Monday, February 9, 2015

Atheist Haiku of the Month- Valentines Day Edition

Survival of the Slickest

Valentine's was God's
Now it's secular....we're OK.
Can't we change them all?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Your Move Jesus...

I can't come back from the dead, but any Warcraft player knows that it shouldn't take 3 days to respawn.... Your move Jesus!

10 Things that you Should Teach your Children

First teach him how to be a good passenger  :)

I rarely speak of my family in this forum, but the people who know me best know that being a father and a husband are the only things at which I can't bear to fail. I struggle every day at how to do it properly.
How do I respond to his every concern, his every success, his every failure, his troubles and successes, his every pain and his every joy and know that I am doing it right until he is grown and it is too late?

I can't possibly think of any way this would impact him later in life....

I decided to do this blog entry because of the number of well intentioned posts in the blogosphere that are religiocentric and having noticed the decided lack of any humanist or secular entries. Don't get me wrong, there are a number of very enlightening posts and some very good parenting ideas being tossed around out there, I just felt that there was nothing addressing some of the intellectual issues that secular parents might face in child rearing. I don't claim to be an expert, but some things I feel like I have done very well and have something of value to pass on to other parents, in some I defer to those who have demonstrated success in their particular area of parenting strength. (shout out to the Bitchin Atheist for her take on how to develop an open and sharing relationship with your children). So there will be no "teach them to pray" or "show them the beauty of a life in Jesus" or even any "Teach them to make their own decisions about God" (because if you teach them to be skeptical they'll make that decision anyway). Only good 'ol fashioned parenting.

In any case, on with the list.

Everything is Funny

Ok, not fake mustaches.... they are serious business.

Teaching your child that it is ok to laugh at themselves and in awkward situations gives them a coping mechanism that is invaluable. Nothing heals like laughter... and when you are not ready to heal... nothing distracts like it either. It can lift you up in dark times, it can carry you through confusing times and the sound of your own laughter can show you that it just isn't all that bad. My mother used to say "Everything is funny", and I come to understand more and more each day what she meant. She meant that nothing counteracts the pain and difficulties that we run into more than laughter, nothing helps you cope, and nothing but nothing can keep a family together like laughter. Even the terrible things. We all know that they are not funny, but if we let our humour come out, they can seem a little less debilitating.

Question Everything

Teach your children to ask the questions "Why?" and "How do you know that?". Let them know that it is OK to disagree as long as they have evidence or good reason to do so. Show them how to keep an open mind in case they are wrong. It is this demand for evidence that will inform their beliefs when they are older and keep them safe from bad and harmful ones. Teach them that if someone says that they know everything or that they "know for a fact" that they are right... with no real facts to support it, that is a fancy way of saying they are lying. I am not saying that we should ruin the magic of childhood if they ask about Santa or the Easter Bunny, but don't lie if they figure it out.

Dear God WHY??? We ask the same question kids

Teach them to Respect People (but not beliefs)

Tell them that everyone deserves respect until they show you that they do not. Beliefs only deserve the respect that their validity affords them. Every belief must be based on falsified evidence for it, and that includes their own. Everyone has the right to an opinion, but remember that having the right to an opinion is no guarantee that it is a good one. If a belief can be shown to be worth respecting then respect it, if not then recognize it for the nonsense that it is. Nothing is a good cover for bad beliefs, not upbringing, not religion, and certainly not "the right to an opinion". (let's be clear that I am not advocating your children calling people on nonsense all the time either, just to recognize it. Civility has it's place after all)

When People Show you who they are... Believe them

Teach them that people will very often show you who they really are, and the excuse "they are nice sometimes" just doesn't cut it.  Forgiveness is the key to a happy life, but remembering who people are will save you a lot of time forgiving people who will hurt you over and over again.

Science is Important

Do not allow your household to be a science free zone. The universe is amazing, and they deserve to be fascinated by it too.

Reading is Life

Show them by example how important reading is. Not just comic books, but classics. Let them choose their books but always talk about them over the dinner table. Ask them what they liked about theirs and tell them what you like about your own. It will expose them to new ideas and not only will it expand their vocabulary but it will expand their world as well.

