Atheist Murderer … So What?

Yes, I just said that. Does it really matter whether this tragedy, and it is a tragedy, is a hate crime or just some guy with a gun and several loose screws? Not to their families. It doesn’t matter to me. I truly feel bad for the families. Their pain will not go away any time soon. If I had a way to help them I will. That does not change the story. It does not change what happened. Humans are a violent species; always have been and it seems they always will be. Here are the faces of some of the latest violence. Yes, only some of it. Someone should be asking the question: Why are crazy people allowed to carry guns? How can we detect crazy people? You might as well ask how we can prevent lightning from striking churches and burning them down. No solution will ever be complete and tragedies like this will always happen as long as humans exist as we exist to day.

Do you remember not long ago when there was a number of people claiming that wars in Islamic countries created terrorists? Well, what does it take to push a nutter over the edge? Perhaps a parking dispute and the opportunity to use a gun? Hmmm that doesn’t seem like much, certainly not enough. Well, how about Muslims beheading people and burning them alive and distributing the film world wide? Would that do it? Remember those who said Charlie Hebdo were ‘begging’ for it? Do those people still feel that way? Did they not think it would happen the other way around? Did no one consider this possibility? They shouldn’t have been surprised.

Maybe this story will give you reason that a nutter with a gun might use it, given a chance?

Atheism is not a world view. It offers no code of conduct nor even suggests that one should behave this way or that. It is nothing more than the disbelief in gods and the supernatural. Hatred of others is something atheists do all on their own, for those that hate others. Trust me, atheists can hate just like anyone else. Being an atheist does not mean that you are morally good or even fun to be around. It just means that you don’t believe in gods. That lack of belief is the only thing that atheists have in common as a group. It’s even difficult to call them a group. It’s like calling everyone that does not wear pink a group – non-pink wearers. If someone who does not wear pink killed someone in black and green would it be because they don’t wear pink? Even if they are new never-wear-pink-ists?

Whatever the story turns out to be in truth, this man killed three innocents and that takes a special mind set. Sure, we all wish that this would never happen and a lot of us wish that atheists would never do such a thing but being an atheist doesn’t make you sane or morally good. The only thing that we can guess is that he didn’t kill them in the name of his god and the news is full of reasons for a nutjob to want to ‘take revenge’ or lash out at the people that cause them fear and anger. I’m not saying they deserved to be killed, because they didn’t as far as I know. I have no reason to think they deserved anything but kindness and friendship.

How many times can you chant and protest and proclaim ‘death to those that insult Islam’ before the crazies come out of the woodwork? Maybe now we know?



God Is Great?

So is macaroni and cheese.

Wait, don’t run away. Let’s define a few things:

    1. (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
2. (in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.

Then there is great:

1. of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average.
2. of ability, quality, or eminence considerably above the normal or average.

That doesn’t really say much about the god of Abraham.

Did you notice anything about the definition of the word great? Yes, the word is a modifier for things which are measurable. The god of Abraham is not visible nor in any way measurably existent. Such a being or thing cannot be great. You might opine that I’m being a bit obtuse with the definition of great. I’m not. The god of Abraham is not great. The god of Abraham cannot be measured so to say that a god is great is to say that it is above average based on an opinion of what that god is rather than a measurement of what that god is.

Sure, some will argue that they know what their god is, but do they? How did they measure those values? Can they know the mind of their god? If they answer yes the question is how do they know the mind of a god? By what means? Are these means measurable, testable? For the very same reasons that the adherents of the Abrahamic faiths tell us that Zeus is a false god we can conclude that their YHWH is a false god. There are/were many gods which have many of the same supposed traits as the Jesus is said to have. How can he be great?

Without proof that a god exists that god remains nothing more than an idea. Just an idea. How is it that we measure one idea as being great? Well, we look at what measurable effects that idea has over others. Sliced bread was a great idea. Food canning was a great idea. Homogenization was a great idea. Doing cannon balls off the Brooklyn bridge was not a great idea.

Simply put, the god of Abraham is not great, cannot be great. If a god is not great why worship it?

The anecdotal evidence often supplied by believers for their god is no more effective than the wishful thinking of a sport team fan.

Sure, there is the claim that YHWH is omnipotent but there is no proof. There is the claim that YHWH is omniscient but there is no proof. There is the claim that YHWH is omnipresent but there is no proof. Without proof these are just claims with no more validity than those claims made of the flying spaghetti monster.

