11/29/2008                                                                                       View Comments

SILHOUETTE CITY

SILHOUETTE CITY :: 2 minute trailer

Trailer for SILHOUETTE CITY - the first post-Bush investigation into the nature of the radical Christian right. It follows the spread of apocalyptic Christian nationalism from the marginal groups of the 70's-80's to today's mainstream Christian right. With the impending re-marginalization of Christian nationalists on the horizon (with the election of Obama), the film explores the lengths to which religious militants in America are prepared to go for their beliefs.

SILHOUETTE CITY :: excerpts

Excerpts from the upcoming nonfiction film SILHOUETTE CITY - an investigation of apocalyptic Christian nationalism.

SILHOUETTE CITY excerpt: Council for National Policy Meeting


Excerpt from the film SILHOUETTE CITY.
In Spring 2008, Republican presidential candidate John McCain told the Council for National Policy: "I want to look you in the eye and tell you I won't let you down."

This is the only known video documentation of the CNP - a highly-secretive right-wing organization that meets twice-yearly to discuss conservative movement priorities. In September 2008, the CNP approved the selection of Sarah Palin to run as McCain's VP. The CNP was founded in 1981 by "Left Behind" series author Tim Lahaye.

For more information on this video, log on to http://silhouettecity.com/




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11/28/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Ethical Arguments against Christianity

Light of faith shining throughImage by Swamibu via FlickrBy Ty H Philips

For over two thousand years, western society has been influenced by the teachings of an obscure mythical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth. Why he was called this, is unknown, aside from his disciples trying to fulfill prophecy on their own, because he was neither born there, had family from there, nor ever lived there. Many, including myself, will argue that we are less influenced by the stories of Jesus as much as we are by the teachings of Paul and the future Roman Catholic Church. This paper will be a detailed refute of the ethicalness of the Judeo/Christian faith.

I have been plagued, harangued, and fearful of my own objections on many grounds. First being raised in a fundamental and charismatic Christian household, I have ingrained in me, the teachings of a school of Christian thought called, Dispensationalism. This school of thought was created in the 1800’s by John Nelson Darby. Prior to this period, no Christian had heard of such terms as the rapture or the tribulation period etc. Today however, any charismatic or evangelical church that you walk into, will be explaining the bible under the influence of dispensationalism.

However, without too much digression, this is not so much a paper on the history of Christianity, a refute of the historicity of Jesus, or a comparison on how the teachings of the old and new testament are borrowed, extensively one might add, from other, older religions, including the creation myth and up to the virgin birth, death, and resurrection of a savior god man. Almost every quote and miracle that Jesus supposedly uttered and performed was spoken and done in other, much earlier, religious myths.

There may be sporadic reference and arguments, such as the prior, littered through-out this text, but the main body will be an explanation of the ethical objections against the faith as a whole, both Judaism and Christianity. Please understand, this is not a pro-Islamic paper, I simply require a paper in itself to dispute the illogical and morally objectionable material that encapsulates the faith of Islam. That being said, let us move into objection one.

My first objection is the idea or notion that God is not only omniscient but also omnipotent. Not only is this idea a contradiction in terms, which has been shown by any clever philosopher, but its very idea negates free will. How you ask? Well, allow me to explain. Creation was an act of will, by a creator deity that has all foreknowledge of his creation, prior to the act of creation itself. The bible has god stating that the names of the saved were written in the book of life prior to times existence.

This act of foresight means, by definition, that free will is negated. Many a clever pundit will try and argue my rational no doubt, but will come to the horrible end cause of truth. You have no free will, if your actions are pre known and pre destined. This being part and parcel of the Christian and Judaic creed, it also brings into account the creation of evil, suffering, and HELL (more on this topic later).

Many Christians blame the devil and his fallen angels (now called demons) for the evil that is in creation and that tempts us from doing the right thing on a daily basis. A man’s struggle with lust who winds up cheating on his loving and devoted wife, blame it on the devil tempting him with lust. A mother drowns her own children in a bathtub; blame it on demonic influence ad naseum.

Not only does this bring up the case of personal responsibility (which we also no longer have thank you to PC and liberal government), but it brings up the major issue of God knowing, and willingly creating it anyway. This, in any human society, would be known simply as sadism for the sake of sadism. How does one willingly create death and destruction, pain and suffering, and call themselves a loving, holy being? Ahh..but he does not call himself that does he? According to the Old Testament he is a angry and jealous god who was willing to dole out the most vindictive punishments against anyone who stood in his “chosen peoples” path, and I might add, against his own chosen people.

A simple ethical argument can go as follows; If a man, knowing his wife has the intent and willingness to kill her children, hands her a loaded gun, knowing full well that she intends to turn around and shoot the children, is he not also to be held responsible? No, he did not pull the trigger, but he did, knowing full well that she would use the weapon to murder, provide her with means and opportunity. This is culpability, and willful cooperation in a murder. How much worse then, when a god creates an angel, knowing that this angel will rebel against him, taking 1/3 of all of the angels in heaven with him in rebellion, be cast down to earth and given reign over it and allowed to tempt, mislead, and cause the endless suffering of mankind?

To further this argument, what of the Garden of Eden; God creates a perfect paradise, again being fully cognizant of the outcome prior to its creation, puts two people in the garden and takes them over to a special tree, because we all know that fruit makes people do crazy things, and says, “look guys, don’t eat this fruit ok?” First of all, why put the tree in the garden to begin with unless you intentionally want to tempt someone into wrong doing, and secondly, why put the tree there KNOWING they are going to be tempted by the devil you created and eat the fruit you told them not to, even though you already knew they would.

Can we not all see how poor this logic is? It is just cyclical in its sadism; every action done, with foreknowledge of its outcome, done anyway regardless of the untold suffering of billions of people. I see the pettiness of the Greek gods all over again. With such contradictory nature, let us not forget the complete lack of similarity between the new testament turn the other cheek god and the old testament, kill’em all, including their children, animals and women, unless they are virgins, then it’s ok to keep them for your own personal pleasure. Am I the only one seeing a problem here?

The second objection to this faith being; the need for a blood sacrifice; this statement alone should be enough to send anyone with any ethical and moral upbringing, running for the border. No doubt, many Christian and Jews will read this paper, and start to expel the reasoning behind the need for innocent blood to be spilled in order to get close to God. Before you make this attempt, please be aware that I am already familiar with the argument. The need in itself to spill blood, be definition, makes it immoral.

Please allow this slight digress, as I am sure the choice of my term immoral will no doubt start a secondary argument on only a pure good can give rise to moral and immoral, hence there must be a god. Please allow me to retort simply by saying, save it. I am not proving or disproving God by this paper, and no argument submitted as a rebuttal will do the opposite.

Moving right along; many people no doubt being raised either Jewish or Christian are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve’s fall and hence the punishment of all man and womankind through the remainder of history. This of course sounds perfectly reasonable to me, does it not to you? Why not punish a whole population for one man’s mistakes, even if the rest of the population was not aware that this man and woman even existed, and of course, the entire race not being born yet, nor did they will themselves into existence.

Anyway, this fall created a chasm between god and man, and god could no longer talk face to face with man, but required a sacrifice to be made, in order to atone for man’s ugliness and sinfulness. And what better way to do this then to find some innocent animal and cut its throat. Hey, I know if I screwed up, I could not think of a better way to deal with it then slitting a few throats and watching the blood pore.