Teach them about hard work

Put them in situations where you can show them how it feels to be successful when you have worked hard for something. It pays off for them to know that the best things are those things that they wanted so bad they worked hard to get it. Give them an example to follow in order to get there.

Teach him the Iron of Words 

Teach them that their words are the only thing that they truly own and that no one can take from them. They define and express who we are... use them wisely and honestly.

Politeness Matters (be kind)

Pleases and thank yous matter. Civility counts. Do I really have to explain this?


Talk to them about failures and sadness

Talk to your kids. I mean TALK to them. Tell them when you are upset and why. Tell them when you fail and how it makes you feel. Tell them how you hope to fix things and ask for their opinions about how you can make things right too. Lean on them emotionally without putting pressure on them and they will return the favour when you ask the same questions of them. I can't tell you how important this is. There are so many pressures that we all face as we hit the teenage years and beyond and without this they will not come to you for help. They need to feel like the emotional support is a two way street and that you rely on them as much as they rely on you. This is the only way to achieve the trust that will be needed for them to tell you when things get really difficult for them. (Thanks Char for showing me how to do this!)

Winning DOES Matter (but it is Failure that teaches us)

Teach them how to compete. Not how to participate. Don't steal from them the joy of a hard fought win, nor the lessons of a hard taken defeat.

It's almost never about you

Tell them that when people hurt them, that it is rarely about them. It is about the person that hurt them. It is them expressing something about themselves more than about your children. Let them see that that there are other things being said behind the scenes and between the lines. It will make hard times just a bit easier if they don't feel the weight of the world when things go bad.

Be Positive

Don't fill their heads with worries and insecurities by being negative about them or you. They will copy your reactions to the things that you face. Be careful what example you give them to emulate.

Sex is not a big deal

This is another important one. Say it with me....


Do NOT make your children feel like sex is something to be ashamed of. Or that it is something to be talked about in hushed tones. Or that they need their eyes shielded if a boob is exposed on screen. No one was ever hurt by a boob, but many many people are damaged by sexual guilt.

She just crushed those.. umm.... with her.... ok... boobs SOMETIMES hurt  things.

These last two things are not really things that you teach your children directly, but they will DEFINITELY inform their beliefs and relationships later in life;

Remember that your relationship with your spouse has GOT to come first.

Their future depends on this. If you forget everything else on this page, please remember this. Your marriage is the most important thing in their life. This is where they will learn how to love, and how to live. This is where they will learn how to treat women, and how to be treated by men. This is the first example that they WILL emulate and your marriage and how you love your spouse is what you are preparing your children for when they grow up. If that scares you... then fix it! I am not saying that you should stay in a relationship solely for your kids, quite the opposite. If your relationship is toxic then the worst thing that you can do for your kids is to stay in it. They will learn from your example and the best that you can hope for is to teach them apathy for their spouse. Don't do this to them. Fix your relationship or get out and find one that will provide your children (and you) with what they need.

EVERYTHING is a big deal

No matter what the age of your child, remember this one thing every single time they ask you to look at the cool thing they made with a stick, or to listen to a sports story, or to hear this new, long and awful joke they just made up that even though it isn't important to you, it is their world and they want to share it with you. Don't rob yourself of that and don't teach your kids that what they think is important is not, because what you are really teaching them is that THEY are not.

Ok, so that was 14... but who's counting?

MOM-EDIT ALERT!!!! She's read it and using her mom power to add two more!

I've read this... and YOU'RE WRONG!

"Spelling counts. Smart people will think you're like them if you can, and not-so-smart people will think you're like them if you can't. They'll both be right. 
Stay Curious, you'll never be bored"

PS- Anything else I've left out? Share it with everyone in the comments!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Atheist Haiku of the Month- Canada Day Edition

This is a typical Canada Day

It's Canada Day
God didn't do it, we did
Proud and Canadian

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Atheist Haiku of the Month- Summer Edition

WAIT! It's Sunday.... that better be holy water!

