Strange dreams

I don’t believe dreams have any meaning – they’re just noise, I think, generated by a brain that’s busy doing whatever a brain does in downtime… moving the day’s data into long term memory and that sort of thing. They can be entertaining though… At least this one entertained my son.

Three nights ago I had two quite unusual dreams. One of which, a recurring dream that repeated four times that night, was immediately forgotten. The other was more interesting…

I found myself living back in Cape Town, not far from where I spent the last few years there. I seemed to be in some kind of parallel reality, in that it was this year, but my life was some messed up combination of what it was around twenty years ago as well as now.

I found myself walking to my mother’s office (United Building Society or maybe ABSA Bank) in Lakeside. (Except she never had an office in Lakeside.) She was off that day and was spending the day with my father, doing something that I knew at the time but have since forgotten. So I would be working in her place, as the bank teller in the little one person bank. (Something I might have done twenty years ago when I was a student without a job, but which doesn’t make sense now.)

I was walking there for some reason, with my son, Josh, who is twelve, and his cousin. But in the dream, he has a male cousin around his age. It was a boy I knew well and had known for years, even though he has no such cousin in real life. (He has real cousins but none like the one in the dream.) I even knew the boy’s name, but this is one of the many details forgotten by now. Also my entire history of drug addiction didn’t happen in this reality.

As we walked, there were two annoying young men walking in front of us. They ate KFC, and one of them littered, throwing a chicken bone into a massive bush with a hollow inside it as he walked. I could see what looked like a large stray dog in the hollow, but as we got closer, I realized it was not a dog. “Isn’t that a mountain lion?” I asked nervously, and someone confirmed that it was. There are no mountain lions in Lakeside/Muizenberg – not that I know what one looks like. If I saw a lion in real life, I’d probably call it a ‘lion’ as I shat myself. I became afraid that the lion would attack, and it did begin to stalk us.

As it happens in dreams, we then found ourselves outside the office, along with another woman and her child, who I seemed to know from somewhere but have also since forgotten. She ran the other way, while I took out the keys and got myself and the two children into the office, locking the door behind me. But, again as it happens in dreams, we found ourselves in this office where the front section had no roof. It was a single room, the whole front section, but the top was completely open, so the lion jumped up onto the top of the door. With one of the two large poles that had appeared in my hands, I took a swipe at it, and it jumped down.

A strange man and his worker subordinate banged on the door, so I told them to go fuck themselves. It turned out he was the owner, but I suggested he should not be sticking around while a mountain lion roamed loose. He suggested I take the day off. I thought for a moment that this might be irresponsible, but then decided to call my mother and let her know.

With my mobile phone in my hand, I tried to think what her number was. Knowing her number, I recalled that she died on 7 December 2018, and my father had died way back on February 13th 2000. Remembering these things snapped me out of the dream reality. Once lucid, I did what I always do in lucid dreams… I took to the skies. I flew away.

As usual, I couldn’t hold onto the lucid dream. As soon as I began to fly, I woke up. Bummer. I have crazy dreams every night, always detailed. This was probably one of the less crazy ones, but at least this one I remember.

If you can say, “The creation proves the creator” then I can say…

God wiped my ass. I know this because my ass is clean.

Yes, it isn’t terribly respectful. It isn’t meant to be. I respect your right to believe what you will but I do not respect the religions that are believed in.

The point is, those two statements are logically equivalent.

  1. Every creation needs a creator. or The creation proves the creator.
    vs
  2. God cleaned my ass. My clean ass is proof that this is true.

In both cases, the fallacy is begging the question. That’s when the premises of your argument assumes your conclusion to be true. To say that everything was created by god, thus everything is proof of this creation, is absurd because the premise assumes creation by god. The conclusion then concludes that the things (assumed) created prove that creation happened. In this case, the fallacy is obvious because there is nothing to conclude and the conclusion is identical to the given premise. In most real world arguments, there are a few steps in between that obscure the fallacy.

