Terrorist Attack at Glasgow Airport – Sat 30th Jun 07

There has been a terrorist attack at Glasgow airport.  The virus strikes again.

Apparently two Asian men drove a jeep into terminal one.  No one was killed fortunately.  This follows failed attempts yesterday to explode car bombs in the centre of London.

Incidents like this test my patience and ethics.  I am opposed to the death penalty, but if the two men would have burned to death instead without harming anyone, I wouldn’t care one bit.  When the world loses evil deluded fanatics, it gets that much better.

I don’t know what exactly the terrorists hoped to achieve, but I do know why they attempted it.  You can talk about politics and war, guerrilla tactics, freedom fighting, retaliation, making a statement, fighting in “the only way you can”, but we all know what it comes down to so let’s not pretend it’s anything else: religion.

Ultimately, it all comes down to religious intolerance and hatred, because one group of people think that their invisible friend in the sky with magic powers is real and the other groups’ invisible friend in the sky with magic powers isn’t.  This is like killing yourself and innocent people over an interpretation of Lord of the Rings.  (Except LoTR is much better written that any holy book.)

Anyone who targets innocent people is evil and a coward.  Anyone who performs evil acts to please a god worships an evil god.  The fact that these magical beings are pure fantasy just makes the violence and loss of life that much more tragic, and that much more stupid.

My Eight Random Facts

Son of a bitch!

I’ve been tagged, apparently, or whatever you crazy kids are calling it these days.

Here are the rules:

* We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.

* Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.

* People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

* At the end of your blog post, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names.

* Don’t forget to leave them each a comment telling them they’re tagged, and to read your blog.

Fine! (Perhaps this will get rid of all the e-mails I get from nymphomaniac young ladies with a fetish for schoolgirl outfits, asking to know more about me); here are my 8 random facts:

1. I despise insects. If there was one compelling argument against the existence of god, it would be the existence of insects. I’d say all insects can take a run and jump, but that’s not much of a threat since most of the bastards can fly. I’d say all insects can buzz off, but it doesn’t sound so effective for nature’s miniature vibrators. The only insect I like is the hoverfly. The hoverfly doesn’t buzz, doesn’t come into your house, and is basically inoffensive and minds its own business. Compare the hoverfly to the twat of all insects: the wasp. If the Genesis account was truly accurate, Satan wouldn’t have chosen the form of a snake, he’d have chosen a wasp: ugly, poisonous, and scary.

 

hoverfly.jpg

Not harming anyone.

wasp.jpg

Twat.

2. I hate R&B and hip-hop music. It’s monotonous, boring, talentless drivel for people who can’t sing properly, write music, or play an instrument. It appeals to the pretentious “tough crowd”, gangster wannabes, or teenage kids who think it’s trendy and hip. Whenever I go to a club that plays this sort of garbage I just see lots of white kids wishing they were black and jerking their heads and hands around like a robot with attention-deficit disorder. I can’t imagine anyone enjoying constant two-tone repetition to the sound of what can only be described as a cross between a chicken being slowly gutted and a car alarm going off in the background. Get an electronic keyboard, press the Demo button and release that as a chart single; seriously, it actually sounds better! If I was given the choice between being forced to listen to “hip-hop/rap etc” or being hit by an articulated lorry on the motorway…

carcrash.jpg

Plan A

50cent.png

Plan B

3. Despite being a fan of Liverpool FC, the very first football match I ever watched was actually Manchester United vs Crystal Palace in the 1990 FA Cup Final! Fortunately, no one will ever find out about this! The night Liverpool won the European Cup in May 2005 is arguable the single greatest night of my life: it was the perfect sporting final, and meant so much to Liverpool fans.

4. My favourite sitcoms of all time are SCRUBS, ‘Yes, Prime Minister’, FRIENDS, Spaced, and Family Guy. I’m a fan of some incarnations of Star Trek; Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Angel; and Prison Break was fantastic. But in my opinion the best TV show of all time is 24.

225px-ctu-logo.png

5. Although I hated school and wouldn’t want to relive it, everything that has happened since, mostly for the better, all the positive experiences I’ve had; the amazing friends I’ve met; my de-conversion…can all be traced back to the pool table we had in our 6th-form common room (seriously!), which quite literally changed my life! The realisation of how tiny events swing our future tangentially is very humbling.

6. My earliest memory is waking up in a cot in a hired cottage in the Lake District. My dad and older brother were either side of me. I remember waking up misty-eyed and looking forward through the house. I distinctly remember being self-aware for the first time!; I must have been 2 or 3 years old.

7. I own three computers! A gaming laptop, an iMac, and a Dell XPS desktop. I never planned to own 3 machines but it kinda worked out that way. Now I use the laptop for portability and travelling. I used the iMac exclusively for everything else until I realised I couldn’t play any games on it or run high-end software that isn’t Mac compatible. So now a corner of this room looks like a scene from Swordfish or 24! Certain people think this makes me geeky. Personally, I think it makes me look important! :)

swordfish.jpg

8. My favourite band is U2; many of their songs are in my top 20 of all time (such as With or Without You, One, Angel of Harlem). Also in there would be Pink Floyd with Comfortably Numb; Joshua Radin with Winter; Oasis with Whatever, REM with Find the River, and Tsar with The Girl Who Wouldn’t Die. (Good luck finding that last song unless you buy the album, but if you do find it you won’t regret it.)

