Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Thought on Charity

On the Reasonable Doubts podcast they have an episode called 'Profiles of the Godless' and it's pretty good, uses statistics an such. It was some sort of survey down by one of three guys, Dr. Prof. Luke Galen and then an extended survey done with CFI groups across the world, to a degree. CFI = center for inquiry, a decently atheist hang-out party group ;) Point is: one of the stats is that charity and service work is mainly done through churches an such, and religious people are more likely to do such work and sacrifice, but the non-religious groups do not statistically significantly do less. This means that if you were sample the two groups over and over you would sometimes find non-religious samples that do more than religious samples and vice versa, repeated indefinitely.

So with that said I need to stumble along through my waterfall of thoughts.

A lot of charity and service work is obviously done through churches. And a lot of the people involved are obviously religious. And third, obviously people who become disillusioned to religion may still wish to do good but avoid those religions they so dislike. This, however, should not have to reflect the non-religious as a whole. Taking the atheists for example, Guy Harrison does a LOT of work, Bill Gates donates a lot of money to charity. Being an atheist does not mean you'll be doing less.

I served a mission and though it was proselyting I did get to do service every day, basically. However, it is a little more difficult for me to do something like that now. Especially in America. Where even the government supports church run/funded charities and service opportunities. Separation of church and state is little vague.

But, again, as long as it's getting done, right? There are plenty of secular organizations, though they probably have different issues with taxes an such when compared to something like, say, a church. More loopholes I'm guessing, but they do exist. Hitchens, on a podcast maybe, was talking about how some religious service groups like to talk about how they aren't there to proselyte or be boastful, but just to do their job. Where they don't need to talk about their religion to help people, they simply just help, beliefs put on the side. ... I think their attempts to appear and come off as more 'secular' and 'non-religious' speaks volumes.

Most people will admit that doing something for the right reason of just doing it, and not because of some eternal benefits, is a far nobler thing. Demosthenes and I agreed on a similar point, "so long as they are doing good, I don't much care why." And I think a lot of people would agree. The atheist may enjoy the 'warmth' that comes from helping others, making their actions non-altruistic, but I can't see how ANY religious person can perform a truly altruistic action. They know they will benefit from it, even if it's just a smile from God. I actually inserted this thought into a paper I wrote last year about how Christ wasn't altruistic in his Atonement (according to Mormondom) because he knew he would ascend and be placed on the right hand of God. That and according to the doctrine he was the only who could do it, so ....

But I digress. I use the Hitchen's statement to point out how religious groups sometimes try to come off as non-religious in their service. Mormons of course where bright yellow shirts so they don't quite count. Atheists probably do the same thing, as more of a 'hey, I'm an atheist but I still like to do good in the world and help my fellow human beings!' Again, it's better to just do good for goodness sakes, but I like 'good' atheists better and I always have. In high school I was always more impressed by my friends who were non-religious but still stuck up what was right.

Now, I recognize the good that comes from religion. I still have a couple posts to do on the '9-page reply' email from Demosthenes, but he mentioned, in not so many words, that he picked out my off-hand remarks when I had plenty of positive ones too. Charity is obviously one thing that religion has a monopoly on. So if we get rid of religion what do we do about charity?

First, I don't think religion is going away. Deism will definitely be around forever, the more concrete gods of religions are on the run but they aren't gone yet, and religions will continue to moderate themselves and evolve and adjust. Just to make it clear - I do not think religion is going away. That said, if it did how would we replace it? ... That's the big question. I've seen The Atheist Tapes, and during the Daniel Dennet interview he basically says the same thing only more eloquently and much more philosophically. Dennet is like a Socrates Santa hybrid. I kind of have an answer though, but not one that I like. Commence more rambling.

Religion has a way of taking over people, jump-starting their deeper emotions, lighting fires, commandeering the driver's seat. It's a combination of dogmatism, ideology, and having something to follow. People love to have something to follow, to fight for, to lead them. I venture that this is one of those 'human nature' things. If it's not religion then it's the country (patriotism) or government. These type of unifying and energizing systems give people a boost to go a step beyond what they would normally do. On one side we have people who kill abortion clinic surgeons, fly planes into buildings, and Westboro Baptists. On the other we have Mother Teresa, the Mormon bishop who truly cares, and people who donate thousands a year in money, and days worth of hours in time to charity and service.

How do you replace something like that? With something equally dogmatic and ideological? This post is a slight answer to a slight question that was actually posed to me. Religious people are doing more, but not by much, and most organizations are religious in nature, but especially in America that's just how it's gonna be for now. If religion went away tomorrow I think we would find a world where there would be a lot less service and charity done. Socialism comes to mind, not the Stalin type of course, a more 'open' and not as 'extreme' form of it, a more conducive society to 'free-thinking' would be nice.

The double-sided whatever to atheism is this: when you view this life as all you have then you'll want to make it the best it can be, and being selfish comes with that. But if you care about people and society and the world, then you could end up like Guy Harrison and go doing trips every year.

My atheism inspired me to do more, actually, with this life. I mentioned this when I began my blog, months ago now. I felt so liberated, and I felt like I need to contribute to this world more. Being free of Christianity means that the world does not have to get worst, it can get better. I can make a difference. So as it is now, this is one reason why I remain an atheist, I feel like I am more in control of where I can go in life. I have more responsibility since there is no God or Devil out there. I have more reason to do the right thing, this is my one chance. I have to make things count. I have to like people and try harder to be pleasant cause if something happens, gods forbid, then I won't get another chance with them to set things right.

For me, and I don't think I'm unique, atheism inspires me to do more. And I think that's why atheists are not statistically different from religious people in how much they contribute to the world. I have many friends who think like I do, and yet they think other atheists don't think the same as them, or aren't as interested in doing service for others. News flash, if we're all talking about it and concerned about it, then I'm betting other atheists are too.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Who Cares About She-Bears?

I've been wanting to do a post like this for a while now, and after hearing about this twice today and finding a funny video, I had to make a post. In the MTC, missionary training center for non-mormon readers, some of my 'classmates' asked one of the teachers about the meaning of the she-bears story to which he replied, "every week new missionaries ask about the she-bears. I want to make a shirt that says 'Who care 'bout she-bears?' Seriously guys, you should be spending your time studying the lessons, etc...."

