Why I was tempted to tell my kids there was a heaven.

We had a recent death in the family. Someone very close, a young adult, very unexpected.

My kids were distraught. They were inconsolable. They struggled to even process the loss.

For a brief, flickering moment, in a desperate desire to assuage their grief, I felt tempted to tell them that the person we lost wasn’t dead but was “in a better place,” or some other trite pacifier that we use in such situations.

I resisted the urge and we all proceeded to experience the pain in reality. In the moment, I fully understood why parents use the heaven crutch, even if they don’t fully believe it. It just feels easier, nicer, more palatable, than the blunt reality. It feels easier to deliver the message.

But I learned something wonderful from this experience. My children were incredibly resilient. They experienced a tragic loss and they survived. And they experienced the loss in full, without the fluffy imagery my parents used on me when I was a kid.

This experience helped confirm what I’ve believed since becoming a father. Children like the truth. They crave the truth, and they’re very good at detecting bullshit (up until the point where persistent brainwashing takes control). I never baby-talked my kids, and I made a conscious effort to use adult words with them. Not surprisingly, people often comment on their impressive vocabularies. I try to be direct and honest about uncomfortable subjects and I’ve found it just works.

Regarding death, I’ve always told the kids that the person we lost will always be in our hearts. At some point, sadly,  I had to explain that we use the word heart as a euphemism because our heart is a muscle that pumps blood and our emotions stem from our brain. I realized the necessity to delineate this distinction after noticing how many adults fail to understand this reality.

Here’s the bottom line regarding the death of a loved one. The pain and the anguish is going to be there regardless of your afterlife beliefs. Based on my anecdotal experience, an N of 1, I’ve concluded that all heaven does is make it easier for adults to talk to children about death. The kids will experience the pain, regardless of an afterlife belief, and that pain may never go away, regardless of an afterlife belief. I’m confident we all know people that have been grieving a loved one for many, many years even though they have strong afterlife beliefs.

Death sucks. Period.

And even though it’s actually difficult to process, we’ll all be dead and forgotten in a relative eye blink.

I think all we can do in the meantime is utilize some obvious clichés. Cherish the people you care about while they’re still here. Relish the stupefying fortune that you beat impossible odds just to exist. Appreciate your life as best you can, do with it what you can to serve you and those around you. Take a deep breath once in a while and try to remember what’s really important to you.

 

 

Thoughts and Prayers

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In the wake of yet another mass shooting, many politicians have, justly, been called out for their “thoughts and prayers” tweets for the victims and their families instead of reacting, as they should, in a manner that suggests that they might actually want to address dealing with this epidemic.

“Thoughts and prayers” sentiments, polite and caring as they may, or may not, be, are as useful as saying “God bless you” when someone sneezes, or crossing your fingers in hopes that your team will win the big game.

When so many Parisians were slaughtered in the streets recently, the hashtag, #PrayForParis went viral. Of course our thoughts and empathy were with the victims and their families, but could it be that such viral sentiment harms more than helps?

When we live in a world where we pray to an unknowable entity for help, are we forgoing the proper rage that would demand we force humanity to evolve towards a more elevated, intelligent, less murderous destination?

Pray all you like. But maybe it’s time we demand critical thinking, civility, and solidarity from each other and not just prayerful hashtags.

We must create an unbridled current of pressure on each other so we may make strides to leave our barbaric history behind us and head towards a destination where ignorance, violence, and superstition will be anathema to our world.

What it really means to be an Atheist.

atheist

I don’t happen to think there’s a god out there. That’s it.

Being an atheist does not mean that I can, nor, that I’m required to, provide an explanation for the origin of the universe.

Being an atheist does not mean that I am sure that Yahweh, or Allah, or Krishna, or any other gods, don’t exist.

After many years of contemplation, I’m pretty confident that gods are man made inventions, but do I know for sure that NO gods exist? of course not. I could be wrong.

The beauty of almost all god concepts, and all spiritual or new age concepts for that matter, is that they are virtually unfalsifiable. I can’t prove that Yahweh was a Jewish invention, or that Krishna was a Indian invention, or that Allah was an Arabic invention, I also can’t prove that fairies don’t flit about my garden . I can’t prove that angels don’t hoover about my shoulders. And I can’t prove that demons don’t possess people.

But here’s the catch, just as all those things are unfalsifiable, they are unverifiable, also. We can assert that gods and spirits and demons are real, but we can’t demonstrate them to be real.

I know what it’s like to believe in a god because I did for most of my life. I used to really think that my version of the Christian triune was very, very real. I now no longer think the trinity is real. Now I suspect that our world came about through some natural means that we can’t even comprehend yet. Perhaps humans will die off before we ever solve this mystery. I have no idea how the world began or if that’s even a concept that makes sense considering what we know about Cosmology at this point.