 

I tag:

Pink Prozac

A Veritable Plethora

Speaking Freely

Deep Thoughts – the atheist blogroll

Friendly Atheist

More Fire

Blue Linchpin

Daylight Atheism

Posted in Humour, Me. 2 Comments »

My Evanescence

The reason I chose the name “evanescent” for my blog was not just because it sounds cool, but because I believe it’s a poetic metaphor for life.

All life is transient. If there’s one constant that is revealed from a study of the universe it’s that all forms of existence are ephemeral. It’s just a matter of time, and time is entirely relative:

Average lifecycles of existing things:

Anti-hydrogen particle: 1/10th second

Housefly: one month

Mouse: 2 years

Dog: 13-14 years

Goldfish: 20 years

Elephant: 70 years

Human: 70-80 years

Tortoise: 150-200 years

Methuselah Tree: 4800 years

The Earth: 4.6 billion years (to date)

The Sun: 14 billion years (total age)

From the smallest to the largest, from the briefest to the longest, everything that exists in the universe eventually dies.

And yet, the death of such colossuses like a star, often produce nebulae. Nebulae are enormous gas “nurseries” where new stars and solar systems form. The death of stars leads to the creation of new stars.

Without death, life would be impossible! The very first replicating molecules that had an advantage over non-replicating molecules, survived, and the others didn’t. Success and development could only be achieved through the filter of natural selection, made possibly by the termination of life. What enables life to evolve is the ability to survive and reproduce, and therefore pass on more-successful genes to its descendants. Without the pressure of death, there would be no competition. There would be stagnation. Life, if it even got going, would not be anything like what we see today. Gazelles get faster and faster and more agile; cheetahs get faster and faster to catch them. The large grazing animals become faster, tougher, and wary, so tigers and lions get stronger, faster, more cunning, in order to hunt them. Success begets success; change begets change.

The sheer brute fact that we can die, forces evolution to strive for better ways to survive. It forces humans especially, (as sapient creatures), to invent, create, and better themselves. The ruthless uncaring competitive living world produced bats and humans from the same life-form 85 million years ago.

The very thing that evolution has taught us to fear and resist most is the very reason we’re here: death. Mother Nature it seems, it not without a sense of irony.

Life is a cycle. Without death there could not be new life. Death is an inextricable part of existence. Everything that has ever existed has perished. Everything that does exist now will perish. One could say that this is nature’s way of clearing out the old and bringing in the new. But the fact that we will all die one day should make us never rest on our laurels. Do something with your life. Leave a legacy. Raise a family. Make a difference. Be the best you can be. Or, sit around and cry over what you cannot change, and die without a word and with a life of regrets.

The brute fact of death is often unpleasant to realise, but we’re adults. And wishing something wasn’t so doing make it false. It is no wonder humans have always invented comforting stories and myths of survival beyond death. But they are dreams to assuage frightened minds. Being a human and being an adult should be about growing up and facing the facts; seeing the world not as you’d like it to be, but as what it really is. Only then can you really go about making it a better place.

The evanescence of life is really the greatest gift the universe gave humans.

My Diagnosis – Mon 25th Jun 07

If I was an alien observer of this planet and the human race, I would shake my head and think “what the hell is wrong with these people?”

Except, as an inhabitant of earth, I know what at least one of the problems is.  You see, Earth is riddled with a disease.  An ugly festering cancerous debilitating parasitic virus that leaves a trail of oppression, ignorance, suffering, and death in its wake.  But this is a virus unlike any other; this is a virus of the mind.

This particular virus debilitates the sufferer into a blind delusion that what they believe has always been right, is constantly right, and will always be right.  It blocks out original thoughts and drowns the afflicted person in a mental quagmire of myth, contradiction, superstition, and just downright falsehoods.  It convinces anyone carrying the virus that any person who doesn’t agree with them is wrong, evil, and ultimately worthy of death.  In some cases the virus is so overpowering the victim experiences a unique symptom called “righteousness”.  This peculiar euphoric manifestation in some cases even causes the carrier to take action them self on behalf of the virus, up to and including killing non-carriers.

This vile infection is so ubiquitous it has even diversified so that in some parts of the world it produces different symptoms in people.  Oddly, this mental pathogen will not tolerate variance of any kind even amongst other carriers, so a strong aversion to change and total lack of tolerance are classic symptoms of infection.

This virus is also very efficient at not only propagating itself, but also defending itself.  It does the latter often proactively, by eradicating non-carriers and variant-carriers.  A look through the history books shows entire legions of carriers wiping out others who had a different form of the plague.  Another favourite ploy of the virus is to make its victims believe that they are being persecuted, regardless of the actual state of affairs, no matter how many fellow carriers there are, and with no regard to whether any event is hardship or not.  The mind bug even causes its carriers to force non-carriers to defer to them and compromise for them, using sympathy, lies, propaganda, goodwill of others, and especially the slimy sodden salivation of political-correctness. 