Summer Vacation
More family and less church
stop wasting Sundays

Monday, May 27, 2013

What does "Open Minded" Really mean?

I'm sorry. I'll stop talking about science and evidence  :(

This is an ongoing accusation that every atheist or critical thinker faces eventually.

"Why can't you be open minded?"


"Why are you so closed minded?"

Usually in reference to some imagined slight they have received by the audacity of your irrationality.  The irrationality that you display for not agreeing with them.

Water has memory! You'd understand that if you weren't so closed minded.....or addicted to "facts".

What does that particular argument even mean? What IS being open minded?

Do we allow for the possibility of anything as true until it is DISproven?

Do we agree that everything is right if you can find something to support it?

Do we let anything go lest we be branded "Closed minded"?

Do we dismiss unsupported claims until they are supported by evidence and seemingly immune to falsification?


Not to throw TOO much of a monkey wrench into the works of the woo makers, and religion takers but being open minded means NOT coming to a conclusion without evidence. It is dismissing all claims that are unsupported and unfalsified until they have the evidence to support them and have gone through the falsification process. It is letting the conclusion follow the facts and not just looking for facts to bolster your presupposed conclusion.

But most of all, it is being open to more evidence.

Richard Dawkins tells a story about an old colleague of his who for 15 years argued ardently for a theory that he felt was an infallible model (as far as he could tell) and who one day had to stand in front of the very same colleagues whom he had debated and worked with all this time with a somber truth.

His model had been debunked by new evidence.

Did he argue?

Did he fuss?

Did he cry "Foul" or "Closed minded"??

No, he thanked his peers for showing him his mistake and for adding to the understanding of science. THAT is the scientific and skeptical ideal. His idea couldn't pass the skeptical process of falsification and he was happy to hear it because of the advance in knowledge that this discovery had revealed.

That is the definition of what it means to be skeptical, and the essense of what it means to be open minded. To withhold belief until evidence is presented and it has passed the falsification process.

To be open to new evidence as it comes along, and to not so invest yourself in a conclusion that you are sure that you can never be convinced otherwise.

For THAT is the very definition of "closed minded".

Ghosts aren't real you say? LALALALALA!!!

When your conclusion is more important than new evidence or than re-examining old evidence, then you are closed minded. You have closed your mind to any possibility that you and your idea could be wrong. You are NOT open minded for believing in unsupported things. You have DECIDED before the evidence is counted that what you believe is true, and therefor have entered into the very realm of closed mindedness that you accuse the detractors of your chosen beliefs of being trapped in.
I DO understand however that my post will not convince many people who already believe in such unsupported things and that they will continue to think that we need to "open our minds" to their beliefs but there is a very easy explanation for this. People have invested time, effort and personal identity into these beliefs and to give them up would not only shake the foundations of the logical person that they already think they are for being "taken in" (it shouldn't, quite the opposite actually it should reinforce the feeling of being a rational being) but it would be too costly emotionally to give up something that is so much a part of who they are. Things that are believed without possibility of change tend to tie themselves to our identity, and to give them up would be devastating in many cases. All I can do is try...


Homeopathic healers,

Reiki practitioners,


Crystal Therapy kooks,

Magnet Therapy believers,

Astrology adherents,


Muslims, and

Believers of all kinds, you need to listen up!

NEVER SAY "I can't be convinced otherwise" because it is not a statement....

It is a label.

I could share this dunce cap if you like...

It is a label that brands YOU as closed minded.

It is a label that brands YOU as being opposed to rationality

It is a label that brands YOU as the one who simply can't be reasoned with.

and remember..... (in the words of Tim Minchin)

"If you're too open minded, your brain will fall out"

PS- This is not a negative thing. Skepticism is a pathway to ensuring that your beliefs are TRUE. If you care about whether or not those beliefs are true, skepticism is the only real way to achieve the validated assurance that they are. In science this is achieved by the scientific method. For journeymen like the rest of us, we are left with skepticism.