That was my main point for the day, and it also happens to be the response I now use every time anyone makes that argument online. It’s a good response – disrespectful of course, but then again their statement is insulting to begin with. Anyone who can state such nonsense unironically is not worth debating. They can be fun to mock though.

My second point, and this is one that I have no answer for, is that I wonder what statement or question to a creationist can possibly be enough to have them question their faith. Here’s the thing – “Why do you believe?” was enough for me, at sixteen years old, when asked by an atheist, for me to very quickly realize that I did not have a reason, and to stop believing. The best way I can explain it is, it was like someone threw a switch in my brain. I went from belief to disbelief in a matter of seconds. I still wanted to believe at that time, and I even went and spoke to the priest of the church I attended… but nothing he said could convince me. I found his words empty, and in fact he didn’t even try hard to convince me. But as time passed, I eventually became comfortable with atheism.

But I do wonder why that question was enough for me. Was I always going to be an atheist? I did have significant doubts, but yet I was happy as a Catholic. When my fellow Christians mocked someone who didn’t believe at school that day, I approached her because I felt bad that they were laughing at her. I too was different, shy, did not fit in. But I did believe. I approached her because I identified with her because they were laughing at her and I wanted to see if I could make her feel better, but also… I did believe in god and was honestly curious to understand her very different point of view. When she turned it around and asked if I believed, and after I said “Yes”, she asked “Why?”… I was shocked to find I did not know. I was surprised to find my faith disappear instantly, and I went home to think about it for hours, wondering why I had believed so strongly for all those years when it was all such obvious nonsense.

Maybe it was because I approached her with sympathy and honest curiosity that I was open minded enough? Or maybe I was always going to be an atheist anyway and she just hurried the process along? I guess I’ll never know.

But I must ask for anyone reading this, if you can be truly honest with yourself… If you do believe, why do you believe?

What I believe–Part 2–What I believe

This is the second part of a series intended to answer the annoying accusations often made against atheists (me in particular) that complain my atheism doesn’t answer where we came from – not that it should. Part 1 explained my position as a gnostic atheist, and this part, quite separate from my atheism, is about what I do believe.

What I believe about the origin of the universe and life is really quite simple. There’s a lot I don’t know. Some of this is my own thinking, based on a rather superficial understanding of science. I’m no scientist. I’m just a lay man who happens to not believe in magical explanations for where we come from, and take my cues from science and science fiction.

I can’t emphasize enough though, that what I believe is in no way related to my atheism, and is subject to change because I do change it when I learn new information. There are a lot of gaps, and I’m OK with “I don’t know”. I see no reason to fill the gaps with god(s).

We know the universe started with the Big Bang. This is fact. We can measure when it happened and we can speculate about it. But we know it happened.

So this universe started with the last Big Bang, the one we know about and can detect the radiation from. It all started with a singularity, a high temperature place of immeasurable density where time did not exist. The maths is complex and I don’t understand it but time is just a variable in an equation, and under certain conditions, it doesn’t exist. This singularity, I believe was left over after the collapse of a previous universe. But I’ll get back to this when I describe what I believe will ultimately become of this universe.

The universe exists in space. But space itself is nothing. Just emptiness. An endless void without light or anything. It has no bounds and no limit. So imagine our universe as nothing more than a tiny spark that explodes in a night sky, except there is no air, no external force like gravity acting on that spark. All the energy contained in that spark, is contained and not acted upon by any outside force that we can yet detect. After it explodes, after all that energy is released, it burns up as it expands outwards from the point where it all began, and eventually it will cool down again. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Imagine you could zoom in on that spark, because after all, when nothing but a spark exists, we have no idea of scale. As the spark expands and releases all the gasses and elements that exist, massive energy is released, forming sparks within those zoomed in sparks. They cool down and form spirals, clusters of energy and burning particles, which we call galaxies. Zoom into those galaxies and you observe stars forming, surrounded by dust and debris that forms planets and asteroids.

