Thai food

On the off chance there is a god, and he/she doesn’t actually like to eat virgins, he/she would undoubtedly eat Thai food.

That is all.

– Ignorance is not bliss. Thai food is.

The Pale Blue Dot

My Dad has been saying for many years, if you want to know how important you are, go spend a day walking around the city alone. As per usual with humans though, this thinking makes us out to be much larger than we actually are.

This speech by Carl Sagan has been around for a while, but every now and then I think it’s worth sharing again, and well, I haven’t shared it on this blog yet. What’s remarkable is how he manages to sumarize just how insignificant we are, yet at the same time inspire.

Post #50: What next?

Sometimes when you’re an atheist you feel that celebrations become a little less important. Events like Christmas and Easter lose their appeal because of their religious affiliations, and if you dig deep enough you’ll find most festive celebrations have some connection to someone’s spirituality.

For me though, I say fuck it. We don’t get nearly enough years to enjoy our lives and I’ll take any excuse for catching up with friends and a cold beer.

So what that in mind, I’m celebrating my 50th post on this blog. Probably not that impressive when you consider I’ve been at this for 6 months, but hey, that’s 8.3 posts a month so I guess it’s not too bad.

I’m not sure I have a sufficient number of readers to do this, but I thought I’d give it a go and see how it plays out. I want you guys to give me the next topic. What would you like to see a post on? It can pretty much be anything, as long as it’s related to being inquisitive.

I’m not sure how I’ll decide the winning topic yet. Might be a vote system and the most popular wins. If only a small handful of people comment I might do all of them. We’ll wait and see what kind of response I get.

So hop to it people. What hole in your blissful ignorance would you like to fill?

 

-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

Stay inquisitive?

Back in university I lived with two guys in a share house. All three of us nerds, outspoken and skeptical. Two atheists and one deist.

Each night at dinner we would watch a show together and one of our favourites was ‘Bullshit‘. The nature of the show usually elicited a heavy discussion afterwards. Due to our strong opinions we would often have very heated discussions, raving and ranting, sometimes at the topic at hand, sometimes at each other. Many times we would tear each other a new one. Egos were popped and ideas smushed beneath a cascade of reason and logic, often times by our much older and wiser deist friend.

And the best part of all this? Once we were done arguing we’d grab dessert and sit down again to watch an episode of Avatar. Never was anyone’s feelings hurt so bad we couldn’t turn around and be friends five minutes later. No one was so precious about what they thought that anything was taken to heart. It was simply a sharing of ideas; it was not a reflection of how we felt about each other. It was never personal.

The two years I spent living with those guys were the happiest of my life. I was studying something I was passionate about and in my spare time I was being pushed to think more broadly than I ever had before. I was being exposed to other points of view, tearing down others ideas and having my own torn down in turn. And it was wonderful.

Since we were forced to part ways due to unforseen circumstances (don’t worry, we’re all still friends) I’ve longed to find people I can have those same kinds of discussions with. Atheists are by far the best at it. Part of the reason most of us are atheists is because we weren’t afraid to apply skeptical thinking to our own beliefs, which I guess is why we seem to be able to take such punishment from others. But talking with other atheists is boring. Where’s the fun in having someone agree with you all the time? I want to be challenged. I want to test my beliefs so I can be confident they hold up. Knowing the truth is important to me, as the truth will determine how I choose to live my life.

Ignorance is rarely ever bliss. And if it is, it’s probably only temporary. But that doesn’t mean knowledge is blissful. Everything comes at a cost, including knowledge. If we’re lucky knowledge will come at the expense of time. Sometimes though it will cost us more than we want it to. It may cost us a feeling of safety. It may cost us our ability to make certain choices. In the worst cases some people are disowned by friends and family in their pursuit of knowledge. They will need to make a choice between their desire for information, knowledge and wisdom and those they care about. It is a shame, and I wish people were more welcoming of this exploratory process.

I started this blog with the hope of educating people and indirectly, myself. I’d hoped we could openly discuss ideas, and like my uni friends, be willing to tear apart ideas and have our own torn too.

It is a very delicate line to tread and impossible to walk without offending people. Play it safe and you alienate people who want deeper discussions while avoiding anything meaningful. Tread too far and you hurt people. Often the simple knowledge of an atheists existence is enough to offend some.

My intention with this blog was to try to help people come to better beliefs, never to harm. It is a very delicate line to tread.

Blog closed indefinitely.

– Ignorance is not bliss. Inquisitiveness is costly. Stay inquisitive?

Indifference

I’ve always had a lot of time for the musician ‘Pink’. She’s got a really hard-arse, ‘Fuck you’ attitude that I simply adore. I’ve never really been a fan though, and I only know a handful of her songs. Recently though I’ve got my hands on a couple of her Albums and yeah, I think I can now be called a fan. Not only do I still love those ‘Fuck you’ songs, but she’s got some really pretty, thought provoking songs too.

