Tag Archives: Religion

My Quest and LSD

Neo slimed

 

I don’t remember it, of course, but I was baptized when just a baby. My parents were Baptists: or at least my father was – I think my mother (being Japanese and raised Buddhist) was just along for the ride. They weren’t very religious; attending church only on occasion. I always hated the sheer boredom of church services and was lucky I didn’t have to attend very often.

When I was in 5th grade, our family moved into an apartment across the alley from a church in Lawton, Oklahoma; to stay while my Dad served the Army in Viet Nam. The front of our apartment building faced the back of the church. I awoke every Sunday morning to the God-awful, off-pitch, singing of hymns. It was while living there that the powerful ideas of Christianity first grabbed hold of me. Not because of that church or its tone-deaf congregation but because of a group of older boys I happened to run across in the neighborhood. They were passionately discussing Jesus and salvation. The concepts involved were a thunderbolt to my young mind. It was my first intellectual awakening: powerful, exciting and moving.

The following Sunday, I decide to attend the sermon at the church next door. I dragged my younger brother (a year younger, in the 4th grade) along with me. The preacher was charismatic. He was much more interesting than the stuffy preachers I’d experienced before. He got everybody excited. The interaction between the preacher and the congregation had an energy of its own. As he neared the end of his sermon, he invited all sinners who wanted redemption to come forward.

That’s when I noticed the tears in my brother’s eyes. He got up. I grabbed his arm but he jerked it away and headed down the aisle to join the others gathering in front of the preacher. I was shocked. How come my younger brother was so moved when he had never shown the least interest in, or awareness of, God? And how come I was not moved despite having been so powerfully moved just a few days earlier with those older neighborhood boys?

And that’s how it was for me all the years afterward until finally turning, slowly, to disbelief. I always wanted desperately to embrace faith: I just couldn’t make the leap! I believed up to the brink of faith but could never runneth over my cup.

In the years that followed, my interest in God and religion waxed and waned. Sometimes I would explore the Bible and, if I had friends who attended a local church, I might go to services with them. I could have remained in this spiritual limbo, indefinitely, were it not for LSD.

At the age of 17, I had already been smoking pot for over a year, when a friend offered me some ‘Orange Barrel’ acid (LSD). I took it and proceeded to receive my second intellectual thunderbolt.

‘Experience’ is the word to use to describe something we can’t describe. There is no way to convey the experience of tripping on acid. Entire worlds opened up before me in quick succession. I saw things in ways I had never imagined and had ideas that never would have otherwise occurred to me. It’s as if the barrier between my conscious and subconscious came crashing down and the two were allowed to intermingle until homogenous, making me super-aware of everything.

And I saw God. Listened to Him. Felt Him. Feared Him.

The experience was so intense, so real, my young, teen-aged, mind was powerless to deny it. That is, until I awoke the following day. Then I realized that I’d better not tell anybody I had seen God while tripping on acid. Obviously, I had seen no such thing . . . and I couldn’t wait to repeat the delusion: it was great!

That initial acid trip changed me permanently. I became obsessed with my quest for the truth. I knew that acid could never provide real answers but, at least, it opened my mind to the questions. Before that first acid trip, I always skipped classes to go smoke pot with the other pot-heads at school. I wasn’t very curious. I was just focused on fun and partying.

Afterwards, I wanted to understand myself and humanity. I read a lot about Greek mythology, and read many literary classics; especially those by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I wanted a deeper understanding of the human condition. I read the Bible cover to cover. I read about Buddhism and Islam. I read all of Ayn Rand’s books. I subscribed to Psychology Today. I began collecting short, insightful, quotes. Then science grabbed a hold of me, especially cosmology and physics. I may have been a poor, unskilled young man from a poor family but, by God, I was voraciously curious. I couldn’t afford to go to college but, fortunately, the library was free.

I gained confidence as I gained knowledge. Religion was the last thing on my mind. I was beginning to realize that, if I applied myself, I could learn whatever I wanted: do whatever I wanted. But I knew I was disadvantaged in the job market because of my lack of a college degree. I figured the thing to do was to plumb a new professional field in high demand so that employers would overlook my lack of a degree. In those days, computer programming was very much in demand. It was at this time when, finally, my parents lucked into a modest fortune. I borrowed money from them to go to I.T.T. Technical Institute, in Seattle, to get certified in computer programming. It was a half-year course and I was tops in my class. I was recruited, at the school, by Nordstrom (the high-end department store), before graduating and began employment with them upon receiving my computer programming certification.