The process of carbon-based entities that we call life forming from inorganic elements is what we refer to as abiogenesis. I don’t know how it works. All I know is the name of it, hence when creationists post their jargon and nonsense filled “refutations” of it – which they often conflate with evolution, I really don’t give a fuck. The alternative to “I don’t know” is not your preferred magical thinking. It gets even worse when they start discussing consciousness. We, and I mean all life in existence, are probably an accident. There is no rhyme and reason, no purpose, only chaos. We came about by fluke, we exist for the briefest of time, and like everything else here, we burn for a few moments, then fizzle out and are gone. To think otherwise is great if it gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling, but it’s all just make believe.

Evolution is the process where life, that started out here from one cell that got it right, gradually changes over time. Tiny changes over millennia, from that one cell that somehow split initially into the two branches that formed plants and animals, into many different and complex varieties, and driving the process over time into multiple different life forms. It most likely hasn’t only happened here. There are probably millions of planets supporting similar life, but we’ll never know about the others, because they are simply too far away for us to ever get there.

All that energy that was released at the time of the Big Bang is finite and eventually everything cools back down. Our own planet has a molten core, churning around as the world turns it produces a magnetic field, which we use for direction, among other things. But what it really does that supports life is it protects the planet from harmful solar radiation that we call solar winds. The magnetic field deflects the most harmful of them around our planet, while letting light in. Without it, the sun would literally blow our atmosphere out into space, leaving this planet as lifeless as Mars. Theoretically given enough time, our planet core would cool down, Earth would lose its magnetic field and then its atmosphere, and all life would perish. But this planet won’t be around long enough for that to happen, because our sun will change into a red dwarf in roughly five billion years, completely enveloping and burning whatever is left here by then.

Ultimately everything cools down. Every sun will die. And here, my knowledge is sketchy, but I do know that we believe there’s a massive black hole in the middle of every galaxy. As every sun dies and the universe loses heat, perhaps they will all collapse into their galaxy’s black hole, or black holes, and then every galaxy will eventually collapse. Just as everything expanded, it will all collapse and converge back in on itself. The entire universe – back to one singularity, one point of unimaginable heat, pressure, density, where time does not exist. And boom! A new universe begins. But the time for all this to happen is so long, we can not even conceive of it.

Maybe in that new universe that forms, somewhere intelligent life will come about. And just like us, maybe they will make up a creator to explain how they got there. But their creator will be bullshit too.

Maybe there are multiple universes. But not multiple dimensions, which is nothing more than wishful thinking and magical thinking in science fiction terms. They’re all just like ours, little sparks in the blackness of space. Maybe if we could get into a space ship and fly far enough away, and in our imaginary space ship could somehow escape the time part of the equation too, we could observe them, like fireworks in a night sky, universes exploding into existence and fizzling out.


So that’s it. For what’s it worth, that’s more or less the gist of what I believe. As you can see, there are gaps. I don’t propose an alternative to creation. I don’t claim to know how life came about from inorganic elements. I don’t know what consciousness is. I don’t answer why there are singularities in space, just like you don’t know where your gods came from. But at least singularities are plausible. I simply take what I do know and put it together and the unknown remains unknown.

What I believe–Part 1- An introduction to gnostic atheism

One of the most common criticisms I received from a family member and others, is that as an atheist I don’t propose some alternative to creation. That isn’t what atheism is about, since atheism is merely the rejection of god claims. But I have found that it isn’t just me… every atheist I know has received the same criticism. Every creationist vs atheist debate group gets flooded with posts stating this, and every single atheist I know has at one time or other been accused of not being a “real atheist” because we don’t propose some alternative to creationism. This difference between the expectation or perception of atheism, and the reality, is thus so widespread that I believe it is worth addressing. Worse yet, many “arguments” from creationists aren’t arguments at all – they copy paste long jargon-filled straw man versions of science or evolution, attempting to refute these straw men, with the assumption that creationism, and their particular preferred deity, is the only alternative.