Well, I care 'bout the she-bears, and I have some theories as to the reasons for the story, here it is:

2 Kings Chapter 2
2:23 And he [Elisha]went up from thence unto Bethel: and as he was going up by the way, there came forth little children out of the city, and mocked him, and said unto him, Go up, thou bald head; go up, thou bald head.
2:24 And he turned back, and looked on them, and cursed them in the name of the LORD. And there came forth two she bears out of the wood, and tare forty and two children of them.

Funny story right?
So my first idea was, "Well, gee, don't make fun of the Lord's anointed or he'll fu**ing rip your head off!" Seems reasonable enough. Elisha was a prophet, the kids were obviously not very good kids, probably came from broken homes without a father present, and they made fun of him. He's the prophet, the mouthpiece of the Lord, er LORD, so don't make fun of him. This is one of those extreme examples to warn us petty normal human folks.

But then I got to thinking and I thought, "Well, maybe Elisha is just a pussy." I mean, before him we had Elijah running around, and he was a total bad-@$$. He was the hero facing off against the evil sorceress and sex-fiend Jezebel and conniving Ahab. These two are some of the most evil and successful badguys in the Bible, Jezebel nearly wiped out the whole religion. And even when Elijah had 500 of her prophets killed she went on the rampage. Sad part is Elijah never finished them off, but that's a story for another time. The point, Elijah stopped the rain for a long time, Elisha made an axe float, Elijah killed 500 prophets of Baal, Elisha killed 42 kids cause they called him bald-head. Obviously Elisha had self-esteem issues.

But then I got to thinking, "Maybe, just maybe, the Lord is bald and was offended?" Now, it's a stretch, but the word that jumps out the most in the scripture is LORD, probably cause the typist put it in all caps. So I thought, well the scriptures are always supposed to be related to Jesus, and in Mormondom the 'LORD' of the OT is Jesus, so it's about him. So maybe Jesus is balding and was offended and wanted to make an example out of those kids. You know, like how the police have to make an example out of someone. Doesn't always work very well, didn't with Paris Hilton.

But then I got to thinking, "Maybe it doesn't actually mean what it says it means." So let's take it bit by bit. It says they were 'children' and that sounds like poor little kids getting eaten. Certainly two big angry mother bears could take down 42 kids, especially if the kids were cripples and couldn't get away, or just stupid and didn't understand the meaning of run away in all directions so only a few get caught. However, I'm in my twenties but I'm the child of someone. My parents are the children of their parents. So maybe these 42 'children' were actually some old people who couldn't run away anymore and were just making fun of Elisha cause they grew up together. Cause all prophets are old guys, that's a scientific fact.

And what does 'tare' mean? Definitions all focus around weighing things, like a car with no passengers in it. So maybe the she-bears were just weighing the 42 kids, like some kind of thought game or something. Oh, wait, tare could be tear which means to rip apart. Hmm ... let's skip that.

My favorite picture of the bunch, the kids looks so sad. Very unfortunate. However, since they were teasing a prophet they deserve the daily Darwin award.

Second, this picture was right at the top. I didn't realize 'she-bears' in Google image search would bring up so many 'she bears all' pictures.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Godless Atheist of BYU

This last week has worn me out. I had midterms, and assignments, and other things, and now I am ... bllaaaaaaa. But my nice little non-religious activities have been going good.

USGA at BYU, Understanding Same-Gender Attractions, was on Thursday like normal and I had a decent time going. Hadn't gone in a couple weeks. I don't care for the 'churchiness' of it, but I understand that it basically has to be churchy to be at BYU. Lol. I also feel sorry for any of the people there who are homosexuals and believers at the same time. The LDS church does not make it easy to be gay and happy at the same time. I think some of the people would be better off leaving BYU and living with themselves. Obviously some people really benefit from the group though, and they have a nice liberal edge to them.

In fact this last meeting showed a survey from some online dating site and it was pretty funny. Comparing gays to straight people. Gay guys are more artsy, but not as violent or dorky as straight guys. Lesbian girls are basically more of every type of personality trait than straight girls ... except religious. So if you want an amazing girl date a lesbian, I guess. Also the survey showed key words from profiles, gay guys had some pretty ... gay key words, but overall a very wide range, and some good strong masculine things too. Lesbians though? Very girly overall, but they had one major key word - The L Word. In fact, the key words were ranked by size, more hits equals larger size, and the surveyor stated that they had to shrink down The L Word to fit on the screen. Lesbians love The L Word. In fact, I like it too, watched a couple seasons. I always liked Dana.

The Godless Coffee Tuesday evening meetings, started by a friend, Andrew, have gone good. The nice thing is that it is so close to BYU that many of the other atheists at BYU can just walk over or ride a bike. In fact, coffee isn't far from my place. Last time we had a good number of people show up, though the crowd is pretty young so adults in the area may feel out of place till more show up. Ha, I say adults, but what I mean is more older adults, like, middle-age adults. That would be about right. Being that it was midterms I didn't stay with everyone last week. They ended up chatting for another 3 hours after, and then going to ihop. I'm jealous.

The SHIFT group at UofU has Dan Barker coming on November 6th. (remember remember the 5th of november). Very unfortunate that it's the day after. Dan Barker was a big preacher, turned atheist, and wrote a couple books. I know of him, but I honestly have not read any of his books. Another sad area of my life is that I haven't been reading much. Working and taking 14 credits is tiring. Plus I need to finish some more atheist books to give me a buffer before I talk about the ones I read over summer.

This post is more like some kind of announcement/journal entry more than anything. However, I will post one of my most favorite new pictures I got a couple weeks ago.

Now that's funny.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

More Atheist Books! - Part 3

Before I get into my next book post I want to inform everyone that a few people including myself have organized and begun a Godless Coffee of the Happy Valley down here. I didn't start it so I won't take the credit, but I have been pushing to get more people into it. It is a branch of Atheists of Utah and is styled after Godless Coffee at Mestizo's in SLC on Thursday nights. This group is still organizing itself but we've met at 7-9ish two Tuesdays. Unfortunately the group is still secret to help BYU students to be a part of it without feeling threatened. We may take that secrecy down though at some point, and we may rename the group Atheists of the Happy Valley. Like Godless Coffee it is mainly a bunch of people getting together to bullshit.