To prevent any sufferers from recovering, the virus has several unique counter-measures.  One is to surround the sufferer by fellow carriers so that leaving the group is unwelcome, frightening, and lonely.  Two, is to suppress free-thought, opinion, discussion, debate, controversy, or reform.  The virus causes its victims to despise variation, lest the victim recover from whichever belief the virus produces.  The virus cunningly avoids this potential problem by inducing a paralysing stagnation: the past is overlooked, and the future is to mirror the present; trapped in the status quo of ritual and tradition.  Anything that contradicts a belief is rejected, or twisted into an imaginary scenario to account for it.  Evidence is deemed unimportant.  Questions and analysis cause an observable discomfort in the mind of the victim.  Third, some beliefs infused by the virus are so potent that carriers will hurt and kill anyone who criticises what the virus has deemed right and holy.  The virus therefore must ruthlessly oppose everything that it doesn’t stand for: facts, tolerance, peace, freedom-of-speech, investigation, and progress.

The virus propagates itself through mediums such as tradition and indoctrination.  Some permutations of sufferers produce genuine symptoms like happiness and concern for your well-being.  They might even take the effort to seek you out to help you contract the virus.  But the virus’ favourite method of procreation is through sexuality; that is, any carriers feel a deep desire to pass the disease onto their offspring (or anyone who will listen), whether such people have the chance to accept or reject the virus of their own free will.  This allows the virus to exist for generation after generation; a most successful reproductive method indeed!

Finally, unlike most other viruses, this one entrenches itself so deeply in people they are convinced that there is nothing wrong with them!  They are even glad to have the virus, and make public displays of how joyful life is with it.  They might shout from the rooftops, preach on the streets, knock on your door, sings songs, build statues and altars, and even martyr themselves!  They even want you to have the virus too!  In fact, so fervently do they want you to share the pleasure of their infection, they might even decide that if you don’t want to have the bug too, your life just isn’t worth living.  They might even make this decision for you.

Now, not all belief-symptoms of the disease are as potent as others, and not everyone is as susceptible to the mental disarrangement that the illness produces.  But whilst the symptoms of the virus vary, (usually by locality and upbringing,) the virus itself is the same; like a rose by any other name.  This bug might even smell as sweet, but watch out for those nasty thorns.

There is a cure fortunately, but the virus has long since infected people to not want curing.  The cure only works on those who accept it; whose bodies haven’t built up enough of an immunity through years of infection.  The cure is the enemy of everything the virus stands for.  That is: unforced belief, tolerance, free-thought, discussion, inquiry, criticism, and perhaps most importantly: freedom of speech.

If you find yourself opposing any of these virtues, watch out!  The virus could already have you!

My Blessing Season This in Thee – Sun 24th Jun 07

I think it’s very important to be yourself.

We live in a fast-paced society where opinions fly by us, we are constantly told how to think and act, and the mass media has a huge affect on what people believe.

Fashion is ephemeral .  Coolness is transient.  Styles, gadgets, technology, and words, change constantly.  The politically-correct crowd stalk us like Big Brother.

There is enormous peer pressure to conform, or to do what is expected of us.

This is because humans have evolved as social creatures, and the ability to fit in and be assimilated by society is not only preferable, but in many ways necessary.  But it’s easy to go through the motions, and be a sheep.

Being aware of other people’s opinions is very important.  It’s also a very good idea to understand how people see you.  However this isn’t something that we’re generally very good at.  I think most people just act how they think they are and hope that it comes across.

Unfortunately, as I’ve recently written, how we perceive ourselves is not always how other people see us.  Who we really are as people only has any validity when we interact with others anyway, so no one can be an island.  If you were the last human on earth then honesty, confidence, etiquette, attraction, and sociability would be meaningless, so you cannot pretend these things aren’t important.  And you can’t pretend that other people’s opinions aren’t important.  They are.

The other extreme is to think “the hell with everyone, I’m me and you can like it or get lost!”  Well, if that is how you want to be then fine, but don’t expect to be very popular.  I am not saying that you should change to please people, but it’s simply common sense for instance to be more polite around certain people than others; to flirt around someone you like than someone you don’t; you make the effort to talk to people at times even when you don’t really want to; to bite your lip when you really want to snap someone’s head off; to think before you speak; to wait your turn in line, etc.  You aren’t “selling out” or being a different person, you are just showing different attitudes where necessary; you’re the same person.  People who say they have a “fuck it” attitude very rarely do in actuality.  People who are genuinely like this and say whatever they want, and do whatever they want, and whenever they want, with no regard to the feelings and well-being of others, very rarely succeed at anything, very rarely have friends, and very often end up in prison.

Other people serve as a benchmark for who we really are.  That’s important to remember.

