Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Faith and Reality

Many of the links here are from scholar Acharya Sanning and +Rosa Rubicondior for which I am quite grateful.

The crime of blasphemy was invented by priests for the purpose of defending doctrines not able to take care of themselves.

This rant is in celebration of our right to express blasphemy in America
America is one of the few countries where blasphemy is permitted.

Religion is derived from the Latin religare, which means to tie or bind. I here celebrate our right not to be tied or bound.

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question. - John Stuart Mill

I present here my side, which may not be your side. I suggest that it may enlarge you to make considerable effort to understand, even if you do not agree.

A perennial question is: “Why are we here?” This is actually a silly question because a purpose is not necessary for the universe to exist. A better question is: “Why is there something instead of nothing?” Caltech physicist Sean Carroll proposes that, to free our thinking, we should simply postulate a universe without God, that was not made for us.

Asking “Who set it all in motion” is unnecessary animism: “who” is physics. This is all part of the “God of the gapslosing argument, put forth usually when all other arguments fall flat. Then some may resort to biological or evolutionary gaps, such as “how did life begin?” Or “where does consciousness come from? Exploring such issues (instead of using them as excuses for a lack of curiosity) requires critical thinking. Here are a few introductions to critical thinking. Here is a critical thought exercise: consider the null hypothesis.

Another useful (if non-obvious) question is “are we even here?” if we are here at all. Self (AKA soul) is better thought of as a process, not a thing: a spinmeister of experience, where the whole concept of free will ceases to make sense. More on the pernicious illusion of free will, below.

Self-identification has a lot to do with a broad-minded consideration of fundamental questions, and the willingness to open one’s eyes to see the universal in the particular. Perhaps affirming that changing, or dropping, beliefs will not affect core existence or identity (sort of like swapping hats) will help dispose of psychic trash.


First decide which god to worship. Make sure it is your decision. (And don’t get it wrong!) (Most historical gods (with remarkably similar sons) are, thankfully, dead!) How curious it is that most religious people cluelessly cling to the faith they were born into, believing (more or less) that theirs is the one true faith, that all others are wrong. Freeing oneself is aided by being aware of our tendency to agenticity, and by having the courage to ask the right questions, like a scientist would. Must there be, for instance, a ghost in the brain? Have the courage to assume that there is no afterlife.

You are NOT OFF THE HOOK by claiming to be "spiritual but not religious" One exception: non-duality, sometimes stated as emptiness, which has implications for the concept of free will as is covered above. Basically, “I and Thou” (duality) is illusory no matter what kind of spin you put on it.

One last point: How could an omniscient God logically coexist with free will?

Critical Thinking

How can we understand our world? How about starting with a mirror? Drop faith and embrace knowledge! Critical thinking leads us from faith to facts. Beware of cognitive bias, break away from your comfort zone! (I admit this is not easy.) Astrology starts us on a slippery slope away from critical thinking. Be comfy with not knowing or being in the minority! Unanswered questions are far less dangerous than unquestioned answers. Plausibility is often good enough in science (in cases where experiment is impossible), but religion is not even that! And studying religious parallels with modern physics is no substitute for the real thing. In the end, it does not matter what feels good to you, what matters is what is true! Find meaning, or make your own! Do not fear being wrong! Be free and happy with humanism.

The problem is that there is no corrective feedback mechanism in religion as there is in science. Additionally, there is the problem of testability (falsifiability) It’s not what you think, it’s how you think. It is thought that makes us great, makes us curious. Critical thinking slays dragons! Science  that sows seeds of doubt is salvation!

There can be no valid reason for believing that which is not true. Such is a waste of our precious life on self-perpetuating fairy tales. Think critically!

Holy book veracity is as probable as a teapot in space, a dragon in my garage, or aliens creating crop circles! If God exists, his will is not inscrutable”. He is therefore subject to evidence and logic.

Weaknesses, such as a limited world view of Pascal's wager, applies to all fairy tales. If God plans everything, how can there be free will? Free thinkers will even question the nature of time.

A pernicious variation on God of the Gaps is the claim, by Deepak Chopra and Ken Miller, that God controls the universe at the quantum level, in the realm of quantum indeterminacy. One of the problems with this is that it is unfalsifiable, as explained by  properly disposed of by PZ Meyers.