I hope by now that people realize I have decent tastes. Given my fine selection of pictures I post, podcasts I explain, and books I give miniature reviews, I hope I have garnered some respect in at least being able to give you a good expectation of what to expect from a book or podcast. That is my main goal, to show some of my story in relation to them, but mainly in hopes of giving you something to look into if it tweaks your interest. So on to more of the books I read last May.

Atheism: A Brief Insight ended up being a lot better than I expected. These brief insight books are small, about 170 pages long each, and expensive. However, they have all been really good so far. I read one on Consciousness based off of Oxford textbooks, and now have one on Judaism. The brief insight on atheism was written by Baggini who did the books like "Do you think what you think you think?" and "The pig that wants to be eaten." It gives a grand overview of atheism in general. What atheism is, which is very basic, so he says a lot of things of what it isn't. He gives the history a note but mentions that you could write a whole book on that (Doubt: A History by Hecht), and he talks about many other things.

His address of ethics was very good, and what impressed me most was when he compared the ethics of atheism to the ethics of religion and how both fall short of what ethics 'should' be. First time I really realized that no system is perfect, just that atheism is more difficult. He addresses the new atheism that is spreading as well. Very good book, about atheism from an atheist, but a neutral read for a wide audience. Barnes and Noble carries these books and sometimes they are on the bargain shelves for half price, often when I get them.

Victor Stengar wrote God: The Failed Hypothesis, this is where I became solidified in the idea that specific claims for specific gods can be refuted. Also he highlights some the cases where religion is on the run in trying to define god. He willingly admits that you cannot disprove all gods, and especially so for a deism deity, so the book focuses around the cliched Judeo-Christian God. Being an old-timer he gives examples of what God was in his younger days and held by many still today and refutes things through physics an such.

Stengar is one of those 'almost' Four Horsemen and Dawkins refers to him a lot. The book was enjoyable to read, but not a favorite. I also read it fast and I think it deserves a second read, or a re-cover of the material and some of the points. If you're looking for some good science and how it applies to many ideas people have about god then this is a good book and not a long read at all.

One of my top atheist books. Why Evolution Is True by Coyne was on my Amazon list for about a year before I finally bought and I wish I had long ago. This book is only about 220 pages long, similar to The Greatest Show On Earth by Dawkins, but far better. Coyne gives me the impression that he teaches the things he talks about in his book and the book really is a fun read. He devotes chapters to many evidences for evolution, such as bad design in humans - like our appendices becoming obsolete, or the laryngeal nerve taking a weird course through our body, or the even weirder one for giraffes. He devotes a large portion of a chapter to the evolution of whales. He explains the vocabulary of the field very clearly, it is just a good book.

He is atheist, and throws out some arguments against creationists. I will later get to the Dawkins Greatest Show book, but honestly this was a better read. Once I started this one I was reading it every other day in the JFSB for two weeks alongside the other books I was reading. For anyone who wishes to know more about the evidences for evolution in general, this is definitely the prize winner for me. After reading this book I lost most respect for proponents of creationism. After studying about how much lying creationist's big figures do I lost the rest of my respect. Between this book, Dawkins, and my Encyclopedia of Evolution put together by a former creationist (still Christian though) I think creationists are the worst kind of 'liars for Jesus.'

I hope this continuation of some helpful books is ... well, helpful. These three were all very enjoyable to read, and not too long and boring. If any of these three sound interesting I recommend getting them.

Monday, October 18, 2010

The Ist Semi-annual Statistical Report of Godless at BYU

So last night I discovered the stats tab on my blog (i keep telling you people that i'm not really a blogger ... i mean, i don't understand how to put videos up yet, i've tried, but once i do i have TONS of posts to make to put up some of my fav. atheist youtube videos ... and maybe some random funny ones).

Anyways, I was so excited about jumping back and forth on my stats pages that I decided to do a post on it, but felt I should wait at least 24 hours from my last post. Either way, here is my statistical report in late conjunction with Gen Conf.

First a disclaimer: I do not understand these numbers for the most part though. There are major conflicts with numbers. An example, it says I've had 6 pageviews so far today, but I've had 6 in the last 4 hours, and I had 6 around noon alone today ... I am confused. But, continuing.

So I have had roughly 3970 pageviews so far. This is not necessarily different people, just pageviews. This makes me happy, I'll break 4000 tomorrow. Last month I had roughly 1,800 views, and I've had 1,100 so far this month, so I think I'm still growing!

I purposely did a post titled "Agnostic, Atheist, Atheism, Godless ..." in an attempt to raise my chance of being found on Google, and it worked! This post has over 180 views, even more than any post that has 'sex' in the title. Also, Google accounts for over 230 on my traffic sources. Not the highest, but up there.

Main Street Plaza, Koda Think Tank, Google, and The Whore of the Earth are the main sources of my traffic. Saint Pickle gives some, Heretic gave 3 last week, Facebook as well, and even my own blog, I also don't know how that works.

I am beginning to monopolize on any search that has BYU alongside the words atheism, atheist, godless, or byu evolution debate. Also a few people have searched "byu atheist underground" - Well, you've found me at least.

However, the audience tab is my favorite. 50% of you people like Firefox. Then I have some very random browsers like Java, Chromeframe, Vienna, Opera, Mobile, and whatever the hell Jakarta Commons-HttpClient is.

4 out of 5 are Windows users, then mainly Macs, but then a wide range in the 1% realm. Linux of course, but then ipads, ipods, and iphones, and even 3 views from Playstation 3s. So I have some teen kids playing Modern Warfare and looking at my blog, great!

The countries are great but again random. My overall says 31 from the Netherlands, but 40 in the last month ... wha? 3/4 are from America of course, then South Korea in the hundreds. Here's a list of the many countries supposedly looking at my blog, most above 40 hits:

Germany, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Turkey, Switzerland, Netherlands (these are my top supporters).
Argentina, Japan, Ukraine, Brazil, Slovenia (south of Ukraine for you geography illiterate), Iran (YES! Go Iranian college age secular generation!), Indonesia, Pakistan, and some place called Reunion. OH! It's the little island north of Corsica.