On the other hand, you should try to know who are you.  Better yet, have an idea who you want to be; what kind of person would you like to be?  If you want to be an unpopular hermit then act that way, and you will probably get your wish.  There is anything right or wrong in this as you’re not hurting anyone, so you can be whatever person you want!  If you want to be a popular confident person then you should act that way.  Now the secret is to not change your vision of yourself to match other people’s: don’t be ashamed of your interests; don’t be afraid of having opinions and expressing them; don’t be afraid to go against the tide and question the status quo; don’t be swept along with the crowd; don’t be a sheep.  Know what you want, and know what you like.  Know what you agree with and believe, and stick to your principles.

People who are intent on being “in” with the latest everything and are determined to be like their peers are insecure.  Ironically, these people brand people who “think outside the box” and don’t always go along with the crowd as uncool.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There is nothing “cooler” than being yourself and liking what you like.  If these likes are what everyone else likes, great.  If not, that’s ok too.  What makes something “ok” is not how many go along with it.

We all need other people.  But you are just an “other” in everyone else’s world.  This means that other people need you of course, but it also means that you’re not the star of your own show.  You’re just another person on the planet.

We’re dependant on each other.  Humans form complex interrelated networks of relationships.  Just as losing one plexus in your link would probably drastically affect your life, so too you are such a plexus in someone else’s life.  Humanity is a sphere of connections; there is no centre and there are no boundaries.  If one accepts this view, it’s easy to see that ultimately we’re all connected.

I’ll leave the closing words with some poet from a few centuries ago:

“This above all: to thine own self be true,

And it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not then be false to any man.

Farewell; my blessing season this in thee!”

My Soul – Thu 21st Jun 07

What does it mean to have a soul?

Does the expression have any importance?  Does it have it any meaning?

I believe we can answer these questions.

First of all we must decide what a soul is.  There are three interpretations that I’ll consider:

1.       The soul is a spiritual supernatural entity that exists in humans.

2.       The soul is synonymous with “body” and just another word for being.  i.e.: Genesis says that Adam “became a living soul”; it does not say that he was given one.

3.       The soul as a metaphor.

I don’t accept the first interpretation because it defies common sense.  Although many beliefs are based on the idea of an immortal transcendent component, that doesn’t make those beliefs right.  After all, the soul is the only way to explain such far-fetched flights of fancy like the afterlife, karma, reincarnation etc.  Though maybe not strictly revolving around the same thing, they all posit “something” that enables thoughts/memories/fate etc to survive after death.

There are at least two good reasons why the soul in this sense is irrational.  First, the soul is often described as a ghostly being with the ability to see, hear, sense, and even touch.  This makes no sense.  Everything we know about the world shows us physical creatures that interact with a physical world through physical senses.  Is this artificially limiting our understanding?  No.  Why?  Ok, close your eyes and tell me what you see.  Put headphones on and tell me what you hear.  Do both and tie your arms around your back and see how far you get.  To invent an entity that can see without any sight organs and hear without any auditory equipment, and sense without any physical form or nerve endings, is precisely that: pure invention.  You might as well be writing science fiction or fantasy.  It is a contradiction in terms.

For the same reason, so is the notion of life after death.  You’re alive now, because your body temperature is being regulated, your brain activity is at a certain level, your lungs are bringing in oxygen, and your heart is circulating the oxygen around your body and bringing deoxygenised blood back to the lungs for expulsion.  These processes maintain your vital signs. 

Your consciousness (despite what junk science and blatant fabrications might tell you) is a property of the very complex workings of your brain.  Intelligence and consciousness is directly related to brain size and activity; specifically in the cerebral cortex.  Dogs, cats, and pigs having greater cerebral cortex surface area (grey matter) than fish, horses, and mice.  As a result they are more intelligent.  The human brain is the most sophisticated brain of all on the planet.  Our brain has considerable portions devoted to higher thinking, reasoning, and language.  This is why we have the unique abilities we do.  At some point in the past, the brain of what became Homo sapiens (literally: thinking man) reached a critical mass where it was able to reason and think so much it became aware of its own existence!  Consciousness was born.  Still in doubt?  Drink a pint of vodka.  See how good your consciousness is then.  This is because alcohol (very loosely speaking) interrupts brain activity, and the result is a loss of function and reasoning.  If you’re still not convinced that consciousness resides in the brain, I suggest a less subtle approach: run into a brick wall at full speed head first, and see if you remain conscious after a concussion.

To be consciously aware when one is unconscious is a contradiction; this is common sense and no one would disagree surely.  It is as much a contradiction to talk about still having fingers without hands.  Think about that for a few seconds.  Now imagine that some terrible incident has ended your brain activity, such as: gunshot; blunt-force trauma; myocardial infarction; watching too much Big Brother.  To talk of still having consciousness after brain death is to speak of unconscious consciousness!  Our consciousness and thinking, indeed what makes us human, resides in the encephalon floating in your skull.  In other words, life after death is like talking about handless fingers, a non-brain thought, or a square circle.

I know to many the idea of life after death is necessary and comforting, but you really are kidding yourself.  I cannot put that any simpler.  Life after death is the ultimate human fantasy.  And in some cases it’s also the greatest lie of all.