Okay, there is the argument that YHWH/Allah cannot be measure but remains great in the way that the ‘big bang’ was a great explosion. The ‘big bang’ as it is called left measurable effects where YHWH/Allah does not. Many will claim that god changed their life yet those life changes are not outside the expected capability of those that do not believe in a god so we cannot attribute those changes to a god. To attribute them to a god is to precisely say that such a god _IS_ average rather than considerably above average. God is not great.

Is Anti-Theism A Valid Position?

mephistopheles hesitant has a pretty decent post here in which they attempt to address, as a response, a post that was derogatory of anti-theists. I don’t want to go over the all of that territory as mephistopheles hesitant makes a fair go at it. I simply want to comment on some few sentences they used at the end. Their concluding paragraphs are below, complete, emphasis is mine.

The anti-theists have made a courageous engagement with questions about the place of religion in society. This is an important discussion that we need to have, not just because of Islamist terrorism and gay marriage, but because religious modes of thinking and being are part of our society and they compete in the marketplace of ideas. Anti-theists like to talk about religion as if it is a set of shackles from which we need to free ourselves. It is an extreme point of view, but we should acknowledge that some anti-theists sincerely want to help religious people to know that human beings are not inherently guilty, that we should not fear open questioning in the pursuit of truth, that you do not owe a cosmic debt—which you cannot physically or spiritually repay—to your Creator for a transgression you did not commit. Anti-theists are “spreading the good news” that you do not bear the mark of Cain or the stain of Adam. With this comes liberation and increased personal responsibility. If you commit an action so horrible that no person will forgive you, there is no hope of ultimate redemption. There is no second chance.

While they are not anti-anti-theist I take issue with some thoughts they have:

There are many shortcomings in the anti-theist arguments. They lack nuance. Mostly, they lack an understanding of the anthropology and sociology of religion. They’re not political science or psychology or philosophy experts, either. They’re informed citizens trying to open up dialogue about questions that matter. Is there purpose in the universe? Is there an afterlife? Is there an all-loving Creator? Do such beliefs, if false, serve any good purpose in the world? All theists have to do is actually defend their beliefs against criticism. That’s not asking much.

Now, don’t take offense at the anology but this is a lot like one of the Rabbi’s sitting down to dinner with Moses and trying to convince him that these Egyptian fellows really aren’t that bad and they deserve a more nuanced and civil discussion about the matter, and how being terse, impassioned, and sometimes angry really isn’t doing the Jews any favors. All the Jews have to do is defend their belief in freedom against tyranny. Maybe a couple of good debates or something?

I’m not anti-theist. It’s a mistake to believe ridding ourselves of religion is the only option, or the best option. It’s not practical, and people are right to sound the alarm bells of bigotry and intolerance. Anti-theists have so far been careful about walking the fine line of anti-theist and anti-Christian or anti-Muslim. GA42’s points are important to consider, because we know what happens when extreme views fall into the hands of the mob. We have to correct anti-theists when they characterize all religious people as “illogical” or “irrational” or “stupid.” We have to be wary of dogmatism and ideological homogeneity in our beliefs, theistic and atheistic.

Now, when you think this paragraph through it will make sense. Read it again, several times if you have to. What is being asked for here? Who is legislating thought crimes into law? Who is legislating oppression into law? Who is legislating theological thought into law? Don’t be bigoted toward the tyrants he asks. Interesting way of putting things. In the position of theology there is no central ground save perhaps for agnostics. A parley for compatibility is nothing less than asking the enemy to put their weapons down. We know how that works out in the effluence of human affairs. Yes, I’m sort of saying that any capitulation at all is complete capitulation. Despite the violence that religion reigns down on humanity this is not a war of attrition it is a war of ideas – once side fighting for complete dominance and the other fighting for a secular world with freedom of thought for all.

We can all improve our attitude, our tone of voice on the issue of religion. We’re perfectly capable of talking about religion without resorting to hostilities. We can have strong feelings about a subject and attack peoples’ ideas without attacking the person. Theists have long had a privileged voice in society, and my hope is that nonreligious persons will no longer feel afraid to express their beliefs openly. As obnoxious as the anti-theists are, they are affording us all the ability to be more public about our opinions on religion. We should thank them for that.

Anti-theists well can talk about religion without resorting to violence. It’s a position we’ve been forced to endure for many centuries because anything else meant death, often a horrible death. Some modern countries still have blasphemy laws that carry very harsh penalties and death. Anyone that forgets that has forgotten the lessons of war, of history, of humanity. We are still a very long way from living in a society where expressing atheist ideas is safe. To believe otherwise is to fail to understand this society at all. When it indeed is safe to talk about our thoughts on religion perhaps then it will be time to consider that more nuanced approach. Until that time theists are not deserving of a nuanced civil discourse. They will get it, but they are not deserving of it.