My first objection is the idea or notion that God is not only omniscient but also omnipotent -- (the) very idea negates free will As we move along into biblical history, we see a mass of rituals and regulations that are now required in order to see god face to face, which still actually cannot be done accept by one man, the high priest, who if not clean enough, god kills him too. I mean, can you feel the love people?

This, skipping a few genocides, rapes, baby killings, some incest, and a biblical hero who kills a man in order to sleep with the man’s wife…well, the man’s widow now; we find our self in the time of Jesus. Who was of course, born of a virgin, and god incarnate. God now, feeling bad for all the horrible things he has done to people over the last few thousand years, decides he will be born and kill himself, in order to spill innocent blood yet again, so that people can have a personal relationship with him once again, even though he never talks back…yes I have tried.

The problem, three pages later, remains the need for the blood of innocents to be spilled. There is a fundamental repugnance to this that any person with even the slightest bit of ethical standing would sense. The idea is like me telling my children, “even though you didn’t ask to be born, you are horribly flawed, filthy bastards and in order for you to see me, not only do you have to figure out where I am, by clues hidden in some obscure text that makes no sense and is littered with contradiction, but you must kill a perfect, innocent animal or I just can’t bear to look at you.” Something tells me that no one but the vilest and perverse parents would make their children suffer in such a way, of course unless the devil made them do it.

This leads me to the objection of prophecy. Prophecy, again in the biblical sense, is an utterance from god on the future happenings of the human race, in particular the church and the nation of Israel. This type of prophecy purportedly not being the mad ramblings of the local drunk, is not open to interpretation, but is a direct transmission from god to humanity. Here is the issue of free will again. If a prophecy comes true, it is a negation of human free will. Biblical prophecy can only be true, if it is set in stone from the foundation of the earth as god states in the bible. If this is true, and it is set in stone, then we are all just pieces, most of us minor pieces, on a chessboard. Again, we see the overwhelming sadism behind this entire mindset.

I have come across the verse John 3:16, widely held as the most recognized verse in the bible, that states, “for god so loved the world that he gave his only son, that whoever believes in him, will not perish but have eternal life.” I have often found myself wondering, if we are loved so much, why not walk and talk with us like a father should? If you want our love so badly, why not earn our respect and our friendship by being honest and open with us in a daily life? Many Christians reply that they do have a real, daily relationship with god. To this I can only testify to mental illness or delusion. If any parent did to their children, what god has done to his own creation, they would be facing the death penalty.

Now what of hell? Here is a real debate and idea that has been in every major religion known to man in some form or another. Egyptians, Zoroastrianism, Greek Philosophy, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc.

The funny thing is, Jews do not believe in hell, or for that matter, much of an afterlife. Not until the Hellenistic influence was felt by Judea do we see more ideas of a hell concept.

Many people, both believers and non, feel that the concept of hell has some merit. A place for people like Hitler, Stalin, Pal Pot, Mussolini and the like, to pay for the crimes they have committed against humanity. Here however is where we falter…according to Christianity, everyone who is not born again will go to hell. Now keep in mind, this means more than just mere belief. This means 100% dedication, love for, and belief in Jesus Christ. The bible states that god will “spew the look warm from his mouth.”

So, just because you say that you believe, this is not good enough, because god, being all knowing, knows a man heart. Any semblance of being wishy washy in your belief and down to hell you go, for all eternity, to face not only eternal separation from god, but eternal torment and torture in a lake of burning sulfur. Now honestly folks, what good parent doesn’t create a place like hell, for their unruly children to spend infinity, for the actions of a finite life.

The idea of hell, although I feel it is completely human, if divine, would take the intent of its creator to be the perfect place of suffering. This takes us back to the chosen being “written in the book prior to the foundation of time” and a knowing god who created hell, knowing full well that he intended to send the majority of his creation to it. This should be a reason for conscientious objection for any rational person.

In closing, many people have come to me and stated, I have free will in either choosing or rejecting god. To this I state, god also had free will in his actions that are so horribly cruel and vindictive, and it is my choice to take a moral and ethical stand against such a cruel and horrible being. If it brings about my eternal punishment, then so be it.

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Even Jesus does not get his prayers answered

by Lance

Courtney just posted an excellent rant on November 27th titled "Satan's waiting, and you better believe there are NO donuts." I was going to write a quick reply, but the more I thought about it, the more it turned into a full on rant. So thanks Courtney for your post.

My rant has to do with Courtney's observation that all sorts of Christians constantly say that non-like minded Christians are not "real" Christians. We have heard liberal or progressive Christians on this site say that the hate filled fundies are not real Christians. And we all know that to a fundie, pretty much all the other so-called Christians are obviously fakes. I even saw a YouTube video of Texas preacher RA Smith saying that he would not even listen to the preaching of anyone that reads the NIV Bible. How is that for exclusionary?

So here is the deal. In the Bible, specifically John 17, Jesus prays to the father on the night before he gets pinned to the cross. He makes a long plea concerning his followers, which considering it is his last night on Earth you would think it would carry some weight with the big man upstairs. It is a long prayer, but here is a part I find interesting: (Feel free to read the whole chapter so that you don't think I am taking it out of context. I'm sorry that it is the NIV version, but I don't own the 1611 version of the King James.)

John 17:20-23, "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be as one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me."

So now my question: Where is this unity Jesus requested? Let's look at the history of the church, from the 1st century Gnostics, to the Council of Nicaea, to the persecution of the heretics, etc. Now look at Christianity today (no examples needed). Does anyone see any trace of unity? I mean even a little bit over 2000 years?!?

Here is another question: Does not even Jesus get his prayers answered? It appears as if that would be a big fat NO.

Of course Christians will argue that Satan is down here mucking things up and causing all the confusion.

OK, let's go back to the Bible; a little earlier in that same prayer, in John 17:15 Jesus says "My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one."

Oops, there goes the Satan argument. Still looks to me as if even Jesus does not get his prayers answered. Bummer.

I guess that some Christians could still argue that there is perfect unity amongst all the "real" Christians, by which they mean those Christians that believe exactly as they do. But since they all make the same claim to "realness" then which group should we believe?

I also look forward to a Christian posting a contradictory Bible verse, about there being false prophets that will lead many astray, and then watching their twisted logic as they try to harmonize this incongruity. I wish them good luck with that.

I'm going to believe the Bible in this case, where in John 17:23 Jesus says "May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me..." I'll have to go with Jesus on this one and agree that since it is obvious that they are not in complete unity, then I don't have to believe that Jesus was sent by god.

So thanks to Jesus and Christians for proving to me that Jesus just some wacky dude with a god complex. I appreciate the help on this one. Keep up the good work, as I enjoy your circular firing squad technique of finding unity.

Peace.

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11/27/2008                                                                                       View Comments

A Thanksgiving Prayer

By William S. Burroughs



“Thanks for a Nation of Finks,” says America’s Poet, William S. Burroughs, in this beloved Thanksgiving Prayer. (It is traditional for the head of household to recite this prayer before the Feast.)

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Satan's waiting, and you better believe there are NO donuts




“Hell” by Hans Memling, 1485
By Courtney

I pointed out (in My Atheist Manifesto) that the Bible claims that people will know Christians at first glance 'by their light,' being such serene and loving beings, and how that's actually never the case. Christians rebut this, with such reliable consistency that you could bet your house on it, by claiming that most Christians are not 'true' Christians.

Let's pretend that this is true for an instant. In that case, we can glean two things:
  1. It is extremely hard to be a Christian, as only very few people can pull it off despite all the millions that are trying, and
  2. If only 'true' Christians get into Heaven, as they say, then even MORE people than we already know of are headed toward eternal torture.