What about the soul as the body itself?  Well I have no problem with this interpretation, but it doesn’t get us anywhere; it’s just another word for being or body really, so there isn’t much more to be said.

I believe there can be a use for the word “soul” though, if one is clear that the word has no supernatural connotation.  Unfortunately this isn’t always the case so it’s up to you whether you agree with me or not.

I think the word soul can mean something when we talk about what makes us human.  It is a convenient, (perhaps lazy) way of referring to all the things that define a human intellectually.  These might be: intelligence; empathy, conscience, capacity for humour and love etc; ability to reflect and predict.  No animal shares all these traits.  There might be more, and I’m not a psychologist but I believe that small list is sufficient for what we’re talking about.

I sometimes use the word soul metaphorically, perhaps poetically.  When I do, I refer to a person owning these traits above, i.e.:  their humanity.  So by this thinking, a perfect example of a soulless person would be a psychopath.  A psychopath might have no empathy for other human beings, or might not have the capacity for love.  A psychopath or sociopath might have no conscience.  These would be paradigm examples of people with no soul.

People who commit acts of terror could be thought of as courageous and brave.  It is said that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.  Whether we agree with this isn’t the point.  Humans flew planes into the World Trade Centre, and their convictions were so strong they had enormous faith and belief in what they were doing.  They were human beings, but they were blinded by their faith and dogma so intensely, they could not reason for themselves.  Their intelligence was compromised.  I think soulless could refer to this type of person too.

The type of person that is in some respects rational and intelligent, but in others blinded by their own beliefs or faith or fear, doesn’t act normally.  They act like zombies, or robots.  They lose that thing that makes them human; and a human that acts like this is no better in some ways than an animal that either acts on instinct or does whatever it’s told.  A good example of this type of person might be a fundamentalist.  I don’t think fundamentalists have souls.

I’m not saying that people without souls aren’t humans.  I’m just speaking poetically; I’m simply invoking the word metaphorically to mean “that which is unique to humans; that which makes us human.”

If you accept this line of thought, a soul is not some ethereal cloud of magic floating around you.  Your soul is in you; your soul is part of you.  You can lose it, but you can also regain it.  And perhaps humans as the often-capricious beings that we are, oscillate between soulful and soulless each day.

The point is that if you don’t have the capacity for reason, for empathy, for love and humour, for reflection and prediction, and have a conscience, you aren’t metaphorically human.

Fortunately, very few people are like this, and I believe thinking of the soul in this rather natural poetic way is far better than the mystical quixotic mysterious entity of fairy tales and religion and all the metaphysical baggage it carries.  It’s also perhaps a far better way to check our human centres for what we really are about, instead of what we’ll be in an imaginary afterlife.

My Fall from Grace

Something’s not right.

That was what I thought as I read about hypnosis on the Skeptic’s Dictionary (SD). Wasn’t hypnosis putting somebody under a spell, a trance? It might have appeared fun when I was quite young watching Paul McKenna, but since then it had been explained to me that hypnosis was wrong, an unholy use of power, and ultimately could open a window to demons.

But the SD explained what hypnosis was and what it wasn’t, and how it worked by purely natural explanations. It didn’t reference anything supernatural. It just explained in common sense terms what was going on. After reading a lot of convoluted far-fetched explanations of hypnosis and coming across offers of “Buy this book and you will be hypnotising someone to forget their own name in 5 minutes!”, this explanation was quite refreshing.

I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness (JW). The view of hypnosis as dangerous and wrong was just one of the things I was told. But, if the SD was correct, and it certainly presented a better explanation that literally putting someone into a trance, didn’t the organisation know this?! Couldn’t they have really done the research themselves?! Wasn’t it a bit close-minded to give their own explanation, when, surely they weren’t actually scientists themselves? It just smacked of propaganda to me.

But then, I was raised to see people outside the belief as wicked and destined for destruction. Having strong friends outside the group was actively discouraged. I couldn’t quite reconcile the 5 million Jehovah’s Witnesses (at the time, now over 6 million), with the 6 billion people on the planet. How on earth would everyone get the chance to be saved or not? The organisation had existed for over 100 years, and still less than 1/1000th of the population was to be saved? That’s a lot of death if Armageddon comes tomorrow, I thought. It was a puzzle, but I had faith so I let this discomfort pass me by.

I have never been comfortable with censorship. I could never understand why it was wrong to see what other people had to say, because if I had the truth (which I honestly believed I had), what did I have to fear? If anything, looking at the counter-arguments of others would only strength my conviction because, surely, there was nothing they could say that I couldn’t answer? That’s not arrogant really if you believe you have the truth. But the JW society frowns on that. You are not encouraged to read material that contradicts what the Governing Body says. And you are explicitly told not to read apostate material. (An apostate is someone who was part of the JW faith but now has left and expressly opposes it).