So I have gone international and am officially famous. Actually, I'm betting since I use so many pictures that a decent amount of the hits are picture stalkers. That is it, I am glad to report that all the numbers are correct thus standing and if there are any errors it could be due to a combination of wrongs committed by me and the fact that the stats tab gives me conflicting numbers to begin with. I also am glad to report that all tithing funds have been dealt with justly and used for their proper purposes and not for Prop 8. In the name of Jesus Christ amen.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

9-Page Reply #7

I have a couple more posts to do on my 9-page reply, this being one of them. My credo still is up, buried deep in the past of my blog now, but you can easily access it through the fun words to skip around with bar on the right. Demosthenes is a good friend of mine, very moderate I would say in his views on religion, and a very smart guy. This is continuing my reply to an email he sent some time ago. It is kind of an introspective process, looking through the things I've said, and adjusting my views when I feel I have come across a better opinion or new information to consider.

So here goes:

I have no use for a god who says sex before marriage is near unto murder in seriousness.
This one runs into the issue that Mormonism doesn’t really teach this as if God said it or as if the scriptures say it. I haven’t done my research into proving this, but I’ll take Demosthenes for his word on it. Most likely this is more of a ‘man’ issue, leaders teaching things similar to this and members believe them, goes on for a while, becomes doctrine, etc…. Many people do believe this sort of thing, and not just in Mormonism, but I think this is more to blame on ‘religion’ than a god.

I have no use for a god who says stealing a pack of gum and killing children are they same before him because they are both sins.

This is mainly an evangelical Christian stance. They take the scriptures that say all sins are the same before God … literally. Though many religions don’t believe this I have met many people who do, so I’m betting a lot of the millions of creationists probably are the ones who think this too, I don’t retract this statement.

I have no use for a god who only speaks to men in the middle of the fuc*** desert.

This is more of a statement on the many laughable quotes by people such as Hitchens or Maher that God chose out of all the people to talk to the ones off on their own in the dessert, like Moses or the Jews as a whole. This statement could be moronic but I find the statement that God works in mysterious ways to be far more moronic.

I have no use for a god who wants us to know 'him' but then plays hide and seek.

The alternative? We actually get to know him! Her! Or it! There is proof in something more than just this world or life. It communicates with us like we communicate with someone else. An Abrahamic god could play hide and seek, but that whole theology is so narrow in its scope. A deistic god could likewise play hide and seek, but then what’s the point of that? In most senses, what is the point of a deistic god except to exist for people? And not ‘for’ them really, cause a deistic god doesn’t seem to care or do much to begin with.

I have no use for a god who professes love but then teaches an everlasting hell.
This idea may be more akin to ‘religion’ than a god, but it still holds.

I have no use for a god who is okay with slavery but not homosexuality.

Slavery has changed over history and Biblical slavery, especially in Roman civilization was different from the more modern American version, but both were upheld by people to be ‘okay’ by God’s standards. Perhaps this is a problem with human nature first, but religion helped the evils to grow. And of course despising homosexuality or homosexual love is a gross error on religions part.

I have no use for a god who teaches to love him and hate your family if a choice must be made.
No major dispute here with Demosthenes, though I am slightly torn by this statement. On one level many religions do try to have everybody love each other, but then they also say to avoid sin and heathens an such, so some people have already stepped away from me as a friend. Other religions teach to hate even your own child if necessary, while others really do say to love everyone. However, many people are hurt by a belief like this.

I have no use for a god who can’t make the human body correctly in the first place.

This statement had come after the ‘mutilating children’s genitals’ line originally. An error in revising the credo on my part. If women need to be ‘fixed’ then I have little respect for a god as a designer who can’t make the body correctly. Let’s throw in vestigial organs and evolutionary defects and I think I make my case.

I have no use for a god who tells his chosen people to not steal or murder, but then says to wipe out a whole civilization except for virgin women and to take all their possessions.
The common Hitchens line following his treatment of the 10 commandments. At once it is correct and wrong. The 10 commandments are laid out and then the Israelites go on a conquest of plundering, murder, and rape. This may be exaggerating the massacres some though, but it shows the wonderful attitude God takes towards his own laws and what his chosen people can do. However, the cities and peoples being wiped out were child sacrificing pagans and deserved to be eradicated. Second, this whole story, in my mind, is a fabrication and there is no evidence that the Jews came out of Egypt and wiped out these civilizations, but most likely the Jews were remnants of these civilizations and the Torah is how they wish their history would have been. That’s my two cents.

I have no use for a god who professes to control the weather when so many needless deaths of innocents are caused by natural disasters.
Demosthenes states that if there were no natural disasters people would find other things to blame God for, and this is probably true. This is a problem of pain, or fact of pain, and I have avoided the topic generally in the past, for good reason. However, it still gives us an odd case for a benevolent god, and makes the deistic god even more cold and distant.

I will be making one more post on the credo, and I think that may put me at 8 official replies, so I may just have to do a conclusive reply at the end to make it a true 9-page reply. I like symmetry.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Evolution Debate at BYU

Got to go to the evolutionary debate and it was what I expected actually. It was in a small auditorium type classroom and was maybe half full, so maybe 100 people showed up, which was what I was expecting, but I had hoped for a full room. It really wasn't even a debate, but I had thought it might not really be. Also, it was about evolutionary psychology, rather than the workings of evolution. Before I go on though I must give some background.

Evolutionary psychology is a rough field. Psychology itself is a very young science, and neuroscience is even younger. Evolutionary psychology is also a new field, and being new it has many holes to fill, theories to make and build upon, and lot's of work ahead of itself. However, in evolutionary psychology there is the issue that it is hard to empirically study the 'facts' or to try to prove the theories. Some use this against the field to say it isn't even scientific, and on some levels I agree. We cannot go back 100,000 years and try to study our human ancestors in the environments they lived in back then. Even present day primitive humans do not truly compare to what our history as a species is. Being that we can only mainly infer things through the studies and evidences, the field is pretty sketchy.

Now this isn't to say that the theories are bad though. Some theories brought to us by evolutionary psychologists have real-life application, such as the evolution of sex in the social sense with us. Some psychologists like to theorize that humans probably were not monogamous, or at least not for their whole lives. One thing brought up in the 'debate' was that some theorize that our ancestors lived together for about 5 years, bringing a couple children into the world, before they moved on to other mates. This is used as an explanation for why humans socially and neurologically change after about 5 years in a relationship and where divorces often take place. The theory has many good points, and evidences for it, but we can't go back and test this.