Hence it makes sense for me to write and state once and for all what I do believe, rather than what I don’t. (Note “once and for all” is just a figure of speech. What I believe is not static and I have only recently begun describing my atheism as ‘gnostic’.) Since atheism isn’t what I do believe but more what I do not, I need to break this into two parts. This first part will thus be about atheism, consisting of what I don’t believe but also what I do believe about belief itself. It needs to be two parts because I didn’t reject my Catholic religion of birth because of science – I rejected it purely because of logic. What I do believe has nothing whatsoever to do with my rejection of religion, but it makes sense to start off with what I rejected, before going on with a clean slate to describe what I believe. But mostly I need to link the two posts because, though they are unrelated, creationists often criticize science rather than addressing the claim that their gods exist.

This first part will not be new to regular readers here. It simply summarizes what atheism means to me, including my more recent change to being gnostic about my atheism. The idea is this brief summary should be enough… You can read this standalone or with part two that will publish an hour later, and you don’t need to refer to any previous posts. Or you can skip it entirely of course – these are also for those times when I get asked the question, and it is a question that comes up a lot… instead of typing it out over and over again I can link here.

Briefly then, what is atheism?

I was brought up Christian, Roman Catholic to be precise. But at some point in my teens I realized that I didn’t believe in god. It took me a while to come to terms with my disbelief, but in a nutshell, I don’t believe in any of it: God, Jesus, creation, an afterlife, a soul etc.

That’s what atheism is. Rejection of belief in gods. There is no evidence to suggest any of it is real, so atheism is merely the rejection of god claims because of a lack of evidence. For many atheists, it stops there. Many describe themselves as agnostic, in the sense that since one cannot prove a negative, and the burden of proof on anyone making a claim that a god exists lies with them, one can not rule out that some kind of creator exists outside of the bounds that can be explained by science. Hence atheists can get quite irate when you tell them that their atheism is any more than what I have described, or that they are making some kind of claim, because that’s not what it’s about.

But that is not my position. I’m not agnostic.

What then is gnostic atheism?

I don’t stop at the mere disbelief in one god claim, and I go a little beyond thinking about others. The way I see it, we evolved societies that needed rules and laws, morals. We need those things to cooperate and survive. We also don’t know where we came from, where anything came from, and such is our nature, when we don’t know something, we make up an explanation.

Thus we evolved churches and religions. We took all the things we don’t know, and claimed they were done by some kind of entity or entities that look just like us, and called them gods. God thus serves two main purposes:

  1. It is a convenient placeholder for all the things we don’t know. Everything we don’t understand, god did.
  2. God, and other supernatural agents like ancestors and other spirits, also made up by us, have their place in the various churches. They are given credit for the rules, the morals, the values, that we follow.

There are other purposes I’m not interested in getting into too much, such as it being an “out” to our natural fear of death, and the “need” some people seem to have to worship something. I can’t comment on the latter because I’ve never felt any such need. I honestly don’t understand this need and do not know if it is a side-effect of the invention of religion itself or is something else entirely. It made childhood quite confusing for me, when exposed to all things church-related. I suspect this need to worship is some sort of side-effect of indoctrination but as stated, I don’t know.

We accept that gods like Zeus were made up. The same goes for thousands of others, yet we do not apply the same skepticism to gods that people currently believe in. For the newer religions, we even know who made up their gods. For example, we know L Ron Hubbard invented Xenu, the alien god of Scientology. We know that Joseph Smith invented his magic seeing stones and Mormonism. Just because we don’t know exactly who made up the older religions doesn’t men they weren’t made up. People treat those older religions with reverence. To me, this is absurd. I believe it is reasonable to assume that all gods are made up, and that the concept of god itself is a man made one. That’s the crux of my position as a gnostic atheist. I don’t say “There is no god”. There are thousands of gods, but we made them all up. The concept itself is of our making. God itself is an abstraction, a placeholder for “I don’t know” as a result of our magical thinking.

Interestingly, science and religion came about the same way. When we don’t know something, we make up an explanation. But the scientific method is about testing our hypotheses, and proving them wrong or less wrong. Over time and as we learn and understand more, we discover answers to the questions we don’t understand. But religious dogma remains as it was made up thousands of years ago. Thus the further we advance, the more we understand reality as it really is, the further religious dogma is left behind, and the greater is the gap between real knowledge and the made up knowledge of religion.

