Tag Archives: atheism

Things Not to Say to an Atheist


The title of this post is probably a topic for a weekly feature all its own. Perhaps even a daily one. Fear not, This blog is not about to go full militant atheist.

Still, when somebody wanders into my house and starts flinging poo at the walls, I think it’s only fair to feel some kind of way about it.

I present to you the following comment, which landed on this post just yesterday (emphasis mine):

I wonder why some humans take no personal responsibility for what happens in the world? Just because you have never had a personal relationship or experience with God, doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. It just means you may not be one of the humans He has chosen to show Himself to. Even if He did, the way you think would cause you to attribute His interaction with you to something you did to make it so. I feel such pity for humans like you. If you had lived my life, you would KNOW Him as I do. But He has given you freewill, and thus, the option to say He does not exist. All will become clear when you encounter Him after death. Humans are wrong about many, many, many, MANY things. Believing there is no God is the most tragic of all.

I could pick this thing to pieces, but again, that’s not my schtick — I’m a more-or-less friendly atheist. There’s at least four or five questionable assumptions and dubious claims in here, but the one sticking in my teeth like a popcorn kernel is the bolded line.

Pity.

Pity assumes that the pitied party is in really dire straits. (Sidenote: are you familiar with Puddles’ Pity Party? You should be, and I say that even though my comfort level with clowns is barely inches above the pavement.) Pity assumes that the pitier is in a superior position, somehow, to the pitied. And pity is, therefore, pretty much innately condescending. Someone up high feeling badly for someone down low.

Get the hell out of here with that.

If I’m to be pitied, it’s only for thinking that I could somehow start turning a dime off my words after almost 40 years walking this earth, not because I don’t believe in the specific god that you happen to believe. I’m doing just fine in my heathenism. Good house, good job, good family.

And, somewhat off the point: what’s up with calling me a “human”? Are you not a human? Am I somehow less than a person? I can’t prove it, but it definitely feels derogatory, so minus points for that, too.

This is not the humble, shrinking atheist you were looking for.

You can go about your business.

Atheist Symbol

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Make Sure You’re Wearing Clean Underwear Today in case of Apocalypse


Did you know that the world is ending today?

You could be forgiven for having missed this news, though depending on what circles you travel in, there’s been no avoiding it. Biblical prophecy foretells it, don’tcha know.

What’s that? Biblical prophecy has also foretold the end of the world several times in the last decade?

Well, they were wrong before. This one’s for real. This one’s backed up by science. Planet X. You know? NASA recently discovered a new planet waaaaaay out past Pluto, didn’t they? Yeah, that thing. That’s Planet X. Gonna destroy the world. How? Well… Probably it’s gonna smack into Earth. Yep. Gonna knock us off our orbit and into the sun like the eight-ball, corner pocket. Or maybe it’s gonna fly by and zap us all with interplanetary radiation, you know, turn us into a bunch of crispy human-shaped hot pockets. Or maybe the planet is just loaded down with lizardmen bearing superior technology who will descend upon the Earth and enslave us all. Force us to make them chef salads at every meal of the day and watch nothing but reruns of The Bachelor until our brains turn to mush. (Joke’s on them; my brain has already been mush-ified by two months of teaching after a summer without rest.)

Or maybe not, you know? Maybe Planet X is just an omen and not the cause of our eternal demise. Prophecy is funny that way. Like, it might seem to say that the weather is gonna be 74 degrees and partly cloudy, and in actuality it’s four below and hailing frozen frogs, and you’re all upset at first because you wore shorts that day, but then you go back and re-read the prophecy and then, somehow, it all makes sense. And no, I know what you’re thinking. That’s not post hoc justification. We just didn’t read the prophecies right to begin with. We make the mistakes, not the bible, after all.

So maybe Planet X only tells us the apocalypse is here, and the apocalypse is actually going to come in the form of nuclear war brought on by the two mad boy-kings of the world, or a superbug unleashed on the population when a sheep farmer in New Zealand gets a little too familiar with his livestock, or a global flood or something. What’s that? Well, sure, the flood happened once before, but it worked then, didn’t it? Why fix what ain’t broken?

You say there’s not actually evidence for the global flood? That flood myths are an inevitable byproduct of cultures that spring up around rivers, as nearly all cultures did originally?

Well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.

thats-like-your-opinion-man-gif-8

You believe what you want. But the rest of us? Us, over here, with the doomsday bunkers and the year’s supply of food-paste and toilet water?

We know what’s really coming.

And even if it doesn’t come?

We’ll know when the next thing is coming, too, before it happens.

Because if the world doesn’t end pretty soon, we’re all going to look really silly for believing in all these prophecies. Currently, doomsday prophecies are something like 0 to 72,000 against reality. We might have to start questioning our holy books and the people who interpret them for us.

Then again, all it takes is one.

So, brb going to read Revelations again and search for tenuous metaphors suggesting the present day. And I’m going to put on my tuxedo t-shirt in case the rapture does come. You know, so that when I meet Jesus, he’ll see that I wanted to dress it up for him, but keep it casual at the same time.

tuxedojesus

Stone-cold classy.

This post is part of Stream-of-Consciousness Saturday.


Hardly Moot


The prompt for this week’s SOCS post is “moot,” a funny-sounding word which is one of those weirdly connotated things that no longer means what it actually means. Like literally. (Though internet outrage has kind of fixed the rampant misuse of “literally”.)