Ergo the problem with evolutionary psychology.

Validating the claims can be difficult. Supporting the theories can be difficult. Testing the theories can be near impossible for some. These problems throw doubt on the whole field, but I for one think that it has some worth and that we can at least use the field to throw out some good theories on human behavior, origins of social culture, and the evolution of our minds.

An interesting point was made by Jared Diamond in an older presentation he made in California. He pointed out that the human brain has been roughly the same for over 100,000 years. No bigger or smaller or notable differences. He theorized that our technology advanced only as language advanced. That once we began communicating with a complex system of language it opened doors to coming up with more ideas, better ideas, and to begin us on the path of technological advancement at an immense rate. We cannot prove this theory, but the theory, if looked into, is very good and makes a lot of sense.

In this way we can see what evolutionary psychology has to offer. So, now on to the 'debate.'

Luckily for me I showed up late and probably missed the opening prayer. Also Saint Pickle and a friend showed up, as well as a fellow BYU agnostic and then another person who found me through my blog. I had many reasons to go. I must point out though, that I had thought yesterday that the debate was on evolution and not evolutionary psychology. In preparation though I looked a little up about it and listened to a podcast episode on it from Rationally Speaking. Massimo is an intelligent guy.

Only about a minute or two into it I knew it would be a slightly painful presentation. Both of the speakers, awesome intelligent guys, were very churchy and trying to push for LDS beliefs, which was slightly difficult if you took what they were saying from a slightly more outside view. LDS doctrine runs into problems with evolution. General Authorities still write books, such as The Infinite Atonement, that teach doctrines that do not allow for evolution, such as saying there was no death before the fall. Some things said really made me shake my head, but the two presenters, professors at BYU from different departments, did an excellent job and I was annoyed when people would get up and leave. To be completely honest.

Vehement as I was (winkwink) I actually enjoyed the whole thing and noted the many good things they brought up. One presenter talked about the 'warrior' gene which is more than common in people who commit violent crimes or are in gangs. He related studies from the primate families to human behavior, and he used the Mountain Meadows Massacre as an example for human behavior several times. He is not afraid of the taboo.

Even the other guy was really good, his focus being on religious implications. He said science is dogmatic with empiricism, and I tend to agree, but he also would point out things such as "science can prove things where God is not needed in the equation," and he was clear in pointing out that in psychology a God is not needed to make sense of anything. Some people questioned this and the only point where he allowed God was with free will and the soul or consciousness. But both professors presented good cases for their views.

Yet, being that I don't really believe in free will or consciousness anymore those arguments don't hold much weight for me. Which came up in conversation after between me and a couple friends. I am being swayed to the idea that we simply react to our bodies, our current brain chemistry, our memories, and environmental influences and that is where our 'choices' come from. Every action we take has a precursory action or cause. I don't like the idea of not having free will, but I really don't see how free will actually makes any sense anymore. It's my understanding that many philosophers take both sides, so I feel okay not being so sure for one side, and disliking the other but thinking it's correct.

On the 'debate' though, there really wasn't a debate. Nor was there really any questions from the box, but there was about an hour long question session from the audience, a couple atheistic people included. One being a friend. The other being a guy who seemed a little angry, lol. The two profs played off each other well, but stumbled a little when it came to naturalism and theism. Both had to admit that God is not necessary in the empirical sciences. However, one said that science uses metaphysical aspects so science should be open to a metaphysical God. Honestly I am unsure where he is coming from.

Ultimately it was a good experience and I'm happy I went. The people in the religion/psychology department seem to be trying to push for the idea that science shouldn't be studying religion because it can't. I am more new to this debate, having only joined in during winter in my psychology of religion class, and most of my knowledge on the topic is from the LDS perspective, so I feel a little skewed as of right now. BYU has some decently liberal professors and many of them are admitting that evolution in any aspect needs to be looked into and on many levels it needs to be accepted. Many students do not feel this way when they come to BYU, unless of course I just happen to only meet people who have little to no understanding of it or don't accept it.

This could just be ignorance on their part, parents or schools trying to keep evolution away from them, or simply the church not treating the topic fully.

On another note, at one point one of the professors rhetorically stated that there could be people in the room who thought God was made up by humans, or by the human brain, to which a couple friends raised there hands. I laughed, but was also slightly embarrassed since I was sitting right next to them. I mean, I'm still going to BYU! I have this blog! I'm a heathen! I don't want to be expelled! Either way it was funny and totally worth it. I now wish I had raised my hand as well (no one would know who I was anyway).

On a final note, there was a blond girl who was annoyed with us. A couple people were whispering a couple times, and one friend was making noise with his empty peaches cup, but since it was apparent that most of us were not believers, two known for a fact, and one started his question by stating he was an agnostic atheist who had some sincere questions and was looking for a civil debate, I have to wonder if she just didn't like us and thought we were Satanic. Even the couple bouts of whispering were related to statements JUST made by the professors. If so, then I say 'fu** you blond girl.' I just had to say that cause I don't feel there has been enough ranting in this post. Night.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Daily Ramblings

The more I ponder on the terms agnostic and atheist the less I feel like I want to define myself by them. I still enjoy saying atheist, but I always feel a need to clarify and be like ''well, mostly agnostic atheist." I fully admit that atheism, overall, is a belief system [gasp] but I still know that you can disprove a lot of specific gods, or at least the religions that teach about them. Being agnostic is definitely very logical. You admit a lack of knowledge on both sides. But really I don't get why we have to give both sides a real case. Just cause a lot of people believe in one thing doesn't mean that 'thing' garners respect. I had chosen atheism more for the drive it gave me, the less amount of wishy-washyness, but now I am holding more to atheism because it seems more reasonable.

I do have to point out though that I am more agnostic atheist than before, I want to say this before I continue. I was probably 10% agnostic before, now I'd say I am more like 25%. To me, it just doesn't matter as much anymore. Maybe I am becoming 5% apathetic. Leaving about 70% to be atheist about gods in general.