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Guest Blogger of the Month- Roger Ebert

I apologize for not being here for those who follow me lately. I have been sick but that is no excuse to leave words unspoken and unwritten for those who follow this blog to hear/read.  
I feel it is necessary to commemorate someone whom I have never before mentioned in this blog merely because of the respect that I held for him. 

Roger Ebert.

I labelled this blog as a Guest Blogger of the Month, but if only that were true. 
I would have been honoured for him to acknowledge my meager words by participating in my project, but I knew of no other way to categorize this. 

There are very few public figures that I care in the least about. Very few that affect me at all, and fewer still that affect me profoundly. So many celebrities are worshipped or looked to for answers and eloquence when all they do is mirror our own thoughts. They teach us nothing that we didn't already know, or feel might be true.

Roger Ebert is not one of those men.

He is one of a select few people whose eloquence and insight sometimes astounded me. He didn't always say things that I agreed with, but he always made me reconsider my position on things. His words always touched me, and I was honoured to have had very brief contact with him on Twitter. Even though I didn't know him, I will miss him. These are his words on dying;


(Re-printed from his book "Life Itself: A Memoir,")

"I know it is coming, and I do not fear it, because I believe there is nothing on the other side of death to fear. I hope to be spared as much pain as possible on the approach path. I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state. I am grateful for the gifts of intelligence, love, wonder and laughter. You can't say it wasn't interesting. My lifetime’s memories are what I have brought home from the trip. I will require them for eternity no more than that little souvenir of the Eiffel Tower I brought home from Paris.

I don’t expect to die anytime soon. But it could happen this moment, while I am writing. I was talking the other day with Jim Toback, a friend of 35 years, and the conversation turned to our deaths, as it always does. “Ask someone how they feel about death,” he said, “and they'll tell you everyone’s gonna die. Ask them, In the next 30 seconds? No, no, no, that’s not gonna happen. How about this afternoon? No. What you're really asking them to admit is, Oh my God, I don't really exist. I might be gone at any given second.”

Me too, but I hope not.

I have plans. Still, illness led me resolutely toward the contemplation of death. That led me to the subject of evolution, that most consoling of all the sciences, and I became engulfed on my blog in unforeseen discussions about God, the afterlife, religion, theory of evolution, intelligent design, reincarnation, the nature of reality, what came before the big bang, what waits after the end, the nature of intelligence, the reality of the self, death, death, death.

Many readers have informed me that it is a tragic and dreary business to go into death without faith. I don’t feel that way. “Faith” is neutral. All depends on what is believed in. I have no desire to live forever. The concept frightens me. I am 69, have had cancer, will die sooner than most of those reading this. That is in the nature of things. In my plans for life after death, I say, again with Whitman:

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

And with Will, the brother in Saul Bellow’s “Herzog,” I say, “Look for me in the weather reports.”
Raised as a Roman Catholic, I internalized the social values of that faith and still hold most of them, even though its theology no longer persuades me. I have no quarrel with what anyone else subscribes to; everyone deals with these things in his own way, and I have no truths to impart. All I require of a religion is that it be tolerant of those who do not agree with it. I know a priest whose eyes twinkle when he says, “You go about God’s work in your way, and I’ll go about it in His.”

What I expect to happen is that my body will fail, my mind will cease to function and that will be that. My genes will not live on, because I have had no children. I am comforted by Richard Dawkins’ theory of memes. Those are mental units: thoughts, ideas, gestures, notions, songs, beliefs, rhymes, ideals, teachings, sayings, phrases, clich├ęs that move from mind to mind as genes move from body to body. After a lifetime of writing, teaching, broadcasting and telling too many jokes, I will leave behind more memes than many. They will all also eventually die, but so it goes.

O’Rourke’s had a photograph of Brendan Behan on the wall, and under it this quotation, which I memorized:
I respect kindness in human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don’t respect the law; I have a total irreverence for anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper and the old men and old women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

That does a pretty good job of summing it up. “Kindness” covers all of my political beliefs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.