The vast majority of God's beloved creations will die and be tormented, the killers along with the nonbelievers, the stubborn rationalists who insisted upon working in the soup kitchens rather than just TALKING about caring for others, the Hindus, the Muslims, the Wiccans, the rebellious and emotional teenagers, the people who tried to be good 'true Christians' but just couldn't get the glow down, and everyone else who simply didn't buy the story or who just let their short time run out before deciding to believe it.

So if you subscribe to the notion that most Christians are not 'true' Christians, then congratulations, your God just got even scarier!

Careful! You've got, if you're lucky, 100 years max (not including your first few when you were unable to accept or reject the gospel story) to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and if you get it wrong, your 100 year crime will be fittingly punished with eternal torture! That means forever and ever, time out of mind!!

Imagine if our justice system worked like God's. You'd go to court because you were caught stealing a CD. The judge finds you guilty and sentences you to life in prison. But then you say, "I'm so sorry, I repent, I'll never steal a cd again." (Say it with feeling, now).The judge says, "Oh. OK. Sentence revoked."

You go to court for molesting and murdering a child. Gavel bangs - guilty! Life in prison! "Wait!" you say. "I'm so sorry! I know I'm a monster! Please forgive me!"

"Oh," judge says. "Good remorse. Sentence revoked."

You go to court because you told the judge, "Hey judge, I don't like you and I don't believe in your authority!"

Ohh, you got it coming now. NOBODY denies the judge. Life in prison! No possibility of parole!

And to make it more Godly, prison involves constant torture. Also, you better get as much crime and repentance in as you like while you can, because one of these days (nobody knows when, not even the high officials), the judge is gonna declare life in prison for everyone who failed to respect the judge's authority, who perhaps liked another judge better or trusted their own judgment more. See, it's not so much about the crimes you commit as the judge-dissing. He just hates it. Crime's boring, so black and white - they all merit the same punishment, they all piss him off equally. Except for the judge-dissing. That one deserves extra attention.

But then again, what am I saying? God's ways are higher than ours. Duh.

And the any-second-now-could-be-the-end-of-the-world thing is just how he keeps you on your toes.

Careful! You've got, if you're lucky, 100 years max (not including your first few when you were unable to accept or reject the gospel story) to accept Jesus as your personal savior, and if you get it wrong, your 100 year crime will be fittingly punished with eternal torture! That means forever and ever, time out of mind!! And this is the kind of psychological torture we pass on to our kids. One particularly memorable day happened when I was around 13 and in youth group. A friend of mine, after having read about the 'unforgivable sin' of blaspheming against the Holy Spirit, burst into uncontrollable tears, knowing that she had in fact done just that and that she was now surely condemned to eternal torture. It was right there in black and white, between two leather-bound covers. I also became extremely concerned about the fate of my soul, wondering if I too had done it at some point. The youth pastors were useless at consoling her; they could provide no definite proof that she wasn't going to Hell. How could they rebut the Bible? They eventually asked for time to figure it out and get back to her. They came back with the simple solution: Was she hard-hearted? The Bible says only hard-hearted people blaspheme against God. No, she wasn't, she said. Therefore, the stricture didn't include her.

Classic acrobatic and flimsy apologetics, and I think it did little to comfort her. I'm sure she has issues to this day.

(On a side note, it was later revealed that one of the youth pastors and the senior pastor were having an affair. Looks like we were getting our morality from some unreliable sources.)

I also remember having nightmares about Jesus, who I had learned was an all-powerful being who can see your every bad thought. Every night he killed me in a new way, once by squashing me to death between two slowly converging giant stone walls, once by pushing me off a cliff, once by forcing me to try to figure out a puzzle on the wall made of light - if I failed, a giant crane (machine, not bird) would slowly descend form the sky to get me (some of them were quite creative). It makes me anxious to this day thinking about those nightmares.

Or how bout all the times when you really stopped to consider that in the next eye blink the world might end and if you're not good enough, you're doomed. Did that ever make anybody else's heart skip a beat and palms sweat?

Or the general anxiety you felt as a Christian trying to stay enthusiastic about God all day every day and be perfect and not succumb to the evil influences that surrounded you at all times?

But the most blatant and unashamedly brash form of this fear-mongering was the Heaven/Hell night...remember those? They'd hold a sort of play in a party atmosphere, with donuts and punch to boot, acting out the frightening 'realities' of life in Hell, and the wonderfully pleasant tiptoe through the tulips that is Heaven. You got to walk through both to see what they were like and decide which one you'd prefer. They even acted out people dying and ending up in one or the other. Some people would end up in front of the pearly gates, where a hostess would check for their name in the Book of Life. If they found it - congrats! Your limo's waiting to take you to your new golden mansion!

But one guy, oh, he screwed up. He was a teenager who died in a horrific car crash, a basically good kid but he hadn't accepted the Lord when his head was smashed in. Straight to Hell. Satan's waiting, and you better believe there are NO donuts.

Many very young kids were there of course, some of them visibly upset by the whole thing, and probably having Jesus is gonna squish me between two walls nightmares.

I'm thankful for sites like this and books that are bringing more and more light to the kind of pain and psychological issues that churches peddle regularly. It is not anywhere near OK, and contrary to what churches claim, it often does the opposite of nurturing.

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11/26/2008                                                                                       View Comments

The MoralMaster 2.0

By TruthSurge



The standard in morality monitoring just got better. The MoralMaster 2.0 can gage your morality with a few quick questions. Don't wait! Call now and get your own MoralMaster 2.0 morality monitor! It could save you an eternity of regret!

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11/25/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Defining atheism

By Brian Crisan

Atheism is a lack of belief in supernatural deities (i.e. God); the opposite of theism.
Atheists as a whole do not have a consensus on how to define atheism. A number of the issues involved in defining the term appear below.

Implicit and explicit atheism

Implicit atheism is defined as a lack of belief in a god. Any person who has not been exposed to religious beliefs about the existence of god falls within the definition of implicit atheism. Atheists generally consider this definition inclusive of babies and little children who haven't yet formed opinions about the existence of supernatural deities due to a lack of exposure to them. Explicit atheism is defined as a conscious rejection of the existence of a god.

Strong and weak atheism

Strong atheism is defined as a type of atheism in which a positive assertion claiming the nonexistence of a god is made. Strong atheists would make the statement, "God does not exist." Weak atheism is defined as a simple lack of belief in the existence of a god; it is a negative assertion. Unlike strong atheists, weak atheists would make a statement indicating a lack of belief; they would make the statement, "I do not believe in a god."
Some weak atheists are strong atheists with respect to certain supernatural deities. Although weak atheists do not make a positive assertion that all types of gods do not exist, some choose to take a strong atheist's position and claim that a particular conception of a god (i.e. the Christian God) does not exist.

Epithetical uses of the term

The word "atheist" has also been used in an epithetical manner by various religious groups. The historical usage of the term as an epithet goes all the way back to accusations made against Socrates and others of his time. Early Christians claim to have been called atheists by pagans due to their lack of belief in the pagan gods of their time. [2]

Burden of proof

Most atheists argue that the burden of proof lies with the theist making the claim that a supernatural deity exists. In the atheist's view, it is a logical fallacy (argumentum ad ignorantium) to place the burden of proof upon the atheist. [1] Theists often try to shift the burden of proof to atheists by claiming that the atheist must prove that a supernatural deity does not exist. Atheists counter this argument by stating that it is a logical impossibility to prove nonexistence. To be able to prove nonexistence, the atheists claims, one would have to posses the ability to know all things perfectly (omniscience) and the ability to access all things simultaneously. [1] Since it is the theist making the claim of existence and since proving nonexistence is impossible, the atheist places the burden of proof upon the theist.