But I say 'reasonable' because I'm getting to the point of saying, "why do I have to uphold my lack of belief in a god or gods?" Being able to communicate intelligently is important, but it's just not as big of a deal to me anymore. I don't see why my lack of faith has to be a big deal, or why I should fight against a theistic belief, or move away from staunch atheism to middle ground agnosticism. Agnostics generally won't be agnostic about the teacup orbiting Jupiter. Comparing that to God isn't a good comparison, necessarily, and many people will admit that eventually, but it still has a point. It's not in the silliness of the comparison, but the facts and likelihood of that cup and knowledge we have about it. There are no facts, we have no proof of the teacup, though many people could say they know it is or isn't there. There is no knowledge to be had about the teacup, and the likelihood, though present, is astronomically small.

So, in my mind, I don't see a reason to be agnostic about the teacup, I don't see why that would be so important. I could be 5% agnostic and 95% atheist, leaving room for a little doubt, but I don't see how this helps. And this is similar to how I feel about gods in general. We look at the world, we're learning how it works, we're living our lives, and everything is appearing to work naturally. This is very materialistic, but so far it is working. And pointing out how Newton was wrong on some things and the theory of relativity changed physics so maybe we could change again is true, but not as likely. We're at the point that we're doubling our knowledge and technology, what, every decade. We are progressing very quickly. We will come up with new theories and rework old ones, but even Newtons laws are still pretty good I'm sure.

So when people come up with some hodge-podge God that works behind the scenes, influences our lives in 'some' way, and exists out there in the cosmos ... why do I have to be agnostic about that? If things can just exist and come to be how they are naturally, why do I have to believe/doubt in some Being behind it all. Why do I have to make a special case for this belief and be agnostic? Anyone could say anything and I'd have to be agnostic about it if I took this line of thinking too far, and some people really do do this.

So even though I am a little more agnostic than before I am not getting why I feel like people respect me more for it. For me it's like they are saying I am more logical if I doubt the teacup instead of saying it doesn't exist. If the teacup is made up in the first place by some random guy, like most ideas about god, then obviously being 'agnostic' about it is not intelligent, obviously that would be wrong and incorrect. It would mean being an atheist about the teacup, an anti-teacupist, would be the correct answer.

Sadly, I cannot say for sure whether there is no teacup or gods, and therefore my agnosticism grows, but I don't think there is a god or gods and therefore I still call myself an atheist, because I don't get why I have to be agnostic about something which, to me, seems like it does not exist. The beginnings of our universe don't prove anything, consciousness doesn't hold a flame for me, I for one am converted to the idea that our understanding and philosophy of consciousness should be thrown out in light of neuroscience and psychology. But more on that later.

For now I will be happy being whatever I am.

On lighter news, and since I need to say some of these things now, there is an Evolution Debate at the JFSB B190 tomorrow from 6-7. I even put some questions into the question box. They didn't advertise it very well cause it actually is about evolutionary psychology and human behavior more than the workings of evolution. The poster just says 'evolution debate' so I think my misunderstanding is justified. Another tidbit is that I have found 6 people through my blog, which makes me very happy. And segueing from that some of us have officially started some Atheists of Utah Valley Facebook groups. One is secret though, so BYU students can add it in safety. I personally have met about a dozen current BYU students who are non-religious and there are more out there. Hopefully we can find them ... and by 'we' I mean me and some of my readers.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Love is Love

I am an atheist and I still love people.

I'm just throwing that out there cause I wasn't sure how to start this post, and I was reminded of the Gen Conf talks dealing with secularists (another word for atheists I guess) who don't believe they can commit crimes or have any accountability. I guess there could be some out there ....

But that is neither here nor there on today's post, though I need to take one other random turn, well, not so random, I guess it is National Coming Out Day. Having talked about the Kinsey scale with my significant other and reading Urban Kodas blog where some comments have continued the scale I'd like to say I'm a 1.5. I am being a little lenient and possibly more 'open' than I truly am, but I do see how some guys are attractive, I am envious of well-built guys, but when it comes to touching another guys dick, that alone is pretty unappealing, and the thought of making out with a guy is downright disgusting. I like girls in a very physical way that a male body cannot compare to, and even though watching guys kiss puts a grimace on my face (not all of the time) I completely support LGBT rights and their rights to marriage. I hope everyone has a wonderful Coming Out Day ... er, what's left of it. I just want to clarify that I love homosexuals. I mean, I love them so much I always hope that the population is not equal in the gender split!

So the real 'meat' of the post, and not any type of meat that has a fleshy existence. I went and spent some time with my girlfriends family this weekend, as to why my posts stopped for some time. Plenty of catching up to do with schoolwork. But it was really fun, especially to meet some family members who are not religious, postmos, or downright atheists or agnostics. I was mainly running around and doing things so I wasn't able to talk too much on different things, that and being exhausted most of the time as well, but some of the conversations went good. Mormonism came up a few times, ethics related to atheism and how we approach things post-Mormonism, treating this life like the only one we have and what changes that would bring about. I'd have to say, especially considering it's the family of the girl I'm dating, I was a lot more quiet and listened mostly to gauge character and opinions. It helps me to know how to best approach the situation. But at the same time it was nice to spend a weekend with a bunch of heathen infidels and be able to say nearly whatever I want.

In my absence another person has found my blog, so it's official, I'm a recruiter and 'locater' for the unbelievers at BYU. I enjoy meeting like-minded people, which I've found to mainly be 'post-mos' more than 'atheists' or 'agnostics.' Though, I have to admit I very much find my girlfriends atheism to be very sexy. I highly recommend it, if you find one get it fast before they go out of stock.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

50TH POST!!!

Hurray, two months and 50 posts later and I am still here. That says something for someone who didn't do blogging in any form before this. I didn't even follow any blogs. I try to make it work though. One thing some people have commented on are the pictures I use, In all there glory and hilarious...ness. So I decided to do a 'best of' post, starting with the wonderful one up above, a personal favorite in the Blasphemy category. So let's begin:

Urban Koda uses this as his 'profile' pic, and I find it hilarious. For those who don't know, this is the bell tower at BYU. Somehow this picture is more than fitting. I've shared it with several people and some of them thought it was equally hilarious.

This one wins the sadly cute award. I mean, kittens. ... Kittens. Who doesn't love a little kitten. And look at how sad the kitten is in the picture frame, come on guys, seriously, stop masturbating so God doesn't have to kill those cute kittens anymore. And I say guys cause we all know girls don't masturbate.

