not give other people yet another battle to worry about.

 

We all have a debt to society. It’s up to each of us to do our part to make our society the kind of society that we would like to live in and to make people feel welcome there. Yes, a debt. Especially in western societies.

Like What You Want, Want What You Need

That will make sense once you’ve read about the work of Dr Kent Berridge, of the University of Michigan. He has figured out the mechanism in our brains that allows us to desire something that we don’t even know we will like. It’s a very interesting read though a bit long for the Internet attention span. I recommend it if you have 15 minutes or so.

Check it out at Wanting Versus Liking

“Ultimately, it is the desire, not the desired, that we love.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

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  • Have you ever heard someone say they are in love with being in love?
  • Have you ever known anyone that can change from sad to happy like a switch was flipped in their heads?
  • Have you ever known anyone that seemed to be without emotions? They’re always in the middle and can swing a little happy or a little sad?
  • Have you ever wondered what emotions are?

I have not seen easily accessible information before that identifies a mechanism for my thoughts on emotions. If we consider emotions to be a summary status of the chemical balance in our brains (though slightly more complex than that statement seems to make it out) we can get a glimpse of the chemical state of a normal functioning brain by what people reports as their emotional state. Further I opine that we can and do know how to manipulate that chemical state. There are those readers who know very well that it can be manipulated with a bit of help.

There are those that have experienced it but are not quite sure what I’m talking about. Let’s see it in pictures:

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Jesus Camp

What, is that too drastic?

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Beatlemania

Some readers will be well aware of other ways as well as how some of the brain soup chemical interact in odd ways.

So what’s the big deal?

Gradually, he says, a pattern of pleasure-generating areas started to emerge. “Lo and behold, it wasn’t random. All the sites that were doing it were clustered together in various brain regions.” The clusters were about a cubic millimetre in rats (so probably no more than a cubic centimetre in humans), and he called them hedonic hotspots—a series of tiny islands, scattered across a number of brain regions, but all connected to the same circuit. From the evidence so far, it looks as though this same entire circuit is activated for any pleasure, from food and sex to higher-order delights including monetary, musical and altruistic. The same gloss applied to very different events. — Dr Kent Berridge

Oh snap! So it’s possible that because of indoctrination we might be able to activate the pleasure (like) zones in our brains by doing the things we are comfortable with, acquainted with. Going to church can make you feel good or being with an abusive partner can make you feel good. There is no logic to it, it’s chemical soup. We can train our brains to alter the soup so that we don’t trigger the like/pleasure response so easily under given circumstances but when something becomes an addiction that is very difficult

I will further opine that some people are capable of managing the chemical soup so that status is always about the same. To many that would make them look emotionless yet to themselves it means avoiding the highs and lows of letting that chemical soup boil out of control. Some of this might make sense to you as you read it and I would appreciate your thoughts in the comments.

I am excited that we are finding the mechanisms which can explain emotions and what they really are. That way lies sanity. Like what you want, want what you need. In this we can be ‘happy’ without all the drama, or so it seems to me.

Why Is There A Heaven?

I remember when I simply accepted that heaven existed. There is precious little in the holy book to describe what heaven will be like. It seems that the god of Abraham did not want followers thinking about that too much. (they might just figure out it’s a scam?)

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The persecutor of God. — Paul thought up the idea and Calvin rethought it, that for innumerable people damnation has been decreed from eternity, and that this beautiful world plan was instituted to reveal the glory of God: heaven and hell and humanity are thus supposed to exist – to satisfy the vanity of God! What cruel and insatiable vanity must have flared in the soul of the man who thought this up first, or second. Paul has remained Saul after all – the persecutor of God.

from Nietzsche’s The Wanderer and his Shadow, R.J. Hollingdale transl.

The god of Abraham is equally ready to torment you forever or give you a place in paradise (whatever paradise is). The entirety of this existence is then said to be nothing except to filter out which humans get to heaven and which do not at the whim of and for the whims of a god.

That sounds a lot like a farmer who is raising pigs and the lifetime of the pigs is so the farmer can decide which ones to send to slaughter and which ones to invited to breakfast.

