Archives for category: Religion

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that Muslims are all terrorists. 1.6 billion people, a quarter of the world’s population, are interchangeable variations of the same, freedom-hating towel head. From those in Uzbekistan to Bangladesh; from Morocco to Indonesia; from Algeria to Tunisia, all of them identical in every way. Actually, in doing some research so I could sarcastically list Muslim countries that nobody talks about because America isn’t drone-striking the shit out of them, I discovered that there are more Muslims in India and Pakistan than in the entirety of the Middle East! Normally this would imply vast cultural differences based on external influences, but we’re ignoring the incredible diversity that a quarter of the world’s population spread out over the globe necessarily implies, so again, for the sake of argument, Muslims are a homogeneous group with one goal in mind: destroying the West with suicide bombs and beheading videos.

Why do they hate our freedoms? I mean it’s just as easy to make blanket assumptions about their motivations (they’re evil) as it is to make blanket assumptions about their behaviours, but I’m going to hold motivations to a higher standard at this point otherwise this blog would be over very quickly.

I haven’t been entirely fair. I am certain there is another generalization that someone could use that doesn’t denounce Muslims as evil, and there is. They are just backward savages who haven’t caught up to civilization yet. It’s not bigotry if it’s condescending! I mean, the Iraq War was justified as a means to bring modernity and democracy to a simple, superstitious people who would surely be grateful for the wisdom (This was obviously after the “Weapons of Mass Destruction” excuse fell apart). If you consider the Medieval period when Christianity was pulling people apart on the rack, and now Muslims are beheading people, clearly parallels can be drawn. Muslims, a quarter of the planet, are just less culturally evolved, and surely they’ll catch up in the next few hundred years. That is how time works.

This is called Modernization theory. It basically says that all civilizations start out as baby hunter/gatherer tribes, and evolve through similar phases, until everyone ends up at the pinnacle of culture, us. We’re the best, and everyone else is just in an adolescent phase of their cultural development, and they can’t help that their limbic systems haven’t fully developed yet! This is what is commonly known as racism: the perceived notion that one’s own culture is superior to another. If a culture exists today, then it is a modern culture. THAT is how time works. The reason that one society might have longer life expectancies and less random violence isn’t part of some preordained path that each group of people must follow; human societies don’t exist in a vacuum. Shit goes on all around us, and that is what determines the direction groups of people will follow.

So what’s been going on with these generalized Muslims? Well, way back when Western secularism was first introduced to Muslim-dominated countries, the elites were all very impressed! They marveled at the technological advances that had been made; they listened to the Enlightenment ideas with rapt interest; they were awed by the massive expansion that the West was capable of, and they actually tried to secularize themselves with these Western ideologies. Except the problem with top-down ideological revolution is that it is indistinguishable from oppression. It usually involves banning practices from the previous paradigm, and violently enforcing its new social norms. This means that the Muslims who had been living out their lives quite contentedly were now being punished for that old way of living and were pushed toward this new way that allowed the powerful to buddy up with Western imperialists. Who cares what happens to the vulgar masses? Try to imagine what would happen if Obama implemented Sharia law while in office.  The reaction to that, I imagine, would be identical to the sordid Middle Eastern history of Islamic conflict with the West.

In addition to brutally enforced Westernization, the relationship between these two civilizations continued with a general disdain held by the West against the Middle East. Consider the creation of Israel. Turns out that the British, who did not even have ownership of the land at the time, promised it both to the Arabs, in the hopes that they would help them fight the Ottomans, and to the Jews as well, mostly to get them out of England. Given that someone was going to be inevitably screwed over by this incredible act of duplicity, and that the Jews had just suffered through the holocaust, Israel thus became a Jewish state. This Jewish state, now beholden to the West, acts as a stabilizer for the area. Stability in this context means that it will destroy with violence any group that gets out of line and does not provide appropriate resources at a steal of a price. The West betrayed the Muslims of the Middle East, and then allied themselves with the favoured demographic in order to marginalize and rob them.