Common arguments against theism

Most modern atheists spend their time analyzing the Christian conception of God. In this light, atheists often put forward arguments that support atheism and oppose monotheistic religious beliefs. The Christian conception of God often presupposes several distinct characteristics: omnipotence (God is all-powerful), omniscience (God is all-knowing), omnibenevolence (God is all-loving), and omnipresence (God is all-present).
Atheists employ the use of logic to construct many of their arguments for the nonexistence of gods. An exhaustive list of arguments used to defend and support atheism is outside the scope of this article. However, below is an example of one logic-based argument commonly used by atheists in debates with theists.

Omniscience vs. free will

Atheists may argue that free will and omniscience are incompatible. This argument is framed in the following manner:
  1. The Christian God is defined as a personal and omniscient being.
  2. Christians believe personal beings have free will.
  3. To have free will, one must have multiple options, all of which are avoidable.
  4. A state of uncertainty exists until choices are made and the potential to change choices exists.
  5. A being who is omniscient cannot be uncertain; the being knows its choices in advance.
  6. A being who knows its choices in advance cannot avoid its choices and lacks free will as a result.
  7. A being that lacks free will is not a personal being.
  8. A being that lacks free will is not a personal being, an omniscient and personal being cannot exist.
  9. Therefore, the Christian God does not exist. [3]
Atheists also often employ the scientific method to construct many of their arguments for the nonexistence of gods. In this approach, the atheist focuses on the lack of evidence for the existence of god or the errors in the evidence cited by some theists. Below is an example of an evidence-based argument commonly used by atheists in debates with theists.

Argument from nonbelief

Atheists may argue that, if a god did exist, there would probably be a number of nonbelievers in the world.
  1. If a God were to exist, there would not be as many nonbelievers in the world.
  2. There are many nonbelievers in this world.
  3. Therefore, God probably does not exist. [4]

References

  1. Pecorino, P. A. (2001). Philosophy of Religion: The Burden of Proof. Retrieved August 2, 2008 from http://www2.sunysuffolk.edu/pecorip/scccweb/etexts/phil_of_religion_text/chapter_5_arguments_experience/burden-of-proof.htm.
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  2. Aveling, F. (1907). Atheism. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. Retrieved August 3, 2008 from http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02040a.htm.
    View Source
  3. Barker, D. (1997, August). The Freethought Debater: The Freewill Argument for the Nonexistence of God. Retrieved August 3, 2008 from http://ffrf.org/fttoday/1997/august97/barker.html.
    View Source
  4. Drange, T.M. (1998). Nonbelief vs. Lack of Evidence: Two Atheological Arguments. Retrieved August 3, 2008 from http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/theodore_drange/anbvslea.html.
    View Source


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I built a prayer amplifier

By Ed Current



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11/22/2008                                                                                       View Comments

A Four-Letter Word


By Tasida

The pastor at Laker Life, a bible study that I sat in on for a few weeks, has said more than once to me, "Sid, you are wrong. You know I love you, but you are wrong." Another lady who attends the Laker Life meetings has also said to me in passing, "Love ya!" And in Denver, where a local atheist group commissioned a billboard that reads, "Don't believe in god? You are not alone," one Pastor Willard Johnson commented, "We denounce what they are doing. But we do it with love, with gentleness, with decency and with compassion."

I suppose I should feel blessed with all this freak'n love coming my way, but I don't.

How could I possibly be against something as good as love? Well, I'm not. But unlike the word "God", which could mean anything from the interceding tyrant of the Old Testament to a warm, fuzzy, amorphous blob of universal quasi-energy, the word "love" actually means something. Something important. Probably the most important thing in the world. It means something precious, so I don't care to see the word "love" thrown around like cheap glitter.

I have been extremely lucky to make the acquaintance of many fine people in my life. But if "love" means, "feeling of warm personal attachment or deep affection," I could probably count on my fingers and maybe my toes all of the friends I truly love. And here is the hard part: out of those precious few friends outside of my family that I love, I only have the courage and opportunity to say, "I love you," to, at best, two or three.

So please excuse me if I feel a bit indignant when someone who hardly knows me claims to love me. Many people will pass through my life never knowing how profoundly they have changed my life for the better. None of the three strangers I mentioned in the beginning of this piece come even close to making such an impact on my heart, and I sincerely doubt that I have made such an impact on theirs.

Do you tell your wife and children that you beat them because you love them? "Love" is not just some four-letter word you can tack on to your conversations to make yourself appear more compassionate than you really are. Even in the wider sense, as in "love your neighbor as yourself," it requires empathy, compassion, and an honest interest in improving the beloved's well-being. I see little love in forcing a gay couple to jump through convoluted, expensive legal hoops to visit each other in the hospital, or inherit property, or make critical decisions for their partners and the children they care for- all rights that straight parents and spouses take for granted. I see little compassion in forcing women to risk their lives on coat hangers, knitting needles, poison, or shady profiteers, just because they had the selfish audacity to have sex. And I certainly don't see the love in equating atheism with amorality.

Note to Pastor Willard: when you denounce atheists speaking their minds and reaching out to others like them, don't say you do it with love. It has been the slander of the church that has isolated atheists, that has made it nearly impossible for us to be represented by one of our own in public office, that has forced many of us to hide our true thoughts from our business patrons, friends, and closest family members. It is that slander that inspires violence against us and builds walls between believers and non-believers. How cruel is it to say, "No, you can't tear down those walls. You can't have your say in the court of public opinion. You can't reach out to others who feel as alone as you once did?" Then to commandeer the word "love" to make it appear as if people who believe in God are the only ones who feel it -- I don't think the irony could get much thicker. Do you tell your wife and children that you beat them because you love them?

I'm certainly not one to begrudge true acts of love committed by Christians. Habitat for Humanity is one of my favorite charities, and it claims to be inspired by God. In fact, if "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" was all that Christianity was about, I'd sign up in a New York minute. Strip away the Holy Trinity, the rapture, the Ten Commandments, the crackers turning into flesh, the incoherent parables, the edict against women teaching in the church, the hostility to nearly all sexuality, and the bloody human-god sacrifice for an involuntary sinful nature, and you would have a religion anyone could sign up for. Except, there wouldn't be anything to sign up for.

The commandment, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself," is written on the hearts of all of us. Christian, Muslim, pagan, Taoist, Buddhist, agnostic, and yes, even atheist -- all have countless representatives acting upon an instinct for compassion, mercy, and charity. We come from a tradition of community, cooperation, and social responsibility that reaches back millions of years. This species has struggled against all odds and thrived because our ancestors worked together, because they loved one another. In this age of the global society, scarce resources, and weapons of mass destruction, the instinct for love is now more critical to our future than ever.

No, this instinct is not infinite, nor is it perfect. But that's okay. We don't need an infinite amount of love from our fellow humans; we only need a little bit more than what we know we deserve. And we don't need to be perfect; we only need to strive to be a little bit better than what we think we are capable of. This alone is sufficient to make the world a better place. It has to be. It's all we've got.

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11/21/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Sam Harris -- This is Your Brain on Morality

Can We Ever Be Right About Right and Wrong?