The universe is not here for us - we are not separate. It is often stated that one “cannot prove a negative”, but we can come close enough. Miracles (except some) are actually common. So are faith-driven hallucinations. So are coincidences! Unexplained is not inexplicable. Avoid being fooled!, or being deluded! Live and dance!

Visionaries of Free Thought

We depend on outliers: the great philosophers, thinkers, and humanists, to prod us out of our comfort zone, to understand (when we are feeling charitable) the allegorical nature of outwardly pernicious faiths. These avatars of progress, when they are listened to, uplift humanity from caves to the stars. The atheist tradition of rejecting all belief goes way back, and it is the basis of scientific discovery and liberation.

How about a little understanding, humanity, and respect: Atheists are intolerant of superstition because they oppose violence and abuse. Even freedom of religion is now abused, and therefore obsolete. Shackle-free thinkers believe that moral judgement is basic to critical thinking. Atheists are believers: in reason, in humanity, in kindness... All fairy tales religions are the biggest source of violence and criminal behavior. Let us evolve past the need for an ego-driven alpha male.

Here are quotable atheists such as: the wise Greek philosophers, Marcus Aurelius, Lao Tzu, Voltaire, Galileo Galilei, David Hume, Baruch Spinoza, Denis Diderot, Thomas Paine, Abe Lincoln, Soren Kierkergaard, Mark Twain, Anne Sullivan, Alfred North Whitehead, Sir Francis Crick, Albert Einstein, Clarence Darrow,  Rosalind Franklin, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Feynman, Aldous Huxley, Pearl S. Buck, Erwin Schrodinger, Albert Camus, Frank Zappa, Ayn Rand, Kurt Vonnegut, Emma Goldman, Gene Roddenberry, Rowan Atkinson, Edward Abbey, Sir David Attenborough, Stephen Hawking, Steven Weinberg, Gerald Massey, Congressman Barney Frank, Stephen Colbert, John Cleese,  Bertrand Russel, Langston Hughes, and Richard Branson. These outspoken atheists have one thing in common: deep analytical thought. So think deeply about this: How can you have a soul and be a soul? The concept of soul is, perhaps, best used as an expression of the essence of a person.

News flash: When you die, you’re dead!

Morality is natural and hard-wired. It is exhibited by bonobos. Science can be a guide for moral behavior. Even thinking about science brings about moral behavior, but being in a group (such as a sect) can cause one to lose moral ground.

Religion does not deter criminal behavior: you can be good without God. Science, reason, and common sense give the best answers on morality and life after death.

“Some beliefs are "destructive" because they induce stress within us, worsen our health, or create antagonism and violent feelings toward others.” Antagonism and violent feelings are a feature of ALL religions mentioned here. Religious zealots with blood-stained hands enjoy the tacit support of those whose hands are merely stained from cherry-picking their violent holy books. Religious morality, via cherry-picking, changes in response to the expectations of society. What really matters is this world, not some unsupported concept of imaginary afterlife.

Making/keeping people poor is immoral. Religion really is the opiate of the poor. The solution, of course, is to make them less poor, more educated, and especially, to increase internet access. Maybe art appreciation?

War, of course, is immoral, which leads to the problem of religion versus peace, especially in the Middle East.


Not just lack of intelligence: conspicuous, glaring, public stupidity! But then, if you could reason with the religious, there would be no religious people (though religious vulnerability is more complicated). Even moderate beliefs shackle the mind. ( Filter bubbles do not help!)


Though faith provides solace, Religion can arguably be labelled as a mental illness. Religiosity certainly does amplify and abet mental illness. That is why so many find relief in leaving religion.

There is a place, though for some parts of religion, some functions that religion does now, even poorly.


Imaginary friends are the stuff of childhood, so grow up to be young. Children’s gift of vivid imagination can be used against them, which is the real tragedy of hereditary religion. Sometimes, when they get a bit older, they understand such to be fairy tales.

Children are the most vulnerable, therefore the most hurt by hereditary religion, who then go on to perpetuate the damage. Secular parenting is the RADICAL idea that children’s minds are their own, and that children should be taught reason and given evidence to form their own values, rather than fear and indoctrination to form faith.


A multi-faith blasphemy generator, and the blasphemy challenge.. Your brain on religion. Wanna argue? What if gays are part of God’s plan, to test if we really love one another? Again: When you die, you’re dead.