After that, I never looked back. Whenever my profession became less ‘hot’, I studied and got certified in a new, high-demand, specialty. By staying reasonably close to the bleeding edge of computer technology, I was able to contract my services and make a much higher salary (though, without benefit plans) than I could as an employee. My wife held a regular job as an executive secretary, so her health insurance compensated for my lack of the same. And as we secured our family and home, my thoughts turned, once again, to God. After all, He had blessed me with many blessings: a great career, my wife and children, our home and all the modern amenities of suburban life.

But wait. Where was He when my family and I were poor? Were my parent’s blessings, and my own, the whim of God? Well, he may not have pulled strings for us but he did give us our talents. Right?

Not!

In the grand scheme of things, our talents were not exceptional. It was determination and hard work and, yes, a little luck, that improved our circumstances. But wait . . . isn’t it hubris to think that? To think we control our own fate is arrogance. Isn’t it? God is in control. Right?

I looked back on my life. I saw how God and the Bible always had a depressing effect on me. But life was engaging and rewarding whenever I focused on myself and my family. The correlation was undeniable: God was no good for me. But dare I trust only in myself?

Well, relying on myself had worked pretty well thus far. I couldn’t argue with success, could I?

Nonetheless, I couldn’t give up on God just yet. Instead, I blamed religion. I became anti-religious. I convinced myself that religions were an unnecessary and corrupting intermediary between God and me. I had the Bible as my guide, surely there was no higher authority than the word of God Himself!

I read the Bible again. This time, it seemed like a completely different book. I felt tempted to go buy another Bible in case the one I had was a mocked-up forgery. What’s up with this God guy? He’s got serious problems! The more I read, the more I wondered what those stories of incest, vengeance and scorched-earth battlefield atrocities were doing in a ‘holy’ book – and why I didn’t notice how perverse they were the first time I read them. Is this really God’s idea of right and wrong? Of morality? Surely these are the words of uncivilized, ancient, ignorant, men . . . not a timeless and perfect God!?!

For me, that was the last nail in God’s coffin. Throughout history, the Bible has created more atheists than any other book. It takes an intentional act of self-deception to ignore the immorality and impossible claims of a tribe of uncivilized, ancient, ignorant, men and pretend it’s some sort of glorious, immutable, truth. Faith is the suspension of disbelief. What, exactly, would require me to suspend disbelief? The obvious answer is: a lie.

If I trust myself and face facts, the biblical God becomes a joke. A very sad, sick, painful, joke. Religion is its predictable punchline. I just hope, in the end, humanity has the last laugh.

 


© Copyright 2013 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


 

Advertisements

Where Ex-Atheists Come From

The blue pill is religion. The red pill is atheism. Cypher represents an ex-atheist.

Where Ex-Atheists Come From

Every once in a while, we read or hear about an atheist who has converted to Christianity or Islam or Judaism. I just can’t wrap my mind around what that process must entail. How do you move from atheism to religion: rationality to superstition? It just doesn’t make sense. However, it’s a bit easier to understand if the ex-atheist became a Buddhist, deist or pantheist: these belief systems aren’t really full-blown religions – they don’t have a personal God who meddles in human affairs or performs miracles or answers prayers.

Atheists have, ostensibly, reasoned their way free of superstition, religion and God(s). This implies an aptitude for the application of logic. Yet we sometimes run across atheists who see conspiracy theories everywhere they turn . . . or who soak up Islamic, vegan, or other extremist propaganda without critical analysis . . . or who get suckered into New Age bullshit, like pyramid power . . . or who are prone to anthropomorphizing . . . or who reason viscerally, by feelings, rather than logic. These kinds of things make me question if their atheism is well grounded in reason. If they reason so poorly with other issues, how well did they reason with God and religion?

Then it struck me . . . this is where those inexplicable ex-atheists come from. They never really grounded themselves in freethought. They may have wanted to . . . but simply failed. Fortunately, ex-atheists are a rare breed. I guess that’s testimony to the staying power of enlightenment. So now I have a plausible theory for what might actually be happening: some people identify with freethought but have never really freed their thoughts. Their atheism was never really solid in the first place. It’s not so much that they’re ex-atheists; rather, they’re failed atheists.

I know that nobody has actually ‘freed their thoughts’ entirely. We’re human, not Vulcan. So I suppose it must be a matter of degrees. Nonetheless, I think most atheists are reasonably grounded in logic and that there’s no chance in hell they’ll ever renounce logic in favor of superstition — not even for an 11th-hour, or death-bed, conversion.

Most ex-atheists who adopt a formal religion probably never really shook themselves loose from God’s grip. To them, God is a meme they can’t ignore.