I was sitting on the train today, going into the city to catch up with a friend and listened ‘Dear Mr President’, which I hadn’t heard before. Halfway through my gut was knotted and shaking as I was trying to hold back tears. I haven’t been this moved by a song since I first listened to Casey Chambers ‘Ignorance’, which is a hidden track at the end of ‘I still Pray’. Fortunately I was in bed reading the first time I heard that and was able to cry without having to worry about being interrupted.

Here’s a youTube link to ‘Dear Mr President’.

It’s a stunning, heart-breaker of a song, but as good as it is I don’t think Pink got it quite right. Those with riches and power most certainly have their part to play in making the world a better place, but the burden doesn’t rest on their shoulders alone. It is the responsibility of all of us to work towards a better future.

I’ve never met anyone evil. Honestly the older I get the more I wonder if they even exist. Evil is so subjective. But what I do see every day is something I think could be worse than evil. When people see evil they stand up proud and lend each other a helping hand. When disasters strike people go out of their way to help and although I don’t think it’s worth the destruction, it is a beautiful thing to see.

What I think the real problem is, is indifference. When people just walk past someone in need. You see it every day; homeless people on the street and hundreds of people just keep walking. We accept it. We are indifferent to it. Every time I see this is tears me up inside. Despite that, I too keep walking.

The world is getting better. People are happier, healthier and live longer than ever before. Every generation we see improvements in the quality of human life. There is still a ways to go in terms of eliminating poverty (yes, I think it can be eliminated) and finding equality for all, but the system we have at the moment can only do so much. We could cure all these problems and create nets to help prevent it happening in the future. But we can never kill off all the negativity in the world until we overcome indifference. It is that little voice that says ‘someone else will deal with it’.

I find most people are good. If they weren’t, then there would be more people in jail than out of it. On average, most people do the right thing, behave appropriately and help out when asked. But we need more than that to truly make a difference. We need to be actively kind, not only when it is asked of us.

 

And so I make a request. Dont’ be indifferent. Be one of the people who makes a difference. And don’t wait, act now. Go join a charity (Sadly a couple of days ago I pulled out of the charity I donated to, as my funding is tight. But I have a job interview tomorrow and if all goes to plan I’ll be donating to a charity again as soon as possible). If you’re like me and can’t afford it, give a dollar to the homeless dude on the street. So what if he might use it for booze, he might also use it to better himself. He deserves the chance to do the right thing.

Don’t feel comfortable approaching the homeless? Okay, leave a chocolate bar on your coworkers desk. She looks like she could use the sugar hit. Make dinner for your sick housemate. Tell someone they’re important to you. For fuck sake ring your mother and tell her you love her. Mothers, ring your kids and do the same.

I don’t care what you do, just do something! And don’t wait until tomorrow to do it, do it now! And after you’ve done it, go about your day. Go to work. Go home. Make dinner. Go to bed. Then get up tomorrow and do something good again. And then something the day after. Do something worthwhile every day. It can be as much as large sums of money to charity, or as little as legitimately asking someone how they’re doing.

When the chick who serves you lunch asks ‘How are you?’, like they’re paid to do, say ‘Fine thanks, and you?’. Then wait for them to answer. I do this all the time and it almost never ceases to get a smile. Show them you care and that they’re not just an automated sandwich machine.

 

So go and do something, today, to make the world a better place. Don’t be indifference. And for fuck sake call your mother.

 

– Ignorance is not bliss, and life is too short. Stay inquisitive.

Okay, rant time

Here is an email I just received. This isn’t the first moronic chain email I’ve received from this address. The last one was so enraging I wrote out nearly 10 pages of rant material just to calm myself down and then a week later deleted it. Sadly I didn’t have this blog back then or I would have kept it.

Here’s the email:

 

“IMPORTANT

AUSTRALIA WILL BE HOLDING A CENSUS IN AUGUST

DO NOT LEAVE THE “RELIGION” SECTION BLANK. BE SURE TO AT LEAST TICK CHRISTIAN (OR YOUR UPBRINGING FAITH).

1,000,000 MUSLIMS WILL TICK THEIR BOX.

10,000,000 AUSTRALIANS WILL LEAVE IT BLANK THEN WONDER WHY A MOSQUE IS BUILT IN THEIR NEIGHBOURHOOD!!!

PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS.”

 

Okay, time to tear it apart.