I’ve kept this as brief as possible, leaving a lot out. But it is a reasonable summary of how I came to disbelief in all gods and what my position is as a gnostic atheist. In part two I’ll discuss what I believe about the start and end of the universe. But right or wrong, what I believe about science does not change the fact that I believe religion is nonsense and all gods are made up.


This post is set to publish at 5PM South African time on Monday, 3rd August 2020. Part 2 at 6PM, which means you have only an hour to wait for part 2.

The “you’re still acting like an addict” line

Anybody ever tell you this shit? I had it a few months ago…

Here’s the thing… If you’re clean for years, and somebody tells you that you’re “still acting like an addict” when you’re not, it should be a huge red flag. I’ll spare you the details of the situation I had because it isn’t important. But what is important is that it’s a con. It manipulation. Maybe gaslighting.

It could be that you’re passionate about something, or angry, or maybe you just like to eat lots of a particular type of food, but someone comes along, normally selling something or maybe they’re even some kind of therapist, and they tell you you’re still acting like an addict. And they can fix things in your life. For a fee.

Don’t buy it, folks. The fact is, there are people who will take advantage of you, even in recovery. And the “you’re still behaving like an addict” is a clever trick if you’re not wise to it.

It’s so easy to forget, so here are some facts to remind me of who I was and how far gone I was…

  • I was not being responsible. Paying the rent, the car, taking care of my responsibilities… I didn’t do any of those things, unless I absolutely had to, and even then, sometimes I didn’t.
  • I didn’t know what day it was, most of the time.
  • I started the day with the last of the meth from the night before, went to work, then came back and got more meth. So my day revolved around meth. My purpose in life was to be high, to remain high, or to get high. There was nothing else.
  • Everything was about my personal pleasure. The meth high and any other pleasure seeking to go with it, especially sex, but not limited to sex. Everything was about my pleasure, so get high and fuck, or get high and watch a movie, or get high and read a book, or get high and eat a whole spicy chicken – washing it down with 2 litres of Coke, but all that mattered was pleasure, and mixing various things I enjoyed because they were pleasurable.
  • Nothing else mattered and nobody else mattered.
  • My job was just a job, it’s only purpose to get money so I could get more meth.
  • I had no social media presence. Fuck, no presence in real life either. I interacted with other people only to use them for my pleasure, or to get money for pleasure, or to have my girlfriend rob them so that I could convince myself that it was her who was bad, not me.
  • To summarize: The only thing that mattered was being high and feeling pleasure, and everything else was merely a vehicle to get me there.

So, if someone tells me I’m still acting like an addict because I’m passionate about atheism, or writing, or I’m angry about some shit that they said… such a person needs to go fuck themselves. They have no fucking idea what I was like when I was an addict. Honestly I’d rather not remind myself and the whole world here either, but sometimes it is necessary. Next month I’ll be seven years clean. I’ll try to write something a little more optimistic then.

The bottom line… If you have years of sobriety and some twat tries to manipulate you by claiming you’re still acting like an addict – think. What is their game? People will use and abuse you and not everybody who acts like they’re there to help you really is.

About the biases on both sides in debates between creationists and atheists

First, a little heads up to creationists who think they can convert atheists. These kinds of arguments don’t work…

image

Having said that, there are a couple of points of interest here…

Creationists in general often share the same kinds of rhetoric when it comes to religious apologetics, but this is an interesting place where Christians and Muslims differ:

  1. Christian literalists, such as those guys from Answers in Genesis, invent their own science. They have their own universities and dubious qualifications in science that has been twisted to follow their dogma.
  2. Islamic scholars, on the other hand, will take things they observe in real science, and twist their own doctrines, reinterpreting them such that they “predict” things that have been proven to be true.

Both are wrong. It’s just interesting that they take the opposite approach. But whether you change the science to match the dogma, or try to interpret the dogma in such a way that it somehow predicted the science even though it clearly did not, you’re still wrong.