Remember how I said earlier that the Western excuse for Middle Eastern intervention is to bomb the countries into respectable democracies? Well it turns out that the Middle East has been quite capable of establishing democracies in the past, but they tend to elect leaders who have the interests of the people in mind, rather than the interests of the West. In 1953, Iran elected a leader who was going to nationalize the oil industry so that the profits could go to the people of the country rather than foreign corporations. Unlucky for him, America and England decided that this would not do, and assassinated him. They then put up their own puppet dictator that brutalized the populace, but made sure that the money and resources went to the right people. More recently in Afghanistan, when Hamid Karzai was elected, rather than allow the people of the country to put into power someone who might allow Afghans some degree of autonomy, the US simply populated parliament with the warlords who had torn up the country in the aftermath of the proxy war fought between America and Russia decades earlier. I suppose putting in your own violent puppets in the first place means you don’t have to assassinate democratically elected world leaders to do it after the fact. Fun fact: Jihadi extremism was encouraged by the Americans during their cold war forays into the region as a weapon against the communists, and then was simply allowed to run rampant after the US pulled out their troops. The Taliban used Jihadi textbooks literally provided by the US to indoctrinate children into this violent mindset. There are many other examples of American interventions in democratic countries, purposefully destabilizing them for the sake of the flow of capital, but those are mostly irrelevant for the purposes of this blog.

America is actually quite fond of supporting brutal dictators in the Middle East. Remember the Iraq war that allowed Bush Jr. to fight Saddam just like daddy did? Saddam was the worst human imaginable, as the story goes, which is odd considering that America was providing him with money and weapons almost right up until they invaded his country in the early 90s. Or how about Hozni Mubarak, the malevolent dictator that Obama condemned when the people overthrew him. Again this is odd considering America had been supporting the despot for about 30 years. The excuses typically given are that these autocrats provide stability to the region, the same kind of stability I was talking about earlier.

The Middle East doesn’t produce violent extremism because of any ideological differences between Islam and the secular/Christian West, but because the Middle East has resources that the West devours but doesn’t want to pay for, so they, without any subtlety, fuck over everyone who lives there. People who, in theory, ought to have the rights to that covetous oil in the first place. If Arabs are constantly fighting over everything and are dirt poor, they’ll never be able to stand up to the greed-driven powerhouses responsible for their squalor. The touted “stability” that the West supports in the region is actually its opposite, since a Middle East in solidarity would be able to actualize some form of control over those resources, thereby forbidding the West from exploiting them.

If you’re thinking, hey now, I never condoned that colonial barbarism being committed by my society against the Middle East! I shouldn’t be targeted by Jihadi terrorists! I’m completely innocent! Doesn’t feel good to be judged for the deeds and mentalities of individuals who are only related to you by the most superficial of connections, does it? Well, I doubt the vast majority of Muslims in Syria, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran are particularly fond that they are being targeted for the deeds of people only akin to them under the most desperate of comparisons either. Except technically, we are more responsible for Western destructiveness than Muslims are for general acts of terrorism because we elect the government officials who collude with vicious imperialists regimes, if not the ones who perform the vicious imperialism outright. Muslims bear no such responsibility for the deeds of entirely unrelated peoples.