The origins of ethics and morals


This is a wonderful summary:
For secular people, morality is predicated on one simple principle: empathetic reciprocity, widely known as the Golden Rule. Treating other people as you would like to be treated. It is an ancient, universal ethical imperative. And it requires no supernatural beliefs. As one atheist mom who wanted to be identified only as Debbie told me: “The way we teach them what is right and what is wrong is by trying to instill a sense of empathy … how other people feel. You know, just trying to give them that sense of what it’s like to be on the other end of their actions. And I don’t see any need for God in that. …

When I read this post I thought to myself “Duh!” I hope that sooner rather than later my drop is but one in a sea of voices that agree.

Originally posted on The Unassuming Atheist:

One argument that many Christians make is that God’s word (the bible) provides the moral compass that we all should follow. Listen, there are some great lessons in the bible. However, the hogwash in it tends to outweigh those lessons, but that is for another conversation. Do we need God to tell us right from wrong? Would it be a free-for-all anarchy, lawlessness, terrifying society without having God to tell us how to act? Or would the honor of personhood or authority provide the guidance needed for an orderly and safe society? Just something to think about. For your consideration, check out the article below.

By Phil Zuckerman, The Los Angeles Times

More children are “growing up godless” than at any other time in our nation’s history. They are the offspring of an expanding secular population that includes a relatively new and burgeoning category of Americans called the “Nones,” so…

View original 909 more words

Christians, What Time Is It?

For every thing, not some of them, all of them

There is a time for all things …

Unless, of course, there isn’t.

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to sew, a time to harvest

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to destroy, a time to build

A time to cry, a time to laugh

A time to mourn, a time to dance

A time to forget the past, a time to make new memories

A time to be social, a time to be alone

A time to receive, a time to lose

A time to collect, a time to throw away

A time to be silent, a time to speak

A time to love, a time to hate

A time to fight, a time to be peace

Morality is how we find it, no more or less. That you find yourself in the wrong time is just how life works out some times. A lot of us can’t quite figure out when that time to be silent is. Meh.

We naked apes often seek wisdom to know what time it is, always looking at the clock and guessing what the next chunk of time will be or bring. Not many of us ever get that guess right. We naked apes forget that we’re just another animal on this planet. The one animal with the ability to destroy it or build it up. By destroy I mean ensure that humans do not survive. Other animals will, it is the way of ‘life’ on this planet. The other animals seem much better at knowing what time it is than we humans.

19 For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. —  Ecclesiastes 3:19

I fear the animals regard man as a being like themselves, seriously endangered by the loss of sound animal understanding; they regard him perhaps as the absurd animal, the laughing animal, the crying animal, the unfortunate animal.    —  Friedrich Nietzsche

The Muslim world thinks it is time for war. The Christian world thinks its a time of persecution.

Wait for it. Let that sink in.

The hands of the clock of monotheism haven’t moved in over 2000 years. Think about that for a minute.

It’s time to get a new clock.

Anthropocene Apocalypse – The gorilla.


Humans, try your empathy on this….

Originally posted on Opher's World:


Gorilla 1


These are gorillas. They come from the same place as us – Africa. They are primates who share 98.4% of their genes with us. After the chimpanzee they are our closest relatives. We shared a common ancestor as little as seven million years ago. That’s recent by evolutionary standards

Take a good look because it is probably, outside a zoo, the only chance you’ll get to see one. They are being decimated by ebola, their habitat is being destroyed and they are butchered by humans for meat. That is pretty close to cannibalism.

There are only 880 mountain gorillas left. That does not seem a large number compared to 8 Billion humans. Surely we can leave a little room for the rest of wild-life? Do we really need to take it all?

We need to restrict ourselves to 50% of the available space and limit our numbers. If we do…

View original 27 more words

Empathy Is For Monkeys, And Rats, And Babies

Yes, it’s a video. Are you excited? Really? Yes, you’re going to have to watch the video to keep up with this post so go on, read it. I’ll wait….

No doubt, Jeremy Rifkin is a smart individual, however, that does not make him eternally correct. Yes, I’m about to say that I think he’s got a couple of things wrong. Observation is a really big part of science but the conclusions we draw from them are not always right.