One of these days I will encounter what Henry James called on his deathbed “the distinguished thing.” I will not be conscious of the moment of passing. In this life I have already been declared dead. It wasn’t so bad. After the first ruptured artery, the doctors thought I was finished. My wife, Chaz, said she sensed that I was still alive and was communicating to her that I wasn’t finished yet. She said our hearts were beating in unison, although my heartbeat couldn’t be discovered. She told the doctors I was alive, they did what doctors do, and here I am, alive.

Do I believe her? Absolutely. I believe her literally — not symbolically, figuratively or spiritually. I believe she was actually aware of my call and that she sensed my heartbeat. I believe she did it in the real, physical world I have described, the one that I share with my wristwatch. I see no reason why such communication could not take place. I’m not talking about telepathy, psychic phenomenon or a miracle. The only miracle is that she was there when it happened, as she was for many long days and nights. I’m talking about her standing there and knowing something. Haven’t many of us experienced that? Come on, haven’t you? What goes on happens at a level not accessible to scientists, theologians, mystics, physicists, philosophers or psychiatrists. It’s a human kind of a thing.

Someday I will no longer call out, and there will be no heartbeat. I will be dead. What happens then? From my point of view, nothing. Absolutely nothing. All the same, as I wrote to Monica Eng, whom I have known since she was six, “You’d better cry at my memorial service.” I correspond with a dear friend, the wise and gentle Australian director Paul Cox. Our subject sometimes turns to death. In 2010 he came very close to dying before receiving a liver transplant. In 1988 he made a documentary named “Vincent: The Life and Death of Vincent van Gogh.” Paul wrote me that in his Arles days, van Gogh called himself “a simple worshiper of the external Buddha.” Paul told me that in those days, Vincent wrote:

"Looking at the stars always makes me dream, as simply as I dream over the black dots representing towns and villages on a map. Why, I ask myself, shouldn't the shining dots of the sky be as accessible as the black dots on the map of France?"

Just as we take a train to get to Tarascon or Rouen, we take death to reach a star. We cannot get to a star while we are alive any more than we can take the train when we are dead. So to me it seems possible that cholera, tuberculosis and cancer are the celestial means of locomotion. Just as steamboats, buses and railways are the terrestrial means.

To die quietly of old age would be to go there on foot.

That is a lovely thing to read, and a relief to find I will probably take the celestial locomotive. Or, as his little dog, Milou, says whenever Tintin proposes a journey, “Not by foot, I hope!”"

Thank you Mr. Ebert.

And I'll still see you at the movies.

(Take a look around at his website. Movie reviews, opinion, social commentary and all sorts of interesting things that will enlighten you and enthrall you with this most interesting of men.)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Guest Blogger of the Month- Randy McCauley "My Story"

In this edition of "Guest Blogger of the Month" I am extremely pleased to bring to you the story of the first real atheist that I ever had the opportunity to have a conversation about skepticism and religion. We became friends on my first overseas deployment to Kosovo in 1999. Up until then I had no real idea how to classify myself with regards to religion or what real critical thinking was all about. It was during our conversations with Randy that I was forced to think about the question "why" and developed the need for supporting evidence for all of my beliefs (not just religious). It was also during these conversations with Randy that I graduated from thinking that was centered around "what makes sense" to actual skeptical thinking in which logic and evidence play a critical role. "What makes sense" reasoning has now been left behind with all the other trappings of childhood thinking for me. 

Thank you Randy.

So this post may be a selfish one for me, but I hope that you share in my excitement.

"My Story"

"My name is Randy McCauley.  I am a Sergeant in the Army and have been a professional soldier for 25 years now.  I am a family man and a devout atheist.  This is not even close to how I had originally planned for things to end up but, thankfully, the best laid plans of mice and men... 

            I was born and raised in a small town.  It was in this small town that I learned about right and wrong, god and the devil and the powers of good and evil.  As a child I don't recall ever being taught to fear or hate other religions but I also have no memory of other religions being discussed.  I don't remember ever questioning aloud the obvious (even then) contradiction between our gentle, loving god to whom we were taught to pray every night, and the reverence that was often heaped upon "god-fearing Christians".  