I just don’t happen to think that an anthropomorphic being created a massive universe, seemingly to house human beings on a tiny planet, circling an unremarkable star, one of many billions of stars in its galaxy…and one of many billions of galaxies in its universe.

I’m an atheist. I don’t happen to believe in a god-type character. But I’d go further than that. I currently happen to think that we humans have invented all of the thousands of gods and spirits that we worshiped throughout history, and I happen to think that we’ve invented all of the thousands of devils and demons that we’ve feared.

Not all atheists go so far. Some atheists wish they could believe. Some pretend they do believe. Some don’t know what to believe. Some are afraid not to believe because of the fears they carry from their religious upbringing. The only thing that actually makes you an atheist is the lack of a belief in a god.

I really hate labels anyway, so these discussions bother me. I prefer expressing my meaning as clearly as possible, rather than relying on labels that can too easily be debated or misconstrued.

Take ghosts. I don’t happen to think that ghosts are real. I never have. Even when I believed in a god. I couldn’t prove that ghosts were not real. I couldn’t provide explanations for the thousands of reported ghost encounters that people have reported. I just never bought any of it, even as a kid. I’ve come to a place where I assume that all of those stories are either fraudulent, or people have been mistaken, or people have been deluded. But I don’t know that ghosts don’t exist. I just don’t happen to think that they do. I’m an a-ghostist, I suppose, if one wanted to bother labeling such a thing.

My position on gods is exactly the same. I just don’t happen to think there are any gods. You may have a god that you’re convinced is real. You may have a ghost experience that you’re convinced is real. In either case, if you want me to believe that the god, or the ghost is real, it’s up to you to convince me.

And to actually convince me is beyond my conscious control. If you tell me that your god appeared to you in line at the bank, I’m probably not going to be very convinced. If you tell me you believe in your god because you just feel it’s presence in your soul, I’m probably not going to be very convinced. If you convince your god to appear in front of both of us and it explains quantum mechanics to me in a way that I can understand it, I’ll either be very keen on examining that, or seek to have a psych analysis done on myself, or both. I can’t tell you what would convince me that a particular god is real, I couldn’t possibly know unless it happened. But a god would know how to convince me if it wanted to.

Until then. I don’t happen to think any gods are real. I’m an atheist.

 

Why do so many Athiests lean left?

A close friend of mine happens to be an Atheist and happens to be politically conservative in general; probably fits into a libertarian category best (he’s fine with gay marriage, legalized drugs, things like that). He’s intelligent and very well read on history, politics and religion. I tend to be center-left, very liberal on social issues, more centrist economically, but I hate to generalize and I have no allegiance to either wing. Present your argument and I will consider it.

My friend recently made a comment during a conversation questioning why so many Atheists, like me, appear to be liberal, or at least lean that way. I think the answer is clear; conservative politics, worldwide, is joined at the hip with religion. And the more fundamental one’s religious practices are, the further out on the right one tends to be. (more…)

Wish

Most cultures on Earth have operated with the continuous assumption that people go somewhere after they die. Most people I know find it literally unfathomable that human death could be the exact same thing as insect death, or fish death. This has got to be the foundation of religion across the globe, and—despite all the in-depth,  formalized apologetics that argue for life after death—the prime example of human wish-thinking.

William Lane Craig Prison Rapes The Use Of The Word Faith

I’ve admittedly become obsessed with WLC and his seemingly-to-some top-rate debating skills. I love twitter because I follow WLC and he posted a tweet leading to this gem of a YouTube clip.

A Texas A&M student poses this reasonable question to Craig at some event.

If the way to know things is through reason and logic, how do you reconcile claiming something to be true through faith?

Craig’s initial response are these words:

I don’t think that we “know” things through faith…

I’m sorry, Bill, I’ve heard you many times discuss your interaction and direct experience with the Holy Spirit. Your “knowledge” of this interaction is either through faith, or you are hearing audible voices and if that’s the case, you may wish to speak with a mental health professional.

Craig then clumsily transitions the questioners intent on discussing “faith” in the supernatural sense to faith used as a synonym for trust, using empirical evidence. For instance, I have faith the the sun will rise tomorrow because of my limited knowledge of cosmology, gravity, historical records, and the tangible, shared experience that I have with others human beings on this planet that have physically observed the sun “rise” every single day that I’ve been alive. Plus, I can check to see the exact time that the sun will rise and set for the following day and the predictions are always accurate.

Craig uses his research to find the best eye surgeon for corneal transplant surgery, as his example for using the word faith relative to his need to have “faith” in his surgeon’s abilities. But Craig’s choice of surgeon was based on empirical evidence, essentially the surgeon’s track record, perhaps testimonial reports from other patients, etc. His choice of the surgeon was based on the use of reason and logic, not faith. His “leap of faith” was that the qualified surgeon, with a presumably good track record, would not demonstrate his human fallibility and fuck up the procedure. Craig even says, “based on my confidence in his surgical ability, I went under the knife.” He even then makes an accidental joke, that his trust in the doctor wasn’t a “blind trust.” EXACTLY BILL! Your trust was based on logic and reason; assessing empirical data…data that anyone could also have direct access to. He even states the trust was “solidly based on good evidence.”  Amazing! Bill, you are sounding like a rational thinker.