Still, I couldn’t understand this. It seemed like the Governing Body wanted to treat members like kids; not able or intelligent enough to make their own minds up and defend themselves from external attack. I’ve never shied away from a fight if I think I’m right. I will argue with anyone because my interest is the truth. So there is no fear of losing because if you lose, well you weren’t right to begin with. This seemed like common sense to me; why didn’t JWs view it the same way?

JW doctrine is that ghosts and clairvoyants and many supposedly supernatural things, are supernatural, but not caused by genuine ghosts or genuinely clairvoyant people, but through demons deceiving and being evil. But, SD explained ghosts, psychics, and clairvoyants all very well without needing to invoke a supernatural explanation. Now, this didn’t make the JW beliefs wrong of course, but it did seem to me that the Society could explain to its members the truth behind charlatanism and “supernatural” events. But it seemed like they wanted to fit demons into the explanation. Again, this is an organisation that is responsible for feeding information to millions of people, so shouldn’t they be extremely careful about what they produce as fact?

Finally, I came across a link at the bottom of this page:

http://skepdic.com/cults.html

Called the Watchtower Indoctrination process.

I also happened across a link (I spent 20 minutes trying to find the original but can’t anymore) linking to Bible contradictions. I was very hesitant at first to even click the link; afraid that Jehovah himself was watching me and I would be committing a grievous sin by looking at apostate material. But, I plucked up the courage to do it, and rationalised the action to myself by thinking that I would find the contradictions laughable, false, and easily refutable. Ultimately, I believed that my belief would win out.

For me, the bible is either the perfect inerrant word of God, or it isn’t. It’s as simple as that. I don’t accept that the bible is the word of god but also contains errors. I know liberal Christians might accept that, but that doesn’t make sense to me. Because, how can the bible be god’s message to man, whilst he allows it to be mistranslated, erroneous, or confusing. No, I’m sorry, that doesn’t work. Either the bible is god’s perfect word, or it is a lie; a myth; a collection of old primitive stories. This isn’t a false dichotomy, it is simply the only rational way to view the bible.

I always believed, and of course was brought up to believe, that the bible contained no errors and no contradictions. I knew unfortunately, that if I could find even one, that would destroy my beliefs of inerrancy. This was the very first contradiction I remember seeing:

http://skepticsannotatedbible.com/contra/ahaziah_age.html

The second book of Kings says that Ahaziah was 22 years old when he became king. The second book of Chronicles says he was 42 years old. Alarms bells went off in my head. ‘How can that be?!’, I thought. I immediately went downstairs to retrieve a copy of the New World Translation, which is the bible translation Jehovah’s Witnesses use. I looked up both passages: they both said 22! I felt a cold shiver – as one might feel when they discover themselves being watched, or part of a huge conspiracy. Had the Society re-edited their version of the bible to remove this contradiction?! (The bible isn’t talking about two different persons by the way – Ahaziah’s mother’s name is shown in the verses and it’s the same in both accounts).

I read more and more contradictions and I could not rationalise them away. I could understand faith in tough times, or believing in god even though I couldn’t see him; but I believed the evidence for god was good anyway. But I couldn’t use faith to ignore blatant contradictions. That was dishonest as far as I was concerned. I was afraid. Genuinely. The possibility of beliefs I’d held my entire life being false was dawning on me. It was a feeling of being thrown out in the cold; like the world is collapsing around you. The closest I can describe it for those who haven’t been through this, is by using a scene from the first Matrix film: Neo is strapped into a chair and Morpheus asks him: “have you ever had a dream that you were so sure was real? What if you were unable to wake from that dream? How would you know the difference between the dream world and the real world?”

Whilst this is happening, Neo is incredibly disorientated, as the mirror in front of him seems to dissolve; as the very world around him fades and become unreal; his sense of reality breaks down.

He awakens, in the real world. It is nothing like he thought! It is cold; harsh; alien; bleak. It is frightening, and there is real danger, real death, and there are no happy endings.

This is what it’s like to de-convert. It is like waking up from a comforting dream. It is like realising it’s Monday morning when you were convinced just for a moment that it was Saturday all over again. It is not pleasant. Ignorance at this point, seems like bliss.

At the time I was a fan of a popular collectible card game which led me to a fan site for it. The creator of the site was a devout Christian and had a forum for discussing Christianity and the bible. This was about two months after my first SD experience above. I had read a lot more since then about the lies of the Watchtower Society. Sheer time prevents me from listing everything I read and all my experiences in that time, so I hope you, the reader, will forgive me. Suffice it to say that reading many “apostate” sites that I was forbidden to, exposed the contradictions, turnarounds, and lies that the Governing Body had made in its past, and continued to make. Re-writing its own history, changing new editions of old books to cover errors and failed predictions, blatantly lying about what it said in the past, changing its mind on the issue of organ transplants and blood transfusions – because of which people died…are just some of the things the organisation was guilty of. It could not be the truth. I was sure of that now.