If you’re thinking, hey now, I know what this is really about, and Donald Trump isn’t trying to ban Muslims, he’s only trying to ban people from seven Muslim majority countries! Except, he said he was going to implement a Muslim ban, Rudy Giuliani said Trump asked him how to institute a Muslim ban, and considering the fear that right-wingers have of terrorists swarming in from my own Canada, why wouldn’t he include Canadian visas on his list? (you should totally read that second hyperlink to Breitbart because they manage to turn Canada’s loose regulations on Muslims to somehow being Barack Obama’s fault. It’s fucking hilarious) Trump said that Mexico is sending America their criminals and rapists, as if the country itself is responsible for the problem, and yet Mexico is not on the list either. The 9/11 terrorists that allegedly inspired the executive order did not come from any of these countries. That they are “trouble-spots” ignores the problems going on in Burma, Israel/Palestine, Romania, the Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, etc. The only connection any of these countries have is that they are populated by mostly Muslims and don’t do business with Trump. Saying that this executive order is anything but a ban on Muslims ignores that it does not target the largest terrorist-producing nations, ignores what Trump himself has said about instituting a Muslim ban, ignores most of global conflict, and does not even coincide with the worldview espoused by its most fervent supporters. An interesting counter-argument that I haven’t seen in slogging through alt-right perspectives might be that these are countries that America is being overtly hostile toward, but that doesn’t work either, since America is very vocally claiming that it is fighting “terrorism” and not individual countries, so banning visas from those countries makes no sense from this perspective either. Also, how is “Obama and Carter did it too!” an argument against it being a Muslim ban? If the Democratic party is so hard on Muslims, then why fight tooth and nail to oust them? You can’t clamor for a ban on Muslims, and then when one is basically implemented, deny that it is exactly that when people call you out on it.

Post-script: There is actually a short version to this. I mean, these days the West is basically murdering civilians willy-nilly and then expecting that the region is not going to be pissed off about it. Why do Muslims-who-are-all-terrorists hate us? Really?

What does it mean to be an atheist? Many people conflate atheism with scientism, the unabashed fellatio of scientific idealism. The universe is provably more ancient than 6000 years old, therefore God does not exist. Beyond scientism, atheism is often confused with Western-centrism. Women wearing head coverings are being oppressed, therefore God does not exist. However, being an atheist isn’t simply being a contrarian who establishes their beliefs solely as oppositional to religious and cultural dogma, it is its own unique belief set. And I do mean a full set of beliefs because true atheism requires more than just a belief in the lack of a God or gods.

Friedrich Nietzsche, as I’m sure everyone knows, is the guy who said that God is dead. Unfortunately, this has become a meaningless phrase to be scribbled on the inside of a bathroom stall, typically followed by the equally useless retort, “Nietzsche is dead – God.” Taken out of context, the quotation just seems like a badass way of saying there is no God, but the ‘death’ motif is not used simply because Nietzsche is metal as fuck. It is very deliberate. Let’s look at the full context, from the book The Gay Science:

THE MADMAN—-Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: “I seek God! I seek God!”—As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated?—Thus they yelled and laughed

The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. “Whither is God?” he cried; “I will tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him.

“How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us—for the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto.”

Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. “I have come too early,” he said then; “my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars—and yet they have done it themselves.

It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: “What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?”

“God is dead” is not a celebration, nor even is it an exclamation of God’s ultimate non-being. Consider the Thomas theorem – If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. God most certainly exists since people do define Him as real, and through that definition, His presence has material consequences on humanity unconditional to whether or not He is objectively ‘real.‘ God had been the foundation of Western civilization for centuries, and arguably still is, and therefore His non-existence is not a simple void to be filled by smug self-righteousness as shown by the townspeople in this parable (and in many atheists today, even); it is the destabilization of our entire world, plunging us into darkness. The prime basis for morality, purpose, hope, identity, and even society itself, the measurable ‘consequences’ of God, are no longer relevant; this is not some triviality to be approached with condescending mirth. This is a dirge.

Without God, our morality is flummoxed by David Hume’s Is/Ought problem. We cannot look at a state in the world and derive a moral obligation from it without first imposing a human value. For example, economic inequality is a thing that exists. Any ethical action must first be based on a value statement: equality is good, therefore measures must be put in place to redistribute the wealth, or competition is good, therefore there must be losers, therefore inequality is not inherently bad so long as competition is allowed to flourish. If there is a disagreement, it is entirely possible that no middle ground could ever be reached because each party may be working from entirely different foundational premises. If there is no objective measure of value, such as through God, then subjectivity infects moral decision making and clouds the process.