But…

Craig, the utter charlatan that he is, then brings the discussion back full circle with this gem of a tie-in.

I think “faith” in the biblical sense is trusting in what you have reason to think is true.

So. I have “reason” to think my eye surgeon will perform a success surgery. And I have “reason” to think that the sun will rise tomorrow. And I have “reason” to think that the Holy Spirit guides my daily life. And I have “reason” to think that Noah brought all those animals onto the ark. All the scenarios use the same words, so they all must be equivalent.

This, ladies and gentlemen, is how we use the inaccurate tool called language to convince people to believe things, or to reinforce beliefs that people may be questioning.

Well done, Bill.

The only thing I can’t figure out is if Bill really believes his bullshit, or if he’s an absolute, intentional fraud. What do you think?

You Are Not Alone

Since I published my book about becoming an Atheist I’ve learned that there are scores of people that feel alone because they don’t believe in a god anymore, are surrounded by believers, and have no one to turn to for support.

I’ve spoken to people personally, received notes, and had comments reviewing my book that all expressed a common experience of isolation. This video is a compilation of excerpts from notes I’ve received personally or from reviews that were posted on Amazon. The intent of the video is to demonstrate to fellow non-believers that you really ARE NOT ALONE.

My tiny little book has linked me to MANY nonbelievers that are unable to be open about their irreligiosity; I can only imagine the countless number of people that still feel like they really are alone in their disbelief.

Hopefully this brief video can reach a few of them and help them understand that there are people of like mind all over the world, and perhaps even in their own backyards.

I’ve posted this before on the blog but I think it’s worth throwing out there again. Sorry, the music is a little thick.

Zombies Are Real

MY FAVORITE BIBLE NONSENSE: #1

In the Gospel of Matthew, we read about Jesus’ crucifixion. As Jesus’ human body succumbs, he utters his famous last words, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” This is in contrast with Jesus’ other famous last words in Luke, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit,” but that’s neither here nor there. This post is about zombies. Immediately after Jesus died, we are informed by Matthew that quite a few dead carcasses—skeletons in varies states of rotten decomposition—clawed their way to fresh air and freedom. These walking dead strode about the countryside and into the holy city where they, get this, appeared to many people.

Of course, these walking dead do not appear in the other gospels or in any other writings of the time outside of the bible. This story is bullshit. It did not happen. A bunch of dead people never climbed, crawled, or walked out of their graves. Sorry folks, it never happened. And this zombie story clocks in at #1 on my list of FAVORITE BIBLE NONSENSE.

zombies

MATTHEW Chapter 27, Verses 52-53
and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.  (NIV) 

the graves broke open, and many of God’s people who had died were raised to life. 53They left the graves, and after Jesus rose from death, they went into the Holy City, where many people saw them. (Good News Bible)

And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many  (King James)

I’m Alive Because Of Jesus And So Are You

When I really want to confuse religious people I tell them that if not for Jesus, I wouldn’t be alive today.

No. I’m not drunk and this post title is not satirical. I am stating with 100% certainty that if not for Jesus (either the real person if he existed, or the Biblical character, or both) neither you, nor I, would be breathing oxygen at this very moment. And that holds true whether you were born into a religious family like me, or not.

To simply exist on this planet, each and every human being needed to “survive” an unfathomably complex series of “productive” and “nonproductive” sexual encounters, ever since homo-sapiens began to roam the land. (Obviously, an unthinkable number of “events” needed to happen first, but we’re skipping past those for this discussion.)

Any one of millions, hell billions, of copulations being interrupted from a screaming child, or called off because of a sudden “headache,” or failing to “conclude” with a necessary “completion” (you get it), and the chain that lead to you, to me, would have been permanently broken; and like a fart in the wind … we vanish from history.

Had it not been for Jesus and the millions of resulting human interactions; the chain that lead to you and me would have been never occurred, and … poof … we never happen.

Now, before you start beating your chest, fans of Jesus, I have some bad news for you. Jesus was no more important to this chain than Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Anne Boleyn, Galileo Galilei, Napoleon, William Shakespeare, Eli Whitney, Thomas Edison, Frederick Douglass, or Babe Ruth. If the first moon launch ended in catastrophe, we wouldn’t be here. If the Louis XVI was struck by lightning when he was five, we wouldn’t be here. If Abraham Lincoln skipped the theater on Good Friday, we wouldn’t be here. If Florence Nightingale never “heard the voice of God,” yep, no us.

So thank you Jesus, and every other benign, seemingly inconsequential happening in human history. We owe you!