But, I was also sure that if the JW belief couldn’t be the truth, nothing else could. And the reasons for this are that the problems with the Jehovah’s Witness organisation are applicable to ALL religions. If I reject the bible as the word of god, then bangs goes all bible-based belief. Having come across the counter-arguments for the existence of god during this short time, I learned about logical fallacies; how to spot them in others’ arguments; what made a good argument; the difference between a valid and a sound argument; circular reasoning etc. I saw the argument from intelligent design destroyed. The ontological argument was also easily refuted. The popular cosmological argument or arguments from morality that I had been raised to believe as genuine hard proof of god, had in fact been debunked by sceptics and atheists decades, even centuries ago. I felt like I was catching up on an age of philosophy. So because of this, I rejected all religion. It would have been very easy to turn to another form of faith; another belief system, to keep my mind comforted and happy. But that’s not me – I am proud to say I am intellectually honest, or at least I like to think I am and try to be wherever possible. I am proud of myself now for that, because that’s something I have achieved. But I’m also proud that that’s the person I was before, because otherwise, I would never have had the guts and courage to challenge my beliefs and face the facts, however unpleasant.

On this website forum, I argued with theists and used my new powers of critical thinking to debunk their beliefs. Imagine going your entire life trying to convert people and preach to them what you believe, to in a few short months destroying these very same arguments in others! Because I used to be a theist I thought (and I still do) that this gives me a very good way of arguing with theists, because I know how they think and their arguments. It was a liberating experience, and I suppose inasmuch as I was arguing with theists and debunking their beliefs, I was destroying the remaining walls of belief in my own mind too. One day when the website was down, I searched out other forums for discussion and argument, and came across the Internet Infidels. I posted here for a long time and was even a moderator in two forums. I made many friends and enjoyed my stay there. I don’t post there anymore, but not because I don’t want to, but because I do! I don’t want to flit in and out; I would want to spend far more time there. But because I simply can’t, it’s something I’ve had to leave off altogether. I remember Rowland98 there, an Administrator. I made good friends with Alliey and Doug (I know they won’t mind me mentioning them – if you ever read this: hi!) I also remember Magus55: you will never meet a more fundamentalist fundie than him! I also made friends with Plognark on the MTG fanatic site, and he came across to IIDB later as well.

It was also on IIDB I came across the poster Ebonmuse and visited his website called Ebon Musings. I have said elsewhere that in my opinion this is the best atheist/evolutionist website on the internet (next to mine of course). I read all his essays. This was a massive help in learning more about atheism and why it made so much sense. His essays brilliantly destroyed religious belief and explained that not only was it wrong, it was unnecessary and caused more harm than good. Since then I have actively encouraged people to read his material, and at least one good friend of mine is in constant touch with Ebonmuse. He also created and maintains the blog Daylight Atheism.

I have skipped over the blackest part of my life though. I came home from a night out one evening. It was not a good night and I was upset over something, admittedly. (What it was isn’t important.) I remember just breaking down crying on my bedroom floor. Desolate. Destroyed. Inconsolable. I had lost the will to live. There was nothing. There was no god. No future. No happiness. I would die. Facing your own mortality when you’ve believed your entire life in a potential everlasting life is hard. I would see my own parents grow old and die. There was no point to life. To call my worldview nihilistic at this point would have been an understatement. I remember my dad trying to console me and being replaced with my mum, who unfortunately attributed my state to the fact that I had rejected my faith. She was right, but she didn’t understand why! In the end she spent hours regurgitating the same old tired religious bullshit that was exactly what I had rejected. How embracing Jehovah etc and committing to his way of life was the only way to find happiness. But it was exactly that which I didn’t believe anymore. I remember sitting there tuned out, quiet for ages, just wishing she would leave. I love her very much, and she was just trying to help. But she couldn’t see beyond her own worldview and as such, she was useless in helping with mine. She could not help with my doubts about belief, because to her there were no doubts!

I was off work for two weeks after this. I was very depressed but because of taking time off, my doctor’s note for work stated “stress”. I didn’t like the idea of being signed off with stress, because I felt like I was taking the piss; and I knew some people in work would think that. At the time I didn’t care, but the truth is of course I wasn’t stressed – I was severely depressed. I unashamedly admit I considered suicide. But my depression wasn’t chemical or hormonal, or the result of a mental disorder. It was simply the destruction of an entire worldview in a short space of time, resulting in total nihilism.

Some may say that this is why de-converting people is not good. And indeed, I would never wish what I went through on anyone, except perhaps bigots like Pat Robertson, or the deceased Jerry Falwell who is now very much not burning in hell. But remember, the belief system was to blame. Do I blame the facts for putting me through that living nightmare? No! I blame the belief system for a lifetime of lies and indoctrination. We should never be afraid to de-convert people! It should be done with care if possible, but never should a lie take precedence over the truth where lives are concerned.

I relapsed into depression several times after that, for reasons other than just my de-conversion.

But when I started to get over that spell, which lasted a few months, I was glad in the end to have the facts. When I asked myself: “would I go back in time and change anything, given the pain of what I went through?” the answer was ‘no’.