 


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com


http://www.limetorrents.com/download/The-X-Factor-US-S02E12-HDTV-x264-2HD-1596811

Moral Issue, My Ass!

ImageThere is no objective moral standard in nature . . . and there sure as hell ain’t none in the supernatural. So morality is subjective. If people had their way, just about anything could become a moral issue: pet ownership, consumerism, relative wealth, divorce, transgender surgery, capitalism, alcohol, tobacco, meat, wool, fur, accommodationism, inoculations, drugs, hunting, firearms, free speech, sexual orientation, on and on. I say, don’t preach to me unless I’m personally culpable . . . and you’re not.

There seems to be many ideas of what constitutes a moral issue. To some, it’s a matter of belief (as opposed to preference). To some it’s visceral: they know it when they feel it. To some, it’s a matter of avoiding harm to others; possibly including animals or even plants. To some, it’s a matter of the greater good. To some, it’s a matter of consensus or majority opinion. To some, it can be any combination of these things.

My own idea of what constitutes a moral issue is personal culpability when it can be reasonably avoided. Could I have avoided causing harm? If so, crossing that line is a moral issue to me if I’ve crossed that line. My reason for this is to preempt being pulled into every personal or political agenda that grabs the fickle limelight of the public. Like veganism/vegetarianism, for instance.

My idea of morality separates moral issues from other kinds of issues: humanitarian issues, political issues, environmental issues, legal issues, health issues, social issues, national sovereignty or security issues, economic issues, personal issues, religious, ethnic or racial issues, or whatever. It’s not a moral issue to me, unless I am personally culpable of reasonably avoidable harm.

World hunger is not a moral issue to me. I’m not personally culpable for it. It’s a humanitarian issue. So is birth control, slavery and overpopulation. Abortion? A legal issue. So is murder and animal cruelty, unless I’m the one committing them. Pollution, strip mining, deforestation and global warming? Environmental issues.

As in murder, other kinds of issues can become moral issues when you are personally culpable. If you dispose of used motor oil in your local lake – knowing it’s illegal and environmentally hazardous – it becomes a moral issue for you as well as a legal and environmental issue.

What I particularly hate is intolerance masquerading as morality – you know, when people turn their personal preferences into beliefs they then foist upon others. These pseudo-issues and their advocates can go to hell as far as I’m concerned. This intolerance is easy to see when it comes to religions. People born into one religion or another often prefer it over others and might even believe theirs is somehow better or more valid. Well, they can believe what they want but as soon as they try to advocate or discriminate against some other religion(s), they are practicing intolerance – not pursuing morality. The same goes for veganism or vegetarianism: as soon as it is wielded as some sort of moral billyclub, it becomes intolerance: and when advocated publicly, it becomes political. A personal preference is not and should never be a political issue: not even if it’s the majority view.

If you’re a bleeding heart charter member of the Moral Issue of the Month Club, I ‘m not interested in your latest cause célèbre.


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com

George Carlin Video: Religion is Bullshit

The all-time king of stand-up comedy (R.I.P.) was in prime form when he performed Religion is Bullshit.  One of his best routines.  I’m sure not all those audience members laughing their asses off were atheists.  Perhaps humor is the most effective proselytizing technique.

N E W S :
I’ve created an English transcript of this video. It’s available here.

In the bullshit department, a businessman can’t hold a candle to a clergyman. ‘Cuz I’ve gotta tell you the truth, folks, when it comes to bullshit – big time, major league, bullshit – you have to stand in awe of the all-time champion of false promises and exaggerated claims: religion. No contest.

Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told. Think about it. Religion has actually convinced people that there’s an invisible man living in the sky who watches everything you do, every minute of every day. And the invisible man has a special list of 10 things he does not want you to do. And if you do any of these 10 things, he has a special place full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, forever and ever until the end of time.

But he loves you.

He loves you and he needs money. He always needs money! He’s all-powerful, all-perfect, all-knowing and all-wise – somehow, he just can’t handle money. Religion takes in billions of dollars, they pay no taxes and they always need a little more. Now, you talk about a good bullshit story . . . holy shit!

I want you to know (this is sincere) when it comes to believing in God, I really tried. I really, really tried. I tried to believe that there is a God who created each of us in his own image and likeness, loves us very much and keeps a close eye on things. I really tried to believe that but I gotta tell you, the longer you live, the more you look around, the more you realize something is fucked up.