Neither Paul nor Calvin managed to clear any of that up. It remains a problem to this day despite the apologetics’ attempts to convince us they have compelling evidence. To them I ask, what does paradise look like? Why would I want to go there? Why would I want to go there after being threatened with eternal torment if I did not sign up?

Why is there a heaven? The god YHWH was apparently completely happy with Adam and Eve in the garden till he let that snake in to mess it up. The god YHWH did not create humanity to be in heaven, rather he specifically created them to be in the garden here on Earth. Why is there a heaven?

 

God Predicted Television!

Eve, the first woman    …       to buy something she heard about from the T.V. (talking viper)

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God Hears Your Prayers

Yes, I stumble across random posts by believers that are trying to give advice to other believers and it hurts. Seriously it hurts. First when my jaw hits the desk and then again when trying to do a triple face palm.

This post is a comment on one from altruisco, you might know them. He feels privileged that he can pray to a god and he is concerned that some might be discouraged when their prayers do not seem to be answered right away.

Our privilege of prayer is from God, and it is as much ours now as when it was given to Israel (Deuteronomy 4:7). Yet, when we pray or speak to the One in Heaven, there are times when He seems not to answer. There can be many reasons for this, and the Scriptures suggest why and how our prayers are being dealt with by the One who is so tender and loving, who Himself loves our communing with God the Father, for He, Himself, is our representative (Hebrews 4:15).

But don’t let George discourage you, let’s continue

A primary reason why prayer is unanswered is sin. God cannot be mocked or deceived, and He who sits enthroned above knows us intimately, down to our every thought (Psalm 139:1-4). If we are not walking in the Way or we harbor enmity in our hearts toward our brother or we ask for things with the wrong motives (such as from selfish desires), then we can expect God not to answer our prayer because He does not hear (2 Chronicles 7:14; Deuteronomy 28:23; Psalm 66:18; James 4:3). Sin is the “stopper” to all the potential blessings that we would receive from the infinite “bottle” of God’s mercy! Indeed, there are times when our prayers are heinous in the Lord’s sight, most notably when we clearly do not belong to the Lord either because of unbelief (Proverbs 15:8) or because we are practicing hypocrisy (Mark 12:40).

I’m thinking this guy has not read

Matthew 18:20 – For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them

Mark 11:24 – Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Another reason why prayer seems to go unanswered is that the Lord is drawing out of our faith a deeper reliance and trust in Him, which should bring out of us a deeper sense of gratitude, love and humility. In turn, this causes us to benefit spiritually, for He gives grace to the humble (James 4:6; Proverbs 3:34). Oh, how one feels for that poor Canaanite woman, who cried out incessantly to our Lord for mercy when He was visiting the region of Tyre and Sidon (Matthew 15:21-28)! She was hardly the person a Jewish rabbi would pay attention to. She was not a Jew and she was a woman, two reasons that Jews ignored her. The Lord doesn’t seem to answer her petitions, but He knew all about her situation. He may not have answered her stated needs immediately, but still He heard and granted her request.

It’s just a shame he doesn’t answer the prayers of those parents with starving children.

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God may often seem silent to us, but He never sends us away empty-handed. Even if prayer has not been answered, we must rely upon God to do so in His own time. Even the exercise of prayer is a blessing to us; it is because of our faith that we are stirred to persist in prayer. It is faith that pleases God (Hebrews 11:6), and if our prayer life is wanting, does that not reflect our spiritual standing also? God hears our impoverished cries for mercy, and His silence inflames us with a sense of persistence in prayer. He loves us to reason with Him. Let us hunger for the things that are after God’s heart and let us walk in His ways and not our own. If we are faithful to pray without ceasing, then we are living in the will of God, and that can never be wrong (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18).

God always seems silent to starving children. He sends them to the grave empty handed and with empty stomachs. Yes, trust that your god will answer your prayer. It worked out so very well for those now dead starving children and their families. Those starving children must not have believed in god with enough fervor. Maybe they forgot to pray without ceasing.

 

 

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