  1. STOP FUCKING YELLING AT ME! Using all caps in written text signifies yelling. I understand you may be passionate about your opinions, but this kind of crap only gives me the impression you should be standing on a street corner with a board proclaiming the end of days. Knock it the hell off!
  2. You’re a bigoted moron in all three of the important sentence.
  • I want to leave the religious section blank. Funny enough we don’t all believe in something. And “be sure to at least tick Christian”? WTF? Careful my dear, your bi-arse is showing. I have a better idea, how about instead of mechanically ticking your “upbringing faith” how about you get off your arse and learn something about your chosen faith. You might be a little more inclined to think before you start spamming people next time.
  • “1,000,000 Muslims will tick their box”. Okay, first of all, so the hell what? They’re just an entitled to their wacky beliefs as you are. Heck, do a little research and you’ll find there’s more evidence for Mohammad then there is for Jesus. Not only are they perfectly allowed to believe, but their beliefs are more justified! Suck it up princess. And as for the outrageous number that you clearly pulled out of your bum, here’s the actual figures.

The 2006 census shows there were approximately 340,392 Muslims living in Australia, or approximately 1.7%. With no more than 10 minutes research online I found this and it’s been confirmed by a coupe of sources, including the Australian Government site. Stop bitching and use your fucking internet connection.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam_in_Australia

http://www.dfat.gov.au/facts/muslims_in_australia.html

 

  • “10,000,000 AUSTRALIANS WILL LEAVE IT BLANK” Good! Maybe you should take the hint. 10 million Australians (who really knows  how many, no doubt you made that one up too) obviously don’t care! Or better yet, maybe they’re atheists! Seriously, if you’re going to throw numbers around at least take a minute to think about what they might mean.
  • “WONDER WHY A MOSQUE IS BUILT IN THEIR NEIGHBOURHOOD!” Dear god really? Are you actually putting that up as an argument? Okay, it doesn’t matter if there are two Muslims, if they want a place to pray they should be allowed to have one. This country isn’t your own little playground to play ‘I’m the king of religion’ in. As much as I would try to talk people out of their faiths they’re entitled to have one and it can be whatever the hell they like. They don’t have to believe like you.

This kind of idiocy really boils my blood. It’s bad enough they’re a bigot, but they’re an ignorant bigot. It took me a couple of minutes to learn they were spouting crap. Where’s the responsibility? Next time please, pick up a book, open an internet browser or at the very least phone a friend before you pick up a pen. You’ll look a hell of a lot less foolish and you’ll save the rest of us having to take 30 minutes time to correct you.

 

PASS THIS ON TO ALL YOUR FRIENDS”

– Please for the love of god don’t. Just delete it.

 

Ah…I feel better now…

 

– Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.

 

Atheism and Agnosticism

After my first couple of posts and having people read the ‘About’ section it’s become obvious to me I’ve spent a little too much time hanging out in atheist circles with people who, generally speaking, think similarly as I do and understand the definitions I use.

Obviously that won’t always be the case here, so I wanted to take a post to explain my definitions for atheism, agnosticism and my beliefs in general. Looking over the post I’ve written I think defining atheism and agnosticism is enough to fill one post. I shall make my next post about the things that I do believe.

 

Atheism – Dictionary.com

‘A person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings’.

That’s it. The rejection of belief. Saying “I don’t think so” when someone says their god exists.

Now, many people put atheism in the same category as Christianity, Islam, Buddhism or any other religion, and for purposes of census that’s probably where it belongs. But it needs to be said that technically atheism isn’t a religion. It is the rejection of religion.

To once again use proper definitions:

 

Religion – Dictionary.com

1. A set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

2. A specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a number of persons or sects.

3. The body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices.

Now I can understand that when people first read these definitions they’d assume atheism falls into this category, but let’s break it down.

Obviously number 1 doesn’t fit. Rejecting the belief in a god doesn’t tell us anything about the cause, nature or purpose of the universe and obviously it’s the opposite of considering superhuman agencies.

2 and 3 are very similar and I’ll address them together. There are no atheistic practices. There is no doctrine or creed that binds us together. Finding someone is an atheist will tell you nothing about what they do believe. Admittedly there is often a consensus about many issues, such as abortion or gay rights but that is a byproduct of being critical thinkers, and most likely so is their atheism.

So we can reject practices, but what about beliefs? Surely the fact we all, by definition, reject the idea of a god or gods fits this?

Technically no. What needs to be pedantically pushed here is that a religion is a set of beliefs. Atheism is a rejection of those beliefs. It is an anti-belief. It is unbelief. Take note of that definition. A religion requires a set of positive beliefs. Beliefs you say ‘yes’ to. Atheism is saying ‘no’ to those beliefs.

I understand that people may think I’m being unnecessarily anal here and that I’m debating semantics but it is a very important point that needs to be got across. Atheism is not a religion. It cannot tell you anything about what a person does believe. To say atheism is a religion is like saying bald is a hair colour. Atheism is the absence of belief, just as bald is the absence of hair.

Now to get a little less clear. Strong atheism and weak atheism. I have heard there are positions other than these two, but I’d prefer to not muddy the water any more than need be, so I will try to limit my conversations to these two.