Before we get into it I’ll set out the two presuppositions I’m relying on here. I’m not going to try to explain them in a short post so forgive me this shortcoming for the purposes of this post.

  1. In our heads is a simulation of the world around us. We live in that simulation, not the real world, and remain always isolated from the real world by sensory systems and motor systems.
  2. There is no one watching the simulation. That simulation is what we refer to as our consciousness. It runs 24/7/365 except when we are unconscious and even then, some parts of it are still running. Anaesthesia works by stopping the simulation. Without it we feel no pain, acquire no new memories or experiences etc.

I welcome comments on these presuppositions but cannot explain them at length in this post. On to the video.

At about the 1:50 mark he says two things that drive me ‘nuts':

  • Mammalian brains are soft wired to do things
  • He uses the term ‘mirror neurons’

Specifically he says: ‘We are soft wired to experience another’s plight as if we are experiencing it ourselves

This implies that it is mechanically oriented in some way that our brain does something when we observe it happening to others. I believe this is a naive understanding of the neuronal network in our brains and that it is a simplistic look at what neurons do.

Think for a moment about the knowledge that you need to understand what a human is doing when they try to open a nut. What skills must you understand? What knowledge must you possess to determine even what the human is doing before figuring out why or to what purpose. These things are things which we all take for granted. We learn a lot of them as children: how to move our limbs, what food looks like, the position of our fingers as they move to action and how to predict the forces being exerted when fingers move a certain way. What it looks like when a primate is ingesting food. What the body language of a primate is when being studious, eating, masticating and so on. We humans learn this before the age of 5.

All of these things are stored in our brains like rules. The rules of physics, rules governing ‘normal’ behaviors, rules governing recognizable objects or objects of familiar shapes. You can look at 1437 different mugs, cups, and glasses and in probably all cases determine what the object is probably for without any help. This is because of the rules you have stored up over time in your brain. With each of these stored patterns are also patterns of muscle movement. The way that the simulation in your head works is that you model things. If I ask you how to open a jar of peanut butter, in your mind you can see yourself (hands) going through the motions of opening the jar. As you do so, all those ‘mirror neurons’ are firing up exactly as if you are opening a jar of peanut butter. Whether you imagine it or actually do it, your brain does the same things because you LIVE in that simulation. The difference between imagining it and doing it is whether you actually orient your body toward a physical object and engage physical sensory systems and physical motor systems. Either way you are modelling the action in your head applying all the stored up rules and pattern recognition. This gives you reasonable expectation of what should happen as you open the jar. If the lid does not come loose in the expected manner you don’t stand there waiting for things to change, your brain engages new patterns and rules in order to effect the actions that you expected.

What the monkey was doing was learning patterns and rules storing them as he watched the human open the nut. Those patterns can then be used later by the monkey to acquire a tasty morsel. The monkey used observation to effect a model of how to open that kind of nut. As the monkey built the rules and patterns it looks exactly as it does as the monkey is trying to figure it out on his own. Try to observe this in your own brain as you have someone teach you some trick that you have not yet learned: a card trick, how to yo-yo, how to balance a pencil on your nose … anything.

That is not soft wiring. This is the function of our brains. This is it’s purpose: to simulate the world around us, being informed by our senses as to the rules and patterns we can use for the simulations we do. Soft wiring implies there is something else going on. No, this is the whole thing.

He goes on to state that our brains are soft wired for empathy. Bad mistake. Humans with no empathy will show the same results in the MRI, just like the monkey and the nut story. From there he goes on to say stuff that should make a use car salesman blush. The premise that we are wired for empathy is false. When our brains simulate the experience of others in order to build patterns and rules it triggers the calculations as though we experienced it. Remember we live in that simulation and modelling the experience of another in the simulation is the same thing as experiencing that simulation model personally. This isn’t ’empathy’ as it is classically defined, it is simply how the simulator in your head works. Nature is frugal. Why have multiple simulators when a single simulator can be reused for many applications.

Empathy: the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

When people say they got lost in the movie they were watching it is exactly because the simulator was busy simulating the world presented to them on the screen and was too busy to keep running a simulation of the physical world directly around them. When we empathize it’s because we understand the feelings of another and we understand those feelings because we modelled them in our simulation and ACTUALLY DID FEEL the same things, or what we imagine them to have been. We can never know exactly how something felt to another person except in vague generalities. Empathy is not something we are ‘soft wired’ for – it is a side effect of our consciousness, the simulator in our heads.

To conclude: There are NO mirror neurons and empathy is proof that we live in the simulation running in our heads, not  some wiring mistake.


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