Archive for January, 2013

Book

Posted in The Facts and Ideas, The Narrow Path on January 18, 2013 by RWZero

I’ve started writing the book that summarizes my thoughts on all this (not the compilation of these essays – those are pretty much finished, rotting on my hard drive as I wait to PDF them).

Last night I spent 5 hours writing just the first three pages, and I fell asleep at 3 AM and went into work late.

I’ll get it done somehow.

Anti-Christian Buzz Words

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2013 by RWZero

I believe that it’s possible for atheists and agnostics to discuss and criticize Christianity without overusing these words:

Barbaric, superstitious, ancient, goat herders, logic, reason, (ir)rational, fairy tale, Santa Claus, bigotry, tribal, imaginary, delusion, iron age, myths, bigotry, stupid, science, indoctrination, brainwashing, sky daddy

Religion as a Blight

Posted in Faith and Science on January 12, 2013 by RWZero

Unless they were abused by a priest, raised in Alabama or had some similarly traumatic experience, I don’t know how anyone who has had extensive, real-life experience with Christians can say that Christianity is some scourge that poisons everything. It isn’t. It’s just a thing that’s worked out for better and for worse in a lot of different circumstances.

“Did you know,” someone will say, while munching on take-out food, “that in [such and such a time] they didn’t let you use a fork because they thought it was a sin?”

We’re meant to shake our heads and pity the poor forkless bastards.

What’s not mentioned is how many other things people were ignorant of back then. Modern Internet Boys wants us imagine a bunch of clerics huddled around a small child, trying to spank the demons out of him and discouraging his parents from reading the freshly-pressed books on neuroscience that were sold at the market. But there were no such books. There were no Ionians locked up in the jails, barred from enlightening the public. People were just making due with the explanations they had.

Sure, Christians shushed Galileo. But in this historical instance where the church resisted a scientific discovery, who made the discovery in the first place? A Christian living in a Christian society. A society that produces discoveries, along with religious people who resist the discoveries, still gets more credit than a society that does not discover things.

We were sticking leeches on people as a medical treatment right up until the 19th century. If this had been a religiously-motivated practice, I’m sure the church would never hear the end of it.

You can’t sit at your computer and criticize people throughout history. The fact is that throughout history, most people were ignorant as a matter of circumstance, and most people were religious as a matter of circumstance. Take away their religion, and they’d have been no less ignorant.

But it Matters Right Now!

Posted in The Facts and Ideas on January 2, 2013 by RWZero

The Internet is full of happy white male atheists who would love to tell you about their happiness. They like explaining that God and an afterlife are not necessary for frolicking in the field. They have heard of the existentialists, of course; some of them (though fewer of them) have even read the material, but they don’t take it too seriously. Life is good at my computer with my steaming cup of coffee, and it’s worth living because I say so.

Does life matter? Does it have meaning? Yes, because it matters and has meaning right now!

It seems like a somewhat subjective question, so it is impossible to show that these people are wrong. But the best I can argue, based on the brevity and simplicity of their answers, is that these people have either just not thought about it enough, aren’t capable of grasping it, or have jobs, bills and kids that keep them too busy to think about it deeply enough.

The best I can say is that I’ve held all the same thoughts and feelings that these people have had. I’ve felt motivated, happy, charged with meaning; I’ve been in a state of mind that could easily produce answers such as these. However, I have also been horrifically depressed and stricken with existential terror, as if every nerve ending were aflame, and in that state of mind I would not give those answers. Having experienced both, I judge that the latter was a higher state of mind than the former. The latter contains the former. It came from thinking about it and reflecting deeply, with every ounce of my psyche. The former state of mind does not contain the latter, and it does not require any focus, reflection, experience or intelligence; it can be attained in one’s sleep, in childhood, in mere hypnagogia.

I have experienced and felt what they’ve said. But they have not experienced and felt what I’ve said.

If you are performing a song for an audience, and it is made known that the audience’s memories will be erased after the song, you will probably lose some motivation. If your sound guy says “it matters right now,” you will probably not think it matters too much, because your mind will be focused 3 minutes ahead… at which point none of what you did will matter. Yet when those three minutes are stretched into decades, somehow this is changed–partly because it’s easy to imagine three minutes from now, in a way that it is not easy to imagine eons from now.

I feel happy right now, but I admit that this is partly because I have learned to dismiss and ignore certain things. I also entertain the idea that there may be positive metaphysical truths that I am unaware of.

If God doesn’t exist, and he’s completely useless in providing meaning in people’s lives, why did people invent him? Why do people still cling to belief, when there are plenty of evidence-based paths available that lead to unbelief?

People obviously cling to these beliefs because they are psychologically helpful.

Atheists are compelled to disbelieve in religion, so it is no surprise that there are essays about how life (on the whole) is meaningful and optimistic, just as it is no surprise that Christians write essays about how such and such science is compatible with Christianity. People are compelled to come to their root conclusions for deep and fundamental reasons, and thereafter they must take whatever steps are necessary to make those conclusions comfortable.

~

Dan Ariely showed in his experiment with Lego-building that participants become demotivated when the meaningless of their efforts is exposed. Both groups knew that the Lego figures they built would be disassembled, but only one group saw this happening. Both groups performed a pointless task: the loss of motivation was entirely based on how apparent the pointlessness was.