That seemed like a big one to me.  

Fear?  Really? 

I think that I understood, the way only a child can, that the Old Testament god was fire and brimstone and that the New Testament god was love and forgiveness.  I knew it was still the same "one god" but, hey, I was just a kid and had better things to do with my time than to think about these things.  As far as that goes, if I were to be honest, Batman had more relevance in my life at that point than God did. Sure I went to Sunday School every week and said my prayers every night but the songs and prayers were things that I learned by rote and did because they were part of my routine.  If Mom didn't wake me up I wouldn't have been that worked up about missing church but there was no fucking way was I missing Batman!

             My parents rarely went to church with us and there was a volunteer who would pick up all the neighborhood kids for Sunday School then drop us off again afterward. So my parents (and plenty of other parents too) barely had to get moving in the morning, other than to get us ready for pick up and that was Mom's job. All things considered, going every week was a lot of fun.  It was the Salvation Army for Christ's sake.  There were no nuns to hits us and, as far as I know, no one ever got raped.  (Plus the stories were pretty exciting.) There was always plenty of slaying and slewing and even a good ol' smiting now and then. Those two towns where people had poopy sex and wanted to rape angels got nuked and Lot's disobedient wife got turned into a salt-lick.  Ahh, good times...good times, and we'd be home just in time for lunch and to spend the rest of the day playing war or cowboys in the field behind our house.

             My Father was fairly strict and we had plenty of normal social and familial rules but nothing so crazy that I have to tell my therapist. Mostly they were about how to get along and not get on our parent's nerves.  We said grace before meals when Mom made us but the rules (for us kids) that we saw as religious were things like not swearing (Mom and Dad got to swear), not smoking and drinking (except for Mom and Dad) and no "unclean thoughts or deeds" (?!?) which made absolutely no sense to me until I was a bit older. 

I've more than made up for it since those crazy time... (I love you Mila!)

So, all in all, not terribly hard but all kids misbehave.  Fortunately, this was covered too.  Getting forgiven was easier with God than it was with Mom and Dad.  You had to promise both that you wouldn't do it again but God couldn't look at you all disappointed when you inevitably fucked up and did do it again!  Of course even our loving, gentle and forgiving God was jealous so if you didn't pray, go to Sunday School and think only clean thoughts you knew that he would cast you down into the fiery pits of hell to roast and torment for all of eternity, but it would be for your own good. Kinda like going to bed without dinner because you said shit at the table...


All in all, it seemed to me like the easiest few rules that I had ever heard and I figured that I was a shoe-in for Life Eternal!  After all, I hardly ever swore where people could hear me, I almost always went to Sunday School and, since I was only a kid, what the fuck sort of dirty thoughts could I have? 

Other than her of course!

            A tremendous fear of sin, guilt over any form of sexual desire, feelings of inadequacy over the state of my soul and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness and defeat with regards to 'big S' (salvation) are the gifts that I received from religion. 

Yea, thanks religion.

On the other hand I got my strong work ethic and need for independence from my parents.  In their imperfect ways my mother taught me about charity and my father gave me a love for the outdoors and, in a mid-20th century way, a respect for nature.  In normal life religion as a subject never really came up, but it was always there as the elephant in the room. And I knew that we were the protestants and that "those" people were the Catholics.  Nobody really used the word "Christian" back then because we were all Christians.  I remember trying to sort out which of my friends were the "normal" protestants like us and which were the "nutty" ones who tried to be Catholic by taking communion and saying confessions.  For some reason it really seemed to matter.  For us their crucifix was a symbol of suffering whereas our bare cross was a symbol of salvation.  

Does that make any sense at all? Even as a kid I was pre-programmed to judge such things.

            Around the time I was ten it started becoming apparent that the world was a far more complicated place than I had thought and I began exercising a little something I later learned to call critical thinking. Basically, I decided, it goes like this: 

If it sounds like bullshit, you need to start asking questions because in the end there's a pretty good chance that it really is bullshit and you really need to know.  Otherwise you could end up dedicating large amounts of time, energy and your life to bullshit.  I started off by pointing out to my Sunday School teacher that if Adam and Eve were the first and only people on earth, then it follows that the world was populated through incest, but that's a sin, isn't it?  That was my first note sent home. 