This wins the Mormon award. Whoever did this wins the props award as well (I'm making these up as I go along, don't worry). But seriously, toilet paper with the prophets faces on it, hilarious. Very inappropriate too. I will give the disclaimer that I am sure there are many other forms of this joke and I approve of them all.

These two are personal favorites for the ... Simply Beautiful category. A quick glance tells the whole story, and they make good backgrounds or profile pics.

This wins the Cute award. So much so that the post I used it in received a couple comments on it. Lambs are already adorable, lamb-chops are good, and any furry, or woolly, animal hopping is atrociously cute. Go gravity!

Who you gonna call? Do not fear Zombie Jesus or Ghost Jesus, we have the busters on our side. Have a good night.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Peeping Jesus, Gay-Bashers, and the 'Crimeless' Secular World

I have a few thoughts on my mind. Found another person through my blog, what a wonderful missionary tool. I also guess that BYU is aware of my site and may be attempting to block it as well. Funny people.

One thing I've meant to write on but never remember is a peculiarity that I removed from memory. On my mission we did weird things, and some that make sense in some weird ways. One was putting a picture of Jesus in the shower. I guess to stop some 19-y-o boy from lathering up and jacking off to the hot steamy water. With a picture of Jesus glaring at you it kind of acts as a deterrent. I, in my wisdom, thought it made sense, and didn't dare take them down (yes, nearly every apartment had one, missionaries would put them up) but I did find it awkward and weird. One of my companions would take them down, he said they were 'creepy' and I agree more with him now than before. In Mormonism a 19-y-o boy may jerk off, but does a messenger for Jesus? ... No, not really. A young man, maybe. A priest, no. I guess it makes sense, but still doesn't stop nature from taking it's course.

And on that note I am reminded on some LDS boys who say they don't masturbate. I always doubt people like this, and even more so when they are the type to swear and watch rated-R movies with nudity in them (when they obviously aren't getting it any other way). If seeing tits on a TV doesn't get some blood flowing in them then maybe they are asexual. That means they might not be lying. Or gay, but for the ones I have in mind I don't think they're gay, and I have pretty decent gaydar.

I didn't watch Gen Conf at all, but it all abuzz right now so I may need to read a talk or two. Pres Packer fulfilled the role of saying being gay is only a choice and evil and the downfall of world order. I don't need to comment on that. I thought the church might be trying to improve its image after Prop 8 but Packer is making sure to keep the church in its rightful place. Thank the gods that the whole Prop 8 fiasco may lead to a Supreme Court decision that will allow it. I hope so, even with all the states that will be angry. In a way we can thank the church if this happens, because without Prop 8 it may have taken a while longer to go down this road.

But the reason I need to read some talks is because I've heard a couple people now say that the church bashed on secularism a lot. I guess they avoided 'atheism' as a word and used secularists a lot, saying things like secularists don't believe we are accountable for our actions and that we don't believe you can commit crimes, you can do anything you want, and this will lead to destruction. This sounds like a gross misrepresentation of determinism. I need to look into determinism more but it is my personal understanding that determinists will say there are always causes for things and for why you act, but that you still have accountability for your actions. I won't bother going into it, I am neither a determinist or know much about it yet to speak for it. I've only barely studied it, but I will be able to recognize their philosophy if I see it, so if anyone wishes to comment on it, make sure you represent it correctly or else I'll notice.

But I digress.

Secularism is evil. So, I guess I should investigate some of these talks, especially Elder Cook who I think was the main speaker on this. I do need to note that Sweden and many other European nations are perfectly fine being secular. Sweden astounds me in how it has turned around since the Iron Curtain. They are rated as the greatest country in the sense of equality, not just gender based, but they still have some steps to take. However, it is an appealing country, and knowing a couple who live there and talking to them, being a theist is a minority, and being religious is even more rare. Ah, Sweden, the atheist's promised land. Point being made, secularism is not evil nor will it destroy society or the world. Also another reason why I think religion is ultimately 'optional.' But because I know some people won't have read other posts I must say that I really don't think the world will be better off if it lost religion right now. People, in general, couldn't handle that.

Pretty soon I will be making my 50th post and I have already planned what that will be. Hurray!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

9-Page Reply #6

More on my 'No Use' Credo:

(note: Some people may not care for this, but I really enjoy the debate and to sit back and think on something for a moment. Feel free to comment, but after a while I'll probably stop replying and move on to something else.)

I have no use for a religion that can nurture fanatics who believe it is their god’s command to kill unbelievers and those of opposing belief systems.
I agree with Demosthenes and a practicing Muslim at the SHIFT meeting today - this type of behavior is human behavior, not religious. I do think religion has a way of exponentially multiplying human behaviors to new levels of extremism, but other forms of organizations can do the same. I'll just say that religion has a natural nak [?] for it.

I have no use for a religion that equates atheism with Satanism.
I stand by this one, and I think any religious moderate would too.

I have no use for a religion that is obsessed with women being virgins.
Again, more cultural, but religion has commandeered many cultural aspects and made them into 'doctrines,' but luckily most people don't really care as much anymore.

I have no use for a religion that says no one outside of their specific group can come to know god.
May be to vague, again. Mormonism basically says this, I know Catholics and Protestants did way back when, but generally moderate religion has taken over this area and are more lax.

I have no use for a religion that tells me I should be perfect and any failures are sinful.
I was mainly referring to Mormonism and how some amazingly wonderful, beautiful, and righteous people in the religion can still think they are scum and full of sin because they don't read their scriptures EVERY night, or that they sometimes get annoyed with people. This is related to the next one.

I have no use for a religion that nurtures feelings of guilt and shame.
I use the word 'nurture' cause I mean it. If you felt no guilt or shame then we in the secular field of psychology have a nice name for you, two in fact - sociopath or psychopath. Lot's of religions feed you shame and guilt but then also tell you how to get rid of it, true, but again, why does the 'hypothetical' person above have to feel guilty about all these little things. I think one of the reasons there is no significant difference between religious and non-religious samples on their levels of happiness is because some religions make their members so damn miserable. Mormonism being one. Let off a little people.

I have no use for a religion that hates magic but believes in miracles.