I wrote a few essays myself on old websites I had. The desire to write and debunk was always strong with me since then. I spent most time on IIDB during 2004. For those who are wondering, I don’t attribute any real depression during that time to England going out of Euro 2004 to Portugal. At that time I still cared about the England football team. I remember having my head on a stool as the last penalty was taken (I didn’t look) and leaving it there for about 20 minutes afterwards.

But I digress. Towards the autumn of 2004 something happened that was good for me personally. It is irrelevant to religion or anything I’ve mentioned here, and I guess you, the reader, will just have to wonder forever what it was! It doesn’t matter really. What matters is that it was a positive change in life for me. I could talk about seeing a lovely girl not long after this for a few months if you will forgive me for wandering once more. I fell in love with her (at least I think I did), and we had some beautiful times. It never really worked for other reasons. By the spring of 2005 there was not really anything of us in that way to speak of. By the summer we were good friends but didn’t keep in touch much. I still say to this day that one evening I spent just sitting outside with her rivals all my memories as one of the greatest nights of my life. Of course, there is one night in particular back in May 2005 that also ranks up there. And I’ve had two nights since just spending time with an amazing girl that I will also cherish forever.

I’ve digressed again haven’t I? Sorry.

The point is that since my de-conversion I’ve learned things about life. Everyone does, I guess. Maybe it’s called growing up. Or maybe it’s just experience, and if it’s experience then it doesn’t matter how old you are; wisdom isn’t necessarily about age. It’s about knowledge and what you’ve learned – so anyone can be wise!

I adopted a rational worldview. I don’t believe in god because I’m an atheist. I’m an atheist because I don’t believe in god. My worldview doesn’t stem from my beliefs; my beliefs stem from my worldview. My worldview is rationalism; evidence-based; logic-based; nature-based. I believe everything in the world can be explained naturally. I believe that only through evidence and study can we come to know anything. Although I’ve always loved science, this rational worldview is best expressed by science. In a choice between the dogmatic traditionalistic absolutism of religious faith and the testable repeatable evidence-based logical theories of the sciences, there is only one winner.

Rationalism for me means a life of pure freedom. A life where your mind is free from superstitions as great as god(s) and karma, to idiosyncrasies such as believing you are unlucky or fated. Atheism means that there is no one watching over you. There is no Big Brother in the sky, no one to see your secret deeds whether good or bad. This means that there is no eternal reward or punishment for anything you do. It also means that everything you do, ultimately over time, will fade. But this means that this life that you’re living now is the most precious thing you’ll ever have. Every day, every week that goes by will never come again. The friendships and relationships you have are of the utmost importance. Because there is no Big Daddy to appease or suck up to, or be afraid of, you should be nice to people because it’s nice! You should treat people like you want to be treated! You should not steal or murder because it hurts people, and hurting people is wrong. Always. No one needs a god to tell them this, and if you do need a god to tell you this then you belong in a mental institution.

To quote one of Joss Whedon’s popular TV shows:

“If this life is all there is and in the end nothing we do matters, then all that matters is what we do; the smallest act of compassion, can be the greatest thing in the word.”

Being a rationalist, and being able to think critically is very empowering. It gives you confidence in yourself, your ability to think, your ability to talk, and your interactions with other people. It makes you sure of yourself, but humbles you to realise all the ways in which you can be wrong. It serves as a constant mental checkpoint at what leaves your mouth and what enters your mind. If you say something irrational or realise the error in your own thoughts, a red flag immediately raises. It also comes in handy as a nonsense detector when someone starts talking to you about crystal healing, reiki, chi, takionics, ghosts, psychic energy, pyramid schemes, chain-letters, George Bush, and the like.

In short, rationalism is a worldview with no drawbacks, and only positives. It encourages honesty and truth. It encourages knowledge and science. It promotes interest in the common good, and cultivates respect and tolerance for other people, especially those you might not personally agree with. It makes you appreciate the evanescence of life; which demonstrates how valuable it is, and why humans should work together and live together in peace. It demands that we respect the environment and other animals, and leave a legacy for our descendants. It means that we must each give our own lives meaning, and not get given a purpose from someone else.

Some say that life is short. Well it is. But this is rather paradoxical, as a funny chain e-mail I came across once said: “Life is short. What the hell?! Life is the longest thing anyone can ever do! What can you do that’s longer?!”

There’s probably no point making sweeping statements about your life when you’re in the middle of it or in my case, still young (and virile, with the torso of a swimmer and the legs of a footballer). But what I can say with certainty is that de-converting is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me, and will be, no matter what else happens in my life. Because I’m convinced that whatever good happens in my future, will be founded on the worldview of rationalism I developed once I shed the dark superstitious mental baggage I was carrying for years.

The irony is that whilst de-converting, it was like leaving somewhere warm and bright for somewhere cold and dark. But really, religion and theism belong to the darkness and the night. And the night tends to get its coldest…right before dawn. Right before the sun finally comes up. As religion and faith are the stifling oppressive night, so rationalism, atheism, and also science, are the liberating piercing light. And without light, life would be impossible.

I’ve hope I’ve given you a glimpse of that light, or at least what it meant to me. Thanks for reading.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 68 other followers