My memory is hazy but I am pretty sure this is what it said.....

            Later, I learned that slay and slew meant kill and killed and that the Israelites killed non-believers by the thousands in the name of God.  Men, women, children and even animals were put to the sword or burned.  Nowadays we all know that even if god speaks to you directly and tells you to kill it's murder.  Things like that are only okay if he speaks to you through your government.  I'm not making this up.  This is the result of many conversations I had as a kid with adults and pastors.  I was seriously worried about soldiers and police officers but I was assured that the commandment should be correctly read as "Thou Shalt Not Murder" which made sense to me and filled me with relief. Unfortunately, I wasn't stupid and I again asked the question that seemed most obvious which was "What if you go to war with another Christian nation like Germany or Italy?".  That was a phone call and a visit. As it turns out it only counts what your government is (Nazi, Facist, Pinko) and not what the people you are killing believe in.  Much later in life I learned that it also seems to go a long way with god that we are the Western democracies and mostly white. Who knew?  As I was just a kid, this again, gave me a feeling of relief.  I could still stand proudly on 11 November and offer a prayer to god everlasting that the souls of our brave departed soldiers be granted peace. As the years passed I was even magnanimous enough to attempt an ecumenical prayer.

             I remember as a teen listening to and watching the troubles in the Middle-East on the CBC and, on my own, began fearing words like Jihad, Mohammad and Allah.  The people who used these words were against us and our entire way of life.  They were as bad or even worse than the godless communists but, thankfully, were far less of a threat to us in the West because they lived in huts and didn't even seem to have proper uniforms let alone ICBM's.  In fact, the Muslim nations didn't even really figure into it for my crowd (as we knew from the book of Revelations that, although the Apocalypse was going to start in the deserts of the Middle East, it would be fought between the godless USSR and the god-fearing christian states of the west (re: NATO)).  What could be more obvious than that to a child of the Cold War 70's and 80's?  This attitude grew and became a personal virtue for my friends and I as we changed gradually from boys to young men and it began to even make a lot of sense and even seem kinda likely when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan.  I think that of all my friends I was the last to reject this as a philosophy but not until my late teens.

            For years I coasted on a vague knowledge of what Christianity was and what it was to be a Christian.  As I said, everyone I knew was a christian of one sort or another and most of my friends even went to church so, at fourteen when I was away at Summer Cadet Camp and we saw some guys try to get out of two-hour church parade by claiming to be atheists, we were quite rightly amused when they were told to decide if they were roman catholic atheists or protestant atheists.  

Not sure where, but Catholic Atheist is in there somewhere...

The Chaplin's were CF Officers so the connection between religion and patriotism was easily strengthened within us.  Every Sunday had a big hint of Remembrance Day to it and we were always in uniform.

            Much later in life, when I was really no more mature, I joined the Army and was exposed to many different types of people with just as many different views and I felt fortunate to have the opportunity to talk to them and either help them evolve their views or have mine challenged or changed.  Deploying to foreign lands and meeting various peoples with religious ideas that they were actually willing to kill and die for impressed the hell out of first.  Being the focus of such dedication tends to wear thin pretty fucking fast in my experience.  I had read a lot and tried to educate myself on religion and spiritualism but when faced over and over again with the pain and destruction that people, and I mean mostly men, were capable of inflicting in the name of god I could not, finally, learn to make sense of it.

             I began to wonder, and wonder in a very serious way, why god had had such a change of heart from the old to the new testament and was now more than content to let us kill each other on a scale never before seen?  I certainly wanted to know  why we could be so dead-set against Sunday shopping, yet never question why god would favour a sports team with a big win, but yet still let a childhood friend of mine be burned to death along with his sister by their own Dad?  What kinda of a deity would look at his day's work and not go "What the fuck was I thinking?" 

This guy, that's who!