Nietzsche’s solution can be summed up quite succinctly in his own words, “Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” This is in reference to Nietzsche’s problematic Übermensch: the being who has ascended their own humanity to become something greater. We Übermensch create our own values and disregard other opinions because we’re super great and other people are only ever means to our own ends. While certainly a solution to the problem of a now deceased diety, the sociopathy and narcissism of the Übermensch makes it less than appealing in a broad application.

There are, of course, other solutions. I have already written out my perspective on secular morality, as well as on finding meaning, so I won’t bother going over those again. For our identity, we must consider Jean-Paul Sartre’s theory, existence before essence. If our essence (the you-ness that defines you) precedes our existence, for example if we are made for a divine purpose, or we are built in such a way that we are driven in a particular direction (eg. toward God/goodness), then we as individuals can never define ourselves as we are limited by an essence predetermined by outside forces. If existence precedes essence however, then we can fully define ourselves based on our conscious choices and freedom. We must endure the responsibility of building ourselves, which is no small task to bear.

This is why agnosticism cannot work. If there is no God, then answers to these questions must be found through secular means, and if there is a God or gods, then the answers would be provided there. Agnostics, those who sit on the fence between these two positions, cannot offer any solution because there is no solid foundation of faith upon which it can be built. Descartes was only able to overcome his doubt to build the infrastructure of his philosophy when he realized there was an all-powerful God whom he knew would never deceive him. How can you build an identity if you are ambivalent as to whether your purpose has been predetermined by some divine force (God, fate, etc.) or not? If there is a God or gods, then presumably their impact on the universe ought to be acknowledged, and answers would need to be derived from within that paradigm. Even Nietzsche, despite his often harsh criticism of religions, admired that they at least offered answers, even if those answers were now obsolete.

New Atheism, as proselytized by the likes of Richard Dawkins and company, is partially responsible for this diversion away from building identity, hope, meaning, etc. toward an atheism that mostly insults the intelligence of religious individuals, possibly as a continuation of the post-modernist trend to deconstruct ideologies rather than create solutions. Really though, people have been complaining about the inconsistencies and implausibilities in religion since Xenophanes 2500 years ago. Criticizing religion based on reason achieves little because what separates religion from atheism isn’t the illogical myths, it’s the promulgation of answers to these existential questions that atheists must answer for themselves if they wish to maintain coherence in their godless world view.

Post-script: Yes, atheism is a faith. Consider our senses, and how terrible they all are. Our eyesight is poor, our hearing is garbage; none of them are remotely close to being the best in the animal kingdom. We rely on our massive brains to distinguish ourselves from an otherwise entirely mediocre body. However, it is incredibly naive to think that our brains are perfect considering how sub-par the rest of us is. To think that we even have the capacity to have full, universal understanding is beyond egotistical. More likely is we don’t. If we consider that there must be something that exists beyond our cognizable capacity, as there quite reasonably may be, then to claim complete atheism requires just as much faith as there does to claim that there is a God that exists within that realm. You might reasonably claim that because this realm by definition exists outside our capacity to understand it, we could never coherently speak about it, and you’re right. That’s where faith comes in.

About a week ago, I was waiting at a bus stop on my way home, and I was approached by a pair of Mormons going about their rounds. They stopped to chat, as is their wont, and the one, taller Mormon acknowledged my E Pluribus Anus shirt that I was sporting at the time.

This is the only picture of me where the logo is reasonably visible, and I'm not taking a fucking selfie for my dumb blog.

This is the only picture of me where the logo is reasonably visible, and I’m not taking a fucking selfie for my dumb blog.

This is a reference to the television show Community for those godless heathens among you who don’t know your anus references, as seen in the school’s logo.

It translates to, "From Many Buttholes." Very poetic.

It translates to, “From Many Buttholes.” Very poetic.