Sam Harris is the author of The New York Times bestsellers, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, which won the 2005 PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction, and Letter to a Christian Nation. His writing has appeared in Newsweek, Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, The Times (London), The Boston Globe, The Annals of Neurology, and elsewhere. He is currently researching the neural basis of religious belief while completing a doctorate in neuroscience. He is also a Co-Founder and Chairman of The Reason Project.

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11/19/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Irreducible Complexity

An appeal to rational people

By DocMike

I don't know if it's the approaching holiday season, the global economic crisis, or just the fact that I'm getting a little older, but I've been feeling the pain of the world lately and I really want to do something about it.

I'm a very fortunate person. I have financial security, a close family, lots of great friends, and basically everything I need and most of what I want in life. If I believed in a deity, I would certainly be thanking it for my good fortune. But since I'm a rational human being, I attribute it to hard work and lots of good luck!

Anyway, I've been reading a lot lately about hunger and I really want to do something to help those in need. However, I don't like the idea of sending money to a religion-based organization. Now, I know many of them do a lot of good in this area. I won't try to take that away from them. But frankly, I don't trust them. I always wonder how much of my money is being spent to feed hungry people and how much is spent spreading their toxic dogma. And I wonder how much religious bullshit these people have to listen to just to get a hot meal.

Now I've always given a few bucks here and there to local charities that I believe in; the food bank, homeless shelter, abused women's shelter, etc. But I really want to do more this year!

I started searching the web for charities without a religious connection, but it's sometimes difficult to tell. I've been reading the mission statements, looking for clues. Most are pretty obvious, but some are more subtle. Here are a few that I've found that don't appear to have a religious connection, although they may.

Feeding America
World Food Programme (WFP)
UNICEF
Meds & Food for Kids (MFK)

I would appreciate any info on these and any other organizations you might be aware of or, better yet, involved with.

Not that being non-religious necessarily means they're trustworthy (That still sounds funny to me, must be my xian upbringing.) I'll evaluate each one with a skeptical eye, as usual. I would just like to find a worthy charity that is really capable of helping people without trying to convert them.

And finally, I would like to appeal to other rational people who are financially capable; Atheists, Agnostics, Freethinkers, Humanists, Skeptics, whatever you call yourself. We should all support non-religious charitable organizations that can really make a difference. There are a lot of needy people in this world and I would hate to think their only choice for help is praying to a mythical savior or listening to a pompous sermon.

People should not have to trade rationality for rations!

11/18/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Leviticus General Hospital

By DocMike

I know I've done this one to death (excuse the pun), but I just love !

11/16/2008                                                                                       View Comments

God is Sick and Perverted

The Return of Jephtha, by Giovanni Antonio Pel...The Return of Jephthah by Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini,By Neal Stone

First off, Christians, don't give me the "That was the God of the Old Testament excuse," because in Heb 13:8 it says "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." and in Malachi 3:6 it says "I the LORD do not change..." So God is never changing, and Jesus is also God in the flesh, so your excuse doesn't work here.

In a recent post we heard a Christian call an atheist television show and engage in a conversation where the Christian went down in flames. A story is mentioned about a guy named Jephthah who sacrifices his daughter after promising God he would sacrifice the first thing to come out of his home, should he when a war.

We are going to look at this passage and break it down. Let us keep in mind the according to Christians and the Bible, God knows the past, present and the FUTURE. So, everything that is about to unfold, God foresaw ahead of time.

Judges 11:29-40 -- our story is found here. So, if some lame ass Christian gives you crap, just give them this reference.

At that time the Spirit of the LORD came upon Jephthah...

OK let's start right here. When the spirit of God comes upon you, that means everything you do, say, etc., is from God and under god's control and influence.
...and he went throughout the land of Gilead and Manasseh, including Mizpah in Gilead, and led an army against the Ammonites. Hmm, killing in the name of God.

Yep, the spirit was on him alright. Are we surprised?
And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD. He said, "If you give me victory over the Ammonites, I will give to the LORD the first thing coming out of my house to greet me when I return in triumph. I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering."

OK, making vows to a deity, BAD! Ignoring the deity and living a decent life, GOOD! Notice how he promised to sacrifice the first thing that came out of his house to greet him. What exactly was he expecting to come out? Makes you wonder doesn't it? When you come back from a war who usually is the first out the door to greet you? FAMILY! Wife, kids, etc. So what was this guy thinking? Why not just promise the best calf or something like that?

So he goes out and wins the war and this passage even says GOD GAVE HIM THE VICTORY!!!! As he walks back to his house what comes out the door first? His daughter!!! God knew this from the very beginning and yet allowed this promise to be made! THIS IS SICK! Plain sick and anyone who denies it is just as sick and perverted and just plain stupid!

But it doesn't stop there. His daughter begs to live two months in the hills so she can cry and say goodbye to her friends. She is even upset she is going to die a virgin. Hell if it was me that would be the first thing I would fix. Well actually the second, the first would be to get the hell out of there and not come back.

When she returned home, her father kept his vow, and she died a virgin. The New International Version (NIV) says,
"After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed."

She came back! Not only that she allowed her father to kill her! Even she was messed up in the head. I don't know which is sicker, him killing his daughter or her actually coming back and letting him do it. But that's not all. She spent two months with her friends who also knew what was to come. They did nothing!!!!! Most important of all GOD DID NOTHING! God let this promise be made, God filled his end of the bargain so it could follow through, and God let it happen!

I have never read this passage nor heard of it till now. I am sick to my stomach reading it! We grow up hearing the usual Bible stories, Adam and Eve, David and Goliath, Noah's Ark and so on. We are never read these passages in church.

This is that point I have been waiting for. My struggle of believing in God or some deity or becoming an Atheist. I have been on the fence and now stand on the Atheist side. I DO NOT BELIEVE IN GOD!

I am an atheist! I cannot believe in a God this sick, perverted and cruel. There is no justification of this story at all!

I close with the following statement:

I, Neal Stone, hereby deny Jesus Christ as my lord and Savior. I deny the Bible as God's inspired word and deny the existence of God or a god. I hereby completely and forever turn my back on Christianity the the false cruel God they preach. THERE IS NO GOD!

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What Every Creationist Must DENY

A video by cdk007



To deny evolution is to deny a direct observation. It's like denying the sky is blue while refusing to look up.

Truth is not a democracy.

Don't teach ideas just because they are different; teach ideas because they are supported by evidence.

Intelligence is awareness of ignorance. Stupidity is ignorance of ignorance. Think about it.

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11/15/2008                                                                                       View Comments

Talking to God...

Morgan FreemanGod, as played by Morgan Freeman in Bruce AlmightyBy The Ragged Trousered Philosopher

I met god the other day.

I know what you’re thinking. How the hell did you know it was god?

Well, I’ll explain as we go along, but basically he convinced me by having all, and I do mean ALL, the answers. Every question I flung at him he batted back with a plausible and satisfactory answer. In the end, it was easier to accept that he was god than otherwise.

Which is odd, because I’m still an atheist and we even agree on that!

It all started on the 8.20 back from Paddington. Got myself a nice window seat, no screaming brats or drunken hooligans within earshot. Not even a mobile phone in sight. Sat down, reading the paper and in he walks.

What did he look like?

Well not what you might have expected that’s for sure. He was about 30, wearing a pair of jeans and a "hobgoblin" tee shirt. Definitely casual. Looked like he could have been a social worker or perhaps a programmer like myself.

Anyone sitting here?’ he said.

‘Help yourself’ I replied.

Sits down, relaxes, I ignore and back to the correspondence on genetic foods entering the food chain…

Train pulls out and a few minutes later he speaks.