Something is wrong here. War, disease, death, destruction, hunger, filth, poverty, torture, crime, corruption and the Ice Capades. Something is definitely wrong. This is not good work. If this is the best God can do, I am not impressed. Results like these do not belong on the résumé of a Supreme Being. This is the kind of shit you’d expect from an office temp with a bad attitude. And just between you and me, in any decently-run universe this guy would’ve been out on his all-powerful ass a long time ago. And by the way, I say ‘this guy’, because I firmly believe, looking at these results, that if there is a God, it has to be a man. No woman could or would ever fuck things up like this. So, if there is a God, I think most reasonable people might agree that he’s at least incompetent and maybe, just maybe, doesn’t give a shit – which I admire in a person and which would explain a lot of these bad results.

So rather than be just another mindless religious robot, mindlessly and aimlessly and blindly believing that all of this is in the hands of some spooky incompetent father-figure who doesn’t give a shit, I decided to look around for something else to worship. Something I could really count on. And immediately I thought of the sun. Happened like that. Overnight I became a sun worshiper. Well, not overnight – you can’t see the sun at night – but first thing the next morning I became a sun-worshipper. Several reasons. First of all, I can see the sun. Okay? Unlike some other gods I could mention, I can actually see the sun. I’m big on that. If I can see something . . . I don’t know . . . it kind of helps the credibility along, you know? So everyday I can see the sun as it gives me everything I need: heat, light, food, flowers in the park, reflections on the lake, an occasional skin cancer – but hey – at least there are no crucifixions and we’re not setting people on fire simply because they don’t agree with us.

Sun worship is fairly simple. There’s no mystery, no miracles, no pageantry, no one asks for money, there are no songs to learn and we don’t have a special building where we all gather, once a week, to compare clothing. And the best thing about the sun? It never tells me I’m unworthy. Doesn’t tell me I’m a bad person who needs to be saved. Hasn’t said an unkind word. Treats me fine. So I worship the sun. But I don’t pray to the sun. Know why? I wouldn’t presume on our friendship: it’s not polite.

I’ve often thought people treat God rather rudely, don’t you? Asking trillions and trillions of prayers every day. Asking and pleading and begging for favors. Do this. Give me that. I need a new car. I want a better job. And most of this praying takes place on Sunday . . . his day off. It’s not nice and it’s no way to treat a friend.

But people do pray and they pray for a lot of different things. You know . . . your sister needs an operation on her crotch; your brother was arrested for defecating in a mall; but most of all, you’d really like to fuck that hot little redhead down at the convenience store. You know, the one with the eye patch and the club foot? Can you pray for that? I think you’d have to. And I say fine. Pray for anything you want. Pray for anything . . . but what about the divine plan? Remember that? The divine plan?

Long time ago, God made a divine plan. Gave it a lot of thought, decided it was a good plan, put it into practice. And for billions and billions of years, the divine plan has been doing just fine. Now, you come along and pray for something. Well suppose the thing you want isn’t in God’s divine plan? What do you want him to do? Change his plan? Just for you? Doesn’t it seem a little arrogant? It’s a divine plan. What’s the use of being God if every run-down schmuck with a two-dollar prayer book can come along and fuck up your plan?

And here’s something else. Another problem you might have. Suppose your prayers aren’t answered. What do you say? “Well, it’s God’s will. Thy Will Be Done.” Fine. But if it’s God’s will and he’s going to do what he wants to anyway, why the fuck bother praying in the first place? Seems like a big waste of time to me. Couldn’t you just skip the praying part and go right to his will? It’s all very confusing.

So to get around a lot of this, I decided to worship the sun. But as I said, I don’t pray to the sun. You know who I pray to? Joe Pesci. Two reasons: first of all, I think he’s a good actor, okay? To me, that counts. Second, he looks like a guy who can get things done. Joe Pesci doesn’t fuck around. In fact, Joe Pesci came through on a couple of things that God was having trouble with.

For years I asked God to do something about my noisy neighbor with the barking dog, Joe Pesci straightened that cocksucker out with one visit. It’s amazing what you can accomplish with a simple baseball bat.

So I’ve been praying to Joe for about a year now and I noticed something: I noticed that all the prayers I used to offer to God and all the prayers I now offer to Joe Pesci are being answered at about the same 50% rate. Half the time I get what I want, half the time I don’t. Same as God: fifty-fifty. Same as the four-leaf clover and the horseshoe; the wishing well and the rabbit’s foot: same as the mojo man; same as the voodoo lady who tells you your fortune by squeezing the goat’s testicles . . . it’s all the same, fifty-fifty. So just pick your superstition, sit back, make a wish and enjoy yourself.