Local children as well as little African boys and girls were being starved and defenseless men, women and kids around the world had to suffer beatings, humiliation and execution.  At times these things would be happening only a short distance from the front gate of our well defended and well stocked camps and yet the troops with God on their side were forced to sit idle.  Some were even forced to watch and record the atrocities.  I know that many suffered horrific emotional damage from these experiences but I also know that many were only concerned with getting the job done and getting their extra pay and a medal. 

            We are told from an early age that god answers all prayers.  We are also told that sometimes the answer is "No".  It was while witnessing man's inhumanity to man, woman, child and beast that I became utterly convinced that either the almighty's decision making paradigm was really out of wack or that he was just a giant cunt.  

Either way there was some explaining that had to be done. 

In the meantime I was confronted by such childish platitudes as "He works in mysterious ways" and "He will never give you a burden that you cannot bear" and "God's plan is unknowable".  Perhaps having faith in god and an afterlife would help those watching on TV, but looking at a small child's charred corpse and trying not to choke on the ham-stench, I couldn't help but think about how heavy a burden that must have been for her to bear. Today when I hear these same platitude used to explain things I am disgusted and ashamed.  
            My wars are over and I am home for good now.  I lost my faith in a real and personal god a long time ago and have been struggling with what I actually am and how to fit this into who I am ever since but suddenly (or over time, who bloody knows how these things really happen?) I realized that this was me.  There was no point in holding god to account and demanding some sort of reconciliation.  God was not going to answer for these, his crimes, against humanity or for the evil in the world. 

There never has been evil in the world. 

There is no supernatural force that drives some people to rape, murder or genocide just like there is nothing keeping me from committing these acts myself, except that I don't want to.  I don't find these things helpful in creating a society that is worth living in and that I would want my children to live in.  My wife and kids are not good people because they are determined to get into heaven or in order to avoid some sort of punishment, but because they have genuine empathy for the human experience. They know not to cause pain and to promote peacefulness for the sake of peacefulness alone.  There is no force of evil and there is no force of goodness. There is just you and I and the decisions that we make every day to determine how we will live.  

More importantly, there is no god.   

            These days when I am at the cenotaph on the 11th day of the 11th month, (and I am there.  Every fucking year!) I don't stand proudly and pray for the many thousands of the fallen.  I stand with my wife in front, holding her waist to keep from flinching when the cannons sound and I weep silently for the countless lives ended permanently and promise myself to remember those I knew.  I don't believe in an afterlife and I don't believe that we will ever see them again.  They are not in a better place.  They are gone and we allowed them to go.  We will remember them and that will have to be enough but we must not let this continue.  The enemy is not "them".  It is any of us that cling to bronze-age mythology or any faith-based doctrine which keeps individuals from making clear headed, intelligent decisions in the here and the now.

            Let it be."

Great post Randy. 

And well made point. Don't let dogma lead you to decisions. You don't need a book to tell you the difference between right and wrong. If you don't know that on your own, then there is a problem. You have a lot of tools with which to make those decisions. 

Empathy.  Experience.  Love.  

Remember, the enemy is not "them". It's your responsibility to ensure that the enemy is not "me".

Thanks again Randy.

and as he taught me to say.....


Thursday, February 7, 2013

Quote of the Week- Tracie Harris

"Science proposes a cause that is demonstrated to exist; religion proposes a cause that has first to be demonstrated to exist."

This is a point often missed on debate. Creationism can't qualify even as an hypothesis. If you can't demonstrate existence for the cause of your explanation, then you can't move on to anything that follows.

"Religion says X (god) did it--without solving for X."

Again she hits the nail on the head. This is called confirmation bias. You begin at a proposition that you already believe is true and work backwards from everything until you can make it reach your God. Most times it is a stretch at best, at worst it is complete and total dishonesty. You simply can't say that "goddidit" while admitting that you have no idea by what mechanism that was achieved and offer that up as an explanation of anything.

If you have no explanation for your model, you simply don't get a place at the table in scientific discussion.

Sorry creationists.... back to the drawing board with you.