Can I ask you a question?

Fighting to restrain my left eyebrow I replied ‘Yes’ in a tone which was intended to convey that I might not mind one question, and possibly a supplementary, but I really wasn’t in the mood for a conversation. ..

Why don’t you believe in god?

The Bastard!

I love this kind of conversation and can rabbit on for hours about the nonsense of theist beliefs. But I have to be in the mood! It's like when a jehova’s witness knocks on your door 20 minutes before you’re due to have a wisdom tooth pulled. Much as you'd really love to stay… You can’t even begin the fun. And I knew, if I gave my standard reply we’d still be arguing when we got to Cardiff. I just wasn’t in the mood. I needed to fend him off.

But then I thought ‘Odd! How is this perfect stranger so obviously confident – and correct – about my atheism?’ If I’d been driving my car, it wouldn’t have been such a mystery. I’ve got the Darwin fish on the back of mine – the antidote to that twee christian fish you see all over. So anyone spotting that and understanding it would have been in a position to guess my beliefs. But I was on a train and not even wearing my Darwin "Evolve" tshirt that day. And ‘The Independent’ isn’t a registered flag for card carrying atheists, so what, I wondered, had given the game away.

‘What makes you so certain that I don’t?’

Because’, he said, ‘ I am god – and you are not afraid of me

You’ll have to take my word for it of course, but there are ways you can deliver a line like that – most of which would render the speaker a candidate for an institution, or at least prozac. Some of which could be construed as mildly amusing.

Conveying it as "indifferent fact" is a difficult task but that’s exactly how it came across. Nothing in his tone or attitude struck me as even mildly out of place with that statement. He said it because he believed it and his rationality did not appear to be drug induced or the result of a mental breakdown.

‘And why should I believe that?’

Well’ he said, ‘why don’t you ask me a few questions. Anything you like, and see if the answers satisfy your sceptical mind?

This is going to be a short conversation after all, I thought.

‘Who am I?’

Stottle. Harry Stottle, born August 10 1947, Bristol, England. Father Paul, Mother Mary. Educated Duke of Yorks Royal Military School 1960 67, Sandhurst and Oxford, PhD in Exobiology, failed rock singer, full time trade union activist for 10 years, latterly self employed computer programmer, web author and aspiring philosopher. Married to Michelle, American citizen, two children by a previous marriage. You’re returning home after what seems to have been a successful meeting with an investor interested in your proposed product tracking anti-forgery software and protocol and you ate a full english breakfast at the hotel this morning except that, as usual, you asked them to hold the revolting english sausages and give you some extra bacon.

He paused

You’re not convinced. Hmmm… what would it take to convince you?

'oh right! Your most secret password and its association'

A serious hacker might be able to obtain the password, but no one else and I mean

NO ONE

knows its association.

He did.

So how would you have played it?

I threw a few more questions about relatively insignificant but unpublicised details of my life (like what my mother claims was the first word I ever spoke – apparently "armadillo"! (Don't ask…)) but I was already pretty convinced. I knew there were only three possible explanations at this point.

Possibility One was that I was dreaming or hallucinating. Nobody’s figured out a test for that so, at the time I think that was my dominant feeling. It did not feel real at the time. More like I was in a play. Acting my lines. Since the event, however, continuing detailed memories of it, together with my contemporaneous notes, remain available, so unless the hallucination has continued to this day, I am now inclined to reject the hallucination hypothesis. Which leaves two others.

He could have been a true telepath. No documented evidence exists of anyone ever having such profound abilities to date but it was a possibility. It would have explained how he could know my best-kept secrets. The problem with that is that it doesn’t explain anything else! In particular it doesn’t account for the answers he proceeded to give to my later questions.

As Sherlock Holmes says, when you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.

Good empiricist, Sherlock.

I was forced to accept at least the possibility that this man was who he claimed to be.

So now what do you do?

Well, I’ve always known that if I met god I would have a million questions for him, so I thought, ‘why not?’ and proceeded with what follows. You’ll have to allow a bit of licence in the detail of the conversation. This was, shall we say, a somewhat unusual occurrence, not to mention just a BIT weird! And yes I was a leetle bit nervous! So if I don’t get it word perfect don’t whinge! You’ll get the gist I promise.

***********************************



‘Forgive me if it takes me a little time to get up to speed here, but it's not everyday I get to question a deity’

The Deity’ he interrupted.

ooh. Touchy!’ I thought.

Not really – just correcting the image

Now That takes some getting used to!

I tried to get a grip on my thoughts, with an internal command - ‘Discipline Harry. You’ve always wanted to be in a situation like this, now you’re actually in it, you mustn’t go to pieces and waste the opportunity of a lifetime

You won’t’ he said.

Tell you! That’s the bit that made it feel unreal more than anything else - this guy sitting across the table and very obviously accurately reading my every thought. It's like finding someone else's hand inside your trouser pocket!

Nevertheless, something made me inclined to accept the invasion, I had obviously begun to have some confidence in his perception or abilities, so I distinctly remember the effect of his words was that I suddenly felt deeply reassured and completely relaxed. As he had no doubt intended. Man must have an amazing seduction technique!

So then we got down to business…

‘Are you human?’

No

‘Were you, ever?’

No, but similar, Yes

‘Ah, so you are a product of evolution?’

Most certainly – mainly my own

‘and you evolved from a species like ours, dna based organisms or something equally viable?’

Correct’

so what, exactly, makes you god?’

I did’

‘Why?’

Seemed like a good idea at the time’

‘and your present powers, are they in any way similar to what the superstitious believers in my species attribute to you?’

Close enough. ’

So you created all this, just for us?’

No. Of course not’

‘But you did create the Universe?’

This One. Yes

‘But not your own?’

This is my own!

‘You know what I mean!’

You can’t create your own parents, so No

‘So let me get this straight. You are an entirely natural phenomenon.’

Entirely

‘Arising from mechanisms which we ourselves will one day understand and possibly even master?’

subject to a quibble over who "we ourselves" may be, but yes

‘meaning that if the human race doesn’t come up to the mark, other species eventually will?’

in one.

‘and how many other species are there already out there ahead of us?’

surprisingly few. Less than fourteen million

‘FEW!?’

‘Phew!’

‘And ‘So let me get this straight. You are an entirely natural phenomenon.’

‘Entirely’

‘Arising from mechanisms which we ourselves will one day understand and possibly even master?’

‘subject to a quibble over who "we ourselves" may be, but yes’
how many at or about our level?’

currently a little over 4 ½ billion

‘so our significance in the universe at present is roughly equivalent to the significance of the average Joe here on planet Earth in his relation to the human race?’

a little less. Level One, the level your species has reached, begins with the invention of the flying machine. I define the next level in terms your Sci Fi Author Isaac Asimov has already grasped. It is reached when you achieve control of your own primary – the Sun. What Asimov calls a Type I technology. Humanity is only just into the flying machine phase, so as you can imagine, on that scale, the human race is somewhat near the bottom of the level one pack

‘and all these species are your children?’

I like to think of them that way

‘and the point?’

at its simplest, "Life Must Go On". My personal motivation is the desire for conversation. Once you’ve achieved my level, you cease to be billions of separate entities and become one ecstatic whole. A single entity that cannot die, however advanced, or perhaps, more accurately, because it is so advanced, will get lonely and even a trifle bored! I seem to be the first. I do not intend to be the last

‘so you created a Universe which is potentially capable of producing another god like yourself?’