 

Weak Atheism – My definition

‘The disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings’.

Yep, basically weak atheism is the standard definition of atheism. That’s pretty simple.

 

Strong Atheism – My definition

The belief there is/are no god(s).

Strong atheism differs from atheism here. Weak atheism is akin to say “I don’t think you’re right” when someone claims their deity is real.

Strong atheism is stepping forward and saying “I believe I have evidence your god doesn’t exist”.

Now I freely admit here that strong atheism is a big step closer to being considered a religion. It is a positive belief in the lack of a deity. That doesn’t mean it comes with any of the extra baggage religions usually carry, such as political hierarchies, pray, creeds, practices or an opinion about the meaning of life.

So does that leave us with strong atheism technically being a religion? I would suggest a tentative no, and this is why.

Are we to categorize every positive belief as a religion? Would PC vs Mac users be considered a religion? They’re certainly dogmatic enough. Heck, they even have T-shirts! But I wouldn’t consider them a religious movement.

Something that might be a little more reasonable would be to compare strong atheism to those that believe in the Lockness monster or Bigfoot. I certainly don’t think either of these beasts exist. In fact I would argue there is positive evidence against their existence. When it comes to cryptozoology, I am a strong atheist. But I wouldn’t consider disbelief in Bigfoot to be a religious movement either.

What is it that makes one set of beliefs about something mundane (say your football team is the best) not religious, but others religious? Certainly we can’t start labelling every set of beliefs a religion, that would defeat the purpose of the label.

I openly admit that strong atheism comes a lot closer to being a religion than weak atheism. And maybe it’s one of those areas that’s so grey it just defies proper labelling.

For the purposes of this blog I am happy to admit that strong atheism is a religious belief, however it is a belief based upon evidence, not faith. And there are two more words I will need to define at some point.

I would argue however that although a belief about religion, strong atheism is still not a religion. To meet that requirement it would need the addition of practices, creeds and a collection of agreed upon beliefs. Strong atheism does not have this.

 

Agnostic – Dictionary.com

1. A person who holds that the existence of the ultimate cause, as God, and the essential nature of things are unknown and unknowable, or that human knowledge is limited to experience.

2.A person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

Now this is where things can get a little wishy-washy, and I’ll do my best to keep things clear. In terms of knowledge, I agree with the above definitions. We can never be 100% sure (about anything really) that a god does or doesn’t exist. It is always possible one may exist beyond our universe in a place we are completely incapable of exploring.

If we are to be honest I think we would all admit to being agnostic, at least in our knowledge. It’s possible a god may exist beyond the veil of our perception. It is also possible solipsism is true, and that nothing exists but ‘I’.

Now this is all well and good, but if we’re all agnostics then it kind of defines away both atheism and theism. Agnosticism is great for telling us about our limited knowledge, but it tells us nothing about what a person believes. And for the purposes of discussion, I find that vastly more interesting.

So, although I agree with the dictionary definition, I don’t find it all that useful. If we’re all agnostics then we all agree and we can go home right? But we know that we don’t all agree. That’s the damn point of this blog!

So what I want to do is use agnosticism to talk about belief. And this is where it fails.

When you have a dichotomy like belief or non-belief it is impossible to sit on the fence. Of course you can profess to not knowing (which we should all do) but if asked what you believe this fence sitting becomes impossible.

In your mind either the subject has met its burden of proof or it hasn’t. You either believe or you don’t. If you’re “unsure” then you fit into the latter category. ‘Unsure’ means the subject hasn’t quite met its burden of proof. ‘Unsure’ is just a less convinced version of disbelief.

So to try and wrap up agnosticism.

 

When it comes to knowledge we are all agnostics. We can never be 100% certain no matter how smart we think we are, or whether we think god(s) have spoken in our ears.

When if comes to belief none of us are agnostics. Either the burden of proof has been met or it hasn’t. We are either believers or atheists.

For these reasons I will generally try to avoid using agnosticism as a label. If we’re talking about knowledge, we all are. If we’re talking about belief, none of us are. The title becomes useless and tells us nothing.

When and if I use agnosticism I will use it to refer to people who believe there is something more to the world we see around us, but don’t limit that ‘something’ to a deity. It may be a force, an energy source, a purpose to life. This is still fairly wish-washy but at least it tells us something. The individual has a belief in something supernatural, however they don’t adhere to any of the major religions.

 

So, the work still to be done. I’m going to need to find working definitions for both faith and belief. These can be fairly wish-washy and you may have different definitions, but for the purpose of you understanding me I’ll lay those out in another post.

I need to do another post covering my own beliefs. This will cover some of my morals, why I am a strong atheist and probably a short list of other crap I don’t believe.

 

-Ignorance is not bliss. Stay inquisitive.