I never got a reply to this one. It is a shallow comment but I still stand by it.

I have no use for a religion that mutilates children’s genitals.
Female genital mutilation is bad. Okay, and most people agree, but it doesn't stop from millions happening. Though Demosthenes didn't bring it up I will say that FGM is Muslim countries may not have a clear origin but historians generally agree that is was an African tribal practice, a cultural aspect, that Islam picked up much later in it's reign on the earth. So it's an example of religion again commandeering something crazy about humans and perpetuating it as doctrine. I also had in mind some of the sick examples Hitchen's uses in God is Not Great, though he even noted that the numbers are not necessarily high for those examples, but that some are occuring in countries where we could outlaw the practices, such as a Jewish sect, I believe, that has old men suck off the foreskin off boys when cutting. Again, tiny number, but still sick.

I have no use for a religion that teaches that evolution is a lie.
Here I should be more specific. Many religions accept evolution, but many people don't accept that humans evolved. Creationists number above 40% of the populations in America and Australia, the 6000 year kind, so they obviously do not accept it. Mormonism is okay with the idea, but it doesn't work in the sense of how nothing had blood or died before the Fall, so evolution does not truly work in Mormonism. Most likely at some point the church will come out and usurp the old Official Declaration on Evolution.

I have no use for a religion that teaches its followers to distrust the government.
This came from the polygamist sects. Obviously a bad government should be fought against, peaceful revolution. But when some churches or religions actually teach children ways to cheat the IRS or to distrust the police as part of Sunday worship, then there are some problems here. Demosthenes recognizes this, but didn't wish for me to include Nazism in that, and I agree.

I have no use for a religion that protects its priests when they were caught abusing children.
Demosthenes - "Agreed. So don't be Catholic." Lol. I do wish to carry this over to other religions though. The Catholic church did cover-up many crimes and this is a horrible thing. Some churches try to cover-up other things as well, but usually it's just a few people committing embezzlement. I think this is a good sign that the people running the church are not communicating with God very regularly and you should go elsewhere.

I have no use for a religion that teaches that the more righteous you are the more 'white' you become, and the more wicked you are the more likely you will be cursed to become 'black.'
Well, some really old Mormons still believe this. This continued past the 50s I believe, I daresay you can find documentation of General Authorities making similar comments into the 70s and possibly the 80s, but yes, most people don't believe this racist bullshit. I may be attacking a straw man.

I have no use for a religion that says masturbation is evil.

I added this in later. I don't see anything wrong with this, but I won't say the same about pornography. I don't particularly care for porn but I don't think we'll solve any problems if we take it away.

I have no use for a god who says to kill those of different cultures or lineage.
Again, this would probably be human nature under the guise of religion and religious zealots riling the populace to war. In the sense of the Old Testament massacres I am becoming more open to the idea that Jews were Canaanites and the Torah is an account of what they wanted their history to be and how they never were pagans committing orgies and killing children. I should probably research that more cause I like the premise.

I have no use for a god who writes a book like the Bible or Qur’an.

Vague perhaps. If a god was going to write a book I would expect it to be more amazing than these two. I think both should be studied for literature purposes, and that they give some good advice and transcendent thoughts at certain points, but that overall they are filth when it comes to directing us how we should live today. I think it's about time we took a step up on our moral plain adventure. In a sense we are with moderate religion cherry-picking the really good stuff out of these books, and I'm all for them. But these books were not inspired and I dare say the Code of Hammurabi (spelled it right the first time, go me!) is overall a better text than the OT. So to say that the OT was all the Jews could handle in the sense of living right, doesn't flow by me.

That's it for now.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

General Conference Is For Old White Men

General Conference weekend, yay! I wonder if it will rain, it always seems to rain on GenConf weekends, both in October and April ... i don't think the church consulted the Farmer's Almanac when they chose the times.

Honestly, I am sometimes interested in what they will say at G.C. Not enough to go turn on the tv and actually listen though, that would just be a monumental waste of time. I for one am all about the church telling their members to be loving, frugal, honest, accepting, and everything else, but when they do it using scriptures alllll the time, stories that alllll sound similar in how miniscule a lot of them are, and always talking about God and Jesus, unless they're the same in that context, then I kind of get annoyed at it all and don't care to listen.

I do like Pres. Uchtdorf, or however you spell his name. His accent, the fact that he's German, go heritage!, and that his talks are always pretty lively. I think I could enjoy listening to him. Holland's talk on complaining still makes me laugh. And, truly, Pres. Faust's talk where he mentioned the man who killed those Amish kids, that talk was powerful, and I think a part of the reason I still like it was because he basically rebuked the church.

But do i care to watch now or go to one? No, not really anyway, cause if a group of apostates said they were gonna go and 'boo' at some point I might. Lol, actually I wouldn't, due to embarrassment and because I really don't like disrupting things as major as G.C., it isn't worth it in my mind. Last spring I tried to see if anyone had talked about atheism at all during G.C. and i came up with nothing, but i hadn't searched too much. Course i did find the talk Elder Neilson gave to those Boston kids, i believe, about how atheism is Satanic. That was good to find because that was the first time i felt like the Brethren had actually verbally assaulted me and i felt the distinct notion that he should apologize to my face and that i should let him know i am not a Satan worshiper.

One other thing, the new guy directing Mo-Tab, i don't care for his music. The 'new' version of Called to Serve was so quiet and slow i had tears well up in my eyes as it was equivalent of someone slowly butchering a favored puppy or cat, or fish. I bring this up cause i still do listen to Christian music sometimes, one's that i like anyways. Though when i'm eating at a restaurant, enjoying conversation with friends, and then 'PRAISE JESUS, OH LOOOOORDYYYYLORD" comes over the radio with some cheap drum beats, then i don't wish to listen to the music. I have to prep myself i guess. Tree 63 though, still luv'em, though they are probably racist bastards.

Having put my title I now feel obligated to point out they had a black guy speak last year, yay. Maybe there will get a black apostle soon. We shouldn't be too hasty, even though Joseph Smith was calling apostles left and right within years of starting the church, and many were excommunicated at differing points in church history, the black people have only had the priesthood for 32 years and have not yet been spiritual enough to fulfill the rigorous callings of 70s and apostles to a great degree. Makes perfect sense.