The full benefit will be temporary, but like most orgasms, worth it.’

‘this being the moment when our new god merges with you and we become one again?’

don’t play it down, that’s the ecstatic vision driving us all, me included – and when it happens the ecstasy lasts several times longer than this universe has already existed. Believe me, it really is worth the effort.

‘Yes, I think I can see the attractions of a hundred billion year long orgasm’

and humans haven’t even begun to know how to really enjoy the orgasms they are already capable of. Wait till you master that simple art!

‘So it's all about sex is it?’

Ecstasy is merely a reward for procreating, it is what makes you want to do it. This is necessary, initially, to promote biological evolution. However once you’ve completed that stage and no longer require procreation, you will learn that ecstasy can be infinitely more intense than anything offered by sex’

‘Sounds good to me!'

'How direct is your involvement in all this? Did you just light the fuse which set off the big bang and stand back and watch? Or did you have to plant the seeds on appropriately fertile planets?’

The seeds evolved in deep space, purely as a result of the operations of the laws of physics and chemistry which your scientists have begun to attain a reasonable grasp of. Yes I triggered the bang and essentially became dormant for nearly 5 billion years. That’s how long it took the first lifeforms to emerge. That places them some 8 billion years ahead of you. The first intelligent species are now 4.3 billion years ahead of you. Really quite advanced. I can have deeply meaningful conversations with them. And usually do. In fact I am as we speak

‘So then what?’

Do I keep a constant vigil over every move you make? Not in the kind of prying intrusive sense that some of you seem to think. Let's say I maintain an awareness of what's going on, at a planetary level. I tend only to focus on evolutionary leaps. See if they’re going in the right direction’

And if they’re not?’

‘Nothing. Usually

‘Usually?’

Usually species evolving in the wrong direction kill themselves off or become extinct for other reasons

‘Usually?’

There have been one or two cases where a wrong species has had the potential of becoming dominant at the expense of a more promising strain

‘Let me guess. Dinosaurs on this planet are an example. Too successful. Suppressed the development of mammals and were showing no signs of developing intelligence. So you engineered a little corrective action in the form of a suitably selected asteroid’

Perceptive. Almost correct. They were showing signs of developing intelligence, even co-operation. Study your velocirapters. But far too predatory. Incapable of ever developing a "respect" for other life forms. It takes carrying your young to promote the development of emotional attachment to other animals. Earth reptiles aren’t built for that. The mammals who are, as you rightly say, couldn’t get a foothold against such mighty predators. You’ve now reached the stage where you could hold your own even against dinosaurs, but that’s only been true for about a thousand years, you wouldn’t have stood a chance 2 million years ago, so the dinosaurs had to go. They were, however, far too well balanced with the ecology of the planet, and never developed technology, so they weren’t going to kill themselves off in a hurry. Regrettably, I had to intervene.

‘Regrettably?’

They were a beautiful and stunningly successful life form. One doesn’t destroy such things without a qualm.

‘But at that stage how could you know that a better prospect would arise from the ashes?’

I didn’t. But the probability was quite high.’

and since then, what other little tweaks have you been responsible for in our development?’

None whatsoever. I set an alarm for the first sign of aerial activity, as I usually do. Leonardo looked promising for a while, but not until the Montgolfier brothers did I really begin to take an interest. That registered you as a level one intelligent species’

So Jesus of Nazareth, Moses, Mohammed…’

hmmm… sadly misguided I’m afraid. Anyone capable of communicating with their own cells will dimly perceive me – and all other life as being connected in a strictly quantum sense, but interpreting that vision as representing something supernatural and requiring obeisance is somewhat wide of the mark. And their followers are all a bit too obsessive and religious for my liking. It's no fun being worshipped once you stop being an adolescent teenager. Having said that, it's not at all unusual for developing species to go through that phase. Until they begin to grasp how much they too can shape their small corner of the universe, they are in understandable awe of an individual dimly but correctly perceived to be responsible for the creation of the whole of that universe. Eventually, if they are to have any hope of attaining level two, they must grow out of it and begin to accept their own power and potential. It's very akin to a child’s relationship with its parents. The awe and worship must disappear before the child can become an adult. Respect is not so bad as long as it's not overdone. And I certainly respect all those species who make it that far. It’s a hard slog. I know. I've been there.’

‘You’ve been watching us since the Montgolfiers, when was that? 1650s?’

Close. 1783

‘Well, if you’ve been watching us closely since then, what your average citizen is going to want to know is why you haven’t intervened more often. Why, if you have that sort of power, did you allow such incredible suffering and human misery?’

It seems to be necessary.

‘NECESSARY??!!’

Without exception, intelligent species who gain dominance over their planet do so by becoming the most efficient predators. There are many intelligent species who do not evolve to dominate their planet. Like your dolphins, they adapt perfectly to the environment rather than take your course, which is to manipulate the environment. Unfortunately for the dolphin, his is a dead end. He may outlive the human race but will never escape the bounds of planet earth - not without your help at any rate. Only those who can manipulate the world they live in can one day hope to leave it and spread their seed throughout the universe.

Unlike the adaptors, who learn the point of cooperation fairly early on, manipulators battle on. And, once all lesser species have been overcome, they are so competitive and predatory that they are compelled to turn in on themselves. This nearly always evolves into tribal competition in one form or another and becomes more and more destructive - exactly like your own history. However this competition is vital to promote the leap from biological to technological evolution.

You need an arms race in order to make progress.

Your desire to dominate fuels a search for knowledge which the adaptors never require. And although your initial desire for knowledge is selfish and destructive, it begins the development of an intellectual self awareness, a form of higher consciousness, which never emerges in any other species. Not even while they are experiencing it, for example, can the intelligent adaptors - your dolphins - express the concepts of Love or Time.

Militarisation and the development of weapons of mass destruction are your first serious test at level one. You're still not through that phase, though the signs are promising. There is no point whatsoever in my intervening to prevent your self-destruction. Your ability to survive these urges is a crucial test of your fitness to survive later stages. So I would not, never have and never will intervene to prevent a species from destroying itself. Most, in fact, do just that.’

‘And what of pity for those have to live through this torment?’

I can’t say this in any way that doesn’t sound callous, but how much time do you spend worrying about the ants you run over in your car? I know it sounds horrendous to you, but you have to see the bigger picture. At this stage in human development, you’re becoming interesting but not yet important.

'ah but I can't have an intelligent conversation with an ant'

'precisely'

‘hmm… as you know, humans won’t like even to attempt to grasp that perspective. How can you make it more palatable?’

Why should I? You don’t appear to have any trouble grasping it. You’re by no means unique. And in any case, once they begin to understand what's in it for them, they’ll be somewhat less inclined to moan. Eternal life compensates for most things.’

‘So what are we supposed to do in order to qualify for membership of the universal intelligentsia?’

Evolve. Survive’

‘Yes, but how?’

Oh, I thought you might have got the point by now. "How" is entirely up to you. If I have to help, then you’re a failure. All I will say is this. You’ve already passed a major hurdle in learning to live with nuclear weapons. It's depressing how many fail at that stage.’

‘Is there worse to come?’

Much’

‘Genetic warfare for instance?

Distinct Possibility’

‘and the problem is… that we need to develop all these technologies, acquire all this dangerous knowledge in order to reach level two. But at any stage that knowledge could also cause our own destruction’

If you think the dangers of genetic warfare are serious, imagine discovering a secret thought or program, accessible to any intelligent individual, which, if abused, will eliminate your species instantly. If your progress continues as is, then you can expect to discover that particular self-destruct mechanism in less than a thousand years. Your species has got to grow up considerably before you can afford to make that discovery. And if you don’t make it, you will never leave your Solar System and join the rest of the sapient species on level two.’