About the only way you see “moot” anymore is in the phrase “moot point,” a phrase that comes out of mock trials which essentially means meaningless or without consequence. But I can’t hear the word “moot” without thinking about this:

Image result for lotr treebeard

The mothertrucking entmoot from LOTR.

“Moot” means meeting, and in the second book (and, yeah, okay, the second movie), the ents — the living, sentient trees — hold an entmoot to determine the fate of their forest. The problem? The ents hold this moot in their native tree language, which is “a lovely language, but it takes a very long time saying anything in it, because we do not say anything in it, unless it is worth taking a long time to say.” (Which could, in fact, be the subtitle for this blog, given how I like to go on and on. The worthiness of the things I talk about to be talked about at length is, of course, another matter.)

Long story short (too late), the ents meet for several days before they decide that they will not meddle in the affairs of men, much to the chagrin of the hobbits who have petitioned them for aid. The world is going to sharknado all around them, the hobbits protest, and ents will be affected eventually even if nothing happens to them right away. But the ents take the isolationist path, pointing out that the trees will outlast whatever squabbles the creatures of the earth busy themselves with.

Then, of course, they learn that actually, the forces of darkness are chewing up the forest to fuel their war machine, and well, that’s that. The trees uproot themselves and wreck shop all over Isengard, because nothing motivates you like the threat of imminent destruction.

(I could point out that this is a pretty thinly-veiled dig at politics and politicians with their endless pontificating bureaucracies, but that’s not the point of this post.)

All that’s interesting and fascinating (though maybe just for me), but ultimately, well, moot in the contemporary sense, because the simple, understood definition of “moot” is that it doesn’t matter. The origins of the word are well and good, but these days it means this, so really, who cares?

And speaking of moot points, the problem is perspective and scope. Much of what we do in life, creatively or otherwise, is moot. Pancakes for breakfast, or cold cereal, or skip breakfast entirely? Doesn’t really matter. Take the long way to work or the quick way? As long as you get there on time, who cares? Read the Game of Thrones series so that you can claim superiority over the people who just watch the TV show, or don’t? Outside of the odd water cooler conversation, there really is very little difference in your life.

Put it on a bigger scale. There will be very little difference on a national level, or even a state level, over the life of one person, even a highly influential one. Things take the course they take, and not much will change it. A bigger scale still: consider, for example, Paris. Unless I have some readers in France I’m unaware of, I really am completely removed from anything happening in Paris. My entire existence, as far as Paris is concerned, is moot. Let alone the world.

But go even bigger. In our own solar system, humans have got some manned missions done in our neck of the woods, and we’ve sent a fair few probes out to the far reaches, but for the most part, all the accomplishments of humans are represented by a tiny speck of light in the night sky. A moot exercise, you might say, as we’ll never have that perspective — but astronauts get that perspective all the time. It’s called the Overview Effect (a thing I literally learned just now!)

If you zoom out far enough, everything becomes moot. And if you’re prone to Nihilistic thinking (cough, cough), the maw of that realization yawns wide beneath your feet at just about any moment. Why bother creating — it’ll all be lost to time and the void eventually. Why bother doing anything?

But taking the long view, while it’s probably good for planning your retirement and your diet, is maybe not the best thing to do in cases like this. Any story I could possibly tell is statistically unlikely to disturb the waters very much, even if it becomes profoundly popular. Those waters are thoroughly saturated already, if you’ll pardon the pun. But that doesn’t mean that, for a narrow slice, the stories aren’t worth writing (or reading!). In a lot of ways, the writer’s self-affirmation is not unlike the teacher’s: if I can reach just ONE student…

The truth is, I don’t think I even need to reach a single reader. It’d be nice if I do, of course — and better than nice if I could reach more than one. But when I create, I’m creating for me. It brings me tiny little pangs of joy to make up characters and bounce them around in the snow globes of my creation. On a global scale, or a national one, or even a local one, that might very well be moot.

But given that this life is the only one we get, it only makes sense to fill it with as much joy as we can.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results.


Trump’s Election Confirms: God Exists


A theory:

Conventional writing advice states that an author should, generally, step on the throats of his protagonists. Occasionally , you shift your weight and allow the poor bastards to catch a little air, but mostly, you keep them down until they’re almost dead … and then you stomp on them some more.

One could argue, then, that this campaign season has been an extended size 13 to the windpipe. It abated, for the briefest of moments, as the election drew near and it looked like Clinton would win.

And then the boot came down for a crushing blow, and what the hell do we do now?

So: God exists, and he’s an evil fiction writer.

Hopefully he’s set us up for some sort of triumphant third act.

But I kind of doubt it.


Harry Potter and the Unfalsifiable Speciosity


Yes, “speciosity” is totally a word. (I googled it after I decided that I needed it. Sometimes things work out in your favor. Oh ah.)

‘I’m sorry, but that’s completely ridiculous … You could claim that anything’s real if the only basis for believing in it is that nobody’s proved it doesn’t exist!’ – Hermione Grainger, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

author J.K Rowling

Thanks to the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe for reminding me that there are things to love about the Harry Potter books that go way beyond the whimsical. (The SGU wraps up every episode of their (really quite excellent) weekly podcast with a skeptical quote, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear this one.)

What? My commute is over a half-hour each way. I listen to a lot of podcasts these days. (To be fair, I listened to this episode while running. BTW, it’s still effington hot out there.)

Happy Sunday!


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