And for those of you who look to the Bible for moral lessons and literary qualities, I might suggest a couple of other stories for you. You might want to look at the Three Little Pigs, that’s a good one. Has a nice happy ending, I’m sure you’ll like that. Then there’s Little Red Riding Hood, although it does have that x-rated part where the big bad wolf actually eats the grandmother. Which I didn’t care for, by the way. And finally, I’ve always drawn a great deal of moral comfort from Humpty Dumpty. The part I like the best? All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again. That’s because there is no Humpty Dumpty and there is no God. None. Not one. No God. Never was. In fact, I’m gonna put it this way: if there is a God, may he strike this audience dead.

See? Nothing happened. Everybody’s okay? All right. Tell you what – I’ll raise the stakes a little bit. If there is a God, may he strike me dead. See? Nothing happened . . . oh wait . . . I’ve got a little cramp in my leg . . . and my balls hurt . . . plus I’m blind . . . oh . . . now I’m okay again. Must have been Joe Pesci, huh? God bless Joe Pesci.

Thank you all very much. Joe Bless you. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

Atheism and the Illusion of Certainty

Scientists and philosophers agree that certainty is an illusion. Although we’ve learned a lot about nature and the universe, there’s still many very fundamental unanswered questions. Mix in the subjective and limited faculty of human perception and one begins to see the magnitude of ignorance beyond the scope of our meager knowledge. But don’t take my word for it . . .

“Not to be absolutely certain is, I think, one of the essential things in rationality.” ~Bertrand Russell

“Doubt is not a pleasant state of mind, but certainty is absurd.” ~Voltaire

“Intolerance is the natural concomitant of strong faith; tolerance grows only when faith loses certainty; certainty is murderous.” ~Will Durant

“Dogmatism and skepticism are both, in a sense, absolute philosophies; one is certain of knowing, the other of not knowing. What philosophy should dissipate is certainty, whether of knowledge or ignorance.” ~Bertrand Russell

“I have approximate answers and possible beliefs, in different degrees of certainty, about different things. But I’m not absolutely sure of anything, and of many things I don’t know anything about. But I don’t have to know an answer. I don’t feel frightened by not knowing things — by being lost in the mysterious universe without having any purpose — which is the way it really is as far as I can tell, possibly. It doesn’t frighten me.” ~Richard Feynman

“The educated in [the critical habit of thought] are slow to believe. They can hold things as possible or probable in all degrees, without certainty and without pain.” ~William Graham Sumner

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” ~Albert Einstein

We still don’t know the nature of reality. To what extent do quantum effects extend into the classical realm? Is reality really a matter of probabilities, or are there simply too many variables for our feeble minds to grasp? Information is a fundamental property of matter at the quantum level: why would that be? And we’re still not sure what role, if any, consciousness plays in reality.

Then there’s the question of which God we’re talking about: the indifferent Prime Mover of deists and pantheists – or the personal, revealed, creator of the Abrahamic religions? Our knowledge of the former is nebulous at best: there’s not much information available about this absentee God. However, our knowledge of the latter is an entirely different matter: we have plenty of information about him via his allegedly divinely-inspired scriptures. Thanks to these 3 scriptures (the Hebrew bible, the New Testament and the Quran) it is easy to prove the God of Abraham (including his incarnate form as Jesus) is definitively not the omniscient and omnibenevolent source of morality his faithful followers claim him to be.

So, we can rule out the Abrahamic God but if you’re talking about the absentee Prime Mover, then the practical considerations, above, factor into the question of his existence. Atheists who value rational integrity and limit their claims to what they can actually substantiate, can reasonably claim that all evidence seems to point away from God and that the odds of his existence appears to be vanishingly remote. This is enough for many of us to claim the title of atheist with a high degree of confidence. Many others who hold this same position believe they are technically agnostics, because they do admit the possibility of such a God’s existence, however unlikely.

Personally, I rank myself as an atheist. But I don’t claim that God does not exist. I can’t support that claim for all gods; just the God of Abraham – as perceived by his adherents and portrayed by doctrine. I can’t make the same claims about the God of deists and pantheists because there is no scripture or doctrine to base any claims upon. In fact, there’s no information at all about this absentee cosmic creator. Given the ineffable mystery of existence and the depth of our ignorance, it’s not impossible that the universe is created instead of spontaneous or eternal. Occam’s Razor suggests a creator God is less likely than no creator God at all but it does not rule out the possibility. The fact is, we still don’t know how (or if) the universe began.

Certainty about God’s existence – or his nonexistence – is equally unsupportable, either way.


© Copyright 2012 AtheistExile.com
eMail: AtheistExile@AtheistExile.com