The post I refer to today was shared by a Muslim, so it tries to claim that the fires of Hell, as described in their religious text, burn black, “as it says” in modern science and thus the Quran is correct. Except they fuck it up, because such a fire will burn white, not black. Thus their claim couldn’t be more wrong. Still… white… black, they had a 50/50 chance of getting it. Regardless, there are many of them who do nothing but make this kind of argument in debate groups, some of which are quite comical because they take verses about, for example conception, and try to read actual science into them.

Of course threatening someone who doesn’t believe in life after death, or a soul, with eternal torment, in a literal fire, to their incorporeal soul, is never going to convert anybody. That’s without even considering that a deity that created beings only to torment them forever if they don’t worship him would be evil. And there’s no reason such a creator would demand worship anyway.

What fascinates me the most about such arguments is that those who make them seem oblivious to bias. Someone brought up Christian, for example, only ever takes Christianity seriously. So if you present a claim to an atheist who used to be Christian, the chances are high that you’re dealing with an atheist who is only interested in debating Christians. They don’t believe in Christianity, but having been raised Christian will at least have a reaction to Christian claims. It might be an emotional reaction. It could be some kind of trauma. It might even be anger, but we are all biased, even if only a little. Thus much of the time, you will only have something to debate if the atheist at least used to believe in your religion. Claims from other religions are perceived as little more than jokes. I try to be aware of my bias and at least make an effort to engage even with other creationists apart from Christians, but still… such bias is understandable. I’d much rather engage with somebody who believes in something I used to believe myself because I have an emotional investment in it, than something I never even considered believing in, even before I became an atheist. We don’t all do this though.

Creationists, though, are not only unaware of the biases in atheists they deal with, but unaware of their own biases too. This is where it gets amusing even if we atheists are not biased towards our own former religion, because creationists will often make similar non sequiturs but reach different conclusions. So they present similar arguments such as the argument from first cause, Pascal’s Wager, or the argument from morality, and then leap to “therefore god”. But ask them “which god?” and they get confused. This is because they all beg the question, all start with the conclusion that their (specific) god exists and then use motivated reasoning to make pseudo-logic that arrives at that predetermined conclusion. But they don’t realize they’re doing this, don’t realize that the conclusion does not follow, and hence the confusion at “which god?”.

I wrote this hours ago but was down with a cold today… Feeling much better now after much cold medication and a few hours sleep but I have no recollection of what the last paragraph was supposed to be. I like it anyway. I think it is important for us to be aware of biases, our own and that of others. Some people seem to enjoy endless debating, even when talking past each other and never getting anywhere. Not me. I’ll point out what I see that’s wrong, including the biases and assumptions, and if the other person makes the same argument again, rephrased but no better, I just leave. No point in wasting more time.

A rare argument where I agree with a creationist

Last night, just before going to bed, I read this. So I saved it… although not to respond there but here, and it does seem to go a bit against the grain of my fellow atheists. For some reason I can’t comment on the group post… might be my internet connection, but I have sent a friend request to the guy and can hopefully discuss this with him some other time. Facebook tells me the guy is a “Catholic Universalist, philosopher, and mystic”… whatever that means.

image

The full text goes as follows:

If atheists define atheism as the denial of religious claims while simultaneously denying that they are affirming the falsehood of those claims, they seem to be in a logical contradiction. To deny a claim is expressly to affirm its falsehood, so atheists, if that definition is accurate, are trying to occupy a region within claim denial that does not overlap with affirming the falsehood of that claim, an undistributed middle that does not exist. Atheists, why not simply own your implied assertion of the non-reality of deities and face the onus probandi you are desperately trying to avoid?

Are you scared?

Now note this does not apply much to me because I regard myself as a gnostic atheist. Not gnostic as in “there is no god” but gnostic in the sense that I am certain all god claims are made up, hence the notion of a creator is an invalid claim. God is a man made thing. Without any evidence supplied, I believe in treating all god claims as myth and nothing more.