Now, to me, this was great because it meant I got to talk about buttholes with Mormons, which has been my dream since childhood. I mean, we talked about other things like where they were from and boring social stuff, but whatever. The point is we shared a pleasant conversation. Meanwhile the bus pulls up, and they ask me if I would want to meet up with them later for a gathering, and I said, “No, I’m not interested, thank you, but it was nice chatting with you!” and got on the bus. As we parted ways, the one Mormon shouted after me, “Pop POP!” It was a magical moment.

As I got on the bus and displayed my pass, the bus driver said to me, “I saved you, huh?” as if I had just barely survived a shark attack, and he had pulled me from the water. Thing is, he hadn’t. The Mormons were kind and polite, and I was perfectly content having an idle conversation with them, and the bus driver did not commit any extra effort to rescue me from the uncomfortable situation he believed me to be in, he was just doing his job. If anyone was legitimately trying to save me, it was the Mormons.

A lot of people loathe door-to-door evangelists, and I get it. That used to be me. I would relish the occasion where one day I would finally get to ask a silly religious person why God would have created a universe wherein He would have to wait billions of years for His creation to come about if He allegedly loves us so much, or if the Earth is only 6000 years old, how does that explain the entirety of science? I mean, I love popcorn but I gotta admit, two minutes is about the extent I’m willing to wait. Compared to billions of years? Nobody loves popcorn that much. Alternatively, if I just came across a bowl of popcorn in the street and assumed that’s where popcorn came from, then I’d be stupid. I call it: The Popcorn Argument.

Eventually I learned that purpose, hope, and community are super important and hey! Turns out religion offers all those things. Now I’m the atheist who writes blogs defending organized religion. Go figure. These days when I’m given the opportunity to demand an explanation for the problem of evil, I prefer just being pleasant with another human being. Honestly, I’m probably better off.

Now, I didn’t write this blog just to tell you about my dabblings with theology. What I wanted to do was help out a reader or two come to grips with evangelist behaviour because it gets a lot of flack, and I don’t really think it deserves it. So come with me on a thought-experiment journey to a magical land where money dictates the turning of the world… which is actually this world. I guess you didn’t have to journey that far.

Imagine you won the lottery. Not like a free scratch or ten bucks, but the real jackpot. Huzzah, right?! And I’m not even talking about double-digit millions of dollars here, I’m talking infinite dollars. Literally an unending supply of dollars. Pay off your bills, take a trip to Hawaii, buy that happiness everyone keeps talking about… you will never have to have a financial worry again in your life! Now we’ll have to stretch our imaginations here a little bit and pretend you’re not a selfish piece of shit. You realize that with infinite dollars, you could pay off the bills of everyone! Pay off their mortgages; fund their kids’ tuition; pay for their health insurance! With an infinite amount of dollars, you could pass on infinite dollars to everyone! It’s one of the perks of infinite! So you go door to door, and you’re like, “Hey friend! I was that person who won that crazy jackpot that defies the laws of economic inflation! Want to have all your financial troubles taken care of forever?” Sane people would say yes. Suddenly, you realize that you’ve stumbled into a weird hippy commune! They reject your currency because they’re content with their bartering system of beads and hemp! They say things like, “Don’t you know that your money is fake? What real value has a piece of paper outside of what society collectively attributes to it? NOTHING! You believe in a lie!” The crazy fools, don’t they see the glory that is monetary-based capitalism? Monetary-based capitalism within which, as infinite-aires, they can live out the rest of their hippy lives in abundance and luxury? Lunacy!

So as a person with access to the infinite who is seeking to share its benefits for the good of everyone, do you feel like you’re worthy of scorn from smelly hippies? No, of course not. You’re only trying to help! The difference lies in each group’s perspective as to what generates worth, be it the agreed upon social value of a piece of paper (or more so nowadays the value of a few pixels on a screen), or, to bring back our titular Mormons, the value of an invisible deity. Each person is going to have a different view, but if we realize that unless we are selfish pieces of shit, we would perform the exact evangelistic deeds if we had access to an infinite portion of something we find so valuable.