’14 Million of them’

Just under’

'Will there be room for us?'

'it’s a big place'

‘and, for now, how should we mere mortals regard you then?’

like an older brother or sister. Of course I know more than you do. Of course I’m more powerful than you. I’ve been alive longer. But I’m not "better" than you. Just more developed. Just what you might become’

‘so we’re not obliged to "please" you or follow your alleged guidelines or anything like that?’

absolutely not. Never issued a single guideline in the lifetime of this Universe. Have to find your own way out of the maze. And one early improvement is to stop expecting me - or anyone else - to come and help you out.'

'I suppose that is a guideline of sorts, so there goes the habit of a lifetime! '

'Seriously though, species who hold on to religion past its sell-by date tend to be most likely to self destruct. They spend so much energy arguing about my true nature, and invest so much emotion in their wildly erroneous imagery that they end up killing each other over differences in definitions of something they clearly haven’t got a clue about. Ludicrous behaviour, but it does weed out the weaklings.’

‘Why me? Why pick on an atheist of all people? Why are you telling me all this? And why Now?’

‘Why You? Because can accept my existence without your ego caving in and grovelling like a naughty child. '

'Can you seriously imagine how the Pope would react to the reality of my existence?! If he really understood how badly wrong he and his church have been, how much of the pain and suffering you mentioned earlier has been caused by his religion, I suspect he'd have an instant coronary! Or can you picture what it would be like if I appeared "live" simultaneously on half a dozen tele-evangelist propaganda shows. Pat Robertson would wet himself if he actually understood who he was talking to.

Conversely, your interest is purely academic. You've never swallowed the fairy tale but you've remained open to the possibility of a more advanced life form which could acquire godlike powers. You’ve correctly guessed that godhood is the destiny of life. You have shown you can and do cope with the concept. It seemed reasonable to confirm your suspicions and let you do what you will with that information.

You can and will publish this conversation on the web, where it will sow an important seed. Might take a couple of hundred years to germinate, but, eventually, it will germinate.

Why Now? Well partly because both you and the web are ready now. But chiefly because the human race is reaching a critical phase. It goes back to what we were saying about the dangers of knowledge. Essentially your species is becoming aware of that danger. When that happens to any sapient species, the future can take three courses.

Many are tempted to avoid the danger by avoiding the knowledge. Like the adaptors, they are doomed to extinction. Often pleasantly enough in the confines of their own planet until either their will to live expires or their primary turns red giant and snuffs them out.

A large number go on blindly acquiring the knowledge and don't learn to restrain their abuse. Their fate is sealed somewhat more quickly of course, when Pandora’s box blows up in their faces.

The only ones who reach level two are those who learn to accept and to live with their most dangerous knowledge. Each and every individual in such a species must eventually become capable of destroying their entire species at any time. Yet they must learn to control themselves to the degree that they can survive even such deadly insight. And frankly, they’re the only ones we really want to see leaving their solar systems. Species that haven’t achieved that maturity could not be allowed to infect the rest of the universe, but fortunately that has never required my intervention. The knowledge always does the trick’

'Why can't there be a fourth option - selective research where we avoid investigating dangerous pathways?'

'As you can see from your own limited history, the most useful ideas are also, nearly always, the most dangerous. You have yet, for instance, to conquer fusion power but you need to do so in order to achieve appropriate energy surpluses required to complete this phase of your social development. It will, when you've mastered it, eliminate material inequalities and poverty within a generation or two, an absolutely vital step for any maturing species. Yet the discovery of the principles which will soon yield this beneficial bounty could, had you abused them, have ended your attempt at civilisation.

Similarly, you will shortly be able to conquer biological diseases and even engineer yourselves to be virtually fault free. Your biological life spans will double or treble within the next hundred years and your digital lifespans will become potentially infinite within the same period: If you survive the potential threat that the same technology provides in the form of genetic timebombs, custom built viruses and the other wonders of genetic and digital warfare.

You simply can't have the benefits without taking the risks'.

‘I’m not sure I understand my part in this exercise. I just publish this conversation on the web and everything will be alright?’

‘Not necessarily. Not that easy I’m afraid. To start with, who’s going to take this seriously? It will just be seen as a mildly amusing work of fiction. In fact, your words and indeed most of your work will not be understood or appreciated until some much more advanced scholars develop the ideas you are struggling to express and explain them somewhat more competently. At which point the ideas will be taken up en masse and searches will be undertaken of the archives. They will find this work and be struck by its prescience. You won’t make the Einstein grade, but you might manage John the Baptist!

This piece will have no significance whatsoever if humanity doesn’t make certain key advances in the next couple of centuries. And this won’t help you make those advances. What it will do is help you recognise them’

'can I ask what those advances may be?'

'I think you know. But yes - although you are at level one, there are several distinct phases which evolving species pass through on their way to level two. The first, as we've discussed, is the invention of the flying machine. The next significant phase is the development of the thinking machine.

At your present rate of progress, you are within a few decades of achieving that goal. It marks your first step on the path of technological evolution. Mapping the human genome is another classic landmark, but merely mapping it is a bit like viewing the compiled code in a dos executable. It's just meaningless gibberish, although with a bit of hacking here and there, you might correctly deduce the function of certain stretches of code.

What you really need to do is 'reverse engineer' the dna code. You have to figure out the grammar and syntax of the language. Then you will begin the task of designing yourselves. But that task requires the thinking machine'

‘You say you avoid intervention. But doesn’t this conversation itself constitute intervention – even if people alive now completely ignore it?’

‘Yes. But it's as far as I’m prepared to go. Its only effect is to confirm, if you find it, that you are on the right path. It is still entirely up to you to navigate the dangers on that path and beyond.’

'But why bother even with that much? Surely it's just another evolutionary hurdle. We're either fit enough or not…'

'In many ways the transition to an information species is the most traumatic stage in evolution. Biological intelligences have a deeply rooted sense of consciousness only being conceivable from within an organic brain. Coming to terms with the realisation that you have created your successor, not just in the sense of mother and child, but in the collective sense of the species recognising it has become redundant, this paradigm shift is, for many species, a shift too far. They baulk at the challenge and run from this new knowledge. They fail and become extinct. Yet there is nothing fundamentally wrong with them - it is a failure of the imagination.

I hope that if I can get across the concept that I am a product of just such evolution, it may give them the confidence to try. I have discussed this with the level two species and the consensus is that this tiny prod is capable of increasing the contenders for level two without letting through any damaging traits. It has been tried in 312 cases. The jury is still out on its real benefits although it has produced a 12% increase in biological species embracing the transition to information species.

‘Alright, so what if everyone suddenly took it seriously and believed every word I write? Wouldn’t that constitute a somewhat more drastic intervention?’

‘Trust me. They wont’

'and so it's still the case, that, should another asteroid happen to be heading our way, you will do nothing to impede it on our behalf?'

'I'm confident you will pass that test. And now my friend, the interview is over, you have asked me a number of the right questions, and I’ve said what I came to say, so I’ll be going now. It has been very nice to meet you - you're quite bright. For an ant!’ He twinkled.

‘Just one final, trivial question, why do you appear to me in the form of a thirty something white male?’

‘have I in any way intimidated or threatened you?’

‘No’

Do you find me sexually attractive?’

‘er No!’

So figure it out for yourself…’



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