He kind of goes off the rails a bit when he writes “To deny a claim is expressly to affirm its falsehood”… because he seems to see it as a simple binary – a false dichotomy. But otherwise he is spot on and this is one of those few times I find myself agreeing almost completely with a creationist. In reality, to accept one claim also means to deny all other claims, meaning he has the same problem. On some level, he does understand though… He understands that he doesn’t take other god claims seriously, claims such as Zeus, Odin, Allah, and many thousands of others… So they don’t count. Only his one counts because he assumes it to be true.

Yet his point stands. (If one ignores the last sentence about fear because that’s just a non sequitur and I don’t get why he thinks that). Of course he does, and this is exactly why I am a gnostic atheist. Deities are a man made thing. To ignore that all older deities are presumed to be made up while simultaneously assuming that your one is real, just because you have believed so since before you were old enough to think for yourself, is surely the opposite of a genetic fallacy. Unlike a genetic fallacy which looks only at the origin of a thing, this involves ignoring the origin. So I don’t know if this fallacy has a name, excuse me for that but I can’t find one online.

So sure, we have to be wary of the reversal of the burden of proof (which is where he will logically go next probably), but that’s only because he probably considers one claim true and ignores all similar ones, but perceives atheism as the opposite of his (one) claim. But it is a perfectly reasonable position to say that all gods are made up, all of them throughout history – so throw out the claims people make currently because the god concept itself has not been shown to be anything other than myth. We know that newer ones, like Scientology, were made up. Mormonism too… We even know who made them up. So why treat older ones differently? They’re just as made up. Why not own the assertion that gods are not real? I’m all for that because that is exactly how I feel.

This sandcastle meme does not prove creationism any more than it fails to address atheism

Comparing something you know to be created with something you assume to be created proves only that you made an assumption. That’s it… almost my entire response to this nonsense meme on social media, followed only by a brief accusation of magical thinking. But of course I can elaborate here.

Every so often, a creationist smugly shares this meme, and I can almost hear them as they sit there surveying the screen, hands poised in steeple grip, snickering with sardonic delight at beating us atheists with their “superior” logic. Except it is quite a terribly illogical argument.

SandcastleMeme

First of all, atheism makes no claim. We simply don’t buy into your claim(s) that god(s) exist, or that any such god(s) created anything. So any claim of atheist logic is a straw man, but let’s ignore that for now anyway. (But we will get back to it later.) For argument’s sake, let’s assume that “atheist logic” has this one major problem: It doesn’t explain where we came from. Let us take that as a given and then proceed.

What then, is the creationist solution to the problem?

  1. God did it.
  2. There is no two.

But does this actually solve the problem? Of course not. It moves the problem (to god, where god is just a name, a placeholder). If you assume that god created everything, you still don’t know where this god came from. But that’s the beauty of indoctrination… You are taught not to question this. You are taught to accept that this god was always there. And that really is all there is to it. Everything else is arguments from ignorance, layer upon layer of sophisticated nonsense (which I call Jerome’s Law), and deflection.

But creationists share arguments like this with such confidence because they truly don’t realize that creationism merely moves the problem, and most of the time they don’t have the foggiest idea what atheism actually is. The fact is, we don’t know where the universe came from. Every answer we have is one that we made up, even scientific answers. But at least scientists test the science, and when they find their answers are wrong, they refine and improve the hypotheses and then test the improved ones. They might still be wrong, but at least they aren’t answers that were made up thousands of years ago by goat herders who buried their faeces in the fields.

But notice that I wrote that scientists test their hypotheses? Not atheists, because that isn’t what atheism is about. Atheism is about doubting your god claims because, as stated, those claims are just made up answers, in other words magical thinking.

I did say I’d come back to this, and it’s time I did that. Since atheism doesn’t actually make any claim, the opposite of “god did it” is “I don’t know”. Thus the problem of not providing an answer, not saying where anything came from, is not and never was a problem with atheism. The unknown is just that, unknown. But it is a problem of creationism. It absolutely is, because when you made up god(s) that magically created everything, you also introduced the problem of not knowing where they came from. Obviously. They didn’t come from anywhere because you made them up. (I’m using ‘you’ as a plural here. You, your ancestors, as in people who lived long ago.) It’s a circle because making up a solution and then insisting that the solution may not be questioned was never logical. That’s the irony: This supposed problem with atheist logic is really a problem of creationism.

Of course this post won’t convince a single creationist. But that’s OK; it isn’t meant to. Whatever excuse you use to be able to hang onto the assumption that your god exists, whatever special pleading, will be enough to convince you. If you are a creationist reading this, well thank you for reading, but this isn’t an argument meant to convince you; it’s more an observation about you.

An afterthought: Creationists often respond to this, or at least my short version of it, firstly with a denial that theirs is magical thinking, and then they follow that by saying that I am making a claim because I say they made up their god, whichever one it may be. That’s not how this works. Just because you assume this god exists and are happy to accept this without evidence does not make it true. It doesn’t matter why you assume your god exists – it doesn’t matter if I say that (y)our ancestors made it up. If you accept the claim and expect others to, you are de facto making the claim. Just because you don’t think about the fact that it is magical thinking doesn’t make it rational. There is no rational justification for faith – there is only what I have already described… assumptions, arguments from ignorance, word salad and deflection.

Are we all stuck, tied to a particular year or decade?

I used to love listening to new music. There were years when I knew the dates of all the releases of the upcoming albums of the music I was into. First it was Depeche Mode in my teens, then I moved on to mostly alternative/rock/goth or I’m not sure what to call it exactly… But I knew when every new Depeche Mode or Cure or Mission album was coming out.

One album was ruined for me, and that was The Cure’s Bloodflowers, released on February 14th, Valentine’s Day 2000, because after I looked forward to its release for months, my father died on the 13th. I still bought the album, but it really wasn’t the same. I never really listened to that one apart from the title track.

But I digress…

After I got used to my feelings of loss, and didn’t get over but became accustomed to my father’s death, I carried on. I listened to new music, and moved on to Placebo as my favourite band at some point. (I must confess, the artists I’ve loved have been almost exclusively male, with the one exception being Shirley Manson of Garbage. I fucking love her.) I collected all their albums just as I’d done with the bands I obsessed over in my teens, and I loved their music. It became the anthem to my life, some a little too literal in my drug addicted years.

But it stopped. I don’t know when. I don’t remember losing interest in the new, but at some point I did.

The last time I remember being excited about a new album was Battle for the Sun, and it was as much as MEDS had been before it. Then nothing. I don’t feel it any more. I don’t get excited about music any more. I’ll have the odd day or weekend or hours when I listen to the same old songs and feel it all again, but it doesn’t happen with new stuff. Not any more.

Is this normal? Do we all stop? Stagnate? Or is it just me?

Cocaine is cool in memes and it’s a conversation no one is having

Somebody is making apple pie and the smell carried to our flat. My son, who is now twelve years old, announced, “I can smell cocaine.” So we had to have that conversation again. It’s OK, he knows what coke is and he knows it’s only cool in memes, but it still concerns me.

I’m on Facebook mainly for the memes. They’re a pleasant escape from reality, whether they be echo chamber jokes for the groups we find ourselves in, or political statements. Or the increasingly common cocaine memes.

I don’t have much more of a point to this… it’s just something that needs to be said. Cocaine is cool in memeland and that is something that more of us need to be concerned about. Children are on TikTok, Instagram, and I don’t know what else… Memes are a global phenomenon that we (well generation X for sure) didn’t have, but they sure do now. And children all over the world are learning what’s cool and what isn’t in a way that many of us never did.

Back in late 2009 when I went to rehab, in Natal at the other end of this small country I grew up in, although I was there for meth, nearly everyone else was in for cocaine, either powder or crack cocaine. So this culture where cocaine is cool is something to be concerned about.

Speak to your kids… It’s important to understand how their views are formed, and how much they “learn” from memes. At the very least, if they have this “cocaine is cool” attitude, it’s time they learn that memes aren’t always the best source of knowledge.

Update: I can’t emphasize this enough… We’re a long long way from beating addiction if children are growing up with a subconscious suggestion that cocaine is acceptable and pleasurable before they are even old enough to be exposed to it directly.